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This Hour: Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment

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CONSERVATIVES-DEATH PENALTY

NC conservative group wants death penalty reviewed

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Some North Carolina political conservatives want state lawmakers to consider whether to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole due to recently vacated murder cases.

The group North Carolina Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty said this week the General Assembly should re-evaluate capital punishment.

A judge two weeks ago ordered the release of half brothers - one the longest-serving death-row inmate and the other serving life in prison - after overturning their convictions related to an 11-year-old girl's slaying. The judge cited new DNA evidence.

Republicans at the legislature passed a law last year designed to resume capital punishment after years of legal delays.

The group's coordinator is Republican consultant Ballard Everett. Group members include current or former GOP chairmen in Nash, Wake and Durham counties.

US SENATE-CHRISTIE

NJ Gov. Christie helping Tillis in NC Senate race

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) - Republican U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis is getting help from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as part of Christie's multiple-stop swing through the Carolinas to raise money and meet voters.

Christie and Tillis were slated to hold a meet-and-greet Tuesday morning in Wilmington before holding a private fundraiser for Tillis' campaign. Christie will head on to South Carolina for several fundraisers on behalf of incumbent Gov. Nikki Haley, who is seeking re-election this fall.

State House Speaker Tillis is attempting to unseat Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan in November.

Christie's visits come under his position as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, but he'll also visit two states that could play important roles in the GOP presidential nomination in early 2016. Christine is considering a run for president.

FRACKING HEARING QUESTIONS

Environmentalists question NC fracking supporters

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - A conservation group is questioning some people who turned up at a public hearing in western North Carolina to support fracking.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported that the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League has a video showing that the group of supporters from Winston-Salem seemed to know very little about the issue at the hearing late last week in Cullowhee.

Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals to break apart underground rocks to release oil and gas.

One of those identified as a supporter said he did not know much about fracking when he was questioned by an opponent of the process. The group of supporters were wearing T-shirts that said "Shale yes."

The incident happened at a meeting of the state Mining and Energy Commission at Western Carolina University.

SWEEPSTAKES FRAUD PLEA

Man pleads guilty to sweepstakes fraud in NC

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) - A man has pleaded guilty in North Carolina for his role in a sweepstakes fraud scheme that prosecutors say focused on elderly Americans.

The Times-News of Hendersonville reported that 34-year-old Geoffrey Alexander Ramer of Costa Rica pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering Monday. Ramer will be sentenced later.

Prosecutors say the scheme involved nearly $2 million.

Prosecutors said Ramer operated call centers in Costa Rica between 2008 and 2013 and called U.S. residents to tell them they had won a cash prize in a sweepstakes. Many of those who were called were elderly and were told they needed to send money for a refundable insurance fee in order to collect their winnings.

The company used a 202 area code, implying the calls were coming from Washington, D.C.

MORAL MONDAY-WILMINGTON

Moral Monday rally held in Wilmington

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) - The Moral Monday movement in North Charleston has expanded to Wilmington.

Local media outlets report that hundreds turned out Monday as the Rev. William Barber II, the president of the state NAACP, held a rally at the city's Riverfront Park.

Barber told the group that things in North Carolina have gotten "mighty low" in recent months.

The Moral Monday events started in Raleigh in April of last year and since have spread across the state. The rallies have been held opposing recent laws approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

On Monday, Barber criticized lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory for such things as cutting state Medicaid funding, new restrictions on abortions and new requirements for voting.

DEAF-MILITARY

NCSD students push for admission to military

MORGANTON, N.C. (AP) - Students and teachers at the North Carolina School for the Deaf are pushing for the right of the hearing-impaired to serve in the military.

The News-Herald of Morganton reported that students and teachers from the school went to Washington, D.C., late last week to push for legislation that would allow a test group to enlist in the Air Force.

They endorsed two bills in Congress that would require the Air Force to carry out a program to assess the feasibility of giving people with hearing problems the right to become officers.

Civics teacher David Bird said deaf people should have the right to serve in noncombat roles.

Bird says it's a matter of deaf people being treated equally with those who can hear.

CHARLOTTE SYMPHONY SURPLUS

Charlotte Symphony has first profit since 2002

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra has turned a small profit for the first time since 2002.

The Charlotte Observer reported the orchestra topped its budget by $71,000 for the current year.

The symphony does still have about $6 million in long-term debt.

But president Bob Stickler is pleased that the orchestra has reversed a trend by topping its $9.4 million budget.

Stickler said the surplus came after musicians played in fundraising events for donors, as well as the board of directors increasing its giving by 40 percent. The orchestra's development staff also brought in 18 percent more money.

The orchestra has suffered financially for five years by the Great Recession. There was a drop in corporate support and a $1 million cut from the Arts and Science Counsel in 2009.

UNKNOWN SOLDIERS IDENTIFIED

Civil War soldiers buried as 'unknowns' identified

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) - A historian says the names of 350 unknown soldiers from the American Civil War will be added to a memorial at a Georgia cemetery after hospital records from the era were used to identify them.

The Marietta Daily Journal reports that historian Brad Quinlin worked with Betty Hunter, president of the Marietta Confederate Cemetery Foundation, to identify the soldiers.

Quinlin said he found names of Confederate soldiers from hospital records at five universities, including Emory University; Duke University; and state universities in Tennessee, Texas and North Carolina.

He said the research involved 45,000 pages of hospital records kept by Samuel Hollingsworth Stout, a general surgeon in charge of Confederate hospitals in Georgia from 1863-1964.

Documents were searched for soldiers sent to Marietta hospitals during the war.

INFANT KILLED

Kinston man charged with killing 1-month-old son

KINSTON, N.C. (AP) - Police have arrested a Kinston man in the death of his 1-month-old son earlier this year.

Multiple media outlets reported that 20-year-old Ricky Lee Clark Jr. has been arrested in the Feb. 17 death of Caden Williams.

An autopsy report last month said the medical examiner ruled the child's death a homicide. The report said Caden suffered extensive injuries, including a brain hemorrhage, fractured skull, injured spinal cord, four rib fractures and several lung injures.

Kinston police received the autopsy report Aug. 18.

Clark is charged with murder. It was not clear if he has an attorney.

TOBACCO COUNTRY

US tobacco growers brace for tougher competition

DANVILLE, Va. (AP) - Starting next month, America's remaining tobacco growers will be totally exposed to the laws of supply and demand.

The very last buyout checks go out in October to about 425,000 tobacco farmers and landowners. They're the last holdovers from a price-support and quota system that had guaranteed minimum prices for most of the 20th century, sustaining a way of life that began 400 years ago in Virginia.

Cigarette makers will have paid $10 billion to compensate growers for surrendering their quotas. Growers got another $5 billion from the companies as part of their 1998 settlement of state lawsuits over smoking-related health care costs.

When the last checks are cashed, surviving growers will be on their own, forced to find profits in a tremendously competitive global market.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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