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BC-AP News Digest 2:15 pm

December 15, 2018

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

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TOP STORIES

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TRUMP-INTERIOR SECRETARY — In the latest Trump Cabinet turnover, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he will leave by year’s end as federal investigations into his travel, political activity and potential conflicts of interest move ahead. He cites “vicious and politically motivated attacks.” His detractors point to the ethics cloud and say he’s been a “shameless handmaiden” for special interests and treated government service “like it was his personal honey pot,” while rolling back environmental protections. By Ellen Knickmeyer, Matthew Brown and Jonathan Lemire. SENT: 1,080 words, photos. With TRUMP-INTERIOR SECRETARY-THE LATEST.

HEALTH OVERHAUL-LAWSUIT — A judge’s ruling that the Obama-era health law is unconstitutional has landed like a stink bomb among Republicans. They’ve seen the politics of health care flip against them as Americans have grown to value core provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including protections for medical conditions and Medicaid expansion for low-income people. The law remains in place for now, pending legal appeals expected to reach the Supreme Court. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar. SENT: 870 words, photos. UPCOMING: 900 words by 3 p.m.

TRUMP-CHIEF OF STAFF — A pledge of loyalty. Political savvy. Personal rapport. President Donald Trump had long made clear the qualities he was looking for in his next chief of staff. And when his first pick turned him down, sparking a frantic search, Trump turned to the man he’d already tapped for two previous jobs in his administration: Mick Mulvaney, a blunt, fast-talking former South Carolina congressman who had told Trump months ago he wanted the job. By Jill Colvin and Jonathan Lemire. UPCOMING: 900 words by 3:30 p.m.

FRANCE-PROTESTS — Tear gas billowed across the protest-scarred Champs-Elysees after a day of largely peaceful demonstrations in Paris and a water cannon shot a frigid stream at the crowd on the fifth straight weekend of protests by France’s “yellow vest” movement. The demonstrations against France’s high cost of living — sapped by cold weather, rain and recent concessions by French President Emmanuel Macron — were significantly smaller Saturday than at previous rallies. By Raphael Satter and Elena Becatoros. SENT: 710 words, photos. With FRANCE-PROTESTS-THE LATEST.

RUSSIA-UKRAINE-ORTHODOX CHURCH — Ukrainian Orthodox leaders approve the creation of a unified church independent of the Moscow Patriarchate and elected a leader to head that new church — a move that could greatly raise tensions with neighboring Russia. The vote, held at a closed-door synod in Kiev’s St. Sophia Cathedral, is the latest in a series of confrontations between Ukraine and Russia. By Yuras Karmanau and Efrem Lukatsky. SENT: 800 words, photos.

ELECTION 2018-NORTH CAROLINA-CONGRESS — Warnings about the potential for voter fraud in a rural North Carolina county went unheeded for years before last month’s disputed congressional race. The contest has yet to be officially decided, amid suspicions that ballots were tampered with or discarded. Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes. Both parties concede a do-over election might be needed. At the center of it all is Bladen County. By Michael Biesecker and Emery P. Dalesio. SENT: 1,100 words, photos. This story is this week’s Sunday Spotlight.

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WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT

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RUSSIA-PUTIN-RAP — Alarmed by the growing popularity of rap among Russian youth, President Vladimir Putin wants cultural leaders to devise a means of controlling, rather than banning, popular music. SENT: 140 words.

EGYPT-ANTIQUITIES — Egypt has announced the discovery of a private tomb belonging to a senior official from the 5th dynasty of the pharaohs, which ruled roughly 4,400 years ago. SENT: 150 words, photos.

BRITAIN-ZOO FIRE — A fire broke out Saturday in an enclosure at one of Britain’s largest zoos, forcing keepers to evacuate visitors and move animals away from the flames. SENT: 270 words, photos.

DISNEY ACTOR FIRED — Disney Channel actor Stoney Westmoreland has been fired after he was arrested for allegedly attempting to have a sexual relationship with a minor. SENT: 130 words.

CHRISTMAS PARADE-SEX OFFENDER — Some people in a north Mississippi town are complaining after the local chamber of commerce chose a sex offender as the grand marshal of the town Christmas parade. SENT: 140 words.

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WASHINGTON/POLITICS

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FACT CHECK-WEEK — President Donald Trump’s relationship with the truth tends to be borderline, at best, when it comes to the border. And he tried to cast doubt on whether his former national security adviser had lied to the FBI even after the ex-aide pleaded guilty to doing just that. By Calvin Woodward and Hope Yen. SENT: 2,300 words, photos. Find AP Fact Checks at http://apne.ws/2kbx8bd

IMMIGRATION-TEEN DETENTION CAMP-O’ROURKE — Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke leads a group of lawmakers on a tour of Tornillo, the tent city in remote West Texas where 2,300 immigrant teens are being held at what began as an emergency shelter but now is taking on a permanent feel, costing taxpayers up to $1,200 per child, per day. O’Rourke says he’s still deciding on a possible 2020 presidential run, even as the hype around him intensifies. By Will Weissert. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos, by 3 p.m.

