Friday News Roundup — July 19, 2019
Remembering “One Small Step for Man;” Turkey’s S-400 Spat; “Hands Off Our Healthcare;” How Ranked-Choice Voting Would Streamline Primaries; Plus News You Might Have Missed
Happy Friday from Washington, D.C.! Today marks the end of a slow and hot week inside the Beltway. The languid heat was only exacerbated by President Trump’s back-and-forth with four freshman Democratic members of Congress and accusations that his attacks on “The Squad” as they are known were racist in nature. Democrats in the House of Representatives oversaw the passage of a $15 minimum wage bill, although they blocked an attempted impeachment vote, both of which also produced more heat than light. Beyond the District’s limits, Mexican drug cartel kingpin El Chapo was sentenced to life in prison at the supermax facility in Colorado that is thought to be inescapable. Even further away from D.C., the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was declared to be a global health emergency after the disease has killed nearly 1,700 individuals in the region.
As we track issues around the world, it’s also worth looking at CSPC Senior Fellow James Kitfield’s interview with Admiral Philip Davidson, USN, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. James’s interview with Admiral Davidson is a fascinating look at how the U.S. military is addressing the range of challenges in that region from an increasingly assertive China to the risk of conflict with North Korea.
In this week’s roundup, Dan remarks on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with nostalgia. Michael looks at the breach opening in U.S.-Turkey relations over missiles and warplanes. Chris remembers Justice John Paul Stevens, who passed away earlier this week, in the context of greater Supreme Court trends. Two of our interns also have pieces on the tape this week: Madison tries to plot a middle path forward to improve rather than replace Obamacare and Sarah explains the merits of ranked-choice voting for the 2020 primary elections. As always, we end with some news stories you might have missed this week.
Per Aspera Ad Astra
In a sense, words don’t do justice to a feat like Apollo 11, and our commemorations, while warranted, pale in comparison to the historic achievement when humankind first set foot upon the Moon. Still, these commemorations — ranging from a YouTube stream of CBS’s launch coverage to the Washington Monument illuminated with a projection of the Saturn V — are a uniquely modern retrospective of the accomplishments of our space program.
It is easy, when one looks at the Apollo accomplishments alongside the increasingly downbeat headlines today, to look at past accomplishments as evidence that our greatest accomplishments lie in the past.
The Apollo program was born out of the competition of the space race. During the Cold War tensions between the superpowers, the desire to explore space was driven not only by science and prestige but also the practical need to deliver nuclear weapons — in greater speed and quantity — than the adversary. The Apollo program was the ultimate extension of the fear, and drive to respond, that grew from the beep-beep-beep heard as Sputnik first orbited the earth. This direct challenge to the technological supremacy of the United States was met with a mobilization of our society to out-compete the Soviets.
In the success of Apollo, the United States met and overcame the challenge of the Space Race competition. Many, perhaps rightly, ask if we could meet such a challenge today. Still, you can’t see too far when you’re wearing rose colored glasses.
The context of the Apollo missions is important. These accomplishments took place at a time that was hardly a high point of American unity. The war in Vietnam was raging on, and the post-Tet reality of the conflict was clear to the American people. At home, Americans were fighting to be recognized as equals regardless of their race, sexuality, or gender. Even with the Apollo program in full swing, one could easily have picked up the morning newspaper and been as equally despondent as we are when we open our news apps.
The lesson to take from Apollo is that great things can be accomplished even when the challenge is immense and the day-to-day crises seem overwhelming. Apollo required not only the strategic vision to “land a man on the Moon and return him safely to the Earth,” but also the engineering, scientific, and political innovation and willpower to achieve that goal. At $153 billion in today’s dollars, it was a massive undertaking that required the close cooperation of government and the private sector to complete the mission. It took place not in secrecy, like the Soviet program, but in full view of the eyes of the world. Still, as popular as it is today, we should also remember that public approval for the Apollo missions barely peaked above 50 percent during the life of the program. But, popularity was not the concern for the astronauts, test pilots, engineers, scientists, and programmers. Together, they were charting a new course, through adversity into the heavens, to explore the next frontier.
When looking at the mission patches for Apollo, the astronauts of Apollo 11 broke tradition with the previous patches by not having their names on theirs. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins knew that the mission was about far more than the bravery and accomplishment of three astronauts — it was a recognition of the 300,000 people involved in the program and the dreams and hopes of all mankind.
