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BC-AP Top Stories Digest

December 21, 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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UNITED STATES-SYRIA-TRUMP — President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from Syria was made hastily, without consulting his national security team or allies, and over the strong objections of virtually everyone involved in the fight against the Islamic State group, according to U.S. and Turkish officials. By Matthew Lee and Susannah George. SENT: 960 words, photos.

AP POLL-TRUMP-RUSSIA — A majority of Americans say they believe President Donald Trump has tried to obstruct the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, though the public is divided on whether he should be removed from office if he’s found to have stymied the probe, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. By Eric Tucker and Emily Swanson. SENT: 930 words, photo, graphic.

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TOP STORIES

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TRUMP-BORDER WALL — The government shutdown that President Donald Trump last week professed pride in causing is hours away, and he now asserts that Democrats are the reason hundreds of thousands of federal workers are facing holiday furloughs or work without pay. The fight is over billions of dollars he is demanding for his long-promised border wall with Mexico. By Lisa Mascaro, Matthew Daly and Zeke Miller. SENT: 680 words, photos.

SUPREME COURT-GINSBURG — The Supreme Court says Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had surgery to remove two malignant growths from her left lung. It’s the 85-year-old’s third bout with cancer since she joined the court in 1993. The court says doctors found “no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body” and that no additional treatment is planned currently. By Mark Sherman. SENT: 400 words, photo. UPCOMING: 750 words by 4 p.m.

AFGHANISTAN-US — The Taliban are welcoming the news of the U.S. plan to withdraw half its troops in Afghanistan by the summer. But Afghan generals are warning it would be a blow to the morale of the country’s security forces, who come under daily attacks from the insurgent fighters. The announcement is also expected to complicate peace talks, weakening the Kabul government and putting the Taliban in the driver’s seat. By Kathy Gannon. SENT: 900 words, photos.

ECONOMY-GDP — U.S. economy expands at a solid 3.4 percent annual rate in the third quarter, slightly slower than the previous estimate as consumer spending and exports are revised lower. The economy is expected to slow further in the current quarter. By AP Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger. SENT: 400 words.

BORDER-ASYLUM — The Trump administration’s decision to make asylum seekers wait in Mexico while their cases slowly wind through clogged U.S. courts caught many by surprise and was made without crucial details being worked out. That could create chaos along the border, including inviting a rush of illegal crossings before the changes get implemented. By Elliot Spagat. UPCOMING: 800 words with photos by 4 p.m. 

ELECTION 2018-NORTH CAROLINA — A letter obtained by The Associated Press shows that North Carolina’s top elections official issued an urgent plea nearly two years ago for the Justice Department to file criminal charges against those now at the center of 2018 ballot fraud allegations. By Michael Biesecker and Gary D. Robertson. SENT: 710 words, photos.

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WASHINGTON/POLITICS

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MATTIS — The extraordinary resignation letter that Pentagon chief Jim Mattis handed to a surprised President Donald Trump was not just the product of two years of accumulating frustration with an impulsive boss but an outline of the strategic hazards facing the next defense secretary. By National Security Writer Robert Burns. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 4 p.m.

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INTERNATIONAL

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VATICAN-SEX ABUSE — Pope Francis demands that priests who have raped and molested children turn themselves in and vows that the Catholic Church will “never again” cover up clergy sex abuse. SENT: 980 words, photos.

BRITAIN-GATWICK AIRPORT-DRONES — Flights resume, are suspended again, then resume again at London’s Gatwick Airport. Drones spotted over the airfield have sparked two days of travel chaos, leaving tens of thousands of passengers stranded or delayed during the busy holiday season. SENT: 500 words, photos.

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NATIONAL

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CLERGY ABUSE-CHICAGO CARDINAL — The Catholic archbishop of Chicago, who was hand-picked by the pope to help organize an upcoming Vatican summit on clergy sex abuse, will have a leading role in the church’s effort to seek reforms. SENT: 750 words, photos, video.

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BUSINESS/TECHNOLOGY

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NO CELL HOTELS — Can you take a vacation from your cell phone? A growing number of hotels will help you find out. Some resorts are offering perks, like snorkeling tours and s’mores, to guests who manage to give up their phones for a few hours. Some have phone-free hours at their pools; others are banning distracting devices from public places altogether. By Business Writer Dee-Ann Durbin. SENT: 840 words, photos.

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HEALTH/SCIENCE

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SCIENCE SAYS-LOPSIDED PLANET — Scientists now think they know how Uranus got to be an oddball planet that spins on its side: It was pushed over by a rock at least twice as big as Earth. By AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein. SENT: 600 words, photo.

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ARTS/ENTERTAINMENT

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YE-ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR — The Associated Press names its entertainer of the year winner. Some candidates include Donald Glover, Ariana Grande, Bradley Cooper and Netflix. By Entertainment Writer Mark Kennedy. UPCOMING: 700 words by 5 p.m., photos.

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SPORTS

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YE--PLAYS OF THE YEAR — Andrew Benintendi’s diving catch to put Boston in command of the ALCS. Tua Tagovailoa’s pass in overtime to give Alabama the national title. Arike Ogunbowale coming up big in the Final Four — twice! — to lead Notre Dame to the NCAA women’s crown. Those spectacular moments are among AP’s plays of the year. AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds. SENT: 1,050 words, photos.

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