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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Obamacare: He's on call ... well, his peeps are (in Durham, July 7)

Posted by on Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 5:35 PM

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President Obama's "Organizing for America" operation is on the ground in NC, with forums on health care reform scheduled for Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill over the next couple of weeeks.

The Durham event is Tuesday, July 7 at St. Joseph's AME Church. Raleigh (July 13) and Chapel Hill (July 20) events are at places TBA.

All starts: 7 pm.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

The next telecom battles at the legislature

Posted by on Thu, May 7, 2009 at 4:55 PM

Dogged grassroots activism, organized by the City of Wilson's blogging public affairs manager Brian Bowman, Greensboro politico Jay Ovittore at StoptheCap.com, and a network of interested geeks on Twitter (#stopthecap), beat back the anti-muni broadband bill into study committees in both the state House and Senate this week.

But other broadband-related issues are still under consideration at the General Assembly, and for now, they're flying under the radar -- despite backing by the same telecom industry-friendly groups.

The first involves a statewide map that promises to show exactly where broadband Internet service is and isn't available. That map, expected within the next two weeks, is being put together by the industry-backed group Connected Nation and paid for by the industry. Will lawmakers be content to make policy based on information that's neither verifiable nor transparent?

The second is a bill AT&T is pushing for that would deregulate phone service in the state. After the House session concluded Wednesday evening, the House Ways & Means/Broadband Connectivity committee passed HB 1180, the "Consumer Choice and Investment Act," which addresses the shifting nature of the phone service market by allowing phone companies to raise rates and by removing "antiquated statutory and regulatory restrictions." The bill will go next to House Public Utilities.

The version (PDF) that passed Wednesday night contains changes co-sponsor and committee chair Rep. Bill Faison says add consumer protections that address the concerns of those who oppose it.

Analysis of those changes to come. Meanwhile, it's worth knowing who spoke to that committee in favor of the bill, changes and all:

The Institute for Policy Innovation, an anti-tax group out of Texas which opposes municipal broadband,

The American Consumer Institute, which has taken a position firmly in support of Time Warner Cable's bandwidth caps proposal.

and Americans for Prosperity, which organized the "tea parties" on tax day and rallied support for the anti-muni broadband bill.

Even defining phone service is getting trickier as companies like AT&T offer both traditional analog phone and digital voice-over-Internet-Protocol service as part of triple-play products designed to compete with similar bundled services from companies like Time Warner Cable.

Until Congress and the FCC weigh in definitively on these issues, we're likely to see this sort of policy hashed out at the state level, with lobbyists for the cable industry and the telephone companies jockeying to get the sweeter deal.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Public hearing on state budget set for Tuesday

Posted by on Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 11:47 AM

If you have something to say about the way the state spends its money—or your money, actually—then here’s your chance to comment.

A public hearing on the state budget is scheduled for Tuesday, April 28, from 6-9 p.m. at the N.C. Museum of History, 5 E. Edenton St., in Raleigh.

You can listen to the hearing online at ncleg.net or watch a live broadcast at several community colleges. The list is below.

The public can offer suggestions and coments at the hearing or at any of the community college video sites.

There are other ways as well:

E-mail town.hall@ncleg.net

Online: www.ncleg.net/Applications/PublicHearingComments

Fax: 919-754-3328

Mail: House Appropriations Committee

Suite 401, LOB

300 N. Salisbury St.

Raleigh, NC 27603-5925

 Deadline is midnight, April 28 except for mailed comments, which must be postmarked by April 29.

 

Continue reading…

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Maria Gunnoe, mountaintop removal activist, wins Goldman Environmental Prize

Posted by on Wed, Apr 22, 2009 at 12:40 PM

2009 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Maria Gunnoe. Photo courtesy the Goldman Fund.
  • 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Maria Gunnoe. Photo courtesy the Goldman Fund.

