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  • Maine voters overwhelmingly voted for Research and Development bonds

    The official tabulation of votes from the June 13, 2017 Special Referendum Election show that the bond issue was approved overwhemingly by Maine voters.

    The Elections Division has certified the results and Gov. Paul LePage signed the official vote proclamation.

    The certified election results show a total of 63,468 votes in favor of the bond issue, and 39,549 votes in opposition. Voters cast a total of 104,213 ballots in this single-question statewide referendum, with 1,196 blanks.

    Question 1 asked: “Do you favor a $50,000,000 bond issue to provide $45,000,000 in funds for investment in research, development and commercialization in the State to be used for infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades that enable organizations to gain and hold market share, to increase revenues and to expand employment or preserve jobs for Maine people, to be awarded through a competitive process to Maine-based public and private entities, leveraging other funds in a one-to-one ratio and $5,000,000 in funds to create jobs and economic growth by lending to or investing in small businesses with the potential for significant growth and strong job creation?”

    The funds will support job growth in Maine’s high tech industries, creating good-paying jobs, new products and new services. Mainers will benefit from innovation in biotech, forest products, marine resources and information technologies. New construction projects will create additional jobs for building contractors, tradespeople, equipment suppliers, and professional service providers, increasing economic activity throughout the State.

    The funds will be administered by the Maine Technology Institute (MTI)www.mainetechnology.org and applicants will be selected through an independent, review process to select projects with the greatest potential for return on investment. Applicants are required to match dollar-for-dollar, the amount of the grant award -increasing private sector investments and accountability.

    The Elections Division will post the results online this week at http://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/results/index.html.

    The legislation will become law 30 days from the date of the official proclamation (July 21, 2017).

  • Neil Rolde - writer, philanthropist, Maine politician, humanitarian passes

    On May 15th, 2017 with his family at his side Neil Rolde passed away in York, Maine. A memorial service for Rolde will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday at the First Parish Church in York.

    "With a deep heart, and tremendous love for a man who gave so much to others, we will miss Neil in the depths of our souls. He'll live on forever in our hearts and with his books. Thank you Neil for blessing this Earth with your presence," said Ramona du Houx, Neil's publisher at Polar Bear & Co. 

    Neil Rolde was a Maine renowned historian, former politician and, philanthropist. As a youth he attended Phillips Academy in Andover where instructors encouraged his writing talents. He went on to Yale University and earned a Bachelor in Arts before attending Columbia University where he received a Masters in Journalism.

    Rolde grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts. He worked as a film writer before moving to Maine with his wife, Carlotta Florsheim, to raise their family. In York they brought up four wonderful children and enjoyed family visits with their eight grandchildren.

    Mr. Rolde’s many years of public service include being an assistant to Governor Kenneth M. Curtis of Maine for six years and 16 years as an elected Representative in the Maine Legislature. He represented his district of York, Maine and became Majority Leader of the Maine House during the 107th legislature from 1975-77. He became the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 1990 in an election bid against Bill Cohen.

    Many of Mr. Rolde’s books involve the history of Maine and its people. The plight of Native Americans has been a reoccurring theme in Rolde’s life since his childhood and he helped Maine’s tribes while he worked in the Curtis administration. His experiences led his to write one of Maine’s definitive historic books: Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians.

    More recently Neil focused on the plight of Jews during WWII and the Holocaust in a four-part series published by Polar Bear & Company: Breckinridge Long: American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man who Denied Visas to the Jews; Crimes of War; More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, Volume I: The Tempestuous History of the War Refuge Board and Volume II: More of The Tempestuous History of the War Refuge Board; his last book in this series, The Bricha, will be published posthumously.

    He served as Chairman of the board of the Save our Shipyard nonprofit that successfully fought the potential cuts to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard proposed by the BRAC federal commission, twice.

     “From his long service and leadership in the Legislature, to his generosity in the community, to successfully leading the charge to save Portsmouth Naval Shipyard -not once, but twice – he’s left and indelible mark on the state,” said U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree in a statement.  “He was a true believer in the adage that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.“

    "He was brilliant, witty and always a pleasure to spend time with. Like many others whose lives he touched, I learned so much from his stories and opinions. He will be missed,” said Pingree.

    The author won awards for his books from the Maine Historical Society, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the Maine Humanities Council. Neil was very involved in his York community and remained politically active until his death.

    Mr. Rolde served on many State boards and commissions as well. A few are: the Maine Health Care Reform Commission, the Maine Historic Preservation, and the Maine Arts and Humanities Commission. His expertise led him to sit on many private non-profit boards as well, and he became Chairman, Maine Public Broadcasting Corporation, Vice-Chairman, University of New England Board of Trustees, Chairman, Board of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Chairman, Seacoast Shipyard Association Executive Board, Trustee, and the Maine Health Care Access Foundation.

    A list of Neil Rolde’s books:

    A list of Neil Rolde’s books:

    1. More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, Volume I: The Tempestuous History of the War Refuge Board
    2. More Than a Teardrop in the Ocean, Volume II: More of the Tempestuous History of the War Refuge Board
    3. Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politicians
    4. Crimes of War
    5. Breckenridge Long: American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man who Denied Visas to the Jews
    6. Continental Liar from the State of Maine: James G. Blaine
    7. Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians
    8. The Interrupted Forest: A History of Maine’s Wildlands
    9. Maine: A Narrative History
    10. Maine, Downeast and Different: An Illustrated History
    11. An Illustrated History of Maine
    12. Your Money or Your Health: America’s Cruel, Bureaucratic, and Horrendously Expensive Health Care System: How It Got That Way and What to Do About It
    13. Rio Grande Do Norte: The Story of Maine’s Partner State in Brazil: What It’s Like, What It’s Past Has Been, and What Are Its Ties to Maine
    14. The Baxters of Maine: Downeast Visionaries
    15. So You Think You Know Maine
    16.  Maine in the World: Stories of Some of Those from Here Who Went Away
    17.  O. Murray Carr: A Novel
    18. Sir William Pepperrell of Colonial New England

    Contributor as a historian and writer to:

    • To Katahdin: The 1876 Adventures of Four Young Men and a Boat
    •  Greatest Mountain: Katahdin’s Wilderness
  • Adventures on the Coast of Maine recall a time of boyhood freedom

     The book review first appeared in the Island Institute Journal

    By Tina Cohen

    April 24, 2017

    The Stone From Halfway Rock: A Boy’s Adventures on the Coast of Maine

    By Peter Macdonald Blachly (published by Polar Bear & Company, 2016)

    The pages of The Stone From Halfway Rock should practically reek of salt air and ocean spray, so vividly does author Peter Macdonald Blachly, a writer and musician who lives in Bath, share his boating experiences. And they are from a special time and place (which family snapshots illustrate) of childhood summer vacations spent on Sheep Island near Cundy’s Harbor, by the waters of the New Meadows River and Casco Bay, when he was 10-12 years old.

    Blachly recounts some thrilling voyages in that locale, peppered with nautical challenges like surprise storms, disorienting fog, sudden surf, and unexpected destinations.

    There are echoes of the wonderful movie Moonrise Kingdom, a 2012 feature film by Wes Anderson. Both are set on islands off the New England coast, and are coming-of-age stories told with empathy and humor. There’s a delicious combination of danger and dissipation, risk and relief. As a viewer or reader, you aren’t assured all threats will be overcome and all problems solved, but the sense of gained confidence provides a measure of success.

    Vacations in Maine in their rustic camp meant going without many conveniences, along with a shorter supply of parental supervision at times, as Peter’s father needed to work back home in Washington D.C., and Mrs. Blachly stayed on alone with their four sons and daughter. She appears to have supported the children’s curiosity and adventurous spirit.

    When 10-year old Peter and a slightly older brother wanted to take their small sailboat to another island on an overnight camping trip, she agreed. The packing of provisions was left to the boys, who took matches, pancake batter, maple syrup, a stick of butter, forks, napkins and paper plates. But no cooking pan or ingredients for dinner came along. Hungry that night, the boys managed to liberate a trapped lobster and boil it in an empty coffee tin over a fire. The Blachly kids wouldn’t starve.

    The Blachlys appreciated ingenuity in boat building, which led the family to local resident and master boat builder Charlie Gomes, from whom they acquired a sailboat of his design. Charlie also oversaw the building of a 10-foot long sailboat by Peter and his older brother Sandy, dubbed Piglet, with sails rigged like a sloop. Peter went on to build a hydroplane out of a plywood kit which, with a 15-hp engine, gained thrilling speeds of 20 mph or more.

    One story recounts the surprise ending to the visit of an otherwise bored school chum from the city. After Peter and his friend tied up a skiff at Ragged Island to help fight a wild fire there, and then lost track of the time (and being due back home), a Coast Guard boat arrived, having been alerted by Mrs. Blachly.

    Peter accepted the offer of a tow home, keenly aware his skiff “looked especially small and unseaworthy. The 3-horsepower outboard motor on the stern looked to me like a shrunken head.”

    Underway, Blachly writes, “the captain poured on the power to get us home before dark, and for some time Don and I stood at the stern of the cutter marveling at our speed and the immense size of the wake the cutter left behind us. During the afternoon, the swells had grown considerably, and I was glad we didn’t have to spend another two hours bringing the skiff back home through these waves. It would have taken us well past dark. I was also grateful for... the friendly demeanor of the Coast Guard crew. But mostly I was happy to have done something with Don that I knew he would remember enthusiastically for years to come.”

    And that describes well this warmly entertaining book: adventures remembered enthusiastically. Once the “big people” in your family have finished this book, pass it along to or read it out loud with children- it’s perfect for a wide range of ages, and landlubbers too.

    Tina Cohen is a summer resident of Vinalhaven.

  • Former CEO and Executive Director of The Silk Road Project will lead MECA

    The Maine College of Art’s (MECA) Board of Trustees has announced the appointment of Laura Freid, Ed.D., as the 18th president of the 135 year-old institution.

    Freid comes to MECA as a passionate and proven advocate for the arts and education, most recently serving in partnership with internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, as CEO and Executive Director of The Silk Road Project, a global cultural arts organization based at Harvard University.

    Silkroad works to connect the world through the arts, presenting musical performances and learning programs, and fostering radical cultural collaboration around the world to lead to advancing global understanding.

    Her prior leadership experience includes serving as Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations at Brown University and Chief Communications Officer at Harvard University where she was publisher ofHarvard Magazine.

    Led by alumnus Brian Wilk ’95, incoming chair of MECA’s Board of Trustees, and Vice President at Hasbro Toys, MECA’s presidential search process officially started in August  2016, when a search committee composed of a diverse group of representatives from within the MECA community convened to discuss and understand the most essential attributes needed in the College’s next leader.

    In announcing the choice, Wilk remarked on the thorough and extensive nature of the selection process. “It was clear to the entire search committee that we needed someone who has the skills, experience, and appetite to continue building our mission of educating artists for life while expanding our reputation as an international destination for world-class arts education. After carefully considering our impressively deep pool of seasoned candidates from all over the world, our search committee unanimously agreed that Dr. Laura Freid was the right person to guide MECA through our next critical period of growth.”  


    Debbie Reed, chair of the MECA Board of Trustees, described Freid as “an exceptional leader who understands MECA’s mission and the importance of creativity.” According to Reed, “From the moment we met Laura, we were interested in learning more about her demonstrated track record of engaging multiple constituencies while serving in senior leadership roles at multiple institutions. The Board of Trustees looks forward to an exciting future under Laura’s leadership as we move the College forward.”

    “I am grateful for the dynamic leadership that has guided MECA to date and to the entire College community and the city of Portland for creating such an exciting American center for the arts, culture and entrepreneurship,” Freid said. “In times as rife with international, political, and economic tensions as we are experiencing today, I believe investing in the arts has never been more imperative. Art gives us meaning and identity, helping us reflect on and shape our lives; it is fundamental to our well-being. That is why I believe providing artists with the education they need to succeed is such a critical and vital mission.”

    Freid’s educational background is rooted in the philosophy of aesthetics and in the history of reputation in higher education. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Washington University, an MBA from Boston University Graduate School of Management, and an Ed.D. from University of Pennsylvania.

    Freid will take office on or before July 1st, replacing Interim President Stuart Kestenbaum, Maine’s Poet Laureate and former Director of the Haystack Mountain School of Arts. Kestenbaum stepped in to lead during a transition year after Don Tuski, Ph.D. accepted the position of President at Pacific Northwest College of the Arts in Portland, Oregon, on the heels of six years of continuous enrollment and endowment growth at MECA.

  • Scientists call on Collins

    The Penobscot is polluted with mercury - we need the EPA

    Editorial by Dianne Kopec and Aram Calhoun,

    As the name implies, the goal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect our environment, and it has worked toward that goal since it was created in 1970. That start date is important to the people and the environment of the lower Penobscot River, for in late 1967, the HoltraChem chlor-alkali plant began operating in Orrington on the banks of the river. In the first four years of the plant’s operation, waste mercury was routinely discharged into the river. Much of that mercury continues to contaminate the Penobscot.

    We ask that the community, and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King — who will soon vote on the nominee to head the agency, Scott Pruitt — consider the value of the EPA and the critical importance of appointing a director who embraces the mission of protecting our environment.

    Senator Susan Collins – (202) 224-2523 Senator Angus King – (202) 224-5344

    We are scientists. We examined the impact of the mercury discharges into the river as part of the Penobscot River Mercury Study, an independent court-ordered study of mercury contamination of the Penobscot River from the HoltraChem plant. This work gave us first-hand knowledge of the value of the EPA and of the environmental consequences when regulations are absent or not enforced.

    One of the first actions of the EPA was a thorough revision of water pollution laws and the creation of the Clean Water Act, which was passed by Congress in 1972.

    For the first time in our history, the government began regulating pollutant discharges into surface waters. It was no longer legal for the Orrington chemical plant to dump its waste mercury into the Penobscot. Instead, HoltraChem began storing the waste mercury in landfills that greatly reduced the amount of mercury entering the river. Yet, roughly 90 percent of an estimated nine tons of mercury that was ultimately released into the Penobscot River was discharged before the EPA began regulating pollutant discharges into our rivers, streams and lakes.

    Today, the evidence of those mercury discharges can be seen in the sediment of the Penobscot River. Buried 16 inches below the surface of the sediment is a layer of extreme mercury contamination, deposited during the early years of plant operation.

    The sediment deposited after EPA was created is less contaminated.

    Yet, buried contaminants do not always remain hidden. River and slough channels can change course, releasing long-buried mercury into the surface sediment that is swept up and down the river with the tide. So in some parts of the lower Penobscot the most contaminated sediment is not buried, but near the surface, where it enters our food web and accumulates in our fish, birds and lobster.

    Now 50 years later, we have mercury concentrations in waterfowl almost four times greater than the Maine action level for mercury in muscle tissue, prompting the state’s first health advisory on the consumption of breast meat from ducks. Migratory song birds arrive in marshes along the lower Penobscot with low mercury burdens, but quickly accumulate mercury concentrations in their blood that exceed levels known to cause reproductive failure. Average mercury concentrations in lobster living near the mouth of the Penobscot River are two to three times greater than the Maine action level, and individual lobster have concentrations over six times greater.

    There is now a state ban on lobster harvesting in that area. Without EPA regulations, the river would be even more contaminated. Finally, mercury concentrations in the surface sediments of the river are seven to 10 times greater than background concentrations in rivers Down East, and we estimate it will take a minimum of 60 to 400 years, depending on the area, for the Penobscot to clean itself.

    Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, has been nominated to head the EPA, despite the fact that he is a leading advocate against the agency. His history of suing the EPA over environmental regulations, the same regulations that now limit discharges to the Penobscot, should disqualify him from service as the agency’s director.

    This is only one example of the positive role the EPA plays in safeguarding public and environmental health. Environmental regulations save our country money, provide jobs, and ensure the health of all animals, plants and the humans who see clean air, water and soil as an American right. The EPA needs a leader who will defend that right.

    Dianne Kopec is an adjunct instructor in the department of wildlife, fisheries, and conservation biology at the University of Maine in Orono. Aram Calhoun is a professor of wetlands ecology at UMaine. Peter Santschi, a regents professor in the department of marine sciences at Texas A&M University in Galveston, and Ralph Turner, a mercury researcher at RT Geosciences Inc., also contributed to this piece.

  • Impact of the Affordable Care Act in Maine and how Dirigo Health helped

    By Ramona du Houx

    Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 thousands of Mainers have gained coverage, and hundreds of thousands more have had their coverage substantially improved.

    On January 16, 2017 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an extensive compilation of state-level data illustrating the substantial improvements in health care for all Americans over the last six years.

    The data show that the uninsured rate in Maine has fallen by 17 percent since the ACA was enacted, translating into 22,000 Mainers gaining coverage, some transfered to the ACA from the established state program, Dirigo Health Care. 

    Photo: President Barack Obama came to Maine after the ACA was enacted and praised Governor John Baldacci for his work on the creation of the Dirigo Health Care Act. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    “As our nation debates changes to the health care system, it’s important to take stock of where we are today compared to where we were before the Affordable Care Act,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Whether Mainers get coverage through an employer, Medicaid, the individual market, or Medicare, they have better health coverage and care today as a result of the ACA. Millions of Americans with all types of coverage have a stake in the future of health reform. We need to build on our progress and continue to improve health care access, quality, and affordability, not move our system backward.”

