Wednesday News: Power play


REPUBLICANS IN LEGISLATURE PUSH TO CURB GOVERNOR'S EMERGENCY AUTHORITY: This isn’t the first time Republican lawmakers have tried to use legislation to force Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to get agreement from the rest of the Council of State, which is majority Republican, for some executive orders. House Majority Leader Rep. John Bell, a Wayne County Republican, told reporters last week that this bill “is not about reopening, or anything dealing with masks.” Rather, he said, it is about how one person should not have unilateral control. Rep. Keith Kidwell, a Chocowinity Republican and deputy majority whip, is the primary sponsor of the House bill. In the summer of 2020, Kidwell made clear what he though of Cooper’s orders, saying on the House floor that he wouldn’t follow the statewide mask mandate no matter what the governor said.

GOP BILL WOULD "PROTECT" NATURAL GAS FROM BEING BLOCKED BY MUNICIPALITIES: Local governments across North Carolina would be forbidden by the state from banning natural gas and other energy sources under legislation that moved forward Tuesday. House Bill 220 is patterned on measures moving in a number of states with backing from the natural gas industry. The bill's key provision is this one: "A city shall not adopt an ordinance that prohibits, or has the effect of prohibiting, the connection, reconnection, modification, or expansion of an energy service based upon the type or source of energy to be delivered to an individual or any other person as the end-user of the energy service." Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, said she didn't want to tinker with local government authority on the issue. Also, buildings are responsible for 12 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, she said, and if cities require more efficient buildings, it will help fight climate change. NPR ran a story last month about the gas industry's effort to move these bills through various state legislatures.

JOSEPH MC...MARK ROBINSON WANTS TO FORM "TASK FORCE" ON LIBERAL SCHOOL INDOCTRINATION: Students, teachers and parents need a centralized place to send any complaints about “indoctrination” in North Carolina’s classroom, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson said Tuesday. Most teachers don’t get into politics with their students, Robinson said, but some do. And while there have long been rumors of indoctrination efforts, or one-off stories about a teacher’s controversial lesson plan, Robinson said he hopes to soon be able to show people just how widespread it might be. “People say, ‘Well, where’s the proof?’ Where’s the proof?’” said Robinson, a Republican who took office in January. “We’re going to bring you the proof.” That’s the goal of a new task force he’s creating to collect complaints from parents, students and teachers in public schools from across the state “who are literally afraid to speak up” to their local school boards. “We want this task force to be a resource for parents and students who feel that they are unable to tackle the issues that they are facing in their schools,” Robinson said. “And trust me folks, that is happening in this state.” And when they only uncover a handful of cases, he will say it's because people are too afraid to come forward, the conspiracy is more wide-spread than he thought, yada yada.

RUDY GIULIANI WAS A RUSSIAN ASSET IN CIRCULATING MISINFORMATION ABOUT JOE (AND HUNTER) BIDEN: Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior officials in Moscow sought to influence the 2020 election by spreading misleading information about Joe Biden through prominent individuals, some of whom were close to former president Donald Trump, the U.S. intelligence community said in a report Tuesday. The report does not identify those individuals by name, but it appears to reference Trump’s onetime personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, whose repeated meetings with a suspected Russian agent came under scrutiny by U.S. officials. Russia undertook a range of activities to influence the outcome, and to a far greater degree than any other country. And it was Putin and the Russian state, the document said, who authorized operations aimed at undercutting Biden’s campaign for president. A key element of the strategy, according to the report, was to use Ukrainians linked to Russian intelligence to “launder” unsubstantiated allegations against Biden through U.S. media, lawmakers and prominent individuals, an apparent reference to Giuliani. The intelligence community, for instance, assessed that Putin “had purview over” the activities of Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach, who played a prominent role in advancing the misleading narrative alleging corruption between Biden and Ukraine. Giuliani met with Derkach, whom the United States has sanctioned as an “active” Russian agent, in Ukraine and in the United States in 2019 and 2020 as Giuliani sought to release material that he thought would damage Biden. Last year, Derkach disclosed edited audio snippets of conversations Biden had as vice president with Ukrainian officials in an attempt to cast aspersions on him.

ATLANTA SHOOTER TARGETED ASIAN WOMEN AT (3) MASSAGE PARLORS: Eight people were shot to death at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area on Tuesday evening, the authorities said, raising fears that the crimes may have targeted people of Asian descent. Six of the people killed were Asian, and two were white, according to law enforcement officials. All but one were women. A suspect, identified as Robert Aaron Long, 21, of Woodstock, Ga., was captured in Crisp County, about 150 miles south of Atlanta, after a manhunt, said the authorities, who had earlier released a surveillance image of a suspect near a Hyundai Tucson outside one of the massage parlors. Although it was not clear whether there was a racial motivation in the shootings, Stop AAPI Hate, formed to prevent anti-Asian discrimination during the coronavirus pandemic, called them “an unspeakable tragedy” for both the victims’ families and an Asian-American community that has “been reeling from high levels of racist attacks.” There have been nearly 3,800 reports of hate incidents targeting Asian-Americans nationwide since last March, according to Stop AAPI Hate. The group said the shootings on Tuesday “will only exacerbate the fear and pain that the Asian-American community continues to endure.” An official from the South Korean Consulate in Atlanta, citing the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, confirmed on Wednesday that four of the eight killed were ethnic Koreans. But the nationalities of the four women were not immediately known, the official said. Atlanta officials did not ask other massage parlors in the area to shut down as a precautionary measure, the police chief, Rodney Bryant, said at a news conference. But fear was palpable among some who work in the massage industry. A woman who answered the phone at Healing Massage Spa and identified herself as a manager said that after the shootings were reported on the news, her boss told her to close for the night.