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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. Read moreAlexander Jones: Conservatives are the cultural aggressors

State AP Stories

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Hundreds of thousands of students who have dropped off public school rolls since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic are unaccounted for. An analysis by The Associated Press, Stanford University’s Big Local News project and Stanford education professor Thomas Dee found 240,000 students in 21 states who have gone missing from schools. They did not move out of state, and did not sign up for private school or home-school. Early in the pandemic, school staff went door-to-door to reengage kids, but most such efforts have ended. Dee says the data suggests a need to understand more about the children who aren’t in school and how that will affect their development.

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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.

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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.

National & World AP Stories

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his young daughter took center stage at a huge military parade, fueling speculation that she’s being primed as a future leader of the isolated country as her father showed off his latest, largest nuclear missiles. Wednesday night’s parade in the capital, Pyongyang, featured the latest hardware in Kim’s growing nuclear arsenal, including what experts said was possibly a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile he may test in coming months. The parade marked the 75th founding anniversary of North Korea’s army and came after weeks of preparations involving huge numbers of troops and civilians.

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The death toll from the catastrophic earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria rose to more than 15,000 as more bodies were pulled from the rubble of collapsed homes in the stricken zone, Turkey’s disaster management agency. The agency said Thursday 12,391 people had been confirmed killed in Turkey after Monday’s early morning earthquake and series of aftershocks, which brought down thousands of buildings in southeastern Turkey. On the other side of the border in Syria, another 2,902 people have been reported to have been killed. Rescue workers continued to pull living people from the damaged homes but hope was starting to fade amid freezing temperatures more than three full days since the quake hit.

A United States general has said that American forces and their allies in Asia are ready for battle after years of joint combat exercises. Maj. Gen. Joseph Ryan, Commanding General of the U.S. Army's 25th Infantry Division, told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that a network of U.S. treaty alliances and defense partnerships upholding the international order provides a regional safeguard in Asia. He said that Russia’s setbacks in Ukraine should serve as a warning to potential Asian aggressors like China and North Korea. Ryan is in Manila partly for talks with Philippine counterparts ahead of two annual largescale combat exercises involving thousands of U.S. and Filipinos forces.