The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Editorials Fri, 09 Dec 2016 21:38:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Our View: Delay in expanding Narcan access is putting Mainers’ lives at risk Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Eight months ago, the Legislature responded to Maine’s overdose crisis by making a lifesaving antidote widely available without a prescription.

Eight months later, we are still waiting for that law to go into effect.

With the bodies piling up at the rate of one a day, Mainers should be demanding to know: What’s taking so long?

As Maine’s opioid crisis has worsened, legislators have passed a series of bills expanding access to naloxone (commonly known by its brand name, Narcan), a nontoxic, nonaddictive medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

The most recent of these proposals, passed in April, is also the most forward-thinking one. By allowing at-risk people and their friends and family members to buy naloxone from a pharmacist, without a prescription, L.D. 1547 could go a long way toward giving those suffering from addiction another chance to get treatment and get their lives back on track.

Unfortunately, L.D. 1547 has been hanging fire in Augusta for months, even though it was an emergency measure. The Maine Board of Pharmacy, charged with creating the rules that enable the law to take effect, didn’t even take it up until last week, and then brought up concerns about the law’s intentions and wording.

How these issues will be resolved is unclear. It could entail a technical correction, or it could require passage of emergency legislation clarifying the intent of the new law. Either way, it will be months before the law is implemented.

Although naloxone remains available by prescription, that can be a stumbling block to access. If you’ve kept quiet about the fact that you or someone you love uses opioids, it’s likely that you won’t want to ask your doctor to prescribe an overdose-reversing medication.

Public health agencies give out naloxone to at-risk clients and their families, but these programs are geographically out of reach for a lot of Mainers. And someone who would be willing to obtain naloxone from a pharmacist may be uncomfortable going to a homeless shelter or needle exchange for it.

In a recent landmark report, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said the addiction crisis is as serious a problem today as smoking was in the 1960s and AIDS was in the 1980s. There’s no doubt that we’re experiencing a public health emergency. And there’s no excuse for the Maine Board of Pharmacy to be dragging its feet at a time when enhancing access to a lifesaving medication should be its highest priority.

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Another View: Deputy defense secretary was right to order study, wrong to bury it Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 When it comes to bigness, the U.S. military has few rivals. The Defense Department is the nation’s largest employer, with over 1.3 million men and women on active duty. The department’s back-office business operations employ over a million people. The $580 billion U.S. military budget amounts to over half of each year’s discretionary federal spending. Making the Pentagon more efficient has frustrated many of those chosen to lead it.

Robert Work, as deputy defense secretary the Pentagon’s No. 2 official, set out to try again after taking office in 2014. He ordered the Defense Business Board to conduct an efficiency study, and boasted that corporate executives would be recruited.

Chaired by Robert Stein, a private-equity investor from Florida, the board drilled deep into the data of Pentagon back-office operations, looking at personnel, supply chains, acquisition, health care, financial flows and real estate management, and came up with an estimate that, with new ways of doing business, the military could save $125 billion over five years.

The board’s conclusions were made public Jan. 22, 2015. But once the study was completed, according to Washington Post reporters Craig Whitlock and Bob Woodward, Work’s view changed. He dismissed the findings as “unrealistic,” and the report was essentially deep-sixed by the Pentagon leadership. Stein was replaced.

The study harvested a wealth of unreleased data on how the Pentagon functions. The $125 billion savings figure is an estimate, not a concrete list of wasteful spending to be trimmed. Work criticized the panel for failing to identify specific systems or processes to be changed in order to realize such big savings.

Work was right to embark on the project but wrong to bury it so hastily. The U.S. military has vital missions around the globe and is already facing severe budget pressures. To justify the money that it really needs, Pentagon leaders must confront openly the burden of bloat and wasteful overhead.

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Our View: There is no easy fix for health care reform law Thu, 08 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Health care, with its interlocking systems of public and private insurers and providers, is complex, so health care reform is never easy.

But for the last four election cycles we have heard Republican office seekers say that it’s really simple. All you have to do is repeal “Obamacare,” they said, and replace it with something better.

But replace it with what? Anyone who can remember back before 2010, when you could be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition, lose your insurance for getting too sick or find your medication unaffordable because you fell into a “doughnut hole,” knows that some things are worse than Obamacare.

Now some Republicans in Congress are saying that the solution should be “repeal and delay,” cutting out the legs from the health reform law and spend the next three years designing an alternative. As if what America really needs is three years of uncertainty and upheaval in the health care economy.

A recent study by the Urban Institute puts some of what’s at stake into perspective. If congressional Republicans pass a partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act through budget reconciliation (a process that requires only a majority vote in the Senate), they could eliminate Medicaid expansion, and tax credits for people who buy insurance on the exchanges, as well as individual and employer mandates.

While we wait for the new plan to take shape, this is what we could expect to see:

n 22.5 million would drop insurance they can’t afford without a subsidy.

n The individual market would collapse, driving insurance companies out, leaving millions more Americans without options.

n Hospital costs for uncompensated care would skyrocket.

There is a better way, even if it won’t match the hot rhetoric of the campaign trail.

While Republicans have talked about replacing the Affordable Care Act, Democrats have said that it should be fixed. There might be enough improvements that both parties could agree on that would satisfy the Republican promises in the short run, while the new administration takes on a more thorough reform.

Negotiating prescription drugs and expanding payment reform trials that reward wellness are among the small changes that could make a big difference.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins said that until she sees a bill, she’s not sure how she would vote on a plan to dismantle the ACA without replacing it right away.

But she did express her concern about the order of the steps that some of her colleagues are proposing. “I think what we need to focus on first is what would we replace it with and what are the steps to do that,” she told the Press Herald last week.

Collins is a longtime critic of the ACA, and would be a good source for recommendations on how it could be changed. We urge her to offer those ideas and fight an irresponsible repeal and delay strategy.

Incremental reforms are not the easy fix that some members of Congress are promising, but they’re a much better way to approach a problem for which no fix is easy.

]]> 0, 07 Dec 2016 22:21:32 +0000
Our View: Pollution curbs on coal-fired plants have made Gulf of Maine tuna safer Wed, 07 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Every tasty tuna sandwich or casserole includes an unwanted serving of the highly toxic metal mercury. So we welcome a new report that shows Gulf of Maine tuna are becoming safer to eat as mercury-laden emissions from coal-fired power plants have declined – and we urge Maine’s congressional delegation to resist efforts to roll back the policies that have made this progress possible.

The good news comes out of a study published last month by researchers at Harvard, the University of Massachusetts and Stony Brook University in New York. Looking at samples of nearly 1,300 bluefin tuna caught in the Gulf of Maine from 2004 to 2012, the scientists found that levels of mercury in the bodies of the fish fell by about 2 percent each year, or nearly 20 percent over a decade.

The decline occurred as coal-fired power plants in the Midwest began going off line or switching to natural gas in 2008, responding to market forces and regulatory and industry curbs on emissions. The relatively quick level of improvement came as a surprise, Stony Brook’s Nicholas Fisher, study co-author, told Scientific American.

That’s because tuna – the biggest source of mercury in the American diet – are a big, long-lived, predatory species that can accumulate a lot of mercury from eating other fish. So although the tuna that were studied still weren’t safe to eat, it bodes well for the future that, as Fisher said in an interview with The Washington Post, “the fish are responding almost in real time” to environmental changes.

But these hard-won gains could easily be reversed if President-elect Donald Trump acts on his pledge to halt measures to address climate change. Of particular concern is his proposal to abandon the Paris agreement, which commits the U.S. and 192 other countries to individual carbon pollution limits, and to roll back the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration initiative that sets the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

If Trump dismantles this and other pollution curbs, Maine could be hard hit. Not only could the benefits to the tuna fishery be at risk, but we’d be stymied in addressing our rate of asthma, which is among the nation’s highest and is aggravated by unchecked out-of-state carbon emissions.

Mainers have made it a priority to limit air and water contamination from sources here. Our elected representatives in Washington should make it clear to the incoming administration that we have no appetite for measures that allow other states to abdicate their responsibility to do the same.

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Another View: Trump chooses the wrong way to stand up to China Wed, 07 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Fully seven weeks before he is due to take office, President-elect Donald Trump launched what looked like an offensive against China starting last week. His apparent strategy of pushback against the regime of Xi Jinping has some merit. What’s worrying is the evident lack of preparation and diplomatic care in the initiative, as well as its possible unintended consequences.

On Friday, in a move that was reportedly planned, Trump took a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, breaking with decades of U.S. policy. When the United States formally opened diplomatic relations with China in 1979, Taiwan was relegated to nondiplomatic status, which has meant arms sales and support but not phone calls or meetings at the highest level. China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and has always been hypersensitive to any quiver in its standing in the world, and especially its ties to the United States.

The phone call predictably raised alarms in Beijing. It may produce countermoves – such as new economic and military pressures on Taiwan – that may undercut the call’s political boost to Taipei while further stoking already-high tensions in East Asia.

The president-elect did not stop with the phone call. Next came Twitter messages on Sunday that echoed his campaign blasts against China on economic issues and the South China Sea.

If Trump wants to effectively challenge China, a rash of tweets hardly seems the right way to go about it. He has been acting without the benefit of U.S. intelligence briefings or advice from the State Department, and his weekend missives were apparently uncoordinated with the current administration. His impulsive statements carry the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation.

Riling China also could have a downside when Trump needs to ask Beijing for help with its errant client state, North Korea. This is just one example of the costs and benefits Trump should weigh – preferably with experienced advisers – before letting fly on Twitter.

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Our View: DHHS’ plan offers best path forward for Riverview Tue, 06 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Since Riverview Psychiatric Center lost its federal certification in 2013, the proposals brought forward by the LePage administration to fix the Augusta hospital have been either poorly conceived or underdeveloped, and they have been rightly rejected by Democrats in the Legislature.

But the latest fix – a plan to build a 21-bed secure facility next to Riverview for forensic patients no longer in need of hospital-level care – appears to hit the mark. Democratic leaders conditioned to distrust the Department of Health and Human Services following years of acrimony should hold their noses and push it through. It is the best result for patients under state care.

The proposal was put in jeopardy last week when Democrats on the Legislative Council, made up of the members of legislative leadership, exercised the council’s control over state construction within Augusta’s Capitol Area and killed it with a party-line vote.

Gov. LePage accused the Democrats of playing politics, and said the facility would instead be built away from the Capitol Area, a move that could delay the project and add $1 million to the cost, according to an administration official.

That appears to be his prerogative, but it is the wrong direction for Mainers who need psychiatric help.

The new facility would take out of Riverview people who no longer need the care that is provided there, but who are also not ready to be discharged, opening beds for those who really need them.

Daniel Wathen, who oversees Riverview under a consent decree covering people with severe mental illness under the state’s care, said there is a waitlist at Riverview of 10 to 15 forensic patients, or those who have been deemed either incompetent to stand trial or not criminally responsible for their actions. It can take five or more weeks to get them a bed, he said.

Jenna Mehnert, executive director of the Maine chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said she has heard of patients waiting for eight to 12 days in the halls of an emergency department before being placed.

Democrats say they simply want the administration to bring the project before the appropriate legislative committees.

They would like to learn more about the facility’s funding and oversight, as well as about how the facility would operate under a private vendor. Under that plan, the project could be underway by the end of January.

The Democrats have legitimate questions; we’ve asked them, too.

But it does not appear that they can stop LePage from building a facility outside the Capitol Area, which will delay its construction, add to its cost, and bring none of the answers Democrats seek.

Instead, they should take the deal offered by Rep. Ken Fredette, R-Newport, to move the project forward with the promise of answers during the upcoming session.

That would be a recognition that the bones of the plan – which have been backed by mental health advocates – are solid, and that the oversight of the facility by Wathen as well as the legislative committees is enough to ensure that patients suffering from mental illness are provided timely, effective care.

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Our View: Public should get the facts on Russian election influence Mon, 05 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 For all the attention wasted, both nationally and here in Maine, on imagined cases of voter fraud, it’s baffling that actual evidence of actions taken to undermine the electoral process is being all but ignored.

Based on the little that is known about Russian attempts to influence the presidential election through computer hacking and propaganda, we all should be outraged and disturbed. When a foreign government appears to have tried to disrupt and pervert our democracy, we should be demanding further investigation – not to relitigate the results of the election, but to better understand the threat posed by Russia and other entities, governmental or not, that wish to use technology to sow distrust in our institutions.

That view is shared by seven members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, including independent Maine Sen. Angus King, who sent a letter Nov. 29 to President Obama, asking him to declassify “additional information concerning the Russian government and the U.S. election.”

