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Finland against Israeli operation in Rafah

President Alexander Stubb and Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen on Friday expressed their opposition over the Israeli plan to launch a large-scale ground operation in Rafah and renewed call for ceasefire in Gaza. The President in a post in his social media platform X, also clarified Finland´s abstention on the resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly supporting the Palestinian bid to become a full UN member. The resolution was adopted with 143 votes in favor and nine against, including the United States and Israel, while 25 countries abstained. “Today (Friday) the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on strengthening Palestine’s observer status to the United Nations. The resolution also recommended Palestine’s full UN membership. However, this vote was not about making Palestine a full UN member. The admission of new members requires a recommendation of the Security Council, which has not been issued,” Stubb wrote in his post. He said that Finland abstained in the vote in line with the decision of the President and the Ministerial Committee on Foreign and Security Policy, adding that a number of other EU Member States, including Sweden, also abstained. “Finland strives to advance the two-state solution and an independent, internationally recognized Palestinian state as a full member of the United Nations. When realized, it is of utmost importance that the membership does not remain merely symbolic, but comes as a step of a broad-based, jointly agreed upon plan that produces concrete improvements to the situation of the Palestinians and the security of the whole region. Regrettably, we are not there yet,” he said. The President said that now, the most urgent issues are deliveries of humanitarian aid, release of the hostages and a ceasefire. “A large scale ground operation in Rafah would have disastrous consequences. It must not happen. Israel has the obligation to protect civilians,” he added. Meanwhile the Foreign Minister in a post in her social media platform X called for a ceasefire in Gaza. “I am again calling upon the Israeli government not to launch a large scale ground operation in Rafah. Israel has every right to defend herself against Hamas but not at the cost of innocent civilian lives in Gaza,” Valtonen wrote.

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US report punts on possible Israeli violations of international law in Gaza

A report from the administration of President Joe Biden has found that Israeli forces likely used United States-supplied weapons in a manner “inconsistent” with international law, but it stopped short of identifying violations that would put an end to the ongoing military aid. In the report, released on Friday after a delay, the US State Department indicated Israel did not provide adequate information to verify whether US weapons were used in possible violations of international law during its war in Gaza. The Biden White House had issued a national security memorandum, NSM-20, in February requiring Israel and other countries receiving military aid to provide written assurances that all US-supplied weapons were used in a manner consistent with international law. The US would then make a decision about future military aid based on those written assurances. Friday’s report is a byproduct of that memorandum. “It is reasonable to assess that defense articles covered under NSM-20 have been used by Israeli security forces since October 7 in instances inconsistent with its IHL [international humanitarian law] obligations or with established best practices for mitigating civilian harm,” the report said. The report nevertheless adds that the Biden administration believes Israel is taking “appropriate steps” to address such concerns. Political backlash The US has been a consistent ally to Israel throughout its seven-month-long military campaign in Gaza, which began on October 7. That war, however, has spurred international outcry as humanitarian concerns mount. Nearly 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, many of them women and children, and the head of the United Nations World Food Programme has declared a “full-blown famine” in the northern part of the narrow enclave. Still, Israel’s siege on Gaza continues, with access to food, water and electricity severely limited. UN experts have repeatedly warned of a “risk of genocide” in the territory. As a result, the Biden administration has faced pressure, particularly from the progressive flank of the Democratic Party, to address the humanitarian concerns by placing conditions on military aid to Israel. After the report’s release on Friday, progressive lawmakers expressed disappointment with its conclusions. Senator Chris Van Hollen, for instance, stated it “fails to do the hard work of making an assessment and ducks the ultimate questions that the report was designed to determine”. Meanwhile, Republicans blasted the report as undermining Israel in its campaign against the Palestinian group Hamas. Senator Jim Risch, for instance, called the document “politically damaging” and said it would do long-term harm to US allies beyond Israel. “NSM-20 is aimed squarely at Israel in the near-term, but the additional highly-politicized reporting requirements will eventually be aimed at other American allies and partners across the globe, further impeding the delivery of security assistance and undermining our ability to deter China and Russia,” he wrote in a statement. Impediments to the report Friday’s report acknowledges limits to the US State Department’s findings, pointing out that the information that Israel provided was not comprehensive. “Although we have gained insight into Israel’s procedures and rules, we do not have complete information on how these processes are implemented,” the report reads. It also said the war itself creates barriers to understanding what is happening on the ground. “It is difficult to assess or reach conclusive findings on individual incidents” in Gaza, the report said, citing a lack of US government personnel on the ground. It also echoed Israeli accusations that Hamas could be manipulating civilian casualties for its own gains. Gaza, the report said, represents “as difficult a battlespace as any military has faced in modern warfare”. Tracing the flow of aid The report also sought to assess whether Israel was impeding the flow of aid into Gaza, another possible violation of international humanitarian law, as well as US law. It found “numerous instances during the period of Israeli actions that delayed or had a negative effect on the delivery of aid to Gaza”. Nevertheless, the report concluded that it could not assess that the “Israeli government is prohibiting or otherwise restricting the transport or delivery of US humanitarian assistance within the meaning of section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act”. Humanitarian groups, however, have reported for months that Israel systematically blocks large portions of aid from entering the Gaza Strip. Overall, the report said that US intelligence agencies have “no direct indication of Israel intentionally targeting civilians”, but they assessed that “Israel could do more to avoid civilian harm”. In addition, the State Department pledged to continue to monitor the situation in Gaza, particularly with regards to the delivery of aid. “This is an ongoing assessment and we will continue to monitor and respond to any challenges to the delivery of aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza moving forward.”

