Daily dose: Smoke'n mirrors

Punch line of the century from DAG McCrory: We have fulfilled our promises.

Before he signed the budget bill on Thursday, Gov. Pat McCrory declared: “We have fulfilled our promises. … We are about to sign a budget that has no reductions in Medicaid eligibility, that has no tax increases, that has very good pay increases for our teachers throughout North Carolina, that has very good pay raises for Highway Patrol and for our court employees, that has solid pay raises for all state employees which are needed, which has a cost of living increase for retirees, and also has the same funding this year, as last year, for teachers assistants and teachers currently in the classroom.”

With a budget so magnificent, surely legislators who supported it -- 68 in the House and 33 in the Senate-- would want to be around to bask in its reflective glory at a bill signing ceremony? But at the signing festivities Thursday in the Executive Mansion, only two legislators, both from Wake County and one not even seeking re-election, standing beside the governor when the bill was signed. House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg), who could use some positive publicity these days, wasn’t around. Nor was Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) standing with the governor. The other five folks standing with the governor when he signed the budget were all paid members of his staff.

McCrory appeared to abandon his prepared comments as he went out of his way to take a personal swipe at the leader of North Carolina Association of Educators. “I also realize that the head of the current teachers’ union continues to criticize this budget even though his salary I assume is much higher than any teacher in North Carolina,” McCrory said. It seemed to be something of a smart aleck remark that echoed other recent behavior, such as his awkward offer of cookies to abortion rights protestors or the comments of his Transportation Secretary Tony Tata who a day earlier attacked lawyers with the Southern Environmental Law Center as "ivory tower elitists. … With their lattes and their contempt, and chuckle ...” Perhaps it is grasping at an opportunity, amid the challenges and frustrations of wrestling with public policy, to blow off some steam. But it accomplishes little in elevating the public debate over serious issues and legitimate differences of opinion.

Duke cries wolf on coal ash cleanup (Richmond Daily Journal column) -- Nearly six months have passed since news of the Dan River coal ash spill first reached the public in North Carolina. Since that time, Duke Energy has been working slowly to vacuum up the large, readily identifiable deposits of coal ash from the roughly 39,000 tons that spilled. Most of the cleanup has been focused close to the location of the broken pipe and near Danville, Virginia, where sediment was trapped behind the low Schoolfield Dam. Nearly six months of work and a staggering 6 percent has been recovered — staggering for how little that is. Duke and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which was overseeing the work, seem satisfied with this recovery rate and have declared the cleanup “complete,” leaving behind more than 35,000 tons or slightly more than 90 percent of spilled coal ash in the Dan River. Let’s look at it from another perspective.

Tillis says coal ash bill may be adopted by mid-month (Charlotte Business Journal) -- N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) says the General Assembly may be ready to act as early as next week on coal ash legislation that stalled last week over differences between Senate and House versions of the bill. He says negotiators are working on consensus language to iron out differences over a House provision in the legislation. And he believes a solution can be found by Aug. 14, when the House and Senate expect to be in session, “or thereabouts.” He thinks the differences will be resolved by the end of the month, at the latest.

Coal industry fuels Tillis' campaign coffers (McClatchy Newspapers) -- Money from coal companies has been fueling Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis’ race to unseat U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, including $21,100 from the nation’s largest privately owned coal company. The contributions came from the Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp. The owner and founder, Robert E. Murray, is a major backer of Republican candidates and a fierce opponent of President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency, especially over a proposal that would limit heat-trapping emissions from coal-fired power plants. Murray Energy is Tillis’ fifth-largest contributor. He has received money from the owner, company officers, employees and family members, and the company’s political action committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog group. … The Tillis campaign argued in a recent press release that Hagan has a “cozy relationship with Duke Energy” and a “dismal record” on coal ash. Duke serves customers in the Southeast and Midwest. A spill from the company’s pond in Eden sent 39,000 tons of coal ash – the residue produced from the burning of coal – into the Dan River in February, the third-largest coal ash spill ever in the nation.

Hagan and McCrory to visit area (Jacksonville Daily News) -- Two elected officials will be making stops today in Onslow County. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory will be visiting Jacksonville and will be aboard Camp Lejeune in the morning for a brief and tour of a MV-22 Osprey Static Display, according to his schedule of public events for the day. U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan will also be in town for a campaign stop. Hagan does not have any public events scheduled but her campaign confirmed she will be in Jacksonville for meetings with leaders in the local area.

