Daily dose: And they're off! Early voting begins today

'People are fired up' to vote, William Barber says (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Voters angry over the policies of the General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory are anxious to vote despite laws that will make it harder for some to cast ballots, state NAACP head the Rev. William Barber II said during a visit here Wednesday. Barber, also the leader of the Moral Monday movement that has staged protests in Raleigh against state government's rightward shift spoke at a press event on Patton Avenue downtown to encourage area residents to vote, a day before early voting begins. The appearance was part of a statewide tour, and Barber also visited Boone and Burnsville Wednesday. "People are fired up and ready to go. People are organized. They're phone banking. They're robocalling," he said. "They understand that elections have consequences and you can never go AWOL when it comes to a democracy.

North Carolina's state of political hate (Center for Public Integrity) -- Congratulations, North Carolina: You’ve become the year’s great state of political hate. Tar Heels last week endured more than 10,800 U.S. Senate election-focused TV ads that featured at least some content that tarred and feathered either incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan or Republican challenger Thom Tillis. That’s more than one negative TV ad every minute from Tuesday, Oct. 14 to Monday, Oct. 20, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of preliminary data from Kantar Media/CMAG, an ad tracking firm. No other U.S. Senate race — even the bitter contests in Kentucky, Iowa and Georgia — has experienced such sustained vitriol during the 2014 election cycle.

NC board creates App State early voting site (AP) — Students at Appalachian State University will get to vote on campus when in-person early voting starts Thursday following legal decisions and court appeals.

App State voting site survives legal fight (WRAL-TV) -- Just after the N.C. Board of Elections voted Wednesday afternoon to restore Appalachian State's on-campus early voting site, the N.C. Supreme Court stepped in to send the case to the Court of Appeals.

NC law eliminates early voting sites on Triangle campuses (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Because of changes in the state’s election law, some of the largest college campuses in the Triangle will not have sites to vote when early voting starts on Thursday.

Early Voting Starts Today: High Turnout Expected at Polls (Public News Service) -- It's a sprint and not a marathon for North Carolina voters this election season. Early voting starts today and runs until Nov. 1 – seven days shorter than in previous years. Boards of Elections are ready for the high turnout expected.

Big turnout expected as early voting gets underway (Greensboro News & Record) -- Elections officials say a ballot full of big races will help bring people out to cast an early vote.

Obamacare enemy folds: Tillis says N.C. should consider expanding Medicaid (Salon) -- In early 2013, the North Carolina general assembly passed legislation rejecting the expansion of Medicaid within the state under the Affordable Care Act. Leading the opposition was Speaker Thom Tillis, now the Republican candidate for Senate, who argued that expanding Medicaid would only hurt taxpayers in the state. “This bill puts the interests of our taxpayers and Medicaid patients first,” Tillis said at the time. “It is clear that North Carolina’s Medicaid system is broken. This bill is rightly focused on repairing Medicaid to better serve our citizens, rather than expanding a broken program.” … Thom Tillis, enemy of Obamacare, vanquisher of expanded Medicaid. … so it was surprising, but only slightly, when Thom Tillis appeared on TWC News’ “Capitol Tonight” last night and said North Carolina should definitely consider expanding Medicaid under Obamacare.

Hagan attorneys warn TV stations on dubious accuracy of stimulus ad (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Attorneys for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan have written to television stations in North Carolina advising them to refrain from airing an ad from a conservative super PAC that criticizes her over federal stimulus money her husband’s company received in 2011. At least one station – WLOS, the ABC affiliate in Asheville – is not running the ad, saying the agency that placed it had taken it off the air. The letter went to stations where the ad was scheduled to begin running this week. Freedom Partners Action Fund announced late last week it was launching a $1 million campaign targeting Hagan over allegations that her family benefited from the stimulus grant. The ad also claims her husband’s company funneled the funds to another company owned by Hagan family members. The letter, sent Tuesday by Washington, D.C. attorney Kate Sawyer Keane, calls the ad’s claims “inflammatory and unsubstantiated.”

Tillis invokes Reagan, 1970s to rally students (AP) — North Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis appealed to a small group of college students Wednesday to back his bid for the U.S. Senate by referring to a time before any of them was born.

Hagan campaigns at ECU (WITN-TV) -- Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan went before East Carolina University college Democrats Wednesday to talk about education. Hagan said, "For me, standing up for education is a priority."

