REPUBLICAN DONOR USED MENTALLY CHALLENGED SISTER TO FUNNEL CAMPAIGN CASH: Chad Price says Mako Medical, the fast-growing lab testing company he co-founded in Raleigh, started with frustrations he faced getting his younger sister the medical tests she regularly needed. His sister Jessica, 37, was born with a genetic condition that left her with the mental capacity of a young child. She lives with Price, who is her legal guardian, at his home in Apex. But in campaign filings, Jessica emerges as an administrative employee for Mako and a political donor, contributing $17,500 to five state or federal candidates in four states, including North Carolina. For three of those candidates, Chad Price had made the maximum contributions in his own name. Those contributions are among hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money flowing predominantly to Republican candidates from Chad Price and a small group of people and businesses connected to him over the past five years. During that time, Price developed deep connections with state elected and appointed officials, two of whom joined his businesses.
AFTER BREAKING RECORDS IN SPACE, CHRISTINA KOCH COMES BACK HOME: Christina Koch, who returned to Earth on Thursday, might be another name you’ll come to remember. She and Jessica Meir executed the first all-woman spacewalk. Although Koch performed six spacewalks during her mission, set a duration record for time in space and contributed enormously to space science, that October spacewalk will be what gets her into history books. In the same way, Sally Ride is known for being the first American woman in space, but not for her work in the development of the space shuttle’s robotic arm. In all of these cases, being first was a matter of timing, not something that was under the direct control of the astronauts credited for their trailblazing. With Koch’s return to Earth, she now holds another distinction: the longest stay by a female astronaut in space, 328 days. (Currently, the American record-holder for the longest single stay is Scott Kelly, with 342 days in space, and the record-holder for cumulative time is Peggy Whitson with 665 days spread over three flights.) Koch volunteered for this mission as part of a long-duration experiment, but the assignment was not in her direct control.
BOARD OF EDUCATION WANTS FIRMER HAND WITH MARK JOHNSON'S SPENDING: The State Board of Education is trying to put new rules on Superintendent Mark Johnson following his controversial decision to award an emergency contract of more than $900,000 to use a testing program. State board members have questioned Johnson’s decision last month to unilaterally issue a $928,570 contract for North Carolina’s elementary schools to use the Istation program. The board on Wednesday reviewed policies that would reduce the amount that Johnson can approve for contracts and would require detailed budget reports from the superintendent. “It positions a working relationship and a clarity and a transparency and an accountability around the use of funds against the plans and goals and expectations,” state board member JB Buxton said Wednesday. “It positions and structures the right relationship.” The state board has questioned actions by Johnson such as creating his own website and unilaterally using state money to purchase iPads to give to schools. Johnson, who is running for lieutenant governor, has accused the board of being part of the “Establishment” that is fighting change. In the latest dispute, Amplify Education is appealing DPI’s decision to award a three-year, $8.3 million contract for Istation to test K-3 students for the Read To Achieve program.
AFTER ACQUITTAL, TRUMP VICIOUSLY ATTACKS DEMOCRATS OVER IMPEACHMENT: Veering between vitriolic and triumphant in a meandering speech that stretched past an hour, Trump sounded off against “vicious and mean” Democrats and “dirty cops” at the FBI, and he individually acknowledged Republican lawmakers he described as “great warriors” for his cause. “This is a day of celebration because we went through hell,” Trump told the crowd of supporters, describing his impeachment as “all bullshit” and attacking several of his opponents in highly personal terms. He reminded Republicans that their fortunes were inextricably linked to his own — and to his personal views of them. “These people are vicious,” Trump said during his East Room remarks, where supporters regaled him with laughter and applause. “Adam Schiff is a vicious, horrible person. Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person.” The spectacle stood in stark contrast to the speech given by President Bill Clinton after his acquittal on impeachment charges in 1999. Clinton expressed contrition in his Rose Garden remarks, saying he was “profoundly sorry” and regretful for acts that led to his impeachment.
NATO MAY ALSO CUT TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN, FOLLOWING TRUMP'S DRAWDOWN: The Trump administration’s decision to eventually reduce its own forces from roughly 12,000 troops to around 8,500 has triggered a debate within the 29-country alliance, as well as with other nations contributing troops to the international force deployed to Afghanistan. Some allied officials argue that NATO can stave off large-scale cuts in its force, currently around 8,700 troops, as long as the United States does not cut its support forces, including maintenance troops, transport planes and medical evacuation teams. American officials say their plan, for now, is to leave those support forces in place. But as the Trump administration pushes to remake the American mission to focus more on combat and less on training Afghan security forces, the Pentagon could be pressured to cut back on those support forces. If that happens, allied officials have said, they will have to rethink their commitment to maintaining their forces and NATO’s current network of bases. Under the current American drawdown plan, the United States will maintain at least half a dozen bases, including the two led by the Germans and Italians in the country’s north and west, according to Defense Department officials.