Supreme Court Debates Mail-In Ballots Requirements on State Basis

Written By: Charlotte Mac Kay

Exterior of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, DC

Over 50 million American voters plan to or have already voted early for the 2020 Presidential election via an absentee ballot. At over 50% of the entire voting population of the last Presidential election (2016), the surplus of absentee voters places a lot of the weight for the decisive 2020 election between candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden on mail-in ballots. A particularly contentious issue is the validity of mail-in ballots turned in late and whether ballots received post-Nov. 3 will be counted toward the election. In late October, the issue was taken to the Supreme Court in the case of several states, with differing results.

The Supreme Court first dealt with the issue of late mail-in ballots in the case of the State of Pennsylvania, a key and highly contentious state for the election. Pennsylvania requested a three-day extension of ballots in order that all ballots (which the state allowed to be requested as soon as a week before the election) could be received and counted. An initial hearing by the Supreme Court on Oct. 19 decided to maintain Pennsylvania’s three-day extension in a 4-4 count, allowing ballots received by Nov. 6 to be counted toward the election. However, the Pennsylvanian Republic Party quickly pushed for a revote following the confirmation of Amy Coney Barret to the court on Oct. 28, whose confirmation pushed the ideological balances of the high court further to the right.

In a revote on Oct. 28, the Supreme Court re-voted and confirmed the previous decision, with a 5-3 vote supporting Pennsylvania’s three day extension. Newly confirmed Barret abstained from voting and was not a part of the deliberations, “because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings,” according to Kathleen Arberg, a state spokeswoman. The currently unsigned order allows the state of Pennsylvania to count all ballots received before a November 6 cutoff. However, all ballots received after Nov. 3 will be sorted separately, allowing for a potential reconsideration of the vote counts depending on the events of the election.

Since Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court has voted on the legalities of post-Nov. 3 ballots in several other key electoral states, including North Carolina and Wisconsin. In North Carolina, the court decided to maintain the state’s nine-day extension for absentee ballots, denying a petition from the state Republican party. The 5-3 decision allows North Carolina to count all ballots received before Nov. 12. 

The court decided to maintain the state law in Wisconsin as well, rejecting a petition by the democratic party to allow all ballots sent to the election office before November 3 to be counted, even if they arrived after the election day.  The once again 5-3 vote means that, in Wisconsin, ballots must be received by the election committee on Nov. 3 in order to be counted for the election.

The prevailing theme for the currently overseen cases has been to maintain the state laws. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who voted in favor of the pre-set state laws in all three circumstances, explains that, “The Constitution provides that state legislatures — not federal judges, not state judges, not state governors, not other state officials — bear primary responsibility for setting election rules.” Experts warn, however, that the rulings on counting ballots may be reconsidered after the election date, especially if the count is close in key swing states.

