British Museum

Today, Tuesday, we visited British museum. Lots of interesting things to see, amongst them mummies of sacred bulls and cats, as well as human mummies, an interesting exhibition with clocks and watches, and antiquities from the roman empire. However, I found the currency exhibition to be the most interesting. It displayed currencies from different parts of the world and how the different currencies have developed over the last 300-400 years. We saw how paper money, from around 1800, were issued throughout the British empire to make the international trade easier, however printing more money quickly became problematic for the economy. We saw how many currencies used to be backed by gold or silver, and we read about the first bank crisis in Europe. We also saw how different political systems have affected the currencies. For example the hyper inflation in Germany in the 1920s and 30s.

Picture of a 500 000 000 Reichmark bill

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5 reasons for Obama to be satisfied

Back in 2008, when Obama took over for Bush, 65% of the American electors, according to “Gallup poll daily tracking, Nov. 6-8, 2008”, believed that he would be a good president. In 2011 he had his least popular period. only 40% approved of his job as President. Since then his popularity has had its ups and downs, but by the end of 2014 it seemed to be on its way back up. Gallup said 48% of the American people approved of his work. This is the highest number he has achieved since july 2013.

Lately we have started to see some results of Obamas hard work and he is getting closer to the goals he set for the country 6 years ago.

Here are five factors that might explain more carefully why his popularity is on the rise.

1. The unemployment rates are dropping

In November 2014 321 00 people were employed. This was the highest growth in employment since 2011. The unemployment rate is now at 5,8%. Last time Obama ran for president, his opponent, Mitt Romney, promised to get the rates below 6%. 5,8% is in other words a great achivement.

2. Gas prices are dropping

Gas prices, in America, is a matter of great importance for many. Since the beginning of 2014 the prices have dropped dramatically. Costing 6,7 NOK per litre in January last year, it has now fallen to only 4,5 NOK per litre. This is of course gasoline as almost no one uses diesel in America.

3. The new public attitude and approach to Cuba

Early in december Obama announced the governments plans for a more normal relation with Cuba. According to new statistics from the Washington post this is plan the better part of the American people supports. The majority of the population wants the resticions gone. 74% wants the travelrestrictions gone. 68% wants to open for trade between the two countries, and 64% restore diplomatic connections.

4. Immigration

In late November the President revealed his new plans for dealing with immigration. The plans are out of reach for the congress, witch means Obama will be able to go trough with it without any complications caused by the congress. The biggest and most discussed measure was making sure 4,2 million illigal immigrants were protected from eviction. The results of this measure is people wanting the congress to work on a new immigration reform, rather than opposing Obamas every suggestion. In addition this was a very popular move in the hispanic part of the population.

5. Pulling out of unpopular wars. Joining popular wars

After Bush, America had several hundred thousand soilders in Afghanistan and Iraq. Today there are only some ten thousands left. The wars eventually became unpopular in America. On the other hand, a war that has become popular is the war against IS. Still, it seems unlikely that Obama will involve major ground forces. As he says: I hesitate to spend billions of dollars on this, after being invovled in major unsuccessful occupations.

Sources:

http://linkis.com/www.e-pages.dk/aften/3pRk8

http://www.gallup.com/poll/111838/obama-bush-contrast-popularity.aspx

http://www.gallup.com/poll/113980/Gallup-Daily-Obama-Job-Approval.aspx

Collaboration with students in Alaska

As I have mentioned earlier on this blog, our teacher provides us with many unique opportunities. A couple of weeks ago we got in touch with some students from Alaska and were able to ask them some questions about the American society, social issues and the electorial collage. Now they have answered our questions, and I am impressed with their answers. It seems they have put a lot of effort into it.

Martin, one of my fellow students, and myself asked the question:

“What are your thoughts on the shooting incident in Ferguson, Missouri?”

