What Happens to the Paris Agreement Without the United States?

You might remember 200 countries meeting and discussing climate change at the COP21 conference in 2015. Many diplomats and scientists considered that conference to have resulted in the most successful climate agreement in history, the Paris Agreement. Today, US president Donald Trump announced that he will not be continuing with the commitment the US made during the COP21 conference. So… What’s next?

Overview of the Agreement:

The Paris Agreement was the product of the COP21 conference. The conference was meant to address the concern that Earth’s average temperature will rise by 3.8 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. After much deliberation, over 200 countries signed a plan that, if successful, would reduce the warming of the earth to only 2.7 degrees Celsius.

The agreement was considered successful for  a few reasons.

  • First, it provided a worldwide goal of keeping the average temperature increase under 2 degrees Celsius by asking states to find a way to get to net zero emissions, while allowing each nation to choose what path they will take to get there.
  • Second, it recognized that cutting emissions will negatively effect development. Rich nations pledged 100 Billion dollars a year in public or private investment in developing nations, to help the world reach its goal. This was justified by the fact that Europe and North America gained wealth by burning fossil fuels for cheap, which is something we are now asking developing nations not to do.
  • Third, it provided accountability. Diplomats are set to meet every few years in order to discuss their progress, and explain why and how they have  or have not met their country’s individual goals.

Was it Really Going to Help?

Yes and no. Former President Barack Obama claimed the Paris Agreement was the “Best chance we have to save the one planet we have.”

By the end of COP21, the final decisions still did not meet the goal of keeping the earth’s warming under 2 degrees Celsius. BUT the results were well under the 3.8 degree warming that we would be subject to had we done nothing. Additionally, diplomats are still working to implement these plans in their home countries, and it is likely that many will not be successful. The United States is a perfect example.

Without the United States

The US is currently the second largest CO2 emitter in the world, accounting for almost 16% of worldwide emissions. China is the first at 28.21%. The US agreed that by 2025 that they would cut emissions from 17% lower than what they were in 2005 to 28% lower than what they were in 2005.

Essentially, Obama and his administration increased the cutbacks and made the slope of emissions over time steeper. Another way to say it is that the administration looked at how much they had reduced emissions since 2005, and agreed to increase their reduction to achieve a greater reduction by 2025 than the US would have had before the agreement.

Here’s a graph from Business Insider that might help explain it:

us goal paris climate agreement.JPG

Not only will the Paris Agreement lose valuable emissions cuts by the US pulling out, but President Trump has given allies a reason to leave as well. Many think climate change is hopeless, and talks and cuts will only make it harder for their private sectors to profit. Since Trump has left the agreement, the worldwide benchmarks probably won’t be met. This means that allies might find it useless to continue with their goals. Here is another graphic from Business Insider showing who has ratified (put into action), signed (waiting for home government approval), and left the Paris Climate Agreement.

Paris Agreement BI Graphics_

Didn’t the US Already Sign The Paris Climate Deal?

No? President Obama made an executive order to ratify the deal, but it didn’t pass through Congress. The former head of the executive branch of the US government made this decision on his own, therefore the new head of the executive branch can decide to disregard it on his own.

What do we do Now?

If you are worried about the prospect of the world we live in, your ultimate fears are being realized. But here is the good news:

  • Many large US companies supported the goals of COP21, so continue to pressure retailers, car companies, tech companies, AND THE AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY with your concerns about the Earth. Believe it or not, they care too. They are listening to you by tracking what you buy and watching trends on social media.
  • Individual changes can make a big impact if we all do them together. I sound like an old person but if you make changes and share the changes you made with your friends and family, they might find it easier to make those changes too.
  • In the United States, local politicians can make big changes. Contact your state representatives and city council members. Tell them you want to work towards making your district/city more environmentally friendly. Even small groups of people can make a big impact at the local level, because so few people are vocal in small government.

Sources

http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06/01/trump-announces-paris-climate-agreement-decision.html

http://www.businessinsider.com/what-did-us-agree-to-paris-climate-deal-2017-5

https://www.statista.com/statistics/271748/the-largest-emitters-of-co2-in-the-world/

https://www.c2es.org/newsroom/releases/achieving-us-indc

What is May Day and Why are There Protests?

