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Tuesday News: Effect, meet Cause

MUCH NEEDED FUNDING FOR PRE-K STYMIED BY INTRANSIGENT CONSERVATISM: The dilemma was at the center of the Emerging Issues Forum in Raleigh on Monday, which drew hundreds to brainstorm about how to improve educational outcomes for the state’s youngest children. “We’re never going to get out of this cycle of poverty unless we can begin to educate more people,” Goodnight said. “Education is the only way out of poverty, and I don’t know why it takes our state leaders so long to recognize that. That’s where we need to be putting our money, in early pre-K.” Significant expansion would be costly. About 62,000 low-income children are eligible for the free NC Pre-K, and about 47 percent of them are being served. Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican who co-chairs various House education committees, said early education should be accessible to every child in the state. “I think that’s absolutely critical to the future of the state and the future of the nation,” he said. “Whether or not it should be government funded is a separate issue. ... If somebody sees ‘free,’ everybody signs up for it.”

Monday News: Private sector, public danger


SOUTH CAROLINA TRAIN CRASH COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED WITH AVAILABLE TECHNOLOGY: Federal investigators are trying to figure out why a switch was in the wrong position, sending an Amtrak train into a freight train and killing a conductor and an engineer in South Carolina. But they already know what could have prevented the wreck that injured more than 100 passengers: a GPS-based system called "positive train control," which knows the location of all trains and the positions of all switches in an area, and can prevent the kind of human error that puts two trains on the same track. "It could have avoided this accident. That's what it's designed to do," said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt. Regulators have demanded the implementation of positive train control for decades, and the technology is now in place in the Northeast, but railroads that operate tracks used by Amtrak elsewhere in the U.S. have won repeated extensions from the government. The deadline for installing such equipment is now the end of 2018.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


COURTS, AGAIN. REMIND GOP LEGISLATORS OF THEIR PLACE: It is unconstitutional to just willy-nilly cancel elections, a federal court ruled Wednesday, for state Court of Appeals judges and Supreme Court justices. "The defendants have made no showing of any governmental interest,” was how U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles put it. It is the definition of disingenuousness to say, as legislative leaders did, that Eagles was “once again injecting chaos and confusion into North Carolina elections at the eleventh hour." Or further that her decision was politically motivated because she’d been appointed to her post by a Democratic president. It is the legislature’s obsessive and unceasing efforts at electoral manipulation that’s brought tumult and uncertainty just days before North Carolina candidates are set to file for office in the 2018 elections. North Carolina taxpayers have been forced to waste millions of dollars paying lawyers – including Thomas Farr, whose nomination to a federal District Court judgeship has been embroiled in allegations of racism and voter intimidation – to use the courts to delay and stall. This has been going on since 2012. It is past time to bring it to an end.

Saturday News: Nothingburger

CONTROVERSIAL GOP MEMO FALLS FLAT ON ITS FACE: For one thing, Democrats say, it's misleading to say a judge was not told of the potential political motivations of the people paying for Steele's research. Beyond that, though, the memo confirms the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign began in July 2016 — months before the surveillance warrant was even sought — and was "triggered" by information concerning a different campaign aide, George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with Mueller's investigation. The timing makes clear that other Trump associates beyond Page, who was part of the election effort for only a short period and was not in the president's inner orbit, had generated law enforcement scrutiny. The memo also omits that Page had been on the FBI's radar just a few years earlier as part of a separate counterintelligence investigation into Russian influence.

Friday News: Repeat offenders


CHEMOURS LEAKS MORE GENX, NC SENATE REFUSES TO PROPERLY FUND DEQ: Tests by Chemours in mid-December found levels of GenX nearly 20 times higher than the state's health limit of 140 parts per trillion in a water outflow near the company's Fayetteville Works plant. Cassie Gavin, director of government relations for the North Carolina Sierra Club, said GenX and other emerging contaminants are a problem the state will be dealing with for a long time. "I think we're going to continue to see these problems over and over again, and that's why the state really needs to have a concerted effort to deal with it going forward, to deal with emerging contaminants like GenX and like other chemicals," Gavin said. The recent spike is the latest indication that state lawmakers need to restore some of the staff cuts made to DEQ, she said. State House lawmakers unanimously passed a measure three weeks ago to give DEQ $2.9 million in additional funding to respond to GenX contamination, but Senate leaders have so far refused to consider it, saying they believe DEQ can handle the issue with current resources.

Thursday News: Partial victory


JUDGE OVERRULES GOP, REINSTATES PRIMARIES IN STATE-WIDE JUDICIAL RACES: U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles issued an order on Wednesday that, in part, grants a request by Democratic Party officials who sued state lawmakers for canceling primary elections for all judicial races in 2018 – from the district courts to the state’s highest court. At a hearing last week, attorneys for the Democrats argued that the Republican-led General Assembly violated the party’s free speech and equal protection rights by doing away with the election that would have allowed the winnowing of candidates for the general election. Without primaries, ballots in judicial races could have many names on them. A candidate with just 30 percent of the vote could become a judge, according to changes in the law adopted in October. That, Democrats contended in a lawsuit filed late last year, makes it difficult for the party to put forward its best candidate.

Wednesday News: The Trump Effect?


MORE RACIST VIDEOS POSTED BY WAKE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: A Wake County principal responded this week to two racially charged videos posted on social media by Broughton High School students. Principal Elena Ashburn sent a letter to parents and students Monday confirming the school was aware of the videos recently posted online. “Two videos with Broughton students were posted on social media that contained racist language and stereotypes. As soon as it was brought to our attention, we quickly began investigating the incidents,” the letter said. In one video, a white student refers to brown people in a derogatory manner, referring to “walls infested with curry.” “Looking around at all the brown people around here and you’re just like get me the [expletive] out of here,” the student says in the video. In a second video, two white students are seen imitating a sweeping motion while referring to themselves by using the N-word as other students laugh in the background.

Tuesday News: State of Disunion

FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR ANDREW MCCABE RESIGNS AFTER FREQUENT TRUMP ATTACKS: A 22-year veteran of the FBI, McCabe has been publicly and repeatedly lambasted over the past year by Trump, who has accused him of bias because of his wife's political connections and an FBI investigation that produced no criminal charges against Hillary Clinton. McCabe, who has held a number of FBI leadership roles and been heavily involved in investigations into major crimes including the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, becomes eligible for retirement in a matter of weeks. The departure comes as FBI Director Christopher Wray makes changes to his senior leadership team, replacing two other top aides last week. Such changes are not unusual when a new director takes charge, but they are notable amid Trump's public pressure on Wray to get rid of officials who were confidants of James Comey, whom he fired as FBI director last May.

Monday News: Bad investment


LONE DONOR GIVES $2.4 MILLION TO SUPER PACS SUPPORTING DAN FOREST: Though he hasn’t officially declared his candidacy in the 2020 race for governor, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is getting a head start on fundraising, with help from a multi-million-dollar donor. According to campaign finance reports, Forest’s election committee raised $631,515 between the end of the 2016 elections and last December, and has $336,239 left over after spending. In a press release, the Republican lieutenant governor’s campaign said Forest also raised money for Truth and Prosperity, a North Carolina super PAC, along with the Republican Council of State Committee, of which Forest is the chairman. According to their campaign finance reports, Truth and Prosperity raised $1 million in the second half of 2017 and the Republican Council of State Committee raised $1.4 million – all in the form of contributions from Durham resident Greg Lindberg.


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