Ground Search of Native American Boarding School Site in Kansas Delayed

A plan to search for unmarked graves at a former Native American boarding school in Kansas is on hold amid a disagreement between the Shawnee Tribe and state and city officials overseeing the site.

The Kansas Historical Society announced last year that the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas would conduct a ground-penetrating radar survey at the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway.

However, Fairway officials said last week the proposal was on hold indefinitely after Shawnee Tribe Chief Ben Barnes raised concerns that the tribe was not consulted about the proposal and future plans for the 4.86-hectare (12-acre) site.

The Shawnee Tribe pushed last year for a study of the site, formerly known as the Shawnee Indian Manual Labor School. It was one of hundreds of schools run by the government and religious groups in the 1800s and 1900s that removed Indigenous children from their families to assimilate them into white culture and Christianity.

Fairway City Administrator Nathan Nogelmeier said in a statement that the Kansas Historical Society (KHS), which owns the site, met with Barnes in August and offered him the opportunity to consult before the work began.

On Monday, Barnes said that as he was leaving a meeting at the historical society he was given a short paper saying the organization had begun the process of working with the university on the ground-penetrating work.

“That’s not consultation,” Barnes said. “Consultation is a well-defined term. It’s not as I’m leaving stuff a piece of paper into my hands.”

Several experts told the tribe the proposal was insufficient and didn’t follow federal law concerning consulting with tribes in such situations, Barnes said.

In his statement, Nogelmeier said the historical society and the city of Fairway expect the Shawnee Tribe to try to persuade the Kansas Legislature next year to convey the land from the state to the Shawnee Nation.

“The KHS is on record opposing such a conveyance due to its historical significance to Kansas not just while it operated as the manual labor training school but due to other events and time periods as they related to Kansas’s history,” Nogelmeier said. “Further, Chief Barnes has not made any commitments about what he and the Shawnee Nation view as the future use of the land if they become owners of the site.”

While acknowledging that the tribe is not opposed to conveyance, Barnes suggested the state and Fairway officials are trying to use the issue as a political ploy and the timing of last week’s statement raises questions about whether the tribe is welcome in the process.

“I find that insinuation troubling,” Barnes said. “We have always been clear about our vision for the site. Regardless of who owns it, it centers on protection and restoration. To say otherwise is patently false, and they know it’s patently false.”

The move to inspect the mission’s grounds came after the U.S. Department of Interior announced a nationwide initiative last year to investigate federally operated Indian boarding schools. That would not have included the Shawnee Indian Manual Labor School, which was founded in 1939 and run by Methodist minister Thomas Johnson.

At one point, it had 16 buildings on about 800 hectares (2,000 acres) and nearly 200 students a year ranging in age from 5 to 23. The current 4.86-hectare (12-acre) site holds three buildings, which are on the national and state historic registries.

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Turkey-Libya Deal Inflames Turkish-Greek Tensions

October’s Turkish energy deal with Libya’s Government of National Accord is the latest flashpoint in growing tensions between Turkey and Greece. As Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul, the effects of the rivalry are spreading in regions of Europe and the Mideast.

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Russia Recruiting US-trained Afghan Commandos, Former Generals Say

Afghan special forces soldiers who fought alongside American troops and then fled to Iran after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal last year are now being recruited by the Russian military to fight in Ukraine, three former Afghan generals told The Associated Press.

They said the Russians want to attract thousands of the former elite Afghan commandos into a “foreign legion” with offers of steady, $1,500-a-month payments and promises of safe havens for themselves and their families so they can avoid deportation home to what many assume would be death at the hands of the Taliban.

“They don’t want to go fight — but they have no choice,” said one of the generals, Abdul Raof Arghandiwal, adding that the dozen or so commandos in Iran with whom he has texted fear deportation most. “They ask me, ‘Give me a solution. What should we do? If we go back to Afghanistan, the Taliban will kill us.'”

Arghandiwal said the recruiting is led by the Russian mercenary force Wagner Group. Another general, Hibatullah Alizai, the last Afghan army chief before the Taliban took over, said the effort is also being helped by a former Afghan special forces commander who lived in Russia and speaks the language.

The Russian recruitment follows months of warnings from U.S. soldiers who fought with Afghan special forces that the Taliban was intent on killing them and that they might join with U.S. enemies to stay alive or out of anger with their former ally.

A GOP congressional report in August specifically warned of the danger that the Afghan commandos — trained by U.S. Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets — could end up giving up information about U.S. tactics to the Islamic State group, Iran or Russia — or fight for them.

“We didn’t get these individuals out as we promised, and now it’s coming home to roost,” said Michael Mulroy, a retired CIA officer who served in Afghanistan, adding that the Afghan commandos are highly skilled, fierce fighters. “I don’t want to see them in any battlefield, frankly, but certainly not fighting the Ukrainians.”

Mulroy was skeptical, however, that Russians would be able to persuade many Afghan commandos to join because most he knew were driven by the desire to make democracy work in their country rather than being guns for hire.

AP was investigating the Afghan recruiting when details of the effort were first reported by Foreign Policy magazine last week based on unnamed Afghan military and security sources. The recruitment comes as Russian forces reel from Ukrainian military advances and Russian President Vladimir Putin pursues a sputtering mobilization effort, which has prompted nearly 200,000 Russian men to flee the country to escape service.

Russia’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Yevgeny Prigozhin, who recently acknowledged being the founder of the Wagner Group, dismissed the idea of an ongoing effort to recruit former Afghan soldiers as “crazy nonsense.”

The U.S. Defense Department also didn’t reply to a request for comment, but a senior official suggested the recruiting is not surprising given that Wagner has been trying to sign up soldiers in several other countries.

It’s unclear how many Afghan special forces members who fled to Iran have been courted by the Russians, but one told the AP he is communicating through the WhatsApp chat service with about 400 other commandos who are considering offers.

He said many like him fear deportation and are angry at the U.S. for abandoning them.

