Editorials – Press Herald http://www.pressherald.com Sat, 29 Apr 2017 15:21:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.4 Another View: Trump’s moves won’t jibe with Constitution http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/29/another-view-trumps-moves-wont-jibe-with-constitution/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/29/another-view-trumps-moves-wont-jibe-with-constitution/#respond Sat, 29 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1188363 Much to his chagrin, President Trump has discovered that there are three branches of government in the United States, each given power to check and balance one another’s actions.

This wasn’t accidental. The Founding Fathers created the executive, legislative and judicial branches to prevent a repeat of the “Do what we say … or else” orders that used to come down from England’s King George III.

Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and the others who helped build our nation had a name for that practice: tyranny.

Those who wrote the Constitution fashioned an intricate web of governmental rights and responsibilities to prevent it from happening in the new republic. Congress and the president had the power to act, but the courts had the power to review, using the Constitution as the touchstone.

That exact phenomenon has been in play lately when it comes to the Trump administration’s attempts to go after so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to let their local law enforcement agencies be commandeered by ICE, the federal agency that enforces immigration laws.

The modern equivalent of the “Do what we say … or else” is the administration’s threat to stop the flow of federal money into cities and states that have refused to cooperate with the administration’s efforts to deport as many illegal immigrants as possible.

So far, three executive immigration orders have been derailed by the courts since Trump took office.

A woman holds a sign at a rally outside of City Hall in San Francisco. The Trump administration is moving beyond rhetoric in its effort to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities. Associated Press file photo by Jeff Chiu

The latest was earlier this week, when a federal judge in San Francisco issued a preliminary injunction against the federal government’s threat to withhold federal aid to local governments that won’t join the anti-immigrant campaign.

Judge William Orrick ruled that only Congress has the power to place conditions on federal spending. Government lawyers argued that the administration did not plan to withhold the billions that flow from Washington, only the millions designated as aid for local law enforcement.

Orrick said that argument was undercut by statements by Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who have said billions were at stake. The government saying one thing in court and another thing outside it was, the judge said, “a schizophrenic approach” bound to confuse local governments.

The feds have declared their intention is to “tighten the screws” on local government on the issue. That’s hard to do when you have so many screws loose. Questions raised by Orrick and others include:

• While the federal government has exclusive right to enact immigration laws, does it also have a right to force local police to enforce those laws? Several judges think not.

• Can it threaten to cut off funding of programs that have nothing to do with immigration or law enforcement? The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled otherwise, most recently in 2012 when it stopped the Obama administration from withholding Medicaid funds to force states to comply with Obamacare.

• Is anyone listening to the arguments made by many local officials, that putting police in the role of ICE enforcers sabotages the efforts local law enforcement is making to connect with, and get the cooperation of, immigrant communities in fighting crime?

Clearly, Trump and Sessions are not. To hear them tell it, our cities are living hells because of illegal immigrants. So, they push on with this “Do what we say … or else” approach.

The only thing we can say is: It didn’t work out for King George. What makes them think it will work out today?

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Our View: Emergency interventions in schools should be last resort only http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/28/our-view-emergency-interventions-in-schools-should-be-last-resort-only/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/28/our-view-emergency-interventions-in-schools-should-be-last-resort-only/#respond Fri, 28 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1188031 Students should be secluded or physically restrained only in emergencies, and only as a last resort. That’s what the research says, and that’s the policy adopted in Maine in 2012, after it became clear there was little oversight on how schools were handling students exhibiting problem behaviors.

Five years later, the situation in Maine has greatly improved, if only for the uptick in accountability and increased attention on doing things right.

But ineffective techniques are still used too frequently, and disproportionately against students with disabilities. If the past five years have been about assessing the scope of the problem, then the next five should be about getting help where it is needed.

The rules established in 2012, known as Chapter 33, were designed to reduce the use of physical restraint – such as a bear hug or forcing a child to lie on the floor – and seclusion, when a student is placed involuntarily in a safe room. School districts are now required to report each use to the state, and to review their use quarterly. Before that, the use of restraints and seclusion often was not even reported to parents.

Districts were slow to respond, particularly to the reporting requirements, according to a recent study by Disability Rights Maine. Just 54 percent of schools issued reports in the first year, 2013, although 88 percent did last year. And because of discrepancies in how things were reported by individual schools, the data is not wholly reliable.

But it is clear that restraints and seclusion are used multiple times against a small percentage of students, and far more often against students with disabilities.

In 2016, for instance, emergency interventions were used in Maine more than 13,000 times, with only 1,800 students. In the past four years, 86 percent of interventions involved students with disabilities, who represent just 16 percent of the 166,000 or so students in Maine.

Not surprisingly, the interventions happened disproportionately in the special-purpose private schools and school-based day programs that educate only students with disabilities.

That makes sense – that population includes students who exhibit the most difficult behaviors, and teachers and other staff often have to intervene in extreme ways to keep students and adults safe.

However, the use of those interventions is usually a sign that something has gone wrong. In most cases there is a way to respond, before the situation gets too bad, to keep a student’s behavior from escalating. Besides, those interventions are rarely effective in the long term.

“There continues to be no evidence that using restraint or seclusion is effective in reducing the occurrence of the problem behaviors that frequently precipitate the use of such techniques,” a 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Education said, summing up the research.

It’s reasonable for educators put in such a position to wonder how they can go from restraining someone more than 75 times in three months, as happened to a 10-year-old student with autism mentioned in the Disability Rights Maine study, to something close to zero. But they don’t have to do it alone.

The state should target help – better programming, more training – to the programs with continued high rates of interventions. Interventions should be reserved for emergencies, and it’s hard to believe that emergencies have to happen 13,000 times a year.

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Our View: Maine needs vision more than a new state agency http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/our-view-maine-needs-vision-more-than-new-state-agency/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/our-view-maine-needs-vision-more-than-new-state-agency/#respond Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1187330 Housing, health care, industry and transportation all have one thing in common: they are sectors of the economy sensitive to energy prices.

But unlike all of those other areas of interest, energy planning is not under the guidance of a department of state government.

That seems like a mistake, considering it represented $7.6 billion in 2015, and impacted virtually every other form of economic activity.

There is a bill before the Legislature that would create a new state Department of Energy, complete with a commissioner and staff, that would be funded with energy efficiency funds, adding resources and capacity to the work that’s now done by two members of the governor’s staff.

But while it makes sense to give such an important subject more attention, it points to a larger problem in the state – lack of long-term planning in general.

In 2012, Gov. Paul LePage phased out the State Planning Office, which used to provide independent economic analysis to the Legislature and governor. Until the governor’s energy office was created under the Baldacci administration, the State Planning office also looked at energy issues.

State government is missing that kind of comprehensive view. Interrelated issues involving electrical prices, new home construction and roads and bridges are being considered in multiple departments at the same time. What’s missing is study of the entire state’s needs and opportunities. It’s well known that Maine’s high cost of energy is a drag on our economy, but the growth of the state’s renewable power sector is also a valuable export. These are issues that should not be studied with only a single lens.

The proposal to fund a new energy agency with money from the Efficiency Maine Trust is another problem. That is money taken from electric rate payers to support energy efficiency projects, reducing electric bills. None of that money should go anywhere else than to rate payers to reduce their demand for power.

Adding to electric rates to study why rates are so high doesn’t make sense, and neither does creating a new agency with such a limited focus that would not address the underlying problem of a lack of planning and long-term vision.

It would be better for Maine to bring back the State Planning Office with more resources for energy study than it would be to add a new state agency that would look at only one piece of the puzzle.

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Another View: Chechnya persecutes gay men with Russia’s blessing http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/another-view-chechnya-persecutes-gay-men-with-russias-blessing/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/27/another-view-chechnya-persecutes-gay-men-with-russias-blessing/#respond Thu, 27 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1187331 Chechnya’s strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov, hardly skipped a beat when it was revealed that his security forces were kidnapping and torturing gay men in the republic. Instead of investigating and punishing those who inflicted the horrors, Kadyrov, a violent provincial boss who enjoys the blessings of Russian President Vladimir Putin, immediately went after the Moscow newspaper that brought the situation to light. Reporters have been threatened and denounced, and forced to flee Russia.

On April 1, Novaya Gazeta, known for digging into sensitive topics, published an exposé showing that Kadyrov’s security services were detaining and executing gay men, holding them in squalid conditions and outing them to families for suggested “honor killing.” Three are known to have died, and more than 100 are believed to have been seized.

Since the story broke, further corroboration has come from gay men who escaped captivity and reported they were tortured, harassed and threatened. The purge has been confirmed by Human Rights Watch, which quoted one victim as saying, “They treated us like animals.”

Russia put down secessionist rebels in Chechnya in two wars that wreaked havoc on the republic. Today, Kadyrov rules by brute force and with Kremlin backing. Chechen society is traditionally conservative, and homosexuality is viewed as taboo.

On April 3, at a gathering of Chechnya’s religious and political leaders in the capital Grozny, an adviser to Kadyrov accused the newspaper of defamation and called its journalists “enemies of our faith and our motherland.” There was talk of retribution.

In an open and free society, this chain of events would be cause for alarm: secret torture chambers, runaway authority, intimidation of the press. But Russia is not free, and Putin hardly seems perturbed.

He tolerates brutality and coercion as instruments of state power, deaf to the cries of anguish from its victims.

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Our View: States handed big role in protecting personal data gathered by companies online http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/26/our-view-states-handed-big-role-in-protecting-personal-data-gathered-by-companies-online/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/26/our-view-states-handed-big-role-in-protecting-personal-data-gathered-by-companies-online/#respond Wed, 26 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1186872 Whether the nullification of Obama-era rules regarding internet service providers is an unconscionable blow to privacy or merely a leveling of the playing field with web-based companies, one thing is for certain – when it comes to protecting your personal information online, you are on your own.

With an ever-increasing amount of our lives being lived online, that’s not good enough, and if the federal government isn’t going to do it, then it is up to the states to hand some of the responsibility to the companies now awash in so much of our personal data.

Last month, the Republican-led Congress voted largely along party lines to repeal the rules, which would have required internet service providers like Verizon and Time Warner to get express consent before selling customer data.

Opponents of the rules, which had yet to go into effect, say they put ISPs at a disadvantage against web-based companies like Facebook and Google, which have no such restrictions on selling user data, and that the rules would have given customers the false sense that all data put online was safe from third-party use.

EXPECT MORE MINING OF PERSONAL DATA

Whatever the case, the immediate impact of the repeal is small; the major ISPs have all pledged to refrain from selling customer data.

But that can change. The ISPs have been operating under the assumption that the rules would be in place, and must now shift gears. Once they figure out how to monetize the data without losing customers, it’s hard to imagine they won’t capitalize on the multibillion-dollar-a-year online advertising industry, putting your browsing history, geo-location data and app usage up for sale in some way.

That alone shouldn’t alarm anyone familiar with how the internet works – it’s basically what Facebook and Google do all the time.

But the mining of personal data will only get more sophisticated from here. It is far easier for a billion-dollar company to exploit that data than it is for the average person to stop sharing it.

And when companies decide to exploit your data, they will find little legal resistance.

Because of the way Congress repealed the rules, the Federal Communications Commission cannot propose them again. There is some talk of moving oversight back to the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees web-based companies, but no action so far.

“There are no rules here now,” lawyer Peter Guffin, who heads Pierce Atwood’s privacy and data security practice, told the Press Herald. “There’s a complete vacuum in terms of when an ISP can see into the contents of our communications, what it can do with those contents, and even whether it has to tell us if this data has been hacked.”

INDIVIDUAL STATES NEED TO STEP UP

If anything’s going to be done, it will have to be at the state level. Multiple states are considering bills that mirror the repealed rules. A bill in Massachusetts, for instance, would bar ISPs from collecting, using or disclosing customer information without written consent, and prevent them from charging more or refusing service to customers who refuse to consent. Maine should consider similar legislation.

States should also consider a broader internet user “bill of rights” that would provide universal protection of private information, regardless of the company or industry.

The federal action also highlights the need for competition among service providers. The industry is increasingly ruled by a few huge companies that have little or no obligation to individual customers.

Smaller, local companies – even municipal-based service providers – won’t find it so easy to put shareholders above customer rights.

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Another View: ‘Buy American’ standard doesn’t help starving people http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/another-view-buy-american-standard-doesnt-help-starving-people/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/another-view-buy-american-standard-doesnt-help-starving-people/#respond Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1186297 As many as 20 million people around the world currently face starvation or the risk of it, because of the first United Nations-declared famine since 2011 – in South Sudan – plus the prospect for other famines later this year in northern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.

This preventable tragedy challenges the United States to act according to its proudest humanitarian traditions, not the selfish slogan of “America First.” And it’s an occasion to reconsider the government’s longstanding approach to international food aid, which caters to domestic special-interest groups at the expense of hungry people abroad and taxpayers at home.

Title II of the Food for Peace Act, the main source of emergency food aid, requires the United States to supply international famine-relief programs with American-grown products and to ship at least half of the materiel on U.S.-flagged vessels.

Meanwhile, at least 15 percent of the goods must be “monetized” once they arrive at their destination – that is, resold on local markets by nongovernmental organizations, to fund development projects. Obviously, this is good for American farmers, food processors, maritime unions, ship-owning companies and ports. Equally obviously, it makes the program less efficient than it might be: The set-aside for U.S.-flagged vessels inflates transportation costs; the buy-American rule for commodities prevents purchases from cheaper producers closer to the famine zones, whose productive efforts are also undercut by “monetization.”

Food-aid reform has been a bipartisan cause backed by each of the past two presidents and many members of Congress. However, the powerful lobbies that benefit from the status quo have prevented it. If he’s really interested in improving the cost-effectiveness of aid, President Trump would spend some of his political capital on the cause. Of course, that would also require him to depart from the simplistic “buy American” mind-set he has repeatedly expressed.

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Our View: State Senate should clap handcuffs on bill about hindering arrest http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/our-view-state-senate-should-put-hindering-arrest-bill-in-handcuffs/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/25/our-view-state-senate-should-put-hindering-arrest-bill-in-handcuffs/#respond Tue, 25 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1186361 They say a watched pot never boils, but you don’t hear so much about the corollary: An unwatched pot can boil over before you know it if you’re not paying attention.

Both things are true for the legislative process, which can look like a system designed to keep things from getting done if you closely follow some bills. That masks the fact that hundreds of pieces of legislation fly through the State House every year, and when there’s not sufficient opposition, they end up as state law before all their consequences are fully understood.

