LEGISLATURE NEEDS TO SPEND ANOTHER BILLION PER YEAR ON SCHOOLS: Twenty-five years after school districts first took the case to court, an independent consultant says North Carolina needs to sharply increase school funding — $8 billion more over the next 8 years — to help provide students a sound basic education. The report from WestEd, a nonprofit research group, says that state funding has not kept up with needs, leaving North Carolina near the bottom in the nation in spending on education. The result, the report says, is that academic performance has lagged in the state’s public schools. “The state is further away from meeting its constitutional obligation to provide every child with the opportunity for a sound basic education than it was when the Supreme Court of North Carolina issued the Leandro decision more than 20 years ago,” the WestEd report says.
NC SPIN RETURNS FOR ANOTHER SEASON, BUT WITH RESTRICTIONS: The only change to NC Spin mentioned in the news release is that UNC-TV veteran producer Kelly McCullen — who used to host shows like “Legislative Week in Review” and leads the station’s North Carolina Channel — will become a co-executive producer alongside Campbell. Bierman said that change was made because Campbell wasn’t getting much feedback on his show from the station’s professional staff, and he stressed that McCullen’s involvement isn’t to put any “editorial control” over the program. NC Spin’s new contract makes only minor changes to the funding of the show, which splits costs between UNC-TV and Campbell’s production company. But unlike the old contract, it specifies that fill-in hosts can’t be political consultants and lobbyists with clients or projects associated with a topic of discussion on the show. Back in July, host Tom Campbell announced that 2019 would be the show’s last year, and he said he thought station management had canceled his show because it had criticized the UNC Board of Governors.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DEFANGS WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION'S SUPREME COURT: Global commerce will lose its ultimate umpire Tuesday, leaving countries unable to reach a final resolution of disputes at the World Trade Organization and instead facing what critics call “the law of the jungle.″ The United States, under a president who favors a go-it-alone approach to economics and diplomacy, appears to prefer it that way. The terms of two of the last three judges on the WTO’s appellate body end Tuesday. Their departure will deprive the de facto Supreme Court of world trade of its ability to issue rulings. Among the disputes left in limbo are seven cases that have been brought against Trump’s decision last year to declare foreign steel and aluminum a threat to U.S. national security and to hit them with import taxes. The WTO’s lower court — its dispute settlement body — can hear cases. But its decisions will go nowhere if the loser appeals to a higher court that is no longer functioning.
AG WILLIAM BARR CONTINUES ATTACKS ON THE FBI OVER RUSSIA PROBE: In two media interviews, the top U.S. law enforcement official launched a broadside against his predecessors who handled one of the most sensitive investigations in FBI history, rejecting an assessment from the Justice Department’s internal watchdog that the case was opened with appropriate cause, not out of political animus. His comments drew condemnations from some involved in the case, and those inside the Justice Department privately worried he might be undercutting faith in federal law enforcement to please the president. The remarks notably came after President Trump had criticized the FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, on Twitter. “I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press,” Barr told NBC News. “I think there were gross abuses . . . and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI.” “He is bringing to bear, in all of his conduct here, a perspective on the law that the president is all-powerful and should be able to do pretty much whatever he wants,” said Donald B. Ayer, who preceded Barr as deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration.
U.S. TROOPS IN SYRIA ARE SURROUNDED BY POTENTIAL ENEMIES, PENTAGON NO HELP: The Trump administration’s rapidly shifting strategy in northern Syria has American commanders there scrambling to protect their forces from an expected surge in actions by military units from Turkey, Russia, Iran and the Syrian government, as well as their proxy forces, according to Defense Department officials. American commanders now see these armed groups as a greater danger than the Islamic State forces they were sent to fight. Commanders have requested guidance outlining how American forces might deal with an attack from the assortment of armed groups, including Russian-backed Syrian government forces, that have, in the past, tried to seize territory held by the United States. But they have received muddled direction from the Pentagon, two Defense Department officials said. “These forces are at risk without a clear understanding of what they are expected to achieve, and without the political support of their nation, if or more likely when, one of these American adversaries decided to attack them,” said Jennifer Cafarella, the research director for the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. “These guys are deployed in one of the most risky, complex and rapidly evolving environments on the planet.”