Business – Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Thu, 17 Aug 2017 03:42:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 State Theatre will see its name in lights again with restored marquee http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/state-theatre-marquee-getting-a-makeover/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/state-theatre-marquee-getting-a-makeover/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 02:41:06 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/state-theatre-marquee-getting-a-makeover/ A landmark in the heart of Portland’s Arts District is going retro with the restoration of the State Theatre’s marquee getting underway this month.

Architects, using photos of the marquee from the 1930s that document its original appearance, plan to restore the light bulbs that used to adorn the marquee’s panels so that it again will be illuminated at night, as it used to be when the State Theatre opened nearly 90 years ago. The only change to the original design will be light panels on the side to announce upcoming shows.

“The heart of the Arts District will soon harken back to an exciting time in Portland’s history,” city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said in a statement. “As it once was, the State Theatre marquee will again be a beacon at the crossroads of Congress and High streets.”

The marquee was removed Wednesday so that the work could begin.

The State Theatre is Portland’s only surviving movie palace from the early 20th century, Grondin said. It opened at 609 Congress Street as a private movie theater in 1929 and has since undergone several ownership and use changes, including a stint in the 1970s and 1980s when it showed X-rated adult films.

Another Congress Street theater, in that same block of buildings, the Fine Arts Theater – formerly known as the Capitol Theatre – closed in the 1970s and was later demolished.

The State Theatre was renovated in the early 1990s for use as a performing arts space, but a series of operators were unable to make a profitable go of the space and it closed in 2006. It reopened in 2010 with a sold-out show by My Morning Jacket after undergoing a $1.5 million renovation as a concert and music venue that included new seats, new paint, new plaster, new carpets, lights and sound equipment. It has the capacity to seat close to 1,500 people.

“The marquees of this period (1930s) were intended to telegraph the excitement and drama associated with early movie palaces. One theater historian called them ‘electric tiaras,’ ” said Deb Andrews, Portland’s historic preservation manager.

When the State Theatre opened in 1929 it featured a 42-by-60-inch seamless projection screen and a $25,000 Wurlitzer organ. The theater played some of the first talkies and silent films in Maine, Andrews said.

Grondin said project architect, Scott Simons of Portland, worked closely with Portland’s Historic Preservation Board to ensure “a faithful reconstruction of the marquee on this designated local landmark.”

Portland provided a $6,000 facade program grant for the marquee project, which is being matched with more than $77,000, including a donation from the State Theatre owners and operators, Alex Crothers and The Bowery Presents, Grondin said.

“Theater marquees dot the landscape of nearly every main street in America,” Crothers said. “They’re a beacon that tells you this is a vibrant community that cares about arts, culture and history. When I started working on reopening the State Theatre in 2005, I knew restor ing the marquee was a critical component of that process. Now, with the help of the city, we’re able to finally embark on restoring the only remaining historic marquee in Portland.”

The city’s contribution is funded by the Community Development Block Grant that it receives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“(This is) a great example of a public-private partnership,” said Nelle Hanig, who manages the city’s facade program. “The building owners, theater operators and the city were all in harmony on the importance of the State Theatre entrance reclaiming its grandeur.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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Poland Springs owner is sued http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/poland-springs-owner-is-sued/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/poland-springs-owner-is-sued/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 23:37:03 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/poland-springs-owner-is-sued/ A Connecticut law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit against the owner of Poland Spring, claiming the company’s source for its Maine bottled water is not a spring.

The case is not a first: Nestlé Waters, which owns Poland Spring, was sued 14 years ago on similar claims and another Nestlé Water brand was sued in a similar case in Illinois in 2012.

In 2003, the company was sued, also in Connecticut, because its advertising suggested that the water in Poland Spring came from a source deep in the woods of Maine when, in fact, the principal source was located near a parking lot. That suit was settled with Nestlé Waters offering about $8 million in consumer discounts and more than $2 million in charitable donations.

Nestlé, headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, owns a number of regional bottled water brands. The water originally came from Poland Spring, but now the company draws its water from sources throughout the state, including in Hollis and Fryeburg.

The latest suit, filed on behalf of 11 consumers, alleges that Poland Spring’s bottles are inaccurately labeled as spring water. It is seeking at least $5 million in damages.

“Breaching and exploiting is customers’ trust to reap massive undue sales and profits is (the) defendant’s entire business model,” the suit alleges.

The lawsuit claims that Poland Springs’ water comes not from a spring but instead is “ordinary groundwater” from wells.

“The claims made in the lawsuit are without merit and an obvious attempt to manipulate the legal system for personal gain,” a spokeswoman for Nestlé Waters North America said Wednesday. “Poland Spring is 100 percent spring water…. We remain highly confident in our legal position.”

The company said it meets the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations defining spring water, all state regulations governing spring classifications, and regulations governing spring water collection, product quality and labeling.

Edward Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

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Target reports sales upturn http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/target-reports-sales-upturn/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/target-reports-sales-upturn/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 23:13:06 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/target-reports-sales-upturn/ Shoppers are heading back to Target.

In addition to large-scale investments in technology – and a 32 percent increase in online sales – the big-box retailer said it’s also seeing more customers shopping the old-fashioned way.

As a result, second-quarter sales grew 1.6 percent, marking the first increase in more than a year.

“Second-quarter traffic was much stronger than our expectations, and the strength was broad-based: across the country, across categories and across channels,” Brian Cornell, Target’s chief executive, said in a Wednesday call with analysts. “The positive response from our guests shows we’re making progress.”

Analysts attributed that growth to Target’s success with private-label brands like the children’s line Cat & Jack, which Cornell said has racked up $2 billion in sales in one year, and a partnership with Victoria Beckham. Target is taking note: The company is introducing 12 more brands in the next 18 months, and recently announced a partnership with mattress startup Casper.

“Exclusive new brands like Cat & Jack in kids clothing, Pillowfort in homewares, and Cloud Island in baby have all performed well,” Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData, said in a note to investors. “Not only are these brands credible and compelling, but they are also helping to differentiate Target from rivals.”

Earlier this week, the Minneapolis-based retailer announced it was buying same-day delivery company Grand Junction as part of its efforts to take on Amazon.com and Wal-Mart. Target is testing same-day delivery services in New York and has begun looking into curbside fulfillment options near its headquarters.

“Grand Junction’s technology and algorithms will help Target deliver to guests faster and more efficiently,” Arthur Valdez, chief supply chain and logistics officer for Target, said in a statement on Monday. “This acquisition is part of ongoing efforts to strengthen Target’s supply chain to provide greater speed, reliability and convenience for guests.”

Target is also opening 30 new small-format stores this year, with a focus on dense urban areas and locations near college campuses. In addition, the company is taking steps to fix up its lagging grocery store business and says it saw bumps in sales of alcoholic beverages and produce.

“We continue to focus on our long-term strategy,” Cornell said, adding that the company hopes to “transform every part of our business and build an even better Target that will thrive in this new era in retail.”

But while investors were pleased by Target’s improvements – shares of the company’s stock rose more than 4 percent Wednesday – analysts said they were more interested in long-term growth.

“It’s still early days,” said Charlie O’Shea, a retail analyst for Moody’s. “This transformation isn’t going to happen overnight. The online business continues to grow but it’s still very small.”

Target’s website, which has annual sales of about $2.5 million, trails much smaller retailers, including Nordstrom, Macy’s, Best Buy and Staples, in online sales. (Wal-Mart, by comparison, has annual online sales of about $13.5 billion, while Amazon has about $79.3 billion, according to market research firm eMarketer.)

During the second quarter, profit fell 1.2 percent to $672 million from $680 million a year ago. Meanwhile, sales at stores open at least a year rose 1.3 percent. Overall sales were up 1.6 percent to $16.4 million, from $16.17 million.

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UnitedHealth Group names successor to longtime CEO Hemsley http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/unitedhealth-group-names-successor-to-longtime-ceo-hemsley/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/unitedhealth-group-names-successor-to-longtime-ceo-hemsley/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:55:34 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/unitedhealth-group-names-successor-to-longtime-ceo-hemsley/ UnitedHealth Group has picked company President David Wichmann to replace CEO Stephen Hemsley in a long-planned transition that Wall Street greeted with polite applause.

The nation’s largest health insurer says Wichmann, 54, will take over Sept. 1, and Hemsley will become executive chairman of the company’s board. Current Chairman Richard Burke will shift to lead independent director.

Wichmann, a former partner with Arthur Andersen, joined UnitedHealth in 1998, a year after Hemsley arrived, and has worked through several key executive roles. He has overseen the company’s largest business, its health benefits segment, since 2014. Wichmann also has led mergers and acquisitions as the insurer pushed well beyond processing doctor bills and delved deeper into other elements of patient care.

The leadership transition announced Wednesday had been underway for years and dates back to Wichmann’s appointment as president in 2014, according to a company spokesman.

Stephen
Hemsley

Hemsley said in a statement that the timing was right, “as the company is performing strongly and has a positive outlook for the forseeable future.”

UnitedHealth is coming off a second quarter in which it made $2.28 billion and raised its forecast for 2017, a year in which analysts who follow the company expect it to bring in around $200 billion in revenue.

Wednesday’s announcement generated little surprise among those analysts.

Sheryl Skolnick said in a research note that she was “very comfortable” with the change because Hemsley will still have an important role. The Mizuho Securities USA analyst also noted that Burke, one of the company’s founders, will remain involved, “so the guardians of the (UnitedHealth) galaxy are firmly in place.”

Health insurance is UnitedHealth’s main business, but the company also has been plowing more resources into its Optum business, which provides pharmacy benefits management and technology services and also operates clinics and doctor’s offices.

It acquired the pharmacy benefits manager Catamaran a few years ago in a deal valued at more than $12 billion. More recently, UnitedHealth spent about $2.3 billion to buy surgery center operator Surgical Care Affiliates.

The 65-year-old Hemsley is the second-longest serving CEO among publicly traded health insurers, trailing only Centene Corp.’s Michael Neidorff. Hemsley’s tenure began in 2006, when he took over after the previous leader, William McGuire, was forced to leave over a scandal involving the backdating of company stock options.

UnitedHealth wound up wiping out more than $1.5 billion in past profits when it acknowledged that it backdated stock options, which involves manipulating the timing of options grants so they look as though they were made on days when the stock’s value was lower.

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Takata gets reprieve in air bag lawsuits http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/takata-gets-reprieve-in-air-bag-lawsuits/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/takata-gets-reprieve-in-air-bag-lawsuits/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:41:21 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/takata-gets-reprieve-in-air-bag-lawsuits/ DOVER, Del. — A Delaware bankruptcy judge on Wednesday temporarily halted the prosecution of lawsuits filed by Hawaii, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against Japanese auto-parts supplier Takata over its lethally defective air bag inflators.

Judge Brendan Shannon ordered the 90-day stay after hearing arguments last week on Takata’s request to halt hundreds of air bag-related lawsuits for six months while it works on a reorganization plan. Takata’s restructuring efforts include the planned sale of most of its assets to a Chinese-owned rival for $1.6 billion.

Shannon also granted Takata’s request to temporarily halt individual lawsuits against automobile manufacturers who installed the faulty air bags but, again, only for 90 days. He refused, however, to extend that ruling to scores of lawsuits consolidated in a federal multidistrict litigation case in Miami.

While acknowledging and expressing sympathy for the circumstances facing many claimants, including those grievously injured and survivors of those who have been killed, Shannon said Takata had met its burden of proving that a halt to litigation was warranted.

The company was forced into bankruptcy in June amid personal injury and economic loss lawsuits, multimillion-dollar fines and crushing air bag recall costs. Takata’s air bag inflators can explode with too much force, spewing shrapnel into riders. At least 16 people have died and more than 180 have been injured because of the problem. The inflators have prompted the largest automotive recall in U.S. history, with more than 45 million being called back for repairs.

“The debtors are engaged … in the largest recall in history while simultaneously trying to implement a reorganization strategy around the globe,” Shannon noted.

The judge also said that a failed reorganization could negatively affect the recall effort. Takata’s bankruptcy is unique in that the automobile manufacturers play a critical role as both its largest customers and largest creditors.

“What the debtors seek and need is a breathing spell,” Shannon said.

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Retailers’ rally sends stocks up slightly http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/retailers-rally-sends-stocks-up-slightly/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/retailers-rally-sends-stocks-up-slightly/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 21:54:19 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/retailers-rally-sends-stocks-up-slightly/ NEW YORK — U.S. stocks rose slightly Wednesday as Urban Outfitters and Target helped retailers rally. That was enough to cancel out more losses for energy companies.

Urban Outfitters and Target did better in the second quarter than analysts expected, and Target raised its forecasts for the year. That helped companies that sell clothing and other retailers. Technology companies and firms that make and sell household goods also traded higher.

A wide variety of retailers saw their shares sink the day before based on weak earnings reports. With Wal-Mart and Ross Stores in line to report their own results Thursday, investors could change their minds again.

“This sector is not for the faint of heart,” said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist for TD Ameritrade. “The market is trying to figure out who the winners and losers are going to be.”

He said turbulence for retailers will be a constant as online competition keeps growing and customers want more features like same-day delivery.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index picked up 3.50 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,468.11. The Dow Jones industrial average added 25.88 points, or 0.1 percent, to 22,024.87. The Nasdaq composite gained 12.10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,345.11. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies inched up 0.30 points to 1,383.53.

Clothing and accessories retailer Urban Outfitters had a better second quarter than Wall Street expected, and analysts said there are some signs the company’s business is recovering after years of struggles. The stock rose $2.94, or 17.5 percent, to $19.76. Even with those gains, it’s down 31 percent this year and recently traded at eight-year lows, far below its price of $45 a share in early 2015.

Target gained $1.96, or 3.6 percent, to $56.31. The company raised its annual estimates after it did better than analysts expected in the second quarter.

Gap climbed 50 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $22.57. Express added 27 cents, or 4.8 percent, to $5.84. Retailers had struggled a day earlier after poor results and lower forecasts from Dick’s Sporting Goods and Advance Auto Parts. The S&P 500 index of retailers climbed 1.7 percent Wednesday after a 2.3 percent plunge the day before.

Benchmark U.S. crude lost 77 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $46.78 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dipped 53 cents, or 1 percent, to $50.27 a barrel in London. That pulled energy companies down further. EOG Resources fell $2.04, or 2.3 percent, to $84.98 and Marathon Oil fell 34 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $11.19.

Energy companies have slumped this month, but their second-quarter profits have improved dramatically compared to a year ago, when they were struggling to make money thanks to a prolonged slump in oil prices. But for more than a year, U.S. crude has mostly stayed between $40 and $55 a barrel.

Stocks made bigger gains earlier in the day, but they slipped after a group of CEOs, including the heads of 3M and Campbell Soup, said they were leaving a manufacturing jobs group over comments about made by President Trump about the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend.

Trump then tweeted that he is ending that council as well as a strategy and policy group. The furor could create more obstacles for Trump’s pro-business agenda of tax cuts and infrastructure spending.

The Dow rose as much as 86 points earlier on.

After an early gain, the dollar dipped to 110.16 yen from 110.58 yen. The euro rebounded to $1.1769 from $1.1734.

Bond prices turned higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.23 percent from 2.27 percent.

With bond yields falling, banks and financial companies turned lower as well. Lower bond yields mean lower interest rates on loans and fewer profits for banks.

Lincoln National fell $1.03, or 1.4 percent, to $71.14 and Bank of America gave up 28 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $24.19. Regions Financial sank 14 cents, or 1 percent, to $14.34.

The minutes from the Federal Reserve’s meeting last month did not include many details about the central bank’s plans for letting its balance sheet shrink. The notes showed a divided Fed, as some members of its policy committee think that interest rates should stay about where they are because inflation is still low. But others felt that interest rates should be raised because delays might lead to dangerously high inflation later.

Fed officials unanimously agreed to leave the interest rates unchanged.

Gold rose $3.20 to $1,282.90 an ounce. Silver climbed 23 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $16.94. Copper jumped 6 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $2.95 a pound.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline lost 2 cents to $1.56 a gallon. Heating oil fell 3 cents to $1.57 a gallon. Natural gas shed 5 cents to $2.89 per 1,000 cubic feet.

France’s CAC 40 rose 0.7 percent, and Germany’s DAX and the FTSE i100 in Britain rose by the same amount. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 retreated 0.1 percent while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.9 percent. The South Korean Kospi advanced 0.6 percent.

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Housing starts slumped in July http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/housing-starts-slumped-in-july/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/housing-starts-slumped-in-july/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 21:37:50 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/housing-starts-slumped-in-july/ WASHINGTON — Homebuilders pulled back sharply on construction of apartment complexes in July, causing housing starts to tumble to a three-month low.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that housing starts fell 4.8 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.16 million. Groundbreakings for multifamily buildings such as apartments slumped 17.1 percent, while single-family house construction slipped 0.5 percent.

Home construction has increased 2.4 percent year-to-date, but the gains have done little to offset the dwindling number of homes listed for sale. The shortage of properties for sale has pushed prices up at a faster pace than income growth, making home ownership less affordable for many would-be buyers.

Housing starts dropped in the Northeast, Midwest and West but rose modestly in the South.

Building permits, an indicator of future construction, decreased 4.1 percent to 1.22 million.

While home construction has increased, it’s done little to ease the pressure from a decline in listings for existing homes – a much larger segment of the housing market.

The number of sales listings has been falling on an annual basis for the past 25 months. There were 1.96 million homes for sale in June, a 7.1 decline from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors.

More importantly, home construction is concentrated in certain markets, according to a new analysis by the real estate firm Trulia.

Dallas, Houston and Austin in Texas are on pace to build a combined 130,000 new homes this year. That total would be more than 10 percent of all U.S. permits and account for nearly as much as construction in the 50 other large metro areas combined.

The lack of properties on the market has helped to bolster confidence among homebuilders who see healthy demand for the homes that are available.

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Eastern Maine Healthcare System gets good news http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/emhs-gets-mixed-review-from-sp/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/emhs-gets-mixed-review-from-sp/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 20:34:57 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/emhs-gets-mixed-review-from-sp/ Two months after a bond rating service downgraded Eastern Maine Healthcare System to junk bond status, a different service said the system has adequate financial protection.

On Tuesday, Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed its BBB long-term rating for EMHS, which indicates the system can meet its financial obligations. However, S&P also adjusted its outlook from stable to negative, citing operating performances at some EMHS member hospitals, including its flagship, Eastern Maine Medical Center, according S&P’s report.

EMHS is the umbrella organization under which nine hospitals operate, including Acadia, Blue Hill Memorial, Mercy, Inland and The Aroostook Medical Center.

