Daily Dose

Environmentalists Not Satisfied As Dan River Cleanup Ends (WFDD-FM) -- Duke Energy announced last week that it has completed its cleanup of the Dan River following a massive coal ash spill in February. The cleanup operation began May 6, and Duke Energy says that two-and-a-half tons of coal ash and river sediment were removed. The cleanup was monitored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but some environmental groups are unhappy with the result. Frank Holleman is senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. He says too much of what was dumped into the Dan River is still there.

Virginia Tech researchers search for ways to better trace effects (Roanoke Times) -- Virginia Tech researchers hope a $25,000 National Science Foundation grant will help them find better ways to trace the long-term effects of coal ash spills like the one in February that fouled 70 miles of the Dan River from Eden, North Carolina, to Kerr Lake in Virginia. The NSF RAPID grant will “help us get a snapshot of what’s going on,” said Madeline Schreiber, a Tech hydrogeosciences professor and lead researcher on the project. The Dan River grant was funded on April 4, two months after the coal ash spill, according to the NSF award notice. Tech environmental nanoscientist Marc Michel and geochemist Ben Gill are co-researchers on the project. This first-step NSF grant will allow the team to gather data to apply for larger science grants that could lead to sophisticated ways to monitor long-term effects of this and other coal ash spills, Schreiber said.

Fact Check: Does Hagan want a carbon tax? No (WRAL-TV) -- If only the ad had stopped on its first line. "We all know politicians don't always tell the truth," begins a commercial from the American Energy Alliance that has been airing in North Carolina. Amen. But this being an attack ad, rather than sticking with a statement of the obvious, it goes on to criticize U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan for supporting a carbon tax. … A spokeswoman for Hagan denies she supports such a tax, and the Hagan campaign issued a lengthy review of the ad disputing many of its points. … There are a few glimmers of truth in the American Energy Alliance's ad (News reports have linked the alliance to the network of conservative special interest groups funded by Charles and David Koch and their allies.) However, the group cannot muster enough evidence to support its case, and ties on attack ads go to the target. We give this spot a red light.

Megachurches Prove Mega-Influential in GOP Primaries (Roll Call) -- The influence of religious conservatives might be waning nationwide, but the movement only stands to grow in Congress. … Until late last year, Baptist Pastor Mark Walker held a leadership role at Lawndale Baptist Church, which has a membership of a few thousand, in the heart of the 6th District in Greensboro, N.C. Last week, Walker defeated the well-connected son of one of North Carolina’s most powerful politicians by 6,300 votes in a GOP runoff. … The six faith leaders currently in the House include: Reps. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo., a Methodist minister; Doug Collins, R-Ga., a Baptist pastor; Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., a former youth ministry organization manager for an Evangelical church; Juan C. Vargas, D-Calif., a Jesuit novice; and Tim Walberg, R-Mich., a former pastor.

SHORT SESSION, DAY 69; Overtime 21, $1,050,000
NC teacher assistants' future key in budget talks (AP) — Completing North Carolina's extended budget negotiations appears largely hinged on settling on a number for teacher pay raises.

Stop us if you've heard this one before (WRAL-TV) -- Remember how the legislature started last week working to forge a budget deal between the House and the Senate and resolve conflicts on other major bills – such as the measure to set requirements for coal ash cleanup and a bill for long-term Medicaid reform – that were key priorities? It's much the same song this week, with the Senate kicking into gear today and the House due back at work on Tuesday. The $21.1 billion state budget is still up in the air as are the coal ash and Medicaid bills.

Attacking attacks on attacks widens rift in Raleigh, stalls budget (Charlotte Observer) -- The feud has been a running subtext to North Carolina’s legislative session, with threats and perceived insults occasionally flaring into headlines. Now some say it may be contributing to the state’s budget impasse. Tension between Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and GOP Senate leaders, particularly President Pro Tem Phil Berger, has colored a session that lawmakers hoped to adjourn by July 4. GOP senators say McCrory, more than previous governors, has injected himself into the budget battle, further complicating controversies over teacher pay and Medicaid funding. “It’s not helping,” says Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican who chairs the Rules Committee. “I don’t think the daily communication attacking our budget is helpful at all.”

