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China Market Dive, Korean Tensions Ease, 3-D Printed Beak

China Market Dive, Korean Tensions Ease, 3-D Printed Beak

CHINA MARKETS CONTINUE DIVE

The Chinese stock market continued to crumble today, with the Shanghai Composite index closing down 7.6% at 2,964.97 points. Japan also saw more sharp falls with Tokyo's Nikkei index falling 4%, Reuters reports.

  • In an attempt to tackle the crisis, China’s central bank cut interest rates by 0.25% today, The Guardian reports.But Chinese newspapers are urging the government not to intervene in the market. “The authorities should slowly step out of the policy of rescuing the stock market,” Xinhua’s Economic Information Daily writes. “The purpose of the government’s intervention is to control financial risks and not to lift up the equity market.”
  • Meanwhile, other markets in Asia and Europe jumped back up. In the U.S., a higher opening is expected on Wall Street today, after the Standard & Poor’s 500 index closed down nearly 4% Monday, The New York Times reports.

  • Even as it dominates headlines around the world, the Chinese stock market crash is getting notably scant coverage at home. Read more in our Extra! feature.

TYPHOON GONI HITS JAPAN

Photo: Yuan Jing/Xinhua/ZUMA

Typhoon Goni has made landfall on Japan’s main island of Kyushu, causing blackouts and disrupting air traffic and train services, the Japan Times reports. The storm is weakening but not before leaving a trail of destruction, triggering landslides and floods that reportedly killed 10 in the northern Philippines.

SUSPECTED ISIS RECRUITERS ARRESTED

Spanish and Moroccan authorities arrested 14 people in a joint operation targeting suspected ISIS recruiters today in the outskirts of Madrid and in the Moroccan cities of Fez, Casablanca, Nador, Al Hoceima and Driouch, El País reports. The aim of the operation was to break up a network that sends people to Syria or Iraq to join the terror group. The Spanish Ministry of Interior said the operation would continue.

350

A 12-year-old Taiwanese boy damaged a 350-year-old painting by Paolo Porpora at an exhibition in Taipei last weekend when he tripped and smashed a fist-sized hole in the $1.5 million still life in an attempt to break his fall, Focus Taiwan reports. The organizers of the exhibition say they won’t ask the boy’s family to pay for the damage.

KOREAN TENSIONS EASE

After two days of talks, North and South Korea agreed early today to ease tensions at their shared border, putting an end to a military standoff sparked by an exchange of artillery fire last week, Reuters reports. South Korea has agreed to halt its anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts at the border, and North Korea has expressed regret over two South Korean soldiers being wounded in a landmine blast earlier this month and ended the “semi-state of war” it had declared. The two sides also began pulling back troops at the border. Although South Korea said it would maintain its “defense posture,” the BBC quoted South Korean President Park Guen-hye as saying that this agreement “could serve as an occasion to resolve all inter-Korean issues through trust.”

ON THIS DAY


On this day in 2012, NASA’s Voyager 1 became the first human-made object to enter interstellar space. That and more in today’s shot of history.

3 DIE IN LEBANON REFUGEE CAMP VIOLENCE

At least three people were killed and several others injured in clashes between rival armed groups in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon Monday. The casualties were reportedly members of the Fatah movement, which clashed with the jihadist Jund al-Sham group, Al Jazeera reports. There has been violence between the two groups over the past few months. Two Fatah members were killed Saturday when the Jund al-Sham group attempted to kill a Fatah official. Ain al-Hilweh, home to more than 100,000 people living in squalid conditions, is Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp. The Lebanese army doesn’t enter the camp, and security is left to Palestinian factions.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD

MERKEL, HOLLANDE CALL FOR EU ASYLUM SYSTEM

In a joint statement in Berlin yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande called for a unified European response to the migrant crisis. “We must put in place a unified system for the right to asylum,” Radio France Internationale quoted the French head of state as saying, describing the crisis as “an exceptional situation that will last for some time.”

  • Merkel stressed all European countries would have to implement this right to asylum as soon as possible, and also issued a strong condemnation of anti-migrant protests that erupted in eastern Germany over the weekend. “It is vile for far-right extremists and neo-Nazis to try to spread their hollow, hateful propaganda, but it is just as shameful for citizens including families with children to join them," the AFP quoted her as saying

  • A record 2,093 potential asylum seekers crossed from Serbia to Hungary Monday, local authorities reported. Hungary said it would complete the construction of a border fence with Serbia by Aug. 31, as part of tough anti-migrant government measures.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Paris-based big data whiz Rand Hindi wants to put his technology savvy to work to free us from our growing enslavement to the digital masters. “In Hindi's ideal world,” writes Le Monde’s Jean-Baptiste Jacquin, “technology won’t disappear per se. But it will stop being something we constantly need to think about. ‘When connected objects are smart enough not to be invasive, we can add as many as we want,’ he says. He thinks we’re 10 years away from the inflection point between growing enslavement to technology and the liberation it will provide.”

Read the full article, One Tech Founder’s Quest To Make Technology Disappear.

AUSTERE BRAZIL TO CLOSE 10 MINISTRIES

Brazilian Planning Minister Nelson Barbosa said Monday the government will cut 10 of its 39 ministries in a move to show wary markets President Dilma Rousseff's commitment to an unpopular austerity plan, Reuters reports. It’s not yet clear which ministries will be affected and what the cost savings will be, but the Brazilian government said more details will be revealed in early September.

TOUCAN GETS 3D-PRINTED BEAK

A Brazilian toucan missing half of its upper beak recently received a 3D-printed prosthesis designed by researchers in Rio de Janeiro. As CNN reports, it took the bird just three days to get used to its new beak.

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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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