LEGISLATIVE DEMOCRATS PUSH FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION: House and Senate Democrats called Wednesday for a quick move toward Medicaid expansion in North Carolina, making their opening play on one of the biggest-ticket items to be debated during the new legislation session. Their plan would simply expand Medicaid, providing taxpayer-funded health insurance to hundreds of thousands of people in North Carolina, most of them the working poor. The Democratic plan is stripped free of work requirements and increased co-pays that are part of a competing plan with limited Republican support, known as Carolina Cares. Democrats said they can expand the program to as many as 500,000 people without a hit to the state budget. The federal government would cover 90 percent of new costs, and the other 10 percent would come from hospitals around the state, which have agreed to a new assessment commonly called a "bed tax" to raise the money.
MCCRORY SET TO GIVE NOT-FOR-CREDIT SEMINARS FOR UNC STUDENT GROUP: McCrory, a Charlotte Republican, has been named a spring fellow at UNC’s Institute of Politics, a student-run organization now in its fourth semester. He’ll join Mike McIntyre, a former Democratic member of Congress, in teaching a weekly class. Both will lead eight not-for-credit seminars. McCrory’s is titled, “Hard Lessons of Leadership: An Insider’s Look That You Won’t Read In A Textbook.” “These are real-life examples, hard lessons I’ve had to learn myself or through observing other leaders,” McCrory told the Observer. “I hope to pass some of that wisdom onto the next generation.. . . I’m also going to encourage them to get involved. If they don’t do it, who will?" McCrory, who planned to be a teacher after graduating from Catawba College, said the fellowship allows him to check off something on his bucket list. He said the eight classes will be interactive, with students actively participating.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OPENS UP SACRED NATIVE AMERICAN AREA FOR OIL DRILLING: The sale comes as Democratic members of Congress, tribal leaders and environmentalists have criticized the federal Bureau of Land Management for pushing ahead with drilling permit reviews and preparations for energy leases despite the recent government shutdown. With limited staff on duty over the last month, the critics complained that they were locked out of the process because the agency didn't release any information about the sale. They also questioned whether the agency would be able to adequately review the land that's up for bid and whether it would consider protests to the move. Depending on the outcome of the protest period, it's possible for the agency to withdraw the land in question, including nine parcels near Chaco, a world heritage site with massive stone structures, kivas and other features that archaeologists believe offered a religious or ritualistic experience. In all, more than 50 parcels in New Mexico and Oklahoma will be up for bid.
TRUMP THROWS TANTRUM OVER U.S. INTELLIGENCE ASSESSMENT: President Trump lashed out at the nation’s intelligence agencies on Wednesday, accusing them of being “passive and naive” about the dangers posed by Iran, and defending his handling of Afghanistan, North Korea and the Islamic State. A day after the agencies issued their annual assessment of global threats — warning of malefactors like China and the Islamic State — Mr. Trump reignited a long-simmering feud with his own government, reacting as if the report was a threat to him personally. “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” he declared on Twitter in an indignant early morning post. In another, Mr. Trump said, “The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!”
PRESSURE MOUNTS ON VENEZUELA'S MADURO TO STEP DOWN: Doctors in scrubs, businessmen in suits and construction workers in jeans gathered on the streets of Venezuela’s capital Wednesday, waving their nation’s flag and demanding Nicolas Maduro step down from power in a walkout organized by the nation’s reinvigorated opposition to ratchet up pressure on the embattled president. Protesters said they were heeding the opposition’s call for another mass demonstration despite the heavy-handed response by security forces over the last week to quell anti-government protests. “I’m going out now more than ever,” said Sobeia Gonzalez, 63. “We have a lot more faith that this government has very little time left.” The latest walkout comes one week exactly after opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself the nation’s rightful president amid a sea of supporters, hurling the nation into a new chapter of political tumult as the anti-Maduro movement tries to establish a transitional government and the socialist leader clings to power.