Political Communication – YouTube Responds to the Challenge of Becoming a Responsible Social Media Platform

Political institutions encompass not only parties of political candidates seeking for government positions. They also include advocacy organizations pushing for reforms and activists seeking for equality and justice. Now more than ever, social media can provide the most effective channel in which political institutions can deliver their political communication.

There is no shortage of social media platforms in which to communicate ideas, but if for purposes of delivering political messages, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become the frontrunners in the array of choices. Yet Twitter is out of the picture as far as political ads are concerned, as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey prefers promoting political endorsements that garner organic support.

Facebook, albeit leading as a social media platform, suffers from trust issues; given the data breach scandals particularly the Cambridge Analytica case that revealed how Trump’s digital campaign team manipulated FB user accounts in advancing Trump’s political campaign.

Google’s YouTube therefore has become an important Internet marketing space where political institutions can put forward their political communication. Given YouTube’s current ranking as the next largest search engine on a global scale, and its present count of 2 billion active users, the largest video-sharing social media platform has evolved into becoming a major source of political and social information.

It does not come as a surprise at all, why there was a mad scramble among political campaign teams when Google announced the activation of a new advertising app called “Instant Reserve.” The software gives political institutions, tools that enable them to buy and reserve advertising slots in advance. At the same time, they can customize their political advertisement according to their budget, as well as program them to appear in geolocations where the ads will be most timely and relevant.

In addition, Google and its YouTube platform made certain policy changes that aim to avoid committing Facebook’s political advertising errors in the 2016 presidential elections.

Google/YouTube’s New Ad-Targeting Policies

Political adverts appearing in Google and YouTube will have to tailor-fit their advertisement around the age, gender and postcode of their target audience. This denotes that publishers of advertising campaigns can not target voters based on the issues they either support or do not support (e.g. abortion, LGBTQ marriage, marijuana legalization.)

That being the case, uploading personal info data other than the aforementioned demographic factors to target specific sets of audience, is not allowed

Nonetheless, the Google and YouTube platforms will direct political advertisements to users who read and watch content related to specific issues occurring as published content.

The policy updates also address ads and content that aim to mislead voters by insinuating there is voter suppression, or by making unfounded claims that there is a breach in the integrity of the elections. Apparently, this update took into consideration the the slew of fake political news the discouraged millions of voters from going out and exercise their right to vote in the 2016 presidential election.

Whistleblower’s Complaint vs Trump : Current Speculations Point to Trump’s Bullying of Ukrainian President

Last week, the news media stream was full of reports about an alleged intelligence officer blowing the whistle on U.S. president Trump. The complaint contained allegations about Trump’s disturbing conduct in connection with several phone conversations held with a foreign leader.

The Washington Post was the first to carry the whistle-blowing incident, but which to date, still has vague details. As it turned out, the National Intelligence Director to whom the complaint was submitted chose to bring the matter to Trump, instead of bringing it to Congress as required by legal whistle-blowing procedures.

Speculations about the Details of the Whistleblower’s Complaint

The different major news outlets have pieced together bits and pieces of information on events that led to the whistle-blowing complaint filed by the intelligence officer.

On all points of view, the alleged misconduct is in connection with Trump’s widely publicized action of pressuring the newly-elected president of Ukraine to gather evidence aimed at smearing Joe Biden. That is because former vice-president Biden has been leading polls that suggest he will be the Democratic candidate most likely to face Trump in the 2020 presidential elections.

Who is the whistleblower?

Some are looking to either former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who resigned last July 2019, or to Susan Gordon, the former Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, who also resigned a month after.

According to The Times, Coats resigned not only because the Trump administration continued to water down his warnings about Russian activities that pose threats to U.S. national security. The former intelligence director’s greater grievance is that the White House altered certain sections in Coats’ dossier about Russia’s interference in the 2018 midterm elections. The purpose of which was to make certain information stated therein, appear less critical.

Susan Gordon, on the other hand, submitted her handwritten resignation to Trump, on August 2019, which read

“I offer this letter as an act of respect and patriotism, not preference. You should have your team,”

Thereafter, Trump replaced the two intelligence officers with known Trump loyalists, including the new intelligence director who did not submit the whistleblower’s complaint to Congress.

What “Promise” Could be Disturbing Enough to Move an Intelligence Officer to Blow the Whistle?

