St. Olaf: Racist note was a “hoax”

On April 29, 2017, a racist note saying, “I am so glad you are leaving soon. One less [N-word] this school has to deal with. You have spoken up too much. You will change nothing. Shut up or I will shut you up,” was found on Samantha Well’s car, a black student at St. Olaf college in Northfield, MN.  

The tight knit community, at the small private liberal arts college, initiated a campus wide rally that was streamed live via Facebook that day. The stream featured a variety of visibly shook-up, and very distraught students. The rally turned into a sit in, and classes were cancelled for the following two days, as most of the St. Olaf students spent the day supporting their peers who had been affected by the incident.

Student organizers demanded extensive campus changes regarding the way the

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administration responds to, and investigates incidents like this one. Precious Ismail, a spokeswoman for the campus group, the Coalition for Change on the Hill, told the Star Tribune, “Our movement wasn’t about one individual, our movement was about a pattern of institutional racism.”

On Wednesday, May 10, it was announced by the President of St. Olaf, David R Anderson, that the note was a “hoax,” and that a St. Olaf student was responsible for authoring the note. Anderson added, “federal privacy laws prohibit the college from disclosing the identity of the author of that note and disclosing the actions taken by the college now that we know the author’s identity.” In a message to the students, Anderson wrote that the note was “fabricated” and was a “strategy to draw attention to concerns about the campus climate.”

The Northfield police told the Star Tribune that the case has been closed as of Wednesday due to the fact that Wells decided not to file a report, as she is leaving soon and would rather spend her last few weeks at college enjoying herself, than to be preoccupied with a case.

Anderson told the Star Tribune that the campus will continue to investigate similar reported incidents.

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Facebook murderer

The Facebook/Cleveland Killer, and former job-counselor for teens, Steve Stephens, posted a video of an apparently “random” murder of 74 year-old Robert Godwin Sr. When the police finally caught up with Stephens in Erie, Pennsylvania, he committed suicide following a police chase.  

Godwin was shot Sunday, April 16, while walking home from an Easter meal with his children, in Cleveland, Ohio. Stephens posted video of the elderly man’s death on Facebook saying, “I snapped, I just snapped.”

Later Sunday, Stephens uploaded a video to his Facebook page showing a gun pointed at a man’s head: Robert Godwin.

Stephens claimed on Facebook that he had killed more people, but police aren’t aware of any other victims. Stephens had many traffic violations but no criminal record, police said.

A McDonald’s employee, in Erie, Pennsylvania, spotted Stephens’ white Ford Fusion in the drive-thru and called authorities on Tuesday, April 18, 2017.

The employee called the police, telling the authorities, “I think that’s the guy.” The Mcdonald’s employee later told the press that he “looked suspicious” and drove off before he received his full order. According to CNN Stephens led the police in a chase for five miles, before being hit with the PIT maneuver by one of the police officers that were dispatched.

“As the vehicle was spinning out of control, from the PIT maneuver, Stephens pulled a pistol and shot himself in the head,” Pennsylvania police said.

For two days, authorities across the country struggled to find Stephens, the man wanted for the death of Robert Godwin, a self-taught mechanic and grandfather of 14.

Cleveland Police Chief, Calvin Williams, told the press,”We’re grateful that this has ended…We would prefer that it had not ended this way because there are a lot of questions, I’m sure, that not only the family, but the city in general would have had for Steve.”

The Tuesday after Stephen’s death, his former girlfriend, Joy Lane, who was identified in the video of Godwin’s death, met with two of the victim’s daughters, Debbie Godwin, and Tonya Godwin-Baines. A CNN affiliate, WJW, or Fox8 News Cleveland, reported the women hugged each other and cried together.

Through their tears, several of Godwin’s children said they held no animosity toward Stephens. “Each one of us forgives the killer, the murderer,” Godwin-Baynes said Monday. His children remembered how their father taught them the value of hard work, and how to love God and forgive.

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“They don’t make men like him anymore,” said his daughter Debbie Godwin. “He was definitely one in a million.”

