Daily dose

Daily dose: To seem rather than to be

Boehner Faces the First Days of New Power in Congress (New York Times) -- John A. Boehner does not want to be remembered as the Shutdown Speaker. As Congress returns from recess on Monday facing a Dec. 11 deadline for funding the government, Mr. Boehner and his fellow Republican leaders are working to persuade the rank and file — furious over President Obama’s executive action on immigration — that engaging in a spending confrontation is the wrong way to counter the White House. That would set the wrong tone, they argue, as Republicans prepare to take over Congress and fulfill promises to govern responsibly. … “Shutting down the entire government over something never did make sense to the American people, still doesn’t and won’t in the future,” said Senator Richard M. Burr, R-NC, who is part of Mr. Boehner’s inner circle. Like other Boehner insiders, he believes that the speaker, bolstered by election victories, is looking beyond the immediate fight. “There is certainly an opportunity for him to put his mark on the largest Republican House majority in a long time,” Mr. Burr said. “To me, that is a big motivating factor.”

Daily dose: End of November edition

McCrory's plan to save money: Nothing to see here
Decrease in NC autopsies troubles police and medical officials (Charlotte Observer) -- The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner asked staff last year not to autopsy the bodies of hundreds of people who died in suspicious or unexpected circumstances, lowering the use of the state’s best tool for determining an exact cause of death. A June 2013 memo, obtained through a public records request, outlined the types of cases that pathologists in Raleigh should not autopsy on a regular basis. Included were the bodies of people older than 40 in apparent natural deaths, victims of alcohol or cocaine poisoning, or those whom police believe committed suicide with a gun or by hanging. The memo contradicts part of the state’s own guidelines, which call for autopsies on everyone from homicide and hit-and-run victims to bodies that have been charred or skeletonized.

Daily dose: conflicts-of-interest edition

Growing signs of conflicts of interest in N.C. governor's office (Charlotte Business Journal) -- It’s getting hard to keep up with all the conflicts of interest inside the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory. The latest news comes in a story revealing that his environmental agency has hired a former lawyer for Duke Energy Corp. to advise the administration on regulations about coal ash that affect the company.

Daily dose: Black Friday edition

State workers get bus passes to help avoid Beltline crush (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Starting next week, DOT funds will pay for GoPasses – good for use on Triangle Transit and Capital Area Transit buses – for local state workers through August 2016. Eligible workers will be asked to pay a $25 administrative fee. The state offered GoPasses until the end of 2012, when officials said they didn’t have money in the budget to continue covering the $176,000 expense. This time the passes will be paid for from a $12 million fund DOT set up for other measures related to the Beltline repair project, including express buses to Raleigh from outlying towns.

Daily dose: Happy Thanksgiving!

How the Turkey Became the Thanksgiving Bird (Wall Street Journal) -- This Thanksgiving, let’s spare a thought for the roughly 40 million turkeys whose destiny is inextricably linked to the fourth Thursday in November. As a symbol of national pride and family values, the humble turkey has few rivals. But how did it edge out the competition to become the quintessential Thanksgiving dish? Success was neither immediate nor assured. It isn’t clear whether turkey made it onto the menu at the original 1621 harvest-celebration meal shared among the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. Wild turkeys were plentiful; the colonist leader William Bradford noted in his diary that “there was a great store” of them. But the only surviving letter about that meal refers to four men who went “a-fowling,” which could have meant anything from ducks to swans.

Daily dose: Systemic failure edition

Charitable Giving Down In North Carolina (WUNC-FM) -- A new report from the Secretary of State’s office shows charitable giving in North Carolina is drastically down. Latest numbers show giving at nearly $21.5 million dollars. That’s down by more than $10 million dollars from the year before. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall says she’s not surprised the economy continues to have an effect on donations to charities and non-profits. But she is disappointed solicitors are hauling in a bigger chunk of the money.

Daily dose: No comeback edition

N.C. Comeback? Not Quite, As Analysts Question McCrory's Assessment (Public News Service) -- Not everyone is buying Gov. Pat McCrory's claim of success after October unemployment numbers indicated the state had recovered the jobs lost during the Great Recession. While the number of people employed last month is slightly above pre-recession levels, John Quinterno with South By North Strategies in Chapel Hill says that's not the whole story. "Just because we have the same number of payroll jobs we did almost seven years ago is not the same thing as a recovery," he says. "In no way, shape or form should that be taken as a sign we won the battle against unemployment in North Carolina." Quinterno said a healthy economy needs to add jobs to support population growth. Analysts estimate more than 280,000 workers are not counted in the unemployment data because they have given up on finding a job. If they were included, the unemployment rate would be 12.5 percent, versus the reported 6.3 percent.

