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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Duke and DENR sittin' in a tree... (w/video)

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 at 5:19 PM

When you're already screwing things up, why not go for broke? That could be the thinking behind the latest coal ash-related decision at the N.C. Department of Energy and Natural Resources. Or maybe thinking doesn't have much to do with it. As WRAL in Raleigh reported, DENR officials told a Superior Court judge that they may reinstate, and even expand, the coal-ash "settlement," or consent order, the agency reached with Duke Energy over coal ash spills at two sites. DENR, you may remember, had withdrawn the consent order shortly after the Feb. 2 Dan River coal-ash debacle. The order would have fined Duke a measly $99,000 and allowed the utility to decide when and how to handle its coal-ash ponds; the order was announced just in time to legally bar environmental groups from suing Duke. That weak slap on the wrist is believed to be the impetus for a federal investigation, announced last week, into whether DENR and Duke colluded in order to keep costly lawsuits by environmentalists at bay.

So why would DENR want to reinstate the consent order? Lawyers for DENR say the agency may add new provisions to the order, or may "expand the overall scope of the Consent Order to include additional facilities." One could interpret DENR's explanation to mean it will add more penalties to the order; or it could mean that DENR plans to fold all 14 Duke-owned coal ash ponds into the agreement, which could legally reduce the likelihood of Duke having to pay massive fines for its coal-ash carelessness. There is little doubt in environmentalists' mind which of those possibilities is behind DENR's unexpected reinstatement of the consent order.

D.J. Gerken, senior attorney at Southern Environmental Law Center, told WRAL, "DENR is apparently considering the possibility of shielding more Duke Energy coal ash pits under its do-nothing settlement deal with Duke, which requires no real action to clean up those coal ash lagoons." If Gerken is right, it would be a stunningly brazen decision from DENR which is already on the N.C. public's shit list for going light on a company that has covered 70 miles of riverbed with up to 40,000 tons of toxic coal ash. Perhaps DENR honcho John "Oil is a renewable resource" Skvarla knows the jig is up and he's bucking for a job with Duke Energy after he leaves government. Or maybe DENR and the McCrory administration are freaking out over the federal investigation and they're throwing anything out there to try to save their butts, and hoping something sticks. Either way, DENR's new "strategy" could be the only good coal ash news Duke gets for awhile, coming as it did the day before another report - this one from the Public News Service - revealed that some highly successful companies, including several in North Carolina, are paying little to no federal income tax. Duke Energy, one of the companies in the report, made $9 billion in profit during the past eight years but paid zero federal income tax.

On Tuesday, activists gathered in front of Duke Energy to protest the company's treatment of coal ash. Duke eventually accepted the petition mentioned in the video.

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Venezuelans in Charlotte join countrymen around the world in peaceful protest

Posted By on Tue, Feb 25, 2014 at 9:39 AM

The first time I went to Venezuela to meet and visit with my soon-to-be husband's family, I purchased a refrigerator magnet in the Caracas airport of the Cuban and Venezuelan flags joined together. I knew that the reason the magnet existed is because of Cuba and Venezuela's political ties, ties that would lead the wealthy South American oil producing nation down the same path of totalitarianism, scarcity and human right violations as the paradisiacal Caribbean island from which I hail, but I bought the magnet anyway. Today, eight years later, it's still on our fridge and holds a picture of the beautiful American family Tony and I have made out of his Venezuelan and my Cuban roots. In our home, that magnet is a cutesy representation of our union, but in broader political terms, it signifies a toxic partnership between two of the most ruthless and divisive dictators on this side of the planet.

It's possible that you might not have heard about what's been happening in Venezuela over the past couple of weeks - American media seems much more preoccupied with the crisis in Ukraine - but the situation in the South American country is critical, and it's only getting worse.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Regarding Reid's, Charlotte Observer misses an opportunity

Posted By on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 at 2:49 PM

On Monday, the Charlotte Observer published a story about an employee at a local specialty food store who was fired after telling Gov. Pat McCrory, a customer, "thanks for nothing." The story has been picked up by MSNBC, the Huffington Post, and the Guardian. The Observer's editorial board has since weighed in, kicking off a piece - that seems to have been written entirely by commenters of the news story - with a reference to McCrory's golf game?

Odd metaphors aside, the editorial board's point is this: On Sunday, McCrory missed an opportunity to come off as "magnanimous" by not respectfully engaging the employee following his comment.

But here's where the Observer - both the news department and the editorial board - come off as anything but.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

BREAKING: Protest of Duke Energy coal ash policies set for noon Thursday

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 10:41 AM

Good for the Charlotte Observer. This morning their editorial page calls for Duke Energy to finally do something about its coal ash ponds. Four days after a Duke coal ash poind started leaking harzardous chemicals into the Dan River, there is still no word from Duke that it is even considering revising how it deals with leftover coal ash. That's not remotely good enough. The Dan River mess is a terrible reminder that critics of coal ash ponds have been right along about the disastrous potential of these unlined, ill-tended sludge pits. Here is a key excerpt from the Observer's editorial:

What can Duke do? Clean the unlined ponds. Recycle the coal ash or move it to dry, lined landfills. That's what two South Carolina utilities have agreed to do in settling a lawsuit with the Southern Environmental Law Center, Catawba Riverkeeper and other groups. Yes, moving the coal ash is more expensive than leaving it where it is, but it's nowhere near the legal and financial cost of a coal ash failure that contaminates a water supply.
You can read the rest of the editorial here if you have a digital subscription to the daily.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

About that banner Common Market took down this week...

