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    Ryan Miller stopped 41 shots for his 42nd career shutout as the Anaheim Ducks beat the Dallas Stars 2-0 Wednesday night for their fourth straight win. Ryan Getzlaf scored short-handed and Hampus Lindholm had a power-play goal for the Ducks, who are on their longest unbeaten stretch of the season and took sole possession of third place in the Pacific Division. It was Miller's third shutout of the season. Ben Bishop made 15 saves for the Stars, who have lost two straight and three of four. Lindholm gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead with 6:45 left in the first, barreling in to bury the rebound of Getzlaf's shot into an open net for his third power-play goal of the season. It was Lindholm's 38th career goal, breaking a tie with Fredrik Olausson for fifth place in franchise history for the most by a defenseman. The Ducks entered the game tied with the Los Angeles Kings for third place in the Pacific Division, and the Stars are in third in the Central Division. Not surprisingly, there was playoff intensity and caginess at the start. The Ducks went into the power play with two shots on goal and got two in eight seconds with the man-advantage, their only four shots in the period. The Ducks made it 2-0 at 4:28 of the third, following a successful kill of 1:56 of 5-on-3 play after Getzlaf and Josh Manson each took delay-of-game penalties following a slashing call on Cam Fowler. Getzlaf left the penalty box and was on the receiving end of a long pass from Francois Beauchemin. Bishop came out of his crease to play the puck but Getzlaf chipped it over him before the goaltender could knock it away. The Ducks' captain then composed himself and scored into an open goal for his 11th multi-point game. NOTES: Stars C Martin Hanzal left after the first period and did not return with a lower-body injury. ... The Ducks have won four in a row at home against the Stars. Anaheim hosts Dallas on April 7 to close out the regular season. ... Kari Lehtonen will start in goal for the Stars against the Kings in the second game of a back-to-back on Thursday night. UP NEXT Stars: Visit the Kings on Thursday night. Ducks: Visit the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night. ___ More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
  • Foreign leaders are looking to cultivate stronger ties with U.S. governors and mayors, an interest that will be on display at this weekend's meeting of the National Governors Association. When Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arrives in Washington to meet with President Donald Trump, he won't be traveling solo. Turnbull is bringing the most senior Australian political and business delegation ever to visit the United States in a trip aimed at building stronger relationships with America's governors. The outreach comes as U.S. governors and mayors have engaged more closely with foreign leaders in the age of Trump's 'America First' policies on climate change and trade. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's recent trip to the U.S. included stops in Illinois and California to meet with state and local leaders.
  • In the aftermath of yet another mass school shooting, President Donald Trump says that if one of the victims, a football coach, had been armed 'he would have shot and that would have been the end of it.' Revisiting an idea he raised in his campaign, Trump's comments in favor of allowing teachers to be armed come as lawmakers in several states are wrestling with the idea, including in Florida, where the 17 most recent school shooting victims are being mourned. Assistant football coach Aaron Feis, hailed for shielding students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 'was very brave,' Trump said Wednesday during a listening session with parents and survivors of school shootings. 'If he had a firearm, he wouldn't have had to run.' Florida Republican Sen. Greg Steube said gun-free zones like schools are easy targets and has proposed allowing specially trained educators with military or law enforcement backgrounds to be armed. 'Our most valuable, most precious resources are our children. Why in the world are we going to put them in a circumstance where there is nobody that is armed and trained at any of our schools to be able to respond quickly to an active shooter situation?' Steube told The Associated Press, even as students, including survivors of the Parkland shooting, rallied at the state's capitol in support of changes in gun laws. Similar discussions have taken place in Kentucky, Colorado, North Carolina and Alabama in recent days and Wisconsin's attorney general said he's open to the idea. 'Our students do not need to be sitting ducks. Our teachers do not need to be defending themselves with a No. 2 pencil,' Republican Alabama Rep. Will Ainsworth said in proposing a bill days after the Valentine's Day shooting in Florida. The debate breaches statehouse walls, and teachers — and the public — are divided on the issue. A poll released this week by ABC News/Washington post says 42 percent of Americans believe teachers with guns could have prevented the Florida shooting. Salt Lake City, Utah, teacher Kasey Hansen said the idea to arm herself in school began with the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults died. 