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Global Issues: Development ~ Africa booming in parts

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Following on from theme of last blog post, here is an Economist article which highlights an upswing in Sub-Saharan economic fortunes: South of the Sahara = Boom times, at least in parts

“Sub-Saharan Africa will be one of the fastest-growing regions of the world in 2011, thanks to surging demand both from abroad (from China and India in particular) and at home (fuelled by urbanisation and consumerism). As a result, investors will find it increasingly difficult to ignore the area, despite its—justified—reputation as a tough place for business because of political uncertainty, corruption, weak infrastructure and inconsistent regulation. “

 

Globl Issues: Poverty and Development: Africa - 2010 Good News?

T
he Global Issues ‘Poverty and Development’ topic focuses on the issue of the North-South divide and trends in global poverty.  In the 80s the Latin Quarter warbled that they were ‘Hearing Only Bad News on Radio Africa’.  Well here is a round up from iafrica.com which paints a slightly different picture: 2010 Africa Update:

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Global Issues: Nuclear Proliferation ~ Ratification of New START Treaty

The New START treaty, a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s nuclear policy, is nearing a ratification vote amid continuing partisan debate over its scope.  The US foreign policy think tank CFR, has the following:
“The agreement, signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April, limits the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 ICBM missiles, and provides mechanisms for verification and monitoring. Opponents say the agreement provides too many concessions to Russia and weakens U.S. ability to employ missile defense technology, which the White House and other backers dispute. The defeated Republican amendments would have tripled the number of inspections under the treaty, upped the number of missiles deployed to 720, and reopened treaty negotiations within a year.”

Here are a few follow up links:
CFR: Strenghts and Weakness of the New START Treaty
Text of the New START Treaty
BBC:Russia Warns US over changes to the New START Treaty = has good embeeded video clip
BBC: Q&A New START Treaty - Excellent for background

Global Issues: Nuclear Proliferation ~ Ratification of New START Treaty

The New START treaty, a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s nuclear policy, is nearing a ratification vote amid continuing partisan debate over its scope.  The US foreign policy think tank CFR, has the following:
“The agreement, signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April, limits the United States and Russia to 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and 700 ICBM missiles, and provides mechanisms for verification and monitoring. Opponents say the agreement provides too many concessions to Russia and weakens U.S. ability to employ missile defense technology, which the White House and other backers dispute. The defeated Republican amendments would have tripled the number of inspections under the treaty, upped the number of missiles deployed to 720, and reopened treaty negotiations within a year.”

Here are a few follow up links:
CFR: Strenghts and Weakness of the New START Treaty
Text of the New START Treaty
BBC:Russia Warns US over changes to the New START Treaty = has good embeeded video clip
BBC: Q&A New START Treaty - Excellent for background

Obama and gay rights

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

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I penned an article for t2u’s digital Politics magazine FPTP on this topic some months back, but events in Congress this week merit revisiting the issue.

The Senate’s decision this week to overturn the 1993 “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which operates in the military whereby gay soldiers are allowed to serve so long as they are not explicit about their sexuality has come as a relief to a group which was once one of the most ardent set of supporters of Barack Obama.

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US Congress: allocating seats in the House

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Reapportionment and redistricting takes place after each decennial census. Figures for the 2010 census are due to be released shortly, and this USA Today video gives a short and helpful explanation of the reapportionment process.

For more on the reapportionment and redistricting process, see here.

Pressure groups and democracy

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The best and worst of pressure group behaviour cropped up recently in two contrasting stories. The first is about the human rights group Equal Love. the second is about the UK’s biggest union, Unite.

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No, Prime Minister: a new road map for government

Friday, December 17, 2010

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Whilst this week’s announcement that Gus O’Donnell, the UK’s most senior mandarin, we have a draft Cabinet manual in circulation doesn’t bring us any closer to codification of the constitution, it does offer lots of interesting source material on what government is and does.

