Fatal film set shooting provides huge argument for gun control in US
October 25, 2021: It might have been a weird and tragic accident, but the shooting death in an Alec Baldwin film set took place among professionals who are supposed to know a lot better about guns, and in a country where firearms are easily accessible to a vast number of people with a lot less expertise.
“Constitutional rights” are always defended every time noises grow louder against the “freedom” to own guns. Truth is gun politics is immense in the superpower nation and compounded by powerful industrial lobbying.
But here is some more truth: A few years ago, more than 10 shootings in US schools happened between the New Year and February. According to Wikipedia, it has been estimated that US civilians own 270 million to 310 million firearms, and that 35% to 42% of the households in the country have at least one gun. The number is staggering and explains the frequency of gun-related tragedies. In addition to “psychopath massacres”, the United States is reported to have a very high rate of firearm homicide, which is some 25 times higher than the average of high-income nations, and which is a lot higher than that when compared with developed nations like Japan or the United Kingdom whose gun laws are a lot more restrictive.
What happened at the “Rust” movie, whether it is an accident or something more mysterious, set typifies the saying that what can go wrong WILL go wrong. And with that large number of firearm ownerships in the United States, a lot can go wrong.
October 24, 2021: When Russel Crowe’s next film hits Thai cinema, it will be surprising if a don’t-watch-it hashtag does not circulate wildly among Thai political animals.
Not only has the mega star complimented Phuket’s controversially revived tourism, he has also become a government guest because of that, surely to the dismay of opponents of the Prayut administration.
A picture of Crowe, whose arguably most famous cinematic line is “Are you not entertained?” in “Gladiator”, with senior Thai officials including Culture Minister Ittiphol Kunplome will certainly go viral. But that just will be the beginning of it.
October 23, 2021: One main cause of Thailand’s national divide can be traced to the biggest political party’s failure to find a prime minister or prime ministerial candidate who can take the country out of a vicious political circle.
That may sound harsh to the Pheu Thai Party and to be fair to it, “the other side” has more or less the same problem. However, as far as “democracy” goes, the onus is on Pheu Thai to provide or propose the least divisive leadership. In other words, Pheu Thai sweeping an election is not a way out of the prolonged crisis that has split the country in half. It’s what the party does concerning its choice of prime minister that really counts.
As long as Pheu Thai’s torch is passed back and forth among those in the inner circles of the Shinawatras, if not the Shinawatras themselves, peace will remain delusional and future turbulence will be guaranteed. While the Democrats have Jurin Laksanawisit and Move Forward has Pita Limjaroenrat, Pheu Thai has not disclosed who it will present as its prime ministerial candidate, and that is not giving everyone best hope. Either Pheu Thai actually cannot locate someone who it can advertise, or it has resorted to the same old approach in selecting one who is too contentious to unveil now. Media speculation still revolves around people with close connections with Thaksin Shinawatra. One shocking name being floated at the moment is his youngest daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra.
If Pheu Thai emerges victorious in the next election, it will have the great responsibility to provide non-confrontational leadership. It will have two choices: Bring about true reconciliation or rule on a barely dormant volcano that, when it explodes, can aggravate divisions and send Thailand back to Square One.
October 22, 2021: Several members of the ruling party have been shocked by the results of its own opinion poll which suggested that the camp might win just four seats in the South.
The Palang Pracharath Party won 13 seats in the Democrat-dominated region in the last election, but the internal survey reportedly showed that only four seats would be guaranteed next time.
It remains to be seen who would gain from the predicted Palang Pracharath loss, but the South has never been a region that supports “the other camp”, albeit the current opposition bloc. The South, analysts believe, would remain an exclusive battleground for the Democrats, Palang Pracharath, and Bhumjaithai in the next election.
The internal southern poll was said to be of particular interest of Palang Pracharath big guns, mainly because the party did well in the last election thanks to the popularity of Prayut Chan-o-cha rather than its own popularity, and because Palang Pracharath will go into the next election with perceived conflicts or problems with Prayut in voters’ minds.
It was reported that the survey was conducted without the knowledge of many party members, who have been stunned by the newly-released findings.
