AUGUSTA – Attorney General William J. Schneider is warning consumers about a scam that claims a new federal government assistance program, sometimes described as a bailout authorized by President Barack Obama’s administration, will pay your utility bills.
To receive a credit or apply a payment to a utility bill, consumers are asked to provide their Social Security and bank routing numbers. In return, they are given a phony bank routing number that will supposedly pay their utility bills. In reality, there is no money and customers believe they have paid their bills when in fact they have not.
While it appears that this scam may not yet have reached Maine, other states have seen large numbers of consumers become victims very quickly. The scammers use text messages, ficticious tweets and Facebook to reach potential victims through social media channels. Agents for the criminals have even gone door to door handing out flyers. In other states, payments were sometimes processed and initially credited to victims before the local utility company identified the account numbers as unauthorized. Victims who received payment confirmation notices shared their story with family and friends, who also fell for the scam. Only later were the payments rescinded.
“We want Mainers to realize that scammers will use the names well-known local companies, government officials, and other notable people to convince you that their offer is legitimate,” said Attorney General Schneider. “Don’t fall for it.”
If you think you have experienced a utility bill scam, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (207)626-8849.
July 13, 2012
Attorney General’s Office
Summertime is a good time for outdoor recreational activities in New England. It is also the time of the year when thunderstorms are most likely. Thunderstorms can be beautiful, but they also can be deadly. While many people think they are aware of the dangers of thunderstorms and lightning, the vast majority are not.
There are three basic ingredients needed for the formation of a thunderstorm. They include:
- Low-level moisture,
- An unstable atmosphere, and
- A trigger (a source of lift)
Low-level moisture is needed for cloud formation, growth, and the development of precipitation within the cloud.
An Unstable atmosphere allows warm, moist air near the ground to rise rapidly to higher levels in the atmosphere where temperatures are below freezing. An unstable atmosphere also allows air at higher levels in the atmosphere to sink to the ground level rapidly, bringing stronger winds from the higher levels to the ground.
A trigger is something to set the atmosphere in motion.
All three ingredients contribute to the formation of a thunderstorm. In fact, as the magnitudes of these ingredients increase, so do the chances that a thunderstorms could become severe.
Recognize the signs of a coming storm
In the summertime, listen to the latest forecast and learn to recognize the signs that often precede thunderstorm development.
- Warm muggy air is a sign that ample low-level moisture is available for thunderstorm development.
- Towering cumulus clouds indicate an atmosphere that is, or is becoming, unstable.
- And, the trigger could be continued heating from the sun, an approaching front or sea breeze front or a cooling of the upper atmosphere.
All thunderstorms go through various stages of growth and development. As a thunderstorm cloud continues to grow, snow and ice begin to form in the middle and higher levels of the cloud where temperatures are below freezing, and electrical charges start to build up within the cloud.
Negative electrical charges near the middle of the thunderstorm cloud causes a positive charge to build up on the ground under and near the thunderstorm. Finally, when the difference between these charges becomes too great, a giant atmospheric spark we call lightning occurs.
Lightning: An underrated killer
Lightning is an underrated killer, usually claiming its victims one at a time. Lightning also leaves many victims with life-long serious injuries. Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from the side of the thunderstorm cloud.
In fact, many lightning victims are struck before the rain arrives or after the rain has ended. Many victims also report that at least a portion of the sky was blue when they were struck.
Although Maine and New Hampshire have less lightning than most states east of the rocky mountains, Maine ranks 8th highest in the country in terms of lightning casualties (per capita) and New Hampshire ranks 16th highest.
This summer, the National Weather Service will conduct a nationwide awareness campaign to reduce the number of deaths and injuries from lightning. Although more information on lightning and lightning safety will be provided during Lightning Safety Awareness Week that will be during the week of June 24-30, here are some basic tips to help keep you and your family safe this summer.
While inside a home or building
- Avoid any contact with electrical or electronic equipment or cords that are plugged into the electrical system.
- Avoid any contact with corded phones.
- Avoid any contact with the plumbing system. Do not wash your hands, do not wash the dishes, do not take a shower, or do not do laundry.
- Do not stand next to a concrete wall and do not lie on a concrete floor. 5. Stay away from windows, outside doorways, and porches.
Tips while outdoors
- There is no safe place outside in a thunderstorm. To be safe, you must get inside a substantial building or hard-topped metal vehicle.
- Plan outside activities so that you minimize the risk of being caught outside in a thunderstorm.