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AS Politics update: internal Tory divisions

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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News of a possible rift between two of the Conservative Party’s big hitters as emerged recently, with Theresa May, the Home Sec, apparently at odds with Ken Clarke’s Justice Department and plans to cut prison numbers.

See more here

AS (and UK Issues) Politics update: Labour opposition to Tory education policy

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Political parties is often one of the most challenging parts of the UK Politics course, and with the first coalition for 70 years, a new government and opposition leader combined for the first time in 13 years parties are certainly in a state of flux (and a topic which therefore what John Reid would call “permament revisionism”).

One of the most high profile areas where the main parties are split is over education. This is a policy area which students have an obvious interest in and could form a significant chunk of material in parties answers given its especially high profile over recent times. This entry signposts some articles on policy differences between the Con-Libs and Labour.

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UK General Election 2010 - Votes by Colour

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Here is a fascinating approach to visualising the voting preferences expressed at the ballot box in the UK General Election of 2010…

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AS Politics update: Parliament

Monday, December 13, 2010

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A couple of recent examples from today’s paper have cropped up in respect of the relationship between the legislature and the executive.

A major development in the ability of the House of Commons to control the executive is the introduction of departmental select committees in the UK in 1979.  These non-partisan bodies can call for ‘persons, papers and records’ and can be seen to have resulted in more open government and act as a useful deterrent on an over mighty executive.  Furthermore, the Prime Minister is now called to answer questions twice a year by the Liaison Committee. Peter Riddell has argued that select committees have ‘been a major factor in the opening up of the workings of government over the past twenty years.’  Successes include:
o Blowing the whistle on the government’s Arms-to-Africa affair in 1999 by the Foreign Affairs committee
o A scathing attack on transport policy in 2002, and in 2005 the House of Commons Select Committee covering the work of the ODPM has criticised the work of the department calling it ‘ineffective’. 
o In July 2007, the constitutional affairs committee concluded that following a series of controversies the role of the Attorney General was ‘not sustainable’ and should be reformed.
o In October 2006, a report from the powerful Public Accounts Committee (which predates the 1979 committees and is traditionally headed by a member of the opposition) claimed that a shortage of high quality head teachers was to blame for at least a million children being taught in ‘second-rate’ schools.

read more...»

Obama’s Tax-Cut Defense ‘Enormously Self-Indulgent’ - Paul Krugman

Sunday, December 12, 2010

From the PBS Newshour in the US – although quite a long the interview with Paul Krugman (New York Times columnist and Princeton Professor) and Stephen Moore (The Wall Street Journal) it is worth a look. It concerns President Obama defending his decision to compromise with Republicans on tax-cut extensions for all, in order to extend unemployment benefits. Krugman states that “it is just going to be money handed over to people who are not going to spend it. It’s not actually going to boost the economy”. Moore on the other hand agreed with the tax cuts. “I think we needed to extend them for everyone, not just people who make less than $250,000 or a million. They’re wealth-producers who put Americans to work.”

Global Issues: Environment ~ Cancun : A slight step forward

The UN climate meeting in Cancun took modest but important steps on a wide range of challenges. But the road ahead is still rocky. The Cancun deal seeks to curb climate change, including a fund to help developing countries.  According to the CFR: ‘The climate agreement (PDF) reached in Cancun is modest but important. It builds on the political compromise embodied in the unreasonably maligned Copenhagen Accord in two important ways. First, substantively, it begins to flesh out many of the details of the accord. Second, politically, it takes what was a toxic agreement and obtains much more solid buy-in from the most important parties.’

The BBC’s article outlines its key outcomes: UN climate change talks in Cancun agree a deal


CANCUN CLIMATE DEAL THINGS ACHIEVED:
Fund to channel money from the West to developing nations
Formal recognition that current emissions pledges need to rise
A framework on paying countries not to cut down their forests
THINGS NOT ACHIEVEDDeeper emissions cuts
Mechanisms for negotiating deeper emission cuts
Deciding on the legal status of any new global agreement


The CFR website also some some excellent analysis and comment: Cancun Outcome a Modest Step Forward

A brilliant resource is CFR’s Interactive Crisis Guide: Click here

This is just a start - I am sure a flood of aticles will follow in the press.  Here is one from the Independent - At last, climate changes.

