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Friday News: Sgt. Big Brother


RALEIGH POLICE VIOLATED POLICY WITH FACIAL RECOGNITION SOFTWARE: In the months that followed, emails provided by the Raleigh Police Department show, at least 20 people at the department had access to Clearview, a service that trumpeted its “unlimited” power to identify just about anyone in seconds with a single photo. That number far exceeds the three employees authorized to use the service before the department abruptly banned it in February 2020. “I think facial recognition technology, in the long run, has much more potential to change our lives as we know it, and to completely eradicate practical obscurity,” said Jolynn Dellinger, a senior lecturing fellow at the Duke University School of Law and former special counsel for privacy policy and litigation at the N.C. Department of Justice. If anyone can be identified anywhere — at a political protest, church or Alcoholics Anonymous meeting — Webb said authorities gain the “unprecedented power to spy on us wherever we go.”

Thursday News: Wrong, as usual


MCCRORY CALLS DEMOCRATIC OPPOSITION OF TRANSGENDER BILLS "CANCEL CULTURE": “There are a lot of issues, including that issue, that need to be allowed to be discussed that doesn’t involve the cancel culture. It needs fair discussions.” Cancel culture has become a broad term used to describe everything from people losing their jobs for their behavior to businesses boycotting states over policies they disagree with. Major League Baseball moved its All-Star Game and several corporations have rebuked Georgia in recent weeks after passage of a package of election laws. “This cancel culture has got to end and the identity politics has gone way too far, especially on the left,” McCrory said. “We’ve got to end the identity politics and cancel culture and we need to be judged by our individual character, heart and souls.”

Wednesday News: Voucher madness continues


NC REPUBLICANS PUSH TO INCREASE ELIGIBILITY AND PAYMENTS FOR PRIVATE SCHOOLS: The state House voted 69-49 on Tuesday to approve legislation that would increase the $4,200 annual amount provided to students who receive school vouchers, or Opportunity Scholarships. Senate Bill 671 would increase the income eligibility to 175% of the amount required for a family to be eligible for a free- or reduced-price lunch. That works out to a family income up to $56,400 for a two-person household and up to $85,794 for a family of four. The legislation also would raise the voucher amount to a maximum of $6,500 a year, according to bill sponsors. The bill ties the voucher amount to the average amount spent by the state per student each year. Republicans are expected to try work out a compromise between the two bills to see if it will get enough Democratic support to override a potential veto from Cooper.

Tuesday News: Back in court


NC VOTER ID TRIAL BEGINS, INHERENT RACISM LEADS DEBATE: North Carolina's latest law requiring photo identification to cast ballots went on trial on Monday, with attorneys for voters challenging the mandate by arguing it still disproportionately prevents Black residents from carrying out their constitutional right. A panel of three state Superior Court judges began hearing evidence in the lawsuit filed to overturn a December 2018 law that filled in the details of how a voter ID constitutional amendment approved in a statewide referendum several weeks before would be implemented. Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled legislature said the new law isn't racially suspect, pointing out they expanded the types of qualifying IDs and made it easier for registered voters without IDs to have their votes counted. The evidence shows the new law, rushed for passage so Republicans could override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's veto before their power waned during the next legislative session, suffers from the same racial taint and faults as the previous law, said Allison Riggs, a lawyer for the voters who sued.

Monday News: Twelve thousand, two hundred forty eight


ONE QUARTER OF NC'S ADULT POPULATION HAS BEEN FULLY VACCINATED: At least 929,406 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 12,248 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 2,509 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, up from 2,087 the day before. At least 977 people in North Carolina were reported hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Friday, down from 1,010 on Thursday. As of Wednesday, the latest day for which data is available, 4.6% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. More than 2.3 million people in North Carolina have been fully vaccinated. That includes more than one-quarter of the state’s adult population and one-fifth of all North Carolinians, health officials said.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


