Trump Says He Will be in Courtroom for New York Trial

With control over some of his most prized real estate holdings in jeopardy, former President Donald Trump says he will make a rare, voluntary trip to court in New York on Monday for the start of a civil trial in a lawsuit that already has resulted in a judge ruling that he committed fraud in his business dealings.

“I’m going to Court tomorrow morning to fight for my name and reputation,” Trump wrote Sunday night on his Truth Social platform.

Trump lashed out in his post at New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is suing him, and Judge Arthur Engoron, who is presiding over the non-jury trial and made the fraud ruling last week.

“THIS WHOLE CASE IS SHAM!!!” Trump wrote. “See you in Court — Monday morning.”

The trial is the culmination of a yearslong investigation by James, who accused Trump and his company of habitually lying about his wealth in financial statements.

Last week, Engoron resolved the lawsuit’s top claim before the trial even began, ruling that Trump routinely deceived banks, insurers and others by exaggerating the value of assets on paperwork used in making deals and securing loans.

The former president and a who’s who of people in his orbit — his two eldest sons, Trump Organization executives and former lawyer-turned-foe Michael Cohen are all listed among dozens of potential witnesses.

Trump isn’t expected to testify for several weeks. His trip to court Monday will mark a remarkable departure from his past practice.

Trump didn’t come to court as either a witness or a spectator when his company and one of its top executives was convicted of tax fraud last year. He didn’t show, either, for a trial earlier this year in which a jury found him liable for sexually assaulting the writer E. Jean Carroll in a department store dressing room.

In some ways, though, this new trial comes with higher stakes.

James, a Democrat, is seeking $250 million in penalties and a ban on doing business in New York.

Engoron’s ruling of last week, if upheld on appeal, would also shift control of some of his companies to a court-appointed receiver and could force him to give up prized New York properties such as Trump Tower, a Wall Street office building, golf courses and a suburban estate.

Trump called it a “a corporate death penalty.”

“I have a Deranged, Trump Hating Judge, who RAILROADED this FAKE CASE through a NYS Court at a speed never before seen,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

In his post Sunday night, Trump wrote that Engoron is “unfair, unhinged, and vicious in his PURSUIT of me.”

Engoron will decide on six remaining claims in James’ lawsuit, including allegations of conspiracy, falsifying business records and insurance fraud.

James’ lawsuit accused Trump and his company of a long list of fibs in the financial statements he gave to banks. In a recent court filing, James’ office alleged Trump exaggerated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion.

Among the allegations were that Trump claimed his Trump Tower apartment in Manhattan — a three-story penthouse replete with gold-plated fixtures — was nearly three times its actual size and worth an astounding $327 million. No apartment in New York City has ever sold for close to that amount, James said.

Trump valued Mar-a-Lago as high as $739 million — more than 10 times a more reasonable estimate of its worth, James claimed. Trump’s figure for the private club and residence was based on the idea that the property, now a private club, could be developed for residential use, but deed terms prohibit that, James said.

Trump has denied wrongdoing, arguing in sworn testimony for the case that it didn’t matter what he put on his financial statements because they have a disclaimer that says they shouldn’t be trusted.

He and his lawyers have also argued that no one was harmed by anything in the financial statements. Banks he borrowed money from were fully repaid. Business partners made money. And Trump’s own company flourished.

James’ lawsuit is one of several legal headaches for Trump as he campaigns for a return to the White House in next year’s election. He has been indicted four times since March, accused of plotting to overturn his 2020 election loss, hoarding classified documents and falsifying business records related to hush money paid on his behalf.

The trial could last into December, Engoron said.

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38 Injured in Fire at Egyptian Police Headquarters

Thirty-eight people were injured Monday when a fire erupted at a police headquarters in northern Egypt, according to police.

A police spokesman said some of the injured were treated on site, while others were transported to the hospital.

The cause of the fire at the building in Ismailia was not immediately clear, officials said.

At least 50 ambulances and two airplanes were sent to the scene.

Large fires are not uncommon in Egypt due to lax enforcement of safety and fire codes and regulations.

In August 2022, a fire broke out in a Coptic church in Cairo, killing 41 people.


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2 Militants, Police Officer Killed in Attack on Police Post in Pakistan

Two militants and a Pakistani police officer were killed when more than a dozen militants ambushed a police post Saturday in Mianwali.

By Sunday morning, police had put down the attack.

Officials say the militants belonged to a branch of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban.

Police repulsed another TTP strike earlier this year in Mianwali at the Makkarwal police station.

Two militants were also killed in that strike. 

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Late-Night Shows Return After Writers Strike as Actors Resume Talks That Could End Their Standoff

Late-night talk shows are returning after a five-month absence brought on by the Hollywood writers strike, while actors will begin talks that could end their own long work walk-off.

CBS’s “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” were the first shows to leave the air when the writers strike began on May 2, and now will be among the first to return on Monday night.

Comedian John Oliver got his first take on the strike out, exuberantly returning Sunday night to his “Last Week Tonight” show on HBO and delivering full-throated support for the strike.

Oliver cheerily delivered a recap of stories from the last five months before turning serious, calling the strike “an immensely difficult time” for all those in the industry.

“To be clear, this strike happened for good reasons. Our industry has seen its workers severely squeezed in recent years,” Oliver said. “So, the writers guild went to strike and thankfully won. But it took a lot of sacrifices from a lot of people to achieve that.”

“I am also furious that it took the studios 148 days to achieve a deal they could have offered on day (expletive) one,” Oliver said. He added that he hoped the writers contract would give leverage to other entertainment industry guilds – as well as striking auto workers and employees in other industries – to negotiate better deals.

Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns HBO, is among the studios on the other side of the table in the writers and actors strikes.

Network late-night hosts will have their returns later Monday.

Colbert will have Astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson on his first show back. Kimmel will host Arnold Schwarzenegger. Matthew McConaughey will be on Fallon’s couch.

All the hosts will surely address the strike in their monologues.