- If you hear thunder, move inside a safe shelter immediately. Generally, if you can hear the thunder, you’re within striking distance of the storm.
- If the sky looks threatening, move inside immediately. Don’t wait for the first flash of lightning. It could occur anywhere under or near the storm.
- Stay inside a safe shelter for at least 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder was heard. Many lightning victims are struck after the worst part of the storm has passed.
Remember, when it comes to thunderstorm safety, it is your own actions that will determine your personal risk of being killed or seriously injured by the hazards that accompany thunderstorms.
Severe Weather Awareness Week …
The National Weather Service has declared the week of April 30th through May 4th Severe Weather Awareness Week in New England. Today’s message is presented in partnership with the National Weather Service Forecast Offices in Maine:
- National Weather Service Gray: covers western and Southern Maine, include York, Cumberland, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, Waldo, Androscoggin, Oxford, Franklin and Kennebec Counties, and central and southern Somerset County.
- National Weather Service Caribou: covers eastern and Northern Maine, including Aroostook, Penobscot, Washington, Hancock, Piscataquis and northern Somerset County.
May 1, 2012
Augusta, Maine – It is opening day for the Red Sox 2012 season and for the Maine Office of Tourism’s new radio advertising campaign on the Red Sox Radio Network.
The campaign begins April 5 running through September and includes one 30-second spot during each of the 162 games; including a live in-game read of featured Maine events as well as a partial sponsorship of a pitching change where the 30-second spot will run.
“Having a portion of the advertising campaign start this early and run continuously in key markets throughout the season is a new strategy for us. In addition, the Red Sox Radio Network has very strong coverage throughout our primary target market of New England,” said Carolann Ouellette, director of the Maine Office of Tourism.
Russell Walters, president of Northern Outdoors and representative from the Kennebec Valley Tourism Council agrees. “The Red Sox Radio campaign presents an innovative opportunity to deliver a summer-long series of messages highlighting unique and exciting Maine getaways to a loyal audience of listeners who have a strong connection to New England.”
The network consists of nearly 70 stations, giving Maine more than 11,000 spots running during the regular baseball season. With just the 30 second spots alone, not counting the pitching change spots, the Maine ad will be heard nearly 38 million times by a quarter of a million people.
“This looks like a home run for the Maine Office of Tourism with its innovative and creative marketing promo on Red Sox radio stations. Maine should score big by advertising the benefits of visiting the state not only during the summer months but our shoulder seasons as well,” said James Harmon, executive director of the Old Orchard Beach Chamber of Commerce.
The Red Sox Radio Network program is just one part of the newly integrated marketing campaign which consists of a broad spectrum of media that will be in the marketplace year round.
April 5, 2012
Department of Economic and Community Development
On behalf of the State of Maine, representatives from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) Interoperable Communications Technical Assistance Program (ICTAP) will be facilitating the second in a series of two workshops to help develop Continuity of Operations Plans (COOPs) for Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and public safety dispatch centers statewide. The first of these workshops was held June 15, 2011. The follow-on workshop will be held on October 13, 2011.
These workshops are part of an OEC/ICTAP technical assistance effort designed to help supervisory personnel plan for continuity of operations in the event of evacuations, relocations, or loss of capabilities.
The first workshop in this series provided participants a seminar-style venue where OEC/ICTAP facilitators provided real world examples of plans for different COOP scenarios and shared best practices from around the Nation to help participants identify and mitigate predictable risks to PSAPs and dispatch centers. During the follow-up workshop, OEC/ICTAP will present a draft COOP template with some of the ideas and content from the first workshop for the planning team to review and revise.
As an invitee on this announcement, you have been identified by the State as a valuable member of the team needed to contribute to this COOP. Please join us on Thursday October 13, 2011. This workshop will take place from 9:00am-4:00pm at:
State of Maine Performance and Training Center 10 Mountain Drive Fairfield, Maine
To participate in this workshop, please RSVP to Steven Mallory, Statewide Interoperability Coordinator, Maine Emergency Management Agency, by phone at 207-624-4476, or via email to Steven.Mallory@maine.gov
October 7, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins who, along with Senator Joe Lieberman, authored legislation to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, released the following statement today as repeal took effect.
“Today represents an historic change for our military and our country. Today, for the first time in our history, we will welcome the serve of any qualified individual who is willing to put on the uniform. We will no longer dismiss brave, dedicated, and skilled service men and women simply because they are gay. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a victory for our national security, and our values, and it strengthens the ranks of our military.”
