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Storm Florence is hitting North and South Carolina, and Virginia and weather forecasters warn of the risk of life-threatening flash flooding in parts of the states.

Florence has been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm but continues to soak the East Coast area with rain, downing trees and damaging homes.

It is slowly grinding over the eastern states, with winds of 65mph.

Five deaths have been linked to the storm and thousands of people have been staying in emergency shelters.

Evacuation warnings were issued for 1.7 million people in the region.

All five deaths linked to the storm are in North Carolina.

Hurricane Florence Sparks Evacuations in South Carolina and States of Emergency in North Carolina and Virginia

Florence originally made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on Friday morning as a category one hurricane.

The National Hurricane Center said on September 14 that “catastrophic fresh water flooding” is expected in parts of both the Carolinas.

Some parts of North Carolina have already seen surges as high as 10ft in places.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said the hurricane was likely to “continue its violent grind for days” and described the severity of the downfalls as a “1,000 year event”.

Florence is expected to dump 18 trillion gallons of rainwater on US soil, meteorologist Ryan Maue tweeted.

Almost 800,000 people are reported to be without power already in North Carolina, and officials have warned restoring electricity could take days or even weeks.

More than 20,000 residents have packed into North Carolina emergency shelters, and officials have told those still in the storm’s path to stay in place.

In Jacksonville, North Carolina, officials had rescued more than 60 people overnight on September 13 from a hotel that was collapsing in the storm.

Parts of New Bern, North Carolina, which is home to 30,000 people, were 10ft underwater on September 14 after local rivers flooded their banks.

Scores of residents in the riverfront city were plucked to safety, local reports say.

McDonald’s is being sued in Virginia by ten former employees for racial discrimination.

The suit alleges that some employees were fired from one franchise because there were “too many black people”.

It is being backed by a group campaigning for better wages for fast-food workers and the local Virginia National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

McDonald’s has not yet commented specifically on the suit.

The company issued a general statement, saying: “McDonald’s has a long-standing history of embracing the diversity of employees, independent franchisees, customers and suppliers, and discrimination is completely inconsistent with our values.

“McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants.”

The suit is part of a continuing effort on the part of labor organizers to hold McDonald’s responsible for the behavior of its franchisees.McDonald's sued for racial discrimination

McDonald’s and other restaurant groups have argued that it should not be held responsible for the behavior and labor practices of franchisees.

However, their position has been weakened by the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

It ruled that McDonalds “could be held jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators” in July.

Since then, current and former employees have filed lawsuits against many McDonald’s franchises and the larger corporation alleging wage theft and other illegal practices.

In the lawsuit filed in Virginia on January 22, which is not part of the NLRB’s larger activity, 10 former employees – nine of whom are African-American and one of whom is Hispanic – allege that they were subject to “rampant racial and sexual harassment” by supervisors at three restaurants run by McDonald’s franchisee Michael Simon.

Michael Simon became franchise operator of the three restaurants in late 2013, when the majority of the employees at the restaurants were African-American.

Soon after, the suit alleges Michael Simon instituted a plan to hire more white employees, with supervisors allegedly telling employees that the restaurants were “too dark” and they needed to hire new employees to “get the ghetto out of the store”.

Subsequently, in mid-2014, a large number of white employees were hired and several of the African-American employees who are part of the suit were fired.

The fired workers alleged that when they attempted to contact McDonald’s corporate office, there was no response.

McDonald’s is due to report its Q4 2014 earnings before US markets open on January 23.

A Massachusetts Air National Guard F-15 jet has crashed in Virginia, near the town of Deerfield, but the fate of the pilot is unknown, military officials say.

Witnesses near the crash site reported hearing a loud noise and seeing a large plume of smoke in the sky.

Officials lost contact with the Massachusetts Air National Guard F-15 shortly before the crash, police said.

No injuries on the ground have been reported and rescue workers have been dispatched to the area, police added.

