You are from North Carolina and as such I respect you. Your outlaw origins in running moonshine are badass. But this is some patriotism-pandering, redneck bullshit:
Lt. Col. Oliver “Ollie” North—lead henchmen in the Iran-Contra scandal and Fox News commentator—is being presented the Stonewall Jackson Award at the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte this weekend.
In case you need a history refresher, the Iran-Contra scandal was rooted in Ronald Reagan’s philosophy to prop up any group—no matter how heinous—fighting against communist governments.
North’s role was to coordinate selling guns and missiles to Iran—which was prohibited under an arms embargo—and give the proceeds to the Nicaraguan Contras who were undertaking a brutal campaign to overthrow the Sandinista government.
In the end, it turns out North and Co. were hoping that selling arms to Iran would lead to that nation releasing seven American hostages. Remember NASCAR fans, as you’re cheering on Mr. North, “America never negotiates with terrorists.”
North was convicted of three felonies, which were later dismissed, because the evidence used to prosecute him was evidence he had additionally been offered immunity to present.
Of course, Charlotte Motor Speedway's press release doesn’t mention any of that. Here’s all you need to know NASCAR fans:
For his unwavering support of the military, decades of service to his country and a continued commitment to service, the man whom President Ronald Reagan described as “an American hero” can add Stonewall Jackson Award winner to his long list of accolades.
Assigned to the National Security Council staff in the Reagan administration, North was the United States government’s counter-terrorism coordinator from 1983 until 1986 (when he was FIRED by Reagan.) He was involved in planning the rescue of 804 medical students on the island of Grenada and played a major role in the daring capture of the terrorists who hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro.
Given that North is an expert on political cover-ups, Fox recently featured North talking about Benghazi:
The press release goes on to state that the Stonewall Jackson Award ceremony is sponsored by the National Rifle Association; North sits on its board of directors.
“In addition to being recognized with the Stonewall Jackson Award, North will deliver a moving “State of Freedom” speech during pre-race festivities,” the press release reads.
As North well knows, and is sure to remind NASCAR fans, freedom isn’t free: It’s paid for by selling guns to the Middle East.
Federal and state environmental officials will hold a public meeting tonight about an area of suspected water contamination in Wake Forest.
The meeting, hosted by the EPA and N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, is scheduled for 6—8 p.m. at the Stony Hill Fire Department, 7045 Stony Hill Road, in Wake Forest.
The discussion is expected to focus on the construction of new water service lines and the clean up of the chemical TCE at the site. TCE is a liquid, often used as a solvent and degreaser. Long-term exposure can cause developmental and neurological damage and cancer. Short-term, but high levels of exposure can cause irregular heartbeat, liver damage, nausea, vomiting and eye irritation.
In 2005, a property owner at 7305 Stony Hill Road complained to the Wake County Health Department about a petroleum smell in his water from a residential well, according to the DENR website.
Nearby soil also tested positive for TCE, and last year, additional sampling showed there is a plume of contamination in the groundwater.
The contamination is thought to have originated from two small circuit board assembly companies.
Working could be hazardous to your health.
In "Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect," an annual report released last week, the AFL-CIO evaluated the health and safety of American workers. The report examines occupational fatalities, injuries and illnesses on state and federal levels, categorized by type, industry, race and gender. It also includes information about Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) funding, inspections, violations and penalties.
According to the report, 148 workers were killed on the job in North Carolina in 2011. With a fatality rate of 3.7 per 100,000 people, North Carolina ranks slightly higher than the national average. Over the last several years, this rate has stayed steady, both in North Carolina and nationwide.
About one-third of worker deaths resulted from transportation incidents. Jobs in transportation, along with construction and agriculture, are some of the most dangerous industries, according to the report.
These industries tend to rely on Latino workers, who are disproportionately at risk for work-related death or injury. Latinos accounted for about 28 percent of workplace fatalities in 2011—2012, but they make up about 9 percent of the state’s population, notes a recent report on North Carolina worker fatality by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH).
Undocumented immigrants may be hesitant to report injuries or unsafe work conditions for fear of drawing unwanted attention. They may also have trouble understanding training materials or instructions due to language barriers, says Marybe McMillan, secretary-treasurer of the N.C. AFL-CIO.
Another major cause of occupational death and injury in North Carolina is workplace violence, which can occur in health care settings, such as nursing homes, residential care facilities, psychiatric institutions and hospitals. Seventy percent of workplace violence victims were women, according to the report, and patients were responsible for more than half the injuries.
