Wednesday News: Rampant ignorance


NC VACCINATIONS HAVE DROPPED BY HALF IN THE LAST MONTH: In the week of April 5, over 680,000 people in North Carolina received a dose of the vaccine, with over 336,000 of those being first doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, both of which require two doses to be effective against the virus. This past week, administered doses were under 337,500, with just 92,000 of those being first doses, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. To get to two-thirds of the adult population with at least one dose, 1.3 million more adults in the state would have to get the first dose, a figure the state could reach in a month if vaccine numbers return to the early April level and stay there. “It’s really up to North Carolina about when we reach that,” Cohen said. “I’m hoping we can reach it as soon into the summer as possible, but it may take longer than that.”

ANTI-VAXXERS DEMONSTRATE (THEIR IGNORANCE) OUTSIDE LEGISLATURE: The opponents called for "body autonomy," saying they shouldn't be forced to get the shot. Many said the vaccines are still experimental and could be unsafe. "If you’re forced to put something in your body without your consent, that literally is Nazi Germany. This is basic human rights were talking about," said a man who identified himself only as "David." Health experts say the risks posed by coronavirus and other communicable diseases far outweigh the potential side-effects from vaccines. "I’m really concerned about all the people who will be discriminated [against] if they can’t get a vaccine," Monica Molina said. "We’re discriminating against a whole class of people, and that’s not what this country is founded on." Natalya Androsova, who came to the U.S. from Russia 22 years ago, said requiring vaccinations smacks of communism. "I don’t want my child and myself to be vaccinated against my will," she said. The coronavirus vaccine isn't mandatory, and there's no effort in North Carolina for so-called "vaccine passports" to document whether someone has been vaccinated in order to board a plane, get inside a business or obtain some other service.

NC SENATE PUSHES BLANKET PERMITTING OF HOG FARM BIOGAS OPERATIONS: A N.C. Senate Committee on Tuesday approved a bill that would grant blanket permission to the state’s hog farmers to begin harvesting and selling methane gas from hog waste lagoons — a move popular with farmers that environmentalists say would further contaminate communities with large Black and Hispanic populations. “These permits would lock in the lagoon and spray field system which causes these harms, and DEQ failed to require that Smithfield install cleaner technology, which the law requires,” Hildebrand said. Hildebrand pointed to water quality concerns from lagoons and spray fields, as well as concerns about air quality and odors that have been raised during federal nuisance lawsuits against Murphy-Brown. State laws passed in 2017 and 2018 limit the awards neighbors of hog farms could receive in any future lawsuits, although environmental groups have challenged those portions of the Farm Acts of 2017 and 2018. Janet Melvin, a resident of Roseboro in Sampson County, spoke against the bill during Tuesday’s meeting. Most of Sampson County’s hog farms are on the southern end of the county, Melvin said, in communities with high proportions of Black and Hispanic people.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT LOOKS TO BAR WHITE SUPREMACISTS FROM MILITARY SERVICE: Pentagon officials are considering new restrictions on service members’ interactions with far-right groups, part of the military’s reckoning with extremism, but the measures could trigger legal challenges from critics who say they would violate First Amendment rights. Under a review launched by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Defense Department officials are reexamining rules governing troops’ affiliations with anti-government and white supremacist movements, ties that currently are permissible in limited circumstances. Austin, who has pledged zero tolerance for extremism, ordered the review after the events of Jan. 6, when rioters including a few dozen veterans — and a handful of current service members — stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the presidential election results. A newly formed extremism task force, which includes officials from across the Defense Department, has until July to make recommendations on potential changes to military justice, rules on extremism and related issues that apply to uniformed military personnel, the Coast Guard and Defense Department civilians. Current and former officials say that Pentagon lawyers, also part of the task force, are likely to take a cautious approach in considering new restrictions on service members’ First Amendment rights, especially in an area of the law that many experts characterize as untested. But even before Jan. 6, a spate of reported cases highlighted what appears to be an alarming rise. Sometimes, it has taken more than a year to discharge individuals known to support extremist causes, as occurred in the case of an airman who belonged to the white supremacist group Identity Evropa.

HOUSE DEMS ARE RETIRING AT AN ALARMING RATE, REPUBLICANS LOOK TO TAKE BACK MAJORITY: In the past two months, five House Democrats from competitive districts have announced they won’t seek re-election next year. They include Representative Charlie Crist of Florida, who on Tuesday kicked off a campaign for governor, and Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, who will run for the Senate seat being vacated by Rob Portman. Three other Democrats will leave seats vacant in districts likely to see significant change once they are redrawn using the data from the 2020 census, and several more are weighing bids for higher office. An early trickle of retirements by House members in competitive districts is often the first sign of a coming political wave. In the 2018 cycle, 48 House Republicans didn’t seek re-election — and Democrats won 14 of those vacancies. Now Republicans are salivating over the prospect of reversing that dynamic and erasing the Democrats’ six-seat advantage. Democrats face other vexing challenges as well: Republican legislators control redistricting in key states where they can draw boundaries in their favor. Redistricting alone — with Republicans controlling mapmaking in three times as many districts as Democrats — could provide Republicans the seats they need to control the House. And historic political trends almost always work against the president’s party in midterm elections. This could be just the beginning of the Democratic departures: The high season for congressional retirements typically comes in early fall after members spend the August recess taking the political temperature of their districts.