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G7 Wraps Up, HSBC Layoffs, French Kisses

G7 Wraps Up, HSBC Layoffs, French Kisses

O “COMPLETE STRATEGY” YET FOR ISIS

“We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis as well, about how recruitment takes place, how training takes place,” President Barack Obama told the G7 summit yesterday, speaking of U.S. efforts to combat the ISIS terror organization. His comments come a year after ISIS captured Mosul, a key city in northern Iraq. “We’ve got more training capacity than we’ve got recruits. It’s not happening as fast as it needs to,” he added.

  • Obama also strongly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin, warning that “additional steps” could be taken if Russia were to “double down” on its “aggressive behavior” in Ukraine. “Does he continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation in pursuit of a wrong-headed desire to recreate the glories of the Soviet empire? Or does he recognize that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries?” The Guardian quoted the president as saying.
  • He also praised the U.S. investigation of 14 FIFA officials and marketing executives on corruption charges. “The United States, by the way, since we keep on getting better and better at each World Cup, we want to make sure that a sport that’s gaining popularity is conducted in an upright manner.”
  • Read more about the G7 summit in our Extra! feature.

FORMER FIFA VP PROBED FOR STEALING HAITI FUNDS

Former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, already at the center of the international soccer organization’s corruption scandal, is the target of a new investigation by U.S. prosecutors over the disappearance of emergency funds destined for victims of Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, the BBC reports. The 72-year-old Warner, now a Trinidad and Tobago politician, is accused of diverting $750,000 that FIFA and the Korea Football Organization donated for Haiti’s recovery. The BBC quoted U.S. investigators as saying that the funds instead went towards Warner’s “personal use” in bank accounts he controlled. The Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation made similar claims in 2012. Warner has consistently denied the accusations, dismissing them as a conspiracy. He was arrested last month in Trinidad at the request of U.S. investigators and faces extradition to the U.S. on charges of corruption and money laundering.


ON THIS DAY


It seems infinitely longer, but today marks two years since Edward Snowden leaked classified National Security Agency information to the media, triggering international criticism of U.S. spying tactics. Get your 57-second shot of history here.


HSBC TO CUT 25,000 JOBS

Between 22,000 and 25,000 HSBC jobs, including about 8,000 in the United Kingdom, will be cut throughout the world by the end of 2017, the British bank revealed this morning as part of a drastic restructuring plan. In total, its current workforce will be reduced by 20%.


VERBATIM

“This is a war that is being fought on the bodies of women,” UN envoy Zainab Bangura said yesterday after visiting Iraq and Syria in April to investigate sexual violence that ISIS fighters are perpetrating on young girls and women. He said abducted teenage girls were being sold in slave markets “for as little as a pack of cigarettes,” AFP reports. Bangura spoke to former ISIS captives, met with local religious and political leaders and visited refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. He said the terrorist organization wants “to build a society that reflects the 13th century.”


FOUR DEAD IN CHINA SHOOTING

Four people, two villagers and two police officers, were killed and five others were injured today in a mass shooting by a man armed with a double-barreled hunting gun in China’s northern Hebei province, Xinhua state television reports. The attacker, identified as 55-year-old Liu Shuangrui, reportedly went on a rampage in his village before retreating to his home, where he was found dead early this morning. The exact cause of his death is unknown, but state television reports he was shot. Gun violence is rare in China, where firearms are strictly controlled.


FIREMEN MISSING AFTER BLAZE NEAR KIEV

Emergency services are battling the spread of a deadly fuel depot fire outside Kiev, the head of emergency services there said today. Three firemen were reported missing after the blaze triggered a powerful explosion, Reuters reports.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Those who believe that the FIFA scandal is an exceptional case among international organizations should think again, Die Welt’s Clemens Wergen writes in an op-ed. In fact, global governance organizations are a problem in general. “The UN is just as morally corrupt as FIFA,” Wergen writes. “Just consider the dysfunction of the UN General Assembly or the composition of its offshoots such as the Human Rights Council. There you will find such champions of human rights as Algeria, China, Cuba, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. … At the UN, it is a perversion of the organization’s founding principles when countries like China or Cuba are voted onto the Human Rights Council or when a misogynistic country like Iran is voted onto the Women's Rights Council.”

Read the full article, Outraged By FIFA? The UN Is Just As Corrupt.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



ISRAEL SPARED INCLUSION ON UN OFFENDER LIST

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s latest list of parties that kill or injure children in armed conflict doesn’t include Israel, as some UN officials had recommended, AP reports. But in a report published yesterday, he made clear that the number of Palestinian children killed and injured in Gaza and the West Bank last year â€" in the thousands â€" was unacceptable.


MERS VIRUS KILLS SEVEN IN S. KOREA

Photo:Â Xinhua/ZUMA

A 68-year-old woman is the seventh person to die from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea, and eight new cases of the coronavirus were reported today, The Korea Times reports. This brings the total number of infected people to 95 since the first diagnosis was made on a man returning from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. Health and Welfare Minister Moon Hyung-pyo said that the number of new cases appeared to be declining and targeted people whose health was already fragile. Macao and Hong Kong issued warnings today against traveling to South Korea, Al Jazeera reports.


FRENCH KISSES

Ever wondered how many pecks on the cheek you’re expected to give when greeting people in France? It can be as many as five, and even the French are sometimes uncertain, as this map shows.

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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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