“We thought they might create a special program for us, but no one even thought about us,” said the former commando, who requested anonymity because he fears for himself and his family. “They just left us all in the hands of the Taliban.”

The commando said his offer included Russian visas for himself as well as his three children and wife who are still in Afghanistan.

Others have been offered extensions of their visas in Iran. He said he is waiting to see what others in the WhatsApp groups decide but thinks many will take the deal.

An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Afghan special forces fought with the Americans during the two-decade war, and only a few hundred senior officers were airlifted out when the U.S. military withdrew from Afghanistan. Since many of the Afghan commandos did not work directly for the U.S. military, they were not eligible for special U.S. visas.

“They were the ones who fought to the really last minute. And they never, never, never talked to the Taliban. They never negotiated,” former Afghan army chief Alizai said. “Leaving them behind is the biggest mistake.”

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As US Prepares to Vote, Who Will Be Casting Ballots?

On Tuesday, November 8, Americans will go to the polls to vote in elections that will determine which party controls the House of Representatives and the Senate for the next two years, and will also fill many state-level legislative and executive positions.

If history is a guide, it is likely that a relatively small fraction of American adults eligible to cast ballots will actually do so, perhaps less than half. A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in August found that only 36% of registered voters said that they had “given a lot of thought” to the coming election.

The share of Americans who will vote is likely to be older and whiter than the population at large. Pew’s data found that 50% of registered voters aged 65 or older have given a lot of thought to the election, compared to only 20% of those aged between 18 and 29.

The percentage of white registered voters who said they have given a lot of thought to the election was 40%, compared to 30% of Hispanic voters, 27% of Black voters, and 17% of Asian voters.

Income and education

Other major factors that correlate with engagement in the coming election include levels of education and income.

According to Pew’s data, engagement with the coming election was highest among individuals with advanced college degrees, at 40%.

Interestingly, while only 34% of college graduates with no advanced degree reported high engagement, those with some college but no degree reported the same level of engagement, 40%, as those with postgraduate degrees. Engagement was lowest among those who didn’t graduate high school or whose highest level of education was a high school diploma, at 32%.

Typically, wealthier Americans are, on average, more likely to vote than the non-wealthy. U.S. Census data indicates that while 85% of people in households with income over $150,000 voted in 2020, just 72% of people in households with between $50,000 and $74,999 did, and only 50% of people in households with income between $15,000 and $19,999 voted.

Economy a major issue

While there have been many headline grabbing issues in U.S. news reports in the previous year, the state of the economy is seen as the most important factor that most voters will be considering in November. Asked how important it was to them, 77% of people polled by Pew rated it as very important.

With inflation running high, at more than 8% year-over-year, and threats of a looming recession, it may not be surprising that voters are focused on the issue.

That news could bode ill for the Democratic Party, which currently holds the White House and both houses of Congress. In midterm elections, the party of the sitting president almost always loses seats in Congress. This year, Republicans are hopeful that, with margins already slim, this dynamic will help them take control of one or both chambers.

Abortion effect

However, while typical election participation trends might hold true in 2022, there is the possibility of a change on the margins. While still likely to vote in lower numbers than their older counterparts, participation among younger voters in November could be boosted by anger over the Supreme Court’s decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade, an earlier decision that created federal protection guaranteeing the right to an abortion.

“Anger is a good mobilizer,” Lisa Bryant, an associate professor of political science at California State University, Fresno, told VOA. “It sounds counterintuitive, but people turn out when they’re angry.”

The abortion issue may also increase participation among women, she said.

“The Democratic Party, and particularly women, which make up a larger share of the Democratic Party, are angry about the Roe decision,” Bryant said. “I think that that will motivate a lot of people to turn out this year.”

She said that voters motivated by the abortion ruling could offset, somewhat, the difference in participation between the youngest and oldest American voters.

“Young women are registering in record numbers and saying that they intend to turn out in record numbers,” Bryant said. “So we might see that gap closed a little bit this year.”

Adjustment effect

Jan Leighley, a professor of political science at the American University School of Public Affairs, told VOA that there are other reasons to question whether the conventional wisdom about midterm turnout will necessarily hold in 2022.

Pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic disruptions and uncertainty, controversial Supreme Court decisions and the ongoing investigations into former President Donald Trump, Leighley said it might be unwise to assume that past patterns of behavior will necessarily hold in 2022.

“It’s not that it’s a new normal, but maybe the old processes have shifted,” she said. “Maybe we’re still in an adjustment period.”

In particular, she said, it might affect peoples’ propensity to vote in ways that didn’t apply in previous elections.

“People have cross-pressures,” she said. “And how they put all of those pieces together, I think, changes the rational decision of whether you vote or not, especially for people who haven’t voted before.”

Historical participation

Federal elections in the U.S. take place every two years, and in every one all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are on the ballot, as are roughly one-third of the 100 seats in the Senate. Because U.S. presidents serve four-year terms, every other election is considered a “presidential” election, while those that occur two years later, at the midpoint of the sitting president’s term, are called “midterms.”

Historically, presidential elections have attracted significantly higher voter participation than midterms. According to the United States Elections Project, maintained by Michael P. McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida, turnout in U.S. presidential elections has hovered between 49% and 65% of the voting-eligible population for most of the past 100 years.

For midterms, turnout has been considerably lower, remaining between 33% and 49% for most of the past 100 years.

However, in the last two federal elections, turnout was markedly higher than in recent years. In the 2018 midterm election, participation hit 50%, the highest figure since 1914. In the 2020 presidential election, 66.7% of the voting eligible population cast a ballot, the highest percentage since 1900.

Political scientists say that recent turnout levels have been boosted by the fact that Trump, a polarizing political figure, drove engagement on both sides of the political aisle. In addition, measures taken in 2020 to make voting easier during the COVID-19 pandemic may also have increased turnout.

