Saturday News: Identification politics


NC BOARD OF ELECTIONS SUSPENDS FREE ID CARD PROGRAM: As part of the state's voter ID law, the General Assembly mandated that election offices in all 100 North Carolina counties provide free photo IDs to people who need them. State Board of Elections Executive Director Karen Brinson Bell sent those offices a memo Friday, telling them to stop issuing voter ID cards immediately "to avoid confusion by the public and to ensure voters do not receive inaccurate information." The state and local offices will update a number of things in the wake of U.S. District Judge Loretta Biggs' decision, which will be appealed. Brinson Bell's memo said county offices should remove signs reminding people of the new photo ID requirement and that new signs would be coming soon.

ENVIVA PLANS TO NEARLY DOUBLE ITS EXPORTS OF WOOD PELLETS MADE FROM NC TREES: Enviva built its first pellet plant in Ahoskie, N.C., in 2011. Today it owns eight plants, four of them in North Carolina. When expansions already approved by the state are complete, those four plants will be able to produce almost 2.5 million tons of wood pellets a year. In a June investor call, Enviva CEO and cofounder John Keppler announced that the company planned to nearly double its exports from current rates of 3.5 million metric tons per year to 6.5 million metric tons per year by 2025, largely by increasing sales to Japan and Korea. Those two countries are following the EU lead by replacing their coal and nuclear with biomass. Scientists on both sides of the Atlantic point out another cost of using biomass: the trees that were otherwise growing and would have continued to grow, sopping up carbon from the atmosphere. Those trees also would have moderated the local N.C. climate, filtering its water and buffering the state from the effects of a climate that’s already changing, causing more intense storms and worse flooding.

MCDOUGALD TERRACE RESIDENTS BEING MOVED TO HOTELS TEMPORARILY: The Durham Housing Authority plans to allow hundreds of McDougald Terrace residents to stay in hotels because of ongoing problems with carbon monoxide at the Durham housing complex. The voluntary evacuation of 111 units will begin Friday evening. DHA officials were scrambling Friday afternoon to secure hotel rooms as temporary housing of about 340 people and were lining up Uber and Lyft vehicles to get the people there. Social services workers also were helping families get their belongings together for the move. Nearly a dozen residents were sent to area hospitals since late November with elevated levels of carbon monoxide. Authorities are also trying to determine whether carbon monoxide is to blame for the deaths of two infants in McDougald Terrace apartments.

CONGRESS IS ABOUT TO GET MORE DIRT ON TRUMP VIA LEV PARNAS' IPHONE: A federal judge in Manhattan ruled Friday that an indicted associate of President Trump's personal attorney can provide Congress with evidence in his criminal case that is of interest to impeachment investigators. U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken granted an application from an attorney for Lev Parnas seeking permission to give lawmakers access to phone data and documents seized by federal prosecutors after his October arrest. The House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the materials as part of its impeachment inquiry, according to Parnas attorney Joseph Bondy. Parnas and his co-defendant, Igor Fruman, were business associates of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, and were recruited by the former New York mayor to help him investigate Trump political rival Joe Biden. The former vice president is a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

ASSASSINATION MAY HAVE UNDERMINED A POPULAR ANTI-IRAN MOVEMENT IN IRAQ: Even before the shock of the brazen killing wore off, Iraqi factions were weighing their responses. Militias with ties to Iran vowed bloody revenge. The prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, condemned the attack as “an outrageous breach to Iraqi sovereignty” and said Parliament would meet to discuss the future of the United States presence in Iraq. Anti-government protesters, who have been protesting Iran’s stifling influence in the country, were worried their movement could be snuffed out by pro-Iran militias. And throughout the country, there was the familiar feeling that Iraq was a mere bystander in the broader geopolitical conflict between the United States and Iran taking place on Iraqi soil. More broadly, the events raised a single, overarching question: can the United States maintain a cooperative security relationship with Iraq given the upheaval the assassination has provoked? The question was already coursing through the halls of power in Baghdad, even as the Trump administration said Friday that it was rushing new troops to the region in response to the crisis. The airstrike on General Suleimani “was a clear breach of the terms of the American forces’ presence,” Mr. Abdul Mahdi said. He said that Parliament would meet in the coming days to consider “appropriate measures to preserve the dignity of Iraq and its security and sovereignty,” including whether to ask the Americans to leave.