Tuesday News: Love wins over Hate

GREENSBORO COLLEGE STUDENTS STAND AGAINST WESTBORO BAPTIST BIGOTS: Three Westboro Baptist protesters stood with signs at South Josephine Boyd Street and Spring Garden Street, on the sidewalk in front of a Walgreens drug store and across from the UNCG campus. A crowd of several hundred UNCG students and other counterprotesters occupied the other three corners. University and Greensboro police were on all four. Police surrounded the Westboro protesters, who weren’t approached during their vigil. Counterprotesters waved rainbow-colored signs and umbrellas and passed out rainbow-colored stickers. They sang "Let it Shine" and "We Shall Overcome," accompanied by a UNCG student on a four-string hybrid instrument known as a banjolele. An ad-hoc brass band of about a dozen students warmed up with scales, then launched into "Let's Go Band" ("Bum bum bum bun-um ..."), "Jingle Bells" and snippets of other pop and pep band tones. The crowd, which grew as the counterprotest continued, clapped and cheered every few minutes whenever a passing motorist honked.

MARK JOHNSON'S ISTATION BOONDOGGLE HITTING CLASSROOMS IN DECEMBER: Some North Carolina elementary schools will test students soon using a new computer-based program, even though the legal fight continues over whether the multi-million-dollar state contract for the program was properly awarded. The state Department of Information Technology is deciding whether state education officials were correct in awarding a three-year, $8.3 million contract for Istation to be used to assess K-3 students in the Read To Achieve program. Some school districts say they can’t wait for a decision because they’re required under Read To Achieve to test their students. The testing will begin in December at year-round elementary schools, with traditional-calendar elementary schools using Istation in January. “Istation is the only qualifying assessment tool that the state is funding, and DPS cannot wait any longer for the state dispute to be resolved if we are to meet our legal obligations,” Chip Sudderth, a spokesman for Durham Public Schools, said in a statement. “Therefore, we are reluctantly moving forward with offering the Istation assessment to K-3 students this year.”

AFTER MARATHON 2019 NCGA SESSION, LIMITING THE DAYS VIA LAW IS BEING DISCUSSED: As the dust settles on the second-longest legislation session in North Carolina history, some say it's time for the state to seriously consider session limits. North Carolina is one of just 11 states – the only one in the South – with no limits on how long legislative sessions can last. Georgia’s session is only 40 days long. Virginia allows 60 days in even years and 30 days in odd years. Tennessee has a 90-day session limit. Alabama's limit is just 30 days. South Carolina’s sessions can go up to five months, but they have to finish work on the first Thursday of June. North Carolina’s session this year ran 156 legislative days over 11 months. "It saves money. It makes it more efficient," McLennan said Monday. "One of the first reasons states started limiting their sessions is to eliminate frivolous bills that don’t produce laws, so they’ve made it very efficient, and they also allow for a citizen legislature."

ARMY OFFICIALS STEP UP SECURITY FOR VINDMAN AND FAMILY AFTER TRUMP TWITTER ATTACKS: The Army has been monitoring security for Vindman and is ready to move him and his family to an Army base if necessary to protect them from threats, according to a person familiar with the discussions. At the Army’s request, local police in the Virginia suburb where Vindman lives had stepped up drive-by patrols around his home last week, and Army officials continue to assess whether their national security aide needs to be relocated for additional protection. Vindman sounded an early alarm about Trump’s July 25 call with the Ukraine president, and complained Trump’s request for an investigation of his political rival was improper and disturbing. Vindman and his twin brother Yevgeny and their families have been concerned about their personal safety in the wake of President Trump’s denouncing Vindman as a “Never Trumper witness” and Fox News host Laura Ingraham described Vindman as “a U.S. national security official . . . working inside the White House, apparently against the president’s interests.”

TRUMP HANDS OVER THE WEST BANK TO ISRAELI SETTLER MOVEMENT: The Trump administration declared on Monday that the United States does not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law, reversing four decades of American policy and removing what has been an important barrier to annexation of Palestinian territory. The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the latest political gift from the Trump administration to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed in two elections this year to push for the annexation of the West Bank. His chief opponent, Benny Gantz, has until Wednesday night to gather a majority in Israel’s Parliament or he will relinquish his chance to form a new government, raising the prospect of a third round of elections. The United States has in the past described the settlements as illegitimate, and Palestinians have demanded the land for a future state, a goal that has been backed by the United Nations, European governments and American allies across the Middle East.