International comparison

It can be difficult to compare voter participation across countries because there are different ways of measuring it. Some consider the percentage of voting age people who cast a ballot. Others consider only the percentage of voting-eligible individuals who vote (excluding resident aliens, for example). Still others measure the percentage of people who have registered to vote who actually show up to cast a ballot.

By most measures, though, participation in the U.S. lags behind many of its peer countries, particularly those, like Belgium and Australia, where laws that make voting compulsory drive participation rates to around 80%.

Data collected by Pew Research, for example, showed that among all the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, only Slovenia, Latvia, Chile, Luxembourg and Switzerland had lower voter participation rates than the U.S.

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Kenya’s President Demands End to Extrajudicial Killings by Police

Kenyan President William Ruto said during a meeting Monday with the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) that extrajudicial killings by police in the country must end.

Five police officers who were members of a now-disbanded special services unit went on trial Monday for the murders of Zulfiqar Ahmad Khan and Mohamed Zaid Sami Kidwai — two Indian nationals who advised Ruto’s election campaign — and their taxi driver, Nicodemus Mwania.  

Four other officers had been tried last week in connection with the deaths. 

Ruto wants the IPOA to develop a plan to help end extrajudicial killings in Kenya. 

”Extrajudicial killings must come to an end,” Ruto said. “It is illegal, it is unconstitutional, it offends every principle of the right to life.” 

An August 2022 report by Human Rights Watch found that the failure of Kenyan authorities to address accountability for past abuses by police heightened the risk for more abuse. George Musamali, a security analyst in Kenya, says arresting the officers and trying them is a sign of progress.

“You’ll find that in Kenya, we’ve been having a lot of misuse of this because sometimes you’ll find that people who are innocent, there is no evidence that these people are a danger to national security,” Musamali said. “You’ll find them being eliminated, and this is what we are trying to deal with right now, And I believe the Ruto government will [get] to the bottom of this.” 

Rights groups such as Amnesty International say police abuse could completely end if the inquiries were extended to all other police units.

“Expand the inquiry into other formations,” said Demas Kiprono, campaign manager at Amnesty International. “There are formations that have happened by ATPU [the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit]. There are violations by other police units and formations. There are violations by certain police stations that are notorious.” 

Investigations into the killing last week of Pakistani investigative journalist Arshadi Sharif by Kenyan police are underway. According to the police, Sharif’s murder was a case of mistaken identity. 

Kenya’s director of public prosecution, Noordin Haji, said last week that 12 police officers, most of them senior officials, will face charges for crimes against humanity concerning a crackdown on post-election protests in 2017.

According to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, 94 people were killed at the time, and more than 300 were injured.  

In a statement, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk commended Haji’s decision, which the United Nations says is an advance toward accountability for gross human rights violations in Kenya. 


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Zimbabwe Recycler Aims to Turn Plastic Waste Into Useful Items

Mounds of plastic waste in his hometown prompted one Zimbabwean man to build a shredder that helps turn the trash into useful items. He plans to move the project to the capital, Harare, where authorities have been struggling to deal with plastic waste dumped on the streets. Columbus Mavhunga reports from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. VOA footage by Blessing Chigwenhembe

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Native American Fashions Strut Denver Runway

The international market for Native American fashion is growing. VOA correspondent Scott Stearns caught up with Indigenous designers at a Native American fashion show in the Western U.S. state of Colorado. Videographer: Scott Stearns, Jodi Westrum

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Survey: Africans See China as Positive Force

A new global public opinion survey of people in 25 countries has revealed steep declines in support for China, although Beijing still is seen favorably by many in Africa, where it is vying for influence with Washington.

The survey by the Britain-based YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project was carried out between August and September this year, polling about 1,000 people in each country, including in three large African states: Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. The survey asked people about their opinions on China, the United States and Taiwan.

The data showed that in the West, support for China has dropped considerably in the past four years. One reason for that could be the pandemic. When respondents were asked about where it originated, most people placed blame for the outbreak of COVID-19 squarely on China.

Asked if China had a “generally positive or negative effect on world affairs” only 17% of respondents in France said it was positive, down from 36% in the first survey in 2019. In Germany that figure was even lower, at 13%, down from 30% four years ago.

Many other Western countries mirrored this trend, but the story is slightly different in Africa, where China is the continent’s largest trading partner. Although its ranking also dropped slightly over the four-year-period in Nigeria and South Africa, across the continent, China was still widely seen as a force for good.

In South Africa 61% of respondents saw China’s influence in the world as positive, in Kenya the support for China was higher at 82% and, in Nigeria, it was highest out of the three, standing at 83%.

Still, despite Beijing’s no-strings loans and large infrastructure projects as part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, African support for the U.S. remained slightly higher.

In South Africa, 69% of people interviewed saw the U.S. as a generally positive force, and in both Kenya and Nigeria that number was at 88%.

Preferred superpower

On a separate question about which country, China or the U.S., respondents would prefer to have as the global superpower, 20 of the 25 countries polled chose the U.S., including all four Africa nations by a huge margin.

Seventy-seven percent of Nigerians chose the U.S. as the preferred superpower, as did 80% of Kenyans, and to a lesser extent 59% of South Africans.

“Results from the African countries in this study stand out for how they reflect such positive views toward both America and China as actors on the world stage,” Joel Rogers de Waal, academic director at YouGov, told VOA.

“At the same time, however, they show an obvious preference for having America, rather than China, as the reigning superpower, which perhaps raises some interesting questions about the progress of Chinese soft power in these parts of Africa.”

On other, more specific questions, the U.S. fared less favorably. For example, asked which country had engaged in “bullying” behavior globally, Washington trumped Beijing in all three African nations.

Likewise on the question of which country has “given military support to one side or another in a foreign civil war, in ways that do more harm than good to the people of that country.” Africans blamed the U.S. for this more than China. And in terms of being suspected of interference in other countries’ national elections, the U.S. again fared worse than China.

