Billy Graham’s

Graham’s spiritual journey began and ended in North Carolina

MONTREAT, N.C. – While the Rev. Billy Graham’s travels took him as far away as the Soviet Union and China, he always came back to his native North Carolina, a place of refuge, reflection and spiritual refueling.

In the process, the most famous evangelist in American history became one of North Carolina’s favorite sons.

The highway that runs past the world headquarters of his evangelical empire in Charlotte is called Billy Graham Parkway. The chapel in the quiet mountain town of Montreat where he was married in 1943 is named in his honor. And a 2011 poll found him to be the most revered person in the state, beating out TV star Andy Griffith and University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith.

Graham, who died Wednesday at 99 and will be buried at his library in Charlotte next Friday, spent the final years of his life at his secluded home in Montreat, about 100 miles to the west, where, as he did even in his heyday, he worked on his sermons or quietly dropped in on local church services almost unnoticed.

To the end, his family said, he saw his North Carolina heritage as an essential part of who he was.

"My father was a very humble person. He never saw himself as a celebrity. He always saw himself as a farm boy from Mecklenburg County," the Rev. Franklin Graham said Thursday on the "Today" show.

North Carolina was the site of the beginning and the end of Graham’s spiritual life, bookending trips to scores of countries to preach the Gospel. Born on Nov. 7, 1918, Graham grew up on a Charlotte dairy farm that is now the site of office buildings. It was in Charlotte in 1934 that a 16-year-old Graham committed himself to Jesus at a traveling revival.

Over the years, he would return periodically for crusades, including one in 1995 before a packed crowd at the city’s football stadium.

On the road, "he’d be preaching in some city or place, and he always liked to say that if he had to live somewhere else, it would be there, but ‘My home is in North Carolina,’" recalled Cliff Barrows, Graham’s longtime music director, who died in 2016. "His heart is in North Carolina."

Graham broke ground in Charlotte on the new headquarters for his Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in 2002, moving it from Minnesota, where he had once worked as a college administrator. "This move to Charlotte anchors us firmly to our roots," he said at the time.

It was Montreat, though, that was his home base, where he raised his five children, where his wife’s family had roots, and where the two were married in what is now Graham Chapel on the campus of Montreat College.

"This was a refuge for Billy. It was a place where he could rest and recuperate between his international travels. You can just imagine the demands on his life," college President Paul Maurer said.

Around Montreat, resident Brad Hestir said, Graham would sometimes slip into a church service to participate as a worshipper without drawing attention to himself. "You would occasionally at the end of a church service realize he was here in the balcony," Hestir said.

"The man was private for the last several decades, and the whole town was organized around protecting that privacy," said Hestir’s wife, Jean Norris. "They were known as down-to-earth, lovely people."

North Carolina took special pride in being the home of "America’s Pastor." This week, after his death, video billboards along North Carolina interstates paid their respects with messages such as one showing Graham’s name against a heavenly blue sky, with a white dove.

Charlotte historian Tom Hanchett said it was fitting that the city chose Graham’s name in the 1980s for the expressway that serves as a main route to the airport.

"There is no better symbol for a city on the move, a city on the make, a city flying to a new place. And the journey there comes from the roots of this place, and Billy Graham is a powerful, real part of those roots," Hanchett said.

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Follow Drew at www.twitter.com/JonathanLDrew

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Louisville struggles to beat North Carolina 67-57

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If you had hoped today was the day Louisville started the game with a strong 1st quarter you were sorely disappointed. Despite losing their last 6 games and having a record of 14-12, North Carolina had a 16-13 lead going into the second quarter. Louisville missed at least 3 wide open layups. Every pass was an adventure. By halftime they had 9 of their 19 turnovers for the game. Unforced turnovers. Just throwing the ball to the ghost in the corner. According to Coach Walz, “it was definitely an ugly ball game.”

Speaking of ugly, I’m going on record as saying this is the worst foul call I’ve seen in 4 decades of watching the sport.

In the 4th quarter the Cards finally took the lead on an Asia Durr 3. However a couple of minutes later she came down on the foot of a UNC player and left the game.

Since it had been such a rock fight and so many players were in foul trouble it was a tense situation. Junior Arica Carter stepped up big though and made two 3s and from then on the Cards were in control.

