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This week’s edition!

Collins introduces bill to penalize robocalls

From Sen. Collins

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), along with Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Gary Peters (D-MI), introduced the Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act of 2021 today to aid Americans who are being inundated with robocalls.

Their bipartisan legislation would double the penalties for illegal caller-ID “spoofing,” a tactic scammers often use to trick victims into answering their phone calls.  By disguising their true identity, scammers can masquerade as government officials or well-known businesses and convince consumers to share their personal and financial information.

The introduction of the Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act coincides with National “Slam the Scam” Day, an annual initiative that brings together federal, state, and local government agencies with nonprofits and the private sector to warn the public of government imposter phone scams. 

“Older Americans lose billions of dollars each year to an ever-growing array of financial exploitation schemes.  These scams vary in nature, from COVID-19 scams to government imposter scams to prize, sweepstakes, and lottery scams,” said Senator Collins.  “We must work together to combat the criminals who use illegal robocalls and spoofing to steal Americans’ hard-earned savings and personal information.  By increasing penalties for spoofing violations, the bipartisan Anti-Spoofing Penalties Modernization Act would provide an additional tool in this fight.”

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VA begins Janssen vaccinations

From VA Maine

AUGUSTA – VA Maine Healthcare System will begin COVID-19 vaccination with the Janssen vaccine last week, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization for this vaccine.

In clinical trials, the Janssen vaccine showed an efficacy of 66% against moderate to severe/critical COVID-19 disease occurring at least 28 days after vaccination — and demonstrated greater than 85% efficacy in preventing severe/critical COVID-19 disease occurring at least 28 days after vaccination.

Janssen is a Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company.

“VA Maine is eager to be able to offer a second highly effective vaccine to more Veterans,” said Tracye Davis “This one-dose vaccine will help us reach our ultimate goal of offering COVID-19 vaccination to all Veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated.”

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Local chef in national competition

By Nathan Tsukroff

AUBURN – Amazing food from a celebrity chef is not just on television.

Everyone has heard of the Food Network, where chefs from around the country demonstrate their skills.

And Auburn can now boast of having its very own celebrity chef – Sayvepen Sengsavang, “Chef Sav”, from the Mu Noi Brunch restaurant on the north end of Center Street in Auburn.

Sayvepen Sengsavang, “Chef Sav”, preps an area to roll out dough for bread for one of the sandwiches sold at the Mu Noi Brunch restaurant on Center Street in Auburn. Sav competed in a recent episode of the Food Network’s Supermarket Stakeout. (Tsukroff photo)

Chef Sav competed in a recent edition of  Supermarket Stakeout on the Food Network, with filming in October and  the episode airing the beginning of February.

In the competition, presented by Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, four chefs have to create dishes from groceries they purchase from customers coming out of a nearby supermarket. With a starting budget of $500 each, the final chef wins a prize of $10,000.

Sous-chef (the second chef in command in a kitchen) Molly Hinkel prepares a fried chicken sandwich at the Mu Noi Brunch restaurant on Center Street in Auburn. (Tsukroff photo)

Chef Sav took part in episode 6 of season 3 of the show. Titled “Who’s Hot, Who’s Cold”, the episode saw him competing against chefs Danny Bullock, Tony Biggs and Ayo Cherry.

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Schooner Estates a ‘Caring Super Star’

By Rachel Morin

AUBURN – Schooner Estates Senior Living Community in Auburn was recently honored as a “Caring Super Star of 2021” for service excellence in senior living.

Caring.com, which calls itself the leading online destination for those seeking information and support as they care for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones, rates senior facilities nationally each year.

Schooner Estates Senior Living Community, Auburn, was recently named a “Caring Super Star of 2021” by Caring.com, an online resource for families caring for aging parents, spouses, and other loved ones.  (Rachel Morin Photo)

Schooner Estates joins an elite group of winners called Super Stars after receiving the Caring Star award the past three years.

The facility earned five stars in consumer ratings and reviews from tenants and tenants’ family members on Caring.com. Among the 156 Caring Star Communities across the country, Schooner Estates is the only community in Maine to receive this honor.

John Rice, Director of Operations at Schooner, said, ” Despite today’s unprecedented challenges around the world and in our community, it feels amazing to hear how much our tenants and families recognize and appreciate the high-quality services our staff provide every day.”

“Being recognized as a Caring Super Star of 2021 truly validates our heartfelt work to be the best place to live and work in Maine. Thank you to everyone who shared their feedback,” he said. The Caring Stars annual list, originally launched in January 2012 as the first of its kind, has become a go-to guide of senior living communities nationwide.

Spring events for Sophia’s House

From Wisdoms Women

LEWISTON – One year ago, The Center for Wisdom’s Women opened Sophia’s House, a residential healing community for women in Lewiston.

It was just as the virus arrived, cancelling a planned opening gala event at the Franco Center. Now, a year later, on the weekend of the equinox, at the cusp of Spring, it is time to celebrate the first year of operation and look toward the future. 

