Daily Dose

Lot of news today, with the hurricane and all. Seems like everybody wants to get in on the action. And while the drama continues on the coast, don't forget the drama that's continuing in Raleigh, where the honorables have already racked up $150,000 in overtime for their extended "short session."

SHORT SESSION – DAY 51; Overtime 3 $150,000
NC lawmakers scaling back for July 4, budget talks (AP) — The North Carolina General Assembly is scaling back its regular business schedule due to the July 4 holiday and the ongoing budget talks.

Much more below the fold.

Hurricane Arthur forms in the Atlantic (AP) — Arthur strengthened to a hurricane early Thursday and threatened to give North Carolina a glancing blow on Independence Day, prompting the governor to warn vacationers along the coast not to risk their safety
Arthur Strengthens into Hurricane (TWCN-TV) -- The National Hurricane Center has posted a Hurricane Warning for Dare, Hyde, Craven, Pamlico, Carteret and Onslow Counties and Tropical Storm Warnings for other portions of the NC coast including Washington, Beaufort, Jones and Tyrrell.

Ahead of July 4th, East Coast eyes tropical storm (AP) — As one of the year's busiest travel weekends approaches, so does another visitor: Tropical Storm Arthur, expected to grow into a hurricane by the Fourth of July and hit most harshly at North Carolina's Outer Banks, a popular getaway spot of thin barrier islands along the shore.

Arthur expected to gain strength, hit Outer Banks harshly (AP) -- Mandatory evacuation issued for Outer Banks as the tropical storm approaches North Carolina.

Outer Banks residents prepare as Arthur upgraded to hurricane (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) -- 5:02 AM - A hurricane warning was extended north from Duck to the North Carolina border with Virginia. It includes Surf City, Pamlico Sound and Eastern Albemarle Sound.

Dare County evacuations of Hatteras island (AP) -- A mandatory evacuation order has taken effect for Hatteras island as Hurricane Arthur approaches North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Beaufort County braces for Arthur (Washington Daily News) -- As the first named storm of the season barrels up the coastline, a hurricane warning has been issued for Beaufort County.

North Carolina: Storm heads toward Outer Banks (Washington Post) -- Officials have ordered a mandatory evacuation of a fragile barrier island along North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Arthur Reaches Hurricane Strength (Wall Street Journal) -- Arthur has strengthened to a hurricane in the Atlantic, where it threatens to deliver North Carolina a glancing blow on Independence Day.

NC price-gouging law in effect as Arthur nears (AP) — North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is notifying businesses and consumers that the state's price gouging law is now in effect along the coast because a state of emergency has been declared because of Tropical Storm Arthur.

NC attorney general has advice for vacationers (AP) -- With Tropical Storm Arthur approaching, consumers planning a vacation on the North Carolina coast are advised to know their rights if they've rented a house or reserved a hotel room. Attorney General Roy Cooper says people should check with their hotel or rental agency to know what to expect if they need to evacuate or cannot reach their destination. Cooper says if consumers are unable to reach their vacation rental property, contact the rental agency or landlord. He said any refund would depend upon the specific situation, such as whether alternate routes are open. Many consumers have booked hotel rooms for the Fourth of July weekend. He said if consumers are concerned that they may not be able to keep their reservation due to severe weather, contact the hotel immediately. North Carolina's Vacation Rental Act protects consumers who rent a vacation property for fewer than 90 days. Under the law, the landlord must give you a written rental agreement that spells out your rights and obligations as a tenant, the rights and obligations of the landlord and/or broker, and the details of what you'll pay.

Some State Parks Closing As Tropical Storm Arthur Advances Toward N.C. Coast (N.C. Political News) -- Some state parks in coastal North Carolina will close as Tropical Storm Arthur advances toward the state, and access to other parks and facilities could be interrupted on short notice as the storm moves north along the coast, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

Tropical Storm Arthur snuffs out Carolina Beach, Surf City fireworks (Wilmington Star-News) -- Here's a list of activities and cancellations declared so far.