'It just really hit home that these teachers, all they could do was pile those kids in a corner and stand in front of them and hope for the best,' said Hansen, who carries a concealed handgun as she teaches special education students. 'I'm not here to tell all teachers that they have to carry a gun,' she said. 'For me personally, I felt that it was more of a solution than just hiding in a corner and waiting.' Utah is among at least eight states that allow, or don't specifically prohibit, concealed weapons in K-12 schools, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. In Austin, Texas, teacher Tara Bordeaux can't easily see herself taking on that role, preferring to leave it to trained law enforcement officers. 'Would I get the same training and would I have the same type of instinct of when and how to use it?' asked Bordeaux, her state's 2018 teacher of the year. 'I don't have any instincts in me to be an officer of the law. My instincts are to be a teacher.' Claude, Texas, Superintendent Brock Cartwright won't reveal how many or who among his teachers is armed, but the district's message to potential intruders blares in capital letters in three signs: 'Please be aware that the staff at Claude ISD is armed and may use whatever force necessary to protect our students.' Like other administrators, Cartwright said armed teachers are just one part of safety plans that include drilling for emergencies and shoring up buildings. The small town east of Amarillo doesn't have a police department, raising concerns about the potential response time for law enforcement. 'Hopefully, we never have to use it,' Cartwright said, 'but if we do, our thought is we're going to hold off until help arrives.' The president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, called arming teachers 'one of the worst ideas I have heard in a series of really, really, really bad ideas.' Nevertheless, a tweeted offer by Butler County, Ohio, Sheriff Richard Jones to train local teachers to carry a concealed handgun garnered so much interest that he quickly capped the number at 300. When asked by radio host Hugh Hewitt about arming teachers, his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, said states 'clearly have the opportunity and the option to do that.' Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called for small groups of armed teachers in every school, and was quickly countered by Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who labeled it the new 'gun industry business model - using the gun violence epidemic to sell more guns, make more profit.' Magnolia, Texas, parent Robert Morphew would want strict guidelines, including for teachers to be trained and licensed, to support guns in his son's high school. 'I do think it would be a deterrent, there's no doubt,' he said. In Buffalo, New York, parent Wendy Diina disagreed. 'Why am I trying to prevent someone from having a gun by giving a gun to someone else?' the mother of two asked. The National Association of School Resource Officers favors hiring more trained law enforcement officers, in part to ensure a teacher's gun won't mistakenly wind up in a student's hands. ___ Associated Press writers Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco; Mallory Moench in Montgomery, Alabama; Nancy Benac and Jill Colvin in Washington; and Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.
  • The students who swarmed Florida's state capitol in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High massacre want the Legislature to enact stricter limits on guns. What that might entail remains debatable — if any changes are forthcoming at all. The 100 Stoneman Douglas survivors who traveled 400 miles to Tallahassee were welcomed into the gun-friendly halls of power Wednesday, but the students' top goal — a ban on assault-style rifles such as the weapon used in the massacre — was taken off the table a day earlier, although more limited measures are still possible. Republican legislative leaders say they will consider legislation that will likely call for raising the age limit to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21 and increasing funding for mental health programs and school-resource officers, the police assigned to specific schools. Lawmakers are also considering a program promoted by one Florida sheriff that calls for deputizing someone to carry a weapon on campus. Legislators may also enact a waiting period for rifle purchases. The suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, has been jailed on 17 counts of murder and has admitted the Feb. 14 attack. Defense attorneys, state records and people who knew him indicate that he displayed behavioral troubles for years, including getting kicked out of the Parkland school. He owned a collection of weapons. 'How is it possible that this boy that we all knew was clearly disturbed was able to get an assault rifle, military grade, and come to our school and try to kill us?' one 16-year-old student asked the president of the state Senate, Joe Negron. Negron did not answer directly. 'That's an issue that we're reviewing,' he said. Outside the capitol building Wednesday, many protesters complained that lawmakers were not serious about reform, and they said they would oppose in future elections any legislator who accepts campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association. 