U.S. continues Niger investigation

The United States military is still investigating the events that occurred in Niger two weeks ago when four U.S. soldiers were killed during an ambush, apparently by a regional branch of the Islamic State. Tensions have risen in the region

U.S. Army Green Berets are stationed in Niger as part of an operation to help train the country’s military and assist in counter-terrorism efforts. Specifically, the neutralization of ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) is a main priority of the military endeavor.

ISIS in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) was founded in 2015 after the group’s leader, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, split from an al-Qaeda group and pledged allegiance to ISIS.

According to two U.S. defense officials, the Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) has dispatched a team to Niger to verify and investigate the details of what happened. The Pentagon officials are cautious to label this dispatch as an investigation. However, they maintain that the events of Oct.4 are unclear.

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Tropical Storm Nate on path for Louisiana

The state of Louisiana has declared a state of emergency in preparation for the anticipated landfall of Tropical Storm Nate, which has killed over 22 people so far in Central America.

Currently moving northward and strengthening in the Caribbean sea, Nate is expected to make landfall east of New Orleans on Saturday night as a category 1 hurricane. In the past two months,  Nate will be the third hurricane to have hit the United States.

Storm surge watches have been issued in Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, where officials have urged residents to gather supplies and abide by any local evacuation notices.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Nate will shower the affected areas with between 3 and 12 inches of rain, and storm surges of 4 to 7 feet are expected.

Trump’s response to Puerto Rico

Trump’s response to Puerto Rico has been heavily criticized by both sides of the aisle. While there are not many things that Democrats and Republicans agree on, one of them is that Trump has handled the situation poorly. Not much action has been taken yet, with Trump and his administration claiming that it is too hard to reach Puerto Rico or that there are too many obstacles to helping. However, most people claim that these are simply excuses. Trump’s recent visit to Puerto Rico has also been disappointing, with him staying shorter than expected and making what most consider to be derogatory remarks at the citizens there. However, those that defend Trump argue that aid has been and will be given to Puerto Rico.

Russian Probe Continues as Senate Intelligence Committee Searches for Hints of Collusion

Today, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) stated that the Intelligence Committee is continuing to search for any hint of evidence they could find.

The Intelligence Committee’s report clearly discusses Russia’s role in attempting to undermine the 2016 Presidential Election. Russia strived to spread false, negative stories of Secretary Hillary Clinton while promoting then Candidate Donald Trump.

According to Burr, over the past eight months the committee reviewed over 400,000 pages of transcripts of interviews with over 100 officials, reviewed 100,000 pages of classified documents, and has interviewed members of the Obama Administration Cabinet.

Burr noted that the issue of collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russian Government is still up for investigation. The committee also looked into the change of the GOP platform which softened its stance on Russia.

Inverstiagtors are examining Russia’s social media spread of ‘fake news’ on Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

 

Opinion piece: We need to talk about gun control

Gun control laws are necessary in this country. This was evident after Columbine, after Sandy Hook, and after Pulse. It is evident once again after Las Vegas. And yet, the odds that something will actually happen are close to zero. The same frustrating sequence of events happens every time a tragedy like this happens. Everyone offers thoughts and prayers for victims and families, insisting it is not time to politicize the event. Then, everyone moves on slowly. When the “mandatory mourning period” is over, the issue is no longer salient, or there is another pressing problem that needs taking care of. This is the incredibly effective tool of the Right to stay away from gun control laws that are clearly needed.

The problem is, there is no legitimate reason not to implement gun control laws. There are lots of rights that are restricted for the good of the general public. For example, free speech is limited when it comes to obscene things that could upset other people. Rights do not stay intact when they interfere with the wellbeing of the general public. There is no reason why the second amendment should be exempt from this, except the Right and groups like the NRA seem to think that any intervention into gun ownership is a gross violation of our rights as Americans. The common misunderstanding is that the reform many call for is not complete abolishment of guns, just limiting of who can purchase a gun, making the purchasing period longer, and banning the purchase of things such as high powered assault rifled. This is reasonable. Longer waiting periods and more thorough mental health assessments are necessary and not harmful, and no one needs a high powered assault rifle for anything except to, oh right, hurt people. Every claim by gun enthusiasts about why those death machines are necessary are easily debunked by statistics and common sense.

We need reform, and we need it now. Anyone who refuses to let that happen has blood on their hands. There have already been hundreds of shootings this year. I urge our policymakers: do not let it continue.

Image Credits: NYT

 

Opinion piece: an open letter to Trump about Puerto Rico

Trump:

I didn’t really think your response to Puerto Rico could get worse than your embarrassing barrage of accusatory tweets towards Puerto Ricans, but I was, as oft happens with this particular administration, once again proven wrong. In case you didn’t know, the Constitution states that it is the federal government’s responsibility to provide for the general welfare. This means stepping in to help people when there are problems they cannot fix themselves. The humanitarian crisis created by the hurricanes is one example of this. It is your job to help.

Between praising your own administration for its relief efforts (which, in Puerto Rico, have been almost non-existent) and calling Puerto Ricans lazy, your visit to the island was, quite frankly, a disaster. Tip: saying that Hurricane Katrina was worse than Irma and Maria does nothing to alleviate the situation, and actually makes it worse. There are 3.4 million people without food and water, and almost 100% of the island is without electricity. Millions of lives have been permanently altered by this destruction, and it is incredibly offensive to imply that the people of Puerto Rico are in some way not deserving of help because 1,800+ people did not die as a result.

As if the negative PR you would have received with that alone wouldn’t have been enough, you also saw fit to throw paper towels at residents as if they were animals. Nice job. So, all in all, maybe your photo-op visit didn’t go as well as planned. Between mistaking the representative of the Air Force and the Coast Guard and discrediting the local government’s response (when it is clear that they have done more than you have to help), the visit seemed like a slap in the face.

Thank you, Donald Trump, for once again making it very clear that the Trump Administration sees its most vulnerable citizens as second class and undeserving of help. We get the message.

Thanks,

A (perpetually) disappointed American.

Image Credits: Vox

Statistic Credits: Salon

Murphy pressured woman to get an abortion

Recent text messages that have come out suggest that Congressman Tim Murphy urged a woman to have an abortion. Tim Murphy is a Republican Representative from Pennsylvania. This news is particularly alarming to the public as Murphy has expressly stated his pro-life ideology on social media and publicly before. The woman he pressured to abort the baby is one he was allegedly having an affair with, according to the text messages acquired by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Although his affair is not news, having confessed to it in September, these newfound messages have left many to call Murphy a hypocrite when his official Facebook account posted pro-life propaganda and as he co-sponsored the 20 week abortion ban. When the woman he was having an affair with made her criticism public, Murphy responded by stating that all Facebook posts were made by his staff and that he was not personally aligned with that ideology.

 

Image Credits: CNN