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France’s Macron heads to far-right rival Le Pen’s stronghold in search of more votes

France’s centrist leader Emmanuel Macron will take his hunt for extra votes on Monday to the industrial heartlands of northern France, a blue-collar stronghold of his far-right rival Marine Le Pen who he will face in an April 24 presidential runoff vote.
Macron and Le Pen came out on top in Sunday’s first-round vote, setting up a repeat of the 2017 runoff between the pro-European economic liberal and euro-sceptic nationalist.

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Left-wing voters will be crucial to determining the outcome of the election. Third-placed challenger, hard-left veteran Jean-Luc Melenchon, told supporters not one single vote should go to the far right but stopped short of endorsing Macron.
“Let’s make no mistake, nothing has been decided yet,” Macron told his cheering supporters late on Sunday after partial results showed him qualifying for the runoff.
An interior ministry count showed that with 97 percent of votes counted, Macron had won 27.60 percent of voters’ support. Le Pen secured 23.41 percent, and Melenchon 21.95 percent.
Polls predict a close-fought second round with one survey projecting Macron will win with just 51 percent of the vote and 49 percent for Le Pen. The gap is so tight that victory either way is within the margin of error.
Macron took aim at his far-right rival over the financing of her economic agenda, which would see the retirement age cut to 60 for those who start work before 20, income tax scrapped for the under-30s and VAT on energy reduced to 5.5 percent from 20 percent.

Le Pen has brought the image of her far-right party closer to the mainstream at a time when France has also lurched to the right in the wake of Islamist attacks. Even so, her softer, less combative manner belies a hardline anti-immigrant program.
But it has been her focus on the cost-of-living issues troubling millions that has helped her tap into a widespread discontent towards rulers as she has toured towns and villages across France.
Le Pen said voters were making a choice between two opposite visions of France: “one of division, injustice, and disorder imposed by Emmanuel Macron for the benefit of a few, the other a rallying together of French people around social justice and protection.”
Le Pen won 33 percent of the votes in the northern Hauts-de-France region where Macron is campaigning on Monday, but left-wing candidates were close behind and won a combined 27-28 percent of the vote in the area.
Macron supporters and some of his campaign insiders have said he must do more to win over the left.
Melenchon ally Clementine Autain told RMC radio she hoped Melenchon voters would not vote for Le Pen, but said Macron’s record and program had little to attract leftist voters.
“Macron does not protect France from being taken over by the far right,” she said.
On Tuesday, Macron will head to Strasbourg, where Melenchon notched up a high score.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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