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Photo Courtesy of Times

Jessica Wade
OPINION EDITOR

Many people have grown numb to the now 6-year war in Syria. The world tuned back into the country’s conflict April 4 after deadly chemical weapons were used to attack Syrian rebels and civilians in Syria’s Idlib province. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, more than 70 people were killed and hundreds more injured, many of them children.

Photos and videos of men, women and children who lay choking and gasping for air after breathing in what is believed to be a nerve agent echoed the tragedy of chemical warfare that has taken the lives of 14,000 Syrians within the last 6 years, only adding to the devastation of Syria’s war.

According to Mercy Corps, 11 million people have been killed or displaced by Syria’s civil war and medical care is becoming increasingly rare as extremists’ groups, Russian bombers and Assad-backed forces target hospitals.

The use of chemical weapons in Syria is illegal, inhumane and has been occurring for the past three years. The United Nations found proof of such an occurrence between 2014 and 2015, when the Syrian air force dropped chlorine on civilians.

The April 4 attack was met with outrage internationally, including from President Donald Trump and the UN security council, both placing blame on Russian-backed fighters for Syrian President Bashar alAssad. Russia’s claim that the attack was carried out by rebel fighters has been met with skepticism.

Trump didn’t just blame Russia for the attack, but the past Obama Administration as well, claiming the assault was a “consequence of the past administration’s weakness.”

Trump is correct in saying the Obama administration failed to fulfill their promise to actively combat the use of chemical weapons. The former administration made promises they had very few resources to keep, and unfortunately, like much of the international community, the United States did little to aid victims of the conflict.

In September 2013, Trump tweeted his opposition to intervening in Syria.

“What I am saying is stay out of Syria,” Trump said. “The only reason President Obama wants to attack Syria is to save face over his very dumb RED LINE statement. Do NOT attack Syria, fix USA.”

The statement he released April 5 seemed to have a bit more support for intervention in Syria.

“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world,” Trump said. “The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack.”

Trump has condemned the attack, now it’s time for him to take action in whatever form that may be. The Trump administration has expressed the potential dangers of directly attacking the Assad regime and rolling the dice on who might end up in power, but as long as the regime remains attacks such as the one on April 5 will contin-ue.

The international community has chosen to look the other way while millions of civilians are caught up in a devastating, multifront war. If leaders choose not to react, the humanitarian devastation of chemical warfare will only grow more prevalent.

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Kenneth Pancake
CONTRIBUTOR

In the last edition of The Gateway, in an article entitled, “An enemy of the truth is an enemy of the arts,” the author said this about President Trump’s proposed cutting of the National Endowment for the Arts:

“It is increasingly clear that… [this is] a direct attack of the existence of the arts in the United States as a whole.”

As a music education major who has played with Grammy award winners, gone on tour with UNO jazz ensembles on two other continents and learned from world-class musicians, all as a direct benefit of the NEA, I can tell you that nothing is farther from the truth.

It seems that the writer of the article I mentioned above believes that Trump is “an enemy of the arts,” saying that “…Trump now too comes after the arts…”. Herein lies a massive misconception; that cutting federal funding for the arts is the equivalent of ‘coming after the arts.’ What President Trump is actually doing is coming after big government, like he said he would in his inaugural address.

The 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

To put that in the layman’s terms, the 10th Amendment states the federal government has no right to do anything that the Constitution doesn’t give it permission to. This amendment is our basis for the governing idea of Federalism – dividing the power between the local governments and the federal government. The idea behind Federalism (and the entire Constitution) is that the sovereign power should not be centered in one place, lest a tyrannical force take control and manipulate the power for his/ her own benefit. In 1776, that tyrannical force was England. The founders had personal experience regarding the matter.

Sadly, this has been largely ig-nored. Thanks to the repeated liberal activism of the Supreme Court, dozens if not hundreds of items better left to the states are now in the hands of the federal government. Funding for the arts is one of these items, whether you love them or not.

The Constitution doesn’t mention the arts as a power of the government (the only exception being to secure “for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” in Article I, Section 8). This was because the founders knew that if a tyrannical government had any control over the arts, it could be manipulated to reduce free speech. One might claim that the federal government is the best source of this support; however, let’s not forget that we are nearly $20 trillion in debt right now.

