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  • 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.

  • Trump unfit to serve

    Admit it: Trump is unfit to serve

    Editorial by E.J. Dionne Jr. Opinion writer The Washington Post

    Let’s not mumble or whisper about the central issue facing our country: What is this democratic nation to do when the man serving as president of the United States plainly has no business being president of the United States?

    The Michael Flynn fiasco was the entirely predictable product of the indiscipline, deceit, incompetence and moral indifference that characterize Donald Trump’s approach to leadership.

    Even worse, Trump’s loyalties are now in doubt. Questions about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia will not go away, even if congressional Republicans try to slow-walk a transparent investigation into what ties Trump has with Putin’s Russia — and who on his campaign did what, and when, with Russian intelligence officials and diplomats.

    Party leaders should listen to those Republicans who are already pondering how history will judge their actions in this wrenching moment. Senators such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham seem to know it is only a matter of time before the GOP will have to confront Trump’s unfitness. They also sense that Flynn’s resignation as national security adviser for lying about the nature of his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the United States raises fundamental concerns about Trump himself.

    The immediate political controversy is over how Congress should investigate this. Republican leaders say attention from Congress’s intelligence committees is sufficient, and for now Democrats have agreed to this path. But many in their ranks, along with some Republicans, argue it would be better to form a bipartisan select committee that could cross jurisdictional lines and be far more open about its work.

    Those pushing for the select committee have reason to fear that keeping things under wraps in the intelligence panels could be a way to bury the story for a while and buy Trump time. Letting Americans in on what went on here, and quickly, is the only way to bolster trust in this administration, if that is even possible. And let’s face the reality here: It could also hasten the end of a presidency that could do immense damage to the United States.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in the meantime, must immediately recuse himself from all decisions about all aspects of the Russia investigation by the FBI and the intelligence services. Sessions should step back not simply because he is an appointee of the president but, more importantly, because he was a central figure in the Trump campaign. He cannot possibly be a neutral arbiter, and his involvement would only heighten fears of a coverup.

    In this dark moment, we can celebrate the vitality of the institutions of a free society that are pushing back against a president offering the country a remarkable combination of authoritarian inclinations and ineptitude. The courts, civil servants, citizens — collectively and individually — and, yes, an unfettered media have all checked Trump and forced inconvenient facts into the sunlight.

    It is a sign of how beleaguered Trump is that his Twitter response on Wednesday morning was not to take responsibility but to assign blame. His villains are leakers and the press: “Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?). Just like Russia.”

    It is notable that in acknowledging that the news reports are based on “information,” Trump effectively confirmed them. At the same time, he was characteristically wrong about Russia, whose government prevents transparency and punishes those who try to foster it. There’s also this: Kremlin agents stole information from a political party in a free country. That is very different from the actions of the media’s informants inside our government who are holding our own officials accountable for their false denials and fictitious claims.

    It will be said that Trump was elected and thus deserves some benefit of the doubt. Isn’t it rash to declare him unfit after so little time?

    The answer is no, because the Trump we are seeing now is fully consistent with the vindictive, self-involved and scattered man we saw during the 17 months of his campaign. In one of the primary debates, Jeb Bush said of Trump: “He’s a chaos candidate and he’d be a chaos president.” Rarely has a politician been so prophetic.

    And this is why nearly 11 million more Americans voted against Trump than for him. His obligation was to earn the trust of the 60 percent of Americans who told exit pollsters on Election Day that they viewed him unfavorably. Instead, he has ratified their fears, and then some.

    As a country, we now need to face the truth, however awkward and difficult it might be.

  • 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.”

     

  • Richard Wolffe: ‘The nicest thing you could say about Trump’s performance was that it was bonkers’

    Richard Wolffe: ‘The nicest thing you could say about Trump’s performance was that it was bonkers’

    That banging sound you heard were the last nails being hammered into the coffin of the Trump campaign. Or it might have been the thumping of Donald Trump as he stalked the debate stage.

    Either way, the Republican nominee treated the notion of a contrite, humble performance with all the subtlety of a subway train. Not for him was the usual shame we associate with someone caught in a moment of sleaze.

    He prowled around Hillary Clinton, looming behind her when she approached the undecided voters in the audience. He hugged himself and hooked his hands in his belt. He inhaled so sharply through his nose that he sounded like he was snorting his own insults.

    Wounded animals behave in strange ways, and Donald Trump was nothing if not strange at the second presidential debate. He went far beyond barking his usual interruptions and conspiracies from the darkest corners of the internet: he answered a question from a Muslim voter by saying it was “a shame” there was Islamophobia. Then, two feet away from his questioner, he stoked Islamophobia as much as he possibly could: “We could be very politically correct, but whether we like it or not, there is a problem.”

    ‘Trump prowled around Hillary Clinton, looming behind her when she approached the undecided voters in the audience’

    He blamed Hillary Clinton for allowing him to pay no taxes. “Of course I do,” he admitted, when asked if he took advantage of tax loopholes. “So do all of her donors or most of her donors.”

    He blamed both Clintons for raising the issue of sexual assault, as if he was just a hapless victim. “I think it’s disgraceful and I think she should be ashamed of herself, if you want to know the truth,” he said.

    In any normal presidential debate, a nominee would be embarrassed to say something that evoked Gerald Ford’s calamitous assertion that there was no Soviet domination of eastern Europe. But Trump bettered Ford by several thermonuclear warheads: “I know about Russia but I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia,” he said.

    The nicest thing you could say about Trump’s performance was that it was bonkers. A Red Bull display of sheer madness all the way to the end, when Clinton complimented his children.

    “I don’t know if it was meant to be a compliment,” he said. Donald Trump knows about elections but he knows nothing about their inner workings.

  • Paris Climate Agreement Ratification becomes official, now time for action


    By Ramona du Houx

    Thanks to leadership from President Barack Obama, on October 4, 2016 the Paris Climate Agreement cleared a major hurdle as the European Union voted to join the United States, China, India and other nations in ratifying the agreement.  

    The climate agreement has two requirements before it can go into effect: It must be ratified by 55 nations, and the ratifying countries must account for 55 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

    With representatives from the 28 European Union member countries voting 610 to 38 in favor of the agreement, nations now representing more than 55 percent of the world’s global warming pollution have signed on – crossing the minimum threshold for the agreement to become official.

    Under the agreement, global leaders have committed to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius with an aspirational goal of 1.5° C, a benchmark scientists say is critical to avoid the most dangerous impacts of global warming –  including disruption of our food supply, increasingly extreme weather, and loss of coastal regions to flooding.

    The planet has already warmed nearly 1° C above the 20th century average, and scientists have warned that urgent, wide-scale action will be required to stop temperatures from rising much further. 

    “We’re thrilled that global leaders have moved quickly to ratify this important agreement to preserve our climate. It sends a strong signal that the world plans to do more, faster to protect our communities, our families and our future," said Anna Aurilio, Global Warming Solutions Program Director for Environment America.

    Now it's time for the nations around the world to take action for the people's of the world and everyone's future. The impacts of global warming are being felt worldwide and represent life threatening situations for millions. 

    "Here in the United States, we must redouble our efforts to reduce – and eventually eliminate – global warming pollution. President Obama has already put America on track to slash emissions from vehicles and power plants, but we can and must do much more," said Aurillio. "Here in Maine, Governor LePage should act to accelerate our transition to clean electricity by doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to further limit global warming pollution from power plants."

    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.

    The world has the tools to shift away from dirty and dangerous fossil fuels towards a 100 percent renewable energy future powered by solar, wind, and energy efficiency. And while contries implement their stratigies- thousands of jobs will be created.

  • 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.
  • United Nations Summit on Refugees Pledges World Support



    On September 20,2016, President Obama joined UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as well as leaders from Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico, and Sweden in hosting the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, culminating a sustained effort to rally nations to step up their efforts in response to the largest mass displacement crisis since the Second World War. From their joint statement:

    "We have come together in support for the millions of refugees and other persons who have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world.  The majority are women and children, who are often at increased risk of violence, exploitation and abuse.  At a time when global response mechanisms have been strained past their limits by displacement levels not seen since the Second World War, it is incumbent upon the international community to act. 

    "We recognize that this crisis, while disproportionately driven by conflict in Syria, is truly global in nature, and demands a global response and political solutions.  We also recognize the extraordinary steps that the international community has taken over the course of 2016 to mobilize resources and strengthen the systems and institutions that will be required to meet the growing need—including at the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region, the UNHCR resettlement conference in Geneva, and the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.  We applaud U.N. Member States for coming together at the high-level plenary meeting on September 19 to reaffirm their shared responsibility for refugees and migrants." 

    The Summit built on a meeting earlier in the day to mobilize private sector resources to address this same crisis Based on commitments received prior to the Summit, the results are as follows:

    Fifty-two countries and international organizations participated in the Summit, announcing commitments that cumulatively increased their total 2016 financial contributions to UN appeals and international humanitarian organizations by approximately $4.5 billion over 2015 levels; roughly doubled the number of refugees they resettled or afforded other legal channels of admission in 2016; created improved access to education for one million refugee children globally; and, improved access to lawful work for one million refugees globally. 

     Over the course of 2016, 11 of the countries participating in the Summit have at least doubled their financial contributions for humanitarian assistance as compared to last year, with four countries committing to at least ten times more this year than in 2015. Notably, several new countries have pledged to maintain substantially higher rates of humanitarian financing for multiple years. Additionally, at least 18 countries across four continents committed to starting or significantly expanding UNHCR-facilitated third-country resettlement programs, or announced plans to significantly increase their admission of refugees based on family reunification, scholarships, or humanitarian visas.  Seven countries committed to resettle and/or admit at least ten times more refugees than they did in 2015.

