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Friday, December 29, 2017

As North Carolina Battles the Opioid Crisis, New Painkiller Prescription Limits Will Take Effect Monday

Posted By on Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 4:58 PM

New rules to place limits on the number of painkillers that doctors can prescribe are slated to take effect on Monday, Governor Cooper's office announced in a press release this afternoon. The changes are part of the state's ongoing effort to tackle the opioid epidemic, which claims the lives of an estimated four North Carolinians per day. The state is home to four of the twenty-five worst cities in the nation for opioid abuse, with Wilmington earning the number one spot. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, North Carolina saw a 73 percent increase in opiate-related deaths...

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Durham's Phil Freelon Named Fast Company Design's Architect of the Year

Posted By on Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 3:27 PM

Although Phil Freelon is originally from Philadelphia, Durham claims the architect as its own. "It’s impossible to visit Durham and not encounter Freelon’s work," writes Diana Budds for business publication Fast Company's design blog, Co.Design. Last week, the site named Freelon its Architect of the Year, dubbing the sixty-five-year-old "America’s Humanitarian Architect." From the article: "Freelon is riding a decade-long hot streak in his career. He’s designed nearly every major museum or public space dedicated to black culture in the United States, from the [National Museum of African American History and Culture] in D.C., and the Center for Civil and...

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Have You Checked Out the Applicants for the Vacant Durham City Council Seat?

Posted By on Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 2:08 PM

Next Thursday, the Durham City Council will be tasked with narrowing down a field of candidates vying for the at-large seat that opened up when Steve Schewel was sworn in as mayor. It is going to be tough. Not only are there twenty-two applicants, but a lot of them are well-qualified and a few have already shown they have the backing of Durham residents, either as candidates in the recent municipal elections or via emails from their supporters to the council. Under city rules, the council can select no more than seven candidates to interview for the position. They'll  make...

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Thomas Farr's Nomination to Federal Judgeship Is on Hold At Least Until Senate Returns in January; If Trump Renominates, Farr Would Face Another Vote Before a Revamped Senate Judiciary Committee

Posted By on Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 6:10 PM

The U.S. Senate has sent the nominations of Raleigh lawyer Thomas Farr and those other of President Donald Trump's judicial picks back to the White House, with the result that Farr could have a second hearing before a revamped Senate Judiciary Committee. ssss Farr's nomination to become a Federal District Judge in Eastern North Carolina did not get a hearing by the full Senate, but Trump can elect to renominate any or all of his choices to the Senate for consideration when the body returns in January, or at any point after that. Three of Trump's original picks have been...

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With Tax Cuts Behind Them, Republicans Quietly Fret About a 2018 Bloodbath

Posted By on Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 9:50 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. As we've previously discussed, this week marked Republicans' first big legislative victory in the Trump era— the passage of a $1.5 trillion tax cut bill that is expected to be a huge coup for the mega-rich. Unfortunately for the GOP, however, the bill is massively unpopular. Faced with dismal approval ratings for the tax plan, conservative groups are mounting an aggressive marketing...

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The Government Won't Shut Down Tonight. Hooray!

Posted By on Fri, Dec 22, 2017 at 9:41 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. We spent more than a few words yesterday wondering if Congress would manage to pass a spending bill to keep the government from shutting down at midnight tonight. As of Wednesday evening, things were looking more than a little iffy; culminating with an inconclusive and tense closed-door meeting between Republicans. Donald Trump even weighed in on Twitter (of course he did), accusing Democrats of...

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Plans for An Affordable Housing in Downtown Durham Just Got More Expensive

Posted By on Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 5:32 PM

The Durham City Council learned more details Thursday about plans for a mixed-use affordable housing development next to Durham Station. Among the updates: The project has gotten more expensive and the number of affordable units planned has grown slightly. In October, the council approved a concept including affordable housing, office space, parking and commercial space for the site, which is at the intersection of Jackson and Pettigrew streets. The approved concept called for eighty units of affordable housing, the maximum number that could be built given how low-income housing tax credits are awarded. But, explained Michael Rodgers, with nonprofit housing...

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Judicial Nominee Farr Tells Sen. Cory Booker He Had No Prior Knowledge of Infamous Postcard Campaign, But Did Attend Meeting on "Ballot Security"

Posted By on Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 5:30 PM

Federal judiciary nominee Thomas Farr, a Raleigh lawyer, says in a letter this week to Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) that he met with a "ballot security team" before the 1990 election, when he was an attorney for Senator Jesse Helms's reelection campaign, but strongly denies he knew the content of postcards to voters that resulted from the meeting. The letter from Farr, who has not responded to several requests from the INDY for comment, comes at what could be a crucial time for Farr's approval as a federal judge in Eastern North Carolina, as the U.S. Congress appears ready to leave for...

