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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Friday, April 13, 2018

Killing candidates in Mexico

Politics can be a deadly business in Mexico — especially for local candidates

Widespread killings of candidates cast shadow over Mexican elections
Authorities have confirmed the slayings of at least 30 candidates, according to Alfonso Navarrete, Mexico's interior secretary. Some reports indicate the toll since last year may be almost twice as high.

The killings — mostly of local candidates in provincial areas far from the Mexican capital — form a chilling backdrop to the July 1 elections, which include races for president, Congress and local posts across the country. In all, more than 3,000 offices are up for grabs, the most ever on a single day.

The slain candidates represented a range of political affiliations and movements, suggesting that the killings are more about local power grabs and gang rivalries than national conflicts among parties…

Most of the killings have garnered little attention from national news outlets, which are heavily focused on the presidential contenders, who appear daily on television…

The litany of attacks has generated profound concern here and abroad about the state of Mexican democracy.

"Mexico is suffering a risk in the legitimacy of its electoral processes," said Erubiel Tirado, a political scientist at Mexico's Iberoamerican University and an expert on violence. "The question here is: Does the Mexican state really have the capacity to protect [candidates]? I believe that it doesn't."

The increase in political slayings "is absolutely unacceptable in an electoral process," said Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, which plans to send a team to observe Mexico's July voting…

The attacks, the interior secretary recently told reporters, are "very focused on some regions of the country," mostly in areas where organized crime often holds an insidious grip on power and federal law enforcement is stretched thin…

Among the hardest-hit places is the state of Guerrero, where political corruption is rampant and sundry factions vie for control of drug trafficking, extortion, kidnapping and other rackets. Mobsters routinely buy off local cops and politicians. Since the beginning of 2017, more than a dozen candidates have been reported slain in Guerrero…

There were no assassinations of mayors during the 1980s and 1990s, according to Justice in Mexico, a research project at the University of San Diego. But today, being a mayor or other regional lawmaker may be among the country's most dangerous jobs.

Mexico's National Assn. of Mayors recently reported that more than 100 mayors, mayors-elect and ex-mayors had been slain since 2006…

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

UK-Ireland Good Friday Agreement

By now you know that Ireland is not part of the UK. Northern Ireland is.

You should also know that the conflict between Ireland and the UK (Northern Ireland) was long and bloody.

The first time I went to London (30 years ago), there were signs everywhere alerting people to avoid and report unaccompanied packages, since there was an IRA campaign of bombing going on. The conflict had been going on for at least a couple generations before that.

The Good Friday Agreement brought an end to the violence.

What is the Good Friday Agreement?
The Good Friday Agreement, The Belfast Agreement.

An agreement that can't even agree on its own name - the irony.

Northern Ireland has lived with this agreement for 20 years and its name (in whatever form) is never far from the tips of our politicians' tongues.

But do younger people, who have never experienced life without it, even know what it is?

"The talks that ended the Troubles... I think."

That was among the responses offered cautiously when BBC News NI asked young people - some as young as 18 - 'What is the Good Friday Agreement?'…

The Good Friday Agreement was signed on 10 April 1998 after intense negotiations between the UK government, the Irish government and Northern Ireland political parties.

Among other things, it set up a power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly.

Other main points in the agreement were:
  • A council was to be set up to help Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland work together on matters like farming and health.
  • A council was to be set up to promote the relationship between Britain and Ireland. In pop culture terms, this would be like Liam and Noel Gallagher arranging an Oasis reunion to put their troublesome past behind them.
  • Dual British and Irish citizenship - to allow the people of Northern Ireland to hold either a British or Irish passport, or both.
However, the agreement also came with its own wave of controversy.

Part of it would see the early release of paramilitary prisoners who had been in Northern Ireland jails.

Some 428 paramilitary prisoners from both sides of the community were to walk free, 143 of them had been serving life sentences for things like murders and bombings.

