Friday, July 12, 2024

The Rookie Mama: We all scream for sunscreen

By Michelle Cote

Lather up, friends; sun’s out!

I was recently reminded of the generational divide between my children and me one sunny, sticky morning as we ventured beachward for a day, and I stopped at a local pharmacy to pick up sunscreen.

The tube I plucked off the shelf was a high-enough SPF, which was all that concerned me in a pinch.

But upon returning to my awaiting family minivan and tossing the tube to my boys, I read their horrified expressions and quickly learned the SPF acronym in the moment stood for Shocked and Pretty Frightened.

Sunscreen… cream.

In a squeeze tube like the olden days.

What’s next, cassette tapes?

My boys have been so spoiled in the sunshine by the convenient spray applications their entire lives, they’d never experienced this sun protection in what I believe the traditional sense, experienced the glory of streaky NO-Ad whiteness in which ‘90s children slathered up, moments prior to the inevitable stickings-on of all the sand so we looked like breaded chicken tenders – happy chicken tenders – with smeared white faces splashing gleefully in the sea with our sparkly pink pails and shovels.

According to the National Library of Medicine, the association between sun exposure and skin cancer was first discovered in the late 1800s, but the creation and commercialization of sunscreen didn’t really burst onto the fun-in-the-sun sandy stage until the late 1970s.

Today, we know everyone’s free to wear sunscreen.

Those of us who were teens a quarter century ago – Yikes! – will remember the informally dubbed ‘Sunscreen song’ by Baz Luhrmann which bestowed words of wisdom, commencement-speech-style, to the Class of ’99 in spoken word which began – and ended – with a nod to sunblock.

Great tips beyond just frosted tips at the turn of Y2K, who knew?

But now that I have a troupe of fair-skinned mini-Cotes of my own, who rely on my husband and me for care and wellness beyond imploring they eat their veggies, we’re keeping sun protection at top of mind – and hats at top of head – so we can enjoy the outdoorsy lives in which we’re immersed.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends varieties SPF 30 or higher that are water resistant with broad-spectrum protection.

Babies younger than six months should be kept from the sun altogether.

The older circuit should use a lotion that screens out both UVA and UVB rays, applied to all skin not covered by clothing – so keep an SPF 30 lip balm at the ready for those lips – and reapply every two hours.

The FDA requires all sunscreens retain original strength for at least three years, so in the spirit of frugal living, shop end-of-summer sales and stock up on next year’s haul.

As for sunscreen types, sprays are often preferred by parents – and apparently all of my kiddos – because of their ease of application, but they are available as creams, gels, and sticks too.

The best sunscreen’s ultimately the one you’ll reapply.

And after our Great Sunscreen Debacle of 2024, it’s back to sprays for days for us.

Remember – There’s never any such thing as a ‘healthy tan.’

Any excessive sun exposure is bad exposure.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy our gorgeous outdoors with your family – Maine parks, poolside fun, gardens, lighthouses, trails, rivers, lakes and beaches await at the ready to welcome you warmly – often for free or at little cost.

Just remember to apply sunscreen generously to yourselves and your littles.

You only need an ounce, and you know what they say about an ounce of prevention.

During this month of celebrating independence, remember to not be independent from solid skin care.

Your future self will thank you.

And as my 10-year-old just exclaimed moments ago, ‘We all scream for sunscreen.’

Happy summer!

­­– Michelle Cote lives in southern Maine with her husband and four sons, and enjoys camping, distance running, biking, gardening, road trips to new regions, arts and crafts, soccer, and singing to musical showtunes – often several or more at the same time! <

Insight: A Change of Heart

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


When it comes to music, I know what I like and avoid listening to bands and singers I don’t particularly care for. This has been the case for me since I was 9 years old and first tuning in to popular rock n’ roll radio stations on a transistor radio.

Avril Lavigne performs during a
concert June 30 at Glastonbury,
England before 100,000 people.
COURTESY PHOTO
Through the years I have developed my own musical tastes and musical dislikes and as I’ve gotten older, I rarely, if ever, have a change of opinion about those on the wrong side of my preferences.

