Things You Need to Know: Wal-Mart Announces Good News + Bad News
Here are the things you need to know today......
Wal-Mart is closing 63 Sam's Club stores but is increasing pay and handing out bonuses for employees. Business Insider had the list of stores. The Maine stores appear to be safe.
From the Associated Press:
The January thaw is about to give way to winter weather in northern New England. The National Weather Service says rain will begin Friday night and will transform briefly into freezing, rain, sleet and snow on Saturday as colder temperatures return.
President Donald Trump's dismissal of Haiti and certain African countries with a vulgar expression has created a furor. Trump made the remark Thursday during a White House meeting after senators discussed revamping immigration rules. That's according to three people who were briefed on the conversation but weren't authorized to describe it publicly. The president suggested that instead, the U.S. should allow more entrants from countries like Norway.
Maine officials say the number of drug-affected babies born in the state declined last year for the first time in more than a decade. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services says the number fell to 952 in 2017. The number had climbed from 165 in 2005 to 1,024 in 2016. At the trend's peak, about 8 percent of all babies born in the state were drug-affected. The health department measures all babies affected by alcohol or drugs, but the spike in drug-affected babies has tracked in line with a worsening opioid crisis. The Portland Press Herald reports members of the state's treatment community say it's too early to say if the declining number of affected babies is any indication of progress against the opioid epidemic.
Maine's top federal prosecutor says his office will not make prosecuting marijuana users a priority. In a statement Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Halsey Frank says his office will instead focus on traffickers of "hard drugs" such as opiates, cocaine and crack.
Frank's comments come after Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed an Obama-era policy not to prosecute marijuana cases in states where the drug is legal. Maine voters approved a law legalizing recreational marijuana in November 2016. Although adults could use the drug as of last year, there is still no way to buy it because Republican Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed the related legislation. Frank says his office will go on a "case-by-case basis" on deciding whether to prosecute marijuana growers and users.
Maine fishermen are approaching the final day to apply for a slot in an upcoming lottery for the right to fish for baby eels. Baby eels, called elvers, are often worth more than $1,000 per pound to fishermen. They're sold to Asian aquaculture companies for use as food. Applicants who prefer to submit paper applications must do so at Maine Department of Marine Resources offices in Augusta by 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
Maine's congressional delegation opposes any effort to pursue offshore drilling off the coast in the wake of the Trump administration's announcement in favor of expanding the practice. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has announced a drilling plan that could open new areas of oil and gas exploration off the East Coast. The delegation members are all sponsoring the New England Coastal Protection Act against drilling.
A fishing-industry building on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places is half-submerged on a Canadian island _ and could disintegrate before legal tangles are resolved. The Bangor Daily News reports the Jan. 4 blizzard tore the brine shed from McCurdy's Smokehouse off Lubec, Maine, and it was blown to nearby Campobello Island in New Brunswick. McCurdy's is the last traditional smoked-herring facility in the U.S. Preservationists fear it will be gone before the issues are sorted out.
Africa is waking up to find President Donald Trump has finally taken an interest in the continent. It's not what people expected. President Donald Trump used bluntly vulgar language as he questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and Africa rather than places like Norway. African governments find themselves in an awkward position. As top recipients of U.S. aid, some hesitate to jeopardize it by criticizing Trump. African media outlets and the continent's young, connected population are less shy.
Members of the Haitian-American community are criticizing President Donald Trump for using bluntly vulgar language as he questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and Africa rather than places like Norway. The comments angered Illinois state Sen. Kwame Raoul, whose Haitian parents immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s. The Chicago Democrat said, "I don't think there's any apologizing out of this."
The oldest victim of a California mudslide was Jim Mitchell, who had just celebrated his 89th birthday a day before. He died with his wife of more than 50 years, Alice. The youngest, 3-year-old Kailly Benitez, was one of four children killed. Seventeen people died in total. Crews kept digging through the muck looking for more people, but authorities say the likelihood is increasing that rescue crews will be finding bodies instead of survivors at this point.
President Donald Trump will be the patient himself, not the commander in chief comforting them, when he visits the Walter Reed military hospital on Friday. Trump heads to the medical facility in Bethesda, Maryland, for his first medical check-up as president. But what has been a fairly routine exam for previous officeholders has taken on outsized importance in the age of Trump.