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    Asian stock markets were higher on Monday as investors cheered the outcome of negotiations between the United States and China that put a trade war on hold, clearing uncertainty. KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.3 percent to 23,002.37. Hong Kong's Hang Seng jumped 0.7 percent to 31,265.70, while the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 0.6 percent to 3,213.84. South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 2,465.57. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 inched down 0.1 percent to 6,084.50. Stocks in Southeast Asia were mixed. TRADE TALKS: The U.S. and China concluded two days of trade negotiations with an agreement not to impose tariffs on each other, pulling back from the brink of a trade war. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the two countries have made 'meaningful progress' and that the U.S. has agreed to put on hold proposed tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese products. China said it will 'significantly increase' its purchases of American goods and services. ANALYST'S TAKE: 'This is likely to send Asian markets higher as risk sentiment was somewhat subdued on Friday when markets stayed cautious amid China and the U.S. trade talks,' Mizuho Bank said in a daily commentary. WALL STREET: U.S. stocks finished mixed on Friday. The S&P 500 index fell 0.3 percent to 2,712.97. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 1.11 points to 24,715.09. The Nasdaq composite lost 0.4 percent to 7,354.34. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 0.1 percent to 1,626.63. OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose 43 cents to $71.71 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In the previous session, the contract finished at $71.28 a barrel, down 21 cents. Brent crude, used to price international oil, gained 43 cents to $78.94 per barrel in London. It finished at $78.51 per barrel in the previous session, down 79 cents. CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.32 yen from 110.78 yen while the euro weakened to $1.172 from $1.177.
  • Syrian government forces were to resume their offensive against the Islamic State group in the south of the capital, after evacuating a group of civilians from the area, Syrian state TV reported Monday. The TV quoted an unnamed military official as saying that a truce had been in place to evacuate women, children and elderly people on Sunday night from Damascus' southern neighborhood of Hajar al-Aswad. The official said the cease-fire ends at noon Monday, after which government forces will resume their operations in the Hajar al-Aswad and the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring group, said some IS fighters were permitted to leave Yarmouk and the adjacent al-Tadamon neighborhood. Syria's state media denied a deal was reached to evacuate fighters. The Observatory said Monday that a new batch of fighters and their families left late Sunday, heading east toward the Syrian desert. It added that IS fighters have been setting their offices and vehicles on fire so that government forces would not be able to seize equipment or documents belonging to the group. Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces launched an offensive against IS militants in southern Damascus a month ago. The offensive has brought more than 70 percent of the area under government control. The capture of these southern neighborhoods would bring the entire Syrian capital under government control for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.
  • For a few months, everything seemed to be clicking for South Korean President Moon Jae-in as he pieced together crucial nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea following a year of intense animosity. But he now enters a White House meeting with President Donald Trump with his status in the diplomatic driver's seat in doubt. Pyongyang's surprise move last week to break off a high-level meeting with Seoul over U.S.-South Korean military drills while threatening to cancel next month's summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Trump cooled what had been an unusual flurry of diplomatic moves from the country after a provocative series of nuclear and missile tests. It also underscored Seoul's delicate role as an intermediary between Washington and Pyongyang and raised questions about Moon's claim that Kim has genuine intent to deal away his nukes. Seoul may lose much of its voice if Trump chooses to deal more directly with China, North Korea's only major ally, which is refusing to be sidelined in the global diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff. Seoul's presidential office said this week's meeting between Moon and Trump will be mainly focused on preparing Trump for his summit with Kim, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. A look ahead at the Moon-Trump meeting and the challenges they face with Kim: ___ WHITE HOUSE TO SINGAPORE Seoul insists Kim can be persuaded to abandon his nuclear facilities, materials and bombs in a verifiable and irreversible way in exchange for credible security and economic guarantees. Moon and Trump will likely discuss potential steps that Trump can put on the table in Singapore. Their meeting at the White House may also include discussions on setting up three-way talks with Pyongyang or four-way talks also including Beijing to negotiate a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. Moon and Trump may exchange views on whether the allies should temporarily modify their joint military drills while engaging in denuclearization negotiations with North Korea, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University and a policy adviser to Moon. There could also be deeper discussions on the future of the U.S.