1. Newly elected N.C. Senator Dick Burr received $250,000 in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical industry. He raised more money from interest groups than any other Senate candidate in the 2004 elections. Not surprisingly, after recently grilling the governor of Minnesota about that state's importation of drugs from Canada, thus bypassing patent laws held by U.S. companies, Burr got wet little kisses in the hallway from drug industry lobbyists, who apparently find his championing of their special interest very sexy indeed.
2. From the major world religion that tried strong-arming its members last fall into voting for George W. Bush for "moral" reasons came this news yesterday: the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops received in 2004 1,092 new accusations of sexual abuse by priests. The major world religion that proclaims an intimate knowledge of the mind of God on the issue of abortion has been forced by circumstances to open an "Office of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops." The 1,092 new accusations of abuse were made by 1,083 people, mostly men. An analysis conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice found 10,667 minors had allegedly been abused from 1950 to 2002 ("the actual number of victims will probably remain unknown because many people never come forward"). Some 756 priests have been implicated. Costs to the church (principally, pay-offs to victims) have exceeded $800 million since 1950. Last year alone the costs from settlements, therapy for victims and offenders, and lawyers' fees came to about $139.6 million.
3. A week after President Bush came to North Carolina to pitch his proposal to privatize Social Security, an Elon College poll found that 46 percent of N.C. respondents said they disapprove or strongly disapprove of the president's plan, while 31 percent said they approve or strongly approve. About 23 percent said they didn't have a clue what was going on.
4. Details of Gov. Mike Easley's new budget proposal have leaked. The guv proposes keeping the additional half-cent sales tax (that was supposed to expire in June), upping taxes on cigarettes "as much as 50 cents per pack," cutting many state agencies across the board by 1 or 2 percent, and cutting the tax rate of the wealthiest North Carolinians (those making over $200,000 a year). Apparently, Easley really IS running for president, only as a Republican.