The Affordable Care Act and It’s Importance

In 2010 President Barack Obama was able to garner enough votes –both houses were stacked with a Democratic majority- to pass the Affordable Care Act. Ever since its passage the Republican Party has made several attempts to repeal the health care law. The reason for this is because the main thesis of the law is similar to universal health care. The reality is that in the United States it will be impossible to have universal health care coverage you will always have some Americans who will be out from having coverage. But the idea of universal healthcare coverage in the country has a strong smell of socialism and any government law that resembles this ideology is quickly shut down, i.e. tax increases.

However, with a new administration, the Republican Party may be able to have their way and repeal the Affordable Care Act as President Trump has signaled to a repeal of the law as well. This morning the IRS announced that they would not turn away tax returns if the taxpayer does not have health insurance. This was one of the sub-laws within the ACA that required the individual to have health insurance or face the tax penalty for not owning a health care package- the Supreme Court ruled it to be a tax.

The argument from the right has been that the program would be too costly for the federal government and that it would kill jobs. This is a constant theme you here from Republicans when there is a proposition to support middle-class and lower class families. The statement that it would kill jobs was used when the discussion about increasing taxes was going about but to digress back to the main topic the ACA did quite the opposite on both fronts.

The ACA aim was to assure as many Americans that it could get into the program. In a 2014 New York Times article reported that the ACA at that time reduced the number of uninsured Americans by twenty five percent which amounted to eight to eleven million Americans. The article also aimed that the number of Americans that would be insured by this year. The initial number was estimated to be 32 million Americans but after the courts ruled that Medicaid expansion was optional to opt in to the number was reduced to 26million. The current number of Americans who are insured is to be 22.8 million provided by the RAND firm. But what is interesting is how the number drops to six million Americans after the ruling by the Supreme Court on Medicaid expansion.

By making it an option it has given lower class Americans less of choice if they fall within the gap of not being able to receive subsidies for insurance or not able to afford it at all. The states that have expanded Medicaid have actually seen an increase in insured citizens in their state. Furthermore, the federal health insurance is accepted nearly in every health facility and doctor’s office an option that seems more feasible to the American taxpayer.

Today GOP leaders met with Congressional lawmakers to discuss the repealing of ACA. One of the things Paul Ryan has proposed has been to make Medicare a voucher program. A program as stated in The Price of Inequality “Medicare to a voucher program, in which individuals would be given a chit that they could use to pay for health insurance in the private market. Those who couldn’t supplement the voucher with their own money would have to make do with the best policy that they could get with the voucher.” This in turn would affect many Americans who rely on Medicare as being almost cost free for them as they would have to seek insurance that they would be able to afford. The elderly in turn would be most affected by these changes as their social security income already is very thin in terms of being able to make ends meet without the fear of going hungry.

In terms of the business aspect the right has stated time and time again that the ACA would indeed hurt the insurance companies the most. However, in the 2014 New York times article Paul H. Keckley stated “The irony is if you look sector by sector, the A.C.A. has resulted in pretty substantial earnings across the board,” Furthermore, “By one measure, the stock market, for-profit health insurers, hospitals and drug companies did well. One index that includes those companies, the S & P 500 Health Care Index, rose by 24 percent over the last year, outperforming the overall stock market.” This provides a clear illustration that the insurance companies were still reaping a profit with the ACA in full fruition.

There of course parts of the law that needs to be changed to correct problems that arise with any piece of legislation. One recommendations that have been made to address cost savings is in the following “…cost-saving measures include restricting patients to narrower physician networks that ask consumers to pay more when they see an out-of-network provider and setting insurance premiums based on consumers’ age, health status, and claim history in much the same way auto insurance companies price their policies.” The law in no way is perfect however; millions of Americans are dependent on this law because it provides a safety net that is in its terms necessary and a human right.

A doctor Jeffery Frey stated about the ACA as “…[impacting] those most vulnerable and people who could not come to see me,” he said. “It had little impact on the people who had been coming to see me regularly for 25 years. But there were now people who could not have come before because they didn’t have a job that gave them health insurance.” Another story described by a citizen who did not give his name stated “My son turned 21 in 2010, when the ACA was passed. Thanks to that, he was able to continue on my insurance until age 26, saving us the $672 per month that Blue Cross was going to charge to extend his coverage before the ACA took effect. Savings to our family? More than $40,000.” And another heartbreaking story, “Before 2010, my sister with Lupus could not buy insurance that would cover her treatments, because it was a pre-existing condition. That changed thanks to the ACA.” This law is intended to help Americans gain a fundamental right involving their health and it appears that over 15 million Americans will not be covered if the GOP and the new administration go ahead with a repeal. Time will surely tell where we will head in the next coming months.








Glimpse into Russian and Chinese Relations.

In the past few year the global community has seen the unipolar world dominated by the United States deteriorate with the emergence of Russia and China as global powers. However, it is the tie between the latter that can explain the role of a multipolar world. Both countries have developed economic ties with the establishment of the BRICS organization. This group includes the nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa being the equivalent of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The economic developed of the two nations began in the 90’s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The progression of such relationship took time to fully get moving. In 2001 both countries signed a new treaty of cooperation. Again this new treaty took halfway through the decade to move towards the cooperation that both nations envisioned. For example in 1995 the value of trade between both countries was two billion dollars where in 2011 the value increased to $35 billion dollars. As it is seen by the numbers the partnership in trade that both countries had generated exponentially. However, during the years from 2012 to 2015 the trade value between both nations actually took a hit. In 2012-2013 the trade value was stated to be $100 billion dollars then in 2015 that number became $70billion. A major reason for that drop surrounded the price of oil. Due to the recent drop in the price of oil the two trade partners saw a decline in value. That is the major trade between the two nations oil and machinery equipment. China being a nation that has a high demand when it comes to oil trades Russia equipment to assist its manufacturing output.

Besides the establishment of BRICS, both countries have engaged in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This group is similar to NATO and the U.N Security council where they have observer states such as Afghanistan, Iran, Belarus, and Mongolia. This possesses a similar scenario in terms of alliances as it did in World War I. As we have seen the Chinese and Russian military cooperation has grown as well as has there economic partnership has.

