Editorials – The Portland Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Mon, 23 Jan 2017 12:39:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.2 Our View: Collins should join King in opposing EPA nominee http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/23/our-view-susan-collins-should-join-fellow-maine-senator-angus-king-in-opposing-epa-nominee/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/23/our-view-susan-collins-should-join-fellow-maine-senator-angus-king-in-opposing-epa-nominee/#respond Mon, 23 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1141588 Maine’s climate is changing. You can see it in the native species that have been crowded out by invasive green crabs in places where the water used to be too cold. It’s behind the tick infestation that is killing off moose calves. It’s the reason for warmer, wetter winters that make it harder to work in the woods.

A warmer ocean has wiped out the last two shrimp seasons, and warming inland has disappointed ice fishermen, who have canceled visits to Maine. It also threatens the signature inshore lobster fishery, and will demand huge infrastructure investments in coastal communities to adapt to rising sea levels.

The question in Maine is not whether there is climate change, but what to do about it.

That’s why the U.S. Senate should reject the nomination of Scott Pruitt to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. We applaud Sen. Angus King for his principled stand against the Pruitt nomination, and we encourage Sen. Susan Collins to join him.

The case against Pruitt became clear during his confirmation hearing last week. He doesn’t just represent a different view on what the EPA should do – he is opposed to the mission of the agency itself.

This is an important distinction: President Trump won the election, and he should be expected to name different people to his Cabinet than Hillary Clinton would have if she had won. Trump’s views on regulation were part of what voters chose when they selected him to be president.

But he should not be able to use his appointment powers to undo laws on the books without going through the legislative process. That is the danger the Pruitt nomination presents.

As attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt has repeatedly sued the federal government to prevent the enforcement of environmental laws. One of his letters to the government, King said Thursday, was almost entirely written by an oil and gas company.

Pruitt argues that he is not necessarily against environmental regulation, but says he is a federalist who believes that states should write their own.

That shouldn’t sit well with people in Maine, where our biggest air pollution problems are created elsewhere. Because we are downwind of dirty coal-fired power plants in other states, we have persistent air quality problems, and there is nothing that a local regulation can do about it. There is also the issue of climate change, which cannot be effectively addressed on a state-by-state level.

Which makes Pruitt’s evasive answer on climate change very troubling. While he acknowledges that Earth is getting warmer – how could he not? – and says that temperature is influenced by human behavior, he claims that there is a legitimate dispute on the amount of influence, which leaves him enough wiggle room to prevent effective enforcement of environmental regulations – to the benefit of the polluters.

We don’t have time for inaction. There may be valid disagreement about what would be the best way to reduce carbon emissions, but there is not room for debating whether it is worth doing.

The oil companies have a right to pay lobbyists to represent their interests in Washington. They shouldn’t have a lobbyist at the helm of the EPA. The Senate should make sure that there is someone in charge of the agency who is committed to protecting the environment and carrying out the laws.

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Another View: L.L. Bean does too much good to deserve a political boycott http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/22/another-view-l-l-bean-does-too-much-good-to-deserve-a-political-boycott/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/22/another-view-l-l-bean-does-too-much-good-to-deserve-a-political-boycott/#respond Sun, 22 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1141335 I loathe the new president, and I am aggravated when he tweets gasoline onto fires. But despite board member and Donald Trump supporter Linda Bean’s recent rants, and despite Trump’s endorsement of the company, I will still shop L.L. Bean. I believe the call to boycott a Maine icon is misguided.

I was a Maine resident for eight years. I attended college on the Maine coast, and I worked as a summer camp counselor and wilderness trip leader for many summers. During that life and career, just as today, L.L. Bean gear has been a stalwart companion.

I have never met Linda Bean and know nothing about her professional life or ideology. I do not condone her recent actions. However, the company and the community should not take the blame for someone who appears to be acting alone. Ms. Bean’s board participation is not my decision.

Those who are angry that Ms. Bean used her personal fortune to endorse Donald Trump are not mollified by L.L. Bean’s statement of political neutrality. However, the boycott does not target Linda Bean. It targets the entire company, threatening its employees and shaming its customers. That is a high collateral cost to take revenge on just one of the 63 million people who supported a candidate I detest. Personally, I am more concerned by the 90 million who did not vote on Election Day.

Without intending to, L.L. Bean has sharply opposed Donald Trump for years. Bill Nemitz and others have already opined on why L.L. Bean is a great company: “L.L. Bean treats its workers remarkably well. L.L. Bean is an exemplary corporate citizen … L.L. Bean treats its customers like royalty.”

In addition, L.L. Bean’s existence as a private company, not taking careless risks with other people’s money, is another contradiction to Trump’s greed and kleptocracy.

L.L. Bean’s proactive environmental stewardship efforts are easily identified. Much more importantly, L.L. Bean has provided customers with high-quality gear to get outside and find their love for the outdoors. I do not know how many environmental activists L.L. Bean has created, but it must be more than a few. And L.L. Bean gear has saved lives.

Bottom line, L.L. Bean’s business philosophy and success testify that responsible companies can and should still thrive.

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Our View: Legislature should embrace new technology http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/22/our-view-legislature-should-embrace-new-technology/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/22/our-view-legislature-should-embrace-new-technology/#respond Sun, 22 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1141333 Yes, social media has given us kitten videos, Chewbacca Mom and an unhealthy infatuation with the Kardashians.

But it also helped mobilize the Arab Spring, allowing protesters to organize within and communicate without against the wishes of oppressive governments. It can put us in the middle of events in Bangor or Bangkok, in real time, through nothing more than a cheap phone and an internet connection.

And this powerful tool can make institutions like the Maine Legislature more open and accessible, if only lawmakers can get past the cat videos.

At the request of Rep. Matt Pouliot, an Augusta Republican, the House Rules Committee last week discussed removing a longstanding ban on lawmakers taking photos or video during public legislative sessions.

If it were repealed, lawmakers could broadcast legislative debate straight from the floor to constituents using programs like Facebook Live.

But the tepid response shows just how hard it is to get plodding institutions to adopt technology already widely in use elsewhere.

It’s the same stodgy adherence to old notions of decorum that keeps courtroom sketch artists employed in 2017.

Rep. John Martin, the 75-year-old long-serving Democrat from Eagle Lake and member of the Rules Committee, said allowing lawmakers to video would “create more problems” than it solves and that if he had his way, “there would be no Facebook and no accounts out there.”

“Society would be a lot better off if they read the newspapers and watched the news,” he said.

Martin may think of Facebook as a mire of silly videos, offensive memes and celebrity news. He wouldn’t be alone if he did.

But it is also the portal through which most Americans receive their news from legitimate news organizations. And while its immediacy and lack of face-to-face contact can lead to reductive, even dehumanizing posts, it can also – depending on the user – foster transparency and the free flow of information and ideas.

The platform is a tool for disseminating information, good and bad, and it is up to the user to discern one from the other. Blaming Facebook for people’s misbehavior is a little like blaming the printing press for “Mein Kampf.”

Martin’s comments are not an argument for banning lawmakers from using Facebook Live and other social media programs during legislative debates. Instead, they are an argument for creating an atmosphere in which legislators can use the new technology in a way consistent with the traditions of the State House.

That shouldn’t be so much of a concern as to keep lawmakers from using tools as they are developed to bring the Legislature closer to the people it represents.

Sure, legislative sessions are now streamed online.

But apps like Facebook Live can be used to capture shorter sections of those dialogues – ones that are quicker to the point, more easily digestible and conveniently shared on the platforms most used by Mainers.

Augusta was made the capital in part because of its central location – it gave Mainers from all over the state a fair chance of getting to the capital, back when that journey required a horse or two.

Now we have the technology to bring the state’s work into the homes and onto the phones of Maine residents wherever they are, and while new technology always brings with it new challenges, we feel confident the Legislature can meet those challenges, and balance the job of doing the people’s work with showing their work to the people.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/22/our-view-legislature-should-embrace-new-technology/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1141333_857454-20150512_Legislatu2.jpgAUGUSTA, ME - MAY 12: Barry Hobbins, State Rep for district 14 serving Saco, enjoys his iPad getting all the documents and calendars at a moments touch over the seemingly archaic mass of paper prints of those same documents, according to Representative Hobbins. (Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer)Fri, 20 Jan 2017 22:05:37 +0000
Another View: Trump squandered a chance to unite the country http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/21/another-view-trump-squandered-a-chance-to-unite-the-country/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/21/another-view-trump-squandered-a-chance-to-unite-the-country/#respond Sat, 21 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1141167 No one expected Donald Trump’s inaugural address to join John F. Kennedy’s in the annals of presidential oratory. His own advisers telegraphed that the speech would be brief and “workmanlike.” But they also signaled that the new president would outline a vision for the country.

That’s what we were hoping to hear after Trump was sworn in as president, along with some words of reassurance for Americans who are apprehensive about his ascension to the Oval Office because of his divisive and ugly campaign rhetoric.

What the nation got instead was a recycled campaign speech. President Trump, like candidate Trump, offered absurd oversimplifications (“The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world”) and made promises that will be impossible to keep (the “carnage” in American cities caused by gangs and drugs “stops right here and stops right now”).

The speech was a virtual Greatest Hits of Trump campaign clichés, from “America First” to “America will start winning again, winning like never before” to, of course, the climactic closing in which the president pledged (you guessed it) to “Make America great again.”

It would be unreasonable to expect Trump to abandon those themes, which, after all, served him well in the race for the White House. But his first speech as president offered him the opportunity to acknowledge, as his advisers and Cabinet appointees recognize, that governing requires more than slinging slogans and that no president can magically end crime or eradicate terrorism. Instead, he stayed defiantly in crass campaign mode. A larger problem with the speech was Trump’s failure to reach out in more than a perfunctory way to the millions of Americans who not only didn’t support him but also were offended and even alarmed by his comments about immigrants and racial minorities – not to mention women, who are expected to descend in droves on the capital Saturday for a protest march. He seemed to be directing his remarks almost exclusively to the “forgotten men and women” he had cultivated on the campaign trail, the ones eager to roll back the clock to a time before globalization and automation wiped out manufacturing jobs and demographic changes altered once-homogeneous communities.

He did speak of healing divisions, but in the context of creating a “new national pride” that would subordinate rather than respect differences. He cited “that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag.”

What Trump fails to see in this vision of inclusive patriotism is that not all Americans share the glorious freedoms he celebrates, at least not to the same extent.

Missing in the speech was any recognition that he has a responsibility, especially given his divisive campaign, to bring Americans together.

In his victory statement on election night, Trump showed an awareness of the importance of such outreach. On that occasion, he said: “Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division” and pledged that “I will be president for all of Americans.” Friday’s speech would have benefited from such a gesture.

If Trump governs effectively – a big if, based on all that we’ve seen of him so far – it will matter little that he delivered a hackneyed and unmemorable inaugural address. Still, this speech offered the new president a unique opportunity to reintroduce himself to the American people. He squandered it.

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Our View: No room for flip-flopping former Cumberland legislator on conservation board http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/20/our-view-no-room-for-flip-flopping-former-cumberland-legislator-on-conservation-board/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/20/our-view-no-room-for-flip-flopping-former-cumberland-legislator-on-conservation-board/#respond Fri, 20 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1140440 We’re struggling to find a good-faith explanation for Gov. Le-Page’s latest nominee to the Land for Maine’s Future Board: Michael Timmons, a former Republican legislator who voted in 2015 to sustain the governor’s veto of a bill to fund the conservation program. The nomination is a blatant effort by LePage to disrupt the board’s important work, and the Maine Senate shouldn’t support it.

Founded in 1987, Land for Maine’s Future has helped conserve over 500,000 acres of working forest, farmland and commercial waterfront. Nonprofits across the ideological spectrum, from environmental groups to hunting and fishing organizations, are advocates for the program, and Maine voters have never rejected proposals to fund LMF conservation projects.

Despite this broad base of support, Gov. LePage has stood in the way of Land for Maine’s Future, repeatedly holding on to millions in voter-approved bond funds in order to leverage action on his pet initiatives.

Frustration over the continued stalling fed strong legislative support of a 2015 measure that would have forced the release of the bonds. Timmons, then a state representative from Cumberland, initially voted in favor of the proposal. Then, caving to pressure from LePage and party leaders, he switched sides and voted to sustain LePage’s veto; the override fell five votes short of passage.

Timmons was justifiably slammed for the flip-flop by Cumberland’s councilors and town manager: They’d been counting on money from those bonds to buy the Knight’s Pond Preserve, and he’d assured them that he was behind the bill. (The project became a rallying point for LePage’s critics, and the deal was finalized last October.) Voters in Timmons’ district made their feelings known last November, turning him out of office by a solid margin.

But Timmons has friends in high places. LePage came to his defense in 2015, telling Cumberland officials, “Your anger is misdirected,” and hinting that the criticism was politically motivated.

Now the governor – the official who has done more than anyone else in Maine to to keep conservation funds from being used as voters intended – wants Timmons to have a seat on the panel tasked with vetting local groups’ requests for those funds.

The only qualification that Michael Timmons has demonstrated is his willingness to put his political interests before those of his constituents. He’s shown no commitment to conservation causes, and there’s no case for putting him on the Land for Maine’s Future board.

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Another View: House unceremoniously yanks down a student’s artwork http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/20/another-view-house-unceremoniously-yanks-down-a-students-artwork/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/20/another-view-house-unceremoniously-yanks-down-a-students-artwork/#respond Fri, 20 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1140448 The most galling part of the letter outlining the decision to remove from view a painting at the center of a controversy is when the architect says he looks forward to working with all participating members of Congress for the 2017 Congressional Art Competition.

Really? Why bother?

The student-artist’s work was sacrificed to political pressure and vigilante censorship – and that should alarm anyone who thinks the First Amendment, unlike art, is not a matter of personal taste and choice.

At issue is “Untitled #1,” a painting by Missouri student David Pulphus that depicts racial confrontation with police. It won unanimous approval in the Congressional Art Competition in Missouri’s 1st District last May and, like the more than 400 other entries accepted and approved, was displayed in the U.S. Capitol. For over six months, the painting was viewed by thousands of visitors without incident.

That changed when an alt-right blog and other conservative commentators started a campaign against it, objecting to its imaging of police as animals. Congressional Republicans took it upon themselves to remove it from the wall and give it to Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., who, in turn, joined with others in the Congressional Black Caucus to have it rehung. Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers ordered the artwork removed Tuesday, saying it violates a House ban on subjects of contemporary political controversy.

If that determination had been made when the painting was first reviewed (and approved), it might have carried some credibility. But other paintings can be seen as dealing with political themes, and the architect’s revelation came only after a mean-spirited political campaign, and after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., weighed in with his own review (“Disgusting”). That sequence of events sets a sad precedent.

Young Pulphus, for his part, has acted with restraint and dignity. His only comment: “The art speaks for itself.” So does the unseemly stampede in Ryan’s House.

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Our View: Make connections with at-risk mothers to prevent the killing of newborns http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/19/our-view-make-connections-with-at-risk-mothers-to-prevent-the-killing-of-newborns/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/19/our-view-make-connections-with-at-risk-mothers-to-prevent-the-killing-of-newborns/#respond Thu, 19 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1139891 Every year across the United States, several hundred infants are killed in their first 24 hours of life – an act known as neonaticide. A high-profile case of neonaticide in Maine concluded this month with the sentencing of the mother to nine years in prison. But while incarceration may satisfy calls for retribution, preventing neonaticide demands that we reach out to women at risk.

Kayla Stewart, who pleaded guilty Jan. 4 to manslaughter, gave birth in December 2015 at the Fairfield home she shared with her boyfriend, Nicholas Blood. According to prosecutors, Stewart, then 20, either left the full-term boy to die in the unheated garage or smothered or suffocated him. Her defense attorney argued that Stewart believed the child was stillborn and wrapped him up and put him behind an oil tank in the garage as a way to keep the baby with her.

Stewart’s experience fits a pattern that Michelle Oberman, a law professor who has studied neonaticide, recently described to the Morning Sentinel’s Colin Ellis: isolation and denial. Stewart and Blood, then 25, already had a 3-year-old and both worked. They didn’t see much of each other, her attorney said, and Stewart wasn’t close to her adoptive mother.

