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Opinion Roundup: Trump impeachment trial begins; coal ash disposal hearings; jail needs; third spacewalk; and more.

Posted January 21, 2020 8:08 a.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2020 8:21 a.m. EST

Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020 -- A round up of opinion, commentary and analysis on: Trump impeachment trial begins; on-campus voting could be easier this year; coal ash disposal hearings set; new flood insurance maps; third spacewalk; and more.

CAMPAIGN 2020
Fact check: Have Warren and Klobuchar ever lost an election? (PolitiFact/WRAL-TV reports) -- During a debate among presidential candidates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said, "Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they've been in are the women."

ADDISON SKIGEN: Election precinct changes could make voting on-campus easier this year (The Daily Tarheel reports) -- Changes to Orange County’s election precincts were approved in December and took effect Jan. 1 of this year. These changes include a UNC “super precinct” that covers all on-campus housing. The polling location will be at The Sonja Hanes Stone Center for Black Culture and History and will have 15 days of early voting. These precinct changes, when paired with the progress made to get UNC One Cards accepted as valid voter ID, could increase student voter turnout in the upcoming presidential election.

IMPEACHMENT 2020
PETER BAKER, MAGGIE HABERMAN & NICHOLAS FANDOS: McConnell pushes to speed impeachment trial as Trump requests swift acquittal (New York Times reports) -- Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, unveiled ground rules Monday for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial that would attempt to speed the proceeding along and refuse to admit the evidence against the president unearthed by the House without a separate vote. The White House also announced that it had assembled a team of eight House Republicans to serve as part of the president’s defense team, including some of his fiercest defenders, like Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and John Ratcliffe of Texas. McConnell’s trial rules, which limited each side’s arguments to 24 hours over two days, gave the White House a helping hand at the outset and drew swift anger from Democrats. The rules left open the possibility that the Senate could not only decline to hear new evidence not uncovered in the House impeachment inquiry, but could also sidestep considering the House case against Trump altogether — although such a vote is considered unlikely.

POLICY & POLITICS
There is a reason for the law (Washington Daily News) – This week, when the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution declaring the county a sanctuary county for Second Amendment rights, commissioners were encouraged to change some of the wording about prohibiting employees from enforcing “any unconstitutional actions of the state government” replacing it instead with a declaration that those actions would be vigorously challenged in the courts. It was the right thing to do, as every elected official is sworn to uphold the law, even ones they disagree with. And just as Second Amendment rights as they stand now were defined by the courts, so any challenges to those laws could be confined to the courts too.

The Cycle Of Chronic Gun Violence: How One Community Looks To Save Lives In A New Year (WUNC-FM reports) -- In most American cities, gun homicides are on the decline . But Durham, North Carolina, saw its homicide rate rise in 2019 . While the community copes with feelings of chronic violence, one outreach worker is dedicating his time to ending the cycle. 652 shooting incidents were reported to the Durham Police Department last year. In at least 37 of those incidents, someone died.

ALAN SUDERMAN & SARAH RANKIN: Pro-gun rally by thousands in Virginia ends peacefully (AP reports) -- Tens of thousands of gun-rights activists from around the country rallied peacefully at the Virginia Capitol to protest plans by the state's Democratic leadership to pass gun-control legislation -- a move that has become a key flash point in the national debate over gun violence. The protesters came out despite the frigid temperature to send a message to legislators, they said. "I know it's not my state, but I don't want it to spread where I live," said Scott Young of Charlotte, N.C., an AR-15 strapped to his side. "I'm here to support the people of Virginia," said a man from Apex, N.C., who identified himself only as Ed. "If this is allowed to happen in Virginia, North Carolina will be right down the road. They're going to try to do this in places like Florida. It's just one thing after another, and we're sick of it."

Rocky Mount native shares story of sex trafficking ordeal in new documentary (WRAL-TV reports) -- "Blind Eyes Opened" is a documentary about the magnitude of the problem and some Christian organizations that are making a difference in helping survivors. One of the six women featured in the film, which will be shown at area theaters on Thursday, is that of Rocky Mount native Niki Rowe Cross.

MIKE WALDEN: Top 10 economic lessons for 2020 (The Wilson Times) -- I have taught economic principles and lessons for more than 40 years. My hope has been for students and others to use these concepts in making better decisions for their personal and financial goals. At the beginning of a new year, it’s common to give “top 10” lists for various activities and objectives. So, in the spirit of such lists, here are my top 10 useful economic lessons.