Harris-Pence Face off in Vice Presidential Debate

Written By: Charlotte Mac Kay

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – OCTOBER 7, 2020: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Vice President Mike Pence participate in the vice-presidential debate at Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday, October 7, 2020. The candidates were seated at a 12-foot distance and separated by plexiglass as a precaution against the coronavirus, and anyone in the audience who isnt wearing a mask will be kicked out. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2020 running mates, Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), faced off in a largely televised debate, covering topics ranging from the nation’s COVID-19 response to the Affordable Care Act. The debate drew 57.9 million viewers, becoming the second most-watched vice-presidential debate in US history.
The vice-presidential face-off took place in Salt Lake City, Utah, and replaced the scheduled presidential one, in which President Trump and Vice President Biden were set to follow-up their Sept. 26 debate. However, the hospitalization of Trump from COVID-19 prevented his participation and the vice presidential candidates instead took the stage.
Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief, moderated the debate, which was in a modified format meant to limit interruptions and reframe questions more productively. “Americans … deserve a discussion that is civil,” she said, emphasizing the importance of respecting the other candidates and limiting disruptions, a decision made after backlash from Trump and Biden’s first debate.
Many topics were covered throughout the night. According to a breakdown from NBC News, the largest topic of discussion was Trump and his administration’s policies, totaling over 14 total minutes of talk time. The debate over COVID-19 policies and the economy, were close seconds at just under ten minutes and nearly eight minutes, respectively. Biden, the election, and the Supreme court were also extensively covered, with other topics such as China, health care, climate change and crime taking up a smaller but prevalent portion of the night. The largest social media takeaway from the night, however, was focused on a fly that landed on Pence’s head which shot to fame on social media, inspired a Twitter fandom, and sparked some SNL skits and memes.
The debate was live-streamed on most major news platforms, including ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CNN, and was the second most-watched debate in U.S. history, following the 2008 Palen-Biden debate which brought in 70 million viewers. Highlights of the night included an intense discussion on the Trump administration’s handling of coronavirus.
“The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” Harris said during the debate, “They knew what was happening and they didn’t tell you.” Pence responded strongly, saying that Trump “suspended all travel from China” and “That decision alone…. Bought us valuable time to set up the greatest national mobilization since World War II.”
Harris and Pence were each given one to two minutes to answer questions and as a whole, the debate had significantly fewer interruptions than occurred in the Trump-Biden face-off one week earlier. Other modifications included large plexiglass shields, put up as protection equipment against the potential spread of COVID-19.
This debate occurred a little under a month from the Nov. 3 presidential election. The next presidential debate, in which candidates Trump and Biden are set to face off in a modified debate format, will take place in Nashville, Tennessee on Oct. 22, following the cancellation of an expected Oct. 15 face-off, canceled due to COVID-19 and other concerns.

Amy Coney Barrett Nomination

Written By: Charlotte Mac Kay

Judge Amy Coney Barrett speaks after being nominated to the US Supreme Court by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on September 26, 2020. – Barrett, if confirmed by the US Senate, will replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on September 18. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

On Sept. 26, President Donald Trump nominated conservative judge Amy Coney Barret to fill the empty US Supreme Court seat vacated by the recently deceased Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The nomination, and its proximity to the Nov. 3 presidential election, sparked a fierce political battle and has become a central aspect of the 2020 election.

The Senate Confirmation meeting, in which Barrett’s judicial merits are  being discussed, spans from Monday, Oct. 12 to Thursday, Oct.18. If accepted to the Supreme Court, she will be Trump’s third nominee to be placed on the SCOTUS bench, following Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, and the fifth woman to ever take a seat on the high court. Her nomination will shift the nine-member Supreme Court to a 6-3 Conservative majority, resulting in a potential long-lasting ideological shift since seats are lifetime appointments.

The 48 Barrett is a former law professor at Notre Dame who has been serving on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 2017 when she was nominated by Trump to the position. She is a self-declared originalist, and believes in interpreting the constitution as it was written. In her opening remarks, she connected her judicial policies to former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, “His judicial philosophy was straightforward: A judge must apply the law as written, not as the judge wishes it were.”

She also paid respects to the deceased Ginsburg, saying “I have been nominated to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat, but no one will ever take her place… I will be forever grateful for the path she marked and the life she led.” As a Supreme Court nominee, Barrett said she is “honored and humbled” to be Trump’s choice and has vowed to judge legal cases impartially. 

Senate and political leaders, however, have remained tense over the strongly partisan nomination. On Monday, the Republican Chairhead of the Senate Confirmation Meeting, said he expected a “contentious week” of discussions within the confirmation hearing. Across the aisle, Senator Amy Kloubachar (D-MN), who competed for the Democratic presidential nomination earlier in the year, called the nomination a “sham” and said that Americans “cannot divorce this nominee and her views from the election we are in.”

A particular point of contention surrounds Barrett’s opposition to the 2012 Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade. When asked on Tuesday, Oct. 13 for her stances on the issues, she neglected to confirm or deny any intent to overrule key aspects of either. In the early days of the confirmation hearing, she has refrained from declaring a strong stance on any opinion, maintaining that she will be “unbiased” and follow the legal proceedings mandated in making decisions. Left-leaning politicians, however, worry that her historical stances on topics ranging from gun control to LGBQT+ rights will push the Supreme Court further to the right on key issues.

