My Choices For The Most Influential People Of 2014

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We’ve seen a lot this year. Some amazing accomplishments, but also some horrific tragedies. The fact is, the actions of people with a lot of power influence our daily lives.

To end 2014, I have compiled a list of 15 people who I believe are to be the most influential of the year. Ranging from world leaders to artists, I have taken everyone into consideration and this list is uniquely mine.

The List:

15) Xi Jinping

The premier of China, Jinping took office last year. He has taken moderate steps to reduce corruption and to lessen the grip the government has on the people, though we must wait to see how much of this continues. Will the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong influence any of his decisions?

14) Prime Minister David Cameron

Cameron, Prime Minister of Great Britain, has faced opposition from both the Labour Party and his own Conservative Party. However, Cameron has stood firm for Britain and her interests in the Middle East, and is a key player in the ongoing Russian conflict.

13) Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi

After overthrowing Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi in July of 2013, General Al-Sisi has been an uncertain rock that Egypt has stood on. Elected as President in June of 2014, we must wait to see if Al-Sisi is a democrat or another dictator for a weary Egypt.

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12) Michael Brown

Michael Brown’s death in 2014 at the hands of Officer Darren Wilson reopened the debate on race, poverty, the use of force by police, and the justice system. It also revealed that, sadly, we are very much the same country we were 50 years ago when it comes to race, except just less blatantly.

11) Lebron James

Lebron James made by far the biggest sports news (yes, bigger than Ray Rice) by announcing he was returning to the Cavaliers. There, he has helped the team accumulate a 18-13 record, and has proven that, even at the age of 30, he is still the greatest basketball player of the 21st Century.

10) Jennifer Lawrence

Starring in the 2014 films “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” and the critically-acclaimed “X-Men: Days of Future Past” Jennifer Lawrence is on a mission to prove that acting is not a lost art along with empowering women. Her influence is not likely to go anywhere but up.

9) Angelina Jolie

An influential mainstay, along with being one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history, Angelina Jolie has not gone anywhere in 2014. Starring in “Maleficent” and continuing her work with refugees through the UNHCR has easily earned Jolie a spot on this list.

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8) Jimmy Fallon

The greatest comedian to come out of Hollywood since Johnny Carson, Jimmy Fallon now hosts that legend’s “Tonight Show”. Fallon has proven he is a comedic legend himself many times over, and is a breath of real comedy in the (luckily ending) Age of Adam Sandler. I believe that 2014 may be the start of the new Comedic Age Of Jimmy Fallon. Thank God for that.

7) Pope Francis

The most influential leader the Catholic Church has had in decades, Pope Francis proves time and time again that his commitment to make the Church a place of greater compassion and tolerance should inspire us all.

6) Janet Yellen

After taking over as Chair of the Federal Reserve, Yellen became the first woman to hold that position. Yellen’s influence will truly be felt in 2015 as the economy begins to return to more normality after the Great Recession.

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5) Malala Yousafzai

Recipient (along with Kailash Satyarthi) of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize (its youngest recipient), Malala Yousafzai has proven that her work for children and women around the world is only just beginning. I consider her to be one of the bravest and courageous people currently living on this Earth. Her influence will only increase.

4) Angela Merkel

From dealing with the affairs of the European Union to those internally in Germany, Angela Merkel has been waist-deep in every international conflict of 2014. She will be one to watch when the Second Cold War picks up next year and beyond.

3) Hillary Clinton

From the publication of Hard Choices to a campaign being run for her even without her officially running yet, Hillary Clinton has proven truly how influential she is to the world. Voted as the most admired woman of the year for the 19th time in a row, Clinton will be gearing up for the beginnings of a presidential campaign next year.

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2) Beyoncé Knowles

2014 has cemented Beyoncé as the greatest artist ever, surpassing Michael Jackson. From the most successful (5 million+ copies sold), well-crafted, and most-original album since Thriller being released at the very end of 2013 to the On The Run Tour to the legendary VMA performance, Beyoncé has proven herself to be way above any other artist. Worth more than any other black artist at almost $500 million, the most Grammy-nominated artist in history, and her stand as a humanist (real equality for men and women) has made her the greatest artist in history. And she’s only 33.

Now, 1 is a tie between:

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1) Barack Obama

Unhindered by any future election or by what other people think, Obama kicked 2014 into high gear by accomplishing all possible in his power on immigration, civil rights, and the economy. With job numbers almost at 11 million, Obama has proven to be the most courageous leader we have had since Kennedy. He has stood for all free people when it comes to Russian aggression, and defends American interests by leading the fight against ISIS. I am excited to see what he accomplishes in 2015.

