WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats in Congress are trying to pass the first major gun control legislation in more than two decades with the support of President Joe Biden, who said Thursday that it is "long past time" to do so. But they are confronting a potentially insurmountable question over what rules should govern private sales and transfers, including those between friends and extended family, as they seek Republican votes. 

A bipartisan Senate compromise that was narrowly defeated eight years ago was focused on expanding checks to sales at gun shows and on the internet. But many Democrats and gun control advocates now want almost all sales and transfers to face a mandatory review, alienating Republicans who say extending the requirements would trample Second Amendment rights. 

The dispute has been one of several hurdles in the renewed push for gun-control legislation, despite wide support for extending the checks. A small group of senators have engaged in tentative talks in the wake of recent mass shootings in Atlanta and Colorado, hoping to build on bipartisan proposals from the past. But support from at least 10 Republicans will be needed to get a bill through the Senate, and most are intractably opposed. 

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, the lead Democratic negotiator on guns, said he's been on the phone with Republican colleagues every day "making the case, cajoling, asking my friends to keep an open mind." In an interview with The Associated Press, he said he'd discussed the negotiations personally with Biden on Thursday and that "he's ready and willing to get more involved" in the talks. 

"I think it's important to keep the pressure on Congress," Murphy said. 

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Slain South Carolina doctor wrote of faith, life's fragility

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Robert Lesslie, the South Carolina physician and author who authorities say was killed along with three family members and a repairman by former NFL player Phillip Adams, frequently wrote of the fragility of life and a deep-seated Christian faith that guided him personally and professionally.

"I know without a doubt that life is fragile," the 70-year-old doctor wrote in one of his books, a collection of missives he termed "inspiring true stories" from his medical work. "I have come to understand that humility may be the greatest virtue. And I am convinced we need to take the time to say the things we deeply feel to the people we deeply care about."

"Life is uncertain. Things happen. Lives are unexpectedly changed or ended. And it happens suddenly," he wrote in post on his blog.

Lesslie's lessons on faith were passed down to his children, as was evident in a statement from his family that law enforcement shared at a news conference on Thursday, a day after the attack. Even in their grief, the family said their "hearts are bent toward forgiveness and peace," York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson told reporters. He said they were also praying for the family of Adams, a former NFL journeyman who authorities say shot and killed himself early Thursday after officers surrounded his parents' home.

According to police, Adams went to the home of Robert and Barbara Lesslie on Wednesday and shot and killed them, two of their grandchildren, 9-year-old Adah Lesslie and 5-year-old Noah Lesslie, and James Lewis, a 38-year-old air conditioning technician from Gaston who was doing work there. He also shot Lewis' colleague, 38-year-old Robert Shook, of Cherryville, North Carolina, who was flown to a Charlotte hospital, where he was in critical condition "fighting hard for his life," said a cousin, Heather Smith Thompson.

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Expert: Lack of oxygen killed George Floyd, not drugs

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — George Floyd died of a lack of oxygen from being pinned to the pavement with a knee on his neck, medical experts testified at former Officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial, emphatically rejecting the defense theory that Floyd's drug use and underlying health problems killed him.

"A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died," prosecution witness Dr. Martin Tobin, a lung and critical care specialist at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital and Loyola University's medical school in Illinois, testified Thursday.

Using easy-to-understand language to explain medical concepts and even loosening his necktie to illustrate a point, Tobin told the jury that Floyd's breathing was severely constricted while Chauvin and two other Minneapolis officers held the 46-year-old Black man down on his stomach last May with his hands cuffed behind him and his face jammed against the ground.

The lack of oxygen resulted in brain damage and caused his heart to stop, the witness said.

Tobin, analyzing images of the three officers restraining Floyd for what prosecutors say was almost 9 1/2 minutes, testified that Chauvin's knee was "virtually on the neck" more than 90 percent of the time.

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Countries worldwide hit new records for virus cases, deaths

Ambulances filled with breathless patients lined up in Brazil as nations around the world set new records Thursday for COVID-19 deaths and new coronavirus infections. The disease surged even in some countries that have kept the virus in check.

In the United States, Detroit leaders began making a plan to knock on every door to persuade people to get vaccine shots.

Brazil this week became just the third country, after the U.S. and Peru, to report a 24-hour tally of COVID-19 deaths that exceeded 4,000. India hit a peak of almost 127,000 new cases in 24 hours, and Iran set a new coronavirus infection record for the third straight day, reporting nearly 22,600 new cases.

In the state of Rio de Janeiro, emergency services are under their biggest strain since the pandemic began, with ambulances carrying patients of all ages to overcrowded hospitals struggling to care for everyone. Authorities say over 90 percent of the state's intensive-care unit beds are taken by COVID-19 patients, and many cities are reporting people dying at home due to lack of available medical treatment.

"We're already living the third wave. We have three times more calls," in comparison with previous waves, said Adriano Pereira, director of the mobile emergency care service in Duque de Caxias, an impoverished city outside Rio.

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Rioters ignore pleas for calm as violence flares in Belfast

BELFAST (AP) — Gangs of youths threw stones and fireworks at police in Belfast who hit back with water cannons as violence flared again on the streets of Northern Ireland.

Unrest has erupted over the past week amid tensions over post-Brexit trade rules and worsening relations between the parties in the Protestant-Catholic power-sharing Belfast government.

The latest violence Thursday night came despite appeals by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Irish Premier Micheal Martin and U.S. President Joe Biden for a calming of tensions.

