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Looking Behind the Curtain: 2016 Presidential Election

The impact of Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election has caused great concern among many Americans, for our democratic government, and has “undermin[ed]” the trust people have in the “electoral college system” according to the Chicago Tribune. The beginning of the Russian influence in the election pre-dates the Democratic National Convention, when Putin and Trump were looked at as allies. This relationship has proven to be dangerous for our country.

The extent of the Putin/Trump relationship is unclear, but one thing is evident – Trump has benefitted from Russia’s influence on our election process, and the various acts committed by Russian linked personnel. The global intelligence community has provided evidence of cyber infiltration of private Democratic servers, which had a significant impact on Hillary Clinton’s reputation and the results of the 2016 presidential election. This is explained in detail by Security Week. Russians utilized malware called “Fancy Bear” to gain unauthorized access to private information, which they leaked.

Mitchell Shaw wrote that, throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, the CIA and FBI were investigating potential Russian influence or meddling with the election. Trump and the White house have recently attempted to debunk both agencies and their leadership, hoping to conclude the investigation surrounding the controversial 2016 election. They claimed that the FBI director should be “fired” and not remain in his current position due to his handling of this investigation as well as the closed investigation around Clinton’s use of a private email server. However, the president has yet to act, according to CBS News.

Despite the executive branch’s best efforts to divert attention from the investigation, “the CIA has concluded the Russians intervened to help elect Donald Trump.” It has been shown that certain members of Trump’s campaign staff have close affinities to officials in the Russian government or large corporations in the country. The number of individuals with connections to Russia makes it hard to deny any relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia. The New York Times has shown Trump has contradicted himself publicly about his own relationships with these individuals in his campaign.

The President’s frequent contradictions in public addresses and via Twitter makes it difficult to identify his own position on these issues. He himself claims that he has had no ties to Russia in the past, but there is mounting evidence to the contrary. TIME identified “two-thirds” of the President’s public statements during his campaign to be false, confirming that fact-checking is a necessity when reviewing Trump’s statements.

The results of the election tell a story about the American Democracy that the average people may not be aware of. The popular vote elected Clinton, but Trump won by a hefty majority in the electoral college system. During the Republican primary debates, Trump refused to state that he “would accept whatever the results of the 2016 election were,” since he himself thought the election was privy to influence. Now that he is President he has yet to concede that, in fact, the Russians did meddle in the U.S.2016 presidential election.

Putin’s campaign to “undermine” the American people’s confidence in the electoral college system has been effective. Many Democrats were shocked at Trump’s victory in election, thinking that the country would decide to vote for Hillary. The logic being that Clinton is a career politician and Trump a businessman. The effects of the leaked emails and Trump’s persistence in criticizing Hillary for her inadequacy for office due to her ignorant use of a private email server damaged her campaign’s reputation. This damage was irreparable, no matter how Clinton performed after the DNC and throughout the presidential debates. ­­

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Examining the election map, many key states that Hillary won in the primaries elected to vote Trump and Pence into office. Russian influence may have been the leading factor in changing many voters’ minds regarding the election. Since the primaries, the DNC servers were infiltrated by Russian hackers, utilizing malware to identify passwords of key individuals working on Clinton’s campaign. The hackers used these passwords to gain access to private email accounts, choosing to only leak emails and attachments related directly to Clinton, her campaign advisers and campaign manager.

Putin’s influence is Russia is dominant. The past election was won in a “landslide,” showing how his political influence can dominate the populous in his home country. Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election.” The extent of this influence is being investigated by the FBI and CIA, which Trump has fought to bring to an abrupt and early conclusion.

Business Insider reported that, at the time of the election, the only published article showing a relationship between Trump and Russian government was the “sub-tabloid ‘dossier’ published by Buzzfeed” which smeared Trump. Further investigation has established a clearer connection between Trump’s campaign and Putin’s Russia. What remains unclear is the extent of the influence and whether President Trump was aware of the connection.

Recently, the US intelligence community utilized this dossier. They utilized this as the first piece of evidence to obtain a warrant to surveille Cater Page, “an early foreign-policy adviser to Trump’s campaign.” Court documents portrayed Page as a foreign agent of Russia, working under President Trump’s campaign and state that he “knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities” on behalf of the Russian government in Moscow.