Daily dose: corporate welfare edition

McCrory, Other Governors, Let on Industry-Funded Group Call Shots on Offshore Drilling (TIME/Center for Public Integrity) -- It was a brisk February morning, and the governors of North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia were seated around a ring of tables draped with pleated beige fabric in the ornate Nest Room of Washington, D.C.’s Willard InterContinental Hotel. Sitting across the tables was Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, whom the governors had invited so they could make their case for expanding offshore energy production. It was a long-awaited meeting for the governors, and they’d armed themselves with specific “asks” — that Jewell’s department open access to oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic, for instance, and improve “regulatory certainty” for energy companies operating rigs off the coasts. Republican governors from coastal states has been lobbying the Obama administration to expand access to the nation’s offshore oil and gas deposits, working through an organization called the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition. While the message from the governors that morning would have come as no surprise to Jewell, less clear, perhaps, was that the governors were drawing on the research and resources of an energy lobbying firm acting on behalf of an oil industry-funded advocacy group. the background materials handed to the governors for the meeting, right down to those specific “asks,” were provided by Natalie Joubert, vice president for policy at the Houston- and Washington D.C.-based HBW Resources. Joubert helps manage the Consumer Energy Alliance, or CEA, a broad-based industry coalition that HBW Resources has been hired to run. The appeal for regulatory certainty, for example, came with a note to the governors that Shell, a CEA member, “felt some of the rules of exploration changed” after it began drilling operations in the Arctic. … The Center requested interviews with staff of each of the governors … but none made anyone available, though Alaska responded to questions in writing. … There’s been little effort to explain CEA’s relationship with the coalition, which is currently chaired by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. The coalition’s website made no mention of CEA until recently, when one page was edited — after the Center began reporting this article — to acknowledge the organization provides “information and administrative support.” In March, when the Center first asked who staffs the coalition, Ryan Tronovich, a spokesman for McCrory, said the governors provide the staff (records show McCrory’s press aide Tronovich actually consulted with CEA to answer the Center’s questions). When the Center asked again after learning of CEA’s involvement, Tronovich said in an email that he “should have been more clear,” and compared CEA’s help to that given by an intern. (The Republic Report, an investigative news website, first reported a possible connection with CEA in February when it noted that a coalition letter appeared to have been written by Joubert.)

Daily dose

DHHS spending requests hit raw nerve with senator (Winston-Salem Journal) -- A simmering GOP skepticism of how the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is being run by the McCrory administration reached a boiling point with a key state Senate leader last week. The voice-raising exchange between state health Secretary Aldona Wos and Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, on Tuesday served as a microcosm of the tension between a GOP-controlled legislature focused on cost cutting whenever and wherever possible, and a state agency in critical need of modernization.

For workers cheated out of wages, NC Labor Dept. offers no help (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry’s staff says her agency has little to do with handling labor violations in North Carolina. Critics say there’s far more she could and should do to crack down on unscrupulous employers.

Daily dose: Zombie worker apocalypse version

NUMBERS TO PONDER : The latest release of North Carolina’s unemployment rate provided many numbers to ponder:
· 6.3% -- The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for October 2014 (lowest N.C. rate for 2014 was 6.2% in April).
· 4.646 million – North Carolina’s October 2014 labor force.
· 4.672 million – North Carolina’s October 2013 labor force.
· 26,000 --- The number of zombie workers – workers who disappeared from the N.C. labor force in the last year.
· 6.9% -- The unemployment rate, if the zombie workers were included.
· 600,000 – The increase in North Carolina’s population since 2008.
· 5,700 – The number of government jobs lost in the last year.
· 18 minutes – The decrease in average weekly hours worked by manufacturing production workers.
· $8.49 – The drop in average weekly wages earned by manufacturing production workers.
Want to know more about how to interpret jobs number. The N.C. Department of Commerce, with the help of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, offers a guide online at:


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