TWO OPENLY TRANSGENDER CANDIDATES ARE RUNNING FOR NC SENATE: Ames Simmons, policy director for Equality NC, said that Bridgman, a transgender woman, and Ellis, a transgender man, are the first openly transgender candidates for the state legislature, as far as his organization is aware. Equality NC is a statewide organization that advocates for LGBTQ rights. “There was the beginning of a blue (Democratic) wave in 2018 that was encouraging to trans people. I’m a trans person myself, but don’t speak on behalf of the community. I was personally inspired by the runs and elections of trans people who ran elsewhere, like Danica Roem in Virginia,” Simmons said. He said that it’s a personal decision if someone is going to be open about their LGBTQ status and if they are transgender. Some might consider it a closed chapter in their life, and some might not feel safe from violence and discrimination, he said.
ALAMANCE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION LAUNCHES SCHOLARSHIP FOR LGBTQ STUDENTS: Gavin Stevens, executive director of the foundation, announced the fund last week, staying the $1,000 Alamance Pride Scholarship will be given to one student this May. Students who identify as LGBTQ and seek higher education at any accredited college or university, including community colleges, are eligible. “It’s an endowed scholarship, so it’s meant to last in perpetuity,” Stevens said. Ken Smith, president of Alamance Pride and the mastermind behind the scholarship fund, shared similar thoughts. “This is a group of people whose needs really have not been addressed locally,” he said. “A lot of LGBTQ students who are out face the risk of being kicked out of their homes or turned away by their families, and we hope that in those situations this will provide them the opportunity to go to school and create a good life for themselves.”
BOB PHILLIPS OF COMMON CAUSE IS FINALIST FOR TARHEEL OF THE YEAR: In the mid-2000s, when Democrats controlled the legislature, Phillips teamed up with them and other Republicans to advocate for ending partisan gerrymandering. “To make a reference to Charlie Brown and Lucy, Charlie Brown tries to kick the football, Lucy yanks it away,” Phillips, 62, told the panel of state superior court judges overseeing the lawsuit Common Cause and others brought against the legislature over gerrymandering. North Carolina redraws its Congressional and legislative districts after each U.S. Census. So when Republicans swept into power in the 2010 elections, they were perfectly poised to use the same lax rules Democrats had used to orchestrate the maps in their own favor. They suddenly lost the appetite for reform. “I kind of felt like that was how the legislature was yanking away the opportunity for us to pass redistricting reform,” Phillips testified. “So we felt like litigation was a remedy to actually get something done.” People had told Phillips not to sue — that it might not work, and he would risk destroying his old relationships with Republican leaders. But Phillips turned out to be right.
U.S. ALLY UNITED ARAB EMIRATES SPIED ON CITIZENS USING TOTOK APP: A technical analysis and interviews with computer security experts showed that the firm behind ToTok, Breej Holding, is most likely a front company affiliated with DarkMatter, an Abu Dhabi-based cyberintelligence and hacking firm where Emirati intelligence officials, former National Security Agency employees and former Israeli military intelligence operatives work. DarkMatter is under FBI investigation, according to former employees and law enforcement officials, for possible cybercrimes. The U.S. intelligence assessment and the technical analysis also linked ToTok to Pax AI, an Abu Dhabi-based data mining firm that appears to be tied to DarkMatter. Pax AI’s headquarters operate from the same Abu Dhabi building as the Emirates’ signals intelligence agency, which until recently was where DarkMatter was based. The UAE is one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, seen by the Trump administration as a bulwark against Iran and a close counterterrorism partner. Its ruling family promotes the country as an example of a modern, moderate Arab nation, but it has also been at the forefront of using surveillance technology to crack down on internal dissent — including hacking Western journalists, emptying the banking accounts of critics, and holding human rights activists in prolonged solitary confinement over Facebook posts.
SAUDI ARABIA GIVES DEATH SENTENCE TO 5 IN KHASHOGGI KILLING, BUT EXONERATES PRINCE'S MAN: Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor announced Monday that five people have been sentenced to death in connection with the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year. But the two most senior officials implicated in the case, including an adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were cleared of wrongdoing, the prosecutor said. The slaying of Khashoggi in October 2018 sparked a global outcry against Saudi Arabia and led to greater scrutiny of a crackdown on dissidents pursued by the crown prince. Khashoggi, who contributed columns to The Washington Post, had been one of Mohammed’s most prominent critics. Khashoggi was killed soon after he visited the Saudi Consulate to obtain documents that would allow him to remarry. After he was killed, by a team of agents who had flown to Istanbul from Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi’s body was dismembered, according to Turkish and Saudi prosecutors. His remains have not been found. The verdicts came after a trial in Riyadh’s criminal court that lasted nearly a year and was largely shrouded in secrecy, with court sessions closed to the general public. Human rights groups warned that the lack of transparency made the proceedings unfair, and increased the likelihood that senior officials could escape justice.