“I’ll see you Monday, and every day after that!” an ebullient Colbert said in an Instagram video last week from the Ed Sullivan Theater, which was full of his writers and other staffers for their first meeting since spring.

The hosts haven’t been entirely idle. They teamed up for a podcast, “Strike Force Five,” during the strike.

The writers were allowed to return to work last week after the Writers Guild of America reached an agreement on a three-year contract with an alliance of the industry’s biggest studios, streaming services and production companies.

Union leaders touted the deal as a clear win on issues including pay, size of staffs and the use of artificial intelligence that made the months off worth it. The writers themselves will vote on the contract in a week of balloting that begins Monday.

Meanwhile, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists will begin negotiations with the same group, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, for the first time since they joined writers in a historic dual strike on July 14.

Actors walked off the job over many of the same issues as writers, and SAG-AFTRA leaders said they would look closely at the gains and compromises of the WGA’s deal but emphasized that their demands would remain the same as they were when the strike began.

It was just five days after writers and studios resumed talks that a deal was reached and that strike ended, though an attempt to restart negotiations a month earlier broke off after a few meetings.

The late-night shows will have significant limits on their guest lists. Their bread and butter, actors appearing to promote projects, will not be allowed to appear if the movies and shows are for studios that are the subject of the strikes.

But exceptions abound. McConaughey, for example, is appearing with Fallon to promote his children’s book, “Just Because.”

And SAG-AFTRA has granted interim agreements allowing actors to work on many productions, and with that comes the right of actors to publicly promote them.


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California Governor to Name Laphonza Butler to Feinstein Senate Seat

California Gov. Gavin Newsom will name Laphonza Butler, a Democratic strategist and adviser to Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign, to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat held by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a spokesman in his office said Sunday.

In choosing Butler, Newsom fulfilled his pledge to appoint a Black woman if Feinstein’s seat should become open. However, he had been facing pressure by some Black politicians and advocacy groups to select Rep. Barbara Lee, a prominent Black congresswoman who is already running for the seat.

Butler will be the only Black woman serving in the U.S. Senate, and the first openly LGBTQ person to represent California in the chamber.

The long-serving Democratic senator died last Thursday after a series of illnesses.

Butler leads Emily’s List, a political organization that supports Democratic women candidates who favor abortion rights. She also is a former labor leader with SEIU 2015, a powerful force in California politics.

Butler currently lives in Maryland, according to her Emily’s List biography.

She did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. A spokesman in Newsom’s office who declined to be named confirmed to The Associated Press that Newsom had chosen Butler.

Democrats control the Senate 51-49, though Feinstein’s seat is vacant. A quick appointment by Newsom will give the Democratic caucus more wiggle room on close votes, including nominations that Republicans uniformly oppose. She could be sworn in as early as Tuesday evening when the Senate returns to session.

Feinstein, the oldest member of Congress and the longest-serving woman in the Senate, died at age 90 after a series of illnesses. She said in February she would not seek reelection in 2024. Lee is one of several prominent Democrats competing for the seat, including Democratic U.S. Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff. Newsom said he did not want to appoint any of the candidates because it would give them an unfair advantage in the race.

His spokesman Anthony York said the governor did not ask Butler to commit to staying out of the race. Dec. 8 is the deadline for candidates to file for the office.

Butler has never held elected office but has a long track record in California politics. She served as a senior adviser to Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign while working at a political firm filled with strategists who have worked for Newsom and many other prominent state Democrats. She also briefly worked in the private sector for Airbnb.

She called Feinstein “a legendary figure for women in politics and around the country,” in a statement posted after Feinstein’s death.

Emily’s List, the group Butler leads, focuses on electing Democratic women who support abortion rights. With the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn women’s constitutional right to abortion, the issue has become a galvanizing one for many Democrats.

It’s not Newsom’s first time selecting a U.S. senator, after being tasked with choosing a replacement for Kamala Harris when she was elected vice president; at that time he selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla for the post. It was one of a string of appointments Newsom made in late 2020 and early 2021, a power that gave him kingmaker status among the state’s ambitious Democrats.

The seat is expected to stay in Democratic hands in the 2024 election. Democrats in the liberal-leaning state have not lost a statewide election since 2006, and the party holds a nearly 2-to-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans.

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Nigeria Offers Measures to Offset Rising Costs as Unions Mull Strike

Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s government on Sunday proposed a temporary wage hike for federal workers and more cheap gas-powered public transport among other measures to offset the impact of his economic reforms and convince labor unions to call off a planned national strike.

Speaking in a broadcast to mark Nigeria’s 63rd independence day anniversary, Tinubu’s announcement came after he ended a long-standing fuel subsidy that cost the government billions of dollars a year to keep fuel cheap and also his liberalization of the naira currency.

Government officials say the reforms were needed to revive Africa’s largest economy and investors applauded them, but Nigerians are struggling with a tripling of fuel prices, a sharp naira devaluation and inflation now at 25%.

“There is no joy in seeing the people of this nation shoulder burdens that should have been shed years ago,” Tinubu said. “I wish today’s difficulties did not exist. But we must endure if we are to reach the good side of our future.”

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), the two major unions representing industries from aviation workers and nurses to teachers and bankers, had called an indefinite strike for Oct. 3 because they say the government failed to address their concerns.

In his broadcast, Tinubu said the federal minimum wage for the lower-grade public employees would increase by 25,000 naira a month ($32) for the next six months.

Later Sunday, government officials and labor unions met for negotiations, and the government said the temporary wage increase would now apply to “all treasury-paid federal government workers for six months,” according to a presidency statement.

The temporary wage hike was among other offers, it said.

“NLC and TUC will consider the offers by the Federal Government with a view to suspending the planned strike to allow for further consultations,” the statement said.

NLC chief Joe Ajaero told reporters the union would take the government offers to its membership for consultations.

“We’re hopeful that (membership) will have a look at them and give us a fresh mandate,” he said.

Tinubu said the government was also preparing to speed up the introduction of gas-powered buses for public transport, which would lower the costs of transport — one of the main complaints for Nigerians since the fuel subsidy removal.

