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Maine Conservation Voters and the Maine People’s Alliance today called on the Maine Legislature to investigate unethical and improper behavior at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
A series of articles in the Portland Press Herald published over the past three days has revealed that under Commissioner Pattie Aho’s direction, the DEP has used staff intimidation, lack of enforcement and delayed implementation of environmental and public health initiatives to benefit multi-million dollar corporations including pharmaceutical, chemical, and energy companies. Aho and other members of the LePage administration have recently worked as lobbyists for these same corporations.
“The Legislature should use every method at its disposal and begin immediately to examine how the mission of the Department of Environmental Protection has been undermined to serve corporations at the expense of Maine people,” said Maine Conservation Voters Executive Director Maureen Drouin.
Nazis killed millions during the World War II Holocaust. But many believe some of those deaths could have been avoided if other nations had been willing to open their borders to those – especially Jews – who wished to flee. Some of those accusing fingers point at Breckinridge Long, who, as a U.S. state department official, worked hard to keep European Jews out. MPBN Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz talks with York resident Neil Rolde, who has written a biography of Long.
“I’ve read a number of books about the Holocaust, being Jewish myself,” says Neil Rolde (left), of York, a former state legislator, aide to Gov. Ken Curtis, and a historian. “And I would keep coming across this guy, Breckinridge Long, and he was, sort of, the villain of the piece.”
But Rolde says no one had written a biography of Long, so, working from papers and diaries at the Library of Congress, Rolde did.
A bill, sponsored by Rep. Bill Noon, to reduce the effects of climate change in Maine won final approval in the Legislature. The bill, as amended by the committee, directs the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to participate in a work group with other state agencies and interested parties to develop a plan to address climate change.
In 2010 the state made more than 60 recommendations for action to combat climate change. It took nearly two years for the LePage administration to submit a two page response.
“I find this response inadequate,” said Rep. Noon. “Climate change is among the most serious dilemmas facing our generation and future generations. It requires genuine action.”
Noon’s amendment directs the work group to submit a preliminary report by March 15, 2014 and a final report by January 15, 2015 to the Legislature’s Environmental and Natural Resources Committee.
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree introduced an amendment today to a major defense bill that would instruct the Pentagon to inform military personnel that they don’t have to report counseling for sexual assault whenapplying for or renewing a security clearance.
Pingree said she’s heard from military personnel around the country and overseas who say they don’t seek counseling after a sexual assault because they knew they would have to disclose it on the national security questionnaire. Pingree pushed for a change in policy that would allow those survivors not to disclose the counseling.
“Knowing that question was there and believing that answering ‘yes’ might jeopardize their chances at a security clearance, survivors of sexual assault often decided not to get the mental health counseling they so desperately need,” said Pingree. “The Director of National Intelligence has listened to us on this, and has issued guidance saying survivors of sexual trauma do not have to report counseling related to that assault. But that change won’t do the survivors any good unless they know it has taken place.”
The Maine House on Wednesday, in a bipartisan vote of 97 to 51, passed a measure to accept Affordable Care Act (ACA) funding to expand healthcare coverage to nearly 70,000 low-income and working Mainers.Six Republicans joined Democrats to pass the bill. Two Democratic members were absent.
“Today the Maine House put the health care of Maine people before party politics,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves. “We worked together to find a compromise that will no doubt change the lives of Maine people; Maine people who are working and can’t afford health care, people who are choosing between paying for their medicine and putting food on the table.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government has agreed to pay 100 percent of the cost for covering all newly eligible people for the first three years, and then gradually lowers payment to no less than 90 percent of the cost by 2020. Maine is projected to save $690 million in the next 10 years if it accepts the federal dollars, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation and the conservative Heritage Foundation. Maine is also one of 10 states that will see Medicaid expenditures go down over the next 10 years.
Just today The Maine Center for Economic Policy, (MECEP), released a new analysis showing the economic positive impact of accepting federal health care dollars for each of Maine’s 16 counties.
President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law 50 years ago today. But women are still grossly underpaid for doing the same jobs as men.
“Despite all the progress we’ve made, American women still face a fundamental inequality: for the same work, they make less than their male counterparts. A typical woman in this country makes only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, and that really adds up,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.
Pingree is a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which expands the Equal Pay Act and closes some loopholes in current law. Among other things the Paycheck Fairness Act makes it legal for workers to share salary information with one another and would require employers to prove that pay disparities are based on job performance and not gender.
