France votes in presidential election
Polling booths have opened in France in the election in which 48.7 million French will choose the president of the republic between Emmanuel Macron, outgoing head of state who would become the first to be confirmed after Jacques Chirac in 2002, and Marine Le Pen, who would be the first woman and first member of the far right to lead the country. The latest polls give Macron ahead with a percentage between 55 and 57% of the votes compared to 43-45% of the opponent – a less important difference than that of five years ago, when the first clash between the two ended with the 66% of the votes in Macron and 34% in Le Pen. A record abstention could upset the forecasts, fueled above all by the disappointment of left-wing voters, absent from the ballot despite the excellent performance of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of the radical left of La France Insoumise (22%). Macron and Le Pen emerged as the top two candidates from a pool of 12 in the first round on April 10, winning 27.85% and 23.15% of the vote respectively. Left-wing populist Jean-Luc Melenchon narrowly missed out, with 21.95% of the vote. The polls speak of a 25-30% share of voters who will not go to the polls. In the meantime, seats already opened Saturday in the French overseas territories , Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, Saint-Barthélemy, Saint-Martin, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and French Polynesia. The polls close at 8pm and exit polls results are expected immediately.
Blinken, Austin to visit Ukraine
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Kiev today. Annoucing the visit of the two most seniors US officials to visit Ukraine, Zelensky said, “We cannot be visited empty-handed now. We are not just waiting for presidents or cakes, we are waiting for concrete things: weapons. So I think we can get a deal or part of the arms package from the United States that we agreed upon earlier,” he said. Zelensky said he expected “the President of the United States to come and talk to us when the security conditions allow it”. During a media conference in a subway station in Kiev, Zelensky reiterated that to reach a “diplomatic solution” and stop the war, a meeting was needed between him and President Putin. “We must try to achieve this goal – he said – but we don’t see this from Russia. They say one thing and then do the opposite”. He threatened to call off talks with Russia, “if the Ukrainian military still in Mariupol are killed, if Russia announces a pseudo-referemdum in the pseudo-republics” and he invited Vatican mediation to reach truce and peace.
‘Mariupol is the worst catastrophe of the century’
The situation in Mariupol, under constant and incessant bombardment by the Russians, is “the worst catastrophe of this century” and the worst humanitarian catastrophe since the Russian invasion, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told a media conference in Washington. “We will see the terrible atrocities committed by the Russians when the city is liberated,” he added. The Russian troops, he said, “are destroying everything.” It is estimated that at least 100,000 inhabitants are still blocked in Mariupol. Kiev estimates that the deaths in the city are at least 20,000: figures that are difficult to verify for the moment.
Mariupol mothers ‘on brink of starvation’
Mothers trapped in the tunnels deep under the Mariupol Azovstal steel plant have pleaded for an evacuation route to be opened for them and their children in a video posted Saturday by Ukrainian armed forces. “Our food reserves that we’ve brought here with us are running out. We are at the brink of starvation, we won’t be able to feed even our kids,” one mother, who has been in the tunnels since February 25 pleaded. “We are begging for safety guarantees for our kids,” she added.
Eight killed in Odesa missile strike
At least eight people, including a three-month-old baby, have died after a Russian missile attack on Odesa, Ukraine’s President has confirmed. “The war started when this baby was one month old. Can you imagine what is happening?” President Zelenskyy asked. “They are just bastards… I don’t have any other words for it, just bastards.” Russia claimed it had taken control of several villages elsewhere in the eastern Donbas region and destroyed 11 military Ukrainian military targets overnight, including three artillery warehouses. ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith reported Russia had already confirmed its intent to attack Odesa on its way to Moldova. This strike would be step one of an invasion that goes beyond Ukraine’s borders, he opined.
One death after increase of acute hepatitis cases
The World Health Organization has announced that at least one child death had been reported following an increase of acute hepatitis of unknown origin in children, and that at least 169 cases had been reported in children in 12 countries. WHO issued the figures as health authorities around the world investigate a mysterious increase in severe cases of hepatitis – inflammation of the liver – in young children. Acute cases of hepatitis of unknown origin had been reported in the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Israel, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, France, Romania and Belgium. It said 114 of the 169 cases were in the United Kingdom alone. The cases reported were in children aged from one month to 16 years, and 17 had required liver transplantation, it said.
100 dead in Nigerian illegal refinery explosion
At least 100 people died in an overnight explosion in an illegal hydrocarbon refinery in the Abaezi forest in southern Nigeria. According to the website of the Nigerian newspaper ‘Punch’, the hellfire, which panicked the population, also caused the destruction of six vehicles. Another 150 people with severe burns were rushed to villages for treatment, sources in the Nigerian newspaper ‘Daily Post’ reported. Meanwhile, the owner of the illegal refinery is being sought.
Israel Closes Crossing to Gazans
Israel said it will close its only crossing from the Gaza Strip for workers on Sunday after fighters in the Palestinian enclave fired three rockets at the Jewish state. On Friday night, two rockets were fired from Gaza at southern Israel, with one hitting the Jewish state and the other falling short and striking near a residential building in northern Gaza, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.
Brazil holds first carnival since COVID-19
Rio de Janeiro’s carnival, a glittering, sequin-studded festival of the flesh, has exploded back to life with the first famed samba school parades since COVID-19 hit Brazil. After two long years of face masks, social-distancing and death, a sparkling sea of dancers, drummers and multi-storey floats reclaimed the “Sambadrome”, the iconic beach city’s carnival parade venue, which had been turned into a drive-through vaccination centre at the height of the health crisis which has claimed more than 660,000 lives.
Leigh’s nervous breakdown filming ‘Gone with the Wind’
It was the movie that set Hollywood and Atlanta on fire. But for Vivien Leigh, who played Southern belle Scarlet O’Hara, the making of “Gone With the Wind” was hell on earth. The film would go on to become the top grossing movie of all time (adjusted for inflation, it boasted ticket sales of $1.823 billion), winning 10 Academy Awards in 1939. But it took a significant toll on its 25-year-old female lead. Exhaustion and pressure from long days and nights on the movie set had her taking sedatives to calm her hysteria until one day, she accidentally overdosed. At the time, Leigh was involved in an affair with English actor Laurence Olivier. The two had fallen head over heels on the movie set “Fire Over England”, two years before her starring role as Scarlett. Leigh had abandoned her husband, lawyer Herbert Leigh Holman, and their baby girl for Olivier, who had left his wife, actress Jill Esmond, and their young son. “How dare you take four pills like that, you hysterical little ninny,” Olivier wrote to Leigh in a letter, having heard of her overdose, according to “Truly, Madly: Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier and the Romance of the Century” (Grand Central Publishing), out now, by Stephen Galloway. She became a stranger to Olivier, the man she once adored, and died alone at 53 in 1967.