• Sanders Throws Hat in the Ring

    Sen. Bernie Sanders confirmed his plans to enter the 2016 presidential race in an interview with the AP. The Vermont independent, 73, plans to formally announce his bid today as the first major challenger to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic ticket. “People should not underestimate me,” Sanders said. “I’ve run outside of the two-party system, defeating Democrats and Republicans, taking on big-money candidates and, you know, I think the message that has resonated in Vermont is a message that can resonate all over this country.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you think Sanders is a legitimate threat to Clinton? Why or why not?
    • What are the strengths of his candidacy?
    • What are the weaknesses of his candidacy?
  • Nepal Earthquake Fallout

    An estimated eight million people have been affected by the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal, leaving more than 4,000 dead and 30,000 homeless, the UN said Tuesday. Though international relief has started to arrive, 1.4 million people are still in need of food aid, according to the the most recent report from the UN Office of the Resident Co-Ordinator. The death toll has hit 4,310 and officials say nearly 8,000 are injured. Thousands of people are stranded or homeless in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu, but the situation remains dire in rural areas that have been cut off by landslides and poor weather, said Surya Mohan Adhikari, an official in the district of Gorkha. Meanwhile, all surviving climbers trapped on Mount Everest have been rescued, ITV news reports

    Discussion Question:

    • How can future disasters be better mitigated?
    • What do you think the best approach to recovery will be? Why?
    • What role should the U.S. play in international disaster management? Why?
  • Shutting Down Baltimore

    Protesters angry over the death of Freddie Gray, an unarmed black man who died of a mysterious spinal injury he suffered while in police custody, promised to “shut down” Baltimore with their biggest march yet over the weekend. “We are here because of Freddy Gray. We are here because there have been no arrests made,” Malik Shabazz of the Black Lawyers for Justice said during a press conference.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe the protesters are being successful so far? Why or why not?
    • What do you think the protesters want?
    • How do you think this conflict will conclude? Why?
  • Rosie the Riveter Dies

    Mary Doyle Keefe, who posed for Norman Rockwell as the model for his famous 1943 Rosie the Riveter painting, has died at 92. Keefe met Rockwell in Vermont while she was a 19-year-old phone operator and got paid $5 for two mornings of posing. He painted Keefe (who was petite) with the body of Michelangelo’s Isaiah, who is pictured on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Rosie came to symbolize millions of American women who took over domestic jobs during World War II.

    Discussion Questions:

    • What did Rosie the Riveter represent during World War II?
    • What are present-day symbols that attempt to the do the same?
    • Do you think current efforts to build morale are as successful? Why or why not?
  • Arrests in Freddie Gray Death

    Six Baltimore officers were suspended yesterday in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man who was critically injured while in police custody. Gray was arrested "without force or incident," according to the charging document, but suffered a medical emergency during the transport and was later taken to Shock Trauma where he died Sunday. The document did not explain the emergency or how it was caused. Gray suffered a severe spinal cord injury, according to his family's lawyer and Baltimore Deputy Police Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez.

    Discussion Questions:

    • What does the suspension signify to you?
    • Do you think the officers will ultimately be charged? Why or why not?
    • How do you think citizens will respond to this incident? Why?
  • O'Malley Appears Poised to Enter Fray

    Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley came out swinging in an NPR interview a few days ago. The prospective Democratic challenger to Hillary Clinton alleged that the former Security of State is not transparent and will have problems connecting with younger voters. He went on to dismiss Florida Senator and 2016 candidate Marco Rubio's economic theory, saying that Republicans have turned America's tax code "into Swiss cheese." 

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you think O'Malley can legitimately challenge Clinton? Why or why not?
    • Do you like how O'Malley is approaching a possible campaign so far? Why or why not?
    • What can O'Malley do to improve his chances in the primary?
  • The Clintons and Foreign Donors

    According to a summary of the Clinton Foundation’s new policy, the organization will still accept donations from foreign governments—even though Hillary is running for president. Donations from Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the U.K. are permitted, while other countries are prohibited from making large donations. The Wall Street Journal notes that the new policy is “meant to strike a balance between protecting existing programs while shielding the foundation and Mrs. Clinton from charges that foreign governments are buying influence through their donations.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why does Clinton's decision to take foreign donations matter?
    • Should foreign donors be allowed to give to political campaigns? Why or why not?
    • How can we better control spending in American elections?

