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Associated Press

Posted on November 27, 2013 at 3:01 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 27 at 3:01 AM

XGR-NAACP-GENERAL ASSEMBLY

NAACP calls on NC lawmakers to convene session

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The president of the North Carolina NAACP has delivered a petition asking Gov. Pat McCrory to convene a special session of the General Assembly to address health care and unemployment benefits.

The Rev. William Barber II delivered the petition to the governor on Tuesday. Barber said he wanted to remind McCrory during Thanksgiving week that a half-million people will go without health insurance and another 170,000 people have lost their jobless benefits.

In February, McCrory signed legislation that repays $2.5 billion owed the federal government for jobless benefits by cutting maximum weekly jobless payments and reducing the maximum number of weeks for state benefits to 12 to 20 weeks.

State policy makers refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving up to 500,000 low-income workers without health insurance.

PUBLIC RECORD SECRECY

McCrory staff demanding payment for public records

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — As a candidate, Pat McCrory pledged a transparent and accountable government. But now that he is governor, those seeking access to public records are often met with long delays and unprecedented demands for payment.

McCrory's staff has interpreted a sentence in North Carolina's public records law as providing broad authority for a "special service charge" on any documents taking more than 30 minutes for an employee to retrieve, copy and return. The fees are in contrast to the primary principle in the law, which states that such records "are the property of the people" and that copies should be promptly provided for "free or at minimal cost."

Lawyers representing some of the state's largest newspapers and broadcasters say the payment demands are unjustified and improper.

CHILD SEX CHARGES

NC man accused of engaging in sex act with child

(Information in the following story is from: The Gaston Gazette, http://www.gastongazette.com )

GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) — Authorities have charged the former coach of a Cherryville girls' softball team with first-degree sex offense after they say he engaged in a sexual act with a child.

The Gaston Gazette reports 47-year-old David Edison Curtis was charged last week. Arrest records say the incident occurred sometime between June 1 and Aug. 30, 2012, and involved a girl younger than 12 years old. Police say there's no connection between his involvement with the softball team and the charge.

Cherryville Police Detective Mark Stout said Curtis was a friend of the girl's family and that investigators don't think she was a member of the team for 8- to 10-year-old girls.

Curtis is held on a $250,000 bond in the Gaston County jail. It's not known whether he has an attorney.

ANIMALS RESCUED

More than 100 animals rescued in Gates County

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Humane Society of the United States says approximately 40 dogs and more than 75 other animals have been rescued from a Gates County site after a complaint about an emaciated horse.

A statement said the Gates County Sheriff's Office served a search and seizure warrant on the property on Tuesday. Deputies found a variety of small-breed dogs and puppies with no access to clean water or food. Some dogs were found living outside without shelter, while others were inside a building filled with filth.

In addition, rescuers found more than 75 other animals, including cats, bunnies and chickens. The owner agreed to surrender some of the animals.

The dogs have been transported to a temporary emergency animal shelter to be examined and to receive medical treatment.

SEVERE WEATHER

Storm threatens travel, wind endangers NY parade

NEW YORK (AP) — Thanksgiving travelers are scrambling to book earlier flights to avoid a sprawling storm bearing down on the East Coast. And high winds are threatening to ground giant balloon versions of Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants in the Macy's parade.

The inflatable characters that soar through Manhattan may not lift off Thursday if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph. That's according to city rules enacted after fierce winds in 1997 injured a spectator.

Current forecasts call for sustained winds of 20 mph and gusts of 36 mph. Macy's says it's too early to decide the fate of the giant balloons.

Meteorologists warned that the storm would almost certainly upset holiday travel plans on Wednesday for those hoping to visit loved ones in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

BOBCATS-THANKSGIVING MEALS

Bobcats, Wells Fargo, to provide Thanksgiving meal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte Bobcats have come up with an assist for local low-income families.

The NBA team and Charlotte-based Wells Fargo provided 1,000 Thanksgiving meals for the annual Cats Care Cornucopia on Tuesday at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Coca-Cola and Food Lion also participated.

The entire Bobcats team and coaching staff, along with team president and COO Fred Whitfield and president of basketball operations Rod Higgins, were on hand to distribute the food.

Each meal contained enough food to feed a family of four, resulting in approximately 4,000 people being served.

Every meal includes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, a variety of vegetables, cranberry sauce, and a two-liter bottle of soft drink.

HEALTH OVERHAUL

NC OKs higher rates to keep Blue Cross policies

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's insurance commissioner is clearing the state's largest health insurer to raise premiums by between 16 percent and 24 percent on policies that would have been canceled for failing to meet minimum requirements required by the new federal law.

Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin said Tuesday his office approved the rate increases requested by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. The decision means people who had one of the nearly 152,000 cancelled policies can keep them next year at the higher cost.

An agency spokeswoman says Blue Cross is the only one of 21 insurers who have cancelled policies to move to extend plans.

A spokeswoman for the next two largest health insurers — Aetna and its subsidiary Coventry Health — declined to comment Tuesday.

PECAN PROBLEMS

SC pecan crop hit by rains; harvest poor

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) — If you haven't gotten pecans for the holidays, you had best get cracking.

Heavy rains earlier this year have put a big dent in South Carolina's pecan crop, and prices are likely headed up.

Perry Arant shells the sweetmeats for small growers at the OMC Feeds company in central South Carolina. He says his store room should be bursting, but has been pretty empty in recent weeks.

Arant - and other processors - say heavy spring rains hit pecan trees hard this spring, preventing good nuts from forming.

There is a lot of demand for pecans from China, too, which means prices for the nuts prized on the holiday table could rise.

AUDIT-PRISON GUARDS

Audit: NC grabbed prison paychecks to recoup cash

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A state audit says six North Carolina prison guards who were overpaid for four years had their entire paychecks withheld to recover the money, leaving them struggling to pay the bills.

State Auditor Beth Wood's office released a report Tuesday that said six officers at the now-closed Wayne Correctional Center were overpaid more than $58,000 between 2008 and 2012. That's because shortcomings in the state's payroll system caused all of their work hours to be paid at the higher night-shift rate instead of only the hours eligible for the higher pay.

The audit says the state's computerized payroll system then caused the guards "unreasonable hardship" in recovering the overpayments. Their entire monthly wages were withheld, causing more problems like the cutoff of medical insurance coverage.

ASHEVILLE APARTMENT DEATH

Asheville man's apartment death a homicide

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Police say an Asheville man's death was a homicide.

Thirty-five-year-old Christopher Raymond Ortega was found dead Oct. 28 in his apartment. Sgt. Dave Romick said police considered the death suspicious and have since consulted the state Medical Examiner's Office.

Autopsy results show Ortega died by asphyxiation. Police have not said what caused the asphyxiation.

No arrests have been reported.

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