Social security cash transfers to the poorest Nigerians would also be extended and investments made available for small businesses, he said.

Tinubu — a former Lagos governor elected in February in a highly contested ballot — has promised to bring in more investment and tackle the country’s complex security challenges, from jihadists to bandit militias carrying out mass kidnappings.

The Nigerian leader has also sought to shake up the country’s central bank, whose previous director critics say was responsible for unorthodox monetary policies that kept investors away.

The former central bank director has been replaced and arrested.

The fuel subsidy had been in place for decades and kept petrol prices artificially low in what was seen by many Nigerians as a benefit from their government.

But the measure cost the government billions annually because although Nigeria is a major oil producer, it imports most of its fuel because of a lack of functioning refineries.

The NLC and TUC went on strike in August over the same issues, with many businesses, government offices, markets, banks closed for a day in the capital Abuja. But the call to strike met with more mixed response from businesses in the economic capital Lagos.


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Jimmy Carter Turns 99,Tributes Come From Around the World

Jimmy Carter has always been a man of discipline and habit. But the former president broke routine Sunday, putting off his practice of quietly watching church services online to instead celebrate his 99th birthday with his wife, Rosalynn, and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in Plains.

The gathering took place in the same one-story structure where the Carters lived before he was first elected to the Georgia Senate in 1962. As tributes poured in from around the world, it was an opportunity for Carter’s family to honor his personal legacy.

“The remarkable piece to me and I think to my family is that while my grandparents have accomplished so much, they have really remained the same sort of South Georgia couple that lives in a 600-person village where they were born,” said grandson Jason Carter, who chairs the board at The Carter Center, which his grandparents founded in 1982 after leaving the White House a year earlier.

Despite being global figures, the younger Carter said his grandparents have always “made it easy for us, as a family, to be as normal as we can be.”

At the Carter Center in Atlanta, meanwhile, 99 new American citizens, who came from 45 countries, took the oath of allegiance as part of a naturalization ceremony timed for the former president’s birthday.

“This is so impressive, and I’m so happy for it to be here,” said Tania Martinez after the ceremony. A 53-year-old nurse in Roswell, Martinez was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. from Ghana 12 years ago.

“Now, I will be free forever,” she said, tears welling.

Celebrating the longest-lived U.S. president this way was inconceivable not long ago. The Carters announced in February that their patriarch was forgoing further medical treatments and entering home hospice care after a series of hospitalizations. Yet Carter, who overcame cancer diagnosed at age 90 and learned to walk after having his hip replaced at age 94, defied all odds again.

“If Jimmy Carter were a tree, he’d be a towering, old Southern oak,” said Donna Brazile, a former Democratic national chairperson and presidential campaign manager who got her start on Carter’s campaigns. “He’s as good as they come and tough as they come.”

Jill Stuckey, a longtime Plains resident who visits the former first couple regularly, cautioned to “never underestimate Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.”

His latest resilience has allowed Carter a rare privilege even for presidents: He’s been able to enjoy months of accolades typically reserved for when a former White House resident dies. The latest round includes a flood of messages from world leaders and pop culture figures donning “Jimmy Carter 99” hats, with many of them focusing on Carter’s four decades of global humanitarian work after leaving the Oval Office.

Katie Couric, the first woman to anchor a U.S. television network’s evening news broadcast, praised Carter in a social media video for his “relentless effort every day to make the world a better place.”

She pointed to Carter’s work to eradicate Guinea worm disease and river blindness, while advocating for peace and democracy in scores of countries. She noted he has written 32 books and worked for decades with Habitat for Humanity building houses for low-income people.

“Oh, yeah, and you were governor of Georgia. And did I mention president of the United States?” she joked. “When are you going to stop slacking off?”

Bill Clinton, the 42nd president and first Democratic president after Carter’s landslide defeat, showed no signs of the chilly relationship the two fellow Southerners once had.

“Jimmy! Happy birthday,” Clinton said in his video message. “You only get to be 99 once. It’s been a long, good ride, and we thank you for your service and your friendship and the enduring embodiment of the American dream.”

Musician Peter Gabriel led concertgoers at Madison Square Garden in a rendition of “Happy Birthday,” as did the Indigo Girls at a recent concert.

In Atlanta, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum and adjacent Carter Center held a weekend of events, including the citizenship ceremony. The museum offered 99-cent admission Saturday. The commemoration there was able to continue Sunday only because Congress came to an agreement to avoid a partial government shutdown at the start of the federal fiscal year, which coincides with Carter’s birthday.

Jason Carter said his grandfather has found it “gratifying” to see reassessments of his presidency. Carter’s term often has been broad-brushed as a failure because of inflation, global fuel shortages and the holding of American hostages in Iran, a confluence that led to Republican Ronald Reagan’s 1980 romp.

Yet Carter’s focus on diplomacy, his emphasis on the environment before the climate crisis was widely acknowledged and his focus on efficient government — his presidency added a relative pittance to the national debt — have garnered second looks from historians.

Indeed, Carter’s longevity offers a frame to illuminate both how much the world has changed over his lifetime while still recognizing that certain political and societal challenges endure.

The Carter Center’s disease-eradication work occurs mostly in developing countries. But Jimmy and Roslaynn Carter were first exposed to river blindness growing up surrounded by the crushing poverty of the rural Deep South during the Great Depression.

The center’s global democracy advocacy has reached countries that were still part of various European empires when Carter was born in 1924 or were under heavy American influence in the decades after World War II. Yet in recent years, Carter has declared his own country to be more of an “oligarchy” than a well-functioning democracy. And the center has since become involved in monitoring and tracking U.S. elections.

Carter has lived long enough finally to have a genuine friend in the Oval Office again. President Joe Biden was a young Delaware politician in 1976 and became the first U.S. senator to endorse Carter’s campaign against better-known Washington figures. Now, as Biden seeks reelection in 2024, he faces the headwinds of inflation that Republicans openly compare to Carter’s economy. Biden had a wooden birthday cake display placed on the White House front law to honor Carter.

