3/29/2018

50+ Ethical Questions Associated with Recent Scientific Discoveries



Was recently discussing with science teacher colleagues the extent to which we have a responsibility to teach not just science, but the ethics of science.  It's easy to agree that we all have a moral obligation not to let bias intrude upon our presentation of facts.  On the other hand, how do we talk about climate change while pretending not to editorialize about mankind's responsibility to preserve the earth for future generations? How do we talk about genetic engineering without awkwardly skirting the potential risks of interfering with the gene pool? How do we talk about stem cell research funding without stumbling into a discussion of which diseases/disorders are "highest priority"? See what I mean?
 
Naturally, the first thing I had to do was rush off and compile a list of ethical issues that my curriculum brushes by on its way from September to June. The following 50+ issues don't even scratch the surface, which gives you an idea of the vastness of the potential issue.  Time for us to consider mandating a course in ethics as part of the high school curriculum?
1.       Thanks to CRISPR, we can now grow "designer babies" with whatever traits we want. Should we?
2.      A scientist uses CRISPR to modify a gene that can be used to implant a desirable trait: for instance, a resistance to heart disease. They want to patent the gene and sell it like a medication. Should they be allowed to do this?
3.      Thanks to cloning, we may soon be able to clone human beings. Should we?
4.      Some parents are having babies in hopes of finding organ or marrow donors for siblings with cancer or other diseases. Should parents be able to “force” these babies to donate organs or marrow to their siblings?
5.      Using "biologicals" to cure cancer may soon become a possibility - but the technology is sure to be super-expensive. Health insurance companies would go bankrupt if they had to cover these procedures for everyone. So, who should have access?
6.      Genetic testing now makes it possible to know if a baby is going to be born with a high risk factor for a particular disease. Under what circumstances, if any, do we use this information to decide whether a baby should be “allowed” to be born?
7.      Should we allow organisms to go extinct? Under what circumstances?
8.     We have reached the point where we can use DNA to bring back to life organisms that have gone extinct. Should we?
9.      We have reached the point where we can genetically engineer new organisms - organisms that have not been tested by Darwinian forces.  Should we allow them lose upon the earth?
10.  Should health care be an essential human right?
11.   Given that there are limited research dollars to spend on research, should we spend the money on saving lives or improving quality of life?
12.  Drug companies spend millions of dollars on researching drugs that never prove marketable. Should they be allowed to “recoup” this money by charging more for drugs that do prove marketable?
13.  To what extent should we require drug companies to develop therapies for diseases that are so low-incidence (maybe only 100 cases per year), knowing that they will never be able to sell enough to make back the money they spent on research?
14.  While we've gotten better at stockpiling antidotes for major toxins, there's rarely enough for everyone. If the U.S. is hit by a plague or biological attack, who should get the antidotes? Who shouldn't?
15.   Some drugs for fatal conditions (like cancer) work so well in preliminary animal tests, patients dying of these diseases would like to be able to use them before they have a chance to be tested for safety in humans. Should we allow this?
16.  Thanks to fitbit and other medical devices, health insurance companies now have the ability to monitor your personal habits. To what extent should they be allowed to determine coverage based on decisions you make about maintaining (or not maintaining) your health?
17.   Should health companies be able to determine the rates people pay for health insurance based on their genetic probability of developing expensive health issues?
18.  We are coming close to the day when we might be able to indefinitely postpone death. Should we?
19.  Thanks to genetic engineering, it may soon become possible to "enhance" the athletic ability of athletes - for example, equip them with blood cells that hold more oxygen. Should this be allowed? Should these athletes then be allowed to compete professionally?
20. In the interests of learning more about how viruses work, scientists have the technology to create "superviruses" - strains that are immune to all known antibiotics or antidotes. Should scientists be allowed to develop these strains of superviruses and, if so, under what conditions?
21.  What responsibility (if any) do we have to preserve the earth for future generations?
22. Technologies to mitigate the impacts of climate change - such as seawalls and desalination plants - are sure to be expensive. What do we take funding away from to fund these projects?
23. Science has proven that nuclear energy is a relatively "clean" power source, in that it emits no CO2. However, it does create spent nuclear rods, which are a huge environmental danger. Also, there's always the risk that an unforeseen event will trigger a massive radiation leak. Do you switch your country from gas to nuclear?
24. Thanks to the impacts of climate change, crop and water shortages may soon drive up the cost of essential resources - food, water. How do we decide who gets what?
25.  Some island countries will disappear when sea level rise due to climate change inundates low-lying landmasses.  What happens to the citizenship and rights of the citizens of these countries?
26. Cutting a major forest will provide enough jobs and money to make a community self sustaining; however, habitat destruction will result in the extinction of several species. How do you weigh the needs of the people against the potential risks of extinction?
27.  In the Potomac River, an invasive fish (Snakehead) population is destroying the community of organisms native to the river. Scientists discover another species that feeds only on Snakeheads, and propose that we add this species to the Potomac River so they can fix the problem. Is this a good idea?
28. Large cities produce lots of light pollution. This light pollution interrupts natural sleep cycles and makes it difficult to see the stars. Should we fix light pollution? 
29. If climate change-related disasters lead to the disappearance or destruction of entire countries, then what will happen to citizens of those countries? What rights should they be granted (or not granted)?   
30. Models show that eventually Earth will reach its carrying capacity with respect to the number of humans the planet can sustain. Do we try to prevent this from happening? If so, how do we go about it?
31.  One day soon we may be able to land humans on planets where life already exists. Do we have the right to take over other worlds? Under what circumstances, if any, might we not have that right?
32. 3D virtual reality games "feel" just like the real thing. Knowing this, should we allow people to create and market super-violent video games? What about super-intoxicating pleasant experiences?
33. Scientists discover a "violence gene" - a gene that, when dominant, can trigger violent rages.  Do we put such people in jail before they commit a crime? Do we allow them to use this as a mitigating circumstance (like mental illness) in a court trial?
34. We are close to the point where we can incorporate "truth-sensing" technologies into everyday devices such as Google glasses. Should we do so?
35.  Research is continuing to reveal that animals possess more intelligence and emotional depth than we ever imagined. Should we continue to use animals in drug testing? Should we continue using them as food?
36. We're very close to "synchronicity" - the moment at which robots become sentient. When they do, should they be granted the same rights as humans enjoy?
37.  Three countries still have samples of "smallpox." Should smallpox ever be weaponized?
38. We've created nuclear weapons with the capacity to kill millions of people at once. Should we use them?
39. The day when everyone has access to self-driving cars is approaching. If someone dies in a collision, whose fault is it? How many "accidental deaths" are we willing to accept in exchange for the convenience of this technology? 
40. Hackers have figured out how to hack into medical equipment. To what extent is it justifiable, during a war, to disable the medical equipment (pacemakers, etc.) of the enemy? 
41.  Science has played a role in creating a number of non-lethal weapons systems, to include laser missiles, blinding weapons, pain rays, heat rays, disabling malodorants, etc.  Some of these may cause lasting health consequences. To what extent should we deploy these weapons in war?  
42. Sending robots (drones) into battle means sparing humans the ordeal of having to kill others with their own hands. Is this a good idea?
43. We now have medications that may be able to "soften" the horrible memories that trigger conditions like PTSD. Should we use them?
44. You're working on an amazing new technology that might cure cancer. Unfortunately, the results of your first trials have not been unambiguously positive. For this reason, your sponsors want to withdraw your funding. You're SURE your solution will work given more research. Do you "fudge" your results to keep your funding?
45.   A person of average intelligence is asked if they want to participate in a highly complicated clinical trial. The explanation of what's going to be done to them is far too scientific for them to completely understand either the benefits or risks. Do you allow them to give consent?
46. An island nation is slowly dying of starvation. You develop a technology that will allow them to survive on algae from the surrounding ocean; however, you also know that in a few years, when the algae runs out, not only will the people die, but all the organisms that relied on algae for food or dissolved oxygen will die as well. Do you implement the technology?
47.  NASA has proposed a manned mission to Mars.  Should we allow any citizens who colonize the planet to have children? If so, what nationality would they be, and what rights would they have?  
48. Soon we may be able to travel back in time. Should we try to fix mistakes that we've made in the past (like allowing the Nazis to come to power), or should we leave things the way they are/were?
49. We have recently invented particle colliders capable of creating anti-matter. Should we do this?
50. Thanks to the undoing of net neutrality, service providers can now "throttle" the bandwidth of specific websites - to include websites that compete with them, or even websites that endorse political opinions with which they disagree. To what extent should this be allowed (or controlled)?
51.   Bandwidth and spectrum are not unlimited. How do we decide who does (and doesn't) get to access these resources?
52.  Improvements in surveillance systems like Google Earth may soon make it possible to track people's movements. Should this be allowed? If so, under what circumstances?

