- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

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Dec. 11

Winston-Salem Journal on the recent snowstorm:

In this part of the country, where a winter forecast is as delicate as a snowflake, it’s easy to be skeptical.



Even in the era of Doppler radar and sophisticated computer models, so much has to go right (or wrong) to get what we hoped for (or feared).

A cold front has to rendezvous with “a mass of moisture” at a certain time in just the right way. So there are plenty of opportunities to flub a prognostication.

But this time meteorologists seemed sure of themselves - and they nailed it.

An unprecedented December storm dumped as much as a foot of snow early Sunday and into Monday morning. Thankfully, the brunt of the wintry weather arrived on a weekend, and there was ample warning of it.

Good thing, too. This storm was a beauty and a beast.

It dumped thick scoops of vanilla cream on shrubs and trees. It layered yards and roadways and parking lots in a sugary white blanket. Giddy children enjoyed the rare treat of sledding before January. And there is something magical about the soft glow of Christmas decorations against a snowy backdrop, just like on TV.

But then reality intrudes. You remember that no one gets stranded or loses power or fishtails into a telephone pole on a commercial. The storm made some roads impassable. Cars were still stranded along the roadsides Monday morning. As of Monday morning, two people in North Carolina had died in storm-related incidents.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools are closed at least through Wednesday (cue the debate on whether that’s too long or not long enough).So the postcard-pretty winter wonderland came at a cost.

All the while, first responders were doing what they do, rain or shine. Emergency management officials and the National Guard helped people with special needs such as dialysis make their appointments.

And strangers stopped to help other strangers.

By and large, most of us seemed to approach this storm with level heads and common sense.

We stayed off the roads. We prepared for the worst.

And we even made time to take in the awe and beauty of an early Christmas gift.

Online: https://www.journalnow.com/

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Dec. 12

News & Record of Greensboro on Republican senators’ opposition sinking a federal judge nominee:

Thomas A. Farr was a woefully bad choice to be a federal district judge in North Carolina.

Thank goodness Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, stood up for principle over blind party loyalty and announced that he would oppose Farr’s nomination. With all 49 Democrats in the Senate and Republican Sen. Jeff Flake also unwilling to vote for Farr, Scott’s opposition was all it took to sink the nomination.

Flake is opposing all of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominations until the Senate votes on a bill to protect special counsels, but he’s on record as saying he would have opposed Farr anyway. Principle is something that seems to be lacking among many Senate Republicans these days. Where were North Carolina’s senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, when news emerged recently about a 1991 Justice Department memo written under President George H.W. Bush - a memo that raises serious concerns about Farr’s role in racially discriminatory tactics used in Jesse Helms’ campaigns for Senate from North Carolina? They were holding firm in their support of Farr, no matter what.

Civil rights groups and others were already opposing Farr’s nomination before the memo surfaced, because of his work helping to discourage minority voters. Republicans who controlled the N.C. General Assembly hired Farr and his law firm to defend the congressional boundaries they drew in 2011 - boundaries that were eventually struck down by a federal court as racial gerrymandering. Farr also defended the 2013 N.C. voter ID law that was found to target minority voters.

Supporters in the U.S. Senate said Farr should not be judged on the basis of positions he was hired to defend. Then the 1991 memo, suggesting that Farr, as the leading lawyer for Helms’ Senate bid in 1990, had a role in devising the campaign’s controversial “ballot security” voter-suppression efforts, raised serious questions about his fitness for a lifetime appointment. Yet Farr’s home-state senators, Burr and Tillis, still supported his nomination, making it easier for their fellow Republicans to do the same. Rather than backing a highly questionable nominee, the senators should rise above pure partisanship and work to find a good nominee for the Eastern Judicial District, which includes 44 counties from Raleigh eastward.

That judgeship has the unwelcome distinction of having been empty for nearly 13 years - the longest-lasting judicial vacancy in U.S. history. The empty seat has caused a massive backlog of cases. Farr first surfaced as a nominee under President George W. Bush in 2006. That nomination went nowhere, for good reason. During his two terms, President Barack Obama tried twice to fill the seat. He nominated two well-qualified African-American women, Jennifer May Parker and, later, Patricia Timmons-Goodson. Burr blocked both. Burr’s actions are especially troubling given that the Eastern District has never had an African-American judge even though more than a quarter of its residents are black.

Then, when Trump took office, Farr’s nomination resurfaced. Who knows? With Republican gains in the Senate, the nomination might resurface next year. Rather than stubbornly backing a flawed nominee, Burr and Tillis should encourage Trump to nominate a worthy candidate for the seat.

Online: https://www.greensboro.com/

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Dec. 11

The Charlotte Observer on seismic blasting off the Carolinas coast:

The Trump administration on Nov. 30 gave five companies permission to conduct seismic airgun blasting off the coast of the Carolinas and other states, a major step toward offshore oil and gas drilling.

Here’s what that would look like, directly off the Carolinas’ coasts and extending over an area twice as large as California:

Ships crisscrossing the ocean dragging dozens of airguns. The guns fire off blasts that can be heard underwater 2,000 miles away up to every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day for months. The five companies would have up to 208 guns in the water at a time and would fire a combined five million blasts over the first year.

A coalition of environmental groups filed suit Tuesday in Charleston to prevent the blasts. For the sake of marine life as well as the Carolinas’ coastal beauty and economy, we hope they succeed.

The airguns are used to search for likely oil and gas deposits deep beneath the ocean floor. The deafening noise from the blasts poses a grave threat to dozens of species of marine life, from zooplankton to fish to dolphins and whales. Advocates say the North Atlantic right whale, in particular, is in danger. Only 400 remain, and the sound waves from the airguns would interfere with their mating, feeding and other needs, and possibly cause them to go extinct.

According to the ocean conservation group Oceana, the government has said seismic testing in the Atlantic could injure up to 138,000 marine mammals and disturb “vital activities of millions more.”

The testing would likely lead fairly quickly to offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic, posing the risk of a spill that could damage the Carolinas tourism and fishing industries. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico showed how bad a spill can be.

All of this risk comes with little upside, except for the oil companies. North Carolina is likely to see little benefit, and environmental groups say exploration would likely yield less than seven months’ worth of oil and six months’ worth of gas.

Legally, the case could boil down to what “negligible” and “small numbers” mean. Under federal law, actions like seismic testing that disturb or kill marine mammals are not allowed unless the National Marine Fisheries Service finds the action will affect “small numbers” of marine mammals and will have a “negligible impact” on any individual species.

“NMFS’s conclusions that the authorized seismic surveys in the Atlantic meet these requirements defy science, law, and common sense,” the suit filed Tuesday argues. Each of the five companies is allowed to harm up to 33 percent of each marine mammal population. That’s hardly a small number. The permission to do the seismic testing violated other laws protecting endangered species as well, the groups argue.

It is telling that most coastal governments and public officials, Republicans and Democrats alike, oppose offshore drilling. We hope the federal judges will take a close look at whether it was proper to issue these seismic testing permits.

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/

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