    To achieve the Summit’s goal of improving refugees’ access to education, 17 major refugee-hosting countries pledged to help increase refugees’ school enrollment, including by constructing new classrooms, training and hiring new teachers, and certifying and streamlining refugee education programs that previously offered only informal education or education using foreign curricula. Fifteen countries also committed to take concrete action to improve refugees’ ability to work lawfully by adopting policies that permit refugees to start their own businesses, expanding or enacting policies that allow refugees to live outside camps, making agricultural land available, and issuing the documents necessary to work lawfully.  

    The Summit also showcased two new platforms that will improve the international community’s ability to share more equitably the responsibility for protecting refugees. 

    The World Bank announced the Global Crisis Response Platform, which will provide low- and middle-income countries hosting large refugee populations with access to financing on favorable terms for projects to benefit both refugees and their host communities. 

    The United States intends to contribute at least $50 million over the next five years to the Platform's middle income facility, subject to the availability of appropriations, above and beyond the $25 million contribution we announced earlier.  This will leverage three to four times as much in low cost financing.  We also look forward to supporting the facility for low income countries later this year as part of our broader replenishment of the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. 

    Additionally, the United States helped to establish the Emergency Resettlement Country Joint Support Mechanism (ERCM) – a joint project of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) – which will provide both financial and technical assistance to countries that are interested in establishing or expanding refugee resettlement programs.

    The Summit built on efforts by the international community throughout 2016 to mobilize resources and strengthen the systems required to meet the growing need of refugees, including: the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region, the UNHCR resettlement conference in Geneva, the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, and the UN Summit on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.

    U.S. Contributions to the Refugee Crisis-

    Protecting and assisting refugees is a foreign policy priority and a proud tradition for the United States.  Since 1975 the United States has resettled more than 3.2 million refugees representing more than 70 nationalities.  We increased the number of refugees resettled annually in the United States from 70,000 in 2015 to 85,000 this year, and, as recently announced, have established an admissions target of 110,000 in fiscal year (FY) 2017.  

    The United States has also increased alternative pathways of admission, providing special immigrant visas to more than 11,000 people at risk from Iraq and Afghanistan in FY16, an increase of more than 4,000 from FY 2015.  Last year the United States provided more than $6 billion in humanitarian assistance worldwide.  We anticipate providing more than $7 billion in humanitarian assistance to international organizations and non-governmental organizations by the end of the current fiscal year. In direct support of the Summit’s goals, the United States recently made a contribution of nearly $37 million for UNHCR’s work with countries hosting refugees to increase the number of refugee children receiving a quality education. 

    The United States is proud to have provided $20 million in support for the Education Cannot Wait Platform, the world’s first fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, championing access to education in the most complex and dangerous environments.  

     The United States is also committed to making financial contributions to each of the groundbreaking financial platforms launched in connection with the Summit.  We are pleased to have provided $11 million to the ERCM and intend to contribute at least $50 million over the next five years, subject to the availability of appropriations, to the Global Concessional Financing Facility – the middle-income portion of the World Bank’s Global Crisis Response Platform

    Full Joint Statement on Leaders' Summit on Refugees:

    We have come together in support for the millions of refugees and other persons who have been forcibly displaced from their homes around the world.  The majority are women and children, who are often at increased risk of violence, exploitation and abuse.  At a time when global response mechanisms have been strained past their limits by displacement levels not seen since the Second World War, it is incumbent upon the international community to act. 

    We recognize that this crisis, while disproportionately driven by conflict in Syria, is truly global in nature, and demands a global response and political solutions.  We also recognize the extraordinary steps that the international community has taken over the course of 2016 to mobilize resources and strengthen the systems and institutions that will be required to meet the growing need—including at the London Conference on Supporting Syria and the Region, the UNHCR resettlement conference in Geneva, and the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.  We applaud U.N. Member States for coming together at the high-level plenary meeting on September 19 to reaffirm their shared responsibility for refugees and migrants. 

    Throughout these engagements, certain priorities have become clear.  We must seek to increase international humanitarian assistance funding, offer opportunities for refugee resettlement and alternative forms of legal admissions, and facilitate refugees’ access to education and lawful employment.  We also note the importance of increasing the pool of countries that provide significant levels of humanitarian assistance beyond the current largest donors, as well as the number of countries providing opportunities for resettlement or other lawful paths to admission.  Throughout we have, of course, continued to reaffirm the obligation of states to respect international law, international human rights law, and where applicable, international refugee law and international humanitarian law.  We convened today’s Summit with these goals in mind and—because of the concerted efforts and generosity of the international community — we are in a position to reflect on the important progress we have made, while recognizing the magnitude of the challenges that lie ahead.  In particular: 

    In order to mobilize more substantial and sustainable funding for UN humanitarian appeals and other international humanitarian organizations, and provide further support to countries hosting large numbers of refugees, we sought a $3 billion increase in global humanitarian financing and commitments to maintain funding in future years. Through our mutual efforts, over the course of 2016, the 32 donors participating today have contributed this year roughly 4.5 billion additional dollars to UN appeals and international humanitarian organizations than in 2015.    We commend all governments that have made new and significant humanitarian contributions this year, as well as the important contributions of host countries and will work to provide more aid and direct support.  We continue to urge all governments to do even more over the years to come.

     In addition, the Summit also sought to provide longer-term solutions for refugees stranded in exile, whose lives are on hold.  Governments participating here today have come together, with different types of commitments, to approximately double the global number of refugees resettled and afforded other legal channels of admissions and to improve asylum systems.  Some governments have committed to starting or significantly expanding new UNHCR-facilitated third-country resettlement programs and others have greatly increased the numbers of refugees admitted through family reunification or humanitarian admission visas.  Several governments have committed to admit significant numbers of refugees into their countries for the first time in recent history.  We welcome the inclusion of civil society, which, in many cases, has established private sponsorship programs. To support these efforts, we commend the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR for creating the Emerging Resettlement Countries Joint Support Mechanism, which will help new resettlement countries select, prepare, and support the movement of refugees, and develop systems to welcome and support refugees upon arrival. 

    We also sought to increase the number of refugees in school by one million globally, and the number of refugees able to lawfully work by one million. Altogether, at least 17 governments participating in today’s Summit have committed to strengthen and adapt their policies so that more refugees can attend school and/or lawfully work.  The commitments announced today will help ensure that one million children have improved access to education and that one million more refugees have opportunities to pursue opportunities to legally access work.  Noting the importance of fostering an environment of inclusion, as applicable, we are pleased that so many countries have made commitments to help facilitate these goals and recognize that, for purposes of implementation, refugee host countries will continue to require sustainable donor support.  

    In this connection, we welcome efforts by UNICEF and the international community to establish Education Cannot Wait, the world’s first fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, championing children’s right to access education in the most complex and dangerous environments.  We likewise applaud the World Bank’s establishment of a Global Crisis Response Platform, which will provide grants and loans to help low and middle-income countries that so generously host large numbers of refugees.  This financing can help provide quality education and economic opportunities for refugees and their host communities.  There was consensus that the international community must recognize the protracted nature of the majority of refugee situations and work to strengthen coherence between humanitarian and development support so that our international response provides refugees with the tools necessary to be self-reliant and productive wherever they reside.

    Finally, we applaud those countries participating in the summit that, through their pledges, have made qualitative leaps in their commitment to humanitarian financing and/or resettlement and other humanitarian admissions.  Others have committed to strengthen their institutional capacity to address the specific needs of asylum seekers and refugees, especially those of the most vulnerable groups. 

    In closing, we recognize that no routine mechanism exists yet to facilitate the kind of voluntary responsibility-sharing for refugees that was demonstrated today or to more comprehensively address other challenges arising from large-scale refugee crises. We therefore commit to working together in support of the development of the Global Compact on Responsibility Sharing for Refugees, and to develop tools and institutional structures to improve the international architecture and lay a foundation for addressing both the immediate and the long-term challenges of managing refugee flows effectively and comprehensively. 

  • 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.”

  • Hillary Clinton accepts Democratic Nomination becomes first women in history to do so

    Thank you! Thank you for that amazing welcome. 

    Thank you all for the great convention that we’ve had.

    And Chelsea, thank you. I'm so proud to be your mother and so proud of the woman you've become. Thanks for bringing Marc into our family, and Charlotte and Aidan into the world. 

    And Bill, that conversation we started in the law library 45 years ago is still going strong. It's lasted through good times that filled us with joy, and hard times that tested us. 

    And I've even gotten a few words in along the way.

    On Tuesday night, I was so happy to see that my Explainer-in-Chief is still on the job. I'm also grateful to the rest of my family and the friends of a lifetime. To all of you whose hard work brought us here tonight. And to those of you who joined our campaign this week.  And what a remarkable week it's been.  

    We heard the man from Hope, Bill Clinton. And the man of Hope, Barack Obama. America is stronger because of President Obama's leadership, and I'm better because of his friendship.  

    We heard from our terrific vice president, the one-and-only Joe Biden. He spoke from his big heart about our party's commitment to working people, as only he can do.

    First Lady Michelle Obama reminded us that our children are watching, and the president we elect is going to be their president, too. 

    Photos of Hillary giving her speach by Alexander Cornell du Houx

    And for those of you out there who are just getting to know Tim Kaine – you're soon going to understand why the people of Virginia keep promoting him: from city council and mayor, to Governor, and now Senator.  He'll make the whole country proud as our Vice President.  

    And I want to thank Bernie Sanders. Bernie, your campaign inspired millions of Americans, particularly the young people who threw their hearts and souls into our primary.  You've put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong. 