We got several interesting answers for example this one from Nick:

“The whole situation is confusing and it’s hard to tell where the evidence leads, exactly. I believe the cop was in the wrong. I am angry about the non-indictment verdict. But there aren’t a whole lot of things you could say to change the situation. Most of the media is framing it so that it criminalizes the victim, and others still try to make up false evidence to demonize all cops. Overall, I think it brings up many issues that have been avoided for too long, such as racism, police brutality, and a faulty justice system.”

A girl named Abigael also had some interesting thoughts. She said: “

The situation, solely from the case, is unjust, in my opinion. Right now there are so many fallacies against the situation, that it’s hard to keep track of what is true. Though it’s a terrible incident to have occurred, it has sparked up discussion on issues that have been avoided for a long time. Issues like the Mexico kidnappings, North Korea’s executions, Tamir Rice, and so many more are gaining awareness. It’s scary to realize that things aren’t okay, but it’s bringing the initiative for change.”

Other students in my class had some questions as well.I liked Ulrik and Stein’s question and some of the answers they got.

“How do you feel about the US being involved in so many conflicts?”

I thought what Chris had to say about this made sense:

“The U.S. should not be involved in most of the foreign world’s conflicts when it doesn’t involve us. President Obama recently addressed the ISIS situation, and said he did not want to put soldiers in the Middle East, which is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction.”

And what Nofo. M thinks is definitely something I can agree with.

“Those with power tend to take responsibility for the world. Although its true that we’ve been sticking our nose in everyone’s business, you’ve got to understand that a lot of things happening in the world cannot be overlooked. Human trafficking, mass killing, and currently terrorist attacks like ISIS, are issues that we just can’t look away from. If we have the power to help, then we should, even with opposition from within ourselves, give help.”

9/11 a day we will never forget

The clips of the planes hitting the World Trade Center towers were played on repeat the entire day as the American people tried to wrap their heads around what had happened. Who was to blame for this awfulness. The same day it became clear what had happened. America had become victims of a terrorist attack.

No matter who you are or what you did that day 13 years ago, the attack affected every American in one way or another. Some lost families, some lost friends. But the one thing every American lost was the safety they had felt before the attacks. Before 9/11 no one would believe that a terrorist attack could happen on American soil. Though the terrorists wanted to attack America and the American people, 9/11 has had had a huge affect on the rest of the world as well. The threat of terror has in many countries become a lot more real than it was before.

September 11th, 2001 two planes crashed into the twin towers in Manhatten, and one crashed into the pentagon in Virginia. The attacks killed almost 3000 people and caused damage worth $10 billion to the bulidings hit and nearby.

In class we saw the documentary 9/11. The film is about what happened with the Twin Towers that day, and is made with real footage by two French film makers. The original plan for the documentary was to show what it is like to become a fire fighter. The French film makers had been following a rookie fire fighter for some time and september 11th started out as any other day at the fire station.

What makes this documentary so special is that the film makers had all the real material from both the planes and the after math. They just kept their cameras rolling the entire time.

Seeing the documentary made me understand why 9/11 is a day we will never forget. The attacks that day are perhaps some of the worst acts of terror ever and has caused change to millions of lives all over the world.

Alan Stuart “Al” Franken

Alan Stuart Franken aka. Al Franken is an American politician and comedian. Since 2009 he has been a senator for the state of Minnesota and this fall he is running again.

Franken attended Harvard University and majored in government.

Before turning to politics Al Franken was a writer and an occasional preformer on “Saturday Night Live”. First from 1975-80 and then returning from 1985-95. After 1995 Franken wrote a number of books of which four made the New York Times best selling list. From 2004 until 2007 Franken hosted the radioshow “The Al Franken Show” which aired tree hours a day, five days a week.

When Franken was elected senator in 2009 he was one of the biggest supporters for the single-payer system. The single-payer system is a system in which the government, rather than private insurers, pays for health care costs. The system would be funded by the tax payers. Much like the Norwegian system. He voted for the much discussed “Afordable care act” aka. Obamacare.

