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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

State AP Stories

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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.

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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.

National & World AP Stories

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On his trip to Congo, Pope Francis has heard first-hand accounts of atrocities some people have endured during years of fighting in the eastern part of the country. A young woman told him she was “raped like an animal” for months. A young man watched as his father was decapitated. A former sex slave told Francis her captors forced her into cannibalism. Francis sat in silence as victim after victim come forward to tell their stories, and he urged them to use their pain to sow peace and reconciliation. It was a message he delivered earlier in the day at a Mass to an estimated 1 million people at Kinshasa’s Ndolo airport.

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Missy Elliott, Willie Nelson, Kate Bush, Iron Maiden, Cyndi Lauper, Soundgarden, Sheryl Crow and the late George Michael are nominees for 2023 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a list that includes a mix of country, soul, hip-hop, metal, pop, rap-rock and grunge. The Cleveland-based institution announced Wednesday the 14 artists and groups being considered for Rock Hall induction, also including Rage Against the Machine, The Spinners, A Tribe Called Quest, The White Stripes, Warren Zevon and Joy Division/New Order. Artists must have released their first commercial recording at least 25 years before they’re eligible for induction.

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A deadly storm system is lashing a large swath of the southern U.S. with bands of sleet and snow for a third day. The storm grounded an additional 2,200 flights on Wednesday, including the majority to and from the Dallas area's two major airports, which are major hubs for American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. It has also cut power to hundreds of thousands customers, forced school closures and made already treacherous driving conditions worse. Watches and warnings about wintry conditions have been issued for an area stretching West Texas’ border with Mexico through Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, and into western Tennessee and northern Mississippi. The slick conditions have been blamed for at least six traffic deaths in Texas.