Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Background to Nigerian terrorism

In light of the bombing of the UN office in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, this analysis from The Economist is especially relevant.

Take note, especially, of the last assertion. Is the violence and the Islamist veneer a dimension of Nigerian win-lose politics?

Sounding like the Middle East
NIGERIA’S north is a giant dust bowl stricken by mass poverty and unemployment. But the worst blight of all may be the region’s Islamists, especially a group called Boko Haram…

Boko Haram, meaning “Western education is sinful”, originates in Maiduguri, capital of the north-eastern state of Borno. It rose to prominence after sectarian violence in 2009… The group says it is fighting for the wider application of sharia law in Nigeria and has claimed responsibility for hundreds of attacks in Borno, often aimed at police, churches and bars…

As it gains confidence, Boko Haram has begun to expand beyond its home base. It bombed buildings in the central city of Jos late last year and has since pushed farther south to the capital, Abuja…

Pervasive poverty, worsened by unchecked government corruption, is as much part of the problem as fervent religious belief. A stark economic contrast between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south is also fanning the flames…

Boko Haram’s ideology is not widely supported in Nigeria; Islam in west Africa is overwhelmingly moderate…

Nigeria’s heavy-handed military has not helped the situation. Its elite Joint Task Force is accused of using indiscriminate violence in retaliation to attacks…

There is a wider political dimension. Some observers believe Boko Haram has established links with disgruntled politicians, some of whom recently lost power. They apparently wish to destabilise the government…

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Señora Presidenta?

It's not just in Russia that a woman is making headlines as a high ranking political figure.

A flash in the PAN
TWO of Latin America’s three biggest economies, Brazil and Argentina, are headed by women… Might Mexico make it a clean feminist sweep next year? The ruling National Action Party (PAN) has been struggling to find a popular candidate for the presidential election in 2012… The opposition has mocked the PAN’s hopefuls as the “seven dwarves”… But polls suggest that Josefina Vázquez Mota, the PAN’s leader in the Chamber of Deputies, is emerging as a possible technicolour candidate.

Ms Vázquez has almost doubled her support among PAN sympathisers since January…

As social-development minister under Mr Calderón’s predecessor, Vicente Fox, Ms Vázquez cleared out incompetent officials…

Ms Vázquez says that as president education would be her priority, with wider access to secondary school and university, and better teacher-training. She talks of a more efficient justice system (with a focus on everyday impunity and corruption, rather than the drug war), but is so far short on specifics. Like most in the conservative PAN she is against abortion; on gay marriage, recently legalised in Mexico City, she equivocates. She talks of the need to strengthen Mexico’s weak governmental institutions to match the country’s achievement of full democracy in 2000…

That will be one line of attack against the PAN’s principal rival, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ran Mexico with an iron fist for 71 years. Reminding people of the faults of that era, without boring younger Mexicans by banging on about a past they don’t remember, will be key to preventing the PRI from returning next year, she says.

It will be an uphill battle. The PRI’s most likely candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, is 30 or 40 points ahead of Ms Vázquez in most polls. After a decade of sluggish economic growth and five years of drug-war violence, voters are fed up with the PAN…

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Monday, August 29, 2011

More details on Iranian politics

An analysis in The Economist offers more details about the state of elite politics in Iran.

I'd note that the reference to the water fights broken up (probably by Basiji) neglects to consider that it was the organizing, not the fun, that the rulers feared.

Divine divisions
WHILE the Arab spring unfolds all round them, the (mostly Persian) citizens of Iran seem condemned to a lonely purgatory. Their 1979 revolution promised refuge from the Shah’s roller-coaster rule, but the Islamic Republic that replaced it is beset by an equally secular malaise. A soaring murder rate (the country’s top weightlifter was a recent victim), family breakdown and chronic levels of personal debt are standard topics of conversation in homes and on buses that ply the capital…

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, disapproves of all this Cassandraism… Mr Khamenei demands an end to “negativist” statements from the country’s officials, which breed “hopelessness”.

But the authorities do not like excessive hilarity, either. In the sweltering heat of late July, when several hundred young men and women turned up at a Tehran park to soak each other with water pistols, the mirth was deemed impious, and arrests were made…

Iran’s leaders put a stop to participatory politics when they rigged the 2009 presidential election…

But the silencing of organised opposition has not brought peace to the country’s decision-making elite, even if its members claim to be united behind the principle of clerical rule. On the contrary, in government, as in society, dangerous fissures have opened up…

Relations between Mr Ahmadinejad and some of his former backers have deteriorated to such an extent that the president is now depicted as a maverick who has been “bewitched” by his own chief of staff…

Yet for all the pressure he is under, Mr Ahmadinejad has assets of his own. A brilliant populist, he has showered enough attention and largesse on poor, pious Iranians to win a place in their hearts. Last winter’s reform of ruinous price subsidies was a hot potato that only he dared to touch. As expected, inflation has risen (it is expected to peak at 22% early next year) but a new monthly dole has softened the blow for many people…

Almost entirely reliant on oil receipts, unproductive and monopolistic, Iran’s economy is not as strong as it should be. Entrepreneurship has been stymied by sanctions, while the Revolutionary Guard’s commercial divisions take over ever larger bits of the economy in the absence of foreign investment…

On the country’s periphery, revolts by minorities such as the (mostly Sunni) Kurds and Baluchis smoulder on…

In such an environment, it is not surprising that existential angst in various forms, religious and secular, is now perceptible across Iranian society…

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

New challenges for Nigeria's state capacity

Nigeria is challenged by many things. Now there are a couple more challenges on the agenda.

Nigerian leader vows to fight terrorism after UN attack
Goodluck Jonathan said it had been not just an attack on Nigeria, but an attack on the international community.

The radical Islamist group, Boko Haram, told the BBC it was behind the blast in the capital, which left at least 23 people dead and 81 wounded.

Mr Jonathan said the group was a "local problem" that had to be dealt with.

Boko Haram, which is fighting for the establishment of Sharia law in Nigeria, is alleged to have had contacts with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in North Africa, and al-Shabab in Somalia…

Nigeria floods: At least 20 killed in Ibadan
At least 20 people have been killed and thousands displaced by flooding in and around the city of Ibadan in south-western Nigeria.