  • Tulsa Volunteer Deputy Charged with Manslaughter

    The volunteer sheriff’s deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma who shot and killed an unarmed man has been charged with second-degree manslaughter by the district attorney. Bob Bates said he meant to pull his Taser but instead drew his gun on a suspect who was fleeing a sting operation involving stolen guns. Bates wasn't an officer but a volunteer. Bates had donated thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment to the department before becoming a deputy. Tulsa Sheriff Stanley Glanz has said that Bates has been his friend for 50 years and that the shooting was a mistake. “How many errors are made in an operating room every week?

    Discussion Questions:

    • Should Bates have been permitted to carry a gun given his role? Why or why not?
    • What do you think about Sheriff Glanz's statements on his friendship with Bates?
    • Do you agree with the manslaughter charges? Why or why not?
  • Presidents Obama and Castro Shake Hands

    President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro shook hands and talked in Panama late last week, marking the first time in 50 years that leaders of both countries had spent any significant time together. The leaders also had a face-to-face talk over the weekend. “As the United States begins a new chapter in our relationship with Cuba, we hope it will create an environment that improves the lives of the Cuban people,” Obama told a gathering of civil society groups.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think this handshake has been such a big deal in the media?
    • Do you think the US and Cuba will ever become allies? Why or why not?
    • Once able, do you plan on travelling to Cuba? Why or why not?

  • Police-Citizen Shooting Caught on Tape in South Carolina

    The man who recorded the crucial video evidence of unarmed man Walter Scott being shot in the back by a South Carolina police officer after a traffic stop told NBC Nightly News yesterday that there was a struggle between the two men before Officer Michael Slager opened fire. “I remember the police had control of the situation,” Feidin Santana said. “He had control of Scott. And Scott was just trying to get away from the Taser.” Santana said that after he saw Slager shoot Scott, “I knew right away, I had something on my hands.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • What punishment do you believe the officer should face?
    • How do you think the media portrays this story if the cell phone footage is not revealed?
    • Should police have to wear body cameras? Why or why not?
  • Rutgers Strikes Out Greek Life

    Rutgers University announced yesterday that it is banning all fraternity and sorority house parties, effective immediately. Instead, frats and sororities must hold their events at off-campus sites where third parties serve alcohol. All other events must be canceled or else Rutgers said the chapters will be disciplined. In September, a Rutgers student died of alcohol poisoning after a house party at Delta Kappa Epsilon. 

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you agree with the ban? Why or why not?
    • Do you think the campus should do even more? Why or why not?
    • What do you think the role of Greek life is in colleges and universities?
  • Castro Emerges

    Ex-Cuban President Fidel Castro appeared in public for the first time in over a year yesterday to greet a delegation of Venezuelans, according to an official media report. The 88-year-old spent about an hour and a half at a school with 33 Venezuelans, reportedly impressing them with a firm handshake and sharp mind, according to a first-person reporter’s account in newspaper Juventud Rebelde. This marks Castro’s first public appearance since last January, at the opening of a Havana cultural center.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think Castro has been out of the public for so long?
    • How do you think Castro could impact future US-Cuban relations?
    • Do you think Castro still has influence in Cuba? Why or why not?
  • Drought and Water Preservation

    As California continues to endure a historic drought, Gov. Jerry Brown has implemented the state’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions. By doing so, he hopes to reduce usage by 25 percent. Brown’s plans include requiring large landscaped areas like golf courses and cemeteries to reduce water consumption, increase drought-tolerant landscaping, offer rebate programs to replace out-of-date appliances with water-efficient ones, and require all new homes to be water-efficient.

    Discussion Questions:

    • How successful do you believe these restrictions will be? Why?
    • Should government be able to restrict water usage? Why or why not?
    • How do you think your daily life would differ under these restrictions? Why?