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Neutral Analysis: Occupy Wall Street Movement and Its Impact

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Occupy wall street

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Occupy Wall Street is an ongoing protest against social and economic inequality, high inequality, greed and corruption in US initiated by the Canadian Activist group Adbusters. The protesters believe that most of the wealth is controlled by only 1% of the population. The slogan “We are the 99%” was raised referring to the growing difference in wealth.

The movement has faced several police crackdown across the United States and fuelled several similar protests in other western nations as well. Where this protest is taking us is still uncertain, but it’s true that this movement has become a hot topic for debate around the world.

The protesters claim that increasing unemployment, spending cuts, and income stagnation has made the so called 99% of the American population suffer. They blame the Wall Street for the global recession. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010, real median household income has declined 6.4 percent since 2007. Meanwhile, the income of the top 1 percent continues to rise according to analyses of cfr.org.

The major factor driving the Occupy Wall Street movement is unemployment among the youth of the nation. The very same young population equips themselves with all social media tools to keep the movement alive while it grows.

Loosening Grip

While the Occupy Wall Street movement grows, it is still unable to gather the support of most of the Americans. The polls conducted in October and November shows a decreasing support of the public for the protest. According to a poll done by Quinnipiac University on November 3 only 30% of the American voters had favourable views on the ongoing protest, while 39% were against and rest were unsure. Another survey by the TIME magazine on October 13 showed that 54% of the Americans supported the idea of the movement, while 23% had negative impression.

Most of the Americans believe that 99% term being used as a slogan might not be correct. Dave Gilson at Mother Jones explains how this term “We are the 99%” has come up in the protest with the help of statistics and graphs as he tries to expose who are the 1% in his article.

what-they-own

Percent of Total Assets owned, by wealth in 2007, By Dave Gilson

what-they-make

Average Income including capital gains, 2008 US Dollars, By Dave Gilson

According to E. D Kain at forbes.com, the slogan “We are the 99%” is little exaggerated, his analysis shows that we could be 75% or atmost 80%, but not 99% or even 90%.

The Goal

The public is unclear about which path the protest has taken. According to most of the people in America, the protest is losing focus and lacks a unified aim, while some journalists feel the protest has a strong message but the way to put it forward has been wrong till now.

Adbusters co-founder Kalle Lasn says while it is difficult to talk about the protest and the path which it has taken, he believes that the goal of the protests is economic justice, specifically, a “transaction tax” on international financial speculation, the reinstatement of the Glass-Stegall Act and the revocation of corporate personhood. Another group has written an unofficial document, “The 99 Percent Declaration”, that calls for a national general assembly of representatives from all 435 congressional districts to gather on July 4, 2012, to assemble a list of grievances and solutions.

Views of the American Government and Leaders

President Obama during a news conference, on October 6: “I think it expresses the frustrations the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country … and yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on the abusive practices that got us into this in the first place.”

Ron Paul, U.S. Congressman and 2012 Republican presidential candidate: “If they were demonstrating peacefully, and making a point, and arguing our case, and drawing attention to the Fed—I would say, ‘good!'”

Herman Cain, 2012 Republican presidential candidate, calling the protest as anti capitalist: “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”

Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman: “People are quite unhappy with the state of the economy and what’s happening. They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can’t blame them. Certainly, 9 percent unemployment and very slow growth is not a good situation.”

John Paulson, billionare and founder of Paulson & Co.: “The top 1% of New Yorkers pay over 40% of all income taxes, providing huge benefits to everyone in our city and state. The protesters are vilifying our most successful businesses”

Vikram Pandit, head of Citigroup: “Protesters’ sentiments completely understandable, Wall Street had broken the trust of its clients.”

Manmohan Singh, Economist and Prime Minister of India: “There are reasons why people are protesting. People are protesting in Wall Street, in Europe about the fat salaries that the bankers are getting when people are being asked to tighten their belts. There is problem of growing unemployment in the United States. There is also worry in Europe. So there are problems which the system must have credible answers to take them on board.”