Police holding riot shields were pelted with missiles before officers charged at the rioters with dogs. Police also used water cannons to disperse the crowds.

Earlier in the day, the Northern Ireland Assembly unanimously passed a motion calling for an end to the disorder, and the region's power-sharing government condemned the violence

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Kim compares North Korea's economic woes to 1990s famine

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for waging another "arduous march" to fight severe economic difficulties, for the first time comparing them to a 1990s famine that killed hundreds of thousands. 

Kim had previously said his country faces the "worst-ever" situation due to several factors, including the coronavirus pandemic, U.S.-led sanctions and natural disasters last summer. But it's the first time he publicly drew parallel with the deadly famine. 

North Korea monitoring groups haven't detected any signs of mass starvation or a humanitarian disaster. But Kim's comments still suggest how seriously he views the current difficulties — which foreign observers say are the biggest test of his nine-year rule.

"There are many obstacles and difficulties ahead of us, and so our struggle for carrying out the decisions of the Eighth Party Congress would not be all plain sailing," Kim told lower-level ruling party members on Thursday, according to the Korean Central News Agency. 

"I made up my mind to ask the WPK (Workers' Party of Korea) organizations at all levels, including its Central Committee and the cell secretaries of the entire party, to wage another more difficult 'arduous march' in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little," Kim said.

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Bowing to Trump? GOP brings leaders, donors to his backyard

There will be no reckoning at the Republican National Committee.

Three months after former President Donald Trump helped incite a violent attack against Congress, the GOP is bringing hundreds of donors and several future presidential prospects to the former president's doorstep in south Florida. While a handful of Republican leaders hope to move past Trump's divisive leadership, the location of the invitation-only gathering suggests that the party, at least for now, is not ready to replace Trump as its undisputed leader and chief fundraiser. 

Trump himself will headline the closed-door donor retreat, which is designed to raise millions of dollars for the GOP's political arm while giving donors exclusive access to the party's evolving group of 2024 prospects and congressional leaders. The weekend event will play out in an oceanfront luxury hotel just four miles from Trump's Florida estate, where allies of the former president will simultaneously be holding their own fundraising events. 

"The venue for the quarterly meeting along with Trump's keynote speech at CPAC shows that the party is still very much in Trump's grip," said one of the invitees, GOP donor Dan Eberhart, referring to Trump's February address at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. "The party doesn't seem to have the ability to hit escape velocity from its former standard bearer." 

Trump's continued hold on Republican donors and elected officials ensures that Trumpism will remain the driving force in GOP politics indefinitely, even as Trump repeats the falsehood that fueled the Jan. 6 insurrection. In several public statements and appearance since leaving office, as recently as last weekend, Trump has declared that the 2020 election was "stolen" from him. 

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Policy changes help drive US migrant crossings to new highs

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Paying a smuggler, Edgar Mejia could afford to take only one child with him to the United States. He chose his 3-year-old "warrior" son, leaving his 7- and 12-year-olds with their mother in Honduras.

"Pitifully, I had use him like a passport to get here," Mejia said last week after picking up milk from volunteers at a Brownsville, Texas, bus station for the last leg of their journey to join relatives in Atlanta. "I am here because of him."

Mejia, 32, and his son, who paid a smuggler $6,000 for a "new dream" that Honduras couldn't provide, are among the Border Patrol's nearly 170,000 encounters with migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border in March, a 20-year high. The total, announced Thursday, includes nearly 19,000 children traveling alone, the highest monthly number on record.

About four in 10 border encounters last month were with families and unaccompanied children — many from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — at a time when policies in the U.S. and Mexico favor them staying in the United States while they seek asylum. It marks the third sharp jump in Central American asylum-seekers in seven years.

For decades, predominantly Mexican men crossed the border illegally, with many returning for visits until heightened border security made going back and forth more difficult. Migration rose and fell but was fairly steady and predictable.

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A year after COVID-19 superspreader, family finds closure

SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash. (AP) — With dish soap, brushes and plastic water jugs in hand, Carole Rae Woodmansee's four children cleaned the gravestone their mother shares with their father, Jim. Each scrub shined engraved letters spelling out their mother's name and the days of her birth and death: March 27, 1939, and March 27, 2020. 

Carole passed away on her 81st birthday. 

That morning marked a year since she died of complications of COVID-19 after contracting it during a choir practice that sickened 53 people and killed two — a superspreader event that would become one of the most pivotal transmission episodes in understanding the virus. 

For the siblings, the somber anniversary offered a chance at closure after the pandemic stunted their mourning. They were finally holding a memorial befitting of their mother's footprint in the community. 

"The hardest thing is that there was no goodbye. It was like she just disappeared," said Carole's youngest child, Wendy Jensen.

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Loud debates, fun banter: Mideast finds outlet in Clubhouse

BEIRUT (AP) — They are boisterous, argumentative and at times downright hilarious. 

Hundreds of thousands of people in the Arab world are turning to Clubhouse, the fast-growing audio chat app, to mock and vent against longtime rulers, debate sensitive issues from abortion to sexual harassment, or argue where to find the best and cheapest shawarma sandwich during an economic crisis. 

The discussions are endless as they are breathless.

More than 970,000 people from the Middle East have downloaded the new platform since it launched outside the U.S. in January. It has offered space for in-person conversations in an age where direct contact is at the mercy of the pandemic and it's brought together those at home and the many in exile or abroad. 

But mostly, it has offered a release for bottled-up frustration in a region where violent conflicts and autocrats have taken hold and where few, if any, avenues for change — or even for speaking out — seem tenable.

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