In continuing with the speculations, the question of to whom Trump’s “promise” was made remains a mystery. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian before he was elected president by majority of the Ukrainians, seems a likely candidate. He is known to have tread cautiously to avoid provoking Trump, lest the latter makes good on his threat to suspend the $250 million military aid that Congress appropriated for Ukraine. The financial aid is meant to help the country ward off Russia’s military might.

Zelensky’s first show of cooperation was when it halted any participation or involvement in Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections. This denotes that even before Congress approved the $250 million military aid, the Ukrainian president was already in direct communication with the White House

In August, 2019 it was reported that Trump was delaying the release of the Ukraine military aid. After questions about the slow delivery were raised by both Congressional Republicans and Democrats, Trump finally approved the release in mid-September, a week before the news of the intelligence whistleblower’s complaint blew up.

However, the latest Washington Post update said that according to the whistleblower, there was no mention of military aid during the conversation.

Frankly, unless Congress sheds light to this by way of a hearing, no one knows the exact reasons that moved an intelligence officer to finally blow the whistle on Trump.

Most Ring Neighbors App Users Don’t Have Issues with Amazon’s Collaboration with Police Departments

Ring Doorbell made big news in February 2018, when the world’s richest person Jeff Besos, founder and CEO of Amazon, bought the Ring company for a whopping price of $1 billion. It made even bigger news last July 2019, when word spread that Amazon had entered into surveillance agreements with hundreds of police departments across the U.S. using the Ring Neighbors app.

Although the collaboration with local law enforcements drew controversy, many homeowners are more than happy to know their Ring doorbell cameras are connected to their local police department. After all, it gives them the extra assurance that their properties are being closely monitored by the police for suspicious activities. Moreover, it can ease their anxiety in case some intruder does try to enter their home; knowing that the Neighbors app can also alert the local police. .

What’s the Fuss about Amazon’s Ring Partnership with Police Authorities

The Ring partnership with law enforcement agencies gives police departments access via the Ring Neighbors app. It is the application that allows homeowners to interact with their Ring doorbell from any Wi-Fi connected location. It also gives them the option to involve their neighbors and the police in monitoring video footage taken by their Ring Doorbell camera. Amazon’s agreement includes allowing U.S. law enforcement agencies to use surveillance video footage as supplementary resource in solving crimes.

 

 

One of the controversial aspects of the agreement though is that local police departments are incentivized to promote and push sales of Ring doorbells among community residents. Motherboard, an enterprise mainly engaged in recycling e-wastes, said that in Lakeland, Florida, the police department received 15 free video doorbell cams as incentive for the Neighborhood Watch app agreement. In addition, the Lakeland police agency receives $10 worth of credit that works toward receiving another free doorbell cam worth $135, from the Ring company.

The Decision to Buy a Ring Doorbell Still Rests on the Consumer

Consumers who buy a doorbell outfitted with video cameras are doing so because they are looking to add security to their home. Now if the doorbell’s video camera works with a smartphone app, homeowners are assured that everyone in their household will be opening the door only to people they know, or at least receive confirmation about a particular visitor before letting him or her in.

Actually, even before the Ring agreement with police agencies, the Ring Neighbors app, gives doorbell and app users the option to give access to their neighbors. That way, they can watch each other’s backs in monitoring suspicious characters prowling around their neighborhood.

Formally involving the local police in the neighborhood watch appears to be better, because having a Ring Doorbell in one’s home will already serve as a deterrent. It is likely that criminals will think twice before getting anywhere near a house with a Ring Doorbell, since there is a possibility that the local police will be able to spot them instantly via the Ring Neighbors app.

So if a community resident is in the process of comparing the pros and cons of a Ring 2 vs Ring Pro, he or she may decide on buying the Ring Pro Doorbell. Despite the Ring Pro’s wired set up, this model gives them additional security features via the Ring Neighbors app.

Trump’s Frequent Racist-Tweets are Endangering the Minority Population in the U.S.

Donald Trump, despite being the holder of the highest office in the U.S. has become more aggressive and dangerous in expressing his dislike for the non-white minority population of the country. As days and political activities advance toward the 2020 presidential elections; or toward Trump’s possible impeachment before the presidential elections, he has been unleashing double-edged racist slurs one after another.