And although Washington increasingly warns Africa and the world of the threat of Chinese spying and surveillance, respondents in both South Africa and Nigeria placed more blame for international cyberattacks on the U.S.

Question of Taiwan

While China was more popular among African and many other global South countries surveyed than it was in the West, that support was not unconditional.

The survey was conducted around the time Taiwan was in the news amid the controversial visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the contested island. Since then, Washington has warned that China could move to annex Taiwan sooner than expected.

In Beijing, at the Chinese Communist Party’s congress, President Xi Jinping said he reserved the option of taking “all measures necessary” on the issue of Taiwan.

While the vast majority of African governments do not have diplomatic relations with Taipei and back Beijing—which regards the self-governing island as part of greater China—the survey indicates ordinary Africans differ with their political leaders on the issue.

“If China used force against Taiwan … do you think other countries should provide help?” the poll asked. Some 60% of Nigerians thought help should be provided to Taiwan, while 63% of Kenyans agreed, as did 47% of South Africans.

Those numbers were higher even than in some Western countries, with only 38% of French people surveyed saying help should be provided to Taiwan, and just 52% of respondents in the U.S. agreeing.

The data indicates that global politics are not as binary as some believe, with ordinary people in Africa able to see China as a generally positive force in the world, while also expressing concerns about some of its policies. as well as support for the defense of Taiwan.

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Cameroon Says Hundreds of Its Citizens Deported from Equatorial Guinea

Cameroon says Equatorial Guinea has deported several hundred Cameroonians, some of whom say they were fleeing terrorist and rebel attacks at home. The government of Equatorial Guinea says the deportees were economic migrants and is planning to deport 7,000 Cameroonians in all by the end of the year.

Scores of Cameroonians applauded Monday while welcoming back at least 200 of their citizens who were deported. But the well-wishers are not happy with Equatorial Guinea’s actions. Civilians shouted that by deporting Cameroonians, the oil-rich country is being indifferent to people who have rendered services as mechanics, electricians, bricklayers, miners and other types of workers.

Nguenang Rigobert, one of the deported Cameroonians, says he lost his teaching job in Equatorial Guinea. Nguenang says he, like many Cameroonians in Equatorial Guinea, are victims of what he calls the Cameroon government’s lack of interest in the plight of its citizens outside the country. He says Cameroon should have negotiated for Equatorial Guinea to give Cameroonians more time to acquire resident and work permits.

Nguenang said several dozen of the deported Cameroonians fled their country in part because of its ongoing separatist crisis. Others left because of Boko Haram terrorism in the north.

Some deportees said they were tortured and their property looted in Equatorial Guinea. Others said they spent several nights in detention centers and were freed after agreeing to return to Cameroon unconditionally.

Nouhou Bello, the most senior Cameroon government official in Ocean, the administrative unit where Campo is located, says President Paul Biya asked him to receive the deported civilians and make sure they travel to their towns and villages in peace.

Bello says Cameroonians who have arrived in Campo since Friday have confirmed to government officials that they were in the neighboring state illegally. He says some of the deportees told officials their visas had expired while others acknowledged lacking travel documents when they went to Equatorial Guinea.

Bello called on Cameroonians staying in Equatorial Guinea illegally to return home or risk being locked up.

Earlier in October, the government of Equatorial Guinea said it would embark on a mass deportation of people living illegally in its territory.

Officials said insecurity has mounted due to an influx of about 30,000 economic migrants within the past three years. Equatorial Guinea accused job-seeking youths, especially from Cameroon and Nigeria, of harassment, theft and armed banditry.

Essomba Innocent is an economic analyst at the National University of Equatorial Guinea. He says in January 2020, the country signaled that it did not want illegal economic migrants in its territory and laid the foundation stone for construction of a border wall with Cameroon.

Essomba says in June 2020, Equatorial Guinea agreed to pause the construction of the controversial wall after Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Central African Republic agreed to voluntarily repatriate their citizens living in Equatorial Guinea illegally. He says people who are being deported should not ask the government of Equatorial Guinea for compensation for goods they acquired when their stay was illegal.

Equatorial Guinea is a tiny central African nation of around 1.5 million people. The International Monetary Fund reports that the nation took in approximately $45 billion in oil revenues between 2000 and 2013, catapulting it from one of the world’s poorest countries to the one with the highest per capita income on the African continent.

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South Africa’s Ethiopian Diaspora Hopeful of Peace Talks

In South Africa the first peace talks between the government of Ethiopia and the leadership of the Tigray region have raised hopes for an end to the nearly two-year-long war. Despite no media access to the talks or to the Tigray region, South Africa’s Ethiopian community remains hopeful of a deal to end the deadly conflict. Linda Givetash reports from Johannesburg.

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Supreme Court Rejects Turkey’s Bid to Stop US Brawl Lawsuits

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected Turkey’s bid to shut down lawsuits in U.S. courts stemming from a violent brawl outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington more than five years ago that left anti-government protesters badly beaten.

The justices did not comment in turning away Turkey’s arguments that American law shields foreign countries from most lawsuits. Lower courts ruled that those protections did not extend to the events of May 16, 2017, when during a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “Turkish security forces violently clashed with a crowd of protesters,” as one judge described the situation.

The Supreme Court’s action allows the lawsuits to proceed. In the lawsuits, protesters claim they were brutally punched and kicked, cursed at and greeted with slurs and throat-slashing gestures. One woman slipped in and out of consciousness and has suffered seizures, and others reported post-traumatic stress, depression, concussions and nightmares, according to the complaints.

The high court had put off a decision about whether to intervene for months, asking for the Biden administration’s views on the legal issues presented.

Turkey can be sued in these circumstances, the Justice Department said in its high court filing, concluding that lower courts were correct in finding that the U.S. ally does not have legal immunity.

Lawyers for the Turkish government had told the court that Erdogan’s security detail had discretion to use physical force because it was protecting its head of state in a potentially dangerous situation.

