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Co-Pilot "Practiced" Crash, Netanyahu Deadline, Sumo Babies

Co-Pilot "Practiced" Crash, Netanyahu Deadline, Sumo Babies

FUEL SHORTAGES HIT AID AGENCIES IN YEMEN

Aid agencies working amid airstrikes in Yemen have warned that they might have to halt their efforts due to fuel shortages, thus preventing them from helping hospitals and carrying humanitarian aid to millions of people, Reuters reports. Airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition meanwhile continue to hit Houthi rebels’ positions, killing 43 civilians overnight, according to Houthi sources. This came after the Houthis attacked a Saudi town along the border, killing at least two civilians and capturing five soldiers.


GERMANWINGS CO-PILOT REHEARSED CRASH

Andreas Lubitz, the Germanwings co-pilot suspected of deliberately crashing a plane on March 24, killing all 150 on board, tried a controlled descent on the previous flight that morning from Düsseldorf to Barcelona. Lubitz set the plane into a descent, then brought it back up again five times, French air accident investigators said in a new report.


TEXAS ATTACK INVESTIGATION CONTINUES

U.S. counterterrorism investigators are looking into ISIS’ claims that it was behind Sunday’s Texas attack but have “so far seen no indication that the assailants were directed by the group,” The Washington Post reports. One official said it appeared likely that the role played by ISIS in the plot was “inspirational” rather than “operational.” According to The New York Times, one of the gunmen had left a trail of extremist messages on Twitter.


SNAPSHOT

Photo: Stringer/Xinhua/ZUMA

Around 110 babies took part Tuesday in a “baby-cry sumo” competition at a shrine in Japan’s Kanagawa prefecture, near Tokyo. The peculiar 400-year-old tradition is believed to bring good health to the tiny wrestlers.


25%

California’s water board approved emergency drought regulations yesterday aiming for a 25% reduction in urban water use, The Los Angeles Times reports. “It's a collective issue we all need to rise to,” water board chairwoman Felicia Marcus said.


HUMAN TRAFFICKING RISKS IN NEPAL

As help slowly reaches remote villages in Nepal 10 days after the devastating earthquake that killed at least 7,500 people, the United Nations and local NGOs have warned that human trafficking networks were targeting young women there to supply a prostitution network across southern Asia. Read the full story from The Guardian.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



U.S. ALLOWS FLORIDA-CUBA FERRIES

For the first time in over 50 years, the U.S. has authorized four Florida companies to launch commercial services to Cuba, a new step forward in the two countries’ rapprochement strategy, the Sun Sentinel reports. Expected to start “within weeks,” the ferry services will offer round trip tickets for $300 to $350, less than the price of charter flights.


VERBATIM

“At a moment when American lawmakers are reconsidering the broad surveillance powers assumed by the government after Sept. 11, the lower house of the French Parliament took a long stride in the opposite direction Tuesday, overwhelmingly approving a bill that could give the authorities their most intrusive domestic spying abilities ever, with almost no judicial oversight,” The New York Times’ Paris correspondent Alissa Rubin writes about France’s new Patriot Act-inspired bill.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

According to L’Obs’ Philippe Boulet-Gercourt, it is time to start asking harder questions about the world's largest company — both how it runs its business and how it conditions our lives: “Everyone everywhere wants to know whether Apple's magic touch can survive the death of company's founder. But there are other questions, in the meantime, that people aren't asking, questions that could or should have been raised a long time ago. Only that we were all too mesmerized by the wizard of Cupertino’s shiny gadgets to care. What is this giant company that governs our everyday life? How does it manage to influence our every moment — and to such an unbelievable extent? Who are the people hiding behind the impenetrable walls of one of the most secretive companies in the world? And what kind of philosophy do they follow? These are not trivial questions.”

Read the full article, Is Apple Evil? This Silicon Valley Honeymoon Must End.


DEADLINE FOR NETANYAHU

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu has until midnight to assemble a coalition government if he is to remain as prime minister. As negotiations enter the final stage, Haaretz reports that former Economy Minister and leader of the far-right Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett is likely to be in government. “Bennett extorted us, and in this case, it seems his extortion will work for him. But extortion comes at a price, and Bennett will have to pay dearly in the future,” a senior Likud official told the newspaper.


ON THIS DAY


Happy birthday, George Clooney! What else, you ask? Check it here on your 57-second shot of history.


POLITICAL HANKY-PANKY

The UK is going to the polls tomorrow but the data that caught our eye this morning came from the Election Infidelity Index: Illicit Encounters, the dating site for married people, analyzed postcode data to reveal the constituencies in which they have the most users and it seems the Conservatives have just edged out Labour here — but will they tomorrow?

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Geopolitics

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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