Friday News: No more Kakistocracy

BIDEN CHOOSES NC DEQ'S MICHAEL REGAN TO HEAD EPA: Regan’s record on environmental justice, including his creation of the state’s Environmental Justice and Equity Board, helped secure him the role. In announcing his selection, the Biden-Harris team pointed to his efforts in working on Cooper’s climate change executive order and his negotiations on cleanup of both coal ash and pollution in the Cape Fear River, as well as the equity board. “He’s been a collaborative, energizing force, putting into action his core belief that when you make decisions with input from a diverse group of stakeholders your outcomes are better and more durable because of it,” said Hawley Truax, a regional director with the Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement. Regan, 44, worked for the EPA for eight years in the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations before working for the Environmental Defense Fund. He joined Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration at the beginning of 2017.

GOVERNOR COOPER PARDONS FIVE WRONGFULLY CONVICTED MEN, INCLUDING RONNIE LONG: "We must continue to work to reform our justice system and acknowledge when people have been wrongly convicted," Cooper said in a statement. "I have carefully reviewed the facts in each of these cases, and, while I cannot give these men back the time they served, I am granting them Pardons of Innocence in the hope that they might be better able to move forward in their lives." Ronnie Wallace Long was convicted in Cabarrus County in 1976 of rape and burglary and was sentenced to life in prison. But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August that prosecutors withheld evidence in the trial, and a federal judge then vacated his conviction, releasing him from prison. Jamie Lau, supervising attorney for the Wrongful Convictions Clinic at the Duke University School of Law, who represented Long in his long fight for freedom, said Long turned down a plea deal that carried a three-year sentence in 1976 because he wanted to prove his innocence at trial.

BOB STEINBURG DOUBLES DOWN ON THE CRAZY TALK ABOUT TRUMP: “All the liberals are just going nuts today,” he said Wednesday. “Somebody has got to stand up and risk being ridiculed, laughed at and scorned, And right now that’s me.” Steinburg said while he was simply posting the general’s comments, he might also support curtailing civil liberties. He compared it to North Carolina’s restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19. “If there were reasons to do it then civil liberties would be suspended for a short period of time,” he told the Observer. “But our civil liberties in North Carolina have been abridged since March. If Donald Trump invoked this executive order, if he thought there was foreign intervention, then, yes, I support it.” Steinburg, 72, said he doesn’t believe Democrat Joe Biden won the election. “Hell no,” he said. “There’s no way he’s president-elect. I think not only did President Trump win but I think President Trump won by at least 10 million votes.”

FRATERNITIES AT UNC AND DUKE EMBROILED IN DRUG-DEALING INVESTIGATION: The case began in November 2018, when Blackwood’s office began looking into illegal drug sales on campus at UNC-Chapel Hill. Investigators soon found that deals were happening inside or near the houses for Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Sigma and Beta Theta Pi from 2017 to the spring of this year, authorities allege. Investigators soon moved their probe into Duke and Appalachian State, according to court documents, and discovered that the ring used encrypted apps and offered payments electronically through Venmo and PayPal. One informant told investigators that many drug sales happened “behind closed doors” to members of the fraternities, according to court documents, and some would post prices for drugs in the chapter’s GroupMe thread. Many transactions allegedly took place around the fraternity’s big events, where high volumes of drugs were in demand. One defendant told investigators that one year, the 22-member Phi Gamma Delta pledge class pooled money to buy an ounce of cocaine for a spring-break trip. The group indicted on Thursday included defendants ranging in age from 21 to 35. At least 11 are current or former students of the three schools, prosecutors said. UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said in a statement that the university was “extremely disappointed” to learn about the allegations involving former students and on-campus fraternities. “Our community can be certain that the University will enforce the student conduct code to the fullest extent possible,” Guskiewicz said.

BIDEN CHOOSES NATIVE AMERICAN REP DEB HAALAND TO LEAD INTERIOR DEPARTMENT: Ms. Haaland, a citizen of Laguna Pueblo, one of the country’s 574 federally recognized tribes, would helm the federal agency most responsible for the well-being of the nation’s 1.9 million Indigenous people. Among other things, the Interior Department runs the Bureau of Indian Education and the Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, which manages the financial assets of American Indians held in trust. For generations, Native Americans have fought the department’s policies and demanded a greater voice in its operation. In one instance, in 1972, about 500 activists took over the department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., protesting living standards and broken treaties. Ms. Haaland was not seen as Mr. Biden’s initial choice to run the agency. In the days after the presidential election, he was believed to have been leaning toward Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico and a longtime friend who has spent his career pushing to conserve wilderness, according to people close to the transition team. But a coalition of congressional Democrats, Native Americans and Hollywood celebrities kicked off a campaign urging Mr. Biden to appoint Ms. Haaland. The actor and environmental advocate Mark Ruffalo posted a video on Twitter with tribal leaders speaking in support of Ms. Haaland. And the Lakota People’s Law Action Center launched a petition supported by more than 120 tribal leaders backing her. “Like no year prior, 2020 has shown us what happens when we fail to see the importance of putting proper leaders in position to safeguard society,” the petition read. In a statement, Ms. Haaland said, “It would be an honor to move the Biden-Harris climate agenda forward, help repair the government-to-government relationship with Tribes that the Trump Administration has ruined, and serve as the first Native American cabinet secretary in our nation’s history.”