No escape from jail needs (Hendersonville Times-News) -- When it comes to spending taxpayer dollars, schools, colleges and health facilities — heck, even a parking deck — are more popular than adding jail space. But a bulging inmate population has county leaders looking at the need to expand the Henderson County Detention Center 19 years after it opened.

KAYLEIGH CARPENTER: North Carolina is no longer trying 16-year-olds as adults. Here's what that means. (The Daily Tarheel reports) -- N.C. is the last state in the country to adopt a Raise the Age law that no longer automatically charges 16-year-olds as adults. The state had prosecuted 16-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system since 1919, and after the New York Raise the Age law went completely in effect on Oct. 1, 2019, N.C. was the last one in the United States to do so.

CHANTAL ALLAM: “Just Podcast” shines light on leaders pursuing justice in their communities (TECHWIRE/WRAL-TV reports) -- For Rob Shields, executive director of ReCity, when it comes to understanding other people’s suffering, it’s all about proximity. “You cannot understand the most important things from a distance. You have to get close,” he has said. “Otherwise we end up drawing conclusions about communities in which we’ve never been.” That’s where “Just Podcast” comes in. Shields has teamed up with Jes Averhart, co-founder of Black Wall Street Homecoming, to launch a new bi-weekly podcast that aims to do just that.

RICHARD CARVER: Soon down to one: Corporate headquarter departures rock Winston-Salem (Winston-Salem Journal reports) -- Winston-Salem has experienced the loss of numerous corporate headquarters in the past two decades. Hanesbrands Inc. will be the only publicly-traded company based here if the proposed sale of Primo Water Corp. is completed. Winston-Salem, home to as many as 10 publicly traded corporate headquarters in the latter part of the 2000s, is preparing to be down to just one by the spring.

SCOTT SEXTON: What're they smoking at the Winston-Salem City Council? Probably not hemp. But it's not that crazy an idea. (Winston-Salem Journal reports) -- It was a moment of levity in a regularly scheduled meeting of the Winston-Salem City Council finance committee — a gathering desperately in need of something to break the tedium. But, it’s worth taking note of, particularly when put in the proper context.

NC MOBILIZES
SARAH BLAKE MORGAN: 82nd Airborne Division to train with Colombian paratroopers (AP reports) -- On New Year’s Eve, hundreds of Fort Bragg-based paratroopers went from relaxing at home with their families to deploying to the Middle East within hours. It's something the was 82nd Airborne’s Immediate Response Force prepares for constantly. This week, readiness preparation will continue for U.S. forces as they take part in a multinational training exercise in Colombia.

EDUCATION
JESSICA BAILEY: Training for jobs to support local industries (The Wilson Times reports) -- Did you know that Wilson Community College has a program that will prepare you for a job in advanced manufacturing in as little as seven weeks? The Advanced Manufacturing Institute, or AMI, started last fall in response to a huge industry need for trained and skilled workers not only in Wilson County, but all across eastern N.C. Wilson is one of eight community colleges that make up RAMP East, which stands for Regional Advanced Manufacturing Pipeline. The ultimate goal of RAMP East is to provide training to meet the manufacturing needs in support of industries in the northeastern part of the state.

NICOLE BOWMAN-LAYTON & MILES LAYTON: Judge: Disadvantaged, underappreciated need 'drum majors' (The Daily Advance reports) -- A N.C. District Court judge urged a packed auditorium at John A. Holmes High School to become “drum majors” in the effort to help the disadvantaged and underappreciated.

Speaker draws inspiration from King’s speech: ‘Strive to be the absolute best’ (The Wilson Times reports) -- Hundreds gathered Monday for a message of hope and finding your life’s “blueprint” at the 26th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast held at the Darden Alumni Family Center. “There is a blueprint,” said Edgecombe County sheriff and Wilson native Cleveland “Clee” Atkinson Jr. “Dr. King talked about the blueprint.” Atkinson, this year’s guest speaker, drew from a speech that King delivered to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia six months before he was assassinated.