    Photo: Governor John Baldacci with Robin Mills talking about Dirigo Choice in 2007. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Maine was an unusual case, because the state had enacted the Dirigo Health Care Act during the Baldacci administration, and many of the ACA benefits were already apart of Dirigo. Because of Dirigo it was easier to transfer over to the ACA.

    Governor John Baldacci deserves recognition for creating a model for the ACA. Other portions of Dirigo were dismantled by Gov. Paul LePage, who succeeded Baldacci. Never-the-less Baldacci's Dirigo saved thousands of lives by giving people health insurance for the first time, by expanding preventative care, covering more young adults, by eliminating the pre-existing condition and discrimination against women in health coverage.

    Dirigo Choice, the insurance branch of Dirigo Health, insured more than 40,000 Mainers and also became a model for President Obama’s ACA. In 2010 Monique Kenyon said, "We were shocked,” when she found out her husband was suffering from cancer. “Being a middle-income family we didn’t qualify for any assistance. We couldn’t afford all the treatment without insurance, but insurance companies wouldn’t accept him because he has this preexisting condition. He’s still with us because of Dirigo Choice.”

    Signed into law in the 2003 Dirigo Health Care Reform Act was a bold step toward universal health coverage during a time when policymakers in Washington D.C. and in state houses struggled to take even small steps. A few years later Governor Romney of Massachusetts used elements of Dirigo in his health care policies.

    “In many ways, Dirigo was a pace-setter and blueprint to national reform,” said Trish Riley, former director of Maine Governor John Baldacci’s Office of Health Policy and Finance. Riley said the program saved many lives by helping thousands of uninsured gain access to medical care and enabling more than 1,000 small businesses to provide insurance for their owners and employees.

    Baldacci expanded Medicare, covering many more Mainers, but LePage has refused to accept this part of the ACA, so thousands who were on, what the state calls MaineCare were kicked off because of LePage -  too many have died.

    In 2003, Maine ranked 16th healthiest among the states; in 2010 Maine was in the top ten. In 2003, Maine ranked 19th among the states in covering the uninsured; in 2010 Maine was sixth. With Dirigo Health, Maine created an efficient public health system with eight districts that cover the entire state through Healthy Maine Partnerships. During the Baldacci administration the state reached a milestone in healthcare coverage, won awards for Dirigo and became a model for the nation. (photo below taken in 2010)

    The ACA picked up the torch and contained to save the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people in Maine.

    Highlights of theACA  data include:

    Employer Coverage: 702,000 people in Maine are covered through employer-sponsored health plans. 

    Since the ACA this group has seen:

    An end to annual and lifetime limits: Before the ACA, 431,000 Mainers with employer or individual market coverage had a lifetime limit on their insurance policy. That meant their coverage could end exactly when they needed it most. The ACA prohibits annual and lifetime limits on policies, so all Mainers with employer plans now have coverage that’s there when they need it.
    Young adults covered until age 26: An estimated 8,000 young adults in Maine have benefited from the ACA provision that allows kids to stay on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26.

    Free preventive care: Under the ACA, health plans must cover preventive services — like flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception, and mammograms – at no extra cost to consumers. This provision benefits 588,281 people in Maine, most of whom have employer coverage.

    Slower premium growth: Nationally, average family premiums for employer coverage grew 5 percent per year 2010-2016, compared with 8 percent over the previous decade. Family premiums are $3,600 lower today than if growth had matched the pre-ACA decade.


    Better value through the 80/20 rule: Because of the ACA, health insurance companies must spend at least 80 cents of each premium dollar on health care or care improvements, rather than administrative costs like salaries or marketing, or else give consumers a refund. Mainers with employer coverage have received $2,507,067 in insurance refunds since 2012.


    Medicaid: 273,160 people in Maine are covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, including 115,217 children and 52,077 seniors and people with disabilities covered by both Medicaid and Medicare. The ACA expanded Medicaid eligibility and strengthened the program for those already eligible.

    40,000 Mainers could gain coverage: An estimated 40,000 Mainers could have health insurance today if Maine expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Coverage improves access to care, financial security, and health; expansion would result in an estimated 5,000 more Mainers getting all needed care, 5,700 fewer Mainers struggling to pay medical bills, and 50 avoided deaths each year.
    Thousands of Mainers with a mental illness or substance use disorder could get help: Nearly 30 percent of those who could gain coverage if more states expanded Medicaid have a mental illness or substance use disorder.


    Maine could be saving millions in uncompensated care costs: Instead of spending $40 million on uncompensated care, which increases costs for everyone, Maine could be getting $430 million in federal support to provide low-income adults with much needed care.
    Children, people with disabilities, and seniors can more easily access Medicaid coverage: The ACA streamlined Medicaid eligibility processes, eliminating hurdles so that vulnerable Mainers could more easily access and maintain coverage.


    Maine is improving health care for individuals with chronic conditions, including those with severe mental illness: The ACA established a new Medicaid flexibility that allows states to create health homes, a new care delivery model to improve care coordination and lower costs for individuals with chronic conditions, such as severe mental illness, Hepatitis C, diabetes and heart disease
    Individual market: 75,240 people in Maine have coverage through the Marketplace. Individual market coverage is dramatically better compared to before the ACA:

    No discrimination based on pre-existing conditions: Up to 590,266 people in Maine have a pre-existing health condition. Before the ACA, these Mainers could have been denied coverage or charged an exorbitant price if they needed individual market coverage. Now, health insurance companies cannot refuse coverage or charge people more because of pre-existing conditions.
    Tax credits available to help pay for coverage: Before the ACA, only those with employer coverage generally got tax benefits to help pay for health insurance. Now, 63,896 moderate- and middle-income Mainers receive tax credits averaging $342 per month to help them get covered through HealthCare.gov.

    Women pay the same as men: Before the ACA, women were often charged more than men just because of their gender. That is now illegal thanks to the ACA, protecting roughly half the people of Maine.

    Greater transparency and choice: Before the ACA, it was virtually impossible for consumers to effectively compare insurance plan prices and shop for the best value. Under the ACA, Maine has received $5 million in federal funding to provide a more transparent marketplace where consumers can easily compare plans, choosing among 25 plans on average.

    Medicare: 315,160 people in Maine are covered by Medicare. The ACA strengthened the Medicare Trust Fund, extending its life by over a decade.

    Medicare enrollees have benefited from:

    Lower costs for prescription drugs: Because the ACA is closing the prescription drug donut hole, 18,970 Maine seniors are saving $19 million on drugs in 2015, an average of $986 per beneficiary.
    Free preventive services: The ACA added coverage of an annual wellness visit and eliminated cost-sharing for recommended preventive services such as cancer screenings. In 2015, 165,892 Maine seniors, or 71 percent of all Maine seniors enrolled in Medicare Part B, took advantage of at least one free preventive service.

    Fewer hospital mistakes: The ACA introduced new incentives for hospitals to avoid preventable patient harms and avoidable readmissions. Hospital readmissions for Maine Medicare beneficiaries dropped 4 percent between 2010 and 2015, which translates into 232 times Maine Medicare beneficiaries avoided an unnecessary return to the hospital in 2015. 

    More coordinated care: The ACA encouraged groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers to come together to provide coordinated high-quality care to the Medicare patients they serve. 6 Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in Maine now offer Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to receive higher quality, more coordinated care.

    ACA Content created by Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA)

  • Rep. Devin combats ocean acidification, addresses conference with Gov. Jerry Brown

    Rep. Mick Devin, of Newcastle, ME, joined fellow members of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, including California Governor Jerry Brown, at a combat acidifacation launch event in CA. 

    Maine recognized as a national leader in fighting for healthier oceans 

    By Ramona du Houx

    In December of 2016,  U.S. and global leaders launched the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification in Coronado, CA.  Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, represented Maine at the event and was a key speaker. 

    “It was an honor to show the rest of the country how Maine is a leader when it comes to addressing the quality of the water in our oceans,” said Rep. Devin. “Scientists are working around the clock because they know how many people depend on the ocean to make a living.”

    The oceans are the primary protein source for 2.6 billion people, and support $2.5 trillion of economic activity each year. Maine's lobster industry could suffer greatly from ocean acidification. Catches like this one would only be read in history books. This lobster was put back into the ocean, as it's way beyond the size fishermen can legally catch.

    Maine is seen as the leading state on the East Coast addressing ocean acidification.  Maine was the first state to establish an Ocean Acidification Commission.  As a result of the commission the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Alliance, or MOCA, was established. 

    Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use and other carbon sources dissolves in the water and forms carbonic acid. Other sources of acidification include fresh water from rivers and decomposing algae feeding off nutrients in runoff. Carbonic acid dissolves the shells of shellfish.

    Maine’s major inshore shellfisheries, including clams, oysters, lobsters, shrimp and sea urchins, could see major losses if ocean acidification is left unchecked.

    At the conference, Devin addressed how state leaders are using science to establish priorities in dealing with the rising acidity of the earth’s oceans. He explained how Maine used those priorities to develop a long-term action plan.  

    He stressed the importance of addressing ocean acidification by developing plans to remediate and adapt to it. Devin said that strategy is crucial for Maine to maintain its healthy marine economy, particularly the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries, which are valued well in excess of billion dollars annually. 

    Devin finished his presentation by showing a slide of a boiled lobster dinner and repeating his trademark line about one reason the marine economy matters to so many: “People do not visit the coast of Maine to eat a chicken sandwich.” 

    The Alliance includes several state governments, governments of Canadian provinces, North American tribal governments, and countries as far away as France, Chile and Nigeria. 

    While lobsters are the iconic image of Maine, many other shell fish will be effected, like musscles, and clams. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Members have five primary goals: advancing scientific understanding of ocean acidification; taking meaningful actions to reduce causes of acidification; protect the environment and coastal communities from impacts of a changing ocean; expanding public awareness and understanding of acidification; and building sustained global support for addressing the problem.

    Devin, a marine biologist at the Darling Center in Walpole and a member of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee, is serving his third term in the Maine House. He represents Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Newcastle, part of Nobleboro, part of South Bristol, Monhegan Plantation and the unorganized territory of Louds Island.

     

  • The 128 Legislature and how to help the state out of stagnation

     By Ramona du Houx

    Members of the 128th Legislature were sworn into the Maine House of Representatives on December 7, 2016, led by Democratic Speaker of the House Sara Gideon. There are 25 new members and 52 returning representatives in the House, including 36 women.

    “Today, we start out with a Maine economy that is lagging behind New England and the rest of the country in terms of economic growth, recovery of jobs lost during the recession and wage growth,” said Gideon, D-Freeport.  “We lead New England when it comes to the number of Maine children and seniors living in poverty. Those are the facts.  And here is another fact: We have to do better. We will always work together and come to the table in search of common ground to help the 1.3 million Mainers who expect us to rise above politics.” 

    There are issues that could grow Maine’s economy, which haven’t been addressed during the LePage administration. Instead he’s focused on cutting benefits and lowering taxes for the wealthy. in his speach today to the lawmakers he talked about changing the Minimum wage referendum that passed, not about how to grow jobs.

    In a recent interview, Former Governor John Baldacci sited a study conducted by Former Governor King, which listed the top areas in need of investment that still remain areas that need funding.

    "The two leading factors in the study were the education and training of the population and the amount of Research and Development funds invested to help businesses get the latest cutting edge technologies so they can compete successfully with other businesses anyone in the world,” said Gov. Baldacci.

    Maine has suffered under LePage by the lack of Research and Development (R&D) funds that used to spur economic activity as the research, conducted at the University of Maine and other laboratories, was regularly used by start-up Maine companies, there-by growing jobs across Maine. The people have always voted overwhelmingly for R&D bonds in Maine. But LePage doesn’t believe in bond issues and has held bond funds hostage in the past.

    "We've been doing a terrible job at putting resources in Research and Development," said Gov. Baldacci, who invested dramatically in R&D during his administration. "We also need to focus on job training. We're not doing enough to match jobs to the industries established here. Our Labor Department needs to be our Human Resource Department. There are plenty of job opportunities out there that need trained workers and plenty of workers who want the opportunity to work. Our people, families, and small businesses aren't looking for a handout, but are looking for opportunities. Our responsibility is to make sure that happens throughout all of Maine."

    Baldacci started this work with Former Labor Secretary Laura Fortman, but little has been done to progress these job opportunities under the LePage administration.

    The lack of these investments, along with other LePage policies has led to stagnation in Maine.

    “Under Republican leadership, Maine has lagged behind in the national economic recovery. We work longer hours than our neighbors in any other state in New England, yet the purchasing power of our paychecks in one of the lowest in the country. Meanwhile, our governor has turned a blind eye as five of our friends, family members and neighbors die every week from the opioid epidemic. I look forward our leadership team’s work over the next few months to create good jobs and a fair economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top." 

    Members of the House include teachers, small business owners, nonprofit leaders, a former mill electrician, prominent civil rights advocates, farmers, former law enforcement officials, and veterans. 

    “I’m proud of the bipartisan work we achieved last session, particularly to improve services for veterans, but there is more work to be done,” said veteran Marine Rep. Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden. “In the short term, our first task is to pass a balanced budget that reflects the needs of our state, but we also have to keep an eye on the future. Maine needs to create good paying jobs by investing in the infrastructure our communities need to compete. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address these and other challenges facing our state.”

  • Democrats won a battle for greater transparency for LePage's forensic facility plan

    Photo and article by Ramona du Houx

    Maine democrats won a battle for greater transparency to build a secure forensic facility next to the Riverview Psychiatric Center on November 30, 2016. 

    Democrats said the forensic unit project needs vetting by the Legislature’s appropriations and health and human services committees for a range of reasons including the financing, operations and policy matters related to who would be housed in the facility. Gov. LePage intends for the facility to be privately run, which could jeopardize the health and wellbeing of citizens if not carefully monitored. That overseeing duty needs to be clarified by the Legislature.

    “This is a fundamental change in how Maine cares for forensic patients that demands proper legislative oversight and public input.” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon “DHHS has never brought this proposal to the Legislature, but is essentially threatening to build the project elsewhere and at greater cost if they don't get their way. We must provide proper care to Mainers with serious mental illness, and we are committed to making this happen with the proper oversight that protects this vulnerable population.”

    The Democrats present at the Legislative Council meeting – Gideon, Speaker Mark Eves and House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe – sought to table the proposal so it could be fully vetted as soon as the 128the Legislature convenes in January.

    House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, however, forced a vote to simply approve the project. His motion failed by a vote of 3-3.

    “Let’s remember what got us here in the first place. Three years ago, the feds came in and found that Riverview patients were severely abused – sometimes even with pepper spray and Tasers,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “As lawmakers, we have a duty to ensure the safety and well-being of the patients in the state’s care. We can’t simply hand a blank check over to the administration.”

     

  • Attorney Joseph Baldacci Esq. in renown book - Trademark Who’s Who Honors Edition

     
     Article and photo by Ramona du Houx
         Joseph M. Baldacci has been selected for inclusion in the forthcoming Trademark Who’s Who Honors Edition for demonstrating dedication, leadership and professional excellence.
     
        “His compassion and expertise set the standard in the industry. He has truly dedicated himself to his profession. There is humility and personal touch he adds to his relationship with everyone he does business with, more than the value of his service it’s his way of treating everyone like an extended member of his own family that people remember the most. As a talented disciplined professional he has maintained a proven track record of quality service, driven by his desire to succeed,” stated Amber Rogers, of Trademark.
     
         “I am very honored. I have been practicing law here in my hometown for 25 years and I have been fortunate to represent literally thousands of Maine people—and even a few from away,” said the former Bangor Mayor Joseph M. Baldacci, who currently serves on the Bangor City Council.
     
         According to Trademark, during the vetting process it was noted along with his exceptional reputation that he has also maintained a positive peer rating.
     
         “His years of service along with his level of expertise and several other factors also contributed to his inclusion. He prides himself on honesty and integrity. He is the kind of professional admired by colleagues and peers alike. His kindness and willingness to always help others and find solutions to most questions is both exemplary and honorable. He has made his mark on his professionals an expert and will become part of history as one of the top professionals in his field,” stated Rogers.
     
         The Law Offices of Joseph M. Baldacci, Esq, have been serving Maine People Since 1991.
     
         Joe’s website, baldaccilaw.com states: “With 25 years of experience, we proudly serve clients across the state of Maine from our offices in Bangor. We are client-oriented and successful in a wide range of legal areas. When you enlist our services, you will receive our excellent legal knowledge, our exemplary customer service, our relentless dedication, and our professional integrity. We can get results for you!”
     
    About Trademark Who’s Who
     
        With expert members representing every major industry, Trademark Who’s Who is the trusted resource and historic tool that facilitates the creation of new business relationships in all areas of business. Following the same tradition of the now more that 100 years old concept, Trademark Who’s Who prides itself on preserving the stories of each member as each of them deserve his and her own place in history. The talented professionals profiled in the historic registry share such virtues as determination, courage, patience and discipline. It is not the characteristics which set them apart from the rest of us, but their extremely high degree of accomplishment. Now more than ever these people serve as an example, each of these extraordinary people documented in this book offer tangible evidence of the value of hard work, goal setting and passion.
        
