Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


NC'S OUTER BANKS ARE HAZARDOUS FOR HOMES. IT'S ABOUT TO GET MUCH WORSE: A few days ago, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore announced that a couple more houses collapsed and fell in the ocean near Rodanthe during a moderate storm on the Outer Banks of our state. The unusual aspect of this occurrence was that one of the houses was on high stilts. Often we hear that if you must live near the beach build on stilts and you are not likely to be affected by waves and overwash currents. So much for that generalization. This latest event comes after the Nov. 7, 2021 Nor’easter that halted traffic on N.C. Highway 12 for a couple of days due to flooding and overwash. These events give us a taste of the future, but we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. As everyone knows, climate change is producing warmer seas and the warmer water will produce larger and more frequent storms, all this occurring as the sea level is rising. A higher sea, of course, will increase storm damage. My Geology professor spent several days covering the creation and disposition of the Outer Banks. When you understand that most of NC's Coastal Plain (over 1/3 of the state) was once under water, the consequences of Climate Change become horrifically clear.

NURSES NEED SUPPORT, LEADERSHIP TO COMBAT COVID-19 FATIGUE: Many of us choose a career in nursing with a desire to help others. Most Americans see that in nurses, as evidenced by nursing being ranked one of the most honest and ethical profession for 20 years in a row, according to Gallup’s annual poll. As Chief Nursing Officer at UNC Hospitals, one of my biggest concerns is that our current healthcare environment is creating even more challenges for our caregivers — leaving those in nursing feeling overworked and undervalued. Prior to the pandemic, the NCNurseCast project predicted that by 2033, our state would face an estimated shortage of nearly 12,500 registered nurses. This number is likely much greater today and continuing to grow due to higher nurse turnover and burnout. Meanwhile, more than 80,000 qualified aspiring nursing students were rejected from nursing programs nationwide last year due to limitations in nursing school capacity. Throughout it all, nurses continue to provide amazing care. They tirelessly share their specialized skills, time and compassion. However, no one has endless amounts of time and compassion no matter how much they might try. Healthcare workers, especially nurses, need to be supported by their healthcare leaders and systems. We must value our nurses. Addressing professional development, retention and enhancing the talent pipeline remain constant challenges. One of the times my mom was hospitalized, I waited for 3 hours to hear what her Physician was planning to do. But I had to go to the bathroom for a few minutes, and when I came out, he had come and gone. What's my point? Nurses provide almost all of the hands-on treatment and observation for patients, and not addressing this problem will have fatal consequences.

A PRIORITY LIST FOR NCGA'S SHORT SESSION: For starters let’s bite the bullet and fund Medicaid expansion, adding some 100,000 qualified recipients to the plan. 38 other states have done so and there’s little chance either the expansion will be defunded or the state’s 10 percent cost match will be increased. We understand Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger might be willing to go along with this expansion if coupled with the elimination of Certificate of Need laws (which needs doing) AND expanding the scope of authority for nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other care providers, which is likely to happen anyway. Bottom line: Medicaid expansion will add an extra $500 million per year in costs but will generate other huge benefits. A healthier NC benefits us all. Next, fund the balance of the Leandro settlement plan, which is calculated to cost some $785 million per year. State employees received pay increases in last year’s budget, but not enough to account for many years when they got nothing. Let’s do something now. Finally, let’s spend on infrastructure, especially our roads. Major economic expansions have been announced for our state and more are coming. Our road system needs help. Further, we must add mass transit in rapidly growing urban areas. No, transit won’t pay for itself, but we subsidize plenty of other services. If the only criteria for government spending is that it must pay for itself, we would shut down schools, law enforcement, fire protection, healthcare, parks and other services people expect from their state. The above are wise investments for a growing state, and we hope our legislature will stay focused and not venture into subject areas like abortion, education theories or issues likely to see a gubernatorial veto. These would only cause frustration, take time and cost taxpayers more money. I agree with Tom on all of this, including the road infrastructure. Regardless of what you've heard, DOT has been woefully underfunded for several years. Critical projects have been bumped, and many of those include sidewalks, which we need badly.

