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Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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GENE NICHOL: PHIL BERGER RULES BY WHIM TO GAIN PARTISAN OMNIPOTENCE: State Senate leader Phil Berger and his crew have determined, apparently, that -- gerrymandering the judges’ districts; eliminating their primaries; restricting their powers of judicial review; ending public funding for their campaigns; manipulating the size of the Court of Appeals; stacking individual Supreme Court elections; and becoming the first state in a century to demand the partisan election of judges -- isn’t enough to deliver the precise courts the Republicans require. Clearing the whole offending slate and forcing them to run constant, expensive, relentless and hyper-partisan campaigns seems now to be the trick. No matter that judges take oaths to be accountable to the law and the Constitution, not to the voters. Or that our jurists would have little time for their actual work, given the demands of perpetual campaigning. Party fealty, again, is all that matters.
http://www.wral.com/gene-nichol-phil-berger-rules-by-whim-to-gain-partisan-omnipotence/17065670/

Saturday News: Lock 'em up

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MUELLER PROBE INTO TRUMP-RUSSIA COLLUSION YIELDS INDICTMENTS FROM GRAND JURY: The first round of charges in special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election were approved Friday – but it's still not known what they are or who they target. A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., approved the charges, CNN reported Friday, citing sources briefed in the matter. The network said plans were being made to take anyone charged into custody on Monday. CNN said a spokesman for Mueller's office declined to comment. The special counsel has been digging into allegations of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign since May.
http://www.newsobserver.com/latest-news/article181410621.html

Oregon billionaire's charter school empire invades North Carolina

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And Team CFA likes to keep the money in the family:

In fall of 2016 Aristotle Prep -CFA received an F from the state and failed to meet academic growth standards. This year Aristotle Prep – CFA received a D. Last year Aristotle enrollment was 150 students, compared with 550 projected when it received the charter. The Aristotle Prep – CFA and Achievement for All Children contract requires state Board of Education approval. A fundamental problem is that Aristotle’s board did not seek proposals from other management companies. It seems a sweetheart deal for Aristotle Prep-CFA was arranged by a network of TeamCFA members.

In this case, the advisory board requested a three-person panel of state Board of Education members to review the Aristotle Prep -CFA plan. The trio endorsed the plan originally, but conflict of interest concerns moved the full board voted unanimously to defer action and get a ruling from the ethics commission.

That's a pretty sweet deal if you think about it: Screw up the academic status of your school while bilking taxpayers for tuition, which then triggers an "in-house" contract to fix the problem you created. Making money coming and going. Be on the lookout for these charter school pirates sailing into your home town:

Court appoints Special Master to review gerrymandered Legislative maps

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And this isn't the Professor's first rodeo either:

Judge Catherine Eagles informed the attorneys in the order that Nathaniel Persily, who has helped draw districts for New York, Maryland, Georgia and Connecticut, would review North Carolina’s new legislative maps and possibly help the judges draw new lines for 2018. Persily will be paid $500 an hour, which the judges described as half his typical hourly rate. The filing period for state legislative races is set to begin in February.

“If any party has grounds to believe that Professor Persily has a conflict of interest which would disqualify him from serving as Special Master or is otherwise objectionable,” the judges said, the attorneys should file an objection within two business days. Any objectors may suggest a different mapmaker, the judges added.

This article corrects something I've been getting wrong for several weeks: Candidate filing for Legislative races is in February, not December, so we've got more breathing room on that. Also something to keep in mind: Persily's involvement in evaluating and potentially redrawing district lines may be limited to just a handful of races:

Friday News: The company he keeps

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DAN FOREST ATTENDS FUNDRAISER WITH SPINDALE CULT LEADERS: A photo provided to The News & Observer shows Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest at a fundraiser with a leader of a western North Carolina church that’s being sued by a former member who says church leaders tried to beat the “homosexual demons” out of him. Forest, who was elected to a second term last year, is a socially conservative Republican who’s expected to run for governor in 2020. The photo shows Forest standing in a living room with Robin Webster, a leader of Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale in Rutherford County, about 70 miles west of Charlotte. Word of Faith has come under scrutiny in recent months after 43 former members told the Associated Press that church members try to expel demons using “blasting” prayers where congregants were smacked, choked, punched and thrown to the floor.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article181105496.html

Bill Brisson takes off his donkey mask and declares for the GOP

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out:

Democratic Rep. Bill Brisson announced Wednesday he will change his party registration and run for a seventh term as a Republican. Democrats now hold just 45 seats in the 120-member House.

Brisson, 71, represents parts of Bladen, Sampson, and Johnston counties. He has been a Republican ally for years. At times during his career, Brisson provided Republicans with crucial votes on important bills. For example, he and four other Democrats helped Republicans override former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s budget vetoes in 2011.

That tear you see slowly coursing down my cheek is one of joy and relief, so don't fret yourself over my condition.

Thursday News: Talking trash

RECYCLING DOWN IN NC AS SOLID WASTE PILES UP: Several counties around the state, including those in the Triangle, are buried underneath mounting piles of trash as local leaders figure out how to dig out from under a growing problem that, left unsolved, will only get worse. "We're doing our best to deal with these things," said John Roberson, who is solid waste director for Wake County. Wake and other local counties are each taking different routes to adequately deal with the thousands of tons of trash that is delivered to landfills and recycling centers. But according to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, the amount of trash being taken to many county disposal sites is growing. North Carolina residents each year dispose of over $41 million worth of plastic. The state's residents toss nearly $17 million worth of steel products every year. About $270 million worth of goods that can be recycled is disposed of every year.
http://www.wral.com/trash-troubles-nc-counties-garbage-woes-mounting/17048673/

Coal Ash Wednesday: Not-so-sweet home Alabama

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Power company informs Wilsonville Council and residents about "cap and leak" plan:

Tensions rose at times during Monday's Wilsonville City Council meeting, as a group of Alabama Power representatives spoke with the council members and Wilsonville residents about the company's plans to cover the 269-acre coal ash pond at the nearby E.C. Gaston Electric Generating Plant.

Wilsonville Mayor Lee McCarty and a handful of audience members asked pointed questions of the Alabama Power delegation, though many in the audience simply listened.

Thanks to an appearance by representatives of the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) the day before, some pretty good questions were asked. But the answers they received were somewhere between vaguely misleading and downright lies:

Hall of shame: NC's Congressional delegation fails the test of decency

In a remarkable speech on the floor of the US Senate yesterday, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona called a spade a spade. Taking on Trump collaborators and enablers, he leveled damning criticism at his own party for failing to stop the descent into perversion that is happening before our eyes in America.

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