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The Latest: Haiti President Assassinated, Iran’s Uranium Plans, Fish On Meth

The Gostiny Dvor exhibition center in Moscow, one of the largest mobile vaccination centers in Europe.
The Gostiny Dvor exhibition center in Moscow, one of the largest mobile vaccination centers in Europe.

Welcome to Wednesday, where we're following the breaking news of the assassination of Haiti's president. Also Iran acknowledges it is enriching uranium and the ship that blocked the Suez canal is finally free to sail away. In other news, we look at the rock'n'roll statue controversy that pits Paris greens vs. Harley-Davidson.

• Haitian President assassinated: Haitian President Jovonel Moïse, 53, was killed in his private residence at 1 a.m. local time by armed assailants, amid political instability in the impoverished Caribbean nation. First Lady Martine Moïse was injured in the gunfire. Moïse had been ruling by decree for more than two years after the country failed to hold elections and parliament was dissolved.

• Iran begins enriched uranium production: Iran says it plans on starting the process of enriching uranium metal, a move that could help the country create a nuclear weapon, reports International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. atomic watchdog. The United States and European powers warned that these steps could muddle attempts to restore the 2015 nuclear deal.

• Taliban enter key western Afghan city: As American troops and NATO allies withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban has rapidly advanced through the country, seizing dozens of government controlled districts. Most recently, the group has entered the city of Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Afghanistan's Badghis province, liberating a local prison and continuing to battle government troops as they advance on the center of the city.

• Eric Adams wins NYC Mayoral Primary: Eric Adams, a former police captain, has been declared the winner of the New York City Democratic Primary, beating opponent Kathryn Garcia by a single percentage point. As Adams did not originally receive over 50% of the vote in the city's new ranked-choice voting system, results took longer than usual to count. If elected, Adams will be the city's second Black mayor.

• First indigenous woman appointed Canadian governor-general: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed Mary Simon to be the country's first indigenous governor-general. The move comes amid a national reckoning over the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of indigenous children and the intergenerational harm caused to indigenous communities through the residential school system.

• Ever Given ship finally leaves Suez Canal: After blocking the Suez Canal for six days and severely disrupting international trade routes in March, the Ever Given ship has been released from the waterway. The ship had been held at Great Bitter Lake while the Suez Canal Authority sought compensation for salvaging efforts and losses incurred.

• Meth in water may turn fish into addicts: A new study has shown that Brown trout can become addicted to methamphetamine when it accumulates in freshwater rivers. The research demonstrates that when trout are placed in waters containing trace levels of methamphetamine, the fish develop withdrawal when moved to a clean tank.


"From lockdown comforter to outcast," titles German daily Hamburger Morgenpost: After an initial boom in puppy sales "in times of home office and loneliness," pets now tend to end up in animal shelters, "or even worse."

Regional disparity trap: Why China's economy resembles Europe

Professor Lu Ming of Shanghai Jiaotong University was the first to refer to the sharp differences within China as the "Europeanization" (or Eurozoneization) of the Chinese economy. For Yang Lu, writing for Hong Kong-based digital media The Initium, the Northeast is becoming the Chinese equivalent to Greece in the UE.

Greece and Germany use the euro, but Germany's GDP per capita is more than twice that of Greece, with much higher productivity levels. But the Euro exchange rate is the same in Germany and Greece. So, if the European Central Bank sets the exchange rate under conditions favorable to Germany, then the currency will be "too expensive" for Greece. In China, too, the 31 provincial administrative regions of mainland China use the same currency, the RMB, which serves as a unified market. But economic conditions vary greatly from province to province.

This divide is accelerating. In 2010, for example, Shanghai's GDP per capita was 3.7 times that of Heilongjiang's. By 2019, the gap had widened to 4.3 times. Like Greece in the Eurozone, Heilongjiang can't unilaterally devalue its currency to stimulate its economy. What is even more difficult for the province, compared to Greece, is that there are many ambiguities around the division of responsibilities between China's local and central authorities.

In light of these developments, the population census in China has attracted particular attention this year, especially from the real estate sector. The days when any estate in China could appreciate are over; 900 million of China's 1.4 billion people already live in cities and towns, and according to the experience of developed countries, the rate of urbanization would only slow in the future, which means that property investors need to pay more attention to the demographic split. If the population is decreasing, investors should be careful.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


ट्रेजिडी किंग

Bollywood legend Dilip Kumar has died in Mumbai at the age of 98. Tributes have been pouring for the beloved movie legend nicknamed ट्रेजिडी किंग (Hindi for "The Tragedy King"), who starred in more than 65 films over 50 years.


Paris environmentalists say non to statue of ""French Elvis'" with Harley


Johnny Hallyday is perhaps the most American icon France has ever produced. Dubbed the "French Elvis', the late rocker put a je-ne-sais-quoi touch on a quintessentially U.S. musical genre, gave himself a Yankee stage name and wore leather and faded Levi's. And bien sûr, his motorcycle of choice was a Harley-Davidson.

Still, Hallyday, who died four years ago at the age of 74, was also sooo French. Born and raised in a rugged corner of the 9th arrondissement of Paris, the megastar singer (whose given name was Jean-Philippe Smet) was beloved by generations of French fans. The honors and street namings and tribute bars have continued around the country since his passing.

But it is in his hometown that the sanctification of the man simply known as "Johnny" has suddenly hit a wall. To coincide with the renaming of the square of the Palais Omnisports arena in Hallyday's honor, renowned gallery owner Kamel Mennour commissioned an artist to design a statue in front of the concert hall. The artwork conceived by French artist Bertrand Lavier, famous for his works of assemblage, features a real Harley-Davidson fixed atop a 15-foot-high guitar handle.

Although Hallyday's wife welcomed the statue, the top official in Paris' 12th arrondissement, where the arena is located, has blocked a vote on the statue. "I have my doubts," Emmanuelle Pierre-Marie, a member of the Green party, told Le Monde. "We want a sustainable city and the project puts on the foreground a Harley-Davidson – which symbolizes everything but this."

Other politicians in Paris have rushed to defend the popular singer, including some officials who are typically supportive of the capital's ongoing push to reduce traffic and other environmental measures. One called it "ecological punishment" for a national icon. After all, it was a different time: when Johnny was Johnny … and a Harley was a Harley.



This is an attack on journalism, a cornerstone of our rule of law.

— King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has condemned the shooting of famous Dutch crime journalist Peter de Vries who was shot in Amsterdam on Tuesday evening and is currently in a hospital fighting for his life. Three suspects were arrested shortly after, but no further details have emerged. As Dutch royals generally abstain from commenting on individual incidents, the king's remarks are a sign of de Vries' popularity.

✍️ Newsletter by Genevieve Mansfield, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Clémence Guimier, Meike Eijsberg and Bertrand Hauger

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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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