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Friday, May 30, 2014

Environmental advocates pan fast-track fracking bill

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2014 at 5:01 PM

Not surprisingly, the N.C. General Assembly moved Thursday to approve fast-track fracking legislation, allowing the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources to issue permits for the controversial drilling practice as soon as next spring. And, not surprisingly, environmental advocacy groups are panning the legislation and calling for Gov. Pat McCrory to veto the bill. It would be surprising for McCrory, a drilling supporter, to do that. "Fracking has contaminated water across the country," said Elizabeth Ouzts, state director of Environment North Carolina, in a statement. "And now, sadly, lawmakers have voted to put North Carolina's rivers and the drinking...

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N.C. House opposes Funeral Board fee increase

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2014 at 2:54 PM

A bill to disapprove of the North Carolina Board of Funeral Service’s petition to increase its fees on funeral directors and licensees in the state passed unanimously in the state House of Representatives this week. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry and Wilkes Counties, follows a state audit last May which found that funeral home inspectors were not adequately monitoring and following up on funeral facilities with deficiencies. As much as eight years had gone by between inspections of some facilities, where 2 and 3 year inspection cycles are the norm. In response to the findings of the audit,...

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Tillis sit-in arrestees not allowed back to Legislative building until Moral Monday is over

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2014 at 1:50 PM

According to documents held by Wake County Clerk of Superior Court, the 15 fast food workers and pastors who were arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience in Thom Tillis's office earlier this week are not allowed back at the General Assembly until July 11th, after Moral Monday is over. Rev. Barber and the NAACP held a press conference this morning where those now being referred to as the "Tillis 15" shared stories of why they had engaged in the direct action. Rev. C. Anthony Jones Jr., of United Methodist Church in Winston Salem, felt compelled to engage in his first act...

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DOJ report: N.C. has sixth-highest total of death row prisoners

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2014 at 11:22 AM

As of year-end 2012, there were 152 prisoners facing death sentences in North Carolina, the sixth-highest total in the country, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics. North Carolina follows California (712), Florida (403), Texas (290), Pennsylvania (200) and Alabama (191) for the number of inmates facing death. Thirty-five states administering the death penalty in 2012 were analyzed in the report. (The number of states issuing capitol punishment has since dropped to 32.) Since the conclusion of the study, the number of death row inmates in North Carolina has increased to 154, according to...

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Preservation Durham announces Top 5 Places in Peril

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2014 at 9:05 AM

Flanked by statues of angels, Wendy Hillis, executive director of Preservation Durham, announced the group’s 2014 Places in Peril last night at the Julian Carr gravesite in Maplewood Cemetery. Cemeteries rarely rank near the top of budget priorities, and the state of the city-owned Maplewood and Beechwood cemeteries reflect years of underfunding: Broken gravestones, rutted roads. Stroll through Maplewood, bordered by Morehead Avenue, Duke University Road and Kent Street in Southwest-Central Durham, and you’ll find the gravesides of some of the most prominent Durhamites: the Parrishes, the Carrs, the Dukes, as well as everyday working-class families. Beechwood, at East Cornwallis Road and Fayetteville...

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fracking bill passes NC House in 64-50 vote

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 5:10 PM

North Carolina is one step closer to to being a fracking state. After debate on the House floor that lasted nearly two hours this afternoon, during which Democrats submitted amendments to the bill that were either defeated or tabled (so there would be no voting record), the House approved S786, the Energy Modernization Act.   It clears the way for oil and gas exploration. Around 50 protesters and several lawmakers rallied in front of the Legislative building before the session, to speak against the fracking bill which sped through the Senate and two House Committees before it went to the House...

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Orange County neighbors seek to block solar farm

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 4:39 PM

In left-leaning Orange County, one might expect a warm welcome for a proposed solar farm. It appears, however, that one might be wrong. Orange County commissioners heard this week from multiple property owners near a proposed solar farm north of Chapel Hill who say they strongly oppose its construction, chiefly on the grounds that the green energy station would lower neighboring property values and spoil the view. The farm, if built, would sit on two parcels totaling 50 acres off Mount Sinai Road near Cascade Drive. Roughly half of the land would be occupied by the solar farm. The builders,...

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Durham judge: Duke student accused of sexual misconduct to remain in limbo

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 4:17 PM

UPDATED 4:17 WITH RESPONSE FROM DUKE A Durham judge ruled this morning on the preliminary injunction case of Lewis McLeod, a Duke senior who was expelled for sexual misconduct three days before his final exams last month, even though he was never criminally charged. Both sides are claiming partial victory. This morning, after a four-day hearing last week, Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III did not compel Duke to immediately issue McLeod the degree that he says is necessary to begin his job at a Wall Street firm in July. However, Smith also ruled that Duke may not go forward with its...

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UE Local 150 public sector workers to have political action day in Legislative Building tomorrow

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Tomorrow morning, UE Local 150, the public service workers union here in North Carolina, will go to the general assembly to meet with and lobby legislators. UE are a grassroots organized, rank-and-file union who have cut their teeth on public sector, DHHS mental health workers and sanitation worker campaigns in the Triangle over the last 10 years. They have been active and central participants in Moral Monday events and recognize the intersectionality of issues that keep organized labor down in North Carolina. State employees wages have been stagnant since 2008. UE 150 is going in to meet with legislators with...