The year Carter was born, Congress passed sweeping immigration restrictions, sharply curtailing Ellis Island as a portal to the nation. Now, the naturalization ceremony to mark Carter’s 99th birthday comes as Washington continues a decades-long fight over immigration policy. Republicans, especially, have moved well to the right of Reagan, who in 1986 signed a sweeping amnesty policy for millions of immigrants who were in the country illegally or had no sure legal path to citizenship.

Carter also was born into Jim Crow segregation, at a time when the Ku Klux Klan marched openly on state capitols and in Washington. As governor and president, Carter set new marks for appointing Black Americans to top government posts. At 99, Carter’s Sunday online church circuit includes watching Georgia’s first Black U.S. senator, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, preach at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Yet, at the same time, some white state lawmakers in Carter’s native region are defying the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to curtail Black voters’ strength at the ballot box.

Jason Carter said understanding his grandfather’s impact means resisting the urge to assess whether he solved every problem he confronted or won every election. Instead, he said, the takeaway is to recognize a sweeping impact rooted in respecting other people on an individual level and trying to help them.

“You don’t get more out of a life than he got, right?” the younger Carter said. “It is an incredible, full rich life with a long marriage, a wonderful partnership with my grandmother, and the ability to see the world and interact with the world in ways that almost nobody else has ever been able to do.”

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‘Follow Your Dreams’ Says Afghan Women’s Volleyball Team

Afghanistan’s volleyball team hope their appearance at the Asian Games in defiance of the Taliban will encourage other women from the country “to follow their dreams.”

The players braved conflict, exile and threats to their family back home to compete in Hangzhou, they say.

Women’s sport in Afghanistan was effectively banned by the Taliban when they returned to power in 2021.

That meant no women traveling from the country in the delegation of more than 120 competitors, coaches and supervisors in China.

But with the help of overseas sports bodies, more than a dozen foreign-based Afghan women are taking part, with the volleyball squad comprising most of them.

“I think it’s a big hope for Afghan women, that they haven’t given up their dreams, they have to follow their dreams,” 25-year-old middle blocker Mursal Khedri told AFP after a 3-0 defeat to Japan on Sunday. 

The 12-member Afghan squad team also faced off against Kazakhstan over the weekend, staying in good spirits despite being soundly defeated by their more seasoned opponents.

Wearing headscarves and long leggings, the players high-fived each other as they ran onto the court at the start of the match.

Spectators erupted in cheers when the Afghans belatedly scored their first point against Japan.

And even though they went down 3-0 in both matches, there was a strong sense of pride at even getting this far.

“It was so hard for Afghan women to attend this Asian Games because it’s a difficult situation for us, all of the people know about the situation of Afghanistan,” Khedri said.

Some of the Afghan volleyball players in Hangzhou declined to be interviewed, fearing retaliation against family members still living in Afghanistan.

Following the return to power of the Taliban, hundreds of Afghan athletes, coaches and officials — both men and women — were evacuated on humanitarian visas obtained by National Olympic Committees from various governments. 

Olympic officials said they would have faced significant risks had they remained in Afghanistan. 

Under their austere interpretation of Islam, Taliban authorities have imposed a slew of restrictions on Afghan women, including banning them from higher education and many government jobs.

The team are set to play against Hong Kong on Monday, the last of their matches.

Despite losing both of their encounters so far, Khedri said it was “a good experience for our women’s team.” 

“It was our first experience to participate in the Asian Games,” she said. “I think we felt very nervous, but we tried our best.”

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Phoenix, Arizona, Has Driest Monsoon Season Since 1895

After a summer of extreme heat, Arizona’s most populous city is in the record books again. This time Phoenix is notching a record for dry heat.

The National Weather Service said the monsoon season this year in the arid Southwest dropped only 0.15 inches (.38 centimeters) of rainfall from June 15 to September 30. That’s the driest since the agency began keeping records in 1895. The previous mark was 0.35 inches in 1924.

The monsoon season normally runs for about three months each year starting in June, when rising temperatures heat the land and shifting winds carry moisture from the eastern Pacific and Gulf of California to the Southwest via summer thunderstorms.

Phoenix’s average rainfall during a monsoon season is 2.43 inches (6.1 centimeters). Arizona gets less than 13 inches (33 centimeters) of average annual rainfall as America’s second driest state behind Nevada, which meteorologist say averages less than 10 inches (25.4 centimeters) of rain per year compared to the national average of about 30 inches (76 centimeters).

Nevada has struggled with drought conditions since 2020. New Mexico, the fourth driest state in the U.S. with an average annual rainfall of about 14 inches (35.5 centimeters) per year, also has been affected by the drought in recent years.

Phoenix this summer experienced the hottest July and the second-hottest August. The daily average temperature of 97 F (36.1 C) in June, July and August passed the previous record of 96.7 F (35.9 C) set three years ago.

In July, Phoenix also set a record with a 31-day streak of highs at or above 110 F (43.3 C) — creating a health hazard for people whose bodies were unable to cool off sufficiently amid the persistent, relenting heat.

Confirmed heat-associated deaths in Arizona’s most populous county continue to rise in the aftermath of the record summer heat.

Maricopa County public health data shows that as of Sept. 23, there were 295 heat-associated deaths confirmed with a similar number — 298 — still under investigation for causes associated with the heat.

The rising numbers are keeping Maricopa on track to set an annual record for heat-associated deaths after a blistering summer, particularly in Phoenix. No other major metropolitan area in the United States has reported such high heat death figures or spends so much time tracking and studying them.

Scientists predict the numbers will only continue to climb as climate change makes heat waves more frequent, intense and enduring.

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New Gabon President Gets Show of Support in Congo Trip

Gabon’s transitional president, who ousted the leader of the central African country at the end of August, received a show of support from neighboring Republic of Congo after he met his counterpart Sunday, aiming to improve relations and ease Gabon’s isolation. 

