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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

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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.

National & World AP Stories

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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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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.

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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. The Friday night derailment covered the area in billows of smoke lit orange by the flames below. Rail operator Norfolk Southern says about 50 cars derailed in East Palestine from a train carrying a variety of freight. No injuries were reported. Officials say they're trying to determine which cars are still burning. An evacuation order remained in place for residents within a mile of the scene, and the local air quality is being monitored. A National Transportation Safety Board team was heading to the scene to investigate.

In a terrible way, the death of Tyre Nichols brings some vindication to members of the Black community in Memphis who live in terror of police.  The fatal beating of the 29-year-old Nichols by five police officers tells the story many residents know by heart: that any encounter, including traffic stops, can be deadly if you're Black. Police conduct sweeps where units in unmarked cars roll into neighborhoods and armed plainclothes officers jump out, rushing traffic violators and issuing commands. It's resulted in community in fear, where people text, call and use social media to caution each other to stay inside or avoid the area when police operations are underway.

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Officials on both sides of Russia's war in Ukraine says dozens of prisoners have returned home following a prisoner swap. Top Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak said in a Telegram post that 116 Ukrainians were freed. He said they include troops who held out in Mariupol during Moscow’s monthslong siege that reduced the southern port city to ruins, as well as guerrilla fighters from the Kherson region and snipers captured during the ongoing fierce battles for the eastern city of Bakhmut. Russian defense officials, meanwhile, announced that 63 Russian troops had returned from Ukraine, including some “special category” prisoners whose release was secured following mediation by the United Arab Emirates.

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.

The first drug to show that it slows Alzheimer’s is on sale, but treatment for most patients is still several months away. Experts say scant coverage of the drug and a long setup time needed by health systems are two main factors behind the slow debut. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Leqembi from Japanese drugmaker Eisai in early January. It was approved for patients with mild or early cases of dementia tied to Alzheimer’s disease. Patients take the drug by IV every two weeks. A year’s treatment will run about $26,500, making coverage important for access.

China has played down the cancellation of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a large Chinese balloon suspected of conducting surveillance on U.S. military sites roiled diplomatic relations, saying that neither side had formally announced any such plan. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Saturday morning that the U.S. and China have never announced any visit. Blinken was due to visit Beijing on Sunday for talks aimed at reducing U.S.-China tensions, the first such high-profile trip after the countries’ leaders met last November in Indonesia. But the U.S. abruptly canceled the trip after the discovery of the huge balloon despite China’s claim that it was merely a weather research “airship” that had blown off course.