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    Italy's anti-migrant interior minister says the far-right political spectrum includes 'the true defenders of European values.' Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who leads the right-wing League party, said Saturday that during European Parliament elections in May 'we have the occasion to send a force into government in Europe that's not socialist.' Salvini, who is also a deputy premier in Italy's new populist, euro-skeptic government, was speaking at a political forum in Rome that was organized by a small far-right Italian opposition party. Later slated to speak at the forum was Steve Bannon, a former strategist for U.S. President Donald Trump. Bannon has been encouraging the formation of a united, transnational front to push politics in the European Union far to the right.
  • The Latest on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and a woman accusing him of sexually assaulting her decades ago (all times local): 12:10 p.m. Vice President Mike Pence calls Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh 'a man of integrity with impeccable credentials.' Pence tells a gathering of evangelical activists in Washington that the appeals court judge's record and career deserve 'the respect of every member of the United States Senate.' The vice president says the way that some Democrats have conducted themselves during the confirmation process 'is a disgrace and a disservice to the Senate and the American people.' Pence also says that he and President Donald Trump are confident that Republicans will handle that process 'with the utmost respect for all concerned.' Pence says he believes Kavanaugh will soon join the high court. Pence made no reference to Christine Blasey Ford, whose accusations about Kavanaugh's behavior 35 years ago have roiled the confirmation. ___ 11:10 a.m. Saturday at 2:30 p.m. That's the new and latest deadline in the high-stakes confrontation over whether Brett Kavanaugh's accuser will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Christine Blasey Ford's accusations and the standoff over the terms of her appearance have left Kavanaugh's confirmation in limbo. The committee chairman, GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, is shrugging off responsibility for the extension onto the Senate's Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer. Here's what Grassley says in a tweet: 'I feel like I'm playing 2nd trombone in the judiciary orchestra and Schumer is the conductor.' ___ 1:45 a.m. The brinkmanship over whether Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's accuser will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee has come to a standstill, for now. The committee chairman, GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, has given Christine Blasey Ford more time to decide on the terms of her appearance. The Republican-led committee had insisted that if Ford missed a Friday night deadline to respond to the panel's latest offer, lawmakers would hold a vote Monday on recommending Kavanaugh's nomination for the full Senate to consider. Ford's accusations of Kavanaugh's behavior 35 years ago and the standoff over the terms of her appearance have captivated the nation as the appeals court judge's confirmation hangs in balance.
  • Authorities in New York City are facing a security and logistical challenge of epic proportions with the coming arrival of President Donald Trump and other world leaders for the United Nations General Assembly. Though there's been no credible threats against the event, the security concerns are so broad that the New York Police Department has considered how it would stop assassins armed with poison or killer drones. The NYPD's main line of defense will be thousands of extra police officers flooding the streets as part of a carefully coordinated effort with the Secret Service and other federal and local law enforcement agencies to protect both the United Nations and Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, said Police Commissioner James O'Neill. 'Since the end of last year's General Assembly, we've been planning how to best protect the various sites and all the people inside them, while also minimizing the impact on New Yorkers,' O'Neill said at recent news conference at a command center at police headquarters. The 73rd Session of the General Assembly began on Sept. 18, but the higher-level meetings start Monday. The security arsenal features police boats patrolling the East River near the U.N., aviation units overhead and teams of officers trained to respond to chemical, biological and other potential terror threats. About 50 city Department of Sanitation dump trucks filled with sand and 230 concrete barriers will be positioned at intersections and other strategic locations to guard against car or truck attacks like the one last year that killed eight people on a bike path in Lower Manhattan. Police said other preparations have included consulting with British authorities about the poisoning of a former Russian spy there earlier this year by way of a weapons-grade nerve agent. British officials say the attack was carried out by Russian operatives. Police have also studied an attack on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro last month using drones rigged with explosives. Maduro said this past week that he may have to suspend a planned trip to the United Nations because of concerns his opponents would try to kill him if he travels abroad. But the NYPD is expecting more than 200 other world leaders to show up, all needing to move around the city in motorcades with police escorts. Those foreign dignitaries flying state aircraft into New York's Kennedy Airport will be greeted with strict enforcement of security rules requiring the planes to depart within two hours of touching down. The crackdown comes after the indictment of an airport supervisor on charges he took bribes to let Qatar and other countries park their planes overnight during the gathering. Trump is expected to arrive for a rare hometown visit and a possible stay at Trump Tower, his longtime home he has rarely visited since becoming president. Outside the skyscraper, police plan to set up a series of barriers and security checkpoints. Police said they expect more than 60 demonstrations outside the United Nations, foreign consulates and Trump Tower at various times during the week. The bad news for motorists: Officials say all the activity will cause worse gridlock than the traffic jams during the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the tree-lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center and the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square. Authorities said they hadn't calculated the cost of the security operation. But they said there's been a $20 to $30 million bill for past General Assemblies, and that the federal government covers most of it. ___ Associated Press writer Michael Sisak contributed to this report.
