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local or global:
news that matters

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local or global:
news that matters

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The Associated Press provides coverage of significant news for newspapers, broadcasters and digital customers around the world. From the Idaho prison system to the deserts of North Africa, AP breaks and covers news for those who most value accurate and independent reporting, no matter the format or platform. In 2013, that coverage ranged from revealing the secret, inner workings of al-Qaida to exposing egregious prison mismanagement in the United States. Here’s a look at some of our top exclusive news from last year.

A Bangladeshi survivor is lifted out of the rubble by rescuers at the site of a building that collapsed in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, April 25, 2013.

AP Photo / Kevin Frayer

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Crisis in America’s Nuclear Missile Forces

AP National Security Writer Robert Burns delivered a continual series of breaking stories detailing frightening problems with America’s highly secretive nuclear missile forces. One after another, he revealed safety violations, serious lapses, discipline issues and other problems across the unit that secures, maintains and would launch America’s nuclear missiles. So startling were the revelations that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel summoned top military leaders to Washington and ordered a militarywide investigation of the program. AP’s coverage “made an impact on his thinking,” Hagel’s spokesman said. “There’s no question about that.”

AP’s coverage “made an impact on his thinking,” Hagel’s spokesman said. “There’s no question about that.”

Among Burns’ revelations: 17 launch officers had been removed from the Minot, N.D., missile wing due to poor performance and bad attitudes; a missile base in Montana had failed a key security test; at least twice in 2013, officers in an ICBM launch control center opened the blast door (designed to shield them during an actual nuclear attack and to keep out intruders in peacetime) while one of them was napping; and that nuclear missile unit members have a higher rate of burnout, sexual assault and domestic violence than their counterparts elsewhere in the Air Force.

Burns’ reporting had other significant ramifications, too. The officer in charge of missile security at the Montana base was removed. Air Force generals were called before Congress to explain themselves. And the Air Force fired the general who oversees the entire nuclear missile force — not because of trouble in his ranks but because of his own shenanigans, which investigators later described as excessive drinking and embarrassing behavior at an official meeting in Russia.

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    Neighborhood resident Mohamed Alassane walks past a room where he and other residents say al-Qaida held European hostages at the offices of the Ministry of Finance in Timbuktu, Mali, Feb. 6, 2013. In the same building, occupied by Islamists for more than a year, the AP found a lengthy signed letter by Abdelmalek Droukdel, the senior commander appointed by Osama bin Laden to run al-Qaida in Africa. The confidential letter spelled out the terror network's blueprint for conquering this desert nation. AP Photo / Rukmini Callimachi View on apimages.com >

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    Nigerian soldiers walk near debris after suicide bombers blew themselves up inside a military barracks, in Agadez, northern Niger, May 23, 2013. In an internal al-Qaida letter found by the AP, terrorist Moktar Belmoktar is excoriated for his unwillingness to follow orders and critiqued for his failure to carry out any large attack. His ego bruised, he quit and formed his own group to compete directly with his former employer. Within months, he claimed responsibility for deadly simultaneous attacks in the northern Nigerian towns of Agadez and Arlit. AP Photo View on apimages.com >

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    Neighborhood resident Mohamed Alassane sifts through abandoned documents at the Ministry of Finance offices in Timbuktu, Mali, Feb. 6. 2013. A confidential letter was found from terror leader Abdelmalek Droukdel spelling out the terror network's blueprint for conquering this desert nation. AP Photo / Rukmini Callimachi View on apimages.com >

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    Neighborhood resident Mohamed Alassane walks through the Ministry of Finance's offices in Timbuktu, Mali, Feb. 6, 2013. At the site, used by al Qaida-linked Islamists for more than a year, AP found a more than 10-page letter signed by Abdelmalek Droukdel, the senior commander appointed by Osama bin Laden to run al-Qaida's branch in Africa. The confidential letter spelled out the terror network's blueprint for conquering this desert nation. AP Photo / Rukmini Callimachi View on apimages.com >