12/22/2017

2017 in Review: Oh, What A Year It Was! (A summary of the 2017's top political, economics, and entertainment news)

I’ve been doing these yearly updates for a decade now, so you’d think I’d have it down pat. This year, however, presents challenges I’ve never faced before. Challenge #1: at what point do the outlandish antics of President Trump cease being gossip and become news? Challenge #2: how do you report the events of the year without inadvertently editorializing – for instance, how do you report on the crisis in Puerto Rico without mentioning this administration’s slow support? Let’s just say I have a lot more empathy for journals like The Washington Post than I used to. To try to cope with the many issues that arose, I’ve tried to “split out” the gossipy stuff and place it at the end (green text), so that no one has to read it if they don’t want to. Whatever you may hear to the contrary, however, this in no way renders the product “fake news.”

(Speaking of “fake news,” the scientist in me cringes at offering the attached summary without citations of any sort. However, as the information derives from such a huge variety of sources, it quickly became untenable to do so. Please feel free to google any of the attached to verify authenticity or details, and please do feel free to offer any corrections as appropriate in the comments section!)

U.S. News
 
Politics
  • The Trump Administration. The Trump administration swept into office on a wave of executive orders (7 in 10 days), including initiatives intended to launch the eventual repeal the Affordable Care Act, build border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, clear the way for the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and ban immigration from 7 majority Muslim nations (including Syria).   It’s safe to say that since inauguration day, few days have passed in which Presidential actions *haven’t* dominated the news cycle.  Despite approval from devoted Trump supporters, however, Trump’s popularity charted a mostly downward spiral over the course of the year as various actions by the man and the administration estranged an increasingly large percentage of Americans.
  • The Alt-Right Movement. Empowered by Trump’s victory, representatives of the hard-line conservative wing of the Republican Party, later to become known as the “alt-right” gained media attention and power when Trump named Steve Bannon, the founder of alt-right website Breitbart News, to a chief strategy job in the White House.
  • The Resist Movement. An immediate consequence: protests.
    • Marches. Leader of a movement later dubbed “Resist” began planning and executing a series of marches, the largest of which was the Woman’s March on Washington which, according to numbers compiled by The Washington Post, involved between 3.2-5.2M women in the U.S. (many sporting pink “pussy cat” hats, a reference to Trump’s recorded remarks endorsing the grabbing of women by their pussies), making it the largest domestic protest ever. Other large protest marches were organized in support of climate change, science, and immigration.  
    •  Alt websites. The Resist movement was later joined by a variety of shadow “resistance” factions within federal government agencies – notably the National Park Service, NASA, and the EPA – which set up “alt” (or “rouge”) websites and twitter feeds dedicated to defying administration gag orders targeting science and climate change.
  • Signs of political change? Several political events over the course of the year suggested that Trump’s waning popularity might end up becoming a boon for Democrats. In off-year elections, for instance, the state of Virginia turned the governorship and control of the statehouse to democrats. In one particularly ironic down-ticket race, a Republican known for sponsoring anti-transgender legislation was unseated by a transgendered woman.
  • The Supreme Court. In their one undeniable legislative victory of the year, Republicans managed to seat Neil Gorsuch to replace Antonin Scalia (who died under oddly mysterious circumstances) on the U.S. Supreme Court.  The seat actually became vacant under the Obama Administration, but the Republicans refused to confirm a nominee until after the election. 
 