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Durham DA will appeal judge's order overturning 1991 double-murder conviction

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 11:16 AM

The Durham district attorney's office filed notice yesterday to appeal a recent order by Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando F. Hudson Jr. overturning the conviction of Darryl Howard, who is currently serving an 80-year prison sentence for the 1991 double-murder of a mother and daughter. In his order earlier this week, Hudson ruled that prosecutor Mike Nifong, then an assistant district attorney, failed to disclose to Howard's defense attorneys a potentially exculpatory police memo, and that he and a police detective made misleading statements to the jury. New DNA evidence has since suggested that the murders were not committed by Howard,...

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A UNC grad's mea culpa about working at Abercrombie + Fitch in Durham

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 8:33 AM

The discriminatory practices of Abercrombie & Fitch have been well documented, especially in a 2003 groundbreaking lawsuit filed against the retail clothing company by several minorities and women (the company settled for $50 million).  Now we have an inside view, a mea culpa, written for Salon by UNC graduate Oliver Lee Bateman. In 2002, he worked as a manager (and by his own admission, a lousy one) at the A&F outlet in the Streets at Southpoint Mall in Durham. Bateman calls his time there "the year I discriminated against everybody," noting that the company's "top brass consisted primarily of extremely fit, extremely tan white men who despised...

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fracking bill passes House on second reading

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2014 at 12:38 PM

Updated: S786 was added to the House calendar this afternoon over objections of Democratic lawmakers. After speeding through two House committees yesterday evening and this morning, the bill passed its second reading by a small margin, 63-52. Lawmakers can submit amendments to the bill before Thursday's session and the bill's third reading.  After narrowly passing the House Finance Committee in a 19-14 vote this morning, the Senate’s massive fracking bill is headed to the House floor for debate, possibly this afternoon. An amended version of S786, the Energy Modernization Act, passed the House Public Utilities Commission Tuesday evening. Rep. Mike Stone, R-Harnett,...

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Durham murder conviction overturned

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2014 at 11:17 AM

A Durham judge has overturned the conviction of Darryl Anthony Howard, who in 1995 was found guilty of a double-murder. Howard, who has spent the last 19 years in prison, is effectively serving a life sentence. The case made recent national headlines when it was suggested that former District Attorney Mike Nifong, along with a police detective, withheld potentially exculpatory evidence from Howard's defense attorneys. There was no physical evidence linking Howard to the crime scene, a public housing complex in which a woman and her 13-year-old daughter were murdered. New evidence shows that sperm DNA found on one of the murder victims matched...

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Thom Tillis sit-in demonstrators arrested in the dead of night

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2014 at 10:48 AM

After hours of back and forth negotiation with the General Assembly police—after the Raleigh Police came to arrest the protesters but then were held back for fear of creating bad press— Thom Tillis quietly had the 14 fast food workers and faith leaders staging a sit-in at his office arrested at 2 a,n,—long after the media and remnants of Moral Monday protestors had gone home or had been asked to leave the building. The sit-in demonstrators were doing non-violent civil disobedience in hopes of seeing Thom Tillis, now a candidate for U.S. Senate, repeal measures that hurt the poor. Tillis...

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Duke doctor's invention saving women's lives

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2014 at 9:44 AM

Cheap binoculars, reading glasses, a headband and a pair of battery-power LEDs: That’s all it might take to prevent women from dying of cervical cancer in Haiti. Over the weekend, The New York Times published an uplifting story about a Duke doctor’s invention that is saving lives of women in Third World countries. Dr. David Walmer, a fertility specialist, invented the CerviScope, which helps health care providers perform colposcopies to detect cervical cancer. The disease is largely preventable and, when caught early, treatable. Yet it kills 250,000 women a year in the developing world where preventative medicine is scarce. In a clinical...

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

15 fast food workers and faith leaders staging sit-in at Speaker of the House Thom Tillis's office

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2014 at 5:17 PM

Update: At 6:30, sit-in is still taking place in Thom Tillis's office with protestors vowing to stay all night. Pizzas have been delivered. Police have cleared out. Most of those sitting in are fast food workers, making $7.25 an hour. The majority of the Moral Monday protestors having gone home, the GA and Raleigh police withdrew, leaving just a small gathering of media and faithful. Rev. Barber held a press conference outside of Tillis's office, stating "Speaker Thom Tillis and his aides have refused to engage in a serious discussion over the deep and weighty issues, and now they are...

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New solar farm for Orange County?

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2014 at 3:16 PM

Orange County commissioners will hold a public hearing tonight on a proposed solar farm on a 50-acre tract just north of Chapel Hill. The hearing will begin the process for builders to obtain a special use permit for the property, which is located off Mount Sinai Road near Cascade Drive. The applicants, Arizona-based Sunlight Partners LLC, intend to use roughly half of the land to build solar arrays, which will feed into the public power grid. County Planning Director Craig Benedict said Orange County currently has one similarly-sized solar farm already in construction in the White Cross area. Officials are...