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INTERNATIONAL

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CLIMATE — Attempts by developed nations at the U.N. climate talks in Poland to create watertight rules for international carbon emissions trading have prompted new, last-minute demands from Brazil. SENT: 590 words, photos. Developing.

SRI LANKA-POLITICS —Sri Lanka’s disputed prime minister announced he would step aside, paving the way for his sacked predecessor to regain the position and apparently ending a political impasse that has paralyzed the government for nearly two months. SENT: 490 words, photos.

BRAZIL-COLLECTIVE GAY MARRIAGE — Dozens of Brazilian gay couples get married in a collective ceremony. Many fear that gay marriage, legal in Brazil, will be restricted under President-elect Jair Bolsonaro. SENT: 130 words, photos. UPCOMING: 400 words by 3 p.m.

SPAIN-JAILED CATALANS — Jailed Catalan separatist politicians on hunger strike for the past two weeks say their upcoming trial will be a platform to foster their cause for independence. SENT: 130 words, photo. UPCOMING: 900 words by 4 p.m.

KASHMIR-FIGHTING — At least seven civilians were killed and more than three dozen injured when government forces fired at anti-India protesters in disputed Kashmir following a gunbattle that left three rebels and a soldier dead, police and residents say. SENT: 430 words, photos.

SOUTH SUDAN-FACING THE FUTURE — Just months ago, planning ahead in civil war-torn South Sudan seemed impossible. Now, after warring sides signed a new peace deal in September that the government vows will hold, some are starting to rebuild their lives. Amid small signs of hope: a Christmas party in a United Nations camp for tens of thousands of displaced people will occur at midnight instead of during safer daylight hours. But fears, and fighting, remain. SENT: 760 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-ISRAEL-JERUSALEM — Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says his government has decided to formally recognize west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but won’t move its embassy until there’s a peace settlement. SENT: 530 words, photo.

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NATIONAL

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BAYLOR FRATERNITY-SEXUAL ASSAULT — Waco advocates have cast doubt on a plea deal allowing a former Baylor University student accused of rape to avoid jail time, saying the judge and prosecutor’s ties to the Central Texas school raise questions over how the case was handled. They say the deal is a failure by the legal system, but also reflects a larger culture of sexism where preference is given to people of power in the Baylor community. SENT: 900 words, photos.

COSTLIEST WILDFIRE — A 2016 California wildfire has burned its way into the record books as the most expensive wildland firefight in U.S. history in what a new report calls an “extreme example of excessive, unaccountable, budget-busting suppression spending that is causing a fiscal crisis in the U.S. Forest Service.” SENT: 1,100 words, photos.

INDIANA LEGISLATURE-HATE CRIMES — Leaders of Indiana’s Republican-dominated Statehouse say they want to pass a hate crimes law this year, a move that would take the state off a list that includes just four others that have yet to pass such a law. Social conservatives - including many rank-and-file legislators - are vehemently opposed. SENT: 900 words, photos.

IDAHO TEST REACTOR — A nuclear test reactor that can melt uranium fuel rods in seconds is running again after a nearly quarter-century shutdown as U.S. officials try to revamp a fading nuclear power industry with safer fuel designs and a new generation of power plants. SENT: 900 words, photos.

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ENTERTAINMENT

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PEOPLE-TONI BRAXTON — Grammy-winner Toni Braxton is returning to acting this Christmas in “Every Day Is Christmas” on Lifetime and flexing her producing muscles. By Gary Gerad Hamilton. UPCOMING: 560 words, photos and video.

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SPORTS

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BKC--T25-VILLANOVA-KANSAS

LAWRENCE, Kan. — It’s a Final Four rematch when defending national champion Villanova plays Kansas at raucous Allen Fieldhouse. This game — with the Jayhawks back at No. 1 and the Wildcats at No. 17 — could figure heavily when it comes time for NCAA seeding. By Dave Skretta. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos. By Dave Skretta. Game started noon.

FBN--TEXANS-JETS

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans (9-4) look to bounce back from a loss to Indianapolis that stopped a franchise-record nine-game winning streak. They face Sam Darnold and the New York Jets (4-9), whose six-game skid ended last week. By Pro Football Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. UPCOMING: 800 words, photos. Game starts 4:30 p.m.

BOX--ALVAREZ-FIELDING

NEW YORK — Canelo Alvarez goes for a third weight division championship against unheralded titleholder Rocky Fielding. The super middleweight bout marks the Madison Square Garden debut for both the Mexican star and the champ from England. By Barry Wilner. UPCOMING: 750 words, photos. Fight starts about 10:45 p.m.

BBO--LUXURY TAX

NEW YORK — The World Series champion Red Sox owe nearly $12 million in luxury tax for having baseball’s top payroll, according to final calculations by the commissioner’s office obtained by the AP. The only other team that owes is the Washington Nationals. By Baseball Writer Ronald Blum. SENT: 750 words, photos. With list.

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HOW TO REACH US

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