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, discussed Godwin’s death at the company’s annual developer’s conference.

“We have a lot of work, and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening,” Zuckerberg said on stage. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robert Godwin Sr.”

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Have you seen me?

In January of 2017, Chanel Dickerson, D.C.’s new Metropolitan Police Commander, pledged to find the 22 missing girls from America’s capitol.

Even though the police department utilizes social media, such as Twitter, for broadcasting the profiles of the missing young women, uploading the profiles daily, members of the Congressional Black Caucus are insisting for a federal investigation on the cases.

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March 21, lawmakers from Washing D.C. issued a letter asking the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, and FBI Director James Comey to “devote the resources necessary to determine whether these developments are an anomaly, or whether they are indicative of an underlying trend that must be addressed.” The lawmakers added, “When children of color go missing, authorities often assume they are runaways rather than victims of abduction.”

Justice Department spokesperson, Sarah Isgur Flores confirmed that she briefed Sessions on the issue Friday, March 24.

“The Attorney General is aware of the reports and is looking into the issue,” says Flores.

The FBI has declined to comment on the matter.

According to CNN, the Metropolitan Police Department in D.C. has recorded 501 cases of missing children so far in 2017, and said that 22 cases were still open as of Wednesday, March 22.

“We have received a lot of media attention and a lot of concern from the public because of the number of releases,” Dickerson said at a news conference on Friday, March 24. “There have been concerns that young girls in the District of Columbia are victims of human trafficking or have been kidnapped.”

Police Commander Dickerson continued, saying, “And I say this without minimizing the number of missing persons in DC — because one missing person is one person too many — but there’s actually been a decrease,” she added. “There is always a concern of human trafficking, but we have no evidence for this.”

The case of the missing girls has gotten a lot of tread on social media once the hashtag, #find our missing girls began trending.   

Annual statistics project cases of missing children have remained relatively steady in Washington D.C. over the past several years — with 2,222 cases in 2014, 2,433 in 2015 and 2,242 in 2016.

D.C. Councilmember, Trayon White told HLN’s Michaela Pereira, “What the community is alarmed about — we had a 10-year-old girl missing the other day, but there was no amber alert,” White said. “We just feel like, you know, if this was a white person or from another neighborhood, there would be more alarm about it.”

“Any time you have a 10-year-old missing for any amount of hours and no one knows where he or she is, that is rules for immediate attention, that’s an alert that needs to be sent out,” White added, “because the more time that goes past, the less likely we are to find him or her.”

Putting numbers and Amber Alerts aside, the vice president at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Robert Lowery, said he is grateful an important conversation about missing young people is happening.

“I think the narrative is good,” Lowry said. “The more the public becomes aware of this issue of missing children, the more lives that can be protected and potentially even saved.”

“Our frustration is, we deal with a very desensitized public,” Lowery said to CNN. “The natural inclination (about a runaway) is the child’s behavioral problem is why they’ve left. We also see significant numbers of runaway children who are running away from a situation, whether it’s abuse or neglect or sexual abuse in the home. These children face unique risks when they’re gone so we applaud the conversation and we applaud the attention that this issue is being given.”

As of Thursday, April 13, 2017, the young womens’ whereabouts are still unknown.

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Snoop V. Trump

American rapper, Snoop Dogg, has released his most recent music video, “Lavender,” which includes a very controversial scene. The scene opens up with a close-up of a clown, with characteristics that resemble America’s President, Donald Trump.

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As the camera zooms out, the viewer can see Snoop Dogg pointing a toy gun at the clown. Snoop Dogg, notorious for doing what he likes, like many modern day musical artists, pulls the trigger and the gun releases a “Bang” flag.