         Trademark Who’s Who membership provides these hardworking men and women with certified and validated third-party endorsement of their accomplishments, and serves as a way to spend the word about themselves through a trusted network of individuals brought together by the same common morals, values, and dedication. The historic preservation of one’s family legacy and personal achievements is also a driving force in the success of this publication. Such a well-researched and verified source ensures this tool to act as a bridge forging long lasting new business relationships. 
  • Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s 14th Amendment - A Maine Exhibit

    Justice?, by Ramona du Houx
     
    Maine's Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s 14th Amendment exhibit opens on Thursday, September 22nd and runs through December 22nd, 2016
     
    The exhibit will be at the Michael Klahr Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta, 46 University Drive in Augusta.
    Featured are 36 works by 17 Maine artists who were inspired by the rights granted by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
    Themes depicted relate to many areas of American society covered by the amendment: including due process, liberty, gender and sexuality, race, legal protections, equality in the workplace, housing, education, law enforcement, rights of the incarcerated, tolerance, and local, state, and federal representation
    The exhibit is being hosted by the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, in conjunction with the Harlow Gallery of the Kennebec Valley Art Association, with support from the Maine Humanities Council and associated program support by the Maine Arts Commission.
     
    The Holocaust and Human Rights Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or weekends and evenings by appointment or when other events are being held.
    People Power, by Ramona du Houx
     

    Participating artists are listed below alphabetically by town:

    Augusta: Anthony Austin
    Bangor: Jeanne Curran
    Biddeford: Roland Salazar
    Brunswick: Mary Becker Weiss
    Camden: Claudia Noyes Griffiths
    Falmouth: Anne Strout
    Gardiner: Allison McKeen
    Hallowell: Nancy Bixler
    Lincolnville: Petrea Noyes
    Manchester: Bruce Armstrong
    Solon: Ramona du Houx
    Tenants Harbor: Otty Merrill
    Town Unknown: Julian Johnson
    Waterville: Jen Hickey
    West Rockport: Barbra Whitten
    Wilton: Rebecca Spilecki
    Winslow: Mimi McCutcheon

    There are several events planned in association with this project, including the Pride Film Festival – a series of four free films held Friday nights in October at 7 p.m. The films this year are The Boys in the Band (10/7), Fire (10/14), Paragraph 175 (10/21), and The Danish Girl (10/28).
     
    Mike Daisey’s one man play The Trump Card had sold out runs this fall in Washington and New York and is now touring throughout the country. With special permission from the playwright, HHRC Program Director and UMA adjunct professor of drama David Greenham will read the hard-hitting and hilarious monologue on Saturday, October 22nd at 7 p.m. and Sunday, October 23rd at 2 p.m.
    The Trump Card reminds all of us of the role we have played in paving the way to create one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in recent memory. Tickets for The Trump Card are $15 and proceeds benefit HHRC’s educational outreach programs.
    As the Stage Review put it, “Daisey breaks down what makes Trump tick—and in doing so illuminates the state of our American Dream and how we’ve sold it out.” 
     
    14th Amendment by Allison McKeen 
    The HHRC is also pleased to host Everyman Repertory Theater’s production of Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly November 17th, 18th and 19th. The Pulitzer Prize winning play is a love story set in Missouri in 1942 and addresses issues of prejudice and the injustices that caused many to flee Europe in the years leading up to World War II.  
    The New York Times said about the play, “It is perhaps the simplest, and the most lyrical play Wilson has written—a funny, sweet, touching and marvelously written and contrived love poem for an apple and an orange.”   Tickets go on sale September 27th.
     
    Also in November, a group of UMA drama students under the direction of adjunct drama professor Jeri Pitcher will present a reading of their work in progress called Created Equal. The project, created in partnership with the HHRC, the UMA Writing Center, and UMA students will focus on the importance of the 14th amendment today. A full performance of the piece is planned for the spring of 2017.
  • ME's proceeds from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s close to $82M

    Maine makes over $2,270,635in 33rd auction

    Article by Ramona du Houx

    Maine brought in $2,265,634.20 from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), 33rd auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances.

    RGGI is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector. 

    The program, first started in Maine when Governor John Baldacci pushed for it’s implementation and had a bill introduced. The legislation won unanimous support in Maine’s Senate and House. To date RGGI has brought in $81,837,449.15 to the state for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes. 

    “RGGI is working. It is helping Mainers reduce our energy bills and reduce emissions. It is a win-win and a model for the entire nation," said Former State Representative Seth Berry, who sat on Maine’s legislative committee that approved the final RGGI rules.

    States sell nearly all emission allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other consumer benefit programs. These programs are spurring innovation in the clean energy economy and creating green jobs in the RGGI states.

    14,911,315 CO2 allowances were sold at the auction at a clearing price of $4.54.

    The September 7th auction was the third auction of 2016, and generated $67.7 million for reinvestment in strategic programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and GHG abatement programs. Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2allowance auctions exceed $2.58 billion dollars.

    “This auction demonstrates RGGI’s benefits to each participating state, helping to reduce harmful emissions while generating proceeds for reinvestment. Each RGGI state directs investments according to its individual goals, and this flexibility has been key to the program’s success across a diverse region.” said Katie Dykes, Deputy Commissioner at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Another key RGGI strength is our commitment to constant improvement, as exemplified in the program review process. The RGGI states are continuing to evaluate program elements and improvements as part of the 2016 Program Review, with the goal of reaching consensus on program revisions that support each state’s unique goals and priorities.

    Governor John Baldacci led the effort in Maine to join RGGI and had a comprehensive energy plan similar to Cuomo. Baldacci's clean energy plan focused on how to get Maine off fossil fuels and bring clean energy jobs to the state. His administration created grants to help new innovations like the floating offshore wind platforms and windmills developed at the University of Maine under Dr. Habib Dagher's leadership. (photo: by Ramona du Houx. Dr. Dagher talks with Gov. John Baldacci about the next steps for wind farm implementation offshore. The prototype of the floating windfarm is the firs photo on the page)

    Nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).        

    “Independent reports have found the reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is creating jobs, reducing consumers’ utility bills, and boosting state economies while driving down carbon emissions,” said Jared Snyder, Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Vice Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Our reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is supporting Governor Cuomo’s transformational clean energy and energy efficiency goals to generate 50 percent of New York’s energy from renewable sources and reduce carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030, ushering in the low-carbon economy essential to the wellbeing of future generations.”

  • Summer adventures vividly recalled by Peter Blachly, book signing Sept. 15th in Bath

    The Stone from Halfway Rock: A Boy's Adventures on the Coast of Maine blends diverse aspects of coastal life 

     By Ramona du Houx

    Maine summers are magical places of wonder, especially for a young boy during the 1950s and '60s, skilled in sailing Casco Bay. Such was life for Peter Macdonald Blachly.

     His book, The Stone from Halfway Rock: A Boy's Adventures on the Coast of Maine blends diverse aspects of coastal life with compelling true stories that invite us to journey with him.

     Peter’s childhood, so vividly retold, also reminds us how important it is to connect with the natural world.

    "Luminous, lyrical, Peter Blachly's stories of childhood summers in Maine are a wondrous reminder of what's important in life. He has me laughing, weeping, visualizing seals and summer storms, remembering the smell of the sea air and promising myself to love the simple," wrote Chellis Glendinning, author of My Name is Chellis & I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization.
    “Beyond the adventures (and underlying them) is a rich experience of, and love affair with — the natural world. If I have successfully conveyed that to my readers, I will be quite content,” said Peter.
     
    On September 15, 2016 at The Mustard Seed Bookstore, in Bath, Peter will talk about his book and sign copies from 5:30 – 7pm.
     
    Included is the author's story of encountering the tragic history of Malaga Island and its neighboring island, where he lived and explored during formative years and where he has returned today.
     
    Peter is also an environmentalist, musician, songwriter and watercolorist. In October, One Way Trip to Mars, a new rock opera musical by Peter and his wife, Johannah Harkness, the cornerstones of the Hollowbody Electric Band, will debut in Bath. The Hollowbody Electric Band plays throughout the mid-coast and has many albums.
     
    Published by Polar Bear & Company of Solon, Maine. Available worldwide, just ask your local bookstore to order it in for $12.95 or equivalent in currency.
     
    An interview with the author: 
    Why'd you write the book? 
    I value my childhood experiences in Maine. Such experiences are so rare in today’s world that I thought others might vicariously share the pure joy I derived from them — or at least identify with them in some way.
     
    How did your adventures, as a kid growing up with a boat, affect your life? 
     
    Living ‘off the grid’ for three months every summer, and being dependent on a homemade sailboat as my main means of transportation, forced me to learn many practical skills that few people have a chance to learn. Such as how to analyze and fix the mechanical problems of a recalcitrant outboard motor, how to gauge and safely navigate in the current, or correctly assess the limits in safely operating a motorboat or sailboat. Most of all, I learned self-dependence and an abiding respect and love for nature.
     
    Did sailing then, inspire a life long love affair with the ocean?
     
    I would say that I developed a life-long love of the coast of Maine, but I actually don’t enjoy the ocean much. It’s too wild, unpredictable and dangerous. Sailing in protected coastal waters, however, is something I’m sure I will love, until I’m too old to sail— and even then I’ll love the memories.

     

     

  • Penobscot Indian, WWII combat medic to meet family of fallen medic of D-day for first time

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    Charles Norman Shay landed on D-day in the first wave of combat soldiers. Serving as a medic, in the famed 1st Infantry Division, he saved countless lives as he pulled his fellow soldiers from the bloody waters while bullets were streaming past him and took care of their wounds.

    “The water ran red,” said Shay, “witnesses later told me they didn’t know where I got the strength to drag so many men to shore.”

    A fellow medic, Edward Morozewicz, never made it home. Critically wounded Charles pulled him from the water, and gave him morphine.

    Since 2007 Shay has returned to where the 1st Division landed, and performs traditional Penobscot Indian ceremonies.

    “The ceremonies are my way of connecting with the spirits of the brave men that remain there. I can never forget the men who paid the ultimate price that day, especially the young men who never experienced life as it was meant to be, a wife and a family, but instead were destined to depart this life in some far-off place they had probably never heard of while growing up,” said Shay.

    There, on Omaha Beach in Normandy, he always remembers Edward as he conducts his ceremonies.

    This year he’ll meet Morozewicz’s family for the first time.

    On September 18, 2016 he plans to give them Edward’s silver star on a plaque that reads:

    “The Silver Star was presented to Edward Morozewicz posthumously for his actions to assist the wounded on June 6, 1944, above and beyond the call of duty. He paid for his devotion to duty with his life on this day.

    “Presented to his family on September 18, 2016, by Charles Norman Shay, a fellow medic of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st U.S. Infantry Division.”

    When professional musician Lisa Redfern heard about Shay’s life she decided to write a ballad in his honor. While visiting friends Lisa performed it for him. It was a complete surprise.

    “I was overwhelmed,” said Shay.

    Redfern performs Full Circle Fire: The Ballad of Charles Shy, on a CD, which can be purchased for $6.

    A check can be sent to Charles at: P.O Box 65, Old Town, ME  04468.

    On D-day 3,000 Allied troops died and some 9,000 were injured or went missing.

    Shay has also written a book that honors all who served, Project Omaha Beach. When Edward's sister read what Charles wrote about Edward, she invited him to visit the family.

    A follow up book is in production. 

    “My book is a journey into the past, a past that I would prefer to wipe out of my memory but this is not possible. At the very beginning on Omaha Beach, it was difficult for me to witness so much carnage and not be affected emotionally. It was necessary for me to close my mind to what I was experiencing in order for me to be effective at doing what I had been trained for. Once I had accomplished this, I was able to operate effectively and even saved a few lives,” said Shay.

    In 2007 Shay went to Washington, DC, to receive the Legion of Honor medal from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The medal has joined the others bestowed on him, including a Silver Star and four bronze battle stars from World War II and the Korean War, in his home on the Penobscot Indian Island Reservation in Old Town, Maine. 

    When he returned to live on the reservation 17 years ago, he worked in earnest to promote his tribe and pass on the history of his nation. Shay was instrumental in getting the reissue of a famous book by his grandfather Joseph Nicolar titled The Life and Traditions of the Red Man. The tall white-shingled tepee beside his house is a museum dedicated to Princess Watahwaso, the stage name of his late aunt, Lucy Nicolar Poolaw, who interpreted Indian music and dance.

    “I’m very proud to be a Native American, a member of the Penobscot Indian nation. I’m trying to do whatever I can to promote my Native American culture, to promote what my ancestors have done for the people of this small reservation,” he said.

     

     

     

  • To Denmark, With Love shows why the Danish people are said to be the happiest in the world


    By Ramona du Houx

     Year after year, Denmark has been rated highest amongst nations for people who are the happiest with their quality of life. What's their secret? Judy Falck-Madsen lets us know with her wit and her wonderfully humorous anecdotes, as she tells us about town life and the countryside of Denmark in To Denmark, With Love.

     Denmark has also become the country of the moment, with books such as How to Be Danish: A Journey to the Cultural Heart of Denmark and well-known TV dramas like The Bridge and The Killing. But if you want a real-life story of an American living in Denmark, raising a family, married to a genuine Viking, you must read To Denmark, With Love.

    To Denmark, With Love is Judy's delightful account of the day-to-day joys and tribulations of family life in the land of Hans Christian Andersen during the 60s and 70s.

    “Living in Denmark, I’ve come to love her and her people,” said Judy. “It’s home.”

    Friendly Danes, mischievous children, an assortment of wild and domestic animals, as well as Judy’s Viking husband furnish the story lines. It’s a life that's built on a deep respect for nature, tradition, and just plain fun.

    Asbjorn Gyldenlund provides wonderful illustrations. Published by Polar Bear & Company of Solon, Maine. Available worldwide, just ask your local bookstore to order it in for $15.95 or equivalent in currency.

     An interview with the author:

    What relevance does your book have for today's society?

    Society is always in a state of flux. Today it is unlikely that I would have wanted the role of a home-going housewife, and the life that inspired me to write this book would not have been possible if I had wanted a career.

    By being at home, I was able to enjoy preparations for countless dinner parties and family outings. I could tend a beautiful garden and keep order in a house that could accommodate all the quests and activities we enjoyed. All of this would have been stressful if I had been hours each day outside the home. Added to this is the fact that Danish customs make fun living very easy.

    However, there are certain traits that will always be part of human nature. No matter how much we control our surroundings and create cities that are technological wonders, some of us will always feel a sense of peace and harmony when quietly soaking up the beauty of nature. My hope is that there will continue to be people who will protect areas in every country where this bonding with nature will be possible, and it is clear from my book that I have been blessed with this possibility.

    Does the world in your book still exist?

    Yes and no. Very much has changed since I wrote my book about Denmark, but change has always been part of the human story. When I came to Denmark in 1960, I married into a well-educated, wonderful family at a time when there was a definite dress code, a well-defined set of manners and proper speech. Already then, the younger generation wanted changes and thought that the changes they were promoting would give them more personal freedom. Ironically, this “freedom” complicated society.

    I had enjoyed the luxury of not having to worry about what to wear for any occasion and the ease of being immediately accepted by knowing how to address people I met. One could be completely free in one's opinions, as long as one used polite grammar. Not only could we discuss freely, my husband could make jokes without anyone ever being offended. Having had a very unsettled past, it was pleasant to so quickly feel at home. I have always felt free and never doubted that I could get my way, and in such an orderly society, it was ever so easy.

    What advice do you have for young American women contemplating living in Denmark?

    I am not sure I could give advice to anyone! When I married a Dane, we both wanted children, and in those days, it was considered best if a mother could stay at home while her children were small. Those were wonderful, happy years, without the stress of two careers and fitting it all together. Now most Danish women marry late and put their babies in daycare centers in order to continue with their careers.

    Aside from that aspect, I once was asked to make a speech for the American Women's Club, and my advice was to always be positive and willing to eat whatever food is served when we are guests in a Danish home. Danes place great importance on hospitality, and they will do their best to serve what they think is special. (You might have to have a large handkerchief in your handbag, in case you want to discreetly hide a bite of food.)

    Other than that, a smile is the quickest way to bond with people of all ages — something an infant is born to make use of and a lot of people tend to forget.

    Visit the author's facebook page HERE. And her publisher HERE.

  • A Winter’s Apprentice by John Holt Willey brings a Maine boat yard to life

    By Ramona du Houx 

    John Willey shares insights into life in a Maine boatyard, where he worked and kept a journal from 1978 to ’79 in his book, A Winter’s Apprentice.

    “Before it ever leaves its building shed, a yacht will take its makers on unimagined journeys. This one only begins in East Boothbay, Maine,” said Willey.

    As the historian John Gardner confirms, until relatively recently boatbuilding was not recorded—the life of the yard crew even less so. Here is a rare and vibrant narrative from a winter apprentice.

    “It’s great, it really is great. I can see it, and see it all—smell it, taste it, and feel it. The shop and crew and Paul came through life size. I was there with you, every blessed, excruciating, wonderful minute…“Last night after supper, I sat down with it and didn’t get up until I had finished, about 2 a.m,” endorsed John Gardner, historian, designer and builder of wooden boats, author of books including Building Classic Small Craft.

    John Willey enthusiastically recommends others to become apprentices of the trade.

    “The practice has worked well for more centuries than we can count. In every one of the great scholarly traditions, including but not limited to law and medicine and teaching, the best of us get that way by first attaching ourselves to the principles of what we want to know, and to the men and women who use and exemplify those principles to grow beyond them.”