Yet lately, I seem to have had a change of heart or a reversal of my personal feelings about some music.

Back in 1979, I was serving in the U.S. Air Force in Germany and was thrilled that the base exchange store offered many of the newest releases and at a discount for military members too. Every Friday, if I saved my money up during the week, which wasn’t always easy as I was earning $360 a month back then, I could find new albums priced between $4.99 and $7.99.

Soon I had built up quite a collection of vinyl records that included many new artists that I took great pride in introducing to my friends and some better-known bands and singers from the 1970s.

Before I had enlisted in the Air Force in 1977, like many other young adults my age, I had become a fan of the band Fleetwood Mac and considered myself fortunate to have included 1975’s self-titled “Fleetwood Mac” album and the 1976 Fleetwood Mac “Rumors” album in my vinyl collection.

But being overseas and working long shifts, sometimes it was hard for me to keep up with music news from the United States. Therefore, in October 1979 I was shocked when a friend told me he had visited the base exchange store earlier that day and purchased Fleetwood Mac’s newly released album called “Tusk.” He asked if I wanted to join a group of friends at his apartment that evening to listen to the new album for the first time and I readily agreed as I hadn’t even heard the band had been working on a new album.

But from the very first song he played on the “Tusk” double album, some of us were taken aback. It was music quite different from the “Rumors” album and I left that apartment that night saying that the new “Tusk” album would take some getting used to. Through the years it never happened for me, and “Tusk” became one of the Fleetwood Mac albums I never bought.

A few years before that in 1975, I had been driving in my 1974 Mercury Capri when a song called “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” by a singer named Elvin Bishop came on the radio. I wasn’t crazy about the song the first time, the second, or the third time I heard it while driving. In fact, it seemed every time I turned on the radio, no matter what station I selected, it would eventually end up playing “Fooled Around and Fell in Love.”

It was played so many times and in so many different places that I grew to detest the song and it became an automatic reflex action of mine that if the opening refrains of Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” appeared on the radio, my fingers were ready to hit the buttons to choose another radio station. If I was shopping in a store and heard the song, I’d search immediately for the nearest exit.

By 2002, I would watch MTV on television to stay current with new performers and bands. Some of the newer singers and bands I enjoyed, while some just didn’t do it for me. Such was the case with Avril Lavigne. I thought her voice resembled what I believed was close to sheer caterwauling. I just found her music irritating and all her hit songs sounded the same to me. I told some of my friends that in my opinion she was sort of a poor man’s version of Alanis Morissette.

Like Elvin Bishop and Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” album, Avril Lavigne became just another performer on my personal dislike list, and you may think that’s the end of the story.

But since I have redone my stereo system at home and started listening to vinyl and CDs from my personal collection again, something remarkable has happened.

I saw the “Tusk” CD in a record store for $6.97 and decided to give it another listen. It’s truly amazing music and I now consider it the best of all their albums. I’m lucky to own a copy of it.

A month ago, my wife Nancy and I were driving somewhere and “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” was playing on the radio. We listened to it, and we both agreed that it’s an awesome tune.

Then last weekend I watched Avril Lavigne’s performance of “I’m With You” during a televised concert in Glastonbury, England. Her voice was truly incredible, and I must admit I was wrong about her after all.

I suppose that one is never too old to have a change of heart when it comes to your musical tastes.

Jane Pringle: Addressing Maine’s opioid crisis with compassion

By State Rep. Jane Pringle

For so many Mainers, the opioid crisis is deeply personal. Whether you have been directly impacted or not, it is almost certain that every Mainer knows of someone whose life has been turned upside down by addiction. Controlled substances, like opioids, have been a problem in our state for the last several decades, and the 131st Legislature made it a priority to tackle this growing epidemic head-on.

With hard work and continuous collaboration, my fellow lawmakers and I have enacted several measures to address every facet of this crisis. From increasing access to emergency treatments to bolstering recovery centers, we are committed to finding comprehensive and compassionate policy solutions aimed at providing hope for those who are struggling right now.

Last year, the Legislature enacted two pivotal measures targeted toward saving the lives of those experiencing an overdose. The first bill mandates that law enforcement officers carry Narcan on their person while on active duty. The second measure requires all Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers to be trained in the administration of Narcan, enabling these professionals to act swiftly and effectively when called to the scene of an overdose.

Narcan, also known as Naloxone, is an opioid reversal agent that can rapidly ease the effect of an overdose, such as respiratory distress. When applied promptly, Narcan can provide front-line workers, like EMS and law enforcement, with a critical window of time to allow for further medical intervention. Equipping these professionals with this overdose-reversal treatment has been shown time and again to make the difference between life and death for so many.

Addressing the opioid crisis also requires an approach that goes beyond emergency interventions. We must provide ongoing support for those who are in recovery. In the supplemental budget enacted by the Legislature a few months ago, language was included to give vital support to withdrawal management programs across the state. The budget appropriated $4 million to expand Medication Assisted Treatments in county jails, building upon an already existing initiative in our state prison system. It is a safe and proven “whole patient” approach that combines FDA-approved medical treatment with behavioral counseling. This course of care not only eases withdrawal symptoms and cravings, but it has been proven to reduce the likelihood of relapse, increase rate of survival and support a return to a healthy, productive life.

For many, recovery and sobriety is a lifelong journey; that’s why we enacted a measure that helps create a sustainable revenue source for Recovery Community Centers (RCCs) across the state, so that folks will always have a place to turn to when they need additional support. These organizations focus on helping individuals recover from substance-use disorder by providing non-clinical services, such as support groups, recovery coaching and skill-building programs. Individuals who utilize RCCs have been shown to have a lower likelihood of relapse and an increase in long-term well-being. This funding will help invest in long-term recovery for Mainers who find themselves in the grip of addiction.

My colleagues and I in the Legislature know that it is imperative to continue developing comprehensive policies that strengthen emergency responses and treatments as well as bolstering any necessary ongoing support for those struggling with addiction. Recent data released by the state indicates that the number of opioid-related deaths has dropped by 16%. This data is encouraging and shows that our efforts are working, but despite this success, the number of overdoses remains too high. We cannot wait for this epidemic to subside; we must continue to address it with compassion and sustained effort. We all have a stake in this, not just lawmakers, medical professionals or even law enforcement officers. We all need to be committed to putting in the work to help end this crisis, together.

Rep. Jane Pringle is serving her second non-consecutive term in the Maine House of Representatives, having previously represented Windham from 2012-2014. She is a member of the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. <

Andy Young: The best thing (s) about Newfoundland

By Andy Young

I often have trouble recalling names, but I clearly remember those of the two hikers my son and I encountered during our 11-kilometer trek along the Green Gardens Trail in Canada’s Gros Morne National Park. We correctly assumed the other vehicle in the faraway parking lot was theirs, but its Nova Scotia license plates were misleading. The two women had flown into nearby Deer Lake from Toronto, then rented a car.

The Johnson Geo Centre is located beneath the Cape Spear
Lighthouse in Newfoundland and is North America's  
easternmost point. COURTESY PHOTO 
Jennifer and Jennifer were two highlights of our just-completed trip to Newfoundland and Labrador that was memorable for all the right reasons.

Only some of Newfoundland’s terrain is awe-inspiring; the rest is merely magnificent, spectacular, and/or breathtaking. From majestic mountains to lush forests to towering cliffs overlooking fjords to barren, windswept landscapes with soil too windblown and inhospitable to support any sort of vegetation, it’s not hard to imagine what the island looked like millions of years ago. Which, as we learned at the Johnson Geo Centre (located beneath the Cape Spear Lighthouse, North America’s easternmost point), is because the landscape has indeed remained, for the most part, unsullied by humanity.

And much of humankind’s impact on the island has been erased by the sands of time. Consider L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site on the northern peninsula. It wasn’t until 1960 that archeologists began uncovering evidence there of the first Viking (and oldest known European) settlement in North America.

All along the Trans-Canada Highway, the Newfoundland portion of which runs 928 kilometers (576.6 miles), there are enormous stacks of firewood which have been amassed for the coming lengthy winter. Some have clearly been there for some time, but no slithering intruders are lurking in those piles, since no venomous snakes exist on the island.

