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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stop Wining!

Posted by on Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 10:31 AM

I love wine. I love to drink wine, think about wine, read about wine, talk about wine. I have a modest but thoughtfully curated cellar in my house. One of my jobs involves selling wine, so I not only enjoy knowing about it, I have to know about it, and I do. Although wine is nowhere near the most important thing in my life, the subject (and substance) occupies an important place in the hierarchy. It's a kind of refuge for me, a consolatory and contented place I can go whenever I want, which will provide comfort, pleasure and ideation. Nothing bad ever happens when wine is the matter at hand. (As long as it isn't corked.)

Every year, some colleagues of mine at work give up something for Lent. They are not Catholic, but they use the period as an opportunity to practice some self-control, some sobriety, some healthfulness. In the last couple of years, they've abstained from cigarettes and/or alcohol, and this year they've gone vegan.

This year I decided to join them. I'm not Catholic either---and if there are readers who take offense at our bandwagon opportunism, I apologize---but I appreciate the presence in many cultures of a time of abstinence, which is tied into atonement, discipline and the heightening of awareness. As a basically nonreligious person, I could have just as happily chosen some other religion's ritual of abstinence. But here came Lent, here came a good wintertime stretch for me to engage in a little lifestyle alteration, here were colleagues at work with whom I could find solidarity. Time to give something up.

I chose wine not only because I love it so much and the point of abstinence seems to be, partially, the renunciation of pleasure. I chose it for a couple of other reasons, too. One is that I used to fast for 24 hours once a month, and I am generally a very healthy eater and in pretty good physical shape; so swearing off meat, or junk food, or whatever, seemed a little too easy for me. (I also have doubts about the nutritional and ethical merits of the vegan diet, but that's an ancillary issue.)

Another reason, and perhaps the only really significant one, is this: I drink a lot.

The more I thought about it, I realized that I drink more than almost anyone else I know; and if you remove my work colleagues from the picture, I'm pretty sure that I do drink more than anyone else I know.

And so, as Lent approached, I was visited by the musing worry that I might be---what? An alcoholic? I seldom drink to the point of drunkenness, but I couldn't remember the last day that had gone by without my having had a drink. Or two. Or perhaps even three. I thought that I must at least have some sort of dependency. I wondered what it would be like to break that dependency for six weeks. Would I suffer from insomnia? Fatigue? Depression? Would regaling customers with enticing descriptions of how the J. L Chave St. Joseph "Offerus" will actually work just fine with sturgeon (because of the black olive sauce), or breaking down the finer points of Piemonte nebbiolo, drive me to salivating, or tears---or drink?

Well, so, the first week off the sauce, I was really, really hungry.

More to come very soon.

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Attorney Ken Lewis whomps competition in Durham For Obama vote

Posted by on Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 9:46 AM

After a forum for Democratic primary candidates for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Richard Burr, Durham For Obama activists voted overwhelmingly to support local attorney and political newbie Ken Lewis.

Lewis, not to be confused with the former CEO of Bank of America, pulled in nearly 58 percent of the 182 votes counted. N.C. Secretary of State Elaine Marshall came in a distant second with 32 percent. Former N.C. Sen. Cal Cunningham managed just 8 percent, and Lumberton attorney Marcus Williams, less than 2 percent.

Susan Harris and Wilma Ann Worthy received no votes. Neither candidate attended the event or returned questionnaires to Durham For Obama.

Since no candidate snagged an outright 70 percent of the vote, Durham For Obama will withhold its endorsement. But the results—though unscientific to the extreme—hint at who has the most pull with the state’s progressive, activist Democrats.

Continue reading…

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Pedestrian bridge to be hoisted Wed. over Durham Freeway

Posted by on Mon, Mar 15, 2010 at 12:09 PM


After a year of delays because of funding shortfalls, the new pedestrian bridge that's been sitting on the side of N.C. 147 near the Alston Avenue exit will finally be hoisted into place beginning Wednesday night, according to a news release this morning from the City of Durham. If the weather is bad, the erection of the bridge could be postponed. This photo shows what it will look like once in place.

