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VIDEO: Ben Franklin as the first media entrepreneur in America

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 21:09

On February 5th, the American University of Beirut, Lebanon presented a lecture on the remarkable media empire created by American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin. The lecture was held at the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Center for American Studies and Research. The speaker was historian Martin Puchner who covers Franklin’s life work in his broader study of the impact of the written word on history.

Literary critic, historian and philosopher, the German-born Puchner has worn many hats. Including his most recent book, The Written World: How Literature Shaped History, Puchner has published over a dozen books and is the Byron and Anita Wien Professor of Drama and of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University and the general editor of the Norton Anthology of World Literature. Thanks to edX, an online education system founded by Harvard University and MIT in 2012, you can even take courses taught by Martin Puchner online.

According to the description of the Beirut lecture provided by Puchner on the event invitation:

We know Benjamin Franklin as a signatory of the Declaration of Independence and author of the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, but this lecture will argue that his true impact was as a media entrepreneur. Franklin controlled every aspect of the communication technologies of his day, from paper mills and printshops to newspapers and the postal roads on which printed matter was transported across the thirteen colonies. I will discuss Franklin’s work within the context of The Written World: How Literature Shaped History, where I tell the story of literature from the earliest forms of writing to the Internet.

The lecture is about 70 minutes. Take a look:

Africa waves some leaders goodbye, but is democracy near?

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 20:32

By THE CONVERSATIONAt a time when Africa has seen a few long-standing leaders exit, the issue of change in power is occupying minds of citizens as well as those in leadership positions.In spite of their varied repertoire of tactics to remain in power, no one is immune to the wave of change in leadership that has…


Detailed Swedish election security plan provides true protection

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 20:18

Sweden’s intelligence service on Thursday warned “foreign powers” could try and meddle in the Nordic nation’s upcoming general election, singling out Russia in light of alleged interference in the last US vote. However, the Swedish Security Service (Sapo), which is responsible for tackling espionage and terrorism, said in an annual report that Sweden’s “robust” and “decentralised”…


NRA Lobby Relies on Ability to Mobilize Their Base in Elections

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 16:25

In a now all too familiar sequence of events for Americans, gun control and the National Rifle Association were thrust into the forefront of the national conversation following the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day. Seventeen people were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded that day when…


Former Brazilian President fights to avoid graft prison sentence

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 16:19

Brazil’s former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made yet another appeal against a 12 year prison sentence for corruption that could knock him out of an attempted comeback election. Lawyers for Lula filed the appeal late Tuesday, citing what they said were 38 omissions, 16 contradictions and five areas lacking clarity in the sentencing.…


VIDEO: Realistic Strategies Towards Palestinian Statehood

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 16:16

Just yesterday, the Washington, DC-located Middle East Institute held a panel discussion about the prospects for establishing some form of Palestinian statehood in 2018 and beyond. The Foundation for Middle East Peace and the OneVoice Movement co-hosted the event led by moderator Obada Shtaya, OneVoice’s regional director in the Mid-Atlantic. Panelists included:

  • Maya Berry, Executive Director of the Arab American Institute
  • Khaled Elgindy, Fellow at the Brookings Institution
  • Abdallah Hamarsheh, founder of Zimam, a Palestinian civil society organization

Here is the event description from the invite:

Relations between the U.S. and the Palestinians are in free-fall. The Trump administration’s decisions to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and then cut funding to UNRWA to force the Palestinians back to the negotiating table have been met with mass protests and official recriminations. Meanwhile, peace has never seemed more distant, with a recent poll showing support for a two-state solution at a historic low among both Israelis and Palestinians.

What are the prospects today for advancing Palestinian self-determination? At a time when Palestinian options seem limited, what new and creative roles are the Palestinian grassroots, civil society and leadership playing in supporting a resolution to the conflict and an end to the occupation?

The video is about 85 minutes. Take a look:

Tanzania civil society decries violations of democratic rights

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 14:10

More than a hundred Tanzanian civil society groups raised their voices on Wednesday against “unprecedented” violations of human and democratic rights under the government of President John Magufuli. In a rare act of public solidarity, 105 organisations signed a statement warning of “multiple cases (of rights violations), unprecedented in (Tanzania’s) history” involving “attacks, torture and forced…


Hong Kong independence activist on trial over 2016 protest

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 14:05

Hong Kong’s best-known independence activist went on trial on riot charges Wednesday over protests in 2016 which saw the city’s worst violence for decades. Edward Leung, 26, the former leader of pro-independence party Hong Kong Indigenous, pleaded guilty last month to assaulting a police officer and has been in custody since then. He could face a…


Ally of Kremlin critic Navalny arrested over tweet

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 13:40

An ally of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been sentenced to ten days in detention after posting a tweet calling on followers to come to an unauthorised rally last month. The Simonovsky District Court late on Tuesday ruled that Roman Rubanov was guilty of organising an unauthorised rally and sentenced him to ten days in…


Will The Massacre In Parkland Florida Lead To Reforms?