General Brice Oligui Nguema overthrew Ali Bongo Ondimba, 64, who had ruled Gabon since 2009, moments after he was proclaimed the winner in a presidential election in late August.

The election result was branded a fraud by the opposition and the military coup leaders, who had also accused his regime of widespread corruption and bad governance.

Under the presidency of Ali Bongo, relations between Gabon and neighboring Congo were notoriously tense.

Oligui said his visit was aimed at improving the ties and easing Gabon’s international isolation following the coup.

“I have come to consult, to discuss, to exchange with (the president), who for us is a key in the region, who can relay to global authorities what we have done,” Oligui said after holding talks with Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

“It is also to ease the sanctions… we hope to once again take our place among the nations,” Oligui said.

Gabon was suspended from the African Union and the Economic Community of Central Africa States (ECCAS) after the change of government.

ECCAS has also ordered the immediate transfer of its headquarters from Gabon’s Libreville to the Equatorial Guinea capital Malabo.

The Congo president did not address reporters after the talks, but his Foreign Minister Jean-Claude Gakosso hailed Oligui as “a man of humility and reconciliation.”

“I think that the Gabonese should support him and aside from the Gabonese, the Congolese. Also, our brothers in central Africa,” he told reporters.

“We know that there was a change in Libreville,” Gakosso said. “The main thing is that there was no bloodshed.”

“We have rarely seen this, a forceful change of regime without bloodshed.”

“The Congo and Gabon are in reality the same country. We have to work tirelessly [to] have good relations,” he said.

The visit marked the second overseas trip by Oligui, who was sworn in last month as Gabon’s interim president.

The talks were held near Oyo, in central Congo.

Oligui, wearing green military fatigues and a beret, was greeted by the prime minister and a red carpet when he landed.

Many in Gabon saw Ali Bongo’s overthrow as an act of liberation rather than a military coup.

Oligui has promised to hold “free, transparent and credible elections” to restore civilian rule, but has not given a timeframe.

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After Shutdown Averted, Capitol Hill Showdown on the Horizon

Despite the fact that a U.S. government shutdown was averted, another week of turmoil seems to be in the making on Capitol Hill. A conservative legislator has promised to be “relentless” in his efforts to oust Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. VOA’s Veronica Balderas Iglesias has the latest.

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Heat Forces Cancellation of Minnesota Races That Draw up to 20,000 Runners

A forecast that record high temperatures and humidity would create “extreme and dangerous” conditions prompted organizers to cancel two long-distance races Sunday in Minnesota’s two largest cities that were expected to draw up to 20,000 runners.

The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon from Minneapolis to neighboring St. Paul had been expected to draw up to 8,000 runners when organizers called it off early Sunday. The organizers, Twin Cities in Motion, also canceled a separate 16-kilometer race drawing 12,000 runners.

In an email to race participants early Sunday, race organizers said, “The latest weather forecast update projects record-setting heat conditions that do not allow a safe event for runners, supporters and volunteers.”

In the days leading up to Sunday’s race, organizers had warned that weather conditions could be unsafe. But the race was expected to still be held, with additional safety precautions in place. By Sunday morning, a “black flag” warning was issued, prompting the event’s cancellatio

The National Weather Service predicted a midday high Sunday of 31 degrees Celsius.

Some runners had lined up for the race’s start early Sunday and told Minneapolis’ Star Tribune they planned to run anyway.

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US Political Infighting Intensifies, Even as Government Stays Open

The U.S. government stayed open Sunday, with funding assured through mid-November, but the political infighting among Republican lawmakers surrounding the votes to keep it operating only intensified.

Renegade Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida told news talk shows that he would try this week to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the narrow Republican majority in the House of Representatives. This comes after McCarthy, in a sharp turnaround Saturday, welcomed a near unanimous bloc of opposition Democratic lawmakers in voting to avert a partial government shutdown.

“I think we need to rip off the Band-Aid. I think we need to move on with new leadership that can be trustworthy,” Gaetz told CNN’s “State of the Union” show. Gaetz has accused McCarthy of reneging on pledges to hard-right lawmakers when McCarthy became speaker in January to cut government spending to 2020 pre-coronavirus pandemic levels and not pass key legislation with Democratic votes.

But McCarthy seemed unworried about Gaetz’s move against his speakership, telling CBS’s “Face the Nation” show, “I’ll survive. He’s more interested in securing TV interviews than in doing something. He wanted to push us into a shutdown,” a work stoppage McCarthy said would have delayed paychecks for military personnel living in Gaetz’s congressional district.

“Bring it on,” McCarthy said of the move to oust him. “Let’s get over with it.”

At the White House, Democratic President Joe Biden decried the turmoil among Republican lawmakers. He said they should honor the deal he cut months ago with McCarthy on an overall spending ceiling for the fiscal year that started Sunday, which conservative Republicans objected to and since have tried to trim further.

“I’m sick and tired of the brinksmanship,” Biden said. “I’ve never seen a Republican Congress — or any Congress act like this… Enough is enough is enough. I strongly urge my Republican friends in Congress not to wait. Stop the games. Get to work” to approve spending packages for the next 12 months.

Gaetz, a four-term House lawmaker, said of McCarthy on the ABC News “This Week” show, “There is almost no promise he hasn’t violated.”

McCarthy advanced Republican-sponsored measures with sharp spending cuts in recent days but all lost in House votes, often as the most hard-right lawmakers in the Republican caucus demanded even bigger reductions.

But with a partial government shutdown looming at midnight Saturday, McCarthy pushed through legislation acceptable to the majority of Republican lawmakers, if not the most conservative bloc.

“There has to be an adult in the room,” McCarthy said after the House vote. “I am going to govern with what is best for this country. I’m going to be a conservative who gets things done for the American public. Whatever that holds, so be it because I believe in not giving up on America. I’m not going to be beholden to somebody who portrays and does something different.”

The majority of the 221 Republicans in the 435-member House still support McCarthy as speaker, leaving Gaetz way short of a 218 majority to elect another leader of the chamber.

