TILLIS CAMPAIGN PAID CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA $100,000 POST-ELECTION: Tillis’ campaign committee paid the firm $10,000 on Oct. 21, 2014, and $20,000 on Nov. 6, 2014. It made four payments of $25,000 throughout 2015 to Cambridge Analytica, according to Federal Election Commission filings. A Tillis spokesman called the $100,000 in post-election payments a "win bonus." Cambridge Analytica boasts of its work for Tillis and the NC Republican Party on its website, saying that it used its "unique data-rich voter file" to predict partisanship, turnout, and build "psychographic profiles of all voters in North Carolina." The company said it identified national security as the major issue among the majority of targeted voters.
COMMITTEE WILL HEAR PUBLIC COMMENTS TODAY ON CONFEDERATE STATUE RELOCATION: The state Historical Commission's Confederate Monuments Committee has set aside two hours for comment, with a third hour optional if there's enough interest. Participants will be asked to speak for a minute or less on a proposal from Gov. Roy Cooper to move the monuments from the Capitol grounds to the Bentonville Battlefield historic site in Johnston County. More than 4,000 comments have already been logged online through a portal managed by the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The department didn't have a tally Tuesday of pro versus con comments. Many people wrote in that they're descended from Confederate veterans and the monuments should stay where they are. A number of people wrote that, if Confederate monuments are moved, statues of Martin Luther King Jr. should be moved as well.
HIGH TURNOVER IS EXACERBATING DANGEROUS CONDITIONS IN NC PRISONS: About 37 percent of positions at Lanesboro were vacant in January, up from about 22 percent a year earlier, according to N.C. Department of Public Safety records. One officer at Lanesboro, who asked not to be named because she fears retribution, said some officers are working nine straight days or consecutive 16-hour shifts. The prison is so short-staffed, she said, that two officers are sometimes left in charge of overseeing 200 inmates in the cafeteria. In the past, one former officer said, there were twice that many officers stationed in the chow hall. In January, the overall vacancy rate at the state’s maximum-security prisons was about 22 percent – slightly higher than it was a year earlier. But the vacancy rates were significantly higher in some of the most dangerous prisons. At Pasquotank Correctional Institution, where four employees were fatally attacked during an October escape attempt, the overall vacancy rate in January was about 37 percent.
AUSTIN BOMBER BLOWS HIMSELF UP AS POLICE APPROACH: Authorities had zeroed in on the suspect in the last 24 to 36 hours and located his vehicle at a hotel on Interstate 35 in the suburb of Round Rock, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said at a news conference. They were waiting for ballistic vehicles to arrive to move in for an arrest when his vehicle began to drive away, Manley said. Authorities followed the vehicle, which ran into a ditch on the side of the road, the police chief said. When members of the SWAT team approached, the suspect detonated an explosive device inside the vehicle, the police chief said. The blast knocked back one officer, while a second officer fired his weapon, Manley said. Authorities identified the suspect only as a 24-year-old white man and wouldn't say if he was from Austin.
BOKO HARAM RETURNS GROUP OF SCHOOLGIRLS KIDNAPPED LAST WEEK: A group of schoolgirls abducted by armed group Boko Haram in the northeastern town of Dapchi last month have been returned home, residents of the town told Al Jazeera. A father of one of the girls said on Wednesday that his daughter, as well as residents in Dapchi, told him over the phone that she and several others of the 110 abducted schoolgirls were released. The schoolgirls were abducted after fighters stormed the Government Science and Technical College in Dapchi, in the northeastern state of Yobe, on February 19. "The pressure is going to mount now to get other girls to be released as well whether through negotiation or military operation." In 2014, Boko Haram abducted 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, and about 100 of them have never returned to their families.