Mark Walker criticized for 2013 comments (Greensboro News & Record) A Facebook post from 2013 has local African American leaders criticizing 6th Congressional District candidate Mark Walker for comments they describe as insensitive, insulting, and degrading to African Americans.

David Waddell, known for Klingon resignation, runs for U.S. Senate (Greensboro News & Record) The self-described “Trekkie” enters the race between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis as a write-in candidate.

Raleigh-based recruiter seeks 5,000 temp 'Election Day Reporting Agents' (Triangle Business Journal) -- Have eight hours to kill on Election Day? Raleigh employment services firm Headway Workforce Solutions is leading a nationwide effort to recruit and hire what it’s calling “Election Reporting Agents” for Thomson Reuters. More than 5,000 election agents are being recruited nationwide, including two each in Durham and Wake counties. At least one agent will be needed for each county in North Carolina, he says, adding that the state will require about 150 temporary employees. Additionally, Headway has hired 27 additional recruiters for the project at its Raleigh office. The election agents will work up to eight hours on Election Day, Nov. 4. They’ll monitor and enter ballot count results, using a specialized smartphone or tablet app.
Most of the new recruiter positions will end Nov. 7.

Former state Appeals Court Judge John Tyson trying to get back on bench (Fayetteville Observer) -- Former state Appeals Court Judge John Tyson of Fayetteville is trying to get back on the bench.

As expected, NC governor signs budget bill (AP) — Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday signed a state government budget bill that had been expected on his desk at least five weeks ago, giving teachers and state employees significant raises for the first time in several years.

Republicans steer North Carolina in a new direction (Fayetteville Observer) -- In classrooms and hospitals, on the job, at the park and at the bar, in city hall and in the voting booth, North Carolinians are seeing the effects of one of the biggest shifts in government power and philosophy in their state's history.

Gov. McCrory Signs $21B State Budget Deal (WUNC-FM) -- Gov. Pat McCrory has signed into law the state’s $21.1 billion budget bill that was approved by the legislature last week. The signing comes five weeks after the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1st, a deadline lawmakers did not meet because of stalled negotiations and debate largely over teacher pay and Medicaid funding. McCrory signed the 260-page budget deal on Thursday at the executive mansion, proudly noting that the spending plan includes raises for teachers and state employees, while not increasing taxes or making reductions in Medicaid eligibility.

McCrory signs $21.1B state budget bill (WRAL-TV) -- Five weeks after the beginning of the fiscal year, Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday signed into law the state's $21.1 billion budget bill that was approved by lawmakers last week.

McCrory signs budget, bills on charter schools, campaign finance, mopeds and more (Voter Update Magazine) -- Gov. Pat McCrory signed the $21 billion state budget into law on Thursday, touting a pay raise for teachers and state employees. Flanked by Rep. Nelson Dollar and Sen. Neal Hunt – both of them Wake County Republicans – along with outgoing budget director Art Pope, McCrory signed the spending plan in front of reporters gathered at the Executive Mansion. “This budget reflects a pragmatic and thoughtful approach to managing taxpayer dollars,” McCrory said. “It provides raises for our teachers, highway patrol officers, court employees and a cost of living increase for retirees and preserves Medicaid eligibility standards.”

Budget changes school funding (Winston-Salem Journal) -- A single sentence in the budget bill signed Thursday by Gov. Pat McCrory has the potential to upend the way state public schools are financed. The budget changes the way the state handles increases in public school enrollment. Beginning next year, the state will not automatically pay for that growth. “It changes fundamentally how you develop and request funding for public schools,” said Philip Price, chief financial officer for the state Department of Public Instruction.

Campaign urges North Carolina teachers to quit NCAE (WTVD-TV) -- Eight billboards recently posted along key highways across the state display a loaded question to teachers in bold white letters: "Want a $450 raise?" The message is part of a new public campaign launched this week by conservative think tank, NC Pope Civitas Institute, urging teachers to quit the North Carolina Association of Educators. "They're not really an advocate for education. They're an advocate for people who pay dues to them," said Francis De Luca, NC Pope Civitas President.

