Sunday, October 27, 2013

Insights - Cable TV reaches a new low - By Michelle Libby

Time Warner Cable has reached a new low in my book, when Tuesday night I turned to channel 7 to watch my town council meeting only to be told that I would have to rent/buy the digital cable box to get my local access channel back. “Want your channel back?” the screen said. Umm. Yeah. I do. 

My family is probably one of the only hold outs who still pay for basic cable (no cable box). It has twenty-one channels, one of which is the illusive channel 7. That really was the only reason we hadn’t got completely to antenna TV. 

I realize that I can watch the town council and school board meetings on my computer streaming live, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to watch a bigger screen from the comfort of my couch.
Why has this happened? 

According to town manager Tony Plante, “Time Warner unilaterally decided to relocate TV-7 to another channel, presumably as part of their switch to digital service to free up bandwidth for other channels, yet that slot remains empty and people whose televisions do not have digital tuners, or who don’t pay the additional cost of the digital box, now cannot get local access on cable.”

Local access has become less access to our community because a corporation has decided that people who don’t pay for extra fees and services don’t deserve to know what’s going on with their community.
TV-7 has begun adding content to its line-up. Shows about our schools and our town. With the election just around the corner, Speak Out will host shows with the candidates…if I don’t pony up to TWC, then I’m out of luck when it comes to those shows. 

“We have asked TWC to put information up on channel 7 advising people with digitally-tuned televisions where they can find Windham’s local access channel, but we were told they can’t do it because of the way the slide is distributed to systems around the state,” said Plante.

What’s a TWC subscriber to do? Watch out Radio Shack, I expect that a bunch of people will be in to get antennas for their TVs.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Insight - Business virgin - By Michelle Libby

I had never been to a trade show like The Sebago Summit before Tuesday. Book signings are different, there is no jockeying for positions (authors are sat alphabetically) or so many people talking about different companies (we all write romance of some sort). There were 50 different businesses there from a wellness spa to banks to Saint Joseph’s College. Many businesses had games and trivia questions offering prizes for correct answers, others had pens and candy to entice passersby. 
One thing was amazing and that was the incredible energy in the room and the thankfulness that I heard over and over again from the organizers. They mentioned their sponsors at each meal and on signs and any paperwork distributed. Being a sponsor was one way to show gratitude to the chamber for its hard work and also a way to get the business name out there. 

We at The Windham Eagle were proud to be a gold level sponsor for the first summit. Being attached to an event designed to promote networking and camaraderie between business owners is exactly what we attempt to do when we work with businesses to bring you, the reader, informative columns and striking advertising. 

There is a lot of business information that was new to me, but also principles that transcend businesses and personal lives - being positive, sharing ideas, working with others, gathering knowledge, listening and never give up. If everyone lived this way, what a successful world we would live in. 

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours is also a popular saying. Isn’t that networking? Sharing resources in a symbiotic relationship. 

I am learning so much every day about business. (You mean it’s not all about writing?) We are always looking to partner with great companies in the area. What can we do for you? 

I think Richard Dyke said it best when he said to know what you’re good at and know what you’re not good at. Then he suggested that you hire people who know more about what you don’t know about and that’s how a company is made strong.   

Friday, October 11, 2013

More Medicaid debt no solution to health insurance problems - By Senator Gary Plummer

During every legislative session there are many difficult decisions that every state senator and representative must make. Before I cast my vote, I try to gather all available facts and carefully weigh them before deciding how I should vote. I also review all of the correspondence that I have had from constituents on that particular issue. 
One of those decisions I faced during the last session was whether to expand Medicaid in Maine, also known as MaineCare. My research became particularly difficult even though there was extensive information available. It was not easy to separate fact from fiction.

The Legislature had two major votes on Medicaid expansion. The first time, it was coupled inappropriately with a bill to pay off Maine’s hospital debt. The Governor vetoed that bill (but later signed a separate bill to pay off the hospitals). The Medicaid expansion legislation was then reintroduced to the Legislature as a standalone bill. It passed the Legislature, was vetoed by the Governor, and the Legislature upheld that veto.

Throughout the process, Mainers were inundated with messaging from both sides of the issue. The disagreement centered on how much the expansion would cost Maine, could we afford it, and whether it was in our best long-term interests.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to attend a meeting with a group of people who favor the expansion of Medicaid.  The meeting day came and I sat around the table with three ministers, a representative from AARP, a representative from Maine People’s Alliance, and a group of other interested constituents.  I listened as each person expressed his or her concerns. I expressed my uneasiness with the potential for the huge costs of this “free” health care. 

Those concerns are detailed below. At the end of the meeting we shook hands. Although we still had differences, I believe we all had a greater understanding of the complex issues involved in Medicaid expansion.
The proponents of Medicaid expansion told us repeatedly that this deal would be too good for Maine to pass up because the federal government would be picking up the entire tab to cover Medicaid for an additional 70,000 Maine residents. 

But it turns out that money isn’t so “free” after all. 

