NEW N.C. ABORTION REQUIREMENT RAISES PRIVACY CONCERNS (WRAL-TV) -- A state law that takes effect Friday requires doctors who perform abortions more than 16 weeks after conception to submit ultrasounds taken before the procedure to the state Department of Health and Human Services for review, regardless of whether the woman consents.
ABORTION RIGHTS GROUP WANTS ULTRASOUND DOCUMENTATION STOPPED (AP) — A new law taking effect Friday requires physicians who perform certain later-term abortions to send ultrasound images to state officials.
MILLIONS OF VOTER RECORDS POSTED, AND SOME FEAR HACKER FIELD DAY (New York Times) -- First and last names. Recent addresses and phone numbers. Party affiliation. Voting history and demographics. A database of this information from 191 million voter records was posted online over the last week, the latest example of voter data becoming freely available, alarming privacy experts who say the information can be used for phishing attacks, identity theft and extortion. The information is no longer publicly accessible. North Carolina offers free access to an online database of voters. Pennsylvania, it costs $20 to download the whole voter file — which includes names, addresses, birth dates, gender and party — in a spreadsheet format. Each state also has a varying set of rules and verification requirements to try to ensure the data is used solely for a political purpose. Anyone can search North Carolina’s free online voter database, for example, but in New Hampshire, people have to verify they are with a political party or committee before purchasing the voter file from the secretary of state.
NEW STUDIES ENCOURAGE ADVOCATES OF INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A pair of new studies showing how North Carolina’s rapid and unbalanced population growth is skewing voting districts has bolstered the hopes of some advocates of non-partisan redistricting.
MECKLENBURG COMMISSIONER MAKES WANTS ACTION BEFORE I-77 TOLL DECSISON (Charlotte Observer) – Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Puckett said he’ll try to get his fellow commissioners to compel their representative on the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization to vote against a 10-year road plan that includes the $650-million I-77 toll road project.
ROCKY DE LA FUENTE SEEKS 10,000 SIGNATURES TO JOIN NC’S PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A businessman from San Diego says he’s collected 18,000 signatures to get on the ballot in North Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary.
ALL THE PEOPLE DONALD TRUMP INSULTED IN 2015 (Washington Post) -- Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has publicly insulted at least 68 people or groups in 2015, many of them multiple times. Here is a comprehensive list.
SUPER PAC DONORS ARE TAKING CHARGE (Wall Street Journal) -- Wealthy donors have learned their lesson since the 2012 elections, when super PACs spent millions backing unsuccessful candidates in primaries. Today, they’re seeking to keep a tighter grasp on their funds.
McCRORY REFLECTS ON 2015 (McCrory News Release) -- Gov. Pat McCrory released a video reflecting on the past year and his initiatives on education, jobs, roads construction and government changes.
POLICY & POLITICS
NEW ABORTION, ‘AG-GAG’ LAWS TAKE EFFECT FRIDAY IN N.C. (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The new year will ring in new controversial laws passed by the state legislature in 2015, covering topics such as voter ID, abortion and undercover workplace investigations.
VOTER ID, GUN REGS, PROPERTY RIGHTS: 9 NEW LAWS YOU NEED TO KNOW (Charlotte Business Journal) -- A new year means new laws on the books in North Carolina.
JOHNSTON CO. LAWYER CHARGED IN MARIJUANA-GROWING OPERATION (WNCN-TV) – A federal indictment accuses a Johnston County attorney and others of growing marijuana for profit at “grow houses” in Orange County and concealing the profits. The indictment said Joseph Lee Levinson, who works at a law office in Benson and in Raleigh, received cash and drugs as payment during the operation.
JOHNSTON COUNTY LAWYER INDICTED ON FEDERAL CHARGES (Johnston County Report) -- A Johnston County attorney has been indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud and money laundering charges. Joseph Lee Levinson, a Benson lawyer, was among three people named in the federal grand jury indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Greensboro on Dec.14. Also named were Aubrey Manasseh Pruitt from Orange County and Dustin Garrett Fisher from Durham County.
POLICE TASER MAN WHO RAN AROUND PULPIT DURING SUNDAY SERVICE (AP) — Fayetteville police say an agitated man who was running around a pulpit during a church service had to be subdued with a Taser.
STATE, LOCAL OFFICIALS PUSH MANUFACTURERS TO PAY FOR DRUG DISPOSAL (N.C. Health News) -- Each month, Monty Scheele, a pharmacist in Lincoln, Nebr., sends a big box of unused medications to be incinerated. He collects the drugs at his three pharmacies from customers who may be cleaning out their medicine cabinets or abandoning a prescription after an adverse reaction. His effort is part of a program using state funds to keep medications from polluting water supplies and out of the hands of people who might misuse them. But drug disposal is expensive.