October 21, 2021: The COVID-19 crisis will continue deep into next year, way longer than it is supposed to, because poor countries are not getting vaccines in time, the World Health Organisation has said.
A minuscule percentage of Africa’s population has been vaccinated, compared to 40% on most other continents. There are vast differences in the pace of vaccine progress in different parts of the world despite the fact that more than 6.5 billion doses have been administered, in roughly 200 countries worldwide.
The pandemic will “go on for a year longer than it needs to” because poorer countries are not getting the vaccines they need, the WHO says. Basically, every adult in the world should have received or should be receiving at least the first shot, but that is definitely not the case. A big reason is what is decried as “vaccine apartheid” where a lot of things came into play but not human rights.
The vast majority of vaccines overall have been used in high-income or upper middle-income countries. Africa accounts for just 2.6% of doses administered globally, according to a very recent report. Covax, a noble international initiative to hurry vaccines to populations in need, is way behind its ambitious delivery plan. The poor Covax progress has been further dimmed by the People’s Vaccine, an alliance of charities, which has released new figures suggesting just one in seven of the doses promised by pharmaceutical companies and wealthy countries are actually reaching their destinations in poorer countries.
October 20, 2021: The question is not whether Donald Trump lacks grace or decency. The real question is whether what he said about Collin Powell is true.
Former president Trump said in a statement after Powell, former US secretary of state and ex-general, had passed away a few days ago: “Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media.”
He added: “Hope that happens to me someday. He was a classic RINO (Republican in name only), if even that, always being the first to attack other Republicans. He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!”
Anti-Trump American media immediately jumped on that, saying the former US leader had a bad taste that has no bottom. But let’s forget that for a minute. Big mistakes on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction? What did Trump really mean?
October 19, 2021: A lot of people may be scratching their heads on learning that American health authorities have put Singapore on some kind of a COVID-19 red alert, but truth is that small infection numbers in small countries warrant extreme caution.
If Singapore was as big as Thailand, the island nation’s coronavirus situation could be even worse based on current infection rates and sizes of populations of the two countries. Over the past 28 days, the criteria used by America to decide or update its list of “red alert” travel destinations, Singapore’s daily infections broke through 1,000, 2,000 and even 3,000 a significant number of times.
The country is many times smaller than Thailand.
That is why the United States’ Center for Diseases Control and Prevention has moved Singapore up from “Level 3”, or high-risk, to “Level 4”, which is the agency’s highest risk category. The four-level risk list concerns popular travel destinations. Thailand’s numbers over the past 28 days still did not subject it to the unenviable list, but, given significant rises in the future, the country is not far-off. (Destinations that fall into America’s Level 4 category have each had 500 cases among 100,000 residents. Thailand, according to some rough calculations, has been hovering around 400, give or take.)
October 18, 2021: The biggest opposition party has denied that either Thaksin Shinawatra’s ex-wife Potjaman Na Pombejra or her brother Priewpan Damapong, who is former police chief, would be its prime ministerial candidates in the next election.
The Pheu Thai Party will not reveal its prime ministerial candidate(s) at the moment, saying only that the key nominee has been selected “who is a new face and whose name will impress both the party members and Thai public.”
Thaksin Shinawatra, regarded as the de facto leader of the party, said in exile recently that younger people are coming to take over politics and the older generation should make way. That comment, analysts believe, will create some kind of pressure for Pheu Thai to choose a relatively young person to be its key prime ministerial candidate, or what Thaksin said could come back to haunt the whole camp.
“Quite a few names have been floated by the media but none of them is correct,” said Pheu Thai secretary-general Prasert Jantararuangtong. “All I can say right now is that we have already made our choice, which will definitely impress both the Thai people and members of the party.”
Prasert insisted that neither Potjaman nor Priewpan was interested in playing politics.
October 17, 2021: Molnupiravir, dubbed as a possible game changer in the coronavirus pandemic, has become a global hype triggering a worldwide scramble, but one very big question remains.
How can the world’s poor get their hands to it fast enough, if at all?
It’s up to the patent holder, who will have to endure the most lingering humanitarian question which has been subdued at other times, thanks largely to the staunch yet controversial western-supported advocacy of medical “intellectual property”.
