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5 Things to Know: Pornhub Disabled in North Carolina

...and four more stories from Dec. 24-30, 2023

A woman acting as Pornhub spokesperson addressed the camera in a room with a plant in it
A spokesperson for Pornhub greets users from North Carolina now who have been blocked from using the site by its ownership.

Pornhub Disables Access for North Carolinians

Pornhub, the most popular porn site in the world, cut off access for North Carolina users on Thursday in protest of a new state law that will take effect on Jan. 1, 2024.

The NCGA in September passed House Bill 8, which requires age verification on pornographic websites like Pornhub in North Carolina. The proposal was added at the last minute to a bill that originally aimed to add a computer science class to high school graduation requirements.

Folks trying to visit Pornhub from North Carolina on Thursday were met with a (tasteful) video and written statement that asked NC residents to demand their representatives change the law to require “device-based verification solutions” that would identify users by their device and allow access to age-restricted materials and websites based on that identification rather than require visitors to confirm their age through state-sanctioned ID every time they want to visit the site.

“Mandating age verification without proper enforcement gives platforms the opportunity to choose whether or not to comply,” the Pornhub statement reads. “As we’ve seen in other states, this just drives traffic to sites with far fewer safety measures in place. Very few sites are able to compare to the robust Trust and Safety measures we currently have in place. To protect children and user privacy, any legislation must be enforced against all platforms offering adult content … Until a real solution is offered, we have made the difficult decision to completely disable access to our website in North Carolina.”

Pornhub is a Canadian-owned internet pornography video-sharing website, one of several such sites owned by adult entertainment conglomerate Aylo.

Homicide Total Nears 100 After Violent Week

It was a violent holiday week in Charlotte, with six murders occurring over six days and five of the victims aged 20 or under.

It began shortly after 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 23, when police responded to a domestic violence call on Hermsley Road near the Catawba River in southwest Charlotte. Upon arrival, they found 19-year-old Yamile Gomez suffering from life-threatening stab wounds.

Learn more: New Alternatives to Violence Team Launches on West Boulevard

First responders rendered emergency aid, but Gomez was pronounced dead at the scene. Police located the suspect, a 27-year-old man, a short distance from the scene. He was arrested and later charged with murder.

Shortly before 11 a.m. on Dec. 24, police responded to a shooting call on Flagler Lane in the Oakdale South area of northwest Charlotte, where they located 40-year-old Howard Higgins in a vehicle, dead from apparent gunshot wounds.

The above map shows homicides in Charlotte city limits during 2023. Black markers signify gun deaths, blue signifies death by vehicle, red signifies stabbings/trauma, purple signifies unknown cause of death, while green signifies a “justified” homicide.

Shortly after 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 27, police responded to a shots-fired call on Long Talon Way in southwest Charlotte’s Falcon Ridge neighborhood, where they discovered two victims with apparent gunshot wounds. One of the victims, 17-year-old Murahnee Johnson, was pronounced dead at the scene while the other was transported by Medic to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Shortly after 9:15 a.m. that same morning, police responded to a shooting call on Merlane Drive in the Evoke Living at Sugar Creek apartment complex in north Charlotte, where they discovered two teenage victims with apparent gunshot wounds.

The victims, 16-year-old Tzion Dae and 15-year-old Amir Kidd, were transported by Medic to the hospital, where both boys were pronounced dead. Detectives said they were not looking for any additional persons in connection to the case and will release additional details upon consultation with the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Donyelle Hill, who turned 20 a day before he was shot on North Sharon Amity Drive on Oct. 19, succumbed to his injuries on Dec. 28. A 31-year-old suspect who had already been arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury in October, was re-arrested and charged with murder. Hill’s was the 99th death by homicide in Charlotte this year. In comparison, the city saw 115 total homicides last year.

County to Begin Taking Applications for Assistance with Heating Bills

Mecklenburg County residents who have trouble paying their winter heating bills can get help through the county’s Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP), which will begin taking applications from all residents beginning Jan. 1, 2024, according to a release from the county on Thursday.

Seniors and disabled individuals have had the opportunity to apply throughout December. The deadline for all residents to apply is March 31, 2024. An applicant does not need to be behind on energy bills to receive a one-time LIEAP payment in the amount of $300, $400 or $500 based on their primary heating source.

Applicants must meet income guidelines, be responsible for the bill, provide their account number, and show proof of income. Check the county’s website to see if you meet the criteria for assistance.

Man Pleads Guilty to Communicating Threats for Antisemitic Emails

A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to federal charges related to sending threatening, antisemitic emails to the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte (JFGC) in October following a Hamas attack on Israeli army bases and residential areas that killed around 1,200 people.

According to the Department of Justice, Jeffrey Hobgood of Troy sent an email to a JFGC account on Oct. 11 that read, in part, “I am going to take out every one of you.” Two days later, after he was contacted by law enforcement in relation to the first email, Hobgood sent a second email to the same address saying, in part, “Guess what happens to traitors? . . . Public execution. . . . We are at war . . . . If you think you semite pieces of shit are going to win, then you are delusional.”

Hobgood, who was also found to have threatened family members in 2022, was not charged with a hate crime but with “transmitting in interstate commerce a communication containing a threat to injure the person of another.” He faces a maximum term of five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000, though his guilty plea will likely mean he will not face the maximum punishment.

In a statement issued on Friday, JFGC CEO Sue Worrel wrote, “Given the alarming rise in antisemitism since October 7, the news of this guilty plea is a step in the right direction in the pursuit of justice and safety … The Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte continues to work with local elected officials and leaders to improve the security of Jews, to ensure that the voice of our Jewish community is heard, and to serve as a resource to victims of antisemitism.”

NAACP Calls Out AMC Following Greenville Incident

The NAACP North Carolina State Conference is calling out AMC Theaters following an incident involving civil rights leader Rev. William Barber II at a theater in Greenville this week.

Barber said he was attending a screening of The Color Purple at the AMC Fire Tower 12 Theater in Greenville with his mother when he attempted to use a chair that his assistant had brought into the theater and set up in the handicapped seating area, but was told by a theater employee that the stool did not comply with guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Rev William Barber walking with protesters down a sidewalk using a cane
Rev. William Barber II (far right) struggles with has a condition called ankylosing spondylitis, which affects his joints and causes him chronic pain. (Photo by Becker1999 via Creative Commons)

Barber said employees then called Greenville police and told officers they wanted Barber to leave or be charged with trespassing. The NAACP NC has since launched a petition calling on the theater chain to “embrace accessibility as a fundamental value and adopt lasting changes that benefit all of its patrons.”

“This incident serves as a powerful reminder that we must create spaces that are inclusive, fair, and respectful of the rights of every individual,” read a statement issued by the NAACP NC on Friday. “Discrimination based on physical abilities has no place in our society, and we must take decisive action to address this issue.”

In a statement to a local news station, AMC wrote, “We sincerely apologize to Bishop Barber for how he was treated, and for the frustration and inconvenience brought to him, his family, and his guests.”

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