SOCIAL MEDIA COMMENT FROM N.C. NEWS MEDIA: “More awful PR for NC: Stahl takes McCrory and Good to the woodshed. NB: The regulator who oversaw this process, DENR chief John Skvarla, resigned to become Commerce Sec earlier this week. Coincidence?” – WRAL-TV; Gov. Pat McCrory continues to distance himself from former employer Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK), telling 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl Duke’s record on coal ash is “quite poor.” – CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL; “Gov. Pat McCrory said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday that Duke Energy has done “very little” to clean up its coal ash contamination.” – CHARLOTTE OBSERVER;
The Spill at Dan River (60 Minutes-CBS News) -- Every year coal-burning power plants generate not only electricity, but a staggering amount of leftover coal ash that contains heavy metals unhealthy to humans. Yet due in part to intense industry lobbying, there are no federal regulations on its disposal. It's left to the states to oversee some of the most powerful utility companies in the country. So coal ash is often just dumped into giant pits that are dug by rivers and lakes, where toxins can leach into nearby water and soil. There are over 1,000 ash pits or ponds dotting the nation, many of them old, poorly monitored, all but forgotten. But every few years we are reminded that the status quo can lead to disaster --like the coal ash spill this past February into North Carolina's Dan River at a power plant owned by Duke Energy, the biggest utility company in the country. The spill at Dan River happened when a drainage pipe that ran underneath an ash basin and dam, collapsed, sucking out six decades of waste and spewing gunk directly into the river. … LESLEY STAHL: So that first report urging Duke to watch that pipe was 30 years ago. But there were others: 1996, 2001, 2006, advising you to keep watching that pipe, over and over. 2009, the EPA warned about the pipe. LYNN GOOD: Most of those-- LESLEY STAHL: How could you neglect those? … Duke closed the Dan River plant in 2012 - and that perplexed the governor. PAT MCCRORY: When I heard about the Dan River plant having a coal ash spill, my first reaction was, "Wait a minute. That plant's been closed for years. Why are we having a spill at a plant that's not even opened?" … Just this year Gov. McCrory cut the budget and staff of the specific department that inspects the ash ponds. The state legislature did pass a law in August, requiring Duke to clean up its plants, but only after the company had already volunteered to do that. Earlier, when Holleman tried to sue Duke, he was thwarted by the state which stepped in and negotiated a settlement that allowed Duke -- you guessed it -- more time to study, and imposed only a paltry fine. LESLEY STAHL: Tell everybody how much the fine was. PAT MCCRORY: I don't have that list, but again-- LESLEY STAHL: It was $99,111--
Full interview: Duke Energy's Good talks coal ash on '60 Minutes' (WRAL-TV) -- Duke Energy CEO Lynn J. Good sat down for an interview with 60 Minutes about the company's coal ash efforts.
McCrory: Duke Energy’s ash record ‘quite poor’ (Charlotte Observer) -- Gov. Pat McCrory said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday that Duke Energy has done “very little” to clean up its coal ash contamination.
Gov. Pat McCrory bashes Duke Energy's record (Charlotte Business Journal) -- Gov. Pat McCrory continues to distance himself from his former employer, Duke Energy, telling 60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl that Duke's record is "quite poor" on dealing with coal ash. In a piece recorded this fall that aired Sunday, McCrory says Charlotte-based Duke has done "very little" over the years to properly dispose of coal ash, "because, frankly I think it has been out of sight, out of mind." The CBS news program's piece focused on Duke and what it has done about coal ash issues since a February accident at the closed Dan River Steam Station that sent up to 39,000 tons of toxic ash into the Dan.
POLICY & POLITICS
For working poor in North Carolina, income drop creates health care fear (Charlotte Observer) -- At 61, Ken Helms of Charlotte would love to have health insurance. Based on what he earned directing traffic this year, he’s eligible for federal help paying premiums and out-of-pocket costs under the Affordable Care Act.
In NC, health insurance rates vary widely, depending on where you live (Raleigh News & Observer) -- North Carolina continues to have some of the highest health insurance costs in the United States. Pockets of the state have the distinction of being among the most expensive 10 percent of U.S. counties for individual health insurance.
Medicaid logjam, skeptics remain in NC legislature (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers initially seemed eager last summer to hammer out quickly a solution to stop recurring Medicaid shortfalls by shifting the risks of cost overruns to managed-care organizations or provider networks.
