eyes on the U.S.

Superstorm Sandy By The Numbers, Five 'Wow' NYC Photos

CNN, NBC NEWS, NYT (USA), BBC (UK), INSTAGRAM

Worldcrunch

As superstorm Sandy continues to wreak its deadly destruction over the Northeast, here are the latest developments, by the numbers:

• 16: number of reported deaths caused by the storm in the U.S.

68: number of lives claimed outside the U.S., including 51 in Haiti

Website to let family know you are safe without tying up phone lines safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php also use social media #Sandy

— Josh Levs (@joshlevscnn) October 30, 2012

50 million: people who could be affected by the storm

1 million: people ordered to evacuate homes

375,000: people evacuated from Lower Manhattan and other areas as the Hudson and East rivers started to overflow

10,000: calls per half hour received by N.Y.C's 911 system on Monday night

50: number of homes burned to the ground in the six-alarm fire in Breezy Point, Queens, N.Y. Two hundred firefighters were on the scene to fight the blaze

Between 14 hours and 4 days: the time it will take the MTA to get the water out of the subway tunnels in N.Y.C.

7: N.Y. subway lines flooded

Flood waters rush in to the Hoboken PATH station through an elevator shaft. #Sandy twitter.com/PANYNJ/status/…

— Port Authority NY&NJ (@PANYNJ) October 30, 2012

7 to 10 days: the time it may take to restore power in certain areas, according to PSE&G

8.9 million: customers without power across 13 states and the District of Columbia, including about 2 million people in N.Y. and 2.7 million in N.J.

13.7 feet: record storm surge that swept into Lower Manhattan

90: mile per hour winds west of Philadelphia

• 7 feet: the flood level at which the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in Toms River, N.J. will lose the ability to cool its spent fuel pool. The water level is currently more than six feet above normal

4 to 6 feet: the amount of water inundating three towns after levee breaks in northern New Jersey. The affected towns are Moonachie, Little Ferrie and Carlstadt. Thousands may need to be rescued

• 3 feet: amount of snow expected to fall in West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky

14,000: flights cancelled

• Between $10 and 20 billion: estimated economic losses from Sandy

Numbers compiled from CNN, NBC NEWS, NYT, BBC reports.

Watch some spectacular photos on the Washington Post website.

Despite the power shortages, NYC was still tweeting like no tomorrow last night. Here are the five best Instagram images from a flooded Manhattan:

34th and 1st underwater. Courtesy of @Pelukinho via Twitter

Avenue C and 14th Street. Courtesy of @megetz via Twitter


Lights out in Manhattan. Courtesy of @kimashton via Twitter

Blackout in the East Village. Courtesy of @foto8 via Twitter


Avenue C. Courtesy of @iyabo_iyabo via Twitter

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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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