Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ferguson, Missouri Descends into Chaos

After the grand jury’s decision was announced, demonstrators began protesting what they considered a travesty of justice in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Brown was killed in August by police officer Darren Wilson, who says Brown charged him in the street after a scuffle in his police car after Wilson told Brown and his friend to move off the street.

Shortly after, rioters began breaking into shops, looting them, and burning them. Much of the action was captured on live TV. Protesters threw projectiles and cursed out CNN crews, while one looter assaulted a Fox News cameraman while filming  his stolen liquor from a store.

Officials in Ferguson and Missouri have faced intense criticism for the botched handling of the decision. Questions have been raised as to why the decision was announced at night even though news of the decision had been reported throughout the day, giving rioters a chance to plan. The police force on the ground was also inadequate to halt the burnings and the gunfire that was heard during the night.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chuck Hagel to Step Down as Administration Looks at New Direction for Defense Department

Credit: Stephen Crowley/NYT
It was not a while ago when President Obama was touting former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as the new face of the US Department of Defense. The moderate Republican had made a name for himself by opposing the Iraq War and drawing the ire of many of his GOP colleagues. Coming into office in 2013, Hagel was one of the first new administration officials after the reelection of Obama in 2012. During the election, Obama boasted of his foreign policy accomplishments: the pullout of Iraq, the rollback of the American military complex, the death of Osama bin Laden, and the effort to reset relations with Russia, mocking Mitt Romney's calling Russia "our number one geopolitical foe."

The world has changed since then: ISIL, the acronym by which the Islamic State was more known before ISIS became the more prevalent term, then just a jihadist force in Syria fighting Assad and moderate opposition forces, now controls swaths of the region. Russia now controls Crimea and is helping insurgents in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, China's effort to exert economic dominance in the eastern Pacific is likely to lead to a military buildup.

The radical changes in events makes it clear why Obama asked Chuck Hagel to resign this past week.

Obama praised Hagel at a press conference Monday, referring to his combat experience, “He’s been in the dirt. He’s been in the mud. He sees himself in them [the soldiers]. They see themselves in him.”

Hagel was confirmed in a raucous Senate hearing in 2013, with most of the criticism levied by his fellow Republicans. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was one of his harshest critics. McCain and Hagel had a falling out years before, likely because of their differences in view of the Iraq War. McCain and Hagel were once known to be very close friends.

McCain seemed to have taken a softer take on Hagel after his resignation was announced, saying, "He was up to the job."

Hagel will remain as defense secretary until his successor is confirmed. Speculation as to whom that will be has begun. Candidates include Michèle A. Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense, and Ashton B. Carter, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) was also considered a candidate, but Reed has stated publicly that he is not interested in the job, his spokesman saying, “Senator Reed loves his job and does not wish to be considered for secretary of defense or any other cabinet post." Reed is a former Army Ranger.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has suggested former Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) as a possible replacement, but Lieberman's own hawkish foreign policy views often mirror those of McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who have criticized Obama relentless over his perceived failures in foreign policy. This makes Lieberman's appointment unlikely.

Hagel's departure means that only Republican will be serving in Obama's cabinet, VA Secretary Robert McDonald.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Obama Undertakes Actions Domestically and Internationally

Obama and Xi Jinping met in Beijing at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, where they discussedtrade agreements and a new commitment to cutfossil fuel emissions.
Andy Wong, AP
Reeling from this month's midterm elections, President Obama has sought to gain momentum in this lame duck session of Congress before a Republican majority controls both the House and Senate in 2015.

Domestically, President Obama has promised executive action on immigration, a move decried by Republicans and lauded by Democrats, who hope to energize the Hispanic vote ahead of 2016. Speaking while attending the G-20 convention in Brisbane, Australia, he said, “There is a very simple solution to this perception that somehow I'm exercising too much executive authority: pass a bill I can sign on this issue." House leadership has refused to vote on the Senate immigration bill that leads to pathway for citizenship for illegal immigrants. Most Republicans want a plan that is piecemeal, rather than comprehensive, and that does not include a path for citizenship.

Speaker John Boehner has promised to fight the plan "tooth and nail."

Some analysts estimate Obama's executive plan will affect about 5 million illegal immigrants, though the President has been vague on his exact plans.

