PUSH TO RATIFY EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT IN NC GAINS STEAM: Equal Rights Amendment supporters said Thursday it's still important for the North Carolina legislature to ratify the proposal for the sake of fair treatment for all women, even as ERA's future is being weighed by a court. General Assembly lawmakers and state and national ERA activists announced in an online news conference their redoubled efforts to bring ratification up for debate and votes this year. Democratic legislators said they plan to introduce such resolutions in the legislative session that begins in earnest next week. Republicans in charge of the General Assembly have been cool to acting on past such resolutions, but one expected bill sponsor said efforts to enshrine equal rights for women in the U.S. Constitution should be bipartisan. “It is time to guarantee equal pay, equal access and equal opportunity to everyone,” said Sen. Valerie Foushee, an Orange County Democrat.
DURHAM TO EXPAND BULL CITY UNITED VIOLENCE OUTREACH EFFORT: Residents of four more Durham neighborhoods may see new teams of “violence interrupters” on the street some time this year. After a record 318 people were shot in the Bull City last year, the Durham City Council agreed to spend $935,488 to hire more staff for the county’s violence interruption and outreach team, Bull City United. With the new funding, the city will partner with Durham County and hire two more supervisors, eight “violence interrupters” and eight “outreach workers.” That will bring teams to Oxford Manor and the Braggtown community in northern Durham, the Cornwallis Road public housing complex, the Golden Belt district just east of downtown, and an area just south of downtown. The City Council did not discuss a timeline for when the new staff will be hired or hit the streets. “I think it’s a big departure from the law enforcement model or the policing model that is typically repressive, and offers a better opportunity for relief,” said Joyner, who’s lived in Durham for over 40 years.
HUNTERSVILLE GASOLINE SPILL MUCH WORSE THAN COMPANY INITIALLY REPORTED: In August, the county had reported 63,000 gallons (238,455 liters) were spilled. Huntersville is approximately 15 miles (24 kilometers) north of Charlotte. But Colonial Pipeline reported to regulators Wednesday that the estimated amount of gasoline released from the underground pipeline was 1,119,982 gallons (4.23 million liters). On Thursday, state officials said they ordered Colonial Pipeline in November to recalculate how much gasoline was released. The order came after state staff found the company "significantly underestimated the volume of gasoline released from the spill," according to a state Department of Environmental Quality news release. Michael Scott, director of the North Carolina Division of Waste Management, promised a "thorough review ... to determine the full extent of the impact in order to guide the cleanup and protection of public health and the environment." He said DEQ "will continue to hold Colonial accountable and oversee their cleanup efforts."
22 YEAR OLD WOMAN FACING FELONIES FOR STEALING NANCY PELOSI'S LAPTOP: Williams faces two felony charges punishable by decades in prison, as well as two misdemeanors, according to charging documents. An updated affidavit filed Tuesday accuses her of filming and then sharing a video of someone else picking up an HP computer from a desk in Pelosi’s office. A user named “Riley” later posted on the social media platform Discord that they “stole s--- from Nancy Polesi,” the affidavit says. Williams was first charged with trespassing as well as violent entry to and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Prosecutors then added the felony charges: aiding or abetting the theft of government property and obstructing, influencing or impeding an official proceeding. That ex-boyfriend was a key witness in the FBI’s investigation. He told authorities that Williams’s friends played a video of her stealing a hard drive or computer from Pelosi’s office. Williams planned to send the device “to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service,” the former boyfriend said, according to the affidavit. The FBI said that “the transfer of the computer device to Russia fell through for unknown reasons” and that Williams either destroyed the laptop or still has it. The stolen laptop, “only used for presentations,” was taken from a conference room, Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, has said.
PRESIDENT BIDEN MOVES TO BOOST FOOD STAMP BENEFITS FOR THE POOR: The orders Mr. Biden will sign Friday would increase the weekly value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, commonly known as food stamps, for about 12 million families who depend on the program the most, according to White House estimates. The aid would increase weekly benefits by 15 to 20 percent for a family of four, Mr. Deese said. Congress approved enhanced benefits as part of its economic aid efforts last year, but the Trump administration did not expand benefits for households receiving the maximum benefit under the program. The order will also increase the value of an emergency benefit, also included in economic rescue legislation, to provide money for families to replace the free meals students would have been receiving at school before the pandemic forced students out of classrooms. That expansion would amount to an extra $100 every two months for a family of three. To help struggling individuals and families, Mr. Biden will direct the Treasury Department to find new ways to get stimulus checks, including $600 checks passed in December and $1,200 checks passed in March, to as many as eight million eligible people who have not yet received them. The second order seeks to undo some of Mr. Trump’s orders pertaining to the federal work force, including one that gave presidents more leeway to hire and fire workers and others that limited some bargaining rights for employees. It will also direct federal agencies to determine which of their workers earn less than $15 an hour, and to develop “recommendations to promote a $15 per hour minimum wage for them,” the fact sheet said. Mr. Biden has called on Congress to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all workers.