NC GOVERNMENT PAYOUTS TO AVOID LAWSUITS REACH INTO THE MILLIONS: The city of Charlotte provided documents describing the settlement terms of more than 50 lawsuits. Among other things, the documents show that the city paid $950,000 last year to the family of a man who in 2017 was killed by a speeding police car. A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer was driving up to 100 miles per hour in a 35 mile-per-hour zone when his car slammed into James Michael Short. The city spent another $9,045 settling a claim after Wilmington police busted into an apartment, pulled a woman out of bed and handcuffed her. She was undressed from the waist down, and repeatedly asked the male officers to cover her exposed body – a request they refused. Authorities later realized they were at the wrong address, and the woman they’d handcuffed was not connected to the warrant they were trying to serve.
COURT OF APPEALS TEMPORARILY STAYS JUDGE COLLINS' AMENDMENTS DECISION: A North Carolina appeals court has set aside temporarily a trial judge’s ruling that voided two constitutional amendments because some district boundaries for lawmakers who placed them on the ballot had been previously declared racial gerrymanders. The state Court of Appeals on Wednesday granted Republican lawmakers a temporary delay of the February decision by Wake Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins. He threw out amendments that voters approved in November mandating photo voter identification and lower caps on income tax rates. Collins agreed with the NAACP that the 2018 legislature was “illegally constituted” and so lacked authority to propose alterations to the North Carolina Constitution. Wednesday’s order says the appeals court will decide next whether to extend stopping enforcement of Collins’ decision while the substance of the case is appealed.
WAKE COUNTY SETTLES COMPLAINT ABOUT STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES: Advocates For Children’s Services, a project of Legal Aid of North Carolina, filed a complaint in July with the state Department of Public Instruction accusing the Wake County school system of routinely violating the rights of students who have disabilities. In a settlement announced Thursday, the Wake school system agreed to take steps such as improving staff training, revising policies and providing additional educational services to some students who had been suspended. “About 20 percent of adolescents suffer from some sort of mental health or behavioral disability,” Cari Carson, staff attorney for Advocates for Children’s Services, said in an interview. “We’ve got this huge group of kids who are not able to access an appropriate education. We think this settlement agreement is a really big step for them not falling through the cracks.”
EVEN MORE REASONS TO CUT DOWN ON SINGLE-USE PLASTICS: The last recycling plant in Sullivan County, Tennessee, that handles paper and plastics for local governments is set to close, affecting recycling efforts across the region. The Bristol Herald-Courier reports Tri-Cities Waste Paper's Friday closure will also affect Bristol, Abingdon and Washington County in Virginia. The Kingsport plant's parent company, Asheville Waste Paper, has declined to comment on the reason behind the closure. It's the company's second recycling plant closure in the past year; the first was in Bristol. The closest plants that take both paper and plastic are now in Roanoke, Virginia, Asheville, North Carolina, and Knoxville, Tennessee. The director of public works in Bristol, Wallace McCulloch, says the cost of hauling recyclables that far may be too much for his city to afford. Other areas are similarly concerned.
U.S. MILITARY ENGAGED IN SHADOW WAR IN SOMALIA: The American military has escalated a battle against the Shabab, an extremist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, in Somalia even as President Trump seeks to scale back operations against similar Islamist insurgencies elsewhere in the world, from Syria and Afghanistan to West Africa. A surge in American airstrikes over the last four months of 2018 pushed the annual death toll of suspected Shabab fighters in Somalia to the third record high in three years. Last year, the strikes killed 326 people in 47 disclosed attacks, Defense Department data show. “People need to pay attention to the fact that there is this massive war going on,” said Brittany Brown, who worked on Somalia policy at the National Security Council in the Obama and Trump administrations and is now the chief of staff of the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization focused on deadly conflicts. The war in Somalia appears to be “on autopilot,” she added, and one that is drawing the United States significantly deeper into an armed conflict without much public debate.