Who will fund it then? Like the rest of capitalism, the arts should find a home in the local governments (State, City and County), along with private donors. If everyone who opposed Trump’s actions would donate $20 to a privatized NEA per year, the staffers would actually thank Trump for their newfound prosperity.

The author of the article I reference should love this solution, since it takes the arts out of Trump’s hands. If Trump was really attacking the arts, like the author claims, he would want to retain control and manipulate it from the inside, threatening to pull funding from any institution that chose to pub-lish left-leaning works of art. He is doing quite the opposite.

The arts are an awesome thing. They have lifted myself and dozens of fellow musicians out of stress, anxiety and even depression. They help increase graduation rates, test scores and grades. Organizations like the NEA do wonders for the arts community, and should receive support. No one reason-ably denies that. All I ask is that we support these institutions in a way that will safeguard America’s future.

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Photo Courtesy of Top FM

Kenneth Pancake
Contributor

A couple of weeks ago, a news show host on a major news network waved a U.S. citizen’s 1040 tax form across the screen of millions of viewers, going into detail about the tax payer’s income and tax rate for the year of 2005. Does that cause concern? It should, even if the host was Rachel Maddow for MSNBC, and even if the taxpayer was none other than President Trump.

In some befuddled attempt to uncover something negative about Trump, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow actually gave the President a little victory in the middle of a bad week. After a day’s worth of hype for that evening’s show, she revealed that she had obtained copies of Trump’s 1040 tax form from the year 2005.

As it turns out, this revelation only proved that Trump, as far as we know, pays his taxes – something that the mainstream media and elite left-wingers have been casting doubt on for the entire election season. Ironically, it also showed that he paid a higher tax rate than Bernie Sanders or President Obama in more recent years (granted, the Donald is probably much richer and is most likely in a higher tax bracket).

That, however, is not the biggest issue that presents itself in this story.

Somewhere along the line of communication in MSNBC’s newsroom, someone thought that it would be okay to publicly display and analyze a citizen’s confidential tax returns.

Let’s take a look at the legal side of the argument and the moral side (it is vital to remember the difference between the two – something can be legally correct, but morally wrong, or vice versa).

The legal side stands the U.S. Code, title 26, 7213, which states that it is “…unlawful for any person to whom any return or return information is disclosed in a manner unauthorized by this title thereafter willfully to print or publish in any manner not provided by law any such return or return information.”

It is also a crime, under section a4, to solicit disclosure of such a form or return. Unfortunately, the original thief of the returns would have to be found in order to present a credible court case, as per the SCOTUS case Bartnicki v. Vopper.

On the moral side, it’s just plain wrong. Tax returns feature highly confidential information that the taxpayer has a right to keep secret (except from the IRS, of course). If this fiasco doesn’t concern you, just view yourself as the taxpayer, and the news anchor as your worst enemy. Let’s remember that President Trump has the same rights of confidentiality as the rest of us, and is not obligated under any law to present his tax returns to the public (although it wouldn’t hurt his cause to deal such an easy blow to his opponents).

If the mainstream news really wants to attack Trump like they have been doing for the entire election cycle last year, why not focus on something of actual substance, like the fact that Trump just visited one of his favorite golf courses for an eleventh time since inauguration day, after criticizing Obama of his frequent golf outings? Or perhaps that Ivanka Trump will get a west wing office, and access to classified information without actually having an official job?

For being so desperate to bring the President bad press, the mainstream media is not doing a great job.

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Photo Courtesy of New Republic

Kenneth Pancake
CONTRIBUTOR

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal announced that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had been in contact with Russia’s ambassador during the 2016 presidential campaign. As a result, many leading legislators from both major parties called for Sessions to recuse himself from any potential future investigation regarding the campaign’s contacts with Russia. All this after many Democrats have accused Russia and Trump of rigging the election.

Naturally, in this radically divisive political culture built as a result of the 2016 election, the general public is divided on how to take this news. The truth is that mistakes were made on both sides of the aisle, and in all honesty, that’s a stance that should be taken more often.

Sessions made a bad call in not amending his original statements from the January confirmation hearings, when he was asked two questions regarding the matter. The later-to-be Attorney General stated that “…I did not have communications with the Russians.” More on that later.

