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VELASCO: Biden's Teacher's Union Embezzlement
Follow the science here, follow the science there, follow the science everywhere. In early December, president Joe Biden made a pledge that, in his first 100 days of office, he would reopen a majority of American schools to begin in-person instruction for the first time since the pandemic began. As 2021 began and the school year comes to a close, we've learned that there is only one group that controls schools; it's not parents or school districts, nor is it localities and not even a Democratic president. It's the teachers unions. Press secretary Jen Psaki made sure that the redefinition of 'reopening' was clear to who the president really serves: “His goal that he set is to have the majority of schools, so more than 50 percent, open by day 100 of his presidency and that means some teaching in classrooms. So at least one day a week.” The Biden administration had already made it easy for unions to intentionally stall the re-openings. In Biden's stimulus bill, $122B was set aside for education relief; whatever that meant. According to the National Education Association, it was so school systems “can hire more teachers, more paraeducators, more custodians, more nurses, more counselors.” As any snowball effect would have it, this leads to more union members and an increased union revenue. Specifically, the law allows hirings of "additional educators to address learning loss", which comes as a revelation for union allies who list learning loss as a "hoax". But it would be oxymoronic to claim the unions, Biden, and an intentionally poor reallocation of funds are practicing what they preach. Even then, Biden continues to blow his own trumpet regarding minorities and poor inner-city families being hit hardest by the pandemic. Yet, a University of Pennsylvania study estimates that, for every month a school is closed, costs students an average of $12,000-$15,000 for future earnings. Artificially ballooning school staffs in a COVID-year combined with a decline in enrollment and even missing students can only beg the question: to what extent are Biden and teachers unions compliant in the failure of school re-openings? Most working parents are old enough to remember when their children took precedence in education policymaking. Gone are the days of fundamentally sound political decisions and instead what George W. Bush once called "the soft bigotry of low expectations". Were working Americans ever supposed to expect anything different from an administration who only follow the science whenever it's politically convenient for the two culprits? Parents were met with a virtually impossible decision: work or look over their child's Zoom sessions. How are we to expect a return to normalcy whenever blue collar parents are exiled from their workforce and seemingly replaced by a new generation of undereducated workers? According to the Financial Times, "two out of five working mothers have withdrawn from the workforce or contemplated doing it." An analysis from the National Women's Law Center finds a much worse datapoint: The total number of women who have left the labor force since the start of the pandemic reached over 2.3 million last month, leaving women’s labor force participation rate – the percent of adult women who are either working or looking for work – at 57.0%. Before the pandemic, women’s labor force participation rate had not been this low since 1988. An extremely deteriorated workforce led by Democratic elitists who ignore the needs of students and not listening to the necessary demands of parents amounts to immense pressure, numb to the minds of unions and welcome to the pockets of leaders like Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers. Follow the science, Weingarten has said, while continuing to support the widespread closure of schools. A New York Post expose revealed how said unions vastly influenced the Biden administration into continuing school closures: The Post’s reporting, based on emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act following a request by the Americans for Public Trust, showed discussions among CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, the agency’s top officials and union representatives in the days before the Feb. 12 announcement on school-reopening guidelines. The emails also showed that language suggested by the union was adopted into the CDC document. Let's actually follow the science. Children have been proven to spread COVID-19 at a much lesser rate than adults. Studies show that teachers do not face an increased risk from children, schools do not drive the spread of COVID-19, and that schools without masks do not fare a worse risk than those who do wear masks. A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found zero instances of child-to-adult transmission within schools among 90,000 students and staff in 11 North Carolina school districts who returned to in-person classes. Over nine weeks, there were 773 community-acquired coronavirus cases as well as 32 infections acquired in schools. Schools in New York City saw only 191 out of more than 36,000 students and staff test positive for the virus- a rate of .5%. For the cherry on top, CDC director Rachelle Walensky claimed that 'troubling data' showed a noticeable increase in adolescent hospitalizations, and that many of them required mechanical ventilation: At the time this study was released, adolescent hospitalizations was nearing its all-time low across the entire pandemic. Furthermore, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) showed that approximately 45% of said hospitalizations were listed as 'psychiatric admission'; evidently, research from Stanford University suggests hospitals may be over-counting adolescent hospitalizations due to COVID-19. Even as inflation hits a record high and the unemployment rate stagnates, Biden continues to falsely tout lousy economic feats while simultaneously neglecting the horrendous economic impact children will face when reaching their peak time for earning potential: According to research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, learning disruptions could lower the level of annual economic output in the U.S. by a quarter of a percentage point on average over the next 70 years. While a fraction of a percent may not seem like much, the study, using the CBO projection of potential output, found that the loss to the economy could equal $90 billion a year on average. Just like they say, follow the science. Especially if it comes from teachers unions, acting as the de facto president. Jorge Velasco is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The National Times.
FIELDEN: Oregon Decriminalized Meth. Now What?