Representative Michael Lawler, a New York Republican, told ABC that Gaetz’s complaints against McCarthy were a “diatribe of delusional thinking.”

But there might be two dozen or more Republicans willing to side with Gaetz to try to oust McCarthy, a number predicated on those who voted against the speaker’s preferred spending plans in recent days. Six Republicans said they would not vote for any short-term funding measure, such as the one that eventually won congressional passage and was signed by President Joe Biden.

Whether the minority Democratic bloc of 212 lawmakers will vote with Gaetz to oust McCarthy or endorse his continued speakership is likely to be grist for widespread intrigue and deal-making this week.

Gaetz told CNN, “If at this time next week, Kevin McCarthy is still speaker of the House, it will be because the Democrats bailed him out and he can be their speaker, not mine.” Gaetz mentioned no names of some other Republican lawmaker he would prefer.

One Democratic lawmaker, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, told CNN, “It’s not up to Democrats to save Kevin McCarthy” and said she would “absolutely” vote to oust him.

She said that if Democrats do eventually vote to support McCarthy’s continued speakership, “We don’t give up something for free. It comes at a price.”

She said the Republican bloc in the House “is not a moderate party. There are just different degrees of fealty to [former President] Donald Trump,” who encouraged Republican lawmakers to allow a government shutdown to occur.

What Democrats might demand in exchange to support McCarthy was not clear, but some form of power sharing on committees in the narrowly divided House could be one goal. With their narrow edge in the chamber, Republicans now control the agenda on House panels.

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NGOs Call for Action After Killing of Bangladesh Union Activist

Human Rights Watch and global workers’ rights organizations have intensified a call for action after the June killing of Bangladeshi union activist Shahidul Islam, urging the government to thoroughly investigate the death.

Islam, 45, a longtime Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation labor organizer, was beaten to death in Gazipur, a major garment industry hub on the outskirts of Dhaka. At the time, he was trying to intervene on behalf of workers in a factory dispute over unpaid wages. Colleagues allege he was killed by factory-hired goons.

“The motive was to prevent him from speaking on behalf of workers so that the factory management could get rid of him and not pay the workers,” union president Kalpona Akter told VOA.

Akter filed a police complaint. The Industrial Police Unit is currently investigating the case and has made a few arrests but has yet to file any charges.

An officer who is investigating the incident would not comment when contacted by VOA in early September, saying the case was still “being investigated.”

Akter said Islam was a target of threats and assaults by factory owners and law enforcement authorities in the past because of his labor rights work.

The Bangladesh government has a history of cracking down on trade union activists in the garment industry, and putting them behind bars, a move that has been criticized by human rights groups.

“Bangladesh authorities should ensure that an independent and thorough investigation is conducted to hold accountable all those involved in directing, planning, and executing the attack,” Human Rights Watch said in a September 14 statement.

Activists from Clean Clothes Campaign, a Netherlands-based workers’ rights organization, protested in Amsterdam last month at a Bangladesh garment industry exhibition to urge the Bangladeshi government, the employers’ association, and brands sourcing from Bangladesh to take immediate action regarding Islam’s killing.

Activists also demanded safeguards for the right to organize, and a new minimum wage in line with workers’ demands in Bangladesh.

Difficulties organizing

Labor activists say Bangladeshi factory owners block workers from forming unions, despite laws that in theory allow workers to organize.

Bangladeshi law requires at least 20% of a factory’s workforce in a factory to sign a petition if they want to form a union. However, union organizer Dolly Akhtar in Gazipur, told VOA that once signature collection starts, “the factory management finds out pretty soon, and they try everything in their power to foil the attempt to form a union in their factory.”

Factory owners commonly threaten workers and organizers with dismissal and blacklisting if they attempt to unionize, Akhtar said.

“I’ve received countless written and verbal threats for trying to organize workers and demand due payments, severances and better working conditions,” she said. “The factory authorities often use the thugs and goons, local political leaders to intimidate me. They have money and the means to make anyone dance to their tune. They filed bogus cases against me, and local goons stopped me on the road to threaten me at night when I come back home. Because I am a woman they think I’ll get scared easily,” Akhtar said.

Additionally, government bureaucracy and red tape remain significant obstacles to union formation. The law requires a lengthy and complex registration process, which can drag on for months or years.

As a result, only a small percentage of garment workers in Bangladesh, about 7%, are union members, according to a 2020 Cornell University report.

Workers’ rights groups have been advocating reforms to give workers more power and protect union organizers for a long time.

“It’s crucial to prioritize the safety of these dedicated organizers because they are the backbone of the labor movement. Their safety ensures the continued empowerment of workers and the protection of their rights. Without secure and protected organizers, the struggle for fair labor practices and workers’ rights would be significantly hampered,” said Sarwer Hossain, a grassroots union organizer in Savar of Bangladesh Textile and Garment Workers League.

Christie Miedema of Clean Clothes Campaign called on international brands to ensure that the factories they use follow ethical labor standards.

“It is of utmost importance that the government, factories and brands create an enabling environment for independent organizing – lowering hurdles for independent unions to register, allowing access to workers to independent union organizers, and for brands to clearly signal to factories that they value freedom to organize and to stop the downward price pressure,” Miedema told VOA through an email.

VOA contacted Bangladesh’s Ministry of Labor and Employment and its Department of Labor but was unable to obtain a comment.

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South Sudan Faces Growing Health and Hunger Crisis   

The World Health Organization warns that soaring rates of severe malnutrition, acute hunger, and deteriorating health conditions are threatening the lives and well-being of millions of people in South Sudan with the situation set to worsen as the climate crisis kicks in.

“South Sudan is a country where you see the overlap and compounding impact of conflict, climate crisis, hunger crisis, and disease outbreaks that have been going on for several years,” said Liesbeth Aelbrecht, WHO incident manager for the Horn of Africa. “Three in four South Sudanese need humanitarian assistance this year; two in three are facing crisis levels of hunger,” she said. “And these numbers are only getting worse.”

