AP News in Brief at 9:04 p.m. EDT


France kicks off presidential vote overseas; security tight

PARIS (AP) — Early voting began overseas Saturday in France’s most nail-biting election in generations, and the 11 candidates seeking to become the country’s next president silenced their campaigns as required to give voters a period of reflection.

Opinion polls showed a tight race among the four top contenders vying to get into the May presidential 7 runoff that will decide who becomes France’s next head of state. But the polls also showed that decision was largely in the hands of the one-in-three French voters who are still undecided.

Polls opened in France’s far-flung overseas territories but won’t start until Sunday on the French mainland. France’s 10 percent unemployment, its lackluster economy and security issues top voters’ concerns.

Political campaigning was banned from midnight Friday until the polls close at 8 p.m. Sunday.

Polls suggested that far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist and former economy minister, were in the lead.

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Trump sons take helm of company, eye domestic expansion

NEW YORK (AP) — Apprentices no more, Eric and Donald Trump Jr. are now at the helm of the Trump Organization and adjusting to the reality presented by their father’s presidency. They’re eyeing ways to use the new lease on the family fame by expanding the brand into parts of the United States that embrace him.

Some business has slowed as a result of the pledge to stall international dealmaking while Trump is president. But a U.S. push is planned, and two new hotel chains are being considered — a four-star brand and a less luxurious line — possibly in states where Trump triumphed over Democrat Hillary Clinton last November.

“I think it makes it naturally easier if you’re going into a place that’s not adversarial to you,” Donald Trump Jr. said in a recent interview.

The Trump Organization is a private, family-run business that owns billions of dollars’ worth of hotels, office buildings, golf courses and management and licensing agreements. Although foreign deals are on hold, the company will complete existing projects, including ones in India, the United Arab Emirates and the Dominican Republic.

Because overseas markets have been hotter for the Trump brand, the company could lose some new revenue, the president’s sons suggested.

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AP FACT CHECK: When Trump takes credit and assigns blame

WASHINGTON (AP) — One of the most consistent features of President Donald Trump’s public statements is his drive to take credit and assign blame. It’s a tendency that consistently lands him in trouble with history, either recent or long ago, and has been on display as he approaches his 100th day in office.

Over the past week, the president claimed unprecedented achievement as he tried to shape perceptions of his 100-day legacy. He then pooh-poohed that benchmark as time ran short for him to get big things done. He disparaged the record of his predecessor, specifically on fighting the violent MS-13 gang, and Trump addressed his abandonment of a central campaign promise on China by denying he’d changed his mind.

A look at some of his statements:

TRUMP: “No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!” — Tweet on Friday, singling out his successful Supreme Court nomination.

THE FACTS: The president may consider the 100-day standard “ridiculous” now, but he completely bought into it during his presidential campaign.

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Advocates fan out in global show of support for science

WASHINGTON (AP) — The world saw brain power take a different form Saturday.

From the Washington Monument to Germany’s Brandenburg Gate and even to Greenland, scientists, students and research advocates rallied on an often soggy Earth Day, conveying a global message about scientific freedom without political interference, the need for adequate spending for future breakthroughs and just the general value of scientific pursuits.

They came in numbers that were mammoth if not quite astronomical.

“We didn’t choose to be in this battle, but it has come to the point where we have to fight because the stakes are too great,” said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann, who regularly clashes with politicians.

President Donald Trump, in an Earth Day statement hours after the marches kicked off, said that “rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”

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American tries to learn from United’s mistakes in incident

NEW YORK (AP) — Another day, another cellphone video of a conflict on an airplane.

American Airlines said it grounded a flight attendant who got into a verbal confrontation with a passenger on a Friday flight from San Francisco to Dallas-Fort Worth.

Spokeswoman Leslie Scott says the airline is looking into whether the male flight attendant violently took away a stroller from the female passenger just before she boarded a Friday flight from San Francisco to Dallas. He has been removed from duty in the meantime.

In an age of cellphone videos and social media, airlines are learning the hard way that it is essential to deescalate tense situations that occur during air travel, even as there are more passengers, less room and fewer flight attendants than ever before.

The incident comes less than two weeks after video of a man being violently dragged off a United Express flight sparked widespread outrage .

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Possible shutdown, health care quagmire awaiting Congress

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers returning to Washington this coming week will find a familiar quagmire on health care legislation and a budget deadline dramatized by the prospect of a protracted battle between President Donald Trump and Democrats over his border wall.

Trump’s GOP allies control Congress, but they’ve been unable to send him a single major bill as his presidency faces the symbolic 100-day mark on April 29 — the very day when the government, in a worst-case scenario, could shut down.

Feeling pressure to deliver results, Trump wants to revive a troubled health care measure from House Republicans to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Trump also hopes to use a $1 trillion catchall spending bill to salvage victories on his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall, a multibillion-dollar down payment on a Pentagon buildup, and perhaps a crackdown on cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration enforcement by federal authorities.

