Category Archives: Politics

Panda Diplomacy – Bears on Loan?

Famous, fluffy, and adorable, panda bears are one of the most recognized animals. Due to hunting and habitat loss, panda numbers declined into the late 20th century, but conservation efforts have pulled the population back up to approximately 2,000 living in the wild and near 250 in captivity. Giant pandas are native to China, and what’s more, the Chinese government owns all of them, whether they live there or not.

Over spring break, I went to the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and the last animal my friends and I got to see was a giant panda. This panda could have been Mei Xiang or Tian Tian, a female and male respectively, both born in a Chinese research center but on loan to the United States. These pandas belong to the Chinese government who leased them to the National Zoo in a ten-year, $10 million agreement. In other words, one million dollars per year per panda. This may sound bad. Did the Chinese just cash out by renting two members of an endangered species to another country? Say it isn’t so.

It isn’t so. By law, the Chinese government must funnel half of the lease money to panda conservation and research. Furthermore, the envoy of pandas to other countries is no new concept. China’s use of pandas as diplomatic gifts* to other countries is a tradition found as far back as the Tang Dynasty (618-907A.D.). Hence the term “panda diplomacy”. It was revived in the 1950s and continues through today, but not always with the price tag attached. Before Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, two pandas were gifted to the United States after former President Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, and they were donated to the National Zoo. The black-and-white bears were incredibly popular and viewed as more than balls of fur; these bears were political symbols of peaceful diplomatic relations between giver and receiver. In 1984, China changed its policy on panda diplomacy. There would be no giving of pandas. Rather, the Chinese government would loan a panda to another country on a ten- year lease with fees up to $1,000,000 a year, under the provision that any cub born during the loan period is the property of China. This explains why the son of Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, born in 2005, was sent “back” to China in early 2010.

Attitudes surrounding panda diplomacy are not always positive. In 2005, after a Taiwanese party leader visited China, two pandas were offered as a gift to the people of Taiwan. Although a popular idea with the Taiwanese public, one of the political parties disapproved because of the ongoing conflict about Taiwan being a part of China. Back to political symbols, the pandas would represent China trying to acquire Taiwan. Also, the trade agreement was disputed as a domestic transfer (i.e. China was sending the pandas to another part of China) or a country-to-country transfer. A change in Taiwanese leadership in 2008 led to the pandas being accepted into Taiwan.

Diplomatic gifts. Political symbols. Revenue makers. Conservation funders. Research subjects. Wrapped into a furry package, these pandas play a lot of roles, but how are they impacted? What does it mean for the giant panda to be made into something leased and transferred and legally disputed? Panda diplomacy is certainly a political phenomenon, but what does it mean for conservation? The two pandas gifted to the U.S. in 1972 and donated to the National Zoo were taken from the wild, and forceful captures like this should not occur. Zoos should house animals for rehabilitation or conservation purposes. Examples are animals who cannot live in their natural habitat, whether that be because they are injured, refugees from a damaged area, or born into captivity without the means to survive in the wild.** The Chinese government should never have captured them, but there is fault in the United States and the National Zoo graciously accepting them. However, nowadays, pandas involved in acts of panda diplomacy are almost all born into captivity, whether in a zoo or conservation center or research facility. As long as the receiving party has the facilities, money, and utilities to properly and humanely care for the pandas, the pandas are typically taking a ten-year vacation from one home in captivity for another. It is also important to remember that pandas are rare, and therefore valuable. Sticking a price tag on animals like these may seem demoralizing, but wouldn’t it be equally bad if these endangered animals were given out for free? Furthermore, much of the revenue cycles back into efforts to help giant pandas. As aforementioned, the Chinese government must send at least half of the money from leasing profits to research and conservation groups. By China leasing pandas to other countries, and other countries paying to receive them, the panda conservation movement is given fuel to research and restore this species in the wild. Panda diplomacy has its flaws and dark moments, but overall, who is losing out? When I was gawking at that adorable bear at the National Zoo, it certainly wasn’t me.

