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Women and Political Participation in Africa (Part Two)

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 18:05

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See part one of this two part series here.

The last two weeks have been a rollercoaster as women issues hogging the headlines around the world. This is the second and final part of the two part series celebrating International Women’s Day held on 08 March. The theme of this year’s festivities was “Be bold for change”. As alluded to in my previous article, the theme goes beyond correcting injustices against women as result of violence, harassment at workplaces and celebrating the women who have left a distinctive footprint that will inspire others. It also entails the fogging ahead with the struggle for meaningful political participation which is far from secure worldwide.

Wilhelmina Scott Boyle, a third year student from Sierra Leone speaks at International Women’s Day in 1972 – link

The fight for maximum political emancipation should not be sugar coated around a quota system as used in over 30 countries worldwide. In Zimbabwe for example, 30 percent of parliamentary seats are being given to women without a direct mandate from the people.

While the quota system represents progress towards the solution, it is not a panacea to women political participation. Yet, achieving a gender balance in political participation and decision making can be achieved as internationally agreed at the Beijing Declaration and Platform for action. According to UN Women (2017) worldwide there are 4 parliaments with no women.

Women can take advantage of quota systems as a stepping stone towards the solution for instance through fostering better relations with the electorate through various platforms. With time, more and more women should be able to compete for political office against men and be able to win.

There are two narratives competing for attention with regards to maximum women’s political participation. These have for a long time been the missing part of the puzzle.

The first narrative was rightly put forward through a 2012 study by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) Global Summary of Women’s Organization conducted in 29 countries across the world, where women were surveyed. The conclusions centered on the following:

  1. Women’s development and progress being held back by the forces where “cultural beliefs/social attitudes/patriarchal mentality” is the number one obstructing advancement in women political participation.
  2. Physical violence against women at home and public places hinders women political participation.
  3. The centralized nature of political structures that favors men and the role that men take in most decision making processes limit women’s participation in governance issues.

The second narrative acknowledges the role of women being their own worst enemy. Overcoming attitudes associated with patriarchy and violence against women begins with the women themselves taking leading role and being confident in supporting female candidates during an election. With the world population having more women than men, it should be clear that with the right political environment, women should gain more public elections for government and parliament. This change should be supported by men to build peaceful societies free from masculinity induced attitudes and violence against women.

Africa is full of examples that can make women believe in endless possibilities. In West Africa, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became the first woman president in Africa in 2005, followed by Joyce Banda who took over as president of Malawi in 2012 for a short stint after the death in office of an elected president, Bingu wa Mutharika. Catherine Samba-Panza was the interim president of the Central African Republic from 2014-2016.  In 2015, Mauritius had its first elected female president, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, who was elected through a parliamentary vote.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf – link

According to UN Women (2017), as of January 2017, ten women were serving as Head of State and nine as Head of Government worldwide. There have been nine female prime ministers in Africa since 1993, including Luisa Diongo in Mozambique, who led for six years. Since 1975 there have been 12 female vice-presidents like Joyce Mujuru of Zimbabwe (sacked from the position in 2014 by President Robert Mugabe).

Vice-President Dr. Wandira Specioza Kazibwe served Uganda from 1994-2003. In Zambia there is Inonge Wina who became the country’s first female Vice-President in 2015.  In South Africa Deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka defied the odds and served from 2005-2008 whilst Baleka Mbete served from 2008-2009 under former president Thambo Mbeki. Vice-president Alice Nzomukunda, served as Burundi’s Vice-President from 2005-2006 whilst Marina Barampama, served as Burundi Vice-President between 2006-2007. At present there a number of female vice-presidents in Africa.

According to Inter-Parliamentary Union (2017), as of 01 January 2017 there were only 53 women presiding over one of the Houses of the 193 Parliaments worldwide, 77 of which are bicameral. Women therefore occupy only 19.1 percent of the total number of 278 posts of Presiding Officers of Parliament or of one of its Houses. There are one fifth female speakers of house in either one house or both in African parliaments.

Women are also taking over key ministerial positions in defense, finance and foreign affairs which were a preserve for men a decade or two ago. Today South Africa has women defense minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula, while another woman Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala serves as Nigeria’s finance minister.

Women are similarly visible in regional bodies, holding 50 percent of the African Union parliamentary seats. Gertrude Mongella served as the first president of the Pan African Parliament and in July 2012-March 2017, South Africa’s Nkosazana-Zuma took over the leadership of the African Union Commission after having served as South Africa’s health minister during the late President Nelson Mandela era and International Cooperation (foreign affairs minister) for current President Jacob Zuma’s government.

