Gun Crime

President Barack Obama has stated that he is “determined” to tackle the issue of gun crime and prevent any further violence across America, according to the vice-president Joe Biden. By using his executive orders Obama could amend gun policy which proposes a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. This, for many Americans, is highly controversial as he is seen to be taking the constitution into his own hands with little negotiation or consultation.

The calls for greater gun control cam about after the horrific shootings in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Aurora where a number of people died and had been injured. However, despite these shooting, gun control is a very polarising (dividing) issue in America and in Congress, with many believing it would be absurd to change the constitution and the gun lobby even declaring “more guns, less crime”. Yet Biden has told the nation that Obama will force changes and take action independently on the issue if need be, and will be the first thing on the agenda after inauguration day later this month – does this seem democratic to you?

One of the largest outcries, if amendments must be made, is for there to be follow-up checks for people with handgun licences, to make sure they are still qualified to own their weapon, and longer sentences for gun crimes. Furthermore, New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie, called on policy-makers to examine the US mental health system and broaden access to drug treatment, as well as to examine the impact of violent video games.

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) continue to stick to their hard-line belief that guns are good and benefit society. In the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, the NRA advocated for armed guards at every US school whilst also making it a plausible idea that teachers were armed too.

Should there be amendments to the laws on guns and gun usage?

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Should The UK Hold EU Referendum? Obama Is Worried…

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been facing considerable pressure to hold a referendum on the UK’s position in Europe. He has stated the Conservatives would offer “real change” and “real choice” on this issue. Cameron told the nation that he wants to remain part of Europe but there is a strong need to redefine their relationship – especially with recent moves towards further integration by countries using the single currency (the Euro).

However, the Obama administration has expressed a lot of concern about the potential impacts of holding this referendum and the UK’s future relationship with the EU. This stance was supported by a senior official in the US Senate Department, Philip Gordon, who declared that a “strong British voice within the EU” is in the interest of the American people. He went on to say that he “welcomes an outward-looking EU with Britain in it.” with fear that a referendum would turn the UK “inwards”

There is strong concern that internal debate and referendums within the EU will create a disunited union. A disunited union could ultimately create a political mess, both for the UK and the USA. This is David Cameron’s view on the subject (watch if you want to know the debate in more depth!):

What are your thoughts on the subject?

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Swearing In Day Of Hugo Chavez In Venezuela

In a previous post we talked about the possibility of Hugo Chavez being unable to take office for his next term due to being treated for a lung infection. There had been a lot of opposition from those who though it was undemocratic that Diosado Cabello could lead Venezuela without public consent. Fortunately for them it has been declared legal to postpone Chavez’s inauguration, thus extending his mandate whilst he recovers.

The President of the Supreme Court, Luisa Estella Morales, said today that it would be “absurd” if the people of Venezuela did not declare Chavez’s illness as an authorised absence. She agreed that the oath to take office in the new term should be delayed to a later day than 10th January (the original inauguration day).

chavez

The result of this was to enable the people currently in office in Venezuela to continue until Chavez has recovered. Those who oppose Chavez, as stated in a previous post, would like Chavez’s powers temporarily removed whilst he recovers, allowing Diosdado to take temporary power, but they do not want Vice-President Nicolas Maduro to take temporary power.

What are your thought on the delay of Chavez’s inauguration, and is this constitutional?

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Plebgate

What is the plebgate scandal?

In the UK, Plebgate is a scandal that arose in September 2012 after the ex-Conservative Chief Whip (someone who ensures their party votes and does how their party desires) Andrew Mitchell swore at the police and called them ‘plebs’ – a pejorative term for someone of low social class – after being refused to go through a gate into Downing Street. Although he apologised for swearing he denied that he called the police ‘plebs’, but he later resigned as Chief Whip. However, there is an investigation underway due to recent evidence and CCTV footage calling into evidence the reports of the incidence.

The Doubts Of The Police Evidence

In December 2012 the CCTV footage was released which Mitchell stated supported his view of how the events unfolded. An email was sent from a police offer which stated that “there were several members of the public” present during the incident involving Mitchell and the police and that they appeared “visibly shocked”. However, the CCTV footage shows no members of the public – later the policeman who supposedly sent the message claimed that the email was fake and he had not been present during the incident.

Operation Alice

There has been an outcry for a full investigation into the events of the ‘plebgate’ scandal with the Metropolitan police stating that there are 30 officers holding an investigation called ‘Operation Alice’. So far there have been 2 arrests from within the police force causing many people to redefine the scandal as ‘plodgate’ (‘plod’ is British slang for police) rather than ‘plebgate’.

2013

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said that he is “open minded” about the incident as it is “yet to be proven” whether the incident did actually occur. When addressing MPs today (Tuesday 8th January) he told them that it be “very serious” if the police involved had told lies or made up evidence.

The Police Federation has been high profile and aggressive in its public relations since the coalition announced its programme of cuts in 2010. This incident could have been used by the Police Federation to push their response to police cuts and retain the sympathy of the public as well as to secure the resignation of Mitchell himself. We do not know yet if their tactics and their claims were legitimate or that a small incident was exploited as part of a bigger stunt in their negotiations with government over policies affecting them which they deeply disagree with, but we will have to see – if a group manage to get a Cabinet Minister to resign then that is real political power being shown here.