They described some protesters as “supporters of a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization that poses a genuine national security threat to Turkey.”

The altercation was caught on camera and led to criminal charges against some of Erdogan’s security officers and civilian supporters, two of whom pleaded guilty. Most other charges were dropped. The violence occurred as Erdogan was returning to the ambassador’s residence after a White House visit, where he and then-President Donald Trump pledged cooperation in fighting the Islamic State group.

Erdogan remained in his car after it arrived at the ambassador’s residence while an initial skirmish took place. The lawsuits claim that he ordered a second, more violent attack. Turkey says he did no such thing.

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Youth Vote in 2022 Could Be Pivotal, If They Turn Out

In November, Nathen Avelar of Merced, California, will have his first opportunity to vote in a federal election, and the 18-year-old musician and youth organizer says that he plans to seize it, casting a ballot that, he hopes, will help move both his community and his country toward the kind of future he wants for both.

The election, in which millions of voters like Avelar will be able to cast a ballot for the first time, will determine the control of both houses of the United States Congress, as well as state legislatures, governorships, and other state level offices.

Voters will also decide on a variety of state-level referenda, such as a proposed amendment to the state constitution in California that would guarantee women the right to abort a pregnancy. The proposal is a direct response to the decision by the Supreme Court earlier this year to strip away legal protections for abortion rights at the federal level — an issue very much on the minds of many Americans headed to the polls in November.

Starting locally

Avelar, who recently graduated from high school, became active in local politics during a successful effort to persuade the Merced City Council to adopt a new affordable housing policy. Now, affiliated with the activist group Power California, he is helping to register other young voters and to persuade them to go to the polls on November 8.

Young voters, Avelar told VOA, are concerned about a variety of issues, but one thing that drives many, he said, is the desire to see more diversity among elected officials. Generation Z, the cohort of Americans born roughly between 1990 and the early 2010s, are the most diverse generation in U.S. history, and right now, they do not see that reflected in the makeup of political leadership, at either the local or federal level.

“Not being able to see people in the spaces that we want to see ourselves in, specifically our city council, or just in general in seats of power, that’s definitely been a huge driver for me,” he said. “And other people that I’ve worked with are very passionate about that as well.”

He also said that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its previous ruling in Roe v. Wade, the case that guaranteed abortion rights, has been a major motivator.

“The attack on our general rights, just as people, from the Supreme Court has been really concerning to me, specifically around reproductive rights … that is really what’s been driving me,” he said.

Conservative viewpoint

While many young voters like Avelar have policy positions that generally bring them in line with the Democratic Party, Generation Z is no monolith. Research by Tufts University’s Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) finds that about one in three voters between 18 and 29 is motivated by conservative convictions that place them more in line with the Republican Party.

That’s the case for Zach Bauder, a junior at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan. The president of his school’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, a national conservative organization, Bauder told VOA in an email exchange that he and his fellow conservatives have a long list of issues driving them to the polls.

For example, he said, the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling has been a major motivating factor among conservatives, many of whom support restricting or banning the procedure. Other issues animating young conservatives include the pace of migration to the United States and efforts to accommodate transgender Americans.

‘Doubling down’ on Roe

“What motivates me to vote is what motivates most young conservatives,” Bauder wrote. “We care about doubling down on the end of Roe and enacting pro-life legislation. We want to close the border, ensure election integrity, end COVID-related mandates, and oppose the gender dysphoria ideology promulgated in America’s education system.”

“Gender dysphoria” is a diagnosed psychological disorder describing the distress or discomfort experienced by a person who feels that the gender they were assigned at birth does not reflect the gender they experience or express. Many conservatives in the U.S. object to accommodations made for individuals who assert a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth, particularly in schools.

Bauder said his fellow young conservatives also want to see an end to “endless wars that have nothing to do with America’s security” and to push back against what they see as “the cultural degradation of our country over the past several decades.”

Bauder said that he is seeing more interest in this midterm election among his cohort than he did in 2018. Partly, he said, it is a factor of major changes happening in the country right now, but he believes it is also due to young conservative voters waking up to their own power to influence the direction of the conservative movement.

“My generation, I believe, is beginning to see it can make a difference in the conversation happening on the right,” he said.

Turnout questions

The presence of highly energized young voters in this election cycle is undeniable, but just how deeply that enthusiasm runs is an open question. Typically younger voters do not vote as reliably as older generations, particularly in years like 2022, when there is no presidential election to focus peoples’ attention.

“The hard fact is that turnout for young people, if you just take ages 18 to 24, is much lower than older age groups, particularly 65-plus,” Mindy Romero, director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Inclusive Democracy, told VOA. “Depending on the type of election it can be 20, 30, 40 percentage points lower.”

The problem is not that young Americans are disengaged, Romero said, but that they often don’t see much utility in voting.

“It’s not that they’re apathetic; they care very much,” she said. “It’s that they often don’t see why voting is an actionable step on issues that they care about. So there may be young people that are galvanized by the issue of abortion, for instance. Some of those will take some action steps. They’ll protest, they’ll organize people’s opinions on social media, that sort of thing. But it doesn’t always translate into voting.”

Higher participation possible

Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of Tufts University’s CIRCLE program, agreed that voting among young people will continue to lag behind older generations in 2022, but she did point to some factors that might increase it somewhat.

She noted that in Kansas, which had a primary election in August in which a statewide abortion ban was on the ballot, a surge in new voter registration was followed by a much larger turnout than in previous primaries.

“Usually young people have a really low participation rate, as far as we can estimate, in primaries,” she told VOA. “But a record number of young people came out and the ratio of new registrants … was overwhelmingly young women.”

If the abortion issue continues to drive young voters to the polls, she said, their participation might also be increased by the fact that a number of states have, in recent years, passed rules simplifying the process of registering to vote or simply automatically registering eligible voters.