* Diplomatic gifts are generally defined as gifts exchanged with or following a visit by a diplomat, leader, or politician to a foreign country.

** Further information: The National Geographic documentary Pandas: The Journey Home includes the survival training and subsequent return of a captive-born panda into the wild.

Trump’s Address to Congress 2.28.17

On the evening of the last day of Black History Month, Mr. Trump stood before the joint houses of Congress to deliver his speech. Starting off, he condemns the anti-Semitic attacks and the drive-by shooting of Indian immigrants. He says that, while politics may be divided, the United States stands together when it comes to the heinous acts of hate. Trump then goes on to give nationalist-tinged rhetoric about America’s readiness to take her rightful place in the world.

He addressed the crumbling infrastructure he hopes to rebuild, later mentioning the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines. In his speech, Mr. Trump claims that he will create tens of thousands of jobs, which is true; however, these jobs will only be temporary, and will end when the construction of the pipelines is completed. He says that he will end the crisis that faces inner city children of Chicago, Detroit, and Baltimore, then says we must address the influx of drugs and people over our borders. With this being said, he again affirmed that a wall would be built along the southern border of the United States.

In combating the threats from outside the U.S., Trump also said he wished to continue the fight against radical Islamic terrorism, which is why he introduced the “improved vetting procedures” that culminated in his travel ban. He also claims that he wishes to work with Muslims specifically in the fight against ISIS, which seems strange coming from the man who introduced a travel ban for those from several primarily Muslim countries.

Trump turns to jobs and the American market next, saying that he will most definitely bring back jobs. However, he doesn’t introduce any real plans to do so. He also says that the tariffs that other countries have on American goods are ridiculously high, so there must be change. If he is suggesting higher tariffs for foreign goods, that could hurt our market, because other countries will also raise their tariffs on American products.

He moves to immigration next, saying that a merit-based system would be in the best interest for America. Mr. Trump also restates his intent to roll back the ACA, his support for Devos and her school choice plan, and the law enforcement of the U.S. His plans to expand the military defense budget are also discussed, as well as more of the “unifying” theme he seems to present throughout the speech.

In his speech, he presents a long list of things he’d like to do, but the actual implementation of them remain up in the air. His vague calls for “unity” and putting aside “trivial” differences seems to belittle some of the very real issues that have divided people throughout the country. While newspaper outlets have called this speech “surprisingly presidential” for Mr. Trump, that is more of a criticism than praise, considering the shock that comes when Mr. Trump actually seems like he might be taking his job seriously.

Terrible, Yes, and Not Great

With the current rise of the Alt-Right movement, we’ve sadly been hearing the name “Hitler” a lot more than the average person would hope to hear that name. Similarly, many people have drawn starch parallels between the new Trump administration and Hitler’s Nazi regime, which has instigated heated debated. A few times during these arguments, I’ve heard something along the lines of “I mean Hitler was evil but we can’t deny that he was still a great leader!” First of all, yes we can, Secondly, this idea comes from the false narrative that is often taught in high school history which leads us to believe that Hitler single handedly convinced an entire German population to turn against Jews. A narrative that is often taught in schools as something we should be impressed by. A narrative that is not only false, but also very dangerous – particularly in relation to discussions about our current administration. With the following information, I hope to convince you that Hitler was NOT, in fact, a good leader at all.

  1. Hitler was not a great leader; he was a great manipulator

Hitler did not SINGLE HANDEDLY convince the entire German population to turn against Jews. Hitler didn’t create anti-Semitism in Germany. Germany had a long history of discriminating against Jews that dated back to before Hitler was even born. With the economic devastation that followed World War I, Hitler exploited this culture of Jewish discrimination to deceive the German people and manipulate them against a common enemy, which he then used to rise to power.  If someone who lies well is the current definition of a good leader, then that explains our current administration.

