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There are a few things this week worth mentioning, none more so than Jeff Charles having broadcast his 1,000th ECU basketball game the other day.

Opinion

The crisis over raising the nation’s debt limit is upon us again. While we may be able to trim some pork from our federal budget — and we must raise taxes on the 34 richest American corporations that paid no taxes in 2018 following former President Trump’s disastrous tax cut for the rich — w…

There are many factors that go into building and sustaining a strong and healthy democracy: free, clean and transparently funded elections; inclusive suffrage; freedom of speech and association; an independent news media; predictable and reliable law enforcement; and an absence of widespread corruption.

Gun violence is so regular an occurrence in the United States that no incident, however tragic, comes as a surprise. But events in recent days deserve special attention all the same, as they underscore a core truth about responding to gun violence: changing just one or two rules would not be enough.

There are moderates in the suburbs — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — who want Washington spending kept in check. They tend to be liberal on social issues but pained over the extremes of the woke. They have respect for various sexual identities but little interest in learning new pronouns. And they overwhelmingly want some access to abortion.

Will the U.S. government function when our national debt is six times what it is now? Before you answer, you might want to explain whether is is functioning now, when the national debt is six times what it was only 22 years and one month ago. That fact, if it is a fact, was printed on the fr…

Features

State AP Stories

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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.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will study whether to toughen regulation of large livestock farms that pollute waterways. The agency hasn't revised its rules dealing with the nation's largest hog, poultry and cattle operations since 2008. Farm manure and fertilizer runoff fouls lakes and streams. It's a leading cause of harmful algae blooms. EPA says it reconsidered its intention to leave existing rules in place after an environmental group filed a lawsuit. The agency says it will gather information on how bad the pollution is and what new methods might bring improvements.

Conservative political commentator Lynette Hardaway died earlier this month of a heart condition, according to a death certificate obtained by The Associated Press. Known by the moniker “Diamond” of the pro-Trump commentary duo Diamond and Silk, Hardaway, 51, died Jan. 8 of heart disease due to high blood pressure. The cause of Hardaway's death had become a topic of widespread speculation. A torrent of social media users suggested COVID-19 was to blame, while noting the sisters’ promotion of falsehoods about the virus. COVID-19 was not listed as a cause or contributing factor on Hardaway's death certificate.

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Lawmakers in at least two states that have seen recent attacks to electrical infrastructure are proposing new legislation to improve security around substations and increase the penalties for damaging utility equipment. Attacks last month in Moore County, North Carolina, knocked out power to more than 45,000 customers for several days. Those attacks, and others in Washington, Oregon, South Carolina and Nevada, have underscored the vulnerability of the nation’s far-flung electrical grid, which security experts have long warned could be a target for domestic extremists. South Carolina lawmakers have filed two related bills, and a North Carolina lawmaker is drafting legislation.

National & World AP Stories

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A farmworker charged in the killings of seven current and former co-workers at two Northern California mushroom farms has admitted during a jailhouse interview Thursday that he committed the fatal shootings. Chunli Zhao tells KNTV-TV he wasn’t in his right mind when he entered a mushroom farm where he worked in Half Moon Bay and shot and killed four people and seriously wounded a fifth. Prosecutors say he then drove to a nearby farm where he worked previously and killed three more people. Zhao says he was bullied and worked long hours on the farms and that his complaints were ignored. A spokesman for California Terra Garden, where Zhao was working, says the farm has no knowledge of any bullying complaints.

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Five fired Memphis police officers have been charged with murder and other crimes in the killing of Tyre Nichols, a Black motorist who died three days after a confrontation with the officers during a traffic stop. Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said although the officers each played different roles in the killing, “they are all responsible.” All of the officers are Black. Video of the Jan. 7 traffic stop will be released to the public sometime Friday evening. Nichols’ family and their lawyers say the footage shows officers savagely beating the 29-year-old father and FedEx worker for three minutes.

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The first officer to arrive after Alex Murdaugh called 911 and reported his wife and son were shot noted the the attorney was upset but that he had no tears in his eyes. Colleton County Sgt. Daniel Greene’s body camera footage was shown Thursday during the first day of testimony in Murdaugh’s double murder trial. Murdaugh’s lawyer questioned Greene at length on what he did at the crime scene, suggesting officers disturbed potential evidence by walking around in the dark without flashlights, failing to look for shoe prints or tire tracks, and standing near the bodies. Murdaugh rocked back and forth with his head down as gruesome footage was shown.

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Stocks climbed Thursday to send Wall Street to its highest level in nearly eight weeks following reports suggesting the economy and corporate profits may be doing better than feared. The S&P 500 rose 1.1% Thursday after briefly dipping lower in late morning trading. More swings may still be ahead, as Wall Street digests a growing torrent of earnings and economic reports. Thursday's headliner showed the economy held up better through the last three months of 2022 than expected. Reports from Tesla and others helped build optimism a day after worries flared following forecasts from Microsoft widely seen as discouraging.

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Ukrainian authorities say Russia has fired more missiles and self-exploding drones at nearly a dozen Ukrainian provinces, causing the first war-related death in Kyiv this year and killing at least 11 people overall. The attacks came a day after Germany and the United States announced they would send advanced battle tanks to Ukraine. The spokesperson for Ukraine’s State Emergency Service announced the casualty toll. The mayor of Kyiv said earlier that one person was killed in the capital, the city’s first attack-related death of the year. Authorities say three other people died in a strike on an energy facility in Zaporizhzhia province. The attacks adhered to Russia’s recent pattern of launching widespread infrastructure strikes about every two weeks.

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An Islamic extremist who killed eight people with a speeding truck in a 2017 rampage on a popular New York City bike path has been convicted of federal charges and could face the death penalty. Jurors found Sayfullo Saipov guilty on Thursday. Prosecutors say the Halloween attack was inspired by his reverence for the Islamic State group. The jury announced its verdict in a Manhattan courtroom just a few blocks from where Saipov’s attack ended. The jury will return to court no earlier than Feb. 6 to hear more evidence to help decide whether Saipov should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison.

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Palestinian officials say Israeli forces have killed at least nine Palestinians and wounded several others during a raid in a flashpoint area of the occupied West Bank. It was one of the deadliest days in years in the territory and increased the risk of a major flare-up in Israeli-Palestinian fighting. In retaliation, the Palestinian Authority declared it would cut security ties with Israel. The Palestinian leadership has made such threats before, with little success. Thursday's gunbattle erupted when the Israeli military conducted a rare daytime operation in the Jenin refugee camp that it said was meant to prevent an imminent attack against Israelis.

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Boeing has pleaded not guilty to a criminal charge in a case revolving around two crashes of Boeing 737 Max planes. A federal judge in Texas took Boeing's plea Thursday. The judge is considering whether to appoint a special monitor to examine safety issues at the company. It's an unusual case because Boeing thought it had settled the issue when it reached a deal with federal prosecutors two years ago. But relatives of some of the passengers who died are challenging the settlement because they weren't informed about secret negotiations between Boeing and the Justice Department.