American Government

No Rush in Keystone Decision

04-20-2014 7:56 PM

The Obama administration announced late last week that it will delay a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial project that would link Canada's oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico, and has produced sharp conflicts between environmental groups and labor activists who want the construction jobs. The move drew sharp criticism from supporters, including Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat and the chairman of the Senate energy committee, who called it "irresponsible" and "nothing short of an indefinite delay." A spokesman for Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper complained the "politics" were getting in the way of the project. Opponents, including some major Democratic financiers, emphasize that the pipeline will be terrible for the environment.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Do you believe the pipeline should be built? Why or why not?
  • Do you believe that politics played a role in delaying the decision? Why or why not?

 

Posted by william.miller

Ferry Sinks Off South Korea

04-17-2014 6:28 AM

At least seven are dead and 287 are still missing after a South Korea ferry sank on Wednesday morning. An announcement to stay put was broadcast over the speakers, telling passengers, including 300 high-school students, that "If you move, it's dangerous." Survivors say they put on life jackets and jumped into the water to escape the capsizing vessel. A massive rescue operation has been searching the cold water for missing passengers, but conditions are making the search difficult. Reports indicate that 476 people were aboard the ferry.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Are transportation regulations in some countries too lax? Why or why not?
  • What do you think happened? What news sources do you find most credible and explaining the possible causes of the ferry sinking?

 

Posted by william.miller

Disbanding the Demographics Unit

04-15-2014 3:06 PM

The New York Police Department has stopped its secret program that sent undercover cops to spy on Muslim communities. The squad, known as the Demographics Unit, tracked people wearing traditional Islamic clothing in neighborhoods in and around the city. The move, by new Commissioner William Bratton, is a sign the department is abandoning some controversial post-9/11 tactics.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Why do you think this unit was able to exist so long after September 11th?
  • Were you aware of this unit prior to reading the above information? Why do you think it was not more publicly discussed?

 

Posted by william.miller

Murders at Kansas Jewish Centers

04-13-2014 10:32 PM

Three people are dead following shootings at the Jewish Community Center and a Jewish assisted-living home in Overland Park, Kansas earlier today, the eve of Passover. Police said they arrested Frazier Glenn Miller, 73, a former Ku Klux Klan “grand dragon,” neo-Nazi, and Green Beret. Miller allegedly fired at five people, but missed two of his targets. William Lewis Corporon, a local doctor, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, were killed at the community center. The third victim was killed at the Village Shalom senior living facility, but has not been publicly identified yet. Miller yelled “Heil Hitler!” from the back of the police car as he was taken away.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • How can events like this be better prevented in the future?
  • How can individuals like Miller be shown the errors in their thinking before events like this happen?

 

Posted by william.miller

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Sebelius Leaves the Obama Administration

04-10-2014 3:39 PM

Kathleen Sebelius is resigning after five years of serving as the Health and Human Services secretary and overseeing the Affordable Care Act rollout. President Obama accepted her resignation this week, and said he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to succeed her. While officials say Sebelius, 65, chose to resign and was not forced out, it was clear that the Obama administration was displeased with her handling of the health-care overhaul. When Obama announced the successful enrollment of 7 million Americans in health-insurance exchanges last week, Sebelius was notably absent from his side.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Do you believe Sebelius was successful in her position? Why or why not?
  • Do you believe Sebelius was pressured to resign? Why or why not?

 

Posted by william.miller

A New Republican Sex Scandal

04-08-2014 7:14 AM

Freshman Republican Congressman Vance McAllister of Louisiana, who won his special election last November running as a conservative Christian with the endorsement of the Duck Dynasty family, has been caught on video kissing one of his staffers a few days before Christmas. The Ouachita Citizen of West Monroe, Louisiana, posted a surveillance video of McAllister kissing a woman who, according to federal payroll records, has been employed as a part-time aide since the day after his election. McAllister said in a statement "There's no doubt I've fallen short and I'm asking for forgiveness. I'm asking for forgiveness from God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve.”

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Should this scandal cause voters to question McAllister's capabilities?
  • Why are fidelity scandals in the news so often these days?

 

Posted by william.miller

A Troubling Death

04-06-2014 12:58 PM

According to her family, 80-year-old grandmother Maria de Jesus Arroyo was still alive when the White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles put her in a body bag and then into a freezer, where she froze to death trying to escape. The case, which was previously thrown out on statute-of-limitations grounds, was revived by a California appeals court on Wednesday. Arroyo was declared dead in 2010 after a cardiac arrest and was placed in a body bag face-up in the hospital's freezer. But when she got to the mortuary days later, the bag was face-down, half-way unzipped, and her face had a broken nose, bumps, and bruises. At first the family thought it was because the body was mishandled, but according to their pathologist, “I do not believe these wounds could occur post-mortem. There is only one apparent explanation: Mrs. Arroyo was alive when she was placed into a refrigerated unit."

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Should the family be permitted to sue? Why or why not?
  • How can incidents like this be prevented in the future?

 

Posted by william.miller

Campaign Donation Caps Disappear

04-03-2014 11:43 AM

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down another campaign-finance rule, this time one limiting how much one person can give to multiple candidates, party organizations, or political action committees. The law previously set an aggregate limit on contributions at $123,200 for 2013 and 2014, and a separate cap of $48,600 on contributions specifically for candidates. Yet the McCutcehon v. FEC decision has now changed that. The court did leave in place a cap on individual donations to an individual candidate, which is now $2,600 per election. The decision predictably split the court’s conservative and liberal justices. Concerns regarding the impact have immediately begun surfacing.

