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Thursday News: Busted

FBI EXECUTES SEARCH WARRANT ON RICHARD BURR, CONFISCATES PHONE: U.S. Sen. Richard Burr turned his cell phone over Wednesday night to FBI agents amid an investigation into stock sales he made in February, The Los Angeles Times reported. Burr, a North Carolina Republican and the chairman of the Senate’s intelligence committee, was served a search warrant at his Washington, D.C.-area residence, according to the LA Times, which cited a law enforcement official. Burr’s office declined to comment on the report when contacted by McClatchy late Wednesday night. Citing the law enforcement official, The LA Times reported that the Justice Department is “examining Burr’s communications with his broker.” Burr sold up to $1.7 million in stocks in early and mid-February, according to a Senate disclosure that he filed.

Wednesday News: Star chamber


SENATE REPUBLICANS HELD COVID MEETINGS IN PRIVATE: Edwards said there weren’t formal meetings of Republicans. Rep. Jim Burgin, R-Harnett, said there were numerous conference calls and then, when the Senate returned to Raleigh, in-person private meetings. The public wasn’t privy to the discussions. And that is what Van Duyn said frustrated her. She said the lack of public input left her constituents without a seat at the table, because she didn’t know who she needed to include in her discussions and they did not know to call her for help. “That is enormously frustrating, not to mention it would be illegal for my county or my city to do business in that way,” Van Duyn said. Sen. Erica Smith, D-Northampton, agreed the public should be involved. “I definitely prefer public input. I prefer transparency and people need to know we’re working hard on their behalf,” she said.

Tuesday News: Pay the piper


BOARD OF ELECTIONS NEEDS MONEY FOR NOVEMBER ELECTION: Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell has sent three letters to the legislature asking for changes to state voting laws and roughly $2 million in funding to match federal money made available by the CARES Act. Brinson Bell said the $11 million in federal money is needed to help counties pay for what elections officials expect will be a dramatic increase in absentee-by-mail voting and equipment to run in-person voting safely. Despite the urgent need for funding — the 2020 general election is less than six months away — North Carolina lawmakers have yet to substantively address the requests. “We hope that they will address this in a timely fashion,” Brinson Bell said. “By June 15, we’re going to be in a very tight spot to be able to have the supplies and the materials.”

Monday News: Just under 15,000


NC IS NOW TESTING 5,000-7,000 FOR COVID 19 EACH DAY: At least 14,931 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 564 have died as of Monday morning, according to state and county health departments. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 404 new cases of the virus on Sunday, down from 492 reported the day before. At least 442 North Carolinians were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Sunday, a drop from the 513 reported Saturday. The state was averaging 506 daily hospitalizations over the last seven days on Sunday. Only one of North Carolina’s 100 counties has not reported a case of the virus. At least one death has been reported in 72 counties. Overall, North Carolina had completed 192,135 tests as of Sunday afternoon, 8% of which have come back positive.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


JUST WEAR THE STUPID MASK: It shouldn’t be surprising, we guess, that during a public health crisis that’s become politicized, with the debate over staying at home becoming partisan, that the latest thing to become a red or blue badge is the simple act of covering your nose and mouth in public. Really? We’re fighting over face coverings? Just wear the stupid mask. It’s not caving to tyranny. It’s not a betrayal of the president. It’s not a sign that you’re sick. It’s a health measure in places where it’s difficult to socially distance. If you wear it, you protect others from your possibly asymptomatic COVID-19 self. If you wear it, you also protect yourself from others. It’s safer. That’s it. And yet, instead of being a simple collective action to slow a virus that’s killed tens of thousands of Americans, it’s become a flashpoint. Elected officials, notably including the president, say they won’t wear one. People are threatening and shoving and even wiping their nose on retail employees who tell them they need to wear one. What’s wrong with us?