That could be the case with L.D. 251, a well-intentioned bill designed to give law enforcement a tool to handle unruly suspects but which could also blast an overly broad hole in civil liberties protections. The bill has already passed without debate (or “under the hammer”) in the House of Representatives, and could be on its way to the governor’s desk if the Maine Senate does not take action and slow it down.

The bill sounds innocuous enough. “An Act Regarding Refusing to Submit to Arrest or Detention” would, among other things, make it a Class D crime, punishable by up to one year in jail, to take any action that “hinders, delays or prevents the lawful arrest or detention.”

Law enforcement organizations say they need the statute to help them in situations where suspects are not compliant, but they have not yet made a clear case for why this new authority would be needed or how it would be contained.

It’s already against the law to refuse to stop for an officer, to resist arrest or to interfere with an officer who is trying to arrest someone else. It’s also already a Class D crime to use force against an officer who is trying to make an arrest, but this bill would lower the bar significantly, making “hindering (or) delaying” the same type of offense as taking a swing at a cop.

The broad language raises difficult questions.

Could the statute be used to pile up numerous charges for the same conduct, giving a prosecutor a stronger hand at plea bargaining? Could it apply to lawfully assembled demonstrators, when police officers wade through a crowd to arrest someone for civil disobedience?

If not, what in the proposed law would prevent those excesses?

There is no reason to rush this piece of legislation into the law books. Members of the Maine Senate should pay some attention to this pot before it boils over. They need to “hinder (and) delay” L.D. 251 before it goes too far.

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Our View: Property tax cut keeps money in the right place http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/24/our-view-property-tax-cut-keeps-money-in-the-right-place/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/24/our-view-property-tax-cut-keeps-money-in-the-right-place/#respond Mon, 24 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185798 Good tax policy demands more than just raising enough money to meet the budget’s bottom line: It also matters where the money comes from.

In Augusta this year, we are seeing two starkly different approaches to tax policy that would have radically different impacts on the lives of the majority of Maine residents.

Gov. LePage kicked off the legislative session with a package of his greatest hits, led by a big tax cut for the state’s wealthiest, paid for with cutbacks of state aid to school districts, municipalities and homeowners. The governor continues to make the case that these kinds of policies would make the state more prosperous, even though six years of experience tells us otherwise.

A much different vision of tax relief has also been presented this year, and it’s one lawmakers should find a way to support. Instead of cutting income tax rates, the plan put together by Democratic lawmakers is focused on reducing property taxes through a package of policies that would relieve the pressure on school districts and municipal governments that has been driving steep increases in recent years.

This is not just a matter of digging into a different pocket of the same taxpayers to fund the government. These strategies would dictate who pays and what services are funded.

The governor’s proposal would move Maine toward a lower income tax, which he would pay for by cutting education, revenue sharing for communities and residential tax relief programs, which he recently described as “anti-business.”

The Democratic proposals start with fully funding K-12 education at the level required by state law. That would deliver $150 million in sales and income tax revenue that would not have to be raised at the local level from property owners.

They would go further with increasing the homestead exemption for primary residences from $20,000 of valuation to $30,000. They would also add $33 million to the property tax fairness credit, which helps people whose property tax exceeds 6 percent of their income, or whose rent exceeds 40 percent of their income.

And they propose adding to state revenue sharing, not eliminating it. Altogether, these policies would make for the biggest property tax cut in Maine history.

The differences between the two approaches could not be more clear. LePage’s plan would put money in the pockets of the top 1 percent, hoping that they would invest some of it locally. According to an analysis by the Maine Center for Economic Policy, LePage’s approach would give people who report more than $384,000 of taxable income a tax break of $22,665 a year. Meanwhile, everybody who earns less than $92,000 a year would see a tax hike.

The Democrats would put money into local schools, public safety and roads.

LePage’s regressive proposals would provide a lot of relief for a few, while making the majority pay considerably more. That’s not the right choice for Maine.

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Another View: Column on health care policy fell far short of the mark http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/another-view-column-on-health-care-policy-fell-far-short-of-the-mark/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/another-view-column-on-health-care-policy-fell-far-short-of-the-mark/#respond Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185245 In his April 12 column, Editorial Page Editor Greg Kesich stated that, contrary to some conservative arguments, “there is no free market in health care because there can’t be.” He then went on to document the ways in which, though we’re often unaware of it, “paying for health care is a government function” in the United States, as it is in most other industrialized countries.

Instructive as these points are, though, they led up to a rather disappointing conclusion: “We’re already paying for a government-funded system, so we ought to demand one that works.”

What one would that be?

How about the Medicare-for-all, single-payer one Michael Bacon outlined in his letter to the editor the next day? Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and David U. Himmelstein described it in their February column in the peer-reviewed Annals of Internal Medicine.

Documenting how such a system would save over $600 billion annually through reduced administrative and prescription drug costs, Woolhandler and Himmelstein showed that replacement of our present multi-payer system with a simpler, more cost-effective, and at last universal, one is doable.

The highly successful and popular Medicare program, universal for those who make it to 65, is a good example of “one that works.”

To learn more about this approach to health care funding, Maine AllCare will be screening “Now Is the Time,” an informative and entertaining film about the surging, if underreported, single-payer movement, on Tuesday, June 6, at 5:30 p.m. at Portland Public Library’s Rines Auditorium. A panel discussion will follow.

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Our View: More debt than opportunity from for-profit colleges http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/our-view-more-debt-than-opportunity-from-for-profit-colleges/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/23/our-view-more-debt-than-opportunity-from-for-profit-colleges/#respond Sun, 23 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185465 A lot has been said about the college debt crisis, but not enough about one of its main causes. For-profit colleges, as a group, not only leave graduates swimming in student loan debt, but also struggling to find well-paying jobs.

That’s a shame, particularly in Maine, where the robust community college system offers a better track record at training and placing workers for a fraction of the cost, and where a stagnant population and the demands of the economy require a well-educated workforce.

HEAVY COSTS, LOWER PAY

Steadily rising costs at colleges of all kinds certainly have contributed to the worrisome level of student debt. But making matters worse are programs that claim to build job skills, yet often fail to land graduates jobs. That’s the experience of many students, in Maine and across the country, who have attended for-profit colleges.

A report released last week by the nonpartisan Center for Responsible Lending found that Maine graduates of for-profit colleges are left with nearly two and a half times the debt of graduates of two-year public institutions: $23,781 versus $10,940.

That scans with a report earlier this year from the federal Department of Education, which found that of the more than 800 career-training programs nationwide that leave graduates with unaffordable student debt – defined as more than 12 percent of total earnings – 98 percent were at for-profit colleges. An early federal study found that public college graduates earn nearly $9,000 more per year than graduates of comparable for-profit career-training programs.

“It’s clear that low performance is concentrated in the for-profit sector,” said Ted Mitchell, then-undersecretary of education.

What’s more, students at for-profit colleges are more likely to take out federal student loans: 75 percent compared to 41 percent at two-year public institutions in Maine.

These schools are filling their coffers with taxpayer-backed loans, then failing to follow through on their promise to prepare students for a better job. That backfired when two of the largest for-profit colleges, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, folded while under investigation for fraud, leaving taxpayers on the hook for forgiven loans, and it is backfiring in Maine when students get nothing but piles of debt out of their for-profit degree.

A BETTER WAY

Far more successful is the Maine Community College System, which is providing better job placement while creating less than half the student debt.

It’s targeting the same population, too: Mainers, many of them nontraditional students, who want job-specific training; 70 percent are in occupational programs.

They are also low-income, with 76 percent of Maine Community College System students qualifying for financial aid, even though the tuition is lowest in New England. Nearly 60 percent attend part-time, and more than a third work at least 30 hours per week.

Maine must reach these students if it wants to compete. The number of high school graduates is down 14 percent since 2008, and is expected to fall another 13 percent by 2032. With 60 percent of new jobs requiring some sort of postsecondary degree, Maine needs most of its high school graduates to go on to college and flourish, both for the sake of the state workforce and the students themselves.

Given the outcomes at for-profit colleges, it also makes sense for Maine to keep an eye on these institutions. Under former President Barack Obama, schools were forced to disclose student earnings, debt and graduation rates, which is why we know so clearly that for-profit colleges as a whole are a failure. The requirements, however, have been under attack since they were proposed, and President Trump may not enforce them.

It would then be up to the state to look out for students. L.D. 1404, a bill from Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, would review for-profit colleges each year, making sure they are serving students. Legislators should give it serious consideration.

With such a strong community college system, there’s no need for Maine to have undertrained workers, or for Mainers to throw away money on junk degrees.

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Another View: Here’s why the French election matters http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/22/another-view-sacre-bleu-why-the-french-election-matters/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/22/another-view-sacre-bleu-why-the-french-election-matters/#respond Sat, 22 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1185310 There may be revolution in the air in France, but not the Bastille kind. Winds of change are howling through the country from Calais to Cannes, and they could replace European unity with circle-the-wagons nationalism.

More so than any other election in Europe this year, France’s presidential ballot Sunday is a referendum on the battered European Union. Though Brexit wobbled the bloc, it wasn’t the existential broadside the French election could deliver. The shadow over the EU’s future comes in the form of not one but two candidates – far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and left-wing populist Jean-Luc Melenchon.

Standing in the way of an EU meltdown: Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old centrist ex-investment banker who believes France’s prosperity is inextricably tied with Europe’s. Sunday’s contest is the election’s first round. If no candidate wins a majority, the top two vote-getters square off in a second round May 7.

EUROPEAN UNITY AT RISK

Postwar European unity has never had it this rough. The debt crisis that roiled several southern European nations beginning in late 2009 was followed by the flood of migrants streaming into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa. Then last summer, the United Kingdom shocked the world by deciding to quit the EU. That, coupled with the ascent of Donald Trump, had European leaders bracing for a populist revolt at the polls this year across the continent.

In national elections in the Netherlands last month, the defeat of ultra-nationalist Geert Wilders was a victory for advocates of continued European integration. Still on tap: elections this fall in EU powerhouse Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats face a challenge from the anti-EU party Alternative for Germany, though that group’s popularity has dipped in recent weeks. On Wednesday, Parliament approved British Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for early elections in June – a bid to grow the number of lawmakers who prefer a smooth Brexit to a more sudden, economically disruptive one.

For the U.S. and the rest of the West, an integrated, cohesive Europe is a stronger, more reliable partner.

It was Europe working as a collective entity that sent thousands of soldiers to bolster American military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. U.S. sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine would have had less bite without the EU joining in.

Russian President Vladimir Putin yearns for the day that Europe fragments into insular, self-interested nation-states that he can meddle with more readily.

Le Pen, 48, who flew to Moscow to meet Putin earlier this year, speaks the Kremlin’s every-country-for-itself language. “The European Union will die!” she recently exhorted at a campaign rally in Lille. “The time has come to defeat the globalists!”

BOTH MELENCHON, LE PEN SEEK EU EXIT

The daughter of nationalist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who once called Hitler’s use of gas chambers a “detail of history,” Le Pen is staunchly anti-immigration, supports abandoning the euro and ultimately the EU and touts protectionism to strengthen the French economy. Polling has her as a safe bet to make it to the second round: She’s buoyed by strong support from French millennials frustrated with 25 percent youth unemployment.

Ideologies aside, in many ways Melenchon’s positions mirror Le Pen’s. He also wants out of the EU and envisions France as a protectionist state. His advisers paint him as a French Bernie Sanders, though commentators have dubbed him a “French Chavez,” and for good reason – he has spoken admiringly of the late Venezuelan socialist leader. Melenchon’s Robin Hood pledges include slapping a 100 percent tax on income earned over $425,000, lowering the official retirement age to 60 and trimming back the workweek. Early on, he was at the back of the pack, but he’s surged to compete with Le Pen and Macron.

Macron, a former economy minister for Socialist President Francois Hollande’s government, offers voters a distinct alternative: expansion of health services and vocational training for youth, support for an open door immigration policy and an embrace of European unity. At a campaign speech earlier this year, he told the crowd France needs Europe “because Europe makes us bigger, because Europe makes us stronger.”

We hope French voters see the bigger picture – the need for European cohesion, now more than ever. With Le Pen or Melenchon at the helm, the idea of France’s exit from the EU becomes real and frightening. It would leave the bloc without any nuclear weapons, without a permanent seat at the U.N. Security Council, and without one of its heftiest economies. An EU collapse could follow.

The West faces persistent terrorism and a resurgent Russia. A further fractured, weakened Europe would make the challenges more daunting.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/22/another-view-sacre-bleu-why-the-french-election-matters/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1185310_RTS12EHB.jpgA man walks past campaign posters of the 11 candidates in Sunday's French presidential election, in Le Soler, France. The shadow over the EU's future comes in the form of not one but two candidates – far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen, second from left, and left-wing populist Jean-Luc Melenchon, third from right. Standing in the way of an EU meltdown: centrist Emmanuel Macron, third from left.Fri, 21 Apr 2017 19:40:32 +0000
Our View: Maine should make it easier for women to access birth control http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/our-view-maine-should-make-it-easier-for-women-to-access-birth-control/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/our-view-maine-should-make-it-easier-for-women-to-access-birth-control/#respond Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1184830 Women use birth control for decades of their lives, but missing even one or two doses can cause an unintended pregnancy, with all the life-changing consequences that entails. A proposal before the Legislature would remove a significant barrier to accessing contraception, and legislators who are committed to the interests of Maine families should support it.

L.D. 1237, sponsored by Rep. Joyce McCreight, D-Harpswell, would allow women who are prescribed birth control to receive up to a 12-month supply with one visit to a pharmacy. Currently, patients have to go back every one to three months for refills.

If that requirement doesn’t strike you as such a big deal, then you’re out of touch with the reality of a lot of women. Inconsistent use of birth control accounts for 41 percent of unintended pregnancies, and University of California at San Francisco researchers found in 2011 that one in four women has missed a day’s dose of contraception because she wasn’t able to get a new pack in time.

Among the reasons for the gap: Women are juggling multiple responsibilities – work, school, raising a family. They’re holding down hourly jobs and can’t afford to take the time to get to the drugstore before it closes. They don’t have reliable transportation – a huge barrier in rural states like Maine.

Women in abusive relationships face challenges of their own in accessing birth control. Bent on maintaining control of his wife or girlfriend, an abuser will throw away mail-ordered medication or obsessively monitor even local trips, making it tough for his partner to get to the pharmacy regularly for refills, Regina Rooney of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence told legislators at Tuesday’s public hearing.

Several other states, including Oregon and California, already have laws in place allowing yearlong contraception prescriptions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backs this approach, too – because it works.