-South Korea alliance. South Korea maintains an optimistic outlook for the Trump-Kim talks. Moon's foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, told South Korean lawmakers last week that the North has issued a commitment for 'complete denuclearization.' However, she said there's a 'difference in opinions between the North and the United States over the methods to achieve denuclearization.' Officials in Washington have talked about a comprehensive one-shot deal where the North fully eliminates its nukes first and receives rewards later. But Kim, through two separate summits with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in March and May, has called for a phased and synchronized process where every action he takes is met with a reciprocal reward from the United States. ___ THE DREADED 'D'' WORD Despite Seoul's reassurances, it remains unclear whether Kim will ever agree to fully relinquish his nukes, which he likely sees as his only guarantee of survival. For decades, North Korea has been pushing a concept of 'denuclearization' that bears no resemblance to the American definition, vowing to pursue nuclear development unless Washington removes its troops from South Korea and the nuclear umbrella defending South Korea and Japan. Kim declared his nuclear force as complete in November, following the country's third flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. At a ruling party meeting in April, the North announced that it was suspending all nuclear and ICBM tests and will close its nuclear testing ground because its mission had come 'to an end.' The announcements were clearly designed to communicate that Kim sees himself as entering the negotiations with Trump from a position of strength and expects to be treated as a leader of a full-fledged nuclear state. 'The success of the Trump-Kim meeting will be determined by whether it turns out to be a denuclearization negotiation or an arms reduction negotiation between two nuclear states,' said Du Hyeogn Cha, a visiting scholar at Seoul's Asan Institute for Policy Studies. 'So far, the North has built conditions for the meeting to become the latter.' Trump may find it difficult to politically justify a deal with North Korea that's significantly less than a 'complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization' when he just abandoned a major nuclear deal with Iran that he claimed was too weak. But it's not clear whether he can coax a stronger deal from North Korea than the one Barack Obama got from Iran. Iran's nuclear program is nascent and its weapons capability theoretical. North Korea's arsenal now includes purported thermonuclear warheads and developmental ICBMs potentially capable of striking the continental United States. ___ CHAMPAGNE POPPED TOO EARLY? While Seoul can be credited for coordinating the diplomatic approach toward North Korea, South Korean officials may have been too optimistic about the signs they were seeing from Pyongyang. During a March visit to the White House where Trump agreed to a summit with Kim, Moon's national security director, Chung Eui-yong, said Kim told visiting South Korean officials in Pyongyang that he 'understands' that the joint military exercises between the allies 'must continue.' This was then seen as an important departure from the past, when the North thoroughly rejected the drills. But Kim has yet to deliver any similar comment on record. In lashing out last week against the U.S.-South Korean drills and Trump's hard-line national security adviser, John Bolton, North Korea used familiar language to justify its nuclear weapons, saying the United States must eliminate its 'hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail' against the North as a 'precondition for denuclearization.' It's possible that Chinese President Xi persuaded Kim to adopt a tougher stance over U.S.-South Korean drills during their summits, Cha said. Kim might have asked China to soften its enforcement of sanctions aimed at the North. He also might have sought Chinese commitments to strongly oppose any military measure the United States might take should his talks with Trump fall apart and the North starts testing missiles again. 'It's hard to say there are clear signs that the North is employing a meaningfully different approach on denuclearization,' Cha said. ___ Follow Kim Tong-hyung on Twitter at @KimTongHyung.