The Massachusetts Air National Guard F-15 jet has crashed in Virginia

The Massachusetts Air National Guard F-15 jet has crashed in Virginia (photo Wikipedia)

Major Matthew Mutti, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Air National Guard, said the single-seat aircraft had been on a routine training exercise and had no munitions on board.

Augusta County Sheriff’s office said the plane went down at around 09:00 local time.

Jenny McNeal, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said the crash site was in a rural area near Deerfield town in George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.

The US Air Force currently has 249 F-15 jets in operation and they have been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.

The type that crashed in Virginia was an F-15C, which costs $30 million.

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According to Republican officials, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor intends to resign his leadership post by the end of July after losing Virginia primary election Tuesday night in a major upset.

Eric Cantor, who became the first House Majority Leader to ever lose a re-election, plans to step down from his leadership position by the end of July, according to the Washington Post.

The Post, citing “three Republicans familiar with his plans,” said that Eric Cantor will officially announce his plans later Wednesday at a meeting with colleagues.

On the morning after his loss to David Brat, an economics professor supported by the tea party, there had been quiet pressure on Eric Cantor to step down from his post as the Republicans’ second-ranking leader.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor intends to resign his leadership post by the end of July after losing Virginia primary election

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor intends to resign his leadership post by the end of July after losing Virginia primary election

Others did not wait for him to make his intentions known.

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California was informing fellow Republicans he intended to run to succeed Eric Cantor, officials said, and Representative Pete Sessions of Texas also signaled an interest.

Representative Steve Scalise was hoping to replace Kevin McCarthy in his current spot, officials said.

Eric Cantor’s defeat was the first primary setback for a senior leader in Congress in recent years. Former House Speaker Thomas Foley of Washington and Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota both lost their seats at the polls in the past two decades, but they fell to Republicans, not to challengers from within their own parties.

The outcome may well mark the end of Eric Cantor’s political career, although at 51 he has plenty of time to attempt a future comeback.

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David Brat is the tea party’s new star after defeating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the biggest primary upset in recent memory.

David Brat, born on July 27 1964, gained a Ph.D. in economics at the American University in Washington, D.C., before going on to work as an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College, a liberal arts college north of Richmond, Virginia.

So dedicated is he to his profession that he canceled a packed schedule of meetings with key conservative activists in May because he had papers to grade.

“He had school stuff to take care of,” his 23-year-old campaign manager Zachary Werrell told the Washington Post. His Democrat challenger in the staunch-Republican district is Jack Trammell, also a professor at Randolph-Macon.

David Brat is the tea party's new star after defeating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the biggest primary upset in recent memory

David Brat is the tea party’s new star after defeating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the biggest primary upset in recent memory

Before obtaining his economics doctorate, David Brat, a Catholic, received a Masters in Divinity at Princeton, a course designed to “prepare students for the parish ministry [and] mission work at home and abroad,” according its website.

He is anti-abortion and says he will always uphold laws to protect human life. These laws, he says, “come from God, the Author of Nature.”

Originally from Alma, Michigan, David Brat moved to Virginia in 1996 with his wife, Laura.

David Brat attended Hope College in Michigan and received a B.A. in Business Administration in 1986; he also graduated with a Master’s degree in Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1990 and earned a PhD in economics from American University in 1995.

After working for Arthur Andersen and as a consultant for the World Bank, David Brat became a professor at Randolph–Macon College (RMC) in 1996.

His published papers include God and Advanced Mammon: Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism? and An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand.

David Brat is a Roman Catholic and is a parishioner of St. Mary Catholic Church in Richmond with his wife and their two children.

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Eric Cantor has lost a Virginia Republican Party primary election to David Brat, a challenger from the hard-right Tea Party movement.

Little-known economics professor David Brat defeated the second-ranking House of Representatives member 56%-44%.

David Brat’s shock victory exposed conservative dissatisfaction with Eric Cantor, who was first elected in 2000.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had been widely favored to win, having raising significantly more money than David Brat.