And:

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1) Vladimir Putin

I have covered the Russian invasion of Ukraine on this blog, writing a total of 17 articles on it. Vladimir Putin, the ex-KGB agent, has embarked on a campaign to “restore Russian greatness”. From the loss of 298 innocents in the downing of MH17 to the systematic expulsion or elimination of any opposition to his administration, Putin has succeeded in starting a Second Cold War. Listen to me when I say that Crimea is only the beginning.

All of these choices are my own.

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Ukrainian Crisis: Referendums In Eastern Ukraine

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The regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, in Ukraine, voted today on whether or not to become independent states. The results just came in, and they are: Surprise, independence.

The question on the ballot in Donetsk was: “”Do you support the self-rule of the Donetsk People’s Republic?” The “official” results from Donetsk are 89% yes, 10% no. The head of the election committee, Roman Lyagin, told reporters after the polls closed, “These can be considered the final results.” These numbers are much different than those which came out of a poll from the Institute of Social Research and Policy Analysis, which said that among those asked only 4.7% of Donetsk residents supported independence.

The results for independence in Luhansk were similar in percentages.

The West made sure to pronounce their opposition to the votes. The State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, “This is the Crimea playbook all over again. No civilized nation will recognize the results. And if Russia takes the next step to re-enact its illegal Crimea annexation in eastern or southern Ukraine and sends more forces over the border, harsh US and EU sanctions will follow.” A spokesperson for the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, explained that, “Such a referendum, against the Ukrainian constitution, does not calm things down but escalates them.”

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The ballot question left it open to different interpretations, which may be one reason for the sky-high unification of the voters. The corruption is in the wording, which could be read as self-rule, autonomy, or independence, depending on the reader. It is also corrupt because of Vladimir Putin’s role in it. He called on the regions to postpone the votes, to begin, “direct, full-fledged dialogue between the Kiev authorities and representatives of southeast Ukraine.” He said this so that when the regions ask to join Russia he can say that, though he was not a part of it, he must listen to what the people want. This is the way he can get around the illegality of this vote.

These votes and their results are illegal and must not be recognized. It is another step in the wrong direction, and is another one in the path toward Putin’s dream of an Eurasian Union.

Ukrainian Crisis: Why This Is An Urban War and How To Handle It

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Cossacks Discuss Upcoming Donetsk Referendum. Credit Here.

It is hard to believe that this is my 13th post on the Ukrainian crisis so far, spanning 3 months, reporting in the modern form of journalism. Hundreds of people from over 30 different nations, including the major players in this crisis: the United States, Britain, Germany, France, and Russia. So now, I would like to discuss something that must be understood for the general public to understand my solutions to the crisis.

Ukraine is fighting an urban war against Russia. To explain this, let us go back to a few months ago, in March, when the conflict in the Crimean peninsula began. We saw the invasion of sovereign Ukrainian lands by soldiers without any distinguishable markings. The international community was stunned and many of us who understand foreign affairs cautiously warned that it may be the work of the Russian Federation.

It then became obvious that these “Pro-Russian Demonstrators” were in fact Russian troops, possibly part of the FSB, and definitely the Russian Army. By the end of March, Crimea had joined Russia through a corrupt referendum.

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Pro-Russian Soldier Defending A Stronghold in east Ukraine. Credit Here.

The violence then moved to the east, where forces have been fighting for months in the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv. The fighting has been in the streets of urban cities, some using Molotov cocktails, guns, cobblestones, and other weapons. With this violence, along with the 40K Russian troops on the border armed for the invasion of Ukraine, it proves that it is Putin and his government causing this unrest.

The bulk of the violence has not been in rural areas, with large tanks and weapons of mass destructions as you would expect in an invasion. The violence has been in the cities, with Russian troops disguised as citizen protestors, and really the only typical large weapons of invasion involved are BTR quick-movement armored vehicles and fast-attack helicopters.

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A heavily armed pro-Russian soldier. Credit Here.

So how can we handle this violence? This is a new type of war, one where it is harder for the West to quell the violence peacefully. This is why I propose 3 actions that need to be taken by the US and UK governments now:

1) President Obama Needs To Garner Public Support For Future Actions By The US

    This needs to occur before #2 or #3 can occur. He needs to address the American people in the same way he did in the Syrian conflict, sitting down and talk out what has happened, and why we need to take action upon it to prevent future bloodshed. I fully support every action he has taken so far, and I believe that an informed public will also.

2) Reinstate Anti-Missile Defense Systems In Poland

      Ever since the first sparks of violence in Crimea, I have wholeheartedly advocated for the West to reinstate anti-missile defense systems in Poland, like they were in the Cold War. This will deter Mr. Putin from any movement west, toward the EU. Poland is one of our greatest allies around the world, and it is our obligation to protect them, and the rest of Europe.