In a radical move during Tuesday's Election, Oregon decriminalized all hard drugs, including methamphetamines, and has legalized psychedelic mushrooms for recreational consumption. At first glance, this is absurd; who in their right mind would legalize these harmful and destructive substances? This move is a drastic shift in the current philosophy about addiction and the current drug regulations and has the ability to set a new precedent for drug usage in America. Former President Richard Nixon had an idea: end the illegal drug trade in America. His administration allocated more resources for this cause and formally began the War or drugs in 1971. Nixon was worried about the American people, their health and their well-being. In an address to Congress, he cited the over 500% increase of narcotics-related deaths in New York City since 1960. Nixon then laid out his plan to rehabilitate the addicted and interdict the influx of narcotics. In 1981, Ronald Reagan built on Nixon's idea to end drug abuse and signed multiple pieces of legislation that would help end addiction, allowing America to win in the War on drugs. In June of 1982, Reagan was clear on his standpoint: he wanted to take down the surrender flags and run up a battle flag; he then signed Executive Order 12368. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act (1984) expanded Nixon's penalties and set the precedent for the future of drug usage: it was a crime. During Reagan's administration, there was over a 1000% increase in funding to the FBI's Drug Enforcement Units. This was a complete failure for both Presidents. Since Nixon's address, the number of drug-related crimes had only increased and showed no signs of stopping after Reagan's more aggressive tactics. Per the Bureau of Justice, from 1970-2007, adult drug possession showed drastic increases over time. On a more positive side, the number of high school seniors who claimed to have used cocaine showed a consistent decrease since 1985. More interestingly, the attitudes of high school seniors seemed less afraid of the risk of taking drugs as marijuana's perceived risk dropped 25% from 1988 to 2008. LSD was also perceived to have less risk over time. These seniors have obviously grown up since the 1990s and early 2000s. And their ideas have been more and more normalized. In 2014, only 26% of Americans agreed with prosecuting recreational drug users for any drug, per Pew Research Center. Hence why we have recently seen more and more states legalize marijuana. As of this past election cycle, only seven states still have full out bans on marijuana: Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Wyoming. So, what does this mean for Oregon? The idea is that by decriminalizing drugs and treating addiction as a health issue, rather than a criminal issue, they will see better results than either Nixon or Reagan did in ending addiction. The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission predicts decriminalization will lead to more than a 90% decrease in drug-related crime – in year one alone. Portugal has a similar policy in place and has seen similar results. In 2001, Portugal decriminalized all drugs. While punishments still exist, jail time is no longer one of them. Portugal switched their mentality from criminal to a health issue; by doing so they were more effectively able to combat addiction. Since the implementation of the policy, Portugal has seen a drug use rate lower than the European average, lower rates of 15-24-year-olds users, and a consistent decline in continued drug usage. I don't believe this radical program could be well implemented if at all at a federal level in America soon. However, if Oregon's prediction on drug-related crime ends up coming true and over the next few years there is a drastic drop in drug-related crimes and drug usage rates, then there is reason to believe similar options could be implemented in other states. The War on drugs is currently a war lost. Portugal's radical measure may seem the right way to attack one of the world's leading issues, given the immediate and sustained success. However, if drug addiction is treated as a health concern before a criminal concern, small changes to the current policies could lead to a brighter future for Americans who struggle with addiction. Currently, all drugs are federally banned. With the current emphasis on prevention, addicts are not receiving the treatment they need. In 2009, only 2.6 million of the estimated 23.5 million drug addicts in the United States – slightly over 11%. This needs change. This is the new tactic we need for the War on Drugs: treat addiction as the disease it is. ----- Andrew Fielden is an Editor-At-Large for The National Times.
VELASCO: It's Time To Rally Around Joe Biden.
I've seen multiple posts across social media about how our neighbor's political views and how we should treat them. Many read, "If you're my friend and you support Trump, I don't care"; or, "This isn't meant to hurt you, but if you support Trump, I don't want anything to do with you". One meaningless blanket statement after another seems somewhat relevant, knowing that many people disassociate themselves with others because of their political views. But how did we get here? Days after Election Day, a winner in the presidential election has finally been declared (or at least the vast majority of Americans think so). Third time's the charm for then-Vice President and now President-elect Joe Biden after two failed presidential campaigns in 1988 and 2008, respectively. After then-senator Biden admitted to plagiarizing British politician Neil Kinnock and not making it past the caucuses in 2008, the Democratic nominee has been named the victor in the battle for the White House after a grueling match-up against incumbent Donald Trump. As multiple networks simultaneously called Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes for Biden, the clash has come to an end. But what does that mean for America? Rather, what should it mean for America? Surrounded by dazed political allies and a bisected Republican party, President Trump is fighting fire with fire in a last-ditch effort to save his already desecrated reputation, but continues to push away the legitimacy of his party's ability to prioritize the country's needs over its wants. So much so that if Trump loses (which is already the case), he plans on creating his own media network named "Trump TV", according to multiple reports. Not as a personal post-political career endeavor, but for the sole purpose to directly compete with Fox News and utterly destroy the legacy of Rupert Murdoch. After all, Trump did say he was "not going to feel so good" if he lost against "the worst candidate in the history of politics". What's the almighty plan? Take the network's prominent conservative commentators, such as Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham. Most notably, Carlson's primetime show recently averaged more than 5.3 million nightly viewers, breaking viewership records heading into Election Day. Rather than guide his party for a political comeback as soon as 2022, his egotistical desire to constantly one-up himself paints a disquieting, yet unsurprising picture. President Trump has embraced a buoyant figure that his staunch base have seemingly adapted and even pushed for. His campaign strategy filled with ad-hominems towards opponents, fighting partisanship against a quasi-moderate, and an 'anti-establishment' platform against himself, being the present-establishment, has now denied him a second term into the Oval Office. From a Trumpian perspective, losers are undeserving of admiration and respect if they do not become self-obsessed with themselves. Trump will (or maybe not) leave the White House as the most polarizing President in the history of the United States, something a self-absorbed person would absolutely be proud of. Was he ever serious about it; about being an aggressive, meaningful politician who holds office in a purposeful fashion? To mirror this dismissive attitude, Trump was golfing as networks called the election in Biden's favor. However, all of this is not to say that the Trump administration has not accomplished a multitude of successful policy initiatives. A retrospective view of a current conservative and former Trump supporter would