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Tennis and tropical plants: The stunning new court at the French Open is, quite literally, wild.

Surrounded on all four sides by greenhouses filed with exotic plants, the Court Simonne Mathieu saw its first French Open match on Sunday, a triumph for tournament organizers who overcame strong opposition from critics who long sought to block construction in a 19th-century garden of the 5,290-seat arena.

Automatic sprinklers periodically doused the lush greenery from Africa, Asia, South America and Australia as Garbine Muguruza, too busy to notice, beat Taylor Townsend of the United States 5-7, 6-2, 6-2.

Muguruza, the 2016 champion, later gave a big thumbs-up to the sunken arena that is now the third-biggest at Roland Garros, after the 9,829-seat Court Suzanne Lenglen and the 14,962-seat showcase Court Philippe Chatrier that is in the process of being completely rebuilt.

“It’s a very cute court. It’s not small, but it’s, you know, cozy,” Muguruza said. “It’s like in a garden. It’s a different feeling.”

Spectators were impressed, too.

“It’s like being in a forest,” said Parisian Kelly Orsinet. “It’s relaxing and pleasant.”

Sinking the red clay court and surrounding it with tasteful modern hothouses filled with leafy plants prevented it from being an eyesore in its historic surrounds, the Auteil gardens that date back to 1898 and are loved for their majestic steel and glass greenhouses housing prized botanical collections.

Expanding into the gardens is part of a massive, partially completed 380-million euro ($425 million) revamp of Roland Garros, the smallest of tennis’ Grand Slam venues that can feel uncomfortably cramped in its busiest opening week.

Gilles Jourdan, the project manager overseeing the modernization, was on hand to savor the arena’s atmosphere with its first crowd, a landmark in what has been a difficult birth, complicated by legal challenges from opponents.

Neighbors who overlook the site had “said ‘It’s a disgrace! A disgrace!” Jourdan recalled. “Fewer and fewer are saying it’s a disgrace now.”

“You can’t see the court. That’s very important and that was the most fundamental idea,” he said. “If you’re not flying overhead in a helicopter, you wouldn’t know there’s a court there.”

Like other showcase courts at Roland Garros, the lower of the arena’s two tiers is tastefully fitted with cream-colored, hand-finished seats of chestnut wood from eastern France. Upper-tier spectators, some of whom have a view of the Eiffel Tower, are seated on benches, because fitting seats up there would have blocked lines of sight, clogging the arena’s airy, open feel, Jourdan explained.

Named after the French Open women’s champion in 1938 and 1939, the Court Simonne Mathieu was about half-empty for the start of the match but continually filled as Muguruza fought back from her unsteady start in a westerly breeze that shook leaves on the tall trees overlooking the arena.

Modernization work will resume after the tournament. The Chatrier court, largely torn down after Rafael Nadal won his 11th title there last year, has been rebuilt but is still missing the retractable roof planned for next year.

In the meantime, organizers have done a good job of making the project-in-progress look spic and span for the next two weeks.

“It’s a bit like at the theater: You look backstage and go ‘Ooops,'” Jourdan said. “We’ve hidden everything, and 10 days after the tournament, we’ll start again.”

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More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Source: Fox News World

A yellow vest protest march is turning violent in Brussels with demonstrators pelting buildings and police using pepper spray in confrontations.

As well as several hundred protesters in yellow vests demonstrating against social injustice there were also hooded people dressed in black, taunting authorities.

Police on horseback patrolled the historic center and scuffles broke out in different areas. Authorities were seen detaining several people.

Belgium is holding a general election on Sunday, and there are also elections across the European Union for the European Parliament. The EU headquarters is located close to where the scuffles occurred.

Source: Fox News World

An Iraqi judicial official says a Baghdad court has sentenced to death three French citizens, members of the Islamic State group.

The official says the three, sentenced on Sunday, were among 13 French citizens handed over to Iraq in January by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media. Iraqi President Barham Saleh had said during a February visit to Paris that the 13 will be prosecuted in accordance with Iraqi laws.

Thousands of men and women came from around the world to join IS when it declared its self-styled Islamic caliphate in 2014.

It wasn’t immediately clear how France, which abolished the death penalty nearly four decades ago, will react to the sentencing of its citizens.

Source: Fox News World

A Kurdish politician has announced the end of a hunger strike by prisoners demanding improved conditions for Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of an outlawed Kurdish rebel group.

In a statement Sunday on the 200th day of the hunger strike, Leyla Guven said they had reached their goal. The Turkish government has lifted a ban on lawyer visits to a prison island where Ocalan is serving a life term.

Close to 3,000 people have joined the hunger strike in some 90 prisons. Ocalan, in a letter shared Sunday by his lawyers following a second visit this month, thanked the strikers for their support and said he expects them to end the protest.

Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, was arrested in 1999.

