Current Events
Current Events

SPECIAL COUNSEL INVESTIGATION CONCLUDES

 

 

What we know, what we don’t & what’s coming next.

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What We Know:

By The Numbers

  • 22: Months of investigation
  • 37: Indictments (34 people & 3 companies)
  • $12.3: Your tax dollars used (as of Sept 2018 – most recent report)
  • 7: Guilty pleas
  • 1: Jury conviction (Paul Manafort)
  • COUNTLESS hours of media coverage & speculation
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What We Don’t Know:

The Big Unknown: What the Special Counsel report says and if we will ever see it. The Attorney General will make this decision.

Attorney General Barr is NOT required to release the full contents of the Special Counsel’s report, nor is he prohibited from doing so.

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“I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”

AG Barr writing to Congress after receiving the Special Counsel report. While Barr doesn't have to release the report in full, he does have to notify Congress the investigation ended and whether or not, the DOJ stopped the Special Counsel from pursuing any legal action; He says "no such instances" of that occurred.
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Something To Consider:

  • The Special Counsel’s report states who was (and wasn’t) prosecuted, & the reasons why.
  • According to reports, there are NO more indictments coming from the Special Counsel.
  • There are still two open federal investigations into Pres. Trump’s inaugural committee & “hush money” payments paid by his frmr. lawyer, Michael Cohen.
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Why wouldn't we see the full confidential report? It is entirely up to AG Barr to determine what, if anything, in the Special Counsel's report is in public interest. Info could be withheld if detrimental to other cases, investigations, or violates releasing classified info.

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ANTI-SOCIAL?

Social media platforms can silence you in a moment – without any explanation.

But days after the worst shooting in New Zealand history, the live stream video of the attack (or portions of it) remain online.

Why?

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“The volumes at which that content was being copied and then re-uploaded to our platform was unprecedented in nature.”

Neal Mohan, chief product officer for YouTube, who said an upload a second occurred for several hours after the attack live-streamed on Facebook. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram continue to hunt down the content in order to scrub it from their sites.
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Why Is It So Hard?

  • Sheer volume: Billions of users can edit, alter video content to share it “under the radar.”
  • Lack of oversight: Few “real” people oversee content compared to users. Artificial intelligence and algorithms used to snoop out offensive or abusive video aren’t perfect.
  • Live-streaming presents a challenge.
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“This latest atrocity only underscores the fact that there is no responsible way to offer a live-streaming social media service.”

Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami who also advocates for stricter laws on online abuse as president of Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. Others argue live video is an important tool for the public to shine light on atrocities in real time.
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The House Homeland Security Committee invited execs from Facebook, YouTube, etc. to attend a closed-door briefing next week to discuss the response to the video’s dissemination and ways to prevent it from happening again. No word yet on who will attend.

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AMERICAN DREAM

Chess Champion Refugee

The backstory of *why* an 8-year-old Nigerian boy finds himself in America illuminates a much bigger story about the plight of Christians in Africa.

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Name To Know:

  • Tani = Tanitoluwa Adewumi.
  • 8-year-old who lives in a homeless shelter with his family in New York City.
  • Family arrived to America about a year ago and is seeking asylum. Next court date: August.
  • Tani started learning chess a year ago & is already a New York state chess champion for his age group (kindergarten – 3rd grade).
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“The U.S. is a dream country.”

Kayode Adewumi, Tani's dad, who rents a car to work as an Uber driver and just got his real estate license, while living in a homeless shelter with his family. He told the New York Times his family fled Nigeria because of the threat against Christians. Two main Muslim groups target Christians directly (or indirectly in land disputes) for influence.
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The Threat

  • Boko Haram: Islamic terrorists who want to create an Islamic state. Letters found in Osama Bin Laden’s compound suggest Bin Laden wanted al-Qaeda to train Boko Haram. Group pledged allegiance to ISIS.
  • Fulani Militants: Nomadic Muslim herders who clash with farmers or landowners and have increasingly targeted Christians.
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“Recently we have seen Fulani militias have Boko Haram branding and wreaking havoc in communities with sophisticated weapons and anyone who stands in their way is killed or decimated. When this happens, they occupy.”

