On Wednesday afternoon, the Republican-dominated North Carolina legislature called a surprise fourth special session, just after finishing a third special session to approve $200 million in disaster relief. By Wednesday night, Republicans had filed a raft of bills that would significantly curb the power of incoming Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who narrowly defeated Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in November; McCrory finally conceded the race last week, and Cooper doesn't take office until Jan. 1, 2017. Democrats did not know about the new special session, approved Monday, until noon on Wednesday.
The GOP bills would end the governor's control over state and county election boards, require State Senate confirmation of Cooper's Cabinet appointees, strip him of authority to name trustees to the University of North Carolina, and cut to 300 from 1,500 the number of state employees who serve at the governor's pleasure, giving protection to hundreds of upper-level state employees appointed by McCrory, reversing an expansion McCrory approved right after he took over from his Democratic predecessor. Many of the election boards that would now have a bipartisan spilt had cut voting hours, polling locations, and Sunday voting when controlled by Republicans, measures all criticized as aiming to suppress black turnout.
Democrats had expressed concern that the GOP legislature would try to add two Republican justices to the Supreme Court, which flipped to a Democratic majority in the election, but instead Republicans filed a bill that would shift power from the Supreme Court to the GOP-majority Court of Appeals. "This is an unprecedented, shameful, and cowardly power grab from the Republicans," Jamal Little, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said of the GOP bills. Cooper was more restrained, urging lawmakers to, among other things, repeal HB 2, the transgender "bathroom" bill.
#NCGA should focus on higher teacher pay, better wages for working North Carolinians and repealing HB 2.
— Roy Cooper (@RoyCooperNC) December 15, 2016
Republicans did not exactly deny the power-grabbing accusation. "I think, to be candid with you, that you will see the General Assembly look to reassert its constitutional authority in areas that may have been previously delegated to the executive branch," Rep. David Lewis (R) told reporters, adding that "some of the stuff we're doing, obviously if the election results were different, we might not be moving quite as fast on." Republican legislators, he added, will "work to establish that we are going to continue to be a relevant party in governing the state." Peter Weber
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Monday that "after much consideration," he believes Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the committee's chairman, should recuse himself from further involvement in the Russia investigation.
Schiff came to this conclusion after Nunes admitted he went to the White House to meet with a source that told him about the incidental collection of communications from members of President Trump's transition team, and he later filled Trump in on what he learned. Nunes was also a member of the transition team, and Schiff, who has worked with Nunes for several years, said this recommendation is not one he makes lightly. "But in the same way that the attorney general was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation after failing to inform the Senate of his meetings with Russian officials, I believe the public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the president's campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the chairman," he said in a statement.
None of the committee's members on either side of the aisle have seen the documents Nunes claimed to see, Schiff said. "Whether the documents support the argument that names were improperly unmakes or distributed, it is impossible to judge, but one things is very clear: There was no legitimate justification for bringing that information to the White House instead of the committee," he added. "That it was also obtained at the White House makes this departure all the more concerning. In the interests of a fair and impartial investigation whose results will be respected by the public, the chairman's recusal is more than warranted." Catherine Garcia
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is setting his sights on something new: "neural lace" technology, which involves implanting tiny electrodes into the brain that could one day help humans function at a higher level.
His new company, Neuralink, will pursue developing these cranial computers, which at first would most likely be used to treat people with brain disorders like epilepsy and major depression. While Musk would not comment to The Wall Street Journal about Neuralink, several people with information about the company said he is actively setting it up and could have a significant leadership role. Musk has said it's important for humanity to not be left behind as advances are made in artificial intelligence. Catherine Garcia
Two years after HBO series True Detective's widely panned second season came to an end, rumors of a third season are bubbling up. Though HBO has yet to give the season the go-ahead, Entertainment Weekly reported Monday that the show's creator Nic Pizzolatto has written at least two episodes for a possible third season, and Emmy-winning writer and producer David Milch — known for his work on Deadwood and NYPD Blue — has signed on to help.
— Paste Magazine (@PasteMagazine) March 27, 2017
While HBO head of programming Casey Bloys said in July 2016 that the network was "open to another season," there was not a "take for a third season yet." Pizzolatto was said to be working on other projects at the time. If the revival does get the greenlight from HBO, Matthew McConaughey — half of the dynamic duo from the widely acclaimed first season — has already said he'd be interested in reprising his role. Becca Stanek
Early voting has started in Georgia's 6th congressional district in an election to replace former Rep. Tom Price (R), who now serves as President Trump's health secretary. And if you are in need of a ride to the polls, you can hitch one with Who's the Boss? actress Alyssa Milano and actor Christopher Gorham.
— Christopher Gorham (@ChrisGorham) March 27, 2017
Milano and Gorham have thrown their support behind Jon Ossoff, one of five Democrats in the race. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes Ossoff as a "29-year-old small business owner — he runs a firm specializing in anti-corruption investigations — [and he] once worked as a congressional aide and has the endorsements of Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson as well as some other party leaders."
The qualifying election for the seat runs Monday through Wednesday, with the special election scheduled for April 18 and a runoff election set for June 20. Read more about the candidates at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution here. Jeva Lange
Moonlight director Barry Jenkins is working with Amazon to transform The Underground Railroad into a limited series
Barry Jenkins, the Oscar-winning director and writer of the Best Picture-awarded film Moonlight, is teaming up with Amazon for his next project. Amazon announced Monday that Jenkins is set to write and direct a television adaptation of Colson Whitehead's novel The Underground Railroad, a story of slavery and the South intertwined with reinvented details — like a literal railroad system serving as the historic slave escape route. The fictional novel won the 2016 National Book Award.
"It's a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation's history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way. Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking," Jenkins said in a statement. "In Amazon we've found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision."
Actor Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment and Jenkins' production company Pastel are on board to executive produce the limited series. The New York Times noted the series has not "officially been given the green light, though the high-profile nature of the title and figures involved make that seem likely."
A potential debut date has yet to be announced. Becca Stanek
Thieves have stolen a 221-pound gold coin from the Bode Museum in Berlin, Time reports. The heist (and heft) took place overnight, and police unsurprisingly suspect it was the work of multiple burglars.
The "Big Maple Leaf," as the coin is known, is worth more than $4 million due to the amount of gold in it. The coin was issued by the Royal Canadian Mint ("because we can") and features an image of Queen Elizabeth II on one side and a maple leaf on the reverse. It is more than 20 inches wide.
— Yahoo Canada News (@YahooCanadaNews) March 27, 2017
Investigators found a ladder on nearby train tracks, but it is unclear if it is related to the burglars' getaway. Jeva Lange
The Oakland Raiders will relocate to Las Vegas by the 2020 season, after a Monday vote among NFL team owners approved the franchise's relocation request 31-1. Only the Miami Dolphins owner dissented.
The Raiders will remain in Oakland for at least the 2017 season, if not both the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and may share Levi's Stadium with the San Francisco 49ers for the 2019 season while they await the construction of a brand-new 65,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas. The team will share the venue with the University of Nevada.
The Raiders are the third NFL franchise to relocate in the last year, after the Rams and the Chargers both moved to Los Angeles from St. Louis and San Diego, respectively. They are also the second new team for Sin City, after the NHL designated an expansion team for the city; the Golden Knights will debut on the ice next season.
"The Raiders were born in Oakland and Oakland will always be part of our DNA," Raiders owner Mark Davis said in a statement. For more on how the Raiders franchise ended up in Vegas, head to Sports Illustrated, or read Davis' full statement below. Kimberly Alters
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) March 27, 2017