NC SUPREME COURT LOOKS AT VOTER ID AND TAX CAP AMENDMENTS: The North Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case that could ultimately throw out the state’s voter ID law and help answer a question about legislative power: If a general assembly is elected through illegally gerrymandered maps, should it lose any of its power to change state law? The federal courts threw out those maps in 2018, but court-ordered new maps weren’t in place until the regular 2018 elections. Republicans lost their supermajorities in the House and Senate in those elections, meaning they didn't have enough seats in both chambers put a constitutional amendment on the ballot without Democratic help. But the GOP had already used those supermajorities to put six constitutional amendments on the ballot that November, a process that requires a three-fifths vote in both chambers, followed by a successful statewide referendum. Voters approved four of those amendments. The lawsuit argues that an illegally elected legislature shouldn’t be able to start the amendment process. Honestly, I don't care what the voters wanted. A supermajority of them already have an ID, so that was bound to pass. And asking them to set a limit on their own personal taxes? Come on. They don't call it the "tyranny of the majority" for nothing.
THE CLOCK IS TICKING ON REPLACEMENT MAPS FOR NC CONGRESSIONAL AND LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS: North Carolina legislators on Tuesday rushed to assemble replacement redistricting maps to comply by week's end with a state Supreme Court ruling that found recently approved boundaries violated the constitution by giving Republicans outsized favoritism. The top Senate and House leaders said they expected committees to debate and vote on maps Wednesday. House floor votes could begin later Wednesday, with the General Assembly enacting some new plans as early as Thursday. House Speaker Tim Moore told colleagues that their chamber may have to vote on Friday — the last day to turn in the new boundaries to a trial court, a deadline set by justices who declared the congressional and legislative maps were illegal partisan gerrymanders. The new lines, with or without additional adjustments by trial judges, are supposed to be used when candidate filing for the May 17 primary resumes Feb. 24. Moore said Monday's majority opinion provided specific mathematical methods and percentage thresholds that could be followed to help ensure replacement maps comply with the ruling. Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger had lamented the lack of details as they scrambled over fashioning boundaries. “We feel confident that we’re going to have maps on all fronts that comply fully with those metrics, so that what we pass should be upheld by the trial court and by the Supreme Court,” Moore told reporters. Replacement plans were still being worked on Tuesday in private. Bolding mine, because this backroom bullshit is (or should be) unconstitutional.
UNC-CH ELECTS A YOUNG BLACK WOMAN STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT: Junior Taliajah "Teddy" Vann has been elected as student body president, the UNC Board of Elections announced around 3:15 a.m. Wednesday. Vann received 47.03 percent of the votes cast in the student body president election, defeating her opponents, junior Ethan Phillips, sophomore Sam Robinson and junior Sage Staley. “You want a president, I think, who is fiery, who has that passion that they’re going to bring not only to this office but to everything that they do," Vann told The Daily Tar Heel in an interview last week. This year, 4,246 total voters participated in the student body president election — 13.72 percent of all eligible voters, according to results from the BOE. This is up 2.89 percent from last year's voter turnout. There were a total of 30,950 eligible voters this year. The total is calculated using current enrollment data from the UNC registrar's office. Vann will be sworn in as student body president in April, succeeding current Student Body President Lamar Richards. "I am more grateful than I could ever communicate for this opportunity to make history at our university and to empower our student body," Vann said in a statement posted on her social media Wednesday afternoon. Congratulations, Teddy. I just smiled, and I don't do that nearly enough these days.
RUSSIA MAY BE BACKING OFF ON UKRAINE: President Biden said Tuesday that the United States has not yet verified that some Russian military units are moving back from the border of Ukraine and returning to their bases, despite claims by senior Russian officials. “That would be good, but we have not yet verified that,” Biden said in an address to the nation from the White House. “Indeed, our analysts indicate that they remain very much in a threatening position.” Biden said that Russia had positioned more than 150,000 troops, up significantly from previous estimates of about 130,000. The president noted that “an invasion remains distinctly possible.” But Biden’s remarks signaled a shift from his administration’s dire warnings of an invasion, which only last week senior officials described as possibly imminent. Earlier in the day, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he saw reason for “cautious optimism” after Moscow signaled willingness to continue talks to resolve the crisis over Ukraine and said some of its troops were pulling back. In his news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Putin said Russia does not want war and is willing to talk to the United States and NATO about Russia’s demands for security guarantees, but only if its key concerns are central to the talks. Those include Moscow’s calls for an end to NATO expansion and the removal of NATO forces and equipment from Eastern Europe. Film at eleven.
SEVERE COVID INFECTION LIKELY RESULTS IN PERMANENT HEART DAMAGE: From very early in the pandemic, it was clear that SARS-CoV-2 can damage the heart and blood vessels while people are acutely ill. Patients developed clots, heart inflammation, arrhythmias, and heart failure. Now, the first large study to assess cardiovascular outcomes 1 year after SARS-CoV-2 infection has demonstrated that the virus’ impact is often lasting. In an analysis of more than 11 million U.S. veterans’ health records, researchers found the risk of 20 different heart and vessel maladies was substantially increased in veterans who had COVID-19 1 year earlier, compared with those who didn’t. The risk rose with severity of initial disease and extended to every outcome the team examined, including heart attacks, arrhythmias, strokes, cardiac arrest, and more. Even people who never went to the hospital had more cardiovascular disease than those who were never infected. The results are “stunning … worse than I expected, for sure,” says Eric Topol, a cardiologist at Scripps Research. “All of these are very serious disorders. … If anybody ever thought that COVID was like the flu this should be one of the most powerful data sets to point out it’s not.” He adds that the new study “may be the most impressive Long Covid paper we have seen to date.” The study’s enrollment period ended before vaccines were widely available, so 99.7% of infected veterans were unvaccinated when they contracted COVID-19. Therefore, the paper doesn’t address whether long-term cardiovascular problems may arise after breakthrough infections in already vaccinated people. (A new analysis tackling that question is now under review at a journal.) Another limitation of the study is that the veteran population skews older, white, and male: In all three groups, about 90% of patients were men and 71% to 76% were white. Patients were in their early 60s, on average. The researchers controlled for the possibility that the people who contracted COVID-19 were already more prone to developing cardiovascular disease. They found that “COVID is an equal opportunity offender,” Al-Aly says. “We found an increased risk of cardiovascular problems in old people and in young people, in people with diabetes and without diabetes, in people with obesity and people without obesity, in people who smoked and who never smoked.” Get tested regularly, and if you get infected, get your ass to a hospital if the symptoms worsen. It's really the only way to limit the damage.