A referendum (similar to Brexit, but definitely not Brexit) was held on both sides of the Irish border for the people to decide whether or not they wanted the agreement.

The result? A resounding 'Yes'.

Some 71% voted in favour of the agreement in Northern Ireland and 94% voted in favour of it in the Republic of Ireland.

After elections in June of 1998, the all-new Northern Ireland Assembly was formed.

It met for the first time on 1 July and David Trimble and Seamus Mallon were elected as first and deputy first ministers.

See also:  Good Friday Agreement - 20 years on

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

And he's off!

In Nigeria, the presidential election campaign is now underway, even though Buhari is the only announced candidate so far.

Since political parties are fluid and non-ideological, what opposition is Buhari likely to face?

Nigeria's Buhari to run in 2019 elections
Buhari
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will be seeking a second term in office in elections due next year, his office has said.

It ends months of speculation about whether the 74-year-old leader plans to run for re-election.

His first term has been beset by poor health, which saw him spend months in the UK last year receiving treatment [for an unidentified ailment].

Mr Buhari defeated former President Goodluck Jonathan in the 2015 election.

He was the first opposition leader to defeat an incumbent in Nigeria…

Mr Buhari was on "medical leave" in the UK for three months early last year.

He revealed after his return to Nigeria that "I have never been so sick", but did not disclose what he was suffering from.

Mr Buhari will run under the banner of the ruling All Progressives Congress. The main opposition People's Democratic Party is yet to announce its candidate.

He has been under fire from former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who in an open letter called on him not to seek re-election because of his age and alleged poor health.

Mr Obasanjo added that he was disappointed with Mr Buhari, particularly because of what he called his poor handling of Nigeria's economy, the largest in Africa.

Mr Buhari's spokesman said the president accepted the criticism in good faith, but it should be noted that significant progress had been made under his rule in tackling Nigeria's problems.

The administration points to its fight against corruption and its military operations against Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which it says has "degraded" the group.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Bring 'em back

China encourages students to study in the USA and Europe. The big problem is that many of those students don't come back to China. The State Council has said they want to encourage more young people to return. What incentives ae they offering?

This report comes from Xinhua, the Chinese news agency.

China will intensify efforts to encourage return of overseas talent
China will roll out more incentives for overseas Chinese students to return for starting their own businesses and making innovation, a State Council executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang decided…

Measures will be introduced to simplify the certification requirements and procedures at local levels and to make it easier for overseas Chinese students to obtain hukou, the government system of household registration for urban residency. Favorable policies concerning the schooling of returnees' children will be implemented without delay, according to a decision at the meeting…

Between 1978 and 2017, 83.73 percent of overseas Chinese students, totaling 3.132 million, had come back after completing their studies, according to the Ministry of Education…

There are now 351 entrepreneurship parks nationwide, home to more than 23,000 companies and attracting 86,000 overseas returnees.

According to the decision at the meeting, favorable policies will be adopted to incentivize their entrepreneurship, including intellectual property-backed loans for start-up financing, simpler process for trademark registration, optimized application procedures for export qualification and support for the commercialization of R&D findings…

"Given the changing international environment, we must facilitate two-way flow of talent to provide strong intellectual support to our country's development," Li said.

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Sunday, April 08, 2018

Revisions

You might want to pencil in some edits to your textbook's chapter on Russia.

This is from The Washington Post Opinion section.

Is Russia all out of oligarchs? It says it is.
Newly announced U.S. sanctions on Russia aim to target not only its political elite but also its financial elite: the “oligarchs.”

“Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said…

But what if Russia doesn't have oligarchs? That may seem like a radical position, but that's the apparent stance of the Russian government.

“There are no oligarchs in Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters… The term that the Russian presidential spokesman said he would prefer was “representatives of big business.” …

Such remarks may cause many in the West to scoff, but there is a kernel of truth to the idea. The term “oligarch” first came to be used in Russian politics in the 1990s, when enterprising but often corrupt Russian businessmen used a chaotic period of privatization after the collapse of the Soviet Union to acquire vast fortunes. With their wealth, these business executives gained serious political influence in Russia's fledgling democracy.

