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Nuclear Deal Deadline, ISIS In Africa, Eiffel Tower's Birthday

Nuclear Deal Deadline, ISIS In Africa, Eiffel Tower's Birthday

FINAL MOMENTS FOR NUCLEAR DEAL
Iran and six world powers (United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China) are trying to overcome their remaining differences and agree to a framework deal on Iran’s nuclear program. They are gathered in Lausanne, where their self-imposed deadline will come tonight.

  • There is total uncertainty around the success of the negotiations. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday he was leaving the talks and would return today if there was a realistic chance of a deal, Al Jazeera reports.
  • Voice of America quoted State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf as saying the talks had just a 50-50 chance of success.
  • There are three major obstacles, Le Temps reports: the duration of the framework agreement, the lifting of economic sanctions on Iran, and a mechanism that guarantees the agreement isn’t breached.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of trying to “conquer” the entire Mideast. “The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is very dangerous to humanity, and must be stopped,” he said. “This deal, as it appears to be emerging, bears out all of our fears, and even more than that.”

ON THIS DAY

The Eiffel Tower opened 126 years ago today. Time for your 57-second shot of history.

AIRSTRIKES IN YEMEN CONTINUE
A Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrikes against the Houthi militia in Yemen Monday night, marking the offensive’s sixth consecutive day. The raid hit targets in the group’s stronghold of Saadah, the capital Sanaa and the city of Yarim, Reuters reports. A renegade Republican Guard military base as well as a weapon storage facility outside Sanaa are believed to have been hit overnight, causing huge blazes and fires.
Photo: Hani Ali/Xinhua/ZUMA

  • At least 40 people have been killed by a Saudi airstrike on the al-Mazraq refugee camp in northern Yemen, in what could be one of the deadliest attacks yet since the beginning of the Saudi-led “Decisive Storm” operation. According to Yemen’s state news agency, under Houthi control, several refugee women and children were killed in the strikes. But Saudi Arabia insisted they were killed by Houthi artillery fire, according to Al Jazeera. Witnesses told the AP that the camp formerly housed displaced people, but was now occupied by Houthi forces and that those killed were mostly fighters. Agencies such as the UNHCR have confirmed the strikes and the deaths but aren’t able to say who caused them.
  • The Iranian Red Crescent has reportedly sent medical aid and food to Yemen, according to AP.
  • Iran also denied sending weapons to Houthi fighters in Yemen. The Fars news agency quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham as saying that “the allegations about sending weapons by the Islamic Republic of Iran to Yemen are completely fabricated and sheer lies.”

EXTRA!
The ISIS terror group has devoted the cover of its official propaganda magazine Dabiq to its ambitions in Africa — Tunisia in particular, as the photo of Tunis' Great Mosque of Kairouan suggests. See the cover and read more on our 4 Corners blog.

OPPOSITION LEADS IN NIGERIA
Nigeria’s presidential opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari held a significant lead over President Goodluck Jonathan as counting resumed this morning, Nigerian daily Vanguard reports.

  • General Buhari, who first came to power as a military dictator from 1983 to 1985 after a coup, was leading with a advantage of 2 to 3 million votes against Jonathan.
  • If this continues, President Jonathan would be the first incumbent to lose at the ballot box in Nigeria’s history, The Guardian reports.
  • The election comes amid a bloody insurgency by anti-democracy terror group Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria, where at least 15 people were shot dead on election day, Reuters reports.
WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Le Temps’ Olivier Dessibourg reports, Zurich has adopted a system that feeds past criminal information into an algorithm that city officials believe can help predict when and where crimes will occur. Early indications are that it may actually be reducing crime rates. “Its name, Precobs, sounds an awful lot like ‘Precogs,’ those special beings in Steven Spielberg's 2002 Minority Report (based on the Philip K. Dick short story of the same name) who have premonitions of offenses to come. The inventors of this system, at the German Technical Institute for Prevision by Modelizing of Oberhausen, admit they were inspired by the movie. But their product is far from science fiction.”
Read the full article, This Data-Driven Tool May Be Able To Prevent Crimes.

NSA ATTACK NOT TERROR RELATED
NSA officials say Monday’s incident in which the driver of a vehicle tried to crash through the spy agency’s gates wasn’t linked to terrorism. Officials said drugs could have been involved in the attack, in which one suspect was killed and another injured along with a police officer.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD


FLOOD KILLS 15 IN KASHMIR
Rescue workers have pulled 15 bodies from two houses hit by a landslide triggered by three days of incessant rain and floods in Indian-controlled Kashmir. This comes just six months after the worst floods in half a century devastated the Himalayan region, the AP reports.

$300 MILLION
Germanwings insurers have set aside $300 million to compensate victims’ families after last week’s Airbus A320 crash killed all 150 people on board, Deutsche Welle reports.

HIT IT!
It’s time again for the Eurovision Song Contest, that annual European musical event that no one really understands. Tune in daily to the Worldcrunch Hit It! blog to discover this year’s 40 contestants, one-by-one, starting with Albania.
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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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