Mikhail Gorbachev, President of former Soviet Union: “The protest is justified, Americans should put their own house in order before attempting to do such with other countries.”

A similar protest took place in India in the month of August against the government over corruption. The protest was extremely peaceful where the public marched the roads with candle lights and also sat on hunger strike without damaging any property or harming anyone. The movement was successful to gather support of a large number of Indian public, nearly 75% claimed by an unknown source.

Though India might not have much to say on economic issues of America, but the land of Gandhi has a lot to teach the violent protesters in New York.

Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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China

What a Rising Xi Jinping Means for China and the World

Manak Suri

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Xi Jinping China

Source: en.kremlin.ru

“Watch this man.” These were the three words used by the founding father of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew to describe a relatively unknown Xi Jinping while he was yet to become the President of the People’s Republic of China. Today, in addition to being China’s “paramount leader”, Xi is arguably the most powerful man in the world, and even if leaders across the world were doubtful about it till now, the developments in the previous week were sure to make them think again.

19th Party Congress: How it unfolded

Xi today, Xi forever?

The Communist Party of China assembled the previous week for its 19th Party Congress, a political summit that takes place every five years to decide upon the country’s future and the future is precisely what Xi has fixated his eyes upon. According to the current rules, Mr Xi must step down as the leader when his term ends in 2022 and as tradition dictates, a successor must be appointed. While only time will reveal whether Mr Xi steps down from the presidency at the end of his term, it increasingly looks that he is not keen to do so, having failed to hint towards any successor for the time being. His apparent intentions to stay put were further solidified with the appointment of the new members to the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest decision making authority in the country after the president. Each of the members appointed to the body is over 60 years of age, which means that they are highly likely to retire when their term comes to an end with the next meeting five years later. Interestingly, two-thirds of them are also known to be Mr Xi’s loyalists.

Xi Jinping Thought: A force to be reckoned with

“Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” or the “Xi Jinping Thought” for short was written into the party’s constitution at the end of the Congress. The thought consists of 14 principles calling for deep reforms, conserving the environment, the party’s complete control over the army, and the importance of the unification of the country. The development was highly publicised and with good reason. With the “Xi Jinping Thought” embedded in the constitution while still being in power, Xi Jinping has drawn comparisons from all over the world to Mao Zedong himself. Moreover, he has ensured that anyone that opposes him will do so at the cost of their removal from the party. When Xi asked the delegates at the end of his address for any objections, shouts of “meiyou” which means “none” rang through the Great Hall of the People.

Mr Xi has declared the start of a “new era” for China, and undoubtedly for the entire world. It is therefore important to ask what significance these developments hold for the country and for the world at large.

What this means for China

The inclusion of Xi’s thought in the constitution means that the same will be taught in schools, colleges, and other institutions throughout the country, infusing his ideology among the Chinese on a cultural level. Abraham Denmark, director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center puts it aptly when he says that the move “greatly increases, … broadens, and deepens Xi Jinping’s personal power within the Chinese system”.

The president has already found a wide support of the Chinese population with his push for modernisation and his crackdown on corruption has been hugely popular among the masses. Since his election in 2012, Mr Xi’s anti-corruption drive, famously known within the country as the “tiger and flies campaign” has either disciplined or expelled nearly a million party members. As his stance on corruption remains as stern as ever, many have come to view it as a political tool used by him time and again to get rid of political rivals. However, the corruption drive has undoubtedly proved to be effective and fruitful for the country’s business climate.

While Mr Xi’s crackdown on corruption has garnered immense coverage, the crackdown on humans rights activists and NGOs has not received its fair share. China has struggled for decades in its battle for free speech. In 2015, many human rights lawyers were detained and many international NGOs faced stricter curbs to keep them from functioning. As the president has left little room for any opposition within the party, the authoritarianism and censorship are by no means expected to be relaxed, ensuring that there is no opposition from outside the party as well.