Clarification is always important, and Sessions never took the chance to clarify the content of those meetings. Had action been taken then, this would not be a front-page story, and Sessions would most likely not have had to recuse himself from investigation, although it was the right move.

It seems common sense that Sessions resign at that point. After all, he said that “…I did not have communications with the Russians,” right? Didn’t he lie? But that’s where the word ‘context’ comes in. Here is the exact wording of Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN) question:

“If there was any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what would you do?”.

Sessions answered back, “I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

The question was meant to address the left-wing’s claim that Trump and Putin rigged the election together, so the wording limited the question of Russian contact “…in the course of this campaign.” The second question that Sessions later received in his confirmation hearing was also explicitly limited to the 2016 election.

That was the context of these questions, and in that context, Sessions answered “no.” Remember, Sessions was a Senator at the time of those meetings, and a member of the Armed Services Committee. It is quite standard for a Senator to meet with a foreign ambassador, and that was the explanation given for the meetings.

Context is a basic part of studying any text. Anything taken out of context, after all, could mean anything you want it to. And that is where the left took it, so desperate to bring President Trump an unfilled cabinet and negative news coverage that they began grasping at straws, such as equating a standard meeting with collusion to rig the election. The left-leaning mainstream media rolled along with the false narrative, harboring similar desires.

One might say that we have no proof that Sessions and the Russian ambassador didn’t talk about how to rig the election, and that is correct; however, were the American people ever given proof that Bill Clinton didn’t talk about Hillary’s innocence to Attorney General Loretta Lynch on that airplane in Phoenix, just hours before Lynch would announce her support for whatever decision the FBI would come to regarding Hillary’s emails? What about when Attorney General Eric Holder was help in contempt by the House of Representatives in 2012 for refusing to turn over documents related to the Fast and Furious gun-running sting (That was the first time in American history that the House has held its country’s acting Attorney General in contempt)? Where were the calls of rescue and resignation from the left then?

There were mistakes on both sides, but there is no more proof that Sessions lied about anything than there is for Bill Clinton, Loretta Lynch or Eric Holder. That being said, it was necessary for Sessions to recuse himself to instill confidence into this administration, a much-needed sentiment for this administration.

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Photo Courtesy of Q13 Fox News

Jessica Wade
OPINION EDITOR

Guadalupe García de Rayos was 14 years old when she left an impoverished city in Mexico and illegally crossed the border into Arizona. After 21 years of living in the United States, Rayos was arrested and, despite the efforts of her husband and two children, she was deported.

Rayos had complied with the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office for eight years, checking in annually since she was caught using a fake Social Security number in order to work.

Attempting to build a life in a country that routinely turns its back on immigrants is not a new challenge for people like Rayos, but President Donald Trump has figuratively, and soon literally, built a wall around the opportunities the United States has to offer.

One of Trump’s many executive orders calls for any immigrant who has been convicted of or believed to have committed a crime to be a priority for deportation.

“There are many people who don’t have criminal records who will be caught up in this and will be deported, but who have no options to stay and no way to fight deportation,” said professor and immigration attorney Kristin Fearnow.

“The best advice I can give anyone is that they should go speak with an attorney, they should have a competent evaluation of their case and they should see what options they have right now.”

Trump’s stance on immigration has been clear from the very beginning, and it’s safe as well as terrifying to assume that as his immigration policies are implemented they will only wreak more havoc.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said during his campaign. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Rayos brought none of those things with her when she crossed the border as a teenager, instead she brought hope and the resilience needed to build a family and a better life.

Fearnow said that now is the time for students to become involved.

“Be informed, get involved, do something to push the cause forward,” Fearnow said. “These things happen in the shadows and when there’s community activists shining the light on what’s going on they can sometimes slow things down, they can stop things, it can make others in the community who weren’t even aware stand up and take notice and jump in to help.”

By deporting a woman who for years has done everything asked of her, Trump is setting a precedent for how the next four years will look. Building a wall through the border will not be nearly as devastating as building a wall through families.

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James Hill
CONTRIBUTOR

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned Feb. 13 for misleading the Vice President and White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Officials said Mike Pence told others in the White House that he believed Flynn lied to him about not discussing sanctions on a call with the ambassador in December.

Sanctions were placed on Russia for violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. These sanctions restrict travel for certain individuals and officials; limited the financing of six of Russia’s largest banks and four energy companies and prohibited the provision, exportation or re-exportation of good, services and technology.

