• Obama and Romney Have Lunch

    The former presidential rivals Barack Obama and Mitt Romney dined together this afternoon for a conversation focused on “America’s leadership in the world and the importance of maintaining that leadership in the future." Right. It was Romney’s first trip to the White House since the election, and here are all the deets, gurl! Romney arrived in a black SUV just after 12:30 p.m. wearing a gray suit and blue-striped tie. They ate turkey chili and Southwestern grilled chicken salad. Romney congratulated Obama on his success, but Obama did not discuss any opportunities in his administration. When he left, Romney promised to keep in touch.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you believe the two met for lunch?
    • Do you think this is a positive sign for the future of cooperation in our country? Why or why not?
  • Sandy v. Katrina

    Making a plea Monday for tens of billions of dollars in federal aid, Governor Cuomo argued that the New York area needs the money because Hurricane Sandy was “more impactful” than the Gulf Coast’s deadly Hurricane Katrina. Cuomo acknowledged the higher death toll from Katrina, but said Sandy had a greater economic impact because it “affected many, many more people and places.” Comparing the two storms “puts this entire conversation, I believe, in focus,” he said, estimating that the storm could cost the state nearly $42 billion.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe Cuomo is correct? Why or why not?
    • Should the federal government give this much money to New York? Why or why not?
  • Araft Death Probe

    When Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat died in 2004, other Palestinian officials called foul on the Israeli government, claiming he had been poisoned. The accusations were written off at the time, but recent evidence of lethal traces of radioactive material detected in Arafat's clothing have given new life to suspicions Arafat may have met an untimely end. Since tests on the clothing were inconclusive, experts decided to examine Arafat's remains, and an exhumation is now scheduled for Tuesday. Investigators from Switzerland, France, and Russia will each take bone samples to be tested in their home countries.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why is Arafat being exhumed?
    • Do you believe there is merit in exhuming his body?
    • What do you think will happen if it is found that he was assassinated?
  • Hacking into...France?

    According to French magazine l’Express, the U.S. government used a malware system called Flame to hack into computers belonging to senior French officials—including those in former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s office—during the last days of his presidency. It’s the same malware system that was initially developed to spy on and sabotage the Iranian nuclear program. U.S. officials may have been able to record conversations, screenshot intel, and copy files from the computers they hacked. U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano would not confirm or deny the story. This is not the first time the U.S. has been accused of utilzing Flame for these purposes.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why might the U.S. have done this to Sarkozy?
    • Why might the U.S. have done this to Iran?
    • Should the U.S. government utilize these measures? Why or why not?
  • The Next Secretary of State?

    President Obama hasn’t nominated U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to replace outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yet, but that isn’t stopping Republicans from preemptively protesting. Ninety-seven House GOP members—who have no say in the confirmation process—sent the president a letter arguing Rice either “willfully or incompetently misled the American public in the Benghazi affair.” The letter is the latest GOP attempt to block Rice’s nomination, after Sen. John McCain vowed to keep her from the job. Rice has several defenders, who say she based her controversial comments on CIA-vetted intelligence.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think Republicans dislike Rice?
    • Do you feel their actions were appropriate? Why or why not?
    • How would you characterize McCain's sentiments?
  • The Battle between Hamas and Israel

    As the death toll in Gaza rose to 45 Saturday, neighboring countries began to take sides. The Arab League announced it supports Palestinian and Egyptian efforts to stop the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Especially important for Gaza occupiers is the backing of Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey, all U.S. allies with democratically elected governments. Not only does this represent a shift in the Middle East overall, where many leaders were once wary of Hamas’s hardline Islamist ideology, but the group’s new friends will help to give it a stronger reputation internationally. What that reputation will be has yet to be determined. 

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why has violence broken out between the two sides?
    • How is the current conflict different from others in the past between the two?
    • What do you expect the outcome to be? Why?
  • Director of BBC Resigns Over Story

    The BBC’s director-general, George Entwistle, has resigned from the network after a controversial program about child abuse aired on Newsnight. The broadcast wrongly implicated a political party member, Lord McAlpine, in the abuse case—which Entwistle later claimed he knew nothing about. “In the light of what has happened here I wish this was referred to me, but it wasn’t. I found out about the film the following day,” he told an interviewer. On Saturday, Entwistle released a statement saying stepping down was the “honorable thing to do” and that "the wholly exceptional events of the past few weeks have led me to conclude that the BBC should appoint a new leader.” Tim Davie will step in as acting director-general before a permanent successor is chosen. Here is a timeline of events.

