Federal prosecutors say two Westbrook men face multiple charges for conspiring to turn food stamp and other welfare benefits into cash, in a scheme based at a Portland halal market.

Agents from three federal agencies — the FBI, IRS and the Department of Agriculture, which administers food stamps — were tipped to the alleged criminal enterprise by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services last year, according to an affidavit for a warrant to raid the Ahram Halal Market on Portland’s Forest Avenue.

Maine’s two members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence defended the pace of a probe into Russian election interference and alleged collusion between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump.

Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of acknowledged news reports in which some members of the committee complained about staffing and unbooked interviews with key witnesses. But he says the investigation is proceeding methodically for a reason.

Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic state Rep. Drew Gattine of Westbrook are facing off over the ongoing dispute involving construction of a new mental health facility.

At a news conference earlier this week, the governor was asked the status of the so-called step-down unit he had said would be built in Bangor on state-owned land adjacent to the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center. LePage said he was still waiting for the Legislature to get him the money to move forward on the project.

A new 20 percent tariff on Canadian lumber imposed by President Donald Trump could produce mixed results for Maine’s forest products industry.

The president’s call for the new import duty is in response to complaints from American lumber companies that claim Canadian mills enjoy unfair subsidies from the Canadian government, which allows them to sell their products in the U.S. at cheaper prices than American companies.

For years, the state’s energy office has been a part of the Office of the Governor, but state Rep. Ken Fredette, a Republican from Newport, said the importance of energy policy is such that it deserves elevation to cabinet-level status.

“Many people rely on a stable energy industry and market for lower prices and they also rely on a reliable energy foundation. The time has come to move this office out of the governor’s office, but obviously still under the executive branch,” he said.

PORTLAND, Maine - A key proponent of a national monument in Maine is challenging Republican Gov. Paul LePage to spend some time on the land before criticizing it.
The governor described the land as "cut over'' on Monday and said it'll take decades for the land to recover. He plans to testify against the monument created by former Democratic President Barack Obama at a House subcommittee hearing next week.

MYSTIC, Conn. - Federal fishing regulators are considering a host of alternatives about new ways to manage the herring fishery.
Atlantic herring is a major industrial fishery on the East Coast, with fishermen frequently bringing more than 200 million pounds of the little fish to shore every year.
Herring are used as human food and bait for other fisheries, such as lobsters. The catch of herring off of New England has been inconsistent in recent years, leading to volatility in the lobster bait market.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Authorities in Maine say a fire that left six people homeless in Augusta was set by a 5-year-old playing with either matches or a lighter.
The Augusta Fire Department and the State Fire Marshal's Office said the Monday apartment house fire started in a first-floor apartment and spread quickly through the building.
No one was injured. The fire department says the building has been deemed a complete loss.

More than 4,000 clients of a Bangor mental health provider may have had their personal information stolen through a data breach last month. 

A spokesman for Behavioral Health Center, David Farmer, says the compromised data includes Social Security numbers and notes on services they received. 

"Some of those clients were in files that were vulnerable, but there's no evidence of access," Farmer says. "But we are treating them all the same, and providing the same level of protection to everyone just in case."

via Wikimedia

LIMESTONE, Maine - The state's math and science magnet school in northern Maine has cracked the Top 10 in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings.
The Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone came in 10th place for science, math, engineering and technology - and 19th for best overall high school.
The rankings were released Tuesday.

Tom Porter / Maine Public file photo

PORTLAND, Maine — Processed food superpower Tyson Foods is looking to buy AdvancePierre, which includes the Barber Foods brand of Portland.

Tyson announced the potential deal on Tuesday. The $4.2 billion acquisition has been approved by the boards of both companies and is pending the approval of regulators.

AdvancePierre bought Barber in 2011 and employs some 300 people in Portland. The company makes frozen, stuffed chicken products.

Family and friends of former Patriots player Aaron Hernandez gathered for private funeral in his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut, Monday. 

Hernandez’s family had requested copies of three alleged suicide notes earlier in the day.  judge ordered the release of the letters on Monday before the 1 p.m. funeral, held on Bristol’s Main Street.

Aaron Hernandez’s mother and brother made a brief media appearance in front of the funeral home with Hernandez’s lawyers. One of those lawyers is Professor Ron Sullivan of Harvard University.

Doctors at Togus Strive to Reduce Opiate Use by State Deadline

12 hours ago
Terry Ross / Flickr/Creative Commons

Doctors at the federal veterans hospital in Augusta will face penalties if they don’t meet a July 1 deadline to wean patients down to a lower levels of prescription opioid medication, the state says.

The Maine Legislature could force shadowy groups bankrolling Maine political campaigns to reveal their top donors.

Lawmakers are reviewing a bill from the Maine Ethics Commission that would require organizations contributing more than $100,000 to Maine-based political action committees, party committees and ballot campaigns to report their top five funders.

The proposal would have affected 13 organizations that donated a combined $14 million to Maine-based PACs in the last election.

Murray Carpenter / Maine Public

Traditional Maine dairies continue to be churned by low milk prices, rising costs and shifting global markets. Some have given up on the industry and sold the farm. But others are taking a new approach that has its own new set of risks and rewards.