'We've spoke to only a few legislators and ... the most we've gotten out of them is, 'We'll keep you in our thoughts. You are so strong. You are so powerful,'' said Delaney Tarr, a senior at the high school. 'We know what we want. We want gun reform. We want commonsense gun laws. ... We want change.' She added: 'We've had enough of thoughts and prayers. If you supported us, you would have made a change long ago. So this is to every lawmaker out there: No longer can you take money from the NRA. We are coming after you. We are coming after every single one of you, demanding that you take action.' The crowd burst into chants of 'Vote them out!' as speakers called for the removal of Republican lawmakers who refuse to address gun control issues. One sign read, 'Remember the men who value the NRA over children's lives' and then listed Republicans in Florida's congressional delegation. Other signs said, 'Kill the NRA, not our kids' and 'These kids are braver than the GOP.' About 30 people left an anti-gun rally outside Florida's Old Capitol and began a sit-in protest at the office of four House Republican leaders, demanding a conversation about gun legislation. 'They're not speaking to us right now. We only asked for five minutes and so we're just sitting until they speak,' said Tyrah Williams, a 15-year-old sophomore at Leon High School, which is within walking distance of the Capitol. In Washington, students and parents delivered emotional appeals to President Donald Trump to act on school safety and guns. The president promised to be 'very strong on background checks,' adding that 'we're going to do plenty of other things.' And at a news conference Wednesday, Broward County, Florida, Sheriff Scott Israel ordered all deputies who qualify to begin carrying rifles on school grounds. The rifles will be locked in patrol cars when not in use until the agency secures gun lockers and lockers, he said. 'We need to be able to defeat any threat that comes into campus,' Israel said. The sheriff said the school superintendent fully supported his decision. Stoneman Douglas' school resource officer was carrying a handgun when the shooting happened last week, but did not discharge his firearm. It's unclear what role he played in the shooting. The sheriff said those details are still being investigated. Also Wednesday outside Stoneman Douglas, as the clock neared the time marking an exact week since Cruz opened fire, about 2,000 teens, teachers and supporters joined hands, reached to the sky and chanted, 'Never again. Never Again.' The rally was aimed at showing students they will have the community's support when they return to class next week for the first time since the attack. Many at the rally carried signs demanding stronger gun laws and wore the school's burgundy and silver colors. Kailey Brown, a 15-year-old freshman who was in the building where the shooting happened, said the rally showed 'that we are a community, we are together.' She said she would not be scared when school reopens next week. 'I am going to come back strong with my friends and show that we love each other so much and we are going to get through this,' she said. Larry Dorce, a 17-year-old junior at nearby J.P. Taravella High, carried a picket sign reading, 'Would the gun be worth it if it were your own child?' 'They may be our rivals, our so-called rivals, but they are our sister school and we felt their pain,' he said. 'The day after the shooting, you could feel the fear in the air (at Taravella) and I never want anyone to feel that again.' ___ Spencer reported from Parkland, Florida. Associated Press writers Freida Frisaro in Miami, Joe Reedy in Tallahassee and Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg contributed to this report.
  • A major liberal policy group is raising the ante on the health care debate with a new plan that builds on Medicare to guarantee coverage for all. Called 'Medicare Extra for All,' the proposal to be released Thursday by the Center for American Progress gives politically energized Democrats more options to achieve a long-sought goal. Still, the plan would preserve a role for employer coverage and for the health insurance industry. Employers and individuals would have a choice of joining Medicare Extra, but it would not be required. That differs from the more traditional 'single-payer' approach advocated by Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, in which the government would hold the reins of the health care system. Even though the plan has no chance of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress, center president Neera Tanden said, 'We think it's time to go bolder. There is consensus on the progressive side that universal coverage should be the goal and health care is a right.' Picking up on the leftward shift among Democrats, Republicans are already working up rebuttals. President Donald Trump tweeted earlier this month that 'Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care. No thanks!' The Center for American Progress is a think tank that was closely aligned with President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. A 2005 proposal from the center