These are some of the stories central Maine is talking about today.

(AP) — Authorities say a Maine drug abuse counselor is among 15 people who were arrested this week on heroin trafficking charges. 54-year-old Gregory Ford of Scarborough was arrested Tuesday after an Oxford County grand jury indicted him and several others on the charges. Authorities say Ford was arrested in his office at Supervised Community Treatment in Portland. He did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday. Records show Ford has been a licensed clinical professional counselor since 2008. Authorities said the two-year Maine Drug Enforcement Agency investigation uncovered that the 15 people charged were responsible for importing and distributing 17.8 pounds of heroin throughout Oxford County. That amount of heroin has a street value of $3.2 million.

(AP) -- Maine law enforcement officials are perplexed by a troubling year-end statistic: 2015 has been the worst year for pedestrian deaths in nearly two decades. Numbers compiled by the Maine Department of Transportation and highway safety department indicate 18 pedestrians have died in the past year -- the most since 1997. Officials say adults often worry about children getting run over while playing in the street. But no children were among the victims. The youngest victim was 21 and the oldest was 90. Pedestrians need to be careful crossing roads, use cross walks, avoid wearing dark clothing at night and be wary of vehicles.

(AP) -- An attorney for an Augusta man accused of kicking a puppy on the Kennebec River Rail Trail says his client denies any wrongdoing. Michael Hein was charged Friday with animal cruelty. Authorities said an investigation determined that Hein was jogging on the trail Nov. 23 when he stopped to kick the leashed puppy that moved in his direction. Police said the kick sent the 4-month-old golden retriever puppy into the air, but it has recovered. Attorney Scott Hess said that Hein denies harming the dog and intends to contest the matter in court.Hein pleaded guilty in 2012 to violating the Maine Clean Election Act by paying some of his own money instead of collecting $5 donations from individuals to qualify for funding.

(KJ) -- The Maine State Housing Authority Wednesday awarded $500,000 to an Augusta project as part an overall $1.25 million pledge to aid the state’s homeless. According to the KJ, the Augusta project is located at 1 Noyes Court and includes four one-bedroom units that will be used as permanent housing for people who are homeless. The renovations include updating and modernizing the interiors of the units and making the building as energy efficient as possible. There will be an application process for determining who will live in each unit, but it is unclear when that would begin.

(WABI) -- A Corinth man was arrested after leading police on a high-speed chase that ended in a crash in Clinton Wednesday evening. According to WABI Waterville Police say they tried to pull over Dylan Caruso, 19, for driving with an expired registration. Caruso reportedly sped off and headed north on the interstate. Waterville and State Police chased Caruso until he lost control while trying to exit the highway near the intersection of Route 95 and the Hinckley Road in Clinton. Responders say his car rolled over and ended up in a ditch. He surrendered to police. Police say he was not seriously hurt.

(WABI) -- A man from Winslow who’s working to raise half-a-million dollars to help children with cancer is $10,000 closer to his goal. According to WABI New Dimensions Federal Credit Union in Waterville made the donation. The staff won the money as part of a national video contest for credit unions. They then turned around and donated it to Sylvio Normandeau. He’s been collecting donations for the Maine Children’s Cancer Program. This latest check now brings his total to $468,000 – just about $30,00 shy of his pledge.

(AP) — Dangerous storms have left at least six people dead in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas Wednesday. And crews continue searching for residents who are still missing. In Holly Springs, Mississippi, a 7-year-old boy died when the storm picked up and tossed the car he was riding in. And police say several homes were blown off their foundations. In northwest Mississippi, a tornado damaged or destroyed at least 20 homes.

(AP) — Afghan officials say southern Helmand province remains under government control after being besieged by the Taliban for more than a week. But fighting continues in Sangin district. A police commander says overnight, insurgents captured the area around the district governor's compound. The Afghan army in Helmand says air strikes bombarded Taliban strong holds in Sangin, killing 25 insurgents. But operations were slowed as the insurgents began taking shelter in civilian homes.

(AP) — Security is tight around a Beijing bar and shopping area popular with foreigners after embassies issued warnings that foreigners should be on guard for possible threats against them. The American, British, French and other embassies say they've received information of possible threats against Westerners in the Sanlitun area on or around Christmas Day. They're urging people to be vigilant.

(AP) — More cities in China are issuing their first red alerts for pollution. Shandong province in eastern China has issued alerts in four cities, and officials say kindergarten, primary and middle schools should close and construction of buildings and roads, and demolition work, should stop. Beijing has issued two alerts this month. China's air pollution is notorious after three decades of breakneck economic growth.