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BC-AP News Digest 2:10 pm

December 20, 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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ONLY ON AP

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ITALY-THE MISSING-INVESTIGATING THE DEAD — The quest to trace the identities of all the victims of the Mediterranean’s deadliest migrant shipwreck has revealed that the sinking was far deadlier than anyone knew. One of the two investigators on the project has confirmed that the boat that sank on April 18, 2015 carried not 800 migrants as previously believed, but as many as 1,100. The discovery makes it even harder for the investigators to keep Italy’s promise to name the dead, especially when Europe has turned against migrants. By Lori Hinnant, Trisha Thomas and Krista Larson. SENT: 2,480 words, photos. An Abridged version has also moved. With ITALY-THE MISSING-INVESTIGATING THE DEAD-FAMILIES-PHOTO GALLERY — Migrant families wait, torn between hope and grief (sent).

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TOP STORIES

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TRUMP-BORDER WALL — President Donald Trump has informed congressional Republicans that he “will not sign” a temporary funding measure passed by the Senate to keep the government, citing border wall funding. House Speaker Paul Ryan says after meeting with Trump at the White House that he and other leaders are going to go back to the Hill to “work on adding border security” to the funding package. By Lisa Mascaro, Matthew Daly and Catherine Lucey. SENT: 1,100 words, photos. Developing. WITH: CROWDSOURCING-BORDER WALL — An Air Force veteran who started a GoFundMe page for President Trump’s border wall has already raised millions of dollars. SENT: 130 words; developing.

SYRIA — President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out U.S. troops from Syria plunges the volatile region into profound uncertainty and leaves America’s only allies in Syria in the lurch. A quick and unplanned withdrawal opens the door for major turmoil as various groups rush to fill the political and security vacuum left behind by U.S. forces, giving leverage to America’s enemies, including Russia, Iran and the Syrian government. Experts warn the Islamic State group, currently fighting to hang on to its last pockets in Syria, would soon find its way back. By Zeina Karam and Sarah El Deeb. SENT: 900 words. UPCOMING: 900 words, photos by 4:30 p.m. WITH: UNITED STATES-SYRIA — The Pentagon is scrambling to come up with a way to quickly withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. SENT: 900 words, photos, developing; RUSSIA-US-SYRIA — Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes the U.S. decision to pull its troops out of Syria, adding that they shouldn’t have been there to start with. SENT: 440 words, photos.

UNITED STATES-MEXICO-ASYLUM — Immigrants seeking asylum will no longer be released into the U.S. while their immigration cases play out, the Trump administration said, forcing them instead to wait in Mexico in one of the most significant moves on immigration since the president took office. By Colleen Long. SENT: 975 words, photos.

BRITAIN-GATWICK AIRPORT-DRONES — Drones spotted over the runway forced the shutdown of London’s Gatwick Airport on during one of the busiest times of the year, stranding or delaying tens of thousands of Christmas-season travelers and setting off a hunt for the operator of the intruding aircraft. The prospect of a deadly collision between what police called “industrial”-grade drones and an airliner led authorities to stop all flights in and out. By Gregory Katz. SENT: 700 words, photos. WITH: BRITAIN-DRONE SAFETY — Why can’t authorities just shoot down the drones or jam their signals? Experts say it’s not that easy. SENT: 700 words, photos, by 3 p.m.

YE-TOP 10 STORIES — The mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school — which killed 17 students and staff, and sparked nationwide student-led marches for gun control — was the top news story of 2018, according to The Associated Press’ annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors. By National Writer David Crary. SENT: 1,090 words, photos, video.

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WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT

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CHRISTMAS WEED — A street corner weed decked out with Christmas lights and ornaments is sprouting holiday goodwill in Ohio. SENT: 350 words, photos.

HERSHEY’S KISSES-MISSING TIPS — A group of bakers say batches of Hershey’s Kisses that don’t have their trademark tip are ruining the look of their desserts. SENT: 130 words.

ODD--HITCHHIKING ESCAPEE-OFFICER — A jail inmate who escaped from authorities and tried hitchhiking along a highway didn’t enjoy freedom for long because the motorist he flagged was a law enforcement officer. SENT: 150 words.

FINLAND-REINDEER TECH — To keep track of their animals in Lapland, northern Finland’s vast and remote snow-covered forests, reindeer herders are turning to technology by fitting them with internet-connected collars. SENT: 640 words, photos.

MISS AMERICA LAWSUIT — A former board member and four states that have had their licenses terminated by the Miss America Organization are suing the group and its top leaders, claiming “an illegal and bad-faith takeover” of the pageant. SENT: 340 words.

MARS LANDER — NASA’s new Mars lander places a quake monitor on the planet’s dusty red surface. SENT: 140 words, photo.

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WASHINGTON/POLITICS

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TRUMP-ATTORNEY GENERAL — President Trump’s pick for attorney general, William Barr, sent an unsolicited memo to the Justice Department this year criticizing as “fatally misconceived” the special counsel’s investigation into whether the president took steps to obstruct a probe into ties between his campaign and Russia. SENT: 580 words, photo. WITH: TRUMP-WHITAKER — A top Justice Department ethics official advised that Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker recuse himself from the Russia probe, but ultimately concluded that he was not required to do so, a senior department official said. SENT: 130 words, photo; UPCOMING: 550 words by 3 p.m.

