Popular cancer pill goes generic, yet patients’ costs stay high

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National and international headlines

Popular cancer pill goes generic, yet patients’ costs stay high

Donald Jones used to pay at least $500 a month for a brand-name drug, Gleevec, that’s kept his leukemia at bay for five years.

Lately, he’s been paying almost as much for a generic version of the same pill.

It’s not supposed to work that way. For decades in the U.S., generic drugs have been cheap, effective alternatives to expensive brand-name treatments. That’s changing with drugs like Gleevec, Novartis AG’s household-name cancer treatment. Generic forms of the drug can cost $150 or more a pill.

“If I don’t take it, I’m going to die,” Jones, 73, said in a phone interview. He lives in Desloge, Missouri, and wants to retire from his $14-an-hour part time job refurbishing electric motors, which keeps him on his feet for hours. But he says he can’t, because he needs the money to pay for the generic version of a drug he thought would be far less expensive. Read more.

‘Sea pickles’ keep washing ashore, and scientists are baffled

There are strange sea creatures known as “sea pickles” invading the Pacific Northwest.

These gelatinous and somewhat translucent organisms, called pyrosomes, have been seen congregating, sometimes by the thousands, close to shore from Northern California up to southeast Alaska — clogging fishing nets and washing up on beaches, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Experts say that this year, the critters are appearing in very high numbers outside the normal range of the species.

Most recently, NBC Bay Area reported that the sea dwellers have been causing a stir in Monterey Bay, frustrating fishermen trying to catch salmon and shrimp.

Trump and ‘Morning Joe’: How a long and ugly feud just got even uglier

President Donald Trump’s relationship with the hosts of the MSNBC program “Morning Joe” – which devolved into cringeworthy tweets about facelifts and the size of the president’s anatomy on Thursday – has a long and ugly history, careening from collegiality to hostility, followed by even deeper hostility.

In the earliest days of the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump was a semiregular guest on the show, hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. He seemed to accord it near-equal status to its direct and higher-rated cable-news competitor, “Fox & Friends.”

Trump says the Atlantic, Arctic could soon be open to oil drilling

The White House is making a bid to overturn the Obama administration’s five-year plan forbidding oil and gas exploration in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans and will examine opportunities to drill almost anywhere off the U.S. coast.

Interior Department officials said Thursday that opening most of the outer continental shelf to leasing is part of President Donald Trump’s strategy to make the United States a global leader in energy production, stimulate coastal activity and create thousands of jobs. But as onshore oil and natural gas production has surged from horizontal drilling, helping to lower the price of petroleum, interest in offshore drilling has fallen.

Weed, snail venom may replace addictive opioid painkillers

In the wake of mounting overdoses and deaths from the opioid-addiction crisis sweeping the nation, drugmakers are racing to come up with safer painkillers.

Companies are highly motivated to create alternatives to the $4 billion opioid market. The federal government is cracking down on lax prescriptions that contribute to many thousands of deaths a year and has started to block the sale of medications it considers unsafe.

Drugs such as morphine, fentanyl, and oxycodone are such powerful analgesics because they so effectively block pain signals by acting directly on the brain. Since they work at such a fundamental level, these medications would be perfect painkillers were it not for their tendency to cause addiction.

Twitter is looking for ways to let users flag fake news

Twitter is exploring adding a feature that would let users flag tweets that contain misleading, false, or harmful information, according to two people familiar with the company’s thinking.

The feature, which is still in a prototype phase and may never be released, is part of the company’s uphill battle against rampant abuse on its platform. It could look like a tiny tab appearing in a drop-down menu alongside tweets, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release details of the effort.

Travel ban to take effect as State Department defines ‘close family’

Visitors from six predominantly Muslim nations will not be granted visas unless they have a very close family tie to someone already in the United States or an entity like a workplace or university, under new guidelines the State Department said become effective Thursday night.

A cable sent to consular officials worldwide Wednesday provided a narrow definition of close family: a parent, spouse, child, an adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling, as well as stepfamily relationships.

[Immigrant leaders in Maine say court travel ban ruling ‘still religious discrimination’]

However, it explicitly excluded other family relationships: grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, fiances and other “extended” family relations.

Accused cardinal denies sex abuse allegations, takes leave of absence

One of the most senior Vatican officials to be charged with sexual offenses denied Thursday the allegations levied against him by Australian police, saying he would take a leave of absence as one of Pope Francis’ chief advisers to defend himself.

Speaking to reporters in the Vatican, Cardinal George Pell denounced “relentless character assassination” in the media and confirmed he would return to his native Australia to face the charges. Australian police earlier Thursday announced that Pell faces multiple charges of “historical sexual assault offenses,” that nation’s term for charges related to past conduct.

How much does it cost to influence an election? About $400,000

Want to influence an election? All you need is about $400,000, according to cyber-security consultant Trend Micro Inc.

