American Government

Negotiating with the Taliban

06-01-2014 8:06 AM

Members of the Taliban handed over the only U.S. service member known to be held hostage in Afghanistan on Saturday morning in exchange for five Afghan detainees. Though Americans are pleased with Bergdahl's return, the government is facing scrutiny for failing to consult with Congress. There are also concerns regarding the Afghanis released from Guantanamo Bay. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defended the government's decision not to give Congress the required 30-day notice for the release of detainees because Bergdahl's health was believed to be in danger. He said U.S. intelligence had information that Bergdahl's "safety and health were both in jeopardy, and in particular his health was deteriorating." Hagel seemed very pleased with how the exchange for Bergdahl went. "No shots were fired. There was no violence. It went as well as we not only expected and planned, but I think as well as it could have …The timing was right. The pieces came together," he said. The deal, which the Obama administration has been pursuing for several years, was brokered by the government of Qatar. Some Americans, however, are questioning the release.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Do you believe the government should negotiate with terrorists? Why or why not?
  • What security risks does this exchange create in your opinion? Why?

 

Posted by william.miller

Measles on the Rise

05-29-2014 6:47 AM

People who hate vaccines but love to travel internationally have pushed U.S. measles cases to the highest level in 20 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday there are 288 cases so far this year, the largest number since 1994. “The current increase in measles cases is being driven by unvaccinated people, primarily U.S. residents, who got measles in other countries, brought the virus back to the United States and spread to others in communities where many people are not vaccinated,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases. 

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Should parents be forced to vaccinate their children? Why or why not?
  • What impact do you believe a rise in measles has on the health of the nation's citizens as a whole? Why?

 

Posted by william.miller

A Not So Secret Post

05-27-2014 8:32 AM

On Saturday, the White House accidentally revealed the name of the top CIA official in Afghanistan due to an error in a media release given to multiple news organizations. The individual was listed as “Chief of Station,” which means highest-ranking spy in a country. Although the White House quickly re-issued a new media release without the individual's name, now that his cover is blown, he and his family could be at risk. As a result, news organizations are currently withholding his name for his protection.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • How do you think this type of error could happen?
  • What lessons do you believe will be learned from this incident?
  • Do you believe the individual revealed is at risk? Why or why not?

 

Posted by william.miller

Another Mass Shooting Strikes U.S.

05-25-2014 5:08 AM

A gunman killed seven people and wounded seven more in a series of drive-by shootings near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara. The shooter was found dead of a gunshot wound in his black BMW after he exchanged fire with law enforcement officials. The spree began in the Isla Vista neighborhood and spread across nine different crime scenes, officials said. They have identified the shooter, but declined to release his name until they have a positive identification; however, social media quickly connected the shootings to a YouTube video called "Elliot Rodger's Retribution," and police confirmed that they believed the video was related to the crime.

Elliot Rodgers' parents apparently took a number of steps in the weeks proceeding Friday night's shooting to try to prevent their son from lashing out. Immediately prior to Rodgers' Friday night shooting rampage at University of California, Santa Barbara that left seven people dead, including himself, his parents opened his email with the 137-page manifesto in which he outlined his mass murder plans. Both his mother and father raced to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles and alerted the police. Months earlier, his mother had found him a therapist and had told the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department she was worried her son might be threat. Police had three cnounters with Rodgers in the past ten months, and they described him as “polite, courteous.” Tragically, they never picked up on any of the red flags. Rodgers reportedly first stabbed to death his three roommates, killed two women and injured one at a sorority house, and then fired at random people before appearing to take his own life. In addition to the seven fatalities, 13 people were injured. Police say Rodgers was found with a Glock 34 and two Sig Sauer P226s and more than 400 rounds of ammunition.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Can tragedies like this be prevented? If so, how? If not, why?
  • How would you characterize the efforts of his parents? Did they do enough to prevent this event? What about the police?

 

Posted by william.miller

Sunshine for Drone Memo

05-22-2014 11:54 AM

The Obama administration will reveal a much-speculated-about secret memo that explains the legal justification for using drones to target and kill American citizens abroad. Such strikes have been used to kill suspected terrorists like Anwar Al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born al Qaeda leader. The Justice Department will not appeal a court order that requires disclosure of the memo’s redacted version after the ACLU and New York Times filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act.