  1. Germany’s “economic miracle” under Hitler was not so miraculous

Many argue that under Hitler’s economic policies, unemployment dropped and the economy was on its way to revival. This is significantly exaggerated because women were not calculated in the unemployment calculations which drastically distorted the numbers. Additionally, under Hitler’s new policies, unemployed young men were given an alternative: either get a government job or be forced into a concentration camp. So, of course the unemployment numbers seemed low but it was an illusion created by Hitler so he could use it as a propaganda ploy to further manipulate German people against Jews.

  1. Hitler lost the war and he lost it really badly!!

If you want to say Hitler is single handedly responsible for something, it’s the death of 3% of the world’s population. Hitler provoked a war which killed over 60 million people!! And after all this?? HE STILL LOST THAT WAR! Even when he knew he had no hopes of winning, he continued to escalate the war and endangered the lives of the people that he’s supposedly so good at leading. Furthermore, instead of surrendering, he killed himself and never took responsibility for his actions, as any true leader would!

  1. He actively constructed and instructed the genocide of 6 million people… for no reason

This one shouldn’t need further explaining.

Trump’s First Week (and a half) in Executive Orders

This past week and a half has been a complete mess in the realm of politics and social justice. I am in no way saying, however, that the U.S. was the standard of justice before, because it certainly has never been close. That aside, if you decided that your best form of self care was to take a break from the news for a while, here’s a short recap of the executive orders signed by DJT in his first week and a half as president, to help catch you up on what’s going on!

Executive Order 1:

The official title of this order is Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal. Signed on January 20th, this mouthful is Trump’s first step in his attempts to repeal the ACA, or Obamacare. While this order does not give any framework for how this is to be done, or the new healthcare system that Trump plans to implement, it does start the process by which he wishes to allow healthcare providers to compete for their customers in an open market.

Executive Order 2:

The order Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals For High Priority Infrastructure Projects was signed on January 24th. This order expedites the reviewal process for any infrastructure process deemed “high priority” to 30 days, within which timeframe the Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Equality must give a decision about the implementation of the project. If a project is indeed decided to classify as high priority, deadlines must also be constructed for the completion of the infrastructural project. Some of the projects listed as fitting this description of beneficial infrastructure were airports, bridges, highways, and least surprising of all, pipelines.

Executive Order 3:

This order, called Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the U.S., was released on January 25th. Here Trump states that “aliens”, including those who overstay their visas, pose a problem to the safety of American citizens, especially those who engage in criminal activity. In this act, he directs that 10,000 more immigration officers be hired, and gives state and local law enforcement agencies the power to act as immigration officers where they see fit. In addition, a weekly report will be issued, chronicling all the crimes of illegal immigrants.

Executive Order 4:

On January 25th as well, the Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements order was signed, stating that law enforcement agencies along the Mexico/U.S. border should take whatever lawful actions necessary to secure the border. Included among the actions deemed necessary is the construction of a wall along the border, with the planning and implementation of such to begin immediately, as is the procuring of funds for this project. This order also directs the hiring of an additional 5,000 Border Patrol officers, and reiterates the permission that state and local agencies have to act as immigration officers.

Executive Order 5:

Two days later, another order was issued, this one called Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States. In the opening paragraphs of this order, it says that the United States must not allow entry to people who “engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own), or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.” In addition, this order states that visas and other benefits to “countries of national concern” will be invalid for at least 90 days. These countries are Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Iran, and Somalia. Green card holders, while not mentioned in this order, have also been affected. In addition, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program is to be suspended for 120 days while it is reviewed, and upon reinstatement, priority will be given to those seeking asylum for religious persecution. Syrian refugees are called “detrimental” to the interests of the United States, and are not permitted to enter the country indefinitely. Over 5,000 refugees per year will be considered a financial burden, and thus greater than that will not be allowed.

Executive Order 6:

This order, called the Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees, was issued on January 28th. In summary, this order limits the lobbying abilities of any employee of the executive office for 5 years after the end of their employment. It also limits the communications that former employees are allowed to have with current employees in their department.