Rebels, rebels. The party’s a mess. AS Politics update: effectiveness of Parliament

Friday, December 10, 2010

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When considering how effectively Parliament performs its functions, it’s worth giving careful consideration to the increased independence of MPs. Yesterday’s vote on tuition fees should work as a good example for students given that it was the biggest parliamentary rebellion in Lib Dem history.

This is what I’ve written previously:

• The idea that MPs are simply lobby fodder has been challenged in recent times, and it can be argued that this picture is misleading. New research on the voting behaviour of coalition MPs suggests rebellion is at a postwar high. In the last parliament backbench rebellions began to cause government major headaches, and the party whipping system did not seem as strong as has traditionally been the case. The rebellions clearly went beyond the usual suspects given that 112 Labour backbenchers went against the government at least once – this was nearly one third of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Reporting on research by Phil Cowley at the University of Nottingham the This week the Guardian reported that Con-Lib MPs have gone against the whip on the majority of votes:
o “Backbench rebellions against the government have been more frequent in this parliament than any since the second world war, according to new research, with 59 rebellions out of the first 110 votes. This is double the rate during the last Labour government and almost nine times as frequent as the post-war average, suggesting for some MPs rebellion against the coalition is becoming a habit.”

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Global issues: Poverty and Development: Brown on Globalization

Gordon Brown, yes him - the man whose biggest problem was that he actually looked like the Labour party, warns that the world will pay a heavy price for ignoring the sorrows of the left-out millions. He claims ‘It doesn’t have to be this way’.  His article in the Independent might be useful for introducing global Issues topic of ‘Poverty and Development’ as it does touch on all the key themes:

A global chance for jobs and justice
Gordon Brown, The Independent

“There is a chain of destruction that starts with over-greedy bankers speculating in sub-prime across America that links to banks collapsing throughout the western world that leads in turn to the inexcusable waste of 69 million children’s lives. The world will pay a heavy price for ignoring the sorrows of the left-out millions. It doesn’t have to be this way; with the right global co-operation there is a new Africa and a people-centred globalisation just waiting to be born.”

Global Issues: WMD: Burma - New Kid on the Rogue State Block

Burma could be attempting to build a nuclear missile deep in the jungle with the aid of North Korea, the latest leaked US embassy cables by the website Wikileaks show. One Burmese officer is quoted as having witnessed North Korean engineers helping to build an underground facility.  For more more on the story:
Guardian - WikiLeaks cables suggest Burma is building secret nuclear sites
BBC -  Wikileaks: North Korea ‘helps Burma with nuclear sites’

Parliament:  Snappy Mr Squeaker

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

John Bercow, not the most popular speaker, has garnered some comment for snapping at the chief Tory Whip Patrick McLoughlin.  Quentin Letts has an amusing article [which includes a video clip].

Mr Squeaker’s tone was vicious, shrill, unhinged: QUENTIN LETTS on the amazing filmed row after Chief Whip accused Bercow of ‘coaching’ Labour:

“All anyone could gossip about was the Squeaker’s spat with the Government Chief Whip, Patrick McLoughlin. The squabble happened in the Chamber late on Monday, by which hour your sketchwriter was at the Bristol Old Vic casting a leathery eye over Swallows And Amazons. That admirable production features grown-ups acting like children. Not much different from the Commons, then.”


Here is old link to a sparky interview of John Bercow to Tom Bradby [ITN]: Click here.

 

AS Politics: constitutional reform update

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Promises made by leaders in Holyrood and Cardiff Bay that the devolved governments will pay for the proposed hike in tuition fees have led some to argue that we are witnessing the development of educational apartheid.

This latest controversy gives us a chance to revisit the debate on devolution.

read more...»

