Collins, King offer alternative to executive-level lunacy | Bangor Daily News blog

By Lance Dutson

The contrast couldn’t be more striking.

On one hand, there is the imagery of Anthony Scaramucci, President Donald Trump’s short time communications director, hair slicked back, reaching into a female reporter’s personal space over and over as he desperately attempted to bully a series of lies into reality.

On the other, there is Maine’s senior senator, Susan Collins, unassumingly returning home to the Bangor airport Friday morning where a small crowd of Mainers erupted into spontaneous applause, earnestly thankful for the battle she had just waged on their behalf.

This contrast — between pettiness and earnestness, between the honorable and the base — has been a cornerstone of Maine’s sense of political self for decades.

Our federal government just had one of its most embarrassing weeks ever. Republican leadership tried and failed to ram a deeply flawed and unvetted healthcare overhaul bill through the U.S. Senate in the dead of night. Trump abruptly proclaimed a ban on transgendered people serving in the military through his Twitter account. The White House communications director went on an on-the-record, profanity-laced tirade to a reporter, calling Trump’s chief of staff a “f*** paranoid schizophrenic” and claiming Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was fellating himself. Threats were made via Twitter about staff members having the FBI investigate other staff members. And the president fired his own chief of staff, Reince Priebus, leaving Priebus alone in a black Suburban on the tarmac next to Air Force One, as the rest of the motorcade pulled away.

Read the rest of this commentary.

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Portland rolls out new business center for immigrant entrepreneurs | MaineBiz

By Renee Cordese

As of this week, immigrant entrepreneurs in Portland have a modern workspace and business incubator at their disposal downtown.

The nonprofit Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, at 24 Preble St., officially opened its doors on Monday at a packed ribbon-cutting event attended by U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Portland City Council member Pious Ali, the first African-born Muslim American elected to public office in Maine.

“After three years of hard work, the dream has finally become a reality,” said Damas Rugaba, an immigrant from Rwanda who came up with the idea for the center three years ago with Alain Nahimana, who hails from Burundi and serves as the center’s interim executive director.

Rugaba said the goal was to create a place where people could collaborate and share resources they would otherwise not be able to afford.

Besides acting as a business hub, the center plans to connect entrepreneurs with mentors and lending institutions to help them finance the path to citizenship, and offer English lessons in a digital language laboratory.

The center is being financed by grants from the Maine Community Foundation through its Broad Reach Fund, more than a dozen corporate sponsors including Coffee By Design and cPort Credit Union, and individual donors (all of whom are listed on the center’s website).

Read the rest of this story.

Cruise Portland Harbor and learn its history on water taxi tours | Maine Today

By Ray Routhier

Dave Cote sat between a couple from Connecticut and talked nonstop for an hour about the history of Portland Harbor.

Cote, a 38-year-old major in the Marine reserves, detailed the histories of seven lighthouses, several forts and a shipwreck, and provided insights on local bakeries and beaches. He was particularly animated in explaining South Portland’s history as a shipbuilding center during World War II.

“I know Rosie the Riveter is iconic, but here in South Portland when they built the Liberty Ships (WWII cargo vessels), they found that welding was better,” said Cote. “So here in South Portland, Maine, we celebrate Wendy the Welder.”

Most days this summer, Cote can be found giving animated history talks during the one-hour historic harbor tours being offered by Portland Harbor Water Taxi. Besides historic harbor tours for $15 offered most days, the water taxi service also offers a regular sunset lighthouse cruise for $20 and a Friday night-star gazing cruise for $30. The latter is narrated by Ed Gleason from the University of Southern Maine’s Southworth Planetarium.

The service was started last year by Maine Maritime Academy graduate Ben Graffius, who spent several years captaining an old drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico before returning to Maine.

Read the rest of this story.

Our View: Collins’ health bill vote prevented a calamity | Portland Press Herald

The U.S. Senate – which calls itself “the world’s greatest deliberative body” – came within a single senator’s vote on Friday of violently disrupting the health and well-being of millions of people just so some members could partially satisfy their half-baked campaign promises.

It was a very close call.

The nation is extraordinarily lucky that Maine sent two people to Washington, in Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, whose commitment to public service would not let them to take part in such a mean-spirited and reckless political gambit.

Credit is especially due to Collins, who stood up against her party’s leadership as one of only three Republican senators (along with Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona) to defeat what was not just a bad bill but also a horrendous legislative process.

