Centrist Macron vs. far-right Le Pen in fight to lead France
PARIS (AP) — Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen advanced Sunday to a runoff in France’s presidential election, remaking the country’s political landscape and setting up a showdown over its participation in the European Union.
French politicians on the left and right immediately urged voters to block Le Pen’s path to power in the May 7 runoff, saying her virulently nationalist anti-EU and anti-immigration politics would spell disaster for France.
“Extremism can only bring unhappiness and division to France,” defeated conservative candidate Francois Fillon said. “As such, there is no other choice than to vote against the extreme right.”
The selection of Le Pen and Macron presents voters with the starkest possible choice between two diametrically opposed visions of the EU’s future and France’s place in it. It sets up a battle between Macron’s optimistic vision of a tolerant France and a united Europe with open borders against Le Pen’s darker, inward-looking “French-first” platform that calls for closed borders, tougher security, less immigration and dropping the shared euro currency to return to the French franc.
With Le Pen wanting France to leave the EU and Macron wanting even closer cooperation among the bloc’s 28 nations, Sunday’s outcome means the May 7 runoff will have undertones of a referendum on France’s EU membership.
Tight, tense French presidential vote echoes around world
PARIS (AP) — Whatever the result of France’s presidential election, the choice will resonate far beyond France’s borders, from Syrian battlefields to Hong Kong trading floors and the halls of the U.N. Security Council.
The future of Europe is at stake as this country chooses a president in an election unlike any other, one that may reshape France’s post-war identity and indicate whether global populism is ascendant or on the decline.
As untested centrist Emmanuel Macron and nationalist Marine Le Pen head into a May 7 runoff after dominating Sunday’s first-round vote, here are a few reasons why this race matters:
RISK OF A FREXIT
Le Pen hopes to pull France out of the European Union and its shared euro currency — a blow that would be far worse than Britain’s exit and could spell death for the EU, the euro and the whole idea of European unity borne from the blood of World War II. France is a founding member of the EU, and its main driver along with former rival Germany.
Unconventional Macron faces unprecedented challenge
PARIS (AP) — French centrist Emmanuel Macron faces an unprecedented challenge in his quest for the French presidency: A newcomer to politics, he was virtually unknown to most of his countrymen just three years ago.
Now the tenacious 39-year-old with strong pro-business and pro-European views, and an unconventional love story, is poised to face far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen in the May 7 presidential runoff.
A joyful crowd of some 2,000 supporters gathered at his election headquarters in Paris cheered wildly at the announcement that Macron will advance to the second round. Their enthusiasm only grew when major rivals Socialist Benoit Hamon and conservative Francois Fillon conceded defeat, then urged voters to vote for Macron in the runoff in order to defeat Le Pen.
In an American-style move unusual in French politics, Macron appeared on stage hand in hand with his wife, Brigitte, both waving at the crowd with tears in their eyes.
Brigitte Macron is 24 years his senior — the same age difference as Donald and Melania Trump— and Macron doesn’t hide that she is his closest adviser.
Trump at 100 days: ‘It’s a different kind of presidency’
WASHINGTON (AP) — For nearly 100 days, President Donald Trump has rattled Washington and been chastened by its institutions.
He’s startled world leaders with his unpredictability and tough talk, but won their praise for a surprise strike on Syria.
He’s endured the steady drip of investigations and a seemingly endless churn of public personnel drama.
“It’s a different kind of a presidency,” Trump said in an Oval Office interview with The Associated Press, an hourlong conversation as he approached Saturday’s key presidential benchmark.
Trump, who campaigned on a promise of instant disruption, indirectly acknowledged that change doesn’t come quickly to Washington. He showed signs that he feels the weight of the office, discussing the “heart” required to do the job. Although he retained his signature bravado and a salesman’s confidence in his upward trajectory, he displayed an awareness that many of his own lofty expectations for his first 100 days in office have not been met.
Trump heads into tough week with budget, health care battles
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is heading into one of the most challenging weeks of his presidency, juggling a renewed health care push and a looming budget deadline. It’s all complicated by a potential showdown with Democrats over paying for a border wall.
The symbolic 100-day mark for the administration is Saturday. That’s the same day government could shut down without a budget deal. Trump has announced a rally in Pennsylvania that day.
