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The U.S. Coast Guard Marathon 5K race will begin an hour earlier than last year’s race in an effort to give the thousands of runners in the city for the three-day event time to shop and eat at downtown businesses.

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Even as Black History Month begins, the war on teaching Black history has opened a new front in Florida. That state’s governor, the shamelessly ambitious Ron DeSantis, has banned a proposed high school Advanced Placement (AP) course in African American studies.

According to the latest-available set of comparable data, North Carolina ranks 33rd in the nation in “deaths of despair” — that is, in the combined rates of suicides, fatal drug overdoses, and alcohol-induced deaths. In 2020 our age-adjusted rate was 55.5 deaths of despair per 100,000 residents, slightly higher than the national average of 54.8. From 2018 to 2020, our rate rose by 26%.

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In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus reminds us to store up treasure in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves cannot break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-21 reminds us that where you keep your treasure, there also will be the desires of your heart.

State AP Stories

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North Carolina civil rights advocates have denounced a House rule change that could allow Republicans to override vetoes on contentious bills with little notice, saying it subverts democracy and the will of voters. Republicans pushed through temporary operating rules this month that omitted a longstanding requirement that chamber leaders give at least two days’ notice before holding an override vote. The move could allow Republicans to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes while Democrats are absent, even momentarily. Calling the change “a shameful power grab meant to thwart the will of the people,” Jillian Riley of Planned Parenthood South Atlantic said it undermines the functionality of the General Assembly.

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As mass shootings are again drawing public attention, states across the U.S. seem to be deepening their political divide on gun policies. A series of recent mass shootings in California come after a third straight year in which U.S. states recorded more than 600 mass shootings involving at least four deaths or injuries. Democratic-led states that already have restrictive gun laws have responded to home-state tragedies by enacting or proposing even more limits on guns. Many states with Republican-led legislatures appear unlikely to adopt any new gun policies after last year's local mass shootings. They're pinning the problem on violent individuals, not their weapons.

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The families of five passengers killed in a plane crash off the North Carolina coast have settled wrongful death lawsuits for $15 million. Their attorneys told the court the companies that owned the plane and employed the pilot paid the money. The suits claimed the pilot failed to properly fly the single-engine plane in weather conditions with limited visibility. All eight people aboard died off the Outer Banks. The passengers included four teenagers and two adults, returning from a hunting trip. The founder of the company that owned the plane was killed, and his family wasn't involved in the lawsuits.

A man who caused evacuations and an hourslong standoff with police on Capitol Hill when he claimed he had a bomb in his pickup truck outside the Library of Congress has pleaded guilty to a charge of threatening to use an explosive. Floyd Ray Roseberry, of Grover, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to the felony charge in Washington federal court. He faces up to 10 years behind bars and is scheduled to be sentenced in June. An email seeking comment was sent to his attorney on Friday. Roseberry drove a black pickup truck onto the sidewalk outside the Library of Congress in August 2021 and began shouting to people in the street that he had a bomb.

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North Carolina Democrats have introduced legislation to codify abortion protections into state law as Republicans are discussing early prospects for further restrictions. Their legislation, filed Wednesday in both chambers, would prohibit the state from imposing barriers that might restrict a patient’s ability to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability, which typically falls between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Current state law bans nearly all abortions after 20 weeks, with narrow exceptions for urgent medical emergencies that do not include rape or incest. House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters he didn’t expect the Democrats’ bill to get considered.

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Supporters of abortion rights have filed separate lawsuits challenging abortion pill restrictions in North Carolina and West Virginia. The lawsuits were filed Wednesday. They are the opening salvo in what’s expected to a be a protracted legal battle over access to the medications. The lawsuits argue that state limits on the drugs run afoul of the federal authority of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency has approved the abortion pill as a safe and effective method for ending pregnancy. More than half of U.S. abortions are now done with pills rather than surgery.

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The University of Wisconsin System has joined a number of universities across the country in banning the popular social media app TikTok on school devicies. UW System officials made the announcement Tuesday. A number of other universities have banned TikTok in recent weeks, including Auburn, Arkansas State and Oklahoma. Nearly half the states have banned the app on state-owned devices, including Wisconsin, North Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana and South Dakota. Congress also recently banned TikTok from most U.S. government-issued devices over bipartisan concerns about security. TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that moved its headquarters to Singapore in 2020. Critics say the Chinese government could access user data.

