This Week in Politics: Afghanistan, Korea, Trump and LePage

Afghanistan

On April 13, the U.S. dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal. The target was a system of tunnels in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan that the U.S. said was being used by ISIS fighters. Afghan troops on the ground said no civilian casualties were found. Up to 96 ISIS militants were killed according to Afghan officials said. This is the first time the United States has used the MOAB.

The U.S. air force dropped the bomb after fighting between U.S. and Afghan troops and ISIS militants had intensified in the area, according to Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States. ISIS militants had mined the area around the tunnel complex, making it dangerous for U.S. and Afghan troops to clear the tunnels on foot.

Korea

The North Korean Foreign Ministry warned that they will “hold the U.S. wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions,” referring to Cmdr. Dave Benham’s announcement on April 8 that the USS Carl Vinson was headed to the western Pacific.

Defense News first reported on the ship’s deployment and seemed to imply that the ship’s movement was in response to North Korea’s April 5 scud missile launch.

On Sunday, April 16, North Korea celebrated its biggest holiday, Day of the Sun, by parading missiles from its military arsenal through the city of Pyongyang. The North Korean military has displayed shows of force on the Day of the Sun in the past.

On Sunday, April 16, North Korea failed at an attempt to test a missile when the projectile fell into the sea of Japan shortly after being launched. Vice President Mike Pence was on a flight to  Seoul, South Korea during the test. Upon arrival, Pence issued a warning to North Korea “not to test his [Trump’s] resolve”.

On Saturday, April 15, The Navy reported the USS Carl Vinson was in the Sundra Strait. The Strait is between the two main islands of Singapore 3,500 miles away from North Korea, contrary to what the president and Admiral Harry Harris announced.

“Buy American, Hire American”

On Tuesday, April 18, Trump signed a new executive order telling agencies of the Executive branch to begin developing policies to increase the use of American-made products by the government itself and those receiving federal grants.

The order also calls for the reform of the H1-B visa lottery. The H1-B program awards 85,000 visas to foreigners annually. Senior administration officials said that the majority of workers brought in on H1-B visas are paid below their field’s average wage. Trump has criticized the program, claiming it allows companies to replace American workers with underpaid foreigners.

The order asks the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of Homeland Security to suggest reforms for the H1-B program. The order also asks all executive agencies to assess their ability to “buy American.”

Moves such as the “Buy American” reviews have caused some to worry about Trump’s move towards protectionism. The financial leaders at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank held spring meetings on Thursday continuing to discourage Trump’s policies of decreased U.S. imports and increased tariffs.

Maine

Gov. Paul Lepage issued a new bill this week as part of his EMBRACE initiative that aims to consolidate school districts and reduce superintendents. The initiative included seven grants, totaling $2.7 million given to schools earlier in the month to increase efficiencies.

LePage attended his first public forum in Portland since 2015 on Tuesday. The forum, held at University of Southern Maine’s Portland Campus, was organized by the student group “Young Americans for Freedom.” Lepage discussed his EMBRACE initiative goals and opposition to Medicaid expansion.

So far, five candidates have filed to run in the 2018 primaries for governor of Maine. Adam Cote, Democrat, filed this week joining Democrat Patrick Eisenhart, Republican Deril Stubenrod and Libertarian Richard Light.

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