The Age of Autocracy


A 19-year-old Californian was walking 14 miles a day getting to and from work after his car broke down. A police officer noticed and took action. What happens next–involving new wheels, thousands of dollars raised, and the overwhelming support of a local police force and a community–is well worth a read.


Jeff Sessions’ Bad Memory, or Alternative Memory, Leads to Recusal: US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he will have no part in the FBI’s investigation on possible Russian involvement in the US election. His announcement came after The Washington Post (one of Trump’s “enemies of the state”) reported that Sessions had lied under oath during his confirmation hearing about not meeting with any Russian officials during the election.

Sessions and President Trump have a close-knit relationship, and the president’s senior staff includes several of Sessions’ former lieutenants. Stephen Miller, formerly Sessions’ communications director, now serves in a prominent role as Trump’s national policy director. Sessions told Politico that Miller was invaluable to candidate Trump on matters of messaging and policy. In addition, Sessions’ longtime chief of staff Rick Dearborn was executive director of the president’s transition team and is now deputy chief of staff in the White House.

While Sessions was being grilled by the press, Trump visited troops aboard a new aircraft carrier. Trump did not fly onto the carrier and announce “Mission Accomplished,” but he did wear a flight jacket and admiral’s cap given to him by the crew. Trump’s expanded military budget is Reaganesque in nature but the military buildup, unlike Reagan’s, does not seem targeted at Russia.


Is 70 the New 68? Chinese President Looks to Extend Term Limits: President Xi Jinping is considering ignoring an informal rule that requires government officials to retire if they have reached age 68 when a new term begins. His immediate aim appears to be to retain 68-year-old Wang Qishan, the formidable leader of anticorruption efforts in the country and one of Xi’s most trusted political allies. Disregarding the age rule would also lead the way for Xi, now 63, to continue in government after his two terms as president end in 2023. By law, the president can only serve two terms, but if he scraps the age limit, Xi can seek another high-level position in the Communist Party after his presidency ends.

Mostly Quiet on the Eastern Front: In a scene that has become all too familiar in the last few years – a Western leader visiting a NATO member bordering Russia – German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel assured his Lithuanian counterpart of assistance in the case of Russian aggression. His message seemed familiar and prepared: ‘Don’t worry, we got you.’ For NATO leaders, it is easy to point fingers at Russian President Vladimir Putin, who over the last four years has continuouslyincreased troop presence in the region. However, Putin can point fingers back, given that NATO has beefed up its presence in its easternmost countries.

Non-NATO countries are also on high alert over Russia. Sweden announced on Thursday that it would reinstate the military draft for both men and women because of a lack of volunteers and concerns over a “more assertive” Russia in Ukraine and the Baltic states. Sweden and its neighbor Finland are not members of NATO, and Putin has pointedly warned both countries not to join the alliance.  


Ancient City Retaken from ISIS: Syrian government forces and their Russian backers have fully recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from ISIS. This ends the second occupation of Palmyra in the past 12 months by ISIS militants. This is thesecond blow to the Islamic State in Syria this week, as Turkish-backed opposition forces seized the city of al-Bab on February 23. Fighting continues in neighboring Iraq as ISIS fights for survival in the Western part of Mosul.

Marine Le Pen Open to Prosecution for Controversial Tweets: French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has lost EU parliamentary immunity over her 2015 tweeting of three ISIS executions. Le Pen is now open to prosecution from the French judiciary for “publishing violent images,” which can carry a penalty of three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros. The EU Parliament’s report on the matter stated that though the violent images were easily accessible on multiple websites, Le Pen’s tweets were an inappropriate action for a member of the European Parliament.  


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