For his run for the senate this fall the focus of his campaign has been to make sure everyone has the same opportunities. Al franken

The American Health Reform

obamacare explained

After struggeling for a long time with large protests and many discussions the Affordable Care Act finaly kicked in in the beginning of 2014. There are 4 main ways most of the American peoplewill experience health care with this new health reform. Around 50% will get insurance trough work, as before. About 30% will be covered by the government thorugh the systems “medicare” and “medicade”. Around 10% will buy insurance on their own and, sadly, another 10% will have no insurance at all.

In the workplace, for people who are already covered, not much will change, except there will be free prevantive care. For those working in large companies, but are not covered things will change. The new health reform requires companies with more than 50 employees to cover insurance for all full time workers. For the smaller companies the government will make it easier for them to cover their employees by for example tax benefits.

For those covered by Medicare not much will change. However Medicaid are expanding and will cover more people, especially poor and disabled adults.

For those not covered by either their work or the government, insurance will become cheaper and easier to get through insurance markedplaces. Most people buying their own insurance will be given tax benefits so that they can afford the insurance.

The point of the reform is making sure as few Americans as possible will be without insurance. A life without insurance is a life filled with worries. As long as nothing happens with you or your family things will be fine, but when accidents happen and you can’t pay for treatment and medications, what will then happen?

Recount

The weeks following the 2000 presidential election Bush v. Gore, were very chaotic due to problems caused by the counting of the votes.The film begins with the electionday, November 7. and ends with the supreme court ruling, which stopped the recount of the votes in Florida on December 12.

We watched this film because lately we have been focusing on US and UK election. From watching Recount I learned a lot about how the voting in America works, and how the millions of votes are counted, and if necessary counted again. The film focuses on the system around the voting and the problems that a wrong count may cause. In Recount we see how the two parts of the election argue how the recount should happen and whether a recount really should happen or not. Both parties uses dirty tricks to tip the recount case in their favour. Al Gore’s chief of staff, Ron Klain (played by Kevin Spacey), is the main character and we get to see how he struggled to right the wrongs regarding the votes of the election. The probleme was mainly caused by voters not punching the holes on the ballots clearly enough, making it difficult for the machines to read them. Then a huge discussion began on how the votes should be recounted which ended with, as I mentioned, the supreme court ruled to stop the recount.

The recount was ended because the court meant that “counting every legally cast vote can constitute irreparable harm.”

The people working for Al Gore and a recount opinioned “Counting every legally cast vote cannot constitute irreparable harm… Preventing the recount from being completed will inevitably cast a cloud on the legitimacy of the election.”

The outcome of the ruling made people question whether George Bush jr. really won the election back in 2000. The results from the recount, though stopped, showed that Al Gore got a lot more votes than in the first count. If all the votes in Florida had been counted again, perhaps the election in 2000 would have had another outcome.

I think watching movies like Recount is a great way to learn about American politics and what happens behind the scenes during an election. It isn’t just facts, but also a bit of gossip giving us a better understanding on how politics in America works.

DiCaprio on UN’s Climate Summit

Tuesday this week Leaonardo DiCaprio spoke at the opening of the 2014 UN climate summit in New York. DiCaprios speech was humble and began with himself saying “”I stand before you not as an expert, but as a concerned citizen-” DiCaprio was also one of the 400 000 people marching the streets of New York for the government and the industries to take action for less green house-gass emissions.

Di Caprio claimes that we have reached a point where individuals can no longer make a difference by driving hybrids instead of fossil-fueled cars. He therefore pleads the government and the industries around the world to take action and change history, or else history will vilify them. He says “Honored delegates, leaders of the world.I pretend for a living, but you do not. The people made their voices heard on sunday around the world, and the momentum will not stop. But now it is your turn, the time to ansver human kinds greatest challange is now. We beg of you to face it with currage and honesty!”

