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September 26, 2018 - 12:00 am

OBIT-COLTON

Former North Carolina legislative leader Colton dies at 95

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A woman who broke barriers serving in the North Carolina legislature by ascending to a top leadership position has died.

Former state Rep. Marie Colton died Tuesday at an Asheville retirement community at age 95. Liz Colton said her mother died after a period of declining health.

Colton was a Democrat elected to the House in 1978 and served there 16 years. In 1991, she became the first woman elected speaker pro tempore — the chamber's No. 2-ranked official.

Colton worked as a translator during World War II for the Army Signal Corps. She had been a board member for Common Cause and appointee to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Colton's husband of 68 years died in 2011.

HOSPITAL CHAIN-KICKBACK CHARGE

Former hospital chain to pay $260M to settle charges, claims

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former Florida-based hospital chain will pay more than $260 million to resolve allegations of false billing and kickbacks.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release Tuesday Health Management Associates was accused of knowingly billing government health care programs for inpatient services that should have been billed as outpatient or observation services. The chain was also accused of paying physicians in return for referrals.

The settlement also resolves claims that an HMA facility in Mississippi leased space to a local physician, but required the physician to pay rent for only half of the space for patient referrals.

Also, an HMA subsidiary agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit health care fraud for instituting a plan to improperly increase overall emergency department inpatient admissions at its hospitals.

TROPICAL WEATHER-RAINIEST STORMS

Florence is nation's second wettest storm, behind Harvey

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top rainfall meteorologist calculates that Hurricane Florence is the nation's second rainiest storm in 70 years.

Ken Kunkel, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and North Carolina State University, finds that only last year's Hurricane Harvey rained more over a 14,000 square mile area than Florence during a four-day period.

Scientists say climate change likely boosted rainfall totals for both storms.

Kunkel's preliminary analysis found more than 17.5 inches (0.4 meters) fell on average over five weather stations stretching from Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Florence, South Carolina. That amount is second to Harvey's 25.6 inches (0.6 meters).

The third rainiest storm was in March 2016 in northern Louisiana.

When Kunkel looked at a larger area — 20,000 square miles — Florence fell to seventh biggest rain storm.

MOTHER'S BODY HIDDEN

Police: Woman hid mother's body, wanted to see it decompose

ENFIELD, N.C. (AP) — Police have accused a North Carolina woman of keeping her mother's body at home for months, saying she wanted to see the stages of death.

Enfield Police Chief Tyree Davis said on his Facebook page Tuesday that 69-year-old Donna Sue Hudgins told a funeral home that 93-year-old Nellie May Hudgins had died but she didn't know where emergency responders had taken her mother's body. Funeral home workers couldn't find the body, either, but they alerted police who went to the home and found the woman's decomposing body.

Investigators said Nellie May Hudgins' body had been in the home for several months before Donna Hudgins told relatives she had died.

Donna Hudgins is jailed on $5,000 bond on a charge of felony concealment of a death. It's not known if she has an attorney.

TROPICAL WEATHER

Florence flooding slowly envelops South Carolina homes

GEORGETOWN, S.C. (AP) — Conway firefighters say the city hasn't seen many rescues or problems with the unprecedented flooding in the South Carolina city.

Conway Fire Chief Le Hendrick in part credits how accurately predicted the flooding was. Firefighters went around last week with a map warning people they were going to flood even though they never had before.

Hendrick said on Tuesday firefighters checked and those areas were flooded.

The Waccamaw River in Conway was expected to crest on Wednesday at 21.7 feet (6.6 meters). It surpassed the previous record high of 17.9 feet (5.5 meters) set in 2016 by Hurricane Matthew on Friday.

The waterway is not expected to drop below 18 feet or so until sometime next week. The river floods at 11 feet (3.4 meters).

HERRING FISHING-THE LATEST

The Latest: Big changes for small fish for fishermen

Big changes are in store for herring fishermen in New England.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says a recent assessment shows the small fish used as bait by lobster and tuna fishermen is in decline.

The New England Fishery Management Council adopted a new formula Tuesday that ties catch limits to assessments of the overall herring population in future years. The council wants to further reduce catch limits to prevent overfishing. But there were no projections available Tuesday.

Herring is a vitally important part of the marine ecosystem, serving as food for whales, seals and large fish.

ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE

4th Circuit halts pipeline work in national forest land

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court has halted work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through stretches of national forest land.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday granted a request from environmental groups to stay National Forest Service decisions allowing construction on about 20 miles of the 600-mile route.

Environmental groups requested the stay while a challenge to the forest service approvals is pending. The court is scheduled to hear arguments Friday.

Pipeline spokesman Aaron Ruby says the forest service conducted a thorough review and the court's ruling won't have a "significant impact" on the construction schedule.

Attorney DJ Gerken with the Southern Environmental Law Center says the stay means federal officials should halt work on the entirety of the pipeline. The center asked regulators for a stop-work order Tuesday.

WITNESS CHAINED TO BED

Authorities: Woman chained to bed to keep prevent testimony

MARION, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina sheriff's department is looking for a man who they say chained a woman to a bed for days to keep her from testifying against him in a domestic violence case.

In a Facebook post, the McDowell County Sheriff's Office says 48-year-old Spencer O'Connor Elliott of Marion is charged with first-degree kidnapping, intimidating a state's witness and assault on a female.

Authorities say Elliott and the victim were scheduled to appear in court last Wednesday in reference to a domestic violence order the woman had taken out against Spencer.

According to the sheriff's office, the woman had been chained to the bed at Elliott's house for several days before she escaped Saturday and notified authorities.

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