AUGUSTA, Maine - The cost-of-living increase in benefits for Social Security recipients will go up just three-tenths of one percent come January - or about $5 a month.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins says that is not enough, particularly for those who will see an increase in their Medicare premiums.

“We are not sure exactly how much they are going to be, but the initial projections are for double-digit increases," Collins says, "and that greatly concerns me.”

PORTLAND, Maine - More than 1.2 million Maine residents are now living in drought-affected areas. That's an estimate from the U.S. Drought Monitor.  New numbers today show that almost 70 percent of the state is now in a drought.

The drought has been more severe in parts of southern Maine, but conditions haven't worsened there in the last few weeks. But National Weather Service hydrologist Tom Hawley says the continuing dry weather means the drought is getting worse in the north and eastern parts of the state.

AUGUSTA, Maine - The Maine GOP is alleging a Democratic candidate's Facebook "like" suggests illegal collusion with an out-of-state super PAC.

But the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices on Wednesday declined to investigate a progressive group that wants candidate Jonathan Fulford to beat Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau.

The California-based group's Progressive Maine PAC reported plans to spend $50,000 to hire organizers to train volunteers in Fulford's district.

BANGOR, Maine - The Penobscot County Sheriff's Department is extending its annual drug take-back to two days, starting Friday, to allow more people to get rid of potentially harmful medications.

Chief Deputy William Sheehan says unused prescription drugs in the house can be unsafe for kids, and make people a target for burglaries. But he says it's not OK to simply dump them.

"We don't want to people to flush them down their toilets because it does get into the water system," Sheehan says, "and some of those meds are not able to be filtered out."

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) _ A Maine Department of Labor report has found that a proportion of males considered to be in the prime of adulthood are dropping out of the state's labor force.

The Portland Press Herald reports that the report, from the department's Center for Workforce Research and Information, shows that labor force participation of men ages 25 to 54 has been declining over the past 40 years.

PORTLAND, Maine - Supporters and opponents of referendum questions on the November ballot in Maine have spent more than $2 million so far on television ads.

Data released Thursday by the Center for Public Integrity indicate that more than 4,000 ads have aired on four proposals - to expand background checks for gun purchases, legalize recreational marijuana, boost the minimum wage and tax wealthy Mainers to help schools.

The analysis shows $1.3 million has been spent on more than 2,500 ads on the referendum to expand background checks for gun purchases.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Gov. Paul LePage says Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made a big mistake during Wednesday's debate when he suggested he may not accept the results of the election if he loses. The governor, who endorsed Trump earlier this year, told Portland radio station WGAN that he agrees with the real estate mogul and TV personality that the election is rigged, but he should take his lumps if he loses.

YARMOUTH, Maine - Residents in the Maine town of Yarmouth are set to vote next month on a proposed ordinance that would limit where sex offenders can live.

The Portland Press Herald reports that the ordinance would prevent registered sex offenders convicted of felony crimes against anyone younger than 14 from living within 750 feet of elementary, middle or secondary schools.

Offenders who established residency near a school prior to the ordinance would be exempt.

BANGOR, Maine - The U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering federal programs to Maine's farmers and livestock producers to help them recover from a drought that has impacted the state.

The USDA's Maine Farm Service Agency is offering disaster assistance and low-interest loans to help food producers. They include the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, Livestock Forage Disaster Program and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program.

EAST MACHIAS, Maine - A group that seeks to restore the endangered Atlantic salmon will release 200,000 of the fish into the East Machias River this week.

The Atlantic salmon has been declared endangered in 11 Maine rivers, including the East Machias. The Downeast Salmon Federation is among a number of conservation organizations that is focusing on restoring the salmon.

The federation started stocking the salmon on Tuesday and will continue until at least Thursday. The effort could run into next week.

The Associated Press

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton face off in the final presidential debate Wednesday night at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. NPR's politics team is live annotating the debate.

Maine town and city clerks are not happy with all of the talk by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Maine governor Paul LePage about rigged elections.

Clerks spend a lot of time being trained to conduct elections and they take pride in their work. Lisa Goodwin, Bangor City Clerk and President of the more than 700 member Maine Town and City Clerks Association says it’s insulting to local election officials to have their integrity challenged.

Cullen Ryan Speaks Out Against Proposed DHHS Rules Changes
Patty Wight/MPBN

Families of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are urging Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services to abandon a proposed rule change that they say would impinge on services for their loved ones.

Students at Snow Pond Arts Academy spend the morning studying theater, music and dance before using an online curriculum in the afternoon.
Snow Pond Arts Academy

Across the state, about 800 middle and high school students wake up every morning, log on to their computers, and take all of their classes completely online. They’re enrolled in to Maine’s two virtual charter schools. This year, that same, online approach is also being used by brick-and-mortar schools, as well. The track record for online and blended learning is mixed nationally. The question now is if Maine’s schools can buck the trend.

For Tiffany Jones, teaching English only requires a computer and an internet connection.

Dead fish below the Brunswick dam from October 15 and 16, 2016
Ed Friedman, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay

Conservation groups are raising red flags about what they say are two significant fish kills in Ellsworth and Brunswick over the past week.