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Associated Press

Posted on October 30, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 11:00 AM

DISASTER DECLARATION

Obama administration orders aid for NC after rains

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Obama administration has ordered that federal assistance be made available for some North Carolina counties affected by heavy summer rains.

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama signed an emergency declaration calling for federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides in July.

The counties affected by the declaration are Ashe, Avery, Catawba, Lincoln, Watauga, and Wilkes.

In September, the president made funding available for Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Jackson, Macon, Madison, Mitchell, Polk, Watauga, and Yancey counties, plus the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, because of damage from the rains.

At that time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said additional designations may be made later if requested by the state and warranted by further damage assessments.

CHOOSE LIFE PLATES

Court to hear NC 'Choose Life' license plate case

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court in Virginia is set to hear arguments on whether North Carolina can offer anti-abortion license plates without making plates available to people who hold the opposite view.

U.S. District Judge James Fox ruled last December that offering just the "Choose Life" license plate violates the First Amendment. The state appealed, and a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond will hear arguments from both sides Wednesday.

North Carolina lawmakers approved the "Choose Life" plate in 2011. They rejected proposals to also offer plates with the messages "Trust Women" and "Respect Choice."

In 2004, the Richmond-based appeals court upheld a South Carolina judge's ruling that the "Choose Life" plates in that state were unconstitutional.

GUARD TRAINING

6,400 NC National Guard members miss training

(Information in the following story is from: The Fayetteville Observer, http://www.fayobserver.com)

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The federal government shutdown meant that 6,400 members of the North Carolina Guard missed training sessions.

The Fayetteville Observer reports Wednesday that the shutdown was also an inconvenience to guardsmen who depend on pay from drill weekends or who have to change plans to reschedule training.

Guard spokesman Capt. Richard Scoggins said guard leaders are concerned about the lost training time and are working to find ways to make it up.

Before the shutdown, it took a long time to get repair parts for military vehicles. By the end of the shutdown, Scoggins said repair parts and fuel were unavailable because no money has been appropriated.

The delays in training affected 140 Army and seven Air Force Guard units.

GREENSBORO FIRE

Electricity sparked fire at Greensboro facility

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Officials say a fire at a Greensboro demolition center was sparked by static electricity.

The Greensboro Fire Department said Wednesday the fire at the D.H. Griffin Wrecking Co. started after a magnet was used to transfer powdered metals to a pile. Fire officials say static electricity or an electrical spark caused a flash fire, which then spread.

The fire was reported at around 8 a.m. Friday. Crews arrived quickly, but Fire Chief Greg Grayson says the fire was burning deep inside a 50-foot-high pile of scrap metal.

The fire burned for more than 12 hours, sending clouds of black smoke caused by burning plastics billowing over nearby neighborhoods.

Officials monitored air and water quality but cautioned anyone with breathing issues to stay inside.

INTERSTATE WRECKS

Trucker gets more than 11 years in NC I-40 wreck

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (AP) — A tractor-trailer driver whose rig slammed into cars creeping along in heavy Interstate 40 traffic in North Carolina, killing three drivers, has been sentenced to more than 11 years in prison.

A judge sentenced 52-year-old Ronald Eugene Graybeal on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to three counts of involuntary manslaughter and misdemeanor charges of possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol says the four vehicles damaged in the June 2011 accident had stopped, then began moving at about 5 mph when the 18-wheeler hit a pickup truck. One car caught fire in the deadly chain reaction.

Troopers say Graybeal was driving 65 miles per hour. Investigators said the Newport, Tenn., man was under the influence of drugs at the time of the wreck.

NC STATE-FOREST SALE

NC State sells Hoffman Forest for $150 million

(Information in the following story is from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Trustees of N.C. State University's Endowment Fund have agreed to sell the 79,000-acre Hofmann Forest near Jacksonville to an Illinois-based agribusiness company for $150 million.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports the money will be placed in endowment funds, and income from its investment will be used mainly to benefit the College of Natural Resources.

Conservationists, forestry experts and landowners oppose the sale. Those groups filed a lawsuit last month saying the state was required to consider public input and the potential environmental impact of selling the land, among other issues.

A judge denied the groups a temporary restraining order to stop the sale after lawyers from the state Attorney General's Office argued that the sale wasn't imminent.

N.C. State identifies the buyer as a family-owned farming company.

WATT-HOUSING AGENCY

Decision time on NC Rep. Watt's confirmation nears

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Civil rights groups and other organizations are trying to help North Carolina U.S. Rep. Mel Watt get confirmed as the government's chief regulator of mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

President Barack Obama nominated Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency nearly six months ago. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants a procedural vote later this week to see if there are enough votes for his confirmation.

NAACP President Ben Jealous and leaders of the League of United Latin American Citizens and National Urban League scheduled a conference call Wednesday to urge Watt's approval.

Watt is a Charlotte attorney first elected to Congress in 1992. He was previously chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Watt's confirmation would mean a special election for someone to serve out his term.

NC ZOO-DINOSAUR EXHIBIT

Dinosaur exhibit at NC Zoo about to become extinct

ASHEBORO, N.C. (AP) — Dinosaurs are about to become extinct at the North Carolina Zoo.

After two years of presenting one of its most popular temporary exhibits, "Dinosaurs" is about to be packed up and returned to Texas. The exhibit closes on Sunday.

Since its initial appearance from April through October of last year, "Dinosaurs" has helped the zoo set several attendance records. This year, the exhibit also featured a traveling "Dino on the Loose."

Deinonychus is an 11-foot-long predator said to have served as the model for the pack-hunting "velociraptors" made famous in the movie "Jurassic Park." The N.C. Zoo's version appeared at schools, nursing homes, festivals and businesses.

After the exhibit closes, the zoo will prepare for "Bugs: An Epic Adventure," a giant exhibit featuring animatronic insects set to debut next year.

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