AP News Digest 2 p.m.

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.

______________ TOP STORIES ______________

VIRUS OUTBREAK — After months of serving as a role model in the fight against COVID-19, California has seen infections race out of control for weeks. It now has the worst coronavirus diagnosis rate in the U.S. Experts say a variety of factors combined to wipe out California’s past efforts, which for much of the year tamped down on surges and kept the virus at manageable levels.


CONGRESS-ELECTORAL COLLEGE — President Donald Trump’s extraordinary election challenge is splitting the Republican Party before next week’s joint session of Congress confirms President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the Electoral College. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned his ranks to avoid a confrontation but not everyone is heeding him and even Vice President Mike Pence has been snagged in the machinations. The showdown will shape the post-Trump era for the GOP.

By Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro. UPCOMING: 800 words, photos by 3 p.m. Will incorporate story currently on wire as PENCE-ELECTORAL COLLEGE.

ELECTION 2020-SENATE-GOP– Georgia’s two Republican senators are appealing to the most conservative factions of a diversifying electorate as they try to win Tuesday runoffs that will determine control of the Senate. Their unceasing embrace of President Donald Trump and their caricatures of their Democratic challengers may not seem like the right approach in a state that opted narrowly for Joe Biden in the White House race after years of steady Democratic gains. But in the Trump era, Republicans’ path to victory, even in swing states, starts with a base now indistinguishable from the president’s loyalists, and additional voters willing to join that core are driven mostly by fear of Democrats.

By Bill Barrow. UPCOMING: 900 words, photos by 4 p.m. VIRUS-OUTBREAK-VACCINE TESTING — Health experts in the United States are debating what to tell study volunteers who got a dummy shot instead of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Should they be offered the real thing now? Others warn that giving them that option could hurt the long-term results of the studies. By Marion Renault.

SENT: 870 words, photo. SOUTH SUDAN-DISASTROUS FLOODING — Some 1 million people have been displaced or isolated in South Sudan by the worst flooding in memory. It’s washing away crops, swamping roads, and worsening disease in the young nation.

Now famine is a threat. By Maura Ajak. SENT: 900 words, photos.

BREXIT — A steady trickle of trucks is rolling off ferries and trains on both sides of the English Channel after a seismic overnight shift in relations between the European Union and Britain. The busy goods route between southeast England and northwest France is on the front line of the changes now that the U.K. has fully left the economic embrace of the 27-nation bloc, the final stage of Brexit. But light traffic over the New Year holiday has reduced the impact of the change.

By Jill Lawless. SENT: 960 words, photos. With FRANCE-BREXIT-JOHNSON’S FATHER — France’s government is casting a favorable light on a reported bid by the father of Britain’s prime minister to take up French nationality.

SENT: 390 words, photo. Find more year-end coverage on the featured topic page in AP Newsroom. _______________________________

WHAT WE’RE TALKING ABOUT _______________________________ CHEWY-PET-PAINTINGS — In the dog-eat-dog world of online shopping, Chewy has an unusual plan to fend off Amazon: turning pets into works of art.

The online pet shop surprises customers with oil paintings of their furry friends, a move the company says wins them customers for life. SENT: 900 words, photos.

BRITAIN-TAMPON-TAX — Britain has abolished the so-called “tampon tax.” The move to eliminate sales taxes on women’s sanitary products was widely praised by women’s rights campaigners as well as proponents of the country’s departure from the European Union. SENT: 300 words.

ITALY-FIREWORKS-DEAD-BIRDS — Hundreds of birds died after an explosion of personal fireworks in the Italian capital on New Year’s Eve in what animal rights activists called a “massacre.” SENT: 200 words. VIRUS OUTBREAK-EMPTY CELEBRATIONS-PHOTO GALLERY — The Associated Press captured then-and-now images of some popular locations around the globe to illustrate the striking contrast between packed, jubilant crowds in previous years and quiet, empty streets heading into 2021. SENT: 200 words.

________________________________ MORE ON THE VIRUS OUTBREAK _________________________________

VIRUS OUTBREAK-ISRAEL-SURVEILLANCE — In the early days of the pandemic, a panicked Israel began using a mass surveillance tool on its own people, tracking civilians’ mobile phones to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Months later, the tool’s effectiveness has been called into question and Israel is scaling back the practice. But critics say the experiment has come at a cost to the country’s democratic norms.

SENT: 985 words, photos. VIRUS-OUTBREAK-HOSPITAL-NEW-YEAR — While the world said goodbye — or good riddance — to a pandemic-ridden 2020, nurses and doctors fighting the virus on the front lines soldiered on even as the clock passed midnight. At the Casalpalocco Covid 3 Hospital on the outskirts of Rome, staff barely seemed to register the new year as they tended to 100 patients struggling with coronavirus infections.

SENT: 530 words. VIRUS-OUTBREAK-BRITAIN — British medical authorities are warning that hospitals around the country face a perilous few weeks amid surging new coronavirus infections blamed on a new virus variant. SENT: 600 words.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BRAZIL-VACCINE — Brazil, a nation proud of its role as a regional leader in science, technology and medicine, finds itself falling behind its neighbors in the global race for immunization against a pandemic that has already killed nearly 200,000 of its people. SENT: 900 words, photos. VIRUS-OUTBREAK-FRANCE-RAVE — French authorities say ravers at an underground, curfew-busting New Year’s Eve party that drew at least 2,500 people in western France attacked the police sent to shut them down.

SENT: 170 words. VIRUS-OUTBREAK-BELGIUM — Authorities in Belgium say a 27th elderly person has died in an outbreak at a nursing home from a super-spreading St. Nick party last month but hope the situation is finally under control.