That’s the sum it takes to buy followers on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, hire companies to write and disseminate fake news postings over a period of 12 months and run sophisticated websites to influence public opinion, according to Udo Schneider, a security expert for the German-speaking market at Trend Micro.

“Hacking the actual voting process isn’t worth it as it leaves traces, is very expensive and technologically challenging,” Schneider said Wednesday at a security conference organized by Deutsche Telekom in Berlin. Yet influencing public opinion via fake news and data leaks, as is believed to have happened during the U.S. and French election campaigns, is relatively simple and “could also happen ahead of the German elections.”

Local headlines

Late-night budget deal aims to dodge Maine government shutdown

Barely a day away from a government shutdown, a special six-person budget committee recommended a tenuous two-year state spending plan to the Legislature late Thursday, setting up a scramble to wrangle two-thirds support and a showdown with Gov. Paul LePage.

The deal brokered by Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, and House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, has a bottom line of $7.1 billion and appears to be the state’s only hope of avoiding a shutdown.

But it’s full of pitfalls that could repel some Republicans and Democrats in what promises to be a dramatic set of votes on Friday.

Airplane repair company threatens to expand outside the state if it doesn’t get training school

A Bangor company that overhauls private jets — and has received millions in federal and local assistance in recent years — is threatening to expand its business elsewhere if a program to train aircraft mechanics does not open in the region soon.

C&L Aviation Group CEO Chris Kilgour said he is having trouble recruiting new mechanics to handle the company’s recent expansion at Bangor International Airport and blamed a lack of schools in the region that could train new skilled workers.

Without a new training program, C&L “would not grow as fast as we want to and have to get a new facility in a state with a bigger labor pool and grow the business there,” said Kilgour.

“We don’t have a choice. We are already turning away business.”

LePage: Police would work, state parks stay open in shutdown

Gov. Paul LePage’s administration said Thursday that Maine law enforcement agencies and state parks would remain open during a government shutdown, under the terms of an emergency order to place the state workforce further under his control.

The partial plan for a shutdown, released early Thursday afternoon, comes with the Legislature still negotiating Maine’s two-year state budget with no deal in sight. If they don’t enact a budget that can gain the Republican governor’s signature by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, state government will partially close.

History or junk? Plan to remove old pilings roils Maine beach community

Homeowners of cottages along Popham Beach responded frantically this week after learning that federal and state regulators granted preliminary approval to remove about 150 wood pilings set deep in the sand at the northern end of the beach.

Opponents of removal plan say that the pilings are a key component of Popham’s history and that removing them could disturb critical fish habitats.

But Susan and Jack Parker of Woolwich — the latter of whom is the CEO of Reed & Reed Construction — have cleared nearly all the hurdles to remove the pilings of the pier used by the Eastern Steamship Company, a major early 20th century shipping firm.

Mystery of missing Connecticut woman hinges on unusual Maine sighting

A woman who went missing from Connecticut was seen recently in Maine, police say, despite reported claims by family members that she has no ties to this state.

Police in Maine and Connecticut are now searching for 31-year-old Kimberly Piccolo, Portland television station WGME, CBS 13, reported Thursday.

Piccoli is described as white, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighing approximately 130 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. Police say she is driving a gray 2009 Mazda 3, with a license plate number 926YOV, CBS 13 reported.

Lawsuit filed to force LePage to pay benefits to poor Mainers in a shutdown

A lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court is asking a federal judge to order Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s administration to continue paying benefits to poor Mainers if state government shuts down over the budget stalemate.

The lawsuit brought against LePage and Acting DHHS Commissioner Ricker Hamilton asks the federal court to order that the DHHS continue to receive applications, process applications and maintain the issuance of benefits and services during any state shutdown.

“The next step in this fight is for either the governor to order that these programs continue or the court to order it,” attorneys Valerie Wicks and Jack Comart, both of Augusta, said in news release announcing the lawsuit had been filed. “The parties hope to have an answer by Friday, one way or another.”

A shutdown of state government could have dire consequences for elderly Mainers

As a possible state government shutdown appears more likely if the Legislature fails to reach a budget compromise that two-thirds of lawmakers will support by 11:59 p.m. Friday and that Gov. Paul LePage will agree to sign, those who care for elderly Mainers fear they will get caught in a worst-case scenario.

“There could be a devastating impact,” said Jessica Maurer, executive director of the Maine Association of Area Agencies on Aging. “We just don’t know what will be considered ‘essential services’ and the most troubling would be the stopping of benefits that keep people alive.’”

In ‘worst case scenario,’ airline postpones inaugural Portland-Halifax direct flight

The premier flight of Elite Airways to Halifax, previously scheduled to depart Portland International Jetport Friday at 10 a.m., was postponed at the last minute.

Due to a computer breakdown with the reservation system, the flight start date has been delayed two weeks, until July 13, an Elite Airways spokesperson confirmed Thursday.

