How Steve Jobs Changed Our Lives, Around The World

Op-Ed: Le Monde remembers the Apple founder, as a corporate executive who was always more than a businessman. His gift was to see the ways that the latest technology could enter into ordinary lives.

Steve Jobs in 2007 (acaben)
Steve Jobs in 2007 (acaben)

PARIS - Flowers in the night, candles –a few tears, too… in front of electronic stores! Has the world we're living in become so consumer-oriented that only capitalist heroes manage to bring us to tears? No. Steve Jobs, who died Wednesday at the age of 56, was indeed much more than a brilliant CEO.

The Apple co-founder has changed the world. His work has transformed the lives of millions of people across the planet in a much more tangible way than many heads of state ever will.

His death has triggered a frenzy of reactions, from official and anonymous sources alike, that go beyond even the honors usually reserved for globetrotting rock stars. It even reached China, where an estimated 35 million mourning microblogging messages could be read by noon on Thursday on Sina Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.

The American entrepreneur's genius consisted in being able to manipulate technology in order to implant it in everyday life. While many post-war computer manufacturers had launched into a race for power, performance and technical prowess, the Silicon Valley man's sole ambition was to create simple and useful products.

Granted, the computer mouse was not invented by Apple; but the company was the first to come up with the idea of producing a personal computer -- the Macintosh -- with a mouse. That was back in 1984.

A myth in the making

MP3 players were likewise not invented by Apple, nor were online music stores, but the 2001 launching of the iPod and the iTunes digital media store managed to capture generations of customers that record music companies thought were lost forever.

Mobile broadband, touch screens, online services – all had already existed for years, but the Californian brand is the one that succeeded in providing the average man with the whole package, with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the App Store in 2008 and the iPad in 2010.

Steve Jobs fashioned landmark products that have made industrial history, the way other great inventions have over the centuries. His success is all the more symbolic that it is coincides with the mythology of Silicon Valley. He was a 21-year-old college dropout when he created Apple in 1976, together with his friend, Steve Wozniak.

Every step of his original career contributed to make him one of the most outstanding chairman of all time, including his legendary comeback in 1997 to return as CEO of "his' company, 12 years after having been sacked by shareholders.

So even before he became a worldwide superstar, he was already a worldwide super-manager. He used everything globalization could offer him. The Taiwanese company Foxconn, the world's largest maker of electronic components, famous for manufacturing iPhone and iPad's components on Chinese territory, is a key to this success. Foxconn –and even Apple—employees know this for a fact. Jobs' occasionally unrealistic demands, it must be said, have sparked some fits of social unrest.

But ultimately, Steve Jobs will be remembered as one of our era's greatest inventors; and as such, we pause today to pay our respects before this most modern sort of global royalty.

Read the original story in French

Photo - acaben

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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

"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.

Activist in front of democracy monument in Thailand.

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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