Weekly Briefing

Weekly Briefing

Top Story Weekly Briefing

Glimmers of hope at a time of crisis

If ever there was a year in which it is a good thing to be past the midway point, 2020 would appear to be it. Between the illness, death and mass economic suffering ushered directly in by the pandemic, the truck-sized fissures, inequities and injustices in our society that the crisis has brought into sharper-than-ever relief...

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

The 2020 General Assembly in a nutshell: profits over people

It’s never safe to predict what the current leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly will do when it comes to scheduling gatherings in Raleigh, but if the end of the 2020 legislative session really is nigh at it appears, the past several weeks will have served as a fitting conclusion to a decade of conservative Republican rule.

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

C’mon North Carolina, choose life and health – wear a mask

For many Americans, the initial reactions to seeing images on the news (or even occasionally in an American airport) of seemingly young and healthy people – usually from Asian countries – wearing protective masks in public places was mostly negative. They included: “What the heck, could things really be that bad?” “What a pain that must be. What a lousy and fearful way to go through life.”

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

William Barber explains how to tell if we’re really at a watershed moment for race in America

The signs out there are so striking and numerous that it sure seems as if something transformative and historic is underway in America. All across the nation, powerful and conservative white voices – voices that have long remained silent or actively opposed real change and progress in addressing centuries of racial oppression – are speaking up to say, in effect, “we were wrong.”

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

Surely now, North Carolina will end executions for good

The timing of the North Carolina Supreme Court’s June 5th ruling couldn’t have been more appropriate. In a week in which millions of Americans took to the streets to voice their outrage at the seemingly never-ending succession of incidents in which unarmed people of color have been killed by law enforcement officers, the ruling upholding protections conferred by a statute known as the “Racial Justice Act” shined a bright ray of light across a stormy landscape. Of course, as with the protests themselves, it’s a tragic commentary on our society that such a court ruling was even necessary to begin with.

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

Small inklings of the understandable fear and anger that fuels the national protest movement

It needs to be acknowledged at the very outset of this column that there is, of course, no way that a middle-aged white man of substantial privilege can ever really understand what it’s like to be a person of color in the 21st Century United States, much less presume to speak to that reality with any authority. The best that people like me can do is try to watch and listen and learn and maybe make modest and imperfect analogies from our own experiences in order to acquire small inklings of what it must be like to face myriad challenges from which we have, as a result of having been born white, been spared.

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

The freedom for which they fought

Yesterday – the 75th Memorial Day since the end of World War II (and the first in more than century to take place during a global health pandemic) – seems like an apt point on the calendar to reflect for a moment on the question what it was that the Allies fought and died for in the battle against fascism. If you agree that the obvious answer to that question is “freedom,” then perhaps it also makes sense to take a few more minutes to reflect upon what it is that we mean by that word.

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

“Not really essential … just expendable”: Advocates describe the people that rapid reopening puts in harm’s way

Mindy Bergeron-Lawrence seemed to be struggling with her emotions at times as she spoke into the computer that connected her to a national Zoom press conference. As she worked to maintain her composure, the host of the conference, Rev. William Barber, offered occasional words of comfort and encouragement to the New England fast food worker as she struggled to explain the reality she confronts every day as a 17-year McDonald’s restaurant veteran.

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COVID-19 Top Story Weekly Briefing

We can’t keep living this way

There are a lot of ways to interpret the headline to this commentary. For some, the obvious allusion is to the current state of pandemic-driven semi-quarantine in which much of the world finds itself mired. For others, it might just as obviously apply to a pair of recent incidents in Raleigh in which groups of weapon-toting “demonstrators” terrorized the local citizenry by doing their best impressions of war zone militia thugs.

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

The politics of COVID-19: Everything is different, but nothing has really changed

Something truly strange and appealing happened in the world of policy and politics this past Saturday: North Carolina lawmakers of both major political parties came together to pass compromise COVID-19 relief legislation by overwhelming margins. Shortly thereafter, Gov. Cooper issued a statement in which he applauded lawmakers for acting so swiftly and collaboratively.

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COVID-19 Top Story Weekly Briefing

Prospect of bipartisanship on Jones Street is welcome, but only a first step in addressing NC’s needs

If you’d like to understand how utterly illogical and cruel the political right’s stance on closing the state’s lethal health coverage gap has become, consider the following two scenarios: 1) Wanda is part-time clerk at a convenience store who works the morning shift before heading off to clean houses in the afternoon. Recently, she has developed a fever, severe cough and other classic symptoms of COVID-19. After much agonizing (since she falls in the health insurance gap and lacks coverage), she decides to visit her local hospital emergency room.

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COVID-19 Top Story Weekly Briefing

Ignorance and cynicism in action: The “re-open” movement and the hypocrites helping to drive it

The personality of the typical American – often to their credit and occasionally to their benefit – is marked by a broad streak of what is probably best described as cussedness. Generally speaking, we don’t like to be told what to do and we can be a pain in the neck when someone tries. It’s actually not all that unique of a characteristic. Many a 20th Century revolutionary movement was based on the premise that it’s better to be poorly governed by one’s own people than wisely governed by a foreign power. This spirit also plays an obvious role in many of the world’s modern day political hotspots.

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COVID-19 Top Story Weekly Briefing

Let the people vote!

Health pandemic will put democracy itself at risk unless we act There are a lot of complex decisions to be made by American elected leaders in the coming weeks and months in responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Know-it-all commentators and internet trolls will try to push “simple” solutions or try to convince us that the whole thing is overblown and that we should simply suck it up and get back to work, but the truth is that societal recovery will likely be a frustrating painstaking process with plenty of difficult calls and gray areas.

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

The troubling truth behind NC’s vaunted “surpluses”

It’s certainly nice that North Carolina entered the COVID-19 health pandemic with some cash in the bank. The combination of the legislature’s cheapskate spending priorities and the ongoing impasse between Gov. Cooper and GOP legislative leaders has left the state with as much as $3 billion that will be available to help plug the gaping new budget holes that will quickly emerge as recession grips the economy. In addition, the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund will enter a period of what figures to be unprecedented demand with an extra few billion on hand as well.

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Top Story Weekly Briefing

The local Right dishes up more distinctly unhelpful talk about the public health crisis

It’s the sacred right of all Americans to complain about their government – even if they do so in destructive and nonsensical ways. As senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry put it a few years back in ...
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Top Story Weekly Briefing

The Right’s dangerous policy prescriptions for the COVID-19 pandemic

Now is no time for North Carolina to double town on "fiscal restraint" As the health pandemic caused by the new coronavirus continues to take its dreadful toll on human life and wellbeing, the denizens of Right-Wing Avenue in North Carolina have begun to promote an inaccurate and downright dangerous talking point. According to politicians and their apologists in conservative advocacy groups and think tanks, the policy agenda pursued by the Republican-led General Assembly over the past decade has left our state extremely well-positioned to respond to the crisis.

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