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Video games had a good run but it’s over now thanks to Xbox and PlayStation – Reader’s Feature

Are Xbox and PlayStation as bad as each other? (Microsoft/Sony/Metro.co.uk) A reader predicts an extinction level event for the video games industry and blames both Sony and Microsoft for letting it happen. Well, what a week it’s been, eh? We had the first tentative announcement of the Nintendo Switch 2 and then we had Xbox provide a free clown show for the entire world to see, that generously went on for days. I think at this point we take off the kid gloves and just admit that not only are Xbox laughably incompetent but that they’re an absolute parasitic blight upon gaming, that are now in real danger of destroying the entire console industry. That’s not hyperbole, that’s just plain fact. I feel I can avoid any accusations of console bias by saying that PlayStation are almost as bad: slightly more competent but, by their inaction, just as guilty for dragging gaming into the dirt and abandoning everything they’ve been building on for the last 30 years, the second things became difficult. Although the real reason they’re less distractive is simply that they haven’t got the money to make as much of a mess of things as Xbox has. When trying to work out what Xbox is trying to achieve, I’m reminded of the quote from Game of Thrones, where Varys talks about Littlefinger by saying, ‘He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.’ In the Song of Xbox and PlayStation, Phil Spencer takes the role of Littlefinger. Except Phil Spencer, like the rest of his executive cronies, is an idiot. I’ll say this, I do think Phil Spencer probably does like games. He likes money more, and as an exec would probably sell his own grandmother to climb another rung up the corporate ladder, but back when he first started as the big boss, he probably did think he could do better for Xbox and help gaming overall. The last decade of failure though shows that no, he can’t. As GC already pointed out, the problem with Xbox is that they’re always looking for an excuse not to just buckle down and make games. They always think they’ve found a shortcut, that can let them catch up with PlayStation, whether it’s buying up companies Sony can’t afford or TV integration or backwards compatibility or streaming or Game Pass. Anything to avoid just putting your head down and making some great games. PlayStation has the same tendencies, often by about the halfway point of a generation when they’ve secured their ‘win’, but I thought after the success of the PlayStation 4 they’d learn the secret to being a successful console manufacturer. It’s not a very complicated secret, it’s… make good games. Games so good people want to buy your console to play them. Nintendo is doing better than ever at the moment (Nintendo) I mean, it really isn’t any more than that. Just ask Nintendo. They’ve been in this business longer than either Sony or Microsoft and they’ve taken their knocks. And how do they engineer their comeback, despite having far less money to hand? They shut up and make some great games, and customers quickly return. But Microsoft has never had the patience for that (and absolutely never stop talking) and now that they’ve wasted $75+ billion on buying up developers they’re out of time. Microsoft has the money for that sort of acquisition, but when you’re dealing with that much money they want it back with more on top. It’s like borrowing from your parents, they might forget a few small loans but when you start talking about real chunks of cash, they want that money back… with interest. Except what is Xbox going to do? It’s still got no exclusives on the horizon that are going to make people buy their consoles (I’m going to take an educated guess that Hellblade 2 and Indiana Jones are not going to turn the tide) and the big companies it chose to buy don’t make games more than every five years, at most. What even is Blizzard working on now and how long is it going to be till The Elder Scrolls 6, let alone Fallout 5? They own Activision now, so they’ve got that Call Of Duty money coming in, but it has to stay multiformat or that’ll stop too. And will they dare make it day one on Game Pass? I have my doubts. Xbox has got nothing they can do but shut down studios (the less wages they’re paying the more profitable they seem – at least for a bit, until they run out of games to sell) and basically just run their business like Activision Blizzard was before they bought them. More TrendingGames Inbox: Will Metroid Prime 4 be out this year?Animal Well review – indie game of the yearFallout 76 fan nukes Phil Spencer’s in-game camp after Xbox layoffsCrow Country review – 90s style horrorRead More Stories And yet, in writing all this out I’m not sure which is worse, Xbox or PlayStation. Xbox is the more reckless and clueless, but PlayStation is in essentially the same position and has given up what Xbox has always been so desperate to achieve. PlayStation stopped making games, just like that, and are now, presumably, working on live service titles and almost nothing else. This is how the death of video games happens, with publishers concentrating on the one or two live service games they have, until they eventually wither and die and there is nothing left but Candy Crush and gacha games. It’s not even just Xbox and PlayStation. 2K had a round of layoffs recently, so they’re basically just GTA and Red Dead and their microtransaction-filled sports games. EA and Ubisoft, and all the rest, will surely follow and then all gaming will be is indie games, Nintendo, and maybe a few other Japanese developers. Oh… well maybe the great extinction won’t be so bad after all. Especially since the victims brought it on themselves. By reader Pinky The reader’s features do not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro. You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. Just contact us at gamecentral@metro.co.uk or use our Submit Stuff page and you won’t need to send an email. MORE : Hi-Fi Rush fans are reverse review-bombing the game on Steam to get back at Xbox MORE : PS5 and Xbox console sales are down 25% on last year in the UK MORE : Xbox president tries to avoid talking about developer closures in cringe-filled interview Follow Metro Gaming on Twitter and email us at gamecentral@metro.co.uk To submit Inbox letters and Reader’s Features more easily, without the need to send an email, just use our Submit Stuff page here. For more stories like this, check our Gaming page. Sign up to all the exclusive gaming content, latest releases before they’re seen on the site.Sign upPrivacy Policy »This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

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I Read More Books Than I Ever Have Before Thanks to My Amazon Kindle, and You Can Snag One for as Little as $80

