Current Events
Current Events

APPLYING FOR ASYLUM…
JUST CHANGED IN AMERICA

 

The White House announces a new rule for asylum seekers arriving at the U.S. southern border.

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PAST POLICY

  • Asylum seekers arriving at the southern border undergo a “credible fear” interview to show if they’re eligible for asylum.
  • Those with credible claims get referred to an immigration court.
  • To be granted asylum, an individual must prove a well-founded fear of persecution based on nationality, religion, race, politics, or social group.
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NEW RULE

Anyone who passes through another country en route to U.S. southern border w/o applying for protection from persecution or torture in a third country is ineligible for asylum in the U.S. …

EXCEPT if person is victim of trafficking, did not pass through a country with a refugee treaty, or applied but was denied protection.

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Context to Know:

  • Between 2012-2017, the number of those applying for asylum from Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) increased 800%. 
  • Approx. 1 out of 4 people (27%) last year ultimately received asylum status.
  • Asylum seekers can stay in the U.S. awaiting court dates; the U.S. has a backlog of 200,000+ cases.
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“Ultimately, today’s action will reduce the overwhelming burdens on our domestic system caused by asylum-seekers failing to seek urgent protection in the first available country, economic migrants lacking a legitimate fear of persecution, and the transnational criminal organizations, traffickers, and smugglers exploiting our system for profits.”

DHS Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan
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Organizations like the ACLU promise to "sue swiftly" for "trying to unilaterally reverse our country's legal and moral commitment to protect those fleeing danger." The top 3 countries with the most asylum applications granted: China, El Salvador & Guatemala.

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 “Are You An American Citizen?” 

Why is this such a loaded question? 

The nation’s highest court ruled against adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, but its fate is *still* unclear.

Why? 

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Backstory

  • 2018: Commerce Dept. says it will add a citizenship question to 2020 census. Critics say this will discourage respondents.
  • June: Supreme Court sends the case back to lower courts, saying the reason provided by Trump admin for adding the question (to enforce a federal law aimed at protecting minority voters) seemed “contrived.”
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Latest

  • Last Tuesday: DOJ said there would be “no citizenship question on 2020 census”; Census Bureau began printing questionnaires without the citizenship question.
  • Last Wednesday: Pres. Trump said the gov’t is “absolutely moving forward” in its quest to put the question on the census.
  • January 2020: Census counting starts.
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“I agree with him that the Supreme Court decision was wrong.”

Attorney General William Barr affirming on Monday he agrees with the President on adding the citizenship question to the census; he offered no specifics but said the Trump administration will soon take action he believes will permit the gov’t to include the question regardless.
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Why We Count

  • Constitution mandates that gov’t count population every 10 years.
  • Used to distribute the 435 seats in the House of Representatives and shape congressional & state districts.
  • Many federal & state programs rely on data to distribute fund$ used to build schools, roads, etc.
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Also Worth Noting …

The Census Bureau is legally prohibited from disclosing any census information that identifies an individual or business – even to other federal agencies – until 72 years after it is collected.

EXCEPTION: Anonymous demographical information on neighborhoods.

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DID YOU KNOW? Since 1790, a citizenship question has been included in 10 of the 23 census questionnaires, however citizenship data from the whole population has not been collected since 1950.

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HISTORIC WALK

 

 

“Ok. Let’s do it.”

With 4 words & about 20 steps, Pres. Trump walks into the history books.

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Why this moment matter - politically and internationally. Click through to our "View Sources" page.

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HOW DID DEBATES BECOME THE NORM?

The first televised presidential debate in America…featured no major candidates.

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The Backstory:

  • Happened in 1956.
  • The presidential race that year included Democrat Adlai Stevenson vs. incumbent Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, but they didn’t face off on live TV.
  • Instead of candidates, surrogates for the major parties debated the issues in a televised broadcast *only* 2 days before the election.
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Ladies First

  • Fmr. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt represented the Democrats.
  • Sen. Margaret Chase Smith – the first woman to serve in both houses of congress – represented the Republicans.
  • Both women friendly and often viewed as amongst the “most admired” in America.
  • Reviews on who won? Mixed!
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Candidates Join The Party

  • During the next presidential cycle, the candidates took center stage for the first time. Sen. Kennedy debated VP Nixon in 1960.
  • VP Nixon infamously appearing sick “looked green, sallow, needed a shave.”
  • Sen. Kennedy, described as a “matinee idol,” shined.
  • Kennedy later won the election.
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“Should a presidential election turn on makeup? No, but this one did.”