Many countries which were slow in their vaccine programmes are said to be determined not to make the same mistake, having placed advanced orders or resolved internally to buy the pill. But, as it has been the case with the vaccines, copyright commercialism will come into play and a lot of poor populations can miss out.
The drug is awaiting official approval, but is already considered the real game changer because it might be able to treat severe COVID-19 symptoms, downgrading the virus’ threat significantly. Experts insist, however, that vaccines remain the best form of protection.
While the drug will be simple to produce, America’s pharmaceutical company Merck controls the right to decide supply and pricing. Calls for patent waiver have started, and will get louder.
October 16, 2021: Even at its peak, the ruling party did not win as many House seats as its controversial secretary-general claims it would in the next election.
Claiming unspecified “defections” toward his party, Thammanat Prompao has declared that Palang Pracharath would win “at least 150 seats and we will definitely achieve that” when Thais go to poll next time. That’s nearly three dozen more seats than in 2019, when the then-fledging party won the most combined votes in Thailand (more than 8.4 million).
It’s different now, considering all kinds of trouble, and the current mood is Palang Pracharath would uncork the champagne if it could get 100 seats or even close to that. Apparently, Thammanat was either trying to pump up party members or sending a “You will need me” message to Prayut Chan-o-cha.
October 15, 2021: It took the media to drum up “China-Taiwan” tension and it has taken the media to play it down. For now, at least.
CNN, which is among western media who got the whole world very excited following Beijing’s sea and air military movement near Taiwan, now is saying that Taiwanese on the streets are uninterested.
“In Taipei, people don’t seem worried,” read a CNN headline today. In the story, park conversations covered what snacks are delicious, what teas are good and what exercises are best for health. Nobody reportedly talked about war.
The story went on to list China’s “suspicious” military activities lately, though.
Earlier, western coverages were all over political statements that “Beijing will be ready soon”, that “Taipei is not afraid” and that America and China “had agreement” over Taiwan. Then coverages scrutinised the alleged existence of such an agreement and pondered what Washington would do in case of an “invasion” (or what China would call an attempt to reclaim its “sovereignty”. )
October 14, 2021: Directing his remarks at Prayut Chan-o-cha and key allies, all of whom he described as too old for Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra risks having such statements backfire against his own, de facto party, and probably himself.
The Pheu Thai Party does not have many young members, let alone prime ministerial candidates youthful enough to sell to the new generation, which he admitted old-timers can never really understand. Saying Prayut, younger than him in fact, is too old for Thai politics is arguably tantamount to telling voters to choose Move Forward over Pheu Thai. Also, Thaksin might as well be telling Thais to ignore what he does.
“I’m begging you. I’m wai-ing you although I’m older than you,” Thaksin said, indirectly addressing Prayut in a Clubhouse talk this week. “We are too old. Although I’m someone who reads a lot and talks a lot to today’s kids but there is no way people of our generation can understand today’s youngsters fully. Please. Enough is enough. Let the new generation do it.”
Prayut is 67 while Thaksin is 72.
October 13, 2021: It doesn’t happen only in Thailand. The outcome of America’s “justice process” regarding the Capitol Hill violence in January relies much on results of next year’s election in the United States.
Although politicians should not get anywhere near a judicial probe into the infamy that killed several people and made the world’s jaws drop, which party wins that election would have a big say on which way the political wind blows regarding attempts to find the truth.
The whole affair has become a “race against time”, admitted an article in CNN. In other words, if the parliamentary investigation makes a lot of progress or comes close to completion before the election, Donald Trump and the Republicans will be in a bad shape; or if the Democrats win convincingly next year, the same will happen; but if the Republicans bounce back from last year’s presidential race and reshape Parliament, a totally different story may transpire.
Political farces are everywhere, but one of the biggest may take place where much of the world believe it shouldn’t.
October 12, 2021: The amount of political mudslinging and scale of national divide in America at the moment make outsiders wonder about the future of “democracy” in the country.
Democrats and the media that support them for any reason are portraying Donald Trump as democracy’s biggest enemy and more and more Republicans are falling into that category with each passing day. This is posing an extremely disturbing question: Is the two-party system that has been the foundation of America’s “democratic politics” coming to a virtual end?
