Manchin's opposition clouds future of Dems' elections bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — A key Democratic senator says he will not vote for the largest overhaul of U.S. election law in at least a generation, leaving no plausible path forward for legislation that his party and the White House have portrayed as crucial for protecting access to the ballot. 

"Voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen,'' Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia wrote in a home-state newspaper, the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

He wrote that failure to bring together both parties on voting legislation would "risk further dividing and destroying the republic we swore to protect and defend as elected officials."

The bill would restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, strike down hurdles to voting and bring transparency to a murky campaign finance system. Among dozens of other provisions, it would require states to offer 15 days of early voting and allow no-excuse absentee balloting.

Democrats have pushed the legislation as the antidote to a wave of restrictive state voting laws sweeping the country, many inspired by former President Donald Trump's false claims of fraud in his 2020 election loss. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has pledged to bring the election bill to a vote the week of June 21, testing where senators stand. But without Manchin's support, the bill has no chance of advancing. Republicans are united against it. 

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States rebound from bleak forecasts to pass record budgets

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Just a year ago, the financial future looked bleak for state governments as governors and lawmakers scrambled to cut spending amid the coronavirus recession that was projected to pummel revenue.

They laid off state workers, threatened big cuts to schools and warned about canceling or scaling back building projects, among other steps.

Today, many of those same states are flush with cash, and lawmakers are passing budgets with record spending. Money is pouring into schools, social programs and infrastructure. At the same time, many states are socking away billions of dollars in savings.

"It's definitely safe to say that states are in a much better fiscal situation than they anticipated," said Erica MacKellar, a fiscal analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Spending plans for the budget year that begins July 1 are up 10% or more in states spanning from Florida and Maryland to Colorado, Utah and Washington.

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Meghan and Harry welcome second child, Lilibet 'Lili' Diana

Prince Harry and Meghan may have stepped away from their royal duties — but family appeared to be top of mind in naming their second child, Lilibet "Lili" Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, who was born Friday in California.

The name pays tribute to both Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, whose family nickname is Lilibet, and his late mother, Princess Diana.

"Thank you for your continued kindness and support during this very special time for our family," Harry and Meghan, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, wrote in a statement that accompanied the birth announcement Sunday.

The baby is "more than we could have ever imagined, and we remain grateful for the love and prayers we've felt from across the globe," they continued.

The baby girl was born at 11:40 a.m. at the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, California, and weighed in at 7 lbs, 11 oz, a spokesperson for the couple said. The child is eighth in line to the British throne.

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Normandy commemorates D-Day with small crowds, but big heart

COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France (AP) — When the sun rises over Omaha Beach, revealing vast stretches of wet sand extending toward distant cliffs, one starts to grasp the immensity of the task faced by Allied soldiers on June 6, 1944, landing on the Nazi-occupied Normandy shore.

The 77th anniversary of D-Day was marked Sunday with several events to commemorate the decisive assault that led to the liberation of France and Western Europe from Nazi control, and honor those who fell. 

"These are the men who enabled liberty to regain a foothold on the European continent, and who in the days and weeks that followed lifted the shackles of tyranny, hedgerow by Normandy hedgerow, mile by bloody mile," Britain's ambassador to France, Lord Edward Llewellyn, said at the inauguration of a new British monument to D-Day's heroes.

On D-Day, more than 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches code-named Omaha, Utah, Juno, Sword and Gold, carried by 7,000 boats. This year on June 6, the beaches stood vast and nearly empty as the sun emerged, exactly 77 years since the dawn invasion.

For the second year in a row, anniversary commemorations are marked by virus travel restrictions that prevented veterans or families of fallen soldiers from the U.S., Britain, Canada and other Allied countries from making the trip to France. Only a few officials were allowed exceptions. 

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As India's surge wanes, families deal with the devastation

LUCKNOW, India (AP) — Two months ago Radha Gobindo Pramanik and his wife threw a party to celebrate their daughter's pregnancy and the upcoming birth of their long-awaited grandchild. They were so happy that they paid little attention to his wife's cough.

It's an oversight that may forever haunt him. Within days, his wife, his daughter and his unborn grandchild were all dead, among the tens of thousands killed as the coronavirus ravaged India in April and May.

"Everyone whom I loved the most has left me," the 71-year-old said on a recent night as a Hindu priest chanted mantras and performed a ritual for the dead at his home in the northern city of Lucknow. "I am left alone in this world now."

As India emerges from its darkest days of the pandemic, families across the country are grieving all that they've lost and are left wondering if more could have been done to avoid this tragedy. 

There are also signs that the virus is not done devastating India's families because even as new infections are down, thousands are still dying each day and the illness is believed to be spreading undetected in areas without access to testing.

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Harris targets corruption, immigration on Latin America trip

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — With Kamala Harris visiting Guatemala and Mexico on her first foreign trip as vice president, the Biden administration is expected to announce new measures to fight smuggling and trafficking, and hopes to announce additional anti-corruption efforts as well on Monday, a senior administration official said. 

