Thursday News: And so it begins

MANTEO BEACH HOUSE FALLS INTO THE ATLANTIC: A beach house on the North Carolina coast collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean, prompting the National Park Service to issue a warning to visitors on Wednesday for debris. The warning for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore targeted the beach and the ocean between the villages of Rodanthe and Salvo, a news release said. The bulk of the debris is at the site of the collapsed house in Rodanthe. But the news release said smaller amounts of debris have been spotted as far south as off-road vehicle ramp 23, more than 7 miles (11 km) away. The park service is communicating with Dare County to coordinate removal of the house and all related debris on the beach, according to the news release. WAVY reports it was a five-bedroom cottage just south of the Hatteras Island Fishing Pier that was built in 1980. The station reports another oceanfront home disappeared overnight from the beach at Rodanthe in 2020. Whether from super hurricanes or rising seas, the days are numbered for the Outer Banks. Enjoy them while you can.

NC DHHS NEEDS HELP HELPING PEOPLE, MAYBE THAT MEANS YOU? As a result, employees are needed to work overtime. For some, it’s a way to add to their limited paychecks. For others, it’s another factor leading to burnout. Workers are leaving, and replacements are harder to recruit, for reasons that vary depending on who you ask. Some of it has to do with COVID-19, but workers said the pandemic has only exacerbated problems already there. The Department of Health and Human Services has nearly 3,500 open positions among its 18,300 jobs. Most of those, nearly 2,300, are within its Division of State Operated Healthcare Facilities, which has 11,000 employees. The most difficult positions to fill are health care positions like nurses, health care technicians, clinical social workers and psychiatrists, DHHS spokesperson Bailey Pennington said. There are also shortages in information technology, engineering and human resources. These were tough jobs even before the pandemic.

ALMOST ALL TEACHERS ARE FANTASTIC. ALMOST: A North Carolina high school teacher has been suspended without pay after a search of his classroom turned up a loaded gun, knives and ammunition, officials said Wednesday. Jason Hensley, 47, was suspended by Montgomery County Schools pending further disciplinary action, the news release said. In a news release, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said it was called on Feb. 5 by school superintendent Dale Ellis to investigate reports of a teacher having a gun in their classroom at Montgomery Central High School. A search of Hensley's desk turned up a loaded .380-caliber handgun, the sheriff's office said. The school system said in a separate news release that an additional investigation of the classroom turned up concealed items which included knives and ammunition. Hensley, who is a health-science teacher at the high school, is a part-time police officer with the town of Mount Gilead. The sheriff's office said while he may have been in violation of school system policy, there was nothing illegal about having the gun in the classroom. No problem, I keep it right here in my desk, next to the bathroom passes.

ON THE PLUS SIDE, HE PROBABLY NEVER READ THE DAMN THINGS ANYWAY: The National Archives and Records Administration has asked the Justice Department to examine Donald Trump’s handling of White House records, sparking discussions among federal law enforcement officials about whether they should investigate the former president for a possible crime, according to two people familiar with the matter. The referral from the National Archives came amid recent revelations that officials recovered 15 boxes of materials from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida that were not handed back in to the government as they should have been, and that Trump had turned over other White House records that had been torn up. Archives officials suspected Trump had possibly violated laws concerning the handling of government documents — including those that might be considered classified — and reached out to the Justice Department, the people familiar with the matter said. The Washington Post reported late last month that some of the White House records the National Archives turned over to the committee appeared to have been torn apart and then taped back together. Yep, that's another felony to add to his long list.

YES, THERE IS ROOM FOR GENETICALLY-MODIFIED ORGANISMS IN AGRICULTURE: Powdery mildew certainly sounds unappealing, but for wheat farmers the fungus can mean a serious hit to the pocketbook. It infects crops, yellowing leaves and stunting growth. In countries where the blight is common, like China, the microbe can destroy up to 40% of a field, making it one of the most damaging and costly pathogens for wheat farmers. Now, researchers have developed a gene-edited wheat that’s impervious to the fungus, without stunting the grain’s growth. The approach might work in other crops such as strawberries and cucumbers as well, the team says. If the yields are confirmed by further research, “this really could be a game changer” for wheat breeders, says plant biologist Beat Keller of the University of Zurich, who was not involved with the work. “Advances like this are highly needed,” adds plant pathologist Peter van Esse of the Sainsbury Laboratory, who was also not involved. Reducing chemical use is good for the environment, he says, and disease resistant plants are especially helpful for farmers in the developing world who might not have access to pesticides. The team also compared growth of the gene-edited wheat in limited field trials. The modified plants grew just as tall as other wheat. And when the researchers counted the kernels of grain on each of about 30 plants from the plots, there was no statistically significant difference, they report today in Nature.