Health & Healthcare
  • ACA/Obamacare. One of the first initiatives of the Trump administration was to overthrow and replace Obamacare, as Republican candidates had repeatedly vowed to do during the campaign. This proved harder to accomplish than expected, however, when a series of Congressional Budget Office scoring reports made it clear that the Republicans actually had no viable plan to replace Obamacare, and public outcry against depriving Americans of health care, led by the Resist movement, increased noticeably in volume. After half a dozen attempts, each foiled by members of their own party, the Republicans gave up the battle … though many would argue that the only real change has been a strategic one, as the party may instead be planning to undermine key provisions of the program so that it dies of its own accord.
  • Opioid crisis. For the second year in a row, the average lifespan of Americans actually went down thanks to the number of overdose deaths attributable to opioids (fentanol in particular). President Trump has declared the issue a "National Health Crisis," though apparently that doesn't actually obligate the government to step up intervention.  Several state's attorneys are attempting  to sue pharmaceutical companies for knowingly promoting dangerous and reckless prescription protocols. In the meantime, however, middle and high schools have begun stocking up on narcan, an opioid antidote, in hopes of saving lives.
  • Reproductive rights.  As might be expected under a conservative administration, attacks against issues such as access to contraception and reproductive rights ramped up over the course of the year. Repeated efforts were made to deny funding to Planned Parenthood, and legislative action was taken to protect the right of employers who don’t believe in birth control to deny health coverage for contraception.
Economics
  • Tax Reform. The Republicans slammed through a highly unpopular tax reform plan widely perceived to be a giveaway to corporations, which saw their taxes reduced from 35% to 20%. Oh, and the Republicans voted to end mandatory penalties for not buying insurance, a move that is estimated to raise rates for all members and leave 13 million uninsured.
  • Trade.  Citing his “America First” doctrine, Trump removed the U.S. from a number of international trade agreements – including NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership – that he claimed harmful to U.S. business interests.
  • Economic Health. In the main, 2017 was a good year for business. Though interest rates finally began climbing after years of stagnation, the stock market climbed as well, reaching _24,000 at one point, and unemployment fell to its “natural” rate of ~5%. .  The Trump administration repeatedly claimed credit for these improvements, though many economists argued that these improvements were primarily the result of initiatives set in motion during the previous administration.
 Immigration. As noted earlier, one of Trump’s first actions was to, as he asserted, protect the country by deporting undocumented immigrants and making it harder for immigrants from certain countries to enter the U.S.and deporting illegals from U.S.
  • Immigration Bans.  Working through Executive Orders, Trump attempted to ban immigration from 8 countries he labelled as terrorist sponsors. His first attempt was, however, something of a disaster, literally stranding people in airports as homeland security officers tried to determine whether they were eligible to reenter the U.S.  Almost immediately, ACLU lawyers and courts countersued, arguing that the ban targeted Muslims rather than terrorists (using Trump’s own anti-Muslim rhetoric to support their assertion). At present, parts of the ban have been allowed to take effect, but other parts remain on hold pending judicial reviews.
  • Build the Wall!  Despite assertions on the campaign trail that he would "build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and make Mexico pay for it," the Trump administration has been thus far unable to secure funding for such a wall - either from Mexico (which has, predictably, refused to pay) or through the U.S. budget. However, the president has proposed some improvements to the wall since then, including  solar cells and transparent panels.  (So that people wouldn’t be injured by large bags of drugs being hurled over the 12ft wall unexpectedly. Not even making that up.) In response, organizations such as Cards vs. Humanity immediately bought up border land so that they could deny the government permission to build a wall on their land.
  • Sanctuary cities.  Additionally, the Trump administration attempted to withdraw federal grants to “sanctuary cities,” U.S. cities that have agreed to take in larger numbers of immigrants.  The President repeatedly argued that larger populations of undocumented immigrants cause higher crime rates, though the statistics he cited were often questioned by experts in the field. These attempts, however, have been thus far rebuffed by the courts.
  • DACA (“Dreamers”). The Trump administration removed Obama-era protections that ensured “Dreamers” (children of undocumented workers) could remain in the U.S., raising the specter of thousands of children who have lived their entire lives in the U.S. being “returned” to countries they barely know
  • Haitian Deportations. The administration announced that 50,000 Haitians here on temporary visas issued after the devastating earthquake in Haiti would need to return to Haiti within the next 18months, the conditions in Haiti having “improved dramatically” since their arrival (unemployment now down to 90% from a high of 100%)
Civil rights & Racism. Unfortunately, racial discord sewn in previous years amped up in 2017, apparently fed by the racist doctrines of many alt-right organizations
  • Confederate Statues. Debate continued over the appropriate fate of statues commemorating Confederate leaders, pitting the social “left” (who argued the statues commemorate important U.S. history) against the social “right” (who argued most of the statues in question were erected post-Reconstruction in an attempt to thwart civil rights).  Despite the controversy, many statues were removed or relocated to museums – sometimes without notice and literally in the middle of the night so as to avoid demonstrations.
  • Charlottesville.  A white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in July quickly took an ugly turn, resulting in the death of a UVA student. Afterwards, Trump’s public statements (“There were good people on both sides …”) appeared to suggest support for the white supremacist movement.
  • #BlackLivesMatter.  Empowered by the Charlottesville violence and continued police violence against blacks, NFL athletes began “taking a knee” during the performance of the National Anthem, a move that the Trump administration condemned as anti-American.
  • Voting rights. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected several Congressional redistricting efforts (in North Carolina and Illinois), finding that these plans violated the Constitution by relying too heavily on race. (Not for nothing, a new statistical model designed by Carnegie Mellon scientists appears to be able to provide quantitative proof of gerrymandering, a tool that may open the floodgates for other such suits.)  Additionally, the Supreme Court overturned several state schemes (ex: increasing ID requirements for registration and voting) that appeared designed to make it difficult  for minorities and folks in poverty to participate in elections.
  • Voter Fraud.  In response to Trump’s allegations that “massive voter fraud” was responsible for his losing the popular vote to Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election, the administration appointed a special committee to investigate whether such fraud had occurred. Thus far, no evidence has emerged – though the panel briefly raised a stir when it attempted to subpoena states to divulge voter personal information, a request that the vast majority of states promptly and curtly refused on Constitutional grounds.
  • Smithsonian African-American Museum. On a more optimistic note, the newest Smithsonian museum, dedicated to African-American history, debuted in January and was promptly overrun by crowds that ultimately had to be managed through implementation of a ticketing system
  • LGBT rights. The rights of the LGBT community were also targeted during 2017, though the argument could be made that many of these attempts backfired, strengthening rather than undermining LGBT rights.  Though the Trump administration was successful in revoking Obama-era orders to protect gender identity under Title IX, his attempt to force the military to oust LGBT soldiers was overturned by the courts. In the meantime, North Carolina was forced to strike down a state law banning transgender individuals from using the bathroom of their choice, and a transgendered candidate in VA won the house seat previously occupied by a member who drafted anti-transgendered legislation in that state.
Violence. Inevitably, a handful of mentally disturbed individuals took out their anger against the world on innocent victims. The most grievous events in 2017 included:
  •  Las Vegas shooting. A secretive gambler with unknown grudge fired on folks attending a concert in Las Vegas. 80+ people were killed, 500 wounded in largest mass murder in recent U.S. history. Afterwards, there was some talk about banning “bump stocks,” a devise used to convert semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons, though no action was in fact taken.  
  • Congressional Baseball Game shooting. A gunman opened fire at a Congressional Baseball game practice, injuring five people, including United States Congressman Steve Scalise (Rep-LA), who somehow survived. The suspected gunman later died from injuries after exchanging gunfire with Capitol Police.
  • Baptist Church shooting. A man with a grudge against his wife opened fire on a Baptist church in Texas, killing 26 people. An investigation subsequently revealed that he was able to buy multiple guns in spite of the fact that he was dishonorably discharged from the military for spousal abuse and a stint in a mental hospital. 
Science, Weather & the Environment
  • A Brutal Hurricane Season.
    • Hurricane Harvey.  In July, Hurricane Harvey became the first hurricane of the season to hit U.S. soil, but it made sure to make an impression, drowning the city of Houston and environs with rainfall that, in some areas, exceeded 60”. 77 fatalities were ultimately blamed on the widespread flooding, which caused nearly $200B in damage.
    • Hurricane Irma. Following on Hurricane Harvey’s heals came Hurricane Irma, which hit Florida hard but devastated several Caribbean nations, including Barbuda (no longer habitable), Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, and Cuba
    • Hurricane Maria. Then in August, Hurricane Maria took a bead on Puerto Rico, the country’s first direct hit by a class 5 hurricane in recent memory. The hurricane literally levelled the island’s electrical infrastructure – as of the end of 2017, only 70% of power had been restored. Some dispute remains over the number of fatalities linked to the storm – due to reporting irregularities and discrepancies in criteria, the number may lie anywhere between 64-1,065. However, the storm was responsible for vastly increasing the relocation of Puerto Ricans to mainland U.S. in the final months of the year.  
  • California Wildfires. In November/December, fires whipped into a frenzy by stronger than usual Santa Ana winds raced through California wine country (where they killed over 20 people and destroying thousands of homes) and, separately, through portions of Northern Los Angeles, where they destroyed another 500+ homes.
  • The War on Climate Change.  A known climate change denier, Trump implemented a number of initiatives designed to undermine the global war against climate change.  Among these actions, the Trump administration:
    •  Appointed Scott Pruitt, a known climate change denier, to head the EPA
    • Appointed Rick Perry, another climate change skeptic, to be energy secretary
    • Appointed Sam Clovis, a man with no science background, to be chief scientist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Clovis’ nomination was later withdrawn after his name was linked with the ongoing Russia investigation.)
    •  Withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord - though 15+ states and 60+ cities sent delegates to the 2017 global climate change summit in France and have vowed to implement the Paris Accord resolutions despite the absence of federal support
    • Overturned the U.S. Clean Air Act, allowing increased CO2 emissions
    • Removed “addressing climate change” from the U.S. National Security Strategy
    • Promoted the growth of the coal industry
    • Promoted the building of pipelines designed to increase the availability and lower the cost of of gas/oil
    • Required that the EPA and other agencies withdraw climate change documents from government websites – though this action was partially reversed due to outcry from academic and scientific communities
    •  Required that the EPA omit the words “climate change” from official documents
    •  Forbade government officials from presenting papers about climate change at international conferences – though some circumvented this ban by the simple expediency of renaming their papers
  • Downsizing Federal Parks. The Trump administration removed the “monument” status from large portions of Bear Ears and other national parks in Utah, opening these areas to exploration and exploitation by natural resources companies
  • Approving pipelines. Similary, the Trump administration ordered protesters removed from the Dakota Access Pipeline areas, clearing the way for the oil pipeline through Canada and the U.S. to be built.
  • Censored Words.  The Trump administration advised the Centers for Disease Control to avoid using the following words in any budget proposals, lest they arouse Republican indignation: fetus, vulnerable, entitlements, evidence-based, science based.  

