Saturday News: Nothing or double


BILL WOULD STOP DOCKING TEACHERS FOR PERSONAL DAYS, IF THEY GIVE A REASON: Currently, teachers who use personal leave on days when classes are in session are charged $50 to help schools cover the cost of finding a substitute teacher. But the state House unanimously passed legislation on Thursday that waives the “required substitute deduction” for teachers if they provide a reason to their principal for taking personal leave. “This bill creates an avenue for teachers to be able to utilize their personal leave benefit without being docked $50 a day from their pay,” Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, a Wilkes County Republican and the bill’s primary sponsor, said Thursday. But if House Bill 362 becomes law, teachers who don’t provide a reason would be charged the full cost of hiring a substitute, which could be more than $100 a day. The bill now goes to the Senate.

25% OF LAWMAKERS IN NC HOUSE GOT PPP LOANS FROM FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: WRAL News tallied PPP loans extended to businesses that House members or their close family have an interest in by pulling Statements of Economic Interest on all 120 members. The private businesses listed on these disclosures, which are required by law, were then run through a publicly available database of PPP loans. Lawmakers also disclose publicly traded companies in which they own at least $10,000 stock, but those companies were not included in this analysis. Neither were companies where House members may work, but where they're not in leadership and neither they nor a close family member own a controlling interest. At least 30 of the House's 120 members list entities on their disclosure forms that were approved for loans. For 13, the loans topped $100,000. Most of the rest ran five figures. The smallest was less than $2,700. Several lawmakers said businesses listed are owned by close family members. The state's disclosure rules generally require lawmakers to list companies owned by spouses and any other family members with whom they live.

JUDGE IN ANDREW BROWN CASE WILL ONLY LET FAMILY SEE 20 MINUTES OF 2 HOURS OF VIDEO: Foster's ruling on Thursday limits what the family can see of the encounter, which occurred while deputies were serving a drug-related search warrant at Brown's home. The family will be able to view less than 20 minutes of the nearly two hours of video that was recorded. “The portions of the videos withheld are found to not contain images of the deceased, and thus are not appropriate for disclosure at this time,” Foster wrote. Foster’s order also contained a brief description of the footage. The judge wrote that Brown “attempted to flee the scene and escape apprehension” and that “at least one and as many as three officers fired their weapons into the vehicle operated by Brown.” Brown's shooting on April 21 has drawn national attention to the small, majority Black city in the state's rural northeastern corner. And many city residents — as well as nationally prominent civil rights leaders and attorneys — are demanding full release of the footage over concerns that the shooting was unjustified and that Brown was “executed.” Family members have so far only been allowed to view a 20-second clip from a single body camera. Family attorney Chantel Cherry-Lassiter told reporters last week that shots were heard from the instant the clip started with Brown’s car in his driveway and his hands on the steering wheel.

TRUMP'S DOJ GOT PHONE RECORDS OF REPORTERS DURING RUSSIA SCANDAL: The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained Washington Post journalists’ phone records and tried to obtain their email records over reporting they did in the early months of the Trump administration on Russia’s role in the 2016 election, according to government letters and officials. Cameron Barr, The Post’s acting executive editor, said: “We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists. The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment.” News organizations and First Amendment advocates have long decried the government practice of seizing journalists’ records in an effort to identify the sources of leaks, saying it unjustly chills critical newsgathering. The last such high-profile seizure of reporters’ communications records came several years ago as part of an investigation into the source of stories by a reporter who worked at BuzzFeed, Politico and the New York Times. The stories at issue there also centered around 2017 reporting on the investigation into Russian election interference. Parts of the timeline of the leak investigation are still unclear, and many of those details are often withheld by investigators. Under Justice Department regulations that guide investigations involving media records, the department is usually required to eventually tell the news organization that it took the step of obtaining such records. In this case, the decision to get the records occurred during the Trump administration and the notification of the reporters fell to the Biden administration.

CYBER ATTACK FORCES COLONIAL PIPELINE OPERATOR TO SHUT DOWN TEMPORARILY: A cyberattack forced the shutdown of one of the largest pipelines in the United States, in what appeared to be a significant attempt to disrupt vulnerable energy infrastructure. The pipeline carries refined gasoline and jet fuel up the East Coast from Texas to New York. The operator of the system, Colonial Pipeline, said in a statement late Friday that it had shut down its 5,500 miles of pipeline, which it says carries 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel supplies, in an effort to contain the attack on its computer networks. Earlier Friday, there were disruptions along the pipeline, but it was unclear whether that was a direct result of the attack. Colonial’s pipeline transports 2.5 million barrels each day, taking refined gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel from the Gulf Coast up to New York Harbor and New York’s major airports. Most of that goes into major storage tanks, and with energy use depressed by the pandemic, the attack was unlikely to cause any immediate disruptions. The breach comes just months after two major attacks on American computer networks — the SolarWinds intrusion by Russia’s main intelligence service, and another against a Microsoft email service that has been attributed to Chinese hackers — that have illustrated the vulnerability of the networks on which the government and corporations rely. While both of those attacks appeared aimed, at least initially, on the theft of emails and other data, the nature of the intrusions created “back doors” that experts say could ultimately enable attacks on physical infrastructure. So far, neither effort is thought to have led to anything other than data theft.

MASSIVE COLONIAL PIPELINE SPILL IN HUNTERSVILLE EXPOSES DANGERS OF ENTIRE 5,500 MILE SYSTEM: Federal investigators have warned Colonial Pipeline that because of poor operational procedures, the company’s entire 5,500-mile pipeline could jeopardize public safety, property or the environment. A 1.2 million-gallon gasoline spill in Huntersville, which occurred last summer, prompted the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to investigate Colonial’s operation and maintenance systems. Problems identified in the Huntersville spill potentially exist throughout the Colonial Pipeline system, the PHMSA wrote. “The conditions that led to the failure potentially exist throughout the Colonial Pipeline System. Further Colonial’s inability to effectively detect and respond to this release, as well as other past releases, has potentially exacerbated the impacts of this and numerous other failures over the operational history of colonial’s entire system. … it appears that the continued operation of the Colonial Pipeline system without corrective measures would pose a pipeline integrity risk to public safety, property or the environment.”