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N.C. Senate bill asks to eliminate Actual Innocence Commission

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2014 at 1:56 PM

The state Supreme Court’s Chief Justice should abolish the North Carolina Actual Innocence Commission because it is obsolete. That’s among several proposals couched within Senate Bill 734, the Regulatory Reform Act. A large bill, it includes provisions to decriminalize cursing on public sidewalks and to streamline environmental reforms. The Actual Innocence Commission was established through court order in 2002 after then-Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake invited representatives from the criminal justice system and academic community to a round-table discussion. Since then, the Actual Innocence Commission has served as a way for people involved in the criminal justice system to debate...

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Moral Mondays resume today at N.C. Legislature

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2014 at 7:48 AM

Lawmakers, fresh from the Memorial Day weekend, will return to the Legislature today—and Moral Monday movement will be waiting for them. This afternoon, the Moral Monday movement is holding a People’s Lobby and Advocacy Day, in which volunteer lobbyists from across the state l visit lawmakers and ask them to undo the damage they've done since last year's session. Advocates will ask them to expand Medicaid, the extend of unemployment benefits, restore the Earned Income Tax Credit, increase support for teachers and public schools. They'll ask for stronger environmental regulation around coal ash and a fair tax code—that does not give...

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Human Relations Commission issues DPD racial profiling report, but dissent is within the ranks

Posted By on Fri, May 23, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Did John Tarantino spend too much time in the heat yesterday? Tarantino, a former Republican candidate for state senate, city council and school board, often brings his acoustic guitar and serenades Durham City Council at its weekly work sessions. The musical interludes are occasionally entertaining and are not the oddest moment you’ll see at a public meeting. But yesterday Tarantino the Troubadour used his three minutes of public comment to launch the work session—the main event of which was a serious report about Durham Police and racial profiling—with a bizarre and racially insensitive “tribute” to Chief Jose Lopez. Tarantino recast...

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

N.C. Senate clears fracking bill

Posted By on Thu, May 22, 2014 at 3:16 PM

The Senate passed a massive fracking bill Thursday which would lift North Carolina's fracking moratorium and allow drilling to begin as early as July, 2015. S786, or the Energy Modernization Act, could be heard in the House next week.  One of the most egregious provisions in the bill which made disclosing fracking trade secrets a Class 1 felony was reduced, in an amendment by Sen. Chad Barefoot, R- Wake, to being punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor, the difference between months and days of community punishment. Senate Democrats had proposed no punishment for disclosure of trade secrets yesterday but were voted down,...

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

N.C.'s Senate Commerce Committee fast-tracks fracking, tries to prevent recording of meeting

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2014 at 5:40 PM

Editor's note: The INDY has contacted the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press regarding the actions of Sen. Rick Gunn. Fracking isn’t legal in North Carolina yet, but already legislation is moving through the Senate that would criminalize anyone who discloses trade secrets “received in connection with permitted oil and gas activities.” This afternoon two Senate committees passed S786, the Energy Modernization Act, a giant bill which would make the state’s ride on the fast-track to fracking less safe. The bill is expected to go before the entire Senate later this week. And during the hearing, the committee chairman,...

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Friday, May 16, 2014

N.C. lawmakers must release voting law emails; McCrory failing at transparency

Posted By on Fri, May 16, 2014 at 12:42 PM

North Carolina lawmakers seem to be under the impression that the Freedom of Information Act doesn't apply to them. But they can't ignore subpoenas for the release of communications related to the state’s new voting law, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled yesterday. The League of Women Voters of North Carolina brought the lawsuit against the state on behalf of North Carolinians who could face substantial hardship in exercising their right to vote under the 2013 Voter Information Verification Act. Along with mandating voter identification, provisions in the law eliminate a week of early voting, end same day voter registration...

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Moral Monday pots & pans protest kicks off General Assembly short session

Posted By on Wed, May 14, 2014 at 1:53 PM

This morning, before the General Assembly opened for the short session at noon, about 100 Moral Monday protesters, many of them grandmothers, gathered in front of the legislative building on Jones Street for a press conference. Reverend William Barber, head of the NC NAACP spoke, as did Minister Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove of St. John's Missionary Baptist Church, and Bishop Darrin Moore of A.M.E. Zion church. "We are the sons and daughters of Fannie Lou Hammer. We are the legacy," Reverend Barber bellowed. "Next week we reclaim the General Assembly. It's our house. Whether we'll be arrested, that's up to them,...

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Keith Crisco dies awaiting final vote tally in close race against Clay Aiken

Posted By on Mon, May 12, 2014 at 4:54 PM

Keith Crisco, the Asheboro businessman and Clay Aiken's challenger in the District 2 Democratic Primary died suddenly at his home today, according to confirmed reports from WRAL. He was 71. Crisco was waiting for the final vote tallies in his too-close-to-call race against Aiken. Crisco was behind Aiken around 300 votes; his team was in the midst of canvassing county election boards and searching for remaining absentee votes. They were seeking legal advice in the case of a recount. Initial reports indicate that Crisco suffered an unexpected fall in his home. Update 9:04 PM:Clay Aiken's team has released this...

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