CMS' Morrison concerned with ‘radical’ education funding change (Charlotte Observer) -- A provision of the state budget that changes how schools are funded will put Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools at a disadvantage in recruiting talented teachers and make planning much more difficult, Superintendent Heath Morrison said.

McCrory discusses education and SBI (WBTV) – Gov. Pat McCrory was in Charlotte Thursday announcing changes to the State Bureau of Investigation and he also answered questions about the state budget. There appears to be some confusion over if the state is giving school districts enough money to pay for teacher assistants. Charlotte - Mecklenburg school district Superintendent Dr. Heath Morrison says the district is about $2.6 million short. He claims that budget gap from the state maybe the reason for the district not hiring more teacher assistants at this time. Morrison claims this year the state changed the way it pays for teacher assistants and that maybe the reason for the disagreement..

McCrory names Collier as acting SBI director (AP) — Gov. Pat McCrory quickly named an acting director for the State Bureau of Investigation Thursday, hours after signing legislation that shifted the agency to one of his Cabinet-level agencies, picking another one of his law enforcement leaders to fill the job.

McCrory defends GOP removal of SBI control from Democratic attorney general (Charlotte Observer) -- Gov. Pat McCrory defended transferring control of the State Bureau of Investigation from the N.C. Attorney General’s office to his own Thursday, saying the move will insulate the agency that investigates the state government from politics. Critics have said the move will take away the SBI’s independence and handicap its role as a watchdog over the state’s executive office. N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, is considered a challenger to McCrory, a Republican, for the governor’s office in 2016. The SBI transfer is part of a broader state law enforcement shakeup, under which the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission will now also report to the N.C. Department of Public Safety instead of the N.C. Commerce Department. All state law enforcement will now be centralized under the public safety department, which reports to the governor. “We are taking politics out of the equation. ... We will take the politics out of law enforcement,” said McCrory, speaking at a Charlotte news conference. He appointed B.W. Collier, who had been director of the state’s Alcohol Law Enforcement agency, acting director of the SBI. McCrory said the setup will be “very similar to when I was the mayor of Charlotte. I let the police chief be the police chief.”

Stealth Cuts Eat Away at Child Care Programs (N.C. Health News) -- Health advocates sigh with relief at the end of the legislative session if their program is fully funded for another year. Or is it?

Health and Human Services Budgets Compared (N.C. Health News) -- Voices of members of the North Carolina House were raised and filled with passion as they debated the final version of the budget. In a three-hour debate, members voiced their support for the bill, but many also raised their concerns. The budget passed its final reading, 66-44, in the House on Aug. 2. Four Republicans voted against the bill, including two co-chairs of the House Finance Committee. No Democrats voted for the budget’s final version. Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Cary), the bill’s primary sponsor and lead fighter for Medicaid reform in the House, said the bill fulfilled their promises. “You have to be able to stand on your beliefs,” Dollar said during debate on the bill.

Now You See It... Now You Don't (Coastal Review) -- Some controversial coastal provisions that were included in earlier versions didn't make it into the final state budget that Gov. Pat McCrory signed yesterday

Groups call out McCrory on NC immigrant children (AP) — Civil rights leaders and immigrant advocates say they're calling out Gov. Pat McCrory for negatively addressing the plight of an influx of children from Central America now in North Carolina.

Border crisis energizes GOP’s immigration hawks (Washington Post) -- Recent moves by House leaders and 2016 hopefuls conflict with party’s post-2012 plan for wooing Hispanics.

Groups Call Out McCrory on NC Immigrant Children (TWCN-TV) -- The state NAACP, Latino advocacy groups and others scheduled a Friday news conference to respond to McCrory's comments this week criticizing the federal government's management of children who have crossed the Mexican border without an adult.

Ellmers takes up GOP immigrant children alarm (Ripon Advance) -- Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) said on Wednesday that the House of Representatives worked diligently to pass legislation that addresses the southern border crisis and the Senate must now take action. The House approved the Secure the Southwest Border Supplemental Appropriations Act on Friday. The bill would provide supplemental funding to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, deploy the National Guard to the border and fund expedited processing of immigration cases.

