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State AP Stories

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The head of a national group working to elect women who support abortion rights is backing efforts in North Carolina. EMILY’s List President Laphonza Butler spoke at a Raleigh news conference on Tuesday with Gov. Roy Cooper and state legislative candidates. She also planned to visit college campuses with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley. An arm of EMILY's List already spent $2.7 million on pro-Beasley ads. Butler says General Assembly races will determine whether abortion restrictions that Republicans are likely to seek can be vetoed by Cooper. Republicans could earn veto-proof majorities if they win two more Senate seats and three more House seats.

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Leaders of College Park Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, thought it was odd when the Southern Baptist Convention recently sent queries about the congregation's LGBTQ-affirming ministry. The church itself had voted to leave the conservative denomination 23 years ago. But it was still on the SBC rolls until last week. That's when the convention's Executive Committee voted to cut ties because of the congregation's “affirmation ... of homosexual behavior.” The Rev. Michael Usey of College Park said the congregation was ousted for the right reason. Said Usey, “It’s good when people reject you because they understand clearly who you are."

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Experts say the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling overturning Roe v. Wade appears to be sending more teens to their doctors in search of birth control, including long-acting reversible forms like intrauterine devices and implants. Waits for appointments are growing in some areas, Planned Parenthood is getting a flood of questions and doctors report demand even among teens who aren’t sexually active. Some patients are especially fearful because some of the new abortion laws don’t include exceptions for sexual assault. Dr. Peggy Stager said dedicated spots for insertion of the Nexplanon implant are consistently filled at her Ohio practice and requests for contraceptive refills have increased 30% to 40% since the Court's June ruling.

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Four people have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors for their roles in absentee ballot fraud in rural North Carolina during the 2016 and 2018 elections. These convictions Monday stemmed from an investigation that in part resulted in a do-over congressional election. The defendants were associated with Leslie McCrae Dowless, a political operative in Bladen County whom authorities called the ringleader of the ballot scheme. Dowless died this year before his case went to trial. The State Board of Elections has ordered a new election for the 2018 9th Congressional District because of all the fraud allegations. Cases against six other defendants are pending.

National & World AP Stories

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Florida, South Carolina and South Florida are taking steps to salvage home football games as Hurricane Ian approaches. The Gators moved their game against Eastern Washington from Saturday to Sunday just before a slate of NFL games begin. The Gamecocks will host South Carolina State on Thursday night, two days earlier than previously scheduled. And the Bulls relocated their Saturday game against East Carolina from Tampa, Florida, to Boca Raton. Stetson canceled its home game scheduled for Saturday against San Diego. No. 23 Florida State and 22nd-ranked Wake Forest, meanwhile, are “closely monitoring” the storm and hoping to play as planned Saturday in Tallahassee.

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Hurricane Ian tore into western Cuba as a major hurricane Tuesday and left 1 million people without electricity. Now it's on a collision course with Florida over warm Gulf waters expected to strengthen it into a catastrophic Category 4 storm. Ian made landfall early Tuesday in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, where officials set up 55 shelters, evacuated 50,000 people, rushed in emergency personnel and took steps to protect crops in the nation’s main tobacco-growing region. Ian was expected to get even stronger over the warm Gulf of Mexico. In Florida, 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate.

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Pro-Moscow officials say that residents in all four occupied areas of Ukraine voted to join Russia. The Kremlin-orchestrated votes have been dismissed by the U.S. and its Western allies as illegitimate. According to Russia-installed election officials, 93% of the ballots case in the Zaporizhzhia region were in support of annexation, as were 87% of ballots in the southern Kherson region and 98% in Luhansk. The preordained outcome sets the stage for a dangerous new phase in Russia’s seven-month war in Ukraine because it is expected to serve as a pretext for Moscow to annex the four areas. That could happen within days.

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A Tennessee cheerleading gym faces sexual abuse allegations in a case that escalates the accusations against some of the sport's top institutions. A federal lawsuit brought Monday by two anonymous plaintiffs alleges that an adult coach at Premier Athletics sexually assaulted teenage boys. Lawyers brought a similar complaint this month against coaches at Rockstar Cheer in South Carolina. Attorneys say that in both cases, Varsity Spirit and the U.S. All Star Federation failed to provide a safe environment. Athletics Knoxville West says it is “inaccurately implicated” in the newest lawsuit.