U.S. News - International

  • Russia
    • Did Russia try to influence the U.S. presidential election? No debate here – a solid yes. Twitter, Facebook and other platforms testified before Congress about how dubious websites & bots posted 1000s of divisive and/or fake ads/posts intended not only to swing the election towards Trump, but also to fan the fires of racism and cultural conflic
    • Did the Trump admin knowingly collude with Russia? Extent remains unknown. Republican special counsel Mueller has indicted some with close ties to Trump for taking money from foreign governments to influence US policy (Maniford, Gates), for meeting with Russians who offered to provide stolen Clinton emails (Popadopolaus), and other crimes, but nothing (besides suspicious timing) proving deliberate or orchestrated collusion.
  • NATO. Trump caused a brief though resounding kerfuffle when he appeared to imply that the U.S. would not honor the military alliance underpinning NATO unless the country(s) requiring support had honored their “monetary obligations” to the United States. Another kerfuffle ensued when Trump appointees required NATO to abandon a provision providing “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine unless the words were changed to “appropriate assistance.”
  • North Korea.  Meanwhile, Trump engaged in an escalating war of taunts with North Korea, which spent the year test-launching an increasingly deadly series of intercontinental missiles.  In both Guam and Hawaii, local government officials resurrected early warning systems retired at the end of the cold war.  As of the end of the year, many officials with cold war expertise estimate the risk of a war with North Korea has risen to 30%. 
  •  Israel vs. the Middle East.  After vowing to apply his deal-making expertise to the Israeli/Palestine conflict, Trump appeared to slam any remaining open doors by declaring the U.S.’s Israeli embassy will be relocated to the city of Jerusalem – effectively quashing any hopes of a two-state solution with a shared Jerusalem. Trump’s announcement raised tensions in the area which, as of this writing, remain unresolved.
  • Cuba. U.S. President Donald Trump announced new restrictions on travel and business with Cuba, reversing policies of Cuban Thaw, implemented during the tenure of President Barack Obama 
 Other International News
  • Zimbabwe. After winning a contested election, Mugabe stepped down as leader of Zimbabwe after a tense “non-coup” staged by the military. After 30yrs, many in the country were ready for the leader to step down, and there was widespread suspicion that Mugabe’s wife rigged the election in her favor. The “non-coup” was respectful, however, in that the former nationalist hero was merely placed under house arrest until he voluntarily gave up power in favor of another nationalist hero, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe is widely blamed for having run Zimbabwe’s economy into the ground, and his wife was perceived as addicted to western luxuries
  • England/Brexit. A summer election meant to strengthen the bargaining power of the Conservative Party went badly awry when the party failed to retain its parliamentary majority. Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to form a minority party which was unable to negotiate a favorable exit from the E.U. – it appears that the country will be forced to fork out at least 50 billion pounds for the privilege of formalizing the divorce.  Brexit also appears to be exacerbating political conflicts with the Irish Democratic Unionist Party.  Additionally, a terrorist attack at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester resulted in 22 deaths.
  • France.  In spite of the last minute, online release of files purportedly hacked from the candidates campaign, Emmanuel Marcon managed to defeat his populist opponent to win the Presidency. Though outwardly civil towards the U.S., Marcon did manage to “poke the poodle” by offering cash stipends for oppressed U.S. climate scientists to relocate to France in order to continue their work. 
  • Spain. The territory of Catalonia briefly tried to succeed from Spain, but the effort was put down when Spain accused the organizers of the movement of sedition and had them jailed.
  • Germany. Angela Merkel won reelection in Germany, but strong showing by “populist” party continues to make governing difficult. 
  • Syria.  The Syrian Civil war appears to finally be over, with Syrian government forces under Assad triumphing over ISIS.  Both Raqqa and Alleppo, ISIS strongholds in the region, were taken by Assad’s forces, with the help of Russian arms and military support.
  • Myanmar. Despite the protests of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Ayi, the UN has officially declared that the country is engaged in genocide against the country’s Muslim  Rohingyan minority. The United Nations Human Rights Council releases a report detailing mass atrocities by the military and police forces against Myanmar's Rohingya minority, including gang-rapes, mass killings, and possible ethnic cleansing, which could amount to crimes against humanity.
  • Turkey. Turkey continues purges aimed at forces behind last year’s muslim army-led failed coups attempt, using this as an excuse to claim broad new powers for Turkey’s presidency.
  • The Phillipines. Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte remains engaged in a brutal war against drug warlords in his country – a war which has been widely criticized by human rights organizations for its brutality as well as its reported disdain for due process.
  •  Qatar. Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, the Maldives, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the internationally recognized government of Yemen severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, ordering Qatari citizens in those countries to be expelled as well as cutting all land, air and sea connections. "National security," "media incitement" and Qatar's support of Iran were variously cited.
  • Somalia. Somali famine. The United Nations and various humanitarian groups call on the international community to help prevent a possible famine in Somalia as rising food prices and drought have left over six million people at risk of starvation.
  • Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appeared to be consolidating power in the country, arresting a series of princes, former ministers, and tycoons.  He professes a hatred for the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, but appears to be soliciting U.S. approval for his actions.  President Trump is lobbying on his behalf for a U.S. listing of the Saudi national oil interest. Despite his questionable foreign policy positions, the prince has declared that women are now allowed to drive cars unescorted by male chaperones.
  • Population displacement. The number of people displaced globally totals 65.6 million after an addition of 10.3 million people displaced in 2016. Syria, Colombia, Afghanistan, Iraq and South Sudan are the countries in the top five.
 

