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Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence Heads Towards Virginia and the Carolinas

More than one million residents living the coastlines of Virginia and the Carolinas have been forced to evacuate their homes as the life-threatening Hurricane Florence hurtles towards the east coast.

Weather officials predict this storm to be one of the most powerful to ever hit the region, with forecasters estimating that the hurricane will make landfall this Thursday (September 13). Experts have reported that the region can expect potentially catastrophic winds of up to 150mph and high levels of flooding with up to two meters of rainfall.

The storm currently sits in category four on the national weather service’s (NWS) classification system, but the US national hurricane center (NHC) has said that it is closer to category five in strength—the most powerful classification as marked on the classification system.

At a news conference on Monday, South Carolina governor Henry McMaster said Florence “is particularly big, particularly strong and… there’s nothing stopping it.

“And when it hits the Gulf Stream in warmer water, it’s going [to intensify] even more.” McMaster declared a state of emergency on Saturday, along with the governors of Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland.

The NHC said, “The bottom line is that there is high confidence that Florence will be a large and extremely dangerous hurricane, regardless of its exact intensity.”

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to say, “My people just informed me that this is one of the worst storms to hit the East coast in many years. Also, looking like a direct hit on North Caroline, South Caroline and Virginia. Please be prepared, be careful and be SAFE!”

According to records, Hurricane Florence is the first storm at category four strength to hit the Carolinas for 30 years; the last occurrence was Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

People have been warned to steer clear of the coast’s beaches and oceans as the sea swelled and dangerous rip currents already surfaced over the weekend, forecasting the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

Further reading: Did Hurricane Irma Happen Because of Climate Change?

Trump's Star

Trump’s Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame Voted to Be Removed

West Hollywood City Council unanimously voted to remove Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame due to his “disturbing treatment of women and other actions that do not meet the shared values of the City of West Hollywood, the region, state, and country.”

Trump received his star in 2007 for producing the Miss Universe Pageant. Since then, Trump’s star has been vandalised and destroyed several times.

In 2016 the star was destroyed by James Otis with a sledgehammer. He was sentenced to three years probation, 20 days community service and a $4,400 fine.

The star has also been vandalised with a spray-painted swastika, a mute symbol and has had a wall built around it to symbolise Trump’s plans to build a wall along the border of Mexico.

Most recently, the star was destroyed in July by Austin Mikel Clay with a pickaxe. He then turned himself in to the LAPD. Clay could face up to three years in prison.

The issue of removing Trump’s star was debated in a West Hollywood City Council meeting. Clay spoke at the meeting, explaining why he destroyed Trump’s star. “I believe that it’s a threat to public safety with all the violence that’s erupting over the star,” he explained.

A Trump supporter at the meeting said: “I think it’s appalling to attack any star, much less the president’s star.”

Trump’s star also widely discussed by various celebrities. Jimmy Kimmel on his late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! said: “They didn’t install his star, they didn’t pay for his star. And when the star is damaged, it doesn’t cost them anything. This is none of their business.”

Mark Hamill, on the other hand, took to Twitter to suggest: “How about replacing it with someone who really earned it? Like @carrieffisher.”

Even though West Hollywood City Council voted to remove Trump’s star, they have no authority over the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Now, they are calling upon the City Council of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to remove the star.

Trump is not the only controversial celebrity on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey still have stars despite the numerous allegations of sexual abuse both celebrities have received.

Walk of Fame President, Leron Gubler, after complaints about Cosby’s star in 2015, said: “The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a registered historic landmark. Once a star has been added to the Walk, it is considered a part of the historic fabric of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Because of this, we have never removed a star from the Walk.” Due to this comment, it appears that Trump’s star will not be removed.

Further reading: Supreme Court Upholds Travel Ban

3D Printed Guns

Distribution of Blueprints for 3D Printed Guns Blocked by US Judge

A US District Judge issued a restraining order on July 31 preventing the publication of blueprints for 3D printed guns.

