1. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who soared to national infamy over the state's Republican government imposing the regressive anti-LGBTQ HB 2, has finally conceded defeat in his bid for re-election. For almost a month, he kept insisting on a statewide recount, not only because of the close vote, but because of his allegations of widespread voter fraud.
The charges of voter fraud were based on an active campaign by Republicans to challenge the eligibility of thousands of voters, forcing them to vote provisional ballots based on minor variations in details of how a name or an address was listed. That is a tactic used by Republicans seeking to suppress the vote of those who tend to vote for Democrats. As those challenges were checked and mostly cleared, the lead of McCrory's opponent was only increasing. Republican-controlled county election boards dismissed McCrory's protests and decided that a state-wide recount was not warranted. McCrory then conceded, and the State's Attorney General, Democrat Roy Cooper, was thus elected governor.
2. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of the Army, and the Obama administration have made the decision to deny approval of the final easement needed to continue construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline would have crossed under Lake Oahe in North Dakota, posing a risk of leaks into the lake and all the areas it supplies with water. Instead, the Corps will conduct an Environmental Impact Statement to explore alternate routes.
The construction has been the focus of growing demonstrations and protest occupations by Native Americans, environmentalists, and social justice activists. One section of the pipeline is seen as a threat to ancestral, sacred Native American sites at the nearby Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The final decisive factor seems to have been the group of military veteran activists who arrived at the site as self-proclaimed protectors of the other protesters.
3. A third, possibly good thing; but it's too early to tell the outcome. Former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore had a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump yesterday to "talk about climate issues." The transition team had billed it as a meeting with Ivanka Trump; but, after meeting with her for a while, the bulk of Gore's time was actually spent with Mr. Trump himself. Gore described it as “very productive” and a “sincere search for areas of common ground.” He added that "I found it an extremely interesting conversation, and to be continued, and I’m just going to leave it at that.”
I find myself becoming cautiously, semi-optimistic about the number of serious experts in various fields who, after meeting with Mr. Trump, seem to react with the hint of surprise and hope that I find in Gore's comments -- that hope being the impression that Trump will be taking their issue seriously and looking for expert help in problem solving. On the other hand, he can destroy that hope with his next appointment, or his next political statement, or any night he fires up his twitter account and lets it fly.