NC SHERIFFS WON'T SUPPORT COOPER'S MIXED DRINKS "TO GO" DIRECTIVE: The North Carolina Sheriffs' Association said Wednesday that it can't find any legal grounds to support Gov. Roy Cooper's recent executive order allowing restaurants and bars to sell mixed drinks for takeout and delivery. Cooper issued the order Monday as a way to limit the spread of coronavirus without hurting the beleaguered hospitality industry, which already is hindered by capacity limits and other restrictions the governor previously put in place. The order directs the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to waive any state regulations that would prevent people from obtaining a mixed drink in a sealed container as a takeout order or prevent employees and contractors, such as food delivery services, from transporting such alcoholic beverages in sealed containers to customers.
DR. MANDY COHEN IS THE N&O'S TARHEEL OF THE YEAR: Cohen is The News & Observer’s 2020 Tar Heel of the Year, an honor that recognizes a North Carolina resident who has made lasting and significant contributions in the state and beyond. In the longest of years, one defined by the pandemic and by how world leaders and common citizens have responded to it, Cohen has become the figurative and literal face of North Carolina’s ongoing fight against COVID-19. It is a fight in which she’s relied most upon data and science and something less easily quantified: the sense of empathy and compassion that some closest to her say make her a perfect fit for her position. It is a fight that’s challenged her to balance competing interests — one that at times has brought fierce criticism from skeptics who dismiss science or downplay the virus — while maintaining the goal of preserving the health and lives of North Carolinians. “This is a well-deserved honor and I’m grateful to have her on our team,” Cooper tweeted Wednesday, after the Tar Heel of the Year honor was announced. “Secretary Cohen’s leadership and commitment to making North Carolina a healthier place has saved lives, especially during this pandemic.”
WINSTON-SALEM VENUE REFUSES TO HOST SAME-SEX WEDDING: The Winston-Salem Journal reported Tuesday that Kasey Mayfield and Brianna May have been looking for a place to hold their wedding in October 2022. They told the newspaper that they reached out to The Warehouse on Ivy in Winston-Salem. After providing details and other information, the venue told the couple that "unfortunately we do not host same sex marriage ceremonies.” Daniel Stanley, a representative of the venue, told the newspaper in a text message that it allows "anyone of any color, race, religion or belief to use our venue at any given time. Although we love and respect everyone in our community, (their) own decision making and beliefs, we also strongly believe in our Christian values.” Mayfield and May said the venue is discriminating against them. But they said they are not considering legal action at this time. Rick Su, a professor of Law at the UNC School of Law, said that North Carolina has no anti-discrimination laws protecting people with LGBT identity.
TRUMP VETOES DEFENSE BILL, THREATENS CORONAVIRUS RELIEF: The feuding over the fate of direly needed virus aid is just one chapter of a broader war that a furious Trump has waged against Congress and even members of his own party since losing to Biden in the Nov. 3 election. Trump vetoed a popular defense policy bill earlier Wednesday and continued to rage against lawmakers who weren’t joining his efforts to overturn the outcome of the election. As Trump left Washington on Wednesday to spend the holidays in Palm Beach, Fla., White House aides were receiving an avalanche of angry messages from GOP lawmakers and consultants, who said they felt abandoned by Trump after administration officials said he supported the bill and asked them to vote for it. “Only Trump could take a final big win for his administration and in a fit of illogical madness disown any credit he’ll ever get for it,” said one senior GOP official. “To the extent that Trump’s bizarre ramblings contribute to any negative feelings for Republicans, Perdue and Loeffler are the ones who will ultimately pay the price.” During his time in office, Trump has regularly had outbursts over legislation that advisers previously signaled he would endorse, prompting scrambles to coax him into ultimately signing a bill. But in the last throes of his presidency, many of the guardrails around Trump have been removed through departures — leaving the tempestuous president to his own devices.
TRUMP PARDONS VARIOUS SWAMP CREATURES, INCLUDING JARED'S DAD: One recipient of a pardon was a family member, Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Two others who were pardoned declined to cooperate with prosecutors in connection with the special counsel’s Russia investigation: Paul Manafort, his 2016 campaign chairman, and Roger J. Stone Jr., his longtime informal adviser and friend. They were the most prominent names in a batch of 26 pardons and three commutations disclosed by the White House after Mr. Trump left for his private club in Palm Beach, Fla., for the holiday. Also on the list released on Wednesday was Margaret Hunter, the estranged wife of former Representative Duncan D. Hunter, Republican of California. Both of them had pleaded guilty to charges of misusing campaign funds for personal expenses. Of the 65 pardons and commutations that Mr. Trump had granted before Wednesday, 60 have gone to petitioners who had a personal tie to Mr. Trump or who helped his political aims, according to a tabulation by the Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith. Although similar figures do not exist for previous presidents, legal experts say that those presidents granted a far lower percentage to those who could help them personally and politically. Mr. Trump’s use of his powers to grant clemency to allies and supporters drew criticism even from some Republicans. “This is rotten to the core,” said Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska. Mr. Kushner, 66, pleaded guilty in 2004 to 16 counts of tax evasion, a single count of retaliating against a federal witness and one of lying to the Federal Election Commission in a case that was also a lurid family drama. He served two years in prison before being released in 2006. In his plea agreement, Mr. Kushner acknowledged that he arranged to have a prostitute seduce his brother-in-law in a motel room in New Jersey where video cameras were installed. Mr. Kushner then had the videotape sent to his sister.