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I am not normally a fan of writing about a topic that everyone else is discussing in sports however, it seems unavoidable as it regards the Super Bowl.

Opinion

There’s a lot of confusion in our country now about true victimhood, gender orientation and entitlement. Reflecting all this confusion is the continued effort to organize voting districts around what voters look like.

The two most common themes of MAGA sorehead emails I received last year were the inevitability of an anti-Biden landslide in 2022, and the certainty of Hillary Clinton’s prosecution by “independent counsel” John Durham, supposedly for falsifying evidence against Donald Trump during the “Russia, Russia, Russia hoax,” as Trump styles it.

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State AP Stories

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China is threatening what it calls “further actions” after an American fighter jet shot down a suspected spy balloon off the East Coast of the United States on Saturday. The U.S. says the massive balloon was a surveillance craft that spent days crossing over sensitive military sites in North America. The White House says President Joe Biden approved the downing, and followed the advice of military officials by waiting to bring down the craft over water rather than risk debris falling on populated areas. But China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs insists again that the craft was civilian and its flight an accident. It is criticizing the U.S. for what it terms “an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.”

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Eyes were locked on the Carolina skies Saturday as a suspected Chinese spy balloon ended a weeklong traverse over the U.S., drifted over the Atlantic Ocean and was shot down by a fighter jet. In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina people lined a boardwalk and cheered as a missile from an F-22 fighter struck the balloon and it plummeted into the water. As the balloon came over Myrtle Beach, software consultant Haley Walsh says she saw it floating in the clear blue sky. She felt and heard a boom and ran outside where she saw the balloon tumbling down.

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The car owned by a missing 74-year-old Florida Lyft driver has been found in North Carolina and the man who was driving it is wanted in connection with a homicide last week in southwest Florida. Authorities said Friday that Gary Levin has been missing since Monday, when his family believes he picked up a customer in Palm Beach County, Florida. His red 2022 Kia Stinger was spotted in Miami that day and later in north Florida. The vehicle was then seen Thursday evening in North Carolina and driver Matthew Flores was arrested following a police chase. Flores is a suspect in a slaying that occurred nearly a week before Levin went missing.

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North Carolina’s newly seated Supreme Court has heard arguments on whether people convicted of felonies should be permitted to vote if they aren’t in prison but still are serving probation or parole or have yet to pay fines. The justices listened Thursday to their first high-profile case since the court flipped to Republican control in January. They didn’t immediately rule. The case stems from 2019 litigation that challenged a 1973 state law automatically restoring voting rights only after the “unconditional discharge of an inmate, of a probationer, or of a parolee.” Roughly 56,000 people could be affected by the outcome.

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Critics of a North Carolina bill that advanced in the state Senate say it could jeopardize the mental health and physical safety of LGBTQ students who could be outed to their parents without consent. The bill would require schools to alert parents prior to a change in the name or pronouns used for their child. Several mental and behavioral health experts, parents and teachers told the Senate health care committee on Thursday that the bill would force teachers to violate the trust of their students and could create life-threatening situations for students without affirming home environments. The proposal now heads to the Senate rules committee.

Some North Carolina senators want tougher punishments for intentionally damaging utility equipment in light of the December attacks on two Duke Energy substations in Moore County that left 45,000 customers without power. The legislators filed a bill on Wednesday that would make it a high-grade felony to intentionally destroy or damage any “energy facility.” Current state law only makes it a misdemeanor to vandalize equipment that interrupts the transmission of electricity. A perpetrator also would face a $250,000 fine and potential lawsuits. Someone also fired at an electric cooperative's substation in Randolph County two weeks ago, causing damages but no outages. No arrests have been in either attack.

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A bill advancing in North Carolina’s Senate would prohibit instruction about sexuality and gender identity in K-4 public school classes. The proposal approved Wednesday by the Senate education committee would require schools in most circumstances to alert parents prior to a change in the name or pronoun used for their child. The measure defies the recommendations of parents, educators and LGBTQ youths who testified against it. The bill now heads to the Senate health care committee. A version passed the state Senate last year but did not get a vote in the House.