Today, thousands of workers will hit the streets around the world to celebrate/commemorate May Day. They are marching for worker’s rights and the rights of immigrant workers. But May Day, for many of us, sounds like a happy spring time holiday. So why are people marching and what is the history of the day?

History Of May Day

maypole

Traditional Pagan Maypole dance. Originally meant as a fertility dance.

 

The reason May Day marches are confusing is because May 1st is actually commemorative of two separate internationally recognized “holidays.” May Day is often associated with the official coming of spring, and of traditional flower festivals, because it is actually an ancient Pagan holiday. In ancient, sometimes polytheistic religions, May 1st was the beginning of Spring and birth. Over time, the traditions survived, while monotheistic religions stripped them of their deep spiritual meaning.

pacyga_fig_28

The Haymarket Riot

May Day was declared International Worker’s Day (Labor Day in many countries) in 1889 by the International Socialist Conference. May 1st was chosen because it coincided with something that came to be known as  “The Haymarket Affair.” The affair occurred on May 1st 1886, Chicago led a demonstration in support of an eight hour work day. The name Haymarket came from the square in the meat packing district in which many of the protestors gathered. The demonstration lasted days. On the final day, a bomb wounded 67 policemen and killed 7. The police responded by wounding 200 demonstrators and killing several.

 

It seems that the two celebrations have little to do with each other, and that the date is just a coincidence. However, some protests and May Day festivals cross paths. In some cities, labor demonstrations include concerts and flower crowns.

What are People Protesting Today?

People all over the world march every year for worker’s rights. International Worker’s Day is not something that just “popped up” in 2017 due to the political climate. However, this year many cities expect to have inflated crowds, with a greater focus on anti-capitalistic messages.

Many of the May Day celebrations in the United States today are focused primarily on opposing the Trump administration’s views on immigrant workers and immigrant worker’s rights. They oppose the border wall and threat to sanctuary cities.

Seattle is one city known for having a large and complex demonstration every year. If you are interested in learning more about what a May Day march consists of, check out this local news paper report/ PSA:

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/may-day-2017-heres-what-we-know-might-happen-today-in-seattle/

About the Featured Image

May Day Workers’ protest in Bangladesh, 2013. Taken from GlobalNews.CA

 

Work Cited

http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/30/world/may-day-explainer-trnd/

http://time.com/3836834/may-day-labor-history/

http://www.npr.org/2017/05/01/526124711/united-against-trump-may-day-protests-expected-to-swell

Can #ClimateMayors Join the Paris Agreement?

The  most recent count I saw said 150 US City mayors publicly stated that they would go against President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement. They vowed to continue with the emission reducing policies they planned to implement to meet US goals of the accord. Some in the group even suggested that they believed they could surpass the goal if all the city mayors were willing to make the necessary cuts.

The #ClimateMayors are allegedly in the process of a proposal to the UN which will confirm their commitment to the accord. But the main question is: Can they really do that?

Can the Mayors Really Sign the Accord?

The short answer is no. There is no policy in place for individual municipalities to participate in United Nations resolutions or world treaties. To be a party to a treaty you have to represent a sovereign state. The cities listed answer to their state governments, which answer to the federal government, so they aren’t sovereign parties.

What do You Mean, “Sovereign?”

A sovereign state is one where a centralized government has complete control over a distinct amount of area with a population inside. The central government can be democratic, a monarchy etc, as long as it possesses “absolute” power over the land and population. This means “North America” cannot be represented as an entity in a treaty, but Canada can. North America does not have an absolute ruling central government, but Canada does.

Will The UN Make an Exception/ Change the Rule?

No. Let me explain this a little.

Again, the issue of sovereignty comes into play. The UN is a weird entity that acts more as a platform for productive discussion, rather than a legislator and enforcer of international laws. This is a major critique of the UN, but the reason it’s like that is because individual nations are worried about the UN imposing on their sovereignty. If the UN started making and actively enforcing international laws, member states would have to answer to a larger governmental body. The fear is that domestic law would be effected by decisions people around the world were making in their own countries.

