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The Weekly Recap 2/10/19

Daniel Chase

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As we’ve come to realize, there are elements of history from human existence that we are less than proud of. We believed, for hundreds of years, that slavery was both completely necessary, as well as in no way racist. There was a period of time where the best medical advice when sick was to allow someone working in an apothecary to drain your blood with leeches.

Suffice to say we have grown quite a bit since then, but it is solely because we use our past to inform our present and not make these errors once more. In congruence with this sagely wisdom, it only makes sense that we recap the previous week’s events, so here’s one of our famous weekly recaps. 

Trump Goes Nuclear 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Friday that the United States will formally begin the process of withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War-era armistice agreement with Russia that has served as the most significant piece of anti-nuclear proliferation legislation in recent history. Pompeo said that “Russia has refused to take any steps to return to real and verifiable compliance over these 60 days,” and because of this, the U.S. wants out. 

“To this day, Russia remains in material breach of its treaty obligations not to produce, possess or flight test a ground-launched intermediate range cruise missile system…The United States will therefore suspend its obligations under the INF Treaty effective February 2, and we will provide Russia and other treaty parties with formal notice that the United States is withdrawing from the INF Treaty effective in six months pursuant to Article 15 of the treaty.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 

In perhaps the most embarrassing geopolitical example of “if they don’t have to, why should we?,” the Trump administration decided that the US no longer wishes to be unilaterally bound by the INF treaty, and Russia is to blame. For you non-history buffs out there, my apologies for glazing over the explanation of the INF.

The treaty was signed back in 1987 by Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which prohibited the US, and Russia, from fielding ground-launched cruise missiles capable of flying between 310 and 3,420 miles. Following the nastiness of the Cold War, the INF treaty was the white flag both countries needed to see to calm things down a bit. 

Please Don’t Sign My Yearbook

Over the weekend, it was revealed that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam may have been a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux kLan in the mid-80. Several unanimous calls from several politicians including Rep. Karen Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who said that the Governor “does not understand the seriousness of his actions.” Though Gov. Northam has yet to admit to the media why he was dressed in the infamous white robes, he did apologies for appearing in the photograph on his yearbook page. 

Plate…Date…Grate…Great…State Of The Union

The upcoming State of the Union, delivered by President Trump, was originally set for Jan. 29, but there was a slight snafu related to that clumsy little partial shutdown of the federal government which delayed the speech just a bit. Though the President recently addressed the American public, nearly three weeks ago, and informed viewers of the dire need for a border wall to be built along the U.S.-Mexico border, he’ll get another crack at it on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. 

If we utilize President Trump’s current relationship with Congress as a litmus test for how our nation is feeling, overall, the future doesn’t seem all that positive. After a nearly forty-day long government shutdown, the newly instated 116th Congress was made privy to the inconvenient truth that our President will go to any length necessary to get his points across.

If it wasn’t a government shutdown, it was public threats to declare an official state of emergency so that, through some bizarre loophole, the U.S. military could be deployed as the President’s personal construction team to build his wall. But President Trump trekked onward, deciding to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Syria without asking permission of Congress, or really any government official for that matter. 

It won’t help that as President Trump delivers his speech, he’ll be directly under the vicious glare of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who has made it quite clear that she is less than pleased with the President

Can You Read This Sentence?

In other President Trump-related news, his former 2016 presidential campaign manager, Paul Manafort, will reportedly be receiving his sentence on March 13, following his submission of a guilty plea on Monday. Manafort was one of the first people named in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

In addition to his upcoming sentencing, Manafort will be tried later for potentially breaching his plea agreement. Per the official court filing:

“…After signing the plea agreement, Manafort committed federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Counsel’s Office on a variety of subject matters, which constitutes breaches of the agreement. The government will file a detailed sentencing submission to the Probation Department and the Court in advance of sentencing that sets forth the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies, including those after singing the plea agreement herein…”

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia 

Mower, I Barely Know..

The ingenious minds responsible for some of the world’s most innovative tech companies have informed us, over the past few years, of their foray into projects related to self-driving vehicles, drone parcel delivery services, and, as it relates to today’s lesson, robotic lawnmowers. Back in 2016, Robin Autopilot was founded to take the pain out of maintaining a well-kept lawn, an issue that we can all get behind, right? 