Eric Cantor has lost a Virginia Republican Party primary election to David Brat

Eric Cantor has lost a Virginia Republican Party primary election to David Brat (photo Reuters)

David Brat attacked Eric Cantor’s record, including his support for some immigration reforms, and rallied enthusiastic members of the anti-tax, conservative populist Tea Party movement in the low-turnout race.

In a forewarning of trouble, last month Eric Cantor was booed at a meeting of Republican activists after a local party chairman whom he supported was removed in favor of a Tea Party candidate.

A lawyer, Eric Cantor, 51, was first elected to Congress in 2000 after serving nine years in the Virginia House of Delegates.

After the Tea Party emerged in 2009, he forged ties with the loose-knit movement, drawing on its support to help the Republicans take control of the House of Representatives the following year.

Eric Cantor was seen as representing a more conservative counterweight to House Speaker John Boehner, seen by some in the Tea Party as too conciliatory to Democratic President Barack Obama.

He was even viewed by some as possible successor to John Boehner.

David Brat will now face Democratic nominee Jack Trammell – also a professor at Randolph-Macon College – in this fall’s general election.

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Senator and former gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds has been hospitalized after being assaulted at his home in Virginia, where another person was found dead.

Virginia State Police said in a news release Tuesday that Democratic Senator Creigh Deeds, who unsuccessfully ran for governor four years ago, had suffered serious injuries.

Creigh Deeds has been hospitalized after being assaulted at his home in Virginia

Creigh Deeds has been hospitalized after being assaulted at his home in Virginia

Creigh Deeds was being treated at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville after the assault at his residence in rural Bath County, which is in western Virginia.

Police have not identified the dead person found in Creigh Deeds’ home or released details about the assault.

Police planned to hold a news conference at noon.

US voters are heading to the polls in the first major round of elections since President Barack Obama won a second term one year ago.

In New Jersey and Virginia, voters will pick governors.

New York City is choosing a successor to three-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent.

Tuesday’s races are seen as an early test of the Republican and Democratic parties’ strengths ahead of next year’s critical congressional elections.

In New York City, Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has taken a commanding lead in opinion polls over Republican Joe Lhota, a former senior official in the mayoral administrations of Michael Bloomberg and his predecessor Rudolph Giuliani.

Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, ran Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign. He is seen as one of the most liberal mayoral candidates in decades.

Under Michael Bloomberg, Joe Lhota ran the city’s public transport authority. He was lauded for quickly getting the vast subway system running again after a huge storm Sandy flooded swathes of the city last year.

In New Jersey, incumbent Republican Governor Chris Christie is expected to win re-election handily.

US voters are heading to the polls in the first major round of elections since President Barack Obama won a second term one year ago

US voters are heading to the polls in the first major round of elections since President Barack Obama won a second term one year ago

His Democratic challenger, state Senator Barbara Buono, has struggled to gain traction.

Analysts say Chris Christie’s popularity with voters in Democratic-leaning New Jersey makes him a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, because it could enable him to claim broad political appeal.

Chris Christie, 51, was already a popular figure when Sandy devastated the state’s coastline a year ago. His response to the storm attracted national attention.

He has been campaigning across the state since last week, even as polls suggested he had an advantage of at least 20 points on Barbara Buono.

While many in New Jersey support her positions, she has had difficulty raising money, even from Democrats, because of her relatively low profile.

The Virginia governor race pits Democrat Terry McAuliffe against Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

Terry McAuliffe is a businessman and veteran Democratic party fundraiser. He has close ties to former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, serving as chairman of her 2008 presidential campaign.

Ken Cuccinelli, the Virginia attorney general, has angled for the support of the hardcore conservative Tea Party movement of Republicans.

Terry McAuliffe, who has raised much more money, has sought to link Ken Cuccinelli to last month’s partial shutdown of the federal government, which was brought about by Republicans in Washington DC.

