Author: Depoworld

Veterans at Revolutionary Battlefield Dig Find Camaraderie

Military veterans who carefully dug and sifted through clumps of dirt this month at a Revolutionary War battlefield in New York did more than uncover artifacts fired from muskets and cannons.

The meticulous field work gave the veterans — some dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and physical injuries — a familiar sense of camaraderie and mission.

So while the archaeological dig at the Saratoga National Historical Park produced evidence from the tide-turning Second Battle of Saratoga, the teamwork behind the finds also benefited the veterans.

 

“We can all come together, share your battle stories, your deployment stories, and share your love for the history of what you’re digging,” said Bjorn Bruckshaw, of Laconia, New Hampshire, during a break on a recent hazy morning.

Bruckshaw, 38, was part of a three-person crew that spent the morning digging small holes at spots that set off metal detectors, then searching though the damp clumps to uncover … old nails, mostly.

But the self-described Revolutionary War buff was loving it.

Bruckshaw, an Army veteran injured in a roadside bombing in Iraq, is among 15 veterans taking part in the dig through American Veterans Archaeological Recovery, an organization that helps service members transition into the civilian world. While the group deals mostly with vets with disabilities, their focus is on what participants can do in the field instead of any injuries, said AVAR’s Stephen Humphreys.

“In the military you’re trained to be on time for everything,” Bruckshaw said. “So transitioning into the civilian world is a little bit harder for a lot of people. For me, it was a little bit difficult suffering from TBI [traumatic brain injury] and PTSD from my combat injuries. But you have support groups like these.”

National Park Service archaeologist William Griswold said the team is looking for artifacts that shed more light on the Battle of Bemis Heights, or the Second Battle of Saratoga, on Oct. 7, 1777. The American victory over British and German soldiers is credited with persuading France to lend crucial support the fight for independence.

The battle also burnished the heroic resume of future traitor Benedict Arnold, who was wounded in the leg and is memorialized here with a monument to his boot.

 

While maps and journal accounts from the time describe troop movements during that fateful battle, artifacts can pinpoint movements and provide a reality check.

For instance, historians know the British at Saratoga loaded their cannons with tin canisters packed with iron balls, or “case shot,” that spread out like shotgun blasts. Locations of the buried iron balls found here are being used to deduce more precisely where the cannons fired from.

“It’s a good way to check a lot of these textual sources because in the fog of battle, people often make mistakes or embellish things,” Griswold said.

Field work was first conducted here in 2019, with supervision from the National Park Service’s regional archaeology program. The American Battlefield Trust is a sponsor. Work was interrupted by the pandemic last year, but crews with shovels and metal detectors were back this month and wrapping up this week.

“It’s partially about the chase,” said veteran Megan Lukaszeski. “You never know what you’re going to find. You could dig and you could find nothing, or you could dig and find the most amazing things.”

After retiring from the Air Force, Lukaszeski went to school to study archaeology. The 36-year-old from New York has already taken part in AVAR excavations to recover remains at WWII crash sites in England and Sicily through the group’s partnership with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. She plans to get her master’s degree and pursue archaeology professionally.

For others, the work is more a chance to learn about archaeology while having some fun.

Former Army Col. Tim Madere once hunted for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This month, the 68-year-old sifted dirt through a screen in a hunt for artifacts and shared laughs with other workers. The Savannah, Georgia-area resident said he has gotten over most of his PTSD, but believes you can never totally get rid of it.

He sees this sort of field work as a good way for people to manage it.

“You hear their stories and then you tell yours so that we kind of get a better appreciation of what all these Americans did to protect the United States,” he said. ”So it’s good to see other people, and they’re doing well.”

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Majority of Women in Iceland’s New Parliament, European First

In a first in Europe, women hold more than half of the seats in Iceland’s new parliament, final election results showed Sunday.

Of the 63 seats in the Althing, 33 were won by women, or 52 percent, according to projections based on the final results.

No other European country has had more than 50 percent women lawmakers, with Sweden coming closest at 47 percent, according to data compiled by the World Bank.

Five other countries in the world currently have parliaments where women hold at least half the seats, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union: Rwanda (61 percent), Cuba (53 percent), Nicaragua (51 percent) and Mexico and the United Arab Emirates (50 percent).

Unlike some other countries, Iceland does not have legal quotas on female representation in parliament, though some parties do require a minimum number of candidates be women.

Iceland has long been a pioneer in gender equality and women’s rights, and has topped the World Economic Forum’s ranking of most egalitarian countries for the past 12 years.

It offers the same parental leave to both men and women, and its first law on equal pay for men and women dates back to 1961.

Iceland was the first country to elect a woman as president in 1980, and since 2018 it has had a pioneering gender-equal pay law that puts the onus on employers to prove they are paying the same wages to men and women.

Saturday’s election saw the left-right coalition government widen its majority.

However, Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir’s Left Green Movement emerged weakened while her right-wing partners posted strong scores, casting doubt over her future as prime minister.

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Switzerland Votes on Allowing Same-Sex Marriage

A contentious campaign comes to a head Sunday as Swiss voters go to the polls to decide on whether same-sex marriage should be allowed.