Asked by her mother whether she was pregnant, Stewart initially denied it, according to a probable-cause affidavit; later, in either late November or early December, she called her mother and said she’d been seen by a doctor after a fall at work and had been told that her fetus was just a few months old and had no heartbeat. Neither of these were true. Stewart’s attorney said her client was convinced the baby was dead because she “smoked and did drugs” during the pregnancy.

What is clear is that Stewart had no plan for giving birth, and that like most women who deliver a child unexpectedly, she was in no condition to take proactive steps – such as cleaning herself up, getting dressed and dropping off the child at a “safe haven,” like an ER or a doctor’s office.

Keeping newborns from being killed calls for making connections. Ideally, teenagers, one of the groups most at risk for pregnancy denial and infanticide, should have access to evidence-based sex education and contraception. If they don’t use birth control, or if it fails, they need someone in their lives – a health provider, a friend, a relative – who’s caring but still willing to ask questions and help the woman weigh her options. And the existence of “safe haven” laws can help by alerting the public to the possibility that someone they know might be concealing a pregnancy.

A child died just as his life was getting started. Sadly, nothing will bring him back – but if we want to prevent similar tragedies, intervention should take place far before the labor pains start.

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Another View: Incoming Trump administration should move to cut losses in Iraq http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/19/another-view-incoming-trump-administration-should-move-to-cut-losses-in-iraq/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/19/another-view-incoming-trump-administration-should-move-to-cut-losses-in-iraq/#respond Thu, 19 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1139894 One question that should be high on the foreign policy agenda of President-elect Donald Trump is whether America should continue the war in Iraq, which now risks having ensnared three U.S. presidents.

The war has now cost the taxpayers $2 trillion. Nearly 4,500 Americans have died, the conflict arguably spawned the Islamic State and some 5,000 American troops are still engaged there. Iraq’s predominantly Shiite government still has not gained the support or even the acquiescence of Iraq’s mixed population. It was formerly constituted, under Saddam Hussein, of roughly 20 percent Sunni Arab Muslims, on top of the heap, 17 percent Kurds, also Sunnis, and 60 percent Shiites.

The invasion in 2003 and subsequent occupation put Shiites on top, in principle based on Western democracy’s one-person, one-vote formula, but the Sunnis have never accepted the new order; some back the mostly Sunni Islamic State.

Deadly bombs go off in Baghdad and elsewhere in the country, almost certainly directed by Sunnis against the ruling Shiites. The Islamic State has held Mosul, Iraq’s second city, since June 2014.

The question now is whether the incoming Trump administration will continue to keep the United States on the hook in Iraq. President George W. Bush tried to withdraw from the conflict starting in 2008. President Obama, in spite of passionate promises, was unable to resist Iraqi government and domestic pressure, including by military leaders still in quest of redefined victory, to keep forces and assets committed. U.S. involvement is now coming up to 14 years.

If Trump looks at Iraq as an investment of U.S. assets, including military personnel as well as money, he could sensibly conclude that enough is already far more than enough and pull forces and other assets out, leaving the Iraqis to sort out their situation themselves. As a U.S. investment, Iraq now looks a lot more like today’s Atlantic City than like another California gold rush.

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Our View: LePage again makes Maine look bigoted http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/18/our-view-lepage-again-makes-maine-look-bigoted/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/18/our-view-lepage-again-makes-maine-look-bigoted/#respond Wed, 18 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1139331 The governor of Maine is an ignorant man. This is not news.

The man who said Tuesday that civil rights hero John Lewis should say “thank you” to white people for ending slavery is the same person who said last year that black drug dealers who impregnate “white girl(s)” were mainly responsible for the state’s opioid problem.

This is the same man who was in office for less than a month before telling the NAACP that it could “kiss my butt” if it didn’t like him skipping the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast.

We would like to ignore him, but we can’t. Even when he’s just running his mouth on talk radio, he’s our governor. We all suffer from guilt by association if we don’t speak up.

Gov. LePage takes great offense at being called racist because he claims to have no personal bias against people based on the color of their skin. We can’t know what’s in his heart, but we do have enough evidence to draw other conclusions from his repeated racially charged comments.

Racial prejudice is no small thing to be wrong about. It’s one of the fault lines of our society. Failing to build unity in a culturally diverse society is what will make or break this country. A public official who deepens the divide does damage to us all.

But the governor is consistently wrong about race and when he is confronted with it, he offers half-baked history lessons. As usual, in his telling, he’s the victim.

“The blacks, the NAACP (paint) all white people with one brush,” LePage said. “To say that every white American is a racist is an insult. The NAACP should apologize to the white people, to the people from the North for fighting their battle.”

If the NAACP said that all white people were racist they must have whispered it in LePage’s ear, because it’s not in any of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization’s public statements.

But the governor does not stop there. He goes on to suggest that living in a state that fought for the Union in the Civil War allows him to say with impunity whatever comes into his head.

He wants all white Northerners to get collective credit for the sacrifice made by civil rights workers like Mickey Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, who were murdered while registering black voters in 1964, but he’s not willing to accept that there was any collective harm done to millions of African-Americans by 400 years of slavery, segregation and lynching.

There is no political cost in Maine to this type of wrongheadedness because, judging from their silence, most Maine Republicans and some Democrats and independents think he’s right. Still, the governor has once again embarrassed his state on a national stage.

You can expect there to be an economic price to pay by companies that are trying to recruit students and professionals to make Maine their home, or by economic development agencies trying to entice entrepreneurs to relocate.

But even that does not match the human cost that will be paid by ordinary Maine people, like an African-American mother who has to put her child to sleep at night knowing that her governor thinks he deserves “a simple thank you” from people like her because her baby is not in chains.

We’ll all be paying for his ignorance for a long time.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/18/our-view-lepage-again-makes-maine-look-bigoted/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1139331_776910-LePage-e1484711944661.jpgGov. Paul LePage fancies himself a student of history, but he continues to misrepresent the past to justify his racially charged ideas. Mainers suffer from guilt by association when he expresses such notions.Tue, 17 Jan 2017 22:59:16 +0000
Our View: U.S. food policy needs more than junk ban http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/17/our-view-u-s-food-policy-needs-more-than-junk-ban/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/17/our-view-u-s-food-policy-needs-more-than-junk-ban/#respond Tue, 17 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1138789 We don’t agree with much of what Gov. LePage has to say regarding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, an essential piece of public assistance that ensures millions of Americans do not go hungry.

But he is absolutely right about one of the program’s central hypocrisies – its multibillion-dollar subsidy to the junk-food industry.

“The Obama administration goes to great lengths to police the menus of K-12 cafeterias, but looks the other way as billions of taxpayer dollars finance a steady diet of Mars bars and Mountain Dew,” the governor wrote last summer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees SNAP.

Five cents out of every SNAP dollar is spent on soda, with another 10 cents going to other sweetened beverages, such as energy drinks or fruit juice, according to a new study from the USDA itself.

Banning the use of food stamps on these beverages, as LePage wants and the USDA has so far resisted, is a logical first step in changing federal policy that is fighting with itself even as it fights the obesity epidemic.

However, if the ban is about public health and not the public shaming of the poor, it must be done alongside efforts to reduce the overall consumption of sweetened beverages, which are a problem for SNAP participants and non-participants alike, and contribute not only to obesity but also to a wide range of health problems costing the United States hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

The goal should be reducing that use across the board, using the kind of campaign that has already led to a large reduction in the amount of soda consumed among the population as a whole, extending it to all sorts of sweetened beverages, and specifically into the low-income communities that on average consume junk food at a higher rate.

The USDA should also continue to push for a more rational food policy, one that does not so heavily subsidize the soy and corn that are used as filler in so many unhealthy processed foods. If spending billions of SNAP funds on soda is bad policy, so is funneling billions to farmers whose crops become high-fructose corn syrup.

Instituting a ban as part of a more wholistic approach to food policy would make it decidely more effective, and separate it from the more punitive food stamp measures forwarded by officials like LePage who have sought to cut the rolls even as hunger spreads, stressing schools and food banks.

Perhaps it is this existential argument over food stamps that has the Obama administration balking at a ban, as a reflex for defending the program as a whole. Otherwise, its arguments don’t make much sense.

Both of the USDA’s main points against a ban – that it would be difficult to administer, and that it is punitive toward the poor – are proved wrong by other federal programs, such as school lunch and Women, Infants and Children, both of which have clear restrictions and strict guidelines on nutrition.

No, banning food stamps from being used on junk food isn’t an attack on the poor, but part of an antidote to food policies that are making us sick.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/17/our-view-u-s-food-policy-needs-more-than-junk-ban/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1138789_346561_20151123_junkfood_00.jpgThe federal government should slash subsidies to the producers of the soy and corn that are used as filler in so many unhealthy processed foods.Mon, 16 Jan 2017 23:14:04 +0000
Another View: Companies like Ikea should make safe products without being forced http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/17/another-view-companies-like-ikea-should-make-safe-products-without-being-forced/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/17/another-view-companies-like-ikea-should-make-safe-products-without-being-forced/#respond Tue, 17 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1138813 Ikea, the world’s largest furniture seller, recently agreed to pay $50 million to settle three cases in which boys died after being crushed by Ikea dressers that toppled on them.

The settlement doesn’t clear the way for Ikea to go back to business as usual. If anything, the payout seems to indicate how badly Ikea mismanaged the safety issue. The deaths might have been prevented had Ikea designed its dressers to pass the industry’s national voluntary safety test, developed to ensure that dressers meet a minimum standard for stability.

Instead, Ikea was slow to respond to safety concerns after scores of accidents dating to 1989. That was the year that a 20-month-old Virginia girl died after a four-drawer chest tipped over and fatally pinned her. Last February, a 22-month-old Minnesota boy died after a six-drawer chest fell on him.

But it was not until June that Ikea agreed to stop selling dressers that were found to tip over too easily and offer refunds to customers that bought the 29 million dressers sold over the course of more than a decade.

Ikea finally took some action after increased scrutiny that included a series of stories by Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Tricia L. Nadolny. Too bad it took public shaming and legal action to force the company to do the right thing.

A child dies an average of every two weeks in accidents involving toppled furniture or TV sets. Last week, Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Amy Klobucher, D-Minn., and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said they plan to reintroduce legislation calling for stronger furniture safety standards.

Corporations should always do the right thing, but too often they don’t. Now is the time to act before another child dies needlessly.

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Our View: ‘For-profit’ plans should be met with skepticism http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/16/our-view-for-profit-plans-should-be-met-with-skepticism/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/16/our-view-for-profit-plans-should-be-met-with-skepticism/#respond Mon, 16 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1137934 How much difference does an election make? Well, when President Obama announced in August that he was phasing out the use of some for-profit prisons in the federal system, stocks of publicly traded prison operators plunged. On Nov. 9, however, the day after the election of Donald Trump, they rebounded heavily, buoyed by the president-elect’s campaign support.

Trump is a supporter not just of for-profit prisons, but also of privatizing a whole host of government services, including public infrastructure and veterans’ health care, and it is clear his Cabinet of billionaire CEOs sees profit motivation as a powerful force.

But while the pursuit of profit may lead to innovation and efficiency in many sectors, it has overrun quality of care and basic ethics in others. For-profit prisons, colleges and health care have been a failure in so many ways, leaving Americans awash in debt and misery, and any attempt to commit public funds to those private companies should be met with great skepticism.

Obama’s move on for-profit prisons came following an inspector general’s report that showed that in the federal system, for-profit prisons did not save much on cost and did not positively affect recidivism rates.

What’s more, inmates in these prisons were more likely to have weapons than their counterparts in publicly run prisons, and there were more assaults on inmates and guards and 10 times more lockdowns.

The record is just as spotty on for-profit colleges, the worst of which used illegal and unethical tactics to draw students into programs they could not afford to gain degrees that had little success earning people jobs, one of the main drivers of the student debt crisis. A study by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office covering 15 for-profit schools in six states and Washington, D.C., found that all 15 “made deceptive or otherwise questionable statements” to applicants, exaggerating employment prospects and graduation rates, and falsifying financial aid forms.

Another found that 98 percent of the more than 800 vocational programs across the country that failed to place graduates in jobs good enough to repay their loans were at for-profit schools; not one program at a community college made the list.

In short, many of these colleges recruited students using unethical tactics in order to draw federal student loans, which then became the responsibility of taxpayers when the students couldn’t find work and defaulted on the loans. And at for-profit hospitals, a RAND Corporation study found higher mortality rates, while researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that for-profit nursing homes more frequently used sedatives, which are less costly than using personnel to handle difficult patients.

Those experiences should weigh heavily on any attempt to house prisoners, teach students or treat patients through for-profit companies. That includes the LePage administration’s plan to build a privately run facility for some of the mental health patients now at Riverview Psychiatric Center.

For-profit companies may excel at building a better widget or finding the best way to get it to market. But in other cases, the urge to cut corners is just too great, and when oversight falls short, people suffer.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/16/our-view-for-profit-plans-should-be-met-with-skepticism/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1137934_149903_20131017_prisonart_2.jpgStudies find that running prisons on a for-profit basis doesn't save much on cost, doesn't lower the likelihood of recidivism and leads to higher assault rates and more lockdowns. That doesn't benefit the public.Sun, 15 Jan 2017 17:58:19 +0000
Our View: Augusta focused on the wrong drug problem http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/15/our-view-augusta-focused-on-the-wrong-drug-problem/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/15/our-view-augusta-focused-on-the-wrong-drug-problem/#respond Sun, 15 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1137784 It’s a new year, and there’s a new Legislature ready to pitch in and work on a drug abuse problem.

Too bad they are working on the wrong one.

Last week, legislative leaders announced that they were ready to debate a one-year moratorium on portions of a voter-approved law that legalizes marijuana use for adults. Meanwhile, on average, overdoses – mostly of heroin, prescription opioids and fentanyl – claim one life in Maine every day, and the state still hasn’t done enough to face its most serious public health crisis.

Despite significant analysis of the problem, Maine still lacks the detox beds it needs to address the problem. It hasn’t even replaced the ones that disappeared as a result of the LePage administration’s misguided health care policy.

BEST THERAPY UNAVAILABLE

And even though the best evidence points to medication-assisted treatment as the best way to save lives, methadone clinics or doctor-prescribed Suboxone therapy is unavailable to many of the people who need it most because they can’t afford to pay for it.

That’s a problem that would be made even worse if Gov. LePage’s budget were to become law, because he would drop thousands more poor Mainers from MaineCare, putting drug treatment out of reach for them.

Given that laggard response to this crying need, the call to do something right away about the marijuana bill makes little sense. The most controversial aspects of the law – the licensing of retail stores and smoking clubs – wouldn’t go into effect for nine months anyway.

What kind of legislative magic do the leaders expect to occur in those extra three months?

This legislative session continues until June. Why not just have the state agencies start working on the regulations? If the rules are not ready when it’s time to adjourn, lawmakers could pass an emergency bill then.

There is a drug crisis in Maine that demands emergency attention, but marijuana isn’t it.

POT LAW AFFECTS RELATIVELY FEW

With all due respect to the citizens who campaigned for the referendum, polling shows that about 20 percent of adults are at least infrequent users, making the law irrelevant to most of the remaining 80 percent.

Even if marijuana use were to climb when it becomes legal, it’s safe to assume that no one will die from too much marijuana – because no one ever has.

Science has yet to find a dose that would be lethal, which separates the drug from alcohol, over-the-counter medications and dozens of items commonly found in most people’s homes.

There are health problems associated with excessive marijuana use, but they pale in comparison with the very real consequences evidenced by hundreds of opioid deaths a year. The opioid problem is out of control and getting worse.

How did slowing down pot legalization jump to the head of the line?

It’s not that Maine has not taken some important steps. The state passed new protocols for prescribing pain medication that should lower the supply of what has become the true gateway drug in the opioid epidemic.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced last month that it would make $2.4 million available for medication-assisted treatment for people who do not have health insurance.

