Thursday, June 13, 2013

Radioactive: President Biden's First Year



President-Elect Biden along with Vice President-Elect Gillibrand made their victory speech late last night at 11:30 PM, 5 minutes after Ayotte called Biden to concede the race and congratulate him. Both families came out onto stage to welcome the nation, with Joe's son Beau Biden along with, and Gillibrand's husband and two sons. In his acceptance speech, Biden thanked the nation for electing him into office, and talked about thaking all of the things he had championed on the campaign trial that he wanted to accomplish, and specifically healthcare reform and legalizing same-sex mairrage in the first 100 days. Biden and Gillibrand are to be sworn in on January 20, 2017. This election makes history my marking the first time a woman will hold the office of the vice presidency.


At this time, we can finally project the state of Florida for Presdient-Elect Biden. This lengthens Florida's streak of voting Democratic since it did for Presdient Obama in 2008. The recount in Ohio has also been completed, and we can confirm an Ayotte victory in this state by a razor thin margin of 113 votes, making it the closest state in the country this election cycle. The GOP might not have too much to celebrate, but a victory in Ohio is big for the party.

Finally, we can show you the final electoral map. The call of Florida for Biden has pushed him over the 300 mark, making this the third election in a row where a Democrat has won by over 300 electoral votes.

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Violent protests have erupted in the cities of Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt today. There have been numerous protests over the course of the past week due to authoritarian overtones expressed by Egyptian President Morsi through him overtaking judicial positions over the course of the month. However, all if these protests were completely peaceful until the protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square of over 200,000 Egyptians was broken up by force when protesters refused to leave. The riot police used chemical methods to attempt to disperse the protesters before finally resorting to using weapons. There were 3 protesters killed and hundreds of people injured from the attempts to disperse the crowd. Multiple riot guards were injured in retaliation, as well as numerous instances of looting in nearby stores. It has been confirmed that the order to disperse the crowd came directly from the top, which has only intensified the protests against President Morsi, and the protesters have promised to not stop until Morsi has given up his "path to total power."

Secretary of State John Kerry has stated that the US government will back up the protesters with their call for President Morsi to give up his extended powers. During the press condense, he also stated that the US government wished to avoid another Syria at all costs, which is where they feel Egypt could be heading. President Morsi, in response, has stated in an address of state television that he will refuse to give up judicial powers, stating that the branch of the government was incompetent and impeding on progress.
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Today, President-Elect Biden announced his Cabinet selections going into his term in office. The biggest surprise of the group was the pick of Jon Huntsman, the Republican Party's nominee for Vice President and former Ambassador to China, as Secretary of State. Biden stated that he made this pick as an olive branch of sorts to signify how his administration will make an effort to work with the Republican Party even though the Democrats currently hold a majority in the Senate and House. Not very many seats in Congress or Governors seats will be affected. The only two will be Lt. Governor Joseph Garcia taking over for Governor Hickenlooper and Lt. Governor Timothy Murray taking over for Governor Deval Patrick. The full list of cabinet selections are as follows:

Secretary of State - Jon Huntsman (R-UT)
Secretary of the Treasury - Rosa Rios (D-CA)
Secretary of Defense - Michèlle Flournoy (D-MD)
Attorney General - Deval Patrick (D-MA)
Secretary of Interior - Sally Jewell (D-WA)
Secretary of Agriculture - Brian Schweitzer (D-MT)
Secretary of Commerce - Frank Sanchez (D-FL)
Secretary of Labour - Jennifer Granholm (D-MI)
Secretary of Health and Human Services - Margaret Hamburg (D-IL)
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development - John Hickenlooper (D-CO)
Secretary of Transportation - John Porcari (D-NY)
Secretary of Energy - Steven Chu (D-MO)
Secretary of Education - Anthony Miller (D-VA)
Secretary of Veterans Affairs - Max Cleland (D-GE)
Secretary of Homeland Security - Susan Collins (R-ME)
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The crackdown on protests in Egypt intensified today as tanks were deployed into the streets of major cities across Egypt. The group of protesters in Tahrir Square have increased to 300,000 strong, and have been protesting non stop against President Morsi. There have only been violent or destructive protests as isolated incidents, but these events have been increasing in frequency. Some government offices have been set on fire by protesters and some storefronts have been defaced. Security around important historical monuments such as the Pyramids at Giza have been stepped up tremendously with military forces. These military forces have also been apparent on the streets of major cities. 5 protesters are currently dead since protests started in early November. A big blow for the Morsi regime is that some of the police force has defected and has joined the ranks of the protesters. None of the elements of the military have defected, but if any were, it would likely spell the end of the Morsi regime.

