Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, August 31, 2009

Political maturity

It would have been helpful if Mr. Osayande had explained (or if journalist Chizoba Ogbeche had reported) what he meant by "politically mature." However, it seems he was referring to corruption.

Police Decentralisation - Country Not Politically Mature
The Chairman of the Police Service Commission (PSC), Mr. Parry Osayande, DIG (rtd) has said that Nigeria was not politically mature for decentralisation of its police force...

Contrary to calls that the police be decentralised, the commission chairman argued that the system could be abused given the disposition of Nigerian politicians, but however, acknowledged that in a federalism country like Nigeria, there should be a federal, state, and local police...

According to him, having being a member of the police reform committee which spelt out guidelines for the on-going reforms of the force, which would make for easier and effective implementation of the process, stating that there was a sustained effort to right the damages done to the police force by long years of military rule...

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Money and politics

Not the kind of money we usually think of, but remittances might have political ramifications.

Cash flow to Mexico stays slow
Cash remittances from Mexicans living abroad keep tumbling, with a second-quarter drop of 17.9% compared with the same period last year, officials said Tuesday.

Mexico's central bank said remittances for April through June fell to $5.6 billion, continuing a downward trend that has lasted more than a year. The money transfers are off 12% during the first six months of 2009, compared with the first half of 2008...

Remittances are one of Mexico's top three sources of foreign income, along with oil and tourism, and help sustain millions of Mexican families...

The remittance report is more sour news for Mexico. Last week, the central bank announced a second-quarter decrease in gross domestic product of more than 10%. Analysts predict a GDP decrease of 7% or more for 2009, about the same decline that came with the mid-1990s economic meltdown known as the Tequila Crisis.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nigerian banking system and culture of corruption

Sola Odunfa's analysis on the BBC News web site offers a view of how things work in Nigeria. Add this to the textbook descriptions.

Devoured by greed?
Once again Nigeria is in the throes of a bank crisis. Rumbles of a quake have been heard and the nation is girding its loins.

Ten banks were audited by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Only half of them got the pass mark...

The remaining 14 banks in the country are now being audited. How many of these will scale through?

Should half of them also require government bailouts, the entire financial industry in Nigeria may crash, taking what is left of the economy with it.

Banking laws in Nigeria are tight enough to prevent the type of crisis creeping in...

But what are laws in an environment with pervasive corruption and uncontrollable greed?

About 10 years ago 20 banks collapsed, taking with them the future and, in some cases, the lives of many depositors.

I do not recollect that any serious punishment was meted to the bankers...

There was also the earlier saga of scores of failed finance houses when several thousand Nigerians were impoverished.

Most of the proprietors initially fled the country only to return to enjoy their loot when they considered the coast clear.

Since then banking in Nigeria has become a glamour profession. Bank executives flaunt opulence and an air of arrogance...

With time, access to bank credit has become the preserve of the very rich who see no reason to pay back, given the percentage they had paid officials...

See also: Nigerian banking shakeup
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bad news poll

Labour's summer fightback hopes dashed by new Guardian/ICM poll
Labour's hopes of a summer fightback powered by economic recovery and the NHS row are dashed by a new Guardian/ICM poll showing that the Conservatives have gained ground on key policy areas and are now the overwhelming public choice to form the next government.

Despite a month of policy attacks from Gordon Brown's summer stand-ins at No 10, and controversy over the Conservative commitment to a state-funded NHS, the opposition has extended its lead to 16 points...

At a general election these figures could see Labour lose more than 150 seats, and give the Conservatives a landslide majority approaching 100...

Meanwhile the poll suggests Labour would find little relief by choosing a new leader. Among possible candidates, most make little difference...

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009


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index of over 1,300 blog entries. There are 72 categories you can use to sort those blog entries.

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The fight goes on in Iran

Journalistic reports suggest that the struggle between the in-power and out-of-power factions in Iran continues. Since the election result is the only issue mentioned, we might assume that what's going on is not a debate over issues, but a struggle for power.

Iran Puts Senior Reformers on Trial Over Unrest
Iran put prominent reformers in the dock... official media reported, in its fourth mass trial of people accused of orchestrating unrest after June's disputed presidential election.

Several of the accused are members of Iran's leading reformist party, Mosharekat, whose website denounced the session in a Revolutionary Court as another show trial forming part of an "ugly scenario."...

Reformer in Iran Publishes Account of a Prison Rape
A young man arrested after the disputed presidential election in Iran says he was raped by his jailers, then questioned by officials who blamed him for the attack and embarrassed him, according to a statement on the party Web site of an Iranian reform leader, Mehdi Karroubi.

