Russia Cuts Gas, Schumacher Out Of Coma, Greenpeace Loses Green

A motorcycle rider soars at the 2014 Kazan City Racing show in Millenium Square in Kazan, Tatarstan.
A motorcycle rider soars at the 2014 Kazan City Racing show in Millenium Square in Kazan, Tatarstan.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The United States is expected to hold talks with Iran this week over possible intervention in Iraq following the aggressive jihadist offensive there, The Wall Street Journal reports. But in reaction to the U.S. decision to move the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush into the Gulf, Tehran warned yesterday that "any foreign military intervention in Iraq" would only worsen the situation. This comes after reports that ISIS fighters took control of another town in northern Iraq and that the Sunni extremists killed as many as 1,700 Shia soldiers. Meanwhile, Kurdish fighters, who also gained ground in northern Iraq last week, suggested that a truce was possible between them and ISIS, raising the possibility expressed by some that Iraq might break into three states: a Shiite, a Sunni, and a Kurdish one.


“Tony Blair has finally gone mad,” London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote in a Telegraph op-ed today, criticizing the former British prime minister for his defense of past military intervention in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein. Read more here.

The conflict between Moscow and Kiev reached a new high this morning as Ukraine’s energy minister said that Russia had cut off all gas supplies to Ukraine after it failed to meet an extended deadline to pay $1.95 billion of its $4.5 billion debt, the BBC reports. Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom has filed a lawsuit to recover the balance due, saying that from now on Kiev would have to pay for gas in advance or face being completely cut off. Ukraine’s state company Naftogaz also launched a lawsuit against Gazprom to recover $6 billion in what it claims are gas overpayments since 2010.

U.S. radio icon Casey Kasem, who hosted the American Top 40 broadcast for four decades, died yesterday at age 82 after suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

At least 120 suspected Taliban militants have been killed in the last two days, after the Pakistani air force launched a series of strikes in the North Waziristan region, newspaper Dawn reports. The military operation comes after last week’s attack on the Karachi airport that killed 36 people, including 10 insurgents. According to Reuters, the army imposed an all-day curfew on the entire region and switched off cell phone services in a bid to “undermine the insurgency.”


Suspected al-Shabaab gunmen launched a violent attack against two hotels, a bank and a police station in Kenya’s coastal town of Mpeketoni, killing at least 48 people, The Guardian reports. The attack, the scale and nature of which are described as “rare,” started yesterday evening as people gathered in bars to watch the World Cup, and it lasted into the night. The police have warned that the death toll could rise.

A unnamed Greenpeace employee has been sacked after losing the Amsterdam-based environmental group 3.8 million euros ($5.15 million) by gambling on international currency markets.

Colombia’s incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos was reelected Sunday in second-round voting, obtaining 50.9% of the vote, El Espectador reports. Santos, who initiated peace talks with the guerilla group FARC months ago, vowed to push ahead, saying, “This will not be peace with impunity, it will be a just peace.”

As Die Welt’s Fanny Jimenez writes, the relationship between mother and child has traditionally been regarded as central to the happiness and development of children. But recent research suggest fathers are more crucial to their children’s well-being than previously thought. “Some studies have shown that in certain areas of child development the attitude and behavior of the father have fundamentally more weight regardless of who plays what role in the family hierarchy,” the journalist writes. “When fathers treat their kids with little regard, if they reject them or act hostile towards them, the children develop an above-average number of behavioral problems, depressive tendencies, and often become drug-addicted or delinquent — even if the mother loves the child unconditionally and is supportive.”
Read the full article, Do Fathers Matter More Than Mothers To A Child's Happiness?

A Chinese court sentenced three people to death after finding them guilty of being behind a “terror attack” near Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in October 2013, which killed 2 tourists and left 40 injured, Xinhua reports. One man was also sentenced to life imprisonment and another four were handed sentences from 5 to 20 years.

Formula One legend Michael Schumacher is no longer in a coma and has left the hospital “to continue his long phase of rehabilitation,” his family said.

A motorcycle rider soars at the 2014 Kazan City Racing show in Millenium Square in Kazan, in the Russian’s republic of Tatarstan.

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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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