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North Carolina Legislators Want To Ban Masks, Even For Health Reasons

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North Carolina Legislators Want To Ban Masks, Even For Health Reasons


The North Carolina State Senate has voted along party lines this week to ban wearing masks in public.

Seventy years ago some states passed anti-mask laws as a response to the Ku Klux Klan, whose members often hid their identities dressed in robes and hoods.

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The North Carolina bill repeals an exception to the old anti-mask laws that was enacted during the early phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, which allows people to wear masks in public for “health and safety reasons.”

According to The Hill, Republican supporters of the ban said it would help law enforcement “crack down on pro-Palestine protesters who wear masks.” They accuse demonstrators of “abusing Covid-19 pandemic-era practices to hide their identities.”

To reinforce the deterrent, the proposed law states that if a person is arrested for protesting while masked, authorities would elevate the classification of the misdemeanor or felony by one level.

Democrats in North Carolina have raised concerns about the bill, particularly for the immunocompromised or those who may want to continue to wear masks during cancer treatments. And others have also chimed in, including Jerome Adams, former Surgeon General in the Trump Administration, who posted on Twitter that “it’s disturbing to think immunocompromised and cancer patients could be deemed criminals for following medical advice aimed at safeguarding their health.”

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Additionally, there are folks who may have legitimate health reasons for wearing medical masks, including asthma sufferers, people exposed to wildfire and smoke or individuals who want to protect themselves, their families and others from pathogens like Covid-19 and influenza.

Indeed, for decades people across Asia have worn masks for a variety of reasons, as USA Today explained at the outset of the coronavirus epidemic. Japanese often wear masks when sick to curb transmission. Philippine motorcycle riders will put on face coverings to protect from exhaust fumes in heavy traffic. Similarly, citizens of Taiwan use masks to protect themselves from air pollution and airborne germs.

There are exemptions incorporated into the proposed ban, including for Halloween or specific types of work that require face coverings. There’s even an exception that specifically allows members of a “secret society or organization to wear masks or hoods in a parade or demonstration if they obtain a permit,” as WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina reports.

Upon reading this, a Democratic State Senator in North Carolina, Sydney Batch, asked, “so this bill will protect the Ku Klux Klan to wear masks in public, but someone who’s immunocompromised like myself cannot wear a mask?”

It’s noteworthy that if a group like the KKK were to file for and obtain a permit to demonstrate, under the proposed law they could wear face coverings. And this isn’t a theoretical point. The KKK has a history of organizing rallies in North Carolina, like one they held in 2019. The question is, could pro-Palestinian demonstrators get a similar permit now and be allowed to wear masks or other face coverings? Presumably not.

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The American Civil Liberties Union argues that the law is specifically being used to target those who wear face coverings while protesting the war in Gaza, which in the ACLU’s view amounts to “selective prosecution of a disfavored movement.”

There are other legal aspects that could also be invoked that pertain to the constitutionality of such a ban.

Remember when at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic wearing a mask was mandatory in public places in many jurisdictions as well as federal buildings and property and this provoked an outcry from people on the grounds of freedom of choice? Judges overturned certain mask mandates at both the federal and state levels and did so on constitutional grounds. By the same token, though in a kind of role reversal, it could now be argued that by banning masks people won’t be able to exercise their freedom of choice to protect themselves. It stands to reason that a constitutional law debate could ensue if the North Carolina ban goes into effect.

In the meantime, the bill now moves to the House for the next vote. From there it may head to Governor Roy Cooper’s desk. He’s a Democrat and will likely veto the legislation. But the North Carolina Republican Party has a supermajority and can override a possible veto.





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North Carolina

To commemorate Memorial Day veterans demand Trump and NC Republicans stop threatening violence • NC Newsline

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To commemorate Memorial Day veterans demand Trump and NC Republicans stop threatening violence • NC Newsline


On Memorial Day I reflect on two deaths from the 9/11 wars, and what, from the comfort of my home as the chirping of the spring birds greets the dawn, I owe them. One was a Marine I only knew for an hour or so, and the other was a close friend of years and deployments.

The Marine died because he took a few seconds to push his men off of a rooftop first and didn’t jump down the stairwell to safety when he could have. He waited his turn, which as a leader, was to go last.

A bullet hit him in the back, just above the plate in his body armor, traveled through his chest, and exited the front. When I removed his body armor, the ugly little piece of metal fell into the hands of another Marine helping me work on him.

We tried the best we could, with what we had, but he died quickly and silently, in the shadows of a rooftop staircase in Iraq. He was from Georgia, and he is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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My close friend died as a member of a special mission unit. At the time, the terrorist network run by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who commanded al-Qaida in Iraq, was strapping bombs on special needs children and adults and walking them into crowded marketplaces, and a raid targeting those jihadists resulted in his death.

My friend and another SEAL were clearing a room that held a hidden bunker and a machine gun, awaiting their entry. Both men were killed instantly. I learned of his death from a mutual friend on a snowy day in northern Vermont, working as a lab technician while I applied to medical school. My friend was from New Hampshire and is also buried in Arlington.