After the game Coach Walz said that Asia had a sprained ankle but she’d get treatment and he’d be “shocked” if she didn’t play on Thursday. She left the game with a team-high 19 points. Arica Carter added 14 points. Coach Walz said, “She hit big time shots, and I was really proud of her.”

The Cards finally return home to Louisville on Thursday to play Virginia. The game is at 7PM and can be seen on ACC Network Extra. It is also the yearly Pink Game for breast cancer awareness.

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Ex-wife and mom of North Carolina couple accused of incest — and parenting a love child — breaks silence

The mother of a daughter who allegedly had an incestuous relationship with her father – leading to a love child – is speaking out about the controversial relationship.

Steven Pladl, 42, of Knightdale, N.C., and Katie Pladl, 20, were arrested Jan. 27 and charged with adultery and contributing to delinquency. The arrests came after the couple reportedly got married. Their baby boy was born in September.

Pladl and his wife, Alyssa, reportedly gave up Katie for adoption as an infant but they all reunited in 2016 after Katie tracked down her biological parents via social media.

Pladl and Alyssa divorced in 2017.

“There are no words to describe the sense of betrayal and disgust I’m feeling,” Alyssa told The Daily Mail on Tuesday. “I waited 18 long years to have a relationship with my daughter — and now he’s completely destroyed it.”

Alyssa told the outlet that she was particularly disturbed by the wedding between her daughter and ex-husband, especially because the ceremony was reportedly attended both by Steven Pladl’s mother and Katie’s adoptive parents.

“From what I know it was an official wedding, even if it was illegal,” Alyssa said. “They just didn’t disclose their father-daughter relationship. They were all there for an incestuous wedding and she’s pregnant with his baby. How they could be there celebrating is beyond me.”

Alyssa told The Daily Mail that she was tipped off about the relationship thanks to journal entries written by a younger daughter.

“Katie is pregnant. Dad says they feel like couples. Did they get a little too drunk that night? My dad is a slut,” the entry reportedly read. “He’s Satan. He’s f**king SATAN. He’ll go to hell but he won’t be the one getting tortured, he’ll be the one torturing people.”

When confronted with the journal entries, Steven allegedly did not deny the relationship or pregnancy.

Following their arrest last month, the father has been let go on a $1 million bond but his daughter is still at the Wake County Detention Center, awaiting a Feb. 28 extradition hearing.

“She’s a breastfeeding mother. She’s in there struggling emotionally and physically. But he’s used whatever financial resources he can get his hands on to get himself out, not her,” Alyssa told The Daily Mail. “That should tell you all you need to know about what kind of husband and father he is. There is no way I’m ever having him around his daughters again. I think he needs to go to jail and pay for what he’s done.”

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Bracket outlook for Duke, North Carolina

As Duke and North Carolina approach Act One of their annual passion play, something seems amiss. Neither is a No. 1 seed in Bracketology.

The Blue Devils, admittedly, were on the top line as recently as last weekend. Then they found a way to lose to a St. John’s team that was winless in the Big East. Suddenly everyone from the head coach on down began questioning Duke’s staying power.

North Carolina, meanwhile, has had a fairly bumpy ride with last year’s NCAA trophy. Not only did the Tar Heels suffer perhaps the worst-ever home loss by a defending champion — insert obligatory Wofford shout out here — but they already have five losses in ACC play. With four of their last six ACC games on the road, including the Duke rematch, more are likely.

Yet history suggests we ignore the present and focus on the big picture. The chance of the 2017-18 season ending without at least one of these teams making a sizable imprint is extremely remote. And by "sizable" we mean No. 1 seeds and Final Four appearances.

There have been 34 tournaments since the NCAA expanded its championship field in 1985. In 24 of those years, at least one of these giants has been a No. 1 seed. In two more years (1998 and 2005), both made it to the top line.

Think about that for a minute. In any given Duke-Carolina game, the odds we are seeing at least one No. 1 seed are over 70 percent. There isn’t a rivalry in any sport with that kind of sustained excellence and frequency.

In nine of those 34 years — more than a quarter of the time — the NCAA title has landed in either Durham or Chapel Hill. In 14 of them (41 percent), one of the two schools played in the championship game. Overall, since the 1985 tournament expansion, there have only been 11 Final Fours without either the Blue Devils or Tar Heels.

Those who call this an overrated rivalry do so at their own risk. And it’s not like either team is dead in the water.

