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Cryptomining, wrongfully altered records, and rumors of judicial impeachment: The week’s top stories at Policy Watch

1. Greenville greenlights cryptomining facilities, energy gluttons and contributors to climate change

A tweak to the zoning ordinance was the final step to closing the deal

Somewhere in Greenville — few know the precise location — dozens of shipping containers could soon appear on the landscape. These containers, known as “modular data-processing centers” — but that are actually cryptomining operations — will be jammed with lightning-fast computers whose blinking lights indicate they are thinking.

The computers are concentrating. They are mining cryptocurrencies, digital money like Bitcoin and Ethereum, by solving complex mathematical puzzles through trillions of guesses. It’s hard work, all this thinking. The computers get hot and must be constantly fanned.

All of this — the computers, the brain power, the fans — requires enormous amounts of electricity. Electricity generated largely by fossil fuels, the drivers of climate change. [Read more…]

2. NC GOP’s judicial impeachment threats are a new low in Trump-like lawlessness (Commentary)

The state Auditor’s Office says that the mayor of a coastal town used confidential information to buy town property at a price not available to the public.

Ocean Isle Mayor Debbie Smith purchased land and a former police department building at the appraised value of $460,000 for a real estate company that she co-owns. The town board improperly discussed details of the sale in closed session, the audit says, and the mayor was able to use information that was not public in making her purchase offer. Further, the town board discussed sale of the property in closed session, according to the audit report, a topic that cannot be discussed behind closed doors. [Read more…]

7. State Fair cited for environmental violations related to controversial parking lot

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture has been cited for four water quality violations related to its clear-cutting of 19 acres for a State Fair parking lot, according to environmental documents. The fair operates under the Agriculture Department.

Policy Watch reported last September that State Fair officials had exploited legal loopholes to timber the land at 5900 Chapel Hill Road in Raleigh, which abuts the residential Westover-Mt. Vernon neighborhood.A November 2021 letter addressed to David Smith, deputy agriculture commissioner, from the NC Department of Environmental Quality described how on Oct. 4, inspectors found 10 feet of an unnamed stream had been illegally filled with dirt and rock. [Read more…]

8. States weigh how to shield election officials from threats, harassment

Following the turmoil of the 2020 election, a photo of Washington state Election Director Lori Augino marked with crosshairs, her address, and the words “your days are numbered” was posted on a website alongside photos of numerous other state election officials described as “enemies of the people.”

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman said in a press release in December 2020 that she reported the so-called doxxing to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. But it’s unclear whether the perpetrators were ever identified or if they faced any charges — the secretary of state’s office did not respond to questions about what resulted from the reports. Both Augino and Wyman have since left office.[Read more…]

9. Are we moving to the endemic phase of COVID infections? Three NC experts weigh in on what that would look like.

Before the first snowflakes began to fall last week, meteorologists were advising North Carolinians when the wintry mix would arrive, how severe conditions would be, and how to best prepare for the impeding storm.

Dr. Jonathan Quick, an adjunct professor at the Duke Global Health Institute, envisions a future in which we have a similar system for forecasting the spread of COVID-19 and future variants.

Quick and two of his colleagues at Duke University fielded questions Monday about what it would mean for the COVID-19 pandemic to become endemic. [Read more…]

10, Weekly Radio Interviews and Daily Radio Commentaries:

11. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

 

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