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  • Health Care Providers Stand Up Expanding Coverage in Maine - for YES on Question 2

    By Ramona du Houx

    Representatives from a number of prominent health care organizers gathered in October in Portland to endorse a “Yes” vote on Question 2 and to advocate for expanding access to health care coverage for their patients.

    The vote is a matter of life and death for too many people.

    “Covering every Mainer with adequate health care coverage is critical to Maine’s future,” said Dr. Charles Pattavina, an emergency physician at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor and the Maine Medical Association’s president. “With federal matching funds available under the Affordable Care Act, this is a good deal for Maine. It’s the right thing to do for the health of our patients, and it will be an important financial boost for Maine hospitals. 

    Question 2 would expand Medicaid to more than 70,000 Mainers, create new jobs and help to strengthen hospitals in the state. It would also bring more than $500 million a year in new dollars to the state.

    “Increasing the number of Mainers with health insurance by expanding Medicaid would improve quality of life, increase workplace productivity and save lives,” said Sam Zager of the Maine Academy of Family Physicians and Maine Providers Standing Up for Healthcare. “We have a choice to make on Nov. 7 about what sort of society we want. … I urge all Mainers to vote ‘Yes’ on Question 2.” 

    According to Dr. Renee Fay-LeBlanc, Medicaid expansion would provide health care coverage for 1,700 patients at Greater Portland Health, the clinic where she practices.

    (Gov. John Baldacci saved Maine lives by introducing Dirigo Health which expanded coverage to more Mainers than ever before but LePage has dismantled the program even though it was a model for the Affordable Health Care Act - photo by Ramona du Houx.)

    Bryan Wyatt, speaking for the Maine Primary Care Association, said: “Maine’s failure to expand Medicaid has created a crisis for many of the clinics in the state, putting at risk our ability to serve patients and communities," said Bryan Wyatt, speaking for the Maine Primary Care Association. "A ‘Yes’ vote on Question 2 will help to ensure that we can continue to make health care available around the state and provide access to quality care for the people who need it.”

    Endorsing organizations at the event included the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Primary Care Association, the Maine Chapter of the American College of Physicians, the Maine Academy of Family Physicians and Maine Providers Standing Up for Healthcare. The organizations join the Maine Hospital Association, which endorsed Question 2 on Sept. 29, 2017.

    For more information about the “Yes” on 2 campaign, visit: http://mainersforhealthcare.org

  • Bangor Veterans’ home to get up to $2.7 million upgrade

    The improvements, which are underway, will modernize the facility.

    Maine’s U.S. senators say the state is going to benefit from up to $2.7 million for a renovation and expansion project at the Maine Veterans’ Home facility in Bangor.

    Republican Sen. Susan Collins and independent Sen. Angus King say the funding is coming from the federal Department of Veterans Affairs’ State Home Construction Grant Program.

    The renovations at the Bangor facility are underway. The senators say the needed improvements will modernize the facility, give residents a more comfortable space to live and create a safe environment for employees.

    The senators say the project involves renovating a 20,000-square-foot skilled nursing unit and adding 5,000 square feet to expand the 40-bed unit.

  • Break bread and network for a stronger diverse Bangor at Interfaith Dinner Oct 9

     

    By Ramona du Houx 

    Bangor Mayor Joe Baldacci has invited his community to an Interfaith Dinner starting at 5 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 9, at the Bangor High School cafeteria. It’s an opportunity for community members of all cultures and faiths to break bread and learn more about the Maine Multicultural Center, a network of educational, business, cultural services in Bangor region that are enriching the community with economic growth through diversity. 

    The FREE dinner’s theme is, “Many Faiths, Many Cultures, One Community,” and requires tickets that are available at the houses of worship listed below or by contacting Mayor Baldacci at: joe.baldacci@bangormaine.gov

    When Mayor Baldacci first came up with the idea of the dinner numerous community groups and faith-based organizations immediately embraced the concept and work began planning the event.

    Bangor Mayor Joe Baldacci getting the word out about the Interfaith Dinner on Maine's morning news

    “In today’s world, when people of different faiths, different ancestries, different viewpoints can come together and celebrate as one community—that is itself both revolutionary and purely American,” said Mayor Baldacci. “This dinner is but one event that shows our city’s belief in the dignity and value of all people and our deep desire to be a welcoming community for all.”