McCrory helps unveil Visitors Center (High Point Enterprise) -- High Point’s Regional Visitors Center will put the city on the map in a new way, according to Gov. Pat McCrory. “You don’t know how many people … come and tell me, ‘I’ve got to go through High Point and buy some furniture. I’ve got to see the furniture being made, so I can see the quality product. And then I want to take it back home,’” he said at Thursday’s grand opening of the center at the High Point Convention & Visitors Bureau.

New NC budget chief takes up daunting task (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Lee Roberts is 45, personable, soft-spoken and a father of three. He’s the son of TV journalist Cokie Roberts and long-time Washington writer Steve Roberts and the grandson of two Louisiana political legends, the late U.S. Rep. Lindy Roberts and her late husband, Rep. Hale Boggs, who served as U.S. House majority leader. Now Roberts, a banker and an unaffiliated voter who has contributed to Democrats and Republicans, finds himself in his first paying job as a public official as state budget director for Gov. Pat McCrory. It’s no mean feat. Roberts will be following Art Pope, the big political giver who helped to orchestrate the Republican takeover of state government and to shape conservative policy-making. Thanks to a powerful General Assembly that largely ignored the governor for whom Pope worked, Pope’s impact was not as great as anticipated. But he did have some political savvy, and he had given heavily to Republican conservative candidates.

After tumultuous reign, Art Pope steps down (Facing South) -- This week, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory announced that his budget director, GOP mega-donor and businessman Art Pope, will leave his position effective Sept. 5. The announcement wasn't a big surprise; Pope reportedly agreed to the job for a year, and extended his tenure to 18 months to stay through this year's contentious state budget debate. But Pope's departure is still a significant shakeup for the McCrory administration, where Pope has been a key force in shaping the agenda of the Republican leadership and driving North Carolina's rightward political shift. There were many fiscal and policy experts McCrory could have tapped for the budget director job, but Pope brought one critical asset to the table others didn't have: a multimillion-dollar political influence machine, which Pope had spent more than $50 million erecting over the last decade.

Hundreds of eugenics victims lose initial compensation bid (WRAL-TV) -- More than 300 people who said they were sterilized under North Carolina's erstwhile eugenics program have been denied compensation after an initial review, officials said Thursday.
Updated 5:56 p.m. yesterday

Victims of NC eugenics board qualify for payment (AP) — Officials overseeing a $10 million fund set up to compensate victims of North Carolina's forced sterilization program say about 180 people have qualified so far to receive payments.

Healthcare situation sparks demonstrations, investigation (Washington Daily News) -- The NC NAACP says it will exercise civil disobedience if Vidant Pungo Hospital is demolished.

McCrory signs NC charter school bill, others (AP) — State education officials will ensure administrator salaries at North Carolina charter schools run by private management companies are disclosed, Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday after signing a bill. He's now taken care of nearly all the measures left on his desk by the legislature.

McCrory Signs 14 Bills Into Law (N.C. Political News) – Gov. Pat McCrory signed 14 bills into law on Wednesday

Salary schedule released for public school employees (WRAL-TV) -- The state Department of Public Instruction on Thursday released the 2014-15 salary schedule for public school employees, reflective of pay raises included in the state budget signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory earlier in the day. Teacher pay raises will range from less than 1 percent to more than 18 percent, depending on how long a teacher has been in the classroom.

Hagan Introduces Highway Bill for Eastern N.C. (Jacksonville Daily News) -- U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan introduced a bill to designate two North Carolina highways as a “future interstate” that will begin in Raleigh and pass through Rocky Mount, Williamston, and Elizabeth City to Norfolk, Virginia. The Route to Opportunity and Development (ROAD) Act of 2014 will enable transportation improvements to U.S. Highways 17 and 64. “Designating these highways as a future interstate is another step in improving North Carolina’s transportation network,” said Hagan. “By continuing to invest in our existing infrastructure, we can put more North Carolinians to work, better link our state’s Capitol and the busy port of Hampton Roads to eastern North Carolina, and ensure federal highway dollars are spent wisely.”

Superintendent: Book can stay in NC school library (AP) — The Brunswick County school superintendent has decided that a challenged book may remain in a middle school library.