In September both nations held joint naval military exercises in the South China Sea with Anti-Submarine Destroyers. This is a precarious move due to the passage of American Naval warships and submarines in the area. In the past two years the South China Sea dispute has been one that has stirred a lot of tension between the United States and the Chinese. The relations have taken a bigger role when it comes to the conflict in Syria as a strong alliance for Bashar al Assad has formed including Iran, Russia, and China. Three countries that to the United States pose a threat to the national security of the nation from a global conflict perspective.

Recently we saw the reaction of the U.S, government over the ballistic missile test conducted by Iran but heard no condemnation from their Russian allies a suggestion that Russians agree that the Iranians are in their full right to test ballistic missiles. Furthermore trade between the Russians and the Iranians has increased in terms of armament. Furthermore each of three countries have taken a strong stance against ISIL in Syria. In a statement from The Role of International Organization in the Russia –China Relationship “…China has become increasingly concerned about ISIS and similar international terrorism is also shared by Russian policy [makers].” As we have seen the joint military cooperation has made the fight against ISIS and rebel groups a much easier task for the Assad regime.

But it has been progress that has not been made over the past couple of years. The American plan that called for supplying rebel forces by money and equipment did not work out accordingly. The pentagon and CIA both were funding two separate groups, expecting that they would take the fight to ISIS and Assad, instead both groups fought one another for the power that lies ahead if Assad was to be taken out of power.

With China in the mix in Syria it complicates the diplomacy aspect in big ways for the United States as they have to deal as I mentioned earlier the South China Sea issue and then deal with Russia and the Crimea issue, lastly the Assad issue plays in hand as well.

The alliance between Russia and China is a dynamic one and can will play a huge factor in the next coming years as we attempt to deal with the issues aforementioned above. This is a hybrid of what was the Cold War between the Russians and the Americans as it now deals with a third player and that player is as we all know now to be Russia. Major wars have started because of alliances and the tensions that are out in the open can become a powdered keg ready to explode and this time it can lead to much higher casualties than we have seen from the previous two world wars. However, this is per speculation and a huge hypothetical. We have seen in the past cooler heads prevail.

Military Victory is Not The Only Victory for Mosul That is Needed:

Since October of 2015 the coalition led mission to recapture Mosul was underway. Since then, the U.S led operations has gained some ground in the past couple of months. As stated by Lt. Gen Stephen Townsend “within the next six months I think we’ll see both (the Mosul and Raqqa campaigns) conclude.” However the question remains what is the plan for after major towns and cities are liberated? The steps that are taken after such victory will have consequences that will have a lingering affect in the future.

Earlier when ISIS gained major footholds of the Iraqi and Syrian country, it was illusive to say that a full victory would take place within a year. The world was paralyzed on how to address the growing threat from a hybrid of what Al-Qaeda use to be. The methods used by Daesh did indeed instill fear, not only to the Iraqis or Syrians, but as well as to the world.

The tactics used by ISIS ranged from mass beheadings to the burying of their victims alive. However, on the battle front ISIS has used hospitals as a way to handcuff coalition forces from executing their mission. As per the rules of war buildings such as hospitals are protected from attacks. If it is a military hospital a warning must be given before an attack is to take place.

As ISIS used a hospital in al Salam, the bodies of Iraqi soldiers were paraded around the town that held the hospital. Illustrating their true barbaric nature, the Iraqi populace was more horrified than receptive. An eyewitness to the events described the actions in the following manner “We just stood there on the street, horrified, ISIS used to come to the neighborhood and give us these videos of executions, telling us we needed to watch them, but we ignored them and didn’t. So witnessing this was just so awful.”

In addition to their tactics, ISIL has even adapted to the use of drone warfare. For example “In October, two Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were killed in northern Iraq when a modified drone exploded.” In essence this group still has the means to instill their rain of terror and even though a military victory will be a defining moment it will be just that a moment.

The group still maintains a hold through out the country in places such as; Albaghdadi, Maktab Khalid, and West of Ramadi to name a few. When coalition forces are successful in claiming the whole city-in Syria the coalition there has taken back a lot of previously held territory illustrating the break down of ISIS- they will have to worry about the civilians who are lacking living essentials such as food, water, and proper medical attention.

The current youth unemployment rate is 18% and factoring the affects of conflicts such as this, jobs will be difficult to come by as the rebuilding process begins. For this to be a successful military campaign, one should acknowledge that it will take more time to fully liberate the country of Iraq from daesh. If military advisors ignore the small towns that are currently occupied you in essence give them time to regroup. Once full security has been established a continuing international military presence should follow.

The name of the game will then be to provide adequate training for the Iraqis to combat the threat of terrorism in their home country. As many will be against it an American presence is essential in maintaining a place in the region and to fix its image as true harbinger of democracy if it focuses on the military front.

In the domestic front the Iraqi government with the partnership economically from foreign governments work to providing an inclusive culture. One observation made was how ISIL worked on the strings of division in Iraq and even though it did not last long or have a major impact, it did stiff military cooperation in the begin of the conflict. It is essential that the basic needs of living are met in war torn cities. It will be a recruiting ground if the general populace is left “naked” without any assistance.

This process also known as winning the hearts and minds is going to be the true victory in the military campaign against ISIL. If foreign governments stay out of the domestic politics and assist from a far the outcome can be one of success. Again it will depend on the direction the government goes in as well, whether to be willing to have open dialogue with the Kurds and mending the wounds of a regime that have not healed fully. One can truly be hopeful and not defeatist, for the problems we see are one of man and for that we as a global community can mend and fix our mistakes.

Iran Missile Test A Threat?

This past Sunday the Islamic Republic of Iran went ahead and tested a medium rand ballistic missile prompting quick responses from the new administration in the United States. President Trump tweeted the following “Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!” In essence the administration has created an early red line that may cause problems down the road if the Iranians go ahead with more missile test. The administration has cited the nuclear deal multiple times stating that the Iranians were in strict violation of the accord, however, the language in the treaty does not specifically state that the actions taken by Iran have violated any agreement.


