Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Non-industrial oil production

This was originally posted by Dave Kruiswyk at the Facebook group, AP Comparative Government and Politics Teacher Page.

The report comes from VICE News which is an international reporting organization. It employs over 100 reporters in 35 offices around the world. (See VICE News on Wikipedia

I don't know enough about VICE News to have a handle on its editorial biases, but this report seems to be more adventurous than mainstream media. Financing comes from its UTube channel and sales of its reports to various cable networks.

This report looks accurate and realistic to me, who has never been there. There are a couple profane expletives that you might want to preview before using this in class.



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Monday, April 23, 2018

Overwhelmed by chocolate

Back in 2010, The Independent published an article that considered a claim by Nick Clegg that it took 15 years for the EU to define chocolate.

Now the court arguments are about the shape of chocolate bars.

Claim: "The European Union ... is a club that took 15 years to define chocolate in a chocolate directive." (Nick Clegg)

Fact: An EU directive introduced in 1973 defined what could be in products labelled "chocolate". However, the definition didn't include the chocolate produced by British manufacturers until 27 years later. The delay was due to the amount of cocoa butter and milk in chocolate in different countries. Britain and Ireland produce chocolate with higher milk content than on the continent, and use other vegetable fats as substitutes for cocoa butter. There was a failed attempt to include these products in the definition in 1984, but it wasn't until 2000 that other European nations accepted that this could be also be called chocolate.

It is commercial legal cases like this (What, legally, is champagne?) that gives EU laws and regulations a bad reputation — at least until anyone tries to legally define things. Until then your "four-fingered" Kit Kat bars are liable for counterfeiting.

Choc horror: four-fingered KitKat set to lose protected EU status
The shape of the four-finger KitKat bar is set to lose its EU-wide protected trademark status after the European court of justice was instructed that the chocolate was not well enough known in Belgium, Ireland, Greece and Portugal.

An appeal by Nestlé, the maker of KitKat, against an earlier ruling should now be thrown out, the court’s advocate general advised judges sitting in the Luxembourg court.

The company had only provided evidence that the chocolate was sufficiently well known in Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Sweden and the UK, the advocate general, Melchior Wathelet, said.

For the trademark to be valid the KitKat would need to be recognised as distinctive across all the EU’s states, as had been ruled by the general court, the second highest in the EU, in 2016.

The decision by the advocate general, whose advice is not binding but is generally followed, means the KitKat shape will now be open to imitation by competitors…

The legal skirmish in the European court of justice is part of a wider battle between Nestlé and Mondelēz International, previously known as Cadbury Schweppes, which filed the original challenge to the EU trademark in 2007, a year after it had been granted. Nestlé, in turn, is challenging Mondelēz’s British trademark for the shade of purple wrapper on its Cadbury’s Daily Milk chocolate bars…

Gaining trademark status for shapes has proven to be particularly challenging for companies. In 2016 the Rubik’s Cube lost a decade-long battle to secure trademark protection for its own distinctive character…

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Friday, April 20, 2018

Artifact of political culture

Who knew how important the mace was?

(Check out the British version.)

Senate resumes plenary with replacement mace
The Senate has resumed plenary about an hour after thugs stole its symbol of authority, the mace.

The lawmakers appear to have secured a replacement mace which is being used for the plenary.

The theft
The thugs, who stormed the Senate chamber on Wednesday morning, are believed to have been led by a suspended lawmaker Ovie Omo-Agege…

After the thugs left, the Senate went into an executive session after which it announced it was starting plenary.

The plenary is being presided by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.

Sabi Abdullahi, the senate spokesperson, in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES said “The Senate has mandated the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Idris Kpotum Ibrahim and Director General of the State Security Services (SSS), Mallam Lawan Daura, to retrieve the mace stolen by the hoodlums within 24 hours.”

“At the moment, some House of Representives members led by Deputy Speaker. Hon. Yusuf Lasun, are in the Senate chambers in solidarity visits. The session is presently live on NTA Channel 10.

