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  • A 6-year-old boy who has two broken legs after a weekend hit-and-run near Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is out of surgery and recovering, his father said Wednesday. “All went well with his surgery and he is now on the road to recovery,” Jason Ford said in a Facebook post. “Thank everyone for your prayers, thoughts, and positive energy.” Authorities are seeking the driver who hit Jack Ford in a crosswalk near the park Sunday evening, then ran from the scene, Cobb County police said. “I want the guy off the street because I don’t want him to hurt anyone else,” Jason Ford told Channel 2 Action News. The boy was crossing Burnt Hickory Road at Old Mountain Road with family when he was hit, police spokesman Wayne Delk said. “A blue 2008 Chevrolet Impala, traveling west on Burnt Hickory Road, improperly passed the stopped traffic and drove on the wrong side of the roadway and struck the victim in the crosswalk,” Delk said. MORE: Atlanta crime news The car then went into a parking lot, where it crashed into an unoccupied vehicle. “I was just so thankful when he opened his eyes and I knew he was alive,” said Sherry Jones, who witnessed the incident. The driver was gone when police arrived, though the three passengers remained on the scene, according to Delk.  The driver, who has not been identified, is described as 18 to 27 years old, with short dreadlocks, police said. The passengers said the driver is known to them as “Moonie.” One of the passengers, identified as 20-year-old Brian Locklin, was arrested on a probation violation warrant out of Fayette County, according to Channel 2. Jason Ford told the news station that a medical student who was nearby ran to help at the scene. Ford said first responders were there within minutes. He said he expects his son to be able to go home Thursday. The boy recently lost his mother to cancer, Channel 2 reported. “God, and his mother, definitely had a protective bubble around him,” Jason Ford posted on Facebook. Anyone with information about the hit-and-run is asked to contact Cobb police at 770-499-3987. Know what’s really going on with crime and public safety in your metro Atlanta community, including breaking news, trial coverage, trends and the latest on unsolved cases. Sign up for the AJC’s crime and safety newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox.  In other news:
  • Latest updates, results, photo galleries and stories from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
  • 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.
  • During CNN’s Wednesday night town hall with Florida lawmakers, survivors of last week’s high school shooting and members of the NRA, Sen. Marco Rubio attempted to explain why a ban on assault rifles wouldn’t have prevented the tragedy, and the audience’s reaction was not quite what he was hoping for. >> Read more trending news While explaining what a ban on assault rifles would do, the Republican senator from Florida said to ensure no one would “get around it.” “You would literally have to ban every semi-automatic rifle that’s sold in America.” A surprised Rubio, who appeared to have been hoping to convince the audience against such an idea, was met with a solid 10 seconds of applause that overwhelmed the room. “Fair enough, fair enough,” the senator said as the cheers died down. >> Related: Who are the top 10 recipients of NRA money? The moment came just after a grieving father called Rubio’s reaction to the mass shooting “pathetically weak” and asked whether the senator would support banning assault rifles like Nikolas Cruz’s AR-15 in order to save the lives of children. “It’s too easy to get. It is a weapon of war,” the father emotionally said. “The fact that you can’t stand with everybody else in this building and say that, I’m sorry.” A flustered Rubio assured him, “I do believe what you’re saying is true,” before launching into his argument against an assault rifles ban. >> Related: Alleged Florida high school shooter has $800,000 inheritance, reports say CNN’s town hall follows last week’s shooting at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School where gunman Nikolas Cruz fatally shot 17 people and injured over a dozen more. In the time since, many of the school’s surviving students have been commanding public attention and demanding a conversation about gun reform in the United States.