CHAPEL HILL – Fewer federal inspectors could be required in poultry processing plants soon if the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture approves the proposed change. Supporters of the regulation modification, including N.C. Senator Kay Hagan, have said that it will allow processing to speed up, increasing profits in an industry which already contributes nearly $13 billion to our state’s economy.
The proposed regulation seeks to transfer the responsibility of the inspections to employees of the chicken plant.
WCHL’s resident science expert Jeff Danner said that this change does not address the real contamination concerns. He said that 97 percent of the chicken breasts tested carried bacteria that could make you sick, according to a study conducted by Consumer Reports in December.
Currently, a chicken processing plant is required to have federal inspectors on site—as many as four. Each inspector can examine 35 birds a minute—that’s as many as 140 chickens per minute.
“The theory is that they [plant employees] will be able to do the same or an even better job of pulling out these damaged or contaminated birds by having more people, so now they will be allowed to process about 175 chickens,” Danner said.
An inspector is looking for three things, Danner explained: damage to the chickens, left over feathers, and/or feces.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture last updated chicken and poultry inspection standards in 1957. In a news release, Hagan said that under the new rule, plant employees will perform more quality assurance tasks, such as detecting visible carcass defects. She asserted that is would free up federal inspectors to focus on sanitation standards, blood testing, and antimicrobial controls throughout the entire production process.
However, this proposed change, Danner said, has very little to do with food safety from the perspective of a consumer.
“What they are looking at is just taking advantage of the capital that they have in place and their labor cost. It is the same equipment, the same building, and in theory, the same number of workers,” Danner said. “Their expenses are the same, but now they can spread those expenses over the 175 birds a minute instead of the 140 birds a minute. Their profit margin would go up in that circumstance.”
Another contributor to the contamination problem is that some bacteria found on chickens have become resistant to antibiotics.
“Big chicken plants use antibiotics from the day chickens are born. This is not intended to keep them well. The low-level use of antibiotics has been shown over many decades to help the chickens grow faster through some mechanisms that are not entirely understood. What this means is that all of those chickens have low-level doses of antibiotics within them all the time—so that gives the bacteria living with in them the chance to develop drug resistance.”
Danner added that after the chickens are slaughtered and inspected, the carcasses have to be chilled so that the meat doesn’t spoil. All of the chickens that pass the inspection are thrown into large vats of cold water.
Hundreds of carcasses are in the same pool of water, and that is how the bacteria are spread. This is another source of the contamination problem, according to Danner.
In Europe and Canada, he said chicken producers are converting to air rather than water coolers, which reduce the carcass-to-carcass-transfer of bacteria.http://chapelboro.com/news/health/proposed-changes-poultry-inspections-address-contamination-concerns/
Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling says that Tillis, the presumptive front runner of the Republican challengers, has distanced himself slightly and now leads the field with 19 percent of voters polled picking him. His closest challenger trails with 11 percent.
“Just last month, we found that all the candidates were pretty much within one or two points of each other, but after starting to run television ads last week, we are finally seeing Tillis get out ahead of the pack,” Jensen says.
Forty six percent of Republican primary voters are familiar with Tillis, Jensen explains, compared to less than 30 percent for his field of challengers which include physician Greg Brannon, nurse practitioner Heather Grant, and radio host Bill Flynn.
Tillis is now leading in every region of the state except the Triad, where Flynn is well-known for his radio show. Jensen says Tillis has the lead with both conservative and moderate voters.
In the North Carolina general election, Jensen says the race has been in a holding pattern over the last three months. Incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan is trailing her potential Republican opponents by small margins as she continues to suffer from poor approval ratings.
“Throughout the summer, we had found Kay Hagan up by a pretty substantial margin, but ever since the Obamacare stuff, this has really been looking like a 50-50 race.”
Jensen says Hagan’s affiliation and support of the Affordable Care Act is greatly impacting her approval rating.
“She has some of the lowest approval ratings she has had over her entire term,” Jensen says. “Only 39 percent of voters approve of the job Hagan is doing. Forty-nine percent disapprove. What is really interesting is when you look at those approval numbers, they mirror the approval numbers for Obamacare in North Carolina almost exactly.”
Only 38 percent of voters in the State support Obamacare, compared to 48 percent who are opposed.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/race-us-senate-tillis-widens-lead-rep-primary/
RALEIGH - President Barack Obama will announce a new manufacturing innovation institute and address the economy in front of students and others at N.C.State’s Reynolds Coliseum Wednesday afternoon.
According to an Obama administration release, the President will announce N.C.State as the leader of six universities and 18 private-sector companies that will be a part of the “Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute”. The institute will invest in manufacturing technology that can make chips and devices smaller and more efficient.
The Triangle’s economy continues to show positive signs as outlined in the unemployment rate of Orange, Durham, and Wake counties. All three were in the top seven in the state of lowest unemployment rates in November.
Five hundred tickets were handed out to NCSU students who will likely also hear President Obama speak in favor of U.S. Senator Kay Hagan. The North Carolina democrat says she will not make the trip to Raleigh because the senate is currently in session.
Tune in to WCHL in the 1:00 p.m. hour Wednesday to hear the President’s speech live from N.C.State’s campus. Carolina Connection’s Zach Mayo will be in attendance and will provide a report.http://chapelboro.com/news/national/president-obama-address-economy-wednesday-nc-state/
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Vice President Joe Biden is coming to Chapel Hill Friday to help raise campaign money for State Senator Kay Hagan.
The White House made the announcement on Tuesday.
Hagan seeks re-election next year. Vice President Biden had planned a trip to Durham last month, but that trip was cancelled due to the partial government shutdown.http://chapelboro.com/news/national/vp-biden-to-visit-chapel-hill-for-hagan-campaign/
CHAPEL HILL - Shortly after Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt was easily re-elected to his third term last Tuesday, he received a surprise phone call of congratulations from the Vice President of the United States Joe Biden.
“I just picked it up and said hello, and I was greeted with a ‘Hello, this is Joe Biden,” said Kleinschmidt, a Democrat.
After leaving an election party, he received a call from an unknown number and thankfully answered it rather than letting it go to voice mail.
“I’ve participated in several campaigns over the years and never received a call like that one,” Kleinschmidt said.
Biden, considered likely to run in the 2016 presidential election, made several calls that evening to Democratic municipal election winners in Iowa, which holds the nation’s first caucus, and the battleground states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania, according to USA Today.
“We have a particularly well-tuned-in White House that understands that change is made by fostering and nurturing connections between all levels of government,” Kleinschmidt said.
The Vice President has pledged support for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan as she seeks a second six-year term in 2014. North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis is one of several Republicans running for their party’s nomination to challenge her.
Kleinshmidt is among those who support Hagan.
“I told him [Biden] how excited I was to participate in the next election here in North Carolina next year and [for me to help] Senator Hagan get re-elected. He was glad to hear that.”
Republicans hold a super majority in the North Carolina House, Senate and Governor’s Mansion. Many local elected officials here in Orange County have voiced their opposition to legislation enacted by the General Assembly this past legislative term. Kleinschmidt said Biden offered praise for the progressivism that’s come to be attributed to this community.
“He responded by thanking [us] for the work we have been doing and acknowledging that places like Chapel Hill are where progress is being made in our country, and he was grateful that we were continuing to be committed to it.”
As far as offering endorsements for potential presidential nominees in the 2016 election, Kleinschmidt said he was inclined to support Hillary Clinton, though he said it was still early in the process.http://chapelboro.com/news/national/vice-president-joe-biden-calls-chapel-hill-mayor/
RALEIGH – Vice President Joe Biden will visit North Carolina later this month in part to raise money for U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s re-election bid.
A Hagan spokeswoman confirmed Monday that Biden was scheduled to speak Oct. 21 at a luncheon at the Washington Duke Inn in Durham. Tickets range from $500 to $10,000. Proceeds go to a committee for Hagan, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and state Democratic Party. The News & Observer of Raleigh first reported Biden’s appearance.
Hagan is seeking a second six-year term in 2014. At least four Republicans are running for their party’s nomination to challenge her, including state House Speaker Thom Tillis.
Tillis is getting fundraising help from Karl Rove, the one-time strategist for President George W. Bush. He’ll be appearing at Tillis events next month.http://chapelboro.com/news/election/hagan-to-get-help-from-vp-joe-biden-in-nc/
WASHINGTON - Two and a half days have passed since non-essential government employees were told to stay home as congress can’t agree on a budget, and there are reportedly no signs of reaching an agreement any time soon.
WCHL’s Ron Stutts spoke with U.S. Senator Kay Hagan about the shutdown and the current mood in Washington.
***Listen To The Interview***http://chapelboro.com/news/national/sen-hagan-very-frustrated-with-govt-shutdown/
Pictured: Aleppo, Syria; courtesy AP Photo/Narciso Contreras
CARRBORO - Led by Mayor Mark Chilton, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen approved a letter to Congress taking a stance against U.S. military action in Syria.
Chilton explained that the letter will be directed to North Carolina’s federal elected officials, including Congressman David Price (D-NC 4th District), as well as President Barack Obama.
Price said over the weekend that a “targeted, limited response” was merited, but he was not advocating entering into a war. Senator Kay Hagan said that the U.S. should find ways to prevent “atrocities” from happening again without putting Americans into ground combat.
“Different people on the Board have perhaps slightly different views on the situation in Syria and how to respond, but I think all of us are feeling that missile strikes or bombings would definitely be premature and not a good way to respond to this situation,” Chilton said.
The motion was proposed by Alderman Sammy Slade at Tuesday’s board meeting. Similar resolutions have been made by the Board of Alderman before, including a letter petitioning the U.S. entry into the Iraq War and another calling for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
On Saturday, about a dozen protesters gathered at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, calling for the U.S. to avoid military action against Syria.
