The future of United States and Pakistan relations is the subject of a free public presentation at 5 p.m., Monday, Jan. 7 at the University of Maine Buchanan Alumni House.
Sponsored by the UMaine School of Policy and International Affairs and the Bangor Foreign Policy Forum, the talk by Husain Haqqani, a Pakistani scholar and public figure who served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008–11, is titled “The Future of U.S.-Pakistan Relations.”
Haqqani is widely credited with managing a difficult partnership during a critical phase in the global war on terrorism. Haqqani started his public life as an Islamist student leader and has emerged as a strong voice for democracy and civilian control of the military in Pakistan and an exponent of liberal values in the Muslim world. His career in government includes serving as an adviser to three Pakistani prime ministers, including Benazir Bhutto. Haqqani is the author of the book Pakistan Between Mosque And Military and hundreds of articles published in major international newspapers, magazines and scholarly journals. He currently is senior fellow and director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. and co-edits the journal Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, published by institute’s Center for Islam, Democracy and Future of the Muslim World. Haqqani also is director of the Center of International Relations and professor of international relations at Boston University.
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Claire Sullivan, University of Maine associate professor of communication and journalism, loves it when students experience “Aha” moments during service-learning projects.
Sullivan was particularly pleased after two recent presentations in her Small Group Communication class.
“It makes me happy when they really connect,” Sullivan says. “It’s my goal for them to work together in groups, to learn about community issues, and to use creative ways to use their strengths and see how they can help.”
Four UMaine students used their individual and collective talents to assist The River Coalition, an organization that strives to make the communities of Alton, Bradley, Greenbush, Milford, Old Town and Penobscot Indian Nation safe, healthy places to live, work, and play.
As part of their semester-long, service-learning project, Hillary Goranson, Kathryn Harlan, Jana MacIsaac and Allison Noonan visited the Helen S. Dunn School in Greenbush to promote healthy eating and exercise.
They played nutrition and physical activity educational games with children in pre-kindergarten through second grade and gave them a healthy trail mix snack as a take-home gift.
Harlan, a communication major and women’s studies minor living in Bucksport, Maine, says service learning is a brilliant teaching tool.
“We worked harder and did more because we knew it would impact the lives of children in our community,” says Harlan, who plans to graduate in 2013. “Making that difference to those children was an amazing feeling.”
Grades weren’t the only thing UMaine students received for their class participation. Harlan says students at Helen S. Dunn School recently sent them thank-you cards.
Ann Bean, first-grade teacher at the school, says the youth had a wonderful experience and gained practical knowledge from the interaction.
“It was a great presentation,” she says. “They (UMaine students) made learning fun. I was impressed with how well they (the youth) took the information and applied it to their own life — to what they do at home.”
Linda McGee, executive director of The River Coalition, also praised the UMaine students. She said their energy and enthusiasm created a positive experience for the elementary schoolchildren.
After working with the children, UMaine students provided the Helen S. Dunn School with a state-approved lesson plan and props for the games.
In addition, the group revamped and updated The River Coalition’s Facebook page and made posters to increase awareness of the dangers of alcohol and smoking.
The smoking poster included a partial list of ingredients of cigarettes, including rat poison, ammonia and insecticide.
Sullivan says it’s rewarding when students enrolled in CMJ 345 are so positively affected by the course that they continue to volunteer after their grades are in the books.
Anna Ayotte, a double major in food science and human nutrition as well as communication, says she plans to do just that.
Ayotte, from Sidney, Maine, participated in a group class project to raise awareness of the Black Bear Exchange, an innovative combination food pantry and clothing swap in Estabrook Hall under the direction of Lisa Morin, coordinator of the Bodwell Center.
Ayotte says working on the project alerted her to the very real issues of local hunger and poverty.
“It’s shocking and scary,” says Ayotte, who plans to graduate in 2013. “It breaks my heart. Now that I am truly aware of how prevalent the need is, I am going to be more involved in service projects to help alleviate the problem. Even if you can’t donate items, you can donate your time, which is just as important.”
Other groups in the communication course partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters; Shaw House in Bangor; University of Maine Cooperative Extension Eat Well Education Program; and the American Red Cross blood drive for their service learning projects.
Community engagement figures prominently in “The Blue Sky Project: Reaffirming Public Higher Education at Maine’s Flagship University,” the University of Maine’s five-year strategic plan.
“The University of Maine aspires to be the most distinctively student-centered and community-engaged of the American Research Universities,” it reads.
In 2008, UMaine attained an elective community engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The designation means the university collaborates with other communities, from local to global, “for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.”
Contact Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
A University of Maine researcher is analyzing biological data from Atlantic bluefin tuna that could lead to refined population estimates and impact where restrictions on the historically overfished species should be placed.
“The Atlantic bluefin tuna is a big, sexy fish,” says Walter Golet of the tuna that can grow over 10 feet in length, weigh as much as 1,500 pounds and swim faster than 40 mph.
A year ago, a 593-pound bluefin sold for $736,000, says Golet, a postdoctoral research associate with UMaine’s School of Marine Sciences and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.
Commercial fishermen have been pursuing the prized, warm-bodied species for decades. Beginning in the late 1970s, worldwide demand and prices for large bluefins increased substantially, Golet says, and stock assessments indicated a rapid decline in the number of adult fish.
Since a rebuilding plan enacted in 1998, assessments suggest a minimal increase in the number of adult fish, says Golet. In 2011, the National Marine Fisheries Service was forced to conduct a status review on Atlantic bluefin tuna and listed it as a Species of Concern.
Golet’s research seeks to provide up-to-date, life history data of the bluefin stock that, in turn, would serve as a basis for effective, appropriately placed fishing regulations.
