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Rural North Carolina has some of the most beautiful scenery in America, as documented by the growing numbers of tourists. Almost 40 percent of our 10.5 million residents live in the 80 counties considered rural, defined as having a population density of 250 people or fewer per square mile. Demographers tell us rural citizens are older, poorer, more obese, have higher blood pressures, greater instances of diabetes, and a lower life expectancy than state averages. Read moreTom Campbell: Rural healthcare in critical condition

No decent citizen could fail to be appalled by the video, released Friday, showing Memphis police officers beating a 29-year-old Black man, Tyre Nichols, so badly on Jan. 7 that he died three days later. No feeling citizen could fail to be moved by the anguish of his mother, RowVaughn Wells, as she eloquently described her grief at losing a young man, himself the father of a 4-year-old, who cried out for “mom” as he absorbed the assault. And no concerned citizen can fail to be impressed by, and appreciative of, the way in which those who justifiably protested Nichols’s death heeded — with sporadic exceptions — Wells’s call for nonviolence. Read moreEditorial: Over-reliance on violent policing gets us nowhere

State AP Stories

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The car owned by a missing 74-year-old Florida Lyft driver has been found in North Carolina and the man who was driving it is wanted in connection with a homicide last week in southwest Florida. Authorities said Friday that Gary Levin has been missing since Monday, when his family believes he picked up a customer in Palm Beach County, Florida. His red 2022 Kia Stinger was spotted in Miami that day and later in north Florida. The vehicle was then seen Thursday evening in North Carolina and driver Matthew Flores was arrested following a police chase. Flores is a suspect in a slaying that occurred nearly a week before Levin went missing.

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North Carolina’s newly seated Supreme Court has heard arguments on whether people convicted of felonies should be permitted to vote if they aren’t in prison but still are serving probation or parole or have yet to pay fines. The justices listened Thursday to their first high-profile case since the court flipped to Republican control in January. They didn’t immediately rule. The case stems from 2019 litigation that challenged a 1973 state law automatically restoring voting rights only after the “unconditional discharge of an inmate, of a probationer, or of a parolee.” Roughly 56,000 people could be affected by the outcome.

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Critics of a North Carolina bill that advanced in the state Senate say it could jeopardize the mental health and physical safety of LGBTQ students who could be outed to their parents without consent. The bill would require schools to alert parents prior to a change in the name or pronouns used for their child. Several mental and behavioral health experts, parents and teachers told the Senate health care committee on Thursday that the bill would force teachers to violate the trust of their students and could create life-threatening situations for students without affirming home environments. The proposal now heads to the Senate rules committee.

Some North Carolina senators want tougher punishments for intentionally damaging utility equipment in light of the December attacks on two Duke Energy substations in Moore County that left 45,000 customers without power. The legislators filed a bill on Wednesday that would make it a high-grade felony to intentionally destroy or damage any “energy facility.” Current state law only makes it a misdemeanor to vandalize equipment that interrupts the transmission of electricity. A perpetrator also would face a $250,000 fine and potential lawsuits. Someone also fired at an electric cooperative's substation in Randolph County two weeks ago, causing damages but no outages. No arrests have been in either attack.

National & World AP Stories

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A jury has decided Elon Musk didn’t deceive investors with tweets in 2018. The verdict by the nine jurors was reached after less that two hours of deliberation following a three-week trial. The trial pitted Tesla investors represented in a class-action lawsuit against Musk, who is CEO of both the electric automaker and the Twitter service he bought for for $44 billion a few months ago. In 2018, Musk tweeted that he had the financing to take Tesla private even though it turned out he hadn’t gotten an iron-clad commitment for an aborted deal that would have cost $20 billion to $70 billion to pull off. The verdict is a major vindication for Musk.

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Prosecutors at Alex Murdaugh’s double murder trial are asking a judge to allow jurors to hear from the son of the family's housekeeper who says Murdaugh promised to take care of them when she died in a fall, but kept a $4 million settlement for himself. Tony Satterfield told a judge Friday about his mother's 2018 fall at the Murdaugh home. Court records show Murdaugh got more than $4 million from his insurers, but Satterfield says Murdaugh told him in June 2021 he was still working on the case. Prosecutors want to present evidence of Murdaugh stealing to show he killed his wife and son to buy time because his thefts and massive debts were about to be discovered.

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Police say the man charged in the taking of two emperor tamarin monkeys from the Dallas Zoo has also been charged in two other recent incidents there involving holes that were cut in the fences for animal enclosures. Dallas police spokeswoman Kristin Lowman said during a news conference Friday that 24-year-old Davion Irvin has been charged with two counts of burglary to a building in connection with the cutting of the enclosure fences for a clouded leopard and langur monkeys. None of those animals were harmed and the emperor tamarin monkeys were found safe Monday in an abandoned house. Irvin was arrested Thursday on six counts of animal cruelty stemming from the tamarin monkeys that were taken.

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A major rail project in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is intended to drive economic development to some of the country’s poorest areas, in part by bringing up to three million tourists each year. Scientists and environmentalists worry that the project will hurt ecosystems like the Calakmul jungle, home to one of the most important jaguar populations in Mesoamerica and one of Mexico’s largest bat colonies. Opponents of the project also argue that construction is moving ahead without sufficient time for public hearings and environmental oversight. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wants the train rolling by the end of this year, when his term ends. He has designated it a matter of “national security” so as to speed up the process.