Russian and Chinese Leaders Tighten their grips on Power as Tension with the West mounts

China

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 In 1981 the Communist Party of China amended the country’s constitution so that no one person could rule for life in an attempt to make the nation actually look like a “republic”. Leaders also made the change hoping that it would help the country recover from years of bloody turmoil and political campaigns under Mao that killed millions. But now those days are gone as the party overwhelmingly voted to do away with presidential term limits as they selected Xi Jinping to serve another term. His vice president Wang Qishan also selected by the National People’s Congress has long been a close ally of Xi and is expected to further Xi’s agenda of shoring up power in the Communist Party and ending poverty in the nation.

All 2,970 members of the NPC voted in favor of the change and supported Xi remaining in power. With his unlimited tenure as president, Xi was made once again the head of the commission that controls the nation’s military. Chinese officials defended the move saying that it would bring the presidency in line with Xi’s vision of China and give him more leeway as head of the armed forces.

The 64-year-old is said to be the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.

Not everybody is happy with the move, however; critics say that the change will lead to further political repression and conflict within the party as various factions try to push their own candidates within what is a closed system.

Xi became president in 2013 and has not stated how long he intends to remain in power.

NPR reports that the government claims that overwhelming polls show that the majority of Chinese from the wealthy to the “commoners” support the NPC’s decision to allow Xi to rule for an unlimited amount of time, however, there have been no polls released nor has anybody been able to conduct any such polls. And when people are asked on the streets, they seem content with Xi remaining in power and cite that they like his tough foreign policy stance.

Russia

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On Sunday Russians go to the polls to vote in an election that is expected to place Vladimir Putin in power for another six years. In the Far East, polls have already opened where 109 million voters are eligible in 11 different time zones.

The election is said to be lop-sided favoring Putin who has no real competition and Putin’s only real opponent, Alexei Navalny has been barred from participating.

In 2012, Putin won in a landslide victory but this time, there is a lot of anti-western rhetoric to pave his path to victory. In what is more or less a controlled media in the country, Russians seeing what Putin and the government want them to see such as the diplomatic shortcomings between Moscow, England, and Washington according to them, Putin is not worried about losing power. However; voter turnout could be an issue as many Russians lost faith in the system due to a number of scandals and rampant corruption. There were also protests last year as many took to the streets to make the unsatisfaction with the government, public. Navalny has even called for a protest of the election.

Past polls have shown that Putin is popular among the Russian people as they believe that he has led the country out of the turmoil that was rampant following the post-Soviet days.

Where America comes in

As leaders who have typically been anti-American and in general, anti-west tighten their grip on power, the United States must play its cards smart. As President Trump continues to talk tough on North Korea and is planning on meeting with Kim Jong Un, he must keep in mind China’s tight alliance with Pyongyang, remembering their aid to the communists in the Korean War. U.S officials must not forget the hacks conducted by the Chinese and the recent hacks by Russia on the American power grid. And we must not forget the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, whether they helped Trump or not. Russia is also suspected of interfering in numerous elections in Europe.

As the UK has expelled Russian diplomats over the suspected poisoning death of a former spy, Moscow has pushed back expelling British diplomats as well. The Kremlin has even promised retaliation against the U.S for sanctions it has placed on Moscow over the election hacks.

Two men who are nothing less than dictators are trying to crack down in their own countries and looking to expand their dominance in other parts of the world. The U.S must remain strong and not allow Xi and Putin to influence other nations especially those who may already have some hostilities towards the west. The U.S must be ready for anything and keep an eye out for further Russian interference and hacks in the future.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/17/china-reappoints-xi-jinping-as-president-with-no-term-limit

https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2018/03/14/593155818/why-abolishing-chinas-presidential-term-limits-is-such-a-big-deal

https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/17/europe/russia-presidential-election-2018-intl/index.html

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A Breakdown of the Nunes Memo and What it Taught Us

Since the Nunes Memo has been released, the Republicans have been holding it up in every House and Senate discussion, on every Sunday morning news show as definitive proof that the probe into President Trump’s ties to Russia is nothing more than a smear tactic or as the President himself has called it, “a witch hunt” by the Democrats and their bitterness over the fact that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. As far as I can tell, the memo doesn’t prove that Trump or any of his aides had any communication with Russian officials or Russian President Vladimir Putin himself, nor does it prove that Trump didn’t have Russia’s assistance.  However; the memo does tell us a few things.