Although many perceive it as Trump’s way of rousing support from his white-supremacist supporters, minority groups are also concerned that his racist attacks are endangering their safety as citizens of the U.S. Attacks that even lawmakers are not spared, since 4 women Democratic House Representatives and Democratic House Committee Chairman Representative Elijah Cummings, all of color, were not spared.

If no less than the president of the U.S. is tweeting and mouthing hate remarks directed at respected and prominent elected officials, then his supporters will likely feel justified to follow their leader.

Trump denies being a racist, which drew affirmation from websites frequented by his white supremacist supportes, including the openly neo-Nazis. He also elicited chants of “send her back” during his speech in his rally in Greenville, North Carolina, in support of his verbal attacks against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, one of the House Representatives making up The Squad. In fact, after his attention-calling racist tweets in July, Trump enjoyed an increased approval rating coming from Republican voters.

Will Increased Approval Rating also Mean More White Supremacist Violence?

Ordinary non-white citizens feel they are no longer safe, as some are already looking into installing CCTV cameras in their homes as added protection. They are well aware of the importance of elections, and what some candidates are capable of doing just to get the vote they need to get elected or at worst, be re-elected in their current government positions.

There is no telling what deplorable acts of terrorism white supremacist fanatics will do, in order to prevent members of the minority groups from casting votes that could unseat Trump. They have been emboldened by Trump’s statement of “I don’t know if I can stop them (Trump supporters).” After all, the statement suggests that when it comes to imposing anti-racist laws, Trump becomes less aggressive.

Remember the Charlottesville incident in 2017? It involved a neo-Nazi rallyist who drove his car right into the group of counterprotesters voicing disapproval over white supremacists taking to the streets to promote Nazi ideology. The incident resulted to the deaths of a counterprotester named Heather Heyer and two police officers, and the life imprisonment of the neo-Nazi attacker, James Alex Fields, Jr.

The sad part about this incident is that Donald Trump still called the white supremacist rallyists as a bunch of “fine people”.

Installing surveillance cameras not only in homes but all over a community is one good way of monitoring people who may have intentions of doing harm. It is not uncommon for acts of aggression to happen especially when an election period draws near. In Texas and Chicago, surveillance cameras are installed in polling places to ensure, not only the integrity of the voting process that transpires, but also to heighten the security.

As a note, those interested to heed the advice of security service providers will find bargain deals for surveillance cameras at the Amazon Great Indian Sale on Electronics.

Trump Approval Ratings from Fellow GOP, Not a Sound Basis for Predicting Outcomes of 2020 Elections

Customary of news coming from U.S. president Donald Trump, he is currently spreading information that his approval ratings went up after targeting Congress’ 4 women-of color. The statement is partly true, but that went without clarifying that the approval came mostly from Republican supporters and not from a larger number of voters representing the country.

A new poll by USA Today showed that 57% of Republican voters agree that Trump’s verbal tirade against the four Congresswomen collectively referred to as The Squad, was not racist. However, in the latest CBS poll on an overall scale, 59% of the American voters polled, do not approve of Trump’s racist remarks, leaving 40 % who signified approval.

On a party level, 93% percent of Democrats and 68% percent of those supporting independents, regard Trump’s racist tweets as offensive, while among Republicans, only 37% held the same stance.

The latest party-level polls clearly indicate that there exists a partisan divide. Yet in a country in which the number of non-white population can have a significant impact in the 2020 presidential elections, their force is fast becoming a factor to consider. Racist tweets and “send her back” chants against lawmakers-of -color can surely influence the votes of a large demographic of non-white Americans.

In fact, Republican members who are aware of this, are trying to distance themselves from Trump’s racial slurs. Most of them come from American states in which the majority already consists of the so-called minority groups.

West Texas Republican Representative Will Hurd, the only black Republican in the Lower House and one of four GOP members who sided with House Democrats in condemning Trump’s racist tweets said.

”The tweets were not only racist, but they are also bad politics.”

American States in which Minorities Now Represent Majority of the Population

In stressing the impact of states with large numbers of minority voters, analysis of the July 2018 US census is currently showing projections that in less than a quarter century, white people will eventually make up the minority. The forecast is that around 70% of today’s population will see that happen during their lifetime.