“We were trying to find lawn care companies that were reliable, having to pay with cash or checks under doormats. I mean, we’re all tech guys from the 21st century, and it was hard to believe that there’s this $70 billion business that still operates the same way it did 30 years ago…”

Justin Crandall, co-Founder, Robin 

Robin’s automated mowing bots use a magnetometer rather than wireless or IR sensors, and cost roughly $100 – $150, but if that seems expensive, the Company claims that their electric-powered little fellows are eons away from traditional mowers, in terms of sustainability.

According to their website, one hour of mowing with a regular lawnmower emits “as much pollution as eleven hours in your car, and the mower spews 87 lbs. of greenhouse gases into the air each year.” Given that air pollution is one of the world’s most significant environmental health risks, Robin’s catering to consumers interested in living past their forties may serve them well as the Company continues to releases mowers. 

Man, Those Were The Days 

Days after Virginia’s governor was found to have proudly worn Ku Klux Klan attire, the state’s Attorney General Mark Herring admitted to the news media that he wore blackface during a college party in the late 1980s. I mean, to be fair, everything was weird in the 80s, so he’ll get off easily right? 

Trying to remedy the situation, Attorney General Herring issued a statement which said:

“…In 1980, when I was a 19-year-old undergraduate in college, some friends suggested we attend a party dressed like rappers we listened to at the time, like Kurtis Blow, and perform a song, It sounds ridiculous even now writing it. But because of our ignorance and glib attitudes — and because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others — we dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup…”

-Mark Herring, Attorney General (VA)

Amazon Claps Back

In the early 90s, after Woody Allen divorced separated from his then-wife, actress Mia Farrow, he began an intimate relationship with his ex-wife’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. At the time of their budding relationship, Allen was 57, and Soon-Yi had just turned 24. Those some would argue that their relationship was inappropriate, it wasn’t until later that year when Allen would be accused of sexually assaulting his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow. The reason I bring this up is because Woody Allen today filed a $68 million lawsuit against with the Southern District of New York against Amazon who has halted a four-picture deal with Allen amidst recirculation of his sexual assault allegations. 

“Amazon has tried to excuse its action by referencing a 25-year-old, baseless allegation against Mr. Allen, but that allegation was already well know to Amazon (and the public) before Amazon entered into four separate deals with Mr. Allen…and, in any event it does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract. There simply was no legitimate ground for Amazon to renege its promises.”

-Language from lawsuit filed by Woody Allen against Amazon 

At a time where the “Me Too” movement has given voices to individuals who only now have felt truly comfortable to share stories of sexual assault, harassment, and rape, Allen’s lawsuit represents another actor trying to live his life in denial of the fact that he committed intolerable acts earlier in his life. We cannot escape our faults if we try to bury them without consequence, and Amazon’s placing of Allen’s new films on the back burner is proof enough of this fact. 

Never A Dull Moment 

Surprising no one, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has continued without end, and many believe the end is nowhere in sight. In recent news, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker informed the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday that he will not appear before the panel at the end of this week unless Chairman Jerry Nadler drops his subpoena threat, according to Politico. 

“Based upon today’s action, it is apparent that the Committee’s true intention is not to discuss the great work of the Department of Justice, but to create a public spectacle. Political theater is not the purpose of an oversight hearing, and I will not allow that to be the case. 

-Attorney General Matthew Whitaker

Looking Forward 

Following President Trump’s State of the Union address, we have seen a substantial amount of speculation regarding how the Democratic leadership will respond to Trump’s comments. In the days after, Sen. Elizabeth Warren officially declared that she will be running for president in the 2020 democratic primary. We have over a year before the Iowa Caucus, but a lot can happen in that time. 


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Does China’s Bull Market Indicate Global Stock Market Momentum?

Joe Samuel

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The markets in China are up by more than 30% so far this year.  The Shanghai composite had jumped by over 30% since the end of 2018 and the Shenzhen component has rallied by more than 40%.  Despite the weak finish to last year, China’s stock markets have been on a bull run so far in 2018.  This comes during a period of optimism about potential trade deals with the United States.