Mr. Karroubi, a former speaker of Parliament and presidential candidate, has defied the nation’s top leaders who have tried, with little success, to discredit and silence charges of rape and torture. But Mr. Karroubi warned that this was only a “fragment” of the evidence he had and that if the denials did not stop, he would release even more...

For the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mr. Karroubi’s provocative move threatens to add yet another complication as he battles with Parliament over his 21 nominees for his cabinet. It also comes at a difficult time for the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, who by law and faith is supposed to embody one of the central qualities cherished throughout the history of Shiite Islam: justice...

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Macho politics in Russia

Professor Nick Hayes is an expert on Russian politics and culture. He wrote this for MinnPost, an online news source.

The politics of Putin's torso: marketing a tough guy
A photo series of a macho Putin accompanied news stories about his vacation in Siberia... A photo spread of Putin as the bare-chested equestrian put the story of his Siberian vacation over the top...

And last week, home in Moscow from his vacation, he kept up the macho image. On the evening of Aug. 12, he and his protégé, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, pulled a surprise visit to a local sports bar in Moscow...

Was it merely coincidental that Putin's superhero act for the media over the past few weeks coincided with the first anniversary of last year's war in Georgia or the 10th anniversary of his ascendancy to power in 1999? Putin spun the media to divert it away from serious journalism about the legacy of either last summer's war or his decade in power. Instead, the media wallowed in puff pieces about his abs, delts and pecs...

The marketing of Putin's turbo-masculinity is not for us... The Putin edition is a political sleight of hand packaged to make the Russian public believe that a macho leader has restored Russia's loss of respect in the world.

It's also an image specifically designed to appeal to Putin's hardcore supporters — his base known in Russia as the "siloviki," which loosely translates as "tough guys" or "strongmen." The term derives from the Russian phrase "silovye struktury," or "force structures," and refers to the FSB (the successor to the KGB), military and police.

Putin's media image is the fantasy of every "siloviki" that their guys give Russia the strong hand she needs, that  they know how to handle the liberal wimps who, from Gorbachev to Yeltsin, betrayed the nation, and that they're not a bad looking bunch...

What is the point behind the politics of Putin's torso? The farce has its serious side. Ask anyone in Georgia today, a year after the Russian invasion, or anyone in Ukraine who advocates joining NATO. The cheap masculinity of Putin's image is the public face of a regime of petty "siloviki" looking for an excuse to bully a neighbor or shut-up a critic...

See also Putin's Russia; Russia's Putin

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

The people "speak"

Limits to the power of China's authoritarian government becomes visible.

After Protest, Chinese Officials Halt Steel Mill Sale
A Chinese provincial government... halted the privatization of a state-owned steel mill where thousands of workers protested last week... in the latest sign of increasing labor activism in the country’s steel industry...

Local, provincial and national government agencies have been reluctant to use overwhelming force against protesting workers. China Daily newspaper reported... that police had tried to break through the ranks of workers... at Linzhou Iron & Steel in Anyang City, in Henan.

China Daily did not say if the police had been successful. The official Xinhua news agency said that the workers decided... to halt their protests, which had attracted up to 3,000 participants at a time, after a government mediation team agreed to reconsider the takeover...

The success of steel workers in blocking privatization could embolden workers in other industries, experts on Chinese labor issues said...

“It is no longer possible to push through privatization regardless, without considering the workers’ interests,” said Geoffrey Crothall, a spokesman for the China Labor Bulletin, a labor rights advocacy group based in Hong Kong.

In a sign of high-level interest in the recent unrest, the government-sponsored All China Federation of Trade Unions has posted a prominent series of commentaries at the top of its Web page under the heading, “Corporate restructuring: participation of the trade union is essential.”

Chinese law has long required that each privatization be approved by the workers’ congress of the affected company. But local government officials and company managers have frequently been able to rig the approval by running the congresses themselves...

Parents in China clash with police
Police clashed with residents of two neighbouring villages in northern China where nearly all the children were poisoned by lead apparently from a nearby smelter...

Several hundred villagers tore down fences and blocked traffic outside the Dongling Lead and Zinc Smelting Co. in Shaanxi province after news of the poisoning emerged ... Fighting between angry parents and scores of police broke... and trucks delivering coal to the plant were stoned...

At least 615 out of 731 children in two villages near the Dongling smelter have tested positive for lead poisoning, which can damage the nervous and reproductive systems and cause high blood pressure, anemia and memory loss. Lead levels in the children were more than 10 times the level considered safe by China...