Furthermore, the Iranians have tested a similar missile seven months ago and did not receive any such threats of economic sanctions. The reason for the quite behavior by the Obama administration went in line with his policy towards the Middle East, one that was of a hand off approach. The previous administration attempted to avoid any conflict in the region but was still dragged into it by the different conflicts through out the region. However, it now appears that we are reverting back to a policy of demonizing the Islamic Republic of Iran.


However, Iran has been in a missiles program before the Islamic Revolution even took place. As noted in a paper Iran’s Ballistic Program “Iran’s pursuit of ballistic missiles pre-dates the Islamic revolution. Ironically, the shah teamed with Israel to develop a short-range system after Washington denied his request for Lance missiles.” During this time the pursuit of a nuclear weapon was being pursued but after the revolution the program had collapsed.


At the time that the development of the missile program and nuclear planning was taken place, the Shah was the leader of Iran a close ally to the west. Once the revolution changed hands to an ant-western politick caused the quick readjustment of Iran having such weapons. Then in 2017 Iran has complied with the statue of the resolution where they go to 5,060 first generation centrifuges and enriching uranium to 3.7% below the point of where it is possible to use on a nuclear warhead. So why can Iran not test their weapons. A couple of months ago the United States tested bomb run with dummy nuclear warheads in the Nevada dessert.


Another saber rattling that has emerged from the new administration came from National Security Advisor Michael Flynn when he said ““failed to respond adequately to Tehran’s malign actions — including weapons transfers, support for terrorism and other violations of international norms.” Ironically Iran working in cooperation with Russia and the Syrian Army has been able to push ISIS forces out territory that was held by the daesh for a couple of years.


The United States on the other hand has played a proxy game in Syria. One example can be the debacle created by the CIA and the Defense Department. Both government agencies were supporting two separate groups with funds and equipment, similar to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 80’s. Instead of focusing on Assad forces or even ISIS the two groups began fighting amongst on another illustrating the vacuum that can emerge with a non-stable government. Many will point to the fact that Iran has support Hezbollah however, during the Bush administration, they help support the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) to fight against Hamas.


This recent display of the missile test is pure saber rattling. If we can test two fake nuclear bombs why cant another country test their defense capabilities. If Iran was pursuing a nuclear weapon they would have reached that capability at this point and time. If North Korea has developed a weapon with nuclear capability Iran would be able to do the same. Furthermore, Iran knows an attack on Israel will not be supported by the other Arab nations and will result in an American response a move Iran is not willing to make. The knee jerk reaction and saber rattling can truly lead to a point of no return as some would say.

Travel Ban

This past Friday newly elected President Donald Trump signed another Executive Order adding to the number of orders he has already signed into effect. This new executive order focuses on the movements of non-Americans from seven countries. Ironically the seven countries that were placed on a travel ban to the United States all possess a dominant Muslim population. The reasoning behind this travel ban is to protect the American public from a terrorist attack executed by a refugee let in to the country.


The issue is that the administration must not have an understanding of how difficult the vetting process is for a refugee-seeking asylum from a war-torn country. In a Time’s article titled This is How The Syrian Refugee Process Works the author points out that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) refers the individual or family to begin the interview process. Once selected for the interview process the applicant is vetted through not only the United Nations but also by multiple government agencies of the host nation that the applicant will be referred to.


A Syrian refugee who went through the vetting process explained how his process with his family took 15 months. And during that time he interviewed with multiple government agencies including the United Nations, F.B.I, State Department, National Counterterrorism Center, and the Department of Homeland Security. As the agencies interview applicants for refugee status and a new location to call home, they share information regarding the person or persons that have been interviewed by their agency.


The interviewing process as described by the Syrian refugee dives in deeply into ones own life. In a way the process seems to be more of an interrogation rather than a formal inquiry. As you are interviewed you are questioned multiple times the same question to detect any deviation from the previous story. Once the interview process is completed, those who completed the interview know more about the person than their own family and friends due. The account by the Syrian refugee puts down the notion that those seeking asylum from hotbeds of civil war and the destabilization from various extreme jihadist networks.


Within the executive order by President Trump he has called an indefinite ban of Syrian refugees from entering the United States, and again going on the basis that those who enter will execute a terrorist plot in this country. The examples that have been used to justify these attacks are the tragedies that have occurred in the streets of our European allies. In 2015 alone Europe received one million immigrants into their borders and 80% of those have ventured from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Since 2001 there have been a total of nine terrorist attacks on European soil.


These attacks resulted from European citizens of their respective country who traveled to the war torn Middle Eastern countries to gain the necessary training and networking needed to execute the attacks that we have seen take place over the past decade. And that is what brings us to the fray in this discussion, the opportunity of a terrorist attack being committed by someone outside of our nations border.


As stated earlier the focus had been on the outside while ignoring what is occurring in the inside of our country. In a 2016 news report by CBS titled The Americas: 15 Who Left the United States to Join ISIS, states that 250 Americans attempted to enlist in the ranks of ISIS but never left the country and instead leaned on social media sites linked to Daesh to become indoctrinated into the vast terrorist network. The president should rightly so be worried about those who are entering our country however, the possibility of a refugee who is accepted to enter the United States is minimal.


The Europeans who have accepted a huge amount of asylum seekers have seen attacks only sparked by those who were homegrown. Furthermore, the shared borders in Europe make the smuggling of extreme jihadist with no country affiliation to enter those respected borders compared to the United States where the ability to sneak into the country is a much more difficult task that one can imagine.


The administration must focus on how we can detect and identify potential home grown terrorist. As we have seen in our nation, the attacks that have taken place were by those who already were citizens of this country and did not have a true connection to leaders or combatants of ISIS. They were inspired from videos watched online or articles that they discovered on the web. The shutting down of such websites and the research for them should be an agenda for the administration.


The government with the help of Social Media owners have taken steps to shut down and limit the amount of sites that these various networks posses. Another factor that will help in identifying potential extreme jihadist behavior is the cooperation form the Muslim community. And this will not happen with the way we are working on banning those seeking asylum from entering our nation that is known for being a harbinger of freedom.


