Wed12132017

Last updateWed, 13 Dec 2017 8am

Politics

Keystone Pipeline Bursts: Is New Jersey Next?

Keystone Pipeline Burst NJThe Keystone Pipeline leaked 210,000 gallons of crude oil in South Dakota on Nov. 16, creating the largest spill to date in the state. Despite this spill, proposals for pipelines across the U.S. continue to move through legislation, with energy companies acquiring permits for construction. 

According to TransCanada, the company that owns the pipeline, the crude oil spill occurred three miles southeast of Amherst, South Dakota and transport of oil was shut down minutes after the leak was recognized. TransCanada reported that it would be days before any groundwater contamination could be discovered and that no immediate threat to human or wildlife was evident.

On Nov. 27, the company announced plans to repair and restart the pipeline.

Gloria Brown Simmons, three-time recipient of NASA’s Group Achievement Award in years 1990, ‘91, and ‘96, and adjunct professor of astronomy said that “this spill is disastrous. It is no surprise that, [despite risk assessments suggesting spills no more than 50 barrels no more than once every 7 to 11 years], there is yet another spill of harmful toxins into the environment.

However, there are currently similar pipeline projects proposed for the state of New Jersey, which have raised concern among experts and environmental groups.

One such project is the Pinelands Pipeline, which will run for 22 miles through the Pinelands Preservation and potentially carry natural gas through this land.

This project was previously declined by four consecutive NJ governors, and in 2014, declined by the Pinelands Commission itself.

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Mixed Emotions Over Murphy

Mixed Emotions MurphyAs New Jersey prepares to inaugurate its new Governor-elect, Phil Murphy, many are approaching his election with uncertainty due to his stance on the legalization of marijuana.

Murphy has said that he would sign a bill to legalize marijuana within his first 100 days in office and it would be beneficial to the state.

“Phil Murphy definitely represents a turn away from [Governor] Christie’s policies,” Stephen Chapman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of the political science, said. “This is not surprising for a couple reasons. First, NJ is a Democrat-leaning state that hasn’t voted for a Republican in a presidential election since 1988. This gives Murphy an advantage from the start. However, there is a diversity of ideology throughout the state level, which is why we’ve seen more alternation between [Democrats] and [Republicans] at the state executive position,” he added.

In his 2017 gubernatorial campaign, Murphy ran on a platform of changes that he hoped to bring to New Jersey, such as getting tough on gun violence and protecting women’s rights and the rights of undocumented immigrants, such as the DREAMers, as well as the rights of the LGBT community. “I’m glad that Murphy will be a governor who ensures the rights of women, immigrants, and the LGBT community,” Roxy Nicoletti, a sophomore biochemistry student said.

On his campaign, Murphy had noted that after the Recession in 2000, New Jersey was one of the slowest recovering economies and, therefore, believes that having more secure jobs with rising wages would help to revitalize the state’s economy again. In addition, Murphy believes that legalizing and taxing the sale of marijuana would help to bring more revenue into the state government—which many feel apprehensive about.

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Hartnett Nominated as Chief Environmental Advisor

Hartnett Chief Enviornmental AdvisorPresident Donald Trump nominated Kathleen Hartnett-White as Head of the White House Council on Environment Quality - a decision that must be confirmed by the Senate.

While Hartnett-White’s appointment is partially justifiable - she was previously a chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and was considered for Scott Pruitt’s position as head of the Environmental Protection Agency – environmental advocates shake their heads at the choice.

According to one CNN report, Trump’s nominee was quoted in 2016 as saying that the belief in “global warming” is a “kind of paganism” for “secular elites.” Hartnett-White has also called carbon dioxide “the gas of life on this planet.”

Her ideologies predictably align with the Trump administration’s assertions that climate change is not human-caused, and also questions scientific accord on the topic.

Hartnett-White would oversee environmental and energy related policies throughout the government if granted head of the Council on Environmental Quality.

According to the Washington Post, Hartnett-White questioned the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is a group of “gold standard” scientists who volunteer to conduct research.

In discussing the importance of tackling climate change, she said this to the Washington Post: “I am not at all persuaded by the IPCC science that we are standing on some precipice. We’re not standing on a cliff from which we are about to fall off.”

Previously, while a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Hartnett-White criticized the 2007 Supreme Court decision that the Clean Air Act can regulate carbon dioxide, among an assortment of other greenhouse gases, for being pollutants.

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Alabama Could Elect a Democrat to the U.S. Senate

Alabama Could Elect Democrat SenatorAmid multiple sexual abuse allegations against Republican candidate, Roy Moore, the possibility of Alabama electing its first Democrat to serve in the U.S. Senate, since 1979, is becoming more likely.