Hunger strikers in Turkey traditionally refuse food but take vitamins and salt and sugar solutions, which prolong life.

Source: Fox News World

Israel’s president says he’s shocked by a German official’s comment that he wouldn’t advise Jews to wear skullcaps in parts of the country, which is drawing mixed reactions at home.

Felix Klein, the government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, was quoted Saturday as saying: “I cannot recommend to Jews that they wear the skullcap at all times everywhere in Germany.” He didn’t elaborate on what places and times might be risky.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement Sunday that the statement “shocked me deeply.” He added: “We will never submit, will never lower our gaze and will never react to anti-Semitism with defeatism — and expect and demand our allies act in the same way.”

Source: Fox News World

Israel’s president says he’s shocked by a German official’s comment that he wouldn’t advise Jews to wear skullcaps in parts of the country, which is drawing mixed reactions at home.

Felix Klein, the government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, was quoted Saturday as saying: “I cannot recommend to Jews that they wear the skullcap at all times everywhere in Germany.” He didn’t elaborate on what places and times might be risky.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement Sunday that the statement “shocked me deeply.” He added: “We will never submit, will never lower our gaze and will never react to anti-Semitism with defeatism — and expect and demand our allies act in the same way.”

Source: Fox News World

British Environment Secretary Michael Gove has entered the crowded race to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May, who is stepping down as Conservative Party leader on June 7.

Gove said Sunday that “I can confirm that I will be putting my name forward to be prime minister of this country.”

A party leadership campaign will officially begin after May quits, but already eight contenders have said they will run. The winner will be selected by Conservative lawmakers and about 120,000 party members, and will automatically become prime minister.

May announced her departure Friday, admitting defeat in her three-year quest to deliver Brexit.

The leadership contest is dominated by candidates vowing to take Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 even if there is no deal.

Most businesses and economists think that would plunge Britain into recession.

Source: Fox News World

As voters in all 28 European Union countries elect a new shared parliament , here are some key races to watch in the battle to fill the 751 seats in the European Parliament:

ITALY

Italy’s anti-migrant, anti-Islam interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has been campaigning hard to boost his right-wing League party to become the No. 1 party in Italy and possibly Europe.

Salvini has been using his hard-line credentials to expand a parliamentary group of European populists that already includes far-right politicians in France, Germany and Austria. Salvini is promising to restore sovereignty over key issues like immigration to national capitals, thwarting the EU’s drive toward closer integration of its members.

In Europe, the populists will find it difficult to deliver on their transformation promises. But Salvini is also looking to capitalize on the outcome of the European elections to boost his power at home in the League’s uneasy populist ruling coalition with the left-wing 5-Star Movement.

Salvini could use European electoral gains to leverage his position in the government and pass policies important to his base of northern Italian entrepreneurs, like a flat tax or the high-speed train connecting Lyon, France, with Turin.

Most analysts believe that Salvini is unlikely to seek an early election in Italy even with a big victory on the European stage. The 5-Star Movement, on the other hand, could decide to pull the plug on the coalition government.

FRANCE

France is looking at an epic battle between pro-EU centrist President Emmanuel Macron and anti-immigration, far-right flagbearer Marine Le Pen in the European Parliament vote, a duel over Europe’s basic values.

A loss for Macron’s Republic on the Move party would cripple the French leader’s grand ambitions for a more united Europe. Macron wants EU countries to share budgets and soldiers and work even more closely together to keep Europe globally relevant and prevent conflict.

For Macron, Le Pen represents the “leprosy” of nationalism that is eating the EU from within. For Le Pen, the race is a battle to preserve European civilization from the threat of “massive immigration” and uncontrolled globalization.

As far-right parties court the youth vote , Le Pen is counting on 23-year-old Jordan Bardella to lead her National Rally party to victory, then revamp the EU from within.

Le Pen’s party, then called the National Front, won France’s European parliamentary elections in 2014, but today she is looking beyond home territory. She has traveled to numerous European capitals recently to lend support to populist candidates, with the goal of enlarging their parliamentary group.

France has 34 lists of candidates in the European election, but Macron crushed France’s traditional right and left parties in 2017 when he won the presidency, and they’re still struggling.

GERMANY

Germany’s governing parties look likely to lose some ground in the European Union’s most populous country, while the environmentalist Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany parties are eyeing gains.

The vote is shaping up to be a particularly tough test for the center-left Social Democrats , the junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition. They have been struggling badly in polls and there is widespread speculation that a poor performance could hasten the end of Merkel’s coalition government.

For Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, it is the first test for new leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer since Germany’s longtime chancellor gave up her party’s leadership last year.

The Greens have been soaring in polls , partly at the Social Democrats’ expense, and hope to convert that support into votes. And Alternative for Germany hopes to strengthen its presence in the European Parliament, adding to its strong contingent in Germany’s national legislature.