While Newfoundland may have a dearth of reptiles, there’s no shortage of insects, and the best place to learn about them is the Newfoundland Insectarium in Reidville. The tropical butterfly garden alone is worth the price of admission. It seemed like a great place to meditate, and in fact there was a young man doing just that on the day we visited.

We could have spent a month hiking in Gros Morne but given limited time and even more limited outdoor engineering skills, we swapped our rustic campsite for three nights in a cabin with no electricity or running water, but windows equipped with bug-proof screens. Making that upgrade was by far our best decision of the trip. Three solid evenings of sleep was well worth 300 Canadian dollars.

But even without L’Anse aux Meadows, Signal Hill, Gros Morne, the Insectarium, St. John’s, Cape Spear, Terra Nova National Park, Castle Hill, and the numerous other memorable sites we visited, the trip’s highlight was unquestionably the people. It was Marcella, the indigenous interpreter at the Gros Morne Information Centre. It was Lloyd, the proprietor of the Insectarium, and Weston, his youthful, enthusiastic, and incredibly knowledgeable assistant. It was Valerie, the future ecological policy maker working at Gros Morne, who clued us in about the Bonne Bay Water Shuttle, a 15-minute water taxi ride from Woody Point to Norris Point that saved us an hour drive (each way). It was the gas station attendant along a remote section of the Viking Trail who wouldn’t let us pay for the can opener he gave us, a vital item for two travelers with eight cans of soup they planned on using for campfire-heated meals, but no way to open them.

Jennifer was right when she said, “The best thing about Newfoundland is the people.”

Or maybe it was Jennifer who said it. I often have trouble recalling names. <

Friday, July 5, 2024

Tim Nangle: Easing the property tax burden for Mainers

By State Sen. Tim Nangle

Ensuring Maine’s seniors can afford to stay in their homes is a priority beyond politics. Property taxes can be a significant burden, especially for older Mainers on fixed incomes. In response, we have enhanced and expanded essential programs to support seniors and working families.

State Senator Tim Nangle
One of the pivotal programs we've enhanced is the Property Tax Fairness Credit (PTFC). This credit is crucial for income-eligible Mainers, whether renting or owning their homes. Recognizing the need for more targeted relief, we have increased the maximum benefit for seniors by $500. This enhancement ensures the credit is more substantial for those over 65, providing a critical lifeline to our older residents.

Notably, the PTFC is refundable, meaning eligible individuals will receive the credit as a refund even if they owe no state income tax. This feature is particularly beneficial for older Mainers living on fixed incomes. The amount of the credit is determined based on income eligibility and age. I encourage you to visit the Maine Revenue Services website for more information on eligibility and the application process: maine.gov/revenue/taxes/tax-relief-credits-programs/income-tax-credits/property-tax-fairness-credit.

Another important program we've strengthened is the Property Tax Deferral Program. This program is designed to help older Mainers and individuals with disabilities remain in their homes even if they fall behind on property taxes. Through this program, the state pays the property taxes owed to the municipality, and repayment is deferred until the property is sold or the estate is settled.

During the 131st Maine Legislature, we increased eligibility of this program, broadening its reach to ensure that more older Mainers on the brink could benefit. This increase reflects our commitment to supporting the generation who has contributed so much to our community. To learn more about the Property Tax Deferral Program and see if you qualify, please visit maine.gov/revenue/taxes/tax-relief-credits-programs/property-tax-relief-programs/deferral-program

We also have specific programs to ease the property tax burden for our veterans. Veterans who have served during recognized war periods are 62 years or older, or are 100 percent disabled can receive a $6,000 reduction in the assessed value of their home through the Veteran Exemption. Additionally, paraplegic veterans who have received a federal grant for specially adapted housing may qualify for a $50,000 exemption. These benefits are one way of honoring the service of our veterans and ensuring they can live comfortably in their homes.

Another valuable program for property tax relief is the Homestead Exemption. This program reduces up to $25,000 in the assessed value of your primary residence for property tax purposes.

