NC REPUBLICANS GO WHOLE HOG WITH PORK BARREL SPENDING: The Senate budget includes at least $765 million in earmarks for local projects and nonprofits — almost all of it in counties represented by Republican senators. The earmarks, sometimes known as “pork barrel spending” or even “member money,” are a common practice in the legislature’s budget process. But the amounts sent to GOP districts are high this year, in part because the budget would spend billions of dollars in federal American Rescue Plan Act money. Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson and a top Senate budget writer, argued that the discrepancies between districts is because of “all the needs there are in rural North Carolina,” such as water and sewer infrastructure projects. The budget funds at least $66.6 million worth of projects in Jackson’s three-county district. Projects in Hise’s six-county district in the mountains received at least $73 million.
UNC BOARD OF TRUSTEES WILL VOTE (TOMORROW) ON TENURE FOR NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES: The trustees of North Carolina's flagship public university are meeting behind closed doors later this week amid intense criticism of their decision not to offer tenure to investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. A news release from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill did not mention the subject to be discussed in Wednesday's meeting. However, NC Policy Watch, which first reported on the meeting, said trustees would vote on whether to grant tenure to Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on the 1619 Project examining the bitter legacy of slavery. The publication cited two unidentified people who it says are directly involved in the process. When asked by The Associated Press for comment, the school responded with a copy of the news release. Hannah-Jones posted the announcement of the meeting on her Twitter page Monday, but declined a request for comment from the AP.
JUUL SETTLES LAWSUIT WITH AG STEIN FOR $40 MILLION: North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced a $40 million settlement against e-cigarette giant Juul Labs, Inc. on Monday. But he isn’t stopping there. Stein also sent a letter Monday to Acting Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration Janet Woodcock asking the agency to act to curb the sale of e-cigarette products to youth across the nation. The letter asked the FDA to prohibit all non-tobacco e-cigarette flavors — including menthol — to limit nicotine in the products and to impose marketing restrictions nationwide. On Monday, Stein announced a settlement with Juul more than two years after he filed a civil lawsuit contending the company illegally marketed to and sold its products to youth. Stein said he filed the lawsuit in Durham, due to its history as the former home to major tobacco companies. Stein’s letter states that the country is in the middle of an e-cigarette crisis. “The explosion of e-cigarette products on the market over the last decade has given rise to an epidemic of youth nicotine,” he wrote. In case you didn't know, nicotine is a neurotoxin that can be deadly in higher concentrations, like those in e-cigarettes.
HEAT WAVE IN PACIFIC NORTHWEST IS BREAKING RECORDS: The heat has been not only widespread, but also intense, in some places surpassing records by double digits. In Vancouver, British Columbia, this past weekend’s temperatures were far above norms for this time of year, and a town in British Columbia reached nearly 116 degrees, the highest recorded temperature for any place in Canada in its history. In Seattle, there have been only two other days in the last 50 years with temperatures in the triple digits: in 2009 and 1994. The heat has resulted from a wide and deep mass of high-pressure air that, because of a wavy jet stream, parked itself over much of the region. Also known as a heat dome, such an enormous high-pressure zone acts like a lid on a pot, trapping heat so that it accumulates. And with the West beset by drought, there’s been plenty of heat to trap. In Seattle, Portland and other areas west of the Cascades, hot air blowing from the east was further warmed as it descended the mountains, raising temperatures even more. Climate is naturally variable, so periods of high heat are to be expected. But in this episode scientists see the fingerprints of climate change, brought on by human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Karin Bumbaco, Washington’s assistant state climatologist, said that any definitive climate-change link could be demonstrated only by a type of analysis called an attribution study. “But it’s a safe assumption, in my view, to blame increasing greenhouse gases for at least some portion of this event,” she said.
U.S. MILITARY AND IRANIAN-BACKED MILITIAS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA ENGAGE IN OPEN WARFARE: Even as indirect negotiations proceed over bringing both countries back into compliance with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, American and Iranian officials fired angry broadsides at each other, blaming the opposite side for a lack of progress. And then there’s the actual shooting war. On Sunday night, the Biden administration announced that U.S. airstrikes had targeted facilities on either side of the Iraq-Syria border linked to militias that have Iranian ties. U.S. officials said that the strikes were reprisals for an uptick in drone attacks targeting U.S. personnel in the region. Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, one of the Iranian-backed factions hit by the United States, confirmed four of its fighters had been killed in the strike. On Monday evening, the violence continued. U.S. officials confirmed that multiple rockets had targeted a facility housing U.S. troops near al-Omar oil field in northeast Syria, and that the United States had responded with artillery fire targeted at positions where the rockets were launched. The current round of fighting is part of a long-simmering phase of hostilities between U.S. forces and proxies linked to Tehran. Some lawmakers in Washington are starting to question the sustained presence of American troops in Syria and Iraq, as well as the United States’ right to carry out airstrikes on positions within these countries. But the Biden administration, like its predecessor, argues that the threat these militias pose to U.S. troops merits such action. There's a simple solution: move the troops out of the region. They've lost sight of whatever mission they had, it's time to go.