Feature: Federal Funding Cuts Affect Regional Spending
by Lucia Kezele '18
Right now, there is a lot of talk going on about federal funding and what that entails. This is primarily due to the new tax cuts that President Donald trump is trying to pass through the House of Representatives (House passed the bill on Wednesday, December 20th) and Senate (passed on Wednesday, December 20th). Many are worried about what these cuts will mean for not only our nation’s government but also for regional budgets. It is believed that the tax cuts would raise our federal deficit (possibly by as much as $2 trillion) within the coming decade. Within the bill, there are provisions made to lower the income tax rates while keeping the seven individual income tax brackets. All of the income tax rates would fall except for the lowest rate of 10% and the rate of 35%. These changes would go into effect in 2018 and would stay in effect until 2025. The bill would also raise the “standard deductions” for married couples, single filers, and heads of household (also expires in 2025.) The bill would suspend personal exemption and also end the portion of the Affordable Care Act that provides tax penalties for people who are unable to obtain health insurance coverage. By getting rid of this provision in the Affordable Care Act, our country’s federal deficit is projected to decrease by about $338 billion between 2018 and 2027 (Congressional Budget Office.) The measure for tax inflation would also change due to the bill. The bill would also raise child tax credits, limit mortgage interest rate reductions for married couple who file jointly, and stop the deductions for state and local taxes at $10,000. The bill would also affect corporations, estate holders, students, and those who sell goods overseas.
*For a breakdown of every aspect of the tax reform bill, look at this article from the New York Times. They provide a chart with a breakdown of the allocation and cutting of funds.*
Looking at Trump’s proposed tax reforms, it can be easily noticed that the main beneficiaries of this bill are business owners as opposed to individual citizens. Looking at the benefits that individuals will receive, it is obvious that higher income families will benefit more than lower income families -- lower income families ($30,000 and lower) will be losing more money because the deductions and credits that they receive will not make up for the lower tax rate. Ultimately, all income levels will be paying more taxes by 2027 than we are now. Although Trump’s reforms will largely apply to individuals and businesses, these cuts in federal funding will ultimately affect regional funding as well.
President Trump’s budget would cut large amounts of funds for four very large entitlement programs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps), Medicaid, the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). By 2027 these programs will likely have lost close to $346 billion in funding. The budget will also eliminate many different grants including: the Community Service Grant, the Community Development Block Grant, and the housing programs “HOME” and “Choice Neighborhoods.” The cuts would also end support given to after-school programs, home heating for low-income households, and cut many programs that directly help low- and moderate-income families who have children, seniors, and family members with disabilities. This budget will get rid of programs that assist with child care, job-training, education on adequate nutrition, and health care which will push people deeper into poverty instead of assisting in digging them out of poverty.
More locally, the tax bill will affect geographical locations immensely. The bill proposes cuts to many locations that were allocated funds in the 2016 tax reform. These include the Great Lakes, San Francisco Bay area, and the Gulf of Mexico. The bill also poses a huge threat to the Climate Protection Program because it will put an end to more than 14 of it’s initiatives—this is an attempt to “refocus” the EPA’s core statutory requirements. There are also cuts that will slash the funds for climate change research. For all of us in New Mexico, we will be affected greatly by one of the proposed budget cuts. Trump’s plan proposes cutting $0.6 billion in funds from the State and Tribal Assistance Grants which would leave the funding four our tribal lands at $3.5 billion. This is one of the largest of the proposed cuts, second only to $0.7 billion suggested to be taken away from Environmental Programs and Management.