3) Supply Non-Lethal Aid To Ukraine

    Ukraine is not a stable economic nation, especially as this crisis is tarnishing its land. It needs help to prevent Russia from taking any more of its land. The fact is, however, the American people are a war-weary nation. That is why I am advocating for body armor, fuel, and food to be sent to the Ukrainians, things that will not cause direct lethal consequences but will help the Ukrainian people survive. It may become necessary for the American government to send light arms to the Ukrainian army due to its lack of equipment but only if this crisis continues, which I unfortunately foresee. That would come if no progress in quelling the violence occurs by the end of May.

This is the time for the US to take real action in Ukraine. No boots on the ground, but continue to hold military exercises in Poland, as well as reinstate anti-missile systems in Poland and to supply non-lethal aid to Ukraine. We must end this now, before Putin’s dream of a Eurasian Union comes upon us.

Ukrainian Crisis: Death Toll Spikes As Ukraine Is On Verge Of War

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Protestors Tearing Up Cobblestones To Throw. Credit Here.

The crisis in Ukraine so far has been with casualties, but limited in death toll. But as May began, the toll soared as deadly gunfire a fire, and downed helicopters claimed the lives of at least 50 Pro-Russian demonstrators and Ukrainian soldiers.

Odessa, a city in Ukraine near the Black Sea, had been without heavy violence up until Friday. Police reported to the AP that 3 people had been killed and 15 wounded after Pro-Russian demonstrators and Ukrainian soldiers exchanged gunfire in the streets.

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Union Hall On Fire. Credit Here.

A trade union hall was later set on fire, presumed because of Molotov Cocktails, where over 40 people died and 174 were injured. The Ukrainian Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, said, “We’re ready to hold talks with protesters or their representatives.” Avakov also said yesterday on the government website as troops surrounded Slovyansk. “But terrorists and armed separatists will only get the inevitable payback.”

As the Ukrainian government recaptured checkpoints outside the separatist city of Slovyansk, 3 separatists were killed and 2 were injured. The Ukrainian government is trying to recapture Slovyansk, along with other eastern Ukrainian cities, as part of its “anti-terror” operation.

Finally, the pro-Western government in Kiev said that 2 Ukrainian Army helicopters were brought down by missiles, killing 2 airmen. This is seen as proof of Moscow being behind this entire crisis.

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Russia, after placing about 40000 troops along its eastern border with Ukraine, proclaimed one again its “right” to invade Ukraine to “protect” Russian speakers in the region. The Russian Ambassador to the United Nations said that Ukrainian authorities are using “heavy military force against peaceful protesters in a criminal misadventure,” while Russia is trying to wind down and end the crisis. He said the U.S. and the European Union should “stop toying with the destiny of the Ukrainian people.”

As Ukrainian elections are right around the corner on May 25th, President Obama warned Russia that if violence continues and the vote cannot be held, “we will not have a choice but to move forward,” with new sanctions. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the election “crucial” and said that she would support economic sanctions if the election is impeded by Russian-induced violence.

Ukrainian Crisis: The Reason Why Putin Calling Eastern Ukraine “Novorossiya” Is Worrisome

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To most, hearing the term “Novorossiya” would elicit a “What?” But in the crisis currently occurring, it is yet another eerie reminder of the Soviet and Czarist Russia age coming back.

For historical background, Novorossiya, or New Russia, was the region encompassing Ukraine and some of its neighbors back when it was conquered by Catherine the Great in the 18th Century. Queen Catherine took it during the Russo-Turkish War, and it was part of Russia until the Bolsheviks granted it to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922.

In a nearly four-hour Q&A Thursday, President Vladimir Putin called this region “Novorossiya”, which was a term that had not been used to describe this region in nearly 90 years. “It’s new Russia,” he said, adding,

“Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Odessa were not part of Ukraine in czarist times, they were transferred in 1920. Why? God knows.”

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Some voiced worry that Putin freely using this term means that he is embracing the idea of the Eurasian Union as an actual reinstatement of the Soviet Union, as I have been warning for over 2 months now. This includes the Polish Defense Minister, and other officials in NATO and the UN.

Yet, Putin seriously believes that what he is doing is best for Russia. At one time we were promised,” Putin said, “that after Germany’s unification, NATO wouldn’t spread eastward.”

He continued:

“Our decision on Crimea was partially prompted by this. Needless to say, first and foremost we wanted to support the residents of Crimea. But we also followed certain logic: if we don’t do anything, Ukraine will be drawn into NATO sometime in the future. We’ll be told, ‘This doesn’t concern you’ and NATO ships will dock in Sevastopol, the city of Russia’s naval glory.”

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As I have stressed many times before, we need to reinstate anti-missile defense systems in Poland right now. No questions asked, I call on NATO, President Obama, and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to do this immediately. I am talking about the European Intercepter System, which, if Russia feels so inclined to escalate its Eurasian Union goal to take over Poland, will defend our greatest ally in East Europe. For right now, though, they would act as a deterrent to Putin and the Russian Government.

I could of sworn we ended this war yesterday.

