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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Primer: North Carolina Might Be the Future of U.S. Politics and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 8:51 AM

Morning, folks. There’s a lot of ground to cover today. I’ll do so as expeditiously as possible. Let’s begin. 1. IN N.C., THE FUTURE OF POLITICS. THE GIST: Jason Zengerle is out with a piece in The New York Times Magazine this week that poses something of an unsettling question: “Is North Carolina the Future of American Politics?” It leads with the Air Horn Orchestra—the INDY’s former managing editor, Grayson Haver Currin, and partner-in-rabble-rousing Tina Haver Currin get a shoutout—shutting down and then reconvening to protest Governor Cooper’s HB 2 compromise. But the bulk of the story centers of the...

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

NCGA Budget Gives $2.6 Million to Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 10:58 AM

After weeks of negotiations, Republicans in the General Assembly announced the details of their $23 billion budget agreement Monday, outlining plans to increase teacher pay and slash taxes by a projected $530 million.  An oft-cited provision in the GOP budget would raise teacher pay by an average 3.3 percent and give other state employees a flat $1,000 bonus. The budget would also make a series of tax cuts effective in 2019: lowering the corporate income tax rate from 3 to 2.5 percent, reducing the personal income tax rate from 5.499 to 5.25 percent, and decreasing the franchise tax on small...

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Primer: The NCGA Has a Budget and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 8:20 AM

Greetings and salutations, readers. There’s a lot in the news today, but before we get started, a quick reminder, if you have any thoughts/questions/suggestions/tips as to how we can make Primer better—or if you’d like to get this blog delivered straight to your inbox every morning—email them to indyprimer@indyweek.com. Also, please support our sponsors. (This week’s Primer sponsor is the Raleigh Flyers, the Triangle’s professional Ultimate Disc team.) They keep the lights on. —Jeffrey C. Billman 1. WE HAVE A BUDGET. THE GIST: Yesterday, the General Assembly unveiled its $23 billion compromise budget, which would boost teacher pay by 3.3...

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Primer: U.S. Escalates in Syria, Afghanistan and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 8:24 AM

Happy Monday, everyone. Let’s jump right into the news. 1. U.S. SHOOTS DOWN SYRIAN AIRCRAFT. THE GIST: Yesterday, the U.S. military shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet that the Pentagon says had bombed local forces aligned with the Americans, which the Associated Press calls a “new escalation of the conflict.” Nut graph: “While the U.S. has said since it began recruiting, training and advising what it calls moderate Syrian opposition forces to fight [the Islamic State] that it would protect them from potential Syrian government retribution, this was the first time it resorted to engaging in air-to-air combat...

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Reverend Barber Says Banning Him from the Legislature Won’t Stick

Posted By on Sat, Jun 17, 2017 at 7:12 AM

The Reverend William Barber II has been told to keep away from the main General Assembly building until his return to court June 30 on trespassing charges brought at the legislature May 30. However, the Goldsboro-based civil rights leader said Friday that similar attempts to ban him and other protesters have been made in the past but had been overturned. Barber’s lawyer criticized the restriction as unconstitutional under both the state and U.S. founding documents. "They banned all of us," Barber, fifty-three, told the INDY via text message Friday. "They've done it before and the courts change it[,] smile." Barber...

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Primer: Cuba Crackdown and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 9:27 AM

Happy Friday, y’all. Two thoughts before we begin: 1) As always, your feedback is appreciated; this newsletter is an evolving creature, and we’re perpetually trying to make it better. 2) Tomorrow is Saturday, which means it’s the day this week’s Primer sponsor, Beer Camp on Tour, comes to town. So one last time: if you’re looking for something fun to do, or if you need a last minute Father’s Day gift (dads like beer!), click here, or click the ad image at the bottom of the page, and check it out. One last thing: After I published the newsletter...

