New Zealanders go to the polls as Ardern seeks 2nd term

AUCKLAND, New Zealand | Polling places opened on election day in New Zealand on Saturday as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seeks a second term.

Ardern brought homemade cheese scones to campaign volunteers in Auckland and appeared relaxed as she awaited results, which will be announced later in the evening.

Opinion polls indicate Ardern is poised to win, with her liberal Labour Party polling far ahead of the conservative National Party, led by Judith Collins. A record number of voters cast early ballots in the two weeks leading up to the election.

Opinion polls indicate Ardern is poised to win, with her liberal Labour Party polling far ahead of the conservative National Party, led by Judith Collins. A record number of voters cast early ballots in the two weeks leading up to the election.

French police search homes of health minister, ex-PM

PARIS | French police searched the homes of the health minister, the former prime minister and other top officials Thursday in an investigation into the government’s response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

The dawn searches, confirmed by the Health Ministry, come as France is fighting against a resurgent epidemic that has now filled a third of the country’s intensive care units with COVID-19 patients and is again putting Europe to the test. President Emmanuel Macron announced curfews on around 20 million people in the Paris region and eight other French metropolitan areas starting Friday night to try to slow the tide.

The investigation threatens to rekindle public frustration with a government that’s been accused of lying to the public about mask stocks, underestimating testing needs and overestimating France’s ability to vanquish the pandemic — not once, but now twice.

About 1,000 protesting nurses, doctors and other public hospital staff marched through Paris on Thursday to demand more investment, staff and higher salaries after years of cost cuts.

Thai police crack down on protesters, PM refuses to resign

BANGKOK | Riot police in Thailand cracked down on thousands of student-led protesters who rallied Friday in the capital in defiance of a strict state of emergency, while the prime minister rejected calls for his resignation.

The protesters gathered in torrential monsoon rains to push their demands, including that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha leave office, the constitution be amended and the nation’s monarchy undergo reform.

It was the second day they defied an order not to gather, imposed after some demonstrators heckled a royal motorcade, an unprecedented development in Thailand, where the monarchy is normally held in reverence.

Police used water cannons and charged at the crowd, scattering protesters, onlookers and reporters. Journalists who were hit by the water said it caused a stinging sensation and was dyed blue, to mark protesters for possible later arrest.

—Associated Press