Category: Chapel Hill


Sources: NOW ON PBS | GASLAND

Will the boom in natural gas drilling contaminate America’s water supply? NOW talks with filmmaker Josh Fox about ‘Gasland’, his Sundance award-winning documentary on the surprising consequences of natural gas drilling.

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In the debate over energy resources, natural gas is often considered a “lesser-of-evils”. While it does release some greenhouse gases, natural gas burns cleaner than coal and oil, and is in plentiful supply—parts of the U.S. sit above some of the largest natural gas reserves on Earth. But a new boom in natural gas drilling, a process called “fracking”, raises concerns about health and environmental risks.

This week, NOW talks with filmmaker Josh Fox about “Gasland”, his Sundance award-winning documentary on the surprising consequences of natural gas drilling. Fox’s film—inspired when the gas company came to his hometown—alleges chronic illness, animal-killing toxic waste, disastrous explosions, and regulatory missteps.

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Who knew? Lobbyist are doing very well on Capital Hill.

Say hello to the new and improved, 21st century way to squeeze the proverbial blood from the turnip, courtesy of  the people who sit around and think shit up or aka the transportation experts. So here’s the deal, you drive how far daily, weekly and monthly? Multiply that figure by the set tax amount agreed upon by the transportation experts (the think shit up people) and Voila` you have the annual figure you are expected to squeeze out of the previously untaxed  orifice.

With gas-tax revenues plummeting, the state of North Carolina is looking seriously at taxing motorists for how far they drive.
 
If the “road-use tax” is implemented, it would at first be simple – with the state checking your odometer annually and taxing you based on how many miles you have driven. But transportation experts say new GPS technology could allow the state to charge people different rates based on when and where they drive, in an attempt to manage congestion.

Talk of a Vehicle Miles Traveled tax has long been discussed as a necessity in a decade or so, because cars are becoming more fuel efficient, and states and the federal government are losing gas-tax revenue.

But there is now a sense of urgency about the new VMT tax. When gas hit $4 a gallon this summer, Americans sharply curtailed their driving. And when the economy cratered this fall, the driving rollback continued, even when gas prices plummeted.

The 21st Century Transportation Committee suggested that, in addition to the gas tax, motorists pay a quarter-cent for each mile they drive, with the first 2,000 miles annually free. A motorist who drives 12,000 miles a year would pay $25 – possibly due when the driver gets the car inspected.

It’s unlikely that the NC General Assembly will add this to their agenda, moreover, the administration of a “VMT” tax is likely to be quite difficult and costly.  How could the state justify or  implement a costly travel taxation program? Other states as well as the federal government are considering road-use taxes. The gas tax is fundamentally tied to a fossil-fuel economy that  many people would like to move away from. If  North Carolina tries to move toward this type of movement taxation the state will finally be forced to examine mass transit options for the masses. I mean after all there are some places you can’t get to with a golf-cart or on horseback.

Jimmy Westlake

Image: Jimmy Westlake

I’m a bit late on this post for the Taurids, the election has me mind in other places. Luckily the show is not over, in fact we maybe just in time for some midnight fireballs. This all because the Earth & the Moon will be passing through a swarm of debris left over from the parent comet 2P/Encke between Nov. 5th and 12th.  The same type of swarm event happened in 2005 and observers reportedly observed “midnight fireballs” for nearly two weeks.

The swarm, which probably coalesced into a cluster due to gravitational tugs from Jupiter, orbits the Sun every 3.4 years. That means the Earth does not intersect it every year.

This year, however, our planet will make a glancing pass through the group. “It should just be within what we think is the extent of the swarm,” says David Asher of Armagh Observatory in Ireland.

The constellation Taurus is where the Taurids appear to originate from will rise at sunset and stay high in the sky all night long.

Where to look?

Spaceweather.com

Image: Spaceweather.com

On the heels of the less spectacular Taurids we have the Leonids which generally begin around November 13 and end on or around November 21. Historically, the Leonids are the ones to watch, they have produced some of the greatest meteor showers but this year they will be competing with a bright waning gibbous moon, not an idea situation for viewing. The maximum viewing window for the Leonids is generally during the nights of November 17 and 18th. I have seen leftover stray meteors as late as Thanksgiving.