    He has a special affinity to crafting wood. As a teen growing up at Good Will-Hinckley in central Maine, he made his first boat with a friend, in his free time when he wasn’t avidly reading. Working in a boat yard seemed to be a natural course to take.

    “As soon as I began work at Paul's yard I was dazzled, smitten, and wanted to preserve what I learned as completely as I could. After about four or five weeks it dawned on me I had something close to chapters for a book, along with detailed letters I’d written to my dad,” said John.

    Willey sought advise from professionals before completing his book.

    “John Gardner answered my first letter to him, and was so enthusiastic and reassuring I thought I actually had a book under way. He was always there, encouraging, and I knew he knew what he was talking about, even when I did not.”

    Willey’s stories and sage insights will resonate with any reader who has had to leave one career and transition into another.

    John had been an independent private investigator in San Francisco when he was told by his doctor to find less hectic work in a more peaceful setting if he wanted to live longer. So, at midlife, he and his wife returned to Maine.

    John has been a farmhand, janitor, jackhammer operator, U.S. Marine, choir member (bass), sailor, private investigator, electrician, boat builder, cabinetmaker, mason, and long served on the board of his beloved Good Will-Hinckley. In the summertime, he paddles an eighteen-foot sea kayak he built and launched in 1997.

     Available online and at your local bookstore internationally or directly from the publisher Polar Bear & Company, polarberanadco.org. 207.643.2795.

    $14.95

    ISBN 978-1-882190-45-4

  • Penobscot D-Day Veteran Shay, 91, to deliver speech in Normandy

    From the Maine Public Broadcasting Network

    By PATTY WIGHT •

    Charles Norman Shay recounts D-Day as a medic on the beaches of Normandy, as well as in Korea,  in his book.

    Monday will mark the 72nd anniversary of D-Day, the day that more than 160,000 Allied troops invaded the beach in Normandy, France, to fight Nazi Germany. One of the soldiers who landed there was Charles Norman Shay, a Penobscot Indian and medic for the 1st U.S. Infantry Division.

    Shay, who is almost 92, will deliver a speech at a ceremony in Normandy about his experience.
    In the early hours of June 6th, 1944, Shay landed on Omaha Beach. He was almost 19 years old.

    “That was my first day in combat,” he says.

    Shay remembers the chaos of that day: the stormy sea, gunfire raining down on Allied troops, wading through chest-deep water to get to the beach.

    “The seas were red with the blood of men who were wounded or sacrificed their lives,” he says. “It was very devastating. I had to cleanse my soul, well — not cleanse my soul, but I had to think a lot about it and push what I was experiencing out of my mind so I could function the way I was trained to function.”

    Among black smoke and ear-splitting explosions, Shay pulled wounded men from the water so they wouldn’t drown. At one point, he came upon a friend and fellow medic, Edward Morocewitz.

    “When I was walking the beach on the 6th of June 1944, I found him. He was wounded, we recognized each other. There was not much I could do for him, because he had a very bad stomach wound and I could not even bandage him properly,” Shay says. “I gave him a shot of morphine, and, well, we said goodbye to each other forever, because he died.”

    He says that in his company alone, almost half of all the soldiers and seven out of nine officers were wounded or dead by noon.

    After it was over, Shay didn’t talk about it. Not until his early 80s, when he returned to Normandy in 2007. And he’s gone back almost every year since, on a kind of mission.

    “It’s my belief as an Indian that I can take up contact with my veterans that have paid the ultimate price. And they are still lost and wandering around, it is my belief, on the beaches of Omaha. And I try to take up contact with them, and let them know they’re not forgotten,” he says.

    Shay says he always makes a stop at Morocewitz’s grave to say a few words to him. This year, Shay will also give a speech at a ceremony on the anniversary of D-Day.

    “This was one of the biggest operations in military history. And it was a success. And, well, I was perhaps happy and sad to be a part of it,” he says.

    Shay, 91, is one of a dwindling number of living World War II veterans. But he says as long as he can, he’ll return to Normandy to honor the sacrifices soldiers made and keep their memories alive.

    Shay lives on Indian Island, in Maine.

  • Workshop for artists, writers on publishing one’s work in Bangor, ME

    Tuesday, May 10, 2016 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

    Location: University of Maine Museum of Art, 40 Harlow Street Bangor, ME 04401 , Bangor, Maine

    For more information: 207-992-4200

    The city of Bangor Commission on Cultural Development will host a free workshop for artists and writers on publishing one’s work 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, at the University of Maine Museum of Art, 40 Harlow St. Panelists Joshua Bodwell and Jane Karker will make short presentations and entertain questions about publishing one’s work.

    Bodwell is the executive director of Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. He is a regular contributor to Poets and Writers Magazine where his author profiles have included Ann Beattie, John Casey, Andre Dubus III, Richard Ford and Richard Russo. He is a contributing editor at the online journal Fiction Writers Review. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in magazines and quarterlies such as Ambit (London), Glimmer Train’s Writer’s Ask, Threepenny Review and Slice. His journalism has garnered awards from the Maine and New England press associations. He was awarded the 2015 Marianne Russo Award for emerging authors from the Key West Literary Seminar. His website is joshuabodwell.com.

    Karker is president of Maine Authors and Boston Writers Publishing. She teaches marketing and publicity to authors in libraries, workshops and adult education course throughout New England. She especially enjoys “myth-busting” — sharing data and real-life experience about what really happens and can happen in the often confusing world of independent publishing.

    The workshop is the third in a series that will address the professional development needs of artists in our community. Other workshops will include:

    • Sept. 20: Panel of Businesses on Partnering Within the Community.

    • Oct. 18: Grant Writing and the Application Process.

    • Nov. .15: Marketing, Representation, and Networking.

    In effort to help us estimate the number of attendees, register by calling 992-4234 or email culturalcommission@bangormaine.gov. For information, please visit the city of Bangor website section for the Commission on Cultural Development at bangormaine.gov.

  • Crimes of War by Neil Rolde tells of horrors of SS in small French town

    A compelling novel that takes on why massacres happen

    Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 12.14.19 PM

    By Ramona du Houx 

    Crimes of War, Neil Rolde’s newest novel deals with a real SS massacre of a small town in France during World War II called Oradour-sur-Glane.

    “The drama here was that some of the perpetrators were French citizens—Alsatians drafted into the SS. They were put on trial in 1953 for their part—under duress, it was claimed—in the horrendous killings and destruction of that peaceful village,” said historian/author Neil Rolde.

    There was a huge trial in 1953, and Look magazine devoted a big spread to it. The question is, were the Alsace soldiers forced to do it? The idea of people being forced to commit an atrocity and then being held responsible is what caught my attention. 

    It has been a difficult story to tell. But I believe my current work gives the flavor, although fictionalized, that many of the non-fiction books about this incident do not.”

    During the Spanish Inquisition many Cathars where tortured and murdered in the same region where the SS massacre took place, echoing the past.

    “Neil tells this compelling story as if he were there—a silent witness through the centuries,” said Paul Cornell du Houx, of Polar Bear & Company, the book’s publisher.

    Specific historical figures make appearances in the story.

    In the novel Professor Eugene Desfosseux, a historian and self-taught ventriloquist, conjures amid the ruins figures from deep into his past and records the interviews and interrogations in a tale that epitomizes what this or any other war crime might encompass—including his own daily life of pleasures, romance and memories inflamed to a vengeance that would destroy his life’s work.

    “Thus it brings up the question of what war crimes entail and thus the plural in the title.

    Crimes of war are still a universal problem,” said Neil.

    Upon the order of President Charles de Gaulle the town was kept as the Nazis had left it in ruins and is a national monument, which is on the cover of Crimes of War.

    Crimes of War is Neil’s third fictional work.

    Rolde enjoys writing novels and non-fiction to be able to impart his insights and historical information in entertaining ways for his readers.

    Rolde is currently working on a new book about the War Refugee Board (WRB) following his successful biography of Breckinridge Long, Breckinridge Long: American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man Who Denied Visas to the Jews.

    “In my reading about World War II, I would occasionally come upon mention of the War Refugee Board (WRB). In researching my biography of Breckinridge Long, the villain of restrictions on European Jews trying to flee for their lives, the WRB was cited. In the Library of Congress, there were volumes and volumes of research material on the WRB. So I decided to write a full scale history of the WRB, since there did not seem to be one,” said Neil. “It will be part of a trilogy beginning with the Breckinridge Long book, and ending with an as yet untitled volume on the natural progression from Breckinridge Long to the War Refugee Board to the creation of Israel.”

    Rolde’s books are always extensively researched. Neil has won awards for his books from the Maine Historical Society, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the Maine Humanities Council.

    Available online and at your local bookstore internationally or directly from the publisher Polar Bear & Company, polarberanadco.org. 207.643.2795. $16.95

  • The Way Things Were: Deer Isle in the Steamboat Era depicts life on Maine’s islands during a bygone age in short stories

    By Ramona du Houx

    Life on Maine’s islands during the era when communities relied on steamboats is the focus of a new book edited by Bill Haviland and Carroll “Cabbage” Haskell, both of Deer Isle.

    The Way Things Were: Deer Isle in the Steamboat Era is a unique collection of stories and essays by Thomas P. Haviland, Bill’s farther and father-in-law of Carroll. 

    “What our intent was, through these essays and stories, to provide readers with a glimpse of what life was like in this island community in those bygone days,” said Bill Haviland.

    For close to 100 years, from the 1840s until 1942, Deer Isle, an island off the coast of Maine, relied on steamboats for access to other parts of the state. During this era, the island was a place of small family farms with a strong seafaring tradition. In the last four decades of this time, Tom Haviland was part of this island life.

    In his final years, Tom penned a series of short stories and essays based on his early experiences and characters he had known. Through them, we get a view of what island life was like in these bygone days.

    Thomas P. Haviland spent his summers on Deer Isle from the age of 8, in 1905. His friends were all island boys. In 1921, he joined the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania where he taught American Literature and established a creative writing program, up until his retirement in 1967.

    Available online and at your local bookstore internationally or directly from the publisher Polar Bear & Company, polarberanadco.org. 207.643.2795.

    ISBN-10: 1882190343     ISBN-13: 978-1882190348

    $14.95

  • Nine Lives on the Street— Real cat adventure about surviving on the streets has sage lessons for humans

    Nine Lives on the Street by Jon Saunders— 

    By Ramona du Houx

    “If you’re looking for one of those cat books about a sweet, cuddly kitten, this probably isn’t your kind of book. In the first place, it’s my story and I’m not all that sweet and cuddly—handsome and lovable, yes, but sweet and cuddly—not so much.

    “Most cat books don’t have the main character facing street punks, wannabe witches, birds of prey, or near-certain death beneath a subway train. Or, for that matter, a dead body on the floor by page thirteen. But if you like cats—real cats, that is—and you’re up for a sometimes funny, always exciting adventure on the streets of New York without actually having to go there, then you’ll like my book, Nine Lives on the Street,” stated Boo.

    When Boo’s cozy Park Avenue routine comes to an abrupt end, he is suddenly forced to live by his wits on the streets he has only traversed as a passenger in his owner's Rolls Royce. Through Boo’s realistic narrative, the reader enters a concrete jungle, where the challenge is to get real—really fast.

    During his journey, a diverse collection of characters brings a mix of wisdom and danger to Boo, as he seeks to survive in a world much closer to the pavement than the one humans know.

    Boo is secretly grateful for, who he refers to as, his amanuensis. 

    “That would be Jon Saunders, the human who took down my story and put commas in the right places. (I hope.) Saunders is actually an advertising copywriter and a creative director who lives in Connecticut. I’m told he did a good job on the book. But you’ll be the judge of that. And while I’m at it, I’d like to thank Brahmaputra “Rocky” Singh who developed the software that translated everything from Cat into English so Saunders could write it down. BTW, amanuensis is a fancy word for dictation-taker or so I’m told. I thought using it might class this up a bit.”

    During an exclusive interview I asked our hero a few questions:

    Why did you write the book?

    “Well, I figured somebody should. And who better qualified than me?  After all, it is my story. Besides, you can learn a lot from a cat.”

    Did you think Jon Saunders portrayed you well?

    “Yes, but you understand he was basically just typing. I had to meow into a mic, the computer translated it from Cat into Human English, and Saunders put it on paper. I wasn’t sure about him because he’s an advertising guy.  But from what people tell me he did a nice job.”

    What was the most challenging part of your ordeal of being homeless?

    “You mean aside from being robbed at knifepoint, left to die under a subway train, attacked by a giant hawk, nearly being sacrificed by witches, and getting shot? No question, it was trying to find my next meal. It’s hard out there for a cat.”

    What do you think papered cats reflect on?

     “Not much.”

    What's the best part of a cat’s day?

    “For me, it’s eating. But then, getting brushed and eating some more are pretty good, too. It’s just hard to work it all in when you sleep 23 hours a day.”

    Do you think your story would appeal to adults as well as teens and cats?

    “I think it will appeal to adults especially. But everybody will like it — except maybe dogs. Dogs probably won’t like it at all.”

    Jon Saunders added, “After working with my fellow humans all my life, collaborating with Boo was a genuine pleasure. It took a little longer than I’d anticipated, as we had to work around his sleep schedule.” 

    Ask for the book at your local bookstore. Or purchase it at Amazon, B&N.com, or direct from the publisher, Polar Bear & Company, www.polarbearandco.com.

    Nine Lives on the Street has sage lessons for humans, as well as being a delight to read. To see the world through another’s eyes, be it even a cats vision, brings clarity to one’s own,” said Paul Cornell du Houx, of Polar Bear and Company.

     

     

    Paperback: 140 pages

    Publisher: Polar Bear & Company

    $13.95

     

  • Neil Rolde’s novel-Crimes of War- makes us question what war crimes entail

    By Ramona du Houx                                            

    Crimes of War, Neil Rolde’s newest novel deals with a real SS massacre of a small town in France during World War II called Oradour-sur-Glane.

    “The drama here was that some of the perpetrators were French citizens—Alsatians drafted into the SS. They were put on trial in 1953 for their part—under duress, it was claimed—in the horrendous killings and destruction of that peaceful village,” said historian/author Neil Rolde.

    “It has been a difficult story to tell. But I believe my current work gives the flavor, although fictionalized, that many of the non-fiction books about this incident do not.”

     During the Spanish Inquisition many Cathars where tortured and murdered in the same region where the SS massacre took place, echoing the past. 

    “Neil tells this compelling story as if he were there—a silent witness through the centuries,” said Paul Cornell du Houx, of Polar Bear & Company, the book’s publisher.

    Specific historical figures make appearances in the story.

    In the novel Professor Eugene Desfosseux, a historian and self-taught ventriloquist, conjures amid the ruins figures from deep into his past and records the interviews and interrogations in a tale that epitomizes what this or any other war crime might encompass—including his own daily life of pleasures, romance and memories inflamed to a vengeance that would destroy his life’s work.

    “Thus it brings up the question of what war crimes entail and thus the plural in the title.

    Crimes of war are still a universal problem,” said Neil. 

    Upon the order of President Charles de Gaulle the town was kept as the Nazis had left it in ruins and is a national monument, which is on the cover of Crimes of War.

    Crimes of War is Neil’s third fictional work.

    Rolde enjoys writing novels and non-fiction to be able to impart his insights and historical information in entertaining ways for his readers.

    Rolde is currently working on a new book about the War Refugee Board (WRB) following his successful biography of Breckinridge Long, Breckinridge Long: American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man Who Denied Visas to the Jews.

    “In my reading about World War II, I would occasionally come upon mention of the War Refugee Board (WRB). In researching my biography of Breckinridge Long, the villain of restrictions on European Jews trying to flee for their lives, the WRB was cited. In the Library of Congress, there were volumes and volumes of research material on the WRB. So I decided to write a full scale history of the WRB, since there did not seem to be one,” said Neil. “It will be part of a trilogy beginning with the Breckinridge Long book, and ending with an as yet untitled volume on the natural progression from Breckinridge Long to the War Refugee Board to the creation of Israel.”

    Rolde’s books are always extensively researched. Neil has won awards for his books from the Maine Historical Society, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the Maine Humanities Council.

     

    A list of Neil Rolde’s other books:

     

    • Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician
    • Breckenridge Long: An American: An American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man who Denied Visas to the Jews
    • Continental Liar from the State of Maine: James G. Blaine
    • Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians
    • The Interrupted Forest A History of Maine’s Wildlands
    • Maine A Narrative History
    • Maine Downeast and Different an Illustrated History
    • An illustrated history of Maine
    • Your Money or Your Health: America’s Cruel, Bureaucratic, and Horrendously Expensive Health Care System How It Got That Way and What to Do About
    • Rio Grande Do Norte: The Story of Maine’s Partner State in Brazil What It’s Like, What Its past Has Been, and What Are Its Ties to Maine
    • The Baxters of Maine: Downeast Visionaries
    • So You Think You Know Maine
    • Maine in the World: Stories of Some of Those from Here Who Went Away
    • O. Murray Carr: A Novel
    • Sir William Pepperrell of Colonial New England

  • Free Poetry Festival at UMA with inaugural poet Richard Blanco

    Friday, April 8, 2016 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
    Saturday, April 9, 2016 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Location: University of Maine at Augusta, 46 University Drive, Augusta, Maine

    The University of Maine at Augusta will hold its 14th annual Terry Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival 5-9 p.m. Friday, April 8, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, April 9, on the university’s Augusta campus, 46 University Drive. Keynote speaker will be poet Richard Blanco, who read at U.S. President Obama’s second inauguration.