SENT: 400 words.VIRUS- OUTBREAK-ASIA – Thailand’s capital is shutting down venues including schools and entertainment areas as coronavirus cases continue to spread. SENT: 700 words, photos.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MEXICO-OXYGEN — Some Mexicans struggle to get oxygen amid virus case surge. SENT: 730 words, photos. Find more coverage on the Virus Outbreak on the featured topic page in AP Newsroom.

_______________________ WASHINGTON/POLITICS _______________________

SENATE-GEORGIA-CONTROL-EXPLAINER — The consequences of Georgia’s twin Senate runoffs on Tuesday are well known: They’ll determine which party controls the Senate. But the circumstances of Georgia’s seats and the timing of the runoffs make things a bit messier. SENT: 910 words, photos.

With ELECTION 2020-SENATE-GEORGIA — A look at how two key Georgia elections pushed into 2021, who’s running and what’s at stake. SENT: 1,030 words, photos. BIDEN-NOMINEES-FINANCES — President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to be treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, collected more than £7 million in speaking fees in 2019 and 2020 from major financial firms and tech giants including Citi, Goldman Sachs and Google.

That’s according to financial disclosure forms as part of her nomination. SENT: 280 words, photo. _________________

INTERNATIONAL _________________ EUROPE-SURVIVING 2020 — Between the specter of Brexit, the coronavirus pandemic and a new leadership team facing a budget battle, the European Union looked set to remember 2020 as an “annus horribilis.” Instead, a last-minute trade deal with the United Kingdom coupled with the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the final days of the year produced a sense of success for the 27-nation bloc and brought glimmers of hope to the EU’s 450 million residents.

SENT: 770 words, photos. PERSIAN GULF-TENSIONS — Iraqi security forces say their explosives experts are working to neutralize a large mine discovered on an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf and evacuate its crew. SENT: 480 words.

AFGHANISTAN-JOURNALIST-KILLED — An Afghan official says unidentified gunmen have shot and killed a journalist and human rights activist in Afghanistan. Bismillah Adil Aimaq was the fifth reporter to be killed in the war-ravaged country in the past two months. SENT: 460 words.

ETHIOPIA-DEADLY UNREST — A new report says Ethiopian security forces killed more than 75 people and injured nearly 200 during deadly unrest in June and July after the killing of a popular singer. SENT: 580 words, photos. AUSTRALIA-ANTHEM — Australia has changed one word in its national anthem to reflect what the prime minister called “the spirit of unity” and the country’s Indigenous population.

SENT: 340 words, photo. BOSNIA-MIGRANTS — Trying to resolve a humanitarian disaster, the Bosnian military is setting up tents for hundreds of migrants who have been stuck at a burnt-out refugee camp that has no facilities to fend off freezing winter weather. SENT: 270 words, photos.

BOSNIA-NEW YEAR’S EVE-DEATHS — Bosnian police say eight young men and women have died in a cottage in southwest Bosnia, apparently from carbon monoxide poisoning during a New Year’s Eve celebration. SENT: 180 words. MEXICO-PLASTIC BAN — A broad ban on single-use containers, forks, straws and other ubiquitous items takes effect in Mexico’s capital, one of the world’s largest cities, after more than a year of preparation.

SENT: 340 words. ONE GOOD THING-TAIWAN-CAT HOUSE — Stray cats in Taiwan’s capital have recently received an upgrade in their dining situation with a “Midnight Cafeteria.” SENT: 475 words, photos, video. _____________

_____________ RACIAL INJUSTICE-ANDRE HILL — Family and friends are remembering Andre Hill as a father and a grandfather who was devoted to his family. Hill is a Black man who was fatally shot by a white Columbus police officer last month as he emerged from a garage holding a cellphone.

SENT: 870 words, photos. GEORGE FLOYD-INVESTIGATION — Prosecutors in the case against the four Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd have requested that the trial delayed by three months. SENT: 230 words.

CHICAGO VIOLENCE — The year 2020 ended in Chicago with 769 homicides, more than in all but one year in more than two decades. SENT: 290 words, photo. _____________________

BUSINESS/ECONOMY _____________________ SERBIA-RUSSIA-GAS — Defying U.S. calls to reduce its dependency on Russian energy supplies, Serbia has officially launched a new gas link that will bring additional Russian gas to the Balkan country via Bulgaria and Turkey.

SENT: 350 words. STOCK-EXCHANGE-CHINESE-COMPANIES — Three Chinese companies will be booted off the New York Stock Exchange this month under an executive order signed in November by President Donald Trump. SENT: 200 words.

YE-BUSINESS-WINNERS-LOSERS — The coronavirus pandemic created winners and losers in the business world. Wall Street recovered after March, even though Main Street is still struggling. SENT: 1,430 words, photos.

_________________ ARTS/ENTERTAINMENT _________________

ITALY-UFFIZI-DANTE ANNIVERSARY — Florence’s Uffizi Gallery is making available for viewing online 88 rarely seen drawings of Dante’s Divine Comedy to mark the 700th anniversary in 2021 of the Italian poet’s death. SENT: 300 words, photos. _________________

_________________ FBC–CFP-ROSE BOWL — No.

1 Alabama is back in the four-team playoff after a one-year absence, facing a big underdog in No.

4 Notre Dame in the relocated Rose Bowl. The Irish have been in one previous semifinal, routed by Clemson in the same stadium two years ago.

UPCOMING: 800 words, photos. Game starts 4 p.m. FBC–CFP-SUGAR BOWL — No.

2 Clemson and No.

3 Ohio State meet in the College Football Playoff semifinals for the second consecutive year. Justin Fields leads a Buckeyes team looking to avenge last season’s loss to the Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers. UPCOMING: 800 words, photos.

Game starts 8 p.m. _________________ HOW TO REACH US

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