AP Newswatch

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March 27, 2018
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March 27, 2018
AP Newswatch

Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
Agency: School boards, counties should stay out of court
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – School districts across North Carolina will present fall funding requests in the coming weeks, with the threat of costly and lengthy litigation if local county commissioners can’t see eye-to-eye with school board members on spending.
The General Assembly’s government watchdog agency told legislators Monday they should pass a law barring school districts from suing when funding disagreements can’t be settled through formal mediation.
The Program Evaluation Division recommended the new law instead direct a county fund a district when mediation is exhausted through a formula based on student membership and inflation.
Some committee members hearing the agency report questioned whether it was worth changing the law since school funding impasses reached the courts just four times between 1997 and 2015. It took 21 months on average to resolve them.



Judge: Release video of police beating of jaywalker
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina judge has ruled all video in the case of a white police officer accused of using excessive force against a black man accused of jaywalking should be released.
Local news outlets report Buncombe County Superior Court Judge Mark Powell said Monday it was in the public interest for footage captured by police body cameras to be made public. Powell set an April 2 release date.
District Attorney Todd Williams said the release would threaten his ability to prosecute the case.
Video footage captures former Asheville Police Officer Christopher Hickman ordering Johnnie Jermaine Rush to put his hands behind his back. It shows Hickman punching Rush’s head and using a stun gun while holding him to the ground last Aug. 25.
Hickman was later charged with felony assault.



N Carolina Green Party likely to field candidates this fall
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina voters should have additional candidates to choose from beginning this fall thanks to a new law that makes it easier for third parties to get on ballots.
The new state elections board plans to consider the application of the Green Party to become an official state party at its meeting Tuesday.
Currently only the Democratic, Republican and Libertarian Party are official parties that automatically get their candidates on ballots for federal, state and local offices in North Carolina.
A law approved last October that reduces the number of signatures for parties to qualify also gives them another qualification route if their candidates appeared on ballots in at least 35 states in the last presidential election. The Green Party is using this new qualification method.



Mental health agency sues to recover ex-CEO’s severance
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s largest regional mental health agency has sued its former CEO to recover $1.7 million in severance pay.
News outlets report Cardinal Innovations sued former CEO Richard Topping on Monday, adding that they are also seeking to prevent him from collecting any further payments.
Last May, State Auditor Beth Wood ripped Cardinal for spending on CEO pay as well as on lavish Christmas parties and board retreats, charter flights for executives and “questionable” credit card purchases, including alcohol.
In October, an auditor for the Department of Health and Human Services released a 17-page report criticizing the severance packages Cardinal was offering Topping and his team. The next month, DHHS took over the agency, firing the board for approving a severance package of $3.8 million for Topping and other executives.



North Carolina man found guilty in deaths of wife, daughter
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina man accused of killing his wife and daughter and posting pictures of their bodies to Facebook has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
Local news outlets report a Wake County jury reached its verdict Monday in the trial of Elhadji Seydou Diop. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole in the death of his wife, and an additional 20 to 25 years for his daughter’s death.
Prosecutors said Diop strangled 40-year-old Aminata Drame in April 2016, but medical examiners couldn’t tell if 2-year-old Fatim Diop had been strangled, suggesting she may have been smothered when her fighting parents fell on her in their Raleigh townhouse.
Police went to the family’s home after Diop’s niece in Senegal saw the dead bodies on his Facebook page.



US gun maker Remington files for bankruptcy protection
U.S. gun maker Remington Outdoor Company has filed for bankruptcy protection, after years of falling sales and lawsuits tied to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Records from the bankruptcy court of the district of Delaware show that the company filed late Sunday.
Remington had in February reached a deal with lenders to reduce its debt by about $700 million and add about $145 million in new capital. But that only bought time for it to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Remington makes the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle that was used in the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead in 2012. The company was cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting, but investors distanced themselves from the company’s owner, investor Cerberus Capital Management.



‘Truly alarming’: No babies for endangered right whales
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) – The winter calving season for critically endangered right whales is ending along the southeast U.S. seacoast and scientists are bracing for what would be the worst season in three decades – with no newborns spotted since December.
Survey flights over the Georgia and Florida coasts haven’t turned up any mother-and-calf pairs in four months. Those surveys are to wrap up when the month ends Saturday.
Researchers have recorded between one and 39 births each year since 1989. A zero-birth year would come at a terrible time. A total of 17 right whales washed up dead in the U.S. and Canada last year, far outpacing five births.
Philip Hamilton is a right whale researcher at the New England Aquarium in Boston. He calls the dismal calving season “truly alarming.”



Tesla starts community college courses to train technicians
CHARL0TTE, N.C. (AP) – Electric car maker Tesla Inc. is fostering community college training programs for what could be new blue-collar jobs as mechanics for the growing number of battery-powered vehicles.
A first group of Tesla technicians is set to graduate next week from a 12-week training program at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte. The company said a second group is nearing the end of classes at Rio Hondo College in Whittier, California.
Courses focus on skills specific to electric vehicles such as battery architecture and charging technology, and particularly servicing Tesla vehicles. A spokeswoman said Monday the Palo Alto, California-based company pays for the instructor, curriculum, and classroom or workshop equipment among other costs.
Tesla produces or plans to make passenger cars, a pickup truck and semi trucks.

AP-WF-03-27-18 1020GMT