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American Airlines weak over the Atlantic so far this year

American Airlines and US Airways posted their combined May passenger figures last week. Here’s what jumps out:

May 2015 Atlantic load factor: 76.7 percent
May 2014 Atlantic load factor: 79.9 percent

2015 January – May Atlantic load factor: 72.7 percent
2014 January – May Atlantic load factor: 75.5 percent

Ouch. This explains why US Airways is reducing Charlotte-London Heathrow flights this coming winter from two a day (= 14 a week) to 10 a week. And if the rest of the summer continues to be as disappointing as May was over the Atlantic for the airlines, then there’s a very good chance we could see some existing summer-seasonal flights from Charlotte to Europe not return in 2016 or operate on a smaller aircraft. Charlotte is the low-hanging fruit on transatlantic service for American/US Airways as it’s a smaller market to Europe as compared to the airlines’ other big hubs. And we’ve seen this trend before — US Airways overexpanded to Europe last summer, saw a big drop in their load factor, and responded by cutting three of the new routes from Charlotte to Europe this summer.

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Appeals Court Rules On Privacy Of Info On Stolen GPS

My latest court story for Carolina Journal:

RALEIGH — In April, the state’s second-highest court again confronted the issue of warrantless searches and seizures by police. In this instance, the court ruled that police needed a search warrant before information on a GPS device held by a suspect would be admissible as evidence in court. It also was asked to determine if a suspect has an expectation of privacy regarding stolen property in his possession.

On April 2, 2012, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department motorcycle officers Aaron Skipper and Todd Watson were patrolling Charlotte’s Villa Heights neighborhood. They spotted a man walking on the sidewalk who was dirty looking and wearing torn clothing, with, according to court documents, “unusually bulging pants pockets.” The documents said the man “could have passed for one of the homeless common to the area.”

The man told officers his name was Kenneth Clyburn and provided his date of birth. Clyburn said he was walking around the corner to his mother’s house. Clyburn continued walking, but when he turned in a different direction, the officers stopped him again. Skipper asked Clyburn what he had in his pocket. Clyburn produced a cell phone and a pair of binoculars.

Skipper then asked to search Clyburn, who consented. The officer found a crack pipe in Clyburn’s waistband and placed him under arrest. A search of Clyburn’s pockets produced a box cutter, several small shards of auto glass, and a Garmin GPS attached to a car charger.

Without asking Clyburn whether they could examine the GPS, the officers pressed its “home” button, which gave an address in Blowing Rock. A search of the GPS’ address history also revealed an address several blocks away. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department went to the address and found a car with a broken window and a Garmin user manual on the front seat. The homeowner wasn’t aware that his car had been vandalized and identified the GPS the officers had taken from Clyburn had as his.

Clyburn was charged with felony breaking and entering a motor vehicle, misdemeanor larceny, possession of drug paraphernalia, and being a habitual felon. Superior Court Judge Robert Bell held, however, that evidence from the search of the GPS was inadmissible at trial. The state appealed this determination.

The first issue before the Court of Appeals was whether the officers could search through the information held by the GPS after they arrested Clyburn. The appeals court held that they could not.

“We hold that the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Riley v. California applies to the search of the digital data stored on a GPS device, and affirm the trial court’s conclusion that the search incident to arrest exception does not apply in this case,” wrote Judge Martha Geer for the appeals court.

Riley was the landmark 2014 decision in which the federal justices held that the prohibition on unreasonable searches in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires police to obtain a warrant before they can go through the information stored on a suspect’s cell phone after arrest.

But does a suspect have any right to keep private information on a stolen device? The state argued that Clyburn’s Fourth Amendment rights weren’t violated because the GPS didn’t belong to him. Clyburn contended that was not the issue because the GPS device was on his person.

The appeals court came down in the middle, finding that Clyburn had consented to the search but in certain limited circumstances, Fourth Amendment protections may extend to searches of stolen property.

“Consequently, the question remains whether defendant had a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to the GPS,” wrote Geer.

“With respect to searches of stolen property that do not fall under the umbrella of a defendant’s reasonable expectation of privacy in his home or person, the case law suggests that a defendant may nevertheless challenge the search if he can show at the suppression hearing that he acquired the stolen property innocently and did not know that the item was stolen.”