Congress faces a midnight Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown. But negotiations on the spending measure, a huge pile of leftover business from last year that includes the budgets of almost every federal agency, have hit a rough patch.

Rank-and-file Republicans received few answers on a Saturday conference call by top House GOP leaders, who offered little detail and said deals remained elusive on both health care and the catchall spending measure, with no votes scheduled yet.

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Venezuelans march in memory of those killed in unrest

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Thousands of Venezuelans dressed in white marched in the capital Saturday to pay homage to the at least 20 people killed in anti-government unrest in recent weeks.

Protests have been roiling Venezuela on an almost daily basis since the pro-government Supreme Court stripped congress of its last powers three weeks ago, a decision later reversed amid a storm of international rebuke.

But for the first since the protests began, demonstrators managed to cross from the wealthier eastern side of Caracas to the traditionally pro-government west without encountering resistance from state security.

Opposition lawmaker Freddy Guevara, relishing the feat, likened the protesters’ arrival in the city’s more humble neighborhoods as “crossing the Berlin wall.”

Once assembled outside the headquarters of the Roman Catholic bishops’ confederation, religious leaders led the crowd in a moment of silence and asked God for strength. Then a string of political leaders passed around a megaphone and from the back of a pick-up truck repeated their demand of recent days for immediate elections and freedom for dozens of jailed government opponents they consider political prisoners.

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Global finance leaders grapple with globalization fears

WASHINGTON (AP) — Global finance leaders on Saturday dropped a sharp condemnation of trade protectionism and references to climate change from a closing statement that wrapped up the spring meetings of the 189-nation International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

This year’s meetings were dominated by a debate over how to respond to a rising tide of anti-globalization sentiment evidenced in the United States by the election of President Donald Trump, who pledged during last year’s campaign that he would reduce America’s huge trade deficits which he blamed for the loss of millions of good-paying factory jobs.

In its communique, the IMF urged nations to avoid “inward-looking policies,” but it did not include tougher language the IMF had used in an October statement in which it had called on all countries to “resist all forms of protectionism.” The new statement also dropped any mention of the threat of climate change.

Trump has threatened to impose punitive tariffs of up to 45 percent against Mexico, China and other nations he believes are competing unfairly with American workers. During his presidential campaign he called climate change a hoax.

At a closing news conference, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Agustin Carstens, head of the Bank of Mexico and chair of the IMF’s policy committee, sought to downplay the changes. Lagarde noted that strong language condemning protectionism and promoting efforts to combat climate change, while taken out of the communique, remained in a separate document setting out the IMF’s policy agenda.

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Montana lawmakers seek to make Native America a destination

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Blackfeet Indian Reservation rolls across the plains just east of Glacier National Park. There’s a hotel and casino. There are gas stations, a few eateries and a museum to learn about the culture and history of the people that have occupied the territory long before the arrival of the U.S. Cavalry and the hordes of modern-day visitors who roll into the nearby mountains.

But despite its proximity to the national park, little of the money spent by tourists end up in the business tills of the reservation’s communities.

While Montana might be known internationally for recreational jewels such as Glacier and Yellowstone national parks, Native Americans say the state needs to do more to develop and promote its vast tribal lands as tourist destinations.

Some lawmakers want the state to invest more into drawing visitors to places of historical and cultural importance to the state’s Indian tribes — not only to spark entrepreneurship but also help outsiders better understand Native Americans.

“Folks want to come, and they want to see Native American people, and see our culture, and learn about our history. I think that’s going to create income when they come flying in,” said Democratic state Sen. Lea Whitford, who represents Browning and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. “It’s just going to increase the flow of dollars into the state.”

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Scams push foreclosure fraud to limit, taking victims’ homes

NEW YORK (AP) — The phone call came as Raymond Murray neared the bottom of his luck. His wife had died, his career had been ended by injuries, and struggling to get by on his disability check, he had scraped together just enough to pay a lawyer to avoid imminent foreclosure on his modest Brooklyn home.

The voice on the line offered a godsend: No more attorney fees, no more foreclosure, a lower monthly mortgage, and all this help for free.

Murray was soon picked up by a black Mercedes-Benz, off to meet the man on the phone. Not long after, he was back at the office again, property deed in hand and a ring of people around a conference room table, finalizing the supposed fix to keep him in the home he hoped to die in.

Eventually, the blessing Murray thought he had found was revealed as a curse. Amid unfulfilled promises, unreturned calls and unwelcome visitors at his door, the truth became clear: This aging immigrant, who thought he’d realized an American dream, was scammed out of his home.

Around the U.S., deed theft has emerged as one of the most sophisticated and devastating frauds ever to menace homeowners. Foreclosure “rescue” scams that have stolen thousands of dollars from individual homeowners in the years since the housing collapse have been pushed by savvy perpetrators to their limit. They use lies to convince the desperate to sign over their title, then force them into homelessness or a years-long legal battle.