These protests have already been more destructive than the protests against Mubarak in 2011, costing millions of dollars in damage, over 100 injuries and 5 deaths. This is also getting a greater response from the West than Mubarak. President Obama has previously stated that he supports the protesters and wants to avoid another Syria. Today, UK PM Ed Miliband officially called for Morsi to step down, taking their message one step further than the US did. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that if the situation gets too serious in Egypt that he will intervene if necessary as a last resort, since he stated that he perceived it as a direct threat to Israeli national security. World leaders are hoping that the situation in Egypt can be resolved before Israel resorts to invasion, which could spark off a crisis in the Middle East.
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At this hour we have breaking news coming from the situation in Egypt. A significant portion of the military has defected and attempted to stage a coup against President Morsi. This military force, calling themselves the Egypt First Army under the command of Commander Menes Ibrahim, began fighting around an hour ago in the Streets of Cairo against loyal government forces. As of now, they have officially taken President Morsi under custody and have control over the city of Cairo. Forces loyal to Morsi have retreated further north and still have control over the Upper Nile delta, where there is still fighting. The Egypt First Army and some high profile protesters have set up a transitional military council as government. The leader of the protester force, Commander Menes Ibrahim, is currently the head of the council. In a speech on state television tonight, he says that elections will be held on December 30th for a parliamentary system. He has founded his own Egypt People's Party, and encourages others in government to form their own parties to run for election. Many people are concerned about how democratic and accurate the ballots will be, but Menes has actually invited UN observers to oversee the election of "the new reformed Republic of Egypt," which has surprised many world leaders.

Syria is the first and only country so far to recognize Egypt's new government, being that Syria went through a long drawn out civil war in order to oust an authoritarian regime and was only able to replace it with a proper functioning and stable democratic republic through foreign intervention. Most countries are still cautious about this announcement and want to avoid Egypt falling into the pit of authoritarianism yet again. Secretary of State to-be Jon Huntsman has stated that there is hope for democracy in Egypt, but that we can not be sure about how well it will go over until we are a few months into the first Egyptian Parliament, and if the Parliament retains real power or is merely ceremonial and the head of state has all of the power. The Israeli government has stated that they will not intervene, but that they will be watchful of Egypt's actions and that they will strongly discourage any nationalist overtones.
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Rumors about Justice Kennedy have been swirling for weeks, but he finally put them to rest today as he officially announced his retirement from the Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy was appointed by Reagan in 1988. He is frequently known for being a swing vote in many 5-4 decisions, and not having an easily definable ideology by political analysts. He is currently 81 years of age, and resigning from the Supreme Court due to current health issues. President-Elect Biden has not yet stated who he wants to nominate to replace the outgoing Justice Kennedy's seat, but there are a number of likely choices. This replacement will likely make a liberal majority in the court if Biden nominates a liberal as widely expected. If Justice Kennedy decided to retire before Biden's inauguration, Obama would have been the first president since Nixon to appoint four justices, almost a majority, to the court. This will likely make it much easier for Biden to push for legalization of same-sex marriage early on in his term in office.
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The first parliamentary election of the new Republic of Egypt was held today. There were UN observers at most ballot boxes, and they confirmed very free and accurate ballots. All people over the age of 21 could vote, and there was around 65% turnout of voting eligible people for the election, which is very high for any democratic election where voting is not compulsory. The victor in the race, which won with a majority, was the Egypt First party lead by PM to be Menes Ibrahim. Lowest were non-secular parties like Dar al-Islam, a mildly fundamentalist Islamic party, and then a Coptic Christian Party which garnered around 9% of the vote. Many projections expected Egypt First to win, but at an even larger majority due to its widespread appeal.
The soon to be Secretary of State Huntsman was an observer at the election today, along with the UK Foreign Minister. Huntsman met with Ibrahim and congratulated him in public as well as having a behind doors conversation about foreign policy in the Middle East. Huntsman has stated that "I am excited to have yet another new Arab republic that can serve as a model along with Syria and will cooperate with the US and NATO, as well as Israel." Below are the percentages each party received. The Egyptian Parliament will be made of 138 seats, and will first assemble sometime in late January. Below are the percentages each party received:

Egyptian People's Party: 64%, 87 seats
Worker's Democratic Party: 15%, 21 seats
Dar al-Islam: 12%, 17 seats
Christian Unity Party: 9%, 13 seats
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Today, President Obama has made a nationally televised farewell address to the nation. He made an overview of the major accomplishments his administration had achieved during his two terms in office, mainly passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010, closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay in mid 2013, making strides in immigration reform in late 2013, and ending the War on Terror in 2014. He also made a gesture to the things that he wanted to do but did not accomplish, such as nationwide same sex marriage legalization. He stated that he is not done with politics, and that he still wants to lead the Democratic Party into the heart of the 21st century. President Obama will leave office with a 57% approval rating, which is at one of its highest points at any time during his presidency. It is notable that his largely non partisan farewell speech was a significant boost to his approval rating. It will be many more years until we can truly judge the impact of President Obama's administration, but many people were judgmental of Bush's presidency after he left office, so we will have to wait for reactions from some of the big name political analysts. All we know is that he is leaving office in a much more favorable view than Bush was, which has to mean something for his reputation in the future.
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Joe Biden was publicly inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States Kirsten Gillibrand was publicly inaugurated as Vice President as of this morning. The turnout to the inauguration was high at 1.3 million people, but still shy of Obama's record turnout of 1.8 million in 2009. In his speech accepting the office of the presidency, he called for a return of common sense and a spirit of compromise to the government, and also a push for getting "equal rights for people of all sexual orientations." In Gillibrand's acceptance speech, she stated that the new administration wanted to focus on supporting burgeoning democracies such as Egypt. She also made a call for America's foreign policy to be the promotion of democracy no matter the situation. Her inauguration has been celebrated nearly as much excitement as Biden's due to the fact that she made history by becoming the first woman to hold the office of Vice President. One of the notable musical groups that performed was the Wind Ensemble from Legacy High School, located in a suburb of Denver. This was the first time a high school band has performed at an inauguration, and they got good reviews from bystanders. Fortunately for the President and Vice President, both oath recitations went off without a hitch along with the rest of the inaugural ceremony.
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President Biden announced today where he stated his nomination of Jacqueline Nguyen to the vacant seat formerly held by Justice Kennedy. She is currently serving as a Circuit Judge in the Court of Appeals Ninth circuit. During his announcement, Biden stated that he felt that there was nobody more qualified to fill Justice Kennedy's seat. Many people out of the Democratic Party have applauded President Biden's nomination, but Republicans have been noticeably less keen on his decision. Newly appointed Senate Minority Leader Kelly Ayotte has stated that she wished her former rival would have appointed a more moderate person to the court to more closely resemble Justice Kennedy's policy, like what the President did with the appointment of Huntsman to Secretary of State. President Biden has pushed supporters to push her confirmation through Congress as quickly as possible, which should not be too hard since the Democrats have a slight majority in both houses. If confirmed by Congress, she will become the first Asian-American Justice, continuing the trend President Obama started on nominating ethnically and racially diverse justices to the Supreme Court.
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We can officially confirm that Jacueline Nguyen has been confirmed by Congress as Supreme Court Justice to replace outgoing Justice Kennedy. She won 251-187 in the House of Representatives and 56-44 in the Senate. The vote was largely partisan, with a few Republicans joining in the "yay" vote from both houses. Many Republicans had vocal opposition to President Biden replacing a moderate justice with a liberal, most notably Minority Leader Ayotte. Her counterpart, Minority Whip Rob Portman, was one of the few Senate Republican votes in favor of Nguyen's confirmation. He said that he felt unity was more important than partisan politics, but many political analysts point to his increasing moderation on social issues after his endorsement of same-sex marriage in 2013. Here is the makeup of the Supreme Court as of now, with the balance tipped 5-4 in favor of the liberals:




