The music video has received over 4 million views, in three days, since it was released on Monday, March 13, 2017. Many Snoop Dogg fans have defended his artistic approach, regarding it as freedom of speech, telling Trump supporters to be “less sensitive.” Billybluedog on Youtube commented, “I was more offended by the stance that republicans took over Obama’s 8 years in office, blocking everything he attempted to provide for Americans. Trump governing is by empowering his base by division. Not unity. His speech’s are directed to his follower’s only, and not the rest of America’s society. He thinks that divide and conquer will empower his leadership. He is mistaken… It will only create more videos, and late night comedy sketch’s like the one’s we are seeing… so sad…”

In an interview with Billboard, Dogg defends his move, saying, “Nobody’s dealing with the real issue with this ******* clown as president, and the **** that we dealing with out here, so I wanted to take time out to push pause on a party record and make one of these records for the time being.”

In response to the video by Snoop Dogg, Trump tweeted early in the morning on March 15, 2017, “Can you imagine what the outcry would be if @SnoopDogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail Time!”

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Trump’s “personal lawyer,” Michael Cohen, says Snoop Dogg owes his client an apology. Back in January of 2016, Trump, however, made a similar statement when he was speaking to a crowd of supporters in Iowa. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” If Barack Obama had said that, an immediate apology would have been demanded, and he would possibly not have become the President of the United States.

 

At this time, Snoop Dogg has yet to respond to the President.

Transgender students and bathrooms

On Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017, the Trump administration withdrew protection rights, for transgender students, that were put into place during the recent Obama-era. The protection allowed transgender students to use the bathrooms according to what gender they identified with.

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Many believe that the federal government should not have become involved with the issue, but that it should have always been up to the states to decide their bathroom laws.

The Trump administration sent out a two page letter to public schools explaining that the Obama-era guidance did not provide “extensive legal analysis” and therefore, it should be decided on a state-level.

The White House stated, “The joint decision made today by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education returning power to the states paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers and administrators.” However, according to CNN, a source reported to them that Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, was against the Trump administration’s draft for withdrawing the guidance.

It’s been reported that DeVos was publically on board, but did privately express her hesitance and disagreements with the guidance. According to CNN, DeVos was summoned to the White House to meet with the President where “she was told to agree to the plans.”

A statement, issued by the White House, regarding the new guidance, states that the guidance “does not leave students without protections from discrimination, bullying, or harassment.”

In agreement with the White House’s statement, addressing student protections, Civil Rights groups have pointed out that this new guidance does not undo state-level protections or Title IX for transgender students. Title IX is an education amendment that was made in 1972. The amendment states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Even with the protection of Title IX and state level laws, CEO of Lambda Legal, Rachel B. Tiven, said in a statement, “The law bars discrimination – the new administration invites it.”

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Prom dress: Censored

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The Osakis School Board, in Osakis, Minnesota, has suggested a new rule for their upcoming prom in April. The original “rule of thumb” prom dress code was described as “to wear what they would feel comfortable wearing to church.” This is a public High School. Despite that, not every single person goes to church, or might not have ever attended church. I would not save my money all year, for a night, to only wear something I could wear every week. 

Here are some ideal examples for church-wear, and apparently appropriate prom attire as well:

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This new suggestion is requiring every girl who is planning to attend this year’s prom to submit a photo of them wearing their chosen dress to their school’s prom advisor. Photo submissions of boys are not required. This has recently been approved by the school board and will be required.

Another thing that is not required is entrance into the prom dance. After one has spent the $80 on a ticket, $100 on the dress of their dreams, around $100 on hair and makeup, and another $50 on their nails, these girls still can be turned away at the door if their dress does not meet the dress code. Board member Monica Klimek stated, “We have a right to not allow entrance to the prom.”

A statement about the dress code requirements was passed out to all 11th and 12th graders in the Osakis High School. The statement said:

“Appropriate attire is required since prom is an official, formal school event…Ladies, an acceptable prom dress is one that you would feel comfortable wearing to a formal event at school…Length of dresses must be lower than the fingertips when arms are held straight down at sides. Tennis shoes, sunglasses and baseball caps are not formal attire and are not acceptable.”