How March might look

Duke
The Blue Devils boast the second-best offense in the country per possession despite only one team in the land — you’re right, it’s Kentucky — having less experience. They are not catching Virginia for the ACC regular-season title, but who’s to say winning a rematch in the ACC tournament is impossible?

On paper, Duke remains one of the five most talented teams in the nation. Our prediction from way back at the Champions Classic of both an upset loss to St. John’s and a Final Four trip are very much in play.

North Carolina
With seven losses, the Tar Heels are underperforming their metrics. While this is not a Final Four team, they should finish far above their current one-game-over-.500 ACC pace. The closing schedule is daunting, but a season split with Duke and a revenge win over N.C. State in Saturday’s rematch seem likely.

The end result of all that should be a top four seed and no worse than another Sweet 16 appearance. In other words, for Carolina as well as Duke, we’ll have another serving of the usual.

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North Carolina governor seeks offshore drilling exemption in Zinke meeting

North Carolina’s governor said he had a good conversation on Saturday with the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, regarding plans to expand drilling for gas and oil off the state’s coast.

Roy Cooper, a Democrat, wants the Republican administration to give him an exemption similar to that offered to the Republican governor of Florida, Rick Scott.

Last month, Zinke told Scott Florida’s waters would remain closed under Donald Trump’s five-year plan, which would open 90% of the nation’s offshore reserves to development by private companies.

Interior officials later said Zinke’s promise was not a formal plan and the proposal was still under review.

At least 10 other governors from both parties have asked Zinke to remove their states from plans to expand offshore drilling from the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic and Pacific.

Henry McMaster, the Republican governor of South Carolina, had a meeting on Friday with Zinke, his staff reported. Zinke did not meet with reporters after either meeting.

Cooper said he spent an hour talking to Zinke, telling him drilling could cause unrecoverable damage to the state’s $3bn tourism and fishing industries.

“We told him there is no 100% safe method to drill for oil and gas off the coast, particularly in our area off of North Carolina that sees nor’easters, that sees hurricanes,” Cooper said.

“We don’t call it the ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’ for nothing, it would be catastrophic if there were to be an oil spill.

“As we were leaving the meeting I said, ‘Well, we will take the exemption now if you want to give it to us.’ And he did not quite go that far.”

North Carolina’s attorney general, Josh Stein, reminded Zinke the state was ready to sue if the Trump administration approves offshore drilling.

Cooper said he wants more time for the public to speak. Currently, the interior department plans just one public meeting on the proposal in Raleigh. Cooper wants more meetings along the coast in Wilmington, Morehead City and Kill Devil Hills.

The public can also have a say through comments to the department.

“I call on the citizens of North Carolina to be loud about this issue,” Cooper said.

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No. 19 North Carolina, No. 20 Clemson meet in rematch

Quite a bit has changed since the first meeting of the season, and so when No. 19 North Carolina faces No. 20 Clemson for the second time in a two-week period Tuesday night at Littlejohn Coliseum, there could be different twists.

This time, North Carolina is trying to shed a surprising two-game losing streak and Clemson is dealing with a different lineup after an injury.

This matchup is between two of the four Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the national rankings.

"It’s a little bit of adversity right now," Tar Heels swingman Cameron Johnson said. "We need to keep composed and keep pushing."

North Carolina hasn’t lost three in a row in ACC play since the start of its conference schedule in January 2014.

North Carolina won 87-79 at home against Clemson on Jan. 16. In that game, the Tigers made a big second-half rally when they connected on 15 consecutive shots from the field. That helped Clemson rack up 56 second-half points, marking the most allowed by North Carolina in any half this season.

For North Carolina, part of the puzzling overtime loss to visiting North Carolina State on Saturday was that the Tar Heels shot 63 percent from the field in the second half after leading at halftime.

But long-range shooting has continued to be a problem for the Tar Heels, who made 4 of 19 3-pointers Saturday.

"I think making shots would definitely help," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "I just want us to play better. We’re not ready to panic. I’m not ready to panic and abandon the ship and all that."

In the first meeting with Clemson, North Carolina bagged 15 shots from 3-point range.

North Carolina has yet to figure out how to sustain good rebounding stretches since going to a smaller starting lineup with Johnson in that role instead of freshman post player Garrison Brooks.