“We are determined to conclude all matters slated on the Order Paper for today, even if it means us sitting until 6 p.m.,” the spokesperson quoted Mr Ekweremadu as saying.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Who gets elected first?

There may be a constitutional issue facing the government and the legislature in Nigeria. [See Nigeria's constitution (search for "electoral" to learn what powers the constitution gives to the Independent National Electoral Commission.)]

Why Nigeria’s battle over the order of the 2019 elections matters
As politicians start announcing their candidacies and parties begin devising their platforms ahead of Nigeria’s 2019 general elections, a few crucial details remain in the air. Due to a political tug of war in Abuja, it is still unclear when exactly voters will go to the ballot and in what order they will be held.

Nigerian polling place
In January, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released its election timetable. It announced that the presidential and National Assembly polls would be held on 16 February, with the governorship and state assembly elections to take place on 2 March. But in February, Nigeria’s National Assembly – comprised of the Senate and House of Representatives – passed a bill reordering the order of the votes…

A bill was passed by the House of Representatives and Senate, both of which are controlled by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). But when it reached the desk of President Muhummadu Buhari in March, he refused to sign it into law. He warned that the act “may infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed discretion of INEC, to organise, undertake and supervise all elections”.

The episode has sparked plenty of legal arguments on both sides. Some say that the National Assembly’s attempts to influence the running of elections are unconstitutional. Others insist they are not overstepping the letter of the law.

Either way, this saga is not over. The National Assembly can overturn the president’s veto with a two-thirds majority and lawmakers have reportedly already begun this process. A date for the fateful vote is yet to be scheduled, but many are confident of its impending success.

“We will get it. We have the two-thirds majority already,” Senator Ben Murray-Bruce told African Arguments

The politicians behind the attempt to reorder the elections say the move will advance Nigeria’s democratic system. They argue that when the presidential poll is held first, subsequent elections are treated as far less important…

By reversing the order and building up to the presidential election, proponents suggest that people will exercise more judgment in picking their lower-level representatives…

Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, chair of the civil society organisation Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), for example, points out that lawmakers did not consult the electorate when trying to amend the electoral process. “This makes this move very suspicious and looks like it’s self-serving,” she says…

Aside from possible reordering of elections itself, this affair has highlighted ongoing tensions between Nigeria’s executive and legislative branches. Buhari’s first term has been dogged by disagreements with the National Assembly…

Whether or not they agree with the ordering of the election, many Nigerians are concerned at how these decisions are being made and, possibly, forced through. Rather than strengthening democracy, some worry that the fight over this bill is undermining political processes and weakening citizens’ faith in the system. Instead of empowering Nigerian citizens a year ahead of the elections, Akiyode-Afolabi warns that this ongoing and unfinished contest “is creating uncertainty in the polity and shaking the confidence of voters”.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Population growing!

If Nigeria now has the seventh largest population and will be third largest by 2050, what country's populations will it surpass by 2050?

NPC Puts Nigerian Population at 198m, Seventh Largest in the World
The National Population Commission (NPC) has put Nigeria’s current population at 198 million people with urban population growing at an average annual growth rate of about 6.5 per cent…

Eze Duruiheoma
Chairman of NPC, Mr. Eze Duruiheoma… “Nigeria remains the most populous in Africa, the seventh globally with an estimated population of over 198 million.

“The recent World Population Prospects report predicts that by 2050, Nigeria will become the third most populated country in the world…

In terms of demographics, he noted that the class of the population mostly engaged in urbanisation and migration were young people, adolescent girls and boys, women of child bearing age and the working age population.

He said existing urbanisation trends, coupled with internally displaced persons (IDPs) in cities, pose critical challenges to securing sustainability in Nigerian urban centres, including efforts to make them smart and responsive to the human influx…

Duruiheoma said like in other developing countries, Nigerian cities host wide spread poverty, under-employment and unemployment at an average of 18.4 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) 2017 report.

The NPC boss bemoaned the insecurity in the country and inadequate and inequitable healthcare services for adolescents and women of childbearing age…

“We are committed to providing adequate healthcare services, reducing maternal mortality, rebuilding safe schools and empowering our women, ensuring no one is left behind in terms of achieving sustainable development,” he added…

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Money and legitimacy

If a government mismanages an economy, how is its legitimacy affected?