Democrats also accused the Republican party of hypocrisy surrounding the nomination, citing former President Obama’s attempted nomination for a SCOTUS seat in March 2016, when Senate Republicans refused to hold a hearing due to the proximity of the 2016 presidential election. Many Senators are critical of the push to confirm Barrett before the Nov. 3 election, in which millions of Americans have already voted. 

“Instead of passing a COVID relief package that will help millions of Americans who are unemployed, who have been infected, whose businesses or employers have closed, we’re focusing on jamming through Justice Barrett,” Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) said in an interview, “I think this constitutes court-packing.”

New York City, Portland and Seattle Named ‘Anarchist Jurisdictions’ by DOJ

Written By: Charlotte MacKay

On Monday, Sept. 27 the Department of Justice (DOJ) declared three cities, New York, Portland, and Seattle, as “anarchic jurisdictions.” The three cities are central locations of ongoing demonstrations and protests over racial injustice, police brutality and systemic inequalities within the United States. The declaration potentially allows the Trump administration to withhold federal aid from the jurisdictions in question.

The DOJ’s decision roots back to a memo issued by President Donald Trump on Sept. 2, which ordered the Justice Department to investigate and determine areas in the United States that “have permitted violence and the destruction of property to persist and have refused to undertake reasonable measures to counteract these criminal activities.”

Attorney General William Barr determined that New York, Portland, and Seattle were three cities that met the criteria outlined in Trump’s memo. An important factor in the identification of these cities, according to the DOJ’s statement, was their decision to cut police funding, to refuse federal intervention against demonstrators, and to not prosecute protestors.

All three cities are central locations for the ongoing demonstrations throughout the United States that were sparked by the murder of George Flloyd in late May by police officer Derek Chauvin. The ongoing protests call for systematic change amidst the police brutality and systemic racism within the United States. “We cannot allow federal tax dollars to be wasted when the safety of the citizenry hangs in the balance. It is my hope that the cities identified by the Department of Justice today will reverse course and become serious about performing the basic function of government and start protecting their own citizens,” Barr said in a statement after the decision was publicized.

The designation of “anarchic jurisdiction” comes with potential direct financial consequences, as it allows the Trump Administration to reconsider the allocation of federal aid to the cities. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, along with other city mayors and state governors, objected to the potential denial of federal aid, calling it a “gross misuse of federal power.” Governor Cuomo (NY-D) raised similar objections, saying “The president can’t supersede the law and say I’m going to make those funds basically discretionary funds, which is what he would have to do.” The denial or continuance of aid is yet to be decided. The Office of Management and Budget has 30 days–until Oct. 27–to decide whether or not to restrict the cities’ access to the federal cities on the list. 

The three mayors of the cities, all of whom are Democrats, condemned the decision to name the cities’ anarchic jurisdiction as overtly political. They released a joint statement saying the action was  “thoroughly political and unconstitutional. The President is playing cheap political games with Congressionally directed funds.” The mayor of Washington D.C., which was named in Trump’s Sept. 2 memo but not declared an “anarchic jurisdiction” by the DOJ on Sept. 27, joined in the condemnation. The mayors said that Trump’s memo’s and the DOJ’s decision are reflective of the whole administration: “the Trump Administration is engaging in more of what we’ve seen all along: shirking responsibility and placing blame elsewhere to cover its failure.”

Belarus Protesters Demand Presidential Resignation; Putin and EU Butt Heads

Written By: Charlotte MacKay 

Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered throughout Belarus in September, continuing the string of over a month’s long protests calling for the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko. The mass protests object to the allegedly rigged reelection of Lukashenko to the nation’s presidency and have garnered both regional and international support.

