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BC-AP News Digest 2 pm

February 21, 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 staged a racist and homophobic attack because he was unhappy about his salary and wanted to promote his career, Chicago’s police superintendent said. Before the attack, Smollett also sent a threatening letter that targeted himself to the studio in Chicago where “Empire” is shot, Superintendent Eddie Johnson said. By Don Babwin. SENT: 1,050 words, photos, videos. WITH: EMPIRE CAST MEMBER-ATTACK-TIMELINE _ Key moments since Jussie Smollett reported Chicago attack. SENT: 1,000 words, photos. WITH: EMPIRE CAST MEMBER-ATTACK-JOHNSON _ Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says he’s angry and offended that Smollett allegedly lied about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. SENT: 600 words, photos. WITH: EMPIRE CAST MEMBER-ATTACK-LEGAL Q&A _ Some questions and answers about the legal maneuvering surrounding the Jussie Smollett case, including the likely reasons two brothers who helped him stage an attack are not currently facing charges. By Michael Tarm. UPCOMING: 500 words by 3 p.m.

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 David Crary and Errin Haines Whack. UPCOMING: 800 words by 6 p.m.

VATICAN-SEX ABUSE _ Pope Francis opened a landmark sex abuse prevention summit by offering senior Catholic leaders 21 proposals to punish predators and keep children safe, warning that the faithful are demanding concrete action and not just words. The tone for the high-stakes, four-day summit was set at the start, with victims from five continents _ Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and North America _ telling the bishops of the trauma of their abuse and the additional pain the church’s indifference caused them. SENT: 1,200 words, photos. WITH: VATICAN-ITALY-SEX ABUSE _ Advocates for victims of pedophile priests are pushing for Italy to revise laws that help bishops dodge accountability. SENT: 550 words, photos. WITH: VATICAN-SEX ABUSE-COUNTRIES _ A global look at the Catholic Church’s sex abuse problem. SENT: 1,450 words, photos.

VENEZUELA-AID VOLUNTEERS _ As President Nicolas Maduro deploys missiles and infantrymen to Venezuela’s borders bracing for what he claims is a U.S. coup plot disguised as humanitarian aid, his opponents are rallying their own troops. Nurses, doctors, engineers and homemakers have volunteered by the thousands to help distribute the food and medicine in the face of a government ban. The citizen brigades are one of the Venezuelan opposition’s most ambitious undertakings yet. By Fabiola Sanchez. UPCOMING: 850 words, photos by 3 p.m. VENEZUELA-POLITICAL CRISIS _ As a showdown looms over humanitarian aid destined for Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro closes off his country’s borders, vowing to block the emergency food and medicine he claims is part of a U.S.-led coup plot. Opposition leader Juan Guaido struggles to reach the border with Colombia, where the aid is warehoused. By Scott Smith. SENT: 750 words. UPCOMING: 800 words, photos by 4:30 p.m.

TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE-STONE_ Roger Stone is summoned to federal court as a judge considers whether to revoke his bail or further limit his public comments after the longtime Donald Trump confidant posted a photo of her on Instagram with what appeared to be crosshairs of a gun. UPCOMING: Developing from 2:30 p.m. court appearance, 600 words by 5 p.m., photos, video. WITH: TRUMP-RUSSIA PROBE-Q&A _ Robert Mueller’s Russia probe has to end with a report. But anyone looking for a grand narrative on President Donald Trump, Russian election interference and all the juicy details uncovered over the last 20 months could end up disappointed. Some questions and answers about the Russia investigation endgame. SENT: 920 words, photo. WITH: TRUMP LAWYER-INVESTIGATION _ President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, will testify behind closed doors to the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the matter. SENT: 110 words, photo.

UGLY PRODUCE _ Is the “ugly produce” trend already reaching the end of its shelf life in supermarkets? Walmart and Whole Foods in recent years tried selling some blemished fruits and vegetables at a discount, produce they said might otherwise be trashed because it’s not quite the right size, shape or color. But the two chains and others quietly ended their tests, suggesting dented apples and undersized potatoes may not be all that appealing in stores where better looking fruits and vegetables are on display. By Candice Choi and Scott McFetridge. SENT: 700 words, photos.