The $2.2 million bridge will connect neighborhoods around Alston Avenue that have long been separated by the Durham Freeway, and help current and future residents reach public transportation hubs, including a station for the Triangle Transit Authority. The original bridge, which was deteriorating and had limited visibility, was closed in 1995.

Traffic on the Durham Freeway will be re-routed to Briggs and Alston avenues from 11 p.m. Wednesday to 5:30 a.m. Thursday, the release said.

For more information on the project, visit the City of Durham Web site >>

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Triangle's Google infatuation continues to grow

Posted by on Mon, Mar 15, 2010 at 10:49 AM

In a follow-up to our cover March 10 cover story, "Gaga for Google's fiber," we'd like to update metrics of the involvement of the Triangle's top three participants.

Durham's still ahead in Facebook presence, with 2,180 fans on its "Bring Google Fiber to Durham N.C.," page, while 935 people have signed up for "Bring Google Fiber to Raleigh!". The western part of the Triangle is not far behind: the Facebook group "Bring Google Fiber to Chapel Hill & Carrboro N.C." boasts 906 members.

The towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and UNC-Chapel Hill, will hold a public forum at 7 p.m. today at Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., to receive public comment regarding community interest in the fiber optic trial and how residents would use an ultra-high speed Internet network.

On Thursday, Durhamites hope to make a splash by corralling thousands of locals into the Durham Bulls Athletic Park at 11 a.m. Thursday to spell out "We want Google" on the field, to pose for an aerial photograph. More here >>

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Durham's Engineering World Health in Haiti to help hospitals

Posted by on Sun, Mar 14, 2010 at 11:34 AM


This post is part of a week-long series from Engineering World Health, a nonprofit headquartered in Durham. A team of three biomedical engineers and technicians from EWH will be in Haiti from March 14 to 21 to assess and repair medical equipment at five clinics in the Port-au-Prince area. These posts will be written by two of the EWH team members, Lora Perry and Justin Cooper, and will include daily news, photos, and insights from Haiti regarding the state of health care two months after the earthquake. For a brief overview of this project, please see our release on the EWH website. The Indy staff is our neighbor at our downtown Durham office, and I would be remiss if I did not thank them for graciously sharing both this space for us to blog. Thanks for following our story this week!


Our first post is written by Lora on Saturday, March 13 in preparation for the trip:

Continue reading…

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

N.C. State's Technician in jeopardy, lacks staff, editor to lead it

Posted by on Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 11:24 AM

Update (8:35 p.m. Friday): A group of Technician alumni, current staff and others concerned about the newspaper's fate will gather at 8 p.m. Saturday at Mitch's Tavern to hatch a plan. All are welcome to attend.  So far, the Facebook page announcing the event shows 23 confirmed guests. 

The Technician, N.C. State's student newspaper for the past 90 years, is facing extinction because of a lack of staff.

The paper's editorial board made a desperate plea for help in Wednesday's paper, the day after no one applied for the editor in chief post.

In today's edition, news editor Nick Tran gives readers a window into the problems. Former editor Ty Johnson, an occasional contributor to the Independent was suspended when his grades dipped below the required 2.5 GPA for senior leaders of N.C. State's Student Media Association. The suspension created a chilling effect, where others questioned if they could handle the burden of both reporting and classwork.

Continue reading…

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mother Earth to Durham: Pick up your trash

Posted by on Tue, Mar 9, 2010 at 3:23 PM


Ahh, the first signs of spring as the snow melts away: Daffodils, crocuses—and trash.

According to a recent survey, Durham has fewer “extremely littered” streets than it used to, but more of its streets are “littered.”

The annual survey, known as the Litter Index (28kb, pdf) [litter-index-2009-graph] is sponsored by Keep Durham Beautiful.

Last month, volunteers surveyed select streets within a one-mile radius of City Hall and gauged the amount and type of trash on them.

The percentage of littered streets rose from roughly 7 percent last year to 20 percent this year. And the percentage of streets that had no litter dipped from 39 percent last year to just one-quarter in 2010.

Dorothea Pierce, executive director of Keep Durham Beautiful, said there could be several reasons for the increase in littered streets, including this year’s wet and windy winter weather.

