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At the Feb. 1 funeral of her son, Tyre Nichols, RowVaughn Wells was a portrait of dignity and restraint, as she has been over the last several weeks. As she spoke, tears rolled down her cheeks and her voice broke, but she managed to convey purpose, insisting that Congress pass a federal police reform bill.

Imagine if the Republican Party rigged its presidential nominating calendar to help Donald Trump slide past states where he’s politically weak. Would that go down easily with the GOP or the press corps? That’s essentially what Democrats are doing to help President Biden — to little protest or even much media notice.

Features

Genesis 8:22 reminds us that seedtime and harvest will never cease as long as the earth continues. Biblical society was agrarian, meaning people worked the land. Many of Jesus’ parables were agricultural in nature and sowing and reaping were topics understood by the Bible’s original audience.

After Jesus is run out of his hometown of Nazareth, He heads back to Capernaum. This is the town of His “bachelor pad” and where He will do more miracles than in any other place. Jesus comes into town in time to preach at the synagogue, and everyone is amazed at His great authority over the …

State AP Stories

The Supreme Court soon could find itself with easy ways out of two high-profile cases involving immigration and elections, if the justices are looking to avoid potentially messy and divisive decisions. Off-ramps in those cases could prove attractive in a term with no shortage of big cases that could divide the court’s six conservatives and three liberals. Affirmative action, voting rights, gay rights and student loan forgiveness also are on the agenda. The court is less than a year removed from overturning nearly 50 years of constitutional protections . And it's seen a significant dip in public confidence.

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Hundreds of thousands of students who have dropped off public school rolls since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic are unaccounted for. An analysis by The Associated Press, Stanford University’s Big Local News project and Stanford education professor Thomas Dee found 240,000 students in 21 states who have gone missing from schools. They did not move out of state, and did not sign up for private school or home-school. Early in the pandemic, school staff went door-to-door to reengage kids, but most such efforts have ended. Dee says the data suggests a need to understand more about the children who aren’t in school and how that will affect their development.

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A federal appeals court has sided again with North Carolina’s attorney general in a lawsuit involving a libel law that a district attorney sought to use to attempt to prosecute Josh Stein over a 2020 campaign commercial. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed on Wednesday with Stein and others associated with his political committee and said the 1931 law is most likely unconstitutional. Stein's campaign committee sued last summer because it was worried Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman’s office could soon seek indictments. The same panel granted a temporary injunction against Freeman in August. Stein is running for governor next year.

A bill increasing punishments for violent protests following the 2020 demonstrations over George Floyd’s murder passed the House despite harsh criticism from social justice advocates. Some bipartisan support for Wednesday's measure signals a potential override of any veto by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who issued one that blocked similar legislation two years ago. The bills have been spearheaded by Republican House Speaker Tim Moore. Wednesday's measure now goes to the Senate. Democrats who opposed the measure and representatives of advocacy groups said the changes were unnecessary or attempts to discourage minority and low-income residents from speaking out. Some amendments were approved to address concerns of Democratic lawmakers.

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North Carolina’s Republican-controlled Senate has passed a bill requiring teachers to alert parents in most circumstances before calling a student by a different name or pronoun. Sponsors say the bill is needed to keep parents informed about what their children are being taught in public schools. Critics say it would make schools unsafe spaces for LGBTQ and questioning children to explore their identities. The proposal passed the Senate 29-18 on Tuesday. It would also prohibit instruction about gender identity and sexuality in K-4 classrooms. It now heads to the state House, where Republicans likely would need some Democratic support to push it through.

The daughter of a South Florida Lyft driver who went missing more than a week ago has confirmed that the man has died. Lindsay DiBetta posted on Facebook on Tuesday that the family would be announcing information on services for her father, 74-year-old Gary Levin, in the next few days. Levin went missing Jan. 30 after dropping off a customer north of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. His family reported him missing when he didn’t return home. Levin’s red 2022 Kia Stinger was spotted in Miami, Okeechobee and Gainesville, in north Florida last week. It was stopped Thursday night in North Carolina, and the driver is being held on $2 million bond.