People Who Had a Good 2017

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren, who inspired the rally cry of the resistance: “Nevertheless, they persisted”o   Senator Bernie Sanders, who continues to rally the alt-left
  • Late night talk show hosts Steven Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, and Trevor Noah, who feasted on a diet of daily Trump administration scandals and stumbles yet still managed to represent the conscience of decent U.S. citizens without becoming unfunny.
  • Stephen Bannon – a mixed bag, but leaving him under “good.” Yes, he “resigned” as Trump’s chief strategic advisor after less than a year, but his activities supporting alt-right candidates mean he’s still in the news which, for a controversial guy like Bannon, always counts as a win.
  • Colin Kaepernick – another mixed bag. Yes, after being the first guy to take a knee in protest of black civil rights, he made himself a pariah within the NFL. But then when everyone started doing it, he started looking more like a courageous leader.
  • Janet Yellen – yet another mixed bag. Yes, she was recently replaced by a Trump appointee as Federal Board Chair, but we all know that she bears a huge responsibility for the stable, growing economy we are enjoying today.
  • African American women – especially the Alabamans, a stunning 98% of whom voted against Roy Moore in the special election for that state’s senate seat. Well done, ladies. Well done.
  • Elon Musk – Turns out you really can land a reusable rocket on a floating platform out in the middle of an ocean!
  •  Vincente Fox Quesada – the former President of Mexico, whose hilarious videos mocking Donald Trump have gained him a cult following
  • Justin Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, who seems to effortlessly combine the looks of a Hollywood hunk with the grace of a diplomat and the brain of an MIT graduate. o   Saturday Night Live, whose weekly skewerings of Trump (Alec Baldwin), Sean Spicer (Melissa McCarthy) and Steve Bannon (the Grim Reaper) were the stuff of remembered glory.
  • FBI Director James Comey, who seemed destined to live in infamy after his perceived involvement in throwing the U.S. presidential campaign to Trump*, but who was partially redeemed this year when he defied Trump’s request to “step down” the Russia investigation and declare Trump uninvolved, a decision that ultimately cost him his job.  (*In a memoir published this year, Hilary Clinton joined the chorus of folks asserting that Comey’s last minute announcement of a potential new investigation into Hilary’s emails directly caused Clinton’s subsequent election loss.)
  • The Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, who – unlike the governor of Puerto Rico, who barely emerged except to issue press releases - didn’t mind appearing on national television to throw a little fire in the direction of U.S. agencies that weren’t stepping up to the plate in the wake of Hurricane Maria.  You rock those nerd glasses, girl!
  • President Emeritus Barack Obama, who spent the year supporting a variety of worthy causes and reminding us how good we used to have it.
  •  

People who had a bad 2017

  • Harvey Weinstein and all the other male celebrities taken down by the #metoo anti-sexual harassment movement
  • Judge Roy Moore who – despite being the Republican candidate in redder-than-red Alabama, managed to lose the election to a Democrat over allegations that he engaged in inappropriate relationships with underaged girls while in his 30s. 
  • Michael Flynn, George Popodopoulos, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and everyone else caught up in the ever-widening investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election
  •  Angela Merkel, who shouldn’t have to wrestle with racist populists in order to continue to do the right thing by Germany, by the EU, and by the many helpless immigrants flooding into her country
  • Sean Spicer, whose tenure as White House press secretary was riddled with embarrassments and faux pas.  (Remember when the Jews were all escorted to Holocaust centers?)
  •  Kelly Ann Conway, another trump advisor, whose fervent support for her boss occasioned more than a few missteps. Among her greatest hits: coining the term “alternative facts” to explain how President Trump could continue to believe things that were factually untrue.
  •  Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci, whose tenure as the White House Communications Director lasted less than a fortnight, thanks to an obscenity-riddled interview he gave to the New Yorker. (“What do you mean, all that was on the record?”) Communications Director … let the irony sink in.
  • That judicial appointee who was widely humiliated when a video began circulating of his confirmation hearing, clearly exposing his inability to answer even the simplest questions about the judicial process.
  •  Undocumented immigrants, Haitian refugees, and Dreamers, all of while who seem destined to be kicked out of the U.S. and sent back to countries they barely know
  • President Trump, whose approval ratings steadily tanked over the course of the year
  •  Hilary Clinton, who had to spend the year wondering: “How much did they have to hate me to choose THIS instead?” 
Technoology News
  • Net Neutrality. In December, Trump’s FCC chair okayed the demise of net neutrality.  The issue was temporarily muddied when it became apparent that thousands of anti-neutrality public comments were actually hacked – submitted under false names, or under the names of unwitting citizens. In the end, however, content providers celebrated success, admitting that they were indeed planning to sell faster bandwidth speeds to the highest bidder – though they are still content they do not intend to throttle competitors.
  • iPhone.  The iPhone X debuted this year, offering FaceID and improved cameras.  Meanwhile, Samsung revealed its Galaxy S8, which they haved promised comes loaded with "fewer explosions."
  • Digital Radio.  Norway became the first country to start a complete switch-off of national FM radio stations. 
  • Space X. Elon Musk's SpaceX celebrated a year of successes, placing 10 Iridium NEXT satellites in orbit and successfully recovering the launch vehicles for reuse.
  • Wannacry. A virus named "wannacry" launched a ransomware attack on computers around the world.  U.S. computers were mostly insulated from the attack because legally registered computers regularly receive security updates, but other countries such as China were heavily hit. National Security personnel identified North Korean hackers as the culprits, but could not in the end agree whether the virus release was a mistake or a deliberate attempt to identify network/system weaknesses.
  • WikiLeaks.  WikiLeaks released thousands of documents it claimed provided details of surveillance software used by the CIA.  The story died quickly in the news: one wonders whether this was because the story had no merit, or because it was deemed in the national interest that the story disappear from the headlines.

Science News

  • Solar eclipse. For the first time since 1979, the majority of the U.S. discovered itself in the path of a solar eclipse.  Towns directly in the path prepared for the influx of eclipse-watchers by registering their extra bedrooms on Air BNB, stocking up on souvenirs, and brewing special “eclipse” microbrews with which to toast the astronomical phenomenon.
  • Climate Change & Environmental Science


  • Space & Physics
    • RIP Cassini. After a glorious 13 year mission, the Cassini spacecraft disintegrated as it charged through Saturn’s atmosphere, a planned death intended to ensure that it wouldn’t crash into one of Saturn’s moons, accidentally causing contamination.  The mission revealed more about the formation of giant planets and regular solar systems; also, that Saturn’s moons aren’t barren balls, but contained oceans, water, internal energy, and nutritious chemicals. One particularly promising moon, Enceladus, appears to have conditions in its global subsurface ocean to support life. o   Juno.  Meanwhile, NASA’s Juno probe continues to relay information from Jupiter. Among other findings, the probe has spied strong bands of ammonia, indicating that the planet is still churning up material from its depths.
    •  Gravitational Waves.  Scientists at the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) announced the  third detection of gravitational waves, named GW170104. The signal beam, detected on 4 January 2017, apparently resulted from a merger of two black holes of 19 and 31 solar masses. Such detections are said to be progressively moving this emerging field in astronomy "from novelty to new observational science".
    • Manned Mission to Mars. The U.S. Congress passed a bill that mandates NASA send humans to Mars by 2033
    •  Lunar water. Brown University researchers discover that a substantial amount of water may be present beneath the surface of the Moon.
    • Quantum Experiments at Space Scale. Scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences successfully teleported a photon from a ground station in Tibet to a satellite orbiting Earth at distance of 500km away. It is the first time an object has been teleported from the planet into space.
    • New Subatomic Particle. Scientists at the Large Hadron Supercollider announced the detection of a new subatomic particle composed of one up quark and two charm quarks. Charm quarks are exceedingly rare and about five times heavier than up quarks.
  • Archaeology & Paleontology
    • Oldest living humans older than we thought. The oldest fossil records of Homo sapiens were discovered in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, dated at between 300,000 and 350,000 years old. Based on previous finds, homo sapiens were believed to be only 200,000 years old. Additionally, mtDNA suggests that Neanderthals and Denisovans mated over 220,000-470,000 years ago. Overall, the process of humans evolving into anatomically modern humans appeared to have started 700,000 years ago, when the last common ancestor of Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans existed.
    • Earliest life on earth. Scientists announced the finding of microfossils up to almost 4.3 billion years old, within rocks from the Hudson Bay shoreline in northern Quebec, Canada, that may represent the oldest-known evidence of life on Earth.
  •  Chemistry
    • New carbon configuration. Free University of Berlin chemists confirmed that carbon can bond with more than four atoms, previously seen as its limit because carbon has only four shareable electrons. The researchers used X-rays to, for the first time, map the molecule — a carbon atom bonded to six other carbon atoms.
    • Negative Mass. Washington State University professor Peter Engels and his team announce they have created a fluid that displays negative mass.

