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Tuesday News: De-densification?


WITH 130 CASES AND GROWING, UNC-CH TRIES TO DISPERSE STUDENTS: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will shift all undergraduate classes online, starting Wednesday, as the number of coronavirus cases on campus continues to grow, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz told students and faculty Monday. Four clusters – five or more cases – of the virus have been reported at two UNC-Chapel Hill residence halls, an off-campus apartment complex that caters to students and a fraternity since Friday. According to UNC-Chapel Hill data, 130 students and five employees tested positive for the virus between Aug. 10 and Sunday, and the 13.6 percent positive rate was the highest in weeks. UNC-Chapel Hill officials will "strongly encourage" students to return to their homes and not linger around Chapel Hill, Guskiewicz said, to limit the number of people on campus. "[W]e expect the majority of our current undergraduate residential students to change their residential plans for the fall," he said in a statement. "We are working to identify additional effective ways to further achieve de-densification of our residential halls and our campus facilities."

Monday News: Time for that off-ramp


UNC REPORTS FOURTH CLUSTER OF CORONAVIRUS CASES SINCE FRIDAY: The university reported its fourth cluster of coronavirus cases on Sunday, according to a campus alert. The cluster, which is defined as five or more cases in close proximity, is located at Hinton James residence hall. Individuals in the cluster are isolated and being monitored, according to the alert. UNC reported two clusters of the novel coronavirus in Ehringhaus Community and Granville Towers on Friday, The News & Observer previously reported. The faculty committee announced it would hold a remote special meeting shortly after those clusters were announced. UNC reported a third cluster at off-campus fraternity Sigma Nu on Saturday. After it was announced, faculty chair Mimi Chapman urged the UNC System Board of Governors to give the campus chancellor “authority to make decisions” in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


COMPLETE YOUR CENSUS FORM, KEEP NORTH CAROLINA'S VOICE STRONG: Failure to make sure everyone living in the state is counted in the Census will mean less clout – regardless of political affiliation – in the Capitol. For the state to receive its fair share and be heard with the authority its numbers deserve, there must be a full and complete count. The population count in the Census directly affects the annual distribution of $43.8 billion in federal funds that provide assistance in the states for health care, schools, transportation systems and emergency response. Public assistance programs – including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps), childcare, job preparation and other assistance programs are based on the Census count of children and people in a household. Population data is used to determine aid to communities affected by natural disasters – such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts.

Saturday News: Constitutional crisis

POSTAL OFFICIAL WARNS NC'S OCT. 27 ABM DEADLINE IS "TOO LATE": North Carolina election officials are encouraging voters to request and cast their absentee by-mail ballots sooner as a result of potential United States Postal Service delays. The Postal Service, in a letter to North Carolina’s Secretary of State Elaine Marshall received Friday, said that “under our reading of North Carolina’s election laws, certain deadlines for requesting and casting mail-in ballots are incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards.” The state deadline to request a ballot is 5 p.m. on Oct. 27, but state election officials and the Postal Service indicate that date might be too late. Election Day is Nov. 3. The letter was signed by Thomas Marshall, the general counsel and executive vice president of the USPS. North Carolina businessman and big-dollar Republican donor Louis DeJoy is the new Postmaster General.

Friday News: Tangled web

FEDERAL LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST MIKE CAUSEY BY BAIL BONDSMAN: A federal lawsuit accuses state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey of crushing a company solely for political gain and under pressure from top Republican lawmakers. Causey denies the allegation, which hinges on affidavits from two bail bond agents, both of whom say Causey acknowledged the conspiracy to them in a Greensboro Bojangles. A third bondsman disputes their version of the conversation, telling WRAL News that he was there, and he doesn't remember the alleged admission at all. The lawsuit offers another glimpse into the tangled world of North Carolina bail bonding, an industry regulated by Causey's Department of Insurance. For years, competing factions have tried to outmaneuver each other, filing complaints on their competitors and, in one case, pushing through legislation that gave one side a monopoly on lucrative training classes until the law unraveled and a judge declared it unconstitutional.