Producer-director of the 1960 debate Don Hewitt who later went on to start 60 minutes. Nixon refused makeup and some, including Hewitt, believe it impacted the perception of him as a candidate.
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There will be 6 televised democratic primary debates by the end of 2019. Presidential debates will happen AFTER the major parties officially name their presidential candidates at the conventions next summer.

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WILL YOU WATCH?

 

 

The Democrats host the first presidential debates of 2020.
Why the location matters as much as the results.

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The Basics:

  • Democratic National Committee (DNC) hosts the debate in Miami.
  • Candidates qualify by money or favorable polling (65,000 donors across 20 states OR earning 1% in AT LEAST 3 polls the DNC qualifies as legit.)
  • Candidates get 60 sec to respond to a question, 30 sec to follow up; no opening statement but a closing one allowed.
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Why Location Matters

“There is no Republican winning coalition that doesn’t include Florida — you can’t make the math work.”

GOP strategist Brad Todd. President Trump narrowly won Florida in 2016. The DNC choosing Florida as the first site of the debate, and Michigan - another swing state Pres. Trump narrowly won - for next week’s second debate, shows the party is prioritizing these states.
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What To Watch:

  • Will Dems take aim at each other, OR zero-in on Pres. Trump?
  • Top issues may tell us more about the strategy of the individual candidates or the Democratic party overall.
  • Breakout moments for any candidate in this crowded field can shape the public’s perception & perhaps the election.
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“No matter how high the ratings are for these debates, most voters will learn what happened based on the coverage, not the debate itself. So the goal for every candidate is to make it into the highlight reel.”

Veteran Republican strategist Todd Harris on why the media is an important player in the debates.
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The DNC randomly selected candidates for each night. Here's a list of when each is appearing and the 4 candidates didn't make the cut.

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Two Sides Of The Law

 

 

A day after her husband was arrested for domestic violence, a FL mom took the law into her own hands and ended up getting arrested also – now she faces more prison time than he does.

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BACKSTORY

  • A FL man was arrested after he was accused of rear-ending his wife’s car and running her off the road.
  • The court issued a protective order prohibiting the husband from possessing any guns.
  • The following day, the wife was arrested when she went to a police station to turn in guns she took from her husband’s apt.
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AFTERMATH

  • After the wife arrived at the police station she admitted to entering her husband’s home w/o his permission. She cited safety fears for herself & their two kids.
  • Husband charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon; faces up to 15 years.
  • Wife charged with grand theft & armed burglary; faces up to 25 years.
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“Prosecuting Ms. Irby sets a scary precedent that if someone seeks help to escape abuse, they will be punished for it.”

Florida State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) in a letter to State Attorney Brian Haas asking him drop the charges against Courtney Irby, noting that local law enforcement often don’t have the resources needed to enforce risk protection orders in order to remove firearms from individuals.
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“We have to safeguard every citizen’s rights. When a case is brought to us, we have to look at all sides of the cases and come to the fairest conclusion we can for everyone involved.”

Lakeland Police Chief Ruben Garcia. Both husband and wife are due back in court next month. The case has divided the local community.
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WHAT DO YOU THINK? Should the wife face prison time for trying to protect herself and her children? Does the case change if the husband IS convicted of domestic violence? Who's more at fault?

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ELECTION SECURITY

 

 

 

 

As the presidential race picks up the pace with the first 2020 debates approaching, one question lingers:
Are our elections safe?

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“There’s good news and bad news when it comes to election security.”

