CATAWBA COUNTY MAN ARRESTED AFTER TEXTING RELATIVE DURING CAPITOL ATTACK: Les Little was texting with a family relative on Jan. 6 when he shared a secret: “We just took over the Capitol,” the Catawba County man wrote from inside the building, according to court documents unsealed Thursday. “And you are bragging?” the relative fired back in a fusillade of exclamation points and capital letters. “’We’? THIS IS TREASON!!! IF YOU DON’T CONDEMN THIS, NEVER BOTHER SPEAKING TO ME AGAIN! HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE PEOPLE. IT’S A COUP! YOU OBVIOUSLY HATE AMERICA!!!” Little replied: “We are stopping treason. Stealing elections is treason! We’re not going to take it anymore!" Adding: “You’ll thank me for saving your freedom ...” According to the FBI, Little’s relative turned him in. Now the 64-year-old Claremont resident has a date with a judge in Washington, where he has been charged with four crimes.
BILL TO HELP PRIVATE WATER COMPANIES INCREASE RATES IN NC: Legislation moving at the statehouse would allow private water companies to set rates three years in advance instead of having to come back repeatedly before regulators to approve price increases. Senate Bill 211 is similar to controversial legislation that derailed at the legislature in 2019, though this bill deals with water and sewer providers, not Duke Energy or other power providers. The bill also has more consumer protection measures in it, supporters have said. The idea is to let companies request approval for rate increases three years at a time, allowing them to plan capital improvements further ahead and save the costs of routinely going before the North Carolina Utilities Commission, which has to approve rates for the 93 privately owned water and wastewater entities the commission regulates. Under the proposed process, the Utilities Commission could approve a schedule of rate changes three years in advance. Annual public hearings would still be required, said bill sponsor Sen. Paul Newton, R-Cabarrus, and the commission would have the power to set other conditions as well.
BILL WOULD KEEP CHILDREN (UNDER 10) OUT OF COURTROOMS: North Carolina is the only state in the U.S. where a child as young as 6 years old can face criminal charges, but lawmakers are working to change that. The state Senate voted 45-0 on Thursday for legislation that would raise the minimum age for criminal prosecution to 10, on par with many other states. Many cases of alleged delinquency in young children are already handled through diversion programs. But if parents or guardians don't follow through, the child can end up facing charges in front of a judge. That often begins a lifelong journey into the criminal justice system – and it is used disproportionately against children of color. Rep. Marcia Morey, D-Durham, a former judge, said she saw far too many confused and bored young children in court during her years on the bench. "They would have coloring books to just stay still," Morey said. "They don’t understand adjudication, a plea, [and] the judge goes through several pages to ask them adult questions. We’ve been doing them a disservice. They don’t have the capacity."
GEORGIA REPUBLICANS ACT QUICKLY TO SUPPRESS BLACK VOTERS: Republican Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday signed into law a sweeping voting measure that proponents said is necessary to shore up confidence in the state’s elections but that critics countered will lead to longer lines, partisan control of elections and more difficult procedures for voters trying to cast their ballots by mail. The measure is one of the first major voting bills to pass as dozens of state legislatures consider restrictions on how ballots are cast and counted in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, when President Donald Trump attacked without evidence the integrity of election results in six states he lost, including Georgia. The new law imposes new identification requirements for those casting ballots by mail; curtails the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots; allows electors to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters and requires counties to hold hearings on such challenges within 10 days; makes it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line; blocks the use of mobile voting vans, as Fulton County did last year after purchasing two vehicles at a cost of more than $700,000; and prevents local governments from directly accepting grants from the private sector. The 95-page law also strips authority from the secretary of state, making him a nonvoting member of the State Election Board, and allows lawmakers to initiate takeovers of local election boards — measures that critics said could allow partisan appointees to slow down or block election certification or target heavily Democratic jurisdictions, many of which are in the Atlanta area and are home to the state’s highest concentrations of Black and Brown voters. The measure, backed by Republicans, sailed out of the state House and Senate on party-line votes in a single afternoon.
PROUD BOYS HAVE NOW BECOME ANTI-VAXXERS IN EFFORT TO UNDERMINE GOVERNMENT: Adherents of far-right groups who cluster online have turned repeatedly to one particular website in recent weeks — the federal database showing deaths and adverse reactions nationwide among people who have received Covid-19 vaccinations. Although negative reactions have been relatively rare, the numbers are used by many extremist groups to try to bolster a rash of false and alarmist disinformation in articles and videos with titles like “Covid-19 Vaccines Are Weapons of Mass Destruction — and Could Wipe out the Human Race” or “Doctors and Nurses Giving the Covid-19 Vaccine Will be Tried as War Criminals.” If the so-called Stop the Steal movement appeared to be chasing a lost cause once President Biden was inaugurated, its supporters among extremist organizations are now adopting a new agenda from the anti-vaccination campaign to try to undermine the government. Bashing of the safety and efficacy of vaccines is occurring in chat rooms frequented by all manner of right-wing groups including the Proud Boys; the Boogaloo movement, a loose affiliation known for wanting to spark a second Civil War; and various paramilitary organizations. These groups tend to portray vaccines as a symbol of excessive government control. “If less people get vaccinated then the system will have to use more aggressive force on the rest of us to make us get the shot,” read a recent post on the Telegram social media platform, in a channel linked to members of the Proud Boys charged in storming the Capitol. The marked focus on vaccines is particularly striking on discussion channels populated by followers of QAnon, who had falsely prophesied that Donald J. Trump would continue as president while his political opponents were marched off to jail.