Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, April 17, 2014

No longer an entitlement

As the economy and government benefits tighten, can the political leaders maintain their legitimacy?

To save money, Iran ends popular cash payout program
In a bid to cut spending, the Iranian government has ended a massive cash assistance program and launched a celebrity-driven campaign to convince millions of Iranians that they do not need the help.

It’s unlikely to be a popular message. As of last month, more than 90 percent of Iranians were receiving monthly direct deposits from the government of about $15 — a sum that many… depended on to buy staples whose prices have soared in recent years.

The payments were launched in 2010 by then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as part of a program to reduce state subsidies on utilities and food…

On Friday, the government of President Hassan Rouhani sent the final payment to Iranians’ bank accounts, and it is taking applications to determine how many people really need the help…

Ahmadinejad’s government originally intended to deliver the deposits only to the needy. But analysts say a combination of limited income data and political turmoil after Ahmadinejad’s disputed 2009 election led him to view the aid as an opportunity to placate a restless society…

Increasing prices and the national currency’s diminished purchasing power have been among Iranians’ core complaints for several years. If these problems are not resolved, they threaten to undermine the new government’s popularity…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

Just The Facts! is a concise guide to the concepts, terminology, and examples that can help you review for May's exam.






 

What You Need to Know is a thorough review of comparative government and politics as described in the AP curriculum.






 

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are now available to help plan review sessions and next year's teaching plans.







 

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bad news from Nigeria

Thinking about next year's elections in Nigeria might be wishful. If the capacity of the government to maintain law and order continues to diminish, someone(s) offering powerful remedies might win enough crucial support (i.e. military leaders) to replace the regime. (But if that happens before May 16, it won't be on the exam.)

129 Girls Abducted By Boko Haram As Abuja Death Toll Rises to 76
Barely 16 hours after a bomb explosion at a bus park in Nyanya, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), killed scores of people and injured so many others, 129 female students were abducted on Monday night by members of the terrorist group Boko Haram from Government Girls' Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State…

The secondary school girls, who were abducted by members of Boko Haram, were among the 250 boarders at the government secondary school and were sitting for the ongoing WAEC/SSCE (their final year secondary school exams) when they were forcibly taken away from the school on Monday night…

The defence spokesman also stated that the military was still on a search-and-rescue mission trailing the terrorists. He assured Nigerians that the abductors were being tracked and cornered within the environment with the help of the locals…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

What You Need to Know is a thorough review of comparative government and politics. Order it now.










Just The Facts! is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.










What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available to help curriculum planning.








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Corruption? Here? In our regime? I'm shocked.

It's interesting that everyone seems to know about "moches," but that no one has been involved with such schemes.

And it's also interesting that all the accused, so far, are associated with PAN, the main rival to the ruling PRI.

Mexico congressmen charge mayors for federal funds
The mayor of the central Mexico city of Celaya thought he was having a private conversation when he told his staff that congressmen were requiring him to inflate a paving contract by 35 percent in exchange for $12.2 million in federal public works money.

Not only that, they demanded he go with the contractor of their choice.

But the conversation was recorded, leaked to the national Reforma newspaper, and its front-page story in January revealed one of the biggest corruption scandals to hit Mexico's Congress. According to mayors who have come forward in recent months, senators and congressmen routinely skim off the top of federal funds they allot to cities, money that can add up to three-quarters of the budget for local jurisdictions…

Over the decades, corruption scandals have tainted presidents, brought down mayors, seen generals jailed and led to charges against untold numbers of police. Just in the last two weeks, the Mexico City leader of the country's ruling party was accused of hiring women for sex and putting them on the party payroll, and federal officials detained Michoacan state's second-highest-ranking political leader to investigate his possible ties to the drug cartel that has terrorized the state.

But Congress has remained largely untouched until now. Mexicans have attributed that less to lawmakers' honesty than the fact that, in a country where inconvenient laws are generally ignored by powerful forces, lawmakers were not considered important enough to bribe.

Now, that perception has changed, leaving Mexicans wondering if there is any institution in the country left untouched by corruption.