  • The Latest on the Maldives' presidential election (all times local): 7:45 p.m. Police in the Maldives say they have raided the main campaign office of the opposition presidential candidate on the eve of an election that is seen as a referendum on whether democracy will survive in the country. Police spokesman Ahmed Shifan says police raided Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's campaign office late Saturday. He did not give any other details. The move is a sign of a crackdown against the opposition by the government that has raised fears that Sunday's election may be rigged to favor President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's party. ___ 5:10 p.m. Opposition supporters in the Maldives are demanding that officials ensure a free and fair presidential election, as the country prepares to vote in an election seen as a referendum on whether democracy will stay. The archipelago nation's election chief, Ahmed Shareef, said Saturday that all measures have been taken to hold Sunday's election in a free and fair manner and without violence. Still, opposition activists voiced fears that the polls may be rigged to favor President Yameen Abdul Gayoom's party. Beyond the postcard image the Maldives has of luxury resorts and white sand beaches, the 400,000 citizens of the former British protectorate have struggled to maintain the democratic system established in 2008.
  • Russia's space agency chief said Saturday that it wouldn't accept a second-tier role in a NASA-led plan to build an outpost near the moon, but Roscosmos spokesman quickly clarified that Russia is still staying in the project. Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that Russia wouldn't be reduced to a junior partner in the NASA-led project to build the lunar orbital platform called the Gateway in the 2020s. 'I believe that Russia can't afford itself to participate in other countries' project on second-tier roles,' Rogozin said when asked about the Gateway during a meeting with young space engineers, according to Tass. He noted that Russia was working to develop heavy-lift rockets that would allow it to build its own orbital platform near the moon, possibly in cooperation with some BRICS countries — a grouping that includes Brazil, China, India and South Africa along with Russia. A few hours later, Roscosmos spokesman Vladimir Ustimenko clarified that Rogozin didn't mean to say Russia was bailing out of the NASA-led project. 'Russia hasn't refused to take part in the project of the lunar orbital station together with the United States,' Ustimenko was quoted by Tass as saying. He added 'we stand for equal, partnership-style cooperation.' Earlier this month, Rogozin has raised some consternation by saying that an air leak spotted at the International Space Station was a drill hole that happened during manufacturing or in orbit. He didn't say if he suspected any of the current crew of three Americans, two Russians and a German aboard the station. Rogozin, who until May served as a deputy prime minister in charge of military and space, long had been known for his brash style and anti-Western rhetoric. He has failed to stem a decline of the Russian space industries, which have been dogged by launch failures and other problems.