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The Supreme Court will now, as per the court system and the urging of President Biden, will now hear a crucial case on gay marriage. The last time the supreme curt heard gay marriage cases was over DOMA in 2013, which was ruled as only applying to the state of California in the summer of 2013. Now, with the encouragement of the Democratic Party, the case of a gay couple who wished to be married in the state of Arizona but could not has been taken all the way to the Supreme Court, in the case that is being titled Simmons v. State of Arizona. Numerous protesters from both sides have started gathering outside of the Supreme Court with many people believing that this is the make or break time for same-sex marriage after President Biden's comments. Same sex marriage is currently legal in 20 states and civil unions are legal in an additional 9 states.
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Today, elections were held in Israel to decide seats in the Knesset and who would be Israel's new prime minister. The coalition under PM Benjamin Netanyahu has held, so elections were held as planned in 2017. The party which gauned a plurality of votes was the right-wing Jewish Home, with 22% of the vote and 30 seats in the Knesset. The ruling coalition will be made up with Jewish Home, Yisrael Beiteinu, and Shas parties. Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party will be the Israeli PM until 2021 or until a party coalition is dissolved. Bennett has stated that he is excited to lead Israel into a new era. Bennett has made his intentions that he does not want a Palestinian state clear in previous events. His plan is a three way partiton, with Gaza falling under Egyptian control and Isreal fully annexing Area C (the area of West Bank with Jewish settlement). The remainder of the West Bank would become an Israeli protectorate, closely watched in order to prevent terrorism or heavy Hamas influence according to Bennett. He has stated that he will not hesitate to make a strike on Iran, with or without American support, if evidence of nuclear weapons is found.

