Tuesday News: Another one bites the dust


TRUMP FIRES SECRETARY OF STATE REX TILLERSON: President Donald Trump ousted Rex Tillerson as secretary of state Tuesday, making a surprise Twitter announcement that he's naming CIA director Mike Pompeo to replace him. "Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State," Trump tweeted. "He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!" A White House official said Trump wanted to have a new team in place ahead of upcoming talks with North Korea and various trade talks. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.

WATCHDOG GROUP WARNS OF TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DESTROYING DATA: In a new report to be released Tuesday, watchdog group Public Citizen outlined 25 ways President Donald Trump and federal agencies have conducted a so-called war on information over the last 14 months, largely eliminating data it finds inconvenient. In most cases, the information already had been previously collected by the government. But in other cases, a plan was in place for the government to start collecting the information. “A president who cares little about facts and has a dubious understanding of the concept of truthfulness sets the tone for his overall administration,” Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, told McClatchy. “But it’s not just that the administration is sloppy with the facts; it has engaged in a deliberate campaign to suppress information that contradicts its corporate and ideological extremist agenda.”

HOUSE INTEL PANEL TO RELEASE WHITEWASHED RUSSIA REPORT: Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have completed a draft report concluding there was no collusion or coordination between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia, a finding that pleased the White House but enraged Democrats who had not yet seen the document. After a yearlong investigation, Texas Rep. Mike Conaway announced Monday that the committee has finished interviewing witnesses and will share the report with Democrats for the first time Tuesday. Conaway is the Republican leading the House probe, one of several investigations on Russian meddling in the 2016 elections. "We found no evidence of collusion," Conaway told reporters, suggesting that those who believe there was collusion are reading too many spy novels.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER ACCUSES RUSSIA OF USING NERVE AGENT IN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT: May said British scientists have determined that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok, a class of nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union near the end of the Cold War. She said it was “highly likely” the substance came from Russia, and there were two possible explanations. “Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others,” she said. May said Britain had given the Russian ambassador in London a deadline of Tuesday to explain which version is true. She said Russia must also “provide full and complete disclosure” of its Novichok program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the oversight body for the international chemical weapons convention.

RALEIGH AREA STUDENTS TO WALK OUT OF SCHOOL TOMORROW TO PROTEST GUN VIOLENCE: Students at schools across the Triangle are planning to take part in a National School Walkout on Wednesday morning to call for an end to school gun violence. The Women's March Youth EMPOWER is encouraging students across the country to walk out Wednesday at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes — one minute for each of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14. Students at public and private Triangle schools, ranging from elementary through high school, have registered to take part in the protest. "We urge Apex High School students to walkout on March 14th to show our government that we will not continue to accept the threat of violence in our schools.," tweeted Why Apex Walks, the group organizing the Apex High School walkout. "We will not run from this. We will walk out in solidarity to ensure our futures."



Sunshine award recipients:

Although they had to cancel their event yesterday due to inclement weather, the NC Open Government Coalition has chosen these three folks for going above and beyond:

Today the N.C. Open Government Coalition is pleased to recognize three citizens whose work has helped make and keep North Carolina government transparent. They represent three different categories of people who work on government transparency issues: public officials, journalists and advocates.

Government: William McKinney, general counsel in the Office of the Governor, is the winner of the 2018 Sunshine Award in government. The Coalition is honoring McKinney because of the work he has done since joining the governor's office to help make executive branch agencies transparency. The person who nominated McKinney wrote: "Mr. McKinney has been integral to ensuring the administration is governed by the highest principles of transparency. McKinney was integral to resolving the long running public records litigation that had been filed by the media and public interest groups against (the governor's office)."

Journalism: Nick Ochsner, investigative reporter at WBTV News in Charlotte, is the winner of the 2018 Sunshine Award in journalism. Ochsner was nominated for his dogged pursuit of public records at all levels of government, including his requests for text messages from the sheriffs of Ashe and Union counties. In both instances the station brought public records lawsuits against the sheriffs, and in Ashe County the sheriff was removed from office over his handling of the records requests.

Advocacy: Will Hendrick of the Waterkeeper Alliance is the winner of the 2018 Sunshine Award for advocacy. During his time as an attorney with the Waterkeeper Alliance and before that with the Southern Environmental Law Center, Hendrick has doggedly pursued access to public records. Last year he settled a dispute with the N.C. Department of Agriculture, which had attempted to charge more than $4,000 in fees to inspect records related to Hurricane Matthew. In the settlement, the department agreed to provide the records and change its policy so that people who wished to inspect records were not charged a fee.

Good work.

Sunshine losers...

I probably should have dropped that over on the Twitter post, but it's too late now. It's...not too late, I haven't even posted this comment yet. And even if I had, I could just delete it here and post it over there, but that seems like a lot of work and I'm too busy writing this supposedly humorous comment to take the time to do so. And now that I've written this, I really can't move it because it would make even less sense.

I really need to get out of this house, I wonder how the roads are...