Andrew Grotto, coauthor of a new study out of Stanford University which examined the election security threats facing the U.S. The authors found that while strides have been made on the federal and state levels, more needs to be done to secure our elections, such as increased federal $ for election infrastructure, updated voting machines, & paper records of votes.
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What We Know

  • The Special Counsel report revealed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election (ex: fake social media accounts) in a “sweeping” fashion, but there was no proof of votes being changed.
  • Digital voting systems are particularly vulnerable to hacking.
  • A dozen states store at least some votes electronically without any paper trail backup system.
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STATE ACTION

  • Officials in 31 states want to replace their aging voting equipment before 2020, but not all have the funds to do so.
  • California is leading the charge, ordering all of its 58 voting districts to update their voting systems by the 2020 primaries.
  • Other states, like Pennsylvania, are aiming to have a paper backup system in place by 2020.
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FEDERAL ACTION

  • DHS created a system for states & localities to share information about threats to voting systems.
  • In 2018, Congress appropriated $380M to the states for election security upgrades.
  • Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, the Pentagon launched its first cyber operation to block Russian interference by targeting Russian operatives.
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To date, most election security bills have failed to move through the Congress but in July, House Democrats are aiming to pass a package of election security measures, and the Senate is scheduled to hold an election security briefing.

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Trouble In Paradise?

 

A deeper dive into what’s happening in the Dominican Republic amid reports that at least 9 Americans have fallen ill and died while vacationing on the Caribbean island over the last year.

 

 

 

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What We Know

  • Many of the families said their loved ones were in “good health” before their mysterious deaths.
  • Out of at least 9 middle-aged and older adults reported dead, five died at two resorts.
  • Some became sick after drinking from the hotel minibar.
  • In addition to the deaths, many others reported coming down with extreme stomach sickness.
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“At this point, ongoing investigations by local authorities have not established a connection between these incidents.”

U.S. Embassy in a June 6th statement. Last week, the U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic issued another statement, confirming it is working with local law enforcement, and the FBI. Official toxicology results aren't expected until next month.
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BIGGER PICTURE

  • About 1/3 of the 6.5 million tourists that traveled to the Dominican Republic last year were American.
  • 30 Americans died while traveling to the Dominican Republic of non-natural causes (drowning, suicide, homicide, etc) from  2017 – 2018.
  • An April State Dept. travel advisory warned visitors to exercise increased caution due to crime.
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Despite the similarities, authorities have yet to make any formal connection in the deaths, and the Dominican Republic's tourism minister says travel is safe. Still, some airlines are responding to traveler concerns, offering to work with passengers on a case-by-case basis.

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SOLD!

 

 

 

One of the Oldest Fine Arts Auction Houses in the World…just sold.

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History of Sotheby’s

  • 1744: founded by Samuel Baker, a bookseller in London, who liked wearing plum-colored coats.
  • Focus: auctioning private library collections.
  • Baker divided his company between his business partner & his nephew: John Sotheby
  • Post-WWI: auction house started selling art & items from fine estates in English countryside.
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Why Sotheby’s Matters

Sotheby’s has sold some of the most rare artifacts in history:

  • First printing of the Declaration of Independence
  • 710-year-old copy of the Magna Carta
  • Personal collections of Jacklyn Onassis Kennedy & Greta Garbo
  • Artwork of Picasso and Warhol
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“As a longtime client and lifetime admirer of the company, I am acquiring Sotheby’s together with my family.”

Billionaire Patrick Drahi bought Sotheby's for a deal valued around $3.7B. Sotheby's has survived both as a private company & most recently as a publicly traded company. If approved, this deal will take the company private yet again.
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As the oldest company on the New York Stock Exchange, Sotheby’s has had to answer to shareholders, something its competitor, Christie's, doesn't have to do (allowing more flexibility). Both auction houses saw sales increase last year & may soon be owned by French businessmen.

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Democracy or Dictatorship

 

 

 

Celebrities turn their social media “blue” in solidarity with protesters in Sudan. Why?

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THE BASICS: SUDAN

  • What: African nation of 43M people (about 3M more than California); predominately Muslim.
  • Where: East Africa. Symbolically “bridges” Arab world with Africa. Access to Red Sea (Saudi Arabia across from it, Egypt to North).
  • History: Pres. Omar al-Bashir ruled for 30 years, dominated by civil war; accused of war crimes, genocide, rape & murder.
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THE BACKSTORY:

  • Decades of civil war, dictator rule.
  • December: Public protests over gov’t rising prices for food & fuel.
  • April: Military, protesters oust Pres. al-Bashir from power.
  • June: Military has factions. One group called RSP (Rapid Support Forces) that enforced al-Bashir’s rule, reportedly killed & raped protesters advocating for the public’s role in new gov’t.
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“It’s all about degradation, humiliation and beating of the spirit. This is part of what they did in Darfur – they did it as a means, a weapon of war. Now it is a weapon to kill the revolution.”