Although these guns are illegal to buy or sell, it is still legal to make them. 3D guns are available to anyone who has a 3D printer, a blueprint, and the materials needed to make it, meaning that a background check or documentation would not be needed to own one.

Guns only made out of plastic are currently illegal in the US due to the Undetectable Firearms Act, which states that any gun that cannot be detected by a metal detector is illegal. This means that if a 3D printed gun has a metal plate inserted into the body of the gun, it is legal.

The first ever 3D printed gun is believed to be invented in 2013 by Cody Wilson, a then 25-year-old law student at the University of Texas. After creating the gun, he posted the blueprint on his website, DEFCAD. The US State Department later removed the blueprint from the website.

Since then, Defense Distributed, a Texas gun rights organisation headed by Cody Wilson, along with the Second Amendment Foundation, have attempted to sue the US State Department.

Defense Distributed back 3D printed guns by stating that they are defending the 1st and 2 nd Amendments: freedom of speech and the right to bear arms.

Wilson told CBS, “I believe that I am championing the Second Amendment in the 21st century”.

In June, a settlement was reached that allowed Defense Distributed to publish their gun plans on August 1. The company published the plans five days early, on July 27.

Following the publication of the plans, Judge Robert Lasnik issued a temporary, nationwide restraining order on the distribution of the blueprints, saying that 3D printed guns have the potential to cause “irreparable harm”. Lasnik organized another hearing on August 10.

After the decision was made, Wilson tweeted: “By order of a federal judge in the Western District of Washington, DEFCAD.com is going dark.”

Bob Ferguson, Attorney General of Washington state, had filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Monday and sought a restraining order against the distribution of the blueprints. Ferguson called Lasnick’s decision “a complete, total victory”.

Donald Trump has weighed in on the situation, tweeting: “I am looking into 3D Plastic Guns being sold to the public. Already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, has stated: “The president is glad these efforts were delayed to give more time to review the issue. This Administration supports the decades-old legislation already in the books that prohibits the ownership of a wholly plastic gun.”

Further reading: Dick’s Sporting Goods to No Longer Sell Assault-style Rifles

Travel Ban

Supreme Court Upholds Travel Ban

On Tuesday 26 June, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of president Donald Trump’s travel ban after months of legal battles, which targets several Muslim-majority countries, coming as a massive shock to anti-discrimination advocates.

This ban, favored five to four, upholds the government’s position that the president has the authority to “suspend entry of aliens into the United States.”

Trump took to Twitter just hours after the ruling to hail his appreciation of the decision, tweeting: “SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS TRUMP TRAVEL BAN. Wow!”

Of the decision, Trump stated, “The ruling shows that all the attacks from the media and the Democrat politicians were wrong, and they turned out to be very wrong.

“If you look at the European Union, they’re meeting right now to toughen up their immigration policies because they’ve been over-run, they’ve been over-run.

“And frankly, a lot of those countries are not the same places anymore.”

Despite the decision, criticism flooded in from chief justice John Roberts. “The president of the United States possesses an extraordinary power to speak to his fellow citizens and on their behalf,” he said. “Our presidents have frequently used that power to espouse the principles of religious freedom and tolerance on which this nation was founded.”

One of the lawyers who voted against the ruling, Neal Katyal, tweeted “Disappointed by the decision, but proud to be part of a judicial process that closely reviews and checks presidential overreach. Americans don’t exclude b/c of nationality or religion. POTUS shouldn’t take ruling as approval to continue attacking our constitution. I will always fight it.”

The travel ban currently affects travelers coming in from Syria, Iran, Libya, Yemen and Somalia—predominantly Muslim areas of the world.

President Trump controversially implemented the first travel ban just a week after his internment into office in January 2017.

Further reading: Trump to Host Video Game Violence Meeting

Philadelphia Eagles

Trump Cancels Philadelphia Eagles’ Visit to the White House

President Donald Trump withdrew his invitation to welcome Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to the White House Monday evening.