In his speech DiCaprio tries to be a voice for the people and begs the leaders of the world to keep peoples lives in mind, and take responsibility. He claimes that it’s no longer enough to make people change lightbulbs and cars. We need to change our industries and find new ways to keep our economy running without relying on fossil fuels. As Leonardo DiCaprio says, ” This is now about our industries and our governments around the world taking decisive and large-scale action.”

sources:

Magna Carta

Magna Carta, also known as The Charter of Liberties, was sealed by King John, under oath on June 15th 1215. When Magna Carta was written it was the first time a group of the King’s subjects imposed a proposition to limit the King’s power by new laws and protect the peoples’ rights.

The charter is well known for its important role in the long process that led to the rule of the constitutional law in Great Britain today. Many of the same laws and principles found in Magna Carta are still a part of the constitutional law today. For example:

“No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will we not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land.” -This is probably the most famous clause from Magna Carta and made in the 13th century a huge difference for the normal citizen. For the people it meant they could stand up for their rights without having to fear unfair punishment. Or at least that was the idea of the barons who wrote the charter. To make sure the King would keep his promise the barons had also written a clause saying a committee of 25 barons had to be established to overlook the king’s decisions. King John never really approved of the charter and as soon as the barons had left London he went back on everything he had agreed to. This led to a civil war, known as the first barons’ war. During this war King John received support from the pope who abrogated the charter and called it:

“A shameful and demeaning agreement, forced upon the King by violence and fear.”

With the purpose of preventing war, Magna Carta was a failure. It was legal for only 3 months , but the death of King John a year later secured the future of Magna Carta as a charter of peoples rights.

The Magna Carta agreement was built upon Thomas Aquinas opinions. He thought that rulers should use their political power to maintain the needs of their people and that the people should have the  opportunity to speak their minds if the ruler was doing otherwise.  Aristoteles and Plato were inspirational sources, and all men should be equals by law. The king also needed the support of the parliament and was no longer able to rule the country all on his own. unlike before he had to think about the people, and not only about himself.

Magna Carta is an important piece of history. It is the first document that shows how and why the absolutism were the king ruled on his own, was about to disappear. It also shows that the people have the power to overrule the authorities in a society.

sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Carta

http://www.bl.uk/magna-carta

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/magna_carta.htm

D-day 70th Anniversary

US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande look out over Omaha BeachUS President Obama and French President Hollande look out over Omaha beach.

June 6th 1944 the allied forces invaded Normandy in France in the Operation Overlord. This was the largest ever seaborne invasion ever which lead to the restoration of France and eventually the Allied victory in the war. The target; the Normandy coast was devided into five sectors. Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword Beach. The weather conditions on D-day were far from ideal. Strong winds drove the landing crafts away from there intended positions and the soliders landed under heavy gun fire from the Germans. Most lives were lost at Omaha beach due to the advantage the high cliffs gave the germans. About 3000 american soldiers lost their lives at Omaha.

This year, 2014, it is 70 years since the D-day. This is marked with a series of events both in the UK and various locations along the Normandy coast. Many heads of States are participating in these events including, Barack Obama, Francois Hollande, David Cameron. Other participants were Queen Elisabeth and other members of the British royal family, as well as many of the veterans who took part in the actual operation in 1944. The youngest of the veterans are almost 90 years old, therefore chances are this is the last anniversary most of them will participate in. Because of this the event planners made sure to make this commemoration a big one. 

Here are some pictures from the anniversary:

HM Queen Elizabeth II pays her respects after laying a wreath at the French-British ceremony held at the British War cemetery in Bayeux, northern France on the 70th anniversary of D-DayBritish veterans read the order of service at the open-air ceremonyArtists perform against a backdrop of coloured fireworks at the Internationa Ceremony

If you want to see more pictures visit The Telegraph’s website.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/10872819/In-pictures-D-Day-70th-anniversary.html?frame=2934116