Thailand Elections – Your Questions Answered!

Tomorrow, Thailand will be holding their elections amid a series of anti-government protests sweeping across the country.

Why does tension exist?

The country is politically divided. Those protesting are mostly from the middle class and do not want the election to take place. The Democratic Party are also refusing to take part in the election. However, the Pheu Thai Party (who are the current governing party) want the election to take place. Its supporters, who mainly live rurally, also want the election to take place.

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Why the opposition?

Those protesting strongly believe the president is being influenced by her brother (the former Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra). Mr Thaksin, when in power, was found guilty of corruption and now lives in exile.

The election

The governing party have won the last 5 elections, so it is likely they would win again even without the Democratic Party boycott. However, it is believed that without opposition to the government party the results will not be truly democratic. If the government are to win, the problems in the country are set to continue. Even more concerning is the fact that some candidates for the election are unable to resister meaning that a government win is likely to mean not enough members will be elected for the new parliament.

The Voting

Voting poll stations have been obstructed my many protesters. At one polling station protesters padlocked the gates shut, so nobody could vote. Other stations have seen voters harassed and intimidated as to stop people voting. Many of the polling station were closed (including all of them in Bangkok) which is likely to significantly reduce the voter turnout further reducing the democratic legitimacy of the results. However, Suthep Thaugsuban (one of the main leaders of the protest) has told protesters to allow voters to case their vote.

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UK Unemployment Decreases To 7.1%

It has been announced that the level of unemployment in the UK now stands at 7.1%. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that in the 3 months leading to November (2013) 170,000 people gained employment and the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (money unemployed people can get when searching for work) has decreased by 24,000.

In today’s Prime Minister Question time (http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2014/january/prime-ministers-questions-22-january-2014/) the Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, said he “welcomes the fall in unemployment” because “whenever an individual gets back into work, it’s good for them and good for their family.” However, he did argue that despite these seemingly good statistics the average annual wage had decreased since 2010 by £1,600.

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David Cameron, the Prime Minister, also commented on the decrease of unemployment calling the last quarter “the biggest ever quarterly increase in the number of people in work in our country.” George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, also commented favourably on the increase employment at the World Economic Forum in Davos stating that the increase in employment shows his economic plan is working.

The decline of unemployment has been so rapid that experts had predicted these sorts of levels would be reached either later this year or even early 2015 (according to over half of the 28 economists polled) . Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, believes this is set to continue and unemployment will “continue to collapse”

The Bank of England had previously declared that they may increase interest rates from 0.5% when UK unemployment reaches 7%. The benefits of increase interest rates would mean that people get more money coming into their bank accounts and prices of houses will go down. However, an increase of interest rates would result in the cost of borrowing money to increase meaning that small businesses could suffer.

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The Global Crises – An Update!

The world economy has been in a state of crises since 2008, but the World Bank has said that it is now at a ‘turning point’ and much stronger growth is expected in 2014.

Richer countries will feel the effects of economic growth, more than poorer countries, to begin with. However, there are warnings that the economy is still vulnerable “to the impact of the withdrawal of economic stimulus measures in the US”. The USA has already started to decrease the amount of bonds bought per month by $85bn/£52bn. (A bond is a form of debt. The government has been buying bonds in a sort of IOU loan).

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The concern is that global interest rates would increase, which has the negative consequence of making the world economy more fragile and prevent money from entering poorer countries. The world bank warns of “crisis risks” in poor countries if global interest rates do rise. “Growth appears to be strengthening in both high-income and developing countries”, says the president of the World Bank (Jim Yong Kim), but the issues lies in the lack of growth in the developing world.

It has been forecasted that global GDP is expected to increase by 3.2% this year, an increase from 2.4% in 2013. Despite the risk of lack of growth in the developing world global GDP growth in these countries is expected to increase by 5.3% this year, up from 4.8% in 2013.

What are your global economy forecasts? What is the economy like in your country?

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India’s Battle Against Polio

It has been a phenomenal three year since India’s last reported polio case. This is seen as one of India’s greatest health successes as a result of its expansive inoculation programme, with India’s health minister calling it a “monumental milestone”.

Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan are three countries where there is still cases of Polio, but India was removed from the list of polio-endemic countries in 2012. The graph below shows how cases of polio in India have declined since the 1980s:

polio

The confidence of this success has led India with a new goal of eradicating measles in the coming years. Health in the country is improving at an astonishing rate with 741 cases of polio in India in 2009 declining down to just a single case in .

Previous health success in India includes the eradication of Smallpox in the 1980s after a similar inoculation process. Approximately 170m children under 5 years old had been given the vaccination and a similar process had been carried out for polio, and is expected in the fight against measles.

However, there are fears by some experts that where there is war and fighting polio may come back into existence. For example, in Syria and Somalia polio levels were the highest out of any other country. The interesting thing about this is, these two countries had been free from polio. Other experts fear that there is also a chance of polio spreading from Pakistan into India if there is a lack of care.

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Bangladesh Elections – Your Questions Answered

Tomorrow Bangladesh holds its 5th national election. The main two parties are the Awami League (Leader Sheikh Hasina) and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP Leader Khaleda Zia). These elections have come under the media spotlight after the BNP and its allies have decided to boycott the election.

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What is the risk?

– The Awami League is expected to win by a huge majority as a result of the opposition’s boycott. This will certainly undermine the credibility of the election. Violence is also expected to be an issue tomorrow as political workers from the parties clash.

Why has the Bangladesh Nationalist Party decided not to take part?

– The country has previously held elections with a neutral caretaker government to ensure that the election process is fair. But, in this election, the Awami League have refused to create a neutral caretaker government. This is believed to undermine the fairness of the election.

Impact of the boycott

– 154 out of the 300 seats are uncontested, which means the Awami League would win without trying. However, it is believed that continued protest and violent clashes will result from the election.

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The main people

– The leader of both the Awami league and the BNP have been rivals for the past two decades as power shifted between the two parties. This election is likely to increase this tension dramatically. The third party’s (JP) leader H M Ershad has declared that the JP will also not be participating in the election furthering the complications.

What other issues are there?

– Violence, unemployment and poverty is high and afety and wage levels are low, which is not being helped by political instability. It is reported by The Asia Foundation that 75% of voters would like a neutral caretaker government during the election, so it will be interesting to see whether voter turnout will be on the same level as previous elections.

World Political implications

– Countries including the USA and the UK have refused to send observers to Bangladesh. This has weakened relations geopolitical and dented Bangladesh’s global image.

The election

– In the previous election there was a 70% voter turnout, but this is expected to be much less tomorrow. Although in 2008 the results were announced within 24 hours, the announcement of tomorrow’s results will depend on how peacefully the election is carried out.

What are your views on the elections? Should the Awami League set up a neutral caretaker government to maintain the peace?

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Prisoner Sentencing

How long a sentence should a murder get in prison?

In the UK life sentences rarely actually mean life, whilst in the USA this is fairly common. Currently in the UK only about 50 people are subject to a whole-life sentence, most recently Dale Cregan for murdering 4 people. In the USA, however, approximately 40,000 people are imprisoned without much hope of release. Furthermore, this figure does not include those American prisoners who have been given extremely long fixed term sentences. For example, one Alabama man was sentenced to 200 years for kidnapping and armed robbery.

Prison Visitor Fee

America’s ‘sentencing inflation’ began in the 1980s when the Democrats and the Republicans wanted to show how tough they could be on crime. The increased sentences also saw a rise in states like Michigan where the death penalty does not exist, so the increased sentence was an alternative punishment.

However, there have been recent calls to have US-style, lengthy fixed life sentences in the UK. This is being considered after the European court ruled in 2013 that whole-life sentences were breaching the European Court of Human Rights. These proposals would allow the court to give sentences of hundreds of years. But, unlike whole-life sentences, these sentences can be reviewed and reduced (an aspect of sentencing less available in America).

Although many people say this move will “restore Human Rights” by enabling sentences to be reviewed along the way many others still argue that the sentence changes is dangerous and unnecessary, especially as the UK has seen increased sentences being given out year on year for the past decade.

How should a murderer be sentenced? How does it differ in your country? What sentencing proposals do you want to see?