China Compared To The US Markets

Compared to the other averages like the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500, which have risen 13% and 15%, the Chinese markets are outpacing the US by more than double. This comes after these same Chinese markets experienced the worst performance in a decade.  The Shanghai composite closed the year on a low note with a decline of roughly 25$ compared to 2017.

What has helped boost Chinese stocks has had much to do with the economic turn around as it would seem.  Beijing reported on Wednesday that it saw better than expected economic growth for Q1 of 2019. This comes after months of worry about a global economic slowdown lead by China.  The most recent GDP figures show the Chinese economy grew by more than 6% year over year during the first 3 months of 2019.  This beat the 6.3% expectation from the Street.

What Will The Future Hold For China?

“We’ve started to see retail investors in China feel a little bit more optimistic but they’ve been busy trying to just take their money back after a terrible year in 2018, so the money is not really at work at the moment,” Tai Hui, Asia-Pacific chief market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, on CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Wednesday.

It also helps as optimism continues to grow.  Beijing may be on the verge of coming to an agreement with the United States. The slew of massive tariffs from both economic giants was thrown about during 2018. This initially caused more worry and triggered large market sell-offs before the New Year.

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Politics

The Weekly Recap 4/7/19

Daniel Chase

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There’s nothing quite like a nice cup of coffee to start the morning. It’s almost like within that cup of mysterious liquid lies a magic to help us start the day. Coffee is the drink of champions no matter what obstacles they may come across but nothing can compare knowing the future. It hasn’t been proven that any one actually can tell the future but our best attempt at this is reviewing our past to inform how to act in the present, thus altering the future. Now that we’re on the same page, please enjoy this healthy serving of your weekly recap. 

Leave Biden Alone 

There are certain people the media covers quite often because of their inclinations to say racist things or make women feel uncomfortable, but there stands to be a select few that have managed to stay out of the negative spotlight. Former Vice President Joe Biden is one such person who has given off the never-hurt-a-fly vibe. Biden may or may not announce his candidacy for the 2020 presidential election, but on Friday, Lucy Flores, Nevada’s Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2014, came forward and said that Biden made her feel uncomfortable when he was weirdly physical at a campaign event. 

“Neither then, nor in the years since, did he or the staff at the time have an inkling that Ms. Flores had been at any time uncomfortable nor do they recall what she describes.”

Bill Russo, spokesperson for Joe Biden 

Melania Trump, Everyone 

I don’t know what you’ve heard about First Lady Melania Trump but I’m here to tell you that she’s a stand-up individual. Actually, to be fair other than her debacle with decorating the White House with red Christmas trees during the holiday season I’m not really sure what she’s been up to. According to recent reports, First Lady Trump’s “Be Best” program, a program designed to focus on major issues facing children today, encouraging them to be best, is doing quite well. My only issue that how can someone “be best,” wouldn’t it make sense to “be the best” or “be one’s best?” 

I digress, Melania announced over the weekend that she’s now working the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, an organization founded under President George W. Bush. 

“When Mrs. Trump was was made aware that there is an existing mechanism in government that convenes 20 agencies that focus on youth-specific programs, she saw that as a real opportunity to bring their good work to the forefront and ensure that those programs aligned with Be Best get the attention and focus they deserve.”

Stephanie Grisham, First Lady Trump spokesperson 

Biden, Now We Can’t Do This…

It has now come to the media’s attention that Joe Biden, former vice president and potential presidential candidate, has been accused by a second woman of him touching her inappropriately. Earlier this week, Lucy Flores, a former lieutenant gubernatorial candidate, came out and said that Biden had kissed her forehead at a campaign event and it made her incredibly uncomfortable. On Monday, Amy Lappos told a Connecticut newspaper that Biden rubbed noses with her at a 2009 fundraiser. Lappos stated that it “wasn’t sexual” but her head was grabbed. 

Naturally, Biden responded with his own statement: 

“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my attention.”

Joe Biden, former Vice President of the United States

Be Careful

Anytime friends of mine get into Ubers or other ride-hailed vehicles, I always remind them to check the license plate on their smartphone app and compare it with the vehicle that has shown up. Unfortunately, a University of South Carolina student was taken advantage of and murdered over the weekend. The body of Samantha Josephson, 21, was found in a forest on Friday night when she didn’t come home after a night out. 

