Category Archives: Governance

Map of the day: Europe’s multilingual children


Way back in our college days, one of our profs posed a series of questions:

What adjective do you use to describe a person who speaks three languages?

Several voices replied, correctly, Trilingual?

What do you call a person who speaks two languages?

More voices responded, Bilingual.

And then the kicker:

What do you call a person who speaks just one language?

Before we could respond, he provided the answer:

An American.

Elsewhere, things are different:

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From Eurostat:

In 2014, more than 18 million primary school pupils (or 84% of all the pupils at this level) in the European Union (EU) were studying at least one foreign language, including nearly 1 million (around 5%) studying two foreign languages or more. At primary level, English was by far the most popular language, studied by over 17 million pupils.

The dominance of English is confirmed at the lower secondary level (pupils aged around 11-15 depending on the national educational system) with over 17 million pupils in the EU learning English as a foreign language (97% of all the pupils at this level) in 2014. French (5 million or 34% of the relevant population) came second, followed by German (3 million or 23%), Spanish (2 million or 13%), Russian (0.5 million or 3%) and Italian (0.2 million or 1%).

On the occasion of the European Day of Languages, celebrated each year on 26 September, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, publishes data on language learning at school. Currently there are 24 official languages recognised within the EU. In addition there are regional languages, minority languages, and languages spoken by migrant populations. It should also be noted that several EU Member States have more than one official language.

While the United Kingdom isn’t listed in the Eurostat figures, thanks to the U.K.’s notorious Brexit, learning a second language is now compulsory in primary schools in Old Blighty.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., to quote from a 10 May 2015 report in the Atlantic,   Less than 1 percent of American adults today are proficient in a foreign language that they studied in a U.S. classroom.

Bloodshed in Mexico: Corruption spirals onward


Mexico is descending into a new abyss of violence, and it’s government officials who bear the brunt of the blame as the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto plumbs a new depth of unpopularity.

The latest polling numbers given the Mexican leader a favorability rating of 26 percent, the lowest number for any Mexican president in more than two decades.

One of the leading reasons for the presidential plunge is the nation’s growing level of violence, with the latest victims including both journalists and priests.

Real blood on the newsroom floor

The press has fared poorly under Peña, with an ever-growing number of journalists slain, and politicians from Peña’s party have been linked to some of the slaying.

From teleSUR English:

At least 26 journalists have been killed since President Enrique Peña Nieto took office, including two more last week.

Aurelio Campos, editor at the daily “El Grafico,” based in the central state of Puebla, and Agustin Pavia, host at the southern Oaxacan community radio station “Tu Un Nuu Savi,” were killed just two days apart in unrelated incidents.

“Mexico is in the process of turning into a cemetery for journalists,” said Emmanuel Colombié, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Latin America desk. “The local and national authorities must urgently overhaul the alert and protection mechanisms for journalists and must give the police and judicial authorities the resources they need to quickly and systematically identify those behind these murders.”

Campos previously reported to local authorities that he had been the victim of intimidation. However, police determined that he was killed by “an angry colleague,” who they have not yet identified. He was fatally shot while driving his car on Sept. 14.

Two days later Pavia was also shot dead while driving. Authorities are still investigating the motive for the crime, and no one has been arrested.

A politician linked to press killings under fire

A second story from teleSUR English looks at one of those government officials linked to press murders:

Mexico’s Attorney General confirmed Thursday the launch of a probe against outgoing Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte for embezzlement and related crimes.

Duarte is infamous in Mexico because 17 journalists have been killed or disappeared since he took office, although none of these crimes form part of the investigation against him. Duarte belongs to the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party – known by its acronym, PRI – and is a close ally to President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Prosecutors said Duarte must present valid documentation to confirm that his expenditures of nearly US$721,000 were for governmental and not personal use.

The outgoing governor will end his mandate in December, leaving Veracruz with a public debt of US$583 million, according to Mexico’s finance ministry.

Mexican authorities launched a probe in July into the potentially improper use of taxpayer money. So far, at least 69 relatives, friends and associates of Duarte have been investigated. That investigation has not concluded.

