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Monday, Jan. 9, 2012: Heating assistance, the Maine State Science Fair and Mitt Romney


Neighbors helping neighbors

Much has been printed, in both letters to the editor and news articles, about the upcoming reduction in the federal government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Indeed, this funding reduction will hurt many Mainers of moderate and low incomes. The state may try to help, but it is trying to balance its own budget and therefore may not be of much help. In the end, the funding will fall on local people helping other local people.

In Surry, as in many other towns in Maine, we have such a local program, the Surry Fuel Assistance Program. This program helps folks stay warm in the winter. This program is administered by the town’s selectmen but is funded entirely by donations from residents and businesses. There is no local, state or federal tax money supporting this program.

Given that other government programs are being cut and the poor economy, the need for fuel assistance is growing. I encourage readers to find out if their community has a fuel assistance program and if they do, support it. And if you live in Surry our program can always use your donations.

It’s easy to donate, just send a check or stop by the town office and give what you can. In addition to knowing you are helping folks in your community, your donation is also tax deductible. Remember, all of the money you give to the Surry Fuel Assistance program will keep your friends and neighbors warm this winter

William Matlock, selectman

Stephen Bemiss, selectman


Stand up to FDA

In the excellent article on the state’s lawsuit against farmer Dan Brown for selling unlicensed raw milk, Agriculture Commissioner Walter Whitcomb is quoted as saying that this was a “response to what the [Department of Agriculture] felt was a potentially dangerous situation.” He has got to be kidding.

No one has ever gotten sick from Dan’s milk, not even between July, when his milk was tested, and November, when the report of that test was given to Dan.

There are about 40 million reported cases of food-borne illness every year in the United States, and several thousand deaths. A vanishingly small number of these illnesses, and no deaths, are caused by drinking raw milk, while pasteurized milk has caused from dozens to thousands of illnesses and a few deaths annually.

Virtually all food-borne disease is a result of the industrialized food system, combining food from hundreds or even thousands of sources into huge processing plants and distributing the result around the country to places like Hannaford’s, which recently had to recall ground beef.

The licensing and inspection system clearly does not prevent food-borne illness; it only allows it, after people have sickened and died, to be traced to the source, which can take months. This is not called a “dangerous situation,” it is business as usual.

It is outrageous that the state is criminalizing small farmers. Whitcomb should stand up to the FDA and its misguided campaign against raw milk, and stand with the small farmers of Maine.

Bonnie Preston

Blue Hill

Join the science fair

The BDN’s recent article on STEM education in Maine pointed out both the national challenge of developing a competitive work force in science, technology, engineering and math and the efforts Maine is undertaking to meet the need. We’d like to add mention of the Maine State Science Fair.

In the same year we learned that only 21 percent of high school seniors nationally tested scored “proficient” in science, the MSSF was slated to vanish. The Jackson Laboratory took on the challenge of organizing and hosting the 2011 fair to give talented Maine students an outlet for their creativity.

It’s our belief that students who discover the fun and excitement of doing science will be more interested in careers in science. Talk to many of the world’s top scientists and they’ll tell you stories of how participating in science fairs transformed them by showing them they enjoyed science and were good at it.

This year the prestigious INTEL International Science Fair named the MSSF an affiliated fair for the first time. Donors have come forward to make sure that the top two winners at this year’s MSSF and their mentors will have an all-expenses-paid trip to compete at the international level for millions of dollars in scholarships and prizes.

If you’re a high school teacher or student in Maine, please consider participating in the 2012 Maine State Science Fair. Visit www.jax.org/mssf for details. Applications are due Feb. 1 and the fair will be held at The Jackson Laboratory on March 24.

Robert E. Braun, Ph.D.

Associate director and chair of research

The Jackson Laboratory

Romney’s shadow boxing

It has been said that a phony patriotism is often the last refuge of a scoundrel. Mitt Romney has redefined that notion with his not-so-subtle suggestions that President Obama is not a real American.

The insinuations of this line of attack include racist, xenophobic and elitist elements that reveal their originator as a pathetic political hack lacking the confidence to engage his opponent in the open arena of reasonable political discourse.

David Calder


Misleading story

This letter intends to provide readers clarification regarding a misleading sentence in the BDN’s Jan. 4’s article, “Loophole allowed state to pay $235 million to organizations run by lawmakers and their spouses.” The article, after listing powerful Maine legislators who simultaneously served their terms while holding private nonprofit leadership positions, stated “other legislators who worked for organizations that have gotten millions in state money, including Spurwink.”

The legislator they identified as Spurwink’s employee worked five-and-a-half months in 2005, served in an entry-level part-time direct care position and worked an average of less than 8 hours per week for those months. This person had no role on or with the organization’s leadership before, during or after her employment and in no way was part of a conscious effort to divert state funds to Spurwink.

The mention of Spurwink in this article was unfortunate, misleading and paints an inaccurate cloud over an organization that has, for 50-plus years, held itself to the highest levels of integrity, demonstrated in part by its repeated national re-accreditations.

Spurwink is an organization known for its excellence, expertise and hard work serving Maine families at their most vulnerable moments. I am proud that I’ve served on Spurwink’s senior team for more than 16 years. To have connected Spurwink with the gist of the article making the case for stricter disclosure requirements is both a disappointment and a distraction to the point the article attempted to make.

Sonia Garcia

Director, Clinical Business Development & Marketing


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