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Monday, Feb. 13, 2012: New England Patriots, U.S. Postal Service and propane tank explosions

Posted Feb. 12, 2012, at 1:39 p.m.
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A true Patriot

While I know that most of New England is disappointed in the outcome of the Super Bowl, I want to offer a different perspective.

Although I’m disappointed, too, I am choosing to think of the many hours of excitement and entertainment I enjoyed while watching the Patriots during the 2011 season. It was great fun, and I thank the coaches and players for their hard work. We can’t win ’em all, and a 15-win season isn’t chopped liver!

Thanks, Patriots, for a wonderful season. See you in the fall!

Pat Carrick


Postal service fix

A recent letter to the editor in the BDN states that all that is needed to solve the U.S. Postal Service’s financial crisis is to eliminate the required payments for future retirees’ health benefits.

The truth is, the postal service has had various reprieves the last few years, and yet for the past three years, it was still in the red by $2.4 billion, $3 billion and $5.1 billion, respectively. Moreover, those losses were in addition to any prefunding payment owed whether paid or deferred.

The unfunded liability for future postal health benefits is $46.2 billion. Requiring the postal service to reduce this unfunded liability helps ensure that its promise to retired workers will be kept and that taxpayers are not on the hook for these benefits. These are very real unfunded liabilities.

Setting aside funds to pay for future obligations makes good business sense, and contrary to what the writer alleged, the postal service is hardly unique in this practice.

The bipartisan postal reform bill that I have authored would provide billions in relief from the steep payments owed under the current law’s prefunding schedule, yet it ensures that the liability is still eventually funded so that the postal service keeps its promises to retirees.

Those are real obligations. Sticking our heads in the sand won’t make this liability go away and would jeopardize the benefits of future retired postal workers.

Susan M. Collins

United States Senator

Reality beats perception

In his Feb. 7 BDN Op-Ed on Maine’s business climate, Charles Hastings begins with a personal observation that, upon graduation, more and more UMaine graduates are packing up and leaving for another state. “They move away,” he writes.

This strong claim caught my attention, for it is contradicted by the annual survey of UMaine graduates, “Life After UMaine,” which my office conducts.

In the most recent survey of our graduates, for example, roughly two-thirds of respondents were employed full time (versus, say, pursing graduate studies), and most of these full-time employed — 71 percent — stayed in Maine. Not surprisingly, the latter percentage was higher among in-state graduates (79 percent) than among out-of-state graduates (21 percent), although we do find the statistic for out-of-state graduates encouraging nonetheless. Results from Life After UMaine are generally consistent from year to year.

Survey research is an imperfect science to be sure, and it is important that one not overplay the resulting data. Further, the migration behavior of college graduates will differ according to a school’s mission, recruiting practices, and so on. That said, the data for Maine’s flagship public university paint a different picture, and an arguably more positive one, than that conveyed by the personal observation above.

Ted Coladarci

Director, Office of Institutional Studies

University of Maine

Propane, fire and water

During last Wednesday evening’s discussion on WERU-FM concerning the huge LPG tank proposed for Searsport by DCP Midstream, I contested the allegation of one of the panelists that propane fires can be extinguished with water, explaining that water acts to cool a burning solid substance below its flash point, and that propane is not a solid substance, and squirting water on a propane fire only serves to spread the fire.

The panelist then stated that he had in fact used water to put out a propane fire, and I was not given a chance to respond, hence this letter.

It is true that small propane fires can be extinguished with water, especially water mist, if the volume of water is large with respect to the volume of propane. In the case of an explosion of the proposed tank, however, there is not enough water in Penobscot Bay to suppress the resulting fire. I have calculated the energy content of the full tank, and my calculation has been confirmed by Dr. Francois Amar, chairman of the chemistry department at Orono. The figure is just over half a megaton, or at least 33 times the energy released by the atomic bomb that incinerated Hiroshima.

Given the firestorms that would certainly follow an explosion of the tank, this could well destroy all of midcoast Maine. Propane tank explosions are disturbingly common events. Do we really need something like this sitting in our backyards?

David Laing

Stockton Springs

Faith quandary

Hypothetically speaking, if a business owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses offered health insurance to its employees (some of whom were non-Witnesses), would the business owner be allowed to omit coverage for blood transfusions from the insurance policy benefits on religious grounds?

Kim McGowan

Old Town

Crisis created

Hold that tax cut! We can’t afford it.

With the continuing debate over cuts to MaineCare, any reference to last year’s $150 million dollar tax cut barely gets mentioned. But isn’t that the crux of our financial woes?

Gov. LePage pushed really hard and convinced a majority of the Legislature to put through a tax cut with no forethought of future expenses. Would he have done this for himself? Would he have spent money he didn’t have and then complained that he couldn’t pay the bills?

I think not.

He’s too smart not to have known there would be great shortfalls in funding health care. He bet on that shortfall to force the Legislature to cut the lower economic scale while the upper end divvied up much of the $150 million for themselves.

According to our governor, 70,000 people were removed from the tax rolls. Did they get a bonanza? Hardly. Someone making $30,000 a year received a tax cut of around $2 a month. Don’t you think these people would have forgone their tax cut to ensure proper health care for someone less well off? MaineCare needs to be fixed, but not under the financial gun.

I think Maine people realize that the tax cut they “bought” is too expensive, and needs to be put on hold. Nine months of no tax cut would restore $112 million dollars to be used for much better things than delivering a tax cut that pays for a monthly loaf of bread.

Jane Sumner


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