Compared to women who received only a 30- or 90-day supply of birth control, women who received a year’s supply were 30 percent less likely to get pregnant unexpectedly and 46 percent less likely to get an abortion, according to the 2011 UCSF study. With fewer unintended pregnancies, employer-sponsored insurance plans won’t be spending as much on covering prenatal care, labor and delivery.

L.D. 1237 will go a long way toward enabling responsible family planning, and for that reason, it deserves legislative approval. Though hormonal birth control is safe and effective, it won’t benefit women unless they have it when they need it.

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Another View: Sexual abuse scandal mars peacekeepers’ exit from Haiti http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/another-view-sexual-abuse-scandal-mars-peacekeepers-exit-from-haiti/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/21/another-view-sexual-abuse-scandal-mars-peacekeepers-exit-from-haiti/#respond Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1184837 The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti will end in a few months, but not before reckoning with a fresh scandal.

A U.N. battalion of Nepalese peacekeepers in 2010 introduced a lethal strain of cholera to Haiti, where it has since killed over 9,000 people and infected hundreds of thousands. Now, The Associated Press reports that at least 134 U.N. peacekeepers from Sri Lanka took part in a sex ring in Haiti that victimized nine children from 2004 to 2007. The report should serve notice that U.N. peacekeeping operations worldwide are badly in need of reform and oversight.

The sex ring was part of what appears to have been a broader pattern of sexual exploitation and abuse, along with impunity, that has marked the U.N. mission in Haiti since it began in 2004 after an elected president was overthrown. The AP turned up hundreds of allegations of abuse in Haiti, carried out by peacekeepers from Bangladesh, Brazil, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uruguay and Sri Lanka. In very few cases did the troops face discipline.

The U.N. announcement last week that the mission in Haiti would be wound down over the coming six months was unrelated to the AP’s nearly simultaneous revelations of sex abuse by peacekeepers. The troops’ withdrawal reflects both the country’s progress toward stabilization after successful elections and financial pressure to trim peacekeeping operations.

Haiti is by no means the only place peacekeepers have treated as a sexual playground. The United Nations must insist, as a precondition for accepting peacekeeping troops, that contributing countries will court-martial and punish soldiers who commit abuse. It should also sever payments to peacekeeping contingents implicated in sexual abuse if they fail to impose discipline. In the absence of such accountability, peacekeeping missions may do more harm than good.

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Our View: What happened to Gov. LePage’s plan to fix Riverview? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/20/our-view-what-happened-to-gov-lepages-plan-to-fix-riverview/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/20/our-view-what-happened-to-gov-lepages-plan-to-fix-riverview/#respond Thu, 20 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1184227 Late last year, even as they fought over the right way to build a new facility for some patients now at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta, legislators and the LePage administration agreed that the need for such a facility was urgent. Turns out, only one side was serious.

Nearly four months after Gov. Le-Page said he was moving forward with his plan to build the “step-down” facility whether the Legislature liked it or not, there seems to have been little progress, and no word from the governor’s office on what’s holding it up. Meanwhile, the delays in care that the plan was meant to solve continue.

LePage first proposed building the 21-bed facility – which would house forensic patients who no longer need hospital-level care, freeing up beds for those who do – directly next to Riverview.

However, Democrats, concerned about the governor’s desire to have a private company operate the facility, and turned off by the administration’s unwillingness to answer questions about it, exercised legislative leaders’ control over state construction within Augusta’s Capitol Area, voting to kill the proposal until administration officials appeared before the appropriate committees.

LePage lost it. His spokesman accused Democrats of “playing politics,” then said the administration would build the new facility in Bangor instead, outside the Legislature’s purview, despite warning – without further detail – that it would add $1 million to the cost, and despite assurances from both Democratic and Republican legislators that hearings could be held almost immediately, soon enough for construction to start in January.

While Democrats were playing it up for the media and lobbyists, the administration said, the governor was “laser-focused on getting these patients the treatment and facility they need and deserve as soon as possible.”

Just short of four months later, there is no new building, and seemingly no plan for one. Administration officials haven’t briefed the Legislature on what they plan to do. Questions from mental health advocates, legislators and the media have gone unanswered, even unacknowledged. Where there was once so much urgency from the governor’s office, there is now “radio silence,” according to Republican state Sen. Roger Katz, whose district includes Riverview.

And the problems at the hospital continue. While Riverview has made great strides in care, staff shortages and employee morale since its federal certification was revoked in 2013, there remains a widely recognized need for more beds.

Daniel Wathen, the former Maine chief justice who oversees Riverview under a consent decree covering people with severe mental illness under state care, said late last year that the average waiting list for a Riverview bed was nine people, and as high as 16. The executive director of the Maine chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness said she heard of people waiting eight to 12 days in an emergency department hallway for a bed to open up at Riverview.

There is broad agreement that a step-down facility would help alleviate those problems. In fact, it’s the first area of broad agreement since the troubles at Riverview first surfaced.

And still, it appears, nothing is being done. It sure looks like someone was playing politics back in December – it just wasn’t the Democrats.

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Another View: White House is people’s house; they have a right to visitor logs http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/another-view-white-house-is-peoples-house-they-have-a-right-to-visitor-logs/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/another-view-white-house-is-peoples-house-they-have-a-right-to-visitor-logs/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183753 Well, give President Trump credit. This time he’s managed to offend liberals and conservatives to about an equal degree.

The announced policy that White House visitor logs won’t be made public has the Capitol astir. And it should. The White House is the people’s house. It’s not Trump Tower or Mar-a-Lago or one of Trump’s golf clubs.

Trump is a temporary resident, and who comes and goes is the people’s business, period. President Barack Obama had an open policy for eight years wherein logs were released.

What’s up with Trump? His aides say the logs won’t be released until he’s been out of office for five years. That’s preposterous. Any president, if national security demands it, can choose to not disclose visits that need to be kept secret for legitimate reasons.

This new policy smacks of arrogance. No less than Tom Fitton, head of the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, said, “This new secrecy policy undermines the rule of law and suggests this White House doesn’t want to be account to the American people.” Exactly.

And it prompts the question: What’s Trump hiding? Business associates and wheeler dealers? Lobbyists? Donors?

A policy that creates more questions than answers is a bad policy.

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Our View: Lawbreaking motorists shouldn’t be able to hide in Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/our-view-lawbreaking-motorists-shouldnt-be-able-to-hide-on-maine-roads/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/19/our-view-lawbreaking-motorists-shouldnt-be-able-to-hide-on-maine-roads/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183754 Our cars and trucks are safer than ever. So why is the number of Americans dead or injured in crashes each year continuing to climb? We can’t ignore the facts anymore: Phone distraction is killing people on our roads, and as evidence mounts about the hazards of phone use by motorists, a renewed push to ban hand-held devices in motor vehicles in Maine deserves legislators’ support.

Nationwide, according to federal regulators, about 3,500 people were killed in distracted-driving crashes in 2015, around 10 percent of total traffic deaths. The same year, distracted driving was involved in 14 percent of all traffic accidents nationally.

Maine banned texting while driving in 2011. But the law isn’t much of a deterrent, despite the hefty penalties – $250 for the first violation and $500 and license suspension for repeat offenders. Because the state has no ban on hand-held devices, someone stopped on suspicion of texting while driving can easily get off the hook by claiming they were doing something else, such as looking up directions or dialing a phone number.

That would change under a proposal sponsored by state Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham: L.D. 1089 would outlaw the use of any hand-held devices while driving, with a $75 fine for the first offense and a $150 penalty for subsequent ones.

Maine has tried to do this before, in 2015. That measure received broad support in the Senate but ultimately failed in the House. Critics there downplayed the seriousness and scope of the offense and wondered rhetorically whether the state would next try to regulate other driver distractions, such as argumentative spouses or roaming pets.

But there’s solid evidence that texting or using a device is more dangerous than, say, talking with a passenger or changing the radio station. A motorist who’s using a handheld smartphone is a motorist whose hands, eyes and brain aren’t focusing on safe driving. And texting is particularly distracting, researchers have found: When we get a text, it lights up the part of the brain that enjoys pleasant experiences and demands more of them.

It’s no wonder, then, that a 2013 Virginia Tech study concluded that texting triples a driver’s crash risk. The evidence keeps on piling up, including a report released earlier this month: Based on data from hundreds of thousands of drivers, Cambridge Mobile Telematics found that phone distraction had occurred during 52 percent of trips that resulted in an accident.

Texting while driving is making our roads less safe, and Maine’s current regulations don’t go far enough to discourage it. We can’t sit by while the problem gets worse – let’s move ahead with a proposal that will make it harder for the lawbreakers on our state’s roads to hide.

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Another View: Does Trump really want to be the president who broke health care? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/another-view-does-trump-really-want-to-be-the-president-who-broke-health-care/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/another-view-does-trump-really-want-to-be-the-president-who-broke-health-care/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183236 “Obamacare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” President Trump told The Wall Street Journal last Wednesday in a barely veiled threat to defund a crucial part of the Affordable Care Act. The president delivered this threat even though he has no viable replacement plan. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the president said, “should be calling me and begging me to help him save Obamacare.”

No. Trump should be working to preserve the Affordable Care Act, which is delivering health insurance to millions of Americans.

The president’s comments came after he reanimated the drive to repeal and replace Obamacare on Fox Business earlier last Wednesday: “We have to do health care first to pick up additional money so that we get great tax reform,” he said. “So we’re going to have a phenomenal tax reform, but I have to do health care first.”

More desperate than clever, Trump’s talk of annihilating Obamacare, for which he would be justly blamed, is unlikely to coerce Democrats into supporting anything like the House Republican repeal-and-replace plan he backed, which failed to attract enough Republican support to pass the House. The indecency of Trump taking millions of Americans’ health care hostage is compounded by his suggestion that repeal-and-replace is about freeing budgetary space for Republicans to tinker with the tax code rather than about fixing health care. Even posing his threat, meanwhile, is astonishingly reckless.

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Our View: Maine lawmakers should back ‘death with dignity’ bill http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/our-view-maine-lawmakers-should-back-death-with-dignity-bill/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/18/our-view-maine-lawmakers-should-back-death-with-dignity-bill/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1183246 We all know that someday we are going to die, but we don’t know much more about the subject than that.

Death could come suddenly, or slowly; in agony, or in peace; in the chaotic flurry of a hospital intensive care unit, or at home.

Since the end comes differently for everyone, it stands to reason that different people will make different choices when it’s their time. One of the choices available to them should be access to medication that allows the individualto choose when it’s time to go.

That’s why we support L.D. 347, “An Act to Support Death With Dignity.”

The bill creates a process through which a patient facing the end of life has an option that’s not legally available now. Someone with fewer than six months to live would be able to request medication to hasten the end of life. If two physicians agree with the diagnosis and prognosis and believe that the patient has the ability to make a rational choice, the medicine could be prescribed.

It would not be right for everyone. The patient would have to be able to think rationally and advocate for themselves. Some people in great pain may not be considered candidates under this law because they are not in the last six months of their lives. Others would meet the clinical criteria, but would not be ready to give up hope and would choose not to obtain the medication.

Everyone is different, and that’s why it’s important to have choices. Current law cuts down options.

Studies show that 80 percent of people would prefer to die at home, but most people don’t get their wish. More than half die in acute care facilities in hospitals, 20 percent at nursing homes and only 20 percent at home. In Oregon, which legalized doctor-assisted suicide 20 years ago, those numbers are turned upside-down. Patients are less likely to receive intensive care and more likely to die at home than the national averages.

Opponents of the bill warn that it could be turned into a euthanasia program, which people in power could use to cull the disabled or those who need expensive care. Others question whether a manipulative person could take advantage of a very sick person’s finances and then hasten their end.

But it is wrong to force some people to suffer very real pain because someone else could commit a hypothetical offense. There are better ways to protect against wrongdoing.

Legislators shouldn’t make our end-of-life decisions, but they should make all reasonable choices available to us. It should be up to the individual, not the government, to decide how and when the end should come.

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Our View: Court fines put rural Mainers in jeopardy http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/17/our-view-court-fines-put-rural-mainers-in-jeopardy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/17/our-view-court-fines-put-rural-mainers-in-jeopardy/#respond Mon, 17 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1182833 Maine, like too many other states, has two justice systems – one in which a small fine is a minor inconvenience, and another in which it sets off a nasty chain reaction that hurts working Mainers, their kids and their employers, and burdens police and the court system.

For people who fall into the latter system – those who can’t afford to pay on time – fines beget more fines and fees, and even perhaps criminal charges. People are driven into poverty, often the fines are never collected, and no one is made more safe.

A bill now before the Legislature would help Maine take a step away from that unfair and unproductive system. L.D. 1190 would prevent courts from suspending driver’s licenses for failing to pay fines unrelated to driving.

Not only is such an automatic suspension a questionable assault on due process, it is also destructive for low-income Mainers. Already unable to pay the fine, they are hit with additional fines and fees, and they now cannot drive to work, school or even the courthouse without breaking the law.

So what do they do in a state with little to no public transportation? Overwhelmingly, they still drive, now on a suspended license, until a traffic stop days, months or even years later results in what is now a criminal charge, adding costs and consequences for the driver, and additional burdens for police and the courts, all without improving public safety.

In these cases, the law does not accomplish its intended goal. While the threat of a suspended license might give someone who can afford the fine a little push to pay it quickly, it doesn’t help those who can’t. And as the fines and fees escalate, soon the total owed becomes so large that the person gives up on ever paying it. Impeding their ability to get to work doesn’t help, either.

The same could be said for failing to pay fines from minor traffic violations as well. A citation for a broken taillight or rolling through a stop sign can lead quickly to a suspended license too, with the same debilitating effects on the offender, and no true impact on road safety. The Legislature should look at amending this portion of the law as well.

But L.D. 1190 is a good start. The fact is that there are plenty of ways the courts can pressure people to pay fines without taking their license, imposing escalating fees, and harming their ability to travel in such a rural state.

Lawmakers started in that direction last year with the passage of a bill that gave judges more discretion when handing out fines.

They should now pass L.D. 1190, and take one more step toward a more fair justice system.

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Another View: Arkansas execution spree would be a national humiliation http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/17/arkansas-execution-spree-a-national-humiliation/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/17/arkansas-execution-spree-a-national-humiliation/#respond Mon, 17 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1182838 It has been nearly 12 years since Arkansas executed a prisoner, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson wants to kill eight in an 11-day stretch starting next week. His rationale is as harebrained as it sounds: The state needs to hurry to beat the looming expiration date of one of the drugs in its cocktail of lethal injections.