However, in the executive order section 10 it calls for transparency in reporting t”…the number of foreign nationals in the United States who have been charged with terrorism related offense.” It will focus on whether those who come into the United States and become radicalized. If the report is conducted in a un-bias and accurate manner it will illustrate that those seeking an opportunity to live in the United States is to have the ability to have a better life for their families and for themselves.


The ironic part of the listed countries that were placed on the travel ban Saudi Arabia is not placed on that list. The article does not intend to discredit the Saudi Kingdom however, 15 of the 19 hijackers of the 9-11-2001 attacks, originated from Saudi Arabia. How come they have not been placed on that ban as a potential national security threat since the terrorist attacks in 2001 was similar to the surprise attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor.


Several federal judges have placed a stay on Trump’s executive order but custom agents are still enforcing the ban signed by our president. Some members in congress from his own party have even went ahead and saying that they do not agree with the order but say there has to be much more stringent vetting process. Again a mood point because as explained earlier the vetting process is very deep and personal and multiple agencies are already involved how many more agencies can get involved?


Time will only tell what else we are to see in the new year of 2017 from a new administration and a break away from progressive politics.


Tragedy In Fort Lauderdale

Six days into the New Year and the United States is already a victim of a mass shooting in a frequented landmark. A young man by the name of Esteban Santiago flew in from Anchorage Alaska to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and opened fired on passengers waiting in the baggage claim area. The consequence of this mans actions led to the deaths of five passengers and seriously wounding six. This tragedy of 2017 illustrated what the country has failed to address in two main areas. The first area that has been an issue in the U.S. deals with mental health and the second issue deals with the regulating of firearm ownership.

In addressing the former issue, the United States has a mental health system that is broken compared to other “developed” nations. In America one in four Americans have some type of mental illness this means that over forty million Americans need to be treated. Even-though the Affordable Care Act made it possible to cover more uninsured Americans; the cost for inpatient treatment is an issue as reported by 66% of respondents to a survey of 303 patients who thought about seeking help but then refused to.

Those who refused to seek help also admitted that they believed that they could handle the problem on their own. This can be what happened with Mr. Santiago. During his time in the National Guard in Puerto Rico, he was deployed to Iraq in 2010 with an engineering unit. At the time of his deployment it was reported that he witnessed the death of two of his fellow soldiers from an IED (improvised explosive device). At this point in his military career he observed a tragic event that is not easily forgotten. After coming home from his deployment things began to unravel.

Esteban moved to Alaska and became a part of the National Guard unit out there in the cold and snow covered state. However, he would be discharge based on “unsatisfactory performance.” Spokeswoman Lt. Col Candis Olmstead did not elaborate on the discharge but the Pentagon did cite that he did go AWOL a couple of times and that was what led to his discharge. Then in January 2016 police respond to a domestic violence call to his girl friends house Miss. Peterson. It was alleged that Mr. Santiago broke down the bathroom door and once gaining entry to the room where his girl friend was hiding in, he smacked her and attempted to strangle her.

The above event did result in charges being brought up for Domestic Violence, however he would take a plea that is similar to a probation program. He had agreed to seek anger management courses and if he completed treatment the charges would be dismissed. Here is another sign that something was wrong with the Iraq Veteran and nothing resulted in attempting to evaluate and treat. Furthermore, at the same time these events were taking place, Santiago was in possession of a 9MM Walther handgun. This is where the second issue in the United States comes to the fray. The issue of gun control arises after each mass shooting and in some cases, certain gun laws would not have prevented some of the mass shootings this country has been a victim to.

In the state of Alaska there is no law that states that a person who is charged with domestic violence and owns a firearm would have to turn it in to law enforcement. However, there is The 1968 Gun Control Act and amended in 1996 with the Lautenberg Act it aimed to do two things:

“First, it will assist in preventing those individuals who have demonstrated a propensity for domestic violence from obtaining a firearm. Second, it will assist law enforcement by providing a tool for the removal of firearms from certain explosive domestic situations thus decreasing the possibility of deadly violence. Finally, it will serve as a federal prosecution tool in certain situations where alternatives have failed.”

However, due to the plea he took the case was eventually dismissed. In November Santiago went to the FBI field office in Alaska and informed Agent Martin Ritzmon that he was hearing voices telling him to watch videos of ISIS and that the government was in control of his mind.

He is sent to a state mental facility where he stayed for only a few days. His weapon was confiscated but was then returned to him because a judge adjudicated his mental health status. In other words the judge decided whether or not Santiago was mentally stable to be in possession of his firearm. Unfortunately he was granted the ability to have his firearm in his possession. The irony here is that with the domestic assault charge that was dismissed and his statements to the FBI field office he was allowed to maintain his firearm. However, the Supreme Court ruled recently that Medical Marijuana cardholders would not be allowed to own any type of firearm.

Before Santiago left Anchorage he did not check in any bags only possessing a carry on bag. This bag contained his 9mmWalther and somehow got it through the security checkpoints we all despise going through because of the invasive body scan machine to the pat downs. However, he was still able to carry the weapon onto the plane. By Transportation Security Administration guidelines, Santiago had to check in his weapon in a closed case as a check in bag. As we saw on the sixth of January 2017 he was successful in avoiding all possible security regulations.

It is very difficult to assess why Santiago has committed the act that he has committed. So far he has not given those who have interrogated him any inside as to why he decided to shot an airport full of passengers who believed that day was any normal day. Santiago will now face the death penalty if convicted. Esteban lived by a VFW a source he could have used in terms of finding a mental health professional in the VA. After the domestic violence call in January 2016 and one other incident he was able to maintain his weapon in his possession. If Alaska possessed the law not allowing a person charged with domestic violence to be able to obtain a firearms card it may have prevented Esteban from committing the shooting Fort Lauderdale.

