LGBT RIGHTS-NORTH CAROLINA
More NC towns expand LGBT employment, commerce protections
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — More North Carolina towns have approved expanded non-discrimination ordinances for LGBT people. The Chapel Hill board approved unanimously on Wednesday new protections covering employment and public accommodations for people on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics. Carrboro and Hillsborough also backed similar ordinances this week. The actions followed the recent expiration of a ban on such rules by local governments. The moratorium that expired last month was implemented in 2017 as the result of a compromise between Republican legislators and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to get rid of the state’s 2016 “bathroom bill.”
NC deploys National Guard for security in DC, Raleigh
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has mobilized 550 members of the National Guard in light of concerns over security in Washington and state capitals. He says 200 guardsmen will help before and during President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. North Carolina is one of dozens of states sending personnel to Washington. Cooper says the other 350 other guardsmen will remain for duty in North Carolina. The Democratic governor says they will be deployed for about 7 to 8 days because of “threats of significant large-scale protests in D.C.”
NC State sees COVID-19 cluster in its athletics department
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State University reported it has identified a cluster of COVID-19 cases associated with its athletics department. The school made the announcement on its website Wednesday. They did not say how many people tested positive. A “cluster” is defined by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services as five or more cases in close proximity. The school says those who tested positive are being isolated and quarantined. WRAL-TV reports the school’s women’s basketball team recently postponed a game due to concerns about the virus. It’s not clear if the cluster was within the basketball team.
NC legislature opens session subdued amid virus, DC unrest
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina General Assembly has officially begun its two-year session with much of the usual pomp subdued in the name of safety due to COVID-19. The gavels went down Wednesday on a House and Senate that remained in Republican hands after the November elections. Sen. Phil Berger of Eden was elected to a sixth term as Senate leader, while Rep. Tim Moore of Kings Mountain won a fourth term as House speaker. Coronavirus concerns prevented families from joining elected lawmakers on the chamber floors for their swearings-in. The session reconvenes Jan. 27 after Wednesday’s one-day session.
One dead, several hurt after retaining wall collapses
HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Officials in a North Carolina city say one person is dead and at least four people were injured after a retaining wall fell on construction workers. The City of Hendersonville says in a news release that the accident occurred around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at a site adjacent to the parking lot of a local business. According to the city, two people were taken by helicopter and one was taken by ambulance to nearby hospitals, while a fourth person was treated at the scene. The name of the victim hasn’t been released as officials work to notify relatives.
BC-NC-VIRUS OUTBREAK-NORTH CAROLINA-UNC
UNC sees COVID-19 cluster in students who stayed on campus
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is reporting a COVID-19 cluster that it says involved students who stayed on the campus during winter break. The school said on its website that the cases were found through evaluation testing of students who lived at Carmichael Residence Hall over the break. According to the school, more than a thousand students stayed on campus throughout the fall semester, including athletes, international students and those facing financial hardships. Hundreds also stayed over winter break because of the coronavirus pandemic.
AP-NC-VIRUS OUTBREAK-NORTH CAROLINA-TRAFFIC DEATHS
Despite pandemic, North Carolina traffic deaths hit 1,500
Traffic deaths in North Carolina last year surpassed 1,500 for the first time in 13 years despite a pandemic during which motorists logged fewer miles statewide. The Charlotte Observer reports N.C. Department of Transportation data shows the number of miles driven dropped 19% last year, but the number of fatal crashes rose 8% over the previous year. Mark Ezzell, director of the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program, says with COVID-19, people are concentrating on their health and their financial futures and not focusing on driving. Ezzell says the rise in traffic deaths is a public health crisis.
RIGHT WHALES-SPEED LIMITS
Lawsuit seeks more protection for endangered right whales
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Conservation groups are suing the federal government, saying it has taken too long act on proposals to expand protections for critically endangered right whales. The lawsuit filed Wednesday says the National Marine Fisheries Service has long ignored conservationists’ petitions to broaden speed limit restrictions on ships in U.S. waters where the rare whales feed and give birth. Collisions with ships are one of the top killers of right whales. Scientists estimate fewer than 370 of the rare whales remain alive. The lawsuits asks a federal judge to force the government agency to make a decision on the proposed protections the groups requested in 2012 and 2020.
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