    Baldacci’s grandparents were immigrants who created an iconic Bangor restaurant that was also known as a community-gathering place, employing many people from the area.

    “I am the grandson of Italian and Lebanese immigrants who came to America to escape the poverty and persecution of the Old World. My father’s parents started a restaurant that ran for 75 years. My mother’s family started a small grocery store on Hancock Street when Hancock Street in Bangor was a melting pot of immigrants and tenement houses. Over the years I’ve seen the kindness and support of so many. I hope our family has returned some positive contributions to our community,” said Mayor Baldacci. “Immigrants strengthen and enrich our country.”

    According to the Small Business Administration, immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a business in the United States than non-immigrants, and 18 percent of all small business owners in the United States are immigrants. And immigrant-owned businesses create jobs for American workers. According to the Fiscal Policy Institute, small businesses owned by immigrants employed an estimated 4.7 million people in 2007, and generating more than $776 billion annually.

    Immigrants are also more likely to create their own jobs. According the U.S. Department of Labor, 7.5 percent are self-employed compared to 6.6 percent among the native-born.

    “Our city is strong and proud, prosperous and progressive. We welcome people of all Nations, all faiths, of all different backgrounds who all share a common love for America and for working and living together in peace and love with each other.

    Immigrants are our engineers, scientists, and innovators of cutting-edge technologies and companies. According to the Census Bureau, despite making up only 16 percent of the resident population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, immigrants represent 33 percent of engineers, 27 percent of mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientist, and 24 percent of physical scientists. Additionally, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy, in 2011, foreign-born inventors were credited with contributing to more than 75 percent of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities.

    The University of Maine in Orono has numerous professors that have enriched the school’s curriculum.

    “Love Thy Neighbor is a daily reality, here. We come together from all different walks of life and viewpoints and find it in our hearts to work together to build a stronger community for all. We embrace our immigrants. It’s everyone’s home, and it’s the Bangor way to welcome everyone,” said the Mayor.

    Together, the Multicultural Center network participants believe that a successful economic future for the Bangor area is dependent upon the creation of a more culturally rich and ethnically diverse community environment which fosters the growth of new immigrant communities and works to retain and support our existing foreign-national residents.

    Sponsoring faith organizations include: Faith Linking in Acton, All Souls Congregational Church, Congregation Beth El, Hammond Street Congregational Church, Crosspoint Church of Bangor, Islamic Center of Maine, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, St. John’s Episcopal, Redeemer Lutheran Church, Temple of the Feminine Divine, and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor.

    Restaurants supporting the dinner include: Panda Garden, Happy China Buffet, Ichiban, and Miguel’s Mexican Restaurant.

    Due to space constraints, this dinner is limited to 250 guests.

    A collection also will be taken to support the Maine Multicultural Center. To learn more about the Maine Multicultural Center, visit www.mainemulticulturalcenter.org.

  • The Next fight - Trump Wants to Repeal Obama’s Climate Plan

    President Trump failed again this week to fulfill his promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health plan. Now he is taking aim at Mr. Obama’s central environmental legacy, the Clean Power Plan.

    The administration has made clear its desire to repeal the Obama energy plan. But what would take its place remains a mystery.

    The Environmental Protection Agency is expected in the coming days to reveal its strategy for reversing the Clean Power Plan, which was intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants across the country. Yet while Mr. Trump has declared the Obama-era plan dead — “Did you see what I did to that? Boom, gone,” he told a cheering crowd in Alabama recently — industry executives say they expect that utilities could still be subject to some restrictions on carbon emissions.

    “I would be surprised if repeal did not lead to replacement,” said Paul Bailey, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

    If the E.P.A. does open the door to a new, weaker set of rules that utilities and others favor, it will most likely touch off a legal battle with environmental groups and pose a bureaucratic challenge to an agency where critical senior positions remain vacant. It could also force the agency’s administrator, Scott Pruitt, who has rejected the scientific consensus that human emissions cause climate change, to implicitly acknowledge that greenhouse gases harm human health and that the E.P.A. has an obligation to regulate them.

    “There’s an internal debate over what the overall approach toward greenhouse gases should be, and it’s hard to formulate policy if you haven’t come to terms with the outcome of the debate,” said David M. Konisky, a professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University.