To qualify, you must be a permanent resident of Maine and have owned a home in the state for at least 12 months before applying. Once approved, the exemption remains in effect as long as your ownership and residency status do not change. This exemption is a significant benefit for all home-owning Maine residents, especially for those on fixed incomes, as it directly lowers the taxable value of your home, reducing your overall property tax bill.

Beyond these specific programs, I was proud to support budgets that ensure the state fully funds its share of K-12 public education and the revenue sharing program, which returns a portion of sales tax revenue to municipalities. These efforts are crucial because property taxpayers bear the additional burden when the state does not fulfill its financial commitments. By ensuring that the state adequately funds these areas, we aim to stabilize property taxes across the board, benefiting all Mainers.

For a comprehensive overview of all property tax relief programs available, please visit the Maine Revenue Services property tax relief page: https://www.maine.gov/revenue/taxes/tax-relief-credits-programs/property-tax-relief-programs. These resources are here to help you navigate and apply for assistance.

Our efforts to provide property tax relief are about ensuring that our seniors, working class families and veterans can continue to live in the homes and communities they cherish without financial strain. I am committed to working for you and ensuring that our community remains a great place to live for everyone.

Even though we are out of session, I am a resource and advocate for you all year. Contact me directly at Timothy.Nangle@legislature.maine.gov or call the Senate Majority Office at 207-287-1515. For the latest updates, follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/SenatorTimNangle, and sign up for my e-newsletter at mainesenate.org. <

Insight: Age before beauty II

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor


Now that Adam Vinateri and Tom Brady are officially retired from professional football, the courtesy title of the National Football League’s oldest player has been passed on to offensive tackle Jason Peters, 42, who appeared in eight games last season for the Seattle Seahawks. In Major League Baseball, the oldest current player is pitcher 41-year-old Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros and professional basketball’s oldest player still suiting up is LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers at 39.

It tells me that in professional sports, age doesn’t matter if you can help a team win games. It’s a philosophy I developed years ago while watching professional football with my father on television.

Nobody personifies that concept for me more than George Blanda. He started his career as a quarterback with the Chicago Bears in 1949 but by 1959 he was 31 years old and was out of football and wondering what to do next. Then in 1960, a new pro football league was launched called the American Football League and Blanda signed on to be the signal caller and placekicker for a new team called the Houston Oilers.

For seven seasons, he guided the Oilers and was the league’s Player of the Year in 1961, yet at age 39 in 1967, Houston wanted Blanda to become a fulltime kicker and he balked at that, instead signing with the Oakland Raiders as a backup quarterback and kicker. That decision produced immediate results. In his first season in Oakland, Blanda led the league in scoring with 116 points and kicked two extra points for the Raiders in a 33-14 loss in Super Bowl II.

By 1970, Blanda’s heroics during a five-game span for the Raiders at the age of 43 cemented his legacy as one of the greatest players of all-time. Coming in to replace injured starting QB Daryle Lamonica, Blanda threw three touchdown passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers, then booted a 48-yard field goal with 3 seconds left to forge a tie against the Kansas City Chiefs. Against the Cleveland Browns he came off the bench to throw a late TD pass to tie the game and then kicked a 53-year field goal with 3 seconds left to hand Oakland a victory. Against the Denver Broncos, Blanda again came off the bench in the fourth quarter and ignited a comeback win with a touchdown pass and followed that up a week later by kicking a field goal as time expired as the Raiders defeated San Diego, 20-17.

At age 48, Blanda’s last game was in the AFC Championship Game in January 1976 between Oakland and Pittsburgh. He kicked an extra point and a 41-yard field goal in that game as the Steelers beat the Raiders, 16-10, closing out Blanda’s remarkable 26-season career. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

Lefthanded pitcher Jamie Moyer played 25 seasons in Major League Baseball and made his debut for the Chicago Cubs in 1986 at the age of 23. By the end of the 1991 season, Moyer had pitched for the Cubs, the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals, who released him that October. But Moyer persisted and pitched 19 more seasons in the big leagues, winning 269 games and appearing at age 45 in the World Series as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008.

Moyer’s final season came in 2012 for the Colorado Rockies where he was 2-5 at the age of 49.