HEALTH
CULLEN BROWDER: Faith-based programs that share health care costs growing in NC (WRAL-TV reports) -- Despite the Affordable Care Act, more than 1 million adults in North Carolina lack health insurance, with many adults and families priced out of insurance plans. In the past year, a growing number those uninsured have turned to health-sharing ministries to help with medical bills.

LIORA ENGEL-SMITH: Eastern North Carolina hospital to be sold to Texas firm (N.C. Health News reports) -- Washington Regional Medical Center in Plymouth is slated for sale at the end of the month for $3.5 million.

Unsafe Working Conditions for Pregnant Women Tied to Poor Health Outcomes (Public News Service reports) -- A bill in Congress that would ensure pregnant women aren't fired from their jobs for requesting reasonable accommodations in the workplace has received bipartisan approval by the House Education and Labor Committee, and soon should move to the House floor for a vote. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is co-sponsored by 26 representatives from both sides of the aisle. Beth Messersmith, campaign director with MomsRising, said unsafe pregnancies are linked to poor health outcomes across North Carolina.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
TAFT WIREBACK: Coal ash disposal hearings set for Belews Creek, five other Duke Energy plants (Winston-Salem Journal reports) -- Area residents get a chance next month to tell regulators what they think of Duke Energy’s plans for coal ash disposal at the Belews Creek Steam Station and five other coal-fired plants where the issue had been in dispute. The state Department of Environmental Quality is hosting the gatherings between Feb. 10 and 27 to explain details about each plant stemming from a recent, compromise settlement between Duke, the state and various environmental and civic groups.

Red States Brace for Disasters Of Climate, but Won’t Name It (New York Times reports) -- The Trump administration is about to distribute billions of dollars to coastal states mainly in the South to help steel them against natural disasters worsened by climate change. But states that qualify must first explain why they need the money. That has triggered linguistic acrobatics as some conservative states submit lengthy, detailed proposals on how they will use the money, while mostly not mentioning climate change. North Carolina is in line for $168 million. Texas is in line for more than $4 billion, the most of any state. The next largest sums go to Louisiana ($1.2 billion) and Florida ($633 million) all of which voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election.

MICHELLE WAGNER: New flood insurance maps drawing critical reaction in NC (Carolina Public Press reports) -- Flood insurance maps are receiving updates, but local and state officials question some changes and are wary of how maps may be misinterpreted.

NC 12, Channel Shoaling Concerns Escalate (Coastal Review reports) -- Discussions during a recent meeting of the Dare County Waterways Commission indicate that persistent threats to the Ocracoke highway and north-end ferry dock have become more urgent.

Greta the Groundhog to make spring prediction at Chimney Rock State Park (Hendersonville Times-News reports) -- For the past 15 years, Groundhog Day has become a family fun, annual tradition at Chimney Rock State Park. On Feb. 2, furry little meteorologist Greta the Groundhog will make her yearly spring prediction as well as her Super Bowl pick.

...AND MORE
Time for new IBM leader? If so, Red Hat's Whitehurst is a top choice, analyst says (WRAL-TV/TechWire reports) -- IBM may be one of the most iconic American technology companies, but Wall Street no longer views Big Blue as an innovator in a tech landscape dominated by the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google owner Alphabet. Is new leadership needed?

MARCIA DUNN: Spacewalking astronauts wrap up battery improvements (AP News) -- A pair of spacewalking astronauts successfully wrapped up battery improvements outside the International Space Station, completing a job begun last fall. NASA's Jessica Meir and NCSU grad Christina Koch installed the last new battery in a set of six launched to the orbiting lab in September. They also removed two old batteries in their second spacewalk in under a week to upgrade the station's solar power grid. This marked the women's third spacewalk together.

Man in fatigues filmed folding torn US flag (KSAZ-TV reports) -- A man in military garb was caught on camera performing his patriotic duty at a Hope Mills, N.C., home after spotting a United States flag torn from its pole during storms and carefully folding it before placing it on the homeowner’s porch.

NC businesses win Good Food Awards (WRAL-TV reports) -- The Good Food Awards, which honor "tasty, authentic, and responsibly produced" food and beverages, announced its winners at a ceremony in San Francisco. Two downtown Raleigh chocolatiers were honored. Escazu chocolates won an award for its 70 percent Single Origin chocolate, while Videri Chocolate won for its Orange Basil Ganache.

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