Executive Order 7:

The executive order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs was signed on January 30th. It begins by stating that for every regulation implemented, two must be rescinded, and thus making the net costs of new regulations zero. Any additional costs that must be incurred are subject to additional approval, which could slow the implementation process.

While this may seem like a lot to take in, this doesn’t even begin to cover the other executive actions that Mr. Trump has issued so far, which include eleven memorandums and one proclamation. The memoranda are basically executive orders that don’t require the heavy documentation of an executive order, yet still carry the weight of the law. Proclamations are not binding as law, but merely strong suggestions. If you’d like to look further into these, the White House’s official website has all the executive actions and their exact texts. 

This article was edited for clarity at 5:26 p.m. on 2/8/17.

The Affordable Care Act vs. Trump Presidency: Will He Succeed?

The Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress and then signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23rd, 2010. The act, also known as Obamacare, has had its ups and downs over the past 4 years as it faced heavy opposition from the Republican party. However Obamacare, despite its rocky start, has improved the lives of many and has succeeded in its initial goal, which was to reduce the number of uninsured citizens. According to the Washington Post, in comparison to 2013, there are over 8.8 million insured individuals, dropping the rate of the uninsured from 13.3% to below 10%. This, however, is not enough to keep President Trump from repealing (or at least trying to) Obamacare.

According to CNN, both President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have said that repealing and replacing Obamacare is a legislative priority. In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, Trump repeats just that, claiming that his new plan would offer greater health care for less money. Is this true? Does Trump have concrete plans, or is he just misleading the public in order to repeal the act that has helped millions? That is the questions most Americans are asking.

So far, both the senate and the House have passed measures that aim to remove the penalty for not having health insurance and the mechanics of providing subsidies to qualified families and individuals to help reduce the cost of a health plans. Legislators are currently floating proposals that would replace Obamacare, going for the “replace-then-repeal” approach. But can they come up with something better? Although Obamacare has done little to reduce the overall cost of health insurance, it has allowed qualified families and individuals with insurance they would not be able to afford otherwise. It has ensured that people with pre-existing conditions are still able to get insured and treated without paying enormous out-of-pocket costs. Pleading families and individuals have taken to the internet in order to voice their concerns about the repeal. Countless of individuals on Twitter and other social media platforms have posted pictures of their insurance and medical bills, highlighting how much lower their costs are because of Obamacare. The public is fighting back, but will it be enough to stop Trump in his tracks?

The next few months are crucial, as they will determine whether the Trump administration will simply reform the ACA, or repeal it entirely and start fresh. Trump has proven himself a detriment, already removing the Civil Rights and the LGBTQ pages from the White House website and halting a reduction to the annual mortgage insurance premiums. Will the complete removal of Obamacare be next on his list?


Further Readings:

The Success of the Affordable Care Act is a Hugely Inconvenient Truth for its Opponents

US Patients Await Obamacare’s Fate

What to Know About the Future of Obamacare

Trump’s Cabinet Round-Up

Trump’s Cabinet Round-Up

        The majority of Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees are still waiting to be confirmed by the Senate, but in the meantime here is a round-up of the top cabinet candidates and appointed positions. As of Tuesday, January 24 only three of Trump’s nominees have been confirmed – CIA Director (Mike Pompeo), Defense Secretary (James Nattis), UN Ambassador (Nikki Haley),  and Homeland Security Secretary (John Kelly). Trump’s cabinet nominations have resulted in an array of responses – from highly contentious to little opposition. Trump’s cabinet nominations are 86% white (compared to 52% with Obama) and 82% male (compared to 65% with Obama). His cabinet also consists of 14% billionaires, whereas both Obama and George W. Bush had no cabinet billionaires.

The Cabinet

  •      Vice President – Mike Pence

Previously served as the Governor of Indiana from 2013 to 2017.