Despite Trump’s dismissal that the 100-day marker is “artificial,” the White House is planning a packed week of activities leading up to Saturday. Trump will sign executive orders on energy and rural policies, dine with Supreme Court justices, meet with the president of Argentina and travel to Atlanta for a National Rifle Association event. Top aides will also fan out around the country to promote the administration.
Aides stressed on Sunday talk shows that funding a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and a vote on an effort to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care law were priorities. But they also suggested a shutdown could be avoided.
“I don’t think anyone foresees or expects or would want a shutdown,” said budget director Mick Mulvaney on “Fox News Sunday.”
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.
NKorea detains US citizen, the 3rd American being held there
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea has detained a U.S. citizen, officials said Sunday, bringing to three the number of Americans now being held there.
Tony Kim, who also goes by his Korean name Kim Sang-duk, was detained on Saturday, according to Park Chan-mo, the chancellor of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology.
Park said Kim, who is 58, taught accounting at the university for about a month. He said Kim was detained by officials as he was trying to leave the country from Pyongyang’s international airport. A university spokesman said he was trying to leave with his wife on a flight to China.
The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang said it was aware of a Korean-American citizen being detained recently, but could not comment further. The embassy looks after consular affairs for the United States in North Korea because the two countries do not have diplomatic relations.
The State Department said it was aware of the report about a U.S. citizen being detained, but declined further comment “due to privacy considerations.”
Bloomberg to world leaders: Ignore Trump on climate
NEW YORK (AP) — New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg urged world leaders not to follow President Donald Trump’s lead on climate change and declared his intention to help save an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions.
Bloomberg, who considered a presidential bid after serving three terms as New York City’s mayor, addressed his intensifying focus on climate change in an interview with The Associated Press. He said there was no political motive tied to last week’s release of his new book, “Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet,” co-authored by former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope.
“I’m not running for office,” the 75-year-old Bloomberg said.
Instead of helping to re-ignite his political career, he said the new book offered a specific policy objective: To help save an international agreement, negotiated in Paris, to reduce global carbon emissions.
The Trump administration is debating whether to abandon the pact as the president promised during his campaign. Under the agreement, the U.S. pledged that by 2025 it would reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels, which would be a reduction of about 1.6 billion tons.
More Venezuelans struggle in US as their country implodes
MIAMI (AP) — People crowd outside a church near Miami’s international airport, chatting about family and friends left behind in Caracas, Valencia and Maracaibo as they wait more than an hour to receive rice, beans, yogurt and other food for their families.
At a storage space not far away, about 60 other Venezuelans line up for free sheets, towels, cookware and other goods donated to help them get on their feet in their new country.
Volunteers at South Florida social service organizations say they have seen an increasing number of Venezuelan seeking help. It’s a reflection of the deteriorating situation in Venezuela, where the opposition has held massive protests against President Nicolas Maduro for his handling of the economy and a Supreme Court decision that briefly stripped the opposition-led congress of most of its power.
“I never thought I would need to receive food but the time has come and I don’t have a choice,” said 26-year-old Venezuelan lawyer Alejandra Mujica, who was among about 80 people waiting outside Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic church one recent afternoon.
Venezuela was once among Latin America’s most prosperous countries, with the world’s largest proven oil reserves. During good times, Venezuelans who came to the United States largely did so as tourists or to go shopping.
Author and conservationist Kuki Gallmann shot in Kenya
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The Italian-born author and conservationist Kuki Gallmann was shot at her Kenyan ranch and airlifted for treatment after herders invaded in search of pasture to save their animals from drought, officials said Sunday.
Gallmann, known for her bestselling book “I Dreamed of Africa,” which became a movie by the same name starring Kim Basinger, was patrolling the ranch in Laikipia when she was shot in the stomach, local police chief Ezekiel Chepkowny said.
The 73-year-old Gallmann had been with rangers from the Kenya Wildlife Service, assessing damage done to her property Saturday by arsonists who burned down buildings at one of Laikipia Nature Conservancy’s tourism lodges, said Laikipia Farmers Association chairman Martin Evans.
After the attack, the rangers transported her to a location where she could be airlifted to Nanyuki town, Evans said. British Army medics attended to her before she was airlifted to the capital, Nairobi, he said.
On Sunday night, Evans said Gallmann was in stable condition after surgery but had serious injuries. He cited a family member.