• Cruz Shames Iowans to Head to Caucuses on Monday

    According to a report from the Independent Journal Review, the Ted Cruz campaign has sent out mail shaming at least one Iowa resident to caucus tomorrow. The envelope was stamped with the words "VOTING VIOLATION" and read: "You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses." 

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think Cruz sent the mailers?
    • Would the mailers make you more likely to vote? Why or why not?
    • Do you think the mailers are truly problematic? Why or why not?
  • Trump Absent from Debate

    Without Donald Trump taking centerstage, seven Republican presidential candidates squared off in Des Moines, Iowa for the final debate before the state's caucuses. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio stepped into the spotlight, accusing each other of changing their stance on the hot-button issue of immigration. Rubio said the Texas senator was "willing to say or do anything to get votes," while Cruz accused the Florida senator of capitalizing on a "politically advantageous" decision to support a 2013 Senate bill that included a pathway to citizenship. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush chimed in, accusing Rubio of having "cut and run" on the Senate immigration bill. "He cut and ran because it wasn't popular with conservatives," Bush said. The candidates also attacked Hillary Clinton, with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie saying, the Democratic frontrunner "is not qualified to be president."

    Donald Trump did not participate after disagreeing with a previous Fox-sponsored debate.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you think Trump made the right decision to skip the debate? Why or why not?
    • Who do you think won the debate? Why?
    • Who do you think will win in Iowa Monday? Why?
  • Hillary Asked about Youth Support in Iowa Town Hall

    A young man confronted Hillary Clinton at the Democratic forum in Iowa last night, asking the frontrunner why there’s not as much enthusiasm for her among young people as there is for rival Bernie Sanders. “In fact, I’ve heard quite a few people my age that think you’re dishonest,” said the young man, Taylor Gipple. Clinton responded she’s been under attack for a lot of her political career. “If you’re new to politics, if it’s the first time you’ve really paid attention... and say, ‘Why are they throwing all of that at her?’” she said. “Because I’ve been on the front lines of change and progress since I was your age. I’ve been fighting for kids and women and the people left out and left behind to help them make the most of their own lives.” Clinton added that she’s happy to see young people engaged no matter who they support, but after all these years, she’s “still standing.” Many believe Gipple's intentions were not pure, however.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe this was a fair question? Why or why not?
    • How well do you believe Clinton responded?
    • Why do you think Clinton struggles with young voters compared to Sanders?
  • Des Moines Register Chooses Nominees to Endorse

    One of Iowa’s top newspapers, the Des Moines Register, has made its endorsements for the Democratic and Republican nominations, Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio. There is little more than a week until the Iowa caucuses, which occur February 1. The paper wrote that Clinton’s “depth” of “knowledge and experience” as well as her bipartisan experience meant she got their nod. As far as Rubio, the paper said he could “chart a new direction” for the Republicans--although they also raised a series of concerns with his past performance.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe these endorsements mean much to the election? Why or why not?
    • Why do you believe Rubio was selected?
    • Why do you believe Clinton was selected?
  • Putin the Assassin?

    A former Russian spy may have been assassinated in London on the orders of the Russian president because he called Vladimir Putin a pedophile. A report by retired British High Court Judge Sir Robert Owen released earlier today concludes that Putin “probably” approved the November 2006 killing of Alexander Litvinenko after he allegedly claimed the president used his position to erase video evidence of himself having sex with underage boys. “The FSB operation to kill Mr. Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr. Patrrushev, then head of the FSB, and also by President Putin,” Owen told the Royal Courts of Justice. Owen found that Litvinenko’s criticism of the Kremlin and the FSB contributed to the motive behind the murder, which was carried out through a pot of green tea laced with the radioactive isotope polonium-210 in a London hotel restaurant.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe Putin was responsible? Why or why not?
    • If so, what should happen to Putin?
    • Do you think the UK should leave the investigation to the Russians? Why or why not?
  • Debates Move from NBC to CNN for Republicans

    The Republican National Committee officially canceled its partnership with NBC for the next primary debate, voting instead to have CNN host the event in Houston on February 26. The committee voted yesterday to replace NBC on a conference call after negotiations with the network failed, two sources familiar with the call told Politico. The RNC had initially suspended its partnership with NBC in October after several GOP candidates’ campaigns criticized CNBC’s debate performance. Though NBC won’t take part in the debate, the NBC-owned Telemundo will still co-present, according to CNN. The National Review, NBC’s original conservative-media partner, and Salem Communications,  CNN’s conservative media partner, will also participate.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think this change was made?
    • Do you agree with the change? Why or why not?
    • How important do you believe debates are to campaigns? Why?
  • Trump and Cruz Turn on Each Other

    Republican presidential frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz traded barbs late last week over the Texas senator’s White House eligibility and the real-estate mogul’s alleged liberal “New York values” in the sixth GOP primary debate. The Thursday night South Carolina clash shattered months of civility between the two candidates, who are less than three weeks away from the Iowa caucuses. Trump said the senator had a “big question mark” hanging over his head as to whether or not he could serve as president ,while Cruz accused Trump of liberal “New York values,” adding, “not a lot of conservatives come out of Manhattan, I’m just saying.” Numerous side battles broke as candidates argued over trade, immigration, and foreign policy. The exchange was somewhat unexpected given recent weeks of the two sides appearing to be working well together.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think these two chose to spar at this point in the campaign?
    • Do you believe Cruz meets the requirements to be president?
    • What impact do you believe this debate will have on the campaign?
  • U.S. Navy Detained in Iran