“While progress has been made, more must be done. Women in every state still make thousands less than their male colleagues. In Maine, the disparity is over $9,000 each year,” said Congressman Mike Michaud.
Since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, the gender gap in pay has closed by less than a half-cent per year. At that rate, it will take another 50 years for women to make as much as men.
“Over the course of her career, a typical workingwoman loses almost a quarter of a million dollars in wages, simply for being female. Unequal pay hurts working women, their families, our communities, and our economy,” said Pingree.
The U.S. House today unanimously passed a bill written by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree aimed at making it easier for veterans who survive military sexual assault to get benefits.
“These veterans’ disabilities were not the result of fire from the enemy. They are not a result of injuries incurred during training. They are the result of the Armed Services’ continual failure to systematically address the culture that perpetuates sexual assaults in the military. This situation is unconscionable and unacceptable. We must act,” said Congressman Mike Michaud, ranking Democrat on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee as he introduced the bill for a vote in the House of Representatives. “With this legislation, we hope to ensure that the VA helps these disabled veterans. We have a duty to make these men and women’s lives a little better. They never should have had to deal with these events in their service to our nation, and they should never have to struggle to get care and benefits after they leave.”
The bill, which enjoyed broad bipartisan support, is the first legislation addressing the issue of military sexual assault to pass in this Congress.
“The Ruth Moore Act will make a big difference in the lives of tens of thousands of veterans who are survivors of sexual assault in themilitary and are struggling to get the benefits they are owed. Almost every day we hear from another veteran who is fighting for their benefits and has been repeatedly turned down because they are being held to an unreasonably high standard of proof,” said Pingree after the vote.
Pingree’s bill pushes the VA to make a policy change that would make it easier for veterans to qualify for benefits. Under Pingree’s proposal, veterans would only have to show a medical diagnosis of a mental health condition and a link between an assault and that mental health condition—similar to standards applied to veterans who file claims for combat-related PTSD.
Turkey uses excessive police force in Istanbul courtesy photo
Deaths and injuries to peaceful protestors have occurred in Turkey denying protestors access to their fundamental rights. According to Amnesty International more than 1,000 injuries and at least two deaths of protesters in Istanbul have happened since Thursday.
Amnesty International kept its office, which is close to the Taksim area of Istanbul, open as a safe haven for protesters escaping police violence throughout the night. Twenty doctors are currently in the office and treating injured protestors. Other civil society organizations have taken similar actions.
“Excessive use of force by police officers can be routine in Turkey but the excessively heavy-handed response to the entirely peaceful protests in Taksim has been truly disgraceful. It has hugely inflamed the situation on the streets of Istanbul where scores of people have been injured,” said John Dalhuisen, Director of Amnesty International for Europe.
The Maine Senate and House passed a bill sponsored by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson to support American loggers. LD 491 specifically prohibits the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Division of Parks and Public Lands from contracting for timber harvesting on land under its management if the contractor uses foreign workers. The bill, “An Act Regarding Timber Harvesting on Land Managed by the Division of Parks and Public Lands,” will face more votes in the House and the Senate.
“We must promote the hiring of American loggers who for too long have been underemployed as a result of contractors unethically, and at times illegally, hiring Canadian workers instead,” said Senator Jackson.
Workers at ALCOM, a trailer manufacturer in Winslow, have been organizing for a union in their workplace. They are seeking representation with the Laborers Union (LiUNA). Since Friday, at least five workers have been fired. Many of their co-workers feel their termination was directly related to their union activity. The Company denies the charges.
“I like the work that I do, and I’m proud to be a good, dedicated worker. I have put nothing but hard work and extra hours in at ALCOM,” said Shawn Nutt of Vassalboro, a worker who was fired from ALCOM on Monday. “It’s clear to me that I was fired because I support the union and want to have a voice on the job. The company is trying to scare us.”
It is illegal under the National Labor Relations Act for an employer to retaliate in any way against a worker for engaging in union activity or concerted action to improve workplace conditions. Workers, unions, and employers can file Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board to spur an investigation into violations of the law.
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Maine Insights is a non-profit 501(c)4 corporation and an associate member of the Maine Press Association. Contributions to help support this publication — dedicated to growing Maine communities — are very appreciated. Please click here for a Paypal link. We look forward to continuing to serve you as we have for the past seven years! Thank you for your insights and support.
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