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Is Internet narrowing our view? February 3, 2009

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by Emmanuel Neisa

Here in India I receive two daily newspapers, The Hindu and The Times of India. However, I can’t help going to the Internet to consult the daily news. Internet users all over the world have changed their way to ‘consume’ news, tending to retrieve the important information from a number of newspaper websites, blogs and other sites on the web.

Even if in 80% of the countries newspaper circulation has been stable or continued to grow last year, in developed economies, they are facing the worst crisis in their history. A strong decrease in newspapers’ sellings has forced restructuring in diaries such as Le Monde and The New York Times –which has now debts for more than $1 billion-. With the spread of the Internet, catching readers’ attention is becoming more and more difficult as people can shift easily from a news source to another.

This map of the Internet realized by researchers fromBar Ilan University shows how is the content organized in the web

This map of Internet realized by researchers from Bar Ilan University shows how the content is organized in the web

Internet is now becoming the hub for political information and discussions and the recent Obama campaign confirms its importance in shaping the public opinion. It is said to have brought openness into our world, allowing us to meet people from diverse realities and opinions. However, communautarism in the web seems to go in the opposite sense of that supposed openness.

The information shift towards the Internet is not without consequences and changes the way we perceive current news and form our own opinion. What is exactly happening with the public discussion and what is Internet changing?

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Obama’s Presidency: balancing expectations January 26, 2009

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by Vera Quina

Hope for Africa too?

Hope for Africa too?

On Tuesday, the 20th of January Barack Hussein Obama, the first Afro-American winning the White House, was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America. I did not have a chance to go to Washington and see it live; in fact, at the time of Obama’s speech my plane was landing in Newark, New Jersey. But while I was waiting in the long queue of immigration, I managed to get some glimpses of the inauguration ceremony and was pleasantly surprised and touched by seeing the streets of D.C filled with thrilled faces of so many African Americans. When the TV screened showed a man selling T-shirts with a picture of the White House and the slogan “THE BLACK HOUSE” I could not help to crack a smile.

During his campaign Obama surely fueled dreams, and African-Americans, many of whom long felt estranged with politics, listened and gained “HOPE”.

But what will a black President really bring to Africans in the United States and in Africa?

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What drives euroscepticism? December 10, 2008

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By Dídac Gutiérrez-Peris

picture-11

“(…) instruire c’est construire”

Victor Hugo, 1850

Even if some authors like Majone (2002) and Moracsivk (2002) find it exaggerated and too idealistic to speak about a “crisis of legitimacy”, for me there exist too many signs of an erosion between citizens and the European Union to still deny a certain “malaise” towards the European Union.

A “malaise” that could be defined first of all as a “crisis of justification,” as Hannah Arendt puts forward, that is: “as the feeling of losing the direction of things, when doubt is the reaction that a purpose or a project provokes”. In other words, a situation where citizens are unable to answer to the questions for what purpose? with who? and in which direction? in relation to European Integration.

To my mind, two main factors are shaping the current attitude of mistrust towards the European Union: first, the disinformation and second the political disconnection between European institutions and citizens.

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Government control over Media in Latin America December 1, 2008

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By Emmanuel Neisa

In September, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, the son of the well known Peruvian writer, released Consecuencias, a four parts documentary about Latin America today. Through its four episodes – Autoritarismo, Populismo, Indigenismo, Dictadura-, the documentary explores the key events that marked Latin American history and that still influence it nowadays. The broadcasting rights were bought by National Geographic for Latin America but Venezuela’s government banned the part dealing with Chavez and Populism. This is not really surprising of a country where in 2004 the controversial RESORTE law (Law for the Social Responsibility of Radio & Television) was voted and where the broadcast license of Radio Caracas TV  -that was operating for 20 years- was denied a renewal, because it was accused of plotting against the Government.

Venezuela seems to be the only part in Latin America where the medias are controlled in such a strict way. In fact, since the end of dictatorships in the 80’s and with the democratization of the subcontinent, the media gained in autonomy and in some countries became extremely critical against governments, specially on issues related to corruption.

