It’s time to hang up on the old telecoms rulebook

Joakim Reiter | via Vodafone

Around 120 years ago, Guglielmo Marconi planted the seeds of a communications revolution, sending the first message via a wireless link over open water. “Are you ready? Can you hear me?”, he said. Now, the telecommunications industry in Europe needs policymakers to heed that call, to realize the vision set by its 19th-century pioneers.

Next-generation telecommunications are catalyzing a transformation on par with the industrial revolution. Mobile networks are becoming programmable platforms — supercomputers that will fundamentally underpin European industrial productivity, growth and competitiveness. Combined with cloud, AI and the internet of things, the era of industrial internet will transform our economy and way of life, bringing smarter cities, energy grids and health care, as well as autonomous transport systems, factories and more to the real world.

5G is already connecting smarter, autonomous factory technologies | via Vodafone

Europe should be at the center of this revolution, just as it was in the early days of modern communications.

Next-generation telecommunications are catalyzing a transformation on par with the industrial revolution.

Even without looking at future applications, the benefits of a healthy telecoms industry for society are clear to see. Mobile technologies and services generated 5 percent of global GDP, equivalent to €4.3 trillion, in 2021. More than five billion people around the world are connected to mobile services — more people today have access to mobile communications than they do to safely-managed sanitation services. And with the combination of satellite solutions, the prospect of ensuring every person on the planet is connected may soon be within reach.

Satellite solutions, combined with mobile communications, could eliminate coverage gaps | via Vodafone

In our recent past, when COVID-19 spread across the world and societies went into lockdown, connectivity became critical for people to work from home, and for enabling schools and hospitals to offer services online.  And with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when millions were forced to flee the safety of their homes, European network operators provided heavily discounted roaming and calling to ensure refugees stayed connected with loved ones.

A perfect storm of rising investment costs, inflationary pressures, interest rate hikes and intensifying competition from adjacent industries is bearing down on telecoms businesses across Europe.

These are all outcomes and opportunities, depending on the continuous investment of telecoms’ private companies.

And yet, a perfect storm of rising investment costs, inflationary pressures, interest rate hikes and intensifying competition from adjacent industries is bearing down on telecoms businesses across Europe. The war on our continent triggered a 15-fold increase in wholesale energy prices and rapid inflation. EU telecoms operators have been under pressure ever since to keep consumer prices low during a cost-of-living crisis, while confronting rapidly growing operational costs as a result. At the same time, operators also face the threat of billions of euros of extra, unforeseen costs as governments change their operating requirements in light of growing geopolitical concerns.

Telecoms operators may be resilient. But they are not invincible.

The odds are dangerously stacked against the long-term sustainability of our industry and, as a result, Europe’s own digital ambitions. Telecoms operators may be resilient. But they are not invincible.

The signs of Europe’s decline are obvious for those willing to take a closer look. European countries are lagging behind in 5G mobile connectivity, while other parts of the world — including Thailand, India and the Philippines — race ahead. Independent research by OpenSignal shows that mobile users in South Korea have an active 5G connection three times more often than those in Germany, and more than 10 times their counterparts in Belgium.

Europe needs a joined-up regulatory, policy and investment approach that restores the failing investment climate and puts the telecoms sector back to stable footing.

Average 5G connectivity in Brazil is more than three times faster than in Czechia or Poland. A recent report from the European Commission — State of the Digital Decade ( shows just how far Europe needs to go to reach the EU’s connectivity targets for 2030.

To arrest this decline, and successfully meet EU’s digital ambitions, something has got to give. Europe needs a joined-up regulatory, policy and investment approach that restores the failing investment climate and puts the telecoms sector back to stable footing.

Competition, innovation and efficient investment are the driving forces for the telecoms sector today. It’s time to unleash these powers — not blindly perpetuate old rules. We agree with Commissioner Breton’s recent assessment: Europe needs to redefine the DNA of its telecoms regulation. It needs a new rulebook that encourages innovation and investment, and embraces the logic of a true single market. It must reduce barriers to growth and scale in the sector and ensure spectrum — the lifeblood of our industry — is managed more efficiently. And it must find faster, futureproofed ways to level the playing field for all business operating in the wider digital sector.  

But Europe is already behind, and we are running out of time. It is critical that the EU finds a balance between urgent, short-term measures and longer-term reforms. It cannot wait until 2025 to implement change.

Europeans deserve better communications technology | via Vodafone

When Marconi sent that message back in 1897, the answer to his question was, “loud and clear”. As Europe’s telecoms ministers convene this month in León, Spain, their message must be loud and clear too. European citizens and businesses deserve better communications. They deserve a telecoms rulebook that ensures networks can deliver the next revolution in digital connectivity and services.

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Real estate tycoon Srettha Thavisin secures votes to become Thailand’s 30th Prime Minister

Srettha Thavisin from the populist Pheu Thai party secured enough votes in Parliament to become Thailand’s 30th Prime Minister on August 22, hours after former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra returned from years of self-imposed exile and began an eight-year prison sentence.

While the vote was not complete, Mr. Srettha had enough votes to win. The voting was suspended with about around 20 votes left to cast after someone collapsed on the floor of parliament.

A real estate tycoon, his apparent victory ends months of suspense, legal wrangling and horse trading that allowed the second-place election winner to form a government after the surprise winner, the Move Forward Party, was repeatedly rejected by conservative senators appointed by a previous military government.

Mr. Srettha will lead a coalition of 11 parties that includes two pro-military parties affiliated with outgoing Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. Move Forward was excluded from the coalition. Critics called the new government a betrayal of the election results, but Pheu Thai leaders defended it as a necessity for ending the political deadlock and creating reconciliation.

At Pheu Thai party headquarters, supporters in red danced in celebration.

Pheu Thai supporters react during a parliamentary vote on Srettha Thavisin’s prime ministerial candidacy, at the party headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, on August 22, 2023.
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Pheu Thai excluded Move Forward, saying its stance on changing the royal defamation law had made it impossible to rally enough support from other parties and the Senate. Both houses of Parliament vote together for the Prime Minister under the military-implemented constitution, in an arrangement designed to protect conservative military-backed rule.

Pheu Thai said it would control eight Cabinet posts and nine deputy Cabinet posts. The military-backed parties — Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation — are to receive two Cabinet posts and two deputy posts each. Pheu Thai has not identified the Ministries that each party will control.