accost the President for not escaping his self-emboldened personality for the better of the nation. Take former President George H.W Bush for example. After losing to Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, Bush held his feelings of despair to himself and was instead graceful about pursuing a peaceful transition of power for the incoming administration. In fact, it was his act of befriending his successor that so many Americans admired Bush for that. Trump has never shown respect for such civilized losers. Instead, his self-indulgence has never made it past the infamous Trump Tower in New York City; or worse, ever. But then again, he has never shown an inclination towards an inch of any concession that results in him losing capacity, ability, or power. So, referring back to the question I asked at the beginning: what should this mean for America; that a sitting President, heavily relying on faulty election litigation that mostly grasps at weightless straws and will not accept to ensure a peaceful changing of the guard? Conservatives, such as myself, are struck at a confusing crossroads. As real as it is, living in political limbo to see what absurdity the President tweets next should not be the next thing we, as in Americans wholesale, do. Four years of incessant bickering and endless kowtowing to the respective party's players has caused a blistering wound in the center of the U.S. Americans have prided themselves to be patriotic and accepting of all, touting that our nation is the greatest republic in the world. This wound, causing hyper-partisanship to skyrocket and enabling mainstream media coverage to focus on divides rather than support has been an absolute devastation in terms of wanting and needing to circle back as one whole population. America needs to heal. There's a reason why a second 'Civil War' was unusually advertised leading up to the days of the election. Yet, there is evidently one option: We need to rally around President-elect Joe Biden. There is no doubt that Biden's policies are going to reverse the trend of a recovering bridge and inevitably damage America's attempt to grab back its once roaring economy. Nevertheless, trade offs like these are imperative if the greatest republic built from the ground up wants to remain in tact. President Trump has altered all institutional norms since entering office, for better or for worse. Moreover, his politically savvy means to achieve certain policies and goals are admittedly admirable; Trump has a true skill for having a so-called 'politician's touch'. But more so is his true skill to gaslight any political argument, which led to the failure of his badly shaped campaign strategy that alienated crucial blocs of the electorate. A megalomaniacal rejectionist who faces his harsh reality is subject to not only fierce backlash, but a vulnerability like none other. In times of dire need, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans look towards the President for widespread support, since he is meant to be the crisis manager for the country; it is not a political issue nor a partisan platform. Yet, the politicization of the virus, as he deemed, the "China Virus", President Trump continuously questioned the necessity of face masks, social distancing, and a temporary pause from all social standards. One way or another, I believe that, however incapable he is of being an incumbent the, he can bring some sort of binding support to all Americans. All of this, of course, will be put to the test on January 20. Trump's method of personalizing virtually everything in his path will leave a negative benchmark in America's past. As adversity and disappointment settles for fellow conservative Republicans, this is a time to be advantageous and overcome disparity with results. The GOP looks to, and very well should, seek the moral high ground as a Biden administration is soon to take place. To be virtuous was often not in President Trump's vocabulary. But the Republican party of Reagan and Bush Sr. need to turn the cheek and establish a new era of conservatism that is not handed to an extreme ideologue, like the current incumbent, but to a confident and real candidate. It's up to the political elites to stop the endless partisan power-grabs and cool down the temperature as the 46th President walks to the White House. The country needs to surround itself with President-elect Joe Biden and move on from this election. Jorge Velasco is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The National Times.
EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai
Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai is running for Senator of Massachusetts and is currently wrapping up his Truth, Freedom, & Health Tour. I attended one of his rallies and heard his speech regarding personal liberty in pursuit of one's health. Afterwards I was able to meet Dr. Shiva and have a brief discussion with him regarding the pandemic. I explained I was from The National Times which strives to be an independent news outlet. He told me he's a huge supporter of startup businesses and independent journalism and believes the First Amendment right of Freedom of the Press belongs to the people. From there he allowed me to have a brief interview: Executive Editor Adam LeDuc: What would be your professional opinion on the handling of COVID-19 by Dr. Fauci? Dr. Shiva: It's criminal. He has been in that organization for nearly 40+ years. He's the one who's the perpetrator of fake science. I was the only one to go after him and expose him because his entire communication, and what he's been communicating, is not based on boosting the immune system. He's basically a mouthpiece for Big Pharma and vaccine manufactures, which is to promote fear-mongering when he knows the science. Actually he knows that this is a very, very minor flu-type thing, but instead of focusing on boosting the immune system he has been part of perpetuating this fear. Which is essentially to make people accommodate to his view, which is Big Pharma's view, that we all need to be vaccinated. That's what this is all about. It's a multi-trillion dollar industry that he's the face of. Adam: There's been some debate on children going back to school and how only children need to be vaccinated but it does not apply to the faculty and staff members of the school. Dr. Shiva: First of all, the number of children that died from this was basically zero. And when you really look at the numbers in the numerator and denominator, it's so miniscule. Even Fauci wrote a paper in April in the New England Journal of Medicine saying this is going to be nothing less than the normal flu. If you look at Massachusetts, 98.2 percent of the people who died were people with pre-existing conditions and their average age was 82.5 whereas the average lifespan in Massachusetts is 80. This entire thing is one of the biggest fear-mongering hoaxes as I was first to tweet out in March of this year. As an MIT Ph.D. who is considered one of the leading guys in immune system, it's one of the biggest fear-mongering hoaxes intended to suppress dissent, to force mandated vaccines, and to destroy small business economies. Adam: And final question, there's been some debate over the efficacy of the drug Hydroxychloroquine, what is your opinion on it? Dr. Shiva: Well I'm a biologist and a systems biologist, I'm actually the guy who created the technology between model and molecular pathways, and one of the leading guys in molecular systems biology. So we took Hydroxychloroquine and we ran it through the invention that I have which is Cytosolve, and we found out Hydroxychloroquine--yes it has some side effects for people with cardiovascular disease, but if you have a good cardiologist you can watch that--but it literally cuts off the glycosylation process, which is what happens when a virus lands on the ACE2 receptor to try to get in. So it's very effective at stopping virus entry. You have to take it with Zinc because it also stops virus replication. There are four processes viruses do to take over your immune system; your cellular system. So it's very effective. Adam: Thank you very much for your time, I appreciate it. Dr. Shiva: Thank you. --- Adam LeDuc is the Executive Editor for The National Times
Will Congress Care About Another CARES Stimulus Package?