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Will the Government Shut Down Tomorrow? Stay Tuned.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 9:51 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. To shutdown, or not to shutdown? That, apparently, is our favorite new question. Basically, Republicans have spent the past week hyper-focused on passing their tax bill, and now they have until midnight on Friday (that is, tomorrow) to come up with a spending agreement with Democrats to keep the government from shutting down. And, perhaps appropriately, nobody really knows what's going to...

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Children's Health Insurance Program on Life Support

Posted By on Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 9:39 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. Things are not looking good for the CHIP, the health insurance program that covers about nine million kids nationwide. If Congress doesn't renew funding for the program by tomorrow, nearly two million children could lose coverage in January alone, a new report by Georgetown's Health Policy Institute finds. Congress failed to reauthorize the largely popular and uncontroversial program, which provides coverage to children...

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Survey: Users Are Pleased With the Durham County Jail's New Video Visitation Program

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 2:42 PM

The Durham County Sheriff's Office says users are responding well to a video visitation system put in place at the county jail in October. The agency surveyed eighty-six video visitation users during a month-long period (about a third of the total who used the technology) and released the results of those surveys today. Nearly 92 percent of those surveyed said they would use the technology again. According to the survey, users gave high marks to the video and audio quality of the free service. Currently, users must go to the Durham County Detention Center to access the system, which...

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GOP Tax Bonanza Clears House and Senate

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 9:41 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. As expected, the Republican tax cut bonanza passed the House and Senate yesterday, paving the way for the Trump administration's only legislative victory of the year, which they are sure to celebrate. But it didn't all go exactly as planned. Even though the House cleared the $1.5 trillion tax cut bill along party lines, representatives will have to vote on it again today. That's...

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In Upset Victory, Virginia House Race Comes Down to a Nail-Biting One Vote

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 9:33 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. Virginia Democrats appear to have notched a key victory in the state House of Delegates after a recount yesterday, erasing Republicans' narrow majority after a bruising election for the GOP last month that was widely seen as a referendum on President Trump. And, if you can believe it, yesterday's result actually came down to a single vote, leaving the House of...

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Twenty-Three People Want the Vacant Durham City Council Seat

Posted By on Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 6:18 PM

The window to apply to be the seventh member of the Durham City Council has closed, and twenty-three people have submitted their names. Twenty-three. An at-large seat on the council, with a term expiring in 2019, opened up when Steve Schewel was elected mayor. The applicants are: Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, president and CEO of El Centro Hispano and member of the city’s gang reduction steering committee. Michael Levine, a chemist and member of the Stillwood Homeowners Association board of directors. Fredrick Davis, pastor of First Cavalry Baptist Church and a former Durham Public Schools board member. Pierce Freelon, a professor, musician and...

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Funding Change Proposal Alarms Durham's Homeless Services Providers

Posted By on Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 11:52 AM

Nonprofits that serve Durham’s homeless population say a proposal to change the way the city doles out federal funding could jeopardize their operations. But nothing is definite yet, and community development director Reginald Johnson says the city hopes to actually increase its funding for homeless services by primarily using the city's dedicated housing fund instead. However, no one told nonprofits that when they showed up to a December 12 workshop on how to apply for federal funds and learned that the intended use of the money they’ve received may change. So housing advocates sounded the alarm, prompting a flurry of...

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Durham City Council Adopts a Resolution Supporting Temporary Protected Status for Haitians and Nicaraguans

Posted By on Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 11:48 AM

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security announced it wouldn’t renew a temporary status program for Haitians and Nicaraguans who sought refuge in the U.S. after natural disasters and violence. The decision is also troubling for Hondurans and Salvadorans protected by the program whose fate is now up in the air. All in all, the Temporary Protected Status program covers more than three hundred thousand people from nine countries, including an estimated thirteen thousand Haitians, Salvadorans, and Hondurans living in North Carolina. On Monday night, the Durham City Council passed a resolution in support of renewing the TPS for Nicaragua...

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Donald Trump Campaigned on Populism, Governs Like a Plutocrat

Posted By on Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 9:45 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. Today, the House and Senate are likely to approve a sweeping tax overhaul and provide Trump with his one and only legislative victory of the year—and one that seems quite likely to be the last of his presidential term, given the Democratic wave that seems to be forming. But, as The New York Times notes, the bill that Trump is championing is...

