CONSERVATIVES LAUNCH AD BLITZ ABOUT OPENING SCHOOLS: The State Government Leadership Foundation (SGLF) and N2 America announced Thursday that their new six-figure “Let Kids Learn” ad campaign will “highlight the true cost of keeping schools closed.” The campaign will target Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia, where both groups say “union-controlled politicians” are refusing to reopen schools. The ad campaign is starting just as the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed legislation this week that requires North Carolina school districts — but not charter schools — to offer in-person learning. Senate Bill 37 would also require school districts to offer daily in-person classes to special-education students. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper criticized the bill on Wednesday, saying it falls short of following state Department of Health and Human Services guidance and in giving state and local leaders the ability to respond to emergencies. Duncan is also president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, which helps elect GOP lawmakers around the country.
CARY CHARTER SCHOOL TEACHER BUSTED FOR CHILD PORNOGRAPHY: Chip Anthony Hollingsworth, 42, was arrested in August 2018 during an FBI investigation on the Gigatribe chat and file-sharing platform. Authorities said someone sent explicit images to an undercover agent on the platform and requested images of 10- to 12-year-old boys in return, authorities said. The FBI traced the request to Hollingsworth's home, and authorities seized computers, phones and other devices during a search of the home. Nearly 1,500 images and videos of child pornography, the majority depicting children under 12, were found on the devices, authorities said. Metadata on the files showed that Hollingsworth had received them between August 2008 and July 2018, authorities said. Hollingsworth, who pleaded guilty to 11 charges in the case, taught at Cardinal Charter Academy in Cary at the time of his arrest. He previously taught at River Mill Academy Charter School in Graham.
BILL FILED WOULD ALLOW MORE SPECTATORS AT SCHOOL SPORTING EVENTS: Under Cooper’s current coronavirus executive orders, only 100 people can attend outdoor high school sporting events. Senate Bill 116, sponsored by Sens. Danny Britt, Vicki Sawyer and Todd Johnson, would let sporting facilities increase their capacity to 40%, rather than just 100 people. One of the people behind the push for more fans at games was a Union County mother, Meagen O’Connell. O’Connell has a son and a daughter at Weddington High School. Her son plays football and baseball. Her daughter plays basketball and soccer. O’Connell started a petition on Feb. 5 to try to urge Cooper to allow more fans at games. She’s done interviews across the state, including appearing on the Charlotte Observer’s Talking Preps show. The petition now has nearly 40,000 signatures. In a news conference Thursday, Cooper said health officials would take a look at the issue. The current executive order expires at the end of the month. “Hopefully we will see some changes in that area when we make the announcement on the new executive order next week,” Cooper said.
TED CRUZ FLIES TO CANCUN IN THE MIDDLE OF DEADLY TEXAS WINTER STORM: Nobody likes Ted Cruz. This was the place that Ted Cruz was starting from earlier this week. Then he went to Cancun. He went to Cancun, where it is mostly sunny and in the low 80s, while many of his ice-blasted constituents were without heating and plumbing, watching their ceilings collapse, huddling in warming centers, defecating in buckets, and generally not packing for a few days on the Yucatán Peninsula. “Not good,” Cruz tweeted early Tuesday evening about the shutdown of his state. “Stay safe!” Within 24 hours he was in Mexico. And by then, the pastime of disliking Ted Cruz would become sport. “As far as I’m concerned it’d be fine if he remained in Cancun,” Democrat Chris Turner, a Texas state representative, said on CNN. “He doesn’t do anything for us in Texas or in Washington, so I don’t know that we’re going to notice when he comes back.” The Cancun affair is “something that he has to answer to his constituents about,” Allen West, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, told the Associated Press. “I’m here trying to take care of my family and look after my friends and others that are still without power.” And then Cruz released a statement confirming the trip, and noting that it was motivated by fatherliness. “With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends,” Cruz wrote, mentioning the direness of the winter storm but not the pandemic that has inspired many people to avoid unnecessary travel. “Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.”
PRESIDENT BIDEN WANTS A RESTART ON NUKE DEAL WITH IRAN: While it was unclear whether the Iranians would agree to join discussions, three people familiar with the internal debate said it was likely Iran would accept. The officials said Iran would probably be more open to a meeting with the European Union, where the United States was a guest or observer, rather than direct formal talks with Washington as a participant. In recent days, the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and President Hassan Rouhani have suggested they were open to discussing some kind of synchronized approach, in which both sides would act on a certain date. That has an appeal inside the White House, one senior American official said, noting it was how key steps for carrying out the original 2015 deal were coordinated. But with an Iranian presidential election only four months away, it was not clear if the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the nation’s political and military leadership would fully support re-engagement with the United States. Under the original 2015 deal, Iran shipped 97 percent of its nuclear fuel out of the country and agreed to sharp limits on new production that would essentially assure it would take it a year or more to produce enough material for a single weapon. (It would take even longer to build a weapon.) In return, world powers lifted international sanctions that had choked the Iranian economy. But over the objections of his first secretary of state and his first defense secretary — both of whom were fired — Mr. Trump restored American sanctions in 2018, arguing that the deal was flawed and that economic penalties would eventually break the government in Tehran, or force it into a new agreement. His move infuriated the other nations that brokered the accord with Iran after years of stop-and-start negotiations.