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 13:12
Florida Capitol Building in Tallahassee – All photos by Miriam Altieri

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day for love. It’s a day to share kisses, chocolate and flowers, or so we thought. Late afternoon on February 14th, a horrific attack broke out in one of South Florida’s schools. A horrendous massacre took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida and seventeen people were killed by a disturbed 19-year-old gunman. The gunman that, in-spite of suffering from mental illness, was able to buy an assault gun. He could not purchase a handgun because in order to do that he needed to be 21 years old but, at 19, he could get a modern assault weapon built for war.

After committing such heinous attack against teachers and students, he eventually made a getaway by joining some of the students that were running toward safety and according to surveillance footage, he even ate at McDonald’s before he was stopped by police in a nearby community and taken into custody. He was then taken to Broward Health Emergency Room where he was treated for unknown injuries.

Ironically, America also lays claim to another famous Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929, thanks to gangster Al Capone. The 1929 massacre was long known as our nation’s bloodiest Valentine’s Day. Yet, the massacre of 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, is now the deadliest. Capone has been upstaged.

This week’s massacre, indeed, was a very bloody, monstrous, and cowardly act. So many young people lost their lives needlessly because of one senseless high school student who armed himself with an AR-15 – a weapon that is used for war!

What has been most shocking to Americans and observers around the world is that our government, knowing that these weapons are out there, continues to sponsor the National Rifle Association, an organization with no conscience! As an industry lobby, American-style, the NRA are only interested in selling guns and selling more guns. They exist to sponsor politicians so that they can help pass laws to protect their industry.

As the number of mass shootings hits records year after year, it has become clear that if restricting weapons is not done quickly, there will not be a safe school in America. We need to stop the killing of our children! We have no greater obligation than protecting our children.

Changes were brought about before in American gun laws, following previous incidents. For instance, even though the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre was part of a larger battle among Prohibition Era gangsters like Capone, the American people reacted to the violence by rising up – and they made a difference! As pointed out by writer A. Brad Schwartz in a recent New York Times article:

We should be ashamed that the killing of criminals 90 years ago could help spur such change, while the repeated slaughter of children prompts little more than “thoughts and prayers” from lawmakers today. The story of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre shows how public outrage can create meaningful reform when the political and economic costs of inaction outweigh the inertia preserving the status quo.

The problem here in America, as all logical people see it, is the guns! There are too many guns out in the streets. We have no system to prevent people like those on the FBI’s terrorist watch list or violent criminals, that should not be legally allowed to have guns, from buying them. As it stands today, weapons that we have designed for war are available to mentally ill people.

Last year, President Trump repealed an executive order signed by President Obama that had made it more difficult for some people with mental illness to buy guns. Trump, in his mad drive to overturn every decision made during Obama’s Presidency, decided that revoking this mandate would make him feel triumphant.

How do you feel now Mr. President? 17 innocent people died on Friday, February 14th. How many more will have to suffer before you find some compassion. Our children are dying! Can you please put an end to the availability of such destructive weapons. Ensure background checks and waiting periods for anyone who wants to purchase a gun. In some countries, a psychological evaluation takes place before purchasing a weapon. Let’s do something today!

We are not asking for the abolishment of the second amendment. We are asking for laws to protect our children. We are asking for action! Today!

The young people that have suffered this horrendous tragedy in Florida are going around our country begging to be protected. They are speaking for friends that no longer have a voice. How will these young people be able to recover? How will they be able to return to their school continue their education? Let this type of tragedy happen no more! Let this be the last time we hear of a school shooting! Students need to feel secure and safe! The hope that most of us have is that lawmakers finally come to a consensus and end these preventable killings. If only they listen to the voices that are echoing across the country this week, the cries of the fallen students and teachers, then maybe then things will change!