“That’s a big win, because voter registration is, of course, a necessary step to voting, and it’s actually the harder step, a lot of times, because you need to provide some documentation that young people may not have [at] their fingertips.”

Many young people, she pointed out, don’t yet have official forms of identification. “If you don’t have a driver’s license already, which a lot of young people don’t, that’s quite a barrier,” she said.

Having a plan

Aurora Castellanos, director for statewide campaigns with Power California, said that in working with young people, her group tries to stress the importance of having a plan to vote. Especially for first time voters, the process can feel complicated, she said, so it is important to thinking it through in advance.

“In most cases, folks don’t even have a voting plan,” she told VOA. “They don’t know how they’re going to be returning their ballot, or what the process is like to be able to do that.”

Castellanos added, “We start prompting them to actually put together a voting plan—that’s part of the engagement that we do. We go from, ‘What is the time when you’re going to be turning it?’ to ‘How are you going to be getting to your polling location, so that you have a plan on how you’re going to be making that happen?’ And we think that really makes a difference.”

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New York Compensates Men Wrongly Convicted for Malcom X Killing  

Two men who were wrongly convicted of the assassination of civil rights icon Malcolm X in 1965 and who were cleared of those charges last year will be compensated with $36 million.

New York City will pay the men $26 million, while New York state will pay $10 million, according to David Shanies, the men’s attorney.

Both men, Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam always maintained they were innocent.

Aziz is 84. Islam died in 2009.

A judge dismissed the men’s convictions last year in the face of new evidence that there was witness intimidation and the suppression of evidence related to their trial.

The men spent decades in prison and were paroled in the 1980s.

The money will be equally divided between Aziz and Islam’s estate.

Cyrus Vance, Jr who was District Attorney at the time of Malcolm’s assassination has apologized for law enforcement’s “serious, unacceptable violations of law and the public trust.

The New York City Law Department said Sunday that the financial agreement “brings some measure of justice to individuals who spent decades in prison and bore the stigma of being falsely accused of murdering an iconic figure.”

Malcolm was shot in Upper Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press.

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German Climate Activists Glue Themselves to Dinosaur Display 

Two environmental activists glued themselves to a dinosaur display at Berlin’s Natural History Museum on Sunday to protest what they said was the German government’s failure to properly address the threat of climate change.

The women used superglue to attach themselves to poles holding up the skeleton of a large four-legged dinosaur that lived tens of millions of years ago.

“Unlike the dinosaurs, we hold our fate in our own hands,” protester Caris Connell, 34, said as museum visitors milled around the display. “Do we want to go extinct like the dinosaurs, or do we want to survive?”

Fellow activist Solvig Schinkoethe, 42, said that as a mother of four she feared the consequences of the climate crisis.

“This peaceful resistance is the means we have chosen to protect our children from the government’s deadly ignorance,” she said.

The museum didn’t immediately comment on the protest.

The activists were part of the group Uprising of the Last Generation, which has staged numerous demonstrations in recent months, including blocking streets and throwing mashed potatoes at a Claude Monet painting.

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Kidnapped French Australian Veterinarian Released in Chad

The veterinarian and conservationist was kidnapped Friday

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EU Mulls Adding Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as Terrorists – German Official

Germany and the European Union are considering adding Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to the list of terrorist organizations, German Foreign Minister Annalina Baerbock said on Sunday.   

Last week, Germany announced that it would impose tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran outside of the EU sanctions package.  

In an interview Sunday with a German news agency, Baerbock added, “We are also examining how we can list the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.”   

Baerbock’s comments come a day after Hossein Salami, the head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, warned protesters that Saturday would be their last day of taking to the streets, signaling that security forces might intensify their crackdown on nationwide protests. 

The Revolutionary Guards are a part of Iran’s military charged with protecting the country’s Islamic political system. It also controls a huge business empire active in almost all sectors of Iran’s economy.      

Iran has been gripped by protests since the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police last month, posing one of the boldest challenges to the clerical leadership since the 1979 revolution. 

Iran has accused countries that have expressed support for the protests of meddling in its internal affairs. 

In her interview Sunday, Baerbok also said there are currently no negotiations to revive the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Western countries and Iran.   

The U.S. State Department designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization in April, 2019.   

Some material for this article came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters. 

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Burkina Faso Ambush Kills 13 Soldiers: Security Sources

Suspected jihadists have ambushed and killed 13 soldiers in Burkina Faso’s eastern province, security sources told AFP on Sunday, in the latest violence to shake the insurgency-torn west African nation.

Four members of the defense forces were also wounded in Saturday’s attack along the road linking Fada N’Gourma with Natiaboani, one of the sources said.

“Reinforcements have been deployed to secure the zone and carry out a search,” a second source added, confirming the casualty toll. The unit that came under fire had been sent to relieve a detachment from Natiaboani.

The ambush comes after the powerful Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), which is linked to al-Qaida, claimed Friday it carried out an attack on a military base in Djibo, a major northern town that has been under a jihadist blockade for three months.

The army said at least 10 soldiers died and 50 were wounded in that “terrorist” assault on the 14th regiment on Monday.

The army added it killed 18 “terrorists” in mopping-up operations.

GSIM also claimed responsibility for an attack on a supply convoy heading for Djibo on September 26 that left 37 dead – 27 of them soldiers. Dozens of truck drivers are still missing.

That assault helped trigger the latest coup in Burkina just four days later, led by young army Captain Ibrahim Traore.

He became interim president on October 21, vowing to win back territory from jihadists.

It was Burkina’s second coup in eight months, driven by a seven-year insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and driven nearly 2 million people from their homes.

The new government on Wednesday declared securing the Sahel state’s territory would be top priority.

More than a third of national territory remains outside government control.

The authorities also launched a drive to recruit 50,000 civilian defense volunteers to back up the army as the number of attacks increases.

A U.N. envoy warned this week that 4.9 million people, or a fifth of Burkina’s population, need urgent aid as many “mothers were forced to feed their children with leaves and salt.”