Stephen Enada who fled Nigeria to The Christian Post that reports more than 120 Christians have been murdered in Nigeria since February. Enada founded an advocacy group: International Committee on Nigeria.
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“The Boko Haram crisis lingers on and is far from over… The world should not forget the victims of this deadly conflict, especially as there appears to be little hope for a return to peace and stability in the near future.”

United Nation's Deputy High Commissioner Kelly Clements asking for funding support last year of an est. 208,000 Nigerian refugees - a portion of the more than 2.4M displaced due to Boko Haram.
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The influence of Islamic terrorist/militant groups in Africa's largest economy & most populated country has ripple effects across the continent and beyond. Meanwhile, stateside, a go-fund me page is available for Tani's family.

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Shining a light on a nation’s “darkest days”

 

 

 

A look at those impacted by the worst mass shooting in New Zealand’s modern history.

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The Innocent

  • Victims ranged in age from 3 to 77 years-old. 50 died in total (so far).
  • Community included native New Zealanders, as well as immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Jordan, Syria and beyond.
  • Victims included restaurant and convenient store owners, an engineer and students (high school & college).
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Two Mosques: One Crime

During Friday prayer an Australian-born gunman attacked:

  • Al Noor Mosque: Majority of the victims murdered here during service. One victim was seen on video charging the gunman, who live-streamed the murders.
  • Linwood Mosque: 3 miles from Al Noor & second target of gunman.
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“It was a great opportunity. The country is safe, beautiful and hospitable.”

Asmaa Daraghmeh, 27, who immigrated to New Zealand with her family from Jordan; her husband & 4-year-old daughter survived the attack, but remains hospitalized like dozens of others. Muslim immigrants reportedly make up less than 1% of New Zealand's total population of nearly 5M. Immigration as a political issue has been debated recently related to housing availability, but not specific to religion.
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Important Context: Until Friday the deadliest shooting in New Zealand happened nearly 30 years ago in 1990 when a neighbor killed 13 people. The primary suspect in Friday's attack will appear in court on April 5.

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Collusion or Illusion?

One of the most divisive topics in America united both political parties this week…as the Special Counsel investigation enters its 22nd month.

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On Capitol Hill

  • The House of Representatives voted unanimously Thursday in favor of a measure calling for the public release of the results of the Special Counsel Investigation at its conclusion.
  • Why It Matters: The vote can’t force the Justice Dept to release the final report. However, it’s a public statement & rare showing of bipartisanship.
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In Court

  • Pres. Trump’s fmr. campaign manager, Paul Manafort, received his final sentencing on charges related to the investigation.
  • Received 7+ years behind bars for these federal crimes *however* we learned he will be charged separately for other crimes in NY.
  • Why It Matters: The Pres *can* pardon federal crimes, not state crimes.
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Behind The Scenes

  • Lead federal prosecutor who oversaw the investigation of Manafort reportedly will end his time with the Special Counsel.
  • Andrew Weissmann led tough cases vs. the NY mob & corporations like Enron.
  • Why It Matters: Some suggest his exit, along with others, show the investigation may be near its end.
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Something To Consider:

  • House Democrats have launched investigations paralleling the Special Counsel. These will continue when the Special Counsel Investigation ends.
  • Special Counsel’s mandate is broad, allowing investigations into other areas/people unrelated to Russian collusion. No direct evidence of Trump-Russia collusion has surfaced thus far.
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The Mueller Special Counsel investigation is nowhere near the length of previous Special Counsel investigations, such as the White Water investigation of Bill Clinton or Iran-Contra under Reagan. Both investigations lasted more than 4 years.