The senators, as recipients of top-secret briefings, have seen the information referenced, but not detailed, in the short letter.

King, who called it a “national security issue of the gravest consequence,” believes the public has a right to know the scope of Russia’s actions, and he’s right – Americans deserve to know as much as possible about how and why actors outside this country attempt to influence how we vote. It’s an age-old tactic, but with a 21st-century spin, and to guard against it, everyone should know what we are up against.

The little we do know begs for further illumination.

First, it appears that Russia was behind the hack into emails related to the Democratic National Committee that were later released in an attempt to embarrass senior Democratic officials and infuriate voters.

In a joint statement released in October, the director of national security and the Department of Homeland Security did not mince words when saying the U.S. intelligence community is “confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations … These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

There is also evidence that Russia used a sophisticated, coordinated propaganda effort to use social media to spread false stories damaging to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Both tactics are “Russian standard practice,” said King, who was told of similar actions to influence elections and undermine opponents in Poland and Ukraine during visits with officials from those countries, statements backed by independent research.

There are questions over the extent of Russian involvement, particularly when it comes to the dissemination of false news stories.

But that’s not a case for withholding the information. If the threat is being overblown, then we need to know, too, so we can ask why intelligence officials and senators privy to top-secret information are stating their case so emphatically.

However, from what we know, it’s much more likely that the government of Vladimir Putin has opened a new front in a cyber war meant to destablize the United States and raise Russian prominence and influence on the world stage. The capability of Russia and other entities to undermine American interests through these practices will only grow, and Americans should be fully aware of the threat.

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Another View: Rep. Lockman stokes division, promotes misunderstanding Sun, 04 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 After reading the first two sentences of Rep. Lawrence Lockman’s column (Nov. 27), where he uses the polarizing term “leftist media elites” and then castigates the Maine Sunday Telegram for its “condescending” and “grotesque caricature of the people who live and work outside the urban area,” it became clear to me that Rep. Lockman was more interested in fanning the flames of division and in promoting harmful stereotypes than in seeking to bridge the so-called gap between the “two Maines.”

It sounds to me like he took his lines straight from Steve Bannon’s playbook or even the discredited Breitbart website.

Rep. Lockman and I certainly used different lenses through which to read and interpret the editorial “Our View: Rural voters put their issues on the national agenda” (Nov. 20).

In it, the Telegram editors clearly articulated the economic, health care and social problems facing our fellow Mainers in the more rural 2nd District. They called upon all of us to “create an environment where small businesses can start up and grow, and displaced workers are given the support they need to make it through the transition.”

It was balanced, thoughtful and respectful, and similar to Eric Russell’s article “Why this Maine town pivoted from Obama to Trump” (Nov. 13).

Unfortunately, Rep. Lockman viewed the Portland news media’s efforts to make sense of the election quite differently. Instead of searching for common ground, he continued to stoke divisiveness and promote misunderstanding. He even claimed that the Democrats were the ones to run an “us versus them” culture war campaign, refusing to acknowledge Hillary Clinton’s inclusive “Stronger Together” campaign.

Similar to President-elect Donald Trump, Rep. Lockman blames others for the very divisiveness he promotes. By proudly declaring that Trump’s victory is a “huge middle finger from the country class to the ruling class,” he does a major disservice to those who are frustrated, hurting, and looking for economic security, safer communities, affordable health care and better educational opportunities for their children and future generations.

As we move forward, I hope that Maine and our country can find common ground. By listening, examining and putting aside stereotypes of the “other,” electing pragmatic and solution-oriented representatives and seeking to understand each other’s dreams and yes, fears and concerns, I remain convinced that we can heal and build a better future for all.

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Our View: Three Maine ballot questions demand different responses Sun, 04 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 A newly elected Legislature will assemble in Augusta this week, but there is still unfinished business left over from Election Day, mostly resulting from the referendum questions passed by the voters.

We’re not talking about Gov. Le-Page’s weird, unsubstantiated concerns about the “integrity (and) accuracy” of Maine’s ballot counting procedures, which, by all evidence, are entirely reliable. But passing laws by referendum when they haven’t been debated and amended means that there are rough spots that need to be smoothed over.

That doesn’t mean ignoring the will of the voters, though, and the different questions require very different responses. When reviewing marijuana legalization, lawmakers should apply a quick fix; when they look at a high-income surtax for school funding, they need to do a deep dive; and when they are looking at the law that increases the minimum wage, they should do nothing at all.

Assuming that Question 1, an act to regulate marijuana like alcohol, survives an ongoing recount, this issue will be the subject of a dispute that will play out for months, if not years. Even though marijuana is illegal under federal law, the Obama administration tolerated its distribution and use in states that passed laws permitting it, as long as it was well regulated. But with new policymakers at the Department of Justice, that could change quickly.

What won’t change is something that opponents of the referendum said was a flaw in the bill that went before the voters on Nov. 8 – the unintentional legalization of marijuana for people under age 21. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills argued forcefully that the bill the voters passed would eliminate the existing statute that barred minors from possessing and using the drug. It was an argument that likely led to the referendum’s close finish at the polls.

There is no reason for the Legislature to wait for the federal government to work out its policy on legalization before fixing this hole in the law, if it does in fact exist. Whether they supported the referendum or not, no one wanted to make it easier for children to have access to drugs. This should be high on the new Legislature’s agenda.

Question 2, the 3 percent surtax on income over $200,000 to raise money for schools, will not be so simple to address.

This proposal was vigorously opposed by the governor, who said he would address it in a tax reform package that would dramatically decrease income tax rates for the highest earners before the 3 percent surtax was applied.

There is clearly a need for legislative action, but it’s no quick fix. It’s safe to assume that everyone who voted in favor of Question 2, and many who voted against it, want to see the state spend more on K-12 education. The referendum was a response to previous Legislatures that ignored the state’s commitment to pay 55 percent of education costs, which had been mandated by a previous referendum.

The referendum proposed a way to meet that goal, but if legislators and the governor can come up with a different mix of revenues to carry out the voters’ mandate, they should do it. And the Legislature should consult the public and look for a way to distribute the newly raised money that would be more equitable but still adhere to the spirit of the referendum.

The easiest job for the new Legislature comes with Question 4, which increased the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour: They should do nothing.

As passed by the voters, the new law lifts the minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $9 on Jan. 1, and increases it $1 per year until it reaches $12 an hour in 2020. After that, the minimum wage would be tied to inflation. The bill also phases out the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, who are now paid only $3.75 an hour by their employers, with the expectation that they make the minimum or more in tips.

This has been the subject of histrionics by some in the restaurant industry, including some waitstaff in high-end restaurants, who say it undermines a system that works. It’s even drawn criticism from the governor, who claims, again with no evidence, that voters didn’t understand that tipped workers would be affected by the law. That is nonsense.

Question 4 received 55.5 percent of the vote on Election Day, doing well in every region of the state. The “Yes on 4” vote exceeded Hillary Clinton’s state-winning tally by 63,000 votes. Nearly 10,000 people cast a vote either for or against the referendum but did not mark a ballot for president. The voters have spoken, and it’s clear what they said.

Businesses and servers will have three years to figure out how to adapt to this new set of rules. The Legislature doesn’t have to do anything yet.

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Another View: Russia’s meddling goes deeper than hacking Sat, 03 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Russian meddling in Western democracies is often portrayed as malicious but soft-boiled, centered on cyberattacks, propaganda operations and financial help for pro-Moscow politicians. So it’s worth calling attention to a couple of recent episodes in Eastern Europe that were of an entirely different character. In NATO member Hungary, Russian agents have been fingered for training with a neo-Nazi militia; in the tiny Balkan state of Montenegro, which is on the verge of joining the transatlantic alliance, Moscow is accused of plotting a violent coup.

The evidence in both cases is incomplete but compelling. In Hungary, the story began with a gunfight in late October between police and the leader of the National Front movement, an extremist group that identifies with Hungarian fascists of the 1930s. Police subsequently raided a number of properties connected to the group and discovered large stockpiles of weapons, according to a report in the Financial Times. Hungary’s national security committee reported that Russian diplomats and men dressed in Russian military intelligence uniforms had openly engaged in paramilitary training exercises with members of the group.

The neo-Nazi arrested after the firefight, Istvan Gyorkos, was already known for having founded a website that spreads pro-Kremlin propaganda about the war in Ukraine. Hungarian media have published emails in which the group’s leaders discuss obtaining funds from Moscow. In short, the regime of Vladimir Putin appears to have been intimately involved with an armed movement dedicated to restoring fascism in Hungary.

The revelations have embarrassed Hungary’s right-wing government,which is among the most pro-Russian in Europe. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has struck lucrative energy deals with the Putin regime and resisted European Union sanctions on Russia. Rather than reward that cooperation, Putin’s intelligence services appear to have boldly nurtured an extremist alternative.

An even more audacious operation was underway in Montenegro, if authorities there and in neighboring Serbia are right. They say Russian agents attempted to foment a coup on Oct. 16, when parliamentary elections were being held. The idea was that armed men would seize the parliament building and assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who has led his country’s bid for NATO membership. Some 20 Serbians and Montenegrins were arrested for participating in the plot. One, a notorious Serbian mercenary, has told authorities of visiting Moscow to discuss the coup and receiving $200,000 to carry it out, according to a report in the New York Times.

Montenegrin authorities have not publicly accused the Russian government of sponsoring the plot. But they have identified two Russian nationals who traveled to the country as its organizers, and the Times quoted sources close to the investigation as saying they were intelligence officers. The men have since returned to Moscow and disappeared.

Russian intelligence services have been known for meddling in foreign countries since the time of the czars. But veteran analysts say such bold attempts to sow chaos in countries linked to NATO are virtually unprecedented. They reflect a regime that has given free rein to its covert operatives, on the calculation that there will be little or no pushback from a weak and divided West. Until that theory is proved wrong, expect more trouble from Moscow’s agents.

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Our View: Existing laws won’t stem felons’ gun purchases Fri, 02 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 We don’t need new gun laws – we should just enforce the ones already on the books. That’s the familiar refrain of gun rights advocates when faced with even modest proposals to improve public safety.

But current law didn’t keep Norman J. Strobel of Naples, a felon and domestic abuser, from getting the weapon he recently used to kill a man.

Because of his criminal history, Strobel would have failed the federal instant background check that licensed firearms dealers must carry out. In Maine, though, prohibited persons can opt for private sales, where no such scrutiny is required – and, unfortunately, it’s a loophole that neither voters nor lawmakers here seem inclined to close.

Investigators haven’t released details yet on what gun Strobel used last weekend, or how he got it. We do know that he had a gun: His ex-girlfriend, whom he had threatened to kill, told a judge in a September letter that Strobel had bought a 9 mm handgun in a private sale two years ago. It’s also clear that it was illegal for him to own a weapon, because of a record dating back decades in Rhode Island, including felony assault, sexual assault and domestic abuse.

Apparently bent on carrying out his threats to his ex, Strobel drove to her Casco cottage late Saturday. Finding her not at home, Strobel shot and seriously injured her daughter’s boyfriend. Then, authorities say, he killed the acquaintance with whom he’d been sharing a mobile home in Naples, before his own death there early Sunday in an exchange of gunfire with police.

We don’t know whether Strobel exploited the private-sale loophole to buy the gun used in the shootings. But it would be unrealistic to expect that he would have sought out federal scrutiny when buying a weapon, since it’s so easy in Maine to avoid it by acquiring firearms through private sellers. A study by supporters of Question 3, the statewide proposal to expand background checks, identified 3,000 guns listed for sale in Maine through Uncle Henry’s classified magazine and the website.

And though most of those buyers and sellers are law-abiding people, guns found at crime scenes in Maine and other states have been traced to private sales in Maine in which there were no background checks.

But Question 3 failed at the polls on Election Day. So did similar measures when the Legislature weighed them in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings – evidence that despite the harm that can be done when guns get in the wrong hands, Mainers aren’t willing to do what it takes to make it less likely for that to happen.

]]> 0, 01 Dec 2016 22:52:47 +0000
Another View: Pope Francis speaks out against virus of polarization Fri, 02 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Pope Francis’ characterization of worldwide tensions based largely on race and ethnicity couldn’t be more on point. The leader of the world’s Roman Catholic community labeled it a “virus.” That is exactly how to describe widespread refusal to understand, accept or even tolerate others who are different. And, as with viruses, the results of that ill will can be infectious and deadly.

The pope made his observation last month at St. Peter’s Basilica at Vatican City during a ceremony at which 17 new cardinals from six continents were inducted.

