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Month: November 2016

What the world can learn from Disney princesses

Written by Robyn Muir.

The world of Disney and education combined last week when a lesson plan teaching children about sexism and racism within Disney films – specifically those of the Disney Princesses – emerged on a teaching website. The lesson plan mainly focuses on the gender issues that the Disney Princesses present, but also discusses racism within the films as well. And according to Tory MP Phil Davies, teaching children about sexism and racism represented in the media is “politically correct claptrap” rather than a valuable life lesson.

If we were to take the Online Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of ‘politically correct’, then it would be a person who “believes that language and actions that could be offensive to others, especially those relating to sex and race, should be avoided”. This seems like a reasonable belief, which should be passed on to children. Therefore, teaching children about gender issues in Disney Princess films is not ‘claptrap’, its teaching children the way gender is represented through a popular media outlet, and how that can affect the way women and men are represented in society. Lessons like these can teach children respect for others and how to value and promote a diverse society.

Gendered Livelihoods – recovery for women three years after Typhoon Yolanda

Written by May Tan-Mullins.

On 8 November 2013 super-typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) hit the Visayas region of the Philippines. More than 6,300 lives were lost and homes, livelihoods and communities were devastated. It has been three years since the typhoon hit and recovery, housing and livelihood options remain a major challenge in the region. In particular, livelihood options continue to be a major concern, especially for the women. This is because many of the livelihood programmes put in place by the governments, international organisations and Non-governmental organisations are very much gender-biased towards men. Very few options or programmes are targeted at women or women’s groups. Indeed, as Oxfam notes, gender inequalities persist and may be even magnified during disasters, especially in the rebuilding phase.

Obama’s legacy will be forever tarnished by his inaction in Syria

Written by Scott Lucas.

As his administration winds down, Barack Obama has plenty to be proud of. He can point to international breakthroughs that seemed unthinkable when he took office, from the nuclear agreement with Iran to the reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba after almost 60 years. He can cite the concerted international action to stave off economic catastrophe, a more constructive US approach to Latin America, and a solid if cautious relationship with China.

But as far as Obama’s legacy goes, few of these noble achievements will stick to the wall after he gives his farewell speech in January 2017. Instead, he will always be associated with the fate of one country: Syria.

India’s crackdown on cash corruption is really all about politics

Written by Diego Maiorano

When India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced that 86% of his country’s currency would be “just worthless pieces of paper” in a matter of hours, he immediately boosted his reputation as the scourge of tax-evaders and the corrupt. Unfortunately for everyday Indians, the hassle of adapting to the sudden change is bigger than many expected.

The policy demonetises 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, which Indians are now expected to change at banks and ATMs. This is an attack on what Indians call “black money”, cash that has been concealed from the tax authorities and/or used for criminal activity; it’s also meant to curb the spread of counterfeit currency. But it’s unlikely to achieve much – and ultimately, it’s at least as much a political move as it is an economic one.

Andropov’s ghost: language and society under global governance

Written by Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac.

Frankly, we don’t know the society in which we live and work enough.

So General Secretary Yury Andropov warned the Soviet Communist Party Plenum in June 1983. Andropov’s speech was made a few months before one of us started a degree in Slavonic languages, and a year before the other began military service in the Yugoslav People’s Army. Andropov is now been quoted in the Russian media about the US political establishment, confronting not knowing the society in which they live.

The rude awakening of the US political establishment to the election of Donald Trump on 8 November is not the first political earthquake this year. There was similar political shock across the European political establishment at the British referendum result in June to leave the European Union.

How Marine Le Pen could become the next French president

Written by Paul Smith.

Never one to miss a bandwagon when it passes, Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right Front National, was one of the first European politicians to congratulate Donald Trump on his election victory.

For the demagogic populist Le Pen, Trump’s win, like the Brexit vote, is the victory of the “people” against the “elites”.

Setting aside the ludicrous nature of anyone claiming the victory of a billionaire who inherited his riches as a blow against the established order, Le Pen’s intervention is important. France is facing its own presidential election in April and May of 2017 and Le Pen aims to win it.

US Presidential Election: Technology and Trade in the Industrial Swing States

Written by Simon Toubeau.

So there it is, again. The unlikely becomes plausible, possible, likely, and then real, in the space of a few hours. Liberal bien pensant and pollsters are left sitting uncomfortably, hot under their collars, baffled that estimates and predictions were wide of the mark and that democracy in action could yield such a ghastly outcome. Surely democratic exercises should get it ‘right’? Surely, the establishment candidate with the requisite persona, credibility and wherewithal is the natural choice for leader. Not the unpredictable outsider, not the rambling demagogue. But the point of democratic exercises is that the outcome is and should be uncertain. The only ‘right’ thing about it is the fairness of the procedure.  But what does the outcome of this procedure signal?

Guy Fawkes night: celebrating the most famous act of counter-terrorism in history

Written by Louise Kettle.

With the terrorism threat level remaining at “severe” (meaning an attack is highly likely), and the head of MI5, Andrew Parker, warning that “there will be terrorist attacks” in Britain, there is a climate of continuous public concern.

And yet this November 5, like every other, the British skyline will be filled with explosions and the public will look on in delight. The story behind this annual celebration can become muddled, but it’s worth remembering that Guy Fawkes night marks the most famous counter-terrorism mission in history. Counter-terrorism is going on around us at all time – we just aren’t usually allowed to know about it.

Reproductive Health and Post-Disaster Baby Booms

Written by: Ladylyn Lim Mangada

 When Super Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) devastated Eastern Visayas in November 2013, pictures of death, displacement and massive damage to infrastructure and housing shocked the world.  However, behind the grief and anger over the disorganized distribution of emergency assistance was a celebration of life, particularly new lives.  The areas struck by Haiyan experienced a baby boom. The catastrophic typhoon did not delay or forego the reproductive motivations of the survivors. Haiyan took away lives but it also brought new lives.

Russia in the Balkans: Pan-Slavism revived?

Written by Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac.

Serve for the faith, for humanity, for our brothers … Mother Moscow blesses you for a great deed.

At the end of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, the tormented Count Vronsky joins volunteers going to the Balkans to defend the Serbs and Montenegrins against the Ottoman Empire.

The slaughter of the co-religionists and brother Slavs awakened sympathy for the sufferers and indignation against the oppressors. And the heroism of the Serbs and Montenegrins, fighting for a great cause, generated in the whole nation a desire to help their brothers, not in word now but in deed.

This November, a trilateral military exercise named Slavic Brotherhood 2016 is taking place between Russia, Serbia and Belarus. Are we seeing a resurgent Pan-Slavism today in the Balkans and a Russian foreign policy developing closer relations between the Russians and Serbs, Montenegrins and other nations? This question arises against talk of a new Cold War, and a battle for hearts and minds internationally.