Aerial dancers, a hospital expansion and the plight of a food pantry

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street.

Insert a witty remark about a current event of some sort here. Whatever you think is funny. I’ll give you a minute…

Done? OK, let’s jump into news headlines, because we’ve got a lot of them. Heck, I even had to cram a news story into the Tweet Of The Day.

What we’re talking about

If you happened to see people defying gravity and darting about on the side of the former Eastland Park Hotel today, that was the Bandaloop aerial dance troupe, presented by Portland Ovations. Additional performances are scheduled to take place on Friday at One City Center at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

State health regulators approved their part of a proposed $512 million expansion of Maine Medical Center in Portland today. The project would add two large buildings, including a 1,200-space parking garage, on Congress Street, tack floors to two others, and move the hospital’s helipad from its present location to the top of the facility’s easternmost building.

A day after a probate judge declared missing toddler Ayla Reynolds dead, her paternal grandmother and aunt told WCSH television they think she’s still alive somewhere. Ayla was in the care of her father when she disappeared nearly six years ago. State police have been clear in saying that they believe the little girl is dead and that her father isn’t telling investigators the whole truth of what happened the night she went missing.

The 51-year-old woman police say was hit and killed by a driver in Westbrook was described as a loving grandmother. “Just a kind soul,” Amanda Sapuan, who said victim Sherrie Crawford was her father’s partner for more than 25 years, told CBS 13. “So sweet, open and lovable — she’d give anybody a chance.” Police have charged Natasha Field, 32, of Standish with aggravated leaving the scene of a motor vehicle crash and violation of a condition of release.

In the latest development in the dispute between Gov. Paul LePage and the state’s county sheriffs over detainer requests from federal immigration agents, the governor said today he’s willing to “let the courts decide” whether his demands violate the civil rights of inmates. Some experts on the matter say the courts have, in fact, decided. The background here is that some sheriffs have said they won’t hold inmates past their scheduled release dates for immigration agents unless those agents get a warrant. LePage has threatened to fire sheriffs who don’t cooperate with the feds on that front.

The head of the Biddeford Food Pantry told the Journal Tribune that the organization’s landlord is hiking the rent up from $790 to $2,200 per month, and the pantry must find a new home by November. It’s one of the state’s oldest food pantries, and it serves more than 600 families in need in the area.

Maine Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason was set to officially declare his candidacy for governor today. He was scheduled to make the announcement three weeks ago, but his mother, a sitting state representative, died unexpectedly, understandably throwing Mason’s life into turmoil. Now, Mason’s father is running to replace his mother in the House and Garrett says he’ll run for the Blaine House in his mother’s memory. Garrett Mason is one of three Republicans to announce campaigns. Eight Democrats two independents have also declared runs. Incumbent LePage is term-limited out of office.

Tweet of the day

From CBS 13’s Alexa Maslowski:

For more information about Susan and Phil, click here.

The Big Idea

Scientists sent flatworms to space, because why not, and they came back with two heads. Discover magazine reported this summer that flatworms, gross little buggers that they are, can be cut in half, and instead of just dying like any sensible creature, they turn into two separate flatworms. Except when you rocket them into space, apparently. Then they turn into two-headed mutant flatworms. Researchers say this new information is useful somehow in preparing humans for future space missions. I do hope they’re not planning to cut astronauts in half.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email us at jbleiberg@bangordailynews.com or skoenig@bangordailynews.com or tweet @JZBleiberg or @SethKoenig.

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