Thursday News: Dancing with the devil


ECU PARTY WITH 400 STUDENTS BROKEN UP BY POLICE: The parties, which violate the state’s ban on large gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic, were held last week and over the weekend at East Carolina University, Lt. Chris Sutton of the university’s police department told McClatchy News Wednesday. The party with 400 people was held a few blocks from the school in an area dominated by off-campus student housing, according to Sutton. He said it was filled “predominantly" with people who were college-aged. They dispersed once authorities arrived. Officers then spoke with the tenants of the property “so that they understand why this is not acceptable right now and what they can do to help us moving forward,” he added. Classes started at the university on Monday. Students were not required to be tested for the virus before returning to campus, but “encouraged” to do so by school officials, the news outlet reported.

Wednesday News: Dandy, denied


JUDGE BLOCKS FOREST'S EFFORT TO STIFLE GOVERNOR COOPER'S AUTHORITY: Despite the claims of his Republican rival, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper likely has the authority to keep issuing coronavirus-related orders even if other political leaders don’t sign off on them, a judge has ruled. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who’s running against Cooper for the governor’s office in this year’s elections, had sued Cooper over some of his executive orders. Forest said Cooper shouldn’t be able to issue the orders on his own. Gale said his order shouldn’t be seen as a ruling on the merits or necessity of the details of Cooper’s orders, but that Cooper appeared to be acting consistently and within the bounds of the law. He wrote that the coronavirus executive orders from Cooper have been “consistent with imposing a necessary ‘floor’ to be applied state-wide, while leaving more restrictive requirements to those areas where the pandemic’s affect and risk of spread is more severe.”

Tuesday News: Scot-free?


ROBIN HAYES WILL SPEND ZERO TIME IN JAIL FOR HIS CRIMES: When recruited in 2018 to help funnel some $2 millions in bribes to Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey, Robin Hayes said he was “more than happy to help,” a new court document shows. While Hayes, as state Republican Party chairman, raised concerns about the size of an illegal $250,000 campaign donation he had been asked to direct through the GOP to Causey, he nevertheless told his co-conspirators, “I’ll get ‘er done.” On Monday, a filing by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte recommended to Hayes’ judge on how much prison time the former 11-term congressman should serve. That number would be zero. In explaining its recommendation of probation, prosecutors cited Hayes’ plea agreement and his lack of a previous criminal record. Hayes was also prepared to testify against his partners in the scheme, the filing indicates. Under the federal sentencing guidelines, Hayes, who turns 75 this week, faced up to six months in prison. Both sides, however, recommended probation.

Monday News: Budget buster


TRUMP'S $400 UNEMPLOYMENT BOOST REQUIRES 25% FROM STATE COFFERS: Trump announced an executive order Saturday that extends additional unemployment payments of up to $400 a week to help cushion the economic fallout of the pandemic. But under Trump's plan, the $400 a week requires a state to commit to providing $100. Many states are already facing budget crunches caused by the pandemic. Asked at a news conference how many governors had signed on to participate, Trump answered: “If they don't, they don't. That's up to them.” A clarifying statement from the White House said the “funds will be available for those who qualify by, among other things, receiving $100/week of existing assistance and certify that they have lost their jobs due to COVID-19.” Several advocacy groups that follow the issue, though, said it's clear the way the executive order is structured that the federal money will be contingent on states making a 25 percent contribution.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


MAIL SERVICE IS CRITICAL TO 2020 ELECTIONS, TRUMP NEEDS TO END IRRESPONSIBLE ATTACKS: In his short tenure DeJoy has taken action making mail delivery slower, less sure and inefficient. He ordered a halt to paying postal workers the overtime so mail carriers could complete their daily rounds. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, postal package volume has nearly doubled – exacerbating the opportunities for Trump to find ways to exploit his feud with Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s top executive and owner of The Washington Post. It has caused significant delays in deliveries of letters and packages. In the midst of his actions that effectively are dismantling the postal service, that service has never been more critical to the nation and especially with the approach of the national election. Wendy Fields of the Democracy Initiative, a coalition of voting and civil rights organizations, said the president was “deliberately orchestrating suppression and using the post office as a tool to do it.” This is no political biased pot-shot. It is a very real worry that will have an impact on Democratic, Republican and unaffiliated voters alike.


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