Wednesday News: Clean, legal, safe


NC BOARD OF ELECTIONS CERTIFIES RESULTS, NO COVID CASES LINKED TO VOTING: The North Carolina Board of Elections has certified nearly all of the state’s votes, confirming Electoral College votes for incumbent President Donald Trump, who lost the national general election to Joe Biden. The board also certified the reelection of N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican, along with almost all races and ballot measures across the state. Elections officials also report no COVID-19 cases linked to voting. There were 3.6 million votes cast during early voting, the most ever for North Carolina, she said. Bell said there was “75.4% voter turnout in a pandemic, which is remarkable.”

GOVERNOR COOPER TIGHTENS MASK MANDATE, BUT WON'T CLOSE SCHOOLS OR BUSINESSES: Cooper's order Monday doesn't tighten occupancy limits on businesses. It instead stresses increased mask wearing, particularly at gyms and restaurants. People exercising indoors must wear a mask if they are not within their own home. If they are outside and within 6 feet (1.8 meters) of someone who does not live in their household, they also need to be masked. College and professional athletes not actively competing or recovering from exercise must be masked. The order requires all restaurant workers to wear a mask, even if they don't interact with the public. Customers must also be masked, including at their table, when they are not actively eating or drinking. Local police departments can fine businesses that fail to enforce the mask mandate, which was first issued in June. Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said at the news conference that businesses in her city can also be fined $100 for each person over the permitted capacity.

IN NORTH CAROLINA, HOME IS WHERE THE OUTBREAK IS: In communities across North Carolina, families often live in homes that are too small. Doors are opened for displaced kin, and generations often shelter together. This has made combatting COVID-19 a challenge for some. “It's really a recipe, I think, for disaster, a recipe for spreading the virus if you live in an overcrowded household,” said Bill Rohe, the former director of UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for Urban and Regional Studies. “Overcrowding” is widely accepted as having more than one person living in a house per room. About 2.3% of households in North Carolina are defined as overcrowded, according to 5-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey. A North Carolina News Collaborative analysis found that the COVID-19 infection rate is higher in the ZIP codes with the most crowding. The rate of crowded homes was higher in the ZIP codes that had the highest infection rates, the analysis also found. There is “every reason,” Rohe said, to believe that overcrowding has risen even more during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rohe pointed to COVID-19’s impact on jobs — September’s statewide unemployment rate was 7.3%, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce, more than double February’s 3.6%. “Where are those unemployed people going? Probably going back to live with relatives, maybe going to double up with other families,” Rohe said.

BIDEN'S CHOICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL MAY BE THE MOST CRITICAL IN CABINET: After years seemingly at the center of every major political fight in Washington, the Justice Department is about to get new leadership, and President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for attorney general will have to balance competing demands within his party on thorny issues of civil rights, the environment and the department’s traditional independence from politicians. Most senior Democrats and former Justice Department officials agree a top contender for the position is Sally Q. Yates, the former deputy attorney general whose tenure stretched from 2015 to the early, tumultuous days of the Trump administration. Other names under consideration include Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), former homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and former White House adviser Lisa Monaco. Personnel is policy,” said a former senior government official. “Who the president selects may signal the new administration’s policy goals, like a focus on restoration of the department or a focus on civil rights.” Among Biden’s transition team, early talks have focused on reinstituting a more robust civil rights department and pushing more vigorously on criminal justice reform, according to people familiar with the discussions, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations. At the same time, Biden has pledged to restore independence at the department, and his senior advisers are keen to improve morale after the departing attorney general, William P. Barr, gave a speech in September excoriating many of the department’s career employees. Some of those employees, in turn, wrote public letters denouncing him.

TRUMP IS LIKELY TO PARDON MICHAEL FLYNN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR WHO LIED TO FBI: Mr. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with a Russian diplomat during the presidential transition in late 2016 and early 2017. He was the only former White House official to plead guilty in the inquiry led by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s election interference. In May, the Justice Department sought to withdraw its charges against Mr. Flynn. That move has since been tied up in federal court, challenged by the judge who presided over Mr. Flynn’s case, Emmet G. Sullivan. Mr. Flynn, 61, served just 24 days as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser before the president fired him in February 2017 for lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the time, Sergey I. Kislyak. Mr. Flynn has said he does not recall his conversations with Mr. Kislyak. But transcripts declassified in May show that they were extensive, and that in three phone calls the men discussed how Washington and Moscow might improve ties; how Russia should respond to punitive actions by the departing Obama administration in response to Russia’s election interference; and a United Nations resolution to condemn Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Mr. Trump has already commuted the sentence of Roger J. Stone Jr., another associate ensnared in the Russia investigation who was convicted on seven felony counts and was to begin a 40-month term in federal prison. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on reporting that Mr. Trump has told confidants that he plans to pardon Mr. Flynn.



There's a new voice in town,

one from which we'll be hearing a lot more in years to come:

I think creative expression is a natural byproduct of growing up in a diverse world. The more diverse the world is, the more you get exposed to different people, to different opportunities, to different places and to different challenges. And the more diverse that is, the more likely you’ll be to be able to put the dots together to form something new. And in many ways, I think if you want to be creative, you have to go for it. If you want to be a writer, you have to write, if you want to be a musician, you have to create music, if you want to be a comedian, you have to create comedy, and the more you create, the more likely it is that you’ll stumble onto some interesting stuff.

That was written by an artificial intelligence, based on what it had read about and by a popular psychologist. We've gone (far) beyond the AIs that could spit out sports scores and statistics, and couch them in conversational terms. This thing can study the behavior of somebody (or a group of somebodies) and mimic them, respond to interrogatories, and come to conclusions. :/