The floods, resulting from heavy rains that began on Friday, caused a dam to overflow and washed away numerous buildings and bridges…

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Friday, August 26, 2011

A woman near the top of Russian government?

It's rare in all political systems to find a woman in a top position, but I can't remember any woman who has even been near the top in Russia or the Soviet Union. Maybe that's about to change.

However, there's more than one perspective on this rising politician. A report by Will Englund in The Washington Post suggests that the St. Petersburg governor was being "kicked upstairs" to improve the public attractiveness of the ruling United Russia party.

Oh, and her election looks a little shady to some observers.

Putin ally Valentina Matviyenko set to be Russia's No 3
A close ally of Russian PM Vladimir Putin has won a reported landslide in a vote that puts her on course to assume one of Russia's most powerful roles.

Valentina Matviyenko has won a seat in Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council.

It is thought Mr Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev want her to be speaker - the third-ranking job in Russia.

But opponents denounced her victory - with more than 95% of the vote - as fraudulent…

Ms Matviyenko has been governor of St Petersburg, Russia's second city, since 2003.

The city is where both Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev come from…

If successful, it is thought Ms Matviyenko would be Russia's highest appointed stateswoman since Catherine the Great, who was empress of Russia in the 18th Century.

Russia’s ruling party engineers replacement of St. Petersburg governor
With elections coming in December, the ruling United Russia party has been concerned about its fading support and wanted to get a more voter-friendly face in office in Russia’s second-largest city, the hometown of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

St. Petersburg governor Valentina Matviyenko is now in line to become speaker of the upper house of parliament — on paper, the third most important post in the Russian government, and one that’s currently vacant. But to be eligible, she first had to win election this past weekend to a district council seat.

Elections officials announced Monday that she had won two such seats, in races that she joined after the registration of candidates had been closed and that other candidates were denied permission to enter. She won them by 93.7 and 94.5 percent of the vote, the officials said.

Protests over the conduct of the elections led to the arrest last week of the prominent opposition leader Boris Nemtsov

Meet Russia's Thatcher, the chemist who could end up in the Kremlim
Russia's next presidential election is not until 2012, but speculation is already rife about whether Dmitry Medvedev will try for a second term or whether his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, will want to reclaim his old job. The one thing almost everyone can agree on is that they will not stand against each other. But there might just be a third way, and that third way could give Russia its very own Margaret Thatcher or Angela Merkel.

Even to mention the possibility risks crushing Valentina Matviyenko's prospects well before nominations open. But if anyone can do it, the 61-year-old Governor of St Petersburg may be the one…

Russia has never been keen on female politicians; even in Soviet days, when women drove tractors and the Communist Party boasted about equal rights, their presence in the leading institutions was more token than substantial. Ms Matviyenko acknowledges the problem, cheerfully relating how her opponents festooned the city's streets with banners proclaiming "Being governor is no job for a woman" before she was convincingly elected…

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Certainly not soft power

The idea of soft power is to exercise influence by being attractive or offering benefits. ("sugar catches more flies than vinegar…") If this report is accurate, Iran's Revolutionary Guard is not content to appear attractive.

Europe Accuses Iranian Force of Aiding Syrian Crackdown
The European Union announced on Wednesday that it was leveling sanctions against Iran’s Al Quds military force, saying it had given technical and material support to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria in his efforts to crush the five-month-old uprising against his rule…

The European Union said in a statement published in its official journal that Al Quds, an elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, “provided technical assistance, equipment and support to the Syrian security services to repress civilian protest movements.”

The United States and other countries have also accused Tehran of aiding Mr. Assad’s crackdown. British newspapers have quoted unnamed Western diplomats in recent weeks as saying that Iran was providing riot-control gear and surveillance equipment to the Assad government.

The secretive Al Quds force is an elite and ideologically grounded unit that was created to protect and promote the Iranian revolution. It carries out operations beyond Iran’s borders and was responsible for initially training and arming the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon…

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The early death of Russian democracy

There was a joke going around a decade ago. It took the Russians 75 years to prove that Communism didn't work. It only took them 10 years to prove that democracy didn't work either.

Kathy Lally and Will Englund published an analysis in The Washington Post looking at that second "experiment."

Russia, once almost a democracy
Twenty years ago… communist hard-liners staged a coup here, sending tanks rumbling to the Russian White House in an effort to preserve the Soviet Union. Instead they touched off a powerful expression of democracy.

Boris Yeltsin, the first democratically elected president in Russia’s thousand years, galvanized the resistance when he climbed atop one of the tanks and called on citizens to defend the freedoms he had promised to deliver. They mounted the barricades, unarmed, willing to risk their lives for democracy. The coup leaders lost their nerve. A few months later, the Soviet Union was dead.

All these years later, so is democracy.

Today, Vladimir Putin presides over an authoritarian government… Occasional demonstrations in favor of democracy are small and largely ignored, except by the police…

[T]oday, elections are not fair, courts are not independent, political opposition is not tolerated and the reformers are widely blamed for what has gone wrong…

Today, Russia works on bribes, and Putin’s opponents call his United Russia party the party of crooks and thieves. People can say whatever they want to one another, unlike in Soviet times when they feared the secret police knocking in the middle of the night, but television is controlled and any opposition is publicly invisible…

Many Russians despair about their country, its prospects and their own, but they say little and do less…

Only a tiny percentage of the population takes part in civil society, about 1.5 or 2 percent, at the level of statistical error…

Gorbachev says Putin 'castrated' democracy in Russia
Mikhail Gorbachev has accused Vladimir Putin of "castrating" Russia's electoral system and said he should not seek re-election as president…

He told the BBC that in the last two decades the country should have got further along the road towards democracy.

He laid much of the blame on Mr Putin who, in the view of many, remains the real power in the land.

"Putin and his team are for stability but stability kills development and results in stagnation," Mr Gorbachev said.

"The electoral system we had was nothing remarkable but they have literally castrated it."

While president, Mr Putin drastically reformed the electoral system to effectively exclude independent candidates and smaller parties from parliament, and centralise control of the regions…

He said the next five or six years would be crucial and, if Russia missed this window and failed to modernise and become more democratic, it would forever lag behind…
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whose privilege?

A week or so ago, I asked a question about how the distribution of wealth and income affects politics. That issue came up twice this morning as I read the news.

