Wednesday News: Deadly negligence


CHERIE BERRY'S LONG HISTORY OF IGNORING WORKPLACE HAZARDS: The North Carolina Justice Center, in a report to be released in coming days, has now traced how rarely Berry’s OSH has hit its business partners, even after fatalities, with its stiffest penalty – for those that willfully, or knowingly, put workers in harm’s way. OSH inspections after the deaths led to 13 citations for willful violations against nine employers, each carrying a maximum penalty of $70,000, said the report made available to McClatchy. But nine of the citations against five companies were later dropped. In other words, only four employers faced the harshest penalty out of more than 240 firms with fatalities, the group said. In separate studies, the AFL-CIO found that the average fatality-related fines assessed to North Carolina employers in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 were 25.3% and 38.4% of the national average. McClatchy gathered details about some of these incidents as part of a six-month investigation into the ways the state enforces laws designed to safeguard about 4 million workers. Even in some of the state’s deadliest workplace disasters — incidents that could have been averted with modest corrective actions — employers have been spared severe financial penalties, interviews and documents show.

CHILDREN OF WARTIME VETERANS WILL GET THEIR TUITION PAID FOR: A state scholarship program for veterans' children will fill this semester's budget hole by borrowing from next semester's funding. That will fully fund the scholarships for this semester and moot notices students received asking them to cover costs they thought the program had handled. Gov. Roy Cooper's office made the announcement Monday, and the state's Department of Military and Veteran Affairs said it would immediately send word to universities. The legislature will have to take action next year to replace the money and make the program whole for spring semester. The General Assembly goes back into session next month and can address the matter as soon as then. There's about $2.4 million at issue, a non-recurring funding increase the legislature gave the Children of Wartime Veterans Scholarships last year that didn't make it into this year's state budget as the legislature's Republican majority jousted with Cooper, a Democrat, over budget details.

RIFT WIDENS IN NAACP RANKS OVER TREATMENT OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT CHARGE: NAACP President Derrick Johnson spoke in October at the state convention of the North Carolina conference, which was roiling because less than two weeks earlier, a former employee had held a news conference where she accused her supervisor of sexual harassment. With no news reporters present, he urged members not to further air the accusations in public, according to recordings provided to The Associated Press by a person who sought anonymity for fear of retribution. Two people who attended the meeting confirmed Johnson's statements. The emails were provided by a person who also sought anonymity because of fear of retribution. Jazmyne Childs, a former youth and college director for the state chapter, had made a public statement on Sept. 25 saying she had endured unwanted physical contact and harassment starting shortly after her employment began in 2017. She identified the harasser as her supervisor, the Rev. Curtis Gatewood, who was running for president of the state chapter at the time of the news conference.

AS IMPEACHMENT VOTE LOOMS, TRUMP SENDS CRAZY LETTER TO PELOSI: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) characterized the six-page missive Trump sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday as “a long, rambling, angry letter of someone who appears not well.” His assessment during a CNN interview came amid multiple television appearances on Wednesday morning. During an earlier appearance on MSNBC, Schiff pushed back against Trump’s claims in the letter that Schiff’s “shameless lies and deceptions” were leading to his impeachment. “This president does nothing but project onto others his own lack of morality,” Schiff said on “Morning Joe.” “This is someone who mocks others constantly but can’t stand to be mocked. … Anyone willing to stand up to him, he’s going to go after.” Schiff also dismissed complaints from Republicans about the impeachment process and chided them for not supporting a call by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) for new witnesses, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, at a Senate trial. “They don’t want to hear these witnesses,” Schiff said. “They do want to complain about process, but at the same time they don’t really want to see the evidence.”

AS METH ABUSE SOARS, THE DEATH TOLL RISES WITH IT: The meth problem has sneaked up on state and national leaders. In Oklahoma, meth and related drugs, including prescription stimulants, now play a role in more deaths than all opioids combined, including painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s way different from the meth people were using 20 years ago,” said Dr. Jason Beaman, the chairman of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Center for Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University. “It’s like they were drinking Mountain Dew and now they are injecting Red Bull.” Nationally, since late last year, meth has turned up in more deaths than opioid painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone. In 14 of the 35 states that report overdose deaths to the federal government on a monthly basis, meth is also involved in more deaths than fentanyl, by far the most potent opioid. The most recent federal data, for example, estimates that from May 2018 to May 2019 there were 24.6 percent more deaths involving meth and other drugs in its class than in the previous year, compared with 9.4 percent more deaths involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. Deaths involving meth have been concentrated in the western United States but are moving eastward, even to regions that meth barely touched in the past, like New England.