Southern Dem stars in 2014 (The Hill column) -- Big things are happening in the South. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner has good company in the growing constellation of Democratic stars in a South that is increasingly purple and no longer red. In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan remains standing tall and poised to defeat an onslaught of conservative money and GOP power from Tar Heel Republicans who have moved far to the right of the state and the South.

$26 million spent on ads attacking one candidate (Washington Post) -- The record amount of independent spending swamping this year’s congressional races is fueling a deeply negative political atmosphere, as attack ads from independent groups overwhelm the messages of candidates in many competitive races. More than 80 percent of the money spent by big-money independent groups and parties in the general election has gone to oppose a candidate, according to a Washington Post analysis of campaign finance data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research organization. The biggest target: Thom Tillis, the GOP Senate candidate in North Carolina, who has already endured a $26 million offensive in what is expected to be the costliest Senate race in U.S. history.

On women’s issues, Hagan vows to never back down (Greensboro News & Record) -- In Greensboro stop, she touts her support for women; Tillis, Haugh also on campaign trail.

'Closing Argument,' Brought to You by Koch Brothers (New York Times) -- A “super PAC” associated with the Koch brothers is preparing its “closing argument.” Freedom Partners Action Fund, a “super PAC” with ties to the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, will broadcast $6.5 million worth of advertising in six states in the closing days of the election campaign, officials there said. The advertising campaign, framed as a “closing argument,” seeks to link Democratic Senate candidates to President Obama, using what the group said were testimonials from residents in each state. The ads, which are running in North Carolina, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire, are slightly tailored to each state, but all end with a local resident arguing that a vote for the Democrat is a vote for Mr. Obama.

Tillis defers to Troxler on guns at State Fair (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Asked about the recent controversy over bringing guns to the State Fair, US Senate candidate Thom Tillis on Tuesday said he would defer to Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

Tillis' Website Hacked (Buzzfeed) -- Sometime Wednesday, hackers appeared to infiltrate the website of State Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, the Republican nominee for Senate in North Carolina. Pages of Tillis’ website disappeared and were replaced by ads for the Gum Tree Pokie Machine, an online casino. Other pages promised tips on how to “How To Hack Pokie Machines.” The hacked pages appeared on sections of the website not immediately obvious to visitors but still hosted by the ThomTillis.com domain name. A knowledgeable visitor to the site told BuzzFeed News the hack appeared to originate in Russia because “some of the code in the script that was used to compromise Tillis’ site is in the Cyrillic alphabet and all of the ad sites redirect to bathler.net, which is a site registered in Russia.”

GOP mad about Maddow (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Republicans have a new hero: Commentator Rachel Maddow on the liberal cable news channel MSNBC. Why the newfound love? Maddow was critical of Sen. Kay Hagan Tuesday night after the Democrat didn’t attend a televised forum on TWC News with Republican Thom Tillis.

Environmental group continues anti-Tillis campaign (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A national environmental group on Wednesday kicked off a TV ad, voter outreach, mail and digital campaign against Thom Tills in his campaign for US Senate.

TV runner-up Aiken seeks win in NC House race (AP) — Eleven years after becoming a national TV sensation, Clay Aiken still attracts a crowd in central North Carolina. In an hour he could only get a block or so down the street during an old textile town's fall festival while fans stopped to talk and take pictures.

Aiken defends ‘problematic’ TV ad (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Clay Aiken, the Democratic candidate in the 2nd Congressional District, defended a new negative television ad Wednesday that a fact-checking organization found misleading. Aiken’s campaign started airing an ad this week that takes on incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers. Factcheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, headlined its analysis: “Aiken’s Attack Ad Is Off Key.” Tim Boyum of Time Warner Cable News North Carolina asked Aiken about it during a Q&A that will air at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Conservative group launches ads urging young progressives to vote Haugh (Carolina Mercury) -- A series of slick, dark money-funded ads urging young voters to cast their ballots for Sean Haugh hit the web this week,

DMV review finds 0.002% (145) ineligible voters in NC (AP) — A review by the Department of Motor Vehicles has found 145 voters -- 0.002% ( 2 one-thousands of a percent) of North Carolina’s 6.6 million registered voters -- who are ineligible in North Carolina because of questions about their immigration status.

