JORDAN VOWS “HARSH” WAR VS. ISIS
Jordan’s King Abdullah II has vowed to wage war against terrorist group ISIS. He explained that his country’s response to the killing of a Jordan pilot, shown in a video that has shocked the world, “will be harsh because this terrorist organization is not only fighting us, but also fighting Islam and its pure values,” AP reports. At least 55 ISIS fighters were killed in strikes yesterday from the Jordanian air force in Iraq. A top commander, nicknamed “Prince of Nineveh,” was among the dead.
- A report from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child shed more light on the ISIS monstrosity, citing countless cases of children being beheaded, crucified or buried alive when they’re not sold as sex slaves or left to die from dehydration and hunger. Read the full article from The Independent.
- In the Syrian capital of Damascus, a rebel group calling itself Islam Army fired at least 40 rockets at homes, killing three people and wounding at least 35.
TAIWAN SEARCH CONTINUES
Rescue operations (pictured above) continue to find 12 people still missing after yesterday’s TransAsia Airways plane crash in Taiwan, South China Morning Post reports. There were 15 survivors, and at least 31 people confirmed dead. Taiwan officials have confirmed that pilots made a mayday call, apparently saying that flames in the engine’s combustion chamber were extinguished, which could have been caused by many factors, including lack of fuel.
“Did they only come for lice and petloleum?” Under pressure at home after the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner came under intense criticism yesterday after she mocked Chinese pronunciation on Twitter during her visit there. She was reportedly responding to criticism that she packs her events with her own supporters. Read more on our Extra! feature here.
ECB TURNS UP HEAT ON GREECE
The European Central Bank has significantly toughened its stance with the new elected Greek government, saying it would no longer accept government bonds in return for funding its commercial banks, a move that will make it harder and more expensive for Greek banks to obtain cash, the BBC explains. The new Greek government, which is trying to negotiate a debt-restructuring deal with its creditors, denounced the decision as “an act of political pressure” and said that Athens did not “aim to blackmail anyone but will not be blackmailed either.” Greek shares fell and borrowing costs soared in early trading today.
ON THIS DAY
Happy birthday Cristiano Ronaldo. Time now for your 57-second shot of history via our daily video feature.
BOKO HARAM MASSACRE IN CAMEROON
Islamist terror group Boko Haram continues to spread within and around northeastern Nigeria despite significant attacks against its fighters from Chadian troops. The terrorist group attacked the town of Fotokol, Cameroon, yesterday, killing more than 100 people, Reuters reports. Speaking with reporters from the French-speaking website Camerpost, residents who managed to escape said Boko Haram had launched its attack early in the morning and killed people both inside their homes and inside a mosque. The Chadian army later returned to the town, which they had left two days before to launch offensives in a nearby Nigerian town, but Boko Haram fighters had already fled.
Technology has transformed the world of prosthetics. But Le Temps’ Fabien Goubet asks whether all the bells and whistles, and the hefty price tags they require, are really what ordinary patients need? “‘In the media, the amputee always has a young body,’ says Valentine Gourinat, a Ph.D. student in bioethics at the Universities of Strasbourg and Lausanne. She says amputees are also portrayed as heroes: soldiers, for example, who were wounded by explosions. They're always young people ‘whose achievements then become a form of battle, a life lesson.’
In the real world, most amputees are much older — and not in the physical condition of Olympic athletes. They're people ‘who are around 60 years old on average and who, because of their poor health, will never walk again,’ Gourinat says.”
Read the full article, Oscar Pistorius And The Problem With Modern Prosthetics.
KERRY IN KIEV
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Kiev, where he will meet with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to discuss the possibility of arming Ukrainian forces as fighting rages in the country’s east, Reuters reports. Ashton Carter, Obama’s choice to replace Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, said yesterday he was “very much inclined” to provide weapons to Ukrainian troops. U.S. officials have also announced an additional $16.4 million in humanitarian aid to help civilians in eastern Ukraine. In a press conference this morning, French President François Hollande said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel would also travel to Kiev later today before visiting Moscow tomorrow. Meanwhile, NATO is expected to announced a plan to bolster its military presence in eastern Europe.
In what the Financial Times describes as an “exodus,” 417,000 foreigners have fled Russia over the past year. The number of Germans, Americans, British and Spanish there has dropped more than 30% compared to January 2014, though the figures don’t include Ukrainian refugees who have entered Russia.
CALLS MOUNT TO DECLASSIFY 9/11 REPORT
After convicted 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui claimed earlier this week that top Saudi Arabian officials and royal family members had provided al-Qaeda with important financial support before 9/11, calls are mounting for the Obama administration to declassify 28 pages of the report into the attacks that examine the hijackers supporters, The New York Times reports. Families of the victims and some lawmakers have been urging the declassification for years but have so far been unsuccessful. Saudi Arabia has denied Moussaoui’s claims.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
SOCCER WAGE RAGE
The epic earnings of European soccer stars is a subject of ongoing debate, but the figures are often so high that it’s difficult to know what they represent for the average earner. With this BBC app, see how long it would take you to make what Europe’s top footballers make in a year. Spoiler: The answer is probably a long, long time.
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.
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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