Socialist Valls backs centrist Macron in race

Former prime minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday that he would vote for Emmanuel Macron in France’s presidential election, becoming the biggest name in the Socialist Party to turn his back on its official candidate and support the centrist instead.

Although it was not clear whether Valls’s defection would help poll favorite Macron, head of the new En Marche! (Onward!) party, it prompted anger among Socialists and media speculation about the survival of the country’s largest left-wing party.

Valls, whose announcement came days after Socialist Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian deserted to Macron, said he wanted to do all he could to ensure that far-right leader Marine Le Pen, appearing second in polls, did not win power.

“I’m not going to take any risks,” Valls said, adding that Le Pen’s score potential was seriously underrated. “I will vote for Emmanuel Macron,” he said.

Opinion polls show Macron winning the presidency in a second-round vote on May 7, facing off against Le Pen. The polls show Socialist Benoît Hamon set for a humiliating fifth-place finish in the elimination round on April 23.

The news of Valls’s defection came a day after third-place candidate François Fillon, under formal judicial investigation on suspicion of financial impropriety, suffered a further blow when his wife was put under formal investigation, as well.

— Reuters

U.N.: Malaria has killed 4,000 since January

An outbreak of malaria has killed more than 4,000 people in Burundi this year, the United Nations said Wednesday, a dramatic increase over the 700 victims the government announced just two weeks ago.

Millions have been affected by malaria in the East African nation since January 2016, the report by the U.N. humanitarian office said. Burundi, one of the world’s poorest countries, has a population of about 11 million.

The malaria cases are “well beyond the epidemic threshold,” the report said, citing World Health Organization investigators.

The outbreak is the latest crisis for Burundi, which has been racked by political violence since 2015 and faces food shortages that the United Nations says have left nearly 1 in 10 people with severe food insecurity.

The political crisis began with President Pierre Nkurunziza’s ultimately successful decision in April 2015 to seek a third term, a move that critics called unconstitutional. Hundreds have been killed, and more than 380,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring countries.

— Associated Press

Mexican journalist wounded in shooting: A reporter in Mexico’s gulf coast state of Veracruz is in serious condition after being shot in a region plagued by drug cartel violence. The president of the state commission for the protection of journalists said a bullet punctured the lung of Armando Arrieta Granados, the news editor at La Opinión de Poza Rica. It was the second attack in two days targeting a journalist in Mexico. A bodyguard for a threatened journalist was fatally shot Tuesday in San Jose del Cabo.

Israeli police kill Palestinian attacker: Israeli police fatally shot a Palestinian woman who attacked officers with a pair of scissors near Jerusalem’s Old City, a police spokesman said. Micky Rosenfeld said the 49-year-old woman from East Jerusalem had tried to stab officers near the Damascus Gate. The woman’s son was accidently killed last year when officers opened fire on the car in which he was riding.

Somali lawmakers approve new cabinet: Somalia’s parliament has endorsed the country’s new cabinet, a victory for the prime minister after more than 100 legislators challenged his nominations last week. Some lawmakers had said that the proposed cabinet went against the power-sharing formula that Somalia’s powerful clans had agreed on. The fragile central government is trying to assert itself after the election of Somali American President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed last month.

Ivory Coast’s former first lady cleared of war crimes: A court in Ivory Coast acquitted former first lady Simone Gbagbo of crimes against humanity and war-crimes charges linked to her role in a 2011 civil war that killed about 3,000 people, state television announced. The trial was held in an Ivorian court after the government rejected her extradition to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Gbagbo’s husband, ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, is standing trial before the ICC on similar charges.

— From news services