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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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The car owned by a missing 74-year-old Florida Lyft driver has been found in North Carolina and the man who was driving it is wanted in connection with a homicide last week in southwest Florida. Authorities said Friday that Gary Levin has been missing since Monday, when his family believes he picked up a customer in Palm Beach County, Florida. His red 2022 Kia Stinger was spotted in Miami that day and later in north Florida. The vehicle was then seen Thursday evening in North Carolina and driver Matthew Flores was arrested following a police chase. Flores is a suspect in a slaying that occurred nearly a week before Levin went missing.

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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.

National & World AP Stories

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The mayor of Austin, Texas, has apologized and says the city failed to communicate with its residents after a winter storm left thousands without power for days. Mayor Kirk Watson said at a news conference Friday that “the situation is unacceptable to the community, and it’s unacceptable to me.” Rising temperatures are offering some hope for frustrated Texans. Meanwhile, a new wave of frigid weather has begun rolling into the Northeast and led communities to close schools and open warming centers. Wind chills in some higher elevations of the Northeast could dive below minus 50.

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A California sheriff says two gang members suspected in the massacre of six people last month in central California have been arrested, one after a gunbattle. Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said Friday that 25-year-old Noah David Beard was taken into custody without incident and 35-year-old Angel “Nanu” Uriarte was wounded in the shootout with federal agents. The six victims, including a teen mother and her baby, were gunned down on Jan. 16 in rural Goshen, a community of 3,000 in the San Joaquin Valley. Authorities say some of the victims were associated with a different gang.

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The car owned by a missing 74-year-old Florida Lyft driver has been found in North Carolina and the man who was driving it is wanted in connection with a homicide last week in southwest Florida. Authorities said Friday that Gary Levin has been missing since Monday, when his family believes he picked up a customer in Palm Beach County, Florida. His red 2022 Kia Stinger was spotted in Miami that day and later in north Florida. The vehicle was then seen Thursday evening in North Carolina and driver Matthew Flores was arrested following a police chase. Flores is a suspect in a slaying that occurred nearly a week before Levin went missing.

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A 24-year-old man has been arrested in the taking of the two monkeys from the Dallas Zoo, police said Friday, adding that he was taken into custody after being spotted near animal exhibits at the city’s aquarium. Police say Davion Irvin was arrested Thursday on six counts of animal cruelty — three each for the two emperor tamarin monkeys that were taken. The monkeys went missing Monday and a cut was found in their enclosure’s fencing. It was the latest in a string of unusual events at the zoo. A spokesman for The Dallas World Aquarium says Irvin stopped an aquarium employee to ask about one of its animals, and the employee recognized him from the missing monkeys coverage.

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Wall Street’s rally is hitting a wall after a surprisingly strong jobs report fueled worries about inflation and higher interest rates. The S&P 500 is 1.1% lower Friday and on track for its first drop in four days, though it took an up-and-down route to get there. The bond market 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. Treasury yields zoomed higher. Tech stocks were also weighing on the market following profit reports that were weaker than expected.

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Ukraine is stepping up efforts to lobby international sports leaders against Russian participation in next year’s Paris Olympics. A meeting of the Ukrainian Olympic Committee did not commit to a boycott but its head renewed a threat to do so if Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete and said it would lobby other nations and sports officials in the next to months to join. The International Olympic Committee is pushing to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete at the 2024 Paris Games without their national flags or anthems as “neutral athletes.” The leaders of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania urged the IOC to ban Russia and said a boycott was a possibility.