He urged the cardinals to be careful about the deep-seated animus that has taken root and that has spread exponentially in recent years. “We are not immune from this,” he said. “Our pitiful hearts … tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn.”

And bearing in mind people of different races, nationalities and beliefs, Pope Francis further urged caution against all who “raise walls, build barriers and label people.”

He warned against casting someone as “an enemy because they come from a distant country, or have different customs. An enemy because of the color of their skin, their language, or social class.”

Often this subject brings to mind immigrants. And speaking of them, among the new “princes of the church,” as cardinals are also called, was Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin. A year ago, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence asked the archbishop not to take in a Syrian refugee family. However, Cardinal Tobin defied the governor – now the vice president-elect – and welcomed the refugee family anyway.

The pope’s comments are applicable to every world inhabitant, believer and nonbeliever alike. Everyone who feels threatened by others who are different has a responsibility not to let this virus continue to spread. Pope Francis has called us all out.

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Another View: Rep. Lockman doesn’t speak for all blue-collar Trump voters Thu, 01 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The Hon. Lawrence Lockman’s column “Trump win traumatizes Portland progressives” (Nov. 27) deserves a sharp rebuke from one of the deplorables he claims to channel.

He writes that Donald Trump’s election victory was “a huge middle finger from the country class to the ruling class,” but then loses the true meaning in a quest to fulfill his tinny social conservative agenda.

For myself and other working-class friends, we couldn’t care less who marries who or uses what bathroom. Many of us do not want to dictate to women what they can or cannot do with their bodies.

What we do care about is what we see as our government’s betrayal of our well-being and economic interest. We care about the social compact, derived from all classes pulling together during World War II, now torn up.

Our purchase on the American Dream is gone. We have been written off as “Wall People” whose time is past. We are upset about the fate of our children in a system set against them.

The “Best People” have written us off. Their mouthpieces liken us to Neanderthals who must give way to the Cro-Magnon or “Web People.” We deeply resent this characterization. The Best People, in response to our complaint, throw the fairy dust of “identity politics” in our eyes.

But Lockman throws his own fairy dust, or, considering his homophobia, “horse ordure” in our faces. His ploy is actually worse than their fairy dust as it scapegoats vulnerable groups. His noise and tub thumping obscures the issue that dare not say its name: class warfare.

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Our View: Save New Balance jobs, but don’t stop there Thu, 01 Dec 2016 09:00:00 +0000 New Balance shoe workers in Maine got some good news this week. Congress will be voting on a bill that will require the Department of Defense to follow a federal law that gives preference to domestic manufacturers of apparel, including athletic shoes.

Both the defense bill and the likely defeat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership mean that the 900 Maine workers will get a reprieve from global economic pressure. That’s reason for optimism not only in the families of New Balance workers, but also in the places where they buy their food, clothes and gas.

It’s also good for the New Balance factories’ neighbors, who would have seen their home values plummet had there been a mass layoff in town, and it’s good for the schools their kids attend and for the local police and fire departments, which all rely on tax dollars generated by people who are working. Good-paying jobs are the glue that holds communities together.

But while this is good news for these workers and their communities, there is plenty of cause for concern elsewhere in the economy. Manufacturing, which used to be a reliable source of the kinds of jobs that the New Balance workers are holding onto, is just not doing that as much anymore.

Much of the recent presidential campaign was spent arguing over whether free-trade policies and immigration were responsible for the loss of American manufacturing jobs, and with Donald Trump’s victory, many are expecting to see more protectionist policies from Washington.

That might mean more factories will reopen in the United States, but it does not mean that the jobs that hold communities together will come back with them. Technology is as responsible as foreign trade for the loss of manufacturing jobs, and closing the border won’t change that.

It’s not true, as many claim, that America does not “make things” anymore. Manufacturing is the largest sector of our economy, and American factories produce twice as much as they did in 1984. The inflation-adjusted output from American manufacturers is greater now than at any point in our history. But they are doing it with 7 million fewer workers than they employed 35 years ago.

So the factories may come back without the jobs that disappeared.

Maine’s congressional delegation, including 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, was right to fight for the New Balance jobs, because history shows they are hard to replace.

But going forward, the challenge for policymakers will be how to foster the growth of the kinds of jobs that support families and communities in the way that manufacturing jobs did in the past. Because, regardless of American trade policies, those jobs probably won’t be seen again.

]]> 0, 30 Nov 2016 22:49:35 +0000
Our View: Time for Maine to make course correction in anti-drunken driving effort Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The holiday season is supposed to be a time to celebrate, yet for too many Americans, it’s a time to mourn the lives lost in the alcohol-related vehicle crashes that regularly spike each year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Maine has taken commendable steps toward combating operating under the influence – but a jump in OUI deaths here between 2014 and 2015 shows that we have much more work to do.

Every 53 minutes in the U.S., someone dies from a car crash involving an alcohol-impaired driver. And as horrifying as that statistic is, it actually represents a vast improvement: The rate of alcohol-related traffic deaths has been cut in half since the early 1980s.

Driving after drinking has fallen out of favor as Americans have embraced measures aimed at better deterring, identifying and arresting impaired motorists.

Maine led the effort. We were the second state to implement a mandatory penalty for a first-time OUI conviction, the third to lower the blood alcohol limit to 0.08 percent and one of the first to urge harsher punishment for repeat offenders. And our proactive stance was noticed and recognized by the advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which has consistently given Maine high marks in their annual rating of states’ drunken-driving laws.

But Maine saw a total of 52 OUI deaths last year, up 40 percent from 2014 – even as drunken-driving fatalities rose just 3.2 percent on average nationally, according to federal regulators. And in MADD’s latest ranking, the recently released 2016 Report to the Nation, Maine is only in the middle of the pack when it comes to prevention.

We have sobriety checkpoint and ignition interlock laws – “the two most effective ways to dramatically reduce fatalities and injuries,” according to MADD – but we need to use them more aggressively.

While researchers have found that sobriety checkpoints do the most good when they’re carried out regularly (Mothers Against Drunk Driving calls for monthly implementation), Maine doesn’t conduct them on a regular basis.

We also get points off for not allowing for the use of ignition interlock after arrest, though all convicted offenders are required to use the devices, which keep a vehicle from starting unless the driver submits to a breath test.

Maine was once way ahead of our peers on the path to preventing drunken driving. But it appears that we’re now headed the wrong way – and if we don’t make an immediate course correction, we could have a hard time finding our way back to road safety.

]]> 0, 29 Nov 2016 21:26:51 +0000
Another View: Efforts to quell Twitter abuse could silence understanding Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Twitter is making it easier to avoid tweets you don’t want to see, and it is cracking down on “abusive conduct.” This will do more to exacerbate America’s problems than to solve them.

The social media platform is expanding its “muting” feature. It announced that it would empower users to decide not to see notifications about certain keywords and conversations. It already enables them to prevent themselves from seeing those users’ tweets. It said it has made it easier to report “hateful conduct” and retrained its staff to enforce its hate-speech rules. And it suspended the accounts of a number of users associated with the white nationalist movement that calls itself the alt-right, including an alt-right think tank.

Twitter isn’t bound by the constitutional freedom of speech, which forbids only the government to restrict speech. But Twitter proclaims itself a forum for free speech. And key reasons to cherish free speech are also reasons to protest Twitter’s decisions.

Many Americans are afraid to say some of the things they think because they fear they will be shunned as bigots. Silencing people and driving them out of mainstream online forums encourages them to stew in their own resentment, embrace others who say things similar to what they’re afraid to say and seek opportunities to lash out. Engaging with them promotes mutual respect and a sense of community.

Twitter argues that harassment can drive people off Twitter, suppressing their speech. That’s true, and the new muting feature may, in extreme cases, help bullying victims. But it is likely to be overused, separating people into ideologically segregated Twitter worlds.

We have a serious problem in this country of people failing to understand each other across ideological lines. We need to try to understand one another. And that means we need to face what others are saying.

]]> 0 Tue, 29 Nov 2016 22:03:46 +0000
Our View: Senior housing needs more than maintenance Tue, 29 Nov 2016 03:45:00 +0000 A group of retired volunteers at Habitat for Humanity have for two years been offering their services – for free – to midcoast seniors, calling themselves the Harpswell Aging at Home team. In all, according to, they’ve completed about 60 jobs, insulating walls, fixing floors, installing new windows and mitigating fire hazards, all to help seniors remain in their homes.

It’s an approach that is being replicated, to some degree, in more than 60 communities across the state, as volunteers partner with local governments and nonprofits to meet the enormous challenge presented by Maine’s aging population and its old housing stock. It is bringing Maine praise, and rightly so – it may be the only way to complete costly upgrades, such as widened doorways, ramps and extensive weatherization, on such a wide scale.

But it is only part of the solution. Sometimes, it makes sense to renovate an old home to keep it viable for a senior with limited resources. More often, though, new homes, constructed specifically for seniors, are the answer, and there, Maine continues to fall behind.

About a fifth of Maine residents are 65 and over; by 2032, that is expected to rise to a third. Many have or will find themselves and perhaps a partner living in a single-family home too big for their needs.

A lot of these older houses are hard to heat. They have rooms on the second floor that are increasingly hard to reach. As the years go by, maintenance falls behind. If seniors can no longer drive, or if family members do not live nearby, they can become isolated, further harming their health and well-being.

The volunteer groups now working in Maine are an antidote to that depressing situation. They can fix and weatherize. They can bring hot meals and fresh produce. They can offer regular visits, or provide a reprieve to spouses acting as caregivers.

Those are all valuable services that make a real difference. But they are not a substitute for housing that provides seniors new, safe residences, near services and public transportation.

An estimated 10,000 Maine seniors are waiting for such housing, and that number is expected to rise to 15,000 by 2022. Maine State Housing Authority has been constructing an average of about 120 new units a year, and has funding approved for another few hundred. At that rate, thousands of seniors will have to continue to wait while living in substandard or costly housing.

The $15 million senior housing bond now sitting on Gov. Paul LePage’s desk would provide gap financing for another 225 new affordable senior housing units. LePage has held up that bond since it was approved more than a year ago by 69 percent of the voters, and it is crucial that legislators find a way to shake those funds free as the number of Maine seniors who need housing continues to rise.

Maine should be proud that its communities are so full of committed, sympathetic volunteers that groups such as the Harpswell Aging at Home team are being called a model for the rest of the country.

But not all old homes can be patched up. That’s why we need the Legislature to do the right thing, and release the housing bond.

]]> 0, 28 Nov 2016 22:54:28 +0000
Our View: Maine House Speaker Eves’ lawsuit dead, but issue still alive Mon, 28 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 House Speaker Mark Eves’ lawsuit against Gov. LePage hit a dead end last week, but that doesn’t resolve everything.

Eves had claimed that his First Amendment rights had been violated when LePage used his control over discretionary funds to prevent Eves from getting a job heading a nonprofit social service agency, Good Will-Hinckley, in retaliation for political differences.

A U.S. District Court judge in Maine ruled that LePage could not be held liable for doing his job, which includes authorizing or not authorizing the use of the funds. Now two members of a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals agree, likely putting an end to it as a legal matter.

But at its heart, this was always more of a political matter than a legal one, and the ramifications go beyond this single case.

The judges say that a governor has immunity from civil damages, even if he was using his power over Eves’ private life to punish the speaker for things he did in his official capacity. But is that any way to run a government?

Using the powers of office for political favors or punishment is something that has a long history in our democracy, but not the kind of history most people are proud of. It’s the leverage that master manipulators like President Lyndon B. Johnson is famous for, or the big-city “bosses” who used patronage to get their not-always-aboveboard way in the bad old days. Back-room politics like this is disdained for the very good reason that it is a very bad way to make public policy.

The Maine Legislature is a part-time job for most of its members, and the state government contracts for services with thousands of potential employers for lawmakers. Taking a job away from Eves – especially after it had been publicly announced – sends a chilling message throughout the State House: Think twice before crossing the governor, because he can make you pay.

This is not only true for this governor, who will only be in office for two more years. Future governors will also be able to use their control over discretionary funds to reward and punish. The state contracts for services with thousands of entities, and many of them may hire current or former legislators. What will fear of a vengeful chief executive do to honest debate or separation of powers?

Since the courts won’t bail Maine out, legislators should. Laws that take discretion over dispersing funds or issuing bonds away from governors like LePage, who will use them for reasons other than those for which they were intended, should be on the agenda in 2017.