foreshadowed Obama's Affordable Care Act. Medicare Extra would use Medicare's thrifty payment system as framework to pool working-age people and their families, low-income people now covered by Medicaid, and seniors. A major missing piece: There's no cost estimate for the plan, although its authors say that's in the works. The proposal comes at a time when polls show intense interest among Democrats and some independents in a government-run system that would guarantee coverage and benefits while reducing the complexity and out-of-pocket costs associated with private insurance. The future of health care is expected to be a defining issue in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, and political messages will be tested and honed in this fall's midterm elections. A nonpartisan expert who independently reviewed the Medicare Extra plan said it could provide Democrats with a middle way to achieve their longstanding goal of coverage for all. 'It's an attempt to capture the enthusiasm for a single-payer system among the Democratic base, but trying to create a more politically and fiscally realistic roadmap,' said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. To be sure, taxes would rise and the federal government would take on a larger role. 'It is in some ways 'repeal and replace,' but from the left rather than the right,' Levitt added. Medicare Extra envisions a complex transition that would take the better part of a decade. Among its major elements: —All U.S. citizens and lawful residents would be automatically eligible for coverage. —Preventive care, treatment for chronic disease, and generic prescription drugs would be free. Dental, vision and hearing services would be included. —Low-income people would pay no premiums or copays. Premiums and cost-sharing would be determined according to income for everyone else. —Employers would have the option of maintaining their own plans or joining Medicare Extra. Workers could pick the government plan over their employer's. The proposal would preserve the tax-free status of employer-provided health care, subject to a limit. —Seniors with private Medicare Advantage insurance plans through Medicare would be able to keep similar coverage, although the program would be redesigned and called 'Medicare Choice.' Seniors would gain coverage for vision, dental and hearing services not now provided by Medicare. Long-term care services would be covered. —Government would negotiate prices for prescription drugs, medical devices and medical equipment. Although costs and financing are not spelled out in the proposal, its authors acknowledge significant tax increases would be required. Options include rolling back some of the recently enacted GOP tax cuts for corporations and upper-income people, raising Medicare taxes on upper-income earners, and higher taxes on tobacco and sugary soft drinks.
  • Holding hand-scrawled signs and wearing black 'Parkland Strong' T-shirts, the 40 teenagers filed warily into a committee room at Florida's state Capitol on Wednesday. They hadn't been invited and the lawmakers they were intruding upon were in the middle of a meeting. Timid yet determined, they stood their ground. And they got what they wanted: a chance to speak. It was perhaps the first act of civil disobedience ever by the high school students whose lives were turned around just one week before by a shooting that left 17 of their friends and teachers dead. The teens politely stood up and told their stories to the politicians, some of whom a day earlier had voted against a ban on assault weapons. 'I had to run for my life,' said Erika Rosenzweig, a slight, dark-haired 15-year-old sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. 'I had to listen as the dead were reported. ... I didn't know where my friends were. This cannot happen again.' When organizers first announced that they would bus students to the state's capital to lobby for stricter gun laws, there was only room for about 100, and the bus quickly filled up. So Rosenzweig and about 44 others made the roughly seven-hour drive to Tallahassee with the support of their Parkland synagogue. Kol Tikvah lost three of its congregants in the shooting. By the end of the day Wednesday, the teens would meld in with their other classmates who organized the 'Never Again' protests. But when they first arrived, they were on their own. Eyes still weighed by sleep after the long trip, the students walked down the long corridors of the capital building. Staffers quickly moved out of their way to let them pass, many thanking them or cheering them on. They stopped in at the office of state Rep. Robert 'Bobby O' Olszewski, an Orlando-area Republican who had voted against a debate on an assault-weapons ban the day earlier, helping to kill the bill. They surrounded his desk. Grant Cooper, a 10th-grader from South Broward High who accompanied the Stoneman Douglas students, was fidgety and ready to pounce. 'What logical reason is there for anyone to have an assault rifle? Why would you vote a ban down?' Cooper asked. Authorities say the Stoneman Douglas shooter used an AR-15. Olszewski shifted in his desk chair, his aide nervously looking on from the doorway. He told Cooper it was complicated, that people have a Second Amendment right to bear arms and that he wasn't against a ban for people of certain ages. He said he was new to Tallahassee, had taken no money from the National Rifle Association and would work on some kind of change, but couldn't offer specifics. The students were not impressed. 