Thursday News: Strike Three


ANALYSTS SAY NEWLY REDRAWN MAPS STILL FAVOR REPUBLICANS: The new political maps approved by the North Carolina General Assembly this week would likely still favor Republicans in the 2020 elections, numerous experts say. The legislature was ordered to redraw a number of the districts used to elect its members earlier this month, after a panel of judges ruled the Republican-led legislature had violated voters’ constitutional rights with their 2017 maps. And those unconstitutional maps were themselves drawn to replace different maps, from 2011, that had also been ruled unconstitutional. “If you go back and analyze the maps, you can see the maps have a Republican bias,” said Sam Wang, a Princeton University neuroscience professor who is also a gerrymandering expert and leads the Princeton Election Consortium.

REPUBLICAN MEDICAID EXPANSION BILL INCLUDES PREMIUMS AND CO-PAYS: Lambeth said that the way he’s designed the program gives low-income workers more “skin in the game;” they would pay about 2 percent of their annual income in premiums, in addition to small copays. He said that’s okay with many of the low-income workers he’s spoken to. “I’m really not happy with the premium at all,” said Democratic Rep. Verla Insko (Chapel Hill), who proposed an amendment to the bill to remove the annual premium. “To think that people might end up with bill collectors coming to their house … I mean, these are really poor people.” “Two hundred dollars is a lot of money for a family like that,” Insko said, referring to a theoretical mother with two children earning poverty wages. “I think they’re already choosing between food and gas, things like that.” The most recent version of the bill, which was first introduced in April, contains so-called “poison pills,” requirements that need to be met or else the program comes to a hard stop. For instance, if the money collected from the hospitals and managed care companies doesn’t cover the costs, the program would terminate.

SMALL COMFORTS: MIKE SPECIALE WILL NOT RUN FOR RE-ELECTION: Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, said Tuesday he wouldn’t run for re-election next year, NBC affiliate WITN reports. "I believe that I did all the things that I said I would do, and a big part of that is that I stood strong for the Constitution and for the rights and liberties of North Carolina citizens," Speciale said in a statement. "I believe that this is the time for me to look at other options in my life." First elected to the House in 2013, he chairs the Homeland Security, Military and Veterans Affairs committee and is vice-chairman of the State and Local Government committee.

5 MORE ALAMANCE COUNTY LANDOWNERS SUED BY PIPELINE COMPANY: The company behind the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate has sued five more Alamance County landowners to get access for surveys to test the pipeline’s potential route. In all, MVP has sued eight landowners in Alamance County this year and four more in Rockingham County, according to court records. MVP has already been granted consent judgments allowing it access to three of those properties in cases it filed in the spring. Hearings on four of the five cases filed in August will be held Sept. 30, according to court records. MVP dismissed the suit against the fifth landowner Sept. 12. North Carolina law gives condemnors, which includes pipelines, the right to “enter upon any lands, but not structures, prior to condemnation to make surveys, borings, examinations, and appraisals,” so it is likely that MVP will get access to these properties at the Sept. 30 hearings. The properties in question are on Cherry Lane, Haw River Hopedale, Basin Creek and Jimmie Kerr roads. The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate would be a 72-mile, 24-inch-diameter line connecting to the existing MVP in Pittsylvania County, Va., to carry Marcellus shale gas to the PSNC distribution system south of Graham, near Cherry Lane Road and Alamance Community College, according to documents submitted to the county.

CONGRESS INVESTIGATING TRUMP AFTER WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT FROM INTEL AGENT: Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a “promise” that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the former officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. It was not immediately clear which foreign leader Trump was speaking with or what he pledged to deliver, but his direct involvement in the matter has not been previously disclosed. It raises new questions about the president’s handling of sensitive information and may further strain his relationship with U.S. spy agencies. One former official said the communication was a phone call. Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern,” a legal threshold that requires notification of congressional oversight committees. But acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share details about Trump’s alleged transgression with lawmakers, touching off a legal and political dispute that has spilled into public view and prompted speculation that the spy chief is improperly protecting the president.



When you can't trust the Commander-In-Chief...

This kind of stuff really ticks me off. Back when I was in the Army, we went on a mission to a foreign country. Nothing "Hollywood" about it, it was just a joint training exercise. But it was in a "sensitive" part of the world, and deeply classified. I couldn't even tell my wife where I was going, and we were "isolated" in a compound for three weeks as we prepared for the trip.

But somebody talked, and as our aircraft lifted off for a two-day flight, the story broke below the fold on the front page of the New York Times. As a result, we had Russians and PLO in our back pockets the whole time we were there. To say things were "uncomfortable" is a huge understatement.

Donald Trump is a walking, talking, Tweeting security risk. The intelligence community (not to mention Defense) should be deeply concerned, and that means we should be, too.