• Greece Will Miss Key Payment to IMF

    Greece won't repay its debts to the International Monetary Fund by its deadline today, according to a government source speaking to the Wall Street Journal. The country owes a $1.7 billion payment to the IMF and will default if it's not paid in time. Greece's bailout program will expire at the same time after the request for an extension was rejected over the weekend. The prime minister has called for a referendum vote to ask the citizens if they support a bailout deal that involves budget cuts and tax increases.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Should the IMF assist Greece? Why or why not?
    • How will this impact the Eurozone?
    • What will happen to Greece's economy moving forward?
  • A Rainbow on the White House

    In celebration of the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, the White House was illuminated in rainbow lights on Friday evening. Earlier, President Obama hailed the ruling as “thunderbolt”-like justice for gay and lesbian couples. “Today, we can say in no uncertain terms that we have made our union a little more perfect,” he said. On Friday evening, White House aides and around 100 onlookers gathered on the North Lawn to view the lights.

    Discussion Questions:

    • How would you summarize Bill O'Reilly's concerns in the video above?
    • Should President Obama have colored the White House the day of the ruling? Why or why not?
    • Do you think some states will attempt to not follow the Supreme Court's order? Which? Why or why not?
  • Not in His House!

    President Barack Obama shut down a heckler yesterday during an event celebrating LGBT Pride Month at the White House. Transgender activist Jennicet Gutiérrez interrupted Obama and began shouting about ending the deportation of LGBT immigrants before she was escorted from the room. Obama wouldn’t tolerate the interruption, telling Gutiérrez, “Listen, you’re in my house.” The crowd erupted into jeers before the president continued, “Shame on you, you shouldn’t be doing this.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you agree with how President Obama handled the situation? Why or why not?
    • What can be done to prevent such hecklers?
    • Do you think such tactics are useful for interest groups? Why or why not?

  • Wal-Mart Pulls Confederate Flag from Shelves

    Wal-Mart is set to stop selling all merchandise bearing the Confederate flag throughout its stores, according to a CNN report Monday. “We never want to offend anyone with the products that we offer. We have taken steps to remove all items promoting the Confederate flag from our assortment—whether in our stores or on our website,” said Walmart spokesman Brian Nick. The retailer currently sells the flag itself, as well as T-shirts and belt buckles featuring it. The ban is the latest in a series of contentious debates over the flag’s lingering presence in modern-day America. 

    Discussion Questions:

    • Should Wal-Mart stop selling the flag? Why or why not?
    • What does the Confederate flag mean in your opinion?
    • Should South Carolina remove the flag? Why or why not?
  • Woman to Appear on $10 Bill

    The U.S. Treasury announced last week that beginning in 2020, a woman’s face will replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said he’s looking for public input on which female historical figure should become the first to appear on U.S. paper currency for the first time in 119 years. Hamilton will remain either on the bill’s reverse side or in a separate series while the 1.9 billion $10 bills in circulation are likely to last another 10 years. No woman has appeared on a new currency since Martha Washington on a $1 silver note until 1896. Pocahontas was the first female, appearing on the $20 note beginning in 1865. 

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you believe this change is being made?
    • What woman do you think should be put on the bill? Why?

  • Trump Throws Hat in the Ring

    Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president during a speech at Trump Tower in New York earlier this week. “We need somebody that literally will take this country and make it great again. We can do that,” he said. “...So ladies and gentleman, I am officially running for president of the United States.” Trump’s one-liners were unlike any heard in recent memory by a presidential candidate. For instance, “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” In 2011, Trump flirted with running for the GOP nomination while demanding President Obama’s birth certificate.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you think Trump is a legitimate candidate? Why or why not?
    • Why do you think Trump is running?
    • What does his candidacy say about the current state of the Republican Party?
  • Rachel Dolezal Scandal

    NAACP Spokane President Rachel Dolezal began her public ordeal by fighting back against critics calling her out for lying about being black. "I don't give two shits about what you guys think," Dolezal said in an interview last Friday with the U.K.'s Sky News. The national NAACP said it “stands behind” her, adding, “One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership.” Public records show Dolezal is the biological daughter of Ruthanne and Lawrence Dolezal, who are both white and exposed their daughter in an interview last week.