CHINA-ESPIONAGE — U.S. officials say two Chinese citizens acting on behalf of their country’s main intelligence agency carried out an extensive hacking campaign to steal data from military service members, government agencies and private companies in the United States and nearly a dozen other nations. It was the latest in a series of Justice Department indictments targeting cyberespionage from Beijing. SENT: 700 words, photos.

ELECTION 2020-DEMOCRATIC DEBATES — Democrats will hold at least a dozen presidential primary debates starting in June 2019 and running through April 2020, with party Chairman Tom Perez promising rules that will give everyone in a potentially large field a fair shot at voters’ attention. SENT: 650 words.

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INTERNATIONAL

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RUSSIA-PUTIN — Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a chilling warning about the rising threat of a nuclear war, saying “it could lead to the destruction of civilization as a whole and maybe even our planet.” SENT: 930 words, photos.

CONGO-ELECTION-DELAY — Congo’s electoral commission delayed the country’s long-awaited presidential election until Dec. 30, citing a recent fire that destroyed 80 percent of the voting machines in the capital. The vote had been scheduled for Sunday. By Saleh Mwanamilongo and Mathilde Boussion. SENT: 570 words, photos.

BANGLADESH-FACEBOOK — Facebook is shutting down a series of fake news sites spreading false information about the Bangladesh opposition days before national elections, an official from the social media platform said. The sites — nine Facebook pages designed to mimic legitimate news outlets, as well as six fake personal accounts spreading anti-opposition propaganda — were created by Bangladeshis with government ties, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, told the AP in an exclusive interview. SENT: 930 words, photos.

GREECE-TAX CRACKDOWN — With a 350 billion-euro bill still to pay after eight years of international bailouts, Greece’s tax office is resorting to increasingly draconian tactics — reaching directly into the bank accounts of ordinary citizens who have fallen a few weeks behind on payments. SENT: 800 words, photo.

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NATIONAL

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SEXUAL MISCONDUCT-WEINSTEIN — A New York judge declined to dismiss sexual assault charges against Harvey Weinstein, rejecting the latest push from the disgraced film producer’s lawyers to have his indictment thrown out. Judge James Burke’s ruling buoyed a prosecution that has appeared on rocky ground in recent months amid a prolonged defense effort to raise doubts about the case and the police investigation. SENT: 865 words, photos.

STUDENT KILLED-IOWA — Before they arrested a farmhand in the death of Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts, investigators scrutinized four other potential suspects during their five-week search. Newly unsealed search warrant documents show that those who drew police interest included a neighbor seen washing his SUV hours after Tibbetts vanished, a Nebraska man who ditched his vehicle in Iowa days later and an acquaintance who had recently erased his cellphone data. All have been ruled out as suspects. By Ryan J. Foley. SENT: 930 words, photo.

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BUSINESS/TECHNOLOGY

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FINANCIAL MARKETS — Stock prices are falling further on Wall Street, a day after another big plunge rocked markets around the world. SENT: 930 words, photo, developing.

FACEBOOK-PROTECTING YOUR DATA — Facebook is under fire again, accused of sharing private messages and other user information with other companies. What can users do to protect their data without walking away from Facebook altogether? SENT: 700 words, photos.

ALTRIA-JUUL — Altria, one of the world’s biggest tobacco companies, is spending nearly $13 billion to buy a huge stake in the vape company Juul as cigarette use continues to decline. The Marlboro maker said that it will take a 35 percent share of Juul, putting the value of the company at $38 billion, larger than Ford Motor Co., Delta Air Lines or the retail giant Target. By Michelle Chapman. SENT: 650 words, photo.

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SPORTS

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PATRIOTS-GORDON — Patriots receiver Josh Gordon says he is leaving football to focus on his mental health. He tweets his thanks to the Patriots for their support and vows to come back. Gordon has been suspended multiple times by the NFL for drug violations. SENT: 500 words, photos.

CONGRESS-SEX ABUSE — A congressional review of the U.S. Olympic system’s handling of sex-abuse cases criticizes a culture that protected reputation and image over ensuring athlete safety. The report acknowledges the changes since Larry Nassar’s crimes were exposed, but it criticizes the lack of conformity among the organizations. SENT: 140 words, photos. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 4 p.m. EST.

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ARTS/ENTERTAINMENT

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MEDIA-MORNING TV — A year after morning news shows at CBS and NBC abruptly lost male anchors Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer in sexual misconduct scandals, the “Today” show has done appreciably better weathering the storm. Momentum at “CBS This Morning,” the most buzzworthy morning show for a handful of years, stopped dead with Rose’s firing. SENT: 800 words, photo.

YE-THE YEAR COMEDY ATTACKED ITSELF — While stylistically very different, the standup performances of Drew Michael’s debut HBO comedy special and Hannah Gadsby’s first one for Netflix both managed to shake up the comedy world by the time they finished their hour-long sets. SENT 1,000 words, photos.

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HOW TO REACH US

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At the Nerve Center, Richard A. Somma can be reached at 800-845-8450 (ext. 1600). For photos, ext. 1900. For graphics and interactives, ext. 7636. Expanded AP content can be obtained from http://newsroom.ap.org. For access to AP Newsroom and other technical issues, contact apcustomersupport@ap.org or call 877-836-9477.

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