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    What the United States Can Take Away from Hong Kong’s Protests

    What began as a protest against Hong Kong’s proposed extradition law has evolved far beyond that. Protests in China’s most autonomous special administrative region have progressed to uncharacteristically violent levels. Law enforcement is combating and killing protesters in the streets. Such blatant acts of protest are strange for a typically orderly culture. So, why is this happening, and what can we take away from it?

    The aggravator here was certainly the recent extradition policy proposal. A law titled the “Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Bill 2019” (the Future Offenders Bill) would have allowed Hong Kong to extradite fugitives to mainland China, Taiwan, and Macau. The bill’s purpose was purportedly to close legal loopholes that thwarted extradition of those charged with serious crimes. For example, in one reported case involving a murder in Taiwan, the Hong Kong resident accused of the crime could not be extradited to Taiwan to face the charges (CNN). In theory, the proposed bill would have enabled this case and others of its kind to move forward and ultimately get justice for victims.

    As a special administrative region of China, Hong Kong enjoys certain degrees of freedom that other areas of China do not. Under China’s “one country, two systems” regime, Hong Kong has a somewhat separate legal system. This allows for limited free press and competitive, free market business practices. Hong Kong citizens who enjoy such freedoms feared the implementation of the new law would allow the government to extradite journalists critical of the regime, activists fighting for a democratic system, and business transactions deemed by powers in Beijing to not be in best interests of mainland China. After much forceful protesting—a march of roughly 1 million participants, the likes of which haven’t been seen since China’s reacquisition of Hong Kong in 1997 — the bill was withdrawn.

    Hong Kong wants democracy and a rule of law. Such notions are antithetical to China. The violence of law enforcement against the protesters raises questions of human rights and police brutality. It culminated in a bloody, week-long siege when protesters occupied Polytechnic University’s Hong Kong campus. The police stormed in, ostensibly to regain control of what they considered a situation spiraling out of control.  In the aftermath, Hong Kong city leader Carrie Lam, who maintained a hard line against anti-government protests, experienced major losses in local elections (Associated Press). The pro-democracy bloc won control of 17 out of 18 district councils. While she refused to make any concessions to the protesters, she did say she would accelerate discussions to address grievances. Only time will tell if she is being truthful.

    The United States cut off the supply of anti-riot materials to China in solidarity with Hong Kong’s movement toward democracy. While more symbolic than substantive (China certainly has whatever it needs to quell riots), it does illustrate how we as a nation support our core ideology to preserve the founding principles of our Constitution. The destruction of democracy in Hong Kong also provides a good lesson here at home: we should never forget the importance of the freedoms provided in the Constitution and resist any government attempts to dilute them or worse, take them away.

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    The Senate as Impartial Jurors

    “I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of Donald John Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.” 

    When the impeachment trial of President Trump begins in January, it will be only the third time in our history that an impeached president has faced trial. The Senate tried and acquitted both Andrew Johnson and William Clinton. Richard Nixon resigned before the House of Representatives voted to impeach him. If the Senate convicts President Trump, it will be the first removal from office of a sitting president since our Constitution’s ratification in 1788. Given the historical gravity of such a decision, one would want our elected officials, both in the House and in the Senate, to make their decision not on partisan politics but on an impartial evaluation of the facts.

    We all know that did not happen in the House and is not going to happen in the Senate. President Trump will be acquitted by a vote along party lines and face reelection in November. Even if some party members vote against their leadership, those who wish to oust the president will never get the 67 votes they need. This piece of your history will pass quickly for this president but sets a frightening precedent for all future presidents facing a Congress controlled by an opposing party. Impeachment will become a political tool rather than the somber remedy the Constitution provides for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

    The pundits on both sides of the political spectrum have debated all of this ad nauseam. Those observations are not new. There is one point, however, that has received far less attention than it deserves.

    If charged with a crime, you are entitled to a trial by an impartial jury of your peers. That is a right in our Constitution. If a juror is prejudice or partial, he or she cannot sit on a jury. It is a fundamental right we all enjoy, ensuring a fair trial.

    In an impeachment trial of a sitting president, the Chief Justice of the United States sits as the judge. The House of Representatives appoints a team to act in the role of prosecutor and present their case. The President, as the defendant, is entitled to have his team at the trial defend his rights. The Senate – all 100 members – sit as the jurors and vow to undertake their duties as jurors pursuant to a solemn oath to, “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.” 

    In the Federalist Papers, Founding Father Alexander Hamilton understood the meaning of the impeachment power in the House and trial in the Senate. In addressing the role of the House of Representatives, Hamilton wrote:

    The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.

    That is precisely what we witnessed in the House.

    Hamilton had some thoughts on the Senate’s role as well. He wrote:

    Where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent? What other body would be likely to feel confidence enough in its own situation, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an individual accused, and the representatives of the People, his accusers? 

    A Senator must approach the trial without a predetermined vote to convict or acquit. If they are unable to be impartial until presentation of all the evidence, they are not qualified to sit as a juror.

    You would think members of the Senate, many of whom are lawyers, would understand that obligation and abide by their duty. Think again.

    Senators on both sides of the aisle have been unable to remain silent and instead have turned the circus we witnessed in the House into an equally repulsive display of partisan politics in the Senate. We are used to it in almost everything they do today from immigration, to budgeting, to infrastructure, to medical care and more. With few exceptions, it seems the Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on anything regardless of the relative merits either side presents. That is politics as usual and it has been that way since partisan debate began. No surprise.

    This is different. Each Senator will take a special oath — an oath that many cannot now honestly give. Far too many, yearning for a camera, are guilty of political pandering. They are not impartial. They have made their decision before the trial begins. Under traditional rules, they cannot sit on the jury.

    Sadly, such hypocrisy will not stop any of them. They will all sit as jurors and make the most profound decision a U.S. Senator can make in flagrant violation of the oath they gave. 

    Regardless of how you feel about the president, the behavior of many Senators is shameful and adds to the reasons so many Americans rightly question the integrity of our elected officials.

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    What Does the Impending Chinese Tariff Increase Mean to IP Theft in the U.S.?

    One platform of President Trump’s campaign encouraged a shift to self-reliance with goods and services domestically manufactured in America. One tool he has used to advance that goal is increasing trade tariffs on China. The increases were scheduled for December 15, however, they have been suspended after the U.S. and China agreed to a new phase that provided concessions from each country. As a result, uncertainty overshadowing the interim trade agreement partially reached with China in October has been relieved.

    The tariff increase would affect many American consumers. Some of those effects are obvious: the prices of household goods, for example, could drastically rise. But our problems with China will not be solved by tariff concessions.

    Less obvious than the trade imbalance is the impact on China’s continuous theft of our intellectual property (IP). China steals our IP with impunity. While IP theft may not sound like a matter of great concern to many, it covers everything from the likeness of a popular new toy to innovative scientific and technological research. Virtually everything your mind creates is intellectual property. Stealing it is a serious offense. No one questions that China is among the world’s worst IP thieves.

    There is serious money involved China’s theft of IP. The time spent developing cutting-edge technologies or curating research by our engineers and scientists translates to real dollars. One glaring example occurred earlier this year when indictments were unsealed concerning Chinese telecom company Huawei’s successful espionage scheme to steal T-Mobile’s superior phone testing bot. T-Mobile estimated lost profits and punitive damages totaled roughly $502 million. However, these acts don’t stop at America’s big corporations; they are also in our schools.

    The FBI is reaching out to universities across the country concerning foreign study programs with China. These efforts came about in the wake of a University of Kansas researcher’s indictment on charges of working for a Chinese university full time while accepting thousands in U.S. federal grants. A Texas professor was recently arrested in a trade secret case over circuit board fraud. While IP theft by China has been happening for years, the recent and rapid advancement of technology on university campuses has made private information a serious target more easily stolen.

    If competing countries can gain access to classified technological and scientific research at the level of theft we see in China, there’s no telling what other sensitive information is subject to breach.

    In the latest agreement that forestalled application of the December tariff increases, China promised to address IP theft. Can we trust them? No one should be laboring under the impression that China is an honest regime. They are common thieves who have stolen billions from us.

    Let’s hope the Trump Administration assures that China keeps its word. But for me, I’m not holding my breath.

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    Impeachment Hearings: What You Need to Know

    What eventful days it has been on Capitol Hill!

    On Tuesday, four witnesses testified over a span of 11+ hours discussing their insights into Trump’s request to have President Volodymyr Zelensky and his team investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s involvement in the 2016 election—all allegedly resulting in Trump’s decision to withhold $400 million in Ukrainian military aid.

    The first called to testify by the Democrats was Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman—the US’s top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council.  Accompanying him was Jennifer Williams, one of Vice President Pence’s national security aides. She too was called by the Democrats.  Both listened to the July 25, 2019 call between President Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. Colonel Vindman claimed Trump’s demands for Ukraine to investigate former VP Joe Biden were “inappropriate” and “likely to have significant implications for national security” (as reported by the New York Times). Jennifer Williams agreed that withholding Ukraine’s military aid was “damaging to Ukraine’s ability to confront Russian aggression” (Jennifer Williams via NYT).

    On Tuesday, Trump’s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, and Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Russia and Europe, testified as witnesses submitted by Republicans. Volker mostly played the “I didn’t know anything” card while Morrison indicated that the July 25 call did not contain any wrongdoings or illegalities.

    Wednesday’s round of hearings brought an interesting twist—one Democrats have been anxiously awaiting from the very beginning. Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, testified against President Trump implicating that there was indeed a quid pro quo “With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting,” (Gordon Sondland via NPR). Laura Cooper—a deputy assistant secretary at the Defense Department—then testified, defending the president saying, “there was no wrongdoing because the Ukrainians weren’t even aware that a hold was put on the aid” (NPR).

    Thursday concluded with Dr. Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Europe and Russia expert, and David Holmes, a United States Embassy official located in Ukraine who happened to be a witness to a phone call between President Trump and Gordon Sondland (NYT). Dr. Hill essentially blamed Ukraine for meddling in the 2016 elections, not Russia. She and David Holmes also claimed that the name “Burisma” (a Ukrainian energy company) was actually code for investigating the Bidens (NYT). Holmes said he was under the impression that Trump’s reason behind withholding Ukraine’s military aid was an “expression of dissatisfaction” or “as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so” (David Holmes via NYT).

    So what’s next? Even more—what does this mean for Trump in the 2020 election?  It remains to be seen if the House will impeach the president.  It’s a very serious and precedent setting decision we all hope will be considered carefully and fairly. However, as I explained in an earlier blog, our Founding Fathers predicted more than 200 years ago that House proceedings looking into impeachment were expected to be political circuses.  This past week has lived up to that prediction.  If the House does vote to impeach, the case will fall into the hands of the Senate where the charges will most likely be dismissed or President Trump will be formally acquitted.  Only a major bombshell will garner the 67 votes necessary to convict and remove the president.  As some commentators have asked, is the reality behind the House proceeding nothing more than an exercise by Democrats to keep Trump from being re-elected?  Will the new normal for presidents in parties opposite the majority in the House be forever looking over their shoulders at the prospect of impeachment for whatever political winds might bring?

    The sad news is we have to watch political theater as each side postures with constant insults and accusations.  For every person who testifies in support of impeachment, another testifies against it.  If it goes to the Senate and a trial is undertaken, we can expect even more partisan politics as the Republicans get their chance to make the rules.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is in November those who should be deciding the fate of Donald Trump, one-third of the Senate, and the entire House of Representatives will be in the People – the ultimate arbiters in our Constitution on who sits in the White House and on Capitol Hill.  You and me.  So let us make sure we vote and send whatever our message is to those sitting in Washington today about how we feel they’ve governed in the face of an immigration crisis, a crumbling infrastructure, a broken health care system, nuclear proliferation, trade imbalances, out of control spending, and more.

    Ask yourself this:  Do any of them deserve to be reelected?

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    Is Reasonable Conversation Now Impossible?

    Every day, we are inundated with media reporting on arguments and differences between our polarized parties. On one hand, there is the President and his fellow Republicans, and, on the other hand, the Democrats in the House and Senate. While my fatigue with all of it would like to dismiss the diatribes as so much noise, I cannot do that.

    This rhetoric reeks of partisan politics and is devoid of intelligent compromise. There is no reasoned debate. Disregarding on which side of the controversies your sentiments lie, no one can defend the lack of civility and failed governance over important issues faced by our nation.  Everyone is talking “at” each other, not “to” one another. The blame falls on our national leaders on both sides of the aisle. Their intransient divisiveness leads to no solutions. It only deepens the growing divide in our country.

    I nostalgically remember a time when our leaders handled diametrically opposed views on policy like adults. During former President Reagan’s Administration, he sparred with Tip O’Neal and Ted Kennedy – two Democrats who could not have been more politically opposite Reagan. During the Clinton Administration, he and Newt Gingrich were constantly at odds over policy.  Of course, there were real differences. But they respected one another and were willing to listen to sensible arguments. They understood nothing is black and white, particularly in politics. They eventually reached compromises and advanced the interests of our nation.

    It can be done.

    The only way forward to resolution is through our leaders acting with the responsibility we entrusted to them upon election. Instead, I am deeply saddened to say that today’s political denizens in Washington act like bullies on a grade school playground. Whatever our Founding Fathers intended with impeachment, emoluments, closed door Congressional hearings, or Executive privilege, I cannot believe they ever envisioned the kind of immaturity and lack of due process burdening us today. No reasonable person can defend the behavior of either the Democrats or the Republicans in the debacle we are witnessing.

    The saddest part of this spectacle is how it empowers countries like China, Russia, Syria, Iran, North Korea, and other despotic regimes that endeavor to weaken us rather than deal with us. Why wouldn’t they? These regimes have only to sit in the bleachers and watch American politicians ignore real issues that adversely affect our daily lives; all the while, our purported leaders throw infantile fits and toss one accusation after another at their opposition.

    I once thought this nightmarish turmoil would pass over time, and that we would return to normalcy. I have serious doubts that such a thing is now possible, and it is more than troubling.

    Whatever happens in the 2020 elections, I doubt the anger now embedded in our elected leaders will subside. Impeachment threats may well become the norm for the losing party as it seeks to second-guess the will of voters. Democrats and Republicans will hold more closed-door hearings that deny their opposition a participating role. Partisan leaks will fill the pages of newspapers and the reports on television. Interference with the President’s duty to oversee foreign relations will increase. Stalemates to progress will become the norm. Is this true leadership?

    Make no mistake about it; what is good for the goose will be good for the gander. What the Republicans rail at today as injustice by the Democrats will be the same cry on the other side when tables are turned. President Trump campaigned on cleaning up the swamp in Washington.  I liked that idea. Unfortunately, it increasingly appears that the only way that will ever happen is to send home those currently seated to govern our future – Republicans and Democrats alike.

    If you are skeptical, I challenge you to answer these questions: What are we doing to address our crumbling infrastructure? Our failed immigration policy? The homeless starving in our streets?  The costs of our healthcare? The education of our youth? Our taxes? A growing nuclear arms threat?

    We are doing nothing. Washington is unwilling to have a mature debate or consider reasonable compromises. I remain increasingly more disconcerted, more fearful for the future of our nation and our children.

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    The Constitution as a Political Tool

    To free the Colonies from the tyranny of a King living in a faraway land, the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Their proclamation is premised on the notion of political and religious freedom and the right to speak our minds without fear of reprisal. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Under these audacious principles, the authors listed more than 25 grievances the Colonists had with the Crown. Those grievances were the foundation of why we fought the Revolutionary War. They are equally among the building blocks that in 1788 became the United States Constitution. The Bill of Rights–the first set of ten amendments to our Constitution–ratified December 15, 1791, equally reflect protection from the abuses suffered under the King. In that span of fifteen years from war to ratification, these three documents, comprising less than 7,000 words, became the most enduring principles of free government in the history of the world.

    Today I cannot help but wonder how many people, particularly those lucky enough to be born in this country or elected to federal office, have ever read the cornerstone documents that define our nation. It is not as if any one of them are that long. Indeed, each is a model of brevity. Yet, like the plays of Shakespeare, pundits have interpreted them in countless ways that may or may not have been what the Founding Fathers had in mind. We call that politics.

    One part of the Constitution, just 31 words, is now the nation’s center of attention.

    Article II, Section 4 provides: “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The process of Impeachment has two steps outlined in Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution. Paragraph 5 propounds, “The House of Representatives shall…have the sole Power of Impeachment.” Paragraph 6 adds further “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments…And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.” While there is no provision on what the vote needs to be in the House to impeach, it is accepted that it is a mere majority.

    In our 240-year history, only two of the 44 men elected president have been impeached – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. The Senate acquitted both.  Richard Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment. Thus, we have never constitutionally removed a President from his elected office.

    Politicians and media are now engrossed in defining what constitutes an impeachable offense, straining to construe “treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors.” Nowhere in the Constitution are these terms defined. For some guidance, however, one can look to the Federalist Papers, a collection of 85 essays written by three of the men who signed the Constitution; Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison.

    Federalist Paper No. 65 speaks to the idea of impeaching a President. Hamilton writes that the basis for an impeachable offense is political and “relates chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.” He opines that impeachable conduct includes “behavior that violates an official’s duty to the country, even if such conduct is not necessarily a prosecutable offense.” Hamilton further notes that “in the past both houses of Congress have given the phrase high Crimes and Misdemeanors a broad reading, finding that impeachable offenses need not be limited to criminal conduct.”

    Describing the role of the House in impeachment proceedings, Hamilton admits that deliberations center on “pre-existing factions” who will “enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other.” In such cases he notes, “there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.” Hamilton saw impeachment for what it is. A purely political maneuver.

    In contrast, Hamilton described the Senate’s role quite differently. He wrote, “Where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent? What other body would be likely to feel confidence enough in its own situation, to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an individual accused, and the representatives of the people, his accusers?”

    Thus, Hamilton considered the Senate’s duty as far more profound. The Senate is charged with a duty of impartiality, the same protection our Constitution provides to citizens accused of crimes. Hamilton saw the House as the political circus it has become. The Senate is the last bastion of due process, devoid of partisan and political prejudice.

    So here we are. Engrossed in another partisan led effort to impeach the President for political reasons, just as Hamilton envisioned in 1778. We should all take these events at face value. It is pure politics, accompanied by all the partisan, self-serving and emotional hysteria of the members of the House – on both sides of the aisle. Hamilton observed in Federalist No. 65 that the Founding Fathers understood such bias and prejudice would be the rule for the House. Partisan grist for the mill of media. But Hamilton also put to the Senate its obligation to be devoid of such influences and to be entirely impartial.

    Someone needs to remind those Senators, unable to avoid spouting opinions about the merits of the charges, one very important point: The House is deliberating to remember their Constitutional obligation. The role of the Senate is to keep politics out of the impeachment process, and to refrain from expressing any opinions on the merits until the House votes to ask the  Senate to put the President of the United States on trial.

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    The Terrorist Threat of Dark Data

    Media have largely ignored an incredibly important issue – dark data.

    Dark data is not, by its nature, as ominous as the title implies. “Dark” or “dusty” data is simply a byproduct of the mass quantities companies collect from users over the web.

    Whether you realize it or not, with each click to your favorite department store’s online shop, every time you order takeout from that app on your cellphone, every time you search, every time you text, or add ebooks to the library on your tablet, someone is collecting digital bytes on your habits, your thoughts, your maladies, and more. This information, known as “big data” is rounded up in bulk and processed by companies like Trendsource, Siwell, and Rackspace. That is only to name a few. What they do is perfectly legal, and not necessarily disconcerting.

    Interestingly, companies are collecting so much information that they often forget about much of it. Sometimes over half of their curated data. On average, 52% of the data collected by companies is unprocessed and untagged.

    Dark data can be a goldmine of statistics useful to better inform companies on consumer habits.  Accessing it may enable them to better serve their customers. The data also holds intrinsic value. This information can be sold to other organizations looking for inside perspective on certain groups or demographics. Dark data can also be the key to influencing unconscious behaviors. Much like big data already has, for example, in our last election. But it might also be completely useless. One never knows until it is processed – that generally only happens when that processing can be monetized by the databank owner.

    Since companies and consumers are often unaware of this accumulated data held outside their immediate control, they might not notice it was stolen or repurposed dishonestly.

    It is indisputable that a real goldmine in dark data is found by hackers. Groups looking to advance an agenda sneak in through blind spots in data management and find what triggers certain users to action. So-called “bots” already have slipped through social media algorithms to share false news articles.

    Could these instances become more frequent, and more subtle, if the hackers behind them can micro-target users with dark data? We know that non-human traffic in the form of bots mine the Internet and siphon off billions in dollars spent by advertisers. Some say part of that money goes to terrorists.  Terrorists who may be motivating impressionable misfits to engage in unthinkable acts.

    Remember that next time you choose to share your life on the Internet.

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    Keep Politics Out of Our Schools

    Inspired by an intelligent 16-year-old named Greta Thunberg, grade school students across America were allowed to skip classes on September 20 to participate in marches and demonstrations expressing fears of climate change. The media coverage was global and no doubt helped bring about much needed discussions about climate change. The importance of those discussions cannot be overstated.

    Such discussions are often hampered by individuals on the extreme ends of the debate – left or right – generally refusing to have a constructive conversation. Those who deny climate change have their heads in the sand. Alternately, those who preach Armageddon within ten years if we don’t make drastic changes have their heads just as deeply embedded in the sand. The Washington Post reported that Al Gore “believes humanity may have only 10 years left to save the planet from turning into a total frying pan.” That was in 2006. I guess we dodged that bullet.

    Israeli astrophysicist Nir Shaviv, a scientist who has allegedly studied the issue for years, concluded in 2007, “[T]here is no concrete evidence – only speculation – that man-made greenhouse gases cause global warming.”

    Little has changed in the rhetoric of these two extremes since then. Unfortunately, those extremes get the press. Moderate views or those who simply want to understand the truth are rarely heard. That doesn’t sell papers or raise TV ratings. Whether we will ever know the reality we face is ill served by the partisan approach taken by too many.

    But letting grade school students off from school to protest or march is a huge mistake for two important reasons.

    First, we send our children to school for the purpose of learning in a calm and considerate environment. This is particularly true of our youngest, when their brains are not yet fully wired and need the kind of special nurturing only great teachers provide. That is not to say classrooms should ignore issues like climate change. Quite to the contrary. It is a teacher’s job to provide  balanced analysis and lead discussions. To teach. It is inappropriate to substitute teaching for shouting crowds who have no interest in hearing any balanced debate. Such public displays of emotion – on either side of any issue – are for adults, not children.

    There is an even more insidious mistake in this exercise in recess from school. If you adopt grade school strikes as part of the learning experience of our children, where do you draw the line on issues that warrant an official dismissal from much-needed schooling? You can’t discriminate on the choice of issues that warrant a march or demonstration. Doing so would be pure hypocrisy.

