NATION NEEDS BURR TO DELIVER NOW ON 2016 CAMPAIGN PROMISE: It was Burr himself who promised North Carolina’s voters, when he said he’d not seek re-election again, that he’d be an uncompromising presence -- withstanding and rising above partisanship when time and circumstance demanded it. North Carolinians cannot rely on Sen. Thom Tillis – who quakes at every Trump tweet and parrots whatever spin the White House sends out. This is a time when it appears the president is shaking down the leader of the Ukraine for campaign dirt on a potential opponent. He seeks to order border patrol agents to shoot migrants in the legs to slow them. This is not typical, normal or reasonable. The time is now for Burr to stand up. He needs to assure his constituents that his priority is the integrity of the presidency and the independence of the Senate and legislative branch of government.
DUKE ENERGY'S MONOPOLY IS NO GAME IN NC: To put Duke’s extra campaign donations in the context of SB 559, let’s do a little math. If Duke’s preferred rate-making provisions pass, the bill could generate billions in extra profits for the electric monopoly over the next decade or more. That’s because it would authorize what is known as a “banded return on equity,” which would increase the profit Duke is allowed to earn on its investments from 9.9 percent up to as high as 10.9 percent. That alone would generate an estimated $112 million a year in extra profits for the utility — paid for by you and me. Duke also wants to expand its spending by $23 billion over the next ten years for coal ash clean-up and what it calls “grid improvement” investments, and it wants to get that spending rubber-stamped in advance through the second controversial provision in the bill known as a “multi-year rate plan,” virtually guaranteeing these costs would be passed on to ratepayers with less accountability for Duke. For months, SB 559 has stirred tremendous opposition from pretty much everybody except Duke. On Wednesday, exemplifying the monopoly’s corrupting influence over our legislators, the new bill — including the provisions that Duke wants — was published and added to the Senate’s calendar just minutes before the Senate convened, thus preventing the public a chance to respond or contact their legislators. The bill passed the Senate 26-16, and it now moves the House.
BERGER'S CRITICISM REFLECTS MORE ON HIS BEHAVIOR THAN THE ACTIONS OF HIS TARGETS: At a news conference on Tuesday, Senate Leader Phil Berger, the Republican from Rockingham County finally came out about why he can’t get the votes to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the legislature’s budget bill. “Indications I've gotten from some Democrats in the Senate are that they would like for the budget to become law, but they are afraid of reprisals from the governor. Stories include that he’s introduced them to their primary opponents if they don’t fall in line and follow his orders.” Maybe Berger has that notion, because maybe that’s how he keeps the Republicans in the Senate under his thumb. (It takes one to know one, they say.) Of course, these are indications from some Republicans in the Senate based on stories we’ve heard. Maybe he’s just shocked that his ploy to buy Democratic votes with more than $300 million in local pork barrel spending that suddenly appeared in the budget wasn’t enough to get them to melt their resolve to sustain Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto.
IT WAS NEVER ABOUT "AMERICA FIRST." IT'S ALWAYS BEEN TRUMP FIRST: At the core of the impeachment inquiry — indeed, at the core of almost every complaint about this president — is one simple truth: Donald Trump is not a patriot. I don’t question that on some level he loves his country. I just know that he loves himself more. Again and again, he has harmed the nation’s interests to further his own. The use of government powers for Trump’s interests happens everywhere. Attorney General William Barr, after misleading the public about the Mueller report’s conclusions on Trump’s culpability, launched, at Trump’s request, a major effort to discredit officials who investigated 2016 election interference. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, at Trump’s behest, revived an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s long-ago emails. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani spearheaded the effort to solicit political dirt from Ukraine. Trump has encouraged everybody from Vice President Pence on down to patronize his resorts and is now seeking to host the Group of Seven at his Florida golf resort. The General Services Administration ignored constitutional concerns to allow Trump to benefit personally from a government lease.
THE U.N. CAN'T IGNORE KASHMIR ANYMORE: Since Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist prime minister of India, revoked the semiautonomous status of the Muslim-majority state on Aug. 5, his government has imposed a curfew and detained nearly 4,000 people, including lawyers and journalists. There have been serious allegations of torture and beatings. India cut phone and internet service, leaving millions of people isolated. While Mr. Modi didn’t address the issue in his United Nations speech, at a rally in Houston a few days earlier he said that revoking the constitutional clause on Kashmiri autonomy meant “people there have got equal rights” with other Indians now. That’s an absurd assertion to make about a state in the world’s largest democracy that’s essentially under martial law. Pressure from India — which has long resisted outside intervention in Kashmir — helped keep Kashmir off the Security Council’s agenda until August, when China backed Pakistan‘s request for a discussion of Mr. Modi’s power grab. The session, held out of view of the media and public, accomplished little, though. The Council couldn’t even agree afterward on a common message.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
ANNE GORDON: ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS AT RISK FROM THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: The ACLU of North Carolina Board of Directors is deeply disturbed by the U.S. Department of Education’s recent threat to withdraw funding from Duke-UNC’s joint Middle East Studies program. This threat has no basis in law or fact. The program is plainly compliant with applicable federal law. The administration’s goal instead appears to be to insert the government into academic institutions and threaten those who fail to spread anti-Muslim ideology. Although the government may attach certain conditions to federal funding, never before have universities been subjected to this kind of ideological micromanagement. The ACLU feels strongly that academic freedom is a bedrock principle of higher education and a cornerstone of the First Amendment. Efforts by the government to mandate what schools teach their students are a direct rebuke to that freedom, and the administration’s assumption of such authority threatens core constitutional principles protecting freedom of speech and religion. The ACLU will fight this dangerous precedent every step of the way.
KATRINA PERRY: LOOMING CUT IN SNAP BENEFITS WILL BE DEVASTATING TO THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN: As a registered dietitian nutritionist and a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, I am deeply concerned about the proposed rule that would take SNAP benefits away from 3 million people and jeopardize access to free school meals for 500,000 children. SNAP plays a critical role in addressing food insecurity and hunger. In North Carolina, the proposed rule would affect 11 percent of SNAP households — 79,260 households. Eliminating access to SNAP puts these households at greater risk for food insecurity, which is tied to higher rates of chronic disease. Children who are food insecure face an increased rate of developmental challenges, anxiety, depression and chronic disease. I join my fellow registered dietitian nutritionists in urging the policymakers, including Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, to tell the administration that the proposed rule is detrimental to the health of members of our community.
WILLIAM DOLBOW: WE NEED TO FOCUS ON RENEWABLES, NOT NATURAL GAS: Duke Energy is telling us that they are concerned about climate change and pledges zero carbon emissions by 2050. Their plan mainly consists of replacing coal burning plants almost entirely by natural gas plants. However, natural gas plants emit carbon dioxide and leaking methane gas contributes to climate change. By 2030 their planning documents aim to deliver very little energy from renewables. Building gas powered plants and pipelines is costly. A better way is to use more solar and wind power, coupled with battery storage to achieve a cleaner future. 2050 is too late. We owe it to our kids (and their kids) to reduce our carbon footprint as quickly as possible without the continued use of fossil fuels.