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Senator Tillis, I’d Like to Have a Word with You, Please

Posted By on Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 8:56 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. Pressure is continuing to mount for the Senate Judiciary Committee to take another look at Raleigh attorney Thomas Farr’s appointment to the federal bench. As you’ll recall, late last month the INDY’s Thomas Goldsmith reported that, while Farr told the committee that he had no prior knowledge of a racist voter-suppression effort while working on Jesse Helms’s 1990 campaign, a former Department...

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Monday, December 18, 2017

WaPo Editorial Board Takes on Thomas Farr Again; Thom Tillis Spox Defends Him, Calling the INDY a “Left-Wing Blog”

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 7:25 PM

More calls are coming for the Senate Judiciary Committee to reexamine its approval of Raleigh attorney Thomas Farr to the federal bench in the district court of eastern North Carolina. As the INDY first reported, Farr told the committee that he had not been involved with a 1990 voter-suppression case in which the Jesse Helms campaign, for whom Farr worked, sought to intimidate black voters through a postcard campaign. However, Gerald Herbert, a former Department of Justice attorney who worked the case, told the INDY that Farr was actually involved in planning that campaign—which, if true, means he misled the...

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The Republicans Are Gunning for Robert Mueller. Will Senator Burr Join Them?

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 9:25 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. On Saturday, a lawyer representing Trump for America sent a letter to House and Senate oversight committees complaining about supposed violations of the Fourth Amendment and attorney-client privilege on the part of special counsel Robert Mueller . Mueller’s crime: obtaining a trove of transition-team emails from the General Services Administration, which, for some reason or another, appears to have the Trump folks...

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The Corker Kickback: How One Senator’s Going to Make a Mint Off the GOP’s Tax Reform Bill

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 8:40 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here. On Friday, the Republican effort to pass a tax overhaul gained a jolt of momentum and a sense of inevitability when both Senators Bob Corker and Marco Rubio signed on. Rubio had made noise about voting against the bill if it didn’t include a child tax credit expansion; the conference committee threw him a bone, which will work out to something like...

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Friday, December 15, 2017

UNC Passes System-Wide “Free Speech” Policy

Posted By on Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 6:35 PM

The UNC Board of Governors approved a free speech policy for its seventeen campuses today amid concerns from faculty and civil rights advocates. Effective immediately, the policy outlines how UNC schools may punish a student or faculty member who “substantially disrupts the functioning of the constituent institution or substantially interferes with the protected free expression rights of others.” Individual campuses are empowered to implement sanctions “up to and including dismissal or expulsion." The policy lays out minimum punishments for repeat offenders but says schools can impose different sanctions if warranted. The policy suggests at least suspension for a second offense and...

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Breakfast with Santa Event in Southeast Raleigh Brings Community Together

Posted By on Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 4:41 PM

The neighborly tradition called "Breakfast with Santa" got its start in the 1960s, offering food and merriment to the Southeast Raleigh community, activist Octavia Rainey recalls. Rainey and a community group are keeping the event going, with the celebration for this year set for ten a.m. to one p.m. Saturday, December 16, at the Tarboro Road Community Center, 121 North Tarboro Road. It's sponsored by the North Central Citizens Advisory Council. "Breakfast with Santa was started in the early '60s by my grandmother, Sarah Rainey, and other neighbors," she said. "The goal was to bring the community together." The breakfast...

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Now the General Assembly Wants to “Reform” School Funding. Oh, Boy.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 8:49 AM

In a hearing yesterday of the Joint Legislative Task Force on Education Finance Reform, the chief financial officer of the Department of Public Instruction pleaded with lawmakers that, while some improvements can be made to the state’s school funding formula, it doesn’t need a wholesale overhaul. The Republicans who make up the bulk of that task force were not impressed. “State lawmakers could overhaul the way $9.4 billion in public school dollars are spent annually, affecting the way that North Carolina’s 1.6 million public school students are educated. Legislators are looking at changing how the state funds K-12 education following...

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Three People Have Applied for the Vacant Durham City Council Seat

Posted By on Thu, Dec 14, 2017 at 12:56 PM

The Durham City Council's Procedures Committee met Wednesday to discuss how they will go about appointing someone to fill a vacant at-large seat on the council and to tweak an applicant questionnaire. Although at least seven people have publicly announced plans to apply for the seat, as of Wednesday afternoon the city clerk's office had not received any applications. Three came in today, according to the city clerk. Applications, which can be found on the city's website, are due December 19 by five p.m. The three people who had applied by Thursday afternoon were Pastor Fredrick Davis, El Centro Hispano...

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Retaliatory fines for activities that are clearly permitted per the posted signage in that court should subject the IJ to …

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