The Latest: Hamas Ceasefire Signals, Navalny’s Recovery, French Café Life Returns

Parisians enjoy a coffee at an outdoor café on the first day of a partial reopening of economic and cultural activities after a near seven-month closure.
Parisians enjoy a coffee at an outdoor café on the first day of a partial reopening of economic and cultural activities after a near seven-month closure.

Welcome to Thursday, where fighting continues in Gaza despite Hamas's moves toward a ceasefire, there's good news on Alexei Navalny's health, and a young French driver sets a new kind of speed record. Clarin also looks at the Brazilian Left's refusal to recognize its own failures and how that might allow Bolsonaro to win a second term.

• Hamas signals ceasefire possible: Shelling continued today from both sides across the Israel-Gaza border, following a statement from a senior Hamas leader of a ceasefire "within a day or two." Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given no indication of a halt to operations even after increased pressure from Washington.

• 55 million people internally displaced worldwide: Two NGOs report that at least 55 million people around the world are internally displaced within their own countries, a record number, with 2020 seeing the highest number of new people displaced in a decade, despite restrictions on movement imposed by many countries to curb the spread of COVID-19.

• Navalny slowly recovering: Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who has been in jail for more than three months, has "more or less' recovered from his hunger strike and is now able to communicate with his family, the head of Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service declared on Thursday. The activist's deteriorating condition had raised international concerns and prompted demonstrations around the world.

• Prisoners beheaded in riot in Guatemala: Guatemalan police said that at least seven prisoners have been killed in a fight between rival gangs in a jail in Quetzaltenango, western Guatemala. Most of the victims were found beheaded.

• China-U.S. row over disputed waters: Chinese authorities said on Thursday that an American warship had illegally entered its territorial waters in the South China Sea and was expelled by its forces. The U.S. government denied the accusation.

• Bitcoin recovers after Chinese curbs on cryptocurrency: Bitcoin recovered to reach $40,000 in early trading Thursday, a day after a brutal selloff over concerns over tighter regulation in China and Tesla's recent decision to no longer accept cryptocurrencies. The most popular cryptocurrency plunged 14% on Wednesday to its lowest level since late January.

• Harry Potter quiz show for 20th anniversary: A new TV quiz competition series is being launched by WarnerMedia as part of 20th anniversary celebrations for the first Harry Potter movie, and the corporation announced on Wednesday that it will open a cast for fans to participate in quiz challenges.

Israeli daily Haaretz reports on the international pressure growing on the country to halt airstrikes on Gaza, with U.S. President Joe Biden urging "sustainable calm" between the two sides. The front-page photo shows an Israeli mother and daughter during air raid sirens.

Why Lula's "arrogance" may guarantee Bolsonaro a second term

Fears of an economic slump under another leftist government led by an "unrepentant" Lula da Silva may prompt Brazilians to reelect authoritarian President Jair Bolsonaro for a second term next year, writes Leonardo Weller in Clarin, a top daily in neighboring Argentina.

The Brazilian Workers Party's (PT) economic disaster happened gradually. The first Lula government's strength had been its ability to form a team that could combine economic stability with income distribution policies. That was the best thing they did. By moving away from the economic consensus of the early 2000s, the second Lula government and first Dilma presidency produced a veritable disaster that mostly punished the poorest, and reversed the social achievements of the preceding decade.

Yet in spite of its tremendous failures, the PT refuses to criticize its past and accept its past economic policy failures. The party can then only explain its fall through conspiracy theories. Lula's conviction and Dilma's impeachment were, in fact, legitimate. But such institutional atrocities happened in Brazil precisely for the economic crisis their governments had generated. It wasn't just the elite taking their revenge. The PT fell because of its own errors.

When economic crises are too deep, democracy itself can collapse. That happened to Brazil in 1964, and is a process that is again, regrettably underway since 2014. The PT's cherished, and mistaken, vision of recent history is strengthening Bolsonaro's authoritarian project and complementing the harm of his "necropolitics." Its narrative is blocking the possibility of a broad coalition of Brazilians, including PT supporters, who believe in democracy as a force that can free the country from Bolsonaro's autocratic aspirations.

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Teenager loses driver's license 30 minutes after obtaining it

Getting your driver's license in France is no small feat. Endless hours of studying the holy "code de la route" for a tricky written exam, followed by a minimum of 20 hours of mandatory driving lessons before the road test. And high rates of failing marks all around. But for one teenager in southern France who'd managed to pass, it was all wiped away in 30 minutes.

As local daily Le Dauphiné Libéré explains, upon learning that he had passed his driving exam on May 12, the 18-year-old decided to hit the road right away for a celebratory drive.

But when the police stopped him for a routine roadside check half-an-hour later, he tested positive for cocaine and marijuana, leading authorities to immediately suspend his license — a new record in France.

Having bid adieu to his newly obtained license, the man also faces a 600-euro fine. Did he remember that from his written test?

➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on

$4.4 million

Joseph Blount, CEO of Colonial Pipeline, acknowledged publicly for the first time that he had authorized a $4.4 million ransom payment to the cyber-criminal gang responsible for taking the U.S. fuel pipeline offline on May 7. "It was the right thing to do for the country," he said, justifying his decision to pay the blackmailers.

We won't be going back to the days of British Rail with terrible sandwiches.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced large-scale plans for a reform of the country's railway operator, plagued by expensive fares, complicated timetables … and notoriously bad food.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Emma Flacard & Bertrand Hauger

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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

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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