Powerplay: China’s standing on the global stage

Donald Trump was among the world leaders who wished the Chinese president when he congratulated him on his “extraordinary elevation”. The reverence he holds for Mr Xi was quite apparent when he said: “some people might call him the king of China.” The surprise, however, came when North Korea’s Kim Jong Un congratulated the president on his “great success” since the two leaders are not known to be fond of each other. The intent here is clear. Both sides need a China that is continuously growing in power on their side in their stand against each other, and that means a closer association with Mr Xi. Chinese influence in the world is unlikely to stop there.

While speaking to CNN, James McGregor, author of “No Ancient Wisdom, No Followers: The Challenges of Chinese Authoritarian Capitalism”, mentioned that “given the chaos in Washington and also the dysfunction in Europe, the world is looking for leadership.” Mr Xi enjoys a great level of stability and largely unquestioned authority in a time where the leaders of Western democracies face intense competition at home. As such, his message to his party and to the world is clear: in the coming decades, China will “stand proudly among the nations of the world” and “become a leading global power. ” However, it will do so on its own terms, emphatically rejecting the Western political models.

These intentions are perhaps best evidenced by The Belt and Road initiative, China’s attempt at connecting Europe, Asia, and Africa with each other through a modern take on the Silk Route, into which it has already pumped hundreds of billions as loans and aid to countries across all three continents. While the project has been met with opposition from Japan, India, and the USA, many of China’s neighbours have expressed their support for it, which speaks of its influence on the global stage.

With the people’s army under the control of the party, Mr Xi also looks to achieve the twin goals of increasing the military might and the protection of China’s sovereignty. “We will not tolerate anyone, using any means, at any time to separate one inch of land from China”, he said in his address which is seen as a warning to both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Enhancing combat capability is also linked to the Chinese interests in the South China Sea, where its activities of building and militarisation of islands have received backlash from the international community.

“If one is big”, Mr Xi said on the final day of the Congress, “one must act big.” There’s no doubt that Mr Xi intends to put these words into action at the global level. Lee Kuan Yew once rightly pointed out about China that the world would do well to remember:  “The size of China’s displacement of the world balance is such that the world must find a new balance. It is not possible to pretend that this is just another big player. This is the biggest player in the history of the world.”

References:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/china-congress-xi-jinping-petricic-1.4371251

https://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/03/interview-lee-kuan-yew-on-the-future-of-us-china-relations/273657/

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/10/china-xi/544035/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/xi-jinping-china-communist-party-constitutional-amendment-ideology-enshrined-superpowers-future-mao-a8017111.html

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Europe

UK Attempts To Bypass European Commission On Brexit Blocked By Brussels

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Brexit European Union

Via geographos

As the UK and EU draw deeper and deeper into uncharted waters, Brexit negotiations are becoming increasingly erratic. As negotiators from both states met this week to discuss items such as the Northern Ireland Border, the rights of EU citizens currently residing in the UK and the notorious ‘divorce bill’, there have been numerous reports of frustration within the British camp.

Frustration

Recently it was revealed that Prime Minister Theresa May, believing talks to be at an impasse, intended to go over the heads of the EU’s Brexit negotiators and appeal directly to world leaders such as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. When questioned about this, however, Brussels officials close to the negotiations intimated that Mrs May would not be able to circumvent the negotiations process.

The officials pointed out that both French and German leaders had agreed prior to the talks that negotiations would come “as a single package” where “individual items cannot be settled separately” and that no member state would abstain from negotiations in favour of individual agreements.