  • Embattled socialist incumbent Nicolas Maduro won Venezuela's presidential election by a landslide in a disputed vote marred by irregularities and mass absenteeism that led his main rivals to call for a re-run to prevent a national social crisis from exploding. The National Election Council announced that with more than 92 percent of polling stations reporting, Maduro won nearly 68 percent of the votes Sunday, beating his nearest challenger Henri Falcon by more than 40 points. As the results were being announced, residents of downtown Caracas just a few blocks from where Maduro supporters were celebrating banged on pots and pans in protest. Falcon accused the government of buying votes and dirty tricks to boost turnout among poor voters most hurt by widespread food shortages and hyperinflation in what was once Latin America's wealthiest nation. The election 'without any doubt lacks legitimacy and we categorically refuse to recognize this process,' Falcon told supporters minutes before the results were announced, vowing to fight on instead of joining a growing list of beleaguered anti-government politicians who've fled into exile of late. The disputed victory is likely to heighten international pressure on Maduro. Even as voting was taking place Sunday, a senior U.S. official said the Trump administration might press ahead on threats of imposing crippling oil sanctions and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned 'sham elections change nothing.' Falcon was joined in his demand for a new election by third-place finisher Javier Bertucci, who won around 11 percent of the vote. Bertucci, a TV evangelist who handed out soup at his campaign rallies, stopped short of challenging the results, partly blaming what he called a mistaken opposition boycott that led to a turnout of around 46 percent — the lowest in a presidential race in two decades of revolution. But he said he nonetheless favors a new election soon and urged Maduro to do the courageous thing and desist from running. If Maduro presses forward, he warned, Venezuela will explode before his new six-year term is scheduled to begin in January. A social crisis years in the making has worsened as Venezuela's oil production — the source of almost all of its foreign income — has collapsed to the lowest level in decades and financial sanctions by the Trump administration has made it impossible for the government to renegotiate its debts. More than 1 million people have fled the country in the past two years and 14,000 percent inflation has crushed the minimum wage to less than $2 a month. Maduro, 55, immediately called for dialogue with his opponents and put the best face forward on what analysts said were nonetheless disappointing results underscoring how vulnerable his hold on power remains. Despite energetic campaigning his overall vote haul slipped by 1.6 million from 2013, when he was first elected after Hugo Chavez's death from cancer. But he showed no sign of replaying Sunday's vote. 'We will be the most powerful and largest political force in Venezuela for a long time,' he told a festive crowd of die-hard supporters who poured into the grounds of the presidential palace to celebrate. 'It doesn't faze me when they say I'm a dictator.' He promised to spend the next two years before scheduled congressional elections repairing an economy he says has been badly damaged by mafias backed by Colombia and the U.S. He also slammed Falcon, who like him was an acolyte of Chavez, saying he had never seen a candidate dispute results before they were even announced. 'Sooner or later, they all break in the face of threats from the imperialists,' he said, pleading with the U.S. to reconsider its belligerence. Both of Maduro's opponents accused electoral authorities of being blind to blatant violations before the vote and on election day. Falcon said that at 86 percent of voting centers ruling party activists set up so-called 'Red Points' where they scanned on cellphones QR codes on government-issued 'Fatherland Cards.' Some poor cardholders in Caracas — there are 16.5 million nationwide — said they hoped Maduro would deliver on his campaign promise of a 'prize' to those who demonstrated their loyalty. Maduro accused his opponents of trying to 'demonize' a program intended to address the social crisis and not assert political control. Under Venezuela's electoral law, any political activity must take place at least 650 feet (200 meters) from voting centers. But most 'Red Points' were just a few steps away. As in past elections, government supporters driving around in vans with Maduro posters could also be seen transporting voters to polling sites. Luis Emilio Rondon, the sole opposition voice on the electoral council, backed Falcon and Bertucci's claims of irregularities and said he too refused to recognize the results. National Electoral Council President Tibisay Lucena acknowledged a handful of complaints, but insisted they were minor compared to past elections. 