Term limits, longer terms, sought for lawmakers (Fayetteville Observer) -- State Sen. Ron Rabin, a Harnett County Republican, would like members of the General Assembly to have term limits and longer terms.

Greensboro boy, 12, starts medical-marijuana treatment (Greensboro News & Record) -- North Carolina’s decision to explore cannabis oil as a treatment for epilepsy comes too little too late for Ana Watson. Watson moved from Greensboro to Colorado in late June so her son, Preston Raynor, would have access to medical marijuana for his Dravet syndrome, a catastrophic form of epilepsy. Even while taking four seizure medicines at high doses, Preston, 12, suffered from hundreds of seizures a day. Some children with Dravet have seen improvements with cannabis-oil treatments in Colorado. “We plan to stay in Colorado for a while so that we can find what works for Preston, and I want to have access to everything to give him the best opportunity,” Watson said. A new law in North Carolina allows the study of cannabidiol, a compound found in marijuana, to treat seizure disorders. The measure passed by unanimous vote in the Senate and a 112-1 vote in the House. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law July 3. Families and their neurologists must register with the state to be able to have and use the CBD oil. Doctors will participate in a state pilot study looking at how effective the oil is on seizure disorders. Watson said getting involved in a study group could take a while, and Preston could require treatment that isn’t offered here but is offered in the more established Colorado program. “I have seen all these other states pass these bills and they (patients) were not be able to get the oil,” she said. In addition, Watson, a certified nursing assistant, will be paid by the state of Colorado to serve as her son’s caregiver as part of the parent CNA program. That’s not an option in North Carolina.

Physicians worried about business as Medicaid discussion drags on (Triangle Business Journal) -- ​As discussions of Medicaid reform drag on, physician groups are starting to fear the outcome, particularly as it relates to the business side of small practitioners.

Glenn Wilson, 1st director of N.C. AHEC program (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Glen Wilson served as the first director for the North Carolina Area Health Education Center Program from 1970-1977 and the Associate Dean for Community Health Services and the Chairman of the Department of Social and Administrative Medicine for the UNC School of Medicine. Wilson died after a short illness on July 17, 2014 at UNC Hospitals. Born in East St. Louis, IL, Glenn attended public schools in Flora, IL where as a young man he was awarded a Carnegie Medal for Heroism. He was graduated with a B.A. and M.A. in Economics from the University of Oklahoma. Glenn began a life-long career in the delivery of health care by organizing and managing five rural health care centers for the United Mine Workers in Pennsylvania and South Appalachia. While living in Knoxville, TN, Glenn was active in the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, TN. He served as the Executive Director of the Community Health Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio, and as a health advisor for Mayor Carl Stokes of Cleveland.

NC Rep. Fulghum dies after cancer diagnosis (AP) — State Rep. Jim Fulghum has died, weeks after announcing he was being treated for cancer.

Rep. Fulghum dies after short battle with cancer (WRAL-TV) -- Rep. Jim Fulghum, R-Wake, died Saturday evening after a short battle with cancer, his family told WRAL News on Sunday. He was 70.

Fulghum, who withdrew from Senate race after cancer diagnosis, died Saturday (Raleigh News & Observer) - State Rep. Jim Fulghum died Saturday after withdrawing from Senate race earlier this month with a cancer diagnosis.

New Poet Laureate of North Carolina, Under Fire, Quits (Inside Higher Ed) -- Valerie Macon has resigned as poet laureate of North Carolina, just a week after she was appointed by Governor Pat McCrory. Macon's appointment drew widespread criticism from literary figures and others in North Carolina, many of whom suggested that their Republican governor was trying to get in a dig at poetry by appointing someone who was not qualified for the position. Macon is a state civil servant whose work has been self-published. Further, her website (since removed) claimed incorrectly that she had been a Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet, when in fact she had been in a program to be mentored by a Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet. Past poet laureates in North Carolina have tended to be poets with numerous acclaimed collections (published by presses) and long teaching careers. Among the more detailed critiques of Macon's appointment is this one, in Indy Week.

