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Polls Open In World’s Largest-Ever One-Day Elections In Muslim-Majority Nation

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Jakarta (AFP) – Indonesia kicked off one of the world’s biggest one-day elections Wednesday, pitting president Joko Widodo against ex-general Prabowo Subianto in a race to lead the Muslim-majority nation.


More than 190 million Indonesians are set to cast a ballot as polls opened shortly after 7:00 am local time (2200 GMT Tuesday) in restive Papua. The vote is slated to end at 1:00 pm (0600 GMT) in Sumatra at the other end of the volcano-dotted archipelago.

Some voters went to their local mosque before casting ballots, as the daily call to prayer sounded across a nation that is nearly 90 percent Muslim.

A record 245,000 candidates are running for public office, from the presidency and parliamentary seats to local positions — the first time all are being held on the same day.

Opinion polls show Widodo, 57, is a clear favourite — but he faces a tough challenge from Subianto, 67, who has leaned on a fiery nationalist ticket and warned he will challenge the results over voter-list irregularities if he loses.

Subianto narrowly lost to Widodo in 2014 elections, and unsuccessfully challenged those results.

Voters will flock to more than 800,000 polling stations where they’ll punch holes in ballots — to make clear their candidate choice — and then dip a finger in Muslim-approved halal ink, a measure to prevent double-voting in a graft-riddled country where ballot-buying is rife.

The polls present a huge logistical challenge in a country stretching 4,800 kilometres across more than 17,000 islands with a population of more than 260 million, including hundreds of ethnic groups and languages.

Officials were moving cardboard ballot boxes by motorbikes, boats and planes — as well as elephants and horses — to reach mountaintop villages and communities deep in the jungle.

A series of so-called “quick counts” are expected to give a reliable indication of the presidential winner later Wednesday. Official results are not expected until May.

– ‘Indonesia First’-

The poll has been punctuated by bitter mudslinging and a slew of fake news online that threatens to sway millions of undecided voters.

Widodo has campaigned on his ambitious drive to build much-needed roads, airports and other infrastructure across Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

But his rights record has been criticised owing to an uptick in discriminatory attacks on religious and other minorities, including a small LGBT community, as Islamic hardliners become more vocal in public life.

His choice of conservative cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate has also raised fears about the future of Indonesia’s reputation for moderate Islam.

Raised in a bamboo shack in a riverside slum, the soft-spoken Widodo stands in stark contrast to Subianto, whose strongman image is underscored by a penchant for slamming lecterns as he accuses Jakarta of selling the country off to foreign interests.

Subianto — joined by running mate Sandiaga Uno, a 49-year-old wealthy financier -– has courted Islamic hardliners, promised a boost to military and defence spending and, taking a page from US President Donald Trump, vowed to put “Indonesia first” by reviewing billions of dollars in Chinese investment.

Subianto’s long-held presidential ambitions have been dogged by strong ties to the Suharto dictatorship, which collapsed two decades ago, and a chequered past.

He ordered the abduction of democracy activists as the authoritarian regime collapsed in 1998, and was accused of committing atrocities in East Timor.

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House Democrats Subpoena Full Mueller Report, and the Underlying Evidence

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WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee formally issued a subpoena on Friday demanding that the Justice Department hand over to Congress an unredacted version of Robert S. Mueller III’s report and all of the evidence underlying it by May 1.


The subpoena, one of the few issued thus far by House Democrats, escalates a fight with Attorney General William P. Barr over what material Congress is entitled to see from the special counsel’s nearly two-year investigation. The chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, asked for all evidence, including summaries of witness interviews and classified intelligence.

“My committee needs and is entitled to the full version of the report and the underlying evidence consistent with past practice,” Mr. Nadler said in a statement. “Even the redacted version of the report outlines serious instances of wrongdoing by President Trump and some of his closest associates. It now falls to Congress to determine the full scope of that alleged misconduct and to decide what steps we must take going forward.”

Mr. Nadler’s deadline falls a day before Mr. Barr is scheduled to testify publicly before the Judiciary Committee in what is expected to be an explosive session where Democrats plan to excoriate Mr. Barr’s handling of the report and Republicans will urge their colleagues to accept that there was no criminality and move on.

Mr. Barr released to Congress and the public a redacted copy of the more than 400-page report on Thursday. Though the redactions were less extensive than some Democrats feared, the Justice Department had blacked out sections of the report that it said contained classified material, secretive grand jury testimony or information that would affect investigations still underway.

Democrats have been threatening to issue a subpoena for weeks, and the Justice Department on Thursday sought to head off the subpoena with a pledge to share more information with Congress.

Stephen E. Boyd, an assistant attorney general, wrote in a letter that the department would allow the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the heads of their judiciary and intelligence committees, to view a fuller version of the report beginning next week. But he said even that copy would still have secretive grand jury information blacked out because of legal requirements.

Given the sensitive nature of the information, Mr. Boyd wrote, “all individuals reviewing the less-redacted version” must agree to keep the newly unredacted information confidential.

Mr. Nadler rejected the proposed accommodation as insufficient on Friday. He has repeatedly asked the Justice Department to join him in requesting that a court unseal the grand jury information, in particular, for Congress to review privately. Mr. Barr has so far rejected that request.