Duarte has been linked to the killing of journalist Ruben Espinosa and activist Nadia Vera, both of whom accused him of threatening them and told friends that if they were killed, the governor would be responsible.

In addition to journalists, women have also been subjected to state violence on Duarte’s watch. According to official figures, a total of 500 women have been killed since his swearing-in in 2010.

Priests slain, another abducted

Priests have also been favorite targets of violence, and the Roman Catholic Church is asking for help in finding one of the latest victims:

From TheNewsMX:

Roman Catholic Church officials pleaded on Thursday for the life of a priest who was kidnapped from his parish residence one day after two other priests were abducted and killed in another part of Mexico.

The Archdiocese of Morelia said priest José Alfredo Lopez Guillén was abducted Monday from his parish residence in the rural town of Janamuato, in the western state of Michoacan. The archdiocese said he was kidnapped after he was robbed.

“We plead that the life and physical integrity of the priest be respected,” the archdiocese said.

In a video statement, Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda, head of the Morelia archdiocese, said, “After sharing the enormous pain of the death of two young priests in the diocese of Papantla, Veracruz, we are now suffering our own anguish with the disappearance of one of our priests.”

Two priests were kidnapped Sunday in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, and their bullet-ridden bodies were found on a roadside the next day.

Police sex crimes probed

From the New York Times comes yet another story about official violence:

International human rights officials are demanding an investigation into the brutal sexual assaults of 11 Mexican women during protests a decade ago — an inquiry that would take aim at President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was the governor in charge at the time of the attacks.

The demand is part of a multiyear examination by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights into abuses during a 2006 crackdown ordered by Mr. Peña Nieto on San Salvador Atenco, a town in Mexico State where demonstrators had taken over the central square. During the operations, which left two dead, more than 40 women were violently detained by the police, packed onto buses and sent to jail several hours away.

The case was brought by 11 women to the international commission, which found that the police tortured them sexually. The women — a mix of merchants, students and activists — were raped, beaten, penetrated with metal objects, robbed and humiliated, made to sing aloud to entertain the police. One was forced to perform oral sex on multiple officers. After the women were imprisoned, days passed before they were given proper medical examinations, the commission found.

>snip<

The commission delivered its findings last week to the Inter-American Court, an independent judiciary with legal authority over Mexico. If the court agrees with the commission, it can order Mexico to broaden its current inquiry into the case, a requirement that could force the state to investigate its own president.

The U.N. backs Ayotzinapa parents

Jan Jarab, representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, meets with Aytozinapa parents. Via Alternative Economics'

Jan Jarab, representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, meets with Aytozinapa parents. Via Alternative Economics.

The most notorious incident of violence in recent years in Mexico happened two years ago this coming Monday when 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, vanished after their abduction from the town of Iguala after a violent assault by police and drug cartel gunmen [previously].

Parents of the missing students have maintained protests and vigils ever since, often met with more violence from police as they demand real answers from a seemingly indifferent government.

And now the United Nations is taking their side.

From the news agency EFE:

The representative in Mexico of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed solidarity here Wednesday with the parents of 43 teacher trainees who went missing two years ago in the southern state of Guerrero.

After a meeting with the mothers and fathers of students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher Training College in Ayotzinapa who disappeared on Sept. 26, 2014, in the nearby city of Iguala, Jan Jarab said he supported their efforts to seek the truth and ensure these crimes are not repeated.

“We need to overcome this climate of impunity,” Jarab said in reference to the more than 27,000 people who have gone missing in Mexico over the past decade, many of whom, according to international rights groups, were victims of enforced disappearances, crimes in which state officials – or people acting with state consent – grabbed people off the street or from their homes and then refused to say where they were.

During the closed-door meeting at the school, Jarab hailed the fact that Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office was opening new lines of investigation.

He also said a special monitoring mechanism dictated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR, would be installed soon to ensure the Mexican government is held accountable for its probe.

If Donald Trump wants to keep Mexican killers and rapists out of the U.S., maybe he should start with government officials.

Press fails to cover policy issues in election stories


The decline of the American press is nowhere more evident than in its coverage of the 2016 presidential race.

Rather than examine the policies and substantial issues embodied by each of the candidates, the press has has focused on the personalities of the major party contenders, starting with the primary campaigns and continuing after the nominations were declared at the national conventions.

Admittedly, the contrasting personalities of the two contenders has never been greater — the flamboyant huckster and the wooden machine politician — but Americans are given little notion of what the candidates represent and what they actually stand for.

And now a series of studies from Harvard University’s Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, confirms the worst.

He writes about his findings for The Conversation, an independent open source academic journal:

Years ago, when I first started teaching and was at Syracuse University, one of my students ran for student body president on the tongue-in-cheek platform “Issues are Tissues, without a T.”

He was dismissing out of hand anything that he, or his opponents, might propose to do in office, noting that student body presidents have so little power as to make their platforms disposable.

Sadly, the news media appears to have taken a similar outlook in their coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. The stakes in the election are high. Key decisions on foreign and domestic policy will be affected by the election’s outcome, as will a host of other issues, including the appointment of the newest Supreme Court justice. Yet, journalists have paid scant attention to the candidates’ platforms.

That conclusion is based on three reports on the news media’s coverage of the 2016 campaign that I have written for the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where I hold a faculty position.

The third report was released today and it covers the month-long period from the week before the Republican National Convention to the week after the Democratic National Convention.

The first report analyzed coverage during the whole of the year 2015 – the so-called invisible primary period that precedes the first actual contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The second report spanned the period of the primaries and caucuses.

10 major outlets studied

Each report was based on a detailed content analysis of the presidential election coverage on five television networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC) and in five leading newspapers (Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and USA Today).The analysis indicates that substantive policy issues have received only a small amount of attention so far in the 2016 election coverage. To be sure, “the wall” has been in and out of the news since Donald Trump vowed to build it. Other issues like ISIS and free trade have popped up here or there as well. But in the overall context of election coverage, issues have played second fiddle. They were at the forefront in the halls of the national conventions but not in the forefront of convention-period news coverage. Not a single policy proposal accounted for even 1 percent of Hillary Clinton’s convention-period coverage and, collectively, her policy stands accounted for a mere 4 percent of it.

Trump’s policies got more attention, but not until after the Democratic convention, when he made headlines several days running for his testy exchange with the parents of a slain Muslim U.S. soldier.

Continue reading

Headlines of the day II: Philippine body count grows


First, from Deutche Welle:

Philippines President to extend violent war on drugs for six more months

  • Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said his country’s drug problem was far worse than he anticipated when taking office. Around 3,500 suspected dealers and traffickers have been killed in the last 10 weeks.

And this from the Japan Times:

British baron’s daughter dies in Philippine drug war

  • A daughter of the late British baron Lord Moynihan has been killed in the Philippines where the government is waging a deadly war on drugs, police said Monday.
  • Maria Aurora Moynihan, 45, was shot by unknown attackers who left her by the side of a Manila street on Sept. 10, authorities said.
  • Her killers left a cardboard sign accusing Moynihan of being a “drug pusher for celebrities,” Chief Inspector Tito Jay Cuden said.

Map of the day: Far-Right populism in Europe


From Business Insider, a map of countries where far-Right populist parties have made significant gains in the last two years:

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And from RT, a report on another major gain for Germany’s most prominent anti-immigrant populist party:

Anti-migrant AfD makes Berlin breakthrough, as Merkel’s CDU slumps

Program notes:

Germany’s anti-Islamization and Eurosceptic AfD entered its tenth state assembly, as voters deserted the mainstream parties in the nation’s capital. But a left-leaning coalition is likely to take control of the city.

From Deutsche Welle, Germany’s prime minister reacts to the Berlin vote:

In her first news conference after her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) recorded its worst-ever showing in a Berlin election, Merkel took partial responsibility for that defeat while again blaming opposition to her refugee policies on communication shortcomings.

“I’m the party chairwoman, and I’m not going to duck responsibility,” Merkel told reporters. “If one of the reasons for the CDU’s poor showing is that the direction, goal and conviction behind our refugee policy haven’t been explained well enough, I’ll endeavor to rectify that.”

