GOP COUNTY COMMISSIONER OPENS RESTAURANT FOR DINE-IN CUSTOMERS: Carrol Dean Mitchem, the Republican chairman of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, was charged Monday with violating N.C. Executive Order 138, which bans on-site food consumption during the pandemic. Mitchem is known for taking controversial stands on the board of commissioners, including saying prayers from non-Christian religions are unwelcome at the county’s government meetings, WBTV reported in 2015. His restaurant was one of two cited Monday for violating the executive order. The Rise ‘n Shine Cafe in Asheville was issued a citation for what police called “persistent non-compliance to the public health order,” McClatchy News reported. Police said they received three complaints that the cafe was allowing people to dine inside.
CUTS IN FEDERAL FUNDING PUT DES IN VULNERABLE POSITION BEFORE PANDEMIC: After hearing from almost a dozen people – some seething, some weeping – describe Monday their often futile efforts to file for unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic, Republican lawmakers pointed the finger of blame at Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper's administration. The state Division of Employment Security has been swamped by 1.2 million claims for jobless benefits since March 15, which division director Lockhart Taylor said is more than it handled during the last six years combined. "Like other states around the country, we started off ill equipped to handle so many claims in such a short period of time," Taylor said during a legislative oversight committee. The DES is federally funded, and he noted that the agency's budget had been cut by 20 percent in recent years, which resulted in similar cuts to its staff. The fallout from the pandemic was so overwhelming and so fast that the DES didn't have time to prepare. DES has brought on enough staff to where the agency can now handle 65,000 calls a day, up from 6,000 a day two months ago. But he noted most of that additional help isn't yet fully trained to answer people's questions, which doesn't help people in many cases.
NC COULD SEE A $4 BILLION BUDGET SHORTFALL DUE TO CORONAVIRUS: Due to falling tax revenues spurred on by the coronavirus shutdown, state lawmakers expect to face a budget shortfall of billions of dollars. The losses could be as high as $4 billion, said N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican from Eden, at a press conference Monday. That would be around 16% of North Carolina’s $25 billion budget — potentially requiring large cuts across state government. With many parts of the economy shutting down and people losing their jobs, plus tourism slowing down, revenue from both sales taxes and income taxes could drop substantially. Berger said state officials should have more details later this week. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has been pushing members of Congress to approve additional funds to help state, city and county leaders avoid having to make large cuts. “If that’s not dealt with, then state government and local government are going to have to make significant cuts in core services like law enforcement, like education, like transportation,” Cooper said at a press conference last week.
TRUMP HAS BEEN TAKING HIS OWN SNAKE OIL TO PROTECT HIM FROM COVID 19: The president said he began taking the anti-malaria drug about 10 days ago after he told the White House physician he would like to start taking hydroxychloroquine. That timing would put the start of Trump’s drug regimen at roughly the same time as news broke that two White House staffers had tested positive for the virus, and the White House later released a letter from Trump’s in-house doctor that linked his drug regimen to one of those cases. “After numerous discussions he and I had for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks,” White House physician Sean P. Conley wrote. He said Trump continues to test negative for the virus. In announcing his decision to take the controversial drug, Trump offered only anecdotal testimonials as evidence that it works in any form as a treatment or preventive for the virus that has killed nearly 90,000 Americans and devastated the economy. “I think it’s good. I’ve heard a lot of good stories. And if it’s not good, I’ll tell you right. I’m not going to get hurt by it,” he told reporters at the White House, noting it has long been approved to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. “It’s been around for 40 years.” Clinical trials, academic research and scientific analysis indicate that the danger of the drug is a significantly increased risk of death for certain patients, particularly those with heart problems.
LATEST WHISTLEBLOWER FIRED BY TRUMP WAS INVESTIGATING ARMS SALES TO SAUDI ARABIA: The decision to resume lethal aid to the Saudis and Emiratis was a major initiative undertaken by Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Trump, who often discussed the importance of the weapons sales with officers of Raytheon, the Massachusetts-based defense contractor that lobbied heavily to get a 2017 suspension of sales lifted. Congress had imposed the suspension because of a political rift among Gulf Arab nations driven by the Saudis and because of discoveries that bomb fragments traced to Raytheon by investigators were linked to a series of Saudi bombings that killed civilians, including children. But the effort to restart the sales was delayed by the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident, Washington Post columnist and American resident. His death, and the suspected role of the Saudi leadership in ordering the killing, led to calls for a full end to military aid to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Mr. Pompeo broke the logjam a year ago, declaring an “emergency” over Iran’s activities in the Middle East that enabled him to sidestep the congressional ban and approve restarting the sales. That started the resumption of more normal exchanges with the Saudi government, as the Trump administration tried to move past Mr. Khashoggi’s killing. Saudi Arabia and Iran are archrivals in the region. In June, after congressional hearings with State Department officials into the rationale for declaring an emergency over Iran, Mr. Engel sent a letter to Mr. Linick asking him to open an investigation. This past weekend, after Mr. Trump notified Congress of the firing of Mr. Linick, Mr. Engel’s office learned more details of the circumstances around the arms sale investigation, leading Mr. Engel to ask whether the inquiry might have contributed to the sudden move against Mr. Linick by Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Trump. The Washington Post first reported on Mr. Engel’s concerns on Monday.