Friday News: An Officer and a Gentleman


JEFF JACKSON BOWS OUT OF U.S. SENATE RACE, ENDORSES BEASLEY: A Democrat for North Carolina's soon-to-be-open U.S. Senate seat said Thursday he will leave the race and endorsed the front runner. State Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, said in a statement that "everyone needs to know when to step aside." He endorsed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, whom he described as the Democrats' presumptive nominee. Beasley "has served this state honorably for over two decades and has always fought for justice," Jackson said in a statement. "She’ll be a great U.S. senator for North Carolina. Unlike the Republicans in this race, we won’t be participating in a costly and divisive primary. If we’re going to flip this seat in November, we need to unite – and we need to unite behind Cheri.” Jeff's campaign was nothing short of amazing. He held town halls in all 100 NC counties, and several colleges and universities. People have a different (better) idea of what the Democratic Party is all about, thanks to Major Jackson. I'm proud of him, and you should be too.

FEDERAL AID FOR RENTERS IN NC EXPIRES TOMORROW: North Carolina’s emergency pandemic rental aid program will stop accepting applications on Friday as its federal funding will soon lapse. Applications for the Housing Opportunities and Prevention of Evictions program, or HOPE, will close Friday at 6 p.m. “The applications that we received by 6 p.m. will fully obligate the funding that we have for the whole program,” said Laura Hogshead, head of the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency, which operates HOPE. The HOPE program, which was created to assist tenants financially burdened by COVID-19, has given hundreds of millions of dollars to renters in need, over 151,000 households since the program started a year ago. Each household received an average of about $3,500 in rent assistance. In August, the HOPE program had only spent 22% of that amount, The News & Observer reported at the time, though that was still more spent than both the national rate and local municipalities in North Carolina that operate their own programs. But since then, HOPE rapidly spent the rest of the $396 million and is now nearing full expenditure of the additional $372 million it was allocated in the American Rescue Plan, another COVID stimulus that Congress passed in March. Though $15 million of that funding was spent on eviction diversion programs and another 5% was spent on administrative costs. “We’ve just seen a tremendous volume increase since Thanksgiving, which is pushing us to close sooner than we anticipated,” Hogshead said.

YOU MAY WANT TO BOOST WITH MODERNA, PFIZER PEOPLE (LIKE ME): A Duke Health professional is pleading for people to get their COVID-19 booster shot in light of new evidence that shows it makes a tremendous difference in protection against an emerging variant. A new study reveals that a Moderna booster protects people 50 times more against the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus compared to just the standard two-dose regimen of the Moderna vaccine. Dr. David Montefiori, a virologist at Duke Health, conducted the study in recent weeks to determine the effects of the omicron variant on the Moderna vaccine. It's eye-opening data about what's expected to become the dominant COVID-19 strain globally in the coming months. Clinical data coming out of South Africa and other countries show that two doses aren't as effective against omicron, according to Montefiori. Many cases of COVID-19 with the omicron variant, while not serious, have developed in those who've been considered fully vaccinated. “It’s going to be very important to get boosted with omicron now becoming the dominant variant globally,” Montefiori said. I need to stop putting this off. Maybe tomorrow...

F**K JOE MANCHIN, PART 27: Senate Democrats on Thursday began to confront the prospect that they may not be able to adopt a roughly $2 trillion package to overhaul the country’s health care, education, climate, immigration and tax laws before the end of this year, threatening a major political setback for the final piece of President Biden’s economic agenda. The dawning acknowledgment on Capitol Hill after months of negotiations — some even involving Biden personally — generated fresh frustration among a party still struggling to overcome its own divisions and finalize a measure that has bedeviled them now for nearly a year. And it raised the odds that a key federal program that provides monthly payments to roughly 35 million families could expire in a matter of days. Even after considerable legislative legwork, Democrats on Thursday said they continued to tinker with a slew of spending proposals related to climate, health care and taxes. They admitted they also had not yet completed the lengthy, intricate process that would allow them to bring the bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, to the chamber floor in a manner that could skirt Republican opposition. And some Democrats said that they are far from a resolution on a now-familiar dispute: whether to seize on their rare, narrow and potent majorities afforded them in the last election to pursue aggressive, expensive economic reforms — or reel in their ambitions to assuage the fiscal conservatism of Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.). Thanks to gerrymandering and the normal political backdraft of midterms, we will probably lose control of the U.S. House, whatever choice they make. So we should get it while we can.

PANDORA PAPERS EXPOSE INVESTORS BEHIND AFFORDABLE HOUSING CRISIS: Over the past six years, 19 of the 32 homes on Tammy Sue Lane have been purchased by a billion-dollar investment venture, part of an unprecedented flow of global finance into the American suburbs. Less than 10 years old, the company has amassed one of the nation’s largest portfolios of single-family houses, becoming the landlord for tens of thousands of families. The venture, Progress Residential, acquires as many as 2,000 houses a month through the use of a computerized property-search algorithm and swift all-cash offers. Progress executives boast that the company’s efficient management practices have been a boon to their tenants who cannot afford to buy one of the “entry level” homes. But according to previously undisclosed documents and dozens of interviews with renters and former employees, Progress Residential has been ringing up substantial profits for wealthy investors around the world while outbidding middle-class home buyers and subjecting tenants to what they allege are unfair rent hikes, shoddy maintenance and excessive fees. Behind Progress Residential is Pretium Partners, a New York-based investment firm whose business plan and investors are revealed in the Pandora Papers, a trove of offshore financial records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and shared with The Washington Post. The plan sought to exploit the 2008 U.S. housing crash, which forced millions of homeowners into foreclosure and left a glut of cheap houses for sale. The financiers’ plan called for buying up tens of thousands of these properties at depressed prices and renting them to families who had lost their homes or, because of tightened lending practices, could no longer qualify for a mortgage. To raise money for the project, Pretium Partners sent confidential invitations to people wealthy enough to put up at least $2 million. Executives projected annualized returns of 15 to 20 percent, according to a 238-page solicitation to investors in 2012. In total, Pretium Partners raised more than $1 billion, and the resulting real estate venture became Progress Residential. It's not just the anonymous "market" causing this, it's once again the selfish and irresponsible wealthy.