Irish Prime Minister Warns Against Return to Violence in Northern Ireland

Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin observed the 23rd anniversary of an agreement that ended most of the three decades of sectarian violence over British rule in Northern Ireland Saturday by warning against a return to the prolonged unrest.His warning came after at least 14 police officers were injured in clashes with protesters in Northern Ireland’s capital of Belfast Friday night, the eighth consecutive day of clashes between police and unionists and nationalists in the British province.”We owe it to the agreement generation and indeed future generations not to spiral back to that dark place of sectarian murders and political discord,” Martin said in a statement to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.Northern Ireland police said protesters in Belfast hurled gasoline bombs and stones at police and hijacked a car that was set on fire and pushed towards police lines.Clashes also took place in the northern town of Coleraine and in Newtownabbey, a northern suburb of Belfast, police said.The violence first erupted more than a week ago amid rising tensions linked to Brexit.On Thursday, the U.S. joined leaders from Northern Ireland, Britain and Ireland in voicing concern over the renewed violence in Northern Ireland. 


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Two Killed During Anti-UN Protests in Eastern Congo Protests, Officials Say

At least two people were killed during violent protests Friday against the United Nations peacekeeping mission in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, local officials said. Troops attached to the U.N. mission, known as MONUSCO, killed one person during a protest in the rural area of Oicha, its mayor Nicolas Kikuku told Reuters. “They [the protesters] set fire to two bridges that lead to the [peacekeepers’] base,” Kikuku said. “The MONUSCO peacekeepers did not accept that and opened fire directly on the demonstrators.” Rosette Kavula, the deputy administrator of Beni territory, where Oicha is located, and Philippe Bonane, a local activist, also said peacekeepers had killed a protester. The incident came after days of protests in several eastern Congo cities by young people angered over the 12,000-strong U.N. Mission’s failure to prevent a wave of civilian killings by armed groups. MONUSCO spokesman Mathias Gillmann said the mission was investigating what had happened in Oicha.  The other fatality occurred when protesters closed a road to the city of Beni, blocking the path of an ambulance carrying the body of a man killed earlier in a suspected rebel attack, said local army spokesman Antony Mwalushayi. “That’s how a woman was hit and died on the scene, and her baby was seriously wounded,” Mwalushayi told Reuters. He said an investigation had been opened into the incident.  At least seven people were killed in the suspected rebel attack, which officials blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan Islamist group that has operated on Congolese soil for decades.More than 300 people have been killed so far this year in violence in eastern Congo, which is in part an unresolved legacy of a civil war that officially ended in 2003. U.N. peacekeepers have been deployed to Congo since 1999 at the invitation of the government. 


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Africa Update

On this edition of Encounter, host Carol Castiel talks with Johannesburg-based journalist, Gabriele Steinhauser, deputy bureau chief for Africa at The Wall Street Journal and Jon Temin, Director of the Africa Program at Freedom House, about the status of the coronavirus pandemic in Africa and its impact on economic and political life, as well as the roots of the troubling Islamist insurgency in the province of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique.


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US/Iran Talks

Issues in the News moderator Kim Lewis talks with VOA diplomatic correspondent Cindy Saine and VOA executive editor Steve Redisch about what’s at stake in talks between the U.S. and Iran, what prosecutors must prove in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin charged in the death of George Floyd, prospects for passing US President Joe Biden’s legislative priorities under the “reconciliation” mechanism and a corporate uproar over the new voting law in the southern state of Georgia.


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This Week’s Space News

NASA eyes the first possible day to launch its flying robot on Mars. Plus, the space agency tests a moon capsule, and the European Space Agency calls for diversity. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi brings us the Week in Space.Produced by: Arash Arabasadi 
 


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The Infodemic: Vaccines Haven’t Led to Increase in Patient Deaths

Fake news about the coronavirus can do real harm. Polygraph.info is spotlighting fact-checks from other reliable sources here​.Daily DebunkClaim: COVID-19 vaccines have led to a 6,000% increase in patient deaths.Verdict: FalseRead the full story at: PolitiFactSocial Media Disinfo ScreenshotCirculating on social media: Claim that “not a single politician in the world” died of Covid-19 except John Magufuli, a former president of Tanzania known for downplaying the scale of the pandemic.Verdict: MisleadingRead the full story at: Agence France-Presse


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Amazon CEO Bezos, Stung by Wide Criticism, Endorses US Corporate Tax Increase

