Friday News: Here we go again...


UNC CHAPEL HILL REPORTS FIRST COVID CLUSTER OF THE FALL SEMESTER: The six cases are related to an event in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy. The report comes the day before move-in starts Thursday for thousands of students and exactly a week before in-person classes are set to begin on campus. Responses to the news on Twitter echo the sentiments of several members of Wednesday’s Campus & Community Advisory Committee Meeting, who say the university should require COVID-19 vaccines for all students and employees. “If we’re not going to require the vaccine then we shouldn’t have a full reopening with dorms at maximum capacity and classes in-person,” professor Seth Noar said. He said that UNC-CH, as a leading public research university, isn’t following the science or the research on this issue. Aren't pharmacists trained to administer vaccines?

GERRY MANDER IS SLINKING AROUND THE LEGISLATURE: The General Assembly's Republican majority laid the groundwork Thursday for a coming redraw of the state's Congressional and legislative maps, kicking off an every-decade redistricting process by setting rules for the redraw. Democrats, whose suggestions were largely cast aside by GOP leadership, criticized the rules as overly vague, and they questioned whether maps this legislature ultimately will draw can pass muster against legal challenges both sides expect. The state was in and out of court for most of the past decade, spending tens of millions on attorneys and drawing one set of maps after another after judges found racial and partisan gerrymanders in the state's maps. Republican leaders said this process will be the most transparent yet, with maps drawn in an open committee room and a camera live streaming computer screens as district lines shift. One of the criteria approved Thursday allows lawmakers to consider a lawmaker's address when drawing districts, presumably to avoid double-bunking some elected officials and forcing them to run against each other. That can also be used to force officials from the other side of the aisle to run against each other. Just ask Pricey Harrison if you need an example.

82nd AIRBORNE HEADED TO AFGHANISTAN TO PROTECT EMBASSY IN KABUL: With security rapidly deteriorating in Afghanistan, the United States is sending in an additional 3,000 troops to help evacuate some personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, officials said Thursday. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Army and Marine forces will enter Afghanistan within the next two days to assist at the Kabul airport with the partial embassy evacuation. Troops from Fort Bragg's 82nd Airborne division are joining the cause. Kirby said a reserve force of about 3,500 to 4,000 from Fort Bragg will be in Kuwait. "We source to mission," Adm. Kirby said. "And based on consultations with top military leaders, the secretary decided that this was the appropriate amount right now, and to again have additional forces available, people are in the theatre if that was required." The move suggests a lack of confidence by the Biden administration in the Afghan government's ability to provide sufficient diplomatic security in the capital — home to more than 3 million Afghans — as a series of provincial capitals fall to a Taliban offensive this week.

KATHY HOCHUL IS NEW YORK'S FIRST FEMALE GOVERNOR: New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Thursday that she will run for the state’s top office in 2022 after completing the remaining term of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), who plans to step down this month after facing nearly a dozen sexual harassment allegations. “I’m the most prepared person to assume this responsibility, and I’m going to ask the voters for their faith in me again,” Hochul (D) said Thursday on NBC’s “Today” program. Hochul, 62, will become the first woman governor in New York when she is sworn in late this month after Cuomo leaves office. An investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James, also a potential 2022 gubernatorial candidate, found that the claims against Cuomo were credible, leading her and many other Democrats to conclude that the long-serving governor was unfit for office. Hochul, who was among many Democrats who condemed Cuomo following the report, has promised that when she becomes New York’s top elected official, there will be a significant culture shift. “At the end of my term, whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment,” Hochul said Wednesday during a news conference in the state capital.

GOOGLE AND APPLE IN CONGRESS' CROSS-HAIRS OVER APP STORE ABUSE: At a Senate hearing in April, lawmakers had a clear message for Apple and Google: They were fed up with hearing about the companies’ allegedly abusive behavior toward developers who rely on their app stores. Now they were ready to turn those grievances into legislative action. “Although we can and should use our existing antitrust laws to address these issues, we can also strengthen our laws,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who convened the session. Senators put those plans in motion Wednesday by unveiling a bruising new bill to rein in the tech giants’ powerful app stores. And it’s already picking up momentum across the Capitol. The legislation was met with praise from several prominent app developers, including Epic, maker of the wildly popular Fortnite video game, which filed antitrust lawsuits against the companies. Corie Wright, vice president of public policy for Epic, said the bill’s introduction was “an important milestone in the continued fight for fairer digital platforms.”