Huge fall in government jobs drives drop in NC employed (Carolina Mercury) -- North Carolina state and local governments shed 13,300 jobs according the latest state jobs report released this morning. The numbers seemed to back up predictions of an end of the fiscal year employment cliff in local governments. County managers and school superintendents had warned of steep job losses due to changes in state budget priorities. Another potential explanation: a large number of state positions slated to be phased out at the end of the year.

Pending Court Case Could Impact NC Marriage Amendment (Public News Service) -- When it comes to North Carolina's 'Marriage Amendment,' all eyes are on a Richmond, Va. courtroom. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could rule soon on a case challenging Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage. Because the Tar Heel State is in the 4th Circuit

Woman agonizes over Wilmington gang violence (AP) — Kinwan Long peeked around the living room wall in his mother's Wilmington apartment and waited patiently until she paused during her conversation. "Excuse me, please, can I get something real quick," the 7-year-old Wilmington boy said, his little finger extended toward the kitchen.

In Asheville, NC, Summer Vacation Lasts Just A Few Weeks (NPR) -- It's a typical first day of school at Hall Fletcher Elementary in Asheville, NC. Principal Gordon Grant stands outside the school in a white suit and bow tie, greeting kids with fresh haircuts, new shoes, and even a tutu. But there's something different about this first day of school. This one is happening in July, after just five weeks of break. This public school is beginning a three-year experiment in running on a year-round schedule. The students will get the same number of school days as others in the district, just distributed differently: five weeks in the summer, three-week breaks in September and March, plus a winter holiday vacation. A primary motivation for running school year round is so kids don't fall behind academically over the long summer break—a phenomenon known as the "summer slide." About 80 percent of the students at this school are eligible for free and reduced lunch, and Principal Grant says, "Children who don't have really good enriching opportunities provided for them in the summer move back academically."

Read to Achieve reading program evolves to meet students' needs (Wilmington Star-News) -- What started as a hardline program from the state legislature has eased and evolved into what educators say is a better way to identify struggling students.

NC Dog Nominated for American Humane Association Award (TWCN-TV) -- The famous dog whose story helped change animal cruelty from a misdemeanor to a felony in North Carolina is a finalist for a national award.

Greensboro Fire Department to host youth camp (AP) — The Greensboro Fire Department is making its annual effort to teach kids how to recognize and respond to fire emergencies.

McCrory Set To Visit Greensbroro (WFMY-TV) – Gov. Pat McCrory will be in Greensboro, Monday. He'll visit Moses Cone Hospital along with medicaid director Doctor Robin Cummings.They'll take part in a Medicaid roundtable and tour the hospital. The roundtable is set to begin at 1:30 P.M.

N.C. State Fair makes Fodor's Top 10 list (Triangle Business Journal) -- The North Carolina State Fair, held each October in Raleigh, has made it to Fodor's list of Top 10 State Fairs in the U.S.

Swofford confident autonomy proposal will pass (AP) — Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford says he's confident the NCAA will pass a proposal that will allow the five power conferences to make some of their own rules.

GE Aviation gets a $30 billion lift (Wilmington Star-News) -- GE Aviation's engine business got a $30 billion boost last week at Farnborough, an airfield near London. "The show's going very well," Chief Executive David Joyce told reporters. "Our customers are very satisfied with progress we're making on the new engines." GE Aviation's growth is evident in Castle Hayne, where employment making rotating parts for these engines has grown to 615.

What's Expendable? (Inside Higher Ed) -- As many women's colleges move to admit men, Mary Baldwin tries to preserve a single-sex institution by building up professional and graduate programs. Some faculty fear the college is safeguarding one tradition by sacrificing another.

