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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.

Features

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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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.

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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.”

National & World AP Stories

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An international team of investigators said Wednesday it found “strong indications” that Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the supply of heavy anti-aircraft weapons to Ukrainian separatists who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014 with a Russian…

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GAZIANTEP, Turkey (AP) — The president of Turkey on Wednesday acknowledged “shortcomings” in his country's response to the world’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade as hope dwindled that more survivors would emerge from the rubble of thousands of toppled buildings.

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A former “Dances With Wolves” actor at the center of a sweeping sexual abuse probe in Nevada and Canada was charged Wednesday afternoon with federal crimes. Nathan Chasing Horse faces two counts of sexual exploitation of children and one count of child pornography. The new charges add to a growing list of criminal cases filed against the 46-year-old since his arrest on Jan. 31 near Las Vegas. In the Nevada case, he is charged with eight felonies, including sex trafficking and sexual assault. The federal charges came just hours after a North Las Vegas judge set bail in the state case at $300,000. If he posts bond, he will likely be taken into federal custody. His public defender hasn't commented on the new charges.

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EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A Texas man pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal hate crime and weapons charges in the racist attack at an El Paso Walmart in 2019, which prosecutors say was preceded by the gunman posting an online screed that warned of a “Hispanic invasion."

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The officer who pulled Tyre Nichols from his car before police fatally beat him never explained why he was being stopped, newly released documents show. Emerging reports from Memphis residents suggest that was commonplace. The Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission released documents Tuesday blasting the conduct of Demetrius Haley and four other officers as “blatantly unprofessional.” They include revelations that Haley took photographs of Nichols as he lay propped against a police car.  Haley then sent the photos to other officers and a female acquaintance, the Memphis Police Department wrote in requesting that the five officers be stripped of the ability to work as police.

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Brazilian authorities have launched an operation to reclaim Yanomami Indigenous territory from thousands of illegal gold miners who have contaminated rivers and brought famine and disease to one of the most isolated populations of the world. On Tuesday, federal agents destroyed a helicopter, an airplane, a bulldozer and logistical support structure. Dozens of illegal gold miners are fleeing the region, a difficult trip that can take days on foot through the Amazon rainforest.

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A city bus has crashed into a day care center north of Montreal, killing two children and injuring six, authorities said. The driver was arrested and charged with first degree murder. A neighbor who ran to the center in Laval, Quebec, said she saw children screaming and crying and watched a mother collapse. Other panicked parents were diverted to a nearby elementary school. Immediately after the crash, the driver stepped out of the bus, ripped his clothes off and started screaming, another neighbor said. “He was just yelling; there were no words coming out of his mouth,” Hamdi Benchaabane said.