]]> 70, 27 Nov 2016 18:21:53 +0000
Another View: Trump should build wall – against conflicts of interest Mon, 28 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Imagine, for a moment, that Hillary Clinton were president-elect. Imagine further that she announced that her daughter, Chelsea, was taking over the Clinton Foundation – but would sit in on the president-elect’s meetings, including with foreign leaders who might have dealings with the foundation. Imagine – and this one isn’t difficult – the howls you would hear from Republicans.

That is, roughly, a mirror image of how the Trump enterprise is behaving, except the case of the real president-elect is more worrying. More worrying because Donald Trump’s company is for-profit, unlike the Clinton Foundation, and far less transparent than the foundation about its dealings, including overseas. Yet Trump is resisting the only ethical solution – selling his properties and putting the proceeds in a blind trust. Instead, he says he will leave company management to his adult children – even as he involves those children intimately in setting up his new administration.

Blithe assurances from Trump’s associates that he will scrupulously follow the law are not reassuring, because – as Trump himself noted in his meeting with The New York Times on Tuesday – conflict-of-interest laws generally do not apply to the president. Some constitutional experts argue that if he does not divest he would be at risk of violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bars U.S. officeholders from taking anything of value from foreign governments. Certainly he would subject the country to four years of unseemly mingling of personal and national interests, and himself to four years of distracting accusations and second-guessing.

]]> 5 Sun, 27 Nov 2016 18:19:12 +0000
Our View: Maine colleges rightly defend fearful undocumented students Sun, 27 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants have voluntarily come out of the shadows under an Obama administration program that offered them a temporary reprieve from deportation. Now, with Donald Trump about to take over the White House, those immigrants live in fear that the basic protections will be taken away, or worse, that the information they provided will be used against them.

That’s why we stand with the many members of the Colby College community who are speaking out in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which recognizes how tightly those immigrants are woven into the American fabric, and simply assures them that they can continue to work and study in this country just as many of them have for most of their lives.

The DACA program allows undocumented immigrants who entered the country when they were under the age of 16 and who had not yet turned 31 in 2012 to apply for a two-year protected status. Those approved receive a two-year work permit and the ability to apply for a Social Security number and driver’s license. They can also travel to and from the country.

Nearly 750,000 undocumented immigrants are now taking advantage of the program, announcing that they are in the country illegally in exchange for the right to work, drive, study and bank here.

However, as a candidate, Trump said he would “immediately terminate” the program, and his pick for U.S. attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, has tried to block or minimize the program on several occasions.

Since then, Trump has said he would focus immigration enforcement on those with criminal records. But that is of little solace to the immigrants who have grown up here in ways almost no different from most Americans.

They have been in classrooms and on playgrounds next to American citizens. They have been their friends and co-workers and dorm mates. In many cases, they know no other life than that in the United States, and now they feel – understandably so – that they are in danger of losing it.

For a group that broke the law and were thrust into a precarious life through no fault of their own, and which came forward on their own volition when an opportunity arose to live in the open, that’s wrong.

That’s why we are glad that 113 faculty and staff members at Colby urged the college in a Nov. 16 letter to protect the safety and place on campus for any student enrolled in the DACA program,” and that President David A. Greene joined at least 250 college and university presidents, including those at Bates and Bowdoin, in signing a statement supporting the DACA program.

Undocumented youth who have grown up here and now attend college here deserve our protection. Trump not only could repeal the program, but there is some worry that his administration could use the information provided to the federal government to target these students, if not to remove them from the country then at least to take any federal student aid they receive.

It’s heartening that so many colleges and universities recognize that these students are a part of their communities and a benefit to higher education. As we await Trump’s decisions on immigration policy, we hope that others hear that message, and prepare to come to the aid of people who have a great deal to add to our country.

]]> 86, 29 Nov 2016 10:53:49 +0000
Another View: Corrections chief says his heart goes out to family of teen suicide victim Sun, 27 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 My heart goes out to the family of Charles Maisie Knowles (who died in state custody this month), the staff members and young residents of the Long Creek Youth Development Center, as well as those within the greater community who are feeling this loss on a very personal level.

It is heart-wrenching to remain silent; however, as the commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections, I am legally bound to refrain from comments about an ongoing investigation.

As a clinical psychologist with a 25-year history of advocating for children and families, I certainly understand the critical role of ongoing emotional support following such a tragic loss of a young life. In the past 20 years, the Maine Department of Corrections has not experienced the death of one of our young residents. Our staff at Long Creek has and will continue to provide a safe space for all our young residents.

On a daily basis the dedicated men and women working at Long Creek try to support and strengthen the lives of the young people in their charge. The staff members too are struggling with this tragedy. I want them to know that we wholeheartedly support and appreciate their ongoing dedication to their work with the young residents of Long Creek.

As the commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections, I have an open-door policy of transparency related to the development and oversight of our policies and protocols. We routinely collaborate with outside agencies and experts such as American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, Disability Rights Center of Maine and the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Maine, as well as the Federal Bureau of Prisons in the development of our policies, practices and training. As a part of standard operating procedure, we are regularly audited and reviewed by the American Correctional Association and the National Organization of Performance Based Standards. These ongoing reviews ensure we uphold the highest level of daily operations and treatment programming.

However, even with all the aforementioned oversight and safeguards, we are struggling with the tragic loss of one of our residents. So we are diligently reviewing all of our current policies and protocols, which will include an analysis by state and federal experts in the areas of suicide prevention and transgender policies and programming.

In closing, I would just like to state that this tragic loss of life has been devastating for all involved, and our hearts and prayers are with the Knowles family during their time of sorrow.

]]> 1 Fri, 25 Nov 2016 18:39:48 +0000
Another View: Attorney general pick Sessions should let states decide on pot Sat, 26 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to be attorney general of the United States rightly has proponents of marijuana legalization troubled.

Sessions, who at an April congressional hearing remarked that “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and joked in the past that he thought members of the Ku Klux Klan were “OK until I found out they smoked pot,” is a hard-line drug warrior at a time when most of the nation has signaled a willingness to permit marijuana use.

Recent public opinion polls have shown a majority of Americans support legalization, including polls conducted by Gallup and Pew Research finding 60 percent and 57 percent in support, respectively. An additional Gallup poll reported 13 percent of American adults identify as current marijuana users – bad people, according to Sessions – and 43 percent of adults have tried marijuana in their lifetimes.

While concerns over the abuse of marijuana, or any substance for that matter, are perfectly valid, it is clear that growing numbers of Americans are no longer convinced that prohibition and criminalization are justifiable approaches to the issue.

In fact, we now live in a nation where 29 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, and eight states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, despite marijuana officially being illegal under federal law.

On Election Day, four states – California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada – voted to legalize recreational marijuana. An additional three states – Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota – voted to allow medical marijuana in their respective jurisdictions, while Montana voters approved a measure better facilitating access to medical marijuana.

Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice has effectively taken a hands-off approach, allowing states to try their own approaches to marijuana policy. But marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, illegal under federal law for medicinal or recreational use and distribution.

Going on his record and past statements, the prospects of a hands-off approach to marijuana under a Sessions-led DOJ seem dim. “We need grown-ups in charge in Washington saying marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger,” said Sessions at a hearing in April.

If there’s any room for optimism, it comes from statements made by Donald Trump throughout his campaign. “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” he said to The Washington Post last year. He later told Bill O’Reilly that he is “a hundred percent” in support of medical marijuana.

We completely agree with these stances from Trump. Allowing states greater freedom to experiment with differing approaches to complex problems is often desirable, and this is certainly the case with respect to marijuana.

Ideally, Congress should consider removing marijuana from the federal drug scheduling system entirely to remove any ambiguity about the legal status of marijuana. Short of that, a continuation of the current hands-off policy from the DOJ makes more sense than going against the wishes of the vast majority of Americans.

]]> 14, 26 Nov 2016 11:52:16 +0000
Our View: Maine corrections chief right to speak up on Long Creek suicide Fri, 25 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 It’s hard to know what to say when a family is grieving the suicide of a child. But if the child was in state custody, there is no excuse for silence.

That’s why we were encouraged this week when Maine Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick spoke about his reaction to the death of Charles Maisie Knowles, a 16-year-old transgender boy who died Nov. 1 as a result of self-inflicted injuries suffered at Long Creek Youth Development Center last month.

In a letter to the editor, Fitzpatrick expressed his sympathy for the teenager’s family, as well as the staff at Long Creek, who are shocked by the sudden death of someone who was in their care. It was the first death at the institution in 20 years.

The commissioner said that he is reviewing all of the department’s policies and procedures to see if there could be something that would prevent an event like this from happening again.

In a subsequent interview, Fitzpatrick said that he planned to convene a panel of outside groups to evaluate the case and make recommendations. He said that there were two open investigations involving the state police and the Attorney General’s Office.

Fitzpatrick is limited in what he can say now, but there are still important issues that will need to be aired after the inquiry is complete.

For one, there is a dispute between the Knowles family and Fitzpatrick about the type of mental health services available to young people who are being “detained” at the facility, but not “committed.”

Michelle Knowles, the child’s mother, has said she had been told that her son was not receiving a full complement of treatment because he was being held at the facility awaiting court action, but had not been committed by a judge. Fitzpatrick forcefully pushed back in his interview, saying, “There is no differential between committed and detained in terms of health care or mental health care. In terms of access to psychiatry and medication and clinical social workers and psychologists, it’s the same.”

Another issue is whether the facility has the right policies in place to care for transgender youth. Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, along with the Maine chapter of the ACLU, have raised questions about whether the proper safeguards were in place in this situation.

Fitzpatrick is doing the right thing by convening a panel and speaking out, even in the limited way now available to him. He should not stop there.

Every Mainer is responsible for the health and safety of children who are in state custody. The commissioner should keep the public informed about what changes, if any, he is making at Long Creek and what his staff will do to protect every child in their care.

]]> 0, 24 Nov 2016 22:29:07 +0000
Another View: Trump right to back off Clinton probe, but it’s still not his call Fri, 25 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The nation ought to be relieved that President-elect Donald Trump has decided not to press his campaign pledge to criminally investigate rival Hillary Clinton for her handling of email while secretary of state and for the activities of the Clinton Foundation.

A drawn-out probe, fueled by Trump from the White House, would invariably become a political circus, take on the overtones of vendetta and deepen the wounds of the election. It would represent a continuation of the reckless “lock her up” chants by Trump’s campaign crowds, a mantra that suggested a Trump administration would run roughshod over the rule of law.

It would also fly in the face of the conclusion already drawn by FBI Director James Comey after a thorough investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. Comey said that no reasonable prosecutor would bring a case against Clinton based on the available evidence.

With the presidential campaign ended, Trump seems to have concluded that the legal pursuit of Clinton or former president Bill Clinton would be a legal and political loser.

“It would be very, very divisive for the country,” he told The New York Times on Tuesday. “My inclination,” he said, “would be, for whatever power I have on the matter, is to say let’s go forward.”

But even in his welcome rethinking, it was not clear that Trump understands the principle of justice insulated from political control. His statement contained only a glimmer of recognition that, as president, it should not be for him to decide whether criminal prosecutions are undertaken. The law enforcement system and the U.S. attorneys who investigate and prosecute federal crimes are supposed to be independent, free from interference by the White House or anyone else.

]]> 6 Thu, 24 Nov 2016 20:51:14 +0000
Our View: No time to turn our backs on Syrian refugees Thu, 24 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Gov. LePage’s refusal to administer the state’s federally funded refugee resettlement program will do nothing to prevent Maine and the rest of the United States from providing a safe haven for people fleeing war-torn countries. A nonprofit agency will simply step in and fill the void.

Instead, the real danger comes from President-elect Donald Trump, whose anti-refugee rhetoric has given Americans a distorted view of the resettlement program, and whose administration promises to reduce or end it.

As we give thanks for all we have as Americans, and prepare for a season of giving, there is an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a moral country and the world’s superpower, with the ability to provide sanctuary for people coming from unimaginable circumstances.


LePage notified the federal government in a Nov. 4 letter that he would not administer the refugee resettlement program “until adequate vetting procedures can be established,” joining 13 other states. He went on to misquote the FBI director on the competency of that vetting process, and said Maine has been burdened by an “unchecked influx of refugees.”

Trump used much of the same language, noting during a campaign stop in Portland that “hundreds of thousands of refugees” were streaming into the United States.

But there is no deluge. Maine received 607 immigrants last year. If the state’s population is represented by a capacity crowd at Fenway Park, that’s like adding 17 more people to the bleacher seats.