As David Hoffman, former Moscow correspondent for The Washington Post, put it in his 2001 book on these men, “as their power grew, the tycoons became known as simply the oligarchs, the men who owned and ruled the new Russia.”

But times change. After Vladimir Putin came to power… he took to dismantling the power of the oligarchs — using the power of the state to go after the business executives who had used their companies to influence the state. It was one of the major policy threads during the first period of Putin's rule and was largely popular with the Russian public, which was sick of billionaires influencing politics.

Most of the six tycoons whom Hoffman profiled in his book “The Oligarchs” are no longer in positions of political power. Some ended up stuck in lengthy legal disputes with the Russian state: Mikhail Khodorkovsky, perhaps the most famous of all oligarchs, spent 10 years in prison before being released in 2013. Another, Boris Berezovsky, ended up in exile before dying in England in 2013 in unclear circumstances.

Chubias
Of the six, Anatoly Chubais remains closest to the Kremlin as head of the Russian state nanotechnology company Rusnano. However, when the United States issued a list of politicians and business leaders linked to the Russian president in January, Chubais was not included. In response, he issued a mock apology on Facebook for failing his nation…

Of the seven business executives listed, Viktor Vekselberg is probably the wealthiest… with a net worth of $14.5 billion.

Other notable names include Kirill Shamalov, another major player in Russia's energy sector who is also reported to be Putin's son-in-law, and Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with alleged ties to President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

These men are wealthy, yes, and powerful, but they do not hold the same position as the oligarchs of the 1990s. The first generation of Russia's tycoons not only drew their wealth largely from the state, but they were also able to influence the state dramatically, even using their vast power to save Russian President Boris Yeltsin during his flailing 1996 reelection campaign.

In modern Russia, wealthy business executives hold much less influence over the state: They own Russia, but they do not rule it. In fact, they are well aware that their own fortunes can be taken away by the state with little notice. Just last week, construction tycoon Ziyavudin Magomedov — whose estimated net worth is $1.4 billion — was arrested on embezzlement charges in a move many saw as a result of political infighting…

In modern Russia, wealthy business executives hold much less influence over the state: They own Russia, but they do not rule it. In fact, they are well aware that their own fortunes can be taken away by the state with little notice. Just last week, construction tycoon Ziyavudin Magomedov — whose estimated net worth is $1.4 billion — was arrested on embezzlement charges in a move many saw as a result of political infighting.

Indeed, some analysts argue that sanctioning Russian business executives helps the Kremlin control them. Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote on Twitter that the U.S. sanctions could result in a “win-win” situation for Washington and Moscow. The Trump administration gets to say it is striking a blow at the Putin regime, Trenin wrote, but “Putin sees his hand strengthened in his effort to 'nationalize' the Russian elites.”

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Friday, April 06, 2018

Crime wave in London

In a unitary regime, street crime becomes a national issue.

'McMafia gangs' behind London crime wave - David Lammy
Tottenham MP Lammy
Drug gangs controlled by Eastern European criminals are fuelling the rising tide of violent crime in London, a Labour MP has claimed.

Tottenham MP David Lammy said drugs were as "prolific as ordering a pizza", comparing the situation to McMafia, a BBC drama about Russian gangsters.

The MP said political leaders were doing nothing about it.

The Metropolitan Police is now investigating more than 50 suspected murders this year.

Police patrols have been stepped up and officers are using stop-and-search powers to seize weapons after the increase in violence.

Mr Lammy said violent crime in his part of London, where there have been four murders, was the worst he had seen in 18 years as an MP.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there was "no single cause" for it but "turf wars" between drug gangs was a major factor.

"What drives the gangs and the turf wars is an £11bn cocaine drugs market," he said.