This question will be amplified if Trump grabs the nomination. That remains a very big “If”, but according to various reports including one from The Washington Post, the twice-impeached former president is holding campaign-style activities in battleground states and several key Republicans rallied behind him just a few days ago in Iowa, which holds the first-in-the-nation caucus. The Iowa event, said an op-ed article published on CNN, “is the most alarming by far.”
In recent weeks, his and his allies’ email campaigns requesting donations have hit 2020-level frequency, troubling pro-Democrat analysts. Trump is also bothering the other side by constantly implying that he’s interested in running again, and his advisers are echoing his thoughts about returning to rule. “An informal poll of 13 of his current and former advisers in recent days indicated that 10 believed he would run, two said it was a public relations ploy, and another said he was not sure,” the Post reported.
Joe Biden just took control of the White House months ago, and many things can still happen before the next presidential election. But if Trump features in the future Democrat-Republican showdown, the battle will be the fiercest in modern American history. National divide could be the worst since the pain of the Civil War. The cliche of “Protecting democracy” will reach a new, unbelievable height, but that can lead to a hypothetical, and very scary, question as well. If one party is so discredited in a two-party system, does it mean a slippery slope toward dictatorship?
October 11, 2021: Amid lingering fears and cautious optimism all around the world, how much of the country is “reopened” over the next few weeks carries extreme economic, public health and political significances.
Thailand’s infection number remains relatively high, given worldwide trends, but death tolls lately have been more of a relief. World tourist spots are reopening, with warnings understandably coming from scientists worried about economic concerns reclaiming priority from public health wellbeing. Western reports cautioned about declaring victory over the coronavirus “too soon”, but publishing the caution in the first place is optimistic. “The world is reopening its door”, said a Thai news website today.
Some Thai doctors are warning about “Blue New Year” _ or even a “black” one. This is in response to the government’s hints, which are getting louder, about more reopening, particularly when the tourism sector is concerned. Thai numbers, the doctors say, are not quite reflective of the global graphs which have been significantly downward.
October 10, 2021: The more the clock ticks, the louder the issue of how longer Prayut Chan-o-cha can constitutionally remain prime minister will get.
That has been apparently confirmed by the latest NIDA poll, which found out that more than 40% of 1,311 people surveyed wanted him to leave the post on constitutional grounds within August next year, while another 38.37% wanted the Constitutional Court to have a clear-cut saying on the issue.
Those who said he didn’t have to do anything (regarding constitutional interpretation) amounted to just 15% and nearly 6% were uninterested.
The same opinion poll also appeared to show a clamouring for new election, with over 40% saying the House of Representatives should be dissolved “soon” while another 30% preferred a House dissolution after all election-related new laws are completed.
October 9, 2021: Maria Ressa has received the highest international honour of her journalistic career thanks to her exposure of a dubious war on drugs in the Philippines. That certainly makes many people other than Rodrigo Duterte uncomfortable.
While the term “press freedom” is the highlight of the Nobel Peace Prize going to her and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov this year, Ressa’s work on investigating the controversial anti-drug policies of her Philippine government is a very strong sidebar. That must have made one Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been preaching freedom, liberty and respect for human rights online, very uneasy.
Many innocent people are believed to have been killed in Duterte’s anti-drug crackdown. Ressa’s attempts to bring that out paved the way for her Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee singled out her relentless efforts against the “murderous anti-drug campaign” of her government in the panel’s recognition of what she did.
While Thaksin, in exile, has been addressing practically everything under the sun regarding state injustice, Duterte’s war on drugs could be an exception.
For the record here, there were a few Thai journalists facing or threatening with lawsuits either from the Thaksin government or his business empire for exposing things like alleged conflicts of interest and questionable construction materials or methods at the Suvarnabhumi airport. Numerous extrajudicial “anti-drug” killings were also reported and questioned, and so was the Tak Bai incident. No Prize nominations, however.
October 8, 2021: The key government message today is that while the daily coronavirus infection numbers have been significantly below 20,000 over the past few days, the figures could shoot back up to around 25,000 or even 30,000, particularly if social distancing guards are down.
More people are tempted to lower their masks now when meeting friends, having meals with others, drinking whisky, or playing cards or other forms of gambling, and those mistakes were the key reasons for infections lately, said the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration.