Clyburn had claimed that he didn’t know the GPS was stolen and that he bought it from someone he didn’t know. Since Clyburn’s suppression hearing did not determine whether he purchased the GPS or stole it, the appeals court ordered a new hearing to the address the issue.

Court of Appeals rulings are binding interpretations of state law unless overruled by a higher court. Because the three-judge panel of the appeals court issued a unanimous ruling, the N.C. Supreme Court is not required to hear the case should either side challenge it.

The case is State v. Clyburn (13-1445).

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Tommy’s Pub rezoning approved

Anyone surprised by this, except for maybe a couple of Plaza-Midwood hipsters? No, I didn’t think so. The city of Charlotte’s business model very much is redevelopment, putting more people and more tax base onto existing space, since the city can no longer extend its borders.

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Uptown retail. Again

This time it’s the UPoR that’s at it, arguing that:

Today, new apartments are sprouting all over uptown, but retail development still lags. City officials need to show more urgency in countering this longstanding problem.

Unlike cities such as Charleston and Asheville, we tore down many of our old center city commercial buildings. In so doing, we also tore down the retail spaces that made uptown Charlotte a shopping destination.

We replaced them with office towers that often lacked significant ground-floor retail space. Given how difficult it is to retrofit such buildings for retail, space for new shops uptown must come largely from new construction.

The city’s zoning codes need to be more aggressive on that front. They require street-level retail in large new buildings along the Tryon and Brevard street corridors, but don’t mandate it elsewhere uptown. Instead, they require street-level “activation,” meaning ground-floor facades that include windows, doors or other pedestrian-friendly design elements – anything but a blank wall.

Er, no. If there were actual demand for retail Uptown, then developers would cater to that need. That’s how a free-market works. The fact that there isn’t more retail Uptown suggests that retail isn’t the best use for scarce, expensive Uptown space. Put another way, it’s hard to sell enough stuff to cover the rent. Arguing that the city should, despite that harsh economic reality, force developers to subsidize Uptown retail is nothing more than special-interest politics, imposing significant costs on some (developers, other retailers) to benefit a group of favored, politically-powerful elites.

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The Hornets trade Lance Stephenson

For, well, about what you’d expect: A bad contract or two of about equal value. Here’s ESPN’s summary of Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes, the two players the Hornets are getting in return for Stephenson:

While a change of scenery might help Stephenson, the Hornets may be hoping the same is true for Hawes, who signed a four-year, $23 million deal with the Clippers last summer.

Hawes struggled through his worst season since his rookie year, averaging 5.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists for the Clippers in 2014-15.

Hawes, 27, was buried at the end of the bench during the 2015 playoffs, where he was held out of half the Clippers’ 14 postseason games and played more than 10 minutes just twice, both coming in blowouts.

Barnes, 35, is in the final year of his contract and will make $3.5 million this upcoming season. He averaged 10.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.1 assists while starting 74 games in 2014-15.

Barnes’ on-court temper and penchant for getting fined, however, constantly irked head coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers, who has been looking to deal Barnes for about two years.

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Charlotte’s arts scene

Super fascinating interview with UNC-Charlotte grad student Morgan Hammer on Charlotte’s arts scene conducted by Mary Newsom of (yes, really). A highlight:

I think about New York, there are some raw areas and a lot of rich people live in other areas, but there’s a lot of connectivity. In Charlotte it’s not all that easy to get around.

That’s something that’s clear. Outside of the clusters in and around uptown, the galleries here are all spread out. Charlotte has experienced much suburbanized development. Maybe the diffusion of galleries prevents the development of a true, local arts district, but they’re spread out for a reason. There aren’t enough affordable spaces for artists to colonize due to the rapid development around uptown, and there aren’t enough remaining “authentic spaces” near the necessary client base. Plus we don’t really have strong public transportation or other urban amenities found in the big-time arts districts.

So what we need is a big chunk of derelict industrial area next to Eastover – which of course we don’t have?

What is industrial is being quickly swept away. One area that may attract artists is the west side – Freedom Drive and that area. A few artists I spoke to said they’ve tried it there, but it’s still so dangerous and too disconnected. It might start to happen there in the next five years or so.

