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030910_1603_HealthRefor1.jpgIn case you missed it, there’s been a very worrisome outbreak of the deadly infection known as Legionnaire’s Disease in Wilson County with at least 11 individuals contracting the disease. Unfortunately, as today’s editorial in the Wilson Times notes, the response of the North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services (and its policies for notifying the public do not appear to be up to snuff):

“Since earlier in June the number of cases in Wilson went from one to 11 and from one location to more. Last year 12 percent of all the Legionnaires cases reported in the entire state of North Carolina were in Wilson County.

We commend our local Department of Health for reacting quickly to the early reported cases and getting the word out to the public as quickly as possible. Wilson Pines, where most of the cases have been linked, was also quick to take action.

However, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t seem to have responded with the same sense of urgency. It received its first confirmation of a Legionnaires’ case back on June 19 at the state-run Longleaf-Neuro Medical Treatment Center.

At that point it was just one known case there and apparently policy is to not declare an outbreak until you have two confirmed cases at one location. The state didn’t get that second report until last Friday, June 27, letting the public know via press release on Saturday.

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Hog industryCoal ash isn’t the only pollutant wreaking havoc in North Carolina’s waterways these days; the enormous problems posed by industrial hog production are back in the news. As noted in this space last week, there’s a stomach-turning crisis underway as you read this in involving a porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus outbreak in North Carolina.

This morning’s Fayetteville Observer weighs in on the subject with an editorial bearing the marvelously understated headline “Our view: Dead pigs, water may be an unhealthy mix.” As the editorial notes (after describing in grim detail what’s been going on) the recent coal ash disaster caused by lax regulation offers little hope that regulators are taking all necessary steps: Read More

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Food labelIf you’re getting ready to pop open a cup of yogurt or a can of soup for lunch today, be sure to take note of the nutrition label as it’s about to get a smidge more relevant and informative in the near future thanks to a new Food and Drug Administration directive and some helpful advocacy from First Lady Michelle Obama.  And, of course, it probably won’t be long before the denizens of the Pope Empire inform us that this is all a matter of big government quashing the “freedom” of unfettered markets.

And speaking of “free” markets, the right wing is — amazingly enough — weighing in again of late to inform us that not only is raising the minimum wage a terrible idea, but so, indeed, is the VERY IDEA of minimum wage laws. First it was the John Locke Foundation in this essay last week and then, yesterday, it was state House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis.

And speaking of the U.S. Senate, here’s a doozy: Read More

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Water pollutionThis morning’s NC League of Conservation Voters news update contains a link to a very helpful and informative blog post on environmental policy by a former DENR official, who’s now out on her own. The post is entitled “Environmental Policy in N.C. : Looking back at 2013 and forward to 2014.”

The League’s update also provides this very troubling news (especially in light of the water pollution disaster in West Virginia in recent days):

“Administrative Watch: Clean Water on the Line

Every meaningful state protection for clean water in North Carolina will be at grave risk of being cut back or eliminated in the rules review process starting this week in Raleigh. Read More

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Smoking banWe told you so.

The Wilmington Star-News reminds us this morning of something that common sense made clear years ago – namely that the silly, Chicken Little complaints from the right wing about North Carolina’s ban on smoking in restaurants and bars a couple years back were just that. To quote the Star-News:

“Fear is a powerful force, but it often is exercised prematurely and, in hindsight, without justification. That was certainly true in the case of North Carolina’s hard-fought ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and other public buildings.

When the state that King Tobacco once ruled went smoke-free four years ago, there was a predictable if understandable outcry from some bar and restaurant owners, who worried that business would plummet if people couldn’t smoke inside. It didn’t happen, much in keeping with the experiences of other states that have implemented public smoking bans.

People still eat out. They still go to bars. And maybe even in some cases, these establishments have attracted new patrons because smoking is not allowed.”

To make things even better, the smoking ban has had a wonderfully beneficial impact on health Read More