S&P did credit the system for positive operating and net earnings, which was attributable, in part, to increased revenue from the system’s investment portfolio and prior year settlements under MaineCare, the state’s version of Medicaid. But it warned that five of the nine hospitals are underperforming, and that an expansion of EMMC could make things worse.

“We also expect further operating and financial pressure at EMMC with the fall opening of its phase two expansion,” said the report. “We believe if EMHS cannot improve and stabilize performance and cash flow at its individual hospitals, a downgrade would be warranted.”

Mercy, which intends to consolidate its facilities at its Fore River campus, said EMHS’ bond ratings have no impact on the Portland hospital since it does not intend to go to bond markets to finance its upcoming consolidation.

“We will file a letter of intent later this year with the state, and the project team is now working on site development, soil testing, space planning, regulatory requirements and potential traffic impacts,” said spokesman Ed Gilman in a statement.

“We continue to focus on delivering high quality care to the people of Maine, while meeting or exceeding our financial targets.”

Tony Filer, EMHS senior vice president and chief financial officer, said in an EMHS release that bond markets are based on past performance and not an assessment of current or future performance.

In June, Moody’s Investor Services downgraded EMHS credit rating to Ba1, with a negative outlook, a rating below investment grades and commonly referred to as junk status.

Filer said he looks forward to demonstrating that S&P’s negative outlook is not warranted.

“While these continue to be challenging times for health care providers in Maine and throughout our nation, EMHS has a proactive five-year strategy that is both innovative and forward-thinking,” he said. “We are building an enterprise-wide electronic health records system, organizing our more than 1,000 employed providers into a single medical group, and continuing to advance our very successful population health model.”

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Largest U.S. drug benefits manager to limit opioids for first-time users http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/largest-u-s-drug-benefits-manager-to-limit-opioids-to-first-time-users/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/largest-u-s-drug-benefits-manager-to-limit-opioids-to-first-time-users/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:53:45 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/largest-u-s-drug-benefits-manager-to-limit-opioids-to-first-time-users/ ST. LOUIS – The nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager will soon limit the number and strength of opioid drugs prescribed to first-time users as part of a wide-ranging effort to curb an epidemic affecting millions of Americans.

But the new program from Express Scripts is drawing criticism from the American Medical Association, the largest association of physicians and medical students in the U.S., which believes treatment plans should be left to doctors and their patients.

About 12.5 million Americans misused prescription opioids in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More than 33,000 deaths that year were blamed on opioid overdoses.

Express Scripts launched a yearlong pilot program in 2016 aimed at reducing patients’ dependency on opioids and the risk of addiction, said Snezana Mahon, the Missouri-based company’s vice president of clinical product development.

Mahon said analysis of 106,000 patients in the pilot program showed a 38 percent reduction in hospitalizations and a 40 percent reduction in emergency room visits, compared to a control group. The program is scheduled to take effect nationwide on Sept. 1 for Express Scripts members whose employer or health insurer has enrolled to participate.

Under the program, new opioid users are limited to seven-day prescriptions, even if the doctor orders scripts for much longer. Mahon said the average prescription is for 22 days.

The program also requires short-acting drugs for first-time opioid prescriptions, even though many doctors prescribe long-acting opioids. Dosage is also limited, and the company will monitor and try to prevent for patterns of potential “pill shopping,” where a patient goes from doctor to doctor to collect prescriptions.

The program does not apply to patients in hospice or palliative care, or to cancer patients.

A competitor, CVS Caremark, has a similar program.

“A lot of times physicians are prescribing these drugs blindly,” Mahon said. “They don’t know that a patient may be going to see multiple prescribers.”

She said some physicians “are actually appreciative and saying, ‘Thank you, I didn’t know this was happening.”‘

But Dr. Patrice Harris, an Atlanta psychiatrist who chairs the American Medical Association’s Opioids Task Force, said doctors are already working toward addressing the opioid epidemic.

Harris said doctors have reduced such prescriptions by 17 percent over the past couple of years and are directing patients to other forms of pain management, including physical therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.

“We want to be pro-active in making sure the alternatives are available, versus a sort of blunt, one-size-fits-all-all approach regarding the number of prescriptions,” Harris said. “The AMA’s take has always been that the decision about a specific treatment alternative is best left to the physician and their patient.”

Express Scripts said that if a doctor wants a patient to have more than a seven-day supply of medication, he or she can request it. Harris said those additional steps create an administrative burden for the doctor, “but more importantly they delay care for the patient.”

Harris said the AMA has not contacted Express Scripts to raise concerns about the program or taken any action to stop it.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration already requires label warnings about misuse on all prescription medications, but Express Scripts will take the additional step of sending a letter to new opioid patients warning about the dangers of misuse and addiction.

CVS Caremark already has a 10-day limit on opioids and limits the dosage, the company said. Patients must start on short-acting drugs, and physicians are required to regularly assess patients using opioid prescriptions.

CVS Caremark also has a monitoring process to identify pill shopping and other forms of misuse or fraud, and works with its retail pharmacies to review “prescribing trends and irregular behavior and with physicians to ensure appropriate therapy for patients with chronic pain,” spokeswoman Christine Cramer said in an email.

Express Scripts also is providing data analytics as part of Missouri’s new prescription drug-monitoring program. Republican Gov. Eric Greitens announced details last month at the Express Scripts corporate headquarters in suburban St. Louis. Missouri was the last state without a program to track prescription drugs.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/largest-u-s-drug-benefits-manager-to-limit-opioids-to-first-time-users/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1241433_Opioids_Teen_Deaths_83611.j.jpgExpress Scripts will soon limit the number and strength of opioid drugs such as OxyContin prescribed to first-time users.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:10:11 +0000
Trump disbands 2 business councils amid criticism over his Charlottesville comments http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/american-ceos-trump-nightmare-life-has-become-politicized/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/american-ceos-trump-nightmare-life-has-become-politicized/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 16:54:59 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/american-ceos-trump-nightmare-life-has-become-politicized/ WASHINGTON — Two of the White House’s top corporate advisory groups disbanded Wednesday in a direct affront to President Trump, as the fallout from his controversial statements about who was to blame for violent protests involving white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, cascaded beyond Washington.

The exodus of business advisers comes as a stinging rebuke to the president, who had sold himself as a businessman whose dealmaking prowess would pay off for companies and workers. It also stands as a remarkable breach in relations between Trump, who is the leader of the Republican Party, and a business community that historically has had an ally in the party.

Condemnations from business leaders, representing all corners of American industry, were striking for the ways they personally critiqued Trump for failing to attempt to unify the country in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville over the weekend.

“Constructive economic and regulatory policies are not enough and will not matter if we do not address the divisions in our country,” JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon, a member of Trump’s Strategy & Policy Forum, wrote to his employees Wednesday after the councils were disbanded. “It is a leader’s role, in business or government, to bring people together, not tear them apart.”

“Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,” Campbell Soup chief executive Denise Morrison, a member of the White House’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, said Wednesday morning, before the announcement. “I believe the president should have been – and still needs to be – unambiguous on that point.”

Trump came to office amid high hopes that he could work closely with the business community – after his predecessor, Barack Obama, had faced criticism for pushing for overregulation. Executives largely viewed the Republicanss control of the White House and Congress as a rare opportunity to cash in on a wish list of policy goals that they felt would help their firms and the economy, such as tax cuts and regulatory rollback.

But after an initial courtship between Trump and chief executives during his first weeks in office, business leaders have grown increasingly uneasy with his erratic leadership style and divisive statements, in which Trump often uses Twitter to criticize companies and executives he earlier praised. The severing of ties Wednesday represented the culmination of a rapid decline in that relationship.

“It’s entirely stunning,” said Bill George, the former chief executive of medical devices giant Medtronic and a Harvard Business School professor. “He gave them great access. They’re on these councils, and all those industry committees are coming together. Now they’re saying, ‘I can’t tolerate this.’ ”

“This has never happened – not in my lifetime,” George said.

Although Trump said on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon he was shutting down the advisory councils – to avoid “putting pressure on the businesspeople” – momentum was already moving strongly in that direction.

After Trump made equivocal comments about who was to blame for violence at rallies held by white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville over the weekend, Ken Frazier, the chief executive of pharmaceutical giant Merck, resigned from Trump’s manufacturing council Monday.

Trump fired back on Twitter, saying Frazier, one of the few African-American business leaders in Trump’s orbit and someone he had just recently called one of the “great, great leaders of business,” could now work to “LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES.”

He added that he could easily find executives to replace those who left.

But the reality was quite the opposite, and several other executives followed Frazier’s lead.

On Tuesday, Trump made more controversial statements about Charlottesville, including one that appeared to show sympathy for some of the people who marched with neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The weekend’s protests had turned violent, and one person had been killed.

Tuesday was the turning point for many executives on Trump’s business councils, who set up conference calls with one another Wednesday morning to discuss whether and how to sever ties with the White House. “Tuesday was a point of no return,” a person on one of the conference calls said.

Many of the executives on the conference calls indicated they planned to resign from the advisory councils. Stephen Schwarzman, the founder of Blackstone who chaired one of the groups – the Strategy & Policy Forum – crafted a statement saying the group would be disbanded.

Schwarzman did not respond to requests for comment.

Jeff Immelt, a member of the manufacturing advisory group and chairman of General Electric, said he found Trump’s statements on Tuesday “deeply troubling” and had told others earlier Wednesday that he was resigning.

“The committee I joined had the intention to foster policies that promote American manufacturing and growth,” he said. “However, given the ongoing tone of the discussion, I no longer feel that this council can accomplish these goals.”

Corporate angst about Trump began immediately after he took office, with many chief executives – particularly those in Silicon Valley – repudiating his executive order that sought to block the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries into the United States. His views on climate change also led to some estrangements, including with Tesla founder Elon Musk, who resigned from Trump’s business councils after the president announced he would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

But many executives found ways to heap praise on Trump and let him take credit for retaining factories or creating new jobs, even though some of those plans were already in the works before his election.

Intel, for example, announced it would create 10,000 new jobs following Trump’s election through construction of an Arizona facility, but it had already announced plans to expand operations in Arizona back in 2011. Similarly, Trump touted a March announcement by Charter Communications to invest $25 billion in the United States, but the company’s jobs plan was in motion as early as 2015.

Other companies, however, announced fresh plans to build and hire thousands of new workers. One of these – e-commerce giant Amazon – was celebrated by Trump last year when it announced it would be hiring 100,000 workers. Then on Wednesday on Twitter, Trump excoriated the firm – which for years did not collect state sales tax, though now it does – for “doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt – many jobs being lost!”

Trump has criticized Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos for coverage by The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, suggesting he is using it to advance his financial interests. The Post’s editors and Bezos, who has met with Trump as part of a White House advisory group called the American Technology Council, have declared that he is not involved in any journalistic decisions.

Trump formed corporate advisory groups in part to show how closely he was pulling in corporate executives after they often complained about tax and regulatory policies during the Obama administration. Trump promised them the largest package of tax cuts in U.S. history and a $1 trillion infrastructure package, but those plans have not materialized, while frustration with his comments and leadership style has grown.

On Wednesday, even the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, which often reflects the pulse of corporate leaders, said the resignations of chief executives should concern the president. “A Republican president who loses the business class has a big problem,” the editorial page declared.

Trump has long said his background in real estate and numerous business ventures gives him unrivaled expertise when it comes to rebuilding the U.S. economy, which has seen weak economic growth since the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

Before he became president, he railed against the state of the economy, decrying the loss of manufacturing jobs and dismissing the steadily rising stock market as a “big fat, ugly bubble.”

But on Tuesday, before his comments about the rally by white supremacists, Trump had a much different take on the economy. He said the “country is booming. The stock market is setting records. We have the highest employment numbers we’ve ever had in the history of our country. We’re doing record business.”

Trump’s eroding corporate support comes at a time when he faces numerous tests on Capitol Hill that will directly influence the economy and financial markets. The White House and Republican leaders in Congress are discussing ways to jointly push through an overhaul of the tax code in the remainder of 2017 that cuts taxes and allows corporations to bring back trillions of dollars in overseas earnings to the United States.

Congress must pass legislation to keep the government operating past Sept. 30, and Trump has signaled that he is willing to allow the government to shut down if Democrats won’t give him money to build a wall along the Mexico border.

Congress must also vote by late September to raise or suspend the debt ceiling. Failing to do so, many chief executives and economists believe, could lead to a financial crisis, recession and a spike in interest rates. The White House has given different takes on how it believes the debt ceiling should be addressed, but it recently has called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/american-ceos-trump-nightmare-life-has-become-politicized/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1241391_APTOPIX_Trump_36817.jpg-096.jpgPresident Trump pauses as he answers questions in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday, when he reiterated his belief that both sides were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, when a man plowed his car into those protesting a white supremacist rally, killing a woman and injuring multiple others.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 23:18:41 +0000
Twelve Maine companies make Inc.’s 5000 list of fastest-growing private firms http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/12-maine-companies-make-inc-5000-fastest-growing-list/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/12-maine-companies-make-inc-5000-fastest-growing-list/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 15:46:46 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/12-maine-companies-make-inc-5000-fastest-growing-list/ Twelve Maine-based companies made the annual Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private companies list.

The compilation, which recognizes companies’ growth over a three-year period, was released Wednesday by the business magazine.

Companies self-report their three-year growth rates and revenue to be considered.

In 2016, eight Maine companies made the list and nine did in 2015.

Among the Maine companies listed this year, SaviLinx in Brunswick was ranked the highest at No. 28 based on its more than 9,000 percent increase over three years. The company, founded in 2013, provides customer service and back office and technical support to commercial and government clients. It reported 2016 revenues of $11.4 million.

Also making the list were:

No. 783 – Cirrus Systems, a Saco manufacturer of lighting and LED display products; 586 percent increase; $3.8 million in revenues

No. 836 – Sound Rink, a Portland provider of music industry products for consumers; 542 percent; $5.5 million

No. 854 – Apothecary by Design, provides customized pharmaceutical services in Portland; 527 percent; $206 million

No. 868 – Coria, a Portland provider of IT services; 571 percent; $2.1 million

No. 1,112 – Vets First Choice, veterinary pharmaceutical services firm based in Portland; 378 percent; $83.3 million

No. 1,517 – Tilson Technology Management, a Portland telecommunications and technology management company; 265 percent; $36.9 million

No. 1,715 – Landry/French Construction Co., a Scarborough construction firm; 228 percent; $65.8 million

No. 1,987- Municipay, a Portland payment processor company; 90 percent; $3.4 million

No. 2,749 – Maine Coast, a York distributor of seafood, primarily lobster; 125 percent; $55.1 million

No. 3,567 – Otto, a Portland-based pizza company; 86 percent; $16.4 million

No. 4,082 – Winxnet, a Portland IT consulting and services company; 68 percent; $16.9 million in revenues.

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Sen. Angus King warns: ‘The next Pearl Harbor will be cyber’ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/angus-king-calls-cyber-attacks-one-of-the-most-serious-problems-we-face-during-augusta-speech/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/angus-king-calls-cyber-attacks-one-of-the-most-serious-problems-we-face-during-augusta-speech/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 15:32:23 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1241365 AUGUSTA — One of the greatest threats to the United States is a cyber attack on its financial or energy systems, Sen. Angus King told a crowd of about 140 people on Wednesday morning.

King said the country needs to create a policy of deterrence if it’s going to prevent similar cyber attacks to the one Russian hackers made on the U.S. election system last year.

“I think the next Pearl Harbor will be cyber,” King said, in response to a question about cyber threats. “The vulnerability of our grid, of our financial system, of the gas pipeline system is really, really serious, and I don’t think we’re adequately prepared, and there’s no simple answer to it.”

King, an independent and former Maine governor, made the comment during a wide-ranging set of remarks before a breakfast of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, in which he also talked about health care, healing the country’s partisan divides and a law that was recently passed that should clear the way for the long-awaited expansion of a veterans health care clinic in Portland.

King, who sits on the Senate’s intelligence and armed services committees, went on to suggest that the United States needs to create a policy of deterrence for cyber threats, akin to the way it has treated the threat of nuclear attacks since the 1950s.

“This is a criticism of both the Obama administration and the current administration,” said King, who caucuses with Democrats. “We don’t have a cyber policy. We don’t have a strategy. We don’t have a doctrine. Somebody who attacks us via cyber, there’s no expected response, you see what I mean? (With) nuclear weapons, we established in the early 50s, ‘You attack us, we attack you, you’re gone,’ and it’s deterrence. There’s a deterrent. That’s the best way to keep someone from hitting you is, they’re afraid of you hitting them back. … It’s one of the most serious problems we face, and we know it’s coming.”

But after the Russians attempted to influence the 2016 election, King continued, “They really haven’t suffered any consequences, so they’re going to do it again. They’re going to be back in a year and a half, three years.”

During his remarks on Wednesday, King also said that President Donald Trump recently signed a law containing numerous provisions for veterans health care, including the long-awaited authorization of a facility that will be expanded in Portland.

This story will be updated.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

ceichacker@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @ceichacker

 

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BJ’s Wholesale fills every Maine teacher’s classroom wish list http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/bjs-wholesale-fills-every-maine-teachers-wish-list/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/bjs-wholesale-fills-every-maine-teachers-wish-list/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:42:36 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/bjs-wholesale-fills-every-maine-teachers-wish-list/ A $100,000 donation by BJ’s Wholesale Club has financed every single “wish list” classroom project posted by Maine teachers on the crowd-sourcing website DonorsChoose.org, the company announced Wednesday.

The donation pays for 165 classroom projects, including requests for new chapter books for first-graders at Suzanne M. Smith Elementary School in Levant, tablets for Auburn Middle School students studying digital photography, animation and 3-D sculpting and supplies for daily hygiene essentials for needy students at Hall Elementary School in Portland.

“Every teacher and student should have the resources necessary for a successful school year,” said Kirk Saville, executive director of the company’s charitable foundation. “At BJ’s, we’re committed to helping families thrive by providing essentials to students and teachers, and we’re proud to fund all DonorsChoose.org projects in Maine with a $100,000 donation.”

Last year, Maine actress Anna Kendrick funded 31 classroom projects in Maine. During the 2015-16 school year, DonorsChoose.org helped fund 539 projects in Maine, for a total of more than $360,000.

DonorsChoose.org was started in 2000 by Charles Best, a high school teacher from The Bronx, New York, to help cover classroom costs not covered by school budgets. Educators request funding for a project, which is then vetted before the information is posted on the website. Donors can search for a project and make a contribution.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/bjs-wholesale-fills-every-maine-teachers-wish-list/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/01/793632_828042-20160128_Chebeague3.jpgChebeague Island School fifth-grader Logan Beaupré works on a writing project last week as his teacher Kristin Westra helps third-grader Sadie Todd. With an enrollment of 32 students, the school has scored well on state report cards. Families have moved to the island community because of the quality of its education.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 21:01:24 +0000
A new place to sample mead http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/a-new-place-to-sample-mead/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/a-new-place-to-sample-mead/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:34:13 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/a-new-place-to-sample-mead/ Maine Mead Works has opened its first satellite tasting room. The new spot is located at 8 Western Ave. in Kennebunk, next door to Federal Jack’s.

