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HERTFORD — The Perquimans Festival of Lights on the lawn of the historic Perquimans County Courthouse is drawing people to downtown Hertford for a holiday-themed light show — but one former county official is not a fan of the display.

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“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude,” former US president Donald Trump wrote on his pet social media platform, Truth Social, “allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” In reference, of course, to his fantasy that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from him.

Nothing that Elon Musk is doing in the wake of his takeover of Twitter should be considered controversial. The fact that the world’s richest person and self-described “free speech absolutist” is currently taking endless flack for attempting to limit online censorship and gatekeeping in the interests of widening public debate is a testament to the fact that the prominent social media platform had become a gatekeeper for the Western establishment status quo and the primarily left-leaning ideals that they relentlessly champion.

Let the games begin, and I’m not talking reindeer games here. I’m talking about the political gamesmanship already beginning in the congress. Most of the rhetoric of revenge and retribution is coming from one man and one political party. For any of us who hoped the 2020 election would end the reign of the orange king, boy were we wrong.

In a normal market, creditors demand higher interest from borrowers to whom they lend money for longer periods of time. That’s because these creditors are assuming more risk that they won’t be paid, and because a dollar of interest received tomorrow is usually more valuable than a dollar of interest received years from now.

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State AP Stories

The Supreme Court is taking up a case with the potential to reshape elections for Congress and the presidency. The justices are hearing arguments Wednesday over the power of state courts to strike down congressional districts drawn by the legislature because they violate state constitutions. Republicans from North Carolina who are bringing the case to the high court argue that a provision of the U.S. Constitution known as the elections clause gives state lawmakers virtually total control over the “times, places and manner” of congressional elections, including redistricting, and cuts state courts out. The Republicans are advancing a concept called the independent legislature theory, never before adopted by the Supreme Court but cited approvingly by four conservative justices.

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Duke Energy says it expects to be able to restore power by Wednesday night to a county where electric substations were attacked by gunfire. Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said the company expects to have power back Wednesday just before midnight in Moore County. The company had previously estimated it would be restored Thursday morning. About 35,000 Duke energy customers were still without power Tuesday, down from more than 45,000 at the height of the outage Saturday. Authorities have said the outages began shortly after 7 p.m. Saturday night after one or more people drove up to two substations, breached the gates and opened fire on them.

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Two North Carolina Democratic government lawyers have argued on competing sides at an appeals court in a case over whether the Wake County district attorney can prosecute Attorney General Josh Stein or others for a 2020 campaign commercial. Private attorneys for Stein and Wake District Attorney Lorrin Freeman met Tuesday before a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. At issue is a state law that makes certain political speech a crime. Stein's campaign ad criticized his then-Republican challenger for AG over untested rape kits. Stein and his allies say the 1931 law is unconstitutional and want the judges to block its enforcement.

A U.S. Supreme Court case involving North Carolina's congressional districts could have ramifications for the way voting districts are drawn in other states. At issue in Wednesday's arguments is whether state courts can strike down U.S. House maps passed by state lawmakers for violating state constitutions. North Carolina's Republican legislative leaders are asserting an “independent state legislature” theory — claiming the U.S. Constitution gives no role to state courts in federal election disputes. The outcome could affect similar lawsuits pending in state courts in Kentucky, New Mexico and Utah. It also could have implications in New York and Ohio, where state courts previously struck down U.S. House districts.

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Two power substations in a North Carolina county were damaged by gunfire in what is being investigated as a criminal act. A spokesman for Duke Energy said at a news conference with local officials on Sunday that the damage caused the night before could take days to repair. Power was out for roughly 37,000 customers Sunday. In response, officials announced a state of emergency that included a curfew from 9 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday. County schools will be closed Monday. Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields says authorities have not determined a motivation.

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The Supreme Court is about to confront a new elections case that could dramatically alter voting in 2024 and beyond. A Republican-led challenge is asking the justices for a novel ruling that could significantly increase the power of state lawmakers over elections for Congress and the presidency. The court is hearing arguments Wednesday in a case from highly competitive North Carolina, where Republican efforts to draw congressional districts heavily in their favor were blocked by a Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court. The question for the justices is whether the U.S. Constitution’s provision giving state legislatures the power to make the rules about the “times, places and manner” of congressional elections cuts state courts out of the process.