FIND WAYS TO EASE VOTING, NOT RESTRICT IT: This needless “Elections Integrity Act” bill demands mail-in ballots not only be cast by Election Day, but if mailed, must be RECEIVED no later than Election Day. It is a change that is not necessary, won’t make elections any more secure and simply erects another unnecessary impediment to casting a fair ballot and getting it counted. There was no problem to be fixed. Things worked better than ever! The quest should be for ways to get MORE people to vote and get MORE properly cast ballots counted. A legal vote legally cast on or before Election Day (including placed in the mail) should be counted. The current practice for receipt of mail-in ballots is basic common sense. To seek a political advantage, regardless of whether done to help Democrats or Republicans, under the guise that appointed elections officials or staff professionals acted improperly is disingenuous at best.

Saturday News: Privatization push


LOUISIANA INVESTMENT COMPANY TARGETS NC MUNICIPAL UTILITIES FOR TAKEOVER: A private-equity management company has been quietly reaching out to communities across North Carolina offering tens of millions of dollars to manage their utilities for as long as 30 years. Bernhard Capital Partners and a local subsidiary formed in August 2019, North Carolina Municipal Utility Services, have pitched “concession agreements” to more than 10 cities over the past two years. But what Bernhard is proposing in each case is somewhat of a mystery. The company required some community leaders to sign nondisclosure agreements and would not disclose key details in an interview. “Obviously they are in business to make money,” she said. “That is what their goal is and so they are going to have to find ways to do that. Whether it’s raising rates or cutting expenses, there’s going to have to be a way they can make money."

Friday News: Common sense


"RED FLAG" BILL WOULD TEMPORARILY REMOVE FIREARM FROM DANGEROUS INDIVIDUALS: A North Carolina bill allowing courts to temporarily seize firearms from people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others was filed Thursday, hours after President Joe Biden recommended states adopt laws to reduce gun violence. But if history is any guide, Democrats will have a hard time passing such “red flag” bills in North Carolina. Three of them, Reps. Marcia Morey of Durham, John Autry, of Charlotte, and Grier Martin, of Wake County, filed House Bill 525 Thursday just before 4 p.m. The 10-page proposal outlines a process for “an extreme risk protection order” that a family member, a current or former spouse or partner, law enforcement or a health-care provider could pursue to have guns temporarily removed from someone who courts deemed a danger. Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., have adopted similar legislation, Biden said.

Thursday News: Doubling down

BILL WOULD LEGALIZE SPORTS GAMBLING VIA NC EDUCATION LOTTERY: On Wednesday morning, Sens. Jim Perry, a Kinston Republican, and Paul Lowe, a Winston-Salem Democrat, filed Senate Bill 688. If passed, it would authorize sports gambling on professional, college, electronic and amateur sports or any other events approved by the NC Education Lottery Commission. Perry said instead of ignoring illegal gambling legislators should open up conversations about how the state can benefit from legal gambling. He said this bill allows adults to freely choose to gamble, and collects money for schools without forcing taxes on other people. Gambling on youth sports would continue to be illegal, as would gambling on injuries, penalties, the outcome of sports disciplinary proceedings or the outcome of replay reviews.

Wednesday News: Take your shot

AS VACCINE SUPPLY INCREASES, EVERYBODY 16 AND OLDER NOW ELIGIBLE: More than 391,000 doses arrived in the state this week, up from 326,780 the week before and 223,120 at this time last month, The News & Observer reported Tuesday. The latest uptick was mostly due to a rise in shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires one shot. Since December, the state has been offering the vaccine to people in certain groups most at risk from getting seriously sick from COVID-19. But vaccine eligibility is expanding to everyone ages 16 and older on Wednesday. “Because of the hard work of providers and commitment of North Carolinians to take their shot, we’re getting people vaccinated more quickly than we predicted,” Gov. Roy Cooper told reporters Tuesday. “This will help us turn the corner on the pandemic even sooner.”


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