Recently, the ruling South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) resolved to make her their preferred Presidential candidate for the party for the much anticipated ANC elective congress due later this year (note that if she wins this post she eventually qualify to become Head of State after 2019 general elections through parliamentary vote).

These patterns are also evident in the judiciary where for example in Zimbabwe Justice Rita Makarau became first female judge president in 2005 before being elevated to the supreme court and constitutional court in 2010. Zambia’s Chief Justice Irene Chirwa Mambilima is a women, another evidence of success based on commitment and hard work. With Fatou Bensouda of Gambia holding to the post of chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), the sky is absolutely not the limit. Five judges ICC are African women.

On another note, Zimbabwe like other progressive nations can continue to reserve positions for women in government in accordance with the SADC 50 percent quota system at independent commissions such as the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.  Zimbabwe’s Constitution in section 320 (4) states that the commission’s chairperson and deputy must be of different sex.

This is the time for women to continue to “be for change” that they want.

Google to Provide Cybersecurity Protection For Elections

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 17:21

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Google is launching an effort to provide cybersecurity support to election organizations and civic groups

Google and its sister company Jigsaw are launching an effort to provide cybersecurity support to election organizations and civic groups, according to a report from Reuters. The two companies are offering a “Protect Your Election” package for free to low-budget operations to help them fend off cyber attacks and insure the integrity of the electoral process.…

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How Strength in Battleground States Gave Trump the Win

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 17:16

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A new report indicated the Trump campaign’s courting of battleground states helped him secure the Oval Office

President Donald Trump spent the final leg of his 2016 campaign visiting a bevy of towns and cities, sometimes several in the same day, making his case to the American people in battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. A new report published Thursday indicated the Trump campaign’s courting of those critical regions helped him secure…

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Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Ongoing Georgia Voter Purge

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 17:08

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A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that accused state of illegally bumping Georgia voters off the state’s rolls

ATLANTA — A federal judge in Atlanta late Friday dismissed a lawsuit that had accused Secretary of State Brian Kemp of illegally bumping Georgia voters off the state’s rolls ahead of the 2016 presidential election. In the 21-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. said the state had taken a “reasonable and nondiscriminatory” approach…

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Dems Launch New Group to Lead Redistricting Court Battles

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 17:00

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New organization Protect Voters Now! wants to direct funds to court challenges already in place

Democrats continue to fight Republican-led redistricting efforts, and a new group, Protect Voters Now! wants to direct funds to court challenges already in place, according to a Tuesday press release. The new group hopes to provide better funding and assistance to redistricting challenges currently underway in Michigan, New Hampshire, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico. “(Protect…

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Hong Kong Democrats Lament Beijing’s Interference in Leadership Bid

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 16:54

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Pro-democracy campaigners publicly criticized what they see as the increasing influence of Beijing

Hong Kong (dpa) – Pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong on Tuesday publicly criticized what they see as the increasing influence of Beijing in its electoral affairs ahead of the election of Hong Kong’s leader on Sunday. “The Beijing liaison office blatantly interferes in what is supposed to be a honest and open election,” former Hong Kong…

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New Study Finds Internet Use May Decrease Political Polarization

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 16:43

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Study finds people who use the internet more often are less likely to be politically divided

People who use the internet more often are less likely to be politically divided, contradicting the popular belief that the web definitively perpetuates polarization, according to a new study. Trying to decipher what is exactly causing the apparent growing schism in contemporary politics, researchers at Stanford University and Brown University conducted the study titled “Is the…

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Changing Washington DC Primary Date to Comply With Federal Law

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 16:09

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Lawmakers pushing to change the date of the city’s 2018 primary election to comply with federal laws

D.C. lawmakers are pushing to change the date of the city’s 2018 primary election to comply with federal election laws. Council member Charles Allen, who chairs the committee that oversees the D.C. Board of Elections, introduced Tuesday a bill that would move up the District’s primary election date from September to June starting next year. The…

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Tax Lobbyists Working Overtime to Keep System Complex

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 16:01

Tax lobbyists preparers spend in lobbying efforts for the antiquated methods of tax filing | Democracy, elections and voting at Democracy Chronicles

In the era of big data, you would think that the process of filing your taxes with the IRS would be simple, quick, and easy. But according to the IRS, the average person spends 8-hours and $120 on filing their tax returns. This process isn’t just inefficient for the taxpaying public, but for the government as…

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“Othering” and Islam in Australia

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 15:44

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By Monica Angelina Snowball and David Anderson

Australia is a nation similar to the U.S. in many respects; British colonized, sort of English speaking, of comparable geographic size and immigrant makeup. Also similar: rising xenophobia and the “othering” of Muslims. Australia’s Islamaphobia is as controversial as it is in US.