  •      Defense Secretary – James N. Nattis

Nattis is a retired general, who aims to fight against ISIS. During Nattis’s hearing, he rejected some of Trump’s campaign rhetoric by saying he supported the Iran nuclear agreement, supported NATO, and has a tougher position on Russia.

  •      Homeland Security Secretary – John F. Kelly

Kelly is a retired four-star Marine general, who would be in charge of carrying out Trump’s infamous “wall.” During his hearing, he laid to rest many of Trump’s most outrageous claims such as forcing Muslims to “register” with the government.

  •      Attorney General – Jeff Sessions

Sessions is a Senator from Alabama and was an early supporter of Trump. Sessions supports strict immigration and toughening up on crime. The hallmark of Sessions’ hearing was Georgia Representative John Lewis questioning Sessions’ racist history. Naturally, Trump responded on twitter to Lewis’s comments.

  •      Secretary of State – Rex W. Tillerson

Tillerson is the president and chief executive of Exxon Mobil. Previous Secretaries of State have focused on globalizing the U.S., but Trump is a critic of globalization. Tillerson was grilled on his relationships in Russia, where he has close business ties. Tillerson also noted his skepticism of climate change, explaining he did not see it as a national security threat like others do.

  •      Transportation Secretary – Elaine L. Chao

Chao was the labor secretary under President George W. Bush and is a longtime Washington politician. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. Her nomination has faced little to no opposition. She would be in charge of fulfilling Trump’s promise to rebuild America’s transportation infrastructure.

  •      Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Ben Carson

Carson is a former neurosurgeon and ran against Trump to be the Republican nominee in the presidential election. Carson would be in charge of affordable housing, fair-housing laws, and mortgage insurance. Interestingly enough, Carson believes that individual gumption is the key to overcoming poverty, not government programs. In his hearing, Carson explained he would never abolish a program without having an alternative for people.

  •      Interior Secretary – Ryan Zinke

Zinke is a representative from Montana and former Navy SEAL. Zinke is crucial in deciding if/how to continue with Obama’s efforts to cut down on oil, coal and gas, and increase the usage of wind and solar. Unlike Trump, Zinke does not believe climate change is a hoax.

  •      Education Secretary – Betsy DeVos

DeVos is the former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and proponent of school vouchers. She is also a billionaire. She would oversee Trump’s promise to move national responsibilities to state and local governments. Her hearing was heated because of the partisan split over charter schools and vouchers.

  •      Health and Human Services Secretary – Tom Price

Price is a Republican representative from Georgia and an orthopedic surgeon. He has led the fight against “Obamacare” in Congress. He would work to fulfill Trump’s goal of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

  •      Commerce Secretary – Wilbur Ross

Ross is an investor and billionaire. He is known as the “King of Bankruptcy,” and helped Trump avoid personal bankruptcy. Ross vowed to increase tariffs on China and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

  •      Treasury Secretary – Steven Mnuchin

Mnuchin was formerly with Goldman Sachs and is also a movie producer. Mnuchin would head up government borrowing in financial markets. The Senate Finance Committee questioned Mnuchin on his offshore tax havens and multiple companies.

  •      Energy Secretary – Rick Perry

Perry is the former Texas governor and in 2011 proposed abolishing the Energy Department. He will be in charge of maintaining and protecting the U.S.’s nuclear weapons. In his hearing, Perry retracted his earlier statements in which he denied human-caused climate change.

  •      Labor Secretary – Andrew F. Puzder

Puzder is a fast food executive and is most notably opposed to raising the minimum wage. Democrats and labor organizations have intensely opposed Puzder’s nomination.

  •      Agriculture Secretary – Sonny Perdue

Perdue is the former governor of Georgia. This department focuses on America’s farming industry, and Perdue would also assist with some of Trump’s trade goals.

  •      David J. Shulkin – Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Shulkin is a doctor and the current secretary for health at the VA. Shulkin is critical of the Obama administration and claims Obama left veterans forgotten and unsupported.