Image Source: ATKG L.L.P. With the House and Senate largely in recess until mid-September pending a bipartisan stimulus deal, there has been much speculation about whether or not a new spending package will be a reality. Democrats and Republicans have been at a negotiating impasse since the end of July, when the weekly $600 unemployment subsidy and other benefits from the CARES Act expired on July 31st. GOP Senators have proposed a $200 weekly subsidy, arguing that a lower amount would incentivize workers so they can return to work faster and boost the economy. Democrats have pushed for the same $600 weekly benefit and argued that workers still need the money to pay for essentials. The gridlock has prompted swift executive action from the Trump administration. Earlier this month, President Trump signed an executive order that would provide $400 in unemployment benefits ($300 if states could not fund the additional 25%). There are still further questions on how Congress will react. The congressional impasse is still going on, and the state of talks is unclear despite both sides offering interest in further negotiations. In an election year, major legislation such as the CARES Act will be a source of contention between and within both political parties. What started off as unanimous support has become a divided campaign issue. The Wall Street Journal reported on how "internal divisions on each side are complicating their efforts to propose new measures." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) and Democrats have said that they would reduce their offer of $3.5 trillion and ask Republicans to increase a $1 trillion offer, pushing for a deal of approximately $2 trillion. Many Senate GOP members and White House officials have said that they would not support the Democrats' $3.5 trillion stimulus bill, instead advocating for a smaller package. The fate of the next stimulus package could be determined by more moderate lawmakers. Whether the House and Senate leadership take on the views of these members is another unknown. Members of a moderate group of Democrats, the Blue Dog Coalition, wrote a letter to the House and Senate leadership calling for more bipartisan talks to pass the next stimulus package. The letter stated: As the House prepares to vote this weekend on a bill to protect the United States Postal Service, we urge you to restart bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on a fifth COVID-19 relief package that is commensurate with the scale of this public health and economic crisis. Although there are meaningful differences between the HEROES Act and the HEALS Act, there is also considerable common ground. In an era of divided government, the reality is that only bipartisan solutions will deliver much-needed support, and that requires principled compromise by both parties. Senate Republicans could also affect the state of negotiations by offering a much smaller bill with many fewer areas of disagreement between both parties. This $500 billion proposal would provide funding for the Postal Service, protection for employers against lawsuits related to COVID-19, a $300 unemployment benefit, and aid for small businesses and schools. If this proposal or a similar one is passed, both Democrats and Republicans could give themselves more time to negotiate on any further stimulus package if desired. As the RNC convention begins and the road to the general election in November heats up, Democrats and Republicans will soon have to determine whether or not another stimulus package should be passed at all. The stimulus provisions offered by each side could be more important for campaign messaging than the passage of a bipartisan bill. The battle over the future of the CARES Act has yet to begun. --- Sherman Tylawsky is an Editor-at-Large for The National Times
Dasvidaniya Lukashenko: The Rise and Fall of Europe’s Last Dictator
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko gives an address in Minsk in 2015. Image Source: Vitebsk Popular News (Народныя навіны Віцебска) “Anyone joining an opposition protest is a terrorist. God forbid they should commit any sort of act in our country... We will wring their necks as one might a duck." Such were the words of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in 2006, in which he preempted protests against his anticipated victory in that year’s March presidential election. An election that, like each and every one held in Belarus between 1994 and 2020, he would win in a dramatic 60%+ landslide, and almost certainly by virtue of pre-curated electoral rigging according to numerous human rights watchdogs. Indeed, given the degree to which opposition demonstrations have been a chronic concern for the 26-year-old Lukashenko administration, it is hardly surprising that rigged electoral outcomes and the subsequently swift detention of political opposition by the Belarusian KGB have become the standard practice of the regime nicknamed “Europe’s Last Dictatorship." However, as these opposition protests now balloon to an unprecedented scale to a six figure turnout in the wake of the last week's presidential election, the question on most observers’ minds is not if Lukashenko’s regime will collapse in the coming months, but rather exactly how it will. While the former constituent states of the USSR are no strangers to self-styled dictators with indomitable cults of personality, the marshy wooded plains and utilitarian urban skylines of landlocked Belarus have seen more than two-and-a-half decades of heavy-handed rule by virtually a single man seeking to preserve the spirit of the Soviet Union. On the European continent, where political liberalism and representative governance has long since become the norm, how has Lukashenko managed to remain in control of Belarus for so long? From the Ashes: Rise of a Tyrant Although existing as a distinctly-Slavic substate entity for more than a millennium, Belarus only became an independent nation in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Over the following three years, a continuation of the country's Supreme Soviet council would draft a national constitution and authorize the first democratic elections in 1994. This two-round election saw a 39-year-old populist named Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko win by a resounding margin of more than 65%. A former Soviet border guard and later a collective farm director, Lukashenko’s early forays into politics established him as an outspoken adversary of corruption, a reputation that got him elected to the Supreme Council in 1990. In 1993, leveraging his position as a chairman on the council’s anti-corruption committee, he accused over 70 ministers, including Supreme Soviet Chairman Stanislav Shushkevich and Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kebich, of corruption and embezzlement. Although these allegations were later found to be unsubstantiated, the damage it caused to the reputations of Belarus’s leading statesmen and Lukashenko’s perceived crusade against political greed greatly supported his 1994 bid for the Presidency. Once in office, Lukashenko began to quickly consolidate power. In 1995, a referendum granted President Lukashenko the ability to dissolve the