Several prominent team players—including safety Malcolm Jenkins and defensive end Chris Long—had announced they would not attend the meeting as a protest against Trump.

The news comes amid controversy over players standing for the National Anthem at NFL games.

“The Philadelphia Eagles are unable to come to the White House with their full team to be celebrated tomorrow,” Trump wrote in a statement.

“They disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country. The Eagles wanted to send a smaller delegation, but the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.”

The President explained fans were “still invited to the White House to be part of a different type of ceremony”.

The ceremony, Trump wrote, would honor the USA, pay tribute to the heroes who fought to protect it, and loudly and proudly play the National Anthem.

“I will be there at 3 p.m. with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus to celebrate America,” he said.

It’s an unprecedented move by the President—the NBA champion, Golden State Warriors, declined an invitation from Trump to visit the White House after their 2017 championship win, but presidents usually honor their invitations to championship teams.

The debate centers on Long and Jenkins’ outspoken support of San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.

The NFL owners adopted a new policy on May 23 that will allow players who do not wish to stand for the National Anthem to remain in the tunnel. The NFL can also fine teams whose players do not stand and “show respect” during the anthem. Trump also said players who chose not to stand “shouldn’t be in the country”.

According to several reports, fewer than 10 players were intending to attend the White House event.

Wide receiver Torrey Smith wrote in a tweet: “There are a lot of people on the team that have plenty of different views. The men and women that wanted to go should’ve been able to go.

“It’s a cowardly act to cancel the celebration because the majority of the people don’t want to see you. To make it about the anthem is foolish.”

 

Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said he’s skipping the White House event, and instead invited the team to take a tour of the US Capitol.

“I’m proud of what the @Eagles accomplished this year. I’m skipping this political stunt at the White House and just invited the Eagles to Congress. @Eagles How about a tour of the Capitol?” he wrote on Twitter.

 

The team’s statement, released late Monday night, did not address Trump’s action directly:

“It has been incredibly thrilling to celebrate our first Super Bowl Championship. Watching the entire Eagles community come together has been an inspiration. We are truly grateful for all the support we have received and we are looking forward to continuing our preparations for the 2018 season.”

Further reading: Former Pittsburgh Linebacker James Harrison Announces Retirement

White House

White House Supports UK Decision to Expel Russian Diplomats

The White House supports the UK government’s decision to expel Russian diplomats residing in Britain, it has said.

The UK has concluded that the Russian government is responsible for the attempted assassination of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, 66 and his daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, using a dangerous nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury.

The statement from the White House reads:

“The United States stands in solidarity with its closest ally, the United Kingdom. The United States shares the United Kingdom’s assessment that Russia is responsible for the reckless nerve agent attack on a British citizen and his daughter, and we support the United Kingdom’s decision to expel Russian diplomats as a just response. This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behaviour in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit western democratic institutions and processes. The United States is working together with our allies and partners to ensure that this kind of abhorrent attack does not happen again.”

The supportive statement from the White House comes after the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told the UN Security Council that the US stood in “absolute solidarity” with its ally, the United Kingdom. In a strong rebuttal against the Russian government on the subject, Haley said that the US shared the UK’s assessment of the events that took place.

“The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent,” Haley said.

UK prime minister Theresa May has said that the diplomats, who have been identified as “undeclared intelligence officers”, have a week to leave the country. The UK described the poison as “a weapon so horrific that it is banned in war”.

Russia vehemently denies involvement in the attempted assassination. Mrs May has said that Russia has met the accusations with “sarcasm, contempt and defiance”.

Both victims are currently in a critical but stable condition in hospital.

Trump's America

Trump’s America: The Story So Far

His presidency has been without doubt one of the most bizarre and erratic in America’s 241-year history—whether you love or loathe him, Trump is here to stay.

Donald J Trump, self-styled ‘stable genius’ and billionaire businessman, hardly sleeps, loves cable TV’s Fox & Friends, lives in perpetual campaign mode, dines on the finest American fast-food and uses Twitter as the strangest form of diplomacy. He also thrives on controversy, relentlessly seeking out his next target—be it the ‘fake news’ media or his Democratic foes.

