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AP Top News at 3:44 p.m. EDT

Trump tells NRA: 'You have a true friend' in White House
ATLANTA (AP) - President Donald Trump reaffirmed his support for gun rights Friday, telling attendees of a National Rifle Association convention that "the eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end." Trump, the first sitting president to address the group's annual convention in more than 30 years, assured the audience that he would defend their right to bear arms in a campaign-like speech reminiscent of his election rallies. "You have a true friend and champion in the White House," he said. The president's trip to Atlanta also served as his first foray into a congressional race since taking office.


Trump's tweets cooling _ and the impact is fading a bit
NEW YORK (AP) - They are the 140-character bursts that helped define the first 100 days of the Trump presidency. But Donald Trump's tweets seem to be losing some of their impact. The president's traction on his medium of choice has slipped as his tone and button-pushing tendencies have cooled. The number of people engaging with him on Twitter - through likes, retweets, quotes and replies - has gradually declined, according to an Associated Press analysis of his feed and the users who read, react and propel his words throughout the Twittersphere. The analysis, conducted in partnership with the media analytics nonprofit Cortico , found other clear trends: Men are more likely than women to retweet Trump.


Trump signs order aimed at opening Arctic drilling
WASHINGTON (AP) - Working to dismantle his predecessor's environmental legacy, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday aimed at expanding oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. With one day left to rack up accomplishments before he reaches his 100th day in office, Trump signed an order reversing some of former President Barack Obama's restrictions and instructing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review a plan that dictates which federal locations are open to offshore drilling. It's part of Trump's promise to unleash the nation's energy reserves in an effort to reduce oil imports and spur jobs, regardless of fierce opposition from environmental activists who say offshore drilling harms whales, walruses and other wildlife and exacerbates global warming.


Congress OKs bill averting Saturday gov't shutdown
WASHINGTON (AP) - With just hours to spare, Congress easily approved a short-term spending bill Friday that would prevent a partial federal shutdown over the weekend. But on President Donald Trump's 99th day in office, lawmakers were leaving until next week without completing two other measures he's coveted: A Republican health care overhaul and a budget financing government for the entire year. The Senate sent the temporary spending measure to Trump by voice vote after the House approved it by a lopsided 382-30 vote. The bill keeps the government functioning through next Friday, which leaders hope will give bipartisan bargainers enough time to finish a $1 trillion package financing government through Sept.


US seeks tough NKorea action, but China shows no inclination
UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The United States and China offered starkly different strategies Friday for addressing North Korea's escalating nuclear threat as President Donald Trump's top diplomat demanded full enforcement of economic sanctions on Pyongyang and urged new penalties. Stepping back from suggestions of U.S. military action, he even offered aid to North Korea if it ends its nuclear weapons program. The range of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's suggestions, which over a span of 24 hours also included restarting negotiations, reflected America's failure to halt North Korea's nuclear advances despite decades of U.S.-led sanctions, military threats and stop-and-go rounds of diplomatic engagement.


MS-13 street gang grips Long Island suburbs in violence
BRENTWOOD, N.Y. (AP) - Late at night, when helicopters thrum overhead and spotlights beam down onto lawns, many people here know exactly what's going on. "You just think, 'Oh, God, whose child is it now?'" said Stephanie Spezia, a longtime resident of this suburb in the heart of Long Island that's caught in the grip of a violent street gang with Central American ties, MS-13. MS-13 has been blamed for a trail of 11 corpses of mostly young people discovered in woods and vacant lots in Brentwood and neighboring Central Islip since the start of the school year. The bloodshed in the blue-collar towns has gotten the attention of Republican President Donald Trump, who says it's the result of lax immigration policies that let too many criminal "scum" slip through.


George HW Bush released after latest Houston hospital stay
HOUSTON (AP) - Former President George H.W. Bush was released Friday from a Houston hospital where he received treatment for a mild case of pneumonia and chronic bronchitis during a two-week stay. "President and Mrs. Bush are very pleased to be home spending time with family and friends and grateful for the outstanding care provided by his doctors and nurses," Bush spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement. The 92-year-old Bush had been admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital on April 14 for treatment of a persistent cough. Doctors determined he had pneumonia. But after the pneumonia was treated, Bush remained hospitalized as he dealt with a case of chronic bronchitis - a constant irritation of the lining of tubes that carry air to one's lungs.


Macedonian violence elicits diverging international response
SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - Macedonia's night of violence that saw protesters storm parliament and attack lawmakers elicited diametrically opposed reactions from world powers Friday, with Russia blaming the West for meddling in the Balkan nation's internal affairs and the European Union and United States saying the events were inconsistent with democracy. The simmering tensions in Macedonia and the opposing views of powerful nations have led to concerns that the former Yugoslav republic, which narrowly escaped all-out civil war in 2001, could become another flashpoint for increasingly frosty relations between Russia and the West. Political tension has been building in Macedonia for the past two years, and the country has been under a caretaker government since inconclusive early December elections.


Florida boy among 5 students hit by car has died
MIAMI (AP) - A Florida sheriff's deputy was sleeping Thursday afternoon when his 11-year-old daughter called and asked him to pick her up at her school bus stop. Seconds later, she started screaming into the phone, "Dad, help me, help me!" Polk County Sheriff's Deputy Jonathan "JJ" Quintana told reporters at a news conference Friday that he assumed the worst as he jumped out of bed and ran barefoot to the bus stop. He found his daughter safe, but immediately saw the carnage left when a suspected drunken driver hit five of her fellow Dundee Ridge Middle Academy students as they were walking home from the stop.


Self-described psychic sentenced to 8 years in prison
PAINESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - A self-described psychic who scammed more than $1 million in cash and valuables from a dozen people she promised to protect from "dark forces" has been sentenced to eight years in prison. An Ohio judge gave 42-two-year-old Gina Miller the maximum sentence and ordered her to repay $1.4 million. Before her Thursday sentencing in Painesville, Miller apologized and asked Judge Vincent Culotta for leniency so she could care for her two sons, including one she said has a mental illness. "Quite simply, you don't deserve leniency," Culotta said. "You deserve to be punished." Defense attorney Louis Carlozzi said Miller's fortune telling was a part of her Romani culture, and she "took it a step too far." But prosecutors described Miller as "a con artist." An audio tape from a former client who had worn a wire for Mentor police was played in court, and the woman can be heard asking Miller what would happen if she could not make payments.


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