PARIS, May 6 (UPI) -- Rain met French voters going to the polls Sunday in the run-off election between incumbent right- wing President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Socialist opponent.
Polls in recent days have favored Socialist Francois Hollande, who beat Sarkozy by about 500,000 votes in the first round of voting on April 22.
Weather across much France was rainy, which traditionally hurts turnout for leftist parties, Radio France International said.
If Hollande wins, he would be only the second Socialist leader after Francois Mitterand's two terms in the 1980s. His victory would also make Sarkozy the 11th European leader voted out since the most recent recession, The Guardian newspaper reported from England.
France is in economic turmoil and the rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded the country's triple-A credit rating because of high debt and record unemployment nearing 10 percent, the reports said.
Both Sarkozy and Hollande promised during their campaigns to balance the budget, which has not been done in more than 30 years, The Guardian said.
Netanyahu to set election date
JERUSALEM, May 6 (UPI) -- Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will move elections up a full year and set polling for Sept. 4, 2012, officials said.
Netanyahu plans to make the announcement at a Likud Party convention Sunday evening, Israeli media reported. The convention marks the beginning of the Likud Party election campaign, Haaretz said.
A Channel 2 report Friday suggested Netanyahu is calling for early elections so that he and his transition government will be free to deal with Iran's nuclear program before the U.S. presidential election in November.
A recent poll in the Hebrew daily Maariv estimated the Likud Party is likely to win at least 31 of the 120 seats in the Knesset and the Labor Party will become the second largest party with 18 seats. The Yisrael Beitenu Party led by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the Kadima Party are each projected to win 11 seats, the poll said.
Netanyahu was elected prime minister in 2009. Israel's general elections were initially scheduled to take place in September 2013.
Deadly tornado hits northeastern Japan
MITO, Japan, May 6 (UPI) -- An apparent tornado tore through central eastern Japan Sunday, killing a teenager and injuring 40 others, emergency officials reported.
Amid very active thunderstorms, the twister struck Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures, some 35 miles northeast of Tokyo around 1 p.m., the Kyodo news agency reported.
Police said as many as 250 houses lost roofs and windows to the funnel cloud, which has not yet been officially recognized as a tornado by meteorological officials.
At least 40 people were injured, two of them seriously. One of them, a 14-year-old boy, died of his injuries in a hospital, the report said.
The thunderstorms also caused widespread reports of lightning damage and disruptions and delays in bullet train service along the east coast, Kyodo said.
Costa Crociere gets new ship, new rules
VENICE, Italy, May 6 (UPI) -- Costa Crociere christened a new flagship in Italy Saturday as officials of the luxury cruise company announced changes in procedures meant to improve safety.
The launching of the Costa Fascinosa in Venice came less than four months after the deadly foundering of the U.S.-British company's Costa Concordia off an Italian island. The Jan. 13 maritime mishap left 32 passengers and crew members dead or missing, and the captain remains under house arrest while awaiting trial.
"The delivery of the Costa Fascinosa is an important stepping stone on our company's road to recovery ...," Costa Chairman Pier Luigi Foschii said without mentioning the Concordia by name.
Foschii said "after the recent incident" and despite the downturn in the economy, "Costa has bounced back and booking volumes are back to the same levels recorded this time last year," The Miami Herald reported.
Seven safety measures were announced for Costa's 15-ship fleet, including a more collaborative decision-making process to encourage all staff on the bridge to "think out loud" as navigational decisions are made, the newspaper said.
Costa Crociere is part of the Carnival Corp. & PLC cruise network.
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