In May 2010, Senator Collins was the only Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee to vote to include repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the Defense Authorization bill. In December, she was the only Republican in the Senate to vote to proceed to the Defense Authorization bill which included repeal language, however, that bill failed. Senators Collins and Lieberman then introduced the standalone bill which passed the Senate on December 18th by a vote of 65-31. It was then signed by President Obama.
ORONO – Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen announced today that Maine has been selected as one of the lead partners in a state-led, national, collaborative effort to improve science learning for all students through the development of more effective and rigorous science standards. He made the announcement at the University of Maine before approximately 80 K-12 and university science educators, curriculum coordinators, principals, professional development providers and others gathered for a conference reviewing the recently-released “Framework” for the coming science standards.
As a lead state, Maine will have a key role in developing the Next Generation Science Standards, which will define the science content and concepts that students will need to learn in order to be successful in the workforce, economy, and society of the coming decades. The state will also benefit from significant technical assistance and support in developing an implementation plan for sharing the standards with educators statewide. The standards are expected to be completed by the end of 2012.
“It’s critical to have clear and rigorous standards,” Bowen said. “It’s just as important to successfully share them with teachers across the state and get them into classrooms. The implementation support is key.”
Bowen’s announcement came a week before Achieve, the national group managing the development of the Next Generation Science Standards for the states, is to name all of the lead states.
“That we’ve been asked to be a lead state is testimony to the great work that you and we are doing in Maine.” Bowen said. “It’s proof of your commitment to science education and to equal opportunities for all students to be challenged and to succeed.”
Maine is already engaged in significant work to bolster science technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning opportunities for students. The Department has worked with partner organizations throughout the state to build support for STEM education. Key among these efforts have been the continuation of the Governor’s Academy for Science and Mathematics Leadership and workshops focused on helping the community understand best practices in publications such as the National Academies of Science’s “Ready, Set, Science!” Resources like these will provide the backbone for the Next Generation Science Standards.
Recently, Gov. Paul LePage signed legislation to establish a STEM Council (http://bit.ly/pcFLt3), which comprises key people from K-12 and higher education, business and industry, and the community, to promote STEM education, and to give Maine students and Maine’s economy a leg up by encouraging more students to enter STEM fields.
“The evidence cannot be clearer. Technology knowledge and skills are key to the future of Maine’s workforce and our economy,” LePage said in a statement. “STEM jobs are growing at nearly double the rate as non-STEM jobs. And 80 percent of jobs in the next decade will require technology skills. Maine’s economic security and the economic security of our students depends on more students going into STEM careers and in all students understanding science, technology, engineering, and math concepts and content.”
Everett Deschenes, a manager at Old Town Fuel and Fiber, spoke to that in his comments at the event.
“We need the best and the brightest,” Deschenes said. “We need people with a lot of technical skills, even in the traditional side of our business, not to even mention the biofuels. We need people with problem-solving skills.”
Laurette Darling, president of the Maine Science Teachers Association, a 2010 Presidential Awardee for Science and an elementary teacher at Albert S. Hall School in Waterville, spoke to the need for new standards and assessments, saying that science facts are not enough.
“These standards take us the next step down a path toward more effective science education,” she said. “They will lead us beyond the instruction of science facts to science instruction that actively engages students in the investigation and exploration of the world around them to learn core science concepts.”
Dana Humphrey, Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Maine, spoke to the changing workforce needs in Maine. He cited examples of Maine companies that have had to turn away contracts because they couldn’t find enough engineers to hire.
“For Maine, it’s great to be in the driver’s seat for the development of these standards,” Humphrey said. “We at the university really look forward to being part of the effort.”
Bowen said as a small state, Maine will benefit greatly from the opportunities provided by developing and then sharing standards among many states.
“By the states working together and adopting these new standards, we will be able to share the work of the best minds, and share the best materials and teaching practices from all the participating states,” Bowen said. “We could never afford to create the kind of materials and professional development opportunities we’ll now be able to access.”
Bowen recognized the Department’s science specialist, Anita Bernhardt, for her leadership role in promoting STEM education and for writing Maine’s successful application to be a lead state in the standards development process.
Bernhardt said the announcement made the conference’s work of reviewing the Framework all the more important.
“We have 12-15 months to learn about and embrace science education as envisioned in the Framework,” Bernhardt said. “It’s critical that we are prepared to implement the standards when they become available.”
