Daily: 25/10/2021

German Court Sentences Islamic State Member to 10 Years in Prison

A German woman received a 10-year prison sentence Monday for allowing a young Yazidi girl, who was being kept as a slave in Iraq by the woman and her husband, to die of thirst in the hot sun.

German authorities said the 30-year-old convert to Islam, identified only as Jennifer W., was a member of Islamic State in Iraq.

The Higher Regional Court convicted the defendant on charges including membership in a terrorist organization abroad, aiding and abetting attempted murder, attempted war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

According to German news agency dpa, federal prosecutors accused Jennifer W. of letting the 5-year-old Yazidi girl die after the woman’s husband, an Islamic State fighter, chained the girl in a courtyard unprotected from the heat. Prosecutors said the defendant’s husband was punishing the girl for wetting her mattress.

Islamic State views the minority Yazidis as heretics. In 2014, IS fighters killed scores of Yazidi men in Iraq during an onslaught on the Yazidi town of Sinjar. IS also enslaved thousands of women and girls in acts that amounted to genocide, according to the United Nations. 

Judge Joachim Baier said the child was “defenseless and helplessly exposed to the situation,” adding that the defendant “had to reckon from the beginning that the child, who was tied up in the heat of the sun, was in danger of dying.” 

German media reported that the defendant, who is from Lohne in Lower Saxony, was raised as a Protestant but converted to Islam in 2013. She traveled to Iraq through Turkey and Syria in 2014 to join Islamic State, according to The Associated Press. 

According to prosecutors, Jennifer W. was a member of IS’s armed “morality police” in 2015 and patrolled public parks in Fallujah and Mosul for women who did not conform to the group’s strict dress and conduct codes, AP reported. 

The defendant was taken into custody in 2016 while trying to renew her identity papers at the German Embassy in Ankara, after which she was deported to Germany. 

Prior to her sentencing, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office demanded that she serve a life sentence, while the defense asked for a maximum of two years in prison.

Some information for this story comes from The Associated Press and Reuters. 


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Джонсон у розмові з Путіним підкреслив важливість суверенітету України

Джонсон і Путін провели телефонну бесіду перед проведенням 26-ї конференції країн-учасниць Рамкової конвенції ООН про зміну клімату, що відбудеться в Глазго 1-2 листопада

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Facebook Whistleblower Presses Case with British Lawmakers 

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen told British lawmakers Monday that the social media giant “unquestionably” amplifies online hate. 

In testimony to a parliamentary committee in London, the former Facebook employee echoed what she told U.S. senators earlier this month.

Haugen said the media giant fuels online hate and extremism and does not have any incentive to change its algorithm to promote less divisive content.

She argued that as a result, Facebook may end up sparking more violent unrest around the world.

Haugen said the algorithm Facebook has designed to promote more engagement among users “prioritizes and amplifies divisive and polarizing extreme content” as well as concentrates it. 

Facebook did not respond to Haugen’s testimony Monday. Earlier this month, Haugen addressed a Senate committee and said the company is harmful. Facebook rejected her accusations. 

“The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

Haugen’s testimony comes as a coalition of new organizations Monday began publishing stories on Facebook’s practices based on internal company documents that Haugen secretly copied and made public. 

Haugen is a former Facebook product manager who has turned whistleblower. 

Earlier this month when Haugen addressed U.S. lawmakers, she argued that a federal regulator was needed to oversee large internet companies like Facebook. 

British lawmakers are considering creating such a national regulator as part of a proposed online safety bill. The legislation also proposes fining companies like Facebook up to 10% of their global revenue for any violations of government policies. 

Representatives from Facebook and other social media companies are set to address British lawmakers on Thursday. 

Haugen is scheduled to meet with European Union policymakers in Brussels next month.

Some information in this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters. 