Under the proposal, the first three years of the expansion would be on the federal government’s dime; however during that time Maine would have to come up with $10 million to cover administrative costs during each of those years. Where would that money come from? After that, the federal reimbursement rate would drop to 90 percent. Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services predicts that under the best case scenario, after those first three years, Maine would have to come up with an additional $75 million annually to pay for the expansion. In every two-year budget cycle, that would be $150 million less we would have for essential government services such as education and public safety. 

It’s also important to note that when it comes to Medicaid, Maine has already been much more generous than most states, spending more than 30 percent above the national average for state-funded health care. Those states that are accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) will be catching up to Maine when it comes to paying for these subsidized services.

Earlier I mentioned how the State of Maine recently paid off its debt of nearly half a billion dollars to hospitals around the state. That debt came as a result of Medicaid services these hospitals performed without being reimbursed by the State in previous years. It also coincided with Maine’s decision to rapidly expand Medicaid beyond our ability to pay the bills.

We were able to retire this debt thanks to revenue that will come from a renegotiated state liquor contract. But with the ink hardly dry on the checks to Maine’s hospitals, we are once again talking about recreating the very problem that got us into debt: expanding MaineCare beyond our ability to pay for it. Democratic leadership in the Maine Legislature has indicated it wants to reintroduce the legislation in the next session that begins in January.

For the reasons mentioned above, I could not vote in favor of the expansion. I will certainly consider any new bill in the same way that I have before. However, there will need to be many more answers to the funding sources before I could vote to support Medicaid expansion. 

Meanwhile, the market-based reforms for health insurance passed by the previous Legislature have led to two positive developments in Maine: more Mainers, particularly young adults, are signing up for health insurance and most of those who are already enrolled are seeing lower premiums or at least drastic reductions in their yearly increases.

These are the types of reforms we should be embracing instead of contemplating more debt we can’t afford to pay back.

Senator Gary Plummer represents Maine Senate District 12 which includes the Cumberland County towns of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, and Windham as well as the York County town of Hollis.


Insight - A positive paper - By Michelle Libby

We received a call last week from a woman who told everyone in our office who would listen how much she hates The Windham Eagle. She said she can’t stand to look at it and it is a gossip rag. When asked why this was she told the publisher that she didn’t like how positive the paper was. There were three issues she had with the paper, one was a story about a high school senior, the second was a student of the week and third was that the paper was full of positive gossip.  
My comment, “peel back the layers, there’s a lot to see and do in Windham.” We at The Windham Eagle are doing our best to find stories about people in our community and people that have grown up in Windham and are making their way in the world. We want to see our friends and family in the paper when we get it on Friday. 

I always tell people that if you want the bad news in town, there are plenty of places to go. Turn on the TV, pick up the other newspapers or keep your ears open. If you want a newspaper that is informative, entertaining and appropriate for your children to read…run to the mailbox and grab your copy of The Windham Eagle. As always we welcome your constructive criticism. Email me directly at

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Getting to know a gem - Our State Gem - By Nathan Swan

In 1912, the American National Association of Jewelers adopted the gemstone tourmaline as the birthstone for the month of October. Tourmaline is actually the name given to a group of about a dozen related mineral species. Tourmaline can appear transparent to opaque, and its appearance varies more than any other gemstone due to its chemical composition. The general composition of tourmaline is (Ca, K, Na)(Al, Fe, Li, Mg, Mn)3(BO3)3(Al, Cr, Fe, V)6(BO3)3Si6O18(OH,6 F)4. The color variations in tourmaline are due to the presence of small variations in the number of metal ions inside each gem’s specific crystal structure. With such a wide array of possible chemical compositions, no two stones are exactly alike. 
Tourmaline is a most astonishing gemstone not only for its beautiful aesthetics, but also scientifically for its intriguing physical properties. Some tourmaline gems are capable of producing an electrical charge simply by applying pressure in the direction of the vertical crystal axis, an effect known as piezoelectricity. Some tourmalines, when heated and cooled, are also capable of producing an effect called pyroelectricity, where one end of the crystal becomes positively charged and the other negatively charged. In Europe, tourmaline was long known as aschentrekker (ash puller) because the stone was used to pull the ash out of their tobacco pipes with this very effect. 

Since Ancient times, tourmaline has been thought to have many metaphysical properties and magical powers, like dispelling grief and fear, aiding in communication and concentration, improving one’s understanding, increasing self-confidence and amplifying one’s psychic energies all because of its unparalleled color spectrum. Tourmalines are also speculated to be useful in the treatment of infectious disease, anxiety, blood poisoning, arthritis and heart disease. Specifically, watermelon tourmalines are known to help people quickly recover from emotional problems.

Tourmaline is commonly mined in Australia, Tanzania, Brazil, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Russia, California and Maine, in addition to other countries. Tourmaline is the State mineral of Maine because it was first discovered in the United States in the early 1820’s at Mount Mica, the oldest gem mine in the United States, located in Paris, Maine. One thing has been made certain for almost two centuries, Maine’s beauty and wealth doesn’t end with what she displays for all to see, but reaches far into its depths.