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The Bangkok Massacre Sparks Déjà-vu for Samy

Samy doesn't live near the Thai capital of Bangkok, but his fate rests largely on the government that resides there-and that government has recently been plunged into utter chaos. Dozens have been killed and hundreds injured in the past weeks, as negotiations between political factions failed and the army resorted to force to quell a long-standing protest.

So before we delve deeper into one Canadian's plan to save Samy, it makes sense to look at the current turmoil in Thailand, through Samy's eyes. After all, he lives in Thailand, and his prospects of finding a new home are intimately bound to the Thai government's decision-making power. And a state caught in the midst of violent crisis tends not to put refugee affairs on the top of the agenda. Yet the immediate impact on Samy has been so great, not just because the clash disrupted government operations, but because it's something he's seen before.

Samy tells me that what's happening in Thailand reminds him of life in Burma: He's again seeing a military-backed, authoritarian leadership use military might to crush protesters calling for democracy. The military junta in Burma has routinely used violence to shatter pro-democracy movements for the last two decades.

"In Burma, it's the same thing: The army has been killing people, scaring people. And when I got here, I thought this country was freedom, and that people had a power," he says. "But they're killing people."


Though the story behind the deadly standoff is long and complex, an abridged version goes something like this: A huge populist grassroots organization, made up largely of the poor and champions of the poor, took to Bangkok en masse two months ago. Known as the "Red Shirts," the faction consists of followers of Thaksin Shinawatra, the democratically elected prime minister who was deposed in a military coup in 2006. (He's been living in exile ever since.)

The Red Shirts occupied Bangkok's posh commercial districts, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiv. According to the L.A. Times, they claim his "government is illegitimate, that it came to power by manipulating the courts and cozying up to the military, and that it embodies an elite indifferent to the plight of the poor." Negotiators sought a democratic solution, and Abhisit eventually promised new elections. But talks broke down around two weeks ago, and the military moved in to quell the uprising: 35 were left dead, and hundreds injured. Most were Red Shirts.

Now, even though the Red Shirts have retreated, pronounced fears of a greater conflict remain. Some have voiced concern that a full-on civil war might break out. Others murmur about totalitarian rule and economic collapse. To be sure, incalculable damage has been done to Thailand's tourism-heavy economy.

Samy mentions all of this, and though he says civil war seems possible, he's characteristically optimistic: "I think that they'll fix the problem. But it's still a big problem, and if they don't fix it now, it will become bigger and bigger. I think they have to fix it very soon."

He says there are only a few Red Shirts in Mae Sot, the city he frequents, and that there hasn't been much trouble. But he does wonder whether the tumult will delay his hearing with the PAB-the important meeting in which the Thai government could finally officially label him a displaced person.

"They say next month, but because of the political situation is very bad, I think maybe longer," Samy says. He's received no further word on the subject.

Most of all, Samy is disturbed by the military's use of force, and the fears he sees stirred in the Thai people. While commentators thousands of miles away may be relieved it wasn't as bad as Tiananmen Square, the magnitude of the tragedy is still resonating in Thailand.

"I will show you one video-you can watch that one. I was really, really mad," Samy tells me. He later emailed me the video, made by English-speaking journalists, and told me to share it.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/v/nv0bpnXEmW8&hl=en_US&fs=1&


I can't pretend to understand what it's like to be someone who's fled one eminently hostile government, only to watch his sanctuary country erupt in violent conflict. But I imagine news of the Thai army turning its guns on its own citizens must have been gut-wrenching. Nonetheless, Samy believes things haven't gotten as dire as they are in his home country, and that democracy will eventually win the day.

"It's not like in Burma. There, tthey can talk. And they can fix it with dialogue, and not with a gun anymore."

Articles

Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

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"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





Culture
via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

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Politics

The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

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Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

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The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

Health