“We want every college student in America to take a pledge that says they will never get into a ride share without first asking the driver, “What’s my name,’ to make sure that they are getting in the right vehicle. This is really a national problem. We thought we had a safe city here and a safe campus, but this might happen again this weekend if a student gets into one of those vehicles and hasn’t fully confirmed that it’s the right vehicle.”

Harris Pastides, University of South Carolina President 

Borders Are Bad For Business, Beats, Battlestar Galactica 

According to a recent economic study released on Tuesday, countless American businesses, including manufacturers and farmers, will lose $726 million per day if President Donald Trump makes good on his threat to temporarily shutdown the US-Mexico border. Chat Moutray, chief economist at the National Association of Manufacturers told The Hill that over 21,000 companies in the U.S. export to Mexico.

“The NAM has been to the border to witness the situation firsthand. Congress absolutely must tackle comprehensive immigration reform immediately to address the real national security and humanitarian concerns that are a direct result of our current broken system. We’re getting somewhat mixed messages from the markets right now. We have really strong job growth, optimism is high when I talk to firms about their overall outlook, but they also have this lingering worry about the global economy, and looking at Germany and China, we’re already seeing materially slower growth than even a couple of months ago.”

Chad Moutray

Bern, Baby Bern That Money!

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) is back at it again with the white hairs and is showing no signs of slowing down. Sanders in February announced his entrance into the pantheon of candidates running for president in the 2020 election. According to recent reports, he’s raised $18.2 million from over five-hundred thousand donors since his initial announcement. If these numbers are in fact correct, Sander has raised more money than any other Democratic presidential candidate currently in the running. 

Compared to other candidates like Sen. Kamala Harris, Sanders has raised most of his funds from smaller donors rather than deep-pocketed individuals. 

“We’re building a campaign to win and we’re planning to win from the outset.”

Faiz Shakir, Campaign Manager for Sanders 2020

Facebook…Why Do We Even Bother? 

It’s almost painful how often Facebook has dropped the data privacy ball over the last few months. To be honest, I’m fairly close from closing my own account in an effort to secure my private information. According to a TechCrunch report released this week, over 540 million user profiles were exposed due to two separate third-party companies who failed to keep them safe. As for the team that discovered the data exposure, the UpGuard Cyber Risk team today reported that Cultura Colectiva, a Mexico-based media company exposed “146 gigabytes of records including comments, likes, reactions, account names, FB Ids and more.”

Given the increasing value of data among the tech industry, one would think that Facebook  would be more careful with which companies it works with/shares user data with. In all fairness to Zuckerberg and his team of rag-tag engineers at Facebook, mistakes happen, especially with computers. Having said that, Facebook has dominated the headlines over the last six months for several “mistakes” that bring to mind the question of whether our data is truly safe when stored on internet databases and social media sites. 

“For app developers on Facebook, part of the platform’s appeals is access to some slice of the data generated by and about Facebook users. For Cultura Colectiva, data on responses to each post allows them to tune an algorithm for predicting which future content will generate the most traffic. The data exposed in each of these sets would not exist without Facebook, yet these data sets are no longer under Facebook’s control. In each case, the Facebook platform facilitated the collection of data about individuals and its transfer to third parties, who became responsible for its security.”

UpGuard

Mr. Trump, Your Taxes, Please…

After years of birther movements and lascivious acts, it seems as thought the tables have turned. On Tuesday, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal submitted a formal request for the tax returns from President Donald Trump. Transparency for U.S. presidents is one thing, but especially considering the doubt and mistrust from the Democratic Party towards Trump, it would serve him well to share his taxes.

“Consistent with its authority, the Committee is considering legislative proposals and conducting oversight related to our Federal tax laws, including, but not limited to, the extent to which the IRS audits and enforces the Federal tax laws against a President. Under the Internal Revenue Manual, individual income tax returns of a President are subject to mandatory examination, but this practice is IRS policy and not codified in the Federal tax laws…”

Richard E. Neal   

Swipe For The Next Page 

Bumble arose as a cultural alternative to Tinder. The app was created with a women-centric framework that structured the app around a woman’s right to choose. If a male swiped right on a female, and she swiped on him, it was up to the woman to initiate the conversation. The app instantly took off and became the less-creepy dating app on the market. Tinder remained operable for hook-ups, but Bumble has been lauded as a place to find true love. 

