Daily dose: Gutting public schools edition

The N.C. Dept. of Commerce’s Division of Labor & Economic Analysis released the July monthly state employment figures Monday and the word is “up” -- as in higher than June’s. North Carolina’s 6.5 percent unemployment rate is higher than last month’s and still is higher than the national unemployment rate. That’s all stuff that can be found in typical accounts. Here are three facts about employment in North Carolina you won’t find in the usual coverage.

The only major sector experiencing a decrease in jobs over the last month as well as the last year – government. But you don’t need to tell that to folks at the public schools – particularly teacher assistants. Seasonally adjusted figures reveal a drop of 4,900 government jobs – from 710,100 a year ago to 705,200 for July 2014. When looking at stats that ARE NOT seasonally adjusted, the number of government employees in the last month, dropped from 684,300 in June to 608,800 – a 75,500 drop.

Workers are vanishing. While North Carolina’s population continues to grow, workers are disappearing from the labor force. A year ago, North Carolina’s workforce was 4,692,338. In July 2014 that number was 4,674,116. That means 18,222 people who once had jobs, or were looking for work, vanished. Imagine if the entire population of Clayton, Hendersonville, Morrisville, or Boone, just disappeared. One day they were here: contributing to the economy, playing, going to school, raising crops, and then a year later, poof and gone.

Manufacturing workers are taking home less pay. The average weekly hours for manufacturing production workers decreased 1 hour and six minutes in July compared to June – a drop to 43.8 hours. So, while average hourly wages increased a whopping 11 cents, to $16.79 an hour, those workers actually took home $13.65 LESS a week to an average $716.93.

Rep. Martin on Coal Ash: 'It Is A Leadership Failure' (TWCN-TV) -- While Wake County Rep. Grier Martin was getting an award from the NC League of Conservation Voters on Monday, he took time to point fingers as to why no coal ash clean up plan has been signed into law.

Martin calls for coal ash compromise (WRAL-TV) -- As the state legislature continues to idle over a stalemate among House and Senate Republicans, a Wake County lawmaker is calling for action on a stalled coal ash clean-up plan. After the Dan River coal ash spill in February, House and Senate leaders agreed that legislation to address the state’s 33 coal ash ponds was one of the session’s top priorities. But negotiations over the differences in the two chambers’ proposals broke down at the end of July. Senate Leader Phil Berger has said he’d like lawmakers to come back November 17th, after the fall elections, to address both the coal ash plan and Medicaid reform. But House Speaker Thom Tillis said Friday the House prefers to adjourn sine die this week and skip the November session, pushing the bill to 2015 instead. Gov. Pat McCrory has issued an executive order calling for clean-up assessments to begin at the state’s four most-hazardous ash ponds. Duke Energy, which owns all 33 ponds, has already announced plans to clean out those four and begin the process of closing others. But environmental advocates say neither option carries much weight or accountability, and neither will protect Duke customers from bearing the cost of the clean-up. Rep. Grier Martin, who received an award Monday from the League of Conservation Voters, insisted there is still time in the waning days of the session for House and Senate negotiators to bridge their differences. “There is no debate that there has been a failure to fix the coal ash problem,” he said.

Martin says GOP delaying coal-ash clean-up until elections over (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Democratic NC Rep. Grier Martin claims North Carolina Republican leaders delayed cleaning up a coal-ash spill until after the November elections to avoid voter wrath.

Fly ash plan involves dump with history of leaks (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) -- Dominion Virginia Power's plan to close its coal-fired power plant on the Elizabeth River would leave nearly a million tons of fly ash in a waste dump that has leaked arsenic and other contaminants into groundwater for more than a decade, company documents show. City officials and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality are reviewing the plan, which outlines steps the company says it is prepared to take to seal 973,400 tons of coal combustion byproducts stored at the site. Meanwhile, the City Council is expected to vote today on restrictions that would require Dominion to obtain a city permit to continue storing coal ash at the site after the plant is shuttered. The restrictions are aimed at preventing a repeat of Duke Energy's coal ash spill this year in North Carolina, according to city leaders. That spill occurred when a stormwater pipe collapsed under an ash pond, sending thousands of tons of toxic sludge into the Dan River.

Whoever wins the Senate, we probably won’t know who picked up the tab (Washington Post) -- A new study shows most spending in key races is being done by so-called “dark money” groups.