If the mayors were allowed to sign the Paris Agreement on their own, they would essentially be circumventing the US Federal Government and participating in an international treaty that only involves sovereign states. This would be viewed as a direct imposition on US sovereignty. 

So What Can They do?

Without signing, they can pursue the same goals off of records they were given after President Obama signed the Agreement. They can publicly publish reports that show how much emissions were reduced by, and explain how they did it. This would be helpful for the American people, as well as foreign diplomats looking to track global progress.

But being able to sign would be better, because they would be able to participate in the conferences and meetings associated with the Agreement. There seems to be one option still available.

Non Governmental Consultative Status

Non-Governmental status in the UN is open to organizations that interesting in consulting or aiding the United Nations in any of its missions, given that they are relevant, have an established office, executive officer, and representatives willing to meet at the  UN. These NGOs are allowed to sit in on meetings and give feedback on policies. While the mayors wouldn’t be able to vote or sign anything, they might be able to become a consultative party to the agreement.

So far, the mayors have made themselves a group, established an agenda, and seem to be on their way to creating a structure of leadership. It is unclear to me whether or not it is legal for these mayors to create an NGO out of their commitment, but creating an organization might be a loophole in the sovereignty issue. The organization would be independent, and mayors would willingly implement the agendas. The mayors would contribute their reports to the organization, and the organization itself would be party  to the Agreement.

Work Cited

https://www.un.org/ecosoc/sites/www.un.org.ecosoc/files/files/en/dcf/dcfbelgium-dc-on-climate-financing.pdf

http://csonet.org/content/documents/199631.pdf

http://csonet.org/index.php?menu=30

http://csonet.org/

What is Happening With Russia and Trump? 5/17

This has been a hell of a week for the Trump administration, and frankly for everyone. Accusations against the president have been building over months and are seemingly coming to a head– with Trump’s help. Here is what has occurred during this storm, in order.

The Order of Events

  1. Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey on Tuesday, May 9th. Comey was leading a meeting of FBI employees at the time and the news broke on the television screens behind him before he was informed.
  2. Donald Trump threatened James Comey, saying Comey should worry if there happen to be any tape recordings of their conversations. Comey said he was not concerned.
  3. Donald Trump met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at the request of Vladimir Putin.
  4. Congress requested memos and emails from James Comey and the President’s correspondence. It was revealed in a memo that Donald Trump asked Comey to halt his investigation into Michael Flynn.
  5. Two days ago (May 15th), it was revealed that Donald Trump shared top secret information to the Russian Foreign Minister and US Ambassador. His administration denied these claims to the public, only to find that Trump admitted to the accusation over twitter.
  6. Vladimir Putin offered to hand over recordings of the closed meeting to the press.
  7. The White House claims it was “tricked” by Russian officials who tweeted out photos of the closed meeting with Trump. They also tweeted out a video of Lavrov cracking a joke about Trump firing Comey.

How is it All Related?

It all comes back to the first accusations that Donald Trump’s campaign team was being influenced by Russia. James Comey was in charge of overseeing the investigation into the Trump campaign, and  now parts of his administration, and their connection to Russia. Michael Flynn was part of the investigation. It looks pretty bad to fire James Comey after he refused Trump’s request to stop investigating Flynn. While the investigation will probably continue (since Trump does not have executive powers over the FBI), the firing is a show of force and power… or stupidity.

The meeting with the Russians only rubs salt in the already throbbing  wound  that is the FBI investigation. Only one day after firing the man who was in charge of the investigation, Trump has a closed- door meeting with Russian officials AND spills secrets given to him by a close ally.

The Problem is Two-Fold

First: our country works on a system of checks and balances. Trump and his administration make up the Executive Branch, Congress and the Senate the Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch is made up of a system of federal courts. The FBI is an independent, tax funded agency. It is Federal, and can be controlled to an extent by the Executive Branch, but its main purpose is to act as a resource for all three branches of government. During this investigation, the FBI is working as a resource for the Legislative, and by extension (in an extreme case) the Judicial Branch. If Donald Trump is trying to use his executive powers to slow down or eliminate a resource of one of the other branches of government, he is messing with the system of checks and balances, and reorganizing them in his favor.