Cabinet-Level Officials

  •      White House Chief of Staff – Reince Priebus

Priebus is the head of the Republican National Committee. His role will be important with turning many of Trump’s goals into policies.

  •      E.P.A. Administrator – Scott Pruitt

Pruitt is the attorney general of Oklahoma and a supporter of the fossil fuel industry. He is one of the nation’s leading advocates against the E.P.A.. In his hearing, Pruitt said he wanted a more state-oriented approach to environmental regulations, not national enforcements.

  •      Director of the Office of Management and Budget – Mick Mulvaney

Mulvaney is a representative from South Carolina and is known for being a fiscal conservative and eager for big spending cuts. He would focus on repealing the Affordable Care Act, a tax overhaul, and spending on Trump’s sweeping infrastructure overhaul.

  •      U.S. Trade Representative – Robert Lighthizer

Lighthizer is an international trade lawyer and protectionist. He served under President Reagan as a trade official. The U.S. Trade Representative serves the President by recommending and negotiating United States trade policy.

  •      U.N. Ambassador – Nikki R. Haley

Haley is the governor of South Carolina and would represent the U.S. on the U.N. Security Council. Her nomination has not been a contentious debate. In her hearing, Haley noted she believed Russia had committed war crimes in Syria.

  •      Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers – TBA

This position is the leader of a three member committee that analyzes economic growth and changes and assists the President in making economic decisions for the United States. This position is typically filled by someone chosen from academia.

  •      Small Business Administration – Linda McMahon

McMahon is a wrestling entrepreneur, former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment. She will be in charge of helping small business get loans and support.

Other Senior Positions

  •      Senior adviser – Jared Kushner

Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law, married to Ivanka. Kushner is an elusive character and often steers clear of media attention, but has been described as an integral role to the Trump campaign. An interesting interview with Kushner was published in Forbes in December 2016. Kushner almost never speaks to the media and the Forbes interview articulates his crucial, yet seemingly enigmatic, role in the Trump campaign.

  •      Chief Strategist – Steve Bannon

Bannon is a right-wing executive and former head of Breitbart News. Bannon identified Breitbart News as “the platform for the alt-right.” Trump said that Bannon would be “working as equal partners” with Priebus.

  •      National-security adviser – Mike Flynn

Flynn is a retired lieutenant general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. His role focuses on addressing proposals from the State Department and the Pentagon.

  •      Homeland-security adviser – Thomas Bossert

Bossert was a top security aide to George W. Bush and currently runs a risk management consulting firm. His position will be equal to the national security advisor.

  •      Director of National Intelligence – Dan Coats

Coats is the former ambassador to Germany and a senator from Indiana. As Director of National Intelligence, Coats will serve as the head of the Intelligence Community.

  •      C.I.A. Director – Mike Pompeo

Pompeo is a representative from Kansas and former Army officer. Pompeo explained that he would further investigate the Russian interference in the election.

  •      National Trade Council – Peter Navarro

Navarro is an academic economist, and the only one among Trump’s top men and women. He is a critic of the current policies toward China. He will oversee White House trade and industrial policy.

  •      National Economic Council – Gary Cohn

Cohn was the COO and president of Goldman Sachs. Despite Trump’s critiques of Wall Street during the campaign, Cohn is one of three Goldman Sachs executives to join his inner circle.

  •      Regulatory Tsar/Special Adviser on Regulatory Reform – Carl Icahn

Icahn is a billionaire investor and is focused to fulfilling Trump’s promise to decrease regulations on businesses.

  •      Counselor – Kellyanne Conway

Conway is known for her role as Trump’s campaign manager and spokeswoman. It appears Conway will continue this sort of role in the Counselor position.

  •      Public-liaison adviser – Anthony Scaramucci

Scaramucci is the founder of the investment firm SkyBridge Capital. Scaramucci will head up trying to convince the United States business community the benefits of investing in Trump’s agenda.