'Can you tell us names of other Republicans who we should meet with who will support us?' Cooper asked. 'I won't name names,' Olszewski replied. 'But anyone you visit on this floor I can tell you, you'll be batting a thousand.' The group walked out, eyes rolling. 'It's disheartening,' Cooper said afterward. 'But honestly, I didn't expect much better.' The students stopped in the labyrinthine hallway to consult a schedule and map of the building, then crammed into the office of state Rep. Barrington Russell, a Democrat who supports gun control. Aria Siccone, a 14-year-old freshman at Stoneman Douglas, held a sign that said 'Ban Assault Rifles Now.' Her nails were painted black, and she wore a small heart pendant around her neck. She was in a classroom targeted by the shooter, identified as 19-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student Nikolas Cruz. 'I saw three of my classmates from that period on the floor and they didn't make it,' the girl said, barely making it through her story. The lawmaker, a Jamaican native who said he'd been held at gunpoint more than once in his life, rose from his chair and put his arm around Siccone. 'For some reason the NRA has a very strong hold on some of my colleagues that prevents them from doing the right thing,' he said. After the meetings with Russell and Olszewski, the group headed for the committee meeting. Later in the day, they would lie down and pose as corpses in a silent protest outside Gov. Rick Scott's Capitol office. And staffers wouldn't disturb them. Ira Jaffe, a parent whose son couldn't make it to Tallahassee because he was attending two of his classmates' funerals, held the door as the students filed into a room. 'What are we doing now?' one asked. 'We're interrupting a committee meeting,' Jaffe said matter-of-factly. 'That's awesome,' the teen replied. Rabbi Bradd Boxman, who had chaperoned the teens, was boiling with anger and sadness when he interrupted the meeting to announce the students' presence. Rep. Shawn Harrison, the committee's vice chair, told the students they could speak briefly. 'We will never doubt your impact on this debate,' Harrison said. 'We know your hearts are in the right place.' Rosenzweig told of her terror, and Cooper repeated his earlier question about the assault-weapons ban. Moments later, the students, brimming with confidence, gathered outside the Capitol, raised their signs, and marched straight ahead, yelling, 'We are MSD! We will make history!' And then they disappeared into the crowd, joining with other protesters and the thousands who had gathered to support them. ___ Follow Jason Dearen on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/JHDearen
  • Spilling out wrenching tales of lost lives and stolen security, students and parents appealed to President Donald Trump to set politics aside and protect America's school children from the scourge of gun violence. Trump listened intently to the raw emotion and pledged action, including the possibility of arming teachers. 'I turned 18 the day after' the shooting, said a tearful Samuel Zeif, a student at the Florida high school where a former student's assault left 17 dead last week. 'Woke up to the news that my best friend was gone. And I don't understand why I can still go in a store and buy a weapon of war. An AR. How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon? How do we not stop this after Columbine? After Sandy Hook?' Trump promised to be 'very strong on background checks.' And he suggested he supported allowing some teachers and other school employees to carry concealed weapons to be ready for intruders. But largely he listened Wednesday, holding handwritten notes bearing his message to the families. 'I hear you' was written in black marker. The president had invited the teen survivors of school violence and parents of murdered children in a show of his resolve against gun violence in the wake of last week's shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and in past years at schools in Connecticut and Colorado. The latest episode has prompted a renewed and growing call for stronger gun control. Trump asked his guests to suggest solutions and solicited feedback. He did not fully endorse any specific policy solution, but pledged to take action and expressed interest in widely differing approaches. Besides considering concealed carrying of weapons by trained school employees, a concept he has endorsed in the past, he said he planned to go 'very strongly into age, age of purchase.' And he said he was committed to improving background checks and working on mental health. Most in the group were emotional but quiet and polite. But Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed last week, noted the previous school massacres and raged over his loss, saying this moment isn't about gun laws but about fixing the schools. 'It should have been one school shooting and we should have fixed it and I'm pissed. Because my daughter, I'm not going to see again,' said Pollack. 