Second:  The White House was tricked. And yes, they were tricked by Russian Officials. If the accusations against Trump and his administration are true, Russia has been given the upper hand. They convinced Trump to do and say what they wanted during the election and to “make relations better” between the two countries during his presidency. Clearly from the tweets that were sent out by the Russians, they are quick to turn their backs on Trump as soon as they get what they need from him.

Last Minute Guide: The French 2017 Elections

April 23 2017 marked the first round of France’s presidential election. This round determined who would compete in the second round, which will be held tomorrow,  May 7. This election is considered to be crucial to the future of Europe, as at least one of the front runners has teased a French referendum to leave the European Union. Let’s go over some of the basics of the election, and what the two final candidates stand for.

How Do French Presidential Elections Work?

French presidential elections occur every five years. Each candidate is allowed to run once securing at least 500 signatures from elected officials. This means any elected official, such as a mayor or a member of parliament. This means that French elections generally have a large number of candidates. Since 1965 every French Presidential race has gone to the first round with between 6 and 12 candidates.

Because of the large number of candidates, the election is split into two rounds. The first round serves to eliminate all but two candidates. The second round is between the top two candidates of the first round. It is possible for a decision to be made after the first round, but this has never happened in the history of France. To win, a candidate must obtain the  “absolute majority” of the vote. This means a candidate must have 51 percent or more of the French vote.

Who Are the Candidates?

This year there are 11 candidates, but only 4 had a great enough following to potentially win a spot in the second round. Of those four, only Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron.

MARINE_700Marine Le Pen

Part of the National Front party, a conservative party in France. Her father founded this conservative party, and is known for a number of racist and anti-semitic statements. Marine Le Pen has been leading the National Front party since 2011.

She is known for softening the image of the National Front Party. She is more democratic and republican than her father was. She ended up expelling a number of members of the National Front (including her own father), in order to save the party.

Le Pen has made a number of changes to the National Front’s policies. She accepts same sex marriage, unconditional abortion, and has rejected the death penalty. If elected, Le Pen has personally vowed to stage a referendum for France to leave the European Union.

She claims Brexit was a good thing, and President Trump is helping to “build a new world.” She has vowed to significantly reduce immigration into France, and is against any head coverings being worn in public at all.  (This is directed towards Muslim women living in France).

Among other things, Le Pen has said she will prioritize social programs for native born French citizens rather than foreign born citizens, and she is against providing education to undocumented children.

Le Pen has aligned herself with a number of other conservative and far right leaders in Europe. Many of these parties are also known for racist rhetoric. Additionally, she has met with Russian  Vladimir Putin, and taken loans from Russian banks.

4842412_7_2601_emmanuel-macron-ministre-de-l-economie-a_afcfb3fd9194bc3763e16b9682dbe111Emmanuel Macron

He was an inspector of finances and an investment banker at Rothschild and Cie Bank. He used to be a member of the socialist party in France. He identified as an indepenent prior to the  2017 election. In 2016, he founded the Marche party, a socialist liberal party.

Under Francois Hollande’s first government, Macron was selected to be the Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs.

Macron has been endorsed by a number of French and foreign officials. He is backed by Angela Merkel and Barack Obama, as well as other Democratic party leaders in France.

Macron is  pro free-market, pro trade with America and the European Union. He is pro- European Union and would not want to pull France out of the Union. He supports an “open door” policy on immigrants and refugees. He has publicly voiced his disdain for French colonization of Algeria, and has called for a more balanced position in Syria.

Macron is not a climate  change denier, and has advocated for a compromise between economic and ecological interests. However, Macron has been criticized for his lack of a stance on climate change and efforts to slow it down.

Last Minute Problems

France has undergone a number of terror attacks in recent years, causing the nation’s population to become wary of non-natives. As recently as April 20th, Paris saw another attack. This attack left one police officer dead and two injured. It was claimed by ISIS. After this attack, polls showed that Marine Le Pen over took Macron in the projections of the election outcome. It is possible that French fears of foreigners may cause the election to sway in Le Pen’s favor.

