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Turkey/ISIS escalation, Lafayette shooting, Jurassic back‏

Turkey/ISIS escalation, Lafayette shooting, Jurassic back‏


Photo: T. Pyle/Jet Propulsion Laboratory/NASA/ZUMA

TURKEY TARGETS ISIS IN SYRIA

In a major escalation in the fight against ISIS, Turkey returned fire early today for the first time, sending F-16 fighter jets to bomb ISIS positions across the border with Syria, killing at least 35 ISIS militants. The retaliation comes after yesterday’s clashes near the border during which both a Turkish soldier and an ISIS militant were killed. Turkey is also blaming the terror group for Monday’s suicide bombing in the southeastern town of Suruç where at least 32 civilians were killed and more than 100 wounded.

  • The Turkish F-16s took off from the southeastern city of Diyarbakir and reportedly destroyed two ISIS headquarters and a rallying point near the Syrian village of Havar, launching their guided missiles from Turkey without entering Syrian airspace,CNN Türk reports.
  • Although there is no indication yet that Turkey is considering a ground operation in Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to meet later today with Hakan Fidan, head of the country’s intelligence service, to discuss the situation.

EXTRA!

“The Earth has a cousin!” a front-page headline in Canadian daily newspaper La Presse reads today after NASA announced the discovery of Kepler-452b, one of the most Earth-like exoplanets identified so far. Read more about it in our Extra! feature.


TWO KILLED IN LAFAYETTE SHOOTING

A lone shooter opened fire last night in a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater, killing two people and wounding seven before turning the gun on himself. The 58-year-old white man, whose identity has yet to be released, began shooting 20 minutes into the 7 p.m. screening of the comedy Trainwreck at Lafayette’s Grand 16 Theater. As Reuters reports, the killings happened almost exactly three years after the Aurora, Colorado, attack in which gunman James Eagan Holmes murdered 12 and wounded 70.


VERBATIM

The Lafayette shooting came just hours after U.S. President Barack Obama said during a BBC interview that he has been “most frustrated and most stymied” during his presidency on the issue of gun control. The U.S. “is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient, common-sense gun safety laws,” he said.


CLOSER TO MALARIA VACCINE

A malaria vaccine named Mosquirix is one step closer to being approved for use in Africa. According to the European Medicines Agency, the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use has green-lighted it, the first of its kind after decades of research into malaria vaccination. In 2013, 627,000 deaths from malaria were reported worldwide, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and among children under age 5, the World Health Organization reports.


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



NOT ENOUGH, JAPAN

The International Monetary Fund’s latest assessment of the Asian economy is out, and it doesn’t mince words. The IMF report urges the island nation to reload Abenomics, the reforms that have “lifted Japan out of the doldrums” but that need to be reinforced to revive growth for the long term. Read the report here.


ON THIS DAY


On this day 104 years ago, American archeologist Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca settlement in Peru that is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations.Time for your 57-second shot of history.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

As the U.S. president visits his father's homeland, La Stampa has an exclusive encounter with the now 94-year-old woman who raised Barack Obama Sr. “To the rest of us, ‘Barry’ is President Barack Obama, but for this 94-year-old woman he is her lost-and-found grandson, who arrived Thursday to the land of his forefathers as the 44th president of the United States,” Paolo Mastrolilli writes. “Her modest house is surrounded by other relative's houses in a ‘family compound’ on the green hills about an hour’s drive away from Lake Victoria. Barack’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, built the house and was the one who converted to Islam â€" generating many false suspicions about the true faith of his grandson.”

Read the full article, At Home In Kenya With Obama’s Grandma.


JURASSIC BACK

Jurassic World, this year’s action-packed blockbuster and the No. 3 top-grossing movie of all-time, is getting a sequel. Universal Pictures has set a June 22, 2018, release date for the next installment, and we’re thinking, dinosaurs in space, anyone?

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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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