“You really think of the hospitals and nursing homes as places of healing … but it’s just the opposite,” says Bill Kojola, industrial hygienist for the AFL-CIO’s Safety and Health Department and one of the report’s co-authors. OSHA lacks standards for addressing workplace violence, according to Kojola. “It’s a real problem that we’re not really addressing in a policy way.”
The shortfalls of OSHA are discussed prominently in the report. The agency was created to uphold the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 1970, but the AFL-CIO contends the law is out of date and needs revision. It urges Congress to pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act “to extend the law’s coverage to workers currently excluded, strengthen civil and criminal penalties for violations, enhance anti-discrimination protections and strengthen the rights of workers, unions and victims.”
OSHA is profoundly under-resourced and under-staffed, Kojola says. The report describes the number of workplace inspectors—and therefore the number of inspections—as “woefully inadequate.” In North Carolina, there was one inspector for every 38,771 workers in 2011. At that rate, it would take 59 years for the current staff to inspect each worksite once.
As an addendum to today's story, Cardinal Innovations spokeswoman Rachel Porter confirmed after deadline Tuesday that her agency—known in official lingo as a managed care organization—does indeed receive federal funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
That information is key because it confirms the state-funded Cardinal Innovations, formerly known as Piedmont Behavioral Health, is subject to the findings of a federal investigation into whether Cardinal has broken federal law by denying mental health care reimbursements for the treatment of undocumented immigrants in its 15-county service area, which includes Orange and Chatham counties.
As reported in today's INDY Week, HHS' Office for Civil Rights is probing the Kannapolis-based organization. Latino advocates say Cardinal's policy is effectively cutting off treatment for the undocumented community, a possible violation of federal discrimination laws.
Managed care organizations such as Cardinal Innovations are tasked with disbursing state mental health care dollars for the treatment of low-income residents. Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for Medicaid cash. But the state has deployed an alternate form of funding, known as integrated payment and reporting system (IPRS) dollars, to cover Medicaid gaps in the past.
Activists say Cardinal Innovations is declining the use of IPRS funds for that purpose today, and the impact has been felt in nonprofit organizations such as El Futuro that offer mental health care and substance abuse treatment for the undocumented community.
If the Office for Civil Rights inquiry finds Cardinal Innovations in the wrong, Cardinal can be forced to alter its policy or risk losing federal funding. Porter could not specify how much HHS funding the agency receives as of Tuesday night.
Expect the debate of local vs. state control over fracking to only swell.
Tuesday night, commissioners in Anson County approved a 5-year fracking ban as they gather more information on the drilling and its prospective pros and cons.
Leaders in the rural county east of Charlotte were pushed to approve the moratorium by at least one local environmentalist, according to Hope Taylor, an anti-fracking activist with Clean Water for North Carolina. Anson joins the Granville County town of Creedmoor in passing an anti-fracking ordinance, although it's unclear whether state lawmakers will eventually trump local control in fracking legislation.
Fracking is a drilling technique used to extract natural gas from underground shale deposits. Proponents say the drilling will bring jobs and commerce to North Carolina. Opponents say the practice poses environmental hazards, including groundwater contamination. Anson sits at the southern end of a North Carolina corridor targeted for future drilling, which could be cleared for permitting in the next two to three years.
INDY Week has written extensively about fracking in the past, as well as the work of the state's Mining and Energy Commission, a panel charged with readying the state's fracking regulations. We've also spent some time looking into the online activities of commission Chairman Jim Womack, which you can read about here and here.
Continuing backlash against the proposed sale of Hofmann Forest has reached Chancellor Randy Woodson's doorstep, where protestors installed a mini-installation of the forest Monday morning.
The proposed sale of the forest has had to jump through several bureaucratic hoops over the past several months, but is nearing completion. The N.C. State Natural Resources Foundation, which controls the forest, has identified a potential buyer and is waiting for final approval of the sale from the university's Board of Trustees of its endowment fund.
A group of five protestors organized a cluster of baby pine trees at the gate to the chancellor's residence and hung banners in hopes of having Woodson postpone the sale.
Woodson has not yet returned INDY Week's call for comment.
The proposed sale has drawn widespread criticism, but Monday's protest was the first action tied to an environmental group. The event was led by Ron Sutherland, an N.C. State graduate and conservation scientist for Wildlands Network.
He and his fellow protestors have two demands for Chancellor Woodson:
1) "We want him to stop the sale of Hofmann Forest until the NCSU community has a real chance to debate the seemingly dubious rationale that has been used so far by the Natural Resources Foundation to justify liquidating what is one of the university's largest assets," wrote Sutherland in an email to INDY Week.
