Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Winter Olympics End, US Fails to Impress as Politics Took Center Stage

The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea ended n Sunday, following two weeks of sporting events. Norway emerged the strongest nation, winning in both number of gold medals won (14) and total medals won (39). The US came in fourth in both categories, with 9 gold and 23 total. While the American performance was the worst in recent Winter Olympics, the women’s ice hockey team defeated Canada to win the first gold for the US in the sport since 1998.

Politics laid a cloud over this year’s games as well. While the North Korean and South Korean teams marched under a united flag at the opening ceremonies, as well as competed together in women’s ice hockey, tensions remain as North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, continues his nuclear weapons program and testing of rockets. His sister, Kim Yo-jung, made an appearance at the opening ceremony and stood near US Vice President Mike Pence. Some American media outlets were criticized for the positive coverage they gave her given her position as propaganda director for the brutal regime.

With Billy Graham’s Death, Many Remember His Legacy

Graham in 1966

The Reverend Billy Graham, who preached before hundreds of thousands in persona during his ministry, as well as to hundreds of millions more through broadcast feeds, died last week on February 21 as the age 99. Graham was born on November 7, 1918 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and began his ministry in the 1940s. He began to be noted for his massive crusades, preaching around the worlds in tents and stadiums, often accompanied by the singer George Beverley Shea, who, by virtue of singing at Graham’s crusades, sang to more people live than any other person in history. Shea died in 2013 at 104.

Graham, who was known for trying to avoid the political battles that other preachers, such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, fought, nonetheless was known for his close relationships with many US presidents, having met every president from Truman to Trump (though he met with Trump in 2013 before he became president). He was known especially for his close relationship with Richard Nixon, a bond which would land him in controversy years later once tapes were revealed of conversations between the two in which Graham said derogatory comments about Jews and their control on the media. Graham had since profusely apologized for his remarks to Jewish leaders.

Graham’s health began to fail in the mid 2000s, preaching his last crusade in New York in 2005, his first being in 1947. Graham continued to make limited appearances, speaking with President Obama in 2010 and attending his 95th birthday party in 2013. Graham had been steadily losing his vision and hearing in the years prior to his death.

Graham was preceded in death by his wife Ruth, who died in 2007. His son Franklin Graham has long been the head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization and, unlike his father, has taken a more active role in the political arena and is known as a close ally of President Trump.
Graham’s funeral will take place in Charlotte on Friday. Billy Graham has been lying in the Capitol Rotunda, the first to do so since the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) in 2012 and an honor often reserved for only the most honorable Americans, especially in the case of private citizens.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bombing in Kabul Kills 103, Injures 235 More

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, on January 27, which killed 103 and injured 235 more. The bomb, hidden in an ambulance, was one of the deadliest in recent Afghan history.

The attack comes as the Taliban terrorists are growing their reach in the country. The Taliban has an active presence in 70% of the country, according to a new BBC study, with outright control in 4%. As recently as October 2017, the Taliban only had a major presence in 44%. The Taliban’s struggle comes as the United States has ramped up its efforts to dislodge the group from influence in the country.

Trump’s State of the Union Lays Out New Goals for White House

President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union as President on Tuesday, in which he laid out various proposals going forward along with touting what he views as the successes of his Presidency so far.

In the speech, Trump laid out a number of plans for the next year, most notably plans for massive infrastructure spending and immigration reform. With respect to infrastructure spending, Trump called for a $1.5 billion package which would work to build new and repair existing roads and bridges across the United States. The bill’s high cost would be paid through a combination of federal grants, state grants, and private partnerships.

In the way of immigration reform, Trump called for an end to “chain migration,” in which immigrants can work to bring their extended families to the United States. Trump’s proposal calls for such privileges to be limited to immediate family members. In addition, Trump’s plan calls for a path for citizenship, over twelve years, for the so-called “Dreamers,” who were children when their parents brought them to the US illegally. With this, Trump made clear that border security would need to be assured, most notably through his plan for a wall, at least in part.

Trump also praised the Republican tax bill passed late last year, saying it will increase the disposable income of millions of Americans and stimulate economic growth.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Trump May Push Infrastructure Plan After Tax Bill Win

The Trump administration is signaling that it may be willing to tackle an infrastructure plan following its success in pushing forward its tax plan this month. Moves for increases in infrastructure spending, unlike the GOP attempts at tax reform, have been supported by several Democrats and may have a chance to receive bipartisan support.

Trump may announce his plans for infrastructure in his upcoming State of the Union speech in 2018.
The infrastructure plan may cost upwards of $1 trillion, but will not all come out the federal treasury. A portion will be paid by the federal government, while state and local governments, along with private companies and investors, will also contribute to the projects laid out in any plan.

Increases in infrastructure spending have long been the goal of numerous politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, with projects including new roads, bridges, terminals, etc. However, concerns over increases to the national debt (already an issue with the recently passed tax bill) could pose an issue, especially with Republicans.