BEASLEY CAMPAIGN DEMANDS A SECOND, MORE ACCURATE RECOUNT: Justice Paul Newby led North Carolina’s Supreme Court chief justice race after a statewide recount finished late Wednesday night, but the election isn’t over. Incumbent Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s campaign staff said in a news release they are demanding a hand-to eye recount, which differs from the recent recount tabulated by voting machines. The request came around 11 p.m. Wednesday. Following the first recount, Newby, a Republican, is ahead of Beasley, a Democrat, by 401 votes out of the nearly 5.4 million ballots cast. The recount dropped Newby’s lead by only five votes. Beasley’s request for the hand-to-eye recount has not yet been confirmed by the state board of elections, but she had only 24 hours after the recount ended to make the request. That countdown began at 9:41 p.m. Wednesday.
STATEWIDE BAN ON NON-DISCRIMINATION ORDINANCES HAS EXPIRED: North Carolina cities and towns can once again pass local anti-discrimination ordinances after a statewide ban on such laws expired Wednesday. The ban goes back to House Bill 2, the 2016 state law that brought international notoriety to North Carolina by dictating which public bathrooms transgender individuals could use. A provision in the law, which was partially repealed a year later, prohibited cities and counties from passing ordinances protecting LGBTQ people – or any group, such as pregnant women or veterans – from discrimination. Allison Scott, director of policy and programs for the Campaign for Southern Equality, said the ban was about more than restrooms. In North Carolina, she said, it is not illegal to fire someone or to refuse to rent or sell a place to live to someone who's gay or transgender. "That’s where cities and towns can step up and say, 'You cannot fire people for their identity, for their gender identity or their sexual identity, because we see that happening. It literally happens every day," Scott said.
TOM CAMPBELL'S POLITICAL ROUNDTABLE "NC SPIN" WILL END ON CHRISTMAS DAY: After more than 22 years and 1,154 episodes, the UNC-TV political talk show NC Spin is airing its last program on Dec. 25. Host Tom Campbell told The News & Observer on Tuesday that he’s planning to retire from the role, and this time, it’s his decision to step down. Last year, UNC-TV reversed a decision to cancel the show, which Campbell claimed was the result of his criticism of the UNC Board of Governors. UNC-TV management denied that the move was political, and the public TV network ultimately extended NC Spin’s contract for another year. But Campbell also said the COVID-19 pandemic also “played a big part” in the decision. The economic effects have made it harder to line up sponsors to cover production costs, and virus precautions have changed the format of the show. For most of its history, NC Spin has featured panelists from across the political spectrum sitting around a table and debating the week’s news. But this year, the panelists have had to participate from separate studios or through a Zoom call. “It’s just not the same when you’re not there” in person to have the discussion, he said.
TRUMP'S MARATHON VIDEO RANT ABOUT ELECTION MAY BE HIS WORST PERFORMANCE: Escalating his attack on democracy from within the White House, President Trump on Wednesday distributed an astonishing 46-minute video rant filled with baseless allegations of voter fraud and outright falsehoods in which he declared the nation’s election system “under coordinated assault and siege” and argued that it was “statistically impossible” for him to have lost to President-elect Joe Biden. Standing behind the presidential lectern in the Diplomatic Reception Room and flanked by the flags of his office and of the country whose Constitution he swore an oath to uphold, Trump tried to leverage the power of the presidency to subvert the vote and overturn the election results. The rambling and bellicose monologue — which Trump said “may be the most important speech I’ve ever made” and was delivered direct-to-camera with no audience — underscored his desperation to reverse the outcome of his election loss after a month of failed legal challenges and as some key states already have certified Biden’s victory. Trump claimed in Wednesday’s video, again without evidence, that “corrupt forces” had stuffed ballot boxes with fraudulent votes. He claimed the fraud was “massive” and “on a scale never seen before.” He called on the Supreme Court to “do what’s right for our country,” which he suggested entailed terminating hundreds of thousands of votes so that “I very easily win in all states.” Any hope that the president might be slowly coming to grips with his loss and accepting the fact that Biden will be sworn in as president on Jan. 20 was dashed by his combative and emphatic tone, which amounted to a call to arms to his supporters. The fight is paying dividends so far, with Trump’s political operation using a blizzard of misleading appeals to supporters to raise more than $170 million since Election Day on Nov. 3.
HACKERS ARE GOING AFTER COVID VACCINE DISTRIBUTION NETWORK: A series of cyberattacks is underway aimed at the companies and government organizations that will be distributing coronavirus vaccines around the world, IBM’s cybersecurity division has found, though it is unclear whether the goal is to steal the technology for keeping the vaccines refrigerated in transit or to sabotage the movements. The findings are alarming enough that the Department of Homeland Security plans to issue its own warning on Thursday to Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to develop and distribute coronavirus vaccines, federal officials said. Both the IBM researchers and the department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the attacks appear intended to steal the network credentials of corporate executives and officials at global organizations involved in the refrigeration process necessary to protect vaccine doses, or what the industry calls the cold chain. The cyberattackers “were working to get access to how the vaccine is shipped, stored, kept cold and delivered,” said Nick Rossmann, who heads IBM’s global threat intelligence team. “We think whoever is behind this wanted to be able to understand the entire cold chain process.” Many of the approaches came in the form of “spear phishing” emails that impersonated an executive at a major Chinese company, Haier Biomedical, which is a legitimate participant in the distribution chain. The email says “we want to place an order with your company,” and includes a draft contract containing malware that would give the attackers access to the network. Researchers for IBM Security X-Force, the company’s cybersecurity arm, said they believed that the attacks were sophisticated enough that they pointed to a government-sponsored initiative, not a rogue criminal operation aimed purely at monetary gain. But they could not identify which country might be behind them.