The United Nations reports 6.3 million South Sudanese are suffering from acute hunger and more than 9 million of the country’s population of 12 million people depend on humanitarian assistance.

As conditions continue to deteriorate, the World Health Organization reports 500,000 more people this year will need international aid. Among the most vulnerable are the children.

Aelbrecht said, “The numbers of children with severe malnutrition needing medical intervention have been higher this year than at any point in the last four years,” adding that almost 150,000 children had been treated for severe acute malnutrition so far this year.

She warned the humanitarian crisis facing South Sudan will worsen with the onset of El Niño, a climate phenomenon that can cause temperatures to rise and excess rains.

“Flooding and hunger and drought will increase hunger even further. But it is also very likely to increase the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, especially malaria and dengue and water-borne diseases,” she said, adding that malaria is one of the five main causes of death in South Sudan.

Aelbrecht recently returned from a mission to South Sudan, where she visited so-called stabilization centers for severely malnourished children in the capital, Juba, and in Bentiu, the capital of Unity State.

Speaking Friday from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to journalists in Geneva, Aelbrecht said she watched doctors trying to resuscitate babies on life support. In one of these centers, she said she saw a baby pass away in her mother’s arms.

“I quote figures. I give you percentages, but behind those figures there are just faces. I am standing there as a bystander and watching this child die of hunger and of preventable diseases,” she said. “Even after doing humanitarian work for 25 years now, it does remain one of the most difficult things to do.”

She said the international community must not act as a bystander but help South Sudan during this time of immense need. Since conflict in Sudan erupted in April, she said there has been a large inflow of refugees and returnees from Sudan, putting an even greater strain on South Sudan’s overstretched health system.

“In fact, one out of four of all the people who had fled Sudan, 1.2 million people who fled Sudan are being hosted now in South Sudan,” she said.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, reports humanitarian operations in both Sudan and South Sudan are severely underfunded. It says lack of security in these countries is also a huge hindrance to the delivery of aid to the millions in need.

“South Sudan and Sudan are the world’s most dangerous countries for aid workers,” said Jens Laerke, OCHA spokesman.

Of 71 aid worker deaths recorded so far this year, he said 22 were in South Sudan and 19 in Sudan.

“The victims are overwhelming local humanitarians working on the front lines of the response,” he said.

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Powerball Jackpot Rises to Over $1 Billion

No one picked the winning numbers for Saturday’s Powerball lottery.

The Powerball jackpot now rises to $1.04 billion for Monday’s game.

Most people who win choose to take a lump sum, which for Monday’s game would be close to half a billion dollars after taxes – not a bad deal for a $2 ticket.

The jackpot has grown so incredibly large because there have been 30 consecutive games without a big winner.  

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Mali Army Says New Fighting With Separatist Rebels in North

The Malian army said on Sunday that new fighting had broken out in the north between the military and armed rebel groups, the latest in a series of attacks on the army in the troubled West African country.

The army reported on social media “intense fighting” against “terrorists” in the early hours of the morning, in the area of Bamba which separatist rebels claimed to have taken control of.

The rebels said they had seized the northern locality in a social media message published on behalf of the Permanent Strategic Framework, which is dominated by the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA).

The CMA is an alliance of predominantly Tuareg groups seeking autonomy or independence from the Malian state.

No further details on the fighting were provided by either side.

Tuareg-dominated separatist groups said on Saturday that they had inflicted heavy losses on the Malian military in an attack in the centre of the country, claiming to have killed 81 soldiers.

Since the end of August, the north of Mali has seen a resumption of hostilities by the CMA and an intensification of jihadist attacks against the Malian army.

On September 7, the army was attacked in Bamba in an operation claimed by the Al-Qaeda-linked alliance, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM).

The escalation in violence coincides with the ongoing withdrawal of the UN stabilisation force MINUSMA, which has been pushed out by the ruling junta.

Mali’s junta, which seized power in 2020, faces a multitude of security challenges throughout the poor and landlocked country.


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Libya’s Eastern Government Postpones Derna Reconstruction Conference

Libya’s eastern authorities Sunday announced the postponement of a reconstruction conference for the flood-hit city of Derna that had been planned for October 10 but was met with international skepticism.

The event was put off until November 1-2 to “offer time for the submission of effective studies and projects” for the reconstruction effort, the committee charged with planning the meeting said in a statement.

The divided country’s eastern administration last month invited the “international community” to attend the conference in Derna, the coastal city where a September 10 flash flood devastated large areas and killed thousands.

The authorities later said that the conference would draw in international companies, and on Sunday the committee said the postponed event would be held in both Derna and the eastern city of Benghazi.

The North African country has been wracked by fighting and chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

Libya is now divided between an internationally recognized Tripoli-based administration in the west, and the one in the disaster-stricken east backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

‘Separate efforts’ 

The United States on Friday called on Libyans to set aside their political differences and agree on a framework to channel aid to eastern towns.

“We urge Libyan authorities now to form such unified structures –- rather than launching separate efforts –- that represent the Libyan people without delay,” US special envoy Richard Norland said in a statement. 

Despite a wave of nationwide solidarity since the flood, there has been no show of support for the proposed conference from the Tripoli-based government of interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah.

Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya specialist at the Royal United Services Institute, on Sunday said the eastern authorities were facing a “largely predictable setback”, adding that “they will have no choice but to somehow work with the Tripoli authorities”.

On Wednesday, the eastern authorities had announced the creation of a fund for the reconstruction of Derna and other areas affected by the flooding.

They did not indicate how the new fund would be financed, but Libya’s House of Representatives, also based in the east, has already allocated 10 million dinars ($2 million) for reconstruction.

On Friday, the eastern administration announced that they had begun compensating residents affected by the floods, distributing cheques to the mayors of the stricken towns.

During talks with the European Commission, UN envoy Abdoulaye Bathily on Thursday said he had called for funds delivered to Libya to be monitored.

“I… emphasized the need for a joint assessment of reconstruction needs of storm-affected areas to ensure the utmost accountability in the management of reconstruction resources,” he said.