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У Судані після ймовірного перевороту оголосили надзвичайний стан

Продемократична Асоціація суданських професіоналів закликала громадян вийти на вулиці, щоб «протистояти» військовому перевороту

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День на Донбасі: поранений військовий та 4 порушення «тиші» з боку бойовиків

Бойовики традиційно в обстрілах звинувачують українську сторону

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Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast Explores Political Polarization, Social Divisiveness

“Belfast”, a film drama by acclaimed actor and director Kenneth Branagh, chronicles the beginnings, in 1969, of the thirty-year political and sectarian violence in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles. Penelope Poulou reports.

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Noted Russian Investigative Journalist Added to ‘Wanted List’

For the world watch section of VOA’s Press Freedom page.

Noted Russian journalist Sergei Reznik, who specializes in anti-corruption investigations, has been added to the Interior Ministry’s wanted list.

Reznik’s name was added to the wanted list over the weekend, local media reported. He is thought to be living outside of Russia.

No details for his placement on the list were provided, though some media reports cited law enforcement sources as saying that Reznik is wanted for the alleged “justification of Nazism.” 

The accusation stems from unspecified social-media posts that appeared on accounts suspected of being connected to him, they added.

In 2013, Reznik, who is from the Rostov region, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on charges of bribery and publicly insulting an official representative of the authorities. Later, he was sentenced to another 18 months in prison after a court found him guilty of false denunciation.

Reznik maintained his innocence and continued to work as an investigative journalist after serving the prison terms.

He says that a total of seven criminal cases have been opened against him with all of the alleged victims being prosecutors, judges, or police officials.

He also claims that over the past year, 15 statements from people in the Krasnodar region were submitted to the police and the prosecutor’s office against him and three of his colleagues.

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Facebook’s Language Gaps Weaken Screening of Hate, Terrorism

In Gaza and Syria, journalists and activists feel Facebook censors their speech, flagging inoffensive Arabic posts as terrorist content. In India and Myanmar, political groups use Facebook to incite violence. All of it frequently slips through the company’s efforts to police its social media platforms because of a shortage of moderators who speak local languages and understand cultural contexts.

Internal company documents from the former Facebook product manager-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen show the problems plaguing the company’s content moderation are systemic, and that Facebook has understood the depth of these failings for years while doing little about it.

Its platforms have failed to develop artificial-intelligence solutions that can catch harmful content in different languages. As a result, terrorist content and hate speech proliferate in some of the world’s most volatile regions. Elsewhere, the company’s language gaps lead to overzealous policing of everyday expression.

This story, along with others published Monday, is based on former Facebook product manager-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen’s disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which were also provided to Congress in redacted form by her legal team. The redacted versions received by Congress were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including The Associated Press.

In a statement to the AP, a Facebook spokesperson said that over the last two years the company has invested in recruiting more staff with local dialect and topic expertise to bolster its review capacity globally.

When it comes to Arabic content moderation, in particular, the company said, “We still have more work to do.”

But the documents show the problems are not limited to Arabic. In Myanmar, where Facebook-based misinformation has been linked repeatedly to ethnic violence, the company’s internal reports show it failed to stop the spread of hate speech targeting the minority Rohingya Muslim population.

In India, the documents show moderators never flagged anti-Muslim hate speech broadcast by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s far-right Hindu nationalist group because Facebook lacked moderators and automated filters with knowledge of Hindi and Bengali.

Arabic, Facebook’s third-most common language, does pose particular challenges to the company’s automated systems and human moderators, each of which struggles to understand spoken dialects unique to each country and region, their vocabularies salted with different historical influences and cultural contexts. The platform won a vast following across the region amid the 2011 Arab Spring, but its reputation as a forum for free expression in a region full of autocratic governments has since changed.

Scores of Palestinian journalists have had their accounts deleted. Archives of the Syrian civil war have disappeared. During the 11-day Gaza war last May, Facebook’s Instagram app briefly banned the hashtag #AlAqsa, a reference to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, a flashpoint of the conflict. The company later apologized, saying it confused Islam’s third-holiest site for a terrorist group.

