Daily dose

Daily dose: Did somebody say we actually have a budget?

Congress sends Obama $1.1 T spending bill (AP) -- Congress cleared a $1.1 trillion spending bill for President Barack Obama's signature late Saturday night after a day of Senate intrigue capped by a failed, largely symbolic Republican challenge to the administration's new immigration policy.

Senate Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill, Joining House (New York Times) -- A rare Saturday session bridged some disagreements, as the chamber approved the measure to fund core domestic government operations. North Carolina’s two senators, Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Kay Hagan, both voted for the bill.

Daily dose: Lennon Lacy needs justice edition

F.B.I. to Investigate a Hanging Death in North Carolina (New York Times) -- After state officials said Lennon Lacy, 17, whose body was found hanging from a swing set in North Carolina, committed suicide, the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. asked the F.B.I. to intervene.

FBI reviews hanging death of black teenager (AP) — The black teenager was found in a North Carolina trailer park, hanging from a swing set by a dog leash and a belt that were not his own.

Daily Dose: Starve the beast edition

N.C. revenues are $410 million behind last year and $190M short of forecast (AP) — The gap between predicted and actual North Carolina state revenues is widening because of continued tepid personal income tax collections, but improving sales tax collections approaching the holidays helped keep it spreading further. The monthly report on state revenues issued by the Office of the State Controller says revenues are running $410,1 million behind what was collected a year ago. The legislature's top economist confirmed this week revenues are about $190 million below expectations for the first five months of the fiscal year ending Nov. 30. The first-quarter gap through September was $62 million. The rate of revenue collections is also running behind the pace set a year ago. Last year, by the end of November, the state collected 39.6 percent of the total revenues collected for the fiscal year. Currently, the state has collected just 36.9 percent of the revenues it anticipates for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The critical culprit has been collection of individual income taxes. Not only did the General Assembly cut the tax rate, but the recession and skyrocketing unemployment in North Carolina, which has lagged the nation in recovery, has resulted in many workers returning to the workforce in jobs that pay significantly less then the jobs they held previously. Last summer, a decline in withholdings in the first half of the 2014 calendar year contributed to a $450 million gap in the last fiscal year, making decisions for the current budget written by lawmakers last summer more difficult.

Daily Dose: Two chickens cross the road

Gonna be a long six years, folks. Tillis is coming out-of-the-blocks with torture advocate Richard Burr as his role model. Neither has served a split-second in the armed forces. Not a split second.

Tillis echoes Burr on torture report (Raleigh News & Observer) -- U.S. Sen.-elect Thom Tillis, who was in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, said the release of the report on CIA interrogation practices during the Bush administration could harm U.S. relations with other countries. His comments echoed those made by his soon-to-be Republican colleague, Sen. Richard Burr.

Abortion Debate Looms: Public Asked to Comment on DHHS Rules (Public News Service) -- The future of reproductive health in North Carolina is in the hands of the general public. This month, the North Carolina Department of Health (DHHS) and Human Services proposed new regulations for abortion clinics and now the public has an opportunity to comment.

Let's give Richard Burr the respect he deserves

When Richard Burr takes over as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee next year, a quintessential oxymoron will step into the spotlight, showcasing North Carolina once again as a state filled with idiots and assholes. Mr. Burr, who famously created his own run on banks at the height of the financial crisis, continues to embarrass us all with every utterance he makes. His comments yesterday about torture and the war crimes of George W. Bush leave no doubt about his loyalties.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said the report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the CIA’s use of torture released Tuesday “only endangers our officers and allies in a blatant attempt to smear the Bush administration.” The Republican U.S. senator from Winston-Salem will become chairman of the Intelligence Committee in January. He said on Tuesday that he would not hold hearings on the report.

“I just don’t know what you would accomplish with hearings,” he said in an interview. Asked if he saw any kind of follow-up, Burr said, “No. Put this report down as a footnote in history.”