What are your views on the incident?

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The Eurozone

What is the Eurozone?

The Eurozone is a collection of countries in Europe who all use the same currency – the Euro. It came to existence in 1999 with 11 countries opting in, now there are 17 member countries. The Eurozone does not contain all members of the European Union and its monetary rules are controlled by the European Central Bank. The most recent country to join the Eurozone was Estonia in 2011.

The Eurozone Crisis

The main cause was that the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain) had lost control of their finances since the global recession – borrowing and spending more than they could realistically afford. Because of this, the other European countries had to bail them out costing billions of dollars. Greece was the first country to accept bailout money in May 2010, followed by Ireland and Portugal. However, this money was doing nothing to help their economies because they were trying to pay off loans, contributing to their debt crises, of a infinitesimal percentage. For these countries, the issue is is that if they have to keep repaying off loans to other countries they could effectively go bankrupt, which could have an even greater adverse effect on Europe, their economy and citizen spending power.

Eurozone

However, before the loans could be approved, the Governments of each of these countries had to agree to adopt ‘austerity measures’ to show they were doing what they can to tackle their economic problems themselves. ‘Austerity measures’ are measures which are taken by government in economic crises in order to cut the budget deficit by using a combination of spending cuts or tax rises. This has led to mass public protests in Greece, with many people demonstrating against more job losses and tax rises as a result.

In the news 2013

Today, 2013, there have been increasing issue over the unemployment level which has hit an all time high of 11.8%, meaning that over 26 million people are unemployed across the European Union. The country with the highest unemployment rate is spain at 26.6% unemployed. In the Eurozone alone,unemployment is approximate 18.8 million people – a substantial amount which could prove costly on the economy of Europe.

BBC Economics Correspondent Andrew Walker said: “The general trend of unemployment however remains upwards and it makes it even harder for the governments concerned to collect the taxes they need to stabilise their debts.” The record low for the eurozone unemployment rate was 7.2%, which was recorded in February 2008, before the financial crisis that first gripped the banking sector spread to the real economy. When will the Eurozone reach these levels again?

It has been a bumpy road for the members of the Eurozone and it is a question of what it will take for the economy of Europe to recover fully.

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Legitimacy In The UK And Around The World

What Is Legitimacy?

Legitimacy is the principle that a regime, institution or individual has a legitimate right to exercise power. Legitimacy is usually, though not always, bestowed through election, but the legitimacy of many political bodies can be disputed. It is a contestable term in that it is not always clear whether an institution is legitimate or not as we will show you using these UK and world examples that follow.

Legitimacy in the UK’s political bodies

– The House of Commons is legitimate because it is elected. However, many claim that the electoral college system is unfair and distorts political representation, so legitimacy can be challenged

– The House of Lords is arguable not legitimate because its members are not elected. However, it does have traditional authority and its political influence remains widely recognised

– UK government is legitimate because it is elected with a clear mandate to govern. However, every government in the UK has been elected with a minority of the popular vote, so we can challenge its legitimacy

– The power of the Prime Minister is legitimate because it is widely acknowledged that he/she is the supreme policy maker in the political system. However, there is no legal basis for prime ministerial power, so it could be said to lack legitimacy

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Legitimacy can be challenged far more in other countries

– Regimes that seize power by force are not considered to be legitimate. This applies to the government of Cuba, where the communist party came to power after a civil war

– States which have one-party systems, such as China, lack democratic legitimacy even though they might receive widespread popular support

– States where democracy is considered to be a facade or ‘sham’ lack legitimacy, such as in Iran

– Hereditary monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, lack democratic legitimacy

Thank you very much for reading, please do tell us why the country you live in is legitimate/not legitimate?

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Italian Election 2013

Next month, on February 24th 2013, Italy will hold a general election to establish who is to become members of the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate and the two houses of the Italian parliament.

Previous president of Italy,  Silvio Berlusconi, resigned after the problems with the European sovereign debt Crisis as well as facing charges of a sex allegation with a prostitute who was underage. However, in December 2012, Berlusconi announced he was standing for president again for The People of Freedom Party. Soon after he announced this, The People of Freedom Party withdrew their support for government resulting in Mario Monti’s resignation as president of Italy – stating that he could not govern with a loss of support for his platform.

Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi speaks during a news conference at Villa Gernetto in Gerno near Milan

In the one year that Monti has been president unemployment in Italy has increased by 2%, there have been tax increases and spending cuts. In his time in office he controversially told the youthful Italians to change jobs often because staying in one job was monotonous – which was likely to have negative effects on the economy.

On 7th January 2013 an ally stated that Berlusconi will not stand for President even if his party win next month’s election, however Berlusconi did say that he may become the finance minister. Robert Maroni, an Italian Politician, stated that “the candidate for prime minister will not be Silvio Berlusconi. Silvio Berlusconi accepted the request to not stand as prime minister.” We will see what happens next month…

This is a very interesting election and one we recommend you all look out for and read up on. But, do not worry, we will be posting regular updates on this. What are your views? And do you agree/mind that Berlusconi is still involved with politics and potentially running for President of Italy?

