• The Importance of Fine Print...

    Raymond Johnson was shocked when at age 26 he was diagnosed with cancer. Even more surprising, he was diagnosed with breast cancer (one percent of all breast cancer cases occur in men.) Johnson--who does not have health insurance--received the most shocking news, however, when his Medicaid claim to assist with his $10,000 chemotherapy treatments (of which he will need five or six) was denied. Johnson failed to meet a key criteria in the state-run breast cancer medicaid program; he was not a woman.

    The Department of Health and Human Services claims to realize there is a problem and that they want the federal government to help them fix it. Help, however, cannot come soon enough for Raymond.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Is the Medicaid policy discriminatory toward men? Why or why not? Why do you think this policy was adopted originally?
    • Who is to blame for this policy? Congress? The state? Bureaucrats who write the rules for the Department of Health and Human Services? How can we assure that these situations do not occur in the future?
  • American Media: Racist or Unethical?

    A Chicago news station has come under fire in the past week for broadcasting an interview with a four-year-old in which they deliberately edited the video to show a quote being taken out of context to pervert its meaning. The story , which originally aired on June 30 as part of a package about overnight violence around the city, involves a reporter asking the child, "What are you going to do when you get older?" The young boy responds: “I’m going to have me a gun!” Unfortunately, editors chose to cut the rest of the boy's actual answer.

    Citizens and groups have spoken out in opposition to WBBM's choice to edit the clip to change the context of his answer. First, critics argue that a four-year-old should not be interviewed to discuss issues related to crime and murder. More importantly, however, many have argued that the story attempts to confirm stereotypes about African-Americans in our country. While the station has apologized for what happened, questions still remain.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Why do you believe WBBM edited the video the way that they did?
    • How can we prevent incidents like this from occurring moving forward? What punishment (if any) should networks, newspapers, or other media outlets face if they intentionally alter the context of information--especially with children involved?
  • Untangling the Debt Crisis

    With only hours to spare, the House and Senate reached a compromise last week on a deal to raise the national debt limit and permit the U.S. government to be financially able to pay off last year's debts. After much partisan bickering and media attention, the immediate deal calls for 6 members of the House and 6 of the Senate to form a "supercommittee" to find ways to reduce our national deficit by $1.5 trillion.

    Pundits, politicians, and citizens alike have begun assessing who "won" with the compromise. On average, Americans have voiced more dissatisfaction than satisfaction with the outcome and many have wondered what impact the outcome will have on 2012 House and Senate elections--particularly for incumbents. Of most interest, however, has been whether President Obama or the Republican Party emerged better off. The following graphic presents the prisoner's dilemma that faced these two sides (thanks to Kyle Saunders for directing me toward this via Seth Masket).

    If both Obama and the GOP had failed to reach a compromise and held out, we would have reached financial Armageddon. Ultimately, we would have been in default and the stock market and economy would have fell further into a state of despair. If either side held out while the other agreed to a compromise, their opposition would have gained victory. Ultimately, both Obama and the GOP tried to hold out as long as possible, knowing that Armageddon was the result if neither side moved. While both Obama and the GOP have spent the days following the deal trying to convince their supporters that they walked away with the political victory, most Americans seem to feel we have ended up with a compromise that no one really likes--much like the healthcare bill.

    Given the seriousness of the discussions within our country for the past week, the question that remains is whether twelve individuals can come together and bridge the partisan divide to create workable solutions to reducing our ever-growing budget deficit in our nation.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Can six Democrats and six Republicans agree on how to reduce $1.5 trillion from the national deficit? How do you believe we could best begin to tackle this problem?
    • Was there a winner in the budget showdown? If so, who? If not, why? What will the impact of this compromise be on the 2012 elections?
  • Should Teachers Be Permitted to Friend Students on Facebook?

    On July 30, the state of Missouri passed a law outlawing teacher-student friendships on Facebook and any other social media sites that permit private communication.

    This is just one piece of the bill that's meant to protect students from predatory teachers. SB54, which will go into effect on Aug. 28, is also known as the "Amy Hestir Student Protection Act." Hestir was repeatedly molested and assaulted by her Junior High School teacher over 20 years ago. The bill requires school districts to report any allegations of sexual misconduct to state authorities within 24 hours and also states that districts will be liable if they fail to disclose suspected or known sexual abuse by teachers.

    Many teachers have voiced their displeasure with Missouri's decision--stating that they feel the state is saying they do not trust them to act in an ethical manner. Others argue that any legislatively mandated curbing of media usage risks creating a slippery slope.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Should government regulate the relationship between teachers and students? Why or why not?
    • How have social networking sites altered the way media law is understood in the United States?
  • The Rights of...Children?

    McDain's, a restaurant in Western Pennsylvania, has made news in the past two weeks after beginning a policy of banning children under age 6 from being in the establishment. Public reaction has been mixed with many supporting the owner's right to create his own policies and others fighting for the rights of these now banned children. The harshest critics, however, have argued that this ban is similar to actions taken against other minority groups throughout our nation's history.

    Discussion Starters:

    • Do you believe the decision of the restaurant is legally discriminatory toward children? Why or why not? What about toward their parents?
    • What would have to be proven to make parents and/or children a protected class according to U.S. law?
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