  • Democrats looking to regain a foothold in state capitols largely led by Republicans had anticipated flipping control of up to a dozen legislative chambers during the last presidential election. It didn't work out that way. As Republicans remain in overwhelming control of state legislatures, Democrats are doubling their spending for this year's state House and Senate elections. It's a renewed and increasingly urgent attempt to put a dent in the Republican ranks before it's too late to influence the next round of redistricting, which is set to occur after the 2020 Census. 'To us, the next decade is on the ballot in November,' said Kelly Ward, executive director of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is being aided by former President Barack Obama and led by his former attorney general, Eric Holder. Voters will be deciding more than 6,000 state legislative races in a November midterm election held in the pervasive shadow of President Donald Trump and high-profile contests for the U.S. Senate and House, as well as 36 governorships. Of particular importance are more than 800 races spread across about two dozen states where voters will be electing state lawmakers to four-year terms in which the winners could play a role in approving new congressional or state legislative districts. State legislatures, which form the grassroots of the political parties, appear to have a greater percentage of Democrats on this year's general election ballots than at any point since at least 1992, according to research by the national Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and Saint Louis University political scientist Steve Rogers, who focuses on state legislative elections. 'I would attribute it to Trump,' Rogers said. 'When the president is less popular, members of the opposition party are much more likely to run.' Republicans remain hopeful they can rebuff a potential blue wave. In many states, candidates will be running in districts drawn by Republicans after the 2010 Census with boundaries shown by statistical analyses to benefit Republicans. ___ Partisan control is at stake in more than a dozen closely divided state legislative chambers. All told, national Democratic and Republican groups are targeting chambers in half the states. That includes some where they want to cut into the opposing party's dominance to deny veto-proof supermajorities or position themselves for a takeover attempt in 2020, the final election before redistricting. In many states, new districts will be drawn by state lawmakers and approved or vetoed by governors. In other places, governors or legislative leaders will appoint special panels to do the task. If one party controls the redistricting process, it can draw maps that give it an advantage for the decade to come. Republicans generally won the last redistricting battle. During the 2010 elections, the Republican State Leadership Committee spent about $30 million to help flip control of 21 state legislative chambers just in time for redistricting. Under those subsequent maps, Republicans posted a net gain of more than 950 state legislative seats during Obama's presidency. The GOP now controls two-thirds of the 99 legislative chambers across the country. It has full control of both chambers and the governor's office in three times as many states as Democrats. Since Trump's election, Democrats have regained a net of 36 state legislative seats through general elections in Virginia and New Jersey and special elections elsewhere. That's a reversal of less than 4 percent of the Republicans' gains, a modest amount that nonetheless has been touted by Democrats eager to highlight momentum. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has doubled its spending from 2015-16 to a planned $35 million this election cycle. Its goal is to flip between eight and 10 Republican-run chambers. It notes that a gain of just 17 total seats could reverse eight state Senate chambers — in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York and Wisconsin. ___ One of the Democrats' top targets is in the Denver suburbs, where state Rep. Faith Winter is challenging Republican Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik in a district that Democrat Hillary Clinton won by 5 percentage points over Trump two years ago. Winter said she has no particular beef with Martinez Humenik; the two even have co-sponsored bills. But Winter said legislation related to affordable housing and climate change would stand a better chance if the Democratic-led House weren't paired with a Republican-run Senate. 'I believe that Colorado would be better off — and our voters would be better off — with Democratic leadership in the Senate,' said Winter, one of 39 candidates endorsed by Obama in six states that are important to the Democrats' redistricting strategy. Martinez Humenik has emphasized her willingness to work across the political aisle as she tries to hold on to a seat that swung control of the chamber to Republicans during the 2014 election. Her campaign website declares: 'Focused on Results, not Political Parties.' 'I'm hopeful that what is going on in Washington, D.C., does not affect us here at the state level,' she said. Both parties also have targeted the Wisconsin Senate, where Democrats picked up two seats in special elections this year to narrow the Republican advantage to 18-15. One of November's key races pits Democrat Kriss Marion, who gained attention by successfully suing for the right to sell homemade cookies without state regulation, against Republican Sen. Howard Marklein. The rural southwestern Wisconsin district swung from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. Marklein notes that he fared better as an Assembly candidate than the GOP presidential nominee in 2012 and better in 2014 than Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who is heading the ballot again this year. 