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Friday, November 17, 2017

After the INDY’s Report About Judicial Nominee Thomas Farr Misleading a Senate Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein Wants Answers

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 7:33 PM

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Friday she's "disturbed greatly" by the INDY’s report that Raleigh lawyer Thomas Farr wasn't truthful with her in committee hearings on the federal judgeship for which he was nominated by President Trump. In addition, two national nonprofit advocacy groups, Alliance for Justice and Lambda Legal, called for new Judiciary Committee hearings on Farr and Alabama nominee Brett Talley—an inexperienced lawyer and former paranormal investigator who is married to a senior White House lawyer—in light of new information. Farr, sixty-three, was picked by Trump to...

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Atlantic Coast Pipeline Opponents Screen Documentary About Pipeline Resistance, Urge Cooper Administration to Reject Necessary Permits

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 9:58 AM

Atlantic Coast Pipeline opponents huddled inside Raleigh's Unitarian Universalist church last night to watch Water Warriors, a documentary tracking a remote Canadian community's successful fight against a Texas-based oil and gas company. The screening was part of an ongoing statewide effort to oppose the ACP, a six-hundred-mile pipeline that would transport fracked gas from West Virginia through Virginia and into eight eastern North Carolina counties. A fierce opposition movement has coalesced around the $5 billion mega-project. The joint venture by Duke and Dominion energies is one of eleven proposed pipelines in the Southeast, five of which have already been approved by the Federal...

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Dammit, Al Franken

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 9:34 AM

So we’ve added another big name to the list of powerful men accused of sexual misconduct: Al Franken, the comedian-turned-Democratic-senator-and-possible-presidential-contender who, while on a USO tour in 2006, allegedly forcibly kissed a woman and then posed, with a shit-eating grin, for this photo while she was sleeping. Franken apologized a few hours the allegations, made by radio newscaster Leeann Tweeden, came to light yesterday morning: “The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone...

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Calls for Thomas Farr to Reappear Before the Senate Judiciary Committee for More Questions About His Role in the 1990 Helms Campaign

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 4:58 PM

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund on Thursday called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to bring back Raleigh lawyer and federal judicial nominee Thomas Farr before the panel to answer renewed questions about his role in the 1990 Jesse Helms campaign for U.S. Senate. As the INDY reported yesterday, Farr informed U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein, a California Democrat, that he had no knowledge of a controversial postcard mailing to black residents in that year until he received a Department of Justice letter about it. But Gerald Hebert, a Department of Justice lawyer who was part of investigating the October 1990 event...

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Thomas Farr and the Radical Remaking of the Federal Judiciary

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 9:15 AM

Last night, the INDY’s Thomas Goldsmith reported that Thomas Farr, the longtime North Carolina Republican lawyer who is now President Trump’s nominee for the federal bench, appears to have lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Raleigh lawyer Thomas Farr, a nominee for a federal judgeship, knew well in advance about a controversial 1990 postcard campaign designed by Republicans to intimidate blacks who wanted to vote, according to a former Department of Justice investigator. The statements made this week by Gerald Hebert, a federal attorney in 1990, directly contradict Farr's sworn testimony in September before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that...

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

“I Am Human, I Am Black and I Am Fed Up”: UNC Trustees Hear Public Comments on Silent Sam

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 9:07 PM

UNC's Board of Trustees on Tuesday morning heard from students, faculty, staff, and community members about Silent Sam, the Confederate monument on campus. Twenty-eight people addressed the board and Chancellor Carol Folt. Most called for the statue's removal. Two explicitly said the statue should remain as a memorial to students who fought in the Civil War and to the university's history. Others favored adding more context to the monument's history, adding tributes to black figures or moving the statue to a museum or similar setting. Folt had asked the trustees to hear from the public about the statue, which has...