A recent Q&A episode on the Australian Broadcasting Channel featured a young Muslim activist/engineer, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, arguing the US immigration ban and feminism in Islam, went head to head with far-right State Senator Jacqui Lambie. The debate further electrified the issue in Australia.

In the now viral debate, Ms. Abdel-Magied asserted that policies which bar foreigners of a certain faith or nationality are acts of prejudice. She spoke about the judgments and misconceptions made by Australians due to a lack of understanding of Islam, and explained that culture is very separate from religion.

President Trump’s now famous “Muslim Ban” is also a contentious issue in Australia, where Islamophobia has been gaining traction for many years. The ban, subsequently struck down in the US by the Federal 9th Circuit Court, (now resurrected) was met with a positive reception in Australia, but was divisive between Muslims and many non-Muslims. The US court held “individuals must be free from discrimination” – a hard concept to argue against.

Senator Lambie backed Trump, saying he had every right to bar nationalities to keep America safer, just before raising her voice at Abdel Magied, telling her to “Stop playing the victim” and “Your ban got lifted, get over it.” It has subsequently been re-introduced in a slightly diluted form.

The lively discussion brings our attention to human rights and the freedom of religion in Australia. The latter right is contained in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty Australia ratified in 1980. Article 18 states that everyone has the freedom to choose their religious belief – or none – and practice accordingly. Furthermore, the treaty emphasizes that any discrimination hardened into law, like immigration law, officially hinders a sense of community and damages that right.

Ms Abdel-Magied, an immigrant who came to Australia as a child, compares her religion to other religions to elaborate why it is the most feminist of all. However, it is a basic human right to have the freedom to choose any religion without discrimination. Ms. Abdel Magied and fellow Muslims in Australia or the United States may not believe this right is currently protected or respected.

Politicians like Ms. Lambie argue that banning Muslims, and the much less numerous subset of believers in Sharia Law, will protect Australians from “terrorism”. Such an argument deserves an analysis of the causality of terrorism by the numbers. Does terrorism have more to do with the religion, or is it more of a cultural causation stemming from certain geographic regions?

We cannot deny the existence of Islamist attacks, but we need to understand that “terrorist” attacks are mostly from non-Muslims. According to the FBI, 94% of terrorist attacks carried out in the United States from 1980 to 2005 were by non-Muslims, a fact buttressed by the Canadian intelligence/research institution Global Research in a more recent article entitled “Non-Muslims carried out more than 90% of all terrorist attacks in the US.” This is not the impression we get from our media. Global Research further states that in Europe a similar dynamic occurs with over one thousand terrorist attacks in the past five years: less than 2% committed by Muslims.

Islamophobic “Othering” is very real in Australia. Othering relies on clichés and stereotypes such as hostility to non-Muslim culture, sexism, and being prone to violent behavior which is no way to build a community that has traditionally welcomed immigrants. It’s particularly hypocritical in countries populated by diverse immigrants and their descendants such as Australia and the US. Where Islam is seen as being oppressive to women, it is frequently the fault of culture rather than religion. Culture and religion are separate, as stated by Ms. Abdel Magied in the fiery debate.

Mr. Rhiyaad Kahn, formerly of the UN Association in Western Australia, said in an interview: “There is a section in the Quran titled Women and this was created because women were standing up for their rights during the Pagan period.” He goes on to state that the Quran explores inheritance rights, divorce, alimony, the details of a husband’s obligations to financially maintain his wife, and her sexual gratification. This chapter was created to enforce these rights for women and similar rights seem to be non-existent in other religious texts during this period of time. He further argues that Muslims do not wish to compare texts, but feel the need to do so in order to achieve equality.

Along with being similar societies with all the good; strong rule of law, secularism, and equality, the dark forces of mistaking religion for geographic culture, Islamophobia, and “othering” continue to divide and lessen the common goals of both nations.

Monica Angelina Snowball, L.L.B. (Perth, W.A.) and David Anderson, J.D., (N.Y.C.) are Australian and Australian-American lawyers/writers. They write on legal and political issues and have practiced human rights, gender, international, and criminal defense law in their respective cities.

Photos From a Muslim Ban Protest in Union Square

Wed, 03/22/2017 - 15:28

#RefuseFascism.org sign at Union Square

A crowd of around 40 or so gathered at Union Square park on Thursday with Noche Diaz of the NYC Revolution Club speaking about the public being “passive while they implement attacks all around the world. This is a Fascist regime and it must be driven out”, Noche Diaz said. “There are millions of people who do not want to live in a fascist America. Not to rely on a Savior above but to rely on ourselves taking to the streets confronting what we need to confront”. “In the name of Humanity, they’ve already signed off on drilling in the earth that can poison the water and ruin the environment.