It said the coalition agreed to support Pheu Thai’s platform of boosting the economy, increasing the minimum wage and ending mandatory conscription. They will also support the continued legalization of medical marijuana and work to amend the constitution to make the country “become more democratic,” while not touching the royal defamation law, Pheu Thai said.

The parliamentary vote came hours after divisive ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra returned to Thailand after years of self-imposed exile to face criminal charges after being ousted in a 2006 military coup.

His return was an emotional moment for supporters of the 74-year-old billionaire, who won the loyalty of millions with populist policies that directed attention, and funding, to the country’s largely rural, often impoverished, north.

Hundreds of people gathered outside of the airport hours ahead of Thaksin’s 9 a.m. arrival, donning red clothes and holding sign with welcoming messages. They sang and chanted in anticipation, then raised a raucous cheer when he appeared at the terminal door.

“I feel fulfilled that I traveled here today to pick him up. If possible I want to hug him. Everyone has tears, tears coming out of their eyes,” said Makawan Payakkae, a 43-year-old from Maha Sarakham province, in Thailand’s northeast.

Thaksin and parties backed by him struggled with the military for years. Thaksin left Thailand 15 years ago, following a 2006 coup that cut short his second term as Prime Minister and sparked years of upheaval. A Pheu Thai government led by Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra was ousted in 2014 by then-army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is now the outgoing prime minister after voters largely rejected military-linked parties in May.

Before his return earlier Tuesday, Thaksin has said his decision to return has nothing to do with the Pheu Thai party’s bid for power, but many observers suspect that the divisive former leader is betting that a friendly government will be able to cut his sentence short.

“Thaksin’s plans to return to Thailand were postponed after the election results were announced — this implies a strong connection between the election, formation of coalitions, and selection of the prime minister on one hand, and Thaksin’s personal agenda on the other,” said Napon Jatusripitak, a political science researcher and visiting fellow at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

Less than a week before the May elections, Thaksin announced plans to return before his birthday in July, but they were repeatedly delayed.

Napon said Thaksin’s decision to return now suggests that “he has received assurances that he will not have to serve a prison sentence in full.”

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam of the outgoing military-linked government has said that Thaksin can request a royal pardon like any other inmate, and could receive special consideration because of his age.

After walking out of the airport, Thaksin prostrated himself before a portrait of Thailand’s king and queen and left a flower wreath. He spent a moment greeting supporters and the media waiting in front of the terminal, but did not speak.

Thaksin’s convoy went from the airport to the Supreme Court, where a special body that handles criminal cases against former officeholders confirmed an eight-year sentence given to him in absentia for corruption, which he has he dismissed as politically motivated. He then went directly to Bangkok’s main prison.

Correctional officers at Bangkok Remand Prison said in a news conference that following a medical check, Thaksin had been categorized as “vulnerable” due to his age and chronic conditions affecting his heart and lungs, including high blood pressure, and he will be held in isolation and monitored at all hours due to safety and health concerns.

Thaksin’s daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra, a key figure in Pheu Thai, posted family photos with Thaksin in the middle on Facebook with a message thanking people who went to the airport to welcome her father, saying “me and my family are very grateful.”

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Legacy of 2014 coup haunts Thai reformist’s bid for PM

Two months after Pita Limjaroenrat’s party triumphed in Thailand’s May 2023 election, the reformist politician failed to win enough votes in parliament this week to become prime minister. Thursday’s vote came just days after Thailand’s caretaker prime minister and former army chief, Prayuth Chan-ocha, announced his retirement from politics. But the junta chief’s legacy still haunts Thailand’s shaky democracy.

Gone, maybe, but not soon forgotten. As Pita Limjaroenrat, the 42-year-old Harvard graduate who won Thailand’s general election, leaned back in his black leather chair as vote after vote was counted Thursday at a joint session of parliament, did he feel his predecessor’s shadow standing over him? Before the final result was declared, it was already clear – Pita had not won the support he needed to follow former commander-in-chief Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister. 

Photographed in varying stages of frustration throughout the vote, the winner of the May 2023 polls needed 375 votes in both houses of parliament, the house of representatives and the senate, to become prime minister. He got 324. Across both houses, 182 lawmakers voted against his candidacy, with 199 abstaining.

A disappointing result for the reformist candidate, but not a surprising one. Under the military-drafted constitution promulgated in 2017, all 250 members of the senate – now 249, following an eleventh-hour resignation the day before – were appointed by the junta that seized power under then-army chief Prayuth in 2014. 

Only 13 of these senators supported Pita’s candidacy, with 34 voting against him. A further 159 senators abstained. Dozens more did not show up to the vote.

Thursday’s setback may mark the beginning of the end for the liberal frontrunner. On Saturday, Pita announced that if he failed again in a second ballot set for next week, he would withdraw his candidacy for the premiership.

Although he announced his retirement from politics just two days before the vote, caretaker Prime Minister Prayuth’s nine years in power cast a suffocating shadow over Thursday’s ballot. The arch-royalist seized power in part to ensure the smooth succession of unpopular crown prince Maha Vajiralongkorn as his father’s health continued to decline. The former army chief then spent years writing the long-standing alliance between the military and the monarchy into the nation’s highest laws. 

Despite the official end of absolute monarchy in Thailand in 1932, the sovereign continues to wield enormous influence over Thai politics and society.

In 2017, the junta amended the law to give the new king complete control over the nation’s Crown Property Bureau, which manages real estate and investments valued by Forbes in 2012 at $30 billion. The next year, those holdings were signed directly over to King Mahavajiralongkorn himself. The military has consistently justified its often-violent interventions into Thai politics as necessary measures to defend the Crown.

Since taking power, Prayuth oversaw a steep rise in prosecutions under the nation’s infamous lèse-majesté legislation, which makes any criticism of the sovereign punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Pita’s campaign promise to amend these lèse-majesté laws helped propel the US-educated politician to victory earlier this year. It has now made him a target for the backers of an institution that brooks no criticism. 

Read moreIs Thailand at a turning point after Move Forward party’s election win?

Prayuth played a decisive role in uniting the nation’s powerful business interests and conservative Bangkok elite behind the royal family in the face of mounting popular discontent with the Crown’s impunity, according to Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of the faculty of political science at Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani University. 