First NPR featured a story about a photograph of the new American ambassador to China that is causing quite a stir on the Chinese Internet.

Then, I read a story in The Washington Post about the super-rich in China and how they love to display their wealth.

Discuss among yourselves.

Ambassador Locke Picks Up His Own Coffee, Gains 'Hero' Status Among Chinese
Some pictures of the brand new U.S. ambassador to China are causing quite a stir…

We'll explain: Someone took a picture of Ambassador Gary Locke buying his own coffee at Starbucks in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. And, then, later pictures showed Locke and his family arriving at a Chinese airport carrying their own bags.

Ambassador Locke buying coffee

Many Chinese were incredulous.

"I think people look at him like a hero this time," Chen Weihua told "All Things Considered's" Melissa Block. Weihua is a columnist for China Daily, the country's national English-language newspaper, and he joked that to many Chinese Locke looked like a "migrant worker."…

But as silly as it may sound, the episode touched a nerve, said Weihua, and has led to some introspection.

"This is really the new image of what public servants should be," said Weihua. "Right now in China there is a big debate about the spending of government officials. The public called for more transparency of the spending by government."

And that a top ambassador from the United States buys his own coffee and carries his own bags puts pressure on Chinese officials to be more transparent or in the least to be more humble.

China’s newly rich are flaunting wealth — and giving Communist rulers a headache
China’s new rich love luxury products — imported French handbags, Italian sports cars — and even more, they love to show off their bling.

Gold plated car in Beijing

That seems to be creating headaches for China’s Communist rulers, who after three decades of exhorting their subjects to get rich are facing growing discontent over a widening income gap. Officials now talk about making sure wealth is more evenly distributed, and how to get the rich to tone it down…

“The government is facing a conflict,” said Michael Ouyang, representative of the World Luxury Association in China. “They don’t want to promote luxury because they are worried people who cannot afford it will see the advertisements. But they don’t want to limit luxury products because it’s good for the economy. So they’re facing a dilemma.”

It doesn’t help the government’s case when the rich keep showing off their bling…

Experts say the phenomenon of showing off wealth is a complex one, rooted in China’s long struggles with poverty and famine, and a sense that expensive possessions confer a higher social status.

“Showing off wealth shows that China’s economic development has not been long, and Chinese society’s psychology of consumption is still not mature,” said Hu Xingdou, an economics professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology. “In China, wealth is the only criteria to measure social status. People hope to show they have a higher social status by wearing luxurious brands.”…

On popular microblogging sites, many in China are openly questioning whether the country’s new creed of amassing wealth has gone too far…

Also, a millionaire in Shanxi province caused a stir, and became the subject of a video that went viral, after a guard at a Qing Dynasty tomb site told him that the underground tombs were closed to the public. The millionaire began throwing cash at the guard’s feet, demanding to go inside and claiming he had enough money to buy the ancient tombs...

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Globalization in Nigeria: terrorism

This is not the kind of globalization that is good for Nigeria.

Islamist Threat With Qaeda Link Grows in Nigeria
A shadowy Islamist insurgency that has haunted northern Nigeria… appears to be branching out and collaborating with Al Qaeda’s affiliates, alarming Western officials and analysts who had previously viewed the militants here as a largely isolated, if deadly, menace.

Just two years ago, the Islamist group stalking police officers in this bustling city seemed on the verge of extinction…

Now, insurgents strike at the Nigerian military, the police and opponents of Islamic law in near-daily assaults and bombings, using improvised explosive devices that can be detonated remotely and bear the hallmarks of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb…

Boko Haram… has begun waging a propaganda campaign that includes conference calls with reporters — another sign of its growing sophistication…

The Nigerian government appears to have only a shaky grasp of how to confront the threat…

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Blatant advertisement

If you're trying to buy a copy of my book, Amazon.com is all out right now. (I just shipped 3 boxes to them this morning.)

But you can order a copy from the book's web site, where shipping is always free. And you can order a copy of the two-page Checklist for 2011.

Or you could just wait for Amazon to process the books I sent them.

The Fourth Edition of What You Need to Know is available from the publisher (where shipping is always FREE).

Policy, discrimination, or corruption?

There is evidently a debate going on behind the scenes over the hukou, or household registration system in China. Citizens are only eligible for public services (like schools) in the place where their residency is registered.

There are tens of millions of migrant workers in China's cities. They are needed as labor in factories and on development projects. Most of them are technically illegal (unregistered) and ineligible for public services. What's a growing economy to do?

It might be that policy makers haven't decided what to do yet. It's also possible that the policy is to discourage dependents of the needed workers from leaving their home villages. Or perhaps, inadequate cash has greased the palms of hukou enforcement authorities.

Migrant schools closed in Chinese capital
Thousands of migrant workers' children in Beijing have been left with no school to attend after officials abruptly closed their schools.

State media said some 14,000 children in three districts of the Chinese capital had been hit.

Officials said the schools had not met safety standards or were unapproved…

State-run Xinhua news agency said 24 schools in Beijing's Haidian, Chaoyang and Daxing districts had been closed just before the start of the new term…

Zhang Zhiqiang, founder of aid group Migrant Workers' Friend, told AFP the move highlighted discrimination against migrant workers, and Xinhua news agency said the issue had sparked "wide public concerns over inequality in education"...

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Friday, August 19, 2011

More complex than textbooks make it

Science fiction novelist, Poul Anderson is quoted as having said, "I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it the right way, did not become still more complicated."

The same might be said of political systems. The Economist reports on an oil trading company that seems to act on behalf of the Chinese government, but displays no obvious connections to the state. And given the reputation it has of taking advantage of African nations, the Chinese state might want to avoid visible links.

This is a bit of complication that is more that an introductory comparative course needs to include, but it's the kind of thing that should be in the back of the minds of teachers.

The Queensway syndicate and the Africa trade
Operating out of offices in Hong Kong’s Queensway, the syndicate calls itself China International Fund or China Sonangol. Over the past seven years it has signed contracts worth billions of dollars for oil, minerals and diamonds from Africa.