Jury says Reynolds must pay $23.6 billion (Winston-Salem Journal) -- R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. was hit Friday with $23.6 billion in punitive damages by a Florida jury, one of the largest such awards in U.S. corporate and legal history.

N.C. farmers experiment with stevia crops (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Denny Lee and Benny Lee have spent their lives farming several thousand acres at R.D. Lee Farms, Inc., mostly growing tobacco. Now, along with a handful of other farmers around the state, they are experimenting with a new, sweeter crop: stevia.

Sounding off on seismic testing (WECT-TV) -- Residents of Kure Beach are reacting to President Obama's decision to open the Eastern Seaboard for energy exploration through seismic testing. Governor Pat McCrory has also expressed his support of The President's decision. Some residents said the decision is short-sighted; they are concerned the country is behind the rest of the world in fuel efficiency. "We're the greatest country in the world but we can't get away from fossil fuels," said concerned citizen Bev Veals. The Mayor of Kure Beach said he feels validated knowing the President has decided to allow the testing. He has been openly supportive of seismic testing but gotten some heat for his decision from other citizens in Kure Beach. "I"m very well pleased. And I think our folks on the seismic testing side will be vindicated once it gets started," said Mayor Dean Lambeth.

Pipeline firms eye N.C. after Duke/Piedmont bid solicitation (Charlotte Business Journal) -- SNL Energy reports interested bidders for Duke Energy-Piedmont Natural Gas project in eastern N.C.

Smokies visitors spent more than $734M in 2013 (AP) -- The National Park Service says the Great Smoky Mountains National Park received more than 9,000,000 visitors in 2013 who spent more than $734 million in communities near the park.

NC’s natural treasures: 50 years of staying wild (Raleigh News & Observer) -- America was forged by taming and civilizing a vast wilderness that stretched from sea to shinning sea. Yet in ecological terms, “taming” and “civilizing” involved widespread biological degradation, species extinction, habitat conversion, dammed rivers, logged forests, plowed-over prairies and the spread of nonnative or invasive organisms on a massive scale. A growing concern that wild lands might disappear all together led to the birth of the National Wilderness Preservation System five decades ago this Sept. 3, with the passage of the federal Wilderness Act. The system began with a mere 9 million acres but has grown to 110 million acres. More acres are added every year.

Sixth-Grader's Science Fair Finding Shocks Ecologists (NPR) -- Florida native Lauren Arrington discovered that invasive lionfish, which usually live in the ocean, could survive in nearly fresh water. The 12-year-old's experiment blew away professional scientists and served to inspire the research of a N.C. State University scientist.

Little choice (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- In district after district, from Congress to the General Assembly, many North Carolina voters will have little choice this fall.

Tackling Medicaid in North Carolina (Charlotte Observer) -- We don’t know if Gov. Pat McCrory was sincere or not when he said last week that he’s open to expanding Medicaid once a plan is in place to fix its unpredictable cost problems. But it was good to hear. He told WFAE’s Mike Collins when asked if he’d expand Medicaid: “I’m leaving that door open. Once we fix the current system, I have not closed that door as governor.” Of course, there are a few stumbling blocks to McCrory even getting the chance. N.C. lawmakers passed legislation last year to prevent the state from accepting Medicaid expansion, and the legislature’s Republican leaders – House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger – are against expansion.

Living with coal ash in our river (Danville Register Bee) -- In the early days of the Duke Energy coal ash spill, some of the strongest voices raised in opposition to uranium mining in Pittsylvania County pointed to the unfolding disaster from Eden, North Carolina, and noted the similarities. The truth of the matter, though, was that Virginia Uranium couldn’t store waste rock in a big holding pond next to a river even if it wanted to. That storage method was illegal and fraught with the obvious environmental risks that VUI’s local founders found repugnant. But the real parallels between coal ash storage and uranium mining waste rock storage was the way scientific advances — and especially waste disposal technology — can make today’s state-of-the-art tomorrow’s risky and dangerous. In the seven months since the Feb. 2 coal ash spill, Duke Energy has done everything that was expected — including sucking up a 2,500-ton coal ash deposit behind the Schoolfield Dam. But 39,000 tons of coal ash leaked from Eden last winter. Where is it?

