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The Midterm Results Are In and This is What They Mean

The Midterm Results Are In and This is What They Mean

Democrats have regained control of the House of Representatives after an eight-year one-party rule in Congress. However, in a “blue wave” that was more of a “ripple”, Republicans have tightened their grip on the Senate.

Despite losses in the lower chamber of Congress, president Donald Trump declared the midterm election a “tremendous success” as Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate, paving the way for a divided Congress.

Promoting himself on Twitter, he focused on the Senate, quoting the following from a commentator:

“There’s only been five times in the last 105 years that an incumbent president has won seats in the Senate in the off year election. Mr. Trump has magic about him. This guy has magic coming out of his ears. He is an astonishing vote getter & campaigner.”

The primary role of Congress—consisting of the House (its lower chamber) and the Senate (its upper chamber)—is to make and pass laws. A legislative proposal only becomes law once the House, the Senate and then the President, have approved it.

Consequently, that the Republicans lost the House to the Democrats could actually mean that Trump’s final two years of term have just become severely limited. Although his name was not on the ballot as a higher-than-usual number of voters elected Congress members on Tuesday November 6, the election was considered a referendum on Trump’s America.

Democrats needed to pick up 23 House seats in tallies early Wednesday, results that could enable the party to block much of Trump’s legislative agenda as well as issue investigations into his administration and business affairs. The Democrats now control the Intelligence Committee—responsible for considering potential Russian collusion in the last presidential election.

It will also be more difficult for Republicans to make changes to health legislation, including Barack Obama’s healthcare law, and could cause problems for Trump’s plans to build a border wall with Mexico. By passing laws out of the House, it will also force Republican senators to consider subjects like minimum wage.

The increased Republican majority in the Senate however, will make it easier for Trump to appoint judges and remake the judicial branch—a branch of government that interprets laws in the name of the state—into a more conservative system.

Democrats also flipped six governorships in the election, including Kansas, where Laura Kelly beat Trump ally, Kris Kobach. Two victorious Muslim Democrats—Ihan Omar (Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan)—made minority firsts, along with elected Democrat governor, Jared Polis (Colorado), the first openly gay man to be voted into the position.

A record year for women, at least 90 female candidates won their elections, the majority of whom were Democrats and at least 28 of whom were sent to Congress by voters for the first time. Sharice Davids (Kansas) and Deb Haaland (New Mexicao) became the first Native American women to be elected. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York) became the first woman in her 20s to win a seat, and was later joined by 29-year old Abby Finkenauer (Iowa).

House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, spoke in Washington. “Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America,” she told supporters.

Trump allegedly called Pelosi “to extend his congratulations on winning a Democratic House Majority,” her deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill tweeted.

“He acknowledged the Leader’s call for bipartisanship in her victory remarks.”

According to an exit poll survey conducted by the Associated Press, healthcare and immigration were at the top of issues expressed by voters, and 64 percent of those surveyed revealed that Trump factored into their choice when casting their ballots.

Further reading: The Midterms Explained: Everything You Need to Know

The Midterms Explained: Everything You Need to Know

The Midterms Explained: Everything You Need to Know

On Tuesday November 6, voters will receive their first chance to weigh in on Donald Trump’s presidency since he was elected in 2016. With the economy doing well but approval ratings falling short, the midterm elections could sway the control of Congress.

Still following? Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming midterms.

What are the midterms?

Midterm elections take place halfway between presidential elections, every two years. On Tuesday November 6, voters will choose new members of Congress—a term that indicates the combined body of the House of Representatives (the House) and the Senate. President Donald Trump’s party, the Republicans, currently control both houses of Congress. However, the midterms are generally considered a referendum on the current president, with the party whose president is in the White House often struggling to secure a net gain.

Who is being elected?

All 435 members of the House are up for election, as well as one-third of the Senate, with members of the Senate serving staggered six-year terms.

36 state governors (similar to a local president) will also be elected, along with dozens of local legislative officials.

The most important question: Can the Democratic Party win control of the House? 

This year, the Democrats believe that they can win control of the House by winning a majority of the seats. In order to do this, they will need to claim at least 23 seats from the Republicans; a feat that many experts believe to be possible.

On average, the party with a president in the White House has lost 32 seats in the House and two in the Senate in every midterm election since the American Civil War. President Trump has also received low approval ratings, a figure that is currently at around 42 percent. On the other hand, generic ballot polling shows the Democrats up by around eight percentage points.