'King David Cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now.' A strong supporter of gun rights, Trump has nonetheless indicated in recent days that he is willing to consider ideas not in keeping with National Rifle Association orthodoxy, including age restrictions for buying assault-type weapons. Still, gun owners are a key part of his base of supporters. The NRA quickly rejected any talk of raising the age for buying long guns to 21. 'Legislative proposals that prevent law-abiding adults aged 18-20 years old from acquiring rifles and shotguns effectively prohibits them for purchasing any firearm, thus depriving them of their constitutional right to self-protection,' the group said in a statement. Several dozen people assembled in the White House State Dining Room. Among them were students from Parkland along with their parents. Also present were parents of students killed in massacres at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, and Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Students and parents from the Washington area also were present. The student body president at the Parkland school, Julia Cordover, tearfully told Trump that she 'was lucky enough to come home from school.' She added, 'I am confident you will do the right thing.' Trump later tweeted that he would 'always remember' the meeting. 'So much love in the midst of so much pain. We must not let them down. We must keep our children safe!!' Not all the students impacted by the shooting came to the White House. David Hogg, who has been one of the students actively calling for gun control was invited but declined, said his mother Rebecca Boldrick. 'His point was (Trump needs) to come to Parkland, we're not going there,' she said. Throughout the day Wednesday, television news showed footage of student survivors of the violence marching on the Florida state Capitol, calling for tougher laws. The protests came closer to Trump, too, with hundreds of students from suburban Maryland attending a rally at the Capitol and then marching to the White House. Inside the executive mansion, Trump said at the end of an hour listening to tales of pain and anguish, 'Thank you for pouring out your hearts because the world is watching and we're going to come up with a solution.' Television personality Geraldo Rivera had dinner with Trump at his private Palm Beach club over the weekend and described Trump as 'deeply affected' by his visit Friday with Parkland survivors. In an email, Rivera said he and Trump discussed the idea of raising the minimum age to purchase assault-type weapons. Trump 'suggested strongly that he was going to act to strengthen background checks,' Rivera said. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said Wednesday they would introduce a bill to raise the minimum age required to purchase rifles from gun dealers, including assault weapons such as the AR-15. 'A kid too young buy a handgun should be too young to buy an #AR15,' Flake said on Twitter. A buyer must be 21 to purchase a handgun from a licensed gun dealer. Trump embraced gun rights during his presidential campaign, though he supported some gun control before he became a candidate, backing an assault weapons ban and a longer waiting period to purchase a gun in a 2000 book. On Tuesday, Trump directed the Justice Department to move to ban devices like the rapid-fire bump stocks used in last year's Las Vegas massacre. The White House has also said Trump was looking at a bill that would strengthen federal gun background checks. But those moves have drawn criticism as being inadequate, with Democrats questioning whether the Justice Department even has authority to regulate bump stocks and arguing that the background check legislation would not go far enough. The department said its review of whether bump stocks are federally prohibited is ongoing but did not say how Trump's order would affect that. An effort to pass bump stock legislation last year fizzled out. On background checks, Trump has suggested he is open to a bipartisan bill developed in response to a mass shooting at a Texas church. It would penalize federal agencies that don't properly report required records and reward states that comply by providing them with federal grant preferences. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said the bill is 'a small step,' but said Democrats want to see universal background check legislation. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said Wednesday that he'll probably reintroduce bipartisan legislation that would require background checks for all gun purchases online and at gun shows. He said he planned to discuss the idea with Trump. That bill first emerged with backing from Toomey and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia following the 2012 slaying of 26 children and adults in Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School. It failed then and at least one more time since. But Darrell Scott, the father of Columbine High School victim Rachel Scott, said he felt the president had been moved by the group's words. 'I feel like there's a different tone in the air,' he said, 'than there has been before.' ___ Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Sadie Gurman contributed from Washington. Marc Levy contributed from Harrisburg and Alina Hartounian from Phoenix.