On Saturday, Mar. 20 a concert will be live-streamed starting at 8 p.m. with Carrie Newcomer, American singer, songwriter and author. Thanks to donor support, all proceeds will benefit Sophia’s House. Ticket costs are on a sliding scale.

Carrie Newcomer, an American singer, songwriter and author, will be featured in a virtual concert on Mar. 20 to raise money for the Center for Wisdom’s Women residential healing community, Sophia’s House. (Photo courtesy of Wisdom’s Women)

Newcomer has been described as a “prairie mystic” and as someone who “asks all the right questions.” She has 17 nationally released albums and has released two companion books of poetry and essays.  Newcomer and Parker Palmer are actively collaborating on several projects including The Growing Edge, a website, podcast and retreat that has been listed as on of the top ten spiritual programs for the next 20 years.  She earned a regional Emmy for the PBS special “An Evening with Carrie Newcomer.” In 2019 she was recipient of the Shalem Institute Contemplative Voices Award.  Her media appearances include Krista Tippett’s On Being. FMI: https://www.carrienewcomer.com/

Following the concert, friends and supporters are invited to a virtual tea party, streamed from Sophia’s House at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Mar/ 21.  The event will thank and celebrate all those who helped create Sophia’s House, and will include dedication of the dining room; a video tour of the house; sharing of poetry; and the launching of the Klara Tammany Endowment Fund for perpetual support of the residential program.

Concert tickets and reservations for the virtual tea party can be obtained through The Center for Wisdom’s Women website at www.wisdomswomen.org/events.

Bates Winter Arts in Art Walk L-A

From LA Arts

LEWISTON – LA Arts featured the Bates Winter Arts Festival for its virtual Art Walk L-A event last Friday.

The event included streaming art and performances including original artwork by Bates Arts Society members, the Bates College Deansmen performing “A Change in my Life” by Rockapella, an original song by LuisDa Molina-Rueda, magic by Abby Segal, a poem in Hindi by festival coordinator and international student Kush Sharma, the Local Writers Read 2020 Maine Literary Award Finalists Series.

LA Arts and the Art Walk LA Committee are also hosting the 2021 Art Walk Artists online gallery, which can be found at http://bitly.ws/bVgy. Artists and artisans included on that page each have works for sale.

Visual artists and artisans can register free at http://bitly.ws/bVgA and LA Arts will share their work on this web page throughout the season. All art sale proceeds go to artists and makers.

The Deansmen were featured performers from the Bates Winter Arts Festival at the LA Arts virtual Art Walk L-A event last Friday. (Photo courtesy of LA Arts)

Virtual Art Walk LA and all LA Arts programs are made possible with the generous support of community partners including Community Arts Champion sponsors Acadia Insurance, Austin Associates, P.A., Bates College, Baxter Brewing Co., Berman & Simmons, the City of Auburn, the City of Lewiston, Liberty Mutual, the Sun Journal as well as the Davis Family Foundation, Maine Arts Commission, Maine Community Foundation, the Onion Foundation, and the Ladd Foundation.

Since 1973, LA Arts, the arts agency for the cities of Lewiston and Auburn, has pursued a mission to engage and inspire a vibrant community through arts and culture. The agency works with governments, businesses, schools and local arts and cultural organizations to create opportunities for community members across the generations to experience, learn, and participate in the arts. LA Arts organizes arts programs and initiatives, supports the work of local artists and arts organizations, and highlights the essential role the arts play in shaping an economically vital, socially integrated, and forward-looking future for its community.

Learn more at www.laarts.org.

LHS expansion on time, on budget

From Lewiston Public Schools

LEWISTON – “On time, on budget!” That’s the status of the Lewiston High School expansion, according to LHS assistant principal Jay Dufour, who also is the Lewiston School Department liaison for the project.

The construction contractor, Ledgewood Construction, is currently installing electrical material in the portion of the existing building that is part of the overall construction.

“Much of the interior demolition to connect the new wing to the main part of LHS has been accomplished,” Dufour said. “Preparation, inside and outside, is well along for the additional elevator, and a seminar room in what formerly was administrative space is almost ready for drywalling and ceiling installation.”

Construction is on time and on budget for the expansion of the Lewiston High School building. The new addition will provide special education and regular education classrooms, and house the visual and performing arts production and rehearsal areas. (Photo courtesy of Lewiston Public Schools)

Creation of the new functional life skills program space is in progress, as are the redeveloped administrative offices, including the inclusion of the school resource officer’s base of operation.

The former adult education area has been totally dismantled, and that program will be relocated to the newly renovated section of the school, according to Dufour. “Three doorways in the guidance department lobby have been totally knocked out, and will become entryways to a staff workroom, the special education offices, and the expanded nurse’s suite,” he said.

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I AND YOU…

Full Stream ahead at The Public Theatre!