COORDINATED APPROACH

Private organizations like Maine Behavioral Health are coordinating acute and long-term treatment for people who want to beat their addiction with the help of both medicine and therapy.

But the state could do much more to lead the fight. If you need to see an example of what that would look like, you don’t need to go very far.

In 2013, Maine and Vermont were both reeling from a spike in overdose deaths. Maine lost 174 people while Vermont, with about half the population, lost 93.

In 2014, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin made fighting opioid abuse his top priority in his State of the State Address. He articulated a strategy that involved law enforcement and health care, creating a “hub and spoke” system, where addicts could start in a detox center and move to community-based treatment under the care of a physician.

Though the overdose deaths haven’t stopped in Vermont, they have stayed constant over the last three years. But in Maine they have increased from 174 in 2013 to 216 in 2014 and 272 in 2015. Last year Maine averaged one overdose death a day through the first nine months, smashing what had been a deeply disturbing record.

Lawmakers in Augusta are expected to debate the marijuana bill this week, and leaders predict that it will pass with the two-thirds majority it would need to go into effect immediately as an emergency measure. Gov. LePage has made public statements indicating that he would support putting off this change to the law.

Meanwhile, on average, a Mainer dies every day. That’s a real emergency. That’s the drug abuse problem that needs their attention.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/15/our-view-augusta-focused-on-the-wrong-drug-problem/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1137784_651943__201508012_medcu_2a.jpgDuring this call in 2015, Portland paramedics were able to revive a woman who had injected a quarter-gram of heroin – but the number of Mainers who die of drug overdoses is increasing at an alarming rate.Sat, 14 Jan 2017 13:58:21 +0000
Another View: Crippling fight against climate change won’t help Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/15/another-view-crippling-fight-against-climate-change-wont-help-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/15/another-view-crippling-fight-against-climate-change-wont-help-maine/#respond Sun, 15 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1137813 State Sen. Garrett Mason, in defending the choice of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (Maine Voices, Jan. 5), notes that Pruitt remarked that the EPA is an important agency that plays a vital role in protecting our environment, and that he had reached an agreement to enhance water quality of the Illinois River. All well and good. What Sen. Mason neglected to mention was Pruitt’s campaign against the EPA’s regulation of carbon dioxide emissions.

The connection between CO2 and the climate changes we are observing is now beyond debate. Nevertheless, Scott Pruitt this year wrote in National Review, “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”

He sent letters drafted by energy lobbyists, on Oklahoma state stationery, to the EPA and other government agencies. And he led a lawsuit against the EPA to gut the Clean Power Plan.

Given Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to greatly shrink, or even dismantle the EPA, it’s not hard to see why he would pick Mr. Pruitt for the job. Those of us, though, who are concerned about climate change, and the rising sea levels and warming waters we’re observing in Maine, should hope that there are Republican U.S. senators, such as Susan Collins, who will recognize the danger and vote against Scott Pruitt’s confirmation.

Sen. Mason concludes his column with the statement “Most importantly, Scott Pruitt’s leadership at EPA will help Maine.”

That would not be the most important consequence of Pruitt’s confirmation. The termination of national efforts to limit climate change would permanently damage our state, our nation and our world.

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Another View: Reflecting on Obama’s legacy as he leaves office http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/14/reflecting-on-obamas-legacy-as-he-leaves-office/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/14/reflecting-on-obamas-legacy-as-he-leaves-office/#respond Sat, 14 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1137683 Barack Obama has often spoken of bending the arc of history toward justice. Our 44th president did so in many ways, indeed by his mere presence.

Even after eight years, we too easily forget how historic it truly was for the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas to be elected to our nation’s highest office.

Audaciously, Obama tried to transform the nation – and why not, after his transcendent 2008 campaign of “hope and change” galvanized so many people in America and around the world?

A gifted orator, Obama governed with grace, calm and dignity. He can claim many successes, kept most of his campaign promises and leaves office with his highest approval ratings in at least four years, approaching the outgoing popularity of Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. But it turned out that many Americans were not quite as hopeful as he believed, or as ready to change as much as he imagined.

As his presidency ends, the country is changed, but also divided.

Judging Obama’s legacy is more difficult in this venomous political atmosphere. And there’s even more uncertainty because President-elect Donald Trump is vowing to roll back many of Obama’s key initiatives.

Still, fair-minded people should be able to conclude that America is better off now than eight years ago. His accomplishments are all the more remarkable because some people, Trump among them, questioned his legitimacy from the very start and Republicans in Congress consistently sought to block him.

Obama took office four months after the Wall Street crash and during the worst downturn since the Great Depression. He saved the auto industry and helped nurse the economy back to health. The unemployment rate, which hit 10 percent in 2009, is the lowest since the recession, the number of private-sector jobs has grown for 75 straight months and the economy has added more than 15 million jobs since 2010. But as Obama says, more must be done to help the middle class and those left behind.

Obama pushed an ambitious domestic agenda, beyond preventing economic collapse. He vastly expanded health care coverage, though the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect and hasn’t done enough yet to reduce costs. As Trump and Republicans try to repeal Obamacare, it will become clearer how much good it did and how difficult it will be to replace it with something better.

On another generational issue, Obama put the U.S. on course to get serious about global climate change, requiring cars to get 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, and signing the historic Paris accords that were adopted in December 2015. Though some of his executive actions have been blocked by the courts, he rightly pushed us toward clean energy and away from fossil fuels.

Our society already was moving toward more tolerance, including LGBT rights. Still, his support — repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military and not defending the Defense of Marriage Act — strengthened the shift. When the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law of the land in 2015, the White House was bathed in rainbow colors.

Obama, however, was unable to break the deadlock on immigration reform. He used his executive powers to protect young people, but also presided over a record number of deportations. Trump was only too happy to exploit fear and anger on this issue.

In one of his last big initiatives, Obama started to reverse the costly mass incarceration of nonviolent drug criminals that hasn’t made us that much safer, but has devastated families and communities, especially poor ones.

In fighting terror, Obama returned America to its values by banning torture and trying to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay. Yet he vastly expanded the use of drones, despite civilian casualties. Obama also expanded mass surveillance of Americans (though he later supported reforms) and increased espionage prosecutions of whistleblowers.

While we have had homegrown attacks in Boston, Fort Hood, Orlando and San Bernardino, we have not had a large-scale attack on the homeland by a foreign terrorist group. How many of us would have bet on that eight years ago?

And how many would have wagered there would be no egregious corruption scandals in eight years? Sure, there were mistakes, such as Operation “Fast and Furious” gun sales to drug cartels, the deaths at the U.S. mission in Benghazi and the Internal Revenue Service targeting tea party groups.

Obama is a president whose tenure will look better and better as time passes. He was smart and thoughtful, he was able to calmly brush off criticism and he inspired people, especially the young. Americans will learn soon enough how good we had it.

In his farewell speech Tuesday night, Obama spoke of his achievements, but also warned that our democracy is under threat – from lack of economic opportunity, racial divisions, political strife and weakening of common values – and called upon all of us to defend and strengthen it.

If we heed his words, that could be his most lasting legacy.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/14/reflecting-on-obamas-legacy-as-he-leaves-office/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1137683_AP_Poll_Obama_Legacy_17682.jpgFILE - In this May 1, 2011, file photo, President Barack Obama reads his statement to photographers after making a televised statement on the death of Osama bin Laden from the East Room of the White House in Washington. More than half of Americans view President Barack Obama favorably as he leaves office, a new poll shows, but Americans remain deeply divided over his legacy. Less than half of Americans say they're better off eight years after his election or that Obama brought the country together. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)Fri, 13 Jan 2017 21:06:04 +0000
Our View: Video visits won’t solve major challenges at Maine’s county jails http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/13/our-view-video-visits-wont-solve-major-challenges-at-maines-county-jails/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/13/our-view-video-visits-wont-solve-major-challenges-at-maines-county-jails/#respond Fri, 13 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1136996 Video conferencing is transforming modern life, lowering the geographical barrier to accessing services ranging from higher education to specialized health care. But for people behind bars, the video technology that’s being embraced by a growing number of Maine’s county jails doesn’t go far enough toward maintaining crucial family ties.

Three Maine jails have video visiting in place (Somerset County; Two Bridges Regional, serving Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties, and York County), and Maine Public Radio recently reported that three others (Androscoggin, Cumberland and Hancock) are considering adopting the technology.

Two Bridges and York County have eliminated in-person family visits entirely. Inmates are in a separate room in the jail during visits and communicate with their loved ones through video cameras. Somerset still allows in-person visits, but they’re non-contact: Inmates and their loved ones cannot touch and are separated by glass.

The reason for the policy shift? Jail administrators point to the need to stem the steady flow of contraband entering the jails through means as innocuous as a baby’s diaper or a quick kiss. (In a high-profile incident at Two Bridges, an Episcopal priest was convicted of smuggling Suboxone to two inmates; more recently, a Cumberland County inmate died of an overdose of smuggled drugs.) Officials also cite the expenses involved in paying jail staff to supervise visits.

All of these are valid concerns. The number of Mainers struggling to overcome addiction to heroin and other opioids has soared in recent years, and it’s no coincidence that drug arrests and the jail population have increased, too. But eliminating contact visits won’t mitigate the drug crisis that’s filling cells. Achieving that mission calls for investing more money in drug detoxification and medication-assisted addiction treatment by expanding Medicaid eligibility and keeping the Affordable Care Act in place.

Researchers have found that the setup of video visitation terminals – the camera is usually a few inches above the monitor – doesn’t enable the eye contact that lets inmates and their loved ones connect with each other. Good relationships with people on the outside are what help keep inmates focused on rehabilitation and release. And when they get out, as most inmates eventually do, those with strong ties are far less likely to re-offend and end up back in jail, driving up corrections costs (paid for by taxpayers), decades of studies show.

It’s common sense: Someone who has a link to the community will value their place in it enough to want to stay there and become a productive citizen. We all benefit from contact visits – which is reason enough to consider whether the short-term gain of eliminating them is worth the long-term risk.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/13/our-view-video-visits-wont-solve-major-challenges-at-maines-county-jails/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1136996_edipic_1009.jpgCumberland County Jail inmates meet with visitors in 2013 in a special room designed to prevent drug smuggling. Implementing video visitation – as Cumberland and two other Maine counties are now considering – won't mitigate the addiction crisis that's feeding the continuing flow of contraband and keeping jail cells full.Fri, 13 Jan 2017 10:58:46 +0000
Another View: Search warrant isn’t a license for police officer to shoot a dog http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/13/another-view-search-warrant-isnt-a-license-for-police-officer-to-shoot-a-dog/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/13/another-view-search-warrant-isnt-a-license-for-police-officer-to-shoot-a-dog/#respond Fri, 13 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1137011 The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month found in favor of police who broke into a home and killed two dogs. The officers had a search warrant. But a search warrant should not be a death warrant for innocent dogs.

The court tells the story mostly from the perspective of Christof Klein, a Battle Creek, Michigan, police officer, who said he saw a “beware of dog” sign while approaching the house. He said he saw the dogs themselves barking in a window while he and his colleagues approached the home. And yet he broke down the door.

By the time the raid was over, Klein and his colleagues had killed both dogs. Klein said one was moving toward him when he shot her. The other, he said, was barking.

The 6th Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Eric L. Clay, ruled that killing a dog can violate the Fourth Amendment (search, seizure and probable cause), but that in this case, it didn’t. The question, the court said, was whether the dogs presented “an imminent threat to the officer’s safety,” as an “objectively reasonable officer” would have seen it given the circumstances. The judge found that killing the dogs met this standard. He’s wrong.

It is objectively unreasonable to say that a barking dog was a real threat to an armed police officer. That’s not an even match. And, to the extent that the dogs were a threat at all, this threat was created by breaking down the door – threatening the dogs and their territory.

The court should have demanded actual evidence that that was a reasonable decision. Instead, it relied on its own speculation about what might have happened if the officers had taken the time to find a way to protect the dogs – what they should have done.

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Our View: L.L. Bean boycott would harm the wrong people http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/12/our-view-l-l-bean-boycott-would-harm-the-wrong-people/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/12/our-view-l-l-bean-boycott-would-harm-the-wrong-people/#respond Thu, 12 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1136423 By any measure, L.L. Bean is one of Maine’s top businesses, a major employer that still manufactures its iconic Bean Boot here in the state and gives generously to an array of local nonprofits. It also has on its 10-member board of directors Linda Bean, granddaughter of the company’s founder and a high-profile supporter of conservative causes, including the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

To the people behind the Grab Your Wallet campaign, Linda Bean’s personal political views outweigh any amount of good the company does. We hope anyone considering Grab Your Wallet’s call for a boycott of L.L. Bean comes to a different conclusion.

We are no fan of Linda Bean, whose conservative views come with more than a little hypocrisy and hysteria.

After using public assistance as a single mother before she received her family inheritance, Bean has railed against public assistance. She is staunchly opposed to gay rights and abortion rights. In an open letter released during the 2012 presidential campaign, she made bizarre claims about Barack Obama taking away farmers’ land rights, calling the president “HITLERIAN” and saying he was “closing in very fast to eliminate totally our liberty rights and heritage.”

She has also donated heavily to conservative causes, giving $30,000 to Maine political action committees this year, including one controlled by Gov. Paul LePage. It was a contribution of $60,000, according to the Federal Election Commission, to her own PAC – Making America Great Again LLC – that drew the attention of the Grab Your Wallet campaign.

The campaign, started in October in response to lewd comments Trump made on tape while talking to a reporter from Access Hollywood, has taken aim at retailers that sell Trump products or whose owners support the president-elect. More than 70 companies are now on the boycott list, which is backed by a heavy social media presence.

But just who are they hurting by calling for a boycott?

It certainly isn’t Trump, who has no interest in L.L. Bean whatsoever. Nor is it Linda Bean, who has her inheritance as well as a growing business of her own that is not subject to Grab Your Wallet’s boycott call. She’s held her abhorrent views for decades now, and it is unlikely that pressure from a liberal group will cause her any shame or trepidation.

No, if the boycott has any effect on the company’s bottom line – doubtful as it might be for a company with $1.6 billion in annual sales – it’ll rest more heavily on the remaining nine members of the board, the over 50 family members who have a stake in the business, and the roughly 5,000 company employees – numbers that by themselves show the difficulty of defining any company by one person’s personal views.

It may also have an effect on the company’s charitable giving – $2.1 million in 2016, according to the company, spread among more than 80 organizations, including the Maine Island Trail Association, the Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.

L.L. Bean is a good corporate citizen, one that treats its employers and community with respect, and supports U.S. manufacturing. So by trying to punish one person who supports so many of the wrong things, a boycott would only hurt many others who are doing things the right way.

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Our View: Deal would allow both Portland police and protesters to be heard http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/11/our-view-deal-would-allow-both-portland-police-and-protesters-to-be-heard/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/11/our-view-deal-would-allow-both-portland-police-and-protesters-to-be-heard/#respond Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1135972 The Black Lives Matter movement has been fueled by determination to break the silence over injustices against people of color. So it’s fitting that a proposed settlement of charges stemming from a local Black Lives Matter protest last summer will give both police and protesters a chance to speak their piece.

The demonstration – organized by the Portland Racial Justice Congress in response to police shootings of black men – took place the night of July 15. Carrying signs and calling out slogans, the 150 participants marched through the Old Port to Commercial Street, where they blocked a busy section of the street for several hours.

Police said they broke up the protest after some demonstrators climbed on top of a vehicle that was trying to reach the street from one of the wharfs; 17 people were arrested and charged with obstructing a public way and other misdemeanors.

It’s not news that this case will likely be resolved without a trial. Most criminal cases are. But the terms of this deal are unusual: One of the conditions for dropping charges is a mediated meeting where protesters and Portland police officers will talk about the confrontation and how it was handled by law enforcement. (Protesters will also have to pay $200 to defray costs.)

Known as “restorative justice,” the approach gives those affected by an offense a chance to ask questions and explain how they’ve been harmed, while defendants take in the impact of what they’ve done. The goal is for the parties to work together to figure out consequences that are in line with the seriousness of the offense.

