Tuesday, February 28, 2017

French Presidential Election Worries Investors

The upcoming French presidential election has investors worried about the possibility of a major shakeup in French and European politics, as Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the right-wing populist to far-right National Front (FN) Party leads the pack in polls for the first round of voting on April 23. She leads conservative Francois Fillon and the more liberal Emmanuel Macron, who are both battling for second place to make the runoff. While Le Pen leads in the first round, she loses in the polls to either man in a head-to-head matchup in the second round, though her support has risen in the past few weeks through her emphasis on security and anti-immigration appeals.

Le Pen, if elected, will work to hold a referendum on whether France should leave the European Union (EU), as Britain did in June of last year. The withdrawal of France, the main political and economic anchor of the bloc along with Germany, would cast doubt on the future viability of the EU. Investors, most of whom support the continuation of the EU, have begun to sell French bonds in favor of German bonds, which are seen as more safer

Murder of Kim Jong Nam Helps Expose North Korean Chemical Capabilities

The murder of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the former heir apparent to Kim Jong-il, through agents using VX nerve agent in Malaysia has shed a light on the chemical weapons capabilities of the North Korean Regime.

VX, a toxic nerve agent which stimulates the nervous system to the point of death, is one of the most toxic substances known, capable of killing through inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion with only very small amounts. The use of it to murder Kim Jong Nam shows that North Korea has chemical weapons capability and will not tolerate dissension, as Kim Jong Nam was a notable critic of his half-brother’s rule.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Trump Selects Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court

President Donald Trump (R) announced Neil Gorsuch (L)
Tuesday as his nominee to fill the seat left vacant after
the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016
President Trump announced his selection for the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the late Justice Antonin Scalia last year, with Neil Gorsuch of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals as his pick. Trump said of Gorsuch at the announcement address, "The qualifications of Judge Gorsuch are beyond dispute. He is the man of our country and a man who our country really needs and needs badly to ensure the rule of law and the rule of justice."

Gorsuch has served on the Tenth Circuit Appeal Court since 2006, where he was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by voice vote. A native of Denver, Colorado, he is the son of  Anne Gorsuch Burford, Environmental Protection Agency head under Reagan. He received his undergraduate degree from Columbia University, where he founded The Fed, a satirical newspaper, along with Andrew Levy, now a Fox News personality. He graduated from Harvard Law School and received a degree from the University of Oxford as a Marshall Scholar.

Calling Scalia a "lion of the law" at the announcement, Gorsuch is known for his advocacy an originalist, textualist approach in interpreting the Constitution, similar to that of Scalia. Gorsuch will likely most often side with the conservative side of the court should he be confirmed, giving the court a 5-4 conservative majority, with Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy (for whom Gorsuch had once clerked) as the swing vote.

Democrats have begun to announce their opposition to Gorsuch, many angered that Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, received no hearing or vote by the Republican Senate. Sen. Jeff Merkely (D-OR) released a press statement, saying, "This is a stolen seat being filled by an illegitimate and extreme nominee (Gorsuch), and I will do everything in my power to stand up against this assault on the Court.”

If more Democrats feel the same way, it could set a lengthy, tense confirmation battle in the weeks ahead.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Protesters, Rioters Come Out in Force After Trump’s Inauguration

Demonstrators, angered by the election of Donald Trump as US President, began demonstrations across the United States, and even globally, as they marched Saturday as they voiced opposition to the new leader and his proposals.

The largest, the ‘Women’s March on Washington’ is the largest planned, attracting protests to march through Washington. Other satellite demonstrations, many also dubbed as a ‘women’s march,’ occurred throughout cities in the US, along with large international cities, such as London and Brussels.

Police used tear gas to control rioters during the Trump inauguration
Credit: AP/Mark Tenally
The day of the inauguration saw riots by self-proclaimed anarchists as they broke windows and destroyed and burned cars and other properties.  Many of the rioters wore black clothing and masks to prevent their identification. At least 217 people in Washington have been arrested for riots occurring just prior to Trump’s swearing in.

Donald Trump Inaugurated as 45th President of the US

Chief Justice John Roberts administering oath of office to Trump
Credit: White House
Donald John Trump became the 45th President of the United States on Friday, succeeding Barack Obama after serving eight years in the position. Vice President Mike Pence was inaugurated shortly before Trump took the oath of office.

The inauguration marks off the over two month transition process after Trump won the 2016 Presidential election in November, defeating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Clinton, along with her husband former President Bill Clinton, and former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush attended the inauguration, as did Obama per the tradition of a sitting President to attend the swearing in of his successor. Former President George H.W. Bush did not attend the inauguration in the wake of his hospitalization after complications from pneumonia. 

Trump promised a return to government controlled by the people in his inaugural address, criticizing trade deals and other government actions he sees as detrimental to Americans. Making clear his message, Trump said, “We are transferring power from Washington, DC and giving it back to you, the people."

Trump also seemed to be less open to foreign interventions aimed at changing the structure of government in foreign countries, saying, "We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone." However, the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will likely require some further measure of foreign intervention by the newly-inaugurated President.