London, Oct 28 (AP/UNB) — Michael Higgins handily won a second term as Ireland's president Saturday, capturing every constituency in an election that was marked by low turnout.
The 77-year-old Higgins received 55.8 percent of the vote in Friday's vote, which was contested by six candidates. The vote share was just below the record 56.3 percent received by longtime independence leader Eamon de Valera in a two-way contest in 1959.
The Irish Independent newspaper estimated that turnout was less than 45 percent, the lowest ever for a presidential election.
"The presidency belongs not only to any one person but to the people of Ireland," Higgins said after arriving at Dublin Castle with his wife Sabina. "I will be a president for all the people, for those who voted for me and those who did not."
Voters also overwhelmingly backed removing the offence of blasphemy from the Irish constitution. It was the latest in a series of measures that have seen the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country step back from the religion's influence over government.
The vote was controversial only in the second-place finish of businessman Peter Casey, who won 23.3 percent of the vote after making critical comments about the Traveller community, a traditionally itinerant ethnic group, and asserting that Ireland has a culture of welfare dependency.
Casey's support had been as low as 1 percent before the comments but surged after. Casey said he was advocating for "middle Ireland," people who are struggling to pay bills and get on the housing ladder.
"The real reason I got a bump in the polls is because I spoke out and said middle Ireland," Casey said. "They are the people who are hurting, they are the people who got nothing out of the last budget and they are the ones who are paying all the bills."
Ireland's president is head of state, but his job is largely ceremonial in the parliamentary democracy led by Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
Moscow, Oct 26 (AP/UNB) —Russian investigators say at least six people have died in flash floods in the country's south.
The Investigative Committee said in a statement on Friday that six people died in Russia's Krasnodar region when torrential rains and flash floods hit the area on Wednesday. One more person is believed to be missing.
More than 20 trains running along the Black Sea coast have been delayed after a section of a railroad bridge collapse, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at nearby stations. Emergency officials offered temporary accommodation and food to the passengers.
Athens, Oct 26 (AP/UNB) — A strong earthquake off a western Greek tourist island early Friday morning was felt as far away as Athens, but no major damage or injuries were immediately reported.
The main harbor for the island of Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea was damaged though it was still functional, civil protection agency press spokesman Spyros Georgiou said. Images from the harbor showed cracked and warped pavement near moored boats.
Power was lost in the island capital and main town, also called Zakynthos, but no major damage was reported there.
"We're checking out the villages on the island, where there are several older buildings," he told The Associated Press. "The lack of electricity is a problem, but technicians are trying to restore power."
The fire service said rockfalls were reported in another part of the island, and part of a church wall collapsed on the mainland town of Pyrgos, in the southern Peloponnese area. A couple of people were treated for minor injuries.
Georgiou said a precautionary tsunami warning was issued, although none had materialized two hours after the quake.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the undersea quake was magnitude 6.8 and its epicenter was 33 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of Mouzaki in the southern part of the island. It had a depth of 14 kilometers and struck just before 2 a.m. local time (2300 GMT Thursday).
Greece's main earthquake monitoring center, Athens' University's Geodynamic Institute, measured the magnitude at 6.4, and said it had a depth of 5 kilometers. Measurements of quake strength can vary due to the equipment each institution uses and other factors.
Moderate foreshock and aftershock shook the area as well. The village of Mouzaki is near the popular tourist resort of Laganas.
The quake rattled the whole of western Greece and was strongly felt in the capital, 280 kilometers (174 miles) to the northeast of Zakynthos.
Greece lies in one of the world's most earthquake-prone regions, with thousands of quakes recorded every year. But few cause injuries or significant damage. In 1999, a magnitude 5.9 quake on the outskirts of Athens killed 143 people.
Zakynthos has had severe earthquakes in the past, and as a result has a very strict building safety code.
London, Oct 26 (AP/UNB) — Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, has described how she worked with designer Clare Waight Keller of Givenchy to create a "timeless" wedding gown for her wedding to Prince Harry earlier this year.
Harry and the former Meghan Markle recorded their memories of the wedding for an audio commentary that is part of the new "Relive the Royal Wedding" exhibition at Windsor Castle that opens Friday.
The gown is set to be the prime attraction at the 10-week display.
In the audio recording, the former actress said she worked with Keller to create a "timeless" gown with a "classic feeling." The dress also needed to be suitably modest for the May 19 wedding held in a chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle, she said.
"There was a great level of detail that went into the planning of our wedding day," the duchess said.
"I think for us, we knew how large the scale of the event would be, so in making choices that were really personal and meaningful, it could make the whole experience feel intimate, even though it was a very big wedding," she said.
Meghan described the "incredibly surreal day" when she and her fiance visited Queen Elizabeth II, Harry's grandmother, to choose a tiara for her to wear during the wedding ceremony. She picked Queen Mary's diamond and platinum bandeau tiara from the queen's collection. It is featured in the new exhibit.
For his part, Harry said it was "very sweet" of his grandmother to lend his bride-to-be the priceless headpiece.
Harry's wedding outfit, including the frockcoat uniform made by master tailors on Savile Row, is also display, though likely to be overshadowed by Meghan's gown and the tiara.
Warsaw, Oct 25 (AP/UNB) — Poland's ruling populist party, Law and Justice, won 254 of the 552 seats in regional assemblies in local elections last weekend, with 194 going to the key opposition coalition, the state electoral commission said Thursday.
The official results indicate that Law and Justice, which won the national elections in 2015, remains the most popular party in the country despite conflicts with the European Union and accusations of eroding the democratic system of checks and balances. Its approval has been boosted by generous welfare spending, its emphasis on traditional values and a booming economy.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki hailed the results, saying they represent the strongest showing the party has made yet in the history of local elections.
"The trust of millions of Poles confirms that we are heading in the right direction," he said. "This is a solid foundation on which to build a better homeland."
However, the pro-EU opposition coalition, a bloc led by Civic Platform, which ruled for eight years until 2015, won much greater support in the cities. The coalition, which also includes the smaller Modern party, won several mayoral posts, including in Warsaw, in Sunday's first round of voting. It holds leads in several races to be decided in runoffs on Nov. 4.
Having won 46 percent of seats nationwide, the ruling party has control of six of 16 regional assemblies — up from one. Those are mostly in the southeast, but it will have to seek coalition partners in three others. So far, no political force has announced its readiness to cooperate with Law and Justice.
One of the key roles of the regional assemblies is to decide how to distribute EU subsidies, which have been a major force driving Poland's development.
The main opposition bloc won 35 percent of the seats and opened coalition talks with the agricultural Polish People's Party, which emerged as the third strongest force. Jointly, they could control many regional assemblies when they take office in November.
In percentage terms, Law and Justice won 34 percent of the votes to the regional assemblies, and the opposition coalition nearly 28 percent — each group faring slightly better than exit polls had predicted. On the other hand, some of the smaller parties did slightly worse than predicted.
The Polish People's Party won just over 13 percent, and the Democratic Left Alliance, founded under democracy by former communists, had only about 5.5 percent, representing a sharp decline.