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“The Best Education Money Can Buy”

A nationwide college conspiracy where the wealthiest among us bought their children admissions to America’s top schools.

The FBI calls it
“Operation Varsity Blues”

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1 Scandal: 2 Strategies

Cheating on college entrance exams (with help of proctors). In some cases, someone else took the exams in place of the actual student.

Bribing coaches to admit students as athletes (even when they didn’t play the sport). In some cases, the lies about athletic achievement even included doctored photos.

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Money Matter$

The “admissions consultant” at the heart of scam set up two companies to run his scheme through, one of which was a non-profit organization.

From 2011 – 2019, he raked in $25M. One parent paid $1.2M.

Some parents made payments to the non-profit and then later claimed them as tax deductions.

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“33 parents have been charged… There are more than that but not prepared to give you a total.”

U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. Two parents charged include actresses Lori Loughlin & Felicity Huffman. Prosecutors say it's up to the schools on what to do with the students who were wrongly admitted. Some students had no idea about scandal; others were in on it - prosecutors have not decided whether to charge those students. In all but one case, school officials were not involved directly. Investigation remains ongoing.
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How Much Does An Elite College Degree REALLY Impact Your Future?

  • Jobs: Those with college degrees often have a lower unemployment rate than those without.
  • Earning Power: Research shows elite college degrees can impact earning power for minority & lower income students; impacts women in that they tend to work more hours.
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Nearly 20M students enrolled in college last year. One report says parents pay up to half a billion dollars for coaches to help their kids get into the best schools.

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“DEMOCRATIC DREAMS”

All U.S. embassy personnel will evacuate from Venezuela as America firmly blames Cuba & Russia for supporting the socialist regime.

Meanwhile, darkness cloaks Venezuela as a blackout cripples the nation.

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Why Venezuela Matters:

  • Allies: Venezuela’s allies (Russia, Cuba, China, Iran) all share anti-American sentiment.
  • Proximity: Venezuela provides a foothold for these nations not far from America.
  • Oil: Venezuela has largest known oil reserves in the world.
  • People: Venezuela’s socialist dictatorship has led to humanitarian & economic crisis.
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How Did We Get Here:

  • January: 35-yr-old politician Juan Guaidó says he’s interim President & will oversee “fair” democratic elections, challenging Maduro’s socialist leadership.
  • After U.S. recognized Guaidó as President, Pres. Nicolás Maduro cuts diplomatic ties w/ U.S.
  • 50 nations recognize Guaidó; Russia, Cuba etc. stand w/ Maduro.

 

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Why Leave?

Situation deteriorated this weekend.

Massive blackout crippling nation; schools & work closed. Telecomm down. Reports of people dying because lack of lack of medical aid.

Protests gather against Maduro.

Maduro blames U.S. for blackout and trying to orchestrate a coup.

 

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“The United States is drawing a clear line between those who aid the forces of repression and those who give life to the Venezuelan people’s democratic dreams. There is no ambiguity here about the truth.”

U.S. Sec. of State Pompeo Monday hours before announcing evacuation of U.S. embassy personnel, squarely blaming Cuba & Russia for supporting Venezuelan regime while blocking aid to the Venezuelan people.
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“Today, when the empire of the U.S., in its desperation to grab our natural resources, intensifies its brutal aggression against the fatherland. We stand firm to defend our land and cry with force: Yankee go home!”

Venezuelan Leader Nicolás Maduro during a rally on Saturday.
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Once one of the most wealthy nations in Latin America, 9 out of 10 Venezuelans live in poverty, according to one study.

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Working Parents…Passé?

While nearly 8 out of 10 Americans in their “prime” have a job, one report calls working parents an “endangered species.”

What this tells us about America now & the presidential race ahead.

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What’s Going On?

  • Job market looks like it did in 2007 before the “Great Recession” for “prime age” Americans age: 25 to 54
  • More Americans now seeking work & re-entering the job force – a sign of a healthy job market.
  • Women participating in higher rates in the job market than men; some data suggests more men going back to school.
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“Even with the exorbitant cost of child care, I am now bringing home real money.”

