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Archive for March, 2017

Lecture: The U.S. in WWI

Sunday, March 26th, 2017


  • Neutrality?
  • The Road to War
  • U.S. Military Participation
  • The End of the War
  • The American Home Front
  • Demobilization

Here’s the U.S. in WWI Lecture

Nigeria’s art of flowery language

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Foreigners wonder why Nigerian government officials do not opt for simpler language.Are they intentionally trying to confuse the public or to conceal information?

Well, these press releases are simply following an age-old Nigerian tradition of verbal ornamentation.

For us, important information has always been best conveyed with grandiloquence.

Color Video Shows Life in Berlin at the End of WWII

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

“Spirit of Berlin” a short color film with historic footage showing everyday life in the German capital in July 1945 — just two months after the end of the war.


How to get reelected if you are an Iranian MP

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Since 1980, less than 30 percent of politicians running again in Iranian parliamentary elections retained their seats. Compare that to more than 90 percent of incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.K. House of Commons who were reelected over the same period. How is this possible? How can it be harder to get reelected in an authoritarian state like Iran than in a developed democracy like the United States?

Not all incumbent members of parliament (MPs) in Iran are destined to be voted out. In fact, some MPs have stayed in office since they were elected in the early 1980s. The two factors that explain success are surprisingly similar to those that matter for elections in developed democracies.

The first is money — specifically how much MPs have been able to spend on their districts in the years preceding an election. The second is electoral law — specifically how visible incumbents are to their constituents and how much credit or blame voters can assign them for their performance in office. This is again fairly intuitive: rules that favor local accountability lead to personal connections between voters and politicians, helping these incumbents maintain their seats in parliament or congress.

In any democracy, these findings may not be surprising, but context here is key: The fact that money or electoral rules have anything to do with winning elections in Iran is notable

Development in Mexico: Of cars and carts

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Spatial divisions in Mexico’s modernisation are still obvious today…economic productivity in Nuevo León, a heavily industrialised state close to the American border, is at South Korean levels. In the south of Mexico it is close to that of Honduras. The country’s industrial clusters devoted to the manufacture of cars, planes, electric goods and electrical equipment—categories which between them account for two-thirds of Mexico’s manufacturing exports, and thus for about 18% of GDP—are largely to be found in a band next to its northern border and in the central states below it. These states account for about 70% of the 120m population.

Read this Economist Special Report on troubled economic development in Mexico. 


Britain has no written constitution. Meet the man who drafted one.

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

At the request of Parliament’s Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, King’s College London scholar Robert Blackburn spent four years drafting blueprints for a full-fledged constitution. The results were published last year in a parliamentary report titled “A New Magna Carta?”

Washington Post: Should Britain have a written constitution? In what ways could it be useful in settling the questions at the core of the U.K.’s existential dilemmas — devolved vs. centralized power, in Europe or out, four nations or one, etc.

Robert Blackburn: Britain should now move towards adopting a written constitution, which would have great benefits in providing a renewed sense of national identity, and settling the state of the Union across the four nations of the U.K. and the terms and limits of its partnership in Europe.

Within the country at large, a documentary constitution would enable ordinary people to know and see what are the principles, rules and institutions by which they are governed, to replace the present sprawling mass of common law rules in law reports, convoluted Acts of Parliament that are unreadable to most people, and unwritten conventions some of which are unclear even to politicians working at Westminster.

An initiative on enacting a written constitution would provide the opportunity for resolution of a number of constitutional problems, ones where despite cross-party agreement that something must be done, no outcome has been forthcoming, such as settling the rationale and democratic form for the parliamentary Second Chamber (House of Lords).

Read more of this Washington Post interview with Robert Blackburn


The Economist’s 2015 Special Report on Nigeria

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Here are five articles from the Economist’s Special Report on Nigeria. All students read “Opportunity Knocks”, then read the one article assigned to you.

  • Opportunity knocks
  • Miracle in Abuja
  • After oil
  • The only thing that works
  • Keep it calm
  • Can he do it?

Devolution in England: Reaching a dead end

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

In May, Liverpool, Greater Manchester and four other combined authorities (see map) will elect a metro mayor for the first time. They are the poster children of the “devolution revolution” launched by the then chancellor, George Osborne, in 2015. The hope was that more joined-up decision-making at local level would boost regional economies and raise productivity. But many rural areas did not even submit a devolution proposal. Elsewhere local councillors rejected the notion. There are fears that, beyond the six deals concluded, it will be hard to do more. Lord Porter, head of the Local Government Association, said last month that he believes “devolution is dead.”

Some counties are restructuring anyway. Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire each plan to abolish their county, district and city councils and form a “unitary” one. Cornwall, Wiltshire and Shropshire have already done so. But district councils often align with parliamentary constituencies and, as district councillors act as ground troops in general elections, many MPs do not want unitaries.

The biggest problem is persuading the people in places like King’s Lynn to support change. “If you asked all my friends in the town,” says one lifelong resident out shopping with his wife, “I doubt any of them have even heard of devolution.”

Read more from the Economist 

Iran’s likely next supreme leader is no friend of the West

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

“The position of the supreme leader was once thought to belong to an esteemed cleric known for his theological erudition. However, Khamenei’s lackluster religious credentials have paved the way for an even less impressive figure who has spent his professional life weaving conspiracies in the regime’s darkest corners….

For Khamenei and his praetorian guards, the most important question is not just the survival of the regime but also its revolutionary values. They are determined that Iran will not become another China, which they see as having relinquished its ideological inheritance for the sake of commerce.”

Read more from Ray Takeyh in the WaPo

Chinese Feminist Group’s Social Media Account Suspended

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

The closing of the account for the organization, Feminist Voices, may have been linked to an article it posted about a women’s strike planned in the United States on March 8, International Women’s Day, feminists said on Wednesday. The strike, which is being coordinated by the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington last month, is called “A Day Without a Woman.”

“This is about attacking civil society,” Lu Pin, a founder of Feminist Voices who lives in New York, said in a telephone interview. “They want to take away our voice.”

The move may also reflect a tightening of security two weeks before China’s annual parliamentary meetings, which begin March 5, during which the government traditionally cracks down on the already limited political debate in the country’s censored media.