This passed week, Emmanuel Macron’s campaign was hacked, and emails were released via WikiLeaks. French officials urged people and other government officials to refrain from sharing the leaked information, as it would be a breach of election rules. However, the hack is not good for Macron, as he is considered to be “too much of the same” and “politics as usual.” Some phrases Americans might recognize as reasons voters stuck up their noses at Hillary Clinton. This hack could be the last nail in his coffin, since many French voters are on the fence about voting for either Macron or Le Pen.

What Are Chemical Weapons: From World War One to Syria and Back

On Tuesday, April 4th, the Syrian Government launched a chemical weapons attack on Syrian citizens, causing more than 80 deaths, 30 of which were children. The attack was carried out in a  rebel held town in rural Syria. US officials claim that the chemicals were dropped by Syrian government planes, while the Syrian government and Russia deny this.

What is Wrong With Using Chemical Weapons?

Hundreds of horrific events are associated with war, but many have noticed that the  international community takes the use of chemical weapons as an injustice that should not be associated with war. Why?

The use of chemical weapons began in WW1 in Europe, and the effects were so horrific, even opposing sides found the effects of the weapons disturbing and morally reprehensible. Therefore, between WW1 and WW2, the use of chemical weapons were universally banned in an agreement called the Geneva Protocol, signed and ratified by affected nations in 1925. During the cold war period, many nations began stock piling chemical weapons, causing the international diplomatic community to address the looming threat of a humanitarian crisis. 20 years ago, an additional agreement called the Chemical Weapons Convention was signed at the Conference on Disarmament by 192 nations in Geneva.

The use of chemical weapons is considered inhumane as it causes a slow and painful death that mutilates the skin and organs.

What is a Chemical Weapon?

A chemical weapon is a chemical or combination of chemicals that is toxic to the human body. The concentration of the chemical, or mixture of chemicals causes an extreme reaction when in contact with skin, or breathed in. Depending on what is used, victims of a chemical attack will develop severe burns on their skin and in their lungs.

In WW1, mustard gas and chlorine were used to burn the skin and choke opposing forces. An estimated 100,000 deaths were caused by chemical weapons in WW1, and one million deaths have been caused by chemical weapons since. In Syria, the government is using a chemical called Sarin, which causes pain beyond that of the substances used in WW1.

About Sarin

Sarin was originally developed in Germany as a pesticide in 1938. Once it was discovered that it causes terrible effects on the body, it was turned into a nerve gas.

In its original state, Sarin is a liquid that is clear and oder-less, but can be evaporated into a gas. It is heavier than air so it easily sinks down to the ground to affect civilians. It cannot be detected until it is inhaled or comes in contact with the skin.

Exposure to small amounts of Sarin would result in watery eyes, weakness, headache, difficulty breathing and possibly fainting. According to biopsies carried out in Turkey, Syrian civilians were exposed to large amounts of Sarin, and possibly some Chlorine. Exposure to large amounts of Sarin causes loss of consciousness, paralysis (not being able to move), convulsions (violent involuntary movements, generally from the abdomen), and an inability to breath. Large exposure to Sarin almost always leads to death.

Work Cited:

https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/sarin/basics/facts.asp

https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/chemical/

What sarin, the chemical weapon used in Syria, does to your body

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08ksc8q

 

What Does it Mean to Trigger Article 50?

March 29, 2017– Today, Theresa May sent a letter to Brussels to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which created the political structure of the European Union, and official began the Brexit process.

What Is Article 50?

Article 50 is a clause in the Lisbon Treaty that discusses when and how a member state can leave the European Union. The full and exact text is below:

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.

Today, Theresa May (Prime Minister of Britain) carried out step 2 of the article by notifying Brussels of the UK’s intent to leave the Union. Step three is now underway, and the United Kingdom has two years to renegotiate all of the EU treaties on which it had conducted business before. Step three notes that the process can be extended, but due to the tensions between the United Kingdom and EU allies, the European Parliament has made it clear that no extension will be granted. The United Kingdom will not be able to participate or sit in on any discussions of the European Parliament. Some worry that being separate from the European Parliament will cause the UK to loose a political and economic edge in Europe, while others argue that the UK relationship is too important to Europe to lose.

