US Opinion and Commentary

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Why Does the Vice Presidential Debate Matter?

Posted October 4th, 2016 at 4:16 pm (UTC-4)
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Attack and parry — that’s what most experts expect in the vice presidential debate between Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine.

The duo have multiple responsibilities as they face off: vigorously exploit their opponents’ vulnerabilities on policy and character; deftly defend their presidential candidate from those attacks; and demonstrate that they are suitably qualified to become president if the circumstances demand.

That last responsibility may be the best reason to watch the debate. At age 70, Donald Trump would be the oldest person elected president. The 68-year old Hillary Clinton would be the second oldest, if elected. What we know about their medical histories is limited to what they want us to know.

As well, the debate may give us a glimpse into the possible political futures of Kaine, a U.S. senator from Virginia and Pence, the governor of Indiana.

If nothing else, we will see how they do for 90 minutes in the spotlight before they fade back into the shadows of the campaign.

Russia’s Alliance With Assad, One Year On

Posted September 30th, 2016 at 4:44 pm (UTC-4)
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A year ago today, Russian entered the Syrian civil war. Allied with forces loyal to Syria’s president Bashir al-Assad, Russian said it was entering to stop terrorism and extremism.
While Russian warplanes have hit some Islamic State targets, much of their fury has been aimed at various rebel groups inside Syria, helping to tilt the battlefield in favor of Assad.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says it can document 9,364 deaths by Russian warplanes in the past year. 3,804 — 40 percent — were civilians, including more than 900 who were under 18-years old.
President Obama, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, described the Russian and Syrian assault of the ancient city of Aleppo as “barbarous.” The indefatigable Secretary of State John Kerry says he’s “on the verge” of suspending efforts to negotiate yet another ceasefire. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blames the United States for failing to separate the jihadist and extremist groups from more moderate rebels.
Kerry talks of “pursu(ing) other alternatives” as the airstrikes continue. What might those alternatives be for the United States? And what’s the endgame for Russia, if there is one?

Shimon Peres: A Complicated Legacy

Posted September 28th, 2016 at 4:41 pm (UTC-4)
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If you live until age 93 with more than 60 years in the public eye, you are going to have your share of admirers and detractors. What makes Shimon Peres so interesting is how many seemingly contradictory adjectives are used to describe him.
Consider these words from about a dozen articles used to describe Peres: arrogant, humble; pragmatic, Utopian; integrity, duplicitous; arrogant, eloquent; ambitious, technocrat; flawed visionary, strategic thinker; hawk, dove, Mr. Security; patriot, traitor, statesman.
Although they share the Nobel Peace Prize for the Oslo Peace Accords, Peres and Israel’s assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had a longtime political rivalry, so bitter that Rabin described Peres as “the indefatigable subverter.” The irony is not lost that Peres will be buried alongside Rabin on Friday. President Barack Obama will lead the American delegation to Peres’ funeral.
Peres has been Israel’s defense minister and foreign minister; its president.and prime minister, although he was unable to win an election to lead the country. As the last of Israel’s founding fathers, Peres leaves a complicated legacy.

Round One Clinton vs. Trump: Who Won?

Posted September 27th, 2016 at 5:26 pm (UTC-4)
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Unlike most sporting events, where the scoreboard tells you who won and lost (or whether it’s a draw), winners and losers of political debates rest more in the eyes of the beholder.
Polls taken after Monday’s first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump seem to vary depending on the poll’s methodology. A collegiate debate coach used pure debating terms to grade the event in favor of Clinton. And renowned pollster Frank Luntz measured a focus group of undecided voters through the entire debate. Their consensus: Clinton won, although they are still unsatisfied with their choices in this election.
There’s a wide range of perspectives from America’s political pundits.

Previewing Trump v. Clinton Debate One

Posted September 26th, 2016 at 4:34 pm (UTC-4)
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After months on the campaign trail, making their cases on why they should be president — and why the other should not — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appear on the same stage for the first of three scheduled presidential debates.
Monday’s 90-minute question and answer session comes 43 days before Election Day, and at a time when the polls show a near-even race, with Clinton holding a two percentage point lead in the Real Clear Politics poll average
The three overarching themes for the debate — America’s Direction, Achieving Prosperity and Securing America — should highlight the deep policy disagreements between the two candidates.

Issues of Race, Police and Patriotism

Posted September 23rd, 2016 at 11:49 am (UTC-4)
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Protesters peaceably walked past police and national guardsmen Thursday night in Charlotte, North Carolina, a 180-degree turn from Wednesday’s near-riot that prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency.
The protests were over Tuesday’s killing of a black man by Charlotte police. Days before, on Friday, a black man was killed by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Video of both incidents exists. The video in Tulsa raises questions about whether deadly force was necessary, and manslaughter charges have been filed against the officer. In Charlotte, police and family members of the victim say the video is inconclusive in determining whether the man had a gun and was threatening the officers.
These killings have re-ignited the debate over social justice for African-Americans, a cause now taken up by some professional football players after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick registered his protest by kneeling instead of standing during the pre-game national anthem.
As a battleground state in the presidential election, North Carolina, for the moment, stands at the intersection of American politics and American culture.

Terrorism as a Factor in the Election

Posted September 21st, 2016 at 3:56 pm (UTC-4)
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Ahmad Khan Rahami is America’s newest face of terrorism. The 28-year old Afghan-born naturalized U.S. citizen faces multiple federal charges in connection to Saturday’s bomb blasts in New York and New Jersey.
No one was killed and there were no life-threatening injuries among the 31 people hurt. But the blasts shook the psyche of a nation in the middle of a presidential campaign in which terrorism, immigration and being Muslim are at the center of the heated discourse.
National security will be among the issues on the table for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in Monday’s first presidential debate. Voters will be eagerly watching how they balance fears with facts.

