Politics

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Visuals: Mr. Abe and gun violence

The killing of the Japanese ex-prime minister, Shinzo Abe, shocked the whole world. Even though some of the people in Japan did not agree with his policies, the ex-prime minister’s murder is a sad event for the entire nation. 

The murder is shocking because it happened in Japan, where deaths from guns are very rare. It is also uncommon to hear about politicians being killed in developed countries. 

Please, have a look at the graphs below and discuss them with your teacher. 

 

Visuals: the price of war

The war in Ukraine has had a vast impact on the whole world. In addition to the humanitarian catastrophe, it has also caused increased rates of inflation all over the globe. 

This rise is mostly linked to increases in food, energy prices and disrupted supply chains. The impact is affecting the poorest countries the most. 

Look at the graph below describing the projected inflation rates for several countries, and discuss it with your teacher.

How Meta targets political ads

Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram, says it will provide outside researchers more information on how political and social ads are targeted on its platform, providing insight into the ways that politicians, campaign operatives and political strategists buy and use ads during election periods. Starting from May 2022, academics and researchers registered with Facebook Open Research and Transparency will be allowed to see more detailed targeting data, including which interest categories—such as “people who like dogs” or “people who enjoy the outdoors”—have been chosen to aim ads at specific people.

Meta also plans to include summaries of targeting information for some of its ads in its publicly viewable Ad Library. Created in 2019, the Ad Library allows the public to obtain information about political ads, thus helping to safeguard elections against the misuse of digital advertising.

The decline of democracy

Worldwide, democracy and global freedom have been declining since 2006. The COVID-19 pandemic made things worse, with many leaders choosing to use authoritarian measures to contain the virus. It was difficult for the opposition to protest the measures because they weren't allowed to gather in groups.

But the trend towards dictatorship began long before the pandemic. The decline is not just happening in nations with authoritarian governments, but even long-standing democracies have suffered. In 2020, nearly 75% of the world’s population lived in a country where democracy deteriorated. The United States, which has long stood as an icon of democratic values, is becoming so divided that the government can barely function. The 2020 election results were challenged, ending up in an attack on the Capitol building itself.

Look at this graph from Freedom House showing the democracy gap since 2005. Interpret and discuss it with your teacher.

Opinion: Critical thinking needed!

This opinion is a rant—a passionate, typically angry, speech or piece of writing about one particular topic.

This rant is about American anti-maskers—people who are opposed to wearing a face mask during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Take a deep breath and try to read as emphatically as you can.

"I can't stand it! These people who won't wear masks even though all the medical science says it helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. I hope all the anti-maskers have never taken meds for anything, or know anyone who has. That includes blood pressure meds, insulin, asthma inhalers, allergy medicine, pain relievers, eye drops—heck, even bandaids! What do they put on a cut? Natural remedies like moss and honey? I highly doubt it. So they're either totally ignorant, or total hypocrites.

Changing the role of the police

As Black Lives Matter protests have swept America, one of the many calls has been to change the role of the police. One complaint has been that police officers often use excessive force when subtle methods would be more beneficial. A few specific ideas have been put forward. 

First, specialized nonviolent officers could be trained to deal with nonviolent issues. One simple proposal is for traffic police to be unarmed and trained in resolving conflict on the roads. In America in 2015, 50 million people came into contact with the police. Of them 25 million were pulled over in a car, and another 8 million were involved in a car accident. 

Other ideas include mental health workers to deal with mental health concerns, or community mediators to handle conflict resolution between people who live in the same community. A further idea is for communities to police themselves—officers would live locally and have a relationship with the people they protect. 

The issue of universal basic income

The idea of universal basic income (UBI) has been gaining steam around the world. A Japanese billionaire and an American presidential candidate, among others, have both thrown their weight behind it.

The concept is simple: the government provides unconditional money to their citizens. The theory is that in order to provide basic services for all citizens and to stimulate the economy, a small amount of money can be given to each person, equally. 

In the United States, presidential candidate Andrew Yang has even given away $12,000 to a random Twitter follower. In his plan, each adult would receive that amount of money every year. Yang argues people will continue working, even with UBI. $12,000 a year is barely enough to live on in many places and certainly not enough to afford much in the way of experiences or advancement. To get ahead meaningfully, people will still need to get out there and work.

Young people demand a better future

On Friday, September 22, millions of young people around the globe walked out of school to protest the lack of action to reverse climate change. Led by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, teenagers, children, and some adults added their voices to an ever-growing movement to hold governments and corporations accountable for their environmental destruction and demand that they make immediate changes to reverse the damage. A week later, more strikes drew similar crowds, some even larger. In New Zealand, an unprecedented 3.5% of the population took to the streets.

Does the Internet help democracy?

A lot of people thought the internet would help democratize the world.

More people and groups would have access to information, and the ability to mobilize from the ground up would gradually undermine concentrations of power—that was the idea, at least.

But the reality has been quite different: Instead of democratizing the world, the internet has destabilized it, creating new cleavages and reinforcing the power structure at the same time.

This is the story sociologist Jen Schradie tells in her new book The Revolution That Wasn’t. Schradie argues that technology is not only failing to level the playing field for activists, it’s actually making things worse by “creating a digital activism gap.” The differences in power and organization, she says, have undercut working-class movements and bolstered authoritarian groups.