'The people of Venezuela have made their pronouncement and we ask everyone, nationally and international, to respect the results,' she said. Voting centers appeared largely empty in opposition areas across Venezuela and were even lackluster in government strongholds. Turnout in the previous three presidential elections averaged 79 percent. Opposition leaders said the lifeless voting centers were evidence that Venezuelans heeded their call to abstain from voting in an election they contended was certain to be rigged in Maduro's favor. 'This was a farce by a dictator that wants to stay in power without popular support,' said lawmaker Juan Pablo Guanipa, speaking on behalf of the newly created Broad Front coalition that had been behind the stay-at-home strategy. Opinion polls say the overwhelming majority of Venezuelans distrust the electoral council. Turnout figures in last year's elections for a constitutional assembly, which the opposition also boycotted, were inflated by at least 1 million votes, according to the company that provided technology for Venezuela's electronic voting machines for more than a decade. But despite the unleveled playing field and concerns of fraud, some government critics nonetheless questioned the wisdom of not participating in an election that looked to be its best chance in years to defeat Chavismo. 'If you're sick and the doctor gives you few days to live, you don't lie in bed waiting to die. You seek treatment,' said Nayra Martinez, a city employee in the wealthy Caracas district of Chacao who decided to buck her party's call to abstain. 'That's what we need to do with our country. Venezuela is very sick and we the people are the medicine.' ___ AP writers Jorge Rueda and Fabiola Sanchez contributed to this report. Scott Smith on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ScottSmithAP Joshua Goodman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/APjoshgoodman
  • The Palestinian president's condition has seen a 'clear improvement' after he was taken to hospital with a fever, an Arab lawmaker in Israel's parliament with close ties to Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday. Abbas was hospitalized on Sunday with a fever, just days after undergoing ear surgery. The 83-year-old leader has endured a series of recent health scares which have revived anxiety over a potentially chaotic, and even bloody, succession battle that could further weaken the Palestinian cause. Ahmad Tibi, the lawmaker close to Abbas, told Israeli Army Radio that Abbas could be discharged as early as Tuesday. He did not elaborate on Abbas' condition nor say why he thought Abbas was expected to be released. Palestinian officials on Sunday had said that Abbas has pneumonia and was on a respirator, receiving antibiotics intravenously. They said he was conscious and lucid. Abbas, who is a heavy smoker and overweight, has a long history of health issues, ranging from heart trouble to a bout with prostate cancer a decade ago. Two years ago, he underwent an emergency heart procedure after suffering exhaustion and chest pains. More recently, a cardiologist moved into the presidential compound in Ramallah to monitor the longtime leader after a mysterious hospital visit in the United States, following Abbas' address to the United Nations Security Council in which he appeared weak. Abbas, who insists he is fine, has refused to designate a successor. But after more than a decade of avoiding discussion of the post-Abbas era, Palestinian officials acknowledge that they are concerned, and potential successors are quietly jockeying for position. Abbas took over as a caretaker leader following the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 2004, and was elected for what was supposed to be a five-year term the following year. He has remained in firm control since then, governing parts of the West Bank, while a political split with rival Hamas — the Palestinian militant group that in 2007 seized the Gaza Strip — has prevented new elections. Uncertainty shrouds the post-Abbas future. Under Palestinian law, the parliament speaker is supposed to take over if the president is incapacitated or dies. But the current speaker, Aziz Dweik, is a member of Hamas. Abbas' Fatah party has argued that since parliament has not functioned in more than a decade, Dweik would not be eligible to lead the Palestinians. A number of top officials in Abbas' Fatah movement head the list of potential successors. Jibril Rajoub, a former security chief, and Mahmoud Aloul, a veteran Fatah leader, are both members of the party's decision-making Central Committee. Abbas' current security chief, Majed Farraj, is another strong contender, with good behind-the-scenes working relations with both Israel and the U.S. Marwan Barghouti, a former Palestinian uprising leader serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison, tops public opinion polls. But his incarceration would pose a strong obstacle to him taking office. Mohammed Dahlan, an exiled rival of Abbas who now lives in the United Arab Emirates, also enjoys some support, but the local leadership opposes him.