'My guess is my hard work is going to result in me outperforming the top of the ticket again,' Marklein said. But Marion got more votes than Marklein in the August primaries, when both were unopposed. 'The momentum is certainly with us and with turnover,' said Marion, adding: 'We have to win this seat if we're going to flip the Senate.' ___ Wisconsin is one of five states — along with Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania — targeted by the Republican State Leadership Committee as essential to protect in its redistricting strategy because they have sent 18 more Republicans to Congress than Democrats. In Pennsylvania, Democrats have one-quarter more registered voters than Republicans statewide, yet Republicans won 13 of the state's 18 congressional seats in three straight elections before the state Supreme Court ordered new political maps for this year's elections, citing unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering by GOP lawmakers. The Republican State Leadership Committee plans to spend as much as $50 million on state legislative and down-ballot statewide races during the 2017-18 election cycle. That's up from about $38 million each of the past two election cycles. 'The fact that Republicans have had so much success doesn't have to do with our lines, it has to do with running better candidates who go out and govern in a way that's having a positive impact in their states,' said Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee. Though generally on the defensive, Republicans also have hopes of flipping some legislative chambers. Among their targets is the Connecticut Senate, where a Democratic lieutenant governor currently has tie-breaking power over an 18-18 partisan split. The outcome could come down to who is more unpopular — Trump or outgoing Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, who has presided over a strained budget and sluggish state economy. Republican state Rep. Mark Tweedie has been making the case for change as he challenges Democratic Sen. Steve Cassano in a potentially pivotal race for control of the chamber. 'The Republicans need to take the majority in the House, the Senate and the governor in order to turn this state around,' Tweedie said. But Cassano thinks Trump, whom he describes as 'an embarrassment,' could have a greater influence on the election without Cassano even having to make the president a campaign issue. 'If I'm going door-to-door or I'm going to a meeting ... people mention Trump,' Cassano said. 'I have a simple response: 'Make sure you vote.'' ___ Follow David A. Lieb at: http://twitter.com/DavidALieb
  • A New Hampshire woman who was hoping to land a sales job at Party City was turned down after a manager realized she has autism, according to a federal lawsuit. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in New Hampshire. The woman, Ashley Waxman, was allegedly denied a job at a Party City in Nashua, New Hampshire. She filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging the store had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The act prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability and requires that employees with disabilities be offered a reasonable accommodation, including the use of a job coach. In July, the EEOC found the party supply store had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and attempted to negotiate with the company to 'eliminate the discriminatory practices and provide appropriate relief.' But when that failed, the EEOC filed the lawsuit. 'Employers cannot refuse to offer a reasonable accommodation required by law, absent undue hardship,' Kevin Berry, the director of EEOC's New York district office, said in a statement. 'Here, the job coach, who would only have helped cue the applicant with her job tasks as she learned her job and for whom Party City would not have had to pay, was a completely reasonable accommodation that would have caused it no hardship at all.' Party City said it could not comment on pending litigation. According to the complaint, Waxman has autism and severe anxiety. The complaint says Waxman, who was a high school senior at the time, went to Party City in October 2017 to apply for a sales job. She was told the store needed workers for the upcoming holiday season. But when a manager learned Waxman had a disability and would need a job coach, she said employees like her were not good workers because they 'slept on the job and played with the props in the store and would listen to music with headphones instead of working.' Even after being told that Waxman had shadowed someone in other retail jobs and volunteered at a day care center, the manager didn't appear interested, the complaint said. Waxman was not hired, but the store did hire six sales associates over the next nine days, according to the complaint. The suit requests that the company stop engaging in discriminatory practices based on a person's disability. It also demands that the store institute policies that promote equal opportunities for all workers and reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities. It is also requesting compensation for Waxman in an amount to be determined at trial.
  • Allman Brothers Band founding member Dickey Betts has had successful surgery after slipping and hitting his head while playing with his dog in Florida. The Dickey Betts website says the 'Ramblin' Man' and 'Blue Sky' singer-songwriter and guitarist underwent surgery Friday to relieve swelling on his brain. A statement posted Saturday on the website says Betts and his family said the 'outpouring of support from all over the world has been overwhelming and amazing. We are so appreciative.' Last month Betts suffered a mild stroke and had to cancel upcoming tour dates with his Dickey Betts Band, which includes his son, Duane Betts. A few weeks ago longtime friend David Spero posted that Betts was responding well to treatment for the stroke and was 'raring to go.