    Blanco is the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history; he is the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Born in Madrid to Cuban exiled parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity and place characterize his body of work.

    Blanco’s many honors include the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize, the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center, the Paterson Poetry Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and two Maine Literary Awards. He has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s Fresh Air. He has been a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and received honorary doctorates from Macalester College, Colby College and the University of Rhode Island. He has continued to write occasional poems for organizations and events. He currently shares his time between Bethel and Boston.

    Festival activities will include a performance by Brio (formerly members of Improvox), local student poetry award announcements (both high school and college level), a panel discussion about Richard Blanco’s poetry, memoir and integrated themes, readings by local poets and students, as well as a musical performance by UMA Jazz Students.

    The Terry Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival, held in April each year to honor the memory of Terry Plunkett, a former English professor at UMA, encompasses diverse Maine voices young and old, emerging writers and those who are well published. The festival is free and open to the public.

    For more information: uma.edu/news/terry-plunkett-poetry-festival-april-8th-9th-at-uma/

  • Classic cat survival story has lessons for humans of all ages

     Most books about cats don’t have their main character facing knife-wielding street punks, wannabe witches, birds of prey, or near-certain death beneath a subway train. Or, for that matter, a dead body on the floor—by page thirteen.

    But Nine Lives on the Street is hardly a typical cat book. In the first place, the author is allegedly a real feline who dictated the story to a human, advertising creative director and copywriter Jon Saunders. In the second, it seems to be a children’s book written for adults. Or, perhaps, for children who regularly read the New Yorker.

    Nine Lives purports to be the recollections of a pampered pet named Boo whose luxurious lifestyle comes to an abrupt end when his elderly owner dies.

    He is suddenly forced to live by his wits on the streets of New York. His struggle to survive transforms him from a self-centered and lazy loafer into a hero that one of his fellow felines calls “a credit to his species.”

    The 130-page book is, by turns, funny, scary, and serious. Its publisher, Polar Bear & Company calls it “an adventure story for all ages.” 

    According to Polar Bear’s Paul Cornell du Houx, Nine Lives on the Street  has sage lessons for humans, as well as being a delight to read. To see the world through another’s eyes, albeit those of a cat, can bring clarity to one’s own vision.”

    Nine Lives on the Street is available at bookstores, Amazon, B&N.com and directly from the publisher at www.polarbearandco.com 

    Visit: facebook or Boo's website. http://ninelivesonthestreet.com/

     

  • President Obama's full State of the Union, 2016

     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, my fellow Americans:  

    Tonight marks the eighth year that I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union.  And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it a little shorter.  (Applause.)  I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.  (Laughter.)  I've been there.  I'll be shaking hands afterwards if you want some tips.  (Laughter.) 

    And I understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we will achieve this year are low.  But, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach that you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families.  So I hope we can work together this year on some bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform -- (applause) -- and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse.  (Applause.)  So, who knows, we might surprise the cynics again. 

    But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead.  Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients.  And I will keep pushing for progress on the work that I believe still needs to be done.  Fixing a broken immigration system.  (Applause.)  Protecting our kids from gun violence.  (Applause.)  Equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  Paid leave.  (Applause.)  Raising the minimum wage. (Applause.)  All these things still matter to hardworking families.  They’re still the right thing to do.  And I won't let up until they get done.

    But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to just talk about next year.  I want to focus on the next five years, the next 10 years, and beyond.  I want to focus on our future.

    We live in a time of extraordinary change -- change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet, our place in the world.  It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families.  It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away.  It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality.  And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.

    America has been through big changes before -- wars and depression, the influx of new immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, movements to expand civil rights.  Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change; who promised to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control.  And each time, we overcame those fears.  We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.”  Instead we thought anew, and acted anew.  We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more people.  And because we did -- because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril -- we emerged stronger and better than before.

    What was true then can be true now.  Our unique strengths as a nation -- our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law -- these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come. 

    In fact, it’s in that spirit that we have made progress these past seven years.  That's how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations.  (Applause.)  That's how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector.  (Applause.)  That's how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops coming home and our veterans.  (Applause.) That's how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love.  (Applause.) 

    But such progress is not inevitable.  It’s the result of choices we make together.  And we face such choices right now.  Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, turning against each other as a people?  Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, in what we stand for, in the incredible things that we can do together?

    So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that I believe we as a country have to answer -- regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress. 

    First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?  (Applause.) 

    Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us -- especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?  (Applause.) 

    Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?  (Applause.) 

    And finally, how can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst?

    Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact:  The United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.  (Applause.)  We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history.  (Applause.)  More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s, an unemployment rate cut in half.  Our auto industry just had its best year ever.  (Applause.)  That's just part of a manufacturing surge that's created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years.  And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.  (Applause.) 

    Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.  (Applause.)  Now, what is true -- and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious -- is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit; changes that have not let up. 

    Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated.  Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition.  As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise.  Companies have less loyalty to their communities.  And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top.

    All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing.  It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start their careers, tougher for workers to retire when they want to.  And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.

    For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works also better for everybody.  We’ve made progress.  But we need to make more.  And despite all the political arguments that we’ve had these past few years, there are actually some areas where Americans broadly agree.

    We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job.  The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, boosted graduates in fields like engineering.  In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all and -- (applause) -- offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.  We should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.  (Applause.) 

    And we have to make college affordable for every American.  (Applause.)  No hardworking student should be stuck in the red.  We’ve already reduced student loan payments to 10 percent of a borrower’s income.  And that's good.  But now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college.  (Applause.)  Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.  (Applause.)  It's the right thing to do.  (Applause.) 

    But a great education isn’t all we need in this new economy. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security.  It’s not too much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package for 30 years are sitting in this chamber.  (Laughter.)  For everyone else, especially folks in their 40s and 50s, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher.  Americans understand that at some point in their careers, in this new economy, they may have to retool and they may have to retrain.  But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build in the process. 

    That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever.  We shouldn’t weaken them; we should strengthen them. (Applause.)  And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today.  That, by the way, is what the Affordable Care Act is all about.  It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when you lose a job, or you go back to school, or you strike out and launch that new business, you’ll still have coverage.  Nearly 18 million people have gained coverage so far.  (Applause.)  And in the process, health care inflation has slowed.  And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law.

    Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon.  (Applause.)  A little applause right there.  Laughter.)  Just a guess.  But there should be other ways parties can work together to improve economic security.  Say a hardworking American loses his job -- we shouldn’t just make sure that he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him.  If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills.  And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him.  That’s the way we make the new economy work better for everybody.

    I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty.  America is about giving everybody willing to work a chance, a hand up.  And I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers who don't have children.  (Applause.)  

    But there are some areas where we just have to be honest -- it has been difficult to find agreement over the last seven years.  And a lot of them fall under the category of what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations.  (Applause.) And it's an honest disagreement, and the American people have a choice to make.

    I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy.  I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed.  There is red tape that needs to be cut.  (Applause.)  There you go!  Yes!  (Applause  But after years now of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks just by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at everybody else’s expense.  (Applause.)  Middle-class families are not going to feel more secure because we allowed attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered.  Food Stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did.  (Applause.)  Immigrants aren’t the principal reason wages haven’t gone up; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that all too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns.  It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts.  (Applause.)   

    The point is, I believe that in this In new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less.  The rules should work for them.  (Applause.)  And I'm not alone in this.  This year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers or their customers or their communities ends up being good for their shareholders.  (Applause.)  And I want to spread those best practices across America.  That's part of a brighter future.  (Applause.) 

    In fact, it turns out many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative.  And this brings me to the second big question we as a country have to answer:  How do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges?

    Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there.  (Laughter.)  We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight.  And 12 years later, we were walking on the moon.  (Applause.)   

    Now, that spirit of discovery is in our DNA.  America is Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver.  America is Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride.  America is every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley, racing to shape a better world.  (Applause.)  That's who we are. 

    And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit.  We’ve protected an open Internet, and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online.  (Applause.)  We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day.  But we can do so much more. 

    Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer.  Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources that they’ve had in over a decade. (Applause.)  So tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done.  And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us on so many issues over the past 40 years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control.  (Applause.)  For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the families that we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.  (Applause.) 

    Medical research is critical.  We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources.  (Applause.)  Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it.  You will be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.  (Applause.)   

    But even if -- even if the planet wasn’t at stake, even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record -- until 2015 turned out to be even hotter -- why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future? (Applause.) 

    Listen, seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history.  Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power.  On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal -- in jobs that pay better than average.  We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy -- something, by the way, that environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support.   And meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly 60 percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.  (Applause.)  Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.  (Applause.) 

    Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources.  Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future -- especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels.  We do them no favor when we don't show them where the trends are going.  That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet. And that way, we put money back into those communities, and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system.  (Applause.) 

    Now, none of this is going to happen overnight.  And, yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests who want to protect the status quo.  But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, the planet we’ll preserve -- that is the kind of future our kids and our grandkids deserve.  And it's within our grasp. 

    Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world.  And that’s why the third big question that we have to answer together is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.

    I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air.  Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker.  Let me tell you something.  The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth.  Period. (Applause.)  Period.  It’s not even close.  It's not even close. (Applause.)  It's not even close.  We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.  Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world.  (Applause.)  No nation attacks us directly, or our allies, because they know that’s the path to ruin.  Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office, and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead -- they call us.  (Applause.)

    I mean, it's useful to level the set here, because when we don't, we don't make good decisions.    

    Now, as someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time.  But that’s not primarily because of some looming superpower out there, and certainly not because of diminished American strength.  In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states. 

    The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.  Economic headwinds are blowing in from a Chinese economy that is in significant transition.  Even as their economy severely contracts, Russia is pouring resources in to prop up Ukraine and Syria -- client states that they saw slipping away from their orbit.  And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality.

    It’s up to us, the United States of America, to help remake that system.  And to do that well it means that we’ve got to set priorities.

    Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks.  (Applause.)  Both al Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage.  They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country.  Their actions undermine and destabilize our allies.  We have to take them out.

    But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.  Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks, twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages -- they pose an enormous danger to civilians; they have to be stopped.  But they do not threaten our national existence.  (Applause.)  That is the story ISIL wants to tell.  That’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit.  We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, and we sure don't need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is somehow representative of one of the world’s largest religions.  (Applause.)  We just need to call them what they are -- killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed.  (Applause.)  

    And that’s exactly what we’re doing.  For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology.  With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we’re taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, their weapons.  We’re training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria. 

    If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, authorize the use of military force against ISIL.  Take a vote.  (Applause.)  Take a vote.  But the American people should know that with or without congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them.  If you doubt America’s commitment -- or mine -- to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden.  (Applause.)  Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell.  When you come after Americans, we go after you.  (Applause.)  And it may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limits.  (Applause.)  

    Our foreign policy hast to be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there.  For even without ISIL, even without al Qaeda, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world -- in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, in parts of Central America, in Africa, and Asia.  Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks.  Others will just fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees.  The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians.  That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.

    We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis, even if it's done with the best of intentions.  (Applause.)  That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately will weaken us.  It’s the lesson of Vietnam; it's the lesson of Iraq -- and we should have learned it by now.  (Applause.)   

    Fortunately, there is a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power.  It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight.   

    That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace.

    That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.  And as we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.  (Applause.)   

    That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa.  (Applause.)  Our military, our doctors, our development workers -- they were heroic; they set up the platform that then allowed other countries to join in behind us and stamp out that epidemic. Hundreds of thousands, maybe a couple million lives were saved.

    That’s how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open markets, and protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia.  It cuts 18,000 taxes on products made in America, which will then support more good jobs here in America.  With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region; we do.  You want to show our strength in this new century?  Approve this agreement.  Give us the tools to enforce it.  It's the right thing to do.  (Applause.)   

    Let me give you another example.  Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, and set us back in Latin America.  That’s why we restored diplomatic relations -- (applause) -- opened the door to travel and commerce, positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people.  (Applause.) So if you want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere, recognize that the Cold War is over -- lift the embargo.  (Applause.)  

    The point is American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world -- except when we kill terrorists -- or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling.  Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right.  It means seeing our foreign assistance as a part of our national security, not something separate, not charity. 

    When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change, yes, that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our kids.  When we help Ukraine defend its democracy, or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order we depend on. When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick -- (applause) -- it's the right thing to do, and it prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores.  Right now, we’re on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS.  That's within our grasp.  (Applause.)  And we have the chance to accomplish the same thing with malaria -- something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year.  (Applause.) 

    That's American strength.  That's American leadership.  And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example.  That’s why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo.  (Applause.)  It is expensive, it is unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.  (Applause.)  There’s a better way.  (Applause.)   

    And that’s why we need to reject any politics -- any politics -- that targets people because of race or religion.  (Applause.)  Let me just say this.  This is not a matter of political correctness.  This is a matter of understanding just what it is that makes us strong.  The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity, and our openness, and the way we respect every faith. 

    His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot that I'm standing on tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.”  When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer.  That’s not telling it like it is.  It’s just wrong.  (Applause.)  It diminishes us in the eyes of the world.  It makes it harder to achieve our goals.  It betrays who we are as a country.  (Applause.) 

    “We the People.”  Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some; words that insist we rise and fall together, and that's how we might perfect our Union.  And that brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing that I want to say tonight.

    The future we want -- all of us want -- opportunity and security for our families, a rising standard of living, a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids -- all that is within our reach.  But it will only happen if we work together.  It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.  It will only happen if we fix our politics.

    A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything.  This is a big country -- different regions, different attitudes, different interests.  That’s one of our strengths, too.  Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

    But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens.  It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice.  It doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America.  Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise, or when even basic facts are contested, or when we listen only to those who agree with us.  Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention.  And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest.

    Too many Americans feel that way right now.  It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency -- that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.  I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.

    But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task -- or any President’s -- alone.  There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber, good people who would like to see more cooperation, would like to see a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the imperatives of getting elected, by the noise coming out of your base.  I know; you’ve told me.  It's the worst-kept secret in Washington.  And a lot of you aren't enjoying being trapped in that kind of rancor. 

    But that means if we want a better politics -- and I'm addressing the American people now -- if we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a President.  We have to change the system to reflect our better selves.  I think we've got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.  (Applause.)  Let a bipartisan group do it.  (Applause.) 

    We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families or hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections.  (Applause.)  And if our existing approach to campaign finance reform can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution -- because it's a problem.  And most of you don't like raising money.  I know; I've done it.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to make it easier to vote, not harder.  (Applause.)  We need to modernize it for the way we live now.  (Applause.)  This is America:  We want to make it easier for people to participate.  And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do just that.

    But I can’t do these things on my own.  (Applause.)  Changes in our political process -- in not just who gets elected, but how they get elected -- that will only happen when the American people demand it.  It depends on you.  That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people. 

    What I’m suggesting is hard.  It’s a lot easier to be cynical; to accept that change is not possible, and politics is hopeless, and the problem is all the folks who are elected don't care, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter.  But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future.  Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure.  And then, as frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

    We can’t afford to go down that path.  It won’t deliver the economy we want.  It will not produce the security we want.  But most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world. 

    So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, whether you supported my agenda or fought as hard as you could against it -- our collective futures depends on your willingness to uphold your duties as a citizen.  To vote.  To speak out.  To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. (Applause.)  We need every American to stay active in our public life -- and not just during election time -- so that our public life reflects the goodness and the decency that I see in the American people every single day. 

    It is not easy.  Our brand of democracy is hard.  But I can promise that a little over a year from now, when I no longer hold this office, I will be right there with you as a citizen, inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that helped America travel so far.  Voices that help us see ourselves not, first and foremost, as black or white, or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born, not as Democrat or Republican, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed.  Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word -- voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love. 

    And they’re out there, those voices.  They don’t get a lot of attention; they don't seek a lot of fanfare; but they’re busy doing the work this country needs doing.  I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours.  I see you, the American people.  And in your daily acts of citizenship, I see our future unfolding.

    I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages instead of laying him off. 

    I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late at night to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early, and maybe with some extra supplies that she bought because she knows that that young girl might someday cure a disease.

    I see it in the American who served his time, and bad mistakes as a child but now is dreaming of starting over -- and I see it in the business owner who gives him that second chance.  The protester determined to prove that justice matters -- and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.  (Applause.) 

    I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him till he can run a marathon, the community that lines up to cheer him on.

    It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is, and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.  (Applause.) 

    I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his vote for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count -- because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth.

    That's the America I know.  That’s the country we love.   Clear-eyed.  Big-hearted.  Undaunted by challenge.  Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.  (Applause.)  That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future.  I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people.  

    And that’s why I stand here confident as I have ever been that the State of our Union is strong.  (Applause.) 

    Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America. 

  • Breakthrough book about J.K.Rowling’s work, and the ties her series has with religion and the 9/11 generation

    By Ramona du Houx

    Marilyn R. Pukkila will read from and sign her book The Skill of a Seeker: Rowling, Religion, and Gen 9/11 on January 10th at the Waterville Public Library, from 2 to 4 pm.