Both of these men are with me now and will always be. Their sacrifice, of all they were and would ever be, took away from them all the fruits our nation have enjoyed. T-ball games on warm spring days, hot cocoa fireside in a snowstorm, and love, community, and family were all sacrificed in dank little buildings in Iraq.

Making sense of their deaths, for me, was only possible if I viewed their sacrifice as a gift. It makes sense that my friend gave his life for me. It made sense that the young Marine gave his life, quite literally, in my stead.

Or at least that’s how I try to see it.

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And while I can never repay what these men gave me, I can try to earn it by accepting the Sisyphean task of living a “good life.” Their gift was not free of obligation, or duty, and while it can never be repaid, it can be earned.

As I think through the meaning of Memorial Day, to honor all those who lost their lives in defense of America, I wonder what would these two men who live inside me feel about our democracy today?

On Friday, I am joining a coalition of veterans, including past leaders of the North Carolina National Guard, concerned about this issue. We are gathering at Greensboro’s Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.

Across the city, the state Republican Party is holding its annual gathering, which will include members of the Republican National Committee, like new co-chair former president Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump. In attendance at the GOP event are multiple individuals, who echo Trump’s doubts about the legitimacy of U.S. elections and his refusal to commit to accepting this year’s results.

The former president, who has displayed an unprecedented disrespect for military service over the years, has also repeatedly threatened violence if the election does not go his way.

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We are demanding that Republican leaders now in Greensboro use all their influence to force Donald Trump to renounce these awful and dangerous threats of violence, which have no place in a democracy. Trump must commit to a peaceful and non-violent election season.

We have a duty to our fallen brothers and sisters, whom we honor this weekend. They fought battles abroad so we can live in a country free of such threats. Who among us will not honor their sacrifice?



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N.C. residents sue to remove monument dedicated to ‘our faithful slaves’

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N.C. residents sue to remove monument dedicated to ‘our faithful slaves’


A group representing Black residents in a small North Carolina county has filed a federal lawsuit against local officials demanding that a 122-year-old monument outside a courthouse that honors “faithful slaves” be removed.

Since 1902, a 23-foot-tall statue of a Confederate soldier has stood outside the Tyrrell County Courthouse in Columbia, N.C. The zinc statue rests on a base featuring a bust of Robert E. Lee and the inscription: “IN APPRECIATION OF OUR FAITHFUL SLAVES.”



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State officials: No NC recreational flounder season in 2024

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State officials: No NC recreational flounder season in 2024



The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries announced the recreational flounder season will not open this year “in order to preserve the southern flounder resource.”

Citing continuing pressures on the fishery, state officials announced Thursday that there will be no recreational flounder season in 2024.

The move comes after years of smaller and smaller windows for recreational fishermen to catch the popular fish, culminating in last year’s short two-week harvest window.

But officials said even that short fishing period was too much for the already depleted flounder fishery.

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“Estimates from 2023 indicate the recreational catch exceeded the quota allowed under a stock rebuilding plan that was included in Amendment 3 to the Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan and adopted by the N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission,” stated a release from the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries.

Under current rules, exceeding a quota in one year means the following year’s allowable catch number must be reduced by the amount that exceeded the limit.

“After subtracting the recreational overage from 2023, the recreational quota remaining for 2024 is not large enough to allow for a season opening. The leftover quota will be used to account for the anticipated dead discards that will occur due to incidental catch and release,” states the release.

“The commission discussed holding a special meeting to consider alternatives to not holding a 2024 recreational season but ultimately did not move forward with that approach.” 

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The state’s move on Thursday continues a series of steps that regulators hope will help the struggling fishery rebound, although the moves have frustrated local anglers who never had to deal with a closed flounder season until 2019 and watch neighboring states adopt much less stringent rules.

NEW RULES COMING: Catch a flounder or red drum? NC recreational fishermen will soon have to report it

Among the responses to the restrictions on the fishery, which many recreational fishermen see as heavy handed, has been a lawsuit filed by the Coastal Conservation Association of North Carolina alleging the state has mismanaged its coastal fisheries, including flounder.

Pressures on the flounder fishery have been growing for decades, with recreational fishermen and commercial fishermen blaming each other for depleting near-shore flounder populations.

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Climate change is another concern among scientists, with warming sea temperatures potentially impacting the sex ratio of the fishery. Since juvenile flounders hang out in shallow, inland estuary waters, warmer water temperatures likely trigger more of the fish to be male. That also could be a growing problem because female flounders grow bigger than males, and thus are more highly sought than the smaller males.

For the past two years, recreational fishermen have caught more flounder than allowed under the recreational quota approved by the marine fisheries commission in the N.C. Southern Flounder Fishery Management Plan Amendment 3. The amendment, adopted in May 2022, called for a 72% reduction in the southern flounder harvest, with both commercial and recreational fisheries seeing dramatic cuts.

Reporter Gareth McGrath can be reached at GMcGrath@Gannett.com or @GarethMcGrathSN on X/Twitter. This story was produced with financial support from the Green South Foundation and the Prentice Foundation. The USA TODAY Network maintains full editorial control of the work. 



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