Lukashenko first rose to power in Belarus in 1994 where he served five consecutive terms (26 years) until August 9, when protests arose over his reelection to a sixth term. According to the AP News and World Report, Lukashenko claimed to gain 80% support in a free election. The claim sparked nationwide protests as people alleged that the election was rigged and called for a removal of Lukashenko from office. The resulting protests began in August and continued through September, with a record number of protesters marching in city streets all throughout the country.

Much of the action has been centered around the Belarus capital of Minsk, where over 7,000 have been arrested and the area around the presidential palace is blocked off, according to the AP News and World Report. Despite blockades guarded by security guards wielding water guns, protests show no sign of abating. “This sea of ​​people cannot be stopped by military equipment, water cannons, propaganda and arrests. Most Belarusians want a peaceful change of power and we will not get tired of demanding this,” Maria Kolesnikova, a leader of the protestor’s newly formed representative council, told the Associated Press. Kolesnikova has since been caught and arrested by Belarusian  authorities and charged with “actions aimed at undermining Belarusian national security.”

Tensions between the protestors and presidential supporters escalated in early September when Lukashenko met with President Putin, from the neighboring country of Russia. Moscow openly backs Lukashenko’s claim to the presidency and has accused the US of intentionally sparking protests in Belarus. The meeting between Putin and Lukashenko resulted in a $1.5 billion loan of support to the displaced president, according to Reuters news.

In response to Moscow’s open support and the continuing protests, the European Union (EU) called for economic sanctions to be placed on Lukashenko and announced their rejection of his presidency.  “Once the term of office for the incumbent authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko expires on 5 November, parliament will no longer recognize him as the president of the country,” the EU parliament said in a statement. The vote against Lukashenko shows a strong rejection of his presidency, with 574 EU parliament votes in favor of sanctions, 37 against, and 82 abstentions.
While the EU Parliament vote is not binding and does not yet carry any direct consequences for Lukashenko, it comes with the potential for future economic and political support and sanctions. The most concrete of this potential support is a Polish bill proposing that at least $1 billion of EU funds be invested in the “stabilization of Belarus.” The plan, which is already endorsed by several EU members, will be formally proposed around September 24-25, according to Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki. Meanwhile, protests continue to swarm cities in Belarus as opposition leaders are arrested at high rates and the country faces governmental internet shutdowns in response to the protests.

Natural Disasters Ravage the US From West to East Coast

By Charlotte Mac Kay

The U.S. suffered a summer of massive storm damage, with natural disasters roaming across the country from West to East coast. From wind storms and wildfires to hurricanes, the damage caused by natural disasters over the summer was substantial.

On the East Coast, two hurricanes touched down in the same month. Hurricane Isias struck the U.S. after passing through the Bahamas on August 1, where it followed the coast up through the Northeast. According to the National Hurricane Center, it touched down in North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane, moving with sustained winds up to 85 miles per hour. The hurricane put thousands of homes out of power and resulted in flooding damage throughout the East Coast, killing at least six from correlated wind and water damage according to the AP News and World Report.

It was closely followed by the stronger Category 4  Hurricane Laura, which landed on the border of Louisiana and Texas in late August, with 150 mph winds churning up waves up to 15 feet high, according to AP News and World report. AIR Worldwide, a disaster modeling firm, estimated that the property damage caused by the storm may exceed $8 billion.

Laura wiped out power infrastructure, utility access and water systems for over 260,000 homes, resulting in approximately 11 thousand people requesting shelter from the state after damage to property and water supplies. The storm killed upwards of 20 people and was compared to the devastating 2005 Hurricane Rita by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. He called it  “the strongest storm to ever hit Louisiana,” saying that the state has a “long road” forward to recovery as they set about rebuilding damaged homes and returning utilities and power to their full capacity.