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WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT

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BRITAIN-ZEBRA STRIPES _ Zebra stripes are dazzling, particularly to flies and scientists say that might be the answer to how zebras got their stripes. SENT: 400 words, photo.

WINTER WEATHER-VEGAS _ Las Vegas is getting a rare taste of winter weather, with significant snowfall across the metro area for the first time in a decade. SENT: 150 words, photos.

BOUNCY WHEELCHAIR _ A North Dakota charity event turned into worldwide inspiration when a 4-year-old boy performed his favorite trampoline act in his wheelchair. SENT: 130 words, video.

FIREFIGHTERS QUIT _ Nearly all of a Maine town’s firefighters have quit following a heated meeting with local officials. SENT: 150 words.

BOW AND ARROW BARRICADE _ Police in Delaware say a man who skipped out on a restaurant bill barricaded himself in a nearby hotel, armed with a hunting-style bow and arrow. SENT: 150 words.

SHERIFF’S DEPUTY-SEXUAL ASSAULT _ A Nebraska sheriff’s deputy charged with sexually assaulting a woman more than a decade ago now is linked to at least five other victims before he joined the department in 2015. SENT: 300 words.

MOON SHOT-ISRAEL _ Israel aims to land a privately funded lunar lander on the moon after hitching a ride with SpaceX Thursday night. It would become only the fourth country to successfully land on the moon, after Russia, the U.S. and China. SENT: 130 words, photo. UPCOMING: Launch scheduled for 8:45 p.m., launch window lasts 32 minutes.

RUSSIA-SNOWMAN CONTEST _ Snowman competition offers big money in video contest in Russia and Ukraine. SENT: 280 words, photo.

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WASHINGTON/POLITICS

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UNITED STATES-NORTH KOREA _ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. will not move to ease economic sanctions on North Korea until it is confident that the nuclear weapons threat from Pyongyang has been “substantially reduced.” He seemed to leave open the possibility that sanctions relief was possible short of complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. SENT: 390 words. UPCOMING: 600 words by 3:30 p.m., photo.

TRUMP-MILEAGE BATTLE _ The Trump administration breaks off talks with California in a dispute over mileage standards, moving the two closer to a possible court battle that threatens to roil the auto industry. The administration wants to block tougher Obama-era mileage standards for vehicles. It has threatened to revoke California’s unique authority to set its own mileage standards as part of that. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 790 words by 4 p.m., photos.

ELECTION 2020-KANSAS SENATE-POMPEO _ Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman, appears to rule out race for U.S. Senate from Iowa. SENT: 130 words, photo.

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NATIONAL

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OAKLAND TEACHERS STRIKE _ Teachers in Oakland, California, went on strike in the country’s latest walkout by educators over classroom conditions and pay. The city’s 3,000 teachers are demanding a 12 percent retroactive raise covering 2017 to 2020 to compensate for what they say are among the lowest salaries for public school teachers in the exorbitantly expensive San Francisco Bay Area. They also want the district to hire more counselors to support students and more full-time nurses. SENT: 650 words, photos.

EL CHAPO-PROSECUTION_ The revelation of possible juror misconduct in the El Chapo trial highlights the growing problem of the so-called “Googling juror” in the digital era. A look at this phenomenon and how likely it is to impact the verdict following a more than three-month trial. UPCOMING: 600 words by 5 p.m.

OREGON-PIONEERING RENT CONTROL _ Oregon is on track to becoming the first state to impose mandatory rent controls, with a measure establishing tenant protections moving through the Legislature. SENT: 770 words, photos.

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INTERNATIONAL

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SYRIA _ U.S.-backed Syrian forces fighting the Islamic State group in Syria handed over more than 150 Iraqi members of the group to Iraq, the first batch of several to come, an Iraqi security official said. The official said the IS militants were handed over to the Iraqi side, and that they were now in a “safe place” and being investigated. SENT: 675 words, photos.