According to the government, while worldwide figures are showing a downward trend, there are also countries with large-scale vaccination that have reported unusually high numbers. Lowering of the guards is primarily to blame, because the coronavirus remains as strong as ever, if not stronger.
“Everyone must assume that everyone he or she meets is probably carrying it, that any place he or she visits may have the virus,” said Chawetsan Namwat, senior epidemiologist, speaking at today’s CCSA press conference. “Thinking this way will keep the guards up. Measures must be taken as seriously as before, or the daily case number can reach 25,000 or even 30,000.”
October 7, 2021: Two different and highly-credible studies published this week have confirmed that the immune protection offered by two doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine drops off after two months or so, fuelling concern that humans may have used the wrong approach in fighting the coronavirus.
Commercialism and politics at the highest international level have made superpower countries compete with one another in developing drugs instead of joining hands to create one single medicine that works.
Played up by CNN, the studies, from Israel and from Qatar and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, support the argument that protection against severe symptoms, hospitalisation and death remain strong. On the one hand, that is good news. On the other hand, it means the current trend of superpowers fighting for themselves instead of working together will continue.
One thing is certain: The scramble for the third shot will only intensify.
The Israli study covered 4,800 healthcare workers. The one in Qatar looked at infections in general among fully-vaccinated people. Those conducting the latter study noted that people who received two doses tended to have “riskier” activities than those who did not.
October 6, 2021: “Whistleblowers” expose things, or simply unintentionally confirm that the persons, groups, organisations or institutions they expose are too big or powerful to act against. Ask Edward Snowden, or, in the latest case, Frances Haugen.
She has come out all guns blazing against Facebook, making big headlines concerning leaks of internal documents amounting to stories that are anything but surprising: Facebook has apparently become a political tool, whether it knows that or not. Facebook is advocating online platforms that make people feel bad about themselves. Facebook is lenient on celebrity users. Facebook promotes hatred. Facebook is like the tobacco industry that thrived by hiding dangers from the public. Facebook ignores possible harmful effects on fledging countries. On and on it goes.
Against the backdrop is a widening political divide in America. Unlike Snowden, this Facebook whistleblower, a former employee of Mark Zuckerberg, is getting a romanticised status, having her allegations amplified by pro-government politicians and the mainstream media are all behind her. Since most of the leaked documents just confirmed what the world already knew about Facebook, one likely conclusion is that the company, getting too big and powerful for its own good, must have done something to upset the powers-that-be, who are the only ones capable of putting the genie back in the bottle.
October 5, 2021: Thais mark the anniversary of one of the kingdom’s darkest days with the hope that it will never happen again.
Despite all the wishes and efforts, anxiety lingers, for obvious reasons. Conflicts and problems that caused or culminated in October 6, 1976 remain aplenty, and they have been amplified over the past two years. Perspectives, opinions, demagoguery and extremism spawned in the aftermath of the massacre at the Thammasat University have bred social divisions that are so difficult to deal with.
Today’s young people only know about it from mostly partisan sources. Old people nowadays were young when the university campus was stormed with tragic results. It happened when nobody knew about the computer, let alone the social media, and information came from just a few newspapers and television newsrooms.
The day gave various lessons, and probably the biggest one is that a political bloodbath does not require a big trigger. There were no “keyboard warriors” to drum up hatred before the sad day and there were no smartphones to help mobilise warring parties. Nobody went to the “comment sections” and said we should do this or that. Emotions spread through conventional channels alone drove Thais to kill Thais. Even marking the anniversary can make many feel worried, rightly or wrongly.
Which is why everyone who matters now must be very, very careful. The “recipe” is not going anywhere and all the villainous “puppet masters” must be drooling over how easier it must seem now, with all the “communication tools” at their disposal. There is no way else to prove them wrong except to make sure that the tragedy of that scale shall never occur again.
Coming to terms with October 6 is hard, as it always arouses strong feelings, so the priority now is to prevent those feelings from becoming something worse.
October 4, 2021: The biggest trouble of the polarised kingdom could be traced to the fact that laws and politics are mixing badly, with lawyers having been influenced wrongly by politics and politicians committing legal mistakes on countless occasions.