A couple of points: I’m not sure that gallery locations matter as much as they once did, as the Internet has also changed how art is marketed. And I don’t buy the transportation excuse for a second — NoDa rose despite (or because of) its location. Claiming it is too remote now, as Hammer suggest, is, without more, a not particularly logical conclusion.

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College basketball goes to a 30-second shot clock

Why the change? And will it matter? The Raleigh News & Observer’s Andrew Carter provides some answers:

The move to a 30-second shot clock is a positive development for a sport that has taken a beating in recent years. Not only has it become expected that the game’s very best players will only stick around for a season, or maybe two, but ugly, low-scoring games have also become the norm.

Last season, teams averaged 67.6 points per game – tied for the lowest average during the past 50 years.


Only nine teams averaged at least 70 possessions per game – down from 58 teams in 2005, according to data on

Ken Pomeroy, the statistician and college basketball analyst who runs that website, has studied decreased scoring and pace trends for years. Rick Byrd, the chairman of the NCAA men’s basketball rules committee, sought Pomeroy’s insight into how a 30-second shot clock might affect the sport.

The short answer: It’s unlikely to have a dramatic impact.

Last season, Pomeroy analyzed the postseason tournaments, such as the NIT, that used an experimental 30-second shot clock. The results, which he wrote about on, surprised him.

“I was a little surprised that scoring didn’t increase more,” Pomeroy said during a recent phone interview. “I was kind of expecting more of a bump. It was definitely a surprise.”

Pomeroy adjusted for a variety of factors and concluded the following:

▪ A 30-second shot clock could be expected, on average, to result in an increase of about two possessions per game.

▪ Scoring could be expected to increase “by about two points per game when you control for everything.”

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Charlotte wants to host two major soccer matches a year

So reports the UPoR. Well yes, I’m sure that the city does. But wanting to and actually doing so are two completely different things. Hosting soccer games is easy extra income for big football stadiums, and there’s more of those around than there are big international games played in the United States.

So what makes the city so sure that it can get those two games a year? The city does have a favorable deal on Bank of America Stadium usage as a condition of public money going to help upgrade the facility, which is certainly an element. But the way Deputy City Manager Ronald Kimble takes about international soccer games’ economic development potential makes me wonder if city officials don’t see big soccer games as a loss-leader, something to be acquired at whatever the cost because of the benefits the games are thought by city officials and the Usual Uptown suspect to bring.

Sample quote:

“It’s an opportunity for Charlotte to broker conversations using sports as the entree but (also) allowing businesses in these other countries to connect with us when they come for the friendly matches,” Kimble said.

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The shark from Jaws is more popular than all 2016 candidates

As the Washington Post reports:

Think about all the things you look for in a presidential candidate: a solid economic plan. Maybe some foreign policy experience. And how about insatiable bloodlust and multiple rows of serrated teeth?

As it turns out, the shark from the Jaws movies has better favorability numbers than any politician included in the latest Washington Post-ABC News survey. Ditto for The Terminator. Same for Darth Vader.


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Jail break!

Over the weekend, Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped from a maximum-security prison in upstate New York. The escape has generated considerable press attention in part because both are convicted murderers and because exactly how rare escapes from prison have become. Some numbers that the Christian Science Monitor got from Newsweek:

Newsweek cites US Department of Justice data showing 1,599 inmates from state and federal prisons escaped in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, though not all states reported. In 2011, the count was 2,016 and in 2010, it was 1,802.

“Those numbers are down significantly from previous years, even as the prison population has skyrocketed, according to federal data cited in the journal Punishment & Society,” Newsweek reported in May. “In 1981, the rate of escapes was 12.44 for every 1,000 inmates. By 1991, the rate was down to 3.49 and in 2001, it was 0.87, adding up to a 93 percent drop in two decades.”

FiveThirtyEight also provides some interesting statistics on prison escapes, including that most convicts that do manage to escape are quickly caught:

In recent years, completed escapes have been fleeting. Between 2002 and 2013, 30 prisoners managed to complete an escape from a New York prison, meaning that they got off of the premises. But 60 percent of these prisoners were back in custody within six hours. Every remaining prisoner save one was caught within 24 hours of escape. And that last, longest-at-large prisoner still didn’t manage to go on the lam permanently — he was back in a cell within three days.

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