Furthermore the decision whether a person should be involuntarily committed to a state run mental facility should be left to the doctors and not to a criminal judge who may not specialize in the mental health field. This also could have changed the events from transpiring. However, as the events have already taken place we must observe and address the issues when it comes to the mental health care system. Currently the amount of health workers to patients presents a huge gap in the amount of professionals to patients. In addition with the current debate on the Affordable Care Act both houses of Congress and the newly elected President Trump cannot negate the need to continue to address the mental health issue and learning what went wrong in this first tragedy of the New Year in the United States.




Airport shooter’s life in Alaska was falling apart, though few seemed to notice, Charles Rabincrabin, Miamiherald,


Seven facts about America’s mental health-care system, The Washington Post, WP Company,


Transporting Firearms and Ammunition, Transportation Security Administration,


As his life unraveled, Esteban Santiago slipped through all the cracks, Alaska Dispatch News,


  1. Restrictions on the Possession of Firearms by Individuals Convicted of a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence, 1117. Restrictions on the Possession of Firearms by Individuals Convicted of a Misdemeanor Crime of Domestic Violence | USAM | Department of Justice,


Family: Florida airport shooting suspect ‘lost his mind’ after tour in Iraq, WNYW,

Opinion: Take Time Looking At the Iran Deal

It has been almost a week since the historic deal between Tehran and the West was agreed upon in Vienna. However, it only took a few hours after the deal before those opposed to it would voice their concerns. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on CBS’s Face the Nation “I think this is a very bad deal with a very bad regime. It’s not good for anyone’s security.” In addition, members of the Republican caucus also showed disdain for the agreement. Regarding the agreement, Senator John McCain a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee stated “Ultimately, the problem with this agreement is that it is built far too much on hope — on the belief that somehow the Iranian government will fundamentally change in the next several years, such that it can be trusted with a growing arsenal, a huge influx of cash and the infrastructure of a nuclear program.” Even members of Obama’s party are not quick to jump up and support the deal, Nancy Pelosi is one of the few democrats who have backed the agreement.

In addition to lawmakers and foreign dignitaries showing their displeasure for the talks, Republican presidential hopefuls such as Jeb Bush raised the alarm saying America’s security is now at greater risk. Senator Marco Rubio has championed a petition against the deal. Even before the agreement can be implemented it appears that there will be a hurdle here at home to get this deal passed in the House.

However, before labeling the agreement as weak and a pathway to a nuclear weapon, one must observe the history between the two nations. Seeing that history, one may develop a different view to the agreement. In 1953 the United States with the British would help and support a coup in Iran of their first democratically elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh for the Shah. As a consequence of the coup, the Shah would increase the number of political prisoners and violate the basic human rights of the Iranian people with deep repression. The outcome of the coup would only be seen 26 years later with the Islamic Revolution and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei taking the lead role in the country’s affairs.

Another blunder in American foreign policy in the Middle East, would be during the Iran-Iraq War. The United States would go ahead and provide weapons, including chemical weapons to former dictator Saddam Hussein. Those very same chemical weapons would be used on the civilian population of Iran. Ironically, the United States would topple the Iraqi dictator after its invasion in 2003.

However, Iran is not innocent of creating mistrust with the United States as well. Iran in the past and in recent times has arrested foreign travelers and charged them with crime of spying for a foreign government. The Iranian government also sponsors Hezbollah and more recently Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Essentially, this agreement is a new beginning between the West and Iran. Currently, the West and Iran have a common enemy, and that is ISIS. In Iraq, Iran has military advisors in the country and some reports have surfaced that members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have partaken in operations with Shiite militias in the Anbar province as well as with Iraqi forces. The agreement can help by placing a much greater focus on how to combat the militant group that continues to grow and spread throughout the Middle Eastern region.

Those opposed to the agreement wanted one where Iran completely dismantled its nuclear program. However, those who argue against the deal should acknowledge that at-least Iran came to the table. With this in mind, turning the attention to the Asian Pacific, North Korea has made it publicly known that they are in possession of nuclear weapons. The North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has also stated that he plans to increase the number of warheads to one hundred by 2020. Under the young Korean leader, political prison camps have increased under fifty percent. On the subject of Kim Jong Un, he has sentenced members of his military staff to death and would have his uncle killed and immediately fed to dogs. However, the same uproar that we hear on Iran is only miniscule to that on North Korea.

First of all, the deal cuts Iran’s chances to develop a nuclear weapon in a significant way. They are barred from the development of advanced centrifuges that allow for the development of enriched uranium to be used for a nuclear weapon. This part of the agreement will only be in place for ten years and after that would be lifted immediately. Secondly, within the agreement, Iran has agreed to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) wherever and whenever. However, a notice would be issued to the country 24 days prior to their visit. Thirdly, the deal allows for an arms embargo and a missile ballistic embargo to be lifted in five years for the former and eight years for the latter. Lastly Iran has agreed to get rid of 98% of their onhand stockpile of enriched uranium. In exchange for compliance with the deal the sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy would be lifted.

A possible consequence with the lifting of sanctions on Iran, the country would now be exposed to trade and take part in business ventures that previously were blocked by the sanctions. During the placement of the sanctions the Iranian rial suffered a sixty percent dropped and inflation was at a rate of forty percent. The cost of living in the country was very unsustainable for the average Iranian. With this opportunity, Iran would now generate growth at a rate of eight percent GDP by the end of 2016.

Society in Iran will now be able to reap the benefits of a more inclusive Iran to the world economy. By becoming a major player in the world now, Iran will be “pressured” to assure that basic human rights are being followed. Furthermore, as the people of Iran feel less of a squeeze from the economic sanctions once placed, the Iranian population can now be focused on pressing their government for more political and basic freedoms. After the election of President Rouhani, and his appointment of ministers who have western education have propelled their country in the nuclear talks and may be the reformers that lead Iran to what many westerners do not see possible, a somewhat inclusive Islamic Republic. Speaking about the social impact of the deal Time magazine would state “Scaling back sanctions will also help Iran keep its best and brightest at home. From 2009 to 2013, more than 300,000 Iranians left the country in search of better opportunities abroad. Today, 25 percent of Iranians with a post-graduate education live in developed OECD countries outside Iran. This is, by some estimates, the highest rate of “brain drain” in the world. According to the World Bank, the Iranian economy loses out on $50 billion annually as talent looks elsewhere for work. Removal of sanctions will persuade some educated Iranians to take their chances at home.”

