I’m a scientist and a Mainer. I’m blowing the whistle on the Trump administration | The Washington Post via Bangor Daily News

By Joel Clement

I am not a member of the deep state. I am not big government.

I am a scientist, a policy expert, a civil servant and a worried citizen. Reluctantly, I am also a whistleblower on an administration that chooses silence over science.

Nearly seven years ago, I came to work for the Interior Department, where, among other things, I’ve helped endangered communities in Alaska prepare for and adapt to a changing climate. But on June 15, I was one of about 50 senior department employees who received letters informing us of involuntary reassignments. Citing a need to “improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration,” the letter informed me that I was reassigned to an unrelated job in the accounting office that collects royalty checks from fossil fuel companies.

I am not an accountant — but you don’t have to be one to see that the administration’s excuse for a reassignment such as mine doesn’t add up. A few days after my reassignment, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testified before Congress that the department would use reassignments as part of its effort to eliminate employees; the only reasonable inference from that testimony is that he expects people to quit in response to undesirable transfers. Some of my colleagues are being relocated across the country, at taxpayer expense, to serve in equally ill-fitting jobs.

Read more of this powerful commentary by Joel Clement.

Lipstick on a Health Bill | The New York Times

Susan Collins, the Maine Republican, got straight to the point in describing the new Senate health care bill: “Still deep cuts to Medicaid in Senate bill. Will vote no,” she tweeted yesterday. “Ready to work w/ GOP & Dem colleagues to fix flaws in ACA.”

Rob Portman, the Ohio Republican and another potential swing vote, was less straightforward. “I opposed the last draft of the Senate health proposal because I had concerns about the measure’s Medicaid policies,” Portman said in a statement. Later, he followed up saying that he was undecided about whether he would support this bill.

Here’s the problem for Portman: Collins is right. The Medicaid policies are virtually identical between the revised Senate bill and the previous bill. If Portman opposed the last bill because of how it would harm Medicaid recipients — and he did — he would logically need to oppose this one, too.

Read the rest of this commentary.

As Feds Move Away From Climate Change, Maine and New England Consider Stronger CO2 Caps | Maine Public

While the federal government pulls back from global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, the New England states are considering more aggressive curbs on power plant carbon emissions.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, is a market-based cap-and-trade program that sets limits on carbon-dioxide emissions in nine states, including all of New England. Power generators can buy and sell emission allowances under the program — which can give a financial boost to cleaner sources such as wind or hydro plants. So far RGGI’s allowance auctions have raised more than $2.5 billion, with the proceeds flowing to the states, and most of them investing heavily in energy efficiency efforts.

“All the evidence points to the fact that RGGI’s working well, it’s been a great success since its inception,” says Peter Shattuck, director of the Clean Energy Initiative at the Acadia Center, an an environmental policy group with offices in Maine and around the northeast.

“[Since RGGI’s 2009 startup] carbon pollution is down 40 percent, electricity prices are down 3 percent, and at the same time [the participating] states’ economies have grown by 25 percent,” he says.

Read and listen to the rest of this story.

Maine doctors prescribing far fewer opioids, analysis at county level shows | Portland Press Herald

Maine doctors are prescribing far fewer opioids to patients compared with several years ago, a trend that experts say bodes well for future alleviation of the opioid crisis.

However, it’s unknown how long it will take for the decline to have an impact on addiction rates and deaths, and the prescribing rates vary widely, with two of Maine’s 16 counties actually seeing an increase.

The prescribing trends are captured in two reports – a county-level analysis published last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a national report with state-level data prepared in the spring by a Connecticut health consulting company, QuintilesIMS.

The Quintiles report, done for the American Medical Association, showed that the number of opioid prescriptions in Maine fell 21.5 percent from 2013 to 2016. That’s the fourth-highest drop in the nation, which averaged a 14.6 percent reduction in the same period. Maine’s 0.7 per-capita opioid prescription rate now matches the national average.

Read the rest of the story.

Here to There and Back: The AT | Maine Public

Here2There_logo.jpg

After an exhaustive search, we have selected two hikers who are taking on the Appalachian Trail this spring and summer to test our Maine Public App out in the fringes of civilization. Danny Moody of Winthrop and Dan Giguere of Manchester (ME) along with Danny’s dog Daisy are our first adventurers in our Here to There and Back project.

Read more about this project.