These deals are shrouded in secrecy. However, they appear to grant the Queensway syndicate remarkably profitable terms. If that is right, then they would be depriving some of the world’s poorest people of desperately needed wealth. Because the syndicate has done deals with the regimes in strife-torn places, such as Zimbabwe and Guinea, it may also have indirectly helped sustain violent conflicts…

Although the Queensway syndicate has sometimes been suspected of being an arm of the Chinese government, there is little evidence of that. Indeed, it has often been the butt of criticism from Chinese officials. More likely it was set up to take advantage of a new strategy by the Chinese government, known as the “going out” policy. In 2002, after decades of commercial isolation, China started encouraging entrepreneurs to venture abroad…

China Sonangol threw itself into the business, according to Angolan oil ministry records and applications for bank loans backed by oil shipments. The official statistics are incomplete, but good sources have concluded that almost all of China’s imports of oil from Angola—worth more than $20 billion last year—come from China Sonangol. By contrast, China’s state-owned oil companies have no direct interest in Angolan oilfields, one of their two biggest sources of crude. Their names do not show up on the map of concessions…

All this means that the syndicate taints China’s “going out” policy, a cornerstone of the country’s rise in recent years. When the policy works, African resources are swapped for aid, commercial financing and payments in kind such as public infrastructure. But with the syndicate, billions of dollars meant for schools, roads and hospitals have apparently ended up in private accounts. Rather than fixing Africa’s lack of infrastructure, Chinese entrepreneurs and Africa’s governing elites look as if they are conspiring to use the development model as a pretext for plunder.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

One less roadblock to government action in Mexico?

Blanca Facundo, who teaches in Puerto Rico, sent a link to an article describing a constitutional change in Mexico that has the potential of giving the national legislature a bit more power in the system. Luckily, she also sent a translation of the summary, since I don't read Spanish.

Thank you, Blanca for both the link and the translation.

Firma Calderón decreto que elimina el “veto de bolsillo”
El presidente Felipe Calderón Hinojosa firmó el decreto que elimina el "veto de bolsillo" que permitía al Ejecutivo, ante la ausencia de plazos, omitir indefinidamente la publicación de una ley remitida por el Congreso de la Unión…

[Summary translation]

Mexico's president Felipe Calderón signed today a law which amends articles 71, 72 and 78 of the  Mexican Constitution, to eliminate the presidential pocket veto. Before these changes were enacted into law, the president could ignore any law project approved by the Mexican congress by simply not signing it.  Now, if the President  does not sign, veto or return a law to Congress with his recommendations within 30 natural days after the  law was passed, the President of the house in which the bill  was originally presented is authorized to publish the law within the next 10 natural days of the presidential deadline.

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Presidential or Parliamentary

Sue Witmer, who teaches in Pennsylvania, pointed out this article. It's well worth your time, and perhaps the time of your students, too.

Fareed Zakaria, writing at CNN, asks a comparative question. However, it's a question that even students of US government should consider. What are the advantages of a parliamentary system? Or, the advantages of a presidential system? You will note, that Zakaria has to take into account some of the ambiguity that I think is so important for students of comparative politics to appreciate.

Does America need a prime minister?
After the S&P downgrade of the United States, no country with a presidential system has a triple-A rating from all three major ratings agencies. Only countries with parliamentary systems have that honor (with the possible exception of France, which has a parliament and prime minister as well as an empowered president).

Juan Linz, professor of social science at Yale, argued that parliamentary systems are superior to presidential systems for reasons of stability…

In America today… [w]e have one party in one house of the legislature claiming to speak for the people because theirs was the most recent electoral victory. And you have the president who claims a broader mandate as the only person elected by all the people. These irresolvable claims invite struggle…

Remember, the political battle surrounding the debt ceiling is actually impossible in a parliamentary system because the executive controls the legislature. There could not be a public spectacle of the two branches of government squabbling and holding the country hostage.

If we’re in for another five years of this squabbling in the U.S., we are going to make presidential systems look pretty bad indeed.

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Another view of riotous England

Alan Carter, from Oxford, wrote from the south of France. (Where else would you expect an Oxfordian to go for a sunny summer holiday?)

I think he bravely "typed" this on his mobile. (I edited a bit, adding capital letters and some punctuation.) Thank you, Alan.

While PM Cameron is intent on placing the blame for riots on the deficiencies of the people in England, Alan Carter points out that there's enough blame to go around and around.
The riots have various 'dimensions'. Firstly, what I call 'remote control policing' - cameras everywhere, policemen nowhere. That's good for one or two shopliffters on a Saturday afternoon, but it's useless against 100s of people.

Secondly, 'preventative' arrests to neutralise gangs in the week before the Notting Hill carnival whipped up bad feeling in vulnerable areas. Then the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan (who was in a cab with a converted firearm) was the catalyst in an already fraught situation.

Thirdly, what happened to the summer camps? Answer - victims of budget cuts in the 90s. My suggestion is the same as for all the crises today (or le crise): How much would it really cost to fix it?? How much did summer camps cost for deprived kids? £1000s? How much damage was done by riots ( bad publicity etc)? £millions...

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New slogans. New programs?

In the aftermath of riots in the UK, PM David Cameron has come up with some new slogans. It's as if he feels the need to campaign again for votes. However, the new slogans seem to represent new labels for the programs he touted during the last election.

England riots: Broken society is top priority - Cameron
David Cameron has said tackling the "broken society" is back at the top of his agenda following last week's riots.

The PM said he would review government policies and speed up plans to deal with "problem" families, improve parenting and education.

As part of plans to tackle what he called a "moral collapse", he also pledged an "all-out war" on gangs…

In a speech in Oxfordshire, he said politicians had been unwilling to talk about rights and wrongs, but "moral neutrality" would not "cut it any more". He questioned whether politicians had "the determination to confront the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations".

He included children without fathers, schools without discipline and communities without control in a list of what he believed has gone wrong in parts of the country and said people were "crying out" for the government to act.
"The broken society is back at the top of my agenda," Mr Cameron said…

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Look! Up in the sky...

Nigeria demonstrates its capacity as a state.

Nigeria Launches 2 New Satellites Into Orbit
Nigeria has launched two observation satellites into orbit, eight years after launching its first satellite.

President Goodluck Jonathan said Wednesday on the state-run Nigerian Television Authority that NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X went into orbit at 8:45 a.m. (0745 GMT) from a Russian launch pad…

Authorities say one of the uses of the new satellites could be to monitor disaster-prone areas in a country that suffers from droughts and floods.

