Good morning, Maine. Here’s your morning briefing.
Light rain throughout the day with temperatures in the mid- to upper 40s. Check your local forecast here.
National and international headlines
Emmanuel Macron was elected French president on Sunday with a business-friendly vision of European integration, defeating Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist who threatened to take France out of the European Union.
The centrist’s emphatic victory, which also smashed the dominance of France’s mainstream parties, will bring huge relief to European allies who had feared another populist upheaval to follow Britain’s vote to quit the EU and Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president.
With the vast bulk of votes counted, Macron had around 65.5 percent to Le Pen’s 34.5 — a gap wider than the 20 or so percentage points that pre-election surveys had suggested.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has recused himself from ongoing lawsuits against the agency that he participated in during his previous job as Oklahoma attorney general.
In a four-page document dated Thursday, Pruitt detailed a list of cases he said he planned to avoid during his time leading the agency he so often opposed while in Oklahoma. The cases include high-stakes litigation over the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and the controversial Clean Water Rule, both of which the Trump administration has said it intends to roll back.
Pruitt also wrote that he would recuse himself from a handful of cases involving clean-air regulations, methane regulations for the oil and gas industry and mercury standards for power plans. In addition, he said he would avoid participating in the legal cases involving a diesel emissions cheating scandal at Volkswagen AG.
Eighty-two Chibok schoolgirls were released from Boko Haram insurgents on Saturday, according to Nigerian officials, a major development in the case of the Islamist group’s most famous victims, the teenagers whose kidnapping inspired the #BringBackOurGirls movement.
After months of negotiations, the girls were exchanged “for some Boko Haram suspects held by the authorities,” according to a government statement. They are expected to be sent to Nigeria’s capital on Sunday to meet the president.
In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls from a secondary school in the town of Chibok. That mass abduction turned the insurgent group, operating mostly in the country’s northeast, into a household name across much of the world. Michelle Obama tweeted a picture of herself holding a placard with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag.
Stealing old vegetable oil that’s been used to cook chicken nuggets and french fries sounds a little gross. But a black market for the golden gunk is growing as U.S. refiners process record amounts of grease to comply with government mandates for renewable fuels. Last year, 1.4 billion pounds (635,000 metric tons) were turned into biodiesel — or 3.84 million pounds a day.
Most restaurants hire waste handlers to get rid of oil after a few days of use. But the National Renderers Association, an industry group, says as much as $75 million is illegally siphoned every year, much of it ending up in refineries. Biofuel prices have been shooting up, boosting the incentive for thieves who are getting bolder and craftier. With the arrival of warmer spring weather, licensed collectors are bracing for even more heists.
“It’s like crack money,” said Sumit Majumdar, president of Buffalo Biodiesel Inc., a Tonawanda, New York-based collector. “There’s an actual market for stolen oil. It’s almost like a pawn shop or scrap-metal business.”
Billionaire investor Warren E. Buffett rebuked Wells Fargo’s handling of widespread illegal sales practices that spanned at least 15 years and included targeting undocumented immigrants to open new bank accounts.
Buffett said the San Francisco banking giant’s executives failed to act immediately after finding out that employees were creating countless fake and fraudulent bank accounts to meet the company’s unrealistic sales goals. Wells Fargo “incentivized the wrong type of behavior,” Buffett said Saturday during Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting in Omaha. The 89-year-old tycoon is Berkshire’s chairman.
“If there’s a major problem, the CEO will get wind of it. At that moment, that’s the key to everything. The CEO has to act,” Buffett said, according to Reuters. “The main problem was they didn’t act when they learned about it.”
Berkshire is Wells Fargo’s largest shareholder.
North Korea has detained another American who worked at a private university in Pyongyang, taking to the number of U.S. citizens who are being held by Kim Jong Un’s regime to four.
Kim Hak-song, who worked for the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, was detained Saturday, North Korea’s state news agency said.
“A relevant institution of the DPRK detained American citizen Kim Hak Song on May 6 under a law of the DPRK on suspension of his hostile acts against it,” the Korean Central News Agency said, using the abbreviation for the North’s official name.
No other details about Kim were immediately available.
ABC has reportedly struck a deal to air a revival of the beloved singing competition “American Idol.”
Variety reported on Friday that Core Media Group and FreemantleMedia, the production companies behind Idol, have settled on a “framework for an agreement” to put the show back on the air, possibly on Sunday nights. Calls to ABC, Core Media and FreeMantle were not immediately returned.
There is no confirmation on who will host the show or serve as its celebrity judges. Several reports said Ryan Seacrest is still in consideration to serve as the show’s emcee, although this week he was named Kelly Ripa’s new co-host on “Live!” That show is taped in New York, where Seacrest is reportedly relocating; “American Idol” has always been filmed in Los Angeles.
WASHINGTON — A Navy SEAL who was killed in a raid targeting a remote compound used by al-Shabab militants in Somalia was identified Saturday as Kyle Milliken of Falmouth, Maine.
