Politics in Review 3/1-3/7 – Let’s talk about Russia (and Andrew Cuomo)

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Howdy all! Long one this week – I’ll be shifting gears a bit and talking more about exactly what’s happening with the Russian government right now and how it’s affecting studies at UVU. There have also been some recent reports on a couple of big developments around NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Russia and UVU

Earlier this year, Alexei Navalny – leader of the opposition to Putin’s regime – was arrested upon returning to Russia from Germany, where he had been recovering after being poisoned. 

The arrest flung Moscow into – for lack of a better word – chaos. An estimated 15,000 protestors took to the streets to demand Navalny’s release, and at least 3,000 protestors were arrested by riot police, including Navalny’s wife, Yulia.

The unrest in Russia isn’t only affecting the people there – it’s impacting the teaching right here at UVU. 

A class taught by Professor Frederick White – which usually covers the political history of Russia up through Putin’s regime – has taken a drastic change with the unrest in the country. As the situation has developed, White has taken the opportunity to adapt the course to keep up with changes.

“I thought that this course would be very timely, given the specter of Russia that has haunted the Trump Presidency,” said White. “However, I never anticipated that the situation with Navalny would escalate into political upheaval of this magnitude. This is the first real popular challenge to Putin’s presidency since 2012-13. We are studying history, foreign policy, and national security issues as they are being shaped.”

Students in the class have been excited to see the parallels between Russia’s history and the current developments, White said.

“I have really enjoyed how Dr. White has connected Russia’s history to its modern-day behaviors,” said Sam Elzinga, a political science major and one of the students in White’s class  , “Russia’s history spans thousands of years, so its cultural memory is much longer than what we see in the United States.”

Read the whole story on White’s changing class here.

Andrew Cuomo and the terrible, horrible, no-good, really bad week

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York is back in hot water this week. If you’re a consistent reader, you may remember that I mentioned Cuomo a few weeks back amidst allegations that he’d delayed reporting of coronavirus deaths within nursing homes.

Things in that realm haven’t exactly gotten better for Cuomo in the past week. According to reporting from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, aides to Cuomo had successfully pressured state health officials to fudge report data showing higher-than-reported coronavirus deaths. 

While Cuomo was initially praised for his quick and seemingly-effective response to the state’s COVID-19 outbreak, this revelation mars it. According to the reporting, the intervention by aides happened around the same time Cuomo started writing a book on his coronavirus response.

Per the Times, the number of cases in June last year was more than nine thousand, which was far higher than the numbers released to the public. To keep it under wraps, senior aides rewrote the report and removed the figures.

On Friday, the New York state senate passed a resolution stripping Cuomo of his expanded emergency executive powers. The bill is expected to pass to the house over the weekend. Though Democrats have a veto-proof majority in case the governor tries to nix the legislation, Cuomo has said he supports the move.

“Today, under this new legislation the governor will no longer be able to issue any new directives, period,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “In light of recent events, however, it is clear that we need to move toward a system of increased oversight, review and verification between the Legislature and the executive branch, and also limit the powers granted to the governor.”

Cuomo’s intervention with the COVID-19 reporting wasn’t the only bad news to surface  this week. 

Within the last two weeks, two former aides have come forward, accusing Cuomo of inappropriate sexual remarks. NY Attorney General Leticia James is conducting a formal inquiry into the allegations. 

“This is not a responsibility we take lightly,” James said. Though she is a Democrat and has been allied with Cuomo at times, Attorneys General are elected separately and work independently of the executive branch.

Cuomo has said that he has no intention to resign, but issued a pseudo-apology regarding the allegations, saying, “I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”

Critics, including state assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, have derided Cuomo’s apology as tone-deaf.

“When is it a joke to say ‘Do you have sex with older men?’” said Niou. “I felt like it was very much gaslighting instead of an apology, and I think a lot of women read it that way.”

In other news…

  • This week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, a massive bill which would reform voting rights and procedures nationwide. 
  • President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill passed the House of Representatives this week and is currently working its way through the Senate. It’s currently under debate and has stalled a bit (at time of writing on Friday afternoon), but congressional leaders are hoping to have it passed next week.

I know this was a longer review, so thank you for hanging in there – hopefully it was informative. What are your thoughts on this week’s developments? Feel free to comment below.

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