As Laura wrecked the Southeast, wildfires roared through Northern California. The fires were sparked mid-August from a series of lightning strikes that set dry forest ablaze, according to the Californian Fire Commission. Two of the blazes, the Santa Clara Unit (SCU) and Lake-Napa Unit (LNU) Lightning Complexes, are the second and third largest fires in California history. The SCU Complex continues to burn across 391,578 acres of land and the LNU Lightning Complex covers 375,209 acres. As of early September, around 80% of both fires are contained. The Californian Fire Company continues to battle with the fires in “extreme conditions,” according to a press conference held by Californian Governor Newsom. The wildfires displaced tens of thousands of residents, destroyed 2,500 buildings, and took a confirmed seven lives, according to a report from Reuters.

Though the frequency and extent of natural disasters this year is so far record-breaking, forecasts predict that more is to come. For the second time in history, AccuWeather predicts that named storms will exceed the number of letters in the alphabet. The National Hurricane Center says they are “still monitoring four systems,” two of which have significant “chances of development.”
As states across the country work to rebuild and recover from their relative natural disasters, the displacement of thousands is complicated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Governors of Louisiana and California both expressed concern about the potential increased spread of the novel coronavirus. “We know that every time people are moving around, coming into contact with one another, the transmission of the virus increases. So we’re really concerned about that,” Governor Edwards said in an interview in which he expressed concerns of a future Covid-19 spike, despite the state’s lowering Covid-19 case numbers. 

Russia and Turkey Call Ceasefire in Syria

Written by Charlotte Mac Kay.

A ceasefire between Russia and Turkey in the Syrian province of Idlib went into effect Friday morning, March 5. The agreement puts a pause on three months of intense conflict which has left nearly one million civilians displaced and dozens of soldiers dead.

The Syrian conflict has been an ongoing nine-year crisis, but the situation between the Turkish, who support Syrian rebel groups, and the Russian government, who support Syrian President Bashar Assad has escalated since late December of 2019. Idlib has especially become an area of conflict as Russian troops have advanced, seeking to destroy the remaining rebel strongholds in Syria. The conflict has displaced over 900,000 civilians in the last few weeks, leaving families without shelter or food in the winter months. As the conflict has intensified, airstrikes and severe bombing have carpeted the region. A deadly airstrike on Feb. 28 killed 34 Turkish soldiers and a series of retaliatory bombings killed dozens of Syrian soldiers.

After this increase in violence, a ceasefire agreement was reached between Syria and Turkey. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan brokered the agreement on March 6, after a six hour phone call. The ceasefire went into effect at 12:01 am local time on March 7. The agreement establishes a one mile security corridor both north and south of Syria’s M4 highway, which has become the center of recent fighting and will be patrolled by joint Russian and Turkish troops during the ceasefire. After announcing the accord, Putin said that it could “serve as a good basis for ending fighting,” but Edrogan emphasized that the Turkish army reserves the right to “retaliate with all strength against any attack” from Assad-supporting forces. Both countries, however, have highlighted their strong relationship beyond the Syrian conflict, with Erdoğan saying Turkey would “not allow the forces of the regime to harm our relations with Russia.” Despite supporting different sides of the conflict, the two countries have worked toward developing a growing trade relationship. 

International and humanitarian groups, however, have expressed concerns that the ceasefire will not last. The United Nations (UN) has stressed the importance of getting more aid into the region and working to mitigate the humanitarian crises in the region. “We do hope that this will hold. That is the most important thing for the children and for their families. We need to have a cessation of all hostilities and we need it now,” The UN International Children’s Emergency Fund’s executive director Henreitta Ford told The Associated Press on Friday. The UN has appealed for further involvement in Syria after the ceasefire, stressing the importance of getting aid to the “most vulnerable.” They are especially interested in further access to Idlib and Northeastern Syria, where the refugee camp al-Hal is hosting another 60,000 individuals, including over 28,000 children and numerous victims of the Islamic State. In the same interview with the Associated Press, Ford said that the UN is “continuously asking for access. We are asking that every country repatriate the children and their mothers.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has said that the ceasefire has brought relative calm to Idlib. However, political officials in Turkey, Syria and Russia say that the ceasefire may only be temporary, depending on international relations and on the extent of Assad’s interest in reclaiming the remaining rebel territory in Idlib.  

