Tuesday News: Snowflakes in May

REPUBLICANS WANT TO CONCEAL-CARRY IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Three unidentified Council members and “many” House members requested the permit exemptions, according to the chief bill sponsor, Republican Rep. Keith Kidwell of Beaufort County. Kidwell said he's received death threats in the past, and expects other colleagues have as well. Another co-sponsor, GOP Rep. Mike Clampitt of Swain County, said he wore a bulletproof vest on the campaign trail last fall. Bill opponents focused on the portion of the measure that would allow for armed legislators in their offices, committee rooms and on the House and Senate chamber floors. The legislative complex has undergone significant security upgrades in the past three years, with the installation of metal detectors at the main entrances and ID badges for legislators, staff and news media. “We just spent untold dollars protecting our means of ingress and egress. And we have a robust police force," said Rep. Deb Butler, a New Hanover County Democrat. “I just think that this is just a terrible idea.”

FAMILIES WOULD VIEW BODYCAM VIDEO WITHIN 5 DAYS UNDER PROPOSED CHANGE TO LAW: The changes proposed Monday would keep the current system for making the footage public. However, the change would allow the family or representatives of anyone killed or seriously injured by the police to watch the footage within five days of the incident. “The family needs to know,” said Sen. Toby Fitch, a Democrat from Wilson who proposed the changes. Law enforcement would have the opportunity to object, saying they either shouldn’t show the video at all or should redact parts of it. But the burden would be on law enforcement to prove that, rather than the burden falling on the family to make an argument for seeing the footage, as is currently the case. The bill could be voted on by the full Senate as early as this week, after which it would go to the House of Representatives and, if it also passes there, to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper for final approval.

GASOLINE SHORTAGES DUE TO HACKED PIPELINE BEGIN TO PLAGUE NC: Several gas stations in the Triangle are struggling to keep the pumps open following a cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline. A BP station and a Shell station on Olive Chapel Road in Apex were out of fuel before sunrise on Tuesday morning. Bags were seen on pumps, which were labeled with "out of gas" notices. A gas truck did arrive at the BP station around 8 a.m. as drivers showed up in big numbers when the station reopened. The White House is monitoring supply shortages in parts of the Southeast and President Joe Biden is directing federal agencies to bring their resources to bear. On Monday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed an Executive Order declaring a state of emergency in North Carolina. The order suspends motor vehicle fuel regulations to guarantee the state has adequate fuel supply. The pipeline delivers about 45% of the fuel consumed on the East Coast and had to halt operations last week after revealing a ransomware attack that it said had affected some of its systems. Colonial is a primary fuel pipeline for North Carolina. In addition, the pipeline's website appeared to be down on Tuesday morning.

COLONIAL PIPELINE ATTACK LIKELY ORIGINATED IN RUSSIA: So far, intelligence officials said, all of the indications are that it was simply an act of extortion by the group, which first began to deploy such ransomware last August and is believed to operate from Eastern Europe, possibly Russia. There was some evidence, even in the group’s own statements on Monday, that suggested the group had intended simply to extort money from the company, and was surprised that it ended up cutting off the main gasoline and jet fuel supplies for the Eastern Seaboard. The explosion of ransomware cases has been fueled by the rise of cyberinsurance — which has made many companies and governments ripe targets for criminal gangs that believe their targets will pay — and of cryptocurrencies, which make extortion payments harder to trace. In this case, the ransomware was not directed at the control systems of the pipeline, federal officials and private investigators said, but rather the back-office operations of Colonial Pipeline. Nonetheless, the fear of greater damage forced the company to shut down the system, a move that drove home the huge vulnerabilities in the patched-together network that keeps gas stations, truck stops and airports running. Mr. Biden, who is expected to announce an executive order in the coming days to strengthen America’s cyberdefenses, said there was no evidence that the Russian government was behind the attack. But he said he planned to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia soon — the two men are expected to hold their first summit next month — and he suggested Moscow bore some responsibility because DarkSide is believed to have roots in Russia and the country provides a haven for cybercriminals. “There are governments that turn a blind eye or affirmatively encourage these groups, and Russia is one of those countries,” said Christopher Painter, the United States’ former top cyberdiplomat. “Putting pressure on safe havens for these criminals has to be a part of any solution.”

DUPLIN COUNTY HOG FARMS ARE KILLING 89 LOCAL PEOPLE EACH YEAR: The smell of hog feces was overwhelming, Elsie Herring said. The breezes that wafted from the hog farm next to her mother’s Duplin County, N.C., home carried hazardous gases: methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide. “The odor is so offensive that we start gagging, we start coughing,” she told a congressional committee in November 2019. Herring, who died last week, said she and other residents developed headaches, breathing problems and heart conditions from the fumes. Now, a first-of-its-kind study shows that air pollution from Duplin County farms is linked to roughly 98 premature deaths per year, 89 of which are linked to emissions directly caused by hogs. Those losses are among more than 17,000 annual deaths attributable to pollution from farms across the United States, according to research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Animal agriculture is the worst emitter, researchers say, responsible for 80 percent of deaths from pollution related to food production. Gases associated with manure and animal feed produce small, lung-irritating particles capable of drifting hundreds of miles. These emissions now account for more annual deaths than pollution from coal power plants. Yet, while pollution from power plants, factories and vehicles is restricted under the Clean Air Act, there is less regulation of air quality around farms. A spokesman for Smithfield Foods, which operates industrial hog operations in Duplin County, referred The Washington Post to a 2019 report in which the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality said it did not find significant air-quality problems in the region. Maybe because McCrory's DEQ dismantled numerous air quality monitoring devices?



All it will take ...

... for the GOP legislatures to have some serious rotten egg on their faces is to have one of their conceal-carry members shoot themselves in the nuts on the floor during a heated debate. Or worse.

If Rep. Kidwell is that intimidated by all the Black and female Democratic colleagues he's seeing in the legislature, maybe he needs to talk to his doctor about Viagra.