Earlier this month, thousands of people attended a high-spirited Pride parade in Zurich to support the legalization of same-sex marriage. They held up posters touting “Marriage for All” campaign slogans. They called for passage of the referendum that would grant gay and lesbian partners the same rights as heterosexual couples.

All Western European countries except Switzerland and Italy allow same-sex marriage. Germany and Austria were the last countries to approve such legislation in 2017 and 2019 respectively. Swiss campaigners believe this will improve chances of passing the referendum in this dominantly German-speaking country.

Opinion polls seem to uphold this view. While the gap between the yes and no campaigns has narrowed recently, the polls indicate more than 60% of the electorate support the proposal. The head of the Marriage for all Campaign, Olga Baranova, said she is confident of victory.

“Switzerland is quite a conservative country; we cannot forget it.But we have to say that for the last 20 years, people in Switzerland changed their mind completely on LGBT issues.So now people in Switzerland are ready for the same-sex marriage,” she said.

The Swiss government has endorsed the Marriage for All referendum. However, churches and right-wing political parties in this conservative, rich Alpine country oppose it. They claim legalizing same-sex marriage would undermine traditional family values.

If the proposal becomes law, lesbian and gay couples could adopt children, something they cannot legally do now. It also would grant easier access to sperm donations to lesbian couples who would want to start a family.Opponents say this would deny children their right to a father, as the identity of the sperm donor could not be revealed until the child reaches the age of 18.

Opponents vow they will not abandon this issue if the same-sex referendum passes. They note only 50,000 signatures of Swiss citizens are needed to get any matter on the ballot, in this highly democratized country.

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Name Drop: Cleveland Set to Say Goodbye to Indians for Good

There’s no more debate or decisions forthcoming. There’s still some anger and disbelief, but also the excitement that comes along with change.

The Cleveland Indians are about to become history.

On Monday, one of the American League’s charter members will play its final home game of 2021, and also its last at Progressive Field as the Indians, the team’s name since 1915, when “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was the starting right fielder on opening day.

Much more than the makeup of a rainout against the Kansas City Royals, the home finale will signify the end of one era and beginning of a new chapter for the team, which will be called the Cleveland Guardians next season.

That’s going to take some time getting used to. The Indians are all Clevelanders have ever known.

“I’m not a betting man,” longtime radio play-by-play broadcaster Tom Hamilton said, pondering what’s ahead. “But I have to guess the over-under on how many times we’ll say Indians is one million.”

After the Oct. 3 season finale in Texas and with no postseason for a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1948, there will be a transition period before Indians — a named deemed racist by some — is dropped and Guardians appears on new uniforms with logos that were unveiled in July to mixed reviews.

At some point, Guardians merchandise will go on sale and the massive script “Indians” logo crowning the ballpark’s massive left-field scoreboard will be taken down, a moment many Clevelanders could have never imagined possible.

And while the end of Indians has been known for a while, it still seemed to sneak up on some fans.

“It kind of hit us when we came in,” Kathy Wainwright of Elyria, Ohio, said as she and her husband, Mark, grabbed a bite to eat and a couple pregame beers before the Indians hosted the Royals.

Before entering the ballpark, the couple walked to the corner of Ontario Street and Carnegie Avenue to take a photo of the home plate entrance where a lighted “Indians” sign welcomes fans.

“I knew it was the last time I’d get to see it that way,” Mark said.

The team is not planning any ceremony to honor the Indians’ final performance at home. Unfortunately for many Cleveland fans, it’s happening at the same time that the Browns are hosting the Chicago Bears just one mile away at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Indians’ last home at-bat has been another delicate line to navigate for the club, whose decision to change the name elicited heavy criticism from fans who felt the team caved to a small, vocal minority.

Others thought it was long overdue, and probably should have happened when the team ditched the contentious Chief Wahoo logo a few years back.

The name change became inevitable last year when owner Paul Dolan announced his intention to examine the use of Indians after being moved by the social unrest sweeping America in the wake of the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis.

Cleveland’s steps toward the change don’t really matter at this point. There’s no turning back. It’s happening.

For Sandy Alomar Jr., the end is conflicting.

A six-time All-Star catcher and current first-base coach for Cleveland, Alomar has a personal attachment to Indians, the name he’s worn across his chest for 23 seasons — 11 as a player, 12 as coach.

He respects the team’s decision and understands the rationale behind the change, but that doesn’t make this any easier for him.

“It’s an emotional time for me,” he said. “All I’ve known is being a Cleveland Indian. I’m an Indian forever.”

Alomar was a driving force behind powerful Cleveland teams in the 1990s, when after they moved from their lakefront ballpark, the Indians went from downtrodden to dominant and won five straight division titles.

“Those moments are irreplaceable, so I guess this won’t hit me as hard as it will when I have to wear the new uniform,” said Alomar, who is planning to keep the one he wears in this season’s last game as a souvenir.

“I may not wash that one,” he said. “I’m just going to take it home the way it is.”

Hamilton, who called his first Indians game in 1990, doesn’t know what type of reaction to expect from Cleveland fans on Monday. He thinks the name change will have a bigger impact next season — when the Indians don’t take the field.

