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Saturday News: Hog wild

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CURRENT LAWSUITS MOVE FORWARD IN HOG FARM NUISANCE CLAIMS: Last October, over the objections of Murphy-Brown, the court allowed investigators to visit the hog farms, take air-quality samples, record video evidence, send in drones and catch as many pathogen transmission vectors – flies – as they could. The lawsuits also allege that the smells, pig transport trucks, open-air lagoons and spraying of waste onto fields are so offensive that people living in the vicinity can’t have visitors to their homes or have outdoor activities. The company says it complies with all existing laws and regulations, rendering the lawsuits groundless. The federal trials cleared their most recent hurdle Thursday. The state legislature passed proposed legislation protecting hog farms against lawsuits, after lawmakers agreed to remove a provision that would have made the protections retroactive to the Murphy-Brown lawsuits.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article147425529.html

Fascism Watch: Campus protest goes out with a whimper

When a handful of written words becomes a vocal gag:

The constituent institution shall implement a range of disciplinary sanctions for anyone under the jurisdiction of a constituent institution who substantially disrupts the functioning of the constituent institution or substantially interferes with the protected free expression rights of others, including protests and demonstrations that infringe upon the rights of others to engage in and listen to expressive activity when the expressive activity has been scheduled pursuant to this policy or is located in a nonpublic forum.

The 1st Amendment has always been a confusing and controversial concept, because for every opinion, there is an opposing one. It was true in 1789 when the Bill of Rights was demanded by the separate states before they would ratify the Constitution, and it's true today. But for all the lofty arguments and debate about who infringes on whom, or yelling "Fire!" in a theater, the overriding message of the 1st Amendment is that government should not be in the business of dictating who gets to speak and who doesn't. And delegating that decision-making to some Orwellian committee doesn't negate the General Assembly's huge Constitutional blunder with this bill:

'Recent Events in Charlotte'

It has long been said it takes only one step to go from the sublime to the ridiculous. This past week, the NC General Assembly jumped into the ridiculous with both feet. Any intimation that a driver can use his car to strike protesters blocking a road is prime for misuse and abuse. Nevertheless, HB 330 passed in the House and was sent to the Senate.

Friday News: Trolling Trump

NEW TRUMP INITIATIVE FOR CITIZENS TO REPORT ILLEGAL ALIENS BACKFIRES: A newly unveiled federal hotline intended to collect reports of crimes committed by immigrants has instead been inundated by accounts of UFOs, killer robots and Superman. The Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement, or VOICE, office opened Wednesday to track crimes committed by immigrants – legal or undocumented – to the United States. The office, part of the Department of Homeland Security, also rolled out a hotline for tips from the public. It didn’t take long for non-fans of President Donald Trump to come up with ways to register their disapproval of the whole idea. And the internet rose to the, well, call.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/nation-world/national/article147295794.html

Excerpts from Governor Cooper's newest lawsuit opposing GOP power grab

Just the fact he is forced to do this is infuriating:

4. This General Assembly's continued, direct attacks on executive authority unconstitutionally infringe on the Governor's executive powers in violation of separation of powers, and improperly delegate legislative power without adequate guiding standards. N.C. CONST. art. I, § 6; id. art. II, § 1; id. art. Ill, §§ 1, 5(4).

5. As our Supreme Court recently observed, "The election of a particular candidate signifies public support for that candidate's platform, policies, and ideology." Young v. Bailey, 368 N.C. 665, 671, 781 S.E.2d 277, 281 (2016). Here, the General Assembly's efforts to disempower the Office of the Governor fail to respect the will of the electorate in selecting him as North Carolina's chief executive.

And just to clarify, neither Berger nor Moore can plead ignorance in taking these steps. They know exactly what they're doing when they violate the word and the spirit of the NC Constitution, and the fact they would so casually do it, merely for partisan gain, is such an abuse of the public's trust it boggles the mind. Here's more:

Thursday News: Brocking the African-American Vote

EXTENDING VOTING HOURS DUE TO FAULTY MACHINERY UNFAIR, ANDREW BROCK SAYS: Voting hours could not be extended in a precinct where there was equipment malfunction or another problem unless every other precinct in the state stayed open just as long, under a bill approved in the Senate on Wednesday. Citing problems in Durham County in the last general election, when voting was extended at eight precincts due to technological problems, bill sponsors said it wasn’t fair that some voters benefitted from longer hours of voting. Heightened news media coverage of the problems elevated the importance of those votes, sponsors said. “Durham was given an extra at-bat,” Sen. Andrew Brock, a Republican who represents Davie, Iredell and Rowan counties, said in a committee meeting Tuesday.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article147013814.html

Coal Ash Wednesday: Big Sky, big water contamination problem

Ranchers in Montana have been fighting coal ash leaks for years:

During the construction of the coal fired Colstrip power plants in the 70’s and 80’s, adjacent landowners to the ash settling pond sites raised concerns about contamination from coal ash into the shallow aquifers. We in agriculture rely on these aquifers (water quality and quantity) for stock water and domestic use for our homes. During the permitting process, the Board of Health required Montana Power Company to construct the ponds to be “completely sealed.” In fact, the term was underlined within the permit language. The permit also required ponds to be a “closed loop system.”

Montana Power Company then successfully petitioned the Board of Health to alter the parameters of the permit AFTER THE PERMIT WAS GRANTED.

Before we continue, it's important to note: As with many industrial operations, "best practices" technology and processes already exist with coal ash management, that greatly reduce the likelihood and severity of toxic leakage. But those best practices cost money, and avoiding having to implement them has become an art with many utilities across the US. Back to Clint's testimony:

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