Early voting starts today, eligibility for 10,000 (0.1% of N.C. voters) not verified (Winston-Salem Journal) -- The State Board of Elections will not be able to verify before the early-voting period begins today whether all of the nearly 10,000 names (one-tenth of 1 percent of the state’s 6.6 million registered voters) that it has flagged as belonging to possible ineligible voters are in fact ineligible, according to interviews with elections and transportation officials.

Republican judges take campaign road trip (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- Four statewide judicial candidates – all Republicans -- made a stop this week in Rocky Mount as part of a campaign swing through Eastern North Carolina. N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Hunter, Judge John M. Tyson, Judge Eric Levinson and Mike Robinson are taking a tour this week of 19 North Carolina cities and towns. The tour includes other stops in Wilmington, Jacksonville, New Bern, Greenville, Wilson, Smithfield, Goldsboro, Clinton, Dunn, Lillington, Sanford, Charlotte, North Wilkesboro, Yadkinville, Boone, Morganton, Waynesville and Hendersonville. During the trip, the candidates are meeting with voters and members of the media as they conduct their statewide campaigns.

Lewis, Martin vie for state Supreme Court chief justice (Wilmington Star-News) -- Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis of Southport is challenging N.C. Supreme Court Senior Judge Mark Martin of Apex for the nonpartisan seat of state Supreme Court chief justice. Martin was appointed in September by Gov. Pat McCrory to the seat of chief justice when former Supreme Court chief justice Sarah Parker reached the mandatory retirement age of 72 in August.

Haugh says he’s not a spoiler (Winston-Salem Journal) — Sean Haugh, the Libertarian candidate for the U.S. Senate, said Wednesday that he’s not a “spoiler” who will decide whether incumbent Kay Hagan or Republican Thom Tillis wins on Nov. 4.

Mayor Clodfelter eases into new role (Charlotte Observer) -- In the seven months since Dan Clodfelter was appointed Charlotte’s mayor, the former state senator has taken a light approach at the Government Center. He does not micromanage city staff. He has declined to take calls from the media on days when he’s not in the office. Mostly deferential to the City Council, he is reluctant to broadcast his vision for the city. Clodfelter, an attorney at Parker Poe, often says he will not speculate on issues or make commitments until he has fully studied an issue. “He is a deep thinker,” said Carol Hardison, chief executive officer of Crisis Assistance Ministry, who has known Clodfelter for roughly 20 years. “He’s an intellect. He’s a processor. He’s a reader.” Clodfelter, 64, became mayor days after Patrick Cannon was arrested on federal corruption charges on March 26.

Domestic violence unit opens at Wake County court (AP) -- A new unit is opening at the Wake County Courthouse that advocates say will improve the process of getting a domestic violence protective order.

NC officials say state’s Ebola preparations continue to evolve (Raleigh News & Observer) -- There hasn’t been even a suspected case of Ebola in North Carolina, but the preparations across the state for dealing with the deadly virus are being updated constantly, with an emphasis on protecting health care workers and first responders, state health officials said Wednesday.

NC health lab selected to test blood samples for Ebola (WRAL-TV) -- No cases of Ebola have been confirmed in North Carolina, but state health officials are trying to stay a step ahead by devising an emergency plan in case a resident is infected.

N.C. could help small businesses by establishing targeted lending programs (Raleigh News & Observer) -- States that offer programs aimed at supporting small businesses have a significant impact on local economies, according to a recent report by The Support Center, a Raleigh-based nonprofit small business lender.

Blackwater guards found guilty in Iraq shootings (AP) — Four former Blackwater security guards were convicted Wednesday in the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis in Baghdad, an incident that inflamed anti-American sentiment around the globe and was denounced by critics as an illustration of a war gone horribly wrong.

Former Cherryville police chief gets probation (AP) — Former Cherryville Police Chief Woody Burgess has been placed on probation on embezzlement charges stemming from a scheme that involved nearly a half-dozen city employees.

McCrory Opens New NCWorks Career Center (Jacksonville Daily News) -- Gov. Pat McCrory and Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker participated in the grand opening of a new Wake County NCWorks Career Center this morning. This latest career center joins others in offering programs that help employers find qualified workers and people find jobs and training programs.

Letter From Lt. Gov. Forest Regarding Marriage Amendment (N.C. Political News) -- Lt. Gov. Dan Forest distributed the following letter to his email list on Wednesday:

Residents exchange unwanted guns for cash (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- Seventy-seven guns were exchanged for money Wednesday through the Rocky Mount Police Department.