"We are the drugs market of Europe and I'm hearing nothing about what we're going to do about that rising drugs market…

He said the police and Border Force did not have the resources they needed to tackle the gangs - but the issue was being ignored by politicians and not being debated in Parliament…

In a BBC London interview, Sadiq Khan [London Mayor] denied suggestions he had not shown enough leadership this week… he did not accept Mr Lammy's claim that the police had "lost control" of crime in London: "What I do accept is there is a crime issue across the country. There's been an increase since 2014.

"It's a national problem… You can't cut 40% from the Met Police, 46% from youth provisions in London and not expect to see consequences."… [And who is the government these days that is cutting the Metropolitan Police budget?]

As London overtakes New York murder rate, social media influence on youth raises concerns


Social media sites have now become an important part of most people’s lives, almost to the point of addiction for some, but they have also become dangerous in that they are driving children to commit violence and murders “within minutes”.

Britain’s senior-most police officer Cressida Dick has warned that trivial arguments between youths are escalating into stabbings and murder at an unprecedented rate thanks to social media.

“The goading of rivals on online message boards and video sites revs people up and normalizes violence” said Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. The first female head of the Metropolitan Police, Dick has made the tackling of violent crime central to her work since she took up the position last year...

She claimed that gangs who “posture on social media”, including rap videos in which they goad rival and glamourize violence, make violence faster and “made it harder for people to cool down”...

Dick’s comments come at the same time as data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that fatal stabbings in England and Wales are at their highest since 2010-11. There were 215 homicides involving a knife or other sharp in the year to March.

For the first time in its history London’s murder rate has overtaken that of New York City in the months of February and March 2018...

Despite all this, a Scotland Yard spokesman reassured people by claiming that “London remains one of the safest cities in the world”.

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Thursday, April 05, 2018

And they're off

The presidential election in Mexico will be held July 1, 2018. This year, you'll know something about what the results mean when you read about them during the first week in July.

Mexican leftist has 18-point lead as campaign kicks off - poll
Mexican left-wing presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has an 18-point lead ahead of the July 1 election, according to a poll published on Monday that showed him with a growing advantage at the start of formal campaigning.

Lopez Obrador
Lopez Obrador, who launched his campaign on Sunday, holds 38 percent of the vote, according to the poll by Parametria, published by Reuters…

A Lopez Obrador victory could usher in a Mexican government less accommodating toward the United States…

Neither second-place Ricardo Anaya nor third-place Jose Antonio Meade showed any sign of catching up with former Mexico City mayor Lopez Obrador…

Anaya, running for the right-left “For Mexico in Front” coalition, holds 20 percent of vote preferences…

Former finance minister Meade, running for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), stood still on 16 percent of the vote, while independent candidate Margarita Zavala rose to 13 percent of the vote…

All major polls show Lopez Obrador far ahead, with most showing his lead growing, although Parametria gives him the widest advantage…

Attention has turned to which party will hold sway in the Senate and lower house of Congress, with some believing that Lopez Obrador’s party, the National Regeneration Movement, could win the biggest share in both…

The poll of 800 people had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. It was taken face-to-face from March 23-28, before campaigns officially started.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Trivia to me - vital ethnic identity to some Iranian Arabs

The primary source of this story comes from Al Arabiya

The protests in Iran are taking place in the province of Khuzestan, located in the southwest part of the country adjoining the Persian Gulf. The province is the heart of Iran's oil wealth. A problem is that Khuzestan is also home to most of Iran's Arab minority (about 2% of the country's population). Ahwaz is a region in Khuzestan.

We haven't heard much about this region because it's been repeatedly suppressed by Iranian regimes (pre- and post-revolutionary). It is a reminder that political cleavages often persist even after major political changes.