As a veteran and former special operations officer in the US Navy, I find Mr. Burr's cavalier observations about CIA torture practices mind-boggling. This is not about smearing anybody, this is about integrity, which is definitely not Mr. Burr's strong suit. If we can't count on the United States Senate to exercise is authority to hold the executive branch accountable for proven war crimes, we are well and truly screwed.

So yeah, let's show Mr. Burr the respect he deserves. Exactly none.

PS Rob Schofield has a slightly more gentle take on Burr's outrageous statements.

Daily dose: Conflicts of interest version

State Ethics Commission belatedly completes review of NC fracking board (Raleigh News & Observer) -- More than two years into the task of writing the state’s fracking standards, all but two of the members of the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission have been flagged for a potential conflict of interest. Chairman Vikram Rao received the 14 ethics evaluations from the State Ethics Commission last month and disclosed them Friday at the Mining and Energy Commission’s regular monthly meeting in Raleigh. … The lifespan of the Mining and Energy Commission has almost run its course. Under a state law passed this summer, the board is scheduled to dissolve on July 31 and will be replaced by a new Oil and Gas Commission to handle fracking permit reviews, variances, trade secrets and other requests. When asked about the belated evaluations, which were issued Oct. 23, the State Ethics Commission’s executive director, Perry Newson, said the ethics commission is working on thousands of evaluations with limited staff. “Frankly, I did not know that the MEC was going out of business soon,” Newson said. “That was a surprise to me.”

Editor's note: No shit, Sherlock. We've been discussing the MEC's conflicts of interest since they were empaneled. Massive fail.

Daily dose: 60 Minutes edition

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--

Daily dose: Remembering Pearl Harbor

'...A Date Which Will Live in Infamy' (Southern Pines Pilot) -- On this, the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, we bring you this special essay from Pinehurst resident R.S. “Swede” Boreen. Boreen was a sailor aboard the U.S.S. Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. I reported for duty to the Battleship U.S.S. Oklahoma (BB-37) on 17 December, 1938 and served in her until that fateful day 73 years ago, a day that will live in infamy, and the day that changed not only the course of history but the course of so many of our lives.

Pearl Harbor memories live for survivor (Fayetteville Observer) -- Now 95, Edd Clay is one of the few survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Daily dose: Partisan posturing edition

Cooper calls immigration lawsuit 'partisan' in letter to Lt. Gov. Forest (Raleigh News & Observer) -- N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said in a letter on Friday that the multistate coalition challenging President Obama’s immigration plan filed a “partisan lawsuit” that “adds to the divisiveness that has prevented meaningful immigration reform.” The five-paragraph letter was sent to Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in response to a request on Thursday for the N.C. attorney general to join the suit.

Daily dose: First the Dan, now the Yadkin

Conservation groups say Duke Energy plant leaks coal ash into river (LA Times) -- Three environmental groups said Thursday that they have discovered toxic coal ash leaks from a retired Duke Energy coal plant in North Carolina, allegedly polluting the Yadkin River nine months after a massive coal ash spill from a Duke plant fouled the nearby Dan River in February. The groups, which posted photos of the reported leaks, said the alleged discharges have not been disclosed by Duke Energy or by state environmental regulators. The leaks stretch for at least a quarter of a mile along the Yadkin River in central North Carolina, coating the river’s banks with orange sludge, the groups said. Coal ash stored in 33 ponds at 14 Duke Energy plants in North Carolina has been a volatile political issue since the Feb. 2 spill coated 70 miles of the Dan River with toxic sludge from an ash storage pond at Duke’s Dan River plant. A Duke Energy spokesman said the utility regularly surveys all its coal ash sites for seeps, including the Yadkin river plant, and reports all findings to state environmental regulators. "Seeps occur at low flows and contain low levels of constituents, so the Yadkin River would be continue to be well protected and would not be influenced by these type of flows,’’ said the spokesman, Jeff Brooks. A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental and Natural Resources said the agency will visit the Yadkin River site to test water quality "to determine if there are any exceedances of water quality standards." The spokesman, Jamie Kritzer, said the agency would take "appropriate actions’’ based on the results.


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