Turkey’s S-400 Delivery Date Arrives
While it may be true that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, the breach in the relationship between the United States and Turkey over the delivery of Russian-made surface-to-air missiles, has been anticipated for some time. Since August 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has steadily moved forward with a plan to use the Russian system known as the S-400 for Turkish air defense, after previously trying to arrange to purchase a Chinese-made variant of the Russian S-300 system in 2013. Turkey received the first tranche of missile parts last Friday, in spite of repeated warnings from the United States and NATO, who retaliated by kicking Turkey out of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and threatening other sanctions. Observers in Washington are scrambling to understand how the relationship with Ankara got this bad, why the Turkish government chose such a confrontational position, and how to salvage the partnership with a lynchpin of the regional security architecture.
It is impossible to tell the history of the NATO Alliance without a focus on Turkey. Along with the Berlin Crisis, the occupation of northern Iran, and the Greek Civil War, Soviet attempts to pressure Ankara into opening the Turkish Straits to unlimited transit by the Soviet Navy was one of the foundational moments of the Cold War. The Turkish military was historically seen by the United States as a guarantor of regional stability and the strongest bilateral ties were generally military-to-military. The relationship was not without hiccups, however, especially after the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus and Turkey’s refusal to allow U.S. troops to invade Iraq through Turkish territory in 2003. As recently as 2012, Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) was being touted in Washington as “pragmatic” and “moderate” and “the most dynamic experiment with political Islam … among the Muslim world.”
If the bilateral relationship remains as damaged as it appears now, it is clear that the transitional moment was July 15, 2016, when elements of the Turkish military attempted to overthrow President Erdoğan. The coup attempt was thwarted, but President Erdoğan blamed a former political ally, Fetullah Gülen, for masterminding it. Gülen currently lives in a compound in the Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania and the U.S. government’s refusal to extradite him for his alleged crimes is a major source of friction in the U.S.-Turkey relations.
In the aftermath of the coup attempt, the Turkish military, government, and civil society were purged of alleged Gülenists in a move that has drawn criticism for more broadly stifling dissent. The United States and Turkey have also had disagreements over the U.S. military’s reliance on Kurdish-led forces in the counter-ISIS campaign in Syria, some of whom have links to the Kurdish terrorist group PKK that targets the Turkish government.
It is in this nexus of changing regional priorities, the conflict in Syria, and post-coup politics that the S-400 decision should be understood. According to European Council on Foreign Relations Senior Policy Fellow Asli Aydıntaşbaş, during the coup attempt, while American officials were sitting on the fence, Russian President Vladimir Putin called his Turkish counterpart to offer him the use of a Russian special forces unit that was on a training exercise on a nearby Greek island. This began a rapprochement between the longtime foes — at least on the personal, head-of-state level — and the missile delivery taking place the same week as the three-year anniversary of the coup attempt may not be a coincidence.
Russia also controls one of the major levers that could inflict serious pain on Turkey. Since 2017, Turkish forces have been enforcing a “de-escalation zone” in the Syrian province of Idlib. Syrian regime forces have already retaken three other de-escalation zones with the help of Russian airpower and intermittently threatened to attack Idlib. Turkey is already hosting more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees and an estimated 3 million civilians are living in the area around Idlib, who could be forced by violence to seek refuge in Turkey. The Turkish economy is already in severe straits and a massive refugee crisis would only exacerbate the problem. Knowing this, Russia has clearly presented itself as the only thing keeping the Assad regime from escalating in Idlib.
The U.S. government has been very clear that the delivery of the S-400 missiles would lead to Turkey’s eviction from the F-35 program, a step that was officially taken on Wednesday. American officials say that the S-400 is designed to target NATO aircraft and that operating the F-35 in proximity to the S-400 would result in sensitive information on the stealthy plane being captured by Russian intelligence. Russia already has S-400 batteries in Syria, where Israeli F-35s have struck Iranian and Hezbollah targets, so this statement can be taken with a grain of salt. There are additional technical concerns about integrating Russian hardware and software into NATO’s collective security architecture, but it is also possible that President Erdoğan views this as a feature rather than a bug. At CSIS, Thomas Karako, the Director of the Missile Defense Project, notes that half of the combat pilots in the Turkish Air Force were purged after the 2016 coup attempt and the S-400s may allow a more politically reliable branch of the Turkish armed forces to target the Air Force’s F-16s in the event of another coup attempt.
