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BC-AP Top Stories Digest

February 22, 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

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ONLY ON AP

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PHILIPPINES-MILITANT LEADER — A little-known militant has been named leader of the Islamic State group in the southern Philippines in what U.S. and Filipino officials say shows the desperation of the extremist group in the face of its imminent defeat in Syria. Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan is blamed for orchestrating a suicide bombing in a cathedral last month that killed 23 people on Jolo Island as well as other attacks. But officials say he lacks the bravado, clan name or foreign training of his slain predecessors. By Jim Gomez. SENT: 1,175 words, photo.

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TOP STORIES

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PATRIOTS OWNER-PROSTITUTION CHARGE — Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the New England Patriots, faces charges of soliciting a prostitute after he was twice videotaped in a sex act at a shopping-center massage parlor in Florida, police said. The 77-year-old Kraft denied any wrongdoing. The charge comes amid a crackdown on sex trafficking from Palm Beach to Orlando in which police planted cameras in massage parlors. By Terry Spencer and Joshua Replogle. SENT: 700 words, photos.

EMPIRE CAST MEMBER-ATTACK — Actor Jussie Smollett’s character on “Empire” will be removed from the final two episodes of this season in the wake of his arrest on charges that he staged a racist, anti-gay attack on himself last month in downtown Chicago, producers of the Fox TV show announced. By Don Babwin. SENT: 570 words, photos, video.

R KELLY-INVESTIGATIONS — R. Kelly, the R&B star who has been trailed for decades by lurid rumors that made him Public Enemy No. 1 to the #MeToo movement, was charged with 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse involving four victims, including at least three between the ages of 13 and 17. Tandra Simonton, spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, confirmed to The Associated Press that charges had been filed against the 52-year-old Grammy winner, but she declined to give a specific number. Media reports said there were 10 counts. By Sara Burnett and Michael Tarm. SENT: 1,000 words, photos, videos.

VENEZUELA-POLITICAL CRISIS — Thousands of Venezuelans, including some who slipped across the border, joined migrants in neighboring Colombia to attend a star-studded concert backing the opposition in Venezuela’s power struggle and seeking to pressure President Nicolas Maduro into allowing the delivery of emergency food and medicine. On the Venezuelan side, government workers assembled a smaller stage for a rival, three-day “Hands Off Venezuela” concert being organized by Maduro. By Christine Armario and Luis Andres Henao. SENT: 1,130 words, photos, video.

ELECTION 2020-DEMOCRATIC DIVIDE — As the Democratic presidential field grows ever larger, candidates are increasingly splitting into two camps: those who want to quickly overhaul economic systems that have existed for decades and those who favor more gradual change. In many cases, Democratic candidates largely agree on the end game. Their differences are in how to get there, and how quickly. By Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace. SENT: 910 words, photos.

TRUMP-BORDER SECURITY— Democrats controlling the House tee up a vote next week to block President Donald Trump from using a national emergency declaration to fund a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, accelerating a showdown in Congress that could divide Republicans and lead to Trump’s first veto. By Andrew Taylor. SENT: 770 words, photos. With BORDER SECURITY-SENATORS TO WATCH — The fight over Trump’s border wall is coming to the GOP-controlled Senate, putting Republicans in an uncomfortable spot. SENT: 940 words, photos.

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WASHINGTON/POLITICS

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TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE-BARR — Attorney General William Barr faces a big decision: how much of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation to make public. By Eric Tucker. SENT: 950 words, photo.

TRUMP-FAMILY PLANNING — The Trump administration sets up new obstacles for women seeking abortions, barring taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from making abortion referrals. The new policy is certain to be challenged in court. SENT: 830 words, photo.

ELECTION 2020-EARLY STATES — The sprawling field of Democratic presidential hopefuls is on the move — to places other than the traditional early voting states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina. By Nicholas Riccardi. SENT: 910 words, photos.