    The parallels between the Clean Power Plan and the Affordable Care Act go only so far. The health care law, which was passed by Congress, offered a tangible benefit to many Americans and was firmly in place when Mr. Trump entered office. The Clean Power Plan, a regulation, not legislation, has not taken effect and is tied up in a federal appeals court.

    But environmental activists and conservative opponents alike say both cases show that demanding a policy be repealed is easier than making it happen. Finding a replacement is even harder.

    “From the perspective of advocacy and political strategy, I think there’s a lot of similarities. Members of Congress campaigned for six or seven years to fully repeal Obamacare, and there were no conversations about replace, or nothing of substance,” said Christine Harbin, vice president of external affairs at Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group. Of the Clean Power Plan, she said, “It may be difficult to fully repeal.”

    The Clean Power Plan aimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels and required each state to develop carbon-cutting plans. Enacting the regulation was considered vital to helping the United States reach its commitment to reduce emissions under the Paris agreement. Mr. Trump has said he intends to withdraw from that accord.

    The United States Chamber of Commerce, coal companies and most Republican lawmakers strongly opposed the regulation. Mr. Trump signed an executive order in March to eliminate it, fulfilling a campaign promise to end what he denounced as a job-killing regulation.

    Over the past several months, though, some of the very people who advocated killing Mr. Obama’s climate policy have told Mr. Pruitt that his agency should devise a new, albeit weaker, rule to regulate carbon emissions in its place. Leading industry groups — including the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, and utility lobbies like the Edison Electric Institute — have pressed the administration for a replacement.

    “We didn’t always see eye-to-eye with the last administration on how to deal with climate in the regulatory space,” said Ross Eisenberg, vice president of energy policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, which joined 28 states to challenge the Clean Power Plan in federal court. “But we’re comfortable with having a policy, even a regulation, that addresses climate change. It’s about getting the regulation right.”

    In public, industry leaders say their companies already are on a greener trajectory. Behind the scenes, they also worry that simply killing the climate rule would not hold up in court, and would invite even tougher regulations under a future Democratic president. They are advocating a narrow regulation that allows utilities to reduce pollution at individual plants, like substituting fuel or improving the efficiency of furnaces.

    Dan Byers, the senior director for policy at the Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute, said it’s important that the E.P.A.’s repeal opens the door to such a replacement. Without one, he said, the agency would be vulnerable to lawsuits for not regulating carbon dioxide.

    “The uncertainty that would be associated with that is far more risky than having a rule in place which is reasonable, achievable and cost-effective,” he said.

    The E.P.A. declined to answer questions about the repeal process.

    “We don’t comment on rules undergoing interagency review,” Amy Graham, an agency spokeswoman, said in a statement.

    If Mr. Pruitt moves to replace the Clean Power Plan, it could signal that he intends to abandon a larger fight to challenge the essential underpinning of federal climate policy.

    The so-called endangerment finding, adopted after the Supreme Court found in 2007 that greenhouse gases are a pollutant subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act, declares that such emissions may “reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” Mr. Pruitt has been under pressure from people who reject established climate science to challenge the determination, but a chorus of more pragmatic voices inside the administration and industry have insisted that doing so would be a legal morass with an uncertain outcome.

    Myron Ebell, a climate denier who led the E.P.A. transition team for the Trump administration, said he still hoped to see Mr. Pruitt challenge the endangerment finding in the future. That could happen through a series of debates on climate science that Mr. Pruitt has described as a “red team, blue team” exercise.

    In the meantime, Mr. Ebell said he was confident the Clean Power Plan would crumble and said the failure of Republicans to upend the Affordable Health Care was a lesson for Democrats: Pass legislation.

    “If you want to make something durable, you better get a law passed by Congress,” he said. “What one president can do by pen and by phone another president can undo by pen and by phone.”

  • Attracting Immigrants helps communities

    From the Atlantic

    Immigrants take our jobs. They don’t pay taxes. They’re a drain on the economy. They make America less … American.

    You’ve probably heard all of these arguments, especially with the country recovering from a financial disaster. Indeed, they’ve been heard for a century or two, as successive waves of immigrants to this nation of immigrants have first been vilified, then grudgingly tolerated, and ultimately venerated for their contributions.