The letter does address dress code suggestions for the attending “gentlemen.” Suggestions include: dress pants, dress shirt, sports coat and tie, tuxedo, accompanied by dress socks and shoes. The letter concludes by saying, “Prom is a privilege and not a right.” Students must sign and return the letter.

The reason behind these requirements for the girls is due to an attempt to prevent “embarrassment” according to the Osakis School board.

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However, who are they to declare if one is embarrassed by what they wear?

If another goal, in declaring this dress code, was to prevent any unwanted attention, or advancements, from the “gentlemen” attending, why not teach them how to be a gentleman?

Don’t restrict a girl’s freedom to express herself through what she wears. It’s 2017 and as far as I’m concerned, girls have been told what not to wear for years. Onlookers have been blaming their wardrobe for what happens to them, but I have never heard of clothes that say “please come and make me feel embarrassed and violated.”

Young women should have the freedom to wear what THEY feel comfortable in: sneakers, an elaborate dress, sweats, etc. No young women should feel a backlash for wanting to feel extra special for a night.

Trump “Trumps” the press

Since the start of Donald Trump’s presidency, or even the start of his campaign, there have been a slew of suppression strikes against the press, often claiming they are reporting “fake news.” This is funny as one of the president’s closest correspondents, Kellyanne Conway, reported a massacre in Bowling Green, claiming nobody knew about it because the press, as a whole, chose not to report on it. Now here’s the funny part: there was never a massacre in Bowling Green. Kellyanne reported fake news on national television.

Since her comment about Bowling Green was a false statement, according to Trump’s belief, she can be sued. Trump said, “I’m a big believer, tremendous believer, of the freedom of the press. Nobody believes it stronger than me, but if they make terrible, terrible mistakes and those mistakes are made on purpose to injure people — I’m not just talking about me; I’m talking anybody else then, yes, I think you should have the ability to sue them.” So according to this statement, the American people, are able to sue Kellyanne Conway on account of her fake news that “injured” the people affected by it; mainly the race in which the republicans in the White House believe to be terrorists.

Legally, the press is not allowed to report anything false, but they are protected by “actual malice.” According to the Legal Information Institute, at Cornell University Law School, “Actual malice means that a statement was made with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether or not it was false.” In short, as long as the content was published by the journalist in good faith, all the information was as accurate as possible, it is legally publishable. This is contrary to what the president believes, as he stated on a Miami TV station, that “Our press is allowed to say whatever they want and get away with it.”

Trump, as a tremendous believer in “freedom of the press,” has pledged to change the libel laws in a way that would undermine the First Amendment and the freedom of the press. While on his campaign run, Trump stated that we should “open up our libel laws so when [newspapers] write purposely negative stories…we can sue them and make lots of money.”

The First Amendment, a foundation of the country’s democracy, states that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” 

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To illustrate this attack on the press, on February 1st, 2017, a 45 second clip, of a press conference with the president, surfaced on Twitter. A journalist was trying to ask a question, and after being denied, the journalist calmly informed the president of his right to ask a question. The president quickly interrupted him, demanding he go back to his division.

The immigrant journalist, Jorge Ramos, told the president “You can not deport eleven million people and build a 1900 foot wall, and strip citizenship of the people in this country.” The president repeatedly told the journalist to “sit down” when a security agent approached the him, and placed his hands on Ramos in attempt to escort him out of the room.

Ramos did not fight back, but instead calmly told the man he could not touch him. As Mr. Ramos was exiting the room he told the president, “I have a right to ask a question.” Once the journalist exited the room, a Trump supporter can be heard telling Jorge Ramos, “It’s not about you, get out. Go back to your country.”

For context, Jorge Ramos is a U.S. citizen. Not only is he a Mexican-American citizen, but he is regarded as the best known Spanish-language news anchor in the U.S., as well as being listed as one of the top most influential people in the world in Time magazine. In addition to that, Ramos has been referred to as the “Walter Cronkite of Latin America.” Walter Cronkite was a CBS news anchor for almost twenty years, during which time he was cited as being “the most trusted man in America.”