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INTERNATIONAL

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SYRIA — Small trucks carrying men, women and children left the Islamic State group’s last pocket of territory in eastern Syria in an escorted convoy on Friday, hours after coalition airstrikes meant to pressure the militants targeted the area on the banks of the Euphrates River. SENT: 750 words, photos.

IRAQ-ISLAMIC STATE THREAT — Islamic State militants have been slipping across the open, desert border between Syria and Iraq over the past six months, despite a massive operation by U.S., Kurdish and allied forces trying to defeat the jihadi group in eastern Syria. By Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Philip Issa. SENT: 995 words, photos.

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NATIONAL

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SHACKLED CHILDREN — A California couple who shackled some of their 13 children to beds and starved them pleaded guilty to torture and other abuse in a case dubbed a “house of horrors.” SENT: 850 words, photo.

WINTER WEATHER — A winter storm dumped record-breaking amounts of snow in Arizona and forced the closure of roads, schools and government offices across the Southwest. The storm was pushing through eastern Arizona and heading for New Mexico and Texas after dumping nearly 3 feet (0.9 meters) of snow at the Flagstaff airport during the city’s snowiest day on record, and more than 2 feet (0.6 meters) in Payson, a town that logs that much snow as its yearly average. SENT: 575 words, photos, video.

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BUSINESS

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FINANCIAL MARKETS — Technology and health care companies led U.S. stocks higher, giving the benchmark S&P 500 its fourth straight weekly gain. The broad rally came as investors grew hopeful that the latest round of talks between the U.S. and China will lead to a resolution of the costly trade war that’s unsettled markets and threatened the global economy. SENT: 800 words, photos.

GENERAL MOTORS-FAREWELL VOLT — As their company was swirling around the financial drain in the early 2000s, General Motors executives came up with an idea to counter its gas-guzzling image and point the way to transportation of the future: an electric car with a gas-engine backup that could travel anywhere. At Detroit’s auto show in 2007, they unveiled the Chevrolet Volt concept car, not knowing yet whether they had the technology to pull off a major breakthrough in battery-powered vehicles. It took nearly four more years, but the first Volt — a longer-range version of a plug-in hybrid — rolled off the assembly line late in 2010. GM had hopes that customers would be ready for a car that could go 38 miles on electricity before a small internal combustion generator kicked in. They weren’t. On Tuesday, the last Volt was built with little ceremony at a Detroit factory that’s now slated to close. SENT: 700 words, photos.

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HEALTH/SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGY

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STILLBIRTHS-ROMA — A small but haunting scene in the Oscar-nominated film Roma puts a rare spotlight on stillbirths. Nearly half a century after the film’s setting, stillbirths are still surprisingly common, poorly understood and often shunned. By Lindsey Tanner. SENT: 1,200 words, photo.

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ARTS/ENTERTAINMENT

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OSCARS-PREVIEW — The 91st Academy Awards lack a host but not intrigue. Among the questions heading into Sunday’s show are whether Netflix can win its first best picture Oscar. By Film Writer Jake Coyle. SENT: 850 words, photos.

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SPORTS

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BKC-SYRACUSE-BOEHEIM — Jim Boeheim will coach Syracuse against top-ranked Duke on Saturday night, his team’s next game after Boeheim struck and killed a pedestrian on a darkened highway. SENT: 150 words, photos.

BBN--PADRES-MACHADO — Manny Machado pulled on a dark blue San Diego hat and slipped a crisp No. 13 Padres jersey over his broad shoulders. “It’s finally over,” Machado said with a grin. Finally, indeed. Machado joined his new team on Friday, a day after finalizing a $300 million, 10-deal contract that signals the Padres think their loaded farm system is just about ready to help the club return to playoff contention. The blockbuster deal with spring training already in full swing is the highest ever for a free agent and second only to Giancarlo Stanton’s $325 million, 13-year agreement. SENT: 820 words, photos.