Although no mayor has publicly admitted to participating in the payoffs themselves, local media citing anonymous officials with knowledge of the meetings have alleged that at least eight city leaders were solicited for bribes…

President Enrique Pena Nieto, in office for nearly a year and a half, has pledged that his administration will not tolerate the corrupt practices that took place at all levels of government in the past. The moches investigation is the first of his term to focus on elected officials, although most named in the scandal so far belong to the National Action Party, or PAN, the rival party to Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI…

Botello, the head of the Mexican association of mayors, said that four or five mayors had told her about being pressured to participate in the scheme, although she denied having been approached herself, and declined to say who had been…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

Just The Facts! is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that can help you review for next month's exam.






 

What You Need to Know is a thorough review of comparative government and politics as described in the AP curriculum.






 

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and v2.0 are available for teachers







 

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Instant economic growth

Splashy headlines announced that Nigeria was now Africa's largest economy. How did that happen so suddenly? What does it mean for Nigerian government and politics?

Hello Nollywood: how Nigeria became Africa's biggest economy overnight; Nigeria's GDP has been revised up by 89%. Here are five things this tells us about the finances of Africa's most populous nation
Nigeria is now officially Africa’s biggest economy. Its GDP was revised up to £307bn this week, after economists re-adjusted the way they calculate the figures for more than 24 years. Most other countries go through this process (known as "rebasing") every five years…

In view of this, here are five things you might not know about the newly recognised elements of Nigeria’s economy:

  1. The movie industry, known as Nollywood, produces more films a year than any other country except India… Motion pictures, sound recording and music production are collectively now worth billions of pounds, and constitute 1.4% of the country’s £307bn GDP…
  2. Only 20 years ago, Nigeria had one telecoms operator and around 300,000 telephone lines… Now, there are up to 120 million mobile phone subscribers in a country of around 170m people, and dozens of providers… According to the new data, telecommunications and information services contribute 8.69% of the country’s GDP, and with companies engaging in aggressive smart phone marketing, this is expected to grow.
  3. Nigeria’s formal services industry has grown more than 240% compared with the last figure recorded in 1990… the country’s informal services – such as those provided by barbers, cobblers, cyber cafes, and street vendors – went under the radar until teams were dispatched in 2011 to record their contributions. Those which come under the “other services” category account for 1.68% of the country’s GDP.
  4. Just over two decades ago Nigeria also had only one airline. Now it has several - with Arik Air and Dana Air being two of the most well-known…
  5. Though Nigeria now boasts Africa’s largest economy, the figures have also highlighted familiar problems. Oil and gas revenues are by far the government’s main source of income although the industry is also plagued by allegations of corruption. Oil and gas contributed 14% of GDP under the new data, compared with 32% under the 1990 figures…

Though the new figures show Nigeria’s economy has grown 12.7% between 2012 and 2013, more than 60% of Nigerians still live on less than one dollar a day. “Inequality has been rising,” the finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, acknowledged…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

What You Need to Know is a thorough review of comparative government and politics as described in the AP curriculum.






 

Just The Facts! is a catalog of concepts, terminology, and examples that can help you review for May's exam.






 

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, original version and  v2.0 can be helpful to teachers planning for reviews or next year.






 

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Monday, April 14, 2014

No, you can't come back

Citizenship isn't forever is some places like the UK.

Britain Increasingly Invoking Power to Disown Its Citizens
The letter informing Mohamed Sakr that he had been stripped of his British citizenship arrived at his family’s house in London in September 2010. Mr. Sakr, born and raised here by British-Egyptian parents, was in Somalia at the time and was suspected by Western intelligence agencies of being a senior figure in the Shabab, a terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda…

A childhood friend of Mr. Sakr, Bilal al-Berjawi, a Lebanese-Briton also stripped of his citizenship by the British government…

The cases of Mr. Sakr and Mr. Berjawi are among the most significant relating to the British government’s growing use of its ability to strip citizenship and its associated rights from some Britons at the stroke of a pen, without any public hearing and only after-the-fact involvement by the courts.