Moving forward, the United States needs to balance its interest in working around this growing disagreement while preventing the relationship from completely rupturing. Turkey hosts Inçirlik Air Base, one of the major hubs of U.S. Air Force operations in the region. There is evidence that the United States has invested in new facilities at the Royal Jordanian Air Force’s Muwaffaq Salti Air Base, which could backstop some of Inçirlik’s capabilities. More broadly, a bipartisan bill is working its way through both houses of Congress that would facilitate energy and security cooperation connecting European consumers to natural gas fields in the Israeli and Cypriot littorals through Greece. Turkey views this as an attempt to undermine its traditional role as a transit country for energy from Southwest Asia.
On the other hand, neither Turkish nor American policymakers should want Turkey to completely fall out of the transatlantic system. Europe and the United States remain major trade partners for the Turkish Republic, which is particularly important as the Turkish economy falters. Turkey also remains an important regional player in both the Balkans and Central Asia and losing its partnership would undermine American efforts in the region. Critically, evicting Turkey from NATO altogether would accomplish a major Russian foreign policy goal at the expense of American interests, which should give Washington pause, but Ankara also needs to keep in mind that President Putin does not want to pry Turkey out of NATO out of the goodness of his heart. This should be a strong reason to keep relations from completely collapsing, but it is up to the diplomats on both sides to keep things from getting out of hand.
Justice Stevens and SCOTUS Drift
This Wednesday, the passing of former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens sent waves through the DC legal community. Justice Stevens served on the Court for roughly 35 years, the third longest tenure of any justice in history, before he retired in 2010. Known as one of the Court’s liberal lions, his dissents in DC v. Heller and Citizens United v. FEC provide much of the basis of liberal jurisprudence on gun control and campaign finance. He also authored multiple majority opinions that bolstered federal and executive power such as Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council and Massachusetts v. EPA which have left a lasting legacy on the separation of powers. Whatever your opinion of John Paul Stevens, it is undeniable that he had a meaningful impact on the Supreme Court.
What surprises many people about Justice Stevens is that he was appointed by a Republican president, Gerald Ford. Although the Grand Old Party was less rigid in its conservative posturing in the 1970s, they still attempted to appoint judges that approximated their own viewpoints (Nixon’s appointments of Warren Burger and William Rehnquist, for instance). Upon his appointment to the Court, Justice Stevens was a centrist, holding a similar ideological position as that of Justice Anthony Kennedy upon his retirement last year. Between 1975 and 2010, Stevens’ philosophy drifted from 2018 Kennedy to 2018 Ginsburg. The transition from centrist to liberal lion was palpable.
This severe drift did not begin or end with John Paul Stevens. In fact, nearly every justice appointed after the Truman administration became more judicially liberal over the course of their careers. Even Justice Kennedy himself was famously subject to this drift, appointed by Reagan as a moderately conservative jurist but leaving the bench as its arch-centrist. Likewise, Bush appointee David Souter caught flak from conservatives when he sided with the liberal bloc in the later years of his tenure. The only justices immune from this trend in the past 50 years, in fact, have been Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Samuel Alito.
So why do more recent conservatives stay anchored to the philosophy they enter with? One common thread between the three above justices is that of the Federalist Society, a conservative and libertarian organization dedicated to studying the law. With chapters all over the nation, the Federalist Society is one of the most influential organizations on the conservative radar, and has had a staggering effect on Republican nominations to the Supreme Court. Founded in the 1980s, the organization attracted conservative and libertarian law students at the nation’s most elite law schools, and these students founded chapters led by influential professors. At a 1982 national conference of the Federalist Society, attendees included Robert Bork and University of Chicago Law professor Antonin Scalia.
Since the Federalist Society was founded, it has achieved a dominant posture in the politics of the Supreme Court. Especially when considering Republican judicial thinking, their opinion can make or break a nominee. Harriet Miers, for example, was nominated by George W. Bush to fill Sandra Day O’Connor’s seat on the Supreme Court. She was not known to the leadership of the Federalist Society in any way, and was seen as insufficiently conservative for a seat on the Court. Had she been confirmed, perhaps she would have been subject to the sort of drift that John Paul Stevens endured, but vocal opposition from the Federalist Society caused Bush to rescind her nomination. In her place, Bush nominated Federalist Society member Samuel Alito.
Before the 1980’s, conservative judicial philosophy was not well defined and often developed into a fondness for the power of the executive and a deference to the other branches. Liberal judicial philosophy had the benefit of the Warren Court, which was grounded in active judicial protections for civil rights and generally liberal political ideas. Throughout the 1970s, more “conservative” jurists simply aligned themselves against this current of Warren Court judicial activism, much like the deferential Republican politics of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. They chose similarly malleable judicial nominees to fill the bench, such as Justice John Paul Stevens.