National & World AP Stories

Overwhelmed by thousands of Cubans crowding its southern border after making the dangerous trip through Central America and an increase in makeshift boats crossing the Florida Straits, the United States in early January approved a policy change that makes migrants request a permit online before arriving with the sponsorship of a relative or friend in the U.S. Although the parole program also applies to Nicaraguans, Haitians and Venezuelans, Cubans have especially taken advantage of it, launching a search for sponsors and lines to obtain documents. Backers hope it will help would-be migrants avoid the risks of the route through Mexico and bring order to the migrant flow.

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Skateboard legend Tony Hawk says he will donate half of the proceeds of autographed photos of himself and BMX rider Rick Thorne to the memorial fund for Tyre Nichols. The photos were announced Friday and can be purchased on Thorne’s website for $30. Only 1,000 copies will be available for sale. Nichols was a 29-year-old skateboarder, FedEx worker and father to a 4-year-old boy. He died Jan. 10 after police stopped him for what they said was a traffic violation. Video released after pressure from Nichols’ family shows officers holding him down and repeatedly punching, kicking and striking him with a baton as he screamed for his mother.

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The European Union is launching its ban on imports of Russian diesel fuel. Starting Sunday, the 27-country EU is taking the step to further slash its energy dependency on Moscow. The measure also aims to crimp the Kremlin’s fossil fuel earnings as punishment for invading Ukraine. The ban comes along with a price cap agreed by the Group of Seven allied democracies. The goal is allowing Russian diesel to keep flowing to countries like China and India and avoiding a sudden price rise that would hurt consumers worldwide, while reducing the profits funding the war. Europe will have to find new supplies of the diesel fuel from the U.S., Middle East and India.

Two weeks into the double murder trial of South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh, prosecutors haven’t presented any direct evidence that he killed his wife and son at their home in June 2021. There is no confession, no surveillance camera footage, no recording of the victims’ final moments. But prosecutors have presented seven days of testimony of crime scene photographs, collected guns and cellphone data. Defense attorneys say police wrongly focused on Murdaugh from the start, cherry picking the damning evidence against him and ignoring the possibility that anyone else killed his wife and son.

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A former Israeli prime minister who served briefly as a mediator at the start of Russia’s war with Ukraine says he drew a promise from the Russian president not to kill his Ukrainian counterpart. Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett became an unlikely intermediary in the war’s first weeks, becoming one of the few Western leaders to meet President Vladimir Putin in a snap trip to Moscow. Bennett’s mediation efforts appear to have done little to end the bloodshed that continues until today. But, his remarks, in an interview posted online late Saturday, shed light on the backroom diplomacy and urgent efforts that were underway to try to bring the conflict to a speedy conclusion in its early days.

Tyre Nichols’ mother and Memphis police chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis are two women caught on different sides of a tragedy. For RowVaughn Wells, she must deal with the pain of her son’s death, and the gut-wrenching knowledge that he was being beaten by five police officers steps away from their house as he screamed “Mom! Mom!" For Davis, the first woman chosen to lead the Memphis Police Department, Tyre's killing forced her to manage the aftermath amid loud calls to change the culture of the department. Tyre Nichols died Jan, 10, three days after a violent arrest that was captured on police video.

The Peruvian city of Cusco is normally a bustling mecca for international tourists. But its picturesque streets are silent these days as deadly demonstrations that followed President Pedro Castillo’s December impeachment and arrest for trying to close Congress keeps many foreigners away. The violence that has resulted in 57 civilian deaths has revived class and racial divisions and has many Peruvians wondering whether a long period of uneasy economic stability has run its course.

Officials say five people have been injured in Russian rocket attacks in the central area of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said Sunday four people were injured when a Russian S-300 missile fell near an apartment block and another was hurt when a missile hit a higher-education building. Meanwhile, heavy fighting continued in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, one of four regions that Russia illegally annexed even though its forces do not fully control the region. Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said five civilians were wounded in rocket attacks during the night in the city of Druzhkivka and that the town of Avdiivka and its outskirts were also fired on.