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More on leadership politics in Russia

Just an hour after posting the blog entry about Mikhail Prokhorov and "his" party, Right Cause, I opened this morning's New York Times to find this article. It makes me more certain that the Prokhorov/Right Cause move is a Potemkin Village designed to manipulate public opinion.

Before Voting, Russian Leaders Go to the Polls
Every Thursday, a bearded, bespectacled man arrives at the Kremlin bearing a sheaf of data… There, a roomful of decision makers are gathered to hear the latest installment of What Russia Thinks.

As strange as it may sound to outsiders, the people who run Russia are obsessed with approval ratings.

Political competition has been all but extinguished since Vladimir V. Putin came to power, so elections serve as little more than a ritual display of loyalty. But Kremlin insiders see popularity as a key to the survival of a government that, 20 years after the Soviet collapse, has few stable state institutions other than its leaders’ personalities…

Both Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev are entering the campaign cycle with approval ratings that — though enviable by most international standards — were lower this summer than at any point since 2008, according to the state-owned All-Russian Public Opinion Center. More striking is a slide in the popularity of United Russia, the political party that Mr. Putin leads.

To stop this drift, coming elections “need to attract the real support of the population,” said Sergei A. Markov, a United Russia deputy and Kremlin-connected analyst…

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Creating an opposition

To date, top level politics in Russia have centered on Putin and Medvedev, not on issues. Those two and their allies in the siloviki (power ministries) have created an "opposition" party, Right Cause, and chosen its leader, Mikhail Prokhorov. Now, Mr. Prokhorov has held a press conference, saying he might be willing to become prime minister and offering some policy alternatives.

Is this more than a way to create the illusion of alternatives to the Putin-Medvedev government that's likely to continue after next year's elections?

Russian billionaire eyes PM’s job, calls for move to euro zone
Metals tycoon and New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, whose emergence as a party leader in Russia is one of the brainteasers of the political season, said Thursday that he would consider accepting the post of prime minister next spring – but only if he likes the agenda of the incoming president…

Mr. Prokhorov, 46, steamed ahead, revealing almost nothing about his platform except for one proposal: That Russia abandon its 700-year-old currency, the ruble, in favour of the euro.

A flurry of commentary ensued, filling the strange political vacuum that that has characterized this summer in Moscow. Though momentous decisions hang in the balance – whether Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will remain in power for another decade, and whether the state he constructed will be preserved or gradually liberalized – discussion of these issues has gone silent. The realization has set in that these choices will be made far from public view, and by a small circle of people…

Mr. Prokhorov’s role in Russia’s politics has been ambiguous for some time. He accumulated a fortune estimated at $17.8-billion, in part by selling his stake in a giant nickel company just before the 2008 financial crash, a step he was forced to take after falling out of favour with the government. This summer he was elected the leader of Right Cause, becoming the first businessman to be allowed into Russian politics in nearly a decade, since the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Right Cause is a pro-Western party that the Kremlin is supporting in hopes that it will attract wealthy and well-educated people who are disenchanted with United Russia. Mr. Prokhorov, therefore, is semi-loyal. He does not hesitate to attack the ruling party or call for restoration of some of the political freedoms that were rolled back under Mr. Putin, but he has not criticized Mr. Putin himself…

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Disharmonious society?

Chinese leaders might applaud actions by British, Syrian, and US officials to restrict social networking and texting communications, but they are not totally successful in preventing protest in their authoritarian regime.

Protest Over Chemical Plant Shows Growing Pressure on China From Citizens
More than international prestige or even economic might, the top priority of China’s leadership is to maintain stability among this nation’s vast and varied population…

In the aftermath of a large protest on Sunday in… Dalian, that craving for rigid orderliness appears increasingly ephemeral. In the face of ever more sophisticated efforts to control and guide expression, significant protests… appear to be becoming regular features of life…

China’s embrace of wireless communications… has fueled such protests, allowing the disaffected to share grievances in a way never before possible…

But more broadly, scholars speak of a revolution of rising expectations in which Chinese citizens, growing more educated and wealthier, think their government should better protect their health, safety and other interests…

“The power of civil society is growing, but it is still very weak,” said Hu Xingdou, a professor of economics at Beijing Institute of Technology.

By the last available official count, so-called mass incidents — a term that appears to cover group actions ranging from minor work stoppages to serious riots — numbered 74,000 in 2004, up from 10,000 in 1993.

In a February article in Economic Observer, a Chinese weekly publication, Sun Liping, a sociologist at Tsinghua University, wrote that a government academy estimated that such cases had doubled between 2006 and 2010, reaching 180,000 last year…

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Political analysis of Chinese leadership

Jonathan Ansfield, Michael Wines, and Sharon LaFraniere, writing in The New York Times, offer an analysis of the politics within the Chinese elite. It probably is more than students need, but it's great for teacher background.

China’s Premier Seeks Reforms and Relevance
China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, stood amid funerary wreaths in Wenzhou, near where a high-speed train accident claimed 40 lives late last month, and pledged an “open and transparent” government inquiry into the disaster. “The key,” he said, “is whether the people can get the truth.”

The next day, censors silenced the news media’s dogged reporting on railway negligence and corruption…

Such indignities are not new. As Mr. Wen enters the twilight of a decade as China’s third-ranked leader, he appears to be struggling to remain relevant in a political system that covets his benevolent public image but has little use for his ideas.

The leading spokesman for what passes for political liberalism in China, Mr. Wen is by most accounts ideologically isolated on the Communist Party’s nine-member Politburo standing committee. More than once, his views have been rebuffed, tacitly or openly, in party organs…

“Grandpa Wen,” who shares the common man’s pain and champions his interests, is easily China’s most popular politician. But internally, as Communist Party hard-liners strengthen their control, his advocacy of political reform has increasingly sapped his influence…

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Campaigning without a permit

People in the US often note how difficult it is to meet all the legal requirements to vote (compared to the procedures in other liberal democracies). What would they say about the requirements for campaigning in Russia?

Russia Arrests a Gadfly Over Some Simple Advice for Voters
Russian law prohibits campaigning for any candidate without a permit. So Boris Y. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and frequent government gadfly, tested its limits in St. Petersburg on Sunday by handing out fliers that did not support any candidate.

