USA 2020 Elections The World

Here’s how Maine’s election results could be impacted by its new ranked choice voting technique

Maine is getting more political coverage than ever before. Republican incumbent Susan Collins is in a tight senate race with Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon. The state also splits its four electoral college votes based on region, and the second congressional district has become a battleground area for the presidential race.

What Ranked-Choice Voting Means in Maine

The state approved ranked-choice voting via referendum in 2016. This referendum allowed voters to rank their 1st choice candidate down to their 5th choice. Voters only need to vote for one candidate, but they will have the option to vote for more.

Maine citizens created the referendum as a means to allow voters to choose candidates that they fully agreed with, without fear that their vote would be wasted. In 2010 the Maine Gubernatorial winner only won 37.6% of the vote. The Democratic candidate and the Independent candidate had a combined total of 54.7%. These results shook the state of Maine, especially given that the winner of the election won less than 40% of votes.

Because of this, in Maine currently if no candidate receives 50% of the vote, the lowest vote receiving candidate is eliminated. Then the votes are recounted. This process continues until a candidate can be declared the winner.

How Ranked-Choice Voting Could Impact the Senate Race

Maine candidates sara gideon next to susan collins
Sara Gideon and Susan Collins via The AP

In a poll conducted by Emerson College, Gideon leads with 48% of anticipated voted, compared to Collins’ 44%. But the important votes for ranked-choice are the Independent votes. Maine is one of the only states to have an Independent Senator with a strong Independent party.

Currently, Emerson predicts that the Independent candidates will receive 10% of the vote. If these voters use ranked-choice voting it has the potential to shift the outcome of the entire election.

Independent Maine Senator Angus King caucuses with the Democratic party, and the Independent party tends to lean more progressive. If Independent voters in Maine decide use their option for ranked-choice voting it could be positive for candidates like Gideon.

The question for this race, however, is whether voters even decide to use ranked-choice voting. If voters only vote for one candidate, this could be an even closer race which leans toward Collins.

How Ranked-Choice Voting could Impact the Presidential Race

In the 2016 election the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, won 5.1% of the vote, and the Independent candidate, Jill Stein, won 1.9% of the vote.

If Independent and Libertarian voters decide to use ranked-choice voting this could drastically shift the outcome of the election. President Trump won the majority of counties in Maine’s second congressional district in 2016. But the addition of ranked-choice voting could change how this plays out dramatically as neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump won 50% of the state’s votes in 2016.

Maine’s new ranked-choice voting system says that if no candidate earns a majority of 50% then the lowest voted candidate will be removed until a winner can be determined. This introduction of ranked-choice voting could impact the second congressional district. It likely will not impact the first congressional district, which consistently votes democratic.

The individual races in Maine this year are likely going to come down to whether or not Maine voters decide to make use of their ability to have ranked-choice voting.


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USA Action Guide The World

Here’s what you need to know about the land back movement this Indigenous Day

For those of you, like me, who don’t live in the United States, here’s the background: Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer and navigator. In 1492, he arrived on the shores of what is now known as Puerto Rico where he was met by the Taino people.

Columbus recognized the prestige which he and his people had been given and took advantage of it. He kidnapped many people from the native tribe and sent them back to Europe to work as slaves. This began a period in history in which many people such as the Danish, British, French, and Spanish would stake their claim to the American continent through genocide, slavery, and colonialization. The Indigenous people who lived there suffered starvation, massacres, attempted assimilation, and abject poverty for most of their lives due to the inhumane treatment by these colonizing forces for so-called ‘development’.

So, fast forward and now we are in 2020. While the world is gripped in a pandemic, the USA has begun to unravel its history with race and society. From the Black Lives Matter protests to the handling of the pandemic by Donald Trump, the USA is finally realizing that there are serious problems within the foundation of its society. Representative Deb Haaland from New Mexico has put forward a bill named ‘The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy in the United States Act’. This is an effort to bring attention to the impact of the Boarding School system on Indigenous Communities in North America, and would be a historical bill that will finally force people to see the damage of America’s roots as opposed to complacency.

One of the largest movements currently is the 1492 Land Back Movement. The movement is advocating for the US government to return Indigenous land back to its rightful owners (owners is used as a very loose term as many people believe that one can never own the land as it is not anyone’s to own) especially those of sacred and historical significance. This movement has already begun to set precedents; the return of 3 million acres of land equating to half of Oklahoma was returned to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. This was a historic decision as the area also includes Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-biggest city. In July 2020, the Esselen tribe of Northern California gained back 1,200 acres of land in yet another historical case.

It’s not a coincidence that this is happening. The people are finally standing up for their rights and beliefs like we have seen so many do before them. Looking back to this past 4th of July when the people of the Lakota Sioux stood in defiance of the President and protected the Black Hills from him and his supporters.

My people are still struggling with freedom. We are split across three states because of colonialization, with the Kohinoor diamond in Queen Elizabeth II’s crown.

Even though great strides have been made, there is a lot of work that has yet to be done. The Black Hills are still under the control of the US Government; a direct violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, and of the Supreme Court ruling in 1980.

So here’s what you can do to help:

Sign petitions:

This one focuses specifically on the return of the Black Hills.

Educate yourself!

It wasn’t until I completed my undergraduate degree that I realized how colonized my education was. So, I read as much as I could. I shared these books and articles with as many people as possible. Authors of color provide invaluable information that you can’t receive from white sources.

Share your resources!

