AFFORDABLE HOUSING BUILDER GREGG WARREN GETS NOD FROM N&O: Warren’s long commitment to affordable housing is why The News & Observer chose him as its Tar Heel of the Year. The honor comes as the need for housing affordability has emerged as a top issue in the Triangle, and concerns arise about gentrification displacing existing residents. Voters in Durham just approved a $95 million bond for affordable housing, and Raleigh’s new City Council is expected to put a bond before voters as well. “I think there’s an understanding that growth in our region is dependent on many who don’t earn a lot of great wages,” Warren says. “And I think that if we can’t deal with the wage issue, perhaps at least we can make some impact with the housing cost issue, which is the largest single cost that people typically incur.” People who have worked with Warren over the years describe him as an astute businessman with a passion for helping people of modest means.
REPORT SAYS JORDAN LAKE USERS SHOULD PAY FOR CLEANUP: Towns in Wake County that take drinking water from Jordan Lake should help shoulder the costs of cleaning it up, says a new report from UNC-Chapel Hill. The recommendation to spread the costs of Jordan Lake’s clean-up was included in a final report to legislators on how to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus, the nutrients that feed algae. A “water quality fee” allocated to towns each year — 5 cents per 1,000 gallons of water — would generate about $2 million annually, the report said. Having more money would help pay for projects that reduce pollution and for continuous water quality monitoring. It’s important to make sure the costs are equitably distributed, said Mike Piehler, director of the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute for the Environment and the study leader, in a news release that accompanied the report last week. “It is likely that management actions are going to be occurring in places well upstream of the lake,” Piehler said in a statement. “This creates a situation in which areas taking action may not be receiving services directly, such as drinking water. This issue was a focal point of our study and resulted in specific ideas to generate revenue in a fair manner.”
TRUMP PROMOTES AIDE WHO REFUSED CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENA: The aide, Robert Blair, has been named a special representative for international telecommunications policy, the White House said in a statement Monday evening. According to the House report on the Ukraine inquiry, Blair sent an email “on or about July 12” to Michael Duffey, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, explaining that the “president is directing a hold on military support for Ukraine.” The report also said that Blair was among the officials who listened in on the July 25 telephone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has asked that Blair and Mulvaney along with Duffey and former national security adviser John Bolton, testify at the impeachment trial in the Senate. So far, Schumer’s request for the witnesses has been rebuffed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
NORTH KOREA NEVER STOPPED TESTING ITS NUKES, REGARDLESS OF TRUMP'S JIBBER-JABBER: The experiment at North Korea’s Sohae test stand — one of two at the complex in the past month — has fueled speculation about the nature of the “Christmas gift” that leader Kim Jong Un promised if nuclear talks with the Trump administration remained stalled. Satellite cameras in recent weeks have spotted preparatory work at several locations where North Korea assembled or tested new missiles in the past. But the recent surge in activity also appears to confirm something that U.S. intelligence agencies have long suspected: Despite a self-imposed moratorium on testing its most advanced missiles over the past two years, North Korea has never halted its efforts to build powerful new weapons. Indeed, Kim’s scientists appear to have used the lull to quietly improve and expand the country’s arsenal, U.S. and East Asian officials say. U.S. analysts say the two tests at Sohae appear to reflect months of continued work on North Korea’s arsenal of potent liquid-fueled missiles, which already includes two ICBMs, the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15, capable of striking the United States. But the country’s scientists have demonstrated progress on other kinds of missiles as well.
TRUMP ADMIN SET TO ABANDON COUNTER-TERRORISM MISSIONS IN AFRICA: The discussions of a large-scale pullback from West Africa include abandoning a recently built $110 million drone base in Niger and ending assistance to French forces battling militants in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The deliberations stem from a push to reduce post-9/11 missions battling terrorist groups, and instead to refocus Pentagon priorities on confronting so-called Great Powers like Russia and China. The primary mission of the American troops has been to train and assist West African security forces to try to suppress Islamist groups like Boko Haram and offshoots of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. As part of that mission, four American soldiers were ambushed and killed two years ago while on patrol in Niger. Mr. Esper’s team has questioned the value of those efforts and wants to scale back missions to counter militants who lack the demonstrated ability and intent to attack the United States on its own soil, the officials said. None of the terrorist groups operating in West Africa are said to meet this heightened assessment standard.