    Considering the above example, it is not farfetched to see movements wanting recess for marches on the right of choice to abort pregnancy, provided there is also one supporting the right to life. Or a march on ending gun sales, provided there is one in support of the NRA. The list is as endless as is the politics surrounding them. The truly important debate is this – do we want to foster an atmosphere that interrupts the time our children spend in school? Should grade schoolers become pawns for liberal and conservative politics? I think the answer is obvious, at least for moderates who are still capable of seeing two sides to an argument.

    I’m all for teaching our kids about these topical issues. But in a classroom, not on the streets. If parents want their kids to participate in demonstrations or marches, that’s fine. That is their choice to make. Equally, it is a parent’s choice that their children not participate in public demonstrations. Let those who want their kids to march do so on weekends or holidays. Schools are here to teach in a safe and controlled environment without being interrupted by politicians and pundits bent on advancing their partisan initiatives.

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    Does North Korea’s Progressing Arsenal Violate the UN?

    Suspicions are rising among the United States and their Asian allies as reports further hint at an advancing North Korean arsenal (Council on Foreign Relations).

    While this development could be in danger of violating the United Nations Charter, President Trump has commented that “any concerns are overblown.” (New York Times)

    Intelligence officials offer information that presents a stark contrast the President’s comments. According to the New York Times, experts believe that the missiles Kim Jong-un is testing have “greater range and maneuverability that could overwhelm American defenses in the region.” Furthermore, reports claim there is evidence of a North Korean program that has the potential to defeat Japanese defenses. It is also worth noting that North Korea is using American technology to do so, much of which they stole.

    What do these developments mean for diplomatic relations?  Korea’s most recent test of the Hwasong-15 missile peaked at an estimated altitude of 4,500km – 10 times higher than the International Space Station (BBC). The improved short-range missiles could potentially reach Japan and South Korea, and at least eight American bases in those two countries.

    Those bases house over 300,000 US troops.

    The debate on whether or not America should be concerned continues. The Defense Intelligence Agency estimates North Korea has enough fuel for roughly a dozen new nuclear weapons. These newly uncovered resources beg the question of where this impoverished country got the funding for arsenal expansion.

    Given our checkered history with North Korea, we can only assume their intentions are questionable at best. Stay tuned for further updates.

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    Facebook’s Hidden Likes

    Both social scientists and media bigwigs are beginning to explore the influence of social media on human behavior. Starting with the whispers of Instagram’s hidden follower and like-count experimentation, Facebook has now thrown its digital hat into the ring – they, too, are prototyping hidden likes privately. Instagram is already testing the function publicly in seven countries (TechCrunch).

    Facebook confirmed this testing September 2nd when Jane Manchun Wong, an enthusiast in uncovering app features pre-launch, discovered code for the feature in its Android version.

    Beta testing of hidden like counts makes sense in the context of this generation’s outcry to address mental health and well-being. Research studying how social media affects the mental health and self- esteem of target groups (teens and young adults) is mixed, however.

    Pew Research Center’s 2018 study found that teens yield benefits like inclusion, deeper friendships, and help understanding different points of view from interacting with social media. The same study also says teens often feel overwhelmed by the drama of social media and tend to unfriend those causing it, or those espousing political views they disagree with.

    An article by the National Center for Health Research compared the increase of mental health issues in those target groups with the high usage of smartphones and social media in the same group. Among other discouraging facts cited, one study mentioned in the article found that greater Instagram usage is associated with greater self-objectification and concern about body image.

    Facebook (also owners of WhatsApp and Instagram) refuses to disclose the results of their Instagram testing or explain why they’ve expanded to other social media. One would hope their intention is to meet the demands of their negatively impacted users. Though, such a change would certainly impact ad revenue and the general marketing platform these outlets have come to depend on. It appears there would have to be very compelling reason(s), positive or negative, to risk a sizeable income hit.

    We’ve seen Facebook and its collective apps in and out of the hotseat recently for the alleged misuse of personal information leading to an influence on user buying habits, and even their perceptions of current events. Could this new development be a preventative measure? Or is it an answer to the requests of the app’s user base?

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