I pass whatever I read to the people around me because everyone deserves access to this information. Like so many of us did during the peak of the BLM movement, it is time we read up Indigenous history. We can only be allies and supporters if we learn. So many of us outside of the US and Canada were not even aware that this was happening.

Donate to bailfunds!

I understand that this is not feasible for everyone but any steps you can take is enough:

O’odham water and land defenders arrested while halting border wall construction which was threatening sacred site.

NDN collective announces Black Hills bail and legal defense  fund following Mt. Rushmore arrests. 

There’s always something more we can learn about others. I am a firm believer that you cannot expect people to understand you if you aren’t willing to do the same. 2020 has been one of the most awful years, but its also been a year of amazing things.

Let’s make it the year to make a big movement towards decolonization.

Editor's Picks World News The World

The new National Education Policy is India’s latest oppressive strike

On July 29, the Indian government revealed the new National Education Policy (NEP), a piece of legislation that claims to revolutionize education across the country. The policy, which was passed without any discussion or consultation, is the subject of both enthusiastic praise and intense criticism from politicians, educators, and citizens across the country. 

The detailed 60-page document outlines several extreme, nationwide changes to education, but is also full of vague and confusing language. There are many points to this document, but there are a few especially relevant issues that carry throughout the policy. 

The policy aims to make education in India more multidisciplinary, at secondary and higher levels of education. Secondary schools are expected to allow students greater flexibility when it comes to coursework, as well as offer levels of proficiency for each subject. For college students, a bachelor’s program, similar to America’s undergraduate programs, is to be implemented and preferred. The NEP also notes the inclusion of a college entrance exam, similar to the SAT, that will be offered twice a year. 

Another major goal of the NEP is multilingualism. Under this policy, the federal government aims to implement a three-language system, where every student is required to learn three languages. At least two of these languages must be Indian, with one being the student’s “mother tongue”. Other important actions mentioned in the policy include vocational internships for secondary students, a lesser emphasis on board exams, and a push towards technology use and digital integration in education.

On the surface, it’s easy to believe that the new NEP will ultimately benefit Indians. However, since it was announced, the policy has been met with extreme controversy. 

One of the most controversial points of the NEP is the push for multilingualism. It’s important to note here that India is one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the world, with 22 official languages, and hundreds more that are not as widely spoken. Though the policy does not force any state to teach a certain language, activists worry that the three language policy is a scheme to force Hindi education in classrooms. Despite the incredible linguistic diversity of India, there aren’t many educators who teach less spoken languages, nor are there resources for learning such as textbooks. Consequently, with a decent availability of Hindi teachers, the language will find its way into several classrooms across the country. 

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has long made their language agenda clear, with politicians such as Amit Shah pushing Hindi as a necessary language in all states. Tamil Nadu, a South Indian state with a two-language system that focuses on Tamil and English, has already rejected the NEP’s language proposal. 

The three-language proposal also means that students who may not be able to learn English in the classroom will be at a disadvantage when entering the job force. It will be marginalized groups who cannot afford outside tutoring in English who will suffer from this policy, while privileged students can easily access English language education. For many marginalized students, English is a crucial tool in an increasingly competitive workforce. By losing the opportunity to learn English, they risk serious damage to their futures.

Additionally, the policy carries insidious, nationalist tones that appear to be disguised as a form of cultural education. 

Professor G. Arunima of Jawaharlal Nehru University told me that when read closely, the nationalistic agenda of the policy becomes glaringly clear.  One very obvious way is the repeated reference to inculcating “Indian values”, present in the country from its supposedly glorious ancient past, and to be revived via this new form of education,“ she wrote to me. 

There is no expansion on what these “Indian values” are, raising concerns that the BJP will once again attempt to impose malicious nationalist ideologies. Instilling a value of Indian culture is not a bad thing, but there is a concern about what constitutes as “Indian values”. Given the BJP’s focus on pushing their Hindu nationalist agenda, this likely includes “values” that discriminate against religious, ethnic, and gender minorities. This is not a far stretch, as the BJP has already made efforts to literally change history to reflect their bigotry. 

In 2017, textbooks in the state of Rajasthan glamorized Hindu nationalists and their ideologies. It wouldn’t be surprising if the new NEP follows a similar path, which will only incite even more violence against marginalized groups. 

But perhaps the biggest concern is that it appears education in India is now becoming another cog of capitalism. Currently, a great deal of higher education, as well as a part of secondary schooling, is subsidized by the Indian government. However, with the NEP, there’s reason to fear that education will now become a tool of the elite. 

Professor G. Arunima told me that the NEP ultimately works to make education inaccessible to marginalized groups in India.  We are going in the direction of education to be paid for by loans, and in India, this will greatly hamper the poor, and all marginal groups who have benefited from subsidized education, and reservations (affirmative action),” she told me. “So clearly the elite, economic and social, will benefit the most, and all marginal groups (lower castes, Muslims, Adivasis) will be hit the hardest.”  

Education in India has always been built for upper class, upper-caste men. Lower class and lower caste students are already more likely to drop out of school in India. As education becomes more privatized and exclusive, these students will be even more affected. They will be unable to afford the steep fees of higher education.

Though the NEP faces widespread controversy, there’s no shortage of praise for it either. Especially from politicians of the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi claims that the policy will emphasize creative thinking while eliminating the intense, stressful “rat race” of education today. 

As I read more and more praise for the NEP, I start to wonder whether any of it would actually uplift Indian students. When it comes to assessing the nature of the NEP, there’s no doubt that it is ultimately a tool of capitalism and marginalization. The Indian government cannot claim progress while also being enablers of oppression.