parliament by decree, an explicit violation of the 1994 Constitution. Conveniently, in a referendum the following year, the original Belarusian Constitution was voided and replaced by an amended Constitution drawn up by Lukashenko himself, granting him virtually full governing authority. The complimentary and well-timed nature of these referendums led many to suggest that the outcomes were fixed, with parliamentarians referring to the 1996 referendum as a “farce”. Unsurprisingly, this variety of electoral rigging appears to have become commonplace under the Lukashenko administration. The New Motherland: Preserving the Soviet Legacy Over the successive years, Lukashenko’s domestic policy has focused on strict Russification via the strengthening of Belarus’s economic and cultural ties to Russia. To this end, the promotion of the Russian language and suppression of the Belarusian language, the imposition of the Russian Orthodoxy over other Eastern Orthodox Church denominations, and the frequent evocation of anti-Western rhetoric have all become standard in Lukashenko’s Belarus. Lukashenko himself is a frequent visitor to the Kremlin as well as a close acquaintance of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has been eager to replicate Putin’s “strongman” image through such endeavors as frequent military parades and state-sanctioned photo-ops of Lukashenko’s personal life. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his son Nikolai are pictured in a 2015 campaign ad picking potatoes and melons to be sent to orphanages and nursing homes. Image Source: Euronews External commentators have described this kind of rustic posturing as an attempt to revive the politically-advantageous legacy of the Soviet Union, using Russian imagery and socio-political traditions as the nostalgic impetus for doing so. Russia, for its part, has leveraged its influence over Belarus to influence its foreign policy, keeping the European Union and United States at a safe distance from Belarus in diplomacy for the better part of two decades. Additionally, Russia maintains an active customs union and common market with Belarus, heightening the latter’s economic dependence on Russian exports and trade, and through the 1999 Union State agreement, the Russian state has been able to effectively direct Belarusian monetary policy. Although initially pegged to several currencies, the Belarusian ruble’s exchange rate was fully floated in 2011, following Russian pressure amidst allegations of Belarusian currency manipulation. Belarus, in spite of these circumstances, has reasonably benefited from this close relationship to Russia. It shares a collective security agreement (CSTO) with Russia and four other post-Soviet States, affording it the nominal support of Russia in matters of diplomacy and national defense. Moreover, its gross national income per capita almost quintupled between 1993 and 2011, largely a result of Russian investment and preferential trade gains. And yet, such stability could not possibly last under the iron thumb. Lukashenko’s bid to distance his country from the oligarchical institutions of Russia as well as his unstable monetary and trade policies have begun to drive a wedge between the two Slavic states, and it is clear that Putin has begun to see Belarus’s usefulness as contingent on Lukashenko's now-waning obedience. The Beginning of the End Given the recent weight of chronic issues like unemployment, deteriorating ties to Russia, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the globalization pressures and political liberalization so ubiquitous to the neighboring European continent, it was inevitable that such outspoken opposition to Lukashenko would eventually arise. Aside from the allegedly-fixed elections intended to provide the regime with a veil of democratic sanctity, free expression is understandably limited in Belarus. The country has been consistently ranked by Freedom House as being the most censored nation in Europe, and among the top 10 most censored nations on the planet. Virtually all media is state-operated, and those few independent journalists who do proliferate face intimidation, incarceration, and occasionally assassination, forcing any private media outlets to either practice strict self-censorship or operate underground. These tendencies have extended to the internet and social media, the arts, and forms of entertainment that may be interpreted as critical of the Lukashenko government. Prominent dissenters face voracious harassment, arrest and even often-violent interrogation by the KGB secret police, and friends and family of the convicted are often found guilty by association. This startling degree of censorship is complemented by Lukashenko's erratic, short-sighted and often unpopular policymaking. Although his recent COVID-19 denial and initial refusal to address the pandemic made headlines, it is hardly the first time Lukashenko’s domestic policies received sharp rebuke. He has attempted on multiple occasions to repopulate areas of southern Belarus evacuated during the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, insisting that the still-highly-contaminated countryside is safe for habitation, “relocating” thousands of urban homeless to these areas to work the irradiated soils, and at least once claiming that nuclear radiation was a “myth” created by the country’s opposition intended to undermine him. Infamously, Lukashenko attempted to institute a “social parasite tax” in 2015, which was intended to punish those working less than 183 days per year and was ultimately suspended following protests in 2017. The Current Situation It finally appears that the strain of these exhaustive policies, the continuous government crackdown on free expression, and numerous rigged elections and referenda have caused the tensions to boil over, as many disillusioned Belarusians taking to the streets to air their pent up grievances. Protestors gathered in Minsk on August 16th, 2020. Banner translation: "Fair Elections. Tribunal. Freedom for Political Prisoners." These are far from the first protests seen in the autocratic state, as the Lukashenko administration’s tolerance of a small yet visible and powerless opposition has been the keystone to his perceived legitimacy. Nonetheless, they are by far the largest that country has yet seen, as a sizable and vocal opposition has since rallied around opposition frontrunner, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a housewife-turned-activist who is currently under asylum in Lithuania to avoid the characteristic imprisonment associated with most all of Lukashenko’s opponents post-election. She has since established a transitionary council-in-exile and claims that she likely defeated Lukashenko in first round with between 60-70% support, requesting international recognition as the Belarusian president-elect. Meanwhile in Belarus, the strife is only skyrocketing in scale and intensity. According to the most recent estimates, the protests grown to roughly half a million demonstrators nationwide, with anywhere from three-fifths to four-fifths of those convened in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, and smaller yet significant demonstrations in virtually all