NC House gives initial OK to coal-ash bill (Charlotte Observer) -- The N.C. House gave initial approval Wednesday to a bill that may let Duke Energy extend a 15-year timetable to close its North Carolina coal-ash ponds. The 85-27 vote followed heated debate – and an unusual parliamentary move – over adding Duke’s Cape Fear power plant, in Chatham County, to a list of four plants in which ash would have to be removed by 2019. The House measure will need a third vote Thursday before members begin resolving differences with the Senate, which passed its ash bill June 25. Both set deadlines between 2019 and 2029 for Duke to drain its 33 ash ponds, depending on the risks that a new commission decides they pose. But the House version allows the state environment secretary to grant Duke extensions to those deadlines by undetermined periods. Duke had complained that the timeline was too short to guarantee that work could be completed.

House OKs coal ash bill (Greensboro News & Record) -- The N.C. House gave initial approval to its coal legislation Wednesday night. Representatives narrowly agreed – by one vote – to add the Cape Fear coal ash site to the list of four high priority locations where the ash must be cleaned up. But at the end of a lengthy and sometimes testy debate, members reconsidered and rejected the measure. The House also killed other attempts to add additional locations to that list. Republican leaders also rebuffed attempts to add a provision that would bar Duke Energy from charging customers for the statewide coal ash cleanup. The bill passed 85 to 27. The issue will be back before the House for a final vote Thursday morning. “I look forward to our state leading the nation in dealing with this problem,” said bill sponsor Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg.

North Carolina House approves coal ash bill (AP) — The North Carolina House tentatively voted Wednesday to approve a bill telling Duke Energy how to clean up its coal ash sites, four months after the Dan River spill spurred action for a regulatory remedy to the toxic gray sludge that poured into the river and fills other pits across the state.

N.C. mum on response to threatened Duke Energy suits (Charlotte Business Journal) -- North Carolina regulators won’t say whether they will file new enforcement actions against three Duke Energy plants based on violations alleged by coalition of environmental groups. And the groups would prefer they didn’t. The issue revolves around coal ash ponds at three of Duke’s closed coal plants. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has declined to comment directly on the notices filed Tuesday on behalf of several environmental groups that they intend to sue Duke in U.S. District Court. DENR filed civil enforcement actions against Charlotte-based Duke (NYSE:DUK) in state courts last year when groups filed notices they intended to sue over alleged violations involving coal ash ponds at all 14 of Duke’s active and retired N.C. coal plants.

PSC approves Franklin County coal ash dump (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) -- The Missouri Public Service Commission unanimously approved Ameren Missouri's plan to build a coal ash landfill for its Labadie power plant, leaving final approval of the project in the hands of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The decision Wednesday came three months after the utility regulator took days of testimony from Ameren and environmental groups who have opposed the Franklin County landfill for years. Passions have run high at the state and local levels, as Ameren sought to win regulatory approval while local residents and environmental groups fought it at every turn. A severe flood, they say, could wash coal ash into the river, contaminating a source of water for thousands in the St. Louis region. Critics cite Duke Energy's coal ash spill earlier this year, which fouled about 70 miles of the Dan River in North Carolina, as an example of what could happen.

Fishing report for July 3: James River post-spill update (Roanoke Times) -- Good work by recovery experts, good luck and good weather appear to have combined to avert catastrophic impact to the James River fishery in the wake of the April 30 CSX train derailment and oil spill in downtown Lynchburg. Sixty-one days removed from what was by the railroad’s estimate 29,916 gallons of Bakken crude oil spilled, signs of the disaster were few a short distance downstream. Near pilings of the Lynchburg Expressway, a long-legged blue heron stalked prey in the shallows. An undersized but apparently bighearted smallmouth bass leapt gamely at a flying bug, and three young ducks paddled merrily as they bobbed for dinner near the gravel covered shore. No telltale odor of oil could be sniffed or shimmering sheen be seen on dry land or plant. A group of humans gathered at river’s edge far downstream on the city side, apparently enjoying a cool spot on an exceptionally warm early summer evening.