“I think it’s going to be a bigger deal on opening day, the home opener,” he said. “The first game isn’t going to be in Kansas City as the Guardians, it’s going to be here. That’s going to be more interesting.”

Before summer faded completely, Don and Julie MacDonald of Fairview Park, Ohio, made one last family trip to the ballpark this week. It was their son Josh’s 10th birthday, and they made sure to grab some new Indians merchandise, at least until the Guardians is available.

As his kids ate pizza slices along a railing in the right-field corner, MacDonald mulled how things might be different going forward and how they may stay the same.

The Indians might have a new name. Their fans aren’t changing.

“It’s going to be hard to not say Indians for a while,” he said. “It’s been so natural for so long and I don’t see Chief Wahoo going away any time soon. There are still so many fans wearing it. The name might be Guardians, but I think people will still say Indians.”

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Petito Case Renews Call to Spotlight Missing People of Color

In the three months since 62-year-old Navajo rug weaver Ella Mae Begay vanished, the haunting unanswered questions sometimes threaten to overwhelm her niece.

Seraphine Warren has organized searches of the vast Navajo Nation landscape near her aunt’s home in Arizona but is running out of money to pay for gas and food for the volunteers.

“Why is it taking so long? Why aren’t our prayers being answered?” she asks.

Begay is one of thousands of Indigenous women who have disappeared throughout the U.S. Some receive no public attention at all, a disparity that extends to many other people of color.

The disappearance of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old white woman who went missing in Wyoming last month during a cross-country trip with her boyfriend, has drawn a frenzy of coverage on traditional and social media, bringing new attention to a phenomenon known as “missing white woman syndrome.”

Many families and advocates for missing people of color are glad the attention paid to Petito’s disappearance has helped unearth clues that likely led to the tragic discovery of her body and they mourn with her family. But some also question why the public spotlight so important to finding missing people has left other cases shrouded in uncertainty.

“I would have liked that swift rush, push to find my aunt faster. That’s all I wish for,” said Warren, who lives in Utah, one of several states Petito and boyfriend Brian Laundrie passed through.

Causes are layered

In Wyoming, where Petito was found, just 18% of cases of missing Indigenous women over the past decade had any media coverage, according to a state report released in January.

“Someone goes missing just about every day … from a tribal community,” said Lynnette Grey Bull, who is Hunkpapa Lakota and Northern Arapaho and director of the organization Not Our Native Daughters. More than 700 Indigenous people disappeared in Wyoming between 2011 and 2020, and about 20% of those cases were still unsolved after a month. That’s about double the rate in the white population, the report found.

One factor that helped people connect with Petito’s case was her Instagram profile, where she lived her dream of traveling the country. Other social media users contributed their own clues, including a traveling couple who said they spotted the couple’s white van in their own YouTube footage.

While authorities haven’t confirmed the video led to the discovery, the vast open spaces of the American West can bedevil search parties for years and anything that narrows the search grid is welcome. Public pressure can also ensure authorities prioritize a case.

The opportunity to create a well-curated social media profile, though, isn’t available to everyone, said Leah Salgado, deputy director of IllumiNative, a Native women-led social justice organization.

“So much of who we care about and what we care about is curated in ways that disadvantage people of color and Black and Indigenous people in particular,” she said.

The causes are layered, but implicit bias in favor of both whiteness and conventional beauty standards play in, along with a lack of newsroom diversity and police choices in which cases to pursue, said Carol Liebler, a communications professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School.

“What’s communicated is that white lives matter more than people of color,” she said.

One sample of 247 missing teens in New York and California found 34% of white teens’ cases were covered by the media, compared to only 7% of Black teens and 14% of Latino kids, she said.

Friends of Jennifer Caridad, a 24-year-old day care worker of Mexican descent, have taken to social media to draw attention to her case out of Sunnyside, Washington, after it received little notice in August. Just as in Petito’s case, Caridad was last believed to have been with her boyfriend. He was arrested on carjacking and attempted murder charges after shooting at police during a pursuit following her disappearance.

So far, authorities have no answers for Caridad’s parents. Twice a week, Enrique Caridad heads to the police station for any updates on his daughter.

“They tell me they will not rest until she is found,” he said. “I tell them to please let me know her last whereabouts so I can also help find her. But they tell me not to get involved, not to hurt the case.”

Detectives took parental DNA samples and said there were bloodstains in her SUV, but they have yet to say whether it was Caridad’s blood. At the beginning, her parents struggled to understand English-speaking detectives, but after the case was transferred to a smaller police department, they could speak Spanish to one of the investigators.

“Not knowing is what kills us — not knowing if she is alive or if she was hurt by that man,” Caridad said.

David Robinson moved from South Carolina to Arizona temporarily to search for his son, Daniel, who disappeared in June. The 24-year-old Black geologist was last seen at a work site in Buckeye, outside Phoenix. A rancher found his car in a ravine a month later a few miles away. His keys, cellphone, wallet and clothes were also recovered. But no sign of him.

 

The Petito saga unexpectedly elevated his son’s case as people used the #findgabypetito hashtag on Twitter to draw more attention to cases of missing people of color.

“I was working hard previously trying to get it out nationally for three months straight,” said Robinson, who’s communicated with other families about the coverage disparity.