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Three Hurt in Attack on Vigil at Iranian Embassy in Berlin

Three men were injured early Sunday when a pro-democracy vigil outside the Iranian Embassy in Berlin was attacked, German police said.

An officer guarding the property saw several men, whose faces were covered with scarves, tearing down flags and banners from a trailer parked outside.

They then sought to rip open the door of the trailer, and a scuffle and argument erupted between four men who were inside and the attackers.

The men from the trailer chased the other group — and were then attacked by them, police said. Three of the men from the vehicle were injured, with two needing hospital treatment.

The attackers fled by car.

The trailer had posters on it with slogans such as “Women, Life, Freedom,” which has been commonly used in anti-government protests in Iran, German media reported.

There have been large protests in Germany and other European countries in solidarity with women-led demonstrations in Iran sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

The Iranian protests, now in their sixth week, are the biggest seen in the Islamic Republic for years. 

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The Scariest Halloween Haunted House Attractions

“Our building is definitely haunted,” said Dwayne Sanburn, owner and creative director of The 13th Gate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, one of the top-rated Halloween haunted house attractions in the United States.

Located in a warehouse that began as a brick foundry 150 years ago, the house comprises 13 nightmarish realms where your worst fears may come true, and anything can happen.

That includes riding an elevator with one of the characters, played by an actor, who suddenly disappears and is replaced by another character actor.

But there also could be real paranormal activity.

“I have heard voices, doors slam, and a ghostly figure on our security cameras,” Sanburn told VOA. It was particularly unnerving to hear a woman crying and realize no one was there.”

“One time, when I heard banging on a wall, I told myself, ‘I can’t be scared of my own haunted house,’ ” he said and laughed.

Sanburn said he always looks forward to Halloween on October 31 and was drawn to haunted houses the first time he visited one as a teenager.

The 13th Gate is among the 13 best Halloween haunts recognized this year by Hauntworld Magazine, the world’s largest directory of haunted houses and horror attractions in the United States.

Others on the list include Pennhurst Haunted Asylum, located in a former asylum in Pennsylvania, and Fear Factory in Salt Lake City, Utah, which used to be a cement factory.

Besides being scary, the attractions are frightening artistic masterpieces.

“At 13th Gate, our level of detail can equal Hollywood movies, including the sets, lighting, costumes and makeup,” said Sanburn.

Tony Wohlgemuth, president of Kersey Valley Spooky Woods in Archdale, North Carolina, said this year’s theme focuses on a town taken over by ghastly spirits.

He said haunted house attractions have incredible visual and audio effects, in part due to the latest technology.

“At Spooky Woods we use effects to create lightning and thunder that feel real,” Wohlgemuth said, “and computer-controlled lighting with different colors and flickering effects.”

“The effects are used as a distraction,” he added, “but it’s really the actors that scare people. It’s the unknown and sudden scare you didn’t see coming.”

Alan Bennett, owner of Bennett’s Curse near Baltimore, Maryland, said animatronics (the technique of making and operating lifelike robots for film and other entertainment) and other scary effects, triggered by a motion detector, are used.

Bennett said the Halloween attraction is known for its large animated monsters like demons and giant pumpkins.

“There’s a haunted castle with creatures from the underworld, and an asylum with skeletons and evil pumpkins,” he said.

Jacob Preston, 15, from Alexandria, Virginia, came with his parents. He said that even though the castle was really scary, it was also fun. “I like horror movies and this kind of felt like I was in one,” he said.

“People get scared and then they are laughing,” said Michael Jubie, owner of the Headless Horseman Haunted Attractions in Ulster Park, New York. “Part of the appeal is that they want to be scared but also feel they are in a safe place.”

Jubie is a former undercover detective who used to wear disguises.

“We have the headless horseman on a live horse,” he said.

“One of our haunted houses has an underground tomb,” he added. “Another has a medical center with real operating room equipment from an old, abandoned hospital, including items from the morgue.”

These top-rated attractions draw thousands of visitors during the Halloween season in September and October.

“We’ll get about 70,000 this year,” Wohlgemuth said. “For some families it is an annual tradition.”

“We have parents who came when they were younger and are now taking their older children,” said Jubie.

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Thousands Commemorate Italy’s Fascist Dictator Mussolini 

Several thousand black-clad fascist sympathizers chanted and sang in praise of the late Italian dictator Benito Mussolini on Sunday as they marched to his crypt, 100 years after Mussolini entered Rome and completed a bloodless coup that gave rise to two decades of fascist rule.

The crowd of 2,000 to 4,000 marchers, many sporting fascist symbols and singing hymns from Italy’s colonial era, was larger than in the recent past, as the fascist nostalgics celebrated the centenary of the March on Rome.

On October 28, 1922, black-shirted fascists entered the Italian capital, launching a putsch that culminated two days later when Italy’s king handed Mussolini the mandate to start a new government.

The crowd in Predappio, Mussolini’s birthplace and final resting place in the northern Emilia-Romagna region, also was apparently emboldened by the fact that a party with neo-fascist roots is heading an Italian government for the first time since World War II.

Organizers warned participants, who arrived from as far away as Rome, Belgium and the United States, not to flash the Roman salute used by the Fascists, or they would risk prosecution. Still, some couldn’t resist as the crowd stopped outside the cemetery where Mussolini is buried to listen to prayers and greetings from Mussolini’s great-granddaughter, Orsola.

“After 100 years, we are still here to pay homage to the man this state wanted, and who we will never stop admiring,” Orsola Mussolini said, to cheers.

She listed her great-grandfather’s accomplishments, citing an infrastructure boom that built schools, hospitals and public buildings, reclaimed malaria-infested swamps for cities, and the extension of a pension system to nongovernment workers. She was joined by her sister Vittoria, who led the crowd in a prayer.

The crowd gave a final shout of “Duce, Duce, Duce!” Mussolini’s honorific as Italy’s dictator.