Criticism, satire and even simple mentions of groups on the company’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations list — a docket modeled on the U.S. government equivalent — are grounds for a takedown.

“We were incorrectly enforcing counterterrorism content in Arabic,” one document reads, noting the system “limits users from participating in political speech, impeding their right to freedom of expression.”

The Facebook blacklist includes Gaza’s ruling Hamas party, as well as Hezbollah, the militant group that holds seats in Lebanon’s Parliament, along with many other groups representing wide swaths of people and territory across the Middle East.

The company’s language gaps and biases have led to the widespread perception that its reviewers skew in favor of governments and against minority groups. 

Israeli security agencies and watchdogs also monitor Facebook and bombard it with thousands of orders to take down Palestinian accounts and posts as they try to crack down on incitement.

“They flood our system, completely overpowering it,” said Ashraf Zeitoon, Facebook’s former head of policy for the Middle East and North Africa region, who left in 2017.

Syrian journalists and activists reporting on the country’s opposition also have complained of censorship, with electronic armies supporting embattled President Bashar Assad aggressively flagging dissident posts for removal. 

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Facebook does not translate the site’s hate speech and misinformation pages into Dari and Pashto, the country’s two main languages. The site also doesn’t have a bank of hate speech terms and slurs in Afghanistan, so it can’t build automated filters that catch the worst violations.

In the Philippines, homeland of many domestic workers in the Middle East, Facebook documents show that engineers struggled to detect reports of abuse by employers because the company couldn’t flag words in Tagalog, the major Philippine language.

In the Middle East, the company over-relies on artificial-intelligence filters that make mistakes, leading to “a lot of false positives and a media backlash,” one document reads. Largely unskilled moderators, in over their heads and at times relying on Google Translate, tend to passively field takedown requests instead of screening proactively. Most are Moroccans and get lost in the translation of Arabic’s 30-odd dialects.

The moderators flag inoffensive Arabic posts as terrorist content 77% of the time, one report said.

Although the documents from Haugen predate this year’s Gaza war, episodes from that bloody conflict show how little has been done to address the problems flagged in Facebook’s own internal reports.

Activists in Gaza and the West Bank lost their ability to livestream. Whole archives of the conflict vanished from newsfeeds, a primary portal of information. Influencers accustomed to tens of thousands of likes on their posts saw their outreach plummet when they posted about Palestinians.

“This has restrained me and prevented me from feeling free to publish what I want,” said Soliman Hijjy, a Gaza-based journalist.

Palestinian advocates submitted hundreds of complaints to Facebook during the war, often leading the company to concede error. In the internal documents, Facebook reported it had erred in nearly half of all Arabic language takedown requests submitted for appeal.

Facebook’s internal documents also stressed the need to enlist more Arab moderators from less-represented countries and restrict them to where they have appropriate dialect expertise.

“It is surely of the highest importance to put more resources to the task to improving Arabic systems,” said the report.

Meanwhile, many across the Middle East worry the stakes of Facebook’s failings are exceptionally high, with potential to widen long-standing inequality, chill civic activism and stoke violence in the region.

“We told Facebook: Do you want people to convey their experiences on social platforms, or do you want to shut them down?” said Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the United Kingdom. “If you take away people’s voices, the alternatives will be uglier.” 

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Ухвала КСУ щодо закону про вищу освіту не означає скасування люстрації для ректорів – Совгиря

Суд після трьох років «фактично самоусунувся», не надавши оцінки щодо конституційності норми закону, написала депутатка

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Whistleblower Haugen to Testify as UK Scrutinizes Facebook

Former Facebook data scientist turned whistleblower Frances Haugen plans to answer questions Monday from lawmakers in the United Kingdom who are working on legislation to rein in the power of social media companies. 