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The Importance Of Women In Politics

The role of women in politics has only been accepted very recently with women getting the vote in the 1920s in both America and the UK. However, some countries only gave women the vote far more recently, such as in the United Arab Emirates where they got the vote in 2006. Other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, women are still not allowed to have the vote and will not do so until 2015. So, as a world where the demographics make a roughly even split between males and females, there is quite an obvious and important role that women play in politics today.

In the 2012 presidential election there was considerable debate over women and how they would vote – of course, most of their views were in favour of equal rights, which corresponded with the Democrat Party. Unfortunately for the Republican party women are not so interested in their conservative agenda. This can be seen by the result of the presidential election where 55% of Women voted for Obama and 44% of women voted for Romney (1% other parties). This is partly due to gaffes made within the Republican Party, such as Todd Akin who made a remark about ‘legitimate rape’, however it is equally due to Obama – through the ‘coat-tails effect’ – where lower ranking women candidates gain popularity through a high ranking person within the party.

We-Can-Do-It

The result of the ‘coat-tails effect’ has seen the destruction of the glass-ceiling enabling women a greater role in Congress. Therefore, women’s rights and women in general are better represented further increasing the importance of pleasing this section of voters and aggregating their demands.

The 2012 election produced 20 senators who are women, which is the most ever in history. One of these women is Elizabeth Warren, who is the Senator of Massachussettes, replaced Scott Brown who came into office shortly after Ted Kennedy’s death in the state. There are also a record amount of congresswomen, beating the previous record of 73 women.

In previous times, women have been disregarded in politics claiming that they are not citizens. However, now, they are the future of politics and it seems only inevitable that we will see more women reaching increasingly powerful spots in politics; and it is likely that in the near future the world’s most powerful office – the president – will be a women.

What are your views on women in politics?

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Health and Social Care Act 2012

The Health and Social Care Act 2012, as clarified by parliament.uk, states that it involves the following:

  • establishes an independent NHS Board to allocate resources and provide commissioning guidance
  • increases GPs’ powers to commission services on behalf of their patients
  • strengthens the role of the Care Quality Commission
  • develops Monitor, the body that currently regulates NHS foundation trusts, into an economic regulator to oversee aspects of access and competition in the NHS
  • cuts the number of health bodies to help meet the Government’s commitment to cut NHS administration costs by a third, including abolishing Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities.

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The reforms have been the most significant reforms to the NHS ever with a purpose to abolish NHS primary care trusts and Strategic Health Authorities. A primary care trust is a service which commission primary, community and secondary care from providers. The Strategic Health Authorities are responsible for enacting the directives and implementing fiscal policy as dictated by the Department of Health at a regional level. The reforms were introduced by the ex-secretary of state for health, Andrew Lansley.

The Act was very controversial due to a lot of the proposals not being mentioned in the Conservative manifesto of 2010, but brought up at a later date. But 2 months later a white paper was published outlining the proposal of Health an Social Care reform. White papers are documents which outline future policy as proposed by Government.

The controversial nature of this change in policy can be highlighted by the high level of scrutiny it received – with over 1000 amendments before it could be passed, receiving royal assent on 27th March 2012. Pressure group activity was high with groups such as the British Medical Association lobbying governmental committees to reach an agreement – that was to set up an NHS Forum before the act had passed. Other groups vehemently opposed the reforms, such as ’38Degrees’, ‘NHS Direct Action’ and ‘Keep our NHS public’. Protests had also been frequent with the group ‘UK Uncut’ leading a protest on Westminster Bridge and ’38 Degrees’ rectifying a plethora of billboards across London.

What are your views on the Health and Social Care Act 2012? I would be particularly interested in hearing from Americans who have recently had the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’) come into law…

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The Lisbon Treaty

When Was The Lisbon Treaty Signed?

It was signed on 1st December 2009, thus ending several years of negotiation about institutional issues.

What Was It?

The Lisbon Treaty amends the current European Union and European Commission, without replacing them. It provides the Union with the legal framework and tools necessary to meet future challenges and to respond to citizens’ demand.

What Did The Lisbon Treaty Include?

1) A more democrat and transparent Europe – a strengthened role for the European parliament and national parliaments with more opportunities for the citizens to have their voices heard and a clearer sense of who does what at European and national level

2) A more efficient Europe – simplified working methods and voting rules. Also, streamlined and modern institutions for an EU of 27 members and an improved ability to act in areas of major priority for today’s union

3) A Europe of rights and values, freedom, solidarity and security – Promote the union’s values, introducing the Charter of Fundamental Rights into European primary law, providing for new solidarity mechanisms and ensuring better protection of citizens

4) Europe as an actor on the global stage – bring together Europe’s external policy tools, both when developing and deciding new policies. The treaty should give Europe a clear voice in relations with its partners worldwide. It harnesses Europe’s economic, humanitarian, political and diplomatic strengths to promote European interests and values worldwide, while respecting the particular interests of the Member States in Foreign Affairs

Thanks for reading, please tell us what your views are on the Lisbon Treaty!

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