ISIS Kills U.S. Journalist, Hiroshima Landslides, Breaking Bad Duo

At least 27 people have died and 10 are missing in Western Japan after a month’s worth of rain fell in one night in Hiroshima.
At least 27 people have died and 10 are missing in Western Japan after a month’s worth of rain fell in one night in Hiroshima.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The jihadist terror group ISIS has claimed to have killed James Foley, an American journalist captured in Syria two years ago. A video the group posted online, but later removed, purported to show the man being beheaded, The Washington Post reports. U.S. intelligence is said to be working to verify the video’s authenticity, but British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in televised comments that “all the hallmarks point to it being genuine” and acknowledged that the alleged killer sounded British. At the end of the video, the jihadist threatens to kill another American journalist who has been missing for a year, TIME magazine’s Steven Joel Sotloff, saying “the life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”

Meanwhile, the mother of James Foley expressed in a Facebook post Wednesday the pride she felt for her son, adding "he was an extraordinary son, brother, journalist and person."

Israel resumed airstrikes on Gaza after the collapse of a temporary ceasefire and alleged rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel. Hamas denied firing rockets, while the head of the Palestinian delegation in ceasefire talks accused Israel of wanting “to sabotage the negotiations.” Eleven Palestinians are believed to have died in one particularly violent attack. Among the victims is a child of Mohammed Deif, leader of the Hamas military wing and the apparent target of the strikes, the BBC reports. It is unclear whether Deif is among the victims.

This is how many days it would theoretically take the world to complete the Ice Bucket Challenge. Find more about it in our By The Numbers feature.

Forty-seven people were arrested overnight in Ferguson, Mo., as a group of protesters threw bottles at police officers, but it was otherwise a relatively quiet night of peaceful protests, USA Today reports. This came after yesterday’s fatal shooting of a man brandishing a knife and apparently threatening the police with it. An online fundraising campaign for Darren Wilson, the officer who shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown 10 days ago, has already raised over $58,000.

As Les Echos reports, the reality TV show Where Are We Going, Dad?, released in China in late 2013, is a popular hit. The series features young fathers — all well-known actors — taking adventures with their children in remote areas across China. While viewers are becoming more nostalgic for their rural roots, the show also brings major benefits to the villages they film.
Read the full article, The Reality TV Show Reviving The Chinese Countryside.

At least 27 people have died and 10 are missing in Western Japan after a month’s worth of rain fell in a single night in Hiroshima. The downpour caused devastating landslides that buried dozens of houses, AFP reports. “We could hear the earth rumbling, and all of a sudden, things roared past us,” one man said.

The Pakistani army called for talks between the government and the opposition after week-long protests climaxed yesterday with thousands of anti-government demonstrators marching on Parliament in the capital of Islamabad. The protest movement, led by Imran Khan, a former cricket star and leader of the country’s third political party PTI, is demanding that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif step down, accusing him of vote-rigging during last year’s election.


Breaking Bad’s famous duo Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul reunited for a expand=1] short video ahead of the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony on Monday. But be warned, they’re not playing Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. Or at least, not exactly.

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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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