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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.

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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

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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.

Amid high egg prices, social media users are claiming that common chicken feed products are preventing their own hens from laying eggs. Some have gone a step further to suggest that feed producers intentionally made their products deficient to stop backyard egg production and force consumers to buy eggs at inflated prices. But experts say high egg prices are caused by bird flu and inflation. And while feed quality can affect egg production, there are more mundane explanations for backyard flock owners’ reported low egg yields, including environmental reasons like cold weather or insufficient light, rather than a broad conspiracy.

National & World AP Stories

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The fire chief in Ohio's small town of East Palestine says Wednesday that evacuated residents can safely return to the area where crews burned toxic chemicals after a train derailed five days ago near the Pennsylvania state line. Authorities in East Palestine had warned that burning vinyl chloride that was in five of the derailed tanker cars would send hydrogen chloride and the toxic gas phosgene into the air. They said Wednesday subsequent air monitoring hasn’t detected dangerous levels inside or outside the mile-radius evacuation zone, which stretched into Pennsylvania. Many nearby residents left shortly after the derailment, and others were ordered out before the controlled release of the chemicals because of concerns about serious health risks from it.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his young daughter took center stage at a huge military parade, fueling speculation she’s being primed as a future leader as her father showed off his latest, largest nuclear missiles. Wednesday night’s parade featured the newest hardware in Kim’s arsenal, including what experts said was possibly a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile he could test in the coming months. Around a dozen ICBMs were displayed — an unprecedented number that underscored how Kim continues to expand his military capabilities despite limited resources. The parade was the fifth known public appearance by Kim’s daughter, Kim Ju Ae, who is believed to be around 10 years old and has been described with lofty phrases in state media.

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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. The European Union’s 27 leaders were awaiting the man in khaki in Brussels on Thursday and hoped 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.

China says U.S. accusations that a downed Chinese balloon was part of an extensive surveillance program amount to “information warfare against China." The Pentagon on Wednesday said the Chinese balloon shot down off the South Carolina coast was part of a program that China has been operating for “several years." Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Thursday repeated China's insistence that the large unmanned balloon was a civilian meteorological airship that had accidentally blown off course and that the U.S. had overreacted by shooting it down on Saturday. U.S. officials have dismissed the possibility that it was anything other than a balloon intended for military spying purposes and are recovering wreckage from the ocean for analysis.

The Phoenix Suns acquired 13-time All-Star Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets, according to multiple reports. The outlets, citing unnamed sources, said the Suns added Durant to a starting lineup that already includes an All-Star backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, along with center Deandre Ayton. Phoenix sent Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, four first-round picks and additional draft compensation to the Nets. The Suns also receive forward T.J. Warren in the deal.

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Rescuers are pulling more survivors from beneath the rubble of collapsed buildings, but hopes were starting to fade of finding many more people alive more than three days after a catastrophic earthquake and series of aftershocks hit Turkey and Syria, killing more than 16,000. Emergency crews working through the night in the city of Antakya were able to pull a young girl from the ruins of a building and also rescued her father alive two hours later. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to travel Thursday to the quake-hit provinces of Gaziantep, Osmaniye and Kilis amid ongoing criticism that the government’s response has been too slow.

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A surge in mosquito-borne diseases in recent months has shown the fragility of Sudan's health system and bodes ill for coming challenges, especially after the African country's 2021 military coup. Dengue fever, a potentially dangerous mosquito-borne viral disease that can cause severe bleeding and even death, took hold in more than half of the country's provinces. According to official figures, it infected thousands and killed 36 people. But with limited testing available, the real toll could be much higher. Sudan’s neglected public health sector has long struggled to effectively diagnose or treat patients, due to a lack of funding. Now, political unrest and a spiraling financial crisis mean adequate care is getting more difficult to find.

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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.