In New Mexico, these budget cuts will cause our funding to completely cut any funding allocated to the departments of Interior and Agriculture. The budget will also leave our state government fundless for the new Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project. Many TV and radio broadcasting stations may have to close due to the elimination of budgets for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. Programs such as Meals on Wheels, Head Start, and many of our state’s after school programs will lose vast amounts of funding due to the bill. The Environmental Protection Agency will lose thirty-one percent of it’s funding which could be critical to the preservation of so many of New Mexico’s natural parks: Rio Grande, White Sands, Carlsbad Caverns, etc. Ironically, New Mexican Senator, Tom Udall, was quoted as saying he believed the budget was “unconscionable” and would be “dead on arrival” into Congress. Contradictory to his statement, the bill has been passed by both the House and the Senate as of December 20, 2017. Udall believes that the Trump tax reform will cause huge losses in funding for “science, clean energy research and development, space programs, health research, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the arts and humanities.” The proposed cuts to housing as well as heating assistance and community development would leave families in New Mexico freezing and could possibly increase the amount of weather related deaths within New Mexico. On the other side, one of New Mexico’s representatives, Steve Pearce, believes that the proposed budget cuts are “a great first step” and are a great way to start reigning in our country’s growing deficit and debt. Adversely, Pearce does recognize the potentially negative effects that the budget cuts could pose on lower-income and more rural states like New Mexico.
Positively, The National Nuclear Security Administration will receive an 11% increase in their funding. Consequently, this benefits New Mexico because this administration oversees the Los Alamos and Sandia laboratories, both based in New Mexico. Also, the Department of Energy environmental management has a suggested budget of $6.5 billion in the new plan. This is $300 million more than what was allocated in 2017. This could benefit New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant which is located near Carlsbad. This budget would also benefit the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada. Despite these beneficial changes, there are still many negative changes that could affect New Mexico. The Interior Department’s budget would shrink by 12% which could cut or even eliminate some Native American programs as well as reduce payments that the federal government makes to many counties that contain federal, untaxable land. That would especially affect New Mexico because of the large amount of reservation land that is in this state. This land is untaxable locally and the government then provides a “pay out” of sorts to the state government because of that. The Agriculture Department would lose 21% of it’s budget which would greatly affect rural water projects and reduce staffing within county-level departments.
The approval of President Trump’s tax bill marks a period of great change within the United States. This bill could be our country’s ticket out of debt or it could be the reason that our country fails. Not only does this bill affect our country as a whole, but it also affects the many states and counties that make up our country. States with tribal lands will be affected greatly, they will lose funding that came in from the government because of these lands. Native Americans will lose many of their programs. Our national parks will be affected because of the cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding. The poor will lose more in taxes than they will gain with the decrease in tax rates while the higher-income families will benefit more as their income increases. However, many have spoken for this tax reform. Senators, Representatives, ad other government officials believe strongly that this tax reform will contribute to the reduction of debt and deficits within our country. Is that knowledge alone not enough to speak out for this reform? Trump is also using this tax reform to provide more funding for our troops which many can agree is needed in this period of uncertainty about whether or not our country will be joining another war anytime soon. At this point, the tax reform will most likely be happening. The Senate and the House have both approved it and not it is simply a matter of President Trump signing his name along the dotted line.
*Attempts were made to speak with New Mexico state representative Patricia Lundstrom and no response was received. *
*Attempts were made to speak with President Donald Trump and no response was received. *
Feature: Russian Bots Interference in America
by Shawn McCraith '18
The words “Russian bots” may produce thoughts about robots that are Russian, and carry out mechanical duties in a Northern country in Asia but that is not the case, their intentions are far more nefarious.They are more deceiving to the eye and more obscure than a simple metal exoskeleton wanting to take over the world. A bot is an account linked to social media outlets that sprout and spread the most falsely written stories to manipulate multitudes of people’s opinions.
Not a day goes when you see news about Russia, Trump or trouble in the Middle East and that is what pulls in the people that believe what they see or hear. Thousands of fake accounts linked to Russian bots and the slander they promote to Americans each and every day. There were multiple accusations and interventions throughout the years. From the year 2014 all the way until now these Russian bots are in the most remote corners of social media like Facebook and Twitter. They aren’t shy of twisting news or swaying public opinions to accomplish their mission. Bots out of Russia bring no good news to anywhere besides Russia who have denied that they are connected to the bots. They affect the world in many different ways, from public news all the way to an innocent person surfing the news feed of the internet. New York Times has said it is an “unprecedented intervention in American democracy.”
