North Carolina editorial roundup

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Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

June 16

The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, North Carolina, on coal ash legislation:

For more than 80 years, North Carolina has done almost nothing to regulate coal ash. Duke Energy and other utilities have been free to burn coal for generations and dump the toxic ash into unlined ponds. There was minimal protection for groundwater and nearby lakes and rivers.

Looked at in that context, the bill N.C. Senate leaders unveiled Monday is remarkable. The legislation from Republican Sens. Phil Berger and Tom Apodaca requires Duke to close four of its 14 N.C. ash pond complexes within five years and remove the ash from them. It requires that the other 10 sites be closed in the 10 years after that. It ends the practice of dumping ash into lagoons and requires all future ash to be stored in dry, lined landfills. No ash could be stored within 300 feet of a body of water. And it creates 29 new positions, paid for by utilities, to regulate coal ash.

The legislation is a meaningful response to a February spill that dumped 40,000 tons of sludge - and its arsenic, mercury and other toxic substances - into the Dan River north of Greensboro. Cleaning these pits up would be the one benefit to come from the environmental tragedy on the Dan.

While the Berger-Apodaca bill is a relatively large step forward, it has several flaws. ...

Utilities have been allowed to store toxic waste in a way that cities can't even store routine garbage. It's past time for that to change. This bill is a start, but once the Senate passes it, the House needs to make some crucial fixes.

Online:

www.charlotteobserver.com

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June 15

The News & Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina, on high school coaching leadership:

Teachers change lives. And sometimes the teacher who changes a life the most happens to be a coach. Many's the high school athlete who, later on as a lawyer, doctor, scientist or writer, remembers one coach as the person who taught not just athletic skills and discipline but hope, who offered comfort in a troubled family life or who became a confidant who lasted all through adulthood.

Typically, that kind of coach sees the job as being as much about teaching as it is about winning.

But there are other coaches who believe, perhaps because of their own training, that to be good coaches they have to play to the stereotype of yelling and screaming profanity, even in middle and high schools.

That, The News & Observer's long-time high school sports authority Tim Stevens recently reported, is changing. And even some coaches who've followed those unfortunate customs recognize the need to do something differently.

Paul Dinkenor, a multi-championship soccer coach at Leesville Road High in Raleigh, earns some credit for self-awareness. Dinkenor started coaching with the methods he'd experienced as a player in England, where he grew up. European soccer is a tough game where fans are not afraid to take a swing or two at each other and where coaches are no-nonsense - to an extreme.

So Dinkenor was a yeller. "But then," he told Stevens, "I had a very old coach call me aside and tell me that I was making a fool of myself and I didn't know it. He helped me learn that doing all that talking and yelling does much more harm than good."

Through the N.C. High School Athletic Association, there's an effort to see that coaches are trained to cope with the "changing culture" of coaching. Coaches now are dealing with a more diverse pool of athletes. And the coaching "society" in which they grew up has evolved into one in which their yelling and screaming and profanity are no longer tolerated. Far from it.

As Ray Stott, athletic director for Johnson County schools, said, "It's a different world but a better world ..."

Online:

www.newsobserver.com

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June 16

The Daily Reflector, Greenville, North Carolina, on getting a measles vaccination:

A disease once on its way to oblivion apparently is on the rise - and headed this way, say health officials locally and nationwide. So forget rumors you might have heard about vaccinations and make sure you and your children have had one.

That's the message coming this week from health officials about a resurgence in cases of measles nationwide.

The Centers for Disease Control reported this month that measles has reached a 20-year high, and a big reason for the increase is a decrease in the number of people being vaccinated, especially children.

Pitt County Health Director John Morrow told The Daily Reflector that with measles' virtual disappearance in years past, parents today are not aware of its potentially terrible effects.

That's one reason they might not worry much about making sure their children receive the vaccine that would protect them.

Morrow also cited a report that originated in England years ago as another reason for the decline in vaccinations. The report suggested that some of the ingredients in the vaccine could cause other childhood illnesses, including autism.

The researcher behind this report had falsified data, Morrow said, but by the time that became broadly known the rumor that the vaccine was harmful had "gone viral."

As a result, the threat of a measles comeback today is real. In the last five months, measles has caused more U.S. illnesses than in any entire year since 1996, said the CDC. The disease spreads easily through the air and in a closed room infected droplets can linger for up to two hours after a sick person leaves.

There have been 16 outbreaks producing 397 cases of the highly contagious respiratory disease in 20 states, including nearby Virginia and Tennessee ...

So vigilance and awareness are in order to head it off, and it's certainly not too soon to vaccinate any who need protection from this unwanted visitor from the past.

Let's just hope it's not too late.

Online:

www.reflector.com

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June 14

StarNews, Wilmington, North Carolina, on potential loss of film incentives:

A state House committee might as well have been aiming at Wilmington when it shot down a proposal for a slightly streamlined version of film incentives on Wednesday. This is the city that birthed the state's currently successful film industry, and it will suffer the most if productions pack up and leave.

Therefore, it isn't surprising that emotions were running high after Republican state Rep. Ted Davis' pared-down package went down in a 20-16 vote. As it turned out, however, the program wasn't dead, just on life support.

On Thursday, the House passed a bare-bones proposal from Davis to turn the incentives into a grant program, much like the Senate's plan. The latter would weaken and severely limit the program. It requires productions to spend more to qualify, and it caps the maximum rebate at $5 million, compared with the current $20 million cap ...

There is reason for concern. EUE/Screen Gems Executive Vice President Bill Vassar suggested that Wednesday's vote might as well have been an invitation to leave. If the incentives are not extended, he said, "it's clear we are not welcome to invest our company's money, time and talent here any longer."

Consider it a threat. And a promise. North Carolina's movie industry sagged as other states dangled generous incentives in front of bargain-hunting Hollywood producers. It rebounded after North Carolina upped its game in 2009 by adopting the current incentives program.

House Speaker Thom Tillis, who has been supportive of the incentives program because he knows that an even playing field is important but quiet lately, could influence the discussion by choosing conferees who also support film incentives. Davis, who crafted the bills trying to save film incentives, would be a good choice.

Time is short, and the Honorables would be foolish to kill an industry that is responsible for many millions of dollars in direct spending and more than 4,200 permanent jobs - many of them in the Cape Fear region. But if they kill film incentives, there is every reason to believe that much of that activity will move elsewhere, taking an important piece of the state's economy with it.

Online:

www.starnewsonline.com

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