The tasting room opened July 1, according to Ben Alexander, the owner of Maine Mead Works, which has a meadery and tasting room at 51 Washington Ave. in Portland.

“We’re thrilled to have another direct to consumer outlet for what we’re doing. I think that’s been a key to our success, just getting people in the door to try something different.”

Maine Mead Works was founded in 2007.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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New food truck will serve Cambodian and Vietnamese street food http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/new-food-truck-will-serve-cambodian-and-vietnamese-street-food/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/new-food-truck-will-serve-cambodian-and-vietnamese-street-food/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:25:54 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/new-food-truck-will-serve-cambodian-and-vietnamese-street-food/ Nom Bai, a new food truck serving Cambodian and Vietnamese street food, will launch in Portland sometime in the next three weeks.

The truck is owned by Matthew Glatz, owner of the Salt Box Café, a “tiny house food truck” that serves breakfast and brunch on the Eastern Promenade. Glatz recently built a new food truck for hibachi cooking and has hired Sovanna Neang, who is from Cambodia, to run it.

Neang previously worked at Sapporo, a Japanese restaurant on Commercial Street in Portland, and will write the menu for Nom Bai herself.

“Her menu is simple Cambodian and Vietnamese street food,” Glatz said. “They’re family recipes that have been in her family.”

Glatz said the truck will debut at a local brewery as soon as he gets his license from the city, “hopefully before Labor Day.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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Mainers won’t be selling recreational pot by February deadline http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/mainers-wont-be-selling-pot-by-deadline/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/16/mainers-wont-be-selling-pot-by-deadline/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1241194 Maine won’t make its February deadline for beginning the sale of recreational marijuana and won’t be ready to do so until next summer, at the earliest, according to the committee tasked with implementing legalization.

A special legislative commission finished its preliminary work on how Mainers can grow, sell and buy recreational marijuana Tuesday, tackling issues ranging from licensing fees to tax rates to consumer protections. Now analysts will turn months of committee straw votes into the draft bill that will go to a public hearing next month and a full legislative vote in October.

But the agencies that will oversee the launch and daily operations of Maine’s recreational market will not have time to write departmental rules, hire new inspectors and staff, and license growers, retailers and testing labs before a legislative moratorium on adult sales ends in February, said Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta, a committee co-chairman.

“We want to get marijuana out of the black market and we want to do that as quickly as possible, but we need to do it right,” Katz said. “It is such a big subject and there was so much to consider. As it is, we’re remaining silent on some subjects, leaving others to consider them on other days, because we couldn’t possibly do it all.”

In January, the Legislature delayed implementation of all but the home grow sections of the Marijuana Legalization Act until February 2018 to give the state time to draft a regulatory framework for retail cultivation and sales that will be overseen by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

Advocates are critical of certain parts of the proposed bill, such as home grow restrictions, a requirement that most licensees have large cash deposits on hand that remain untouched, and the absence of provisions to allow for marijuana social clubs, but it is the delay in launching the recreational market that frustrates them most.

“The law as written and adopted by voters would have gotten the legal marketplace up and running as soon as possible,” said Paul McCarrier, president of Legalize Maine. “We could have a program ready to issue licenses now, but the committee thought it knew better than the voters. It has made one change after another, and each change pushes the timeline back … and keeps the black market going.”

Various strains of marijuana are displayed during the grand opening of a marijuana store in Seattle. Washington state’s first retail recreational marijuana store opened in July 2014. Associated Press/Elaine Thompson

McCarrier predicts that Maine will not issue its first adult-use licenses until summer 2018, more than a year and a half after voters approved it at referendum.

At past meetings, the marijuana committee agreed that Maine shouldn’t be the first state in the country to allow marijuana social clubs, limited the number of plants that could be grown for personal use on any one piece of property to 12 no matter how many people live there, and set the combined tax rate on recreational marijuana at 20 percent, with up to 5 percent of taxes collected to go to the host community.

In Maine, this tax scheme would drive the price of marijuana up from an average of about $200 an ounce to about $240, with a $20 excise tax levied on the cultivator, which would be built into the price, and a $20 sales tax charged to consumers at the time of sale. The host town would get $2 of that $40, with the rest going to the state.

On Tuesday, the committee tackled the last remaining topics of debate, some of which had left them divided at previous meetings, such as:

Employers can refuse to hire job applicants or fire employees who use recreational marijuana, but landlords cannot reject or evict a tenant for recreational marijuana use.

State regulatory agencies must hire law enforcement officers to enforce recreational marijuana laws, just like the state Department of Marine Resources uses patrol officers to enforce state conservation laws.

State regulatory agencies can conduct annual or random inspections of recreational marijuana license holders, but it is not required.

License holders can face revocation, suspension and fines of up to $100,000 for committing public safety violations, up to $50,000 for license violations and up to $10,000 for a license infraction, in addition to possible criminal penalties brought by law enforcement.

Someone who is caught violating the home grow rules established by the bill could face up to a $1,000 fine, in addition to criminal penalties.

But the committee left other topics alone, deciding it didn’t have the time, expertise or jurisdiction to do things like deciding how recreational marijuana use is going to impact the job fitness of someone who is currently receiving unemployment benefits, or improving the state’s medical marijuana program or considering how to bring it under the same regulatory umbrella as recreational marijuana.

Committee analysts plan to have a draft bill written by the first week of September. They will meet with the committee chairmen, Katz and Rep. Teresa Pierce of Falmouth, to reconcile their summary of the committee’s various straw polls. A cleaned-up version of the draft bill will go to a Sept. 26 public hearing. The committee will discuss public testimony over the next two days before holding a final vote.

Once the measure is vetted, Katz, a Republican, and Pierce, a Democrat, will ask the state Legislature to convene a special session in October to consider the bill. The committee will have to sell the merits of the proposal to fellow lawmakers, many of whom have been on summer break while the committee did the bulk of its work, Katz said. Many lawmakers remain opposed to legalization, even after the referendum.

“We have an education job ahead of us,” Katz said. “A lot of people are not happy the law passed. To those people, I would say there are only two groups that want to see a regulated market set up – people who like marijuana and people who don’t like marijuana. Because really, we all have an interest in making the product safe, keeping it out of the hands of children, taxing it appropriately and keeping sales out of the black market.”

If approved, the agriculture and administrative and financial services departments will hire consultants to help write the rules needed to launch and run the new tightly regulated market, and guide them through the licensing process. At this point, it is up to the state’s executive branch to move as quickly as possible to launch the market, but the committee can’t force its hand with a deadline, Katz and Pierce said.

Discussions with the administration of Gov. Paul LePage have been minimal, Katz said. LePage campaigned against legalization last fall, and has said he would like to see it repealed. Katz and Pierce would like LePage to follow in the footsteps of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. He didn’t want legalization, but once voters adopted it, he worked to implement it as smoothly as possible.

They urged LePage to appoint a marijuana coordinator to his cabinet, like Hickenlooper did in Colorado, but they haven’t gotten a response to their suggestions. As lawmakers, they can’t force the regulatory agencies to begin sales until rules are in place, and there is no mechanism for speeding up the process in a responsible manner, they said.

A LePage spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Penelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:

poverton@pressherald.com

Twitter: PLOvertonPPH

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Chicken Caesar salad products recalled from Cumberland Farms http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/chicken-caesar-salad-products-recalled-from-cumberland-farms/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/chicken-caesar-salad-products-recalled-from-cumberland-farms/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 01:13:42 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/chicken-caesar-salad-products-recalled-from-cumberland-farms/ More than 1,700 pounds of chicken Caesar salad products sold at Cumberland Farms stores in Maine and throughout New England are being recalled due to misbranding.

Missa Bay LLC, a New Jersey-based business, makes the 9.95 ounce plastic salad bowls that contain chicken Caesar salad with romaine lettuce, roasted chicken, parmesan cheese, bacon, croutons and creamy Caesar dressing.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the products are labeled gluten-free. However, the croutons are made with wheat, which means they contain gluten. The wheat was not published on the product label.

The product was shipped to Cumberland Farms stores throughout New England, as well as New York state. The USDA said the health risk is low.

The salads have a must-use date of Aug. 16.

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South Carolina sues maker of OxyContin over opioid crisis http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/s-carolina-sues-maker-of-oxycontin/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/s-carolina-sues-maker-of-oxycontin/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 00:34:50 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/s-carolina-sues-maker-of-oxycontin/ COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina has become the latest state to accuse a drug manufacturer of exacerbating its opioid drug crisis by using deceptive marketing, with the state’s top prosecutor suing the maker of OxyContin.

Attorney General Alan Wilson on Tuesday announced the state had sued Purdue Pharma, accusing the maker of OxyContin and other opioid drugs of violating South Carolina’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.

“While we vigorously deny the allegations, we share South Carolina officials’ concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions,” Purdue Pharma responded in a statement.

The suit, filed in Richland County, accuses Purdue of failing to comply with a 2007 agreement it signed with South Carolina and dozens of other states over allegations about its promotion of OxyContin. Purdue admitted no fault in that case, which accused the company of encouraging doctors to prescribe OxyContin for unapproved uses and failing to disclose its potential for addiction.

That consent agreement required Purdue to correct its allegedly abusive and excessive marketing practices, maintain a program to identify prescribers who overprescribe OxyContin and train sales representatives in the abuse and diversion detection program before they can promote the drug.

Since that time, Wilson said, the company has continued to mislead doctors about the risks of addiction, by saying that patients who appeared addicted actually needed more opioids, and that opioid drugs could be taken in even higher doses without disclosing the greater risks to patients.

“We do not believe that a single lawsuit against a single company will magically fix the problem,” Wilson said Tuesday. “But what I can do today as South Carolina’s chief legal officer is to bring this lawsuit against Purdue for its deceit and misrepresentation.”

Wilson said South Carolina had the ninth-highest rate of opioid prescriptions in the nation last year. Since 2011, prosecutors said, more than 3,000 South Carolinians have died from prescription opioid overdoses.

Stamford, Conn.-based Perdue calls itself “an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology, advocating for the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and supporting access to Naloxone.”

But the lawsuit accuses Purdue of falsely claiming that its newer, abuse-deterrent opioids are safer than other opioid drugs.

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Retailers stumble, but stocks change only slightly overall http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/retailers-stumble-but-stocks-change-only-slightly-overall/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/retailers-stumble-but-stocks-change-only-slightly-overall/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 23:31:15 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/retailers-stumble-but-stocks-change-only-slightly-overall/ NEW YORK — U.S. stock indexes finished Tuesday close to where they started as technology companies and household goods makers rose. But weak reports from sporting goods and auto parts retailers left a lot of smaller companies with steep losses.

Dick’s Sporting Goods and Advance Auto Parts both disclosed disappointing second-quarter results and cut their annual forecasts, which affected a slew of other companies. Other retailers also dropped, including Home Depot, which posted strong results. Other groups of stocks managed modest gains.

“Especially in the month of August, when not as many investors are around, you get a lot of this group trading,” said Brian Nagel, analyst who covers retailers for Oppenheimer & Co.

Nagel said struggles for Dick’s and Advance Auto Parts don’t say anything about how retailers in other industries are doing, but if investors grow pessimistic about retail, they may sell all kinds of retailers when one part of the industry struggles.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 1.23 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 2,464.61. The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 5.28 points to 21,998.99. The Nasdaq composite fell 7.22 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,333.01. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks shed 11.07 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,383.24. The S&P 600, an index of small-cap stocks, plunged 1 percent.

Stocks were coming off their biggest one-day gain in more than three months as the market recovered from last week’s turmoil.

Dick’s Sporting Goods said athletic apparel sales were weak and that it plans to do more marketing and cut prices as it tries to keep its market share. Its stock plunged $8.04, or 23 percent, to $26.87.

Foot Locker fell $2.19, or 4.4 percent, to $47.13 and Hibbett Sports dropped $2.30, or 16.5 percent, to $11.65. Athletic apparel companies also lost ground. Nike shed $1.22, or 2 percent, to $58.56 and Under Armour lost 45 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $16.66.

Advance Auto Parts and its competitors are facing weakening demand because car sales are slowing down from their recent record pace.

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Groups file brief challenging Maine’s new solar rules http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/group-files-brief-challenging-puc-on-solar-rules/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/group-files-brief-challenging-puc-on-solar-rules/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 21:53:08 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/group-files-brief-challenging-puc-on-solar-rules/ Groups opposed to Maine’s amended solar rules have joined in a brief challenging the authority and actions of the Public Utilities Commission.

The Conservation Law Foundation, ReVision Energy, Industrial Energy Consumer Group and Natural Resources Council of Maine, filed a brief Tuesday in the appeal at the Maine Supreme Court challenging the PUC’s amended solar rule, which phases out certain incentives for homeowners and businesses that install rooftop solar arrays. The brief was filed 12 days after the Maine Legislature failed to override a veto from Gov. Paul LePage on a bill that would have continued the incentives and direct the PUC to study the costs and benefits of solar.

“The new rule penalizes homeowners and businesses that generate solar energy, hampering our opportunities to increase energy independence, reduce electricity costs and support one of the fastest growing sectors in Maine’s economy,” said CLF Executive Vice President Sean Mahoney in a release announcing the filing. “This LePage-appointed commission wants us to believe that charging Mainers for the energy we generate in our own homes is just and fair, but we’re not falling for it. If this rule remains on the books, it will undermine state policy and threaten an industry already providing hundreds of good jobs across our state.”

The filing contends that the PUC has imposed unlawful charges on energy generated and consumed behind the meter, exceeded its statutory authority, relied on unsubstantiated claims, and failed to provide an adequate economic assessment in developing its new net-metering rule, among other things, according to the release.

A PUC spokesman has said previously the commission does not comment on pending litigation.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/group-files-brief-challenging-puc-on-solar-rules/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/07/1233211_816707_20140115_solar_3.jpgAdvocates of net metering, the arrangement that credits solar panel owners for the power they produce, see it as an investment that pays off in clean, locally produced energy and jobs. Critics, including Gov. Paul LePage and CMP, say the incentive increases rates and shifts costs onto other electric customers.Tue, 15 Aug 2017 19:13:39 +0000
New operations building planned for Portland shipping terminal http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/new-operations-building-planned-for-portland-shipping-terminal/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/new-operations-building-planned-for-portland-shipping-terminal/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 21:12:43 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/new-operations-building-planned-for-portland-shipping-terminal/ The Maine Port Authority is proposing to build a nearly 10,000-square-foot maintenance and operations building on Commercial Street in Portland to free up cargo space at the International Marine Terminal.

An application filed this month with the city’s planning office by the Maine Department of Transportation outlines plans to construct the two-story building and add a 20-spot parking lot at the terminal near the Casco Bay Bridge.

The proposed building would replace a similarly sized maintenance facility. There will be no change of use or expansion of operations because of the development, according to the site plan application.

The existing maintenance building is closer to the waterfront and near the terminal’s crane. The new building would be built at the northeast corner of the property, next to the small office building that is the headquarters of the Maine Port Authority.

The project is estimated to cost $3.1 million, funded with state bonds and a federal grant. Maine Port Authority Executive Director John Henshaw did not respond to an interview request on Tuesday.

Moving the building will allow the terminal to reorganize operations slightly and open valuable space to store and move cargo and increase port efficiency, according to the application.

The development is part of a $15.5 million expansion at the International Marine Terminal that will add a second mobile harbor crane and improve rail connections to the facility. Maine has invested heavily in the shipping terminal, the state’s largest, doubling the size of the facility about three years ago and attracting Eimskip, an Icelandic shipping company, to locate its U.S. headquarters in Portland. Container shipments have surged at the port, growing 1,300 percent from 2011 to 2015. State officials hope further improvements and the addition of a large cold-storage warehouse will increase container traffic through the port.

According to the application, the new building will have more office space and training areas than the current facility. It will be designed to look like the nearby office, with a free-standing canopy between the buildings to link them together visually.

The project will be reviewed by the city’s Planning and Urban Development Department.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

pmcguire@pressherald.com

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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Seafood processor High Liner boots CEO after disappointing quarter, costly recall http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/high-liner-food-boots-ceo-after-disappointing-quarter/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/high-liner-food-boots-ceo-after-disappointing-quarter/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 19:36:18 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/high-liner-food-boots-ceo-after-disappointing-quarter/ The directors of seafood processor High Liner Foods Inc. announced Monday that former chairman Henry Demone will take back his CEO role following disappointing sales and a prolonged recall of breaded food products.

Keith Decker, who was brought in as CEO in 2015, will leave the company. The change is effective immediately.

The company, based in Nova Scotia, has a large processing facility in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. High Liner Foods is one of two surviving whitefish processors on the East Coast.

In its earnings report, also released Monday, the company showed a decrease in quarterly gross profits from $46.7 million in the second quarter of 2016 to $37.8 million this year. Net income decreased by $4.5 million over the same period. The company reported gross sales of $508.1 million for the first half of 2017 compared with $515.8 million for the same period in 2016.

“The board and I are confident that the company is pursuing the right strategy to grow our business and create long-term shareholder value,” said Demone in a company statement. “As CEO, I am looking forward to working more closely with the High Liner Foods leadership team on the execution of this strategy and on pursuing our growth opportunities.”

Demone was CEO of the publicly traded company from 1992 to 2015, and led it through a series of acquisitions, including Fishery Products International in 2007, Viking Seafoods in 2010, Icelandic Groups US and Asian operations in 2011, American Pride Seafoods in 2013, Atlantic Trading Co., in 2014, and Rubicon Resources in 2017. Last year, High Liner reported sales of $956 million.

In 2016, it sold its scallop business and the New Bedford (Massachusetts) American Pride plant to Blue Harvest Fisheries.

In its second quarter report, the company highlighted a costly recall that began with an undeclared milk allergen for seafood products sold in Canada. That recall cost the company $700,000. Its ingredient supplier then told High Liner there was undeclared milk in other formulations, which led to a widespread recall of breaded products in both the U.S. and Canada. The recall resulted in estimated losses of $9.7 million for the first half of 2017.

Additionally, the sale of the New Bedford scallop business in September 2016 had the impact of lowering sales volume by 1.5 million pounds and sales by $19.8 million during the first half of 2017 compared to the same period last year.

The acquisition of Rubicon in May increased sales volume by 3.3 million pounds and sales by $17.7 million in a comparison of second-quarter earnings.

Company officials noted that the transfer of processing from its New Bedford plant to Portsmouth encountered problems just as it was gearing up for the busiest time of the year for seafood sales – Lent.