Gov. McCrory announces 700 new Charlotte jobs (WSOC-TV) -- Brooks Agnew stood beside a bright blue truck frame and smiled. “We designed this vehicle from the ground up as an electric vehicle,” he said. Six months after he set up shop in an old warehouse off Mt. Holly Road, his small company is ready to roll out their first electric truck that will go from 0 to 60 in five seconds and run for two cents a mile. Agnew has only a handful of employees, but they plan to sell their first truck in September, and more importantly, Agnew says, they’re just getting started. “We'll get to about 300 employees here before we have to expand the facility," Agnew said.

Accreditation group ends monitoring of UNC-CH over ‘bogus’ classes (Raleigh News & Observer) -- UNC-Chapel Hill is off the watch list of the commission that accredits the university, but that could be only a breather as another investigation into the long-standing academic fraud case continues. Last month, the university received a letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges that signaled an end to the monitoring reports the association had been requiring from UNC. Its oversight was to make sure the university was properly addressing academic integrity issues raised by dozens of classes within the former African and Afro-American Studies department that never met. UNC’s first monitoring report didn’t satisfy the commission’s concerns, leading to a second the university completed in April.

States look to buy small Carolinas railroad (AP) — Governments in both Carolinas are looking at buying a short-line railroad that served the two states until it shut down two years ago.

Asheville appealing ruling to reinstate officer (AP) — Asheville is appealing a state Court of Appeals decision that it must reinstate a police officer fired after racist and pornographic images were found on a computer he rented.

Record number buckle up (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- Gov. Pat McCrory and North Carolina Transportation Secretary Tony Tata announced Thursday that 90.6 percent of drivers and passengers in North Carolina are wearing their seat belts. According to the annual seat belt survey completed in June, North Carolina has achieved the highest seat belt usage rate in state history. “As the first state to the launch the ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign in 1993, North Carolina has long been recognized as a national leader in highway safety,” McCrory said. “We re-emphasize that role today with the results of this survey, which show that a record number of North Carolina motorists now are making the smart decision to buckle up.”

Bothwell uses 'get out of garage free' card (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- City Councilman Cecil Bothwell let more than 60 drivers leave the Buncombe County parking garage for free as the nearby Mountain Moral Monday protest wound down Monday evening. Bothwell said Thursday he used an electronic parking pass to allow cars to pass through a cardholder exit without paying because people were having difficulty with the public pay station for the garage on College Street. Cars backed up to the garage's fourth floor "with no forward motion" in what he called a "systemic failure."

NC woman claims $1 million Powerball prize (AP) — A North Carolina woman wore a T-shirt reading "Dreams Come True" to claim her $1 million lottery prize in Virginia.

Big Data measuring dollar value of college degrees (AP) -- To make the most money coming out of a North Carolina university, study nuclear engineering and you'll earn almost $90,000 a year. To make the least, study dramatic theater and earn $10,400.

Top paying degrees from NC colleges, universities (AP) -- Top paying university bachelor's degree programs, by median wages after five years for 2008 graduates from all University of North Carolina campuses.

NC schools must keep EpiPens on hand (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Public schools in North Carolina will have to keep emergency allergy injections on campus at all times under the state budget Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law Thursday. The provision requires K-12 schools keep at least two epinephrine autoinjectors, the best known of which are EpiPens, on hand. It also requires principals to designate at least one person at the school to receive annual training on how to use them and recognize allergic reactions. But the budget does not provide funding for schools to buy the autoinjectors, which cost about $100 each.

Decker: Growing aviation sector 'holds tremendous potential' (Triad Business Journal) -- As Gov. Pat McCrory's administration began looking at the state's economic development efforts about 17 months ago, it began to set priorities on where to focus its energy to engage and grow the economy. N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said Thursday morning that one of those areas that the state's been focusing on is the aviation sector, which she said holds "tremendous potential" for the state. “We looked at what was most important to this state and what we already had in place that had the potential for significant growth," Decker said. "Aerospace, aviation, aeronautics rose to the top of that list." Decker's comments came at the 2014 North Carolina Aerospace Supplier and Advanced Manufacturing Summit at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem,

