AP-NC Newswatch

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February 3, 2022
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February 3, 2022
AP-NC Newswatch


Latest North Carolina News:


Strained US hospitals seek foreign nurses amid visa windfall
Many American hospitals are looking abroad for health care workers, saying they’re facing a dire shortage of nurses amid the slogging pandemic. It could be just in time as there’s an unusually high number of green cards available this year for foreign professionals seeking to move to the United States. The reason is U.S. consulates were closed during the coronavirus pandemic, leaving tens of thousands of unused visa slots for eligible workers. The Biden administration has taken some steps to try to help foreign health care workers get here more quickly. But some hospitals say they’re still waiting on consular interviews to bring in nurses.



Explosion fears remain as N. Carolina fertilizer plant burns
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) – An uncontrolled fire at a fertilizer plant has continued to burn in North Carolina. Fire officials in the city of Winston-Salem said the potential for an explosion had not gone down on Wednesday afternoon. They also said they couldn’t predict when the blaze might go out. And they didn’t know how many people have actually complied with calls to evacuate an area that includes 2,500 homes. The fire is at the Winston Weaver Company fertilizer plant on the north side of the city. The blaze began Monday night and shot bright orange flames into the sky. An estimated 500 tons of combustible ammonium nitrate were housed at the plant.



NC panel rejects vaccine mandate for high school seniors
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina state health panel has declined to require high school seniors to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Wednesday’s decision aligns with the wishes of Gov. Roy Cooper and other state health leaders who’ve said such a mandate was premature. Some University of North Carolina system professors had asked the commission to add the vaccine to state immunization requirements for those who are 17 years old or entering 12th grade. The commission is composed of people elected by the North Carolina Medical Society and appointed by the governor. Some parents opposed to a mandate gathered outside the building where the meeting was held.



Debt study says NC government still in good fiscal position
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s annual debt affordability study says state government largely continues to be in a fiscally healthy position when it comes to borrowing. The study’s authors say the state could approve $4.3 billion in bonds this year – or $1.4 billion annually for the next five years – and remain within self-imposed debt-to-revenue limits. That cap is designed to help the state retain top scores from credit-rating agencies. This debt is repaid with state operating fund revenues. But the report says there’s no additional debt capacity right now for transportation projects. This debt is repaid with revenues from things like gasoline and car-sales taxes.



Biden orders forces to Europe amid stalled Ukraine talks
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden is ordering 2,000 U.S. troops to Poland and Germany amid the stalled talks with Russia over the Kremlin’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders. The U.S. is also moving roughly 1,000 troops to Romania from an infantry squadron based in Germany. U.S. officials from Biden on down say no American forces will be sent to Ukraine itself to fight, even with the threat of a Russian invasion. Still, Russia reacted angrily to the latest troop announcement, calling it “destructive.” The United States says the new military movements are meant to reassure allies – and remind Russia – of America’s commitment to NATO’s eastern flank in the region.



16 markers disturbed in historic Black N. Carolina cemetery
SALISBURY, N.C. (AP) – Officials say more than a dozen gravestones were either broken or toppled in a historic Black cemetery in North Carolina where the oldest headstone is said to date back more than 170 years. The Salisbury Post reports it’s not clear when or why the Dixonville Cemetery was vandalized, but Dixonville-Lincoln Memorial Task Force Chair Emily Perry said it was heartbreaking to see vandalism affecting a project she has worked on for 11 years. The vandalism was discovered as Perry and communications staff with the city of Salisbury drove to the cemetery on Wednesday to film videos for Black History Month.



N. Carolina justices pepper lawyers in redistricting case
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina Supreme Court justices have peppered attorneys with questions over whether they have authority to throw out new congressional and legislative districts simply because of what some consider excessive partisanship in them favoring Republicans. The court held oral arguments on Wednesday. Now justices must decide whether the maps approved by the GOP-controlled legislature in November are so partisan that the state constitution gives them power to strike them down. A trial court last month found intentional pro-Republican redistricting but declared it wasn’t the judiciary role to interfere in an inherently legislative duty. Plaintiffs’ attorneys told the justices they need to step in to protect democracy.



New N. Carolina state House member replaces veteran Fisher
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A data scientist and former Peace Corps volunteer has joined the North Carolina House, succeeding longtime Rep. Susan Fisher of Asheville. Democrat Caleb Rudow was sworn in on Tuesday, the day after Fisher resigned. He was the choice of Buncombe County Democratic activists to serve out the remainder of Fisher’s two-year term. Fisher joined the House in 2004. Rudow is an Asheville native. He served with the Peace Corps in Zambia for over three years. Rudow says he intends to run for a full two-year term, beginning with the primary set for May 17.