Lunch Links: More questions for DHHS, a worldwide tribute for Mandela, and the promise of 3D printing

Look for more questions after lunch today from members of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services, after the state auditor released a new performance audit Monday.

Among Beth Wood’s findings: DHHS does not have a plan to address the range of problems with NCTracks, the state’s beleaguered Medicaid billing system.

DHHS Audit

Coinciding with that report, WRAL-TV details how DHHS downplayed issues with NC FAST, the system designed to streamline delivery of food stamp benefits.

Other stories folks are talking about this afternoon:

President Obama was among the dignitaries who delivered a powerful tribute this morning at the service for the late South African President Nelson Mandela. You can read the full text of Obama’s remarks here.

Think Progress reports that a record number of Americans can’t afford their rent. The lack of available low-cost housing is part of the problem.

Time offers a rundown of its Top Ten Finalists for Person of the Year in 2013.

The U.S. Senate has approved a 10-year extension of the federal law banning plastic firearms that can go undetected by X-ray machines and metal detectors. For those keeping score, this bill is the only piece of gun legislation to pass Congress, almost a year after the Sandy Hook tragedy.

And while some continue to worry about how 3D printing will be used in the future, the good folks at Asap Science offers some cool ideas that you probably never thought of: YouTube Preview Image

Finally, we’ll close out today’s lunch links with a classic composition from the Vince Guaraldi Trio to lift your holiday spirits:

YouTube Preview Image

Lunch Links: All things in moderation

prohibition-repealed-article-1

 

Today marks the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, which occurred at 5:32 p.m., 80 years ago, when Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the Constitution.

President Roosevelt marked the occasion by calling for moderation, asking people to make sure that “this return of individual freedom not be accompanied by the repugnant conditions that obtained prior to the adoption of the Eighteenth Amendment and those that have existed since its adoption.”

Moderation is indeed a good concept to keep in mind as we all enter the season of excess — that is, if moderation still exists in North Carolina.

Some Duke University professors and alums wonder just that in this ode to former governor and Duke president Terry Sanford.

It’s hard to argue with their point that the days of compassion and consensus are gone if we glimpse back at the recent legislative session — as they did — and assess the damage.

In addition to dismantling the public education system by slashing the school budget, cutting funding for teacher assistants by 20 percent, eliminating bonuses for future teachers with master’s degrees and diverting public money to private schools through a new unregulated voucher program, and aside from rendering voting more difficult for large swaths of the voting age population, the General Assembly also

. . . cut unemployment insurance; rejected a federally funded Medicare expansion; repealed the Racial Justice Act, which gives relief to death-row inmates who can prove that race influenced their prosecutions; passed abortion restrictions that will limit insurance coverage for some women and tighten licensure requirements for clinics; and expanded the venues where permit holders can carry concealed weapons, including playgrounds and funeral processions. It [also] lowered the corporate income-tax rate and let expire the earned-income credit for low-paid workers.

Accomplishing all that in a few short months was a breathtaking feat, GOP lawmakers say — one that’s made them the envy of conservative colleagues across the country.

Breathtaking perhaps, depending on your vantage point, but all that scrambling to one side of the deck doesn’t necessarily right the ship. Often it sinks it.

Speaking of sinking ships, this week brought news of the plight of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), ALECthe lobbying architect of conservative legislation now on the verge of a funding crisis, as corporate backers continue to drop their memberships and seek to distance themselves from the group’s agenda.

Even Walmart, the bane of the working man (and woman), is jumping ship.

Which brings me to Bruce, the working man’s hero, whose original manuscript for “Born to Run” was auctioned off today at Sotheby’s for $197,000.

Here’s Bruce (without whom no Lunch Links is complete), live from the Concert for Sandy Relief, with some Throwback Thursday lyrics apropos of the Sanford era:

“Well I will provide for you, and I’ll stand by your side. You’ll need a good companion for this part of the ride.”

Cheers!

 

YouTube Preview Image

Lunch Links – #GivingTuesday, delivery drones, and a world record for holiday lights

givingWhether you finished your holiday shopping during Cyber Monday’s lunch break or haven’t even started shopping yet, take a moment today to think about #GivingTuesday.

#GivingTuesday got its start as a few years back as a national day of giving to highlight how individual gifts of resources and time to nonprofits can make our world a better place. We hope you will consider a small year-end donation today to mark the occasion.

With the rush to get everything done between now and the end of the year, we were intrigued to hear that Amazon is experimenting with the idea of delivery drones:

YouTube Preview Image

That idea is at least five years away, but a problem we’re seeing already is a shortage of Christmas trees due to climate change. Think Progress reports Vermont and New Hampshire are experiencing a shortage this year following ‘an unexpected early heat wave in March and a summer of flash floods.’

On the subject of climate change, if you missed our Crucial Conversation with Dr. Rob Young discussing sea level rise and the future of North Carolina’s coastline, be sure to check out the full video which is now available online.