Milliken, 38, is the first U.S. service member killed in combat in Somalia since the infamous “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993 that left 18 U.S. military personnel dead, including two from Maine, according to the Pentagon.
Officials said the U.S. force was accompanying Somali National Army soldiers during an assault on an al-Shabab compound near Barij, about 40 miles west of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, when they came under attack before dawn Friday.
BRUNSWICK, Maine — Residents of Mount Desert voted at their town meeting on Tuesday to declare the town a “sanctuary community,” and the adjacent town of Bar Harbor is poised to follow suit in June.
Leaders of the Mount Desert effort acknowledge the nonbinding declaration is a “statement of values” and not an ordinance with teeth. Still, they felt taking a stand was important — and other communities in Maine, including Brunswick, are considering similar steps.
Selma Sternlieb is among several members of Greater Brunswick Peaceworks who approached the town’s Human Rights Task Force in March to propose a declaration as “a moral and ethical stand against harassment and deportation of immigrants.”
The review doesn’t immediately threaten Maine’s monument, but Trump has said the examination will determine whether the executive order creating it exceeded federal law. At issue is whether then-President Barack Obama created the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in August “without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders,” the Department of Interior said in a statement released Friday.
The agency also plans to launch a formal public comment period on the targeted monuments, according to the statement.
Republican senators plan to write a health care bill that could be radically different from the one passed last week by the House, including keeping some of the benefits and safeguards currently enshrined within Obamacare.
The Senate’s different approach means there’s no clear timetable for producing a bill, and it likely ensures that President Donald Trump and House Republicans will eventually have to face legislation that doesn’t fully repeal the Affordable Care Act despite their repeated campaign promises to do it.
“The Senate is starting from scratch,” Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said during an interview on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “We’re going to draft our own bill, and I’m convinced that we’re going to take the time to do it right.”
Trump on Sunday jawboned his party’s lawmakers, saying on Twitter that “Republican Senators will not let the American people down!”
Collins, who ranks among the most moderate of Republican senators, and Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said one of their top goals is to ensure that people with pre-existing medical conditions continue to have the same or better coverage.
Events and living
WISCASSET, Maine — The market price for a lobster roll at Red’s Eats is $26.50, the highest it’s been in 79 years.
Yet tourists in line at the iconic lobster hut on the Sheepscot River this week didn’t blink. They came for a taste of Maine and were willing to pay for the experience. And they did, handsomely.
“The quantity and quality is well worth it,” said Jan Braida polishing off a roll with her husband Tony. The day before, these vacationing Ohioans spent $23.95 on a lobster roll in Kittery and say sampling Maine’s famed sandwich is the reason they are here.
The sky-high price of fresh lobster meat this spring sent a jolt through lobster roll purveyors such as Red’s and mobile eatery Bite into Maine in Greater Portland.
Deborah Gagnon, owner of Red’s Eats, is paying $45 a pound for fresh lobster meat. Other vendors have been quoted more than $50 for picked knuckles, tails and claws.
The inner sanctum of Halcyon Grange No. 345 in Blue Hill is a second-story room fitted out with a stage, simple wooden benches, an American flag and walls decorated with a portrait of George Washington and dusty blue ribbons from long-ago fairs.
This room is where the fraternal order’s secret meetings, rich with mysterious rituals, have taken place for more than a hundred years. But on a recent Tuesday afternoon, its doors were flung open — no secret passwords required — to grange members and non-members alike. And the sight of a roomful of people who came to the old grange hall to listen to a national expert talk about the future of farming filled grange master and Penobscot farmer Heather Retberg with satisfaction. It wasn’t too long ago that this grange, like many in Maine, was struggling with declining membership and a shaky future, she said.
But the Halcyon Grange, which now has a growing membership, a thriving commercial kitchen and a new, robust focus on local agriculture, is one of a few granges in Maine that are making a comeback.
“It makes me so happy, of course,” Retberg said. “We’re going back to the roots. We’re tending the soil of this organization.”
Attendees of this year’s Common Ground Country Fair in September may notice something new atop the five animal barns on the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s campus.
And no, it’s not a new species of barnyard bird. It’s a newly installed series of solar panels that together make up a 102-kilowatt solar power array.
MOFGA anticipates that this latest installation of solar technology will make the organization energy independent, an end that not only benefits the organization’s energy costs but progresses MOFGA’s mission to be conscious of their environmental impact.
“This is a huge boost,” Jason Tessier, MOFGA building and grounds manager, said. “The organization is obviously based on some environmental and ecological values and not using fossil fuels is very important for us.”
MOFGA’s solar array was brought to life in conjunction with ReVision Energy, and is just one of the latest ways Maine organizations ranging from for-profit businesses to institutions of higher education are diversifying their energy portfolio to incorporate forms of sustainable energy.
— George Danby (@Danbyink) May 8, 2017