You can fly but you can’t hide: Drones to get electronic IDs much like vehicle license plates | Local News | pilotonline.com

Can you count the FAA violations here?

You know that cool footage of the drone flying at night over downtown Raleigh’s Metropolitan Apartments fire last month? Yeah, the guy who filmed it broke all kinds of FAA rules. Kyle Snyder of N.C. State’s NextGen center tells The Virginia Pilot why.

Examples of rogue drone flying are many. A man flew one over a large fire in downtown Raleigh last month, breaking several rules including flying at night and beyond his line of sight, Snyder said. The pilot posted the footage online along with his identity.No citations are known to have been issued to drone pilots in North Carolina so far, Snyder said.

While we’re at it, footage apparently sold to another “viral media” company of the flooding on Wake Forest Road late last month also could be in violation of FAA rules if the pilot shot it and sold it without being a licensed commercial drone pilot with a Remote Pilot Certificate.

Source: You can fly but you can’t hide: Drones to get electronic IDs much like vehicle license plates | Local News | pilotonline.com

Mark Binker dies

Mark Binker


I was shocked to learn of the death of reporter Mark Binker yesterday. Mark died unexpectedly at 43, leaving behind a wife and two kids. I can’t say I knew Mark well (we were Facebook friends for a short while) but whenever I visited the General Assembly I was bound to see him there and he was always friendly and appreciative of a quip. His reporting on North Carolina politics was second to none and helped explain to the masses the often arcane operations of the General Assembly. Reading his stuff you could tell Mark did his homework and you could always take his word to the bank.

Sometime last year the family and I went out to eat at a North Raleigh restaurant, perhaps to celebrate a family event. After we had settled down with our food I looked across the restaurant and saw Mark and his family enjoying dinner. I wasn’t entirely sure it was Mark (as I said, I didn’t know him that well) and I didn’t want to be That Guy Who Interrupts TV People Everywhere so I didn’t bother them. I did enjoy watching how doting he was as a father and husband. Sometimes people aren’t the friendly, kind people in real life that they appear on TV, but that little scene told me all I needed to know about Mark.

I’m sure he’d hate that I called him a “TV person,” too. He always looked so damn uncomfortable in front of the lens but his reporting was always rock solid. I’m so, so sorry for his family.

KremlinGate Just Put the Trump White House in a Precarious Place | Observer

Last week I explained in this column how President Donald Trump, despite facing serious political challenges over his murky ties to the Kremlin, was fortunate to have opponents more motivated by partisanship than truth-telling. As long as that state of affairs continued, the commander-in-chief was likely to avoid the thorough scrutiny which his apparent links to Moscow actually merit.

A lot has changed in just a few days. Last week began promisingly for the president, with his joint address to Congress on Tuesday evening earning better reviews than many had anticipated. Then it all unraveled the next day, when it was reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a key member of the White House inner circle, had two discussions with Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador in Washington, during the 2016 election campaign.

It’s hardly abnormal for sitting senators—as Sessions was last year—to meet with foreign diplomats, even Russian ones, but the precise capacity in which he chatted with Kislyak suddenly became important. Was Sessions parleying with the Kremlin’s emissary as a senator or as a top advisor to Donald Trump?

Source: KremlinGate Just Put the Trump White House in a Precarious Place | Observer

HKonJ | North Carolina NAACP on crowd size at Moral March in Raleigh | News & Observer

N&O reporter Will Doran took a stab at estimating crowd size, rightfully pointing out that Fayetteville Street isn’t long enough to hold the 80,000 demonstrators some claimed were at Saturday’s HKonJ rally.

Blending the Howard Jacobs-method of estimating crowd size that Doran used with the National Park Service’s official SWAG method (“scientific wild-ass guess”), I’ve done my own calculations, based on the drone shot I took and shared in the previous blog post and measuring streets and spaces using Google Maps.

Here’s what I came up with:
South Street area between Salisbury and Wilmington, curb to curb: 600 x 33 ft = 19,800 sq. ft.
Wilmington between South and Davie: 1224 x 34 ft. = 41,616 sq. ft.
Davie between Wilmington and Fayetteville: 300 x 38 ft. = 11,400 sq. ft.
Fayetteville St. between Davie and Morgan: 1429 x 99 ft. = 141,471 sq. ft.

Now, based on my drone photo there is a huge crowd still in front of Memorial Auditorium at 10:35 AM. The area they’re in totals 71,500 sq. ft, give or take. It looks packed.

