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Thai Police Are Shocked, Shocked After Rihanna Exposes Their Country's Sex Shows

Over the weekend, Thai police on the resort island of Phuket detained the owner of the sex show bar Rihanna has suddenly made famous. The arrest came after the pop star shared with her 32 million Twitter followers some of the more graphic details of a recent show she attended. "Either I was phuck wasted lastnight, or I saw a Thai woman pull a live bird,2 turtles,razors,shoot darts and ping pong, all out of her pu$$y," she wrote last month. The bar owner now faces charges of obscenity and operating an entertainment venue without a permit.

While Phuket police have used the episode to showcase their commitment to cracking down on the less savory aspects of the island's tourism industry, Thailand's "ping pong shows" have long been implicitly condoned by Thai officials. Local police reportedly permit the shows in exchange for cuts of the bars' profits.

Weerawit Kurasombat, president of the area's Patong Entertainment Business Association, acknowledged that corruption buttresses Phuket's sex entertainment industry. "It is possible for these ping-pong bar shows to continue because police are paid under the table to allow it to happen," Weerawit told the Phuket Gazette in September. "Officers refuse to take action against them because of the money they are paid."

Ping-pong shows are a staple attraction of Thailand's notorious sex entertainment industry. As part of the show, women and girls use their pelvic muscles to shoot a range of projectiles (not just ping-pong balls, as Rihanna can attest) from their vaginal cavity. These women are often trafficked or implicitly forced into sex entertainment due to economic circumstance, and the Pulitizer Center has documented the harsh working conditions within the industry. "The show where Tiew performs costs 200-300 Thai Baht (USD $6-9) per guest," the organization noted in 2009. "Tiew arrives at work at 6 P.M. and leaves at daybreak. She stamps a time card when she arrives and is penalized 5 Thai Baht (USD $0.14) for every minute she is late. Each month, Tiew receives two nights of vacation and, if she doesn't miss any additional nights, she earns 6000 Thai Baht (USD $181). The salary is more than Tiew has ever made in her life and, given her illiteracy, is probably more she can make anywhere else."

Despite official bans on these sex shows, the practice is largely permitted -- not only due to corruption but because, let's face it, there are lots of American (and German! and Australian!) tourists willing to pay to see it. And Thailand's graft problem isn't specific to the sex industry. On Sunday, for instance, Surin Pitsuwan, a former ASEAN secretary-general and Thai foreign minister, warned of the billions the country has lost in foreign investment as a result of corruption. Thailand ranked 88th out of 176 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index.

But while Thai authorities may not be phased by the concerns of the nation's business elite, the crushing exposure of viral social media is another story. "[T]his time it's bigger," Phuket district police chief Weera Kerdsirimongkon told the Associated Press, "because a celebrity like Rihanna posted the picture, and there were more than 200,000 'likes' from around the world." Weera was actually referring to a separate incident last month in which two touts in Phuket were arrested after Rihanna Instagrammed a selfie with an endangered primate. But it could equally apply to her astonished reaction to Thailand's sex shows (her initial post on what she witnessed was retweeted nearly 19,000 times).

The lesson, among others: Don't hang out with Rihanna.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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Russian Press, Politicians Fume Over Putin Nobel Peace Prize Snub

Sure, some have spent the past few days lamenting that Pakistani girls' education advocate Malala Yousafzai didn't receive the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. But several Russian news outlets and politicians have been grousing about a separate slight: the Hague-based watchdog Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) wresting the prize from their own human rights crusader and international peacekeeper: Vladimir Putin.

"This is absolutely unfair that the OPCW was given this title," State Duma deputy Iosif Kobzon, a member of Putin's United Russia party, told the state-owned news service Itar-Tass, according to Pravda.Ru. "Who forced Syria to destroy chemical weapons, if not Putin? Who made Assad sign all agreements of the UN Security Council for the destruction of chemical weapons? They should have given the prize to two nominees then. This is unfair, because Putin is making every effort."

The Russian federal news agency Regnum, meanwhile, reported on OPCW's win briefly before reminding readers that it is "noteworthy" that the "process of destroying chemical weapons in war-torn Syria" was initiated by Russia and its president. Not noteworthy, apparently, are Putin's aggression in Georgia and campaigns against homosexuals and immigrants in his own country -- recent actions that might, one would speculate, undermine his shot at a Nobel Peace Price.

Technically speaking, Putin is not eligible to receive the prize until next year, as nominations for this year's award had to be in by February 2013, and the Russian advovacy group that nominated him, the International Academy of Spiritual Unity and Cooperation of Peoples of the World, only submitted theirs in September. The group's nomination cited Putin's efforts to "maintain peace and tranquility" not only in Russia, but also in "all conflicts arising on the planet" -- a sweeping appraisal encompassing Russia's plan to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control in an effort to avoid U.S. military strikes.

But that technicality hasn't stopped Russian lawmakers from interpreting the Nobel Peace Prize committee's choice as a snub. Alexey Pushkov, the head of the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, called it a "politically sophisticated choice" and a "cunning move" designed to withhold the prize from those who "truly prevented" the war in Syria.

Others have characterized the OPCW's prize as, at its core, an award to Putin. An article in Russia's English-language Moscow Times called the OPCW's win a "nod to Putin" since the organization was granted such a crucial role in the conflict as a result of negotiations brokered by Moscow. Federation Council member Valery Ryazansky was especially optimistic, telling Russia's state-owned news agency RIA-Novosti: "I believe that this is a recognition of the fact that the Russian government invited the international community to the decision on the Syrian issue, which was found to be most effective."

Another article at Russia's Mail.ru site reported that Syrian opposition leaders were angry at the Nobel committee for, as they saw it, implicitly praising Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in giving the award to the OPCW, reminding readers that Russia was "the author of the idea of destroying chemical weapons stockpiles in the country."

Assad, it seems, wouldn't mind the recognition. In an interview with the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, the Syrian leader reportedly joked that the Nobel Peace Prize "should have been mine."

Maybe next year, guys.

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