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The world at 3:10 a.m. Times are EST.
At the Nerve Center, Dien Magno, Suzanne Boyle McCrory and Mike Stewart 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://www.apexchange.com. For access to AP Exchange and other technical issues, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 877-836-9477.
— MILITARY-SEXUAL ASSAULT — Afternoon vote expected.
— CONSERVATIVES — Ted Cruz scheduled to speak at 9 a.m.
— ARMY GENERAL-SEX CHARGES — Court session begins at 9 a.m.
— CONGRESS-POWER PLANTS — Afternoon vote expected.
— UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS — Labor Department reports on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. UPCOMING: 130 words after release of report at 8:30 a.m., 350 words by 9:15 a.m., photo.
— FACTORY ORDERS — Commerce Department reports on U.S. factory orders in January. UPCOMING: 130 words after release of report at 10 a.m., 400 words by 11 a.m., photo.
— PRODUCTIVITY — commerce Department updates its estimate of U.S. company productivity and costs for the October-December quarter. UPCOMING: 130 words after release of report at 8:30 a.m., 350 words by 9:15 a.m., photo.
— MORTGAGE RATES — Freddie Mac reports on average mortgage rates for this week. UPCOMING: 130 words after report is released around 10 a.m., 300 words by noon.
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Crimea's new leader says pro-Russian forces numbering more than 11,000 control all access to Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and have blockaded all military bases that have not yet surrendered. The West joins the new Ukrainian leadership in Kiev in demanding that Russia pull its forces from Crimea, but little progress is reported despite a flurry of diplomatic activity in Paris. By Yuras Karmanau. SENT: 300 words, photos. UPCOMING: Updates through the day.
BRUSSELS — European Union leaders hold an emergency meeting to decide what sanctions to impose on Russia over its actions in Ukraine. It remains to be seen whether the European sanctions will have the same bite as those planned by the U.S. Congress, or whether the attempt to punish Vladimir Putin will expose rifts within the West's tactics. By Juergen Baetz and Raf Casert. UPCOMING: 130 words by 5 a.m., 800 words by 10 a.m., photos.
— CONGRESS-UKRAINE — U.S. Congress rushes to put in place hard-hitting sanctions on Russia in response to its takeover of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. SENT: 790 words, photos. UPCOMING: 850 words by 11 a.m. to update with hearing scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.
WASHINGTON — Legislation to curb sexual assaults in the military by stripping senior commanders of their authority to prosecute rapes and other serious offenses is headed for a highly anticipated vote in the Senate. The contentious bill is firmly opposed by the Pentagon's leadership, which argues officers should have more responsibility, not less, for the conduct of the troops they lead. By Richard Lardner. SENT: 810 words. UPCOMING: 950 words by 4 p.m. to update with expected afternoon vote, photo.
WASHINGTON — The perfect score will again be 1,600. What's more, the essay will be optional, students will no longer be penalized for wrong answers and the vocabulary is shifting to do away with some high-sounding words such as "prevaricator" and "sagacious." The SAT college entrance exam is undergoing a sweeping revision. By Education Writer Kimberly Hefling. SENT: 1,000 words, photos, video, graphic.
— NEW SAT-GLANCE — A look at some of the changes coming to the SAT. SENT: 180 words.
PINGHAN COUNTY, China — Demolishing a cement plant that once spouted clouds of pollution reflects a long-overdue shift toward tempering the effects of economic development on China's environment — especially its notoriously smoggy skies. But it has come at a cost to jobs and the local economy. "I do want the government to do something to improve the air quality," laid-off cement worker Guo Quanquan says. "But my life has gotten worse after the closure." China's leaders, under pressure from the public to reduce pollution like never before, are rebalancing their priorities. How to best do that is a topic for discussion at this week's ceremonial legislature in Beijing. By Louise Watt. UPCOMING: 800 words by 3:30 a.m., photos.
— CHINA-ECONOMY-JOBS — China's finance minister says priority is jobs, growth might be lower than 7.5 percent target. SENT: 100 words.
WEALTH GAP-SILICON VALLEY
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Arwin Buditom guards some of the most successful high-tech firms in America. Joseph Farfan keeps their heat, air and electric systems humming. But these workers and tens of thousands like them who help fuel the Silicon Valley's tech boom are having trouble making ends meet these days. Buditom rooms with his sister an hour's drive from work. Farfan gets his groceries at a food pantry. Silicon Valley is entering a fifth year of unfettered growth, but the river of money flowing through America's technology mecca has also driven housing costs to double while wages for low- and middle-skilled workers remain stagnant. Now the widening gap in lifestyle between the wealthy and those left behind is sparking protests and raw anger. By National Writer Martha Mendoza. SENT: 1,600 words, video, photos.