“Bad weather that moves things around,” Pierce said. “Flooding and wind: Wind is a horrendous litter mover.”

The good news: There were virtually no “extremely littered” streets—the amount of litter that would require a truck to haul it away.

Updated March 14, 12:37 pm:

Pierce added this information in an e-mail to the Indy:

The Litter Index covers all of Durham, all of the City and all of the County – we obviously don’t survey each road but there is a representative sampling from all over and every type of street: industrial, commercial, residential, agricultural, and a circle that includes an area that is centered on the city hall.  These roads where chosen at random within those five parameters and we survey the same streets over a minimum of a three year span, so we have continuity.  The Litter Index results portray for us a representative sampling of the overall litter picture.  This same process is done by over 500 Keep America Beautiful affiliates from all around the country.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Tuesday in Durham: Politics in the era of unlimited corporate spending

Posted by on Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 10:26 AM


Isn't it amazing that the the U.S. Supreme Court decision equating free speech with corporate money, the one that allows corporations to spend unlimited sums on candidates and causes they like  (or, more often, dislike), came in a case known as "Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission."

That's "Citizens" as in "Corporations Hiding Behind a Made-Up Name that Makes Us Look Like We're Just Folks."

The ramifications of this, and what we in North Carolina should do about it, will be discussed at a forum, "The Future of Campaign Financing in North Carolina," on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Beyu Caffe in Durham.

From the Facebook listing:


Damon Circosta, Executive Director of N.C. Center for Voter Education.

Chase Foster, Director of NC Voters for Clean Elections

Representative Henry M. Michaux, Jr., North Carolina House of Representatives – District 31

Moderated by: Laura Leslie, WUNC’s Capitol Bureau Chief

Beyu Caffé is located at 335 W. Main St., Durham, NC 27701

In the January 21st 5-4 ruling of United v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned restrictions against corporate spending in American elections. Corporations are no longer viewed separately from individuals and are not limited to spending through Political Action Committees. They can now directly support or not support their choice of candidates.

So what does this mean for North Carolina, cities and counties in the Triangle, and you? Will we see corporations spending more on candidates or is public financing of campaigns in our future?

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Google Fiber boosters to spell out wishes at DBAP on March 18

Posted by on Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 1:52 PM


Folks, this is even bigger than the "We Want Oprah!" sign that used to occupy the windows of a converted motel on Corcoran Street downtown.

Durham wants Google. Specifically, Durham residents, businesses, elected leaders and creatives are hoping to lure Google Fiber, an project that Google is embarking on to bring broadband fiber and high-speed Internet access to one or more lucky cities in the U.S. Google has opened the application process to the entire country, and like many cities across the country have demonstrated in recent days, Durham wants in.

To demonstrate Durham's engagement, a committee has organized an effort to spell the words "We want Google" on the field of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Thursday, March 18, said Sam Poley, a spokesman on Durham's application for Google Fiber. An aerial photographer will take photos of the display that day and submit them to Google when the application is due, March 26.

Continue reading…

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Civil rights lawyer Dan Pollitt dies

Posted by on Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 12:09 PM

Dan Pollitt, who dedicated his life to fighting for civil rights in courts and academia, died this morning at age 88, according to the Carrboro Citizen, which first reported the story.


Dan Pollitt and his wife, N.C. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, with President Barack Obama at a campaign event.
  • Dan Pollitt and his wife, N.C. Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, with President Barack Obama at a campaign event.

Pollitt, who married State Sen. Ellie Kinnaird in 2009, is a past chairman of the faculty at UNC and helped lead the charge against the speaker ban in 1963. 


He will be remembered as a champion for equality and justice, especially in liberal circles.

Rob Schofield, director of research at the progressive think tank N.C. Policy Watch, called Pollitt a "brilliant attorney who used his intellect and commitment to fight for the underdog.           

"Throughout the last half decade, there was scarcely an important civil rights or social justice cause in our state that Dan didn’t impact for the better," Schofield wrote at the N.C. Policy Watch blog. "He will be missed tremendously."

Pollitt was also an occasional contributor to the Indy. You can read his work here

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