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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.

1/22/10

DOWN EAST NOTES

Maine Public Broadcasting - Civil libertarians and religious groups are lining up in support of a bill that would limit the amount of time prisoners in Maine can be put in solitary confinement. LD 1611, sponsored by Rep. James Schatz, a Blue Hill Democrat, would also prevent authorities from placing prisoners with "serious mental illness" in solitary confinement. The measure has the support of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, as well as the Maine Council of Churches. The Maine Psychological Association and the Maine Association of Psychiatric Physicians are also supporting the measure. The groups are outlining their reasons at an Augusta news conference this morning.

WCSH - Employees of the Front Room restaurant in Portland and members of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Maine have filed a federal lawsuit against the owner of the restaurant, Harding Smith, for violations of labor laws. In the lawsuit, workers claim they were forced to pay a portion of their tips to management, were not paid appropriate minimum wages or overtime, and alleges a culture of disrespect at the Front Room. The suit, which asks for $160,000, seeks back wages for misappropriated tips. Eight former employees are taking part in the legal action.

Maine Owl - I understand the desire of a reporter to cover a story like the earthquake in Haiti, and an editor's desire to send them there, but knowing the severity of the devastation, unless there is some truly compelling local angle, is it really necessary for a Maine based reporter to go? Multiply this hundreds of times - won't how much these "local" reporters get in the way far outweigh what they learn? It reminds me of when authorities ask folks to stay home during a blizzard - those that venture out often end up creating more work for the road crews.

Maine Public Broadcasting - Advocates in Augusta are backing legislation that would prohibit health insurance companies from placing caps on the amount of benefits their clients could receive over a lifetime. While the elimination of these caps is included in national health reform bills being considered in Congress, backers of the Maine bill say they don't want to wait. . . . According to a report issued by the Augusta-based organization Consumers for Affordable Heath Care, more than half of those people covered by employer-sponsored health plans are subject to some type of cap, such as an annual or lifetime limit on what insurance companies will pay out in claims.

Maine Public Broadcasting - Maine is one of the oldest states in the country, with more than a quarter million patients covered by the federal Medicare program for the elderly and disabled. So a plan to slash Medicare reimbursement to doctors by 21 percent in March is sounding alarms here. Opponents say this will affect doctors' ability to serve people on Medicare. . . . AARP Maine director Nancy Kelleher urges lawmakers to consider the difficulty that seniors already have trying to find a doctor that accepts Medicare, which reimburses at a lower rate than private insurers. . . Kelleher says she's heard of seniors waiting a month to six months to see a doctor -- a problem exaggerated in rural areas, where there is a shortage of primary care physicians. But even in the state's largest city, many seniors can't see a doctor when they want. Intermed, one of Maine's largest private practices, reports having a waiting list.

Maine Politics - Republican 2nd District congressional candidate Jason Levesque has announced a campaign tour with a name that seems to perfectly fit this kind of political theater. From a campaign email: "Jason Levesque will be kicking off his 2010 campaign with "The Blah Blah Blah Tour", beginning January 21st in his hometown of Auburn. The 6 week tour will take Jason through several parts of Maine's 2nd District." . . .

It was a draft sent out as a final release and Lavesque sent out a corrected version calling it the Kick Off Tour. But then a reporter got this message from a campaign aide: "We got such an awesome reaction to what was seen as Jason's portrayal of what's coming out of DC right now we changed it back and that is now the name. If you cover him today or on other parts of the tour, you just miight hear him say it."

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