Coal Ash Wednesday: Go get 'em, Avner

Duke professor to address EPA over coal ash deregulation:

Nearly six years after a busted drainage pipe at a Duke Energy coal ash containment pond turned the Dan River into an oily sludge, the Trump administration is considering a move to roll back some of the Obama-era rules that ban the disposal of coal ash in soil or pits and landfills that aren't lined to protect the environment.

At his Duke University lab, ABC11 caught up with the geochemistry professor headed to the EPA hearing about the issue scheduled for Wednesday morning. Avner Vengosh told ABC11 he's going in hopes of convincing the agency to keep the protections in place. "My coming to EPA is to bring the science," said Vengosh. "Demonstrating that putting coal ash without restrictions is a really bad idea."

Professor Vengosh and his graduate students at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment have done groundbreaking work on contaminants that threaten water quality. They're the ones who (finally) proved the Methane contamination of drinking water wells actually originated from the shale being fracked miles below, by looking at the isotopic signature. So we should all be inclined to pay attention to them on this as well:

Wednesday News: Cracks in the armor

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REPUBLICAN COUNTY COMMISSIONERS PUSH BERGER FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION: “We supported Medicaid expansion because our citizens need it. Did you know Senator that our poverty level is near 30%?” he continued. “Did you know that we have several hundred working adults with no means to have health care?” The decline of manufacturing left Graham County without a large private employer, Wiggins said. Given the dire circumstances, he said commissioners have to consider solutions that aren’t necessarily Republican ideas. “The reality is in places like Graham County,” Wiggins said, “a mom or dad working at McDonald’s or Wendy’s for just over minimum wage cannot afford $1,500 a month for insurance.” Wiggins concluded his letter by suggesting legislators don’t understand his county’s hardship. “You know Senator Berger,” he said. “for some people who have good paying jobs and good health insurance it is easy to say that those without health insurance just need to go to work, isn’t it?”
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article235677772.html

Tuesday News: King Rat

ROBIN HAYES SET TO THROW CO-CONSPIRATORS UNDER THE BUS: Under a deal with federal prosecutors, North Carolina’s former state Republican chairman could testify against other defendants in the state’s largest-ever case of political bribery. Robin Hayes would plead guilty to a single felony count of lying to the FBI under the deal. He’s scheduled to formally enter his guilty plea in federal court Wednesday. The plea agreement calls for Hayes to cooperate with prosecutors. That includes testifying against his co-defendants. Hayes, a former member of Congress, was one of four men indicted last March on multiple charges of conspiracy and bribery. Also indicted were Durham businessman Greg Lindberg — one of the GOP’s biggest campaign contributors — and two associates, John Gray and John Palermo. All four pleaded not guilty at the time.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article235624037.html

Rep. Carla Cunningham: Congressional inaction on DSH program will hurt North Carolina hospitals

While our representatives in Washington debate the nuances of broader healthcare policy, uninsured Americans are still turning to local hospitals to access basic care, and these hospitals are still on the hook for covering those costs. But if Congress doesn’t act immediately, funding for the program that helps keep these hospitals open will lapse, affecting dozens of hospitals across North Carolina and the thousands of people who rely on them.

The enduring shame of Senator Thom Tillis

A columnist in today's New York Times had this to say:

To the Republican members of the United States Senate:

You have always told us that you believe in the distinctive greatness of the United States of America. “America is different,” as Senator Marco Rubio has said. Ben Sasse likes to say that “America is an idea” — a commitment to universal dignity over brute power. You have also told us that you went into politics to serve a higher purpose. Well, your moment has arrived.

The president of the United States is betraying his oath of office in the most fundamental way, by using the presidency for personal gain at the country’s expense. He has corrupted our foreign policy with grubby attempts to help himself that his own White House staff immediately recognized as improper. He is telling the world that America does not, in fact, stand for any higher ideal. Can you for a moment imagine the icons of your party, like Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower, risking the security of a country threatened by Russia, for the sake of smearing a political rival?

President Trump must go, and you — only you — have the power to make it happen.

What's remarkable about the column is that it mentions a half-dozen Senators by name, Senators who, the columnist hopes, will have a sense of duty to country. Neither North Carolina Senator made the list.

Rural healthcare crisis: NC loses another maternity ward

It's long past time for the state to step in:

The Quorum Health hospital announced in a press release earlier this month that it was discontinuing labor and delivery services effective Oct. 21 “to better meet the community’s long-term needs.” With birth centers at three Vidant facilities in a 35-mile radius — in Washington, Tarboro and Greenville — the hospital said, pregnant women in the region still have options.

An EMT by training, Bullock said it wasn’t that simple. Every minute matters in labor, she said, and longer trips to a hospital could pose risks to mothers and their babies. “Anything can happen in 35 minutes,” she added. “I mean, anything can happen in five minutes. It’s just like a blink of an eye and you can lose both lives.”

To say this is unsettling would be an understatement. There are already huge geographic gaps in maternity care in Rural NC, and economics has played a major role in that deterioration. There are 100 counties in our state, with only 80 maternity wards to serve them. And 50 of those wards are located in urban centers (mostly I-40/85 Corridor):

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