Appalachian Trail Hikers After 500 Miles: ‘We Feel Great,’ May 31, 2017

1,000 Miles In: Appalachian Trail Hikers Are Lighter, ‘Loving It,’ July 13, 2017

Both Maine Senators Say They Will Vote ‘No’ on Latest GOP Health Care Bill | Maine Public

The latest attempt by the US Senate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act has failed to garner support from Maine’s senators. Though the bill does eliminate some unpopular provisions from earlier versions, the changes aren’t enough to gain traction with Senators Collins and King, and Maine health providers.

Previous proposals to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have included tax breaks for high income earners. Those tax breaks have been scaled back in the latest version of the Senate bill, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act. There’s also more funding included to fight the opioid epidemic: $45 billion over the next decade. But one big problem remains: cuts to Medicaid. Senator Susan Collins tweeted that’s the reason she can’t support this latest proposal. Neither can Vanessa Santarelli, CEO of the Maine Primary Care Association.

“The deep cuts to the Medicaid program could be really damaging, particularly to a state like Maine and to our community health centers,” Santarelli says.

Read and listen to the story.

“New” Potatoes – A Taste of the County | Aroostook County Tourism blog

There are many food seasons for foodies to enjoy in the county!  Fiddleheads, local strawberries, fresh peas, beet greens…YUM!

But the very best of all, and you are welcome to come to Aroostook and join us – new potatoes!

All along Route 1 and other roads as you drive throughout the county, you will see simple farm stands with the (usually) hand painted sign saying “new potatoes”.  These kiosks are typically on the honor system.  You simply put your money into the container and grab a bag.

Read the rest of this blog entry.

Maine’s decades-old billboard, signs laws under attack | Portland Press Herald

AUGUSTA — Maine’s pioneering law banning highway billboards, enacted in 1977, is under siege at the State House.

Lawmakers there are lining up behind nine bills that would grant variances to state sign regulations for individual businesses and attractions.

 

“Everybody wants a sign,” said Senate Minority Leader Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, in testimony in favor of a bill that would help a snowmobile club in his town keep a sign.

But managers of Maine roads and a major environmental group say granting piecemeal changes would weaken sign laws.

The Maine Department of Transportation wants all such bills tabled, and the Legislature’s Transportation Committee already has honored that request in three instances.

Read the rest of the story.

Maine governor suggests he makes up stories to mislead media | The Associated Press

[Note: This guy is a disgrace and an embarrassment to Maine and the United States. True statesmen and stateswomen are turning in their graves. What a freakin’ joke. Doesn’t he get that there is democracy only with a free press.]

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Gov. Paul LePage lashed out at the media for reporting he planned to leave the state during a budget impasse, and he suggested he sometimes concocts stories to mislead reporters.

The Republican governor also characterized the state media as “vile,” ″inaccurate” and “useless.”

“I just love to sit in my office and make up ways so they’ll write these stupid stories because they are just so stupid, it’s awful,” he told WGAN-AM on Thursday.

Maine media, citing lawmakers, reported recently that LePage might leave the state amid a government shutdown. Republicans including Senate President Michael Thibodeau and Sen. Roger Katz said LePage had told them he planned to leave the state.

Responding to a Freedom of Access Act request, the Senate Republican office produced a voicemail Thursday in which the governor is heard telling Katz, “I’m heading out of town for about 10 days and I’d like to speak to you before I leave. So could you give me a call please? Thank you.”

A LePage spokesman called the news reports “fake news.”

In the radio interview, LePage reiterated his disdain for the media, in particular newspapers, saying “the sooner the print press goes away, the better society will be.”

Read the rest of the story.

Trump travel ban expected to start tonight, will ‘hurt innocent people,’ Maine Arab leader says | Bangor Daily News

[Note: We are a nation of immigrants, so this ban is un-American. It will hurt the wrong people and there is absolutely no guarantee it will reduce the threat of terrorism. It will only cause more global mistrust of the United States.]

President Donald Trump’s travel ban from six mostly Muslim countries, after clearing a key hurdle in the U.S. Supreme Court, could take effect Thursday night, according to multiple reports.

An Arab community leader in Maine decried the president’s travel ban as a punishment for people who have done nothing wrong, and said the move disrespects America’s history as a nation built by immigrants and refugees.

Zoe Sahloul was born in Lebanon and came to Maine nearly two decades ago. She now serves as the executive director of the New England Arab American Organization, with offices in Westbrook and Portland.

