Friday News: On the brink


ONLY 14 RED WOLVES REMAIN IN THE WILDS OF EASTERN NC: The fight over the critically endangered red wolf has returned to court as North Carolina's governor sought immediate help for the dozen or so remaining in the wild and federal biologists planned to transfer wolves into the recovery area for the first time in years. In late November, Gov. Roy Cooper sent the secretary of the interior a sharply worded letter warning that, with no more than 14 known wolves in the wild, “the American red wolf is on the brink of extinction.” He noted that in 2019, no litters of red wolf pups were born in the wild for the first time in the history of the reintroduction program. Red wolves once occupied much of the Eastern U.S. but were driven to near extinction by trapping, hunting and habitat loss before they were reintroduced to North Carolina in 1987. Their range is limited to five North Carolina counties. Another 200 live in captive breeding programs.

$25 MILLION BUYOUT PROGRAM FOR NC HOMES IN FLOOD ZONES: North Carolina’s buyout program is overseen by the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR), which has dedicated $25 million of a HUD Matthew relief package to the effort. Laura Hogshead, NCORR’s chief operating officer, said, “When we were considering how to use that $25 million for buyouts, we want to get the biggest impact that we can, we want to get the biggest bang for the buck that we can, and we want to get people out of harm’s way.” Ultimately, they settled on 13 zones for Hurricane Matthew and are working on nine preliminary zones for 2018’s Hurricane Florence, all of which are in federally designated “most impacted and distressed” areas for Matthew and anticipated areas for Florence. The Matthew zones include four in Edgecombe County, including two in Princeville; three in Lumberton, including the Lacys’ neighborhood; three in Wayne County; two in Columbus County; and one in South Fayetteville. Community meetings about the NCORR-identified buyout zones could take place in early 2020, Hogshead said, with people beginning the process and ideally moving in the summer so as to not disrupt the school year.

TRUMP ADMIN FORCES SEPARATE BILLING FOR ABORTION COVERAGE, ADDING UNNECESSARY COSTS: HHS has said the second bill should be for no less than $1 per enrollee, per month. The total cost will not change under the new rule — that is, the abortion services coverage charges will not be an add-on but will simply be broken out from the total bill. But there’s a big catch. The insurance industry has said the changes would create huge burdens for them, including changing their billing software, managing double the payments and dealing with confusion from customers. HHS wrote that the total cost to insurers, exchanges and enrollees would reach $546.1 million in 2020 and then stabilize at $232.1 million in 2021, $230.7 million in 2022 and $229.3 million in 2023 and subsequent years. Those costs will inevitably get passed on to consumers in some form, whether via an increase in premiums, deductibles or co-pays or changes to coverage and doctor networks.

VIDEO INTERVIEWS AND OTHER DOCUMENTS DETAIL NAVY SEAL'S ATROCITIES: The trove of materials also includes thousands of text messages the SEALs sent one another about the events and the prosecution of Chief Gallagher. Together with the dozens of hours of recorded interviews, they provide revealing insights into the men of the platoon, who have never spoken publicly about the case, and the leader they turned in. Platoon members said they saw Chief Gallagher shoot civilians and fatally stab a wounded captive with a hunting knife. Chief Gallagher was acquitted by a military jury in July of all but a single relatively minor charge, and was cleared of all punishment in November by Mr. Trump. Video from a SEAL’s helmet camera, included in the trove of materials, shows the barely conscious captive — a teenage Islamic State fighter so thin that his watch slid easily up and down his arm — being brought in to the platoon one day in May 2017. Then the helmet camera is shut off. In the video interviews with investigators, three SEALs said they saw Chief Gallagher go on to stab the sedated captive for no reason, and then hold an impromptu re-enlistment ceremony over the body, as if it were a trophy.

FARMERS ARE GOING HUNGRY UNDER DONALD TRUMP'S RECKLESS ADMINISTRATION: These days, Anne has only about $175 each month to spend on food, beyond the eggs, milk and meat that her family’s dairy operation supplies. So this has become her monthly ritual, going through several drafts to create an affordable meal plan that keeps her husband and five kids from going hungry. She knows the prices at the discount grocery store by heart. Crushed tomatoes for chili: $1 a can. Potato tots for roast pork: $1.69 a bag. “I wish I could make lasagna, but it’s expensive,” she said. Cheese is $2.49 for half a pound. Fresh vegetables are pricey, too, except for cheap bags of onions and potatoes. Even “Fruit” had a question mark next to it. When Anne and her husband, Andy, took over his parents’ 305-acre dairy farm in 2013, they made a good living. But years of falling milk prices, complicated by President Trump’s trade wars, have left the couple nearly $200,000 in debt. Farmers around the country are struggling to pay for basics like groceries and electricity as farm bankruptcies rise and farm debt hits a record high. Calls from farmers in financial crisis to state mediators have soared by 57 percent since 2015. “We’re supposed to be feeding the world, and we can’t even put food on our own table,” Anne said.



Not much to be happy about...

There actually is a fluffy bunny in that hungry farmer story, but I'm not sure how long he's going to last. They apparently have enough meat & dairy, but if they do splurge and get a head of lettuce, there probably won't be any left for that little fella.

And now I'm even more depressed...