Steep Slide in Currency Threatens Iran’s Economy
All this week panicked Iranians have gathered in throngs outside banks and other financial businesses hoping to buy dollars, as the government seeks to head off a collapse in the rial, the national currency.

But they have met with nothing but frustration, told there were no dollars or other currencies for them to buy at the official government rate…

Forex rates in Iran
Long on a downward path, the rial plunged this week, losing 35 percent of its value against the dollar and hitting what has been widely described as a record low. The government is seeking to impose an exchange rate of 42,000 to the dollar, but in Tehran’s black-market exchanges this week the going rate was 60,000…

In an effort to squelch currency speculation, the government sent riot police into the bazaars on Wednesday, where they arrested several money changers…

However, many of those changing money in the bazaars were ordinary people seeking to protect themselves against rising prices and fearful of further declines in the currency.

Others, like Mohsen Yekta, a university professor, said they needed the foreign exchange for personal business. “Every month I send some money to my daughter in Paris,” he said. “I need foreign exchange to help her out. I don’t know what to do.”

Amid rising tensions in the region, the national currency has been sliding for weeks, but it went into free fall on Saturday. The government blames unilateral United States sanctions that continue to limit bank financing, despite the 2015 nuclear agreement that lifted international banking sanctions. Market insiders say that fears are also rising that President Trump will withdraw from the nuclear agreement…

Ordinary Iranians agree with most of these explanations, but also blame the government for poor planning and bad management of the economy. They also view the black-market rate as one of the few trustworthy indicators of the country’s economic health.

Earlier this year, complaints about economic conditions and corruption exploded into a more general protest against political conditions in more than 80 cities across Iran. There are no signs so far that the current troubles are leading to unrest…

The currency slide is taking its toll on business, with many firms selling foreign products halting all sales, unable to determine prices…

While Iran has endured similar currency crises in the past, some commentators said they were not seeing light at the end of this particular tunnel. “Our economy is based on bad planning — it’s wishy-washy,” said Farshad Ghorbanpour, an analyst close to the government. “Don’t expect things to get any better.”

See also: Iran Currency Crisis Could Threaten Political Stability
 

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Cowboy candidate in Mexico

A candidate without a party might upset Mexican presidential election.

Mexico adds fifth name to presidential ballot despite fake signatures
Mexico’s electoral tribunal has included a colourful independent candidate on the ballot for this July’s presidential election, despite the fact 58% of the signatures supporting his nomination were invalidated.

Jaime Rodríguez
In a midnight ruling on Monday, the tribunal found in favour of Jaime Rodríguez, a cowboy turned state governor better known as “El Bronco”, allowing him to become the fifth candidate in the election.

Analysts said that his inclusion in the race, potentially pulls votes from the current frontrunner, Andrés Manuel López Obrador – a leftwing populist who courts the same anti-system voters as Rodríguez…

Three candidates achieved the 866,593 signatures – or 1% of the voters’ list – necessary to register. Two of them were disqualified for turning in signatures deemed fake or otherwise inadmissible.

Left off the ballot was María de Jesús Patricio, an indigenous Nahua and spokesperson for the National Indigenous Congress, who failed to reach the threshold, even though 95% of the signatures she collected were deemed valid – an irony not lost on supporters.

The contrast between Rodríguez and Patricio’s attempts to get on the ballot “is one of the clearest expressions of the inequality that exists in our country in access to the law: high requirements for all, but only the weakest are obliged to comply with it”, tweeted Andrés Lajous, an academic.

The ruling caused disquiet in Mexico, where the incumbent Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) trails by double digits – but could benefit from Rodríguez’s inclusion in the race as PRI voters are considered the least likely to opt for an independent candidate.

Mexico’s electoral tribunal acts as a final arbiter for election matters but is widely perceived as having ruled in the PRI’s favour in a series of controversial cases.

“It’s an ace up the PRI’s sleeve,” said Federico Estévez, political science professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico…

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