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Judges are hearing more arguments about North Carolina Republican lawmakers' efforts to reduce Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's authority in choosing his Cabinet.

A three-judge panel scheduled arguments Friday on whether to extend their recent temporary block of a law requiring Senate confirmation of Cooper's Cabinet secretaries.

The GOP-controlled legislature passed the law shortly before Cooper took office, one of several provisions designed to limit Cooper's powers.

Cooper's attorneys say confirmation usurps his authority to carry out core executive functions. Republicans respond that the state Constitution gives senators "advice and consent" powers with gubernatorial appointees.

The governor wants the law blocked at least until a hearing scheduled for March.

In another gubernatorial power issue, a state appeals court on Thursday temporarily reinstated a law stripping Cooper of his oversight of elections.


An 88-year-old election judge from southern Illinois has pleaded not guilty after allegedly sending in an absentee ballot in her late husband's name.

The (Belleville) News-Democrat reports that Audrey Cook appeared Thursday in Madison County Circuit Court.

Cook, of Alton, told The Associated Press this month that she filled out the ballot for her husband after he died in September because she knew he would want Donald Trump to be president.

She was charged a few days before the Nov. 8 election with two felony counts of election fraud.

Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons has said the ballot was never even opened because a clerk found it had been submitted in the name of a deceased person.

Gibbons also said Cook would be removed as an election judge.



French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen thought she had cut the political cord with her controversial father by expelling him from the far-right party he founded, but a court ruled Thursday Jean-Marie Le Pen still is the National Front's honorary president.

While campaigning in next spring's presidential election, Marine Le Pen has worked to smooth her image and distance herself from her father's extremist views and anti-Semitic comments. Kicking him out of the party was part of her strategy.

The civil court outside that heard Jean-Marie Le Pen's reinstatement claim upheld the National Front's decision last year to expel him as a rank-and-file member. But the court also ruled that the 88-year-old firebrand can remain the party's honorary president.

As a result, the court ordered the National Front to summon the elder Le Pen to any high-level party meetings and to give him voting rights as an ex-officio member of all the party's governing bodies.

"No statutory provisions specify that the honorary president must be a member of the National Front," the judges said.

The court sentenced the party to pay Jean-Marie Le Pen 23,000 euros ($24,500) in damages and lawyers' fee.

"This can be called a success," his lawyer, Frederic Joachim, told reporters after the ruling was returned.

Joachim had asked the court for 2 million euros ($2.1 million) in damages because "it's a political life they tried to destroy at home and to cast scorn on abroad."

The party's lawyers didn't immediately comment on the ruling, which both sides can appeal.

The National Front ousted the party patriarch for a series of comments, including referring to Nazi gas chambers as a "detail" of World War II history.

Le Pen contends his comments were protected by freedom of expression, though he has been sentenced repeatedly in France for inciting racial hatred and denying crimes against humanity.


Iraq's federal court ruled on Monday that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's move to abolish the largely ceremonial posts of the country's vice president and deputy prime minister is unconstitutional.

Under Iraq's constitution, abolishing the posts would require the approval of an absolute majority in parliament followed by a national referendum, the court said in a statement.

The decision, which is binding for the Iraqi government, was a slap for al-Abadi, who canceled the posts last year as part of a wide-ranging reform plan that was approved by his Cabinet and passed by Parliament. It was intended to shore up public support for his government in the face of widespread protests.

The cancellations were also an apparent attempt to consolidate power under al-Abadi's government in order to combat corruption and tackle the country's ballooning budget crisis, sparked in part because of a plunge in the price of oil over the past two years, government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said.

"The return of the (vice president and the deputy prime minister) will affect the expenses of the state," al-Hadithi said.

The decision underscores the government's enduring weakness as Iraqi forces prepare to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group. While the U.S.-led coalition has closely supported Iraq's security forces in the military fight against IS, coalition officials say the Iraqi government is responsible for enacting political reforms that will prevent IS from growing in power in Iraq once again.

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