• Obama and Putin at Odds

    President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to seek out a political resolution in Syria and strike up a dialogue between U.S. and Russian military officials to de-escalate the conflict, but the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remained a point of contention, officials said yesterday. During their 90-minute meeting after both leaders traded barbs in their addresses to the United Nations General Assembly, Obama and Putin sat down for their first formal meeting in more than two years. Earlier in the day, Putin had said there was no alternative to working with Assad’s military in the battle against ISIS, while Obama pointed to the Syrian leader as a part of the problem in the four-year civil war. Putin told reporters after the meeting that the discussion was “very constructive and surprisingly open,” but “disputes remain.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • What strategy makes the most sense in Syria?
    • Do you believe Putin looks stronger than Obama? Why or why not?
    • How would you characterize Putin's address to the U.N. above?

  • New Drug Owner Raises...and then Lowers...Prices

    Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, is reportedly going to lower the cost of prescription drug Daraprim after a public outcry Monday. The drug commonly used to treat life-threatening parasitic infections has jumped in price to $750 per tablet, from $13.50 after being acquired by Shkreli's company. Shkreli defended the price increase in an interview. “At the end of the day, the price per course of treatment—to save your life—was only $1,000," Shkreli said. Daraprim is still underpriced relative to its peers."

    Discussion Questions:

    • How should drug prices be set?
    • Should Shkreli be able to increase the price this way?
    • Why do you think he decided to lower the price?

  • Trump Boycotting Fox News

    Donald Trump reignited his war against Fox News on Wednesday after tweeting that he would no longer appear on the network over unfair treatment. But according to Fox News spokesperson, his boycott came only after the network canceled his scheduled appearance onThe O’Reilly Factor. The spokesperson declined to say why Fox News canceled Trump’s appearance, but the move comes after Trump’s tweets on Monday criticizing The O’Reilly Factor and anchor Megyn Kelly. "When coverage doesn’t go his way, he engages in personal attacks on our anchors and hosts, which has grown stale and tiresome," the Fox News spokesperson said. Trump’s campaign replied with a statement that the candidate "stands by his statement made earlier today."

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you agree with Trump's decision? Why or why not?
    • What risk does this carry for Trump?
    • What risk does this carry for Fox?
  • Volvo and Peanut Exec Appear to Bend Bureaucratic Rules

    This week, two major stories have emerged involving individuals or companies attempting to bend bureaucratic rules.

    A former peanut company executive was sentenced to 28 years in prison yesterday for a deadly salmonella outbreak. The outbreak happened between 2008 and 2009 and killed nine people while sickening hundreds. Former Peanut Corp. of America owner Stewart Parnell was convicted of knowingly allowing the contaminated peanut butter to be shipped and faking the results of lab tests that were used to find the salmonella. 

    The U.S. Justice Department is beginning a criminal probe of Volkswagen over allegations of that the company cheated on U.S. emissions tests. The Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division is handling the probe. The company is also facing allegations from the EPA that it intentionally didn't obey air pollution rules on nearly 500,000 diesel cars sold since 2008. South Korean officials said Tuesday they have also summoned Volkswagen representatives and engineers to meet over the allegations of cheating on emissions tests.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you agree with the prison sentence for the former peanut executive? Why or why not?
    • What should happen to VW if it turns out they cheated emissions tests?
    • Why do you think companies and individuals try to skirt bureaucratic rules?

  • Fiorina into Second

    A new CNN poll from earlier today has Carly Fiorina in second place behind Donald Trump, after a strong showing in the second GOP debate Wednesday night. Trump is still in the lead with 24 percent, which is an 8 percent drop from a poll from earlier this month. Fiorina is now in second with 15 percent which represents a 3 percent increase for her. After the debate, some 52 percent of those polled said Fiorina was the winner. 

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think Fiorina is surging in the polls?
    • Do you believe Trump is a legitimate candidate? Why or why not?
    • How can Fiorina continue to move up in the polls?

  • ISIS Analysis Manipulated?

    Senior government officials said earlier this week that a group of intelligence analysts have provided investigators with documents that show senior military officers manipulating the outcome of reports about the war against ISIS. The Pentagon's inspector general, who is looking into these claims, is focusing on senior intelligence officers in Centcom which overseas military operations against the Islamic State. “The investigation will address whether there was any falsification, distortion, delay, suppression or improper modification of intelligence information,” a spokeswoman for the inspector general said. 