Obamacare Losing Punch as Campaign Weapon in Ad Battles (Bloomberg News) -- Republicans seeking to unseat the U.S. Senate incumbent in North Carolina have cut in half the portion of their top issue ads citing Obamacare, a sign that the party’s favorite attack against Democrats is losing its punch. The shift -- also taking place in competitive states such as Arkansas and Louisiana -- shows Republicans are easing off their strategy of criticizing Democrats over the Affordable Care Act now that many Americans are benefiting from the law and the measure is unlikely to be repealed. “The Republican Party is realizing you can’t really hang your hat on it,” said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University. “It just isn’t the kind of issue it was.”

Look At Critical N.C. Senate Race (Southern Political Report) -- In a U.S. Senate race, do voters choose their candidates based on federal or state issues? The answer may be forthcoming in North Carolina. More critically, the winner of this race in November may help decide whether Democrats or Republicans will have majority control of the Senate for at least the next two years. Both campaign rhetoric from her Republican opponent and her own actions in Washington have tied incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan to President Obama in this, a ‘purple’ state that Mitt Romney carried in 2012. Toss in her own anemic resume of non-accomplishment in the Senate, and what’s left is a senator with approval ratings in the 30 percentiles, and less than 45 percent support in most polls of the Senate race. Fortunately for Hagan, her Republican opponent, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, recently has been at the center of turmoil over the state budget in the North Carolina legislature, which adjourned in early August.

New Tillis campaign ad hits Washington, hides his legislative leadership role (McClatchy Newspapers) -- Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis debuted a new TV ad Monday that talks about his background as an ordinary working person and takes a dig at Congress.

Tillis touts blue-collar roots in new NC ad (The Hill) -- North Carolina Speaker Thom Tillis (R) is touting his blue-collar roots in a new ad aimed at improving his image with voters and emphasizing his non-legislative experience. "I came up in the real world," Tillis says in the ad. "I've been a paperboy, a short-order cook, a warehouse clerk, and eventually a partner at IBM. The Senate could use more people who had to sweat for a living, and fewer of the politicians who made this mess."

Tillis touts working-class values in new TV ad (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis aired his first general election television ad Monday, touting working-class values he said he gained as a paper boy and short-order cook.

Red-State Dems Form 'Blue Senate 2014' Joint PAC (Weekly Standard) -- On August 13, Blue Senate 2014 registered with the Federal Election Commission as a joint fundraising committee, a sort of political fundraising co-op that allows like-minded candidates to raise and pool funds. The campaign committees of Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Natalie Tennant of West Virginia, and Michelle Nunn of Georgia are listed as participants in Blue Senate 2014. Each hail from states Barack Obama lost in 2012 and, in the cases of Landrieu, Tennant, and Nunn, from states the Democratic presidential candidate hasn’t won since 1996 or earlier. In addition, the campaign committee of Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire is listed as an additional participant in the joint committee. … The race in North Carolina has already proven costly, with the Hagan and her Republican challenger Thom Tillis spending more than $10 million combined so far. Millions more are being spent by outside groups on behalf of both candidates, and the race continues to be close.

Judge Lewis fires back after Martin named next Chief Justice (WWAY-TV) -- A battle between two Republicans in the non-partisan race for North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice took an interesting turn today, when Gov. Pat McCrory said he will appoint one of the candidates to the post. McCrory today announced Supreme Court Associate Justice Mark Martin will take over as Chief Justice when retiring Sarah Parker leaves at the end of the month. "Justice Martin has served as the Senior Associate Justice since 2006, and our court is better for it," Gov. McCrory said in a statement. "The humility and integrity of his character has benefited our state, and his knowledge and depth of experience is inimitable. I look forward to his work as Chief Justice as he draws upon his more than 20 years of judicial experience." Martin's opponent this fall is Brunswick County Resident Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis. Despite also being a Republican, Lewis believes the party is targeting her for choosing to run against Martin by publicly endorsing him and supporting new regulations that would change the way ballots are ordered to list Martin first.

THING THAT WOULDN’T GO HOME; DAY 98; Overtime 50, $2.5 million
Study: Not expanding Medicaid to cost billions (AP) — The decision by Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican lawmakers not to expand Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act will cost North Carolina $51 billion in lost federal money and thousands of jobs over the next decade, according to a new report.

Crowdfunding, solar, job recruitment at stake in legislative impasse (WRAL-TV) -- As the General Assembly enters showdown week over several key bills, entrepreneurs, solar power backers, investors and job recruiters have a lot riding on the fate of "HB 1224." There's much more at stake than crowdfunding as GOP leaders search for a way to reach a truce.