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Latvia Joins Eurozone

Today, 1st January 2014, Latvia joins the Eurozone, becoming the 18th country which uses the Euro as its currency. The small country struggled financially during the economic crises, however it is now one of the fastest growing economies in Europe.

Being a former Soviet republic, Latvia has relied greatly on Russia, but the incorporation of the Euro is expected to reduce this dependency and gain greater financial independence – credit ratings (an estimate of the ability of a country to fulfil their financial commitments, based on previous dealings) should increase and more foreign investors are expected to be attracted. Olli Rehn, the EU Commissioner, said joining the eurozone marked “the completion of Latvia’s journey back to the political and economic heart of our continent, and that is something for all of us to celebrate”.

Olli Rehn, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Valdis Dombrovskis

Despite this, opinion polls have suggested approximately 60% of Latvians do not want the Euro. One Latvian, Zaneta Smirnova, said she is “against the euro” and that they should have kept the Lat. But, the governor of the Latvian central bank, Ilmars Rimsevics, said the “euro brings stability and certainty, definitely attracting investment, so new jobs, new taxes and so on. So being in the second largest currency union I think will definitely mean more popularity.”

What do you think about Latvia joining the Euro?

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South Sudan

Where is South Sudan?

It is located in central Africa, bordered by 6 countries, and is the newest nation on Earth after gaining independence in 2011. Despite being a country rich in oil it is a very poor and underdeveloped country.

southsudan

Tensions in South Sudan

South Sudan gained independence through a referendum which saw the public vote by a large majority (98.8%) to break away from Sudan. Since gaining independence there has been a lot of unrest and border battles between Sudan and South Sudan. The death toll continues to increase daily. Fortunately, conflict has not yet reached the capital, Juba.

One issue the government wants to fix quickly is the oil business. Production had been put on hold for a while, which proved damaging for the country’s already brittle economy.

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A coup plot

This month the South Sudan government announced there had been a coup d’etat (a seizure of power). The Sudan Liberation People’s Army, a group loyal to the President Kiir, fought with another group loyal to the former vice President, Riek Machar. This has resulted in the death of at least 500 people.

Civil war?

Gerard Araud (President of UN Security Council) has sent warnings of a “fully-fledged war throughout the country”. Refugee camps have been set up by the UN – currently, there are 20,000 people who have taken refuge in Juba. There is a lot of conflict and tension and that is set to continue.

Is war inevitable? Should South Sudan give in to Sudan or should they fight to support the will of the people?

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Win an Apple Macbook Air and a 32GB Ipod Touch!

For your chance to win an apple macbook air and a 32GB ipod touch either share our Facebook photo and like our facebook page or RT our photo on twitter and follow us.

The winner will be announced next thursday and we must have over 50 shares or 50 retweets! So get sharing/retweeting now and you could have these 2 fantastic items by the end of next week!

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The links are:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=542039169167553&set=a.476116632426474.101381.476112109093593&type=1&theater

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Prism – Are You Being Watched?

What is Prism?

It is a secret government organisation run by the National Security Agency (NSA). They had access to data held by major internet companies, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype.

What data can it obtain?

Detailed information about online activity, crucially including the contents of emails and live chat. The documents revealed Ed Snowden suggested they had access to chat logs, stored data, voice traffic, file transfers and social networking data of individuals. The government also confirmed they had asked for millions of phone records.

When was it set up?

It is believed to have been set up in 2007 under the US surveillance laws passed by George W. Bush and renewed by Obama in 2012.

How has it emerged?

Through a secret NSA presentation to staff which talks of “collection directly from the servers” of internet providers.

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 How have companies responded?

They deny knowledge of the programme despite the detail of the NSA presentation.

How does it other countries?

As the primary sites of all the world’s major internet companies are in the United States, it means every communication by another national can in theory be read by NSA agents.

The BBC said: “User data (such as emails and social media activity) is often not stored in the same country as the users themselves – Facebook for example has a clause in its privacy policy saying that all users must consent to their data being “transferred to and stored in” the US.”

Is it legal?

This is uncertain and many privacy campaigners are investigating whether there are grounds for a legal challenge. Experts say the legislation covering the issue  is sketchy. Many argue that protecting the country from terrorism is more important than individual privacy.

Are you concerned? Or do you agree that security is more important than individual privacy?

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