Boone County, W.V. resident Maria Gunnoe is one of the six recipients of this year's Goldman Environmental Prize, which awards grassroots activists $150,000 to "pursue their vision of a renewed and protected environment." For the past five years--despite threats and intimidation to her family--Gunnoe has fought coal mining companies who employ the environmentally destructive practice known as "mountaintop removal" in her native Appalachia. In 2007, she helped win a series of federal lawsuits that halted the construction of new mountaintop removal mines in Boone County.

She was featured in the Indies Arts Award-winning film, Mountaintop Removal.

Last month, the new EPA chief announced the agency would aggressively review mountaintop removal permit requests, which the Bush administration had allowed to expand greatly. Shortly before leaving office, Bush issued a controversial rule, allowing mining companies to dump the toxic debris from mountaintop removal into valleys and streams.

Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, has introduced a bill-- known as the Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act--that would make it illegal for electric public utilities in North Carolina to purchase, or use, coal derived from dynamiting mountaintops in southern Appalachia. Half of the coal used to produce electricity in North Carolina is derived from mountaintop removal, resulting in radically altered ecosystems, polluted streams and rivers, and billions of gallons of toxic “coal slurry,” collected in artificial pools, or injected into ground soil. Other than Georgia, no other state in the U.S. uses more mountaintop removal-derived coal.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sen. Vernon Malone has died

Posted by on Sat, Apr 18, 2009 at 12:30 PM

State Sen. Vernon Malone, D-Wake, died today at age 78 of an apparent heart attack at his home, the Indy has learned. The four-term senator represented District 14, including Southeast Raleigh.

"He was extraordinarily well-respected in the senate," said state. Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham. "He was incredibly articulate and passionate about education."

Malone served as co-chairman of the education/higher education committee and its appropriations committee. He attended Thursday's legislative session, but according to state Rep. Ty Harrell, was absent from this morning's Wake County Democratic Party Convention.

He held this eastern Wake County seat since it was created after the 2000 Census. Malone, a retired educational administrator and former Wake County Commissioner, was a longtime leader in the black community in Southeast Raleigh.

Harrell remembered Malone "as a friend and a champion and strong advocate for bettering not only Southeast Raleigh, but all of North Carolina. His loss is tremendous and I am deeply saddened."

Correction: His age was misstated in the original post; according to a questionnaire Malone filled out for the Indy endorsements, he was born Dec. 20, 1930. However, the legislative directory lists his birth date as Dec. 20, 1931.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NC WARN: Utilities' nuke plant plans will explode electric bills

Posted by on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 2:49 PM

A new report from NC WARN, co-authored by Duke University economist John Blackburn and environmental attorney John Runkle, says Duke Energy and Progress Energy would save electric ratepayers a bundle by getting serious about energy-efficiency programs and renewable energy (wind, solar, biomass and cogeneration) while cancelling four nuclear reactors they have on the drawing boards.

Duke Energy should also cancel its planned Cliffside project near Charlotte, a coal-fired plant, the report says.

Altogether, the four nukes and Cliffside will cost at least $35 billion and probably a a lot more than that, the two authors said today. Supplying the same amount of energy via proven conservation methods and renewable sources would cost far less, they said.

Currently, residential electric customers in North Carolina pay an average of about $100 a month. If the five planned plants are built, that average could jump to between $150-$200 over the next 10-15 years, the two said.

Progress Energy is seeking licenses to add two reactors to the one now operating at the Shearon Harris facility in Wake County. Duke Energy's two planned reactors would be at a Gafney, SC facility about an hour south of Charlotte.

If the utilites dump the five plants and put energy-efficiency programs in place instead that cut electricity consumption by just 1 percent a year over the next 15 years while also pushing the percentage of electric generation derived from renewable sources from the current 4 percent to 10 percent, the authors said, electric bills might actually go down, not up.

"Rates will go up, but people pay bills, not rates," Blackburn remarked.

Blackburn, an emeritus Duke professor, is former chair of the economics department at Duke and a specialist in energy-generation issues.