Noche Diaz wearing NO! Drive Out Trump/Pence stickers

Noche Diaz spoke at Union Square on Thursday. “IN the first 50 days of the Trump/Pence regime it can already be said, that First they came for the Muslims and then they came for immigrants, then they went after transgender people and women and on and on. WE CANNOT BE THE GOOD GERMANS WHO SAT BY AS HITLER CONSOLIDATED POWER”.

Omar Abouelkhair with Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights

Omar Abouelkhair with Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights spoke about the “overthrow of the Egyptian government and the thousands who came into the streets and the thousands who were killed in the process. Since then there has been a continuous deterioration of basic rights in Egypt.

Mass executions, political trials, mass trials, extrajudicial executions, torture are just some of the things that are happening in Egypt ever since then. He said “I’ve actually attended these protests and was shot by security forces at one of these protests. I know the process and what it takes. WE ARE NO STRANGERS TO CENSORSHIP, WE ARE NO STRANGERS TO TYRANNY, WE ARE NOT STRANGERS TO FASCISM. What message does it send to our fellow Mexican Americans that the President of the United States tells them that we need to build a wall to keep them out, and Muslim Americans, women?”

Omar then spoke about the recent shootings of a man from India and of those in a mosque in Canada by a Trump supporter killing 6 worshippers, mosques lit on fire and Jewish cemeteries being vandalized.

PROTEST!
NO BAN! NO WALL!
IN THE NAME OF HUMANITY, WE REFUSE TO ACCEPT A FASCIST AMERICA!
RESIST THE TRUMP/PENCE MUSLIM BAN 2.0

It is very good that this outrageous ban will not go into effect, at least on March 16. But this ban is still part of Trump’s fascist program, targeting Muslims and whipping up a xenophobic fascist population. Trump has made clear repeatedly that he will not back down, that he will continue to go forward with his fascist ban. He’s heaped derision on the courts repeatedly. People of all nationalities must resist to ensure this ban is permanently blocked, and we must connect this to the fight to drive this fascist regime out!

No Ban! No Wall! No Raids, Roundups or Deportations!

No Human Being Is Illegal! Drive Out ICE! Drive Out the Trump/Pence Fascist Regime!

IN THE NAME OF HUMANITY, WE REFUSE TO ACCEPT A FASCIST AMERICA!

Two Needed Changes to Democracy in the US and the UK

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 17:48

Two of the most powerful nations on Earth; the United States and the United Kingdom have both recently experienced political earthquakes that have drastically changed what is considered the norm in those two countries. The United States has President Trump at the helm and the United Kingdom has voted to the leave the European Union. Or did they? Did the United States vote for Trump and did the United Kingdom really vote to leave the European Union? Take a closer look at both events and we find that things are not truly as they seem. By a margin of around 2.8 million votes, Hillary Clinton gained more votes than Donald Trump. The reason Trump ‘won’ is because in America the President is elected by an Electoral College. If we look at the United Kingdom we find that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain within the European Union. Clearly things are not as they first appear.

In America

We’ll start with the ‘election’ of Trump. Countless reasons could be listed about why Trump as President is dangerous and truly terrifying but we’re going to focus on the mechanism that got him to being President in the first place; the Electoral College.

For a contemporary democracy, the method of an Electoral College is baffling. It is outdated and undemocratic. It may have made sense in the 18th century when the US constitution was formulated but in modern politics it is out of place. If the US wants to present itself as the beacon of modern politics and society then it needs to move to a system whereby the President is elected.

Twice in the past 20 years a President has been elected to office despite losing the popular vote, this is not good enough. America needs to abolish the Electoral College and have the president voted into office based solely on the result of the popular vote. Having a small number of electors decide who becomes President is a pretty shoddy way of deciding who becomes Head of State.

In the UK

Now for the United Kingdom and its foibles.

Much is said in the media about how the UK has decided that is going to leave the EU. This really is not the case.

The UK is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Only two of those countries, England and Wales, voted to leave the EU. Ergo the UK did not vote to leave the EU. The referendum in the UK on leaving the EU was not conducted in a suitable manner and the mechanics of it were very democratic.

A sample of the ballot paper which voters used at the 2016 EU referendum.

