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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Duke Energy slapped with $1.75 million penalty, must spend $85 million on reducing air pollution

Posted by on Tue, Dec 22, 2009 at 1:48 PM

Duke Energy will spend $85 million to significantly reduce harmful air pollution at an Indiana power plant and pay a $1.75 million civil penalty, under a settlement to resolve violations of federal clean air laws, the Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today in a press release. The settlement also requires Duke to spend $6.25 million on environmental mitigation projects.

Last May, an Indianapolis jury found that Duke violated the Clean Air Act by failing to obtain required permits and pollution controls before making modifications to Units 1 and 3 at its New Albany, Ind., plant. Duke's failure to implement these pollution controls resulted in significant increases in sulfur dioxide.

The settlement requires Duke to either repower Units 1 and 3 with natural gas or shut them down to remove all sulfur dioxide pollution. Duke also must install new pollution controls for sulfur dioxide at the other two units at the plant, Units 2 and 4.

The environmental projects and expenditures include $250,000 for the U.S. Forest Service to address acid rain in downwind national forests, $5 million for one or more additional projects such as conversion to hydrogeneration or hybrid vehicle fleets, and $1 million for other initiatives to be allocated among the states that joined the federal government in the settlement: New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Read the EPA's entire statement here: epa-dukeenergy

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Four Triangle activists to attend Gaza Freedom March on Dec. 31

Posted by on Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 5:31 PM

Four Triangle residents, including a history teacher from Hillside High School, will travel to the Gaza Strip next week to participate in an international protest to call attention to turmoil there resulting from Israel's blockade of Gaza's borders, according to a news release from two Triangle organizations helping publicize the effort.

The foursome is part of about 1,000 people from the U.S. who will travel to Cairo, Egypt, on Dec. 27 and join with an estimated 50,000 other protestors for the Gaza Freedom March, timed to the one-year anniversary of an assault by Israeli forces that killed more than 1,300 people and wounded thousands.

According to a joint news release from the Coalition for Peace with Justice and the Triangle Campaign Against the Israeli Occupation, the participants are:

  • Bryan Proffitt, the Hillside teacher who attended N.C. State University and has worked in the formation of several Triangle-area anti-war groups
  • Jodeen Olguín-Tayler, a Durham-based organizer for
  • Waleed Elhantaty, a small-business owner from Raleigh and current vice president of the Muslim American Public Affairs Council
  • Burhan Ghanayem, a retired environmental health scientist and entrepreneur who lives in Raleigh

The protest is garnering support from notable figures from writer Alice Walker to Howard Zinn to Noam Chomsky. Read more >>

Proffiitt, who has been a teacher at Hillside for three years, said he has been compelled to participate to draw more attention from his community to the Israeli occupation, which he compares to South Africa under apartheid. Some of his students and fellow teachers are also learning more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from his experience.

Continue reading…

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Mayor Bill Bell to tend bar at Revolution for fundraiser

Posted by on Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 12:03 PM

Durham Mayor Bill Bell is building his résumé. He'll be stirring and shaking drinks behind the bar at Revolution restaurant from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Bell will spend the two-hour stint behind the bar at 107 W. Main St., for charity, said Teresa Anile, co-owner of Revolution. Twenty percent of the proceeds from the bar during that period will go to benefit the John Avery Boys & Girls Club in Durham.

It's unlikely Bell will be tossing bottles and catching them behind his back, a la Cocktail, but the newly re-elected mayor is sure to bring a turnout of supporters, politicos and "frenemies," if we may borrow vernacular from The Hills. Anile said she's heard from one patron who will be celebrating his 81st birthday that evening, and is thrilled at the thought that the mayor might be making him a cocktail.

Bell said Monday he doesn't drink often, so he doesn't have a signature cocktail to reveal (the staff at Revolution just might come up with a special namesake drink for him to serve that night), and he also said he wants to remind participants to line up designated drivers if they plan to imbibe.

Bell's appearance is the first of a guest bartender series, Anile said. On Jan. 12, two staffers from Durham ad agency McKinney will be on hand to serve McKinney Manhattans and other drinks from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to benefit Urban Ministiries. On Jan. 19, Scott Harmon of Center Studio Architecture will serve up Five Points Martinis and other cocktails from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., with proceeds benefiting Builders for Hope, Anile said.

More guest bartenders will be announced soon, Anile said.

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After robbery, Beggars & Choosers owner decides to close store

Posted by on Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 9:57 AM

By Rebekah Cowell

After 32 years of business, the owner of Beggars & Choosers, Pittsboro's eclectic vintage shop has decided to take a hiatus after an Oct. 24 robbery during the town's Street Fair wiped out the store's jewelry case, cash register and ultimately owner Pam Smith's faith in her customers.

“I've always loved what I do, and right now I don't,” said Smith.

The final day of business is Jan. 2.

The robber took Smith's gold and silver jewelry, priceless cameos, watches, amber and cash. “They had cased the store and they knew right where the valuable items were." Smith did not have insurance on her vintage merchandise, and she doubts she will ever see the stolen jewelry again. “I'm sure they'll melt it down.”

For now, Smith's lack of joy in working the store has diminished to the point of where she doesn't trust her customers.

She needs a break, but at 62, she said she’s not ready to retire and may not close for good.

“I wish I could get a grip,” Smith said. “Part of me says it was just stuff and no one got hurt, but the other part of me doesn't trust anyone, and you can't run a business if you don't love your customers.”

