Press Review April 15th 2014

Silicon Valley maverick Sean Parker, known for his role in creating Napster and expanding Facebook, along with a number of other start-up engineering and angel-investor veterans are looking to create a civic-startup called “Brigade” designed, according to Politico, “to combat a lack of political engagement and interest in all levels of government across America.” It remains to be seen what the company will look like and do in practice.

Wither Iran’s blogestan? The Washington Posts’ Monkey Cage democracy blog notes the decline of Iran’s famous blogging culture which thrived between 2000 and 2009: “As we demonstrate in our new report, “Whither Blogestan,” there have been remarkable changes in the Iranian blogosphere since the late 2000s. Building upon the pioneering 2008 study “Mapping Iran’s Online Public” to evaluate how the landscape has changed, we conducted a survey of 165 blog readers, interviewed 20 active bloggers, and used a Web-crawling analysis of 24,205 blogs. Of the survey respondents, 92 percent reported a change in their blog reading habits since they began reading blogs. Only 20 percent of the prominent blogs from 2008 to 2009 were still online in fall 2013, while 70 percent of the remaining bloggers publish one post per month or less. What happened? And what does it mean for the once-bright hopes of the emergence of an alternative public sphere in Iran?” The article notes that the rise of social media in Iran and government repression could be at the heart of the Persian blogosphere’s decline.

Wither Blogestan? Frequency of Reading Blogs. Courtesy of the Washington Post.
Wither Blogestan? Frequency of Reading Blogs. Courtesy of the Washington Post.

Nearly 20 years after its founding, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has made progress in facilitating the expansion of global trade, guarding against the impulse toward protectionism, and creating legal avenues for the settlement of trade disputes. At the same time, Germany’s Deutsche Welle notes that significant challenges remain and that the organization is at a crossroads where its future may be in doubt. To survive, the WTO must address its unwieldy decision-making mechanism which requires unanimity of its nearly 160 members and the disparity in trade-rules and access to the system between developing and developed Members.

Canada’s Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has met resistance to his controversial Fair Elections Act (Bill C-23), which is strongly opposed by Canada’s other national parties, from a most surprising of places: Canada’s usually acquiescent Senate, and specifically the Conservative-dominated Senate committee reviewing the legislation. The committee unanimously recommended changes to Bill C-23, and as Canada’s Globe & Mail reports: “It’s the latest development in a bill that has largely pitted the Conservative cabinet against a broad range of non-partisan experts, domestic and international, as well as the other parties…Various key stakeholders – including the Chief Electoral Officer, the Commissioner of Canada Elections and the author of a key Elections Canada report last year – say they weren’t consulted on the bill.” While the changes recommended by the Senate are not binding, if the Conservative-dominated House of Commons does not make the recommended change,s the Senate itself could amend Bill C-23.

In the Press Review section of the GovFaces blog you will find regular updates on important social, political, and economic issues of the day. Items presented here and in the Analysis & Opinion sections do not necessarily reflect the views of GovFaces.