Internationally, Obama worked to flex his political muscles at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in China earlier this month. In wake of China's attempts to acquire economic dominance in region, the United States and China agreed to cut emissions over the next decades. Current Senate Minority Leader and likely incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the plan "unrealistic." Whether the plan will go into effect as planned is indeed ambiguous as China tries to stabilize its economy amid slowing economic growth.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

GOP Sweeps Senate, House, Adds Gubernatorial Seats

Tuesday was a good night for Republicans…a very good night.

The Republicans captured the Senate for the first time since the Bush Presidency, winning seven key states on election night: West Virginia, Arkansas, South Dakota, Colorado, Montana, Iowa, and North Carolina. Alaska, if the current vote count total holds, will also go the GOP. In Arkansas, Colorado, North Carolina, and Alaska, Republican candidates defeated Democratic incumbents. Defeating four Democratic incumbents is almost unheard of in Republican politics.
Republicans have increased their majority in the House of Representatives to levels unseen since the Truman administration and possibly even since the Hoover administration. Republicans may end up with around 250 seats after all results are certified.

Democrats were hoping to unseat Republican incumbent governors they deemed vulnerable this year. It only happened in one state, Pennsylvania, where incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett, long written off as a lost cause, lost reelection to Democratic businessman Tom Wolf. In contrast to the Democrats hopes, incumbent Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D) lost reelection to Republican businessman Bruce Rauner. Democrats also lost open seats in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Arkansas.

Republicans seem to have lost Alaska’s governorship to Republican-leaning independent Bill Walker. Incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell, who succeeded Sarah Palin after her resignation and won in his own right in 2010, faced numerous controversies and high unpopularity ratings.

The Republican wins across the United States Tuesday is certain to force adjustments by President Obama for his agenda. The calls for liberal actions soon after his reelection in 2012 are now a distant memory as Republicans, many eager to cut government spending and taxes and roll back provisions of the health care law, will now control both chambers of Congress in the President’s last two years. It is a far cry from the large majorities Democrats enjoyed in President Obama’s first two years in office.

Here is a quick summary of the most interesting races of the election:


Current Senate Result
Credit: Washington Post
NOTE: Louisiana is heading for a runoff and a winner
will not be declared until at least December,

Montana: Rep. Steve Danies (R) beat State Senator Amanda Curtis (D).

West Virginia: Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) beat West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D), becoming the state’s first female senator and the first Republican elected from West Virginia since the 1950s.

South Dakota: Former Gov. Mike Rounds (R) beat Rick Weiland (D).

North Carolina: North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) beat incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan (D).

New Hampshire: Incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) defeated former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown (R), providing the Democrats a piece of good news in the night.

Arkansas: Rep. Tom Cotton (R) beat incumbent Senator Mark Pryor (D).

Louisiana: Incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) has a plurality over leading Republican, Rep. Bill Cassidy. The race will head to a runoff, where Cassidy is favored to win, but a Landrieu win is still possible.

Colorado: Rep. Cory Gardner (R) beat incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D).

Alaska: Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan (R) appears to have beaten incumbent Sen. Mark Begich (D). The election will likely not be certified for a while.

Virginia: Biggest shock of the night, Ed Gillespie (R) nearly beat incumbent Democratic Senator 
Mark Warner. The race was considered to be safe for Warner.

Kentucky: Incumbent Senator Mitch McConnell (R) handily beat Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), likely making McConnell the next Senate Majority Leader.

Georgia: Businessman David Purdue (R) easily defeated Democrat Michelle Nunn, capturing a majority of the vote, thus avoiding a runoff.

Kansas: Incumbent Senator Pat Roberts (R) fended off a challenge from Democratic-leaning Greg Orman (I).

Iowa: State Senator Joni Ernst (R) handily beat Rep. Bruce Braley (D). It was the calling of Iowa’s Senate race that assured GOP control of the Senate in the 114th Congress.

South Carolina (Special): Incumbent Tim Scott (R) won the election, becoming the first black person to be elected from a Southern state to the Senate since Reconstruction.


Current Gubernatorial Results
Credit: Washington Post

Businessman and 2010 Republican nominee Charlie Baker beat Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D). Coakley received nationwide attention in 2010 for losing to Scott Brown in the special Senate election to replace Ted Kennedy.

Illinois: Bruce Rauner (R) defeated incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn (D).

Maryland: Businessman Larry Hogan (R) defeated Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) to replace outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose liberal fiscal policies have made him unpopular in the state.

Arkansas: Former US Attorney and DEA head Asa Hutchinison (R) defeated former Rep. Mike Ross (D).

Alaska: Republican-leaning independent Bill Walker seems to have edged out incumbent Republican Sean Parnell. The election has not yet been officially called as of Wednesday, November 5.