NC GOP lawmakers diverge on core GOP positions (AP) — A disagreement between Republican lawmakers about their goals and the role of government is adding to the extended wrangling over the final few measures before the North Carolina General Assembly decides when to shut down for the year. http://www.news-record.com/news/north_carolina_ap/nc-gop-lawmakers-diverge-on-core-gop-positions/art...

Budget Writers Rely on Questionable Method for Meeting Medicaid Targets (N.C. Health News) -- Lawmakers use this one weird trick to balance their Medicaid budgets year after year. But the practice of accounting for savings from the state plan amendments to Medicaid before they’re implemented has its problems.

Incentives bill continues to spark protest, but moves to floor (Raleigh News & Observer) -- With a narrow vote, top Republican leaders averted embarrassment Monday as a legislative panel sent a bill loaded with job-creation incenties to the full chamber for a vote. It quieted, for the moment, a revolt from some House GOP leaders against a measure pushed by Speaker Thom Tillis and Gov. Pat McCrory to create a new program that would offer up-front cash incentives to companies who relocate to North Carolina. Critics consider it corporate welfare. The measure – House Bill 1224 – has split the majority Republican caucus and sowed deep tensions between the House and Senate, delaying adjournment and crystallizing a session marked my partisan infighting and discord. The bill also includes a provision that would cap local governments’ ability to levy local sales taxes.

N.C. lawmakers could change film bill (Wilmington Star-News) -- Changes include a 25 percent payback

Moral Monday returns to Raleigh for week of rallies (TWCN-TV) -- The North Carolina NAACP is organizing a week of rallies at the state Capitol from Aug. 22-28. Each rally will focus on a different policy area, ending with a mass voting rights rally on the 51st anniversary of the March on Washington

Martin calls for coal ash compromise (WRAL-TV) -- As the state legislature continues to idle over a stalemate among House and Senate Republicans, a Wake County lawmaker is calling for action on a stalled coal ash clean-up plan. After the Dan River coal ash spill in February, House and Senate leaders agreed that legislation to address the state’s 33 coal ash ponds was one of the session’s top priorities. But negotiations over the differences in the two chambers’ proposals broke down at the end of July. Senate Leader Phil Berger has said he’d like lawmakers to come back November 17th, after the fall elections, to address both the coal ash plan and Medicaid reform. But House Speaker Thom Tillis said Friday the House prefers to adjourn sine die this week and skip the November session, pushing the bill to 2015 instead. Gov. Pat McCrory has issued an executive order calling for clean-up assessments to begin at the state’s four most-hazardous ash ponds. Duke Energy, which owns all 33 ponds, has already announced plans to clean out those four and begin the process of closing others. But environmental advocates say neither option carries much weight or accountability, and neither will protect Duke customers from bearing the cost of the clean-up. Rep. Grier Martin, who received an award Monday from the League of Conservation Voters, insisted there is still time in the waning days of the session for House and Senate negotiators to bridge their differences. “There is no debate that there has been a failure to fix the coal ash problem,” he said.

Moffitt fires at Obama in new state legislature campaign ad (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Rep. Tim Moffitt is firing at President Obama in a new ad that features the Republican state lawmaker's father. The ad does not mention his Democratic challenger Brian Turner. They are vying for House District 116 in Buncombe County. "The President has made it clear that he wants to punish the job creators in this country with his big spending, big government policies," Moffitt said in a statement. "His liberal agenda has tanked our economy — and, for the first time ever, our next generation will be worse off than their parents. That is simply unacceptable — and that's not the America I know and love." The 30-second spot features his father, Bobby Moffitt, who he says is lifelong Democrat himself.

NC judge weighs legality of school vouchers plan (AP) -- A North Carolina judge is hearing arguments on whether it's constitutional for tax money to be used to pay for tuition at private or religious schools. Wake County Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood hears arguments on the issue on Tuesday. http://www.wral.com/nc-judge-weighs-legality-of-school-vouchers-plan/13904711/

Union representing Ft. Bragg civilians asks congressional leaders to fight cuts (Fayetteville Observer) -- A union that represents thousands of Fort Bragg civilians has urged the post's congressional delegation to fight against potential cuts to the workforce at the nation's largest military installation. American Federation of Government Employees' national office and the leadership of Fort Bragg's Local 1770 sent letters to U.S. Rep. Renee Elmers and Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan last week.

McCrory names Mark Martin to top NC judicial post (AP) — Gov. Pat McCrory is picking the North Carolina Supreme Court justice with the most seniority for the state's top judicial post and in so doing boosting the election prospects of one of two fellow Republicans running for chief justice.