James Willis Kirk, Jr. and Glen E. Smith, Jr. Sentenced in Investment Fraud Scheme (FBI News Release) – Chief U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III sentenced JAMES WILLIS KIRK, JR., 63, and GLEN E. SMITH, JR., 60, to 60 months and 48 months’ imprisonment respectively. A third defendant, CAROL APRIL GRAFF, 61, was sentenced to 18 months. KIRK and GRAFF are from Washington, NC. SMITH is from Lake Worth, FL. All three defendants pled guilty to Conspiracy to commit Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Sell Unregistered Securities, and Engage in Unlawful Monetary. KIRK and SMITH also pled guilty to selling Unregistered Securities. Assistant U.S. Attorney David A. Bragdon stated, “This scheme targeted victims at churches, often in rural areas. With promises of zero risk, many victims invested money they could not afford to lose. Their lives have been turned upside down.” KIRK, SMITH, and GRAFF all testified in the trial of co-conspirator Thomas L. Kimmel, who was found guilty by a jury on July 26, 2014 of Conspiracy, Mail Fraud, and Money Laundering. The Government’s evidence showed that Kimmel solicited about $20 million for Sure Line Acceptance Corporation from investors. Investors were falsely promised that their principal was protected by collateral in the form of cars and car loans.

NCDOT Ferry Division sponsors photo contest (AP) — Photographers of all skill levels are being asked to show their best work in capturing the link between eastern North Carolina and the ferries that take people to the coast.

Data show NC consumers coming back to stores (AP) — North Carolina's consumers notched one of the country's highest jumps in spending in 2012 after the recession blues, according a new report the government issued Thursday.

Myth vs. Fact: Violence and Mental Health (N.C. Health News) -- A Q&A with an expert from Duke University who studies the relationship between mental illness and violence.

Textile manufacturing returns to Carolinas -- by way of China (Charlotte Observer) -- Keer, a Chinese textile company, is building yarn manufacturing lines in Indian Land, about 5 miles south of Ballantyne, bringing more than 500 jobs. More Chinese companies are looking to manufacture in the U.S., lured by lower costs of energy, cotton, and land, and wary of rising labor costs in China.

Mary's restaurant owners may reinstate prayer discount (Winston-Salem Journal) The Winston-Salem restaurant may reinstate its random discount to people for praying or otherwise showing some sign of gratitude before eating.

New Scenic Routes in the Outer Banks (New York Times) --. Four new driving trails link cultural and natural heritage sites along the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway in North Carolina, and a new kayak network weaves through miles of pristine coastal creeks and sounds. Down East Paddle Trails includes 16 kayak trails, ranging from 2.3 miles to 13.7 miles, and explores coastal creeks, marshes, sounds and shoals of Carteret County’s remote Down East area, the southern arm of the national byway.

Roanoke River Lighthouse restored to former glory (WRAL-TV) -- The Roanoke River Lighthouse was decommissioned in 1941, then it was sold, moved and used as a private home for many years. It was bought in 2005 by the local historical commission, which has spent nearly a decade loving it back to life.

N.C. Pork Had Been Surging In Russia... Not Anymore (WUNC-FM) -- Last year, according the State Department of Agriculture, North Carolina exported about $3.7 million in meat products to Russia. So far this year, that number has increased ten-fold, to $40 million. Now that Russia has banned the import of American beef, pork, and poultry products, that surge will come to a halt.

Origami Inspires Rise of Self-Folding Robot (New York Times) -- An intricately cut sheet lies flat and motionless on a table. Then Samuel Felton, a graduate student at Harvard, connects the batteries, sending electricity coursing through, heating it. The sheet lurches to life, the pieces bending and folding into place. The transformation completes in four minutes, and the sheet, now a four-limbed robot, scurries away at more than two inches a second. The creation, reported Thursday in the journal Science, is the first robot that can fold itself and start working without any intervention from the operator. “We’re trying to make robots as quickly and cheaply as possible,” Mr. Felton said.
Inspired by origami, the Japanese paper-folding art, such robots could be deployed, for example, on future space missions, Mr. Felton said. … “It’s just an amazing feat of engineering,” said Michael Dickey, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at N.C. State University who was not involved in the project but provided the inspiration for using Shrinky Dinks in self-folding structures. “It’s all programmed in, and you hit go.”

Women's Hospital in Greensboro may move (AP) -- Cone Health officials are considering closing a Greensboro hospital for women and moving its operations 2 miles to the larger Moses Cone Hospital.

Gullah Geechee Corridor Commission to meet in NC (AP) -- The commission working to preserve the culture of sea island slave descendants in four southeastern states is holding its quarterly meeting in North Carolina.