“We can see the establishment and strengthening of the power of the conservative group, which was intended to prevent the rise of the liberal forces in the country,” he said. “To some extent he has been able to force the conservative mindset, to strengthen support for the monarchy among the conservative group.”

Thai political scientist Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who lives in exile in Kyoto, Japan, after facing lèse-majesté charges for criticising the junta and its royal patrons following the 2014 coup, said Prayuth’s role in fusing the monarchy and military had directly set the stage for Pita’s failure on Thursday. 

“Prayuth left a legacy of the immense power of the military in politics,” Pavin told FRANCE 24 on Thursday. “But it’s not just about entrenching the power of the military in politics, but more importantly that of the monarchy too. Hence they attempted to put in place an infrastructure that would maintain their footholds in politics, and that has been the setting up of the senate as [an] instrument of the old elites. Today the senate did its job as designed by those elites.”

A history of violence

Prayuth, who was born into a military family and graduated from the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy before becoming a commander in the prestigious and politically connected Queen’s Guards, is no stranger to the use of force for political ends.

In 2010, he was in charge of the troops that opened fire on the Red Shirt protesters who had stormed the capital from the opposition’s rural strongholds in support of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra

In 2014, the commander would launch his own putsch against Thaksin’s sister Yingluck, who had also been democratically elected on a platform of lifting Thailand’s rural poor out of poverty. Under the military junta that he led, which styled itself the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), Prayuth oversaw the redrafting of the country’s constitution, which tweaked the electoral process to make it harder for any one party to win a majority and gave the military government the authority to hand-pick the nation’s 250-strong senate ahead of the 2019 elections – which Prayuth, unsurprisingly, won. 

Titipol said that Prayuth’s nine-year grip on power had “left a big scar” on Thailand’s political system. 

“The constitution was initially written to make sure the NCPO, that is to say the coup-makers, could remain in power for another eight years after it was written,” he said.

As well as securing the military’s interests in parliament, Titipol said, the constitution gave the nation’s extra-parliamentary bodies broad powers to disband political parties – powers that a number of these institutions have used freely throughout Thailand’s shaky return to electoral politics. 

Ostensibly independent organs including the Constitutional Court, Election Commission and National Anti-Corruption Commission have all been accused by the opposition of selectively targeting challengers to a conservative coalition of forces that seeks to keep the royal family beyond any possible reproach. 

“The NCPO played its part in working closely with those politicised institutions,” Pavin said. “We must understand that those institutions predated the NCPO. If [the monarchy] would be a kind of network, then they are in the same network working to strengthen the prerogatives of the monarchy. The main objective is to eliminate challenges against the monarchy.”

Stacking the deck

On the eve of Thursday’s vote, the Election Commission recommended that Pita be suspended from parliament following an investigation that found that the lawmaker owned shares in a media company – prohibited under Thai electoral laws. Pita has said he inherited the shares in the iTV television station from his father, and that the station has not broadcast anything since 2007. 

The same day, the Constitutional Court accepted a petition filed by lawyer Theerayut Suwankesorn, who has claimed that by campaigning on reforming Thailand’s lèse-majesté laws, both Pita and his party have violated Article 49 of the 2017 constitution, which forbids citizens from trying to “overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State”. The party has been given a fortnight to present their defence.

That same court has been instrumental in restricting the number of players on the political field. In 2020, the Constitutional Court dissolved the Future Forward Party – the predecessor to Pita’s Move Forward Party – and banned its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, himself an outspoken critic of the monarchy, from politics for a decade.

The year before, the opposition Thai Raksa Chart Party had also been dissolved for proposing the king’s own sister as its prime ministerial candidate.

In 2022, the court ruled that Prayuth himself could stay in power until 2025, effectively extending his term limit beyond the eight years provided under the constitution – a limit he was on the verge of reaching, having appointed himself prime minister in the aftermath of the 2014 coup. 

“If you look at independent bodies in Thailand, they are not truly independent,” Titipol said. “They were to some extent created and appointed by Prayuth Chan-ocha himself, and his people remain there.”

Pita has given himself one final chance to win the premiership. But with the threat of parliamentary suspension hanging over him amid mounting legal challenges in the courts, the deck seems increasingly stacked against him.

For Titipol, this cordoning-off of Thailand’s political field from popular pressure is the lasting legacy of Prayuth Chan-ocha’s nine years in power. 

“Prayuth didn’t do any good for the future of Thai democracy,” he said. “His so-called Thai-style democracy is not liberal democracy, as he, and the military, still have control over the process.”

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Thai lawmakers set to choose a new prime minister

Thai lawmakers are gathering Thursday to select a new prime minister, a process whose outcome is far from certain even though the country’s most progressive party won both the popular vote and the most seats in the House of Representatives in the most recent election.

Thailand’s May 14 election was regarded as a major political turning point. The reformist Move Forward Party’s victory appeared to spell an end to nine years of unpopular army-supported rule. Two months later, it is unclear if that mandate for change will be honored.

Parliament is due to vote on whether to make Move Forward’s leader, 42-year-old businessman Pita Limjaroenrat, the country’s prime minister. His party captured 151 of the 500 House seats but has assembled a coalition government-in-waiting. The eight parties in the coalition won 312 seats combined, a healthy majority.

“This is a party leading a coalition, and they’ve won the election,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, said. “In most other countries, they would be in office by now.”

One of several potential roadblocks to Pita taking power is that the prime minister is elected through a joint vote of the House and the 250-seat Senate, whose members owe their positions to the military-backed regime established by a 2014 coup. Pita, or any other candidate, therefore needs a minimum of 376 votes to become head of government.

The biggest bone of contention between the liberals backing Move Forward and the deeply conservative Senate is the campaign pledge of Pita’s party to amend a law that makes defaming the royal family punishable by three to 15 years in prison.



The monarchy is sacrosanct to members of Thailand’s royalist establishment, and even minor reforms that might improve and modernize the monarchy’s image are anathema to them. Move Forward’s coalition partners also have not endorsed the proposed legal change, and other parties ruled out joining the coalition because of the idea.