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USA Politics The World

The term ‘F***ing B***h’ exemplifies a concerning pattern of misogyny in Congress

I was going to start this piece with ‘It’s 2020, and women still aren’t being given the respect that they deserve’ but I think that’s redundant. The truth is is that no matter the year, it seems that women will always have to endure the abuse from men who are threatened by their power.

It goes without saying that the election of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez alongside other prominent Democrats like Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Debra Haaland has caused ripples throughout the House of Representatives in the US. On the Republican side of the House, many representatives have gone so far as to bristle at the comments made by the youngest ever, and Latina, representative, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

Recently, AOC received ‘criticism’ for her comments made regarding her own district—New York’s 14th District, which includes the Eastern part of the Bronx and portions of North-Central Queens in New York City, representing roughly 650,000 people. When addressing a rise in crime, AOC attributed this to people’s desperation to feed their families in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain USA.

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One of her critics was Rep. Ted Yoho, a Congressman from Florida. He is white, male, straight, cis, and middle-aged. And, like many of his conservative colleagues, he detests the idea that women like AOC would dare to take a seat in the same House which he resides.

In fact, the very idea that there are women in the House who not only represent, but also stand up for and defend the existence and livelihoods of minority people is beyond far fetched for people like Rep. Yoho. Especially for congressmen who have never even gone so far as to imagine that in their lifetime they could work alongside people who look, act, and think nothing as they do.

So what do they do? Well, in the case of AOC, many go on to discredit her education, her past occupation as a bartender, and her background on a daily basis.

This time around, the question arose if Rep. Yoho acknowledged AOC with the respect the Congresswoman deserved? The respect any co-worker deserved? The respect he without a shadow of a doubt would have granted to a man in the same position as she?

No, of course not.

Instead, on the steps of the House he loudly and, as he would say, ‘passionately’, scoffed expletives in her direction, calling her a “fucking bitch” in front of the press. His apology, if you can call it that, was less apologetic and more of a rebuttal arguing that he cannot have said that in the way in which it was perceived because he has a wife and two daughters.

Huh? Where’s the correlation? Because I don’t see it.

I am so tired of men like this.

That is the kind of man who hides behind any woman they are related to in order to show how ‘good’ they must be. To somehow depict that they are incapable of misogyny because of their relationship to women.

Newsflash: Ted, you’re a particularly horrible person and I’m sure your daughters are ashamed of you after this incident. In absolutely no way is the word ‘bitch’ a compliment. It implies a woman who has stepped out of her limit, a woman who is vengeful.

In an attempt to reduce AOC down to a ‘bitch’, Yoho is trying to strip away her integrity, her eloquence, and her education into a sexist visual of a woman who is crazy and unreasonable. This is abuse in every sense of the word.

Not to mention that in doing so, Rep. Yoho is not only actively working to tear down AOC, but is also doing the same to young girls just like her who are looking to break down the barriers every woman faces in the world of politics.

Meanwhile, AOC’s response was nothing less than what we expected. Her oration was elegant, articulate, poised, and damn powerful. She mentioned that the words didn’t affect her.

Not because she is thick-skinned, but because it was just another day at work.

Let me repeat that: it was just another day at work.

There’s evidence of an epidemic in which if a woman dares to demand the respect she deserves, she’s met with responses like this. In almost every walk of life. If she was a man, she wouldn’t be a bitch – she’d be courageous and ambitious.

If a woman is in charge, however, then she’s considered dangerous or bossy (both words used by Rep. Yoho in the past).

My question: Why are men so threatened by strong women that they go so far as to attempt to emotionally destroy them?

Rep. Yoho mentioned that he is the father of two daughters, well what does he expect from his daughters? Does he expect them to be subordinate to men in their personal and professional life? Or does he expect them to demand the respect they deserve? Would he be fine with a man calling one of his daughters a derogatory name in a fit of passion? I’d hope not.

No one should look at his response as an apology because it wasn’t. It’s unacceptable and disgusting to hide behind the women in your life to defend your bigoted behavior.

Men, for what I hope is the last time, I am begging you to do better.


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How Rep. Ilhan Omar failed humanity with just one word

In the House of Representatives in the United States, members vote on a bill by either stating “aye”/”yea”, “no,” or “present.” To vote present means that the representative opted to not take a stance or side on a particular bill.  On October 29, 2019, the House of Representatives in the United States passed a resolution acknowledging the Ottoman Empire’s genocide. Aside from the Armenian genocide, the resolution included the Assyrian and Greek genocides as well. It was a vote with a  405-11 margin.

One of the eleven members that voted “present” or against that recognition was none other than Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. A shocking move considering that she’s only one of two Democrats to have voted in such a way. Even more shocking considering her unwavering demands for human rights in so many countries.

a woman wearing a blue plaid blazer with a blue head covering speaking at a podium
[Image description: A woman wearing a blue plaid blazer with a blue head covering speaking at a podium.] via Flickr
As an Assyrian, I was conflicted with emotions. While I felt joy that the House voted to pass the resolution, I also felt anger towards Rep. Ilhan Omar. Who knew that a simple word like “present” could have so much weight?

Her reasoning for the decision? The United States has yet to acknowledge its own genocide against natives. While I agree with her on that front, giving weight to one atrocity over another is not a solution. It is a slap in the face. As a former, avid supporter of hers – I feel let down beyond imagination.

The representative went on to defend her stance by tweeting:

The timing? We have waited 104 years for this country to acknowledge the genocide committed against us. 31 countries had acknowledged the genocide prior to this resolution. Tell me, Rep. Ilhan Omar, how much longer should we have waited for our turn?