Amazon.com Inc. supports an increase in the U.S. corporate tax rate as part of an infrastructure overhaul, Jeff Bezos, chief executive of the largest U.S. retailer, said on Tuesday after facing withering criticism from the White House, Congress and on social media. “We support the Biden Administration’s focus on making bold investments in American infrastructure,” Bezos said in a blog post. “We recognize this investment will require concessions from all sides — both on the specifics of what’s included as well as how it gets paid for (we’re supportive of a rise in the corporate tax rate).”   The largest online U.S. retailer, which has been widely criticized in recent years for paying little or no U.S. federal income tax, did not endorse raising rates to a specific figure.   The White House did not immediately comment. Biden’s infrastructure plan proposes increasing the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and would revise the tax code to close loopholes that allow companies to move profits overseas.In this Oct. 1, 2020, photo an Amazon worker wears a mask and gloves as he delivers boxes downtown Los Angeles.Biden said last week Amazon was one of 91 Fortune 500 companies that “use various loopholes where they pay not a single solitary penny in federal income tax,” in sharp contrast to middle-class families paying over 20% tax rates.   Bezos is stepping down from the CEO role during third quarter of 2021. After paying no federal income tax in 2017 or 2018, Amazon reported a $162 million current U.S. federal tax liability for 2019 and $1.835 billion U.S. federal tax liability for 2020. Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, and Republican lawmakers cut the corporate rate to 21% in 2017 from 35%. Trump repeatedly promised to tackle the nation’s crumbling infrastructure during his presidency but never delivered on that. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest U.S. business group, last month called Biden’s proposed hike in corporate taxes “dangerously misguided” and warned it would “slow the economic recovery and make the U.S. less competitive globally.”   In June 2019, Biden named Amazon and said no company making billions in profits should pay a lower tax rate than firefighters and teachers. 


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Those Involved in Naked Photo Shoot in Dubai to Be Deported

Those involved in a naked photo shoot on a high-rise balcony in Dubai will be deported, authorities said Tuesday, after the footage went viral and prompted a crackdown in the Gulf Arab sheikhdom.  Dubai authorities detained at least 11 Ukrainian women who posed naked in broad daylight along with a male Russian photographer on charges of public debauchery and producing pornography. Earlier this week, images and videos of the naked women splattered across social media and sent a wave of shock through the emirate, where a legal code based on Islamic law, or Shariah, has landed foreigners in jail for tamer offenses.  After an unusually speedy investigation, Dubai’s Attorney General Essam Issa al-Humaidan announced that those behind the photo shoot would be sent back to their countries, without elaborating further. Dubai police have declined to identify those detained. More than a dozen women appeared in the widely shared video. Ukrainian and Russian authorities confirmed the arrest of their citizens Tuesday, but the nationalities of the others detained were not immediately known. The swift deportation is rare for the legal system in Dubai, an absolutely ruled sheikhdom. Such cases typically go to trial or are otherwise adjudicated before deportation. “The public prosecutor ordered the deportation of the accused for their behavior contrary to public morals,” al-Humaidan said, adding that the group of women had been charged with violating the country’s public decency law.  Dubai is a top destination for the world’s Instagram influencers and models, who fill their social media feeds with slick bikini-clad selfies from the coastal emirate’s luxury hotels and artificial islands. But the city’s brand as a glitzy foreign tourist destination has at times provoked controversy and collided with the sheikhdom’s strict rules governing public behavior and expression.  The nude photo shoot scandal came just days before Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, and as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky landed in nearby Doha, Qatar, for an official state visit. Over the years, Dubai increasingly has promoted itself as a popular destination for Russians on holiday. Signs in Cyrillic are a common sight at the city’s major malls. The generally pro-Kremlin tabloid Life identified the Russian man arrested as the head of an information technology firm in Russia’s Ivanovo region, though his firm denied he had anything to do with the photo shoot. The Associated Press was not able to determine if those arrested had legal representation or reach a lawyer for them. Stanislav Voskresensky, the governor of Ivanovo, asked the Russian Foreign Ministry and Russia’s ambassador to the UAE to offer the Russian man their support. “We don’t abandon our own,” Voskresensky wrote on social media. It’s not the first time that foreign social media influencers, amateur and pro, have drawn unwanted scrutiny in the United Arab Emirates. Earlier this year, as Dubai promoted itself as a major pandemic-friendly party haven for travelers fleeing tough lockdowns elsewhere, European reality TV show stars came under fire for flaunting their poolside Dubai vacations on social media and for bringing the coronavirus back home. Denmark and the United Kingdom later banned flights to the UAE as virus cases surged in the federation of seven sheikhdoms. Although the UAE has recently made legal changes to attract foreign tourists and investors, allowing unmarried couples to share hotel rooms and residents to drink alcohol without a license, the Gulf Arab country’s justice system retains harsh penalties for violations of the public decency law. Nudity and other “lewd behavior,” carry penalties of up to six months in prison and a fine of 5,000 dirhams ($1,360). The sharing of pornographic material is also punishable with prison time and hefty fines. The country’s majority state-owned telecom companies block access to pornographic websites. Foreigners, who make up some 90% of the UAE’s population of over 9 million, have been imprisoned for comments and videos online, as well as for offenses considered benign in the West, like kissing in public. The United Arab Emirates is considered one of the most permissive Gulf nations, but pornography and “anything else that can undermine public morals” is illegal. 


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