Pennsylvania: Incumbent Tom Corbett (R) was defeated by Democrat Tom Wolf.

Ohio: Incumbent John Kasich (R) won in a landslide against Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald (D), even winning heavily-Democratic counties like Cuyahoga, Lucas, and Franklin.

Tennessee: Incumbent Gov. Bill Haslam (R) won a lopsided victory, winning every county in the state, including heavily-Democratic Shelby (home of Memphis) and Davidson (home of Nashville).

Wisconsin: Incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker turned back a challenge from Mary Burke (D), elevating his status as a 2016 Presidential contender.

Florida: Incumbent Rick Scott (R) won narrowly against former Gov. Charlie Crist (D).

Vermont: Incumbent Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) failed to win a majority, only a small plurality against Republican Scott Milne. The race will be decided by the state legislature, where it is almost certain to select Shumlin.

Kansas: Incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback narrowly survived against Paul Davis (D).

Texas: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) handily defeated State Senator Wendy Davis (D), once seen as a rising star in Democratic politics for her filibuster against a tough abortion regulation bill. Her campaign was marked by controversies and missteps that sunk her already small chances in the deep-red state.

California: Incumbent Jerry Brown (D) beat Neel Kashkari (R).

New York: Incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) handily defeated Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino (R), who made a surprisingly strong showing in upstate New York, winning Monroe County, home of Rochester.

Maine: Incumbent Gov. Paul LePage (R) won reelection against Rep. Mike Michaud (D) and Eliot Cutler (I). Michaud would have become the first openly gay governor elected if he had won.

Connecticut: Incumbent Gov. Dan Malloy (D) barely won reelection against Tom Foley (R).

Colorado: Incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) barely won reelection against former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R).


Current House Results
Credit: Washington Post

Republicans picked up or are projected to pick up seats in New York and California. Texas’s large 23rd Congressional District was picked up by Republican Will Hurd. Former Rep. Bob Dold (R) reclaimed his former Illinois seat from incumbent Rep. Brad Schneider (D). Longtime Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) lost reelection in his district. Last but not least, Dave Brat, who beat Eric Cantor in the GOP primary in his district, handily beat his Randolph-Macon College colleague Jack Trammell (D).  

To see more results, look through our Twitter feed from Tuesday night at

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Republicans to Take Control of Senate for First Time Since Bush Administration

The Republicans are projected to have taken control of the Senate by holding their competitive seats (in Kentucky, Georgia, and Kansas) and winning Democratic-held seats in West Virginia, Arkansas, South Dakota, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Iowa. Other states have not yet been called as of 10:27 CST.

This total would give the GOP a 52-48 majority in the Senate. Louisiana is projected to go to a runoff; Virginia and Alaska have not been called.

Comprehensive article to be released on Wednesday.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Key Races for The 2014 Midterms

Bing's predicted Senate results.
Credit: Bing
Here's the rundown:


Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota: Expected to be won by Rep. Steve Daines (R), Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R), and former Governor Mike Rounds (R) respectively.

Arkansas: Rep. Tom Cotton (R) is almost certain to beat incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AK). Cotton has pulled away from Pryor in recent weeks, and a Pyror win would be seen as stunner.

Louisiana: A runoff is possible between incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) and Tea Party-aligned Retired Colonel Rob Maness (R), but a win by Landrieu or Maness are likely not. However, if Louisiana is to determine control of the Senate in its possible runoff on December 6 if no candidate receives 50% of the vote, anything can happen.

Georgia: A similar situation to Louisiana: Businessman David Purdue (R) is leading Democrat Michelle Nunn, but winning 50% outright is unlikely for either candidate. If Georgia needs a runoff and if that election determines Senate control, anything can happen

Iowa: Joni Ernst (R) is leading Rep. Bruce Braley (D) in polling, but it is too close to definitively call a Republican pickup.

Alaska: Sen. Mark Begich (D) is still a contender, but is still running slightly behind Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan.

Kentucky: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) is very likely to win reelection against Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and possibly be the next Senate Majority Leader.

Kansas: Too close to call between incumbent Pat Roberts (R) and Greg Orman (I), who has some liberal views but has said that he will caucus with the party in the majority.

Colorado: Rep. Cory Gardner (R) has begun to pull away from incumbent Mark Udall (D), whose messaging on Gardner's position on reproductive issues may have cost him the advantage in the election.