  • A Republican-led congressional committee is demanding records related to premium-class flights taken by Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt. House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy issued a letter to Pruitt this week seeking an accounting of all flights taken by the EPA administrator over the last year and whether the ticket was coach, business or first class. Pruitt defended his use of premium-class airfare in media interviews earlier this month, saying security concerns were raised after unpleasant interactions with other passengers. The South Carolina Republican's letter sent Tuesday specifically cites the evolving explanations of EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox, who initially told reporters that Pruitt had a 'blanket waiver' to fly first class before then saying separate waiver had been granted by ethics officials for each flight. Federal employees are typically supposed to fly coach, and travel rules such bar blanket waivers. 'We will respond to Chairman Gowdy through the proper channel,' Wilcox said Wednesday. Pruitt, the former GOP attorney general of Oklahoma, has been under increasing scrutiny for his jet setting since his appointment by President Donald Trump last year. Records show Pruitt's airfare is often several times more expensive than that of aides booked on the same flights. Gowdy's letter says the requested records are to be provided to his committee by March 6. 'Federal regulations require government travelers to obtain approval or authorization from their agency to use accommodations other than coach-class when traveling on official business,' Gowdy wrote. 'Clearly, federal regulations prohibit a blanket waiver to fly first class except to accommodate disabilities or special needs.' Pruitt said earlier this month he had some 'incidents' on flights that necessitated his need for first-class seats. EPA has refused requests from The Associated Press to provide details of those incidents. 'We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment,' Pruitt said in an interview with a New Hampshire newspaper. 'We've reached the point where there's not much civility in the marketplace and it's created, you know, it's created some issues and the (security) detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat.' Pruitt is the first EPA administrator to have a 24-hour security detail, even inside the agency's secured headquarters in Washington. He has also taken other security precautions, including the addition of a $25,000 soundproof 'privacy booth' inside his office to prevent eavesdropping on his phone calls and spending $3,000 to have his office swept for hidden listening devices. Pruitt has denied he played any role in purchasing the premium-class tickets, saying his chief of staff and EPA security had made those decisions. Federal regulations allow government travelers to fly business class or first class when no cheaper options are 'reasonably available' or if there are exceptional security circumstances. However, past federal audits have found that those rules have been routinely violated by high-ranking government officials under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Pruitt's frequent government-funded travel, which records show has often included weekend layovers in his home state of Oklahoma, is already under review by EPA's internal watchdog. The use of luxury air travel by members of Trump's Cabinet has been attracting attention for months. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign in September following media reports he spent at least $400,000 in taxpayer funds on private jets for himself and his staff. A report recently released by the inspector general at the Department of Veterans Affairs found that Secretary David Shulkin and his staff made 'false representations' to justify his wife accompanying him at taxpayer expense on an 11-day European trip that mixed business and sightseeing. ___ Follow AP environmental writer Michael Biesecker at http://Twitter.com/mbieseck
  • A request by Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania Legislature to stop a new congressional map from being implemented is now in the hands of the nation's highest court. The filing made late Wednesday asked Justice Samuel Alito to intervene, saying the state Supreme Court overstepped its authority in imposing a new map. More litigation may follow, as Republicans are considering a separate legal challenge in federal court in Harrisburg this week. The state Supreme Court last month threw out a Republican-crafted map that was considered among the nation's most gerrymandered, saying the 2011 plan violated the state constitution's guarantee of free and equal elections. The new map the state justices announced Monday is widely viewed as giving Democrats an edge as they seek to recapture enough U.S. House seats to reclaim the majority. House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said the state's highest court made an unprecedented decision. 'The Pennsylvania Supreme Court conspicuously seized the redistricting process and prevented any meaningful ability for the Legislature to enact a remedial map to ensure a court drawn map,' they wrote in a filing made electronically after business hours. The challenge adds uncertainty as candidates are preparing to circulate nominating petitions to get their names on the May primary ballot. A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, responding to the lawmakers' filing, said Wolf was 'focused on making sure the Department of State is fully complying with the court's order by updating their systems and assisting candidates, county election officials and voters preparing for the primary election.' It is the third time in four months that Turzai and Scarnati have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put a halt to litigation over the 2011 map they took leading roles in creating. In November, Alito turned down a request for a stay of a federal lawsuit, a case that Turzai and Scarnati won in January. On Feb. 5, Alito rejected a request from Turzai and Scarnati to halt a Jan. 22 order from the state Supreme Court that gave the Republican leaders two weeks to propose a map that would be supported by Wolf and until last week to suggest a new map to the court. Turzai and Scarnati argued that the state's high court gave them scant time to propose their own map after throwing out the 2011 version, ensuring 'that its desired plan to draft the new map would be successful.' As evidence of a 'preordained plan,' they cited comments critical of gerrymandering made by Justice David Wecht during his 2015 campaign for the court. 'The court's process was entirely closed,' they told Alito. 'It did not allow the parties the opportunity to provide any comment to the proposed map, inquire on why certain subdivisions were split and whether it was to meet population equality, or further evaluate whether partisan intent played any role in the drafting.' As a sign of the litigation's potential impact on national politics, President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged Republicans to press their challenge of the map to the U.S. Supreme Court. 'Your Original was correct! Don't let the Dems take elections away from you so that they can raise taxes & waste money!' Trump tweeted. The five Democrats on the state Supreme Court sided with Democratic voters who challenged the map, although one of the Democratic justices, Max Baer, has pointedly opposed the compressed timetable. Republicans who controlled the Legislature and the governor's office after the 2010 census crafted the now-invalidated map to help elect Republicans. They succeeded in that aim: Republicans won 13 of 18 seats in three straight elections even though Pennsylvania's registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans. An analysis conducted through PlanScore.org concluded the court's redrawn map eliminates 'much of the partisan skew' favoring Republicans on the old GOP-drawn map, but not all of it. Congressional candidates have from Feb. 27 to March 20 to collect and submit enough signatures to get on the ballot, and the new maps have candidates and would-be candidates scrambling to decide whether to jump in. Five incumbents are not seeking another term and a sixth has resigned, an unusually large number of openings.