In five American states, namely California, Hawaii, District of Columbia, New Mexico and Texas, the shift from minority-majority has already taken place. According to the projections, the tipping point of the shift to minority-majority across the country, could occur just in time for the 2020 presidential elections. That is because many among the minority groups will turn 18 years old on the said year. As an example, below is the:

Latest U.S. Census Estimates of Texas’ Minority-Majority

  • 41.5% – White Alone
  • 39.6% – Hispanic or Latino
  • 12.8% – African American
  • 5% – Asian

Fox News Publishes Results of Latest Fox Poll Showing Trump as a Less Favored Presidential Candidate

The most recent Fox News Poll conducted between June 09 and 12, 2019 involving 1001 randomly selected registered voters, revealed results not favorable to the re-election bid of incumbent president, Donald Trump. Despite being the news agency favored by Trump because it does not publish “fake news,” Fox News published the poll results showing that most responders would choose a Democratic candidate over Donald Trump.

Actually, polls were conducted by Fox News in collaboration with Beacon Research (Democrat) and Shaw Company (Republican), in 3 different occasions: March 17 – 20, 2019; May 11 – 14, 2019 and June 09 -12, 2019. The 3 polls, albeit showing different figures in terms of percentages, produced consistent results that many among the polled voters will lean toward voting for former Vice President Joe Biden.

Other Interesting Aspects of the Fox News Poll Results

On the question of who among the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, respondents would like to see as Trump’s opponent, Joe Biden is in the lead. Biden had a showing of 32% in the June poll, coming from a 35% and 31% results in the May and March polls, respectively.

However, to a question in the June poll that asked interviewees on how they would react if Trump is re-elected, thirty percent (30%) said they would be Scared, while twenty-one percent (21%) would be Enthusiastic . The same question was asked in previous polls conducted in connection with the 2016 presidential elections, in which as many as forty-nine percent (49%) were Scared and only thirteen percent (13%) were Enthusiastic.

On hypothetical 2020 presidential match-ups fielding other top Democratic candidate as Trump’s potential opponent, the June poll results showed the incumbent president losing.

  • Bernie Sanders garnered 49% while Trump had 40%
  • Elizabeth Warren won with 43% against Trump’s 41%
  • Kamala Harris earned 42%, a slight edge over Trump’s 41%
  • Pete Buttigieg’s latest 41% showing against Trump’s 40%, was a reversal of a previous Buttigieg 40% – Trump 41%.

Senate Judiciary Hearing on AG Barr: A Great Example of Partisan Politics

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last Wednesday, May 01, 2019 in which US Attorney General William Barr wash harshly grilled by Democratic Senators, provided ample proof that partisan politics continues to prevail over matters that required unbiased judgment.

AG Barr was called on to discuss special counsel Mueller’s Report after he released a redacted copy last April 18, 2018. AG Barr though released a 448-page report in which 11% of the text had been redacted. Nearly 40% of the pages released by AG Barr had at least one redaction, comprising well over 900 redacted text blocks in all. The report was divided into 2 volumes:

VOLUME 1 – Mueller’s report on investigations to which a conclusion was reached that there was Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election won by Donald Trump. Such interference is deemed a violation of U.S. criminal law.

VOLUME 2 – Mueller’s report citing instances in which President Trump made attempts to obstruct justice by trying to control the ongoing investigations and by trying to wield his presidential influence on those who refused to abide with his instructions.

What Barr’s Testimony Revealed during the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing

The overall impression that AG Barr gave is that he viewed Mueller’s report as a condensation of false accusations that Donald Trump was part of the group who were coordinating with the supposed Russian interference. A stance for which he received grilling questions coming mostly from Democratic Senators.

On several occasions, AG Barr asserted that Donald Trump was falsely accused,. It was his defense on why he concluded that the Mueller investigation did not provide enough evidence to support that Trump was in collusion with the alleged Russian interference. He believes that obstruction of justice was not present because Trump was merely acting on his constitutional àuthority to supervise groundless and unfounded proceedings.

Barr’s testimony also revealed that partisan politics was at work since several times during the hearing, and whenever AG Barr fumbled with his answers, Panel Chairman Lindsey Graham (Rep-S.C.) came to Barr’s rescue by saying the Attorney General is being slandered.