“I am open to working with the department to reach a reasonable accommodation for access to these materials,” he said, “however I cannot accept any proposal which leaves most of Congress in the dark, as they grapple with their duties of legislation, oversight and constitutional accountability.”

(Reporting by Washington Post)

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At Least 29 Killed In Tourist Bus Crash Near Caniço, Portugal

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A bus carrying German tourists has plunged off a road and overturned on the Portuguese island of Madeira leaving at least 29 people dead and others injured.


LISBON (Reuters) – At least 29 people, most of them German tourists, were killed and 27 others injured on Wednesday when their bus veered off a steep narrow road on the Portuguese island of Madeira, authorities said.

The white tourist bus — which was carrying 55 passengers and a tour guide in addition to the driver — overturned in a residential area in the coastal town of Canico at around 6:30 p.m. (1730 GMT), its mayor, Filipe Sousa, told reporters.

TV images showed the vehicle on its side on a bank next to a small road and surrounded by rescuers.

The driver reportedly lost control of the bus on a sloping road and the vehicle plunged down, overturning next to a house, according Portuguese news agency Lusa.

“I have no words to describe what happened. I cannot face the suffering of these people,” Sousa told SIC TV.

He said the tourists on the bus were all German but some pedestrians might have been hit by the bus.

Germany’s Bild daily reported that many of the tourists were retirees, and those killed included 18 women and 11 men.

The German foreign ministry had set up a hotline and embassy staff were in close touch with local officials about the accident, a spokeswoman said.

Other members of the same group of German tourists were traveling on another bus, which was not involved in the accident, a regional civil protection spokesman told a news conference.

Those injured were taken to a hospital in Funchal, the capital city of Madeira.

From the 28 injured initially taken to the hospital, one German tourist did not survive the injuries, bringing the death toll to 29, a hospital spokesman told a news conference on Wednesday evening.

Three of the injured underwent surgery, 23 were under observation and two were discharged. There were no children among the victims, the hospital confirmed, adding that two of the injured are from Portugal while the others are foreign nationals.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told SIC TV that some of the victims were from Madeira but most were German.

A regional civil protection official said the tourists involved in the accident were aged between 40 and 50 years old.

Portugal’s public prosecutor’s office plans to open an investigation into the accident, said Lusa.

Madeira is a popular tourist destination. The peak season is during the summer but it also gets many visitors around Easter.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa sent a message of condolences to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“It was with deep regret that I learned about the tragic accident in Madeira,” Costa said on Twitter. “To all families involved I send the deepest condolences.”

The spokesman for the German government Steffen Seibert also expressed his condolences on Twitter. “Our deep sorrow goes out to all those who lost their lives in the bus, our thoughts are with the injured,” he said in a tweet.

Three days of mourning have been declared by Madeira’s regional government.

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Florida Woman Who Traveled to Colorado, Threatened Multiple Schools, Found Dead After 24-Hour Manhunt

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LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) — A young Florida woman who traveled to Colorado and bought a shotgun for what authorities feared would be a Columbine-inspired attack just days ahead of the 20th anniversary was found dead Wednesday in an apparent suicide after a nearly 24-hour manhunt.


Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said 18-year-old Sol Pais was discovered by the FBI with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The manhunt had led to the closing of Denver-area schools as a precaution.

During the manhunt, the FBI said Pais was “infatuated” with Columbine and made threats ahead of Saturday’s anniversary of the attack that killed 13 people at Columbine High School in 1999. The FBI described her “extremely dangerous.”

The Miami Beach high school student flew to Colorado on Monday night and bought a pump-action shotgun and ammunition, authorities said.

“We deal with a lot of threats at Columbine,” John McDonald, executive director of security for the Jefferson County school system, said when the manhunt was over. “This one felt different. It was different. It certainly got our attention.”

Agents had focused the search around the base of Mount Evans, a popular recreational area about 60 miles southwest of Denver.

All classes and extracurricular activities for about a half-million students were canceled as a precaution, though sheriff’s spokesman Mike Taplin said the young woman’s threats were general and not specific to any school.

Authorities said Pais was last seen not far from Columbine — in the Jefferson County foothills outside Denver — in a black T-shirt, camouflage pants and black boots. Police were instructed to detain her for a mental health evaluation.

In Pais’ hometown of Surfside, Florida, Police Chief Julio Yero asked that the family be given “privacy and a little time to grieve.”

“This family contributed greatly to this investigation from the very onset. They provided valuable information that led us to Colorado and a lot of things that assisted in preventing maybe more loss of life,” he said.

Pais’ parents last saw her on Sunday and reported her missing to Florida authorities on Monday night, Surfside police said.

Because of the threats, Columbine and more than 20 other schools outside Denver locked their doors for nearly three hours Tuesday afternoon, and some canceled evening activities or moved them inside.

Adam Charni, a Miami Beach High School senior, said Pais dressed in black and kept mostly to herself. He said he was “baffled” to learn she was the person authorities in Colorado were searching for.

Two teenage gunmen attacked Columbine on April 20, 1999, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before taking their own lives.

If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. In emergencies, call 911, or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.

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