Thursday News: Virtually useless


FAILING ONLINE CHARTER SCHOOLS IN NC GIVEN GREEN LIGHT BY GOP: Senate Bill 522, which passed on a 25-18 vote, also would eliminate an enrollment cap for the state's two online charter schools, Connections Academy and North Carolina Virtual Academy. Neither of the schools is within 100 students of the 2,592-student cap put in place four years ago when they opened. The State Board of Education also could remove a 20 percent limit on annual enrollment growth. Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, said the measure should be dubbed the "Rewarding Failure Act," noting that both of the virtual schools have received "D" grades on the state's annual school performance report cards in their first three years of operation and that students taking online classes through them haven't met growth expectations.

SECOND CHANCE ACT AND LUMBEE RECOGNITION PASS IN SENATE: SB 562: The Second Chance Act bill would automatically expunge the records of people who had charges dismissed or were found not guilty of nonviolent and nonsexual crimes. The bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support after an amendment to take out language that would have included traffic violations. SB 218: This bill clarifies the state recognition of the Lumbee Indians, making them eligible for special programs and services for Native Americans. Britt, the bill’s sponsor, said that about 60,000 Lumbee Indians reside in Robeson County, where he’s from. He said the bill does not grant federal recognition of Lumbee Indians, though he thinks they should be recognized by the federal government. Rather, it would allow them to receive money to be able to assist with education and health care costs. Britt said that Lumbee Tribal Chair Harvey Godwin Jr. and a tribe council member were the ones to request the bill.

ABUSE AND FRAUD: WORD OF FAITH CULT "MINISTERS" HEADED TO JAIL: Prosecutors have said Covington's business Diverse Corporate Technologies laid off employees in 2008 so they could collect unemployment benefits. But the employees continued to work at the company, with government money replacing their salaries and essentially giving the business "free labor," according to court documents. Covington used his position as a church leader to coerce employees, many of whom were members of the congregation, to comply, prosecutors say. Covington and McKinny also encouraged other businesses owned or managed by church members to manipulate unemployment benefits in a similar way, according to the court documents filed this week. Prosecutors wrote this week that the schemes at multiple businesses cost the government hundreds of thousands of dollars. Covington was sentenced last month to 34 months in prison on a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Two others listed on a church website as ministers have been sentenced to probation after admitting fraud at a podiatry clinic.

TRUMP JUNIOR SUBPOENAED BY SENATE COMMITTEE OVER MEETING WITH RUSSIANS: The Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, who met with Russians in June 2016 after being promised political dirt about Hillary Clinton, according to people familiar with the committee’s decision. The younger Mr. Trump is the first of President Trump’s children to be subpoenaed in the continuing congressional investigations into Russia’s 2016 election interference, and the move by the Republican-led committee is a sign that some members of the president’s party are not aligned with his desire for a swift end to all of the Russia inquiries. The committee is particularly interested in the younger Mr. Trump’s account of the events surrounding the Trump Tower meeting — as well as his role in his father’s efforts to build a skyscraper in Moscow — and comparing the testimony to his previous answers to Senate investigators in 2017.

TRUMP BEGINS TO SOUR ON JOHN BOLTON AFTER VENEZUELA COUP FAILURE: President Trump is questioning his administration’s aggressive strategy in Venezuela following the failure of a U.S.-backed effort to oust President Nicolás Maduro, complaining he was misled about how easy it would be to replace the socialist strongman with a young opposition figure, according to administration officials and White House advisers. The president’s dissatisfaction has crystallized around national security adviser John Bolton and what Trump has groused is an interventionist stance at odds with his view that the United States should stay out of foreign quagmires. Trump has said in recent days that Bolton wants to get him “into a war” — a comment that he has made in jest in the past but that now betrays his more serious concerns, one senior administration official said. Trump has said that Maduro is a “tough cookie” and that aides should not have led him to believe that the Venezuelan leader could be ousted last week, when Guaidó led mass street protests that turned deadly. Instead, Maduro rejected an offer to leave the country and two key figures in his government backed out of what Bolton said had been a plan to defect.