Macron elected French president: estimates

Pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron resoundingly won France’s landmark presidential election, first estimates showed Sunday, heading off a fierce challenge from the far-right in a pivotal vote for the future of the divided country and Europe.

The victory caps an extraordinary rise for the 39-year-old former investment banker, who will become the country’s youngest-ever leader.

He has promised to heal a fractured and demoralised country after a vicious campaign that has exposed deep economic and social divisions, as well as tensions around identity and immigration.

Initial estimates showed Macron winning between 65.5 percent and 66.1 percent of ballots ahead of Le Pen on between 33.9 percent and 34.5 percent.

Unknown three years ago, Macron is now poised to become one of Europe’s most powerful leaders, bringing with him a hugely ambitious agenda of political and economic reform for France and the European Union.

The result will resonate worldwide and particularly in Brussels and Berlin where leaders will breathe a sigh of relief that Le Pen’s anti-EU, anti-globalisation programme has been defeated.

After Britain’s vote last year to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s victory in the US, the French election had been widely watched as a test of how high a tide of right-wing nationalism would rise.

Le Pen, 48, had portrayed the ballot as a contest between Macron and the “globalists” — in favour of open trade, immigration and shared sovereignty — and her “patriotic” vision of strong borders and national identities.

Outgoing President Francois Hollande, who plucked Macron from obscurity to name him minister in 2014, said voting “is always an important, significant act, heavy with consequences” as he cast his vote.


Hong Kong’s SCMP newspaper website blocked in China


The website of the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper being bought by Internet giant Alibaba, has become inaccessible in China during a series of high-level government meetings in Beijing.

Attempts by AFP in China on Friday to open the newspaper’s English and Chinese-language websites returned only error messages saying that the pages could not be displayed.

The website was blocked starting on March 3, according to the security website, which monitors online censorship in China.

China’s Communist Party oversees a vast censorship system — dubbed the Great Firewall — that aggressively blocks sites or snuffs out Internet and TV content and commentary on topics considered sensitive, such as Beijing’s human rights record and criticisms of the government.

Popular social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter are inaccessible in the country, as is Youtube.

Several Western news organisations have accused China of blocking access to their websites in the past, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Reuters.;_ylt=AwrC1DEt3uJWcREA22LQtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTBydDI5cXVuBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM2BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg–

Final two California escapees captured near upscale store


The men’s escape, in which they managed to cut through a ventilation grill and then use knotted bedsheets to rappel from the roof of the jail, had sparked an intense manhunt, leaving area residents in fear.

The trio had been described as dangerous, “desperate” and probably armed.

But on Saturday, Hutchens said that “the entire state can breathe a sigh of relief, because we have the other two dangerous individuals back in custody where they should be.”

She said her department was coordinating with San Francisco police, who made the arrest, for the men’s return to Santa Ana.

The parking lot where the men were found is on Haight Street, in an area made famous as a hippie destination in the 1960s and 1970s, and which still attracts a sometimes motley mixture of tourists, drifters, hipsters and well-to-do residents.;_ylt=A0LEVz2HNa1W554AB8hXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw–


Zika virus expected to spread throughout Americas: WHO


Zika has suspected but unproven links to microcephaly — in which babies born to women infected during pregnancy have abnormally small heads.

The virus is already present in 21 of the 55 countries and territories across the Americas, the WHO said in a statement Sunday.

But it stressed that the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries Zika and also dengue and chikungunya viruses, is already present in all countries in the Americas besides Canada and Chile.

WHO pointed out that since people in the region had not been exposed to Zika before it emerged in Brazil last May they lacked immunity, allowing the virus to spread quickly.

The UN health agency said it therefore “anticipates that Zika virus will continue to spread and will likely reach all countries and territories of the region where Aedes mosquitoes are found.”

More than 7,000 babies stillborn every day


About 7,200 babies are stillborn every day — some 2.6 million per year — and half of these deaths occur during delivery, according to a quintet of studies published by The Lancet on Tuesday.

The figures for 2015 represented a meagre drop from around 24.7 to 18.4 deaths for every 1,000 total births from 2000 to last year, the medical journal reported.

The overwhelming majority of stillbirths, about 98 percent, occur in low- and medium-income countries.

“But the truly horrific figure is 1.3 million” stillbirths that occur during delivery, The Lancet editors Richard Horton and Udani Samarasekera wrote in a comment.

“The idea of a child being alive at the beginning of labour and dying for entirely preventable reasons during the next few hours should be a health scandal of international proportions. Yet it is not.”;_ylt=A0LEVi_8iZ1WUPEAAOljmolQ

The numbing predictability of the Istanbul tragedy


It’s conventional after attacks to express surprise and shock. But when a suicide bomber ripped through a group of German tourists on Tuesday morning last week in central Istanbul the shock was genuine, but no-one could feign surprise. This was the attack that everyone had feared.

Attacks blamed on Islamic State (IS) jihadists had struck Turkey three times in 2015 — once in Diyarbakir, once in the town of Suruc on the Syrian border, and then in Ankara where 103 people were killed in modern Turkey’s bloodiest ever attack.

Mexico asks actress to testify on Chapo links


El Universal published on Monday alleged text messages between Del Castillo and Guzman’s attorney, Andres Granados, in which they appeared to discuss the possibility of the drug lord investing in her tequila company, Honor Del Castillo.

A federal government official confirmed to AFP the authenticity of the text messages written in April and July, before Guzman escaped from prison on July 11.

Mexican law considers financial transactions with illegally-acquired funds as constituting money laundering.

The US Treasury Department forbids American citizens and companies from conducting financial transactions with designated drug suspects.

Last week, another set of texts leaked to the media showed that Guzman and Del Castillo exchanged warm messages between September and November.

Del Castillo, 43, who is famous for her role as a drug lord in the TV show “Queen of the South,” wrote on Twitter last week that the reports about her “aren’t truthful.”

Guzman, 58, was recaptured in a military raid on January 8 in Guzman’s northwestern home state of Sinaloa.;_ylt=A0LEVvgUg51W9moAXg5jmolQ