  • Two years ago, the Cleveland bullpen led the way when the Indians overcame significant injuries in their starting rotation and won the American League pennant. Now, the fickle nature of relief pitching is holding the AL Central favorites back. After Sunday night's 3-1 loss at Houston, Cleveland's relievers are 3-11 with an AL-worst 5.72 ERA. It has been a precipitous drop for a team that had the best bullpen ERA in all of baseball while storming to 102 wins a season ago. In fact, the Indians ranked in the top seven in that category every year from 2014-2017. In 2016, Cleveland reliever Andrew Miller was the MVP of the AL Championship Series against Toronto. In Game 3, starter Trevor Bauer had to leave in the first inning, and the bullpen pieced together the final 25 outs of a 4-2 victory. Closer Cody Allen has blown only one save this season, and Miller remains a force — although he has already walked nine hitters in 11 2/3 innings. Those two are the only Cleveland relievers who have been remotely reliable in 2018. Zach McAllister and Dan Otero have combined for 32 innings. Their ERAs are 7.16 and 7.47. Nick Goody (6.94) and Tyler Olson (6.08) have had similar problems. So Cleveland is a game under .500 at 22-23. That's still good enough for a 1 ½-game lead atop the forgiving AL Central, but the Indians would probably be running away with the division already if their relievers were pitching as expected. There's plenty of time to turn it around — and the team can certainly acquire more help if its in-house options don't improve — but these early struggles have been startling. Some other developments from around the majors: UNORTHODOX Baseball has seen plenty of innovation over the past few years — from extreme shifting on defense to pitchers batting eighth in the lineup. The Tampa Bay Rays added another idea to the mix when they sent reliever Sergio Romo to mound as the starter Saturday and Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels. Romo pitched an inning Saturday and went 1 1/3 innings Sunday. He did not allow a hit and struck out six over the course of those two outings. With the top of the order sure to bat in the first inning, using Romo there enabled the Rays to make things a little easier for left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, whose turn in the rotation came up Saturday. Yarbrough entered that game in the second inning and allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings, facing 23 hitters. Normally when a starter faces that many batters, he ends up pitching to the top of the order three times, and the third time through can be difficult. But with this arrangement, Yarbrough went up against spots four through eight three times — and faced the top three hitters only twice. The Rays won 5-3 on Saturday, then lost 5-2 on Sunday. HIGHLIGHT According to Statcast, St. Louis reliever Jordan Hicks threw the five fastest pitches of this season on Sunday — in one plate appearance by Philadelphia's Odubel Herrera. Hicks' pitches in that at-bat ranged from 103.7 miles per hour to 105.1, and at times, he seemed to be throwing too fast for his catcher to handle. Herrera struck out, but reached base when the third strike got away for a wild pitch. LINE OF THE WEEK Justin Verlander of the Astros threw his first shutout since 2015, a five-hitter against the Angels in a 2-0 win Wednesday night. Verlander lowered his ERA to 1.05 and reached the 2,500-strikeout milestone. ___ Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
  • A look at what's happening around the majors today: BIG SEXY AND THE BRONX BOMBERS Three days before his 45th birthday, Bartolo Colon (2-1, 2.82 ERA) pitches for last-place Texas against the hard-hitting New York Yankees, who socked nine homers and totaled 18 runs in the final two games of their series at Kansas City. Colon is 6-9 with a 6.11 ERA in 21 career appearances against the Yankees, one of his former teams. Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.73) starts for New York. SNAKE BIT Paul Goldschmidt and the slumping Diamondbacks try to snap out of their funk in Milwaukee. Arizona, which still leads the NL West, has lost four in a row and 10 of 11 — scoring just 22 runs in that span. 'Everybody here is a victim of trying to do too much,' manager Torey Lovullo said. 