  • For yet another weekend, thousands rallied across Russia on Saturday to protest the government's plan to raise the eligibility age for retirement pensions by five years. Several thousand people attended a Moscow rally organized by the Communist Party and other leftist groups, which was authorized by city officials. Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov called for rolling back the proposed changes, arguing that the government should redistribute resources to avoid raising the pension age. 'They keep reaching into your pockets,' he told protesters, who waved red flags. The government's plan to lift the retirement age to 65 for men and 60 for women has irked a wide range of Russians from all political factions. Older Russians fear they won't live long enough to collect significant benefits while younger generations are worried that keeping people in the workforce longer will limit their own employment opportunities. The proposal has also dented President Vladimir Putin's popularity. Dmitry Orlov, who came to Moscow from his home city of Kostroma to join the rally, denounced the Russian government's move as a 'robbery.' 'It can't be that our country doesn't have money for its people, the people who spend their whole lives working and paying deductions for their pensions,' he said. Similar protests were also held Saturday in many cities across Russia's 11 time zones, most of them sanctioned by authorities. Several hundred demonstrators rallied against the pension age hike in Sevastopol in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. 'This is a very serious issue for me, because it touches upon my life, my children, my parents who haven't retired yet,' said Olga Konitskaya, 30, a protester in Sevastopol. The demonstrations went on peacefully, unlike a wave of unauthorized pension protests earlier this month organized by opposition leader Alexei Navalny that led to the detention of over 1,000 people across Russia. Navalny, the anti-corruption activist who is Putin's most visible foe, had called for protests against the pension age hike before he was sentenced to 30 days in jail for organizing a January protest over a different issue. He is set to be released from custody Monday. Putin has responded to the protests by offering some concessions, but argued that the age hike is necessary because rising life expectancies in Russia could exhaust the nation's pension resources if the eligibility age remains the same. The Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma has given only a preliminary approval to the pension changes bill and is yet to hold a decisive second reading. __ Iuliia Subbotovska in Moscow contributed to this report.
  • A U.S. military airstrike has killed 18 al-Shabab extremists after U.S. and local forces on the ground came under attack in southern Somalia, the U.S. Africa Command said Saturday. No U.S. or Somali forces were killed or injured in the attack, an AFRICOM spokesman, Nate Herring, told The Associated Press. The airstrike was carried out Friday in self-defense after extremists were 'observed maneuvering on a combined patrol,' while the U.S. also responded with 'indirect fire,' the spokesman said. The confrontation occurred about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of the port city of Kismayo, the U.S. Africa Command statement said. Two other al-Shabab extremists were killed by Somali forces 'with small arms fire during the engagement,' it said. The operation was Somali-led, the AFRICOM spokesman said. There was no immediate comment from Somali authorities. The U.S. has carried out more than 20 airstrikes this year against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in sub-Saharan Africa. U.S. military involvement in Somalia has grown since President Donald Trump early in his term approved expanded operations against al-Shabab. Dozens of drone strikes followed. Late last year the military also carried out its first airstrike against a small presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State in northern Somalia. Since the expanded operations, two U.S. military personnel have been killed in Somalia. A service member was killed in May 2017 during an operation about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Mogadishu. And in June, one U.S. special operations soldier was killed and four U.S. service members wounded in an 'enemy attack' as troops with Somali and Kenyan forces came under mortar and small-arms fire in Jubaland. The U.S. currently has about 500 military personnel in the Horn of Africa nation. Al-Shabab, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in Somalia, was pushed out of Mogadishu in recent years but continues to control rural areas in the south and central regions. Its fighters continue to attack the bases of a multinational African Union force that remains largely responsible for security as Somalia's fragile central government tries to recover from decades of chaos. In the next few years Somali forces are expected to take over responsibility for the country's security as the AU force withdraws. Concerns about their readiness remain high, and the U.N. Security Council recently voted to delay the handover's target date to December 2021. ___ Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa