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Mexico’s Not So Free, Free Speech

This week’s article detailed the restraints and surveillance the Mexican Government has over media sources. With the upcoming elections in Mexico, there are lively debates and critiques on politicians, one of which came from Leonardo’s Curzio’s famous radio show. He and his political analyst co-hosts harshly criticized the present administration initiatives put forth. After the show was aired, there began substantial pushback from the owners of the show. They demanded that Mr.Curzio’s co-hosts be immediately fired, however they stated it was because of a budget cuts and low ratings. Mr. Curzio has been working as a radio host for nearly two decades knew that the government was behind the firing ploys  all along and took it upon himself to quit in protest. The government undertakes such surveillance because they contribute a steady amount of money for advertising towards these media outlets which in turn allows them the dictate what is said. The money game gives the government the upper hand and gives them the power to lay severe restriction over the media’s freedom of expression. This also diminishes journalistic integrity because reporters are subject to government involvement and influence over what is publicly said about them. With the amount of media attention Mr.Curzio is gaining, the president’s office released a statement saying that the government respects and values the freedom of expression, holding that as a model for Mexican democracy, they resolve to not intervene in such affairs. However, with the tattered history record of the Mexican government unfairly firing and silencing journalists that dare to go against the regime, it becomes more and more unlikely that the government had nothing to do with Mr. Curzio and the firings of many other reporters. I believe that it is in the president and his administration’s best interest to abstain from interfering in media business as the president’s party is already going to have a tough time getting reelected and is under much scrutiny from the public over AID relief and the prevalence of crime. Furthermore, the Trump administration shouldn’t get actively involved in the suppression of free speech done by the Mexican government as there is already contested issues like the border wall and immigration, rather they should openly condone such oppression of speech and lack of freedom reporters have in return.


Russian Software in NSA Breach

Yet again there are headlines about classified documents being stolen/leaked from the NSA. In this latest case of an insider removing sensitive data from the NSA, Russian hackers obtained classified documents that an NSA employee had taken and stored on his home computer. The hackers are believed to have penetrated the computer by utilizing Kaspersky Lab antivirus software, which is a Russian brand. The classified documents included the NSA’s techniques for breaking into foreign computer networks to collect intelligence. The antivirus software installed on the employee’s home computer has been long feared as a company that could cooperate with, or be infiltrated by, the Russian government. Last month the government ordered the removal of the software on all government computers. This incident highlights the question of whether or not the U.S., when discussing governmental computers, should even use antivirus software that is not made in the U.S.. Or, the antivirus programs and companies will need to be investigated/interviewed before being accepted as the antivirus software of the U.S. government.


Not Your Average Family Business

In recent news, Kim Jong Un has reshuffled his inner circle with some familiar faces. Kim has recently brought his ~30 year old sister into the Politburo. His sister Kim Yo-jong used to be vice director of the very Orwellian sounding and unsurprisingly real, “Propaganda and Agitation Department.” This is seen as KJU trying to ward off any coup attempts by surrounding him with people he can trust and would try to stamp out any dissent within the regime’s inner circle. Also, the Foreign Minister of North Korea Ri Yong-ho is now also a member of the Worker’s Party Politburo alongside the dictator’s sister. Minister Ri’s promotion is likely in response to his speech at the UN where he denounced President Trump several weeks ago.

With the addition of Kim’s sister to the Politburo, it can be a sign that he is afraid of being overthrown by his inner circle. This wouldn’t be out of the question considering Kim Jong Un is most likely the one who ordered the assassination of his half-brother in a Malaysian airport earlier this year. The Supreme Leader’s rhetoric towards foreign adversaries has likely been this fiery as to get his people to rally behind the flag, and thus behind his regime, making a coup highly disastrous if successful. The promotion of Minister Ri is most likely a personal reward by Kim Jong Un for his speech at the UN and pales in comparison to the elevation of another Kim family member to the auspicious Politburo.


Pruitt Can’t Do-Itt

President Trumps cabinet administrator to the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is tainting the purpose and legitimacy the institution was founded upon. Scott Pruitt has been having various meals and meetings with high level executives of several energy corporations of which the EPA fights diligently against. Such companies include: General Motors, Shell Oil, Chemours Company, Alliance Resource Partners, Southern Company, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, Koch Foundation, and multiple farm bureau lobbyists. This is a major problem for the security of Americans because the C.E.O. of Alliance Resource Partners donated 2 million dollars to Donald Trump’s campaign with the hopes of seeing a return to investment, and Scott Pruitt has been avoiding meeting with consumer/public health officials and environmental groups. Former head of the EPA William Reilly described Pruitt best when he characterized him of lacking ‘judicious impartiality’. Unsurprisingly, some of the high up officials in the energy sector have worked with Mr. Pruitt when he was the attorney general of Oklahoma, where he wished to increase methane emissions and diligently sued the E.P.A over thirteen times. In March and then July, Pruitt annulled the Information Collection Request over oil and gas industries and then held discussions on how to revoke Clean Water Act regulation. Scott Pruitt has indulged in overpriced flights and hotels during ‘business’ travel to places like the Phoenician & Ritz-Carlton Golf Resorts, where he listened to ‘conservative activists’ from the National Mining Association, the Heritage Foundation, and the National Association of Manufacturers. The topic of how the E.P.A.’s regulations are hurting corporate automobile and energy providers. On top of those meetings, Scott Pruitt ignored E.P.A. researchers who urged the pesticide Chlorpyrifos that affects children’s brains to be banned, but instead he just met with companies CropLife and CropScience to hear from them how the E.P.A. is committing ‘regulatory overreach. Scott Pruitt supports everything the E.P.A stands against, and the fact that he has ordered (1) a specially customized private sound & computer communications booth that costs 500% more than usual [$25,000], (2) avoids making important phone calls around others, and (3) has 24/7 bodyguards doesn’t make him seem trustworthy.

  • Daniel Levay


Iran and its Ballistic Missile Program

Iran said it may be open to talks on certain “dimensions” of their ballistic missile program with six world powers in aims to decrease tensions over its program. Iran said it will still keep building up defensive missiles disregarding Western criticism claiming that Tehran is violating the nuclear deal. Bahram Qasemi, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, stated that the ballistic missile program was “for defense purposes only and non-negotiable.” Trump is continuing to discuss decertifying the nuclear deal. Since Iran has one of the largest ballistic missile program in the Middle East, the U.S. should stay committed to combating threats that Iran poses to America, its allies, and the stability of the region. Iran’s missile program can be used as a precautionary defense against the U.S. and its allies such as Israel as well as Gulf Arab states. Talks between the U.S. and Iran could help resolve the issues with Iran missile program. The talks could help negotiate some dimensions of the program such as limiting missile production or the distance of range of the missile.


Battle of the Birds

With snap elections called by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it’s time that we turn our attention once again to the important strain of militarism which has begun to grow in the Conservative factions of the government. This strain isn’t new, and began just a couple of decades after World War Two. Shinzo Abe’s father, another prime minister, made it his goal to get rid of Article 19 (the pacifist clause in the Japanese constitution). This was a feat that he never accomplished, but his son might. Interest in reviving a military force able to intervene and fight wars abroad has grown in recent years. The Prime Minister’s cabinet has included a number of far-right parties looking to expand the Self-Defense Force’s powers as well as broaden the range of military activities Japan is allowed to take.

While there have been articles anxious over this trend and studies looking back on why Japan’s neighbors may be nervous about this rise (read: the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere) few have tracked this phenomenon since its beginning. As stated above, Japanese militarism is not new, it has not exploded from the ether because of North Korea but instead has been a part of Japanese Politics for decades. The Pacifist (Dove) section of the government has always been powerful enough to stall the hawk faction in its tracks – until now presumably. In recent months inaction by the U.S. over tensions in the region has only exacerbated an already worsening situation.  Where the snap elections will take Japan is uncertain, but they are certainly a development to watch closely.

Right wing protesters raising the Japanese imperial flag, used for its connotations to military action during WW2


Schoolyard Threats: International Nuclear Diplomacy Edition

The Trump Administration has seemingly contradicted itself on the topic of communications between the administration and the Kim regime. President Trump appears to be downplaying Secretary Tillerson’s comment that the U.S. has been probing North Korea for talks for some while in back channels of diplomacy. This is in reference to the international standoff between the U.S. and North Korea over its nuclear program. Press Secretary Sanders said the U.S. has left the channels open discussing about returning detained Americans to the United States.

Now why would Trump say Secretary Tillerson was “misspeaking” according to one official? It seems that in order to keep up this image of a madman willing to do whatever to rid the world of a nuclear North Korea in order to scare either North Korea or China into submission, President Trump appears to be trying to downplay the machinations of diplomacy. Trump not negotiating with North Korea gives him the image of a leader sticking to principles by not negotiating with a depraved dictator. Somewhat reminiscent of a George “We don’t negotiate with terrorists” Bush style diplomacy in the early years of the War on Terror.  Whether this pays off in giving the U.S. the upper hand in negotiations has yet to be seen.


The Critical Mission of the USCG

One of more than 33,000people rescued by theU.S. Coast Guard in theaftermath of HurricaneKatrina, Aug. 30, 2005,in New Orleans. AP photo/David J. Phillip

The US Coast Guard’s 2018 Fiscal Year Budget request was released in March of this year. A fact sheet summarizing it was also released. In short, the fact sheet states a request for $10.67 billion. The sheet outlaid three goals: a $1.2 billion investment in future USCG needs (construction and procurement of new cutters as well as upgrades to aircraft and airfields), “sustaining mission excellence” (improving cyber security and personnel background checks, funding new systems, and decommissioning old cutters), and funding current service requirements (paying for equipment and personnel). Earlier in March, the Coast Guard had to contest Trump’s proposal to cut its budget by 12% ($1.3 billion) while simultaneously increasing the other armed services’.

The Coast Guard is often left out of conversations about the military and national defense. It’s the “forgotten child” of the armed services. It is already underequipped. As Professor Kramer will point out, the US has only one icebreaker ship in operation, and it belongs to the US Coast Guard: it’s the USCGC Polar Star and it was commissioned in 1976. This post will not evaluate the geostrategic importance of the Arctic, but trust me, it is important. National security aside, the other crucial roles played by the Coast Guard are also overlooked. These roles include ones such as search and rescue along US coastlines and fishing areas (where it may be the only agency capable of doing so), aids to navigation (maintaining maritime signage and buoys), and enforcement of domestic and international fisheries regulations. It is important that the Coast Guard is not underfunded and overlooked, as its contribution to our country’s well-being is not insignificant.


Russia to Send Naval Vessels to South China Sea

Summary: Russia has announced plans to send a small number of ships, including  destroyers, to call at a number of unspecified ports in the South China Sea, including around the Korean Peninsula. Also announced is the addition of more ships, particularly submarines, to their Pacific Fleet. This comes one month after joint Russo-Chinese exercises off the Russian coast, and a year after similar joint exercises held in the South China Sea.

Analysis: It is unclear precisely the Russian intention, in the sense of whether or not they intend to use the opportunity to take a stand on the recent controversies surrounding the situation with the US and North Korea, or the continuing drama over navigation and territorial right in the South China Sea.


Non-Stick Solution

Apparently, every year half the world’s population travel through major airports, many of whom are near coastlines and modeled before the largely global acceptance of climate change. Climate change is demanding longer runways due to decreasing air density with better mixed tarmac mixtures to mitigate the increased heat indexes. Delays and cancellations due to weather related events are on the are on the rise in air ports, and at a certain point rising landing strips to fight against storm surges isn’t going to solve anything, just slowing down the impending consequences. Governments and organizations like CAPA Center for Aviation understand over a trillion dollars in capital investment cannot be easily attained, especially with costs of the new airports that will need to be made further inland. The Brussels based agency Eurocontrol has listed dozens of European cities specifically at risk due to historical maritime establishments. It is noted that planes electronics on board will increasingly fail more often as average heat temperatures rise. Too much attention and funds will be subverted from bigger U.S. foreign policy concerns like war and famine if reserve protectorate airports are not built in safe locations before existing ones are taken over by nature. The Trump administration must accept that climate change is not a hoax designed by the Chinese, stay apart of necessary international climate agreements, invest in predictive infrastructure developments as much as military expansions. It is likely that weight restrictions will also begin to be imposed on flights due to runway size. If airports lose too much money, too many companies can go bankrupt with low incentive and high risk for new actors to take the vacant spots; this particulate example shows how many climate changes to come will affect us all not just socially but economically. It is too weak of an argument that we are too late to our own demise, we have no certainty of that claim and we have nothing better to do than try our best to save everything we know.

  • Daniel Levay


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