BC-AP Newsfeatures Digest

Questions about the Newsfeatures Digest: Contact Christopher Sullivan at 212-621-5435. For photos, call 212-621-1900. Reruns of stories are available at http://apexchange.com, from the Service Desk at 800-838-4616, or your local AP bureau. Digest updated through the week.

NOTE: Additional stories will be listed in digest updates through the week.



NEW ORLEANS — It was an outcry, New Orleans-style: Residents turned for a second line parade — the sashaying, carefree cornerstone of local culture — to spread their message that gun violence plaguing this city must stop. Part jazz funeral, part Mardi Gras parade, the dipping, kicking, brassy mass brought together people united by bitter personal experience; nearly all had lost someone in the carnage. The organizer, who put behind him a life as a drug dealer only to see his son claimed by a shooting, said, “I ain’t no saint, but I’m here to teach better.” By National Writer Matt Sedensky. UPCOMING: 1,750 words at 10 a.m. EST, March 9. (Story will move in advance for text and online release simultaneously with virtual reality video.) Photos, video.


For Sunshine Week, an annual celebration of access to public information, the American Society of News Editors, The Associated Press, The McClatchy Co., the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Tribune Publishing teamed up to develop a package of stories, photos and graphics. All except Sunshine Week-Police Emails and Sunshine Week-College Endowments will move in advance on Thursday, March 10. The full list of stories with their live run dates:


Politicians in Mississippi have used campaign funds to pay for such things as a BMW, an RV and $800 cowboy boots. In Wisconsin, a railroad executive was caught violating contribution limits after an ex-girlfriend he met on a “sugar daddy” dating website reported him for illegally funneling cash to Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign through his employees. Key to the investigation, election officials say, was a requirement that donors disclose where they work — but Republican lawmakers have since wiped out the rule. Meanwhile, “dark money” spending by outside groups that aren’t required to disclose their donors is expected to explode during this presidential election year. States can take action to stem the tide, but few have. Congress could require more disclosure about who is financing campaigns, but it has made no move to do so. Disclosure may be the public’s best and often only remaining way of knowing who is supporting political candidates in the wake of recent court decisions. By Mary Spicuzza (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Jeremy White (The Sacramento Bee). 1,200 words moving Saturday, March 12, for use beginning Sunday, March 13. Photo.


Graphic by Tribune, a 2 column by 3.5 inch chart showing “dark money” spending by election cycle. It will be available on the Tribune News Service and through the ASNE web site, www.asne.org


HELENA, Mont. — The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which allowed unlimited corporate and union election spending, is being used six years later to fight state limits on how much money individuals and groups can contribute directly to candidates. Lawsuits against contribution caps have been filed in Alaska, Montana and New Mexico. Those challenges are being buoyed by a federal appeals court ruling last year that cites Citizens United in making it more difficult for states to justify donation limits. By Matt Volz. 750 words moving Saturday, March 12, for use beginning Sunday, March 13.


Ten lawsuits have piled up this year over net neutrality, making the federal push to assure everyone has equal access to Internet service the most complex, longest-running technology dispute of our time. But nobody should lose sight of what’s at stake in those thousands of pages of legal briefs on download speeds and service rates. The cases will eventually determine how free and free-wheeling our marketplace of information will be. This is Sunshine Week in the U.S., when news organizations place a spotlight on the public’s right to know and size up the state of government openness and access to public records. This year, we should add a more sweeping question to the list: How will the First Amendment survive the dramatic changes in information technology? Complicated disputes are popping up in both predicable and surprising places. By Anders Gyllenhaal, vice president for news at McClatchy. Print, 800 words; digital 1,100 words. Moving Saturday, March 12, for use beginning Sunday, March 13.


State capitols often are referred to as “the people’s house.” Yet when it comes to the availability of records, legislatures frequently put up a no trespassing sign: In many states, lawmakers have exempted themselves from the state public records laws. A recent Associated Press request for emails and daily schedules of the legislative leaders in all 50 states was met with as many denials as approvals. Closed records are just one of many ways state lawmakers dampen transparency for the public. By David A. Lieb. 1,200 words moving Sunday, March 13, for use on Monday, March 14. Photos.


BC-US–Sunshine Week-Statehouse Secrecy-States, details of legislative records restrictions in every state. Photos.


FRANKFORT, Ky. — Public pension systems are under scrutiny across the country because of the huge unfunded liabilities many of them pose for taxpayers, but at least the gap is known. What if all the details about a pension system were secret? That’s the case in Kentucky, where lawmakers do not release information about their taxpayer-supported pension fund, including how much former lawmakers are being paid in retirement benefits. By Adam Beam. 800 words moving Sunday, March 13, for use on Monday, March 14. Photo.


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — An Associated Press story for Sunshine Week a year ago included the example of an editor for a gay newspaper in Florida, who faced numerous obstacles as he tried to learn how often police officers used derogatory terms in their emails. After one agency quoted him a price of nearly $400,000 to fulfill the request, the AP stepped in to help. The two news organizations filed similar requests with several Florida law enforcement agencies to determine if those types of emails were public and, if so, how news organizations and the public could obtain them. A year later and after multiple public records filings, they have their answer. And it’s one that could provide a blueprint for other news organizations around the country as they report on police accountability. By Terry Spencer. 900 words moving spot Wednesday, March 16. Photo.


College endowments are under growing scrutiny from all angles. Students are demanding transparency as they push for ethical investing. A recent report shows that many donors want a say in where their money goes. And members of Congress are weighing whether to place greater oversight on the loosely regulated pools of money. But AP records requests show that colleges still guard their investments tightly, sometimes going to great lengths to maintain their privacy. By Collin Binkley. 700 words moving spot Thursday, March 17. Photos.

For immediate release except as noted:


An Associated Press investigation has found that an American company that bills itself as a pioneer in identifying emerging epidemics made a series of costly mistakes during the 2014 Ebola outbreak that swept across West Africa. Metabiota Inc. was criticized for feuding with fellow responders, participating in misdiagnosed Ebola cases and failing to implement basic safety measures in its shared lab in Sierra Leone. By Raphael Satter and Maria Cheng. SENT: 2,600 words on March 7. Abridged version available. Photos.


When North Korea makes threats to nuke its enemies, as it has twice over the last several days, outsiders often have one of two reactions: to dismiss it as yet another example of empty propaganda or to panic. There are good reasons to do neither. By Hyung-jin Kim. SENT: 780 words on March 7. Photos.


Surkaw Omar and Rebien Abdullah quit their jobs and spent their life savings to migrate to Europe, only to find crowded asylum camps, hunger and freezing weather. Now back home in northern Iraq, they describe their quest for a better life as a disaster. They are among a growing number of refugees who are returning home, even as the much larger exodus to Europe shows no sign of abating. By Balint Szlanko. SENT: 850 words on march 7. Photos.


Cuba’s blooming entrepreneurial system has quietly created something that looks much like a private education sector, with thousands of students across Cuba enrolled in dozens of afterschool and weekend foreign language and art schools. SENT: 1,190 words on March 7. Photos.


Peyton Manning set records and won MVPs but his mark on the game of football goes deeper than that. SENT: 970 words on March 7. Photos.


Hollywood is China’s new ally in its long quest for global cultural relevance. Both private and state-owned Chinese companies have been pouring money into Hollywood studios — a Chinese company even spent $3.5 billion to buy one. By Business Writer Ryan Nakashima. UPCOMING: 1,000 words on March 7. Photos.

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