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FBI, Durham County hosts training sessions for EMS, SWAT
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – The FBI is joining with emergency personnel in a North Carolina county in a special training session for federal, state and local SWAT and EMS professionals.
A news release from the FBI says the three-day training, which began Tuesday, will focus on skills needed to respond to medical and mass casualty situations. It will involve realistic exercises including treating life-threatening injuries, extracting victims from buildings and wooded terrain, and loading victims for ground and air transport.
The training, which also involves Durham County Emergency Medical Services, is taking place at different locations in Durham.
Among the participants are the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, Durham Police Department, Durham County Sheriff’s Office and FBI SWAT.
Prescribed burn planned in Pisgah National Forest
NEBO, N.C. (AP) – The U.S. Forest Service has scheduled a 197-acre prescribed burn in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina.
The forest service says in a news release the burn is set for Wednesday in northern Caldwell County on the Grandfather Ranger District. The burn depends on site-specific weather conditions and smoke modeling data. All prescribed burns follow smoke management guidelines to reduce impacts to the public.
Officials say the object of the burn is to reduce fuels to prevent catastrophic wildfire in communities near the national forest.
PAIN CLINIC-OPIOID PRESCRIPTIONS
Clinic accused of ‘liberally’ prescribing unneeded opioids
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – A pain management clinic with facilities in Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina is accused of “liberally” prescribing unnecessary opioid painkillers.
News outlets report the U.S. Department of Justice joined three lawsuits this month that accuse the company, Pain Management Associates, of benefiting from over-prescribing the addictive drugs. The lawsuits, filed by former employees, were then partially unsealed.
Plaintiffs accuse the clinic of over-prescribing opioids to justify more urine screens, as the lab that handled the screens was owned by clinic owner Daniel McCollum.
One lawsuit says McCollum also owned a pharmacy that provided patient drugs. One lawsuit says most patients had Medicare, and so McCollum received federal reimbursements he wasn’t entitled to.
Several clinic offices were raided by the FBI in October. McCollum’s attorney, Rebekah Plowman, declined to comment.
NORTH CAROLINA-DISPUTED ELECTION
Pittenger backs former county official in Congress primary
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – The former North Carolina Republican congressman for a district where a re-do election will be held because of evidence of illegal absentee ballot manipulation in the fall has endorsed a potential successor.
Ex-Rep. Robert Pittenger confirmed Tuesday he backs former Mecklenburg County Commissioner Matthew Ridenhour, one of 10 candidates running in May’s Republican primary in the 9th District.
Pittenger lost to Mark Harris in last spring’s GOP primary. Several people working for Harris’ campaign were indicted last month involving ballot handling during that primary.
Neither Pittenger nor Harris is running in the new election. Dan McCready ran second to Harris in November and is the only Democrat in the new election.
North Carolina Democrats’ top administrator to step down
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The veteran political activist who runs the North Carolina Democratic Party’s day-to-day operations is leaving after nearly four years on the job.
Party Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds announced Tuesday she would step down April 1. She said she’ll stick around as a senior adviser until the party hires her replacement.
Reynolds helped lead the party while it made political inroads following setbacks earlier this decade. Roy Cooper was elected governor in 2016 and Democrats earned enough seats in 2018 to end the Republicans’ veto-proof majorities in the state House and Senate.
Party Chair Wayne Goodwin says Reynolds’ leadership, calm attitude and humor were “instrumental in turning our party around.”
Reynolds says in a news release she will now begin a company that would “foster the next generation of Democratic leaders.”
COLLEGE ADMISSIONS-BRIBERY-WAKE FOREST
Wake Forest to redirect $50K from scandal to program
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) – Wake Forest University says it will redirect $50,000 it received from a California foundation linked to a national college admission bribery scandal.
The Winston-Salem Journal reports university president Nathan Hatch announced Monday the money will go to the Magnolia Scholars program for first-generation college students.
Federal prosecutors have accused dozens of wealthy parents of illegally conspiring to get their children into several elite U.S. colleges. Prosecutors say parents either paid bribes to have a college counselor rig standardized tests or get their children admitted as recruits of sports they didn’t play.
Wake Forest suspended volleyball coach Bill Ferguson after he was accused of accepting $100,000 to recruit a student on a waiting list. Ferguson’s set to appear in federal court Monday, charged with one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering.
House budget-writers offer no-debt school construction plan
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Some key North Carolina House Republicans are floating a plan to set aside billions of tax dollars for public education and state agency construction and for rural broadband without additional debt.
Budget chairmen Dean Arp of Monroe and Jason Saine of Lincolnton among others filed the bill on Tuesday, just days after the House overwhelmingly supported a $1.9 billion school bond referendum that Speaker Tim Moore championed.
The new pay-as-you-go proposal is similar to one Senate Republicans approved. Although Saine and Arp voted for Moore’s package, their measure shows lines of division among House Republicans that senators could manipulate in final construction negotiations this year.
Arp says the plan doesn’t “mortgage our children’s future” with building schools they need today.
Gov. Roy Cooper and fellow Democrats favor issuing debt.
STALKING CONVICTION OVERTURNED-FREE SPEECH
Court: Online free speech rights trump stalking conviction
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A man imprisoned for stalking has had his conviction overturned after North Carolina’s Court of Appeals ruled the social media posts underpinning the charges were protected by free speech rights.
A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday for Brady Lorenzo Shackelford, who was sentenced to more than two years for stalking a woman he met at church in 2015. Court documents say Shackelford repeatedly called her his “soul mate” and future wife in Google Plus posts. He also sent handwritten letters and cupcakes, despite her turning down a dinner invitation, according to court documents.
The ruling says Shackelford’s conviction was primarily based on social media posts, and thus violated his First Amendment rights.
The attorney general’s office didn’t immediately respond to a message asking if it will appeal to keep Shackelford imprisoned.