On Tuesday, November 4th, Americans can vote to choose city, state, and federal leaders. Every two years, elections are held in the United States of America for federal officers. One third of the representatives in the Senate and all of the members of the House of Representatives are running for office. States and cities also hold elections on this day. When an election falls in the middle of a presidential four-year term it is called a midterm. Because voters are not choosing a president, voter turnout tends to be lower for midterm elections.
Each federal election can have dramatic effects on the makeup of the U.S. Congress. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are contested, because the terms of representatives are two years. Our Founding Fathers called this house the lower house, and it was to represent the people, as all representatives are chosen directly by voters. 33 or 34 Senators are elected every two years, as Senators have six year terms.
Initially, state legislatures chose Senators. This was part of “The Great Compromise” among the founders of the Constitution. The small states were afraid the more populous states would dominate government, and so it was decided that one house would represent the states and one the people. For 124 years it worked this way. However, in 1913 Americans passed the 17th amendment which gave the election for Senators to the people, instead of to the states. This choice drastically changed the original intention of the founders, which was to have the House of Representatives represent the people and the Senate represent the states. Some say that this weakened our country because it weakened the states and gave rise to the growth of power in the federal government.
Midterm elections greatly favor the political party opposite the president’s party. Only twice in the history of American elections has the president’s party gained seats in Congress during a midterm election. The first such election was in 1934 when the Democrat Party gained seats under the Presidential leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt presided during the Great Depression. The second was in 2002, when the Republican Party gained seats under the leadership of President George W. Bush. Bush led under the beginning of the War on Terror.
Voter participation is historically lower during midterm elections than in Presidential elections. In 2012, 54% of registered Americans voted in our last Presidential election, whereas in 2010, 37% of eligible, registered Americans voted in our last midterm elections. The highpoint of American voter participation for both the Presidential and midterm elections began in 1832 with the election of Andrew Jackson and remained high until 1888. During this era voter participation rate averaged nearly 80% for Presidential elections and 65% for midterm elections.
1. What is the difference between a Presidential and a midterm election?
2. How did the 17th Amendment change the election of Senators?
3. In your opinion, why was voter turnout so much higher during the 1800s than it has been in the 1900s and the 2000s?
The first-known case of Ebola on American soil was reported in late September in Texas. Liberian national Thomas Duncan contracted the Ebola disease when he was visiting Liberia and brought it to America. Ebola is an often fatal infectious disease that originated in Africa in animals. It spreads to humans when there is bodily contact, such as from eating an animal that has the disease. In humans, it spreads when there is contact between blood, secretions, bodily fluids of infected people, and when there is contact with surfaces and materials contaminated with these fluids. Symptoms of Ebola first resemble the flu but increase with severity over time. There is no vaccine against Ebola. Ebola was first known in 1976. Currently, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the worst ever, killing approximately 4,000 people.
Duncan helped people who had the disease, and then flew to the United States, taking at least three planes. He flew to Brussels, then to Washington, and then to Dallas. Reportedly, he told airport screeners that he had not been in contact with people infected with Ebola. After flying to Dallas, Duncan went to a hospital in Dallas with symptoms of fever. The doctors checked him, prescribed him antibiotics, and sent him home. A few days later, he returned in an ambulance. It was then he was diagnosed with Ebola.
Duncan lived with his partner, her son, and her two nephews. They are still in the apartment. The boys who had contact with Duncan went to school after he had been diagnosed with Ebola. School officials then sent the boys home.
Some countries, like Britain and France, have refused entry from those travelling from countries where there is an Ebola outbreak. The United States, however, has not done this. In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposed new rules to keep infectious diseases out of the United States. These rules involved the forced quarantine of travelers who exhibited symptoms of serious diseases while en route to the United States. In 2009, the Obama administration scrapped the rules, after groups like the ACLU complained the rules were discriminatory.
In mid-September, President Obama said, “The chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low. We've been taking the necessary precautions, including working with countries in West Africa to increase screening at airports so that someone with the virus doesn't get on a plane for the United States. In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, we've taken new measures so that we are prepared here at home.” Within two weeks, the first Ebola case in the United States was reported.
The apartment Duncan lived in went for at least one week from being sanitized after Duncan was admitted to the hospital. Disagreement between two federal bureaucracies how to handle the items within the apartment caused the delay. One bureau, the Center for Disease and Control, considered the items medical waste. A second bureau, the Department of Transportation, thought the waste was illegal to transport. Until this was resolved, no sanitation could happen of the apartment. Meanwhile, Duncan’s partner, her son, and two nephews are quarantined in the apartment.
1. Based on Duncan’s travelling, and the activities of those he lived with, about how many people do you think came into contact with him while he had the virus, before he was admitted to the hospital?
2. What are a few simple things everyone can do to ward off sickness?
3. Do you think the U.S. should ban travel from countries where there are Ebola outbreaks?
Over the past months, gas prices have dropped dramatically in the United States of America. According to GasBuddy.com, average gas prices in America have come down from $3.70 in April of 2014 to $3.37 in September. One of the least expensive places for gas, in Little Rock, Arkansas, is seeing gas at $3.05, and even the most expensive gas in the United States, in California, is below the $3.40 a gallon mark. There appears to be at least two reasons for the dramatic drop in gasoline prices: supply, and the change from a summer blend to a winter blend in gasoline.
Supply is a major reason why gasoline prices are dropping. Supply refers to the amount of a good or product that exists. The biggest change in supply in oil and gas production is coming from America. The United States is currently producing oil and natural gas at a 28-year high. In 2000, the United States produced about 16 million barrels of oil a day. Today, it is producing 23 million barrels a day. Most if not all of this production is coming from privately owned land in America. The Bakken oil field in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford shale formation in South Texas are both producing large amounts of barrels a day. New technology and ingenuity has allowed for greater oil production in America.
A second reason for the drop in gas prices is the shift from the summer blend of gasoline to the winter blend. The winter blend of gasoline is cheaper to produce and it also costs less to buy. Over the last three years, gasoline prices have dropped an average of more than 30 cents a gallon. However, with the combination of the huge glut of American oil, it is almost expected the national gas price will be below $3/ gallon.
The drop in prices is not seen as good by all. Of course, the American public love the lower gas prices. It is easier paying $60 to fill up instead of $85. However, many countries rely primarily on high gas prices to meet their budget needs. However, OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Countries) and Russia rely heavily on their selling oil and gas at higher prices. Because of this, the OPEC members and Russia will struggle this year, and perhaps in the near future, to keep up their activities as they have been used to.
OPEC countries: Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela
1. How does your family view the lower gas prices?
2. Do you think it is in the United States of America’s best interests to pursue more production of oil and gas? Explain.
3. How would a weaker Russia affect international politics? (See the current event on Ukraine)
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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