North Carolina is trying to wipe away the shock from Saturday’s overtime home loss to rival North Carolina State.

Among the oddities from the game against the wolfpack was that despite leading at halftime, the Tar Heels couldn’t pull out a victory despite shooting 63 percent from the field in the second half.

Part of the damage done was by the Wolfpack outscoring the Tar Heels 22-18 on second-chance points.

"It’s not a good feeling, but it’s the ACC and we have to see if we can bounce back," Williams said Monday.

Clemson picked up a 72-70 victory Sunday night at Georgia Tech, so this marks a quick turnaround for the Tigers, who lost last year at home in overtime to North Carolina.

Since North Carolina won the first meeting this month, Clemson lost forward Donte Grantham to a knee injury.

"We’ve obviously had to deal with a lot of things here with Donte, who is really our leader and probably our best player in terms of everything he does," Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. "But our guys have continued to battle and we have to change some things in how we play, not drastically, but you know there are some subtleties that Donte brings to our team."

Roy Williams said it’s clear that Grantham’s absence is a detriment to the Tigers but pointed out that he was just 1 of 9 from the field in that meeting.

"He didn’t play that well against us," Williams said.

The Tigers are hoping for more contributions from senior guard Gabe DeVoe, who scored a career-high 25 points against Georgia Tech. He had a big first half against North Carolina earlier in the month.

"He’s a senior and he’s been in our program a long time," Brownell said. "He’s battled tested."

North Carolina leads the series 132-20.

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North Carolina Prisons Drop Ban on ‘New Jim Crow’

North Carolina’s prisons director said that inmates would be allowed to read a previously-banned book, “The New Jim Crow,” and that the entire list of prohibited publications was under review.

North Carolina’s prison system on Tuesday dropped its ban on a book about mass incarceration and will review other prohibited books after an objection from the state’s American Civil Liberties Union affiliate.

The decision makes North Carolina the second state this month to announce that it will allow its prisoners to read “The New Jim Crow,” a best-selling book by the civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander about the connection between racism and mass incarceration.

New Jersey, also prompted by a state A.C.L.U. affiliate, said on Jan. 8 that it would overturn a prohibition that two of its prisons had placed on the book.

North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety, which oversees the state’s correctional facilities, said in a statement Tuesday that its director of prisons, Kenneth Lassiter, had decided to immediately remove “The New Jim Crow” from a list of disapproved publications.

Furthermore, the department said Mr. Lassiter would review the entire list “to determine whether any other books will be removed from the report.”

A day earlier, the A.C.L.U. of North Carolina had sent prison officials a letter citing a New York Times report about prisons banning the book.

Chris Brook, the legal director for the North Carolina A.C.L.U. affiliate, said that Tuesday’s move was just one step forward on an issue that his organization has been grappling with for some time.

“There is a particular perverse irony about barring a book about racism and mass incarceration from prisons in our state,” he said. “But this is a broader problem.”

He added that prison officials were responsible for not violating the First Amendment when considering the books on the list and that it was incumbent upon his organization to keep abreast of the list, as well as the policies that informed it.

“We plan to do that,” he said.

Even where the book is not banned by prisons, inmates across the country have had trouble getting access to “The New Jim Crow,” which charts the way that the war on drugs has disproportionately affected black people, sending black men in particular to prison at a much higher rate than white men. The term “Jim Crow,” named for a racist theater character, refers to discriminatory laws aimed at black people after the Civil War through the first half of the 20th century.

It remains prohibited statewide by the Florida Department of Corrections. But that may soon change. Florida’s A.C.L.U. affiliate said Wednesday that it was in touch with the state’s corrections department about the book. It has asked for the ban to be lifted on First Amendment grounds and awaits a formal reply, said Gaby Guadalupe, a spokeswoman.

The Florida corrections department confirmed Wednesday that its representatives had met with the A.C.L.U. and that officials were “reviewing the book to ensure the status of the publication is appropriate.”

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Malfunction triggers sirens at North Carolina nuclear plant, authorities say

This June 14, 2013, file photo, shows the Shearon Harris nuclear plant in Holly Springs, N.C. AP

RALEIGH, N.C. — A malfunction caused public warning sirens to sound a false alarm Friday near a North Carolina nuclear power plant, authorities said. North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety said the sirens that sounded around 1 p.m. near the Harris Nuclear Plant were a false alarm.