Valarie Regas of Atlanta, speaking to the Associated Press about her job search experience. After her second child, she stopped working because of the high cost of child care, but recently learned a new skill and started a new job. When a man or woman isn't actively looking for work, they are not considered part of the labor force.
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Parents make up a smaller share of the U.S. labor force now than at any other time in at least a century… But it’s not because parents aren’t working. It’s because workers aren’t becoming parents.”

Washington Post's analysis of Census Bureau & Labor Dept data showing the number of working parents is dropping, but not just because parents are choosing to spend more time with their kids. Birth rates in America dropped to a 30-year low. Some say high cost of child care is a factor.
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Should the gov't help pay for childcare? Dem. Pres. candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren offers a plan for universal child care by taxing the wealthy. Critics say a child care system should mimic public schools. Others say child care can't replace the value of stay-at-home-parents.

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NO DEAL ON NUKES

Talks are cut short as President Trump & Kim Jong Un fail to reach a deal on North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

“Sometimes you have to walk.” – President Trump

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WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Sanctions.

  • President Trump: “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, and we couldn’t do that.”
  • In exchange, N. Korea offered to close the country’s main nuclear facility – Yongbyon.
  • But the U.S. argued that wasn’t enough; N. Korea would still have missiles, warheads & weapon systems.
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Something To Consider:

“No deal is a surprise, especially as they were both all smiley last evening. But no-deal today doesn’t mean there won’t be one in coming months. It means stakes were way too high for the two leaders to give another wishy-washy statement like they did in Singapore.”

Lim Soo-ho, senior research fellow at South Korea's National Security Strategy
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HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Both Republican & Democrat administrations have tried to convince N. Korea to end its nuclear & missile development.

Prior to Trump Administration’s efforts, the Clinton & George W. Bush Administrations launched diplomatic campaigns. Each time, talks broke down due to verification of denuclearization.

 

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SO WHAT NOW?

  • President Trump, in a news conference before departing, said all sanctions “remain in place.”
  • Currently, there are no plans for a third summit with North Korea, saying another meeting “may not be for a long time.”
  • However, President Trump said he & Kim still have a “good relationship.”
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President Trump, describing the progress on Vietnam talks, says Kim Jong Un did have a better understanding of the U.S. expectations for denuclearization, saying that's "not exactly our vision, but it's a lot closer than it was a year ago."

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U.S. Supreme Court Takes Up Conflict Over Cross

At the heart of today’s case is a not-so-simple legal question about whether or not a memorial cross to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice violates our First Amendment.

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BACKSTORY

  • 1925: 40-foot Latin cross memorial erected in Maryland to honor 49 WWI fallen soldiers. A group of mothers wanted to build a memorial to honor their sons KIA.
  • 1961: State gov’t acquired land where the memorial sits from the American Legion due to traffic concerns in the busy intersection.
  • 2014: American Humanist Assoc. sued on behalf of local residents.

 

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CHURCH vs. STATE

Separation of Church & State: The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the gov’t from endorsing religion AND promoting one religion over another.

To decide, the U.S. Supreme Court will look to whether the cross (1) has a secular purpose; (2) advances or endorses religion; and (3) fosters excessive entanglement w/ religion.

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“The cross, you know, is a religious symbol, it honors Christian veterans but no other war dead are honored by the cross other than Christians…. just because it’s a war memorial just doesn’t make it secular it actually just is using a religious symbol to accomplish that end.”

Rebecca Miller, Esq., representing the American Humanist Ass., who want the cross moved to private property.
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“That the principal effect of this is not to advance religion. That the principal effect … is to commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice during war.”

Ken Klukowski, Esq., one of the lawyers representing the American Legion, who want the cross to stay put where it is.
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WHY IT MATTERS

Domino Effect: The case has the potential to upend or expand upon decades-long legal precedent about religious symbols on gov’t land. Hundreds of memorials could be impacted.