  •      White House Counsel – Donald F. McGahn II

McGahn is a lawyer in Washington and will have a critical role in advising the president on his many legal matters.

  •      Press Secretary and Special Assistant to the President – Sean Spicer

Spicer was the spokesman for the Republican National Party and also served Priebus as an aide. Spicer will be the direct liaison between the media and the White House.

For reference, these are the steps to becoming a cabinet member:

  • Person is nominated by the president-elect.
  • Nominee has a senate hearing in front of relevant senate committees.
  • Nominee is voted out of the committee if the majority of the committee votes for the nominee. The vote then goes to the Senate floor.
  • Nominee is confirmed by Senate in floor vote.

For the sake of brevity, NPR posted a list about which stage each of Trump’s nominees are currently in. In the next few weeks, we should see nominees in senate hearings and being voted on by committees. Some of Trump’s most contentious candidates – Betsy DeVos, Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Andy Pudzer and Steve Mnuchin – are definitely cases to pay attention to.

Know Your Rights: Dos and Don’ts

Last Thursday, The Black Student Movement and the Campus Y co-hosted an event offering non-official advice for what students should and should not do when interacting with the police.

The event featured a panel consisted of Ada Wilson-Suitt, who currently serves as Director of Inclusive Student Excellence at UNC and previously was a practicing attorney.  The panel also featured Michael Jones and Ariel Smallwood, both second year law students at the UNC School of Law and President and Vice President of Black Law Student Association respectively.

The panelists wanted to make it clear they are not experts, but still gave excellent advice. Here are some of their tips:

1) Download the ACLU app. The app has a built in recording device that records both visual and audio. The app also has a tab titled “Know Your Rights” which details essential rights one should know. Essentially this app is very resourceful/useful and you should definitely get it!

2) Warrants are important. A warrant is absolutely necessary to search anything, your residence or your house. Courts don’t like when police officers search without warrants and anything they find without a warrant isn’t admissible in court, aka it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Take time to read over the warrant and make sure that it has your address on it, not just a general location.

3) Keep communication short and simple. Keep the conversations with law enforcement brief, direct, and only answer questions asked of you. If you are in a situation in which you are  read your rights, the only words you should be saying are “I want to speak to my attorney”.  You don’t have to speak but you should comply.

4) Keep calm and know your rights.  If you are being pulled over and you feel it is unsafe to do so, it is in your rights to put on your hazards and call 911 to notify them that you are pulling over to a protected area. If you’re ever accused of being under the influence you can request a witness be present.

In most situations law enforcement will treat you right, but it is important to know your rights!

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Abortion in America- “Genocide Awareness Project”

For the past two days at UNC, a non-campus affiliated organization called “Genocide Awareness Project” (GAP) set up posters and handed out flyers on Polk Place (the main quad) on campus. When I first saw them setting up bright, orange signs I thought it was for Holocaust awareness. I’d had friends last week standing in the Pit (UNC’s outdoor hub) reading names of Holocaust victims for 24 hours. I assumed it was work continuing for victims of genocide, particularly the Holocaust.
Continue reading Abortion in America- “Genocide Awareness Project”

Punishment and Privatization: Debunking the Prison Industrial Complex

Over the past week, the Criminal Justice Awareness and Action committee put on several events for their Criminal Justice Reform Advocacy week. Many students may have seen the replica solitary confinement cell in the pit last week; that was part of CJAA’s program, which also included a one-woman show on domestic violence, an art benefit night, and several discussions on other criminal justice-related topics. Continue reading Punishment and Privatization: Debunking the Prison Industrial Complex

I’m A Little Tired Of Hearing The Name ‘Trump’”

Donald Trump is an overrated topic. At the speed he’s going, the nomination is bound to be his, meaning the American public and the global community will have to deal with his mouth and rhetoric until election time. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if it weren’t only March. Insert side-eye emoji here. Continue reading I’m A Little Tired Of Hearing The Name ‘Trump’”