UNC INTERIM CHANCELLOR PENS LETTER JUSTIFYING SAM SETTLEMENT: In a letter to the campus community, Guskiewicz explained that members of the Board of Governors negotiated and approved the settlement, which included a $2.5 million payment for the SCV to preserve and display the Confederate statue, through its governance committee. That committee met in private to discuss the solution before the lawsuit was filed. “The settlement ensures the monument will never return to campus, but issues of racism and injustice persist, and the University must confront them,” Guskiewicz said. “I now want to focus on our shared values of diversity, equity and inclusion, and I will continue to reject and condemn those individuals or groups who seek to divide us. We have a lot of work to do to thoroughly address and reconcile with our past.”
VOTING MACHINE MAKER WANTS LAST-MINUTE APPROVAL OF ALTERNATE MACHINES: A voting system certified and tested earlier this year for use in North Carolina’s March 2020 primaries won’t be available, according to manufacturer Elections Systems and Software, so the company’s lobbyists have suggested the state quickly approve one of its other systems instead. While the N.C. Board of Elections director has recommended going along with the vendor on the substitution, others see the move as a deceptive bait and switch. One Board of Elections member, Stella Anderson, has objected to the situation, thereby forcing the board to convene a special meeting on the issue. She and others have questioned the integrity of the company and suggested both ES&S and board staff have used language that understates the significance of the difference between the two systems and misrepresents federal government requirements for approving such modifications to voting systems.
GEORGE HOLDING SAYS HE WILL NOT RUN FOR CONGRESS IN 2020: Rep. George Holding, a Raleigh Republican, will not run for re-election in 2020 after his Republican-leaning district was redrawn into safe Democratic seat by state lawmakers. Holding is in his fourth term in Congress. He said he would consider a return to elected office in the future. Holding said earlier this week that a 2022 Senate run or bid for the U.S. House under a new map was something he would consider. The new map is expected to produce an 8-5 edge for Republicans with Holding’s 2nd district and Republican Mark Walker’s Greensboro-area district likely to flip. A three-judge panel upheld the state lawmakers’ new map Monday. Holding’s current district includes parts or all of Franklin, Harnett, Johnston, Nash, Wake, and Wilson counties. The new 2nd district will be wholly contained in Wake County.
SUPREME COURT BLOCKS TRUMP EFFORT TO RESUME EXECUTING FEDERAL INMATES: The Supreme Court on Friday blocked the Trump administration from restarting federal executions next week after a 16-year break. The justices denied the administration’s plea to undo a lower court ruling in favor of inmates who have been given execution dates. The first of those had been scheduled for Monday, with a second set for Friday. Two more inmates had been given execution dates in January. Attorney General William Barr announced during the summer that federal executions would resume using a single drug, pentobarbital, to put inmates to death. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington, D.C., temporarily halted the executions after some of the chosen inmates challenged the new execution procedures in court. Chutkan ruled that the procedure approved by Barr likely violates the Federal Death Penalty Act. Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a short separate opinion that he believes the government ultimately will win the case and would have set a 60-day deadline for appeals court action. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined Alito’s (minority) opinion.
IN THE MIDDLE OF IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS, GIULIANI FLIES TO THE UKRAINE ONCE AGAIN: Even as the House of Representatives began drafting charges against President Trump this week, his private attorney, who many believe is partly responsible for leading Trump on the path to his likely impeachment, made an audacious trip to the country at the center of the scandal. Rudolph W. Giuliani departed Kyiv after meeting with a range of Ukrainians who have been feeding him unproven allegations against former vice president Joe Biden and helping construct a counternarrative that is taking hold in the Republican Party. The latter story line asserts that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, including with the baseless theory that Ukraine, rather than Russia, was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. The purported purpose of the trip was to conduct interviews for a documentary on a right-wing media network. But Giuliani’s travel also appeared designed to send a broader and more brazen signal of the disregard that he and Trump have for the unfolding impeachment process. As if to underscore that, Giuliani used his Twitter account while on the trip to describe the impeachment hearings as a “witch hunt,” attack the former U.S. ambassador whom he helped oust earlier this year, and assert that Trump’s demands for politically beneficial investigations by Ukraine’s government were appropriate.
Alien comet will pass by Earth Dec. 28
A couple hundred million miles away, but still:
It boggles the mind. Our own Oort cloud contains millions of these ice-balls, but most of them are in a relatively stable orbit WTF out there. Theoretically, this dude could be from another galaxy, swinging by to warm its hands on Sol.