“This is bigger than I thought. … It isn’t just about my son Daniel. It’s a national problem.”

Public attention vital

Another family whose case was highlighted by that hashtag — Lauren “El” Cho, a missing 30-year-old Korean American from California — said in a Facebook statement they understand the frustrations but cautioned that differences between cases “run deeper than what meets the public eye.”

Asians and Asian Americans definitely face the same issue of news visibility, said Kent Ono, a University of Utah communications professor. The “model minority myth,” that Asians are successful and don’t get into trouble, also contributes to the problem.

“That then makes it very hard for readers and viewers to imagine that Asian and Asian American people have any problems at all, that they can’t take care of by themselves,” he said.

Public attention is vital in all missing-persons cases, especially in the first day or two after a disappearance, said Natalie Wilson, who co-founded the Black and Missing Foundation to help bring more attention to underreported cases. Dispelling racism and stereotypes linking missing people with poverty or crime is key.

“Oftentimes, the families … don’t feel as though their lives are valued,” she said. “We need to change the narrative around our missing to show they are our sisters, brothers, grandparents. They are our neighbors. They are part of our community.”

 

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Germany Votes for New Leader

Germany’s 60 million eligible voters will set their country on a new course in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

The winning lawmakers will decide who will replace the country’s outgoing and popular chancellor, Angela Merkle.

The newly elected politicians will likely have to form a coalition government, meaning it may take some weeks before Merkle’s replacement is announced.

Merkle, the driving force behind Germany’s position as Europe’s leading economy, is stepping down after 16 years in Germany’s top job, in a government led by Merkle’s center-right Christian Democratic Union.

Merkle has been reluctant to throw her support behind any of the leaders of the various political parties who are vying for her job, including her vice chancellor, Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party.

On Saturday, however, the German leader attended a rally for Armin Laschet, leader of the Christian Democrats.

 

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At Least 3 Killed in Amtrak Train Derailment, Sheriff’s Office Says

At least three people were killed Saturday afternoon when an Amtrak train that runs between Seattle and Chicago derailed in north-central Montana, an official with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office said.

Dispatcher Starr Tyler told The Associated Press that three people died in the derailment. She did not have more details. Amtrak said in a statement that there were multiple injuries.

The Empire Builder train derailed at 4 p.m. near Joplin, a town of about 200, Amtrak spokesperson Jason Abrams said in a statement. The accident scene is about 241 kilometers north of Helena and about 48 kilometers from the border with Canada.

The train had about 147 passengers and 13 crew members onboard, Abrams said.

Megan Vandervest, a passenger on the train who was going to visit a friend in Seattle, told The New York Times that she was awakened by the derailment.

“My first thought was that we were derailing because, to be honest, I have anxiety and I had heard stories about trains derailing,” said Vandervest, who is from Minneapolis. “My second thought was that’s crazy. We wouldn’t be derailing. Like, that doesn’t happen.”

She told the Times that the car behind hers was tilted over, the one behind that was entirely tipped over, and the three cars behind that “had completely fallen off the tracks and were detached from the train.”

Speaking from the Liberty County Senior Center, where passengers were being taken, Vandervest said it felt like “extreme turbulence on a plane.”

Amtrak was working with the local authorities to transport injured passengers and safely evacuate all other passengers, Abrams added.

Photos posted to social media showed several cars on their sides. Passengers were standing alongside the tracks, some carrying luggage.

The images showed sunny skies, and it appeared the accident occurred along a straight section of tracks. 

 

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Iceland Government Poised to Win Majority, but Future Uncertain

Iceland’s government was poised to win a majority in Saturday’s election, early results showed, though it remained to be seen if Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir’s left-right coalition would agree to continue in power together.

The three-party coalition has brought Iceland four years of stability after a decade of crises.

Jakobsdottir’s Left-Green Movement, the conservative Independence Party and the center-right Progressive Party were together credited with 38 of 63 seats in parliament, with more than a third of votes counted.

But the Left-Green Movement was seen losing crucial ground to its right-wing partners, putting Jakobsdottir’s future as prime minister — and the coalition itself — in doubt.

“We will have to see how the governmental parties are doing together and how we are doing,” Jakobsdottir told AFP, as the early results showed her party losing one seat in parliament from the 11 it won in 2017.

A clear picture of the political landscape was however only expected to emerge later Sunday when all votes had been counted.

A record nine parties are expected to win seats in the Althing, Iceland’s almost 1,100-year-old parliament, splintering the political landscape more than ever before.

That makes it particularly tricky to predict which parties could ultimately end up forming a coalition.

“I know that the results will be complicated, it will be complicated to form a new government,” Jakobsdottir said.

The largest party looked set to remain the Independence Party, whose leader Bjarni Benediktsson is eyeing the post of prime minister.

It was seen holding on to its 16 seats.

But the election’s big winner appeared to be the center-right Progressive Party, which was seen gaining four seats, to 12.

‘Different opportunities’

“Because there are so many parties, I think there will be a lot of different opportunities to form a government,” Jakobsdottir told AFP earlier in the week.

During her four-year term, Jakobsdottir has introduced a progressive income tax system, increased the social housing budget and extended parental leave for both parents.