It was unclear whether the plant had been closed and what its future might be...

Chinese mayor apologizes for lead poisoning that sickened hundreds of children
A mayor apologized to residents of two villages — where nearly all the children were sickened by lead poisoning apparently from a nearby smelter — after recent clashes between angry parents and police...

Mayor Dai apologized to residents for the poisoning and vowed the plant will not be allowed to open again until it meets health standards...

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nigerian banking shakeup

I was saving this story for another day, but it's developing rapidly. Heads of Nigerian banks fired and arrested. Powerful, famous people and government institutions publicly humiliated. Investigations of possible criminal activity. These things are unprecedented in Nigeria.

I would watch for the name of Lamido Sanusi [right], the head of Nigeria's central bank. After the moves reported below, I'd expect to see him among the expatriates in London.

That's where Nuhu Ribadu, the former head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had to go. It seems he began to be effective in the fight against corruption. After he was demoted and sent to a "reeducation" program, he and his family fled the country before his enemies could arrest him. I would not be surprised to see Sanusi become his London neighbor.

Nigeria sacks heads of five banks
The Nigerian central bank has injected 400bn naira ($2.6bn; £1.6bn) into five banks and sacked their managers.

The regulator said the banks were undercapitalised and posed a risk to the entire banking system.

Governor Lamido Sanusi said Afribank, Finbank, Intercontinental Bank, Oceanic Bank and Union Bank would be run as normal until new investors were found...

"The banks have lost their money in bad loans," Mr Sanusi told reporters in Lagos. "We have questions about the management, so we have put in new management."...

Mr Sanusi took over as head of the central bank over two months ago, pledging to clean up the banking system that has fuelled growth in Nigeria.

Among the executives removed were senior members of Nigeria's corporate elite, long seen as almost untouchable by the political establishment...

Nigerian banks get $2.6bn bailout
Nigeria's central bank has announced Africa's first major bank rescue programme along with the sacking of the heads of five banks, accused of poor management and piling up debts.
Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the central bank chief, said on Friday that $2.6bn were to be paid out to the affected banks to avoid a crisis...

The five institutions account for 40 per cent of banking sector credit in the country and the executives removed included members of Nigeria's corporate aristocracy, long seen as almost untouchable...

Nigeria threatens largest debtors
The Nigerian central bank has threatened legal action against defaulting customers of five banks rescued in a $2.6bn (£1.58bn) bailout.

The central bank published a list of more than 200 customers, including companies and state governments.

Nigerian police have arrested four of the banks' chief executives after all five were sacked last week...

The published list includes corporations like Transcorp and fuel distributor African Petroleum, as well as the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and state governments of Delta and Ebonyi.

Femi Babafemi, a spokesman for Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said the chairman of the commission has met with the chief executives of all of the country's banks...

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Standard of living context

When you teach about the UK, students in the US recognize many similarities as well as some differences between the countries and their government and politics.

There are times when it's good to remember that there are ways in which the Britain is not the USA. Here's one.

Room to swing a cat? Hardly
The UK builds the smallest homes in Europe, according to the government's adviser on architecture. How do British new-builds stack up internationally?

The sofa won't fit into the living room. There's not enough room for children to play in the kitchen as you cook. And where's the recycling bin meant to go?

These are some of the complaints from residents of new-build developments surveyed by Cabe, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.

The floor area and room sizes are the smallest in Europe - the average room in a newly built dwelling in France is 26.9 square metres, compared with 15.8 square metres in the UK - and, the graph below [click on it to see it larger] shows how British new-builds are less than half the size of those in the United States and Australia...

What You Need to Know

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Images of Sharia in Nigeria

Visual images almost always help me understand things. Karin Brulliard's analysis of sharia in Nigeria for the Washington Post is good. It's made even better by her photos that accompanies the article.

In Nigeria, Sharia Fails to Deliver
As military rule ended in Nigeria a decade ago, an Islamic legal system was swept into place on a wave of popular support in the country's desperately poor and mostly Muslim northern states. It has turned out in a way few expected.

The draconian amputation sentences warned of by human rights activists and the religious oppression feared by Christians have mostly not come to pass. But neither has the utopia envisioned by backers of sharia law, who believed politicians' promises that it would end decades of corruption and pillaging by civilian and military rulers. The people are still poor and miserable, residents complain, and politicians are still rich...