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe the analysis was falsified? Why or why not?
    • If it was altered, what impact does it have on our efforts against ISIS?
    • Does this shake your trust in government? Why or why not?
  • Sanders' Proposals Come at a Cost

    The total cost of programs proposed by presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders could run as high as $18 trillion over a decade, according to The Wall Street Journal. Much of that money would go toward implementing universal health-care coverage for all Americans, as well as increased infrastructure spending and free tuition at public colleges. The candidate has said these programs will ease stress on the middle class, and has unveiled tax proposals to pay for them.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you agree with Sanders' politics? Why or why not?
    • Do you think the cost estimates are correct? Why or why not?
    • What odds do you think Sanders has of winning the Democratic nomination? Why?
  • Kim Davis Continues to Make News

    A new billboard in Kim Davis’ hometown has cropped up, bearing the message, “Dear Kim Davis, the fact that you can’t sell your daughter for three goats and a cow means we’ve already redefined marriage.” Davis was jailed for five days after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The message, which refers to a Bible scripture that suggests women can be sold into a marriage, is meant “to expose this narrow interpretation by Davis and others that they use to defend their discrimination against the LGBTQ community,” according to a statement from Planting Peace, which paid for the sign. Davis was released from prison on September 8, but a judge ordered she was not to interfere with deputies issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you agree with the billboard? Why or why not?
    • Do you think the billboard will be effective? Why or why not?
    • Do you think Kim Davis was right to refuse to issue the licenses? Why or why not?
  • United CEO Out Amidst Corruption Investigation

    United Airlines announced earlier this week that its CEO and two other senior executives have left the company in the midst of a federal corruption investigation. The U.S. Attorney for New Jersey is investigating whether United tried to improperly influence officials at the Port Authority in exchange for lower operating costs at Newark Liberty Airport. In 2011, United seemingly created a new flight route from Charlotte, North Carolina to Newark to allow then-Port Authority chief David Samson to easily go to his weekend home down south. “The departures announced today are in connection with the company’s previously disclosed internal investigation related to the federal investigation associated with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey,” United said in a statement.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think the CEO stepped down?
    • Are airlines too closely tied to their regulators? Why or why not?
    • How can government better control airlines while still permitting them to turn profits?
  • Hillary Apologizes for E-mail

    Hillary Clinton apologized for using a private email server during an interview with ABC News today, the most contrite she has been to date. "That was a mistake. I'm sorry about that. I take responsibility." Earlier this weekend, Clinton said "what I did was allowed" in reference to her private email server and that no apology was necessary. On Friday during an interview with NBC News's Andrea Mitchell, Clinton said she was sorry for the confusion that the emai controversy had caused but refused to directly apologize for her actions. “I disagree with the choice that I made,” she explained. “At the end of the day, I am sorry that this has been confusing to people."

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think Hillary Clinton apologized?
    • Do you believe this was a genuine apology? Why or why not?
    • How do you think this will change public perceptions of Clinton? Why?
  • Referee Targeted...Charges Coming?

    Two Texas high-school football players have been suspended and could face charges after tackling a referee during a game last Friday night. The two defensive backs from John Jay High School near San Antonio leveled the official during the game against Marble Falls. One of the players hit the referee from behind, causing the ref’s head to snap back and the other player then piled on top. Both players were ejected from the game and suspended indefinitely from both the team and school pending an investigation. News of the hit even reached the NFL Referees Association, which condemned the hit and called it “inexcusable.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Should the players be criminally charged? Why or why not?
    • Should the players be able to play football ever again? Why or why not?
    • What discipline should the coaches face? Why?
  • The Dangers of Sexting

    North Carolina authorities arrested a 16-year-old girl in February for committing two felony sex crimes against herself when she sent a nude photo to her boyfriend last fall, TheFayetteville Observer reported earlier this week. The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office issued a warrant for the girl as both the adult perpetrator and the minor victim of two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. If convicted, the girl could be sent to prison and would be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life. Police also charged her boyfriend with five counts of sexual exploitation of minor and, if convicted, he also faces prison time and registering as a sex offender. Though sexting a photo is considered illegal in North Carolina, the age of consent for sexual activity is 16.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you agree with the decision to charge? Why or why not?
    • What do you think the outcome of the case will be? Why?
    • How can we better account for incidents like sexting within American law?
  • A Change in Abortion Views?

    Pope Francis announced early this morning that priests are allowed to absolve the sin of abortion if women “with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it” during the Holy Year of Mercy, beginning December 8. “I am well aware of the pressure that has led [women] to this decision,” the Pope wrote. “I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal.” Abortion is considered a grave sin by the Catholic Church, and the consequence is usually excommunication. Only senior church officials were previously allowed to provide absolution.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you think this policy change reflects a new direction for the Catholic church? Why or why not?
    • How would you describe the changes in Pope Francis' beliefs from a year ago (in the second video above) to today?
    • Why do you think this change happened?