     And to all of your supporters here and around the country:  I want you to know,I've heard you.  Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion.  That's the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America.  We wrote it together – now let's go out there and make it happen together.

    My friends, we've come to Philadelphia – the birthplace of our nation – because what happened in this city 240 years ago still has something to teach us today. 

    We all know the story. But we usually focus on how it turned out - and not enough on how close that story came to never being written at all.  

    When representatives from 13 unruly colonies met just down the road from here, some wanted to stick with the King. Some wanted to stick it to the king, and go their own way. The revolution hung in the balance. Then somehow they began listening to each other … compromising … finding common purpose.   

    And by the time they left Philadelphia, they had begun to see themselves as one nation.

    That's what made it possible to stand up to a King. That took courage. They had courage. Our Founders embraced the enduring truth that we are stronger together.  

    America is once again at a moment of reckoning. Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart. Bonds of trust and respect are fraying. 

    And just as with our founders, there are no guarantees. It truly is up to us.  We have to decide whether we all will work together so we all can rise together.

    Our country's motto is e pluribus unum: out of many, we are one.  Will we stay true to that motto?  

    Well, we heard Donald Trump's answer last week at his convention.  He wants to divide us - from the rest of the world, and from each other. 

    He's betting that the perils of today's world will blind us to its unlimited promise. He's taken the Republican Party a long way...  from "Morning in America" to  "Midnight in America." He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.  

    Well, a great Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than eighty years ago, during a much more perilous time.  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 

    Now we are clear-eyed about what our country is up against. But we are not afraid. We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have. We will not build a wall. Instead, we will build an economy where everyone who wants a good paying job can get one.   

    Photos of Hillary Clinton after her speech, by Alexander Cornell du Houx

    And we'll build a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who are already contributing to our economy! 

    We will not ban a religion. We will work with all Americans and our allies to fight and defeat terrorism. 

    Yet we know there is a lot to do. 

    Too many people haven't had a pay raise since the crash. 

    There's too much inequality. Too little social mobility. Too much paralysis in Washington. Too many threats at home and abroad. 

    But just look at the strengths we bring as Americans to meet these challenges. We have the most dynamic and diverse people in the world. We have the most tolerant and generous young people we've ever had. We have the most powerful military. The most innovative entrepreneurs. The most enduring values.

    Freedom and equality, justice and opportunity. We should be so proud that these words are associated with us.  I have to tell you, as your Secretary of State, I went to 112 countries, and when people hear those words – they hear America.

    So don't let anyone tell you that our country is weak. We're not. Don't let anyone tell you we don't have what it takes. We do. 

    And most of all, don't believe anyone who says: “I alone can fix it.”  

    Those were actually Donald Trump's words in Cleveland. And they should set off alarm bells for all of us.  

    Really? I alone can fix it? Isn't he forgetting? Troops on the front lines.

    Police officers and fire fighters who run toward danger. Doctors and nurses who care for us. Teachers who change lives. 

    Entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem.  Mothers who lost children to violence and are building a movement to keep other kids safe.

    He's forgetting every last one of us.  Americans don't say: “I alone can fix it.” We say: “We'll fix it together.” 

    Remember: Our Founders fought a revolution and wrote a Constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power. Two hundred and forty years later, we still put our faith in each other.    

    Look at what happened in Dallas after the assassinations of five brave police officers. Chief David Brown asked the community to support his force, maybe even join them. 

    And you know how the community responded? Nearly 500 people applied in just 12 days. That's how Americans answer when the call for help goes out.  

    20 years ago I wrote a book called “It Takes a Village.”  A lot of people looked at the title and asked, what the heck do you mean by that?   

    This is what I mean. None of us can raise a family, build a business, heal a community or lift a country totally alone.     

    America needs every one of us to lend our energy, our talents, our ambition to making our nation better and stronger. I believe that with all my heart. 

    That's why “Stronger Together” is not just a lesson from our history. It's not just a slogan for our campaign.

    It's a guiding principle for the country we've always been and the future we're going to build.  

    A country where the economy works for everyone, not just those at the top. Where you can get a good job and send your kids to a good school, no matter what zip code you live in. 

    A country where all our children can dream, and those dreams are within reach. Where families are strong… communities are safe…  And yes, love trumps hate. 

    That's the country we're fighting for. That's the future we're working toward…  And so it is with humility. . . determination . . .  and boundless confidence in America's promise… that I accept your nomination for President of the United States!

    Watch the final day of the Democratic National Convention in less than 4 minutes

    Now, sometimes the people at this podium are new to the national stage.

    As you know, I'm not one of those people. I've been your First Lady. Served 8 years as a Senator from the great State of New York.

    Then I represented all of you as Secretary of State.

    But my job titles only tell you what I've done. They don't tell you why.

    The truth is, through all these years of public service, the “service” part has always come easier to me than the “public” part.

    I get it that some people just don't know what to make of meSo let me tell you.

    The family I'm from . . . well, no one had their name on big buildings. My family were builders of a different kind. Builders in the way most American families are.

    They used whatever tools they had – whatever God gave them – and whatever life in America provided – and built better lives and better futures for their kids.

    My grandfather worked in the same Scranton lace mill for 50 years. Because he believed that if he gave everything he had, his children would have a better life than he did. And he was right.

    My dad, Hugh, made it to college. He played football at Penn State and enlisted in the Navy after Pearl Harbor.  

    When the war was over he started his own small business, printing fabric for draperies.  I remember watching him stand for hours over silk screens.   

    He wanted to give my brothers and me opportunities he never had.  And he did.

    My mother, Dorothy, was abandoned by her parents as a young girl.  She ended up on her own at 14, working as a house maid.  She was saved by the kindness of others.  

    Her first grade teacher saw she had nothing to eat at lunch, and brought extra food to share.  The lesson she passed on to me years later stuck with me:  No one gets through life alone.  We have to look out for each other and lift each other up.  

    She made sure I learned the words of our Methodist faith: “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.” 

    I went to work for the Children's Defense Fund, going door-to-door in New Bedford, Massachusetts on behalf of children with disabilities who were denied the chance to go to school. 

    I remember meeting a young girl in a wheelchair on the small back porch of her house. She told me how badly she wanted to go to school – it just didn't seem possible. And I couldn't stop thinking of my mother and what she went through as a child.  

    It became clear to me that simply caring is not enough. To drive real progress, you have to change both hearts and laws. You need both understanding and action. 

    So we gathered facts. We built a coalition. And our work helped convince Congress to ensure access to education for all students with disabilities.   

    It's a big idea, isn't it?  Every kid with a disability has the right to go to school.   

    But how do you make an idea like that real?  You do it step-by-step, year-by-year… sometimes even door-by-door.   

    And my heart just swelled when I saw Anastasia Somoza on this stage, representing millions of young people who – because of those changes to our laws – are able to get an education.  

    It's true... I sweat the details of policy – whether we're talking about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the number of mental health facilities in Iowa, or the cost of your prescription drugs.   

    Because it's not just a detail if it's your kid - if it's your family. It's a big deal.  And it should be a big deal to your president.   

    Over the last three days, you've seen some of the people who've inspired me. People who let me into their lives, and became a part of mine.    

    Hillary Clinton celebrating after her acceptence speech. Photos by Alexander Cornell du Houx

    People like Ryan Moore and Lauren Manning. They told their stories Tuesday night.  

    I first met Ryan as a 7-year-old. He was wearing a full body brace that must have weighed forty pounds because I leaned over to lift him up.  

    Children like Ryan kept me going when our plan for universal health care failed…and kept me working with leaders of both parties to help create theChildren's Health Insurance Program that covers 8 million kids every year.   

    Lauren Manning, who stood here with such grace and power, was gravely injured on 9/11. It was the thought of her, and Debbie St. John, and John Dolan and Joe Sweeney, and all the victims and survivors, that kept me working as hard as I could in the Senate on behalf of 9/11 families, and our first responders who got sick from their time at Ground Zero. 

    I was still thinking of Lauren, Debbie and all the others ten years later in the White House Situation Room when President Obama made the courageous decision that finally brought Osama bin Laden to justice.  

    In this campaign, I've met so many people who motivate me to keep fighting for change. And, with your help, I will carry all of your voices and stories with me to the White House.  

    And you heard, you heard from Republicans and Independents who are supporting our campaign. I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. For the struggling, the striving and the successful. For those who vote for me and those who don't. For all Americans. Together.

    Tonight, we've reached a milestone in our nation's march toward a more perfect union:  the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for President.   

    Standing here as my mother's daughter, and my daughter's mother, I'm so happy this day has come. Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between.   

    Happy for boys and men, too – because when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone.  When there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit.  So let's keep going, until every one of the 161 million women and girls across America has the opportunity she deserves. 

    Because even more important than the history we make tonight, is the history we will write together in the years ahead. Let's begin with what we're going to do to help working people in our country get ahead and stay ahead. 

    Now, I don't think President Obama and Vice President Biden get the credit they deserve for saving us from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes.   

    Our economy is so much stronger than when they took office.  Nearly 15 million new private-sector jobs. Twenty million more Americans with health insurance.And an auto industry that just had its best year ever. That's real progress.   

    But none of us can be satisfied with the status quo. Not by a long shot.

    We're still facing deep-seated problems that developed long before the recession and have stayed with us through the recovery.

    I've gone around our country talking to working families. And I've heard from so many of you who feel like the economy just isn't working.

    Some of you are frustrated – even furious. And you know what??? You're right.It's not yet working the way it should.

    Americans are willing to work – and work hard. But right now, an awful lot of people feel there is less and less respect for the work they do. And less respect for them, period.