Green groups plan new federal suits over Duke Energy ash ponds (Triad Business Journal) -- The groups hope to use federal actions to force the cleanup of coal ash ponds at Duke Energy’s Buck Steam Station, Cape Fear Plant and the H.F. Lee Plant.

To Hold Senate, Democrats Rely on Single Women (New York Times) -- The decline of marriage over the last generation has helped create an emerging voting bloc of unmarried women that is profoundly reshaping the American electorate to the advantage, recent elections suggest, of the Democratic Party. What is far from clear is whether Democrats will benefit in the midterm contests this fall. … Nowhere is the courtship of unmarried women as intense as in North Carolina, where Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat struggling for a second term, recently has shown gains even in a Republican poll. Midway through a recent Saturday of campaigning, she described her mobilization strategy: “Heels on the ground.” Among those ground troops is Emma Akpan, an unmarried 28-year-old graduate of Duke Divinity School, who works to register voters but said she understood why so many single women are hard to reach. In an election without presidential candidates and the news media attention they draw, Ms. Akpan said, many women busy with jobs and perhaps children see no point in voting. “If I wasn’t doing this work,” she conceded, “I probably wouldn’t pay attention either.”

US court doesn't change NC contraception law (McClatchy Newspapers) -- The Supreme Court ruling this week that certain business owners don’t have to provide their employees with no-cost access to contraceptives under federal law doesn’t affect North Carolina’s state law on contraceptives. The state law, which went into effect in 2000, requires that insurers that provide plans that cover prescription drugs or devices also cover contraceptives. The Supreme Court, in the case brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, ruled that closely held corporations can be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to provide employees with no-cost birth control coverage if the company’s owner objected on the basis of religion. This week’s ruling and other matters concerning birth control divide Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis in their hotly contested race this year.

Republican candidate Mark Walker stays on the go (Greensboro News & Record) -- GOP candidate Mark Walker is crisscrossing the 6th Congressional District as the runoff election nears.

TV ads on pension fund are highly misleading (Fayetteville Observer) -- Q: I was interested in a political ad that said that Sen. Kay Hagan and President Obama were looking into doing something to change or do away with the fire and police pension fund. What is the real story on this? - R.N., Fayetteville A: We think you're talking about an ad by 60 Plus Association, a group that promotes itself as the conservative alternative to AARP (what used to be called the American Association of Retired Persons). According to watchdog website FactCheck.org, 60 Plus is funded by the libertarian-conservative Koch brothers. They are Kansas-based billionaires who founded and bankroll a number of organizations to influence state and local elections and public policy throughout the country. FactCheck.org discusses at length the background of the situation and its assessment of the ad - far more than Live Wire can get into. In short, the watchdog site finds the ad to be highly misleading.

New Crossroads GPS ad hits Hagan on ACA – again (McClatchy Newspapers) -- A Republican outside group is out with a new ad criticizing U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan for her support for the Affordable Care Act.

SHORT SESSION – DAY 51; Overtime 3 $150,000
NC lawmakers scaling back for July 4, budget talks (AP) — The North Carolina General Assembly is scaling back its regular business schedule due to the July 4 holiday and the ongoing budget talks.

N.C. budget negotiators find agreement on Medicaid (AP) — House and Senate Republicans made a key breakthrough in the stalled North Carolina government budget talks Wednesday by agreeing to earmark another $323 million for possible Medicaid cost overruns.

NC lawmakers move closer to compromise on state budget (Charlotte Observer) -- House and Senate negotiators began to break their budget logjam Wednesday, clearing the way for negotiations on teacher pay and lottery money – and possible adjournment.

NC Budget Negotiators Find Agreement on Medicaid Overhaul (TWCN-TV) -- The agreement comes after many of the state's health providers stood behind the proposal.

Senate & House Break Stalemate, Move Closer to N.C. Budget Deal (Voter Update Magazine) -- After more than two weeks of stalemate and discord between the two chambers, the Republican-controlled House and Senate may have made a major breakthrough on budget negotiations Wednesday.