The beginning of the issue, starting with an early account of bots plaguing the interwebs, is one that you might not expect, but who expects to be targeted by bots over something that is seemingly harmless, a petition. In April of 2014, a petition appeared on the White House website that was for giving Alaska back to Russia. A former FBI Special Agent named Clint Watts was monitoring the petition because it had “gained more than 39,000 signatures in a very short period of time.” Clint is a senior fellow at the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security and Foreign Policy Research for George Washington University, so with the given positions it was an odd petition that specifically caught Watts’ knowledgeable attention. He stated that the were numerous accounts that were on other petitions also and that it “appeared to be the work of bots.” Hackers were connected to those accounts and these “observed hecklers” were seen in website defacements or data-breaches. These bots were associated with other accounts that were affiliated with Russian propaganda, which should have been a red flag that something quite fishy was taking place.
Now fast forward to the year 2015, the U.S. Intelligence were noticing that the bots that Watts had described and their target, which was the U.S. election system. At the same time now-President Trump announced that he was running for president as a Republican candidate. At the time Russia was trying to influence the people of the United States to get Trump elected. Many people doubted it was the Russians that were interfering and were wrong. A bot encounter by Watts showed that Sputnik and RT News posted false stories about a U.S. airbase in Turkey that was supposedly overrun by terrorists which was shared so much in a short amount of time and was found out to be a story that was posted on bot accounts that were linked to the Alaska petition ordeal.
In late 2016 President Barack Obama had been notified and warned Putin not to interfere with the U.S. election process. Then, Obama and former CIA director John Brennan spoke with Russian official personnel, in which they expressed the future outrage of the U.S. if they found out that Russia was interfering with the elections. American citizens today often blame Russia today for Trump’s presidency and show discontent with the nation for its wounding interference.There are debates and opinions thrown around loosely that deal with this subject and is how Trump was transported to the top. Russia’s Mr.Bortnikov obviously denied any malicious intent and said that of course Russia would be accused of something of that nature. With all the fight in the American citizens that fought to keep Trump out of office failed, he was then elected as the new President of the United States on November 8, 2016.
A new year has started, and in January of 2017, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper provided information that there was damage. Clapper informed the Senate Intelligence committee that “they have confidence that Putin ordered an influence campaign” for the U.S.election system which elected Trump as president. News has then plagued the United States and launched a probing investigation by Obama. Dilemmas have sprouted and the impeachment of Trump has been wafting in the air while many officials and associates of Trump have been fired or been dealt with legally which is questionable.
This type of new age technology has now spread to various countries around the globe inflicting damage to other governments and political systems, reported by the Freedom on the Net 2017 which is a human rights group. The United States was one out of eighteen countries to have their politics influenced by any bots that are foreign. While the U.S. was targeted, the bots were said to have “helped contribute to a seventh consecutive year of declining internet freedom.” A declination in internet freedom has occurred since the arrival of the bots and Trump’s presidency which has placed America in the fifth highest position in the world right after other countries that have declines in internet freedom too. Net neutrality under Trump’s term has been repealed and is pushing Americans to take a stand because technology is huge part of their everyday lives.
The work of bots is devastating and leaves social media users in a heat which is what the bot’s intended function and sways the opinion of the audience. Propagandic news shared on the internet is lethal considering the domino effect it starts just like the shocking election of Trump which could also be due to the public that made jokes about Trump. Some would consider that Russian bots are a “weapon” with a widespread range of damage. The definition of a weapon according to the Oxford Dictionaries is “a means of gaining an advantage or defending oneself in a conflict or contest.” Anyone witnessing the effects of the bots could classify them as a weapon because they do gain advantages and were instrumental in the defeat of well-known political figures just as James Clapper said the bots wanted to “harm secretary Clinton’s electability.”
Normal citizens have been the victims of accusations in which social media users thought that they were accompanied by a bot that was there to complete its function. Bots are used to amplify stories of Donald Trump and launch false stories to the public with special targets in mind. Bot accounts of people are known to have little information about themselves, share propaganda and share stories in unison with other fake accounts. Trolling is another way to describe bots where they don’t take a side but cause a reaction out of readers or users. Stressing the ideas of Trump and spreading so many false stories is a given for bots and will share them as many times as they can. Imagine a regular human being able to post as many times as a bot, it would be annoying yet discomforting which is what type of tactics bots use. Groups of Trump supporters were called bots because of their bot-like accounts. Stories and support for Trump is shared so many times that you would think is impossible for humans. It turns out that they are on the bots’ levels when it comes to sharing with the public and identify themselves as people who want to amplify the messages of Trump similar to a bot.