The development of the Next Generation Science Standards is a two-step process. The first step was the building of a framework that identified the core ideas and practices in natural sciences and engineering that all students should be familiar with by the time they graduate. In July, the National Research Council released A Framework for K-12 Science Education, developed by a committee representing expertise in science, teaching and learning, curriculum, assessment and education policy.
The second step is the development of grade-by-grade science standards based on the framework. As a Lead State Partner, Maine will help guide the standards-writing process, gather and deliver feedback from state-level committees and come together to address common issues and challenges. The Lead State Partners also agree to commit staff time to the initiative and, upon completion, give serious consideration to adopting the Next Generation Science Standards. In order to be considered, states had to submit a letter with the signature of the Chief State School Officer and the chair of the State Board of Education.
In addition to those already mentioned, Commissioner Bowen was joined for the announcement by: Jeanne Crocker, assistant executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association; Chris Howell, president of the Maine Curriculum Leaders and principal of Windham High School in RSU 14; Sarah Kirn, vital signs director at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute; Joyce Tugel, K-12 science specialist with the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance; and Michael Wittman, of the Research in STEM Education Center at the University of Maine.
Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, was not at the event but offered his kudos to Maine.
“The Lead State Partners will provide important leadership and guidance throughout the development of the Next Generation Science Standards and are to be congratulated for making a strong commitment to science education,” he said. “This will be a collaborative process that will lead to a set of standards that provide America’s students a strong foundation in science for the 21st century.”
For more information on STEM education in Maine, see: http://www.maine.gov/education/lres/scitech/index.html
September 14, 2011
Maine Department of Education
Augusta, Maine – Governor Paul LePage today requested a major disaster declaration for three Maine counties impacted by Hurricane Irene. A joint Federal-State damage assessment documented over $2.4 million in response costs and damages in Franklin, Oxford and York Counties.
In his letter to the White House, Governor LePage said “I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary.”
If the assistance is granted, the Federal Government would reimburse towns, counties and State agencies for 75 percent of costs incurred in response to the high winds, heavy rains and flooding associated with Tropical Storm Irene.
“We were very fortunate that Irene’s impact on Maine was not much worse,” the Governor said. “But even so, many towns in these three counties incurred crippling expenses from the storm.”
The Governor’s request includes costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures, as well as repairs to damaged roads and bridges. The Governor added that State officials continue to compile information in support of possible further requests for recovery funds.
Governor LePage declared a State of Emergency on Friday, August 26, 2011 that ensured all State resources would be available for the storm and its aftermath. The State of Emergency was lifted Friday, September 9, 2011.
September 9, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) has vowed to protect schools from a flawed regulation of starchy vegetables proposed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Snowe, who applauded House-passed language in June directing USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to issue a new, less costly rule updating nutritional standards for the national school breakfast and lunch programs, pledged to work with her Senate colleagues to include similar language in the Senate’s version of the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill when it comes to the floor for consideration.
Senator Snowe said:
“USDA’s proposed rule limiting potato consumption to just one serving per week in our schools is based on flawed nutritional and economic science. Depriving our schools of nutritious and cost effective student breakfast and lunch options as we grapple with both an obesity epidemic and a soaring national debt topping $14 trillion is the wrong approach to reform. Implementing this proposed rule in its current form would be detrimental to our mutual goals of providing children with nutritious meals and developing life-long healthy eating habits without burdening this program with additional and unnecessary costs, which is why I intend to work in support of legislative language on the Senate floor that would prevent USDA from moving forward with a faulty policy whose implications have not been fully considered.”
BACKGROUND: In May, Senator Snowe urged First Lady Michelle Obama, founder of the Let’s Move campaign, and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Snowe to reevaluate the nutritional and economic impacts of this proposal. In letters to both, Snowe asserted, “It has been well-documented that currently nine out of ten Americans are not meeting vegetable and fruit consumption recommendations. I am disappointed that, despite these statistics, the USDA would propose rules denying our nation’s youth access to nutrient rich foods as part of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.”