I'VE NEVER HAD TO LIVE WITHOUT LEGAL ABORTIONS. OVERTURNING ROE V. WADE CHANGES EVERYTHING: The ruling, which was drafted in February, would end the constitutional protection of abortion rights that have been guaranteed for nearly half a century. If Roe were to be overturned, it would be up to the states to decide whether to restrict or ban abortions. It’s unclear if there have been subsequent changes to the draft. According to the Politico report, the overturning of Roe would almost immediately lead to stricter limits on abortion access in large swaths of the South and Midwest, with about half of these states set to immediately impose broad abortion bans. This is a severe and devastating blow to bodily autonomy across America and this decision leaves many uncertain about the future of abortion rights. I wrote my high school research paper on the history of abortion rights and the importance of these rights for preserving reproductive health and bodily autonomy. This has led me to pursue a career as a reproductive rights lawyer. Roe sets the precedent for the right to an abortion in this country, and without it, I am afraid for our future. The decision to strike down Roe will change the course of my career, but will also inspire me to keep fighting for the right to choose. The history of abortion accessibility is a messy one, that demonstrates how dire this right is today. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that states started to pass laws making abortion illegal. Without the innovative technologies of today, surgeries and procedures in the 19th century – including abortion – were considered risky, causing infant and maternal mortality rates to be extremely high. Although medical technology improved over time, many individuals in need of abortion had no other choice but to get their abortion from an illegal practitioner without these medical developments at their disposal. The criminalization of abortion did not and will not prevent individuals from receiving them – it will only make the process riskier for patients. Roe v. Wade made it possible for people to receive safe and legal abortions from well-trained medical doctors. This Supreme Court case led to a drastic decrease in pregnancy-related deaths and injuries. It was a groundbreaking Supreme Court case for reproductive rights and gave individuals access to a procedure that had been limited to risky and illegal methods before. You are correct, Sophie. And your chosen career is needed now more than ever. But the thing you need to remember about religious zealots is, they don't care about the health & well-being of a woman who won't play her role in their grand, delusional fiction. A woman dying from a botched, back-alley abortion is just fine with these people, which is why they should be completely ignored by elected officials.

DON'T WORRY ABOUT CIVILITY, WE DON'T HAVE TIME: On May 8, protesters decried the recently leaked Supreme Court draft opinion which might overturn Roe v. Wade outside the homes of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts. In the days before and since, you’d think the people on the Supreme Court were the ones losing rights or safety or resources, not the millions of Americans who will be impacted if Roe is overturned. A “non-scalable” wall has been erected around the Supreme Court and the Senate has rushed to pass a bill funding additional security for the justices. The fear-mongering from people in power about protesters has been, if not unbelievable, then simply absurd. The Supreme Court justices are beefing up their security with extra law enforcement. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) called local Bangor police after protesters chalked support for the Women’s Health Protection Act on the sidewalk outside her house. Accidental Leftist Ted Cruz called the protests “violent” (which he differentiates from the January 6 insurrection he recently claimed was… not violent). Public commentators lamented the protests as not “civil.” Chiding tones from government officials debate the merits of kinds of protest rather than what caused the protest itself. Indeed, the good protest/bad protest binary is both unhelpful and wrong. People tried to criticize the protests at Kavanaugh’s home by asking “what about his neighbors?” as if it was too obstructively cruel to inconvenience one’s fellow citizens while bringing the struggle directly to powerful people. But one of his neighbors planned the event. Lacie Wooten-Holway told a passerby who critiqued her protest style, “We’re about to get doomsday, so I’m not going to be civil to that man at all.” Wooten-Holway, unlike those impugning protesters, gets the stakes. When you look at what won abortion rights in countries across Latin America, which has seen rapid progress, it wasn’t perfectly protesting in a way that accommodated the comfort of those in power or focusing on electoral politics to the abandonment of other methods. They took to the streets in immense numbers. Writes Emily Green for VICE, “The campaign for abortion rights became all-encompassing: Activists pursued legal challenges in conjunction with public protests and drives to change public opinion.” Paula Ávila-Guillén, executive director of the Women’s Equality Center in New York and a Colombian lawyer, told VICE, “We changed the laws because we went to the streets.” We can too. And if we couldn’t, they wouldn’t be working so hard to convince us otherwise. Those who have followed my writing are aware I don't always support direct action, and I do not support indiscriminate violence or vandalism. But women's rights are human rights, and Fascists don't deserve peace and security.


DIERDRE MACK: WHAT ABOUT THE MEN? In the current heated discussions about abortion rights, I find two issues rarely mentioned: the separation of church and state and the man’s responsibility in providing for the child. A woman’s right is under threat in the most shameful manner and religious beliefs are being used as a cudgel. Instead of forcing women to bear and raise a child they are not prepared for, perhaps men could be persuaded to have a vasectomy. And, churches that preach about medical and secular decisions that belong to a woman and her doctor should be obligated to pay taxes. What she said.