Thitinan thinks that given the massive voter support for Move Forward and the Pheu Thai Party, its top partner and political ally, Pita stands a good chance “because of mounting public pressure on the senators. It will depend on the will, the resilience and the intransigence of the royalist conservative establishment.”

But if Pita cannot win over enough senators, his options appear nil. The options for the eight-party coalition as a whole appear more viable.

One is for the Pheu Thai Party to put forward one of its members as a candidate for prime minister, a possibility that once would have been unthinkable.

Pheu Thai used to be the royalist establishment’s public enemy No. 1. The party is closely affiliated with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire populist who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, in part because his popularity rubbed royalists the wrong way.

Thaksin-backed parties finished first in every election from 2001 until this past May but were blocked or forced from power each time. The 2014 coup, for example, seized power from a government that Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, had formed.

Pheu Thai enrolled three of its members as potential prime minister candidates this year, including Thaksin’s daughter. Paetongtarn Shinawatra. It is a measure of the shift in political winds that Pheu Thai is now regarded as a party that royalists can deal with, compared with Move Forward, which they dismiss as radical.

Paetongtarn’s colleague, real estate developer Srettha Thavisin, is considered more likely to have his name put forward if Pita isn’t election, at least partly as reassurance to the business community. But the possibility that any proposed coalition including Move Forward won’t be approved complicates the numbers game.

The departure of Move Forward would probably require Pheu Thai to enlist allies from among military-friendly parties, which it vowed, with hedging, not to do. In the long run, seeking such an alliance could erode Pheu Thai’s credibility with supporters who stuck by the party and boost support for Move Forward while it’s in opposition.

Another cost could involve ceding the prime minister’s seat to a newly enlisted coalition partner, the key one being the Bhumjaithai Party, which polled third in the May election and secured 71 House seats. The party’s leader, Anutin Charnvirakul, was health minister in the outgoing government and has made no secret of his political ambitions.

If Pita and Move Forward somehow prevail—and it could take several votes over a period of weeks—their political survival still would sit on a knife’s edge.

There have been fears that Thailand’s conservative ruling establishment would use what its political opponents consider to be dirty tricks to cling to power. For a decade and a half, it has repeatedly utilized the courts and supposedly independent state agencies to issue questionable rulings to cripple or sink political opponents.

On Wednesday, the Election Commission said it concluded there was evidence that Pita had violated election law, and referred his case to the Constitutional Court for a ruling. If the court accepts the case and finds him guilty, he could lose his House seat, get kicked out of politics and face a prison sentence.

The alleged violation involves undeclared ownership of media company shares, which are banned for Thai lawmakers. Political scientist Thitinan describes the charge and other legal complaints against Pita as “bogus” and something many people, especially voters who backed him, would be unwilling to tolerate.

“It all depends on how far the royalist conservative establishment wants to go after Pita and prevent a democratic outcome,” he said.

Depending how they are resolved, the efforts to block Pita and Move Forward could prove dangerous and cause Thailand unnecessary pain, said Michael Montesano, a Thai studies expert who is an associate senior fellow at Singapore’s ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute.

“At the end of the day, the political system and those who would dominate need to move into closer correspondence with the realities of Thai society and with the aspirations of its younger, well educated members,” Montesano said. “The biggest question is whether this transition will be painful and even violent, or whether it will be constructive and thus serve the country’s future prospects.”


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Thai activists facing royal defamation charges end 50-day hunger strike

Two young Thai protesters facing royal defamation charges announced Saturday they were ending their marathon hunger strike following doctors’ fears they could suffer organ failure.

Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon, 21, and Orawan “Bam” Phupong, 23, began their hunger strike on January 18 to urge political parties to support the abolition of the kingdom’s royal insult laws – among the harshest in the world.

Wednesday marked the 50th day of the young women’s protest. They were freed from custody last month as their health declined.

“Tawan and Bam would like to inform the public that we have stopped the hunger strike to save our lives to continue fighting,” Tawan said in a Facebook post on Saturday. “The medical staff are concerned our kidneys and other organs are affected by the long period without food and water.”

The pair were rushed to Thammasat Hospital near Bangkok on March 3 amid fears they would not survive the night.

Days later they were still alive and determined to continue their strike from hospital. “I talked to them: they are a little bit better. Still very tired,” said their lawyer, Kunthika Nutcharut, on Tuesday. 

Throughout the strike the activists reiterated three demands: justice system reform, the abolition of strict laws that make it illegal for people in Thailand to criticise the monarchy and government, and the release of three activists (who go by the names Kathatorn, Thiranai and Chaiporn) who were refused bail while awaiting trial for taking part in anti-government protests. 

They faced stiff opposition. Thailand has a recent history of pro-democracy protests that gain traction before being put down. Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has served in his role since seizing power in a military coup in 2014, after which he expanded the use of lèse majesté laws, and successfully thwarted anti-government protests in 2020. 

The ruling Pheu Thai party, together with its previous incarnations, has won every Thai election since 2001. 

“People have said the activists are doing this knowing that they might not even win, but it’s a way to show the public the ugliness of the courts, the monarchy and all the key institutions,” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, associate professor of politics and international relations at Kyoto University and a political exile from Thailand. 

Hunger strikes 

Tawan and Bam currently face charges for conducting a poll at Siam Paragon shopping mall on February 8, 2022, that asked whether royal motorcades were an inconvenience to Bangkok residents.  

While awaiting trial, Tawan, a university student, and Bam, a supermarket worker, were released on bail in March 2022 on the condition that they ceased participation in protests and activities that insult the royal family.  

On January 16 their bail was revoked at their request, to call attention to the practice of pretrial detention for political activists in Thailand. On January 18, the pair began their hunger strike while housed in Bangkok’s Central Women’s Correctional Institution. 

Within days their condition had deteriorated. “They did dry fasting on the first three days,” Kunthika said, meaning the women refused food and water. “It was so extreme that their bodies became sick to the point that doctors are not usually faced with cases like theirs.”  

The pair were eventually transferred to Thammasat University Hospital near Bangkok, where they received small amounts of water and vitamins on doctors’ orders. On March 3, the 44th day of the strike, they discharged themselves to join dozens of protesters supporting their cause outside Thailand’s Supreme Court. 

A special tent had been set up outside the court to house the women, but by evening doctors feared they were at risk of kidney failure and may not survive the night without medical intervention. Tawan was so weak that she became unresponsive, Kunthika said. “She’s already doing her second hunger strike since last year, and her body has not fully recovered since then.”  