Mark Martin Named To State's Top Judicial Post (WUNC-FM) -- Gov. Pat McCrory has appointed a new chief justice to the North Carolina Supreme Court. The chief has influence over the highest court but also lower courts in the state. McCrory appointed a new head of the court after Chief Justice Sarah Parker, who is stepping down at the end of August, reached the mandatory retirement age of 72. (Although the court is officially non-partisan, Martin is a Republican and Parker is a Democrat.) So what does this mean for the new chief Justice Mark Martin? He could play a role in a landmark voting law case or on death penalty appeals, says former Justice Robert Orr.

McCrory names chief justice for NC Supreme Court (WRAL-TV) -- Mark Martin, currently a senior associate justice on the state Supreme Court, will replace Chief Justice Sarah Parker, who has reached mandatory retirement age.

McCrory Names Mark Martin as N.C. Chief Justice (Voter Update Magazine) -- Martin will take over for Chief Justice Sarah Parker, who is stepping down at the end of August due to reaching the mandatory retirement age of 72 for North Carolina judges.

Gov. Pat McCrory Names Next Chief Justice of NC Supreme Court (TWCN-TV) -- Gov. Pat McCrory announced Mark Martin will become the new Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court upon Sarah Parker's retirement at the end of August.

McCrory appoints Mark Martin chief justice of NC Supreme Court (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The governor’s appointment of Mark Martin to take over as N.C. Supreme Court chief justice in September answers one question, but raises another. Martin will move into the leadership position for the next two months.

Survey: 16% Of Large Employers Plan To Offer Low-Benefit ‘Skinny’ Plans Despite ACA (N.C. Health News) -- Some of the changes to private health care plans anticipated in the wake of the Affordable Care Act have yet to materialize.

NC July Unemployment Climbs to 6.5 Percent (TWCN-TV) -- The state released new numbers Monday, showing July's unemployment rate ticked up a 0.10 percent to 6.5 percent.

N.C. jobless rate inches up to 6.5 percent for July (AP) — North Carolina's unemployment rate inched higher for July as the state's labor force declined by nearly 15,000 over the course of a month, state officials said Monday.

NC Jobless Numbers Show Slow Economic Recovery (WUNC-FM) -- North Carolina’s unemployment rate hasn’t moved much in the past several months as the state continues its slow trek towards job growth. The North Carolina Department of Commercer eports a July jobless rate of 6.5%. That’s one-tenth higher than the month before, but 1.6 percentage points lower than a year ago.

Hagan Pushes FAA To Develop Long-Term Plan For Contract Towers (N.C. Political News) -- U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan sent a bipartisan letter to Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta, asking the FAA to develop a long-term strategy and plan for the Federal Contract Tower Program. The Federal Contract Tower Program has existed for over 30 years as a partnership between the private sector and Federal government aimed at improving air traffic safety. Federal contract towers supplement FAA-staffed facilities around the country, and the surrounding communities depend on the contract towers for commercial and general aviation services, jobs and support for the military and a variety of air ambulance services. There are five of these towers located in North Carolina – Concord, Hickory, Kinston, New Bern and Winston-Salem.

Task force offers prescription for improving rural health care (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The 2.2 million people who live in the state’s 60 rural counties are more likely to be sick and to lead shorter lives than their urban counterparts, but the health gap can be narrowed by focusing on seemingly unrelated issues – such as economic development – as well as things that are more directly related, such as persuading more psychologists to settle in rural areas. That’s according to the final report released Monday from a statewide task force on improving rural health. The Task Force on Rural Health was led by the N.C. Institute of Medicine and the state government’s Office of Rural Health and Community Care and funded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

US defense program gives local police surplus military gear (WRAL-TV) -- Approximately 13,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, including those in Durham, Orange and Wake counties, have accepted more than $4 billion in equipment since 1990 under the 1033 Program.

Military equipment among Triangle law enforcement agencies (Triangle Business Journal) -- Helicopters, grenade launchers, night vision goggles and body armor are among the hundreds of pieces of military surplus equipment flowing into the Triangle’s law enforcement agencies.

AG VISITS: Cooper welcomes local teachers back to school (Washington Daily News) -- The Washington High School Performing Arts Center was abuzz with the voices of hundreds of Beaufort County teachers,

Boycott threat over illegal immigration proposed in Surry Co. (WGHP-TV) -- Frustrated over illegal immigration, Surry County Commissioners are sending a clear message to lawmakers in Washington and officials in Central America, — “enforce human trafficking laws or face potential boycott of your products in North Carolina,” said County Commissioner Larry Phillips Monday night. Phillips introduced a resolution to send to Congress and Embassy’s in Honduras, Ecuador and Guatemala saying do something or they’ll ask residents to boycott products from the countries that are typically found in big box stores.