other cities, including Gomel, Brest, Grodno, Mogilev and Vitebsk. Likewise, Lukashenko has mobilized his own base of support to counterprotest against the opposition, leading to numerous reported clashes between pro- and anti-Lukashenko groups. Nevertheless, it has been the government response to the protests that have received the most syndication, with over 7,000 protestors arrests, hundreds of injuries, and several deaths attributed to the government's crackdowns and containment efforts. Footage showing arbitrary abductions and physical brutality by police and federal troops continues to emerge as the protests show few signs of slowing. While Lukashenko continues to denounce the protests as an illegal coup by the opposition backed by “various Western actors”, his traditional ally Putin has been slow to respond or provide assistance to Lukashenko, aside from mobilizing a few divisions in the vicinity of the Belarusian border. This reluctance is not at all surprising given Lukashenko’s campaign accusations of Russian meddling and support for Tsikhanouskaya after 33 Russian mercenaries of the Wagner Group were arrested in Minsk in July. The hesitation on part of Russia may become a focal point for the future of the country as the unrest continues to develop. Leading up to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the overwhelming Crimean support for cession from Ukraine and union with the Russian Federation made Putin’s decision to annex the peninsula relatively simple to make. Likewise, Putin’s own ambitions for Belarus remain ambiguous and likely conditional upon the evolving public sentiment, so exactly how Russia might take action, in support of whom, or if they will even respond at all, will be an integral variable moving forward. --- Matthew Fuzi is the Associate Editor of the National Times.
OPINION: He Who Controls The Past, Controls The Future
Illinois state Rep. LaShawn K. Ford joined community leaders to call for the abolishment of history classes in schools. Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right. A quote from George Orwell's, 1984. If that quote above sounds familiar or similar to things going on today, its because today we are seeing an attack on our history. Today we are seeing our history destroyed or left out in teaching in the name of racism. Many believe that because our history has events and occurrences that may have involved racism, we should get rid of all statues to it and end all teaching of it to our children. As I mentioned in a previous article here on The National Times, the world of Orwell's 1984 brings to light what a government that has complete control of its people would look like. I even brought up how the main character, Winston, works for the Ministry of Truth which has the role of erasing, falsifying, and forging any piece of history that contradicts what the Party says. In this article, I'd like to explore how we are seeing the beginning of that level of censorship. The censorship of our history has been going on for years in the form of getting rid of the statues to Confederate Generals and those who supported the Confederacy. While that may seem justified, that was only the beginning of the censorship. In this case, the saying, give an inch and they'll take it a mile has come to fruition. When it came to the Confederate statues, many suggested the idea that the statues be removed from the public grounds and moved onto the National Park Battlefields, but even that idea has been turned down by those who wish to see all of the statues comes down. Recently, The House of Representatives passed a bill which would have our battlefields take down all Confederate "commemorative works," if it were to be passed by the Senate and signed by the President. The bill in question is HR-7608, which was passed on July 24th by a vote of 224-189, which states that the National Park Service (NPS): Shall remove from display all physical Confederate commemorative works, such as statues, monuments, sculptures, memorials, and plaques, as defined by NPS, Management Policies 2006, §9.6.1" That then means all such Confederate items from Gettysburg, Antietam, Manassas, Fredericksburg, Appomattox, Petersburg, Fort Donaldson, Stone River, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Tupelo, Corinth, and Chickamauga and ,any others would all come down. The issue with HR-7608 is that this part about the Confederate statues was skillfully buried deep inside of this 727-page appropriations bill by the House Democrats. The main purpose of this bill was to fund State, Agriculture departments, as well as the EPA and the Department of the Interior. But, in the past few months, the protestors and rioters in the streets have taken it upon themselves to not just vandalize and pull down Confederate statues, but also statues of prominent figures like Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Frederick Douglass. None of them supported the Confederacy or were Confederates so why are they under attack? Because our history as a whole is under attack. In Illinois, state representatives have decided to bring up the idea of abolishing all history curriculum in public schools. Their reasoning behind this decision comes from their belief that the current history curriculum leads to a racist society and it overlooks the contributions of women and minorities. As said by Democrat Illinois State Representative LaShawn K. Ford in a press release at the beginning of this month: I’m calling on the Illinois State Board of Education and local school districts to take immediate action by removing current history books and curriculum practices that unfairly communicate our history until a suitable alternative is developed The problem is there is not a suitable alternative to history that does not involve the changing of facts, the falsifying of documents, and the misinterpretation of events. This we get a quote from Orwell's 1984 which I also incorporated into the title of this article. Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. State Representative Ford alluded to what is being discussed in that quote as he says that the way our history curriculum is now, it leads to more a racist society. So in that case, the past is controlling the future. The next step it would seem the Democrats want to take is to control the past through the process of taking down the Confederate monuments on the battlefields as well as through changing the curriculum that our children learn in school. Truly, Orwell was ahead of his time when it comes to the world that he created in 1984. Sadly though it would appear we are getting closer and closer to a world as Orwell described. We must stand up against such legislation that impacts our history and teaching of history so deeply. Whether it is racist or not, we must preserve our history. --- Nicholas Farrow is an Opinion Contributor for the National Times
Court Overturns Hillary's Deposition Case