Going by the 5 sq. ft. per person Jacobs model and assuming all of these areas are that full, I get a high-end guesstimate of 57,157 people. The low-end estimate assuming the 10 sq. ft model (and that Memorial is 5-level full) is 35,729 people. A middle estimate that assumes Fayetteville was closer to slightly half-full gives me 44,168 people.

So, did the rally attract 80,000? Not even close. Still, the numbers it did attract are still quite impressive by any measure.

Supporters of Saturday’s protest march in downtown Raleigh, the 11th annual HKonJ, said more than 80,000 people attended.Organizers including the N.C. NAACP announced the massive crowd size, then it began circulating on social media and was picked up and repeated by several national news outlets covering the event.

The march was held to oppose President Donald Trump and to voice support for a laundry list of causes, ranging from supporting Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act to opposing gerrymandering. HKonJ stands for Historic Thousands on Jones Street.

But many questioned whether the crowd was really as big as organizers and attendees claimed, and some asked PolitiFact North Carolina to look into it.

Crowd size estimates are a handy way of gauging people’s interest – or lack thereof – in the big topics of the day.So understandably, estimates often inspire emotional reactions from both sides – especially in highly politicized contexts like this weekend’s HKonJ.

Source: HKonJ | North Carolina NAACP on crowd size at Moral March in Raleigh | News & Observer

Police pay letter to the editor

I sent this letter to the editor to the N&O last week when I saw the paper was recirculating the video Jill Knight shot of Hallie and Travis pounding our neighborhood officer, Officer Boyd, with snowballs. This past fall, Officer Boyd broke the news to me that he was leaving and announced his replacement at the November 21st East CAC meeting. I am sorry to see Raleigh lose such a talented officer and wanted to do something about it.

It was bittersweet to see the N&O reshare Jill Knight’s video of my kids pummeling Raleigh Police Officer J.D. Boyd in a snowball fight. Sadly, there will be no rematch: Officer Boyd has quietly left RPD for another area police department. Unfortunately, he is one of many.

Retaining first responders with deep knowledge of the areas and people they serve is critical to our safety. It’s time for the City of Raleigh to offer truly competitive pay and benefits for our men and women in uniform.

The N&O hasn’t run it yet and I don’t know if I am thankful for that or not. With this week’s dismal snow and ice only now melting around the city, few people would’ve seen it had it been run. But will it see the light of day? Who knows? I hope so, though, because I think city leaders need to hear it.

The paper might also not be thrilled with me for loudly tweeting that they missed four days’ worth of deliveries to me to start off the year. I did get my paper the day but have been paperless due to the storm up until today. I hope the N&O and I are still BFFs, though, because I think what they do is important.

Need Photos of Raleigh? Mark Turner Says Use His for Free, Please. – Raleigh Agenda

Raleigh Agenda wrote about my public domain photos of Raleigh today.

I first met Mark Turner on the corner of McDowell and Hargett streets for a mysterious “field trip,” as he had called it.

“C’mon, there’s something I want to show you,” he told me, motioning up the street toward DECO. He seemed eager to push past the handshakes and how-do-you-dos, so the adventure could begin. Inside the gift shop, he directed me toward a little basket filled with postcards.

“See that?” he asked, holding up a pack of cards that featured a colorful, sketch-like rendering of the Raleigh skyline. “These are based on the picture of Raleigh that I uploaded to Wikipedia. All the streets line up.”

Sure enough, the skyline sketch—captured from the Western Boulevard overpass, looking northeast in 2008—employed the same angle and details as the picture that accompanies the Raleigh, North Carolina Wikipedia entry. Even a red minivan was echoed on the postcard, eternally stuck in traffic. That’s Turner’s shot, free to anyone who wants to use it.

Source: Need Photos of Raleigh? Mark Turner Says Use His for Free, Please. – Raleigh Agenda

How We Broke Democracy (But Not in the Way You Think) – Medium

How Facebook divides us.

Since we feel uncomfortable when we’re exposed to media that pushes back on our perspective (like that weird political uncle you see at a family reunion), we usually end up avoiding it. It requires a lot of effort to change opinions, and generally it feels gross to have difficult chats with people that don’t agree with us. So, we politely decline the opportunity to become their friend, buy their product, read their magazine, or watch their show.

We insulate ourselves in these ‘information ghettos’ not because we mean to, but because it’s just easier.Our own Facebook feed is no different. It is a manifestation of who we are. It was created by us: by the things we have liked in the past, by the friends we have added along the way, and by people that tend to have opinions a lot like ours. It is made by us.

This is self-segregation, and it happens naturally. But the success of Facebook’s algorithm has effectively poured gasoline on this smoldering innate bias.

Source: How We Broke Democracy (But Not in the Way You Think) – Medium