    Marilyn’s book is considered a breakthrough in research about Rowling’s work, and the ties her series has with spirituality, religion and its influence with the 9/11 generation.

    “This is a book for everyone: the 9/11 generation, who view their lives through the prism of Harry Potter’s experiences, and their elders who seek to understand them. It has much to say to those who have never read the series but struggle as Harry Potter does to accept death and achieve integrity,” wrote Debra Campbell as an endorsement. Campbell is a Professor of Religious Studies at Colby College.

    Pukkila’s book helps us understand the continued success of the Harry Potter series, and the impact it has had, and continues to have, on our ever-changing society.

    “Marilyn R. Pukkila has delved deep into the world of the spirit and the world of J.K. Rowling. Like Hermione Granger, she brings intelligence and research to bear on her subject, but like Harry himself she also brings a deep love, both for stories and for spirit, teasing out the threads of Rowling’s moral and ethical framework, and suggesting ways that framework may influence millions of young readers and viewers in an increasingly secular age,” endorsed author Jane Raeburn in the book.

    Marilyn answers some compelling questions about the Harry Potter series:

    What inspired you to do your research?

    “I taught a course at Colby College on religious responses to Harry Potter in January of 2010.  I realized from that course that many students didn’t have much in the way of religious background, but that they were comfortable exploring religious and spiritual questions through the medium of Harry Potter because Rowling presented those concepts in a non-denominational fashion. 

    “Since they were also of the group that I called ‘Gen HP’ (Generation Harry Potter) and ‘Gen 9/11,’ I felt that was relevant, and that a book exploring the religious and spiritual content of the series might be interesting, provided it did so in a way that mentioned as many spiritual/religious traditions as possible and pointed out the non-denominational approach.  In essence, I was answering the question that the students had to answer for their final essay:  What is the religious and spiritual content of the Harry Potter series?”

    How much is this generation affected by the Potter books?

    “The books were particularly influential with the folks who grew up with Harry, so to speak. I identify the age range as those born between 1980 and 2000 but the movies brought in more people.”

    Are the movies very different than the books?

    “The movies are profoundly different in their non-treatment of the religious themes, so that the disparities sometimes arise in the course of my public readings, particularly when I talk about Harry as a nonviolent hero.

    “Part of my book discusses the ways that media can take the place of religion for some people, and I question how accurately the media choose to depict concepts of nonviolence as presented in the books that inspired the movies.

    “’If it bleeds, it leads,’ seems to be a big movie mantra as well as a (sensationalist) journalistic one; the way the final movie treated the deaths of Voldemort and Bellatrix (they explode into sparkly bits and fade away; in the books, their bodies fall to the ground with banal finality) radically erases Rowling’s message that evil is a human capacity, and even people who perform acts that are beyond ‘usual evil,’ as Dumbledore puts it, are still, in the end, nothing more than human beings whose evil can be overcome by other human beings.”

    What do you consider the most important lessons Rowling is trying to impart?

    “Love is stronger than any other power, stronger than hate, stronger than death.  That was one of her most important messages.  The other is that death is something to be accepted rather than something to be overcome—and certainly not something to be feared or deliberately ignored.”

    When did you discover the Harry Potter series had hidden depths in spirituality?

    “When I first read the first three books in the series, in 1999.  Each successive book contained more and more religious and spiritual content, a grand crescendo to the glorious finale.

    “The remarkable thing is the way that Rowling was able to present it all without any overtly religious material, and the way she ‘aged up’ her content as her characters aged. Those who were children in 2001 form a particular cohort that faces stark challenges when pondering religious and spiritual themes. But they also have an unexpected, nonviolent hero, whose greatest power is love, who grew up along with them and dealt with the same challenges. Gen 9/11 is also Gen HP, the people who grew up with Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling’s series provides them with an easy entry into the world of Big Questions; my book shows some of her answers and how they resonate with all her readers.”

    About the Author

    Marilyn R. Pukkila is Scholarly Resources and Services Librarian for Social Sciences and Humanities at Colby College, where she also teaches courses on Tolkien, women in myth and fairy tale, the religion of contemporary Witchcraft, and (of course) Harry Potter.

    Good conversation, good food, gardening, and most especially good stories are among her greatest joys, and she’ll happily wander in the woods or along a beach in almost any season.

    Perfect Paperback: 312 pages, $17.95

    Publisher: Polar Bear & Company of Solon, Maine

  • Book about the suicide bomber attack on Maine's 133rd Battalion, and their work, should help to heal hidden wounds

    During President G.W. Bush's Iraq War a unit from Maine had to deal with a suicide bomber attack.  

    It was 11 years ago on December 21 when 22 people were killed in the attack, including two members the Jason White's unit. This is Lt. White's book about the attack and his deployment, as a 2nd Lieutenant in Maine's 133rd National Guard Engineer Battalion.

    "As a true leader, Jason understood the importance of telling his unit's story. He's built a bridge for communication that is sorely needed. ...  Many would like to express themselves better about their tour of duty but might be hesitant, not willing to risk misunderstandings. After all, where do they begin the conversation? This journal could be a great start."

    -from the introduction by Former Maine Governor John E. Baldacci.

    Journal of a 2nd Lieutenant in Iraq with the 133rd Battalion  was published in 2014, and the conversation has begun. Now their sacrifices, and the work they did with the people of Iraq will not be forgotten.

    The 133rd was deployed to build schools, bridges and buildings to help move Iraq and her people forward. They ended up doing so much more, yet there story is seldom told. Jason's book puts their record straight with stories from his personal journal.

    Hopefully the members of our armed services, and their families are beginning to heal. We owe it to them never to forget and to honor them for their service.

    "Lt. White did all of those things. He challenged incompetence, celebrated outstanding performance, and kept his eyes on the mission, even while others basked in its limelight. He understood the therapeutic value of a good cheerleader, repeatedly putting finger to keyboard to sing his company's and platoon's praises in one newsletter after another. All of this while accepting that rank and timing had conspired to deprive him of close friendships - one of the few real havens in a war zone. Lonely by his own candid admission, he nevertheless performed his duty well and with honor."

    - by Bill Nemitz writer for the Portland Press Herald, who was embeded in Iraq with Lt. White

    About Jason

    At the age of nineteen, Jason joined the US Army as an armor crewman. He served the first year of his military career in South Korea along the DMZ. After the one-year tour, he spent the next three years at Fort Carson, Colorado, and later transferred to the Maine Army National Guard (MEARNG). Jason worked at the Regional Training Institute in Augusta, Maine, as a traditional Guard soldier, where he eventually attended the Officer Candidate School and was commissioned. Shortly after commissioning, he was sent to serve as an engineer platoon leader in Iraq. Jason has served in a multitude of positions since returning from Iraq that include company commander and engineer plans officer. He retired from the MEARNG in 2014.

    In civilian life, Jason is employed as the executive director of Maine Behavioral Health Organization, a nonprofit that provides mental-health and substance-abuse services throughout Maine. Jason currently resides in Rockland, Maine, with his loving and supportive wife, Jessica, and their four children.

    This is some of the survivors of the bombings story, from an excerpt from an article in the Portland Press Herald article:

    Living with memories

    Five survivors talked to Bill Nemitz about the bombing on Dec. 21, 2004, and the two Maine soldiers killed in the explosion. Bill Nemitz and Photographer Greg Rec, were embedded with the 133rd at the time.This is from Bill's article:

     

    “I try to keep as busy as I can – with not as many people around,” said Sivret, the former chaplain for the Maine Army National Guard’s 133rd Engineer Battalion. “If I keep busy, then I don’t have to think about it.”

    But today, the shortest day followed by the longest night of the year, will be different.

    On this day, Dec. 21, Sivret and hundreds like him will stop, close their eyes and travel back to Mosul, Iraq, back to the mess hall at Forward Operating Base Marez, back to the suicide bomber who in a single instant turned the week before Christmas into a living hell for anyone who bore witness to the attack and its grisly aftermath.

    The bomber, dispatched by the terrorist Army of Ansar al-Islam and disguised as an Iraqi National Guard soldier, killed 14 U.S. soldiers, four American civilians and four Iraqi soldiers. Shrapnel from his explosive vest wounded 72 others, including six soldiers from Maine.

    The massive explosion would go down as the deadliest single suicide attack on U.S. forces throughout the entire Iraq war. Its aftershocks, both physical and psychological, reverberate to this day.

    It was a Tuesday, just four days before Christmas. Holiday decorations and cheery music filled the DFAC, or dining facility, at FOB Marez as soldiers streamed in for lunch, lined up at the food stations manned by civilian contractors and then fanned out among the plastic chairs and tables that could accommodate up to 600 personnel at a time.

    Chaplain Sivret, accompanied by Maj. John Nelson, the 133rd’s chief medical officer, hungrily filled his plate with roast beef. Nelson opted for a chili cheese dog. Taking their seats about 20 feet from the food stations, Nelson dug in while Sivret lowered his head to say grace. He looked up just in time to see a bright flash directly behind his buddy.

    “This isn’t the white light they talk about, when you die,” Sivret thought to himself as he and Nelson catapulted through the air. Then everything went black.

    Staff Sgt. Harold “Butch” Freeman of Gorham had just filled his tray, grabbed his silverware and was turning to make a wisecrack to a soldier from West Virginia he recognized from lifting weights at the base gym. The next thing Freeman knew, he was flying backward as a wall of smoke and debris, seemingly in slow motion, came directly at him.

    Landing on his back, Freeman quickly did a digital inventory: One, two, three … nine, 10 fingers. One, two, three … nine, 10 toes.

    “Whew … that was close,” he told himself.

    Nearby, Freeman saw a young soldier, gravely wounded, writhing in silence on the cement floor.

    “Don’t give up,” Freeman implored the kid. “Hang on! Help is coming!”

    But it was too late. Within seconds, the young man lay still.

    Freeman tried to get up. Only then did he realize that he was awash in his own blood – the blast had shattered his right femur, ripped through his pelvis and severed an artery. He, too, was well on his way to bleeding out.

    Suddenly, Freeman’s entire squad from the 133rd’s Bravo Company – they proudly called themselves the “Black Sheep” – surrounded him. One soldier grabbed a napkin dispenser, emptied it and stuffed the napkins into the gaping hole in Freeman’s thigh. The others got hold of a litter – only weeks earlier, “Doc” Nelson had placed them strategically throughout the DFAC along with emergency first-aid kits – and carried their stricken squad leader to a triage area just outside the mess hall.

    “Mother (expletive)! You rotten bastards!” screamed Freeman at whoever had done this to him. “I’m not dying in this (expletive) hole! No way! It’s just not going to happen!”

    Back inside, Sivret regained consciousness. The blast had thrown both him and Nelson more than 20 feet through the air. Nelson, who’d already come to, had quickly checked Sivret to see that he was breathing and then moved on to help others.

    At Sivret’s side lay a soldier from another unit who, just seconds earlier, had sat quietly eating his lunch next to the chaplain. Now the soldier’s head and shoulders were covered by the tablecloth and his legs were twitching with uncontrolled spasms.

    “Oh, my God,” thought Sivret, quickly reaching over to remove the tablecloth. “We’ve got to get this guy some help.”

    But one look at the soldier’s upper torso and Sivret knew there was nothing anyone could do.

    Slowly, the spasms subsided and Sivret performed the first of what would be many last rites. He couldn’t hear his own prayers – the explosion had ruptured one of his eardrums and seriously damaged the other...

    For the entire article please go HERE.

  • BOOK: Journal of a 2nd Lieutenant in Iraq: With the 133rd Battalion

    "Lt. White did all of those things. He challenged incompetence, celebrated outstanding performance, and kept his eyes on the mission, even while others basked in its limelight. He understood the therapeutic value of a good cheerleader, repeatedly putting finger to keyboard to sing his company's and platoon's praises in one newsletter after another. All of this while accepting that rank and timing had conspired to deprive him of close friendships - one of the few real havens in a war zone. Lonely by his own candid admission, he nevertheless performed his duty well and with honor."

    - by Bill Nemitz writer for the Portland Press Herald, who was embeded in Iraq with Lt. White

    About the Author

    At the age of nineteen, Jason joined the US Army as an armor crewman. He served the first year of his military career in South Korea along the DMZ. After the one-year tour, he spent the next three years at Fort Carson, Colorado, and later transferred to the Maine Army National Guard (MEARNG). Jason worked at the Regional Training Institute in Augusta, Maine, as a traditional Guard soldier, where he eventually attended the Officer Candidate School and was commissioned. Shortly after commissioning, he was sent to serve as an engineer platoon leader in Iraq. Jason has served in a multitude of positions since returning from Iraq that include company commander and engineer plans officer. He retired from the MEARNG in 2014.

    In civilian life, Jason is employed as the executive director of Maine Behavioral Health Organization, a nonprofit that provides mental-health and substance-abuse services throughout Maine. He spearheaded the development of this organization upon completing his master's degree at the University of Southern Maine. He is currently working on his doctoral degree in leadership. Jason also serves on the School Board for the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf and Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, as appointed by Governor Paul LePage. Jason currently resides in Rockland, Maine, with his loving and supportive wife, Jessica, and their four children.
  • Maine House Speaker Eves praises housing bond victory, urges LePage to act quickly

     Speaker of the House Mark Eves, D-North Berwick, on Tuesday night praised the passage of bond Question 2 on the statewide ballot. The bond passed with 68 percent of the vote.

    Eves led the bipartisan effort in the State Legislature to pass the $15 million bond proposal to invest in affordable and efficient housing for Maine seniors.

    “The passage of the housing bond is a huge victory for Maine seniors and the economy. It’s a win win for communities across the state,” said Eves, who sponsored the bond proposal. “The investment will help a dire need for affordable housing for Maine seniors, while also helping to create construction jobs in communities in rural and urban areas of our state. Maine voters sent a strong message tonight in support of seniors. I urge the governor to release the bond quickly and honor the will of the voters.”

    Maine has a shortage of nearly 9,000 affordable rental homes for low income older adults, and that this shortfall will grow to more than 15,000 by 2022 unless action is taken to address the problem, according to a report by independent national research firm Abt Associates.

     “With the passage of the Housing Bond, Maine can start to scale that number back through improved affordable housing measures in some of our most vulnerable communities,”said Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director. 

    The Senior Housing Bond will enable more Mainers to age in their own homes by revitalizing communities and providing new homes for older Mainers; dedicating funds to home repair and weatherization of some existing homes; and by creating jobs in the construction industry.

    AARP Maine heard from thousands of their 230,000 members in the state regarding this issue in the weeks leading up to the election.  On October 20th, more than 4,000 AARP members participated in a live tele-town hall with Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R-Winterport) and House Speaker Mark Eves (D-North Berwick).  Participants were invited to ask questions during the town hall meeting and many callers expressed their support for the state’s investment in affordable housing.

  • Eight things to look for in a great child care program

    Children playing in Maine, photo by Ramona du Houx

    by Ramona du Houx


    When parents choose child care for their infant or toddler, they are making a decision that goes far beyond choosing a “babysitter” while they go to work. The quality of infant care affects youngsters’ mental and emotional development for the rest of their lives.

    According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, infant experiences shape the development of brain architecture, “which provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior and health.”

    Brain development research shows that growth begins with the creation of a series of paths among the brain’s billions of neurons. These early connections and paths are the foundation of all learning in the future.

    Even though genetics provide the basic blueprint for a child’s brain, Harvard’s research shows that the most important factors in developing healthy neural pathways are positive interactions with parents and other caregivers. This is a process called “serve and return,” in which infants learn by how adults respond to them. When adults don’t respond, or when they respond inappropriately, it affects a child’s long-term development.

    Reading to children need parents and/or care givers to read to them and to help develop strong language skills.

    Languages help build congnative development at earily ages. Learning ABC's are simple ways that help.

    This research points to the critical importance of finding high quality infant and toddler care when parents need to work outside the home. Parents seeking childcare should look for these elements:

     

    • Basic health and safety- Does the provider take steps to ensure health and minimize the risk of injury?
    • Staff education level- Infant and toddler care providers should understand the learning abilities of newborns to 3-year-olds and be able to plan appropriate activities. They should know how to interact with infants and toddlers and respond to them.
    • An age-appropriate environment- Young children need appropriate space for both active and quiet time, along with proper equipment, toys and books.
    • Ratio of staff to children- Infants need one-on-one time and individualized care.
    • A primary caregiver- Each child should be assigned a primary caregiver who can respond to his/her unique needs and temperament. This kind of stability is important for healthy development.
    • Responsive caregiving- Caregivers should be aware of each child’s developmental pace and be prepared to teach or intervene, depending on circumstances.
    • Observation and individualized learning- Caregivers must be aware of each child’s needs, and should prepare individual activities and document progress.
    • Language and literacy- Infants and toddlers should be immersed in story- telling, reading, singing, and conversations so they develop strong language skills.


    More information is available from the Maine Children’s Growth Council.

  • If waitresses earned a decent minimum wage, our dignity might get a raise

    Editorial by Annie Quandt, a server working in the Old Port and a resident of Westport Island. First appeared in the PPH

    While I’ve never had someone completely stiff me because it took them a while to get their food – the customers’ rationale in the New Jersey incident, as they noted on the receipt – I frequently find myself putting up with almost anything from customers in order to get the tips that make up half of my income.

    In Maine, 82 percent of all tipped restaurant workers are women, and any woman who has worked for tips will tell you that sexual harassment and rude comments are, sadly, just another part of the job.

