A female ‘Doctor Who,’ opioid prescriptions and a big Maine newspaper sale

I’m probably opening myself up for some criticism here, but as somebody who never got into “Doctor Who,” can somebody explain to me the controversy about a woman being cast in the role?

Not being an aficionado, I did some quick internet research on it, and it seems the alien Time Lord known as “the doctor” regenerates its physical form whenever one body gets damaged beyond repair. And it’s taken the doctor 12 incarnations to get around to being something other than a white guy?

I don’t know. That seems less likely to me than the idea that the doctor is now a woman.

But again, maybe there’s some important part of this equation I’m overlooking, because I’m an outsider. Someone can feel free to explain why this is infuriating in the comments or on social media.

There’s a lot of news to get to, so let’s do that, first:

What we’re talking about

The Sun Journal of Lewiston is being bought by the publisher of the Portland Press Herald, putting two of the largest three daily newspapers in Maine under the same owner. As part of the deal, publisher Reade Brower’s MaineToday Media will also absorb 16 other Sun Journal sister publications, including all the editions of The Forecaster and the Advertiser Democrat in Norway, which was a 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Opioid prescriptions have decreased by about 30 percent in Cumberland County, part of a statewide trend away from the use of the drugs in pain management plans, the BDN’s Darren Fishell wrote. Opioids are being recognized by federal officials as gateways to illegal narcotics, like heroin, and doctors are being widely encouraged to prescribe them less often, and in smaller doses. So the latest numbers from Maine are seen as positive news.

Speaking of good news, seasonal southern Maine businesses were likely happy to hear that the federal government is increasing its H-2B visa allotment for the second half of the fiscal year by 15,000. These are the visas used by international workers occupying low-paying, seasonal jobs in tourist destinations like Maine, and hospitality officials here have said they have thousands of international workers stuck in the pipeline waiting for more visas.

A well-known defense attorney is under fire again. The Portland Press Herald’s Matt Byrne reports that Gary Prolman, who previously spent nine months in federal prison for money laundering, has been accused of misconduct by a female former client. Details of the accusation have been sealed by the court, but for his part, Prolman called the entanglement “a complete con job” and said he looks forward to clearing his name during a two-day hearing on Aug. 30-31.

The Socialist Party of Maine is making its move.  Jessica Lowell of the Kennebec Journal reports that in a founding convention in Augusta Sunday, socialist groups from southern and eastern Maine merged into one organization. Leaders include past Portland mayoral candidate Tom MacMillan, and organizers say they’re less concerned about getting their party title on ballots, and more about advocating for things like a higher minimum wage and ranked-choice voting, as well as the candidates who support those ideas.

The story behind the arrival of the railroad to Portland is one of hardship and heroism, as the BDN’s Troy R. Bennett explains in his weekly series on the city’s history. John Poor suffered frostbite and pneumonia on his grueling 1845 trip through the wilds to reach Montreal, where he ultimately convinced Canadian officials to support a train connection with Maine’s largest city. Read about Poor’s journey and how his success transformed Portland here.

Tweet of the day

From local architect @rico_w:

The Big Idea

Scientists have been injecting ferrets’ brains with rabies, and I sincerely hope they’ve been wearing head-to-toe body armor while they were doing it. As Hope 21-year-old Rachel Borch taught us, rabid critters aren’t fun to deal with. The case of these ferrets, however, is a bit different. Dartmouth neuroscientist Farran Briggs tells Wired.com that ferrets’ neural visual systems have “remarkable similarities” to those of humans. So her team is studying how ferrets’ brains process the things that they see as stand-ins for humans. Why the rabies? Oh, a modified version of the rabies virus unlocks access to nerve cells, so the scientists can track neural activity during their tests, but stops short of going so far as to make the animals crazy and bloodthirsty. So maybe the body armor isn’t necessary, after all.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email us at jbleiberg@bangordailynews.com or skoenig@bangordailynews.com or tweet @JZBleiberg or @SethKoenig.

If someone forwarded you this newsletter, click here to sign up. Or just text PORTLAND to 66866. As always, like BDN Portland on Facebook for more local coverage.