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Thursday, April 30, 2015

N.C. lawmakers to state justices: slow your role in reviewing controversial redistricting case

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 3:57 PM

North Carolina Republicans have asked the state's Supreme Court justices not to hurry in reviewing the state’s redistricting case, because of course they have. It won’t do those lawmakers any good when the justices strike down the redistricting law—sent back to the state's highest court by the U.S. Supreme Court last week, because it packs minorities into certain districts—right in time for the 2016 elections. According to NC Policy Watch, a left-leaning blog, lawmakers on Tuesday filed papers asking the state Supreme Court not to comply with a request from challengers to redistricting to expedite review of the redistricting lawsuit, Dickson...

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Twenty arrested at the N.C. General Assembly during return of the Moral Monday movement

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 11:08 AM

Moral Monday came back on Wednesday, and though the crowd may have been small—400 people at most—the point was made, if not taken: people are unhappy with many of the Legislature’s policies and the direction it’s taking the state. According to General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver, twenty people were arrested for fire code violations  and trespassing. The arrests began in the afternoon with several clergy and other protesters, when they blocked the doors to the Senate chamber and disrupted the session with singing and chanting. The main demonstration was held at Bicentennial Mall directly across the street from the entrance to...

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Bill would bar keeping dangerous wild animals as pets

Posted By on Thu, Apr 30, 2015 at 7:30 AM

A new General Assembly bill would bar keeping dangerous wild animals as pets. In addition to making it unlawful for any person to possess, sell, transfer, or breed a dangerous wild animal, House Bill 554, "Protect Public from Dangerous Wild Animals," also makes illegal the act of coming into direct physical contact with a dangerous wild animal. The new law would not apply to anyone who purchased a dangerous wild animal prior to June 1, 2015. So if you want to buy a pet jaguar, buy him now.  So what exactly constitutes a dangerous wild animal? Look no further than the...

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Today, Moral Monday is back in Raleigh

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 1:46 PM

On the two-year anniversary of the Moral Monday movement, demonstrators from all over the state will descend upon North Carolina’s General Assembly once again this evening, to instruct our representatives about policies that are for the common good and to engage in some civil disobedience. At an interfaith press conference Wednesday morning at the Davie Street Presbyterian Church in downtown Raleigh, the Rev. William Barber said demonstrators will protest the General Assembly’s “wrongheaded, and in the deepest theological sense, sinful policies.” “They have put us on a path of social catastrophe and greed,” Barber said. “We are back because our...

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

N.C. Senate bill would roll back consumer protections against abusive debt collectors

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 12:17 PM

Do you like seeing itemized charges if you’re paying a debt collector? Do you like not being sued to pay off other peoples’ debt? Of course we all do, which is why in 2009, legislation was passed to protect consumers from debt collectors suing them for debt without valid evidence that the debt exists, and without proving they are suing the right person for the right debt. But a bill in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Mike Lee, R-New Hanover, would roll back the 2009 reform that prevents abusive debt collection in North Carolina. A version of that bill, Senate...

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Durham pet apparel company Thundershirt sues BH Pet Gear for patent infringement

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 9:53 AM

A downtown Durham animal apparel company has sued a Brooklyn business for federal patent infringement and unfair and deceptive trade practices. Thundershirt, which is located next to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and county courthouse, alleges that the Brooklyn company stole its idea to create pressure-applied pet garments, used to calm dogs and cats suffering from anxiety or fear. The federal lawsuit was filed last Friday against Brooklyn company BH Pet Gear in the Middle District of North Carolina. Thundershirt, which claims to be one of the largest suppliers of pressure-applying garments in the country, secured a patent for their...

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Raleigh declared North Carolina’s most livable city (if you can afford to live here)

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 4:57 PM

Last night, at the city of Raleigh’s eighth-annual Environmental Awards at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, the city doled out awards to, according to the city’s press release, “those individuals and organizations committed to preserving and improving the environment.” And so the Chavis Conservation Public Leadership Group won the Raleigh Environmental Stewardship Award for “recognizing the relationship between the environment, economics, and the social justice aspects of human society”; EcoVillage at NC State won the Environmental Awareness Award for teaching students about urban development; Highlands United Methodist Church won the Natural Resource Conservation Award, and so on.  The city...

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Breaking: N.C. House leadership says religious freedom bill won't be addressed this session

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 4:46 PM

In the spirit of taking the good with the bad today, we are grateful that House Speaker Tim Moore and the Republican caucus came to their senses: Moore announced in a press conference this afternoon that the House will not take up the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the 2015-2016 legislative session. (Gov. McCrory is also, probably, very grateful). We’ve gone over and over how the bill would function effectively as a state-sanctioned license to discriminate against the LGBT community, by allowing citizens to object to municipal and county laws they say run counter to their religious beliefs. After the same...

