Political Roundup

In this week’s headlines…

Gun control was at the forefront of political debate this week, in the aftermath of the Feb. 14 shooting in Florida. New information about the shooting has surfaced, namely that the FBI had received warning calls about the shooter prior to the shooting. Moreover, many are outraged by the news that an armed deputy hesitated for a full four minutes of the six-minute shooting before entering the school.

If he had entered immediately, some believe he could have stopped the shooting and saved many lives (CNN, “Florida shooting: Bullets flew for 4 minutes as armed deputy waited outside,” 02.23.2018).

Survivors of the shooting are speaking up and taking action by starting an advocacy campaign urging lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws. On Wednesday, Feb. 21, survivors and parents who lost their children in the shooting traveled to Florida’s state capital to talk to state representatives. Florida lawmakers, however, rejected an assault weapons ban by a large margin, while the survivors watched from the gallery (CNN, “Cheers, boos and tense exchanges on day of confrontation over guns,” 02.22.2018).

On Wednesday evening, CNN held a town hall on gun regulation in which the students debated with NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) on the issue of gun control and urged them to take action. The students are also planning a march against gun violence in Washington on March 24 (CNN, “Cheers, boos and tense exchanges on day of confrontation over guns,” 02.22.2018).

President Trump has expressed support of the idea of banning bump stocks, devices that make semi-automatic weapons operate like fully automatic firearms. As a response to shootings in high schools, Trump has proposed arming and training teachers to increase school safety, suggesting that teachers willing to carry firearms would receive a bonus.

The Teacher’s Union and much of the public strongly oppose the proposal, and Trump has received criticism for largely avoiding discussions of gun control (CNN, “Trump suggests arming teachers as a solution to increase school safety,” 02.22.2018).

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner has broadened. In addition to looking at Kushner’s contacts with Russia, Mueller is also focusing on Kushner’s dealings with foreign investors. Kushner supposedly tried to secure funding from Chinese investors for his company during the presidential transition, in which he played a key role as a leading contact for many foreign governments (CNN, “Exclusive: Mueller’s interest in Kushner grows to include foreign financing efforts,” 02.20.2018).

Walmart’s shares dropped by 10 percent this week, which is the largest drop in the last 30 years and which dragged down the Dow Jones industrial average. The fall in the stock was caused by the announcement that Walmart’s online sales have slowed down. Currently, e-commerce represents only a small part of Walmart’s sales, but the retailer plans to increase its online presence in an attempt to compete with Amazon (USA Today, “Walmart’s biggest one-day drop since 1988 halts Dow’s six-session win streak,” 02.20.2018).

Around the world…

On Friday, Feb. 23, Trump announced a new package of measures against North Korea, calling it the “largest ever.” The sanctions will target sources of revenue and fuel for North Korea’s nuclear program by focusing on ships and companies that are smuggling oil, coal and many other products into North Korea and failing to respect the United Nations sanctions on the country (The Guardian, “North Korea sanctions: Donald Trump announces ‘largest ever’ package,” 02.23.2018).

Tensions between China and India are slowly escalating after reports that China is strengthening its air defense. The report, released by Chinese State Media, claims that China is developing new air capabilities close to the Indian border. The relationship between the two countries has been declining in past years. 2016 saw the two countries having a months-long border dispute in the Himalayan Mountains (CNN, “China strengthening air defenses with eye on India, says state media,” 02.22.2018).

Civil war in Syria continues, with the Syrian government fighting to take control of one of the last rebel-controlled areas in the country. The Syrian government has stepped up its efforts and started intense bombing of Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus. At least 250 civilians have died, and Amnesty International said, “The Syrian government is committing war crimes on an epic scale.” The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights marked Monday, Feb. 19, as the deadliest day in the area in the last three years (CNN, “‘War crimes on epic scale:’ 250 deaths in two days in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta,” 02.21.2018).

Jihadist militant organization Boko Haram attacked a school in Nigeria on Monday, Feb. 19, kidnapping around 80 girls. Local media outlets reported on Wednesday, Feb. 21 that the Nigerian army had managed to rescue the girls. However, this has not yet been verified by outside news outlets. The attack is reminiscent of the 2014 kidnapping of 270 schoolgirls, of which over 200 are still in captivity (The New York Times, “Boko Haram Storms Girls’ School in Nigeria, Renewing Fears,” 02.21.2018).

A humanitarian disaster is threatening the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the United Nations. Reportedly, millions of people are being displaced due to fighting between the government forces and militia. The Congo has become the African country with the highest number of displaced people (Reliefweb, “Caritas Warns of Humanitarian Crisis in Congo,” 02.22.2018).

On Tuesday, Feb. 20, the Venezuelan government launched a virtual currency called petro, which is being backed by the country’s large oil reserves. This move comes as the Venezuelan government tries to deal with an economic crisis and is an attempt to bypass the United States’ sanctions, which ban purchasing Venezuelan securities in American markets (The New York Times, “Venezuela Launches Virtual Currency, Hoping to Resuscitate Economy,” 02.20.2018).

Keeping up with 2020 hopefuls…

More and more Democrats are setting the stage for their bid for the presidency. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has already announced she will co-sponsor a bill legalizing marijuana, arguing that it is not only a social justice issue, but also a moral one (U.S. News, “Democrats Prep For 2020,” 02.20.2018).

On the Republican side, Ohio Governor John Kasich is seriously thinking of challenging Trump in the 2020 primaries. Some speculate that he is more likely to run in the Republican primaries if Trump does not seek reelection. Many of Kasich’s advisers reportedly believe this is a very probable scenario. Kasich is also thinking about running as an independent (Politico, “Kasich’s team gears up for possible 2020 bid,” 02.23.2018).

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