I had one goal for myself in 2024 that I was determined to make a reality: read more books. Well, I can confidently say I’ve read more books over the last five months than I have in years. And it’s all thanks to my Amazon Kindle. I was gifted an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas (thanks Mom!), and it’s the sole reason I have been flying through books. The device is so compact and easily fits inside a purse, so I bring my Kindle just about everywhere. No more lugging around heavy hardcover novels and risking a bookmark falling out into the deep abyss that is my work bag. Right now, multiple Kindle models are on sale, and prices are as little as $80, a.k.a Black Friday-level deals. Kindles on Sale at Amazon Amazon Kindle, $79.99 (orig. $99.99) Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, $114.99 (orig. $149.99) Amazon Kindle Scribe, $239.99 (orig. $339.99) Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, $115 (Save $35) I never thought I would prefer reading on a tablet, as I have sensitive eyes and the glare that often comes with another device seemed unappealing. Yet, the Kindle Paperwhite proved me wrong. Thanks to its adjustable paper-like display, it really looks like actual book pages, whether I’m reading under fluorescent train lights or outside on a sunshine-filled day. I can easily hold the e-reader with one hand (this is especially helpful when I’m on the train and have to stand). To turn a page, I just tap the screen, and it swiftly moves ahead with zero lag time. It’s also waterproof, so I can confidently bring it to my pool and beach hangs this summer. Plus, I picked up this case that’s now 67 percent off for additional safety. The thought of having to remember to charge the Kindle might sound daunting, but its battery life is exceptional — according to the brand, the Kindle Paperwhite can last up to 10 weeks on a single charge. I’ve only had to charge the device three times since I started using it in January. Amazon Kindle, $80 (Save $20) Another reason why a Kindle is worth the investment is the fact that you can instantly access millions of books. My colleague, senior shopping editor and strategist, Alex Nelson, convinced me to enroll in Kindle Unlimited. For $12 each month (after an initial three-month free trial) Kindle users can borrow more than four million titles, including books, magazines, and audiobooks, for as long as they please — no due dates here. If I’m ever without my Kindle and I really want to keep reading, I can just log into the Kindle app on my phone, computer, or tablet for added convenience. Amazon Kindle Scribe, $240 (Save $100) Looking for more of a digital notebook? The Amazon Kindle Scribe is also discounted right now. Users can take notes and sketch in the device with the accompanying digital pen, so you can pause wherever you are in a book to make a to-do list and then hop back into reading without juggling the e-reader and another tablet or phone. I can’t get enough of my Amazon Kindle, and it’s forever changed the way I read books. Add one to your cart now and check out more discounted Amazon electronics below. Amazon Fire Stick Lite, $20 (Save $10) Amazon Echo (4th Gen), $65 (Save $35) Amazon Fire HD 8 Tablet, $65 (Save $35)

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IATSE West Coast Locals and Studios Tackle AI, Wages in Latest Week of General Negotiations

IATSE West Coast Locals and major Hollywood studios and streamers tackled issues including AI and wages in their latest week of general negotiations, the union reported to members on Friday. The two parties also discussed working conditions, the issue of companies allegedly subcontracting work that IATSE believes is covered under its contract to outside parties, IATSE’s Videotape Agreement (which covers some reality shows, game shows, awards shows, live TV and half-hour shows) and sideletters that the union wants to do away with. The union did not provide any more details on the substance of these conversations in its Friday message, which nevertheless positioned the talks as progressing effectively so far. The union’s international president, Matthew Loeb, said in a statement that the union had been “constructively engaging” with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of studios and streamers with Hollywood unions. “The goal of these negotiations is to ensure that our contracts keep pace with the rapid evolution of the entertainment industry. In many cases, the language in the previous agreements no longer works for our members,” Loeb stated. “We are constructively engaging with employers to upgrade it and adapt our contracts to current working conditions.” A union insider added to The Hollywood Reporter that the talks have been described as more productive so far than 2021’s round of negotiations, which stretched out over many months and culminated in an overwhelming strike authorization vote from crew members. (The union did not ultimately strike, but instead reached a last-minute deal that was controversial with its members.) THR has reached out to the AMPTP for comment. The union told its members Friday that discussions will continue for West Coast Locals until May 16, after which point the union will pivot to bargaining its Area Standards Agreement (which covers a group of Locals outside of New York and the West Coast). Currently, there are no plans for the Basic Agreement talks to stretch beyond May 16. The Area Standards Agreement discussions, set to take place between May 20 and May 31, will cover many of the same issues that West Coast Locals are currently discussing with employers — including AI, wage increases, working conditions, pension and health contributions and job security. Current iterations of both the Basic Agreement and Area Standards Agreement are scheduled to expire on July 31.