Lawmakers honor anniversary of Civil Rights Act (WRAL-TV) -- Members of the state's Legislative Black Caucus gathered at a news conference Wednesday to honor the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

Docs, hospitals get behind House Medicaid plan (WRAL-TV) -- Health providers and Democrats lined up behind a proposal by House Republican leaders to change how the state's Medicaid health insurance system pays doctors, hospitals and others who provide care to poor and disabled residents. The House Appropriations Committee passed the measure on a unanimous voice vote Wednesday morning. The full House approved the bill 113-0 later in the day. It now heads to the Senate.

NC House gives initial OK to coal-ash bill (Charlotte Observer) -- The N.C. House gave initial approval Wednesday to a bill that may let Duke Energy extend a 15-year timetable to close its North Carolina coal-ash ponds. The 85-27 vote followed heated debate – and an unusual parliamentary move – over adding Duke’s Cape Fear power plant, in Chatham County, to a list of four plants in which ash would have to be removed by 2019. The House measure will need a third vote Thursday before members begin resolving differences with the Senate, which passed its ash bill June 25. Both set deadlines between 2019 and 2029 for Duke to drain its 33 ash ponds, depending on the risks that a new commission decides they pose. But the House version allows the state environment secretary to grant Duke extensions to those deadlines by undetermined periods. Duke had complained that the timeline was too short to guarantee that work could be completed.

North Carolina House approves coal ash bill (AP) — The North Carolina House tentatively voted Wednesday to approve a bill telling Duke Energy how to clean up its coal ash sites, four months after the Dan River spill spurred action for a regulatory remedy to the toxic gray sludge that poured into the river and fills other pits across the state.

Final agreement met on Common Core future in NC (AP) — A proposed final compromise on legislation to replace Common Core in North Carolina's public schools could allow portions of the academic standards to remain if state education officials choose.

NC House, Senate appear to reach agreement to repeal Common Core (Raleigh News & Observer) -- House and Senate lawmakers have reached a tentative agreement on a measure to repeal and replace the state’s Common Core education standards. The two chambers approved bills earlier this session to create a commission to rework the state’s math and language arts requirements but differed as to whether the panel could consider keeping the current Common Core standards. Sen. Jerry Tillman, a bill sponsor, said Wednesday that the conference report essentially emulates the Senate’s version of the legislation, which suggests the state could maintain components of Common Core once the standards are reformulated.

Despite backlog, crime lab unlikely to get funding boost (WRAL-TV) -- Major backlogs in the State Crime Lab keep growing because of a shortage of DNA analysts and scientists who test blood in drunken driving cases, state Attorney General Roy Cooper has said, and the delays have caused some criminal charges to be dismissed. "This is a matter of public safety," Cooper said recently. The crime lab's DNA analysis division gets 3,300 cases a year, many with multiple pieces of evidence. According to the state Department of Justice, it would take 55 analysts to test that DNA in a timely manner, but the lab has only 24.

Geography, philosophy divide lawmakers on film incentives (WRAL-TV) -- Discussion about North Carolina's efforts to foster film and television productions have often revolved around images of glamour and big stars. Recent high-profile projects filmed in the Tar Heel State include Stephen King's TV adaptation "Under the Dome" and the holiday-weekend Melissa McCarthy comedy "Tammy." Those in the industry say lawmakers considering extending and changing the state's film and television production credit program would do better to think about grits – maybe with a nice sausage ragout – and small businesses such as The Chef & the Farmer. The Kinston restaurant regularly hosts dozens of out-of-state diners drawn to the place that provides the backdrop for the Peabody Award-winning PBS show "A Chef's Life."

NC House approves ferry-toll prohibition (AP) — The North Carolina House has reinforced its opposition to tolls on state-run coastal ferries.