    When your customers pay your wages instead of your employer, you don’t have the luxury of speaking up when you feel uncomfortable or disrespected; if rent is due that week or you have a family to feed, you just have to put up with it.

    I’ve been working at a restaurant on Commercial Street in Portland for just about a year now, and I just picked up a second serving job on Commercial Street to make ends meet. Recently, two men came in, clearly intoxicated, and sat at their table for an hour and a half trying to look up the waitresses’ skirts.

    All of the women working that night could feel these men leering and were uncomfortable and anxious the whole shift. When we complained to management, they told us to cut off their alcohol consumption – but nothing else was done.

    These types of incidents are commonplace in the restaurant industry. I have been asked out on dates, with the customer’s pen hovering over the tip line as he waited for my answer. I have been asked for my number more times than I can count. I have had customers comment on my outfit or my body while I’m working. I’ve wanted to say something, but the customer is always right … right?

    When women servers can’t defend themselves from rude behavior from customers, the entire restaurant culture begins to accept it as the norm. Even management plays a role in harassment in this industry.

    If you’re not “date ready” when you show up for your shift, in some restaurants, you’ll be told to change or unbutton your top or to put on more makeup to make yourself appealing. In my case, the managers have made it clear that the curvier girls are not allowed to wear certain clothing items, while the more slender servers can wear whatever they want to work.

    Comments like this about body types and personal style not only make us all feel watched and uncomfortable but also sometimes make it more difficult for us to do our jobs. When I’m sweeping and cleaning and doing side work in 95-degree heat, the freedom to wear a skirt versus jeans is almost a necessity.

    Complaints about sexual harassment from co-workers are rarely taken seriously in restaurants. It is always tough to report unwanted attention or harassment from co-workers or customers, but it is especially difficult if the harassment comes from management.

    Where do you turn when the person who holds power over you at your job is the one harassing you? What happens if you do make a formal complaint? The restaurant industry is a tight-knit community, and if any employer thinks you might be a hassle, they won’t hire you.

    Servers wield so little power in their positions and in their wages, and I am inclined to think that the two are inextricably linked.

    According to a Restaurant Opportunities Centers United survey, servers working in states like Maine – where there is a sub-minimum wage for tipped workers – are three times more likely to experience harassment on the job than servers who work in states where everyone makes the same minimum wage.

    This is evidence of a systemic problem – combined with the fact that, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 7 percent of American women work in restaurants but 37 percent of all EEOC sexual harassment complaints come out of this industry. We’re allowing an entire industry full of hardworking women to go to work with the presumption that they will be harassed.

    I support the 2016 “wages with dignity” referendum, which would raise the minimum to $12 by 2020 and eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers by 2024. Earning the same minimum wage as other workers would mean tipped workers wouldn’t feel like they have to ingratiate themselves with their customers regardless of their behavior.

    It would mean that management and our co-workers would have to respect us as equals (because when you are paid less, you must obviously be worth less). And it would mean a stable wage for the long winters and tough weekday shifts when servers are more willing to sacrifice dignity at work in order to make ends meet.

    I deserve dignity on the job, and one fair minimum wage would help me get it.

  • Neil Rolde will be the guest speaker to talk about his research on the War Refugee Board in New York City, October 19th

    Neil Rolde will be the guest speaker at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in New York City on October 19, at the New York Westin Hotel, 212 East 42nd Street.

    Rolde is working on a new book about the War Refugee Board (WRB) following his successful biography of Breckinridge Long, the man who restricted Jews fleeing Germany in WWII.

    “I will be speaking to one of the committees of the Joint Distribution Committee. This Jewish organization was formed in 1914 to rescue European Jews caught in the Great War. In World War II, they were the largest contributors to the War Refugee Board, about which I am writing a history,” said author/statesman Neil Rolde. “I am using their voluminous archives in New York City.”

    JDC is a Jewish relief organization that offers aid to the many Jewish populations in central and eastern Europe as well as the Middle East through a network of social and community assistance programs. With the rise of Hitler’s Nazi regime, JDC supported efforts that enabled 110,000 Jews to leave Germany prior to 1939.

    Neil chose to write a book about the WRB because so much of his research for his Long biography led him to the WRB.

    “In my reading about World War II, I would occasionally come upon mention of the War Refugee Board (WRB). In researching my biography of Breckinridge Long, the villain of restrictions on European Jews trying to flee for their lives, the WRB was cited. In the Library of Congress, there were volumes and volumes of research material on the WRB. So I decided to write a fill scale history of the WRB, since there did not seem to be one,” said Neil. “It will be part of a trilogy beginning with the Breckinridge Long book, and ending with an as yet untitled volume on the natural progression from Breckinridge Long to the War Refugee Board to the creation of Israel.”

    Breckinridge Long: American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man Who Denied Visas to the Jews by Neil Rolde was published by Maine’s Polar Bear & Company.

    More about Breckinridge Long: American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man Who Denied Visas to the Jews :

    During the Holocaust, while the Nazis were exterminating thousands of Jews daily, the U.S. State Department official in charge of matters concerning all European refugees was Breckinridge Long. He was known as an extreme nativist, who was suspicious of Eastern Europeans. He feared more immigrants would spoil existing cultural values and bring with them communist ideals.

    “He’s an example of the banality of evil,” said Rolde. “I wanted to highlight his own accounts of his life written in all his diaries, and the times in which he lived, to give people a comprehensive look into his character.”

    Rolde’s exposé answers the central question: why didn’t the United States of America help save the lives of more Holocaust refugees during WWII? Long committed atrocities by finding avenues to continually limit refugee quota numbers but he didn’t do it alone.

    Rolde also described an atmosphere in America generated by a portion of society that supported Long’s nativist views. Important people like Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh were openly sympathetic to the Nazi cause, and let the press know their allegiances before America joined the war.

    Rolde’s books are always extensively researched. Neil has won awards for his books from the Maine Historical Society, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the Maine Humanities Council.

    A list of Neil Rolde’s books:

    • Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician

    • Breckenridge Long: An American: An American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man who Denied Visas to the Jews

    • Continental Liar from the State of Maine: James G. Blaine

    • Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians

    • The Interrupted Forest A History of Maine’s Wildlands

    • Maine A Narrative History

    • Maine Downeast and Different an Illustrated History

    • An illustrated history of Maine

    • Your Money or Your Health: America’s Cruel, Bureaucratic, and Horrendously Expensive Health Care System How It Got That Way and What to Do About

    • Rio Grande Do Norte: The Story of Maine’s Partner State in Brazil What It’s Like, What Its past Has Been, and What Are Its Ties to Maine

    • The Baxters of Maine: Downeast Visionaries

    • So You Think You Know Maine

    • Maine in the World: Stories of Some of Those from Here Who Went Away

    • O. Murray Carr: A Novel

    • Sir William Pepperrell of Colonial New England

    Read more about NEIL HERE

  • Takafumi Suzuki's photographic fine art helps all to remember 911 and to heal

    Takafumi Suzuki has compiled his art images of the World Trade Center Twin Towers of New York City to help heal the still open wound, and is planing to publish them in a book. The images were taken before 911.

    “Now, when I visit New York City there is a void where the Twin Towers once graced the skyline. While the city has put up an inspired memorial and a new World Trade Center to replace the lost towers I still look for those familiar buildings, I still expect to see them,” said Takafumi.

    Suzuki is a professor at Nihon University in Tokyo and studied as a graduate student in the 1980’s in New York City. While living in the city he took many photographs. When the devastating tragedy of the 911 terrorists attacks occurred he, as millions of people did, reflected. And he revisited the images he had taken.

    The images have been exhibited in a show titled: Even now— I miss you! at Gallery Storks in the art district of Tokyo, Japan.

    “The Twin Towers will always be a part of me, and millions of others who called NYC home. I resurrected photographs I took years ago as a tribute to the towers, the people of NYC, and all the souls lost in the tragedy— they will always live on,” said Takafumi. “Working on these photographs helped me come to terms with 911, I hope it will help others begin to heal.”

    Takafumi, also known as Yohaku Yorozuya, has had multiple exhibits over his forty year career as a photographic artist. He is renowned for his use of classic darkroom techniques spending hours perfecting exactly what he wants to express with his negatives.

    “The work uses the Sabatier Effect technique to bring out the emotions I felt,” he said.

    The show runs from January 9th to the 28th. The gallery is only closed on January 14th.

    The book will be published by Polar Bear & Company.

    If interested in purchasing limited edition prints please contact Ramona du Houx at 207.643.2795

  • Stephen King to be awarded National Medal of Arts today

    By Ramona du Houx

    Maine’s own Stephen King was one of just two writers who will be awarded the National Medals of Arts  on Thursday, September 10, 2015, at 3:00 p.m. ET in an East Room. (short story master Tobias Wolff being the second). The National Medal of Arts is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the federal government, and is awarded to individuals or groups who are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts. King’s citation read in part:

    "Stephen King for his contributions as an author. One of the most popular and prolific writers of our time, Mr. King combines his remarkable storytelling with his sharp analysis of human nature.  For decades, his works of horror, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy have terrified and delighted audiences around the world."

    President Barack Obama will present the 2014 National Medals of Arts in conjunction with the National Humanities Medals at an East Room ceremony at the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama will attend. The event will be live streamed at WH.gov/Live.

    NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, "Ranging from literature, theater, and visual arts to arts presentation and philanthropy, these artists and organizations have broadened our horizons and enriched our lives. I join the President in congratulating them and celebrating what the arts do for America."

  • Union solidarity at BIW in Maine

    Bath Iron Works shipbuilders took to the streets May 21st for a solidarity rally. Photo by Sarah Bigney

    By Ramona du Houx

    Bath Iron Works shipbuilders took to the streets May 21st for a solidarity rally to promote solidarity during the year before the union’s contract expires.

    “The union is behind its leadership, and the company is going to have to negotiate with us and not dictate to us," said Jay Wadleigh, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local S6. “They need to abide by the contract, stop misleading the media and just work with us so we can get the costs of these ships down. We’re the best shipbuilders in the world. We want to work. We just want to be treated with dignity and respect and be negotiated with and not dictated to.”

    BIW is known as one of the best shipbuilders in America. It's slogan is "Bath Built is Best Built."

    This is the second big march at the shipyard this year. On March 24 nearly 1,000 members of the International Association of Machinists Union Local marched to rallying support and protesting a variety of proposed BIW changes.

    Caps on defense spending have resulted in fewer Naval contracts thus spurring the BIW changes including outsourcing work and cross-training employees.

    BIW says the measures will increase the shipyard’s efficiency and keep the costs of building destroyers competitive. The shipyard insists it needs to be competitive to win two bidding contracts. But the union says there are better ways to cut costs. The stalemate has resulted in a third-party arbitration and a federal lawsuit charging BIW with violating its contract with workers.


    Bath Iron Works shipbuilders took to the streets May 21st for a solidarity rally. Photo by Sarah Bigney

  • Neil Rolde’s: Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician book signing launch

     

    By Ramona du Houx

    Author/Statesman Neil Rolde has written a new book, Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician.

    “If you’ve ever served in a state legislature, lobbied one, or just read about their activities in the newspaper and wondered what goes on behind the scenes, you'll love this book!  From page one I couldn't put it down and I loved every word of Neil's stories crafted from ‘behind the scenes’ in the Maine legislature,” wrote Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in the book.  “The characters may be fictional, but thanks to Neil's insights and knowledge, coupled with his wonderful writing style, they all came to life.” 

    • On April 21st at 6pm Neil host a book signing with beer, wine and cheese. He will speak about Political Tales and answer questions at 6.45 pm- 8pm
    • At the Harlow Gallery, 160 Water Street, Hallowell, Maine

     

    Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician is published by Maine’s Polar Bear & Company.

    “The personal element is stronger in the affairs of legislative bodies than of any other branch of government, but it is a hard thing to convey in straight reporting.  The public understanding of the legislative process is poorer as a result. As an experienced and influential legislator, with a great gift for storytelling, Neil Rolde is the ideal person to remedy this defect, and this volume of Political Tales delivers on that promise,” wrote U.S. House of Representative Barney Frank in the book. “The stories are educational and entertaining in equal measure, and people who read them will be better prepared to understand what goes on when legislators meet and transact important public business.” 

    The tales can transport the reader into what the working lives of some lawmakers must be like as they are true to reality.

    “The short stories are fictional, to be sure, but they incorporate almost a quarter of a century working directly in State government and even more years involved in the politics of Maine. They bear out my extensive experience of the political scene from the inside, not as expressed by opinionated media nor by the average person seeing things from outside,” said Rolde.

    Mr. Rolde’s many years of public service include being an assistant to Governor Kenneth M. Curtis of Maine for six years and 16 years as an elected Representative in the Maine Legislature. He represented his district of York, Maine and became Majority Leader of the Maine House during the 107th legislature from 1975-77. He became the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 1990 in an election bid against Bill Cohen.

    “The stories were engaging - reminding an insider of the ‘old days,’ and giving an outside observer a good sense of what truly goes on behind the scenes.  It certainly brought me back to the days when I was sitting in one of those leather chairs, hearing the gavel come down and wondering what was about to happen next!” added Pingree.

    Anyone reading the stories should gain respect for our lawmakers and will be surprised by Rolde’s candid style.

    “They illustrate that our governments are made up of human beings – and in Maine at least, doing their level best to deal with the needs of the population at the lowest possible cost. It was said that we Maine legislators worked for a salary of three cents an hour,” said Rolde.

    One has to ask which stories reflect Neil’s own experiences?

     “All of them and none of them,” said Rolde. “They are fiction. Some contain actual events in which I participated but in different settings and circumstances. I have tried to cover the complexities of the two different positions I held in Augusta, first the administrative side working for the Governor in the Executive Department and then the legislative side as an elected State Representative. Also included are boards, commissions and non-profits, many on which I served, that help form the matrix of stability in the U.S. There are even references to Washington, D.C. and how it can and does interact with the States.”

    Rolde’s books are extensively researched and most involve the history of Maine and its people. The plight of Native Americans has been a reoccurring theme in Rolde’s life since his childhood and he helped Maine’s tribes while he worked in the Curtis administration. These experiences led him to write one of Maine’s definitive historic books: Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians.

    Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician also show us Neil’s wealth of knowledge, humor and wit.

     “All of this is part of the American political scene. Bashing the leaders we elect goes back to President George Washington, even though he was elected unanimously. Mud slinging is as American as apple pie,” said Rolde. “I once had a fantasy of introducing a bill requiring every American to serve at least one term in a government body. That might add a sense of reality and humanity to our governance. Alas, it is ‘an idea whose time hasn’t and will never come.’”

    For more on Rolde’s books please visit HERE.

    To find more about his book singings please go HERE.

    Rolde has won awards for his books from the Maine Historical Society, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and the Maine Humanities Council.

    Real Political Tales: Short Stories by a Veteran Politician is Neil’s second fictional work.

    A list of Neil Rolde’s books:

     

    1. Breckenridge Long: An American: An American Eichmann??? An Enquiry into the Character of the Man who Denied Visas to the Jews
    2. Continental Liar from the State of Maine: James G. Blaine
    3. Unsettled Past, Unsettled Future: The Story of Maine Indians
    4. The Interrupted Forest A History of Maine’s Wildlands
    5. Maine A Narrative History
    6. Maine Downeast and Different an Illustrated History
    7. An illustrated history of Maine
    8. Your Money or Your Health: America’s Cruel, Bureaucratic, and Horrendously Expensive Health Care System How It Got That Way and What to Do About
    9. Rio Grande Do Norte: The Story of Maine’s Partner State in Brazil What It’s Like, What Its past Has Been, and What Are Its Ties to Maine
    10. The Baxters of Maine: Downeast Visionaries
    11. So You Think You Know Maine
    12. Maine in the World: Stories of Some of Those from Here Who Went Away
    13. O. Murray Carr: A Novel
    14. Sir William Pepperrell of Colonial New England
  • Conversations with Quetzalcoatl- short stories with historic intrigue, ghosts, and love by Esther Pasztory

    Conversations with Quetzalcoatl

    In this intriguing collection, Esther Pasztory, explores the interweaving of the intellect and the imagination with the daily life inside a traditional marriage and the gifts each has to give to the other. The readers' many transitions between the two worlds, reflective of Ms. Pasztory's own life, are easy, as both worlds are attractive, and yet, it is Pasztory's imaginative apparitions and musings that are most illuminating.

    When Quetzalcoatl's pre-Columbian baritone in Conversations with Quetzalcoatl, forces open the quiet in Anna's twenty-first-century study, and he appropriates the most comfortable piece of furniture in the room, a love seat, readers know they are in for a love story.

    However, this is not only a love story of an inspired female intellect searching for the true identity of Quetzalcoatl (is he pre-Columbian because he dreams in Nahuatl or Colonial Mexican, the greatest god in Mesoamerica?) but also the tale of a tender twenty-first-century marriage between Anna and her husband, Roy, one in which the couple eat by candlelight, wait for each other in bed, love their children and grandchildren. Quetzalcoatl offers Anna a world beyond the clouds. Roy offers her a Friday fish fry dinner down at the Dockyard Café to celebrate a beautiful late summer's day in Maine.

    Conversations with Quetzalcoatl is Published by Maine's Polar Bear & Company of Solon.