2) "We also want him to confirm publicly that Hofmann will not be sold ever unless a permanent working forest easement is put in place for the entire 80,000 acre (125 square mile!) property, protecting it from urban development and safeguarding its importance for wildlife conservation. Its not good enough for them to say they're negotiating the deal and the details are confidential - the easement should be an up-front, publicly acknowledged requirement and not something to negotiate away," Sutherland continued.
College of Natural Resources Dean Mary Watzin and Natural Resources Foundation director David Ashcraft have not released any details of the sale. Instead, they have asked interested parties to trust that the founding principles of the forest will be kept in mind.
A petition which originated in the college has drawn more than 800 signatures.
Monday's protest was hampered by poor weather, final exams and a lack of organizing skills, according to Sutherland.
"As an artistic installation it was pretty successful," he says. "But apparently my flash mob organizing skills leave something to be desired." Sutherland tried to keep the event secret and attempted to organize through back channels, rather than using social media.
The natural resources foundation has not, currently, released the identity of the potential buyer or the offer price. The board of trustees next meeting is scheduled for September, but a special meeting could be called to approve the sale of the Hofmann.
Woodson sits on the Board of Trustees of the Endowment Fund, which has already approved the sale of Hofmann Forest once.
It may have taken a few decades, but the landfill-blighted Rogers Road community in Chapel Hill is getting some recompense.
Orange County commissioners unanimously approved a vote Tuesday night authorizing County Manager Frank Clifton to award a construction bid for no more than $650,000 to build a long-promised community center in the historically black, low-income neighborhood. Officials said construction could begin this summer with hopes of having the center open by summer 2014. It coincides with a plan to close the county landfill at June's end.
"It's a great opportunity for our kids to learn that, through perseverance, anything can be done," said David Caldwell Jr., organizer for the community center.
Commissioners seemed spurred last year to make progress on the center when Chapel Hill officials moved in August to close a Purefoy Drive home that Rogers Road residents had made into something of a makeshift center. Town leaders cited permitting and building code concerns for shutting down the center.
The new center will be situated on a roughly half-acre plot near the intersection of Purefoy Drive and Edgar Street. It is expected to include classrooms, a kitchen and a computer lab.
The future of Orange County's celebrated recycling program is before county commissioners tonight.
County commissioners will consider a number of proposals—including the widely-reviled prospect of privatization—when they meet at 7 p.m. in Hillsborough.
Expect a full story on the recycling program and its funding challenges in Wednesday's print edition of INDY Week, but in the meantime, sit in on tonight's meeting if you want an admittedly complicated primer. The program touts an unprecedented 59 percent waste reduction rate in the last two decades, but a 2012 court decision has put the program's funding in jeopardy.
Obtain tonight's agenda here.
After today, the fate of Dorothea Dix park will likely be out of your control.
The second and final public hearing of Wake County’s delegation of general assembly members is scheduled for 4 pm today at the legislature.
The many advocacy organizations that favor Dix park are asking people to come to the hearing wearing green to show solidarity. Those who are interested will be able to sign up to speak.
More than 300 people showed up for the first public hearing two weeks ago. Speakers last time also railed against a bill that would redraw—for the second time in two years—Wake County Board of Education districts to favor conservatives.
A senate bill that would revoke the city’s lease on the park has already been voted on once and passed. However, that vote came after last Monday’s meeting and Wake County Republicans broke rank, voting against the bill.
Dix supporters created this silent video last week to invoke their argument that legislators should honor the lease that was agreed to between the City of Raleigh and the state last December.
For the liberals out there: Rachel Maddow—the oh-so-sharp host of MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show"—has heard your cries.
On Thursday's show, Maddow panned the ominously-numbered Senate Bill 666, a measure that—for all intents and purposes—appears geared to curb North Carolina's college vote. In case you don't remember, college students made up a key demographic in North Carolina's Democratic election victories of 2008.
The Maddow gem from Thursday's broadcast?
"Do yourself a favor and go set your Google news alert to North Carolina Republicans. They have completely unchecked power right now, and their ideas about how to use that power are, as the political scientists say, rather amazeballs."
For people who don't know what "amazeballs" means, it's a trendy way of saying something is amazing.
The legislation, filed last week by eastern North Carolina Republican Bill Cook, strips tax deductions from parents of college students who choose to vote where they go to school. The measure also requires voters to register in the same county where their vehicles are registered, another shot at college students who retain vehicle registration in their home counties.
Watch Maddow's comments here: