French voters begin casting ballots in presidential election PARIS (AP) - French voters began casting ballots for the presidential election Sunday in a tense first-round poll that's seen as a test for the spread of populism around the world. Over 60,000 polling stations opened at 0600 GMT for voters who will choose between 11 candidates in the most unpredictable election in decades. Opinion polls point to a tight race among the four leading contenders vying to advance to the May 7 presidential runoff, when the top two candidates face off. Polls suggest far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist and former economy minister, were in the lead.
The Latest: Penelope Fillon casts vote away from husband The wife of conservative presidential candidate and former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has cast her ballot near their country home - conspicuously not alongside her husband, due to vote miles away in Paris. Presidential candidates usually vote together with their spouses. Welsh-born Penelope Fillon, 61, was handed preliminary charges for her role in a fake jobs scandal - dubbed "Penelopegate" - that had threatened to derail her husband's campaign. She voted in the department of Sarthe, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) away from the French capital, where she lives with her husband in a 14th-century manor.
Amid North Korea crisis, Pence becomes Trump emissary abroad SYDNEY (AP) - As tensions rose on the Korean peninsula, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who has President Donald Trump's trust but little diplomatic experience to go with it, became the top American official headed to the region after North Korea again failed to successfully launch a ballistic missile. Days later, the mild-mannered former governor stood along the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea and stared back at soldiers from the North. In Australia, Pence's mission was to soothe any lingering hurt stemming from a tense telephone conversation Trump had with the prime minister in January. A 10-day swing through four Pacific Rim nations is offering evidence that Pence has become one of Trump's chief emissaries on the world stage, patching up relations, reassuring allies still wondering about Trump's unpredictable ways and diving into international crises like North Korea.
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Plight of Palestinian refugees now spans 5 generations JERASH REFUGEE CAMP, Jordan (AP) - As a boy, Palestinian Abdullah Abu Massoud fled the war over the creation of Israel in 1948 and sought refuge in the nearby Gaza Strip. As a young man, Abu Massoud was displaced again when Israeli forces captured Gaza, along with the West Bank and east Jerusalem, in 1967. This time he boarded a truck to Jordan. Now 77, Abu Massoud has been living in a refugee camp in Jordan for the past 50 years. He is the white-bearded patriarch of a refugee family spanning five generations, including seven children, 46 grandchildren, scores of great-grandchildren and an infant great-great-granddaughter, Tuqaa.
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. "Such sad sad news. RIP Erin," ''Happy Days" star Ron Howard tweeted Saturday. "I'll always choose to remember you on our show making scenes better, getting laughs and lighting up TV screens." A Burbank, California, native, Moran began acting in TV and movies before she was 10 years old.
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.
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.
Hillary Clinton makes surprise appearance at Tribeca Fest NEW YORK (AP) - The premiere of a virtual reality short by Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow was already a high-profile event at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday night. And then Hillary Clinton walked onstage. Clinton was an unannounced panelist, there to discuss the scourge of elephant poaching - the subject of Bigelow's eight-minute film "The Protectors: Walk in the Rangers' Shoes," about park rangers trying to save elephants in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She spoke about her work to save elephants from poachers slaughtering them for their ivory tusks, both as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and later with her family foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative.
Stolen plaque in Thailand a sign of antidemocratic sentiment BANGKOK (AP) - It's a whodunit worthy of a Dan Brown novel: a small bronze plaque commemorating Thailand's 1932 revolution is ripped out from a very public place by parties unknown and substituted by one praising the Chakri Dynasty, whose 10th king took the throne in December. A disinclination by the authorities to find those responsible adds another element of mystery. The original plaque, installed in 1936, marked the spot where a group of progressive army officers and civil servants proclaimed the end of the absolute monarchy in order to steer the country toward democracy. "At this place, at dawn on June 24, 1932, we the People's Party have given birth to the constitution for the progress of the nation," is a translation of the words engraved on the brass disc.
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.