  1. Campaigns and political parties hire people to dig up dirt. This may not be new information to anyone nor would it be any surprise if it is. According to the memo, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton Campaign, along with  Perkins Coie and research firm Fusion GPS paid Christopher Steele, a longtime FBI informant over $160,000 to compile a derogatory dossier on Donald Trump during the campaign.
  2. The FBI is fair when informants break the rules and this is evident when Steele was fired as an informant when he disclosed to the media his relationship with the FBI in a Mother Jones article by David Corn, as the memo states. Nunes argued that this firing was biased as Steele should have been fired earlier for disclosing information to Yahoo news and other outlets in September and for concealing his speaking with the media from the FBI. Nunes argues in the memo that is it for this reason that Steele was an unreliable source as he broke the unbreakable rule of “maintaining confidentiality”.
  3. Those who work in the DOJ have opinions too as is evident according to the memo as then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein was Steele’s connection to the DOJ after his termination. Nunes claims that shortly after the election, Ohr began to document his communications with Steele and admitted in September 2016, he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not, being president.” At the same time, Ohr’s wife was paid by Fusion GPS to assist in the opposition to Trump and Nunes states that this fact was concealed from the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court  (FISC).
  4. The FBI didn’t try to hide anything from Trump as before he even took office then- FBI Director James Comey briefed the President-elect on the Steele-dossier and even testified in June 2017 that the dossier was “salacious and unverified.” To this point, Nunes argues that the FISA either ignored or concealed Steele’s anti-Trump “financial and ideological motivations”.
  5. FBI agents have preferences in who they would like to be President as shown in the text messages between FBI agent Pete Strzok and his mistress, FBI Attorney Lisa Page as they showed that they were both opposed to Trump and that they favored Hillary Clinton however: Strozk also investigated Clinton. He may have had a preference but he did investigate the candidate that he favored—what got him in hot water was that he and Page had extensive discussions about the investigation,  plans to leak to the media and to have a ” meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an ‘insurance’ policy against President Trump’s election”.

The only thing that seems to be wrong is how the investigation initially started out, and that was the fact that according to the memo “On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received an ISA probable cause order (not under Title VII) authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC”. The memo claims that at first the application was certified by the Director or Deputy Director of the FBI and was followed up with approval by “the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General (DAG), or the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division”. Nunes argues that the three renewals of the surveillance which are to occur every 90 days and requires new findings for probable cause did not take place and that then-Director Comey signed off on three, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one and Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein also signed one all on behalf of the FBI. The memo states that this violates ISA rules for surveillance on American citizens which Carter Page is. He was also an unpaid aide to Trump during the campaign. I don’t think that this shows bias towards Trump from the DOJ or FBI. What it does show is that everyone has an opinion and that procedure was not followed, not due to opposition to Trump but the FBI not following protocol.

Again, the memo does not prove that Trump is guilty of working with Russia to win the election, nor does it show that he’s innocent. What it does show is negligence on behalf of the FBI and that the Republicans will use any little detail that comes to the surface to defend Trump and that the blame game from both sides is only beginning in Washington. The only thing that will tell us whether or not Trump worked with the Russians to steal the election is the results of the ongoing investigation by Robert Mueller.

You can read all 4 pages of the memo here: https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/02/politics/fbi-nunes-memo-full/index.html

Image Source retreived from nbcnews.com

Why Millennials overwhelmingly support Bernie Sanders

First and foremost, I must start off by saying that I knew who Bernie Sanders was long before he announced that he was running for president. I guess you can say this is due to the fact that from a very young age, I have been interested in politics. I’ve followed every election closely for many years, voted in every single election since the day I became 18 years old, and in junior high school when all of the guys my age were into cars and sports, I was into politics, government, and elections. This would explain why I studied Justice Studies (a focus on social justice) and Political Science in college. I must also make it clear that I am a Millennial, a generation which researchers place as being born between the years of 1980 and 1995.

In this current election cycle, Millennials have come out in huge numbers to support Senator Bernie Sanders for president over Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Now, I supported Sanders since he announced his candidacy for president because he is much more aligned with my views then Clinton. But there is a reason as to why so many Millennials are flocking to support Sanders, and I didn’t even realize this until I heard it on a segment on the Ring of Fire radio program on WCPT out of Chicago. This not only explained why so many Millennials are behind Senator Sanders, but also allowed myself to see why I am behind him. I am going to share these reasons with you and I’m sure that many of my fellow Millennials will find that they agree. We are tired of the slow progress, we want that rapid change Obama promised us, and we believe Senator Sanders will deliver.

First, there is the issue of the economy. Under the Obama Administration, the economy has made a strong comeback and is stronger than it was at any point under the Administration of George W. Bush however; it is far weaker than it was at many periods throughout history. As Millennials, we find ourselves at the disadvantage of suffering from the mistakes and the greed of previous generations. When Reagan became president in 1980, he wasted no time in deregulating Wall St allowing not only greed in the financial capital of the world, but in the banking industry and in the corporate world as well. Reagan also gave the rich huge tax breaks which of course always means that the middle and lower classes are stuck with paying that extra burden. Presidents George HW Bush, Clinton, and George W Bush all further deregulated Wall St and gave tax cuts to the rich. Under Clinton, the economy was strong because of the Internet Bubble, but when that burst, the economy sank and the passing of NAFTA which was essentially corporate welfare, allowing for corporations to outsource jobs for cheap labor putting millions of Americans out of work, certainly did not help matters. TPP is NAFTA Asia which Senator Sanders opposes and Secretary Clinton refuses to give an opinion on. Finally, as Millennials, we find ourselves as the generation most impacted now and in the future from George W Bush’s trillions of dollars spent on war in the Middle East, especially in Iraq which we know was a war based entirely on lies. Our generation will be paying that off. With that said, Bernie Sanders supports regulating Wall St once again and taxing the rich and not giving them breaks and loopholes which allow them to not only pay far less then working class people, but also would prevent them from hiding money overseas so that it cannot be taxed. That is why so many Millennials support Senator Sanders on economic issues. Secretary Clinton seems reluctant to regulate Wall St and tax the rich. She also seems hesitant to make a stand against the Citizens United ruling which Senator Sanders opposes and intends on overturning. In my opinion, this is because Secretary Clinton has too many ties to those institutions and does not want to upset some of her largest donors and supporters. Millennials do not want another crash like we had 2008, and preventing Wall St and banking greed, would prevent such a crash.

