• Jihadi John Comes to Light

    The BBC reports that the masked man known as Jihadi John, who appeared in several of ISIS’s beheading videos, is a Londoner named Mohammed Emwazi. U.S. officials confirmed the name to Reuters. Emwazi is described as “a Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming.” Close friends and a representative of activist group CAGE who had contacted Emwazi before he left for Syria in 2012 both confirmed his identity to The Washington Post.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think Emwazi joined ISIS?
    • How does identifying Emwazi impact efforts to curb ISIS?
    • How can the world prevent future Emwazi's from acting on their extremism?
  • Australia Tackles Terror at Home

    Australia is cracking down on extremism through a series of new citizenship measures aimed at targeting nationals involved in terrorism, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in his national-security statement on Monday. Dual nationals involved in terrorism could have their citizenship suspended or revoked while authorities may strip certain rights—including restricting the ability to leave the country—from Australian citizens who have broken anti-terror laws. Abbott also added that the laws will “clamp down on organizations that incite religious or racial hatred,” as well as announced plans to appoint a new security czar as concerns over terrorism continue to intensify.

    Discussion Questions:

    • What do you think about Abbott's approach? Why?
    • Do you think it will be successful? Why or why not?
    • Would this approach work in the United States? Why or why not?
  • Terror Threatened at Mall of America (and Others)

    A video claiming to be made by the Somali militants al-Shabaab called for "Westgate style" attacks against Mall of America, referring to the massacre in Kenya that left dozens dead in 2013. In response, the Minnesota mall says it has tightened security, and the government has addressed the threat. "In recent months, the FBI and DHS [Department of Homeland Security] have worked closely with our state and local public safety counterparts and members of the private sector, to include mall owners and operators, to prevent and mitigate these types of threats," a joint statement released earlier today said.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe these threats are credible? Why or why not?
    • Do such threats change your behavior? Why or why not?
    • What should malls do in response? Why?
  • Link between Religion and Terrorism?

    No religion is responsible for terrorism. People are responsible for terrorism,” President Obama said yesterday afternoon at a White House summit on combating violent extremism. Specifically citing al Qaeda and ISIS, Obama stressed that the U.S. is “not at war with Islam, we are at war with people who have perverted Islam.” Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz and Rudy Giuliani criticized the president for trying to disassociate ISIS from Islam, even though it calls itself the Islamic State and wants to establish a caliphate in the Middle East. Cruz called Obama “an apologist for radical Islamic terorrists” and Giuliani told a private group dinner, “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America.” The former mayor of New York City added, “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you agree with President Obama? Why or why not?
    • What do you think about the responses of Cruz and Giuliani?
    • If Obama is correct, how can we best combat terrorism? What if he is not correct?
  • New, Potent HIV Strain Found

    Scientists have discovered a new form of HIV in Cuba that could progress to AIDS within three years if left untreated, compared to other strains that usually take six to 10 years, according to a recent study. Researchers at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium monitored 73 patients who tested negative for HIV within three years but who recently contracted the virus. The patients infected with the mutated strain, which is a combination of three subtypes of human immunodeficiency virus, progressed to AIDs within three years, the study found. However, none of those patients received any treatment before the infection progressed to AIDs. Researchers are concerned the new strand could shorten the timeframe in which those infected can seek treatment before it becomes full-blown AIDS. 

    Discussion Questions:

    • What do you believe is the most significant public health concern facing the world today? Why?
    • Do we need to devote more resources to studying HIV/AIDS? Why or why not?
    • What do you think is the future of global disease?
  • Military to Allow Manning's Hormone Therapy

    The United States military has approved Chelsea Manning’s hormone-therapy treatment for transitioning to a woman. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence at the Army’s Fort Leavenworth prison after being convicted of leaking national-security secrets. The soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning sued the government for the hormone treatment. “After carefully considering the recommendation that [hormone treatment] is medically appropriate and necessary, and weighing all associated safety and security risks presented, I approve adding [hormone treatment] to Inmate Manning’s treatment plan,” stated Col. Erica Nelson in a memo last week.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Should the military have approved this treatment? Why or why not?
    • Do you believe Manning should have been convicted? Why or why not?
    • Does this decision reflect a more inclusive American military?
  • The Passing of Bob Simon

    60 Minutes journalist Bob Simon was killed last night in a car accident on the West Side Highway in Manhattan. His livery cab crashed into a Mercedes and then spun into a pedestrian area near 30th Street, the New York Post reports. The Mercedes driver claimed the cabbie had been driving dangerously. “He swerved into me. He hit me and he looked like he lost control of the car,” the Mercedes driver told the Post. Simon had reported for 60 Minutes since 1996. He began his career as a war correspondent in Vietnam, during which he won an Overseas Press Club award for covering Hanoi’s 1972 spring offensive. He also spent 40 days as a hostage in Iraq during the Gulf War. During his career, he won 27 Emmy and four Peabody awards. Simon was 73 and leaves behind a wife and a daughter.