Ukrainian Crisis: Turning Point In Eastern Provinces

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Armed Pro-Russian Demonstrators Sunday. REUTERS

Ukraine announced that it will deploy troops to the eastern provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv today, April 13th, if pro-Russian demonstrators do not surrender. It is being called a “large-scale anti-terrorist operation” to push back attacks by pro-Russian demonstrators in eastern Ukraine by Ukraine’s Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov in an address.

After the speech, the ousted former Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych accused the CIA of setting up the planned operation. The CIA Director John Brennan straight up denies the accusation, with his spokesperson saying the “claim that Director Brennan encouraged Ukrainian authorities to conduct tactical operations inside Ukraine is completely false.”

Sunday morning, Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian separatists exchanged fire outside a city in eastern Ukraine, leaving one security officer dead and 5 wounded. This is the first deadly encounter in the eastern oblasts, which comes after armed separatists took multiple government buildings last week.

These “pro-Russian demonstrators” are outfitted the same exact way as the ones who took over Crimea, which then Russia annexed. The State Department (@StateDept) tweeted “Militants in eastern Ukraine were equipped with Russian weapons and same uniforms as those worn by Russian forces that invaded Crimea.” The international community is worried that this may end up the same way.

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To address this situation, the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting at 8 PM April 13th. The US Mission to The UN (@USUN) tweeted, “@AmbassadorPower and the @UN Security Council to hold emergency consultations on #Ukraine at 8 p.m. ET tonight.” This will be an open meeting in New York. Previously to this Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General, had his spokesperson issue a statement. “The Secretary-General stresses that further disturbances will not serve the interests of any side. He therefore appeals to all sides to work towards calming the situation, adhere to the rule of law and exercise maximum restraint,” said the statement.

Vice President Biden will also be traveling to Kiev on April 22nd. Biden “will underscore the United States’ strong support for a united, democratic Ukraine that makes its own choices about its future path,” the White House said in a statement.

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Russia has 40K+ troops ready for an invasion into eastern Ukraine at a moment’s notice. If this occurs, it would become undifficult for Putin to take Kiev, and the entire nation. As I have stressed in previous articles, an action needed to be taken by NATO would be to reinstate Anti-Missile Defense Systems in Poland along its Russian and Ukrainian borders.

We must wait and see how this will play out. If the pro-Russian demonstrators do not surrender by 1 AM EST Monday, the anti-terrorism operation will occur, under orders of Kiev. This may be met with Russian aggression, and, in my predictions, these oblasts may either schedule votes or be militarily taken by Russia by Wednesday.

Ukrainian Crisis: Escalation In Eastern Ukraine

 

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Pro-Russian Protester Monday. Credit Here.

On the night of April 6th, Pro-Russian Groups seized military arms and declared one province of Ukraine a separatist republic. These are the largest moves made since March in the ongoing crisis between Kiev, Moscow, and the West.

The overnight takeover of 3 cities in eastern Ukraine looks eerily like how the events in Crimea played out, and that is Kiev’s position as well. The Prime Minister of Ukraine, Arseny Yatseniuk, said Monday, ” An anti-Ukrainian plan is being put into operation … under which foreign troops will cross the border and seize the territory of the country…We will not allow this.”

These separatists, after taking the cities of Kharkiv, Lugansk, and Donetsk, demand that referendums be held, like those in Crimea weeks ago, on whether or not to join Russia. If these lands join Russia, which could happen by the beginning of May, would be a loss of land equal to the size of South Carolina, and would be another step closer for Putin to take Kiev.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, that the US is watching the events in Ukraine with great caution, and any further steps to destabilize the region would “incur further costs for Russia.”

Kerry “called on Russia to publicly disavowed the activities of separatists, saboteurs and provocateurs” in Ukraine, the Department of State said. He and Lavrov will be discussing peace talks between Ukraine, Russia, the US, and the EU coming in 10 days.

It is presumed that Russia will, if it decides to annex these oblasts, take them like they did Crimea. Already we have seen the similar first step: “Pro-Russian Protesters” taking government buildings. The 40K+ Russian troops who are already on the border between Russia and Ukraine have been outfitted with quick-movement arms, which means they could seize these oblasts with minimal cost to life.

EasternEuropeMap updated

Black Dots: Where Anti-Missile Systems Should Be Placed By NATO. Created by Nassem Al-Mehairi.

We have an option that we can take right now. I want more, stronger sanctions too, but I am going to focus on another course of action we can take. These oblasts, unfortunately, will probably be annexed into Russia. We can, however, reinstate missile defense systems in Poland and put them in Romania. Both of these nations are NATO members, and understand the dangers of letting Putin take Ukraine.These anti-missile systems would draw a line where Putin must stop, where he cannot go without further, much harsher consequences. We then must use sanctions and diplomacy to try to save Ukraine before it is too late.