Thursday, July 8, 2010

Alvin Greene: the new G.I. Joe?

Posted By on Thu, Jul 8, 2010 at 1:55 PM

Bizarre South Carolina candidate for the U.S. Senate Alvin Greene believes that he can stimulate S.C.'s economy by creating action figures of himself. Seriously. I wonder if the action figures will be wearing the green shirt he seems to wear in all his interviews?

Here are three interviews of Greene showing how he plans on helping his state out if he is elected.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The powerful Sen. Graham

Posted By on Tue, Jul 6, 2010 at 8:52 AM

Sunday, in a five-page spread in the paper's weekly magazine, The New York Times declared S.C. Sen. Lindsey Graham "This Year's Maverick." (Read the article, by Robert Draper, here.)

In the profile, Graham, a Republican member of the U.S. Senate for only seven years, is portrayed as someone who views being disliked by both political extremes as an opportunity to seize the position of "deal-maker-in-chief."

Why do the extremes hate him?

Graham preaches bipartisanship when Tea Partiers want blood. He dropped his support of the very climate legislation (the article quotes him as preferring to call it "energy independence" legislation) he once co-sponsored after Sen. Harry Reid bumped immigration reform to the top of the Senate's to-do list. He has, according to his own count and the chagrin of the "Party of No," visited the West Wing of the White House nearly 20 times since Barack Obama became president. And, he admits he's told the Obama administration he'll likely vote to confirm Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, but first he aims to out her as a liberal.

That's why far-right talking heads and bloggers pick on him like schoolyard bullies and liberals find him irritating, though he doesn't seem to care. (Conservative bullhorns accuse him of being gay, he responds by cracking jokes.)

In the article, the life-long bachelor and policy wonk admits he doesn't have a life. Though that's fine by him, crafting policies that will shape America's future is his idea of a fun time anyway. What does matter to him is that the White House and the GOP respect his role as a deal maker.

"I offer myself as a bridge, and I take a beating for that," the senator says in the article when energy and climate legislation came up, "and I get rewarded for that."

Unfortunately for him, however, the author points out his bipartisan bend has produced no "legislative triumph."

In this three-year-old video, Sen. Graham discusses immigration and what it means to be an American, saying, "... we're going to tell the bigots to shut up." Some folks on the far-right claimed his comments are "insane" and that the event was "racist."

Further reading: N.C. Sen. Richard Burr's energy bill backs nuclear -- The Charlotte Observer

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Creative Loafing’s Theater Awards return!

Posted By on Wed, Apr 14, 2010 at 11:11 AM

After a long hiatus, Creative Loafing is bringing back its annual Theater Awards (aka the “Perry Awards.”) Here’s CL’s resident theater critic Perry Tannenbaum (hence the “aka”) with all the details (Be sure to stick around to the end of the video for a surprise climax!):

(Video produced by John Merrick and Big Shot Film. Find them at: bigshotfilm.com. Thanks to CAST for use of the space.)

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cleaning up after dirty coal

Posted By on Tue, Apr 6, 2010 at 8:40 AM

In 2002, the state passed a law meant to curb acid rain. The new law meant coal plants had to figure out how to trap sulfur in their smoke stacks, preventing it from entering the air. Eight years later, Charlotte's Shaw Power Group and Alstom Environmental Control Systems, of Tennessee, are working to help Duke Energy meet the state's 2013 deadline at its coal plants. There are at least three coal plants in the Charlotte area, one in Belmont, one on Lake Norman and another on Mountain Island Lake.

The Mecklenburg Times' Sam Boykin reports:

Duke Energy’s four largest plants in North Carolina, which operate around the clock, needed radical filtering implants.

In 2003 Shaw Power Group formed a consortium with Alstom Environmental Control Systems of Knoxville, Tenn. The consortium won Duke Energy contracts to retrofit the four with flue gas desulfurization units, known by a much less lofty title: scrubbers. They are designed to reduce such harmful emissions as sulfur dioxide.

Jim McCarthy, Shaw Power Group’s chief mechanical engineer, said the company opened its Charlotte offices in 2004.

“Initially it was because we had contracts with Duke Energy, but Shaw Power realized there would likely be other opportunities and projects,” McCarthy said. “There was a lot of potential in the power industry in general, not just in the environmental retrofit sector.”