I didn’t realize that genocide recognition is on a “first come first serve” basis. She has a platform. She has a voice. As a pastor of St. Sahag Armenian Church in St. Paul said: “It is discouraging [that a representative who serves many Armenians in her district] chose not to hear their voices. It goes against her work, as she claims to be fighter for justice, for doing what’s right.”

I could not have said this better myself. A simple yet strong message would have been to vote in favor of the resolution and then acknowledge the genocides that still need to be recognized.

She claims that the United States was using this bill as a political ploy. What she fails to realize is that this was the perfect time to submit this resolution. Amidst yet another Turkish attempt at ethnic cleansing, this time in Syria, it is time for the world to acknowledge these atrocities.

If I am being honest, I don’t buy her reasoning.  Let’s not forget that on the same day, Rep. Omar voted against a bill that would place sanctions on Turkey after their violent assault against Kurdish forces. The Turkish forces also laid siege against the Assyrian, Armenian, and Arab communities in Syria, killing many.

Her reasoning this time? Sanctions are not effective. Interesting, given the fact she has stated, rightfully so, that sanctions and boycotts should be imposed on Israel. I agree with the latter. Ilhan wrote in an opinion that sanctions:

“Hurt the people of the country – generally  the very people we’re purporting to help – without making a dent in the country’s behavior.”

She goes on to give examples of Iran and Venezuela and how the sanctions negatively impacted their populations. While I agree with this notion, the bill presented against Iran is not the same as the one being presented against Turkey. The sanctions being imposed on the latter are targeting government officials and their investments directly – not the populace.

Which raises the question – why the change of heart? I believe it is because of her undeniable ties with Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In 2017, Rep. Ilhan Omar met with the Turkish President despite the already mounting human rights accusations placed against him. This was not the first, nor the last interaction between Omar and the Turkish government.

As a representative that claims she is for human rights, she has a responsibility. That responsibility is to be an advocate for the human rights of ALL PEOPLE. That means putting aside political ties and relations when it means standing up against crimes against humanity. This is something Rep. Ilhan Omar has failed to demonstrate at least twice since her election into office.

She has the voice and platform many of us do not. It is a shame that she is opting to not use it. It is even more shameful that she is opting to wear the all too familiar politician hat, rather than one of a true humanitarian for all causes.

Health Care Love

Social media influencers need to stop promoting health products

At this point, it’s safe to say that many of us have a love-hate relationship with social media. Other than the constant pressure to make it appear that our lives are better than they are to our  followers, social media can have a devastating impact on mental illness, like with increasing the risk of depression and eating disorders. But, we keep going back. For chronically ill people like myself, social media can be our portal to the “outside world” if we have to be on bed rest.

This is why a recent article from Vox is so alarming. In the article “The latest Instagram influencer frontier? Medical promotions,” writer Suzanne Zuppello explores the increasing number of influencers who post sponsored content which Big Pharma to promote medical devices and medicine. Sure, many of these influencers abide by Instagram’s policies and make it clear that companies are sponsoring their content, but it’s still problematic. I’ll break down why, as a chronically ill person with a rare disease who is actively searching for medication that will help relieve me of debilitating symptoms.

My main issue is that Big Pharma partners with influencers on social media with the intent, as far as I can tell, to convince social media users to buy their products. These medical promotions are used solely to help companies make more money and stuff Big Pharma executives’ pockets. Big Pharma using sneaky strategies to make more profit isn’t anything new unfortunately. Big Pharma drug companies regularly give bonuses to doctors who prescribe their medication and donate money to members of the United States Congress to convince congressmen to reject legislation that would hold Big Pharma accountable. If they actually cared about patients, they would lower the price of their medication and other products to make them more affordable.

However, the fault does not entirely the fault of Big Pharma companies. Social media influencers really need to take the responsibility and not do partnerships with Big Pharma companies who are looking to make more money, not help patients. Many people who follow influencers who have chronic illnesses, disabilities, and other health problems have similar conditions or have a loved one that does. If I saw an influencer saying that they found a product that helps minimize the symptoms of my autoimmune disorder, I would want to try that product myself. Even if it’s clear that their post is sponsored – I am desperate for relief and would be willing to look past that. These sponsored posts really take advantage of patients who are willing to try nearly anything to feel better.

Medical promotions on social media really are just the latest case of how disgusting late stage capitalism can be. It’s gross in general that the greed of a few makes medical costs astronomical for many. Big Pharma partnering with social media influencers to promote their medicine and other products are really just an extenuation of this repulsive greed. Medicine should only be promoted with the intent of wanting to share a product that has helped you. I’ve told friends with chronic illnesses about what has helped me – and same vice versa. The difference is that we don’t have a financial motive to do so.

So, what should be done? I, for one, think Big Pharma should be dismantled and replaced by people in the medical field who want to help others for the sake of improving lives.  But, if that’s too much of a stretch, we should be wary of what social media influencers promote and advocate for them to stop partnering with Big Pharma for sponsorships.

USA The World

5 takeaways from Michael Cohen’s testimony, and what it means for the 2020 elections

Michael D. Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, and fixer gave a contradicting testimony before a closed House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill last month. Cohen pleaded guilty to several federal crimes, including lying to Congress on behalf of the President last year.  He is scheduled to begin his three-year term in prison on May 6.

“I have fixed things, but I am no longer your ‘fixer,’ Mr. Trump,” Cohen said.

