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ISIS Figures In Sinai Crash, Mexico’s Legal Pot, Tinder In

ISIS Figures In Sinai Crash, Mexico’s Legal Pot, Tinder In

ISIS MAY HAVE CAUSED SINAI CRASH AFTER ALL

There is significant evidence that an ISIS affiliate in Egypt was behind a suspected bomb attack on a Russian passenger plane that killed 224 people over the Sinai Peninsula Saturday, UK, U.S. and European officials told The Guardian. But Egypt and Russia still urge caution on making judgments about what caused the crash.

  • The ISIS affiliate claimed responsibility for bringing down the Russian aircraft immediately after the crash. “We’ve looked at the whole information picture, including that claim, but of course lots of other bits of information as well, and concluded that there is a significant possibility,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.
  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told the BBC that “the investigation will be disclosed with all transparency” and that the country has nothing to hide. “We do not want to rush into conclusions,” he said. “We all share the same concerns. We want to know the reasons behind it.”
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted in a press conference today that “any sort of version of what happened can only be put forward by the investigation.” He added that “assumptions like this are based on information that has not been checked or are speculation.”

4,800

Deforestation in Brazil has been drastically reduced since the mid-2000s, but as many as 4,800 square kilometers of forests are still destroyed every year in the Amazon, according to an OECD report quoted in O Globo. That’s about four times the size of a major city like Rio de Janeiro disappearing each year. But the organization praised the country for its development of green energy, which covered 40% of Brazil’s energy production in 2012.


DOZENS TRAPPED IN PAKISTAN FACTORY

Photo: Jamil Ahmed/Xinhua/ZUMA

Search and rescue teams in Lahore, Pakistan, are conducting a major operation to save dozens of people believed to be trapped in the rubble of a collapsed factory, Al Jazeera reports. At least 18 people were killed and 75 injured when the building, which was under construction, collapsed yesterday. The cause of the incident is unknown, but it could be linked to a powerful magnitude-7.5 earthquake that killed at least 390 people in Pakistan and Afghanistan two weeks ago, The Guardian reports.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Though homophobia is not itself a mental illness, a new study finds that people who are prejudiced against gays and lesbians often do have mental disorders, Anna Kroning reports for Die Welt. But it’s unclear what we’re supposed to do with this insight. “Researchers have analyzed what psychological problems most often arise in combination with an animosity towards homosexuals. Further, they discovered that depressive and neurotic people are less likely to develop a negative attitude towards same-sex love.”

Read the full article, Study Finds Link Between Homophobia And Mental Illness.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



ROMANIAN PROTESTS ENTER SECOND NIGHT

For a second consecutive night, at least 20,000 people demonstrated in Bucharest late Wednesday, demanding early elections and political reforms, Romanian daily Nine O’Clock reports. The demonstrations happened in the capital’s University Square, outside the parliament and the Colectiv club, where a deadly fire killed 32 people last Friday, fueling anger across the country. The fire is believed to have been caused by the absence of safety measures stemming from corruption, a long-standing problem in the country. Prime Minister Victor Ponta and the mayor of the district of Bucharest resigned yesterday over the incident in the hope of satisfying “the people who came out in the streets.”


TWO REFUGEE KIDS DIE EVERY DAY

“Everyday, two Alyans,” French daily Libération writes on Thursday's front page, which also features a photograph of the body of a yet-to-be-identified 10-year-old Afghan boy washed up on a beach of the Greek island of Lesbos, off the coast of Turkey. The picture and headline both echo the similar drowning death of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi whose body was found on Turkey's shores two months ago. Read more in Le Blog.


MEXICO CLOSER TO LEGALIZING MARIJUANA

Mexico’s supreme court ruled yesterday that the country’s ban on growing, possessing and using marijuana for recreational purposes was unconstitutional, newspaper Excélsior reports. The court authorized four plaintiffs from the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Self-Consumption to grow and smoke their own marijuana. The decision is a first in a country that has faced drug cartel violence for decades, and could pave the way for nationwide legalization.


ON THIS DAY


It turns out that British actress Tilda Swinton and Android share a birthday. That and more in today’s shot of history.


TINDER IN

A Belgium-based artist put the LinkedIn and Tinder profile pictures of the same random people side by side to see the contrast between how they present themselves to potential employers versus what they want possible partners to see. The results are pretty interesting.

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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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