Friday News: The truth will set you free


MARK ROBINSON FAILS TO BLOCK RACISM FROM NEW SOCIAL STUDIES STANDARDS: North Carolina now has new social studies standards that supporters say are more inclusive of different groups but that critics say are anti-American. The State Board of Education’s Democratic majority voted 7-5 on Thursday to adopt new K-12 social studies standards that include language such as having teachers discuss racism, discrimination and the perspectives of marginalized groups. The standards, which begin going into effect this fall, are supposed to guide teachers in how to discuss both the nation’s accomplishments and its failings. The standards come with a preamble written by GOP State Superintendent Catherine Truitt that says students should learn about “hard truths” such as Native American oppression, anti-Catholicism and Jim Crow.

GOVERNOR PROPOSES BONUSES FOR TEACHERS AND SCHOOL STAFF: Gov. Roy Cooper pitched a $2,500 bonus for teachers and principals Thursday, saying the state should dip into its considerable savings to bolster educators' checks this spring. The governor also proposed a $1,500 bonus for non-certified school employees and a $2,000 bonus for community college and University of North Carolina System personnel. All of the bonuses would be paid in April to people employed as of Feb. 1, costing a total of $468 million. "We need to get them help and show them how much we appreciate them, which we do," Cooper said during an afternoon news conference, noting educators haven't had pay raises in the past two years because of an ongoing budget stalemate. "This is not an unreasonable request in an emergency situation," he said. "I think this is an important signal to send." The bonuses were part of a mini-budget proposal the governor rolled out Thursday, tacking state money onto the billions in federal dollars flowing to North Carolina from a coronavirus pandemic relief bill that Congress passed in December.

NINE COVIDIOTS REMOVED FROM UNC CAMPUS HOUSING FOR BREAKING PANDEMIC RULES: The COVID-19 breaches occurred between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31, according to the announcement. Undergraduate in-person classes were halted a week into last year's fall semester following a string of COVID outbreaks, prompting students who were able to do so to move back home. Amy Johnson, UNC's vice chancellor for student affairs, told the campus community on Thursday that the university received 179 reports of possible violations in the last three calendar months. Of the 179 referrals, nine people were removed from residence halls, while 88 saw “developmental action," which may include warnings and activity restrictions. Sixty cases are still pending and 22 students had their cases dismissed because they weren't identified or found responsible. Classes for undergraduates began Jan. 19, though it was announced it would be three more weeks before in-person instruction could resume.

SENATE VOTES TO BE ABLE TO VOTE ON BIDEN PANDEMIC PACKAGE: The Senate approved a budget bill early Friday that paves the way for passage of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, with Vice President Harris casting the tiebreaking vote on the measure that will be key to enacting Biden’s first major legislative initiative. Passage of the budget bill by a 51-to-50 vote came just after 5:30 a.m. Friday, after an all-night Senate session during which senators plowed through dozens of amendments in a chaotic process known as a “vote-a-rama.” Democrats cheered on progress to address the pandemic, while Republicans complained of partisanship and excessive spending. The House, which approved its own budget bill on Wednesday, must now act on the Senate’s version, which it is expected to do within a day. With the budget resolution complete, Congress can turn in earnest to writing Biden’s expansive pandemic relief proposal into law — and push it through the Senate without Republican votes if necessary under the special rules unlocked by the budget legislation. That process will take weeks, with Democrats eyeing mid-March as the deadline for final passage of the relief legislation because that is when enhanced unemployment benefits will expire if Congress doesn’t act first. “With the passage of this resolution we have the opportunity not only to address the pandemic, to address the economic collapse, to address the reality that millions of kids have seen their education disrupted,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “We have the opportunity to give hope to the American people and restore faith in our government to fight for them.”

BIDEN WILL NO LONGER BACK SAUDI ARABIA IN YEMEN CONFLICT: President Biden on Thursday ordered an end to arms sales and other support to Saudi Arabia for a war in Yemen that he called a “humanitarian and strategic catastrophe” and declared that the United States would no longer be “rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions.” The announcement was the clearest signal Mr. Biden has given of his intention to reverse the way President Donald J. Trump dealt with two of the hardest issues in American foreign policy. Saudi leaders knew that the move was coming. Mr. Biden had promised to stop selling arms to them during the presidential campaign, and it follows the new administration’s announcement last month that it was pausing the sale of $478 million in precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, a transfer the State Department approved in December over strong objections in Congress. The administration has also announced a review of major American arms sales to the United Arab Emirates. President Barack Obama gave the war his qualified approval, in part to assuage Saudi anger over the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. Two years later, Mr. Trump doubled down, embracing the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, despite mounting evidence that American fingerprints — and American-made munitions — were all over civilian deaths in the brutal civil war, which helped create the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis and a famine that is engulfing the country. Now Mr. Biden is no longer making the case that American support was helping bring the war to a conclusion that would stop the civilian deaths. His goal is to force the Saudis into a diplomatic solution, and he appointed a longtime career diplomat, Timothy Lenderking, to act as special envoy to negotiate a settlement. “This war has to end,” Mr. Biden said Thursday at the State Department, in his first major foreign policy speech since taking office. He said the speech was intended to “send a clear message to the world: America is back.”




Not that it makes that much difference in a pandemic lockdown, but I'm going to squeeze whatever relief and relaxation I can out of this weekend.