If a judge signs off on the deal Jan. 26, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Ackerman told the Bangor Daily News, this will be the first time that restorative justice has been used in a Maine civil disobedience case.

And it’s a wise decision, given that both restorative justice and Black Lives Matter see the vast shortcomings of our criminal justice system. Restorative justice offers a way to hold offenders accountable and give victims a voice, without resorting to the measures rightly denounced by racial justice activists: punitive sentences that do little but drive up an already sky-high incarceration rate.

The deal is also in line with statements made before the protest: Organizers called for Police Chief Michael Sauschuck to affirm the value of black lives, and urged more transparency and civilian police oversight. Sauschuck said he was committed to racial equity in law enforcement but asked why he didn’t hear about the event until it was too late for a dialogue.

Both sides are trying to be heard – fostering mutual understanding rather than imposing punishment is the right approach to meeting this goal.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/11/our-view-deal-would-allow-both-portland-police-and-protesters-to-be-heard/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1135972_351476_20160715_black_lives.jpgMohamed Omar chants through a bullhorn while police monitor the scene on Commercial Street during a Black Lives Matter protest last July 15. Seventeen of the 150 protesters were arrested on misdemeanor charges, which could be dropped if a judge approves a deal calling for a mediated meeting where both police and the defendants get a chance to speak their piece.Wed, 11 Jan 2017 00:10:22 +0000
Another View: French ‘right to disconnect’ wouldn’t work in U.S. offices http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/11/another-view-french-right-to-disconnect-wouldnt-work-in-u-s-offices/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/11/another-view-french-right-to-disconnect-wouldnt-work-in-u-s-offices/#respond Wed, 11 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1135994 Americans love to genuflect before the altar of pragmatism, according to the cliche, while the French are said to eschew the pragmatic in favor of a theory for everything. There’s an element of truth to both stereotypes. The latest example of the difference between a French worldview and an Anglo-American one is a law that has just taken effect in France that allows workers to draw the line on employers’ demands after hours.

Because of the law, employers don’t have carte blanche to intrude on their employees’ time after work with their families or expect them to work holidays, during vacations or on weekends.

This new law has been referred to as the “right to disconnect,” but it really boils down to one basic theory about labor according to the French: It should not be necessary for citizens to work all of the time.

Where Americans pride themselves on being available to their employers 24/7 via cellphones and computers, French workers consider this an unacceptable blurring of professional and personal boundaries.

The new law doesn’t completely ban work-related emails after hours, but it makes clear that employers are supposed to come to a mutually beneficial understanding with their employees about how to deal with them.

For the French, this law works. It would be much more problematic in the U.S. workplace. Americans are among the most productive workers on the planet because they are available beyond the prescribed work hours.

To an American who works from 45 to 50 hours a week, this law reeks of the nanny state sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong. So let the French have their uninterrupted down time. Americans thrive on being eternally connected to the job during a never-ending, ever-expanding workday.

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Our View: LePage’s budget proposal is too stuck in the past http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/10/our-view-lepages-budget-proposal-is-too-stuck-in-the-past/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/10/our-view-lepages-budget-proposal-is-too-stuck-in-the-past/#respond Tue, 10 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1135362 Gov. LePage’s biennial budget proposal is about what you would expect to see from someone who has been in office for six years.

Despite a few new wrinkles, like a new school funding formula (details to come) and a promise to overcome his bond phobia in order to pay for road repairs, the budget that was released late Friday evening promised a return to the unfinished battles of the last three legislative sessions, things the governor has wanted for a while but has not been able to get, often because of opposition he faced even inside his own party.

Think of this budget as a greatest hits package, not a new album.

And if the past is any indication, the budget proposal should not be considered an opening bid in a collaborative process. The governor has treated the last two biennial budgets as take-it-or-leave-it propositions and has not been interested in finding common ground. Both had to be passed over his veto.

So unless Gov. LePage has decided that the best way to get things done would be to change his way of doing things, we can expect him to do more heckling than bargaining as legislators try to craft a bipartisan spending plan that is capable of getting two-thirds support in both houses.

As they do, we hope that they will be more focused on the future and not just rehash the ideas of the past.

One nonstarter should be the governor’s pet solution to all problems – cutting taxes on millionaires in the hope that they will generate economic growth.

LePage pushed through significant income tax cuts in his first budget, and the results are in: While the entire country rebounded from the Great Recession, Maine was one of only seven states that did not recover the number of jobs that it had lost when the national economy crashed. Maine had the worst job growth in New England despite having one of the lowest tax rates. Lower taxes did not deliver superior economic growth in comparison with other states that did not raise taxes.

LePage’s tax policy did have an effect: By reducing the ability of the state to meet its responsibilities, it put more pressure on communities and school districts, who in turn put more pressure on property tax payers.

In order to pay for tax cuts like the elimination of the levy on estates valued at more than $5 million, LePage is proposing even deeper cuts to programs for poor families, including eliminating health insurance for parents of kids who qualify for MaineCare. And he wants to eliminate state support for General Assistance, the last resort for the poorest of the poor.

The state is a different place than it was in 2011, when Gov. LePage came to office.

Our population is older and sicker than it was then, and many of the manufacturing companies that anchored communities are gone for good.

The 2017-2018 budget should be looking ahead to find ways to get new businesses to start up and grow, attracting and retaining young people who want to live here and start families.

It should at the very least present a plan for investing in education and human services so that every child has enough to eat and a secure place to live.

Maine can’t afford to spend another two years refighting the same six-year-old battles. Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate should find a way to look ahead, with the governor’s participation or without it.

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Our View: Veterans effort shows path to end homelessness http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/09/our-view-veterans-effort-shows-path-to-end-homelessness/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/09/our-view-veterans-effort-shows-path-to-end-homelessness/#respond Mon, 09 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1134841 The Obama administration may not have reached its ambitious goal to end veteran homelessness, but the effort itself – and its tremendous success – revealed an important truth: An end to homelessness, veteran and otherwise, is within our reach, if only we want to grab it.

President Obama set the goal in 2010, pledging to end veteran homelessness by 2015. The deadline was later reset to 2016 and then set aside altogether, with the agencies and organizations involved in the initiative now committed to a longer fight.

But that doesn’t make it a failure. Veteran homelessness is down 47 percent since 2010, with about 35,000 veterans finding homes. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, veteran homelessness has been effectively ended in Connecticut, Delaware and Virginia, as well as in about 35 communities.

The progress was made through a program that offers vouchers through HUD that allow veterans to obtain housing, along with case management and clinical services through the Department of Veteran Affairs that address the conditions that often lead to homelessness, such as mental illness, substance abuse and lack of job skills.

From 2008-2016, 90,000 housing vouchers were distributed, at a cost of $635 million. The total federal funding dedicated toward veteran homelessness increased from $399 million in 2009 to $1.37 billion in 2014.

The increased funding and attention given to the problem led to improved coordination between federal agencies and the nonprofit organizations that deliver services, and it sent a clear message that homeless veterans were a priority. As a result, homeless veterans were increasingly identified and put on the right path with the right supports.

In Maine, the number of homeless veterans has been falling steadily as homeless vets were found and pointed toward the newly enhanced services. In addition, organizations like the Preble Street Veterans Housing Services work to single out vulnerable veterans and prevent homelessness in the first place.

Now, programs such as the Cabin in the Woods in Chelsea, on the grounds of the VA hospital at Togus, and an Augusta home for female veterans aim to provide housing and services for veterans, allowing them to get on their feet.

The same approach should be replicated in a wider way. Besides their status as former members of the military, there is nothing separating homeless veterans from the homeless population as a whole. They all face the same factors – untreated mental illness and substance abuse, disability, lack of affordable housing, insufficient public assistance, and persistent unemployment and poverty.

The veteran initiative overcame those factors, and there’s no reason it can’t work with the wider homeless population too – it will just take the same well-funded and dedicated effort. The homeless need access to health care and job training. They need vouchers and affordable housing, especially in places like Portland where the housing market is tight.

The experience with veterans shows we can all but end homelessness – we just have to make it a priority.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/09/our-view-veterans-effort-shows-path-to-end-homelessness/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1134841_974500_20141018_homeless__5.jpgVeterans line up to receive medical care during the 17th Homeless Veterans Stand Down at the Togus VA in October 2014. A number of new programs have made housing possible for vets in Maine.Sun, 08 Jan 2017 18:11:45 +0000
Another View: Pruitt at EPA would be an environmental disaster http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/08/pruitt-at-epa-would-be-an-environmental-disaster/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/08/pruitt-at-epa-would-be-an-environmental-disaster/#respond Sun, 08 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1134416 Portraying Scott Pruitt, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, as “balanced” – the way Maine Sen. Garrett Mason did in his Jan. 5 opinion piece, published by the Portland Press Herald – is akin to calling the scientific evidence that burning fossil fuels causes climate change “far from settled.” Of course, the latter quote comes from Pruitt himself.

Sen. Mason’s argument that Pruitt’s nomination would somehow benefit Maine’s environment or economy is as flawed as Pruitt’s rejection of the overwhelming scientific consensus on the gravest environmental threat facing our planet today.

As New England’s fishermen know, climate change already disrupts their industry with the Gulf of Maine warming faster than 99 percent of the rest of world’s oceans. A 2014 poll, by the Center for American Progress, found nearly two-thirds of New England lobstermen and groundfishermen feared that warming and acidifying oceans would force them out of business entirely. And, while Sen. Mason expresses concern for Maine’s agriculture industry, climate-driven drought has infamously parched agricultural regions in California, while here in New England, farmers just suffered through one of the driest summers on record.

Pruitt has taken over $300,000 in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, while overseeing a fracking boom in Oklahoma that led to nearly 1,500 earthquakes in 2014 and 2015 — more than the state saw in the previous 35 years combined. He regularly sued the very agency he is now nominated to lead, seeking relaxed standards for mercury and arsenic in drinking water and soot and smog in our air.

If the environmental leadership Mainers seek includes more kids with asthma, harmful chemicals in our drinking water, and risking the future of our $300 million a year lobster industry, they should look no further than Scott Pruitt and Sen. Garrett Mason.

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Our View: No need to hurry the repeal of Obamacare http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/08/no-need-to-hurry-obamacare-repeal-bill/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/08/no-need-to-hurry-obamacare-repeal-bill/#respond Sun, 08 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1134411 For six years we’ve heard complaints about the Affordable Care Act, a major health reform measure that Democrats forced into law without a single Republican vote.

Now Republicans appear ready to do exactly the same thing in reverse, proposing to dismantle the program on a party-line vote – jeopardizing coverage for millions of Americans and potentially disrupting one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

Oh, and they want to get it done this month.

It raises the question, what’s the rush?

The most hated parts of the health reform law known as Obamacare – the mandates that require individuals to buy insurance and spell out the kinds of services insurance policies are required to cover – will be around for at least another year because those policies have already been sold. But Congress is preparing to start voting this week to repeal the ACA with nothing in place to help the 20 million Americans – including 75,000 Mainers – whose lives could depend on it.

We are sympathetic with those who say that the Affordable Care Act is not good enough. But before throwing a suboptimal but basically functioning system into chaos, we’d like to see the critics unveil their plan for something better.

We urge Maine’s members of Congress, especially Republicans Sen. Susan Collins and 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin, to use their influence as members of the majority party to slow down this process, avoid the mistakes made in the past and work to forge a health reform package that will improve lives, not just win political points.

According to multiple news reports, Republican leaders in the House and Senate want to push a bill through the budget reconciliation process, which would not be subject to a filibuster and could pass with only Republican votes in the Senate. The bill would likely resemble the ACA repeal plan that was passed by the Congress last year (and vetoed by President Obama), which would have cut taxes on high-wage earners and stripped funding for programs that include expanded Medicaid eligibility and premium subsidies for middle-class workers.

According to House Speaker Paul Ryan, the repeal bill will likely also include a plan to defund Planned Parenthood, a leading abortion provider, which operates clinics that receive Medicaid funds for non-abortion health services. What does Planned Parenthood have to do with escalating health care costs? Absolutely nothing.

Planned Parenthood gets about $500 million a year in government reimbursements, mostly from the Medicaid program, for services like birth control, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. That’s about three-one-thousandths of the $3.2 trillion we spend on health care every year.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would have no impact on the high cost of health care in America, but it is a big part of an anti-abortion agenda. The only reason for putting a defunding proposal in an ACA repeal bill is it does not have the support in the Senate it would need to pass on its own merits.

That kind of legislative end-run would be reason enough to vote against the whole bill, which is why Collins voted against it last year. But the fact that it is even up for discussion in this context should raise serious questions for lawmakers about the speed at which this process is moving.

Before voting to start dismantling the ACA, they should ask a couple of questions: What motives besides making health care affordable and accessible are driving the current repeal efforts? And what other ideas that have nothing to do with the price of health care in America are being crammed into a bill where they don’t belong?

Fortunately, there is no need to push this through hastily. Health plans under the ACA are set for 2017, and the Republican majorities in the House and Senate are not going anywhere. President-elect Donald Trump is still two weeks away from taking office, and he will soon have an appointee in charge of the massive U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which gives the administration enormous authority to set health care policy in the immediate term while Congress works on a long-term solution.

Collins and Poliquin should not get swept up in the momentum to “do something.” With the life-or-death stakes of health care access, Congress should make sure it takes enough time to do the right thing.

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Another View: Planned Parenthood probe comes up empty http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/07/another-view-planned-parenthood-probe-comes-up-empty/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/07/another-view-planned-parenthood-probe-comes-up-empty/#respond Sat, 07 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1134296 Fifteen months and nearly $1.6 million later, a Republican-run House panel investigating Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue research ended up where it started: with no evidence of wrongdoing. That has not deterred the Republicans from proposing a political agenda so extreme it should scare not only those who care about women’s health care but also anyone who values science and its contributions.

The Republican majority on the cynically named Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives summed up its work in a 471-page document issued Tuesday that was highlighted by its call to strip all federal funding from Planned Parenthood. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wasted no time in embracing the recommendation without foundation, announcing Thursday that defunding the women’s health organization would be included in the process of dismantling Obamacare.

To call the committee’s work a report is to give it undue respect. It was drafted in secret with no input from Democrats and released without a public vote. A one-sided tunnel vision has marked the committee since its formation in the aftermath of a controversy over sting videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood involved in the illegal sale of fetal tissue. The videos have since been completely discredited, and previous investigations by other House committees and a dozen states found no wrongdoing. No matter. The committee, led by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., relied on lurid and suspect testimony (one witness likened lifesaving fetal research to Nazi medical experiments), unverified accusations and misleading information in reaching its conclusions.

Consider, for example, the startling assertion in the introduction that “not a single responding institution provided substantive evidence for the value of fetal tissue research.” In fact, a great deal of evidence was provided on the importance of fetal tissue in studying Down syndrome, eye disease and other medical challenges. Either Republicans on the committee think they know more about medicine than scientists from some of the country’s leading institutions, or their distrust of academia is such that they think these authorities are lying.

It is of small comfort that the select committee was disbanded with the start of the new Congress because – as Ryan’s announcement makes clear – the assault on Planned Parenthood is just gaining steam. The 100-year-old organization is one of the nation’s leading providers of affordable health care and information, with nearly 5 million people each year being served worldwide.

Abortions, which make up just 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s provided health services, cannot, with rare exception, be funded with federal dollars, so what is endangered is the group’s vital work in preventing unintended pregnancies as well as health care that includes breast exams and Pap tests. However, Republicans in the House will not let themselves be distracted by mere facts.

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Our View: Clearer picture needed on use of body cameras by South Portland police http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/06/our-view-clearer-picture-needed-on-use-of-body-cameras-by-south-portland-police/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/06/our-view-clearer-picture-needed-on-use-of-body-cameras-by-south-portland-police/#respond Fri, 06 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1133581 It’s good news that the South Portland Police Department will soon become the latest law enforcement agency in Maine to equip its officers with body cameras: technology that can both hold police accountable for how they treat civilians and present the officers’ perspective in loaded situations. But providing police with body cameras won’t enhance the public trust unless South Portland Chief Edward Googins clarifies the rules about their use.