The U.S. accepted around 85,000 refugees in fiscal year 2016, including a record 38,901 Muslim refugees – in a country of 320 million. Among them were 12,587 Syrians who fled airstrikes, terrorist attacks and starvation at home, then spent months if not years in official or makeshift camps that are dangerous in their own right before being approved for refugee status.

If Trump follows through on his campaign promises, that lifeline would be cut off, based on the fear that the resettlement program raises the possibility of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil.


But a sober look at the program shows that is not the case, certainly not to the degree Trump and LePage claim.

Anyone with an internet connection can look up the particulars of the program, which takes 18 to 24 months and includes multi-agency background checks, in-person interviews and other safeguards. Refugees make up about 10 percent of the immigrants who come into this country, and they are the most thoroughly screened category.

There are some weaknesses, including the reliability of information coming out of some source countries, but opponents calling for “adequate vetting procedures” seem to miss that they are already in place, and that there are far easier ways for someone dangerous to get into the country.

There are 5 million Syrian refugees – half of them children – and the U.S. has taken fewer than 15,000. Congress should address those shortfalls where they exist, but there is no need to bring a halt to the program, not when so much help is needed to quell this enormous humanitarian disaster, and not when the refugee program has had so few failures.


Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, over 800,000 refugees have come to the United States, many from Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq, not inconsequentially places where the American military has intervened. In all that time, and out of all those people, only five have been arrested on terrorism-related grounds, and none has been involved in an attack.

It is impossible to say that no refugee with terrorism in mind will get through. But we cannot let outsized fear paralyze us while a world in crisis needs our help.

Our country was strengthened by Irish, Jewish and Italian immigrants, as well as by Vietnamese and Cuban refugees who came here fleeing war and dictatorships.

On the flip side, to our lasting shame, hundreds of Jews fleeing Hitler’s Germany were turned away as a threat to national security.

In another trying time, we cannot let that happen. We are better than our prejudices, and stronger than our fears.

]]> 153, 23 Nov 2016 22:26:23 +0000
Our View: Readers are the last line of defense against fake news Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 False news used to be easy to spot: It was in the tabloids by the supermarket checkout line, illustrated with hilariously fabricated images of the Yeti or Martian babies.

Now misinformation can be shared worldwide in an instant. It’s packaged in a way that makes it look like credible content. And the recent election has made clear that a dismayingly large number of people are eager to share misinformation to further their candidate or cause.

Nobody wants the kind of authoritarian crackdown that would silence social media. Instead, it’s up to us as responsible citizens to stop using the platforms to spread fabricated claims.

Six in 10 Americans now get at least some news from the likes of Twitter and Facebook, the Pew Research Center recently reported, noting that half of the public turned to social media for 2016 presidential election coverage.

The sites at their best enable a lively, informative and wide-ranging conversation. But a BuzzFeed News analysis has revealed how social media can be misused: In the last three months of the campaign, made-up, largely pro-Donald Trump articles had more Facebook shares, reactions and comments than the top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined.

Social scientists, pundits and technology experts have been debating what role fake news played in the election ever since the BuzzFeed analysis was published. However, we already know a few reasons why misinformation spreads so easily online.

For one thing, says Northwestern University psychologist David Rapp, it’s difficult to take in information and critically evaluate it at the same time. And a statement that we’ve just heard is relatively easy to retrieve – meaning that it quickly springs to mind during a fast-moving online discussion, whether it’s valid or not.

Users are baited into staying on a particular site with headlines written to appeal to strong feelings, like anger and frustration. And a lot of readers won’t bother to read past the headline, as long it lines up with their political leanings. As Emerson College communications professor Paul Mihailidis recently told The Washington Post: “The more they could spread rumors, or could advocate for their value system or candidate, that took precedent over them not knowing” whether the story was accurate.

Partisanship also explains why misinformation has such a long half-life on Facebook. Fact checkers have become the focus of bias accusations. Some readers, for example, have castigated for its “absolute and obvious bias towards the left, against the right and towards atheism and against faith”; others have slammed Snopes’ staff as “dumbass Republicans that want to control everything.”

Founder Mark Zuckerberg recently announced Facebook’s plan of attack, including putting warning labels on fake stories and making it easier to report misleading content. But reining in the spread of misinformation is a massive challenge – and one that will only grow until we as users put our critical intelligence to work and stop allowing catchy headlines to substitute for the truth.

]]> 48, 22 Nov 2016 23:20:45 +0000
Another view: Obama’s last presidential visit spotlights Germany’s leader Wed, 23 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Barack Obama went to Germany – Europe’s economic and, thus, probably, political center – for a farewell-as-president meeting last week, underlining the importance of the relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel and, particularly, their personal rapport. With Obama’s imminent disappearance from the world stage, the transition to a Donald Trump administration is creating international disquiet.

Merkel is the most solidly based politically of the leaders of the most powerful Western European countries. She’s been chancellor since 2005, and her decision to run again in 2017 means it is likely that she will again stay on top of the complex, multi-party scene that German politics constitutes.

Merkel got along smoothly with Obama, but she is also easily enough of a pragmatist to work effectively with Trump where she sees American and German interests coinciding. She also had close ties to Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.

The principles that she as chancellor stands for include some that Trump did not advocate as a candidate. These include efforts to combat climate change, opposition to Russian designs on Ukraine, support of a strong NATO, and economic reform and free trade, including international agreements. Merkel also has pursued a German policy of welcoming immigrants, some 1 million in 2015. She would agree with Trump on strong economies with lots of job creation and firm opposition to Islamic State encroachment.

The American president-elect should not imagine that he and America can get along in the world without good relations with Germany and its chancellor. Neither Bush nor Obama thought so. Ukraine and Russia won’t do it.

]]> 2 Tue, 22 Nov 2016 20:59:50 +0000
Our View: Rural hospitals should be paid for keeping people healthy Tue, 22 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 When politicians complain about the Affordable Care Act, they usually focus on areas where they think it went too far.

But for the sake of small, rural hospitals in Maine, they really ought to be looking at the places where it didn’t go nearly far enough.

The sweeping 2010 law greatly expanded who can get health insurance, but made only tentative steps toward reforming how providers are compensated for care.

Now that a new Republican Congress and president have promised to overhaul the health care system, they should focus on speeding up the transition toward a system that controls costs by keeping people healthy instead of one that goes bankrupt by waiting for them to get sick.

Maine’s rural hospitals have been at the forefront of changes in the health care economy.

Surgery is becoming increasingly specialized and dependent on expensive technology. Small hospitals can’t afford to replicate the range of services that regional medical centers offer.

But the local hospitals are still vital pieces in the health delivery system, serving as centers for primary care, rehabilitation and outpatient services like physical therapy. Unfortunately, that doesn’t pay the bills.

Maine has several ongoing experiments with Medicare Accountable Care Organizations, in which a group of providers are paid a lump sum to care for a group of patients. If the patients meet certain health benchmarks, the ACO would share the savings, if any, creating an incentive for keeping people healthy.

But most people are not in an ACO, and small hospitals are still being compensated as if they were still in the business of inpatient surgery.

“We don’t yet get paid for keeping people healthy,” Marie Vienneau, CEO of Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft, recently told the Maine Sunday Telegram. “We don’t get paid for it, but we still do it because we know it’s the right thing to do.”

It’s one of the toughest problems in American health. “The right thing to do” is usually the simplest and least costly thing to do and what’s best for the patient, but it’s not what gets the financial reward. For instance, Medicare will pay to amputate the leg of a person with diabetes, but generally won’t cover routine foot care, which might have prevented an infection that has serious consequences.

It’s easy to put a value on the use of an operating room, equipment and staff time, but much more difficult to put a price tag on preventing something from happening.

That’s the challenge for would-be reformers. Health care costs are growing faster than inflation, and competition among insurers won’t change that. A system that focuses on wellness would reduce the need for expensive interventions, but it won’t happen if we penalize the institutions that deliver that kind of care.

]]> 6, 21 Nov 2016 22:40:45 +0000
Another View: Electoral College protects rural states’ interests Mon, 21 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 There has been much scrutiny over the Electoral College since the Nov. 8 presidential election, considering that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won the majority of the popular vote but not the majority of the electors. “This is the only office in the land where you can get more votes and still lose the presidency,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said. “The Electoral College is an outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect our modern society, and it needs to change immediately.”

There are online petitions, too, one of which has more than 750,000 signatures. We disagree with all of them. Keep the Electoral College.

First, we trust the Founding Fathers in how they created the structure of the federal government, which included electing presidents using electors from each state.

Second, the fact that a candidate can win the popular vote but lose the electoral count is simply a function of the winner-take-all aspect of the Electoral College (with the exceptions of Maine and Nebraska). The system is not designed to be an even tally.

Third, after the primary season is over, candidates would continue to focus on their base, rather than gravitate somewhat toward the center, as they do now. Swing voters in the middle would matter far less because moderates would become less valuable to campaign strategies. You think the races are ugly and polarized now?

]]> 11 Sun, 20 Nov 2016 18:45:44 +0000
Our View: Public owed answers on Long Creek suicide Mon, 21 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The Maine Department of Corrections has been virtually silent since a 16-year-old transgender boy committed suicide at Long Creek Youth Development Center in October, raising questions about the conditions under which the boy was held.

Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick has refused to answer those questions, or even comment generally on the department’s policies for handling transgender individuals under confinement.

That’s a concerning reaction to a disturbing event at a facility that once experienced far too many of them. Once a troubled and violent facility, Long Creek became a national model for juvenile detention. By being so closed off to justifiable public concern, it risks slipping back.

The transgender teen was born Maisie Knowles but went by Charles or Charlie. He was in Long Creek awaiting adjudication for setting his house on fire in August.

As a detainee, Knowles was not afforded the same level of services as an inmate, and thus was not receiving adequate treatment for his long history of mental illness.

His mother had tried to get her son care for weeks. Charles had only recently begun seeing a psychiatrist, and then only after the intervention of another physician who had previously seen the boy.

Knowles had a history of self-harm, and while in Long Creek had tried to kill himself at least three times. He was on and off suicide watch, and he had only recently been given back the bed sheets he used to hang himself.

Because the Department of Corrections has refused to answer questions, all that information comes from Knowles’ mother.

Sources within Long Creek confirmed to MPBN some of Knowles’ mother’s account, and also said the environment at the facility is “toxic,” with rampant bullying.

Yet the department has issued only a short statement on the incident, and Fitzpatrick has refused interviews and declined to answer a long list of questions from the Press Herald, including questions on the protocol for suicide watch and the department’s general transgender policy.

The latter is particularly important – Knowles was being held with female inmates, against his gender identity, and the department’s statement referred to him as a “female resident.”

The department needs to answer whether Knowles’ history of mental illness and status as a transgender teen were being sufficiently considered in his care. We also wonder why detainees do not receive a higher level of care when the teens, most of whom are in a precarious position, can be at the facility for weeks, if not months.

The claims of a toxic environment also should be addressed. As late as the early 2000s, Long Creek was an embarrassment. Described as a “grim place” by a state juvenile services official, solitary confinement and the restraint chair were in heavy use. Violence and recidivism were high.

In response, management was changed, and Long Creek began focusing on treatment rather than corrections, and became a model facility.

With such a difficult mission handling youths with complex problems and diagnoses, the old Long Creek could resurface unless officials are honest and open about its challenges, shortcomings and outright failures.

Bad things have happened at Long Creek before. Transparency will help ensure that they won’t happen again.

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Our View: Rural voters put their issues on national agenda Sun, 20 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The 2016 election might be remembered as the year of the rural revolt.

After an eight-year recovery in which urban areas saw most of the economic growth, rural Americans demanded change, voting overwhelmingly to put Donald Trump in the White House, where he said he would fight for them.

This was just as true in Maine, where, for the first time in history, the more rural 2nd Congressional District split its electoral vote from the state’s overall majority, voting for Trump over Hillary Clinton, running up big majorities in communities that had gone decisively for Barack Obama four years ago.

Rural voters have said that neither political party has been adequately listening to them, so they went with Trump, who might be listed as Republican on the ballot but has made clear that he has no commitment to party orthodoxy.

So now that everyone is listening, what are the concerns of rural America, and what are the policies that are likely to address them?

The obvious problem is the loss of manufacturing jobs, which were the lifeblood of many communities, like Maine’s mill towns. Since the 1990s globalization, new technology and a strong dollar have hollowed out the industrial base, making the good-paying jobs that would support a family on one person’s paycheck a thing of the past.

The impact has been more than just a loss of income. Rural Americans are experiencing a number of health and social problems that are feeding the frustration.

Chronic conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure are more common in rural areas, due in part to behavioral causes.