The fliers said, “Vote against everybody.”

The police were not amused.

They arrested him, charged him with illegal agitation, which is punishable by a fine, and confiscated his fliers.

Mr. Nemtsov, whose subversive political stunts have landed him in police custody many times, called the arrest “absurd.” He said it proved the government had no intention of allowing unfettered political expression ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections this fall and next spring…

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How to limit uncivil liberties

Here's a follow-up to the news reported here yesterday, that Iranian authorities were trying to stop smart phone-organized water gun fights. Those authorities were thinking about what happened in Egypt and what's happening in Syria. Others are thinking about what happened in London, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.

We all (assuming that most readers here live in liberal democracies) support freedom of speech, don't we? What do we do when that freedom is used for illegal purposes? Can we effectively prohibit illegal speech? What about shutting down the means of communication? What about prohibiting some speech before it is made?

Political leaders in the UK are discussing just such issues. Would these questions come up in other places under other regimes? Well, in China there seems to be some "I told you so" sentiment (see second article). The Chinese would probably also cheer the actions taken by San Francisco's BART.

London riots: Britain weighs personal freedoms against need to keep order
After four nights of lawlessness that has upended British society and seen 1,200 alleged looters and arsonists swept off the streets, the government is also targeting a digital culprit: social media.

Governments from China to the authoritarian regimes challenged by the Arab Spring have sought to control social networking sites, fearing their power to connect and organize dissidents hungry for democracy. But Britain is weighing an unprecedented move to intervene in the personal communication of its citizens after concluding just the opposite: that social media, including BlackBerry Messenger and Twitter, are undermining its vibrant democracy…

[Prime Minister] Cameron said… that officials were working with the intelligence services and police to look at how and whether to “stop people communicating via these Web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”…

Furthering a nascent debate here over civil rights in the aftermath of the riots were additional emergency measures outlined by Cameron.

The government announced that it would start slapping “gang injunctions” — now used for adults — on underage teens, using court-ordered restraining orders to ban them, for instance, from wearing gang colors or walking around their neighborhoods with attack dogs.

Police have also been authorized to force suspicious-looking people who have their faces covered by, say, bandannas and “hoodies” — the uniform of British hooligans and gang members — to identify themselves. The government is also reviewing the possibility of imposing curfews…

[L]awmakers across the political spectrum were condemning the role of social media in the riots, calling for a way to blunt their use as tools of violence…

Britain's U-turn over web-monitoring
The British government, once an ardent advocate of absolute Internet freedom, has thus made a U-turn over its stance towards web-monitoring.

Communications tools such as Facebook and cellphones also played a delicate role in the massive social upheaval earlier this year in north Africa and neighboring west Asian countries, whose governments then imposed targeted censorship over message flows on the Internet.

In a speech delivered in Kuwait in February, the British prime minister, however, argued that freedom of expression should be respected "in Tahrir Square as much as Trafalgar Square."

Learning a hard lesson from bitter experience, the British government eventually recognized that a balance needs to be struck between freedom and the monitoring of social media tools.

Cameron himself admitted that the "free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill."

"And when people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them," he told lawmakers Thursday.

We may wonder why western leaders, on the one hand, tend to indiscriminately accuse other nations of monitoring, but on the other take for granted their steps to monitor and control the Internet.

They are not interested in learning what content those nations are monitoring, let alone their varied national conditions or their different development stages.

Laying undue emphasis on Internet freedom, the western leaders become prejudiced against those "other than us," stand ready to put them in the dock and attempt to stir up their internal conflicts…

And, before you begin to think the issue is only outisde the USA

Bay Area Officials Cut Cell Coverage to Thwart Protestors
To nip protest in the bud, authorities cut off a public communications system…

The Bay Area Rapid Transit, or Bart, as the system is known, was worried about a group called No Justice No Bart, which is protesting the fatal shooting of a 45-year-old man by Bart police officers last month…

Officials were concerned that the protestors “would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of Bart police,” the transit agency said Friday afternoon in a statement. Cutting off cellphone service for several hours at selected stations was “one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform,” Bart said…

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Stop having fun, too

The Iranian state is worried about the potential of subversive organization to the degree that having fun is banned. It might lead to something politically subversive.

Iran Opens New Front in War on Fun
While the young Syrian activists who use the Web to organize and document antiregime demonstrations across the country are once again counting the cost, in lives, of continuing to pour into the streets, their counterparts in Iran, who helped to pave the way for such protests, are living with a form of repression that is less violent but in some ways far more efficient and demoralizing.

As the Iranian-American Web site Tehran Bureau reported this week, Iran’s government has recently started to crack down hard on young people who use Facebook to organize even mildly subversive gatherings, like mass water gun fights.

Last week, when hundreds of young men and women responded to Facebook invitations to meet at parks in two cities… and spray each other with water, the authorities intervened, stopping the fun and making several arrests, even though there was no overt sign that the gunplay was at all political…

As Jason Rezaian explained in a blog post for Monocle, after the authorities broke up the gathering of about 3,000 people in Tehran’s Water and Fire Park, “Tehran’s chief of police, Hossein Sajednia, boasted … that the rule breakers had been identified and would be punished for actions that both ‘opposed Islamic values’ and 'disrupted social order.’”…

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Wealth distribution and politics

The distribution of income and wealth in a country is often looked at a determinant of political and governmental actions. The GINI index is one of several measures of income distribution. The distribution of wealth within most countries is more unequal than the distribution of income, but inequalities are often seen as factors that put stresses on political and national unity.

Iran is not the only country where inequalities are growing and seen as political problems. As a political issue, appearance is as important as reality, and the history of inequalities is also important.

The Washington Post headline writer did not distort Thomas Erdbrink's slant on the issue in Iran.

Iran’s rich eat ice cream covered in gold as poor struggle to survive
Gold-flecked ice cream wasn’t part of the picture that Shiite Muslim clerics painted during the Iranian Revolution, when they promised to lift the poor by distributing the country’s vast oil income equally across society.

But more than three decades later, record oil profits have brought in billions of dollars, and some people here are enjoying that decadent dessert. The trouble is, it’s just a small group of wealthy Iranians. Despite the promises of the revolution, many here say the gap between rich and poor has never seemed bigger.

