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Tuesday News: The "Big Mac" argument? Really?

DUKE ENERGY ATTORNEY SAYS PEOPLE CAN SKIP MCDONALD'S TO COVER RATE HIKE: Duke Energy customers facing a rate hike regardless of how much electricity they use shouldn't be too worried, because it's just the price of a McDonald's value meal each month, a company attorney said Monday. "One extra Big Mac, fries and a drink," Duke Deputy General Counsel Bo Somers said during the company's ongoing rate increase hearing before the North Carolina Utilities Commission. Somers was pushing back against claims that the company's rate hikes, meant to raise billions of dollars in new revenue over the next 10 years, would be a hardship for some. Attorneys seeking to block state regulatory approval of the company's full request have keyed at times on Duke's basic facilities charge – the fee customers pay each month just to be hooked into the company's electric grid.

Monday News: Red flags waving


ATTEMPTS WERE MADE TO GET PARKLAND SHOOTER COMMITTED BACK IN 2016: Officials were so concerned about the mental stability of the student accused of last month’s Florida schoolmassacre that they decided he should be forcibly committed. But the recommendation was never acted upon. A commitment under the law would have made it more difficult if not impossible for Nikolas Cruz to obtain a gun legally. Cruz is accused of the shooting rampage that killed 14 students and three school employees at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14. In addition, 17 people were wounded. But more than a year earlier, documents in the criminal case against Nikolas Cruz and obtained by The Associated Press show school officials and a sheriff’s deputy recommended in September 2016 that Cruz be involuntarily committed for a mental evaluation.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


FARR'S NOMINATION MAKES THE WRONG STATEMENT: From 2009 through 2016 two highly qualified African-American women -- Jennifer May-Parker and Patricia Timmons-Goodson – were nominated to fill the judgeship. Sen. But they were NEVER even considered – no committee hearings, no committee votes and no debate by the U.S. Senate. Richard Burr insulted the people of the eastern part of the state by ignoring the two nominees. Now, President Donald Trump’s added to the insult with his nomination of Thomas Farr. Why? Farr, as a counselor and adviser for the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms’ political operations and most recently to the state’s Republican Party, assisted in both developing and later defending, strategies, tactics and laws that were designed to discriminate against and diminish the impact of minority voters. The facts speak for themselves.

Saturday News: Two different worlds


REPORT SAYS NC CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE WORSENING SCHOOL SEGREGATION: In 72 percent of the counties where there's at least one charter school, the report said that charter schools increase the degree of racial segregation in the district. The report found that charter schools "tend to skew whiter than other schools in the same county." Nordstrom cites examples such as how 80 percent of the students in the four charter schools in Franklin and Granville counties are white while fewer than 50 percent of the students in those two districts are white. Charter schools used to be required to "reasonably reflect the racial and ethnic composition" of the population in the district where they were located. A 2013 law dropped the diversity mandate and diluted the language so charters must "make efforts" to reflect the local school district's demographics.

Friday News: Hard lessons


NC PRISON FATALITIES BRING TO LIGHT NUMEROUS PROBLEMS WITH SYSTEM: Policies and procedures have been changed, safety equipment is being distributed, hiring has sped up and more training is being conducted at state prisons, officials told lawmakers Thursday. Last year was the deadliest year in the history of North Carolina's prison system. One corrections officer was killed by an inmate at Bertie Correctional Institution last April, and a failed prison break at Pasquotank Correctional Institution in October left four prison workers dead. The state Department of Public Safety called in federal investigators after the October incident to review prison operations, and they made more than 100 recommendations. Larry Reid, who led the team from the National Institute of Corrections, said investigators found many problems and deficiencies at Pasquotank Correctional.

Thursday News: Flooding the swamp


SHADY DEALMAKER RAISES $5 MILLION FOR TRUMP AND RNC: On one side of a bitter, long-running civil lawsuit over a failed Russian oilfield investment is Elliott Broidy, a top Trump fundraiser who faces questions raised by McClatchy and other news outlets about his work in Romania and with the United Arab Emirates, and about a possible contract to persuade the Justice Department to drop a probe involving Malaysia’s prime minister. In spite of that, Broidy co-hosted an event in Beverly Hills Tuesday night that was projected to bring in $5 million for Trump and the Republican National Committee. He admitted in 2009 that he had paid nearly $1 million in bribes to pension officials in New York state in exchange for their investment with his Israel-focused Markstone Capital fund. His company was forced to forfeit $18 million in management fees, and Broidy avoided prison time by giving prosecutors information on the recipients of his payments.

Wednesday News: Blue wave


DEMOCRAT LAMB CLAIMS VICTORY IN CLOSE PA 18 CONGRESSIONAL RACE: A razor's edge separated Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone early Wednesday in their closely watched special election in Pennsylvania, where a surprisingly strong bid by first-time candidate Lamb severely tested Donald Trump's sway in a GOP stronghold. Lamb claimed victory before exuberant supporters early Wednesday as the number of votes still to be counted dwindled in a contest that has drawn national attention as a bellwether for the midterm elections in November when the Republican Party's House and Senate majorities are at risk. Wednesday morning, Lamb's lead stood at 641 votes — out of more than 224,000 votes cast, according to unofficial results. Election officials said there are about 200 absentee votes and an unknown number of provisional ballots still to be counted.

Tuesday News: Another one bites the dust


TRUMP FIRES SECRETARY OF STATE REX TILLERSON: President Donald Trump ousted Rex Tillerson as secretary of state Tuesday, making a surprise Twitter announcement that he's naming CIA director Mike Pompeo to replace him. "Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State," Trump tweeted. "He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!" A White House official said Trump wanted to have a new team in place ahead of upcoming talks with North Korea and various trade talks. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

Monday News: Partly cloudy


AS SUNSHINE WEEK BEGINS, SOME LOCAL BOARDS FAIL THE GRADE: To test how government boards handle these accounts of closed meetings, 10 news organizations simultaneously submitted requests in early January for a year’s worth of minutes from closed sessions at nearly 50 public bodies on the local, state and county level. The requests went to 10 local and state school boards, including one school board that refused outright to release any records. After more than two months, about a dozen boards had yet to turn over any minutes from closed sessions. Others provided accounts of only some of their 2017 meetings, or versions that were heavily redacted. In many cases, Jones said, what ends up being redacted is ultimately a judgment call. But he said the shorter the account of the meeting, the more doubt there is about whether public boards are keeping with the spirit of the law.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


LEGISLATIVE EFFORTS TO GIVE GOP UPPER HAND ONLY GAIN ELECTION CONFUSION: The continuing efforts by the Republican leadership to push a heavy thumb on the elections process -- through significant changes in the way the state Board of Elections was composed -- were rushed into law. There was no investigation as to the need for the changes or how they’d make the elections process work better for voters or candidates. The only justifications were it would enshrine Republican Party domination of the election process and they had the votes to do it. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has rightly challenged the law. Even setting aside any legitimate questions as to the very need for the changes, there are significant questions as to whether the legislature acted within its authority and if the laws are constitutional. The state’s courts are the appropriate forum to address these very real issues.


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