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Did Former Helms Lawyer Thomas Farr Lie to the Senate Judiciary Committee? It Sure Looks That Way.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 8:49 PM

Raleigh lawyer Thomas Farr, a nominee for a federal judgeship, knew well in advance about a controversial 1990 postcard campaign designed by Republicans to intimidate blacks who wanted to vote, according to a former Department of Justice investigator. The statements made this week by Gerald Hebert, a federal attorney in 1990, directly contradict Farr's sworn testimony in September before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee that he only heard about it after a Justice Department letter responding to the plan. Farr did not respond to requests for comment from the INDY Tuesday and Wednesday. Farr’s nomination was approved by the Judiciary...

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Court Stays Civitas Institute's Francis De Luca Appeal of Smithfield Agreement Lawsuit

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 6:00 PM

Earlier this week, the Court of Appeals stayed a Wake County judge's ruling last month that dismissed a lawsuit filed last year by Francis De Luca, the president of the conservative Civitas Institute. The lawsuit, filed in October 2016, claimed that then-attorney general Roy Cooper had diverted money from public schools to environmental projects in conflict with state law. The money at the center of the lawsuit was the result of a 2000 settlement known as the Smithfield Agreement, in which former attorney general Mike Easley made a deal with pork giant Smithfield Foods that required the company to invest tens of millions...

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Fine, Let’s Talk About the Dumb Raleigh Christmas Parade Fight

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 9:23 AM

WRAL VS. THE GRMA, AND NOBODY WINS. I’ve been reticent to weigh in on the ongoing dispute over the downtown Raleigh Christmas parade, simply because I have a hard time getting worked up over these things. But now that the grievances have reached something of a fever pitch, here we are. The backstory: Last month, WRAL lost its longtime contract to sponsor the Christmas parade to its rival WTVD. But then WRAL announced that it was going to broadcast Saturday’s parade anyway. To the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, which puts on the parade, this lowers the value of future...

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

UNC Students, Faculty Rally Against Silent Sam, Monitoring of Protesters

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 7:29 PM

UNC students and faculty rallied today against the continuing presence of the Confederate statue known as Silent Sam and the university's use of an undercover officer to monitor a group that has been speaking out about the statue since August. A crowd gathered at UNC's South building, where UNC police chief Jeff McCracken and vice chancellor for campus safety and risk management Derek Kemp looked on as speakers called on the school to remove the statue and end surveillance of protesters. From there, they marched to Silent Sam, which has been the site of protests and a sit-in throughout the fall...

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Poll: Trump, Burr, Tillis All Hugely Unpopular With N.C. Voters

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 2:55 PM

A new poll from Elon University shows that the approval ratings President Trump and Republican Senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr are far underwater among North Carolina voters. Trump’s approval stands just shy of 37 percent—a slight improvement from last month’s 34.4 percent rating in the same poll, owing entirely to a slight rise in Republican support. More interestingly, though, are the numbers for Burr and Tillis, the latter of whom will be up for reelection in 2020. (Burr says he will retire when his current term ends in 2023.) They both trail Trump in support: Burr’s approval rating is...

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District Attorney: Felony Charges Remain Against Defend Durham Protesters

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 1:08 PM

District Attorney Roger Echols says felony charges against a group accused of pulling down a Confederate monument downtown still stand, despite an announcement in court this morning to the contrary. This morning, seven people charged in connection with the August 14 toppling of the monument appeared in court, where their attorney, Scott Holmes, said Echols had agreed not to proceed with felony charges of inciting a riot. In an email, Echols said the charges remain. The demonstrators are also facing misdemeanor property damage charges. "I wasn’t in Court but I understand Attorney Holmes made comments about felonies being dismissed or...

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What Nonpartisan Legislative Districts Look Like: First Thoughts on Special Master Nathaniel Persily’s Game-Changing New Maps

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 8:58 AM

Special master Nathaniel Persily, who was appointed November 1 by a federal court to analyze and redraw North Carolina’s hyper-gerrymandered legislative districts, has released a draft plan ahead of his December 1 deadline and asked for feedback from the anti-gerrymandering plaintiffs and lawmakers. Persily: “Underlying the Court’s prohibition on examining election returns or prioritizing incumbency is reliance on a bedrock principle that the Special Master’s Plan shall be construed in a nonpartisan fashion. That is not to say that the plan will not have partisan, incumbency-related, or other electoral effects—all redistricting plans do. Rather, the principles that guide the production...

