PITTSBORO CONFEDERATE STATUE TAKEN DOWN OVERNIGHT: The Confederate monument outside the Chatham County courthouse was taken down overnight, with crews removing the base early Wednesday. About 50 people who supported and opposed the monument gathered in downtown Pittsboro as the work began Tuesday night. The statue was taken off its base around 2 a.m. Wednesday, and the base was removed around 5:30 a.m. “It’s heartbreaking,” Robert Butler, a supporter of the monument, said as crews worked overnight. “A statue’s never hurt a soul, just like a grave memorial. Do they hurt anybody?” Anderson Ritter disagreed. “It represents stuff that never really should have happened, and it kind of memorializes and makes it seem good,” Ritter said. “I and other people don’t agree with that.”
NC'S MEDICAID REVAMP POSTPONED OVER BUDGET STANDOFF: An overhaul of Medicaid health insurance in North Carolina — in the works for years and already weeks into enrollment — will be delayed indefinitely because the legislature and Gov. Roy Cooper didn’t agree on a state budget that would fund the change. The delay was first announced by Senate Republicans in a news release on Tuesday afternoon, followed soon by an announcement from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. Existing Medicaid recipients have started enrolling and DHHS has started the work for the move to a managed-care system, in which the state contracts with private health insurance companies. Cohen, a member of Cooper’s cabinet, said in October the delay in the overhaul would cost money as well as a loss of the agency’s ability to recruit and retain talented workers. Cohen didn’t have an estimate of how much the delay would cost.
TEACHERS PLAN PROTESTS AT SIX WAKE COUNTY SCHOOLS TODAY: Teachers, parents and community members plan to protest outside six Wake County schools Wednesday morning to push for more education funding, including a 5% raise for all school staff. Wake NCAE President Kristin Beller says the following schools plan to participate: Knightdale High, Turner Creek Elementary, Washington Elementary, Dillard Drive Middle, Raleigh Charter, Fuquay-Varina High. At 5 p.m. Wednesday, Wake NCAE members will hold a demonstration on Jones Street near the legislative building. The Durham Association of Educators picketed at four schools two weeks ago, saying calls for pay raises and better funding for education seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Six months ago, educators from all over North Carolina marched outside the Capitol for more education funding.
WITNESSES EXPOSE HOW TRUMP'S UKRAINE CALL MADE THEM UNCOMFORTABLE: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s European affairs director, said he considered the president’s demand of the Ukrainian leader “inappropriate,” because it could have “significant national security implications” for the United States. Jennifer Williams, Vice President Pence’s special adviser on Europe, said she thought the call was “unusual” because “it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.” And Tim Morrison, the NSC’s former top Russia and Europe adviser, said he worried what might happen if the call was made public — as it ultimately was, after an intelligence community whistleblower complained about it and helped jump-start Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. “I feared at the time of the call on July 25th how its disclosure would play in Washington’s political climate,” Morrison said. “My fears have been realized.” The three witnesses were joined Tuesday by Kurt Volker, a former Trump administration envoy to Ukraine. Their day-long testimony kicked off what is likely to be the most intense week yet in the impeachment inquiry.
TRUMP IS NOW EXTORTING SOUTH KOREA OVER U.S. TROOP PRESENCE: In an escalating dispute over how much allies should pay the U.S. to station troops on their soil, U.S. negotiators walked out on talks with South Korea in Seoul on Tuesday, as the two sides staked out vastly differing positions and accused the other side of being unreasonable. The Trump administration reportedly is demanding that Seoul, a key ally, contribute around $5 billion for the coming year to cover the cost of the roughly 28,500 U.S. troops based in South Korea. That's more than five times what South Korea agreed to contribute earlier this year, and Seoul is pushing back hard. At the heart of the issue is the Trump administration's contention that wealthy allies, including South Korea, are "freeloading" off the U.S. and spending too little for their own defense. Trump has suggested that U.S. troops could be withdrawn from the Korean Peninsula. U.S. demands have been met with a crescendo of criticism from across the Korean political spectrum. "Seoul should wisely cope with Trump's move to rip off allies," advised an editorial in the largely conservative daily Dong-A Ilbo. The piece went on to grouse that the U.S., the superpower once seen as global cop, is retiring from that role "to launch a security company."