Since Flynn was a private citizen when these conversations took place, he might have violated the Logan Act. The Logan Act forbids private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments about any “disputes or controversies.”

As of this writing, it is unknown if Flynn had permission from President Obama to speak with foreign officials.

Discussing the sanctions with the Russian ambassador would definitely qualify as speaking about a “dispute” between two countries. More than likely, Flynn will not be prosecuted for breaking this law. No one in 218 years has ever been tried for violating the Logan Act.

Flynn is also being investigated by the Army on whether he received money from the Russian government during a trip to Moscow. Doing so would violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits former military officers from receiving money from a foreign government without consent of Congress.

Flynn is not the first from Trump’s inner circle to be forced out due to Russian dealings.

Former campaign manager, Paul Manafort and Carter Page, whom Trump described as an adviser, were both forced to leave the campaign last summer after reports about their contacts with the Kremlin. Manafort worked for Rinat Akhmetov, Dmirty Firtash and Oleg Deripaska, all of which are pro-Russian oligarchs, as an adviser. Page is an investment banker with close links to Gazprom, the Kremlin-controlled gas company, and a proud supporter of Putin.

Trump himself seems to have received some aid from Russia as well.

During a press conference in July, Trump made an odd request directly to Russia.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 (of Clinton’s) emails that are missing,” Trump said.

Asking a foreign nation to directly interfere with American politics is major no-no that Trump seemingly got away with. Late in the general election, thousands and thousands of emails hacked by Russia leaked back into the spotlight. The timing of these emails being leaked was oddly convenient for Trump.

The majority of House Republicans are being very quiet on asking why Trump and Putin have such a close bromance. Democrat Eijah Cummings ripped into them on Valentine’s Day for doing nothing.

“Do you hear that? Do you hear the sound of silence,” Cummings said. “This is the sound of House Republicans conducting no oversight of President Trump. …(Democrats) have been asking for months for basic oversight for the president and his advisors and their ties to Russia. However, chairman Jason Chaffetz, has not lifted one finger.”

House Republicans doing nothing about Trump and his posse’s ties to Russia could be because they are scared of losing their jobs. Trump controls the Republican voters and could tell them to not vote for those that do not support them.

82 percent of Trump voters believe he is more credible than the New York Times so the majority of them will trust in any hot garbage, such as the Bowling Green Massacre, the President says.

The entirety of Trump’s group needs to be investigated. It has only been 32 days since he took office and there have been multiple scandals, a senior advisor being cited for a clear ethics breach, the Press Secretary telling “alternate facts” (otherwise known as lying) to the American public multiple times and multiple massive protests.

This is not normal.

Trump fanboying over Putin is also extremely out of ordinary. I may have my tinfoil hat on too tight but their relationship seems shady.

Ironically, the curtain may have started to fall on the Trump presidency. Flynn is just the first domino to fall.

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Photo Courtesy of Johnson City Press

Ashton Nanninga
CONTRIBUTOR

Separation of church and state is an ideology that has been held within American society since the writing of the Constitution. Whether the two have actually been separate entities is a completely different argument within itself. However, on February 2, President Donald Trump released a promise stating that he would “get rid of and totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from influencing or contributing to political campaigns. If this amendment is destroyed, it will entirely abolish any separation of church and state that still remains today.

Allowing tax-exempt organizations, such as churches and charities, to participate in political campaigns is frustrating. As a tax-paying citizen, I find it appalling that a tax-exempt corporation would be able to influence and lobby during political campaigns. If such an entity does want a voice during the political process, then they should be obligated to pay taxes like every other organization and citizen in the United States.

Another reason that President Trump is supportive of eliminating the Johnson Amendment is because most religious tax-exempt organizations align with his political views. Permitting these organizations to participate in partisan politics will help support and push the ideas of the Republican Party.

President Trump stated, “You have much to contribute to our politics, yet our laws prevent you from speaking your minds from your own pulpits.”

He made this statement while addressing the religious sector of his political base.

“An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views,” Trump said.