Virginia, long a Republican stronghold, has seen a demographic shift in recent years. Barack Obama, a Democrat, won the state in the last two presidential elections.

The results of Tuesday’s polls could prove an early measure of the parties’ support ahead of the midterm elections of 2014, which will decide the make-up of the House of Representatives, one-third of the Senate, and the governorships in more than half the states.

In Washington, Barack Obama’s Democratic party controls the Senate, while the Republicans hold sway in the House of Representatives.

Now in his second term, Barack Obama will vacate the presidency in 2017.

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Christian Martha Mullen today revealed that she helped authorities coordinate the secret burial this week of Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a Muslim cemetery in Doswell, Virginia.

“Jesus says [to] love our enemies,” Martha Mullen, 48, told the Boston Globe’s Wesley Lowery in an exclusive interview.

“So I was sitting in Starbucks and thought, maybe I’m the one person who needs to do something.”

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was buried under a shroud of secrecy Wednesday evening at the Al-Barzakh Cemetery in central Virginia, about 15 miles from Richmond

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was buried under a shroud of secrecy Wednesday evening at the Al-Barzakh Cemetery in central Virginia, about 15 miles from Richmond

Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was buried under a shroud of secrecy Wednesday evening at the Al-Barzakh Cemetery in central Virginia, about 15 miles from Richmond.

Martha Mullen said she coordinated the clandestine burial with the help of the Islamic Society of Greater Richmond after a number of cemeteries refused to take his body.

Martha Mullen said she coordinated the clandestine burial of Tamerlan Tsarnaev with the help of the Islamic Society of Greater Richmond

Martha Mullen said she coordinated the clandestine burial of Tamerlan Tsarnaev with the help of the Islamic Society of Greater Richmond

Within an hour of contacting the group, she got a response saying a plot had been found. So Martha Mullen called the officials overseeing Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s burial and arranged to have the body, which was being held at a Worcester, Massachusetts funeral home, transported to Virginia to be buried Wednesday evening.

The development has infuriated some residents of the rural Virginia town as well as members of the area’s Islamic community who say they weren’t consulted in the decision.

“The whole Muslim community here is furious,” Imam Ammar Amonette of the Islamic Center of Virginia told the Associated Press.

“Frankly, we are furious that we were never given any information. It was all done secretly behind our backs.”

“Now everybody who’s buried in that cemetery, their loved ones are going to have to go to that place,” he added.

News of the burial comes several days after a Massachusetts police chief went on national television to plead for help in finding a plot for Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as number of cemeteries and lawmakers in three states had turned down requests to bury his body.

Meanwhile, the funeral home where Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body was being held had become the site of ongoing protests.

Martha Mullen, a professional counselor who has a degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, said she was disgusted by reports of the protests and decided to take action.

She later called the Boston Globe wanting to tell her story, according to the reporter who took the call.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzokhar Tsarnaev, are accused of carrying out the April 15 twin bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a violent shootout with police on April 19 and his brother, who was injured in the gunfight, was captured in Watertown, Massachusetts after an 18-hour manhunt.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s death certificate, which was released on Friday, showed that he was shot in the firefight and then run over and dragged by a vehicle. Police say it was Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s brother who mowed over his body as he was making a getaway.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body was claimed by his uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who asked that the remains be placed in a municipal cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Tsarnaev lived with his wife, Katherine Russell. But city officials would not allow that to happen.

Katherine Russell did not claim the body, which is why it was released to Ruslan Tsarni.

The public was not notified that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body had been moved until after it was transported from the funeral home Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, police officials announced that: “A courageous and compassionate individual came forward to provide the assistance needed to properly bury the deceased.”

On average, burials cost $6,000 to $10,000, which covers basic services of a funeral director and staff, including the casket as well as embalming and sanitation of the body, according to the Funeral Consumer Guardian Society, a consumer advocacy group.

Typically, the person who claims the body – which in this case would be Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s uncle – pays these costs.

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