Because now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions left his seat in the U.S. Senate vacant to serve in President Trump’s cabinet, the state of Alabama is holding a special election on Dec. 12 in order to succeed the incumbent interim-Senator Luther Strange, who had been appointed by former Alabama governor, Robert Bentley, to temporarily replace Sessions.

The Alabama primary elections were held on Sept. 27, resulting in the nomination of Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, to face Republican Moore in the general election.

Moore is a former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and has been twice removed by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary for refusing to follow federal court orders. He beat his opponent in the Republican primary, Luther Strange, by nearly 50,000 votes and had been the likely candidate amongst Alabama voters—until sexual assault allegations surfaced against Moore on Nov. 9.

Much controversy already surrounded Moore before the allegations surfaced, though. In 2005, in an interview with Bill Press from CSPAN2’s After Words, Moore said that “homosexual acts” should be illegal. He made similar comments in 2015, in a video posted to YouTube by Lone Star Q, saying “I think homosexuality should be illegal…there [is] no right under the Constitution to enlarge the fundamental rights of homosexuals.”

Following the accusations of sexual misconduct, many Republicans have shied away from announcing their support of Moore. Among them, Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts and Republican 2012 presidential candidate, who tweeted on Nov. 11, “Innocent until proven guilty is for criminal convictions, not elections…Moore is unfit for office and should step aside.”

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Did Hillary Clinton ‘Rig’ the 2016 Democratic Primaries?

Hillary Clinton Rigged PrimariesDonna Brazile, former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman, ignited controversy after releasing an excerpt from her upcoming book, Hacks. In the excerpt, published by Politico on Nov. 2, Brazile says she found a fundraising contract between the DNC and Secretary Hillary Clinton’s campaign, insinuating the primaries had been rigged against Bernie Sanders.

“If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party,” Brazile writes in the excerpt. However, when confronted about her accusations in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on Nov. 5, Brazile said that she “found no evidence, none whatsoever” that the primaries had been rigged.

Brazile explains that, under her predecessor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC agreed to form a shared fundraising committee with the Clinton Campaign in August 2015. She writes that after Obama’s negligence of funding the Committee—focusing instead on his own group, Organizing for America—he left the Democratic party “in significant debt.”

The morning after the Democratic National Convention, Gary Gensler, the Chief Financial Officer of Clinton’s 2016 campaign, told Brazile that the DNC was “broke” and two-million dollars in debt, leaving Clinton with the tab. Gensler explains that after Obama’s campaign, he left the Democratic Party $24 million in debt—with “$15 million in bank debt and more than eight-million dollars owed to vendors,” Brazile writes.

Clinton vowed she would build the party “from the ground up…When our state parties are strong, we win,” Clinton said, according to a Politico report last May, “That’s what will happen.”

Consequently, the agreement between the DNC and the Clinton campaign was aimed at reconstructing the party’s devastated finances by simultaneously fundraising for Clinton’s campaign, the National Committee, and the individual state party organizations, the Washington Post reports.

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President Trump Speaks on Mass Shootings in NY and TX

President Trump Mass Shootings NY TX 1In less than a week apart, two acts of terror occurred in the United States. The first was an attack in New York City on Oct. 31; the other took place six days later at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX, on Nov. 5.

According to the New York Police Department (NYPD), the killer, identified as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, rented a truck from a Home Depot in Passaic, NJ, and made his way to Manhattan. Upon entering the city, Saipov verged onto a bike pathway, and drove into pedestrians and bicyclists, taking innocent lives before colliding with a school bus that carried children with special needs. Saipov subsequently left the truck and shot both a paintball gun and a pellet gun before being arrested.

On the same day of the attacks in New York, President Trump was quick to order stricter immigration laws, tweeting: “I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!” In a later speech, Trump stated that his administration was going to “further investigate this animal who did the attacking.”

Following through on a promise in his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said he was “starting the process of terminating the diversity lottery program.”

Additionally, the New York Times reported Trump called for Saipov to receive the death penalty, even suggesting to send him to Guantanamo Bay.

In the second attack, the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, opened fire on the TX church, killing 26 people before entering in a shoot-out with a neighbor, CNN reports. Kelley was later found dead in his SUV, with a gunshot wound to the head.

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What Prevented a Hillary Clinton Presidency? Robots

What Prevented Hillary PresidencyProfessors at the University of Oxford have found that voters who have been exposed to automation were less likely to vote for the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 Presidential Election.

Carl Frey, Thor Berger, and Chinchih Chen at the University of Oxford studied how robots in the workforce influenced voters who worked in those factories.

In their study published last month, they found that workers exposed to automation were less likely to vote for Clinton than for Donald Trump.

Clinton lost key Midwestern states on Election Day—namely Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. These states had been reliably blue in previous general elections; however, Clinton lost them to her opponent in the race: now-President Trump.