Background from the National Potato Council: Potatoes are fat free, cholesterol free and low in calories. A medium-sized potato has no fat, no cholesterol and contains only 110 calories. Potatoes are sodium free and low sodium diets help to reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. By eating one medium sized potato, you will receive 45% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin C — a great antioxidant. Potatoes contain 18% of the recommended daily value of potassium — a great way to build stronger bones. The 3g of fiber in one medium-sized potato is 8% of the recommended daily value. Diets high in fiber are beneficial for a healthy digestive system and may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Consuming adequate fiber also makes you feel fuller, helping to reduce snacking between meals. Potatoes contain 26g of carbohydrates, only 9% of the recommended daily value. Complex carbohydrates are a great source of energy for the body. Potatoes have one of the highest overall antioxidant activity among vegetables. Antioxidants protect key cell components by neutralizing the damaging effects of “free radicals.” Potatoes also contain glutathione, an antioxidant that may help protect against some cancers.
Additional background on Maine potatoes: Maine potato farmers planted nearly 55,000 acres in 2010, with a yield of 29,000 pounds per acre, for a harvest of 1.6 billion pounds with a value of $159.2 million. The value of Maine’s potato harvest has been on the rise. In 2009, it jumped 5% compared with 2008 to $150 million, and yet again in 2010 with its value increasing 3% over the previous year.
Augusta, Maine – Governor Paul LePage today announced the approval to send troops from the Maine National Guard to Vermont to help with the clean-up of Hurricane Irene. The Governor approved Friday a request under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a nationwide system through which states affected by disasters can receive additional resources.
Maine will deploy two-hundred Army National Guard engineers Saturday morning from Belfast and Auburn for eight days to Rutland, Vermont. The unit will primarily assist with debris removal which was left in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Also, six members of the Maine Air National Guard’s 265th Combat Communications Squadron out of South Portland will deploy to provide communications support.
“Our neighbors to the West are in need of our assistance and the Maine National Guard is ready, willing and able to help,” Governor LePage said. ‘It is during these times of natural disasters our service members rise to the occasion and give their support to those who need it most. I am proud of our men and women. I wish them the best during this deployment and a safe return home.”
The Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) was signed into public law in 1996 and all 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands have enacted legislation to become EMAC members. EMAC was designed to establish a firm legal foundation for States to support one another.
Maine has stepped up to help other states by providing personnel and resources on several occasions, including sending responders to Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina.
The estimated costs associated with this deployment to include personnel and equipment costs will be approximately $1.5 million. As part of the EMAC agreement, Vermont will reimburse Maine for expenses related to this deployment.
September 2, 2011
LEWISTON, Maine– After a wild year of roller coaster weather—record snowfalls, flooding, droughts, and extreme bouts of heat—the 2012 Farmers’ Almanac is rolling out its newest edition and its long-range winter outlook. According to this 195-year-old weather-predicting publication, the winter of 2011-12 will be one of “Clime and Punishment,” which means some parts of the country will get a very frigid winter; while others will be on tap for lots of rain and snow.
The Farmers’ Almanac, which bases its long-range weather forecast on a mathematical and astronomical formula, predicts a very cold winter for the Northern Plains, parts of the Northern Rockies, and the western Great Lakes. In contrast, the Farmers’ Almanac’s outlook also calls for above-normal temperatures across most of the southern and eastern U.S., and near-normal temperatures in the Midwest, the Far West, and southern Florida.
The “punishment” will come from the precipitation. The 2012 Farmers’ Almanac warns that this winter will see a very active storm track, which will bring much heavier-than-normal precipitation from the Southern Plains through Tennessee into Ohio, the Great Lakes, and the Northeast. Because of above-normal temperatures, much of the precipitation will likely be rain or mixed precipitation, although, during February, some potent East Coast storms could leave behind heavy snow, naturally of a wet and slushy consistency.
Unfortunately, the Pacific Northwest will once again see a wetter-than-normal winter, and the Southwest and Southeast will have a drier-than-normal one.
In addition to the weather forecast, the 2012 Farmers’ Almanac also includes the Almanac’s picks for the “Top Ten Cities Where Weather Can Shut Down Everyday Life,” which names some cities that you may not expect. And for those who would prefer to learn how to predict the weather themselves, there’s a story on how to use clouds to predict the weather. You can access the Farmers’ Almanac’s weather predictions, articles and more at www.FarmersAlmanac.com
But the Farmers’ Almanac isn’t just about the weather. It’s about living smart. The 2012 Farmers’ Almanac provides tons of tips, articles, and ideas on ways to get back to basics and live a more resourceful lifestyle.
The 2012 Farmers’ Almanac officially hit the store shelves August 29, 2011, and can be accessed online at www.FarmersAlmanac.com and on Facebook and Twitter.