Black Lives Matter, From Baltimore To Brazil

Ever since the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore last year, the Black Lives Matter movement has been growing exponentially, both in citizen participation and in media attention. The Black Lives Matter cause was even exported abroad, with similar protests in Paris, Rio de Janeiro and other cities around the globe. Right now, much of the focus in the U.S. is around the ongoing protest by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refuses to stand for the National Anthem before games to raise attention around police violence aimed at African-Americans.

But digging further, we see that black lives continue to suffer, and not just in America, and not just around police violence. We’re publishing today the translation of a disturbing report from Folha de S. Paulo revealing that eight out of ten babies affected by the Zika virus in Brazil were born of black or mixed-race mothers. The regions bearing the brunt of the virus are to be found in the northeast region of the country, where poverty is widespread. But even among the worse-off of all races, blacks are overrepresented in the number of babies born with microcephaly and other brain malformations caused by Zika. This, in turn, is only bound to widen the inequality gap between the black and pardo (mixed-race) communities on the one hand, and the predominantly white middle-class on the other.

The burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement has, until now, mainly focused on U.S. police brutality. But this example from Brazil shows that racial injustice, and the legacy of slavery throughout the Americas, is brutal in many ways and places.



The Obama administration has reached an “unprecedented” military aid deal with Israel worth $38 billion over the next 10 years, The Washington Post reports. This is more than the U.S. has ever provided to any country, but it’s significantly less than what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asking for. For The Jerusalem Post Herb Keinon writes that the deal “sends a powerful message to Israel’s enemies.”


Brazil’s new government has unveiled a sweeping plan to try and pull the economy out of recession, O Globo reports. Along with privatizations of state firms, the government will also cut its infrastructure investments (except in much-needed sanitization works) and will bring in simpler rules and incentives to boost private investment. According to Folha de S. Paulo, four airports and two port terminals will be auctioned within the next year to private-sector bidders.


From Pakistan to Monaco, here’s your 57-second shot of history.


A group of Russian hackers has leaked files from the World Anti-Doping Agency about three U.S. Olympic athletes, the tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, and teenage gymnast phenomenon Simone Biles, The New York Times reports. The leaked documents show that they had “received medical exemptions to use banned drugs,” but do not appear to point to any wrongdoing. Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, said the Kremlin was not behind the cyber attack.


UEFA, European soccer's governing body, has elected Aleksander Ceferin, 48, of Slovenia, as its new chief to succeed France’s Michel Platini, who resigned after being banned from the sport for ethics violations. More from the BBC


History mostly knows him as the disgraced architect of the Vietnam War, but he first made his mark in the corporate world with his mastery of numbers before it was as fashionable as it is today. For French financial daily Les Echos, Tristan Gaston-Breton draws a portrait of Robert McNamara and how he revolutionized the car industry: “Those who knew him well described the California native as cold and distant â€" and he was never taken by the pursuit of material things either. For this onetime top Ford Motors executive, cars were nothing more than a method of transport.

McNamara was drawn, instead, to numbers. He was able to maximize company profits because he knew markets intimately. He could build an efficient organization based on data alone.”

Read the full article, How Robert McNamara And The Whiz Kids Invented Big Data.


“Killing in God’s name is Satanic.” Those sharp words punctuated a homily given this morning by Pope Francis, in honor of slain Father Jacques Hamel, the French priest whose throat was slit last July by a man who’d pledged his allegiance to the Islamic terror group ISIS.


Shimon Peres is in stable but serious condition after suffering a massive stroke yesterday, Haaretz quotes his doctor as saying. The former Israeli president, aged 93, has had heart problems recently and reportedly received a pacemaker last week.


Could China and Japan’s dispute over the Diaoyu (or Senkaku, for the Japanese) Islands lead to war? Eighty percent of Japanese seem to believe so, with 35% saying they were “very concerned.” Read more from The Japan Times.


Our Ladies Of The Snow â€" Zonza, 1969


Scientists have warned that Sakurajima, one of Japan’s most active volcanoes, is due for a large-scale eruption in the next 30 years. It’s located on the Kyushu island, 30 miles from a nuclear power plant and close to Kagoshima, a city of 600,000 inhabitants.



Researchers in Britain have brought to life a litter of mice without fertilizing eggs with sperm, opening up the possibility that they might, one day, be able to create babies without an egg. With that method, a baby could theoretically be born of two fathers.

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

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.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"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.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

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.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

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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