Wednesday News: All aboard...

PROPOSED HIGH-SPEED RAIL LINE WOULD CONNECT RALEIGH TO RICHMOND: A blockbuster deal announced last week between freight railroad CSX and the state of Virginia includes something for North Carolina that will help with the development of high-speed rail between Raleigh and Richmond. CSX agreed to allow the N.C. Department of Transportation to eventually acquire about 10 miles of railroad right-of-way in Warren County, between Ridgeway and the Virginia state line. Virginia will acquire another 65 miles of the CSX line from the state line north to near Petersburg. The state’s long-term plans for rail service include passenger trains capable of going 110 miles per hour between Raleigh and Richmond on the S-line. Orthner says the tracks also could be used eventually for commuter rail service between downtown Raleigh and Wake Forest. NCDOT is working to eliminate railroad crossings on the CSX line in Wake County by building bridges, starting with Durant and New Hope Church roads in Raleigh.

AT UNC-CHAPEL HILL, BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING CONSTANTLY: Instead of GPS coordinates, the schools rely on networks of Bluetooth transmitters and wireless access points to piece together students’ movements from dorm to desk. One company that uses school WiFi networks to monitor movements says it gathers 6,000 location data points per student every day. School and company officials call location monitoring a powerful booster for student success: If they know more about where students are going, they argue, they can intervene before problems arise. But some schools go even further, using systems that calculate personalized “risk scores” based on factors such as whether the student is going to the library enough. In August, near the start of the fall semester, nearly 150 SpotterEDU beacons were installed in a blitz across the UNC campus, from Chapman Hall to the Woollen Gym. The launch was so sudden that some students were alarmed to see an unknown man enter their classroom, stick a small device near their desks, and walk away. The student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, reported on “an individual” entering class to install a “tracking device” and filed for school records related to the SpotterEDU contract.

NORTH CAROLINA WAS SECOND-TO-LAST STATE TO APPROVE WOMEN'S SUFFRAGE, 50 YEARS LATER: Koonts said that when the first women’s suffrage bill went to the Committee on Insane Asylums, which was chaired by the legislator who filed the bill, Rep. J.L. Hyatt of Yanceyville, “he knew that was a signal that they didn’t want it to pass.” North Carolina’s copy of the 19th Amendment was pulled from its vault in the State Archives for the exhibit. Although the state would have gotten the copy not long after the amendment was ratified in 1920, North Carolina didn’t sign off on it until more than 50 years later. In 1971, a lobbyist for the League of Women Voters called the oversight to the attention of Willis Whichard, a retired state Supreme Court justice who was then 30 years old and serving his first term in the state House. The bill passed with no opposition in the House or Senate, he said. The only state to wait longer to ratify the amendment is Mississippi, which signed off on it in 1984.

TRUMP'S AIRING OF GRIEVANCES A CLASSIC FESTIVUS TRADITION: “She hates the Republican Party,” Trump said of Pelosi, predicting that she would lose her speakership. “She hates all of the people who voted for me and the Republican Party. . . . She’s doing a tremendous disservice to the country.” Speaking to reporters who had just witnessed his teleconference from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump aired an array of grievances about the impeachment process, claiming that Democrats “had no evidence at all” about misconduct in his dealings with Ukraine and that he is “in a very good position” as he faces a trial in the Senate. “Now they come to the Senate, and they want everything,” Trump said, repeating claims that he did not receive “due process” in the House proceedings. Trump was invited to participate in the Judiciary Committee hearings that preceded his impeachment but refused to do so. He was impeached on a charge of obstruction of Congress after blocking several witnesses from his administration from providing documents and testimony sought by House Democrats. Trump also again took aim Tuesday at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a key player in gathering evidence, calling him “a sick, corrupt politician.” “Fortunately, we have a president who was able to plow through all of the stuff that went on and that goes on,” Trump said.

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ZAMBIA REMOVED AFTER COMMENTS ON GAY RIGHTS AND CORRUPTION: The United States recalled its ambassador to Zambia on Monday after he criticized the government for sending a gay couple to prison and accused officials of stealing millions of dollars of public funds. The ambassador, Daniel L. Foote had, described the treatment of the gay couple as “horrifying” — setting off outrage in Zambia, a conservative Christian country. But analysts said that the main reason for his departure was that he had repeatedly declared that ministry officials had misappropriated millions. In an unusually combative public statement for a member of the diplomatic corps, Mr. Foote had said that the Zambian government “wants foreign diplomats to be compliant, with open pocketbooks and closed mouths​.” Mr. Foote’s comments set off recriminations in Zambia, a copper-producing, landlocked country in southern Africa. Zambia’s president, Edgar Lungu, said he did not want Mr. Foote in the country, even if Zambia risked losing its annual $500 million in American aid. Mr. Foote is a career diplomat who was appointed ambassador to Zambia by President Trump in November 2017. In his statement, released in early December, Mr. Foote said that the Zambian foreign minister had accused him of interfering in internal affairs for speaking out about the “harsh sentencing of a homosexual couple.”