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Stephen LaRoque, the former state representative from Kinston facing charges of stealing from a federally-funded non-profit, warned that he would seek revenge shortly after his 2012 indictment, according to recently filed court documents.

LaRoque

LaRoque

LaRoque, a Republican from Kinston, is facing a dozen charges related to $300,000 that federal prosecutors contend he took from an economic development group funded through a rural lending project in the U.S. Department of Agriculture in order to buy things like replica Faberge eggs, cars and a Greenville ice skating rink.

The federal probe into LaRoque began after a 2011 N.C. Policy Watch report about LaRoque’s non-profit, that found he received generous salaries from the federally-funded non-profit from a board of directors that for several years consisted of LaRoque, his wife and brother.

He has denied any wrongdoing, and has previously said the $300,000 in question was owed to him.

George Vital, a USDA program official that oversaw parts of the rural lending program spoke with LaRoque shortly after the July 2012 indictment. LaRoque, according to Vital, wanted to have top officials at North Carolina Rural Development office fired and thought he could do that if his preferred 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich was elected.

LaRoque’s threats were detailed in a motion filed by federal prosecutors Friday, and included in a summary federal agents wrote up about a July 2012 interview with Vital.

Vital had been upset that he was bypassed for a promotion at USDA, and called LaRoque the day after the indictment to talk about Bruce Pleasant, who oversaw the rural lending program in the state, and Randall Gore, the appointed head of the USDA’s Rural Development office for North Carolina.

From court documents:

VITAL explained that he told LAROQUE about his [Mr. Vital’s] administrative complaint against GORE [the presidentially appointed North Carolina RD Director] and PLEASANT. VITAL was upset that he [rather than Pleasant] did not get promoted into the position being occupied by PLEASANT.

LAROQUE complained about PLEASANT and wanted to know how to get PLEASANT and GORE fired from their respective jobs. LAROQUE asked VITAL to pull any records on bad loans that PLEASANT may have been involved with. VITAL said LAROQUE was talking about becoming the RD State Director if Newt Gingrich was to win the nomination and get elected as president. LAROQUE was working to get Gingrich elected and this would help LAROQUE get the people at RD fired. LAROQUE would make heads roll at RD if things worked out for him and the election.

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Many North Carolina counties are seeing steady drops in their unemployment rates, while a fifth of the counties saw unemployment rates climb in November from the prior month, according to county-level jobs numbers released by the N.C. Commerce Department’s Labor and Economics Division.

This month’s results (scroll down to see county rankings) show that all 100 counties lowered their unemployment rates over the last year. Two counties — Graham and Scotland – had unemployment rates over 10 percent, while

But there’s still a gap in most of the state from where local economics were before the nation’s Great Recession began in early 2008.

Two-thirds of North Carolina 100 counties in North Carolina had unemployed people now than they had in December 2007, and 67 counties also had smaller labor forces.

(The state overall had 246,318 unemployed people in November 2014, an increase of 34,482 from December 2007 levels. The labor force, however, has grown from 4.5 million in Dec. 2007 to 4.62 million in November 2014.)

This chart (which has data through Oct. 2014 and hasn’t been updated to include today’s data) from the N.C. Budget and Tax Center shows that 15 counties in the state have seen drops of higher than 10 percent of the number of people employed in counties. (Note: Both N.C. Policy Watch and the Budget and Tax Center are part of the N.C. Justice Center, an anti-poverty non-profit).

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Jobs data for November 2014 shows that the state, as a whole, had 25,373 more people working now than it did a year ago. Unemployment rolls also dropped in that time period by nearly 80,000, and several economists say that gap is caused in large party by “missing workers” that exited the labor force after struggling and not finding work.

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The Tampa Bay Times’ Politifact rounded up a list of the worst lies flying around the Internet last year, a task that no doubt must have seemed endless.

The list (click here) debunked a fair amount of claims from posts that went viral in right-wing chain emails and Facebook posts, including a (false) claim that President Barack Obama was the only president to ever skip out on traveling to Normandy to commemorate D-Day. (He’s actually been twice, including in 2014, and only one of four presidents that has done that in the past 69 years.)