Meet the 'Encyclopedia to the Legislature' Gerry Cohen (WUNC-FM) -- Listen -- Gerry Cohen is probably the most important North Carolina politician you don't know. As a lawyer to the legislature, he worked in the General Assembly for more than 30 years, partnering with representatives from both sides of the aisle to craft non-partisan bills. Before the legislature, Cohen was the youngest member of the Chapel Hill Town Council, an early supporter of public transportation in the Triangle, and an editor and writer for The Daily Tar Heel.

Canadian company to create 68 jobs in Scotland (AP) — A Canadian company that makes bathroom tissue, napkins and paper towels will open a new plant in Scotland County that is expected to create 68 jobs.

Q&A: The Hidden Costs of Tobacco Debt (ProPublica) -- Even when taxpayers aren't explicitly on the hook, tobacco bonds can cost states and local governments money. Here's how.

Ann Majestic, nationally recognized education lawyer, dies at 61 (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday for Ann Majestic, the longtime attorney for the Wake County school board and a nationally recognized expert in education law. Majestic, 61, died Saturday in her longtime home in Durham’s Trinity Park neighborhood after a battle with breast cancer. During more than 30 years as an education-law attorney, Majestic figured prominently in some of North Carolina’s most important legal disputes over education, including the Leandro school funding case and Wake County’s battles over student assignment. “She is one of those people who won’t be replaced,” said Wake school board member Kevin Hill. “She will only be followed.” Majestic was the lead attorney in the education-law section of Tharrington Smith, the Raleigh-based law firm whose clients include many of the state’s 115 school systems.

Some third-graders get another chance (Wilson Times) -- Up to 40 students who failed to meet state reading standards for third grade are expected to be enrolled in transition classes this coming school year.

Local attorney's suspension lifted (Morganton News-Herald) -- An attorney from Morganton who was at the center of illegal campaign contributions to a former state governor will be able to practice law again. Juleigh Sitton’s license was suspended in June for three years starting Sept. 21, 2012. After a year, Sitton, who is listed on the State Bar as Julia Leigh Sitton, was able to apply for a stay of the remainder of her suspension. Sitton was an employee of the Bev Perdue campaign and was the former director of Perdue’s western office. According to documents from a disciplinary hearing commission of the North Carolina State Bar, Sitton submitted a petition June 24 asking the State Bar for a stay of the suspension. The request to have her suspension lifted was granted as long as she continues to meet all the conditions set out in the Order of Discipline from the State Bar, according to State Bar documents.

Shakespearian Tragedy? Did loss of state funds contribute to festival’s demise? (High Point Enterprise) -- For decades, the now-defunct N.C. Shakespeare Festival could count on a base of state financial support as it prepared each season for performances such as “A Christmas Carol” that delighted audiences. Depending on the year, money from the N.C. General Assembly made up 15 percent to 20 percent of the High Point-based group’s overall budget. The state appropriation gave the Shakespeare Festival a financial cushion depending on how much its supporters could secure in private donations and revenue from ticket sales. But three years ago, with the Great Recession strapping state finances, then-Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue and the Republican-controlled General Assembly eliminated more than $200,000 in annual state financing. One immediate result was that the Shakespeare Festival canceled its fall season three years ago, which at the time was a first for the festival launched in 1977. The loss of state funding may have prompted a downward spiral that’s led to the festival’s ending.

Residents fire back at proposed Harnett gun ordinance (WRAL-TV) -- Hundreds of residents packed the Harnett County commissioners room Monday night to fire back at a proposed room Monday night to fire back at a proposed gun ordinance.

Whistleblower sues medical examiner's office over retaliation (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A former autopsy manager at North Carolina's medical examiner's office contends he was forced out because he told investigators that a state pathologist had mishandled evidence in a homicide case.

Guilford chipping away at backlog of Medicaid cases (Greensboro News & Record) Most of Guilford County’s backlog came from the Affordable Care Act, but also is is partly due to computer changeover, an official says.

State delays new WIC software upgrade in Guilford (Greensboro News & Record) -- North Carolina delays upgrade of software program for women, infants and children in Guilford, Wake and some other counties.