  • Psychiatry
    • While the American Psychiatric Association’s Goldwater Rule prohibits psychologist from speculating about the mental health of public officials, a February letter to the New York Times, signed by 33 psychiatrists and psychologists, cited Trump’s inauguration speech as proof of “grave emotional instability.” 

Business News
  • Mega-merger mania. Congress voted to loosen restrictions against media company mergers, potentially clearing the way for media megamergers between Disney/Fox, ATT/Time Warner, Sinclair/Tribune, and Meredith/Time
  • The Bitcoin bubble.  Bitcoin, the mysterious digital currency, leaped into the public's consciousness with a startling gain of 1,700% in 2017.  In just months, the nearly 9-year old stateless cryptcurrency was able to transform itself from a novelty into an upstart disruptor that Wall Street is having a hard time ignoring.
  • The Great Retail Meltdown.  Faced with online rivals like Amazon, iconic U.S. companies spent the year struggling to survive.  J.C. Penney's and Macy's shuttered dozens of stores in 2017.  Toy company Toys R Us sought bankruptcy protection.  And Sears continues to shed real estate and borrow cash to stay afloat.  Meanwhile, restaurants are dealing with stagnant sales by joining forces.  Among the most significant deals were Panera Bread's purchase by investment firm JAB, Burger King's owner acquiring Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen, andArby's plan to acquire Buffalo Wild Wings.
  • Regulatory Chaos.  The Trump administration spent 2017 rolling back hundreds of federal regulations, many of which impacted business.  For instance, individuals lost the right to sue banks and other financial institutions, and limits on payday lending were rolled back.  In general, experts believe the regulatory environment has become much more favorable for businesses as many of the protections enacted after the bank crisis years ago have now been eliminated
  • Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus ceased operation in May after 146 years, due to lower attendance, higher operating costs and protests from animal rights activists
  • In November, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 24,000 points, an all-time high.
  • Yahoo! was purchased by Verizon Wireless for $4.48 billion
  • Amazon purchased Whole Foods Market by $13.7 billion, igniting speculation that the internet giant would soon enter the food delivery market.  The company is also investigating a merger with CVS, which would provide an entre into drug sales and health care delivery.
  • France and the United Kingdom announced a ban on the sale of gas and diesel vehicles by 2040. 
  • Volvo announced plans to phase out fossil fuels by building only electric or hybrid cars.

TV/Movies/Arts

 
Book/Lit

Culture & Humanities News
  • Claims of sexual harassment and misconduct multiplied in the wake of the explosive #metoo meme on Twitter/Facebook. As the year draws to a close, here’s a brief list of some of the men accused by women of sexual harassment
    • Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood producer
    • Kevin Spacey, actor. (New seasons of his Netflix show “House of Cards” were instantly cancelled)
    • Charlie Rose, television anchor & interviewer. (Fired)
    • Roy Moore, Republican candidate for Alabama Senate (lost election)
    • Matt Lauer, morning show host (Fired)
    • Garrison Keillor, Prairie Home Companion radio host (Fired)
    • Al Franken (D-Minn) (Resigned)
    • Bill O'Reilly, conservative Fox news commentator. (Fired.)
    • Any number of additional political figures, all of whom have vowed not to run for reelection
  • The world commemorated the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death
  • A newly discovered da Vinci painting, “Salvator Mundi,” sold for $450M
  • The Newseum in Washington D.C., facing financial woes, announced that it may need to sell its iconic Pennsylvania Avenue building and move elsewhere.
  • Facebook, Inc. announces that its social media service now has 2 billion regular users, more than a quarter of the world's population. Twitter, by comparison, had 328 million users as of April 2017.


Trends and Fad

  • For some reason, videos of people dragged from aircraft seats for various reasons were a “thing” this years. Usually the culprits were the airlines themselves, endeavoring to remove people who refused to leave their seats, but sometimes it was the passengers stepping in to cow overly-rowdy or disturbed fellow passengers
  • Speaking of videos: videos of people engaged in racial rants were also a thing. Not sure if these folks care that their intolerance left liberals feeling appalled and comfortably superior
  • Other trends/fads: fidget spinners, unicorn frappaccinos, homemade slime, flat earthers, pop-up theme bars, colored hair, rose gold, casual marijuana use, women talking about their periods, crocheting hats for political marches
  • Food trends: poke, rose wine, udon, turmeric, cauliflower, kale, specialty flour, activated charcoal as a healthy ingredient, delivery meal kits (Blue Apron, Plated), chef farms, edible insects, healthy fast food, Israeli foods, local distilleries, street food, zero waste growing (utilizing misshapen produce) and cooking
  • Fashion trends: ripped denim jeans, shoulderless shirts, crop tops, clothes with feminist slogans, puffy jackets, ugly sneakers, furry sandals, flipflops with socks (teen boys), velour, detachable pants, contouring (makeup trend), mermaid hair (all the colors!), rainbow nail colors, ombre hair, hipster ponytails with shaved sides, leggings with everything.
 
Sports News
Deaths
  • John Hurt – actor
  • Chuck Barry – singer & guitarist
  • Adam West – actor
  • Charles Manson – infamous cult leader
  • Chuck Barry – musician (R&B)
  • David Cassidy – actor, singer, teen “heartthrob”
  • Don Rickles – comedian
  • Fats Domino – musician (R&B)
  • Glen Campbell – musician (country)
  • Helmut Kohl – former West Germany leader
  • Hugh Hefner – media mogul, publisher of “Playboy”
  •  Jerry Lewis – comedian, filmmaker
  • Jim Nabors – actor
  • Jimmy Breslin – Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
  • Mary Tyler Moore – actress, dancer
  • Roger Moore – actor
  • Sam Shepard – playwright, actor
  • Tom Petty – musician (R&B)