Lastly with Iranian oil being able to flow into the markets the price for crude oil may see a decrease of five to fifteen dollars. This is a result with the mass production by OPEC nations as well as the United States, creating the overabundance of oil and now adding Iran will actually help the American consumer and driver.

In conclusion, the Iran deal may provide an opportunity for the Islamic Republic to develop a nuclear weapon. However, North Korea who has been handed the most stiffen of sanctions has still been able to produce a nuclear weapon. Furthermore during the post war years of World War II the west made every effort to prevent the Russians from obtaining a nuclear weapon. As we all know that goal was unattainable. Thirdly Iran has signed a Nuclear Proliferation Treaty something that North Korea has yet to do and Israel itself has abstained from signing such a treaty. Those who oppose to the deal will say we were cheated but were we? We have halted their nuclear ambitions for ten years compared to the possibility of them obtaining one in a year or less, if they were pursuing a weapon. The mistrust that both sides have created over the years can now be reset with this deal and future cooperations in the region. Before we go and dismantle the deal before it is even implemented maybe we should give it a chance and focus on a collaboration to push back ISIL.

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Crichton, K., & Sanger, D. (2015, July 13). Who Got What They Wanted in the Iran Nuclear Deal. Retrieved July 20, 2015, from

Theobald, B. (2015, July 15). Arizona Republicans criticize Iran nuclear deal. Retrieved July 20, 2015, from

Trimm, T. (2015, July 14). Republicans hate the Iran nuclear deal because it means we won’t bomb Iran. Retrieved July 20, 2015, from

JAHANBEGLOO, R. (2015, July 19). Nuclear agreement a boost to civil society in Iran — but also to proxy wars. Retrieved July 20, 2015, from

Portlock, S. (2015, July 19). Netanyahu Vows to Keep Fighting Iran Nuclear Deal. Retrieved July 20, 2015, from

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Bremmer, I. (2015, July 16). Five Ways the Nuclear Deal Will Revive Iran’s Economy. Retrieved July 20, 2015, from

World Leaders Asleep on The Wheel

Prior to 2014, Iraq was facing a huge rise of vehicle borne IED attacks as well as suicide attacks. Majority of the attacks targeted Shiite cities and neighborhoods. In addition to these attacks, parts of the Middle East began to see the once all mighty dictator fall to the pressure of not only inside forces but as well as foreign intervention as well. Countries such as Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria would see challenge from the people demanding change, demanding what we called freedom. Each but one country would see their leader be forced from power. The former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi would be captured and killed by anti-Gaddafi forces, in Egypt Mubarak would step down and Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammed Morsi would fill in the vacancy-only to be forced out by his appointee Abdel Fattah el-Sisi- and lastly Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who has managed to hold power up to this point.

Since then there has been sever tension in the Middle-East region due to the rise of ISIS or ISIL. The instability that has been produced by the fall of some of the dictators and a much exclusive system in Iraq provided the ingredients for a strong power vacuum. That vacuum has been filled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), with the group capturing huge swaths of Syria and Iraq. However, as the group began to gain media attention it was time that world leaders did not understand was of importance.

The Syrian Civil War has been raging on for approximately four and a half years and continues to wage on to this day. The response from the world can be describe as lethargic and unwilling to attempt to quell the violence in the country. The only answer that foreign governments have introduced has been massive flow of weapons and military supplies. It can be said that many nations are fearful of military intervention, for one can point to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as an example to stray away from actual intervention.

As the west and other nations such as: Qatar, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia have aided rebels with weapons to fight Assad forces, while Iran and Russia have been in full support of the regime by supplying them weapons as well. The problem with the fluctuation of weapons to anti-Assad forces is being able to distinguish friend from foe. The Syrian rebels are so fractured that some have pledged allegiance to the Al-Qaeda branch Al-Nusra Front or other militant groups.

In addition to weapons being given to unknown organizations, ISIL has recovered a good amount of military supplies from surrendering Iraqi forces. The equipment that was surrender as ISIL made their blitzkrieg sweep through Iraq, was issued by the United States and funded by tax-payer funds. As ISIL encountered one victory after another in Iraq, it was apparent that the “junior varsity team” that President Obama famously stated in an interview with Meet the Press, the group was a much bigger threat then perceived in the beginning.

It should be noted that during their “conquest” the group was as welcoming as the Nazis were when they invaded Russia. It was reported that the group made a group of women and children to dig an huge hole and were then buried alive in the very hole they were forced to dig up. What is more alarming is the mass beheadings that the group has committed in the past year and a half and the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot.

As ISIL continues it’s atrocities the United States and it’s coalition (Europeans and including some Gulf States) have gone to an ariel warfare to attempt to “destroy” and “cripple” the organization. The battle on the ground has been taken by various groups in Iraq. As there American advisors in the country of Iraq, Iran has sent their Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimanni as an advisor to Iraqi forces. However, as reported by Reuters, Iran may already have combat forces on the ground assisting Shiite forces in Iraq to push back ISIL from the areas they have already captured. The author of the article Iran’s Elite Guards Fighting in Iraq to Push Back Islamic State, Babak Dehghanpisheh, writes “Shirkhani did not die in a battle inside Iran. He was killed nearly a hundred miles away from the Iranian border in a mortar attack by the militants of the Islamic State “while carrying out his mission to defend” a revered Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra, according to a report on Basij Press, a news site affiliated with the Basij militia which is overseen by the Revolutionary Guards.” The man he mentions–Kamal Shirkhani– died in the city Samarra located deep inside of Iraq.

In addition to Iran forces playing an active role in the fighting against ISIL, the United States has continued its air campaign and has coordinated with the Iraqi forces on the ground. Furthermore, Iraqi forces have recaptured Tikirt, Saddam Huessein’s hometown but ever since then Iraqi forces have slowed down to a crawl in pushing ISIL further back. Reports have emerged that the Iraqi government would execute a large scale military attack this week in the Anbar province area of Iraq.