College News takes a look at Trump’s America, his administration so far and the legacy it’s likely to leave.

A nation divided?

For his supporters, president Trump is the best thing to happen to the USA for years. He is the standard-bearer of American business, he stands up for the nation and champions the “America first” mantra. Indeed, support from his loyal base is staunch; thousands turn up to his rallies, worshipping their idol with pseudo-religious enthusiasm.

But millions of Americans regard Trump with dismay. For them, he is a divisive figurean egotist who stokes tensions over race, the media and the environment. His approval ratings are low—they linger at around 40 percent, according to Gallupyet if Trump has taught us anything, it’s that he repeatedly defies the pollsters and disproves the naysayers.

In an administration plagued by allegations of Russian collusion, accusations of racism and serial sacking of senior staff, Trump seems invincible. What’s more, the divisions he instils serve only to make him more defiant and eager to remain in power.

The predictability of Trump’s unpredictability

One thing is certain. The most predictable thing about Trump is his unpredictability—making it nigh on impossible for political commentators to foresee his next move. From his inauguration to his state of the nation address, Trump’s tone has fluctuated. He now seems more conciliatory, offering something of an olive branch to the Democrats, though this could change at any time, as appeasement certainly isn’t his style.

What we will see of the president over the next years is anyone’s guess. All we can do is sit back and enjoy the show—because that’s what Trump does best: he entertains. (Though some may question the sustainability of an entertainer at the political helm of the free world.)

A businessman in the White House

Trump is not a politician. Rather, he is a ruthless businessman who will stop at nothing to get the job done. As such, his cutthroat approach to business has permeated the White House, with the hiring and firing of senior staff as commonplace as his scolding of the mainstream media.

Perhaps this is what the American political system needs: someone who takes no prisoners to push an agenda through. Trump has signed 33 percent more executive orders than Obama in his first year. Which is awkward, given he criticised Obama on at least six occasions for making them. In January 2016, he said: “We have a president who can’t get things done so he keeps signing executive orders all over the place.” Nonetheless, you can’t deny Trump’s got guts; and this appeals to his unswerving devotees. They love the fact that, finally, someone is strong for America, asserting the country’s place on the capricious world stage.

The ‘Trump Bump’

Much has been made of the so-called Trump Bumpthe positive the effect the president has supposedly had on the U.S. economy since his election in 2016. However, the real question is how much of this positive sentiment can be rightly attributed to the policy plans of the new administration?

Since Trump’s election, the S&P 500 is up 20.4 percent. Only George H.W. Bush (23.7 percent), Lyndon Johnson (22.4 percent), John F Kennedy (24 percent) and Franklin D Roosevelt (23.8 percent) have beaten Trump. Yet, we must be careful not to take this arbitrary yardstick as gospel. Indeed, there are warning signs markets may be in imminent decline. The alleged ‘Trump Bump’, it seems, may well be short lived.

Race

The successor of Obama, America’s first ever black commander-in-chief, has proved to be one of the most contentious figures in U.S. history and, more often than not, race is at the center of the controversy.

From his refusal to condemn white supremacists after a march in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a civil rights activist was killed, to which he said: “I think there is blame on both sides”, to the condemnation of American football players who “take the knee” during the national anthem to make a statement against racial injustice, Trump has done little to heal America’s endemic during social malaise around race.

The majority of Americans (60 percent) say Trump’s election has led to worse race relations in the U.S., while just eight percent say it has led to better relations, according to a national survey by Pew Research Center.

If African American turnout at the next general election is high, the Republicans could pay the price.

Russia

Trump’s first year in office has been dogged by charges of collusion between his election campaign and Russia. The steady drip of revelations may hit fever pitch in 2018, with Robert Mueller’s appointment last May threatening to bring matters to a climax.