Iran’s new wealthy class has succeeded in tapping the opportunities provided by a vast domestic market, sometimes aided by corruption and erratic government policies. It includes children of people with close connections to some of Iran’s rulers, as well as families of factory owners and those who managed to get huge loans from state banks at low interest rates…

People are writing open letters complaining about the rise in inequality. Influential conservative blogger Amir Hossein Sabeti wrote last month that the shift in the way Iranians conduct themselves in public, increasingly ignoring the soberness that the revolution prescribed, is a bigger threat to Iran’s ideology than the United States or Israel…

The popular resentment over inequality has a strong political dimension in Iran. During his two election campaigns, Ahmadinejad attacked a group of influential clerics connected to former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, accusing them of using their positions to accumulate vast wealth. But some of his closest aides are also accused of corruption…

Hossein Raghfar, an economist who recently quit his post as an adviser to Ahmadinejad’s government… stressed that, particularly in a society so strongly based on ideology, perception matters a lot. Reports that about 2.5 million children are working rather than attending school, and even an increase in legal kidney sales — along with a recent price drop, from $10,000 to $2,000, because so many people are selling their organs for cash — give people the clear idea that they are sliding into poverty, he said…

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Backgrounder on Islamic politics

The August 6 issue of The Economist includes three articles that are good background briefings on "Islam and democracy." The third article, "Islam's philosophical divide" might work well as a student reading as well.

Islam and democracy: Uneasy companions
Islamist spokesmen and leaders of the revived Islamist mainstream, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood and groups akin to it, are bending over backwards to give reassurances that they will promote a peaceful, pluralistic and tolerant version of Islam. The rights of women and religious and ethnic minorities will be respected, they say, and the people’s democratic verdict will be accepted if they lose elections…

Many liberals still think the Islamists, however mild they sound today, are bent on taking over in the long run, would abandon democracy once they got into power and would use every sort of chicanery and violence to achieve their goal…

For their part the Islamists across the region, who have suffered decades of torture, prison and oppression under various secular-minded tyrants, are wary lest they be blocked from power, as they have been before…

The Turkish model: A hard act to follow
In years past Turkey’s spotty democracy was often cited to prove a negative: the Turkish case (along with Indonesia’s and Malaysia’s, also with reservations) showed that Islam did not pose an insuperable barrier to multiparty democracy. But nothing much flowed from that observation—until the Arab spring. Turkey is now being studied by Arabs as a unique phenomenon: a movement of moderate Islamists, the Justice and Development (AK) party, has overseen an economic boom, boosted the country’s standing and shown that the coming to power of pious people need not mean a dramatic rupture in ties with the West…

Islam’s philosophical divide: Dreaming of a caliphate
THE statistics do not look very encouraging. Of the 50-plus countries where Muslims are in the majority, only two (Indonesia and Mali) enjoy political liberty as defined by Freedom House, a New York-based monitor of human rights and democracy. The Democracy Index, run by the Economist Intelligence Unit, adds Malaysia to that shortlist, rating the three countries as “flawed democracies”; other Muslim lands are put in a lower category…

But is the caliphate a religious doctrine—something central to Islam—or just a detail, however important, of history?…

A second line of argument about Islam and democracy concerns law…

In most understandings of liberal democracy, penal and civil codes are a matter for the people’s freely elected representatives to decide, within the confines of a humanly drafted constitution. How can that possibly be reconciled with the notion that such questions have been settled for ever by divine revelation?…

eyond the legal details, some still see a deeper problem, concerning the very nature of political authority, and the ability of different ideas on this subject to coexist. John Rawls, an American theorist of liberal democracy, showed how people who differ over metaphysics—say Catholics and atheists—can coexist politically on the basis of a deep compromise, on certain conditions. They must believe in reason, and see the political system as reasonable in their own terms.

Mohammad Fadel, an Egyptian-born political scientist at the University of Toronto, has argued that Islam—even in conservative readings—can find a happy place in a Rawls-style democracy…

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wazobia radio

"bunmi" blogs from Washington, D.C. in A Bombastic Element: blogging Africa's modernity." The other day (and last year) he noted the Nigerian radio station, Wazobia, which broadcasts, not in English, but in pidgin. Nigerians seem to be creating their own method of communicating across 400+ languages.

Both posts include videos that are great examples of how Nigerians meet the challenges of integrating millions of people in a huge metropolis.

The Rise of Innovative TV and Radio Local Programming

About gone are the days when many African broadcasters simply ran old American TV shows because it was cheaper to buy and run them than to make their own local programming. Today, local programming is no longer money-losing content national broadcasters must run so as to satisfy the daily quota of local programming the government insists must be shown. Today, all across the continent, broadcasters are proving quality, innovative local programming can outsell foreign.

Nigeria: The Versatility of Pidgin English

See also Wazobia Radio
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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

European Union high school essay contest

Andrew Weeks, professor at Illinois State University, wrote to the College Board AP GovPol EDG about this contest. Some people are going to win prizes.

As someone involved in organizing the program, I'd like to circulate the information below. It's a genuine opportunity to present something new and momentarily very relevant which is outside the curriculum and connected with some attractive prizes:

European Union Educational Program and Essay Competition.

Students who are eager to know more about the world and are interested in acquiring a credential to cite on college applications, at the same time competing for cash prizes along with their teacher (who can win a European tour), should look into the European Union Week program and essay contest at Illinois State University and the University of Illinois EU Center. (It is scheduled for Sept. 12-15, but the presentations may be heard subsequently as podcasts; the contest deadline is Dec. 1.)

For info, go to The European Union Project or European Union Center, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Andrew Weeks, Professor of German, Illinois State University

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There's something happening there

"What it is ain't exactly clear…" Of course when Buffalo Springfield sang those lyrics back in the day, they were referring to some pretty specific things. However, those words came to mind as I read about large scale changes in the Mexican Attorney General's office. Maybe what's happening will become clear if we watch subsequent events.

Top prosecutors in Mexico resign en masse
In a major upheaval in Mexico's troubled attorney general's office, top prosecutors in 21 of the country's 31 states and federal district have abruptly quit, officials announced Monday.

Specific reasons were not given for the en masse resignations, but they come amid a widening purge of the agency by Atty. Gen. Marisela Morales, who took office in April and has seen several high-profile drug-trafficking prosecutions fall apart.