Merkel admitted that some Germans may have objected to her declaration, “We’ll get it done,” when faced with hundreds of thousands of refugees and said it wasn’t meant to imply that it would be easy to deal with the influx. She also said Germany lacked sufficient practice integrating immigrants.

“It can’t be done quickly, among other things because we didn’t do everything correctly in past years,” Merkel said. “We weren’t exactly world champions in integration, and we waited too long before we addressed the refugee issue. We have to get better — I do as well.”

Merkel said Germany had placed too much faith in agreements to share refugees among European nations.

Peña plans massive Mexican education budget cuts


Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, apostle of Bushist bneoliberal educational “reform,” will make drastic cuts in the national education buget, reports teleSUR English:

The administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto plans to deepen contested education reforms, by cutting spending for facilities improvements, equipment access, and teacher training, the Mexican newspaper La Jornada reported Sunday.

The Mexican government proposes federal-level cutbacks in 19 out of 23 programs for children and youths next year,

According to data from Mexico’s Center for Economic and Budget Research, also known as CIEP, spending earmarked for education in the 2017 budget is set to fall by 4.2 percent. Total educational spending represents 14 percent of the federal budget and 3.3 percent of GDP, which represents a reduction in educational investment historically. According to World Bank statistics, Mexico dedicated 5.1 percent of GDP to education in 2011, which was, at that time, more than the worldwide average of 4.53 percent of GDP.

According to numbers reported by La Jornada, some areas will be hit harder than others. Funding for the Education Reform Program is set to plunge by nearly 72 percent, while the Program for Professional Development for Teachers.

Other programs on the chopping block include initiatives aimed at bridging the digital divide, improving early childhood education, and developing infrastructure in the education system, among others, La Jornada reported.

Peña’s move is certain to spark more unrest among his country’s increasingly militant teachers.

New Politics reported Sunday on the factors driving the increasingly militant teachers to take to Mexico’s streets, actions all too often met with deadly gunfire:

Mexico’s dissident teachers have been engaged in a strike against the Education Reform Law since May 16 of this year–four months! Their strikes of tens of thousands, led by the National Coordinating Committee (la CNTE), a caucus within the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE), have also engaged in protest marches, the blocking of highways and railroads, the commandeering of government vehicles, and the occupation of government buildings.

The government has responded by docking teachers’ pay, firing them, sending the police to beat them, and issuing warrants and arresting teacher leaders. One can only call what has gone on in Chiapas and Oaxaca and to a lesser extent in Guerrero and Michoacán class war.

Now there also appear to be death squads carrying out executions of teachers and their allies. So far at least three assassinations have taken place: a teacher, a parent, and a lawyer for the union. This is an ominous and very dangerous escalation of political violence.

  • One teacher, Jorge Vela Díaz, was shot and killed and his wife Lorena Antonio Sánchez, was wounded on Sept. 14 when two armed men men on motorcycles attacked them at a public school in the town of Ocotlán, Morelos. Both were teachers and members of Local 22 of the Mexican Teachers Union (el SNTE) of Oaxaca.
  • At the same time, another man, 19 year old Eder Zuriel Gonzen Mosqueda, a parent, was shot and killed in front of the “Juan Enrique Pestalozzi” primary school in San Juan Bautista Textepec, near the border of Veracruz. His relationship to the union is unknown, but the fact that he was shot in front of a school suggests this is related to the union.
  •  On Sept. 15, Agustín Pavia Pavia, a founder and leader of the MORENA party and  defender of the teachers movement in Oaxaca was shot and killed in front of his house in Oaxaca City, the state capital. He was the fifth member of the Oaxaca MORENA party to be assassinated in 2016; no one has been charged with any of the deaths.

Chart of the day: India more assertive under Modi


From the Pew Research Center, new evidence that India is growing more assertive and militaristic under Right wing Hindu populist Prime Minister Narendra Modi:

Microsoft Word - Pew Research Center India Report FINAL Septembe