Trauma center leader at Afhad University, Sulaima Ishaq Sharif, who has treated some of the victims of the June protests.
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Why It Matters: Big Picture

  • Is this a trend? In Algeria (North Africa) protests led to the military taking power, with hopes for a representative gov’t. Will some of Africa’s largest countries break from dictatorships and turn towards democracy?
  • Instability creates opportunity for those who want influence in the region (like Turkey, Qatar, & Iran) & access to potential oil resources.
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The potential for a major humanitarian crisis remains. Initial protests ignited over basic goods and the economy remains in disarray. Reports indicate the military has shut down internet connection, so reliable information is difficult to collect.

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“A CLEAR THREAT”

America accuses Iran of attacking two oil tankers near a crucial waterway in the Middle East and threatening worldwide peace.

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Location Matters:

  • Two attacks Thurs. happened near a narrow waterway in the Middle East called the Strait of Hormuz:“the world’s most sensitive oil transportation choke point.”
  • Approx. 20% of all the oil in the world moves through this area.
  • Why It Matters: Disruption in oil trade there can impact prices for everyone, everywhere.
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Backstory:

  • April: U.S. pulls waivers given to countries to buy Iranian oil further enforcing U.S, sanctions, & further pressuring Iran’s economy. Iran promises retaliation.
  • May: 4 oil tankers reportedly attacked near Strait of Hormuz; oil pipelines attacked in Saudi Arabia. Rockets fired at U.S. embassy in Baghdad (later evacuated). U.S. blames Iran.
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“Taken as a whole, these unprovoked attacks present a clear threat to peace and security, a blatant assault on the freedom of navigation and an unacceptable campaign of escalating tension by Iran.”

Sec. of State Mike Pompeo says Iran is lashing out because of economic sanctions, enforced in reaction to Iranian terrorist activity and their further pursuit of nuclear weapons.
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“Iran stands ready to play an active and constructive role in ensuring the security of strategic maritime passages as well as promoting peace, stability and security in the region.”

Iran’s U.N. Mission. Iran denies any wrongdoing and accuses America of "intimidation and malign behavior.” This week, Iran accused the U.S. of waging "economic war" and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei rejected the possibility of diplomacy with the U.S.
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One of the ships attacked Thursday was Japanese owned. Japan's Prime Minister was wrapping up a historic trip to Iran; the first Japanese leader to meet with Iranian leadership in decades, in part of diplomatic efforts with the U.S.

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How Far Does Your Liberty Go?

 

 

 

Is Death A Right?
Should It Be?

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Backstory

We’ve looked at laws impacting the very beginning of life – Here’s a look at laws impacting the end.

  • “Death With Dignity” laws focus on those who are terminally ill and want some control over their final days.
  • Maine is the latest state to decide whether it will legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill.
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The Maine Bill

  • The Democrat-controlled legislature passed the bill – now it’s up to the Democrat governor to either veto it or sign it into law.
  • Under the bill, terminally ill & mentally competent adult residents could obtain a fatal dose of prescription drugs from their physician after three requests, two waiting periods, and a second doctor’s opinion.
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BIGGER PICTURE

  • Oregon was the first state to pass a death with dignity law in 1997.
  • Since 2008, six other states (CA, CO, HI, NJ, WA, VT) & DC have passed similar laws.
  • Requirements, application, and safeguards vary by state.
  • Statistics show not all patients use their prescription.
  • At least 18 states considered similar bills so far this year.
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“This is a bill that’s about choice. It’s about the end of life because life includes death and when people are close to death they want choices in how they’re doing to end their life.”

The bill's sponsor Rep. Patricia Hymanson (D) on why the bill matters. She says the bill has safeguards to protect those suffering with dementia, mental illness, and to prevent coercion.
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“I think life is valuable and is precious and should be preserved till the very end.”

Maine state Sen. Lisa Keim (R) on why she can't support the bill. Other opponents say legislators should focus on focus on improving end-of-life care (ex: hospice) and cite fears of unintended consequences, like the elderly feeling pressured to end their lives due to financial restraints on family.
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A similar bill was vetoed in Maine years ago. Even if the governor vetoes this bill, a voter initiative legalizing the practice could make it onto Maine's 2020 ballot. What do YOU think? Should YOU have the right to end YOUR life?

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