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February 22, 2019
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February 22, 2019
AP-NC Newswatch





Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. EST



N Carolina town removes Confederate marker ahead of protests
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – Citing public safety concerns, a North Carolina town has removed its Jefferson Davis Highway memorial marker ahead of planned weekend protests.
News outlets report the Town of Chapel Hill removed the marker Friday, after receiving clarification from the state attorney general that it was on town property, and not University of North Carolina or state property.
In October, the Orange County Board of Supervisors repealed a resolution designating a local stretch of U.S. 15 in honor of the Confederate president, but the stone pillar topped with a bronze plaque remained while the ownership question remained unsettled. It’s still unclear who owns the marker itself.
Town officials also removed a new plaque erected by activists honoring an unnamed black woman whipped by Julian Carr, calling both plaques “a public nuisance.”



The Latest: N. Carolina candidate’s son warned methods shady
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The son of the Republican in the country’s last undecided congressional election says he warned his parents that he thought the North Carolina political operative accused of illegally collecting voter’s ballots used shady methods and should be avoided.
John Harris testified Wednesday at a North Carolina elections board special hearing into ballot fraud allegations in the state’s 9th congressional district. Republican Mark Harris led Democrat Dan McCready after November’s election, but the race wasn’t certified after allegations against a Harris contractor who focused on mail-in ballots in two rural counties.
John Harris said he warned his father even before Mark Harris launched his primary campaign that he didn’t trust contractor Leslie McCrae Dowless. John Harris says he thinks Dowless lied about his methods and his parents believed him.
John Harris says he warned his parents through phone calls and emails.



Great Smoky Mountains National Park sees record visitation
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) – The Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw a record number of visitors in 2018.
According to the park, more than 11.4 million people visited last year, an increase of a little less than 1 percent from the previous year.
Park officials attribute the increase to the completion of a new section of the Foothills Parkway in November that opened new vistas to park visitors. The Smokies saw record visitation in the last two months of the year.
Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said in a news release that the new section of the Foothills Parkway “is a spectacular scenic driving destination.” Nearly 200,000 people visited it in November and December. Cash said he hopes “people take the time to explore it across the seasons.”



North Carolina doctor gets 3 years for trading drugs for sex
(Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina doctor has been sentenced to three years in federal prison for giving female patients drugs such as Percocet and Clonazepam in exchange for sex.
The Charlotte Observer reports Michael Alson Smith was sentenced Thursday, having pleaded guilty last year to charges including health care fraud.
Court documents say he traded drugs for sex with at least seven patients in 2017 at the now-closed Mt. Holly Family Practice. They say he also billed Medicaid and Medicare for reimbursement of patient visits that only included sex.
His license to practice was revoked in 2017 after he admitted to having sex with two patients, one of whom didn’t consent.
Smith was also ordered to pay about $3,500 in restitution and serve two years of supervised release after completing his sentence.



North Carolina health officials report 13 new flu deaths
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina health officials say 13 people died from the flu in the state last week, raising the death toll for the season to 68.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services also reported Thursday that three additional deaths in previous weeks have been attributed to the flu.
So far, 48 of the victims were ages 65 or older. Another 13 were in the 50-to-64 age group and seven were in the 25-to-49 age group.
Officials say the latest report may not reflect the total number of flu deaths in the state because some cases go unreported or undiagnosed.
For the same time period in the previous flu season, officials reported 212 deaths.



The Latest: New election ordered in undecided US House race
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s elections board has ordered a new election in the nation’s last undecided congressional race after reviewing evidence that it was tainted by absentee ballot fraud.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections voted 5-0 on Thursday to hold a new election in the 9th Congressional District. The board did not immediately set a schedule.
Following last November’s election, Republican Mark Harris had held a slim lead over Democrat Dan McCready in unofficial results from the district running from Charlotte through several counties to the east.
But the state refused to certify the win because of absentee-ballot irregularities.
Harris said Thursday during the hearing that he thought a new election should be called.



Cyclorama to be unveiled again amid diverging views of past
ATLANTA (AP) – As cities and states across the South are removing or covering up Confederate monuments, an enormous painting depicting the Battle of Atlanta from the American Civil War will soon reopen to the public.
But historians say this painting – one of the world’s largest – was never intended to celebrate the Confederacy.
The Atlanta Cyclorama depicts charging horses, wounded soldiers, cannon blasts and smoke as Union troops defeated Confederate forces and then torched much of the city.
The painting goes on display Friday at the Atlanta History Center after a two-year restoration effort.
Historians say it was created by a group of mostly German immigrants in Milwaukee and was intended to celebrate a northern victory in Atlanta.
When it was moved to Atlanta, it was advertised as a Confederate victory to appeal to southerners.



North Carolina authorities find missing inmate
SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) – Authorities in North Carolina say an inmate who went missing at the Rutherford Correctional Center has been captured not far from the facility.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety said in a statement that department K-9 staff and members of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office found 22-year-old Jeremy Fincannon about one mile from the facility on Thursday afternoon. Officials had determined he was missing after a routine count at 7:30 a.m.
Officials say the minimum custody inmate originally from Rutherford County was serving a term of five years and six months as a habitual felon after convictions for assault. Fincannon was scheduled for release in September. Now, officials say he will face charges related to this incident and be moved to a higher custody facility.



AP-WF-02-22-19 1655GMT