Words of the year
  • Adulting = the process of acting like an adult or undertaking adult activities
  • AF = the polite acronym for “as fuck” – as in, “I’m ready AF to walk away”
  • Alt-left = individuals who support an ultra-liberal political and social agenda
  • Fake news = proper definition: “alternative facts” that don’t happen to agree with actual facts; more common definition: facts that are contrary to accepted beliefs
  •  Furmily = a family composed of humans and pets
  •  Hangry = when you’re angry mostly because you’re hungry
  •  Identify = used to clarify gender ambiguity, as in “I identify as female”o   Introverting = when introverts do what they do, which is nothing, but by choice.
  • Lit = Exciting or happening, as in “That party last night was lit!”
  • Manspreading = when a man assumes a seated position with his legs widely spread, as a way of affirming his authority
  • Normie = an ordinary looking person
  • Resist = the rallying cry of anti-Trump forces
  •  Sus = short for “suspect”
Quote of the year
  • “Nevertheless, She Persisted.” The rallying cry of the “Resist” movement is the paraphrasing of a Republican quote referencing Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was scolded for attempting, during the Jeff Sessions confirmation hearing process, to read aloud the text of a Coretta Scott King passage: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
Allegations that President Trump has neglected the basic duties of his office
  • Endangered the country by undermining foreign policy
    • Taunted North Korea, a nuclear power, thereby escalating (rather than de-escalating) the crisis.
    • Decertified the Iran nuclear deal, allowing the country to resume development of nuclear weapons
    • Attempted to relax sanctions against Russia
    • Threatened to majorly reduce U.S. funding to NATO, claiming that the  U.S. is carrying too much of the financial burden
    • Openly threatened members of the UN, warning them that the U.S. would stop aid to any countries that voted against naming Jerusalem the capital of Israel. (The countries unanimously voted against the U.S. anyway.)
    • Allegedly cancelled a planned state trip to Britain because he was worried about receiving a hostile reception from the citizens there
  • Endangering the country (as well as the rest of the world) by refusing to address climate change
    • (see “Science” above)
  • Endangered the country by politicizing science in general
    • Instructed the CDC to limit the use of the words “diversity, fetus, transgender, vulnerable, entitlement, science-based and evidence based” in agency proposals, supposedly to make any budget documents “more palatable” to Republican lawmakers
  • Endangered the country by nominating/appointing cabinet members and key administrative staffers with known conflicts of interest
    • As former CEO of ExxonMobil, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson established a cordial relationship with Russia, actually receiving “The Russian Order of Friendship” from Vladimir Putin. Tillerson has been a vocal critic of U.S. sanctions against the country
    • Wilbur Ross, Commerce Department, was allowed to retain ownership of profitable overseas interests – interests that, as member of Committee on Foreign Investment, he helps regulate
    • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has a long history of waging war against EPA regulations and has a history of accepting large donations from fossil fuel companies that could impact his decisions.  As Oklahoma’s attorney general, 13 of 14 suits dismissed by Pruitt involved at least one company that donated to either Pruitt or one of his PACs
    • Like Pruitt, Department of Labor chief Andy Puzder, former CEO of CKE Restaurants (Hardees) also has a long history of opposition to labor laws regulating wages, overtime rules, and paid-leave policies. During his tenure as CEO, the Labor Department investigated allegations of wage theft and other problems at several Hardee’s franchises, finding violations at nearly 60%of the cases.
    • HHS leader Tom Price has a long history of investing in healthcare, pharmaceutical and biomedical companies. The viability of the companies in which he has invested will be directly determined by impending HHS decisions
    • Jared Kushner failed to disclose both assets and contacts with Russian representatives when applying for security clearance
    • Ivanka Trump repeatedly attempted to profit from her efforts on behalf of the administration: after an appearance on 60 Minutes, she advertised the bracelet she wore on the air for $10K; a foundation auctioning off a chance to meet with her over coffee received bids up to $70K.
    • Eric and Donald Trump were involved in planning a charity fundraiser scheduled for the day their father took office that intended to charge up to $1 per person for a private reception with the president and a hunting trip with one of the two sons
  • Endangered the country by failing to appoint competent people to top offices
    • Appointed alt-right Steve Bannon to be a key advisor, despite Bannon’s polarizing political views and lack of government experience.  (Bannon later resigned, citing frustration with the Republican establishment, to resume his work recruiting and promoting alt-right candidates to run for office)
    • Appointed Ben Carson, a man who has never worked specifically in housing or urban development, or held a government position, to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development
    • Appointed Betsy deVos, who has no experience in public education and, in fact, sent all her children to private school, to head the Department of Education
    • Nominated new judges with little/no judicial experience
    • Hired Anthony Scaramucci to be White House communications director, only to fire him 10 days later after Scaramucci gave expletive-laced interview to New Yorker
  • Endangering the country by failing to make key appointments
    • State Department diplomatic corps has been gutted, with over 25% of positions within the department still unfilled
    • As of the end of 2017, a record number of presidential and judicial appointments remained unfilled
    • Deliberately gutted the Office of Science& Techology Policy, waiting over a year to name a Chief Advisor and allowing the office to dwindle from 135 employees (under the Obama administration) to approximately 45.
  • Endangered the country’s security by refusing to abide by basic security procedures
    • On several occasions, apparently disclosed confidential info (intelligence) to Russians
    • Nominated persons with known security breaches to key administrative posts
    • Conducted classified business in public venues
  • Consistently sabotaged the ability of Americans to access health care
    • Repeatedly attempted to disassemble the Affordable Care Act
    • Repealed Children’s Health Initiative
    • Removed ACA’s penalty clause for those who don’t opt in, ensuring that the program would be underfunded in future years
Alleged abuses of power by President Trump
  • Repeatedly attempted to quash the investigation into whether Russia interfered with the U.S. election
    • Fired  FBI director Comey for refusing to publicly exonerate Trump from involvement in Russia scandal
    • Criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions (including “I wouldn’t have hired him if I thought he’d actually investigate this Russia thing”)
    • Repeatedly attempted to badmouth/discredit the investigation’s special prosecutor, Robert Mueller
  • Used the power of the presidency to dismiss lawsuits against him
    • Defamation suits by women
    • Threatened to pardon himself if found liable in Russian suit
    • Suggested that presidents are immune from “obstruction of justice” charges (in wake of admitting via Twitter that he knew Flynn lied to FBI before the FBI knew this)
  • Appointed members of his family to key posts in the administration, in apparent breach of federal anti-nepotism laws set in place after JFK nominated his brother Robert to the post of Attorney General
    • Ivanka Trump (daughter)
    • Eric & Donald Jr. (sons)
    • Jared Kuhner (son in law)
  • Allegedly breached the Constitution’s emoluments clause
    • Though Trump agreed to put his assets into a trust, the trust is administered by his family, raising concerns that the trust is not, in fact, wholly “blind"
    • Continued to earn $$ from Trump hotels& Mir-a-Lago (both of which upped their fees to take advantage of new demand)
    • Openly sold Trump presidential merchandise (“Make America Great Again” hats) for profit
    • Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner, openly offered to trade U.S. visas to Chinese businessmen in exchange for investing in his property
    • Nearly 200 members of the Democratic Party in the United States Congress file a lawsuit in the federal court, claiming that U.S. President Trump profits from business dealings with foreign governments, in violation of the United States Constitution’s emolument clauses. This is the third such suit of its kind, following on the heels of the most recent suit by the Attorneys General of Maryland and the District of Columbia
  • Leveraged investigation into alleged voter fraud to subpoena states to divulge voter personal information. (Postscript: almost all states refused to provide the requested information)
    • Subsequently, appointed members of the panel sued the panel they allegedly belong to, alleging that others, including persons who are not official members of the panel, are deliberately concealing their actions from lawful members of the panel: holding undisclosed meetings, releasing unapproved requests for information, withholding agendas/notifications, etc.