FORT MACON NAMED TOP N.C. PARK (New Bern Sun Journal) -- Fort Macon State Park has been recognized on the 100th anniversary of the N.C, Division of Parks and Recreation as the 2015 Park of the Year Award.
THE PARK IN 2015: VIDEOS OFFER RECAPS OF 'A YEAR OF PROGRESS' (WRAL-TV) -- The team at the research Triangle Park Foundation has a great deal to celebrate as 2015 comes to a close - from the full-fledged launch of The Frontier Center to the raising of new capital for The Park Center. So to mark the occasions, they put together a series of videos, the latest which launched last week.
TOP STORY NO. 1 - AFTER SHARK ATTACKS, VICTIMS ADAPT (Wilmington Star-News) -- Staring at her prosthetic arm, Kiersten Yow squinted at the robotic fingers. After wiggling them a bit, she curled the fingers into a perfect thumbs-up.
SEVERE WEATHER IN CAROLINAS FORCES SOME FROM HOMES (AP) — Flash floods in the Carolinas have prompted the opening of emergency shelters and the evacuation of some homes with the help of firefighters.
OUR COAST’S FOOD: HOPPIN’ JOHN (Coastal Review) -- Tradition has it that eating black-eyed peas on Jan. 1 guarantees a prosperous new year but proper preparation is key with the dish known as “hoppin’ john.”
JOB HUNTING? NC LIFE SCIENCE FIRMS AND STARTUPS ARE HIRING (Exit Event/WRAL-TV) -- Job seekers in life science and in startups have a couple hundred of opportunities based on the latest update of open positions as compiled by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and a review of openings at startups as compiled by ExitEvent.
SCHOOLS & UNIVERSITIES
COMMON CORE REVIEW CO-CHAIRWOMAN DISSENTS (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Tammy Covil, co-chairwoman of the state commission that suggested changes to Common Core education standards, is denouncing the final report over its recommendations on math.
ROCKINGHAM COUNTY SCHOOLS ANNOUNCES CHANGES TO MEAL PROGRAM (AP) -- The Rockingham County School Board has decided it can no longer support a free meal program in all schools.
ALAMANCE MAY TRY LETTING TRADITIONAL SCHOOLS ACT LIKE CHARTERS (N.C. Political News) — The State Board of Education will consider again in February a proposal enabling failing traditional public schools to apply for an exemption easing some state regulations so they can operate more like charter schools.
SCHOOLS WORK TO KEEP STUDENTS ENGAGED OVER BREAK (Washington Daily News) -- Students and teachers alike look forward to a Christmas break, but upon returning to school in January, there may be a lot of catching up.
WATCH THE HAND: SCHOOL BUS RULES TAKE EFFECT FRIDAY (Greensboro News & Record) - -Bus drivers must use hand signals to help students cross the road safely.
LETTER SHOWS HOW BIG BUSINESS PUSHED COMMON CORE (Washington Post) -- From the chief executive of ExxonMobil to the governor of Pennsylvania.
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I ATTENDED RACIALLY ISOLATED KINSTON HIGH SCHOOL (The Odyssey column) -- I can vividly remember the comments people would say to me and my family when we were making the decision to go to a different high school than that of many of my peers. Things like, "you don't want to go there, there's too many black people" and "you'll end up in a trash can and be the little white kid nobody talks to" are among the most memorable things people would say to us. Guess what? None of these things happened.
OFFICIALS SAY THEY HAVE VIDEO OF ABUSE AT CUMBERLAND SCHOOL (Fayetteville Observer) -- Security cameras captured the actions of former Cumberland County schools employees who were charged Tuesday with abusing students at an alternative school for troubled children.
ONCE HELPED BY BENEFACTOR, MAN SENDS STUDENTS TO COLLEGE (Charlotte Observer) -- When Chrissie Mooney graduates from UNC Wilmington this spring, she’ll complete a link in a chain of good deeds started by a Texas oilman some 30 years ago.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
SOLAR INDUSTRY LOOKS READY TO MOVE BEYOND LOSS OF N.C. TAX CREDIT (Charlotte Business Journal) -- North Carolina’s solar industry looks stronger headed into 2016 than many expected as it weathered a series of attacks in the N.C. General Assembly this summer. Solar construction probably will slow in the state as the 35% tax credit that helped push North Carolina to fourth in the nation for solar development comes to an end.
