Friday feel-good: Tarheels give back via Peace Corps

It ain't all Ivory Tower Intellectualism:

For the third year in a row, UNC-Chapel Hill has moved up in the rankings of the Peace Corps’ Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities list. UNC-Chapel Hill ranks No. 7 among large schools, up from No. 12 last year.

According to the Peace Corps, 51 Tar Heels volunteered around the world in 2016. Since the Peace Corps’ founding in 1961, nearly 1,300 Carolina alumni have served as volunteers overseas.

Just a quick anecdote: In my travels as a US Army soldier during the latter years of the Cold War, I came in contact with Peace Corps folks quite often. We had some fairly intense debates about *how* to achieve peaceful situations worldwide, but the truth is, the work they did (and do) far surpasses what military training and intervention are capable of. Why? Because conflict is almost always caused by the struggle to survive, the desperate need for life's essentials, like food, potable water, shelter, security, etc. If you can help people secure these things with their own two hands, conflict becomes far less likely. It sounds simplistic, but it is the truth, and the Peace Corps has accomplished so much in the "avoided conflict" category it's impossible to quantify. That's Meagan Meekins pictured above, and if you see her on campus, don't run. She's the UNC-CH Peace Corps recruiter, and she can help you figure out where you want to go and what you want to do.

Exporting bigotry: NC man charged in gay-bashing incident in Key West

Because we don't already have a bad enough reputation:

Kevin Seymour and Kevin Price told police that about 1 a.m. on Feb. 23, they were riding bicycles in the 700 block of Duval when they saw a man swerving on a rented scooter. Seymour says he shouted to warn the scooter rider, identified by police as Davis, that he almost hit a car. Davis yelled, “You guys are a couple of fags,” “I bet you faggots voted for that bitch Hillary” and “You live in Trump country now,” police say.

When Seymour threatened to call police, Davis allegedly told him, “If you do that, I’ll cut you up.” At one point, the scooter rider struck the rear tire of Seymour’s bike, knocking him to the ground. Seymour and Price got the scooter tag number before he fled. The scooter was rented from A and M Rentals. It was found parked near the Southernmost Point.

Dude, you're on fricking vacation. Leave the hate at home, for God's sake. I fear "Florida Man" may end up playing second fiddle to "North Carolina Man" in the national "Holy shit what did he do now?" competition...

Friday News: Of course they did

SENATE COMMITTEE CONFIRMS HALL AS MILITARY AFFAIRS SECRETARY (WRAL-TV) -- After weeks of arguing over the legality of the confirmation process, a Senate committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve former state Rep. Larry Hall as secretary of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Early on in the hearing, he said his office would be focused on making sure veterans knew about the services available to them that they may not be using. "What we've failed to do is engage (veterans) and ensure they get they full advantage of every right and benefit they have earned," he said. Other pressing issues for the office, he said, would be creating more jobs for veterans, ending homelessness among veterans and combating an epidemic of suicides among veterans.
http://www.wral.com/senate-committee-confirms-hall-as-military-affairs-secretary/16561543/

Burr isn't just an incompetent slacker, he's also corrupt

For years friends have told me that Senator Richard Burr is a nice guy. They characterized him as an affable frat boy, proud of not wearing socks. They said he'd never do anything of importance, but that he would be a good soldier, for the most part, and toe the party line. No one ever said he'd prove to be a corrupt lap dog to the most dishonest president in history. But that's what he is.

Thursday News: Budgeting the right way

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IN FIRST BUDGET, COOPER PUSHES FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION (N.C. Health News) -- In rolling out his first budget, Gov. Roy Cooper said he will be able to increase North Carolina’s spending for the coming fiscal year by $1.1 billion. Cooper’s $23.48 billion dollar spending plan for 2017-18 emphasizes increasing teacher pay, increasing salaries for state employees across the board and builds on former Gov. McCrory’s infrastructure improvements to upgrade more state properties. “I have talked to hospital CEOs. I think they are willing and ready and able to step up in exchange for this expansion,” he said. “It’s gonna be a net gain for them. They’re getting hundreds of millions of dollars in this expansion.”
http://www.northcarolinahealthnews.org/2017/03/02/first-budget-cooper-pushes-medicaid-expansion/

Thanks to Trump, we're back to dumping coal waste into streams

MB at Dailykos has the roundup of idiotic Trumpiness:

The regulation he boasted about stopping is the Stream Protection Rule drawn up by the Office of Surface Mining. He signed a bill on Feb. 16 eliminating it, noting that getting rid of this rule that was approved in December would save thousands of mining jobs. The rule was meant to keep coal-mining waste out of streams, but it was considerably watered down thanks to industry lobbying. The rule did not ban mountain top removal that is used to get at coal seams, with the overburden of soil and rock dumped in stream valleys.

Even though the rule was far weaker than it needed to be, now instead of making companies stop dumping their coal waste in those valleys, the consequences will continue to fall as it has for more than a century on the people who live where the companies befoul the water and land with their leavings.

Something a lot of folks fail to comprehend when this subject comes up: Mountain streams make up the headwaters of rivers that run for hundreds of miles, through countless small towns and even larger cities, and these rivers cross state lines on their way to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico here on the Eastern half of the US. As far as surface pollution goes, nothing else competes with the sheer distance and volume of water polluted. And thanks to proposed budget cuts to the EPA, tracking that pollution is now going to be much more difficult:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Selenium levels in Kentucky fish off the scales

Give a man a fish, poison him just a little:

Despite decades of pollution from the Brown plant, the Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife lists Herrington Lake as a great place to catch largemouth bass, crappie, white bass and bluegill. Like every other water body in the state, fish in Herrington Lake are already under an advisory for mercury because of air pollution from coal-fired power plants. But now, state regulators say the power plant’s coal ash pond has poisoned Herrington Lake’s fish in a different way: with selenium.

Nine out of 10 fish tissue samples taken last spring in Herrington Lake exceeded Kentucky’s fish tissue selenium criteria. LG&E and KU were cited for the violation last month and quickly reached an agreement with the state to pay $25,000 in civil penalties and take corrective measures.

Teach a man to fish, and you may be guilty of criminal negligence. Seriously, I just can't understand why fishermen and other outdoor sports enthusiasts aren't beating down the doors of their county/state/national governments to crack down on such pollution. I mean, just the fact you're not supposed to *eat* the fish is bad enough, but the systematic killing-off of fish populations makes the sport of fishing seem about as ridiculous as snipe-hunting:

Wednesday News: The roots of the problem

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HB2 REPEAL WILL COME ONLY WHEN BERGER AND MOORE CLEAR THE WAY (Capitol Broadcasting Co. editorial) -- Thanks to extreme gerrymandering, the General Assembly has become an ideological echo chamber where voices of reason are drowned out by shouts of extremism. It is a place where absurd comments from House Speaker Tim Moore and state Senate boss Phil Berger, complaining it’s always the opponents and victims of HB2 who are preventing its repeal, are inexplicably viewed as reasonable. The bill includes a ridiculously low threshold – 10 percent of voters in the previous municipal election -- to get a repeal on the ballot. That would be a mere 4,200 signatures in Raleigh – a city with a 438,000 population. Such a counter-productive process only breeds more divisiveness and trouble. There will be a referendum in every city.
http://www.wral.com/editorial-hb2-repeal-will-come-only-when-berger-and-moore-clear-the-way/16557836/

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