These statements from the president only support the idea for the reason behind abolishing the amendment. Even though President Trump is behind this, Congress also has to be on board for the amendment to be entirely eradicated. According to Erik Ortiz from NBC News, some of the Republicans within Congress are advocating for something known as the Free Speech Fairness Act. This act would still bar churches and other tax-exempt organizations from spending money on political ads. But, it would allow for them to make political statements “in the ordinary course of the organization’s activities.”

Now this isn’t a solution for the problem we are facing, but it does put at least some sanctions on the political involvement of the organizations of the matter.

Whether or not any of the aforementioned acts will go through uphold as law is unknown.
It is a slippery slope when the separation of church and state is men-tioned.

It is hard to say that any separation between the two still exists, but removing the amendment whol-ly would extinguish any division that is still in effect today. As long as these organizations wish to remain tax-exempt then they should keep their political opinions to themselves. If they wish to participate then they can compensate for their partisan involvement just as the rest of us do: by paying taxes.

For now, we can only anticipate the decision Congress will make to support or dismiss the idea placed forth by President Trump. Hopefully, Congress will not fully back the promise made. But, for the time being, it is just a waiting game.

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Megan DeBoer
CONTRIBUTOR

The American dream transformed into a nightmare on Jan. 27 when President Donald Trump signed an executive order indefinitely suspending admissions for Syrian refugees and temporarily restricting the entrance of other refugees into the U.S. from six additional Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya.

The move appears to undermine the very foundation of the United States. Less than 24-hours after the order was signed, Washington state’s attorney general – who was later joined with overwhelming support from a number of other states – sued Trump on the basis that the order was “unconstitutional.” This suit led to federal district court Judge James Robart upending Trump’s order nation-wide, temporarily pausing the major travel provisions for foreign nationals, according to CNN. The temporary halt of the order also allowed green card and visa-holders, who had been travelling internationally, to return to the U.S.

“Tears are running down the cheeks of the Statue of Liberty tonight as a grand tradition of America, welcoming immigrants, that has existed since America was founded has been stomped on,” Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “This is one of the most backward and nasty executive orders that the president has issued.”

The Justice Department added to the lawsuits and filed a new defense on Monday arguing that the ban was a “lawful exercise of the president’s authority” to defend national security and requested the ban be reinstated, according to CNN, although it contradicts the constitution’s principle of not discriminating based on religion. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied the government’s “emergency request” to resume the ban and asked both sides to present arguments for or against it on Tuesday before making a final decision later in the week.

The director of policy at the International Refugee Assistance Project Betsy Fisher said, “The executive order doesn’t say ‘we’re banning Muslims’. It says, ‘we’re banning people from Muslim countries except for the non-Muslims’.”

While announcing his exertion at the Department of Defense on Friday, Trump reflected upon the memory of the 9/11 terror attacks, and said, “We will never forget the lessons of 9/11, nor the heroes who have lost their lives at the Pentagon.”

While this statement holds truth, it is irrelevant to Trump’s travel ban since zero of the 19 hijackers who committed the attack were from countries cited in the order.

In fact, between 1975 and 2015, foreign nationals from the seven countries targeted by Trump’s executive order have killed zero Americans on U.S. soil, according to an analysis of terrorist attacks published by the Cato Institute.

The abrupt executive order caused immense confusion with little time for education of those expect-ed to carry out Trump’s order. This was no exception for the former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik. Bondevik told CNN’s “Connect the World” that he was interrogated by officials for “over an hour” at Washington’s Dulles International Airport Jan. 31 due to an Iranian visa in his diplomatic passport.

“Did they really believe that I presented a problem or threat to the U.S.?” Bondevik said. “I expected they would show more flexibility and wisdom.”

As a head of the human rights organization Oslo Center, Bondevik wholly disagrees with the ban, calling it “a contradiction” to his “view on human dignity,” according to CNN. He said the incident “speaks to a wider issue of concern brought on by the President’s first actions in office.”

However, Bondevik is only one out of the millions of faces directly impacted by Trump’s ban.

Like so many others, Boston University student Raya Bidshahri, 21, can relate to the impact. Bidshahri, originally from Iran, told CNN: “Above all, it’s heartbreaking. My family and I have always dreamed of coming to the United States and accomplishing our dreams here… We are treated like we’re terrorists, as if we want to cause trouble when above all we just want to make the United States a better place – con-tributing whether it’s through re-search, studying, or entrepreneurship.”

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