The Reagan Revolution changed everything. Rather than the Rockefeller Republicanism of the 1960s and 1970s, Reagan espoused a modified Goldwater philosophy which held that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” He proudly represented the conservative undercurrent of the south and west, and cobbled together a coalition of fiscal and social conservatives to propel him to the White House. The 1980s were Reagan’s decade, and his politics shaped government at all levels; the Supreme Court was not immune. As Reagan inspired conservatives in small town America, so too did he inspire the conservative enclaves in the legal profession, which spread the Federalist Society like wildfire.
Reagan appointed Justice Scalia, a career member of the Federalist Society. His successor, George H. W. Bush, appointed Federalist Society member Clarence Thomas. Samuel Alito was likewise a member, and both Trump appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, have been active supporters of the organization. This trend will likely continue indefinitely, as the Federalist Society has now created a virtual monopoly on Republican Supreme Court nominations. They even provided President Trump with a “short list” of nominees that they found acceptable, which avoided a Harriet Myers-style torpedo. In the wake of Justice Stevens’ passing, we should consider the implications of this system, for good or for ill. For his lifetime of service, we salute John Paul Stevens, one of the last members of an endangered species: the liberal Republican Supreme Court justice.
We Don’t Want Your New Healthcare Plan
Healthcare is already at the forefront of the 2020 election. President Trump speaks of a ‘phenomenal’ new healthcare plan yet to be revealed, while Democrats struggle to unite under one plan as they begin the primary debates. With the government continuously flipping back and forth between keeping or repealing Obamacare, and the uncertainty associated with instituting a whole new system, insurers have to protect their businesses, so they inflate prices. If the government repealed and replaced Obamacare, the healthcare industry would have to handle many changes — and the uncertainty of each — further increasing prices or even causing them to flee marketplaces like many companies are doing to Obamacare. As much as the country wants a better alternative to Obamacare, officials should focus on reworking Obamacare, piece by piece, instead of instituting a fully new plan because it would overwhelm the healthcare market, confuse constituents, and be a short term solution.
As much negative backlash as Obamacare gets, it does have a fair share of pros. Obamacare mandates that insurance companies include ten essential coverages, offer free preventative care, not deny individuals for pre-existing conditions, and ban lifetime limits. It attempts to force insurers and hospitals to be transparent with customers and for businesses to provide healthcare to employees. Nevertheless, Obamacare has increased taxes, fees, and premiums. Republican proposals attempt to mend Obamacare mainly by separating the normal risk and high-risk populations by creating high-risk pools in states and decreasing fines, taxes, and fees. This concept was included in the failed American Health Care Act of 2017, the last full (attempted) Republican remodel of Obamacare.
Since Obamacare has been in force for almost 10 years now, changing to a new plan, even partially based on Obamacare, will take years to come into full effect. Along with all the cost of instituting new plans and programs, the cost of retraining doctors and insurers to rework their businesses with the new plan will be an even greater hassle than when Obamacare was first put into place. It will require endless streams of money, but the political backlash will be the greatest cost of all. Obamacare seems impenetrable, and in a sense it is, if you stick to the “repeal and replace” hope of Republican lawmakers.
Individuals, now required to have health insurance, have generally found plans that they like, understand, and can afford over the past ten years. Risking supporting a new plan that could completely change their provider, coverage, and cost, even though it may eventually be better, is not worth it. Many are calling for an end to Obamacare, but they are more likely to support incremental changes to the same plans they already have instead of a brand new system. According to a RealClear Opinion Research poll, when asked “what is the top issue facing America today?”, the majority at 36% said healthcare, with topics such as the economy (26%) and immigration (18%) lagging, and foreign policy coming in last at 3%. Another poll found that 39% believe that the “healthcare system in America is not working well: we need to improve the system we have now” and 29% believe the “healthcare system is good, but not perfect: we need to continually make improvements.” Both of these options topped the opinion that the “healthcare system is broken: we need a completely new system” at 28%.
In order for individuals to support a healthcare plan it must have four factors: extensive coverage, cheap premiums, transparency for cost and coverage, and ease of understanding. The biggest cause of high premiums for universal healthcare programs are high-risk patients. So if you want all-inclusive coverage, you have to pay more, or healthcare coverage needs to be divided into a tier system where those who have more problems can upgrade at a price. However, a tier system like Obamacare gives options but also increases complexity and confusion. Lastly, transparency is necessary for the healthcare system to work because current healthcare programs are notorious for concealing cost and not explaining coverages, so the insured end up with larger bills and less coverage after the fact.
The only way to ensure that the healthcare market improves is for legislatures to abandon dreams of “repeal and replace” and work across the aisle to create a long term patch work plan focusing on the four main factors: cost, coverage, transparency, and simplicity. If Obamacare is kept in place as a foundation and revised incrementally, hopefully with bipartisan support, individuals would not be overwhelmed and harbor more support, the economy would have more security, and the revised healthcare plan would be more likely to last long term.
Implement RCV for More Productive Primaries in 2020
Wednesday, the DNC announced which candidates will appear in the second primary debate scheduled for the end of July. The second round will again feature twenty candidates spread out over two nights. With a stubbornly huge field and President Trump as the opponent, you can’t blame Democrats for worrying about “electability.” There is fear that whoever comes out of the primary won’t be able to turn out voters who had supported a rival Democrat earlier in the race. Using a ranked-choice voting (RCV) system in the primaries would allow candidates to focus on areas of agreement, rather than driving away from each other in pursuit of different voting blocks. It also would help to assuage some of the Democratic fears about choosing a nominee who will be unable to represent the broader goals of the whole party following such a fractured primary.
With RCV, voters rank their preferences and if no candidate wins a majority of votes, the last place candidate is eliminated and voters who voted for that candidate as their top choice have their votes redistributed to their second choice (and so on) until one candidate reaches a set share of the vote, usually 50%. RCV rewards candidates who appeal to a wider range of voters and encourages more voters to be involved. Voters do not have to cast a calculated, strategic vote and are incentivized to vote even if they do not prefer one of the leading candidates. For example, a vote for Jill Stein does not leave the voter with guilt that one indirectly elected Donald Trump.
In single-choice elections, candidates often find themselves trapped in a “lane” with at least one other candidate. A lane can be loosely viewed as a few candidates who are competing for the same sub-divisions of voters, such as progressive liberals, black voters, or female voters. The current system pushes candidates into lanes where vote splitting often ends up hurting all the candidates in that lane. Voters who most identify with the most progressive candidates in the race, Senators Sanders and Warren, are forced to pick between the two, splitting the coalition and hurting the chances that one either will eventually be the nominee. This current system motivates Senator Sanders and Senator Warren to draw upon small policy or personal aspects that separate them in order to win over voters who might like both candidates. RCV would allow voters to rank Warren and Sanders as their first two choices, expressing support for the overall agenda they both represent.
It is in the interest of the Democratic Party base to nominate a candidate who will be able to build a big tent and keep voters engaged through election day. An especially large primary field threatens to produce a candidate with a strong core, but without appeal across the party. FairVote, a pro-RCV advocacy group, explains this dilemma, “With so many candidates on the ballot, the single-choice method used to award delegates limits voters’ expression and threatens to produce a nominee without broad support.” RCV is able to help here by incorporating voters’ preferences beyond their first choice. It’s all about being a voter’s second or third choice if they have already decided where their primary allegiance lies. Candidates need to appeal to all voters to be successful and cannot alienate their rivals’ supporters. This pushes candidates to agree with one another on as many fronts as possible to attract those second or third choice voters.
RCV can also help the Democratic Party more fairly distribute delegates and select a nominee with as big a tent as possible. In the Democratic Party’s nominating system, candidates with vote totals over 15% in any given primary receive delegates proportionally from that state. Imagine a situation where the percentage distributions stay relatively low, like they are in many polls now. Sanders could finish in a state, say New Hampshire, at 16.5%, with Warren behind him at 14%. If the two finished in New Hampshire with those numbers, Sanders would be eligible for delegates and Warren would not, despite their small marginal difference. Using RCV in a primary would get more candidates to the 15% threshold. On primary night, the last place candidates will first have their voters redistributed, and this will continue until all remaining candidates have more than 15% of the vote. With RCV, more deserving candidates will be able to get past this 15% margin and candidates will not be unfairly disqualified for having marginal vote differences.
While RCV has the potential to eliminate primary elections and even the two-party duopoly in American politics some day, the process of incorporating it into primary elections would be relatively seamless. States that have used RCV have seen few problems, and voters have mostly understood the new system. Looking to 2020, Kansas will use RCV for the Democratic Primary and Iowa will offer the option of a new virtual caucus, which will utilize RCV. These shifts should be mimicked by other states striving to pick a candidate who best represents the electorate and who has long-term electoral viability. With ranked-choice voting, you can vote for the Jill Steins or Gary Johnsons or even Marianne Williamsons of your dreams, without worrying that you are an election-saboteur. RCV would encourage candidates to focus on their similarities rather than differences and would help the primary system to produce a representative candidate whom Democratic voters are excited to come back out and support in November 2020.
News You Might Have Missed
The Mars Curiosity Rover might need to prepare for company, as emerging research suggests that a material called silica aerogel could be utilized to terraform regions of Mars to make them habitable for humans. Silica aerogel is unique because it easily allows the passage of light while simultaneously limiting the conduction of heat. Scientists believe that a shield made of silica aerogel could increase temperatures via a greenhouse effect in order to establish conditions conducive to photosynthesis, liquid water, and ultimately human life. Furthermore, unlike previous propositions that revolve around the total transformation of Mars’ surface, this approach relies on existing technology and more achievable goals. Space fanatics are over the moon about this new prospect, but certain engineering and ethical concerns eclipse their unadulterated enthusiasm. Consequently, although this recent development points to a future that is out of this world, its implications must be examined in “crater” detail.
U.S. Government-Weaponized Ticks
Were you infected with Lyme disease sometime between 1950 and 1975? Well, the House of Representatives passed a bill that will require the DoD to review whether or not the Pentagon used ticks in experimentations for biological weapons during this time frame. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), who had previously read numerous books that make the claim that the government had used ticks and other blood-sucking insects, brought this proposal forth last week. Some Lyme disease experts, however, express concern that the claims Smith has made should be approached with some caution. One of the books cited (Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons) claims that military scientists released weaponized insects that had been infected into residential areas to view how they would spread, and these experiments could have (accidentally or deliberately) led to the spread of Lyme disease during the 60s. The American Lyme Disease Foundation’s Phillip Baker says that despite the passing of the bill, the representative’s claims are still unfounded.
Italy’s far right: Neo-Nazis with an arsenal of weapons
Carlota Cumella de Montserrat
An eleven foot long air-to-air Matra Super 530 missile sold by Qatar 25 years ago, along with rocket launchers, bayonets, cannons, pistols, rifles, and plenty of ammunition, were seized by the police in a raid in Turin, Italy. In case the weapons were not enough, Nazi propaganda also accompanied the booty. Swastikas, references to Hitler, and nation-state-level weaponry show to the direction that this corner of the extreme-right ecosystem is taking in Italy. However, this discovery has elicited little major concern in the Italian government, likely because the three men arrested just wanted to sell the weapons and are “not connected to terrorism” (and are not the immigrants about whom Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini often speaks out). In fact, one of the men arrested was part of the neo-fascist Forza Nuova Party and ran for Parliament. The investigation that led to this outcome was initially focused on the involvement of the pro-Russian Italian far right militants in ongoing conflict in the Donbas region of Ukraine.
Protests have been growing in Puerto Rico following leaked online chats between Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló and his political circle. The leaked messages included crude sexual language and messages that mocked other politicians. The Chief Financial Officer and Secretary of State have stepped down following the leaks, but Rosselló is refusing to leave office. Protestors remain in the streets as police use tear gas to stall their efforts. Much of the political unrest in Puerto Rico has centered on the government’s weak response to Hurricane Maria. There are fears that the protests will disincentivize continued aid from the federal government. Many see the messages as a turning point in how much more Puerto Ricans are willing to tolerate from their current government.
See You Later, (Meth) Alligator
As the University of Tennessee football season approaches, residents of the Volunteer State face a new “gator” adversary as the police department in Loretto, TN warns against the threat of “meth gators.” Officers found a suspect attempting to flush methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia down a toilet on Saturday and, according to a Facebook post made by the police department, their “sewer guys” are “not really prepared for meth.” Fowl, they warn, along with gators, could be affected by the introduction of drugs into the water. However, Kent Vliet, an alligator biologist at the University of Florida, who has worked with alligators for 40 years, believes that “meth alligators” are a “ridiculous notion” because alligators “tend to not react to drugs in the same way we do” and “if you flush meth it is going to be diluted.” The Loretto Police Department also offers to dispose of your drugs in the proper way if you give them a call. The Facebook post by the police department also mentions “methed-up” animals in Alabama that probably reference the “attack squirrel” that was allegedly given meth in order to keep it aggressive. Overall, as the Loretto police department says, “folks…please don’t flush your drugs m’kay.”
The views of contributors are their own, and not that of CSPC.