Archive for the ‘Story Ideas’ Category

UMaine International Dance Festival

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

The University of Maine’s ninth annual International Dance Festival, showcasing an array of traditional music, dance and costumes of some of the 400 international students at UMaine, is set for Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Collins Center for the Arts. Two free performances of dances from around the world are scheduled at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Doors open one hour before showtime. For information or to request disability accommodations, call 207.581.3423.

Transportation Research Finds Roundabouts are the Way to Go for Drivers of Any Age

Friday, January 18th, 2013

A few years ago, a baby boomer turned 63 every seven seconds in this country, leading the New England University Transportation Center to proclaim that in fewer than 20 years, the United States would be a “nation of Floridas.”

Designers of highways and byways are taking those aging driver demographics into account when planning for the future of transportation in the U.S. That includes research by University of Maine civil engineer Per Garder, who is helping transportation officials in their quest to successfully navigate the road ahead.

With a more than  $94,000 grant from the NEUTC, Garder conducted a two-year study of roundabout design and navigability by drivers, including the elderly.

A roundabout is a circular type of intersection around a central island. Drivers travel in one direction around the roundabout and exit onto intersecting roads. In recent years, roundabouts have gained popularity in the United States. Garder says there are currently more than 2,200 in the country and about 20 in Maine.

Garder is an expert on transportation — from roundabouts to rumble strips. His research frequently centers on improving safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.

T. Olaf Johnson, then a master’s degree student in civil engineering at the university, coauthored the study.

A hidden video camera observed 2,366 drivers using the roundabout where Maine, Vermont and Texas avenues converge near Bangor International Airport.

Drivers using the roundabout were classified into one of seven age groups: younger than 20, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70 and older. The researchers studied whether age, gender and cell phone use impacted the minimum time interval when an approaching driver could safely join the flow of traffic.

They concluded a roundabout is a viable solution for intersections, regardless of their proximity to schools and retirement housing.

According to the study, the average gap, or headway, needed for the average driver to enter the roundabout was 3.26 seconds.

Drivers younger than 20 needed the longest gap — 4.85 seconds, while drivers 70 and older, on average, needed 3.95 seconds.

“I was surprised that 20-year-olds were not more aggressive,” Garder says, but adds that their longer wait times might be because of their inexperience navigating roundabouts.

Drivers in their 30s waited for a gap of 2.90 seconds before entering the roundabout. Drivers in their 40s waited for a 3.17-second gap, and drivers in their 50s waited for a gap of 3.19 seconds, on average.

Overall, on average, males waited for a 3.19-second gap and females for 3.33.

Because of the limited number of drivers observed in the youngest and oldest age groups, as well as in the cell phone user group, researchers couldn’t validate that large numbers of those drivers would substantially increase waiting times — and therefore lead to a lower level of service.

Garder recommends that a larger study, or a continuation of this study, be done.

When it comes to talking about elderly drivers, Garder says elderly is a relative term.

Today, he says many experienced drivers in their 60s and 70s have good eyesight and decision-making skills. In general, Garder says driving skills deteriorate around the age of 80. According to statistics, he says driver safety peaks in the 50s, followed closely by drivers in their 40s and 60s. Garder says people behind the wheel in their 80s, teenage years and early 20s are statistically the least safe.

Roundabouts in general, says Garder, are the way to go. There are fewer crashes in roundabouts than at intersections with signals, as well as fewer traffic delays and less fuel consumed.

The roundabout used in the study opened in August 2007 at a former designated high-crash location at the intersection of Texas and Maine avenues in Bangor.

In the three years prior to the opening of the roundabout, nine crashes were reported at the intersection; four resulted in injuries and hospitalization was required in three instances. Damages associated with the collisions totaled $300,000, says Garder.

In 2008–2009, three crashes were reported on the roundabout, none of which resulted in injuries. Damages associated with the accidents totaled $8,800, he says.

With regard to traffic flow, drivers may be able to sail straight through roundabouts, just as they may an intersection with a signal light. With routine traffic on a roundabout, though, drivers generally proceed through more quickly than if they have to stop for a red light, he says.

The researchers computed that a driver who travels straight through 10 similar roundabouts daily versus 10 signalized intersections would annually save 14 gallons of gas. If every licensed driver in the country did the same, Garder says 2.7 billion gallons of gas would be saved annually.

Emerging technologies, including automobiles that parallel park themselves and slow in school zones when children are present, show great promise, Garder says. So too do autos in which the driver’s seat shakes if the vehicle crosses the center line.

Garder says these and other technological advances could do for automobile safety what technology has done for large-scale commercial air travel. He credits computerized cockpits with being the main reason there has not been a fatal crash of a large American commercial jet since November 2001.