TRIPOLI, Libya — Niger extradites to Libya one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons, al-Saadi, who fled as his father's regime crumbled in 2011 and who has been under house arrest in the desert West African nation ever since, the government in Tripoli says. Authorities say al-Saadi — one of the deposed Libyan leader's eight children — will be treated "in accordance with international law." By Esam Mohamed. SENT: 500 words, photo.
KABUL, Afghanistan — Sometimes the calls come in the middle of the night. Other times it's a text message on their mobile phones. But the messages are always the same, threats of death for having worked with the German military in northern Afghanistan. Germany has so far received 520 applications for special immigration visas from its former Afghan employees but has granted only 10. Many fear that if they remain in Afghanistan they could be in danger from the Taliban. By Rahim Fayez. SENT: 900 words, photos.
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ARMY GENERAL-SEX CHARGES
RALEIGH, N.C. — An Army general accused of sexual assault is set to plead guilty to three lesser charges in a move that his lawyer says will strengthen his position going into trial. Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair plans to enter the plea Thursday morning before opening statements in his court-martial at Fort Bragg. By Michael Biesecker. UPCOMING: 800 words by 4:30 a.m., photos; updates from 9 a.m. court session.
LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas and Phoenix are linked by a road that narrows to two lanes, hits stoplights in a Depression-era town and until recently backed up traffic over the Hoover Dam. Despite being two of the largest cities in the Southwest, they're the only major metropolitan areas in the U.S. that aren't directly connected by an interstate freeway. There have been halting advances toward creating a slick, new highway to cover the 300 miles of desert between Sin City and the Valley of the Sun, but if it's ever going to happen, according to Steven Betts, leader of a coalition of project supporters, "everyone would have to be very creative." By Michelle Rindels. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.
COLLEGE FRESHMEN SURVEY
SAN FRANCISCO — A survey of the nation's college freshmen shows that the percentage attending their first-choice school has reached its lowest level in almost four decades, as cost has become a growing factor in where students enroll. By Lisa Leff. SENT: 550 words, photos.
WASHINGTON — Should a lawyer be disqualified from public service for representing a client like a cop killer? The question arises after the Senate rejected President Barack Obama's candidate to be the government's chief civil rights attorney. The White House, attorneys and civil rights groups argue that a bipartisan vote blocking Debo Adegbile from advancing toward confirmation set a troubling precedent that could dissuade lawyers with aspirations to serve in government from taking on unpopular clients or working for unpopular causes. By Jesse J. Holland and Nedra Pickler. SENT: 810 words, photo.
CIOS UNDER PRESSURE
NEW YORK —The departure of Target's chief information officer in the wake of the company's massive pre-Christmas data breach highlights the increased pressure facing executives who are tasked with protecting corporate computer systems from hackers whose attacks are on the rise and becoming more sophisticated. CIOs from companies in all walks of business — from retail to banking and drug discovery — are using the Target breach as a rally call to bring attention to their struggle and garner additional funding and manpower. By Bree Fowler. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.
— AFGHANISTAN — NATO airstrike kills 5 Afghan soldiers; coalition says it was an accident. SENT: 500 words.
— PISTORIUS-TRIAL — Neighbor of Oscar Pistorius returns to the stand to give evidence in the star athlete's murder trial in South Africa. SENT: 130 words, photo. UPCOMING: 500 words by 7 a.m.
— CONSERVATIVES — Leading Republicans are courting conservative activists at 3-day conference. SENT: 320 words. UPCOMING: 550 words by noon to update with Ted Cruz speech at 9 a.m., photos.
— CONGRESS-POWER PLANTS — House Republicans move to block EPA carbon controls on new power plants. SENT: 560 words. UPCOMING: 750 words by 4:30 p.m. to update with afternoon vote, photo.
— SINGAPORE-CEO DEATH — American CEO of bitcoin exchange found dead in Singapore; no foul play suspected. SENT: 150 words.
— KOREAS-TENSION — South Korea says North Korean artillery launch was within minutes of Chinese plane's flight. SENT: 490 words, photos.
— BIN LADEN SPOKESMAN — Video and pictures of al-Qaida leaders playing major role in NY trial of Bin Laden's son-in-law. UPCOMING: 500 words by 3:30 a.m., photos.
— FLA-OCEAN RESCUE — Driver of minivan in ocean off Florida's Daytona Beach is undergoing mental evaluation. SENT: 120 words.
— PHILLY SCHOOLS-BEARDED OFFICER — Feds sue Philly school district over bearded employee, accuse it of religious discrimination. SENT: 400 words.
— OBIT-GEOFF EDWARDS — Game show host, radio DJ Geoff Edwards of 'Treasure Hunt,' 'Jackpot!' dies at 83. SENT: 250 words, photos.
— US-UKRAINE — Ukraine beats US 2-0 in soccer exhibition moved to Cyprus because of political turmoil. SENT: 840 words, photos.
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