The lawyer says the pair agreed to return to hospital on the basis that while they remain alive, other activists may see charges against them dropped. 

Of the 16 people detained without bail pending trial since anti-government protests in 2020, only three now remain in jail. Many activists were granted bail in February, during the hunger strike. “And some people argue that [their protest] is why the court was willing to set free a number of people charged under these laws,” said Pavin. 

Kunthika said in the same period, dozens of political prisoners have had their obligation to wear electronic tagging devices removed. Some have also had restrictions lifted limiting the hours during which they can leave the house.  

Criticising the monarchy 

Breaking lèse majesté laws, which forbids defamatory, insulting or threatening comments about senior members of the royal family, comes with a penalty of a minimum of three and a maximum of 15 years in prison under article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code.  

Although the law officially forbids criticism of senior members of the royal family, activist groups say it is widely misinterpreted by authorities to cover negative comments on any aspect of the monarchy whatsoever. Sedition laws also prohibit criticism of the government. 

Since anti-government protests flared in Thailand in 2020, more than 200 people have been charged with lèse majesté crimes. The law has been used by all political factions to silence opposition, activist groups say. 

Lifting charges for Tawan and Bam’s fellow activists means the Thai court is at risk of undermining its own authority. On one hand, the number of lèse majesté cases in Thailand has “increased significantly” in the past year, Human Rights Watch reports. On the other, if activism can force through legal reversals it shows, “the king could also force the courts to do something. It raises very, very important questions about Thai jurisprudence”, Kunthika said. 

In parliament, two opposition parties, Pheu Thai and Move Forward, have called for two of Tawan and Bam’s three demands to be met – the release of political prisoners and judicial reform. Only Move Forward has broached the third demand, calling for reform – but not removal – of the lèse majesté law. 

As Tawan and Bam’s health has deteriorated, human rights groups have urgently called for the government to engage with the activists, to no avail. “To date, the Thai government has shown little political will to address the situation of the activists on hunger strike,” said Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong, researcher for Amnesty International’s regional office in Thailand. “In general, they are not giving due weight to the voices of young people involved in protests.” 

Last month the prime minister, through his office’s spokesman, said he hopes the two activists are safe but urged parents to “monitor their children’s behavior and build the correct understandings to ensure that [the children] do not believe and fall victim to political manipulation”.  

‘Imploring and pleading’ 

Anti-government protesters in Thailand are typically young, often children, who rely heavily on social media to spread their message. Tawan and Bam’s case has received more mainstream media coverage within Thailand than expected, their lawyer says, with major newspapers and television channels all reporting on their hunger strike.  

Throughout the protests the pair have tried to strike a non-confrontational tone. Their legal team has said that rather than trying to “force and coerce” authorities the activists are “imploring and pleading … with their own suffering”. 

The sight of two young adults willing to edge so close to death for the release of their fellow activists and the integrity of their country’s institutions is rare. “This is the first time [in Thailand] that people are doing a hunger strike for other people,” Kunthika said. 

There is also international support. Thousands have signed an open letter from Amnesty International appealing to the prime minister to withdraw charges against activists like Tawan and Bam, and to release others. 

“It is still not enough to push the Thai government to take the appropriate actions,” said Chanatip. “It is clear that more support is needed both domestically and internationally to ensure that Thailand stops its crackdown on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which prompted the hunger strike.” 

The timing of their hunger strike brings also complexities on the ground. General elections are scheduled for May, bringing hope for some that opposition parties will succeed at the ballot box.  

Until then, there is low appetite for anti-government protest – which the hunger strike may have otherwise inspired. “Even among the pro-democracy groups it seems like election is something that they think will be the light at the end of the tunnel,” Pavin said. “[They think] maybe we can hold for the next few months because the election will come. Then if the result doesn’t fulfil us, we can think about protest.” 

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I asked ChatGPT to help me plan a vacation. Here’s what happened next

Some people love travel planning.

But I am not one of those people.

So the idea that artificial intelligence chatbots, such as ChatGPT and Bing, can research travel destinations and create itineraries is intriguing.

But I’m skeptical too.

Do recommendations just scratch the surface — for example, suggesting that I see the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Or can they recommend lesser-known restaurants and handle specific hotel requests too?

The answer is: yes and no — at least for ChatGPT.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t test Bing. When I tried to access it, I was put on a waiting list. The website said I could “get ahead in the line” if I set Microsoft defaults on my computer and scanned a QR code to install the Bing app. I did both. I’m still waiting.

ChatGPT was easier. I went to the developer’s website, clicked on the word “ChatGPT,” registered for an account — and started chatting.

‘Can you help me plan a beach trip?’

“Of course!” replied ChatGPT. But first, I needed to tell it about my interests, budget and how long I planned to be away.

I’m looking for a week-long beach trip in mid-March to spend time with my family, with no set budget, I typed.

“Sounds like a wonderful idea!” it replied, before recommending Hawaii, the Caribbean — specifically the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic — Florida and Costa Rica, along with details about the weather and popular attractions for each.

Nice. But I live in Singapore, I said.

“I see!” it exclaimed. (ChatGPT loves exclamation points.) In that case, Bali, Indonesia; Langkawi, Malaysia; and Phuket and Krabi in Thailand were better choices.

ChatGPT is nothing if not apologetic.

Cost estimates for each hotel were more accurate. But ChatGPT couldn’t show photographs of the hotels or help book them — although it did provide ample instructions on how to do both.

By road or by rail?


ChatGPT can name airlines that connect cities, but it can’t give current flight information or help book flights.  

It wasn’t able to tell me the cheapest fare — or any fare — from London to New York this spring because it doesn’t “have access to real-time pricing information,” it said.

In fact, ChatGPT data ends at September 2021; it doesn’t “know” anything that’s happened since.

However, the bot could answer which month the London-to-New York route is usually the cheapest, which it said is “January and February, or during the shoulder season months of March and November.”

As for the best airline in the world, it said: “As an AI language model, I cannot have personal preferences or opinions.” But it went on to name the top five airlines named to Skytrax’s “World’s Top 100 Airlines” in 2021.

The list wasn’t correct.

