[imgcontainer] [img:s_s07_27153405.jpeg] [source]Daniel Giles, The TimesDaily[/source] A first responder holds onto a child found in the rubble of a destroyed home after a tornado struck Phil Campbell, Alabama, on Wednesday afternoon, April 27, 2011. This comes from an incredible compilation of photos of flood, fire and wind put together by the National Journal. [/imgcontainer]

Walmart is putting guns back on the shelves.

The company stopped selling hunting rifles and ammunition five years ago at all but a third of its stores. Walmart said sales were down. Now the Bentonville, Arkansas, retailer is restoring the weapons to hundreds of its more than 3,600 U.S. stores. 

Walmart has a larger strategic aim to restore “heritage categories” of goods, such as fishing rods and bolts of fabric, that it had removed from stores as it tried to appeal to more upscale customers. That decision backfired, and now Walmart is getting back to its roots.

Walmart has had seven consecutive quarters of sales declines at existing stores. The decline began after Walmart removed thousands of items to clear away the cluttered look of its stores. Customers hated the change. To restore sales, the company has been bringing back the piles of items and “everyday low prices” favored by founder Sam Walton.

That inventory includes “heritage” items like fishing equipment and guns. 

• The New York Times has editorialized about legislation moving in Iowa, Florida and Minnesota that would make undercover filming on farms a crime. The Times writes:

Exposing the workings of the livestock industry has been an undercover activity since Upton Sinclair’s day. Nearly every major improvement in the welfare of agricultural animals, as well as some notable improvements in food safety, has come about because someone exposed the conditions in which they live and die. Factory farming confines animals in highly crowded, unnatural and often unsanitary conditions. We need to know more about what goes on behind those closed doors, not less.

Something tells us that the people pushing this legislation don’t much care what the New York Times has to say. 

•The Kentucky Secretary of Agriculture has a hotel problem. He seems to like them too much.

Richie Farmer spent $1,576 in state money for a four-night stay at a hotel in Lexington during the state high school basketball championship. And he spent $1,886 for an 11-night stay in Louisville during the state fair. Farmer lives in Frankfort, less than an hour’s drive to Louisville and only about a half hour from Lexington.

Farmer, a former University of Kentucky basketball star, is running for the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor on a ticket with state senate president David Williams. 

• The U.S. had the highest percentage of children being raised by single parents among 27 industrialized countries, according to a recent report.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that 25.8% of U.S. children were being raised by a single parent. Ireland was the next highest, at 24.3%. New Zealand was next, with 23.7% of children being raised by single parents.

The average for the 27 countries was 14.9%. 

• Half of the food pathogens that cost us the most money are found in meat, according to a study released today, the Washington Post reports. Costs include medical care, lost work and long-term health problems.

“The food contaminant that causes the most economic damage is campylobacter in poultry, which sickens more than 600,000 people and costs society $1.3 billion a year, the study found,” reports Lyndsey Layton. “In second place is toxoplasma in pork; that parasite poses a particular danger for pregnant women and costs an estimated $1.2 billion a year.” 

The ten most expensive pathogens cost the U.S. $8.1 billion a year. Salmonella was the bacterium that caused the most disease overall.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has just recently set standards for bacteria in chicken and turkey.

• A census of China’s population finds that 49.7% of the 1.34 billion population now lives in cities, up from 36% ten years ago. China’s fertility rate now stands at 1.5 children per couple. 

Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird and resident of Monroeville, Alabama, turns 85 today. 

• The corn crop may need a miracle, says DTN’s John Sanow. By this time last year, 46% of the corn crop had been planted. This year, with the floods and cold weather, only 9% is planted. This leads Sanow to think the nation won’t plant the 92.2 million acres expected. And yield per acre goes down if planting is delayed beyond May 15. 

• How bad are the floods? DTN reports that of “the more than 400 reporting stations monitored by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, 80 already are above flood level.” 

• Growth Energy, an ethanol group, paid possible presidential candidate Newt Gingrich $312,500 for consulting services in 2009, according to the Center for Public Integrity. 

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