“Excluding the impact of these items and the recall, sales volume for the the first half of 2017 decreased by 3.2 million pounds, reflecting residual manufacturing challenges associated with production transferred from our previously owned New Bedford facility,” said the company’s earnings report. Those factors resulted in an inability to meet heightened demand in March related to a late Lent, and the continued impact of lower demand for traditional breaded and battered frozen seafood products. Sales were also depressed by product returns, limited product availability and customer shortages as a result of the recall, it said.

High Liner Foods officials expect the drop in sales will be temporary. Recovery from the recall and sales related to the acquisition of Rubicon are expected to strengthen finances through the end of the year.

“Having returned to year-over-year organic sales volume growth, we believe continued improvement in our manufacturing operations will return the company to year-over-year earnings growth in the third and fourth quarter of 2017,” concluded Demone in the earnings report.

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Scientists to meet with fishers of cod, sole about future of fish http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/scientists-to-meet-with-fishers-of-cod-sole-about-future-of-fish/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/scientists-to-meet-with-fishers-of-cod-sole-about-future-of-fish/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 16:29:33 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/scientists-to-meet-with-fishers-of-cod-sole-about-future-of-fish/ PORTLAND — Fishery regulators are meeting with commercial and recreational fishermen around New England and New York to talk about upcoming assessments of key fish stocks.

The meeting in Maine will be Thursday in Portland.

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center has scheduled the “port outreach meetings” to talk about the assessments of 20 groundfish stocks. Groundfish are commercially significant fish species such as cod, haddock and sole that live near the ocean floor.

The science center says it will explain the stock assessment process and ways industry concerns can be addressed. The first of the meetings is on Tuesday at Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance in Chatham, Massachusetts.

Meetings will follow on Wednesday in New Bedford, Massachusetts; Friday in Gloucester, Massachusetts; Aug. 28 in Point Judith, Rhode Island; and Aug. 30 in Montauk, New York.

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Fifth business leader quits Trump’s jobs council over Charlottesville http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/more-ceos-resign-from-trumps-manufacturing-council/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/more-ceos-resign-from-trumps-manufacturing-council/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 12:44:09 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/15/more-ceos-resign-from-trumps-manufacturing-council/ WASHINGTON – President Trump on Tuesday ripped into business leaders who resigned from his White House jobs panel – the latest sign that corporate America’s romance with Trump is faltering – after his equivocal response to violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“They’re not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country,” the president said at an impromptu news conference at Trump Tower in New York City.

After his remarks, a fifth member of his manufacturing panel resigned: AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who said in a statement, “We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Associated Press/Andrew Harnik

The president denied that his original statement about the violence in Virginia on Saturday – saying “many” sides were to blame, rather than hate groups – was the cause of the departures.

“Some of the folks that will leave, they’re leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside” the United States, he said as he seemed to double down on his earlier comments.

Trump also assailed the CEOs who left on Twitter as “grandstanders” and said he had plenty of executives available to take their place. The president added that he believes economic growth in the U.S. will heal its racial divide.

But the parade of departing leaders from the informal panel seems closely linked to how the president responded to events that led to the death of a counter-protester that opposed the white supremacists.

Among those who’ve left are the chief executives for Merck, Under Armour and Intel and the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing Alliance for American Manufacturing via Associated Press

Alliance president Scott Paul, in a tweet, said simply, “I’m resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it’s the right thing for me to do.” Within minutes of the tweet on Tuesday, calls to Paul’s phone were being sent to voicemail.

Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon joined the chorus, saying in a note Monday to employees, “(We) too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists.”

But McMillon, whose business has customers on all sides of the political spectrum, plans to stay on a separate Trump advisory panel and said that the president’s follow-up remarks on Monday that named white supremacists were a step in the right direction.

Corporate leaders have been willing to work with Trump on taxes, trade and reducing regulations, but they’ve increasingly found themselves grappling with cultural and social tensions amid his lightning rod-style of leadership. The CEOs who left the council quickly faced his wrath, while those who have stayed have said it’s important to speak with the president on economic issues.

Like several other corporate leaders, Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, said that intolerance and racism have no place in U.S. society but that he intended to stay on the manufacturing council.

“We must engage if we hope to change the world and those who lead it,” he said in a statement.

A White House official downplayed the importance of the manufacturing council and a separate policy and strategy forum featuring corporate leaders. The official, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations, said the panels were informal rather than a set body of advisers. The departures, the official said, were unlikely to hurt the administration’s plans to overhaul taxes and regulations.

Many corporate leaders have faced a lose-lose scenario in which any choice involving politics can alienate customers, not to mention a U.S. president who has shown a willingness to personally negotiate government contracts.

Kenneth Frazier, chairman and CEO of Merck Associated Press/Mark Lennihan

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, one of only four African-Americans leading a Fortune 500 company, was the first to tender his resignation Monday.

He was assailed almost immediately by Trump on Twitter.

Then came resignations from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and then Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. On Under Armour’s Facebook page Tuesday, customers who supported Trump threatened to boycott the athletic clothier.

Austan Goolsbee, the former chief economist for President Obama, said the departures suggest the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville could alienate those who work for the companies, and those who buy the products and services that they sell.

Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour Associated Press/Richard Drew

“It’s certainly a sign that Trump’s more controversial stuff isn’t playing well with companies selling to middle America,” said Goolsbee, now a professor at the University of Chicago.

There had already been departures from two major councils created by the Trump administration that were tied to its policies.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned from the manufacturing council in June, and two other advisory groups to the president, after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Bob Iger resigned for the same reason from the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

The manufacturing jobs council had 28 members initially, but it has shrunk since it was formed earlier this year as executives retire, are replaced, or, as with Frazier, Musk, Plank, Paul and Krzanich, resign.

So far, the majority of CEOs and business leaders that are sitting on the two major, federal panels, are condemning racism, but say they want to keep their seats at the table.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich Associated Press/Richard Drew

“Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unwavering, and we will remain active champions for these efforts,” said a spokesman for Campbell Soup for CEO Denise Morrison. “We believe it continues to be important for Campbell to have a voice and provide input on matters that will affect our industry, our company and our employees in support of growth.”

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg also will remain. So will Michael Dell, the head of his namesake computer company. Both companies contract with the government.

Lawrence Summers, once the chief economist at the World Bank and senior Treasury official, wondered when more business leaders will distance themselves from Trump.

“After this weekend, I am not sure what it would take to get these CEOs to resign,” he tweeted. “Demonizing ethnic groups? That has happened.”

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Hedge fund that owns Sunday River, Sugarloaf under scrutiny in New Hampshire http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/public-session-set-regarding-owner-of-sunday-river-sugarloaf/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/public-session-set-regarding-owner-of-sunday-river-sugarloaf/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 00:58:13 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/public-session-set-regarding-owner-of-sunday-river-sugarloaf/ NEWBURY, N.H. — New Hampshire state officials are holding a public information session about the Mount Sunapee Resort to address questions about its new operator.

The ski area is part of Mount Sunapee State Park, but ski operations are run by private companies under a lease. That lease was sold recently to New York hedge fund Och-Ziff as part of a deal involving a number of other ski areas, including Okemo in Vermont and Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine.

The Concord Monitor reports that the Attorney General’s Office asked the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to hold a public information session after getting questions about the company, which was fined $412 million last year for its alleged involvement in bribery schemes in Africa.

The meeting is Aug. 22, at the ski area’s base lodge.

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Stocks jump as international tensions ease http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/stocks-jump-as-international-tensions-ease/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/stocks-jump-as-international-tensions-ease/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 00:38:54 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/stocks-jump-as-international-tensions-ease/ NEW YORK — U.S. stocks rallied Monday as technology companies and banks helped companies regain a lot of the ground they lost last week, although the calm that has defined the market this year wasn’t quite restored.

Almost 90 percent of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index finished higher. Technology stocks outpaced the rest of the market following a strong report on the state of Japan’s economy. Last week, rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea sent stocks to some of their biggest losses in 2017. That eased Monday after officials said fighting is not imminent.

“What the market really reacted negatively to on Thursday was Trump’s somewhat incendiary comments about ‘fire and fury,”‘ said Dave Lafferty, chief market strategist of Natixis Global Asset Management. “The administration sort of walked back Trump’s comments over the weekend.”

But while stocks climbed, investors weren’t ready to loosen their grip on some traditionally safe investments. Bond prices slipped only by a small amount and gold finished a little lower, while silver prices rose.

The S&P 500 jumped 24.52 points, or 1 percent, to 2,465.84. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 135.39 points, or 0.6 percent, to 21,993.71. The Nasdaq composite added 83.68 points, or 1.3 percent, to 6,340.23. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies climbed 20.08 points, or 1.5 percent, to 1,394.31.

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North Dakota offers to settle with oil pipline company ETP over Indian artifacts discovery http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/north-dakota-offers-to-settle-with-oil-pipline-company-etp-over-indian-artifacts-discovery/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/north-dakota-offers-to-settle-with-oil-pipline-company-etp-over-indian-artifacts-discovery/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 00:20:54 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/north-dakota-offers-to-settle-with-oil-pipline-company-etp-over-indian-artifacts-discovery/ BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota regulators offered Monday to settle state allegations that the Texas-based developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline improperly reported the discovery of American Indian artifacts during construction.

The state Public Service Commission last November proposed a fine of at least $15,000 against ETP, though the commission has the authority under state law to levy fines of up to $200,000.

The three-member commission unanimously agreed to offer a settlement under which ETP would make a $15,000 “contribution” to the State Historic Preservation Office or another mutually agreed-upon entity. The company would not have to admit fault, and the matter would be dismissed upon payment of the money.

ETP didn’t immediately comment on the proposal. The company has 10 days to accept the offer. If it rejects it, the PSC will move forward with the complaint. The next step would be a public hearing.

The complaint arose when the PSC was notified by a third-party inspector that pipeline crews last October had diverted construction of the pipeline around Native American artifacts. The company had obtained the approval of the State Historic Preservation Office but not of the commission, which oversees pipelines. The artifacts weren’t disturbed.

ETP has maintained it did nothing intentionally wrong and has been fighting the proposed fine, which pales in comparison to the $3.8 billion cost of the pipeline that began moving oil from North Dakota to Illinois in July.

Commissioners said they decided to make the offer to try to put an end to the dispute. The group in recent weeks has been meeting with its attorneys in meetings closed to the public, but Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said the attorneys did not indicate to regulators that the state would have a tough time proving its case.

“It wasn’t a matter of whether the case is strong or weak,” she said. “It was really an effort to recognize … we’re not interested in being tangled up in procedural delays indefinitely.”

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Top Fed official says bond portfolio could shrink soon http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/top-fed-official-says-bond-portfolio-could-shrink-soon/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/top-fed-official-says-bond-portfolio-could-shrink-soon/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 23:39:42 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/top-fed-official-says-bond-portfolio-could-shrink-soon/ Associated Press

NEW YORK — A top Federal Reserve official suggested Monday that the Fed will likely announce next month that it will begin paring its bond portfolio – a step that could lead to slightly higher rates on mortgages and other loans.

In an interview with The Associated Press, William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said he thinks the Fed has adequately prepared investors for a reduction in the portfolio, which swelled after the 2008 financial crisis as the Fed bought bonds to reduce long-term rates. With the economy now much healthier, the Fed is ready to begin trimming its bond holdings.

Dudley also said that he would favor a third increase this year in the Fed’s benchmark short-term rate if the economy remained strong. Many investors expect a modest rate hike in December, to follow the Fed’s previous increases in March and June this year.

Speaking of the Fed’s likely September announcement that it will begin shrinking its $4.5 trillion bond portfolio, Dudley expressed confidence that investors would react calmly to the prospect of modestly higher rates on some consumer and business loans.

Dudley pointed out that the Fed spelled out to investors months ago the system it plans to use to reduce the portfolio gradually.

“The plan is out there,” he said during an interview at the New York Fed. “It’s been generally well-received and fully anticipated. People expect it to take place.”

As president of the Fed’s New York regional bank, Dudley is an influential voice on interest-rate policy. He is vice chairman of the central bank’s policy panel that sets interest rates and is a longtime close ally of Fed Chair Janet Yellen.

His interview with the AP comes at a time when the Fed has essentially met one of its two mandates: To maximize employment. The unemployment rate is at a 16-year low of 4.3 percent, and job growth remains consistently solid.

Yet the Fed has so far failed to meet its second objective of keeping prices stable. Inflation has stayed chronically below the Fed’s 2 percent target rate – a problem because consumers often delay purchases when they think prices will stay the same or even decline.

In its latest reading, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge was just 1.4 percent year over year. Dudley said Monday that he still thinks inflation will rise toward the Fed’s target level as the job market strengthens further and sluggish wage growth begins to pick up.

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ImmuCell posts lower sales, net loss in second quarter http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/immucell-posts-lower-sales-net-loss-in-second-quarter/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/immucell-posts-lower-sales-net-loss-in-second-quarter/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 20:52:10 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/immucell-posts-lower-sales-net-loss-in-second-quarter/ ImmuCell Corp. of Portland reported on Monday second-quarter revenue of $1.7 million, a 26 percent decrease from the second quarter of 2016.

The bovine health products maker also reported a net loss of $218,000, or 5 cents per share, compared with a loss of $9,000, or less than 1 cent per share, a year earlier.

ImmuCell attributed the relative drop in sales partly to its record sales in the first quarter of 2017, saying that some distributors may not have needed to buy additional stock for the second quarter.

It also noted that sales during the second quarter of 2016 included roughly $1.3 million in backlog orders that had been unfulfilled from earlier months. Since the third quarter of 2016, the company has had enough inventory available to prevent a backlog, it said.

The company said its revenue of $5.3 million in the first six months of the year was nearly identical to the $5.4 million in revenue it generated during the first half of 2016.

“We expect to build on the revenue generated in the first half of 2017 and report positive sales growth for the six-month and 12-month periods ending Dec. 31, 2017, in comparison to the same periods during 2016,” said ImmuCell President and CEO Michael Brigham.

ImmuCell develops all-natural products to prevent and treat diseases among dairy and beef cattle. Its flagship product, First Defense, contains antibody-rich colostrum – milk produced in late pregnancy – in capsule form. It can be fed to newborn calves to help prevent scours, which causes diarrhea and dehydration. First Defense is a natural product made from cow’s milk that is approved for organic farming.

In early 2015, ImmuCell’s sales and profits exploded after harsh environmental conditions faced by cattle ranchers in states such as California and Texas significantly increased the value of cattle.

ImmuCell also is working on a new production facility in Portland for nisin, the active ingredient in another product it has developed called Mast Out, for which it is seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. Construction on the $20 million pharmaceutical-grade facility began in fall 2016 with the help of tax increment financing from the city of Portland.

Mast Out is a natural treatment for mastitis, inflammation of breast tissue that can afflict lactating dairy cows. Existing antibiotic treatments render the milk unsalable temporarily, causing a loss of revenue to the farmers. However, with the FDA’s approval, milk from cows treated with Mast Out could be sold immediately, giving the product a competitive edge.

ImmuCell is a publicly held company that trades on the Nasdaq exchange. Prior to the earnings report, which was released after the market closed, the price of ImmuCell shares increased by 10 cents in trading Monday to end the day at $7.70 per share.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/immucell-posts-lower-sales-net-loss-in-second-quarter/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/10/1096377_20110125immucell_3.jpgAn ImmuCell production associate fills capsules with antibodies used to reduce infections in newborn dairy cattle in this 2011 photo. Maine's smallest publicly traded firm has agreed to sell 660,000 shares to raise capital from private investors for its Portland expansion.Mon, 14 Aug 2017 17:45:08 +0000
Maine group to promote logging standards http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/maine-group-promoting-logging-standards/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/maine-group-promoting-logging-standards/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 19:48:33 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/maine-group-promoting-logging-standards/ A Maine-based nonprofit has been selected to promote a professional logging program throughout the country.

The Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands in Augusta has been selected by the American Loggers Council to promote its Master Logger certification program to logging companies. The program certifies loggers who harvest wood using professional, safe and sustainable methods, and provides third-party auditors to make sure the standards are enforced.

The Master Logger program was developed in Maine in 2000 by the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine. Since then, it has been adopted by 18 other states, according to the American Loggers Council.

The standards are a rigorous set of environmental and social benchmarks that include water and soil quality, employee safety and business viability. In the Northeast, the Rainforest Alliance of Vermont is the third-party auditor.

“While it may be generally unknown to the public, landowners large and small are increasingly seeking Master Loggers for harvests on their property, and many end users of wood are also seeking its assurances that the wood they are buying is being harvested sustainably and responsibly,” the council said.

The trust expects to revitalize the Master Logger program by meeting with members, standardizing the branding and marketing of the program, and providing technical support and outreach to other states.

Clarification: This story was updated at 5:27 p.m. on Aug. 15, 2017 to clarify that the program certifies loggers.

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Coastal Enterprises headquarters in Brunswick earns top sustainability certification http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/new-cei-headquarters-certified-leed-platinum/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/new-cei-headquarters-certified-leed-platinum/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 16:26:32 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/new-cei-headquarters-certified-leed-platinum/ Coastal Enterprises Inc.’s new headquarters in Brunswick has earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design “platinum” accreditation, the highest level awarded for commercial building energy-efficiency and sustainability.

It was only the sixth new commercial project in Maine to receive a LEED platinum designation, according to CEI.

CEI’s building received full marks for energy efficiency, thanks to its energy-efficient lighting, heating, cooling and mechanical systems, as well as insulation. A solar array of photovoltaic panels installed on the building’s roof produces more than half of the electricity used in the building, according to CEI.

Founded in 1977, CEI provides financing, consulting and policy advocacy for businesses and projects in Maine and rural regions throughout the U.S. Its focus areas include businesses that rely on natural resources, such as ocean- and land-based food systems, renewable energy and nature tourism.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

canderson@pressherald.com

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

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Maine aims to use $21 million VW settlement to improve air quality http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/mdot-sketches-plan-to-spend-21-million-from-vw-settlement/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/mdot-sketches-plan-to-spend-21-million-from-vw-settlement/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1240128 The state is taking public comment on its plan to spend $21 million to reduce harmful vehicle emissions as part of a federal legal settlement with Volkswagen over the company’s diesel engines that illegally produced high levels of greenhouse gases.

Maine plans to use the money to enhance the use of zero-emission vehicles and provide grant funding for vehicle replacement, engine upgrades and facility improvements to reduce nitrogen oxide, or NOx, emissions.

A draft plan is available for review and the state intends to file a final proposal by the end of the year with the trustee that pays out settlement funds.

“This is a remarkable opportunity to make up what went wrong,” said Judy Gates, director of the Maine Department of Transportation’s environmental office.