Application for first coastal groin processed (AP) — Construction could begin next year on a terminal groin on the shore at Bald Head Island near Wilmington as state regulators process the first application for such an erosion control structure.

Residents warned to avoid coastal algal blooms (AP) — North Carolina officials are urging people to avoid contact with potentially harmful algal blooms spotted off the coast.

Cyanobacteria Are Far From Just Toledo’s Problem (New York Times) -- Over the weekend, an entire city was brought to its knees by pond scum. Toledo, Ohio, gets its drinking water from the western end of Lake Erie. A bloom of bacteria formed there last week, producing a dangerous toxin called microcystin. City officials warned half a million residents against drinking municipal water. At high doses, the toxin can cause liver failure. The microbes that terrorized Toledo, known as cyanobacteria, are actually a worldwide menace. Fertilizers and other pollutants, the consequences of modern agriculture and fossil fuel production, are flowing into rivers and lakes, promoting the growth of these waterborne bacteria. The result is a worldwide in cyanobacterial blooms. Cyanobacteria are prehistoric organisms, and they were making these toxins billions of years before humans were around. The question that puzzles scientists is: Why? “We only call them toxins because they’re toxic to us,” said Hans W. Paerl, an environmental scientist at the UNC-Chapel Hill. By understanding the ancient history of cyanobacteria, Dr. Paerl and other scientists hope they can help fight the new threat posed by these microbes.

Now You See It... Now You Don't (Coastal Review) -- Some controversial coastal provisions that were included in earlier versions didn't make it into the final state budget that Gov. Pat McCrory signed yesterday

Proposed Cumberland chicken plant worries nearby residents (WRAL-TV) -- Opposition is mounting to the prospect of a chicken processing plant in Cumberland County.

Residents raise questions, concerns about proposed chicken processing plant (Fayetteville Observer) -- About 350 residents with concerns and questions about a proposed chicken processing plant packed a Fayetteville church Thursday evening.

South Carolina will let people lease equipment for solar energy (Washington Post) -- The hope is that homeowners and businesses unwilling to front the cash for installation and equipment will be more receptive to leasing.

NC Youth Conservation Corps clears new trail (Raleigh News & Observer) -- In its second year, the North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps is working across the state to improve and preserve public lands.

Forecasters expect slower Atlantic storm season (AP) — The Atlantic hurricane season will continue to be even quieter than predicted, thanks to atmospheric and oceanic conditions suppressing storm formation, federal forecasters said Thursday.

ReVenture Park unveiling celebrates green industry (Charlotte Business Journal) -- Politicians, economic developers, sustainability advocates and energy entrepreneurs and regulators were among the 170 speakers and guests who showed up Thursday for the official unveiling of the ReVenture Park in Mount Holly. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was on hand to give park developer Tom McKittrick an “Excellence in Reuse” award for the industrial park anchored by two small renewable-energy projects, housing a handful of sustainable business startups and featuring large swaths of dedicated green space. That last includes a 175 environmental easement along the Catawba River and Long Creek.

Siers cartoon: Peter Pan McCrory
Pope exits NC role with his impact and future unclear (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Art Pope is stepping down as North Carolina’s budget director, but he certainly hasn’t stepped out of state government. The wealthy supporter of conservative candidates and causes will continue to exert a strong influence through the Republican lawmakers he helped to elect, the gerrymandered election districts he helped to draw and the former staff members of his conservative advocacy groups who continue to serve in state government.

Duke cries wolf on coal ash cleanup (Richmond Daily Journal column) -- Nearly six months have passed since news of the Dan River coal ash spill first reached the public in North Carolina. Since that time, Duke Energy has been working slowly to vacuum up the large, readily identifiable deposits of coal ash from the roughly 39,000 tons that spilled. Most of the cleanup has been focused close to the location of the broken pipe and near Danville, Virginia, where sediment was trapped behind the low Schoolfield Dam. Nearly six months of work and a staggering 6 percent has been recovered — staggering for how little that is. Duke and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which was overseeing the work, seem satisfied with this recovery rate and have declared the cleanup “complete,” leaving behind more than 35,000 tons or slightly more than 90 percent of spilled coal ash in the Dan River. Let’s look at it from another perspective.

