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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

The first Confederate statues were monuments to victory in a war of Southern aggression. Defeated at Appomattox, Southern whites regrouped by organizing terrorist militias and ransacking the region’s newly biracial local and state governments. As the North soured on Reconstruction and white Republicans finally abandoned the freed slaves, Southerners completed the “Redemption” of the old Confederacy with the imposition of a slavery-esque system of apartheid. Up went the statues to celebrate Dixie’s revenge.

I feel it necessary to respond to Mr. Andrew Morton’s Feb. 1 letter to the editor. I would ask, has he even read or scanned the “Fair Tax Act of 2023?” I have scanned it and made it through Section 502 before my eyes crossed.

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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.

State AP Stories

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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.

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China is threatening what it calls “further actions” after an American fighter jet shot down a suspected spy balloon off the East Coast of the United States on Saturday. The U.S. says the massive balloon was a surveillance craft that spent days crossing over sensitive military sites in North America. The White House says President Joe Biden approved the downing, and followed the advice of military officials by waiting to bring down the craft over water rather than risk debris falling on populated areas. But China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs insists again that the craft was civilian and its flight an accident. It is criticizing the U.S. for what it terms “an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.”

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Eyes were locked on the Carolina skies Saturday as a suspected Chinese spy balloon ended a weeklong traverse over the U.S., drifted over the Atlantic Ocean and was shot down by a fighter jet. In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina people lined a boardwalk and cheered as a missile from an F-22 fighter struck the balloon and it plummeted into the water. As the balloon came over Myrtle Beach, software consultant Haley Walsh says she saw it floating in the clear blue sky. She felt and heard a boom and ran outside where she saw the balloon tumbling down.

National & World AP Stories

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked the British people for their support since “Day One” of Russia’s invasion — and pressed for fighter jets to ensure his country's victory. Zelenskyy’s daring to visit Britain in a bid for more advanced weapons comes as Kyiv braces for an expected Russian offensive and hatches its own plans to retake land held by Moscow’s forces. Hundreds of lawmakers and parliamentary staff packed the 900-year-old Westminster Hall for Zelenskyy’s speech. It was only his second confirmed journey outside Ukraine since Russia invaded nearly a year ago.

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A big fireball and billowing smoke rose into the sky when officials released and burned toxic chemicals from the wreckage of a derailed train in an Ohio village. Residents in the immediate area there and nearby in Pennsylvania remain evacuated Wednesday because of health risks from the fumes. Officials warned that burning the vinyl chloride would result in two concerning gases — hydrogen chloride and phosgene, which was used as a weapon in World War I. Officials say air monitoring hasn't detected concerning levels inside or outside the evacuation radius, and they're still working with experts to determine safe levels for various gases before residents can return.

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Stretched rescue teams are toiling in Turkey and Syria, searching for signs of life in the rubble of thousands of buildings toppled by a catastrophic earthquake. The death toll passed 11,000 in the deadliest quake worldwide in more than a decade. Hope for finding survivors is fading. Amid calls for the Turkish government to send more help to the disaster zone, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan toured a “tent city” in hard-hit Kahramanmaras. Search teams from more than two dozen countries have joined tens of thousands of local emergency personnel, and aid pledges have poured in from around the world. But the scale of destruction from the 7.8 magnitude quake and its powerful aftershocks was so immense that many are still waiting for help.

The only Black designer belonging to Italy’s fashion council is withdrawing from this month’s Milan Fashion Week citing a lack of commitment to diversity and inclusion. Stella Jean on Wednesday also announced a hunger strike out of concern that other minority designers associated with her will suffer a backlash.  Stella Jean told The Associated Press that the Italian National Fashion Chamber had significantly reduced financial support for the We Are Made in Italy collective of young designers of color working in Italy after she made an impassioned speech about the personal price she had paid for highlighting racial injustice in Italy during a runway show last September.

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Israel's drive to demolish Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem is picking up pace. Last week after a Palestinian gunman killed seven people in east Jerusalem, the deadliest attack in the contested capital since 2008, Israel’s new far-right national security minister called not only for the sealing of the assailant’s family home, but also the immediate demolition of dozens of Palestinian houses built without permits in the area. For many Palestinians, the uptick in demolitions is part of the new ultranationalist government’s broader battle for control of east Jerusalem, annexed by Israel and claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of their future state. Israel says it is simply enforcing building regulations.