Talk about turning common sense on its head. Even as a federal court granted a temporary reprieve to one of the condemned men, Hutchinson is rushing to end the lives of the other seven on an unprecedentedly tight schedule not because justice demands it; nor because the prisoners’ appeals have run their course; nor even because of the cost to taxpayers of maintaining the men on death row.

In Hutchinson’s view, the pharmacological shelf life of a particular sedative requires that death’s schedule be expedited. So hurried is Arkansas’s timetable that witnesses to the executions – state law requires that six “respectable citizens” attend each one – are in short supply. The director of the Department of Corrections was so concerned at the shortage of volunteers that she asked the Little Rock Rotary Club if it could provide some.

Since 1977, when capital punishment resumed in the United States following a Supreme Court review, no state, not even Texas with its execution enthusiasts, has carried out so many death sentences in such a short span.

Botched executions, resulting in agonizing, drawn-out deaths, have taken place in several states in recent years. As it happens, some of those grisly mishaps arose from problems with the same sedative whose expiration date Hutchinson cites as the pretext for his planned state-sponsored killing spree.

Hutchinson’s plan is not just unseemly. It is a scenario for subhuman suffering. If the state goes forward, it will be a blot on Arkansas, and on America.

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Another View: Crackdown on immigrants will make cities less safe http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/16/another-view-crackdown-on-immigrants-will-make-cities-less-safe/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/16/another-view-crackdown-on-immigrants-will-make-cities-less-safe/#respond Sun, 16 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1182174 I am the daughter of a refugee from Germany. My mother fled to this country in 1936, after my aunt was sent to a concentration camp. My mom was welcomed here in this country.

From kindergarten, I was taught that everyone is created equal. That is what America means to me. I am part of a minority, but in America I am equal in the eyes of the law. Now that most important safeguard is under threat. To change that most fundamental American law will change what this country represents. The proposed laws would make new immigrants guilty until proven innocent. They could be detained for any accusation.

L.D. 366 will do the following that will hinder our local police’s ability to keep the peace and protect our community:

 It amounts to racial profiling by singling out people perceived to be “foreign” for different treatment.

 It undermines the trust between police and communities, which will make immigrant communities fear the police.

 It allows detaining of someone without probable cause, which is unconstitutional.

Local governments should not be forced to choose between their budgets and the constitutional rights of their residents. Ask any police department in Maine, and they will agree with the above.

It is a fact that since 1975, there has not been a single death due to a terrorist attack carried out by any immigrant to this country from any of the nations included in President Trump’s travel ban.

America’s greatest monument is the Statue of Liberty. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” It is our most visible symbol. We won World War II because of those words. We have benefited from everyone that has come to our shores. If you are a patriot, you would not want this law to be passed.

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Our View: Prisoner’s release raises questions about system http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/16/our-view-prisoners-release-raises-questions-about-system/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/16/our-view-prisoners-release-raises-questions-about-system/#respond Sun, 16 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1182200 It was “only a bail hearing,” a judge said Thursday, before letting Anthony Sanborn go home to his family.

But she might as well have set off a bomb in the Cumberland County Courthouse, as shock waves of her decision reverberated across the state.

For the first time, someone convicted of murder in Maine is on his way to be exonerated. Justice Joyce Wheeler didn’t just take a step toward undoing a horrible miscarriage of justice for one man, her decision has implications for police, prosecutors, the media and every member of the public who has had confidence in the criminal justice system.

Sanborn was convicted 25 years ago of the brutal murder of Jessica Briggs and sentenced to spend what would likely be the rest of his life in prison. But because of dogged work by his wife and a court-appointed lawyer, the state’s case was blown to bits, leading Wheeler to deliver one of the judicial understatements of all time:

“This is only a bail hearing,” she said to Sanborn. “So I cannot apologize to you.”

It’s not an exoneration – yet. But it’s hard to see how Sanborn’s conviction can stand now.

Wheeler was presented with evidence suggesting that police and prosecutors withheld information from the defense that would have helped Sanborn, including the fact that a crucial eyewitness was legally blind.

And when that same witness took the stand in Wheeler’s courtroom Thursday, Hope Cady said that not only was her vision too limited to see what she told the jury she had seen, but that she was not even in the place she testified to being on the night of the murder. She lied, she says now, because detectives threatened to send her to a juvenile corrections facility.

She was only 13 the night Briggs was killed and Cady was questioned by detectives with no lawyer or parent present.

After hearing the testimony, Wheeler ruled that there was a “reasonable likelihood” that Sanborn would successfully overturn his conviction. A conviction in a new trial seems out of reach.

There has never been any physical evidence tying Sanborn to the crime and with no eyewitness the state could call, its case becomes all but unwinnable.

There is still legal process that needs to play out to determine whether it was willful misconduct, excessive but well-intentioned zeal or something else that led the state to prosecute the case the way they did, but there are lessons already available to anyone who wants to accept them.

First, it’s a very good thing that Maine does not have the death penalty. Sanborn was 20 years old when he was handed a 70-year sentence. It would likely have been the rest of his life if he had not found a lawyer in Amy Fairfield who was willing to fight for him. But had he been sentenced to death in 1992, none of the problems with his case would have come to light.

The second lesson is about the unreliability of memory. When witnesses are asked to reconstruct what they saw months or years after the fact, their recollection can change, especially if they are intimidated by the questioner or they are just trying to please them.

And it’s important to note how social status colors the way we view events. Sanborn and Briggs were both 16 the night she was killed, and part of a culture of street kids who moved from apartment to apartment, committing petty crimes and only drawing attention when they became a nuisance.

Sanborn’s arrest and conviction were not big news, and when he was sent off to prison, he was largely forgotten by everyone who was not a friend or family member. The defendant, the victim and witnesses were “throw-away kids” in many people’s minds. The community needs to ask itself if it was too quick to accept the official story, and if it’s too quick to throw away others, too.

Now the challenge will be for Sanborn, who at age 44 has to try to build a life that is not consumed with bitterness after spending 25 years in prison.

No judge can ever give him back what he lost. Still, his joy Thursday about what lies ahead was palpable.

When asked if he wanted to say anything in court, he delivered the second greatest understatement of the day.

“No,” he said. “I’m good.”

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Another View: More reversals from Trump on Russia http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/15/another-view-more-reversals-from-trump-on-russia/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/15/another-view-more-reversals-from-trump-on-russia/#respond Sat, 15 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1182226 The U.S. relationship with Russia is in a deep Siberian freeze. After President Trump’s inexplicable affection for Vladimir Putin, Wednesday’s turnabout and surprising embrace of long-standing U.S. foreign policy positions is encouraging.

“We may be at an all-time low,” Trump said of the relationship, echoing the words of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had earlier met with Putin in Moscow.

Tillerson and the Russian foreign minister held a tense and hostile news conference about Syria that didn’t even bother with the usual facade of diplomacy.

Russia is refusing to work with the United States to remove Bashar Assad from power, not even acknowledging that the dictator used poison gas to kill his own people last week.

Tillerson repeated the U.S. position that Russia was complicit in the horrific attack.

At his own news conference later in the day in Washington, Trump completed his reversal on Russia, while still holding out hope that Putin will work with him.

But he also made a few other head-snapping U-turns.

Standing with the NATO secretary-general, he warmly praised the organization he had repeatedly threatened to withdraw from during the campaign.

“I said it was obsolete, it’s no longer obsolete,” Trump said. And while we’re keeping score on policy reversals, Trump is seizing an opening with China.

He said China is not manipulating its currency, a concession in return for its crackdown on North Korea.

This administration revels in mixed messages, and the latest policies might get upended in a month.

But Trump may be shedding his isolationist views and finally adopting a more centrist foreign policy that embraces American leadership in the world.

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Another View: Collins was right to oppose internet privacy rules http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/15/another-view-collins-was-right-to-oppose-internet-privacy-rules/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/15/another-view-collins-was-right-to-oppose-internet-privacy-rules/#respond Sat, 15 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1182251 Re: “Our View: Congress alters notion of privacy in digital age” (March 30):

A few privacy advocates have mistakenly criticized Sen. Susan Collins for her vote to prevent the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules from going into effect.

As the former Democratic chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s leading privacy enforcement agency, which has brought more than 500 privacy cases, including more than 50 cases against companies for misusing or failing to reasonably protect customer data, let me assure you: The FCC’s rules are deeply flawed.

By creating a separate set of regulations that bind only internet service providers – but not other companies that collect as much or more consumer data – with heightened restrictions on the use and sharing of data that are out of sync with consumer expectations, the FCC rejected the bedrock principle of technology-neutral privacy rules recognized by the FTC, the Obama administration and consumer advocates alike.

Protecting privacy is about putting limits on what data is collected and how it is being used, not who is doing the collecting. For that reason, a unanimous FTC – that is, both Democratic and Republican commissioners – actually criticized the FCC’s proposed rule in a bipartisan and unanimous comment letter as “not optimal,” among 27 other specific criticisms of the rule.

For those concerned about what this vote means for their privacy online, it is important to remember that the resolution in Congress has no bearing on the FCC’s legal authority to bring privacy cases against internet service providers that misuse or fail to adequately protect customer data. The FCC has used this authority vigorously over the past several years, and is free to continue to do so moving forward.

In the end, Sen. Collins should be commended for providing the FCC with a “reset” and another chance to get privacy right.

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Another View: Court case raises question – Is there a right not to be annoyed? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/14/another-view-court-case-raises-question-is-there-a-right-not-to-be-annoyed/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/14/another-view-court-case-raises-question-is-there-a-right-not-to-be-annoyed/#respond Fri, 14 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1181740 The group Patriotic Veterans Inc. has asked the Supreme Court to determine whether Indiana’s ban on robocalls – those annoying prerecorded messages that interrupt your dinner or favorite TV show – violates the First Amendment right to free expression.

Lower courts have ruled both ways on similar statutes, and the Supreme Court is the right forum for such disagreements.

Where the court might come down is anybody’s guess. A good case could be made either way, both that robocalls are protected by the First Amendment or that they are not.

If the ban is “content neutral” – in other words, if all calls are banned – then the ban amounts to “reasonable time, place and manner” restrictions on free speech that courts have always recognized. If only some calls are banned, then the ban is likely a violation of free speech rights.

That’s where it gets tricky. Indiana’s ban is aimed especially at political speech, and it makes some exceptions, such as messages from school districts to students, parents or employees and messages to subscribers with whom the caller has a current business or personal relationship.

We can debate the First Amendment implications all day, but such bans rely mostly on two principles that aren’t even in the Constitution.

 The right to privacy: We can only infer that right from various court interpretations of the Constitution.

• The right not to be annoyed: Do we have any more right to prevent someone from reaching us by phone than we do to prevent them from knocking on our door?

It is tempting to wonder what all the hubbub is about. People have so many ways of intruding on our privacy now, including the internet and social media, that it seems overly fussy to worry about recorded phone messages.

But understanding our free speech rights and limitations is vital to thriving in a constitutional republic, so every nuance counts. This would define one of those nuances.

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Our View: Lax vaccine laws put Maine babies at risk of potentially fatal disease http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/14/our-view-lax-vaccine-laws-put-maine-babies-at-risk-of-potentially-fatal-disease/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/14/our-view-lax-vaccine-laws-put-maine-babies-at-risk-of-potentially-fatal-disease/#respond Fri, 14 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1181764 Maine is seeing an alarming spike in cases of pertussis, an infectious respiratory disease that can be deadly to infants – a surge that could have been slowed or even prevented if Gov. LePage were committed to improving Maine’s immunization rate.

Also known as “whooping cough” for the severe hacking suffered by patients, pertussis can last for weeks and cause repeated vomiting and ruptured blood vessels in the eyes. But while the disease can make adults and older children seriously ill, it’s potentially fatal for children under 1 year old, who are at risk of severe breathing problems, pneumonia and seizures if they’re infected with the bacteria.

“I’m honestly a little bit scared,” Yarmouth pediatrician Laura Blaisdell recently told the Press Herald. She believes that Maine is susceptible to a whooping cough outbreak similar to one in California in 2010, when there were 9,000 cases and 10 infant deaths.

The pertussis rate in Maine is consistently far above the national average: 21.1 cases per 100,000 people in Maine in 2015, compared to a national average of 10.3 (the most recent national figures available). There have been 88 cases of pertussis in Maine through April 1 of this year – including several recently reported in the Yarmouth and Cumberland-North Yarmouth school systems – compared to 57 over the same period in 2016.

Not coincidentally, we also have one of the highest rates of unvaccinated schoolchildren in the country. Blaisdell cites the high number of parents who opt out of having their kids immunized as one of the factors driving the current whooping cough surge in Maine: It increases the risk of an infectious outbreak and threatens the health of people who can’t be immunized for medical reasons.

Maine is one of the minority of states that lets parents forgo child vaccinations by citing philosophical objections. So it’s easy to opt out, and efforts to make the process tougher foundered in 2015, when Gov. LePage vetoed a bill that would have allowed parents to opt out for philosophical reasons only if they consulted with a physician.

In other words, parents with persistent, unfounded fears about the safety of vaccines don’t have to sit down with their family doctor and hear the fact-based arguments in favor of immunization. The governor has chosen to enable those who believe they have a right to forgo immunizations and their life-saving benefits – and he should be held accountable for the very likely tragic outcome.

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Our View: State’s Real ID reversal shows a sign of the times http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/13/our-view-states-real-id-reversal-shows-a-sign-of-the-times/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/13/our-view-states-real-id-reversal-shows-a-sign-of-the-times/#respond Thu, 13 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1181015 A decade ago, Maine lawmakers stood up to the federal government, refusing to participate in an expensive program that would threaten our civil liberties.

It looks like that stand is just about over, with the Legislature close to final passage of a bill to comply with the Real ID law. Once it gets to his desk, Gov. LePage has given every indication that he plans to sign it, putting an end to the controversy.

It’s rare to see such a complete reversal of policy. Maine was the first state in the country to refuse to comply with the law, making its position known with nearly unanimous votes in both the state House and Senate. The votes to give up the fight this week were equally one-sided.

WHAT HAPPENED?

What happened? Are lawmakers wrong to retreat from a long-standing position? Or were they wrong in 2007, and are making the right move now?

Neither. The change makes sense because the cost and inconvenience that would have been created by continuing to fight are not worth the shred of privacy that might have been preserved by holding out. If anything, the reversal shows how much has changed in the way we view privacy issues in the last decade, and how much more complicated the problem has become.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act, which set a 2008 deadline for states to issue driver’s licenses that had a machine-readable code containing personal information. Privacy advocates said the licenses would be a bonanza for identity thieves if the cards were lost or stolen, and that nationally networked state databases would be vulnerable to hacking.