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10 More Amazing Sci-Fi Shows to Watch on Amazon Prime

This week brought the news that all four seasons, plus the miniseries and the made-for-TV movie, of the Battlestar Galactica revival are now easily accessible on Amazon Prime. That addition means the streamer—which is already an excellent destination for sci-fi films—has even more reason to lure in fans of deep-space shenanigans, wasteland adventures, and alien encounters. Once you re-watch Battlestar (here’s the link), here are 10 more sci-fi series to check out with your Amazon Prime account. Fallout Fallout raked in huge ratings for the streamer and is still going strong a month after its release—so there’s a good chance most sci-fi fans have already binged it. If you haven’t, it’s high time to rustle up your best retro-chic, post-apocalyptic outlaw gear and watch for falling nukes. Watch on Prime Video. The Expanse In our imaginations, The Expanse made it to nine seasons just like the novel series did. In reality, one of the best sci-fi shows ever—which started off on Syfy and then was saved from a prematurely abrupt end by Prime Video—ended after its sixth season. It’s worth the ride every time, no matter what. Watch on Prime Video. Fringe J.J. Abrams co-created this cult-beloved series starring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, and John Noble (plus a recurring character played by Leonard Nimoy) that riffs on The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, and Abrams’ own Lost. Watch on Freevee. Outer Range Season two arrives May 16, so the timing could not be better to binge the first season of Josh Brolin’s wonderfully strange sci-fi Western about a rancher who discovers a cosmically mysterious hole in his pasture. Watch on Prime Video. Star Trek: The Original Series All three seasons of the remastered original series are streaming on Prime Video, for any time you feel the urge to climb aboard the USS Enterprise and boldly go with OG Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the gang. The Peripheral We’re still bummed that a second season of this William Gibson adaptation was announced, then scrapped—but if you don’t mind a cliffhanger-y season finale that will forever dangle, the first and only season (created by the folks behind Fallout and Westworld) offers intriguing cyber-mysteries galore. Watch on Prime Video. Firefly Joss Whedon’s reputation has tarnished, but his charming, Western-tinged space adventure series, which sadly ran for just one season, remains as delightful as ever. Rent or buy on Prime Video. Farscape Another cult-favorite sci-fi series, this Australian-American co-production ran for four seasons starting in 1999 and features aliens crafted by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Watch on Freevee. The Man in the High Castle Ridley Scott was among the producers of this Philip K. Dick alt-history adaptation—imagining what the world would be like, had the Axis powers won World War II. It ran for four seasons and racked up critical acclaim. Watch on Prime Video. The Twilight Zone The original Twilight Zone, created by Rod Serling, has remained highly influential in the decades since its initial airing from 1959-1964—and is still startling and scary even today. Watch on Freevee.

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Einstein and anime: How a Hong Kong university is testing the use of ‘AI lecturers’

