VA finger pointing
It is very disingenuous (dishonest, in fact) for gubernatorial candidates Eliot Cutler and Gov. Paul LePage to try to pin the problems at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs onto U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud. As a veteran who has received services from the VA for more than a dozen years and who has studied “veterans’ issues” for a longer period, it is my strong opinion that Michaud is the best friend that Maine veterans have had in Washington, D.C., since the days of Margaret Chase Smith.
I know for certain that Michaud’s exemplary constituent services, even as a state legislator for a long time prior to his going to Washington, included not only dealing with state agencies and programs but also several federal agency programs, including the VA, Social Security and Medicare.
Michaud’s experience, accomplishments and knowledge in both state and federal government far exceed that of his two opponents in this year’s campaign to elect an effective governor for Maine.
Where is the Barack Obama who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and inspired hope that perpetual war would no longer be at the top of America’s foreign policy agenda? His response to President Vladimir Putin’s recent call for a negotiated peace in Ukraine has been to call for $1 billion in additional arms for Eastern Europe and to pile more economic sanctions on Russia — a return to the scary days of Cold War brinkmanship, in which a miscalculation can lead to a hazardous nuclear confrontation.
The military option is not the road to security. America’s costly interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have left their peoples divided and suffering in shattered economies while inspiring a new generation of terrorists.
All those billions could have been better invested in America — rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, paying workers a living wage, extending unemployment insurance to the long-term unemployed, making our health care the best in the world and developing clean energy, to name a few needs.
This is the path to restoring America’s greatness.
As a mother, I am concerned about the toxic chemicals in everyday products and their health effects on children. There has been much reporting about phthalates — how ubiquitous they are and how dangerous they are. Phthalates are chemicals that cause serious reproductive health disorders, early puberty in girls and asthma. This danger is compounded because it is difficult to tell whether products contain hidden phthalates.
Phthalates are in often in lotions, shampoos or other personal care products — especially ones that contain fragrance. Looking in my bathroom, I see the boys’ bottles of liquid soap and sunscreen — and it is likely that my family has been exposed to phthalates. In addition, toys that my kids played with when they were younger, such as teething rings, may contain phthalates.
Even though I am a careful consumer and parent, I need more information to keep my kids safe. Our state has the power to do something about this. Residents recently brought a proposal to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, calling on it to gather information on which products contain phthalates.
Many countries have banned the use of phthalates in products. Many hospitals in the U.S. are removing products with phthalates from use in facilities. While a ban on these products would be ideal, I am asking the Maine DEP to require that companies disclose the use of phthalates in products and provide consumers with this information, so they can purchase items that are free of these toxic chemicals.
State of the air
I am always proud when our city gets honored for the great place that it is. That’s why I was so thrilled to receive a call from the American Lung Association last month, telling me that Bangor was being recognized as one of the four cleanest cities in the nation.
The Lung Association’s annual State of the Air report ranks air quality across the country. It measures the two most widespread pollutants — ozone and particle pollution. Bangor ranked among the cleanest cities in both categories, and Penobscot County received a grade of “A” on the report card. Unfortunately, southern Maine wasn’t so fortunate.
Cumberland and York Counties received grades of “C” and “D” respectively because they continue to experience days with unhealthy levels of ozone pollution. Ozone can cause or worsen a number of health problems, especially for children, seniors and people whose health is already compromised by heart or lung disease.
I’m proud that Bangor is one of the cleanest cities in the country, but we all have the right to healthy air. Maine is often called the “tailpipe of the nation” for our geographic location. That’s why we need to be vigilant in defending and enforcing our nation’s Clean Air Act.
The city council recently passed a proclamation celebrating Bangor’s clean air and outlining our belief that Maine’s air should be healthy and safe to breathe, no matter where you live.
I am writing in support of the recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed standards to curb carbon pollution from existing power plants. These standards, long overdue in my mind, are the first major step the U.S. has taken to significantly reduce its carbon footprint, a major contributor to global warming. The proposed standards target the nation’s more than 600 coal-burning power plants and would reduce carbon emissions, soot and smog. This will save lives and improve the health of hundreds of thousands of people, who suffer diseases like asthma, heart disease and allergies, worsened by air-borne pollutants.
Mainers are already seeing the negative effects of climate change: hotter temperatures; rising seas; increase in disruptive weather; acidification of the oceans with the potential to wreak havoc on the shellfish industry; decline in young lobster populations from warming oceans; more invasive species like green crabs that are devastating clam flats; and the ballooning infestation of ticks, which threatens humans and animals.
Our U.S. representatives and senators should support the EPA’s efforts to curb carbon pollution. Congress should not side with the fossil fuel industry, the Chamber of Commerce and others, who have an economic stake in maintaining the status quo to the severe detriment of the environment and the well-being of future generations.
It is time we came together as a nation and as a state and put aside our narrow self-interests and work to address climate change before it is too late.
My father, a U.S. diplomat, was stationed at the embassy in Paris when the Nazi troops marched in. He was then transferred to Vichy, France. When we entered the war against the Nazis in North Africa, both my mother and father were arrested and interned by the Nazis. Being diplomats, they did not experience the horrors of the prison camps, but they were, nevertheless, prisoners under the guard of the Gestapo.
My parents were returned to the U.S. before the end of the war in a prisoner exchange with some German spies we had captured.
Don’t try to tell my sister or me that prisoner exchanges for people in the service of our country are a bad thing. Thankfully, my sister and I were left with our grandparents in the U.S. before we entered the war.
Tyler H. Thompson