JUDGE RULES STUDENTS & FACULTY HAVE NO SAY OVER SILENT SHAM: Judge Allen Baddour said UNC-Chapel Hill students and faculty did not prove their legal standing to intervene in the agreement. Their goal, along with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law that was representing them, was to reopen the case, stop the deal and recover the $2.5 million payment from UNC-CH for the preservation and display of the Confederate statue. The SCV also got an additional $74,999 from UNC not to display flags and banners on university campuses. That settlement was approved by the court in November, but now, the judge is taking a second look and wants to have another hearing to address whether the SCV had the authority to be involved at all. Baddour said once that issue is addressed, then there could be additional questions regarding the nature, terms and perhaps the ability of the court to have oversight or review of a trust, which holds the money for the monument.
NC GOP EFFORT TO KEEP TRUMP OPPONENTS OFF THE BALLOT FAILS: The North Carolina Republican Party submitted Trump's name – and only Trump's name – to the State Board of Elections in October. Former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, both of whom are waging uphill fights for the party's nomination, petitioned the state board to add them as well, as a number of states have done. North Carolina law allows the board to do this, provided the candidates are generally recognized to be candidates. The board, made up of three Democrats and two Republicans, voted unanimously to add them. The state party opposed the addition, with Executive Director Jonathan Sink arguing that no really knows these men are running for president. After the vote, Sink said the party's not concerned about the additions. "The president will resoundingly win," he said.
19 HAVE FILED TO RUN FOR MARK MEADOWS' CONGRESSIONAL SEAT: Ten additional people paid the filing fee Friday to run for the 11th Congressional District seat, bringing to 19 the number of candidates seeking to succeed Republican Rep. Mark Meadows. He announced on Thursday that he wouldn't seek reelection, hinting at a new job in the Trump administration. Friday's candidates included Wayne King, Meadows' deputy chief of staff, and Democrat Phillip Price, who lost to Meadows in the 2018 general election. On Thursday, Haywood County GOP leader Lynda Bennett and Republican state Sen. Jim Davis of Macon County filed for the seat. Five Democrats and two Republicans are running for the Triad-area 6th District seat while four Democrats, one Republican and a Libertarian are seeking Holding's seat, which now only includes Wake County. One 2nd District candidate is Democrat Deborah Ross, a former state legislator who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2016.
TRUMP IS STILL TRYING TO WITHHOLD FUNDING FOR UKRAINE? Senior Trump administration officials in recent days threatened a presidential veto that could have led to a government shutdown if House Democrats refused to drop language requiring prompt release of future military aid for Ukraine, according to five administration and congressional officials. The language was ultimately left out of mammoth year-end spending legislation that passed the House and Senate this week ahead of a Saturday shutdown deadline. The White House said President Trump signed the $1.4 trillion package Friday night. The Ukraine provision was one of several items the White House drew a hard line on during negotiations to finalize the spending legislation, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the developments. It would have required the White House to swiftly release $250 million in defense money for Ukraine that was part of the spending package. The impeachment inquiry focused in part on a Pentagon program called the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and how it was handled for the 2019 fiscal year. Trump ultimately allowed the money in the program to be released in September after a whistleblower complaint about his July 25 phone call with Zelensky made its way to Capitol Hill. The Ukraine provision that was kept out of this week’s spending bill involved the same program and the same amount of money, but for the 2020 fiscal year, which ends next September.
CONSERVATIVE NEWS OUTLET TIED TO FAKE FACEBOOK ACCOUNTS CREATED BY ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: The people behind the network of 610 Facebook accounts, 89 Facebook Pages, 156 Groups and 72 Instagram accounts posted about political news and issues in the United States, including President Trump’s impeachment, conservative ideology, political candidates, trade and religion. “This was a large, brazen network that had multiple layers of fake accounts and automation that systematically posted content with two ideological focuses: support of Donald Trump and opposition to the Chinese government,” Mr. Brookie said in an interview. The Atlantic Council’s lab and another company, Graphika, which also studies disinformation, released a joint report analyzing the Facebook takedown. The Epoch Media Group denied in an email sent to The New York Times that it was linked to the network targeted by Facebook, and said that Facebook had not contacted the company before publishing its conclusions. The people behind the network used artificial intelligence to generate profile pictures, Facebook said. They relied on a type of artificial intelligence called generative adversarial networks. These networks can, through a process called machine learning, teach themselves to create realistic images of faces, even though they do not belong to a real person.