Intelligence agencies like the FBI and CIA are investigating connections between individuals in Trump’s office and Russian spies and government officials. As the evidence stacks up against Trump, he has attempted to distance himself from any connection to Russia. The lack of straightforward honesty that the executive branch has shown leads investigators and the American people alike to question many of Trump’s motives. The individuals supporting the president throughout his campaign have been dismissed if there has been any connection shown between these individuals and Russia.

There are “multiple investigations” being conducted “in Washington into” connections between Trump campaign personnel and Russia. Washington Monthly reported that the FBI has acquired “specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion…relating to the use of hacked material.” Despite Trump’s attempts to halt the investigation, the intelligence agencies heading the investigations are “making headway” and turning up some concrete evidence to back their claims against the President and his staff.

There are conflicting opinions on the issues surrounding the 2016 election, and many of the American people may wonder what the ‘big deal’ is if Russia influenced our election. The reality is that the extreme polarization in the country leaves our democracy in a very fragile state. Trump’s claims of “fake news” and his use of alternative facts have led many to distrust both politicians and the news sources reporting on them. The right to a free press is essential to maintain a strong democracy, as it provides critical checks and balances on those in power. The American people have a right to know the full story about Trump’s connection to the Russians and Trump’s claims of “fake news” should not be used to silence news sources.

The divide between political parties in this country has never been stronger. Many stand behind our President in support, many others would like to have him impeached. This division creates for a divided country, and as Abraham Lincoln once said in a speech in 1858, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” It is time for Trump to reconcile his past claims with current truths.

Despite officials from several intelligence agencies substantiating claims of Trump’s connection to Russia, White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, issued statements saying that the investigation surrounding this connection has concluded. While Mr. Spicer may want the investigation to be concluded, the reality is that it will take time to complete due to its complex and sensitive nature, and it is far from concluded.

Overwhelming proof of many different possible connections to Russia by Trump or his campaign team linger. However, as seen in his tweet below, Trump’s position remains unequivocal – he refutes any ties to Russia, claiming that he has had “no deals, no loans, no nothing!”

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This investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election has shocked many of the American people and caused many to question the connection between Russia and our current president. This uncertainty leads to a distrust of the President and the Executive branch. The American people should to follow the investigation closely, as it pertains directly to the legitimacy of President Trump and his word. The President is only as good as the statements me makes and actions he takes. If his supporters cannot trust him, then is he really the person America wants in office?

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Government Influence on the Food Industry

Leaders in food politics have failed to regulate and enforce the system properly, leading to the outbreak of food borne illnesses and the rise of food industry titans. The unchecked producers and processors of food consistently escape the blame of consumers and regulatory bodies, despite lacking proper research regarding food products.

The economy of food has grown exponentially from the time that the USDA and FDA were founded to regulate organizations in the industry. Food and farming accrue billions in GDP revenues yearly and make up for nearly 13% of common household spending (USDA). The rise of social media and the digital age have brought many issues to light regarding how food is produced and processed.

Issues surrounding the food industry encompass every aspect, from the chemicals and drugs approved by the FDA for use on animals to the many hazards on farms and in slaughter houses. The government has taken a passive approach to regulating the food industry, allowing industry titans to leverage their way into positions of power and corrupting many processes regulating the production of healthy food.

Consumers are currently in a compromising position. Government agencies regulating food policy are not immune to effects of political lobbyists. This has been seen through their influence on the 2015 dietary guidelines. Experts claim that “the final guidelines are evidence that USDA and HHS do not rely on science to form their nutrition policies” (Markham Heid – “Lobbying Skewed 2015 Dietary Guidelines”).

The dietary guidelines are merely the tip of the food politics iceberg. The industry lacks resources to enforce the laws put in place regarding food and food safety. Industry leaders emerged throughout the 20th century as corporations influenced the farmers through various methods of establishing control. These leaders control not just the means of production, but also have significant influence over their regulation as well.

This dangerous combination of control allows food industry titans to emerge and assert power over many small farms across the United States. This is done through the control of the seeds and chemicals used to enhance crops and animals. Companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, DuPont are multi-national corporations which have the power to dominate the entire market (Frank Morris).

