Saturday News: Not so fast, Mark


JOHNSON'S "EMERGENCY" ISTATION CONTRACT MAY BE BLOCKED: The state school superintendent’s $928,570 “emergency purchase” of a controversial school reading curriculum earlier this week could be canceled because it lacked the approval of North Carolina’s chief information officer. In a memo Friday, Patti Bowers, chief procurement officer for the state, said North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction “has not provided adequate justification for an emergency purchase.” The memo said Johnson has until 10 a.m. Tuesday to provide the state Department of Information Technology with “sufficient amended justification” for the emergency purchase. The memo also said Chief Information Officer Eric Boyette could decide to cancel or suspend the purchase. In a heated exchange with Johnson on Wednesday, board members questioned the amount of the contract and said they had been unable to get a copy from DPI staff.

SONS OF CONFEDERATE VETERANS VIOLATED TAX AND CAMPAIGN SPENDING LAWS: According to a report Friday in The Daily Tar Heel, UNC's student newspaper, documents and emails provided anonymously by members of the SCV seem to show a pattern of tax law and campaign finance violations by SCV leaders, as well as leaders of an affiliated group, the Mechanized Cavalry. Both groups are registered as 501(c)(3), tax-exempt nonprofits in North Carolina. By law, 501(c)(3)s are barred from making political donations. However, the report says, the groups may have funneled membership money into a political action committee, the NC Heritage PAC, to be donated to lawmakers sympathetic to the groups' positions. The report cites multiple members who said Bill Starnes, a former leader, accepted membership dues in cash and checks, then handed out the money at meetings to individuals who would donate it to the PAC. If that happened, it would violate the law against political donations "in the name of another."

BILLIONAIRE CANDIDATE TOM STEYER WILL BE IN NC TODAY: Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer will campaign in the Triangle and other parts of North Carolina this weekend. Campaign officials announced Thursday night he will be making stops in Durham and Raleigh on Saturday before attending Rev. William Barber's Forum on Poverty in Goldsboro on Sunday. His stops in the Triangle will include one at NC Central University School of Law to discuss his HBCU policy. He is also scheduled to participate in a tour of McDougald Terrace, which has been impacted by exposure to toxic chemicals and homelessness, and a dinner and meet and greet in Raleigh. HBCU Brunch Meet & Greet, North Carolina Central University School of Law, 640 Nelson St. Durham, 11:30 a.m. Visit public housing residents of McDougald Terrace in Durham, 1 p.m. Visit The Women's Center of Wake County to discuss homelessness with executive director Brace Boone III and staff, 112 Cox Ave., Raleigh, 3 p.m. #TalkwithTom Community Meet & Greet, DoubleTree Hotel, Roosevelt Room, Raleigh, 6:30 p.m.

IRAN ADMITS TO ACCIDENTALLY SHOOTING DOWN UKRAINIAN AIRLINER: Iran’s admission Saturday that it brought down a Ukrainian airliner it mistook for a hostile aircraft has prompted calls for a full investigation and for authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice. Iranian officials said that military personnel targeted Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, bound for Kyiv, early Wednesday as it turned toward a “sensitive military site” shortly after departing from Tehran. The General Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces apologized in a statement for what it said was the “human error that caused the crash” of the Boeing 737-800, killing all 176 passengers on board. The incident occurred just hours after Iran had fired more than a dozen short-range ballistic missiles at military bases housing American troops in Iraq — retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, in Baghdad last week. “This morning was not good, but it brought the truth,” Zelensky said on Facebook. Ukraine has sent a team of 45 experts and search-and-rescue personnel to Tehran to help with the investigation and plans to continue to participate, officials said.

TRUMP TRIED TO ASSASSINATE ANOTHER QUDS OFFICER IN YEMEN THE SAME DAY AS SOLEIMANI: The unsuccessful airstrike in Yemen was aimed at Abdul Reza Shahlai, an official with Iran’s Quds Force, a potent military organization that General Suleimani had led. Mr. Shahlai was known as a main organizer of financing for Shiite militias in the region. President Trump approved the strike against Mr. Shahlai in the same period that he authorized the strike against General Suleimani on Jan. 3, although it was unclear if the American attack in Yemen occurred at precisely the same time. The United States had offered a $15 million reward for information about Mr. Shahlai. The announcement of the reward accused him of involvement in attacks on American allies, including a failed 2011 plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Mr. Shahlai was based in Yemen, where Iran is supporting the Houthi rebels, who are fighting a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and that gets logistical help, intelligence and weapons from the American military and American arms makers. The attempted strike on Mr. Shahlai was first reported by The Washington Post.



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