Happy viewing!!

Now that early voting has come to a close, I thought for grins and giggles it would be interesting to see  how long folks waited in-line to cast their ballots early. Voter enthusiasm and commitment has had a  definite effect on voter turn-out around the country. But for us in NC the mere fact we are a swing state this election has added to the excitment. So, how committed were you, let’s see the numbers.

Thanks for your participation in the poll.

Now, consider this from CNN.

In North Carolina, where a Democratic presidential candidate hasn’t won in 33 years, state election board Deputy Director Johnnie McLean has been watching the early balloting statistics pour in since voting began on October 16.

“I was just looking at the totals a few hours ago for the first time this morning and I just couldn’t believe that we’ve had 1.4 million to vote by absentee ballot already,” said McLean. “Of course we also have more than 6 million voters so you have to take that into consideration.”

As of Tuesday, just over 396,000 registered Republicans had cast early votes in North Carolina, compared with registered Democrats, who had cast 771,500 ballots — nearly twice as many.

Polls show McCain and Obama are locked in a tight contest in the state. A CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corp. poll has Obama leading McCain by a mere 4 percentage points, 51 percent to 47 percent. The poll — taken between October 19 and 22 — has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Early voter turnout in North Carolina is about 23 percent so far, said McLean, adding that a predicted one-third turnout for early voting wouldn’t surprise her.

Hicks, who posts daily analysis to his , said, “Democrats have clearly made a strong push to get out the early vote this year and that’s paying dividends.”

 

If you haven’t voted yet Tuesday is your day, let your voice be heard. Don’t be the person in this video.

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Today the GAO (Government Accountibilty Office) released their findings of an assessment of the Nation’s top 5 BSL 4 Laboratories, “Perimeter Security Assessment of the Nation’s Five BSL-4 Laboratories” the assessment of the facilities was performed from Dec. 2007 through September 2008.

“The AP identified the vulnerable lab locations as Atlanta and San Antonio. The Government Accountability Office did not identify the labs except to say they were classified as Biosafety Level 4 facilities — requiring the highest level of security. But the report included enough details for the AP — and others knowledgeable about such labs — to determine their locations”.

An excerpt from the report:

While three of the BSL-4 labs are privately owned or operated by academic institutions, the other two are owned and operated by the federal government. As requested by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), we are not including the names of the five labs in this report for security reasons. Federal law requires all labs be registered with the CDC’s Division of Select Agents and Toxins (DSAT) when handling select agents that pose a severe threat to public health and safety, including BSL-4 agents.

 
Currently, all five operational BSL-4 labs are registered with the CDC’s Select Agent Program and therefore are regulated by the CDC, not USDA. This registration process requires each lab to develop a security plan that is based on a site-specific risk assessment.According to regulations, the security plan must be sufficient to safeguard against unauthorized theft, loss, or release of select agents. The DSAT inspection is intended to ensure that the labs meet certain safety and security regulations, which vary according to the BSL ranking of the select agent being handled. However, a recent report by HHS’s Office of Inspector General (IG) stated that labs regulated under the DSAT program had weaknesses in such areas as access control and security plan implementation that could have compromised their ability to safeguard select agents from accidental loss or theft.

Read the entire report here

“In the housing markets, there are really three Americas. The declining inner cities of the Rust Belt constitute one America. These places have limited demand and their housing supply is fixed by the number of homes built during an earlier, and more successful, era. These places have had little recent price volatility and don’t represent the core of today’s troubles”.

A helpful read, Edward L. Glaeser an economist at Harvard University takes a look at how low housing prices will go.

With the change of seasons and the cooler nights, nothing is more relaxing than curling up beside a crackling fire with a glass of wine and a good book. If you are at a literary loss, allow me to recommend Who by Fire , a debut novel by Diana Spechler.

Aryn Kyle, bestselling author of The God of Animals describes Spechler’s novel as;

 “Impossible to put down, Who By Fire is a remarkable tale about fear and forgiveness and the bonds that hold a family together even as its members are falling apart. It’s a beautiful novel.”