Now, faced with concerns that the steady stream of British Muslims traveling to fight in Syria could pose a threat on their return, Prime Minister David Cameron’s government is pushing legislation that would give it additional flexibility to use the power, which among other things keeps terrorism suspects from re-entering the country.

In many Western countries, including the United States, citizenship is considered a right that cannot be taken away except in very limited cases, such as serving in another nation’s military or having obtained citizenship fraudulently. Others strip citizenship from people who take another passport. Britain, along with Israel, is one of the few countries that can revoke the citizenship of dual nationals — even if they are native born — if they are suspected or convicted of terrorist offenses or acts of disloyalty.

Britain is seeking to expand the practice to naturalized citizens who have no other nationality and would be rendered stateless. Citizenship, in the words of Home Secretary Theresa May, is a “privilege, not a right.”

The issue is beginning to stir public debate. A government-sponsored amendment expanding the practice to naturalized citizens who have no other nationality sailed through the House of Commons this year. But on Monday, in a rare act of parliamentary rebellion, the House of Lords rejected the amendment and asked instead for a joint committee of both houses to examine whether the additional powers are necessary…

Britain typically strips people of citizenship when they are outside the country. The procedure requires only that the home secretary find that stripping someone of citizenship would be “conducive to the public good,” then sign a deprivation order and send a letter to the person’s last known address. Loss of citizenship is effective immediately. It can be challenged in court, but that is a difficult task in most cases, given the inability of a targeted person to return to Britain for any proceedings.

Forty-two people have been stripped of their British citizenship since 2006, 20 of them last year, according to a freedom of information request filed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a research organization at City University London…

During World War I, anti-German sentiment and concern over foreign spies first made citizenship deprivation a popular tool both here and in the United States.

The practice fell into disuse after World War II, when it became associated with totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany. A landmark ruling by the United States Supreme Court in 1958 struck down a law that allowed citizenship deprivation as a punishment. Proposed legislation in Congress in 2010 to reinstate the practice did not win enough support…

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.


What You Need to Know is a thorough review of comparative government and politics as described in the AP curriculum.






 

Just The Facts! is a catalog of concepts, terminology, and examples that can help you review for May's exam.






 

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and  v2.0 are now available.








 

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Provisional book recommendation

I've read Lydia Polgreen's reports from Africa for the New York Times for years. She's a good journalist. She recently reviewed Dayo Olopade's book, The Bright Continent.

From this review I offer this conditional recommendation. For those of you who teach about Nigeria or another African country, put this book on your summer reading list. Reserve it at your local public library. Persuade the school librarian to order it for you now. Use the remainder of your materials budget to buy the book ($26). Collect the spare change from your dresser top if needed.

IF Polgreen's review represents the book, Olopade, a Nigerian-American journalist, has some valuable lessons for those of us trying to teach about Nigeria while isolated in American classrooms.

The Bright Continent by Dayo Olopade
Dayo Olopade’s Bright Continent, as its title suggests, is a corrective to Africa’s image as a dark, hopeless place. In fact, it is home to several of the world’s fastest-growing economies and more than a billion would-be consumers…

Dayo Olopade
Africa’s gains have come not because of Western largess or painful structural adjustment programs set out by the likes of the International Monetary Fund, Olopade argues, nor are they the work of governments. They are largely the fruit of Africans’ efforts to help themselves, through creative means that sometimes involve breaking the rules…

“One of the biggest problems with the world’s longtime orientation toward Africa is a preference for interactions between governments, or between formal institutions, when the most vibrant, authentic and economically significant interactions are between individuals and decentralized groups,” [Olopade writes]…

Central to Olopade’s thesis is the concept of kanju, a term that describes “the specific creativity born from African difficulty.” It is the rule-bending ethos that makes it possible to get things done in the face of headaches like crumbling infrastructure, corrupt bureaucracy and tightfisted banks unwilling to make loans to people without political connections…

These insights start out sounding clever, but by the time kanju is referred to as a “killer app” they have begun to grate. This is neither wholly a reporter’s book (its tone is too boosterish) nor a business book (it is too well reported).