The list provided by ChatGPT appears to be Skytrax’s airline ranking from 2019 instead.  

“Where should I eat?”

Specific questions

I had many more questions for ChatGPT, such as:

“How should I spend five days in South Africa?”
“Which chateaux accept visitors in Bordeaux?”
“If I only have one day in London, what should I do?”
“Which rides have the longest lines at Disney World?”

But before I could, my screen said “Access denied” alongside an “error code 1020” message.

This error may be caused by overloaded servers or by exceeding the daily limit, according to the tech website Stealth Optional. Either way, all of my previous chats were inaccessible, a huge negative for travelers in the middle of the planning process.

A new window didn’t fix the problem, but opening one in “incognito mode” did. Once in, I clicked on “Upgrade to Plus,” which showed that the free plan is available when demand is low, but for $20 per month, the “Plus plan” gives access to ChatGPT all the time, faster responses and priority to use new features.

With access again, I quickly asked about wait times on Disney World rides, a subject which I had spoken to luxury travel advisor Jonathan Alder of Jonathan’s Travels about last week. Alder lives close to the park and has lost count of how many times he’s visited, he said. Yet, only one of their answers — Epcot’s “Frozen Ever After” — overlapped.

ChatGPT mentioned that FastPass and Genie+ can reduce wait times at Disney World, which is partly right. The company phased out its “skip the line” virtual queue FastPass program when it introduced Genie+ in the fall of 2021.

The takeaway

ChatGPT is fast, chatty and feels like you’re interacting with a human. I found myself responding with unnecessary pleasantries — “Ok, sure” and “Thank you” — out of habit.

I could see how it could save travelers’ time, especially if they are looking for an overview or are at the early stages of planning.

But information will need to be current, of course — and bugs and error messages, which I faced several times in addition to the “1020” message mentioned above — will need to be fixed.

OpenAI states that the current ChatGPT version “is a free research preview.” It also says the system may “occasionally generate incorrect or misleading information” and that it’s “not intended to give advice.”

When I asked it about its travel planning abilities, it said it “can assist with many aspects of travel planning” but that it may not be able to “provide personalized advice based on your unique circumstances.”

My verdict: Travel agents’ jobs are secure for the time being.

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These high school sweethearts have visited 112 countries. Here’s how they pay for it on a budget

Most people have a travel bucket list, perhaps with 10 to 15 countries.

For this couple, it’s all 195 — and they’re more than halfway there.

Hudson and Emily Crider have visited 112 countries, but their journey together began long before that. Both are from the “same small town” of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They met in fifth grade and started dating in high school, the couple said.

Speaking to CNBC via video from Chiang Mai, Thailand, the couple explained that their goal in college was to buy an RV and travel to all 50 states in the United States.

Hudson and Emily Crider in high school.

Hudson and Emily Crider

They began to save for that goal after getting married in 2012, but just a few years later, Hudson’s father died of a heart attack. “It was a reminder to us that we’re not guaranteed another day,” said Hudson, 32.

That motivated them to “sell everything and buy this old RV,” said Hudson. The couple left their jobs — Emily as a marketing manager in an agency, Hudson as a financial planner — in the Washington D.C.-Baltimore area, said Emily, 31. Just two years later, they accomplished their goal of traveling to all 50 states.

So they set their sights higher.

Now, as the couple pursue their goal of traveling to every country in the world, they spend less than when they lived in D.C., said Emily. “The thing we found most helpful is eliminating expenses,” said Hudson. “We don’t have a house, car, kids and also make sure to budget.”

The couple have met people on the road who have children, or a home that they’re renting out to travel long term, said Emily. “We really believe there’s not a right or wrong way to travel,” she said.

Hudson and Emily Crider on a safari in Kenya, Africa.

Hudson and Emily Crider

The couple work remotely while on the road to support their travels, said Hudson. They teach English online, create content on YouTube and Instagram, and sell products like clip-on hand sanitizer holders on Amazon.

Although every traveler has different circumstances, being able to research and read reviews on the internet makes travel “the most open that it’s ever been,” said Hudson.

The couple’s own style of traveling helps them save on food, attractions and local culture in countries they visit, no matter how expensive.

Least to most expensive regions

The Criders have traveled to every continent except Antarctica, they said. The following is their ranking of the world’s major regions based on the cost of travel — from the least to most expensive:

  1. Asia
  2. South America
  3. Africa
  4. Middle East
  5. Australia
  6. Europe
  7. North America


Food is one of the categories of travel that “people plan the least for,” yet it’s the cost that is “easiest to add up,” the couple told CNBC. In Bali, Indonesia, they kept those costs low by eating street food like nasi goreng, spending as little as $1 per meal.

Trying street food is a “great way to taste local food and culture,” said Emily. Their favorite Asian cuisines include pad Thai and khao soi from Thailand and Vietnamese banh mi, she said.

The couple save on housing, their second biggest expense, by doing homestays with locals. In Bali, they stayed with the “sweetest family” for just $4 per night, said Emily.

Hudson trying an organ sandwich in Marrakech, Morocco.

Hudson and Emily Crider

The couple also use, a site where travelers can find locals offering free housing. In Switzerland, they stayed with another couple who made them raclette, a traditional Swiss dish, and took them paragliding, said Emily.

Homestays are a great way to connect with local people, said Emily. “When you’re quickly going to a place and taking pictures of tourist sites, you don’t always get the full picture.”

South America

South America was the third cheapest for activities, at an average of $15.00 per experience, the couple told CNBC. Many activities were free, they added.

The couple research and budget for the main activities they want to do before visiting any country, they said.

Hudson and Emily Crider on a hike in Patagonia, South America.

Hudson and Emily Crider

They hiked through “amazing” places like Patagonia and Peru without booking a guide, said Hudson. With online resources, “it was so easy to find it ourselves,” he said.

The couple call this “do-it-yourself style travel,” where they find transportation and explore cities without having to book a tour, said Emily.


“Do-it-yourself” travel even extends to safaris, according to the couple.

In East Africa, Hudson and Emily rented a car and drove through the Serengeti on their own.

Hudson and Emily Crider camping during their self-drive safari in the Serengeti in Tanzania.

Hudson and Emily Crider

“It was more of an adventure than we signed up for, but it was a good way to save money,” said Emily.

