WHILE YOU SLEPT

Istanbul Aftermath, Scotland’s Brexit, Toyota Recall

SPOTLIGHT: AIRPORT TERROR, BRUSSELS TO ISTANBUL

After a week of Brexit uncertainty and anxiety, outright horror has returned to the top of the news. The wail of sirens and scenes of panic are back on our screens after last night’s terrorist attack at Istanbul’s airport killed dozens of people. Yet it is not too much of a stretch to connect the bloodshed in Turkey’s largest city with the administrative-cum-existential angst spreading from London to Brussels. Not only does basic world geography tell us that Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport is firmly on the European continent, but only a few years ago Turkey itself appeared pointed toward European Union membership that many hailed as a bridge between East and West.


There may also be much more literal, and recent, connections. Quoted this morning in the Brussels-based daily Le Soir, Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders pointed to similarities between yesterday’s attack in Istanbul and the one at the Brussels’ airport in March, in both the operational tactics and the targeting of the international terminal. As we know, the attack on the Belgian (and EU) capital was carried out by the terrorist group ISIS. And now Turkish authorities indicate ISIS is the likely culprit in Istanbul as well. These days, no matter what the politicians might say or how the people might vote, the Bosphorus and English Channel seem closer than ever.

  • Witnesses say three attackers used assault weapons and bombs to carry out the attack on one of the world’s busiest airports.
  • The latest toll has risen to 41 dead and 239 wounded
  • The attack, the latest in a long series to hit Turkey this year, took place hours after Turkey mended ties with Israel and Russia, Hürriyet reports. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences after the attack and AFP reports that him and Erdogan held their first phone conversation since Ankara downed one of Moscow's jets in Syria last year.
  • See how Turkish daily Hürriyet “curses” the attackers on its front page.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY



BREXIT: DAY 2 OF EU CRISIS SUMMIT

A summit of European Union leaders in Brussels continues for a second day, without Britain, as the 27 members discuss the Union’s future after Brexit, the BBC reports. Yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron bid farewell to the other leaders, and later said the tone of the meeting was of “sadness and regret,” according to Politico. EU leaders are pushing for Britain to initiate the exit procedures quickly, but it’s still unclear whether Cameron himself will do it or leave it to his successor.

  • British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn lost a vote a confidence among Labour party MPs yesterday, meaning that both Labour, as well as Cameron’s ruling Conservatives, will have to choose a new leader ahead of a potential general election, The Guardian reports. Corbyn refused to resign saying that doing so would betray party members and supporters who “democratically elected” him last year.
  • Asian shares rose today, following similar trends in the U.S. and Europe yesterday after a $3 trillion post-Brexit global rout.

TOYOTA RECALLS 3.37 MILLION CARS

Japanese carmaker Toyota has recalled 3.37 million vehicles worldwide over possible problems with airbags and emissions control units, Reuters reports.


â€" ON THIS DAY

From Marilyn Monroe to ISIS, here’s what happened today in History, in 57 seconds.


CALIFORNIA GETS A VOTE ON MARIJUANA

Voters in California will choose whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana from the age of 21, after an initiative garnered enough signatures to trigger a vote. The “Adult Use of Marijuana Act” would also allow growing up to six pot plants for personal use. Read more from NBC.


EU TO EXTEND GLYPHOSATE LICENSE

The European Commission will extend by 18 months the license for controversial weed-killer glyphosate, despite fears it might provoke cancer, Deutsche Welle reports.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

How I Became the Most German Jew in the World is a title that might surprise someone browsing the bookstore shelves. But its author, Shahak Shapira, is a surprising kind of Jew â€" and German: “Recounting his story recently to the German news agency DPA, Shapira tells about how one of his grandfathers escaped Auschwitz, while the other was murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. In spite of that, his mother decided to move from Israel to a small German town with her German boyfriend when Shapira was 14. The town also happened to be a stronghold for neo-Nazi groups, and so insults such as ‘Jewish pig’ were a part of his growing up, Shapira recalls. ... This personal history has led him to a rather simple conclusion: Racism against anyone, of any background, is ‘stupid.’ He sums it up this way: ‘No religion in this world orders you to be an asshole,’ he says. ‘That is a decision that each and every person is allowed to make themselves.’”

Read the full item on Worldcrunch’s Le Blog, "The World’s Most German Jew" Takes On Neo-Nazis And Tinder Love.


TRIAL OF UBER FOUNDER IN SOUTH KOREA DELAYED

Uber’s co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick was supposed to appear in court in Seoul today for illegally continuing to operate the service after it was banned, but asked again for it to be postponed. Read more from Yonhap.


MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

Horse-Drawn Time Machine â€" Peć, 1966


VERBATIM

“I wasn’t the iceberg. I did not drown 2,000 people.” Actor Billy Zane, most famous for his role of Cal in Titanic said yesterday he believed Rose (Kate Winslet) should have ended up with his character. “He was a little misunderstood,” Zane said.


â€" MORE STORIES, BROUGHT TO YOU BY WORLDCRUNCH

DISSECTING LENIN

A smartphone game that lets you perform an autopsy on Communist leader Lenin has sparked a controversy in Russia.

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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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