Indeed, it is something in between. Things like close family ties, necessity-driven innovation and ingenuity are a source of strength, Olopade writes, and gives countless examples. But in each case, the opposite can also be true.

Family ties are a tremendous source of strength in many African societies, but family ties can also hold people back. In places where so few people have jobs, one earner must support many mouths, making it impossible to save anything…

More broadly… the most thoroughgoing change in any society is almost always political. Giving people a voice through their elected officials to transform their societies is the most empowering change of all, but in Olopade’s world, government is a millstone to progress, not its engine.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

What You Need to Know is a thorough review of comparative government and politics as described in the AP curriculum.






 

Just The Facts! is a catalog of concepts, terminology, and examples that can help you review for May's exam.






 

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, the original version and  v2.0 are now available.







 

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Party, not civil, society

Independent civil society organizations are an anathema to the Communist Party rulers of China, even when their goals are ostensibly the same as those of the Party. Do you know why?

Civil Society Activists Face Trial in Beijing
A lawyer considered a key figure in the New Citizens Movement went on trial Tuesday in Beijing, the latest person to face the prospect of prison time for involvement in a group that called for government transparency and equal rights for China’s rural residents.

Ding Jiaxi
Ding Jiaxi, 46, has been charged with “gathering a crowd to disturb public order” in connection with a series of small demonstrations… in the Haidian district [that]… called for government officials to reveal their personal assets in order to help control corruption…

Li Wei, a 42-year-old unemployed man who participated in the protests, also went on trial Tuesday, on the same charge of “gathering a crowd to disturb public order.”

Later this week, Zhao Changqing, 44, a veteran of the 1989 student-led demonstrations around Tiananmen Square, is also scheduled to face trial for the same charge…

Although the anticorruption aims of the New Citizens Movement parallel the aggressive crackdown on official graft that President Xi Jinping has pursued since taking China’s top leadership posts, the authorities have shown little willingness to tolerate independent monitoring of officials’ wealth.

“These trials and this crackdown should be seen in the context of the new leadership consolidating power,” Maya Wang, a Hong Kong-based researcher for Human Rights Watch said.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

What You Need to Know is a thorough review of the AP Comparative Government and Politics course.







 

Just The Facts! is a quick guide to the concepts, vocabulary, and examples vital for the AP course.







 

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, original version and  v2.0 can help plan review sessions or next year's course.






 

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mass line for the dead

China's Communist Party seems to have a mass line for the dead as well as the living.

Sweeping Graves the Party Way
Qingming is here, filling our hearts with longing,” read the text message signed by the Ministry of Civil Affairs that popped up, unsolicited, on the mobile phones of many Chinese as the traditional Tomb Sweeping Festival got underway over the three-day weekend, which included a public holiday on Monday.

Qingming, which means “pure brightness,” is an ancient festival when people tend their family graves and perform rituals of ancestor worship. It was reinstated as a national holiday in 2008 after fading away following the 1949 Communist revolution, as the new government discouraged such traditions…

Graves in Babaoshan
[A] slew of media reports… have described or shown images of large-scale “Red Tomb Sweeping” activities at party martyrs cemeteries around the country, including at Babaoshan, the party’s main cemetery for deceased leaders and revolutionaries…

Meanwhile, The Beijing News reported, party members in Beijing have been warned not to construct graves for themselves larger than one square meter.

In a directive titled the “Four Forbiddens” issued on Friday by the municipal party committee office, the newspaper reported, “lavish events,” “superstitious activities,” “chaotic burials and funerals” and “oversize graves” were declared off limits to party members.

The directive is in line with a major campaign by President Xi Jinping to rid the party of corruption, privileges and excesses that are making it unpopular with the people.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed.

What You Need to Know is a thorough review of comparative government and politics as described in the AP curriculum.






 

Just The Facts! is just the ticket to quick reviews for the big exam.






 

What You Need to Know: Teaching Tools, original version and  v2.0 are available as planning aids.







 

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