The above was a Facebook opinion but it seems to underline the messy use of laws in Thailand and politicians’ attempts to change laws for political gains, resulting in vociferous conflicts that threaten to turn into violence at any time.
“Lawyers must have more political backgrounds and politicians must appreciate law and order. When both groups lack the other side’s knowledge but try to influence society as if they know best, what we have are confused public and a puzzled new generation,” the post said.
This means no laws are good if they don’t benefit politically partisan people, who in turn will only make laws or want laws to serve politics, not true justice.
October 3, 2021: His popularity increased by barely 2 % in the latest opinion poll, but the most favourite Bangkok gubernatorial candidate will take heart in the findings that his closest opponents and big political parties are actually losing grounds, hence widening gaps.
Independent candidate Chadchart Sittipunt remains the most popular choice in the latest NIDA Poll survey, getting 29.74 % support compared with 27.71% previously, or at the beginning of September. The survey of 1,318 eligible Bangkok voters last week also showed that the portion of undecided voters has increased from 24.60% to 27.92%.
The chasing pack does not gain from the increasing number of undecided voters at the moment, according to the survey’s findings.
The second most favourite candidate, former police chief Chakthip Chaijinda, got 13.66% backing, declining from 15.49% in September. A total of 2.73% would vote for any candidate from the Progressive Movement or the Move Forward Party, down from 5.24% a month ago. Support for the Pheu Thai Party was 2.29%, decreasing from 3.27% in the previous survey.
October 2, 2021: An American pharmaceutical company’s stocks have risen amid “good news” about a pill it’s developing that might considerably reduce hospitalisations and deaths related to the coronavirus.
Humanitarian questions would be almost certain to ensue, though, when the road is cleared for Merck & Co to distribute the pill, Molnupiravir. A global scrambling is guaranteed, the “price” issue will dominate health debate and the long-standing matter that has been haunting America _ profitability and charitableness when drug companies are concerned _ will be glaring.
As of now, the scales of commercialism and willingness to share the promising innovation with the rest of the badly-struggling world remain anyone’s guess as more trials and authorities’ scrutiny are needed. But if cleared, Merck’s drug will be the first pill shown to treat COVID-19, a potentially major advance in efforts to fight the pandemic. Early results have shown that patients who received the pill within five days of initial symptoms had half the hospitalisation and death rates than those getting dummy pills. (The study tracked 775 adults.)
The United States recently softened its stance on drug patent thanks to the need to urgently vaccinate the world. It will be watched closely again.
Merck & Co reportedly made almost US$48 billion last year. News about the pill has predictably sent the firm’s share price rising.
October 1, 2021: The Prayut government hopes to vaccinate 50% of the population by the end of this month, and achieve even higher percentages in selective areas.
That’s what was announced today amid the good news of increasing vaccine supplies and bad, lingering news of the possibility that the coronavirus is working tirelessly to outsmart all vaccines being used at the moment.
Apisamai Srirangsan, assistant spokesperson on the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration, said each Thai province’s vaccination should cover 50% of its population at the end of October. That means at least half of the entire Thai population would have been vaccinated within four weeks, whereas it took more than half a year to reach just over 40% (first doses only).
Some math needs to be done here. As of today, some 32.7 million first doses have been given to Thais. To get to 50% requires only a few million more doses. On the other hand, the second doses have amounted to just over 20 million in Thailand. As far as “fully vaccinated” goes, the government needs to vaccinate some 15 million more Thais (second jab) to reach the targeted 50% coverage.
To get 50% of Thais to be fully vaccinated, it means the first dose needs to reach 50% first, which is currently not the case. Therefore, if the government wants 50% of Thais to be fully vaccinated, it will require a few million more first doses plus some 15 million more second doses.
Supplies do not seem to be a big problem lately, and neither does the capability to administer a large amount of doses daily. But fears have been persistent among many international health experts that a variant might emerge to render current vaccine useless. The theory about this new, invincible variant, however, is highly dependent on the number of “hosts” of the current variants. The higher the number of hosts, the higher the chances for meaningful mutations.
Apisamai said at least one district in each Thai province would get a 70% vaccine coverage, whereas any district earmarked for economic pioneering push would get 80%.