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Two local robotics teams received honors at the recent FIRST Tech Challenge competition hosted by Pitt County Schools. Held Jan. 28 at Hope Middle School, the competition drew two dozen teams from across the state.

Food Truck Roundup: Nulook and Slingz & Things of Greenville will hole a Food Truck Roundup for the Kids to help pay off overdue lunch accounts from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday at Nulook Business Center, 406 S.W. Greenville Blvd. Call, text or inbox Shelia at 252-258-0333. Donate on Cashapp to $nulookk. All proceeds go to Pitt County School overdue lunch accounts.

Local Events

I love light. I have twinkle lights all over the yard and keep lights burning inside and outside most of the time. When I look around at the lamps we have, I realize they tell a story of the life Tom and I have lived together for nearly 58 years.

Hena Khan was raised in the Washington suburbs, the daughter of immigrants from Pakistan, and she describes the experience this way: “When I was growing up, it was really more about feeling invisible and not thinking my culture mattered. Nobody at school knew anything about being a Muslim, b…

Q I live in Boston, and the news here seems to be fixated on a brand-new COVID-19 variant. Omicron was all everyone talked about for a long time. Does this mean the new variant we are hearing about is worse? What are we supposed to do to protect ourselves?

State AP Stories

Eyes were locked on the South Carolina skies Saturday as a suspected Chinese spy balloon slowly drifted toward drifted over the Atlantic Ocean and was shot down by U.S. military fighters. In Myrtle Beach, people lined a boardwalk and cheered as the balloon plummeted to the water. Software engineer and storm chaser Brian Branch captured photographs of the balloon high above western North Carolina just hours before it was shot down. Branch could see a payload hanging from the round, white balloon, which officials have said was about the size of three school buses. China said it was a weather balloon.

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The United States has downed a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast on orders from President Joe Biden after it had crossed over sensitive military sites across North America. Biden said he wanted the balloon downed on Wednesday, but was advised that the best time for the operation would be when it was over water. Military officials determined that the bringing down it down over land would pose an undue risk to people on the ground. Pentagon officials said an F-22 fighter jet fired a missile at the balloon, puncturing it while it was about 6 nautical miles off the coast near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It land in 47 feet of water.

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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.

National & World AP Stories

Eyes were locked on the South Carolina skies Saturday as a suspected Chinese spy balloon slowly drifted toward drifted over the Atlantic Ocean and was shot down by U.S. military fighters. In Myrtle Beach, people lined a boardwalk and cheered as the balloon plummeted to the water. Software engineer and storm chaser Brian Branch captured photographs of the balloon high above western North Carolina just hours before it was shot down. Branch could see a payload hanging from the round, white balloon, which officials have said was about the size of three school buses. China said it was a weather balloon.

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A train derailment and resulting large fire have prompted an evacuation order in an Ohio village near the Pennsylvania state line. Norfolk Southern says about 50 cars derailed Friday night in East Palestine from a train carrying a variety of freight from Madison, Illinois to Conway, Pennsylvania. No injuries were reported. Officials said one car contained vinyl chloride, but safety features on that car were functioning and air quality monitors had shown no levels of concern. Residents within a mile were evacuated and others urged to shelter in place. A National Transportation Safety Board team was heading to the scene to investigate.

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The life of Los Angeles’ most famous mountain lion followed a path known only to the biggest of Hollywood stars: Discovered on-camera in 2012, the cougar adopted a stage name and enjoyed a decade of celebrity status before his tragic death late last year.

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The Arctic air that descended on the Northeast has brought dangerously cold sub-zero temperatures and wind chills to the region. That includes a record-setting wind chill of minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit on the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire. The Mount Washington Observatory at the peak of the Northeast’s highest mountain, famous for its extreme weather conditions, also recorded an actual temperature of minus 47 and tying an observatory record set in 1934. Across the rest of the region, wind chills — the combined effect of wind and cold air on exposed skin —  dropped to as low as minus 45 to minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday.

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The United States has downed a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast on orders from President Joe Biden after it had crossed over sensitive military sites across North America. Biden said he wanted the balloon downed on Wednesday, but was advised that the best time for the operation would be when it was over water. Military officials determined that the bringing down it down over land would pose an undue risk to people on the ground. Pentagon officials said an F-22 fighter jet fired a missile at the balloon, puncturing it while it was about 6 nautical miles off the coast near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It land in 47 feet of water.

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A growing online conspiracy theory is using the tagline “died suddenly” to baselessly claim that COVID-19 vaccines are killing people. The filmmakers and anti-vaccine activists behind the misinformation campaign have flooded social media with news reports, obituaries and GoFundMe pages about sudden deaths or injuries alongside the term “died suddenly” and syringe emojis. The media intelligence firm Zignal Labs found that the use of “died suddenly” or a misspelled version of it in tweets about vaccines have surged more than 740% in the past two months compared with the two previous months. Rigorous study and real-world evidence from hundreds of millions of administered shots prove that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

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It is a long and sometimes dangerous journey for truckers transporting the avocados destined for guacamole on tables and tailgates in the United States during the Super Bowl. It starts in villages like Santa Ana Zirosto, high in the misty, pine-clad mountains of the western Mexico state of Michoacan. The roads are plagued by drug cartels, common criminals, and extortion and kidnap gangs so state police provide escorts for the trucks brave enough to face the 40-mile (60-kilometer) trip to packing and shipping plants in the city of Uruapan. Drivers are often robbed of their avocados and their trucks.

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Pope Francis says South Sudan's future depends on how it treats its women. On his second and penultimate day in Africa on Saturday, Francis called for women and girls to be respected, protected and honored. He was meeting with some of the 2 million people who have been forced by fighting and flooding to flee their homes. In South Sudan, sexual violence against women is rampant, child brides are common and the maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world. The encounter was one of the highlights of Francis’ three-day visit to the world’s youngest country and one of its poorest.