Tobacco use, the leading cause of preventable death, is far more common in rural areas, according to the American Lung Association. Not only is cigarette smoking more prevalent, but smokeless tobacco use is twice as common, too.

Obesity rates are also higher in the country. Alcohol abuse is higher in rural areas, and illicit use of opioids, once considered an urban problem, is making inroads in less-populated places.

The teen birth rate is nearly two thirds higher in rural areas than in urban America.

Perhaps the most troubling statistics relate to suicide rates, which are twice as high among youth in rural areas as in metropolitan areas.

In Maine, the highest poverty rates are in the most rural counties. The stress of growing up in poverty disrupts a child’s ability to learn.

These problems are related. It’s not just the jobs that disappeared – communities have been undermined as well.

And the critics are right: Neither party has proposed much that would change the picture.

When Democrats talk about economic development, they usually come around to the problems of paying for college. While that is an important priority, it does not mean much to a 50-year-old laid-off mill worker with a family who needs help right away.

When Republicans talk about cutting tax rates and reducing the size of government, they are not offering help to people who would benefit from government programs to expand access to health care.

And when Trump makes empty promises about bringing back manufacturing by erecting trade barriers and limiting immigration, he’s only delaying real action on the underlying problems.

The old economy is not coming back, but that doesn’t mean that a new one can’t replace it, just as the industrial economy replaced the agricultural one a century ago. It’s a matter of creating an environment where small businesses can start up and grow, and displaced workers are given the support they need to make it through the transition.

This election put the problems of rural America on the agenda. Now it’s time to do something about them.

]]> 8, 18 Nov 2016 18:29:24 +0000
Another View: Liberal academia incapable of understanding Trump Sun, 20 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 ‘Nauseating” is not a strong enough word for Tribune News Service columnist Gina Barreca’s rant in the Nov. 12 Portland Press Herald (Page A7) that “women voted for (Donald) Trump and against Hillary (Clinton) in startling numbers, perhaps because of their own self-loathing or their resentment at another woman’s success.”

Ms. Barreca, a professor of English literature and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut, gives life to Fordham Associate Professor Charles C. Camosy’s column the very next day, headlining the Insight section of the Maine Sunday Telegram, titled “It’s their education, stupid” (Page D1).

Professor Camosy maintains that overwhelmingly left-wing academia, where liberal professors “outnumber conservatives 5-to-1,” has produced a “monolithic, insulated political culture in the vast majority of our colleges and universities” that issues forth graduates (and professors, too, it would seem ) “unable to understand people with unfamiliar or heterodox views on guns, abortion, religion, marriage, gender and privilege.”

Thus, says Camosy, “the college educated find themselves so unable to understand a particular working-class point of view that they will respond to those perspectives with shocking condescension.”

And shockingly condescending it is to attribute female support of Donald Trump to “self-loathing” and “resentment.” Only someone like a liberal, feminist academic, isolated from the norms and values of “flyover country,” could be “startled” that working-class women who’d been labeled “deplorables” by Hillary would pull the lever for Donald. Loathsome indeed.

The 40 percent of Americans who have a college degree should note that 60 percent of Americans don’t – and they vote.

Given the choice between the country’s future being charted by professors of feminist theory or by the wives of, say, plumbers, I’ll take the wives of plumbers every time.

An every-other-week column in the Press Herald is a plum spot. Is out-of-stater Gina Barreca the best you can do?

Correction: This story was updated at 11:05 a.m. on Nov. 20, 2016 to correct the name of the author.


]]> 8 Sun, 20 Nov 2016 11:06:07 +0000
Another View: Trump’s immigration policy has familiar look Sat, 19 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Since Donald Trump’s election victory, the rhetoric over his hard line stance on immigration policies hasn’t cooled a bit. In a recent interview on “60 Minutes,” the president-elect vowed to deport or incarcerate as many a 3 million immigrants.

But what if for all the bluster and threats, the posturing and promises, a Trump administration pursues an immigration strategy not all that different from that of President Obama? For a variety of reasons, that might be where he’s headed. Here’s why.

First, often overlooked by Trump’s more virulent anti-immigrant supporters is that fact that the Obama administration has already set records for deportations. Since 2008, an estimated 2.7 million people have been deported, with an emphasis on the very individuals Trump claims he wants to ship out – gang members, felons and other serious criminals.

So Trump’s immigration stand may not be quite as bold as it appears. Indeed, it would be hard to see the numbers add up otherwise – there simply aren’t 3 million undocumented convicted criminals to deport. The number is more likely under 900,000, according to U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Migration Policy Institute estimates.

Second is a simple lack of deportation infrastructure. Ever try to round up millions of people who don’t want to be caught? During the campaign, Trump spoke of a possible “deportation force,” but Republicans in Congress have pooh-poohed that idea. And it’s not just a lack of immigration agents – detaining suspects and litigating those cases would pose a challenge to existing resources as well.

In fact, there’s already a backup in the court system – perhaps a half-million or more cases – from the Obama administration’s deportation efforts. Trump can vilify the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without documentation all he wants, but the law gives those individuals the right to appeal any deportation order.

Given those legal, logistical and resource impediments, it’s entirely possible Trump is pulling a fast one and will simply make more noise about deportation than his predecessors. The building of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico may prove to be in the same vein – many miles of fencing already exist along the California and Arizona borders, barriers that have proven far from impervious. Meanwhile, more than 40 percent of the undocumented arrive legally but then overstay their visas, making a fence, wall or any other barrier moot.

Yet even if a President Trump doesn’t take any of the draconian measures he has promised, he’s already helped change the American culture – for the worse. Anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise. Polls show American attitudes toward immigrants from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa are more negative than positive regardless of legal status.

And hate crimes directed toward Mexicans and other Latinos are on the rise as well. More than 400 incidents of harassment and intimidation have been recorded by the Southern Poverty Law Center since Election Day. The leading target? Immigrants, with 136 such cases as of Monday.

Meanwhile, Trump’s attacks on the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA could lead to a trade war and tariffs that will depress the Mexican economy and motivate more people to enter the U.S. illegally. If all that sounds confusing, you’ve got it about right. Mass deportations are unlikely, but mass hysteria over a bogus immigration threat? That may be closer to what’s in store for the country.

]]> 51, 18 Nov 2016 22:38:16 +0000
Our View: Maine DHHS should shift focus on Portland’s General Assistance spending Fri, 18 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 It’s good news for Portland that the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has just agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle a two-year-old lawsuit over state General Assistance reimbursements. But the relief at putting the case to rest is clouded by thoughts of the time, money and energy directed at resolving a problem that never was, created by state officials bent on scapegoating those in need.

General Assistance funds are distributed in cities and towns around Maine in the form of vouchers for housing, food, medication and other basic expenses. Portland sued the state after the DHHS declared it would no longer honor the informal 1989 agreement under which the city used GA funds to operate its homeless shelter and was reimbursed for most of its costs.

GA had already been in the crosshairs: The DHHS had said it would no longer reimburse cities for GA funds that went to legal noncitizens. The dispute was escalated when the LePage administration released a preliminary audit of Portland’s operation of the shelter that blasted Maine’s largest city for using more than its share of state resources.

Far from being reality-based, the attack was reflective instead of the DHHS’ obsession with ensuring that no undeserving people receive aid. Portland has repeatedly been found to be in compliance with state General Assistance standards – even by LePage administration audits.

The city has also adjusted its practices to comply with the state’s criticism that it didn’t review the financial status of people staying at the municipal shelter before billing the state GA program. But although much was made of the use of the shelter by people who reportedly had assets that could have paid for housing, these people are extraordinary cases. They account for a very small percentage of shelter residents.

Nobody stays on a thin foam rubber mat in the shelter, elbow to elbow with other people, if they have the means to sleep elsewhere. It’s a place for those without any options – and their ranks are great enough to make it a challenge for the shelter to serve them.

What’s more, Portland’s municipal facility is serving a statewide population: Historically, only about a third of shelter clients are city residents. Many come to Portland from other Maine communities because of the array and concentration of services here.

The city of Portland deserves kudos for standing up for the people who need General Assistance. And if the state really wants to help Portland reduce its GA spending, it should help make sure that the city isn’t left on its own, delivering services that are used by people from around Maine.

]]> 13, 17 Nov 2016 22:35:37 +0000
Another View: Urging further financial boost for Greece, Obama gives EU sound advice Fri, 18 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Visiting Europe this week, President Obama urged leaders of the European Union to be more forgiving of Greece and its debts. No doubt reflecting on events back home, he said that economic stress and suspicion of unresponsive institutions were empowering populism. Addressing those worries needed to be a high priority, and supporting Greece’s flattened economy would help.

He’s right about one thing: Getting Greece’s economy back to sustainable growth requires debt relief. But this might be hard to arrange.

Greece’s public debt stands at roughly 180 percent of GDP. That’s insupportable, even with the more generous terms (low interest rates and more time to pay back the borrowing) now in place. The economic case for further debt relief isn’t really in doubt.

The International Monetary Fund, no bleeding heart in matters of fiscal rectitude, has for many months been urging EU governments to act. “It cannot be assumed that Greece can simply grow out of its debt problem,” officials noted in a recent appraisal. Further debt relief will be needed, “going well beyond what is currently under consideration.”

Obama has backed this message before, and he said it again this week. He praised the efforts Greece has already made to get its economy working more efficiently. For sure, there’s more to do in that respect, but Greece can’t get from here to a durable recovery without the help of the EU.

Unfortunately, Europe’s governments aren’t yet willing. With elections in France and Germany approaching, and patience with Greece’s endless difficulties running low, they’re reluctant to force explicit losses on to their taxpayers.

]]> 1 Thu, 17 Nov 2016 20:03:48 +0000
Our View: All Maine school districts should note bullying settlement Thu, 17 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 It’s always good when you can learn from your own mistakes, but even better when you can learn from the mistakes of others. Such a learning opportunity has been presented to every school system in the state by the Brunswick School District, which has paid $125,000 to settle a human rights lawsuit filed by the family of a former student who had been bullied.

More significant than the cash is the blow this case delivers to the reputation of Brunswick Junior High School and the people in charge, who had the best intentions and thought they were doing all the right things, but still failed in the most important task for school administrators: keeping every student safe.

As part of the settlement, Brunswick has committed to an anti-bullying regime that includes not only staff training and student assemblies, but also the creation of a junior high school Gay Straight Alliance and a bullying tracking system, which will make it harder for school officials to mistake a hostile educational environment for a series of isolated incidents. Other school districts should not wait for a similar lawsuit before examining their own programs and determining if they are doing everything they can to ensure there is a safe learning environment for every student.

The boy, known in court documents as “Jack Doe,” charges that he was picked on from 2010 to 2012 by a group of junior high classmates, who subjected him to verbal and physical harassment because they perceived him to be gay. The boy and his parents complained to school officials, who looked into each incident, but, according to an investigation by the Maine Human Rights Commission, they did not recognize a pattern. The panel found in 2014 that administrators failed “to look at the overall picture of what was happening … (and) allowed a hostile education environment to persist for a lengthy period of time.”

This was more than just teasing. The boy’s grades and scores on standardized tests plummeted. He missed many days of school, and when his mother told him he needed to attend a meeting with the principal about his situation, he had a panic attack. He was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Ultimately, he had to stop attending Brunswick Junior High School.

This case highlights the challenges faced by teachers and school administrators.

Most of the conduct that led to the complaint occurred in restrooms or by lockers and out of the sight of adults, and some incidents even took place away from school entirely. But the stigma and threats from those situations carried over to the classroom, and should have been addressed by school officials.

It’s good for the district and the family to finally have this matter behind them. It’s also good for other educators to know what’s expected of them when it comes to preventing bullying.

The circumstances described in this case are horrifying, but they are certainly not unique. Every school administrator should be questioning whether they are doing all they can to prevent something like this from happening in their school.

]]> 11, 16 Nov 2016 22:14:16 +0000
Another View: Young java junkies causing too much price stimulation Wed, 16 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 They grew up so fast: The youngest millennials, now 20 or so, started drinking coffee before they were even 15, according to National Coffee Association data. Millennial consumption is helping drive up the price of coffee, which is now in the top five raw materials on the Bloomberg Commodity Index.

Coffee has more caffeine than soda, and only as much sugar as the consumer wishes. It also lacks soda’s stigma, according to consultant Gabrielle Bosche. “Soda is unhealthy, and coffee offers the same jolt without the socially unacceptable soda addiction,” she said. “Coffee has everything millennials love: status, experience and personalization.”

