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UNC system in GOP's crosshairs

And the University dart board is back on the wall again:

“There should be no sacred cows,” the Winston-Salem Republican said in an interview Friday. “The UNC system needs to be subjected to the same scrutiny as everything else.” Brunstetter cautioned that it is too early in the dialogue to identify particular campuses that could close, merge or transfer to the community college system – all ideas lawmakers are considering.

Sacred cows? The UNC System has suffered cut after cut during this recession, while students and their families have been forced deeper into debt due to tuition increases, and he's talking sacred cows? But not to worry, closing public universities is not the end of the world, since Georgia did it:

Gang rape on Jones Street

I've been away for a month, watching the sad collapse of North Carolina from the other side of the world. Upon my return this morning, I discovered that Gene Nichols has done the hard work of chronicling the ongoing GOP assault with a column in the News and Observer: On being governed by brigands.

I have only one problem with Gene's column: it shows too much restraint. To label Tillis & Co., as "brigands" is too kind by a wide margin. Because what is happening in our state is nothing less than good, old-fashioned gang rape.

The NAACP plans events Sunday

from an email from Tara Ramano (Tara.Ramano@gmail.com):

Sunday, March 24, Raleigh: Raleigh/Apex NAACP "Remembering Bloody Sunday"
March and Rally, 3pm, Martin Street Baptist Church.

If you are not familiar with Bloody Sunday, it was a voting rights march that took place in AL on March 07, 1965; it started out peacefully, but many protesters were injured (hence the name), and it was a catalyst for the Voting Rights Act (VRA) later that year. If you've been following voting rights news, you know that key provisions of the VRA are being reviewed for possible termination by the Supreme Court; and also that NC wants to make all voters show ID when they vote. You probably are also aware that as a country and state, we still struggle with voter engagement, voter confusion, and long lines.

Prescription Drug Abuse in the Military

Prescription Drug Abuse in the Military

by Tessie Castillo, NC Harm Reduction Coalition

Jeremy battled depression and drug addiction for years before his wife’s announcement of her pregnancy jolted him onto the path to recovery. But Jeremy’s battle with prescription painkillers didn’t start with youthful experimentation or covert exchanges with street dealers. He got his drugs from the military.

A Sergeant and combat medic, Jeremy sustained a shoulder injury during his second tour in Afghanistan. A military provider prescribed him Percocet, a strong opiate for pain relief. At first Jeremy used the pills to relieve physical pain, but as the injury healed, he continued to seek out medication to alleviate the emotional pain of combat duty.

Scarlet letters vs. pink stripes

It's a small concession, but one worth noting. Faced with an expected outpouring of concern from activists (and big-time sticker shock), GOP zealots have backed off the pink stripe of discrimination in favor of modest scarlet letters on drivers' licenses.

Could this be a sign of fiscal restraint on the part of the Pope administration, or perhaps some sign of humanity? Sorry to say, it's neither. This is simply a first small step in the GOP rebranding strategy, an attempt to make themselves less toxic to the growing base of Latino voters. One need only look at the issue of Voter ID to validate this conclusion. When it comes to suppressing Democratic voters, the GOP has no budgetary concern whatsoever over the hundred million dollar price tag.

Dix Campus Action Plan: Why was it killed?

Dix Campus Action Plan: Why was it killed?

The Raleigh News and Observer and WRAL TV and WRAL.com have repeatedly quoted those who claim the Dix Property lease that was signed in December was the direct culmination of eight or more years work. But WRAL reported on another proposal that would have involved NC State University in a joint venture for future use of the Dix Campus. The N&O then also wrote in December 2012 about the Dix Campus Action Plan. WRAL’s Laura Leslie obtained the Plan from the Governor’s office according to emails I have just obtained from NCSU--after requesting them 12/12/2012.

New groups in NC tackle gun violence

The past three months have been busy ones for North Carolinians concerned about the scope of gun violence in the United States.

In January, for instance, a few Apex and Cary residents gathered to discuss the issues involved and coalesced into the Kitchen Table Group. About 15 members of the group met in mid-February with a representative from U.S. Sen. Richard Burr's office to discuss their perspectives and suggestions. Later that afternoon, about a dozen of us traveled to Dunn to meet with representatives from U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers. A month later, the Kitchen Table Group, led by Nancy van Dijk of Cary, has grown to more than 350 members and counting.

Sex Workers and Condom Use

Written by: India Johnson

The idea of using condoms is not as popular as it should be in today’s society. There are lots of people advocating for condom use, yet STD rates are steadily rising. One population in particular is at higher risk for contracting STDs the most; sex workers. When most people think of sex workers, they may think of a prostitute or someone who works on the street. While that description is sometimes true, the title “sex worker” is an overall name that sums up all activities in which a person provides sexual or sexual related services in exchange for money, drugs, housing or other favors. Sex workers can range from street workers, to strippers, all the way to high paid escorts. No matter what the title is the use of condoms are equally important.

GOP's tax reform scheme unfair, bad for growth

But those things probably aren't their goal, anyway:

Sen. Bob Rucho, a Republican leading the tax overhaul efforts, said revamping the system is necessary because household consumption has changed, eroding the base of the state’s tax system. Rucho said he favors taxing all services on the list. “It should be a balanced approach because there is more and more of a shift toward the service industry in North Carolina … and it’s just a matter of fairness that everybody should be treated the same,” he said.

Taxing services instead of income is about as far away from "fair" as you can get. Not only does it shift the burden down to those who can afford it the least, it puts downward pressure on small businesses, who employ about 3/4 of the work force. And (if that's not enough) it will create a budget deficit the likes we haven't seen for decades:

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