Thursday News: You had your chance


JUDGES REJECT REPUBLICANS' REQUEST THEY BE ALLOWED TO REDRAW DISTRICTS: The federal judges reviewing election maps for N.C. General Assembly candidates have questions about districts in Guilford, Hoke, Cumberland, Wake and Mecklenburg counties and have asked a Stanford University professor to draw new lines for the court by Dec. 1. The judges — Catherine Eagles and Thomas Schroeder of the U.S. Middle District of North Carolina and James Wynn of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — rejected a request by state lawmakers to give them another chance to draw the lines. “The State is not entitled to multiple opportunities to remedy its unconstitutional districts,” the judges said in their order released Wednesday.

GOVERNOR COOPER VOWS SWIFT ACTION TO IMPROVE PRISON SAFETY: Gov. Roy Cooper said Wednesday that his administration is working "furiously" on updating safety and security policies and procedures at North Carolina prisons in the wake of an escape attempt last month that left three prison workers dead and nine others injured. Corrections officer Justin Smith and Correction Enterprises manager Veronica Darden died Oct. 12 when they were attacked by inmates at Pasquotank Correctional Institution in Elizabeth City. Corrections officer Wendy Shannon died Monday of injuries she suffered in the attack. Four inmates have been charged with murder in the case. "We’ve got to get to the bottom of this," Cooper said. "Every day that goes by is another day that an incident could happen. So, clearly we need to be working on an expedited timeline."

COOPER AND OTHERS ON NATIONAL OPIOID TASK FORCE SUBMIT RECOMMENDATIONS: “The opioid crisis is real. People’s lives and our economy depend on strong and decisive action,” said Cooper, who called on the federal government to “allocate significant federal funding for this public health crisis.” Cooper was one of three governors on the commission, joining Christie and Massachusetts Gov. Peter Baker as well as Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, former Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Bertha Madras, a professor at Harvard Medical School. North Carolina is among the states that have been hardest hit by the opioid crisis. Since 1999, more than 12,000 North Carolina residents died from opioid-related overdoses. And the death toll is rising, reaching more than 1,100 in 2015 alone, according to data from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

LEGISLATIVE PANEL LOOKS AT REVAMPING HOW THE STATE FUNDS NC SCHOOLS: The panel’s creation follows a November 2016 report by the General Assembly’s government watchdog agency that said the current system is “opaque, overly complex and difficult to understand,” resulting in many of the state’s 115 districts struggling to navigate it. The report said North Carolina is one of seven states that use an “allotment” system, which means the state identifies categories of services, materials and personnel needed for a school district to teach students. Legislators then provide funding for each of those categories. Money in those categories is then distributed to districts and charter schools based on student population. North Carolina had 37 different allotments in the 2014-15 school year, according to the report from the Program Evaluation Division. The allotments are replete with exceptions and conditions, the division’s study found, and the ability of districts to transfer funds between allotments makes it hard to know whether earmarked money is meeting its intended purpose.

"LONDON PROFESSOR" IDENTIFIED IN TRUMP/RUSSIA PROBE HAS DUBIOUS ACADEMIC CREDS: "I've never heard of him," said Robin Niblett, the veteran director of Chatham House, the prominent London think tank. Nor has Niblett heard of the now-defunct London Academy of Diplomacy, where Mifsud is said to have served as "honorary director" before it closed, according to his biography, or the London Center of International Law Practice, where Mifsud is listed as director of international strategic development. "He seems to be a classic case of someone floating around on the fringes of the academic world and the think-tanky world without landing anywhere," Niblett said. "It would strike me that most of these positions are not paid, which raises questions. No doubt Russia cultivates certain academics. There's no reason to assume he was consciously part of a disinformation operation, but he may have been unwittingly used for that purpose." According to the U.S. court documents, Mifsud introduced Papadopoulos to a woman referred to as a "female Russian national," whom he falsely presented as a Putin's niece and who he said could serve as a potential link to the Russian government.