However, it would be ingenious to think that governments throughout Latin America have stopped controlling the media. A recent study realized by the Argentinian Association for Civil Rights and the Open Society-Justice Initiative explains what are the new mechanisms by which they continue to interfere. This not only raises the issue of the freedom of expression in Latin America, but also questions the real state of its democratization process, and opens the debate on how the continent will deal with these new threats. Even if this study focus on Latin America, its conclusions can be true for many realities.

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Which Priority for Development? Growth vs. Redistribution November 16, 2008

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by Diego Zamuner

When thinking of poverty and its consequences on the lives of those affected by it, one question appears to be unavoidable: how to tackle this problem? This is one of the major concerns of development economics. Two main groups of answers are widely accepted: some think that priority should be given to economic growth, the others believe that human development should be the central concern. Thus, the former think of the spill-over effects of growth, and argue that sustained growth is the only means of reducing poverty in a definitive manner. On the other hand, the latter focus on what Amartya Sen calls the “capability approach”, which implies that poverty is not only a matter of income, and argue that society’s wealth should be redistributed in order to ensure a minimum level of welfare to everyone. This is the traditional debate between the Income-centred approach promoted by international financial institutions (World Bank, International Monetary Fund) and the Human Development approach championed by the United Nations. So, what can the observation of the real world teach us on this matter? Let us concentrate on one particular case study: India…

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Peace or Justice – Which should come first? November 11, 2008

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by Vera Quina

Both peace and justice are fundamental requirements for a long-lasting peace agreement destined to pacify a worn-torn country. However, in countries tormented by civil wars there is often a prioritization of peace, which is more easily defined and has short-term benefits, i.e end of the killing and suffering; thus, it is more obvious for society to first ask for it. Moreover, arguing for justice it is not as clear-cut (Whose and what justice?), making its case more difficult to defend, particularly when it is pursued at the expenses of continuing conflict (indictments of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army –LRA- and of President Bashir in Sudan). (more…)

Europe and its time November 10, 2008

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 by Dídac Gutiérrez-Peris

Around this time of year in London everybody walks around with red flowers pinned to their coats. They are the flowers of opium—poppies— that, despite their exotic name, are quite frequent in Europe. They are flowers that grow in removed soils, in bad conditions, abandoned places. Like battlefields.

They are also the flowers that the Royal British Legion sells in the undergrounds and buses to commemorate Armistice Day, November 11, in honour of all those who lost their lives in the First World War. It feels strange to see so many young men and women, a lot of them born in the 80s or 90s, wearing poppies. They are like live monuments to death. (more…)

Why does Europe love Obama? November 10, 2008

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 by Dídac Gutiérrez-Peris

Perhaps because he is a citizen of the world?

His last speech in Chicago was more than a “national” speech, and in Tiergarten, in Berlin, some months ago, he showed that he can mobilize people who are not necessarily American.

Do we like him because is not the typical “American hero” like McCain is? Because he seems like a political outsider in the United States, neither extremely linked to the Democratic Party, nor depending on being funded by lobbies?

Perhaps we like him just for more obvious things: he’s young, attractive, intelligent, fascinating, a good speaker and he promises a change from the most unpopular American administration in history. (more…)

Obama or McCain – who takes lady America home ? November 3, 2008

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by Katja Ponath

The upcoming elections amount to a global super-event of a special kind. More than ‘just politics’ it has become a highly emotional affair, as well between Obama and McCain fighting for Lady America as in how  the voters and observers identify with the candidate of their choice. Walking the streets of New York I can see Obama T-Shirts, McCain tags and Democrat stickers.  The old Roman saying “Ex socio cognoscitur vir. » (Tell me what company you keep and I tell you who you are) apparently has been remodeled into “Tell me who you vote for and I tell you who you are (and if I still want to keep company with you)”. The election hype goes so far that the decisive question on American dates these dates probably is not “Your place or mine?”, but “Obama or McCain?”. (more…)

Obamamania 2 weeks from D-day October 22, 2008

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by Vera Quina

Who will win the election in two weeks time? If you wander around New York City, the question is straightforward: Barack Obama. What is interesting of this candidate, virtually unknown to the outside world and even to most Americans as early as two years ago is its mediatized campaign. He is a true master of communication and is the first politician to take full advantage of our marketing society in this beginning of the XXIst century. (more…)