RALEIGH BARS OPEN THEIR DOORS DESPITE GOVERNOR'S ORDER: On Friday afternoon, Governor Roy Cooper ordered bars to remain closed during the pandemic, citing an upward trend of coronavirus cases in the state. But this weekend, some downtown Raleigh bars were reopening on Friday anyway. Bar owners who spoke to WRAL News said it's the first time they've been open since the shutdown in March. Initially, bars would not be allowed to open until Phase 3 of Cooper's plan to reopen the state amid the pandemic. However, Cooper delayed that reopening because of worrisome upward trends in coronavirus cases in North Carolina. As of Saturday, about 10% of coronavirus tests done by the state are expected to come back positive. Texas and Florida had to also clamp down on bars due to coronavirus infections reaching an all-time daily high. In one day, Florida saw nearly 9,000 new cases. Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has been critiqued for not shutting down more businesses -- particularly bars -- in Florida. That changed after cases surged this week.
NC REPUBLICANS WANT TO REOPEN PLAYGROUNDS DURING PANDEMIC: Playgrounds should be allowed to reopen with limited capacity and daily cleanings, state lawmakers proposed on Thursday. The latest in a series of reopening bills from Republican lawmakers would pair playgrounds with a reopening of amusement parks and arcades. The parks and arcades are already in a separate bill that passed the legislature earlier this week and is awaiting action from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. “Children shouldn’t be locked in their homes with a mask on, they should be out playing on a playground,” said Sen. Warren Daniel, a Burke County Republican. “That’s probably the healthiest place they could be.” The bill says playground visitors should be “encouraged” to wear masks, and playground equipment should be “used in a manner to ensure social distancing of at least six feet.” That prompted Sen. Natasha Marcus, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, to question “the absurdity of expecting children on a playground are going to stay 6 feet apart.”
RALEIGH COUNCILMAN SAIGE MARTIN RESIGNS AFTER SEXUAL ASSAULT ALLEGATIONS SURFACE: "I am shocked by the allegations made against Councilor Saige Martin. He has offered and I have accepted his resignation," Baldwin posted on social media. "Any type of unwanted sexual behavior is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated or excused, especially when perpetrated by someone in a position of influence or power. I commend the survivors for the courage to come forward to tell their stories." The allegations by four current or former N.C. State students were first reported by The News & Observer. The acts range from suggestive texts to physical restraint and forced sex acts. N.C. State police said Friday that they have no record of complaints made against him. There also are no criminal charges or active police investigations against him. Martin denied the assault accusations in the newspaper. He didn't respond to WRAL News' requests for comment on Friday. Cuevas said the encounter occurred last summer. He said Martin, who was drunk at the time, physically restrained him and forced him to have sex.
U.S. HOUSE PASSES DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA STATEHOOD BILL, TRUMP & MCCONNELL WILL BLOCK: For the first time since the establishment of the District of Columbia 230 years ago, the House of Representatives voted to declare the city to be the nation’s 51st state, a legislative milestone that supporters say begins to right historical wrongs. The vote on Friday afternoon, which fell mostly along party lines, comes as the United States grapples with systemic racism that officials in the nation’s capital say has led to the disenfranchisement of their 700,000 residents. The White House confirmed Thursday that it opposes statehood, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will not bring the legislation to a vote in his Republican-controlled chamber. But that did not stop the celebration by statehood advocates and D.C. officials who have pushed for passage of the legislation for years. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who has served as the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress for nearly three decades, managed the bill for Democrats on the floor, doling out time for lawmakers from her party to speak and rebutting Republican arguments against statehood. In an interview, she said the experience was a thrill — with one major caveat. “Every member got to vote on D.C. statehood except the member who represents the District of Columbia,” she said. “We’re close to putting an end to this kind of anomaly.”
RUSSIA OFFERED BOUNTY MONEY TO TALIBAN TO KILL U.S. MILITARY: American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter. The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year. Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion. The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.