TAKE A HIKE IN NC PARKS ON NEW YEAR’S DAY (Raleigh News & Observer) -- What began more than 40 years ago as a New Year’s Day hike in Eno River State Park has become an annual tradition throughout the state park system.
NEW FLOUNDER RESTRICTIONS CAME FROM ACRIMONIOUS DEBATE (AP) — New restrictions on catching southern flounder that go into effect in North Carolina on Friday were the product of an acrimonious debate.
PILOT MOUNTAIN STATE PARK ACQUIRES NEW LAND (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Pilot Mountain State Park will be getting a little bit bigger, better and easier to enjoy — thanks to a 70-acre expansion. Matt Windsor, Pilot Mountain State Park superintendent, said park officials have been working for several years to acquire the land from a private owner. With help from the Piedmont Land Conservancy and grant funding, the park was able to buy the land and — hopefully — the future of Pilot Creek.
ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES STILL HOTLY DEBATED (Sanford Herald) — Local environmental concerns about topics ranging from hydraulic fracturing to coal ash deposits were some of the most intensely debated issues of 2015, and they continue to be contentious on numerous fronts as the new year approaches.
BALLOTS ARE CROWDED IN THE MARCH 15 PRIMARY VOTE (Fayetteville Observer) -- In just over 10 weeks, we're going to the polls. There will be no express lane. It's a big and daunting ballot, with choices that include a presidential candidate, a U.S. Senate contender, and a mass of aspirants for Congress, the General Assembly, county commissioners, judges and, at least in Cumberland County, two bond issues. Some of the races are pretty crowded.
FAILURE TO ALLOW HOLIDAY VISITS ADDS INSULT TO N.C. INCARCERATION (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- This year, those who staff North Carolina’s 56 prisons got to spend Christmas with their families, thanks to the Department of Corrections’ generous vacation time policy. As a result, however, no one was around to oversee family visits for the state’s 38,000 incarcerated individuals. For them, the holiday season was anything but merry.
N.C. POLITICS IN 2016: THE FUTURE IS HAZY (WRAL-TV column) -- Predicting the future in politics is a hard business, and not too many of us are good at it. If you have any doubt, take a gander at at how few of last year's political predictions came to full fruition. This year I'm enlisting help – or at the very least bringing others down with me. After coming up with 10 questions, I put them to WRAL Capitol Bureau Chief Laura Leslie, Public Records Reporter Tyler Dukes and Political Editor Matthew Burns.
CUTS DAMAGE N.C. HERITAGE PROGRAM (Raleigh News & Observer) -- One has to offer a bow to Republican Rep. Chuck McGrady, co-chair of the powerful state House Appropriations Committee. In commenting on the budget-cutting done to the valuable Natural Heritage Program, McGrady was candid enough to say that he thought a mistake had been made. Maybe the program was too low-profile, he mused. Or maybe people just thought it was some feel-good program of little significance. But that’s not the case.
MEADOWLARK LEMON (Wall Street Journal) -- Meadowlark Lemon, who died Sunday at age 83, said God’s plan for him became clear at age 11 in a segregated North Carolina movie theater. There he saw a newsreel featuring the Globetrotters, a basketball team made up of talented players who had the same color skin he did. He left the theater resolving to be a Globetrotter.
REPUBLICANS RELY ON TOOTH FAIRY LOGIC (Raleigh News & Observer) -- There’s a logic gap so glaring in this rollicking political season that it deserves more notice. It runs like this: Elected Republicans are suffering for promising huge changes – such as repealing Obamacare – and failing to deliver. The only thing more absurd than politicians promising to force a president named Obama to repeal “Obamacare” is the notion that millions of Americans would buy it – and then lash out at their GOP representatives for deceiving them. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening. Rank-and-file Republicans pay for blithely exaggerating what’s possible in a divided government.
WHY I BELIEVE N.C. TEACHERS ARE UNDERPAID AND UNDERAPPRECIATED (ODESSEY column) -- what I most recall is not the clothes I wore or the grade I made on my EOG, it was the teachers who influenced who I am today.
PREDICTION: GOV. MCCRORY IS TOAST (Weekly Independent column) -- Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s record is a disaster made worse—for McCrory's purposes—by the fact that he's so often been a hapless bystander when Republican bills were speeding to enactment. But what will make the difference in the 2016 election are the host of small scandals and brewing screw-ups that surround McCrory. They will mark him as the kind of corrupt, Republican-establishment traitor so despised by the angry tea-party crowds backing Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Corrupt and—in Trump lingo—low-energy. Plus, "stupid."