Since the cards could be “read” electronically from a distance, critics were legitimately concerned that the government could use them to track individuals as they moved around the country. Maine refused to comply, and other states followed. But most states have since dropped their opposition, leaving Maine as one of a handful of outliers.

Maine driver’s licenses are no longer accepted as legal identification at some federal facilities, and starting next year, they would no longer be acceptable for boarding an airplane. Maine license holders would need to apply for passports if they wanted to travel by air, even if they never planned to leave the country.

And what we’ve learned about privacy since 2007 makes the concerns about driver’s license information seem tame.

The documents leaked by Edward Snowden in 2014 show that the National Security Agency scoops up phone records and has access to vast troves of our internet transactions, including emails and Web searches.

SURRENDERING PRIVACY

And 2007 was also the year that Apple introduced the iPhone. When lawmakers were first debating Real ID, they could have little notion how many people were going to carry around devices that contain far more personal information than could ever be coded on a driver’s license – from credit card numbers to health records along with GPS tracking that keeps an electronic record of nearly every move and conversation.

It can be argued that voluntary vulnerability is different from the government-mandated kind, and the Maine Legislature’s decision to let individuals opt out of Real ID and get a noncompliant license that will allow them to keep driving is a good compromise.

Maine was right to use what little influence it had to force an extended debate about the plusses and minuses of a national identification card and centralized information. But it’s going to take federal action to secure our privacy.

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Our View: ‘Justice for all’ depends on Maine’s legal aid providers http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/12/our-view-justice-for-all-depends-on-maines-legal-aid-providers/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/12/our-view-justice-for-all-depends-on-maines-legal-aid-providers/#respond Wed, 12 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1180577 If we didn’t hear it in school, we heard it on TV: that everyone has a right to an attorney and that “if you cannot afford one, one will be provided to you.” But this constitutional safeguard applies only to criminal defendants, making access to justice tenuous for those without the funds to represent them in custody, eviction, domestic violence and other high-stakes civil cases.

Standing up for disadvantaged Mainers is the goal of Maine’s civil legal aid providers, and a newly released report shows that their efforts put about $105 million into the Maine economy every year. Legal aid benefits not just clients, but also the community as a whole – making it imperative for everyone who truly believes in “justice for all” to be advocates and donors.

University of Maine economics professor Todd Gabe carried out the study for the Justice Action Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization. In 2015, Gabe found, legal aid led to an estimated $37 million in recoveries in individual cases, by helping clients access federal programs (e.g., food stamps), obtain income tax refunds and reductions, and get back money stolen via senior-exploitation schemes or illegal debt collection.

Legal aid services also enabled domestic abuse victims to obtain protective orders, allowed single parents to secure child and spousal support, and helped people facing evictions and foreclosures hang on to their homes.

How does the community benefit? Families who are able to avoid homelessness and domestic violence are less likely to need public assistance, transitional housing and other crisis services – thus saving taxpayers’ money. Assistance to domestic violence survivors reduces the chance of further abuse, paying off for employers in lower health care costs and fewer absences from work. And cities and towns save on General Assistance costs when legal aid groups help asylum seekers obtain work permits.

Civil legal aid’s impact was even greater for systemic cases: It ensured that Maine was able to attract or keep $68 million in federal funds. And because of the services, according to Gabe, 750 Mainers with hearing impairments received hearing aids they had been unable to obtain, while health care coverage was preserved for 33,000 Maine seniors and people with disabilities.

What legal aid providers have been able to get done is even more remarkable considering that the state could use a lot more of them. In 1990, the Muskie Commission concluded that Maine had to have the equivalent of 282 full-time civil legal aid attorneys to address the need for such services here; in 2016, there were just 40 full-time-equivalent civil legal aid lawyers in Maine. As it is, an estimated 75 percent to 80 percent of Mainers who appear before a judge in a civil case wind up representing themselves.

Civil legal aid providers in Maine rely on donated services, state and federal funding and private contributions, but it’s clearly not enough to meet the needs of vulnerable Mainers. No one should have to go hungry or homeless for lack of legal representation – so what are we going to do about it?

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Another View: United took the worst route in dealing with overbooked flight http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/12/another-view-united-took-the-worst-route-in-dealing-with-overbooked-flight/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/12/another-view-united-took-the-worst-route-in-dealing-with-overbooked-flight/#respond Wed, 12 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1180586 United Airlines sure had a twisted way of showing customer appreciation during a Sunday flight out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. A video that’s gone viral shows security officers forcibly yanking a man out of his seat on a United Express flight and dragging him down the aisle by his wrists. Horrified passengers watched – and recorded.

United had overbooked the flight to Louisville. Witnesses reported that airline representatives said they needed four seats for United employees who had to be in Louisville the next day. The airline offered incentives, but when not enough people volunteered to stay behind, the airline randomly selected four passengers to get off the plane.

One of the four – who, according to witnesses, said he was a doctor who needed to see patients the next day – refused to leave after being warned that security would be called. Three officers can be seen yanking the man from his seat while he screams. His head bangs on an armrest. They then grab his wrists and drag him down the aisle on his back.

Unfortunately for United, passengers are watching one of its paying customers be assaulted on the same day Forbes published an account of how to handle just such a situation. The writer, Laura Begley Bloom, recounts a saga in which she, her husband and daughter negotiated with Delta agents and wound up agreeing to cancel their plans to fly to Florida. “But we can’t complain,” she writes. “Do the math – my family and I made about $11,000 from Delta this weekend.”

Everyone at United should read the Forbes article. If the airline wouldn’t or couldn’t make its employees wait for another flight, or fly a different route, or rent a car and drive to Louisville, then United should have accepted what Delta evidently accepts: This may cost us a lot, but it’s cheaper than the headaches if the world sees us manhandling our paying passengers.

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Our View: Maine must make more noise on risks of well-water poisoning http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/11/our-view-maine-must-make-more-noise-on-well-water-poisoning-risks/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/11/our-view-maine-must-make-more-noise-on-well-water-poisoning-risks/#respond Tue, 11 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1179910 When people know the risks that come with drinking well water in Maine, they in large part take appropriate action. With that in mind, the state should be yelling about those risks from the rooftops – instead, it is registering barely above a whisper.

In fact, Maine’s problem with arsenic-laced drinking water gets the most exposure every two years or so, when the matter comes before the Legislature. However, that attention is fleeting – in 2015, a bill aimed at encouraging well tests failed to overcome a veto by Gov. LePage, and nearly two years have passed without a public effort to combat contaminated well water that is commensurate with the damage it causes.

A similar bill is now back before the Legislature, and we hope enough lawmakers will see that the state can’t afford to stay quiet any longer.

The problem starts with the bedrock common to Maine. Naturally occurring arsenic can seep out of that rock and into the groundwater that through private wells provides nearly half of Mainers with drinking water.

About 1 in 8 Maine wells has a level of arsenic higher than the federal standard, and in some regions – Down East, in the Augusta area and along the southern coast – the rate is far higher. In Kennebec County, for instance, 29 percent of wells exceeded the federal standard.

More than half of Maine wells, however, haven’t even been tested, putting tens of thousands of Mainers at risk.

Among many other ailments, arsenic consumption has been linked to various cancers – the elevated incidence of bladder cancer in northern New England has been associated with the use of well water.

Arsenic also causes problems for neurological development in children. A study found that students on well water in the Augusta area and York County lost an average of 6 IQ points compared to their peers on public water.

When people know these risks, they typically take steps toward mitigation – testing, then some sort of filtration system if necessary. A study in Maine by Columbia University found that 73 percent of participants took action after being directly notified that something could be wrong with their well.

But the word isn’t reaching everyone. While the testing rate has jumped in the last 15 years, it is still below 50 percent. The response simply has not matched the scope of the problem; the LePage administration even declined to reapply for a two-year federal grant aimed at increasing well testing.

That could change with L.D. 454. Sponsored by state Rep. Karen Vachon, R-Scarborough, the bill would assess a $10 fee for every test done at the state water-testing lab to pay for outreach and education.

Coupled with funding to help low-income Mainers with problem wells purchase filtration systems, it would make a real difference. Research has shown that people will respond to a campaign of similar messages over various media – think newspaper, TV and radio ads, and fliers in the mail, at school and at the doctor’s office.

That message has been muffled. Lawmakers should vote to make it loud and clear.

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Another View: Time to reverse a culture of abuse that hurts young athletes http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/11/another-view-time-to-reverse-a-culture-of-abuse-that-hurts-young-athletes/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/11/another-view-time-to-reverse-a-culture-of-abuse-that-hurts-young-athletes/#respond Tue, 11 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1179924 It is horrifying enough that more than 100 women and girls may have been abused by a single USA Gymnastics doctor. It is more horrifying still that Larry Nassar was likely one among many. The widespread abuse of female athletes at USA Gymnastics came into the spotlight last summer. Now, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has introduced a bill to close some of the loopholes that let it happen.

For at least a decade, Nassar, the subject of congressional testimony last month from high-profile gymnasts, passed off the assaults as treatment for muscular maladies. (He has denied any wrongdoing.)

Nassar is just the latest in a line of USA Gymnastics staff who used their authority to abuse. The Indianapolis Star reported in August that USA Gymnastics had complaint files on 54 coaches from 1996 to 2006 who may have assaulted gymnasts as young as 10. Since then, many more women have come forth with their stories. USA Swimming and USA Taekwondo have also been the subject of recent lawsuits.

Organizations like these have failed to forward abuse complaints to law enforcement in part because they have no federal duty to do so. Feinstein’s bill would change that by establishing a nationwide reporting rule for amateur athletic governing bodies. It would also require the bodies to conduct stricter oversight of affiliate facilities, create easy mechanisms for making abuse complaints and track coaches who are the subject of complaints to keep them from moving to new states – and new athletes – when they get caught.

It will take more than top-down actions from the Senate to reverse a culture that failed so many for so long, but at least Feinstein’s bill would write responsibility into law.

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Our View: Actions against noncitizens will make matters worse http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/10/our-view-actions-against-noncitizens-will-make-matters-worse/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/10/our-view-actions-against-noncitizens-will-make-matters-worse/#respond Mon, 10 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1179354 Federal authorities are snatching immigrants with seemingly little coherence, taking them from outside of schools and inside courtrooms, and depositing them in a shadowy court process where they are at deep disadvantage. That’s not a way to make the country safer – it’s a recipe for chaos and suffering.

Maine received a whiff of it last week as a 28-year-old Somali immigrant was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents following a court appearance in Portland.

It is concerning that, as in other cases across the country, Abdi Ali, an asylum seeker who lives in Westbrook, was picked up in a courthouse, where others with vulnerable immigration status go to seek justice and otherwise participate in our legal system.

Ali appears to have a long criminal history, although it is unclear just what triggered last week’s detention – the Trump administration hasn’t exactly been open with the rules of what is already an opaque process, just adding to the uncertainty.

And there have been countless others caught up in the ICE dragnet who have not committed any serious crimes, people with real connections to their communities who have seen their lives torn apart for no good reason.

A woman and small-business owner in Lawrence, Massachusetts, who raised three children here. A man arrested while dropping his children off at school. A woman in El Paso, Texas, who was picked up while seeking a protection from abuse order.

Violent criminals have rightly been detained, too, continuing the policy of the Obama administration.

But for many, their only crime is being in the country at all, or for some, a misdemeanor or two. And when it is unclear who is being targeted for deportation, everyone feels like they are in the crosshairs.

That is sending a chilling message to millions of noncitizens who now fear that any misstep, or even leaving their house, can lead to deportation. Do we really want to rip apart families, or send asylum seekers back to their war-torn countries, for a violation that barely warrants probation?

It’s also critical that we ask what we want of the immigrants, documented and otherwise, who have laid down roots here, had children, worked, and paid taxes. Do we want them to trust our institutions, to come forward as crime victims and witnesses, or do we want them to avoid the authorities at all costs?

Do we want them to participate in their communities, start businesses, and take part in their kids’ education, or should they remain forever separate until the day ICE takes them off a sidewalk?

The increased enforcement by the Trump administration has answered both questions in the most counterproductive way. The cold-hearted arrests of people who pose no undue risk to public safety, and certainly no risk to national security, when taken alongside the president’s well-known inflammatory rhetoric against noncitizens, are making it harder for immigrants to contribute in the way we expect.

We’d be much better off if President Trump threw his energy into creating an immigration system that moves people who are already integrated into American society clearly and fairly toward citizenship, or at least allows for the stability of legal status, and which provides protection for those seeking asylum.

Trump, too, could do better than his predecessor in dealing with the deportation of violent criminals, a problem that vexed President Obama.

At least then he would be making the U.S. more safe, rather than strafing anxiety and fear through a population that only wants safe harbor and opportunity.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/10/our-view-actions-against-noncitizens-will-make-matters-worse/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1179354_890092-20170406_ICE_0047.jpgThough Abdi Ali appears to have a long criminal history, it's unclear what triggered immigration agents to detain him Thursday, when lawyer Tina Nadeau, above, was advising him at the Portland courthouse.Sun, 09 Apr 2017 18:05:04 +0000
Another View: Ocean wind would spoil Monhegan, a Maine treasure http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/09/another-view-ocean-wind-would-spoil-monhegan-a-maine-treasure/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/09/another-view-ocean-wind-would-spoil-monhegan-a-maine-treasure/#respond Sun, 09 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1178701 In his April 3 column, “Maine Voices: Lawmakers should allow Maine Aqua Ventus to move forward,” James Balano presents a very myopic perspective of the importance of Monhegan Island in both the cultural history of this country and present-day Maine.

It is indisputable that the scale of the turbine will severely mar the aesthetic quality of this magnificent stretch of midcoast Maine.

It doesn’t take a computer-generated visualization study to make that judgement. Just look to the scores of renowned artists who made Monhegan their principal subject, beginning at the turn of the 20th century with Robert Henri and including names like Hopper, Kent, Wyeth and Homer, to name just a few.

As George Bellows said in 1911 of Monhegan, “This is the most wonderful country modeled by the hands of the master architect.”

To take this, yes, sacred place along the Maine coast and install a massive experimental piece of industrial infrastructure would be a tragedy. This is an important destination to all who visit Maine today, whether visually from a passing boat or while hiking its magnificent coast.

It is tragically short-sighted to degradate this state and national treasure in the name of “gathering research” for what could be a 20-year term, particularly when there are an infinite options with far less aesthetic impact.

Yes, wind is a valuable resource, but so is this yet-unspoiled masterpiece of the land and sea scape of Maine. Lawmakers need to understand that there is a large contingent that would deem it an absolute tragedy to allow the Aqua Ventus project to proceed.