    This time, too, there is ample evidence that immigrants are creating businesses and revitalizing the U.S. workforce. From 2006 to 2012, more than two-fifths of the start-up tech companies in Silicon Valley had at least one foreign-born founder, according to the Kauffman Foundation. A report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, which advocates for immigrants in the U.S. workforce, found that they accounted for 28 percent of all new small businesses in 2011.

    Immigrants also hold a third of the internationally valid patents issued to U.S. residents, according to University of California (Davis) economist Giovanni Peri. In a 2012 article published by the Cato Institute, the libertarian (and pro-immigration) think tank, Peri concluded that immigrants boost economic productivity and don’t have a notable impact—either positive or negative—on net job growth for U.S.-born workers. One reason: Immigrants and native-born workers gravitate toward different jobs.

    But immigration, on the whole, bolsters the workforce and adds to the nation’s overall economic activity. Look at the impact on cities that attract the most foreign-born residents. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston are all major immigrant destinations and also economic powerhouses, accounting for roughly one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product. In New York, immigrants made up 44 percent of the city's workforce in 2011; in and around Los Angeles, they accounted for a third of the economic output in 2007.

    Immigrants tend to contribute more to the economy once they’ve learned English and become citizens. A few cities—notably, New York—have a long history of ushering immigrants into the mainstream society and economy. Other parts of the country have less experience with newcomers but are learning to adapt.

    Take Nashville, for instance. As recently as 2009, immigrants living in the Tennessee capital had reason to worry. A conservative city council member proposed amending the municipality’s charter to require that all government business be conducted in English, allegedly to save money. This raised hackles. “Would the health department be allowed to speak Arabic to a patient?” or so The Tennessean, Nashville's leading newspaper, wondered. “Could a city-contracted counselor offer services in Spanish?”

    The voters apparently wondered, too, for they soundly defeated the English-only amendment, which had earned the enmity of businesses, religious organizations, and advocacy groups. “A significant moment in the city’s history when it comes to immigration,” recalls Nashville’s mayor, Karl Dean, a Democrat who had recently taken office. “Since that moment, the city really hasn’t looked back.”

    The foreign-born population in the Nashville metropolitan area has more than doubled since 2000; immigrants accounted for three-fifths of the city’s population growth between 2000 and 2012, and now constitute an eighth of all Nashville residents. When President Obama delivered a speech on immigration last December, he did it in Nashville. The city famed as the nation’s country music capital now boasts the largest U.S. enclave of Kurds, along with increasing numbers of immigrants from Myanmar and Somalia.

    They’ve been drawn to Nashville’s booming economy, which has ranked among the fastest-growing in the nation in recent years. But they’re not only benefiting from the local prosperity—they’re contributing to it. Immigrants are twice as likely as native-born Nashville residents to start their own small businesses, according to data compiled by the Partnership for a New American Economy. They also play an outsized role in important local industries, including construction, health care, and hotels.

    Nashville has welcomed these immigrants with open arms, in ways that other municipalities around the country are trying to emulate. In the forefront is a nonprofit organization called Welcoming Tennessee, started in 2005 to highlight immigrants’ contributions and potential role in Nashville’s future. It put up billboards around Nashville—“Welcome the immigrant you once were,” and the like—in hopes of defanging the political debate. The current race to elect a new mayor next month has drawn questions at campaign forums indicative of the new political tone, about how candidates would handle a diverse school system and assure that city services are available to all immigrants, legal or otherwise.

    The “welcoming” movement that started in Tennessee has evolved into “Welcoming America,” a national network of organizations that preach the economic upside of immigration and help people adjust to life in the United States. Since 2009, 57 cities and counties, from San Francisco and Philadelphia to Dodge City, Kansas, have taken “welcoming” pledges, meaning that the local governments committed themselves to a plan to help immigrants assimilate.

    The private sector, too, has shown an interest in bringing immigrants into the mainstream of American life. Citigroup is promoting citizenship efforts in Maryland, while another big bank, BB&T, has been holding educational forums across the Southeast to explain a federal program that issues work permits to young undocumented immigrants. Retailers such as American Apparel go out of their way to help foreign-born employees learn English and apply for citizenship. Beyond motives of altruism lay considerations of the bottom line. Foreign-born residents now make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, a not-to-be-ignored share of the consumer market. The next generation is more lucrative still: One in four American residents younger than 18 has an immigrant parent.