More than 100 protest proposed chicken plant (Fayetteville Observer) -- More than 100 people flocked to the Cumberland County Courthouse on Monday night to protest a proposed chicken processing plant

Constangy to retire as Mecklenburg judge (charlotte Observer) -- Since he was elected a Superior Court judge in 2010, William “Bill” Constangy has heard criminal felony cases, District Court appeals and civil cases of $25,000 or more.

Dollar General bid generates uncertainty for Family Dollar jobs in NC (Charlotte Observer) - Dollar General's offer to buy Matthews-based Family Dollar in a $9.7 billion deal raises the stakes for North Carolina – casting doubt on a pending acquisition by another rival and spurring talk of potentially deep layoffs.

Computer Eyesight Gets a Lot More Accurate (New York Times) -- Just as the Big Bad Wolf promised Little Red Riding Hood that his bigger eyes were “the better to see you with,” a machine’s ability to see the world around it is benefiting from bigger computers and more accurate mathematical calculations. The improvement was visible in contest results released Monday evening by computer scientists and companies that sponsor an annual challenge to measure improvements in the state of machine vision technology. Started in 2010 by Stanford, Princeton and Columbia University scientists, the Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge this year drew 38 entrants from 13 countries. The groups use advanced software, in most cases modeled loosely on the biological vision systems, to detect, locate and classify a huge set of images taken from Internet sources like Twitter. The contest was sponsored this year by Google, Stanford, Facebook and the University of North Carolina.

The Civil War and the Southern Belle (New York Times) -- In the sudden absence of husbands, fathers, brothers and beaus at the start of the Civil War, white Southern women discovered a newfound freedom — one that simultaneously granted them more power in relationships and increased their likelihood of heartbreak. Gone were the traditions of antebellum courtships, where family connections and wealth were paramount and a closed circle of friends and neighbors scrutinized potential mates, a process that could last for years. The war’s disruptions forced elite Southern parents to loosen rules regarding chaperoning and coquetry, which one prominent lecturer called “an artful mixture of hypocrisy, fraud, treachery and falsehood” that risked tarnishing a girl’s reputation. The girls themselves relinquished the anticipation, instilled since birth, that they would one day assume their positions as wives, mothers and slave mistresses, that their lives would be steeped in every privilege and comfort. The war ultimately challenged not only long-held traditions of courtship and marriage, but the expectation that one might wed at all. … Southern women in rural areas grappled with entirely different concerns: the dearth of suitable men — or any men at all. By the summer of 1863, in New Bern, N. C., only 20 of the 250 white people remaining in town were men. The war was on its way to claiming one in five white Southern men of military age (leaving behind more than 70,000 widows), a situation that prompted frantic letters to the editor. “Having made up my mind not to be anold maid,” an 18-year-old Virginian wrote to the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger, “and having only a moderate fortune and less beauty, I fear I shall find it rather difficult to accomplish my wishes” (nevertheless she hopefully listed her skills, which included making brandy peaches and “throw[ing] socks in a corner”).

NC Teachers Get Close-Up Look At German Work Education Model (WUNC-FM) -- North Carolina’s manufacturing story is old and complicated. In just the past decade, the state has seen many traditional manufacturing operations shut down, devastating tens of thousands of workers and their families. But this decade has also witnessed the growth of a new kind of manufacturing. Next Generation manufacturing is cleaner and more nimble and requires highly-skilled workers. And you have to start early building a talented workforce.

Journalists live in peril to keep hope of freedom alive (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Noura Mansour and Diab Serriah fled Syria and almost certain arrest in 2012, but they keep close tabs on what’s happening at home through the freelance journalists inside Syria who file stories with them for their newspaper, Tamddon.

AAA: The 5 most dangerous N.C. counties for driving (Triangle Business Journal) -- Parts of North Carolina are a "killing ground" for motorists, according to a recent report from AAA Carolinas.

Canadian Solar Modules to Power 44 MW North Carolina Solar Farms (Solar Daily) -- Canadian Solar has announced that the Company executed a 44 MWp module sales agreement with affiliates of Entropy Investment Management and Entropy Solar Integrators.

Solar boom driving first global panel shortage since 2006 (Bloomberg News) -- The solar industry is facing a looming shortage of photovoltaic panels, reversing a two-year slump triggered by a global glut. The oversupply pushed prices through the floor, making solar power more competitive and driving up demand. It also dragged dozens of manufacturers into bankruptcy, and slowed capital investment at the survivors. With installations expected to swell as much as 29 percent this year, executives are bracing for the first shortfall since 2006.