Helping fund body cameras for local police departments became a federal priority after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Contradictory accounts of the encounter between Brown and the white officer who shot him – and was later cleared of wrongdoing in the case – led to widespread calls for more video recordings and greater accountability.

The handful of Maine police departments that have body cameras like them. The technology documents quickly unfolding events, allowing officers to notice things that hadn’t caught their attention earlier. Footage has strengthened domestic violence cases, recording initial statements by perpetrators and victims, as well as drunken-driving arrests. And both sides are more likely to be civil and respectful when their behavior is being recorded.

That said, there’s no getting around the fact that police body cameras capture tension-filled moments in the lives of those they encounter, making a strong, clear recording policy an imperative. So it’s troubling that Chief Googins has offered so few specifics about how his department will use the technology. We know that the department plans to retain the recordings for six months – the limit of time for suing an officer – but we don’t know much else.

When, for example, will an officer be required to record an interaction? When will it be up to an officer to decide whether or not to record? Will an officer have to turn off the camera upon request if they’re in a private home? Googins won’t say, citing an “operational impact” on the department – even though the U.S. Justice Department has said that community participation and full disclosure are critical to the development of a credible camera policy.

Body cameras will be the topic of a public forum at the police station in South Portland later this month, and the chief should prepare for more questions like this. The movement toward greater government transparency is gaining ground, not losing it, and citizens won’t be shutting up any time soon.

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Another View: Requiring cars to communicate won’t keep them from crashing http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/06/another-view-requiring-cars-to-communicate-wont-keep-them-from-crashing/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/06/another-view-requiring-cars-to-communicate-wont-keep-them-from-crashing/#respond Fri, 06 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1133593 The U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing to require new cars to communicate with one another. Such communication is a great idea. But that doesn’t mean the federal government should mandate it or that it will prevent all accidents.

Under the rule, manufacturers would have to equip new cars and other “light vehicles” to transmit a “basic safety message” giving other vehicles information “such as (their) heading, speed and location,” said the department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That would let cars “see” things drivers can’t. They could see through fog, past trucks and around corners – as long as what they’re seeing is transmitting the basic safety message.

The agency hopes cars would alert their drivers to a range of potential risks. For example, your car might warn you not to enter an intersection or make a left turn because a crash would be likely. It could tell you that another vehicle is in your blind spot – especially if you try to change lanes. And it could tell you that someone up ahead is braking quickly.

The technology is exciting. The basic safety message could save lives.

But because cars stay on the roads for years, it will take a long time for the communication devices to be in every (or even almost every) car.

And because the technology allows your car to “see” only other vehicles that are transmitting the basic safety message, relying on it when not all cars have it is dangerous – and the more cars that have it, the more drivers will rely on it. They’ll expect to be alerted when there’s a danger. And so they’ll miss old cars or bikes.

Vehicle-to-vehicle communication could contribute to safety. But it would be expensive and is not without risks of its own.

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Our View: Don’t put off deadline on implementing retail sales of marijuana http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/05/our-view-dont-put-off-deadline-on-implementing-retail-sales-of-marijuana/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/05/our-view-dont-put-off-deadline-on-implementing-retail-sales-of-marijuana/#respond Thu, 05 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1133008 How long will it take Maine to be ready for retail sales of marijuana? With such a groundbreaking initiative, it’s anyone’s guess. So why are Gov. Paul LePage and others trying to put it off before the work even begins?

On Dec. 31, LePage issued a proclamation verifying the results of November’s successful marijuana ballot question, starting the clock set out in law. Thirty days after the proclamation – Jan. 30 – it will become legal for Mainers age 21 and older to possess up to 2½ ounces of marijuana and grow up to six plants. After nine months, the state is supposed to have a regulatory system for retail sales.

Gov. Paul LePage is calling for a moratorium on retail sales of marijuana, saying the state may need more time to set up a regulatory system than the nine months provided by the law approved by voters in November.

Gov. Paul LePage is calling for a moratorium on retail sales of marijuana, saying the state may need more time to set up a regulatory system than the nine months provided by the law approved by voters in November. Associated Press/Robert F. Bukaty

But before the Legislature had even started its new session Wednesday, LePage was calling for a moratorium on retail sales, a position echoed by Senate President Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, who said he is gauging interest in a year-long delay.

With nine months still to go before the deadline to establish retail sales – and without giving the time frame in the law a fair shot – they are already asking for an extension.

Instead, lawmakers and state officials should try to meet the law’s deadline, knowing an extension is always an option if they can’t do it.

There is very little to be done for the state to prepare for legal small-scale possession and growing, although the Legislature must clarify a portion of the law that opponents, including Attorney General Janet Mills, say would make possession legal for anyone under the age of 21, which was clearly not the intent of the initiative. Otherwise, Maine will be ready for this change when it comes at the end of the month.

There is certainly much more to be worked out before the remainder of the law moves forward, but nothing so daunting that meeting the deadline should be dismissed outright.

In fact, many of the questions being raised by moratorium proponents don’t need answers immediately – they can be handled as they arise, this year and into the future.

Figuring how to properly measure impairment in drivers, for instance, is a difficult task being debated throughout the country. An answer may not be immediately forthcoming, and until a better method is found, using officers trained in drug recognition will suffice.

And only time will tell how the new law interacts with Maine’s successful medical marijuana system. Getting rid of medical marijuana – as LePage has suggested – is premature, and his stance that medical marijuana would cut into tax proceeds from recreational pot doesn’t appear to be the case so far in Colorado, despite the governor’s claims.

Sure, the framework laid out in the ballot question must be brought into the real world before the law is allowed to go in to effect. Lawmakers must decide, for instance, whether the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry should oversee marijuana regulation, as the initiative is written, or whether that job is better suited for another entity, such as the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations. They have to dedicate funding for the entire endeavor. They also should address the sale of marijuana edibles designed to look like children’s candy, products that could open the way for use by young people, accidental and otherwise.

But there is no evidence yet that lawmakers and state officials can’t reach the nine-month deadline, and until there is, it should remain in place.

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Our View: Real ID law shouldn’t fly in Maine Legislature http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/04/our-view-real-id-law-shouldnt-fly-in-maine-legislature/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/04/our-view-real-id-law-shouldnt-fly-in-maine-legislature/#respond Wed, 04 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1132628 Though 2017 has just started, Mainers with travel plans are already thinking of 2018: That’s when a Maine driver’s license will no longer be an acceptable ID to get on a commercial plane. The federal Department of Homeland Security is surely counting on the looming deadline to force Maine into some form of accommodation, but Maine shouldn’t cave to pressure to comply with a law whose purpose is commendable but whose methods are questionable.

Maine is just one of five states that have been deemed noncompliant with the Real ID Act, which requires driver’s licenses and other state-issued IDs to have extra security measures and proof of citizenship. Last fall, Homeland Security told Maine that it wouldn’t get any more time to implement the law.

Maine was the first state in the U.S. to reject compliance with Real ID, in 2007, and the issues that fueled opposition 10 years ago have yet to be credibly addressed. Of particular concern to critics at both ends of the political spectrum was a mandated database of personal information on Maine residents that would be maintained by the state and accessible to government officials nationwide.

Who will have access to this information, and what they’ll use it for, hasn’t been spelled out. The rationale is that it will prevent another 9/11. But although two of the 9/11 attackers did pass through Portland International Jetport, the truth is that Real ID wouldn’t have stopped them.

They had valid tickets and valid IDs from U.S. states. One of the hijackers actually was randomly selected for extra screening, but since he didn’t have any firearms or explosives, he was allowed to board. So was the man he was traveling with. The two went through security a second time in Boston when they changed terminals.

However, the fears stirred by the 9/11 attacks have been a handy pretext for government invasion of privacy. Take, for instance, the federal court order requiring Apple to unlock an iPhone used by one of the attackers in the 2015 San Bernardino, California, shootings. The Justice Department dropped its court fight after the FBI was able to extricate the information on its own, but the order normalized the idea of government intrusion into personal data, regardless whether it poses an actual national security threat.

State Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, plans to propose legislation bringing Maine into line with Real ID. We hope that his fellow lawmakers will stand firm and stand up for their constituents’ right to privacy.

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Another View: Government should accelerate research on PTSD talk therapy http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/04/another-view-government-should-accelerate-research-on-ptsd-talk-therapy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/04/another-view-government-should-accelerate-research-on-ptsd-talk-therapy/#respond Wed, 04 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1132639 A type of talk therapy has shown strong, if initial, results in helping active-duty troops manage post-traumatic stress disorder, which has been associated with suicide. The federal government should accelerate secondary research to ensure the treatment’s efficacy, then double-time the therapy to hospitals and deployment zones.

A three-year study of cognitive processing therapy on soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, found that 40 percent to 50 percent showed recovery after 12 sessions. In all, 268 service members took part.

Those who showed improvement were still doing well six months later, according to follow-up exams, and those who received individual therapy did better than those in group talk sessions. Evidence of improvement included less withdrawal, fewer flashbacks, less depression and fewer thoughts of suicide.

The therapy teaches veterans, who often feel blame and guilt because of their combat experiences, how to view troubling thoughts in a more clear-headed light. “You will learn how to examine whether the facts support your thought or do not support your thought,” says the website of the National Center for PTSD, part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “And ultimately, you can decide whether or not it makes sense to take a new perspective.”

Service members may have to talk and write about combat-related trauma during the therapy, but the center says most feel better as they go along and consider the benefits worth the effort. The therapy already is widely used on veterans who have left the armed forces. The success rate with that group is higher than it was with active-duty soldiers in the Fort Hood study, indicating the latter may face a more complicated kind of PTSD because they’re still in combat environments.

Although it may not be a panacea, cognitive processing therapy portends better treatment for many current troops with PTSD. They’ve sacrificed for their country. They shouldn’t be captives of PTSD, forced to live in combat zones forever.

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Our View: Research only way to ease rising cost of Alzheimer’s http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/03/our-view-research-only-way-to-ease-rising-cost-of-alzheimers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/03/our-view-research-only-way-to-ease-rising-cost-of-alzheimers/#respond Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1131487 Alzheimer’s disease is our most expensive illness, costing an estimated $236 billion last year, including nearly 1 in every 5 dollars spent through Medicare.

It is also one of our most devastating, ripping from seniors the precious memories of their long lives, and taking from friends and family members the person they knew. For all involved, it makes the final months or years before death excruciatingly sad and painful.

The only way to lessen that pain and enormous cost – estimated to rise to $735 billion in Medicare and Medicaid expenditures alone by 2050, overwhelming those programs – is through research, and while the United States has made great strides in this area, there still is more to do.

The clock is ticking, however. Roughly 5.2 million Americans now have Alzheimer’s; that number is expected to rise to 14 million by 2050. And that doesn’t include the millions of people caring for someone with the disease, often sacrificing their own health and well-being.

The options for treatment now are scarce. While medications can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s in some patients, it is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death that we are not able to truly treat, prevent or cure.

To make that a thing of the past, advocates say the United States must dedicate $2 billion a year to Alzheimer’s research. We are halfway there, thanks to efforts by advocates and lawmakers such as Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the Senate co-chairwoman of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, a group she helped organize more than a decade ago.

In 2010, Collins introduced the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which set up a national plan to solve Alzheimer’s, with the goal of treating and preventing the disease by 2025. President Obama signed it into law in 2011.

Last year, an additional $350 million was added to federal funding for Alzheimer’s research, bring the total to $991 million.

There has also been legislation to help caregivers, including the Collins-sponsored RAISE Family Caregivers Act, which passed the Senate unaminously and awaits further action. It would coordinate existing resources to help family caregivers dealing with all types of health issues.

The Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Act, also introduced by Collins, would provide grants to organizations that train and support caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients.

That is a key part of the fight against Alzheimer’s. For every person with the disease, there are more who are by their side, often at great cost to their own finances and mental health. Supporting these caregivers not only lessens the toll on them, but also keeps patients in their homes longer, far reducing the cost of care.

These initiatives have enjoyed broad, bipartisan support. That must continue – the cost of stopping now is just too high.

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Another View: Mixed feelings toward Japan after Pearl Harbor understandable http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/03/another-view-mixed-feelings-toward-japan-after-pearl-harbor-understandable/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/03/another-view-mixed-feelings-toward-japan-after-pearl-harbor-understandable/#respond Tue, 03 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1131504 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The oil that continues to bubble up from the remains of the USS Arizona is an apt metaphor for how the nation feels about Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Seventy-five years later, Americans still well with emotion at the thought of the 2,400 killed and 19 ships damaged or destroyed in the sneak attack. A visit to Pearl Harbor only makes the emotion sharper.

President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last Tuesday laid wreaths at a memorial over the Arizona and spoke with aging veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack. The first Japanese leader to visit the memorial, Abe did not apologize for the bombing – something that will rankle some Americans – but expressed “sincere and everlasting condolences” for those lost there and during the nearly four years of World War II that followed.

Nearly half of those lost at Pearl Harbor were aboard the Arizona, hit with a bomb of nearly 1,800 pounds that tore through the forward deck, igniting fuel stores and powder magazines. Many crew members were incinerated; the remains of some are still aboard.

Abe’s visit followed Obama’s trip in May to Hiroshima, one of two cities on which America dropped atomic bombs in August 1945. The bombings caused mass civilian casualties but ended a war of Japan’s making without the invasion that would have cost untold American lives. Obama did not offer an apology at Hiroshima, but some critics complained that his remarks sounded too much like one.

The reciprocal visits underscored how far U.S.-Japanese relations have come – and the importance of confronting the past in order to move forward. But it’s OK for Americans to be grateful for Japan’s friendship today while still feeling hurt about Pearl Harbor. The oil can’t be put back in the ship.

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Another View: U.S. poised for vast expansion of military spending http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/02/another-view-u-s-poised-for-vast-expansion-of-military-spending/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/02/another-view-u-s-poised-for-vast-expansion-of-military-spending/#respond Mon, 02 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1131471 On Dec. 22, President-elect Donald Trump startled the worldwide community of arms-control experts with a message on Twitter.

He wrote, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

The next day, Trump spoke off-camera with Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program and reportedly told her, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

But on the same day, President Obama signed legislation that could do more to set off an arms race than anything the president-elect has said. The National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill affecting every aspect of the U.S. military, for the first time strikes the word “limited” from the language that describes the nation’s missile defense system.

Another provision in the law calls for the Pentagon to begin research, development and testing of space-based missile defenses.

That opens the door for virtually unlimited spending on new missile defense systems aimed at countering a nuclear threat from Russia and China, an escalation from current systems designed to stop smaller threats from nations like North Korea.

This significant change in U.S. policy was made quietly on Capitol Hill and approved by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress. Although President Obama issued a four-page signing statement criticizing parts of the bill, he was silent on the changes in the nuclear defense policy.

A 2012 study of missile defense technologies conducted by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences at the request of Congress estimated the minimum cost of building a space-based missile defense system at $200 billion, not including hundreds of billions of dollars to operate it. The co-chair of the panel, retired Lockheed Corp. executive L. David Montague, said in an interview that a missile defense system could never ensure against a dedicated attack, but was “an opportunity to waste a prodigious amount of money.”

Of course, to some members of Congress, it’s not a waste of money if it creates a brand-new defense facility and high-paying jobs in their districts.

But the new arms race is not solely of U.S. making. Trump’s message on Twitter followed a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin vowing to “strengthen the strategic nuclear forces” of his nation, and calling for an upgrade of non-nuclear forces so they are “capable of neutralizing any military threats.”

The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward reported that military and intelligence sources see “a giant buildup” of Russia’s nuclear arsenal while the United States relies on aging weapons from the Kennedy and Reagan eras. Trump’s national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, told Woodward the president-elect is convinced the United States has to modernize and spend “vast amounts of money” to maintain a position of strength.

The so-called “peace dividend” that followed the end of the Cold War in the 1990s appears to have run its course. The U.S. is headed for a major expansion of military spending, set in motion by lawmakers of both political parties, a president and a president-elect.