BCBSNC reaches out to Latino community for ACA (WRAL-TV) -- With the Affordable Care Act's February 15 deadline approaching, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina wants as many people as possible signed up.
Eugenics compensation law excludes some victims (Winston-Salem Journal) -- More than 7,000 people were involuntarily sterilized under North Carolina’s decades-long eugenics program. Now 10 words may keep many from being compensated for it.
Hundreds meet at civil rights rally in Charlotte in wake of police shootings (Charlotte Observer) -- Hundreds of people gathered at two Charlotte churches to reflect on two recent killings of unarmed black men by white police officers and what attendees called a troubling pattern of injustice after the officers were not charged with crimes.
NC first lady finds Asheville her 'heaven' (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Gov. Pat McCrory and first lady Ann McCrory make no secret of the fact that they’re frequent visitors to Asheville and the Governor’s Western Residence. “I love it up here. It’s my heaven,” the first lady said Sunday. The governor usually drives up to the mountains from Raleigh once a month. Mrs. McCrory comes even more often, and admits she would head west most every weekend if she could. This weekend, the state’s first couple opened the mountain getaway to the public for a Christmas open house.
Open houses being held for 2 NC probation centers (AP) — Recently closed North Carolina state prisons are re-opening as centers designed to give intense assistance to probation violators as another alternative to avoid returns to hard time behind bars.
Brody autopsies hold steady (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- While pathologists in Raleigh have been asked to do fewer autopsies, pathologists at ECU have not changed their protocols or reduced the number of autopsies they perform.
The science behind a smooch (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Kisses work their magic by setting off a whirlwind of neurotransmitters and hormones through our bodies that influence how we think and feel.
North Carolina's role in fighting Ebola highlights conference in RTP (WRAL-TV) -- North Carolina's role in fighting the Ebola epidemic striking western Africa and a disease that is a global threat will be discussed Monday at a conference in Research Triangle Park.
Armenian priest ordained for first time in NC Sunday (Charlotte Observer) -- Members of St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church in Charlotte witnessed North Carolina religious history Sunday with the ordination of their deacon, Benjamin Rith-Najarian, to the holy priesthood. It was the first time an Armenian priest has ever been ordained in the state.
Palestinian girl gets prosthetic leg in eastern NC (AP) — Fourteen-year-old Hiba Shahin never had the chance to run, jump or play, but that soon will change.
E-cigarette tech takes off as regulation looms (AP) — Just a few years ago, early adopters of e-cigarettes got their fix by clumsily screwing together a small battery and a plastic cartridge containing cotton soaked with nicotine.
SCHOOLS & UNIVERSITIES
Advancing New Model to Meet Dental Health Needs of Rural NC (N.C. Health News) -- The ECU School of Dental Medicine is expanding its statewide network of clinics that offer sliding-scale services and unique educational opportunities.
Durham job workshop aims to help women from the military (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Duke's Fuqua School of Business hosted a workshop Saturday to help female service personnel find jobs in the civilian world, channeling their military skills, life experiences and career ambitions to find meaningful employment.
Military-Style Technology Finds Way Into School District Safety Measures (New York Times) -- Many experts say limited resources may be better spent on mental health services and training for teachers and students on what to do if their peers talk about bringing a gun to school.
The epic Rolling Stone-rape fallout: How publications get it wrong (Washington Post) -- Big flaws in big stories that editors want to believe.
Rolling Stone Tries to Regroup After Campus Rape Article Is Disputed (New York Times) -- After The Washington Post raised doubts on its story of rape at the University of Virginia, Rolling Stone is weighing how to report on people who have suffered violence or trauma.
Group Calls for Reinstatement of Greek Activities at UVA (Wall Street Journal) -- A group of organizations representing fraternities and sororities is calling for the University of Virginia to lift a suspension on Greek activities, the latest fallout from a Nov. 19 Rolling Stone article about rape at UVA that the magazine has since said is flawed.
Fraternity advocates call on U-Va. to end suspension of Greek system (Washington Post) -- As the article that caused the furor unravels, national groups ask the school to apologize for its actions.
Updated apology digs deeper hole for Rolling Stone (Washington Post column) -- Just what reporting did the magazine do to corroborate an alleged gang rape? Any at all?
Wake County citing political challenges of busing for diversity (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Wake County school board members and their supporters say community opposition to "forced busing" for diversity limits steps that can be taken with student assignment to reduce the number of high-poverty schools.