  • Through U.S. Department of Homeland Security, attempted to order Twitter to reveal the names of accounts that tweeted information critical of Trump. Twitter refused to obey the order on constitutional grounds; DHS subsequently withdrew the order.
  • Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General of the United States, was fired after ordering employees of the United States Department of Justice not to enforce the President's ban due to personal doubts over its legality. Dana J. Boente was named the new acting attorney general.
Alleged failures of moral and ethical leadership by President Trump
  • Engaged in activities designed to weaken ethical oversight of the legislative branch
    • Weakened ethics firewalls preventing lobbyists from being hired by government agencies they lobbied within past year
o   Defying agency rules, named a political nominee to replace the outgoing head of the Office of Ethics Oversight. (David J. Apol, who has a reputation for taking more lenient stances on ethics requirements than did Shaub and the consensus opinion of the staff (including Finlayson).
o   Refused to release his tax returns or to divest himself of financial assets that might appear to compromise or bias his decision-making
o   Authored and repeated numerous untruths:
§  Repeatedly lied about the number of people who attended his inauguration, claiming larger crowds than attended Obama’s inaugurations – despite clear evidence that this claim was untrue
§  Claimed that massive voter fraud was responsible for Clinton’s winning the popular vote – claims which a specially-designated committee have thus far failed to substantiate
§  Claimed in a tweet that Obama wiretapped his campaign at Trump Towers during the election – a claim that has been investigated and found to be untrue
§  Claimed credit for jobs/economic growth or policies actually implemented by others (F-35, new manufacturing plant deals)
§  As a justification for attempting to end the Affordable Care Act (ACA), repeatedly claimed that ACA was “collapsing,” citing figures and statistics that were either exaggerated or taken out of context
§  Claimed that he would “build a wall and I’ll make the Mexicans pay for it”
§  Claimed that U.S. murder rates are higher than they’ve been in 45 years – in spite of the fact that almost all statistical analyses suggest that crime has actually dropped significantly in that time
§  Claimed that the media was refusing to cover terrorist attacks in Europe, compelling major newspapers to run editorials substantiating the depth and breadth of their coverage
§  Repeatedly claimed that there’s no evidence Russia interfered with the election, in spite of mounting piles of evidence suggesting that not only did Russian hackers utilize social media (primarily Facebook and Twitter) to feed Americans “fake news,” but that high-level members of Trump’s own campaign team discussed plans for colluding to target Clinton’s campaign through the orchestrated release (through Wikileaks) of hacked Democratic campaign emails
§  Claimed that Time Magazine approached him about being their Man of the Year in 2017, a claim Time Magazine refutes. (Ironically, however, news reports surfaced that various Trump properties continue to display “doctored” copies of Time Magazine photoshopped to show Trump on the cover
§  Suggested that the Access Hollywood tape of him speaking disrespectfully of women may actually be faked
§  Renewed his claim that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.
o   Appeared to promote, rather than attempt to heal, racial discord
§  Refused to unequivocally condemn the Charlottesville white supremacists (in an infamous statement to the press, stated “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides …”
§  When football players began “taking of knee” at pro football games to protest the treatment of blacks by white police officers, Trump denounced the players as anti-American.
§  Pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was facing imprisonment on charges of racial profiling
§  On Mexican immigrants: "They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people,"
§  Questioned the ability of a federal judge of Mexican descent to fairly preside over a fraud lawsuit against his now-defunct real estate investment course known as Trump University.
§  Repeatedly suggested that crime was higher in “Sanctuary Cities” due to the lawlessness of undocumented immigrants in those cities
§  Forwarded tweets from known racist (anti-black, anti-Muslim) groups, some of which were later proved to be misrepresented
§  Overturned Obama’s DACA program, opening the door for INS to begin deporting “Dreamers” – children brought to the country illegally by their parents
§  Instituted a travel ban against 8 majority Muslim countries, implying – in spite of evidence to the contrary - that the practice of Islam correlates with a significantly higher risk of committing terrorist acts in the U.S.
o   Consistently mocked rivals and critics (aka “losers” and “haters”):
§  When criticized at the Democratic National Convention by Muslim parents of a U.S. soldier (deceased), stating that he also “made a lot of sacrifices … I work very, very hard” and suggesting that religion was the reason the boy’s mother didn’t speak – comments which were interpreted as disrespectful by veterans and Muslims alike.
§  Mocked Senator John McCain, a war hero, for getting captured by enemy (Trump stated at a rally that he preferred “people who weren’t captured.” (The feud appeared to come to a head when McCain cast the deciding vote against overturning ACA and used the opportunity to make a speech urging Congress to embrace a more professional, less partisan approach to governing.
§  At a campaign rally, appeared to mock a physically disabled journalist by imitating the reporters twitching movements
§  (also see sections related to his treatment of women)
o   Consistently attempted to attack and discredit the media
§  Repeatedly accused news outlets of bias and engaging in the promulgation of “fake news”
§  Repeatedly threatened to limit press access by curtailing daily White House briefings and/or limiting attendance to press organs with a pro-administration bias (ex: Fox News, Breitbart)
§  Suggested FCC should withdraw broadcast licenses for networks that criticize his administration
o   Consistently mocked/discredited/undermined women
§  In footage released by the television show Entertainment Weekly, boasted of “grabbing women by the **” and otherwise assaulting them
§  Accused by over 10 women of inappropriate behaviour
§  Passed a “gag order” restricting funding to foreign aid programs that discuss abortion – developed by working group containing no women
§  Allowed religious/pro-life employers to refuse to provide medical coverage for birth control
§  Consistent supported efforts to defund Planned Parenthood
§  Openly campaigned for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore after multiple women accused him of inappropriate relationships
§  Mocked a Miss America winner for gaining weight
§  Mocked anchor Megan Kelly ("You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her, wherever”)
§  Mocked anchor Mika Brzezinski (“bleeding profusely from face lift”)
§  Appeared to suggest that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand offered him sexual favors in exchange for political support
o   Consistently mocked/discredited/undermined LGBT community
§  Revoked an Obama-era order protecting gender identity under Title IX
§  Banned transgendered individuals from serving in U.S. military
o   Mocked/undermined other ethnic communities
§  Used the racial slur “Pocahontas” to refer to Sen. Elizabeth Warren during a ceremony commemorating the service of Navajo Code Talkers
o   Failed to demonstrate leadership in providing support/relief to victims of natural disasters
§  Implied that Puerto Ricans were a financial burden and not doing enough to help themselves
§  Withdrew U.S. from UNESC
o   Engaged in hypocrisy (above and beyond the hypocrisy expected of politicians in the normal run of a political career)
§  Having vowed to “drain the swamp,” proceeded to nominate dozens of former lobbyists and special interest group representatives to high government office
§  Having vowed to launch an investigation into Hilary Clinton’s alleged illegal actions, admitted within the first week of office that he had no plans to do so
§  Having lambasted President Obama for the number of days he spent golfing, proceeded to spend more days golfing than his predecessor
§  Engaged in activities that could be perceived as wastes of taxpayer dollars
·         Utilized taxpayer money to travel to and from Mir-a-Lago most weekends
·         Utilized taxpayer money to allow his wife to maintain a separate residence in New York
·         Allowed appointees to use private jets rather than commercial travel
o   Consistently “repurposed” public appearances to boast about personal accomplishments
§  At an appearance at CIA Headquarters, standing in front of the wall of stars that represents CIA agents who have given their lives for their country, President Trump lashed out at his critics, boasted of his appearances on magazine covers and exaggerated about the size of the crowd at his inauguration
§  As the keynote speaker at the 2017 Boy Scout Jamboree, President Trump lambasted fake news, Hillary Clinton's election campaign and President Obama's failure to address a Jamboree in person
o   Appeared to prioritize personal loyalty over professional duty in political appointees