Seven-footer Kevin Willis grew up in Detroit, Michigan and didn’t start playing basketball until his junior year of high school. He started his college career at Jackson College in Michigan and transferred to Michigan State as a sophomore. When he was drafted in the first round as the 11th overall pick in 1984 by the Atlanta Hawks, Willis never dreamed he would establish records for longevity in his NBA career.

He played with the Hawks for 10 years before being traded to the Miami Heat in 1994. Then in 1996, Willis was traded to the Golden State Warriors and signed as a free agent with the Hoston Rockets later that summer. After two seasons in Houston, he was traded again, this time to the Toronto Raptors. In 2001, the Raptors traded Willis to the Denver Nuggets who traded him in September 2001 to Milwaukee. Without ever playing a game for Milwaukee, the Bucks traded Willis back to the Rockets.

Willis signed with the San Antonio Spurs in 2002 and was part of their NBA championship roster in 2003. He returned to the Atlanta Hawks in 2004 as the oldest player in the league at age 42 and closed out his time in the NBA in 2007 at age 44 as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. During his career, Willis tallied 17,253 points, grabbed 11,901 rebounds and recorded 750 blocked shots.

For young sports phenoms such as the NBA’s 20-year-old Victor Wembanyama, 23-year-old MLB shortstop Gunnar Henderson and 23-year-old NFL tight end Kyle Pitts, the future may be bright, but aging does catch up with everyone eventually.

As Mark Twain once said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, if doesn’t matter.”

Barbara Bagshaw: Electricity rates going up again despite efforts by Republicans to lower them

By State Rep. Barbara Bagshaw

The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recently announced that our electricity bills will rise again in July. It shouldn’t surprise anyone – legislative Republicans and Maine’s Public Advocate have been warning Mainers about this for years. I joined with my fellow Republicans, and a handful of Democrats, to try and lower rates this past session. Special interests and the majority of Democrats in Augusta refused to listen. Now we will all pay the price.

State Rep. Barbara Bagshaw
Residential ratepayers and now many of Maine’s businesses will start paying higher amounts of what is called the stranded cost portion of your electric bill. Simply put, this is the part of the bill where you subsidize the solar panels that have popped up across Maine, even if you do not benefit from them. You may have heard it called “Net Energy Billing.”

Electricity supply rates have already increased 76 percent higher on average since January 2021. The current increase on top of that is due to misguided state policies that reward out of state solar companies at the expense of Maine consumers. Simply put, wind and solar companies are paid .20 cents per kilowatt for a product that costs as little as .05 cents to generate.

This part of our bill is not because of Versant or CMP – they are required to pass the increase from solar on to you as part of their bill. The legislature is responsible for this one because of the excessive solar subsidies mandated through Net Energy Billing and other hidden subsidy costs.

** Standard offer rates increased 132.06 percent between 2014 and 2023 because of more expensive solar required under the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

** The Public Utilities Commission says we must pay even more for solar subsidies.

** For CMP, stranded costs will go up 93 percent to $183 million.

** Versant’s Bangor Hydro District remains about the same but Maine Public – the one that serves northern Maine – is going up 60 percent.

** Some businesses will be subject to a “job-killing solar tax,” with one small business bill going up over 1,660 percent. Another medium-size business will see its bill rise from $431.56 a month to $3,494.46 (709.73 percent increase).

** Maine’s nonpartisan Public Advocate Bill Harwood says it will cost $4 billion over 20 years. In a May 12 interview with WGME, he said: “It requires CMP and Versant power to pay approximately 20 cents per kilowatt hour for solar energy that costs less than 10 cents a kilowatt hour to generate," Harwood said. "They then make up this difference by adding it to the rates charged to rate payers."

It is important to point out that I and other legislative Republicans are not against rooftop solar. It should be a consumer choice. What I am against is requiring lower to middle income ratepayers to subsidize projects that they cannot afford or do not benefit from. It is wrong!

It is an honor to represent part of Windham in the Legislature. If there is any way that I can be of assistance, please contact me at barbara.bagshaw@legislature.maine.gov .My office phone number is 207-287-1440. You can find me on Facebook. To receive regular updates, sign up for my e-newsletter at https://mainehousegop.org/ <