“Twenty-one million dollars is a significant amount, we are taking it very seriously that this be seen as an opportunity for people and get the word out as much as we can to take advantage of it,” she said.

Up to 40 percent of the $21 million from a settlement with Volkswagen will be dedicated to the state’s port facilities and rail yards. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Maine DOT is leading the settlement plan with the Governor’s Energy Office and Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Public comments on the plan are being accepted on the MDOT website and the agency plans to hold at least two public meetings.

Maine’s plan, modeled on New York and Connecticut proposals, would give money to public and private sources through grants. Other states have opted to use the funding to replace public fleets with low-emission vehicles or invest in other projects to curb harmful vehicle pollutants.

“We thought by doing (the grant process) we could get the greatest emissions reductions and hit the areas that were most impacted by the Volkswagen vehicles,” Gates said.

The funding is Maine’s portion of an overall $14.7 billion settlement to resolve charges that Volkswagen intentionally designed 2- and 3-liter diesel passenger car engines to cheat on emissions tests while violating emission standards during normal operation.

The overall settlement included a $2.7 billion payment to states from Volkswagen managed by an independent trustee. Money is paid out based on the number of illegal vehicles sold or leased per state. About 3,670 2-liter diesel Volkswagen cars were sold in Maine between 2008 and 2015, out of 500,000 sold in the U.S.

The settlement terms specifically restrict the types of vehicles, machinery and facilities eligible to receive funding from the trust. Passenger cars cannot get funding, but heavy trucks, passenger buses and rail locomotives may.

“There is really no subjective decision to be made about which project because it is all supposed to be based on NOx emissions,” Gates said. “It can be as simple as replacing an engine in a ferry, it can be as complicated as a fleet of buses.”

Funding applications will have to include projected NOx reductions and impact on air and community health. Project priority will be based on the emissions reduction or offset per dollar spent, as well as a number of other factors, such as health benefits and impact on wild areas like Acadia National Park.

“Whatever gives the most value of NOx reductions, you continue to give the money out going down the list until there is no money left,” Gates said.

Maine plans to spend the maximum amount it is allowed, 15 percent, or about or $3.15 million, to improve zero-emission infrastructure, such as charging stations for electric cars. Forty percent of the funding, $8.4 million, is planned for improvements to the state’s port facilities and rail yards, which “contribute disproportionately” to air pollution in Maine, according to the draft plan. That could mean replacing old cranes and tugboat and locomotive engines with cleaner models.

About $4.2 million, or 20 percent, will be added to the state’s annual funding from a federal program to reduce diesel emissions. That program has less stringent restrictions than the Volkswagen settlement, so the state can use it on commercial fishing vessels and farming, construction and lumber equipment.

The remaining $5.25 million would be directed to projects to repower engines on heavy trucks, buses, locomotives and other vehicles according to terms of the settlement.

If demand for funding in one area falls short, the state can apply to redirect money to a different program, Gates said.

Motor vehicles in Maine produced 34,429 tons of NOx in 2014, about 62 percent of the state’s entire NOx emissions. Passenger cars and trucks combined made up about 67 percent of all motor vehicle emissions, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.

A final plan would have to be approved by Gov. Paul LePage, as well as the trustee. In June, LePage vetoed a bill that would have directed the state to spend 15 percent of the settlement to expand zero-emission vehicle infrastructure, which was upheld by the Legislature. In his veto message, LePage said to force spending on a specific aspect of the plan while it was still under development was poor public policy.

Lisa Smith, the senior director of planning for the Governor’s Energy Office, said LePage has designated Maine DOT as the lead agency to complete the settlement plan, but did not say whether LePage would sign off on a final plan.

“Until it is in front of him, I can’t say absolutely,” Smith said.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

pmcguire@pressherald.com

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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Affordable housing in the works for East Bayside, East Deering http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/affordable-housing-in-the-works-for-east-bayside-east-deering/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/14/affordable-housing-in-the-works-for-east-bayside-east-deering/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1240191 It’s been only two months since the Portland Housing Authority opened Bayside Anchor, its first new housing development in decades. But already, the low-income housing provider is poised to file plans for two additional projects, totaling more than 155 units of housing at a time when a dearth of affordable housing in Maine’s largest city is reaching crisis levels.

“This is the continuation of our effort to be a part of the solution to the affordable housing crisis in Portland,” said Jay Waterman, the housing authority’s development director.

The authority is looking to build a 55-unit apartment building at 58 Boyd St. in the city’s East Bayside neighborhood. The site is practically across the street from Bayside Anchor, a highly energy-efficient PHA apartment building at 81 Oxford St. with 45 units that opened in June.

A public meeting about the East Bayside proposal has been scheduled for Monday, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., at 47 Smith St.

Meanwhile, about 2 miles away, the authority plans to build 100 apartments in a two-phase project on Front Street in East Deering. That proposal has generated concern among neighbors about traffic, parking and the overall urban design of the buildings in a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes.

This rendering shows the proposed 58 Boyd St. project in Portland with an orange brick facade across from the green Bayside Anchor building, which opened in June. 58 Boyd St. would add 55 low-income apartments. Rendering courtesy CWS Architects

Both developments, which would provide a mix of low-income, affordable and market-rate housing, hinge on factors beyond the authority’s control.

In addition to needing site plan approvals, Waterman said the authority needs to secure coveted low-income housing tax credits from MaineHousing. Developers in turn sell those tax credits to investors, who can claim them annually over a 10-year period.

About 15 projects a year apply for only $3 million worth of tax credits, which is enough to fund just a handful of projects, according to MaineHousing spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte.

And the projects rely on the city enacting incentives for affordable housing developments, which are currently before the City Council.

Waterman said the $11 million proposal for 58 Boyd St. narrowly missed the cutoff for tax credits from MaineHousing last year. He said he hopes getting site plan approval before filing an application in January will push the project over the line.

Rendering shows Front Street from the perspective of looking south on West Presumpscot Street. Rendering courtesy of Utile Architecture and Planning

Waterman noted that MaineHousing didn’t award tax credits to any projects in Portland last year, which was unusual.

“With the goal of providing a lot more affordable housing in the city of Portland, given the current housing crisis, we really need to get a Portland project a win,” he said.

Avesta Housing is also seeking tax credits from MaineHousing for its plan to build 82 apartments in Parkside for mostly low-income people. That project is estimated to cost $10 million.

The Boyd Street project would include 28 apartments, including three-bedroom units, for people eligible for housing vouchers that require them to pay only 30 percent of their income. Sixteen units would be for people earning 50 to 60 percent of area median income, which varies depending on household size, while 11 units – mostly studios and single-bedroom units – would be market-rate.

Waterman estimated rents would range from $718 to $888 for a studio, $770 to $1,033 for a one bedroom, $923 to $1,292 for a two bedroom and $1,067 to $1,539 for a three bedroom.

He said the current zoning would allow for as many as 60 units. However, the project anticipates the council adopting additional zoning incentives for affordable housing that would allow the authority to build a 75-foot-tall building, as opposed to 50 feet. “We’d like our building to be more compact on a smaller footprint,” he said.

The East Bayside Neighborhood Organization could not be reached for comment.

FRONT STREET

The authority is looking to redevelop about two parcels, totaling about 4 acres, on Front Street in East Deering.

The site currently has about 50 units of dispersed townhouses. But the authority is looking to tear down those buildings so it can build 100 new units – 60 units in the first phase, estimated to cost $12 million, and 40 units in the second, which would cost $8 million.

Waterman said the residents in those units would receive relocation assistance, including moving costs, to temporary homes and would have the right of first refusal to the new units once they come on line.

“We don’t want to alarm the current residents,” he said. “Everybody will be taken care of with relocation and welcomed back to the new Front Street is the idea.”

Though many in the neighborhood acknowledge the need to upgrade the existing units on Front Street, local residents are concerned that the authority’s plans would double the number of units on the parcels, as well as add to existing traffic and parking headaches.

That increase in density would only be allowed if the City Council approves changes for planned residential use developments.

East Deering resident Cheryl Leeman said she is concerned that both the zoning amendments and the project itself are done deals, even though they have not been formally approved by the Planning Board and City Council. She said the project was first presented to the neighborhood in 2016 and it was clear the authority was planning on the city adopting affordable housing incentives.

Leeman, a former longtime councilor representing the neighborhood, pointed to the Give Neighborhoods a Voice referendum to increase neighborhood leverage over the city’s rezoning request as a reaction to the city’s current process.

“This deal was already decided behind closed doors with the Portland Housing Authority and the Planning Department and the public is being asked to respond,” she said. “All of that is why this neighborhood and other neighborhoods are upset about the city’s process.”

Leeman said the City Council will take up the changes to the land use code on Sept. 6.

Scott Dobos of Randall Street, whose residence abuts the property, said he and his neighbors are concerned about increased traffic and parking issues, as well as the urban design of the buildings, which are being proposed in a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes.

“I think new buildings would be great, but my priority is to make (sure) it is a welcoming part of the community,” Dobos said. “These are big old buildings right at the curbside, which isn’t very welcoming.”

Waterman said the authority hopes to submit site plans for the Boyd Street and Front Street projects to the city sometime in September.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

rbillings@pressherald.com

Twitter: randybillings

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Thomas College will use grant to fund 50 paid internships each year http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/using-part-of-a-harold-alfond-foundation-grant-it-received-in-may-thomas-college-plans-to-fund-50-paid-internships-every-year/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/using-part-of-a-harold-alfond-foundation-grant-it-received-in-may-thomas-college-plans-to-fund-50-paid-internships-every-year/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 03:01:10 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/using-part-of-a-harold-alfond-foundation-grant-it-received-in-may-thomas-college-plans-to-fund-50-paid-internships-every-year/ WATERVILLE — For college students, internships are now more critical than ever before, according to Mike Duguay, executive director of the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation at Thomas College.

To ensure greater access to those opportunities, roughly 20 percent of a multimillion dollar grant the college received in May will go toward providing paid internships at small- to medium-sized businesses for students.

“We’re creating not just an internship program per se, but also a talent pipeline for the central Maine workforce,” Duguay said.

On May 10, the Harold Alfond Foundation announced a $5.3 million grant to create a business institute at Thomas College that will tackle a number of initiatives, including professional development training and a paid internship program.

The program hopes to provide 50 paid internships each year. While it’s still in its infancy, it has already helped some students and smaller organizations, such as Waterville Creates!

Since 2012, the college has nearly doubled the number of students participating in internships, both paid and unpaid, from 70 to 138, according to data from Mikaela Ziobro, director of strategic initiatives. The school hopes to get 150 students participating in internships in 2017.

Duguay said the hope is to get students involved with internships earlier in their academic careers.

Madeline St. Amour can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

mstamour@centralmaine.com

Twitter: madelinestamour

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Week in review: Health insurers to get rate hikes; developer sentenced to 4 months http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/business-week-in-review-aug-6-12-health-insurers-to-get-rate-hikes-developer-sentenced-to-4-months/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/business-week-in-review-aug-6-12-health-insurers-to-get-rate-hikes-developer-sentenced-to-4-months/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239516 HEALTH CARE

Affordable Health Act plans head for double-digit hikes

Maine’s top insurance regulator plans to approve double-digit rate increases for all three of the state’s providers of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The increases for 2018 would be approved if the rate requests were revised to amounts slightly lower than the health insurers requested, said Eric Cioppa, superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Insurance on Thursday.

Cioppa said he would approve revised increases of 27.1 percent for Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, 17.5 percent for Maine Community Health Options and 18.8 percent for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

In its June filings, Harvard Pilgrim requested an initial 39.7 percent rate increase that it later lowered to 29.2 percent, Community Health requested a 19.6 percent rate increase and Anthem sought an increase of 21.2 percent.

All of the insurance providers were seeking significant rate hikes for their individual plans, in part because of the political uncertainty surrounding the ACA. Read this story.

MANUFACTURING

Jay paper mill considered for further investment

The Verso paper mill in Jay could be in line for additional investment as the company considers all options for increasing value. In a conference call Wednesday to review its second-quarter performance, managers of Verso Paper said they have hired a consultant to look at each of the company’s seven mills and the company as a whole to determine how to wring the best value for shareholders.

But the managers also singled out the Androscoggin Mill in Jay as an example of how converting to a new product line and reducing excess capacity positions the company for increased revenue. Last fall, the mill’s No. 3 paper machine was idled, resulting in the layoffs of about 200 people, and its No. 5 machine was refitted to produce specialty paper – a departure from the coated paper the mill has historically produced. The No. 5 machine is now at 78 percent capacity and growing, according to the second-quarter report. Once it achieves full capacity, it could contribute $10 million in revenue.

The managers said they were considering additional investment at the Jay mill. Read this story.

Veterinary company buys two pharmaceutical firms

The parent company of Portland-based veterinary technology provider Vets First Choice has begun using the cash from a recent private equity investment to strengthen its position in the pet medications industry.

The parent company, Direct Vet Marketing, said Thursday that it has acquired two Phoenix-based pet pharmaceutical firms, Roadrunner Pharmacy and Atlas Pharmaceuticals, for an undisclosed sum.

Vets First Choice, which provides online pharmacy and other technology services to veterinary clinics, announced in July that it had received a $223 million investment to accelerate the company’s growth and hiring, launch new services and begin a global expansion effort into Europe and Asia. Read this story.

REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION

Micro-apartments in mill on drawing board in Saco

The Saco Planning Board is considering a project that calls for 22 “micro-apartments” to be built in a former mill building on Saco Island. Saco Island West LLC wants to build the 470-square-foot apartments on two floors above the popular Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery on Saco Island, which sits between downtown Saco and Biddeford.

If approved, the project would join others in both cities that offer apartments in renovated mill buildings that also house businesses. The project would also be the second in Saco to feature micro-apartments. The former Notre Dame de Lourdes church on Cutts Avenue will be turned into 80 units ranging from 600 to 800 square feet as part of a three-phase project expected to begin late this year. Read this story.

Affordable housing planned for Portland’s Parkside

Maine’s largest affordable-housing developer wants to build 82 apartments – mostly for low-income residents – in Portland’s Parkside neighborhood, adding badly needed units at below-market rates in a city where gentrification threatens to displace many low- and middle-income residents on the peninsula.

But the $10 million Deering Place development is also raising residents’ concerns about density in the already thickly populated neighborhood between Deering Oaks and Congress Street.

The proposal by Avesta Housing would include an addition to the single-story building at 510 Cumberland Ave. and two new four-story buildings: one on what’s now a parking lot at the corner of Cumberland Avenue and Mellen Street and another on a parking lot on Deering Street.

Sixty percent of the units would be reserved for people with annual incomes of $20,000 to $40,000, based on the size of the units. Read this story.

ENERGY

Company says Canada oil could flow to S. Portland

The Portland Pipe Line Corp. says that more than 100,000 barrels of crude oil from western Canada would be available to be shipped daily from Montreal to South Portland if the company were allowed to reverse the flow of its pipeline. It’s the first time the company has publicly disclosed how much oil might come from Canada since it filed a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s 2014 ban on loading crude into tankers on South Portland’s waterfront.

If the pipeline did transport as much as 100,000 barrels per day, or 36.5 million barrels per year, south from Montreal to South Portland, that’s less than a quarter of the 160 million barrels of foreign crude that flowed north through the pipeline in 2004.

Filed in February 2015, the company’s lawsuit challenges the so-called Clear Skies ordinance that was approved by the city council in July 2014. The ordinance prohibited the loading of crude oil into tankers on the city’s waterfront, effectively blocking the company from reversing the pipeline’s flow to bring oil from Canada to South Portland. Read this story.

LEGAL

Developer Liberty gets fine and four months in prison

Former local developer Michael Liberty was sentenced to four months in prison and fined $100,000 Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland for federal campaign finance violations.

Liberty, once one of the most prominent businessmen in Maine, pleaded guilty in November to violating campaign finance laws in 2011 by using nine family members and employees to contribute $22,500 to a presidential campaign and then reimbursing them, which allowed him to circumvent the $2,500 limit on personal donations.

The campaign has not been named, but Liberty personally donated to Republican Mitt Romney during his primary run. Calling the offense “the quintessential white-collar crime,” the judge in the case gave Liberty less than a month before starting his prison term, setting Sept. 8 as his reporting date. Read this story.

Fantasy sports operators to pay new fees to state

Maine is adopting rules about daily fantasy sports games that classify the contests as games of skill and create a tax structure for them.

The proposal passed the Maine Legislature in June and became law last week without Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s signature. It says fantasy contest operators must be authorized to do business in Maine and pay a fee of 10 percent of gross fantasy contest revenues for the preceding 12 months, up to $5,000.

Fantasy sports companies DraftKings and FanDuel say in a joint statement that the adoption of a regulatory framework is good for both players and business. Read this story.

EDUCATION

MEMIC endows a chair in USM insurance studies

The MEMIC Group announced Tuesday it will provide $1.5 million to the University of Southern Maine and help the institution leverage an additional $1.5 million in matching gifts for an endowed chair named in honor of the insurance company’s founder.

MEMIC’s donation, which will be distributed in an annual amount of $300,000 over the next five years, will be placed in the newly established MEMIC John T. Leonard Endowed Chair in Risk Management and Insurance – only the second endowed chair since USM was founded in 1878. The endowed chair funds will double the capacity of USM’s Risk Management and Insurance program of study, which was established in 2008. Read this story.

– Staff and news service reports

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/business-week-in-review-aug-6-12-health-insurers-to-get-rate-hikes-developer-sentenced-to-4-months/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1239516_716076__20160104_liquor_11.jpgThe Maine liquor commission agreed Tuesday to raise the price on 778 products sold in state-sanctioned agency liquor stores, including the small but popular "nips." The 3-2 vote means the price of most 50-milliliter nips bottles will go from 99 cents to $1.49 starting Oct. 1. The higher prices, which mainly affect the lowest priced "value brands," were needed to ensure the state's profit margins keep pace with increasing sales, according to the director of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations. <a href="http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/08/state-liquor-commission-votes-to-raise-nips-prices/">Read this story</a>.Fri, 11 Aug 2017 22:22:07 +0000
Making pasta’s the new focus for Roxanne Quimby http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/roxanne-quimby-is-making-pasta-in-gouldsboro/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/roxanne-quimby-is-making-pasta-in-gouldsboro/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239894 GOULDSBORO — About five years ago, Roxanne Quimby looked around Raven’s Nest Farm, the 25-acre place she has owned in Gouldsboro since 2002. She wanted to participate in the local food movement ramping up around Maine. She had eggs. She had kale.

These are hardly unique items on Maine farms. Quimby, however, had a few other, more ephemeral things. Thanks to having sold Burt’s Bees (estimates are at more than $300 million for the personal care products line), she had the time and money to travel to Italy to study pasta making, an excellent way to add value to farm products like eggs and kale.