'They want it so bad that we're doing things in a pressing manner. I just want us to remember that we're good when we're ourselves.' Zack Greinke (3-2) goes on an extra day of rest against right-hander Chase Anderson (3-3), who is set to come off the disabled list. Anderson hasn't started since May 6 because of an illness. Greinke is 16-3 at Miller Park, including a 15-0 stretch when he pitched for the Brewers. WALK YEAR In his final season before free agency, Bryce Harper has more walks (42) than hits (34). The 2015 NL MVP is stuck in a monthlong slump as the injury-depleted Nationals have struggled to protect him in the lineup. Since April 17, Harper has had three multihit games and 15 hitless games, and his batting average has dropped from .315 to a season-low .224. His 13 home runs are still tied for fourth-most in the majors, but he's gone deep just once since May 4. He went 1 for 10 with five strikeouts as Washington was swept by the Dodgers. Next up, Harper and the Nats host last-place San Diego. STATE RIVALS The struggling Royals head to the other side of Missouri for an I-70 interleague series in St. Louis. Miles Mikolas (5-0, 2.63 ERA) opposes Kansas City right-hander Ian Kennedy (1-4, 4.98) in the opener of a three-game set. Mikolas has held opponents to two runs or fewer in his last six starts. TRY AGAIN Jason Vargas gets another chance for his first win with the Mets after a miserable first three outings that led to him being skipped in the rotation. The left-hander, signed to a $16 million, two-year contract in February to provide veteran depth in New York's rotation, is 0-3 with a 13.86 ERA. He hasn't pitched since May 8, when he allowed four runs in four innings during a loss to the Reds. Vargas went 18-11 with a 4.16 ERA for Kansas City last year, tying for the major league lead in wins. ___ More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
  • Welcome to Impossible. Those words have been projected onto the ice in big, bold letters at T-Mobile Arena before each game during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Well, the Vegas Golden Knights are turning impossible into possible. The stunningly successful expansion squad is headed to the Stanley Cup Final after beating the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Sunday to win the Western Conference final series in five games. 'I remember eight months ago, when we won against Dallas (in the season opener), we had that unbelievable feeling,' Vegas center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. 'Doesn't feel like we're satisfied. It's a good feeling when you know the guys are excited for the next one.' The Golden Knights are the third franchise in NHL history to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season, joining the Toronto Arenas in 1918 and St. Louis Blues in 1968. Vegas will play either Tampa Bay or Washington on hockey's biggest stage. The Lightning lead the Eastern Conference final 3-2, but the Capitals host Game 6 on Monday night. 'Either way, we're not going to be favorites,' said Jonathan Marchessault, who leads Vegas with 18 points in the postseason. 'That's been the case all year. Tampa has been the best team all year. Washington, (they're) playing great hockey right now. Either way, we're not going to be favorites, and that's fine with us. We went all year like that and we're going to keep going.' Hence, 'The Golden Misfits' tag. Nobody could have scripted Vegas, a 500-1 long shot at the start of the season, making the playoffs — let alone earning a shot at Lord Stanley's Cup. But the Golden Knights, who finished fifth in the league during the regular season, just knocked off the No. 2 team in the regular season in Winnipeg, which in the conference semifinals knocked off the No. 1 team in the regular season, Nashville. Vegas clinched all three of its Western Conference series on the road, becoming the seventh team in NHL history to accomplish such a feat. 'Everybody on this team has something to prove,' said Winnipeg native Ryan Reaves, who scored the winning goal Sunday in his hometown. 'We call ourselves 'The Golden Misfits' for a reason. We're doing a good job of proving everybody wrong.' Just as they have all season, they are living in the moment. Vegas, which had just two players under contract at this time last year, heads into the final round with a 12-3 playoff record after outscoring its Western Conference opponents 42-27. It's a credit to coach Gerard Gallant's philosophy of having a well-conditioned, confident group of forwards who work well together, focus on short effective shifts, and exude confidence on the ice - all while, as he reiterates it daily, playing 200 feet of hockey. And while the Golden Knights haven't necessarily been a high-scoring threat, scoring just three or fewer goals in 12 of their 15 playoff games, their defensemen have played exceptional to this point. Vegas has allowed the least amount of goals in the playoffs, among teams that have played 10 games. It was a stifling and disruptive defense that helped propel the Golden Knights past the Jets on Sunday, with their sixth win in eight road games during the postseason. 'Everybody's stepping up at different times during the season,' said goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has 12 wins, four shutouts, a .947 save percentage and 1.68 goals against average. 'That's a big reason why we've been playing consistently.' The key cog in Vegas' engine has been Fleury, whose remarkable play has translated into a career-best postseason. He has allowed two or fewer goals in 10 of 15 playoff games, and is heading to the Stanley Cup final for a third consecutive year. And whether he admits it or not, the 14-year veteran still bears the scars of being left exposed by Pittsburgh last summer after spending the first 13 years of his career with the Penguins. Gallant, who remained coy about his team's aspirations during the regular season, made it clear the Golden Knights haven't reached their goal. 'It's been an awesome ride so far,' said Gallant, who some might also consider a 'misfit' after Florida fired him following a road game at Carolina last season, then left him and his luggage on the curb outside PNC Arena. 'We're going to the Stanley Cup Final, but again, this isn't what we want. We want to win. 'It's great to win tonight and it's great to be the (conference) champions,' Gallant added, 'but that's not what we're here for.' Even as impossible as that all seemed just a few months ago. ___ More NHL hockey: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