Anti-fascist campaigners held a march in Predappio on Friday to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the town — and to prevent the fascists from marching on the exact anniversary of the March on Rome.

Inside the cemetery on Sunday, admirers lined up a handful at a time to enter his crypt, tucked away in a back corner. Each was given a memory card signed by his great-grandaughters with a photo of a smiling Mussolini holding his gloved hand high in a Roman salute. “History will prove me right,” the card reads.

Italy’s failure to fully come to terms with its fascist past has never been more stark than now, as Italy’s new premier, Giorgia Meloni, seeks to distance her far-right Brothers of Italy party from its neo-fascist roots.

This week, she decried fascism’s anti-democratic nature and called its racial laws, which sent thousands of Italian Jews to Nazi death camps, “a low point.” Historians would also add Mussolini’s alliance with Nazi Germany and Japan in World War II and his disastrous colonial campaign in Africa to fascism’s devastating legacies.

Now in power, Meloni is seeking a moderate course for a new center-right government that includes Matteo Salvini’s League party and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. But her victory gives far-right activists a sense of vindication.

“I would have voted for Lucifer if he could beat the left,” said organizer Mirko Santarelli, who heads the Ravenna chapter of the Arditi, an organization that began as a World War I veterans group and has evolved to include caretaking Mussolini’s memory. “I am happy there is a Meloni government, because there is nothing worse than the Italian left. It is not the government that reflects my ideas, but it is better than nothing.”

He said he would like to see the new Italian government do away with laws that prosecute incitement to hatred and violence motivated by race, ethnicity, religion and nationality. It includes use of emblems and symbols — many of which were present in Sunday’s march.

Santarelli said the law punishes “the crime of opinion.”

“It is used as castor oil by the left to make us keep quiet. When I am asked my opinion of Mussolini, and it is clear I speak well of him, I risk being denounced,” Santarelli said.

Lawyer Francesco Minutillo, a far-right activist who represents the organizers, said Italy’s high court established that manifestations are permissible as long as they are commemorative “and don’t meet the criteria that risks the reconstitution of the fascist party.”

Still, he said, magistrates in recent years have opened investigations into similar manifestations in Predappio and elsewhere to make sure they don’t violate the law. One such case was closed without charges last week.

To avoid having their message misrepresented, Santarelli asked the rank and file present not to speak to journalists. Most complied.

A young American man wearing a T-shirt with a hand-drawn swastika inside a heart and the words “Brand New Dream,” plus a fascist fez, said he had timed his European vacation to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the March on Rome so he could participate in the march in Predappio. He declined to identify himself, other than to say he was from New Jersey, and lamented there was no fascist group back home to join.

Rachele Massimi traveled with a group four hours from Rome on Sunday to participate in the event, bringing her 3-year-old who watched from a stroller.

“It’s historic,” Massimi said. “It’s a memory.”

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AU Voices ‘Extreme Concern’ Over DRC Security Situation 

The African Union on Sunday said it was worried about the deteriorating security situation in the troubled eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, where rebels have made fresh gains.

In a joint statement, AU Chairman Macky Sall and AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said expressed “extreme concern” at the failing security and appealed for calm and dialogue.

They called “on all the parties to establish an immediate cease-fire, respect international law, the safety and security of civilians,” the statement said.

The M23 rebels seized more territory in the vast, mineral-rich DRC on Saturday, prompting the U.N. peacekeeping mission to increase its “troop alert level” and boost support for the army.

The latest advance came as diplomatic relations between neighbors DRC and Rwanda worsened. The authorities in Kinshasa, who accuse Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels, on Saturday announced the Rwandan ambassador would be expelled, a move Kigali said was regrettable.

The AU urged all the parties to engage “in a constructive dialogue” to ensure peace in the troubled region.

M23, a mostly Congolese Tutsi group, resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years, accusing the government of having failed to honor an agreement over the demobilization of its fighters.

It has since captured swaths of territory in North Kivu, including the key town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border in June.

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Tens of Thousands of Czechs Show Their Support for Ukraine 



For web: PRAGUE (AP) — Tens of thousands of Czechs gathered in the capital on Sunday to demonstrate their solidarity with Ukraine and their support for democratic values. 

The rally took place in reaction to three recent anti-government demonstrations where other protesters demanded the resignation of the pro-Western coalition government of conservative Prime Minister Petr Fiala for its support for Ukraine. Those earlier rallies also protested soaring energy prices and opposed the country’s membership in the European Union and NATO. 

The organizers of the earlier rallies are known for spreading Russian propaganda and opposing COVID-19 vaccinations. 

The people who turned out Sunday in Prague waved the Czech, Ukrainian and EU flags while displaying slogans that read “Czech Republic against fear” and “We will manage it.” 

Sunday’s rally at central Wenceslas Square was organized by a group called Million Moments for Democracy, which was behind several rallies in support of Ukraine following the Feb 24 Russian invasion. The group also previously held massive rallies against the former prime minister, populist billionaire Andrej Babis, calling him a threat for democracy. 

The group said the anti-government protests, which united the far right with the far left. exploited the people’s fear of inflation and the war in Ukraine and were trying to undermine democracy. 

Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, thanked those at the rally in a video message. She said her country has been facing “the darkest moment in its history” but added hope that Russia’s aggression won’t succeed. 


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United States Heads Toward Pivotal Midterm Elections

Pivotal 2022 midterm elections in the United States are just over a week away. The November 8 elections will determine if Democrats maintain their majorities or if Republicans seize power in the House of Representatives and Senate. Several domestic issues — including the future of reproductive rights — are on the minds of many voters as VOA’s Arash Arabasadi reports.

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Immigrants Face Off in California Congressional District

A congressional race in California between two immigrants, one from Pakistan and the other from South Korea, reflects the changing demographics of the American electorate. Mike O’Sullivan reports that abortion and the economy are at the heart of rival messages in the November 8th midterm election.

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