Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
N Carolina voters want challenged Congress map blocked now
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina state judges soon will hear arguments on whether congressional districts challenged by voters who say the lines are tainted by excessive partisan bias shouldn’t be used in the 2020 elections
A three-judge panel on Thursday set an Oct. 24 hearing date on a request by the plaintiffs in a partisan gerrymandering lawsuit to block the maps now, rather than wait for a trial. The voters who sued say the legislature could redraw the state’s 13 U.S. House districts in time for use in the scheduled March primary.
The congressional lawsuit was filed three weeks after the same judges struck down state House and Senate maps on similar claims that Republican lawmakers violated the state constitution by deliberately drawing them to keep control of the General Assembly.
North Carolina confirms 2nd death from Legionnaires’ disease
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina health officials have confirmed a second death from Legionnaires’ disease linked to a hot tub display at a fair.
The Division of Public Health in the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services says that as of Wednesday, it has confirmed 134 cases in multiple states and North Carolina counties. The department says the cases are connected to people who attended the Mountain State Fair last month in Fletcher.
In addition to the two deaths, 88 people have been hospitalized.
According to the department, preliminary findings suggest exposure to Legionella bacteria occurred inside the Davis Event Center at the fair, specifically near the hot tubs and during the last five days of the event.
SOUTHERN DROUGHT-THE LATEST
The Latest: New report shows US ‘flash drought’ more intense
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. (AP) – Forecasters say a “flash drought” is intensifying across the southern United States.
A new report out Thursday shows that severe and extreme drought conditions are spreading into more parts of the South.
The U.S. Drought Monitor report also shows that nearly 56 million people in parts of 16 states are now living in some type of drought conditions.
The drought has drained ponds, hurt crops and worried farmers across several southern states.
Now, farmers are concerned about the long-term outlook as late October is typically among the driest periods in the South.
With less to lose, will retiring Republicans desert Trump?
WASHINGTON (AP) – Retiring congressional Republicans are a natural group to watch for defectors as Democrats’ impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump builds steam. But they’re not crumbling yet.
Four GOP senators and 17 House Republicans are not seeking reelection next year.
While most are leaving politics and feeling less pressure to defend Trump, they sound much like their GOP colleagues who are staying in Congress.
They’ve downplayed Democrats’ case against Trump, criticized the impeachment investigation, been vague or said nothing.
Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee is ending his four-decade political career. He’s respected as an independent voice and is considered a Republican bellwether on the issue.
Alexander said this week that it was “inappropriate” for Trump to have prodded foreign governments to investigate political opponents. But he called impeachment “a mistake.”
Less prison time for some drug offenders in First Step bill
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Some drug offenders in North Carolina could get lower prison sentences and fines in narrow circumstances in legislation slated to be heard soon by the full Senate.
Senators had scheduled floor debate on the “First Step Act” for Thursday, one day after a committee recommended the bill. But Republicans leaders delayed discussion until later this month. Nearly 15 senators were absent.
Bill supporters say it would benefit people with drug addictions who face long mandatory sentences only because they possessed levels of illegal drugs that met trafficking definitions. A judge would have to determine several factors were met, including the lack of substantial evidence a defendant has ever sold or delivered drugs.
Democratic Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham said this week groups representing sheriffs and district attorneys support the measure.
ICE CREAM RECALL
Blue Bell recalls ice cream that may contain plastic bits
SYLACAUGA, Ala. (AP) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says Blue Bell Creameries is recalling a batch of ice cream made at an Alabama plant over concerns it may contain pieces of plastic.
The agency made the announcement Wednesday. News outlets report about 1,700 half gallons of Butter Crunch ice cream produced at the Sylacauga, Alabama, plant on Aug. 26 may be contaminated.
Blue Bell said in a statement that a customer reported finding a plastic tool in their ice cream. The company says an investigation found the broken tool was accidentally added during production.
The product was sold in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Stores have been told to remove the ice cream from their shelves and customers who purchased it can receive a refund.
SMOLDERING CHROMEBOOK EVACUATION-RECALL
Smoldering laptop causes NC school evacuation, recall
LEWISVILLE, N.C. (AP) – Officials say an overheated and smoldering Chromebook caused about 600 children to be evacuated from a North Carolina school, whose district is now recalling about $4.2 million dollars’ worth of district-issued laptops.
Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools’ chief technology officer, Kevin Sherrill, told reporters at a Wednesday news conference that the children were evacuated that morning after the 2015 laptop began to smoke.
District spokesman Brent Campbell said a Lewisville Elementary third grader reported the laptop was getting hot, and it then started to smoke. He says the classroom and building were evacuated, and the laptop was sprayed with a fire extinguisher.
Sherrill says the laptop likely suffered a battery-related issue. The district is now recalling all 20,000 of its 2015 Chromebooks, which Sherrill says are each valued at about $210.
Police officer injured when vehicle hits patrol car
WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina police officer was injured when a pickup truck hit her patrol car.
News sources report Wilmington police say the officer was sitting in her car and writing up a report on a separate collision on Wednesday when the truck hit her cruiser from behind, pushing it into one of the cars involved in the previous collision.
The officer was taken to New Hanover County Regional Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
Police said 38-year-old Eric Atwood also went to the hospital for treatment, after which he was charged with driving while impaired, careless and reckless driving, carrying a concealed weapon after consuming alcohol and failure to reduce speed. A concealed handgun was found in Atwood’s truck, leading to the weapon charge.