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Our View: Maine lawmakers should study tipped wage, not cut it http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/09/our-view-maine-lawmakers-should-study-tipped-wage-not-cut-it/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/09/our-view-maine-lawmakers-should-study-tipped-wage-not-cut-it/#respond Sun, 09 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1178722 A new law was on the table, and the hospitality industry marched to Augusta.

Waiters and bartenders pleaded with lawmakers not to upset a system that was working for them. Owners of establishments warned that the changes could drive many of them out of business. Industry representatives argued that the Legislature should not interfere with a consumer’s free choice.

But in the end, the Legislature stood fast. The year was 1999; the issue was whether to ban smoking in restaurants.

Clearly, none of the negative predictions came true. Smokers learned to smoke outside. Nonsmokers were happy to find that they could spend an evening out with friends and not come home smelling like an ashtray. Everyone adapted to the new rules, and restaurant and bar business has exploded over the last 18 years.

Now we are hearing some of the same arguments over a different issue: the seven-year phase-out of the subminimum wage for tipped workers, established by referendum last year.

NEW ANXIETY

Like the smoking issue a generation ago, this change has fueled anxiety in the hospitality industry, which, until Jan. 1, had been able to pay workers who received tips just $3.75 an hour, relying on the generosity of customers to pay the rest. The new law increases the minimum for tipped workers to $5 an hour. Although it’s been in place only for three months, we are already hearing predictions of dire economic consequences.

Bills before the Legislature, including LD 673, would restore the old system, but it’s far too early for lawmakers to overrule the voters, especially since they have little information about the impact of the increase. There is a better option. Sen. Troy Jackson of Allagash, the Democratic floor leader, has proposed a one-year study of the tipped wage and the impact of gradually increasing the hourly rate over time (LD 1117). The study would be designed and overseen by a range of people affected by the new wage. They would report back to the Legislature with real data to inform any changes that legislators may consider making.

Lawmakers owe this type of careful consideration to the voters, who approved the minimum-wage referendum in November by a large margin. It was by far the most popular item on the ballot, getting more votes in Maine than any of the presidential candidates. This decision should not be pushed aside without a good reason.

With Question 4, voters changed the minimum wage in three ways: The regular minimum went from $7.50 an hour to $9 on Jan. 1 and is slated to go up $1 per hour a year until it reaches $12 in 2020. The tipped minimum wage went from $3.75 to $5, and it too is scheduled to increase by $1 per hour, per year until it’s the same as the regular minimum, no sooner than 2024. After 2020, the minimum wage increases with inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

Now some lawmakers and industry lobbyists, including those who have opposed all previous attempts to raise the minimum wage, claim that tipped workers should be carved out of the increase. They say paying a higher base wage would drive up prices, scare away customers and eliminate jobs. They are supported by a group of tipped employees who say that they are making a good living under the old system and don’t want to risk changing it.

But the old system was not a good deal for everyone. Most servers don’t work in a high-end eatery, where their tips are calculated as a percentage of $30 entrées. An employee only needed to make $30 a month in tips – just under $7 a week – to qualify for the $3.75-per-hour base.

If their total wages for the hours they worked, including tips, didn’t add up to the full minimum wage, their employer was required to make good. But what if the employer refused? Making a subminimum-wage worker pursue a complaint at the state Department of Labor is asking a lot, especially if the employee is trying to keep his job. We should not read too much into the fact that there are few such complaints on record.

QUESTION AT HAND

But designing the fairest wage structure for the restaurant industry is not the question that stands before the Legislature right now.

A citizen-initiated law is in effect: The only question is whether the Legislature is going to respect the will of the voters, or if it will ignore it and take money away from some of the state’s lowest-paid workers.

Just as with the smoking ban, lawmakers are hearing horror stories about what might happen, but not much about what the law’s real effects on real people will be. The only way to get that information would be to monitor the law that the voters have already put in place and propose evidence-based changes, if necessary. If there are negative consequences for restaurant employees, of course the law should be changed. But it seems as though some people are determined to change it quickly, before anyone can find out whether the new law is an improvement.

Jackson’s bill is the right compromise for this contentious issue. Lawmakers on both sides should take this opportunity to respect the voters while doing what’s best for tipped workers.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/09/our-view-maine-lawmakers-should-study-tipped-wage-not-cut-it/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2015/07/682867_575665-tipping0012.jpgAveril Burner, a server at David’s in Portland, interacts with customers – from left, Brittany Kerrigan-Okamoto and Michelle Kerrigan, both of Palo Alto, Calif., and Matt Paradis of Portland – at the restaurant on Thursday. The Maine Department of Labor says about 40 percent of workers earning minimum wage in the city are tipped employees.Fri, 07 Apr 2017 18:51:34 +0000
Another View: Strike raises question – what’s next in Syria? http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/08/another-view-strike-raises-question-whats-next-in-syria/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/08/another-view-strike-raises-question-whats-next-in-syria/#respond Sat, 08 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1179037 Even when President Trump appears to have done the right thing it can leave you scratching your head.

The unexpected cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base in response to the despicable President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people was measured and appropriate.

In fact, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier recommended the same tactic to keep Assad’s air force from getting off the ground to wage chemical warfare on innocents. But few expected Trump to take that course.

This is the “America First” president, who campaigned on a pledge to not get overly involved in foreign disputes. Yet by taking military action against the Assad regime he may have opened the door to greater U.S. intervention in a civil war in which Russia, which Trump has been accused of being too cozy with, is decidedly on the other side. Moscow was quick to denounce the missile strikes launched from two U.S. destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

AFTER THE ATTACK

The strikes came after the Pentagon provided evidence that a chemical attack Tuesday on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province was carried out by Syrian aircraft that flew from the Shayrat air base. Video and photographs of the aftermath showed dozens of victims, including small children, some dead, others convulsing, coughing up blood, or foaming at the mouth as they gasped for enough breath to stay alive.

Either the nerve agent sarin or chlorine gas is believed to have been used to commit the atrocity. In announcing the missile strikes Thursday night, Trump said: “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” He said years of previous attempts to change Assad’s behavior had all failed, leading to continuation of the Syrian civil war and a subsequent refugee crisis that in destabilizing the region threatens the United States and its allies.

So, what comes next? Trump has been fighting accusations that his election campaign may have colluded with the Russians to help him win the presidency.

But his attack on the Syrian air base is in a sense a rebuke of Russia, which was supposed to have worked out a deal with Assad in 2013 to destroy his chemical weapons arsenal.

MORE MILITARY STEPS?

A Pentagon spokesman says Russian forces in Syria were warned of the imminent missile strikes on the airfield so they could get out of harm’s way.

Sens. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) said Trump should take additional military steps to cripple Assad’s air force. But Trump may not be willing to go that far. After all, earlier he seemed visibly unmoved by images of the Khan Sheikhoun victims.

Trump must consider the Russian response to any U.S. escalation. Next week’s scheduled meeting between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian President Putin should provide some indication of that.

More importantly, Trump must consider the response of the American public.

A wave of sympathy for the gassed victims of the murderous Assad will dissipate like the wind if Americans feel this country is being drawn into another long, indecipherable war in the Mideast where it’s difficult to tell who is friend or foe.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/08/another-view-strike-raises-question-whats-next-in-syria/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1179037_US_Syria_28178.jpg-56d0c.jpgThe guided-missile destroyer USS Porter launches a Tomahawk missile early Friday, one of 59 targeting a Syrian air base where Monday's chemical weapons attack on civilians was launched.Fri, 07 Apr 2017 22:45:34 +0000
Our View: Consumer agency works for ‘forgotten Americans’ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/07/our-view-consumer-agency-works-for-forgotten-americans/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/07/our-view-consumer-agency-works-for-forgotten-americans/#respond Fri, 07 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1178171 Officials who credit their election to a wave of populist resentment are now doing their best to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which has won back billions of dollars for millions of bilked Americans.

Some of the bureau’s biggest critics – including 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who started attacking the bureau during his first term and hasn’t let up since – are Wall Street’s biggest champions, because they get a lot of money from the financial sector. But if they were truly committed to acting in the interest of the people who President Trump has called “forgotten Americans,” these lawmakers would fight efforts to defang the bureau and work to strengthen it instead.

The bureau was created after the collapse of 2008 made it clear that ordinary Americans needed protection from harmful banking and lending practices. It played a key role in investigating Wells Fargo for creating millions of fake customer accounts and fined the bank $185 million. It’s returned $60 million to service members charged excess interest on student loans; military families dealing with illegal foreclosures and predatory lenders have gotten back $120 million.

And when low-income Americans who rely on prepaid debit cards were denied access to their own cash, the bureau ordered card providers like RushCard and NetSpend to pay a total of $66 million in fines and restitution. All told, as a result of the bureau’s work, about 29 million U.S. consumers have gotten back nearly $12 billion.

The financial industry, however, hasn’t welcomed the bureau’s enforcement and reform efforts. And when Wall Street isn’t happy, neither are the Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee. They want to fire bureau director Richard Cordray, repeal the bureau’s consumer complaint system, reduce its ability to make rules and bar it from imposing fines or other penalties on the institutions it regulates.

Who’d benefit from a neutered Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? Not just the financial sector but also the politicians who barraged Cordray with questions and often-vague accusations at what was supposed to be a routine Financial Services hearing Wednesday, including Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas and Ann Wagner of Missouri, as well as Maine’s Poliquin.

Hensarling, Wagner and Poliquin each have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from the financial, insurance and real estate sector. Undoubtedly, so have their committee colleagues, given how much all politicians depend on the finance industry to fund their campaigns. Everyone wins – except the “forgotten Americans.”

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/07/our-view-consumer-agency-works-for-forgotten-americans/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1178171_edi.0408.jpgProposed Republican reforms would erode the authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect ordinary Americans from harmful banking and lending practices.Thu, 06 Apr 2017 23:44:00 +0000
Another View: To be a child in Syria: Gas attacks and a world that tolerates them http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/07/another-view-to-be-a-child-in-syria-gas-attacks-and-a-world-that-tolerates-them/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/07/another-view-to-be-a-child-in-syria-gas-attacks-and-a-world-that-tolerates-them/#respond Fri, 07 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1178179 To be a child in war-ravaged Syria is to know fear and suffering, death and destruction. But there is a difference, especially for children, between knowing terrible things and comprehending them. Imagine the panic and confusion early Tuesday after the bombs dropped in northern Syria as children began struggling to breathe. There was something poisonous in the air, causing asphyxiation and foaming at the mouth: a gas attack!

Dozens of people were killed, including at least 11 children, and hundreds were injured in an apparent chemical weapons attack that, if proved, would constitute a war crime. Those taken to clinics stood a better chance of recovering, though an antidote, pralidoxime, is said to be in short supply.

Syria’s chaos meant confirming details was difficult. The attack occurred in Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held town. Witnesses, including victims and anti-government sources, linked the gassing to a Syrian government aerial bombing. Doctors suspected nerve gas – a mix of sarin and chlorine. “The symptoms were pale skin, sweating, narrow or pin-eye pupils, very intense respiratory detachments,” one doctor told CNN. “Those symptoms match the usage of sarin.”

The war in Syria grinds on without mercy: The despot leader of the government, Bashar Assad, is squared off against anti-government forces in a vicious civil war; at the same time, the Islamic State tries to occupy the power vacuum in Syria’s interior and struggles against the U.S.-led coalition. The Russians are in Syria, too, at Assad’s side. The Syrian government denied responsibility for the gas attack, but Assad on several documented occasions has used chemical weapons on his own people.

Assad’s war has killed nearly 500,000 people and driven 6 million from their homes and villages. The fighting has lasted six years, which means many Syrian children know nothing of the world but war and worry.

To be a child in Syria is to live or die with these truths, secure in the knowledge that for six years the rest of us have let them happen.

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Our View: Protecting our nature economy relies on taking the long view http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/06/our-view-protecting-our-nature-economy-relies-on-taking-the-long-view/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/06/our-view-protecting-our-nature-economy-relies-on-taking-the-long-view/#respond Thu, 06 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1177596 The worst of a drought that at one point gripped much of Maine is over – we have the late-season snowstorms to thank for that.

But the drought’s effects will linger for a while, nowhere more noticeably than in the state’s multimillion-dollar brook trout fishery, which took a hit as streams and brooks dried up across the state.

The good news is that the resilient brookies will rebound quickly, aided by anglers who put the industry’s long-term health above short-term concerns. If the drought shows how an economy built on natural resources is vulnerable to the whims of nature, then these fishermen prove that we are not powerless if we look ahead.

As the historically severe drought intensified last fall, affecting more than 1 million Mainers, the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife issued an advisory asking anglers to go easy on cold-water species like brook trout. Low water levels had left brookies stranded and unable to move to the colder habitat they prefer, making them easier prey in shallow pools, and weaker and less able to survive handling by fishermen favoring catch and release.

Protecting brook trout is of the utmost importance – they are why many people come to fish in Maine, home to 97 percent of the wild brook trout waters in the eastern United States. Fishing in Maine generates more than $300 million a year, and 60 percent of Maine fishermen and 47 of nonresidents say they are looking for brook trout.

Press Herald reporter Diedre Fleming talked to a few fishermen who took the advisory to heart. Evelyn King of Cundy’s Harbor said she didn’t fish last fall. “We used the drought as an opportunity to learn more about where the fish’s pools were,” she said.

Todd Towle, a Registered Maine Guide, stopped too, saying he didn’t want to risk damaging the population of wild brook trout that drives his business. “People don’t come to fish in Maine for a hatchery system,” he told Fleming.

As anglers set out this spring to fish their favorite spots, they should keep that in mind, and look for signs that fishing too much this year could worsen their catches in coming years. Not all do – there have been anecdotal reports of fishermen targeting fish in depleted waterways, where they are more easily caught.

We should remember the responsible fishermen when evaluating other actions related to managing natural resources and promoting outdoor recreation.

It is a philosophy like theirs that has led to the preservation and maintenance of valuable habitat, and the introduction and enforcement of zoning laws that limit pollution.

And it’s the same philosophy that says we should be preparing locally for the effects of climate change, in order to limit the impact of floods and droughts, and of rising temperatures and altered landscapes.