Clover Chronicle On the eve of the 2012 presidential election was the Benghazi attacks carried out by Islamic terrorists that left four Americans dead. The government’s untimely response and poor handling of the situation led many to suspect its involvement with the attack. This belief only solidified when it was discovered the Obama administration deliberately misled the public by scrubbing the CIA talking points through twelve revisions. The final report on the attacks would not be released until four years later, in the summer of 2016. This scandal has angered many Americans over the years who continue to demand justice. Judicial Watch launched a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in 2014 into the matter. This lawsuit directly led to the discovery of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton using a private server for international communications. This is in violation of federal law and jeopardizes national security. Upon this discovery, Hillary attempted to erase 33,000 emails by utilizing the program BleachBit. She claimed all 33,000 emails were “personal”, but it was later determined half of them were actually work-related. Judicial Watch consequently filed seven separate FOIA lawsuits demanding the release of her emails. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth would state that Hillary’s use of a private server was “one of the gravest modern offenses to government transparency”. On several occasions the court has been told all emails have been released, but with each new hearing, more emails and documents suddenly appear. The court has demanded explanation for the new emails regarding their origin because they were not previously disclosed. Judge Lamberth further explained: State has not represented to the Court that the private emails of State’s former employees who corresponded with Secretary Clinton have been searched for additional Clinton emails. State has thus failed to persuade the Court that all of Secretary Clinton’s recoverable emails have been located. This is unacceptable. This matter only worsened when Judicial Watch uncovered an additional 756 pages of Hillary’s emails that were not previously disclosed to the court. And it was later learned that the Department of Justice granted Hillary immunity during the FBI investigation. This ongoing scandal has been dragged out for several years, with the DOS/DOJ attempting to close the case at every turn despite new information continuously surfacing. This past spring however, Hillary, not wanting to testify under oath, filed an appeal for a deposition. On May 21, the court issued an order demanding counsel for Hillary/DOS to present their argument on June 2. But the public had no knowledge of this because the media—coincidently—completely shut down on this day as it was #blackouttuesday. Hillary lost the case and was ordered to appear in September to present a deposition. But the latest news from this ongoing eight-year scandal is the Appeals Court overturning Hillary’s case—no longer requiring her to provide a sworn deposition for explanation. The court ruled that the burden of investigation now lies on the Trump administration, despite these events occurring at the dawn of the Obama administration eight years ago. The Benghazi attacks occurred immediately before the 2012 election. The final report was released four years later immediately before the 2016 election. And the next hearing was scheduled another four years later immediately before the 2020 election. The Benghazi-Clinton scandal has still not received the proper media attention nor justice it deserves, causing many Americans to grow increasingly frustrated. --- Adam LeDuc is the Executive Editor for The National Times
Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment
Britannica The Declaration of Independence states “all men are created equal.” While that is a crucial and victorious part of our history, women were excluded from this narrative. However on August 18th, 1920 the 19th amendment was ratified, stating: the right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. This began an important and worthwhile fight. Today, we celebrate 100 years of one of the most important victories for women all across the nation. This movement that would change the face of the country forever, began in 1848 with the Seneca Falls convention. Organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, it was attended by major political game changers such as Susan B. Anthony and Fredrick Douglas. Women and men made speeches and pressured members of congress to recognize the women's right to vote. The role of women was changing, they were no longer chained to the expectations of a housewife. Women could become educated and were encouraged to become politically active and as their aspirations expanded they wanted to be integrated into society, no longer being held back by oppressive laws. After many failed attempts, dating back to as early as decades of protesting and fighting paid off. In 1919, both Democrats and Republicans were in agreement and the amendment was passed by the House and the Senate, finally ratified in 1920. While this was a huge triumph for many women, namely middle class white women, the fight was long from over. Women of color, immigrants, and lower income women were often deterred from voting by laws and social pressure. African American women played a huge part in earning women's suffrage in 1920 but their fight, especially in the South, lasted much longer. They wouldn't truly earn the right to vote until 1965. Things like the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943, the adoption of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, the 24th Amendment in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, along with its amendments of 1970 and 1975 were what truly led to victory for all women. Today, women voters are just as resilient and not only play an important, but essential part of politics. According to Pew Research Center, women have higher turnout for midterm elections dating all the way back to 1998. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, women have voted at higher rates than men in every presidential election since 1964. The first women to be elected into the House in 1916 was Jeanette Rankin but only in the past few decades have women begun to truly increase their numbers. Nearly two thirds of the women elected into the House since Rankin have been elected in the last 28 years. Today, 102 women serve in the House of Representatives, a record breaking number. Women have made it extremely clear, their voices are important and they demand to be heard. Michelle Obama said in an interview with Bazaar: It took decades of marching, organizing, and standing up to folks who thought that democracy should be of, by, and for only some of the people. And then we had to fight for decades more to ensure that women of color could cast their ballots as well. These victories were hard-won. But the struggle was worth it because our foremothers knew that our vote is our voice. It gives us the power to determine the course of our lives and the direction of our country. The greatest way to honor the heroes who paved the way for equality is to vote. They fought tirelessly for us and we must repay them by showing them their struggles were worthwhile. Your vote matters and in order to make this country a place to be proud we have to honor each and every voice. Leaders such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave us the power to change the world, so show up to elections and celebrate one of the most beautiful privileges we are granted as American citizens. --- Presley Berry is a Dual Correspondent for The National Times
