Emotions ran high in Augusta Wednesday during a day-long public hearing on a bill that would legalize same sex marriage.While most bills are heard at the state house, this one had to be moved to the civic center to accommodate the thousands of people who wanted to be heard.The debate has begun with voices from both sides speaking loud and clear.The bill’s sponsor, Senator Dennis Damon, spoke first. “Live and let live.”Followed by a standing ovation.But it wasn’t long before opponents had their say. “Parenting will no longer exist. Now I know I’m simply a farm boy from central Maine, but I learned many years ago that children don’t happen without a mom and dad.” Said state representative Phil Curtis.While some say family tradition will be lost to government if the same sex marriage law passes, others say killing the bill would deny civil rights just as history has to minorities. “I remember 40 years ago even people in Maine told us it was wrong to get married.” Said NAACP member Bob Talbot. “Blacks and whites should never marry, people say the same thing today about gay and lesbians. It was wrong 40 years ago, it’s wrong now!”With seating for 4,000, the auditorium filled up fast. Revealing a common theme, red, the color supporters of gay marriage wore to show their unity. But there were plenty of others representing those against the measure too.Pastor Bob Emrich says the foundation in which marriage is based on would be compromised if gay and lesbian couples were allowed to wed. “What we’re concerned about is that this experiment with redefining marriage no one really knows the long term consequences. We don’t know what the impact would be on children.” Same-sex couples who have adopted children couldn’t disagree more. “That was hard for me to swallow, because when we came in we talked about love, family, and security. ‘Because he’s not living with a male and female he’s going to be a drug addict, he’s going to fail in school’ and that’s absurd, it’s fear.” Gay father Rodney Mondor said. “To say that kids absolutely need a mom and dad negates all the wonderful things single parents have done, divorcees, widows, and by us.” Added mother and former Bangor Humane Society director Bev Uhlenhake.Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont are the only states to allow same sex marriage. On Friday, gay and lesbian couples in Iowa will be given the same rights. This public hearing only marks the beginning of Maine’s debate with the issue which could take weeks or months to come to a decision on.
A law to promote alternative fuels is giving paper mills an unintended multibillion-dollar tax windfall.Paper companies discovered they qualify for federal tax credits because they use a byproduct in the paper-making process to power their mills.International Paper has received nearly $72 million in creditsfor a single month. Verso Paper got a nearly $30 million credit fora single mill in Maine for the fourth quarter of 2008.Congress offered firms 50 cents a gallon to blend renewable fuels like ethanol with traditional fossil fuels like diesel oil.When turning wood into pulp, paper mills produce a liquid substance called “black liquor” that is often used as fuel to power the mill.The tax credit, however, is only available to firms that produce a blend of renewable fuels and traditional fossil fuels. Late last year some paper companies realized they could qualify for the credit by adding small amounts of diesel to the black liquor used for powering their mills.Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is working on a bill that could end the credits for paper companies.
Some Bangor Hydro employees spent the day on Wednesday sprucing up a childcare facility in Bangor. It was part of their Earth Day celebration. They decided to clean up the yard around the Penquis Childcare Center on Venture Way.This is just one of their activities they have planned for the week. They are also holding an auction within the company of recycled and unused goods donated by employees, they’re asking employees to take a Green Pledge, and they have a recycled art contest for their workers.Kendra Overlock, member of Bangor Hydro’s Green Team says it’s part of the company mission to be as green as can be. “This gave us an opportunity to highlight that but we’ll be doing activities throughout the year to engage in the community and inside our company as well to be more environmentally friendly, more efficient with our resources. So it’s not just a one day event for us.” Overlock also says the company is trying to achieve L.E.E.D. Certification for their new facility on Illinois Avenue in Bangor. L.E.E.D. stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
Acadia National Park will get more 8-million dollars from the National Park Service.Senator Susan Collins says the money comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.It will be used to make repairs and improvements to the park.
One of three Colby College students arrested on Easter is challenging bail conditions that bar him from possessing alcohol and require that he submit to searches and testing for alcohol use or possession.22-year-old Ozzy Ramirez is charged with assault and criminal trespassing for allegedly trying to interfere with efforts to assist a student who was ill after a dance on campus. Ramirez’s attorney told the Morning Sentinel that the bail conditions violate his client’s fourth amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure. District Attorney Evert Fowle says the bail conditions are appropriate and that Ramirez’ drinking helped get him into trouble.