UMaine SPIA Talk on U.S., China Policy

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Defense policy adviser and author Michael Pillsbury, an authority on China, will discuss “A China Policy for the United States” at 4 p.m., Feb. 4 in 107 D.P. Corbett Business Building. The free public talk is presented by the University of Maine School of Policy and International Affairs. Pillsbury, author of China Debates the Future Security Environment, served during the Reagan administration as Assistant Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning and was responsible for implementing the Reagan Doctrine, a program of covert aid to anti-communist guerrillas and resistance movements in the former Soviet Union. Also an analyst with the RAND Corporation in the 1970s, Pillsbury has served on the staff of four U.S. Senate committees and drafted the Senate Labor Committee version of the legislation that enacted the U.S. Institute of Peace in 1984. He also assisted in drafting the legislation to create the National Endowment for Democracy and the annual requirement for a U.S. Department of Defense report on Chinese military power. For information, or to request disability accommodations, call 207.581.3153.

UMaine to Present ‘MLK Diversity Day’ at Local YMCA

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

The University of Maine Bodwell Center for Service and Volunteerism, Multicultural Student Affairs, V.E.T.S. and the Department of Athletics will host a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service from noon–3:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 21 at the Old Town/Orono YMCA. Students in grades 3–6 from all communities are invited to attend the free event. Children will participate in a variety of activities about diversity, and the life and ideas of Martin Luther King Jr. UMaine students, AmeriCorps Service members and community members will lead children through activities, which include craft projects, deaf-culture awareness, group discussions and team-building activities. All children involved will receive a free T-shirt.

UMaine Seismometer Charts Boothbay-Area Earthquake

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

The University of Maine seismometer charted the 2.5-magnitude earthquake off Boothbay Harbor on Jan. 14. Alice Kelley, a faculty member in the UMaine School of Earth and Climate Sciences, has prepared a seismometer graphic displaying the occurrence, and is available at 207.581.2056 to discuss the event. The seismometer, obtained in 2009 and connected to the World-Wide Standardized Seismic Network, records seismic events around the world from the university campus.

Students, Businesses Preparing for 2013 UMaine Career Fair

Monday, January 14th, 2013

As many as 1,000 University of Maine students and more than 103 businesses, firms and organizations are preparing for the 2013 Career Fair from 10 a.m.–3 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 30 at the New Balance Student Recreation Center. Coordinated this year by the UMaine Career Center and the School of Forest Resources, the annual event connects employers with students, who often find seasonal, part-time or permanent jobs, in addition to internships, through career fair introductions.

The number of registered companies is up from 87 participating businesses last year, according to Career Center Director Patty Counihan. The fair is attracting more Maine businesses looking to expand as the economy improves, and also businesses in need of science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills, she says. This year’s fair also incorporates the career fair previously held separately by the UMaine School of Forestry.

The Career Center website has details, including a list of registered businesses and tips for students. For more information, or to request disability accommodations, call the Career Center, 207.581.1359.

UMaine Extension Experts Offer Tips on Flu Avoidance

Friday, January 11th, 2013

A Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention statewide health alert notes that flu activity is widespread with more reported cases this year than last, and more expected in the next few weeks. University of Maine Cooperative Extension experts are available to provide advice for avoiding the virus and coping with it. They also can offer considerations for parents of children who have to be out of school because of a flu outbreak.

Jason Bolton, a UMaine Extension food safety specialist, can be reached in his Bangor office at 207.942.7396 to discuss sanitization to reduce the spread of or contact with germs, including washing hands and using hand sanitizers.

Kathryn Yerxa, UMaine Extension’s statewide educator for nutrition and physical activity, can suggest healthy foods and nutritional advice to combat the flu. She can be reached in her Orono office at 207.581.3109.

Leslie Forstadt, a UMaine Extension child and family development specialist in Orono, can be reached at 207.581.3487 to discuss steps parents can take if children will be out of school for a long period of time. They include staying in touch with teachers to discuss making up schoolwork.

Contact George Manlove at 207.581.3756 for assistance reaching Bolton, Yerxa or Forstadt.

CANCELLED Lecture on the Future of U.S.-Pakistan Relations

Monday, December 31st, 2012

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.

For more information or to request a disability accommodation, email peter.fandel@umit.maine.edu, or call 207.581.1835.

Tuna Research Could Inform fishing Regulations on the Species of Concern

Monday, December 24th, 2012

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

End-of-year Recommendations From a UMaine Accounting Professor

Monday, December 24th, 2012

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 george.manlove@umit.maine.edu