Middle East

Transportation typically means metros, buses or tuk-tuks instead of taxis and Uber, the couple said.

Hudson and Emily Crider in Petra, Jordan.

Hudson and Emily Crider

But renting a car can also be worth it.

The couple spent the most on transportation in the Middle East, at an average of $14.00 per ride, they told CNBC.

“If anybody’s traveling to Jordan in particular, rent a car — it’s a great way to meet local people,” said Hudson.


The couple spent $85 on a harbor cruise in Sydney that went past the Sydney Opera House. “We prefer to spend a little less money on housing and food and more on experiences,” said Emily.

They spent the most on activities in Australia, with an average of $42.50 per experience. Transportation, however, was the second-least costly, at an average of $3 per ride.

The cruise was also an example of how the couple create content on the road, as they partnered with a company to promote the experience, said Hudson.


By saving a little bit in every category, the couple save a lot of money in the long run, they told CNBC. They did the same in Europe, which was the second-most expensive for housing, food and transportation.

It helps to spend less time staying in the more expensive areas, said Hudson. Compared with Paris, cities like Prague and Budapest are “equally beautiful” but have housing that is “half the cost,” he added.

Hudson and Emily Crider paragliding in Switzerland.

Hudson and Emily Crider

To get around, the couple used the Eurail unlimited pass to travel to as many places as they wanted within a booked time period, said Hudson. Budget airlines like Wow Air and Ryanair were also “amazing” options, he said.

“We would get a €12.00 flight and spend more on getting the Uber to the airport,” he quipped.

They used Google to find accommodations based on budget, then booked using Airbnb or for the “best deals,” said Emily. They typically did a “really cheap hotel or motel” in Europe as it was often less expensive than a hostel, she added.

North America

Although New York consistently ranks as the most expensive city in the U.S., it is a popular destination for travelers who visit North America, said Hudson.

The couple got around by walking or riding on New York’s “amazing” subway system for $2.75 per trip, he said. They used Google Maps to access bus and metro times in almost every major city they visited, they said.

They also said they use blogs and Facebook groups to find suggestions for public transportation too.

More tips

Hudson and Emily try to strike a balance between “comfort and cost” when picking accommodations, they told CNBC.

That often leads to a choice between air conditioning and Wi-Fi, said Hudson. (They rarely compromise on the Wi-Fi.)

Reading an accommodation’s newest reviews gives a “current update of someone’s experience staying there,” said Emily.

“We don’t book places without reviews within the past four or five months.

A hostel room where the Criders stayed in Sydney, Australia.

Hudson and Emily Crider

Bonus points on credit cards also help to save money, said Emily. “Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cards are our favorite because those can be transferred to a lot of different hotels and airlines,” she said.

The couple plan for future trips by using Google Flights to notify them if a flight price drops below a certain amount, said Emily. Instead of being fixed on one specific destination, pick five places you want to visit and set notifications for them, she recommended.

As for Hudson and Emily, they have set their sights on more places than that.

They are headed to West Africa next, they said.

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The world hitting ‘peak baby’ and other stories you might have missed this year

From Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, 2022 was full of big stories. 

After two years dominated by COVID-19, these headlines took attention away from a pandemic that stubbornly rages on.

We’ve compiled a list of your 15 most-read for the year.

Anthony Albanese led Labor back from the political wilderness in 2022. (AP: Rick Rycroft)

After almost a decade in the political wilderness, Australian voters returned Labor to office in 2022, led by Anthony Albanese.

While self-described “bulldozer” Scott Morrison had made a last-ditch pitch to voters to keep him in power, his unpopularity would play a key role in a raft of Coalition seat losses.

Former treasurer Josh Frydenberg was just one of those high-profile candidates sent packing, amidst a so-called “teal” (independent) wave.

A disgruntled-looking Novak Djokovic spreads his arms wide as he looks down at the court  after a point during a match.
The federal government spectacularly deported Novak Djokovic ahead of the Australian Open. (AP: Kamran Jebreili)

Confusion reigned in January when nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic was granted an exemption to travel to Australia without being vaccinated against COVID-19.

With Melburnians having spent more than 260 days in lockdown, there was also a fair share of public anger at the seeming double standard.

The federal government subsequently stepped in, announcing that it would deport the 34-year-old, with Djokovic spending the night in immigration detention as his lawyers appealed.

The fiasco made headlines around the world, with the world number one eventually deported on the eve of the tournament. 

A man in a suit stands in front of a red backdrop.
At least 6,702 civilians have died since Russia invaded Ukraine. (AP: Sergei Bobylev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool Photo)

News first broke in February that Russian President Vladimir Putin had authorised a military operation in the Eastern European country.

As of December, war still rages in Ukraine, with scores of civilians dead and millions displaced.

A recent UN report, released on December 4, estimated that 6,702 civilians had died, with Russian forces killing at least 441 in the first weeks of the invasion.

All is not going to plan for Putin, however, with discussion recently turning to the possibility of Ukraine recapturing all of its southern territory — even liberating Crimea.

A huge grey cloud rises from a submarine volcano, as a forked bolt of lightnight hits the left side of the rising ash plume.
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai erupted off Tonga in January, causing widespead chaos.(Reuters: Tonga Geological Services)

The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption came to a powerful climax in the middle of January, causing tsunamis locally as well as in New Zealand, Japan, the US, Russia and Peru, to name a few.

Australia’s east coast and islands were also issued tsunami alerts, while at least six people were reported dead.

NASA later declared that the Tongan tsunami was hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bomb the US dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

Constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold smiles with the police badge behind them.
Constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold were killed in a deadly siege in rural Queensland in December.(ABC News: Lewi Hirvela/Supplied: Queensland Police Service)

Two police officers and a member of the public lost their lives in horrific circumstances in December, after police were called out to a property in Wieambilla, west of Brisbane, searching for a missing Dubbo man.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said Constable Rachel McCrow (29), Constable Matthew Arnold (26) and neighbour Alan Dare (58) were killed in a “ruthless, calculated and targeted execution”.

“Just such a tragedy, this should never happen,” Leavers said.

“They’re both under 30, they’ve hardly lived life and their lives have been cut short.”

Rapid antigen test kits for detecting COVID-19
Should you be asking for an antibody test to see if you’ve been infected with COVID-19?(ABC News: Tara Cassidy)

This article starts with a scene from the start of the year that could well describe the situation today.

