University of Maine System Trustees have approved a first step in the University of Southern Maine's master plan:  They've given the green light to an $80 million capital campaign.  

Most of that money will pay for construction of a 1,000-seat performing arts center on the Portland campus. USM President Glenn Cummings says the facility will serve several functions.

Ed Morin / Maine Public/file

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District is sharply critical of the Republicans’ new health care proposal, which she says is worse than the one they abandoned a few weeks ago.

“I believe all Americans deserve protections for the coverage of essential health services and preexisting conditions, not just members of Congress,” she says.

NEW YORK - New York City's Department of Investigation says the correction commissioner spent 90 days outside the city last year, even amid violence problems at the Rikers Island jail complex.
The New York Times says investigators also found that Commissioner Joseph Ponte took his city-owned vehicle to Maine in violation of guidelines.
The report says many Correction Department employees routinely misused their agency vehicles.

ORONO, Maine - The Maine Drug Enforcement Agency says one person died and four others were arrested following a fire at a meth lab in Orono.
Officials say a couple who rented the apartment and two others were charged Thursday with operating a meth lab. They say a fifth person wanted in connection with the incident is believed to have died after fleeing the scene with severe burns.
Maine Public Safety Department spokesman says the victim's body was transported night to Augusta for an autopsy. His name was being withheld Friday morning.

Linda Bean Won’t Sell Her Businesses As She Readies for Retirement

4 hours ago
C.A. Smith Photography / via Bangor Daily News

PORT CLYDE, Maine — Linda Bean, 76, granddaughter of retail giant founder L.L. Bean and a major player in the Maine lobster industry, does not plan to sell her businesses in the wake of her retirement.

Bean began stepping back last year from managing her myriad businesses and properties that spread across the state.

“The problem is I’m no longer young. I keep looking up the road to when I am no longer here.”

“I have businesses and properties in several Maine counties, and it is not my intention to sell any,” she wrote in an email this week.

L'Osservatore Romano / Via The Associated Press

CAIRO - Pope Francis has arrived in Egypt for a historic, two-day visit to show a united Christian-Muslim front against religious militancy.

The Catholic pontiff will hold a series of deeply symbolic meetings with Egypt's religious and political leaders and participate in an international peace conference organized by Al-Azhar, the world's primary seat of Sunni Islamic learning.

Camden-based author Tess Gerritsen is best known for mystery novels, including a string of books that inspired the TV series “Rizzoli and Isles.” She is now branching out into film, or as she proudly describes it, low-budget horror.

Pat Wellenbach / Associated Press file

The Maine PUC has added five more towns to the list of communities will no longer receive regulated for basic landline service under a plan that was approved last year by the state Legislature.

PUC spokesman Harry Lanphear said, as part of the approved schedule, the PUC will no longer regulate provider-of-last-resort services, or POLR, in Scarborough, Gorham, Waterville, Kennebunk and Cape Elizabeth.

PORTLAND, Maine - Last year's drought is officially over in Maine.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine lawmakers are set to consider bills to protect babies exposed to drugs and support peer recovery.
More than one person a day died from drug overdoses in Maine last year, and lawmakers this year have taken steps to increase access to medication-assisted treatment.

PORTLAND, Maine - A Maine poet's endearing piece about her husband's dementia has won an international poetry award.
The Portland Press Herald reports that Lee Sharkey was presented with the Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize for her poem, "Letter to Al'', at an award ceremony in Dublin, Ireland Thursday. A magazine called The Moth sponsors the contest.
Sharkey and three other finalists were plucked from thousands of entries. The Maine native was awarded 10,000 euros which equals about $10,725.

Suzanne Thurman / MERR Institute, Inc./via Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine - Government scientists are launching an investigation into an unusually large number of humpback whale deaths from North Carolina to Maine.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Fisheries says 41 whales have been stranded in the region in 2016 and so far in 2017.
Officials say 10 of the 20 whales that have been examined so far were killed by collisions with boats. That's far above the average of fewer than two per year, and officials say there's been no spike in boat traffic to explain it.

WEST BATH, Maine - A Maine man accused of crashing into a police car while intoxicated last year has been convicted of drunken driving for the ninth time.
Mark Burson, of Limestone, was sentenced Wednesday. He will serve seven years in prison followed by three years of probation.
Burson's attorney had asked for a four-year sentence, saying Burson struggled with alcoholism, while prosecutors had pushed for 10 years.

WATERVILLE, Maine - Officials at a Maine college say they're planning the school's biggest project ever _ a $200 million athletic center that will bring dramatic upgrades, including what they believe to be the state's first Olympic-sized swimming pool.

The Waterville Morning Sentinel reports that Colby College announced the project on Wednesday. Colby President David Greene said prep work will start this summer and the 350,000-square-foot center should be open by 2020.

In a rare move, a representative of Maine’s judicial branch appeared before a committee in Augusta today to speak against a proposal before state lawmakers.

The bill would grant the Maine Supreme Court the power to block citizen-initiated ballot questions before they even get to the voters. The judiciary believes that the bill, though designed to stop potentially unconstitutional initiatives from reaching the ballot, will result in a serious breach of the separation of powers.