Security forces suppress Iran’s Ahwaz protests as they reach fourth day
Iranian security forces, backed by units of anti-riot police and the Revolutionary Guard, suppressed night demonstrations on the fourth day of protests by Arab citizens in the center of the city on Saturday…

Videos and images shared on social media and local Ahwaz TV channels showed protesters holding up signs in Arabic, English and Ahwazi calling on the UN to stop the discrimination against Arabs by Iranian authorities…

According to the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization, protesters called for the release of political prisoners and an end to demographic changes that are in favor of migrants, not Arabs.

Other demands included an end to the marginalization of the Arab Ahwaz, efforts to combat poverty, unemployment and pollution.

See also: The Phantom Emirate of Ahwaz.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2018

British cheating on Brexit Vote?

The complications involved in the progress toward Brexit keep growing.

Did Brexit campaigners cheat? And if they did, what does that mean?
Sanni
If he knocked on your door, Shahmir Sanni might not be what you would expect of a campaigner for Brexit…

Sanni is a young, hip, gay Muslim, a Pakistani Briton who studied economics at his university, loves fashion and is an American-style libertarian, a committed “euroskeptic.”…

Once an anonymous college-age volunteer, Sanni is now front-page news in Britain, as a whistleblower who alleges that pro-Brexit campaigners in 2016 “cheated” — specifically that a prominent group run by top Tories, including now-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, broke election law by coordinating campaigns among allied organizations to circumvent spending caps.

The political firm at the center of the controversy is Aggregate IQ, a tiny Canadian firm closely connected to Cambridge Analytica…

The week-long controversy over who did what and how in the 2016 Brexit vote quickly ensnared Prime Minister Theresa May and her inner circle.

One of May’s senior aides at 10 Downing Street, Stephen Parkinson, was a top Brexit campaigner. He is also Sanni’s former boyfriend…

The accusation of questionable campaign coordination and spending has been dismissed as a “lover’s quarrel” and a total nothingburger. It has also been hyped as a bombshell that calls into question not only the decision to leave the European Union, but Britain’s fair play and democratic values…

Although British law bans coordination between campaigns, Sanni said he… [was] based in the Vote Leave headquarters… advised by Vote Leave staffers, including May’s now-senior adviser, and relied on Vote Leave’s attorney, who helped… incorporate the BeLeave group.

Sanni said that after being instructed to set up a bank account, BeLeave learned it would be getting a donation of $878,000 via the Vote Leave organization, which was then running up against campaign spending limits. But the money never went into the BeLeave account… Instead… it went directly to Aggregate IQ to blast voters in the last week of the campaign with targeted social-media messages…

Christopher Wylie, a former research director for Cambridge Analytica… testified before the British Parliament’s media committee that he helped set up Aggregate IQ, and that it mixed funding and work for Vote Leave and BeLeave in violation of election laws…

[G]overnment minister Chloe Smith said she would not comment on allegations that are under investigation. She added that the Electoral Commission, the official watchdog, had concluded that the Brexit vote was delivered without any major issues and that the government would implement the results.

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Monday, April 02, 2018

Adequate infrastructure

Traffic in Lagos is so crowded that crossing the city can take hours. Traffic is referred to as "go slows." See . Entrepreneurs waltz through the traffic jams selling merchandise and motorcycles are just about the only ways that deliveries can be made.

But, when the president comes to town, the city government closes busy roads for him. And declare a holiday.

Lagos to Shut Roads for Buhari's Two-Day Visit, Declares Tomorrow Work-Free Day

Lagos State Government has said that some roads will be shut during President Muhammadu Buhari's two-day visit to Lagos.

The President, who is expected to be in Lagos… would commission the newly-built Ikeja Bus Terminal, attend the colloquium to mark Asiwaju Bola Tinubu's birthday as well as the flag-off of the construction of the Lekki Deep Sea port.
Lagos "go slow"

However, the state government has declared tomorrow… as work-free day in the state.

The state Commissioner of Police, Imohimi Edgal… said the closure became imperative to ensure the President's smooth and hitch-free visit.

The commissioner… appealed to Lagos residents to understand and co-operate with security and emergency responders.

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