Many of Germany’s 96 seats in the European Parliament are also likely to go to a variety of fringe parties.

HUNGARY

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban describes the European Parliament vote as “decisive” for Hungary and Europe, an opportunity for populist and anti-migration forces to have a larger say in setting the agenda in Brussels.

While his party’s victory in Hungary is unquestioned, where the allegiances of Orban and his right-wing Fidesz party will lie after the election on the European scene is far less certain.

Fidesz’s membership in the center-right European People’s Party, currently the largest group in the EU legislature, was suspended in March because of concerns about the state of Hungary’s democracy. So Orban has spent the past few weeks hosting far-right, nationalist and populist politicians at his new office in Buda Castle.

Orban says he wants to stay in the center-right bloc while getting the EPP to cooperate more closely with nationalist and populist parties like Salvini’s League. That notion has been emphatically rejected by leading politicians from the EPP, including German Chancelor Angela Merkel.

If Salvini’s populists do well on Sunday, Orban could leave the EPP and try to get some of the party’s more right-wing members to join Salvini in a new, more radical alliance.

While Hungary has largely stemmed migration, Orban’s opposition to migrants still bears fruit, and pollsters expect Fidesz to win as many as 14 of Hungary’s 21 seats in the EU parliament.

BRITAIN

Britain wasn’t supposed to take part in the European Parliament elections at all, but had to organize a last-minute campaign when its planned March exit from the EU was postponed.

The British voting Thursday came amid intense political turmoil sparked by its 2016 referendum to quit the EU. Embattled Prime Minister Theresa May will now step down as Conservative Party leader on June 7 after failing to deliver Brexit.

Both Britain’s Conservatives and the Labour Party are predicted to be heading for an electoral pasting in the European vote due to the chaos over Brexit.

Britain’s Brexit party, led by Nigel Farage, has appeared to gain strength in recent voter surveys. Farage says he hopes to have the shortest possible tenure as a European Parliament lawmaker because he wants Britain to leave the EU as quickly as possible.

The U.K. has 73 seats at the European Parliament, and its lawmakers would lose their jobs when their country leaves the EU.

AUSTRIA

Sunday’s European Parliament vote in Austria has been upended by the sudden collapse of Austria’s governing coalition in a scandal that has tarnished the far-right Freedom Party. It will serve as a first test of support ahead of an early national election expected in September.

Heinz-Christian Strache quit last weekend as vice chancellor and Freedom Party leader after a leaked video showed him appearing to offer favors to a purported Russian investor during a boozy meeting on the Spanish island of Ibiza two years ago. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz then called for a new election and is now running an interim government with experts replacing the Freedom Party’s ministers.

The European Parliament election should offer clues as to whether the popular Kurz’s conservative People’s Party will benefit from the scandal. But regardless of the result, Kurz is expected to face a small opposition party’s no-confidence motion in parliament on Monday, and it’s unclear whether he will keep his job.

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Colleen Barry in Milan, Italy, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, and Elaine Ganley and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

Source: Fox News World

As voters in all 28 European Union countries elect a new shared parliament , here are some key races to watch in the battle to fill the 751 seats in the European Parliament:

ITALY

Italy’s anti-migrant, anti-Islam interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has been campaigning hard to boost his right-wing League party to become the No. 1 party in Italy and possibly Europe.

Salvini has been using his hard-line credentials to expand a parliamentary group of European populists that already includes far-right politicians in France, Germany and Austria. Salvini is promising to restore sovereignty over key issues like immigration to national capitals, thwarting the EU’s drive toward closer integration of its members.

In Europe, the populists will find it difficult to deliver on their transformation promises. But Salvini is also looking to capitalize on the outcome of the European elections to boost his power at home in the League’s uneasy populist ruling coalition with the left-wing 5-Star Movement.

Salvini could use European electoral gains to leverage his position in the government and pass policies important to his base of northern Italian entrepreneurs, like a flat tax or the high-speed train connecting Lyon, France, with Turin.

Most analysts believe that Salvini is unlikely to seek an early election in Italy even with a big victory on the European stage. The 5-Star Movement, on the other hand, could decide to pull the plug on the coalition government.

FRANCE

France is looking at an epic battle between pro-EU centrist President Emmanuel Macron and anti-immigration, far-right flagbearer Marine Le Pen in the European Parliament vote, a duel over Europe’s basic values.

A loss for Macron’s Republic on the Move party would cripple the French leader’s grand ambitions for a more united Europe. Macron wants EU countries to share budgets and soldiers and work even more closely together to keep Europe globally relevant and prevent conflict.

For Macron, Le Pen represents the “leprosy” of nationalism that is eating the EU from within. For Le Pen, the race is a battle to preserve European civilization from the threat of “massive immigration” and uncontrolled globalization.