The announcement of the offensive maneuver can only be taken with a grain a salt because the Iraqi government made an announcement similar to this in May and the plan never turned into fruition. However, with a lackluster air campaign which has not halted the advancement of ISIL, world leaders have offered no alternative to the problem.

As they have slept at the wheel with the situation in the Middle East, ISIL has shown its presence in other parts of the region. The United States is attempting to find a North African country to allow it to base drones out of the country and allow a few hundred military personnel to man and command a drone squadron. The reason for this new strategy is to as stated by The Journal to provide U.S. Military and its intelligence agencies real time information in the country of Libya. The country has been facing de-stabilization ever since the fall of Gaddafi in 2011 providing a power vacuum for the extremist group. Furthermore, the group has claimed responsibility for an attack on an Italian consulate in Egypt, luckily no one was injured or killed on the attack.

The organization once consider to be a junior varsity team is in possession of more finances than Al-Qaeda possessed before the September 11th attacks. During their blitzkrieg offense last summer, the group raided the Monsul Central Bank, taking with it five hundred billion dollars and euros mixed together, as well as some gold reserves. In addition to the stolen funds, the group has also used kidnappings and ransoms to garner funds. Lastly they have also sold oil illegally that they have seized from some of the oil fields in Iraq. It has been estimated that the group makes a million dollars a day off the black market oil that they sell.

The threat is growing stronger as the world continues to kick the can with ISIL. The problem is not whether they can be beat militarily, the problem is how do you create stability again. There is no question that the more that ISIL spreads it becomes much more difficult to control them and creates a potential conflicts on many fronts. For example even if combat forces were sent into Iraq and pushed ISIL out of the country they would go to their next safe haven, Syria. Seeing that, one can see that the problem would only re-emerge in Iraq after military forces leave the country and we would be where we started.

As the problem continues to spread and no action from world leaders in truly pushing for a joint military operation, ISIL will continue to spread like a cancer. It will use the same tactics it used in Iraq and has been using in Egypt and Libya recently. The use of suicide bombings and vehicle borne IEDs to create de-stabilization and instill fear into those citizens. This organization is a extreme to Al-Qaeda and present a much more bigger threat. With the increase of foreign fighters, world governments must not only pay close attention to the Middle East but they must also pay close attention to the security at home.

DEHGHANPISHEH, B. (2014, August 3). Iran’s Elite Guards Fighting in Iraq to Push Back Islamic State. Retrieved July 13, 2015, from

PressTV-US to send drones to fight ISIL in Libya. (2015, July 13). Retrieved July 13, 2015, from

ISIL claims responsibility for deadly car bomb blast at Italian consulate in Cairo. (2015, July 12). Retrieved July 13, 2015, from

United States Department of Defense. (2015, July 11). Retrieved July 14, 2015, from

Miles, K. (2014, September 10). ISIS Is A Threat To U.S. Interests, Top Official Says. Here’s What’s Being Done About It. Retrieved July 14, 2015, from

Chandler, A. (2015, July 1). ISIS Kills 50 Egyptian Soldiers in Sinai Peninsula. Retrieved July 14, 2015, from

America Developing Into A Police State

Recently on the news the American public has been shown scenes from Ferguson, Missouri. The media has shown scenes of where Ferguson police officers resemble the same military force that we see deployed over in Afghanistan and before in the streets of Baghdad, Iraq. Officer’s were dressed in camouflage ACUs, full body gear (from kelvar helmets down to the knee pads.), assault rifles/grenade launchers, and riding in MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle.). However, the current events in this city in Missouri are not the only instance where we see the new model for police departments occurring.

The events of Ferguson put a spot light on a style of policing that has shifted to a military style of force. One may ask themselves: How can police departments afford the equipment that our military uses overseas? Well the reason for this rampant build up of military equipment to police department’s deals in part with legislation prior to 9/11 and legislation passed after that tragic day that took place in New York.

The National Defense Authorization Act was the piece of legislation that would kick start the militarization of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. In a Newsweek article written by Taylor Wofford explains the law:
“‘ Section 1208 of the NDAA allowed the Secretary of Defense to “transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is— (A) suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and (B) excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.'”
The amount that federal tax dollars paid for this armament begin in 1990 was a million dollars worth of equipment given to law enforcement agencies.

After the attacks on the United States on the 11th of September, funding to program 1033 (formerly known as section 1208) began to increase more then previous years. For example Mother Jones in a article written by Matthew Harwood, reports on a 2011 investigation by two other reporters (Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz) that after 9/11 and up to the point the investigation was reported, police departments in areas of high targets for terrorism used $34 billion in grants given by the Department of Homeland Security. In 2013 alone $450 million dollars went to the funding of program 1033.

As the federal government continues to fund programs like this, they themselves are influencing the style of policing similar to those of countries under authoritarian rule and dictatorship states. One startling fact is the number of SWAT raids that occur in this country. It is estimated that there are over 50,000 raids conducted every year here in the United States. As the article written by Matthew Harwood that accounts for “roughly 137 times a day a SWAT team assaults a home…”

Now imagine police officers dressed in full combat gear, stacked on your neighbors door with a MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle) in front and you see them go into action. A flash bang grenade is thrown into a your neighbors window and you see the officers bust in and search the house. Military forces use this style of entry heavily as they conduct house searches for possible weapons and or a Taliban hideout. Now those tactics are being brought home.

The image is identical to what was stated early of military operations underway in foreign countries where we are engaged in Counter Terrorism missions. With those SWAT raids and the events going in Ferguson, America is revealing a militarized police state that can be summoned whenever needed. A militarized state funded by the federal government. Just as we saw protest in Ferguson being broken up with flash bang grenades and smoke grenades, the very same tactics were used on Occupy Wall Street a couple of years ago.

If law enforcement agencies sent into this mindset that to establish law and order at home they must become militarized to achieve this mission then they are misled. Police officers are meant to protect and serve and to establish that a certain level of trusts needs to be developed between the community and law enforcement. However, when you dawn the equipment of a soldier and execute tactics like a Marine or an Army infantryman clearing a house in Iraq, that ability to gain trust is lost. The result is an outlook towards law enforcement that they are a military force and will view them (civilians) as an enemy target.