    She later opted to resign, however. But, she still told NBC’s Today show that she doesn’t think of herself as white. “I identify as black,” Dolezal said, adding that she was first identified as “transracial” when she was working in Idaho, and then people started identifying her as biracial. Dolezal said her identity as a black woman was cemented when she got custody of her adopted brother, who is black, and he told her she was his “real” mom. “I certainly can’t be seen as white and be Izaiah’s mom,” Dolezal said. Asked if she would do it all the same, Dolezal said: “I would.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Should Dolezal have resigned? Why or why not?
    • How is this situation similar and different to the recent Bruce Jenner story?
    • How do you feel the media has covered this situation?
  • The American Military and Chinese Hackers

    Chinese hackers accessed information used for security clearances for U.S. intelligence and military personnel. This is the second disclosure of a breach of federal records from the Office of Personnel Management this week. The Standard Form 86 accessed by hackers requires applicants to fill out sensitive personal information including histories of mental illness, past arrests, and previous alcohol or drug use, and Social Security numbers. Information on relatives must also be disclosed, opening up a potential avenue to threaten families of spies. Hackers may have found a way into OPM by exploiting a private government contractor, Keypoint Government Solutions, ABC News reports.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Should this episode raise larger concerns about cyber security in the United States? Why or why not?
    • How should the United States respond? Why?
    • Should the United States invest more into cyber security? Why or why not? How?

  • Nobel Prize Winner Resigns After Controversial Comments

    British Nobel laureate and biochemist Tim Hunt has resigned from University College London following mass outcry over comments about women he made at a conference in South Korea. “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls,” he said. “Three things happen when they are in the lab… You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry.” Yesterday, he told a TV show that he was joking—but “did mean the part about having trouble with girls.” In a letter published to its website, University College London clarified that it “was the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms to men,” and that it did not agree with Hunt’s comments.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Should Hunt have resigned? Why or why not?
    • How large of a problem do you believe this is in society? Why?
    • How could this situation be used to educate others? Do you think it will be? Why or why not?

  • Charging Those without Insurance

    A study published yesterday found that 50 hospitals in the U.S. are charging uninsured patients more than 10 times the actual cost of care. Of those 50 hospitals, all but one is owned by for-profit entitites, while 20 of the facilities are located in Florida, according to the study published in Health Affairs. Community Health Systems operates 25 of the hospitals on the list while Hospital Corp. of America operates 14 facilities. The most expensive hospital is North Okaloose Medical Center in the Florida Pandhandle, where uninsured consumers are charged 12.6 times the actual cost of patient care. In comparison, a typical U.S. hospital charges 3.4 times the cost of patient care, researchers said.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think hospitals do this?
    • Should hospitals be able to do this? Why or why not?
    • How could these scenarios be remedied?
  • Prison Escape in New York

    Two men convicted of murder escaped the Clinton Correctional Facility in New York by cutting through the walls in their cells, scaling a cat walk and finally emerging through a manhole cover a block away. At a press conference, Governor Andrew Cuomo said the men used a series of tunnels, potentially connected to the prison's heating pipes and inner workings, to get themselves to the manhole. Officials are now investigating how the men, Richard Matt and David Sweat, were able to access the power tools used for the elaborate plan.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Are American prisons secure enough?
    • Do you believe the escapees received help from someone inside? Why or why not?
    • How should law enforcement most effectively work to find the escapees? Why?

  • Terrorist was Targeting Geller

    CNN reports that conservative activist Pamela Geller was the target of a beheading plot by Boston terror suspect Usaama Rahim, who was killed by police earlier this week. Geller organized the “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Texas, where two Muslim gunmen were killed. In an interview with CNN yesterday, Gellar said, “They targeted me for violating Sharia blasphemy laws. They mean to kill everyone who doesn’t do their bidding and abide by their law voluntarily. This is a showdown for American freedom. Will we stand against this savagery or bow down to them and silence ourselves?”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why was Geller targeted?
    • Should we do more to combat terrorism within the United States? What could we do?
    • Should contests like the one Geller sponsored be held? Why or why not?
  • TSA Under Fire for Poor Performance

    The Transportation Security Administration’s acting administrator was reassigned yesterday after investigators working undercover to smuggle fake explosives and forbidden weapons through TSA airport security were successful in 67 of the 70 tests. Melvin Carraway, who took over as acting head in January, was reassigned to a Homeland Security program coordinating with local law-enforcement agencies. The checks were conducted by Homeland Security “red teams” that posed as passengers. In one test, agents failed to find an explosive strapped to a tester’s back even during a pat-down. The nomination for Coast Guard Vice Adm. Pete Neffenger to take over the role permanently is awaiting Senate confirmation. 

    Discussion Questions:

        Why do you think the TSA's performance was so poor?Does TSA receive too much money from the federal budget? Why or why not?How can we improve performance in this agency?