  • The first — and likely only — Olympic race between Lindsey Vonn and American teammate Mikaela Shiffrin will go down to the wire. Vonn took care of business in her specialty and has 1.98-second lead over Shiffrin after the downhill portion of Thursday's Alpine combined. Now, it switches to Shiffrin's forte — the slalom. Both times are combined to determine the winner. Vonn posted the fastest time of 1 minute, 39.37 seconds, with Shiffrin not all that far back in sixth even after what she described as a 'big mistake' near the top. Shiffrin's signature event is the slalom. She won the Olympic title in the discipline four years ago in Sochi, before finishing fourth in the event at the Pyeongchang Games. 'I want to put out a run that I know I can be really proud of,' Shiffrin said. 'So I have a chance to do that this afternoon and I'm looking forward to it.' Shiffrin is vying for her third career Olympic gold medal, which would be the most in American Alpine skiing history. She also won the giant slalom in Pyeongchang a week ago. Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway is 0.74 seconds behind Vonn's top time in her quest to win a third medal at the Pyeongchang Games. Mowinckel already has two silvers from the giant slalom and downhill. 'I'm a little bit annoyed with myself because I made a few stupid mistakes,' Mowinckel said. 'But I have to be pleased that I'm still in a fairly strong position going into the slalom.' Also in position is Michelle Gisin of Switzerland, who came up as a slalom racer and captured a silver medal in the combined at the world championships last February. Gisin is 0.77 seconds out of the lead. Vonn, who will start last in the slalom, also led after the downhill leg at the 2010 Vancouver Games. She didn't finish the slalom that time. Asked exactly how much slalom training she's done lately, Vonn smiled, curling her index finger and thumb to make a '0.' 'I took one warmup run going to the slalom inspection in Lenzerheide,' Vonn said, alluding to her fourth-place finish at the World Cup stop in Switzerland in the combined last month. 'I took one warmup run going to the race in Lenzerheide. So those are my last two slalom runs. And before that I did one day of slalom training before Christmas. So that's the extent my slalom training this year.' This very well could be Vonn's last race at the Olympics. At 33, she's already the oldest female Alpine ski racer to earn a medal with her bronze in the downhill on Wednesday. That goes with the gold from the 2010 Games. She didn't compete at the Sochi Games because of a knee injury. She won't be holding back. 'It's going to come down to who can fight the hardest and I certainly know that I am a pretty good competitor so I'm going to give it hell and maybe I can pull out a miracle,' Vonn said. Before the race, Vonn posted on her Twitter account that she damaged the bottom of her ski the day before in the downhill and had to bring out another pair. She added of the new set: 'Hopefully they'll survive and stay fast the whole way down.' They were. 'But I think, honestly, my skis had a lot to do with yesterday's performance, as well,' said Vonn, who finished 0.47 seconds behind winner Sofia Goggia of Italy. 'Today, I kept accelerating on the bottom part of the course. And yesterday, I just didn't. I didn't feel the speed was there. My technician thinks I burned my skis out, probably on that first traverse there, on the second gate. But that happens often in ski racing. 'Not a lot on the women's tour, but a lot on the men's. But I'm happy with the way I executed today. I have absolutely nothing to lose.' ___ More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org