As we see these force being deployed on protest ranging from Occupy Wall Street to the ones happening in Ferguson, one can note that the very same men and women who are to serve and protect are now violating the very fundamental rights of democracy by their use of force. The rights of freedom of speech and freedom of press are being violated by the responses of these law enforcement agencies. If America continues to ignore this issue, one can only foresee a nation where democracy has been extracted and a police state stands in it place.

It is understandable that law enforcement agencies need the tools to combat threats such as an active shooter as well as a terrorist act if one were to happen. However, is the equipment being used truly necessary and are the tactics u

Is Karzai a American Ally?

 Recently the Secretary of State John Kerry has attempted to hold negations with President Karzai over a deal that would allow U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan for ten more years pass the pull out deadline.  However, the president of Afghanistan needed the loya jirga approval so he can sign the deal and allow the presence of U.S forces in the country.  The mass group of tribal leader took last weekend to discuss whether or not they would be ok with U.S. and NATO forces staying past their deadline.  The group approved the measure saying that it would be beneficial for the Afghan people.

  However, the president in Afghanistan has refused to sign the deal that if not signed will force the United States and its allies to pull out all forces from Afghanistan after the 2014 deadline is passed.  Furthermore if the president fails to sign this deal the foreign aid that the country was scheduled to receive will now be scrap and the government will not receive any foreign aid.  Now we did see this situation play out before in Iraq.  We attempted to sign a Security Deal and those plans truly fell through.  The reason why those plans failed was a part of the deal that the U.S. refused to give the Iraqi government.  The Obama administration declined to give the Iraqi government the authority to prosecute any American soldier who may have committed a war crime in the region.

  That was a part of the deal that I did agree with the United States.  For the military has its own judicial system which prosecutes any service member for violating the rules of the Geneva Convention.  Because we did not want to include that part of the deal in we did not sign the security deal and pulled out U.S forces from the region.  Now when we look at the country and how it is doing now we see a country that is in a much worse shape then it was when we first engaged the country.

  Terrorist activity has been ramped up in the country and the Iraqi people are seeing terrorist attacks on a daily basis with casualties climbing everyday.  You may ask yourself why am I making this point. Well if we fail to maintain coalition forces in Afghanistan, I believe that we will be failing to learn from our mistakes from the Iraq war and how we handled the war after the fall through of the security deal.  But what is difference about this time is the fact that the tribal leaders of the region have accepted this deal and in the beginning of the talks Karzai himself said that he can sign off on the security deal.

  Now the president has switched his tone and is looking for any possible excuse to not sign this deal.  First he stated that he was looking for the jirga to agree on the deal and after they gave their decision on the deal that he would sign the deal.  Then Karzai stated that he may wait for elections to take place in the country and have the new president to sign the agreement if he wants.  And the other day Karzai found another reason to not sign this deal.  Over the course of the week the U.S carried out a drone strike that took the life of two innocent civilians.  This military operation was the fuel that Karzai needed to be ever more critical of the security deal.  

  I have been a strong advocate that U.S forces should be brought home after nearly 13 years of being in the country.  However, after the 2,500 member jirga voted to have the deal signed, I see that the Afghan people would feel secure if we continue to keep a small not large military present.  Now we would leave about 8,000-10,000 U.S forces in the country providing security and training of Afghan forces.  Both elements that are critical to assuring that we have a stabilized Afghanistan in the future.  It is also in the countries interest in the terms of aid that would be held back if the deal is not signed.

  So far the Afghan military and their special operations teams have done a sufficient job this fighting season against Taliban forces.  However, as the commanding general Joseph Dunford stated, the Afghan military needs more time and training before leaving them to their own devices.  Even civilians in the country have stated that the reason why their is some peace in the country is because of NATO and American forces that are in the country.  I do believe that this deal can attempt to bring that safety to the Afghan people.  

  Iraq has been the template and example of what can happen if we fail to provide security after our deadline passes with now new deal signed.  And I truly do not want to wake up to the news to see that the Afghan people are under a barrage of terrorist attacks on a daily basis.  If we allow that to happen then we failed in kicking out the Taliban from the country. If the country unravels it can lead to the Taliban re-establishing itself once again in the country and allowing al-Qaeda regroup and become stronger then they are now.

  However, we (the United States) cannot help our cause if we are conducting drone attacks that are killing innocent civilians and assuring the people that we are there to help provide security.  The foreign policy in the drone program truly needs to be reviewed by the administration because not only is it affecting us in Afghanistan but as well as in Pakistan.  So far the training has proved to be beneficial to Afghan forces as we have given them control of some parts of the country and they have been able to provide the security in those areas and still to this day maintain control of the territories that they were given.

  The deal also states that U.S forces cannot conduct military raids on Afghan homes or allow searches of those home unless there is a immediate and direct threat to American life.  Which is a big concession from the United States however, that part of the deal will not go into effect until 2015. So it will allows us to conduct those raids until then and this had played another major sticking point of the Afghan President.  If no deal is signed and we pull out all U.S forces from the country we can only predict that the future of Afghanistan will resemble that of Iraq.  With bloodshed everyday and a country with potential to rebuild itself and take part in the world community fall once again to the Taliban forces.  Unless we hold peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar before the deal is brokered or fails then our foreign policy will have to be adjusted again to the Middle East and not the Asian Pacific.  

  The frustration of the American public is understandable in regards to maintaing troops in the country but we must understand that to provide some form of stability in the region we must try and do it with Afghanistan.  We did not sacrifice 12 years of war which included the lives of coalition forces as well as civilian life to pack up and leave the country to its own.  We have done that to the Afghans in the 80s and we cannot do it again.  We must provide the proper training for the security forces and leave knowing we did our job the right way.  However, Karzai stands in the way of us doing our job.  So is the man that we put into the seat of leadership and the seat of governing his fellow Afghan people truly an ally to the U.S?  Ill let you the reader decide that.