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Monday, December 9, 2013

Thai PM Calls for Elections, Protests Continue

Thailand’s prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, dissolved the government today and called for a snap election two years early in an attempt to quell mass protests.  A decree from King Bhumibol Adulyadej scheduled the elections for February 2. Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of people continued demonstrating, demanding instead a “people’s council” of unelected “good people” to replace the government. The emphasis on unelected officials seems to be because the opposition Democrats are aware that Yingluck’s Puea Thai party would almost certainly win any election (it has gained immense popularity for its pro-poor policies).

The protests began last month in response to a proposed amnesty bill that would have expunged former PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s corruption conviction.

Riot Police Raid Ukraine Opposition Office

Riot police were deployed throughout Kiev today after hundreds of thousands demonstrated on Sunday against the government’s decision to deepen ties with Russia and back away from a long-awaited pact with the EU. In a symbolic challenge to Russia’s historic influence over Ukraine, protesters tore down the statue of Vladimir Lenin and attacked it with hammers. The police have encircled the protesters, dismantling or blocking off several small protest camps. Masked men with guns raided the party headquarters of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, seizing computer servers.

President Viktor Yanukovich has backed a call for talks with the opposition, but it is unclear whether compromise is possible.

NSA Infiltrating Online Gaming

The NSA and its UK counterpart GCHQ have infiltrated the massive communities playing online games, scooping up the data of millions of people. Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, agents created avatars to try to recruit informers and collect communications between players.

The documents cite no counterterrorism successes for the effort and there is no clear evidence that terrorist groups use the games to communicate as most games track players’ identity and activity.

In related news, the world’s leading technology companies – AOL, Twitter, Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Apple and LinkedIn – are urging an international ban on bulk collection of data to help preserve the public’s “trust in the internet.”

Charges Made in LA Inmate Abuse Probe

Federal agents charged 18 current and former members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of excessive force and other misconduct in LA County jails. It is the largest jail system in the country and has been under intense scrutiny for two years following a string of lawsuits accusing deputies of abusing detainees (The ACLU has also released a report documenting more than 70 cases of misconduct). Most arrestees were lower to mid-ranking deputies; no assistant sheriffs or undersheriffs have been arrested.

French Troops Fight CAR Gunmen

While looking for weapons in an operation to disarm rival Muslim and Christian fighters responsible for hundreds of killings since last week, French troops exchanged fire with gunmen who refused to give up their weapons. Anger is still high as 400 died in two days of tit-for-tat violence in the capital city alone. Mobs have attacked at least three Muslim men today, killing one of them.

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