“I believe in the goodness of people,” she said. “Unfortunately with these regulations, a lot of people are being hurt, a lot of people who are innocent and who have had nothing to do with terrorists. People are desperate to leave [war-torn countries], and they’re desperate to have any help they can get to save their kids and save their families.

“I’ve been in Maine for 20 years, and even with that, I’ve been so stressed out and so afraid,” Sahloul continued. “When we talk about immigrants, who is not a product of immigrants in the United States, whether you’re third or fourth generation?”

Trump’s travel ban will block travel to the U.S. from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — four of which are Arab nations, and all of which are predominantly Muslim — for at least 90 days. The president’s measure will also prevent refugees from any country from entering the U.S. for at least 120 days.

Read the rest of the story by Seth Koenig in the Bangor Daily News.

Senate GOP leaders abruptly delay vote on healthcare bill until after July 4th recess | Los Angles Times

Facing resistance from their own party, Senate Republican leaders said Tuesday they would postpone a vote on their healthcare bill until after the July 4th recess.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to provide more time to make changes to the bill to try to convince reluctant GOP senators to vote for the measure.

“We’re going to press on,” McConnell said, adding he remains optimistic. “We’re continuing to talk.”

Since the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill would leave 22 million more Americans without insurance after 10 years, several Republicans senators had said they would not even support allowing the bill to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.

Meanwhile, President Trump invited all GOP senators to the White House for a meeting Tuesday afternoon.

But Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a moderate who has expressed serious doubts about the bill, questioned whether revisions would make a difference.

“I have so many fundamental problems with the bill, that have been confirmed by the CBO report, that it’s difficult to see how any tinkering is going to satisfy my fundamental and deep concerns about the bill,” Collins said on CNN.

Read the rest of the story.

Sen. Susan Collins Will Vote No On Health Care Bill: Her announcement is a significant blow to Senate Republicans | Huffington Post

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on Monday she would not vote for the Senate’s controversial health care bill, despite urging from fellow Republicans to pass the legislation as soon as this week.

In a series of tweets, Collins cited a Congressional Budget Office report released Monday that found the new bill would cause 22 million people to lose their insurance over the next 10 years. The Senate’s bill would also dramatically undercut federal funding for Medicaid and financial assistance for low- and middle-income people, all facts Collins said wouldn’t “fix ACA problems for rural Maine,” referring to the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.

The announcement is a significant blow to Senate Republicans, particularly Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has scrambled to garner support for the bill, which could come up for a vote as early as Thursday.

Read more of this story and view images of Sen. Collins’ tweets and a table that shows the differences between the Affordable Care Act and the two GOP versions to repeal and replace ACA.

 

Senate Republicans issue revised health care bill | Portland Press Herald

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans have issued a revised version of their health care bill. The changes include a penalty for people who let their insurance lapse.

Under the new package, people who lacked coverage for at least 63 days in the past year and then buy a policy would face a six-month delay before it takes effect.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released his initial measure last week. It had no penalty for people who let their coverage expire.

Read more of this story.

Maine health care providers urge Sen. Susan Collins to oppose health care bill | Bangor Daily News and Maine Public

Maine health providers from across the state spoke in Lewiston on Friday to denounce the Senate health care bill and urge Sen. Susan Collins to oppose it.

Portland family physician Dr. Sam Zager said the Senate bill will cut off care for patients.

“I think this gets to the core of what it means to have a civilized society,” he said. “Are we going to turn people out? Are we going to toss them off the ship and let them drown at sea? Or are we going to acknowledge that we have a responsibility for the welfare of those around us?”

The Senate bill would partially cut funding for the Medicaid program, which pays for the majority of long-term care costs for seniors and people with disabilities.

Read the rest of the story.

House cleaning turns up urn with war veteran’s remains | The Associated Press

This reminds me. I’m late on spring cleaning …

ROCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — An urn containing the remains of a World War II veteran discovered during a house cleaning in New Hampshire has been returned to a family in Maine.

Anthony Lewis, of Rochester, tells WMUR-TV (http://bit.ly/2tC5vJl ) he saw the urn through the dust. It had a photo of Army Sgt. Chauncey Markham Sr., who served in the South Pacific. Markham died 17 years ago, at 77.

Read the rest of the story.

Our View: Sen. Collins should fight Senate health care bill | Portland (Maine) Press Herald

Sen. Susan Collins says she will spend the next few days carefully reviewing the new Affordable Care Act repeal proposal, taking a hard look at an upcoming analysis by the Congressional Budget Office and considering what she has learned from her conversations with constituents in Maine.

