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The Coastal Packet

The longtime national journal, Progressive Review, has moved its headquarters from Washington DC to Freeport, Maine, where its editor, Sam Smith, has long ties. This is a local edition dealing with Maine news and progressive politics.

8/2/09

Sunday, August 2

LOBSTER CHEAPER PER POUND THAN HOT DOGS

CNN - Looking for an inexpensive change-up for your next backyard barbeque? Try lobster. "Per pound, it's less expensive than hot dogs right now," grumbles lobster-boat captain Mike Dassatt, who fishes the coast near Belfast, Maine, with his wife Sheila. . . Restaurant demand for lobster is down 30% to 35%, versus 10% to 15% for other seafood, reports Michael Tourkistas, CEO of Lynn, Mass., seafood distributor East Coast Seafoods. "Lobster is considered a celebration food -- a feel-good food -- and right now people don't have a lot to celebrate," says Tourkistas. If that weren't bad enough, the implosion of the Icelandic banks, long the dominant lenders to the fishing industry, has reduced funding available to the big Canadian lobster processors, cutting demand further. These processors typically purchase and process more than half of Maine's annual lobster catch before shipping them frozen to restaurants, cruise ships, and supermarkets all over the globe. . .

The wholesale or "boat" price of lobsters has crashed from a peak price of about $10 a pound in the winter of 2006 -- average prices in recent years have hovered around $4.50 a pound -- to a mere $2.25 today. . . Add in the high price of diesel fuel and the rising price of herring that lobstermen use as bait -- herring has doubled in price since 2007 -- and the end result has been a kind of economic Nor'easter for the Maine lobstermen. They're now losing money on every lobster they catch. "Put it this way -- yesterday we spent $70 on fuel, $60 on bait and came home with $70 worth of lobsters," says Sheila Dassatt, herself a fourth-generation Maine lobsterman.

THE MAINE STREAM

Troy R. Bennett, Brunswick Times Record -
With July coming to a finish today, the state needs just one heavy thunderstorm during the next month to break the all-time record for Maine's rainiest summer. . . Heading into August 2009, rainfall tallies measured in Portland so far have reached 16.52 inches - and that figure doesn't include about 0.1 inches of rain that fell Thursday morning, but hadn't been officially added to the total as of late Thursday. Without so much as another raindrop, 2009 boasts the fifth rainiest summer in Maine's recorded history.

Press Herald - Clam diggers here and in other coastal communities pulled on their boots and headed back to work Friday . . . This week, the record-setting red tide - a bloom of toxic algae - retreated in many parts of the coast. At the same time, contaminants flushed into coastal water by rainstorms also subsided.

Defending the egregiously unfair new sign-up requirements for would-be governors before they can get public campaign funds, House Speaker Hannah Pingree blew her cover by admitting that the bill was designed to "to make the system more attractive for major-party candidates." But as the Phoenix points out, of the six gubernatorial contenders who have used Clean Election funding since the system was set up, "three have been Republicans; one was an independent and two were Greens. No Democrats have used the system to run for governor.. . . Lynne Williams, the Bar Harbor attorney who has already declared she will seek the governorship for the Green Party, says the new rules are 'a paradox,' in that the Clean Election system exists to take money out of politics, but now requires fundraising. "

Chicago Sun Times - A recent study on the effect of sound levels on music teachers found 68 percent of them had noise-induced hearing loss.
"It's difficult to state that being involved in a band or orchestra will lead to noise-induced hearing loss," said lead researcher Douglas Owens of the University of Southern Maine. "However, we do know that overexposure to sounds above 85 decibels is hazardous and could lead to hearing loss."In band classrooms, sound levels can rise to 115 decibels, he said

Portland Press Herald - Owens' journey started soon after he learned that the ringing and hissing in his ears, also known as tinnitus, were signs of hearing loss. . . . Comparing eight-hour exposure rates, Owen found noise levels for all of the band directors were more than three times higher than recommended by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.
Owens suggested that band directors take a variety of steps to limit their noise exposure by wearing noise-filtering earplugs, improving sound-absorbing acoustics in performance spaces and controlling how loudly student music groups play throughout the day.

Ellen W. Todd Sanford News - Poland Spring has removed its test wells from a wildlife management area in Shapleigh and Newfield and no longer plans to pursue extracting spring water from the area, according to a spokesperson for the company. The withdrawal of the 13 test wells and four spring wells from the Vernon Walker Wildlife Management Area is seen as a victory by local residents who opposed the large-scale water extraction from the aquifer that lies beneath the 4,000-acre wildlife preserve.