NIGERIA-ANCIENT DYE PITS _ A little indigo, a handful of ash and time. The dye pits in Nigeria’s ancient northern city of Kano are said to be the last ones of their kind after five centuries of existence. Many pits at Kofar Mata appear to be abandoned as the sons who inherit the tradition decide to pursue government jobs or other business instead, forgetting the skills passed down through generations. The men who remain, squatting over the pits with sturdy gloves and endless patience, produce the intensely blue fabrics that are internationally renowned. SENT: 575 words, photos.

NKOREA SUMMIT-WHAT ABOUT THE SOUTH? _ South Korean President Moon Jae-in has staked his legacy on the stunning diplomatic progress he has forged with North Korea, as well as the behind-the-scenes orchestration of the U.S.-North Korean summits. But following months of stalemate on North Korea nuclear talks, Moon’s presidency faces a crucial moment, with President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un set to meet for the second time next week. By Kim Tong-Hyung. SENT: 1,150 words, photos.

BREXIT _ The British government acknowledged that trade deals with major countries such as Japan and Turkey will not be in place by Brexit day, while the EU’s chief said he remains downbeat about Britain avoiding a chaotic departure. SENT: 440 words, photos.

KENYA-GAY RIGHTS _ Extortion, physical assaults, verbal abuse, denial of state services, forceful evictions, harassment, being disowned by family members. These and many other challenges may begin to fade away for the Kenyan gay community if a court rules Friday in their favor to abolish laws that criminalize homosexual behavior. SENT: 675 words, photos.

ISRAEL-POLITICS _ Israel’s primary centrist challengers to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announce they are joining forces ahead of the April vote — a dramatic move that shook up the country’s political system and created the first credible alternative to Netanyahu’s decade-long rule. SENT: 800 words, photos.

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ENTERTAINMENT

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OSCARS-SONGWRITERS _ Grammy-winning producer-songwriter Alexander Shuckburgh should be celebrating as an Oscar nominee since a song he co-wrote, Kendrick Lamar’s “All the Stars” from the “Black Panther” soundtrack, is competing for best original song at Sunday’s show. But he isn’t. Others, including Beyonce, have been shut out of best original song at the Academy Awards since there is a rule limiting the number of songwriters for each song competing in the category. UPCOMING: 900 words, photos by 6 p.m.

MICHAEL JACKSON ACCUSERS-DOCUMENTARY _ Wade Robson and James Safechuck both allege that Michael Jackson sexually abused them as children and they tell their stories in harrowing detail in the upcoming HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland.” Robson and Safechuck spoke to The Associated Press about participating in the documentary, their lives now and what they want people to take from it. They also respond to some of the criticisms the Jackson estate has already thrown. SENT: 1,200 words, photos.

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SPORTS

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BOEHEIM-FATAL ACCIDENT _ A car driven by Syracuse basketball coach struck and killed a man standing beside his disabled vehicle on a highway. Police say there was no sign the 74-year-old coach was impaired. The accident came hours after a Syracuse home victory on a freezing, rainy night. SENT: 350 words, photos. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 5 p.m.

BKC--T25-DUKE-WILLIAMSON FALLOUT _ The split shoe that left star freshman Zion Williamson writhing on the ground and Duke basketball in limbo was called an “isolated occurrence” by the manufacturer. Nike says its products are of “utmost importance.” The sportswear giant quickly became the target of ridicule on social media. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 5 p.m.

SPORTS BETTING-STATES _ Legislatures in some two dozen states are considering bills to legalize sports gambling following last year’s Supreme Court ruling. There is broad support, but also areas of dispute, such as whether to allow betting on college games and what to do with any new state revenue. UPCOMING: 950 words, photos, graphic by 4 p.m.

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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, Donald E. King (ext. 1900). For graphics and interactives, Phil Holm (ext. 7636). Expanded AP content can be obtained from http://newsroom.ap.org . For access to AP Newsroom and other technical issues, contact apcustomersupport(at)ap.org or call 877-836-9477.