AS VACCINE SUPPLY INCREASES, EVERYBODY 16 AND OLDER NOW ELIGIBLE: More than 391,000 doses arrived in the state this week, up from 326,780 the week before and 223,120 at this time last month, The News & Observer reported Tuesday. The latest uptick was mostly due to a rise in shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires one shot. Since December, the state has been offering the vaccine to people in certain groups most at risk from getting seriously sick from COVID-19. But vaccine eligibility is expanding to everyone ages 16 and older on Wednesday. “Because of the hard work of providers and commitment of North Carolinians to take their shot, we’re getting people vaccinated more quickly than we predicted,” Gov. Roy Cooper told reporters Tuesday. “This will help us turn the corner on the pandemic even sooner.”
MOORESVILLE COP ATTACKED BLACK WOMAN MOTORIST FOR NO REASON, LAWSUIT SAYS: Danielle Helena Downing, now 39, of Charlotte, says in the lawsuit filed on April 2 in federal court in Charlotte, that Mooresville police Officer Josh Barlow used his baton to smash her car window as she was attempting to hand him her vehicle registration, The Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday. Mooresville is about 30 miles (45 kilometers) north of Charlotte. According to the lawsuit, Barlow then dragged her from the car and threw her to the pavement on top of the shards of glass, leaving her with numerous cuts and other injuries. Days later, Downing says in the complaint, she pulled a piece of window glass from her mouth. Downing, who suffered numerous cuts and bruises along with a chipped tooth, was handcuffed and left on the ground, the lawsuit says. The incident may have been captured on Barlow's body-worn camera, according to the lawsuit. At no point did Barlow ever tell her why she had been stopped, the lawsuit said. A copy of the incident report obtained by the newspaper doesn't show what led to the traffic stop. Public records show Downing was arrested on misdemeanor charges of resisting a public officer and assault on a government official, but the charges were dropped six months later.
BILL WOULD OPEN PERSONNEL RECORDS OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES: The act, S.B. 355, filed March 25, would open more records of state and local employees to the public so not only could you see if and when a police officer, teacher or state Department of Revenue auditor was disciplined, demoted or fired, but why. The North Carolina Press Association, which actively supports the bill, calls this a “big step” that will “open the door slightly.” Current state law makes the written notice including the “specific acts or omissions” for which an employee was fired available. But S.B. 355 would open up the reasons for every “promotion, demotion, dismissal, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification” making them subject to open records law. This is not the first time a bill like this has gone before the General Assembly. Gov. Roy Cooper, when he was a state senator in the late 1990s, introduced a similar bill, Galey said, which passed in the Senate only to meet its end in the House Committee on Public Employees. Another bill, The Government Transparency Act of 2011, didn’t make it out of the Senate. Cooper’s support for the idea in 1997 was a good sign for bipartisan support, Kraweic said, but she recognized the North Carolina State Employees Association could have some concerns about the bill. “I’ll work with them as much as I can to alleviate some of their concerns if we can without substantially changing the bill,” Kraweic said.
MATT GAETZ ASKED TRUMP FOR A BLANKET PARDON DURING SEX TRAFFICKING INVESTIGATION: Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, was one of President Donald J. Trump’s most vocal allies during his term, publicly pledging loyalty and even signing a letter nominating the president for the Nobel Peace Prize. In the final weeks of Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Gaetz sought something in return. He privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people told of the discussions. Around that time, Mr. Gaetz was also publicly calling for broad pardons from Mr. Trump to thwart what he termed the “bloodlust” of their political opponents. But Justice Department investigators had begun questioning Mr. Gaetz’s associates about his conduct, including whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that violated sex trafficking laws, in an inquiry that grew out of the case of an indicted associate in Florida. Aides told Mr. Trump of the request, though it is unclear whether Mr. Gaetz discussed the matter directly with the president. Mr. Trump ultimately pardoned dozens of allies and others in the final months of his presidency, highlighting his willingness to wield his power to help close supporters and lash out against the criminal justice system. In recent days, some Trump associates have speculated that Mr. Gaetz’s request for a group pardon was an attempt to camouflage his own potential criminal exposure. This account of Mr. Gaetz’s dealings with the Trump White House is based on interviews with four people briefed on the exchanges about his pardon request and other Trump confidants. A spokesman for Mr. Trump declined to comment.
NEGOTIATORS ARE CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT REVIVING IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: The European-led diplomatic effort featured mediators shuttling between Iranian and American envoys, a far cry from the intensive face-to-face discussions held by U.S. and Iranian diplomats who brokered the original agreement. The goal now is agreeing on a road map toward lifting U.S. sanctions that were imposed under President Donald Trump and recommitting Tehran to its agreements under the accord, a complicated undertaking with no guarantee of success. Still, Iran's lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, characterized the initial talks as on "the right track," a notable comment given Iran's recent tough rhetoric. State Department spokesman Ned Price also hailed what he called progress, and acknowledged the difficulty of dismantling the network of sanctions erected after Trump puled the United States out of the agreement in 2018. "We know there will be difficult discussions ahead but again, this is a healthy step forward," Price said. He added that diplomatic contact, even at a remove, is the best way to fulfill Biden's campaign pledge to comply with the original deal so long as Iran shows it is committed to doing the same. While both sides still publicly maintain that the onus is on the other, in recent weeks they have moved, with help from European signatories to the deal, toward negotiating a list of sequential, simultaneous steps to return to compliance. A U.S. team led by President Biden's special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, was in Vienna for the discussions, which are scheduled to continue Friday. The Americans and Iranians are staying in separate hotels, and U.S. officials do not anticipate direct talks between the two delegations.