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News from the Associated Press
AP Top News at 5:27 p.m. EST

The Latest: Protesters begin sit-in at GOP leaders' office
About 30 people demanding a conversation about gun legislation have begun a sit-in protest at the office of four Florida House Republican leaders. Fifteen-year-old Tyrah Williams said Wednesday that she wants to know why they won't consider bills to create more gun restrictions. The sophomore at Leon High School, which is walking distance to the Capitol, says the leaders were not talking to the protesters, "so we're just sitting till they speak." The Leon County school superintendent allowed students to leave class to take part in an anti-gun rally outside the Capitol. Williams said she would have attended even if he didn't.


Angry teens swarm into Florida Capitol demand new gun laws
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - A week after a shooter slaughtered 17 people in a Florida high school, thousands of angry teenagers swarmed into the state capitol on Wednesday, calling for changes to gun laws, a ban on assault-type weapons and improved care for the mentally ill. The normally staid Florida statehouse filled with students, including more than 100 survivors of the Feb. 14 attack at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, on the edge of the Everglades. Many held signs, chanted slogans and burst into lawmakers' offices demanding to be heard. They were welcomed into the gun-friendly halls of power, 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.


Much-touted MS-13 sweep keeps even most basic details secret
NEW YORK (AP) - It was a tally so impressive that President Donald Trump touted it at his State of the Union address: Since May, agents cracking down on the violent gangs terrorizing the working-class suburbs of Long Island had swept up 428 gang suspects, including 220 members of the notorious MS-13. But the sweep, Operation Matador, also has been shrouded in secrecy. Federal and state authorities have declined repeated requests from The Associated Press for even basic information made public in most law enforcement operations, such as the names of those arrested and the crimes they are accused of committing.


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Do something! Trump hears emotional students, parents
WASHINGTON (AP) - Spilling out wrenching tales of lost lives and stolen safety, students with quavering voices and parents shaking with anger appealed to President Donald Trump on Wednesday to set politics aside and protect American school children from the scourge of gun violence. Trump listened intently as raw emotions reverberated at the White House. Faced with the personal anguish wrought by the school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead, Trump pledged action, saying: "We don't want others to go through the kind of pain you've been through." He was faced with grieving families looking for answers. Few had concrete suggestions, but a few spoke in favor of raising age limits for buying assault weapons.


Students across US stage walkouts to protest gun violence
Students at high schools across the U.S. are staging walkouts to protest gun violence in the wake of last week's deadly school shooting in Florida. The demonstrations took place Wednesday at schools from Maine to Arizona. Some lasted 17 minutes in honor of the 17 people killed one week earlier at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Students at many of the protests called for stronger gun control and said they're taking action to protect schools because Congress hasn't. Hundreds of students in Maryland left class to rally outside the U.S. Capitol, some carrying signs saying "Make Our Schools Safer." Students at Simon Kenton High School near Cincinnati marched around their school chanting "Never again." More walkouts are already being planned for March 14, a month after the Florida shooting.


Billy Graham went from tent revivals to the White House
MONTREAT, N.C. (AP) - As a young man, he practiced his sermons by preaching to the alligators and birds in the swamp. At his height years later, he was bringing the word of God into living rooms around the globe via TV and dispensing spiritual counsel - and political advice - to U.S. presidents. The Rev. Billy Graham, dubbed "America's Pastor" and the "Protestant Pope," died Wednesday at his North Carolina home at age 99 after achieving a level of influence and reach no other evangelist is likely ever to match. More than anyone else, the magnetic, Hollywood-handsome Graham built evangelicalism into a force that rivaled liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the United States.


Hospitals overwhelmed by bombing blitz of Damascus suburbs
BEIRUT (AP) - Doctors in Syria's rebel-controlled suburbs of Damascus said Wednesday they were unable to keep up with the staggering number of casualties, amid a ferocious bombing campaign by government forces that has targeted hospitals, apartment blocks and other civilian sites, killing and wounding hundreds of people in recent days. The bombardment has forced many among the nearly 400,000 residents to sleep in basements and makeshift shelters, and has overwhelmed rescue workers who have spent days digging out survivors from the wreckage of bombed out buildings. Dr. Waleed Awata described a desperate, chaotic scene at the small hospital where he works as an anesthesiologist in the town of Zamalka, one of a cluster of settlements that make up the Damascus suburbs known as eastern Ghouta.


Rev. Billy Graham, known as 'America's Pastor,' dies at 99
MONTREAT, N.C. (AP) - The Rev. Billy Graham, the magnetic, movie-star-handsome preacher who became a singular force in postwar American religious life, a confidant of presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, died Wednesday at 99. "America's Pastor," as he was dubbed, had suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments and died at his home in North Carolina. More than anyone else, Graham built evangelicalism into a force that rivaled liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the U.S. His leadership summits and crusades in more than 185 countries and territories forged powerful global links among conservative Christians and threw a lifeline to believers in the communist bloc.


APNewsBreak: Iowa congressman failed to disclose new company
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A congressman from Iowa violated House ethics rules by failing to disclose his role in a company that he formed, a mysterious outfit that features his top federal staffer in a false testimonial promoting its services, an Associated Press review shows. Rep. Rod Blum was one of two directors of the Tin Moon Corp. when the internet marketing company was incorporated in May 2016, as the Republican was serving his first term, a business filing shows. Among other services, Tin Moon promises to help companies cited for federal food and drug safety violations bury their Food and Drug Administration warning letters below positive internet search results.


State witness turning point in Netanyahu corruption case
JERUSALEM (AP) - Now that one of Benjamin Netanyahu's closest confidants has turned state witness, according to Israeli media reports Wednesday, it may mark a turning point for the beleaguered prime minister facing a slew of corruption allegations that could topple him from power. The testimony by Shlomo Filber, a long-time Netanyahu aide, is the latest in a dizzying series of developments and scandals that have engulfed the prime minister, his family and his inner circle. Police would not confirm whether Filber would testify against Netanyahu, but all the major Israeli media outlets said a deal to do so had been reached.