Nigeria's moderate form of sharia may not have delivered a Muslim revolution, but it has fueled a growing disillusionment that analysts say has weakened public faith in democracy -- and could, if unchecked, spark religious militancy. That prospect was highlighted last month when a radical Islamist sect called Boko Haram attacked security forces in northern Nigeria, triggering violence that killed more than 700 people. The group draws its members from the ranks of frustrated youths...

All this has added up to a mishmash that looks little like the progress sharia supporters had envisaged. In their version, the tenets of Islam would guide leaders to care for the downtrodden, use resources wisely and punish criminals both powerful and lowly.

But few officials in sharia-governed states have been convicted of corruption, although critics point to their grand houses as evidence that wealth is not being spread...

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Political anonymity

When political participants feel the need to hide their identities, the politics are inconclusive. Anonymity is seen to be necessary by some in Iran. However, even anonymous messages can damage a leader's legitimacy.

Clerics’ Call for Removal Challenges Iran Leader
A group of Iranian clerics has issued an anonymous letter calling Iran’s supreme leader a dictator and demanding his removal, the latest and perhaps strongest rhetorical attack on him yet in the country’s post-election turmoil.

While the impact of the clerics’ letter... may have been diluted by the withholding of their signatures, two Iranian experts vouched for its authenticity...

Last week a group of former lawmakers issued their own letter calling his qualifications into question. A day earlier, a member of the state body empowered to dismiss Ayatollah Khamenei called for an “emergency meeting” to address criticisms.

The letters do not pose any real threat to Ayatollah Khamenei, who retains the loyalty of the security services and most of the political elite. The clerical establishment is heavily dependent on him, and scarcely any member would dare challenge him openly.

Still, the verbal attacks illustrate the erosion of a powerful taboo. Long unquestioned, Ayatollah Khamenei’s status as a neutral arbiter and Islamic figurehead have suffered in the weeks since he blessed the June 12 presidential election...

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Outside influences on policy decisions

The pressure on Chinese policy makers comes from sources that can't be put in jail or censored or ignored -- if China wants to create a market economy.

China Warms to New Credo: Business First
So far this week, the World Trade Organization has rebuffed China in an important case involving Chinese restrictions on imported books and movies. The Chinese government dropped explosive espionage charges against executives of a foreign mining giant, the Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto, after a global corporate outcry. And on Thursday, the government said it had backed off another contentious plan to install censorship software on all new computers sold here.

Throughout its long economic boom, China has usually managed to separate its aggressive push into the global business arena from domestic politics, which remained tightly controlled by the Communist Party. But events this week raise the question of just how long it will be before the two meet.

In each of those matters, politics and business collided, and business won. Business does not always win, and when it does, as in these cases, the reasons are as often as not a matter of guesswork. But in at least some high-profile matters, China appears to be facing the reality that the outside business world can be freewheeling and defiant when its profits are threatened. And so China’s authoritarian system may also have to evolve in ways its top leaders may not readily endorse...

Increasingly, many experts say, Chinese officials appear to be aware that their actions have far broader ramifications than they might have had even a few years ago.

“Fifteen years ago, the mantra in China was, ‘We’re the victims of a system that’s stacked against us,’ ” said James V. Feinerman, an expert on Chinese law and policy at Georgetown University in Washington.

China’s entry into the world trading system, he said, is slowly helping to change the nation’s view of itself from that of an outsider to an insider with a stake in the global system’s success...

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Outside influences

When the US Secretary of State comes calling and criticizes the host, what effect will that criticism have politically?

Two Sides of Nigeria Addressed by Clinton
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent a message of tough love to Nigeria on Wednesday, praising the country’s strong military and showing public appreciation for its huge oil industry, but also harshly criticizing the government for being corrupt...

Clinton Misinformed on EFCC - Commission
THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, reacting to the comment of the United States secretary of state, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, that the anti-graft agency has fallen off, says she was misinformed.

The EFCC in a statement in Abuja, said the impression created by Mrs Clinton's statement that the Commission had not done much in the last one year was not "only misleading but a contradiction of the records of activities within the same period...

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

New leadership in Iran

Amid turmoil, Iran's supreme leader picks new judiciary chief
Amid turmoil over the treatment of post-election detainees and controversy over the mass trials of political figures, Iran's supreme leader on Saturday appointed a new judiciary chief, Iranian media reported.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tapped Sadeq Larijani -- brother of Iran's powerful parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani -- to replace Hashemi Shahroudi, a vocal hardliner against the opposition movement, who finished his 10-year term, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported. Another brother, Mohammad Javad Larijani, is the secretary-general of the judiciary's human rights office.

