ROWAN COUNTY FORCED TO PAY ACLU LEGAL BILLS OVER GOVERNMENT PRAYER: A federal judge found the way the Rowan County Commission prayed before public meetings unconstitutional. An appeals court eventually agreed and the Supreme Court last summer declined to hear the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, federal court records show. Now the county will have to pay the ACLU’s legal bills for the five-year legal fight: $285,000. On Monday, County Commission members voted to pay the bill, the Salisbury Post reports. The lawsuit dates back to 2013 when three Rowan County residents sued the county commission over the public prayer at the beginning of each meeting, according to court filings. The commission chair or members give a prayer at the beginning of each meeting, the lawsuit says, and over six years 97 percent of prayers were Christian. An appeals court sided with the residents, represented by the ACLU, in 2017.
THOMAS FARR'S NAME IS STILL ON LIST OF JUDICIAL NOMINEES, TILLIS MAY BE HELPING HIM: New Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham met for the first time this year with White House officials on Thursday to discuss the fate of judicial nominees that languished in the previous Congress. That list included Thomas Farr. A candidate for a North Carolina federal district court judgeship, Farr’s chances of being confirmed last year ended because of concerns about his involvement in efforts to suppress African American turnout in North Carolina elections. Democrats and civil rights groups cheered Scott’s decision and what appeared to be the end of Farr’s chances to win a lifetime judicial appointment: Though his nomination was never formally withdrawn, Farr had been tainted with accusations of racist activity. Yet Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, said this week he was still looking into whether he would push to have Farr, who has longstanding ties with Republicans in the state, re-nominated.
NC COMPANY CUTS TIES WITH CHINESE MANUFACTURER WHO USES FORCED LABOR OF MUSLIM DETAINEES: A U.S. supplier of t-shirts and other team apparel to college bookstores cut its ties Wednesday with a Chinese company that drew workers from an internment camp holding targeted members of ethnic minority groups. In recent years, authorities in the far west Chinese region of Xinjiang have detained an estimated 1 million Uighurs and Kazakhs in heavily-secured facilities where detainees say they are ordered to renounce their language and religion while pledging loyalty to the China’s ruling Communist Party. Last month an Associated Press investigation found the Chinese government had also started forcing some detainees to work in manufacturing and food industries. The investigation tracked recent shipments from one such factory, the privately-owned Hetian Taida Apparel, located inside an internment camp, to Badger Sportswear, a leading supplier in Statesville, North Carolina. In a statement posted to its website, Badger said Wednesday it will no longer do business with Hetian Taida, nor import any goods from the same region “given the controversy around doing business” there.
U.S. WITHDRAWAL FROM SYRIA HAS BEGUN, DESPITE REASSURANCES ABOUT FIGHTING ISLAMIC STATE: After days of back and forth over U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pullout American troops from Syria, a U.S. military official said Friday the process of withdrawal has begun, declining to comment on specific timetables or movements. Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, said "the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria" has started. "Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troops movements," the Baghdad-based official said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. There were no other details, and it was not immediately clear how many vehicles or whether any troop units had withdrawn. Confirmation of the first withdrawals comes amid confusion over plans to implement Trump's pullout order and threats from Turkey to attack the Kurds, who have been America's partners on the ground in the war against the Islamic State group in Syria.
TRUMP EYES HURRICANE RELIEF FUNDS FOR BORDER WALL: President Trump traveled to the border on Thursday to warn of crime and chaos on the frontier, as White House officials considered diverting emergency aid from storm- and fire-ravaged Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and California to build a border barrier, perhaps under an emergency declaration. Among the options, the White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to determine whether it can divert for wall construction $13.9 billion allocated last year after devastating hurricanes and wildfires, according to congressional and Defense Department officials with knowledge of the matter, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the possibility. Administration officials are debating whether they could make such a move without the president declaring a national emergency, an action the White House counsel’s office has explored.