    Discussion Questions:

    • What do you think made Bob Simon such a great reporter?
    • Do you believe journalists like Simon are still around? Who do you think is similar? Why?
    • How would you characterize the American media today?
  • More Measles...

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked the current measles outbreak and found that 121 people were afflicted by the disease between January 1 to February 6 of this year. The CDC says it is traced to the outbreak that began at Disneyland and found that the majority of those who got it were unvaccinated. Last year, there were 23 measles outbreaks, with a total of 644 cases, most occurring within the Amish communities in Ohio.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Should vaccine exemptions be permissible? Why or why not?
    • How should the CDC handle the current outbreak?
    • Why do you think measles are on the rise?

  • Jordan Turns Attention to ISIS

    In the wake of ISIS’s claims that a Jordanian air strike killed American hostage Kayla Jean Mueller and their execution of Jordanian pilot Muadh al Kasasbeh, Jordan has vowed to hunt down the terror group and “wipe them out completely.” Interior Minister Hussein al Majali told a state-run newspaper that the country will track down ISIS “wherever they are” and that this week’s air strikes were “the beginning of an ongoing process to eliminate them and wipe them out completely. Some, however, question whether Jordan can successfully do so.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you think Jordan can succeed? Why or why not?
    • Should the U.S. be more active against ISIS at this time? Why or why not?
    • Why do you think ISIS executed the Jordanian pilot in this manner?

  • News Anchor Changes Tune a Decade Later

    NBC News anchor Brian Williams on Wednesday retracted his story from 2003 that his helicopter was forced down in Iraq by RPG fire and that his life was saved by U.S. soldiers who surrounded the chopper. Williams and NBC News have repeated the claim since then, most recently at a New York Rangers hockey game last week. On Wednesday’s Nightly Newsbroadcast, Williams apologized for his false claim.

    “I made a mistake in recalling an event from 12 years ago,” he said. “This was a bungled attempt by me to thank one special veteran. I hope they [veterans] know they have my greatest respect and now my apology.”

    Williams’s admission came after crew members of a Chinook that was hit by two rockets told Stars and Stripes that the anchor wasn’t near the action. They said that Williams arrived in the area about an hour later on another helicopter after the other three made an emergency landing. 

    Discussion Questions:

    • Should Williams be punished? Why or why not?
    • Why do you think he was not more honest about the events in 2003?
    • Is there too much pressure on media to create sensational stories today?
  • Vaccines and Election 2016

    Hillary Clinton weighed in on the recent controversy over vaccinations yesterday, tweeting her support after two potential Republican presidential candidates expressed that parents should have a choice on vaccinating their children. “The science is clear: The Earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork,” she tweeted. “Let’s protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest.” Earlier Monday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suggested that parents should have a “measure of choice” on vaccinations before backpedaling on his statement. “The governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated,” a statement from his office said. Meanwhile, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told conservative talk-radio host Laura Ingraham that he’s “not anti-vaccine at all,” but that he believed “most of them ought to be voluntary.” 

    Discussion Questions:

    • Will vaccines play a role in deciding our next president? Why or why not?
    • Should vaccines be optional? Why or why not?
    • Where do you fall in the vaccine debate? Why do you think this is your opinion on the issue?
  • Bruce Jenner, Identity, and the Media in America

    People magazine confirms that former Olympian Bruce Jenner is transitioning to life as a woman. “Bruce is transitioning to a woman,” a source “close to the family” told the magazine. “He is finally happy and his family is accepting of what he’s doing. He’s in such a great space. That’s why it’s the perfect time to do something like this.” The 65-year-old is also reportedly filming his journey for a docu-series on E!

    Jenner's public decision has raised questions about transphobia in the United States, political implications, and media coverage of such issues.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Should these sorts of issues be political? Why or why not?
    • What is your response to the magazine cover above? Is it appropriate? Why or why not?
    • How can we better discuss issues like these in America?