The development is significant in that the two brothers now head two of the three branches of Iran's government, and tensions between Ali Larijani and hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have emerged as the president tried to assemble his Cabinet for his second term...

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Putin's Russia, Russia's Putin

David Nowak assesses Putin's career and country for The Boston Globe. This might be a good supplement to the biography in your textbook.

After a decade in power, Putin not ready to quit
Vladimir Putin celebrated a decade in power Sunday, and it appears the former KGB strongman may maintain his grip on Russia's government for years to come.

Supporters credit him with rescuing the economy from the post-Soviet doldrums and restoring national pride. Critics say the price -- rolling back democratic reforms and stifling dissent -- has been too high...

And the signs are that the 56-year-old is far from ready to loosen his grip on power...

Between his two times as prime minister -- the brief stint in 1999 and the current term he is serving since last year -- Putin sandwiched a presidency that cleared the political landscape of opponents.

Putin reversed the democratic achievements of Yeltsin by abolishing the direct election of regional governors, marginalized the liberal opposition and, critics say, instilled an atmosphere of impunity for those who silence his challengers by fair means or foul.

Under Putin, who once told journalists to keep their "snotty noses" out of his business, independent media are few and far between, and those outlets not under state control are intimidated into subordination. A cartoon network showing U.S. shows last month censored an episode of hit comedy South Park that poked fun at Putin...

But many credit Putin with rebuilding a country out of the smashed remains of the late 1990s, when the ruble collapsed and the economy ground to halt...

He has promoted a healthy lifestyle, not only by example -- Putin is a judo expert and frequent swimmer -- but also by a series of programs that encourage sports and warn of the dangers of smoking and drinking, ubiquitous in the worse-off regions...

But perhaps guaranteeing Putin support among Russia's patriotic electorate -- currently he enjoys a 78 percent popularity rating -- has been an aggressive foreign policy. He has resumed Soviet-era air patrols over foreign waters and shot down efforts to expand NATO, a Western military alliance he sees as a Moscow foe, toward Russia's western fringes...

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Reform in Commons

The expenses scandal exposed some pretty questionable behavior by MPs who claimed public money for private purposes. Several resigned and others have become lame ducks.

Now, Denis MacShane [right], who is a Labour MP for Rotherham, laments changes he foresees in an op-ed piece for The Guardian (UK). His argument is implied in this piece and in the UK, political watchers probably know more clearly what he's describing. But for those of us far away and outside London's equivalent of D.C.'s "beltway," MacShane's points are not clear. I think he's arguing that without expense allowances and with too much party control, MPs in the future will have to be rich party hacks.

The Commons will be robbed of independence and authority
It was Trollope who wrote that to have the initials MP after one's name was the noblest ambition an Englishman could seek.

No longer. After centuries in which a small wood-lined room, not much bigger than a tennis court, allowed a few hundred fellow citizens to speak their minds freely, ferociously or fawningly, as they desired or the occasion required, it is time to say farewell to the MP as a unique British institution.
The roll call of those who are leaving reduces the independence and authority of the Commons in a way not seen for decades. Labour is losing... two of the most independent backbenchers the Commons has ever known...
[One of them] says he is quitting because the seven-day weeks MPs put in, and the requirement from constituents that MPs now reply instantly by email to every inquiry 52 weeks a year, is exhausting...

The demand that all MPs should enter the Commons only after years of experience in other jobs has a pleasing populist air to it. Yet this principle would have meant farewell to Pitt, Churchill, Gladstone, or more recently Tony Benn or Charles Kennedy, or any number of MPs who were elected as young men and became effective precisely because they engaged in the profession of politics at an early age. Should William Hague, elected in his 20s, now go and do work experience? Does David Cameron's few years spinning for Carlton TV make him a better Tory leader?...

Tory wannabe candidates are now going through a five-hour interview as if they were applying to join the civil service. The odds and sods, the cranks and campaigners, the youthful Hagues and Blairs, will all be excluded.

Welcome to the new House of Commons, courtesy of... a British public going through one of its periodic fits of morality. In signing our allowance claim forms, did MPs realise we were signing the death warrant of the idea of independent professional political representative democracy? We have only ourselves to blame, but the consequences for democracy may be dire.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

State capacity

There's more to being a successful state than security and economic stability.

Russia Seeks to Improve Safety of Its Roads
A wave of horrific traffic accidents in Russia in recent weeks has prompted high-level meetings and vows from top officials to improve the safety of the country’s roads, where the deaths per capita are several times higher than in most developed countries and are nearly double the figure in the United States.