What Now for Syria?

Posted September 20th, 2016 at 5:27 pm (UTC-4)
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While world leaders convene in New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, Syrians besieged by five years of civil war will have to wait longer for some humanitarian aid to arrive.
Aid shipments resumed Wednesday following Monday’s apparent air strike on a United Nations convoy, killing 20 civilians. “Just when we think it cannot get any worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
A ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia allowed the convoy to start its dangerous trek from the Turkish border to Aleppo.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other diplomats say the ceasefire is not dead yet and the U.N. Security Council will take up Syria on Wednesday.
After an accidental airstrike that killed about 60 Syrian or Syrian-allied soldiers, does the United States have any leverage left to revive the ceasefire, get aid to those who need it and continue the battle against Islamic State?

Clinton v. Trump – The Electorate

Posted September 19th, 2016 at 4:55 pm (UTC-4)
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One week from today, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will face-off in the first of three presidential debates. It will be the next data point for millions of Americans who are trying to decide which way to vote in one of the most contentious presidential elections ever.
The political divisiveness in the U.S. is reflected in many places: the immigration debate, the “Occupy” movement, Black Lives Matter, gun rights vs. gun control, a media that has splintered into philosophical orbits.
Now, it has produced candidates from the two major parties who are historically disliked, leaving many voters deciding who to vote against rather than who to vote for. And its
How did this happen?

Pardon Edward Snowden?

Posted September 16th, 2016 at 4:28 pm (UTC-4)
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Thanks largely to a movie debuting across the United States, Edward Snowden is back in the media spotlight and his fate debated anew.
Snowden is the former intelligence contractor who leaked sensitive documents about secret U.S. surveillance programs in 2013. He then fled the United States and has since been living in Moscow after Russia granted him political asylum.
Snowden claims to be a whistleblower who uncovered surveillance activity by the National Security Agency that was eventually deemed unconstitutional and then prohibited by congressional action. Federal prosecutors charged him with three felonies under the 1917 Espionage Act.
Three human rights organizations are urging President Barack Obama to pardon Snowden for his alleged crimes, which they characterize as “an act of conscience.” But a new House Intelligence Committee report portrays Snowden as “a serial exaggerator and fabricator” who caused” tremendous damage to national security.” The committee urged Obama against a pardon.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday Snowden should return to the U.S. and face the charges against him.
Edward Snowden: patriot or pariah?

Obama Considers Nuclear Decision: ‘No First Use’

Posted September 15th, 2016 at 5:10 pm (UTC-4)
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As time ticks away on the presidential term of Barack Obama, there’s a sense of urgency for him to fulfill promises made over the past eight years. Especially on nuclear weapons.
Obama has made progress toward his “commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons” made during his first foreign policy speech in April 2009. With his final speech before the United Nations General Assembly set for next Tuesday, there’s speculation that Obama may push further.
One policy idea being debated: “no first use” of nuclear weapons.
The United States was the first and so far only nation to use a nuclear weapon against another nation. Would such a policy make the United States more secure? Less secure? What do the allies think? Is a “no first use” policy believable?

Can North Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions Be Contained?

Posted September 13th, 2016 at 5:30 pm (UTC-4)
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North Korea’s test of a nuclear bomb last week is again testing the resolve of the United States and the rest of the world.
Despite economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations (approved by China and Russia) in for its nuclear test in January, North Korea has doubled down since then, conducting 20 missile tests and last week’s nuclear test. And it says it now has the capability to mount a nuclear bomb on one of those missiles.
President Barack Obama condemned North Korea’s action and dispatched U.S. bombers to fly over South Korea, near the Demilitarized Zone as a show of force. But White House statements military maneuvers and calls for China to exercise its influence on Pyongyang have been tried before, to no avail.
What more can Obama — and his successor — do to stop what so far has been unstoppable?

9/11 15 Years Later

Posted September 12th, 2016 at 3:28 pm (UTC-4)
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15 years later, the scourge of terrorism is still with us.
Granted, we haven’t seen an attack on the scale of what happened on September 11, 2001. But terrorism continues to consume a large amount of this nation’s resources and seep into the consciousnesses of many Americans.
Osama bin Laden has been killed, but al Qaida is still an active threat.
Saddam Hussein was captured and executed, but Iraq is now the nesting ground for Islamic State, which started as an al Qaida offshoot.
What have we learned in the past 15 years that can make the next 15 years safer for America and the rest of the world?

A Debate Preview for Clinton & Trump

Posted September 9th, 2016 at 3:55 pm (UTC-4)
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American voters got a preview of the presidential debates this week.
During Wednesday’s “Commander-in-Chief” forum, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appeared separately for 30 minutes each, taking questions about military, national security and veterans issues that the next “commander-in-chief” will face.
Clinton was grilled about her handling of email and her 2002 vote supporting the Iraq War. Trump was asked about his plans to defeat ISIS and his admiration for Vladimir Putin.
If the reaction by political pundits are any gauge, style will be as important as substance in determining who won the debates.

Meddling from Moscow?

Posted September 8th, 2016 at 9:57 am (UTC-4)
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Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned Russia against meddling with the “democratic process” in the U.S. and other Western nations.
Carter’s warning comes on the heels of a Washington Post report that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies are looking into what Russia might be doing to interfere with the American election.
The F.B.I. is already looking into whether Russians were behind the computer hack of Democratic National Committee computers. Intelligence agencies know Russian hackers tried to get into those computers last year. Russian president Vladimir Putin denied the accusations, but said the WikiLeaks revelations of the DNC documents was a public service.
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is making this a campaign issue, trying to link her Republican foe, Donald Trump, to Russia and Putin
How much of an issue is this? How can Russia manipulate the election?