The data will be derived from biological sampling of the tuna’s dorsal spines, reproductive organs and sagittal otoliths — small, calcified structures inside the head that are sensitive to orientation and acceleration.
By studying these biological samples, he and fellow researchers can determine the age of the tuna, when it reached sexual maturity, and whether it was born in the Gulf of Mexico or Mediterranean Sea. This knowledge is vital to accurately estimating how many fish there are and how many can be harvested by fishermen from more than 25 countries pursuing bluefin in the North Atlantic, Golet says.
Otoliths log data throughout a bluefin’s life, Golet says. Otoliths are small crystal-like structures that accrete minerals at different rates depending on the animal’s physiology and the chemical properties of the water. These characteristics make them ideal to determine age and where the fish was born, he says.
For his research, Golet is using biological samples of bluefin tuna caught by commercial and recreational fisherman from Maine to Rhode Island from June through October.
“Bluefin tuna come to the Gulf of Maine to fatten up,” he says. “A large bluefin tuna can gain 100 to 150 pounds in four to five months. They use those lipids to swim back to spawning grounds and to make sperm and eggs.”
Approximately 38,000 fishermen have permits to catch Atlantic bluefin tuna in waters from Maine to Texas; all but about 2,000 are recreation permit-holders, Golet says.
The study is part of a program for the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas and the National Marine Fisheries Service. In addition to the University of Maine, study participants include the University of Massachusetts Amherst (Large Pelagics Research Lab), University of Maryland, Spanish Institute of Oceanography, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and National Marine Fisheries Service.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded Golet and collaborators $241,133 in 2011 and $196,133 in 2010 to conduct the research.
Contact Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
With potentially significant tax law changes on the horizon for the new year, University of Maine associate professor Steven Colburn, who teaches accounting and oversees a community taxpayer assistance program with students, offers end-of-the-year advice for taxpayers.
Colburn says several things can be done before Dec. 31 to minimize the tax bite for 2012. His suggestions include:
1. Accelerate long-term capital gains into 2012. “If you were thinking of selling stock in 2013, consider selling it in 2012, instead,” he says. “Currently, the top tax rate for long-term capital gains — that is for gains on capital assets held more than one year — is 15 percent. That rate will likely increase for 2013.”
2. Pay for medical expenses in 2012. For 2012, taxpayers must reduce unreimbursed medical expenses by 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income (AGI) before deducting them. “For 2013, that percentage will increase to 10 percent, unless you are 65 or older,” he says. “AGI is your income minus certain deductions. So, if your AGI for 2012 is $50,000, your unreimbursed medical expenses would have to exceed $3,750 ($50,000 x .075) before you may deduct them. For 2013 with a $50,000 AGI, medical expenses will have to exceed $5,000 ($50,000 x .10) before being deductible.”
3. For 2012, the standard deduction for a single person is $5,950 and $11,900 for a married couple filing jointly. If the total of all of itemized deductions — medical, property taxes, state income taxes, charitable contributions, etc. — is less than the standard deduction, the standard deduction would be the better choice.
4. Pre-pay charitable contributions and property taxes so you can itemize. Some taxpayers don’t have quite enough itemized deductions in any one year to make it worthwhile for them to itemize, so they take the standard deduction each year. “However, by bunching certain payments in one year, you may qualify to itemize one year and take the standard deduction for the next year,” Colburn says. “For example, if you have the cash, instead of waiting until February 2013 to pay your property taxes, you could pre-pay them in December 2012. You could also pay some or all of the charitable contributions that you normally would pay in 2013 in December 2012, instead. That could increase your total itemized deductions for 2012 above the standard deductions amounts mentioned earlier.”
5. The maximum contribution to Coverdell Education Savings Accounts drops from $2,000 per child in 2012 to $500 in 2013. Anyone planning to contribute to these plans should try to max out their contributions for 2012.
6. Mortgage debt forgiven in 2013 will be treated as taxable income. Under the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007, taxpayers who have had mortgage debt reduced or forgiven by a lender were able to exclude that forgiven debt from their gross income. The provision is set to expire Dec. 31, 2012. So, a homeowner who is currently negotiating with a lender to get a mortgage debt reduced or forgiven needs to complete that process by Dec. 31, or pay a tax on any such debt forgiven in 2013.
7. Be alert for last-minute tax changes. Congress and the president are still negotiating changes to the tax law. It’s possible that last-minute changes could affect tax bills for 2012 and for 2013.
Contact Steve Colburn, 207.581.1982; George Manlove, 207.581.3756 or email@example.com
A Bangor Daily News editorial suggested that the U.S. Department of Energy’s decision to invest grant money for research, development and testing of the nation’s first offshore floating wind turbines in Maine by the University of Maine and business and energy partners may help improve perceptions of the state’s business climate.
Habib Dagher, director of the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center, was interviewed for an article on the Hydrogen Fuel News website about UMaine’s development of prototype wind-energy test turbines for a planned offshore, floating wind farm, once the technology proves successful in demonstration models.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension specialists coordinating the Maine AgrAbility project have offered a number of safety considerations for people who must work outdoors in cold and inclement weather. They include dressing to accommodate changing weather conditions, keeping safety gear, a first aid kit, a pocket multi-tool, headlamp and a cell phone handy, having proper food and hydration supplies and letting someone know when and where they’ll be working. Maine AgrAbility is a collaborative project with Alpha One, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England and UMaine Extension designed to assist farmers with disabilities or chronic health conditions. Project coordinator Lani Carlson in the UMaine Extension Franklin County office in Farmington can be reached for more information at 207.944.1533
In her Bangor Daily news blog Pollways, University of Maine professor of political science Amy Fried discussed the issue of gun control in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shootings, and heroism of teachers shown during the massacre.