State officials want public input on seismic testing project (Wilmington Star-News) -- The National Science Foundation is proposing to conduct seismic testing off of the North Carolina coast from Sept. 15 to Oct. 22

Go big on offshore drilling, industry groups tell Obama (The Hill) -- Energy companies say safety precautions have improved dramatically since the Gulf spill.

Public meeting on Outer Banks beach renourishment (AP) -- A public meeting is being held on a project to rebuild a beach on the Outer Banks.

An 800-Year-Old Shot of Youth (New York Times) -- One hot day in 2004, Stefan Bloodworth and his 7-year-old son, Ethan, left a beaten path on their family’s North Carolina homestead and stumbled right into horticultural history. Bushwhacking into the dense undergrowth of mountain laurel on a 100-foot slope to the Flat River, Mr. Bloodworth, the curator of theBlomquist Garden of Native Plants at Duke University, noticed a ground-hugging shrub with shiny green leaves that he had never seen before, even though he had been exploring the family farm his whole life. It turned out to be Gaylussacia brachycera, or box huckleberry, a shade-loving evergreen thought to be among the oldest living things on earth.

State Provides Some Money for Hammocks Beach (Coastal Review) -- The state budget recently signed into law includes $3 million for the purchase of the long-sought 289-acre mainland addition to Hammocks Beach State Park in Onslow County

Alcoa to lower High Rock on Sept. 15 (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Alcoa Power Generating Inc. plans to lower High Rock Lake to 14 feet below optimum operating level starting Sept. 15.

Stock answers by McCrory don't measure up (Burlington Times-News) -- Gov. Pat McCrory and his associates are playing a little Blame the Messenger. It’s a stock game, and a well-worn go-to tactic those in public life use to deflect criticism when they have little else available for the job. … McCrory’s supporters, on the other hand, also contend that the subject is overblown by reporters who didn’t question the actions of previous governors who were Democrats. Those supporters conveniently forget they’re referring to the same media outlets that sent former Gov. Mike Easley out of office in disgrace and snared in a snake pit of legal entanglements. Former Gov. Bev Perdue didn’t escape the Beltway unscathed by reporters, either. … While the governor says no rules were broken, it would appear that they have been. It also serves as a grimy window into how easily governing and business interests can comingle. There is a reason the public demands full disclosure from political leaders on matters where even a whiff of conflict of interest exists. That alone makes this story news.

Protection will answer questions (Henderson Dispatch) -- because Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration includes other ties to Duke Energy, his ethics are subject to remain in question unless he and the General Assembly protect customers from the big cleanup bill. It is the right thing to do, difficult as he may think it is for his former employer and any associated campaign contributors. Despite the mistake he signed for, the governor gets an opportunity. He can stop the public relations train wreck by bringing together House speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger to create legislation that protects customers of Duke Energy. Until such time, questions on his actions are fair game.

McCrory's lawyer responds about Duke stock, lashes out at newspaper (Charlotte Observer) -- The Observer editorial board on Sunday spelled out the troubling ways Gov. Pat McCrory has handled his ownership of Duke Energy stock. The governor owned a significant number of shares for 15 months after he was elected governor -- a role in which he leads an administration that is supposed to regulate the giant utility. He continued to own the stock for more than two months after Duke's coal ash spill into the Dan River, as he helped formulate the state's response. And he signed an inaccurate disclosure form, declaring that he held no Duke stock on Dec. 31, 2013, when in fact he did. McCrory blamed the error on Bob Stephens, saying his general counsel misinterpreted the form and thought that it should reflect McCrory's holdings on April 15, 2014, a day after McCrory sold the last of his stock. That explanation does nothing to detail why McCrory thought it was OK to own stock in a company that was at the center of a debate about state regulation of its activities. Stephens sent the Observer a letter in response. Stephens reiterates that he misinterpreted the disclosure form and vouches for McCrory's integrity. Read our editorial here, and read Stephens' response below.
“I’m a proud native of the City of Charlotte. One of my first jobs was delivering the Observer when I was in junior high school. I attended the public schools and went on to Wake Forest University for undergraduate and law school. After two years in the U.S. Army, I practiced law in Charlotte for 40 years. I even had the honor of serving as president of the Mecklenburg County Bar Association. I also love our entire state. That’s why I accepted the opportunity to serve as general counsel for our former mayor and current governor, Pat McCrory.