Quimby also had the desire to help build the local economy in this summer place she’d come to love, a peninsula just Down East from Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park where jobs are scarce even in the summer, and particularly in the winter when nearly everyone clears out but the lobstermen. Maybe she could add a few.

Roxanne Quimby

“That was a big part of it,” she said on a recent July afternoon in the commercial kitchen of My Pasta Art, the company she’s positioning for a growth spurt.

In the background, one of the three pasta machines (big, bigger, biggest) she imported from Italy emitted a steady whine along with squiggles of beet-colored pasta formed in a shape called campanelle.

“Isn’t that pretty?” Quimby asks, pointing out the frills on the side of the almost lilac-colored pasta as her pasta maker, Kelli Grover, caught the finished pieces on a drying tray. “To me it looks like a little Cinderella skirt.”

When she started this pasta business, it was a farm stand, farmers market kind of venture, fresh pasta only. These days she’s expanded from just “short cuts” (like tubular pastas) to “long cuts” (long skinny pastas like bucatini), and she’s selling dry as well. She’s talking about the company maintaining its local feel, but expanding into a brand that would be recognizable throughout the Northeast. “Mid-Atlantic to Maine,” she said. “That would be a nice little local market for us.”

My Pasta Art will be represented at four trade shows this year alone, and the wholesale orders that come from those trade shows make up the bulk of the company’s sales. But Quimby also sells to local restaurants and a few retail outlets, like John Edwards Market in Ellsworth and Tiller & Rye in Brewer. Even as she says “mid-Atlantic,” one gets the sense that she could easily move that line south, or west. Really, once you get to Maryland, why not push through to Virginia, or the Carolinas?

In person, Roxanne Quimby gives the impression of being both resolutely practical and, incongruously, almost dreamy. As if her gears whir as steadily as those pasta machines, turning out ideas as fast as pretty pasta.

Because the third reason for this pasta business – and the five or six other Gouldsboro-based enterprises she’s working on – is that Roxanne Quimby cannot stop making and selling things: ideas, places, pasta.

“In a lot of ways, the size of the business isn’t what she is after,” said her son Lucas St. Clair. “It is this transaction. She loves making something and having someone else like it enough to want to spend money on it, whether it is a dollar or a million dollars.”

Kelli Grover checks the cut on an Italgi pasta machine while making fresh Gigli pasta at Raven’s Nest Farm in Goulsdboro. Staff photo by Derek Davis

‘HEY, I’M RIGHT HERE’

You’ll notice there’s no recent photo of Quimby accompanying this story. Quimby is no J.D. Salinger, hiding out in a remote New England town. But when she had St. Clair take over the role of family spokesman and advocate in the effort to turn the family’s massive land holdings in Maine’s North Woods into what is now the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, she decided to stay out of the limelight – and while she was at it, the camera’s gaze, as well.

Often, this can be handy. Once she was sitting at the Bangor airport, waiting for a flight, listening to the people next to her talking about “Roxanne Quimby.” She said they were describing her alleged intentions to shut down hunting and keep all the locals out of the woods they’d always considered theirs. They clearly thought she was awful. She thought about turning to them and announcing, “Hey, I’m right here!” Instead she kept quiet in her seat. She shook her head and smiled over the memory.

Gouldsboro doesn’t offer much anonymity, given the population (1,737 in the 2010 census), but as St. Clair puts it, “if she needs her space, she can get it.”

But she likes talking to people. About a minute after she sat down to lunch at Corea Wharf Gallery & Grill, owner Joe Young strolled by with a topic he wanted to discuss. What if the Island Explorer that ferries people around Acadia, including the new campground on the Schoodic Peninsula, could make a run down to Corea? It goes as far as Prospect Harbor already, he reasoned. Would she be willing to help him lobby for that? It would help his business – which Down East magazine named the best lobster shack in Maine in 2016 – and it would also reduce the number of cars on the road, he said.

Quimby listened and nodded and seemed unfazed by being pitched an idea over lunch. Young felt comfortable pitching her; it could be good for her as well. Ultimately, when Quimby gets the campground she bought in the fall of 2016 – Ocean Woods Campground, a beloved institution that closed and that many feared would be developed for homes – up and running again, campers could hop the bus down to the wharf.

Plus, the millionaire next door is not only approachable, he trusts her opinion.

“Obviously, she knows her way around business,” Young said.

Quimby particularly likes talking to people at markets. One of the formative experiences that shaped her as a businesswoman was selling hot dogs on Revere Beach in Massachusetts when she was a child, making change for her grandmother.

“Baba was like her favorite person in the whole world,” St. Clair said. “And she learned so much about being a merchant from her. And that, in a lot of ways, set her on this course.” It’s what makes her drive down to Belfast to the Saturday market in the new United Farmers Market of Maine and sit behind a booth, hand-selling her pasta.

“That is the merchant in her,” St. Clair said. “She wants to see what people’s reaction to say, a pasta with poppy seeds in it is.” This back-and-forth with customers, and really, Quimby’s constant curiosity, is a large part of what made Burt’s Bees – now owned by The Clorox Co. – so successful.

A ROOM WITH A VIEW

Pasta isn’t the only thing Quimby is cooking up in Gouldsboro. She’s been quietly working at ways to bring tourists into the area, which she calls so beautiful it’s almost “outrageous.” She considers it underappreciated by the public.

“People just don’t get past Ellsworth,” she said.

There’s the campground, a 113-acre property that operated as a campground until 2009, when it went into foreclosure. It features beachfront and has many loyal fans who followed the saga of its closure, possible sale on the auction block and then rescue from development by Quimby. She paid an undisclosed amount in a bank sale, right before a scheduled auction. The campground is being restored and should be open next year.

Quimby also owns a number of homes around the Gouldsboro area that she’s restored and is renting out on Airbnb. “I think we have nine of them now,” she said. Part of the reason the Schoodic Peninsula hasn’t seen many tourists is that it lacks places for them to stay. The new 93-site campground that is part of Acadia is changing that, and so are Quimby’s “restoration projects.”

“We have 260 nights sold in July and August,” she said. “The whole town, you can see, has picked up.”

She even took part in a beautification project involving buying two properties with some serious Beans-of-Egypt-Maine style trailers on them and turning the land they were on into a meadow.

But she’s not looking to turn her summer community into the next Bar Harbor.

“I am hoping that we can have a little controlled growth,” she said. “This place is so down and out in the winter.”

Grover checks the cut of gigli pasta that has come out of an Italgi pasta machine. This batch included beet juice. Staff photo by Derek Davis

PASTA PLANS

Quimby makes chocolates as well, truffles that the chef at Saltbox in Winter Harbor serves as a trio with port. (Saltbox has another Quimby connection; she persuaded chef Mike Poirier to move from a tiny location in Hancock into the former site of the restaurant St. Clair ran there in the early aughts, Mama’s Boy Bistro). Chocolate-making is tricky, though, so that’s unlikely to turn into major venture. “It is very precise work.”

Pasta, though, pasta has a simplicity she admires. When she traveled to Carasco, the town near Genoa where the company that makes her machines is based, she was surprised to learn how easy it was.

“In the first half hour of class they told us what kind of flour to use, what machine to use and what the formula was of flour to liquid,” she said, sounding slightly disappointed at the lack of a challenge. “And I realized, that is all you need to know.”

With the local food movement fomenting back home in Maine, she thought about how strange it was that Americans almost entirely eat pasta made in Italy, that travels long distances. “It just seemed like, ‘We could do that.’ ”

She found a good source of semolina flour in the Great Plains, and the rest of the ingredients she could produce in Gouldsboro. Originally, she planned to make only fresh pasta. She’d encountered enough people who had given up on making fresh pasta at home – because, well, the work, the mess, the uneven results – to believe there would be a demand for it.

The dry pasta (which for My Pasta Art is her fresh pasta carefully dried and packed to travel) seemed like a logical next move. Now she’s considering adding ravioli to the line. But the notion that it stay “local” is important to her: Maine jobs, mostly Maine ingredients and Maine-made.

Of course, the woman who made a fortune off beeswax may not have a normal sense of what a “nice little” business is. Lucas St. Clair says he has learned to not make predictions about his mother’s next move, but he suspects his mother’s pasta company will go bigger than she expects.

“Only because she is unbelievably fearless,” he said.

Case in point, the name My Pasta Art. Quimby’s pasta has a beautiful website by that name, and that’s the name on the packages, but standing at the worktable in the commercial kitchen that once was a falling-down shed, she studies the purees of vegetables and the containers of eggs, and says that this particular name might not stick, even several years in.

“It is sort of the working name right now,” she said.

Conventional wisdom would be that consistent branding is a key part of business. St. Clair said he’d be terrified to change the name of a business he was running. But not his mother. “She doesn’t think twice about it,” he said. Burt’s Bees made dog biscuits and fruitcakes and sold seeds at various points, he said; his mother was experimenting.

Musing about the name, Quimby sounds almost like someone debating what color couch to buy for her living room, She’s no dilettante, though. For her, the bottom line remains essential in her new venture even if some might argue that for one of the most successful business people in Maine’s history, it doesn’t have to be. When St. Clair was running Mama’s Boy Bistro she was unimpressed with how little money he was making. “She would say, ‘Your profit margins are terrible,’ ” he remembered, laughing. “And I would say, ‘I am actually doing pretty good for a restaurant.’ ”

“It took me awhile to figure out what Burt’s Bees’ name was going to be,” Quimby said. “It took awhile to evolve into a storyline that differentiated the product from everything else out there.”

This story then, the story of the Maine-made pasta, is still being written.

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

mpols@pressherald.com

Twitter: MaryPols

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/roxanne-quimby-is-making-pasta-in-gouldsboro/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1239894_875781-20170711_Pasta_6.jpgKelli Grover, above, works as a pasta maker for Roxanne Quimby, left, wrapping bucatini pasta into nests as it comes out of an Itagli pasta machine at Raven's Nest Farm in Goulsdboro. After selling Burt's Bees, Quimby studied the art of pasta making in Italy.Sat, 12 Aug 2017 22:07:16 +0000
In Legislature, solar bill met a more powerful foe: Doubt http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/in-legislature-solar-bill-met-a-more-powerful-foe-doubt/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/in-legislature-solar-bill-met-a-more-powerful-foe-doubt/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239901 Solar advocates spent months promoting the benefits of rooftop installations, developing details on topics ranging from job growth to lower electric rates. They thought they had the votes on Aug. 2 to override a veto by Gov. Paul LePage of a crucial solar energy bill.

Then Rep. Richard Malaby, a Republican from Hancock with no interest in energy policy, rose on the floor of the House of Representatives. Malaby launched into a speech that had nothing to do with solar power. Instead, he made a passionate case that it was improper for the House to take up the bill because it was unconstitutional, citing a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

The solar lobby never saw that one coming. Neither did House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat. She was forced to put the House into recess for 18 minutes while she consulted Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, the official parliamentary guidebook.

Rep. Richard Malaby, R-Hancock

No one knew that the seed for Malaby’s diatribe was planted months ago, by a LePage energy adviser with a long history of undermining solar.

When the vote finally came, solar supporters failed by three votes to get the two-thirds majority needed to override the governor’s veto.

Malaby’s speech is being cited as an example of how tactics, including his out-of-the-blue comments, an alleged misinformation campaign by Central Maine Power and a strategic legislative blunder, combined to create confusion and defeat the solar lobby for a second year in a row. In the aftermath, some solar advocates say facts fell victim to politics.

“Facts do matter and they will eventually prevail,” said James Cote, a lobbyist who represents an alliance of solar installers. “But we’re in a pretty toxic environment with solar policy and anything with the word ‘solar’ in it.”

The vote has created more uncertainty in Maine’s solar industry, which employs about 500 people, and keeps Maine in the back of the pack of states developing solar power as a means of energy independence. Solar advocates have also filed a lawsuit, challenging the state’s authority to phase out existing solar incentives.

Solar power generation has been growing nationally by double digits, driven in part by renewable energy mandates in states such as California and Massachusetts. But growth has been stunted in Maine, which lacks state incentives and has a governor who is hostile to an energy source he sees as shifting costs onto other electric customers.

Last year, a bill was introduced that aimed to update net metering, a 1990s rule that gives panel owners a 100 percent credit for the retail value of excess power they feed back into the electric grid. It passed, but lawmakers failed to override LePage’s veto by two votes.

This year, after another expansive solar bill ran into opposition, supporters tried a scaled-back approach. L.D. 1504 sought to keep current net metering laws in place while the Public Utilities Commission – which had enacted its own rule to gradually phase out net metering – did a cost-benefit study.

But solar supporters never got buy-in from CMP. To the contrary, Maine’s largest utility doubled down.

On July 18, Sara Burns, CMP’s president and chief executive, wrote a column published in the Portland Press Herald that asserted incentives for rooftop solar owners could add $150 million to customer bills through 2035. That and other factors led lawmakers to put off a planned vote on the veto override, when they first convened to consider outstanding bills on July 20.

Solar supporters accused Burns of scare tactics, and she later acknowledged that her $150 million figure reflected a worst-case scenario. It contradicted estimates from the Maine Office of the Public Advocate that the bill would actually provide customers with a modest savings. But the column had its desired effect: It made some lawmakers who had supported the solar bill think twice.

A CONTROVERSIAL AMENDMENT

The blur of competing facts formed a backdrop on Aug. 2, when lawmakers returned to finally end the longest legislative session in state history. Facing decisions on major public issues such as cellphone use while driving and the legal age for buying cigarettes, the House was asked to consider a new solar bill few members had heard of.

L.D. 1373 had been introduced earlier this year by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham. It began life as an environmental activist wish list of incentives and rebates, but could never win enough support to move ahead.

On Aug. 2, the bill was reborn as a vehicle to fix a perceived problem. Emera Maine, which serves electric customers in northern and eastern Maine, had raised concerns about legal language in the solar bill. Berry and other Democrats thought they could clarify the language, by using L.D. 1373 as a template for a new amendment.

This turned out to be a mistake. LePage’s Republican allies skillfully used the amendment bill to sow doubt about solar.

House Republican Leader Ken Fredette rose and said he was confused. The solar bill had been vetoed by the governor, he pointed out. But now comes an amendment, which has been turned into a new bill, on the last day of the session, which hasn’t gone through the committee process and which he hadn’t seen until five minutes ago.

“A bill that amends a bill that the chief executive has vetoed,” Fredette said, sounding exasperated.

Minutes later, Rep. Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick, took the floor. A member of the committee that handles energy issues and a critic of renewable energy subsidies, she said she couldn’t possibly understand the amendment bill in five minutes. Her voice rising in anger, O’Connor called the bill a desperate attempt to just pass something.

Berry then rose to apologize for any confusion. The amendment, he said, was just two sentences. It didn’t change any current practices, just clarified how rooftop solar owners are compensated.

But when a vote was called at the urging of Republicans, the House voted 73-64 to indefinitely postpone the amendment.

Cote, the solar lobbyist, said his side didn’t have time to explain the measure to lawmakers.

“We thought it made sense,” he said. “It was meant to be an olive branch. But it was easy at that point for opponents to take it and just confuse the issue even further.”

THE IMPACT OF DOUBT

Confusion intensified later that afternoon, when the solar bill came up.

Gideon was caught off guard by Rep. Malaby’s contention that the House had no standing to consider the bill. In his view, the bill redistributed funds, which amounted to a tax on non-solar users. He thought that was unconstitutional, based on wording in Maine law and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the individual mandate for health insurance, which he read aloud.

Masking her displeasure, Gideon replied that Malaby had presented a well thought-out argument “that took some time for someone to put together.” After reviewing the parliamentary rules, though, she determined the House could proceed.

But this unexpected debate over whether the solar bill was a tax gave Republicans new ammunition. Fredette rose to say that the tax question, combined with the failure of L.D. 1373, exposed the “gaping hole” in L.D. 1504.

Rep. Heather Sirocki, R-Scarborough, agreed, saying she found Malaby’s argument “compelling.” Then she said she would “share a few words from Sara Burns,” and began reading passages from the CMP chief’s July 18 newspaper column, repeating the disputed projection of a $150 million hit to ratepayers.

Democrats tried to quell the growing rebellion. A member of the energy committee, Rep. Heather Sanborn, D-Portland, calmly listed the limited steps that would be taken under the bill. Rep. Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth, urged members not to be sidetracked by a false argument, and emphasized that the bill contained no taxes.

But the tide had already turned. While the veto override easily passed in the Senate, 28-6, it failed in the House, 88-48, three votes short of the two-thirds majority needed. Fourteen House members were absent from the vote, and seven Republicans who initially supported the measure changed their positions.

In an interview last week, Malaby said he got the idea for his speech months ago from one of LePage’s energy advisers, Jim LaBrecque, a vocal opponent of solar energy. Malaby said he first thought the analogy between provisions of the solar bill and the Affordable Care Act was “crazy.” But LaBrecque persisted, providing him with appeals court rulings meant to back the claim.

Then, while watching a Red Sox game in mid-July, Malaby said something jogged his memory and led him to get on the internet and do his own research. What he learned formed the basis of his speech to the House, he said.

“I think I swayed a few Republicans who voted against the bill, because they are more constitutionally oriented,” Malaby said. “I think it made a difference.”

After the vote, solar supporters were left trying to sort out what happened.

“What’s so frustrating is, it’s not about policy,” said Chris Rauscher, public policy director for Sunrun Inc., a top national rooftop installer that lobbied for the Maine bill. “This is complicated stuff. So it’s disingenuous to inject (misinformation) into the debate. The best way to kill a bill like this is to inject more doubt.”

Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:

tturkel@pressherald.com

Twitter: TuxTurkel

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/in-legislature-solar-bill-met-a-more-powerful-foe-doubt/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1239901_603703_20170802_solar_1093.jpgJack Doherty, photovoltaic project manager for ReVision Energy, carries a solar panel to the roof ridge of a home at OceanView at Falmouth. Though there's frustration, "facts do matter and they will eventually prevail," said James Cote, a lobbyist who represents an alliance of solar installers.Sat, 12 Aug 2017 21:43:31 +0000
Michelle Singletary: Recession taught us that debt can be dangerous http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/michelle-singletary-remember-lesson-of-recession-debt-can-be-dangerous/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/13/michelle-singletary-remember-lesson-of-recession-debt-can-be-dangerous/#respond Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1239322 The Dow industrial average hit 22,000 in August, ushering in yet another noteworthy high. But Americans also reached the big time with a different financial milestone this year – and not in a good way.

Outstanding consumer revolving debt – mostly credit card debt – hit an all-time peak of $1.021 trillion in June, according to the Federal Reserve. This should be a scary statistic. The last time the debt level was nearly this high was in 2008, when the U.S. economy was mired in a recession.