On Thursday, President Dmitri A. Medvedev took the unusual step of convening an automobile safety conference, saying that the death rates were unacceptable and demanded that officials develop proposals to lower them.
“The national economy lost $175 billion from traffic accidents over the past five years,” Mr. Medvedev said. “That is comparable with overall health care expenditures of the same period.”...

Several factors make Russia’s roads dangerous. Highways are poorly maintained, and Russians often drive older cars that lack modern safety equipment. The traffic police are widely considered to be corrupt, and drivers who break the law can often escape punishment by paying a bribe on the spot, allowing them to stay on the road.
Even so, Mr. Medvedev and other top officials have skirted the issue of police corruption, focusing instead on poor driving and a fatalistic culture of disregard for road safety. Mr. Medvedev last month even denounced what he referred to as “the undisciplined, criminally careless behavior of our drivers.”

The government has advanced several proposals in recent weeks to address the rise in accidents...

Yet some experts are skeptical, pointing out that until official corruption is reduced, efforts to tighten penalties and enforcement will amount to little...

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fixing a hole in the safety net

There's less substance to this announcement than you might expect. A national program that relies on local government's financial participation. Guess where the system will fall apart? (That's not unique to China.)

New pension plan to benefit China's 900 mln farmers
Farmers will soon enjoy the same guaranteed incomes later in life as urban workers do, as the government Tuesday announced that a trial pension plan would be implemented across China by October.

Sponsored by the government, farmers over the age of 60 will be able to receive a monthly endowment of varying amounts according to certain areas' income standards, Hu Xiaoyi, vice minister of the Department of Human Resources and Social Security (DHRSS), said yesterday at a press conference...

The old insurance system has benefited 80 million farmers in China since the 1990s. However, the system virtually failed, as it required payment solely from farmers, who eventually gave up because of a lack of money...

The biggest obstacle in applying for the new insurance is the low revenue of local governments.

"Local governments with low revenue have no capability to promote the new policy. With no financial support from the local government, the related department has no enthusiasm to promote the new insurance," said Ding Yifan, a researcher at the Development Research Center of the State Council...

Ding suggested that the governments make a reasonable and balanced financial contribution.

He also called on the government to promote and implement this new endowment insurance policy as soon as possible."

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Boko Haram, corruption, and mis-government

Here's an analysis that your students can consider alongside their textbook accounts of Nigerian governance. It was written by Senan Murray and Adam Nossiter for the New York Times.

In Nigeria, an Insurgency Leaves a Heavy Toll
Burned, razed and bullet-pocked buildings mark where troops mounted their bloody assault against a strict Islamic sect last week. Residents remain in barracks and police stations, afraid to return to what is left of their homes. And security forces continue going door to door in search of sect members, perpetuating the city’s sense of fear...

But there is relief here as well, especially among those who felt preyed upon by the sect and its rejection of Westernized institutions and ideology...

Beyond that, analysts warned that last week’s bloodshed would not erase its underlying causes...

[They] said the bloodshed and violence could spawn future conflicts in a place where economic and social grievances fester. The sect attracted a ready following from the region’s many poor and unemployed...

The appeal of the sect evidently took officials by surprise. Paul Lubeck, a political sociologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who specializes in Nigeria, said many members were “Western-educated people who have failed to find employment.”...

Repression, nonetheless, was unlikely to solve the underlying problem, Nnamdi Obasi, a Nigeria analyst with the International Crisis Group said. “There’s a culture of bad governance and corruption, to ensure that nothing substantive is done for jobs and education,” he said. “If the government allows the culture of impunity to continue, if the social and economic environment continues, then you will have groups aggrieved by the way this has been handled, probably groups revolting against the state.”

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Who's in charge in Iran?

Borzou Daragahi, writing in the Los Angeles Times wrote that "Iran's president has conducted a purge of the nation's intelligence ministry," but he makes a very weak case for Ahmadinejad actually being in charge. Daragahi also wrote that "officials in the Revolutionary Guard" have replaced the intelligence officials who were suspected of disloyalty. The moves could just as easily support the argument that the military has actually taken power.

Iran's president purges intelligence ministry
Iran's president has conducted a purge of the nation's intelligence ministry, sweeping aside ranking officials with decades of experience in favor of loyalists, a lawmaker, several news websites and a former intelligence chief's son said.

The move, chronicled by news outlets today, underscores the deep rifts and disarray within the highest echelons of the country's security apparatus in the wake of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed June 12 reelection.