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Sig Hutchinson: If Wake Stops Investing in Schools and Transportation, It Will Slip Off Those Best-Places-to-Live Lists

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 6:33 AM

Riffing on the familiar gospel song "This Little Light of Mine," Board of Commissioners chairman Sig Hutchinson on Monday praised the bright side of life in Wake County—the rapid growth, increased transit choices, a wealth of educational opportunities, and the much-heralded quality of life. The occasion was the annual State of the County address, where the person in charge totes up the pluses and minuses of the year. Hutchinson went strong on the positives but didn't ignore the spots where the light doesn't always reach, such as jail cells, emergency-department hallways, and homeless shelters where people with mental illness routinely...

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Bad News for Big Pork: A Federal Court Rules That the Murphy-Brown Nuisance Lawsuits Can Go to Trial

Posted By on Mon, Nov 13, 2017 at 5:17 PM

For those of you who have been following our coverage of the commercial hog-farming industry in North Carolina, an update: Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Earl Britt ruled that the twenty-six federal nuisance lawsuits filed against the pork giant Murphy-Brown can finally go to trial—an important turning point in a high-profile and potentially game-changing case in a state where hog farming is serious business. The lawsuits were filed by more than five hundred plaintiffs living near Murphy-Brown LLC's industrial hog farms in eastern North Carolina. The neighbors contend that the farms' waste-management systems, which consist of storing excess excrement in massive...

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Van der Vaart Joins EPA Board, Placed on Leave by DEQ

Posted By on Mon, Nov 13, 2017 at 9:18 AM

After Governor Cooper won, Donald van der Vaart, the DEQ secretary under Governor McCrory, demoted himself and his deputy, John Evans, so that they’d be protected from political filings under civil service rules. Van der Vaart and Evans are, well, special, among environmental regulators, since neither seems inclined toward any sort of environmental regulation. Together, they’ve argued for the repeal of a key provision of the Clean Air Act, and van der Vaart, in particular, was remarkably sympathetic to Duke Energy over the coal ash debacle. So it’s no surprise, then, that when EPA leader Scott Pruitt revamped the agency’s...

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Friday, November 10, 2017

In Alabama, a Bible-Thumping Bigot Gets His Comeuppance. Come Enjoy the Schadenfreude With Us.

Posted By on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 9:16 AM

This story is shocking, sure. But I didn’t find it altogether surprising. In case you missed it, yesterday The Washington Post released a bombshell report that, as a thirty-two-year-old prosecutor, Alabama Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore—a man best known for erecting a huge replica of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom—sexually molested a fourteen-year-old. Leigh Corfman says she was 14 years old when an older man approached her outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Ala. She was sitting on a wooden bench with her mother, they both recall, when the man introduced himself as Roy Moore. It was early 1979...

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

UNC Officials Explain Why an Officer Was Sent Undercover to Monitor Silent Sam Protests

Posted By on Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 6:01 PM

UNC Police have issued a statement clarifying the role of campus police around the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam after protesters discovered an undercover officer had been monitoring them. Protesters confronted the officer, who they say posed as a mechanic who shared their views about Silent Sam, in a videotaped conversation that was shared on social media.  In the statement, UNC's chief of police and associate vice chancellor for campus safety and risk management say that while the use of undercover officers at UNC is rare, it is " standard policing practice" on other campuses. "The recent use of an...

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Wake Students Will Skip a Tobacco Survey for First Time Since 1999, Prompting a Pushback from County Commissioners

Posted By on Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 4:45 PM

Wake County public middle and high school students will skip a statewide tobacco-use survey this year for the first time since 1999. And county commissioners, irate over of the loss of data about an important health risk, are calling school board members to a special meeting on the matter. Wake County Board of Commissioners chairman Sig Hutchinson said Thursday that he intended to take the matter up at a work session Monday. However, Board of Education Chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler and Vice Chairwoman Christine Kushner, who were invited to attend, will be at a state school board association meeting in Greensboro, according to...

