Saturday News: Protecting rapists?


GOP BILL ALLOWS PERPETRATORS TO QUESTION THEIR VICTIMS IN CAMPUS SEXUAL ASSAULT PROCEEDINGS: A bill introduced by a North Carolina lawmaker on Thursday would add legal protections for UNC system students who are accused of sexual misconduct. It also would standardize disciplinary proceedings for students at all 16 university campuses. House Bill 305, introduced by Rep. Mitchell Setzer, a Catawba County Republican, would provide due process guarantees that don’t exist now for students accused of sexual misconduct. Setzer did not immediately respond to requests to discuss the bill or what prompted him to introduce it. Co-sponsors Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, and Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, also could not not immediately be reached. The UNC Board of Governors, which would have to adopt new rules under the law, did not wish to comment on it.

FRANCIS DELUCA JOINS 16 OTHER REPUBLICANS IN RUNNING FOR WALTER JONES' CONGRESSIONAL SEAT: Twenty-six candidates are competing to fill the 3rd Congressional District seat left vacant when longtime Republican Congressman Walter Jones died last month. The timeline for the special election calls for primaries to be held on April 30 and runoffs on July 9. The general election is set for Sept. 10, but if no runoff is needed, the general election would be on July 9. Seventeen Republicans are vying for the eastern North Carolina seat Jones held for 24 years, including state Reps. Greg Murphy, R-Pitt, Phil Shepard, R-Onslow, and Michael Speciale, R-Craven. Michele Nix of Kinston, who this week resigned her position as vice chairwoman of the North Carolina Republican Party; Francis De Luca, of Cary, the former president of the conservative Civitas Institute; and Dr. Joan Perry of Kinston, former secretary of the UNC Board of Governors, are other notable names in the GOP primary.

ACLU AND OTHER ADVOCATES WANT STATE TO TRANSFER TRANSGENDER PRISONER TO WOMEN'S FACILITY: In an interview last month, Zayre-Brown said she had to fight to receive hormone treatments, and she showers and dresses among male inmates and is issued men’s undergarments. The state recognizes her as male and refers to her by her birth name, Kevin Chestnut, which she had legally changed. Zayre-Brown has not been assaulted in prison but said she and her husband Dionne Brown fear it constantly. The ACLU of North Carolina has written Director of Prisons Kenneth Lassiter requesting a transfer and promising legal action if the state does not respond by April 1. At least six other transgender women are serving their sentences at Harnett Correctional, said Serena Sebring, regional organizing manager for Southerners on New Ground. She asked Collins to tell the governor that Zayre-Brown has been housed in solitary confinement since Saturday. “It appears to be retaliatory,” Sebring said. “We consider this to be a human rights abuse.”

SMITHFIELD LOSES FIFTH LAWSUIT OVER HOG NUISANCE CLAIMS: Smithfield Foods was found responsible Friday for a fifth time for nuisances neighbors suffered from waste generated by thousands of the company's hogs. Jurors determined the pork giant should pay $420,000 after four previous juries awarded nearly $550 million in penalties. Most of the damages awarded were intended to punish Smithfield Foods for its actions, but a state law limiting the size of punitive awards means they are automatically capped. Environmental advocates have cheered the big penalties as finally forcing pork producers to acknowledge long-standing complaints from neighbors and claims that animal waste has polluted waterways. Smithfield has continued using the low-cost method because it helps the company produce pork for less than in China, lawyers for the neighbors said. Smithfield is owned by Hong Kong-headquartered WH Group.

BREXIT IS TEARING BRITAIN'S SOCIAL FABRIC APART: Like the election of President Trump, the 2016 Brexit referendum vote crystallized divisions between cities and towns, young and old, the beneficiaries of globalization and those left behind. And far from fading, the Brexit divide seems to have become entrenched within many British workplaces, families and social circles. Friendships lost or relationships broken by Brexit have been bemoaned by politicians, featured in newspaper advice columns and spawned novels and at least one play. According to one survey, more than a third of those who wish to remain in the European Union would be upset if a close relative married a strong leave supporter, suggesting that Brexit has morphed into a clash of values. “It’s a bit like 16th-century France between the Catholics and the Protestants,” said Brett Kahr, senior clinical research fellow in psychotherapy and mental health at the Center for Child Mental Health, adding: “I think there is a great deal of hatred of one position toward the other, and a lack of willingness to engage."