WHILE YOU SLEPT

How Low Will Trump Go?

SPOTLIGHT: HOW LOW WILL TRUMP GO?

Waking up in European Central Time to the morning headlines means two things right now: Rio Olympic results and Donald Trump’s new low. We’ve been trying to digest the latest installment of the latter after the Republican nominee in his inimitable, er, offhanded way, said yesterday in North Carolina that supporters of gun rights “can do” something to stop Hillary Clinton from reaching the presidency. Was that a major party presidential nominee calling for the assassination of his opponent? Was it a bad joke gone worse? Are we serious, folks?


This is indeed a new (dangerous) low. But what caught our attention at the moment of the punchline was the reaction of Trump’s own supporters, sitting behind the candidate. Watch here. Those who appear to be following what he says understand instantly what he was hinting at: One chuckles awkwardly, several wince, one man in a white beard and red shirt appears to say something like “ouch.” Presumably, all will vote for Trump come November.


Trump is now on a weeks-long slide in the polls, which some say explain his near daily crossing-of-the-lines. Whether the spiral of rhetoric will continue downward, and what effect it will have on the actual election, remain to be seen. Many have noted that the poisonous impact of Trump’s time on the political stage will last regardless of the results; others see this all as the ultimate exercise in democracy. It should, however, be noted that by law it is a criminal offense in the United States to call for the assassination of a presidential candidate. The Secret Service has been notified.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY

  • Fifth day of the 2016 Rio Olympics: archery, swimming, tennis, basketball, football, hockey, table tennis, diving and more.
  • Demonstrations in Chile against pension reform plan.
  • Captain America bronze statue to be unveiled in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.


DILMA TO BE TRIALED

With 59 votes to 21, Brazilian senators decided to go ahead with an impeachment trial against elected President Dilma Rousseff, who was suspended in May. A two-thirds majority (54 votes) will be enough to impeach Dilma, in a final vote to be held after the trial â€"probably around Aug. 25, according to Folha de S. Paulo.


â€" ON THIS DAY

Can you guess which world-famous museum opened its doors for the first time 223 years ago on this day? The answer here, in your 57-second shot of History.


VERBATIM

“As you know, I'm fighting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's ambassador. His gay ambassador, the son of a whore. He pissed me off,” Philippines controversial president Rodrigo Duterte said in televised comments that have sparked a diplomatic row with Washington. The Philippines envoy to the U.S. has been summoned.


CHILDREN ABUSED IN AUSTRALIAN OFFSHORE DETENTION CENTER

Documents leaked to and published by The Guardian lay bare more than 2,000 cases of abuse at an Australian detention center for asylum seekers on the island of Nauru. More than half of the reported cases involve children, with reports of violent treatment, death threats and sexual abuse.


â€" WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

The stadiums are standing, the opening ceremony went fine, transportation seems to be working … It looks like Rio de Janeiro may have pulled off its Olympic feat. But as António Prata writes for Brazilian daily Folha de S. Paulo, the country’s everyday problems remain unaddressed: “Olympic Rio quickly gives way to a grittier Rio. Outside the window, I'm looking at Curicica, not far from the "City of God," but this might as well be Caracas or Islamabad. As Brazilian rapper Mano Brown once said: ‘The outskirts of a city are outskirts no matter where you are.’

Its colors and yellow-clad staff make the Bus Rapid Transit system look like an alien capsule, against the ochre-and-grey construction site backdrop. Every now and then, we drive past an armored vehicle with armed soldiers around it. I came to see an Olympic event but I feel like I've ended up in an episode of Homeland.”

Read the full article, The Olympics May Just Be The Only Thing That Works In Brazil.


PORTUGAL WILDFIRES

Forest fires burned into Wednesday on Portugal's Madeira Islands, killing at least three people, injuring 174 and forcing the evacuation of more than 1000 from homes and hotels. See how Portuguese daily Publico featured the news on its front page today.


â€" MY GRAND-PERE’S WORLD

And All That Jazz â€" Lafayette, 1992


DEADLY FIRE AT BAGHDAD HOSPITAL

At least 11 newborn babies were killed in an electrical fire at a Baghdad hospital, AP reports.


MORE GOLD FOR PHELPS

If Michael Phelps was a country, he’d now be the 39th most successful in Olympic history, after the swimmer won his 20th and 21th gold medals.


MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

RAT ROBOTS HAVE FEELINGS TOO, YOU GUYS

Researchers at the Kazan Federal University in Russia managed to scare artificial intelligence. The team of scientists and graduate students developed a computer program that simulates a rat’s brain, and successfully caused the AI to experience fear and disgust, according to Russian daily Kommersant. Can software smell like cats and cheese?

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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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