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In case you’ve been blissfully living under a rock, it’s been all over the news that Trump and Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wei, spoke on the phone and some people are freaking out while others are saying it’s not a big deal. So, what’s the truth and what does this mean, if anything?

First of all, for a bit of background, China has what it calls a One-China policy. This means entities they consider part of China – Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc. – are all part of one, indivisible China. No discussion. Most Taiwanese believe differently, since they have a different currency, government, military, and language. (Mandarin is taught in schools, but the Taiwanese dialect is widely used.) Before I go further, I do want to say that I have family in Taiwan, and believe that Taiwan is a separate nation. It obviously colors how I view this situation.

The relationships between the U.S., China, and Taiwan are complicated. President Tsai, Taiwan’s first woman President, won a landslide victory in part due to Taiwan’s rising pro-independence sentiment. She hasn’t signed the 1992 Consensus that affirms that Taiwan is part of China, a document that the previous party in power supported. This has resulted in China severing diplomatic communication with Taipei. Yet China is Taiwan’s largest trading partner and is also a large contributor to tourism. It’s a case of can’t live with them, can’t live without them. It’s also a case of trying to figure out how much provocation China will tolerate.

Before Nixon’s opening to China in 1972 and Carter’s 1979 recognition of China, the U.S. firmly backed Taiwan in opposition to the Communist country. Since 1979, things are kind of the opposite, with a weird, hazy policy to not formally recognize Taiwan as a country, but to sell them arms and promise protection. There’s been no formal diplomatic communication between Taiwan and the U.S. for about 40 years.

This has not sat well with much of the GOP, and while it hasn’t been the top of conservative concerns, the current GOP platform pledges support to Taiwan and uses excoriating language to criticize China.

So when Kellyanne Conway said that the phone call between Trump and Tsai was no big deal and “he [was] merely taking phone calls,” she belies a lot of the effort that went into making the phone call happen, including months of work by former Senator Bob Dole. Trump has responded with the usual: a tweet that has more heat than light. Tsai herself has said the call was simply to congratulate Trump on his win and no major policy changes would occur because of it. The word from Beijing is that Trump’s a foreign relations neophyte who made an error, and the call was a “petty gesture” by Taiwan. There’s more fun implications in The Global Times, a Chinese newspaper, about repercussions for U.S.-China relations should the One-China policy be ignored and punishment for Tsai’s administration should it “cross the red line.”

While China’s pretty pissed, they could be doing a lot worse than angry newspaper articles. It’s not like the most terrifying game of “I’m not touching you” that occurred in 1996 when they didn’t like a pro-independence Taiwanese presidential candidate and responded with military exercises in the Taiwan Strait complete with missile launches. Things could get ugly, but it appears that China, like everyone else, is waiting to see what it is that Trump wants and how he’ll act in the future.

Okay, that’s a lot of information, but it doesn’t seem to move us towards a conclusion. For one, those in Trump’s corner aren’t giving clear answers. Conway tells everyone to stop being hysterical and it isn’t a big deal, but other conservatives say that it’s refreshing that Trump is taking a stance against China and no one’s rushing to tell them otherwise. Part of the frustration is that delicate diplomatic relations have been turned on their head but we don’t know why.

If this were a deliberate action to stand up to China, you’d think Trump would own it and soak in the praise from supporters, but he hasn’t. All the planning necessary to make the call happen indicates it was no accident, so why is it being downplayed? Diplomatically, it doesn’t make sense to put time and effort into breaking decades of protocol and then say significant policy changes aren’t on the table, nothing to see here.

I suspect that the phone call wasn’t a diplomatic move, an offensive gesture against China, or a gaffe. Pro-Taiwan politicians may have been able to get some of the statement they wanted, but my guess is that Trump was looking out for personal interests because nothing else makes sense. He doesn’t seem to care much about whether or not a country has human rights abuses or is particularly democratic. See his pleasant rapport with Filipino President Rodrigo Duerte, who encourages murder in the streets instead of trials, and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who severely limits speech, religion, assembly, and more.

What Trump does have are hotel interests in the Philippines and Taiwan, and funding from Kazhakstan for several of his projects. With his three oldest children in charge of the Trump Organization and serving on his presidential transitional team, and with no tax returns to see where his money comes from or what kind of conflicts of interest he may have, it may be the case that Donald Trump is simply doing what he is always trying to do: make money.

Perhaps that explains China’s relatively subdued response. U.S.-China-Taiwan relations are difficult and frustrating. Convincing Donald Trump to make a deal is easy.

It’s true that the Trump Organization has lots of projects in several countries. It’s also true that the Trump Organization’s interest in Taiwan is not set in stone, and one hotel hardly translates into a river of money. For me, it would be a pleasant surprise if Trump truly wants to normalize communication Taiwan. But until he or his team provides some clarity, the signs seem to point towards self-interest.


Sweden’s Move To A 6 Hour Workday Should Make You Very Angry



Sunset in Stockholm, Sweden

What would you do with 6 extra hours of free time every week? That’s the question every full-time worker in Sweden is going to have to answer. After years of individual companies making the switch, the entire country is about to embark on an ambitious plan to maintain productivity while also eliminating 17% of the current workweek. Yes, the entire country.