    In "The Brave," Ms. Pasztory contrasts the powers of a Lenni Lenape Indian ghost and a practical wife to affect the destiny of a depressed Pennsylvania man recovering from a triple bypass operation, while in "The Lover," Pasztory explores the fatal appearances of forces from beyond in the ancient antiquities and festivals of Mexico.

    In "The Gentleman in the Elevator," two women of Hungarian parentage, one still in Budapest and the other in a large American city, write to each other of their lives. One details the cascading horrors of her daily life; the other tells of her creation and manipulation of the ghosts in hers. The hyperbole is deft and the black humor farcical. This group of five stories is anchored by the final and longest short story, "My Jo," yet in this most interesting search for identity, told the in first person, nothing is anchored. Two Hungarian expatriates, refugees from the 1956 Hungarian uprising against the Soviet Union, have found each other and live compatibly together in a marriage that has lasted almost forty years. While Margo, the geneticist wife, is still engaged in her search for square tomatoes that will pack and travel well, the narrator, a designer, has arranged to leave his work and ruminate on the American character formed by birthright.

    The narrator begins to write a novel and creates a companion for this search, Jo, a multi-generation American, born on an island off the coast of Maine. She becomes an uncomplaining companion and a great foil for this Hungarian's disquisition on the American character. The reader passes in and out of the narrator's novel, which will never be finished, and the actual peripatetic adventures from coast to coast, south to north, even unto Alaska, as through a kaleidoscope of pontificating and yearning. On these picaresque journeys with a stranger in a strange land, much is learned through the ruminations of a gifted first-generation American.

    Ms. Pasztory's five stories, at once humorous and haunting, bring the reader to a knowledge of both her intellectual accomplishment and her rich inner life. They create an immense space for the reader's intellect and tenderness.

    --From the Foreword by Nancy B. Hodermarsky

    About the author: Esther Pasztory Esther Pasztory's many and innovative nonfiction publications in her field of expertise opened new cross-cultural vistas that are further explored in these five short stories.

    "I am often looking for a humorous, lighthearted read on a serious topic, with a bit of fantasy thrown in. So I wrote some myself. As a Hungarian immigrant, my fascination is with the Americas, from Maine to Mexico, all interesting places, all temporarily homes. Some still inhabited by the ghosts of Indians." --Esther Pasztory Esther

    Pasztory is the Lisa and Bernard Selz Professor of pre-Columbian Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. She was born in Hungary and is the author of a memoir entitled "Remove Trouble from Your Heart," 2008. Her fiction work includes the historical romance "Daughter of the Pyramids: Colonial Tales," 2002, and a sequel, "The Death of Professor Brown," in preparation. She has published extensively in the field of pre-Columbian art.

  • Maine artist Ramona du Houx in Tokyo exhibit book to follow

     

     

    By Morgan Rogers

    Gallery Storks of Tokyo, Japan is pleased to announce Treasures showing the unique work of six artists. The gallery represents each artist.

    Ramona du Houx creates fine art photography that looks like watercolor paintings evoking mystery and a sense of wonder. Some find them nostalgic and some mystical.

    “Sometimes when people look deeply into these images, they relax and find a tranquil place in the soul, as one would by taking time to be at peace in nature. At other times, the photographs can refresh, excite, and energize one’s soul, as if one were standing by a waterfall. The images have been said to be dreamlike, healing, Zen meditative, and thought provoking,” said Ramona.

    See Ramona’s work at www.photographybyramonaduhoux.com.

    Gallery Storks is also publishing a book of Ramona’s art called, Transformations—

    Revealing nature’s complex balance. Some of the images in the book are in the Treasures exhibit.

    Later this year the gallery will hold an exhibit solely of the work in Transformations when the book is released.

    “Scientists, innovators, and inventors throughout history took the time to observe nature and her connective rhythms. But now society plugs us into the Internet, and while that can open doors, sometimes too much of being Internet-connected disconnects us from the mysteries of the natural world that are transformational. I want to help show how nature’s interconnectedness can lead us to discoveries about our world and ourselves,” said du Houx.

    Ramona has been “painting with the camera” since 1979, is currently is also a member of the Maine Artist Collective, www.maineartistcollective.com and the Harlow Gallery.

    The photographic watercolor technique is always a challenge.

    “I never know exactly what the results will be, that’s the exciting part of the creation,” said du Houx. “I believe every photograph has an audience, someone the work will speak to personally.”

     

  • PUC gives in to LePage, reverses wind energy contracts

    Kibby Wind Farm, in Western Maine, opened in 2010 and has given thousands back to the communities it serves with programs and TIFF's- tax incentives.  Photo by Ramona du Houx

    By Ramona du Houx

    Top Maine lawmakers in the State House denounced the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the state's energy regulator that is mandated not to make political decisions,  for caving to Governor Paul LePage’s demands to reopen bids on two approved wind contracts. 

    The three-member commission, which is supposed to be independent, reversed its decision in a 2-1 vote. The PUC previously approved contract terms with SunEdison and NextEra for wind projects in Hancock County and Somerset County. That approval allowed the parties to begin negotiating final contracts with Central Maine Power Co. and Emera Maine. A lot of work they never would have undertaken if they new LePage was going to pull the plug on. The contracts, which were approved two months ago, would have helped to lower electric costs for Maine consumers by $69 million and create jobs.

    “The Public Utilities Commission is meant to serve the public’s interest – not the governor’s ideology. Maine should be open for all businesses – not just the businesses the governor favors,” said House Speaker Mark Eves. “He is throwing away real energy savings and jobs that Maine needs. Just as we saw when he meddled with StatOil, he is putting hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in investment in our state at risk.”

    Newly appointed PUC Commissioner Carlie McLean - former legal counsel to LePage  - joined the Commission’s Chair and LePage appointee Mark Vannoy to reverse the decision. Commissioner David Littell voted against the re-opening the bid.

    “I’m disappointed to see Commissioner McLean overturn a decision with so little evidence and put future energy business contracts in jeopardy,” said Mark Dion, House Chair of the Legislature’s Energy Utilities and Technology Committee. “This creates an unpredictable environment for future business contracts.”

    According to a letter from LePage to the Commission obtained by MPBN,  LePage attempted to persuade the commissioners to ignore language in the law that directs them to consider new renewable energy sources.

    LePage wrote, "I request that you expand your current request for proposals to include any clean resource, including existing hydropower and nuclear, and review whether these potential contracts could have benefits for the ratepayers in Maine and our broader economy." 

    Nearly 50 individuals and businesses submitted comments warning that re-opening the bid would create economic uncertainty.

    “Shame on the PUC and Gov. LePage for once again yanking the welcome mat out from under two substantial businesses. Broken promises like these do nothing to reassure business that their capital is welcome here. In fact, decisions like these tarnish our reputation and scare off future opportunities,” said State Senator Dawn HIll.

     Statoil, which promised to invest $120 million to develop offshore wind technology in Maine took its investments overseas to Scotland, because LePage pushed through legislation that took away a contract Statoil had made with the PUC.

  • Real life story about a teen's survival inside Germany during Nazi control- boy became Colby professor

    By Ramona du Houx

    Recently, books based in Germany during the Nazi takeover in WWII have featured teens finding ways to survive the occupation. Most notably The Book Thief by Markus Zusak’s became a bestseller and movie. In the book a young teen-age girl, Liesel Meminger lives outside of Munich, forced to steal food for survival. With the help of her foster father she learns to read and begins to steal books. These gems of humanity become food for the souls that she shares them with— her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

    Just during this past year All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, a tale about a blind French girl on the run who encounters a German orphan-turned-resistance tracker on a train, has gained a following. The most recent The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah follows two French sisters fighting to bring their country and family through World War II.

    These New York Times bestsellers are all works of fiction.

    Right: In My Tainted Blood, a true story, the author hides to avoid capture during WWII.

    In My Tainted Blood the author, a German Jew teenager, has to hide himself and his loved ones to avoid capture during WWII. This 400 page tuner is based on the true-life story of Hubert C. Kueter.

    My Tainted Blood follows Hubert as a boy and teenager in wartime Breslau and postwar Germany. People’s names have been changed but the circumstances are all too real.

    One wonders how Kueter can outwit so many adults, to keep the love his life along with his mother and himself alive. The young teen turns surviving in WWII’s Germany into an adventure and writes about his exploits with wit and humor. But the memoirs haunt him still. The injustices, outright discrimination growing up before Nazi occupation and then fearing for his life and the lives of his loved ones on the run from possible internment is not something one easily forgets.

    “It’ll always be with me,” said Kueter. “It’s my life.”

    In My Tainted Blood Hubert also imparts insights into German Jews, their unrequited love of Germany and his unexpected friendship with an African American soldier.

    The incorporation of the author’s love of cooking, at a time when he had to forage for food under the Nazi regime, adds a unique dimension to the chronicle.

    With Anti-Semitic incidents occurring throughout Europe Kueter believes the book should now be translated into German.

    “We must never forget,” he said. “I believe it is my responsibility to tell my story in the hope of bringing more awareness and understanding about a difficult time in our history.”

    Kueter comes from a family of brave souls. His great aunt, the chemist Clara Immerwahr, was the first woman to earn a degree in Germany and was well known women's rights activist. She died in 1915.

    The novel was first published in 2009 by Polar Bear & Company of Solon, Maine and the publisher would like to do the translation edition as well.

    Reviews:

    “Hubert Kueter’s accomplishment in this memoir is a unique literary triumph, but it is as well a vivid account of the strength of the human spirit.”

    – Ferdinand Jones, PhD, professor emeritus of Psychology, Brown University

    “With a large dose of humor, Hubert Kueter has written a fascinating book that is hard to put down. The experience of people with mixed background in Nazi Germany is an area of great interest to historians, and this account will contribute to it. But the book offers much more. It is written with a wit and elegance that reveal a remarkable talent. Kueter relishes in his schemes to outwit the Nazis, and he takes every opportunity to reveal his passion for culinary intricacies, which he describes in vivid prose.”

    –Raffael Scheck, PhD, Chair, Department of History, Colby College

    About the Author:

    Hubert C. Kueter, born 1930 in Breslau, Germany, received his PhD in Germanic languages and literature at the University of Michigan. He taught German language and literature at Colby College from 1965 to 1997. During the first ten years at Colby, he enjoyed working part time as a certified ski instructor at Sugarloaf USA.

  • Vote to get a grant for the Solon Center to give books to Maine schools and libraries

    CLICK HERE & WRITE-IN: Solon Center for Research and Publishing- to help us win a $5,000 grant! Bangor Savings Bank has just launched its Community Matters More campaign and we need your help! A total of 68 grants will be awarded to the organizations listed on the ballot and to the top 20 write-in vote recipients. The organizations to get the most votes in each region (including write-ins) will receive $5,000 each. The remaining 60 organizations will receive $1,000 each.

    How to Vote for The Solon Center for Research and Publishing:

    We want to give Maine’s libraries and elementary schools a copy of Clipper’s ABC’s in English, French, Spanish and Japanese.

    We live in a global community; the earlier children are exposed to different languages, like Japanese, the more perspective they will have. We have permission from the publisher, writer and artist to reprint and distribute the book to all Maine’s elementary schools and libraries.

    The Solon Center for Research and Publishing is a 501(c)3- non-profit organization established to encourage the growth of Maine’s communities through educational, literary, scientific and artistic means. Through our projects we endeavor to help energize the state’s creative economy which in turn can grow jobs and the quality of life for everyone who lives in Maine. Currently we are working with locally based organizations to bring some of our publishing projects to all Maine communities.

    Take a moment to cast your vote for Solon Center for Research and Publishing by writing us in under Somerset in the Other box.

    How to Vote: -Must be a Maine resident

    -Vote for up to 3 Maine nonprofits from any of the lists or select “other” and enter an eligible nonprofit. Ballots with votes for more than 3 organizations are invalid.

    -One ballot or online entry per person.

     -Voting ends February 28, 2015. Vote on-line TODAY! CLICK HERE & WRITE-IN: Solon Center for Research and Publishing- to help us win a $5,000 grant!

  • Ramona du Houx exhibits lightgraphs at Berry’s in Waterville, Maine

     

    By Morgan Rogers

     

    The inside gallery at Berry's Stationers 153 Main St, downtown Waterville, features the artwork, Ramona du Houx, until December 30, 2014. 

    Ramona du Houx creates fine art photography that looks like watercolor paintings evoking mystery and a sense of wonder. Many find them nostalgic and some mystical.

    Ramona is currently represented by Gallery Storks of Tokyo, Japan and is also a member of the Maine Artist Collaborative where she exhibits regularly at the Constellation Gallery in Portland, Maine.

     “For me art reflects where we live in our communities, as well as where an artist is in their heart, mind and soul,” said Ramona. “In 1979 I began to paint with my camera to depict the interconnectedness of nature. I took the initial results to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where they recorded them long ago. The continuing results have been unpredictable, intriguing, and thought provoking.” 

    The watercolor technique is always a challenge.

    “I never know exactly what the results will be, that’s the exciting part of the creation,” said du Houx. “I believe every photograph has an audience, someone the work will speak to personally.”

    Berry’s show space offers local artists a friendly venue to exhibit their work and a way to continue to grow Waterville’s creative economy. With Colby College’s new museum, and Common Street Arts, Waterville is gaining attention as a place to visit for art.

    “We believe in our community and holding shows for artists can help grow the creative economy of Waterville,” said Michael, owner of Berry's Stationers.

    Dream Sail by Ramona du Houx

    Customers rely on the quality work of the Berry's Stationers art suppliers and framers. They entrust the craftspeople who work there with precious mementos to create a unique way to display it for their lifetimes.

    Berry's Stationers team matches mat colors and frames for any job they work on and they always take the time to listen to customers to ensure they get what they are looking for. Michael bought the business back in the 70’s. He’s a perfectionist in his framing craft and an avid photographer.

    "Matching up someone’s art with the right mat and frame gives me a lot of pleasure. Finding out exactly what the customer needs and then succeeding makes it so worthwhile,” said Michael. 

    While other framers have closed their doors due to big box stores and chains, The Berry's Stationers continues. The quality customer service and extra care he and his father take in framing creates prized items for many people.

    Berry's Stationers is open Monday thru Friday from 9:00am - 5:00pm. And Saturday from 9:00-3.00pm. And until Christmas they are open on Sundays.

    For more of Ramona’s photography please visit: HERE 

     

  • A Maine vibrant watercolor ABC book in four languages under one cover

     

     By Morgan Rogers

    Vibrant watercolor illustrations of a Maine island Labrador puppy bring smiles to kids learning new words

    Finally, there is a children’s ABC book with watercolors of Maine in four languages!

    Clipper, the adorable Maine Island Labrador puppy, takes children into his world, while teaching them their ABC’s, and new words in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese. One painting leads into the next, as children follow bubbles throughout the book. This unique concept gives children continuity, as they discover other languages.

    With Clipper’s ABC’s in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese children and adults fall in love with the puppy in the different circumstances the artist, Ramona du Houx, depicts him in. Some are humorous, some serious. Children eagerly try to pronounce the different words, as if Clipper has given them the courage to do so.

    “I love seeing the eyes of children light up as the turn the pages in Clipper and try to pronounce new words, and their parents beam with pleasure,” said Ramona. “So many great childhood memories begin with great children’s book characters.”

    Inspired by the visual splendor of the natural world and by children discovering it, Ramona du Houx has painted five picture books. Ramona’s photographic art has been exhibited worldwide since 1980. For the past sixteen years she has worked as a journalist, artist, professional writer and photographer.

    Vibrant watercolor paintings of iconic Maine locations and objects, highlighted for children by a lovable Labrador puppy, Clipper, can help foster a lifelong appreciation of art and hopefully inspire young artists. Studies show early childhood exposure to the arts helps to calm children and encourages their imaginations. 

    This is the only ABC book published in four languages under one cover.

    According to the 2000 census, 25 percent of Maine’s population are of Franco-American descent, but there are no ABC children’s books in French with paintings of their state. Spanish is soon to become North America’s second language, but few know the basics of Spanish in Maine. We live in a global community; the earlier children are exposed to different languages, like Japanese, the more perspective they will have.

    The ABC book is the second in a series of 5 books. Clipper is a sweet puppy who loves to get into mischief. Through his adventures on a Maine island we all “grow up” with this adorable puppy as he warms our hearts and souls. For more information please see: www.maineislandpuppyclipper.com

    “Clipper learns his ABCs in four languages, as best a puppy can, with Marie, Zachary and his new little kitten, Puff, delighting in each word learned,” said Anita du Laguna Haviland, the creator of Clipper.

    With the availability of the Internet it is easy for adults to find out how to pronounce the various words, if they don't know some, in Clipper’s ABC’s in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese.

     

    Also available is a 18 x 24 poster of Clipper’s ABC’s in English, French, Spanish, and Japanese that can be framed for any child’s room for $18 plus shipping and handling of $4. The poster is free for schools or bookstores. Framed in oak the cost is $32 for the framed print plus shipping.

    Clipper’s ABC’s is published by Polar Bear & Company, 8 Brook Street, P.O. Box 311, Solon, Maine. The book retails at $17.95. ISBN: 9781882190294

     

    Watercolor painting illustrations copyright © 2014 by Ramona du Houx. Clipper copyright © by Anita de Laguna Haviland. All rights reserved.

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