That experience and personalization also contribute to the price. You can get 30.5 ounces of Folgers grounds at the local supermarket for about 7 bucks and make 240 cups. You can easily spend that and then some on two cups at Starbucks.

If today’s 20-year-olds typically started their coffee habits at 14, by now 13-year-olds, maybe even 12-year-olds, may be drinking the stuff. They probably don’t even care about research showing that the caffeine in java may help prevent Alzheimer’s. This motivates one to pick up a mug, drink deeply and ponder.

]]> 0 Tue, 15 Nov 2016 21:26:10 +0000
Our View: Don’t let Trump derail new northern Maine national monument Wed, 16 Nov 2016 06:00:00 +0000 No president has ever abolished a national monument. But Donald Trump was elected last week because he promised to do things no other chief executive has ever done – and his vow to “turn it all around” shouldn’t be allowed to derail northern Maine’s recently created Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Sixteen presidents, Republican and Democratic, have created monuments. Exercising authority granted them under the Antiquities Act of 1906, established by the famously conservation-minded Theodore Roosevelt, they’ve recognized the need to preserve wildlands and historic sites for future generations.

These protections have stayed in place, even during fraught transfers of power. In 2001, for example, the incoming administration of George W. Bush vowed to review Bill Clinton’s monuments (all but one designated during the last year of his presidency). They backed down – not because they’d reversed their views on the environment, but because reversing the designations would be a lengthy process involving congressional action.

Now Donald Trump’s pledges to upend the usual procedures have foes of Katahdin Woods and Waters hoping he’ll easily undo protections put in place by President Obama. But even if he could reverse the designation on his own, it wouldn’t return the region to the days when Maine’s paper mills were still booming. Northern Maine needs a more diverse economy, and the national monument designation is a step toward that goal.

Along with high-profile Maine Republicans, including Gov. LePage and 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, Trump has blasted the designation as executive overreach by Obama. But the same could be said of the decision by one president to rip up his predecessor’s monument proclamations.

Why? Because when a president designates a monument, he’s exercising authority delegated to him by Congress. So any challenge to that action should be brought before Congress for debate and amendment.

And public input on Katahdin Woods and Waters wasn’t stifled – it was welcomed. Everybody on both sides of the issue had an opportunity to voice their views, at a pair of public meetings with the head of the National Park Service, held in Maine in May.

We don’t know if Trump’s bluster represents a credible threat to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. But it’s clear that we shouldn’t take for granted the monument’s status: It needs active advocates, and they must speak up early and often.

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Our View: Sen. Collins’ voice needed on Trump’s appointments Tue, 15 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 It is to be expected that Sen. Susan Collin, R-Maine, would celebrate the selection of Reince Priebus as chief of staff for Donald Trump. The chairman of the Republican Party, Priebus is just the kind of figure Washington Republicans want in the White House, as a tether between the party and the unpredictable president-elect.

But we should also expect Collins to speak out against Trump’s worst impulses, starting with the appointment of Stephen K. Bannon. Bannon, as the head of Breitbart News, fomented the most hateful and dangerous segments of the far right, and now he has the ear of the most powerful man in the United States.

We hope Collins, who publicly declared Trump unacceptable during the campaign, will continue to act as a moderating force in a federal government soon to be completely under the control of Republicans. And with Trump’s selection of Bannon, moderating force is desperately needed.

Bannon took over Breitbart News, a conservative, populist opinion and news site, after the death of founder Andrew Breitbart and turned it into the chief mouthpiece and instigator of the so-called “alt-right” – a loose white-nationalist group outside the conservative mainstream.

In addition to run-of-the-mill conservative news dressed up in bombastic headlines, Breitbart trafficks in a mix of rumor, conspiracy theory and innuendo aimed at appealing to the alt-right’s notion of white supremacy. Immigrants and refugees are portrayed as imminent, violent threats, plotting and organizing against Americans. Inner cities are said to be on fire, in utter chaos and on the verge of collapse. Breitbart’s articles have said Muslims were seen celebrating on rooftops on Sept. 11, 2001, and that Islamic terrorists have infiltrated the Obama White House, or Hillary Clinton’s campaign team.

All unsubstantiated, reckless, and extremely popular with Americans whose views have no good place in America. And indeed, until recently, those views were relegated quietly to the fringe.

But now, with Bannon’s appointment, the alt-right is represented in the White House, its views validated at the highest reaches of U.S. power. The racists, misogynists and anti-Semites in its ranks now have a license to more openly act on their backward and hateful views.

There’s plenty to be concerned about in the Trump administration. It is worrisome to think how, say, Newt Gingrich would act as secretary of state, or Rudy Giuliani as attorney general. Trump’s three eldest children are prominently involved in both his White House transition team and his private company, inviting unprecedented conflicts of interest. He reportedly is considering a climate-change denier to head up the EPA, as well as dim lights such as Sarah Palin and Sheriff Joe Arpaio for prominent positions.

But that in a lot of ways is just the politics of a new presidency. Bannon is something more, one of the main reasons why the nation’s racist underbelly now feels so comfortable acting out in the open.

Such a man should not have a place in the Oval Office. With Democrats out of power, it is up to Republicans to say so.

Collins has made herself powerful as a sensible, centrist Republican who can temper the worst inclinations of each party. Her leadership is needed more than ever now.

]]> 100, 14 Nov 2016 23:54:31 +0000
Another View: Well-earned credit thickens plot for Shakespeare co-author Mon, 14 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 For hundreds of years, William Shakespeare has been the subject of whispering campaigns calling into question the authorship of many of his most famous plays. Being dead for half a millennium has put the Bard in the awkward position of not being able to forcefully contest these theories.

A name that consistently comes up as someone whose handiwork can be detected in plays traditionally attributed to Shakespeare is Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright. While the theories that Marlowe (or anyone else) was the sole author of any of Shakespeare’s plays have been mostly debunked, there’s a good reason that his name keeps resurfacing: They collaborated on at least three plays.

In fact, Shakespeare is believed to have collaborated with many other writers of the Elizabethan era, as well. According to an international committee of 23 distinguished Shakespeare scholars, a computer-assisted analysis of recurring phrases and language points to the likelihood that Marlowe should be credited as co-writer of at least the three Henry VI plays now attributed solely to Shakespeare.

That’s why the latest “New Oxford Shakespeare” lists their names jointly on the title pages of Parts 1, 2 and 3 of “Henry VI” for the first time.

There’s much excitement in the academic world about this because it represents an honest acknowledgment of irrefutable scholarship and textual analysis. A more realistic understanding of Shakespeare’s output and work process will only deepen our respect for the most influential writer of the last 500 years – not lessen it.

]]> 0 Sat, 12 Nov 2016 17:28:25 +0000
Our View: Ranked-choice voting fuels hope for the future Mon, 14 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 During this year’s sharply divided and brutally contested presidential election, there was one thing most voters could agree on: their dislike of both leading candidates.

So on Nov. 8, a minority of the nation’s voters tipped the Electoral College scale to favor Republican Donald Trump, the least popular candidate in the history of modern polling, over Democrat Hillary Clinton, the second least popular candidate ever, in an election in which 43 percent of eligible voters stayed home. Even Maine, always a leader in voter turnout, appears to have seen a drop in participation this year, a predictable result of an almost exclusively negative campaign.

Tuesday’s results give us one cause for hope, however: A majority of voters approved a referendum that calls for ranked-choice voting in primaries and general elections for governor, Congress and the state Legislature.

The presidential race would not have been directly affected by Maine’s new law, but it’s a good example of what can go wrong with the current system. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spent more time driving voters away from their opponent than they did on bringing new people to their own camp. Voters who didn’t like either one were forced to choose between them anyway. If they looked at another candidate, such as Libertarian Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein, they risked helping elect the candidate they liked the least. Hardly an inspiring civic exercise.

If 2016 had been a ranked-choice election, voters would have had more freedom to consider the options, and maybe more of them would have voted. Instead of handicapping a candidate’s chance of winning, eliminating the long shots from consideration and voting for the lesser of the remaining evils, the voter only has to decide which candidate they like the best. Then, if they have a second choice, the voter has a way to register it.

In races where there are more than three candidates, voters can rank as many choices or as few choices as they want. If there is only one candidate the voter wants to support, that vote will be counted as long as that candidate is still in the race.

There are no guarantees, but ranked-choice voting creates an incentive for candidates to stay positive. When a candidate wants support from another candidate’s supporters, there is less of an incentive to attack. To see that dynamic at work, look at the careful way that both Clinton and Trump talked about Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders when he was running for the Democratic nomination. They didn’t say nice things about him because they agreed with him, but because they didn’t want to alienate his supporters.

Maine will have a big election in two years, with both the governor’s office and a U.S. Senate seat on the ballot. Thanks to the passage of this referendum, the whole country will be watching to see if Maine has come up with a better way to run our elections.

After watching 2016, we could hardly do worse.

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Another View: Nemitz’s letter to grandson prompts call for national, world unity Sun, 13 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 I am writing concerning columnist Bill Nemitz’s letter to his grandson (Nov. 6). My prayers are said to his grandson and all new children in this world today.

I lived through the years of war in Vietnam. So many service personnel in this country – many of my friends and friends’ sons, brothers and fathers – did not return.

I worked through the campaign of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon and those debates. At that time, people weren’t certain who would win. Kennedy was a Catholic; there was prejudice at that time, as there is today.

I cried through the news of President Kennedy and his brother Bobby being assassinated.

I witnessed coverage of the first attack on the World Trade Center and, years later, the terrorist attacks on the Trade Center and Pentagon. I really knew then that we were in big trouble. From then to today, this trouble has continued.

We are still at war in the Middle East. We have been through a horrible recession/depression from the greed of institutions we trusted. We have been through eight years of, for the most part, nothing being done in Congress (prejudice, because an African-American citizen had become president) and now the most ugly election campaigns I have ever witnessed.

Again, I see this country and the world in major trouble that hasn’t really happened since the Crusades. People in this country and leaders in the world need to sit and have intelligent conversation, not “you did this” and “we caused that.”

Compromises and plans need to be developed so the young children being born today can live in peace and prosperity in this world and not live through the hatred that exists today. My prayers are not only with them, but also with us all.

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Our View: Maine legislators should govern with split state in mind Sun, 13 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The Legislature will convene in December more closely divided than when it last recessed, reflecting the state it represents and a nation that just gave the popular vote to one presidential candidate and the presidency to another. At this point of great friction, it is important that lawmakers respect and transcend that division, and work together to find compromises that honor all Mainers.

They will have an opportunity almost immediately. The referendums approved statewide at the polls last week provide general direction for the Legislature on important matters, and require that lawmakers find common ground on the details.

Maine voters Tuesday approved, by a very slim margin, Question 2, calling for a 3 percent surcharge on annual household income above $200,000, with the money raised to go toward meeting the state’s obligation of providing 55 percent of school funding.

However, because of the intricacies of tax structure and school funding, it gives the governor’s office and the Legislature plenty of room to maneuver. Outside of this issue, tax rates could be lowered, lessening the impact of Question 2’s tax increase and lowering the amount of money the state has to spend. Other sources of school funding could be diminished, or what exactly counts toward the 55 percent could be changed. After all, Maine voted once before to put the 55 percent funding requirement in statute, and it still has been all but ignored.

That would be a mistake if it happens again. Maine voters have said twice now that they want the state to pick up its share of school funding, and lawmakers should listen. Perhaps the closeness of the vote this time shows that Maine voters aren’t convinced on the source of the funding laid out in Question 2, but there is little doubt that they want the funding.

At a time when neither Democrats nor Republicans can claim electoral victory, that gives the Legislature a mandate only to find a way together to provide the required school funding. They have for years fought over the source of the funding, but without any urgency. Last Tuesday’s vote should give them that urgency, and both sides should be prepared to give up something to achieve that goal.

The same could be said for setting up the regulatory framework necessary for legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana to Mainers over the age of 21. Maine voters, again by a slim margin, say they want legal marijuana for adults, but beyond that, the Legislature has quite a bit of latitude to create the system under which it is grown and sold.

There will also be fights over raising the minimum wage, which passed easily but faces a call for alteration from some business leaders.

Then, of course, comes the two-year budget proposal from Gov. LePage, which is expected to include a number of forceful proposals, including a sales-tax increase and calls for cuts in the number of state employees and in the number of school superintendents, all of which will draw criticism from both sides of the aisle.

As lawmakers negotiate these matters, they should remember the divided state they represent and be prepared to leave some of what they want on the table. That is the only way for Maine to move forward and accomplish what needs to be done, without becoming as divided in spirit as it is in politics.