One year on…

It has been over a year now since the UK referendum in which the country voted (at a rate of 52% to 48%) to leave the European Union in an unprecedented political and economic chain of events, the repercussions of which will take years to fully realise but which the world glibly knows as Brexit. It’s a small name for such a political leviathan. Many of the world’s leading bankers and economists still aren’t sure what to make of. Recently CEO Lloyds Bank Antonio Horta-Osorio (who has been lauded for restoring the bank’s profits to pre-financial crisis levels) expressed doubt and uncertainty over the long term economic effects of Brexit. It’s somewhat telling that former Prime Minister David Cameron resigned shortly after the vote, claiming that his involvement in the ‘Remain’ campaign put him at odds with the will of the people but it’s possible that he had the prescience to realise that he had no hope of taming this wily and unpredictable beast. One year on, the beast only seems to have become further enraged by the negotiating process.

Difficult negotiations

Theresa May has gone into Brexit negotiations with some questionably aggressive negotiating tactics. The first round of talks were mired by her strangely audacious assertion that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The frustration has clearly been felt on both sides with chief negotiator Michel Barnier urging Mrs May to begin negotiating “seriously”. The French government also demonstrated an unwillingness to circumvent negotiations earlier this week, stating that it “fully supports, on the substance as well as on the method, Michel Barnier’s negotiating mandate” and asserting that claims that Mrs May can somehow bypass the procedure “are founded on absolutely nothing and do not reflect reality”. Brexit Minister David Davis, however, retains an optimistic tone, stating;

“Our goal remains the same: we want to agree a deal that works in the best interests for both the European Union and the United Kingdom and people and businesses right across Europe. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get back to work once more…”.

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Politics

Jeff Sessions Is Planning to Go After States Legalizing Medical Marijuana

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shisha marijuana smoke

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions apparently wrote a personal letter in May to Congress, asking it to remove the medical marijuana protections that had been in place for four years. That ban was put in place by the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. President Trump’s signed spending bill extended the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment through the end of 2017, and Senator Sessions wants to repeal it.

The Details of the Letter

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions asked Congress to repeal the ban the Department of Justice had been following that prohibited the Feds from going after medical marijuana suppliers in states where it had been legalized. In short, the ban prevents the federal government from enforcing federal drug law in states where medical marijuana has passed, and he’s asking Congress to lift the ban so that federal law is applied equally to all states – including those that legalized medical marijuana.

The Impact If Passed

If the ban were lifted, the Department of Justice would regain the authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act and shut down medical marijuana distributors. The federal government could then shut down medical marijuana in states that legalized it, including Colorado’s very recent approval of it. Everyone, from growers to dispensary workers to medical marijuana patients, would now be subject to potential DEA prosecution. However, as of this writing, Congress has not issued a response to Senator Session’s request.

Why the Legal Shift Wouldn’t Actually Help

The intent is to go after drug addiction that is harmful, though one can argue the policy is misguided since it is opioid addiction and overdose that is responsible for the rising death rate among the poor, not medical marijuana. The end result of criminalized medical marijuana would thus increase drug convictions and incarcerations, but not the growing addiction and death rates it is intended to address.

There is growing evidence that medical marijuana can help those addicted to opioids, and penalizing medical marijuana may end up undermining the potential treatment of the opioid addiction epidemic. The stated desire to fight crime is an honorable intention but isn’t furthered by this legislative change, since violent crime rates actually go down when medical marijuana is legalized.

Scientists like Raphael Mechoulam have been working for years on educating people on the various benefits of marijuana and a vast majority of constituents truly believe in its benefits in treating conditions such as glaucoma, depression, and alleviating pain associated with chemotherapy and AIDs.

The Scalise Shooting

The June 14th shooting of several Republican officials by liberal, pro-medical marijuana Bernie Sanders supporter, James Hodgkinson, might fuel the fire of some hardline Republicans. Violence in the name of various political causes is often used to rally various bases against a cause. Hardline Republicans might use these actions to completely de-legitimize the benefits of medical marijuana. 

The medical marijuana debate has been resolved to date by the Feds essentially leaving the issue to the individual states, regardless of federal drug laws that make medical marijuana illegal. Senator Sessions asked Congress to repeal the amendment that allowed for this de facto state-based solution. Congress to date has done nothing while President Trump seems fine with leaving things as they are.

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