NC STATE EMPLOYEE IN SPOTLIGHT OVER PROUD BOY CONNECTION: N.C. State University is investigating the online behavior of an employee who is alleged to be a member of the Proud Boys, a right-wing group that is proudly anti-feminist, pro-Western civilization and has sometimes been involved in street violence. The Proud Boys are designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The employee, Chadwick Jason Seagraves, told the News & Observer in a statement Wednesday that he is not a member of the Proud Boys and “to paint me as a racist and fascist is heinous slander.” Olivia Katbi Smith, co-chair of the Portland chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, filed a lawsuit against Seagraves in Oregon for invasion of privacy last week, the alternative weekly newspaper Willamette Week reported. She alleges that Seagraves shared the address of her and her family as part of a data dump of thousands of files with photos and activists’ personal information.
SUPREME COURT RECOUNT EXTENDED TO NEXT WEEK, NEWBY CURRENTLY LEADS: It will take a little longer for a winner to be named in North Carolina's state Supreme Court chief justice race, the State Board of Elections announced on Wednesday. According to the board, three large counties, Forsyth, Guilford and Mecklenburg, are unable to complete their recounts as anticipated by the end of Wednesday. As a result, they will resume recounts on Monday for the top judicial seat in the state. With 91 of the state's 100 counties done recounting ballots, Republican Paul Newby led Democrat Cheri Beasley by more than 400 votes. The small margin is the product of nearly 5.4 million ballots cast in the race. The board will announce final results once all counties have completed their recounts. The candidate losing in the contest then has 24 hours to demand a hand recount in a random sample of 3% of precincts in each county. If certain conditions are met, a statewide hand recount of all ballots could be conducted.
ASHEVILLE'S FIRST WOMAN FIRE CHIEF IS SUING OVER HARASSMENT AND DISCRIMINATION: Joy Ponder was the first woman to become a division chief at the Asheville Fire Department in Western North Carolina, according to court filings. But after five years in the position, Ponder said she was suddenly demoted. Now she’s suing. Ponder accused the city of Asheville of discriminating against her in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after the fire chief demoted her to a desk job, yelled at her and treated her with extreme hostility, according to a civil complaint filed in federal court earlier this month. The allegations aren’t new. Ponder filed a civil suit citing similar grievances in Buncombe Superior Court in November 2019, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported. She also filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — the gatekeepers to discrimination charges in federal court — around the same time, court filings state. The EEOC issued Ponder a right-to-sue notice on Aug. 20, which prompted the most recent litigation. The chief is accused of frequently yelling at Ponder and forcing her into meetings with another male supervisor where the two “would berate her and attempt to intimidate her,” the complaint states.
LET THE BIBLE THUMPING BEGIN: SUPREME COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF NY CHURCHES FIGHTING PANDEMIC RESTRICTIONS: The Supreme Court’s new conservative majority late Wednesday night sided with religious organizations in New York that said they were illegally targeted by pandemic-related restrictions imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to combat spiking coronavirus cases. The 5-to-4 order was the first show of solidified conservative strength on the court since the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whom President Trump chose to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg following her death in September. The decision differed from the court’s previous practice of deferring to local officials on pandemic-related restrictions, even in the area of constitutionally protected religious rights. “Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” said the unsigned opinion granting a stay of the state’s orders. “The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who had been the court’s pivotal member in previous emergency applications seeking relief from virus-related restrictions, dissented along with the court’s three liberal members. “It is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” Roberts wrote for himself.
PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN GIVES UNIFYING THANKSGIVING ADDRESS TO NATION: “Looking back over our history, you see that it’s been in the most difficult circumstances that the soul of our nation has been forged,” Mr. Biden said, speaking directly to the camera from a stage at the Queen, a historic theater in Wilmington, Del., where he stepped into a void left for him by President Trump, who has been rarely seen since the election. In an implicit repudiation of Mr. Trump, who has dismissed the coronavirus as the flu and mocked people who wear masks, Mr. Biden urged Americans to see it as their patriotic duty to fight the pandemic together by taking the proper precautions. “I know the country has grown weary of the fight,” he said. “We need to remember we’re at war with the virus, not with one another, not with each other.” As he urged Americans to wear face masks, practice social distancing and limit the size of group gatherings, especially around the holidays, he noted: “None of these steps we’re asking people to take are political statements. Every one of them is based on science, real science.” In the two and a half weeks since Mr. Biden won the election, he has been spreading a message of unity in an effort to reach the nearly 74 million Americans who voted for Mr. Trump. On the eve of Thanksgiving, he also addressed the pandemic head on with a mix of realism and hope. “Many local health systems are at risk of being overwhelmed,” he said. “That’s the plain and simple truth. Nothing made up, it’s real. I believe you always deserve to hear the truth, hear the truth from your president.” He added, “Each of us has a responsibility in our own lives to do what we can do to slow the virus.” In contrast to Mr. Trump’s feckless efforts to overturn the election results, Mr. Biden praised the sanctity of the vote in his speech and commended Americans for casting their ballots in record numbers despite the pandemic. “Our democracy was tested this year,” he said. “What we learned is this: The people of this nation are up to the task. In America, we have full and fair and free elections. And then we honor the results.”