Saturday News: Right to live


JUDGE ORDERS NC PRISONS TO EXPLAIN COVID 19 PROTECTIONS FOR INMATES: A state judge on Friday demanded that North Carolina's prison system provide detailed information about how it's trying prevent the spread of the new coronavirus among offenders. “It is impossible for the court to determine whether specific practices and procedures undertaken at each of North Carolina's incarceration facilities comply with defendants' statutory and constitutional obligations,” Rozier wrote. He is seeking the information by May 8, after which he'll hold a hearing. Several prisoners and civil rights groups, which include the state NAACP and Disability Rights North Carolina, filed a petition three weeks ago with the state Supreme Court asking the justices to act. The Supreme Court dismissed the case but left open the door for the matter to be refiled in another court, Disability Rights attorney Susan Pollitt said Friday.

LEGISLATURE LOOKS TO EXTEND VEHICLE REGISTRATIONS AND LICENSES FOR SIX MONTHS: North Carolina drivers and vehicle owners could get more time to renew their licenses and registrations under coronavirus relief bills filed in the House and Senate this week. The bills would allow the Division of Motor Vehicles to add six months to the expiration date of any license, permit, registration or other credential and would waive any fees, fines or penalties for not complying with the old date. Motor vehicle tax payments would also be delayed to match the new expiration dates. The bills differ in one key way: The House version, in House Bill 1043, would apply retroactively to licenses and registrations that expired March 10, while the Senate version, in Senate Bill 704, would go back to March 1. Both would apply to credentials set to expire before Aug. 1. The DMV has also reduced its capacity to issue or renew driver’s licenses in person to prevent crowding that could help spread the virus. The agency closed 61 of its smaller offices and is taking customers at the remaining 57 offices by appointment only. It has also suspended all road tests, except for commercial driver’s licenses.

BERGER IS SET TO FIGHT TEMPORARY EXPANSION OF MEDICAID IN RELIEF BILLS: Details on how the $1.5 billion would be earmarked weren’t released Friday. But funds were anticipated to expand COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, purchase more personal protective equipment, assist food banks and public school nutrition programs, and give attention to rural hospitals and outbreaks in nursing homes. There was also money to ensure at-risk children would get special instructional help in early August to make up for lost time with K-12 schools shuttered this spring. Differences had emerged over how much money to send to the public schools for remote learning, to give to a low-cost loan program for small businesses and to provide to universities for COVID-19 research. On policy, the House wanted to expand Medicaid coverage temporarily for COVID-19 testing and treatment to people making as much as twice the poverty level, and provided $40 million toward the state’s share of expenses. Moore said the money was no longer necessary because other federal funding could cover it. But Berger, who has been a longtime critic of Medicaid expansion, wants the policy language removed as well.

TRUMP IS BLOCKING DR. FAUCI FROM TESTIFYING AT CONGRESSIONAL PANEL: The White House is blocking Anthony S. Fauci from testifying before a House subcommittee investigating the coronavirus outbreak and response, arguing that it would be “counterproductive” for him to appear next week while in the midst of participating in the government’s response to the pandemic. The White House issued a statement about Fauci’s testimony shortly after The Washington Post published a story Friday afternoon quoting a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, who said the White House was refusing to allow Fauci to appear at a subcommittee hearing next week. “While the Trump Administration continues its whole-of-government response to COVID-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.” In a statement Friday evening, DeLauro and House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) said that “Congress and the American public deserve a clear-eyed view of the path forward for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Their statement did not address their inability to hear from Fauci next week.

KIM JONG-UN IS JUST FINE, NORTH KOREAN STATE MEDIA REPORTS: North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, resurfaced in public view on Friday, the North’s state news media reported Saturday, controverting three weeks of rumors and unconfirmed news reports that he was in grave danger after undergoing heart surgery. He appeared at a ceremony at a factory in the city of Sunchon, the North’s state news agency said, later releasing photos from the event. The report could not immediately be independently confirmed. Mr. Kim, 36, had last appeared publicly on April 11. Speculation about his health — and about who would take over the hermetic, nuclear-armed country should he become incapacitated or die — began swirling after Mr. Kim missed the state celebrations of his country’s biggest holiday on April 15. On that day, the North marks the birthday of his grandfather Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder. Although no outside media was apparently allowed to witness the ceremony, the report by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency followed a familiar pattern. State media typically reports Mr. Kim’s public appearances a day after they take place, carrying photos from the scene as well.