Analysts say the purge flushes away decades of intelligence experience. Even after the 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini , the founder of the Islamic Republic, chose to co-opt the clandestine services into his new government rather than start from scratch.

"Ahmadinejad has practically taken command of the most significant security organ in the country and is embarking on a retaliation project," Hassan Younesi, the son of former Intelligence Minister Ali Younesi, wrote in letter posted on his blog late Saturday. "Never has the intelligence ministry witnessed such a politically motivated purge since its establishment. This gesture will certainly inflict heavy damage on the management of the ministry."...

Ahmadinejad last month made himself temporarily de facto chief of the agency, which has operatives and offices all over the country. Hossein Taeb and Ahmad Salek, two hard-line clerics loyal to the president and close to the Revolutionary Guard, now control the vast human intelligence and electronic monitoring infrastructure of the ministry...

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

English can be a foreign language - in England

Ashes: England v Australia - live!
Onions returns and North bunts one down the ground. There was an easy single there but he protects Hilfenhaus and then smashes an utter flay to the cover boundary. He takes a single next ball and the Hilf, as nobody calls him, keeps out two straight ones...


Friday, August 07, 2009

Chinese version of rule of law

Don't make powerful enemies

China lawyer who fought unfair arrest is arrested
Xu Zhiyong, a 36-year-old Beijing lawyer, is renowned for his spirited defense of Chinese citizens victimized by unfair arrest or consumer fraud. Nowadays, the founder of the Open Constitution Initiative law firm will be lucky if he is able to defend himself.

Xu was seized from his home at 5 a.m. on July 29. His family and colleagues were given no official notice and only after a week of inquiries learned secondhand that he was arrested on charges of tax evasion. His detention has sent a chilling message not only to China's lawyers but to citizens who have found themselves in need of legal representation...

But Xu is by no means a dissident, preferring to work within a system he has hoped to improve, not overthrow.

His pedigree is impeccable: He earned his doctorate in law at prestigious Peking University, taught law at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications and served as a representative to the People's Congress for the Haidian District of Beijing, where he lives. He also was a visiting scholar at Yale Law School.

"He had such confidence in the legal system," said Yang Huiwen, the only lawyer still in the offices Wednesday. Yang said he had wanted to quit the law because of hassles by authorities, but Xu talked him out of it. "He always talked about how the rule of law would help China advance."...

Sisi Liu of Amnesty International in Hong Kong said someone of Xu's stature suspected of tax evasion would normally be released on bail pending formal charges.

"Clearly, this is a politically motivated prosecution," she said, "and if there is such strong political motivation, we doubt that legal procedure will be followed."

No one knows how long Xu might be held without formal charges, but recent history isn't encouraging: Gao Zhisheng, a maverick lawyer who represented members of the banned Falun Gong movement, has been held incommunicado for more than six months.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Inauguration in Tehran

As Ahmadinejad Is Sworn In for 2nd Term, Deep Fissures Are Laid Bare
With his adversaries boycotting the ceremony and a vast deployment of police officers standing guard outside, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn into office on Wednesday...

The inauguration ceremony itself exposed deep rifts in Iran’s ruling elite. Many seats were empty, with most of Parliament’s reform faction boycotting the event, according to Parlamaan News, a reformist Web site. Several reformists who did attend walked out as the president began his speech. Leading opposition figures, including the presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi and the former presidents Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, also stayed away...

Mr. Ahmadinejad must form a cabinet in the next two weeks, and his choices will signal much about the direction his second term will take. He is likely to face rising dissent from within his own conservative camp, as he did last month during a heated fracas over his first appointments. His government will also be struggling to put down a defiant opposition movement that maintains that his landslide June 12 re-election was rigged, and has continued to mount street protests...

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The classic course of revolution

You might refer your students to patterns like this one from France, Russia, and China.

Iranian Targeted by Onetime Associates
In the early days of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saeed Hajjarian advised the hostage-takers at the U.S. Embassy. During the Iran-Iraq war, he helped establish the much-feared Ministry of Intelligence. Then he turned in a democratic direction, running reformist newspapers and serving as a political adviser to President Mohammad Khatami...

"He is a great symbol of what the Islamic republic does to its own," said Farideh Farhi, an Iran specialist at the University of Hawaii who first met Hajjarian in the 1990s...

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Nigeria: rich and poor

Nigeria is a country with a lot of arable land and oil wealth. Why then, are there shortages of food and fuel? Here's one answer.

Little Keeps Nigeria From a Crisis of Hunger
The nation blessed with Africa's largest oil reserves and some of its most fertile lands has a problem. It cannot feed its 140 million people, and relatively minor reductions in rainfall could set off a regional food catastrophe, experts say.