President Biden has stated he will support Bennett in his tenure with what he can, and that he especially wants to negotiate towards a two state solution for Israel and Palestine. PM Ibrahim of Egypt has stated that he wants to work towards Bennett's proposed solution, except with the remainder of the West Bank being fully annexed into Jordan. Ahmadinejad of Iran, along with the Iraqi government and Syrian parliament have stated that they are very weary of his intentions, and will be keeping a strong lookout on Israel's situation. They also strongly oppose his Palestinian partition plan.
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In the decision on the landmark Simmons v. State of Arizona case, the Supreme Court has ruled Arizona preventing the marriage of a same sex couple is unconstitutional, which means denying a gay couple from being married is now illegal anywhere in the US. The vote was a complete liberal-conservative split, with all 5 liberals voting for same sex marriage and all 4 conservatives voting against it. There were enormous celebrations erupting outside of the Supreme Court after the announcement from protesters who came to support legalization. President Biden, along with Representative Jared Polis from Colorado, one of the few gay members of Congress, made an address supporting the Supreme Court's announcement and stating that their decision was an enormous step forward for civil rights in America. In response, there were a number of outspoken conservative opponents of the announcement. Major conservative protests occured in Salt Lake City, Utah and Charleston, South Carolina decrying the Supreme Court's decision as the loss of traditional America. Some conservative politicians, most notably Ted Cruz of Texas have made statements against the ruling, but the most notable Republican was Minorty Whip Rob Portman who stated that his party needed to move to the present. This group of anti-SSM conservatives, however outspoken, is quickly shrinking. Post decision polling showed a record 63% of support for same sex marriage.
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Prime Minister Bennett has, as of this morning, released a plan for redrawing Middle Eastern borders to better fit the "ethnic landscape." His plan includes the three way Palestinian partition, an independent Kurdistan out of former Iraqi, Syrian, Iranian, and Turkish territory. The Golan Heights, a disputed territory between Israel and Syria goes to Israel. Southern Iraq, largely Shia, is independent while Sunni Iraq goes to Syria. PM Ibrahim, in a surprising announcement just after the map's release, announced support of it, except for the Palestinian partiton. He stated his intentions to work with Bennett towards his "vision of a more peaceful Middle East." Iraq and Iran have both expressed their disdain at the map and accused the Knesset of "beligerency against Muslim nations."
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President Biden has announced what he wishes to amend in the Affordable Care Act as per his election campaign promises. One main point he wants to amend is the single payer mandate. The President has proposed that if a person is to pass a certain health exam, that they will be exempt from the requirement to purchase insurance. The single payer mandate was one of the most controversial parts of Obamacare. The other addendum Biden, along with multiple Democratic Party committees, has made is one that will give universal health care to all government workers. This announcement has been very controversial with a lot of members of the Republican Party. Minority Leader Ayotte has stated she feels the "government worker healthcare mandate is money that the government does not have an will only inflate the deficit. It is very likely that the new healthcare plan, already being labeled Bidencare by the opposition, will likely face heavy scrutiny if it is going to be passed through the House of Representatives, since Congressmen and Senators on both side of the aisle are sceptical of the new plan.
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In an interesting turn of events, many countries in the European Union are growing more and more pro or anti European Union. The  phenomenon of euroscepticism has been occurring mostly in the UK and Greece. The UK has shown much more isolationist tendencies after PM Milliband strained relations with PM Bennett. The UKIP just temporarily raised above the Conservative party in polling. This comes just after a wide margin of Britons disapproved of MP Farage's fiery Eurosceptic speech. Greece has also had a major wave of anti EU sentiment sweep the country. Since it finally got a reign on the fiscal issues wracking the country to its core late in 2014, it has had a number of attempts to leave the EU and reinstate the drachma as its currency. Around 80% of Greeks disapprove of how the rest of the EU handled its fiscal crisis, with most Greeks pointing the blame being pointed at the Bundestag under Chancellor Merkel. The European Union enjoys around 70% support in countries like France, Germany, and the Netherlands. The more definitive siding on the EU is likely to cause a large amount of deadlock in the European Parliament.
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President Biden's new healthcare reform was held for a vote today in the house, and it failed to pass the House. All Republicans voted against the bill along with some Democrats. The Republican Party as previously refused to agree to universal healthcare for all government employees, which was going to mean the bill was going to be hard to pass. The Democratic Party only came back a little bit by saying they would not give UHC to government workers making over $150,000, but that brought few people back around to the table for the bill. The fact the final bill buged so little from  the heavily opposed original was likely what left the bill with a lot of opposition and an extremely slim chance of passing.
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Today, a large group of members of the United Methodist Church have announced that they are creating the 'Mission For Korea' program, where they will be providing help and supplies to the North Korean people. They have stated that they want to help a group of people who have recieved virtually no help over the course of the past 50 years. This comes after Kim Jong Un's announcement from a few months ago that he feels the west has abandoned his people. There are a number of logistical issues that the group must overcome for the trip, most notably the fact that there has never been such a large scale movement of civilians into North Korean territory. President Biden has stated their attitude and drive is commendable, but there are a lot of issues that they will be facing and there is a large factor of risk. He has stated he feels that something could easily go wrong. There has been no statement yet from either the North or South Korean governments.

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