“This finding is not surprising considering that Donald Trump successfully emphasized economic nationalism in his campaign,” Joseph Patten, Ph.D., an associate professor of political science, said.

“[This] pulled votes away from Hillary Clinton in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania,” he added.

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Results of MU 2017 Gubernatorial Election Straw Poll

Nearly 400 students voted in the 2017 NJ Gubernatorial straw poll. The students in the University’s Political Science Club ran the poll Oct. 27 and sent their results into The Outlook last week.

The poll spanned across the entire university, asking undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty and staff/administration, to participate.

Thank you to Emma O’Rourke and Anastasia V. Giannakakos from the Political Science Club, and to Carolyn Lau from the Polling Institute for their hard-work and participation in making this poll possible. The results are as follows:

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Tensions Rise Within Party Factions

Tensions Rise Within Party FactionsThe 2016 elections resulted in the Democrats without the White House and with 71 fewer seats in Congress, giving Republicans the majority.

Consequently, Democrats are eager to find a new image for the party—while many Republicans are trying not to get lost in the shuffle of a vast right-wing movement.

After decades of wavering from left and center, the party’s division culminated in the 2016 Democratic Primaries.

With former-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, representing the party’s center and Bernie Sanders embodying its burgeoning left, the party endured a battle over which faction would hold regency.

“[Bernie] didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House. He got in to disrupt the Democratic Party,” Clinton aptly says in her book, What Happened.

With more than a third of Senate Democrats co-sponsoring Bernie’s “Medicare for All”, and over half of Democratic representatives supporting the House version, it is becoming more evident that Congressional Democrats are walking a very thin line toward the left.

Although the Democrats should not falter in the middle of tepid centrism, these kinds of impractical, half-baked proposals cooked up by Bernie Sanders et al are not substantial alternatives—especially not for something as sacrosanct to Democrats as healthcare.

Dr. Katherine Parkin, a professor in the History Department and Vice President of the Faculty Association, explains how pivotal former-President Bill Clinton was in reshaping not only the Democratic Party, but also the landscape of modern-American politics—lending way for candidates, who would otherwise not be considered, to run for President.”

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New Proposal to Increase Entrance Fees in National Parks

Proposal Increase Fee National ParksThe National Park Service has announced their proposal to increase parks fees during their peak seasons at some of the nation’s most popular parks, on Oct. 24.

The proposal raises the entry fees of 17 parks, including Yosemite in California, Shenandoah in Virginia, Acadia in Maine, Grand Canyon in Arizona, Zion and Bryce in Utah, and Yellowstone in California, among others.

The price hike would be used to tackle maintenance and infrastructure, including roads, campgrounds, and bathrooms, which contribute to the quality of visitor experience, according to the New York Times. The National Park Service asserts that there exists an $11 billion accumulation in repairs that need to be addressed.

Many of the anticipated prices could go into effect as early as January 2018, as with the case of Joshua Tree National Park. For 12 other parks, May 1, 2018 determines the change in price; and June 1 for four others – Acadia National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park among them.

The proposal increases the single noncommercial vehicles entrance fee to $70; motorcycles would pay $50; pedestrians and cyclists $30. This is nearly triple the entrance fee at Joshua Tree National Park, which charges $25 for noncommercial vehicles. Currently, entrance fees are charged at 118 of the 417 parks.

A trip to a national park could now be comparable in price to visiting Six Flags amusement park and Busch Gardens, according to the Washington Post.

The 17 affected parks are considered “the top revenue parks” said the National Park Service, which “collect 70 percent of the total of all entrance fees throughout the country.” Uber serves as the contemporary precedent of the model in which prices rise as demand increases.

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President Trump's Executive Order on Healthcare

President Trump Executive Order HealthcarePresident Trump issued an executive order on Thursday, Oct. 12 which he believes will help mitigate adverse consequences of the PPACA— Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- such as the high premiums and deductibles, and the minimal options in selecting plans.

This follows the unsuccessful efforts to “repeal and replace” the PPACA by Republicans in Congress.

The promise to overturn the PPACA has been a Republican cornerstone, and the Democrats have been steadfast in their opposition.

Vertiginous squabbling and partisan gridlock has led to no compromise in our Congress.

As a result, no substantive measures have been made to improve the PPACA and bring costs of healthcare down; instead, many Republicans have called for scrapping it altogether and a third of Democrats have advocated for opting to a single-payer “Medicare for All”. Until the PPACA can be improved, the President has issued an executive order interim.

According to the Office of the White House Press Secretary, the executive order allows small-business employers to buy into association health plans, which would allow them to collectively self-insure or purchase group insurance—spreading the costs and allowing for lower payments for individuals within the group. Additionally, the executive order enables individuals to purchase health insurance “across state lines”.

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