Update: Mike Hughes, a spokesman for Progress Energy, said the utility has figured a "significant" decrease in electricity usage from energy-efficiency measures into its load forecasts/ But Hughes added that PE must cope with the reality that the Raleigh-Cary area is the fastest growing metro in the country and 10 other North Carolina counties are among the nation's top 100 fastest-growing.

"We are moving forward on efficiency and renewable as part of a balanced energy strategy. But we cannot put all of our eggs in one basket and hope that customers make dramatic lifestyle changes in a few short years, or that renewable energy sources become more reliable or competitive," Hughes said. "We have a responsibility to plan many years in advance for the resources that will be needed to ensure that the lights come on 10 years from now. If the facts change in the coming years, our resource plan will reflect the changes."

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Starwatcher alert: 'Main Street' to film at a dozen Durham sites

Posted by on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 5:20 PM

A dozen locations around Durham, including the Dog House restaurant, have been staked out for the production of Main Street, a film starring Orlando Bloom, Andrew McCarthy, Ellen Burstyn, Patricia Clarkson and Colin Firth, according to the Durham News Service.

Check out the Triangle's arts blog, Artery, for a map of the locations and a shooting schedule.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dr. John Hope Franklin, 94: An emeritus life ends

Posted by on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 3:43 PM

Franklin was 6 years old when the race riots took place in Tulsa, where his father was establishing a law practice. Photo by Derek Anderson, 2007
  • Franklin was 6 years old when the race riots took place in Tulsa, where his father was establishing a law practice. Photo by Derek Anderson, 2007

Dr. John Hope Franklin, the revered Duke professor emeritus and American man of letters, died this morning. He was 94.

“If the house is to be set in order, one cannot begin with the present; he must begin with the past.”

-- John Hope Franklin

[From Gov. Bev Perdue: “John Hope Franklin was a tremendous leader, historian and friend to North Carolina and to the nation.” said Governor Perdue.  “He personified giving and his work to advance the understanding of African-American contributions was unmatched by any other.  He will be sadly missed.”]

Former Indy arts editor, olufunke moses, profiled Dr. Franklin in 2007. He was a wonderful man with a soft voice, a brilliant mind and a love of scholarship, history, this country -- for all its faults -- and of orchids. His doctoral dissertation was published in 1943 as The Free Negro in North Carolina, 1790-1860. Four years later, he wrote the first and still the definitive history of blacks in America, From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans, now available in its 8th edition. A prolific scholar ever since, John Hope was nonetheless always generous with his time and help, especially to aspiring scholars of black history. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995 by Bill Clinton.

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Iraqi visitors to Raleigh wonder: Who runs your government, again?

Posted by on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 2:40 PM

 

For an hour yesterday, Raleigh City Councilors Russ Stephenson (center, in the blue shirt) and Nancy McFarlane attempted to explain our uniquely American system of democracy to nine visiting Iraqi mayors, clerics and researchers from Anbar Province. (Anbar: heart of the Sunni triangle. Raleigh: heart of the Research Triangle.) When we caught up with Stephenson today, he was afraid that perhaps something got lost in the translation -- as rendered by a total of six translators. The Iraqis quickly grasped our "Dillon Rule," which says that no local government in North Carolina can do anything without prior authorization from the General Assembly. Saddam, the visitors said, had a similar rule: Every capital project in Iraq, no matter how big or small, was approved by Saddam.

Beyond the Dillon Rule, however, Stephenson thinks, our intergovernmental ways were a little murky to the Iraqis.

Continue reading…

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Armed and shovel-ready in Raleigh

Posted by on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 at 12:03 PM

Finally, some stimulus money for the Cap City. For transit? Nope. It's for military operations -- a new N.C. National Guard HQ with room for the Highway Patrol, state Emergency Management and some DOT stuff. Location is off District Drive, on the other side of Blue Ridge Road from the N.C. Museum of Art. Details below from an effusive Gov. Bev Perdue:

Continue reading…

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