NC COVID METRICS CONTINUE DOWNWARD TREND, LESS THAN 1,000 HOSPITALIZED: At least 989,338 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 12,862 have died since March 2020, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,501 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, up from 1,394 reported the day before. At least 926 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Friday, a slight increase from 925 the day before. As of Wednesday, the latest day for which data is available, 3.8% of coronavirus tests were reported positive. Roughly 51% of adults in North Carolina have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and 45.9% are fully vaccinated as of Thursday.
ASHEVILLE IS SET TO REMOVE ZEBULON VANCE MONUMENT: Work to demolish and remove a 75-foot-tall stone obelisk built to honor a Confederate leader will begin soon in Asheville, North Carolina. City officials said barricades have been placed around the Vance Monument ahead of work that will begin this week, TV station WLOS reported. Asheville City Council members voted 6-1 in March to remove the monument, the culmination of a decision-making process that began after the police killing of George Floyd. Built in 1897, the obelisk honors Zebulon Vance, a former North Carolina governor, U.S. senator and Confederate military officer. The city has said the monument is located on a site where enslaved people are believed to have been sold. According to the city, temporary restoration will be completed by a local Black-owned business while planners and community organizers work with the public on a long-term plan for the site.
SPACE FORCE COMMANDER FIRED OVER CONSPIRACY-LACED COMMENTARY TO SELL BOOK: Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier published his book, “Irresistible Revolution: Marxism’s Goal of Conquest & the Unmaking of the American Military,” this week and appeared on multiple conservative podcasts to promote it, each time criticizing Defense Department leadership and accusing the agency of pushing an agenda that is “rooted in Marxism.” Lohmeier, who spent more than a decade with the Air Force before joining the military’s newest branch in 2020, was fired Friday for his comments, a move first reported by Military.com a day later and confirmed by The Washington Post on Sunday. Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, the head of Space Operations Command, relieved Lohmeier of his command of a Colorado-based squadron that detects ballistic missile launches “due to loss of trust and confidence in his ability to lead,” a Space Force spokesperson said in a statement. In interviews, Lohmeier has repeatedly criticized critical race theory, an academic framework that examines how policies perpetuate systemic racism. Lately, its denunciation has become a conservative rallying cry in the country’s culture war, with some state governments and school boards seeking to exclude it and other racial equity work from curriculums. Lohmeier also said the New York Times’ 1619 Project, a collection of magazine articles about how slavery shaped the nation, is “anti-American.” Both lines of attack echo those of former president Donald Trump, who raged against both the Times project and critical race theory.
ARIZONA REPUBLICANS AT ODDS OVER INSANE TRUMP RECOUNT EFFORT: An Arizona Republican who heads up the county elections department that is the target of a GOP audit of the 2020 election results condemned former president Donald Trump for continuing to push false claims of electoral fraud months after his defeat and called his recent comments “unhinged.” Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer on Saturday called on Republicans to stop supporting Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud and slammed the former president for falsely accusing Maricopa County of deleting an elections database. “This is unhinged,” Richer tweeted, adding that he was “literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen. Right now. We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country.” Richer’s comments reflect the escalating tensions over what Republicans in Arizona’s largest county see as a controversial election review commissioned by the GOP-led state Senate. After using a legislative subpoena to seize Maricopa County’s 2.1 million ballots and its voting machines, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann (R) has pushed for county supervisors to come to the chamber to answer questions from the private auditors she has hired to conduct the review. Before his tweets Saturday, Richer, who became recorder in January after defeating a Democratic incumbent, was outspoken about his disgust over Republicans continuing to rally around Trump’s false election claims. “Enough with the defamation. Enough with the unfounded allegations,” Richer tweeted Thursday. “I came to this office to competently, fairly, and lawfully administer the duties of the office. Not to be accused by own party of shredding ballots and deleting files for an election I didn’t run. Enough.”
WILD HORSE ADOPTION PROGRAM LEADS THEM TO THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE: The Bureau of Land Management, which is in charge of caring for the nation’s wild horses, created the $1,000-a-head Adoption Incentive Program in 2019 because it wanted to move a huge surplus of mustangs and burros out of government corrals and find them “good homes.” Thousands of first-time adopters signed up, and the bureau hailed the program as a success. But records show that instead of going to good homes, truckloads of horses were dumped at slaughter auctions as soon as their adopters got the federal money. A program intended to protect wild horses was instead subsidizing their path to destruction. “This is the government laundering horses,” said Brieanah Schwartz, a lawyer for the advocacy group American Wild Horse Campaign, which has tracked the program. “They call it adoptions, knowing the horses are going to slaughter. But this way the B.L.M. won’t get its fingerprints on it.” The bureau denies the allegations, noting that the government requires all adopters to sign affidavits promising not to resell the horses to slaughterhouses or their middlemen. But a spokesman said the bureau had no authority to enforce those agreements or to track the horses once adopters have title to them. The papers show that many adopters who quickly resell live in stretches of the Great Plains where pasture is cheap and people often derive a living from several sources. These adopters often took the maximum number of horses and sent them to auction soon after their final government payments cleared. Lonnie Krause, a rancher in Bison, S.D., adopted four horses in 2019, and so did his grandson. In an interview, he said he saw nothing wrong with sending the mustangs to auction and acknowledged that they would probably go to kill buyers. “It’s economics,” he said. “I can make about $800 putting a calf on my land for a year. With the horses, I made $1,000, then turned around and sold them for $500.”