Coronavirus Continues to Spread Globally

Written by Charlotte Mac Kay

Since its emergence in Wuhan, the capital city of Hubei, China in December 2019, the pneumonia-like coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread rapidly throughout the globe. This has caused media-hysteria in the U.S. The John Hopkins Medical Center infectious disease tracker reports over 98,000 confirmed cases, with 3,335 deaths throughout the world as of March 5.  

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus which has now spread to over 70 locations, including several states within the United States. The disease, which displays flu-like symptoms such as coughing, fever and shortness of breath, is most dangerous for the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

The World Health Organization (WHO) currently places the death rate at 3.4%, increasing previous estimates of 2%, though they caution that percentages this early in the spread will often be higher than reality due to milder cases being ignored.

The largest percentage of confirmed cases and fatalities have been in China, Iran, South Korea and Italy, which account for 80% of total reports. As the virus spreads, countries throughout the world have begun safety and health measures, quarantining travelers from hot zones, allotting medical funds and emphasizing the spread of information on healthy preventative habits. Italy shut down all schools and colleges in the country on Wednesday, March 4 while China and others have placed bans on large public gatherings, such as sporting events in Italy and some prayer gatherings in Iran.

The earliest case in the U.S. was confirmed near Seattle, Washington in late February. As of March 5, there have been 233 cases throughout the country, culminating in 12 deaths and affecting states such as Washington, New York, California, Texas and Massachesseuts. With the comparatively low number of infected, health officials say that the “overall risk to the general public remains low” and encourages caution and alertness. To contain the disease, health experts and organizations recommend precautions similar to those of the flu, including washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and avoiding contact with people who have flu-like symptoms. 

The U.S. government is preparing for the virus to spread by taking precautions to assure hospitals are fully equipped. In a statement on Wednesday, Trump said that “Additional cases in the United States are likely. But healthy individuals should be able to fully recover.” To support the expected future cases, the House of Representatives passed a bi-partisan bill on March 4 allotting $8.3 billion to the prevention and treatment of the virus, while international organizations such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the WHO have all allocated international funds to handle the global outbreak, which is not yet considered a pandemic.

However, as health officials and the general public prepare for increased spread of the disease, medical supplies such as face masks and hand sanitizer are in short supply. The WHO released a warning on medical shortages, urging healthy individuals to avoid stocking up on essential supplies. Dr. Tedros Adhanon, the director general at WHO, said that “Without secure supply chains, the risk to health care workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding.” As the virus continues to spread in the initial phase, health organizations emphasize medical supply will continue to be taxed as manufacturing companies struggle to keep up with high demand.

As the situation currently stands, the coronavirus is not a global pandemic and, according to the CDC, most people in the US have “little immediate risk of exposure.” Beyond taking healthy precautions, and avoiding unnecessary consumption of essential supplies, government officials urge citizens to remain calm and avoid spreading unnecessary hysteria.

Democratic Candidates Face off in New Hampshire and Nevada

With the 2020 Presidential Election approaching on Nov. 3, the Democratic nominees are facing a series of primaries that will ultimately determine who will run against President Donald Trump. The series of primaries and the resulting debates began on Feb. 3 in Iowa, where a variety of difficulties resulted in no clear winner. Instead, Senator Bernie Sanders narrowly came in first, followed closely by Mayor Pete Buttigieg with Senator Elizabeth Warren in a distant third.

After the uncertainty that filled Iowa, New Hampshire had clearer results. The New Hampshire Primary took place on Feb. 11 with 10 candidates competing for the state’s 24 delegates. Voting kicked off around 6 a.m. and continued until the closing of the polls at 8 p.m. eastern time. Sanders took a slight lead with nine delegates and 76,324 votes compared to Buttegieg’s nine delegates and 72,457 votes. 