  • A Portuguese theater director has cancelled his attendance at a major cultural festival opening in Jerusalem this week over Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Tiago Rodrigues said he was dropping out of the Israel Festival so that his work will not 'condone and promote a government that deliberately violates human rights.' In a Facebook post on Thursday, he said he was joining a global cultural boycott of Israel that has seen some artists and musicians refuse to perform in Israel. Rodrigues, who is also an actor and playwright, said he rejected the fact that the festival was not openly critical of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians while working in cooperation with Israeli government ministries. The annual Israel Festival, which hosts Israeli and international performers, said it was disappointed by Rodrigues' decision. 'The Israel Festival has a deep belief in the power of art to express new points of reference, open up people to the recognition of the 'other,' and to promote understanding and tolerance,' festival CEO Eyal Sher said in a statement. Rodrigues' declaration came after Israeli forces shot and killed nearly 60 Palestinians during a violent protest last week along the border with the Gaza Strip. His cancellation follows international fallout from that violence. Israel faced global condemnation over what critics say was its excessive use of force.
  • An outgoing and 'really funny' student who blocked the door to try to prevent the gunman from entering the classroom, an exchange student who aspired to work in civil service and a substitute teacher who frequently hosted gatherings were among the 10 people killed at a Texas high school. Family members and friends of the eight students and two teachers fatally shot Friday fondly remembered their loved ones. They used such words as sweet, hardworking and loving. Eight of the 10 were students: Kimberly Vaughan, Shana Fisher, Angelique Ramirez, Christian Riley Garcia, Jared Black, Sabika Sheikh, Christopher Jake Stone and Aaron Kyle McLeod. The other two, Glenda Perkins and Cynthia Tisdale, were substitute teachers. At least 13 others were injured in the attack at the high school in Santa Fe, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southeast of Houston. A 17-year-old student, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, is being held on capital murder charges. Here are some of the victims' stories: GLENDA PERKINS Perkins for years had been a substitute teacher at Santa Fe High School, where her grandchildren are students. Student Jay Mann, a junior, tells the Houston Chronicle she always had a smile on her face, took the time to learn students' names and became part of the fabric of the school. Mann says she had a great attitude and 'never got mad at anybody for doing something stupid.' An all-female Galveston Mardi Gras krewe, Tutu Live Krewe, has posted on Facebook that Perkins, along with her daughter, was a member of their marching group. ANGELIQUE RAMIREZ The senior pastor at Dayspring Church says Ramirez was a member of the Santa Fe church's youth ministry. Pastor Brad Drake says she had occasionally accompanied a younger brother to the ministry at the church where her parents are among the some 150 people to attend Sunday services. Drake on Sunday described the 15-year-old as 'a sweet young lady, had a style all of her own.' He says she 'almost always had a new hairstyle.' An aunt, Sylvia Pritchett, said in a Facebook post she has 'a broken heart and a soul that just can't process all this right now.' JARED BLACK Black turned 17 on Wednesday and was looking forward to a party this weekend at his family's just-purchased, above-ground swimming pool. An older brother, Anthony, from Odessa, Texas, was planning to visit with his wife and kids. Jared also had a younger brother, Houston, 13. The Houston Chronicle reports his family now is planning for his funeral. His stepfather, Travis Stanich, tells the newspaper Black took daily medication for attention deficit disorder and was quiet and kind and loved art, video games and sci-fi, wrestling and wolves. Stanich called him 'a great kid' who was creative, drew cartoons and loved people. SHANA FISHER The mother of 16-year-old Shana Fisher believes that her daughter was intentionally targeted by Pagourtzis. Sadie Rodriguez said Pagourtzis repeatedly made advances toward Fisher in the four months leading up to the shooting. Pagourtzis was an ex-boyfriend of Fisher's best friend, she said. 