UPDATE: The White House appears to be backing off the promise.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Do you believe this memo should be released? Why or why not?
  • Do you believe drones should be used to target American citizens overseas? Why or why not?

 

Posted by william.miller

A New Low for Political Attacks?

05-20-2014 7:22 AM

Political blogger Clayton Thomas Kelly was arrested on Friday for allegedly sneaking into a nursing home and photographing a senator's bed-ridden wife. Kelly reportedly targeted Mississippi senator Thad Cochran's wife, Rose, who has been suffering from progressive dementia for over a decade and lives in St. Catherine's Village in Madison, Mississippi. Kelly runs the “Constitutional Clayton” blog and has run many pieces in support of Cochrane's GOP primary challenger, Chris McDaniel. Kelly posted the photo of bed-ridden Rose in a political “hit piece” in April. Kelly is being held on $100,000 bail for exploitation of a vulnerable adult. Both Cochrane and McDaneil denounced Kelly's behavior.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Does Cochran's wife's health have any bearing on his re-election campaign? Why or why not?
  • How can behavior such as this be more explicitly discouraged in politics moving forward?
  • What impact do bloggers have on political news?

 

Posted by william.miller

Female Top Editor Out at the Times

05-18-2014 7:57 AM

The first woman to hold the top editor position at the New York Times is gone, and the reason behind her sudden departure might have to do with a gender pay gap, according to the New Yorker. The Times announced Wednesday that Executive Editor Jill Abramson will be replaced after three years by Managing Editor Dean Baquet, who will become the first African-American to hold the top job. Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said her departure was related to an "issue with management in the newsroom," and there have been rumors that her brusque style strained their relationship. She was reportedly trying to hire a co-managing editor without consulting Baquet. Apparently Abramson also recently discovered that her pay and pension as both executive and managing editor has been less than her predecessor, Bill Keller, and confronted top management. A spokesperson for the Times disputes this, saying her compensation was not less than Keller's, and notes that pensions are based on years served.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Do you believe Abramson's gender influenced her termination? Why or why not?
  • What do you believe needs to occur for equal wages to exist for men and women in the U.S.?

 

Posted by william.miller

Breakthrough Cancer Treatment?

05-15-2014 12:22 PM

The Mayo Clinic successfully destroyed late-stage cancer by using a massive dose of measles vaccine. Stacy Erholtz had run out of treatment options for her blood cancer until she received enough measles vaccine to inoculate 10 million people as part of a medical trial. Now she's in complete remission and the cancer is undetectable in her body. Researchers have been working to test cancer-killing viruses for years, and they've been known to be effective in mice. The Mayo Clinic will launch a larger trial using the measles vaccine no later than September.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • What do you believe the impact of this finding will be?
  • Would you be willing to receive such a treatment? Why or why not?

 

Posted by william.miller

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Rove Goes After Hillary

05-13-2014 8:26 AM

Karl Rove has made some bombastic statements about Democrats before, but his latest may be the worst. Speaking at a conference last week, Rove said voters should press Clinton about her December 2012 hospitalization for a blood clot following a fall. “Thirty days in the hospital? And when she reappears, she’s wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury? We need to know what’s up with that.” Tuesday on Fox News, Rove said “I never used that phrase [brain damage], I never used that phrase. But look, she had a serious health episode. And I don’t know about you, but if you go through a serious health episode, it causes you to look at life a little bit differently. This was a serious deal,” he said. A Clinton spokesman said Rove wants to “inject the issue into the echo chamber, and he’s succeeding,” adding that Republicans are “scared of what she has achieved and what she has to offer. What he’s doing is its form of sickness.”

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Why do you think Rove made these comments?
  • What are Clinton's odds of winning the presidency in your opinion? Will she even run?

