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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Enough is Enough. It’s time to seriously discuss guns

These days, it seems to be the norm in the United States that every week there is another mass shooting. Whether it’s at a concert in Las Vegas, a nightclub or a most horrific of all, schools. I for one am sickened by the violence that has consumed American society and the lack of interest by our lawmakers to take action. How many people, especially children have to die before those in Washington, including the President, start to take gun violence seriously?

Now I am by no means anti 2nd Amendment because there are a lot of good and law-abiding citizens who responsibly and legally own guns. They use them to hunt or for recreation at the shooting range and in some cases, they use them to defend their homes from intruders. The problem in itself is not guns, it is that it is too easy to get them. In states such as Texas, one only has to go to a gun show, put the cash down on the table and have a gun and we’re not talking about handguns and rifles, we’re talking about military-grade weaponry that was created to kill large numbers of people in a very short amount of time, case, and point, the AR-15 which has been used in numerous shootings as of late including the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The most disgusting issue with gun violence is that the NRA refuses to admit that there is a problem and consistently touts that more guns would make our children safer. They refuse to advocate for the ban on assault weapons and are playing along with the right-wing politicians, President Trump included and right-wing based media outlets who accuse those who want something done as “communists” or “socialists” and other words that they can’t even define without consulting Google. What sickens me, even more, is that the NRA attacks the kids who survived the most recent shooting and the grieving families who lost their child and are now demanding that something be done as paid pawns of “the left”. These people are not being paid, they are both sad and angry and for NRA President, Wayne LaPierre to talk down to these people goes to show you what kind of person he is and I guarantee you, that if somebody shot up the school that he kids attend, he would be singing a different tune, and if not, then there’s something seriously wrong with the guy. Even Republican Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio talked down to his constituents in a recent town hall meeting saying that “there are those who support my agenda” when asked if he would not take campaign donations from the NRA. What agenda are you supporting Mr. Rubio? Death?

For better or for worse, guns are a part of American culture and that is not likely to change anytime soon. But what we can change is the process of buying guns by making it difficult for those who are mentally ill and show signs of malice to purchase guns and to put an end to the legality of being able to buy and own military-grade weapons which NO civilian needs to have. The truth is that we can make guns more difficult to get, but at the end of the day it is just as easy to get them illegally as it is drugs on the streets. So until we are able to have a serious discussion about this issue and put life before politics and find a way to regulate gun purchases, tackle organized crimes on our streets, and stop listening to the propaganda of the NRA, more people including children are going to die. And with every shooting and the continuous lack of lawmakers including the President to care aside from eating from the gun lobby’s hand and wanting to arm teachers and janitors and turn our schools into war zones, the rest of the world will continue to view the United States as a country full of savages and that is not how I want my country to seen.

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