TM BETTENCOURT: HANDS OFF OUR ABORTION MEDICATIONS: Regarding “Next battle over access to abortion will focus on pills,” (May 7): As a woman who has exercised her right to have an abortion, I know that most women do not make the decision lightly. Having an abortion is a choice a woman lives with for the rest of her life. Access to abortion medications is not and should not be a public issue or an issue where politicians can force choices on women. Access to abortion medication is a privacy right and should be between a woman, her doctor, and partner if she chooses to share that information. Women who seek abortion medication should not have to fear being prosecuted due to a choice they’re making regarding their own bodies. Legislators should start imposing laws that support free prenatal care, as well as financial assistance for mothers in need. These laws could help change women’s situations so that if they become pregnant they won’t feel they needed to end the pregnancy due to financial hardship. You better believe if men had access to a pill that would cure them of a clump of cells that would radically alter their lives (testicular or prostate cancer), they would be outraged if somebody outlawed that pill. There is no difference.

KIM CARLYLE: 1ST AMENDMENT VS THE PATRIARCHY: The Supreme Court Roe v. Wade draft decision has distracted us from the war in Ukraine, which had distracted us from other issues, which had distracted us from dealing with climate chaos. The leak itself? No big deal. It’s just one of the very rare (and of course unintentional) instances of government transparency. But the substance of the issue itself concerns the right to life, or more specifically, the right to control another’s life and who holds that right. Overturning this decision that has stood for half a century would give proponents of patriarchy — a rejection of the equality of sexes — control over women. Some say abortion is murder because a zygote (fertilized egg) is a human being. That’s like saying that an acorn is an oak tree, isn’t it? Anyway, deciding when human life begins is a question for theologians or philosophers, not for politicians or jurists. Since both patriarchy and abortion-equals-murder are tenets of the religious right, not the majority of Americans, this is a religious issue; the First Amendment should render it moot. Want to guarantee the right to life for innocent unborn children? Save the next generation from catastrophic consequences of climate chaos. She is absolutely right. Find me a pro-lifer who is not also a religious zealot...I'm waiting...



The danger of the "Great Replacement" theory

You've probably already seen reports of the mass shooting in Buffalo yesterday afternoon, and this time we don't have to "wait and see" what it was all about. That's because the shooter wanted everybody to know, trying to livestream it on Twitch and posting his 180 page manifesto online.

His motives were undeniably racist, and closely linked to a lot of (believe it or not) mainstream Republican talking points. Here's a quick primer:

The “great replacement” theory, in simple terms, states that welcoming immigration policies — particularly those impacting nonwhite immigrants — are part of a plot designed to undermine or “replace” the political power and culture of white people living in Western countries.

Multiple iterations of the “great replacement” theory have been and continue to be used by anti-
immigrant groups, white supremacists, and others. Prominent iterations include:

Rhetoric of invasion: The theory often uses martial and violent rhetoric of a migrant “invasion”
that must be stopped before it “conquers” “white America.”

Voter replacement: The theory also sometimes incorporates the inaccurate assumption that
nonwhite immigrants will vote a certain way, and therefore pro-immigration policies are designed by
elites to diminish the political influence of white Americans.

Antisemitism: In still other iterations, the theory can be found embedded in a web of other
xenophobic conspiracies, including antisemitic notions that Jewish elites are responsible for the
“replacement” plot.

Regardless of which version is referenced, proponents of the “great replacement” theory almost
always paint a life-or-death scenario concerning the fate of “white America.” The theory contends that
nonwhite immigration must be stopped, or else the country is on — as Carlson put it — a “suicidal”
path. As a consequence of these existential terms, the theory often coincides, directly or indirectly,
with calls for violence.

10 people died yesterday, not because of a "mental health" problem, but because of right-wing propaganda. Tucker Carlson, Deval Patrick, Matt Gaetz, and many others are guilty of propagating this issue. And that list most definitely includes Donald Trump. He's been preaching variations on white replacement for several years, along with many other absurd conspiracies.

Let's talk about gun control laws for a minute. The Buffalo shooter is only 18, but he could legally purchase the assault rifle he used yesterday. Think about that. You have to be 21 in New York (state) to get a permit for a handgun, but an AR-15? No problem. And no Federal background check, so even if this kid had a reported mental health issue or criminal record, there's no process to stop him from buying a high velocity/capacity combat weapon.

Here in NC, professional gun dealers are required to do Federal background checks on assault rifles, but not private sellers. Ergo the gun show loophole, which is a gathering of professional and private sellers. As such, we are part of a pipeline that supplies dangerous weapons all the way up the East Coast, and our inability to develop common-sense gun-control measures causes needless death and destruction as a result.

Combine that with our apparent lack of concern about the growing threat of White Supremacy, and you have a recipe for race-inspired violence that will only get worse in the near future. Yes, it's a frightening proposition. And the only way to avert that crisis is in the ballot box.