Identifying bots is not hard. Looking for certain giveaways like the lack of information in the social media accounts. The posts provided by the suspected bot are about Russia and also propaganda. For Twitter profiles the common words like “God, military, Trump, family, country, conservative, Christian, America and constitution” are what most likely a bot would use in a post or what they post about. Special Agent Clint Watts identified hashtags that are promoted by the bots which are “nuclear, media, Trump and Benghazi.” They are organized around infamous events like the Black Lives Matter protests, the Bundy Ranch Standoff and the Jade Helm Exercise.
In the end, damages have been done and some countries in the world have had their governments altered greatly. People have been accused and now the mention of bots instantly points toward Russia for the answer and invasion. It is a new wave of weaponry that is not instantaneous but will gradually increase throughout the years without proper internet security. Careful attention and a watchful eye will prevent the happenings of such events but we will not be outsmarted by bots.
Feature: Hidden Figures of Gallup
by Meche Williams '19
"In what way does your business help give back to the community?"
“We help out the surrounding schools, that ask for help with getting new gear or helping to send a team to state, competitions, or when they need a gift card.”
“Jerry’s contribution, to the Gallup greater community and our surrounding neighbors is a daily endeavor. Jerry’s provides food, gift certificates, monetary donations and contributions across the board. Jerry’s tries its best to be a good neighbor. We believe in service work in contributing a small, but vital piece of the puzzle to help Gallup and its neighbors be a wonderful place to live and visit.
I’d like to add, that all Gallup family owned restaurants rally to help those in need. We are connected in someway or another and all contribute in the same manner.” - Archie (owner)
Mentmore Shooting Range/Bill's Reload
“We give to various clubs and do our best to teach and educate them on the proper ways to handle a gun.” -Bill Peterson
No one could be contacted for comment.
Contact did not return call.
El Morro Theater
“Our values and vision statement is to become more of a family friendly and reach out to the community to let them know they are welcomed.” -Everett Homer
“There’s so many ways we help the community, we intend to stay downtown. Organic food is important to keep our bodies healthy and full of nutrition. We try to give the best selection of food.” -Michael (did not give last name)
No one could be contacted.
Heartache at Aztec High School
by Meche Williams '19
On Thursday, December 7th, 2017 there was a shooting at Aztec High School with three known dead. Two high school student, Casey Marquez and Francisco “Paco” Fernandez as well as the gunman, William Edward Atchinson. Kassetas, Pete a Chief New Mexico State Police believed Atchinson walked in the high school about the time school was going to start and thought that he might be a student. Kassetas said Fernandez walk into the bathroom where Atchinson was gearing up and officials say they shot him immediately leaving him with a fatal wound. Then, Atchinson came out of the bathroom and ran into Marquez shooting her right on the spot. He eventually went into a classroom shooting the back walk where he knew they’re students in the back, but thankfully no one was injured. Once he went back into the hallway and saw the police officers he shot himself. Many of the teachers were thankful for the custodian’s bravery and courage because not only did he scream out there was an active shooter, but he also followed him, it possibly saved the lives of a lot more students. He did what he could to ensure the safety of the students and teachers. Later, law enforcement said that they found a thumb drive on Atchinson with a letter written two hours before the incident saying, "If things go according to plan, today would be when I die. I waited till the school buses are detected then head out on foot disguised as a student. I go somewhere and gear up, then hold a class hostage, then go ape****, then blow my brains out." Many of the parents and staff were grateful there wasn’t more casualties but are very said about the two students that were killed. Down below is a donation site for both students, if you want to help the families out with the funeral expenses.
Last Week's Poll Results!
Last week we asked Ambush! Poll takers if they thought Representative Franks crossed the line by asking his staffers to be a surrogate for him and his wife: 100% of poll takers said that they did not believe Representative Franks crossed a line.