    Iranian state TV released a video yesterday of a U.S. sailor apologizing for crossing into the country’s territorial waters. The apology was publicized hours after Vice President Joe Biden said the U.S. did not formally apologize. “It was a mistake, it was our fault, and we apologize for our mistake,” the unnamed sailor said while being held in Iranian custody. The sailor and nine others were released after being held overnight in Iran. Units of the Revolutionary Guard seized two U.S. Navy boats on Tuesday in a stretch of the Persian Gulf after one boat suffered a mechnical problem. U.S. officials have not said if the boats entered Iranian waters. Many have claimed this shows signs of a warming relationship between the two countries.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you believe Iran is using this footage as domestic propaganda with its citizenry? Why or why not?
    • Should the U.S. have apologized for the incident? Why or why not?
    • Do you think the release signals a warming of relationships between the two sides? Why or why not?
  • Robocalls Troubling for Trump

    One of America’s most prominent white supremacists is making robocalls in Iowa imploring voters to support Donald Trump. Jared Taylor, the publisher of the white-nationalist American Renaissance website and the author of White Identity: Racial Consciousness in the 21st Century, is making the calls on behalf of the American National Super PAC, which filed a statement of organization with the Federal Elections Commission late last week. “I’m Jared Taylor with American Renaissance,” he says on the call, which was first flagged by Talking Points Memo. “I urge you to vote for Donald Trump because he is the one candidate who points out that we should support immigrants who are good for America. “We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.” At the end of the Iowa robocall, the group’s treasurer, William Johnson, who filed the statement with the FEC, identifies himself as a “farmer and white nationalist” and says the call has not been authorized by Trump.

    So far in the campaign, Trump has been reluctant to offer a full-throated condemnation of his white-supremacist fans such as Taylor and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. The robocall, however, may put the Republican frontrunner in a tough position, as it shows some white nationalists are now actively campaigning on his behalf. As Taylor himself told The New Yorker over the summer: “I’m sure he would repudiate any association with people like me, but his support comes from people who are more like me than he might like to admit.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • How do you think Trump should respond?
    • Do you believe groups should be able to call like this without a candidate's permission? Why or why not?
    • Do you think the calls will hurt Trump's campaign? Why or why not?
  • The El Chapo Interview

    In a meeting arranged by Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, actor Sean Penn was granted an interview with notorious cartel head El Chapo before his capture. El Chapo had final approval over before publication. Penn met with El Chapo in the jungle in October. Penn claims that Chapo named corrupt major companies, including ones that laundered his money, but agreed not to name them. In the interview El Chapo talks about everything from how he met Pablo Escobar, to when he got involved in the business (age 15), how he believes that “drugs destroy” but he is not responsible, and how he does not consider himself a violent person. Much of Penn’s introduction is devoted to placing the blame for El Chapo at the feet of Americans who consume his drugs, and El Chapo certainly agreed, saying in the interview, “If there was no consumption, there would be no sales. It is true that consumption, day after day, becomes bigger and bigger. So it sells and sells.”

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think this interview took place?
    • How do you view Sean Penn as a result of the interview?
    • How would you describe El Chapo's responses to Penn's questions?
  • Biden Regretting Decision

    Looking back on his year, Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday that he regrets his decision not to run for president in 2016, but emphasized it was the the right call. “I regret it every day but it was the right decision for my family and for me and I plan on staying deeply involved,” Biden said in an interview with Connecticut NBC affiliate WVIT. The confession is one of the first times Biden has publicly spoken out about his decision since he announced in October he would not seek the Democratic nomination. Biden, who also has yet to endorse a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary, said “We’ve got two good candidates,” referring to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you think Biden could have won the nomination? Why or why not?
    • Why do you think he regrets not running?
    • How would his candidacy have changed the Democratic primary?
  • Obama on Guns

    New details have emerged about President Barack Obama's impending executive actions meant to curb gun violence, including an expansion of background checks for people purchasing from dealers that sell a large number of firearms. The White House said that under Obama’s plan, which is expected to be announced later today, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will need to contact gun salesmen to inform them of new standards for determining who constitutes a regulated dealer, using factors such as whether the owners have a business card, uses a website, and sells guns in their original packaging. These clarifications are for the most part meant for online gun sales in which the proprietors often avoid background checks, the White House said. After meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch yesterday, Obama said he was confident his order is constitutional.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Why do you think Obama used an executive order to make these changes?
    • Do you think these changes will work? Why or why not?
    • What else should we do, if anything, about guns in America?
  • Protesters Seize Federal Building in Oregon

    Armed protesters who have occupied a building in a Oregon federal wildlife reserve in Burns, Oregon, said this evening that they were carrying out “truly a peaceful protest.” Acting spokesman Ammon Bundy tweeted that protesters had not destroyed any property or harmed any citizens. The group seized control of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge after a protest in support of two ranchers who were given longer prison sentences for burning federal land in 2001. Bundy is the son of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who staged a standoff with authorities over a Bureau of Land Management dispute in 2014. Bundy’s brother Ryan Bundy told the AP the group’s aim is to have the land turned over to local authorities so people can use it free of federal oversight. Oregon state police told Oregon Public Broadcasting that FBI and local and state authorities were planning to set up a joint command center nearby on Monday. The Harney County Sheriff’s Office released a statement earlier today claiming the protesters were occupying the refuge under false pretenses.“These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers, when in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States,” Sheriff David Ward wrote.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you consider this an act of terrorism? Why or why not?
    • How do you think the federal government should respond?
    • Why do you believe the building has been seized?