Security tight as France prepares for presidential vote
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 pointed to a tight race among the four top contenders vying to get into the May 7 presidential runoff that will decide who becomes France’s next head of state. But the polls also said that decision was largely in the hands of the one-in-three French voters who were still undecided.
Polls opened in France’s far-flung overseas territories but voting wouldn’t start until Sunday on the French mainland. France’s 10 percent unemployment, its lackluster economy and security issues topped 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.
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.
Erin Moran, Joanie Cunningham in “Happy Days,” dies at 56.
NEW YORK (AP) — Erin Moran, the former child star who played Joanie Cunningham in the sitcoms “Happy Days” and “Joanie Loves Chachi,” died Saturday at age 56.
A statement from the sheriff’s department in Harrison County, Indiana, said the dispatcher “received a 911 call about an unresponsive female. Upon arrival of first responders, it was determined that Erin Moran Fleischmann was deceased. An autopsy is pending.”
The dispatcher confirmed to The Associated Press that the woman was the actress, who had been married to Steven Fleischmann.
A Burbank, California native, Moran began acting in TV and movies before she was 10 years old. She had nearly a decade’s worth of experience when she was cast in 1974 in “Happy Days” as Joanie Cunningham, the kid sister to high school student Richie Cunningham, played by Ron Howard.
Debuting at a time of nostalgia for the seemingly innocent 1950s, the sitcom was set in Milwaukee and soon became a hit. Howard and Henry Winkler, who played tough guy Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli, were the show’s biggest stars, but Moran also became popular. In 1982, she was paired off with fellow “Happy Days” performer Scott Baio in the short-lived “Joanie Loves Chachi.”
AP FACT CHECK: Sessions tags wrong city for immigrant crimes
SAN DIEGO (AP) — U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has highlighted the San Diego suburb of Escondido to illustrate how jurisdictions that limit cooperation with immigration authorities jeopardize public safety. Speaking at a news conference Friday along a border fence with Mexico, Sessions offered no evidence that ‘sanctuary jurisdictions’ or immigrants are responsible. And he failed to mention that the federal government has held up Escondido as a model for cooperation with immigration authorities.
SESSIONS: “As you know too well here, Escondido’s gang violence has jumped recently between two violent gangs warring for turf — more shootings, more guns, more terrorized neighborhoods. Sanctuary jurisdictions have put known gang members back on the streets to join the Westside gang in Escondido.”
THE FACTS: Since May 2010, the city has had an extraordinarily close relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, giving ICE officers desk space at police headquarters and working in tandem with them on everything from traffic stops to gang sweeps to remove people who have been previously deported and have criminal records. Critics say the unusual relationship has unnerved immigrants but supporters say it has improved public safety in the city of 150,000. In 2012, ICE bestowed Escondido with a “Partnerships for Public Safety” award.
Violent crime has held fairly steady in recent years, dropping 5 percent during the first half of 2016 compared to the same period last year, according to the FBI’s latest figures. When asked about Sessions’ characterization, Police Chief Craig Carter said, “We had nothing I’m seeing as a spike or increase.”
The city was rocked by the fatal shooting of a 55-year-old woman who was walking home from church March 7 when she was struck by bullets that police say was intended for a rival gang member, but both suspects are U.S. citizens.
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.”
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 .
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.
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.
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.
UC Berkeley students threaten to sue over Ann Coulter visit
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — The University of California at Berkeley students who invited Ann Coulter to speak on campus are threatening to sue the university if it doesn’t find a proper time and venue for the conservative pundit to speak next week.
Harmeet Dhillon, who represents the Berkeley College Republicans, said in letters sent Friday to UC Berkeley’s Interim Vice Chancellor Stephen Sutton and chief attorney Christopher Patti that if Coulter is not allowed to give a speech on campus on April 27 she will file a lawsuit in federal court because the university is violating the students’ constitutional right to free speech.
“It is a sad day indeed when the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, is morphing before our eyes into the cemetery of free speech on college campuses,” wrote Dhillon, a committeewoman to the Republican National Convention for California and former vice chairwoman of the California Republican Party.
Berkeley officials on Tuesday informed the Berkeley College Republicans and the nonpartisan BridgeUSA, which organized the Coulter event, that it was being cancelled due to security concerns.
The cancellation comes after a series of violent clashes this year on campus and in downtown Berkeley between far-right and far-left protesters who come armed with pepper spray, Molotov cocktails, brass knuckles and soda cans filled with concrete.