Maine Things Considered

4 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Monday - Friday

Weekdays at 4 p.m. join host Nora Flaherty and hear Maine’s only daily statewide radio news program. Maine Public Radio's award-winning news staff brings you the latest news from across Maine and the region, as well as in-depth reports on the most important issues.

We've all heard about first aid training to help someone in physical distress. Whether someone is bleeding, choking, or unconscious, there's an established protocol for such emergencies. But what if someone is in mental distress? That's an area that's a bit murkier. There’s a movement to train citizens in Mental Health First Aid, and today about 20 Mainers had their first lesson.

The national outrage over veterans' health care services took center stage in Washington today, where President Barack Obama told reporters that the allegations of misconduct at VA hospitals will be not be tolerated by his administration. The president made his remarks ahead of a Capitol Hill debate on a bill that would make it easier to fire or demote senior VA hospital executives.

Taffy Field: The Power of Language Hits Home

May 22, 2014

The public debate over language has been getting louder in recent months.

  I returned to the high school English classroom where I teach after a week's leave recently, and my highly-hip, young, male co-teacher hailed me with a hearty, "Hiya, Grandma!" Our students looked up, aghast. I'll let my co-teacher off the hook in a minute, but first, let's focus on the students' shock.

The controversial consultant Gov. Paul LePage hired to provide a report on ways to reform Maine's welfare system is under fire again, this time for allegedly lifting some of its findings verbatim from the work of a Washington D.C.-based think tank on developing welfare-to-work programs.

  A 2011 study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank, looked at ways to improve the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program - or TANF - by using that cash benefit program to subsidize jobs in the private sector as a person is trained for a job.

Responding to issues raised in a series of articles recently published in the Portland Press Herald, the head of Maine's National Guard today attempted to set the record straight in an email to soldiers and their families.  Brig. Gen. James Campbell said he would not address the specific allegations in the published reports except for one:  the possible relocation of the 133rd Engineer Battalion from Maine.  Susan Sharon reports.

It may not have been the shot heard around the state, but the televised attack and counter-attack between GOP primary opponents Bruce Poliquin and Kevin Raye were definitely heard across the 2nd Congressional District. In a television spot that began running this weekend, Poliquin hit Raye with an accusation of being "a liberal." But Raye answered with his own ad that essentially accused Poliquin of being a carpet-bagging tax dodger. A.J. Higgins is ringside.

If you ever have gone searching for a new car on the Internet and then noticed that, suddenly, there are car ads showing up in your browser window - and you're also getting mailers at home - you have experienced the types of marketing techniques that were used in the most recent presidential election. And now that same technology is making its way into local political races in Maine. Mal Leary has more.

New Carbon Rules: Is New England Already Complying?

May 20, 2014
iStock Photo/Thinkstock

Coal-burning power plants are bracing for new carbon regulations due out in June. In the Midwest where there are states that get as much as 70 percent of their electricity from coal, many are worried that these new regulations will cost jobs.  But New England may already be compliant with the rules before they are even written.

For the past four years, Forbes Magazine has ranked Maine as the worst state to do business.  The Maine Real Estate and Development Association wants to make it the best place. Today in Portland, the group gathered about 300 leaders from the public and private sectors to hash out what's working - and what's not.  

UMaine System Trustees Fail to Patch Hole in Budget

May 20, 2014

They relied on a patchwork fix of deep cuts, layoffs and savings, but the trustees for the University of Maine System were still unable to develop a plan that will completely close a $36 million-dollar structural gap in next year's $529 million operating budget. Instead, the board voted to use one-time money from reserve accounts to buy the administration a little more time to develop a budget fix that addresses declining enrollments and higher operating costs at the system's seven university campuses.

Patty Wight / MPBN

Mainers like buying local. And it's not just a slogan, it's now a documented fact, according to a local food initiative called the Maine Food Strategy, which today released its first ever Consumer Survey Report. The group hopes that the findings will accelerate even more local food purchasing -- and beyond fresh fruits and veggies.

Maine's potato growers don't have a whole lot to celebrate at the moment; a major processing contract negotiated by a growers' bargaining council resulted in disappointingly low figures. Maine's spud crop last year was worth almost $170 million dollars and potato farmers cultivated some 54,000 acres, most of that in Aroostook County. But fewer acres will be planted this year, and with a chilly, wet spring in northern Maine, 2014 could be a tough one for many growers of Maine's iconic tuber.

You know it's springtime in Maine when the birds wake you up before your alarm clock does. Right now is peak season for the spring bird migration. That means bird watchers -- both amateurs and experts -- are out with their binoculars in woods and fields all over Maine. Jennifer Rooks headed out to Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park with ornithologist Jeff Wells.

When Jeff Wells heads into the woods, he hears things most of us don't.

"That super-high pitch sound, 'zzzz,' that's a blackburnian warbler," Wells says.

Not background noise. But discrete, individual voices.

Jay Field

Walker School in Liberty made impressive gains over the past year. The school's grade on it's 2014 state report card jumped from a D to a B. Thanks to budget cuts, Walker now shares its principal with another elementary school in the district, Regional School Unit 3. Troy Central School moved from an F to a D this year. According to the state, it's still struggling. But a visit to Troy revealed the same kind of energy and programs in place that eventually allowed Walker School to become more successful.

MOO Milk CEO: 'I Feel Like I've Let Them Down'

May 19, 2014

MOO chief executive Bill Eldridge says the problem is not demand for the milk - which has quadruped in the last two years - but the poor state of a key piece of machinery.

A bold experiment launched by ten Maine organic dairy farmers has come to an end. The company known as Maine's Own Organic Milk, or MOO Milk, has announced it will end operations tomorrow.

  After being dropped by a national dairy, the farmers joined together five years ago to process and market their milk to consumers.