• First Major American Athletes Comes Out

    Jason Collins of the NBA has become the first openly gay active player from a major American team sport. The 34-year-old, a center for the Washington Wizards, came out in a story he wrote for the May 6 issue of Sports Illustrated. “I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, ‘I’m different,’” he said. “If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.” He said that the recent tragedy in Boston convinced him to come out now. “Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you think more professional athletes will follow Collins' lead? Why or why not?
    • Why do you think this story made such major waves with news media?
  • An Integrated Prom at Last

    In the rural deep South, racial segregation is dying a slow death. Georgia's Wilcox County High School is helping fight for change, holding its first-ever integrated prom this weekend. Although a "white prom" was held, nearly half the school registered for this weekend's version. The prom was spearheaded by a group of four girls who campaigned at school and online (their Facebook group has 24,000 likes). They were able to raise enough for a ballroom rental, gift bags, and food. DJs and photographers from all over the country volunteered their services for the night. The school board plans to vote soon on making proms official school events, prohibiting segregation in the future.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Were you surprised by this story? Why or why not?
    • Why do you think it took so long to integrate prom at this school?
  • Bangladesh Building Collapse

    Authorities estimate that close to 100 people were killed near Bangladesh’s capital of Dhaka Wednesday morning when an eight-story garment factory collapsed. Hundreds gathered at the site of the accident—where officials fear more remain trapped under the rubble. Health Minister A.F.M. Ruhal Haque reported that more than 600 people had been rescued, and hoped that more will be added to that number. Bangladesh has received harsh criticism for its factory conditions after two other deadly fires at garment factories in the past year—one of which left 112 dead.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Should international bodies do more to assure building codes exist across the globe?
    • How could we possibly prevent such tragedies in the future?
  • Upping the Age to Buy Cigarettes

    The New York City Council is considering upping the legal age to purchase cigarettes from 18 to 21, Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced Monday. She’s counting on City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, fellow City Council members, and health advocates to support the proposed law, despite arguments from opponents that as legal adults, 18-year-olds should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to smoke. If this proposal passes, New York would be the biggest city to ban tobacco purchases for those younger than 21. “With this legislation, we’ll be targeting the age group at which the overwhelming majority of smokers start,” Quinn said.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you agree with the proposal? Why or why not?
    • What impact do you think raising the age would have on smoking? Why?
  • Bombs and Other Weapons Found By Shootout

    An arsenal of weapons including at least six bombs, handguns, and a rifle were found at the scene of the Watertown shootout between police and the two Boston bombing suspects Friday. A lone police officer first came in contact with Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev around one in the morning, Friday, and before he could call for backup, the brothers jumped out of their car and began shooting. Five other officers then arrived to what Police Chief Edward Deveau described as "a very tight area" to help in the shootout, during which an estimated 200 shots were fired in a 5-to-10-minute period and one of the brothers threw a pressure cooker bomb at the officers.

    Discussion Questions:

    • What lessons do you think Americans will take from this incident?
    • How could we be better prepared for these types of attacks?
  • Poisoned Letter

    A letter sent to Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker was found to have ricin or another poison in it, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The envelope was intercepted at an off-site Capitol facility where it was tested and then sent to Maryland for more tests. "We were told it's not as deadly as anthrax, but it's still very serious," said Senate Majority Whip *** Durbin.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think Wicker may have been targeted?
    • Do we take enough precautions to protect our elected officials? Why or why not?
  • Boston Marathon Bombing

    Two powerful explosions shook downtown Boston on Monday afternoon near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, shortly after the winners of the race were presented. By 10 p.m. Monday night, the Boston Police Department had reported that three people died and at 140 were injured. According to news reports and law enforcement officials, “small but powerful” explosive devices were behind the explosions, and officials have found at least five more devices around the Boston area that they initially believed were undetonated explosives, but later decided were likely not bombs. “We will turn over every rock,” Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said at a press conference Monday night.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Who do you think will turn out to be responsible? Why?
    • How do these events compare to September 11? Explain.
  • North Korea Targeting "Colorado Springs"