The consolidation of the farming industry is daunting for smaller players in the industry. Large companies have industrialized the natural farming industry in various aspects. It is a large processing industry that ships food across the world from one country to another, ensuring visibly fresh fruit, meat and vegetables.

Farming has changed from the natural ways to increase yields and to “meet market needs” (Blake Hurst – “Omnivore’s Delusion”). Hurst is a prominent industrial farmer and member of the Missouri Farm Bureau. He has seen crop yields increase by up to “50% during [his] career”. These changes have occurred in various areas of the industry, but the regulation of the drugs and chemicals used for pesticides and growth enhancement are at the forefront of the industry’s problem.  Through the introduction of Nitrogen enhanced crops, pesticides and “hybrid GMO’s,” farmers can feed many more people per acre at a lower cost.

The US government monitors the introduction of these drugs as they come to market. The Bureau of Chemistry, later the FDA, is responsible for legislation regarding the improvement of food safety but the “federal involvement in food safety remained minimal” (Marion Nestle – “Food Safety”). This lack of involvement meant that food producers and processers operated unchecked.

Past instances have shown the government and food industry producers to “downplay concerns” regarding “microbes that contaminate food during production or processing” (Marion Nestle – “Food Safety”). Instead of taking responsibility, the guilty parties often decide to blame others who handled the food or the restaurant or kitchen where it was prepared.

The current climate of the US government is uncertain, especially the food industry. Large multi-national companies are merging and the market is falling under their control. Regulatory agencies must shift their focus to favor the small farmer and make it possible for them to remain sustainable without falling victim to the large corporations’ power. Bringing farming back to its natural roots and allowing for unbiased regulation can be done through consumer purchasing and voting power.

Awareness of the facts, which are backed with proper research, should be provided for consumers. This would require information from the farmers, as well as the companies processing the food for distribution. With proper research and documentation, consumers will be able to make informed decisions about the food they purchase in grocery stores.

Chemicals and GMO’s are not the only concerns consumers should be aware of. Many industrial farmers use conventionally disgusting feed sources, which have been known to contaminate food and cause animal sickness as well as food borne illness. Cattle and chickens are typically “given plant-based feed: Corn…and soybean meal.” But some are fed items such as “processed feathers…poultry litter-floor wastes from coops, including feces,” etc. (Consumer Reports – “You Are What They Eat”).

The corporations responsible for handling and processing the food we eat are led by individuals who frequently turn a blind eye to research, favoring profitability. “The history of food processing is littered with ingredients that were initially presented as safer and more desirable, yet subsequently outed as the opposite” (Joanna Blythman – “Inside the Food Industry: the surprising truth about what you Eat”) This trend must change for the food industry as it exists today to be sustainable and healthy for all consumers.

The standard for establishing guidelines and policies for the food industry must be backed up by science. The industry has produced food without proof that chemicals and GMO’s, or even cloning, have no ill effects on human health in the long term. This is a problem that goes hand in hand with political lobbying. The effects of both ignorance and manipulating favor reward the greed of companies that are mass producing food products with increased revenue.

Current regulation of the US food industry has led to the spread of food borne illness due to the lack of resources and proper motivation provided to the regulatory government agencies. The economy of the food industry will continue to dominate the consumer if there is not proper action taken regarding industry regulation of production. Sustainable farming has given way to industrial farming as farmers across the US struggle to maintain their land due to increased pressure from consumers, corporations and regulatory bodies.

TIME’s article on the US dietary guidelines is accurate in saying: “’The real key is that the [dietary guideline regulation] process is transparent and provides opportunities for public participation, and we think the current process does that,’ says Jim O’Hara, director of health promotion policy for the independent Center for Science in the Public Interest” (Markham Heid – “Lobbying Skewed 2015 Dietary Guidelines”). This should go for every aspect of food. From the production, to processing, to the preparation for consumption.

Transparency allows for the public consumer to analyze the industry and to vote as informed individuals on the issues surrounding food politics. Hopefully, politicians in the future hear the voice of activists speaking on behalf of the consumer. This might allow for government agencies to restructure to better provide safe food for the general consumer. Publications like this and many that have preceded it are merely a small step in the right direction in the process of restructuring the food industry.