Thursday News: Hold your horses...


ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS STILL NOT HAPPY WITH REVAMPED ENERGY BILL: The solar industry questioned some of the bill's language, with Carolinas Clean Energy Business Association lobbyist Alex Miller saying "there could be years of expensive” litigation to clear up "ambiguities" in the bill. Miller did not elaborate, but solar companies have gone round after round with Duke in recent years over how much solar power can be added to the grid at what cost. "But, ultimately, the bill still allows Duke Energy too much room to wiggle out of carbon reductions, and we can't squeeze our noses hard enough to support it," North Carolina League of Conservation Voters lobbyist Dan Crawford said in a statement. "It would allow Duke too much power to thwart our clean energy future and pad its profits at the expense of low-income communities and North Carolinians of color, and could give Duke veto power equal to that of the Utilities Commission." Is there such a thing as a reverse bait-and-switch, where they start with something horrendous and tweak it a little? Sorry, having a bad vocabulary day.

MAKE SURE YOUR KIDS ARE READING SOMETHING, ALL THE TIME: More than 30% of North Carolina third-grade students failed to meet state promotion standards at the end of last school year due to their poor reading scores. A new report presented at Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting shows that only 43.7% of third-grade students demonstrated reading proficiency, even after getting a second chance at a summer reading camp. As a result, 31% of third-grade students were retained at the end of the 2020-21 school year, double the rate before the coronavirus pandemic. The “retained” label means 34,862 students are either repeating third-grade, were placed in a 4th-grade accelerated class or a transitional 3rd-grade/4th-grade class. Their records list them as being “retained” until they can show they’ve met reading standards. North Carolina’s 1.5 million public school students received only limited amounts of in-person instruction last school year due to the pandemic. A state report about learning loss is scheduled to be presented to the state board in March.

SAY THEIR NAMES: YUSOR, RAZAN, AND DEAH: In 2015, three Muslim college students were gunned down in a Chapel Hill apartment. Deah Barakat, his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, were killed by neighbor in what prosecutors called a hate crime against Muslims. To honor their work, the DEAH Day of Service was created to honor the three students who enjoyed giving back more than anything, according to loved ones. "Even still, their legacy holds strong and the impact they have made will last for years done the line," said organizer Fariah Haque. Haque, a fourth year dental student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said DEAH Day of Service was to honor and continue all the work Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha started. On Wednesday, 12 patients received free dental care at the Dyor clinic, which was established in memory of Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha to provide free dental care for refugees and low-income families. "We hope to continue their legacy through the Dyor clinic," said Haque. Orkod fi Salam.

TELL ME AGAIN HOW BILLIONAIRES ARE JOB CREATORS AND "BENEFICIAL" TO HUMANITY? One Israeli billionaire, for example, was accused of using shell companies to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from Congo, one of the poorest countries in the world. He denied the allegations. A Venezuelan television tycoon used shell companies in what U.S. prosecutors say was a $1 billion bribery scheme. His attorney did not respond to requests for comment. At least seven Russian oligarch billionaires under sanction by the United States have shell companies in the documents, too. A shell company “gives people a cloak of invisibility — they’re hidden from tax authorities. They’re hidden from law enforcement. They’re hidden from government authorities of all kinds,” said Tom Cardamone, president of Global Financial Integrity, a research and advocacy organization focused on illicit money, trade and corruption. Estimates vary widely about how much money is out there, but loosely speaking, it’s a lot: from $1 trillion to more than $25 trillion. The most common type of estimate is based on national economic figures on investment, and such estimates generally come in the range of $5 trillion to $8 trillion. Roughly, that corresponds to about 10 percent of global gross domestic product. Exactly who owns that wealth is more difficult to know. One of the best-known estimates comes from a 2019 study that found that the wealthiest 0.01 percent of households owned 50 percent of financial assets held in foreign jurisdictions. “The evidence shows that the very wealthy have the means and sophisticated legal help to hide money,” said Annette Alstadsaeter, a professor at the Centre for Tax Research at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and one of the authors of the study. Of course this is no big surprise, but it's infuriating, nonetheless.

TRUMP GETS DROPPED FROM FORBES RICHEST 400 LIST (Cue Nelson saying, "Haha!"): In 1982, when Forbes magazine launched its rich list, a compilation of the 400 wealthiest Americans, a young Donald Trump made the coveted roster, but only to reflect that he held some ill-defined portion of his family’s real estate fortune. The publicity-hungry developer launched a decades-long campaign to gain a permanent position on the list, claiming an ever-ballooning net worth that would push him up the ranks of the nation’s richest people. Money, Trump said, was how people “keep score” in life. This week, for the first time in more than a quarter-century, Forbes dropped Trump from the list entirely, reporting that the former president is now worth about $2.5 billion — the same as last year, but as the rich get richer, stasis won’t cut it on the rich list. Trump’s worth is down about $600 million since the start of the pandemic, the magazine reported, leaving him $400 million short of qualifying for this year’s Forbes 400. Trump, whose spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment, will not be happy. For nearly four decades, he has devoted enormous effort to assuring his place on the list, lobbying Forbes’s editors, presenting extensive figures designed to prove his wealth, even making phony phone calls to Forbes reporters in the 1980s, claiming to be “John Barron,” a fictitious PR man representing Trump and making his case for a higher rank on the list. I wonder how long it will take for Trump's son Barron to figure out where his name came from? Cue Nelson again...