    North Korea has threatened to attack another North American city, this time Colorado Springs, where the U.S. Air Force Academy resides. North Korea, however, seems to have no idea where Colorado Springs actually is. The bellicose country has released a propaganda video showing the mountain city to be about 1,000 miles from where it actually is, putting it somewhere in Louisiana. Despite reports that the nation possibly has nuclear weapons, we don't think you should be too worried just yet.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe North Korea is a legitimate threat? Why or why not?
    • Do you personally fear activities by North Korea? Why or why not?
  • The Obama Budget

    President Obama delivered his 2013 budget to Congress in a brief press conference, saying, “Our economy is poised for progress, as long as Washington doesn’t get in the way.” The $3.77 trillion spending plan looks largely the same as the deal Republicans rejected during the “fiscal cliff” negotiations at the end of last year, but with cuts to Social Security designed to get fiscal hawks back to the table. It also calls for almost $250 billion in new spending on public works and expanded preschool education and $800 billion in new taxes, including a new 94-cent tax on cigarettes. Among the bill’s more unique provisions is $78 million for NASA to “pursue innovative approaches to visiting an asteroid.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • How do you feel about the proposed budget? Why?
    • Do you agree with Obama that the country will recover better if Washington stays out of the way? Why or why not?
  • The Passing of Margaret Thatcher

    Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher has died. Her spokesman, Lord Bell, confirmed that the 87-year-old groundbreaking politician passed away after suffering a stroke Monday morning. Thatcher became Britain’s first female prime minister in 1979, leading the country and its Conservative Party for 11 years with a notorious fierceness that earned her the nickname the “Iron Lady.” It was a stroke that ultimately prompted Thatcher to retire in 2002, after which she continued to suffer strokes and kept a very low profile in the last few months of her life.

    Discussion Questions:

    • What is Thatcher's legacy?
    • What do you think made Thatcher such a divisive figure?
  • Light Shed on Drones in Pakistan

    New details about the origins of the C.I.A.'s drone program are emerging following a New York Times report Saturday. The report alleges that the United States got permission to use airspace in Pakistan to carry out drone attacks in exchange for deploying a Predator drone on Nek Muhammad, a Pakistani enemy of the state in 2004. Pakistan's military took credit for the attack. Terms of the secret deal reportedly included Pakistani approval for each drone strike, and limiting American drones to only narrow tribal areas. Pakistan presdient Pervez Musharraf allegedly told one C.I.A. officer that the deal would not be difficult to keep up because, "In Pakistan, things fall out of the sky all the time."

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe there was an agreement between the U.S. and Pakistan regarding drones? Why or why not?
    • Do you believe we should continue using drones in Pakistan? Why or why not?
  • Obama Returning Salary

     As a gesture of solidarity with the federal workers whose income will be sacrificed as a result of the sequester budget cuts, President Obama will return 5 percent of his salary—from March 1 through the rest of the calendar year—to the Treasury. Not one to be one-upped by his own appointees, Obama made the decision to cut a check to the Treasury after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter announced they’d be doing the same. Five percent of 10 months’ worth of a presidential salary—$400,000—comes out to $16,667.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you think this is a good decision? Why or why not?
    • Is Obama doing enough to battle the budget cuts? Why or why not?
  • Death for the Aurora Shooter?

    Prosecutors are pursuing the death penalty for James Holmes, the man accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. “For James Eagan Holmes, justice is death,” the district attorney reportedly told the courtroom. Holmes’s lawyers had offered to have their client plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but prosecutors rejected the offer, deciding instead to go to trial. Holmes’s attorneys are expected to argue that he was legally insane at the time of the rampage.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Should prosecutors have accepted the plea deal? Why or why not?
    • Should Holmes be executed? Why or why not?