• Successful Drone Strike

    A U.S. drone strike killed seven suspected militants in Pakistan on Wednesday—the first attack since President Obama’s speech last week that outlined the administration’s new policy to use drones only to prevent an imminent attack. According to Pakistani security officials, one of the strike's victims was Wali-ur-Rehman, the Pakistani Taliban's number two--who was slated to eventually become the leader of the Taliban's Pakistani faction. Two others were wounded in the attack in the village of Chasma in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan. Not only was Wednesday’s strike the first since Obama’s policy speech last week, but also the first since the May 11 election in Pakistan, where the drone strikes are incredibly unpopular.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe drones should be used by the American military? Why or why not?
    • Do you think drones have been effective? Why or why not?
  • Boy Scouts to Allow Gay Members

    The Boy Scouts voted Thursday to allow gay members, months after doing an about-face on its long-held ban on permitting gay youths to participate in Scouting. But don’t rejoice yet: openly gay adult leaders are still banned. The ban on openly gay members dated back to 1991, based it on the Boy Scout oath—written in 1911—which said all Scouts must be "physically strong, mentally alert, and morally straight." Lifting the ban had support from about 60 percent of the 1,440 volunteer leaders who had gathered in Dallas for the vote. In a statement, the Boy Scouts said they would not allow themselves to be "consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue." The ban's reversal will go into effect January 1, 2014.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think the Boy Scouts have decided to make this reversal? Do you agree with it? Why or why not?
    • Why do you think gay troop leaders will continue to be banned? Do you agree with it? Why or why not?
  • Washington Bridge Collapse

    A major freeway bridge collapsed in Washington state on Thursday night, with early reports of cars and people in the water, police said. The Skagit River Bridge, which has I-5 running on it, is located between Burlington and Mount Vernon, and is about 100 miles from Seattle. Trooper Mark Francis tweeted at 7:19 p.m. that “people and cars are in the water. I’m very far away. Will update.” The truck was allegedly carrying a load too tall for the bridge when it hit an overhead girder, sending a large part of the bridge into the water. All three of the victims sustained only minor injuries. In one of the cars sent overboard, Dan Sligh recalls thinking “hold on as tight as you can” before hitting the water. Sligh and his wife were en route to a camping trip in their pickup truck.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you think America does enough to maintain security of its infrastructure? Why or why not?
    • What level of government should be most responsible for assuring bridges are safe? Why?
  • Moore Tornado Aftermath

    The Oklahoma tornado that struck the city of Moore ravaged two local elementary schools, delivered a “direct hit” on Briarwood Elementary School, in particular, according to local officials. At nearby Plaza Towers Elementary School, students from grade 4-6 were moved to a nearby building before the tornado arrived and are reportedly all accounted, but grades K-3 were still in the building. As many as 75 children may have been in the school when the storm arrived. "Students were told to go into the hallways and they were literally hugging the walls; teachers laying on top of kids,” said one KFOR reporter. The station reports that the bodies of seven children have been recovered and 20-30 more children are believed to still be inside the building. Rescue teams don't expect to find more survivors. So far, the AP reports that at least 51 are confirmed dead because of the tornado.

    A day after the tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma, was classified as an EF4, the National Weather Service upgraded its status to a scale-topping EF5, which the tornado achieved with winds over 200 miles per hour. The Weather Service said the storm's path was 17 miles long and 1.3 miles wide. Of 1,000 tornadoes to hit the U.S. each year, only about one achieves EF5 status. As the storm's power rose on the scales, its human toll was lowered: after having reported as many as 91 dead Monday night, officials revised the death count to 24.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Is there a way for our country to better prepare for such disasters?
    • How do you believe the United States can best assure Moore is rebuilt?
  • Fox News Reporter Spied On

    According to The Washington Post, the Department of Justice examined Fox News reporter James Rosen’s personal emails, phone records, and visits to the State Department in order to investigate a leak of classified information. Rosen came to the attention of the DOJ after writing an article about CIA analysis of how North Korea might respond to sanctions. The DOJ traced the leak back to State Department worker Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, who now faces charges for leaking intel. Unlike the AP investigation, however, the reporter may also face charges as a “co-conspirator.”

    Discussion:

    • Do you agree with the government targeting Rosen? Why or why not?
    • How do you believe this situation will ultimately resolve? Why?
  • Female Refugees in Syria

    Women and children reportedly make up three quarters of Syrian refugees, and they face unique challenges in the camps. RH Reality Check reports from Al Zaatari, one of the largest camps in Jordan, where many women struggle with post-traumatic stress after having been raped in their war-torn home country. Others must deliver babies in the underserved camp, where it is difficult even to obtain sanitary pads. What’s more, “Al Zaatari’s toilets are unlit so many woman are terrified to use them at night.” Humanitarian groups hope to improve conditions with more lanterns and better-trained midwives.