‘Got ‘em, Don’t smoke ‘em:’ Camel maker Reynolds snuffs out workplace smoking (AP) — Camel cigarette maker Reynolds American Inc. is snuffing out smoking in its offices and buildings.

Wrecks of merchant ship, U-boat found off coast (AP) — In the aptly named Graveyard of the Atlantic off the North Carolina coast, researchers have found the wrecks of a Nazi U-boat and the ship it sank during a World War II convoy.

$310K raised to save land near Bennett Place (AP) — North Carolina has raised the $310,000 needed to protect land near Bennett Place Historic Site in Durham, site of the largest Confederate troop surrender of the Civil War.

Two Decades of 'Paper Classes’ at UNC (Inside Higher Ed) -- More than 3,100 students participated in no-show courses at UNC Chapel Hill, and nearly half of them were athletes. A “woeful lack of oversight" and a culture that confused academic freedom with a lack of accountability helped more than 3,100 students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill enroll and pass classes they never attended and which were not taught by a single faculty member. A report released Wednesday by Kenneth Wainstein, a former official with the U.S. Department of Justice, found that the academic fraud was systematic and far-reaching, lasting for nearly 20 years and consisting of 188 classes in the African and Afro-American studies department. About half of the 3,100 students were athletes, and investigators concluded that some university employees were aware of the fraud and actively steered athletes and other struggling students toward the classes.

UNC academic fraud was 'shadow curriculum' (AP) — A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, encompassing about 1,500 athletes who got easy A's and B's over a span of nearly two decades, according to an investigation released Wednesday.

How the academic scandal worked at UNC (AP) — The academic scandal at the University of North Carolina unfolded over nearly two decades and involved about 3,100 students, nearly half of them athletes, according to a report released Wednesday by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein.

9 UNC employees fired or disciplined in scandal (AP) — More than 3,100 students — nearly half of them athletes — enrolled in classes they didn't have to show up for and received artificially inflated grades in what an investigator called a "shadow curriculum" that lasted nearly two decades at the University of North Carolina.

Academic Fraud At UNC: 'University Personnel Were Aware Of Red Flags' (WUNC-FM) -- Earlier today, Kenneth Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor, released the findings of his independent investigation into academic irregularities at Carolina. You may view the report at http://carolinacommitment.unc.edu.

Wainstein probe implicates over 3000 students (Washington Post) -- An eight-month probe has estimated that the “shadow curriculum” that existed at the University of North Carolina from 1993 to 2011 offered a grade-point boost from phony coursework to more than 3,100 students, including a disproportionately high percentage of student-athletes.

U.N.C. Investigation Reveals Athletes Took Fake Classes (New York Times) -- A report found that classes requiring no attendance and little work were common knowledge among academic counselors and football coaches.

UNC Academic Fraud Went on for Years, Lax Oversight (Wall Street Journal) -- Academic fraud that went on for years within a University of North Carolina department frequented by athletes was carried out largely by two administrators, but thrived amid lax oversight and silence, according to a report released on Wednesday.

Wainstein report reveals extent of academic scandal at UNC (Daily Tar Heel) -- A sweeping investigation released today revealed the grim truth of what happened in the former Department of Afro and African-American Studies. For almost two decades, former administrative assistant Deborah Crowder and former department chairman Julius Nyang’oro created fake classes that allowed student-athletes to receive high marks and maintain eligibility, according to a University-commissioned report released today. Kenneth Wainstein, a white collar defense attorney and chairman of the investigations group at the Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft law firm, said he found clear evidence that academic counselors from the football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball teams asked for players to be enrolled in bogus independent study classes in order for them to be eligible.

Fake-class scheme aided UNC players’ eligibility, Wainstein report says (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The latest investigation into a long-running academic scandal laid bare the stresses of trying to compete in revenue-producing sports while maintaining the academic standards of the nation’s oldest public university.

Jane Boxill, UNC faculty member suggested grades for athletes in ‘paper’ classes (Raleigh News & Observer) -- In 2012, when former Gov. Jim Martin unveiled the last report into academic fraud and no-show classes in African and Afro-American Studies, the leader of the faculty, Jan Boxill, called the report “disturbing,” and “astonishing.”