That project will bring Duke Energy into full compliance with the CSA 2013 deadline, Thompson said. “Overall,” he said, “we expect by the end of 2010 to reduce our system (sulfur dioxide) emissions by 70 percent in our five-state territory, and total (sulfur dioxide) reduction for North Carolina will be 75 percent by 2013 over 2000 emission levels.”

Read the entire article here.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, acid rain is harmful because it can make it difficult for people with asthma or other respiratory issues to breathe. It can also corrode buildings, statues, monuments and cars, peel paint, damage waterways and forests and cause ground-level ozone.

Yesterday, Charlotte experienced it's first Code Orange day of the year due to elevated levels of ozone.

Get daily updates on Charlotte's air quality on Twitter from the North Carolina Division of Air Quality.

How burning coal leads to acid rain:

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

'Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition'

Posted By on Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 10:56 AM

Well. That's nice.

For decades, women have paid more for health insurance. A lot more. But, thanks to health care reform, that trend has come to an abrupt end.

In the broadest sense, the new health care law forbids sex discrimination in health insurance. Previously, there was no such ban, and insurance companies took full advantage of the void.

Until now, it has been perfectly legal in most states for companies selling individual health policies — for people who do not have group coverage through employers — to engage in “gender rating,” that is, charging women more than men for the same coverage, even for policies that do not include maternity care. The rationale was that women used the health care system more than men. But some companies charged women who did not smoke more than men who did, even though smokers have more risks. The differences in premiums, from 4 percent to 48 percent, according to a 2008 analysis by the law center, can add up to hundreds of dollars a year. The individual market is the one that many people turn to when they lose their jobs and their group coverage.

Insurers have also applied gender-rating to group coverage, but laws against sex discrimination in the workplace prevent employers from passing along the higher costs to their employees based on sex. Gender rating has taken a particular toll on smaller or midsize businesses with many women, like home-health care, child care and nonprofits. As a result, some businesses have been unable to offer health coverage or have been able to afford it only by using plans with very high deductibles.

In addition, individual policies often excluded maternity coverage, or charged much more for it. Now, gender rating is essentially outlawed, and policies must include maternity coverage, considered “an essential health benefit.”

In a statement issued Thursday, Senator Mikulski said: “One of my hearings revealed that a woman was denied coverage because she had a baby with a medically mandated C-section. When she tried to get insurance coverage with another company, she was told she had to be sterilized in order to get health insurance. That will never, ever happen again because of what we did here with health care reform.”

Read the rest of this New York Times article, by Denise Grady, here.

Further reading:

From the U.S. Congress: How health care reform will help women:

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

BofA forgives you, homeowners

Posted By on Thu, Mar 25, 2010 at 10:20 AM

Well, kinda. Read on to find out more ...

Question is, do we forgive them for their part in the banking chaos that led directly to the Great Recession? I tell you what would help, a giant check made out to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Bank of America Corp. launched a program Wednesday that will offer mortgage-principal forgiveness worth about $3 billion to 45,000 borrowers.

The program will be used with other bank and federal efforts to help struggling homeowners, such as the Home Affordable Modification Program and National Homeownership Retention Program.

Only borrowers already eligible for loan modifications will be considered for the new program. And BofA says it will contact borrowers with the offer because only a limited group of customers will be eligible. The program is intended to serve borrowers who owe at least 120 percent of their home’s value and are more than 60 days past due on mortgage payments.

Any forgiveness will depend on the borrower making on-time payments for up to five years. If the home’s value rises, the amount of principal forgiven may be reduced.

Read the rest of this Charlotte Business Journal article, by Adam O'Daniel, here.

Who wrecked the economy?

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Library honchos: Budget cuts — take two

Posted By on Tue, Mar 23, 2010 at 9:30 AM

So far, the citizens of Charlotte-Mecklenburg and the Friends of the Library have raised roughly $135,000 in an effort to bolster the Charlotte Meckleburg Library's busted budget.

In other mildly hopeful news, the library's board of trustees plans to meet again tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. to discuss alternative ways to shave down the budget without axing half of the system's library locations.

Just like last week, the meeting will be live-tweeted. If you're interested in following the news as it happens, watch the #cmlibrary Twitter stream. (No need to sign up for an account if you don't already have one.)

Library Director Charles Brown said Monday that senior staff are reconsidering all their options on how to deal with immediate losses in county money, including additional salary and benefit cuts.