Not only have Swedish workers just been given 312 hours of their lives back each year, but they have effectively been given a rather nice raise as well. In 2014, the average Swede took home about of €30,612 (the equivalent of $34,285) each year, or €2551 ($2857)  a month, which is about €589 ($660) a week. If we break that down over a 36 hour work week (less than the 47 hours the average American works full-time ), that equals €16.35 an hour. With the switch from a 36 hour workweek to a 30 hour workweek, the average take-home hourly wage just jumped to €19.63/hour, or a 20% increase.*

That would make me pretty happy, and I hope our CEO reads this and feels compelled to give all of us at Men’s Trait a 20% raise. We’re not holding our breath, however. Wages in the U.S. have been slightly better than stagnant for decades, and now we have to sit back and watch as an entire nation was just collectively given a raise that we could only dream of in the States.

In the United States, the average earner made $45,230 before taxes in 2014. More than the average Swede, right? Not necessarily. You might have noticed that the amount people in Sweden take home, on average, was €30,612 ($34,285), not what they earned. That’s the net, after tax amount. In the U.S., depending on a worker’s tax bracket, that amount would be at best $33,923, excluding any deductions and credits on their taxes. Depending on the exchange rate at any given moment, people in Sweden might take home more money than Americans. Or Americans might take home more. It’s very, very close.

But each country is different, and the cost of living in Sweden is higher than in the United States. Or, rather no, it isn’t. When we look at just after tax income, not accounting for fixed expenses, the average Swede has more buying power than the average American. Rent and utilities are significantly cheaper for people living in Sweden, making it slightly more affordable than the U.S. overall. Removing just utilities from the equation gives the advantage to Americans for having more buying power. Luxury activities, like eating at restaurants or going to the movies, are more expensive in Sweden than they are in the United States; that’s one financial advantage we have. But Swedes don’t do those things on the same scale that Americans do, so the premium prices affect them less than they would someone living in the States.

Okay, so I’ve rambled for over 500 words about how the Swedes just made a change to how much people work, and then delved into a bevy of numbers comparing the incomes and buying power of Americans and Swedes, only to come to the conclusion that there really isn’t that much difference between the two countries. Both are wealthy countries, with each celebrating a 7.2 OECD Better Life Index score that measures the quality of life for people around the globe, well above the average score of 6.0. So what’s the point?

Just remember, you could be living the American dream in Sweden, only by working at least 312 fewer hours each year. Oh, and the Swedes are guaranteed 25 paid vacation days and 16 paid holidays yearly, plus some paid maternity (56 weeks, or 13 months) and paternity leave (34 weeks), neither of which are guaranteed in the United States.** Now, with this new 6 hour workday, your typical Swedish worker will work 458 fewer hours every year than the average American (this even includes part-time workers)—that’s 19 full days.

Yes, you should be angry. People in Sweden are living the American dream better than we are.

Preston Hemmerich is the Content Manager for 301 Digital Media, overseeing,, and more. He enjoys covering food, politics, travel and writing sad attempts at humor.

*This figure does not account for hourly employees, only salaried employees. Some businesses have applied a wage increase to hourly employees to make up for lost hours, but that is not a country wide practice. In reality, this de facto raise disproportionately benefits higher income individuals working salaried jobs.
**Collectively, citizens of the U.S. get nowhere near 41 paid days off a year that Swedish citizens do.

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Pro-Clinton Columnist In Bed With Clinton Staffer — Literally



Jonathan Capehart and Nick Schmit

Over the past 24 hours, a flurry of scandal has unfolded involving MSNBC contributor, Washington Post opinion columnist and prolific Clinton supporter Jonathan Capehart.

Writing an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Capehart sought to sling mud at Bernie Sanders — Swiftboat-style — in questioning Bernie Sanders’ past achievements in fighting for civil rights on behalf of African-American communities in the 1960s. (This, itself, isn’t even an original idea, as Capehart was simply jumping on the Establishment’s anti-Sander claims, which continue time after time to be disproved or found to be outright lies. (Here, here, here and here — in case you’d like some background reading.)

But that is not the central thesis of this story. Instead, let’s look a little more closely at Jonathan Capehart himself, and the flurry of lies and misdirections for which he is quickly becoming known.

Capehart, who currently offers his opinions to readers of the Washington Post and viewers on MSNBC, has spent the past five years in a long-term relationship with Nicholas Schmit IV, a long-term Clinton aide. Schmit has served in various capacities for the Clinton family and the US State Department under Clinton since 2004. You can see his full resume on LinkedIn, but we’ve summarized the key timeline of his career here.

2004 – 2007
Schmit graduated from The University of North Dakota in August 2004, and joined the Clinton Foundation, serving in various roles ending with Director of Finance, before leaving to work on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign.

2007 – 2008
Schmit worked as the Travel Compliance Director for the Hillary Clinton for President campaign, before her primary defeat by now-President, then-Senator Barack Obama.