According to the latest toll announced by the eastern authorities on Tuesday, at least 3,893 people died in the disaster. 

International aid groups have said 10,000 or more people may be missing.


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Climate Change, Poor Planning Make India’s Monsoon Season Devastating

Sanjay Chauhan witnessed monsoon rains lash down over his home and farm in the Indian Himalayas this year with a magnitude and intensity he’s never experienced before.

“Buildings have collapsed, roads are broken, there were so many landslides including one that has destroyed a large part of my orchard,” said the 56-year-old farmer, who lives in the town of Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. “I have not seen anything like this.”

The devastation of this year’s monsoon season in India, which runs from June to September, has been significant: Local government estimates say that 428 people have died and Himachal Pradesh suffered over $1.42 billion worth in property damage since June.

Human-caused climate change is making rain more extreme in the region and scientists warn Himalayan states should expect more unpredictable and heavy seasons like this one. But the damage is also exacerbated by developers paying little mind to environmental regulations and building codes when building on flood- and earthquake-prone land, local experts and environmentalists say.

Damages to property in Himachal Pradesh this year were more than the last five years combined. Other regions also suffered heavy losses in terms of lives, property and farmland — including the neighboring state of Uttarakhand, Delhi and most northern and western Indian states.

In the second week of July, 22.4 centimeters of rainfall descended on the state instead of the usual 4.2 centimeters for this time of the year — a 431% increase — according to the Indian Meteorological Department. Then for five days in August, 11.2 centimeters poured down on Himachal Pradesh, 168% more than the 4.2 centimeters it would typically receive in that timeframe.

The rainfall spurred hundreds of landslides, with overflowing rivers sweeping vehicles away and collapsing multiple buildings, many of them recently constructed hotels. Key highways were submerged or destroyed and all schools in the region were shut. Around 300 tourists stranded near the high altitude lake of Chandratal had to be airlifted to safety by the Indian Air Force.

Jakob Steiner, a climate scientist with the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development, said rising global temperatures from human-caused climate change means more water evaporates in the heat which is then dumped in heavy rainfall events.

And when all the water pours in one place, it means other regions are starved of rain.

In the south of the country, rain was so rare that the region had its driest monsoon season since 1901, the IMD said. The government of Karnataka in southern India declared drought conditions in most of the state.

Climate change compounds the phenomenon of weather extremes, said Anjal Prakash, a research director at the Indian School of Business, with both droughts and deluges expected to intensify as the world warms.

In the Himalayas, the problem of climate changed-boosted rain is worsened by unregulated development and years of devastation piling up with little time to adapt or fix the damage in between.

“Roads, dams and settlements have been built without proper environmental assessments or following building codes,” said Prakash. Unregulated development has also led to increased soil erosion and disrupted natural drainage systems, he said.

Y.P. Sundarial, a geologist with Uttarakhand-based HNB Garhwal University, agrees.

“People here are building six-floor buildings on slopes as steep as 45 degrees” in a region that is both flood and earthquake prone, Sundarial said. “We need to make sure development policies keep the sensitiveness of Himalayas in mind to avoid such damage in the future.”

When these structures almost inevitably topple year after year during monsoon rains, it creates a “cumulative impact” said local environmentalist Mansi Asher, meaning residents are now living with years of unaddressed devastation.

Ten years ago, an estimated 6,000 people died in flash floods caused by a cloudburst in Uttarakhand which destroyed hundreds of villages; between 2017 and 2022, around 1,500 people died in Himachal Pradesh from extreme rain-related incidents; and earlier this year at least 240 families were relocated away from the religious town of Joshimath after the ground caved in from over construction despite warnings from scientists.

Governments on the state and national level have been looking at how to address the destruction.

Himachal Pradesh’s government announced a $106 million disaster risk reduction and preparedness program with support from the French Development Agency this year to strengthen its response to extreme rainfall.

The state also published a comprehensive climate action plan in 2022 but many of the plan’s recommendations, such as creating a fund to research climate challenges or helping farmers in the region adapt to changing weather conditions, have not yet been implemented.

The Indian federal government meanwhile has set an ambitious target of producing 500 gigawatts of clean energy by 2030 and has installed 172 gigawatts as of March this year. India is currently one of the world’s largest emitters. The country also created a national adaptation fund for climate change, releasing just over $72 million for various projects since 2015.

But these initiatives are too little, too late for apple farmer Chauhan and others picking up the pieces after an especially catastrophic monsoon season.

Chauhan, who’s also the former mayor of Shimla, wants to see a firm plan that addresses climate change in the face of the region’s growing population and development needs.

“Those in power really need to step up,” he said.

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Afghan Embassy Closes in India , Citing Lack of Support

The Afghan Embassy said it is closing in New Delhi from Sunday due to a lack of diplomatic support in India and the absence of a recognized government in Kabul.

But it will continue to provide emergency consular services to Afghan nationals, it said in a statement.

“There has been a significant reduction in both personnel and resources available to us, making it increasingly challenging to continue operations,” the statement said.

India has not recognized the Taliban government, which seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021. It evacuated its own staff from Kabul ahead of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan two years ago and no longer has a diplomatic presence there.

The Afghan Embassy in New Delhi has been run by staff appointed by the previous government of ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, with permission from the Indian authorities.

There was no immediate comment by India’s External Affairs Ministry, but an official said last week that the Afghan ambassador left India several months ago and other Afghan diplomats have departed for third countries reportedly after receiving asylum.

India has said it will follow the lead of the United Nations in deciding whether to recognize the Taliban government.

The Afghan Embassy statement said that it wanted to reach an agreement with the Indian government to ensure that the interests of Afghans living, working, studying and doing business in India are safeguarded.

Afghans account for around one-third of the nearly 40,000 refugees registered in India, according to the U.N. refugee agency. But that figure excludes those who are not registered with the U.N.

Last year, India sent relief materials, including wheat, medicine, COVID-19 vaccines and winter clothes to Afghanistan to help with shortages there.

In June last year, India sent a team of officials to its embassy in Kabul.

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