With so much riding on nature, we have to take the long view.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/06/our-view-protecting-our-nature-economy-relies-on-taking-the-long-view/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1177596_616553_20161121_stocking_tr.jpgTom McLaughlin, fish culture supervisor at the Governor Hill Hatchery, releases a brooder brook trout into Jamie's Pond in Farmingdale last November. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife released dozens of the 3- or 4-pound fish in lakes across Maine to build up trout stocks. After serving as breeders at the Augusta hatchery, "we retire them to the lakes for ice fisherman," McLaughlin said.Wed, 05 Apr 2017 23:15:59 +0000
Another View: Valuable pollinators spared from Trump administration’s regulation rollback http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/06/another-view-valuable-pollinators-spared-from-trump-administrations-regulation-rollback/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/06/another-view-valuable-pollinators-spared-from-trump-administrations-regulation-rollback/#respond Thu, 06 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1177600 President Trump and the Republican Congress have engaged in a broad regulatory rollback, hitting everything from internet privacy standards to workplace safety rules and environmental regulations. So it is more notable than usual that one worthwhile federal regulatory initiative got through recently: The rusty patched bumblebee is being added to the endangered species list after all.

Not only is it remarkable that the Trump administration allowed the listing to proceed over objections from fossil-fuel and other business interests, it also highlights the ongoing importance of caring for at-risk pollinators, which, free of charge, play a crucial role in growing the nation’s food and powering its agricultural economy.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that insects, mostly bees, contribute about $3 billion of economic value to the United States every year.

Citing “a swift and dramatic decline since the late 1990s,” the service had moved to list the species as endangered just before Trump’s inauguration. “Abundance of the rusty patched bumble bee has plummeted by 87 percent, leaving small, scattered populations in 13 states and one (Canadian) province,” the service warned in a Jan. 10 announcement.

But the Trump administration froze all new regulations when Trump entered office, so the listing did not come into effect on Feb. 10, as planned. Fortunately, the delay was not a long one: The first bumblebee and first bee of any type in the continental United States is now officially protected under the Endangered Species Act.

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Our View: To fight addiction, fund mental health care for teenagers http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/05/our-view-to-fight-addiction-fund-mental-health-care-for-teens/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/05/our-view-to-fight-addiction-fund-mental-health-care-for-teens/#respond Wed, 05 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1177168 Ninety percent of people who are addicted to drugs started using them as teenagers. Most people with substance use problems also suffer with a co-occurring mental illness. And anywhere from 60 percent to 90 percent of teens who have a mental illness aren’t getting treated.

So if we ever want to stop the spread of drug addiction, we have to get serious about early intervention and mental health care for teens.

“Lost,” the newspaper’s 10-part series that concluded Tuesday, shows how challenges early in life can cause lasting damage. Look at the profiles of some of the people who have died from opioids in Maine in the past two years: Ashley Rideout, who was sexually abused by her stepfather and developed depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Matthew McCarthy, who struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder and low self-esteem. Utopia Brooks, who spent time in foster care when her mother became addicted to OxyContin. Darrell Clapper, who dropped out of school after being targeted by bullies.

The best way to stop the overdose death toll from climbing is to prevent young people from ever seeking out these dangerous drugs, but classroom lectures about the risks and consequences they face won’t mitigate the emotional pain that makes them self-medicate. Young people who are vulnerable have to have consistent, individualized care and attention.

We can’t slow down the spread of addiction without expanding access to mental health services – so it’s unconscionable that Maine is making it harder, not easier, for at-risk kids to get the help they need.

For every 10 people who have a substance use disorder, six also have a mental illness. Why? The diseases involve similar regions of the brain; they share genetic factors, and each can be triggered by experiences such as stress or trauma, including physical or sexual abuse.

Most importantly, both diseases often begin in adolescence, when the brain is vulnerable to disruption as it develops and matures. Consider this: Of the young people age 12 to 17 who had a substance use disorder in 2014, 28.4 percent had also weathered a major depressive episode in the past year. Among their non-addicted peers, only 10 percent had experienced depression.

Both addiction and mental illness respond to treatment – including medication and counseling – but it has to start early so that the brain can be rewired before an individual gets stuck in self-defeating patterns.

It’s a bad time for Maine to forfeit federal funds that allow intervention to take place. However, that’s exactly what our state has done, according to a report out recently from the Maine Center for Economic Policy. Last year, when an average of one person a day died of an overdose in Maine, the state Department of Health and Human Services failed to spend $800,000 in federal funds available to help adolescents struggling to overcome addiction.

Also in 2016, the DHHS left on the table an additional $3 million available from the U.S. government when it canceled, without explanation, a program that successfully provided wrap-around services to young adults who have or are at risk of developing a mental illness: coaching, care coordination, psychiatric treatment and peer mentoring. (Among the services affected was Portland Identification and Early Referral, which began at Maine Medical Center and has become a national model.)

The state didn’t even have to provide matching funds to access the federal money for these substance abuse and mental health programs, yet it was left behind anyway, ACLU of Maine director Alison Beyea said in a March 31 Maine Voices op-ed. The DHHS has failed some of Maine’s most vulnerable citizens, and all of us will pay the price.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/05/our-view-to-fight-addiction-fund-mental-health-care-for-teens/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1177168_588466-Family_Gail-McCarthy-e1491391815975.jpgWithin about 18 months, Gail McCarthy lost both Ashley, 21, and Matthew, 24, to overdoses. Driven largely by a combination of environmental factors and genetics, addiction shares some underlying causes with mental illness.Wed, 05 Apr 2017 07:30:37 +0000
Another View: Trump finds getting out of NAFTA not so easy as he had claimed http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/04/another-view-trump-finds-getting-out-of-nafta-not-so-easy-as-he-had-claimed/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/04/another-view-trump-finds-getting-out-of-nafta-not-so-easy-as-he-had-claimed/#respond Tue, 04 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1176528 President Trump campaigned hard against the North American Free Trade Agreement, at one point declaring that the tariff-slashing pact with Canada and Mexico, in effect for 23 years, “has been a disaster for our country” and “has to be totally gotten rid of.” On another occasion, he pledged “to immediately renegotiate the terms of that agreement to get a better deal for our workers. And I don’t mean just a little bit better, I mean a lot better.” If our neighbors to the north and south did not agree to renegotiate, Trump said, then he would serve notice of American intent to exit the deal.

Now that his administration has revealed its draft NAFTA agenda, in the form of a letter to Congress from the acting U.S. trade representative, it would appear that Trump’s bark had little relationship to his bite. In tone, the document is conciliatory. Its preamble takes note of the extensive trading relationships that have flowered under NAFTA, and speaks of the great “potential . . . benefit” to the United States of “improving” it. In substance, it is conventional: a list of implicit but clear allusions to long-standing U.S. concerns such as domestic-content rules for the North American motor vehicle industry and Canada’s protection of its dairy farms.

Indeed, the president’s hostile and bombastic rhetoric – especially toward Mexico – has probably made it more difficult for the NAFTA countries to deal with the United States, when the talks do commence some months from now. Trump’s vilification of NAFTA may set a record for being simultaneously inflammatory and – we now know – hollow.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/04/another-view-trump-finds-getting-out-of-nafta-not-so-easy-as-he-had-claimed/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1176460_AP_Poll_Trump_Russia_06907..jpgPresident Trump has donated $78,333.32, his salary for his first three months in office, to the National Park Service.Mon, 03 Apr 2017 20:22:18 +0000
Our View: Thibodeau deserves praise for speaking out http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/04/our-view-thibodeau-deserves-praise-for-speaking-out/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/04/our-view-thibodeau-deserves-praise-for-speaking-out/#respond Tue, 04 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1176536 We don’t usually praise people for simply doing their jobs. It’s like writing about the dogs that don’t bite or the houses that don’t burn down. We assume that everyone has a job to do and if they get a paycheck, they should consider themselves thanked.

But in politics these days, ordinary behavior can seem like an extraordinary event, and we don’t want to let moments of normalcy pass without comment.

So we salute Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, for delivering one of these moments. In his role as the leader of half of one of the three branches of government, Thibodeau has called on members of his own party to stop petty personal attacks against Democrats, which poison the public’s opinion of government and make it harder for lawmakers of good will to get together and pass a state budget. In other words, he did his job.

Wow! You don’t see that every day.

Thibodeau’s words last week sounded like something from a simpler time, when politics ended on Election Day and lawmakers prided themselves on their ability to govern.

“We’ve got problems to solve,” Thibodeau said. “We ought to focus on them, there are plenty of things to have disagreements about. Let’s have disagreements about things that are important to the people that sent us here.”

He was responding to a steady stream of escalating attacks coming from the state’s Republican Party headquarters, closely matching the talking points delivered by Gov. LePage in various talk-radio appearances. Together they have been hammering state Rep. Ryan Tipping, D-Orono, who took a job between legislative sessions working for the successful Question 2 referendum, which asked voters if they wanted to raise money for education by increasing the income tax on the highest earners.

LePage and the state party have been demanding that Tipping resign his co-chairmanship of the Taxation Committee – even his seat in the Legislature. The party is now circulating a petition that accuses House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, of covering up corruption because she won’t punish Tipping, even though there is no evidence that he violated any conflict-of-interest rules.

Political parties have a job to do. They recruit candidates, raise money and assist in campaigns. It’s important work, but it should not get in the way of governing.

Legislators like Thibodeau have a much harder job. They have to study issues and sit through hours of meetings and floor debate, while negotiating with people representing every interest imaginable. In the end, their biggest accomplishments are compromises that are often belittled by newspaper editorial boards and political opponents on all sides for going either too far or not far enough.

The job of governing gets even harder when the political operatives get in the way, as the people in the Maine Republican Party are doing right now. The most effective check on excessive partisanship is for respected leaders inside the party to speak up.

That’s Thibodeau’s job, and he’s doing it. It’s worth a round of applause.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/04/our-view-thibodeau-deserves-praise-for-speaking-out/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1176536_588880_20160118_mlk_dinne_2.jpgMaine Senate President Michael Thibodeau speaks during the 35th annual Martin Luther King Jr. dinner in Portland hosted by the NAACP Portland branch on Jan. 18, 2016. It was the first time in the event's 35-year history that a Republican legislator spoke at the dinner.Tue, 04 Apr 2017 01:14:47 +0000
Another View: Trump is on the losing side of history on coal, climate change http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/03/another-view-trump-is-on-the-losing-side-of-history-on-coal-climate-change/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/03/another-view-trump-is-on-the-losing-side-of-history-on-coal-climate-change/#respond Mon, 03 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1175953 President Trump made good on his wrongheaded campaign promise to roll back the clock on coal. But the coal miners who surrounded Trump at the White House last week, as he tore up the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, probably know their industry is never again going to party like it’s 1999. That’s when U.S. coal production was near its peak.

Trump’s executive order does not fundamentally change the economics of power production.

The natural gas boom, fueled by fracking, is a huge factor. But coal production has dropped dramatically as renewable power has surged. For every one of the 70,000 coal miners in the U.S., there are nearly 10 workers (650,000) in the renewable-energy sector. That reflects the dramatically falling costs of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.

For a president who professes to be all about jobs, those should be compelling numbers.

There is no point in underselling the symbolic power and tangible policy consequences of Trump’s retro embrace of dirty-fuel sources. It rightly feels like a punch to the gut for Americans worried that our children and grandchildren will be coping with the consequences of climate change.

As Obama’s Clean Power Plan wound its way through the courts, 18 states stepped forward to defend it. Trump’s actions this week won’t employ many coal miners, but it should be an employment boom for the lawyers.

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Our View: Pedestrian safety should be a higher priority in Maine http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/03/our-view-pedestrian-safety-should-be-a-higher-priority-in-maine/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/03/our-view-pedestrian-safety-should-be-a-higher-priority-in-maine/#respond Mon, 03 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1175962 Walking can be the most cost-effective mode of transportation and the perfect exercise.

It can also be a death trap.

Which alternative depends on whether drivers and pedestrians are prudent and responsible, and how willing communities are to invest in infrastructure that make walking safe.

Maine had two of the deadliest years ever for pedestrians in 2015 and 2016, and 2017 is on a similar pace, with four deaths in the first two months of the year.

And national data that shows a sharp uptick in the number of people killed while walking give us more reason to be concerned. A report by the Governors Highway Safety Association released last week shows that the increase in pedestrian fatalities is outpacing the increase in motor vehicle crashes, after many years of decline in both categories.

The report does not pinpoint any specific cause for the change. Alcohol use among drivers and pedestrians may be a factor in many of the accidents. Distracted driving and walking may also be to blame in the smartphone era.

But the biggest cause for concern appears to be street design.

Most fatalities occurred at night, the study found. And most of the victims were not in crosswalks or even at intersections.

That might suggest that these were pedestrians who were making risky choices by being in places where they did not belong.

But what the report doesn’t say is whether there had been adequate lighting in those locations, or if there were passable sidewalks.

It’s likely that in both cases, the answer is no.

If lighting were not a problem, then there wouldn’t be more fatalities at night. If sidewalks had been available, few would risk walking in the street.

Maine should be taking these trends seriously and making sure its facilities are safe. The state Department of Transportation has endorsed the Complete Streets design standard – which makes motor vehicles share the road with bicycles and pedestrians in densely settled areas – but there are few places where it is fully implemented. This should be a priority.

There are many strong arguments for making streets safe for pedestrians, and no good reason to scrimp on investments.

Everybody saves money when people leave their cars at home and walk. There is less wear and tear on the roads, less traffic and easier parking.

It’s healthier for the people who choose to go by foot, and the healthier we are as a community, the lower our insurance costs will be. And people who don’t have cars, especially children and the elderly, deserve all the protection they can get.

The good news in these grim statistics is that more people appear to be walking. But it’s hard to celebrate when so many of them are dying.

Cities and towns should do all they can to make these life-saving improvements that reflect how people get around.

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Another View: Opposing Planned Parenthood is not a women’s health issue http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/02/another-view-opposing-planned-parenthood-is-not-a-womens-health-issue/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/02/another-view-opposing-planned-parenthood-is-not-a-womens-health-issue/#respond Sun, 02 Apr 2017 08:00:18 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/31/another-view-opposing-planned-parenthood-is-not-a-womens-health-issue/ This letter is in response to Cynthia Dill’s commentary and, on the opposite page, the defense of Planned Parenthood by Diana Lovejoy, in the March 26 Maine Sunday Telegram.

I have never met anyone who is against women’s health care. Those who oppose tax funding for Planned Parenthood are heartbroken by the 43 million deaths of the innocent unborn here in the Land of the Free.

Ms. Dill describes those people as “so-called ‘pro-life’ religious folks hell-bent on taking away life-saving medical care.” Ms. Dill should know that the unborn baby’s heart begins to beat at 18 days; they begin to feel pain at eight weeks and by 13.5 weeks, babies have pain sensation at all levels of their nervous system and they can feel themselves being aborted. I do not want to be a part of that. Nor do I support the death penalty, by the way. Other than self-defense, I have no right to take anyone’s life.

