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AP Top News at 12:23 p.m. EST

N. Korea praises rocket; others view as covert missile test
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - For North Korea's propaganda machine, the long-range rocket launch Sunday carved a glorious trail of "fascinating vapor" through the clear blue sky. For South Korea's president, and other world leaders, it was a banned test of dangerous ballistic missile technology and yet another "intolerable provocation." The rocket was launched from North Korea's west coast only two hours after an eight-day launch window opened Sunday morning, its path tracked separately by the United States, Japan and South Korea. No damage from debris was reported. North Korea, which calls its launches part of a peaceful space program, said it had successfully put a new Earth observation satellite, the Kwangmyongsong 4, or Shining Star 4, into orbit less than 10 minutes after liftoff.


The Latest: Security Council expected to condemn North Korea
The president of the Security Council says he expects the U.N.'s most powerful body to unanimously condemn North Korea's rocket launch as a violation of U.N. resolutions.Venezuela's U.N. Ambassador Rafael Ramirez, the council president for February, told reporters before an emergency council meeting on Sunday that agreement on a new sanctions resolution may follow, perhaps next week.The United States and China have been trying to agree on new sanctions since North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Jan. 6. Diplomats say China has been pushing for more dialogue rather than tough new sanctions.Britain's deputy ambassador Peter Wilson said: "Today is Chinese New Year's eve and if I was a senior Chinese official I would be pretty annoyed at what's been happening here."


Rubio comes under withering criticism in Republican debate
MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - Donald Trump said he didn't have to win; Hillary Clinton didn't know whether she could. Marco Rubio said he was ready to lead the country; and Bernie Sanders said "don't jinx me" about predictions of a victory on Tuesday. Only two days before New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary, candidates in both the Democratic and Republican races tried to lower expectations for the second contest on the election calendar and pitch ahead to South Carolina and Nevada, more diverse states where voters next get their say. On the Democratic side, New Hampshire favorite Sanders and Clinton - a narrow winner last Monday in Iowa - have a long road ahead.


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AP FACT CHECK: Skewed GOP claims on taxes, health insurance
WASHINGTON (AP) - Viewers of the latest Republican presidential debate didn't get a straight story from the candidates on U.S. taxes vs. the world, the state of the health insurance marketplace under "Obamacare" or what might happen if that law is taken away. Among other fumbles: -Marco Rubio seemed unaware that Kurds are Sunnis. -In his zeal to condemn the Obama administration's immigration record, Ted Cruz once again vastly overstated deportations under the previous two presidents. And he continued, as in a previous debate, to struggle with the meaning of carpet-bombing. -Chris Christie misstated the U.S. policy on paying ransom to hostage-takers.


Storms may brew, but in N. Korea pride over new satellite
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) - Hours after the rest of the world already knew, North Korea's state media triumphantly announced in a special news bulletin to the nation Sunday it had successfully launched a satellite into orbit, calling it a major milestone in the nation's history and the "greatest gift of loyalty" to the country's young leader, Kim Jong Un. In a possible hint of what might lie ahead, however, North Korea's state media implored the nation on the eve of the launch to be prepared for whatever "violent storm" may be coming. They may need to: the U.S., South Korea and Japan have strongly condemned the launch, and potential new sanctions over both the launch and the North's purported hydrogen bomb test just one month ago are now being discussed in the U.N.


What N. Korea rocket launch may mean for region and world
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea launched a long-range rocket Sunday, the first day of its announced eight-day launch window and about a month after the country's fourth nuclear test led to international condemnation. Already, world leaders are lining up to condemn the launch, which is being described as a potential threat to regional and world security. For help on what it all means, some things to consider about the North's latest move: --- SATELLITE LAUNCH OR MISSILE TEST? Washington, Seoul and others consider the launch a banned test of missile technology. That suspicion is based on the fact that Pyongyang has been openly pushing to manufacture nuclear-tipped missiles capable of striking the U.S.


Super Bowl 50: Manning's last game? Newton's finest moment?
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - Peyton Manning's last game? Cam Newton's finest moment? For all the golden tinge the NFL is placing on Super Bowl 50, this one just might come down to how the two star quarterbacks deal with the dynamic defenses bent on humbling them. There can't be a better storyline than a five-time MVP likely to take his final snaps with a championship on the line. Except, perhaps, the league's rising star carrying his franchise to its first NFL title in the face of detractors. Throw in those defenses: Denver's ranks first overall in many statistics and certainly in intimidation, with a pass rush capable of neutralizing any air game; Carolina's makes game-changing plays to the tune of a league-high 39 takeaways and a plus-20 turnover margin.


Teammates, coaches say Cam Newton's success not by accident
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - Cam Newton didn't just stumble into becoming the NFL's best player. Sure, he has all the physical attributes any quarterback could ask for - he's 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds of muscle with a strong arm and wide receiver speed. He even has a million-dollar smile and the confidence of a player who has always been a winner. But those in the Panthers organization say what people don't see is what Newton has done behind the scenes to improve as a pro quarterback. "People see him smiling, giving footballs away and dancing, but what they don't see is that throughout the workweek the guy is just a machine," center Ryan Kalil said.


Super Bowl's Broncos, Panthers excel at defense differently
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - Sometime late last season or early this season - depends on whom you ask - Josh Norman and the Carolina Panthers' other defensive backs were heading toward a drill as part of their weekly "Turnover Circuit," when assistant coach Eric Washington yelled out a spur-of-the-moment greeting. "Hey, here come the thieves!" It was meant to be funny, using that word to refer to a group of guys whose job description includes trying to steal the ball. It stuck, and the members of the secondary now own gray T-shirts, courtesy of safety Roman Harper, that refer to "Thieves Avenue," the name they adopted for their section of the locker room.


Pilot after Somalia emergency: Airplane security is "zero"
BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) - The Serb pilot who landed a jetliner in Somalia with a three-foot hole on its fuselage said Sunday he never doubted that it was caused by a bomb and describes the security surround the airplane at Mogadishu Airport as "zero." A suicide bomber is suspected to have set off the explosive inside the plane, Somali officials said Saturday. The blast sucked a male passenger out of the plane and forced the aircraft to make an emergency landing Tuesday in Somalia's capital, they said. The explosion happened about 15 minutes after the plane, with 74 passengers on board, took off from the airport and was at 11,000 feet ascending toward 30,000 feet.