Calls for AG Barr’s Resignation after Conclusion of Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing

Democratic Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand who are also in the running for president in the 2020 elections, joined other Democrats on calls for AG Barr to resign. The general consensus is that AG William Barr had lied to Congress and therefor not worthy of the trust placed on him as head of the Department of Justice.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Dem-Ca.) prefers to reserve judgment until after their turn to question AG Barr on Thursday via the House’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Still, Speaker Pelosi opined that after the Senate hearing, AG Barr’s responses and comments do not live up to the standards conforming to an attorney general.

Closing Of US Mexico Border: Trump’s Real Intent is to Close Ports of Entry

Apparently feeling high on the belief that he has been exonerated from special counsel Mueller’s report of a possible collusion with the Russian government, US president Donald Trump stirs up another controversy. At a rally held in Michigan on last Thursday (March 28, 2019),and in a brief press conference in Mar-a-Lago, in Florida last Friday, Trump reiterated his signature campaign promise of closing the US Border to prevent migrating asylum seekers from coming in.

Trump’s announcement actually came as a threat directed at the Mexican government. He accuses Mexico of not doing anything to stop the unending flow of refugees arriving at the border, coming from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Naturally, his threat drew negative reactions, more so when he followed up his threat with tweets that he will make good on that threat this week.

Does Trump Really Have the Power to Close the US Mexico Border?

If Trump insists on imposing such action, he will do so at the risk of violating immigration laws that forbid anyone to deny protection to people seeking sanctuary in the country, regardless of the manner with which they gained entry. It can be recalled that Trump previously attempted to suppress the entry of a massive number of immigrants arriving at the border by invoking national security rules. However, Judge Jon S. Tigar of the San Francisco District Court placed a restraining order on Trump’s planned action.

Closing the border therefore, and specifically for that purpose is in defiance of immigration laws and of the judge’s order as well.

Trump is Using Border Wall Closing as Excuse to Carry Out Another Tactic

A senior Trump administration officer explained by way of telephone interview with Dara Lind of Vox, is that what the president had actually meant was to control the flow of people coming in by closing official ports of entry at the border. Although the senior administration officer added that closing of port entries is a last resort, border agents are currently being moved to the border areas to àttend to the refugees apprehended.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney explicitly stated

”we need the people from the ports of entry to go out and patrol in the desert where we don’t have a wall”

As a result, reduced number of border agents manning the ports of entry has already slowed down flow of traffic. Business communities at El Paso are already apprehensive about the long- waits occurring at the ports. San Diego, does not want a repeat of the November 2018 temporary shutdown of the San Ysidro port of entry. Even if the border agents were deployed only for a few hours to respond with force against an organized group of asylum seekers, the temporary closure resulted to the loss of $5.3 million in business revenues.

What Trump wants to happen is to discourage American companies from moving operations to Mexico, using it as leverage for Mexico to act on the asylum seekers making their way to the US border. To Trump, he considers it as the price Mexico has to pay. Yet, he seems to disregard the fact that an estimated $1.5 billion worth of business transpires daily along the US Mexico border, as millions of people legally cross the border as part of their daily routine.

Congressional Committee Investigations: Will Genuine, Downright “Truth” Prevail?

Michael Cohen, the ex Donald Trump personal attorney sentenced to serve three years in prison for pleading guilty to several charges, including lying to Congress,  had once again testified in different Congressional Committee hearings.

As a backgrounder, Cohen’s guilty plea was said to be a result of a cooperation deal, entered into with a team of lawyer working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The latter, is the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (2001-2013). He has beeb tasked by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to oversee ongoing investigations into accusations about Russia’s pivotal interference in the 2016 presidential elections won by Donald Trump.

Senate and House Committee Hearings

Recently, Cohen had spent three consecutive days giving testimonies in support of damning allegations raised by Special Counsel Mueller against Donald Trump.

The first and third were Intelligence Committee hearings held by the Senate and the House, on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. The two separate investigations are also delving deeper into Trump’s involvement in certain private dealings (Moscow Trump Tower) with certain Russian officials.

Inasmuch as it was a closed-door hearing, both Republican and Democratic committee members present in the hearings, refused to give specific details on the results of their investigations.

Summary of House Committee on Oversight and Reform Proceedings

On Wednesday, Cohen testified at the hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Unlike the Intelligence Committee hearings, the event last Wednesday was televised nationwide. Millions of Americans heard Cohen’s testimony and had glimpses of documents he presented as evidences against Donald Trump.

