GROCERY CLERKS AND OTHER FRONT-LINE ESSENTIAL WORKERS ELIGIBLE FOR VACCINE: Frontline essential workers — including grocery store workers, public transit drivers and emergency personnel — will be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine a week ahead of schedule, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday. The state will then move into Group 4 on March 24, starting with people with high-risk underlying conditions, The News & Observer reported. “Given the current rate of vaccination and increased supply, many frontline workers say they can move to the next phase of vaccinations,” Cooper said during a news conference Teachers and school support staff have been able to get the vaccine since Feb. 24. The remaining frontline workers classified under Group 3 will be eligible starting Wednesday.
SENATE REPUBLICANS USE ARCANE PROCEDURE TO KEEP SCHOOL REOPENING BILL ALIVE: Perhaps not coincidentally, the measure's lone Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. Ben Clark, D-Hoke, was absent. Had he attended session and voted for the bill, as he did when it first passed the General Assembly last month, the legislation would have lived, moving to the state House, which might have completed the override. With Clark absent, and another of the bill's three Democratic supporters, Sen. Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, reversing course to vote with the Democratic governor, the measure seemed dead. But parliamentary procedure allows for reconsideration, and Republican leadership said Tuesday evening they'll do just that Wednesday. Reconsideration takes only majority support, and Republicans have enough for that without Democrats joining them. From there, it's a waiting game. A second veto override attempt hasn't been calendered, but Republicans promised to give 24 hours' notice, as required by chamber rules.
VIDEO SURFACES OF SALISBURY POLICE OFFICER ABUSING K-9 DURING "TRAINING": The video first shows the dog exiting a police SUV before the handler yells “stay." The officer puts a leash on the dog, lifts it up and begins swinging the animal around his back as he walks towards the SUV, the video shows. In the background, someone is heard saying, “we’re good, no witnesses.” The video then shows the officer slamming the dog into the SUV before shoving the dog into the car. The officer yells “stay” and then hits the dog. The video ends with someone asking if a camera is on and another person replying, “no, my power is off.” The video was sent to WMYT-TV. It's unclear when the training took place. An outside agency will be investigating and the department is reviewing its K-9 policy and guidelines. The officer's name wasn't immediately released.
NEERA TANDEN'S NOMINATION TO LEAD OMB PULLED BY BIDEN ADMINISTRATION: The White House withdrew Neera Tanden’s nomination to be director of the White House Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday evening after she faced bipartisan opposition for the job — dealing President Biden his first Cabinet defeat in the evenly split Senate. Tanden, who would have been the first woman of color to lead the powerful budget agency, drew opposition because of past social media posts attacking Republican lawmakers. In a letter to the president withdrawing herself from consideration, Tanden acknowledged that she had no remaining path to confirmation and said she did not want to distract from other priorities. “I have the utmost respect for her record of accomplishment, her experience and her counsel, and I look forward to having her serve in a role in my administration,” Biden said in a statement. “She will bring valuable perspective and insight to our work.” Tanden, a veteran political operative who most recently led the liberal Washington-based Center for American Progress think tank, had maintained an active presence on Twitter, frequently criticizing GOP senators. She has since deleted more than 1,000 tweets and apologized for her past remarks, although Senate Republicans repeatedly seized on her social media posts to criticize her fitness and temperament for the administration job. Tanden had called Collins “the worst” and “pathetic,” and said “vampires have more heart than Ted Cruz,” referring to the GOP senator from Texas. Tanden has compared Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to “Voldemort,” the Harry Potter series villain, and called him “Moscow Mitch.” Tanden’s defeat was a disappointment to Asian American advocacy groups, which had pressured Biden to nominate more Asian American and Pacific Islander officials to his administration.
IRAN-BACKED MILITIA RETALIATES AGAINST U.S. FORCES IN IRAQ OVER SYRIAN AIRSTRIKE: A barrage of rockets were fired on Wednesday at the Ain al-Asad air base in Iraq’s western Anbar Province — one of the last remaining Iraqi bases where U.S. forces are stationed. An Iraqi security statement said that 10 missiles had hit the sprawling base, causing no casualties or major damage. But the Sabareen news outlet, which is affiliated with Iran-backed militias, said three U.S. soldiers had been killed in the attack. Asked by email to confirm the deaths, a coalition spokesman, Col. Wayne Marotto, replied that “the incident is still under investigation.” The assault came just under a week after the United States attacked Iran-backed militia targets at the Syria-Iraq border. Those airstrikes, ordered by the Biden administration, hit a collection of buildings on the Syrian side of a border crossing. The Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah said one of its fighters had been killed in those airstrikes. It identified him as a member of Popular Mobilization forces that are officially part of Iraqi security forces helping prevent infiltration by the Islamic State. The assault on the base on Wednesday came just days before a visit by Pope Francis to Iraq beginning on Friday — the first ever papal visit to the war-ravaged country. The attackers who targeted the base on Wednesday used BM-21 “Grad” missiles, fired from about five miles from the base, officials said. A local paramilitary leader near the base said he had heard the impact of the rockets and then went to investigate. The leader, Sheikh Qutri Kahlan al-Obeidi, said he had found “a burned vehicle — a Mitsubishi pickup,” rigged with missile launchers, that appeared to have been used in the attack. No group took responsibility, but the Biden administration will be under pressure to respond if U.S. soldiers were killed, even as the pope’s visit could complicate any immediate military escalation.