Short takes on the week’s news

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If they can draft hockey players when they are 15, why not a “mathalete” at 13?

Local engineering firms should keep an eye Ben Lowit, an eighth-grader at Lewiston Middle School, who recently earned the top score in the American Mathematics Competition for all of Maine.

And it wasn’t even close. Ben got 21 out of 25 questions right. The next highest score in the state was 18, according to Middle School Principal Maureen Lachapelle.

To Ben, math is “really cool,” and he’s right. It is.

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Math enables people to do extreme stuff, like send rockets into space or build robots, something Ben is already doing in his gifted-and-talented class at the middle school. He is two to three years ahead of his peers in math.

If America is to remain competitive, we will need a lot more kids like Ben. We are currently lagging other industrialized nations in science and math, disciplines that will only become more important to our economic success going forward

Youngsters like Ben need to be especially encouraged in Maine. They are most likely to become the high-tech entrepreneurs of the future, the people who will build the businesses that will revive our economy.

Cheers to Ben, the best in the state, and to his parents and teachers for encouraging his talent.

I won a poker game, but left without cashing in my chips.

That’s about what the legislature did last week when it passed a carved-up bonding budget, and we offer a mild jeer for that.

We understand the need to save money, but several of the projects left on the table would have netted the state millions in matching federal dollars.

A $2 million bond investment in drinking water facility improvements, for instance, would have attracted $10 million in federal money. A $3.2 million bond for wastewater treatment plants would have drawn down $16 million. And a $5 million investment in wind energy would have netted $24.5 million from the feds.

We could have put $50 million in federal funds to work here for a $12 million in-state investment. Imagine how many construction jobs $50 million could have produced over the next couple of years.

We are thankful that $5 million to purchase the St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail line running from Yarmouth to Auburn survived the bond-budget axe, as did part of the money to purchase the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic line between Millinocket and Madawaska.

Both projects are critical to our hard-pressed industrial sector.

And, of course, even a slimmed-down bond package is better than none at all, which seemed like a real possibility just a week ago.

Best of all, this process is finally finished. Cheers to that!

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