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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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TOP STORIES

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EMPIRE CAST MEMBER-ATTACK — “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett gave detailed instructions to two brothers who helped him stage a racist, anti-gay attack on himself, including giving them specific slurs to yell, telling them to shout “MAGA country” and pointing out a surveillance camera that he thought would record the beating, a prosecutor says. Police say Smollett planned the hoax because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted to promote his career. By Don Babwin. SENT: 1,300 words, video, photos. With EMPIRE CAST MEMBER-ATTACK-TECHNOLOGY — Police tapped into Chicago’s vast network of surveillance cameras to help track down two brothers who later claimed they were paid by “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett to stage an attack on him (sent); EMPIRE CAST MEMBER-ATTACK-TIMELINE — Key moments since Jussie Smollett reported Chicago attack (sent); EMPIRE CAST MEMBER-ATTACK-LEGAL Q&A — Questions, answers about legal maneuvering surrounding Smollett case. SENT: 730 words, video, photos; HIGH-PROFILE FABRICATIONS-LIST — Celebrities, athletes, others accused of lying to the public (sent).

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 National Writer David Crary. SENT: 950 words, photos.

ELECTION 2018-NORTH CAROLINA — The country’s last vacant congressional seat will stay that way for months after North Carolina’s election board, hearing evidence of ballot fraud and testimony that the Republican ignored warning signs, ordered a new election. By Emery P. Dalesio and Gary D. Robertson. SENT: 660 words, photos.

VENEZUELA-POLITICAL CRISIS —Venezuela’s power struggle is set to convert into a battle of the bands Friday when musicians demanding Nicolas Maduro allow in humanitarian aid and those supporting the embattled leader’s refusal sing in rival concerts being held at both sides of a border bridge where tons of donated food and medicine are being stored. By Christine Armario and Luis Andras Henao. SENT: 980 words, photos. With VENEZUELA-AID VOLUNTEERS — Nurses, doctors, engineers and homemakers have volunteered by the thousands to distribute the food and medicine in the face of a government ban (sent); VENEZUELA-POLITICAL CRISIS-THE LATEST.

TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE-BARR — New Attorney General William Barr is on the cusp of what will almost certainly be the most consequential decision of his long career: how much of the special counsel’s findings to make public. The position catapults him from Justice Department outsider free to theorize and speculate on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to the man at the center of the legal and political firestorm that will accompany its conclusion. By Eric Tucker. SENT: 945 words, photo.

IRAQ-ISLAMIC STATE THREAT — U.S. and Iraqi officials say Islamic State fighters facing defeat in Syria are slipping across the border into Iraq, where they are destabilizing the country’s fragile security. Hundreds — likely more than 1,000 — IS fighters have crossed the open, desert border in the past six months, defying a massive operation by U.S., Kurdish, and allied forces to stamp out the remnants of the jihadi group in eastern Syria. By Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Philip Issa. SENT: 995 words, photos.

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WASHINGTON/POLITICS

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TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE-STONE— A federal judge orders Roger Stone not to discuss his criminal case with anyone and issues a stinging reprimand over the longtime Trump confidant’s decision to post a photo on Instagram of the judge with what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun. By Michael Balsamo. SENT: 600 words, photos, video. With TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE-Q&A — Waiting for final Mueller report? It may be short on detail. SENT: 1,130 words, photo; TRUMP LAWYER-INVESTIGATION — Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, will testify behind closed doors to the Senate intelligence committee Tuesday. SENT: 310 words, photo; TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE-MCCABE — Lawyer: Ex-FBI official McCabe still facing investigation. SENT: 570 words, photo.

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INTERNATIONAL

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FRANCE-SEX ABUSE-LAPSED TIME — Still struggling to come to terms with their share of responsibility in the clerical sex abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church, France’s bishops have agreed to award financial compensation to victims whose cases fall outside of France’s statute of limitations. By Samuel Petrequin. SENT: 655 words, photos.

CUBA-INTERNET — In the 2 1/2 months since Cuba gave its citizens internet access via cellphones, fast-moving changes are subtle but palpable as Cubans challenge government officials online, post photos of filthy school bathrooms and drag the country into the digital age. By Andrea Rodriguez. SENT: 895 words, photos.

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NATIONAL

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EL CHAPO-PROSECUTION — It’s called the “Googling juror” and it’s a problem that’s gotten renewed attention in the claims of jury misconduct in the trial of the drug lord known as El Chapo. In the digital age it’s getting harder for courts to prevent jurors from reading media accounts and conducting other research before rendering a verdict. By Jim Mustian and Tom Hays. SENT: 700 words, photo. With EL CHAPO-SONS — Two sons of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman indicted on drug conspiracy charges. SENT: 250 words, photo.

GAY COUPLE’S KIDS-CITIZENSHIP — A federal judge in California has ruled that a twin son of a gay couple has been an American citizen since birth, handing a defeat to the U.S. government, which had only granted the status to his brother. By Christopher Weber. SENT: 725 words, photos.

ATLANTA CYCLORAMA — As cities and states across the South are removing or covering up Confederate monuments, an enormous painting depicting the Battle of Atlanta from the American Civil War will soon reopen to the public. By Jeff Martin. SENT: 865 words, photos, video.

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HEALTH/SCIENCE

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MOON SHOT-ISRAEL — Israel is on its way to the moon, following a dramatic nighttime launch by SpaceX. The Falcon rocket blasted off late Thursday from Cape Canaveral, Florida. A communications satellite for Indonesia was the main cargo. But Israel’s privately funded lunar lander generated the buzz. Israel seeks to become only the fourth country to successfully land on the moon, after Russia, the U.S. and China. If all goes well, touchdown would be April 11. By Aerospace Writer Marcia Dunn. SENT: 775 words, photo, video.