Haugen is set to appear before a parliamentary committee scrutinizing the British government’s draft legislation to crack down on harmful online content, and her comments could help lawmakers beef up the new rules. She’s testifying the same day that Facebook is set to release its latest earnings and that The Associated Press and other news organizations started publishing stories based on thousands of pages of internal company documents she obtained. 

It will be her second appearance before lawmakers after she testified in the U.S. Senate earlier this month about the danger she says the company poses, from harming children to inciting political violence and fueling misinformation. Haugen cited internal research documents she secretly copied before leaving her job in Facebook’s civic integrity unit. 

The documents, which Haugen provided to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, allege Facebook prioritized profits over safety and hid its own research from investors and the public. Some stories based on the files have already been published, exposing internal turmoil after Facebook was blindsided by the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot and how it dithered over curbing divisive content in India, and more is to come. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has disputed Haugen’s portrayal of the company as one that puts profit over the well-being of its users or that pushes divisive content, saying a false picture is being painted. But he does agree on the need for updated internet regulations, saying lawmakers are best able to assess the tradeoffs.

Haugen told U.S. lawmakers that she thinks a federal regulator is needed to oversee digital giants like Facebook, something that officials in Britain and the European Union are already working on. 

The U.K. government’s online safety bill calls for setting up a regulator that would hold companies to account when it comes to removing harmful or illegal content from their platforms, such as terrorist material or child sex abuse images. 

“This is quite a big moment,” Damian Collins, the lawmaker who chairs the committee, said ahead of the hearing. “This is a moment, sort of like Cambridge Analytica, but possibly bigger in that I think it provides a real window into the soul of these companies.” 

Collins was referring to the 2018 debacle involving data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, which gathered details on as many as 87 million Facebook users without their permission.

Representatives from Facebook and other social media companies plan to speak to the committee Thursday. 

Ahead of the hearing, Haugen met the father of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old girl who killed herself in 2017 after viewing disturbing content on Facebook-owned Instagram. In a chat filmed by the BBC, Ian Russell told Haugen that after Molly’s death, her family found notes she wrote about being addicted to Instagram.

Haugen also is scheduled to meet next month with European Union officials in Brussels, where the bloc’s executive commission is updating its digital rulebook to better protect internet users by holding online companies more responsible for illegal or dangerous content. 

Under the U.K. rules, expected to take effect next year, Silicon Valley giants face an ultimate penalty of up to 10% of their global revenue for any violations. The EU is proposing a similar penalty. 

The U.K. committee will be hoping to hear more from Haugen about the data that tech companies have gathered. Collins said the internal files that Haugen has turned over to U.S. authorities are important because it shows the kind of information that Facebook holds — and what regulators should be asking when they investigate these companies.  

The committee has already heard from another Facebook whistleblower, Sophie Zhang, who raised the alarm after finding evidence of online political manipulation in countries such as Honduras and Azerbaijan before she was fired.

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З Білорусі до Німеччини потрапили понад 6 тисяч мігрантів з серпня – DW

Лише за останні два дні близько 500 мігрантів перетнули польсько-німецький кордон у пошуках притулку

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Крим: російські силовики затримують кримських татар біля будівлі суду у Сімферополі

Російські поліцейські вимагали від присутніх розійтися, після чого співробітники ОМОНу почали заводити активістів у автобус, зокрема й жінок

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Денісова назвала «тортурами» відправку в ШІЗО засудженого в Росії кримчанина Абдуллаєва

Постійне утримання Теймура Абдуллаєва в ШІЗО є однією з форм психологічного тиску, що прирівнюється до катувань, наголосила омбдудсмен

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Напади «ІД» на афганських шиїтів є злочинами проти людства – HRW

Члени шиїтської хараейської меншини стикалися з тривалою дискримінацією та переслідуванням у переважно сунітській країні

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В Іраку археологи знайшли виноробню віком близько 2700 років

Разом з виноробнею знайшли кам’яні рельєфи з зображенням ассирійських царів, які моляться богам. Їх вирізьбили на стінах дев’ятикілометрового зрошувального каналу.