In recognition of their upcoming eminence as a digital brand, Bumble today announced the release of Bumble Mag, a lifestyle magazine made in collaboration with Hearst Publications that has relationship-related content, dating advice, etc…Per the details of their announcement, the magazine is split into four sections, “You First,” “You + BFFs,” “You+Dating,” and “You+Bizz.” The organization of the publication is said to mimic the goals of the Company. 

“Bumble is at the forefront of inspiring women to make connections and take initiative in all aspects of their lives with its positive message of empowerment. The magazine is a perfect example of how HearstMade is changing the face of custom publishing with hyper-targeted content that reflected the brand’s ethos in the most authentic way…”

Brett Hill, Editorial Director, HearstMade

I Know Why The Caged Cohen Sings 

Michael Cohen, the disgraced former lawyer of President Donald Trump, knows that he messed up by being the President’s fixer. He orchestrated hush payments to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, who spent romantic moments with our president, as well as committed campaign finance violations and he lied to congress. Now, Cohen is begging members of the Democratic leadership to let him go freely if he cooperates with Congress. He is asking for more time — before heading to the clink — to assist Congress in pinning down President Trump.

“We hope that this memorandum demonstrates that Mr. Cohen needs to be readily accessible and immediately available to provide ongoing assistance to Congress in order for it to fulfill its executive branch oversight responsibilities. Mr. Cohen was only recently able to access a hard drive with important documents.”

Statement from Michael Cohen’s legal team

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Here’s What You Missed 4/5/19

Daniel Chase

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If you’ve ever had the misfortune of taking a standardized test then I’m sure you’ll well aware of how awful they are. First of all, the structure of these tests is designed to confuse, trick, and otherwise fool the test taker. I can’t tell you how many questions I’ve read where they include information meant to make you slip up. Second, these tests are in no way, shape, or form a measure of one’s level of education. All these tests do is gauge if someone is a good test taker. Next, we have the cost of these tests which, depending on their “importance,” can be hundreds of dollars solely because someone decided to add more costs to one’s education. I completely disagree with the weight we place on our students in terms of performing on tests, and strongly believe we should focus on more important things when assessing their abilities.

Don’t test me, here’s what you missed in the news yesterday. 

Swipe For The Next Page 

Bumble arose as a cultural alternative to Tinder. The app was created with a women-centric framework that structured the app around a woman’s right to choose. If a male swiped right on a female, and she swiped on him, it was up to the woman to initiate the conversation. The app instantly took off and became the less-creepy dating app on the market. Tinder remained operable for hook-ups, but Bumble has been lauded as a place to find true love. 

In recognition of their upcoming eminence as a digital brand, Bumble today announced the release of Bumble Mag, a lifestyle magazine made in collaboration with Hearst Publications that has relationship-related content, dating advice, etc…Per the details of their announcement, the magazine is split into four sections, “You First,” “You + BFFs,” “You+Dating,” and “You+Bizz.” The organization of the publication is said to mimic the goals of the Company. 

“Bumble is at the forefront of inspiring women to make connections and take initiative in all aspects of their lives with its positive message of empowerment. The magazine is a perfect example of how HearstMade is changing the face of custom publishing with hyper-targeted content that reflected the brand’s ethos in the most authentic way…”

Brett Hill, Editorial Director, HearstMade

I Know Why The Caged Cohen Sings 

Michael Cohen, the disgraced former lawyer of President Donald Trump, knows that he messed up by being the President’s fixer. He orchestrated hush payments to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, who spent romantic moments with our president, as well as committed campaign finance violations and he lied to congress. Now, Cohen is begging members of the Democratic leadership to let him go freely if he cooperates with Congress. He is asking for more time — before heading to the clink — to assist Congress in pinning down President Trump.

“We hope that this memorandum demonstrates that Mr. Cohen needs to be readily accessible and immediately available to provide ongoing assistance to Congress in order for it to fulfill its executive branch oversight responsibilities. Mr. Cohen was only recently able to access a hard drive with important documents.”

Statement from Michael Cohen’s legal team

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