Another “Pants on Fire” distinction went to a photograph of a Black Lives Matter protester in Ferguson, Missouri holding a sign altered to read “No mother should have to fear for her son’s life every time he robs a store.”

The actual photograph of the sign holder (which was published on a newspaper blog) instead read “No mother should have to fear for her son’s life every time he leaves home.”

Go ahead and read Politifact’s full list here.

One of my favorites? An anti-Obamacare “article” from September falsely stating that an Obamacare death panel ordered its first execution – an 86-year-old Chicagoan named Dorothy Zborknak. Not only are there no death panels, there’s no Dorothy Zborknak.

If that name sounds familiar, think Golden Girls, and the character Bea Arthur played with a slightly different spelling, Dorothy Zbornak.

And with that, I’ll leave you with the Golden Girls theme song — what clearly must have been the best sitcom soundtrack to emerge from the 1980s.

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Two for-profit companies vying to tap into public education funding streams and enroll thousands of North Carolina children into virtual charter schools will be in front of a state education committee tomorrow.

K12 logoA special committee designated by the State Board of Education to review virtual charter school applications will meet from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday on the seventh floor of the state Education Building, 301 N. Wilmington Street in Raleigh. Audio of the meeting, which is open to the public, will also be steamed here.

The full State Board of Education, responding to the state legislature’s creation of a pilot program for virtual charter schools, will meet in  January to decide if the online schools can enroll students – and receive public funding – for the 2015-16 school year.

Virtual charter schools teach students from kindergarten through high school through classes delivered through children’s home computers. Parents or guardians often serve as “learning coaches” to assist with lessons while teachers remotely monitor students’ attendance and performance.

North Carolina’s legislature opened the door for two virtual charter schools to open next August when it tucked a provision in this summer’s budget bill that created a four-year pilot program for two online-based charter schools to open by August 2015.

The country’s virtual education market happens to be dominated by two companies, K12, Inc. (NYSE:LRN) and Connections Academy, a subsidiary of Pearson, an educational publishing company also traded on Wall Street (NYSE: PSO). Both companies employed lobbyists in North Carolina last year.

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The Associated Press is reporting that the FBI is looking into the death of a Bladenboro teenager found hung to death near his home.

From the AP:

A prosecutor says the FBI is looking into the hanging death of a black North Carolina teen after his family questioned the official ruling that he killed himself.

Seventeen-year-old Lennon Lacy was found hanging by a dog leash and a belt from a swing set in a trailer park in August. The state medical examiner ruled it a suicide, based on reports from law enforcement and a county coroner. That coroner says he now questions if it was a suicide because of so many unanswered questions.

Bladen County District Attorney Jon David confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday that an FBI agent has been assigned the case.

Lennon Lacy

Lennon Lacy

Lacy, 17, was found dead in late August, hanging from a swing set near his home. While local police and the state medical examiner have classified his death a suicide, his family members have questioned that, pointing out that the outgoing teenager was excited about an upcoming football game and was found wearing shoes that didn’t belong to him.

Lacy, who was black, also had a romantic relationship with an older white woman and his body was found near a predominantly white trailer park in the rural Southeastern North Carolina town.

The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP is holding a march at 10 a.m. tomorrow in Bladenboro to call for a more thorough investigation into Lacy’s death. Check the NC NAACP’s Facebook page for more information about the march.

The state NAACP also released a report last month  from a pathologist who questioned the state medical examiner Deborah Radisch’s ruling in Lacy’s death, noting that the state official wasn’t provided photographs of the swing set, according to Raleigh television station WRAL.

From WRAL:

Lacy was 5 feet 9 inches tall, while the cross beam on the set was 7.5 feet from the ground. There were no swings attached to the structure, nothing at the scene that he could have stood on, and a grommet that the noose was tied to was nearly 2 feet away from the swing’s climbing platform, the report states.

The noose also did not appear long enough for him to have been able to tie it from the platform and still have a loop big enough for him to place it over his head, according to the report.

Bladen County District Attorney Ben David has said he believes the investigation was thorough and welcomes a federal review.

You can read the entire article here and the NAACP report here.