Thursday News: Forest burning down


LINDBERG TAPES REVEAL DEEPER CONNECTIONS TO LT. GOVERNOR: "Well, some of what happened to Dan Forest was, was strategic, and there's more to it," Gray told Causey during a May 2018 phone conversation. "What you can see of it is not even the tip of an iceberg. There's a lot more to it than anybody knows, and I'm not at liberty to discuss it." Even though Causey didn't ask for details, Gray kept stressing discretion. "It's just not the kinds of things to be discussed publicly," he said, according to an FBI transcript. "Well, I certainly appreciate," Causey began, before Gray cut him off. "The best way to win a primary is not to have one," he said. Forest's campaign spokesman said it's "impossible to speculate" what Gray meant, and he accused WRAL News of trying "to smear the solid reputation of the lieutenant governor by innuendo, hearsay, guilt by association or any other means available."

UNC SYSTEM SCHOOLS MOVE TO ONLINE CLASSES, NO FANS AT ACC BASKETBALL GAMES: The NCAA announced that March Madness games, including those in Greensboro, still would be played, but with fans watching from the safety of their homes rather than from seats in packed arenas. The ACC Tournament, going on now in Greensboro, will keep out fans starting Thursday. The UNC System announced all of its schools will move to online classes for the time being to get students out of classrooms. Some employers are sending their workers home to do their jobs until it’s safe to return to the crowded cubicle farms. State health officials have been focused on slowing the spread of the illness out of concerns that a sudden spike in the number of cases — especially severe cases requiring hospitalization — could overwhelm the capacity of medical resources to care for them. “I’m less focused on how many people ultimately will be impacted by coronavirus,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. “What I want to see is that spread to be as slow as possible.”

HARVEY WEINSTEIN SENTENCED TO 23 YEARS FOR RAPE: Harvey Weinstein was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years in prison after breaking his courtroom silence with a rambling plea for mercy in which he professed to be "totally confused" by the #MeToo movement that spelled the Hollywood producer's downfall. His accusers — those who testified against him and many others who have spoken out elsewhere against the former Hollywood mogul — hailed the near-maximum punishment for his rape and criminal sex act convictions as long overdue. The 67-year-old Weinstein, who arrived at the courthouse Wednesday in a wheelchair and was taken to a hospital after complaining of chest pains hours after the court hearing, could spend the rest of his life behind bars. He was convicted last month of raping a once-aspiring actress in a New York City hotel room in 2013 and forcibly performing oral sex on former TV and film production assistant Mimi Haleyi at his apartment in 2006. He faced a minimum of five years and a maximum of 29 years in prison.

TRUMP BANS AIR TRAVEL FROM EUROPE (SANS UK) TO UNITED STATES OVER "FOREIGN" VIRUS: President Donald Trump said Wednesday he is suspending all travel between the U.S. and Europe for 30 days beginning Friday as he seeks to combat a viral pandemic. Trump made the announcement in an Oval Office address to the nation, blaming the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the “foreign virus” and saying U.S. clusters were “seeded” by European travelers. “We made a lifesaving move with early action on China,” Trump said. “Now we must take the same action with Europe.” Trump said the restrictions won’t apply to the United Kingdom and the U.S. would monitor the situation to determine if travel could be reopened earlier. Trump said the U.S. will will defer tax payments for some individual and business filers for three months to lessen the impacts of the virus outbreak. He said the Small Business Administration will also make low-interest loans available to businesses to help them weather the storm. “This is not a financial crisis,” he said. “This just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world.”

TOM HANKS TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID 19 IN AUSTRALIA, WHERE TESTING IS WIDESPREAD AND FREE: Tom Hanks had a cold, or so he thought: slight fever, body aches, chills, the usual. In the United States, those symptoms may not be enough to get tested for the new coronavirus. But he and his wife, Rita Wilson, who also felt sick, weren’t at home — they were in Australia. Here, testing is free and widely available, thanks to early and coordinated planning for a pandemic. On Thursday, Mr. Hanks said he and his wife had seen the efforts firsthand, as they tested positive for the virus. Days after China shared the genome of the virus, Australia’s private testing industry — which handles everything from blood tests to stool samples — was mobilized, with the government making tests free through Medicare, the national health care plan. Public health officials set up a national hotline for people who think they might have the virus. States have set up web pages with locations for coronavirus testing, which has mostly been taking place in hospital wards set apart from regular emergency rooms. Anyone with symptoms who has traveled through countries with an outbreak of the virus, or who might have come into contact with someone who did or who seems sick, can be tested. There is even a drive-through clinic in South Australia that will let you stay in your car for a swab, a model also used in South Korea. In the United States, little if anything about the process has been efficient or convenient. Tests have been slow to arrive across the country, in part because of a manufacturing problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.