Associated Press

As dry conditions move east from North Carolina's mountains, five counties are now in an 'exceptional' drought - the highest level as determined by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

State officials say exceptional drought has now spread to Graham, Macon, and Swain counties, joining them with Cherokee and Clay counties. More than 40 percent of North Carolina is now in some stage of drought, up from 30 percent last week.

The state Medical Examiner's Office late Monday released the autopsy of Keith Lamont Scott. It shows Scott died of gunshot wounds to the back and abdomen, but lacking in whether Scott was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the shooting. 

In an effort to diversify magnet schools, the CMS board will begin placing heavy priority on a student's socio-economic status in student assignment decisions. That's part of the first phase of the board's student re-assignment plan passed unanimously Wednesday night.

Among the factors the district will take into account are income, parents' education levels, and English language fluency. The changes will only affect students applying to enter magnet programs.

The Colonial Pipeline Company says it expects to have the damaged pipeline up and running again by Sunday afternoon, reducing fears of a possible gas shortage and price increases at the pump.

The pipeline exploded and erupted into flames on Monday while a crew was making repairs related to a September gas spill. One environmentalist likened the scene to a "geyser of fire." One worker died in the incident, and four others were injured.

In April, 2015, then-Charleston police officer Michael Slager allegedly shot an unarmed black man, Walter Scott, eight times in the back as he fled a traffic stop. Now, nearly a year and a half later, a court will decide whether Slager was justified in the shooting.

Attorneys for the prosecution and the defense delivered opening statements Thursday to a jury of 11 white people and one black man who were selected earlier in the week.

Steve Hillebrand / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Federal officials plan to reduce the territory of the world's only wild population of red wolves to parts of a single North Carolina county under a revamped management plan.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the new footprint for the program will take effect around the end of 2017 under the plan announced on Monday.

Officials also announced that they plan to mix wild wolves with those in a captive breeding program to boost the species' overall population.

ncleg.net

A panel of federal judges has struck down two North Carolina majority black congressional districts, saying race was the predominant factor in drawing those lines but state legislators lacked the justification for doing so.

Davie Hinshaw / Charlotte Observer

The North Carolina General Assembly has passed a bill that requires a 72-hour waiting period for abortions.

The state House gave final approval to the bill Wednesday, sending it to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's desk. The bill adds other rules for doctors and clinics that perform abortions and includes several unrelated criminal justice measures.

Three other states have 72-hour waiting periods: Missouri, South Dakota and Utah. Oklahoma's waiting period of that length goes into effect in November.

bobbyharrell.com

Suspended South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell has pleaded guilty to six campaign finance violations and agreed to resign from office. 

Harrell accepted a plea deal Thursday that lets him avoid jail time. Instead, he will have six years in prison suspended as long as he completes three years of probation. He was also fined $30,000, ordered to turn over about $10,000 remaining from his campaign account to the state and will pay $93,000 to South Carolina's general fund. 

WASHINGTON Officials familiar with the deal say Bank of America has reached a record $17 billion settlement with federal and state authorities over its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.

The officials say the bank will pay $10 billion in cash and provide consumer relief valued at $7 billion.

They spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal isn't scheduled to be announed until Thursday at the earliest.

The bank declined comment. 

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