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AP Top News at 7:34 a.m. EST

In victory or dissent, Scalia was a man of strong opinions
WASHINGTON (AP) - Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia kept your attention, whether you liked him or not. He was a big personality who rather enjoyed the spotlight, and he did not often shy from controversy. Scalia deeply influenced a generation of conservative legal thinkers and was a lightning rod for criticism from the left almost from the moment President Ronald Reagan put him on the court in 1986. A gifted writer who produced gems and barbs in equal measure, Scalia even occasionally took aim at his usual allies if they disagreed with his view of a case. Scalia died overnight Friday.


Obama to nominate Scalia successor 'in due time'
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama declared Saturday night he would seek to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, charging into a heated and likely prolonged election-year fight with Republicans. Obama said a nomination was "bigger than any one party." With a half-dozen or more major cases and the ideological tilt of the court in the balance, Obama said he pIanned "to fulfill my constitutional responsibility to nominate a successor in due time." The president said the decision was about democracy and "the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life, and making sure it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our founders envisioned." Obama's remarks answered Republicans who wasted little time Saturday night, as news of Scalia's unexpected death spread, arguing that Obama should leave the lifetime appointment to his successor.


GOP candidates joust over foreign policy, immigration
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) - Republican presidential candidates jousted over immigration and foreign policy in a raucous debate that was shaken by the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia hours before they took the stage. Scalia's death thrust the future of the high court into the center of a heated presidential campaign. In their debate Saturday night, the GOP candidates insisted that President Barack Obama step aside and let his successor nominate Scalia's replacement instead, a position the White House vigorously opposed. Among the contenders, only Jeb Bush said Obama had "every right" to nominate a justice during his final year in office.


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AP FACT CHECK: Republicans debaters on high court, economy
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Republican presidential debaters misfired in assertions about Supreme Court nominees, Syria, immigration and more. A look at some of the claims Saturday night and how they compare with the facts: TED CRUZ: "We have 80 years of precedent of not confirming Supreme Court justices in an election year." MARCO RUBIO: "It has been over 80 years since a lame-duck president has appointed a Supreme Court justice." THE FACTS: Cruz is wrong. Rubio is in the ballpark. Anthony Kennedy was confirmed by the Senate on Feb. 3, 1988, in the final year of Ronald Reagan's presidency, by a 97-0 vote.


Syrian opposition figure slams Russia for continued bombing
MUNICH (AP) - A top Syrian opposition figure criticized Russia on Sunday for continuing with its bombing in Syria, insisting that people in the country need to see action rather than words. The head of the Saudi-backed Syrian opposition's High Negotiations Committee, former Prime Minister Riad Hijab, also stopped short of declaring a clear commitment to implement a planned temporary truce. "You ask me if I accept a cease-fire or a cessation of hostilities. I ask you: why is the onus on the opposition and whether it has preconditions for negotiations?" Hijab said. "I would like to see a single day of a cessation of hostilities in order to give a chance for real political movement." Diplomats from a group of countries that have interests in Syria's five-year civil war, including the U.S., Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran, agreed on Friday to seek a temporary "cessation of hostilities" within a week.


Pope to bring message of hope to gritty Mexico City suburb
MEXICO CITY (AP) - Pope Francis heads into the capital's crime-ridden suburb of Ecatepec on Sunday to see firsthand the reality of the Mexican "periphery," where drug violence, gangland-style executions and kidnappings are daily facts of life. The pontiff is expected to bring a message of hope and solidarity to residents with a Mass featuring readings about not being tempted by the devil - a common exhortation from a pope who frequently invokes the threat of "the evil one." The Mass is to take place at an outdoor field with an estimated capacity of 400,000, and the pope's choice of Ecatepec for what figures to be his biggest event in Mexico says volumes about his priorities.


Seoul: N. Korea used money from joint factories for weapons
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea channeled about 70 percent of the money it received for workers at the now-shuttered Kaesong industrial park into its weapons programs and to buy luxury goods for the impoverished nation's tiny elite, South Korea said Sunday. The jointly run park, just outside the North Korean city of Kaesong and about 50 kilometers (35 miles) from Seoul, employed about 54,000 North Koreans who worked for over 120 South Korean companies, most of them small and medium-size manufacturers. Seoul closed the park last week in retaliation for North Korea's recent rocket launch. In a statement issued Sunday, South Korea's Unification Ministry said that about 70 percent of the 616 billion won ($560 million) paid to the North since the park was established in 2004 was used to develop nuclear weapons and missiles, and for the luxury goods.


Afghans skirt strict rules to find love on social media
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghan civil activist Hadi Sadiqi had long been using social media to share news, commentary and his own musings on politics when he got into a heated exchange with another member of his Facebook forum. Sadiqi and Maleka Yawari took their argument offline, and soon their exchanges grew more personal, with articles and opinion pieces giving way to photographs, love letters -- and eventually wedding vows. "Turns out we're both from the same district in Ghazni province, but we'd never met or even heard of each other," Sadiqi said. That's not unusual in Afghanistan, a deeply conservative country where women are still largely confined to the home and arranged marriages are the norm.


Brazil's Zika-related abortion debate sparks backlash
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - Before her son was born, Danielle Alves didn't know Luiz Gustavo would have microcephaly, a condition that has left the 3-year-old so disabled he can't walk, talk or eat without help. Still, Alves says she would have gone ahead with the pregnancy even if she had known - and she thinks thousands of pregnant women caught up in Brazil's Zika virus outbreak should be required to do the same. "I know it's very difficult to have a special needs child, but I'm absolutely against abortion," said Alves, who lives in Vitoria da Conquista, a city in the impoverished northeastern region where Brazil's tandem Zika and microcephaly outbreaks have been centered.


'Spotlight,' 'Big Short' win Writers Guild of America awards
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Oscar contenders "Spotlight" and "The Big Short" won the top awards for screenwriting from the Writers Guild of America at a ceremony Saturday that was held in Los Angeles and New York. "Spotlight," about the Boston Globe's effort to uncover a priest sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, won for best original screenplay. The writers are Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy. "The Big Short," about the 2008 financial crisis, won for best adapted screenplay. Writers Charles Randolph and Adam McKay wrote a screenplay adapted from the book of the same title by Michael Lewis. In the television categories, the now-concluded AMC series "Mad Men" about the advertising business in the 1960s and 1970s, won for drama.