During these tough economic times people are finding it hard to even take care of life’s basic necessities – Like food and medicine – and still make the mortgage.For some, the bills just add up too fast – and lead to the devastation of foreclosure.Barbara McIntosh’s problems began years ago when she had to spend time in the hospital for a slew of medical issues – and couldn’t get health coverage. “Evidently I was deemed 27 dollars over the limit to get coverage so the hospital sued me.” explains McIntosh.To pay her medical bills McIntosh mortgaged her home.”My payment was 610 dollars and 98 cents and that was supposed to come out of 800 a month.”McIntosh couldn’t make the high payments.Her daughter Jamie says, “About a year ago she was served with papers by the sheriff, a foreclosure notice.”McIntosh’s story is a sad one, but it’s not the only of it’s kind.Larry Dansinger, a friend of McIntosh, says “When I looked in the registry of deeds for Waldo County the number of foreclosures doubled in two months from 16 to 32.”The Waldo County Sheriff says ten years ago having ten foreclosures in the county each year would have been a lot. The sheriff says in 2008 there were 180 foreclosures, and there have already been 80 in 2009 – a sure sign of tough times.”And if you extend that out to a whole year for a whole state, we maybe talking about 10 thousand foreclosures.” says Dansinger.And McIntosh says help is hard to find right now. “Trying to get help has been really really difficult because all of these social services, they’re so overworked.””It just seems like there’s so much red tape to go through to try to get any type of answers.” says her daugher.The mortgage company has given McIntosh until May first to leave the house. She’s not sure what she and her cats will do when that day comes.
Two people from Washington County were arrested on drug charges.48-year-old Gerald Perry is now charged with unlawful trafficking of schedule drugs.34-year-old Melissa Cox was charged with aggravated trafficking of schedule drugs.The Washington County Sherrif’s office along with agents from the Maine Drug Enforcement agency seized 42.5 grams of cocaine and over fifty pills worth over $900.Both are being held at the Washington County jail on $25,000 bail.
St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor honored hospital volunteers today.St. Joe’s hosted a luncheon. They presented certificates to those who donate their time to the hospital.The volunteers spend their time fundraising, assisting staff, caring for patients, and helping visitors.The volunteers say they often get more back than they give. Mary Ann Ruhrole, a volunteer, says “I feel wonderful when I leave. They cheer me up. I’ve always said I’ve had such a wonderful life, I have to give something back.”The hospital says the volunteers put in a combined total of more than 21,000 hours in 2008.They say if they had to pay for people to work those hours, it would cost the hospital more than $400,000.St. Joe’s says they truly are thankful for all that the volunteers do.
The University of Maine took Earth Day as an opportunity to educate their students on how to become greener.The University of Maine was all about the green Wednesday…going green that is. In honor of Earth Day UMaine had several events and presentations educating students on how they can help the environment. “Getting people to come out and realize that they can be active participants in improving UMaine’s environmental behavior and reducing our impact on the environment. There are certainly a lot of students, faculty, staff and everybody can do just in terms of day to day behavior.”One step UMaine is taking toward becoming greener is installing solar panels.Chris Straka is C.E.O. of the company installing the panels.He says this project has been in the works for several years but will be put into effect in the next sixty days. “What we’ve done here is to make a combined affordable solar unit that takes more advantage of the sun and available energy.”Various student organizations on campus also participated in the day’s festivities.UMaine’s Green Team had a display educating students on how much energy they use. “That is 123 cubic feet, turns out it fills up that entire box and that’s in oil and natural gas.”Green Team President Walter Lazarz says Earth Day is a great start in getting the message out but there is plenty more to be done. “Realistically it takes more work than one day, definitely a good thing in terms of convenient thing to do on one day so that people can come together and think about it.”