The biggest fight may be between Congress and the White House about where the money will be spent first.

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Another View: Editorial mischaracterizes critics of eliminating tip credit http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/01/another-view-editorial-mischaracterizes-critics-of-eliminating-tip-credit/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/01/another-view-editorial-mischaracterizes-critics-of-eliminating-tip-credit/#respond Sun, 01 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1130216 The Dec. 4 editorial calling on legislators to implement Question 4 without making changes attributes opposition to the minimum-wage hike referendum’s elimination of the tip credit to “histrionics on the part of some in the industry, including some waitstaff in high-end restaurants.” It also implies that voters thoroughly understood the implications of the referendum.

As a bartender (in a medium-end establishment), I do not begrudge anyone who receives a raise because of Question 4. However, my 20 years’ experience in the hospitality industry also convince me that eliminating the tip credit will not only harm service but also ultimately reduce revenue for both waitstaff and their employers.

Let’s consider an 80-seat restaurant, located anywhere in the state, open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with an average of three tipped employees on duty (depending on seasonal shifts in volume common to most Maine businesses). In 2017, the increase in the minimum hourly wage ($3.75 to $5) will result in a $15,056 jump in its “front-of-house” payroll. By 2024, this figure balloons to $99,371. It must be emphasized that these dollar amounts do not represent the restaurant’s total payroll, but only the increase in payroll caused by eliminating the tip credit. And these inflated costs will apply to any restaurant, high- and low-end alike.

It is naïve and shortsighted to believe that such five- and six-figure increases can be absorbed by our restaurant with little or no effect. Layoffs and price increases have been discussed and the elimination of tipping has been considered and, in some places, implemented to forestall these negative consequences.

While some (but thankfully not all) laypeople consider tipping to be nothing more than a gratuitous handout, a less parochial view deems a gratuity as no different than a sales commission. This commission is not intended to be a patronizing anachronism, but rather as incentive for better service and (equally importantly) higher revenue for both restaurant and waitstaff.

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Our View: Media literacy is key to helping Maine students become responsible citizens http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/01/our-view-media-literacy-is-key-to-helping-maine-students-become-responsible-citizens/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/01/our-view-media-literacy-is-key-to-helping-maine-students-become-responsible-citizens/#respond Sun, 01 Jan 2017 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1131284 True or false?

• About 5 million uncounted California ballots cast for Bernie Sanders were found on Hillary Clinton’s email server in August.

• President Barack Obama planned to ban trucks to prevent the same kind of attack that took place in Nice, France, in July.

• President-elect Donald Trump said recently that he plans to “bring back the draft.”

• Young people are so good at evaluating information they find online and via social media that they’d never fall for “fake news” stories.

All of the above have been proven to be false. Adults often assume that digital natives know how to interpret digital messages when, in fact, very few can tell if an online source is reliable.

And that’s disturbing, considering how much information we get online and how much it shapes what we think and believe. Some Maine educators are already trying to stop the spread of online misinformation, but it should be a priority statewide.

PRESENTATION SWAYS READERS

“Fake news” itself made news following the presidential election, when a BuzzFeed News analysis revealed that during the last three months of the campaign, made-up, largely pro-Donald Trump articles had more Facebook shares, reactions and comments than the top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined.

Whether and to what extent bogus stories on Facebook swayed the outcome of the race may never be fully clarified. But even CEO Mark Zuckerberg – who, on Nov. 9, dismissed the idea that Facebook “influenced the election in any way” as “pretty crazy” – recently acknowledged that it occupies a key space in the media universe. “We don’t write the news that people read on the platform,” he said in a Dec. 21 Facebook Live video chat, “but at the same time we also know that we do a lot more than just distribute the news, and we’re an important part of the public discourse.”

A majority of Americans now get their news via social media, and the biggest audience for news on these sites is among younger people. Unfortunately, research shows, their social networking, gaming and texting skills far outstrip their ability to evaluate the credibility of what they read online:

• According to a 2015 University of Connecticut study, just 4 percent of seventh-graders could identify the author of online science information, evaluate that author’s expertise and viewpoint, and present an informed assessment of the overall reliability of the site they were reading.

• A recent Stanford study asked high schoolers to evaluate two Facebook posts announcing Trump’s candidacy for president: one from the Fox News account verified as legitimate by Twitter and Facebook, and the other from a fake account.

Just 25 percent of students recognized the significance of the blue checkmark used to indicate that an account has been verified. And over 30 percent, according to researchers, “argued that the fake account was more trustworthy because of some key graphic elements that it included.”

• The same Stanford study concluded that college students would believe the information on a particular website as long as the site was well-produced, included links to reputable sources and had a well-crafted “About” page.

‘WE’RE IN TROUBLE’

Why is the lack of media literacy important? Because if you share everything you see in your Facebook feed without digging into it first, you’re enabling the worldwide spread of misinformation and downright falsehoods. And the damage is compounded if somebody else shares the information, or is compelled to vote or protest based on something that’s not true.

As Carrie Foster, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Lyman Moore Middle School in Portland, told her students: “This is a big deal, ’cause if we’re basing really, really important decisions on lies, we’re in trouble.”

Maine Public Radio recently talked to Foster and South Portland High School computer science teacher Julie York about their efforts to steer students away from fake news.

Foster talks about the difference between facts, opinions, reasoned conclusions and lies, then presents students with stories, mostly from fake-news sites, and asks them to figure out what’s true and what’s not.

Recognizing how quickly the desire to share sensational “clickbait” headlines can overcome doubts about the contents, she advises her class to read the whole story before acting on it.

Meanwhile, York has students watch videos and then create a library brochure explaining the difference between real and fake news.

The young people she teaches come away realizing how little credibility there is in much of what they find online; to confirm a claim, says Jeremiah Sanville, “you gotta get multiple sources – a lot of sources that are actually good.”

Those sources are out there, but it takes a lot more time to find and evaluate them than to post an outrageous link: It’s hard work sifting through tweets, Facebook images, ads disguised as news and bits of information wrapped in partisan fabrication.

Maine students need guidance as they make their way through this online maze – and Maine policymakers and education officials should make it a priority to ensure that they get it. If we want our young people to be equal to the many challenges they’ll face as responsible members of their communities, they deserve no less.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/01/01/our-view-media-literacy-is-key-to-helping-maine-students-become-responsible-citizens/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/1131284_392252_facebook.jpgThe younger you are, the more likely it is that you get your news via social media sites like Facebook, whose CEO recently acknowledged that "we do a lot more than just distribute the news ... we're an important part of the public discourse."Fri, 30 Dec 2016 20:02:20 +0000
Another View: If paralyzed primates can walk, will humans be next? http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/31/another-view-if-paralyzed-primates-can-walk-will-humans-be-next/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/31/another-view-if-paralyzed-primates-can-walk-will-humans-be-next/#respond Sat, 31 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1131289 In the annals of breathtaking scientific advances, it’s hard to top this recent news headline: “Paralyzed monkeys can walk again with wireless brain-spine connection.”

This is legit? Yes. Scientists implant a chip in a monkey’s brain that sends wireless signals through a computer to electrodes in the lower back. The system stimulates a neural pathway that controls the muscles involved in walking. Voila, the paralyzed primate walks.

The research, reported by a team of scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, is the latest thrillingly innovative step in the quest to help people overcome paralysis and regain something approaching full movement, not only in legs but also potentially in hands and arms.

With this latest primate triumph, it’s a short leap to the obvious question: When will paralyzed people be able to take advantage of this development to walk again? Answer: not immediately – maybe in a decade? But this is a promising step toward that landmark goal. The same scientists behind the monkey advance have already enrolled two human patients with spinal cord injuries in clinical trials in Switzerland.

Yes, there are caveats: The signals that come from the human brain to enable us to walk may be more complicated than those in monkeys. The research so far helps monkeys, who walk on all fours. But walking on two legs as humans do is trickier. Coordinating gait, allowing a person to change direction, is a significant challenge. Each human leg has to carry half the full body weight, unlike a monkey, which can distribute its weight on four legs. There’s going to be a lot more research, and better equipment.

But is this exciting? Yes, and astonishing. “The whole team was screaming in the room as we watched” the paralyzed monkey walk, reports lead scientist Gregoire Courtine.

In a video released by the institute, you can see how scientists were able to switch the monkey’s ability to walk on and off, as the wireless transmitter was activated and deactivated. (That does lead to some questions about what would happen to a similarly assisted human if an implanted wireless transmitter failed, but we’ll leave that for future research to solve.)

“I can imagine a completely paralyzed patient able to move their legs through this brain-spine interface,” Swiss neurosurgeon Jocelyne Bloch, a colleague of Courtine’s, enthused.

One intriguing note on the spinal cord research: These scientists aren’t trying to repair or stimulate the site of the actual injury. They’re essentially doing a workaround. The implant sends information wirelessly from sensors in the brain to a part of the spinal cord below the injury. So if doctors can’t fix a spinal injury, they could still help patients regain some or all of their ability to move.

Courtine says he hopes the system he and his colleagues have developed can be transferred for human therapy within the next decade. Other scientists are making progress on systems that help the paralyzed reach for and grab items, so they can give themselves a drink or even play a video game.

Miniaturized wearable computer technology is not just promising to help paralyzed people move. Scientists also are working on a fully internal artificial heart that could last decades, all without being tethered to bulky equipment. They’re also working on implantable systems that would help the blind see and even a chip that can help people with severe memory loss from Alzheimer’s, stroke or brain injury.

“There’s a lot of excitement about this work,” Lee Miller, a neuroscience and biomedical engineering professor at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, tells us. A decade is “not unreasonable,” he says, to have similar spinal-stimulation systems implanted in human patients to help them walk.

Sounds like science fiction. But if this sci-fi turns true, the result promises to be spectacular.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/31/another-view-if-paralyzed-primates-can-walk-will-humans-be-next/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/12/1131289_edi2.1231.jpgThe use of a brain implant to wirelessly send signals to the legs' muscle groups could help people with spinal cord injuries regain some or all of their ability to move, even if the injury can't be repaired.Fri, 30 Dec 2016 20:18:36 +0000
Our View: Maine lags region in fighting most deadly form of skin cancer http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/30/our-view-maine-lags-region-in-fighting-most-deadly-form-of-skin-cancer/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/30/our-view-maine-lags-region-in-fighting-most-deadly-form-of-skin-cancer/#respond Fri, 30 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1130818 New England got a welcome post-Christmas present this week: A new study showed that we’re the only region in the country where most states saw a drop in melanoma cases and deaths in the past decade. But Maine was the only New England state where melanoma incidence and death rates rose during this same period. It’s time to shine a light on how we can more effectively fight this deadly disease.

Published Wednesday in JAMA Dermatology, the findings are remarkable. Deaths from melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer, fell in every New England state but Maine and Rhode Island between 2003 and 2013. Maine was the only state that saw increased incidence rates in 2013 compared to 2003.

Though it’s easy to assume that the risk of melanoma is highest where it’s sunniest, the truth is that New Englanders have some of the highest rates in the country. For one thing, a lot of white people live here, and the paler you are, the greater your susceptibility to melanoma (though people of color are by no means immune).

And because the weather here is often cold and cloudy, we mistakenly assume that we don’t have to apply sunscreen, even though UV rays can still get through cloud cover, or take other steps to lessen our exposure, like wearing sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats.

The study attributes the regionwide decline in melanoma incidence and death rates to strong skin cancer prevention programs. Singled out for praise was the Melanoma Foundation of New England’s Practice Safe Skin initiative. They became more active over the period assessed in the study and funded sunscreen dispensers in public and recreational areas around Boston in 2015. (The program was expanded this year to include sites in 11 other states, including Maine.)

But as the Maine statistics show, awareness efforts haven’t reached everybody, the foundation’s Meghan Rothschild told Maine Public Radio: those who don’t know how common melanoma is, that they’re at risk for it and that there are easy ways to prevent it. And although skin cancer is curable if caught early enough, people aren’t being screened for it when they visit their primary care doctors, she noted.

How can Maine combat melanoma? We could reinstate the locally based Healthy Maine Partnerships, which worked to prevent obesity and smoking and promote healthy eating. We could shore up our troubled state public health infrastructure. We could expand Medicaid eligibility so that more Mainers can afford primary care. Given the results of this study, it’s clear that the one thing we can’t afford to do is nothing.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/30/our-view-maine-lags-region-in-fighting-most-deadly-form-of-skin-cancer/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/12/1130818_Deadly_Skin_Cancer_88363.2.jpgA typical presentation of a suspicious mole that eventually was diagnosed as melanoma. A study released Wednesday indicates that Maine was the only state in New England where melanoma incidence and death rates rose between 2003 and 2013.Thu, 29 Dec 2016 22:05:53 +0000
Our View: Connection helps Maine seniors remain healthy, fulfilled http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/29/our-view-connection-helps-maine-seniors-remain-healthy-fulfilled/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/29/our-view-connection-helps-maine-seniors-remain-healthy-fulfilled/#respond Thu, 29 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1129995 Maine needs more senior housing, and not just because older Mainers require safe, cost-effective buildings. Like everyone else, seniors need community, too, and with one-third of Americans older than 65 – and half of those over 85 – living alone, and often in seclusion to one degree or another, that community is becoming harder to find.

Allowing seniors to live near others in similar circumstances is one way to combat that isolation, but there are others as well. All of these efforts need our attention, as it is becoming clear that isolation is slowly killing some seniors, and making them sick and miserable while they are still here.

Loneliness is bad for anyone, but particularly for seniors, who may see family move away and friends and spouses die, winnowing their support network and disrupting the routines and rituals that provide a full life.

And not only do the health and mobility issues associated with age make isolation more likely; they are actually exacerbated by the loneliness itself.

There is an intense physiological response to being alone for extended periods of time. Loneliness has been shown to speed up cognitive decline in seniors, disrupt sleep and compromise the immune system. One study found that isolation increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by around 30 percent.

Building senior housing that puts seniors near each other and allows them to experience the wider community through dedicated programs and public transportation can help ease loneliness and keep those seniors connected to the world around them.

There are other, smaller ways to combat isolation, too, and they all need our support.

The various Agencies on Aging throughout the state of Maine offer various programs to help keep seniors engaged.

Meals on Wheels, for instance, makes sure seniors get at least one hot meal and one visitor a day. Phone Pals provides a daily wellness check for seniors living alone.

Vet to Vet connects veterans to each other and other veterans services programs. The Active Agers program gets people up and outside, enjoying the Maine outdoors together while getting valuable physical exercise.

There are also innovative programs popping up elsewhere that could find a home in Maine.

Take, for instance, linkAges, started by the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in the San Francisco area. It allows members to post something they need – a ride, partners for card games, cooking lessons. Others who are able then fill those requests, “banking” hours for when they need something done themselves.

It is a way for someone to both receive and give back, solving loneliness without the stigma of declaring how lonely one feels. And it is a way to combat the loss of community many feel in the United States.

“In America, you almost need an excuse for knocking on a neighbor’s door,” the program’s founder told The New York Times. “We want to break down those barriers.”

We should all want to break down those barriers, so that life in all its phases is healthy and fulfilling.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/29/our-view-connection-helps-maine-seniors-remain-healthy-fulfilled/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/12/1129995_815502-20151210_Legwork001-e1482988710965.jpgSeen using trekking poles in Portland in 2015, Bobbi Keppel, is an advocate for pedestrians and elders. Senior housing and other programs help to keep older Mainers connected to others.Thu, 29 Dec 2016 00:21:39 +0000
Another View: Never stop seeking answers to disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/29/another-view-never-stop-seeking-answers-to-disappearance-of-malaysia-flight-370/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/29/another-view-never-stop-seeking-answers-to-disappearance-of-malaysia-flight-370/#respond Thu, 29 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1130015 After over two years of searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, officials now doubt they even have been looking in the right part of the vast Indian Ocean. There is the likelihood of suspending the enormously expensive search unless fresh evidence gives a better indication of the plane’s resting place.