Former longtime North Carolina state Sen. Jerry Tillman has died at age 82. A funeral home confirmed Monday that Tillman died Saturday at a Greensboro health facility from natural causes. The Randolph County Republican was a retired public schoolteacher, administrator and coach first elected to the Senate in 2002. He served as a Senate majority whip, education budget writer and finance committee co-chair after Republicans took over the Senate. Tillman often pressed for legislation that promoted school choice and tax relief. He retired in mid-2020. A funeral is set for later this month in Archdale.

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Republican lawmakers are accusing China of deliberately surveilling sensitive U.S. military sites with a suspected spy balloon. And they say the Biden administration has given Beijing an intelligence opening by not downing the balloon during its high-altitude drift through American airspace. Democrats are defending Biden and they note that there were similar incursions while Donald Trump was president. A missile from an F-22 fighter jet downed the balloon on Saturday off the South Carolina coast. A U.S. official tells The Associated Press that those involved in the recovery of the balloon are planning to take it to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, for further analysis.

National & World AP Stories

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EL OBEID, Sudan (AP) — The two Sudanese women thought they had malaria and were taking their medication, but things took a dire turn. Both complained of a splitting headache and fever that didn’t respond to the anti-malaria treatment.

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Thousands who lost their homes in a catastrophic earthquake huddled around campfires and clamored for food and water in the bitter cold, three days after the temblor and series of aftershocks hit Turkey and Syria. More than 17,000 were killed. Rescuers continued their race to pull more people alive from the rubble, with the window closing to find trapped survivors. While stories of miraculous rescues briefly buoyed spirits, the grim reality of the hardships facing tens of thousands who survived the disaster cast a pall. In the Turkish city of Antakya, dozens of people scrambled for aid in front of a truck distributing children’s coats and other supplies.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder and former CEO of FTX, has been unusually talkative following the November collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange and his subsequent indictment on fraud and other charges. He’s given a series of interviews intended to present his version of events and used social media to criticize the new management of FTX. The atypical chattiness for a criminal defendant is likely causing Bankman-Fried’s attorneys to scratch their heads, or worse. Prosecutors can use any statements, tweets or other communications against him at his trial, which is scheduled for October. Bankman-Fried will appear before the judge hearing his case in New York Thursday on a bail-related matter.

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his young daughter took center stage at a huge military parade, fueling speculation that she is being primed as a future leader of the isolated country as her father showed off his latest, largest nuclear missiles.

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A New York City police officer wants his badge back after federal prosecutors dropped charges alleging he worked as a foreign agent for China. Officer Baimadajie Angwang spent months in a detention center after his 2020 arrest. Prosecutors initially said he passed information about New York's Tibetan community to Chinese consular officials. But they abruptly dropped all charges Jan. 19, saying they were acting “in the interest of justice.” Angwang tells The Associated Press he wants to go back to work on the force. He also wants an explanation for why he was charged and what authorities learned that made them drop the case.

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Officials are asking about railroad safety after a fiery derailment in Ohio generated a huge plume of smoke and forced evacuations in a small town because of concerns about the toxic chemicals the train was carrying. The derailment and other high-profile incidents highlight the potentially disastrous consequences of train accidents. But the industry is generally regarded as the safest option for most goods and problems involving hazardous materials are exceedingly rare. Yet rail unions believe the industry is getting riskier after widespread job cuts in recent years because workers are spread thin.

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BEIRUT (AP) — For years, the people of Aleppo bore the brunt of bombardment and fighting when their city, once Syria’s largest and most cosmopolitan, was among the civil war’s fiercest battle zones. Even that didn’t prepare them for the new devastation and terror wreaked by this week’s earthquake.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is wrapping up a whirlwind tour of his major European backers. Already he will head home with heaps of goodwill, promises of more military aid and France’s highest medal of honor. Zelenskyy arrived at the European Union’s legislature in Brussels on Thursday. The Ukrainian anthem was played at the protocol entrance, followed by the European anthem. The EU's 27 leaders are hoping to impress on him that the powerful bloc is steadfast in its support of embattled Ukraine as Russia is feared to be making moves for a new offensive around the Feb. 24 one-year anniversary of the war.