Planned Parenthood says, and Ms. Lovejoy repeats, that it does not use taxpayer funding for abortions. Does that matter? Planned Parenthood provides one-fourth of the abortions in the United States and has likely performed 80,000 abortions so far this year (www.numberofabortions.com).

Twelve percent of their clients receive abortions. That is more than one of 10 women using their services.

If Planned Parenthood only provided abortions in actual “life-saving” situations, taxpayer funding would not be an issue.

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Our View: Land program works best when used broadly http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/02/our-view-land-program-works-best-when-used-broadly/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/02/our-view-land-program-works-best-when-used-broadly/#respond Sun, 02 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1175427 When Gov. Paul LePage gets something right on land conservation, it’s a little like a broken clock.

Among his many wrongheaded and shortsighted proclamations on the subject is one undeniable truth, that conservation using public funds should benefit the public as a whole. That, in fact, is the core mission of Land for Maine’s Future, the state conservation program that has been so popular and successful exactly because it is so broad.

LePage, however, continues to undermine that mission, all but ensuring that which Mainers benefit will depend on where they live and how they enjoy the outdoors.

LEPAGE’S NARROW VIEW

The governor is throwing his weight behind a project to conserve the Big Six Forest, 23,600 acres along the Quebec border in Somerset County that produces about a quarter of the state’s maple sugar. The landowner, Paul Fortin of Madison, would receive $5.7 million for an easement on the property, some of which would come from Land for Maine’s Future.

The request for state funds would go before the LePage-appointed LMF board, and as reported by the Bangor Daily News, Fortin has given generously to LePage’s political action committee.

Last year, that same board made an 11th-hour cut to state funding already approved to conserve Howard Hill, a 164-acre property near the State House in Augusta, causing one board member to resign in protest.

LePage has been critical of the Howard Hill project, which would benefit the law partner of Republican Sen. Roger Katz, who has frequently butted heads with LePage, raising concerns that state conservation funding is only available to people the governor likes.

There are no further indications of a quid pro quo on the Big Six project. Rep. Russell Black, R-Wilton, told WVOM last week that LePage’s support predates the campaign contributions, and the project is in line with the few previous LMF projects the governor has gotten behind – that is, it is business-oriented and rural.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be concerned about. Land for Maine’s Future is purposely constructed to satisfy a number of constituencies all connected by a common idea – that some Maine land and waterways are so valuable that they should be protected in perpetuity.

That value can be measured in a few ways, but LePage pays attention to only one. Projects should “promote working waterfronts and forests, which create good-paying jobs for Mainers,” a spokeswoman told the BDN. When projects don’t fit this narrow view, he labels them useless or “corrupt.” He says that they only help a few wealthy landowners, and he withholds voter-approved funding.

That isn’t for LePage to decide – the program is bigger than him. Land for Maine’s Future is meant to leave a legacy of open space accessible to all current and future Mainers, and it should not be upset by the biases of any one person.

In a state with precious little publicly owned land, Land for Maine’s Future has protected more than 600,000 acres.

It has saved a landing in Washington County used by 35 commercial boats a day and a working farm in Scarborough that also hosts educational activities for students. It helped protect a massive forest in Piscataquis County, and the 800-acre Bradbury Mountain State Park just a short drive from Portland.

ACCESS FOR ALL

It has saved deer habitat, hiking and snowmobiling trails. Favorite fishing spots and important farmland. Dock access for fishermen and working forests for loggers.

It doesn’t prioritize one activity or land use or region over another. It is for the benefit of all, whether you live in Portland or Skowhegan, and whether you enjoy remote hiking and snowmobiling or just a walk through the woods.

In addition, it promotes tourism and maintains natural resources, two sectors immutably linked to each other, and to the future of our state.

Land for Maine’s Future does all that through a process that draws on vast expertise to identify those lands most valuable to Mainers and most in need of protection, usually from the forces of development.

Through his narrow view of the program, the governor has disrupted that process in a way that could be felt long after his administration is over.

As the board of directors prepares to review another round of conservation requests, it is important that they follow the wishes of all Maine people, not just the one in the Blaine House.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/02/our-view-land-program-works-best-when-used-broadly/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1167270_802057-LePage1.jpgAsked how to obtain opioid care, Gov. LePage said addicts "just go to the methadone clinic that has a clinical aspect, and it's free."Fri, 31 Mar 2017 18:42:21 +0000
Another View: Working class men are living shorter lives http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/01/another-view-working-class-men-are-living-shorter-lives/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/01/another-view-working-class-men-are-living-shorter-lives/#respond Sat, 01 Apr 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1175503 Two years ago, Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton disclosed a shocking finding: Between 1999 and 2014, middle-aged (45-54) white Americans with a high school education or less died at a rate never before seen in a modern industrialized society.

Alone among every other demographic group they studied, this group’s life expectancy was shrinking. The group’s annual mortality rate jumped from 281 per 100,000 to 415 per 100,000 during the 15 years studied.

Big reasons: Striking increases in the number of suicides, drug overdoses and liver disease caused by alcohol poisoning. Case and Deaton called them “deaths by despair.”

Now the two scholars have returned to try to explain why this is happening. In a report published by the Brookings Institution, they suggest that while income inequality and wage stagnation may play a background role, a lifetime of “cumulative disadvantage” catches up with this demographic.

They are the slice of the population who hit the job market as low-skill jobs were being mechanized, computerized and globalized. They grew into adulthood as cohesion-building social institutions like marriage, family and churches became weaker. Often they didn’t have spouses, pastors, work buddies or kids to back them up.

They did have opioid painkillers, which Case and Deaton say “added fuel to the flames, making the epidemic much worse than it otherwise would have been.” They cite a study from the Boston Federal Reserve that found that among men not in the labor force, nearly half are taking pain medication, most often by prescription.

Case is a professor of economics and public affairs; Deaton, her husband, was the 2015 Nobel laureate in economics. They admit their research is not a “smoking gun,” but it has ominous implications:

“This account, which fits much of the data, has the profoundly negative implication that policies, even ones that successfully improve earnings and jobs, or redistribute income, will take many years to reverse the mortality and morbidity increase, and that those in midlife now are likely to do much worse in old age than those currently older than 65.”

Obviously the same forces affecting low-income middle-aged whites also affect poor educated middle-aged blacks and Hispanics. But mortality rates are decreasing among those groups and they don’t suffer high rates of deaths by despair. The authors speculate that expectations may be higher among whites, leading to greater disappointment when things don’t work out.

Many of these folks put their faith in Republican promises of help, and the party owes them something. Addressing opioid addiction is a place to start. So is keeping the social safety net intact. Republican politicians can boast about bringing back jobs and passing right-to-work laws, but voters must hold them accountable if they make things worse for the people the corporate economy has left behind.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/01/another-view-working-class-men-are-living-shorter-lives/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/04/1175503_849040_20140717_millinoc_25.jpgAn empty storage facility at the East Millinocket Paper mill in 2014. Once the bedrock of rural communities, these former industrial facilities are a reminder of an abandoned way of life.Fri, 31 Mar 2017 20:00:43 +0000
Another View: Trump’s coal revival will make it harder to breathe http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/31/another-view-trumps-coal-revival-will-make-it-harder-to-breathe/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/31/another-view-trumps-coal-revival-will-make-it-harder-to-breathe/#respond Fri, 31 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1174903 President Trump’s effort to prop up the coal industry will not, over the long run, succeed – the energy market will make sure of that. But it could impede America’s progress toward stabilizing the climate, and it will certainly harm public health.

Burning coal, after all, releases into the air not only carbon dioxide but also mercury, which makes its way into rivers and streams, where it’s eaten by fish and, in turn, by people – poisoning brains and nervous systems, especially those of developing fetuses.

And then there’s sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, any number of other volatile compounds and particles of metal and chemicals. Aloft, this mess combines with sunlight to form smog. Over 7,500 Americans die from breathing it every year.

The Clean Power Plan – an initiative of former President Obama, and the principal target of Trump’s efforts – would have prevented as many as 3,600 premature deaths a year by 2030, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That plan is now tied up in litigation, but Trump proposes to do away with it altogether.

It’s not clear that he can, because it will require making a reasonable argument for why the EPA should suddenly stop regulating greenhouse gases. But it’s a bad idea even to try.

Coal power is already dying of other causes, including its failure lately to stay competitive with natural gas and even wind and solar power.

Trump may be able to slow coal’s slide. But he can’t return it to its former status as America’s main power source. And, because of increasing automation, he won’t save coal-mining jobs. Even judged by the claims Trump makes for it, this policy is poised to accomplish nothing at all.

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Our View: Maine voters deserve a real choice of gambling bills http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/31/our-view-maine-voters-deserve-a-real-choice-of-gambling-bills/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/31/our-view-maine-voters-deserve-a-real-choice-of-gambling-bills/#respond Fri, 31 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1174895 There’s going to be a gambling measure on this fall’s ballot – but there doesn’t have to be just one.

A lot of people in Maine have raised a lot of good questions about Horseracing Jobs Fairness, the self-serving York County casino ballot campaign. So it’s a slap in their face that the firm that’s funding the campaign hasn’t presented satisfactory answers. By choosing to send only an unprepared attorney to this week’s public hearing on the casino bill, Bridge Capital has thrown down the gauntlet, and lawmakers should respond by crafting a competing measure that gives voters a real choice at the ballot box this fall.

Though it’s touted as a citizen initiative, the ballot question, if approved, would grant a casino license only to someone who owned at least 51 percent of a commercial racetrack in Penobscot County in 2003. In other words: Shawn Scott, a major player in the development of Hollywood Casino in Bangor. He’s also a principal at Bridge Capital, the offshore investment firm that is funding the casino referendum campaign.

Invited to testify before the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Bridge Capital sent Dan Riley, an attorney they’d hired just before the hearing. He didn’t have much information to offer about his brand-new client – though he was able to confirm legislators’ suspicions that Bridge Capital intends to sell its rights to the casino if this fall’s ballot question passes, despite the framing of the measure as evidence of a commitment to bolstering Maine’s ailing harness racing industry. Nobody spoke in favor of the bill except Riley.

Backers collected enough signatures to put the casino proposal on the November ballot, so lawmakers can’t keep the measure from being put to voters. The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee’s only other option is to recommend that the Legislature adopt the measure without a referendum.

So despite its obvious shortcomings, the Horseracing Jobs Fairness measure will appear on this fall’s ballot. But that doesn’t mean that it has to be the only such bill on the ballot. Lawmakers have the authority to amend the proposal so that the application process would be opened up and the state would get a bigger share of the proceeds. Then that version of the bill could be put before the people of Maine alongside the original.

Citizens could vote in favor of the original, or they could support the amended initiative. If neither option receives more than 50 percent of the vote, there would be a runoff to determine which one would become law.

The original Horseracing Jobs Fairness bill is a citizen initiative in name only, enabled by a Legislature that has taken a passive approach to the regulation of gambling for far too long. This has to change. Amending the casino referendum and sending it to this fall’s ballot will mean more work for Maine lawmakers, but it’s the route they should pursue.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/31/our-view-maine-voters-deserve-a-real-choice-of-gambling-bills/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1174895_edipic_1003.jpgA measure likely to be on this fall's statewide ballot is written so that only Shawn Scott would qualify for a license to operate a proposed casino in York County. Scott was a major player in the development of Hollywood Casino, above, in Bangor.Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:58:02 +0000
Our View: Congress alters notion 
of privacy in digital age http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/30/our-view-congress-alters-notion-%e2%80%a8of-privacy-in-digital-age/ http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/30/our-view-congress-alters-notion-%e2%80%a8of-privacy-in-digital-age/#respond Thu, 30 Mar 2017 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1174340 Imagine this scenario: The day after you call the washing machine repairman, a salesman, tipped off by your phone company, shows up at your door, wondering if you’d like to buy a new machine. Most people would consider that an egregious violation of privacy.

But the same thing happens online millions of times a day – in fact, it is the backbone of the internet, generating billions of dollars for companies like Facebook and Google. Does anyone really care? Has the internet changed our very concept of privacy? Republicans are about to find out.

The U.S. House this week voted largely along party lines to allow internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon to collect and sell the information generated by their customers, following a similar vote in the Senate. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

The action, which repealed a set of protections created by the Federal Communications Commission under the Obama administration, will allow browsing history, location data, app usage and other online activity to be curated into an individual profile and used to target advertising directly at a consumer, all without the consumer’s consent.

Websites like Facebook and Google, which fall under a different regulatory framework, have been doing this for years, making sure that when you search for a ski jacket online, you’re inundated with ads for L.L. Bean and The North Face.

Online advertising is an $83 billion-a-year business, and it is growing. Internet service providers are in a unique position to capitalize on it, if only they can get people to go along.

Unlike Google, Facebook and their affiliated sites, which internet users can avoid with a little inconvenience, internet service providers are a requirement to access the internet, and in most markets they hold a monopoly or near-monopoly. Consumers can’t just switch if they don’t like how their internet service provider is handling their personal information.

And internet service providers have access not only to your searches and Facebook “likes,” but also to every site you visit, every physical location you go to and every app you use. That information is enough to create a strong profile, and advertisers want it.

Consumers are unlikely to give it up, however, if internet service providers have to get their explicit consent. The big telecommunication companies know this, and they lobbied Congress hard to repeal the Obama-era rules, which had yet to go into effect.

Opponents of the rules, like 2nd District Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Republican Sen. Susan Collins, say they put internet service providers at a disadvantage against websites that can sell personal information. But that doesn’t explain why Republicans want to withdraw the protections, not extend them to other parts of the internet.

No, this is about providing the giants in the telecommunications industry a new market. AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and others are hoping that consumers won’t search for the “opt-out” option, hidden deep in their preferences, or move en masse toward services that encrypt their online actions or turn off tracking. They hope there isn’t a call for more local providers that put consumers before profit.

Republicans hope that this will pass unnoticed, that there is so much else to worry about in the Trump administration that this won’t even be acknowledged.

But most of all, they hope that as more and more of our lives are conducted online, the line between public and private becomes blurred so much that it doesn’t matter. Judging from how differently we treat the telephone and the internet, they may be right.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2017/03/30/our-view-congress-alters-notion-%e2%80%a8of-privacy-in-digital-age/feed/ 0 http://multifiles.pressherald.com/uploads/sites/4/2017/03/1174340_shutterstock_290998688-e1490844113246.jpgInternet service providers have access to every site you visit and every app you use – and soon they won't need your OK to capitalize on the data.Wed, 29 Mar 2017 23:24:29 +0000