Republicans took a good step forward last week by re-electing Sen. Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport, as Senate majority leader. Thibodeau, a stalwart conservative, has shown an ability to work with Democrats without scoring cheap political points and even when it is potentially damaging to his position in the party, particularly as it pertains to his relationship with LePage.

Democrats, who will have new members in leadership as Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond and House Speaker Mark Eves step down, should keep that in mind as they elect leaders this week.

The Legislature is divided because the state is divided. It is now up to the Legislature, for better or worse, to show how those divisions should be expressed and addressed.

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Another View: Republicans’ lame-duck session stalling an injustice to high court nominee Sat, 12 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 There is plenty of time, in the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, to give President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland, a hearing and put his nomination to a vote. That vote should be favorable: The 63-year-old Garland is able, moderate, respected and seasoned, an appellate jurist who has previously been confirmed, with significant Republican support, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Of course, this will not happen, because it does not suit Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his fellow Republicans. Garland’s nomination should have been considered and voted on in March, when Obama sent his name to the Senate as a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia. That did not happen because, with the long-term ideological tilt of the court at stake, McConnell argued that the voters’ choice for president in November should get the pick.

This was a gamble on a Republican victory in the fall, and there is no denying that, in political terms, it has paid off. Contrary to predictions that voters would punish Republican obstructionism, they appear to have rewarded it.

President-elect Donald Trump will choose Scalia’s successor next year, a Republican Senate undoubtedly will confirm him – and the court will, in all likelihood, shift rightward rather than left in the coming years.

Someday McConnell’s example may be invoked against his side – those who practice situational ethics must be prepared to have situational ethics practiced against them – but there’s no arguing with his success. Except to say, perhaps quaintly, that we don’t regard political success as the only relevant measurement here. In addition to the personal injustice to Garland, the majority leader’s ploy wrought harm to basic norms of democratic accountability.

Those should have dictated respect for the majority will, as expressed in the incumbency of Obama – not anticipatory deference to whatever might happen in November. Any other rule is inherently unstable, as became evident in the waning days of Campaign 2016. When it appeared that Hillary Clinton, not Trump, might be the winner, Republican politicians started moving the goalposts, suggesting that they might not approve any replacement for Scalia, or even fill subsequent vacancies, until the Republican Party had regained control of the White House.

In support of his position, McConnell accurately cited similar musings by then-Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., in 1992, which was then-President George H.W. Bush’s final year in office. To that, we can only reply that this purported “Biden Rule” never should have been treated as a precedent, and would not have been if Republicans had maintained this year the objections to it that they voiced in 1992. Two wrongs don’t make a right, not even in politics.

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Our View: There’s no mandate for Mainers to hate Fri, 11 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 When Donald Trump was cheered in Portland in August for suggesting that Somali refugees are a threat to the rest of the community, it was easy to believe that he and the vicious and groundless views he espouses would be political history after Nov. 8.

That was then. Now we have a president-elect whose anti-immigrant rhetoric obviously represents the beliefs of all too many people. One of them is at the University of Southern Maine, where ugly anti-Muslim graffiti is under investigation as a possible hate crime – an incident that should serve as a lesson in pushing back against the idea that there’s a mandate to hate.

Written on a desk and a wall in USM’s student government offices in Portland, the graffiti consisted of the words “Deus Vult.” The Latin phrase for “God Wills It,” a rallying cry for Christian warriors during the medieval Crusades, has been adopted by far-right political activists as an insult to Muslims – and a reference to killing followers of Islam.

Two student senators reportedly were in the office when a student they know – a man who’s not part of USM student government – drew the words. The graffiti became the focus of a text message-based debate involving the senators: They wanted to clean it up and not report it. Widely distributed on social media, the texts were dismissive of the incident and included other anti-Muslim references, such as a pig symbol (pork is forbidden in Islam) and sarcastic allusions to Shariah law.

Meanwhile, other student body officials had discovered the writing, taken pictures of it and filed a report with campus police. In addition to the hate-crime inquiry, campus officials are also looking into whether the person who wrote the graffiti broke the student conduct code.

The response to the vandalism is an example of both best- and worst-case scenarios. Education is intended to expand one’s understanding of the world, not encourage the unquestioning acceptance of the twisted version of history peddled by the internet-based far right and summed up in the USM graffiti.

It’s disturbing that anybody would even consider covering up such an offensive act, particularly two student leaders (who have since stepped down). But on campus or off, there’s no shortage of people who either target minorities or are willing to stand by and do nothing when others are targeted – making it even more important for those who do care to stand up, as they did at USM, and be counted in favor of a welcoming environment for everyone.

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Another View: If ‘boys will be boys,’ then they can’t play men’s soccer Fri, 11 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 It is sadly not uncommon for a university confronted with scandal involving sexual misconduct by male athletes to care more about winning games and protecting school image than holding wrongdoers accountable and setting an example. So it was refreshing to watch Harvard University’s administration and wider community respond decisively to controversy involving its men’s soccer team. Let’s hope other colleges are paying attention.

The revelation that the team had, dating to 2012, ranked the school’s female soccer players individually by appearance and ideal sexual position – what it called “scouting reports” – led to the administration canceling the remainder of the team’s season, citing the team’s behavior and students’ failure to be forthcoming when first questioned.

Officials moved quickly after the Harvard Crimson last month uncovered the reports. A review by the Office of the General Counsel within a week found that production of the vulgar assessments did not end in 2012, as some team members initially tried to suggest.

Meanwhile, members of the women’s soccer team who had been so disrespectfully targeted wrote a powerful letter. “More than anything, we are frustrated that this is a reality that all women have faced in the past and will continue to face throughout their lives,” the women wrote.

We would like to think that this letter is what finally got through to the men’s team, prompting it to issue what seemed a heartfelt apology.

No doubt there are those who would argue that the punishment was too harsh. No one was physically assaulted, and isn’t it the norm for young college men to comment on the physical appearance of members of the opposite sex? But it is long past time to draw the line on “boys being boys,” a defense that has helped enable the sexual harassment and assault of women.

The women on the soccer team said it best: “We will not tolerate anything less than respect for women.” Then they went on to win the Ivy League title.

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Another View: America leaps into the great unknown with Trump Thu, 10 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Come January, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

This newspaper, along with many Americans both liberal and conservative, had hoped never to write that sentence. But the time for arguing about who should lead this country for the next four years is over.

When Trump takes the oath of office in January, he will become the only president this great nation has. He will be our president, and yours, too, no matter how you voted or even if you voted.

Enhancing his clout is the fact that he will be joined by fellow Republicans in control of both houses of Congress.

Accepting all of this is going to be painful for Hillary Clinton supporters. But it’s a necessary step if America is to heal the divisiveness that has plagued its politics for so many years.

Those who voted against Trump, or who oppose his policies in the future, must find ways to work with him, even as they find the courage and creativity to draw lines around those principles and policies that mean the most to them. These wounds will not heal quickly, and the fear of what a Trump presidency will mean for America will not evaporate over night.

But they can heal eventually, and Trump himself can help that happen. Much depends on how he governs. Will he seek to exploit the vulnerable among us? Or will victory bring an unexpected grace?

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Our View: Historic race shows there’s still work to do Thu, 10 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 Sometimes important moments in history can be seen only in hindsight. It can take time to know just when the tide turned and to identify the decisive factor.

We hope that this election will prove to be one of those moments when we tell the story of women in American politics. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s race for the White House did not succeed, but it could make the path easier for the next woman who tries to become the first female president.

At the very least, this campaign exposed deep divisions over gender politics in this country that will not be forgotten when the last votes are counted.

Being a woman didn’t have anything to do with Clinton’s success. Her life in the political arena, as a lawyer, first lady, senator, secretary of state and two-time presidential candidate, gave her an unmatched resume in modern times. She has worked harder, studied more deeply and fought through more adversity than any other figure on the political scene.

But there is no question that being a woman has made her struggle much harder. Starting with her law school entrance exam, where she was heckled by male students who accused her of taking a man’s place, Clinton has had to overcome hurdles only faced by women.

As a public figure she has been held to standards that her male opponents didn’t face. Her hair and clothing are analyzed as intensely as her policy proposals. She is called “shrill” when she raises her voice, while men are described as “passionate.”

This is partly a problem of novelty. We have a clear image of how powerful men are supposed to look and act, but we don’t have the same experience with a woman, at least not on this level. After this election, that will not be true any more.

It’s sometimes hard to determine how much of Clinton’s difficulties came from her own missteps in decades of public life. But a clear double standard was in evidence when she was compared to Donald Trump during this campaign.

He repeatedly makes provably false statements while still getting higher poll ratings than her for trustworthiness. His history of demeaning and exploiting women, including a tape where he bragged about sexual bullying, was put out to the public, but it did not cost him the election. Clinton’s use of a private computer became the focus of unprecedented public speculation by investigators that clearly hurt her, even though no wrongdoing has been uncovered.

Clinton did not break through the highest and hardest glass ceiling, but her historic campaign still matters. For the last year, every boy and girl has been able to look at a woman and see a plausible occupant of the world’s most powerful office.

It will take time to see how Clinton’s near miss will affect the next woman who shoots for this goal. We hope that we can look back at this election as the moment when things finally started to change.

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Our View: Maine’s voters should get tools for the job that the Legislature, Gov. LePage have abdicated Wed, 09 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 We Mainers value our authority as citizens to make new law through ballot initiatives, like the five statewide measures weighed at the polls Tuesday. But we the people of Maine are getting one day to make yes-or-no decisions on matters that our elected representatives couldn’t settle over months. That’s a sign that the referendum process needs changing.

Mainers voted on weighty measures Tuesday – citizen initiatives addressing marijuana legalization, school funding, background checks for private firearm sales, the state minimum wage and ranked-choice voting. To put issues on the ballot, organizers had to get over 62,000 signatures, or 10 percent of the record-setting turnout at the last gubernatorial election, in 2014.

But despite this high bar for eligibility, don’t expect much letup next year, either: The 2017 ballot could include a MaineCare expansion referendum, a York County casino proposal and a combined welfare reform-income tax cut measure.

Experts have studied the citizen initiative process in the 26 states where this form of direct democracy is in place, and they’ve outlined things that legislators here in Maine should do to make it all go more smoothly. These are just a few:

n Mandate a state review of both the technical format and the content of the proposal that will appear on the petition, pointing out unintended consequences and constitutional issues and making nonbinding suggestions to the measure’s supporters.

n Require petition circulators to disclose whether they’re paid or volunteer, and mandate that they collect signatures from people in different parts of the state.

n Heed Oregon’s lead and set up a citizen review panel that offers voters impartial information on the most complex proposals, in the form of a statement crafted after meetings with proponents and opponents.

Of course, the Maine Legislature and Gov. LePage could take the burden off voters just by doing what they were elected to do: That is, to make laws via the usual process of debate and negotiation.

Since there’s no evidence that that’s going to happen, though, tough policy issues will continue to be punted to us citizens – and we deserve the tools we need to do the job well.

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Another View: Protesting Dakota pipeline won’t alter energy picture Wed, 09 Nov 2016 09:00:00 +0000 The Washington Post

How did the out-of-state activists protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline arrive at the North Dakota site? How were the sleeping bags they will use when winter arrives made and shipped to the stores where they were purchased? What are the plastics made of in the phones they have been using at Standing Rock, North Dakota?

Many things make the global economy possible, but a major one, unfortunately, continues to be oil. The world is addicted to crude because it is energy dense and easy to transport. Practically nothing modern Americans do would be possible without it. This means that demand is huge. And if there is a market, suppliers will attempt to meet that demand, in all sorts of ways. In and around North Dakota, that has meant sucking it from underground shale formations and transporting it out of the area by truck and train. Pipeline transport would make it safer.

A significant number of those protesting Dakota Access are doing so because they feel the project has infringed on the rights of local tribes. Federal courts and the Obama administration are in the process of sorting that out, though the fact that the pipeline would not be built on reservation land and follows the route of an existing gas line undercuts their case.

Even so, environmental activists have latched on to the cause. We do not fault anyone for objecting to global oil dependence. The world must burn continually less to combat climate change. But in the long term, piecemeal activism accomplishes little, because it does not shift underlying demand for fuel. As long as people demand oil, the incentive for someone, somewhere to meet that demand will compel entrepreneurial people to supply it.

The activists are right about the danger of climate change. They could make a real impact if they channeled their energy into protecting and enhancing President Obama’s fuel-efficiency standards, which will cut U.S. gasoline demand over time by forcing cars and trucks to use less oil, and enacting a carbon tax that would make alternatives to coal and oil steadily more competitive.

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