    Local governments, mindful of their pressing economic needs, have taken the lead. Many cities have created offices devoted to serving “new Americans” locally. Dayton, Ohio, has intensified its efforts to redevelop a neighborhood with a growing Turkish community. Nashville runs a program called MyCity Academy, which teaches leaders from immigrant communities about local government.

    Not every community that dubs itself a “welcoming city” will be able to replicate Nashville’s success. But Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, suggests some guidelines. Teaching immigrants how to speak English is “sort of foundational,” she says, “but it's helpful if the conversation doesn't stop there,” by also including how immigrants can thrive economically and gain access to health care. Muñoz endorses programs to connect ethnic leaders with local movers and shakers, to show the public that helping immigrants assimilate is “about all of us, as opposed to an ‘us and them’ kind of thing.”

    The biggest obstacle to welcoming immigrants may be the usual one: a lack of resources. “Every area, you could probably be putting money into,” says Nashville Mayor Dean. Even so, he’s pleased that another potential obstacle—community opposition—has faded. “I'm sure there’s people who are concerned,” he says, “but they’re quiet about it.”

    He adds, with more than a trace of civic pride: “I call it the happy moment here, how well the city has adjusted to being more diverse… It’s a good story, and you’ve got to be encouraged by it.”

  • Anthem Insurance withdraws from Maine’s A.C.A. Individual Exchange Market

    By Ramona du Houx

    Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield announced on September 27, 2017 that they will not sell individual insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act market in Maine in 2018. In the statement from Anthem, they cite a volatile market and changes and uncertainty in the federal government. “It is critical that all Maine people have access to quality, affordable health care. I am extremely disappointed by Anthem’s decision,” said Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives Sara Gideon. “I hope that this is a clear signal to all members of Congress and President Trump that we need stability and predictability, not to throw the entire industry into chaos every few months on political whims. The responsible course of action is to address existing issues in the Affordable Care Act.”

     Existing customers who purchased Anthem plans through the exchange can renew their current plan in 2018, but only off the exchange and without federal financial assistance. This change will not affect Medicare patients or those enrolled in employer-based insurance.

    “Anthem’s tragic decision for Mainers is a direct result of the flawed effort by Republicans in Washington to destroy the Affordable Care Act,” said Rep. Mark Lawrence, Chair of the Insurance and Financial Affairs Committee. “This is what happens when you turn healthcare into a partisan issue, despite the fact that the public wants the ACA improved, not repealed. Moving forward, we must focus on fixing existing issues and engendering stability.”

    “ObamaCare is continuing to implode and cause significant hardships for Maine’s people,” said Governor Paul LePage. 

    However LePage neglected to site the fact that by not accepting the free Medicaid funding from the A.C.A. he has caused hardships in Maine to hospitals, patients and insurance companies like Anthem. By not accepting the federal A.C.A. funding 10,000 people are still without health insurance and costs have sky rocketed for hospital medical treatment because those who use the emergency room for healthcare make insurance rates increase.

    Governor John Baldacci at a press conference for his Dirigo Health Care Act in 2005, photo by Ramona du Houx

    Governor John Baldacci’s Dirigo Health Care Act made sure costs were shared and quality health care became accessible to all Mainers. Dirigo Health became a model for America and many components were used in drafting the A.C.A. 

    States with governors that never accepted the federal Medicaid funding to implement the A.C.A. have put a burden on the entire A.C.A. system thereby making reforms necessary.

    Harvard Pilgrim has announced it will stay in Maine’s A.C.A. marketplace.

     

  • Maine's New Licensing Rules for Child Care Providers Might Put Children at Risk

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    Hymanson: “Regulations need to keep children safe and ensure quality.”

    A new set of licensing rules for in-home child care providers developed by the Department of Health and Human Services took effect Wednesday, September 27, 2017. The new rules potentially put Maine's children at risk.

    “Access to high-quality, affordable child care is critical to early development, and therefore critical to Maine’s future. Many people in our large, rural state have limited choices for their child care providers, so the regulations need to keep children safe and ensure quality by standards set by child-care experts. These, our next generation of citizens and their parents, deserve that,"said Health and Human Services Chair, Dr. Patty Hymanson.