“We simply can’t keep taking on credit card debt forever without it causing major problems,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com. “This record probably won’t be a major tipping point, but it likely isn’t too far off.”

Schulz says this milestone should be a wake-up call about the level of credit card debt Americans are accumulating. It’s a reminder to remember the past.

Here’s what we learned during the Great Recession: People had what they thought was a reasonable amount of obligations. They were making their auto and mortgage payments. They used credit to buy stuff to fill up those homes, eat out more or take vacations.

It all seemed manageable – until life happened: The housing market imploded and unemployment spiked. The illusion that people could get whatever they wanted – on credit – was shattered.

The truth was that the debt wasn’t as manageable as people thought, because they didn’t have an adequate cash cushion to help them through a disruption in their income.

As the amount of revolving credit is now soaring to new heights, it takes me back in time. (By the way, defaults are rising, too.) I fear that as the economy has improved, our memory of bad times has faded.

“America’s credit card balances have never been higher, but there’s no reason to think they won’t just keep climbing,” Schulz said. “Combine that with steadily rising interest rates and you have a potentially volatile mix.”

There’s so much we can glean from our failures.

“One fact we observe is that both the Great Recession and Great Depression were preceded by a large run-up in household debt,” wrote economists Atif Mian and Amir Sufi in “House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again.”

The researchers argued that consumer spending dropped because people were so heavily burdened by housing debt. “As it turns out, we think debt is dangerous. If this is correct, and large increases in household debt really do generate severe recessions, we must fundamentally rethink the financial system.”

People are going to borrow. Despite my hatred of debt, I understand the role it plays in our economy. It drives auto sales, and so many people rely on their vehicles to get to work. Without mortgages, most Americans, including myself, would not be able to purchase a home. Debt also allows people to get a college degree.

But an excessive reliance on debt is bad for both the economy and households.

So how do you know if you’re taking on too much credit card debt? Follow this rule and you’ll stay within a reasonable amount: Don’t charge anything you can’t pay off by the next due date. If you can’t pay off the balance, you can’t afford whatever product or service you’re paying for with that card.

Michelle Singletary can be contacted at:

michelle.singletary@washpost.com

Twitter: SingletaryM

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Harriet Beecher Stowe’s childhood home relocates – to eBay http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/abolitionists-childhood-home-relocates-to-ebay/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/abolitionists-childhood-home-relocates-to-ebay/#respond Sat, 12 Aug 2017 02:30:01 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/abolitionists-childhood-home-relocates-to-ebay/ HARTFORD, Conn. — The birthplace of abolitionist writer Harriet Beecher Stowe, which was disassembled and stored in trailers 20 years ago, has been put up for sale on eBay.

The move is the latest in the unusual history of preacher Lyman Beecher’s Litchfield house, which was built in 1811, served as the childhood home for his 11 children and was later a sanitarium and then a dormitory for a private school.

It was sold by the Forman School for $1 and deconstructed in 1997 by a buyer who planned to move it and turn it into a museum about the early life of the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” author. But those plans never came to fruition.

The remains of the house, which have been stored in four storage trailers in Massachusetts and Connecticut, were acquired two years ago by a Woodbury antiques dealer, Art Pappas, who is looking for someone willing to purchase and restore the building.

Pappas said he has advertised the house with organizations that specialize in the sale of historic homes and offered it to the Smithsonian and other museums, but with no luck.

“A lot of them just don’t show any interest whatsoever, which blows my mind,” he said. “It’s the birthplace of Harriet Beecher.”

The famed writer penned a portion of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” while living in a rented house on Federal Street in Brunswick, Maine. That home, bought by nearby Bowdoin College in 2001, now houses Bowdoin College faculty offices and “Harriet’s Writing Room,” a public space dedicated to commemorating Stowe’s contributions to American literature and history.

Pappas said he’s now turned to more mainstream internet marketplaces to list the Connecticut home, including Craigslist and eBay, where a $400,000 listing expires on Aug. 14. There were no bids for the property as of Friday. Pappas says the price is negotiable.

Folk singer Pete Seeger also lived in the building when it was a dormitory during the 1920s.

“The thing about eBay is it doesn’t really cost anything for the advertising at this point. We’ve spent a lot on advertising, but we’ve gotten more of a response from eBay and Craigslist,” Pappas said.

The antiques dealer says he has the original plans for the home and can put any buyer in touch with experts who can help put the “thousands of pieces” back together.

The home is listed on the state’s Register of Historic Places. But Rob Michalik, a spokesman for Connecticut’s Historic Preservation Office, said they have no plans to acquire the house.

“Our interest is in preserving the historic fabric of structures and given that this has been in storage for 20 years, we don’t know how much of that historic fabric remains,” he said.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford also has no plans to bid on the property. Executive Director Katherine Kane said that organization’s focus remains the upkeep of the museum and Hartford house where Stowe lived as an adult on a property adjacent to Mark Twain.

“When (the birthplace) was available 20 years ago both the Stowe Center and the Litchfield Historical Society evaluated the building and determined there was not much left of it from the Beecher era,” she said. “I wouldn’t say that it wasn’t worth preserving. But it’s not on the site where it was built or in the community where it was built. So it’s lost some of its context already and then being deconstructed makes it even more difficult. It’s very sad.”

Pappas said he likely will put up another 30-day listing on eBay if he gets no offers before Monday, but eventually must decide whether it might be better to sell off pieces of the home as antiques and the rest as building material.

“It can’t stay in storage forever, it will just rot at some point,” he said.

This story and a photo caption were corrected at 9 a.m. on Saturday, August 12 to remove a misleading and irrelevant reference to an “ownership dispute” related to Bowdoin College’s April purchase of another property, 28 College Street in Brunswick. Historians have significant doubts about that property’s connection to Stowe, and the dispute between the college and the property’s former owner was related to a purchase option, not ownership.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/abolitionists-childhood-home-relocates-to-ebay/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1239535_642135-Stowe2-e1502505727248.jpgThe attic of the home of the late Lyman Beecher is lifted off its Colonial post-and-beam structure in Litchfield, Conn., in 1998. Stored in pieces, the house where Harriet Beecher Stowe grew up is for sale on eBay.Sat, 12 Aug 2017 12:38:01 +0000
J.C. Penney shares plummet after loss renews concerns http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/j-c-penney-shares-plummet-after-loss-renews-concerns/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/j-c-penney-shares-plummet-after-loss-renews-concerns/#respond Sat, 12 Aug 2017 01:47:21 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/j-c-penney-shares-plummet-after-loss-renews-concerns/ J.C. Penney is the bearer of more bad news for department-store investors.

On Friday morning, the company followed Macy’s, Kohl’s and Dillard’s in reporting declining sales in the second quarter. J.C. Penney also posted a deeper loss than analysts expected – hurt by clearance sales – sending shares down. The retailer’s stock price has been trading at historic lows and closed at $3.93 on Friday, down 79 cents.

The results renewed fears that there’s no end in sight for the department-store industry’s drought. J.C. Penney Chief Executive Officer Marvin Ellison is trying to win back customers by expanding the company’s partnership with cosmetic retailer Sephora and bolstering the assortment of high-price items, like appliances. The company is also pushing services like salons that require shoppers to come into stores. But progress has been slow.

The company also is closing about 140 underperforming stores. And the liquidation of inventory in 127 of those locations hurt profit in the period, Ellison said in a statement.

“These events were isolated to the second quarter,” he said, adding that the company expects to “deliver improved results in the back half of the year.”

But investors saw little reason for optimism.

Still, overall revenue came in a bit above projections. The company posted $2.96 billion in net sales, compared with an estimate of $2.85 billion.

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From Israel, an ‘ultra-kosher’ single malt whiskey http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/from-israel-an-ultra-kosher-single-malt-whiskey/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/from-israel-an-ultra-kosher-single-malt-whiskey/#respond Sat, 12 Aug 2017 01:44:59 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/from-israel-an-ultra-kosher-single-malt-whiskey/ TEL AVIV, Israel — Israel has been known as the land of milk and honey since Biblical times – but the land of single malt whiskey? One appropriately named distillery is trying to turn Israel into a whiskey powerhouse.

Smooth, honey-brown whiskey is not the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Israel. However, at the Milk & Honey Distillery, rows of casks proudly stamped “Tel Aviv” hold liters of the stuff.

The country’s first whiskey distillery is preparing to release Israel’s first single malt whiskey.

“It’s a young whiskey,” said Eitan Attir, the distillery’s CEO.

Attir says the brew is aged for three years and two months in virgin oak and old bourbon barrels at the company’s renovated former bakery in a rugged industrial area of south Tel Aviv.

“It’s complex for its age,” he said. “The taste feels like more than three years, more like seven or eight and again the story is much more important in this case. This is the first ever single malt whiskey that any distillery has released from Israel.”

Although wine has been produced in the Holy Land for millennia, and modern Israeli wines have gained international renown in recent years, whiskey production is new to the country.

Milk & Honey was founded in 2013 and began distilling small experimental batches of whiskey a year later. One hundred bottles from their first cask of single malt were set to be sold at an online auction starting Friday.

Whiskey is universally acceptable for religious Jews to consume, Attir says, and Milk & Honey’s drink is “ultra-kosher.”

“We don’t work on Saturday, we don’t work on Yom Kippur or Passover,” he said. “And we want to symbolize our being Jewish or Israeli and then we called it the Milk & Honey Distillery.”

The single malt was made in Israel from start to finish, according to the company’s website, though the ingredients, barrels and equipment were imported from the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere.

The warmer climate in Israel allows for a speedier aging process in the barrel than whiskey made in colder climates, according to Ran Latovicz, an Israeli whiskey connoisseur and bar owner.

“In colder climates like Scotland or Ireland, whiskey usually ages for about seven to 10 to 12 years before it’s even bottled because (it is) just the way, you know, it gets to its full potential,” he said.

The distillery believes it is well-positioned to ride a wave of growing international interest in new world whiskeys, like rising stars from Taiwan or India, and hopes this initial offering whets the appetites of aficionados everywhere.

“There’s a huge demand nowadays for whiskey from other places around the world – new world whiskey. There’s more than 70 countries now with a minimum of one distillery and one of them is Israel,” Attir said.

Gal Kalkshtein, Milk & Honey’s founder and owner, said he hopes that once the whiskey starts getting shipped abroad in 2019, it will create a buzz for Israeli whiskeys.

“We want to be recognized for our quality, not the gimmick,” he said.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/from-israel-an-ultra-kosher-single-malt-whiskey/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1239495_986489-Israel_Malt1.jpgWhiskey barrels are seen at the Milk & Honey Distillery in Tel Aviv, Israel.Fri, 11 Aug 2017 21:56:10 +0000
Global demand for electric cars hits the accelerator http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/global-demand-for-electric-cars-hits-the-accelerator/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/global-demand-for-electric-cars-hits-the-accelerator/#respond Sat, 12 Aug 2017 01:41:56 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/global-demand-for-electric-cars-hits-the-accelerator/ DETROIT — Around the world, support is growing for electric cars. Automakers are delivering more electric models with longer range and lower prices, such as the Chevrolet Bolt and the Tesla Model 3. China has set aggressive targets for electric vehicle sales to curb pollution; some European countries aim to be all-electric by 2040 or sooner.

Those lofty ambitions face numerous challenges, including one practical consideration for consumers: If they buy electric cars, where will they charge them?

The distribution of public charging stations is wildly uneven around the globe. Places with lots of support from governments or utilities, like China, the Netherlands and California, have thousands of public charging outlets. Buyers of Tesla’s luxury models have access to a company-funded Supercharger network. But in many places, public charging remains scarce. That’s a problem for people who need to drive further than the 200 miles or so that most electric cars can travel. It’s also a barrier for the millions of people who don’t have a garage to plug in their cars overnight.

“Do we have what we need? The answer at the moment is, ‘No,”‘ says Graham Evans, an analyst with IHS Markit.

Take Norway, which has publicly funded charging and generous incentives for electric car buyers. Architect Nils Henningstad drives past 20 to 30 charging stations each day on his 22-mile commute to Oslo. He works for the city and can charge his Nissan Leaf at work; his fiancee charges her Tesla SUV at home or at one of the world’s largest Tesla Supercharger stations, 20 miles away.

It’s a very different landscape in New Berlin, Wisconsin, where Jeff Solie relies on the charging system he rigged up in his garage to charge two Tesla sedans and a Volt. Solie and his wife don’t have chargers at their offices, and the nearest Tesla Superchargers are 45 miles (72 kilometers) away.

“If I can’t charge at home, there’s no way for me to have electric cars as my primary source of transportation,” says Solie, who works for the media company E.W. Scripps.

The uneven distribution of chargers worries many potential electric vehicle owners. It’s one reason electric vehicles make up less than 1 percent of cars on the road.

“Humans worst-case their purchases of automobiles. You have to prove to the consumer that they can drive across the country, even though they probably won’t,” says Pasquale Romano, the CEO of ChargePoint, one of the largest charging station providers in North America and Europe.

Romano says there’s no exact ratio of the number of chargers needed per car. But he says workplaces should have one charger for every 2.5 electric cars and retail stores need one for every 20 electric cars. Highways need one every 50 to 75 miles, he says. That suggests a lot of gaps still need to be filled.

Automakers and governments are pushing to fill them. The number of publicly available, global charging spots grew 72 percent to more than 322,000 last year, the International Energy Agency said. Navigant Research expects that to grow to more than 2.2 million by 2026; more than one-third of those will be in China.

Tesla Inc. – which figured out years ago that people wouldn’t buy its cars without roadside charging – is doubling its global network of Supercharger stations to 10,000 this year. BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Ford are building 400 fast-charging stations in Europe. Volkswagen is building hundreds of stations across the U.S. as part of its settlement for selling polluting diesel engines. Even oil-rich Dubai, which just got its first Tesla showroom, has more than 50 locations to charge electric cars.

But there are pitfalls. There are different types of charging stations, and no one knows the exact mix drivers will eventually need. A grocery store might spend $5,000 for an AC charge point, which provides a car with 5 to 15 miles of range in 30 minutes. But once most cars get 200 or 300 miles per charge, slow chargers are less necessary. Electric cars with longer range need fast-charging DC chargers along highways, but DC chargers cost $35,000 or more.

That uncertainty makes it difficult to make money setting up chargers, says Lisa Jerram, an associate director with Navigant Research. For at least the next three to five years, she says, deep-pocketed automakers, governments and utilities will be primarily responsible for building charging infrastructure.

There’s also the question of who will meet the needs of apartment dwellers. San Francisco, Shanghai and Vancouver, Canada, are now requiring new homes and apartment buildings to be wired for EV charging.

But without government support, plans for charging stations can falter. In Michigan, a utility’s $15 million plan to install 800 public charging stations was scrapped in April after state officials and ChargePoint objected.

Solie, the electric car owner in Wisconsin, likes Europe’s approach: Governments should set bold targets for electric car sales and let the private sector meet the need. “If the U.S. were to send up a flare that policy was going to change … investments would become very attractive,” he says.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/global-demand-for-electric-cars-hits-the-accelerator/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1239490_986489-ElectricCars.jpgJeff Solie charges his electric Tesla sedan at his home in New Berlin, Wis., last month. Electric cars are seeing growing support around the world. But there's a problem: There aren't enough places to plug in. Solie says his home system allows him to rely on electric as his primary mode of travel.Fri, 11 Aug 2017 22:16:39 +0000
Leaked email shows HBO negotiating with hackers http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/leaked-email-shows-hbo-negotiating-with-hackers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/leaked-email-shows-hbo-negotiating-with-hackers/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 23:06:46 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/leaked-email-shows-hbo-negotiating-with-hackers/ BOSTON – Hackers this week released an email from HBO in which the company expressed willingness to pay them $250,000 as part of a negotiation over data swiped from HBO’s servers.

The July 27 email was sent by John Beyler, an HBO executive who thanked the hackers for “making us aware” of previously unknown security vulnerabilities. The executive asked for a 1-week delay and said HBO was willing to make a “good faith” payment of $250,000, calling it a “bug bounty” reward for IT professionals rather than a ransom.

HBO declined to comment. A person close to the investigation confirmed the authenticity of the email, but said it was an attempt to buy time and assess the situation. The same hackers have subsequently released two dumps of HBO material and demanded a multimillion-dollar ransom.

HOW BAD IS THE HACK?

Whether or not HBO ever intended to follow through with its $250,000 offer, the email raised questions Friday among security professionals about the importance of the data and whether HBO’s reaction might encourage future attacks.

“It’s interesting that they’re spinning it as a bug bounty program,” said Pablo Garcia, CEO of FFRI North America, based in Aliso Viejo, California. “They’re being extorted. If it was a bug bounty, it’d be on the up and up.”

Beyler’s email to the hackers said the company was working “very hard” to review all the material they provided, and also trying to figure out a way to make a large transaction in bitcoin, the hackers’ preferred payment method.

“You have the advantage of having surprised us,” Beyler wrote. “In the spirit of professional cooperation, we are asking you to extend your deadline for one week.”

A ROUGH CHRONOLOGY

The first HBO hack became publicly known on July 31. Beyler’s email, sent several days earlier, might have been an attempt to make the problem go away without too much bad publicity for HBO, said Sanjay Goel, a professor at the University at Albany and chairman of its information technology management department.

“Hackers are not in this game for $250,000; this probably took them a lot of time and effort,” Goel said. “That’s a very, very small amount in these kinds of negotiations.”

Then, on Monday, hackers using the name “Mr. Smith” posted a fresh cache of stolen HBO files online, and demanded that the network pay a ransom of several million dollars to prevent further such releases.

The leaks included scripts from “Game of Thrones” episodes and a month’s worth of email from the account of HBO’s vice president for film programming. There were also internal documents, including a report of legal claims against the network and job offer letters to top executives.

HOLLYWOOD IN THE CROSSHAIRS

HBO has said that it is working with law enforcement and cybersecurity firms to investigate the attack, which is the latest to hit a Hollywood business. In April, a hacker claimed to have released episodes of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” ahead of their official launch date.

The leaks so far have fallen well short of the chaos inflicted on Sony in 2014.

But paying ransoms to hackers can be dangerous because it shows that being a bad-guy hacker is a good business, said cybersecurity expert Oren Falkowitz, CEO of Redwood City, California-based Area 1 Security. Companies would be better off investing in preventing email spear-fishing attempts and other hacking techniques, he said.

“The reason they got in this scenario is they didn’t have the right pre-emption strategy,” Falkowitz said. “The next company, whether it’s Showtime or Death Row Records or whomever, needs to see that they’re going to wake up one day to this reality unless they confront it.”

