“This Cannot Be Our Future”

Get caught up in 9 minutes: Impeachment 2, day 1 + fossil fuels’ death toll + NC prisons didn’t disclose COVID deaths + the NCGA targets newspapers + a Border Patrol cover-up + I’m not a cat

Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021 

Mostly cloudy today, with a high around 50. … Before we get started, have a free laugh on us. 


Today’s Numbers: 

10,046

  • COVID fatalities reported in North Carolina since the beginning of the pandemic through yesterday

  • Durham County: 181 COVID deaths. Orange: 87. Wake: 496.

802,065

  • COVID cases in North Carolina through yesterday. 

  • Durham County: 20,241 cases. Orange: 7,189. Wake: 69,394.

1,076,180

  • First COVID vaccine doses administered in North Carolina both through state providers and the federal long-term care program, as of 11:59 p.m. on Monday

  • 314,767 people — about 3% of the state’s population — have received both doses. 


On This Day 

  • 1763: The Treaty of Paris ended what we call the French-Indian War. Britain got Canada. 

  • 1855: U.S. laws were amended to grant citizenship to all children born abroad to citizens. 

  • 1885: The General Assembly legally recognized the Lumbees. (The legislation designated them “Croatan,” a reference to the so-called Lost Colony.) 

  • 1897: The New York Times debuted the slogan, “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

  • 1937: Grammy winner Roberta Flack was born in Black Mountain. 

  • 1962: Jim Beatty, who grew up in Charlotte and attended UNC, became the first man to run the mile indoors in under four minutes. 

  • 1967: The 25th Amendment, which governs presidential disability and succession, was ratified. 

  • 1996: IBM computer Deep Blue defeated chess champion Gary Kasparov.

One Year Ago 

One Century Ago

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+TODAY’S TOP 5 

1. Impeachment 2, Day 1

The Senate voted 56–44 to proceed with Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. Democrats picked up one Republican since its initial vote on that question last month: Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, who found Trump attorney Bruce Castor Jr. “disorganized” and “random.”

  • Cassidy wasn’t the only one who thought Castor lost the plot: “If Bruce Castor Jr. had a central point or argument during his opening statement at former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial on Tuesday, it was seemingly lost on virtually everyone who listened in.”

  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who is among Trump’s defenders on Capitol Hill, said he has seen ‘a lot of lawyers and a lot of arguments,’ and Castor’s ‘was not one of the finest I’ve seen.’ ‘I thought the president’s lawyer — the first lawyer — just rambled on and on and on and didn’t really address the constitutional argument,’ Cornyn told reporters.”

  • Trump’s second attorney, Bruce Schoen, all but threatened civil war if Trump was convicted: “This trial will tear this country apart, perhaps like we have only seen once before in our history.”

  • In a brief filed on Monday, they argued that Trump had been “horrified” when the insurrection happened. That’s simply false

The House managers’ opening was more coherent.

  • Rep. Joe Neguse: “What you experienced that day, what we experienced that day, what our country experienced that day, is the framers’ worst nightmare come to life.”

  • Rep. David N. Cicilline: “The president of the United States sided with the insurrectionists. He celebrated their cause. He validated their attack.”

  • Rep. Jamie Raskin: “People died that day. Officers ended up with head damage and brain damage. People’s eyes were gouged. An officer had a heart attack. An officer lost three fingers that day. Two officers have taken their own lives. Senators, this cannot be our future. This cannot be the future of America.”

  • Their most powerful argument came in a 13-minute video of the day’s events. Watch it here. 

Yeah, but: Only six Republicans joined the 50 Dems in voting to move forward. (Neither Richard Burr nor Thom Tillis was among them.) No matter how strong a case the House managers build, it’s hard to imagine 11 Republicans who have twice voted that the trial is unconstitutional voting to convict the president anyway.  

—> OTHER POLITICAL NEWS

  • Biden is ousting Trump’s appointed federal prosecutors — though not the one overseeing an investigation into Hunter Biden’s finances or the one probing the origins of the Russia investigation. (Politico)

  • Ousting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump lackey who is manifestly terrible at his job, however, will be much more complicated. (Slate)

  • Biden’s nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget spent her Tuesday confirmation hearing apologizing to senators for mean tweets — including stating that “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz.” (Politico)


2. One in 5 Global Deaths Linked to Fossil Fuel Pollution

A study has found that 8.7 million people die every year from breathing air polluted with fossil fuel particles called PM2.5. 

  • “Small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs, these particles can aggravate respiratory conditions like asthma and can lead to lung cancer, coronary heart disease, strokes, and early death. Research has also found a link between higher levels of long-term pollution and more deaths from Covid-19.” (CNN)

  • “In a study published in the journal Environmental Research on Tuesday, researchers … found that exposure to particulate matter from fossil fuel emissions accounted for 18% of total global deaths — almost one in five — in 2018.”

  • “They found that China, India, parts of the eastern US, Europe, and Southeast Asia were the worst impacted. According to the data, as many as 30.7% of deaths in Eastern Asia, 16.8% in Europe, and 13.1% in the US can be attributed to fossil fuel pollution.”

  • This is on top of the damage caused by climate change. 

Related: Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer filed a bill that would force President Biden to declare climate change a national emergency

Share PRIMER | North Carolina


3. NC Prisons Failed to Report at Least 3 COVID Deaths

On Aug. 2, Billy Bingham became the ninth North Carolina inmate to die of COVID. But the state never reported his death to the public — and he wasn’t the only one. 