Steps already taken include four unpaid furlough days for the staff and a discontinuation of employer matches to the employee 401(k) program.

Brown said he and his staff will present their ideas to library trustees at a special meeting they've called for Wednesday, the deadline set to either find money to avoid the closure of 12 branches or to move ahead with them.

"We're looking at alternatives to see what steps can be worked on to avoid closings, such as having fairly significant service reductions instead," Brown said.

Library officials say cutting 148 staffers was the first option, because personnel accounts for 72 percent of the library system's budget.

Robin Branstrom, chair of the library board of trustees, said the board hopes to minimize the damage by significantly cutting hours or days of service at the system's 24 libraries, or charging fees for services.

Nearly every department and agency that receives county money has been told to brace for cuts, with the amount of possible reductions varying by where they fall on a list of priorities commissioners approved at their retreat last month, among other factors.

Some of the biggest cuts, percentage-wise, could come to areas like parks and libraries (50 percent each), public television station WTVI (100 percent) and non-profit agencies (about 74 percent).

The Sheriff's Office is facing nearly a $9 million cut for next year, or 11 percent.

Sheriff Chipp Bailey said he may cut services, such as shutting down the jail annex and moving inmates back into the central jail.

Read the entire Charlotte Observer article here.

Crossroads Charlotte is covering the impact of the library's closures from the patron's perspective. Here's yesterday's post, by Tonya Jameson: IMPACT ON ACCESS: Hickory Grove Just Opened, Faces Closure

To donate to the library's cause, click here. Sign up to volunteer here.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Celebrate beer this week

Posted By on Mon, Mar 22, 2010 at 1:50 PM

beer-toast

This week, Charlotte raises its glass and toasts, well, beer. The inaugural Charlotte Craft Beer Week jumped off last Friday and continues through March 28. Bars and restaurants all around town will be hosting various beer-related events, such as tastings of rare and exotic brews, showcases featuring local and regional breweries, food and beer pairing events, brewery tours and appearances by some major names in the brewing industry.

From www.charlottecraftbeerweek.org:

"The craft beer movement in the Carolinas really took off thanks to the Pop the Cap campaign which resulted in passage in 2005 of a bill in North Carolina to raise the maximum alcohol content in beer from 6 percent to 15 percent. In 2007, South Carolina went a bit further and raised its cap to 17.5 percent," said Darrin Pikarsky, founder of the Charlotte Beer Club. "Since that time dozens of unique beers have become available in the Charlotte area and a terrific new wave of North Carolina craft brewers have brought some world class beers to market."

The goal behind Charlotte Craft Beer Week is to celebrate a new golden age of beer in the Queen City and help introduce more people to the dozens of amazing beer styles and venues now available locally. Tickets for the events will be sold at each of the host locations.

Click here to see what kind of events are going on and when. Note to self: There are multiple things going on each night!

Why craft beer? Watch this video from Craftbeer.com.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How does the Q.C. rank on the green cities index?

Posted By on Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 10:36 AM

Not too shabby considering the city's recent attempts to re-brand itself as a green-job mecca.

Charlotte ranks No. 20 among 43 U.S. metro areas in a study of the nation’s “green cities.”

The Business Courier of Cincinnati, a sister publication of the Charlotte Business Journal, complied the Green Cities Index. It ranks metro areas based on environmental factors such as air and water quality, traffic congestion, transit use, carbon emissions, the number of energy-efficient buildings and green jobs.

The Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord metropolitan statistical area ranks No. 21 among the 43 markets for congestion and No. 27 for public transportation use.

The study found that 79 percent of the region’s workers drive alone to their jobs. Only 2.3 percent of the local work force uses public transit.

The region also gets low marks because of its smog, ranking No. 33 for air quality. Charlotte’s polluted streams, creeks and rivers place the region at No. 32 for water quality.

On the positive side, Charlotte placed No. 6 for its high number — 82 — of Energy Star-rated facilities. And it ranks No. 12 for the number of properties — 41 — certified under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program.

The green credentials of certain local professionals also boosted the region’s overall ranking. The region rates No. 6 for its high number of LEED-accredited architects and No. 2 for LEED-accredited professionals overall.

Charlotte ranks No. 19 for generation of energy from renewable sources.

Read the rest of this Charlotte Business Journal article, by Susan Stabley, here.

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