From The Public Theatre

LEWISTON – Last March, due to COVID, The Public Theatre had to cancel its production of I AND YOU on the day it was scheduled to open. Only the preview audiences had the pleasure of seeing the show. They laughed, they wept and cheered the production. The Theatre was heartbroken that no one else would get to see this very special play.

Emma Wisniewski as Caroline and London Carlisle as Anthony in the streaming production of the show I AND YOU from The Public Theatre in Lewiston. (Photo courtesy of The Public Theatre)

“When opening night was cancelled, we were all desperately in need of closure on this wonderful experience”, said Director Christopher Schario. “So, before the actors went home to New York, we invited a small audience to the theatre and recorded the final performance of I AND YOU. We’re very excited to announce, that after months of contract negotiations, we have finally gotten permission to share this video with our audience.”

I AND YOU can be watched at your convenience, once, any time between March 8 through March 21. “The interesting thing about streaming the show”, said Schario, “is the fact that anyone in the world can watch it and see the high quality of work that’s happening onstage at The Public Theatre. It’s also a great way for our audience to introduce their friends and family who may not live in town to the Theatre.”

“We’re even offering a date night incentive of ‘Dinner and a Show at home!’, says Schario.  “We are partnering with Fishbones Restaurant in Lewiston, who will be offering a 10% discount on take-out or dine-in during our streaming dates if you purchase your ticket by March 1st.”

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Setting Our Priorities: COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights

Guest Column

By Sen. Nate Libby

The start of 2021 has not been easy on any of us. We are halfway through February, and the COVID-19 pandemic remains at the forefront of our lives. As the Legislature reconvenes in a virtual format, we’re considering our first bill of the year, LD 1 “An Act to Establish a COVID-19 Patient Bill of Rights.”

Sen. Nate Libby (D-Androscoggin), Maine District 21, the City of Lewiston. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Libby)

 The crux of the bill is this: If you’re impacted by COVID-19, you shouldn’t have to make tough decisions about seeking health care treatment because you’re worried about how to pay for it. My fellow legislators and I all share a responsibility to make sure Mainers have access to health care, in a pandemic or not. We also hold firm that it is our responsibility to ensure that Mainers do not have to worry whether or not they can afford that care. Access to care as well as affordability to that care are equally vital. LD 1 aims to build on the progress we made last legislative session and deal with new issues that have arisen during this difficult time.

 This bill would require state-regulated health care plans to cover and waive co-pays for COVID-19 screenings, testing and vaccinations, as well as expand telehealth options in the state of Maine. In other words, plans for public employees, individuals and small groups who purchase plans through the marketplace, and those covered by MaineCare are protected by provisions in LD 1.

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Unique Sunday River Whitecap

Seniors Not Acting Their Age

By Ron Chase

Sunday River Whitecap is one of the most unique mountain hikes in Maine.  Rugged terrain, phenomenal views, and a barren alpine summit provide a remarkable winter mountaineering experience. 

Located on the northeastern end of the Mahoosuc Range in far western Maine, climbing the 3,337 foot peak entails about 2,100 feet of elevation gain while negotiating a variety of trail conditions.  The Grafton Notch Loop Trail is the normal route to the summit.  From Route 26 in North Newry, the fourteen-mile out and back trek is an arduous winter expedition.  For about three decades, Chowderheads with the Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society (PPCS) have been scaling Sunday River Whitecap via an esoteric six mile roundtrip alternative route. 

Hikers ascend the north shoulder of Sunday River Whitecap in a dense conifer growth. (Ron Chase photo)

Scheduled to lead a mid-January PPCS winter mountain hike, Sunday River Whitecap was my choice.  Unaware of snow depth in the Mahoosucs, a primary concern was to snowshoe or not to snowshoe. Full disclosure, for me snowshoeing is a means to an end.  If I can get to the top of a mountain without using them, that’s my preference.  During my last Sunday River Whitecap outing, a companion and I toted snowshoes for the entire trip never needing them.  At my age, I’m pacing my arthritic joints; attempting to postpone their inevitable demise.  Senselessly carrying added weight is a non-starter. 

Several club members responded to my inquiry regarding snow levels in the Mahoosucs.  Their reports indicated about ten inches of snow accumulation could be anticipated and snowshoes were probably unnecessary.  Our plan was to take them to the trailhead before making a final decision. 

Six of us met in a clearing at the junction of Routes 2 and 26 in Newry on a sunny, breezy winter day with temperatures in the low twenties.  Since parking was expected to be limited at the esoteric trailhead, we masked and teamed up in pairs for the nine mile drive north on Route 26 to an old dirt road on the left between Screw Auger Falls and Grafton Notch. A snowplow had cleared space sufficient for a few vehicles.

Inspection at the trailhead indicated the ten-inch snow prediction was accurate.  As the snow had a very light consistency, our decision was settled, no snowshoes.  Anticipating gusty winds and low temperatures above tree line, we packed for extreme winter conditions.  Everyone carried ice cleats, some wearing them from the outset.

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