A group of parents from greater Bangor used Earth Day as an opportunity to teach their little ones about protecting the environment.They took the kids for a tour of the Wastewater Treatment Plant.The youngsters enjoyed it a lot more than you might think.When you’re only 3 or 4 years old, Earth Day usually doesn’t mean too much. But this group of parents really wanted to get their little ones thinking about what it takes to care for the planet. So they brought them for a tour of Bangor’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. “We don’t make water for drinking. We take the dirty water from people’s homes and make it clean again.”City employees gave the group a VIP tour of the place…starting with the salmon who live in a tank of treated city water in the building’s lobby. “This is what they eat. See those little pellets?”From there, it was on to the yucky stuff: magnified images of the good and bad bacteria found in water before it’s treated. “This is all bacteria that’s alive.” “Yucky bugs!” “I think they were pretty cool.” “Big bugs.” “I just saw a spider!” “Would you wanna drink the water that was in there?” “No.”As the tour progressed, even the Moms and Dads took away some new information. “The water they put out into the Penobscot is cleaner than the background water that’s there now so this process is helping our water.”Kathryn Ravenscraft is the mom of two young girls.She’s hoping her daughters take home some of the lessons they’ve learned today and put them into daily practice, now that they know how much work goes into cleaning the water they use every day. “Turn off the water when they’re not using it. Don’t stand there brushing your teeth with the water running, take a quick shower, just little things like that.”Ravenscraft is hoping more parents will introduce their kids to places like this. So the idea of conservation really hits home. “They were really excited to get kids in here, because they think it’s important, as I do, to start giving kids awareness now. We underestimate their capability to take that baton from us.” “Earth Day is an opportunity but it shouldn’t be the only day we take to explain these things to our kids.” “That it is about celebrating the environment and doing what we can to protect it and that this is part of that process.”
Still no arrests in any of the robberies that have taken place in Bangor over the past several days.Sergeant Jim Hodges of the Bangor Police says the investigations are underway, but no suspects are in custody.On Saturday evening, a woman was robbed at knifepoint in downtown Bangor.She wasn’t injured, but the suspect made off with her cash.On Monday, a man who said he had a weapon robbed the T-D Banknorth on Union Street.He also made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.Then on Monday night, a man was assaulted and robbed by two other men with whom he’d shared a taxi.The suspects punched the victim repeatedly, and stole several hundred dollars from his wallet.
Folks in Lincoln might have been wondering why there was crime scene tape at the boat landing on Rt. 2 from Sunday night into Monday.Lincoln Police Chief Bill Flagg says they received a call Sunday evening about smoke coming from the woods area of the landing.When they got there, police discovered what looked like copper wiring that had been burned.Flagg says he believes the wiring came from an industrial plant, and that the owners of the wiring might not know it was stolen.Anyone with any information about this incident is encouraged to call Lincoln Police at 794—2221.
Burglaries and robberies have been on the increase lately, and with that in mind, the Old Town Police Department is issuing a few words to help protect yourself.Sgt. Scott Casey says cars are an easy target for burglars.He says you can make things tougher on them by remembering to lock up your vehicle or removing all valuables inside.GPS units, cd players, MP3 players, cell phones and purses are all things often things left in plain view. They also make attractive targets for thieves.To read more about the concerns from the Old Town Police Department, you can visit their profile page on facebook.
Underage and binge drinking on college campuses aren’t new problems.However, in light of the publicity revolving around the alcohol related arrests of two Colby College students last week, pressure is being put on school officials to address the issue head on.One central maine college is getting students involved in hopes of finding a solution.It’s the coveted cup that students at Unity College strive for.”It’s really catching on fire, really working. surprisingly.” The Dean’s Cup was introduced last year as a way to build relationships between students, give them a sense of belonging, and reduce alcohol abuse on campus.”A lot of times people go to college and the way to get to know people is through drinking and partying so i feel it gave them a chance to socialize and connect with other people.” There are six teams representing the various dorms on campus. The goal is to get as many people involved from your hall to take part in activities that are scheduled throughout the month.”Dodgeball, baseball, or hotdog eating contests.” Some of the Dean’s Cup contests are evening events while others get students up at 8:00 a.m.on Sundays.20-year-old William Knight admits those early mornings may be a time many college kids would rather be sleeping or recovering from a hangover… but “Everyone was at the softball tournament. It was like the whole school was there and you’re noticing people for all the right reasons now and not the wrong ones.””Really it’s a multifaceted tact to keep students busy, involved and feel involved in their community and have a part in it.”Two years ago more than 60 alcohol related incidents were reported on Unity’s campus. Since September of last year, there have been twenty. Unity’s residence life director attributes the cup’s debut in cutting that number down, “We’re seeing a lot less of our students going to the hospital and that stuff.” Dean’s Cup shirts are given to every student encompassed by the words integrity, community, respect and environment.”We want them to make sure they keep these values in tact.”