New Hampshire: Incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) will probably win, but former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown (R) still has a chance with his rising poll numbers. His rise, however, may have come too late.

North Carolina: Incumbent Senator Kay Hagan is widely predicted to beat State Assembly Speaker Thom Tillis, but the senator and the speaker have only a few points separating them in the polls.


Massachusetts: The real surprise in the deep-blue state: Charlie Baker, the Republican 2010 nominee and the nominee this year, is running ahead of Attorney General Martha Coakley (who infamously lost to Scott Brown in 2010) and is forecasted to be the favorite to win the election.

Pennsylvania: Tom Wolf (D) is almost certain to beat incumbent Governor Tom Corbett (R), who has languished in polling for over a year.

Texas: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) is almost certain to beat State Senator Wendy Davis (D), whose filibuster against a tough Texas abortion bill made her a star in Democratic circles before campaign mishaps diminished her already small chances in the deeply-red state.

New York: Incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will almost certainly beat Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino (R) in Tuesday's election.

California: Incumbent Jerry Brown (D) is almost certain to beat Neel Kashkari (R).

Kansas: Incumbent Sam Brownback (R) is in trouble against Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D). His poll numbers have struggled since he instituted large tax cuts and spending cuts.

Maine: Incumbent Paul LePage (R) is competitive against Rep. Mike Michaud (D) and Eliot Cutler (I). Michaud would become the first openly gay governor elected if elected.

Maryland: Outgoing incumbent Governor Martin O'Malley (D) may be a drag on Democratic nominee Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown against challenger Lawrence Hogan, Jr. (R). However, Brown still remains the favorite in the race, but recent competiveness makes the results worth watching.

Wisconsin: Incumbent Governor Scott Walker (R) is the favorite to win against Mary Burke (D), but an upset is possible.

Florida: Incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R) and former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) are in an effective tie.

Alaska: Incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell, who replaced Sarah Palin after her resignation, is locked in a tight race with former Republican-turned-independent Bill Walker.

Colorado: Incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper is nearly tied with former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R).

Michigan: Incumbent Rick Snyder (R) is a favorite, but recent polls show former Rep. Mark Schauer (D) running close.

Connecticut: Tom Foley (R) is nearly tied with incumbent Gov. Dan Malloy (D).

Ohio: Incumbent John Kasich (R) is expected to win after initially thought to be vulnerable. Missteps by Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald (D) damaged his campaign before it could begin.

Georgia: Incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is likely to win against State Senator Jason Carter (D), Jimmy Carter's grandson.

Arkansas: Former DEA head and former US Attorney Asa Hutchinson (R) will almost certainly beat former Rep. Mike Ross (D).


Arkansas 2nd Congressional District:

Democrat Pat Hayes is leading Republican French Hill, bucking the trend of Republican wins in the state (if he actually wins).

California's 52nd Congressional District: Carl DeMaio has strong chance to beat incumbent Rep. Scott Peters (D) and become the first openly gay Republican elected to the US House.

New York's 21st Congressional District: Republicans may finally win back the district they held for so long before Bill Owens's win in 2009. Elise Stefanik (R) is running well ahead of Aaron Wolf (D), who replaced the retiring Owens on the Democratic ticket. Wolf may also be hurting because of the presence of Matt Funicello (G) on the ballot.

Utah's 4th Congressional District:

Former Mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, and rising star of the Republican Party Mia Love is the favorite to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Matheson (D). She is running against Doug Owens (D). If Love wins, she will become the first Haitian-American representative.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Private Space Exploration Suffers Serious Setbacks

Picture series detailing the failure of the Virgin Galactic
spacecraft over the Mojave Desert in California.
Private space exploration suffered a setback this week as two accidents destroyed a rocket carrying cargo and a malfunctioning spacecraft on a test flight led to the death of one and the injury of another.

On Tuesday, October 28, an Antares rocket carrying cargo to the Inter-national Space Station (ISS) exploded shortly after launch. The rocket launch was contracted by the company Orbital Sciences.

On Friday, October 31, a test flight of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise ended in tragedy after it crashed in the Mojave Desert in California. The crash killed the copilot and injured the pilot.

The causes of both malfunctions are under investigation.
Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson has pledged "to find out exactly what went wrong" with the spacecraft. Michael Alsbury, 39, was the person killed in the crash. The pilot, Peter Siebold, 43, managed to escape the fuselage of the craft.
With the Antares rocket, current speculation is that propulsion failure caused the rocket to come back towards earth, causing the massive explosion.