Should Mueller accuse Trump of collusion, there will be calls for impeachment, but Republicans on Capitol Hill are unlikely to heed them. Meanwhile the world waits for Trump to utter anything vaguely critical about Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s legacy

While most people have vehement feelings about Trump, a few inevitably haven’t made up their minds, preferring to let the results of his administration speak for themselves. Regardless of your opinion, Trump will go down in history as one of the most colourful, yet deeply notorious, presidents of all time. He is the product of an era of political populism and has ridden the wave spectacularly well.

Trump—a deft maneuverer—may not be a bona fide politician, but he has read and played America’s political pulse with enviable skill. For this, he will always be remembered.

Further reading: Donald Trump’s First Days as President

Video Game Violence

Trump to Host Video Game Violence Meeting

In response to the atrocious Florida school shooting that killed 17 students last month, president Donald Trump is to host a video games violence meeting on 9 March with gaming industry professionals. Trump has often voiced his opinion that violent video games were “shaping young people’s thoughts.”

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said “As we continue to work toward creating school safety programs that protect all children, the president will be meeting with video game industry leaders and members of Congress to discuss violent video game exposure and the correlation to aggression and desensitization in children.”

Often the first to be blamed for real-life violent actions, the gaming industry has historically vehemently defended itself against such claims, saying that there is no evidence to suggest that it is true.

The Electronic Software Association (ESA) who represent the gaming industry in the United States, has said that they will be attending the video games violence meeting held by Mr Trump.

The ESA said, “The upcoming meeting at the White House will provide the opportunity to have a fact-based conversation about video game ratings, our industry’s commitment to parents, and the told we provide to make informed entertainment choices.”

CEO Strauss Zelnick, of the company that makes game favorite Grand Theft Auto, and Robert Altman, chaiman and CEO of parent company that produced Fallout will also be in attendance.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), an industry organization responsible for content and age guidance for videogames, will also be in attendance.

The White House’s press secretary Sarah Sanders has said that violence in video games was “certainly something that should be looked at and something that we want to have the conversation about.”

The president has voiced his concerns regarding video game violence translating into reality. On Twitter in 2012, Trump tweeted: “Video game violence & glorification must be stopped.”

Further reading: Dick’s Sporting Goods to No Longer Sell Assault-style Rifles

Trump Lifts Import Ban on Elephant Trophies

Trump Lifts Import Ban on Elephant Trophies

Donald Trump is to lift the import ban on African elephant trophies into the US, overturning regulations previously made by the Obama-administration.

The new administration has reversed regulations made in 2014 which forbid big game hunters to bring elephant body parts—or “trophies”—back to the US from Zimbabwe or Zambia. The Obama-administration found that hunting did not “enhance the survival of the African elephant in the wild.”

A new statement released by the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) November 16 stated: “The US Fish & Wildlife Service will begin issuing permits to allow the import of sport-hunted trophies from elephants hunted in Zimbabwe.” The statement advocated the sport saying, “Legal, well-regulated sport hunting as part of a sound management program can benefit the conservation of certain species by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.”

The elephant has been listed as a “threatened species” since 1978 under the Endangered Species Act.  Much of Africa’s megafauna is rapidly declining as a result of poaching.

This decision to lift the ban on elephant trophies has been championed by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said that the decision supported “sound scientific wildlife management and regulated hunting.” Conservation groups fear that lobbying by these kinds of organisations will have a detrimental effect on big game species in the wild.

The chief executive of the Humane Society, Wayne Pacelle, condemned the “reprehensible” plans to lift the import ban on elephant trophies. “Let’s be clear: elephants are on the list of threatened species; the global community had rallied to stem the ivory trade; and now, the US government is giving American trophy hunters the green light to kill them.”

President Trump’s sons faced backlash in 2012 when they published photos on social media with game they had just hunted. Donald Trump Jr posted an image of himself next to a deceased elephant, holding up its severed tail.

Trump told TMZ in 2012, “My sons love hunting. They’re hunters and they’ve become good at it… I am not a believer in hunting and I’m surprised they like it.”