A Waldoboro women is still in critical condition Tuesday after being attacked in her driveway Sunday. 32-year old Tracy Nield is in a Lewiston hospital suffering from a stab wound.Meanwhile, an autopsy was conducted Tuesday on the body of 27-year old Rachel Grindal of Waldoboro who was fatally stabbed during the same incident Sunday. An official from the medical examiner’s office in Augusta says the cause of death was from sharp force injuries to her neck and torso.State Police say the women were attacked as they were pulling up to Neild’s home in Waldoboro over the weekend. Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve Mccausland has said that detectives believe they’ve identified everyone who was involved but there have been no arrests.
A public hearing on allowing gay marriage in Maine has opened with a standing ovation for the bill’s sponsor.Sen. Dennis Damon received a roar of approval at a crowded hearing Wednesday when he said the time has come to recognize same-sex marriages.He says his proposal “recognizes the worth of every man and woman among us.” It is backed by 60 co-sponsors.Gay rights activists have set a goal of establishing same-sex marriage in all six New England states by 2012. They’re already halfway there.The bill’s prospects are uncertain in Maine. Gov. John Baldacci previously opposed the bill but now says he’s keeping an open mind.The Legislature’s Judiciary Committee takes up the proposal today in a daylong hearing at the Augusta Civic Center. Maine lawmakers eye the proposal two weeks after Vermont’s House overrode a gubernatorial veto to enact a bill. New Hampshire’s Senate is expected to take up a House-approved gay marriage bill by the end of April. Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa have been moved by courts to adopt same-sex marriage laws. Among those expected to testify at today’s hearing in Maine is Bishop Richard Malone of the Catholic Diocese of Portland, who opposes the bill. Gay couples and civil rights proponents are to speak for the bill.
Bangor Hydro has finished a project that makes their service to some customers more reliable.The Downeast area, including Hancock and Washington Counties, used to receive power through a single high voltage line.As part of the Downeast Reliability Project Bangor Hydro added a second line.It’s 14 miles long and runs from Ellsworth to Trenton. They also built a substation in Trenton.It’s been up and running since December. Representatives from Bangor Hydro say the second line will decrease the risk of the entire Downeast area losing power.Lisa Martin, Manager of Transmission Development for Bangor Hydro says, “The transmission line creates a second power source to the region so it should boost reliability of the power to this area and it should also create capacity for future load growth.” Bangor hydro says this project has been in the works for about 3 years, and construction took about a year.They say the local economy was helped by the construction, and while the project was going on, Bangor Hydo says they recieved a great deal of community support.
The Maine Attorney General’s Office is investigating possible wrongdoing by an investment fund.In fact, the Oppenheimer Core Bond Fund is the target of investigations in several parts of the country.That fund was part of 529 College Savings plans in five states, including Maine, and suffered losses much greater than anyone would have expected.”If I could just help in a little way, instead of getting them silly little trinket gifts, I’d rather put money towards their future.”In 2007 Kelly Cotiaux started 529 College Savings Accounts through Next Gen for her niece and nephew.Through the plan you get to choose among a list of funds to invest in. One of Kelly’s choices, the Oppenheimer Core Bond Fund. It was expected to be a conservative fund, with less risk.”I just had this pit in my stomach”But then a few months ago, Kelly discovered through on-line blogs that fund was being investigated for possible wrongdoing.”The returns were so far off the benchmark that we thought maybe something else was happening here that shouldn’t have been happening.”Elizabeth Bordowitz is the acting CEO for the Finance Authority of Maine. They oversee the Next Gen accounts. She says the unusual losses for the fund were discovered during a quarterly meeting last November. After an independent investment advisor looked into it, the Attorney General’s office was asked to investigate. “And it was really that concern that perhaps it was leveraged in a way that was inappropriate or perhaps illegal.”Meaning the fund might have had more debt than they told investors.That may have lead the fund to lose 38 percent of its value in 2008, and 10 percent in the first quarter of 2009. Much worse than a conservative investment would be expected to.Bordowitz points out that only 4 percent of Next Gen’s assets were in Oppenheimer Funds, far less than in some other states.Still she understands how the loss, and the appearance of possible wrong-doing can make things even scarier for those investing with Next Gen.”I think people are appropriately wary of the markets right now and they need to consider their personal investment risk tolerance.””but what’s my option to stop?”Kelly says she won’t stop putting money into the accounts but she will pay more attention to the money. For now she hopes that those who do invest the money for the college savings accounts for kids across the country, take this as a warning.”Don’t rip off the kids, I mean really. I know it’s just money to these people but this is a future.”Oppenheimer has changed their investment team for the Core Bond Fund.Still FAME has decided not to offer any Oppenheimer Funds for new investors to Next Gen. If you were already with Oppenheimer, you can continue to contribute to that fund.Meanwhile the Attorney General’s Office is not commenting on their investigation.
