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mandelaIt’s a dreary day in the state capital (and, presumably, throughout most of the Old North State), so here are a few stories to help inspire you to fight back against the darkness:

In addition to lots of information about the rapidly improving health of the Affordable Care Act, the good people at the Kaiser Family Foundation have a nice tribute to the late, great Nelson Mandela today on the front page of the organization’s website that explains the interesting connections between the Foundation and Mandela.

Also, in case you missed it, Think Progress ran a story last week that listed the “Six Things Nelson Mandela Believed That Most People Won’t Talk About” – including his strong opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq and his belief that freedom from poverty ought to be a fundamental human right.

Meanwhile, there will be a North Carolina tribute to Mandela this coming Saturday at First Baptist Church in Raleigh. Click here for more information.

And speaking of fighting back, Read More

Frank Tursi at the Coastal Federation posted a remarkable story yesterday that shines a light on two of the McCrory administration’s favorite practices: 1) turning down federal money that would promote the common good (and thereby sending it off to other states) and 2) sticking its head in the sand when it comes to our ever-more fragile natural environment. This is from the story:

“RALEIGH – Saying they don’t need the money to meet their new mission, state environmental officials recently turned down almost $600,000 in federal grants. The money would have been used to set up a network of sites to begin testing streams in the Piedmont where natural gas production is likely to occur and to establish a long-term planning and monitoring program to protect wetlands. Read More

There’s yet another disturbing fracking story worth reading – this one from the good people at Pro Publica:

“A recently published studyby researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington found elevated levels of arsenic and other heavy metals in groundwater near natural gas fracking sites in Texas’ Barnett Shale.

While the findings are far from conclusive, the study provides further evidence tying fracking to arsenic contamination. An internal Environmental Protection Agency PowerPoint presentation recently obtained by the Los Angeles Times warned that wells near Dimock, Pa., showed elevated levels of arsenic in the groundwater. The EPA also found arsenic in groundwater near fracking sites in Pavillion, Wyo., in 2009 — a study the agency later abandoned.”

Click here to read the entire story. Let’s hope Gov. McCrory and his Commerce Secretary check it out as well.

Sharon DeckerFor years, one area of common ground between conservatives and progressives in North Carolina has been their shared skepticism for business incentives. As analysts and advocates from both camps have shown dozens of times, state and local governments in North Carolina are pouring millions upon millions of dollars down a rat hole on corporate giveaways each year – sometimes just to lure businesses from one county to another.

Over time, the end result is an enormous drain on public resources that breeds cynicism, corruption and special favors and disadvantages homegrown, taxpaying businesses. To make matters worse, virtually every politician who campaigns for public office pledges to reform incentives and then, once in office, finds it impossible to do anything about the problem.

The latest case-in-point is Gov. McCrory who seems bent upon not just using corporate incentives, but dramatically expanding them. If you doubt this, check out reporter Andy Curliss’ article in Raleigh’s News & Observer about the administration’s utterly daft new proposal (given voice by Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker – pictured above) to tax fracking as a way of creating a giant slush fund to attract/bribe corporations: Read More

A reworked version of legislation allowing fracking passed the House Commerce Committee Wednesday, despite confusion over who would be in charge of the state’s Energy Jobs Council.

Under the latest version of Senate Bill 76, the Energy Jobs Council would be located in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) tasked with making recommendations for increasing domestic energy exploration and production.

Rep. Mike Hager pushed to amend the PCS, moving the Jobs Council back to the Department of Commerce. Fellow Republicans Rep. Marilyn Avila and Rep. Dana Bumgardner also objected to stripping the Jobs Council from Commerce and moving it to DENR.

So Fred Steen, chief lobbyist for Governor Pat McCrory, tried to ease their concerns:

“DENR is not your father’s DENR and Commerce will not be your mother’s Commerce in the future. We’re going to change both of them,” said Steen. Read More