2008 – 2013?
Schmit returned to the Clinton Foundation as a consultant, before being tapped to join the Clinton-led State Department in various capacities. His last update on LinkedIn shows him moving into the role of Assistant Chief of Protocol for Diplomatic Partnerships at the State Department in February 2013, the same month that Clinton left the State Department.

Whether the last (or any) of the promotions were based on merit or simply Clinton politics as usual is unclear, but regardless, a clear pattern has emerged.

Flash forward to now. In the middle of a heated and contentious primary season that pits the Clinton-establishment against the sweeping change and progress that Sanders promises, and which Obama promised and failed to deliver in full.

If it feels like history is repeating itself, that may be because history is repeating itself, and Clinton is running the same campaign with which lost in 2008.

Instead of taking a neutral position on the matter to help further Clinton’s policy agenda and talk about how Clinton will move the country forward, Capehart has gone out of his way, time and again, to ensure that the Clintons are presented as the only reasonable choice for the Democratic party. The idea of “politics as usual” as a bad thing is clearly lost on him.

It’s clear that Clinton is the favorite of the Democratic party establishment — despite her arguments that being a woman somehow makes her a non-establishment outsider — when 38.0% of the popular vote translates into 50% of the delegates, thanks to the magic of “party rules”. (More about that here.) So it’s not surprising that Capehart may have a preference for Clinton, and it’s not his political positions that are at issue. He is welcome to support Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Bush, or Jill Stein*, should he choose.

The real issue, it would seem, is that despite the fact that Capehart and Schmit have a history of mixing their personal and professional lives, including Capehart attending official State Department events with Schmit, and that they share a home and life together, Capehart, never saw fit to disclose this conflict of interest, despite his years of work as a journalist blogger.

Instead of admitting his mistake and moving on, Capehart has doubled-down and attacked anyone who questions his “journalistic integrity” as an opinion writer, refusing to acknowledge that his story was factually inaccurate and has already been widely disproven:

Whether there’s really any direct connection to the Clinton campaign today remains to be seen and is up for question, but it should not be forgotten that Capehart’s long-term partner has the Clinton’s to thank for his career and that, by extension, the Clinton’s have helped pay for his Washington, DC duplexAnd knowing that, doesn’t it make the whole situation just seem a little slimy and tawdry?

* Disclosure: We love Jill Stein, but understand that she lacks the name recognition to win. (See, Jonathan, that’s how disclosure works.)

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Can Mindfulness Meditation Reduce Police Brutality?



police brutality black lives matter hands up don't shoot sign protests

Let’s face it–America has an unfortunate history of police violence used to settle disputes. As of late, there’s been a strain amongst civilians and “The Boys in Blue” largely because of incidents of extreme brutality such as the in-transit death of Freddie Gray, Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha’s broken leg that derailed a stellar season and potential championship run, and the death of Eric Garner which further catalyzed the Black Lives Matter initiative. These incidents are not necessarily indicative behaviors of all officers of the law, but they do highlight a startling trend of over reaction and opting for physical intervention over patient analyzation and verbal reaction in non-life threatening scenarios.

With the recent trend, some people – like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, who is under fire for his department’s shooting of LaQuan McDonald –have called for more oversight of our nation’s police forces, while others have called for officers to don 24/7 video cameras to hold them more accountable of their actions. Both are more direct reactions to the problem of police brutality, and I’m certain other effective channels are being explored, but one slightly more “out of box,” conceptual approach could come in the form of optional mindfulness meditation training amongst police forces.

Mindfulness meditation and its concurrent learning practices are well regarded amongst most modern psychologists, though hard evidence of meditation’s benefits have only recently begun to be recorded. That being said, the benefits of mindfulness meditation are surprisingly applicable to overwrought, stressed police officers that could benefit from some sort of emotional release in lieu of unleashing physical abuse. Some empirical benefits of mindfulness mediation include

  • Decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, along with fatigue, and anxiety.
  • Sharpens focus of attention and suppresses acceptance of distracting information.
  • Less emotional reactivity, which is likely the key contributor to the instances of police brutality. If emotional reactivity can be curbed, the possibility of non-violent resolutions would hopefully be more likely.
  • More cognitive flexibility, another support parallel that would hopefully enable officers to be able to react intelligibly and logically, before resorting to physical force.

There are countless other qualitative benefits to mindfulness mediation that could prove highly beneficial to police officers across the country while making strides toward a more compassionate and deliberate police force. Mindfulness meditation has already made its way into certain portions of the American police force, as Hillsboro (OR) Police Department began its own mindfulness-training program in 2014, and has already seen substantial growth in the mental resiliency of the department’s officers. Started by Lt. Richard Goerling, the program is focused on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which he hopes will help stifle the prevalence of cynicism amongst officers of the law.

Goerling believes that the trend of over-aggression by police is “largely driven by the suffering behind the badge,” things such as PTSD, depression, and personal ware that can negatively affect an officer’s performance on the job. Granted, mindfulness meditation training may not become the most popular method of bridling the trend of police brutality in America, but it is comforting to know that there are police forces that are receptive to the idea of a low cost, low effort method of accounting for one’s actions in order to continue to protect the greater good.

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