The bad economy has lead to thousands of job layoffs across the state.Kriste’ Bouvier of Ellsworth was among that group.She was laid off from her job at the University of Maine at Machias in April of 2008, and after months of trying to find a new one, she knew she had to think outside the box.This is Kriste’ Bouvier’s new position, behind a microphone in her living room broadcasting to the world on-line.She hosts the Designer Health Net talk show. It’s something completely different than what she was doing before.”I tell people all the time if you’ve ever seen the show Miss Congeniality, where she goes from being the cop to trying to be Miss USA that’s me, like the host in training.”But it fits right into her interests. She’s been trained and worked in the health and fitness field for years.The idea for the show came up months after she lost her job as the Fitness and Wellness Coordinator at the University of Maine at Machias.She just couldn’t find full time work.”After not being able to find work I was suited for, I started to think outside the box and actually had some help from my life partner, Jeff who is also a musician. We put our heads together and decided it would be really nice if we came up with some type of a talk show that would reach people in more of a light that pursued hope and inspiration”Kriste’ launched the on-line talk show show in January and has taped more than a dozen others since then.She covers topics ranging from reflexology to weight loss, and has had inspiring guests who have survived cancer, and another who is an ironman champion.”So we want to reach everybody whether they’re athletic or they just need some inspiration or they’ve lost hope.”Kriste’ says she has listeners from as far away as Australia and she has a goal of taking her show to radio.Although she misses her co-workers in Machias, she feels confident this new job is exactly what she should be doing.”I’m gonna take this and run with it and I may never make a lot of money off it and maybe it will go to radio, maybe it won’t but either way, I’m gonna keep doing this because our fans want us to.”To listen to Kriste’s show, log onto her website. It’s designerhealthnet.com.They post a new show each Sunday night around 8:00. You can also find lots of other health related information there.
You may not know it, but we are in the second day of national “Turnoff” week! The challenge is to not use any screens for recreational purposes for 1 week. Television, computers, video games, iPods and cell phones are all included. It is sponsored by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics among other organizationsIn America, we average more televisions per household than people. The typical American spends over 4 hours daily watching television and another 4 hours on the computer – not counting work. This encourages a sedentary and isolated lifestyle. By turning off the screens, time is now available for other activities such as thinking, reading, reconnecting with friends/family, and those things we never seem to have “time” to get done. The youngest members of our society bear special consideration. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long held that no television or electronic media is appropriate for children less than 2 years of age. Despite this, 70% of daycare centers use TVs on a typical day and 1 in 4 of these children have televisions in their bedrooms at home! The more time preschoolers spend watching TV, the less well they do academically and socially on entering first grade.Turning off the screen is good for the body as well as the mind. Time spent in front of a screen is generally time spent not moving much. Again, our children bear special consideration. For preschool children (1-4yrs), the risk of being overweight increases by 6% PER HOUR of television watched per day. If there is a television in their bedroom, their risk of being overweight increases by 31% PER HOUR of television watched daily. Children six and under spend about the same amount of time using screens (2 hours) as they do playing outside, and much more that they spend reading or being read to. An overweight child is likely to be sentenced to a lifetime of health issues, since more than 75% of overweight 10 year olds will become obese adults.Nothing is required to participate in “turnoff” week except a willingness to try and temporarily forgo media entertainment. There is another national Turnoff week scheduled for September 20-26 though you can do your own week anytime! Instead of missing the screen, you may be surprised to discover what you’ve really been missing all along. ~Dr. Amy MoviusReferences:Center for Screen-time Awareness, www.screentime.org