Cohen’s testimony proves to be a historical one providing Congress with further evidence against the President. Here are five key takeaways from the testimony.

1. The role of a “fixer”

A “fixer” is often thought to be a man who makes problems go away. In films, a “fixer” is portrayed as the discrete man who works to better dire situations. Cohen described himself as a version of this for Trump.

In his testimony, he explained to Congress a concept called  “catch and kill,” a method of stopping negative press before it is published, in this case by working with the company that owns The National Enquirer. His duty as a fixer also included writing threatening letters to schools to ensure the safety of the President’s academic records, and paying off a woman with compromising information about a presidential candidate, The New York Times reports.

“At first, I worked mostly on real estate developments and other business transactions. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump brought me into his personal life and private dealings. Over time, I saw his true character revealed,” Cohen said. “Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation—only to market himself and to build his wealth and power.”

When  Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) asked Cohen how many times Trump had asked him to threaten anyone on his behalf, Cohen replied “Quite a few times.”

2. Trump knew more about Russia than he led on

During his testimony, Cohen implied the president knew more about Russian links during the 2016 presidential race than he has admitted.

“Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it,” Cohen said in his opening statement.

He told the committee he had been with Trump when key events in the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election were discussed.  His testimony implied that the president was far more informed about Russian links during the 2016 presidential race than he has so far admitted, the Guardian reports.

Cohen said the first incident, occurred in June 2016, involved Cohen overhearing a conversation between Trump and his son Donald Jr. regarding a meeting being set. He referred to Trump asking,  “How’s it going in Russia?” as his way of closely monitoring the Trump Tower Moscow dealings, which are currently being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Cohen admitted that Trump never explicitly told him to lie about the matter, instead, since he had worked with the president for nearly a decade, Cohen understood a code signaling him to. 

“At the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie.”

Cohen also stated that the president’s lawyers reviewed his earlier false statements to Congress about the Moscow project.

3. Hush payments

Cohen confirmed the president had knowledge of the payments made to silence Stormy Daniels, the adult film actor who has alleged she had an affair with the President.

Cohen said he acquired a home-equity loan to pay $130,000 to silence Daniels just before the 2016 election. These payments, Cohen stated, were made in 11 installments in order to disguise the purpose of the transactions.

Cohen provided the committee with a copy of one of the installments, a $35,000 check signed by Trump from his personal bank account on 1 August 2017. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said this was the “smoking gun document” that proved criminal fraud, by hiding the purpose of company spending.

Cohen notably mentioned that the president instructed him to lie and say he “was not knowledgable of these reimbursements and he was not knowledgable of my [Trump’s] actions”.

“Oh, he knew about everything, yes,” he said. The aim was “to keep Trump as far away as possible.”

According to the Guardian, that statement could place the president in severe legal jeopardy under campaign finance laws that prohibit the use of secret funds for political gain.

4. The possibility of further investigations

In conversation with Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Cohen hinted at another investigation involving Trump.

“Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven’t yet discussed today?” Krishnamoorthi asked.

“Yes, and again, those are part of the investigation that’s currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York,” Cohen responded.

While Cohen did not detail what the investigations might entail, he hinted possible convictions of criminal fraud.

5. Speaking against people of color

Cohen confirmed the allegations that Trump has a racist nature. He said that Trump often made bigoted remarks about African-Americans in the United States and about predominantly black nations.

Last year, Trump came under fire after making the comment, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” referring to immigrants from African countries, in conversation with lawmakers.

Throughout his 20-page prepared testimony, Cohen depicted Trump as a racist con-man. While Cohen accused Trump of directing hush payments, lying about Russia and inflating his wealth, his most dramatic and most rememberable statement was regarding the 2020 elections. 

At the end of his testimony Cohen said, “I fear that if he loses the presidential election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power.” 

He was referring to the rising hate and white supremacist movement encouraged by the Trump administration. The 2020 election is one of the utmost importance that has the potential to impact the future outcome of democracy for the United States. As hate crimes rise, with reports having increased over 17 percent since 2016, many Trump supporters encourage a divided Christian state.

According to The New York Times, the president’s “bold decisions to recognize the right of Israel over Jerusalem as its eternal capital, his denial of climate change and his push for Biblical teachings in school along with his world view that defines Islam as an evil religion are seen as essential steps to expedite the creation of a Biblical state.” 

Cohen’s statement solidified this fear that if Trump loses the next election violence against minorities would continue to increase, but also the effects of his presidency could continue to impact the United States for years.

USA Editor's Picks The World

The government shutdown has shown us what our leaders truly value

“I don’t really feel bad about the people who are furloughed,” my father said. “I don’t think the government should be employing so many people.”

We were talking about the government shutdown, specifically the size of our government. He explained how he thought the government was too big, and how the idea of such a huge employee base being paid with his hard-earned tax dollars was appalling to him.

While I was able to help him come from the precipice of thoughtlessness, admitting that park rangers and military service members were essential government personnel, he wouldn’t budge on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

His thoughts regarding the size of our government are not rare. In fact, as the government shutdown comes to an end many people are feeling the same. Right-wing and libertarian pundits are calling for smaller government, saying that we have done fine without one this far. So why do we need one at all?

Advocates for smaller government are simply holding the shutdown as an example of why small government works. Our country didn’t spontaneously combusted or caved in on itself, so surely a smaller government is all we need.

However, the absence of an extinction-level event is not a success story. Our country was hurting, and that is a fact regardless of whether or not the president and his advisors want to acknowledge it.

