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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

Rural North Carolina has some of the most beautiful scenery in America, as documented by the growing numbers of tourists. Almost 40 percent of our 10.5 million residents live in the 80 counties considered rural, defined as having a population density of 250 people or fewer per square mile. Demographers tell us rural citizens are older, poorer, more obese, have higher blood pressures, greater instances of diabetes, and a lower life expectancy than state averages.

Republicans are stumbling over themselves to argue that the problem with the documents found locked up in President Biden’s garage or, for that matter, those found in former Vice President Pence’s home, is the same as the problem with the documents found at former President Trump’s home at M…

Kudos to Elizabeth City City Council for agreeing last week to approve significant pay raises for our city’s depleted police force. Councilors agreed on Jan. 23 to raise the annual pay of all officers up to the level of deputy chief by $6,500 — $1,500 more than even the city’s interim police…

Claude Milot’s column, “Clowns on climate, reparations supply plenty of laughs” in your Jan. 27 edition states, “...in California where legislators proposed to give every Black man, woman and child in the state a tidy sum of $5 million in reparations....” This is not correct.

Features

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’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.

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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.

National & World AP Stories

Wall Street has its eyes on big tech after some of the biggest companies in the world posted lackluster quarterly financial performances. On Thursday several businesses announced their quarterly results, including Apple Inc. The company posted its first quarterly revenue drop in nearly four years after pandemic-driven restrictions on its China factories curtailed sales of the latest iPhone during the holiday season.

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Wall Street’s rally is stalling, as a stunningly strong report on the U.S. job market sends investments on another dizzying roller-coaster ride. Stocks opened Friday with sharp losses, then erased them all before falling back again. The bond market, meanwhile, was more decisive in thinking the strong jobs data may push the Federal Reserve to get firmer on high interest rates, which hurt the economy and markets. The S&P 500 was 0.4% lower in midday trading after earlier being down as much as 1.2%. Tech stocks were helping to weigh on the market following some profit reports that were weaker than expected.

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A newly released audio recording offers a behind-the-scenes look at how former President Donald Trump’s campaign team in a pivotal battleground state knew they had been outflanked by Democrats in the 2020 presidential election. But even as they acknowledged defeat, they pivoted to allegations of widespread fraud that were ultimately debunked — repeatedly — by elections officials and the courts. The audio from Nov. 5, 2020, two days after the election, is surfacing as Trump again seeks the White House while continuing to lie about the legitimacy of the outcome and Democrat Joe Biden’s win.

U.S. Agriculture officials have proposed new nutrition standards for school meals, including the first limits on added sugars. The proposed change would focus on sweetened foods such as cereals, yogurt, flavored milk and breakfast pastries. The plan would also dramatically cut sodium in meals served to the nation's schoolkids by 2029, while boosting flexibility for foods made with whole grains. The proposal released Friday drew mixed reactions. Some school nutrition experts praised it as a way to improve children's health, but others said new regulations would be a burden.

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Dallas police say a 24-year-old man has been arrested in the case of the two monkeys that were taken from the Dallas Zoo after he was spotted near animal exhibits at a downtown aquarium. Police say Davion Irvin was arrested Thursday. He’s been charged with several counts of animal cruelty. Police say officers arrested him after getting a tip that he had been seen near the animal exhibits at the The Dallas World Aquarium. The monkeys named Bella and Finn went missing Monday, and their enclosure had been cut open. Police found them the next day in a vacant house south of the zoo after getting a tip.

Ukraine and the three Baltic countries, all former Soviet republics, moved a step closer Friday to boycotting next year’s Paris Olympics because of the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.