Lineup for Democratic National Convention Announced
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel On Tuesday, the speaker line-up for next week’s Democratic National Convention was announced. The convention will consist of four days of two hour televised speeches from Monday, August 17th, to Thursday, August 20th. The lineup features big Democratic names with a mix of moderate and progressive speakers. John Kasich, former Republican presidential candidate who ran against Trump in 2016, will also be speaking to try and appeal to Republican voters to support former Vice President Joe Biden. The convention will lead up to Biden and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) accepting their nominations as president and vice president. Democrats also want to highlight issues presented by everyday Americans by giving small business owners, teachers, factory workers and front-line health care workers speaking slots. Stephanie Cutter, 2020 Democratic National Convention Program Executive, said: Over the last several months in planning this convention, we had two goals in mind: to include more Americans than ever before, and to ensure that all Americans see themselves reflected in what they were viewing The Organizers have also announced themes for each day. Monday is “We the People,” Tuesday being “Leadership Matters,” Wednesday as “A More Perfect Union”, and Thursday is “America’s Promise.” Although additional speakers could still be added, here is the lineup so far: Monday: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former first lady Michelle Obama, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Rep. Jim Clyburn, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Rep. Bennie Thompson, Sen. Doug Jones and Rep. Gwen Moore Tuesday: Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, former President Bill Clinton, Former Secretary of State John Kerry, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester and Jill Biden, Joe Biden's spouse. Wednesday: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former President Barack Obama, Former Rep. Gabby Giffords, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Kamala Harris accepting the nomination for Vice President. Thursday: New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Sen. Chris Coons, the Biden family and the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. While some of Biden’s primary rivals are speaking there is some notable candidates left out. This includes Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former housing secretary Julian Castro and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who expressed his disappointment on Twitter. Because of the pandemic, the Democratic party is hoping to send a message about how their nominee plans to handle dire situations in a time of crisis. DNC Chair Tom Perez said: From the very beginning of this pandemic, we put the health and safety of the American people first. We followed the science, listened to doctors and public health experts, and we continued making adjustments to our plans in order to protect lives. That’s the kind of steady and responsible leadership America deserves. And that’s the leadership Joe Biden will bring to the White House. The Democratic Convention will be broadcasted on all major television networks, social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and streaming services like Apple TV and Roku. You can also tune in live from the DNC’s website for what's sure to be a very unique event. --- Presley Berry is a Dual Correspondent for the National Times
Biden Campaign Announces Senator Kamala Harris as Running Mate
Kamala Harris has been selected as Democratic VP candidate. Image Source: Flickr Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden announced on Tuesday afternoon that he has officially selected Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) as his running mate. This announcement makes Kamala Harris the third female, as well as the first black and the first Asian-American candidate nominated for the role of Vice President from a major U.S. political party. The final decision comes amid weeks of speculation and anticipation by media and political commentators, as the Biden campaign repeatedly pushed back the announcement date. Among other prospects for the VP role have been Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Senators Tammy Duckworth and Elizabeth Warren, Georgia State Rep. Stacy Abrams, and former White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice. The rationale behind her particular selection remains unknown, although it is speculated that the nomination of the California senator could provide the Democrats with some geographic certainty in the Western U.S. Additionally, her mixed racial background and career in law enforcement oversight and addressing racial bias in policing as the district attorney of San Fransisco could make the Democratic ticket appear more proactive in light of the pressing issues of race relations and police reform, despite allegations that she resisted reforms to policing during her time as a DA. --- Matthew Fuzi is the Associate Editor for The National Times.
Over 100 alleged Human Rights Violations Committed in Response to Floyd Death
Baton Rouge Protest July 11/Common Dreams On August 4th, Amnesty International released a report claiming police officers have committed approximately 125 human rights violations. The report covered a 10 day period from May 26 to June 5. The violations include "at least six incidents of police using batons, and 13 instances of the use of kinetic impact projectiles such as sponge rounds and rubber bullets in 13 cities across the United States". It also found over 20 "unlawful" uses of pepper spray and 89 uses of tear gas, both of which were used as first resorts. Interviews from protestors further confirm the violations. A legal observer, whose named has been redacted for safety reasons, recounts: Three to four more officers who were behind me pulled me up onto a concrete barrier and threw me over onto a wheelchair ramp. I landed on my back and lost my hat. I was looking around when three or four other officers started hitting me with batons. Another protester tried to stop the police, and they started hitting him. People were yelling ‘legal observer’ as it was happening. I was crouched, trying to protect myself, and telling them, ‘I’m not resisting, I’m not resisting.’ Another protestor had to be resuscitated after being hit in the chest with a flash grenade. Justin Mazzola, Amnesty's Deputy Director of Research, compares these riots to the riots in Ferguson from five year ago in an interview with The Hill: Just as we saw a militarized response and the deployment of excessive amounts of chemical irritants, the indiscriminate and unnecessary use of kinetic impact projectiles and physical force against protesters in Ferguson, we have seen those same tactics used against protesters on a national scale. --- Andrew Fielden is an Editor-At-Large for The National Times