Saturday News: Corporate death-trap


SALISBURY NURSING HOME FACING LAWSUIT OVER PANDEMIC MISMANAGEMENT: The Citadel’s managers, according to the nurses’ affidavits, failed for weeks to respond effectively to signs of the emerging pandemic. As the virus spread, managers ordered nurses not to wear masks while failing to provide protective clothing or test the workers on site. When nurses and other employees got sick, they were pressured to come to work anyway, the affidavits say. Those who could work frequently found themselves placed in impossible positions of being forced to treat dozens of elderly and sometimes dangerously ill patients by themselves. As more staff got sick or stayed home last month, one nurse left to handle an entire residence hall by herself threatened to call 911 if her bosses didn’t get her help, her affidavit says. The nurses say they also witnessed nursing home managers lying to residents and their families about the results of tests.

Friday News: Gee thanks, Rowan

CARL FORD PUSHES FOR BIGGER RALLIES, SPONSORS ANTI-COOPER BILL: In a May 6 interview with Sen. Carl Ford, R-Rowan, ReOpenNC founder Ashley Smith credited Ford with helping to inspire her to start the group and asked him whether the rallies are working to put pressure on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to speed up the reopening process. Ford said the rallies are helping, "but I'd like to see us have 10,000 or 20,000 in Raleigh. That would really get the message across." Ford is one of three primary sponsors of a Senate bill that would dismiss criminal penalties for any business owner who violates the governor's emergency closure orders and protect business owners who have to be licensed from any potential disciplinary action by the relevant licensing authority. "I’m sure there’ll be a long and very exciting debate, including the Democrats trying to talk through their masks," Ford told Smith.

Thursday News: All in the (corrupt) family


BURR'S BROTHER-IN-LAW ALSO DUMPED STOCKS IN FEBRUARY: Sen. Richard Burr was not the only member of his family to sell off a significant portion of his stock holdings in February, ahead of the market crash spurred by coronavirus fears. On the same day Burr sold, his brother-in-law also dumped tens of thousands of dollars worth of shares. The market fell by more than 30% in the subsequent month. Burr’s brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, who has a post on the National Mediation Board, sold between $97,000 and $280,000 worth of shares in six companies — including several that have been hit particularly hard in the market swoon and economic downturn. A person who picked up Fauth’s phone on Wednesday hung up when asked if Fauth and Burr had discussed the sales in advance.

Wednesday News: Here we go...


PHASE 1 OF GOVERNOR COOPER'S REOPEN PLAN BEGINS FRIDAY: We’ll still have a stay-at-home order in Phase 1, but it’ll be modified to ease us into reopening. Prior to 5 p.m. on May 8, people were only supposed to venture out for essential tasks, such as grocery shopping and health care. During Phase 1, more businesses can open and people are allowed to venture out for more reasons. Businesses that do open have to implement social-distancing and cleaning rules, just like those currently in place at grocery and hardware stores. State parks can also open, but with limits on the number of people who can gather there. Businesses will still be encouraged to continue teleworking (working from home) when possible. We will live in Phase 1 for two weeks, as long as trends continue to move in the right direction. Even during Phase 1, public schools and non-essential businesses such as gyms and salons remain closed, but other activities will be allowed. If all goes well during Phase 1, Cooper suggested that Phase 2 can begin on May 22.

Tuesday News: Witness = Corona exposure


LAWSUIT FILED TO MAKE NC'S MAIL-IN VOTING LESS COMPLICATED: A group of voters backed by Democratic legal groups sued North Carolina on Monday seeking to loosen rules around absentee mail-in ballots amid predictions that the coronavirus pandemic will make voting by mail a widespread practice. They want the state to provide prepaid postage on all absentee ballots, change a requirement for two witnesses to sign a ballot, extend the deadline for receipt of ballots until nine days after Election Day and give voters a chance to fix signature discrepancies before election officials reject those ballots. North Carolina’s state board of elections endorsed the first two provisions in a proposed list of election changes released in March. The new lawsuit was filed in Wake County Superior Court with support from the Right to Vote Foundation and the National Redistricting Foundation, which is affiliated with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.


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