Among evidences presented included checks signed by Donald Trump, which the latter denied to have paid as hush-money, and after announcing that he no longer had control over the string of Trump businesses. Cohen also presented email related to a meeting called by Trump, as well as drafts of the statements Cohen was to falsely testify during the House Committee Investigation in 2017.

Other proofs submitted were the overstated financial statements submitted by Donald Trump to suit a business purpose, which were also understated for IRS taxation purposes.

Will Cohen’s Testimony and Evidences Hold Water in Ending Trump’s Presidency?

Cohen’s testimonies are largely under scrutiny as violations of lawyer-client relationship, and for his own admissions that he had previously lied to evade payment of large taxes.

In all three Congressional committee hearings, Trump’s Republican allies capitalized on Cohen’s previous lies which he later admitted as such. Democrats on the other hand believe that this time, Cohen is telling the truth. Cohen’s testimonies are mostly a case of his words pitted against Donald Trump’s, whose capability for telling the truth is just as questionable. Yet, according to some Democratic committee members, Cohen is only one of key witnesses they will call on.

Numbers of Bankruptcies in Agricultural Sector Soar After Trump Tariffs

Trade rifts with other countries borne by the Trump Tariffs signed by Donald Trump in January 2018, is now taking its toll on U.S. farmers. Wall Street Journal (WSJ) recently reviewed federal data pertaining to the Chapter 12 Bankruptcy Protection extended by US courts to farmer or fisherman families. The results of WSJ’s review revealed that the rate by which US farmers have filed for Chapter 12 Bankruptcy Protection, has soared.

District Courts covering the states of Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, and Kansas, among others are seeing sharp increases in petitions for bankruptcy protection. The Eight Circuit Court of Appeals shows a swelling of numbers by 96%; the Seventh Circuit garnered twice the number of petitions received when compared to the 2008 figures, while the Tenth Circuit saw a 59% increase from what they had a decade ago.

The Bankruptcy Trend is Expected to Transpire in Other Business Sectors

Initially, the sets of tariff imposed on importation of solar panels and washing machines, and later on steel and aluminum, seemed far from creating adverse impact on the agricultural sector. However, as the exports of foreign trading partners suffered a blow from Trump’s importation tariffs, their nation retaliated by also imposing import tariffs on US products entering their respective territories. Retaliatory actions came not only from China, but from EU member countries, Canada, and Mexico.

Exportation of US homegrown agricultural products like soybeans, coffee, oranges and other produce such as pork, dairy and whiskey, just to name a few, has become less competitive. Retaliatory import tariffs had weakened the trading positions of US agricultural exporters.

The trade rift with China turned into a full-blown Trade War, when Trump announced in July 2018 that all Chinese products and goods purchased by U.S. businesses from China will be meted with 25% importation duties. The value estimated at $50 billion worth, all the more created an impasse. Trump’s move only increased the cost of materials and components used by US manufacturers in assembling or in producing their goods.

Although negotiations are currently underway, US farmers and other affected businesses are not seeing enough income that will allow them to recover from ballooning debts; or even in continuing their operations.

Job Loss Looms as U.S. – China Trade Tension Lags on in 2019

A report released by Trade Partnership Worldwide shows that the U.S. economy is bound to lose 1 up to 2 million jobs, if in 2019 Trump imposes the 25 percent tariff on all Chinese exports. The research report was paid for by “Tariffs Hurt the Heartland”, a pro-free trade lobby group.

Although the Trump administration asserts that the 25% tariff aims to revive the U.S.manufacturing industry, the timing by which the tax plan surfaced gave way to a different interpretation. Other than it being perceived as a retaliatory tariff on levies imposed by other countries on U.S. exports, the singling out of U.S. products exported to China is perceived as a political retaliation against China.

Trade tension between U.S. and China started when in April 2018, Chinese smartphone maker ZTE was found to have been illegally-shipping American-made components to Iran. The discovery resulted to a 7-year trade ban between American software companies and ZTE. However, the finality of imposing the 25% tariff on all Chinese exports will also impact U.S. import. As it is, U.S. manufacturers also import materials and components from China, which they use in producing U.S. branded products.

Currently Chinese negotiations with the Trump administration are ongoing, using as leverage the US$250 billion Chinese exports to the U.S. At present, tariffs on products imported by American companies from China varies, pegged at either 10% or 20%. If by March 02, 2019 negotiators fail to reach an agreement, it is likely that China will also impose a 25% levy on all Chinese exports contracted by American manufacturers. Instead of revitalizing the U.S. manufacturing industry, increased costs of products procured from China, may only lead to the weakening of the industry.