It was not clear whether the 21 senior federal prosecutors were being forced out or were quitting in rebellion over Morales and her administration…

The office announced late last month that in Morales' first 100 days on the job, 462 prosecutors and other officials had been dismissed and 111 more were facing criminal charges involving a range of infractions, including fraud, theft, abuse of power and falsification of documents. An additional 386 employees were in the process of being dismissed…

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Monday, August 08, 2011

UK Civil unrest; uncivil society

The riots in London and other places indicate a big breach in the political culture of the UK.

London riots: Timeline and map of violence
People have been left homeless after a night of riots on the streets of Tottenham. Buildings were set alight and shops looted after a peaceful demonstration turned violent. Looting spread to other areas on Sunday. Here is a timeline of what happened.

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Putin's lecture at summer camp

Jeff Silva-Brown, teacher at Ukiah High School in Ukiah, California, posted a link to this article on his Facebook page. Thanks, Jeff.

Nashi, the United Russia youth group, held a summer camp, not unlike the camp attacked in Norway. Like the planned events at the Norwegian Workers' Youth League camp, the Nashi camp featured visits by prominent United Russia politicians. In fact, Prime Minister Putin came to speak to the Nashi camp.

Putin says U.S. is "parasite" on global economy
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States Monday of living beyond its means "like a parasite" on the global economy and said dollar dominance was a threat to the financial markets.

"They are living beyond their means and shifting a part of the weight of their problems to the world economy," Putin told the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi while touring its lakeside summer camp some five hours drive north of Moscow…

Casually dressed in khaki trousers and a striped white shirt, Putin flew by helicopter to the tented camp as part of a string of appearances that are being closely watched in the run-up to the elections.

He did not say whether he plans a return to the Kremlin or will stand aside for Medvedev, his partner in Russia's leadership tandem, to run for a second term.

But young people crowding round Putin, caught up in the campaigning spirit created by huge portraits of Putin hung from trees, were not shy about saying who they wanted as president…

Nashi, which means "Our People," was created by the Kremlin to counter popular dissent after youth activism helped topple a pro-Moscow government in Ukraine's 2005 Orange revolution.

The group has worked to spread a personality cult around Putin and regularly campaigns against Kremlin critics…

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Friday, August 05, 2011

Another long-term project

Nigeria has any number of big development projects in its future. Some are political. But this one is environmental.

Nigeria Ogoniland oil clean-up 'could take 30 years'
Nigeria's Ogoniland region could take 30 years to recover fully from the damage caused by years of oil spills, a long-awaited UN report says.

The study says complete restoration could entail the world's "most wide-ranging and long-term oil clean-up"…

Oil giant Shell has accepted liability for two spills and said all oil spills were bad for Nigeria and the company…

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

It's those foreigners

Fear and mistrust of outsiders is not confined to right wing politicians and terrorists in Europe or anti-immigrant activists in the USA. China is also blaming foreigners for some of its problems.

China Blames Foreign-Trained Separatists for Attacks in Xinjiang
Chinese authorities on Monday accused Pakistan-trained Uighur separatists of planning and executing the first of two deadly attacks over the weekend that struck the ancient Silk Road town of Kashgar in China’s far-western Xinjiang region.

As the death toll rose to at least 18, the Kashgar city government said in a written statement that one of the surviving attackers had confessed that the group’s ringleader had gone to Pakistan for training in bomb- and gun-making by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a small Uighur group that advocates independence for Xinjiang…

Some experts disputed that interpretation, noting that the Kashgar attackers did not appear to employ sophisticated weapons. Both attacks were carried out with knives, not guns, which are rigidly banned in China…

In the wake of the attacks, Xinjiang’s Communist Party boss, Zhang Chunxian, pledged at an emergency party meeting to severely punish the attackers and “effectively suppress” unspecified illegal religious activities…

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

On the road again

I will be on the road again for a few days, so postings here will not be consistent or timely. Enjoy August.

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Politics of poverty in Mexico

In all but the most authoritarian political systems, economic performance is feedback that measures government performance and that affects how well a government can function.

A new report suggests that the economy might be a major issue in the upcoming Mexican presidential election. Revolution is still an important political symbol.

Poverty grew in Mexico to nearly half the population, study finds
The number of Mexicans living in poverty grew to 52 million in 2010, up by more than 3 million people from two years earlier, the report says. That means 46.2% of the population lives in poverty.

Within that group, 11.7 million people live in extreme poverty, a figure that held steady over the same period.

The report was produced by the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy, an autonomous but federally financed agency, and represents the state's most comprehensive study of poverty to date.

The government, which has sought to portray the country's economic standing in an especially optimistic light, blamed the poverty numbers on the global financial crisis that sent Mexico into recession in 2009 and the worldwide hike in food prices…

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Monday, August 01, 2011

Following Mexico's example

A proposal in Nigeria would make non-reelection the rule as it is in Mexico. Would it have the same political results?

Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan proposes one-term limits
Nigeria's leader Goodluck Jonathan has said he will ask MPs to amend the constitution so that future presidents serve a single, longer term in office.

The constitution currently limits presidents to two four-year terms…

Mr Jonathan did not specify how long the new term should be, but he said the change would focus politicians more on governance and less on re-election.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in the commercial capital, Lagos, says it is thought the new single term would be for six years.

The statement said Mr Jonathan "was concerned about the acrimony which the issue of re-election every four years generates…"

Jonathan Proposes One Term for President, Govs
In the midst of the storm over his proposal for a single-term tenure for the president and governors, President Goodluck Jonathan Tuesday declared that he would not benefit from the new order.

Commentators had alleged that he was seeking to extend his tenure through the back door by proposing an amendment to the constitution which could keep him in power for more years after his four-year tenure ends in 2015…

Jonathan explained that his pushing for a single-term tenure was out of his patriotic zeal as well as the fact that the two terms provided for in the constitution does not guarantee stabilising the polity and institutionalisation of democracy which was not good "for our level of development".

He further explained that the acrimony, which follows the issue of election and re-election at federal and state levels, overheats the polity and added to inter and intra party squabbles which affect the growth of political parties in the country.

He came to the conclusion that a single tenure would help executives concentrate on governance and development.

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