If they do give up the search, officials never should stop seeking new evidence that could jump-start it again. That’s the least that can be done for the families of the 239 people on board. They have had no answers of any kind.

While the plane’s fate remains unknown, one point is clear: All international airliners should be required to carry sophisticated location monitoring and recording equipment so there’s a better chance of finding them if something goes awry. Malaysia Airlines has been criticized for having less sophisticated equipment than some other airlines.

At a cost of $160 million, Australia, Malaysia and China have been scouring a 46,000-square-foot area west of Australia, a search area based on an analysis of satellite data. However, officials said last week that a re-examination of that data and an analysis of new ocean drift data indicated that the plane’s location might be farther north instead. Without more precise information, however, they are reluctant to begin a new phase of the search.

Families previously have expressed concern that suspending the search essentially would mean throwing in the towel. That must not be the case. Investigators should continue seeking clues that might prompt a new search and crack what has been called one of aviation’s grimmest secrets.

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Another View: Fed chair brings welcome clarity to debate over college debt http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/28/another-view-fed-chief-brings-welcome-clarity-to-debate-over-college-debt/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/28/another-view-fed-chief-brings-welcome-clarity-to-debate-over-college-debt/#respond Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1129624 Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, spoke at the University of Baltimore’s midyear commencement last week, and she was about as upbeat as any practitioner of the dismal science from whom the students will ever hear.

The economy is nearly at full employment, with prospects especially strong for college graduates, for whom the unemployment rate is an infinitesimal 2.3 percent. What’s more, grads can expect a “large” advantage in lifetime earnings over contemporaries with only a high school education.

Last year, college graduates’ earnings averaged 70 percent more than high school graduates’ pay; that is up from 20 percent in 1980, she said.

And the advantage kicks in quickly: Only a few years after graduation, it’s almost $18,000 a year, Yellen reported.

Student debt now totals $1.3 trillion, spread out over 44.2 million borrowers. Yet as Yellen pointed out, government data show that the vast majority of student borrowers who complete their degree programs find work that allows them to keep up with interest payments and eventually pay off the principal. According to studentloanhero.com, about 40 percent of student debt was incurred to finance graduate and professional degrees – that is, MBAs, MDs and law degrees, which enhance future earnings even more than a four-year bachelor’s.

Debt distress is disproportionately concentrated in certain segments of the market, including professional schools and for-profit four-year colleges. Solutions, if any, should be targeted and limited so as not to waste resources that could go toward other purposes, such as enhancing the prospects of those who do not attend college.

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Our View: Doctors reinforce drugmakers’ false claims on painkillers http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/28/our-view-doctors-reinforce-drugmakers-false-claims-on-painkillers-as-conflicts-abound/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/28/our-view-doctors-reinforce-drugmakers-false-claims-on-painkillers-as-conflicts-abound/#respond Wed, 28 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1129652 Today’s nationwide epidemic of opiate addiction was spawned in part by doctors who, with the best of intentions, wanted to help patients in pain, and by drug companies that said they had just the remedy – long-lasting, effective painkillers with none of the addictive qualities of their predecessors.

Hundreds of millions of prescriptions later, we know all three of those company claims to be false. Medications such as OxyContin have proved ineffective in treating the kind of chronic pain for which they are most often prescribed, and they have been widely successful at fostering addiction, setting the stage for the cheap and potent heroin that has devastated communities in every corner of the country.

Still, the companies that own these pain medications continue to push the old narrative, and still, they are finding friendly doctors to help them advance it.

And while it’s not surprising that companies are repeating what has worked when it comes to selling their products, it’s troubling that some doctors are so willing to go along.

Federal data analyzed by the Maine Sunday Telegram show that while policymakers and health and law enforcement officials were contending with an escalating opioid crisis, drug companies selling opioids were increasing payments and visits to Maine doctors. Between August 2013 and December 2015, the bulk of all payments by prescription opioid manufacturers to doctors in Maine went to one physician, Doug Jorgensen of Manchester, who received $42,522. Another doctor received more than $13,000, while others received a few hundred dollars each.

These sorts of payments are legal, but they are discouraged by the Maine Medical Association and criticized by medical ethicists as a clear conflict of interest. Even small payments, they say, can affect – subconsciously even – what a doctor ultimately prescribes, a decision that should be guided by medical knowledge and patient needs, not whether a pharmaceutical company bought a doctor dinner.

The report follows a Los Angeles Times investigation showing how Purdue Pharma, the company behind OxyContin, is reacting to a 40 percent drop in prescriptions for that drug since 2010. It should sound familiar.

Purdue, the Times reports, is trying to open new markets across the globe, using paid-off doctors to pitch the same script it used in the U.S., overselling the benefits and downplaying the risks of opiate medication. Again, they are telling patients to get assessed for chronic pain, and again they are telling doctors that medications like OxyContin have little downside if used properly.

Those countries will find out soon what most Americans know now. There is “insufficient evidence” to show that opiate painkillers work for more than three months, yet up to 24 percent of long-term users become addicted, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of those who become addicted will eventually turn to heroin.

We shouldn’t have to see this story play out again, either in another country or with more patients here at home. But the billions made through pain medications have given pharmaceutical companies enormous clout, and as long as some cynical members of the medical community help peddle their false narrative, we’re in for more addiction – and, ironically, more pain.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/28/our-view-doctors-reinforce-drugmakers-false-claims-on-painkillers-as-conflicts-abound/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/12/1129652_AP_16273781823723.jpgAs Maine's opioid crisis deepened over the past several years, the manufacturers of OxyContin and other highly addictive painkillers were escalating their pitch to physicians.Tue, 27 Dec 2016 22:43:03 +0000
Our View: Compromise best route to resolving Riverview ‘step-down’ conflict http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/27/our-view-compromise-best-route-to-resolving-riverview-step-down-conflict/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/27/our-view-compromise-best-route-to-resolving-riverview-step-down-conflict/#respond Tue, 27 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1129130 The best way forward for Riverview Psychiatric Center – the best path for the hospital, its workers and patients, and taxpayers in general – is for the state to follow through on its plan to build a separate facility on the Riverview campus in Augusta.

That’s the path that has been reached by compromise – that puts most of the stakeholders on the same page – and brings the swiftest, most agreeable end to the years-long effort to find a solution to Riverview’s problems.

The plan has been stalled as legislators on both sides of the aisle seek answers to legitimate questions regarding the construction and operation of a 21-bed “step-down” facility. The new building would house patients under the state’s care who cannot be released but who no longer require hospital-level care, opening much-needed beds at Riverview.

Legislative leaders agree in general with the plan, but some have more specific questions for the LePage administration, including details on how a private company would be chosen to operate the new facility.

Considering that legislators will have oversight of the facility once it is built, and that the creation of a privately run facility is a monumental change in how some patients are handled, it only makes sense to have lawmakers fully satisfied now with the administration’s plan.

A public hearing on the matter could come as soon as Jan. 3, according to House Speaker Sara Gideon. Barring any surprises, the state’s plan could be approved shortly thereafter.

That’s the agreement between Gideon, a Freeport Democrat, and Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau of Winterport, and it is similar to the compromise offered earlier by Republican Ken Fredette of Newport, the House minority leader, who asked Democratic leaders to push the plan forward in exchange for the promise of hearings in the new session.

During a meeting with Gideon in his office earlier this month, Gov. LePage agreed to answer Democrats’ questions about a new secure mental health facility. 

Afterward, however,  the governor said that his administration would continue to pursue a plan to build the facility outside of Augusta, where legislative leaders do not have statutory authority over new building construction, as they do at the Riverview site in the city’s Capitol Area. Late last week, the administration announced it had picked a site near the state-run Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor.

But the administration chose the Augusta site initially for a reason. Placing it near Riverview allows the state to more easily offer some services at the two facilities.

Additionally, changing sites now could cost the state as much as $1 million more than anticipated, according to the administration.

And while the governor is right when he says the need for a new facility is urgent, it’s hard to see how holding a hearing in the next few weeks will significantly delay the new facility.

Instead, the hearings would move the plan forward in bipartisan fashion, setting the stage for a successful new facility that alleviates pressure at the state’s emergency rooms and county jails, where far too many psychiatric patients sit waiting for beds to open, and for a new day at Riverview.

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CORRECTION: This story was updated at 4:50 p.m. on Dec. 27, 2016, to correctly state the outcome of a meeting between Gov. Paul LePage and House Speaker Sara Gideon.

 

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/27/our-view-compromise-best-route-to-resolving-riverview-step-down-conflict/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/12/1129130_539311_k_aerial_riverview.jpgPlacing a new secure unit on the Riverview Psychiatric Center campus, above, would allow the state to more easily offer some services at the two facilities and avoid the extra costs entailed in changing the site to Bangor.Tue, 27 Dec 2016 16:50:59 +0000
Our View: Augusta shouldn’t stand in the way of Maine minimum-wage hike http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/26/our-view-augusta-shouldnt-stand-in-the-way-of-maine-minimum-wage-hike/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/26/our-view-augusta-shouldnt-stand-in-the-way-of-maine-minimum-wage-hike/#respond Mon, 26 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1128887 The calendar flips over this week from 2016 to 2017, which will be very good news for the thousands of Maine workers who will get a raise.

On Jan. 1, the minimum wage increases from $7.50 an hour to $9, and the rate paid by tipped workers’ employers will climb from $3.75 an hour to $5. This was the result of a vote by a solid majority of Mainers who passed a referendum by a bigger margin than was enjoyed by the winning candidates for president and the 2nd Congressional District, as well as the winner’s edge in any of the four other referendum questions.

In other words, the election results may have surprised some people, but no one should have been confused. Maine people want to boost the minimum wage, which is consistent with what voters have said in every other place where the minimum wage has been on the ballot.

So it’s strange to see people in state government act as if they don’t know what is supposed to happen next. The Maine Department of Labor has told employers about the new rates that they are expected to pay in 2017, but the agency has announced that it will temporarily not enforce the law. Gov. LePage, who was a vocal opponent of the referendum, has come forward to claim that voters don’t understand what they decided.

“Many employers and employees are unaware of the relationship between the minimum wage in Maine and the minimum salary that an exempt worker must be paid, and many legislators have announced a bill to restore the tip credit,” LePage said. “It is entirely appropriate for the Department of Labor to take time to help employers and workers understand and comply with the law without taking them to task.”

If anyone is confused on this matter, it’s the governor. The executive branch doesn’t get to decide which laws it wants to enforce while it waits for the legislative branch to give it laws that it likes better. The people of Maine did not make a suggestion Nov. 8 – they passed a law that goes into effect next week.

The Legislature could put this matter to rest, but so far it has not.

Democratic leaders have condemned LePage’s non-enforcement policy, but they have not announced that there will be no bill to undo the minimum wage law, so that there is no reason to put off enforcing it.

This is something that Democrats in the House of Representatives could do on their own because they have a majority and no bill could get to the governor’s desk if they all stick together.

At this point it should not even be a matter of whether they think that increasing the tipped wage is a good idea. Everybody had a chance to speak on the issue, and the voters decided. The governor chooses to respect only the elections that go his way, but that’s not our system, and preserving democracy should be enough for lawmakers of both parties to let the governor know that there will not be changes to the minimum-wage law next year.

Up until now, the political process has failed low-wage workers. It is not time for state government to get creative and pass a law that they wished they’d passed years ago.

The people have spoken. Everybody in Augusta should listen.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/26/our-view-augusta-shouldnt-stand-in-the-way-of-maine-minimum-wage-hike/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/12/1128887_117441_20160115_dimillos_1.jpgPeople who receive as little as $30 a month in tips can be paid $3.75 per hour by their employer. That is what a majority of Mainers on Election Day said was unfair, and lawmakers should be paying attention.Sun, 25 Dec 2016 20:45:58 +0000
Another View: Free trade is not the job-killer columnist makes it out to be http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/25/another-view-free-trade-is-not-the-job-killer-columnist-makes-it-out-to-be/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/25/another-view-free-trade-is-not-the-job-killer-columnist-makes-it-out-to-be/#respond Sun, 25 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1128328 In a Dec. 18 column, Alan Caron damns trade with faint praise and contributes to the misunderstanding about its effects on jobs and the economy.

He claims that “freewheeling” trade deals have favored big companies, and that global trade has “enriched Wall Street beyond its wildest dreams.” This may sound good to Bernie Sanders’ fans, but it’s also wrong.

The great beneficiaries of trade aren’t big companies or Wall Street. They are all the American consumers who have a much broader choice of products at lower prices than would otherwise be the case.

And American producers, large and small, who incorporate foreign inputs make their products less expensive and sometimes superior in quality. These benefits are so ingrained in the economy that they are often taken for granted.

For protectionists, trade is always about job losses.

Mr. Caron’s contention that trade has put “millions of Americans out of work” is misleading at best. It is important to know that over the past 30 years, manufacturing output in the U.S. has risen 85 percent while manufacturing employment has declined 17 percent.

Some of these losses can be attributed to trade competition, but they are a small fraction of the losses caused by technological advances, especially automation, and productivity gains. Tearing up trade agreements and otherwise restricting trade to prevent job losses would be like bulldozing the house because it has a leaky faucet.

Mr. Caron needs to define what he means by “fair” trade; otherwise, the term is meaningless. In the meantime, the free trade he disparages is responsible for higher living standards in the U.S. and expanding prosperity around the world.

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Our View: American Christmas is a celebration of welcome http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/25/our-view-american-christmas-a-celebration-of-welcome/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/25/our-view-american-christmas-a-celebration-of-welcome/#respond Sun, 25 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1128355 A walk through any town in America should put the lie to an imagined war on Christmas, a notion that gets traction in the slow news weeks at the close of the year.

Despite constitutional restraints on religious statements by government entities, lights and decorations flow seamlessly from private to public property, which shows that this is a holiday that is heartily celebrated by Christians, devout and not so devout, as well as people of other faiths and nonbelievers by the hundreds of millions.

Which is how it should be. Christmas, as it’s celebrated here, has become a particularly American holiday, like Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. We have melded traditions from all over the world, creating a holiday that is wholly ours and open to anyone who wants to participate.

For many, Christmas is the Feast of the Nativity, marking the birth of Jesus the Christ, the son of God, who came to the world to offer everlasting life to all who follow him.

It’s a holiday that has been celebrated for 20 centuries by believing Christians, but the way it is observed today by millions and millions of others has only a passing reference to certain events in the Near East at the start of the first millennium.

Some American Christmas customs do have a religious root, like the exchange of gifts the way the wise men were said to bring the baby Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh.

But other traditions come from pre-Christian Rome, where the winter holiday Saturnalia featured hanging ornaments and fertility rites like kissing (and more than just kissing) under mistletoe.

Placing outdoor lights in winter was another Roman tradition around the feast of Sol Invictus.

Decorated trees and greenery were absorbed into the Christian holiday celebration as people who enjoyed them converted.

The Christmas tree remained a German tradition until the mid 19th century, when Britain’s Queen Victoria adopted it. Decorating a tree didn’t become popular among non-German Americans until decades later.

Nothing has a more complicated history, or is more American, than Santa Claus.

What started as St. Nicholas, the real third-century bishop famous for his generosity in what is now Turkey, somehow turned into Sinterclaas, who arrives in Holland every December on a boat from Spain.

He is said to ride a white horse and deliver oranges to good boys and girls. Bad children are likely to get a whack from his rod.

And this has become our jolly old elf in a red-and-white suit who lives in the North Pole and flies around the world with a sleigh full of toys. He is as American as Paul Bunyan and John Henry. He comes from many sources and he belongs to everyone.

Which is what makes the celebration this time of year so rich. Rather than a war against Christmas, we see a war for Christmas, which can understandably make people who choose not to take part feel overwhelmed. There is just so much Christmas in so many forms that it there is really something for everyone, even if it’s a just a pretty colored light, or a few bars of a familiar tune.

This is one of the great good things about living in the United States, where all the world’s civilizations have come together and built a unique culture that excludes no one.

Regardless of how you celebrate, this holiday is a reminder of the benefits that come from being generous and welcoming, because, in the end, it really is better to give than to receive.