British Brexit Proponent Sir James Dyson Voices His Views on the U.S.-China Trade Tension

Sir James Dyson, British inventor and founder of the company that produces revolutionary vacuum cleaners, bladeless fans and other electrical appurtenances, voiced his opinion about the ongoing U.S.-China trade tension. He reiterated his advocacy for a free economy, as a way of harnessing the best technology to use in  manufacturing the best products that will benefit consumers.

Inasmuch as it is difficult to predict the resulting outcome of the trade negotiations between U.S. and China, his advice is not to wait on what changes will transpire. Sir James Dyson, cited as example his decision to build a UK-based electric car manufacturing company in Singapore, saying that there is no telling where trade relations head to in light of the continuing changes in governments and their policies. On that note, Sir James commented

“If one source becomes unavailable then we have another source to go to…. “That’s nothing to do with trade tariffs, that’s to do with supply and continuity of supply”.

In the U.S. American vacuum cleaner manufacturers like Oreck, sells machines that have been initially fabricated in China then fully assembled in the U.S.; or in some cases, import fully assembled products that will distributed under the Oreck brand.

A Cursory Look into U.S. Laws Governing Possession, Transport, Transfer or Use of Airsoft Guns

In a recent public disturbance in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the man carrying two airsoft rifles in plain sight, was merely questioned and later released by the responding police officers. Had the incident happened in another state or country, the carrying of a replica gun in public would have been treated as a criminal offense.

As it is, U.S. laws governing the use and handling of non-powder replica firearms like airsoft guns, vary from state to state; making it important for airsoft gun proponents to know what a state considers as legal or illegal before transferring, selling, transporting or buying a realistic-looking replica firearm.

U.S.Federal Laws Governing Non-Powder Airsoft and BB Guns

Airsoft and BB guns are generally used for recreational combat competitions, as props in movies and for simulated military or police training. An airsoft rifle or handgun with the most realistic-looking appearance and features, are therefore the most attractive. On a nationwide level, there are no specific federal laws that restrict the use, ownership, or sale of replica firearms.

Federal statutory limitations are mostly concerned with “substantial product hazard/s,” particularly their potential risks of causing injury to children. That being the case, the federal government explicitly prohibits the sale of replica weapons to minors.

The government agency tasked to regulate and oversee the manufacture and sale of mock weapons is the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Specifically, federal product regulations require the following:

  • Replica or “look-alike firearms” must have a blaze orange plug-insert, permanently affixed in the barrel of the mock weapon.
  • A similar marking must appear on the external surface of the barrel.
  • Construction of a non-powder firearm must make use of transparent or translucent materials.
  • Additionally, federal regulations require covering the lookalike weapon using specific bright colors.

The aforementioned regulations override any state law that is inconsistent with the stated requirements.

Autonomous Power of State Governments to Impose Laws on Non-Powder Firearms

In the U.S., every state government has the autonomous power to impose statutes regulating the sale, ownership and use of non-powder, pellet-powered replica firearms. However, under federal regulations, such laws must not include prohibitions on the sale of conventional mock weapons.

The States of Delaware, Connecticut and North Dakota appear to have the most rigid laws pertaining to non-powder replica firearms, because they define such articles as “dangerous weapons.” That being the case, it is illegal in those states to carry or transport mock firearms without a duly approved permit.

In most U.S. regions, state governments define non-powder replica guns as Firearms and therefore subjecting the use, sale, ownership, transfer, and possession of non-powder guns to the state’s Firearms Law. Majority of state laws, regardless of their definition of a replica non-powder gun, strictly impose age restrictions, as well as explicitly prohibit the carrying of mock firearms in school grounds.

In some jurisdictions, low caliber, low velocity airsoft guns are excluded from the firearms definition. Click here to gather more information about airsoft rifles and handguns with low or high caliber and rate of velocity.

 

The Housing Policies in the US, Limit the Political Influence of American Homeowners

How Can a Relatively Few Number of Homeowners Influence American Politics?

Homeownership political influence is affected if a country’s government does not regard affordable housing for low-income earners as an important agenda. As far back as 1996, the Republicans have put forward a campaign platform that will eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Although scrapping of the HUD has not materialized, the department continues to operate under limited authority and inadequate budgets.