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Renewable energy standards survive this legislative session

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 3:38 PM

Updated: House Bill 681 was defeated in the House Public Utilities Committee Wednesday, according to reports. Four Republicans, including Wake County Reps. Nelson Dollar and Chris Malone, joined 12 Democrats in voting against the bill in a 16-14 majority.  Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards laws—REPS—have been great for North Carolina, but a new bill would end the REPS requirement, under the guise of protecting the state’s ratepayers. On Monday, four Republicans in the House filed the NC Energy Ratepayers Protection Act. The bill keeps requirements for utilities to include renewables in their energy portfolios through 2018, but cuts any requirements thereafter....

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Toned down, but still terrible: abortion bill passes N.C. House

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 2:32 PM

The provision that would have prevented employees at public medical school departments in North Carolina from performing abortions and teaching medical students the procedure was dropped from House Bill 465. But the medically unnecessary 72-hour waiting period (up from a current, barely legal 24-hour period) for a patient obtaining an abortion, and a provision forcing physicians performing abortions after 20 weeks in a pregnancy to report information to the Department of Health and Human Services, remain. After more than an hour of debate on the House floor, House Bill 465 passed by a 74-45 vote; it now heads to the...

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Backlog leads to 18-month waits for rape-kit results, Durham police acknowledge

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 2:05 PM

North Carolina women who file sexual assault complaints must wait 18 months for rape-kit results to return from the state's laboratory, a Durham homicide detective told a crowd this afternoon at a community luncheon.  Durham police process about 600 sexual assault cases per year, Investigator Quincey Tait told the guests at the luncheon, held at Shepherd's House United Methodist Church in East Durham,  and sponsored by the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham. The event was organized to bring awareness to DPD's new "Start by Believing" campaign, designed by the organization End Violence Against Women International. The campaign offers support...

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Bill that would gut state environmental policy passes N.C. House committee

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 11:42 AM

In 1971, North Carolina’s General Assembly passed SEPA—the State Environmental Policy Act—which regulates environmental projects undertaken by the state (and paid for by taxpayers) that could have potentially damaging effects on natural resources and public health and safety. If a project costs taxpayers $1 million or more, and could have a direct environmental impact, SEPA kicks in to review it. Now, Republicans in the House (always Republicans in the House) want to render SEPA meaningless, by not enforcing its environmental impact review on projects that cost less than $20 million to taxpayers. Put another way, they want license to undertake...

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Homeless numbers in Durham reach 10-year high

Posted By on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 at 9:40 AM

There is Zac, aka Casper View, the guitarist, with his dog, Lela; Reggie, the veteran with cancer; Moses, who, although he shouts at the voices inside his mind, is a threat to no one but himself. There are others whose names I do not know: A woman new to downtown, who trudges down Main Street, two bags at a time, until she’s relocated to a place she can rest for a little while. The young guy who has told me to fuck off when I have told him I don’t have any money. More than 800 people are homeless...

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Senate Republicans kneel before the Magic Tax Cut Fairy, are wrong

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 5:56 PM

As I noted yesterday in this space, It is a fundamental principle of supply-side economics that tax cuts basically pay for themselves—that is to say, whatever losses the state would incur will be offset by the improving economy those tax cuts spur, which will lead to the state bringing in at least as much if not more money because, even if people are paying a smaller percentage of their incomes to the state, there’s more money to go around.  This is the myth of the Magic Tax Cut Fairy.  People who pay attention to macroeconomics have known for some time—and...

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House bill would allow police chiefs to release officer-involved shooting videos to public

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 4:42 PM

A House judiciary committee today voted to proceed with a bill that would allow law enforcement agencies to publicly release police videos depicting officer-involved shootings without receiving the officer's permission. Invoking the recent police shooting in North Charleston, S.C., that killed a fleeing unarmed man, Rep. John Faircloth, the lead sponsor or HB 713, told the committee, "I felt like we had to do this now, in case we had an incident."  Titled "Body & Dash Cam Recording/Public Access," the bill would not require police chiefs and sheriffs to disclose such videos. Rather, it would give them permission to do...

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Former Hillsborough police officer pleads guilty to sex offense

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 10:55 AM

A former Hillsborough police officer has pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent liberties with a minor, following an internal investigation conducted by the Hillsborough Police Department in 2013. James Riley Jr., 62, of 708 Phelps Road in Hillsborough, was fired by the department days after its internal investigation—which included nine nights of surveillance—found "potential criminal conduct" in July 2013, the town said in a release. The Orange County District Attorney's Office filed charges against Riley in April 2014. Riley, who had worked for the department since January 2004, received a 20- to 33-month suspended jail sentence and was ordered...

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

N.C. Supreme Court to hear case about whether Durham man's DWI arrest was valid

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 4:56 PM

One judge issued a verbal order from the bench. But another judge signed the written order. Is the order valid? That’s the question that will be posed before the N.C. Supreme Court tomorrow in a DWI case stemming from Durham. Among the other questions: how many field tests does a driver have to pass in order to prove he’s sober? In early 2011, Durham Police Officer Howard Henry saw two vehicles on I-40 that appeared to be racing. Howard pulled one of the cars over. The driver was Randy Bartlett. His wife was riding shotgun. There was a strong odor...