After he was escorted out of the press conference, Mr. Ramos immediately made a statement following the incident. That statement can be found here: https://youtu.be/qPpxvf1niW8

This is just one example of the suppression, and disrespect, President Trump has enforced on the free press, the most influential press, the voice for the people. Just recently, Trump hosted his first independent press conference in which he blamed the “fake news media” for the poor  picture of the White House and his staff.

Despite the many times Trump has chosen to protect his ego before the American people, the people will not be silenced by the shake of a head and a closing door. Many protests and boycotts have taken place following the inauguration, speaking out against the president. 

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American education

This year in America, and in the years to follow, the country will experience significant change, courtesy of President Donald J. Trump’s appointed committee and overall goals for the future. So far, President Trump has already fast tracked the act of repealing ObamaCare, and has provided a plan for “the wall” that will be placed on the border of Mexico and the United States. However, despite these many changes, one thing that can be guaranteed to have little to no change will be American education.

President Trump appointed Betsy DeVos,

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an American businesswoman, philanthropist, and education activist, specifically education that is provided from Catholic private schools, to be his secretary of education. However, her lifetime of higher-class education did not prepare her for the questions she was asked by the senators during her confirmation hearing.

One of the first questions she was asked, by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, regarded guns in schools. He asked Ms. DeVos, “Do you think that guns have any place in, or around, schools?” DeVos responded that it should be left up to the locals, and individual states to decide on that.

Following a visibly distressed and confused look from Senator Murphy, DeVos continued by saying, “I think the underlying question is…” only to be cut off by Senator Murphy, “You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?”

Guns and gun-safety have been discussed for years, but it is widely known that Senator Murphy is strongly against weaponry in schools following the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

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DeVos referred back to Wapiti, Wyoming to reinforce her position. “I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.” The Daily Show contacted a school in Wapiti asking if they do hold guns within the school, and if they intend, or have ever used the weapon for grizzly bear attacks. They responded that they do not have a gun, and they have never encountered a grizzly bear. They did say that if such a situation were to arise, they have a fence around the perimeter of the school.

Senator Al Franken asked DeVos if students should be measured by grade-level proficiency or yearly progress, and DeVos responded, “If I’m understanding your question correctly, around proficiency, I would also correlate it to competency and mastery, so that you, each student, is measured according to the advancement that they’re making in each subject area.” Senator Franken, trying hard to follow her statement interrupted her, correcting her train of thought, stating that she is talking about growth. “That’s growth. That’s not proficiency. So in other words, the growth they’re making isn’t growth. The proficiency is an arbitrary standard.”

Senator Franken did his best to clarify his question stating, “I’m talking about the debate between proficiency and growth, what you’re thoughts are.” After Devos asked for further clarification, the senator informed DeVos that “this is a subject that has been debated in the education community for years, and it surprises me that you don’t know this issue.” That’s our proposed secretary of education.  

Ms. Devos was asked multiple questions, and in response to many, if not all, she fumbled on her words, stuttered, and shocked the senators with her responses. One of her responses was about aid for mentally disabled students and whether or not funding for the teachers should be repealed. DeVos insisted that decision be left up to the specific state’s budget.

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Ms. DeVos is unsupportive, and arguably, unaware of longstanding policies and functions that are in relationship to the department of education, specifically in respect to special education and for-profit universities. Our possible new secretary of education has had absolutely no experience with student loans such as FAFSA, something that is relied on by millions of students. She basically has no experience with education, educational terms, how academic success should be assessed, or simple-minded safety measures.

“Rest In Peace” future generations of America.

Russian hacking

Russian involvement in, and hacking of, the U.S. democratic election has been a major topic during this past presidential election. Many, including trusted and renowned news groups such as CNN, MSNBC, NBC, as well as other politicians, have speculated whether or not Russia had a role, on any level, in the election. 

On page 11 of the “US Intelligence Report” on Russia’s involvement with the previous election states, in bold lettering: “Putin Ordered Campaign To Influence US Election.”