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Another View: Amazon and the twilight of the grocery store line http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/24/another-view-amazon-and-the-twilight-of-the-grocery-store-line/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/24/another-view-amazon-and-the-twilight-of-the-grocery-store-line/#respond Sat, 24 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1128447 Americans spend – waste – a year or two of their lives waiting in line, wishing it would move faster, staring daggers at any potential interlopers, fixing with disdain anyone who dawdles or delays the line’s steady clip.

For those trying to avoid long queues, the grocery store is one of the most daunting challenges. You can pick the hours that you believe will be the least crowded, but then there’s only one clerk on duty. You can take your chances in the 15-item line only to be flummoxed by a shopper who unfurls a raft of coupons or one who decides to write a check for the groceries s-l-o-w-l-y.

Now, thrilling news: Line-generated angst could soon vanish.

In Seattle, Amazon is testing a grocery store known as Amazon Go that allows customers to waltz in, choose items and then … leave. All without lining up to be checked out. Amazon calls it “Just walk out technology.”

Here’s how it works: Customers tap their cellphones on a turnstile as they enter the store.

That logs them into the store’s network. As they pick up items and plunk them in their carts, sensors and other technology track the items and display the tally on a virtual cart. When a shopper leaves (presumably bagging his or her own groceries), an Amazon app tallies the bill and charges the customer’s Amazon account.

Amazon plans to open its store to the public early next year.

Self-driving cars? A human landing on Mars? Another Cubs World Series win?

Meh.

A similarly anticipated milestone in human history – the Eradication of the Grocery Store Line – appears imminent.

OK, two provisos:

We can already hear the plaintive cries of people (including President-elect Trump) who mourn the loss of all those checkout clerk jobs. We don’t relish the idea of putting people, aside from certain politicians, out of work. But we assume the friendly produce guy would still be there, stocking the shelves. (Robots can’t do that yet, right?) And you’d still need people to monitor the premises to make sure everyone was playing by the rules or to check customers’ ID for alcohol purchases. And someone to keep all the tech running. Cashiers can be retrained for the new jobs this will create.

We’ve been disappointed before. Remember the self-service checkouts at groceries a few years back? Many of them were yanked out because of rampant technological glitches and increased losses from theft. Is a similar glitch waiting to happen here?

Don’t get us wrong. We believe in ample sales forces in stores to help customers navigate an often-dizzying array of choices. We don’t want to be waited on by robots. We don’t want to scan the department and find nary a human in sight who can answer a question about a shirt or a skirt.

We do, though, believe technology can be harnessed for the greater good – in this case to streamline the interface between the customer and ringing up the sale – to short-circuit infuriatingly long lines.

We may soon have the power to eradicate this universally loathed instruction: Take a number. Wait your turn.

Some lines, to be sure, are exciting shared experiences.

The long queues that form around Apple stores in anticipation of a new iPhone. The line for tickets to a new “Star Wars” movie. The long wait for the latest trendy restaurant, which stokes the appetite and confers bragging rights. (We waited two hours for a table!)

Technology has disrupted nearly every aspect of American life, not always for the better. Why not let it erase one scourge of modern life — the sludge-slow line?

Imagine world peace? Sure. But first, imagine a more exciting prospect: a world without a grocery checkout line.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/24/another-view-amazon-and-the-twilight-of-the-grocery-store-line/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/12/1128447_the_tipping_point_taste_o_2-e1482550628239.jpgInstead of waiting for each item to be scanned at the register, a new system would keep a running total of the groceries as they were added to the cart, ending the need for a long wait for an available cashier.Fri, 23 Dec 2016 20:48:11 +0000
Another View: Unilateral presidential action will soon scare most liberals http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/23/another-view-unilateral-presidential-action-will-soon-scare-most-liberals/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/23/another-view-unilateral-presidential-action-will-soon-scare-most-liberals/#respond Fri, 23 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1127802 The San Diego Union-Tribune

We have long criticized presidents of both parties who use their executive authority to achieve policy goals they couldn’t get by working with Congress.

In limited circumstances, especially emergencies, such actions are OK. But in general, they’re an undemocratic assault on congressional prerogatives – and those who favor presidential power plays should worry about the precedents they set for when the other party holds the White House.

That latter point finally seemed to be sinking in last month with Donald Trump’s surprise win in the presidential election. On Monday, it even appeared to resonate with President Obama, who has issued a striking number of edicts that rewrite federal laws after being frustrated in his dealings with a Republican Congress. “Going through the legislative process is always better, in part because it’s harder to undo,” Obama told National Public Radio in an interview.

Alas, Tuesday, the president was back at it, signing an executive order declaring huge chunks of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans off limits to oil and gas drilling “for a time period without specific expiration.” The White House did not use the word “permanent,” but environmental groups did.

It’s not. Instead, it’s part of a pattern of Obama behavior that could enable all kinds of unilateral actions by Trump – including ordering that huge chunks of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans be opened to oil and gas drilling with lease terms favorable to energy companies.

Not many Democrats will be happy about presidential overreach then.

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Our View: Planned Parenthood right to brace for high-stakes fight http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/23/our-view-planned-parenthood-right-to-brace-for-high-stakes-fight/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/23/our-view-planned-parenthood-right-to-brace-for-high-stakes-fight/#respond Fri, 23 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1127809 This year, Planned Parenthood came closer than it has in decades to losing federal funding. Next year, it’s sure to face another budget fight – and the stakes are high for thousands of Mainers and their families.

Planned Parenthood has received federal funding since 1970, thanks to legislation signed into law by President Richard Nixon. But the legalization of abortion in 1973 and the growing clout of religious conservatives in the Republican Party galvanized efforts to limit family-planning groups’ access to federal aid.

The issue came to a head in 2015, when members of Congress – swayed by baseless accusations of illegal activity by Planned Parenthood – tried to strip the group of about $450 million in federal funding. The Senate approved the defunding measure last Dec. 3 (Maine’s Susan Collins was one of just two Republicans to vote against the proposal); the House followed suit on Jan. 6, and two days after that, President Obama vetoed the measure.

That the bill got that far, however, was a symbolic victory, and supporters of abortion rights are justifiably fearful of a renewed attack. Vice President-elect Mike Pence has long advocated for blocking federal funding to Planned Parenthood. President-elect Donald Trump said during the campaign that he would defund the organization. And Trump’s pick to run the Office of Management and Budget, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., helped lead the charge in favor of defunding in 2015.

Planned Parenthood, which relies on the federal government for about 40 percent of its budget, sees 10,000 patients a year at its four offices in southern Maine. Half of them are from households earning 150 percent of the poverty level (around $30,000 a year for a family of three).

The nonprofit provided $3.5 million worth of free or discounted care in Maine in 2015. If it were gutted, many of its patients wouldn’t have another place to turn. Nationally, according to the Guttmacher Institute, among women who get care at a family planning center like Planned Parenthood, four in 10 report that it’s their only source of care.

Driven by opposition to abortion, the unrelenting offensive against Planned Parenthood overlooks the fact that abortion gets no federal appropriations. It also fails to take into account that abortions make up just 3 percent of all services offered there. Patients go there for annual exams, sexually transmitted disease tests and cancer screenings – not to mention affordable birth control, which allows a woman to delay becoming pregnant until she gets an education and a good job, thus helping her avoid or get out of poverty.

Opponents of Planned Parenthood in Washington are vocal, but clear majorities of Americans oppose cutting off the group’s federal funding (this includes nearly half of Trump backers, Politico/Harvard pollsters found in September). The public is on the side of the millions nationwide who stand to lose access to critical services – lawmakers should be, too.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/23/our-view-planned-parenthood-right-to-brace-for-high-stakes-fight/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/12/1127809_RTS2C4M.jpgActivists rally in support of Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles on Sept. 29, 2015, during a push in Washington to strip the organization of federal funding. If the Republican-controlled Congress decides to renew its attack on the nonprofit, many patients wouldn't have another place to turn for care.Fri, 23 Dec 2016 00:12:57 +0000
Our View: DHHS opioid initiative a welcome step forward, but more actions needed http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/22/our-view-dhhs-opioid-initiative-a-welcome-step-forward-but-more-actions-needed/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/22/our-view-dhhs-opioid-initiative-a-welcome-step-forward-but-more-actions-needed/#respond Thu, 22 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1127186 For years now, Maine’s response to a mounting drug crisis has been missing one key component. Medication-assisted treatment with Suboxone or methadone is the gold standard for opiate addiction, yet its availability in Maine, particularly to the uninsured, pales in comparison to the need.

But with an average of one Mainer dying each day from a drug overdose, there is now real movement to fill that void.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services announced this week that it will use $2.4 million in state and federal funding to create 359 new medication-assisted treatment slots for the uninsured spread among five locations, targeted specifically where the agency says it has found waiting lists.

Along with a nascent effort by Maine Behavioral Healthcare to offer Suboxone-based treatment and counseling to anyone in its coverage area who needs it, the state’s initiative represents a significant step forward in the fight against the devastating opioid epidemic.

It also represents, if not always in policy at least in rhetoric, a departure for the LePage administration.

The administration has in the past expressed support for medication-assisted treatment as long as it is prescribed along with counseling, and the DHHS has repeatedly said that the state should follow the best evidence-based practices, a category into which medication-assisted treatment would surely fall.

But Gov. LePage himself rarely has been that precise with his own wording. Nor has he been accurate in his descriptions of addiction and treatment.

He has denigrated methadone treatment before, based in part – ridiculously – on what he said he saw while sitting in a car outside of a methadone clinic. He has time and time again presented addiction as a moral failing, and he has said that so few heroin addicts recover that policy should focus on the next generation.

In this case more than most, words matter. The stigma that surrounds drug addiction contributes in a significant way to perpetuating the crisis. When addiction is seen as a failure of will and not the chronic brain disease that it is, people in the throes of addiction are less likely to seek help, doctors are less likely to take the steps necessary to prescribe Suboxone, and the public is less likely to support investments in treatments that are proven to work.

In fact, both the Maine Opioid Collaborative – created by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Maine, the Maine Department of Public Safety and the Maine Attorney General’s Office – and the U.S. surgeon general say overcoming the stigma associated with addiction is one of the true hurdles to addressing the drug crisis.

Dr. Christopher Pezzullo, the state’s chief medical officer, agrees, saying at the news conference announcing the state’s plan that “we must remember, although substance use disorder is one of the bigger problems facing our nation, there remains a stigma associated with it that stops many from seeking help,”

So while it is undoubtedly good news that the state initiative will provide treatment to nearly 400 Mainers, that does not include the thousands more who have not yet sought help and who will need it before the crisis subsides.

Bringing those people into treatment – ending the despair felt by so many families and eroding the demand for illegal narcotics – should be the focus of the state’s efforts.

LePage can start by matching his public rhetoric to the very positive step forward his administration took this week.

He can also address the low reimbursement rates for medication-assisted treatment that have hampered care and closed clinics, and move quicker to get the anti-overdose drug naloxone into more hands, two policies that he’s opposed in the past.

Those actions, along with those already taken by LePage and the Legislature to limit opioid prescriptions and bolster law enforcement, will truly give Maine the comprehensive approach to the drug crisis that is necessary.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/22/our-view-dhhs-opioid-initiative-a-welcome-step-forward-but-more-actions-needed/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2016/08/1025536_580475_20150122_methadone_8.jpgProposed state rules would increase counseling requirements for new methadone patients, although low Medicaid reimbursement rates already make it hard for clinics to give patients the attention they need.Wed, 21 Dec 2016 22:19:36 +0000
Greg Kesich: It’s a wonderful life, even for Democrats (really) http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/21/greg-kesich-its-a-wonderful-life-even-for-democrats-really/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/21/greg-kesich-its-a-wonderful-life-even-for-democrats-really/#respond Wed, 21 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1126650 FADE IN – Nighttime in the cemetery; George the Democrat is running through knee-deep snow, looking haggard and alarmed. He finds Clarence the Angel and grabs him by the lapels:

George: Look, who are you anyway?

Clarence: I told you, George. I’m your guardian angel.

George: Yeah, yeah, I know. What else are you? What … are you a hypnotist?

Clarence: No, of course not.

George: Well, then, why am I seein’ all these strange things? What’s with all the red baseball caps? Why is there gold paint on everything?

Clarence: Don’t you understand, George? It’s because you lost the election. Your party doesn’t run anything any more. It’s as if you’d never existed.

George: Never existed? We’re the party of the emerging multiracial majority, Bub, the one that’s going to usher in a new liberal golden age!

Clarence: There is no Democratic Party, George. Old Man Potter is the president now. You have no White House, no Senate, no House of Representatives. (George fumbles in his watch pocket.) That’s not there, either.

George: What’s not?

Clarence: The chance to name the justice with the deciding vote on the Supreme Court. It’s all gone. You’ve been given a chance to see what the world would be like without you. Here, take a look.

(Screen fills with fog, then an image emerges of Bert the cop talking with Ernie the cab driver.)

Bert: President Potter makes a lot of sense when he talks about infrastructure investments. Our airports must be the worst in the world … (Ernie coughs.) Say, you all right? I thought you were going to see the doc.

Ernie: Can’t. Had to drop my insurance when they cut the premium subsidy, and then the hospital went out of business ’cause it couldn’t keep up with all the uncompensated-care bills.

Bert: Oh well, maybe it’s nothing. So, like I was saying …

George: That’s a lie! I got affordable health care for self-employed people like Ernie! Twenty million of them can buy insurance through the exchanges. Uncle Billy told me it was a “Big Effing Deal”!

Clarence: It was, George, but the Republicans repealed that law. Now guys like Ernie have no coverage. But here, look at this:

(The fog clears again: This time, Main Street is full of people running in a panic.)

First man: Hey, what’s going on?

Second man: The bank went all-in on antique-collectable-based derivatives. So when the Hummel figurine market collapsed, the whole economy tanked! We’re going to the payday lender to save our homes. You coming?

First man: What kind of interest do they want?

Second man: It’s 300 percent, but it’s a whole lot better than sleeping outside! C’mon! …

George: That’s impossible! We passed tough financial regulations that rein in banks and protect consumers!

Clarence: No, George. With Potter as president, there’s no Dodd-Frank, no Volcker rule, no Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The deregulators are running everything now.

George: I can’t stand it!

Clarence: Wait till you see what they did to the climate! We had a December hurricane sweep through here that caused flooding clear to Elmira …

George: No, little fella. Please stop. Don’t make me watch everything I’ve ever worked for get torn apart! I want to live again! Please let me live again!

Clarence: You see, George, you’ve been given a great gift. Potter and the Republicans ran on a promise of bringing back jobs and saving the economy. But all they are going to do is cut taxes for the rich and fill their own pockets.

George: And then the Democrats come back in?

Clarence: It’s not quite that simple. A lot of people don’t trust you any more. You’re too close to Sam Wainwright and his Wall Street buddies. You need to win back the working people in town council races and legislative elections.

George: How do I do that?

Clarence: While the Republicans are in charge, you have time to develop ideas that are big enough for the problems we face. People don’t want incremental fixes to a broken system. They want health care, middle-class jobs and enough in their paychecks to cover a mortgage. They want to send their kids to college without taking on a mountain of debt. They want to be able to retire comfortably. They want clean air and …

George: I want those things, too! Thank you, Clarence! I promise to think big and tackle real people’s problems.

(He continues running down the street.) Merry Christmas, everybody! Merry Christmas, union hall! Merry Christmas, Planned Parenthood! Merry Christmas, Black Lives Matter!

Protesters: Merry Christmas, George!

(Church bell rings)

Clarence: Hear that? Every time a bell rings, someone realizes that they made a really big mistake in November. Soon they will be looking to you for answers, George, and you’d better be ready!

Listen to Press Herald podcasts at www.pressherald.com/podcast.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/12/21/greg-kesich-its-a-wonderful-life-even-for-democrats-really/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2014/10/Columnist-Kesich-e1441211688709.jpgJohn Patriquin/Staff Photographer.Wed. July,25, 2012. News room mug shots Greg Kesich. (Photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer)Wed, 21 Dec 2016 13:02:25 +0000