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Politics

Top State Department Diplomat Resigns

January 22, 2019 by Dan Kazan in Politics

Saying “I feel like I’ve done what I came to do,” Wess Mitchell, the premier diplomat for European affairs, has decided to resign his post.

U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell visits Memorial to the Fallen Soldiers and heavenly Hundred Memorial, Kyiv, November 15, 2017.

First reported by the Washington Post, Mitchell sent his resignation letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, stating that as of February 15 he will no longer serve as assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs, his official title. In this capacity his portfolio included Russia, which has been a sensitive issue for the White House since special investigator Robert Mueller has been exploring whether President Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 run for president.

Mitchell explained to the Washington Post in an interview that his resignation should not be interpreted as a protest of Trump’s policies. Among many of Trump’s controversial policies has been the questioning of NATO and other crucial European alliances.

“I feel like I’ve done what I came in to do. My kids have a greater claim to my time right now than the public does,” he told the Post.

Russian Space Official’s NASA Invitation Cancelled

January 6, 2019 by Gail Nussbaum in Politics

Ultra-right-wing head of the Russian government space administration, Dmitry Rogozin was dis-invited to visit the United States, according to a spokeswoman for NASA.

Expedition 58 crew, Flight Engineer Anne McClain of NASA, Soyuz Commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) pose for a photo with senior officials of Roscosmos, NASA, and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) after arriving at the launch pad by bus to begin boarding the Soyuz MS-11 spacecraft for launch, Monday, Dec. 3, 2018 in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Kononenko, McClain, and Saint-Jacques will spend the next six and a half months onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

The visit to the US by the head of Roscosmos, Russian’s equivalent to NASA, was indefinitely postponed in response to the vociferous response by Senate Democrats, who threatened congressional action to prevent Rogozin from coming. Rogozin is an ultranationalist who has voiced homophobic rhetoric as well as racist and anti-USA opinions in his former position as deputy prime minister. His biggest blemish as far as a possible US visit is his role in the annexation of the Crimea in 2014, which earned him US sanctions.

Removing or undermining the West’s sanctions against Russia has been a priority of President Putin, and the visit by Rogozin, who was scheduled to speak at Rice University during his visit to Houston was the perfect way to loosen those sanctions in a high-profile way.

From the point of view of the United States the sanctions against Rogozin also harms NASA, which is working on improving cooperation between Russia and the US for parts of its space program. Jim Bridenstine, head of NASA, was looking to improving relations between the two countries when he extended the invitation. Unfortunately, he was not aware of what a tempest the invitation would cause.

One day after the congress threatened to block the visit, Bridenstine sent word to Roscosmos that the visit was cancelled:

“NASA has informed the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, that the proposed visit of Roscosmos Director General, Dr. Dimitry Rogozin, currently planned for February 2019 will need to be postponed,” said NASA spokeswoman Megan Powers in a statement. “A new date for the visit has not been identified.”

Elizabeth Warren First Democratic to Enter 2020 Race for President

December 31, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in Politics

Senator Elizabeth Warren, outspoken critic of out-of-control capitalism and the “big-bank” culture, has stepped into what is sure to be a crowded collection of Democratic presidential hopefuls in the 2020 elections.

Sen. Warren speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention

Her declaration comes 13 months before the first votes will be cast in the Iowa caucuses, the official opening of the primaries designed to whittle down to one candidate our of what is expected to be many, who will go head to head against the expected incumbent President Donald Trump.

Along with her declaration to run Warren released a video stressing her populist and anti- Wall Street themes which will run deep in her message.

“I’ve spent my career getting to the bottom of why America’s promise works for some families, but others, who work just as hard, slip through the cracks into disaster,” she said in the video. “And what I’ve found is terrifying: these aren’t cracks families are falling into, they’re traps. America’s middle class is under attack.”

“But this dark path doesn’t have to be our future,” she added. “We can make our democracy work for all of us. We can make our economy work for all of us.”

Warren is 69 years old, and is expected to be one of several women vying for the Democratic endorsement. She was a professor of bankruptcy law at Harvard, and never held office until she became the first woman elected to the Senate from Massachusetts in 2013. She is an advocate of strict regulation of financial institutions, and often criticized Hillary Clinton during her bid for the presidency in 2016, saying Clinton wasn’t tough enough on bankers and Wall Street companies.

“How did we get here?” Ms. Warren said in her announcement video. “Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie, and they enlisted politicians to cut them a fatter slice.”