Since I haven’t finished reading it yet, I won’t spoil it for you. What I will say is the characters are so well developed, that I am finding myself rooting for each dysfunctional one of them.

If you are in the area, Diana has an upcoming reading at McIntyre’s Fine Books in Fearrington Village at 220 Market Street in Pittsboro, NC on October 16, at 7:00 p.m. She will be appearing with another novelist, a North Carolina native, William Conescu. Admission is free and it should be a great event!

Fish wrapping

Source: Lisa Sorg – Independent Weekly

Lo and behold, The News & Observer has found a way to boost its bottom line: distributing agitprop.

Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, the DVD, was tucked into the Sept. 13 edition of The N&O and Charlotte Observer, newspapers in other swing states and even the Chronicle of Higher Education. The placement of 28 million DVDs, including a dumping of them at the Democratic and Republican national conventions, was politically convenient, as was the timing: two days after the Sept. 11 anniversary.

The DVD contains images of wreckage from terrorist bombings interspersed with footage of angry Muslims tearing the American flag, Muslims praying at Mecca (Who knew worship was so radical? Perhaps we should ask Sarah Palin), and the obligatory talking heads, such as Daniel Pipes, himself an anti-Islamic extremist, spreading their fear-mongering and hatred.

This message was brought to you by The Clarion Fund, whose euphemistic motto is “National Security Through Education,” although the nonprofit group does not want to educate the public on its board of directors, donors or tax filings, which it does not disclose.

Obsession‘s shady backers are fishing for a captive audience, and The N&O, apparently desperate for any ad dollar, took the bait—in the name of free speech, of course. Publisher Orage Quarles wrote in a statement that the newspaper tends “to shy away from censorship … and if we err, we tend to do so on the side of freedom of speech.”

That is a specious argument. The Bill of Rights prohibits government, not private enterprise, from abridging free speech. While the media fights for the freedom to speak without government interference, as an industry, we—including the Indy—reserve the right to reject advertising based on its content. The Indy does not accept tobacco advertising, which is also not allowed on television. That ban has met constitutional muster.

The N&O could have said no to Obsession; The News & Record in Greensboro, did. Editor & Publisher reported that the N&R publisher called it “divisive” and the DVD “served no educational purpose.”

The Clarion Fund’s motivations are suspect, yet laughably transparent: Scare the American people into voting for John McCain, whom, in a possible violation of its nonprofit status, the Clarion Fund has supported on its Web site. (Under fire, their site manager removed the laudatory article.)

By accepting the DVD, The N&O has set an unsavory precedent: The KKK could ask to insert a DVD purporting blacks are inherently less intelligent than whites, using data from the “credible” book The Bell Curve. Holocaust deniers could produce a flick claiming the story of 6 million Jews killed in concentration camps is science fiction.

The toothpaste is out of the tube, Mr. Quarles: Now how do you say no?

North Carolina’s AG Roy Cooper has issued 7 subpoenas in connection to the price hikes of gasoline, in the wake of hurricane Ike making landfall. “More than 2,800 people have called the Attorney General’s Office in the past three days, complaining about rapidly rising prices”, Cooper told WRAL. I’m sure public pressure will have an affect on how these cases evolve and we should make sure business owners know they will be held accountable for their criminal price gouging in the future.

Read the Attorney General’s subpoena letters here.

Seven stations subpoenaed over gas-price spike

Source: WRAL

State Attorney General Roy Cooper said seven subpoenas were issued Monday to obtain information from gas stations about prices they charged in advance of Hurricane Ike.

Gas prices jumped Friday amid fears that Ike would cripple U.S. refining capacity along the Texas Gulf Coast, which processes about one-quarter of the nation’s daily fuel needs. The fears prompted long gas lines at area gas stations, as people scrambled to fill their tanks and searched for the lowest possible prices.

The average price for a gallon of unleaded regular in North Carolina was $4.085 Monday, topping the previous record of $4.048 in July, according to AAA Carolinas. In the Triangle, the average price was $4.05 Monday, equaling the previous high.

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