Rensselaer President Leads List of Highest-Paid Private College Leaders (New York Times) -- Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute earned $7,143,312 in 2012, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s ranking of salaries at private colleges.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
For some, natural gas pipeline through Va. carries concerns (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) -- Nelson County is an epicenter of an energy battle over a $5 billion pipeline that would take natural gas from West Virginia to Virginia and on to North Carolina.
U.S. puts more cash behind solar power(Solar Daily) -- Solar energy developers can tap into the more than $9 million in funding available through the federal SunShot initiative, the Energy Department said.
Energy From Tides, Waves and Sea (Coastal Review) -- Experts say that North Carolina is well positioned to be a leader in the production of energy from the marine environment.
Lobbyists for fossil fuels target climate rules (Washington Post) -- Bolstered by GOP electoral wins, the industry aims to thwart a renewed push by President Obama to carve out climate change as a top priority for his final two years in the White House.
Australian scientists announce solar energy breakthrough (Solar Daily) -- Australian scientists said Monday they had made a breakthrough in increasing the efficiency of solar panels, which they hope could eventually lead to cheaper sources of renewable energy. In what the University of New South Wales described as a world first, the researchers were able to convert more than 40 percent of sunlight hitting the panels into electricity. "This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity,"
Ethanol joins U.S. fuels dominating global export market (Fuelfix/Bloomberg news) -- Exports of the additive derived from corn rose 31 percent this year to the highest level since 2011, meeting demand from South Korea to Persian Gulf oil producers.
New top environmental regulator should work for citizens (Wilmington Star-News) -- Gov. Pat McCrory has a second chance to appoint a top environmental regulator who sees the role less as a friend of business and more as the position was intended: the person charged with enforcing the state's environmental laws.
New state abortion rules strike reasonable balance (Fayetteville Observer) -- Some of Pat McCrory's conservative allies are unhappy with new rules for abortions the Republican governor's administration proposed last week. The General Assembly passed a law in 2013 to replace the 20-year-old regulations on abortion. Critics on the left were sure the law was intended to shut down abortion providers. McCrory said he wouldn't do that, and the proposed rules keep that promise. That has sorely disappointed those on the right who are now criticizing the new rules for not going far enough. They are incensed that someone from Planned Parenthood, an abortion provider, sat on the panel devising the new rules. The objection isn't genuine or reasonable.
After decades of problems at hospitals, some good news on lives saved (Raleigh News & Observer) -- After decades of concerns about accidents and neglect, hospitals show improvement.
Why I’m Giving Up My Passport (New York Times column) -- Like many Americans, I didn’t choose to grow up abroad. My father is from New York, and my mother, who died in 2012, was from North Carolina. They moved abroad for work in the 1970s, and ended up in a poor neighborhood in Madrid, where they ran drug rehabilitation centers. I went to an American school in Spain and recited the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. Except for two years in childhood, four years at college in North Carolina, and two years in New York, I’ve lived overseas all my life. At 38, I’ve voted in only one American election and I don’t have much connection to the United States. Almost all my friends are cultural mutts — people with hybrid backgrounds, for whom nationality isn’t the most important part of their identity. If America makes it so difficult to be American, I’ll happily just be British.
Deal is a win, but 440th Air Wing still in jeopardy (Fayetteville Observer) -- Last week's agreement not to deactivate the 440th Air Wing without a review process comes as welcome news for the besieged unit and the community at Pope Airfield, Fort Bragg and Fayetteville. The deal also represents an important victory for outgoing Sen. Kay Hagan, who lost her re-election bid last month. Among the criticisms that may have hurt her politically was that she'd been unable to protect the 440th from her own party's administration. In reality, Hagan's efforts had bipartisan support months ago but fell prey to the overall political stalemate in Congress this year. She deserves credit for negotiating an arrangement with congressional and military leaders despite her lame-duck status. Whatever the fallout for Hagan, this should be about much more than partisan politics.
Changing how colleges mishandle rape charges (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- If colleges are serious about reducing campus assaults, they need to break the links among alcohol, all-male fraternities and campus party life. Ideally, we should lower the drinking age.
Gruber out (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- The state auditor made the right decision when she canceled North Carolina’s contract with economics professor Jonathan Gruber.
A story about rape, now with more victims (Charlotte Observer) -- Reporters, when they do their jobs well, often make you feel uncomfortable. That’s because by its nature, journalism is about reporting the extraordinary, and often that involves things that shouldn’t be happening. It’s about injustices, about wrongs we need to know – or wrongs that are being ignored.