By Holmes Chan Using virtual reality headsets, students at a Hong Kong university travel to a pavilion above the clouds to watch an AI-generated Albert Einstein explain game theory. The students are part of a course at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) that is testing the use of “AI lecturers” as the artificial intelligence revolution hits campuses around the world. The mass availability of tools such as ChatGPT has sparked optimism about new leaps in productivity and teaching, but also fears over cheating, plagiarism and the replacement of human instructors. Professor Pan Hui, the project lead for HKUST’s AI project, is not worried about being replaced by the tech and believes it can actually help ease what he described as a global shortage of teachers. “AI teachers can bring in diversity, bring in an interesting aspect, and even immersive storytelling,” Hui told AFP. In his “Social Media for Creatives” course, AI-generated instructors teach 30 post-graduate students about immersive technologies and the impact of digital platforms. These instructors are generated after presentation slides are fed into a programme. The looks, voices and gestures of the avatars can be customised, and they can be displayed on a screen or VR headsets. This is mixed with in-person teaching by Hui, who says the system frees human lecturers from the “more tedious” parts of their job. For student Lerry Yang, whose PhD research focuses on the metaverse, the advantage of AI lecturers was in the ability to tailor them to individual preferences and boost learning. If the AI teacher “makes me feel more mentally receptive, or if it feels approachable and friendly, that erases the feeling of distance between me and the professor”, she told AFP. ‘Everybody’s doing it’ Educators around the world are grappling with the growing use of generative AI, from trying to reliably detect plagiarism to setting the boundaries for the use of such tools. While initially hesitant, most Hong Kong universities last year allowed students to use AI to degrees that vary from course to course. At HKUST, Hui is testing avatars with different genders and ethnic backgrounds, including the likenesses of renowned academic figures such as Einstein and the economist John Nash. “So far, the most popular type of lecturers are young, beautiful ladies,” Hui said. An experiment with Japanese anime characters split opinion, said Christie Pang, a PhD student working with Hui on the project. “Those who liked it really loved it. But some students felt they couldn’t trust what (the lecturer) said,” she said. There could be a future where AI teachers surpass humans in terms of trustworthiness, Hui said, though he said he preferred a mix of the two. “We as university teachers will better take care of our students in, for example, their emotional intelligence, creativity and critical thinking,” he said. For now, despite the wow factor for students, the technology is far from the level where it could pose a serious threat to human teachers. It cannot interact with students or answer questions and like all AI-powered content generators, it can offer false, even bizarre answers — sometimes called “hallucinations”. In a survey of more than 400 students last year, University of Hong Kong professor Cecilia Chan found that respondents preferred humans over digital avatars. “(Students) still prefer to talk to a real person, because a real teacher would provide their own experience, feedback and empathy,” said Chan, who researches the intersection of AI and education. “Would you prefer to hear from a computer ‘Well done’?” That said, students are already using AI tools to help them learn, Chan added. “Everybody’s doing it.” At HKUST, Hui’s student Yang echoed that view: “You just can’t go against the advancement of this technology.” Support HKFP | Policies & Ethics | Error/typo? | Contact Us | Newsletter | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

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'Vigilantes' recording assaults have gardaí very concerned 

Gardaí are very concerned at comments accompanying the videos, or in replies and in reposts, endorsing the violence and encouraging more of it against immigrants or “foreigners”. On Thursday, at the Grand Canal Docks, Dublin, a man suffered significant injuries after being kicked in the head by attackers who accused him of trying to grab a child in a nearby playground. Gardaí had received calls about a male, thought to be the man attacked, acting in a “concerning manner” in the area. When they arrived at Grand Canal Plaza, they found a man lying flat out on the ground after being assaulted. Gardaí thought the man had significant mental health issues, and sources said he could easily have suffered serious brain damage or worse in the assault. The man, described as Eastern European, was charged yesterday with public order offences, including being verbally abusive and refusing to give gardaí his name. Mock-up images of the man lying outstretched have been circulated online by far-right individuals, including election candidates, as a warning Garda sources said they had yet to receive a complaint regarding any alleged incident involving the man and a child, or any report from a witness, prompting them to issue an appeal looking for anyone who “directly observed” the male interacting with the child. In a second incident recorded in Dublin’s north inner city, a video shows a man crossing the road to punch an apparent foreign national who had allegedly flashed at a schoolchild. The attacker pursued his target before the victim fell and the attacker repeatedly punched him. In an assault in Cork City, another man was beaten to the ground and kicked several times in the head by a hooded attacker. An accomplice hurled abuse at the man as he recorded the assault. It was widely circulated online, including by prominent far-right agitators — some of them candidates in the upcoming local and European Parliament elections. The assault victim, according to social media posts, had allegedly sexually assaulted a boy in a toilet in Merchants Quay Shopping Centre last Thursday. Gardaí have confirmed they are investigating “an incident” at Merchants Quay on May 2. They did not provide information regarding a subsequent assault on the same man. In a separate incident, on Thursday, in Newbridge, Kildare, a video was uploaded in which a woman alleged that she and her child had been approached by a “non-national” who told her he wanted to take her daughter. “What’s concerning is ‘vigilante’ types who decide to carry out a violent assault and kick people in the head, which could inflict brain damage or worse — and record it,” a senior Garda source said. “Then you have the usual people, with very large following, who send the video out. What’s really scary is the volume of support for this violence and the incitement for further violence.” Another source said: “There are people, including election candidates, who are promoting this violence.”

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