Posted By on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 2:58 PM

This week, the jury selection begins for Jordan Davis, a black teen in my hometown, in Florida, who was shot by a white man in an argument that started when the white man demanded that Davis turn his music down.

This week, there is national outrage at two beloved, iconic brands for having the audacity to acknowledge in their most high-profile advertising of the year, that cultures other than white exist in America.

This week, Richard Sherman wore a shiny new Superbowl ring, in addition to having a degree from Stanford, the second highest GPA of his graduating class and a successful charity providing school supplies to underprivileged children. Despite all these things, he is referred to as a "thug" for his dreadlocks and unapologetic pride in his accomplishments.

This week is the first Monday of a month dedicated to black history, which exists because during the other 11 months of the year, only European white history is covered in our children's' school textbooks.


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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Obama executive orders I'd love to see

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Well, that took Obama long enough, didn't it? After five years of endless obstruction by the far-right GOP nihilists in Congress, Obama finally decided to rely on executive orders in order to get anything done. Since last night's State of the Union address in which the president shared his new strategy, the usual goobers' cries of "socialist," "dictator" and such haven't stopped. Frankly, though, what did the tea partiers expect would happen if they kept making it nearly impossible for Congress to pass anything important? I am not comfortable with government by executive order, and there are serious limits on what a president can really do on his/her own, but as long as Republicans continue to fantasize about dictators throwing executive orders around, I say give 'em what they're expecting. With that in mind, here are some executive orders I'd like to see Obama hand out in the next few months.

Seeger gets his due

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rock Hill resident sells bread and milk through Charlotte Craigslist ad in advance of snow

Posted By on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 4:47 PM

It seems to happen every year. Before the first predicted snowflakes can ever fall in Charlotte, without fail bread and milk will fly off the shelves. It's a phenomenon that, as a Northern transplant, I still don't quite understand. How often has that extra bread and milk really come in handy?

A Rock Hill resident is taking advantage of this predictable run on bread and milk, offering up the "snowstorm" staples with a posting to the Charlotte Craigslist "General For Sale By Owner" section.

The ad, titled "Bread and milk for sale yes for real" reads (original grammar uncorrected):

"I have picked up 100 loafs of bunny bread and 100 gallons of milk. I have them ready to be picked up. I am selling them for $25 each or $40 for both. Cash only. And pick up only. I am right next to cherry park in rock hill sc. Email me your phone number and I will call you with the meeting time."


One would like to believe that no one will be silly enough to respond to this ad and overpay for bread and milk that they aren't going to end up needing anyway, but if the grocery store aisles are any indication, this individual may be onto something.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Far-right group backs sea-level denier guy for Congress

Posted By on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 3:59 PM

The Citizens United Political Victory Fund, a longtime far-right Washington, D.C., PAC, today endorsed North Carolina's own Wizard of Unreality for Congress. That would be N.C. Sen. David Rouzer, who is running in the GOP primary for the 7th Congressional District, which covers much of the southeastern part of the state, including Wilmington. Current 7th District congressman Mike McIntyre, who narrowly beat Rouzer in 2012, is retiring.


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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

WTF?! McCrory leads off annual MLK Jr. prayer breakfast

Posted By on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Martin Luther King Jr. has been dead for nearly 46 years; since then, his public image has gradually been watered down from the political warrior he was to a more saintly, almost cuddly, "peace and love" character. I understand that it was probably inevitable that King's vital role as the 20th century's most effective fighter for racial and economic justice would be toned down once we entered a more conservative era beginning in the 1980s. Yet someone still has to ask...

What in God's name was Pat McCrory doing giving the first speech at the annual MLK Jr. prayer breakfast?

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Former CL news editor campaigns to take down notorious racist's statue

Posted By on Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 12:34 PM

Here is a shout-out to former CL news editor Will Moredock. These days the South Carolina native, now living in Charleston, is combining his love for history and justice into a new crusade that S.C. has needed for some time. Moredock has launched a social media and email campaign to have the large statue of former S.C. governor and U.S. senator "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman removed from the statehouse in Columbia. On Tuesday, a full-page ad in The State newspaper (shown below), purchased by Moredock, initiated the Down With Tillman campaign, along with media interviews in S.C.


Tillman has long been the subject of great controversy. A prototype of the classic Southern racist demagogue, he led a group of post-Civil War vigilantes that killed more than a hundred blacks who had the audacity to hold political meetings. After being elected governor in 1890, he announced that he would personally lead a lynch mob if it was going to kill "a negro that ravishes a white woman," and stated that he would rather his daughters be killed by a wild animal than to know that "she had been robbed of the jewel of her womanhood by a black fiend." The murder of black men was an ongoing theme of Tillman's political career, including his years in the U.S. Senate from 1895 to 1918, during which he was censured for physically attacking a fellow senator on the floor of the Senate. Here are more choice quotes from Tillman's statue-inspiring career (Be warned: They're not for the faint of heart):

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