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VALDOSTA – Lowndes County’s new branding campaign is all about community engagement and leveraging the reach of social media.

Balloon Release, 1 p.m., Dec. 3, Grace Victory Church, 303 Barack Obama Boulevard, Valdosta. A drop box will be available outside the back ent…

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In a normal year, University of Idaho students would be bustling between classes and the library, cramming for finals and looking forward to winter break. But on Wednesday a little less than half the students appear to have switched to online classes after four of their classmates were brutally murdered. Blaine Eckles is the university's dean of students. He hopes candlelight vigils set to be held across the state tonight will offer some temporary comfort amid grief and fear. The murders remain unsolved, and police have not yet named a person of interest in the case. Idaho Gov. Brad Little is directing $1 million in emergency funds toward the investigation, and the FBI has 44 agents assigned.

NATO is struggling to find ways to help three countries shaken by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — Bosnia, Georgia and Moldova. The military alliance is seeking to extend its security umbrella across Europe. Foreign ministers from the three countries met Wednesday with their NATO counterparts, as the war in Ukraine exposes them to political, energy and territorial uncertainty. No straightforward proposals about what might be done were offered by NATO ministers as they arrived for the meeting in Bucharest. Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra says the meeting itself shows “how important it is to create stability not only for NATO countries itself, but also beyond.”

The nation’s Catholic bishops continue to signal their hardline opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Still, they acknowledged they’re struggling to reach their own flock with their messaging during their fall meeting. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops agreed to draft an introduction to their 15-year-old election guide that incorporates recent developments on abortion, the war in Ukraine and the teachings of Pope Francis. But they also passed over a key Francis ally in a leadership election at their fall meeting in Baltimore. Francis also opposes abortion and same-sex marriage but has emphasized a broader agenda of bringing mercy to the marginalized.

In two volatile spots in the occupied West Bank, Israel has installed robotic weapons that can fire tear gas, stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets at Palestinian protesters. The robots, perched over a crowded Palestinian refugee camp and in a flashpoint West Bank city, use artificial intelligence to track targets. Israel says the technology saves lives — both Israeli and Palestinian. But critics see it as another step toward a dystopian reality in which Israel fine-tunes its open-ended occupation of the Palestinians while keeping its soldiers out of harm’s way. The new weapon has inflamed tensions in the West Bank as unrest rises in what has been the deadliest year since the U.N. started tracking fatalities in 2006.

The Paramount Network hit series “Yellowstone” is back for its fifth season, with politics on the Dutton family dinner table. Kevin Costner stars as the family patriarch, owner of a vast Montana ranch. Determined to to protect it against developers and others, Costner's character ran for governor. The new season of “Yellowstone' opens with the election's outcome. Costner says he was attracted to the series because it highlights the work being done by modern ranchers and the beauty of its Montana setting. He's already at work on another Western epic, “Horizon,” planned as a four-movie saga about the men and women who settled the West.

Democrat Kathy Hochul has become the first woman elected New York governor, winning the office outright that she took over in 2021 when former Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned. She defeated Republican congressman Lee Zeldin, an ally of Donald Trump who ran a campaign focused on rising violent crime. Hochul had been expected to win but Zeldin made the race competitive in the final weeks. Hochul sought to portray herself as a defender of abortion rights and Zeldin as too “extreme and dangerous” because of his ties to Trump and his vote against certifying the 2020 election results.