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the decision? Why?
  • What impact do you think this will have on future elections? Who will it impact the most? Why?

Posted by william.miller

General Motors CEO Under Fire

04-01-2014 7:17 AM

General Motors CEO Mary Barra testified in front of Congress earlier today to address faulty ignition switches that has been linked to 13 deaths and dozens of crashes in recent years. Barra revealed GM had hired lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, who handled the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund and BP oil spill to devise compensation plan for the crash victims. Barra has been CEO since only January 15, and by GM’s own chronology, the problem with the cars in question began as early as 2001. "It came to light on my watch, so I am responsible for it," she said. “Today’s GM will do the right thing.” Barra admitted it was “very disturbing” to hear reports that previous GM officials did not fix the ignition problems because of the "lead time required, cost and effectiveness."

Discussion Questions:

 

  • How would you describe Barra's main message?
  • Do you believe General Motors could have been more proactive? Why or why not?

 

Posted by william.miller

Colbert in Trouble over Twitter

03-30-2014 6:32 AM

Stephen Colbert got in trouble Thursday after his show’s verified Twitter account tweeted, "I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever." The tweet, which was deleted, was in reference to an episode in which Colbert mocked Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder's announcement of the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation as a PR move over controversy surrounding the team's name. It turns out that for a lot of people on Twitter, the satirical tweet went too far, and #CancelColbert began trending. On Friday, an apology was published on the Twitter account saying it was run by Comedy Central not Colbert: "For the record @ColbertReport is not controlled by Stephen Colbert or his show. He is @StephenAtHome Sorry for the confusion #CancelColbert."

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Do you think Colbert should bee cancelled over the Tweet? Why or why not?
  • What would be the best means of apologizing? Why?

 

Posted by william.miller

Obamacare Goal Exceeded

03-27-2014 1:59 PM

More than six million people have signed up for health insurance plans via federal and state exchanges since October, the Department of Health and Human Services reported today—just four days before the March 31 deadline to enroll. The newest numbers mark a victory for the Obama administration, having surpassed the goal set by the Congressional Budget Office to determine whether the system set up by the president’s Affordable Care Act would be sustainable.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Do you think six million signups represent success for the Affordable Care Act? Why or why not?
  • How do you think the Department of Health and Human Services got to six million signups?

 

Posted by william.miller

The First Unusual Ad of the Next Cycle

03-25-2014 8:20 AM

Joni Ernst is looking to castrate Washington and “make 'em squeal.” In her first TV ad campaigning for U.S. Senate, the 43-year-old Iowa Republican looks seriously into the camera and declares, “I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.” Ernst, one of five GOP candidates looking to succeed retiring Democrat Tom Harkin, is aiming to balance the budget by cutting wasteful spending and repealing the Affordable Care Act. With polls showing Iowa Democrats have a good chance of holding the seat, Ernst might be the one squealing.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • How would you describe the ad? Do you think it would be effective? Why or why not?
  • Do you believe Ernst will win the seat? Why or why not?

 

Posted by william.miller

Alice in Arabia Cancelled Before Beginning

03-23-2014 9:54 AM

ABC Family has decided not to move forward with the pilot for Alice in Arabia after an outcry from Muslim groups. The show came under fire on Friday after BuzzFeed obtained a script, which outlined the story of an American teenage girl who is kidnapped by her extended family in Saudi Arabia and forced to live with them. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which led the protest, asked ABC to meet to discuss “concerns about potential stereotyping” in the show, and said the network had decided to cancel it instead.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Why do you believe the series was ultimately cancelled? Do you agree with the decision? Why or why not?
  • How do you think issues such as this can be publicly discussed in an effective manner?

 

Posted by william.miller

Twitter Leaves Turkey

03-20-2014 8:13 PM

On Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan told a rally in Bursa that “We will eradicate Twitter.” He added “I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic.” It appears Erdoğan utilized a recently passed and controversial law that allows the government to shutdown sites due to “privacy violations.” Last month, he said Twitter bots, what he calls the “robot lobby,” targeted the government, and he has also threatened to block Facebook and YouTube. Twitter is currently investigating the claims that it has been banned and told users alternative ways to tweet via SMS. The U.S.--as expected--responded quite negatively. Despite the ban, Twitter activity continues within the country's borders.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Why do you believe Erdoğan issued the ban?
  • What do you think the long-term impact of this ban could be?

 

Posted by william.miller

Mumps in the Midwest

03-18-2014 5:03 AM

Public-health officials confirmed that almost two dozen people at Ohio State University have been newly infected with the mumps. Three individuals had been temporarily hospitalized but have since been released. While it is unclear how the outbreak began, authorities are focusing on those infected to find any links and urge students and faculty to take extra precautions. The disease, which typically spreads through saliva, can infect anyone who has not been previously infected or vaccinated. Symptoms of the contagious disease include fever, muscle aches, and headaches.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Should colleges require vaccinations prior to enrolling on campus? Why or why not?
  • Why do you believe mumps is making a comeback? How can it be prevented?

 

Posted by william.miller

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