Can The UK Rejoin?

As it states above, any State that wants to rejoin the Union will be judged based on Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty. Article 49 is a formal article that outlines the process of admission. In its simplest form it says that any State complying with the expectations of Article 2 will be considered by the Parliament for membership. Article 2 is as follows:

The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.

It is possible for the United Kingdom to join the EU again. But politics are also a factor in the decision making process. It is unlikely that the European Parliament would allow the United Kingdom membership in the near future.

What About Scotland?

In the referendum to leave or remain in the EU nine months  ago, Scotland voted almost unanimously to remain. Prior to that vote, Scotland held a referendum of its own, to consider leaving the United kingdom. While that referendum failed, there have been recent talks about calling the vote a second time– post Brexit.

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, gave a speech calling for a second referendum on Scottish independence. She claims she is able to do so because Brexit posed a significant change to Scotland’s constitutional position within the United Kingdom.

Scotland and England have been at odds for decades, with Scotland consistently claiming that London does not pay attention to Scottish interests when making decisions for the country. The goal of threatening a second referendum may not be to actually leave the United Kingdom, but to put pressure on Theresa May when she renegotiates treaties and trade deals with Europe. Scotland seeks special access to the EU’s single market.

 

** Featured image taken from CNN.com**

The Conversation: US Ambassador to the United Nations

March 29, 2017– This morning the Council on Foreign Relations hosted US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nimrata Haley. The Facebook Live session included a large question and answer portion, where members of the press asked frank questions about US domestic and foreign policies. Though the information about Ms. Haley’s personal opinions were given sparingly, her policy answers shined light on the commitment of the United States to its promises to reform the UN.

“WORK SMARTER”

Trump’s administration has stated that it believes the United Nations is bureaucratic and inaccessible. They are not the first group to attack the UN in this way, and many would agree they make valid points. However, the Trump administration has called for cuts to the UN budget that have alarmed many foreign ambassadors and liberals around the world. The nature of these cuts has remained somewhat vague.

When confronted about these cuts, the ambassador cited her own experiences with “working smarter not harder.” She disclosed in her own office how she decided not to fill the 18 open notepositions in the United States’ Mission to the United Nations, and has cut overtime completely. She claims that working longer hours and with more people does not equal success, rather working more efficiently with the group already on staff can accomplish the same goals. *Note: President Trump’s proposed budget would cut the amount of spending to the ambassador’s office* She suggested that this scenario can be applied to the United Nations as a whole. If the US were to cut spending on the UN, it is only to ensure that the money being spent is being spent wisely. According to the Ambassador, when there is a surplus we tend to get “reckless.”

The ambassador ensured that the Trump administration is taking her opinions into account when deciding on where to make cuts to the UN. She does, however, fully support cutting US spending on Peacekeeping missions. The missions, she claims, are inefficient as they are, and can be improved. She stressed also that legally (citing the charters that created the UN) the United States should not be contributing any more than 25% of the Peacekeeping budget. As it stands, the United States is responsible for 28% of the Peacekeeping budget.

ON RUSSIA IN SYRIA

“As long as [Russia and Iran] are involved, we are going to have issues.” The ambassador criticized Russia’s alliance with the Syrian government, citing the Assad regimes’ human rights abuses towards their own people, namely their use of chemical weapons. While she didn’t oNote 2ut right condemn Russia, or utilize any strong language, she stressed that Russia choosing to ally with Assad was a mistake. She also expressed grievances with Iran being present.

ON THE TWO STATE SOLUTION

Ambassador Haley was confronted by a journalist about her “light stance” on Israel’s aggression towards the Palestinian state. She had called for a halt on resolutions that “bashed Israel.” She responded with an anecdote about the meeting on issues in the Middle East. She claimed they discussed only issues with Israel, and she feels they are neglecting other topics. She believes that the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority need to come together to figure out a two state solution on their own.