Broadly popular, she has also been hailed for her handling of the COVID-19 crisis, with just 33 deaths in the country of 370,000.

But she has also had to make concessions to keep the peace in her coalition.

She said Saturday that if returned to power, her party would focus on the “huge challenges we face to build the economy in a more green and sustainable way,” as well addressing the climate crisis where “we need to do radical things.”

This is only the second time since 2008 that a government has made it to the end of its four-year mandate on the sprawling island.

Deep public distrust of politicians amid repeated scandals sent Icelanders to the polls five times from 2007 to 2017.

‘Free-for-all’

Outgoing Finance Minister Benediktsson is a former prime minister who comes from a family that has long held power on the right.

He has survived several political scandals, including being implicated in the 2016 Panama Papers leak that revealed offshore tax havens, and is standing in his fifth election.

He said he was optimistic after the early results.

“These numbers are good, (it’s a) good start to the evening,” he told public broadcaster RUV.

But there are five other parties all expected to garner around 10-15% of votes which could band together to form various coalitions.

They are the Left-Green Movement, the Progressive Party, the Social Democratic Alliance, the libertarian Pirate Party and the center-right Reform Party. A new Socialist Party is also expected to put in a strong showing.

“There is not a clear alternative to this government. If it falls and they can’t continue, then it’s just a free-for-all to create a new coalition,” political scientist Eirikur Bergmann said. 

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World Recognition of Taliban ‘Not on Table,’ Russia Says at UN

International recognition of the Taliban “at the present juncture is not on the table,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday at the United Nations.

Among the Taliban’s promises are ensuring an inclusive government; respecting human rights, especially for women; and preventing Afghanistan from becoming a haven for terrorists.

But the interim Taliban government, Lavrov said, fails to reflect “the whole gamut of Afghan society — ethno-religious and political forces — so we are engaging in contacts, they are ongoing.”

Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan, he said, are working to hold the Taliban to the promises they made when they seized control of Afghanistan in mid-August. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said the Taliban’s desire for such recognition is the only leverage the world has.

“What’s most important … is to ensure that the promises that they have proclaimed publicly [are] to be kept,” Lavrov added at news conference Saturday afternoon.

Lavrov addressed a wide range of topics, including the Iran nuclear deal and Russian mercenaries in Mali.

On Iran, Lavrov urged a greater effort from the U.S. to rejoin the deal.

“It seems evident they should be more active” in “resolving all issues related” to the accord, Lavrov told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse.

Negotiations stuck

Talks in Vienna among representatives from Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany have stalled, and Iran is no longer in compliance with the nuclear agreement, Lavrov said, “simply because the United State has left it.”

The deal was struck in 2015 and called for Iran to undo most of its nuclear program and allow international monitoring. In exchange, it would receive sanctions relief. Former U.S. President Donald Trump left the deal in 2018, and Iran resumed nuclear activities. U.S. President Joe Biden has said he wants to rejoin the agreement if Iran returns to compliance.

Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said Friday that the talks would resume “very soon,” but Tehran has not been specific about the timeframe, according to AFP.

On Mali, Lavrov said the country had turned to a private military company to help it combat terrorism, something France and the U.S. oppose. Lavrov said the Russian government had nothing to do with any agreement between Mali and Russia’s Wagner Group.

Earlier Saturday at the General Assembly annual meeting, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was crucial that Afghanistan not be used to spread terrorism globally, and he called on world leaders to help minorities in the country, along with women and children.

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in August after the U.S. decision to withdraw troops from the country following 20 years of war the U.S and its allies initiated after the al-Qaida terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

No ‘misuse’ of Afghan situation

“It is important to ensure that the land of Afghanistan is not used to spread terrorism and perpetuate terrorist attacks,” Modi said.

“We also have to be alert that no nation should be able to misuse the delicate situation in Afghanistan for their own selfish motives, like a tool,” Modi added in an apparent reference to Pakistan, locked between Afghanistan and India.

Modi’s appeal to protect women in Afghanistan came amid indications the Taliban have been limiting women’s rights since they seized Kabul, despite recent statements that they were willing to ease restrictions on women and girls. Women were largely banned from public life under the Taliban’s previous reign in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

The prime minister of India, which competes with China for influence in Kashmir and in the Indian Ocean region, also cited the need to shield oceans from “the race for expansion and exclusion.”

Other speakers Saturday at the assembly included leaders from Ethiopia, Mali and Haiti.

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Icelanders Vote in Volatile Election With Climate in Mind 

Icelanders were voting Saturday in a general election dominated by climate change, with an unprecedented number of political parties likely to win parliamentary seats.

 

Polls suggested there wouldn’t be an outright winner, triggering complex negotiations to build a coalition government.

 

A record nine parties could cross the 5% threshold needed to qualify for seats in Iceland’s parliament, the Althing. Upstart parties include the Socialist Party, which is promising to shorten the workweek and nationalize Iceland’s fishing industry. 

 

High turnout was expected, as one-fifth of eligible voters have already cast absentee ballots.

 

Climate change is high among voters’ concerns in Iceland, a glacier-studded volcanic island nation of about 350,000 people in the North Atlantic. 