Secondly, there is the matter of college tuition which has skyrocketed over the past several decades. Millennials are hit hard by this as well, for we now hold more college loan debt than any other generation in history since the college loan program came to be in the 1960’s. We currently hold approximately 3.1 trillion dollars in student loan debt, and the default rate on those student loans continues to climb because we are having trouble finding jobs in our fields of study and are forced to not only be stuck working low paying jobs, but find ourselves unable to pay back our loans and buy houses, cars etc. We are stuck living at home and not contributing to the economy or all that much to society. Senator Sanders not only wants to make college education free as it is in pretty much every country in the Western Hemisphere especially Europe, but he wants to at least start off by making community college free. He also wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour which is still not exactly a living wage but is much better than the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Clinton has stated that she would not raise the minimum wage to more than $12 an hour and doesn’t agree with free college. As Millennials, we want good paying jobs in our fields of study, we want a minimum wage that we can live on, we want to move out of our parents’ homes and buy our own houses, and contribute to society. We want this future for our children. We can have that under a Sanders Administration, and we can pay for it as Senator Sanders has said by taxing the rich, taxing the corporations, and by taxing Wall St speculation. Secretary Clinton will tell you that Senator Sanders has no way of paying for this, let alone a plan,  but I just gave you his plan which he himself has stated, it is also available on his website. We also want free health care like every other major, industrialized country offers their citizens and again, we pay for it through the above mentioned ways. The Affordable Care Act was a start, but let’s face it. The ACA allows a handful of major insurance corporations to not only dictate the market but to control the prices. This allows them to raise prices and premiums just because they feel like it, and the pharmaceutical companies intentionally raise prices, not caring what impact it has on the middle class and the poor in order to make themselves wealthy. Senator Sanders believes that this is wrong as do many Millennials, but Secretary Clinton seems to be okay with the current corporate dominated system.

Finally, there is this whole matter of Sanders claiming that he is not part of the establishment. I have to say that he is, for he has been in politics for 30  plus years, when you are in politics, you are a part of the establishment whether you like it or not. What I believe Senator Sanders means when he says that he is not part of the establishment is that he is not one who goes along with the crowd, as Secretary Clinton always seemed to do in her political career. Senator Sanders has stood against Wall St, the Federal Reserve, stood up to Goldman Sachs, and criticized our country rushing into war and getting involved in quagmires. Secretary Clinton has supported our rush to war, has received massive campaign contributions from Wall St, has never stood up to the Federal Reserve, and has been paid massive amounts of money to give speeches to firms such as Goldman Sachs, and she refuses to release the transcripts of these speeches. This is really making us wonder. Secretary Clinton, when she was a Senator supported the Iraq War and continues to support having large number of Americans troops on the ground in the Middle East. Senator Sanders voted against the Iraq War and does not support having a large number of American troops fighting the battles of the Middle Eastern nations, but instead supports the idea of having enough of a presence to train the troops of these countries to fight their own battles. Too many Millennials have seen somebody who we went to high school with go off to one of these unjust wars of this century and come home in a body bag, and we’re not entirely happy.  We also want green technology for the planet has been heavily damaged by the years and years of using fossil fuels, and we are the generation that is stuck with that burden for decades to come.

These are the reasons that so many Millennials support Sanders over Clinton for president. We believe that he is for us and for the working class, while Clinton supports more of a corporate America. I do not want you to think that I will not vote for Secretary Clinton if she gets the nomination, because I will vote for her. Even though I think we will be better under a President Bernie Sanders than a President Hillary Clinton, we would be better of with either of these two than we would under any potential Republican candidate, for they would allow HUGE tax breaks for the rich, for the corporations, and would continue to wage unjust wars throughout the world. Not to mention that the progress that we have made over these past eight years will washed away in a matter of seconds under a Republican president, along with a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her body, and the Christian religion being forced down our throats, undermining our Constitutional right to freedom of religion. So, I want my fellow Millennials and everybody else to continue to support Senator Sanders or at least consider it, and if he doesn’t get the nomination, do vote for Secretary Clinton because a Republican president is not going to be in the least bit interested in our generation or  in our generation’s future. Also, vote in every election, a president is powerless if he or she doesn’t have a Congress to back them up as we have seen with the Republicans refusing to even negotiate with President Obama to make even the smallest amount of progress. VOTE VOTE VOTE AND MOST IMPORTANTLY OF ALL VOTE INFORMED.