Boston Globe - New Hampshire's consumer advocate representative says after two days of hearings, FairPoint Communications executives still don't have a plan to fix all their service problems. Meredith Hatfield tells the Eagle-Tribune that a technical session between the state Public Utilities Commission and FairPoint on Thursday revealed the troubled telecommunications company is still struggling to offer the same level of service it provided before switching to a new computer system in February. FairPoint bought telephone and Internet service from Verizon in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont last year. It switched to a new computer system in February and customers have experienced customer service, billing and service problems ever since.

On Top - Opponents of gay marriage in Maine turned in petition signatures to force a "people's veto" on the recently enacted law Friday morning. . .Opponents of the law announced several weeks ago that they had gathered sufficient signatures to force a referendum. Mark Mutty, executive director of the group, said it took four weeks to gather the more than 55,000 signatures necessary to qualify the measure.

American Profile
featured tales of readers' favorite teachers one of them came from Maine: "In ninth grade, Mrs. Fisher wanted to teach us the power of concentration, so she slowly walked around the room during a test, cracking a wooden ruler on her big desk, opening and slamming the door, or pulling down a window shade and quickly letting it up so it flapped round and round," recalls Mrs. Lenny Sweet, 78, of Hulls Grove, Maine. "I'm not sure how many times she did this before I learned to ignore events around me and concentrate on the business at hand, but learn I did."

Lance Tapley on the Maine media: The country's turn to the right, which accelerated after the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, began a new phase: Gradually, nationally and in Maine, journalism got feebler. . . In Maine, substantial alternative weeklies like the Maine Times, founded in 1968, got fainter and eventually disappeared. Many small but consequential political and other special-interest publications also faded away. As corporate power expanded, the managers of the dailies increasingly became the heads of big, conservative corporations. They saw little need for the investments of time - and money - that investigative reporters require. For some time now there has been no full-time investigative reporter at a Maine daily. No daily-paper reporter covers state government with the impact of the Press Herald's Bob Cummings, who through his articles in the '70s caused the return to the public of hundreds of thousands of acres of forest stolen by the 19th-century timber barons. . . Take, for example, the mass torture of mostly mentally ill inmates at the Maine State Prison's solitary-confinement Supermax, a subject I've covered for years. I'd welcome competition on this story, and in years past I would have expected it. Inmate suicides, hunger strikes, a murder, beatings by guards, official secrecy - this is raw meat for a feeding frenzy of media attention. Not this time - mostly, there has been silence.

WHAT'S HAPPENING

Press Herald
- Filmmaker Ken Burns calls the national park system "America's best idea." And he thinks one of the best stories about how that idea came to fruition happened in Maine, when Acadia National Park was created in 1919. . . "With Acadia, you had some wealthy people buying up some of the properties that had been owned by cottagers and creating a park as a gift to the United States, and that had never happened before," said Burns, from his office in Walpole, N.H. "It's a very wonderful and unique story." The story of the creation and evolution of the national park system is the focus of Burns' new PBS series "The National Parks: America's Best Idea." Burns will be in Portland on Thursday to present a 55-minute package of highlights from the 12-hour, six-episode series and to answer questions at Merrill Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. The series will be shown on PBS TV stations, beginning Sept. 27.


Village Soup -
This fall, 2005 Deer Isle-Stonington High School graduate Ian McCray Martin will release his film "Life by Lobster," a documentary portrait of six of his classmates and friends. Part of Martin's undergraduate work at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., "Life by Lobster" takes an intimate look at these young men as they take on the responsibilities and challenges of one of Maine's iconic industries. . . Stonington is home to about 3,000 year-round residents and more than 300 lobstermen. . . In 2007 lobster landings at Stonington totaled 6,210,323 pounds, yielding more than $27 million in value. . . For those who want to learn about the experience of sailing amid the wonder and beauty of Maine's coast and islands, Rich Holzer's look inside the local windjammer fleet offers an opportunity to meet the captains, crews and passengers of these tall ships. . . Capt. Barry King grew up on the water and started his seafaring career with the purchase of a six-passenger vessel. "Six passengers is tough to make a living on," King says in the video as he describes the decision he made to crew on, and eventually buy, the much larger Mary Day. "Fifteen years later, we're still doing it," he says of the business he owns with his wife, Capt. Jennifer Martin. To learn more about "Sea Kindly," visit windjammerdvd.com. Information about "Life by Lobster" can be obtained by calling Opera House Arts at 367-2788.


Village Soup - Half of Nancy Manter's current show at Waterfall Arts Belfast is given over to a deceptively simple set of photos - views through the front windshield of a car, after a snowfall, taken over the course of several years. In most, Manter's windshield - we'll assume it's hers - is rendered opaque by newly fallen snow or ice. Into these unassuming blank canvases, Manter has scratched and dusted wonderfully casual gaps revealing the sky and trees outside. Nancy Manter's "Desire Lines" runs until Aug. 28, , Clifford Gallery, Waterfall Arts, 256 High St. Belfast

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