Here’s a story that’s unfortunately gotten very little, if any, play in the North Carolina mainstream news media. It comes, interestingly enough, from national NBC News:

“How politics buries science in landslide mapping

The six geologists were just starting their work, climbing the mountains of Western North Carolina to map the debris left behind by landslides over millions of years, when the political footing gave way beneath them. Opposition had been building from real estate agents, from home builders planning subdivisions, and then from politicians. When all that energy was released, the science was crushed flat.

The new Republican leadership in the legislature cut off all funding for the state’s landslide mapping project in 2011, and the five geologists were laid off. They had mapped just four of 19 counties. Only one geologist kept a state job, but he is not allowed to do any landslide mapping. Another is helping a mining company search for gold. Two are in private practice. The fifth is checking the work of road paving crews. And the sixth moved to Virginia, mapping landslides until the temporary funding for that project ran out.

Against the backdrop of the March 22 mudslide in Washington state, which killed 33 people and left 12 still missing as of Monday, geologists say the story of the team in North Carolina illustrates how America has never put forth a serious effort to learn from the earth’s past. Geology experts say science is often a casualty of land politics, as the nation fails to protect others who are unaware they are at risk from deadly landslides….”

Read the rest of this excellent and very disturbing story by clicking here.

This just in from Raleigh’s News & Observer:

GREENSBORO — A Superior Court judge on Wednesday put a halt, in at least two school systems, to the state’s mandate on giving raises to teachers who give up tenure.

Special Superior Court Judge Richard Doughton issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by the Guilford and Durham school boards, granting their request to put new state-mandated contracts on hold. They argued the law outlining the process, passed last year by the General Assembly, is unconstitutional.

Doughton also ruled against the state’s motions to dismiss the lawsuit.

The contracts are part of a state law that eliminates tenure, called career status in North Carolina, for all public school teachers by 2018. In the meantime, school districts are required to offer four-year contracts to 25 percent of their teachers that provide $500-a-year raises in return for educators’ surrendering their tenure rights.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, who championed the teacher contract law, will appeal the ruling.

“It is hard to fathom why a single judge and a small group of government bureaucrats would try to deny top-performing teachers from receiving a well-deserved pay raise,” Amy Auth, a spokeswoman for Berger, said in a written statement. “We will appeal this legal roadblock and continue to fight for pay increases for our best teachers.”

Guilford County‘s school board was the first in the state to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of getting rid of teacher tenure, which is simply a guarantee of a teacher’s due process rights in the event of demotion or dismissal. A number of local school districts have passed resolutions rejecting the tenure law and asking for relief from awarding teacher contracts (including Wake County), but only Guilford and Durham school districts have gone as far as to challenge the law in court.

The judge’s ruling could have a statewide impact.

Ann McColl, a lawyer with the N.C. Association of Educators, said the scope of the ruling will be clearer with a written order. But there’s a strong argument for ordering a statewide halt, she said, because the law applies to the entire state.

“It would be within the authority of the judge that the injunction is enjoining the state from enforcing the law,” she said. “Until there’s a written order, we don’t know for sure.”

Read the full story over at the N&O by clicking here.

North Carolina’s Senator Burr used to be a fan of NC’s Medicaid program.  In fact, he presented NC Medicaid with a national award for delivering great care and containing costs just last year.  Then came the Affordable Care Act and the decision NC has to make about expanding Medicaid coverage using federal dollars to low-income people.  Now Senator Burr thinks NC’s Medicaid program is just terrible – and he has a simple fix!  Just require people on Medicaid to have a primary care doctor and a medical home.  Whoops – Senator Burr, NC’s Medicaid program does that already and has for years assigned people on Medicaid to a primary care doc and printed the name and number on the back of each person’s Medicaid card.  I know the game in Washington DC is to just make up your own facts to fit your current argument, but please don’t try that back here at home.  Watch:

Over the weekend, the New York Times magazine had this article about pay-day lending, and how litigation efforts shaped up to shut down the industry that primarily feeds off of the working poor, in North Carolina.

The article prominetly featured Carlene McNulty, the director of litigation for the N.C. Justice Center, and her years of work of using the courts to shut down scrupulous lenders in the state. The payday industry is trying to get a foothold back in the state, with legislation introduced (but not passed) last year that would have allowed the high-interest loans back in the state.

From the article:

In 2003, Tonya Burke was living in North Carolina with her two children when she got into financial trouble. She had fallen $500 behind on her rent and utilities, and neither of her boys’ fathers was able to chip in. Then she needed to take time off from work when her younger son, who was only 8 months old, had to have emergency intestinal surgery. After his recovery, she started working for $11 an hour as a secretary, “but my paychecks weren’t enough to cover the back bills and the new ones too,” she says. “I was at a point in my life where I didn’t want to ask anyone else for help.” There was a payday lender across the street from her office. “It seemed like a good solution.”

Even though North Carolina made payday lending illegal in 2001, five lenders got around the law by affiliating with out-of-state banks to offer short-term, high-interest loans. So Burke was able to walk into a storefront owned by Nationwide Budget Finance and leave with a cashier’s check for $600. When the loan came due on her next payday, however, she couldn’t pay it and immediately began to fall behind on the fees. So she took out another loan to cover the first one. And then took out another to cover that one — and then another and another. Eventually she wound up with seven loans, each for only hundreds of dollars, but with annual interest rates of 300 to 500 percent. It wasn’t long before the lenders started calling, she says, threatening with jail if she couldn’t make her payments.

Worried for herself and her children, Burke eventually found her way to Carlene McNulty, a consumer rights lawyer at the North Carolina Justice Center. McNulty had heard about many cases of people who found themselves buried under the fees of payday loans. “Our Legislature said: ‘Payday lending is harmful to consumers. Get out of North Carolina!’ ” she told me. “But they were still here, just as if the law had never changed.”

Payday loans are often advertised as a short-term lift that helps keep the lights on or allows you to stay in school. But borrowers often become trapped in a debt spiral. According to a new report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the government’s financial watchdog, about 50 percent of initial payday loans play out into a string of 10 or more. “One could readily conclude that the business model of the payday industry depends on people becoming stuck in these loans for the long term,” the C.F.P.B.’s report said.

You can read the rest of the article here.