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Opinion

It’s been a year of populist uprisings, economic downturns, political assassinations, and one scandal after another, but on the civil liberties front, things were particularly grim.

Welcome to the new total security state. The U.S. government now has at its disposal a technological arsenal so sophisticated and invasive as to render any constitutional protections null and void. And these technologies are being used by the government to invade the privacy of the American people.

 

 

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As the holidays approach, the honchos at Duke Energy and Progress Energy have to be asking themselves whether they are being asked for too big a gift.

The proposed merger between the state’s two biggest electricity suppliers has come to a crossroads after federal regulators told company officials to go back to the drawing board.

The feds worry that the merger will mean that the combined firm will control too much of the market for large wholesale buyers of electricity. They want the firms to agree to sell off some of their power generation and/or give up control of transmission lines.

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Each year, I wish for the same things — an end to war, poverty, hunger, violence and disease — and each year, I find the world relatively unchanged. Millions continue to die every year, casualties of a world that places greater value on war machines and profit margins than human life.

I’ve seen enough of the world in my 65 years to know that wishing is not enough. We need to be doing. It’s not possible to solve all of the world’s problems right away. But there are practical steps each of us can take to hopefully get things moving in the right direction. Here’s what I would suggest for a start:

Tone down the partisan rhetoric, the “us” vs. “them” mentality. Instead of wasting time and resources on political infighting, which gets us nowhere, it’s time Americans learned to work together to solve the problems before us. The best place to start is in your own communities, neighbor to neighbor. Politics will never be the answer. Grassroots activism is the only kind of change you can count on.

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Not so long ago, it wasn’t uncommon to hear stories about lobbyists piling undated checks, made out to legislators’ campaigns, on their desks as they awaited the end of North Carolina’s legislative session.

For decades, lobbyists and their employers were prohibited by state law from contributing to legislators’ political campaigns while the legislature met. The ban was intended to prevent a contribution just as a legislator considered a bill that would directly affect the contributor.

In 2006, lawmakers banned lobbyists from contributing any time. The in-session ban, though, still applies to the companies, trade associations and others — in legislative parlance they are called lobbying principals — who employ lobbyists.

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