That being the case, homeowners remain vulnerable to the actions taken by the present government. The current Trump administration has implemented tariffs that made primary construction materials such as lumber, nails and dry wall more expensive, even for middle-income earners. The US National Association of Home Builders, estimates that costs of building a new house will increase by as much as $9,000.

The Future of Homeownership In the US Hangs in a Balance

When the U.S. Congress Congress failed to pass a spending bill that had to consider U.S President Donald Trump’s demand for an additional $5.7 billion for the ongoing extension of the US-Mexico Border Wall, a partial government shutdown took effect. On Dec. 22, 2018, the start of a long-running partial government shutdown, ceased operations of several government agencies.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development was caught unprepared, as inexperienced HUD officials appointed by the Trump administration failed to renew expired affordable housing contracts. The contracts could have lessened the impact of Trump’s tariffs on middle and low-income earners seeking to rebuild or build their home.

The prolonged shutdown made homeownership future look even more bleak. As an aftermath to HUD’s temporary closure, Pamela Patenaude, touted as the most capable political leader supervising the HUD, along with several other HUD executives, submitted their resignation.

In the latest development (January 25, 2019), President Trump agreed to sign a bill to temporarily lift the partial government shutdown until Feb. 15, 2019. After which, he is still adamant that his $5.7 billion funding demand for the Border Wall will remain a condition for the final appropriations bill.

Upholding Animal Rights: Can Animals Turn to Governments for Protection?

Animal activism pertains to social movements that assert the moral rights of animals to live not as properties of humans; but as living beings with rights to exist on their own purpose, whilst receiving protection from harm. Although provided with rational arguments put forward by intellectuals, the movement is unable to gain total support from governments.

Animal Liberalization or Animal Welfare Rights?

Apparently, countries have differing laws on how to protect animals thriving within their region. Primarily because animal agriculture plays an important role in the economy of every nation. Food and by-products (e.g. milk, cheese, butter, eggs) produced by farm animals cannot be just removed as part of daily subsistence.

Moreover, putting an end to the practice of eating meat and all other food products derived from animals will result to business closures and loss of jobs. After all, the supply chain in which farm animals have great value includes that of leather and pharmaceutical industries.

Different ideologies divide organizations engaged in animal activism. One faction calls for total liberation of animals; recognizing every species as non-human animals. Their advocacy is to liberate animals from human activities, such as partaking of animal meat, using animals for scientific researches, and/or keeping them in cages either as pets, as performers, or as business inventory.

The other faction seeks only for the enactment of laws that will ensure animal welfare while in the care of owners, breeders or users. Here, non-human animals are classified as members of species that have value to species belonging to the upper level of a hierarchical system. Even if such is the case, their movement aims to stop mistreatment of animals; including cruel methods used in slaughtering animals in order to serve a business purpose.

Other smaller factions include the veganarchists, anti-hunting activists and militant animal liberators. The latter, insists on advancing the cause by direct and if necessary, violent actions.

Recent Laws Enacted by a Country as a Result of Animal Activism

Animal liberationists contend that countries do not recognize the natural values of non-human animals. Lawmakers enact laws based on the benefits that can be derived from their use, either as sources of food products, raw materials, or as pets or as entertainers. Their case point is exemplified by the U.S. Animal Welfare Act, which exempts

pet stores … state and country fairs, livestock shows, rodeos, purebred dog and cat shows, and any fairs or exhibitions intended to advance agricultural arts and science

In contrast, European Union (EU) countries enacted laws that ban fur farming even if it meant closing an important sector of the clothing industry. The United Kingdom for one, banned fur farming in 2000, a pre-election pledge fulfilled by the then ruling Labour party. The passing of the fur-farming bill, was also influenced by the daily protests organized by animal welfare rights movements.

Thereafter, several EU members followed suit, Austria, Netherlands, Denmark and Slovenia. Several others will implement the same ban as soon as the related phase-out period of the fur farming business attains completion.

The most recent to impose such law is Serbia. The county closed down fur farms, saving thousands of chinchillas from the horrible treatment and methods used by breeders in removing velvety-soft furs. The rescued animals have since been transferred to new owners; promising to give the best care and attention needed by the creatures, including the best cage for chinchilla recuperation.