TURKEY BLAMES ISIS FOR DEADLIEST TERROR ATTACK
No group has claimed responsibility for Saturdayâ€™s bombings in the Turkish capital of Ankara, the deadliest terror attack in the countryâ€™s history, but Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu says the prime suspect is ISIS, Hürriyet reports. The attack is believed to have been executed by two suicide bombers outside the cityâ€™s main railway station, where activists were gathering before a planned protest against the violence between the Turkish government and Kurdish groups. At least 97 people have died, though some sources say the number of victims stands at 128, with hundreds more wounded. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is hoping the upcoming Nov. 1 elections will restore his partyâ€™s parliamentary majority, has already ruled out postponing the vote.
Read more about it on Le Blog here.
PUTIN DEFENDS SYRIA STRIKE CAMPAIGN
Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his countryâ€™s airstrike campaign in support of the Syrian government, using an interview with state broadcaster Rossiya 1 TV to say that itâ€™s aimed at â€œstabilizing the legitimate authority in this country and creating conditions to look for political compromise.â€ Putin, however, ruled out sending ground troops to the war-torn country. Syrian troops, meanwhile, continued to reclaim territory in central Syria, Al Jazeera reports.
- This comes after the U.S. announced it had ended its $500 million efforts to build up and train a rebel force inside Syria, The New York Times reported. Washington will instead focus on sending weapons to existing groups, but experts have been warning that between 60% and 80% of American weapons sent to Syria have ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda and its allies.
Angus Deaton, a British professor at Princeton University, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Science â€œfor his analysis of consumption, poverty and welfare.â€
MERKEL IN A PICKLE
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is becoming increasingly isolated inside her own party and coalition government, with more and more voices rising to criticize her stance on the refugee crisis and polls suggesting a shift in the German mood. Writing in the magazine Der Spiegel, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the Social Democratic Party warned that while the country should continue to help the asylum seekers fleeing war, it â€œwill not be able to take in and integrate more than a million refugees every year.â€ The two SPD leaders also called for increased cooperation with Russia in the Middle East and particularly in Syria. â€œWe must prevent a situation in which state structures in Syria either implode or explode for good, leading even more people to head towards Europe,â€ they wrote. Some believe that as many as 1.5 million refugees could reach Germany this year alone, and there are mounting fears that the countryâ€™s infrastructures are insufficient to deal with the influx. A report in Der Spiegel illustrates the situation showing that a village of just 100 inhabitants will soon welcome 1,000 refugees.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
Facebook paid just 4,327 pounds sterling ($6,647) of corporate tax in the UK in 2014, The Guardian reports. This feat was made possible by an official accounting loss of 28.5 million pounds in the country, after the company paid out more than 35 million pounds to its 362 employees.
WASHINGTON POST JOURNO CONVICTED IN IRAN
Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter arrested in Iran in July 2014, has been convicted but details of the verdict are still unknown, AP reports. Rezaian has been accused of espionage, a charge the newspaper has repeatedly denied.
UN: BRAZIL POLICE MURDER FOR OLYMPIC â€œCLEAN UPâ€
The United Nations has denounced the Brazilian police for killing youths in an attempt to â€œclean upâ€ Rio de Janeiro ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics, according to an exclusive report in O Estado de S. Paulo daily.
ON THIS DAY
Hugh Jackman and Oktoberfest. Weâ€™ve seen worse ways to start a week. This and more in your 57-second shot of history.
Food has so many hidden aspects and profound effects that need to be made visible, César Rodriguez Garavita writes for El Espectador. â€œWhat and how we eat determines how we are using the planet â€" and ultimately what its fate will be, Michael Pollan explained to us in The Omnivore's Dilemma. What goes into our mouths connects three worlds: agriculture, nutrition and the environment. Each has its political, social and fundamental, legal effects. There is a huge difference between farming single crops on a massive scale, on the one hand, and small-scale farming with a rotation of sustainable crops; between raising poultry in cramped warehouses and pumping livestock full of antibiotics, or raising animals in adequate conditions.â€
Read the full article, The Ultimate Political Act: Eating.
ISRAEL VIOLENCE CONTINUES
Tensions remain high in Israel and Palestinian territories after days of violent killings. An Arab assailant was shot dead this morning after he tried to stab an Israeli policeman, and four Israelis were stabbed yesterday, Haaretz reports. Israeli troops killed a 13-year-old Palestinian boy in Ramallah yesterday during a protest, while a woman and a child were reported dead after Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. At least 33 Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank this morning, according to The Jerusalem Post.
BELARUS PRESIDENT WINS FIFTH TERM
Photo: Lu Jinbo/Xinhua/ZUMA
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was reelected yesterday for a fifth term in office, winning 83.5% of the vote in an election that most of the opposition boycotted. The vote was monitored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the organizationâ€™s report to be published later today could suggest the European Union lift sanctions against the country.
â€œDo you really think that this country is going to elect a black guy from the South Side of Chicago with a funny name to be president of the United States? That is crazy!â€ President Barack Obama joked after offering some â€œadviceâ€ to Kanye West, who announced he wanted to run for president in 2020.
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.
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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