Few to benefit from NC bill allowing study of medicinal hemp (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Legislation to let doctors use oil from hemp plants to treat drug-resistant epilepsy will make the new treatment available only to a small number of patients who take part in pilot studies, rather than a broader patient base as many families have hoped. Some patients are already calling doctors, hoping to sign up for the hemp oil treatment – only to learn they might not be eligible. “People need to know what the bill is not,” said Dr. Mohamad Mikati, an epileptologist and chief of child neurology at Duke University. “The only way you can access it (hemp oil) is through a study.” … Rep. Pat McElraft, a Carteret County Republican who sponsored the measure, told a Senate committee last week that its main purpose was to allow families who have gone to Colorado to procure the hemp extract to come back to North Carolina and legally continue the treatment. But patients who possess medicinal hemp oil without being enrolled in a pilot study will still be in violation of state drug laws, said Barbara Riley, a staff attorney in the Research Division involved in writing the bill. “This is a feel-good measure that may only affect a handful of people,” said Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr., a Democrat from Mecklenburg County who has sponsored another cannabis-related bill.

House moves unemployment records fix (WRAL-TV) -- After the governor vetoed a broader unemployment system bill, lawmakers are moving to fix a single public records issue that the U.S. Department of Labor says breaches federal policy.

DMV, elections officials say ending NC's voter preregistrations creates confusion (Raleigh News & Observer) -- North Carolina officials have had difficulty figuring out which 17-year-olds can apply for voter registration at driver license offices. This issue is one of many that lawyers representing the NAACP and others challenging the 2013 elections overhaul.

No rules for abortion bill year after legislative battle (WRAL-TV) -- A year after senators used a late-day committee meeting to tack a sweeping set of abortion restrictions onto a bill prohibiting the recognition of Sharia law, the McCrory administration still has not put forward regulations to put the law into full effect. The measure, which eventually was attached to a measure dealing with motorcycle safety, sparked protests against the Republican lawmakers who brought it forward. Democrats were incensed by the unusual roll out in a Senate judiciary committee – held at 5:30 p.m. on July 2, 2013 – that gave opponents little notice, while lobbyists advocating for more abortion restrictions clearly had notice of the measure. In the weeks following that surprise meeting, hundreds of pink-clad protesters put pressure on lawmakers and garnered attention in national newspaper and television news reports. Despite that investment of effort and political capital, it's hard to see what, if anything, has happened as a result. "The effect of that bill has not taken place yet," said Brian Lewis, a lobbyist for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina.

CNBC ranks N.C. 5th in best for business – was 3rd in 2011 (N.C. Tech News) -- The state of North Carolina is ranked the fifth best state for business according to CNBC’s annual “Countdown to America’s Top State for Business” feature. North Carolina has been a perennial favorite on the list each year. This is the state’s highest ranking since 2011. In its ranking the network stated that “North Carolina posted some powerful numbers, having the fourth-best economy as well as workforce.” It went on to say that the ranking was “due in part to some substantial fiscal policy changes that have been made, such as a reduction in individual income and corporate tax.” N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker welcomed the new ranking. “The Carolina comeback is well underway as we jumped into the top five spot,” said Secretary Decker. “Just know we won’t rest, there is more work ahead of us as we strive to land big economic development projects that create jobs.” Last year, North Carolina ranked 12th. Prior to the McCrory administration, in 2012 N.C. ranked 4th; 3rd the year before that and 4th in 2010.

NC Economic Recovery Concentrated In Triangle (WUNC-FM) -- The latest North Carolina jobless numbers show a spike in county unemployment rates from Alamance to Yancey. But there has been some positive movement over the past year. May jobless numbers released by the NC Commerce Department show 92 counties with a higher unemployment rate than the month before. But from this time last year, all 100 counties saw their unemployment rates drop.

Pre-Trial Motions In Case Against Alamance County Sheriff (WUNC-FM) -- Defense attorneys for Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson filed another pre-trial motion this week. The sheriff is accused by the federal government of illegally targeting Latino drivers as well as arresting and detaining people without probable cause.

