UNC-CHAPEL HILL REPORTS 343 STUDENTS AND STAFF TEST POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS: UNC-Chapel Hill reported 112 students tested positive for COVID-19 before they returned to campus or to the Chapel Hill and Carrboro area for the spring semester. Last week, UNC also reported its first cluster of six coronavirus cases among students who’d been living in the Carmichael residence hall over winter break. About 260 students and 83 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 so far this month, according to UNC’s COVID-19 dashboard. All undergraduate students were required to submit a negative test before moving into dorms or starting classes, which began Tuesday. But the university delayed in-person classes for three weeks because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across North Carolina.
WINSTON-SALEM FIRE DEPARTMENT HAS A RACISM PROBLEM: Racism exists inside a North Carolina fire department, but a consulting group looking into allegations of discrimination by Black firefighters says it heard no complaints that the chief himself is racist. The Charlotte-based WPR Consulting firm's 42-page report on the Winston-Salem Fire Department, based on conversations with more than 100 members of the department, was submitted to city leaders last week. It was prepared in response to a series of grievances filed by the department's Black firefighters in October alleging racism. The Black firefighters formed a group, Omnibus, that called for Chief William “Trey” Mayo to be fired for failing to discipline white firefighters who, they said, have created a hostile work environment through in-person and social media comments. “We are glad that the organization was able to come to the conclusion that racism does exist within the department,” Omnibus leader Thomas Penn said. “We're excited about it.”
CONGRESSIONAL WATCHDOG FILES COMPLAINT ABOUT MADISON CAWTHORN OVER COUP ATTEMPT: A government watchdog group is seeking an ethics investigation that could lead to the expulsion of newly elected U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, arguing that he helped spur the riot at the Capitol that caused the death of a police officer and four others, and broke a federal regulation and a local law that bar firearms in the building. The Campaign for Accountability filed an ethics complaint Friday against Cawthorn, a Henderson County Republican who represents the 11th District, and two Republican Arizona congressmen. Cawthorn, 25, is the youngest person elected to Congress in modern times. The complaint asks the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate. If it finds credible evidence to substantiate the claims, it could recommend that the House Ethics Committee start proceedings to expel the three members. The last member to be expelled from Congress was in 2002 — Rep. Jim Traficant, an Ohio Democrat who had been convicted of bribery.
TRUMP'S LAST-DITCH EFFORT TO SUBORN THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT FAILED: Barr was confident that Rosen shared his views and would thus not succumb to any pressure campaign to upend the election results, people familiar with the matter said. But soon, there emerged a bizarre plot to go around him, the people said. Clark, the people said, somehow connected with Trump and conveyed he felt fraud had impacted the election results. Then Clark began pressuring Rosen and others to do more on voter fraud — such as holding a news conference to announce they were investigating serious allegations, or taking particular steps in Georgia — though Rosen refused. At some point, Rosen was informed Clark would replace him, and he pushed for a meeting with Trump in person, the people said. It was theoretically possible that, if Clark were installed, he could push for some type of challenge to the election results. At the meeting were Trump, Clark and Rosen, along with Richard Donoghue, the acting deputy attorney general; Steven A. Engel, the head of the department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, the people familiar with the matter said. The people said Rosen, Donoghue, Engel and Cipollone pushed against the idea of replacing Rosen, and warned of a mass resignation. Cipollone, one person said, pushed hard against a letter Clark wanted to send to Georgia state legislators, which wrongly asserted the department was investigating accusations of fraud in their state and Biden’s win should be voided, insisting it was based on a shoddy claim. “Pat pretty much saved Rosen’s job that day,” said one senior Trump White House official.
BIDEN ADMIN MOVES SWIFTLY TO UNDO BETSY DEVOS' SUPPORT FOR FRAUDULENT ACCREDITING AGENCY: The Biden administration’s Education Department is moving to cut ties with an organization that was thrown a life raft under the Trump administration even though it was at the center of an enormous fraud scandal related to for-profit colleges. The department said late Friday that it recommended terminating federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, or Acics. The organization is infamous for having overseen the collapse of two for-profit university chains, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, whose bankruptcies left tens of thousands of students with worthless degrees and mountains of debt. The decision to end the group’s federal recognition would be made by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, an independent panel that advises the secretary of education. Former President Donald J. Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, reinstated Acics in 2018, citing a federal court’s opinion that found the Obama administration had not allowed it to properly defend itself. Ms. DeVos did so over the objections of her own staff, who issued a 244-page report detailing how the accrediting body had failed to meet dozens of federal standards. The reinstatement allowed Acics to keep operating as a watchdog for the Education Department and a gatekeeper of billions in federal financial aid dollars. At the time, the group said that it had made drastic improvements to its operations. Career staffers at the department who have monitored the group’s compliance since then disagree. The department’s announcement on Friday said that Acics had “failed to demonstrate that it has competent and knowledgeable individuals” who were trained in the agency’s own “standards, policies and procedures.”