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State says wells near Duke coal ash ponds exceed state groundwater standards

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 4:03 PM

Just a few hours after an Associated Press report already revealed the troubling news, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is publicly acknowledging that most drinking wells sampled near Duke Energy's coal ash ponds included contaminants exceeding state groundwater standards. Of 117 sample results, 87 surpassed the state's standards, DENR said, although they would still meet the more lax federal guidelines imposed by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Residents were mailed their test results, as well as health risk evaluations and potential well treatment options to eliminate the contaminants. "If we determine that groundwater standards in a...

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What’s the matter with Kansas? (Everything. And that matters here.)

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 3:49 PM

Earlier today on this here blog, Jane Porter noted that Volvo had joined a growing list of car manufacturers that did not want to locate a plant in North Carolina, despite the governor’s best attempts at seduction. Jane pointed out that Volvo comes from Sweden, which loves the gays, might have had a teensy-weensy problem with the so-called “religious freedom” bills being bandied about.   Perhaps. Volvo, however, still has eyes for Georgia and South Carolina (which has to be a little embarrassing for our man McCrory), and those states are hardly bastions of sexual progressivism. I won’t pretend to...

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Another one bites the dust: Volvo reportedly no longer considering N.C. for expansion

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 12:47 PM

This week, Gov. McCrory showed us that he’s pretty good at making a stealth recovery after falling out of a chair in front of a room full of people. Something he’s less good at: wooing auto manufacturers to open up factory locations in North Carolina. Volvo is the latest car company to drop North Carolina from its list of choice locations to build a $500 million factory, according to a report in the Greensboro News & Record. Embarrassingly, South Carolina and Georgia are rumored to still be in the running. North Carolina is the only Southern state without an auto...

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Report: Downtown Raleigh is on fire (figuratively, relax)

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 7:44 AM

Yesterday the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, the people tasked with making sure downtown continues on its trajectory toward being A Thing, released a progress report of sorts on the first three months of 2015. Call the source biased, perhaps, but damned if there isn’t a lot to love in there, especially if you’re a fan of density and commerce and not having so much goddamned suburban sprawl, which we are. (And no, Greg Hatem, downtown is not unlivable.)  The highlight: Within the municipal services district (called the MSD), which is merely a 1-mile-square stretch in the heart of Raleigh, there is...

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Monday, April 20, 2015

The Supreme Court just spanked the NC GOP on racial gerrymandering

Posted By on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 at 6:31 PM

The order itself was short and to the point, included in a several-pages long list of denials and dispositions published by the U.S. Supreme Court this morning. It reads, in toto:  14-839 DICKSON, MARGARET, ET AL. V. RUCHO, ROBERT, ET AL. The petition for a writ of certiorari is granted. The judgment is vacated, and the case is remanded to the Supreme Court of North Carolina for further consideration in light of Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, 575 U. S. ___ (2015). What that means is that the North Carolina Supreme Court will have to reexamine the districts the...

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Oakwood Inn owners announce plans to close

Posted By on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 at 10:46 AM

The owners of the Oakwood Inn Bed and Breakfast in Raleigh announced plans to close their business this June. In a letter to neighbors and friends, owner Doris Jurkiewicz said the “impact of AirBnBs” and the city’s “slow approach to handling any regulations” are the reasons for their decision to close the last traditional bed and breakfast business in Raleigh. Jurkiewicz said she and her husband have been unable to get the mortgage on the house at 411 N. Bloodworth refinanced, or to take out a commercial loan; they will remain in the house as residents. In January, Jurkiewicz told...

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Defective bearings installed under N.C. highway bridges after manufacturer falsifies certification

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 5:39 PM

A manufacturer of bridge parts pleaded guilty today to aggravated identification theft and making false statements concerning highway projects after local investigators noticed that more than 1,000 bridge parts he shipped from Chicago to North Carolina were defective. In some instances, the defective parts have already been installed underneath state bridges, setting up a $5 million replacement project, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina has announced. Joel De La Torre, 33, of Chicago, evidently used the identification of an unsuspecting teenager to forge the application his company used to ship defective bridge parts to local North...

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Do me, Raleigh: WakeUP Wake’s City Livability Tour this Saturday

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2015 at 4:09 PM

What are you doing Saturday afternoon? Oh, sure, you could mow the yard or go bike somewhere or get ’faced on high-gravity beers at Tasty or watch the new Star Wars trailer (squee!) or maybe this hilarious video of Pat McCrory failing at sitting down, on repeat. Those are all good options. Here’s another, probably more productive one: Check out the City Livability Tour, brought to you by the good people at WakeUP Wake County, designed to help educate and engage the public on issues related to building a better, more sustainable downtown Raleigh.  “Growing downtown is our big concern—prosperity...

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