 

An exceptionally warm summer by Icelandic standards — 59 days of temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius (68 F) — and shrinking glaciers have helped drive global warming up the political agenda.  

Polls showed strong support for left-leaning parties promising to cut carbon emissions by more than Iceland is already committed to under the Paris climate agreement. The country has pledged to become carbon-neutral by 2040, a decade ahead of most other European nations. 

 

The current government is a coalition of three parties spanning the political spectrum from left to center-right, and led by Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir of the Left Green Party. It was formed in 2017 after years of political instability. 

 

Jakobsdottir remains a popular prime minister, but polls suggest her party could fare poorly, ending the ongoing coalition. 

 

“The country is facing big decisions as we turn from the pandemic,” Jakobsdottir said during televised debates on Friday night in which party leaders vowed to end Iceland’s reliance on oil and many wanted to raise taxes on the rich. 

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Man Drives From Ohio Hoping to Help Haitian Friend at Border

As Haitian migrants stepped off a white U.S. Border Patrol van in the Texas border city of Del Rio after learning they’d be allowed to stay in the country for now, a man in a neon yellow vest stood nearby and quietly surveyed them. 

Some carried sleeping babies, and one toddler walked behind her mother wrapped in a silver heat blanket. As they passed by to be processed by a local nonprofit that provides migrants with basic essentials and helps them reach family in the U.S., many smiled — happy to be starting a new leg of their journey after a chaotic spell in a crowded camp near a border bridge that links Del Rio with Ciudad Acuña, Mexico. 

Dave, who didn’t want to share his last name because he feared a backlash for trying to help people who entered the U.S. illegally, didn’t see his friend Ruth in this group. But he wore the bright safety vest so she would be able to spot him in the crowd when she arrived with her husband and 3-year-old daughter. 

“I feel like my friend is worth my time to come down and help,” he told The Associated Press on Friday. 

On Tuesday, Dave set out from his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, and made the nearly 1,300-mile (2,092-kilometer) drive to Del Rio, where up to 15,000 migrants suddenly crossed in from Mexico this month, most of them Haitian and many seeking asylum.

The 64-year-old met Ruth over a decade ago during a Christian mission to Haiti. Over the years, Dave would send Ruth money for a little girl he met in an orphanage whom he’d promised himself he’d support. Ruth always made sure the girl had what she needed. 

Last month, Ruth and her family left South America, where they briefly lived after leaving their impoverished Caribbean homeland, to try to make it to the United States. Dave told her he’d be there when they arrived to drive them to her sister’s house in Ohio. 

“I just see it as an opportunity to serve somebody,” he said. “We have so much.” 

The nonprofit, the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition, has received dozens of drop-offs from U.S. Border Patrol agents since the sudden influx of migrants to Del Rio became the country’s most pressing immigration challenge. Its director, Tiffany Burrow, said the group processed more than 1,600 Haitian migrants from Monday through when the camp was completely cleared Friday, assisting them with travel and resettlement necessities. 

This is nothing new for Burrow, who has watched Haitian migrants cross into Del Rio in smaller numbers since January. But this recent wave overwhelmed her small group. 

“It’s a different volume. And the eyes of the world are on us this time,” Burrow told the AP. 

As Dave waited Friday for the next bus to arrive, he shimmied a child seat into place in the back seat of his vehicle. It was for Ruth’s toddler and was the first thing he spotted when he stopped at a thrift store on his way out of Toledo. He viewed it as a little sign he was doing the right thing. 

Ruth and her family had spent the past week at the bridge camp and Dave had been communicating with her through WhatsApp. But all communication stopped Thursday around noon, and he said Ruth’s sister in Ohio also hadn’t heard from her. 

Still, Dave waited, scrolling through a list of “what ifs.” He wondered aloud if her phone died or if she was in a Border Patrol facility with strict rules about electronic devices. “I’m putting a lot of faith in my phone,” he said, laughing.

Like Dave, Dr. Pierre Moreau made the trip to Del Rio from Miami to help. A Haitian immigrant himself and U.S. Navy veteran, he saw the images unfolding from the camp and booked a flight. 

“That was devastating. My heart was crying,” Moreau said. “And I told my wife I’m coming. And she said go.” 

Moreau didn’t have a plan, just a rental car full of toiletries and supplies he hoped to pass out to any migrants he came across. 

“I’m concerned about my brothers and sisters. And I was concerned with the way they were treated,” he said. 

Dave said he hates how politicized the border issue has become. He considers himself a supporter of former President Donald Trump but said he’s more complicated than a single label.

As he waited in his car, Dave gushed over how hard Ruth had worked as a nurse to get to the United States — a dream she’s held for over a decade. He said he knows she’ll do the same in the U.S. and that all he’s doing is giving her and her small family a leg up. 

“I help them with their first step,” Dave said. “And like a little child, next time you see them, they’ll be running.” 

Every time a Border Patrol bus or van pulled up to the coalition, Dave and his yellow vest would cross the street. He waited as each migrant climbed out, hoping to see Ruth, and he even darted over to one woman, thinking it was her. “That sounded just like Ruth’s voice,” he said. 