Furthermore, this year, a record number of more than 30 Republicans have retired or resigned for a variety of reasons, with sexual harassment accusations and feelings towards the president among those cited. With representation in the House relatively proportionate to population, and voters usually reluctant to eject sitting representatives, this creates an opportunity for the Democrats to claim seats. Florida and Pennsylvania are two such key swing states where the incumbent will not be standing again.

In the last 50 years, the Democrats have only made a net gain of 23+ seats twice, in 1974 and in 2006. Similarly, the same period of time has seen the Republicans score a net gain of this size three times, most recently in the 2010 midterms during Barack Obama’s first term.

The low voting turnout for midterms (around 40 percent of Americans) has also tended to help the Republican Party, as those who do vote tend to be white and belong to an older generation. However, the “pink wave” of female candidates running for election is hoped to encourage more female voters and increase women’s representation in Congress.

The Senate

35 of 100 seats are up for election in the Senate, with 51 seats needed for control. Republicans have a strong advantage over the Democrats here because the Democratic Party is defending 26 seats, while the Republican Party is only defending nine.

The Senate electoral system also means that each state gets two senators, regardless of how large the population is. These smaller states tend to be more rural and, in the past, rural areas have favored the Republicans.

What does this all mean for president Trump?

With control of Congress comes the advantage of passing or blocking legislative agendas.

If the Democrats win control of one or both of the houses, they’ll be able to limit the final two years of President Trump’s term. For example, they’d be able to block his future Supreme Court picks and investigate issues such as the president’s business dealings or the allegations of sexual assault made against him.

If the Republicans hold control of Congress, President Trump’s key agendas and promises could be revived. The president was only able to sign his overhaul of the US tax system into law because Republicans held majorities in both houses of Congress.

The word impeachment has also been following discussions around the midterms. Impeachment does not necessarily lead to a removal of office—the formal statement of charges against the president has only been presented twice. Both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were acquitted after a trial in the Senate, and Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached in the 70s.

With the Democrats in control of Congress, calls for president Trump’s impeachment are likely to increase. However, Republican senators would need to turn on the president, as a two-thirds majority is needed to remove him from office.

Nevertheless, with a Democrat majority in Congress, the party would have a better chance of defeating Trump in the next presidential election in 2020.

What happens next?

The results of the midterms could shape the nation for years to come. A “blue wave” of Democrat majority in both the House and the Senate would be able to block President Trump’s future plans.

After the midterms, thoughts will turn to the 2020 presidential election. Worth mentioning here is the fact that 26 of the 36 state governors being elected on Tuesday are Republican. With governors playing a large role in supporting their party’s candidates, securing new governors could have a major effect on presidential campaigning.

Further reading: Taylor Swift Speaks up about Political Opinion

Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski Arrested During Kavanaugh Protest

Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski Arrested During Kavanaugh Protest

Amy Schumer and Emily Ratajkowski joined thousands at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill to protest the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. The actor and model were two familiar faces among the 300 people to be arrested during Thursday’s protests.

In video footage that has been circulating on Twitter, Schumer, 37, can be seen interacting with the police.

“You want to be arrested?” an officer warns her.

Schumer replies: “Yes.”

An outspoken advocate for women’s rights and gun control, Schumer’s shirt read: “This today, then #ERA”.

Ratajkowski, 27, shared an image of herself with a banner on social media, stating that she had also been arrested at the protests.

“Today I was arrested protesting the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, a man who has been accused by multiple women of sexual assault. Men who hurt women can no longer be placed in positions of power.”

In the photo, Ratajkowski’s banner reads: “Respect female existence or expect our resistance”.

The Women’s March, a liberal organization that moved in opposition of President Donald Trump, was one of multiple activist groups tweeting from the protest.

It comes before The Senate’s crucial vote on whether to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court on Friday. A week-long FBI investigation has concluded, following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

Banners from angry protestors read: “We believe Christine Ford”—the woman who has spoken out about being sexually assaulted by Kavanaugh at a party in 1982.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has expressed support for Kavanaugh—who denied all allegations—recently angering some of his fellow Republicans by speaking against Ms Ford’s testimony.

“How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know,” the President mocked.

Republican, Jeff Flake, responded to the incident, saying: “There is no time and no place for remarks like that, but to discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right.”

Kavanaugh’s appointment to the US Supreme Court would put it in favour of conservatives for years to come.

Further reading: Why We Should All Channel Our Inner Serena Williams

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

Marijuana

New Policy Ends Marijuana Prosecution

As of August 1, it is now legal in Manhattan to smoke marijuana in public, unless it poses a threat to public safety.

Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, proposed plans to stop prosecuting low-level marijuana cases May 15.