“This is the worse case scenario,” said spokesperson Rebecca Ayers. “You never want to delay a start date.”


Why seniors should think twice before choosing a reverse mortgage

Since her husband, Barry, died back in April, Carol Ann Pretzel of Thomaston has had to come to terms with more than her loneliness and grief.

“I’m only getting about half the Social Security we were getting when there were two of us,” she said. That, and a “very small amount of life insurance” are pretty much all she has to live on now, and at 66, without solid prospects for employment, she’s not feeling good about it.

“If I can’t find some way to supplement my social security, I’m going to be in something of a pickle,” she said. “When I sit down and look at all my weekly and monthly bills, I figure I can only stay here for about a year.”

A recipe for Fourth of July strawberry kebabs

Diane Atwood: “Something I look forward to every Fourth of July — besides fireworks — is strawberry shortcake. It’s an Atwood family tradition. Freshly picked strawberries, real whipped cream and homemade biscuits. Delish!”

“It’s the height of strawberry season and they’re ripe for the picking. If you live in Maine and would like to find a you-pick strawberry farm, you should check out my list of Where you can pick strawberries in Maine.

‘Shark Week’ episode to feature Maine professor

During more than 25 years studying a variety of fish, including sharks, James Sulikowski has had to solve all kinds of problems. Among the trickiest and most important: How do you gather data about pregnant sharks without first killing them?

[Michael Phelps to race a great white during ‘Shark Week’]

“The catch-22 is that you need the information to better manage them, but in order to get the information [you used to have to] kill them. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” Sulikowski, a professor at the University of New England in Biddeford, said. “So that’s where my sort of science came in. We treated sharks basically like pregnant females, like human beings. How are humans studied? Well, you take blood and you can look at that blood for circulating levels of hormones [to determine if the female is pregnant].”

[Reported sighting of great white shark clears Maine beach]

That idea morphed into taking special waterproof, veterinary-grade ultrasound equipment onto boats and examining sharks that later would be released alive.

Recipe: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

This is the pie you want to bake in early summer time when strawberries and rhubarb are ripe and plentiful at farm stands and farmers markets.

A flaky crust hides the ruby-toned sweet-tart filling that’s delightful. Fresh strawberries and rhubarb mingle with sugar, vanilla, butter and more to create something delicate and lively.

This recipe is pretty quick and easy to whip up — chop, mix, pour, bake. Easy enough to make while waiting for dinner to finish cooking (though it needs to cool completely before eating), and simple enough to make it a fun cooking project with kids.

This pie is nothing short of delightful. May your days be delightful too.

What to know before adding goats to your backyard

If you’re looking to add a few goats to your backyard, goat breeder and soapmaker Shea Rolnick suggests that you consider how you would handle the following scenarios.

Imagine you’re returning home from a long day of work, and your goat not only breaks from its pen to greet you in the driveway but jumps on the hood of your car. Or what if your small goat herd ravishes through your tomato plants before you pick any for yourself?

“Would you be angry or think it’s funny,” Rolnick asked. “Because if you have goats it’s likely that at some point that will happen.”


Second annual Harry Potter celebration at The Briar Patch

The second annual Harry Potter Celebration will be held 7-10 p.m. Monday, July 31, at The Briar Patch, 27 Central St. Central Street in Downtown Bangor will be transformed into the legendary wizarding world of Diagon Alley.

Activities, games, food and performances will entertain magic users and muggles alike. Free admission.

Boil-water order for fire hydrant upgrade on limited streets in Pittsfield lifted

The boil water order for the streets listed below due to the replacement of 7 fire hydrants has been lifted as the water testing did not show any issues.

The boil water order was precautionary in nature, however, important to do so that an issue does not develop with so much work taking place in such a short period of time.

Rockland community center renamed

On Jan. 1, 2017, the community of Rockland lost a great man who was influential in the lives of thousands of Rockland area students for more than 42 years. Edward “Dan the Man” Flanagan passed away at the age of 80. Dan was synonymous with the Rec Center, growing up there himself while his dad, James, was the recreation director.

A small group of local citizens  — Steve Durrell, Heidi Vanorse Neal and Susan Ware Page — teamed up in early spring and approached Mayor Will Clayton about the renaming of “The Rec” to Flanagan Community Center, in honor of the man that you could always find in the building.

MDI Science Cafe: Slowing aging to prevent age-related disease and decline

Can we really slow the aging process? Can we increase our resistance to diseases of aging like cancer and Alzheimer’s? Since experiments carried out in many labs over many years suggest that the answer is yes, why don’t we have a magic pill? Actually, it may already exist. In this MDI Science Café, Aric Rogers, Ph.D., assistant professor at the MDI Biological Laboratory, will talk about why nature allows for variations in the rate of aging that affect disease susceptibility, how lifestyle changes can tap into genetic programs that promote robust health, and why we are on the cusp of a transformation in preventative medicine.