[bctt tweet=”However, the absence of an extinction-level event is not a success story. Our country was hurting, and that is a fact regardless of whether or not the President and his advisors want to acknowledge it.” username=”wearethetempest”]

On January 16, 42,000 coast guard members went without a paycheck. This is the first time since the Revolutionary War that our military has not been paid while acting in defense of our country. However, the effects of the shutdown extend through all levels of government.

From IRS employees to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives, over 800,000 government workers went without pay during the partial government shutdown. Some were furloughed, as they were deemed nonessential.

However, many, like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at some of the countries busiest airports were still required to report to work. Like our soldiers in foreign theater, they were required to work without pay. As a result, many are called in sick causing jams at airport security.

Going weeks without pay would put anyone in a bind, let alone the most financially vulnerable. While Congress and the executive branch argue over a $5.7 billion border wall, the low-income employees that serve our country went without pay.

[bctt tweet=”Going over weeks without pay would put anyone in a bind, let alone the most financially vulnerable.” username=”wearethetempest”]

For those displaced by the recent fires in California, aid was shut down as FEMA has been ordered to halt all operations.

Many recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) received their February benefits two weeks early – halfway through January. The early push of funds to ensure benefits reached the neediest of people before funding ran out January 20th. Now, many who rely on the benefits to feed their children will be unable to put food on the table.

And as tax season approaches, over 30,000 IRS workers were ordered to work, however, like the members of the Coast Guard, the TSA, or other essential personnel, they worked without pay while the president fought for a wall we don’t need or want.

The ripple effects of the government shutdown are innumerable, and what’s more, it didn’t have to happen.

Government shutdowns are a relatively new invention. The first government shutdown only happened in 1976, two years after the national budget was placed in the hands of Congress. Since creating a hard deadline for the government fiscal year and putting the responsibility for the budget in the hands of Congress, it relies on a unanimous agreement between Congress and the executive branch.

By marrying these branches of government together, it allows for a constitutional crisis every time there is a need to fund the government. It allows Congress or the president to hold our country as a bargaining chip for their own agenda.

Today, that agenda was not just asking for a border wall, but also making an argument that our government is too large. In the eyes of those who thought this shutdown was productive, little value is seen on agencies like the IRS, SNAP, or FEMA. Further, the budget cuts that are affected the Coast Guard shows that there is little respect for the men and women who are defending our existing borders.

That is because those departments serve the people of this country, rather than the interests of bigotry and isolationism.

[bctt tweet=”Bigotry and isolationism prevail in a government shutdown. Government is established in support of the people, not in spite of them. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Those values prevailed in the shutdown.

Government is established in support of the people, not in spite of them. By holding the citizens of our country, and our country itself, for ransom we see the true motivation of our leadership. It’s without saying, Americans deserve better.

USA Politics The World

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will pay her interns. This is sadly uncommon.

Between Instagram live stories and participating in a sit-in during her training, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is proving to not be an average politician.  Besides also not being an elderly white man, Alexandria said that she will pay her interns at least $15 an hour, which is above minimum wage in Washington, D.C.

The Pay Our Interns’ 2017 report revealed that in the United States Senate, 51 percent of Republicans paid their interns and 31 percent of Democrats paid their interns. In the House, it was even more dismal. Eight percent of Republican representatives paid their interns, and less than four percent of Democrat representatives paid their interns. I never thought Republicans would be better at doing something good than Democrats. But hey, it’s not bad to be proven wrong.

The incentive to find an internship is clear: internship experience often leads to jobs, and for many college students, employment is one of the first things on our minds when we think about the future. This often leads to university students taking advantage of any internship offer they can find, even if it is unpaid.

For many students and their families, this can be a major financial sacrifice. A student may decide to choose to pursue an unpaid DC-based internship for their local congressman or congresswomen over a paid service job. A CNN article, which was published this fall, revealed sacrifices that some of these interns had to make, like skipping meals. Former House intern Sophie Peters, who was interviewed for the CNN piece, was able to get a grant but had to babysit outside of her 40-hour work week in order to pay for her rent and other expenses.

Peters also said that competition for Congressional internships doesn’t seem to be driven by talent but instead by “who can afford to work for free when they’re 20 years old.” This hints at a more major problem: people who are able to take unpaid internships are often those who are from well-off (mostly white) families. This is why it’s so important that Alexandria plans to pay her interns.

Reporter Llewellyn Hinkes-Jones explained in an editorial piece for The Awl that the lack of representation in interns plays a role in whose voices are heard down the road. “This ultimately exacerbates social inequality because key professions get filled up with people from privileged backgrounds,” Llewellyn wrote. “It not only affects who gets ahead and does well, it also plays a big role in terms of the voices we hear in the media, politics, arts, etc.”

It makes sense that Alexandria would want to pay her interns, given her background and her path to Congress. She comes from a working-class family and managed to trounce incumbent U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley.  Crowley is someone who could be considered an establishment politician – he is the son of a lawyer and has held his seat for twenty years. Alexandria’s win speaks to the desire for change that many of us want. We want politicians who will stand up for us, just like how Alexandria is standing up for her interns by promising to pay them.

Unpaid internships shouldn’t be a thing anywhere, as labor needs to be valued. Good for Alexandria for wanting to pay her interns a livable wage, and hopefully this will help put a stop to unpaid internships in Washington, D.C. and the world.

USA The World Policy

2018 was a frightening year for gun violence, so where do we go from here?