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This report was put together by top intelligence officials who testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee about the issue and their report. The opening sentence of the main report says, “We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith of the US democratic system, denigrate US secretary Hillary Clinton, ad harm her elect-ability and potential presidency.”

President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly disputed the allegation of Russian hacking, resulting in a direct impact of the outcome of the election. Trump has said, “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place,” with  “they” referring to the US intelligence Agency.

Trump, however, did briefly acknowledge the possibility of Russian involvement by saying, “it could be Russia” that hacked Democrats. “I don’t really think it is, but who knows? I don’t know either. They don’t know and I don’t know.”

However, they, the various intelligence agencies do know. We, the informed people know. Russia did work to try to impact the US election. “The General Staff’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) probably began cyber operations aimed at the US election by March 2016. We assess that the GRU operations resulted in the compromise of the personal email accounts of Democratic Party Officials and political figures.” It is safe to assume that the GRU is not a “morbidly obese fourteen year old sitting in their bed,” which was previously hypothesized by the future US President, Donald J. Trump.

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The report goes on to say, “Russian Intelligence accessed elements of multiple state or local electoral boards. Since early 2014, Russian intelligence has researched US electoral processes and related technology and equipment.”

The intelligence report also seems to anticipate that this will not be the only time Russia will try impact the US elections. “We assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts in the United States and worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes. We assess the Russian intelligence services would have seen their election influence campaign at least a qualified success because of their perceived ability to impact public discussion.”

It is this writer’s opinion that Russia attempted to hack, impact, and manipulate the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election, which has been clearly stated in the US Intelligence Report. It is so clearly, blatantly stated, that anybody, with the unfortunate exception of the future US president, is capable of understanding. Russia may not have been successful, but the mere idea of them being able to have the tools, and means, to manipulate the American democratic system is frightening. It is something we need to be aware of; something we need to know how to prevent. 

For a copy of the report, please click on this link.
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/read-us-intelligence-report-russian-hacking-2016-campaign

Taiwan’s call to Trump

Recently, President elect, Donald J. Trump received a congratulatory phone call from

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President Tsai of Taiwan, alarming all political and international relation experts. But why? For decades, countries like the United States have had a complex and shaky relationship with China, a.k.a. the People’s Republic of China, and Taiwan, now recognized as the Republic of China.

Back in 1927, a civil war broke out in the republic of China, making it a communist country. Nationalist leaders fled to Taiwan. Now, Both Taiwan and China believe to have control over the mainland. Taiwan perceives the Chinese mainland as a country ruled by communist rebels, and China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province, not their own country. Since 1979, the United States have exclusively recognized Beijing, the capital of China, ultimately cutting all ties with Taiwan.

China had issued a “one China” policy, forcing all foreign countries to choose between recognizing Beijing, or Taiwan as the representative for the entire republic. Most every foreign country has chosen to recognize Beijing, the ruler of the world’s second largest economy.

However, relations between the territories and the United States have been shaky. In 1995, Washington was put under intense scrutiny for granting the President of Taiwan a visa to the United States. Beijing saw this as a threatening move, a possible step forward in recognition of Taiwan, weakening their power and control in the world. In response, China fired missiles to Taiwan. In response to the missiles, the United States placed two aircraft carrier groups nearby. This settled the dispute, but reminded the United States how sensitive the relationship between China and Taiwan really is.

This recently accepted phone call by Donald Trump is no different. By accepting the phone call from Taiwanese President, President Tsai, the president elect has communicated recognition of Taiwan as an independent nation.

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This provokes two possible outcomes, ignoring American policy, possibly ending the decades long peaceful relationship, or observing Taiwanese independence, inevitably provoking war.

However, like many of the unconventional, and possibly “wrong” things President elect Donald Trump has done in the past year, he is given an excuse, granting him the benefit of the doubt. Both China and Taiwan have chosen to observe the future president’s action as a mistake, rather than a policy shift.