“This victory here is the beginning of the end for Donald Trump,” Sanders told supporters in a speech following the results. Sanders, the 78-year-old Senator from Vermont who rose to fame in the 2016 Presidential Elections, is running his campaign based on self-described “democratic socialist” policies.  Sanders’ platform includes the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and expanded Social Security. He has become the leading progressive candidate following Warren’s lagging third place in Iowa and fourth place in New Hampshire.

Sanders holds a narrow lead over fellow Iowa-frontrunner Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old comparatively moderate Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. His platform includes the Medicare For All Who Want It plan, improvement of K-12 education, and an agenda for housing justice. He is vying for the moderate Democratic vote with Senator Amy Kloubachar from Minnesota, who placed an unexpected third in New Hampshire with 58,796 votes and 6 delegates, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who has remained relatively low in the polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire, receiving only 8.4% of the votes in the latter.

Two other candidates dropped out following the results of the New Hampshire primaries:  lawyer and businessman Andrew Yang and Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. The remaining candidates will continue on to the coming primaries, including the Nevada caucus on Feb. 22 and the South Carolina Primary on Feb. 29.

In preparation for the Nevada Caucus, six candidates took to the debate stage on Feb. 20 in Las Vegas, adding former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the stage for his first presidential debate. Bloomberg is a latecomer to the Democratic primary, he will not be on the ballots of the first four states to vote .. Bloomberg is running on a platform that includes gun safety and an expansion of the . His first debate was full of blows from the other candidates, with mentions of his “stop-and-frisk policies”  in NYC from Sanders, questions over when he will turn over his tax returns, and criticisms of his history of alleged sexual harassment. 

The debate, which lasted two hours, spanned a variety of issues including healthcare, gun safety and education. All six candidates took shots at each other and as they approached the Nevada Primary on Nov. 22.

Brexit Ends: UK Leaves EU

After nearly three years of discussion, protests and resignations from prime ministers, the United Kingdom (UK) left the European Union (EU) on Jan. 31, at 11 p.m. The event was marked by a Downing Street party hosted by Prime Minister Borris Johnson complete with a ministerial address, countdown clock and a light show. Smaller parties were also held throughout the country. The celebrations were accompanied by minor protests while, in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon renewed vows to consider Scottish independence. Johnson, however, remained optimistic. “The most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning,” he stated in the ministerial address on the night of Brexit, “This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act. It is a moment of real national renewal and change.” Besides the celebrations, however, Brexit was completed without much notice or fanfare on a global scale.

The day marked the cessation of Article 50 and the beginning of 11-month negotiations with the European Union, in which Britain will work on trade deals and sort out the details of its new international relationships. The country will have to work out the terms of these relationships and the legal framework of the departure, especially surrounding fishing rights, financial services, Northern Ireland border laws, data protection and EU law enforcement jurisdiction. 

Already, the differing interests of the UK and the EU are apparent. In a post-Brexit presentation, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that the EU was prepared to consider a “highly ambitious” zero-tariffs and zero quotes deal with Britain if the country agreed to strict rules about trade. In a rival speech minutes later, Borris refuted the offer and its stipulation, saying “the question is whether we agree to a trading relationship with the EU comparable to Canada’s or more like Australia’s.” According to Oscar Williams-Grut, a senior correspondent at Finance UK, Canada’s relationship with the United Kingdom is a “zero-tariffs, zero quotas but only on goods,” while Australia’s is based on the World Trade Organization’s terms with tariffs “at an average rate of 5.1%.” Johnson said in the speech that “In either case, I have no doubt that Britain will prosper mightily.” However, negotiations have only just begun and will continue throughout 2020. 

Despite these political and economic changes, life for the average British citizen has changed other than a new passport color from blue to purple and a new commemorative coin. The three million EU citizens living in the UK will receive “settled status” if they have been living in the country for over five years, according to the UK government’s established policy, and the economic impacts have been low compared with predictions,according to Bloomberg. Overall, the UK’s departure from the European Union is only the beginning of a year-long negotiation process. Since the UK has left the European Union, the United Kingdom’s role on the global stage is now an open question.