A Senate panel voted Wednesday to give Obama the authority to use military force against Syria in response to apparent use of chemical weapons. The full Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week.
The resolution would permit Obama to order a limited, 90 day maximum military mission against Syria, prohibiting the use of American troops on the ground for combat operations.http://chapelboro.com/news/local-government/carrboro-aldermen-to-write-letter-petitioning-us-action-in-syria/
RALEIGH – After a month of national attention on your state, Public Policy Polling released a new poll showing Governor Pat McCrory’s approval rating among voters and the numbers are not favorable.
Fifty-one percent of North Carolinians disapprove of the job Gov. McCrory is doing, with 39 percent approving. In addition, 52 percent of respondents oppose the state’s recent budget, with 33 percent supporting its passage.
PPP director, Tom Jensen, says he believes the disapproval for the governor is coming more from a growing, general disdain than for anything specific like the budget.
“Probably less than the specifics of the budget, what these numbers reflect is that voters are just generally in a bad mood,” Jensen says.
Fifty percent of voters in the PPP poll say they believe that Gov. McCrory broke his promise to not sign any new abortion legislation and 57 percent also said the governor’s move to give cookies to pro-choice protesters who showed up at his home was inappropriate.
Jensen says that North Carolinians are reacting negatively to the passage of the abortion bill, but not necessarily because of objections to the bill’s contents.
“Voters are not, I think, necessarily reacting negatively so much to the actual content of the legislation. It’s really just not liking the process,” Jensen says.
PPP’s poll also found that the Moral Monday protests have a favorable opinion among voters, with 49 percent approving and 35 percent disapproving. Jensen says that the protesters were polling negatively when the rallies started, but the General Assembly’s bad image has pushed them forward.
“I think that’s just a reflection of the fact that voters are so unhappy with the General Assembly that they’re glad that somebody is going out there and speaking out against them and standing up to them,” Jensen says.
The General Assembly’s approval ratings continue to be low in the poll, as PPP found that 50 percent of respondents say they would vote Democratic if there was an election for the legislature now.
With both of the potential Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in the state, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger, coming from the legislature, Jensen says this could benefit incumbent U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, who has a 49-percent approval rating and a 48-percent disapproval rating.
“If I was the GOP, I’d be thinking about maybe trying to find a different candidate who’s not such an establishment politician,” Jensen says.
In PPP surveys this week, Hagan beats both Tillis and Berger by eight points.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/ppp-finds-mccrory-hagans-approval-ratings/
RALEIGH – As our state becomes the 34th state in the union to require I.D. for be able to vote, Public Policy Polling found that the new law is unpopular among voters.
According to the poll, 39 percent of North Carolinians support the voting reform bill signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory on Monday while 59 percent oppose.
Tom Jensen, director of PPP, says that voter I.D. requirements themselves are actually popular in North Carolina, but the bill became unpopular as other provisions were added, such as an end to straight ticket voting and shortening the early voting period from 17 to 10 days.
“We found that only 33 percent of voters in the state thought that it was a good idea to cut the early voting period by a week,” Jensen says. “59 percent were opposed to that.”
Tracy Reams, Orange County Board of Elections director, says that early voting is used by voters in the county in the 2012 November election.
“We had a total of 50,233 ballots that were cast during the early voting period,” Reams says.
In a January 2011 poll by PPP, Jensen says 66 percent of North Carolinians supported just the idea of requiring voters to show I.D.
“This is one of the few things that the Republicans wanted to do that really was popular,” Jensen says. “They managed to make it unpopular by adding all of this extra stuff.”
The elimination of straight-ticket voting in the voting reform bill was also unpopular with voters. Disapproval ran among both parties, with 68 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats opposing the move.
Jensen says that Republicans in the General Assembly got rid off straight-ticket voting because Democrats are more likely to use it.
“I think the Republicans think that if they get rid of that, they’ll have a better chance of winning some of those down-ballot offices like insurance commissioner, secretary of state, those kinds of things,” Jensen says.
Jensen says the move to pass a bill with added unpopular provisions is something the Republican General Assembly has been doing since Gov. McCrory’s election.
“I think it’s a situation where Republicans really felt like, ‘we have this super majority in both the House and Senate, we have a Republican governor. We can really do pretty much whatever we want without having to worry about how popular it is,’” Jensen says.
Among the other items in the new voting reform law is that voters who show up at the wrong precinct are no longer given a provisional ballot so they can vote properly even at that location.
Reams says this was also utilized in the previous election.
“For the November general election in 2012, we had 34 provisional ballots that were cast due to voting out of precinct,” Reams says.
The law also prevents precincts from extending the time that they are open on Election Day, due to long lines or other errors. Reams says no precincts in Orange County extended their hours in the 2012 election.
Senator Kay Hagan sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday asking him to review the voting reform law.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/new-vote-reform-law-unpopular-in-nc/