Current Events
Current Events

PRESIDENT’S CHOICE

A peek at a unique position at the White House with high-profile access to the Oval Office
(without the people’s approval).

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President’s Crew

  • Cabinet Members: Positions require Senate confirmation, a process mapped out by the U.S. Constitution and first used by Pres. Washington.
  • National Security Advisor: Position appointed by the President and part of the National Security Council (NSC). Some cabinet members & military leaders attend NSC meetings.
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National Security Advisor

  • Official title: Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs but “NSA” for short.
  • Established post-WWII as part of the National Security Act that tried to streamline work between gov’t agencies.
  • Past advisors: Condoleeza Rice (Pres. G.W. Bush) & Susan Rice (Pres. Obama).
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“The Council’s role is advisory only. It recommends; it does not decide.”

Robert Cutler, America's first National Security Advisor to Pres. Eisenhower in 1953. He says Cabinet members often develop a department's policy, while a National Security Advisor should help provide information to the president to develop his own national security policy.
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Robert O’Brien

  • Lawyer; worked as top hostage official at the State Dept.
  • Helped with the rescue of an American in Yemen & release of rapper A$AP Rocky in Sweden.
  • Worked with former NSA John Bolton at the United Nations under Pres. George W. Bush.
  • Worked with Bush & Obama administrations training lawyers & judges in Afghanistan.
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President Trump's fourth national security advisor, Robert O'Brien, will field his own team that not only helps coordinate between different gov't agencies but also helps prioritize foreign policy objectives.

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POWDER KEG?

A surprise attack in Saudi Arabia ripples through the global economy and raises questions about all out war.

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THE BASICS

  • What: Drone strike Saturday on a Saudi oil field – the world’s largest crude processing facility.
  • Why It Matters: Damage disrupted the equivalent of 5% of the world’s daily oil supply, raising concerns about the lasting impact on oil supply & leading to a spike in oil prices worldwide.
  • Who: Houthi Rebels take responsibility; questions remain.
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BACKGROUND

  • A civil war rages next door to Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
  • Saudi Arabia backs Yemeni gov’t; Iran backs the opposition, aka Houthi Rebels.
  • Worst humanitarian crisis on the planet.
  • While fighting in Yemen has spilled over the border into Saudi Arabia, this oil field is NOT close to the border.
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HIGH STAKES

“It’s almost like an open season for a big attack.”

Managing director of Clearview Energy Partners Kevin Book on the ramifications of this single attack potentially encouraging more attacks.
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BIG PICTURE

Global oil prices don’t just impact gas prices. Petroleum by-products are in almost everything we use head to toe: from makeup, plastic packaging, to shoes. The price of oil has a HUGE on the U.S. economy.

“A spike in oil prices has preceded nine out of 10 post-WWII recessions.”
Investopedia

Current Events

While the U.S. Sec. of State blamed Iran for the attack, Pres. Trump tweeted America is "locked and loaded" awaiting confirmation. Iran has called accusations "maximum lies." World leaders will gather in NYC a week from today for annual diplomatic meetings at the U.N.

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Terror Watchlist

Created to keep us safe, is “the list” weaker today than ever before?

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THE LIST

  • Terrorist Screening Database.
  • Contains names of those “known” or “reasonably suspected” of terror ties (exact criteria unknown)
  • Created after 9/11, run by FBI & shared with 18,000+ law enforcement agencies
  • Gov’t does not confirm or deny if you’re on the list.
  • 1M+ people on list; 4,600 Americans (as of 2017).
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THE CASE

  • 23 U.S. citizens who *believe* they’re on the list sued the gov’t.
  • Plaintiffs argued “the list” violates their constitutional rights to due process, adds unnecessary scrutiny while traveling.
  • Gov’t argued national security trumps the inconvenience to an individual, and an acceptable process is in place to challenge one’s status.
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What Happened:

The list can stay, but it may change.

  • Court ruled individuals are *not* entitled to notice or a hearing before being placed on the list.
  • Court *also* ruled the process to challenge one’s status (at least for U.S citizens) is inadequate.
  • Judge ordered both sides to submit proposals for a solution by mid-October.
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The very nature of the secret database ignites questions. Critics say it unfairly targets Muslims & doesn't prevent terror attacks. The gov't says it's updated daily & provides useful information sharing between security agencies. What do you think?

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NO PEACE

A reported deal falls apart with the very group America has fought in Afghanistan for 18 years.

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What To Know:

  • The Trump administration has held “peace talks” with the Taliban & Afghan gov’t over the last year.
  • The Goal: Find a way to negotiate an end to America’s longest war.
  • Reports of a “deal” included: *some* American forces leaving Afghanistan; the Taliban having a seat in the Afghan gov’t and promising not to harbor terrorist groups.
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“They’re dead.”

  • Pres. Trump said this as he called off negotiations between the U.S. & the Taliban, after the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing an American soldier in a car bomb attack; 11 others were also killed.
  • This isn’t new. The Taliban have continued attacks on local people and American forces during earlier peace talks.
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What You Should Know:

16 American soldiers have been killed in action this year – the most since 2014.

The Taliban currently control more territory than at any other time during the 18-year war.

The Taliban provided safe harbor to not just al-Qaeda, but other Islamic terrorist groups as well.

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Big Picture:

  • Osama bin Laden used Taliban-ruled Afghanistan as a safe haven to train and stage the 9/11 attacks.
  • Bin Laden wanted to obtain chemical and nuclear weapons for future attacks.
  • “The Taliban remains closely allied with al-Qaeda.” Thomas Joscelyn, FDD Long War Journal, Congressional testimony 9/10/19.
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Sgt. First Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz was killed last Thursday in Afghanistan. His wife told The New York Times: “He loved his country, and for him it was an honor to serve.”

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HOT POCKET

$460

An estimate of how much the trade war between U.S. & China will cost your family on average by the end of the year.

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What’s Happening:

  • America wants better trade terms with China and has imposed tariffs, or taxes, on Chinese imports as a negotiating tactic. China retaliated on U.S. goods.
  • Tariffs are imposed periodically in a series of rounds targeting different items each time.
  • Sept 1. America imposed a new round of tariffs on more than $100B goods from China.
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Why It Matters:

First rounds of tariffs (launched last year) impacted big ticket items, like ovens or dishwashers, that many don’t buy very often.

Latest round of tariffs hit items you buy more often, such as clothes, shoes and baby gear.

Next *new* round of tariffs expected Dec. 15. on more consumer goods.

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What’s The Cost To You?

  • No one really knows for sure, but two economists tracking the impact say about $1.26 per day or $460 by the end of this year
  • Impact higher for rich ($970) & lower for poor ($340).
  • Depends on your shopping habits (what you buy) AND if companies pass higher costs on to you or find another way to absorb costs.
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Big Picture

Two largest economies in the world are at odds. Tariffs make commerce harder & economic growth can slow, impacting the global economy & sparking stock market volatility.

Big Question: Will this short term pain of higher costs to U.S. companies/consumers be worth long term gain of potentially better trade terms?

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More than 90% of all clothing and more than half of all shoes sold in America will be impacted by the latest round of tariffs. Forbes put together a list of items you should buy before the next round in Dec. Read it on our source page.

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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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