SPOTLIGHT: WHY ORLANDO IS DIFFERENT
After every horrific attack on the innocent, the press and public take stock of what has been wrought by turning to the past. And so it is with the cold-blooded killing of 50 people early Sunday in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. We recall mass shootings in places like Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook, and indeed the toll in Florida has surpassed them all as the deadliest such use of firearms in U.S. history. Reports that the shooter, Omar Mateen, had links to Islamic terrorists takes our thoughts not only to the Sept. 11 and San Bernardino attacks on American soil but also the targeting of civilians by ISIS and other groups nearly every day in the Middle East and Africa. Orlando, likewise, traces a straight line back to this past Nov. 13 in Paris, where young peopleâ€™s lives were cut short for simply trying to enjoy a weekend evening with friends in some restaurant or concert hall.
But Sundayâ€™s horror is bound to be forever tied to another place, called Stonewall. Thatâ€™s the name of a New York City gay bar that became the symbol for the burgeoning gay rights movement in the U.S. and beyond, after it was raided by police in 1969. The nightclub targeted Sunday, Pulse, also catered to the LGBT crowd; and no doubt when the identities of the victims are ultimately determined, it will be the highest death toll of an attack on gay, lesbian and transgender Americans ever.
In a better world than the one we have now, such an act might actually serve to unite very different kinds of people in defense of the sanctity of any and every life. Instead, chillingly, it appears to already be uniting those who would otherwise be enemies in their shared hate. Much has been made of how far LGBT rights have come in the past few years. Sadly, hatred and ignorance â€" and violence â€" are keeping pace.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- Oscar Pistorius returns to court for the murder of Reeva Steenkamp.
- Appleâ€™s annual Worldwide Developers Conference kicks off in San Francisco. Hereâ€™s what to expect.
- Goldman Sachs vs. Libyaâ€™s sovereign fund trial opens in Londonâ€™s High Court.
- Saudi Arabiaâ€™s deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to meet Barack Obama and Ban Ki-moon.
THE FIGHT FOR SIRTE
ISIS militants carried out three suicide car bombings in the Libyan city of Sirte, as the Libyan unity governmentâ€™s forces continue to fight jihadists to retake control of the city. Libyan forces had made gains over the weekend, after intense fighting, CNN reports.
PHILIPPINES ISIS-AFFILIATES EXECUTE CANADIAN HOSTAGE
Abu Sayyaf, a jihadist group in the Philippines that has sworn allegiance to ISIS, executed a Canadian hostage, Robert Hall, after the deadline passed for a multi-million dollar ransom, The Inquirer reports.
FRANCE BANS ALCOHOL AMID EURO 2016 VIOLENCE
Franceâ€™s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has issued a ban of sales of alcohol around stadiums and fan zones after the violence that marred the first weekend of the Euro 2016.
- English and Russian hooligans clashed in the city of Marseille before and after the Saturday evening game, with locals also taking part in the violence and sometimes even provoking them, according to Le Figaro. The UEFA has warned both countries that they could be expelled from the competition in case of more violence.
- A French prosecutor announced this morning that six Britons, one Austrian and three Frenchmen will be tried today for their role in the events. He added that police had failed to arrest any of the 150 Russian hooligans, who were â€œextremely well-trained.â€
- In Nice, a Northern Ireland fan died after an 8-meter fall.
â€" ON THIS DAY
From Iran to China and the U.S., hereâ€™s your 57-second shot of History! (Oh, and also, the Olsen twins are turning 30. Yes, 30.)
â€œNo one is interested in increased trade wars,â€ German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a speech to the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing yesterday, in reference to Chinese steel dumping. Read more in English from Deutsche Welle.
A mystery bidder is giving close to $3.5 million to charity to have dinner with Warren Buffett. The annual auction has raised $23 million since it began in 2000.
For centuries, Grasse in southeastern France has been a flower-growing hub for the fragrance industry. Though regular business from luxury titans has been a lifeline for local farmers, they're finding it hard to survive in the globalized market. For Le Monde, Nicole Vulser stops and smells the roses: â€œAt the beginning of the last century, the fields stretched as far as the eye could see between the Esterel Mountains and the sea; but now, there's almost nothing left. Intense land speculation took its toll, and housing developments eventually replaced the flowers. ... The flower-growing profession has been killed off by the massive offshoring of floriculture to countries with low-cost labor such as Bulgaria, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and India, and by the arrival of synthetic ingredients in the perfume industry. And yet, in this industry that seemed to be dying, new floral career interests are blossoming.â€
Read the full article, Flower Farmers Hope France Keeps Its Nose For Perfume.
ITALY RESCUES HUNDREDS OF MIGRANTS
Italian coastguards picked up 1,230 migrants in nine rescue operations yesterday in the waters between Sicily and North Africa. At least one person was found dead. A total of more than 4,000 migrants have reached Italyâ€™s shores in the past five days.
IRAN & â€œTEMPORARY MARRIAGESâ€
In Iran, people are experimenting more with Western-style affairs of the heart, in other words â€" "shacking up" rather than rushing into marriage. Read more about it on Le Blog.
ISRAEL LIFTS WEST BANK TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
Israel lifted a West Bank closure implemented after last weekâ€™s shooting in Tel Aviv and eased restrictions on the hometown of the two gunmen who killed four people, The Times of Israel reports.
MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
Hard To Process â€" Ronda, 1968
Hamilton, a musical about the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, had a historic night at the Tony Awards, with 11 wins â€" just one trophy shy of the record held by The Producers from 2001.
â€" MORE STORIES, BROUGHT TO YOU BY WORLDCRUNCH
- Nagorno-Karabakh, A 25-Year Border War Reignites With Religion â€" La Stampa
- The Limits Of China's First Anti-Domestic Violence Law â€" KBR
- The Rush Of Capitalism Defies Eternal Concepts Of Time â€" Clarin
CAMBODIAN LOST CITIES
What if Cambodia was the worldâ€™s biggest empire during the European â€œMiddle Agesâ€? The incredible discovery of large cities hidden beneath the Cambodian jungle suggests that might have been just the case.
Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.
"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.
Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.
But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.
The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."
Criticism of any 'royal project'
The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.
Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.
In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release
Freedom of speech at stake
"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."
The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.
The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.
Activist in front of democracy monument in Thailand.
Shift to social media
While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.
The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.
Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".
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