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    Discussion Questions:

    • Why did Entwistle resign?
    • Do you think he should have resigned? Why or why not?
    • How do you think this story would play out if it had happened in the United States?
  • The Petraeus Scandal

    Talk about a slow leak: apparently, high-level officials at the FBI and the Justice Department were notified late this past summer that the bureau’s agents had uncovered CIA Director David Petraeus’s extramarital affair. But the FBI did not notify anyone else until this past week because there was a lack of evidence that security had been breached. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee said she would “absolutely” demand an explanation. The case “could have had an effect on national security,” she told Fox News. “I think we should have been told.” Here is an overview of the scandal.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe the FBI was wrong to not notify anyone sooner?
    • Why did Petraeus resign?
    • Do you believe his actions merit this type of media response? Why or why not?
  • Florida Finally Decides

    It’s finally over. Florida declared President Obama has won the state’s 29 electoral votes, giving the president 332 electoral votes to Mitt Romney’s 206. In the end, Obama captured 50 percent of the state, with Romney taking 49.3 percent—giving Obama a 74,000-vote lead. The state finished counting its ballots on Saturday, although Romney conceded the state to Obama on Friday. While the outcome in Florida did not matter for determining the victor, it does provide more evidence of Obama's impressive run for a second term.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why did it take Florida till Saturday to finish counting ballots?
    • Should Romney have conceded the state sooner?
    • What makes Obama's victory in Florida important for future elections?
  • Same Sex Marriage Passes--And Other Progressive Reforms

    Voters in Maryland and Maine voted to legallize gay marriage, marking the first time states approved the initiative through popular vote. In Maryland, voters also supported the DREAM Act ballot measuret. The DREAM Act will allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at the state’s colleges if certain conditions are met, making Maryland the first in the nation to approve the DREAM Act legislation by popular vote.

     Discussion Questions:

    • Will the Supreme Court end up being decisive on these matters?
    • Will more states see this example and end up legalizing it as well?
    • Why do you believe these measures passed on election night?
  • Romney Concedes

    After more than a year and half of campaigning, a mostly unemotional Mitt Romney conceded the presidency to Barack Obama tonight, as networks gave the incumbent an 100 electoral vote lead. Speaking to supporters in Boston, the former Massachusetts governor—who earlier in the night said that he had only prepared a 1,118-word victory speech—said that he wished the president well. “This is a time of great challenges for America,” Romney said. Thanking running mate Paul Ryan and his wife Ann, Romney called his campaign an unprecedented effort for the GOP. “The nation as you know is at a critical point,” Romney said. “Our leaders have to reach across the aisle.”

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    Discussion Questions:

    • Are you surprised by the outcome? Why or why not?
    • What do you think Romney's downfall was?
    • What do you predict for Obama's second term?
  • Christie Instead of Ryan

    Republican campaign insiders told Politico on Saturday that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—recently heard proclaiming that he “doesn’t give a damn about presidential politics”—was Mitt Romney’s top pick for vice president up until the GOP nominee’s overseas trip this summer. Romney was so close to picking Christie that some campaign workers thought the decision had already been made, making the announcement that his running mate would be Paul Ryan a surprise even for his own staff. The Romney campaign denied the report, simply saying “it’s not true."

    Discussion Questions:

    • How would Christie have been better than Ryan?
    • In what ways would Christie have been worse than Ryan?
    • Would Christie have changed Romney's chances at victory? Why or why not?
  • Republicans and Rape in 2012

    And the Republican Party was so close to Election Day without anymore candidates making comments on rape. Washington state congressional candidate John Koster gave his two cents on the "rape thing" in comments captured on tape over the weekend and released yesterday. "On the rape thing, it's like, how does putting more violence onto a woman's body and taking the life of an innocent child that's the consequence of this crime, how does that make it better?" Koster said at a fundraiser. His opponent, Democrat Suzan Kay DelBene, said "dismissing" rape as a "thing" is an "awfully casual way for him to talk about it, and I think it highlights how little he understands the ramifications and seriousness of the issue."

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you think Koster's comments will impact his electoral chances? Why or why not?
    • How would you compare Koster's comments to those made by Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock?
    • Why do you think there have been so many controversies over rape this election cycle?