"There is NO emergency at the Harris Nuclear Plant," public safety officials said in a tweet.

Duke Energy issued a news release saying the sirens malfunctioned, and that the plant southwest of Raleigh was operating safely. The sirens were heard near the towns of Apex and Cary.

"There is no impact to the public and no need for public actions. We will investigate the cause of the malfunction," plant spokesperson Brandon Thomas told CBS affiliate WNCN-TV.

The company said it was investigating the cause along with state and local government officials. Spokesman Brandon Thomas said it wasn’t immediately clear how many sirens went off and for how long. The warning system consists of 83 sirens within 10 miles of the plant.

While a test sounding was conducted earlier in the month, no tests had been scheduled for Friday, according to a Duke Energy website.

A Cary resident told WNCN-TV the sirens sounded on and off for three to four minutes.

Other residents took to Twitter to voice a mixture of concern and bemusement about hearing the power plant alarms days after a false ballistic missile warning in Hawaii.

Hawaii lawmakers were holding a hearing Friday to discuss a false alarm last weekend that warned of a ballistic missile headed for the island state.

The North Carolina plant, also known as Shearon Harris for its namesake power executive, has a massive 523-foot cooling tower that can be seen from surrounding highways. The plant in New Hill began generating power in 1987.

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Amtrak train collides with SUV in North Carolina, killing pastor, wife, officials say

A well-known pastor and his wife were killed Sunday after an Amtrak train crashed into their SUV in North Carolina, officials said.

The SUV attempted to go around a lowered crossing arm and cross the tracks just after 2:20 p.m. when an Amtrak train collided with it in Whitakers, about 10 miles north of Rocky Mount, WNCN reported. The couple, identified as Eugene and Dorothy Lyons, were pronounced dead at the scene.

“It bothered me because growing up here I’ve seen train wrecks before, it really touches close to home with people who grew up with and know,” Whitakers Police Chief Darrell Cofield told WNCN, adding the couple was well known in the community.

Eugene Lyons was a pastor in Whitakers, friends told the news station.

The Amtrak train 89 was traveling from New York City to Savannah, Ga. when the collision happened. No one aboard the train was injured, but service was temporarily suspended.

Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @bykatherinelam

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Trump tax cuts enable North Carolina bank to give out $1k bonuses

Aquesta Bank CEO Jim Engel says President Donald Trump’s tax cut is saving the company enough money to provide bonuses and hike its minimum wage for employees.

The passing of the President Trump-backed tax reform bill has resulted in corporations offering bonuses and pay increases to employees. The GOP-backed tax plan cuts the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and allows businesses to deduct the cost of depreciable assets in one year.

Aquesta Bank CEO Jim Engel on Monday said that President Trump’s tax plan was the main “driver” in helping the bank raise the company minimum wage to $15 per hour and giving $1,000 cash bonuses to all of its employees.

“The bank has had great growth over the last few years and pretty good earnings, but the tax cut should save us a significant amount of money, about $750,000 next year. We felt that now that will benefit our customers, It’s also going to benefit our community, we also we really wanted it to benefit our employees so we decided to do something a little bit different and give the bonuses out and the minimum wage increases,” he told FOX Business’ Liz MacDonald on “Risk & Reward.”

However, Aquesta Bank isn’t the only one company giving back to its employees, according to the list from Americans for Tax Reform, over 100 companies across the U.S. are giving out bonuses to their employees.

Some of the more notable companies include AT&T (T), which said that more than 200,000 of its employees, including union-represented and non-management workers, will be eligible for a $1,000 bonus. Comcast (CMCSA) also said that it would give $1,000 bonuses to more than 100,000 non-executive employees.

Engel said that a lot of the feedback he received from his staff was “tear jerking.”

“You just don’t understand what is going on in people’s lives. People have spouses out of work or children that are sick and just many stories and I tell yeah I did not expect it. I expected you know thank you or something like that, but the stories were just overwhelming,” he said.

Many naysayers to the bill including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), believe that the tax plan will only lead to more share buybacks and not wage hikes.

“I just really don’t understand what they’re saying. We need to use this money to continue to grow. We just hired two more people, who are going to lead our South Carolina efforts. We have another person that we have not even announced yet that we are hiring in Raleigh, so we’re expanding and growing. The tax cuts are largely allowing us to do it,” he said.

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