 

Posted by william.miller

Nigerian Kidnappings

05-11-2014 6:40 AM

On the night of April 14 2014, approximately 276 female students were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. The kidnappings were claimed by Boko Haram, an Islamic Jihadist and Takfiri terrorist organisation based in northeast Nigeria. President Goodluck Jonathan is already under fire for delays in the search and ignoring warnings leading up to it. Now, it appears he also rejected offers of international help in the first days following the abduction. The United Kingdom made a formal offer of help to Nigeria on April 18, four days after the mass abduction, according to the British Foreign Office. US Secretary of State John Kerry said authorities were in touch with Nigeria “from day one” and offering to provide help. Nigeria did not accept help form foreign outsiders until Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, nearly a month later. While it is unclear why Jonathan delayed accepting international help, fear that outsiders would criticize his own military's history of abuses may have been a driving factor.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Why do you think Nigerian officials may be avoiding foreign assistance?
  • What role do you think the United States should take in this situation? Why?

 

Posted by william.miller

New Vermont Food Label Requirements

05-08-2014 5:36 PM

Food and drink seem to be becoming routinely more regulated. Calorie counts, children's meal toys, and pop bans are just a few areas in which government has recently taken a stance within the United States. Most recently, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill requiring foods with genetically modified ingredients to bear labels. The law, which will be enforced in July 2016, faces a potential lawsuit from food manufacturers and federal legislation could stop states from attaching such labels. Both Maine and Connecticut have similar laws, which won't take effect until other states sign on as well.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Do you agree with the Vermont law? Why or why not?
  • Is government doing too much in terms of regulating food and drink? Why or why not?

 

Posted by william.miller

Circus Safery

05-06-2014 7:21 AM

Last Sunday, nine acrobats fell during the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus’ Legends show in Providence, Rhode Island. The general manager said the high wire snapped during the “hair hang,” when eight acrobats literally hang by their hair. Thankfully, according to Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare, the injuries are not life-threatening. He has not yet determined what caused the wire to snap, but told the Associated Press ‘‘Obviously, something went wrong.” Questions about circus safety have been raised as a result.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • How are circus acts regulated in your state? How easy was it to find this information?
  • Should more be done to assure the safety of performers? Why or why not?

 

Posted by william.miller

Filed under:

Drug Use Criminalized for Pregnant Women and Tennessee

05-04-2014 6:52 AM

Tennessee has become the first state in the country to be able to charge women for harm done to their babies due to drug use during pregnancy. The bill, which was signed by the governor on Tuesday and will go into effect on July 1, had strong opposition. Civil and reproductive rights groups argue that it will drive women away from drug treatment programs.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Do you believe pregnant women should be punished in the way the new law stipulates? Why or why not?
  • Do you think Tennessee's law will be passed in other states? Why or why not?

 

Posted by william.miller

Oklahoma Botched Execution

05-01-2014 9:44 AM

An Oklahoma execution was declared botched as an untested drug cocktail was utilized. Clayton Lockett's vein failed upon administration of drugs and the execution was halted after 20 minutes. He then suffered a "massive heart attack" and died. Lockett and another inmate, Charles Warner, were both set to be executed on Tuesday night after a string of hearings and appeals. Their lawyers argued that the state must disclose details of the drugs used, and the state Supreme Court issued a rare stay of execution.

Discussion Questions:

 

  • Should the United States continue permitting executions? Why or why not?
  • What should states be required to do in demonstrating that lethal injection drugs will be as humane as possible?

 

Posted by william.miller

NBA Owner Alleged to Make Racist Comments

04-29-2014 9:15 PM

Deadspin has published a clip of racist remarks reportedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. In the clip, Sterling allegedly tells his then-girlfriend V. Stiviano “Don't come to my games. Don't bring black people, and don't come.” In light of TMZ's leaked audio recording of a man the site claims is Sterling telling his girlfriend to stop “associating with black people,” including basketball legend Magic Johnson, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced it has rescinded his lifetime award. The National Basketball Association, however, is not moving so fast. Commissioner Adam Silver said he would not impose any sanctions on Sterling until an investigation into his alleged racist remarks is completed.

 

Discussion Questions:

 

  • If found to be true, how do you think Sterling should be punished?
  • Do you believe this represents a larger societal problem still today? Why or why not?
  • How do race and professional sports function with each other? What trends have emerged in recent years related to the two?

 

Posted by william.miller

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