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    Neighborhood resident Mohamed Alassane stands in a room at the Ministry of Finance's office in Timbuktu, Mali, Feb. 6, 2013. Alassane and other locals say that al-Qaida held hostages at the site while occupying the building for more than a year. The wheelchair was used by an injured Islamist, they said. AP Photo / Rukmini Callimachi View on apimages.com >

The Inner Workings of Al-Qaida

Al-Qaida is the best-known and most-feared face of terrorism in our times, yet an image persists of it as a disorganized, loosely linked group on the wane. Last year, West Africa Bureau Chief Rukmini Callimachi helped put that view to rest. In Timbuktu, Mali, in early 2013, she made an extraordinary discovery: one of the largest troves of internal documents from al-Qaida ever found and made public.

Callimachi was one of the first reporters to arrive in Timbuktu after French forces drove out al-Qaida fighters last year, taking a 13-hour desert route, chased by extremists for 20 minutes at one point along the way and risking kidnapping in territory where al-Qaida fighters had been just days earlier.

There, she found thousands of pages of documents abandoned in buildings formerly occupied by the terrorists as they fled. After painstakingly sifting through the pages and authenticating them, Callimachi made the papers available online in Arabic and English.

Her discovery and reporting have contributed invaluably to understanding today’s al-Qaida. Included in the papers, for example, was one of the few known letters between al-Qaida commanders, laying out the terror group's strategy for the entire region. In another, a terrorist is chided for not filing his expenses. Politicians, scholars and other officials lauded the finding as among the most illuminating on the inner workings of al-Qaida.

Callimachi’s discovery and reporting have contributed invaluably to understanding today’s al-Qaida.

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The US Affordable Care Act: Under the microscope

With the rollout of health care reform last year, AP helped members navigate the complicated story locally while also leading coverage of it nationally.

Reporter Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar was the first to identify and expose many potential problems with the new health care system, including the daunting application form. After his story came out, the government released a new, shorter form. He also broke news on the insurance disparity from one state to another that would result in the exclusions of many people; canceled insurance policies; potentially huge copayments for medicines for those with chronic conditions like cancer and multiple sclerosis; and penalties that might make insurance unaffordable for smokers. In October, Alonso-Zaldivar was first to identify the lack of a “window-shopping” feature in the new website that forced visitors to the site to create accounts before being able to explore their options.

Simultaneously, we made sure our coverage was what members needed most — the nuts and bolts of the health care system as it affected Americans. Among other efforts, we hosted a Definitive Source webinar for members that broke down the upcoming events in a way that would help local journalists better cover the story.

Mismanagement in for-profit prison systems

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Boise reporter Rebecca Boone had heard rumors that the Idaho Correctional Center, the state’s largest privately run prison, wasn’t being staffed adequately. She started digging and ultimately found that the Corrections Corporation of America had falsified staffing records — potentially defrauding the state and creating a dangerous environment where inmates ruled the facility. Among her findings were guards working 24, 36 and 48 hours straight without time off. The same day Boone’s story ran, state officials opened a criminal investigation, crediting the AP work, and then decided to retake control of the prison altogether — a surprising about-face for Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and other leaders who had long sung the praises of privatization.

But Boone didn’t stop there. When CCA sought a blanket order to keep documents in the case secret and thereby block inmates’ lawsuits against the company, Boone and AP rallied 16 other news organizations in the state and filed a lawsuit to intervene. The judge granted the media request, declaring that CCA would have to make a case for each document to keep it secret. Boone’s stories ran in newspapers and on newscasts throughout the state, with several key papers contributing to the debate through editorials. Her work constitutes high-impact journalism at its most important.