Arbel reported from New York.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/leaked-email-shows-hbo-negotiating-with-hackers/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1239398_HBO_Hack_66577.jpg-417f9.jpgThis file image released by HBO shows Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister in an episode of "Game of Thrones," which aired Aug. 6. Material hacked from HBO included scripts from five "Game of Thrones" episodes.Fri, 11 Aug 2017 19:09:20 +0000
Orono pharmacy, owner to pay $60,000 to settle controlled substances case http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/orono-pharmacy-owner-to-pay-60000-to-settle-controlled-substances-case/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/orono-pharmacy-owner-to-pay-60000-to-settle-controlled-substances-case/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 22:33:29 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/orono-pharmacy-owner-to-pay-60000-to-settle-controlled-substances-case/ An Orono pharmacy and its owner will pay $60,000 to the federal government to resolve allegations that it handled controlled substances improperly.

The resolution with Orono Pharmacy Inc. and its owner, Ali Aghamoosa of Orono, was announced Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland.

According to the government, from 2014 through 2016, the pharmacy and Aghamoosa failed to maintain accurate records of transactions involving controlled substances. Federal officials said the pharmacy didn’t record when, and in what quantities, it received, sold and dispensed controlled substances and thousands of doses were unaccounted for. One pharmacist diverted some of the controlled substances and another falsified records, the government alleged.

The government didn’t say precisely which drugs were allegedly involved, but said their classification as controlled indicated that they had a high potential for abuse and could be dangerous if not used properly.

As part of the deal to resolve the matter, Orono Pharmacy and Aghamoosa did not admit wrongdoing and the U.S. Attorney’s Office said they cooperated in the investigation.

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Bills for $25 or less mistakenly sent to collection agency by MaineGeneral http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/mainegeneral-medical-center-error-sends-small-bills-to-collections-agency/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/mainegeneral-medical-center-error-sends-small-bills-to-collections-agency/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 17:18:59 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/mainegeneral-medical-center-error-sends-small-bills-to-collections-agency/ AUGUSTA — MaineGeneral Medical Center apologized Friday to about 9,700 patients who received letters from a collection agency before they had even gotten statements from the hospital on their balances – all of which were $25 or less.

“A technical error occurred leading to a file transfer of bills of $25 and less going to The Thomas Agency,” MaineGeneral spokeswoman Joy McKenna said in an email Thursday. “The bills are for services provided at MaineGeneral within the past year.”

Patients who owe $25 or less received letters from The Thomas Agency, a debt collector with offices in Portland and Brewer, in the past week.

The letters, dated July 31, say that the bills can be paid by credit card or by mail to a Portland post office box, and include a notice that unless The Thomas Agency is notified within 30 days, it will assume the debt is valid.

On Friday, MaineGeneral Health Chief Financial Officer Terry Brann issued an apology on behalf of the health care system.

“We have isolated the cause for the error and are implementing corrections to ensure this does not happen again in the future,” he said in an email. “Patients’ credit ratings are not impacted by this occurrence. We apologize for the confusion caused by these letters.”

Will Lund, superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, said that while his office has not received consumer complaints about the recent letters, “Most medical providers try to make sure a bill gets to a patient before it gets to a debt collection agency.”

He also noted that medical bills are payable when services are provided, as most health care facilities indicate in their offices. He also said he did not anticipate that information about the debts would be forwarded immediately to credit reporting companies. Lund attributed that to three factors in what he termed “the nature of medical debt.”

“There’s the uncertainty caused by the insurance process,” he said. “Hospitals are notorious about having old addresses on file; collectors are much better about finding where we are now. Many of us are responsible for bills that aren’t even our own. Parents generally agree to pay the bills of minors. If the parents are divorced or separated, the bills could come as a surprise to one parent or the other.”

MaineGeneral Medical Center operates under MaineGeneral Health, which recently ended its last fiscal year in the red.

To help shore up the system’s finances, administrators eliminated about $5.4 million in recurring expenses for supplies, contracts and other costs. And for the last two pay periods of the fiscal year in June, they cut the earned time off that employees see on their paychecks.

People with concerns about receiving a collection letter can call the numbers on the letter – 772-4659 or (800) 639-2408 – which go to The Thomas Agency, or they can call MaineGeneral’s customer support at 872-4680 or toll-free at (877) 255-4680.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

badams@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @betadams

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/11/mainegeneral-medical-center-error-sends-small-bills-to-collections-agency/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/747510_786206_20151208_hospital_cy.jpgMaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, shown in this 2015 file photo, recently mistakenly sent more than 9,000 bills to a collections agency.Fri, 11 Aug 2017 22:04:03 +0000
Coal bailout pitched as ‘homeland security’ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/coal-bailout-pitched-as-homeland-security/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/coal-bailout-pitched-as-homeland-security/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 03:17:49 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/coal-bailout-pitched-as-homeland-security/ West Virginia’s governor wants the U.S. to back the Appalachian coal industry with an annual $4.5 billion.

Jim Justice, the born-again Republican governor of West Virginia, is floating a federal proposal to bail out the struggling Appalachian coal industry at a cost to taxpayers of up to $4.5 billion a year.

As Justice described it to the Wall Street Journal, under the proposal the federal government would pay out $15 to Eastern power companies for every ton of Appalachian coal they purchase.

Justice is trying to sell the proposal as a “homeland security initiative” for protecting the Eastern energy grid. He told a West Virginia newspaper that “if you’re all on gas or you’re all on gas and Western coal and somebody puts a bomb at a gas junction point or somebody puts a bomb on a bridge coming from the West you could very well lose the entire Eastern power grid.”

Jason Bordoff, Director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, said “the claim that taxpayers should subsidize Appalachian coal for national security reasons is meritless.”

“Western coal production surpassed Eastern coal production two decades ago,” Bordoff said, “and Eastern coal has been in decline since the 1990s, but this has not led to grid reliability problems.”

He noted that “the U.S. has a well-developed and integrated energy infrastructure and rail network as well as storage system, and in the event of temporary disruptions, supplies could be rerouted and stocks drawn.”

The money in Justice’s proposal would be used exclusively to prop up the northern and central Appalachian coal production regions, which include parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and far western Maryland.

Together those regions account for less than 25 percent of total domestic coal production, according to the Energy Information Administration. The remaining 75 percent of the domestic coal industry would receive no bailout.

Appalachian coal is struggling primarily because it is currently between four and five times more expensive to produce than coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, which now accounts for over 40 percent of the nation’s production.

Powder River coal seams are much closer to the surface than they are in the Appalachians, making them easier and cheaper to mine. Many of them are on federal lands, which are cheaply leased to coal companies, driving prices down further. It also contains significantly less of the air pollutant sulfur than Appalachian coal, making it more desirable from an environmental standpoint.

As a result, the price differential between Western and Eastern coal is so extreme that even with a $15/ton subsidy, Appalachian coal would remain roughly three times more expensive than Powder River coal.

“We very much think it’s best when the government’s not involved, and feel the free market instead should be allowed to work,” the executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association told the Wall Street Journal.

“Concerns about fuel supply reliability are legitimate, but picking winners by subsidizing production in the name of national security of one fuel that is declining due to market forces is not a smart or cost-effective solution,” Columbia’s Jason Bordoff said.

But Justice told Bloomberg News that he’s found a receptive audience for the proposal in President Trump. “He’s really interested. He likes the idea,” Justice said.

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Postal Service likely to default on $6.9 billion benefits payment http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/postal-service-likely-to-default-on-6-9-billion-benefits-payment/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/postal-service-likely-to-default-on-6-9-billion-benefits-payment/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 01:32:58 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/postal-service-likely-to-default-on-6-9-billion-benefits-payment/ WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service warned Thursday that it will likely default on up to $6.9 billion in payments for future retiree health benefits for the fifth straight year, citing a coming cash crunch that could disrupt day-to-day mail delivery.

The service said it expected cash balances to run low by October and to avoid bankruptcy would likely not make all of its payments as required under federal law. Postmaster General Megan Brennan stressed an urgent need for federal regulators to grant the Postal Service wide freedom to increase stamp prices to help cover costs, citing continuing red ink due to declining first-class mail volume and the expensive mandates for retiree benefits.

The Postal Service has already defaulted on $33.9 billion in health benefit prepayments. Left unresolved, the rapidly growing debt means that American taxpayers eventually could be forced to cover the massive costs when future postal retirees seek to cash in on the health benefits to which they are legally entitled.

The Postal Regulatory Commission is making a decision on stamp pricing next month.

“Our financial situation is serious, but solvable,” Brennan said, citing an unreasonable rate cap that restricts stamp price increases to the rate of inflation. “We’re clearly looking for the PRC to establish a new pricing system for us.”

AIMING FOR NIMBLER DELIVERY

The Postal Service on Thursday reported a quarterly loss of $2.1 billion, compared to a $1.6 billion loss in the same period last year. That came after double-digit growth in package delivery was unable to offset drop-offs in letter mail, which makes up more than 70 percent of total postal revenue.

Total revenue came to $16.7 billion, a decline of $1 billion from the same period last year.

After a 10-year review, the regulatory commission appears likely to give the Postal Service more flexibility to raise rates, marking the biggest change in its pricing system in nearly a half-century. The commission might limit how high prices could go, but the cost of a first-class stamp, now 49 cents, could jump. It’s not known how much.

The Postal Service, an independent agency, is trying to stay financially afloat as it seeks to invest billions in new delivery trucks to get packages more nimbly to American homes.

Mail volume is dropping and demand for package shipping is surging due to the growth of online retailers such as e-commerce giant Amazon.

The Postal Service is also urging Congress to provide relief from the mandate to prefund retiree health benefits.

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Verso Paper mill in Jay may get further investment http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/verso-mill-may-get-further-investment/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/verso-mill-may-get-further-investment/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 00:44:29 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/verso-mill-may-get-further-investment/ The Verso paper mill in Jay could be in line for additional investment as the company considers all options for increasing value.

In a conference call Wednesday to review its second-quarter performance, managers of Verso Paper said they have hired a consultant to look at each of the company’s seven mills and the company as a whole to determine how to wring the best value for shareholders.

“We’re evaluating everything,” CEO Chris DiSantis said in the call. “We look at every single mill and we look at what’s the opportunity for conversion of that mill if we make considerable investment there … also we’ll look at whether that mill has more value as a joint venture, or more value if that mill if it is sold, or if we try to ambitiously fill that mill with new product and upgrade the mix. You look at holistically, which is how do we maximize the value of the whole system?”

DiSantis was responding to a question about Verso’s hire of Houlihan Lokey, a global investment bank that is the top mergers and acquisitions adviser in the country, according to Thomson Reuters.

But the managers also singled out its Androscoggin Mill as an example of how converting to a new product line and reducing excess capacity positions the company for increased revenue. Last fall, the mill’s No. 3 paper machine was idled, resulting in the layoffs of about 200 people, and its No. 5 machine was refitted to produce specialty paper – a departure from the coated paper the mill has historically produced. The No. 3 machine was shut down earlier this summer, but many of those laid off were able to find new jobs or training.

‘ROBUST PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT’

The No. 5 machine is now at 78 percent capacity and growing, according to the second-quarter report. Once it achieves full capacity, it could contribute $10 million in revenue.

“Androscoggin Mill is being evaluated for additional capital investment for expanded product line offerings and to enhance cogeneration capabilities,” DiSantis said.

In the accompanying report, the company noted that there is a “robust product development pipeline” for the No. 5 machine, perhaps expanding into release liner paper and other products.

In an email received Thursday, Kathi Rowzie, vice president of communications and public affairs at Verso, said the company didn’t have any further details to share at this time.

Rowzie did not respond to a request to speak with the mill manager regarding what the investment could mean locally.

Jay Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere was unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon.

‘CHALLENGING’ QUARTER

Specialty products now account for 23 percent of Verso’s year-to-date revenue. When pressed by an analyst, DiSantis said specialty-grade papers sell roughly at about $300 per ton more than graphics or publishing papers.

The emphasis on new products comes as the paper company is trying to reposition itself after emerging from bankruptcy last year, a process that shed $2.4 billion of debt. It is still carrying $322 million in debt and has adopted an aggressive strategy to maximize profits.

DiSantis acknowledged the company just concluded a “challenging” quarter. Net sales through June 30 were $1.2 billion, down from $1.32 billion last year – a reduction in part attributable to the loss of products from the idled Androscoggin paper machine. Net income for the first six months of the year was a loss of $70 million, better than 2016’s loss of $121 million at this point in the calendar, but still a loss.

DiSantis said the disappointing numbers reflect three problem areas: depressed prices, increasing materials costs such as natural gas and chemicals, and downtime.

“Mills are economic machines built to run wide open,” DiSantis said. “Downtime is a real impediment to making any kind of profit.”

To address input costs, DiSantis warned that any suppliers or service providers who are not willing to work with Verso on lowering prices or extending payment terms “are being phased out.”

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North Korea tensions fuel stock sell-off http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/north-korea-tensions-fuel-stock-sell-off/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/north-korea-tensions-fuel-stock-sell-off/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 00:19:51 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/north-korea-tensions-fuel-stock-sell-off/ Brewing tensions between the U.S. and North Korea put investors in a selling mood again Thursday, dragging U.S. stocks lower for the third day in a row.

The latest sell-off was the most severe yet, amounting to the biggest single-day drop for the stock market in nearly three months.

Technology companies, which have been the biggest gainers this year as the market hit a succession of record highs, led the broad slide. Banks and department store shares also were among the big decliners. Utilities eked out a small gain.

“The market has been looking for an excuse to sell off and North Korea and the president gave the market that excuse,” said David Schiegoleit, managing director at the U.S. Bank Private Client Wealth Management. “As long as it doesn’t go beyond just a war of words, this is going to be short-lived.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 35.81 points, or 1.4 percent, to 2,438.21. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 204.69 points, or 0.9 percent, to 21,844.01, just shy of its low point for the day.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite bore the brunt of the sell-off, losing 135.46 points, or 2.1 percent, to 6,216.87. May 17 was the last time the three indexes had a bigger single-day decline.

Smaller-company stocks also fell sharply. The Russell 2000 index gave up 24.40 points, or 1.7 percent, to 1,372.54. All the indexes are down for the week.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.20 percent from 2.25 percent late Wednesday.

Wall Street got off to a downbeat start early Thursday as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea continued to escalate, rattling markets overseas.

Early in the day, North Korea revealed a detailed plan to launch a salvo of ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, a major military hub and home to U.S. bombers. Later, speaking to reporters, President Trump demanded that North Korea “get their act together” or face extraordinary trouble.

Unease over the situation pushed the VIX, a measure of how much volatility investors expect in stocks, up 44.4 percent. That’s the biggest increase since May.

The market jitters gave investors an opportunity to pocket some of their recent gains after a string of record highs fueled by strong corporate earnings.

“There’s not a fundamental reason why what we’re seeing out of North Korea right now should affect stock market prices, but it’s being used as the reason to sell off right now because we’ve been looking for it for so long,” Schiegoleit said. “This really is a profit-taking sell-off. I don’t see it as a fear-driven sell-off.”

Heading into Thursday, some 89 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 had reported quarterly results. Of those, 52 percent delivered earnings and revenue that beat financial analysts’ forecasts, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Technology stocks led Thursday’s market slide.

Nvidia fell $7.37, or 4.3 percent, to $164.74, while Advanced Micro Devices gave up 71 cents, or 5.5 percent, to $12.12.

Several financial sector companies also helped pull down the market. Bank of New York Mellon slid $2.09, or 3.9 percent, to $51.95, while Citizens Financial Group shed $1.32, or 3.8 percent, to $33.71.

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Micro-apartments proposed for former mill building on Saco Island http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/micro-apartments-may-be-approved-for-former-mill-building-on-saco-island/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/micro-apartments-may-be-approved-for-former-mill-building-on-saco-island/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 23:35:57 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/micro-apartments-may-be-approved-for-former-mill-building-on-saco-island/ The Saco Planning Board is considering a project that calls for 22 “micro-apartments” to be built in a former mill building on Saco Island.

Saco Island West LLC wants to build the 470-square-foot apartments on two floors above the popular Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery on Saco Island, which sits between downtown Saco and Biddeford. If approved, the project would join others in both cities that offer apartments in renovated mill buildings that also house businesses.

The project would also be the second in Saco to feature micro-apartments. The former Notre Dame de Lourdes church on Cutts Avenue will become 80 units ranging from 600 to 800 square feet as part of a three-phase project expected to begin late this year.

The “Saco Island SmartLofts” plan presented by Saco Island West LLC to the planning board includes a commercial space on the second floor and a total of 22 micro-apartments on the third and fourth floors. The micro-apartments will attract young residents to Saco, but the units could also appeal to people who are downsizing or spend part of the year outside of Maine, said Sam Zaitlin, director of development for Saco Island West.

Patrons enjoy drinks on the patio at Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery in Saco in 2012. Some 22 micro-apartments are planned for the third and fourth floors of the former mill building occupied by the pub. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

“Market research has shown there is a huge market, as yet unserved in this area, for housing that millennials find attractive,” he said. “They want small, they want efficient and low-impact, they want technology, they prefer public transportation over buying cars, and they want ‘cool’ places to hang out. ‘The place to be’ is what downtown Saco is increasingly coming to represent.”

Zaitlin said each micro-apartment will have one bedroom and be rented at market rate. Exact floor plans and prices have not been finalized.

“This is a niche that has yet to be filled and there’s real demand for it,” he said. “It fits right in to everything that is happening on Saco Island and in the area.”

The western part of Saco Island, where the development is proposed, recently saw the opening of 150 new apartments in Mill 4, in addition to 65 residential units at Saco Island Apartments. Saco developer Bernie Saulnier has unveiled plans for a mixed-use development with residential units on the east side of the island, but has not yet submitted formal plans to the city.

William Mann, economic development director for the city, said there is “clearly a demand” for apartments in downtown Saco from people of all ages who want to be close to the beach and transportation and part of a walkable downtown.

“I think these units will have a very broad appeal and will have no trouble being absorbed into the marketplace,” Mann said. “It’s a well-conceived project and we’re looking forward to it.”

The Saco Planning Board this week gave preliminary subdivision approval to the Saco SmartLofts, said city planner Bob Hamlen. The project also will require site plan approval, final subdivision approval and a site law permit modification. The planning board is likely to look at the project again in September.

If approved, construction will begin this fall and the apartments will be ready by early 2018, Zaitlin said.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

ggraham@pressherald.com

Twitter: grahamgillian

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/08/10/micro-apartments-may-be-approved-for-former-mill-building-on-saco-island/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/08/1238803_253181-Saco.jpgPatrons enjoy a cold beverage on the patio outside at Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery in Saco in this 2012 file photo. Some 22 micro-apartments are planned for the third and fourth floors of the former mill building occupied by the pub. (Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette)Fri, 11 Aug 2017 18:03:44 +0000