Nigeria was a major agricultural exporter before oil was discovered off its coast in the 1970s. But as it developed into the world's eighth-largest oil producing country, its big farms and plantations were neglected. Today, about 90 percent of Nigeria's agricultural output comes from inefficient small farms, according to the World Bank, and most farmers have little or no access to fertilizers, irrigation or other modern inputs. [Women shucking corn above at left] Most do not even grow enough food to feed their own families.

Nigeria has become one of the world's biggest importers of food staples, particularly rice and wheat, both of which the country could potentially grow in large enough quantities to be self-sufficient. Even with the imports, about 38 percent of Nigerians younger than 5 suffer from moderate or severe malnutrition, according to UNICEF...

The good news is that Nigeria has boundless agricultural potential. Of the 3.14 million irrigable hectares of land in the country, the World Bank says only 7 percent is currently being utilized. And though large tracts of farmland have been lost to desertification, more than half the country's estimated 98 million hectares of arable land currently lie fallow...

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Nigerian Pidgin

Here's a great, and lengthy dictionary of Nigerian Pidgin English that might help your students understand some of the references in NIgerian newspapers, radio, and television.

Babawilly’s Pidgin English – Words and Phrases

For instance:

Adonkia: contraction for I don’t care attitude
Broda: Brother.
Broda-broda: Nepotism. See Fren-fren and Who know man.
Footron: Derived from Citroen. One who has no car and goes everywhere on foot.
Giraffe: Examination malpractice were the neck is stretched to spy neighbour's work.
Joke na joke: This is no longer funny! Also - If na joke stop am!
Mama dash: Hand me down clothes from a lady.
Mama-put:Road side food seller so called because customers frequently beg for extra helpings by saying 'Mama abeg put more now'.
Over-graduate: Postgraduate student. (As opposed to undergraduate).
Reign: In vogue e.g Na dat trousa dey reign now o.
Reign pass: Out of fashion.
Triangular student: (University campus slang). Student with little time for anything other than studies. Goes from the hostels to the canteen then to lectures and back to the hostels thus completing the triangle.
Yellow fever: 1. Traffic warden with bright orange khaki shirts. 2. Lady who bleaches skin lighter. (derogatory).
Zero one zero: (University slang) No breakfast , have lunch and no dinner due to financial hardships.
Zero zero one: Eat only dinner.

Of course, there's always Naija Lingo, an online translator. Type in the word you read or hear and the program will offer an English equivalent.

There are many Nigerian videos on YouTube illustrating Nigerian pidgin. Some are music videos and others are stand-up comedy routines. My understanding is not good enough to suggest than any of them are classroom safe.


Saturday, August 01, 2009

Is Nigeria at a turning point?

Jeremy Weate, the blogger who writes at Naija Blog pointed to the London Times editorial today. How would your students react to this analysis?

Nigeria on the brink
Four days of violence in Nigeria have left hundreds dead, destroyed towns and villages across the north, brought the cold-blooded police shooting of an Islamist rabble-rouser and left the outside world horrified. Nigeria, with 140 million people, is Africa’s largest country. It is also one of the most corrupt, unstable, unequal and fissiparous: in half a century of independence it has seen civil wars, separatist rebellions, military coups, ethnic vendettas and a terrible descent into virtual ungovernability. What happens in Nigeria matters not only to Africa: it affects the huge diaspora in Britain, distorts the oil market, drives international criminality and opens the gates to extremism and terrorism...

The uprising, however, is just a symptom of the social breakdown that has made Nigeria so prone to violence. Rampant corruption has undermined even the feeble central government efforts to tackle social inequality, failing health and education systems, the stinking detritus burying most big cities and widespread unemployment. The oil boom has only exacerbated corruption and inequality, and the dreadful conditions in the Niger Delta have spawned an endemic rebellion, regular kidnappings and crime syndicates that siphon off so much oil that total production is running at millions of barrels below capacity...

Nigerians are desperate to see better government in Abuja. The onus is now on President Yar’Adua to overcome doubts about his democratic legitimacy, grasp the urgency of Nigeria’s situation and save a failing state before he is swept away by violence, despair or another coup.

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News analysis from al Jazeera

"Battle for the Soul of Iran" and "Iran's Power Struggle" are 23-minute videos from Al Jazeera that are good background and might even be valuable teaching materials next year when you teach about Iranian politics.

Battle for the Soul of Iran

Iran's Power Struggle

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