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    Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi pays silent tribute as she visits the May 18th National Cemetery for the victims of the 1980 Gwangju civilian uprising in Gwangju, South Korea, Jan. 31, 2013. AP Photo / Lee Jin-man View on apimages.com >

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    Htang Ling Kaw, foreground, leaves a neighbor’s house at Kyar Do village, Chin State, Myanmar, Dec. 18, 2013. The end of military rule and the launch of economic and political reforms are accelerating change in the long impoverished country, but also increasing pressure on culture and tradition in one of the most ethnically diverse nations. AP Photo / Gemunu Amarasinghe View on apimages.com >

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    Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi uses binoculars to look at the Letpadaung copper mine project in central Myanmar, March 14, 2013. In talks with villagers, Suu Kyi failed to persuade her listeners that the national interest was best served by allowing continued operation of the mine to encourage foreign investment in the sagging economy. AP Photo / Khin Maung Win View on apimages.com >

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    Traditional fishermen push bicycles loaded with bamboo traps through heavy mist in suburban Yangon, Myanmar, Feb. 8, 2013. AP Photo / Gemunu Amarasinghe View on apimages.com >

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    A man rides a motorcycle near a burned building that housed an orphanage for Muslim children in Lashio, northern Shan State, Myanmar, May 30, 2013. Many Buddhists and Muslims stayed locked indoors, and shops were shuttered, after two days of violence in Lashio, near the Chinese border, the latest region to fall prey to the country's spreading sectarian violence. AP Photo / Gemunu Amarasinghe View on apimages.com >

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    Military officers stand during 68th anniversary celebrations of Armed Forces Day, in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, March 27, 2013. Myanmar's commander in chief said the military will continue to play a political role as it supports the country's transition to democracy. AP Photo / Gemunu Amarasinghe View on apimages.com >

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    Ethnic Kachin children eat a meal at a camp for internally displaced people in Myitkyina, northern Kachin state, Myanmar, Feb. 13, 2013. Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi offered to help negotiate an end to conflicts between the government and ethnic minority groups, an initiative the country's president called essential to building democracy. AP Photo / Gemunu Amarasinghe View on apimages.com >

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    Visitors make their way around the Shwedagon Pagoda despite the rainy weather in Yangon, Myanmar, Aug. 11, 2013. The Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred pagoda to Burmese worshippers. AP Photo / Wong Maye-E View on apimages.com >

Witnessing the Stormy Birth of a Nation

AP has a long and deep history in Myanmar, dating to before World War II, when the country was known as Burma. During decades of oppressive junta rule, AP correspondent Sein Win, who died in 2013, and beginning in 1989, his daughter and successor, Aye Aye Win, filed from desks in their homes in Yangon — risking, and sometimes enduring, imprisonment for their work.

In early 2013, as Myanmar opened to the rest of the world, AP became the first Western news agency with a bureau inside the country.

In early 2013, as Myanmar opened to the rest of the world, we became the first Western news agency with a bureau inside the country. Win and her Myanmar colleagues were joined by writers, photographers and video journalists from the United States, Spain and Sri Lanka to report on the nation’s conflicts and problems as it emerged from under brutal dictatorship. Despite the democratization of the country, they endured obfuscation and constant surveillance to deliver a continuing string of important stories:

  • Reporter Todd Pitman, video journalist Raul Gallego and photographer Gemunu Amarasinghe traveled to Myanmar's heartland to examine a Buddhist mob's shocking massacre of Muslim schoolchildren and their teachers.
  • Reporter Robin McDowell, Gallego and Amarasinghe exposed the bleak lives of children from the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority.
  • Reporter Tim Sullivan profiled a Rohingya neighborhood that has become a virtual concentration camp ringed by barbed wire and checkpoints.
  • Reporters Erika Kinetz in Yangon and Matthew Pennington in Washington examined the list of people and organizations subject to U.S. sanctions. It was riddled with holes and errors, evidence that the Obama administration had allowed the list to languish while encouraging Myanmar to democratize.

The opening of a formal Myanmar bureau follows on the heels of AP establishing the first Western news bureau in North Korea in January 2012. Our Pyongyang bureau sheds light on the most closed and oppressive government in the world. AP’s journalists have been given rare access to report on the life of North Korea while our permanent presence has also meant we are the only ones to report on exclusive moments such as former basketball great Dennis Rodman’s bizarre visits to the country.