Friday News: Environmental Justice


JURY PUNISHES SMITHFIELD IN HOG NUISANCE LAWSUIT TO THE TUNE OF $50 MILLION: A federal jury in North Carolina is awarding more than $50 million in damages to neighbors of an industrial hog operation responsible for smells, noise and other disturbances so bad they couldn’t enjoy their rural homes. Jurors on Thursday awarded 10 neighbors of a 15,000-head swine operation a total of $750,000 in compensation plus $50 million in damages designed to punish the hog-production division of Virginia-based Smithfield Foods. Lawyers didn’t sue the farm’s owner, instead targeting the Chinese-owned corporation. Smithfield uses strict contracts to dictate how farm operators raise livestock the company owns. The decision is the first in dozens of nuisance lawsuits filed by more than 500 neighbors against hog operations. Smithfield says the lawsuits are a serious threat to a major agricultural industry and employer in North Carolina.

2018 PRIMARIES TURN CHARLOTTE AREA INTO A BATTLEGROUND: Credible challengers, scrambled districts and restless voters have led to a volatile election. Add to all that another factor: fewer runoffs. Candidates can now win with 30 percent of the vote, not 40 percent. "You've got a recipe for a lot of competitive primary races where incumbents could face stiff challenges," said Jonathan Kappler, executive director of the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation, which tracks legislative races. In Mecklenburg, Sen. Joel Ford and Rep. Rodney Moore, both Democrats, appear to face the biggest primary hurdles. And Republican Sen. Dan Bishop is trying to fend off a well-financed GOP challenger. In the end, incumbents are likely to be better-funded and, with proven operations, better organized. More may win than lose. But, said Kappler, "My only surprise will be if all incumbents win.”

TEACHER STRIKES SPREAD TO ARIZONA AND COLORADO: Educators in both states want more classroom resources and have received offers either for increased school funding or pay, but they say the money isn't guaranteed and the efforts don't go far enough. The walkouts are the latest in demonstrations that spread from West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky. On the first day of the historic statewide walkout, around 50,000 educators and their supporters marched Thursday through downtown Phoenix in nearly 100-degree (38-Celsius) heat and swarmed the Capitol grounds. In much cooler Colorado, several thousand educators rallied around the Capitol, with many using personal time to attend two days of protests expected to draw as many as 10,000 demonstrators. Most of Arizona's public schools will be closed the rest of the week, and about half of all Colorado students will see their schools shuttered over the two days as teachers take up the Arizona movement's #RedforEd mantle.

DIAMOND AND SILK GRILLED BY AFRICAN-AMERICAN LAWMAKERS IN CONGRESSIONAL HEARING: Jackson-Lee asked if the pair had ever been paid by the Trump campaign, which Hardaway denied. She also questioned the timeline of communication with Facebook that the sisters have been using in public appearances, including on Fox News. "We did not lie on that show," Hardaway said. "I don't like to be called a liar," she said later on. The Trump campaign said it paid Diamond and Silk $1,274.94 for field consulting, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Jeffries brought up this payment — and reminded the duo that they were under oath, subject to the penalty of perjury. "We’re familiar with that particular lie. We can see that you do look at fake news,"' Richardson said. She said the money was for reimbursement for a flight they took from New York to Ohio to appear at a Trump event.

EVERYBODY KNOWS ABOUT KOREAN SUMMIT, EXCEPT NORTH KOREAN CITIZENS: Virtually none of Kim's diplomatic overtures since his New Year's address, when he first vowed to improve relations with South Korea this year, have been announced domestically in advance. While millions elsewhere could watch Kim's historic first encounter with Moon live on television or the internet, North Koreans got only a brief note on the TV news and a few lines in the ruling party newspaper saying he had departed Pyongyang early in the morning. For most North Koreans, who rely on the official media for virtually all of their news, there has been no explicit explanation of why the director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, was recently in their capital. He was there to work out the details of a summit with President Donald Trump — a summit which also remains a secret to the North Korean public.