The official, who briefed reporters traveling with Harris on Sunday, spoke on condition of anonymity to preview announcements before they have been made public. No further details were provided.

Harris has been tasked by President Joe Biden with addressing the root causes of the spike in migration to the U.S.-Mexico border, and her aides say corruption will be a central focus of her meetings with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei on Monday and Mexico's Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday.

"Corruption really does sap the the wealth of any country, and in Central America is at a scale where it is a large percentage of GDP across the region," said special envoy Ricardo Zuniga.

"We see corruption as one of the most important root causes to be dealt with," Zuniga added. 

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Time ticking away, Democrats face wrenching test on agenda

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bracing for political trouble, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned Democratic colleagues that June will "test our resolve" as senators return Monday to consider infrastructure, voting rights and other stalled-out priorities at a crucial moment in Congress.

Six months into the party's hold on Washington, with Joe Biden in the White House and Democrats controlling the House and Senate, there is a gloomy uncertainty over their ability to make gains on campaign promises. 

As Democrats strain to deliver on Biden's agenda, the limits of bipartisanship in the 50-50 Senate are increasingly clear: Talks over an infrastructure package are teetering, though Biden is set to confer again Monday with the lead GOP negotiator, and an ambitious elections overhaul bill is essentially dead now that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced his opposition Sunday. 

"We need to move the ball," said Yvette Simpson, CEO of Democracy for America, a liberal advocacy organization.

"We told everyone to come out against all odds in the pandemic and vote," she said about the 2020 election. The promise was that with Democrats in power, "we're going to have all these great things happen, their lives are going to be better. And what they're finding is that it looks like Washington as usual."

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Officials: 2 trains collide in southern Pakistan, killing 38

MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) — Two express trains collided in southern Pakistan early on Monday, killing at least 38 passengers, authorities said, as rescuers and villagers worked to pull injured people and bodies from the wreckage.

The pre-dawn collision took place in the district of Ghotki, in Sindh province. The Millat Express train derailed and the Sir Syed Express train hit it soon afterward, said Usman Abdullah, a deputy commissioner. It wasn't immediately clear what caused the derailment and the subsequent collision. 

Cries for help pierced the night as survivors scrambled to get out and local villagers rushed to the scene to help. As daylight broke, up to 20 passengers remained trapped in the wreckage of the Millat Express and authorities were trying to arrange heavy machinery to rescue those still trapped, said Umar Tufail, a police chief in the district.

"The challenge for us is to quickly rescue those passengers who are still trapped in the wreckage," Tufail said. The death toll steadily rose through the morning, and hours later, Abdullah said it had increased to at least 38. Dozens were injured.

Earlier, Azam Swati, minister for railways who headed to the scene of the crash, told The Associated Press that engineers and experts were trying to determine what caused the collision, and that all aspects would be examined, including the possibility of sabotage.

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Turkish mafia boss dishes dirt, becomes YouTube phenomenon

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — From alleged drug trafficking and a murder cover-up to weapons transfers to Islamic militants, a convicted crime ringleader has been dishing the dirt on members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party through a series of tell-all videos that have captivated the nation and turned him into an unlikely social media phenomenon.

Sedat Peker, a 49-year-old fugitive crime boss, who once openly supported Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, has been releasing nearly 90-minute long videos from his stated base in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, making scandalous but yet-unproven drip-by-drip allegations, in an apparent bid to settle scores with political figures.

The weekly YouTube videos have been viewed more than 75 million times, causing an uproar, heightening concerns over Turkish state corruption and putting officials on the defensive. They have also exposed alleged rifts between rival factions within the ruling party and added to Erdogan's troubles as he battles an economic downturn and the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday morning, a couple in Istanbul were absorbed while watching Peker's latest release. They were among millions in Turkey who tuned in. 

"I've added (Peker's videos) to the category of TV series I watch every week," Gulistan Atas said. "Just like a TV episode, I wait in excitement, and every week on Sunday, we prepare our breakfast when we get up and watch them along with our breakfast." 

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High court asked to review men-only draft registration law

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether it's sex discrimination for the government to require only men to register for the draft when they turn 18.

The question of whether it's unconstitutional to require men but not women to register could be viewed as one with little practical impact. The last time there was a draft was during the Vietnam War, and the military has been all-volunteer since. But the registration requirement is one of the few remaining places where federal law treats men and women differently, and women's groups are among those arguing that allowing it to stand is harmful.

The justices could say as soon as Monday whether they will hear a case involving the Military Selective Service Act, which requires men to register for the draft.

Ria Tabacco Mar, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Women's Rights Project, who is urging the court to take up the issue, says requiring men to register imposes a "serious burden on men that's not being imposed on women." 

Men who do not register can lose eligibility for student loans and civil service jobs, and failing to register is also a felony punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and five years in prison. But Tabacco Mar says the male-only requirement does more than that.

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