Omicron cases are much higher than official numbers, and it’s increasingly difficult to access a PCR test to find out whether or not the scratch in your throat is COVID or hayfever.

So how do you know if you’ve actually been infected with COVID-19?

Antibody tests can answer that question (depending on the time frame in which the test is done, and whether you mounted a detectable response to infection), but experts like AMA vice-president Chris Moy say there should be a clear clinical reason for conducting them.

A good example of when an antibody test might be appropriate is if someone is experiencing symptoms consistent with long-COVID.

hundreds of little human models in a big crowd
The world is now inhabited by over 8 billion people, but there may never be more children alive than there are today. 

By the time you read this paragraph, the world’s population grew by around 20 people, writes Casey Briggs.

That’s about the best way to wrap your head around what it means for the world to be inhabited by eight billion people.

But while population growth has been rapid — increasing by seven billion in the last two centuries — we are now at “peak baby”, meaning there will never again be more children alive than there are today.

That’s in part because fertility rates are plummeting across the globe, although trends differ geographically: just eight countries are projected to be responsible for more than half the world’s population increase by 2050.

a young girl smiling and holding an umbrella
Charlise Mutten, 9, was on holiday in the Blue Mountains before she was allegedly murdered by her mother’s fiancé.(Supplied)

Five days after nine-year-old Charlise Mutten was last seen in the Blue Mountains, police charged 31-year-old Justin Stein with her murder.

Police alleged Stein, who was engaged to Charlise’s mother, acted alone, after Charlise’s remains were found in a barrel in the bush near the Colo River.

A number of inconsistencies in Stein’s story raised suspicions, including his purchase of 20 kilogram sandbags from a hardware store, and fuel for his boat.

Charlise lived with her grandmother in Coolangatta in Queensland, but had been holidaying in NSW with her mother and Mr Stein.

Stan Grant speaks about not being seen as a human being image
Stan Grant wasn’t afraid to talk about the big issues facing First Nations people in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death. (Four Corners )

In the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, Stan Grant’s analysis focused on the stuff “we aren’t supposed to talk about”: colonisation, empire, violence, Aboriginal sovereignty and the republic.

He wrote of his anger at the ongoing suffering and injustice of First Nations people — in particular those “languishing in cells. Those who take their own lives. Those who are caught in endless cycles of despair”.

He also reflected on the inevitable online abuse he and his family would receive in the wake of his column, before resolving not to be scared into silence.

“Why? Because a voice is all we have. Because too often that voice is silenced.”

A framed photograph of Shane Warne on the cricket pitch says 'THANK YOU SHANE'.
The news that 52-year-old Shane Warne had died of a heart attack prompted a global outpouring of grief. (AAP: Joel Carrett)

For many, “Warnie” was larger than life, a once-in-a-generation cricketer famous for reinvigorating the art of leg spin, as well as his embodiment of the “Aussie larrikin” trope.

So it was with great shock that many responded to the news that he had died of a heart attack in Thailand, aged just 52, leaving behind the three children he had with his former wife Simone Callahan.

It led to an outpouring of grief around the world, with Premier Daniel Andrews offering a state funeral and the MCG rebranding the Great Southern Stand the “Shane Warne Stand” in the Victorian’s honour.

The Foo Fighters lead singer and guitarist, Dave Grohl, with drummer, Taylor Hawkins.
Taylor Hawkins (left) had been the Foo Fighters’ drummer for the last 25 years.(AP: Kevin Winter)

The announcement that Taylor Hawkins had died at age 50 came just hours before the Foo Fighters were due to take the stage at a Colombian music festival in Bogota.

Hawkins had been the band’s drummer for the last 25 years, taking over from original drummer William Goldsmith in 1997.

Apart from founder Dave Grohl (formerly of Nirvana), he was arguably the most recognisable face of the band, and is survived by his wife Alison and their three children.

Water rises over a riverfront restaurant precinct, making the restaurants look like part of the river
South-east Queenslanders were hit with “unrelenting walls of water” in February. (Supplied: Shae Laura)

In February, south-east Queensland was battered by what Premier Anastacia Palaszcuk described as “unrelenting walls of water”.

Multiple lives were lost as thousands of homes flooded, tens of thousands were evacuated, schools were closed and businesses were left without power.

It was just the start of a series of floods that would occur in Queensland and New South Wales over the coming months, devastating communities in both states.

A woman with long brown hair and a green blouse smiles while looking at the camera.
Julia Hunt wants to destigmatise public housing in Australia.(Supplied: Julia Hunt)

Victorian Liberal MP Wendy Lovell offended many in March when she told parliament that social housing should not be placed in affluent suburbs.

This article explores the stigma of growing up in social housing, and its increasing association — from the 1970s onwards — with “crime and criminality, disorder, anti-social behaviour [and] welfare dependency”.

Author Bridget Judd explores the efforts of youth worker Julia Rudd and others to combat “postcode discrimination”, writing: “For those living in public housing, it’s not an abstract policy discussion, it’s home.”

Rain on the lense
BOM didn’t have good news for us about the long-term weather outlook. (Matt Grbin)

Natural disasters (and the ongoing effects of climate change) were in the headlines again in October, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) releasing a long-range forecast — until April 2023 — for Australia’s “upcoming severe weather season”.

The state-by-state forecast warned of an increased risk of widespread flooding for eastern and northern Australia, as well as an increased risk of an above-average number of tropical cyclones and tropical lows.

None of it read like great news, as many of us are experiencing currently.

The Queen shaking hands with Liz Truss in a living room
Liz Truss was sworn in by Queen Elizabeth II just two days before the monarch died. (Reuters: Jane Barlow)

Liz Truss’ prime ministership might have lasted just 44 days, but it will be remembered for the most dramatic series of events.

Truss was famously sworn in by Queen Elizabeth II on September 6, just two days before the monarch died.

She then implemented a raft of economic measures that saw the world’s sixth-biggest economy abruptly crash, saved only by extraordinary interventions from the Bank of England.

After a series of humiliations and U-turns, the British tabloid the Daily Star then set up a live feed of an unrefrigerated iceberg lettuce, asking who would last longer, the lettuce or Truss.

The lettuce won. 

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