NC ATTORNEY GENERAL APPEALS VOTER ID RULING: The question of voter ID in North Carolina for the November 2020 elections remains unsettled, as Attorney General Josh Stein announced Thursday he will appeal a judge’s ruling blocking the state law requiring ID from going into effect. However, it appears that no matter how the legal fight unfolds, voter ID won’t be required during the state’s primary elections. Stein said in a news release that he would not request that ID be put back in place for the primary, “to avoid any further voter confusion.” Although Election Day for the primary isn’t until March, absentee voting starts in less than two weeks. His decision follows a high-profile win by the North Carolina NAACP, which successfully argued to a federal judge that the 2018 voter ID law appeared to be motivated at least partially by racial discrimination.
COAL ASH AGREEMENT WILL SHIFT ASH TO "ON-SITE LINED LANDFILLS": The Department of Environmental Quality said in a Thursday press release that it will be the largest coal ash cleanup in the nation’s history. It also settles various legal disputes between Duke and parties that include environmental and community groups. For decades, coal ash has been stored in landfills or in ponds, often near waterways into which toxins can leach. Duke Energy will remove coal ash from the Allen, Belews Creek, Cliffside, Marshall, Mayo and Roxboro sites into on-site lined landfills. Stephen De May, North Carolina president of Duke Energy, said in a statement that the agreement “significantly reduces the cost to close our coal ash basins in the Carolinas for our customers, while delivering the same environmental benefits as full excavation.”
GREASE CAUSES BURLINGTON TO SPILL 5,325 GALLONS OF SEWER WASTE INTO HAW TRIBUTARY: Burlington’s sewer system spilled 5,325 gallons of untreated sewage Thursday, Jan. 2, into a tributary of Little Alamance Creek, the city said Thursday afternoon. The spill began at 9:30 a.m. in the 2000 block of Ashton Park Lane. “The obstruction was cleared and the overflow stopped at 10:15 a.m.,” the city said. The city blamed the spill on grease, and as required by law, notified the state Department of Environmental Quality. For more information, call Water and Pipe Maintenance at 336-222-5140. *Author's note: this is a huge problem in most sewer systems. Wait until the grease cools/congeals and scrape into trash, or compost it.
TRUMP ORDERS ASSASSINATION OF TOP IRANIAN GENERAL IN BAGHDAD AIR STRIKE: Iran on Friday vowed "severe revenge" in response to a U.S. airstrike that killed Tehran's most powerful military commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, and dramatically sharpened tensions across the Middle East. Soleimani was a towering figure in Iran's power projection across the region, with close links to a network of paramilitary groups that stretches from Syria to Yemen. His death in the smoldering wreckage of a two-car convoy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, left U.S. outposts and personnel bracing for retaliatory attacks and oil prices shooting upward. The U.S. Embassy in Iraq warned its citizens to leave "immediately." Experts warned Friday that the strike could serve as a catalyst for greater violence. “The Pentagon said it was carried out with the goal of deterring further Iranian attacks — but in the short term, there is a very real possibility of retaliatory action by Iran that could reverberate across the region,” said Naysan Rafati, a senior Iran analyst with the International Crisis Group.
NO END IN SIGHT FOR AUSTRALIANS DEALING WITH RECORD WILDFIRES: One of the worst wildfire seasons in Australian history has killed at least 18 people, destroyed more than 1,000 homes and left firefighters struggling to contain more than 100 blazes. Conditions are likely to grow worse, with high temperatures and strong winds expected to fan conflagrations across Australia’s southeast this weekend. In the state of Victoria, which declared a disaster on Thursday, some residents and tourists were evacuated by the Royal Australian Navy. Others were forced to join long lines of vehicles jammed onto escape routes. New South Wales also declared an emergency, and evacuations from parts of the state could be the largest in its history. Early Friday, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service drastically expanded its estimate of the amount of land at risk from spreading fires, including “ember attacks,” in which burning wood fragments are carried by wind. The weekend is expected to bring high winds and temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 38 Celsius.