    “Rolling back these regulations has been opposed by advocates, experts and legislators. Parents need to have access to every piece of information about every part of the day care center where they entrust care and education of their child. These rules will negatively impact the quality and standard of care and I will work within the legislative process to ensure the safety of our kids.”

    The new rules allow in-home child care providers to care for more children than the state previously allowed, without having to add staff. They will also lessen the amount of information to which parents receive about the facility and restrict the degree of access parents have to their children while they’re in care. 

    “High-quality, affordable child care is out of reach for too many families in our state. I regularly hear from people in my district who either cannot find care they can afford, cannot find suitable care or cannot find open spots for their children at all," said Sen. Ben Chipman of Portland, the lead Senate Democrat on the Health and Human Services Committee. "The department’s solution to this problem is to impose new rules on childcare providers that diminish the standards of care. But that’s not a solution that works for Maine families. I’m committed to doing what’s necessary to make sure state regulations expand access to safe, responsible and affordable child care.  Our families deserve nothing less.”

  • Concert to Benefit Human Rights Education in Maine

    The Leopard Girls will perform their eclectic blend of jazz, rock, blues, and pop music at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Brunswick next Friday, October 6, at 7:30PM. Doors open at 7:00PM with a $10 suggested donation. All proceeds from the show will benefit the educational programming of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, a nonprofit education center and exhibition space located in Augusta.

    Leopard Girls is a five-piece act from Maine made up of Chris Simpson, Scott Woodruff, and Gary Lawless - formerly of Jimmy Midnight and The Yurtbirds – with Ben Hunsberger (welcomefarmmusic.com) and drummer Hal Ahlers of Blues Buzzards. For more information about Leopard Girls, visit their Facebook page atfacebook.com/TheLeopardGirls.

    The HHRC is housed in the Michael Klahr Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta.

    In addition to permanent exhibits on Holocaust survivors and liberators in Maine, the HHRC and Klahr Center host rotating historical and art exhibits, events, meetings for Maine social and school groups, and workshops for students and teachers that raise awareness of civil rights and human rights issues in Maine and beyond.

    The HHRC brings free educational programs like “Decision-Making in Times of Injustice,” “Yearning to Breathe Free: The Immigrant Experience in Maine,” “Civil Rights in America,” and others, to Maine high school students across the state with materials from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Facing History and Ourselves, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and other organizations.

    For more information about HHRC, its programs, and its exhibits, call (207) 621-3530, visit hhrcmaine.org, or visit the Klahr Center at 46 University Drive in Augusta.

  • Trump's Budget proposal risks Maine’s communities’ safety from extreme weather

    Photos and article by Ramona du Houx

    After Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma recently pummeled our coasts, Environment Maine warned that pending budget proposals from the Trump administration and Congress threaten key programs that protect our communities from storm- related impacts. 

    “If there is any lesson to be learned from these devastating hurricanes, it’s that Maine deserves better shelter from the storms,” said Jacqueline Guyol from Environment Maine. “Rather than protecting our most vulnerable communities, budget proposals on the table in Washington, D.C.right now threaten coastal resiliency, remove protections for flood-absorbing wetlands, neglect funding for stormwater and sewage treatment, and expose more Americans to toxic chemicals."

    The group documented threats to programs that prevent or curb flooding, sewage overflows and leaks from toxic waste sites.  

    Scientests from the University of Maine concur.

    Our lab studies have shown that although elevated temperatures increase survival and growth in American lobsters, animals in the warmest temperatures show signs of physiological stress and developmental instability, in ways that could predispose them to disease and negatively affect their health. While this is certainly not evidence of an imminent population collapse, the problems we see in the lab raise my concern for the health of our lobster populations if temperatures continue to rise,”said Heather Hamlin, a SEANET Lobster Researcher with the University of Maine.

    Environment Maine’s analysis found:

    • Here in Maine we receive $2.56 million in grants that allow our communities to protect their coasts from storms and rising seas. These funds would be cut or eliminated under both the House and Trump administration’s budgets.

    • The Clean Water State Revolving Fund provided $10.3 million in 2016 for Maine to repair and build stormwater and sewage treatment infrastructure. Nationwide, our wastewater systems face a $271 billion backlog, yet the House and President’s spending bills fail to provide proper funding to this critical program.