Having one referendum across the whole of the UK leaves other smaller regions with an imbalance of power with voters in England who comprise around 85% of the UK population and electorate. This means that the possibility exists for everybody in the rest of the UK voting one way and England voting another and purely because England has more people, the decision goes to England.

The result of the referendum was to reveal a divide in the UK; England and Wales voting one way and Scotland and Northern Ireland voting the other way. This has now lead to an anti-Union majority in the Northern Ireland Assembly for the first time and the Scottish Government calling for a second referendum on independence.

The Union itself is potentially at stake.

What is needed in the modern world is for radical changes in democracy. Within the United Kingdom, any referendum that doesn’t give each country within it an equal say is a mistake. One referendum in each country is required. Within the United States, the election for President needs to be decided solely by whoever receives the most votes. Serious and extensive political reform is needed in both the UK and the US. These are two common sense reforms that can spark radical change. If the UK and the US want to be at the forefront of global democracy, they both need to start by having the proper democratic mechanisms in place.

Electric Utility Lobbyists Push to Roll Back Environmental Protections

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 13:23

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The heads of electric utilities are showing up in Washington, D.C. to raise money for the lobbying effort

This week, as President Trump reportedly prepares to begin unwinding the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, and as Congressional Republicans continue their systematic dismantling of environmental protections, the heads of electric utilities are showing up in Washington, D.C. to raise money for the GOP leadership. On Tuesday night (March 14), the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the major…

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Measuring White House Transparency on Sunshine Week

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 13:19

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This week is Sunshine Week, an annual marking of the importance of public access to information

Steve Herman became VOA’s White House bureau chief in March after spending 25 years as a foreign correspondent. His previous post required Herman to travel often throughout the world. Now he reports from a small booth on the world’s biggest political stories. Here are his initial impressions of day-to-day work as a White House correspondent. The…

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The following editorial appeared in The News & Observer on Tuesday, March 14: ——— This week, despite the weather, is Sunshine Week, an annual marking of the importance of public access to information. It emphasizes not just the media’s access, but the right of ordinary people to get the government information they want for purposes of…

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Why is China Banning Winnie The Pooh?

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 13:06

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Winnie the Pooh, James and the Giant Peach and Peppa Pig among children’s books banned in China

The Chinese Communist Party has said it will cut the number of foreign picture books featuring subversive ideology, and have removed Winnie the Pooh along with James and the Giant Peach and Peppa Pig. Taobao, China’s online shopping service that’s similar to Amazon and owned by AliBaba, announced on Friday it will ban the number of…

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Meet the NJ Libertarian Party’s Candidate For Governor

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 12:57

Peter Rohrman – link

TRENTON — New Jersey’s Libertarian Party has nominated Peter Rohrman, a Marine veteran from Bergen County, to run in this year’s race to succeed Chris Christie as the Garden State’s governor. Rohrman, 47, of Ramsey, has never held elected office. He ran an unsuccessful campaign for Bergen County freeholder in 2015. Rohrman works for an operations…

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African Governments Increasingly Successful at Reigning in Dictators

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 18:41

From left to right: Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi – link

Leaders used to getting their way are now losing to NGOs, opposition parties and ordinary citizens

It’s not the International Criminal Court (ICC) that should worry African governments if events are anything to go by. Over and again, leaders used to getting their way have lost to NGOs, opposition parties and ordinary citizens who approached the local bench. This month, South Africa reversed its decision to leave the ICC after a challenge…

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Big Money Influence on Modern Democracy is the Historical Norm

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 18:33

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The unwritten principle of tacit reciprocity between big business and political elites is sealed

Bill and Hillary Clinton are a talented couple, cerebral and accomplished. Though seemingly removed from active politics, their potential to earn as recognisable public figures and intellectuals is still growing. During the recently concluded presidential campaign, Goldman Sachs paid a sizeable amount to Hillary Clinton not because she was corrupt or dribbling for dough but that’s…

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Facebook Releases Town Hall App Connecting You With Government

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 18:22

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Facebook adds Town Hall feature to encourage users to get more involved in local government

As part of a plan to improve Facebook, laid out by CEO Mark Zuckerberg last month, the app has added a “Town Hall” feature to encourage users to get more involved in local government and politics. The addition is now live and accessible on the app and in a web browser. Read: Facebook Stories: Launch Of…

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Supreme Court Hopeful Gorsuch and Native American Sovereignty

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 18:14

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Gorsuch’s record of supporting Native American sovereignty could play a big role in his confirmation

Republican lawmakers from western states said Thursday that Judge Neil Gorsuch’s record of supporting the sovereignty of tribal nations could play a big role in winning Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court. Emerging from a meeting at the White House with tribal leaders, Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Rep. Tom…

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