Following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the country found itself in the middle of a tug of war between student activists and legislators at all levels of government. By then, we’d had enough. In May 2018, the United States had faced its 22nd school shooting of the year alone as ten people were murdered in Santa Fe High School. Not even three months later, two Florida high schools had shootings at their school football games. And, less than a week after that, another shooting took place in the same city in the middle of a video game tournament.  The dates of all these school shootings soon became days of nationwide protests, and at every march, walkout, and die-in alike, there was one ubiquitous chant: “Vote. Them. Out.”

Indeed, young organizers everywhere have now focused on the power of the polls and the ballot. The March For Our Lives organizers pushed for more students to run their own voter registration drives, and prompted over 1000 schools to get actively involved.  One nonprofit organization, HeadCount, registered nearly 5,000 students across the country in a single day in March. That number doesn’t even include the efforts of organizations such as the League of Women Voters or the efforts of local Supervisor of Election Offices, who’ve also registered hundreds of new voters in their respective districts. 

State legislation was passed across the country in an attempt to remedy the problem as well. In Nebraska, Florida, Vermont, and Washington, bans on the sale and possession of bump stocks were made and implemented relatively quickly. Florida passed a bill in March that raised the age to purchase a gun and required a three day waiting period for firearms to be purchased – the first case of gun reform in the state in over two decades. Vermont’s own comprehensive bill, which banned bump stocks, limited rifle magazines to 10 rounds, required all gun transactions to be facilitated by a licensed dealer, and raised the purchase age to 21, was another example one of legislation passed in response to the Parkland shooting. 

While these were impressive gains, they only lasted a few moments. The rest of the country has yet to pass bills like the ones in Florida and Vermont. But beyond die-Ins and walkouts, what else can be done? 

Although it doesn’t always reach the headlines of television screens across America, local activism that makes success possible. Volunteering for local campaigns for both midterm and presidential cycle elections, organizing voter registration drives, and calling or writing to your representatives about the bills you want them to pass is the biggest way you can enact change and ensure that gun reform is affected. Moreover, your engagement would ensure that the bills being reintroduced in Congress right now actually get passed. Since Parkland, the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013  was brought back to the floor, which would make gun trafficking – or the practice of illegally purchasing firearms for someone else – a federal crime for the first time. The Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act of 2013 bill would mandate background checks on all gun sales, private or commercial.

Much has been done since Parkland, but successful movements don’t occur overnight. In every city, county, and state there needs to be action. We’ve waited far too long for the end of the mass gun violence epidemic in America. The bright young faces of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School helped inspire students to take to the streets in protest. But today, the rest of us must do our part by inspiring as many as possible to take to the polls both now, and in the future. 

USA Gender Politics The World Inequality

Rashida Tlaib, the midterms, and the pursuit of politicians who look like us

For those not living in Michigan, Rashida Tlaib’s congressional win seemingly came out of nowhere. And yet, Muslims and Palestinian Americans everywhere didn’t hesitate to celebrate following Tlaib’s victories.  Pleasantly surprised and inspired, I decided to do my own research on Tlaib.

Rashida Tlaib ran on a platform of being a non-traditional candidate who saw herself as more of an activist than a politician; a sentiment that helped propel her to victory in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District as they looked to replace former Representative John Conyers Jr. Before resigning last year amid sexual harassment allegations, Conyers’ resume included co-founding the Congressional Black Caucus and being the first lawmaker to propose the making of a national Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. As a result, those vying for his seat needed a history of standing by minority communities.

Rashida Tlaib had it.

From protesting President Trump during a speech at the Detroit Economic Club in 2016 to trespassing on corporate land to test for pollution, Tlaib was truly an activist. When speaking to the New York Times, Tlaib said “much of her strength came from being Palestinian” and never shying away from her identity.

Even on the night of her primary win, Tlaib’s mother draped her in a Palestinian flag.

This strong identification with her Palestinian-American background alongside her history of activism helped her win MI-13. Yet, no matter how proud Tlaib was of her identity, she advocated for policies that hurt the very group of Palestinian Americans she championed.

During the race, we saw a candidate endorsed by lobby group J Street, an organization that required a candidate to oppose the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement, and support the continued military aid to Israel. This deeply concerned me and many other Palestinian-Americans who believed that the BDS movement and the use of aid as a bargaining tool was vital in encouraging Israel to end their human rights violations. Both of which Tlaib didn’t support.

Today, the situation is different. A week after having won the primary election, Tlaib finally spoke out on the issue and reversed her decision by no longer supporting aid to Israel until it complied with international law. Moreover, she’d declared that she was willing to stand behind the BDS movement. With that,  J Street removed its endorsement and the worries of her followers subsided.

It was then, and only then, did it seem that Tlaib might truly stand to do her part in providing a Palestinian-American voice in Congress.

Though, what is troubling to me is how so many supporters beyond MI-13 were satisfied with the fact that a Palestinian-American Muslim woman had even won the primary despite not doing anything to guarantee that this victory was truly one beneficial for Palestinian and Muslim Americans alike. Thousands from beyond MI-13 were ready to cheer her on without a second thought, even if her stance was more harmful to Palestinians compared to those of other members in Congress with no connection to Palestine.

This election cycle, therefore, taught me something especially valuable as more minorities run for office: we can’t quietly assume that those who look like us will always support us. More importantly, we can’t tell ourselves that the fact they’ve made it that far as a minority in America is enough. This notion of “existence is resistance” cannot allow us to accept politicians who enact harmful policies. It is an injustice to ourselves.

Election Day has come and gone, and Rashida Tlaib is no longer the Democratic candidate for MI-13. She’s the representative. Yes, we can celebrate her. However, it’s also our responsibility to continue diligently watching her and her policies.