As news broke Friday that the camp had been cleared, Dave still held out hope that she’d arrive. But 10 hours after he pulled up, the coalition announced it had received its last busload and that no more migrants would be arriving from the camp. 

This wave, at least for now, was over for Del Rio. But Burrow said there will likely be others. 

“Right now, we’re in a cycle,” she said. “We’re learning to work with it.”

Dave stood up from his folding chair and started walking back to his car. He still hadn’t heard anything from Ruth and he again speculated as to where she and her family might be, including that they could have been sent on a deportation flight back to Haiti. 

He looked defeated but said he didn’t plan to drive back to Ohio until he heard from Ruth — not until he knew his friend was OK. 

“I cringe when I hear the beep that it’s going to be the wrong message,” Dave said. “But I try to keep hoping. I don’t know what else I can do.” 

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Texas Border Crossing Where Migrants Made Camp to Reopen 

The Texas border crossing where thousands of Haitian migrants converged in recent weeks was set to partly reopen Saturday afternoon, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said. 

Federal and local officials said no migrants remained at the makeshift encampment as of Friday, after some of the nearly 15,000 people were expelled from the country and many others were allowed to remain in the U.S., at least temporarily, as they try to seek asylum. 

In a statement, officials said trade and travel operations were to resume at the Del Rio Port of Entry for passenger traffic at 4 p.m. Saturday. It will be reopened for cargo traffic on Monday morning. CBP temporarily closed the border crossing between Del Rio and Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, on September 17 after the migrants suddenly crossed into Del Rio and made camp around the U.S. side of the border bridge. 

CBP agents on Saturday searched the brush along the Rio Grande to ensure that no one was hiding near the site. Bruno Lozano, the mayor of Del Rio, said officials also wanted to be sure no other large groups of migrants were making their way to the Del Rio area to try to set up a similar camp.

The Department of Homeland Security planned to continue flights to Haiti throughout the weekend, ignoring criticism from Democratic lawmakers and human rights groups who say Haitian migrants are being sent back to a troubled country that some left more than a decade ago. 

The number of people at the Del Rio encampment peaked last Saturday as migrants driven by confusion over the Biden administration’s policies and misinformation on social media converged at the border crossing.

The U.S. and Mexico worked swiftly, appearing eager to end the humanitarian situation that prompted the resignation of the U.S. special envoy to Haiti and widespread outrage after images emerged of border agents maneuvering their horses to forcibly block and move migrants. 

Many migrants face expulsion because they are not covered by protections recently extended by the Biden administration to the more than 100,000 Haitian migrants already in the U.S., citing security concerns and social unrest in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country. A devastating 2010 earthquake forced many from their homeland. 

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday that about 2,000 Haitians had been rapidly expelled on 17 flights since Sunday and more could be expelled in coming days under pandemic powers that deny people the chance to seek asylum. 

The Trump administration enacted the policy, called Title 42, in March 2020 to justify restrictive immigration policies in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The Biden administration has used it to justify the deportation of Haitian migrants. 

A federal judge late last week ruled that the rule was improper and gave the government two weeks to halt it, but the Biden administration appealed. 

Officials said the U.S. State Department was in talks with Brazil and Chile to allow some Haitians who had previously resided in those countries to return, but it’s complicated because some of them no longer have legal status there. 

Mayorkas said the U.S. had allowed about 12,400 migrants to enter the country, at least temporarily, while they make claims before an immigration judge to stay in the country under the asylum laws or for some other legal reason. They could ultimately be denied and would be subject to removal. 

Mayorkas said about 5,000 were in DHS custody and being processed to determine whether they will be expelled or allowed to press their claim for legal residency. Some returned to Mexico. 

A U.S. official with direct knowledge of the situation said seven flights were scheduled to Haiti on Saturday and six on Sunday, though that was subject to change. The official was not authorized to speak publicly. 

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Long Queues, Fuel Rationing Occur as Britain Faces Truck Driver Shortage

Lengthy queues of vehicles snaked their way to gas stations in Britain on Saturday where an acute shortage of truck drivers has led to fuel rationing, some empty pumps, and government consideration of issuing temporary work visas. 

Across the country, motorists waited in long lines to fill up their vehicles. One big distributor said it was rationing sales, and a number of operators said they were having to close some pump sites, provoking panic-buying. 

Government ministers and oil companies said there were ample stocks of petrol or diesel and there was no cause for alarm, but the lack of truck drivers was hampering transport of fuel from refineries to gas stations. 

With retailers also warning of significant disruption to their supplies in the run-up to Christmas, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office has said it is looking at a short-term fix to address the shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers. 

“We’re looking at temporary measures to avoid any immediate problems, but any measures we introduce will be very strictly time-limited,” a spokeswoman for Johnson’s Downing Street office said in a statement. 

“Like countries around the world we are suffering from a temporary COVID-related shortage of drivers needed to move supplies around the country.” 

The UK’s Road Haulage Association says Britain is facing a shortage of 100,000 drivers, a result of workers leaving the industry, Brexit and COVID-19, which stopped driver training and testing for about a year. 

Newspapers have reported that the government would allow up to 5,000 foreign drivers into Britain on short-term visas, a measure that logistics companies and retailers have demanded for months but that the government had previously ruled out. 