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The Alamance County Sheriff's Office Was Booted from a Federal Immigration Program Over Accusations of Discrimination. Now It Wants to Rejoin.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 1:56 PM

The Alamance County Sheriff's Office is seeking to rejoin a federal program that allows local law enforcement to carry out immigration enforcement duties—five years after it was removed from the program over accusations of discrimination. The agency's involvement in the 287(g) program was terminated in 2012 as the U.S. Department of Justice investigated racial profiling at the Sheriff's Office. The DOJ filed a civil rights lawsuit saying the ACSO "routinely discriminates against and targets Latinos." In 2015, a judge ruled in favor of Sheriff Terry Johnson. The DOJ appealed, and last year the agencies reached a settlement that called for...

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Throwback Thursday: That Time When a Prescient INDY Writer Warned in 2004 That Donald Trump Was a Danger to the Republic

Posted By on Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 9:45 AM

Our copy editor, David Klein, stumbled upon this piece in the archives. Called “Apprentice to Greed,” the Front Porch entry by Erik Ose talks about now-president Donald Trump’s then-reality show, The Apprentice. “So it makes sense,” Ose writes, “that Trump's riding the wave of reality TV. He's an opportunist, and there's gold in them hills. Whether you're a Bachelorette or an Average Joe, a would-be Survivor or American Idol, there's a show out there for you. We're slowly entertaining ourselves to death, and reality TV is our current mind-numbing weapon of choice.” Amazingly, three of the four shows Ose mentions...

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Can North Carolina Democrats Duplicate the Virginia Tsunami in 2018?

Posted By on Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 9:29 AM

When the results from Virginia started rolling in Tuesday night, local Democrats on my social media were elated—not just because it was finally something resembling a win, but because maybe they can replicate that wave in North Carolina next year, especially with new, fairer legislative districts apparently on the way. “North Carolina Democrats say the election results in and out of state show a rebuke of President Donald Trump and the divisive rhetoric that they say local Republicans employed in races across the state. Furthermore, they see reasons to believe they can gain influence in the state legislature by picking...

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Raleigh City Council Shoots Down Backyard Cottages—At Least for Now

Posted By on Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 3:59 PM

Outgoing Raleigh City Council member Mary-Ann Baldwin suggested Wednesday that the city move quickly to give all residents the right to build backyard cottages—the subject of a piece in this week’s INDY—hoping to gain approval for a cause to which she has given her passionate support. But the council, rarely known to move hastily, beat back the request on a 5–3 vote, leaving the backyard cottage ordinance in a council committee, where it's sat since July. Mayor Nancy McFarlane and outgoing council member Bonner Gaylord agreed with Baldwin that the ordinance should be pulled from the growth and natural resources committee...

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Charges Against Three Defend Durham Demonstrators Dropped

Posted By on Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 3:39 PM

Charges against three people accused of damaging a Confederate monument torn down in Durham this summer have been dismissed.  Alexander Caldwell, Taylor Cook, and Myles Spigner were among twelve people charged in connection with an August 14 demonstration in which a crowd, gathered in response to a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville the weekend before, pulled down a statue of a Confederate soldier that had stood in front of the former Durham County Courthouse. The demonstration, and the vehement response from the Durham County Sheriff's Office, spawned a movement known as Defend Durham. "It's not surprising that these...

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Pierce Freelon Could End Up on the Durham City Council After All

Posted By on Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 3:29 PM

Pierce Freelon, the musician and entrepreneur who energized progressive voters in Durham's mayoral primary, says he'll apply for the city council seat that will open up when council member Steve Schewel is sworn in as mayor. Freelon, who did not garner enough votes in October to advance to Tuesday's general election, made the announcement on social media today. "For everyone who has been asking me 'what’s next?' here’s your answer: #WeAintDone," he wrote. Freelon won about 16 percent of the votes cast in the primary and says he's spent the past month recharging after a busy election season. In the post,...

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Calls for Franken to resign are not helpful. Not all moral transgressions are equally bad, and they don't all deserve …

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There is no equivalence between the two cases. One's questionable harassment during an adult comedy skit tour and its run …

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Thanks so much for writing this up Erica. You're a gem!

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