SPOTLIGHT: "PROVOCATIVE" FRENCH BURKINIS
In France, like elsewhere in the Western world, summer is about going to the beach. Unlike elsewhere in the Western world, this summer it has also become about what women can and cannot wear at public beaches. In what has become a uniquely French flashpoint, so-called burkinis â€" swimsuits that cover the whole body, worn by religious Muslims â€" have been banned by several coastal towns.
The latest is the picturesque destination of Sisco, on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, where Mayor Ange-Pierre Vivoni annouced the burkini ban after local youths clashed with beachgoers of North African descent this weekend, reportedly after burkini-clad women objected to their photograph being taken.
France bans headscarves at schools and full-face veils in public under its 1905 law on laïcité, or secularism, which had originally been developed to counter the influence of the Catholic Church. In recent years, the law has been criticized for unfairly singling out Muslims. The Corsican townâ€™s ban on burkinis comes after a similar proscription in the cities of Cannes and Villeneuve-Loubet.
France, of course, has seen major attacks by jihadists over the past 18 months. Sisco Mayor Vivoni told expand=1] radio station France Info that locals are scared, and the public wearing of burqas are â€œprovocations.â€ Vivoni, apparently, found no irony in resorting to the same logic religious fundamentalists use to force women to cover their bodies â€" on and off the beach. There is, it seems, something to feed the clash of cultures in every season.
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Digging for â€œNazi goldâ€ train begins in Poland.
Rio Olympics: medal events in badminton, gymnastics, diving, and table tennis.
Gawker Media goes on sale.
MAJOR PRISONER TRANSFER FROM GUANTANAMO
The United States has announced the transfer of 15 detainees from the prison in Guantanamo Bay, the largest such transfer during Barack Obamaâ€™s presidency. Twelve Yemeni and three Afghan prisoners will be relocated from the prison on the island of Cuba to the United Arab Emirates, bringing the number of Guantanamo detainees down to a low of 61 from 242 when Obama took office in 2009. Read more from the Wall Street Journal.
AIRSTRIKE HITS HOSPITAL IN YEMEN
An airstrike hit a hospital operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in northern Yemen yesterday, leaving at least 11 people dead and 19 injured. The attack occurred in territory controlled by Houthi rebels fighting the Yemeni government in the countryâ€™s civil war.
â€" ON THIS DAY
Usain Boltâ€™s 2009 world record, Elvis Presley and Madonna in today's shot of history.
CHINA LAUNCHES â€œHACK-PROOFâ€ SATELLITE
China launched a â€œhack-proofâ€ quantum communications satellite today, the first of its kind in the world. The satellite uses quantum photons to establish communications, rendering it immune to wiretapping and interception, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua.
Recalling his last year and a half as the editor of Turkish opposition daily Cumhuriyet, Can Dündar describes â€œattacks, threats, trial, arrest, prison, isolation, insults,â€ and more in his column announcing his resignation from the newspaper. â€œIn July, I had asked for a short break from my newspaper: I would rest a little after this tiring adventure, write my book and then come back to work. Then the bloody coup attempt on July 15 came, and it showed how serious indeed were our warnings up until that point. But the government held us accountable instead of answering for their deep involvement with the coup plotters. All signs were pointing to a new lawlessness and a long period of imprisonment.â€ Read the full article â€" Turkish Editor Can Dündar: Why I Am Forced Into Exile.
BAN KI-MOON WANTS WOMAN SUCCESSOR
â€œWe have many distinguished and eminent women leaders in national governments and other organizations,â€ said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, announcing his preference for a female successor. â€œThereâ€™s no reason why not in the United Nations.â€
EARTHQUAKE IN PERU LEAVES NINE DEAD
A 5.4 magnitude earthquake struck the southern Peruvian region of Arequipa yesterday, killing at least nine people and displacing more than 1,000 families. See photographs from Lima-based daily El Comercio.
â€" MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
No Limo Today â€" Philadelphia, 1990
ZAMBIAN OPPOSITION ALLEGES FRAUD
Zambiaâ€™s main opposition party has alleged fraud after incumbent President Edgar Lungu was declared the winner yesterday of last weekâ€™s election with 50.35% of the vote, less than three points ahead of opponent Hakainde Hichilema. Read more from the Zambia Post.
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CATALANS PETITION FOR SPECIAL EMOJI
A Catalan cultural association is petitioning the messaging app WhatsApp to include a new emoji depicting a porrón, a traditional spouted glass pitcher. According to Barcelona-based daily La Vanguardia the petition has received over 1,000 signatures, and its promoters argue the wine flask is easily passed hand to hand, helping fellow drinkers â€œbuild community.â€
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.
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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