We admire her diligence, but we think Collins already has enough information to know what she should do. This bill would be bad for Maine and bad for America, and the senator should speak out against it as forcefully as possible.

Collins’ voice has never been more important. Because of the way parliamentary rules are being applied, the 52 Republicans in the Senate are the only ones who get to make a meaningful impact in this debate. If only three Republican senators refuse to sign on, the bill will have to be renegotiated. Just hours after details of the bill were revealed, four hard-right senators said they might scuttle it if the cuts to health care aren’t even deeper than proposed.

Read more of the editorial in the Portland Press Herald.

Robert Kraft press conference transcript

I’m very, very disappointed that the four-game suspension was upheld. Makes very little sense.

In light of yesterday’s league ruling, I felt it was important to make a statement today, prior to the start of training camp. After this, I will not be talking about this matter until after the legal process plays itself out and I would advise everyone in the organization to do the same and just concentrate on preparation for the 2015 season.

The decision handed down by the league yesterday is unfathomable to me. It is routine for discipline in the NFL to be reduced upon appeal. In the vast majority of these cases there is tangible and hard evidence of the infraction for which the discipline is being imposed and still the initial penalty gets reduced. Six months removed from the AFC Championship game, the league still has no hard evidence of anybody doing anything to tamper with the psi level of footballs.

I continue to believe and unequivocally support Tom Brady. I first and foremost need to apologize to our fans because I truly believe that what I did in May, given the actual evidence of this situation and the league’s history on discipline matters, would make it much easier for the league to exonerate Tom Brady. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

The league’s handling of this entire process has been extremely frustrating and disconcerting. I will never understand why an initial erroneous report regarding the psi level of footballs was leaked by a source from the NFL a few days after the AFC Championship game was never corrected by those who had the correct information. For four months, that report cast aspersions and shaped public opinion.

Read more of the transcript of today’s speech by Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft: http://www.patriots.com/news/2015/07/29/robert-kraft-press-conference-transcript

Two Aroostook County Democrats want LePage investigated over blogger’s allegations

Spotted this story the other day and wanted to share it.

Two Democratic lawmakers from Aroostook County are asking the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee to investigate whether Gov. Paul LePage threatened to withhold state funds in 2013 from the World Acadian Congress unless its president stepped down.

Reps. Roland “Danny” Martin of Sinclair and Robert Saucier of Presque Isle sent a letter Tuesday requesting an investigation by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, the watchdog agency that reports to the oversight committee.

Their letter details allegations in a blog post last week by liberal activist Mike Tipping of the Maine People’s Alliance that LePage said he would withhold $500,000 in state funding for the 2014 World Acadian Congress unless then-board president Jason Parent stepped down.

The World Acadian Congress is an international festival celebrating Acadian culture that takes place every five years, most recently in 2014 at locations in northern Maine and eastern Canada.

Read more of this Portland Press Herald story by Eric Russell: http://www.pressherald.com/2015/07/28/democratic-lawmakers-want-lepage-investigated-over-alleged-abuse-of-power/

Northern lights over Maine

See this? Amazing footage of the Northern Lights over Moosehead Lake captured by Mike Taylor tweeted out by the Maine Fish and Wildlife.

Moosehead Lake Aurora from Mike Taylor – Taylor Photography on Vimeo.

LePage has done it again

News Guild to Maine’s governor: Your joke about shooting a cartoonist wasn’t funny

“The NewsGuild-CWA criticized Maine’s Gov. Paul LePage on Friday after “he joked that he would ‘like to shoot’ a Maine political cartoonist,” the Guild said in a press release. LePage made the comment about Bangor Daily News cartoonist George Danby.”

The NewsGuild-CWA and our Maine local are sickened and appalled that any public official would make such a “joke” in any context. To do so at a time when the nation is mourning a mass shooting, and in a year that began with the murder of cartoonists and other journalists at the satirical “Charlie Hebdo” shows the worst possible judgment.

We call on Gov. LePage to make a swift and sincere apology to Mr. Danby and his son. Further, he owes an apology to all journalists for suggesting that violence is the solution to unfavorable news converage. Lastly, he should apologize to his state for once again embarrassing Maine on a national stage.

Read more: http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/353495/news-guild-to-maines-governor-your-joke-about-shooting-a-cartoonist-wasnt-funny/