Business leaders and the haulage industry have welcomed the reported plan, but there are also doubts about whether it will go far enough, or if drivers will come to Britain from Europe, where countries are also facing labor shortages. 

“We’ll have to see if we can attract people for a short period of time,” Huw Merriman, chairman of parliament’s transport committee, told BBC-TV. 

Brian Madderson, the chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent fuel retailers, said he expected the problem to continue for a “while longer.” 

“I think this situation is going to get worse before it gets better,” he told Sky News. 

Unprecedented demand 

The issue came to the fore after BP said it had to close some of its outlets because of the driver shortages, with Shell and ExxonMobil’s Esso also reporting problems with supplies to gas stations. 

EG Group, which runs 341 petrol outlets across Britain, said on Friday it would impose a purchase limit of 30 pounds ($41) per customer for fuel because of the “unprecedented customer demand.” 

From early on Saturday, motorists began lining up outside filling stations, and some closed as fuel ran out. 

“I was out on my bike … and came past my BP garage and it was chaos,” Merriman said. “As soon as the message gets out there might be a fuel shortage, people understandably react.” 

Police across the country reported congestion caused by motorists waiting in line and urged people not to contact them about the problems the traffic was causing. 

Britain, the world’s fifth-largest economy, is also grappling with a spike in European natural gas costs that has caused soaring energy prices and could lead to a food supply crunch. 

Britain says the long-term solution for the haulage industry is for more British drivers to be hired and for them to be paid better.

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Merkel Makes Final Push for Successor in Germany’s Knife-Edge Polls

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans Saturday to give her would-be successor Armin Laschet their vote to shape Germany’s future, in a last-ditch push to shore up his beleaguered campaign 24 hours before Germans vote.

 

Laschet, 60, has been trailing his Social Democrat challenger Olaf Scholz in the race for the chancellery, although final polls put the gap between them within the margin of error, making the vote one of the most unpredictable in recent years.

 

Merkel had planned to keep a low profile in the election battle as she prepares to bow out of politics after 16 years in power. But she has found herself dragged into the frantic campaign schedule of the unpopular chairman of her party, Laschet.

 

In the last week of the campaign, Merkel took Laschet to her constituency by the Baltic coast and on Friday headlined the closing rally gathering the conservatives’ bigwigs in Munich.

 

Merkel tugged at the heartstrings of Germany’s predominantly older electorate on Friday, calling on them to keep her conservatives in power for the sake of stability — a trademark of Germany.

 

“To keep Germany stable, Armin Laschet must become chancellor, and the CDU and CSU must be the strongest force,” she said.

 

A day before the vote, she travelled to Laschet’s hometown and constituency Aachen, a spa city near Germany’s western border with Belgium and the Netherlands, where he was born and still lives.

 

“It is about your future, the future of your children and the future of your parents,” she said at her last rally before the polls, urging strong mobilization for her conservative alliance.

 

She underlined that climate protection will be a key challenge of the next government  but said this would not be achieved “simply through rules and regulations”.

 

“For that we need new technological developments, new procedures, researchers, interested people who think about how that can be done, and people who participate,” she said.  

 

Laschet is a “bridge-builder who will get people on board” in shaping Germany to meet those challenges, she said.

 

Hundreds of thousands of people had descended on the streets on Friday urging change and greater climate protection, with a leading activist calling Sunday’s election the vote “of a century”.

 

‘Could backfire’

   

With the clock ticking down to the election, Scholz was also staying close to home at the other end of the country to chase down last votes.

 

Taking questions from voters in his constituency of Potsdam — a city on the outskirts of Berlin famous for its palaces that once housed Prussian kings — Scholz said he was fighting for “a major change in this country, a new government” led by him.  

 

He also gave a glimpse of the future government he hopes to lead, saying that “perhaps it may be enough to, for instance, form a government between the SPD and the Greens”.

 

Scholz, currently finance minister in Merkel’s coalition government, has avoided making mistakes on the campaign trail, and largely won backing as he sold himself as the “continuity candidate” after Merkel in place of Laschet.

 

Described as capable but boring, Scholz has consistently beaten Laschet by wide margins when it comes to popularity.

 

As election day loomed, Laschet’s conservatives were closing the gap, with one poll even putting them just one percentage point behind the SPD’s 26 percent.

 

Laschet went into the race for the chancellery badly bruised by a tough battle for the conservatives’ chancellor candidate nomination.

 

Nevertheless, his party enjoyed a substantial lead ahead of the SPD heading into the summer.

 

But Laschet was seen chuckling behind President Frank-Walter Steinmeier as he paid tribute to victims of deadly floods in July, an image that would drastically turn the mood against him and his party.

 

As polls showed the lead widening for the SPD, the conservatives turned to their greatest asset — the still widely popular Merkel.

 

Yet roping in the chancellor is not without risks, said political analyst Oskar Niedermayer of Berlin’s Free University.

 

“Merkel is still the most well-liked politician. But the joint appearances can become a problem for Laschet because they are then immediately being compared to each other,” he said.

 

“And it could therefore backfire because people could then think that Merkel is more suitable than Laschet.”

 

 

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