    Democrats are the party of working people. But we haven't done a good enoughjob showing that we get what you're going through, and that we're going to do something about it.

    So I want to tell you tonight how we will empower Americans to live better lives.

    My primary mission as President will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages right here in the United States... From my first day in office to my last! Especially in places that for too long have been left out and left behind.

    From our inner cities to our small towns, from Indian Country to Coal Country. From communities ravaged by addiction to regions hollowed out by plant closures.

    And here's what I believe. I believe America thrives when the middle class thrives. I believe that our economy isn't working the way it should because our democracy isn't working the way it should.

    That's why we need to appoint Supreme Court justices who will get money out of politics and expand voting rights, not restrict them. And if necessary we'll pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United!

    I believe American corporations that have gotten so much from our country should be just as patriotic in return. Many of them are. But too many aren't. It's wrong to take tax breaks with one hand and give out pink slips with the other.

    And I believe Wall Street can never, ever be allowed to wreck Main Street again.I believe in scienceI believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs.

    I believe that when we have millions of hardworking immigrants contributing to our economy, it would be self-defeating and inhumane to try to kick them out. Comprehensive immigration reform will grow our economy and keep families together - and it's the right thing to do.

    Whatever party you belong to, or if you belong to no party at all, if you share these beliefs, this is your campaign.  

    If you believe that companies should share profits, not pad executive bonuses, join us.  If you believe the minimum wage should be a living wage and no one working full time should have to raise their children in poverty… join us.

    If you believe that every man, woman, and child in America has the right to affordable health care…join us. If you believe that we should say “no” to unfair trade deals... that we should stand up to China... that we should support our steelworkers and autoworkers and homegrown manufacturers…join us.  

    If you believe we should expand Social Security and protect a woman's right to make her own health care decisions… join us.  

    And yes, if you believe that your working mother, wife, sister, or daughter deserves equal pay… join us...  Let's make sure this economy works for everyone, not just those at the top.

    Now, you didn't hear any of this from Donald Trump at his convention.   He spoke for 70-odd minutes – and I do mean odd.  And he offered zero solutions.

    But we already know he doesn't believe these things.  No wonder he doesn't like talking about his plans. You might have noticed, I love talking about mine.

    In my first 100 days, we will work with both parties to pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.  Jobs in manufacturing, clean energy, technology and innovation, small business, and infrastructure.

    If we invest in infrastructure now, we'll not only create jobs today, but lay the foundation for the jobs of the future. And we will transform the way we prepare our young people for those jobs.

    Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all!   We will also liberate millions of people who already have student debt.

    It's just not right that Donald Trump can ignore his debts, but students and families can't refinance theirs. 

    And here's something we don't say often enough: College is crucial, but a four-year degree should not be the only path to a good job. 

    We're going to help more people learn a skill or practice a trade and make a good living doing it.  We're going to give small businesses a boost.  Make it easier to get credit. Way too many dreams die in the parking lots of banks.

    In America, if you can dream it, you should be able to build it.  We're going to help you balance family and work.  And you know what, if fighting for affordable child care and paid family leave is playing the “woman card,” then Deal Me In!

    Now, here's the thing, we're not only going to make all these investments, we're going to pay for every single one of them. And here's how: Wall Street, corporations, and the super-rich are going to start paying their fair share of taxes.

    Not because we resent success. Because when more than 90% of the gains have gone to the top 1%, that's where the money is. And we are going to follow the money. And if companies take tax breaks and then ship jobs overseas, we'll make them pay us back. And we'll put that money to work where it belongs … creating jobs here at home!

    Now I know some of you are sitting at home thinking, well that all sounds pretty good. But how are you going to get it done?  How are you going to break through the gridlock in Washington?

    Look at my record.  I’ve worked across the aisle to pass laws and treaties and to launch new programs that help millions of people.  And if you give me thechance, that’s what I’ll do as President.

    But Trump, he's a businessman.  He must know something about the economy. 

    Well, let's take a closer look.  In Atlantic City, 60 miles from here, you'll find contractors and small businesses who lost everything because Donald Trump refused to pay his bills. Now remember what the President said last night -- don't boo, vote.

    People who did the work and needed the money, and didn't get it – not because he couldn't pay them, but because he wouldn't pay them. He just stiffed them.That sales pitch he's making to be your president? Put your faith in him – and you'll win big?  That's the same sales pitch he made to all those small businesses.

    Then Trump walked away, and left working people holding the bag.

    He also talks a big game about putting America First. Please explain to me what part of America First leads him to make Trump ties in China, not Colorado. Trump suits in Mexico, not Michigan. Trump furniture in Turkey, not Ohio. Trump picture frames in India, not Wisconsin.

    Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again – well, he could start by actually making things in America again.

    The choice we face is just as stark when it comes to our national security. Anyone reading the news can see the threats and turbulence we face.

    From Baghdad and Kabul, to Nice and Paris and Brussels, to San Bernardino and Orlando, we're dealing with determined enemies that must be defeated. No wonder people are anxious and looking for reassurance. Looking for steady leadership.

    You want a leader who understands we are stronger when we work with our allies around the world and care for our veterans here at home. Keeping our nation safe and honoring the people who do it will be my highest priority. I'm proud that we put a lid on Iran's nuclear program without firing a single shot – now we have to enforce it, and keep supporting Israel's security. I'm proud that we shaped a global climate agreement – now we have to hold every country accountable to their commitments, including ourselves. I'm proud to stand by our allies in NATO against any threat they face, including from Russia. I've laid out my strategy for defeating ISIS.

    We will strike their sanctuaries from the air, and support local forces taking them out on the ground. We will surge our intelligence so that we detect and prevent attacks bef

  • Puerto Rico will get debt relief deal from Washington D.C.

     The Senate has passed a financial rescue package for debt-stricken Puerto Rico, the House has already voted on the bill and now the legislation head to President Barack Obama. The President backs the bill and will sign it.

    The vote was 68-30 on June 29, 2-18 - just two days before the island owes a $2 billion debt payment to creditors. How the island got into debt to such a degree has a lot to do with banking back door deals that only benifited the 1 percent. 

    The White House and congressional leaders in both parties had warned that without help from Washington, Puerto Rico will descend into economic chaos, with signs already pointing to a humanitarian crisis.

  • Clinton's huge victory in Virgin Islands, with 84.2 percent of the vote moves her closer to Democratic nomination

    Hillary Clinton in Maine, September 18, 2016

    Photo and article by Ramona du Houx

    Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's huge victory in Virgin Islands, with 84.2 percent of the vote moves her closer to Democratic nomination, picking up 6 of the territory’s 7 pledged delegates at stake.

    She is now about 60 delegates short of the 2,383 needed to advance to the November general election.

    The Virgin Islands is one of five U.S. territories that casts votes in primaries and caucuses to decide the nominee, even though those residents aren’t eligible to vote in November. While its pool of 7 delegates is small, the island chain took on more importance as Clinton gets closer to clinching the nomination.

    Earlier this month, former President Bill Clinton campaigned for Hillary in the Virgin Islands while Sanders went to Puerto Rico, which has 60 delegates at stake in a primary June 7, 2016.

    According to the associated press, Clinton now has 1,775 delegates to Sanders’ 1,502, based on primaries and caucuses. When including superdelegates, Clinton’s lead is substantial – 2,322 to Sanders’ 1,548. It takes 2,383 to win.

    Six states including New Jersey and California will vote on Tuesday, with 694 delegates up for grabs. The District of Columbia is the last to vote on June 14.

  • Congress should confirm Obama's choice for the Supreme Court - Sen. George Mitchell

    Editorital by Former U.S.Senator George Mitchell

    Sen. Mitchell photo by Ramona du Houx


    Controversy over U.S. Supreme Court nominees is nothing new. What we are seeing from Senate Republicans today, however, is what Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe correctly describes as an “unprecedented” and “shameful abdication of their constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on filling this Supreme Court vacancy.” Never in recent memory has the Senate majority attempted to object not only to a particular nominee but also to the president’s constitutional responsibility to fill a vacancy on the high court.

    During my time serving the people of Maine in the U.S. Senate, I had the privilege and responsibility of participating in the confirmation process for eight associate justice nominees. I voted to confirm six of these nominees, including four nominated by Republican presidents. In each case, the nominee received meetings with senators, a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee and an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

    When I was serving as Senate majority leader in 1991, leading a Democratic majority larger than the one held today by Republicans, President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to replace Thurgood Marshall. Within two months of receiving the nomination, the Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings. Despite the immense and lasting controversy that ensued, the nomination was reported out of the committee.

    There were 48 senators who were opposed to the nomination. We could have prevented Thomas from being confirmed by using a filibuster to prevent a vote on his nomination. I was urged to do so by many outside groups and several of my colleagues. I refused and decided Thomas should get a vote. He prevailed 52-to-48. We could have denied him a vote and a seat on the Supreme Court, but we insisted on doing the right thing.

    We hoped to reverse the dangerous downward spiral in the Senate’s handling of Supreme Court nominees, in which both parties had participated. Unfortunately, our hopes were not realized. The downward spiral has continued and has reached a new low in the reaction of most Republican senators to President Barack Obama’s nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland.

    A substantial majority of Americans reject the arguments Senate Republicans have put forward to justify their unprecedented blockade of the president’s unquestionably well-qualified and highly regarded nominee. They claim we have to ignore the urgent need to fill this vacancy until the people can decide. Well, the people have decided. Nearly 66 million Americans voted to re-elect Barack Obama in 2012. They believed they were getting a full vote, not three-fourths of a vote. And Obama got a full term, not three-fourths of a term.

    None of the Republican senators up for re-election this year who support this blockade have argued that they should recuse themselves from participation in other Senate business until the people can decide, nor should they. They should do their jobs by fulfilling their constitutional responsibility to consider and vote on the president’s nominee.

    I commend Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who has agreed to meet with Garland. Her Republican colleagues should join her and agree to hold hearings and an up-or-down vote on Garland.

    Just about everybody in this country, including the Republican members of the Senate, knows that the right thing to do is to hold a hearing and to permit a vote on the president’s nomination. I hope the senators will rise to the occasion, as other senators have done in the past.

    George J. Mitchell represented Maine in the U.S. Senate for 15 years, including six as majority leader. He later led Northern Ireland peace negotiations and chaired the International Fact Finding Committee on Violence in the Middle East. This OpEd first appeared in The Boston Globe.

  • Global warming might be causing marine diseases to spread

    One well-documented example is the emergence of epizootic shell disease in American lobsters.

    Global climate change is altering the world’s oceans in many ways. Some impacts have received wide coverage, such as shrinking Arctic sea ice, rising sea levels and ocean warming. However, as the oceans warm, marine scientists are observing other forms of damage.

    My research focuses on diseases in marine ecosystems. Humans, animals and plants are all susceptible to diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. Marine diseases, however, are an emerging field.

    Infectious agents have the potential to alter ocean life in many ways. Some threaten our food security by attacking important commercial species, such assalmon. Others, such as bacteria in oysters, may directly harm human health. Still others damage valuable marine ecosystems – most notably coral reefs.

    To anticipate these potential problems, we need a better understanding of marine diseases and how climate change affects their emergence and spread.

    Warming waters promote marine diseases

    Recent studies show that for some marine species diseases are spreading and increasingClimate change may also promote the spread of infectious agents in oceans. Notably, warming water temperatures can expand these agents’ ranges and introduce diseases to areas where they were previously unknown.

    Many diseases of marine species are secondary opportunist infections that take advantage when a host organism is stressed by other conditions, such as changes in pH, salinity or temperature. A bacterium that is dormant (and therefore noninfective) at a certain temperature may thrive at a slightly higher temperature.

    One well-documented example is the emergence of epizootic shell disease (ESD) in American lobsters. This disease, thought to be caused by bacteria, is characterized by lesions that penetrate inward from a lobster’s shell surface towards the inner flesh, making infected lobsters unmarketable. ESD can also kill lobsters by making it difficult for them to shed their shells in order to grow.

    In the 1990s, following almost a decade of above-normal summer temperatures, ESD affected so many lobsters that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission declared that the Southern New England fishery (Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island) was in collapse and recommended closing it.

    Fishery models that incorporated shell disease offered convincing evidence that ESD was a major factor in the decline of the stock. This episode underscores the importance of considering marine diseases in stock assessments and fishery management.

    Now there are concerns that ESD will continue to spread north to Maine’s $465.9 million lobster fishery. In 2015 the Gulf of Maine showed record high abundances of lobster, making it one of the most productive fisheries in the world.

    However, sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine have increased faster than 99 percent of the global ocean over the past decade, warming three times faster than the global average. Since temperature is a primary factor in the spread of this disease, observers fear that it could have devastating effects on Maine’s lobster fishery.

    There is also a risk that ESD could spread from American lobsters to other fisheries. Seafood wholesalers have imported live American lobsters into Europe for decades, which can result in their escape into the wild. Last summer the United Kingdom’s Marine Management Organization warned U.K. fishermen that because the European lobster shares similar habitats, food sources and diseases with the American lobster, ESD could spread between the species.

    As a doctoral student at Swansea University, U.K., I collaborated with the New England Aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts to investigate this possibility. While we found that European lobsters were more likely to develop shell disease when reared in the presence of American lobsters, on the positive side, they don’t seem to get the same shell disease as American lobsters.

    This means that European lobsters may be better equipped to deal with outbreaks of ESD. But with sea surface temperatures in U.K. coastal waters rising since the 1980s by around 0.2-0.9 degrees Celsius per decade, it is important to monitor U.K. waters for this disease.

    Tropical disease

    Now I am now studying the Panuliris argus_1 virus (PaV1) in the Caribbean spiny lobster, where the picture is more dire. Discovered around 2000, this virus is present from the Florida Keys to Venezuela. It can infect up to 60 percent of lobsters in some areas. Laboratory studies indicate that lobsters held in high-temperature seawater and exposed to PaV1 develop active and more intense infections much more quickly than those held at lower temperatures.

    Studies from 1982 to 2012 show that waters in the Caribbean are warming, with the most significant temperature increase occurring over the past 15 years – approximately the period when PaV1 appeared. If PaV1 continues to spread, it could have significant effects on the health of Caribbean reefs as a whole, as well as on the valuable Caribbean lobster fishery.

    Monitoring more diseases

    Many other species are also showing increasing effects from marine diseases. The frequency of coral diseases has increased significantly over the last 10 years, causing widespread mortality among reef-building coral, which are home to more than 25 percent of all marine fish species.

    In the Pacific, more than 20 species of sea stars were devastated by a wasting disease that ranged from Mexico all the way up to Alaska in 2013 and 2014. Research suggests that 90 percent of some populations were wiped out, and some adult populations have been reduced to a quarter of pre-outbreak numbers.

    Scientists believe the cause is a virus which becomes more active in warmer conditions. In both field surveys and laboratory experiments, starfish were found to react faster to the disease in warmer water than in cooler temperatures.

    As the oceans continue to warm, it is crucial to understand how our actions are affecting marine life. Some species will not be able to withstand the increase in temperature. The most recent U.S. National Climate Change Assessment projects that outbreaks of marine diseases are likely to increase in frequency and severity as waters warm under climate change. Researchers are working around the world to determine whether and how species will survive disease events in our increasingly altered oceans.

    Charlotte Eve Davies is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

  • 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

  • Maine's Former Senator George Mitchell is Grand Marshall of St. Paddy's NYC parade

    Maine's George Mitchell, a former U.S. senator who helped negotiate the 1998 Northern Ireland peace accord, participated in the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City on March 17th,  as grand marshal after organizers opened the event up to all openly LGBT marchers.

    “Peace, openness, inclusion, let’s all work together for a better future for people, Irish-Americans, all Americans, all people,” said Mitchell, 82, before the start of the parade.

    A true statesman, Mitchell who oversaw negotiations that led to the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland, won the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Liberty Medal. He served in the Senate from 1980 until 1995 and was later U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland and then for Middle East peace.

  • Male and female brain research points to humans as being not that different

    Aymann Ismail and Jane Hu at Slate, exhibit work done by researchers at Tel-Aviv University who analyzed more than 1,400 brain specimens searching for a real difference between male and female caranial.

    The reserachers looked at gray and white matter, and patterns of brain connectivity to try to isolate patterns specific to men and women.

    Turns out we're not so different as we culturally assume.

  • Don't say you won't vote for Hillary because people say she's not a progressive

    Have I mentioned lately how much I'm enjoying the lectures from self-avowed liberals who insist my respect for Hillary Clinton is proof that I am not a "real progressive"?

    PHOTO: Hillary Clinton pledging her full support for Barack Obama in the 2008 convention, asking all her supporters to back Obama's race for the White House, photo by Ramona du Houx

    It's not just men — my sisters, you disappoint me — but it's particularly entertaining when the reprimands come from young white men who were still braying for their blankies when I started getting paid to give my opinion. They popped out special, I guess.

    I became a columnist in the fall of 2002. Immediately, I found myself on the receiving end of right-wing vitriol so vile it made "The Sopranos" cuddly by comparison. My first death threats came within weeks, after I wrote that the Confederate flag should be retired. After I supported stronger gun control measures, an NRA zealot posted on a gun blog what he thought was my home address and identified me as "unarmed." I was a single mother at the time. I bought new locks and kept writing.

    But by all means, do tell me what I don't understand about being a progressive.

    First, though, let me tell you what you clearly don't understand about me.

    I am a 58-year-old wife, mother and grandmother, who first knew I was a feminist at 17. I was a waitress at a family restaurant and a local banker thought he could stick his hand up my skirt because my hands were full of dinner. In the time it took me to deposit that steaming pile of pasta onto his lap, I realized I was never going to be that girl.

    Like so many other women, I soon learned that knowing who you are is no small victory, but making it clear to the rest of the world is one of the hardest and longest nonpaying jobs a woman will ever have.

    It helped — it still helps — that my working-class parents raised me to be ready for the fight. My father was a union utility worker, my mother a nurse's aide. Both of them died in their 60s, living just long enough to see all of their children graduate from college and start their lives. I've said many times that my parents did the kind of work that wore their bodies out so that we would never have to. That, too, is my legacy.

    But, please, tell me again how I don't know what it means to be a progressive.

    Last month, I started teaching journalism at Kent State University. One of the first things I did was to lug to my office the large metal sign that used to hang over the tool shed at my father's plant. "THE BEST SAFETY DEVICE IS A CAREFUL MAN," it reads. Nice try, management.

    I'm stickin' with the union, Woody Guthrie sang.

    Every time I walk into my office, that sign is the first thing I see. Remember, it whispers.

    What does any of this have to do with why I admire Hillary Clinton? Nothing. But it has everything to do with why I don't need any lecture from somebody who thinks he or she is going to tell me who I am.

    One of the hallmarks of a progressive is a willingness to challenge a power structure that leaves too many people looking up and seeing the bottom of a boot. I want power for the people who don't have it. And for the rest of my conscious days, I will do my small part to help get it. I love it when detractors describe Clinton as too angry and not "warm and fuzzy" enough. I want a leader, not a Pooh Bear.

    I don't want to diminish anyone who supports Bernie Sanders. I'm married to Sanders' colleague, Sen. Sherrod Brown, which is how I've gotten to know him during the past 10 years. He's a good man.

    If you support Sanders in this Democratic presidential primary, I don't assume that you hate women.

    See how that works?

    But if you tell me that, should Sanders lose, you won't vote for Hillary Clinton, then stop calling yourself a liberal or a progressive or anything other than someone invested in just getting your way.

    There is so much at stake here. The fight for women's reproductive rights is not a sporting event. Our cities are rife with racial tensions, and too few of us white Americans fail to see this as our problem, too. The Affordable Care Act is not enough, but it is the first fragile steps toward universal health care. It is already saving lives of people who had nothing — no health care, no safety net, nothing — before it passed.

    Finally, the growing gulf between the obscenely privileged and everyone else is a reason to get out of bed every morning — if we care about the future of the people we are supposed to be fighting for.

    If you would sacrifice those who need us most because you didn't get your way, then please, save me your lectures and get out of my way.

  • Ocean expedition, with Maine scientist, recovers mantle rocks with signs of life

    The expedition set off from Southampton, UK, on October 26, 2015, aboard the Royal Research Vessel James Cook

    By Ramona du Houx

    An international team of scientists – recently returned from a 47-day research expedition to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – have collected an unprecedented sequence of rock samples from the shallow mantle of the ocean crust that bear signs of life, unique carbon cycling, and ocean crust movement. 

    The expedition was led by Co-Chief Scientists Dr. Gretchen Früh-Green of Switzerland, and Dr. Beth Orcutt of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, in Maine. The team collected these unique rock samples using seabed rock drills from Germany and the UK – the first time ever- that such technology has been utilized. These rock drills have new technologies to enable scientists to detect signs of life in the rock samples.

    "During drilling, we found evidence for hydrogen and methane in our samples, which microbes can 'eat' to grow and form new cells," explained Beth Orcutt, Co-Chief Scientist from Bigelow Laboratory, (photo). "Similar rocks and gases are found on other planets, so by studying how life exists in such harsh conditions deep below the seafloor, we inform the search for life elsewhere in the Universe."

    The expedition scientists want to determine how mantle rocks are brought to the seafloor and react with seawater – such reactions may fuel life in the absence of sunlight, which may be how life developed early in Earth’s history, or on other planets.

    The team also wanted to learn more about what happens to carbon during the reactions between the rocks and the seawater – processes that could impact on climate by sequestering carbon.

    "The rocks collected on the expedition provide unique records of deep processes that formed the Atlantis Massif. We will also gain valuable insight into how these rocks react with circulating seawater at the seafloor during a process we call serpentinization and its consequences for chemical cycles and life," stated expedition Co-Chief Scientist Gretchen Früh-Green.

    The scientists were part of the International Ocean Discovery Program Expedition 357, conducted by the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling, as part of the IODP. 

    The expedition set off from Southampton, UK, on October 26, 2015, aboard the Royal Research Vessel James Cook  and returned on December 11, 2015. They brought were equipped with the Rock Drill 2 from the British Geological Survey and the MeBo rock drill from MARUM in Bremen, Germany, for around-the-clock operations to collect rock cores from the Atlantis Massif, a 4,000-m tall underwater mountain along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. 

    During the past two weeks, the science party has been studying the rock samples in detail at the IODP Bremen Core Repository in Bremen, Germany. 

    The science party consisted of 31 scientists (16 female/15 male) from 13 different countries (Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, UK, USA), ranging from students to tenured professors. 

  • Clinton/Sanders/O'Malley tonight in town hall

    With just a week left until the Iowa caucuses, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley will make their closing arguments today, in a town hall hosted by the Iowa Democratic Party and Drake University and aired on CNN.

    The event, moderated by CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, will air from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET and comes as Clinton and Sanders are neck and neck in the polls.

  • 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. 

  • Bigelow Laboratory's Dr. Aeppli to determine how oil spill remains six years after Deepwater Horizon

    Dr. Christoph Aeppli from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences was awarded a grant to investigate the long-term fate and effects of petroleum released during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. For this project, which will last until the end of 2018, Aeppli teamed up with Ryan Rodgers of Florida State University and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 

    “During oil weathering, petroleum hydrocarbons are transformed into novel compounds,” said Dr. Aeppli, Bigelow Laboratory senior research scientist.  “Not much is currently know about these oil transformation products, but there are indications that they potentially have toxic effects."

    The three researchers will determine how the oil spilled from the Macondo Well weathered in the environment by using cutting-edge analytical methods. Specifically, they will investigate, how the chemical composition of oil has been altered in the environment over the past six years, and how marine organisms may be affected by these changes. 

    “I’ll be assessing how oil weathering changes its toxicity so that we can better understand how the oil spill affected the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. This work will help predict the fate and effect of oil, which will help inform and improve cleanup efforts in future spills,” Aeppli added.

    This award was one of 22 research projects funded for the 2016 – 2018 period by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to individuals and teams studying the effects of oil on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and public health. A total of $38 million was awarded to researchers to be spent over the next three years. For his part, Aeppli will receive $600,000 over three years to conduct his research.

     “The Research Board was impressed with the quality of the 288 applications received,” said Dr. Rita Colwell, Chairman of the GoMRI Research Board. “As is our practice, all proposals underwent a rigorous merit review process like that used by the National Science Foundation. This process has served us well, as demonstrated by the impressive array of research findings published in scientific journals by those researchers GoMRI has already funded. We are gaining an important understanding of how the Gulf of Mexico functions as an ecosystem and responds to large-scale environmental stresses like that caused by the tragic Macondo wellhead blowout.”

    The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative is an independent, 10-year research program established with a $500 million commitment from BP following the Deepwater Horizon incident. Twenty experts comprise a Research Board responsible for designing research programs, making funding decisions, and providing research and budget oversight.

    Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, an independent not-for-profit research institution on the coast of Maine, conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. Recognized as a leader in Maine’s emerging innovation economy, the Laboratory’s research, education, and enterprise programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state.

  • Portland, Maine citizens recognize the probable genocide in Brundi if a civil war happens

    These photos were taken by Jonathan Cooper on December 21, 2015 in Portland, Maine.

    By Ramona du Houx

    On December 21st in Portland, Maine, citizens rallied to support possible UN action to save Brundi from committing atrocities.

    African leaders promised to prevent a “genocide” this month in Burundi as the United Nations gave warning that the country was “on the very cusp” of civil war.

     President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to prolong his rule by rewriting the constitution in April and launched a ruthless campaign to suppress his opponents. Scores of bodies dumped in the streets of the capital, Bujumbura. 

    Burundi shares the same ethnic balance as neighbouring Rwanda, where the Hutu majority tried to wipe out the Tutsi minority in 1994--800,000 lives were lost in that conflict. The African Union, an alliance of all 53 countries on the continent, promised that these events would not be repeated. 

    But there is no agreement over how to respond to Burundi’s crisis. African leaders have offered to mediate peace talks, but Mr Nkurunziza has refused to negotiate.

    The United Nations Security Council is considering whether to deploy peacekeeping troops, but no final decision has been taken.

    Already, some 220,000 refugees have fled to neighbouring states.

  • Paris climate change agreement: "A turning point for the world"

    The full statement from President Barack Obama on the Paris climate change deal agreed to by close to 200 nations. 

    5:30 P.M. EST, December 12, 2015

    THE PRESIDENT:  In my first inaugural address, I committed this country to the tireless task of combating climate change and protecting this planet for future generations. 

    Two weeks ago, in Paris, I said before the world that we needed a strong global agreement to accomplish this goal -- an enduring agreement that reduces global carbon pollution and sets the world on a course to a low-carbon future. 

    A few hours ago, we succeeded.  We came together around the strong agreement the world needed.  We met the moment.

    I want to commend President Hollande and Secretary General Ban for their leadership and for hosting such a successful summit, and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius for presiding with patience and resolve.  And I want to give a special thanks to Secretary John Kerry, my Senior Advisor Brian Deese, our chief negotiator Todd Stern, and everyone on their teams for their outstanding work and for making America proud.

    I also want to thank the people of nearly 200 nations -- large and small, developed and developing -- for working together to confront a threat to the people of all nations.  Together, we’ve shown what’s possible when the world stands as one.

    Today, the American people can be proud -- because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership.  Over the past seven years, we’ve transformed the United States into the global leader in fighting climate change.  In 2009, we helped salvage a chaotic Copenhagen Summit and established the principle that all countries had a role to play in combating climate change.  We then led by example, with historic investments in growing industries like wind and solar, creating a new and steady stream of middle-class jobs.  We’ve set the first-ever nationwide standards to limit the amount of carbon pollution power plants can dump into the air our children breathe.  From Alaska to the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains, we’ve partnered with local leaders who are working to help their communities protect themselves from some of the most immediate impacts of a changing climate.   

    Now, skeptics said these actions would kill jobs.  Instead, we’ve seen the longest streak of private-sector job creation in our history.  We’ve driven our economic output to all-time highs while driving our carbon pollution down to its lowest level in nearly two decades.  And then, with our historic joint announcement with China last year, we showed it was possible to bridge the old divides between developed and developing nations that had stymied global progress for so long.  That accomplishment encouraged dozens and dozens of other nations to set their own ambitious climate targets.  And that was the foundation for success in Paris.  Because no nation, not even one as powerful as ours, can solve this challenge alone.  And no country, no matter how small, can sit on the sidelines.  All of us had to solve it together. 

    Now, no agreement is perfect, including this one.  Negotiations that involve nearly 200 nations are always challenging.  Even if all the initial targets set in Paris are met, we’ll only be part of the way there when it comes to reducing carbon from the atmosphere.  So we cannot be complacent because of today’s agreement.  The problem is not solved because of this accord.  But make no mistake, the Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis.  It creates the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way. 

    This agreement is ambitious, with every nation setting and committing to their own specific targets, even as we take into account differences among nations.  We’ll have a strong system of transparency, including periodic reviews and independent assessments, to help hold every country accountable for meeting its commitments.  As technology advances, this agreement allows progress to pave the way for even more ambitious targets over time.  And we have secured a broader commitment to support the most vulnerable countries as they pursue cleaner economic growth.

     In short, this agreement will mean less of the carbon pollution that threatens our planet, and more of the jobs and economic growth driven by low-carbon investment.  Full implementation of this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change, and will pave the way for even more progress, in successive stages, over the coming years.

    Moreover, this agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is firmly committed to a low-carbon future.  And that has the potential to unleash investment and innovation in clean energy at a scale we have never seen before.  The targets we’ve set are bold.  And by empowering businesses, scientists, engineers, workers, and the private sector -- investors -- to work together, this agreement represents the best chance we’ve had to save the one planet that we’ve got.  

    So I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world. 

    We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge.  It won’t be easy.  Progress won’t always come quick.  We cannot be complacent.  While our generation will see some of the benefits of building a clean energy economy -- jobs created and money saved -- we may not live to see the full realization of our achievement.  But that’s okay.  What matters is that today we can be more confident that this planet is going to be in better shape for the next generation.  And that’s what I care about. 

    I imagine taking my grandkids, if I’m lucky enough to have some, to the park someday, and holding their hands, and hearing their laughter, and watching a quiet sunset, all the while knowing that our work today prevented an alternate future that could have been grim; that our work, here and now, gave future generations cleaner air, and cleaner water, and a more sustainable planet.  And what could be more important than that? 

    Today, thanks to strong, principled, American leadership, that’s the world that we’ll leave to our children -- a world that is safer and more secure, more prosperous, and more free.  And that is our most important mission in our short time here on this Earth. 

     

  • Paris Climate Change summit opens with Pres. Obama's call for action

    President Barack Obama will be in Paris at the Climate Change summit to help guide nations on this issue. He said that last year carbon emissions world wide did not grow, or diminish, while third world countries economies grew. This signaled that the world understands fighting climate change with new technologies also grows economies.

    Pres. Obama said, "old"arguments for inaction on (climate change) had been broken... I come here personally as the leader of world’s biggest economy and second biggest emitter to say that America not only acknowledges its role in climate change but embraces doing something about it," said Pres. Obama during the opening session of a United Nations conference attended by 196 nations, he said the "old" arguments for inaction on (climate change) had been broken.

    Some 151 world leaders converged on the exhibition halls at Le Bourget Airport just outside the French capital to attend the summit.

    For the first time in history, we have a chance to put in place a global climate agreement that will spur countries to take ambitious action that will reduce carbon pollution, support clean energy, and ensure we deliver a planet that is worthy of future generations.

  • Obama's Thanksgiving message reminds us all of U.S. tradition of accepting refugees

    President Barack Obama mentioned letters he has recieved from Americans who want to open their doors to Syrian refugees in his weekly radio address and said, “so much of our greatness comes from our generosity.”

    The President noted his commitment to accept an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees this year and reminded people that the policy is a U.S. tradition.

    “Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims,” he said, “men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families. What makes America America is that we offer that chance.”

    “Now, people should remember that no refugee can enter our borders until they undergo the highest security checks of anyone traveling to the United States,” said the President. “That was the case before Paris, and it’s the case now. And what happened in Paris hasn’t stopped Americans from opening their arms anyway.”

    “We turn Lady Liberty’s light to the world, and widen our circle of concern to say that all God’s children are worthy of our compassion and care,” the president said. “That’s part of what makes this the greatest country on Earth.”

  • Panic Time Again by Neil Rolde

    Editorial By Neil Rolde

    In my last BLOG, which dealt with refugees and was posted well before the ISIS atrocities in Paris, I predicted the reaction in Congress to support for Syrian refugees. The exact words of my final sentence were: “One can read the handwriting on the wall for any substantial help for the Syrians while this Congress is in office.”

    I stick by my prediction even though the initial thrust now post-Paris is coming mostly from Republican Governors, 29 of them to date who are barring Syrian refugees from their States and one Democrat Governor who has joined the pack. There may well be more as the current wave of hysteria is exploited.

    Interesting. These persons are undoubtedly all fervent supporters of the U.S. Constitution. But does the Constitution allow them to bar persons legally in the country to enter their States. Could they keep me out of Mississippi because I’m a Democrat? Don’t tell them. I was just there last spring.

    Historically speaking, the same canard that was used post 1933 and Hitler’s taking power in Germany to keep Jewish victims of the Nazis out of the U.S. is now once more in play. Spies and saboteurs would sneak in among the persecuted. Or the genuine persecuted among us would be blackmailed into helping the bad guys out of fear for their relatives still overseas. No better let the Jews and anti-Nazis be pushed around. After the gas chambers and crematoria were discovered, some apologies were offered.

    Will that become the case in the future after this slamming of doors in the face of the Syrians is seen in retrospect? One can – and no doubt will – argue there is a difference here – these are terrorists, cold-blooded killers, and can wreak havoc – and cited will be the havoc that eight radical Islamists have wrought in my beloved Paris.

    How did the French react? They went to the cafes in defiance. No panic. True, the anti-immigrant forces may be strengthened and we might see that in the next elections. But France’s heritage as a bastion of Liberty will survive as it did the crypto-fascism of Vichy during World War II.

    The U.S. heritage is also – at least after the end of slavery in 1865 – that of a bastion of Liberty. Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933, when we Americans were having a panic attack and Hitler imitators could hold a rally in Madison Square Garden, wisely said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

    If we are afraid our security forces, which cost us billions, can’t handle the situation then indeed we are wasting money.

    Oh, by the way, in the 1930’s and 1940’s, when the word was out that Jews in this country would spy and sabotage for the Nazis to save their relatives, the FBI was asked if they had any cases. They said Yes – they knew of two instances – but that was out of half a million refugees we did take in.

    In our panic subsequently after Pearl Harbor, we put thousands of Japanese into internment camps. (photo below) Eventually the young men imprisoned there went to fight for our and their country, not in the Pacific but in Europe where the Nisei proved to be among the fiercest and most successful of our fighting units. We were not very proud of what we did to these people just as we will not be very proud in the future of what we seem poised to do in the case of the Syrians or even, if some loudmouths have their way, all Moslem-Americans.

    Admittedly, we do panic and we do make mistakes that we rue afterward and innocent people do suffer. But our history has shown that demagogues come and go over here.

    We should not, and must not, give the fanatical power-seeking Muslim terrorist killers and those behind them a victory.    

  • Vive La France - messages of love, peace and commitment to the French

    Jean Jullien, a French graphic designer who currently lives in London, tweeted these images out shortly after the attacks, with the simple message “Peace for Paris,” and it spread quickly. 

    In the wake of the horrifying terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015 that claimed at least 127 lives, many took to social media to express their condolences and concern for the people of the French capital with images like this peace sign with an Eiffel Tower in the center.

    "Once again we've seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. This is an attack not just on Paris, it's an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share," said President Barack Obama.

    "We will stand together. We will never bow. We will never break. That’s the character of our two nations. We are bound by timeless democratic values that the cowardice and perverse ideologues of extremist networks can never match, wherever they are. Such savagery can never threaten who we are. We will respond. We will overcome. We will endure," stated Vice President Biden.

    The French spirit is strong, as shown by the French Resistence during WWII. Those brave souls fighting for their freedom, their democracy, played a huge part in winning that War with the intellegance they gathered, and putting their lives on the line.

    "Paris itself represents the timeless values of human progress. Those who think that they can terrorize the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong. The American people draw strength from the French people’s commitment to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. We are reminded in this time of tragedy that the bonds of liberté and égalité and fraternité are not only values that the French people care so deeply about, but they are values that we share. And those values are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism or the hateful vision of those who perpetrated the crimes this evening," said Obama.

    "We’re going to do whatever it takes to work with the French people and with nations around the world to bring these terrorists to justice, and to go after any terrorist networks that go after our people."

    Congresswomen Chellie Pingree said, "France is our oldest and one of our closest allies. Our hearts are with the French people and we will stand with them as a nation."

    When the Germans first occupied France in WWII Winston Churchill made a radio address, "Gather Strength for the Morning."  This is how it ends:

    "Good night, then. Sleep to gather strength for the morning, for the morning will come. Brightly will it shine on the brave and true; kindly upon all who suffer for the cause; glorious upon the tombs of heroes—thus will shine the dawn.

    "Vive la France! Long live, also, the forward march of the common people in all the lands toward their just and true inheritance and toward the broader and fuller age."

  • 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.

  • Augusta's Clukey to pursue 2018 Olympic luge team

    Former U.S. Olympian Julia Clukey, from Augusta, hopes to continue in the sport through the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

    The 30-year-old Clukey announced her goal of competing in the 2018 Winter Games Monday morning in Augusta in conjunction with her as host of Julia Clukey’s Camp for Girls in Readfield each summer in cooperation with the Kennebec Valley YMCA.

    Clukey has been a competitive luger for the last 17 years and in 2010 finished 17th in the women’s singles final at the Vancouver Olympics. During that Olympics her fellow teamate, Seth Wescott, won his second Olympic gold medal.

    Four years later, she missed qualifying for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, by 0.013 seconds in the final qualifying race for the U.S. luge team at Park City, Utah. Wescott missed those games due to an injury. He too hopes to compete in 2018 in South Korea.

    Clukey also won the U.S. national championship in 2012 and has two silver medals in World Cup competition.

    Clukey finished 17th at the 2015 International Luge Federation world championships in Sigulda, Latvia, in February and is off to a fast start this season after winning her record eighth U.S. National Start Championship in September and topping the field at the Lillehammer Cup preseason race in Norway in October.

    Most recently Clukey placed fourth at Lake Placid, New York, in the first of two USA Luge Norton Seeding Races.

  • 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.

  • Huge victory for Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party in Canada- could USA liberals take back congress?

    Justin Trudeau swept into office with his Liberal Party in a surprise majority, and ousted ultra-conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It's the biggest comeback election victory in Canadian history.

    When Mr. Harper first announced that this year's general election campaign would be a record 78 days long, conventional wisdom was it would benefit the Conservatives, giving them more time to bring their financial advantages to bear. However, the lengthy campaign gave Mr. Trudeau an opportunity to introduce himself to Canadians and overcome Conservative attacks.

    Mr. Trudeau will now will pursue his platform including higher infrastructure spending and middle class tax cuts. Those will be financed by budget deficits of about C$25 billion ($19 billion) over three years and tax hikes on workers earning more than C$200,000. He’s also pledged to legalize marijuana, cancel the purchase of F-35 fighters, and be more assertive on climate change.

    His victory marks one of the biggest political rebounds in Canadian history. The Liberals gained 150 seats- the most  ever.

    American pundents are now asking could Liberal Democrats do the same in the US Congress?

    They understand that with Republican dominated re-districting it's a harder summit to mount but not impossible with the 2016 election for president and the wave of people fed up with Wall Street's influence in Congressional votes.

    Trudeau’s Liberal Patty swept Canada’s four Atlantic provinces including Harper’s hometown, for the first time since 1968, when Trudeau’s father won his first election.

  • Remember USA has NATO partners: Statement by Secretary General at the meeting of the North Atlantic Council

    Turkey's airspace, which is NATO airspace, was violated by Russia this last week and the Security Council will be meeting about that incursion as well as what is happening in Afghanistan. As the USA is called on to help around the world it is vital Americans remember we have NATO partnerships that help keep the peace worldwide.

    Doorstep statement by NATO Secretary General: 

    Good morning.

    We are facing many challenges from many different directions. Conflict. Instability and insecurity. And a refugee crisis which is a tragic result of the turmoil we see to our South. NATO is responding.

    We are implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. We have stood up the very high readiness task force. And we have stepped up our exercises. We have set up six small headquarters in Eastern Ally countries in Europe.

    Today I expect us to approve the establishment of two more such headquarters, in Hungary and Slovakia. They will ensure that, our forces can move quickly and effectively if they need to deploy.

    We will also give final approval to the military concept for the enhanced NATO Response Force – to make it bigger, faster and more capable.  Our military commanders have confirmed that we already have the capabilities and infrastructure that we need to deploy the NATO Response Force to the South. And to sustain it there. But we will also consider what more we might need to do. 

    We will assess what we have to do to adapt NATO to current and future challenges - from cyber, to hybrid, to a conventional attack.

    We will also address the situation in Syria and in Afghanistan. We will receive an update from our military commanders. In Syria, we have seen a troubling escalation of Russian military activities.  We will assess the latest developments and their implications for the security of the Alliance. This is particularly relevant in the view of the recent violations of NATO’s airspace by Russian aircraft. 

    On Afghanistan, we will look at the security situation. And we will discuss the way ahead for our Resolute Support Mission.

    Finally, we will meet the Defence Minister of Georgia. NATO and Georgia have made great strides in our partnership over the last year. We have opened a new training facility. And it has hosted its first exercise. Now we will look ahead to the coming year, and to further close cooperation between NATO and Georgia.

    And with that I’m ready to take your questions.

    BBC: Secretary General, Jonathan Marcus from the BBC, good morning.  The Alliance has already stressed its solidarity with Turkey over the incursions. Are we going to see more than just words? When Turkey was previously threatened you deployed Patriot surface-to-air missiles to the country. Are we likely to see an extension of that deployment or any other practical steps to reassure Ankara?

    Secretary General:  NATO is able and ready to defend all Allies, including Turkey against any threat. And one of the main reasons we have increased the readiness, the preparedness of our armed forces why we have doubled the size of the NATO Response Force, why we have established a very high readiness joint task force, why we have increased the efficiency of decision making. All of this is a response both to the challenges we see to the East but also to the challenges we see to the South. With the turmoil and the violence which we have seen in Syria and in Iraq. So NATO has already responded by increasing our capacity, our ability our preparedness to deploy forces, including to the South, including in Turkey, if needed. We are constantly assessing the situation also with the Turkish government, I met with the Turkish Foreign Minister just a couple of days ago and we will continue to stay in close contact with them, and constantly assess if there is need for something more.

    Reuters: Secretary General, will NATO extent its mission in Afghanistan due to the developments in Kunduz?

    Secretary General: We will assess the situation in Afghanistan and also the need for the NATO presence based on military advice. We will assess both the security situation and also the capacities and the capabilities of the Afghan national security forces. And based on those assessments we will make our decisions. We have not made the final decisions related to the duration of the Resolute Support Mission, nor the force levels or the geographical footprint of the Resolute Support Mission. But what is certain is that we will continue to support the Afghans, either through the Resolute Support Mission, which is a non-combat, train-advise-and assist mission. Or with a new enduring partnership which will be a combination of a civilian led mission but also with military elements. So what is certain is that we will continue to support the Afghans but we are constantly assessing in what form and in what way we will do that. In addition to helping the Afghan national security forces with advice and training we will also continue to fund the Afghan national army and security forces.

    ZDF: How will you react on the Russian intervention and which role will play Assad in the future?

    Secretary General: What we have seen is a strong, increased military presence of Russia in Syria. We have seen airstrikes, we have seen strikes from cruise missiles, we have seen incursions into Turkish airspace and of course all of this is, or are reasons for concern and we have expressed our concern and we have also stayed in very close contact with the Turkish government and I will also meet the Turkish defence ministerr later ontoday. And we will assess the situation in the meeting today. What we see is that there is a renewed need for political initiatives to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Because in the long term there is no military solution. It has to be an end to the fighting there has to be a political solution, a transition. And my concern is that the Russians are not mainly targeting ISIS but they are targeting other opposition groups and they are supporting the regime. And I call on Russia to play a constructive and cooperative role in the fight against ISIS. Not to continue to support the Assad regime. Because to support the regime is not a constructive contribution to a peaceful and lasting political solution in Syria.

  • On Refugees: Here we go again editorial by Neil Rolde

    By Neil Rolde

    I am in the midst of writing about a bit of forgotten American history in telling the story of the War Refugee Board, a U.S. Government Agency that from 1944 to the end of World War II worked to save refugees from within Nazi-occupied Europe.

    In effect, among the 200,000 people it rescued were mostly Jews facing a blanket condemnation to death by the Nazis for the mere fact of being Jewish but there were non-Jewish anti-Nazis helped as well.

    Today’s refugee crisis is different in various aspects but the principle remains the same. In this case, the victims are mainly the Moslem citizens of Syria fleeing from their war-torn country by the millions. The doom they faced was not as definitely defined for them as it was by the Nazis for the Jews but death is death whether inflicted from poison gas deliberately or haphazardly from bursting bombs, exploding shells or flying bullets.

    Now as then, there are bottlenecks. Compassion fades pretty quickly when the numbers overwhelm like these days and fast zoom to become intolerable. Presently, European countries who have been generous to those in trouble who are mostly NOT of their religion have reached a point of donor fatigue. Borders are closing against the latest arrivals.

    The United States before and during World War II took in relatively few refugees who did not meet the highly restrictive qualifications of the 1924 Johnson-Reed Immigration Act. This piece of legislation essentially closed America’s doors to all but northern Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic Europeans. In contrast, the Obama Administration has just announced its willingness to absorb upwards of 100,000 safety seekers.

    The previous cap was 70,000 migrants allowed annually. Secretary of State John Kerry has announced this would be increased to 85,000 next year and 100,000 in 2017.

    Kerry made the announcement at a news conference in Berlin with Germany’s Foreign Minister by his side. Another difference with the handling of the World War II situation was perhaps the selection of this site, emphasizing the new role of Germany as an asylum, not a place for unwanted minorities to flee from for their lives. We all know that in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the Germans were in the process of creating that horror that exploded in the by the 1940’s and took 50 million lives. Early in this current crisis, the U.S. had planned to take only 10,000 of the escapees. To date, the actual number taken in has been 1,500.

    The problem the Obama administration faces is a Republican Congress that is seemingly adamantly anti-immigrant and we have even witnesses one of the contenders for the GOP presidential nomination contend that Mexican immigrants are mainly rapists and murderers. These are mostly Syrians, not Mexicans, and we haven’t heard yet from Donald Trump, the current leader in the Republican contender’s pack, on the Obama’s intention to increase the inflow from the Middle East.

    The same argument that helped to stifle immigration into the U.S. prior to and during World War II – i.e. that spies would be inserted in their numbers, has raised its ugly head once more.

    Even in discussions about the 10,000 Syrians originally proposed, the chattering was that they would include terrorist enemies in their ranks.

    One can read the handwriting on the wall for any substantial help for the Syrians while this Congress is in office.

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