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Russians now Must Travel to Warsaw for US Immigrant Visas

Russians hoping to apply for an immigrant visa to the United States are now required to travel to the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, the State Department confirmed Sunday, while blaming restrictions imposed by Moscow.

That development came amid unresolved U.S.-Russian tensions, and tit-for-tat expulsions that earlier led Moscow to limit the number of U.S. diplomatic staff in Russia.

Russia condemned the U.S. visa move and it prompted a heated rejoinder from Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

American diplomats, she wrote on the Telegram platform, had long been “destroying” the consular services system in Russia, turning what should be a routine, technical procedure “into a real hell.”

The State Department, for its part, pinned the blame squarely back on Moscow.

“The Russian government’s decision to prohibit the United States from retaining, hiring or contracting Russian or third-country staff severely impacts our ability to provide consular services,” a State Department spokesman said in a statement received by AFP. “The extremely limited number of consular staff in Russia at this time does not allow us to provide routine visa or U.S. citizen services.”

It added: “We realize this is a significant change for visa applicants,” and it cautioned them not to travel to Warsaw before booking an appointment with the embassy there.

The statement recognized that the shift to Warsaw, which took effect this month, was not an “ideal solution.”

It added: “We considered a number of factors including proximity, availability of flights, convenience for applicants… the prevalence of Russian speakers among our locally engaged personnel, and the availability of staff.”

Warsaw is about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from Moscow.

On the State Department website, Russia has been added to a short list of countries where “the United States has no consular representation or in which the political or

security situation is tenuous or uncertain enough” to prevent consular staff from processing immigrant visa applications.

Most countries on that list have poor or no direct relations with the U.S., including Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen.

Amid a continuing dispute over how many diplomats each side can post in the other’s country, Russia has placed the U.S. on a list of “unfriendly” countries requiring approval to employ Russian nationals.

Russian applicants for nonimmigrant visas can still apply at any overseas U.S. embassy or consulate so long as they are physically present in that country, the U.S. statement said.

Meantime, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow will be able to process only “diplomatic or official visas.”

Successive rounds of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions by the two countries have left embassies and consulates badly understaffed, playing havoc with normal services.

This was a central subject of talks two weeks ago during a Russia visit by Victoria Nuland, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, but little progress was announced.

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UK Plans $8 Billion Package to Boost Health Service Capacity

British finance minister Rishi Sunak’s budget this week will include an extra $8.1 billion of spending for the health service over the next few years to drive down waiting lists, the finance ministry said on Sunday.   

The sum comes on top of an $11 billion package announced in September to tackle backlogs built up over the COVID-19 pandemic, the finance ministry said.   

The spending is aimed at increasing what is termed elective activity in the National Health Service (NHS) — such as scans and non-emergency procedures — by 30% by the 2024/25 financial year. 

The increase comprises $3.2 billion for testing services, $2.9 billion to improve the technology behind the health service, and $2 billion to increase bed capacity.   

“This is a game-changing investment in the NHS to make sure we have the right buildings, equipment and systems to get patients the help they need and make sure the NHS is fit for the future,” Sunak said in a statement. 

Sunak is expected to set fairly tight limits for most areas of day-to-day public spending in his budget on Wednesday, which will seek to lower public debt after a record surge in borrowing during the pandemic. 

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Патріарх Варфоломій «почувається добре», його планують виписати вранці – архиєпархія

Очікується, що Вселенського патріарха випишуть вранці

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Зеркаль: вимоги для сертифікації «Північного потоку-2» – «дуже чутливе для Путіна» питання

«Якщо в Росії буде ринок, вже не буде можливості диктувати ціни з боку Російської Федерації», – каже радниця міністра

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Italian Lab Creates Extreme Weather; Could Predict Climate Change Effects

Researchers at a specialized lab in Italy say understanding climate change effects requires recreating them in a controlled environment. So, they built one. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has more.

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