Fear Quiets Cambodian Political Speech Ahead of Senate Vote

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 12:27

A fourth national Senate election campaign is in full swing in Cambodia, with candidates fanning out to rural areas to drum up support among commune councilors, who will elect 62 senators Feb. 25. Normally in Cambodia, political campaigns like this would be an occasion for discussion and debate about the merits of different parties and policies;…


Why a citizenship question on the 2020 census is a bad idea

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 12:21

By Jennifer Van Hook, Liberal Arts Research Professor of Sociology and Demography, Pennsylvania State University. A naturalization ceremony, in December 2015. AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” In December 2017, the Department of Justice formally proposed adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. This question would ostensibly help…


Venezuelan opposition seeks free and fair vote from Maduro

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 12:04

Venezuela’s opposition announced Wednesday it would not participate in April 22 presidential elections without guarantees that it would be free and fair. It said doing so would lend “an appearance of legitimacy” to fraudulent polls designed to hand a second six-year term to unpopular President Nicolas Maduro. “Do not count on the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD),…


Catalan political prisoner art installation controversy in Madrid

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 11:00

An installation by a controversial Spanish artist which refers to Catalan separatist leaders as “political prisoners” was removed Wednesday from a major Madrid art fair at the request of the venue’s operator. The dispute over the work by Madrid-born artist Santiago Sierra, known for his provocative stunts, comes as tensions simmer between Spain’s central government in…


Battle over Pennsylvania congressional map set to escalate

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 10:00

PHILADELPHIA — Common Cause helped bring down Pennsylvania’s old congressional district map. Now, in a twist, the good government group may undo the new map that replaced it. Micah Sims, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, said his organization and the state NAACP are considering filing suit in federal court to challenge the new map imposed…


Transparency International says global graft fight at standstill

Democracy Chronicles - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 10:00

Governments are not doing enough in the global fight against graft, anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) said Wednesday as it presented its annual corruption perceptions index. Many nations have made no progress at all over the past six years, the group found. “More corruption correlates with less respect for civil liberties, for rule of law, for…


Lessons From the Teenage Leader of the Hong Kong Protests

Democracy Chronicles - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 16:05

Joshua Wong found out that he had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize the same way the rest of the world did: by scrolling through the news and stumbling across his name. Wong is used to making headlines. He was been billed as the mastermind of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement in 2014 when he was…


A look at the main charity supporting North Korean political defectors

Democracy Chronicles - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 15:58
Kim Yong-hwa founded the North Korean Refugees Human Rights Association of Korea in Seoul in 2005 [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

Seoul, South Korea – Around 31,000 North Koreans have defected into the South since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Almost 71 percent of those defectors are female, most in their 20s and 30s. Only a few take the most dangerous route through the Korean Demilitarized Zone that a North Korean soldier took late…


VIDEO: How Millennial Voters Will Reshape the Parties

Democracy Chronicles - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 14:44

The independent nonpartisan global affairs think tank Chicago Council on Global Affairs held a panel discussion on the impact of millennial demographic generation’s political biases on American democracy. The panel in the video below includes two members of the US Congress, one journalist and one representative from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. According to the published event description:

Millennials are now the most populous living generation in the United States, and have overtaken baby-boomers and Gen Xers in becoming the largest voting group. As the most sizeable demographic in the electoral system, their opinions and values in shaping future party policies and political institutions are more apparent than ever.

With increased demographic, political, technological, and global shifts to their core platforms, how will the Republican and Democratic parties engage millennials? And with two-thirds of youth fearful about America’s future according to the Harvard Public Opinion Project, how will the parties address millennial concerns and pressing issues on immigration, climate change, and terrorist threats?

The panel was moderated by Natasha Korecki, a senior reporter at Politico and author of Politico’s popular Illinois Playbook. About the panelists:

  • Bob Dold, Former Member, US House of Representatives (R-IL10)
  • Robin Kelly, Member, US House of Representatives (D-IL2)
  • Craig Kafura, Research Associate, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

For context, the event invite included links to some background reading material and related multimedia:

The panel discussion is about 60 minutes. Take a look:

High-profile Bahrain activist sentenced to 5 years for tweets

Democracy Chronicles - Wed, 02/21/2018 - 14:15

High-profile Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab was sentenced to a further five years in jail on Wednesday over tweets critical of the war in Yemen, a judicial source and human rights groups said. Rajab, a leading figure in 2011 protests against the Gulf state’s Sunni minority rulers, was already serving a two-year sentence handed down last July…


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