Legislature lumbers into Twilight Zone (Halifax Newspapers) -- Now, they can't even agree on how to go home. That's where the North Carolina General Assembly stands at the moment, suspended in a kind of political animation floating aimlessly toward … who really knows, certainly not adjournment — at least not yet. After hammering out a budget agreement after weeks of impasse over everything from teacher pay to teacher's aides, it appeared the short session — note use of the word "short" — would come to a rousing finish so lawmakers could escape Raleigh, return to their home districts, rest up, begin to campaign in earnest for the November elections and perhaps salve some wounds inflicted by in-fighting among Republican leadership. But apparently, after 11 weeks of jawing and cajoling, they can't even figure out how to successfully leave town.

Busted in N.C.: Does Zephyr Teachout Live in NYC? N.Y. Gov. Wants to Know (New York Times) -- Zephyr Rain Teachout, a law professor at Fordham University, is a very brave woman. So brave, that she is running for governor in the Democratic primary against Andrew Cuomo. Gov. Cuomo is leagues ahead in the polls. And he has a ton of money. He is also an expert politician. So, officially his campaign has been dismissing or ignoring Ms. Teachout as a mere inconvenience in the Sept. 9 primary. But if she is such a trifle, then why has he hired one of the best elections experts in the state to pore over her records and find ways to get her off the ballot? In a Brooklyn courtroom today, Ms. Teachout answered questions from Cuomo attorney Martin Connor about where she has lived since she moved to New York City in the summer of 2009. The Cuomo team is trying to prove that this extremely-personable and progressive Democrat has not been a resident of New York long enough to run for governor. To run, she has to prove that she lived in the state constantly a full five years before the Nov. 4 election. …Ms. Teachout would prefer, of course, to be out talking about Mr. Cuomo’s failure to clean up corruption or help the little guy. But she was stuck in the dock explaining why she still has a car registered in Vermont where she grew up. She had to explain that she still uses her parents’ address as a “mail drop”, one reason why she gave a policeman in North Carolina that Vermont address last year when she got a traffic violation.

Employee, celebrated for her resignation, dreams of a beer career (Watchdog.org) -- A former North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources employee, who was celebrated by liberal groups and the media for her acerbic resignation in September 2013, used her taxpayer-funded time and email account to complain with colleagues about the state’s new Republican political leadership – and obsessed over beer. … Wilson’s criticisms began to appear in her emails in April 2013, only four months after McCrory took office and the Legislature returned to work after the historic November 2012 election. One example cited a forwarded email from a US EPA employee to a NC DENR colleague, which linked to an article about Rowan County legislators who introduced a resolution that sought to undermine federal courts’ authority over states’ rights to address religious issues. The Rowan County Board of Commissioners has been under fire by the ACLU over prayers delivered before meetings. Wilson was unsympathetic.

Accelerated sterilization compensation must be done smoothly (Winston-Salem Journal) -- The state budget the legislature passed last week contains a provision that moves North Carolina closer to cementing a groundbreaking milestone: The state will give partial compensation payments to survivors of the state’s forced sterilization program by October 31, well ahead of the deadline of June 30, 2015, with the full amount to be paid by the latter date. With the aging victims ailing and dying, this acceleration is needed.

Dueling whistles (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Alleged plagiarism in her thesis taints whistleblower Mary Willingham but does not absolve Carolina of academic fraud.

Medicaid reform still needs to care for the sick (Fayetteville Observer) -- Delay isn't always a bad thing. It can force the rethinking of a bad decision. And sometimes delay can save lives.

Why Charlotte should care about Lake Norman tolls (Charlotte Observer column) -- Many Charlotteans view the planned toll lanes through Lake Norman with a sense of poetic justice: since Lake Norman commuters caused the congestion on I-77 in the first place they should be the ones paying for a solution. As a bonus, millions will be spent on road construction in uptown and paid for, ultimately, by the Lake Norman commuter. At first blush, this sounds like a great deal for Charlotte.


A culture of incompetence and lying

The next few days will contain a remarkable level of lying and spin, with Republicans putting their fingers in their ears and claiming at the top of their lungs that they have done everything they promised.

Sadly, about 30% of North Carolinians will swallow their happy horseshit without gagging.