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NC students protest racist graffiti in tunnel

RALEIGH (AP) – A reappearance of racist graffiti directed at President Barack Obama has protesters at North Carolina State University calling for changes to a part of campus dedicated to anything-goes speech.

Student protesters blocked access overnight to the Free Expression Tunnel, a major pedestrian thoroughfare that connects two parts of the Raleigh campus divided by railroad tracks. By late Thursday morning, although some protesters remained, the students had stopped their blockade, university spokesman Keith Nichols said.

Chancellor Randy Woodson met with students protesting at the tunnel and elsewhere on campus.

“The chancellor went down and visited with the students for about half an hour this morning and had a very constructive conversation,” Nichols said.

Woodson has condemned the graffiti, which has been painted over. It apparently depicted Obama along with racist and anti-gay slurs.

The Free Expression Tunnel was built in 1939, and was dedicated to freewheeling student speech in the 1960s. Sentiments painted or posted in the tunnel commonly range from the political to the mundane.

“Students are free to say whatever they like, and if you walk through the tunnel on any given day you’ll see advertisements for events, or you’ll see someone complaining about a boyfriend or girlfriend,” Nichols said.

The several dozen student protesters, though, say they want tighter restrictions on what can be depicted inside the tunnel.

Some of the proposed remedies include more surveillance cameras around the tunnel and stricter enforcement of a request, posted on a sign near the tunnel, that asks students to refrain from offensive messages.

“Right now, we don’t know what can be done,” junior Kelvin Carter told Raleigh’s WRAL-TV. “We’re trying to figure that out by having forums, by having people voice their opinions.”

Two years ago, an NC State student who was never identified by the school apologized for spray painting racist, anti-Obama graffiti in the tunnel, shortly after the Democrat became the first black president in U.S. history.

The student was assigned community service and diversity training, which angered some civil rights groups that had advocated expulsion over the incident.

 NC city council approves Christian flag display

WINSTON-SALEM (AP) – After having previously voted to remove it, the city council in a small North Carolina community has voted to allow a Christian flag to fly at a veteran’s memorial as part of a limited display.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported that King City Council voted 4-0 on Nov. 1 to develop a policy to eventually fly the flag as part of a display allowing religious flags recognized by the U.S.

The council voted in September to remove the flag on the advice of the city attorney after they got a complaint from a resident about it. The American Civil Liberties Union said displaying the Christian flag violated the First Amendment.

The September vote prompted some veterans to camp out at the park to guard their own Christian flag in front of the memorial.

Feds say NC, SC among lowest for injuries at work

RALEIGH (AP) – A new federal study estimating the rate of workplace injuries last year finds North and South Carolina among the country’s safest in which to work.

North Carolina’s Labor Department said the state’s rate of injuries or illnesses at private companies dropped to a historic low in 2009. The rate of 3.1 cases per 100 full-time workers compares with 3.4 cases in 2008.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said the injury rate in South Carolina was 3.2 cases per 100 workers last year. Injury rates in both states were near the country’s lowest along with Texas, Louisiana, Virginia and New York.

Last month, a U.S. Labor Department audit blasted workplace safety programs in both Carolinas for downplaying serious safety problems and assessing weak fines on violating companies.

NC doctor’s trial delayed by paperwork error

RALEIGH (AP) – The trial of a doctor charged with killing a 20-year-old ballerina has been delayed by an error in the wording of his indictment.

WTVD-TV reported that a Wake County judge has postponed the trial of Raymond Dwight Cook, which began Nov. 1.

One of the charges Cook faces is second-degree murder. An indictment on that charge has to include the words “malice aforethought.” That phrase was missing from Cook’s indictment.

Cook will have to be indicted again by a grand jury that meets next week. A new trial date and new jury selection will follow.

The 43-year-old former plastic surgeon is accused of driving 85 mph when he struck the car of Winston-Salem ballerina Elena Bright Shapiro in September 2009.

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