King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, had been consistently on the right side of this issue, but he acknowledged that what Collins did Friday took special courage.

Read the rest of this editorial.

Study tracks great white sharks off Maine coast | Portland Press Herald

BY 
STAFF WRITER

Marine biologists are embarking on the first study dedicated to learning about the habits of great white sharks off the coast of southern Maine, where the scientists say the fishes’ population is likely to increase.

University of New England professor James Sulikowski will collaborate with Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to see how often the sharks come near the coast.

This week, Sulikowski will set up receivers on buoys around Wood Island, just off Biddeford. The receivers will detect great whites within a 600-foot radius that have been tagged with transmitters.

Great white sharks are the world’s largest predatory fish. Known for their powerful jaws and serrated teeth, they can grow to more than 20 feet and 4,000 pounds.

They have been protected from harvesting in U.S. waters since 1991. Skomal said the shark population has been rebounding since.

Read the rest of the story by Deirdre Fleming.

 

Pun for the road may keep drivers from being distracted | Portland Press Herald

BY STAFF WRITER

Unlike some states, Maine can take a witty approach to highway safety.

Danger lurks around every corner when you’re whizzing along behind the wheel at 70 mph. Road safety is no laughing matter.

Then from around the next bend in the road, it appears – 12 feet high and flashing in yellow LEDs. A state-sponsored dad joke.

“GET YOUR HEAD … OUT OF YOUR APPS”

Along Interstate 295, electronic roadside signs sponsored by the state Department of Transportation have been doling out gentle reminders, good advice and pun-filled witticisms, all while hewing to the usually drab responsibility of reinforcing road safety expectations.

Read the rest of this story by Matt Byrne.

Maine’s secretary of state says he will reject second request for voter registration data | Portland Press Herald

BY STAFF WRITER

AUGUSTA –– Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said Monday that he is unlikely to release any state voter registration data to the federal voter fraud commission to which he was appointed by President Trump.

Dunlap said he will reject a second request for the data from the commission’s vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who promised last week that the data would be held in confidence at the federal level.

But Dunlap said he is uncertain that the federal Freedom of Information Act would allow the data to be protected from disclosure once it is in the federal government’s hands. He said he wants the commission, to which he was appointed in May, to first set goals for what it hopes to achieve as it investigates Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.

The secretary of state also said he wants the commission to figure out how it intends to protect voters’ privacy rights before he hands over any statewide voter data.

Read the rest of this story by Scott Thistle.

LePage rallies his supporters against Susan Collins | Bangor Daily News

Gov. Paul LePage looks to be leading a Republican civil war against U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ 2018 gubernatorial bid before anyone’s sure she’ll declare one and as she sits at the center of the national health care debate.

The governor railed against the moderate Republican senator at a Saturday pig roast put on by the Somerset County Republican Committee in Canaan, where an attendee said LePage repeatedly mentioned working to defeat Collins if she runs for governor next year.

It came after her Friday vote against Republicans’ latest plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. She was one of three Senate Republicans to cast key votes rejecting it, putting one of the party’s major goals in jeopardy.

President Donald Trump tweeted that opponents “let the American people down,” but Collins was pictured returning to the Bangor airport to applause in a waiting area. In a Sunday interview with CNN, she called it “heartwarming and affirming.”

Read more of this commentary by Michael Shepherd.

A strong carbon cap is good for Maine’s environment and economy | Bangor Daily News

 Ten years ago last month, Maine joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This historic, market-based initiative among nine states puts a limit on climate-changing carbon pollution from power plants. It has been a remarkable success by any measure. Now, the states are nearing the end of a periodic review of the program. Maine leaders at that table must work to strengthen the program to ensure it continues benefiting Maine’s environment, economy and energy consumers.

As two home energy improvement business owners, we care about the greenhouse gas initiative because the proceeds from it support energy efficiency initiatives through the Efficiency Maine Trust. It sets an annual cap on carbon dioxide emissions from large power plants in the North East. Power generators can buy and sell emission allowances at an annual auction under the program, and that revenue goes back to the states. Since the initiative’s inception, Maine has received $86 million from carbon auctions. A significant portion of that goes to programs helping Mainers invest in cost-effective weatherization and heating efficiency improvements for their homes.

That’s where companies like ours come in. We provide clear information to homeowners about opportunities for energy efficiency improvements and put those solutions to work in Maine homes every day.

Read more of this commentary by Matt Damon and Bo Jesperson.

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.