After all, Tlaib only spoke out and lost J Street’s endorsement after the public showed their outrage. So we must let any politician seeking to represent us know that we are watching and listening because, at the end of the day, the election of any politician is dependent on our satisfaction.

USA Editor's Picks Politics The World Policy Inequality

When the Congressman next door works to disenfranchise you

William Floyd Parkway is the major road in Shirley, NY, where Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin lives. If you drive along its length, you’ll see large signs proudly announcing his candidacy for Congress, urging voters to show up at their polling place on November 6th. His signs dominate the landscape, showing support for a candidate who’s lived in this school district his entire life – only leaving to serve a tour in Iraq.

It’s plain to see that he’s popular in the area. Although, if you go into the neighborhood where he lives, you’ll see a few signs for his rival, Perry Gershon. One sign, in particular, is on the lawn of his next door neighbor.

“I don’t believe his politics represent our district,” said Samantha Clink-Haug, a volunteer for Brookhaven Town’s Democratic Committee. “How can they when he doesn’t listen to us? How can he when he is hardly here? As his immediate neighbor, he is almost never home because he is in Washington, advancing his future, not ours.”

Zeldin’s rise to Congress came in 2014, after defeating a Tim Bishop, the Democratic incumbent for New York’s first congressional district. Zeldin will be running for his third term as representative for the people of Long Island’s East End.

Zeldin’s voting history is long and is classically Republican. He has been a supporter of President Trump and has appeared several times on Fox News advocating for the party line. Often times, his legislative choices are not in the best interest of his constituents, and neighbors.

“He [Zeldin]  is a proud member of the conservative right,” said Dan Fingas, Operating Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. ”And has voted against health care and women’s rights.”

Zeldin’s votes against women’s rights fly in the face of his constituents. Over 51% of the people in his neighborhood of Shirley, NY, and neighboring Mastic Beach are women. His votes against the Affordable Care Act are the topic of recent radio campaigns from his rival, Perry Gershon. The ads highlight the rising cost of premiums and criticize Zeldin for not seeing the desperate need for the ACA in his district.

Because he proudly tows the party line, Zeldin connects with people who want to avoid talking politics, and keep discourse simple. “People don’t want to talk politics,” said Samantha Clink-Haug, a volunteer with the Brookhaven town Democratic Committee. “With social media and the constant influx of political talk, which has greatly increased in the past few years, people are inundated with what they should or shouldn’t say, think, or do. It gets harder to vote on things that we actually think or believe, so the best alternative is to just vote blue or red.

When people in small-town communities fail to discuss the issues, they can be blinded by the image of a candidate. They see someone who lives in their community, who has a similar background and vote based off of single issues. 

“Zeldin doesn’t represent working-class values,” Fingas said.  “He consistently votes with corporations on issues like huge corporate tax breaks and the social safety net.”

Many of the people who live in the Shirley-Mastic area of Long Island are workers. The working class of Long Island got their start building military aircraft for Grumman (now Northrup Grumman) in the nearby hamlet of Calverton. Calverton was the home of the F-14 Tomcat. When the project was tabled, 5,000 workers lost their jobs, effectively changing the culture of Long Island labor for years to come.

There is often an air of misdirection when it comes to his campaigning. In a recent debate, Lee Zeldin and Perry Gershon came to blows over environmental issues. Zeldin has often claimed that he’s strong on environmental issues – and will fight to keep the oceans that Long Islanders are surrounded by and rely on, clean. However, he’s consistently voted in favor of offshore drilling and has a 10% rating from the League of Conservation Voters.

This misdirection can be seen in how Zeldin interacts with the community. “Congressman Zeldin is only active with constituents that share his beliefs,” Clink-Haug said. “The problem is that that is not his entire constituency. When was the last time he went to the North Shore [of Long Island]? He holds private, invite-only sessions with constituents that he knows will only agree with him. He does not hold open debates.”

When representatives surround themselves with people who confirm their bias and spend time away from their homes they can lose the very sense of community that makes a representative democracy like the one in the United States function. Conversation with neighbors cannot be replaced with online surveys and posts on Facebook. For people in the neighborhood, all they see is an empty driveway, a battered fence out of repair, and a district left voiceless.

Fingas spoke on how Zeldin is able to keep his seat. “While NY CD1 has been a swing district since the late 90s,” he said. “It has gotten slightly more conservative since 2010.  This fact coupled with the massive amounts of campaign donations from special interests and corporation have allowed Zeldin to win.”

Being slightly more conservative doesn’t mean that the right candidate can flip the seat in 2018.

“Zeldin’s competitor needs to bring a real grassroots campaign with progressive ideals that excite the Democratic base and turn out the vote,” Fingas said. “Democratic voter turnout will be the biggest factor in a successful flip of the seat.”

Gershon, Zeldin’s opponent in the upcoming Congressional election has done just that. His campaign has focused on reaching the voters that Zeldin does not, such as using pop radio stations. His campaign has even sent hand-written postcards to voters in neighborhoods around District 1 in a concerted effort to flip the seat.

“It’s tough to beat an incumbent,” Fingas said. “But there is a chance and Perry is doing the right things”

The Democratic Primary in New York’s first congressional district was initially split among five candidates some local and some newcomers. In the time since the primary, Gershon has successfully unified that 5-person ballot behind a single cause. The hope is, the winner will be a person who finally listens, and understands what’s important to the disenfranchised, working-class voters of Long Island’s East End because they’re ready to finally be heard.