NORTH KOREA FIRES ROCKETS
Photo: YTN/Yao Qilin/Xinhua/ZUMA
North Korea has fired six short-range projectiles into the sea, an angry reaction to new UN sanctions adopted yesterday against Pyongyang, news agency Yonhap reports. The sanctions, motivated by North Korea testing nuclear weapons in early January, are the harshest to date against Kim Jong-unâ€™s regime. They ban the country from exporting coal, iron and other mineral resources, depriving it of crucial revenue sources, Reuters reports. The resolution was drafted by both the United States and China, the latter North Koreaâ€™s closest ally.
â€œFrance must become a more secular state,â€ Pope Francis told left-wing Catholic militants in an exchange published in Christian magazine La Vie. â€œOne criticism I have against France is that its secularity sometimes stems too much from the Enlightenment philosophy, which regarded religions as being a subculture,â€ Pope Francis said. The pontiff also described the flow of migrants to Europe as an â€œArab invasion,â€ before characterizing it as an opportunity for Europe to grow and become culturally richer.
TRUMP, INTERNATIONAL MEDIA STAR
Weâ€™ve gathered a quick collection of how the global press has reacted to the rise of The Donald.
EU OFFICIAL: ECONOMIC MIGRANTS UNWELCOME
European Council President Donald Tusk urged potential economic migrants to avoid coming to Europe. â€œDo not come to Europe,â€ Tusk said after meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to find a solution to the refugee crisis. â€œDo not believe the smugglers. Do not risk your lives and your money. It is all for nothing.â€ Thousands of refugees have been stranded in Greece since neighboring Macedonia, a non-EU country, and other Balkan countries closed their borders.
- â€œGreece or any other European country will no longer be a transit country. The Schengen rules will enter into force again,â€ Tusk said, suggesting that migrants soon would have to apply for asylum in the first Schengen country they reach.
- The EU unveiled plans yesterday to give cash-strapped Greece and other countries 700 million euros ($760 million) in emergency funds to manage the influx.
- In a Financial Times interview, French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron warned Britain that France could end border checks in Calais in the event of a Brexit, effectively allowing migrants to cross the Channel unchecked.
ISTANBUL POLICE STATION ATTACKED
Two women opened fire this morning on a riot police station in Istanbul, Turkey, before fleeing the scene after exchanging fire with the police, Todayâ€™s Zaman reports. The two attackers reportedly took shelter in a neighboring building but were later killed by police, Hürriyet reports.
- In Russia, meanwhile, a nanny who is suspected of beheading a child and brandishing the severed head outside a Moscow Metro station said she did it for â€œrevenge against those who spilled blood,â€ namely President Vladimir Putin and Russian warplanes in Syria.
An Emirates Airbus A380 touched down in Dubai early this morning to inaugurate a new 8,832-mile non-stop route from Auckland, New Zealand, making it the longest in the world by distance, The New Zealand Herald reports. It took passengers 16 hours and 24 minutes to reach Dubai, about 50 minutes less than expected, which meant the flight failed to beat the record for the longest duration.
STILL NO GOVERNMENT FOR SPAIN
Spainâ€™s Parliament rejected Socialist leader Pedro Sánchezâ€™s government plans yesterday, as the 44-year-old and his party came under a torrent of criticism, especially from former Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, El Mundo reports. The December general elections resulted in a Parliament divided into four parties, none with a majority to govern alone. Sánchez faces another confidence vote tomorrow, but the newspaper predicts the outcome is likely to be the same, paving the way for new elections in June.
ON THIS DAY
Hands on the buzzer: George Bizet's famous opera premiered on this day 141 years ago. Whatâ€™s it called? Check the answer in todayâ€™s 57-second shot of history.
POSSIBLE MH370 DEBRIS FOUND
An American tourist in Mozambique has found an object that investigators say could be debris belonging to a Boeing 777 jet, raising hopes that the mystery surrounding the fate of Malaysia Airlines flights MH370, which went missing almost two years ago, might finally be uncovered.
Despite regular health warnings, margarine is experiencing a new lease on life and giving the product it tries to imitate, butter, a run for its money, Le Monde reports. â€œItâ€™s nothing but oil and additives, without a single fresh ingredient whatsoever. But itâ€™s affordable, and well packaged, and so it sells. Itâ€™s a perfect example of how the food industry multinationals, with their slick marketing, big advertising budgets and unfailing support from large retailers, can push just about anything on the public and earn huge returns in the process.â€
Read the full article, Margarine, From Poor French Manâ€™s Butter To Vegan Staple.
MASS KILLER BEMOANS â€œINHUMANEâ€ PRISON
Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian murderer who killed 77 people in 2011, is suing his country, saying that his treatment in a high-security prison where he apparently has access to three cells is â€œinhumaneâ€ and â€œdegrading.â€
MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD
POURING OFF OF EVERY PAGE
Bob Dylan, whoâ€™s been called the Shakespeare of our times, has sold a trove of written and recorded archives to a foundation in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for $15 million. The New York Times got a sneak peek at the extensive collection of handwritten notes, crossed-out song lyrics and the like. â€œItâ€™s going to start anew the way people study Dylan,â€ said Sean Wilentz, a Princeton historian and author of Bob Dylan in America.
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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