ALEC highlights McCrory keynote address as event ‘you won’t want to miss’ (Carolina Mercury) -- Governor Pat McCrory is scheduled to give a keynote address on the opening day of the annual American Legislative Exchange Council conference

Governor’s tour of Wilmington does not include film studios; executive responds (Port City Daily) -- With film trucks lining downtown streets for shoots for “Sleepy Hollow” and “The Longest Ride,” today seemed as good a day as any

McCrory 'looking for common ground' in film incentives debate (Wilmington Star-News) -- Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday defended his administration's push for long-term, sustainable solutions to the state's health, economic and transportation challenges. But that policy could represent troubling news for the state's film incentive program, which is stuck in a political quagmire in Raleigh even though the tax credit is set to expire at the end of the year. If that happens, film supporters have warned of a mass exodus of productions – and jobs – from the state, with Wilmington hit especially hard as North Carolina's production epicenter. McCrory, who visited the StarNews Wednesday during several stops in the Port City, painted himself as a middle man in the film incentive debate trying to find a solution that meets the needs of fiscal conservatives with those who fear any watering down of the program would decimate the state's film industry. "I'm looking for common ground," the governor said, noting that the debate so far has been between options that offer an "all or nothing" solution. McCrory said his vision would be some kind of program that promotes long-term capital investment by the film industry with long-term job potential. He floated such a plan in his proposed 2014-15 budget, although the state House and Senate have decided to push their own proposals.

McCrory says charter school leader salaries should be public (Wilmington Star-News) -- Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday he believes salaries for charter school leaders should be public. The StarNews has been requesting the salaries of all Charter Day School Inc. employees since early May. The nonprofit school network and its management company, Roger Bacon Academy, released some information but omitted the data for 33 of its employees, including headmasters, administrators and some teachers. “It’s indefensible,” McCrory said, and it’s counter to his administration’s push for transparency. During a visit Wednesday morning to the StarNews, McCrory said he is a strong supporter of charter schools and what they offer as an alternative to public schools. “But you can’t have it both ways,” he said. “If you want public money, we need to know the salaries.”

Governor, DHHS Secretary Confer With Wilmington Health (Wilmington Business Journal) -- Gov. Pat McCrory came to Wilmington Wednesday to learn the prescription for improving effectiveness and efficiency of health care services.

After NCTracks launch, state sought to 'calm' complaints (WRAL-TV) -- North Carolina health officials this week are celebrating the one-year anniversary of the rollout of the state's massive new Medicaid payment system. Most medical providers agree things have improved since the state Department of Health and Human Services launched NCTracks July 1, 2013. But recently released emails from the program's rocky start show DHHS officials took action to "calm" a provider community frustrated by technical problems.

Postal Service plan would shift operations to NC (AP) — A mail processing facility that employs about 400 people in Roanoke would shift its operations to Greensboro, North Carolina, under a plan announced by the U.S. Postal Service.

Cooper: No water rate hikes without public hearings (WRAL-TV) -- State Attorney General Roy Cooper on Wednesday filed a notice of appeal to a provision by the state Utilities Commission allowing North Carolina's largest private water utility to raise rates without public hearings.

NC principal reassigned after kids walk 2½ hours (AP) — A Cumberland County elementary school principal accused of making some students walk 2½ hours for not wearing their uniforms has been removed from the job.

Appeals court orders hearing for NC inmate (AP) — A federal appeals court has ordered a hearing on whether a juror in a North Carolina death penalty case was improperly influenced when her father suggested she read a Bible verse.

July designated Got To Be NC Agriculture Month (AP) -- Farmers across North Carolina are taking their fruits and vegetables to market, and Gov. Pat McCrory has proclaimed July as the month to salute their work.

Burr gets small business perspective in bee farm visit (Wilkes Journal Patriot) -- U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of Winston-Salem visited the Brushy Mountain Bee Farm wood working and manufacturing shop on Industrial Drive in Wilkesboro Wednesday morning during a tour of businesses in Wilkes and Surry counties. “Visits like this provide me with a great perspective on what we can do in Washington to enhance the economy,” said Burr. “This is probably the best opportunity to get a snapshot of what’s going on in the country. “Small businesses are important to the country and to the economy,” he continued. “If all of these small businesses employed just two more people, we wouldn’t have an unemployment problem.”