Watch This: Will Pres. Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, Brett Kavanaugh & Neil Gorsuch impact the court’s decision?

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Separation of church and state doesn’t mean the complete absence of religion. The U.S. Supreme Court opens every session with a statement that ends: "God save the United States and this Honorable Court."

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NUCLEAR NEIGHBORS

As America & North Korea meet to discuss nuclear arms, tensions flare between two countries that already have nuclear weapons.

The standoff between
India & Pakistan.

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Why This Matters:

“…a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, or even a single strike on a large city, would be devastating and would reverberate throughout the world.”

Bulletin of Atomic Scientists as reported by Associated Press. Both India & Pakistan have 100+ nuclear war heads each, which have been successfully tested and could be delivered within minutes.
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Center of Dispute:

KASHMIR:
Area in northwest India just east of Pakistan’s capital city.

  • India says it’s part of India (Hindu).
  • Pakistan says it’s part of Pakistan (Muslim).
  • Both countries blame each other for igniting opposition.
  • Separatists say it’s an independent nation.
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What’s Going On:

  • Feb. 14: Suicide bombing in Kashmir reportedly by Pakistani-backed militants; at least 40 Indian troops died.
  • Tuesday: India bombs what they say is a “terrorist” camp inside Pakistan territory.
  • Wednesday: Pakistan says it shot down two Indian warplanes; shutting down the nation’s airspace because of tensions.
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“History tells us that wars are full of miscalculation. My question is that given the weapons we have can we afford miscalculation. We should sit down and talk.”

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan asking to speak to Indian leadership over latest tensions between the two countries.
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Pakistan & India have gone to war 3 times since 1947. The last one in 1971 but tensions have boiled to the brink of war since that time. U.S. Sec. of State Pompeo issued a statement calling on both sides to "exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost."

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THE NUCLEAR THREAT

President Trump dines with Kim Jong Un in Vietnam as the historic two-day summit begins.

The Hot Topic: North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

But North Korea isn’t the only one who has nukes.

Who Else Does & Why It Matters

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“The proliferation is a tremendous, I mean, to me, it’s the biggest problem in the world, nuclear weapons, biggest problem in the world.”

President Trump in July 2018
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Nukes: Who’s Got Them?

  • 9 nations own the world’s est. 14,500 nuclear weapons.
  • Russia & U.S. hold nearly all (13,400).
  • 80% fewer nukes vs. 1986 due to the Soviet Union’s fall & int’l Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
  • BUT 4 nuclear nations have NOT signed NPT: India, Pakistan, Israel & N. Korea.
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What About North Korea?

  • Est. 10-20 nuclear weapons with approx. 6 nuclear tests, last in Sept. 2017 – before U.S. talks.
  • North Korea says it needs nuclear weapons for protection, to prevent an invasion from foreign countries like the U.S.
  • Kim Jong Un has threatened & experts agree that it now has missiles that could reach mainland U.S., possibly D.C. or NYC.
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Conflict Concerns:
Not Just North Korea

  • U.S. VS. RUSSIA: Last week, President Putin said he will match any threat to Russia, setting off fears of a repeat Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war in 1962.
  • PAKISTAN VS. INDIA: Tuesday, Indian warplanes crossed into Pakistan for 1st time in 50 years, in an airstrike on a “terrorist camp.”
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Bigger Picture

Bottom Line: Not every gov’t can afford nuclear weapons – the technology requires billions to build, maintain & launch.

But some could argue many countries don’t need them thanks to support from armed allies.

Most nuclear nations use weapons as “deterrence” to avoid conflict.

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In 70 years, there have been no nuclear attacks. Critics argue in the modern age the risks of a terrorist group getting a nuclear weapon are too high & all nations should denuclearize. That said, in 2016, the U.S. said it would spend $1T to modernize its nuclear arsenal.

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