  • “A North Carolina Health News investigation in partnership with VICE News found that in the first seven months of the pandemic, North Carolina failed to report all of the prisoners in its custody who died of COVID-19-related causes, according to death documents; through public information requests to the county register of deeds offices and the state medical examiner’s office, our investigation identified three prisoners with COVID-19-related deaths who were not included in the state prison agency’s death count.” (NC Health News)

  • “The death certificates confirmed the deaths due to COVID-19 that North Carolina’s prison system announced, through September 20, when the deadliest months for North Carolina prisoners were yet to come. They also revealed that there were three other incarcerated people who had died due to the virus and had not been made known to the public.” 

  • “While we investigated deaths that occurred through late September, 33 of the official virus-related prison deaths occurred after this date, as COVID-19 raged inside the state’s 55 prisons in the final months of 2020, leaving open the possibility that more prisoners have been uncounted.”

—> OTHER LOCAL COVID NEWS

  • An oral drug developed at UNC-Chapel Hill appears to be effective as both a COVID prophylactic and treatment. (N&O)

  • Durham Public Schools officials say teachers should be vaccinated before they’re forced to return to the classroom. (CBS 17)

  • In accordance with federal recommendations, the state puts teachers in line behind health care personnel and people in long-term care facilities. (N&O)

  • The state Senate passed a bill to force schools to resume in-person instruction. (N&O)

  • An Elon poll found that (only) half of unvaccinated North Carolina residents said they’d get the vaccine as soon as they become eligible. That’s an improvement over previous surveys. (N&O)

  • Lured by $10 million in tax incentives, Gilead Sciences — the maker of Remdesivir — will create a hub in the Triangle. (WRAL)


4. The NCGA Targets the State’s Newspapers

That the General Assembly’s Republicans aren’t fans of the “liberal media” should hardly come as a revelation. That they’re trying to eliminate a consistent revenue source for the state’s papers is nonetheless a shock if not a surprise. That they’re manufacturing their legislative attack to bypass Governor Cooper’s veto is a sick joke.  

  • Unlike (I believe) any other state, North Carolina gives lawmakers the ability to pass “local bills,” which affords them the opportunity to make all sorts of mischief because they cannot be vetoed. 

  • In the recent past, this has been used to, e.g., redistrict local governments and in 2017, to change legal notice requirements in Guilford County, as part of Trudy Wade’s vendetta against the media there. (After Cooper vetoed that legislation, the legislature passed it as a local bill.)

  • This year, the House is considering two bills: HB 35 and HB 51, which together would cover 26 counties across the state. They would allow required public notices to be posted on (rarely viewed) government websites rather than local newspapers.  

  • These bills would cost small-town papers a vital source of reliable revenue. But county governments are pushing for the change, citing a need for “flexibility” in communication. They’re also eyeballing the money they can charge for notices no one will ever see. 

  • N.C. Press Association director Phil Lucey: “This has been a bad idea over the past 10 years and it is arguably a worse idea today when a public health crisis calls for greater transparency, not less.” (N&O)

The bottom line: This change, should it become law, won’t affect the state’s metros, where the big-city papers have more diversified revenue streams. It does, however, have the potential to devastate small-town papers that are barely getting by already. 

—> OTHER STATE NEWS

  • Bob Hall, the former director of Democracy NC, has filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections alleging that a Caswell County organization called Citizens Against Zoning was a front for the Conservative Voters PAC in an electioneering campaign on behalf of a proposed mine and asphalt plant. (NC Policy Watch)

  • North Carolina contractors don’t expect much work this year, thanks in part to the tumult at NCDOT. (TBJ, sub. req.)

  • The ABC Commission, which does not enjoy fun, rejected Sycamore Brewing’s request to name a hard seltzer “Fuck 2020.” (WSOC)


5. What I’m Reading: “Border Patrol Beat an Immigrant to Death and Then Covered It Up”

Maria Puga has been telling the story for more than a decade now. On May 28, 2010, her husband, Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, suffered a brutal and ultimately fatal beating at the hands of U.S. homeland security personnel at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on the southern edge of San Diego.

The father of five was hogtied at a secure facility while at least eight agents and officers from the nation’s three border and immigration enforcement agencies punched and kicked him; a crowd of their colleagues circled around and watched. They knelt on his neck and body. Crying out for help, Hernandez was repeatedly tased while handcuffed. He suffered five broken ribs, internal organ hemorrhage, and bruising on his face and torso. He died of cardiac arrest and brain damage three days later. The coroner’s office ruled the case a homicide. Despite the federal agents erasing the video taken by eyewitnesses, the violent episode was caught on film and broadcast on national television. No agents or officers were punished, let alone charged for the killing. Puga has been protesting ever since. … 

In the years since her husband was killed, Puga said, she has never received a word of condolence from the U.S. government. The only direct communication the family has received from federal prosecutors came in 2015, when the Obama administration told them it was closing its investigation into Hernandez’s death without bringing charges. A public apology thus became a core demand in a historic international case that Puga and her family brought against the United States through the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2016. Last week, they took a major step in that effort, submitting affidavits from three former senior Department of Homeland Security officials directly involved in Hernandez’s case to the commission. Those officials accuse the Border Patrol as well as current and former officials at the highest levels of DHS of engaging in obstruction of justice to protect the agents involved in Hernandez’s death and the reputation of their agency.

This was not an isolated incident, the former officials alleged in the affidavits, which were filed with the commission and shared with The Intercept. Instead, it was emblematic of an entrenched pattern in matters involving the Border Patrol, particularly in cases of lethal force.

Source: The Intercept