Pressure groups update: students and young people

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

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The recent wave of protests over student fees and allegations of tax avoidance by some of the UK’s most famous corporations make it a good time to revisit questions about pressure groups and democracy.

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Global Issues: Changing Nature of Conflict ~ Congo

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been ravaged by war for nearly two decades. The largest UN peacekeeping mission in history based in the country is now being asked to leave.  Although conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan tend to garner more active focus as illustrations of how the nature of conflict is changing, the conflict in the Congo should not be forgotten as it is a particularly nasty and protracted conflict which clearly exhibits most features of ‘new warfare’.

The Newstatesman carries quite a lenghty pice, but well worth the read, called: Letter from the Congo

AS politics: election systems update

Sunday, December 05, 2010

“image” I’ve just been doing some research on the arguments for and against the alternative vote.

This is a summary of my initial findings. I also link to some resources.

It’s not an exhaustive account of the debate, but makes a good starting point if you are looking to integrate the potential introduction of AV for Westminster into your essays on ditching fptp.

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Ideologies: Liberalism and Wikileaks

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Nice thoughtful little piece in Newstatesman by lawyer David Allen Green: WikiLeaks and the liberal mind - Transparency is not the only liberal value.

The price of a vote in 2010

Friday, December 03, 2010

Some fascinating data here from the Electoral Commission which has published details of party expenditure on the 2010 General Election.  Taking a simple average of amounts spent divided by votes won, the campaign cost Labour an average of just 93p per vote, whereas the high-spending Tories gathered only one vote for every £1.54 they spent. The Lib Dems were particularly frugal, spending 70p per vote gained. What would be even more interesting would be to see what the “per vote gained” cost was in the key battleground marginals…

Global Issues: Environment ~ US plays tough at Cancun summit

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Global Issues topic on ‘Environmental Concerns’ has a key theme the issue over why it is difficult to reach international co- operation on climate change, and crucial to this is the contententious issue of the relationship and tensions between the ‘developed’ and the ‘developing’ nations.

These issues are clearly illustrated an article in Guardian, predictably as it prime readership are hairy legged lentil eating ethno bongos:
Cancún climate change summit: America plays tough -  US adopts all-or-nothing position in Cancún, fuelling speculation of a walk-out if developing countries do not meet its demands:

“America has adopted a tough all-or-nothing position at the Cancún climate change summit, fuelling speculation of a walk-out if developing countries do not meet its demands.

At the opening of the talks at Cancún, the US climate negotiator, Jonathan Pershing, made clear America wanted a “balanced package” from the summit.

That’s diplomatic speak for a deal that would couple the core issues for the developing world – agreement on climate finance, technology, deforestation – with US demands for emissions actions from emerging economies and a verifiable system of accounting for those cuts.”

 

 

 

Global Issues: Terrorism & WMD ~ Wikileaks, Terrorism and Nuclear Proliferation

The current Wikileaks revelations which are causing waves and ruffled diplomatic feathers across the international community have thrown up the odd bit with clear relevance to the Global Issues paper, and in particular the topics of Terrorism and WMD.

The Guardian has two stories which highlight these topics:

1. WikiLeaks cables expose Pakistan nuclear fears - US and UK diplomats warn of terrorists getting hold of fissile material and of Pakistan-India nuclear exchange:
“American and British diplomats fear Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme could lead to fissile material falling into the hands of terrorists or a devastating nuclear exchange with India. The latest cache of US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks contains warnings that Pakistan is rapidly building its nuclear stockpile despite the country’s growing instability and “pending economic catastrophe”.


2. WikiLeaks cables: ‘US aid will not stop Pakistan supporting militants’ - Embassy cables reveal US frustration as Islamabad fosters selected insurgents as a buffer against India:

“Pakistan’s army is covertly sponsoring four major militant groups, including the Afghan Taliban and Mumbai attackers Lashkar-e-Taiba, and “no amount of money” will change the policy, the US ambassador warned in a frank critique revealed by the state department cables…”

 

 

 


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