XmasLights

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a case today that has implication if you are a frequent flier, and have ever had a gripe about redeeming those sky miles and other rewards.  Nina Totenburg offered a great overview of the case this morning on NPR.

Are you putting up your holiday lights this week?  Don’t miss Janean and David Richards’ display, which uses more than 500,000 LED lights that would stretch for 31 miles if all those strings of lights were laid end to end.

In case you are wondering, yes, they do hold the Guinness World Record. They started decorating in October!

Finally, we’ll close out today’s lunch links with a little Natalie Cole & Diana Krall. Cole comes to the Durham Performing Arts Center one week from today.


Natalie Cole & Diana Krall by Hanvak

Lunch Links Tuesday

Hope your week is getting off to a good start! This lunch links is going to meander, buckle your seat belts now.

The Department of Health and Human Services is under scrutiny again by lawmakers, and you can watch the legislative oversight hearing live on WRAL. This time lawmakers are hearing about the progress of the troubled NC Tracks, the new Medicaid billing system. NC Policy Watch reporter Sarah Ovaska is tweeting from the hearing. Click here to follow Sarah’s tweets.

In the news of Seriously??, a Wal-Mart in Cleveland, Ohio is collecting food donations for its own employees. The majority of Wal-Mart employees bring in less than $25k per year and many qualify for food stamps, according to MSNBC.

Maybe pay them a living wage?

In the news of Wow, Switzerland, up in arms over the high salaries paid to CEOs, plans to vote on a referendum that would limit the pay of top executives to just 12 times that of the lowest-paid employees at the same firm.

In the news of Oh man I hope so, Monty Python is planning to reunite for a stage show for the first time in decades.

Monday Lunch Links

It’s Monday lunch already!  Here are a few bits to chew on.

Not a milestone that many care to mark, but today is the 35th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre.  You can read Tim Cahill’s chilling tale of the incident, “In the Valley of the Shadow of Death,” here.

Christie WalkerSpeaking of scary, here’s New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker together at yesterday’s Giants-Packers football game. Ticket for 2016?

Speaking of governors, our own Pat McCrory high-tailed it out to California, visiting Google and then Facebook today. You, too, can join the governor this afternoon at 5:30 as he answers questions on his own Facebook page.

And speaking of Republicans, watch this afternoon as U.S. senators of that persuasion are expected to complete their filibuster hat trick, preventing Robert Wilkins from receiving an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor on his nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Wilkins will be the third of President Obama’s three pending nominees to that court to get the cold shoulder from some of the same senators who vowed in previous years to never use the filibuster to veto a judicial nominee.

Here’s our own Sen. Richard Burr in 2005:

I believe if one of my colleagues objects to a particular nominee, it is certainly appropriate and fair for my colleague to vote against that nominee on the floor of the Senate.  But denying judicial nominees of both parties, who seek to serve their country, an up-or-down vote, simply is not fair.  It was certainly not the intention of our Founding Fathers when they designed and created this very institution.

And here’s a few more, courtesy of Think Progress:

Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA): “Every judge nominated by this president or any president deserves an up-or-down vote. It’s the responsibility of the Senate. The Constitution requires it.”

Tom Coburn (R-OK): “If you look at the Constitution, it says the president is to nominate these people, and the Senate is to advise and consent. That means you got to have a vote if they come out of committee. And that happened for 200 years.”

John Cornyn (R-TX): “We have a Democratic leader defeated, in part, as I said, because I believe he was identified with this obstructionist practice, this unconstitutional use of the filibuster to deny the president his judicial nominations.

Mike Crapo (R-ID): “Until this Congress, not one of the President’s nominees has been successfully filibustered in the Senate of the United States because of the understanding of the fact that the Constitution gives the President the right to a vote.”

Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “I think filibustering judges will destroy the judiciary over time. I think it’s unconstitutional”

Chuck Grassley (R-IA): “It would be a real constitutional crisis if we up the confirmation of judges from 51 to 60, and that’s essentially what we’d be doing if the Democrats were going to filibuster.”

Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “The Constitution of the United States is at stake. Article II, Section 2 clearly provides that the President, and the President alone, nominates judges. The Senate is empowered to give advice and consent. But my Democratic colleagues want to change the rules. They want to reinterpret the Constitution to require a supermajority for confirmation.”

Jeff Sessions (R- AL): “[The Constitution] says the Senate shall advise and consent on treaties by a two-thirds vote, and simply ‘shall advise and consent’ on nominations…. I think there is no doubt the Founders understood that to mean … confirmation of a judicial nomination requires only a simple majority vote.”

Richard Shelby (R-AL): “Why not allow the President to do his job of selecting judicial nominees and let us do our job in confirming or denying them? Principles of fairness call for it and the Constitution requires it.”

John Thune (SD): Filibustering judicial nominees “is contrary to our Constitution …. It was the Founders’ intention that the Senate dispose of them with a simple majority vote.”