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According to the latest-available set of comparable data, North Carolina ranks 33rd in the nation in “deaths of despair” — that is, in the combined rates of suicides, fatal drug overdoses, and alcohol-induced deaths. In 2020 our age-adjusted rate was 55.5 deaths of despair per 100,000 residents, slightly higher than the national average of 54.8. From 2018 to 2020, our rate rose by 26%. Read moreJohn Hood: Deaths of despair need careful analysis

Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as a justice of the Supreme Court more than four years ago, on Oct. 6, 2018. His oath followed perhaps the ugliest Supreme Court Senate confirmation process in history — and that, given the previous examples of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, is saying something. But when it was all over, Kavanaugh settled in to the court, where he has, by all accounts, performed admirably ever since. Read moreByron York: There's a never-ending war on Brett Kavanaugh

State AP Stories

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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.

A man who caused evacuations and an hourslong standoff with police on Capitol Hill when he claimed he had a bomb in his pickup truck outside the Library of Congress has pleaded guilty to a charge of threatening to use an explosive. Floyd Ray Roseberry, of Grover, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to the felony charge in Washington federal court. He faces up to 10 years behind bars and is scheduled to be sentenced in June. An email seeking comment was sent to his attorney on Friday. Roseberry drove a black pickup truck onto the sidewalk outside the Library of Congress in August 2021 and began shouting to people in the street that he had a bomb.

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North Carolina Democrats have introduced legislation to codify abortion protections into state law as Republicans are discussing early prospects for further restrictions. Their legislation, filed Wednesday in both chambers, would prohibit the state from imposing barriers that might restrict a patient’s ability to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability, which typically falls between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Current state law bans nearly all abortions after 20 weeks, with narrow exceptions for urgent medical emergencies that do not include rape or incest. House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters he didn’t expect the Democrats’ bill to get considered.

National & World AP Stories

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The family of Tyre Nichols plans to speak about the latest developments in the case, including the suspension of two officers and the firing of three emergency responders. The family will gather Tuesday evening with the Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump at the historic Mason Temple in Memphis. That's where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his final speech. Five Black officers have already been fired and charged with second-degree murder and other offenses. Six officers belonged to a now-disbanded unit that focused on high-crime areas. Crump says other Memphis residents who say they also were “brutalized” by officers in the unit will speak.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has wrapped up a two-day visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank with little to show for his renewed appeals for Israeli-Palestinian calm amid an alarming spike of violence. Blinken met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Tuesday, a day after seeing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Afterwards, he said the recent surge in violence was deeply concerning and that it's the responsibility of both sides to take steps to de-escalate the situation. He said he was leaving two senior aides behind to explore various ideas on how to lower the tensions but declined to say what those ideas are.

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Pope Francis is demanding that foreign powers stop plundering Africa’s natural resources. He plunged head first into his agenda upon arrival in Congo, where he was greeted with a raucous welcome by Congolese grateful he was focusing the world’s attention on their forgotten plight. Tens of thousands of Congolese lined the main road into the capital, Kinshasa, to welcome Francis on Tuesday after he landed at the airport, some standing three or four deep, with children in school uniforms taking the front row.  In a speech to government authorities, Francis said: “Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Hands off Africa!”