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Daily Archives: October 7, 2021

Analysts: US-Saudi Ties Little Changed 3 Years After Khashoggi’s Killing

Three years after the slaying of Washington Post columnist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, human rights activists and many others around the world are furious the United States has failed to sanction Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is accused of ordering the killing. VOA Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine looks at what has changed in U.S.-Saudi relations under the Biden administration.

Camera: Saqib Islam.

US Charges Afghan With Killing American Troops 

U.S. prosecutors on Thursday charged an alleged former Taliban commander with terrorism-related offenses over the killing of American troops in 2008.

Haji Najibullah, 45, is in U.S. custody, charged with kidnapping an American journalist and two Afghan civilians. He was arrested and extradited from Ukraine to the United States in October 2020.

On Thursday, prosecutors in New York said they had filed a superseding indictment that added counts of murder to the charges he faces.

Taliban fighters under Najibullah’s command killed three U.S. soldiers and an Afghan interpreter in an attack on their military convoy in June 2008, the Justice Department said.

The assault was made with improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York said.

“As alleged, during one of the most dangerous periods of the conflict in Afghanistan, Haji Najibullah led a vicious band of Taliban insurgents who terrorized part of Afghanistan and attacked U.S. troops,” prosecutor Audrey Strauss said in a statement.

Kidnapping

Najibullah is also accused of kidnapping an American journalist and two Afghan nationals and holding them hostage for seven months.

The Justice Department has not given the hostages’ names, but New York Times journalist David Rohde was kidnapped in Afghanistan in November 2008, along with a translator and driver.

According to the Times, which kept news of his kidnapping secret so as not to endanger him, Rohde escaped from his captors in June 2009.

Ten of the 13 counts Najibullah faces carry maximum sentences of life in prison.

American troops withdrew from Afghanistan in August after 20 years of war ended with the Taliban back in power.

NHS aims to give 35m flu jabs amid warnings of up to 60,000 deaths

Service aims to immunise more than half the population amid fears of particularly deadly flu season

The NHS is to embark on the most ambitious programme of flu jabs in its history amid warnings of up to 60,000 deaths.

The health service aims to immunise a record 35 million people – more than half the UK’s population – against influenza as the country faces its first winter with Covid and flu circulating at the same time.

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Hold-outs Ireland, Estonia Agree to Global Tax Reform Deal

The Irish and Estonian governments on Thursday agreed to sign on to a 15% global minimum tax rate on multinational firms, leaving only Hungary as the last hold-out against the far-reaching deal. 

The reform aims to stop international corporations from slashing the tax bills by registering in nations with low rates. 

“The government has now approved my recommendation that Ireland joins the international consensus,” Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said. 

“I’m absolutely satisfied that our interests are better served within the agreement,” he added. 

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that joining the reform would ensure “we have the best chance of ensuring that Estonia’s business environment and tax policy continue to work in the interests of a better future for all of us.” 

Finance ministers from wealthy G-7 nations in June endorsed a global minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15%, reached in the framework of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 

It was approved by the G-20 in July and has been signed by more than 130 countries, except Hungary. 

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said earlier this week that there was a chance that his country could agree to it as long as the reform “does not damage the Hungarian economy or put Hungarian jobs in danger.” 

Donohoe said Ireland has insisted on a change of wording, excluding “at least” before the 15% figure, describing this as an important issue that needed to be resolved, due to the “desire of some to seek a higher rate.” 

The minister said the reform was expected to take effect in 2023. 

Ireland currently has a 12.5% tax rate. 

Its tax policy has attracted giants such as Apple and Google, while Estonia had been concerned that joining the reform could threaten its vibrant tech start-up sector. 

The reform will affect 56 Irish multinationals that employ about 100,000 workers, as well as 1,500 foreign-owned multinationals employing 400,000 people. 

It only applies to companies with annual turnover of more than 750 million euros ($870 million) a year. Smaller businesses will still pay corporate tax at 12.5%. 

Kallas said that in the case of Estonia the reform “will not change anything for most Estonian business operators, and it will only concern subsidiaries of large multinational groups.” 

While Ireland stands to lose 800 million to 2 billion euros in corporate tax receipts if companies leave the country, the minister argued that if it did not sign up to the deal, Ireland would “lose influence in respect to the critical decisions that will come in the coming months.” 

He added that there was debate in the U.S. Congress on changes that would align their tax system with the OECD agreement, calling this a key factor due to “significant investment by U.S. multinationals here.” 

Following Ireland and Estonia’s decision, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, “We are on the way to a generational achievement of creating a global minimum tax, which would create a more level playing field so jobs and investment can flourish in the United States.” 

Ireland’s low levy has attracted an outsized number of pharma and tech firms but also prompted accusations the nation acts as a tax haven. 

 

England’s last ‘red list’ restrictions confound South Americans

Lingering quarantine rules anger would-be travellers from seven targeted countries

England’s decision to maintain strict Covid travel rules for seven South American and Caribbean countries has prompted further fury and confusion in the nations which remain on the “red list”.

Ministers announced on Thursday that restrictions would be lifted for 47 countries – including Brazil, South Africa and Thailand – allowing travellers to enter England without being subject to draconian and expensive quarantine restrictions.

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