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Primer: Trump Under Investigation + Five Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 9:22 AM

Happy Thursday, everyone—or, as a former colleague used to call it, Little Friday. Let’s jump right in. —Jeffrey C. Billman 1. TRUMP UNDER INVESTIGATION. THE GIST: Under normal circumstances, this would qualify as a bombshell, except I imagine most people assumed it to be the case after former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week: The Washington Post reported last night that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating President Trump for obstruction of justice. Nut graph: “Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not...

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Primer: A Congressman Is Shot, Trump Hates Trumpcare, and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 9:06 AM

Happy Wednesday, everyone. Just as I was finishing up the newsletter version of Primer—which you can sign up for by emailing us here—some news broke: Representative Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican and the House majority leader, was shot this morning during a congressional baseball practice. From CNN: “Rep. Steve Scalise was shot in Alexandria, Virginia, Wednesday morning, Rep. Mo Brooks told CNN. Brooks said he was on deck at a practice for the congressional baseball team when the shooting occurred. Scalise appears to have been shot in the hip and it appears two Capitol Hill police agents were shot. Alexandria police...

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Democracy in Crisis: Yo Senators, Quit Being So Mean to Jeff Sessions

Posted By on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 8:10 PM

If you didn’t know, via obscure Latin etymology, that the word testify is related to the word testicles, you could guess it from watching Senate testimony pretty much any time ever, but certainly this year. (For what it’s worth: in Rome, you swore on your testicles to tell the truth). Back when now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in the middle of the confirmation hearings in which he seemingly perjured himself about contacts with Russian officials, Senator Elizabeth Warren tried to read a letter Coretta Scott King wrote to the Judiciary Committee about Sessions into the Congressional record. King wrote the...

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Primer: Trump Is Thinking About Firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 10:27 AM

Happy Tuesday, everyone. There’s a lot in the news, and we’ll get to it straightaway. But first, may I ask a favor? Our first Primer seemed to go well; the response was overwhelmingly positive. But if you are experiencing any problems or have any suggestions about how we can make this newsletter more readable—e.g., if the formatting looks wonky on your computer or device—please pass them along to jbillman@indyweek.com. This is a new venture, and we’re learning as we go. So with that said, let’s go. —Jeffrey C. Billman 1. HE WOULDN’T DARE. (WOULD HE?) THE GIST: According to one of...

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Orange County Schools Takes Step Toward Confederate Flag Ban

Posted By on Tue, Jun 13, 2017 at 5:56 AM

More than six months after the parent of an Orange High School student founded the Hate Free Schools Coalition in response to Confederate flags on T-shirts, backpacks, and hats on campus, the Orange County Board of Education voted Monday evening to ban racially intimidating symbols from inside local schools. While the policy change won't be official until a second vote is held, should the board move forward with the revision to the system's dress code, students would be prohibited from wearing "clothing, buttons, patches, jewelry or any other items with words, phrases, symbols, pictures or signs that are indecent, profane,...

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Primer: Barber in the NYT, Rubber Stamps for Trump, and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted By on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 8:49 AM

Happy Monday, everyone. Welcome to the first edition of Primer, the INDY’s tour through the morning’s headlines. Our goal is to get you up to speed and on your way quickly and efficiently, with a little bit of insight to help put it all into context. So, without further ado, let’s get started. 1. ICYMI: BARBER GETS THE NYT TREATMENT. THE GIST: I don’t entirely buy the premise of this piece, at least as it pertains to North Carolina; the Reverend William J. Barber II, until recently the head of the N.C. NAACP, was an activist long before the Trump...

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Friday, June 9, 2017

The Morning Roundup: Comey Calls Trump a Liar

Posted By on Fri, Jun 9, 2017 at 8:43 AM

It's Friday. We made it through another week. Let's go out with a bang, courtesy of former FBI director James Comey. 1) Comey calls Trump a liar. For those of you who watched the former FBI director testify on the Hill yesterday, you know that James Comey dropped more than a few bombshells. From The New York Times: "Those were lies. Plain and simple." He set that tone from the beginning, opening with a goodbye to his former employees, to whom he was unable to personally bid farewell. And he said Mr. Trump had lied — a word that is...