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North Carolina’s elected state auditor has apologized for leaving the scene of a Raleigh accident last month after she drove her state-issued vehicle into a parked car. Monday's statement by Democratic Auditor Beth Wood is her first comment about charges against her that were made public last week. Wood called her decision “a serious mistake” and says she will continue serving as auditor. Wood was first elected to the job in 2008. Raleigh police cited Wood for a misdemeanor hit-and-run and another traffic-related charge. Her court date is later this week. Wood says the collision happened after she left a holiday gathering Dec. 8.

National & World AP Stories

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On his trip to Congo, Pope Francis has heard firsthand accounts of atrocities some people have endured during years of fighting in the eastern part of the country. A young woman told him she was “raped like an animal” for months. A young man watched as his father was decapitated. A former sex slave told Francis her captors forced her into cannibalism. Francis sat in silence as victim after victim come forward to tell their stories, and he urged them to use their pain to sow peace and reconciliation. It was a message he delivered earlier in the day at a Mass to an estimated 1 million people at Kinshasa’s Ndolo airport.

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Stocks are falling on Wall Street ahead of the Federal Reserve’s latest decision on interest rates. The S&P 500 was 0.5% lower Wednesday. The market is coming off a strong January, where stocks rose on hopes that cooling inflation could get the Federal Reserve to ease up on its barrage of hikes to interest rates that have rattled Wall Street. Later Wednesday, the Fed is expected to announce its latest increase, one that would be the smallest since March at 0.25 percentage points. Perhaps more important than that will be what the Fed says about where rates are heading next.

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Missy Elliott, Willie Nelson, Kate Bush, Iron Maiden, Cyndi Lauper, Soundgarden, Sheryl Crow and the late George Michael are nominees for 2023 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a list that includes a mix of country, soul, hip-hop, metal, pop, rap-rock and grunge. The Cleveland-based institution announced Wednesday the 14 artists and groups being considered for Rock Hall induction, also including Rage Against the Machine, The Spinners, A Tribe Called Quest, The White Stripes, Warren Zevon and Joy Division/New Order. Artists must have released their first commercial recording at least 25 years before they’re eligible for induction.

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A deadly storm system is lashing a large swath of the southern U.S. with bands of sleet and snow for a third day. The storm grounded an additional 2,200 flights on Wednesday, including the majority to and from the Dallas area's two major airports, which are major hubs for American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. It has also cut power to hundreds of thousands customers, forced school closures and made already treacherous driving conditions worse. Watches and warnings about wintry conditions have been issued for an area stretching West Texas’ border with Mexico through Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, and into western Tennessee and northern Mississippi. The slick conditions have been blamed for at least six traffic deaths in Texas.

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Startup OpenAI released its ChatGPT artificial intelligence tool into the wild late last year with great fanfare. But Google has been more cautious about who gets to play with its AI advancements despite growing pressure for the internet giant to compete more aggressively with rival Microsoft, which is pouring billions of dollars into OpenAI and fusing its technology into Microsoft products. Generative AI can churn out paragraphs of readable text and new images as well as music and video. And some of the technological breakthroughs driving the red-hot field have been pioneered in Google’s vast research arm.

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The official curriculum for a new Advanced Placement course on African American studies was released Wednesday downplays some components that had drawn criticism from conservatives including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who said the class would be outlawed in his state. In the new framework, topics including Black Lives Matter, queer life and intersectionality are not part of the exam. They are included only on a list of optional areas of research that that local states and school systems could choose from for assignments. The course is currently being tested at 60 schools around the U.S.

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Tom Brady has announced his retirement. Brady won a record seven Super Bowls for New England and Tampa Bay. He is the most successful quarterback in NFL history and one of the greatest athletes in team sports. He posted the announcement on social media in a brief video lasting just under one minute. He says this time it's for good. He briefly retired after the 2021 season but wound up coming back for one more year. He retires at age 45, the owner of numerous passing records in an unprecedented 23-year career.