PAIN IN THE A#*? When Texas Gov. Drops Official State Footwear (New York Times) -- Gov. Rick Perry, who appeared on the cover of Newsweek in 2010 with a pair of cowboy boots, announced recently that he had given them up because of his back problems.

Extras from the area excited to see their work in locally filmed 'Tammy' (Wilmington Star-News) -- The "Tammy" celebrations continued on through Wednesday at a special premiere party

1M North Carolinians expected to travel for July 4 (AP) -- AAA Carolinas predicts more than a million North Carolinians will be on the highways for the Independence Day holiday, the highest number in more than 13 years.

A Bright Side to Facebook’s Experiments on Its Users (New York Times) -- Facebook’s disclosure last week that it had tinkered with about 700,000 users’ news feeds as part of a psychology experiment conducted in 2012 inadvertently laid bare what too few tech firms acknowledge: that they possess vast powers to closely monitor, test and even shape our behavior, often while we’re in the dark about their capabilities. The publication of the study, which found that showing people slightly happier messages in their feeds caused them to post happier updates, and sadder messages prompted sadder updates, ignited a torrent of outrage from people who found it creepy that Facebook would play with unsuspecting users’ emotions. Because the study was conducted in partnership with academic researchers, it also appeared to violate long-held rules protecting people from becoming test subjects without providing informed consent. Several European privacy agencies have begun examining whether the study violated local privacy laws. But there may be other ways to look at the Facebook study and its publication. Studying how we use social media may provide important insights into some of the deepest mysteries of human behavior. … Zeynep Tufekci, an assistant professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, points out that many of these studies serve to highlight Facebook’s awesome power over our lives. “I read that and I said, ‘Wait, Facebook controls elections,’ ” she said. “If they can nudge all of us to vote, they could nudge some of us individually, and we know they can model whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat — and elections are decided by a couple of hundred thousand voters in a handful of states. So the kind of nudging power they have is real power.” Ms. Tufekci has offered a stirring call to arms against Facebook, Google and other giant web concerns because of their power to shape what we do in the world. She makes a worthy argument.

End of wars means less work at Lillington plant (AP) -- At the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, companies that supplied the military were on top of the world. That was true even on East McNeill Street in Lillington, where a once humming manufacturing plant sat under U.S. and Swedish flags. But the American war in Iraq is over. And the war in Afghanistan is winding down. Meanwhile, the military is undergoing cuts in the face of shrinking budgets, leading to an end of free-spending days from years past. In 2007, Saab Barracuda in Lillington had 350 employees working around the clock, five days a week to make camouflage netting for the U.S. military. The company's 80,000-square-foot manufacturing floor was filled with activity. In 2007, the Lillington plant turned out 10,000 camouflage systems a month, said Dottie Womack, a senior adviser to Saab who was recently president of Saab Barracuda's Lillington operation. Seven years later, the brick building isn't humming as much as it used to. The manufacturing floor is largely empty, with just a few employees working the proprietary machines used by the company. A few more employees use sewing machines in the corner. Saab Barracuda is down to just more than 60 employees, officials said. The plant goes weeks at a time without running, and officials recently introduced a 32-hour workweek for the remaining employees. "To be honest, I don't know what is in the future after June," Womack said.

New mosaics discovered in synagogue excavations in GalileeRoyal figure in Huqoq mosaic (UNC News) -- Excavations led by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faculty member revealed stunning new mosaics decorating the floor of the Late Roman (fifth century) synagogue at Huqoq,

NC WARN launches $100K media blitz against Duke Energy (Raleigh News & Observer) -- NC WARN, the Durham advocacy group, has launched a $100,000 media blitz to discredit Duke Energy’s bid to pay less for solar electricity. The campaign is timed to a public hearing Monday at which Duke, the nation’s largest electric utility, will ask the N.C. Utilities Commission for greater negotiating leeway on rates paid for electricity generated by independent solar farms. Duke executives say that with North Carolina now ranked fourth in the nation for total solar power production – ranking only behind California, Arizona and New Jersey – solar generation costs have come down considerably and should be reflected in the going price. But Duke’s idea of a competitive price for solar power is mocked by NC WARN’s newspaper ads as corporate greed.