    Discussion Questions:

    • What can the world do to provide better amenities for refugees?
    • How would you describe the situation at Al Zaatari?
  • Missing Cleveland Girls Found Alive

    This should give hope to desperate families everywhere. Cleveland police say they've found three missing women who disappeared as teens from the same neighborhood around the turn of the century. Michelle Knight, now 32, disappeared in 2002; Amanda Berry, 27, was last seen in 2003; Gina DeJesus, 23, went missing in 2004. The women were found in a house along with several children after Berry made a frantic 911 call, saying she had been kidnapped, "missing for ten years," and knew she had been "in the news." The three women have since checked into a local hospital and three brothers have been arrested. Neighbors said the house was always dark, with boarded-up windows, and that a man always entered through the back door.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Who should get the credit for these women being found alive? Why?
    • How would you describe the individual in the video who initially found the women? Is he a hero? Why or why not?
  • Jodi Arias Found GUILTY

    Bringing the most salacious trial since Casey Anthony’s to a dramatic close Wednesday afternoon, jurors found Jodi Arias guilty of first-degree murder. The jury spent just three days in deliberation, following a nearly four-month trial that included tales of sex, lies, and even a bloody shower. Arias, a former waitress in California, claims that she killed her 30-year-old ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in self-defense. The prosecution presented Arias as a manipulative liar and boyfriend killer. Alexander was killed five years ago after enduring more than a dozen stab wounds, a slit to the throat, and a gunshot wound. Arias was placed on suicide watch Wednesday after saying she preferred the death penalty to life in prison.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you agree with the verdict? Why or why not?
    • Do you think she should be executed? Why or why not?
  • Biblical Verses and High School Football

    A Texas court ruled Wednesday that cheerleaders in a small town are allowed to display Bible verses on banners at football games. A judge ruled the their actions didn't violate the Constitution after controversy began in September when the Freedom From Religion Foundation got a complaint about the banners and the superintendent banned them. The cheerleaders sued the school district, arguing their religious and free-speech rights were being violated.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you agree with the Court's ruling? Why or why not?
    • Do you believe this matter should have been political? Why or why not?
  • An Online Sales Tax Coming?

    The U.S. Senate took a cue from retailers and states by passing a bill that would subject online shopping to state sales tax, with 69 to 27 in favor. States currently can only require online retailers to collect tax if the store has a brick-and-mortar setup in the state. President Obama has voiced support for this measure, but it is expected to be a tougher sell in the House, where conservatives view it as a tax increase.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you agree with an online sales tax? Why or why not?
    • Do you think this measure will ultimately become a law? Why or why not?
  • LaPierre and the NRA

    Wayne LaPierre returned to the spotlight with an inspiring speech at the National Rifle Association's convention in Houston, Texas, on Saturday. “We will never surrender our guns, never,” LaPierre told a cheering audience. The NRA executive vice president argued that tragedies like Newtown and Aurora are being used "to blame us, to shame us, to compromise our freedom for their agenda." He also noted the recent defeat of a background check bill in the Senate, saying it would have done nothing to prevent mass shootings.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe in gun control? Why or why not?
    • Why do you think the NRA is so powerful in the United States?
  • Israel Strikes Syria

    CNN reports that the U.S. now says that Israel probably conducted an airstrike in Syria on Thursday or Friday. In this window, the U.S. reportedly has data that shows that Israel flew warplanes over Lebanon—but the Israeli warplanes probably did not enter the nation. While Israel has not commented on the situation, a source “close” to the nation’s defense said that Israel will do anything to stop the transfer of weapons from Syria to terrorists. Officials also said they had no reason to believe Israel was targeting a chemical weapons facility.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why are Israel and Syria at odds?
    • What role, if any, do you think the U.S. should play in this dispute? Why?
  • Attacking Ayotte

    New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte was confronted at a town-hall meeting in her own state on Wednesday by Erica Lafferty, the daughter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School principal who was killed in the school shooting. Lafferty first met with Ayotte in Washington earlier this month, a meeting she brought up during the confrontation. “You had mentioned that day the burden on owners of gun stores that the expanded background checks would harm,” Lafferty said. “I am just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in halls of her elementary school isn’t more important than that.” Ayotte is one of five senators being targeted in anti-gun campaigns led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former U.S. representative Gabrielle Giffords. The NRA has also poured thousands into ads supporting Ayotte, making her the poster face of the culture war over guns.

    Discussion Questions:

    • How do you react to the video? How would you describe the confrontation?
    • Do you think town hall meetings are good for government? Why or why not?