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BC-AP Top Stories Digest

February 21, 2019

Here are the AP’s latest coverage plans, top stories and promotable content. All times EST. For up-to-the minute information on AP’s coverage, visit Coverage Plan at https://newsroom.ap.org .




EMPIRE CAST MEMBER-ATTACK — “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett staged a racist and homophobic attack because he was unhappy about his salary and wanted to promote his career, Chicago’s police superintendent said. Before the attack, Smollett also sent a threatening letter that targeted himself to the studio in Chicago where “Empire” is shot, Superintendent Eddie Johnson said. By Don Babwin. SENT: 1,050 words, photos, videos.

EMPIRE CAST MEMBER-DISCOURSE — Democratic political candidates and celebrities called it a classic case of racism and hate in the Trump era. Republicans see it as yet another example of the media rushing to judgment and pushing an agenda of Donald Trump supporters being hostile to minorities. The case of TV star Jussie Smollett encapsulates the state of political discourse in America — and could have real consequences for real hate crime victims coming forward in the future. By David Crary and Errin Haines Whack. UPCOMING: 800 words by 4 p.m.

VATICAN-SEX ABUSE — Pope Francis opened a landmark sex abuse prevention summit by offering senior Catholic leaders 21 proposals to punish predators and keep children safe, warning that the faithful are demanding concrete action and not just words. The tone for the high stakes, four-day summit was set at the start, with victims from five continents — Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and North America — telling the bishops of the trauma of their abuse and the additional pain the church’s indifference caused them. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.

VENEZUELA-AID VOLUNTEERS — As President Nicolas Maduro deploys missiles and infantrymen to Venezuela’s borders bracing for a possible U.S. invasion disguised as humanitarian aid, his opponents are rallying their own troops. Nurses, doctors, engineers and homemakers have volunteered by the thousands to help distribute the food and medicine in the face of a government ban. The citizen brigades are one of the Venezuelan opposition’s most ambitious undertakings yet. By Fabiola Sanchez. UPCOMING: 850 words, photos by 3 p.m.

COAST GUARD LIEUTENANT-HIT LIST — A Coast Guard officer who espoused white supremacist views, dreamed of mass murder and stockpiled weapons in his basement apartment drew up what appeared to be a computer-spreadsheet hit list of Democratic politicians and TV journalists, federal authorities say. Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson, who worked at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington on a program to acquire advanced new cutters for the agency, faced a federal court hearing on gun and drug charges. But in court papers, prosecutors outlined far more serious allegations. By Michael Kunzelman and Michael Balsamo. SENT: 600 words, photo.

UGLY PRODUCE — Is the “ugly produce’” trend already reaching the end of its shelf life in supermarkets? Walmart and Whole Foods in recent years tried selling some blemished fruits and vegetables at a discount, produce they said might otherwise be trashed because it’s not quite the right size, shape or color. But the two chains and others quietly ended their tests, suggesting dented apples and undersized potatoes may not be all that appealing in stores where better looking fruits and vegetables are on display. By Candice Choi And Scott McFetridge. SENT: 700 words, photos.




TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE-STONE— Roger Stone is summoned to federal court as a judge considers whether to revoke his bail or further limit his public comments after the longtime Donald Trump confidant posted a photo of her on Instagram with what appeared to be crosshairs of a gun. UPCOMING: Developing from 2:30 p.m. court appearance, 600 words by 5 p.m., photos, video.

UNITED STATES-NORTH KOREA — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. will not move to ease economic sanctions on North Korea until it is confident that the nuclear weapons threat from Pyongyang has been “substantially reduced.” He seemed to leave open the possibility that sanctions relief was possible short of complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. SENT: 390 words. UPCOMING: 600 words by 3:30 p.m., photo.

TRUMP-MILEAGE BATTLE — The Trump administration breaks off talks with California in a dispute over mileage standards, moving the two closer to a possible court battle that threatens to roil the auto industry. The administration wants to block tougher Obama-era mileage standards for vehicles. It has threatened to revoke California’s unique authority to set its own mileage standards as part of that. . SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 790 words by 4 p.m., photos.




OAKLAND TEACHERS STRIKE — Teachers in Oakland, California, went on strike in the country’s latest walkout by educators over classroom conditions and pay. The city’s 3,000 teachers are demanding a 12 percent retroactive raise covering 2017 to 2020 to compensate for what they say are among the lowest salaries for public school teachers in the exorbitantly expensive San Francisco Bay Area. They also want the district to hire more counselors to support students and more full-time nurses. SENT: 650 words, photos.

EL CHAPO-PROSECUTION— The revelation of possible juror misconduct in the El Chapo trial highlights the growing problem of the so-called “Googling juror” in the digital era. A look at this phenomenon and how likely it is to impact the verdict following a more than three-month trial. UPCOMING: 600 words by 5 p.m.




SYRIA — U.S.-backed Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State group in Syria handed over more than 150 Iraqi members of the group to Iraq, the first batch of several to come, an Iraqi security official said. The official said the IS militants were handed over to the Iraqi side, and that they were now in a “safe place” and being investigated. SENT: 675 words, photos.

NIGERIA-ANCIENT DYE PITS — A little indigo, a handful of ash and time. The dye pits in Nigeria’s ancient northern city of Kano are said to be the last ones of their kind after five centuries of existence. Many pits at Kofar Mata appear to be abandoned as the sons who inherit the tradition decide to pursue government jobs or other business instead, forgetting the skills passed down through generations. The men who remain, squatting over the pits with sturdy gloves and endless patience, produce the intensely blue fabrics that are internationally renowned. SENT: 575 words, photos.




OSCARS-SONGWRITERS — Grammy-winning producer-songwriter Alexander Shuckburgh should be celebrating as an Oscar nominee since a song he co-wrote, Kendrick Lamar’s “All the Stars” from the “Black Panther” soundtrack, is competing for best original song at Sunday’s show. But he isn’t. Others, including Beyonce, have been shut out of best original song at the Academy Awards since there is a rule limiting the number of songwriters for each song competing in the category. UPCOMING: 900 words, photos by 6 p.m.




BOEHEIM-FATAL ACCIDENT — A car driven by Syracuse basketball coach struck and killed a man standing beside his disabled vehicle on a highway. Police say there was no sign the 74-year-old coach was impaired. The accident came hours after a Syracuse home victory on a freezing, rainy night. SENT: 350 words, photos. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 5 p.m.

BKC--T25-DUKE-WILLIAMSON FALLOUT — The split shoe that left star freshman Zion Williamson writhing on the ground and Duke basketball in limbo was called an “isolated occurrence” by the manufacturer. Nike says its products are of “utmost importance.” The sportswear giant quickly became the target of ridicule on social media. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 5 p.m.