As far-right parties court the youth vote , Le Pen is counting on 23-year-old Jordan Bardella to lead her National Rally party to victory, then revamp the EU from within.

Le Pen’s party, then called the National Front, won France’s European parliamentary elections in 2014, but today she is looking beyond home territory. She has traveled to numerous European capitals recently to lend support to populist candidates, with the goal of enlarging their parliamentary group.

France has 34 lists of candidates in the European election, but Macron crushed France’s traditional right and left parties in 2017 when he won the presidency, and they’re still struggling.

GERMANY

Germany’s governing parties look likely to lose some ground in the European Union’s most populous country, while the environmentalist Greens and the far-right Alternative for Germany parties are eyeing gains.

The vote is shaping up to be a particularly tough test for the center-left Social Democrats , the junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing coalition. They have been struggling badly in polls and there is widespread speculation that a poor performance could hasten the end of Merkel’s coalition government.

For Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, it is the first test for new leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer since Germany’s longtime chancellor gave up her party’s leadership last year.

The Greens have been soaring in polls , partly at the Social Democrats’ expense, and hope to convert that support into votes. And Alternative for Germany hopes to strengthen its presence in the European Parliament, adding to its strong contingent in Germany’s national legislature.

Many of Germany’s 96 seats in the European Parliament are also likely to go to a variety of fringe parties.

HUNGARY

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban describes the European Parliament vote as “decisive” for Hungary and Europe, an opportunity for populist and anti-migration forces to have a larger say in setting the agenda in Brussels.

While his party’s victory in Hungary is unquestioned, where the allegiances of Orban and his right-wing Fidesz party will lie after the election on the European scene is far less certain.

Fidesz’s membership in the center-right European People’s Party, currently the largest group in the EU legislature, was suspended in March because of concerns about the state of Hungary’s democracy. So Orban has spent the past few weeks hosting far-right, nationalist and populist politicians at his new office in Buda Castle.

Orban says he wants to stay in the center-right bloc while getting the EPP to cooperate more closely with nationalist and populist parties like Salvini’s League. That notion has been emphatically rejected by leading politicians from the EPP, including German Chancelor Angela Merkel.

If Salvini’s populists do well on Sunday, Orban could leave the EPP and try to get some of the party’s more right-wing members to join Salvini in a new, more radical alliance.

While Hungary has largely stemmed migration, Orban’s opposition to migrants still bears fruit, and pollsters expect Fidesz to win as many as 14 of Hungary’s 21 seats in the EU parliament.

BRITAIN

Britain wasn’t supposed to take part in the European Parliament elections at all, but had to organize a last-minute campaign when its planned March exit from the EU was postponed.

The British voting Thursday came amid intense political turmoil sparked by its 2016 referendum to quit the EU. Embattled Prime Minister Theresa May will now step down as Conservative Party leader on June 7 after failing to deliver Brexit.

Both Britain’s Conservatives and the Labour Party are predicted to be heading for an electoral pasting in the European vote due to the chaos over Brexit.

Britain’s Brexit party, led by Nigel Farage, has appeared to gain strength in recent voter surveys. Farage says he hopes to have the shortest possible tenure as a European Parliament lawmaker because he wants Britain to leave the EU as quickly as possible.

The U.K. has 73 seats at the European Parliament, and its lawmakers would lose their jobs when their country leaves the EU.

AUSTRIA

Sunday’s European Parliament vote in Austria has been upended by the sudden collapse of Austria’s governing coalition in a scandal that has tarnished the far-right Freedom Party. It will serve as a first test of support ahead of an early national election expected in September.

Heinz-Christian Strache quit last weekend as vice chancellor and Freedom Party leader after a leaked video showed him appearing to offer favors to a purported Russian investor during a boozy meeting on the Spanish island of Ibiza two years ago. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz then called for a new election and is now running an interim government with experts replacing the Freedom Party’s ministers.

The European Parliament election should offer clues as to whether the popular Kurz’s conservative People’s Party will benefit from the scandal. But regardless of the result, Kurz is expected to face a small opposition party’s no-confidence motion in parliament on Monday, and it’s unclear whether he will keep his job.

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Colleen Barry in Milan, Italy, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, and Elaine Ganley and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

Source: Fox News World

Irish voters have overwhelmingly endorsed a plan to liberalize the country’s constitution to make it easier for couples to divorce.

Election officials said Sunday a proposal to remove a constitutional requirement that couples be separated for four years before being allowed to divorce will be removed.

It will fall to Ireland’s Parliament to come up with new legislation to govern divorce.

Officials say more than 82% of voters endorsed the change, which follows liberalization of abortion laws approved in a referendum last year.

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan told RTE News voters had shown compassion by “humanizing the system.”

Voter turnout on the referendum vote was just over 50%.

Local election results are still being tallied.

Source: Fox News World


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