SKIRTING THE TRAVEL BAN QUESTION

The ambassador was asked her personal opinions on the Trump administration’s attempts at a temporary travel ban from 6 Muslim majority countries. Ambassador Haley herself is the daughter of immigrants from India. She again responded by citing her own personal experiences as the governor of South Carolina.  She says she believes that legal immigration is the backbone of American society. However, she noted that when immigrants enter from the 6 countries listed in the ban, the US immigrant vetting process was not able to be completed in its entirety due to missing information. She expressed that her first concern as a governor was to keep her citizens safe, and she believed that the full vetting process must be completed in order to do so. She supports the Trump administration’s travel restriction efforts and made clear that she supported these efforts before obtaining her post as US Ambassador.

These domestic policies, Haley claims, are put in place in order to prevent incidents like the recent attack in London.  Haley was called out by the discussion moderator, who reminded her that the recent attack in London was carried out by a man who was born in the United Kingdom. The moderator suggested that these travel policies might alienate the Muslim population in the United States.

ON TRUMP’S PROPOSED BUDGET

Ambassador Haley was confronted  about President Trump’s proposed federal budget, which some criticize boasts inflated military spending. She supported the proposed plan, and said that the administration would like to be  prepared to tackle more than one military project at a time. The administration believes that we currently do not have adequate technology or force to fight successfully on more than one front.  The Ambassador also reminded the audience that proposed budgets are just that– proposed. The budget will have to be debated and voted upon by the US Congress.

 

 

Battle of Raqqa and Mosul Update

The New York Times reported that IS officials are fleeing Raqqa, Syria in preparation for an impending battle fought between their troops, and US backed Syrian forces. This news comes during continued fighting in Mosul, Iraq, where US backed troops are working to overtake the last of IS fighters attempting to defend the city.  There are essentially two battles occurring simultaneously by US lead coalitions against Islamic State.

Mosul overview and update:

Mosul is an ongoing battle that US forces had prepared for through the summer of 2016, and have been fighting since December. Currently, Iraqi and American leaders have pushed back against IS, dwindling their numbers to only 2,500 fighters. Those fighters have been successfully cut off from receiving supplies or reinforcements from their counterparts in other parts of the region, and are not expected to be able to defend the city much longer.

Raqqa overview:

3,000-4,000 IS fighters are located in the city of Raqqa. Many have fled and are heading to surrounding towns and villages to wait out the fight. Similar to Mosul, in addition to a US backed army, the United States sent Marines to cover the fighters during their advance. The Marines will use shells and gunfire to stop advancing IS troops while the Syrian and Kurdish forces move in on Raqqa. It is known that IS fighters are waiting for American, Syrian and Kurdish forces in a number of small towns around the Euphrates River. IS is expected to attempt to run their “State” from less populated areas.

The Strategy:

The United States’ coalitions are focusing on “big ticket items” for the Islamic State in an effort to curb the appeal of joining the terrorist group. This means they are trying to take out strongholds that are not only valuable from a military perspective, but from symbolic one. Th goal is to weaken their moral, cause confusion in power, and reduce the number of volunteers attracted to the organization. One problem foreseen with this strategy is, while it is successfully slowing down the flow of volunteers into the organization, it is leaving little pockets of fighters in small towns not too far away from these larger cities. Leaders fleeing from Raqqa are moving into smaller towns in Syria, which could not only preserve their organization, but increase military strength over a more spread out playing field. In Iraq, the US-lead forces skipped over the small I.S.-controlled town of Hawija in favor of pursuing Mosul. This town possess around 1,000 IS fighters. While these small towns are not individually powerful, their combined populations show that IS has a residual strength and will not be eliminated easily.

Who are the Syrian and Kurdish Forces?

Syrian and  Kurdish rebels are backed by the United States. These groups work together to combat Islamic State primarily in Syria, while US backed Iraqi forces combat IS in Iraq. Obviously there is some overlap. The US Marines involved in the battle of Mosul and Raqqa are on a temporary deployment in the region, as the United States has made clear they are avoiding a full ground offensive.

How Does the United States Support Local Forces?

The United States lends intelligence, training, and weaponry. US military officials train and lead groups of soldiers, US intelligence agencies utilize their abilities to help military officials make smart decision in guiding local forces, and the US military donates old military vehicles, weaponry and supplies.