'He kept making advances on her and she repeatedly told him no,' said Rodriguez over Facebook Messenger. 'He continued to get more aggressive.' Rodriguez said that the week before the shooting, Fisher 'stood up to him' by 'embarrass(ing) him in class.' Rodriguez gave no other details. Rodriguez described her daughter as 'shy and sweet' with a passion for video games. Rodriguez shared a video of Fisher from 2015, in which the teen contemplates whether or not she'll continue making gaming videos because her computer keeps crashing. The day of the shooting, Rodriguez wrote in a Facebook status to 'love like (you're) getting one more day with them.' 'Anything can happen,' she wrote. 'I will no longer get to see my baby my 1st born anymore.' CHRIS STONE Stone was among a group of students who blocked the door to try to prevent the gunman from entering their art classroom, freshman Abel San Miguel, who was in the class, told The Associated Press. The shooter fired his shotgun through the door, though, striking Stone in the chest, he said. Stone was outgoing, 'really funny' and had a lot of friends, said Branden Auzston, a 17-year-old junior at Santa Fe High. He said he knew Stone for about three years, and Stone was one of his best friends. Auzston's mother, Nicole Auzston, described Stone as a part of her family. 'We would have done anything for him,' she said. 'He's just a great kid.' Robert Stone told the AP by phone Saturday that his family was grieving his nephew's death and requested privacy. SABIKA SHEIKH Abdul Aziz Sheikh was expecting his daughter Sabika to return home to Pakistan in a few weeks for Eid al-Fitr, the three-day holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Instead, he learned that his oldest child was among those killed in the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School, where Sabika arrived as an exchange student last August. Surrounded by mourning friends and family at his home in Karachi on Saturday, Abdul Aziz Sheikh fought back tears as he relived his frantic efforts to check whether his daughter was safe half a world away. She wasn't returning his calls and neither were her friends. He eventually learned from the exchange program that she was among the dead. 'We are still in a state of denial. We can't believe it. It's like a nightmare,' Sheikh told The Associated Press. He said his daughter was a hardworking and accomplished student who aspired to work in civil service, hoping one day to join Pakistan's Foreign Office. 'One should not lose his heart by such kind of incidents,' he said. 'One should not stop going for education to the U.S. or U.K., or China, or anywhere. One must go for education undeterred. But controlling such incidents is the responsibility of the respective governments.' CYNTHIA TISDALE Leia Olinde said Tisdale, her aunt and a substitute teacher at the school, was like a mother to her and helped her shop for wedding dresses last year. 'She helped me put it on, she helped fix my hair,' Olinde said through tears. 'She was wonderful. She was just so loving,' said Olinde, 25. 'I've never met a woman who loved her family so much.' She said Tisdale was married to her husband for close to 40 years and that they had three children and eight grandchildren. Tisdale's house was the center of family gatherings and she loved cooking Thanksgiving dinner and decorating her house, Olinde said. Olinde's fiance, Eric Sanders, said of Tisdale that 'words don't explain her lust for life and the joy she got from helping people.' AARON KYLE MCLEOD McLeod, a freshman who went by Kyle, could always be counted on to make light of any situation, said close friend Kali Reeves, who added she wouldn't have been surprised if the 15-year-old 'made a joke about getting shot' if he were still alive. Reeves, 15, said she knew McLeod for years and became close friends with him in the eighth grade. She said he always had a smile on his face and loved to hang out with his friends. 'He was never one to be a sad or down person, he always had to joke or laugh about things,' she said. 'He was just outgoing and super sweet. He definitely didn't deserve this.' Reeves heard that her friend had been shot as she was evacuating Santa Fe High School. She joked to her boyfriend that if she FaceTimed McLeod, he would have 'made a joke about him getting shot,' adding that 'he just always looked on the bright side of things.' Reeves said she texted McLeod throughout the day to check up on him. She sent him one final text, saying she hopes he 'gets better.' Shortly after, she checked Facebook and learned he was one of the 10 killed. ___ Zimmerman reported from Springfield, Illinois. Associated Press writers Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco and Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles and Michael Graczyk in Houston contributed to this report.