Monday News: Toxic red tide


REPUBLICANS' LOOK TO NC SUBURBS TO REGAIN SUPERMAJORITY: “The most competitive region in this state, in terms of voting patterns, are those ‘urban suburbs,’” said Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College. “The places outside the urban centers of Raleigh and Charlotte, but still in the county.” Reflecting that reality are the new political maps Republican state lawmakers passed last month, both for their own districts and for the congressional districts. There are almost no competitive seats in any of those maps, with most elections likely to be decided in the primary in March, not the general election in November. With the maps already favoring Republicans even in a 50-50 year, and with 2022 looking like it could be a strong year for Republicans, some Democrats are starting to raise alarms about those suburban districts that could be in play next year. “You’ve got to make sure they don’t have veto-proof supermajorities,” said Thomas Mills, a longtime Democratic consultant who runs the blog Politics NC. “That’s got to be the Democrats’ first goal.” I agree with Thomas, preserving Governor Cooper's Veto power is critical.

REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS CANNOT APPEAL LEANDRO JUDGMENT: The defendants in the case are the State of North Carolina, the State Board of Education and the Mecklenburg County Board of Education, represented by state Attorney General Josh Stein's office. They agreed to the adoption of the remedial plan, known as the WestEd report. The 2019 report was paid for with money from the state and private foundations, including the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. The foundation was started by the founder of Capitol Broadcasting Co., which owns WRAL, and CBC executives sit on its board. State lawmakers are not a named party in the Leandro lawsuit and have not sought to be added as intervenors, so they can't appeal the ruling. They could file a separate lawsuit against it, claiming a violation of their constitutional powers. Or they could file suit against the treasurer, the controller or the Governor's Office, seeking an injunction to block the transfer of the money. Treasurer Dale Folwell, a Republican, has clashed with Cooper, a Democrat, and his administration many times. On Friday, however, Folwell's office wouldn't say whether he would comply with the court order. "We are currently reviewing the order with our legal staff and will get back to you once that process is complete," said spokesman Frank Lester. A complicating factor for Folwell is that he's an ex-officio member of the State Board of Education, which had agreed to the adoption of the remedial plan. It's our money, Dale. You'd better comply, or have your ass dragged into court.

DONTAE SHARPE (FINALLY) GETS HIS PARDON FROM GOVERNOR: North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday pardoned a man who spent 24 years behind bars for a murder he has long said he did not commit. Cooper’s pardon of innocence allows Dontae Sharpe to apply for compensation up to $750,000 for his wrongful conviction. “Mr. Sharpe and others who have been wrongly convicted deserve to have that injustice fully and publicly acknowledged," the governor said in a statement announcing he had pardoned the man after a careful review of the case. In 1995, Sharpe was given a life sentence at age 19 for the first-degree murder of 33-year-old George Radcliffe, whom he was accused of killing a year earlier during a drug deal. Sharpe had maintained his innocence throughout and said in a 2019 interview that his faith and knowledge he was innocent guided his refusal to accept offers of a lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. At a virtual news conference Friday just an hour after Cooper’s announcement, Sharpe said he was in disbelief when his lawyer called him with the news. He said he was still processing it and also was thinking of those who had taken to the streets and held vigils on his behalf. It shouldn't have taken so long, but It's good to see this.

BIDEN TO HOST NATIVE AMERICAN SUMMIT AGAIN POST-TRUMP: President Joe Biden will announce steps Monday to improve public safety and justice for Native Americans during the first tribal nations summit since 2016, the White House said. Leaders from more than 570 tribes in the United States are expected to join the two-day event, with nearly three dozen addressing the gathering. The summit is being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected Native Americans and Alaska Natives at disproportionate rates. Biden and first lady Jill Biden are set to speak on Monday, with Vice President Kamala Harris to follow on Tuesday. Several members of Biden's Cabinet will also participate. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the summit coincides with National Native American Heritage Month and is being hosted by the White House for the first time. The summit was not held during the previous Trump administration. Past conferences were held at the Interior Department. Since taking office in January, Biden has taken steps several steps that the White House says demonstrate his commitment to tribal nations. Among them are naming Deb Haaland, a former congresswoman from New Mexico, as t he first Native American to lead the Interior Department, the powerful federal agency that has wielded influence over U.S. tribes for generations. Haaland is a member of the Laguna Pueblo.

EVEN THE FBI IS PRONE TO BE HACKED: Hackers compromised the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s external email system on Saturday, sending spam emails to potentially thousands of people and companies with a faked warning of a cyberattack. The FBI said in a statement that the fake emails were sent from the Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal system used to communicate with state and local officials, not part of the FBI’s larger corporate email service. “No actor was able to access or compromise any data or (personally identifiable information) on FBI’s network,” the bureau said. “Once we learned of the incident we quickly remediated the software vulnerability, warned partners to disregard the fake emails, and confirmed the integrity of our networks.” Cybersecurity experts said the fact that the email didn’t include any malicious attachments could indicate the hackers stumbled across a vulnerability in the FBI portal and didn’t have a particular plan to exploit it. The compromised system was an unclassified server used by FBI personnel to communicate outside of the organization, and the hackers didn’t appear to have gained access to internal databases containing state secrets or classified information, said Berglas, who is now global head of professional services at cybersecurity firm BlueVoyant. I was extremely rude to a tech geek the other day, who was giggling about municipalities being forced to pay ransome to get their systems fixed. Not funny, int he slightest.