In a New York Times report, it was revealed that there is a large racial gap for cannabis-related arrests. 86 percent of people arrested for marijuana cases were people of color: 48 percent being black, 38 percent were Hispanic—only nine percent were white.

This issue was one of Vance’s main reasons for the new policy. “Our research has found virtually no public safety rationale for the ongoing arrest and prosecution of marijuana smoking and no moral justification for the intolerable racial disparities that underlie enforcement.

“Tomorrow, our Office will exit a system wherein smoking a joint can ruin your job, your college application, or your immigration status, but our advocacy will continue,” he goes on to say.

The new policy is expected to reduce marijuana cases by 96% percent, from 5,000 a year to fewer than 200.

This decision has also raised questions regarding total legality of cannabis across the state of New York.

So far, nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis. Recently, Vermont became the ninth state to legalize marijuana, with the effective date of legalization being July 2018.

Earlier this year, a Department of Health (DoH) study commissioned by governor Andrew Cuomo concluded that the use of recreational cannabis should be legalized. Cuomo had previously suggested that he was against the legalization of the drug by saying that it is “a gateway drug”.

His opponent, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon has also expressed her desire for marijuana to be legalized in the state of New York, it being one of her main policies. “We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity,” she says.

Brooklyn has already ended prosecution of the use of marijuana and has seen astonishing results. Low-level marijuana arrests in Brooklyn have decreased by 90 percent, going from 349 cases in January to 29 in June.

Although Manhattan and Brooklyn have ended prosecution on all low-level cannabis cases, the Bronx, Staten Island and Queens are yet to change their policies.

Vance ends his statement: “I urge New York lawmakers to legalize and regulate marijuana once and for all.”

Further reading: Marijuana Arrests in Colorado

Sexual Assault Retrial

Bill Cosby Sexual Assault Retrial to Begin

Actor Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial is set to begin in Pennsylvania on Monday in front of a new jury of 10.

Cosby, now 80 years old, denies allegations of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand 14 years ago, and has pleaded not guilty.

Constand, a Canadian massage therapist, has alleged that Cosby drugged and molested her after inviting her to his home in Pennsylvania in 2004. The 44-year-old had first reported the alleged attack one year following the event, but the local district attorney declined to press charges against the renowned comic. Constand then filed a civil lawsuit against Cosby which was settled for an unknown sum in 2006.

The actor, once affectionately known as “America’s Dad”, has been charged with aggravated indecent assault—a second degree felony—by the Pennsylvania prosecutor. If found guilty, Cosby could face up to 10 years in jail.

The sexual assault retrial comes after the jury in the first hearing in June 2017 failed to reach a conclusive verdict.

The Emmy award-winning actor, most famous for starring in the 80s comedy TV series The Cosby Show (1984), has been the center of a major scandal in which more than 60 women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault. Cosby has denied all of the allegations.

The sexual assault retrial will put Cosby before the same judge—Steven O’Neill–and district attorney as the first in 2017. The BBC reports that the judge will allow other accusers to come forward with evidence during the trial. The Guardian reports that O’Neill will allow for five women to speak during the sexual assault retrial.

Further reading: #MeToo Campaign Raises Awareness About Sexual Assault

United Airlines

Dog Dies in United Airlines Overhead Cabin

In a devastating turn of events, a dog has died in an overhead cabin on a United Airlines plane.

The French bulldog died on Monday during a flight from Houston to New York, travelling with its owner, Catalina Robledo, in an airline-approved pet carrier.

Witnesses have alleged that a United Airlines flight attendant forced Robledo to put the carrier—with the puppy inside—into the overhead cabin.

Fellow passenger, Maggie Gemminger, who sat behind the owner of the dog, said in a conversation with travel website One Mile at a Time, “I witnessed a United flight attendant instruct a woman to put her dog carrier with live dog in an overhead bin.”

The unidentified flight attendant has since claimed that she did not know that there was a dog in the carrier.

Robledo told Telemundo 47, “The dog barked and barked but I could not stand.” She explained that this was because her new born baby was on her lap and the plane was going through turbulence.

Robledo’s seven-year-old daughter said to ABC13, “While we were flying, the dog started barking and barking and there were no flight attendants coming. We couldn’t stand up because there was a lot of turbulence so we weren’t allowed to.”

United Airlines has since claimed full responsibility for the death of the dog. In a statement, the airline said, “We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them.

“We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again. Pets should never be placed in the overhead bin.”

The cause of death has not been verified, but it is believed that lack of oxygen in the overhead cabin may be a factor.

The heart wrenching news comes just weeks after both United Airlines and Delta made headlines for tightening policies surrounding pets and emotional support animals on flights.