Small towns shake up the fracking debate (Washington Post) -- In a landmark ruling, a state court sided with local governments trying to ban the gas extraction process.

Sunset Beach Plan May Not Stop Project (Coastal Review) -- The town's land-use plan may not stop a proposed project to build 23 oceanfront houses on land that was once an inlet.

TVA proposes to retire Memphis' Allen coal plant (AP) — The Tennessee Valley Authority began seeking public comments Wednesday on a proposal to retire the coal-fired Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis and replace it with a natural gas facility.

Duke Energy finishes federal merger commitments at lower-than-expected costs (Charlotte Business Journal) -- The projects were aimed at expanding transmission service in North Carolina to encourage Duke Energy competitors to sell power to municipalities and cooperatives.

Developers fear effects of EPA’s clean-water rule (Port City Daily) -- To Heath Clark, it’s not just a new roll of red tape. He’s worried that if a proposed environmental rule goes into play as federally written,

N.C. mum on response to threatened Duke Energy suits (Charlotte Business Journal) -- Environmentalists hope the state of North Carolina butts out of lawsuits they intend to file on allegations that Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) continues to violate clean-water laws at three closed plants.

Thinking Locally, So Fighting Globally (New York Times book Review) -- Beth Macy, a longtime reporter for The Roanoke Times in Virginia, understood how lucky she was when she accidentally uncovered the great, gripping story told in “Factory Man.” This is Ms. Macy’s first book, but it’s in a class with other runaway debuts like Laura Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit” and Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers”: These nonfiction narratives are more stirring and dramatic than most novels. And Ms. Macy writes so vigorously that she hooks you instantly. You won’t be putting this book down. … The genesis of “Factory Man” was a series of articles Ms. Macy wrote on a subject she thought badly overlooked: the effects of offshoring on America’s working class. Much has been written about recent middle-class suffering, but Ms. Macy’s initial interest was in factory workers, like one woman whose only splurge was buying brand-name beans. Her focus was on the former furniture capital of this nation: the Appalachian regions of Virginia and North Carolina so rich with hardwood and cheap labor that they had once monopolized a market. She had been inspired by the photographs of Jared Soares, a couple of which appear in the book.

Religious liberty wins with Hobby Lobby ruling (Winston-Salem Journal) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled rightly Monday that some companies with religious objections can avoid the contraceptives requirement in Obamacare.

It makes sense to keep autopsies local (Wilson Times) -- At a time when funding shortages for autopsies threaten the reliability of death investigations across North Carolina, competent forensic services are being provided in Greenville

Bill would allow increased sentences for those convicted of crimes (Wilmington Star-News) -- If we are serious about reducing gun violence, the penalties for criminals who carry guns must be tougher.

NCAA return could provide resolution for UNC (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Whether a fresh examination by the NCAA uncovers systemic misconduct behind the "academic irregularities" cited by UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham in announcing the return visit is almost beside the point.

On second try, the NCAA must take a deeper look at UNC-CH (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The NCAA apparently was shamed into opening a new investigation of UNC-Chapel Hill after prematurely closing its earlier review. Meaningful action needs to be taken in the latest investigation.

Repealing protest petition would remove rights from N.C.'s little guys (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Members of the NC State House of Representatives introduced language in a bill that, if signed into law, would repeal North Carolina's "Valid Statutory Protest Petition." This is a glaring overreach by the legislature and should alarm all North Carolina residents.

Where should our education dollars go? Into making better parents (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Instead of blowing more billions of taxpayer money to no avail, our politicians, educators and parents should concentrate on the family itself. That's the environment in which children absorb their morals, work ethic and life meaning and learn the value of an education.


More news