I understand a very liberal editorial board constantly challenging our administration on issues such as tax reform and unemployment reform. However, giving your readers the false impression that we intentionally hid the selling of his utility stock is totally misleading and disingenuous. In fact, it was Gov. McCrory that ensured that the media was notified shortly after divesting all of his retirement stock in April and the media reported it. Let me be perfectly clear, my interpretation of the governor’s annual disclosure form was incorrect. At a minimum, the language is poorly worded. In fact, the ethics commission staff even acknowledged to us that many other public servants have interpreted the question the way I did. But the governor takes all ethics and integrity issues very seriously. Not surprisingly, Gov. McCrory immediately directed us to correct the error following my conversation with the ethics commission staff.

I’m proud of Gov. McCrory’s record of high ethics and integrity during his entire career in public service along with his 29 years as an employee of Duke Energy. In fact, one of the most often repeated directions I hear Gov. McCrory give to members of his administration is: “Do the right thing.” As a mayor and now as governor, Pat McCrory continues to show strong leadership on issues such as education, economy and the environment. Our administration is holding Duke Energy accountable for the Dan River spill while developing a statewide plan that responsibly addresses a nearly 100-year-old problem. Our state has seen one of the largest drops in unemployment in the nation and we’ve cut our debt to the federal government by more than $2 billion. Teachers are receiving an average raise of more than 5.5 percent, plus longevity pay. And working North Carolinians are keeping a larger percentage of their paychecks. I’m proud to be a part of this “Carolina Comeback.” I’m equally as proud to work for our own former mayor that now leads our state in the right direction while maintaining the highest of ethical standards. Sincerely, Bob Stephens; General Counsel for Gov. Pat McCrory

Pope may be gone, but his radical agenda remains (Asheville Citizen-Times column) -- Art Pope’s resignation as budget director would be good news if it meant there’s no more damage left to be done to North Carolina’s institutions and reputation. To the contrary, the radical agenda he did so much to establish remains in place — its ultimate goals include repeal of the entire income tax and privatization for profit of public education. Pope’s mouthpieces at the Civitas Institute and John Locke Foundation will continue to beat those ominous drums. Pope’s departure may simply mean that he needs more time to count all the money he’s saving from the unbalanced tax “reform” he helped to concoct.

Catherine Arrowood: New judge selection system needed (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- The work of our courts is far too important to have judges selected by lottery. Unfortunately, this situation is not unique. Recent vacancies in our Superior Courts have attracted a total of nine candidates for two winner-take-all races. There is, as the writer stated, a better way. It is time for North Carolina to seriously consider a judicial appointment system featuring a retention election component that permits voters to retain their right to turn judges and justices out of office. Such a system is being championed by Sandra Day O’Connor, former associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the nonpartisan Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System.

NC needs a more stable unemployment fund (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Some of the most brazen claims about conservative policies and economic gains involve the state’s unemployment insurance system. North Carolina was the only state to turn away extended federal benefits and then sharply curtailed eligibility and benefits under the state program. When the state’s unemployment rate dropped, conservatives crowed that cutting benefits was driving more people to find work. Most of the drop, however, reflected a shrinking labor force. Now Gov. Pat McCrory is touting another benefit of the state’s hard line on unemployment benefits: the unemployment fund’s shrinking debt to the federal government. The debt peaked at $2.8 billion as the state borrowed to meet a surge in claims during the recession and the slow recovery. Now it’s down to $574 million thanks to lower payments to the unemployed and a surcharge the federal government imposes on employers to get back what it loaned the state fund. … North Carolina shouldn’t be cheering its early payoff to Uncle Sam. It should be worried about whether it will be able to meet its obligations to future unemployed workers.

Lawmakers give up on two top priorities (Fayetteville Observer) -- When North Carolina lawmakers went back to work in May, there was no question about priorities: Deal with coal-ash problems and reform Medicaid. Nearly three months into what was supposed to be a "short session," leaders of the House and Senate said last week that they'd struck out on both issues. Maybe next year. "The consensus is we just need to work on that in January," said House Speaker Thom Tillis, referring to coal ash. But he won't be included in the "we." Tillis isn't seeking re-election. He's running for Kay Hagan's seat in the U.S. Senate.

North Carolina and the Cape Fear region depend on tourism (Wilmington Star-News) -- Tourism in North Carolina is a $20 billion-a-year industry

All of NC has a stake in strong public schools (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Adults are connected to public schools by more than their children. Strong public schools help everyone and deserve everyone's support.

More homework (Greensboro News & Record) -- The recent surge in home schooling throughout North Carolina is both an opportunity for parents and a challenge.


Both are up to their necks

in coal ash.

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014