Daily dose

Tuesday News: Immunity? Hah!

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BALLOT HARVESTER DOWLESS REFUSES TO TESTIFY IN NC09 HEARING: Bladen County political operative McCrae Dowless was willing to take the stand if compelled, a legal maneuver that would have given him immunity under state law to anything he testified to, attorney Cynthia Singletary said. The State Board of Elections wasn't willing to go that route, asking Dowless to testify voluntarily, as two of his underlings, his ex-wife and two Bladen County voters did Monday. Board Chairman Robert Cordle warned Dowless that the board might "take negative inferences" from his refusal as it weighs whether to call a new election in the 9th District. But Dowless is likely the subject of an ongoing criminal inquiry to the absentee ballot accusations, and though his attorney said he's innocent, she was not willing to put him on the stand in the state board's hearings.
https://www.wral.com/key-witness-won-t-testify-in-9th-district-hearing-while-others-detail-scheme-to...

Monday News: Judgment day

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STATE ELECTIONS BOARD BEGINS ITS INVESTIGATION INTO NC09 TODAY: Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the unofficial count. But the board doesn't necessarily have to show that there are 905 votes in question. The law allows for a new election to be called if "irregularities or improprieties occurred to such an extent that they taint the results of the entire election and cast doubt on its fairness.” Some Republicans, citing court precedent, have said that only calling enough votes into question satisfies the law. But there are four separate reasons in the law for calling a new election, and the "taint" one doesn’t say anything about number of votes, while the three others do. There are allegations, including an affidavit from a poll worker, that totals from early in-person voting were shared with someone before Election Day. The state GOP is on record saying that, if this occurred, it’s a strategic advantage for Election Day turnout operations and enough on its own to warrant a new election.
https://www.wral.com/what-s-at-stake-in-state-investigation-into-alleged-fraud-in-9th-congressional-...

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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NC SHOULD END LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE FOR JUVENILES: It is time for our state to replace juvenile life without parole with a more sensible scheme, adopted by states from California to Wyoming, in which lengthy sentences are automatically reviewed at set time periods and juveniles are given the chance to demonstrate rehabilitation. Why make this change now? For one, overly harsh sentences for juveniles are a holdover from the 1990s, when the “superpredator” theory that predicted a surge in violent crime caused a nationwide panic. Here in North Carolina, judges sentenced 94 juveniles between ages 13 and 17 to life without parole, most of them in the 1990s. The superpredator theory has long been discredited -- the surge never materialized and juvenile crime actually decreased. And few of these sentences are handed down anymore: since 2011, juvenile life without parole has only been imposed five times in the state.
https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/article226343695.html

Saturday News: Fraud, by any other name

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DOWLESS CREW HANDLED 1 IN 5 ABSENTEE BALLOTS: One out of every five absentee ballots counted in Bladen County in 2018 were handled by people linked to the Republican political operative at the center of an investigation that has stalled the results of a North Carolina congressional election. That’s according to an analysis by WRAL News, which this month closely examined more than 1,500 signed envelopes from accepted absentee ballots made public by the State Board of Elections in its probe of voting irregularities in the 9th Congressional District. The agency’s investigation has largely focused over the last few months on two southeastern North Carolina counties – Bladen and Robeson – both the subject of scrutiny in previous elections.
https://www.wral.com/9th-district-dowless-crew-handled-1-in-5-absentee-votes-in-bladen-county/18193986/

Friday News: Too little, too slow

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GOVERNOR COOPER JOINS ENVIRONMENTALISTS IN CRITICIZING EPA GENX PLAN: Environmental groups roundly criticized a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan on toxic chemicals like GenX on Thursday, saying it doesn't go nearly far or fast enough to address threats to health and water. Gov. Roy Cooper complained about the plan as well, saying the U.S. government's ballyhooed action plan lacked important detail and a commitment to setting standards on chemicals made in North Carolina and found in drinking water along the Cape Fear River. The EPA's plan, Cooper said in a statement, "seems to ignore the urgency of the problem." Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Southern Environmental Law Center and Food & Water Watch, agreed. The Environmental Working Group said the plan would allow more pollution, not less, and called President Donald Trump "the nation's first pro-cancer president."
https://www.wral.com/environmentalists-cooper-pan-new-epa-plan-on-genx-style-chemicals/18192610/