Lifetime on Death Row (New York Times) -- “How has it gone on this long?” Justice Antonin Scalia asked a lawyer for the State of Florida during oral arguments in March on a condemned inmate’s appeal. The legal issue in that case had to do with how states define intellectual disability, but Justice Scalia was troubled that Freddie Lee Hall had been on Florida’s death row for more than three decades. In that same session, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the last 10 people executed by the state had spent an average of 24.9 years on death row. “Do you think that that is consistent with the purposes of the death penalty,” Justice Kennedy asked the state’s lawyer, “and is it consistent with sound administration of the justice system?” Last Wednesday, in an unrelated case, a federal judge in California answered that question with a resounding no. The state’s death-penalty system is “so plagued by inordinate and unpredictable delay,” wrote United States District Judge Cormac Carney, that it violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. … California is, of course, far from alone on the issue. Nationwide, the average time from sentencing to execution is almost 16 years, and executions have hit all-time lows as states fight litigation on multiple fronts. (Because of continuing litigation over the state’s lethal-injection protocol, California has not executed anyone since 2006.) States including Florida, Alabama and North Carolina have responded to similar delays by moving to streamline death-row appeals. But speed is not the point if it comes at the expense of accuracy. As Judge Carney said, “death is a punishment different in kind from any other,” and so requires more careful scrutiny than any other. That extra scrutiny is “vitally important,” the judge pointed out: Half of California’s death sentences that were reviewed by a federal court were eventually vacated.

N.C.'s Gov picks a Poet-you know-Laureate (Dag Blog column) -- A bit of a stink going on in North Carolina this week. Nothing so serious that lives are at risk, but serious enough, in a state that prides itself on its ability to nurture and grow literary giants, that the story moved all the way up the Looky Here ladder to the New York Times. Gov. Pat McCrory took it upon himself (a big no-no right there, see below) to appoint Valerie Macon, a nearly unknown poet, to the prestigious post. I am not going to pick on this poor woman … I’m going to pick on Pat McCrory, the guy who appointed her, subjecting her in the process to intense scrutiny and extreme humiliation, all because the dumb bugger apparently didn’t know the first thing about appointing a Poet Laureate.

Rules for ‘Ride-sharing' services should protect public and passengers (Wilmington Star-News) -- Services such as Uber may be the future business model of for-hire transportation, but before they become too entrenched, state and local governments need to figure out how to better regulate them.

High ranking on scary states list is harsh (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- As much as community leaders in the Twin Counties have focused their energy on making the area more attractive to new businesses and industries, we can’t help but wonder now if we haven’t all concentrated on the wrong qualities.

With NC gerrymandering, democracy is the loser (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- While gerrymandering has been decried as unfair since the founding of our Republic, some of its most pernicious effects are rarely considered or studied. Voters in gerrymandered districts are bound to become discouraged by the political process.

Will lawmakers leave without protecting our water? (Charlotte Observer column) -- From John Woods, mayor of Davidson: Our North Carolina legislature is struggling to guarantee us clean, safe drinking water. The State House and Senate can’t agree on coal ash legislation. And now, it’s anybody’s guess if there will be a clean-up bill passed this year at all.

The secrets of a 61-year miracle marriage in NC (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- It is very important that we tell each other daily how much we love each other. If she or I were going out for just a few minutes, we would kiss and tell each other how much we love each other. We have had 61 years of a marriage that no other couple on this earth has had. I tell people that if husbands and wives loved each other half as much as we do, there would be no divorces.

General Assembly should leave local levies alone (Fayetteville Observer) -- When politicians interfere with state and local government practices, Republicans have long decried it, championing the smaller, less-centralized.