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The nation’s largest public utility is recommending replacing an aging coal burning power plant with natural gas, ignoring calls for the Tennessee Valley Authority to speed its transition to renewable energy. TVA on Friday announced the completion of its environmental impact statement for replacing the Cumberland Fossil Plant near Cumberland City, Tennessee. TVA says in a news release that solar and battery storage would be more costly and time-consuming than gas. The recommendation still needs the approval of TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash. He has previously spoken in favor of gas. The announcement drew immediate backlash from groups that include the Center for Biological Diversity, which calls the plan “reckless.”

National & World AP Stories

Israel’s ties to the Jewish American community are about to be put to the test, with Israel’s emerging far-right government on a collision course with Jews in the United States. Major Jewish American organizations that have traditionally been a bedrock of support for Israel have expressed alarm over the presumptive government’s far-right character. The vast majority of American Jews have liberal political views and lean toward the Democratic Party. Misgivings over the expected government led by conservative Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu could have a ripple effect in Washington and further widen what has become a partisan divide over support for Israel.

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A man has blown himself up at a police station on Indonesia’s main island of Java, killing an officer and wounding seven people in what appeared to be the latest in a string of suicide attacks blamed on Muslim militants. Police say the attacker entered the police station in Bandung city and detonated explosives as police were lining up for a morning assembly. Police say the man brought two bombs but one apparently failed to explode and was defused. A paper was found taped to the perpetrator’s motorbike with the words, “Criminal code is the law of infidels, let’s fight the satanic law enforcers.” Indonesia’s Parliament on Tuesday passed a new criminal code that bans sex outside of marriage and insulting the president and state institutions.

With many types of wildlife struggling to survive and their living space shrinking, some are finding their way to big cities. The United Nations says up to 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Development in suburban and even rural areas is gobbling up habitat. The situation is stirring calls for “rewilding” places where wildlife thrived until driven out. Experts say cities offer many opportunities to support rewilding, such as restoring wetlands and planting flowers. In Detroit, scientists place wildlife cameras in woodsy sections of parks. They've recorded images of coyotes, foxes, raccoons and other animals that emerge mostly at night to roam and forage.

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In a sharp reversal, China has announced a series of measures rolling back some of the most draconian anti-COVID-19 restrictions. The Wednesday announcement includes limiting the scale of lockdown to individual apartment floors and buildings, rather than entire districts and neighborhoods. People who test positive for the virus will be able to isolate at home rather than in overcrowded and unsanitary field hospitals, and schools where there have been no outbreaks must return to in-class teaching. The announcement follows recent street protests in several cities over the strict “zero-COVID" policy now entering its fourth year, which has been blamed for upending ordinary life, travel and employment while dealing a harsh blow to the national economy.

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China’s imports and exports shrank in November under pressure from weakening global demand and anti-virus controls at home. Customs data showed exports sank 9% from a year earlier to $296.1 billion, worsening from October’s 0.9% decline. Imports fell 10.9% to $226.2 billion, down from the previous month’s 0.7% retreat. Chinese trade had been forecast to weaken as global demand cooled following interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve and central banks in Europe and Asia to rein in surging inflation. Chinese consumer demand has been hurt by anti-virus measures that shut down large sections of cities to contain virus outbreaks.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is attending a pair of regional summits in Saudi Arabia amid efforts to kick-start economic growth weighed down by strict anti-COVID-19 measures. The Foreign Ministry said Wednesday Xi will attend the inaugural China-Arab States Summit and a meeting with leaders of the six nations that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. His state visit to Saudi Arabia will end on Saturday. China is the world’s second largest economy, a leading consumer of oil and source of foreign investment. China imports half of its oil, and half of those imports come from Saudi Arabia. Chinese economic growth rebounded to 3.9% over a year earlier in the three months ending in September.

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Shares are lower in Asia after benchmarks fell again on Wall Street on fears the Federal Reserve will need to keep the brakes on the economy to get inflation under control, risking a sharp recession. Oil prices were mixed. China reported its imports and exports fell in November as global demand weakened and anti-virus controls weighed on the second-largest economy. The S&P 500 fell 1.4% Tuesday, its fourth straight loss. The tech-heavy Nasdaq gave back even more, 2%, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1%. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which helps set mortgage rate, fell to 3.52%.

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Donald Trump’s company has been convicted of tax fraud for a scheme by top executives to avoid paying personal income taxes on perks such as apartments and luxury cars. As punishment, the Trump Organization could be fined up to $1.6 million. The guilty verdict Tuesday day came on the second day of deliberations in the only criminal trial to arise from the Manhattan district attorney’s three-year investigation of the former president and his businesses. Longtime Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg previously pleaded guilty to hatching the 15-year scheme. He testified at the trial in exchange for a promised five-month jail sentence. Trump himself was not on trial.