    • One in four Americans live within 3 miles of a Superfund site, the most toxic waste sites in the country. Maine has 16 such sites, and the Superfund program is tasked with cleaning up these sites, responding to environmental crises, and protecting the public from hazardous substances, but the Trump administration has proposed cutting the Superfund program by nearly one-third.Superfund program by nearly one-third.

    Dr. Janis Petzel, Physician with the Physicians for Social Responsibility, Maine Chapter said, “We can’t separate our health from our climate. Once the climate is altered there is only treatment for climate related health problems. In order to prevent these diseases and illnesses, we must work together to support public policy that works to slow climate change and protects our health. Cuts to the EPA will only serve to threaten Maine children’s and other vulnerable population’s health at risk.

    Environment Maine also called for preventing more global warming- fueled extreme weather in the future.

  • Obama Foundation Fellowship program seeks to support outstanding civic innovators

    The Obama Foundation Fellowship program seeks to support outstanding civic innovators from around the world in order to amplify the impact of their work and to inspire a wave of civic innovation.

    The Obama Foundation Fellows will be a diverse set of community-minded rising stars – organizers, inventors, artists, entrepreneurs, journalists, and more – who are altering the civic engagement landscape. By engaging their fellow citizens to work together in new and meaningful ways, Obama Foundation Fellows will model how any individual can become an active citizen in their community.

    The inaugural class of 20 Fellows will be integral to shaping the program and the community of Fellows for future years. For this first class, we’re seeking participants who are especially excited about helping us design, test, and refine the Fellowship.

    Our two-year, non-residential Fellowship will offer hands-on training, resources, and leadership development. Fellows will also participate in four multi-day gatherings where they will collaborate with each other, connect with potential partners, and collectively push their work forward. Throughout the program, each Fellow will pursue a personalized plan to leverage Fellowship resources to take their work to the next level.

    WHO THEY'RE LOOKING FOR

    Civic innovators

    We’re looking for individuals who are working to solve important public problems in creative and powerful ways. We are inspired by a broad vision of what it means to be “civic,” one that includes leaders tackling a range of issues, in both traditional and unconventional ways.

    Discipline diverse

    We need people working from all angles and with different perspectives to strengthen our communities and civic life. This fellowship is for organizers, inventors, artists, entrepreneurs, journalists, and more. It is for those working within systems like governments or businesses, as well as those working outside of formal institutions.

    At a tipping point in their work

    Successful applicants have already demonstrated meaningful impact in their communities, gaining recognition among their peers for their contributions. Now, they stand at a breakthrough moment in their careers. They’re poised to use the Fellowship to significantly advance their work, perhaps by launching new platforms, expanding to broader audiences, or taking their work to a national or global stage. If you’ve already gained global recognition for your work or if your civic innovation work has just begun, you may not be the ideal candidate for this program.

    Talented, but not connected

    We are committed to expanding the circle of opportunity to include new and varied voices. Thus we have a strong preference for civic innovators who are not currently connected to the networks and resources they need to advance their work. If you’re not sure whether you fit this description, feel free to apply — and make sure to articulate how the resources of the Fellowship would uniquely impact your work.

    Good humans

    We are building an authentic community. A strong moral character is essential for the strength of this community, the integrity of the program, and the longevity of its value. We’re seeking inspirational individuals who demonstrate humility and work collaboratively with others towards shared goals.

  • Office of Inspector General’s Report Recommends Changes to Protect Integrity of Organic Imports

    Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME), a member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, released the following statement on a report the Office of Inspector General released today on organic integrity. During appropriations hearings earlier this year, Congresswoman Pingree questioned Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong about the integrity of organic imports.

    “Integrity is the cornerstone of the organic label. Organic farmers in my district and across the country deserve a fair playing field when it comes to the enforcement of organic standards.  I’m very concerned by the loopholes USDA Office of Inspector General’s found in the verification and inspection process that have allowed non-organic food from other countries to be sold as organic in the U.S. The recommendations in this audit provide a good road map for addressing these concerns and strengthening the integrity of organic imports. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the House Committee on Appropriations to ensure that USDA has the resources it needs to accomplish the recommendations outlined in the report."

    Pingree is a longtime certified organic farmer in Maine.

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