Important People To Know:

Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi— Leader of the Islamic State, presumed to be alive and to have fled Mosul before the attacks.

Syrian Kurds— US backed fighters against IS. The Kurdish people are an ethnic group that stretches between Syria, Turkey and Iraq. The Turkish government does not want the Kurds to use the instability of the region to claim their own independent state, something they have been fighting for for decades.

More Questions?

I’d love comments or questions to help me improve my explanation techniques! Comment below!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/03/08/marines-have-arrived-in-syria-to-fire-artillery-in-the-fight-for-raqqa/?utm_term=.0da269c2a879

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/08/politics/marines-raqqa-assault-syria/

What is the 9th Circuit Court?

On February ninth 2017, the ninth circuit court opted out of reinstating President Trump’s “travel ban.” Not only has the entire issue of the travel ban caused confusion, but now American’s are witnessing the work of a complex justice system many have previously ignored. In this post I will define the ninth circuit court, as well as provide background on both the ban and the American Federal Court system.

Quick Overview: Trump’s Travel Ban

On Friday, January 27th Donald Trump signed an executive order to restrict travel and immigration from seven Muslim majority countries. This meant that native peoples of these seven countries could not enter the United States for work, study or any other extended stay, even with a green card or visa. Those currently in the United States were not forced to leave, but were advised by experts, universities, and employers to remain in the country until further notice. The administration relaxed on this issue after being told the ban was confusing due to its immediate release. Homeland Security promised green card holders that upon return to the United States, they would receive a secondary screening, but should expect to be allowed back in. As it was written in Trump’s order, the ban was meant to last for 90 days.

Rulings on the Ban

Soon after the Trump administration released its travel restriction order, protests and confusion ensued at major airports across the United States. The outcry came from the fact that Trump’s ban is considered by many to be unlawful, as well as unfair to those who were already on their way to the US. The restrictions went into effect immediately, which meant that refugees and travelers arrived to the US only to be told they might have to be sent back to wherever they came from. This led to Brooklyn Federal Judge Ann Donnely issued a nation-wide “stay” which allowed the estimated airport detainees effected by the ban to remain in the country.

The  second ruling from a federal judge came out of Washington State. Federal Judge James Robart, who was appointed by George W Bush in 2003, issued a restraining order against Trump’s travel ban/restrictions, announcing that the ban was unlawful. This halted the ban until it was brought to further consideration. This is where we get to the 9th circuit court.

On February ninth, the ninth circuit federal court ruled against reinstating Trump’s travel ban. The Court is a Court of Appeals, and was hearing arguments from the Justice Department and Washington State.

What Is the Ninth Circuit Court?

The 9th circuit court is actually a “Court of Appeals.” There are 13 of these Courts in the United States. The country is broken up into a total of 94 judicial districts that have been grouped together into “circuits.” Each of these circuits is under the jurisdiction of one of the 13 courts of appeals.

circuit-courts

Courtesy of USCourts.gov

The courts of appeals are intermediate level courts (between lower federal courts and the supreme court), and were founded  by the Judiciary Act of 1789. The courts have jurisdiction over civil suits of diversity jurisdiction and federal crimes. A civil suit requires that not all parties represented in the case are American citizens. This includes businesses that do work outside of the United States.

“The Judiciary Act of 1789, officially titled ‘An Act to Establish the Judicial Courts of the United States,’ was signed into law by President George Washington on September 24, 1789. Article III of the Constitution established a Supreme Court, but left to Congress the authority to create lower federal courts as needed.” –Library of Congress Website (loc.gov)

The ninth circuit court was hearing the case of the State of Washington and the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ was representing President Donald Trump and the State of Washington was representing Federal Judge James Robart’s ruling against the travel ban. The ninth circuit court hears cases from the following states/districts (some of these states have multiple judicial districts, but all districts in these states fall under the ninth circuit court).

  1. Alaska
  2. Arizona
  3. California
  4. Guam
  5. Hawaii
  6. Idaho
  7. Montana
  8. Nevada
  9. Northern Mariana Islands
  10. Oregon
  11. Washington State

If you have more questions about the judicial system or the court’s decision, please comment below.