Since announcing the closing over the weekend, Smith has been warmed by the community's response. As one customer mentioned, the downtown Pittsboro community will not be the same without Smith's creative corner window displays and decked-out mannequins.

On Smith's last day of business, Smith will hold a storewide sale with merchandise discounted as much as 50 to 75 percent. “This is our way of giving back to all of you who have made our lives rich in love and laughter,” wrote Smith in her store closing announcement.

“I know it was just stuff, but my faith was robbed and until I can work through that, I need to take some time.”

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why they went with Bell, the logic Chapel Hill used to replace Strom

Posted by on Wed, Dec 16, 2009 at 6:08 PM

The eight elected members of the Chapel Hill Town Council used varying rationale Monday in ultimately tapping Donna Bell to join their ranks. Bell, an African American with experience on town boards, now is slated to complete the final two years of Bill Strom's term. Here's a breakdown of who said what in the order they said it and how they each arrived at their decisions:

Continue reading…

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Judge upholds Duke's original map change of Jordan Lake watershed

Posted by on Wed, Dec 16, 2009 at 5:50 PM

A superior court judge found in favor of Southern Durham Development on Wednesday in its major lawsuit against the county.

Superior Court Judge Howard Manning said that lines drawn in 2006 by a former planning director that outline the protective boundaries around Jordan Lake are binding and must stand.

This means that 146 of 165 acres on which Southern Durham Development was hoping to build a mixed-use community are no longer considered part of a protected zone that heavily restricts commercial and residential development, opening the door to broader development options.

In his ruling, Manning dismissed other arguments in the lawsuit against Durham County, including claims by Southern Durham Development that county officials were trying to undermine its development plans for the land (west of N.C. 751 in South Durham), and requests for $20,000 in damages.

Both parties seemed pleased with portions of the judge’s actions.

“We feel we’ve had the facts and the law on our side the entire time, and that’s what the court said,” said Alex Mitchell, president of Southern Durham Development.

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Allison calls annual meeting of Durham Committee for January

Posted by on Wed, Dec 16, 2009 at 12:09 PM

The Herald-Sun is reporting this morning that Lavonia Allison, the newly re-elected chair of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, has called an annual meeting of the historic group for January 24. The time and location have yet to be announced.

The announcement came in a news release Tuesday to select media outlets (the Indy was not included in the release) and according to The Herald-Sun, Allison made a comment indicating she wanted to engage the large number of black residents who turned out last Thursday for the election of the group's chairperson for work on social justice issues.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

File under Unbelievable: John Hope Franklin's FBI file

Posted by on Tue, Dec 15, 2009 at 6:17 PM

Former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover suspected John Hope Franklin had links to communists and scrutinized the esteemed educator for opposing the House Committee on Un-American Activities, according to Talking Points Memo, which filed a Freedom of Information Act for Franklin's FBI file.

It's unbelievable stuff; you can read the file at TPM's Web site. But here's a sampling:

In the 515-page  file, a note dated Oct. 14 1963, says

"All persons interviewed reported favorable information concerning Franklin who is regarded as an outstanding educator in the field of American History. ... He reportedly praised a book concerning the history of the negro in this country written by Herbert Aptheker, admitted CP [Communist Party] member. In The New York Times, March 20, 1961, his name appeared with 250 educators signing a statement urging the abolition of HCUA [House Committee on Un-American Activities] by the American Civil Liberties Union."

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Arts collective to fill Franklin Street space

Posted by on Mon, Dec 14, 2009 at 4:49 PM

An arts gallery will fill the vacant Kerr Drug space on the 100 block of Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, officials announced today.

The space will house a nonprofit group of 25 member artists dubbed Frank, with a lease agreement in place with building owner Michael Brader-Araje.

The artists hope to occupy the 3,400 square foot 109 E. Franklin Street building by early next year. The town along with the Downtown Partnership gave the green light on a $40,000 loan via its Small Art Business Loan Program to fund the project.

Barbara Rich will serve as the director of the gallery, which also plans to feature work from 50 regional and national artists. 

The move had long been rumored, and is the latest effort to upgrade foott raffic and revitalize Franklin Street.

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The R-Line: 152K+ passenger trips, $757K+ in operating costs

Posted by on Mon, Dec 14, 2009 at 3:01 PM

Here is some Monday math on the R-Line, Raleigh’s free downtown bus service that launched last winter.

• 152,634: The number of passenger trips on the R-Line since Feb. 13, according to Raleigh’s Transportation Department, about 3 percent of the city’s total transit load

• 5 million: The number of passenger trips taken in 2009 on Capital Area Transit buses, including the R-Line

• 519: The average number of passengers who ride the R-Line daily, including weekends

• $1.13 million: The capital costs of the two 36-seat, hybrid buses

As the Indy reported in June, the federal government picks up 80 percent of the tab. The remaining 20 percent comes out of local coffers.

• $80 an hour: The operating costs of each R-Line bus while it’s running. Local funds pay for all the operating costs: labor, maintenance and fuel—the amount of which is reduced because the buses are hybrids.

• $757,680: The total operating costs of both buses running at 112.75 hours each per week, so far in 2009

• $920,040: The total annual operating costs of both buses running at 112.75 hours each per week, for 51 weeks a year. (This accounts for reduced hours on holidays.)

• $825,000: The annual operating budget for the R Line

• $5-$6: At current ridership levels, cost per passenger trip for the R-Line, for 42 weeks in 2009 and annually

The R-Line runs every 10 to 12 minutes. It runs 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 2:15 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday.

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