Shadow classes gave relief from tough curriculum (Greensboro News & Record) -- Nearly 400 students were enrolled each semester in UNC-CH courses that never met.

UNC-CH whistleblower: Time to focus on issues (WRAL-TV) -- Mary Willingham, former academic adviser at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said an independent report released Wednesday that outlines the breadth and depth of academic fraud at the school substantiates what she's been saying for years.

UNCW releases employee named in report (Wilmington Star-News) -- Beth Bridger worked as one of three academic coordinators for UNCW athletics. http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20141022/ARTICLES/141029900/1015/news01?Title=UNCW-releases-em...

UNCW Academic Advisor let go (WECT-TV) - A University of North Carolina Wilmington Athletic Academic Advisor, with ties to the UNC Chapel Hill academic scandal, was "separated" from the university Wednesday. Beth Bridger was named in the report released Wednesday as one of the advisors that pushed student athletes to take specially geared classes to keep them eligible to play. Bridger was hired in January 2014 and served as the Academic Coordinator for the Men's and Woman's Swimming and Diving team, the Women's tennis and volleyball teams, as well as the department's Life Skill Coordinator, according to the university's website.

McCrory on UNC scandal: 'It's academic fraud' (WWAY-TV) -- Gov. Pat McCrory was in Wilmington Wednesday talking about the Chapel Hill scandal, along with a number of other high profile topics. McCrory attended a Coastal Resources Commission meeting to learn more about issues facing the Carolina coast. When talk turned to the topic of scandal at UNC, the governor did not mince words. "It was a disturbing reminder that if you forget your priorities of education and forget any oversight of those giving the education, then bad things happen," McCrory said, calling the scandal involving ghost classes aimed at boosting the GPAs of UNC athletes "academic fraud."

Fallout from academic scandal could further taint North Carolina (Sporting News) -- With an investigator's announcement of findings on Wednesday, more luster came off the University of North Carolina's basketball program. How much it will taint a treasured athletic entity remains to be seen. Will it result in coach Roy Williams' demise? How much of Rashad McCants' allegations will be proved true? And will the Tar Heels pay with sanctions because of the school's academics scandal? Kenneth Wainstein, a former high-ranking U.S. Justice Department official, revealed his findings from witnesses and records in the investigation. Findings were provided to university officials last week for review and to the NCAA. One significant finding: Institutional oversight was lacking. Wainstein called it a typical "blind spot" that occurs at even highly successful organizations.

Independent Report: UNC Pushed Student Athletes To Take Phony Classes (TWCN-TV) -- An independent investigation into past academic irregularities at UNC Chapel Hill found that two academic advisors were pushing bogus classes for years at the university.

Who is Debby Crowder? (Winston-Salem Journal) -- “Deborah (‘Debby’) Crowder” are the first three words in Kenneth Wainstein’s 131-page investigative report on UNC-Chapel Hill.

Two apply to run virtual public charter schools (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The legislature ordered two virtual charter schools be approved for pilot programs beginning next year. The State Board of Education put out the call for applicants and got two responses. The North Carolina Virtual Academy, which would contract with the for-profit company K12, and North Carolina Connections Academy applied. Like traditional charters, the virtual charters would be public schools using taxpayer money to educate students. But class work would be done online.

Wake Forest ending full-time MBA program (Winston-Salem Journal) -- The Wake Forest University School of Business said Wednesday that it is ending its full-time program for students pursuing master’s degrees in business administration, but will keep its part-time program aimed at working professionals, which offers classes at night and on weekends.

Wake Forest Ending the Traditional MBA (Inside Higher Ed) -- Wake Forest will eliminate its full-time program to focus on growing market of those who want to earn degree while still working full-time.

Duke Energy updates city council on coal ash spill (WDBJ-TV) -- Danville isn't finished with coal ash just yet. That's according to Duke Energy leaders. A manager and lawyer for the utility company met with Danville City Council last night. They says Duke Energy is monitoring small pockets of coal ash built up in the Dan River as well as large areas that were vacuum dredged earlier this year. City council is concerned with coal ash upstream. Duke is working with the Environmental Protection Agency to check on potential accumulation. Then either organization will decide if it's large enough to remove. "We have not stopped that testing, we continue to test it today and our commitment from the beginning and it still stands today is that if someone calls us and says I think I've found a spot I'd like a look for you to take a look at it. If they would call us and give us that information we'd be more than happy to go down and look at it," said Davis Montgomery with Duke Energy.

Big reveal: Alevo shows off huge Concord facility next week (Concord Independent-Tribune) -- Alevo will unveil promised energy tech breakthroughs and open its 3.5 million-square-foot production facility at a private launch event Oct. 28 in Concord. Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to join political and industry leaders from the United States, Europe and Asia at Victory Industrial Park, formerly the home of Philip Morris. Alevo, founded in 2008 by Jostein Eikeland, has been in a research-and-development phase for the past six year, according to a release provided by Walker Marketing. The venture is entirely privately funded with no government assistance, according to the company. The company “has developed an innovative, game-changing battery technology that solves some of the world’s biggest energy problems, including how to cost-effectively and efficiently store energy,” according to the statement.

Duke will not bill customers for taxes (AP) — Duke Energy says it will not charge customers for corporate income taxes that it does not have to pay.

Governor's offer to share offshore drilling profits challenged (Lumina News) -- Protestors again greeted Gov. Pat McCrory during an Oct. 22 stop in Wilmington. McCrory was invited to the N.C. Coastal Resources Commission meeting at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside by Chairman Frank Gorham to learn about current coastal issues and share his plan for offshore drilling. Members of the UNC Wilmington Environmental Concerns Organization were removed from the room for interrupting McCrory as he outlined his offshore energy priorities for the next two years, which include seismic testing to know what oil resources lay under the sea floor. After testing determines what resources are available, he said he plans to investigate options for extraction. “My first goal is to find out what we have, and then find out the best way to get it in a safe, environmentally sound way, if there is a market for it,” McCrory said.

McCrory calls for proposals to increase federal funding (Wilmington Star-News) -- Gov. Pat McCrory attended Wednesday's meeting to hear a handful of brief presentations on coastal issues

One Commission to Review Them All (Coastal Review) -- The Rules Review Commission could ultimately alter key rules for enforcing environmental policy. Learn who the members are, what their power is and which constitutional question they're sparking.

Epic run of red drum lures anglers from miles around (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) -- Things were surprisingly quiet at the end of Jennette's Pier, especially after all the commotion during the previous two weeks. After decking more than 200 large red drum, about the only thing biting late Monday afternoon were a few rays and sharks, and lots of big spot.

Bald Head Island gets permit for terminal groin (AP) — The state Division of Coastal Management will allow a structure designed to trap sand and prevent beach erosion to be built on Bald Head Island.

Forest Lookouts: Deciding the future of WNC’s national forests (Carolina Public Press) -- This story launches an in-depth reporting project from Carolina Public Press about the future of the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests which are undergoing an extensive re-planning process that will ultimately oversee more than 1 million acres in 18 mountain counties and have innumerable impacts on Western North Carolina’s residents, economies and environment.

Duke right, utilities board very wrong on tax issue (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- The N.C. Utilities Commission decision allowing power companies to pocket their corporate income tax savings is a travesty that must be challenged. Fortunately, it will be.

‘Neo-Redeemers’ may set us back half century (Independent Weekly column) -- If you're even a little in doubt who's persecuting us, I recommend Jim Leutze's new book, Entering North Carolina: Set Clocks Back 100 Years. Leutze is an historian and chancellor emeritus of UNC-Wilmington; he was the personable host of Globe Watch, a public television series. Amiable though he is, Leutze's book is a "call to arms" against the radical Republicans who took over the General Assembly in 2010 and who've ruled, since 2012, with compliant Republican Pat McCrory as governor. Leutze joked, when we talked, that he wanted to sub-title his work "I'm Mad As Hell And I Want My State Back," but his publisher talked him out of it. But he's angry, no doubt about that.

Another homeowners insurance increase would be hard to swallow (Wilmington Star-News) -- Once again, insurers who write homeowners policies in North Carolina want to raise rates

UNC-CH report brings out the scandal's hard truths (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A report links academic fraud and athletics at UNC-Chapel Hill. The university's response is crucial.

When NC testing turns learners with disabilities into liabilities (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Our newest education reform to test kids and rank them by their proficiency scores is leaving some of our students behind.

For chief justice (Greensboro News & Record) -- Mark Martin has the right experience and vision to lead the N.C. Supreme Court. He’s already had a fine career.