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Iran Approves Nuke Deal, Cardinals Question Pope, Playboy Buttons Up

Iran Approves Nuke Deal, Cardinals Question Pope, Playboy Buttons Up

IRAN LAWMAKERS APPROVE NUCLEAR DEAL

Iran’s parliament today approved the nuclear agreement reached in July with six world powers, clearing the way for its implementation, state news agency IRNA reports. The deal was passed with 161 votes for, 59 against and 13 abstentions. It authorizes lifting sanctions against Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program. But the Iranian parliament insisted that international inspectors would have only limited access to military sites.


SNAPSHOT

Photo: Halit Onur Sandal/NurPhoto/ZUMA

Hundreds of people gathered in Ankara yesterday for a funeral honoring victims of Saturday’s twin suicide bombings that killed 97 people in Turkey’s capital.


REPORT: RUSSIAN MISSILE DOWNED MH17

The missile that brought down the MH17 flight over Ukraine last year, killing all 298 passengers and crew who were flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was a Russian-made BUK, the Dutch Safety Board concluded in a final report presented today, Volkskrant reports. The report also says the missile was fired from a pro-Russian rebel-controlled area in eastern Ukraine. “It can be assumed that the rebels would not be able to operate such a device,” a source close to the investigation told the Dutch daily. “I suspect the involvement of former Russian military officials.” Meanwhile, the Russian arms manufacturer Almaz-Antey, which makes the BUK missiles, presented its own investigation on the matter today. According to The Guardian, its report said the missile that struck the plane was part of a stock dating from before 1999 and shot from an area under the Ukrainian army’s control.


10,683

With 1,245 dengue cases reported over just two days and the total number of affected people reaching 10,683 in Delhi, India, the outbreak this year is the worst in nearly two decades, the Hindustan Times reports.


THREE DEAD IN PALESTINIAN “DAY OF RAGE”

Palestinian men armed with knives and a gun killed at least three people and wounded several others in a string of attacks in Jerusalem and near Tel Aviv today during a "Day of Rage" declared by Palestinian groups, Reuters quoted police as saying.


SECRET LETTER QUESTIONS POPE

A letter delivered to Pope Francis, reportedly signed by 13 Roman Catholic cardinals, questions whether the pontiff has organized the ongoing Synod on the Family in such a way that ensures “predetermined results on important controversial issues,” Italian weekly magazine L'Espresso has reported. Read more from Le Blog.


MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD



U.S. AIRDROPS AMMO TO SYRIAN REBELS

U.S. cargo planes airdropped 50 tons of small arms ammunitions and other supplies Sunday to Syrian rebels fighting ISIS in northern Syria, ABC News reports. “This successful airdrop provided ammunition to Syrian Arab groups whose leaders were appropriately vetted by the United States and have been fighting” to remove ISIS, Pentagon spokesperson Col. Steve Warren said. The move is part of a shift by Washington to directly equip existing moderate rebel groups instead of training fighters. The Pentagon refused to say which groups received Sunday’s airdrop. Washington announced recently that it could fund and equip Arab commanders on the ground who cooperate with the YPG Kurdish militia.

  • Meanwhile, Al-Hayat quotes YPG head Sipan Hamo as saying that a U.S.-backed attack to drive ISIS from its Syrian base of operations in Raqqa is expected within weeks.
  • Abu Mohamed al-Jolani, the head of al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, has called on jihadists in the Caucasus to attack Russian civilians and soldiers in retaliation for Moscow’s airstrikes in Syria, the AFP reports.
  • Two shells hit the Russian embassy in Damascus this morning during a pro-Russian demonstration that drew about 300 people, Le Monde reports. There were no casualties reported.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

While officials in the Argentine city of Bariloche insist it was never a “Nazi refuge,” a tidy little tourist business is growing around visits to local sites associated with Nazi war criminals like Josef Mengele and Adolf Eichmann, Claudio Andrade reports for Clarin. “Bariloche is first and foremost a mountain resort city. But thanks to the post-World War II migration of Nazis to the area, it also developed something of a sinister reputation as a refuge for European fascists,” Andrade writes. “Suspicions it had become their favored hideout were confirmed with the arrest in 1995 of another local resident, former SS captain Erich Priebke. Despite this dual identity, it took the tourism industry 40 years to think of cashing in the city's unsavory past. As of last year, visitors can now take ‘Nazi tours,’ which consist of almost ‘secret’ itineraries with very discreet advertising. The tours, nevertheless, have raised interest among independent travel companies and educational institutions from the United States and elsewhere.”

Read the full article, Nazi Tourism And Argentina’s Troubled Past.


ON THIS DAY


Happy birthday to English actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who turns 44 today. Find him and more in today’s 57-second shot of history.


NO MORE NUDE PHOTOS IN PLAYBOY

Though readers can still expect provocative poses, Playboy magazine will no longer publish nude photos of women. “You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free,” Playboy executive Scott Flanders told The New York Times. “And so it’s just passé at this juncture.”

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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

"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.

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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