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At Immigrant-Rights Rally, Reverend Barber Offers Refuge to Family of Man Under Threat of Deportation

Posted By on Fri, Jun 9, 2017 at 8:33 AM

Within the space of a few minutes Thursday, Raleigh ten-year-old Ezequiel Chicas became a bright light in immigration-rights circles in North Carolina. Giving a speech near the General Assembly and seeking a safe haven from deportation for his father, he found what seemed to be a way out of his family’s dilemma. The Reverend William Barber II, a civil rights leader with a growing national profile, found himself picking up where Ezequiel’s story of his father’s threatened deportation left off. It all happened at a Faith Advocacy rally on Bicentennial Mall, designed to show opposition to what participants called anti-immigrant legislation,...

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Legislature Calls Off Special Session Demanded by Governor

Posted By on Thu, Jun 8, 2017 at 1:38 PM

Wednesday, Governor Cooper called for a special session of the legislature for the purpose of redrawing voting maps the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional and racially gerrymandered. From the INDY: In a press conference this afternoon, Governor Cooper called for a special session of the legislature to redraw state House and Senate voting maps recently deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The session, which will be held along with the ongoing regular session, will kick off tomorrow at two p.m. and last for two weeks. Cooper's announcement comes two days after the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's decision that twenty-eight...

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The Morning Roundup: Comey to Testify That Trump Asked Him to Back Off Flynn Investigation

Posted By on Thu, Jun 8, 2017 at 8:43 AM

First of all, we'd like to congratulate all the "Best Of" winners and finalists. With that said, let’s get on to it. We’re going to devote the bulk of this morning’s Roundup to former FBI director James Comey's pending testimony on the Hill—and all we learned about it yesterday. But first: 1) ISIS claims attacks on Iran; Trump shows no compassion. At least a dozen people were killed in a pair of terrorist attacks in Tehran. From The New York Times: Armed assailants, including some disguised as women, stunned Iran on Wednesday with brazen attacks on the Parliament building and the tomb...

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Governor Cooper Calls Special Session for Lawmakers to Redraw Legislative Maps

Posted By on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 4:37 PM

In a press conference this afternoon, Governor Cooper called for a special session of the legislature to redraw state House and Senate voting maps recently deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The session, which will be held along with the ongoing regular session, will kick off tomorrow at two p.m. and last for two weeks. Cooper's announcement comes two days after the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's decision that twenty-eight state legislative districts in North Carolina are illegally racially gerrymandered. The high court, however, vacated the district court's order to redraw the maps and hold special elections in 2017. "Legal...

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Raleigh Mayor Backs Down from Plan for Top-Down Citizen Engagement

Posted By on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 1:40 PM

Droves of supporters of Raleigh’s citizen advisory committees descended upon Tuesday's city council session to speak out in opposition to a new community engagement board created by the council May 2 on the recommendation of a task force that contained few CAC voices. Some thirty people, many of them CAC chairs or members, signed up to speak during a public comment period. Virtually all opposed the new board. Mayor Nancy McFarlane, part of a 5–3 majority that created the new board, showed in opening remarks that she had already heard clearly that the CAC groups, who have advised the city council...

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The Morning Roundup: Sessions and Trump Are Reportedly At Odds, Comey Set to Testify Tomorrow

Posted By on Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 8:49 AM

First things first. Our annual "Best of the Triangle" edition is on the racks, so go grab one and congratulate the many winners you guys chose. Now let's check out Tuesday's headlines. 1) The Sessions/Trump bromance is reportedly over. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reportedly upset that the president isn't allowing him to do his job. How upset? He offered his resignation. From The New York Times: Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered to resign in recent weeks as he told President Trump he needed the freedom to do his job, according to two people who were briefed on the discussion....