Thursday News: Break the monopoly

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GROUPS WANT STATE TO ALLOW COMPETITION FOR DUKE ENERGY: Organizers said they're not calling for deregulation but for a regulated model that allows more competition. They pointed to a number of states as examples, including Texas, Ohio, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and California. They also pointed to a recent study from the Retail Energy Supply Association that said monopoly states saw their average energy prices increase nearly 19 percent from 2008 to 2017. Prices fell 7 percent in competitive markets over the same period, the study said. This sort of shift would be a massive change, with hundreds of details. Organizers said they were working on legislation and that they had not yet lined up a sponsor to carry the bill. The state's legislative session began three weeks ago, and state leaders didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on the initial proposal.
https://www.wral.com/environmental-groups-push-to-break-duke-energy-s-monopoly/18190382/

Wednesday News: Making history, the right way

CHERI BEASLEY IS FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN FEMALE CHIEF JUSTICE: Beasley will make history as the first black woman to be the state’s top judge. “This is not the North Carolina of 200 years ago,” she said in the press conference at the Governor’s Mansion where Cooper announced her new role. Beasley has been a judge for the last 20 years and has been on the Supreme Court since 2012. She was a public defender in Fayetteville before becoming a judge. Judges in North Carolina are usually elected, not appointed. But when former Chief Justice Mark Martin announced in January that he would retire this month, to take a job leading a Virginia law school, state law gave Cooper the power to pick someone to take Martin’s place.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article226147190.html

Tuesday News: The house is on fire

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NC FARMERS GIVE PERDUE AN EARFUL OVER TRUMP'S TRADE WARS: In a pair of question-and-answer sessions, Secretary Sonny Perdue heard from farmers who are frustrated and trending toward desperate with weeks to go before new crops go into the ground. A trade war has stopped the flow of tobacco to China, once the crop's No. 1 buyer. Trade deals with Mexico and Canada have been reworked, but their approval depends on Congress. A pair of hurricanes devastated crops across this part of the state two out of the last three years. "It's the most critical time I've seen in agriculture, and I started farming in 1975," Jerome Vick told Perdue. Take this message back to Washington, Vick said: "This is not just a bump in the road. In eastern North Carolina, the house is on fire." Take this one back, too, Brent Leggett said, reading a text message from his 12-year-old son, Colin: "Tell (Perdue) to tell Trump to make a deal with China."
https://www.wral.com/worry-without-answer-as-us-agriculture-secretary-meets-with-nc-farmers/18185618/

Monday News: The wrong direction

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NC REGULATORS GOING AFTER HEMP-BASED CBD PRODUCTS: State regulators are launching a crackdown on hemp products that are not allowed under federal law. They're going after certain items that contain CBD - a compound derived from the marijuana plant, but without the psycho-active chemical that produces a high. The Hemp Boutique in Cary sells CBD in a variety of forms, including dark chocolate, honey sticks, coffee, cheesecake-flavored bars and gummy worms. Alyssa Schuster said she visits the store five times a week because the CBD helps her sleep. But after seeking guidance from the feds, state regulators say the Food and Drug Administration considers CBD a drug and bans it from being added to food. Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Joe Reardon says CBD packaged in food could end up in the wrong mouths.
https://www.wral.com/as-state-regulators-crack-down-on-cbd-business-owners-try-to-see-through-haze/1...

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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DON'T LET DRILLING PUT THE NC COAST AT RISK: Since the New Year, seven state legislatures along the East Coast have proposed bills to prohibit or restrict offshore drilling in their states in addition to the four states that have already passed their own measures in 2018. Many of these localized bills have been filed in conjunction with legislation at the national level to prevent offshore gas and oil infrastructure development. Even before the drills start spinning, environmental damage occurs during the seismic testing phase of exploration planning, during which sonic airguns are fired to detect pockets of oil beneath the ocean floor. These airgun bursts are disruptive to wildlife behaviors and patterns, as well as drastically increasing the mortality of zooplankton, an important segment of the food web. Oil and gas infrastructure is particularly susceptible to damage from extreme weather conditions. With the wounds of this past hurricane season still fresh, the Southern Environmental Law Center published a report last fall highlighting the dangers and risks of constructing gas and oil infrastructure in hurricane-prone regions.
https://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/article225927380.html

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