Friday News: If not now, when?

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JAY CHAUDHURI RE-INTRODUCES NC HATE CRIME BILL AFTER ATLANTA SHOOTINGS: "If we wish to pursue a perfect union in this state, then we must confront and take on the often dark and ugly side of our democracy," said Chaudhuri, who has sponsored each of the last two bills and is behind this one as well. "Responding to hate crimes must be a priority because they impact all of us," agreed Sen. Mujtaba Mohammed, D-Mecklenburg. "Hate crimes not only have an impact on one victim, but they also terrorize and isolate a victim’s whole community, and that weakens public safety for all of us." The bill would increase the punishment for any crime if it's determined a person was targeted because of his or her "race, ethnicity, color, religion, nationality, country of origin, gender, gender identity, gender expression, disability, or sexual orientation." It also would create a statewide database of such crimes – reporting hate crimes by law enforcement agencies is currently voluntary, but it would become mandatory – and provide more training for law enforcement officers and district attorneys to respond to and prosecute cases.
https://www.wral.com/in-wake-of-atlanta-shootings-nc-lawmakers-again-pursue-hate-crime-bill/19582121/

ANOTHER NC IDIOT ARRESTED FOR INSURRECTION, FILMED HIMSELF INSIDE CAPITOL: Based on his own photographs, Johnny Leroy Harris made a fashion statement during his Jan. 6 visit inside the U.S. Capitol. Now the Cleveland County man has to worry about what he’ll be wearing to court. Based on the photos filed by prosecutors, Harris, draped in red, white and blue, is easy to spot among the throngs of intruders milling through the Capitol on Jan. 6. He wears an American flag sweater and a red, white and blue bandanna or mask around his neck. On his head, a Donald Trump ski cap in the same color scheme. He carries a flagpole flying a red, white and blue banner. According to the FBI affidavit, Harris also wore a Go-Pro camera, which he used to post real-time photos of himself in the Rotunda and other parts of the Capitol. The FBI said it learned of Harris from an anonymous tipster who reported that he knew someone who had been posting interior photos of the Capitol on his Facebook page.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article250036714.html

ANOTHER NC CHRISTIAN SCHOOL EMPLOYEE ACCUSED OF "INAPPROPRIATE ACTIVITY" WITH STUDENT: The Harnett County Sheriff's Office is investigating allegations of inappropriate activity between a school staff member and a student at Cape Fear Christian Academy. Deputies were called to the school last night to question the staff and students who may have been involved. The school sent WRAL a statement saying, "Cape Fear Christian Academy is aware of an allegation against a staff member. We take this very seriously. We are cooperating with local law enforcement to investigate an off-campus matter. The staff member is currently suspended pending the investigation." So far, no arrests or charges have been made in the investigation. Note: some school choice nutters love to post Tweets about public school teachers, usually from some other state, doing this. But they won't touch this, of course.
https://www.wral.com/deputies-investigating-allegations-of-inappropriate-activity-between-cape-fear-...

RELATIONS BETWEEN CHINA AND THE U.S. DID NOT IMPROVE WITH FIRST BIDEN ADMIN MEETING: The Biden administration’s first faceoff with China began in Alaska on Thursday with a testy exchange between Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who chided Beijing for “cyberattacks on the United States” and “economic coercion toward our allies,” and China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, who detailed the United States’ own human rights problems, citing recent Black Lives Matter protests. The world’s two remaining superpowers presaged the meetings with elaborate public posturing, unveiling dueling agendas that appeared to offer little space for common ground amid disagreements over trade, Tibet, Hong Kong, the western Xinjiang region and the coronavirus pandemic. Wang criticized new U.S. sanctions against Chinese officials for actions in Hong Kong, saying, “This is not supposed to be the way one should welcome his guests.” After Wang ended his comments, government handlers began to usher the media out of the conference room, but Blinken waved at them to stay as he added that the United States “is not perfect” but throughout history it has dealt with its challenges openly. When the media was again ushered out, Yang told reporters to “wait” and raised a finger at the U.S. side, accusing Blinken of speaking in a condescending tone. A senior U.S. official accused the Chinese side of “grandstanding” and focusing on “public theatrics and dramatics over substance.” The official added that the U.S. side would use the “remaining hours” to inform Chinese officials of the same concerns they have been delivering in public, apparently setting even lower expectations for progress between the two nations.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/china-us-talks-anchorage-alaska/2021/03/18/ae2abcfa...

U.S. HOUSE PASSES BILLS TO HELP DREAMERS AND FARM WORKERS BECOME CITIZENS: In a near party-line vote of 228 to 197, the House first moved to set up a permanent legal pathway for more than 2.5 million undocumented immigrants, including those brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers, and others granted Temporary Protected Status for humanitarian reasons. Just nine Republicans voted yes. Hours later, lawmakers approved a second measure with more bipartisan backing that would eventually grant legal status to close to a million farmworkers and their families while updating a key agricultural visa program. This time, 30 Republicans, many representing agriculture-heavy districts, joined nearly every Democrat to vote in favor. The votes were significant milestones for the Dreamers and other activists who have waged a decade-long campaign, often at great personal risk, to bring the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States out of the shadows. Dreamers, those who have temporary status and agricultural workers in many cases have lived in the United States for long periods, and measures to normalize their status enjoy broad public support. Rather than focus on those who would benefit from the bill, Republicans spent much of the debate targeting Mr. Biden for the difficulties at the southwestern border, which some Republicans have taken to calling “Biden’s border crisis.” They have moved swiftly over the last several weeks to bludgeon the president for growing numbers of migrants seeking to enter the country, many of them unaccompanied children, though they never criticized Donald J. Trump for the same phenomenon during his presidency. Republican strategists hope the issue will rouse the party base and sway enough independent voters alarmed by their dark warnings of violence to help their party win back control of the House and the Senate in 2022.
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/18/us/politics/biden-immigration.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stor...

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Somewhat upbeat anecdote:

Last night our Planning Board had a couple of rezoning requests to deal with, and one of them was the conversion of an old high school into an apartment building. Usually any multi-family stuff gets some pushback, but in this case the developer was an Asian woman who struggled with her English quite a bit.

I was pleased and a little surprised that my board gave her unanimous approval. It's not indicative of anything, really, much less a broad social trend. But I slept good last night.