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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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The European Union's top diplomat says the bloc suspects that damage to two underwater natural gas pipelines was sabotage and is warning of retaliation for any attack on Europe’s energy networks. Josep Borell said Wednesday that “all available information indicates those leaks are the result of a deliberate act,” He added that any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure "is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response.” Seismologists reported Tuesday that explosions rattled the Baltic Sea before unusual leaks were discovered on two underwater natural gas pipelines running from Russia to Germany. Three leaks were reported on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines. They are not currently delivering fuel to Europe.

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Cuba is in the dark after Hurricane Ian knocked out the power grid and devastated some of the country’s most important tobacco farms when it hit the island’s western tip as a major storm. Cuba’s Electric Union says authorities were working to gradually restore service overnight to the country’s 11 million people. Ian hit a Cuba that has been struggling with an economic crisis and has had frequent power outages in recent months. It made landfall as a Category 3 storm on the island’s western end, devastating Pinar del Río province, where much of the tobacco used for Cuba’s iconic cigars is grown.

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Hurricane Ian is bearing down on Florida as a menacing major hurricane, and many residents have heeded orders to flee from its path. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Ian could become a dangerous Category 4 hurricane before slamming into southwest Florida on Wednesday. At least 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate in anticipation of powerful storm surge and flooding rains. One couple from England, Glyn and Christine Williams, got stuck and planned to ride out the storm at a shelter. They said the Tampa hotel where they had been staying closed amid evacuation orders and the airport shut before they could fly home.

Asian shares have tumbled after a wobbly day on Wall Street as markets churn over the prospect of a possible recession. U.S. futures and oil prices also fell. The volatile trading Tuesday in New York came a day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average followed other major U.S. indexes into a bear market. The S&P 500 slipped 0.2%, the Dow fell a bit more and the Nasdaq composite wound up with a gain of 0.2%. With just a few days left in September, stocks are heading for another losing month as investors fear that the higher interest rates being used to fight inflation could help knock the economy into a downturn.