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

N.C. Policy Watch: State Superintendent of Public Instruction May Be Violating the Law by Ignoring Records Requests

Posted By on Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 3:05 PM

Mark Johnson, the state superintendent of public instruction, may be violating state law by failing to respond to a public records request, according to an article by N.C. Policy Watch's Billy Ball, a former INDY staff writer. N.C. Policy Watch requested emails from the superintendent on January 26, nearly a month after the Republican from Winston-Salem took office. Though the nonprofit subsequently heard back from a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Instruction, progress on the request has since stalled, and emails sent to Johnson's office in recent months have not yielded any response, Ball reported. Amanda Martin, general counsel for the N.C....

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The Morning Roundup: Supreme Court Rejects Racist Legislative Districts, Durham City Council Rejects Publix

Posted By on Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 9:48 AM

A lot happened around the Triangle Monday. Let's review. 1) Supreme Court confirms that district lines were racially gerrymandered. It's unclear whether special 2017 elections will occur, but the high court delivered a blog to the GOP-controlled legislature. From the INDY: This morning the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's decision that twenty-eight state legislative districts in North Carolina are racially gerrymandered, but vacated the court's order to redraw the maps and hold special elections in 2017. The Supreme Court's three-page order zeroed in on the panel's decision to call for new maps and special elections, explaining its decision to...

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Nancy McFarlane Signs On to National Climate Mayors Agreement

Posted By on Mon, Jun 5, 2017 at 1:42 PM

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said Monday that she has signed on to a national Climate Mayors agreement opposing the United States' withdrawal from the Paris climate accords. McFarlance had already joined U.S. mayors in opposition through her membership in the U.S. Conference of Mayors, her office said. "Mayor McFarlane is signed on to the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement through the US Conference of Mayors, a bipartisan effort that includes over one thousand mayors that have signed on from across the United States," her office said in a statement Monday morning. In addition, McFarlane, who is seeking a sixth term as...

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Supreme Court Affirms N.C. Legislative Districts Are Racially Gerrymandered But Tells Lower Court to Reconsider Special Elections

Posted By on Mon, Jun 5, 2017 at 12:36 PM

This morning the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's decision that twenty-eight state legislative districts in North Carolina are racially gerrymandered, but vacated the court's order to redraw the maps and hold special elections in 2017. The Supreme Court's three-page order zeroed in on the panel's decision to call for new maps and special elections, explaining its decision to vacate the order because the District Court "addressed the balance of equities in only the most cursory fashion." As noted above, the court simply announced that “hile special elections have costs,” those unspecified costs “pale in comparison” to the prospect that citizens will be...

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Friday, June 2, 2017

The Morning Roundup: Trump Kicks Planet in the Face

Posted By on Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 8:55 AM

It's Friday, but there's really not much to celebrate. 1) Trump pulls U.S. out of historic Paris climate accord. It's not exactly shocking that President Donald Trump made good on a campaign promise and pulled the U.S. out of the most significant climate agreement in history. But it's still a disaster. From The Washington Post: President Trump announced Thursday afternoon that he is withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris climate agreement, an extraordinary move that dismayed America’s allies and set back the global effort to address the warming planet. Trump’s decision set off alarms worldwide, drawing swift and...

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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Thom Tillis Urged Trump to Pull Out of Paris Climate Accord, Netted $263,400 From Oil and Gas Companies

Posted By on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 at 4:42 PM

Well, it's official. After turning his decision on the Paris Climate Accord into a protracted reality TV episode (will he pull out? Tune in at three to find out!), Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the landmark climate agreement today, making good on a campaign promise and aligning the U.S. with Syria and Nicaragua as the only nonparticipants in the world. Environmentalists reacted to the news as one might expect: with anger and disgust. In a piece for The New York Times, Bill McKibben, the founder of the environmental group 350.org, called it "our nation’s dumbest act since launching...

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