The CSS Blog Network

ISN Weekly Theme: Technology and Democracy

Tweet for the peeps / photo: G20Voice, flickr

Tweet for the peeps / photo: G20Voice, flickr

Twitter had a lead role in the Iranian uprising after the contested elections last month. But that wasn’t the first time a popular form of communication proved vital in a democracy movement. This week we’re focusing on the impact platforms such as Twitter, Facebook – and Web technology overall – have on democracy movements and the relationships between governments and their constituents.

Here’s a quick rundown of just a few website highlights:

One Government’s Jackpot is Another Government’s Vice

Rolling the dice to roll in the dough / photo: Maximaximax, wikipedia

Rolling the dice to roll in the dough / photo: Maximaximax, wikipedia

Casinos count as one of the most recession-proof industries. They are also a convenient source of tax revenue for governments. That’s why many legislators tend to relax their moral reservations towards the “vice of gambling” and allow the re-opening of casinos to generate new government income.

Grappling with a gaping hole in its state budget, the Massachussetts legislature is seriously considering legalizing casino gambling in the state. The casino industry in the United States is even expected to keep struggling architects afloat, who are among the hardest hit by the recession. In fact, only the construction of churches seems to keep up with that of casinos.

Against all odds, the Russian government, which has been dealt a hard hand by the global economic downturn, is doing the exact opposite: As of today, casinos in Russia are outlawed.  It is the result of a law that seeks to “go all-in” with eradicating a vice that allegedly is widespread among the Russian people. The law is also designed to rein in an industry seen as a breeding ground for corruption and organized crime. From the new law, Russia expects a payoff in virtue rather than cash. Meanwhile, the Russian casino industry expects at least 350,000 job losses as a result of the shutdowns – in addition to the loss in revenue for the cash-strapped Russian state.

Alas, for hundreds of thousands of Russian casino industry employees, the game is over. Yet the ban’s effectiveness might be less certain than your survival in Russian roulette. The gambling industry is expected to go underground and thus more difficult to regulate and control. So will the ban ultimately help eradicate the vice of gambling? I wouldn’t bet on it.

No Me Moleste Mosquito

World distribution of dengue viruses and their mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti, in 2008

World distribution of dengue viruses and their mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti, in 2008

A recent Miami Herald article sparked my interest for the small insect. Its name is Aedes Aegypti, one of the 3500 mosquito species identified so far, known for spreading dengue fever, but also the Chikungunya and yellow fever viruses.

The Miami Herald article describes how Mexico is currently struggling to counter a resurgence of dengue fever. It is not the only Latin American country dealing with the buzzing issue. Brazil and Argentina have apparently reported record numbers of cases this year.

At first, hearing about yet another disease striking Mexico alarmed me. It was only after reading more on the issue – as in the case of the H1N1 virus – that I was settled. Dengue fever has a relatively low death rate. Only 2.5 percent of hospitalized patients do not survive the disease. However, the tropical febrile disease is particularly costly, with patients requiring constant and long-term monitoring. Therefore, in the case of Mexico this we know for sure: The spreading disease will strike tourism and the economy as a whole yet another blow.

With the fever increasing rapidly in tropical and subtropical areas, we ask: What can be done against the dangerous disease and its carrier – the mosquito? Researchers all over the world are testing dengue fever vaccines and at the same time considerable efforts are being invested in mosquito eradication.

Of the existing population policies and programs the ones of Singapore appear to be the most developed ones. After the 2005 dengue outbreak the country launched enhanced measures, including the introduction of fines for those who allow mosquitoes to breed in their homes and also for those found with standing water at construction sites (standing water being the larval hatching grounds of the Aedes Aegypti).
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