On March 10, 2010, President Obama signed a bill into law which greatly altered how health insurance is designed, bought, and sold. The law is titled “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” but is also known as Obamacare, because President Obama greatly favors the bill and because the President has endorsed this name. Recently, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that may be the end of this new law. The case, King v. Burwell, focuses on the source of subsidies that many receive who are insured under the new law. The court case touches on the constitutional issues of how laws are implemented, the meaning of words, and the separation of powers between the executive branch and the legislative branch.
Insurance is a funny product. The buyer purchases it with the hopes he will never use it, or at least hoping he won’t use it too much. The insurance company selling it makes a bet that the buyer will also not use too much of the insurance, and determines the price of it depending on the person’s age and health. So health insurance is a product bought and sold by people who hope the user will not really use it.
In the U.S.A., from 1789-2010, the U.S. government had stayed out of forcing an American to buy something. Nowhere in the Constitution is it written that the government has the power to force someone to purchase a product. This is because the American Founding Fathers believed in the free market and that the American government should be limited in its power. Obamacare changed the relationship between Americans and their government. Obamacare established the precedent that the government can compel its citizens to purchase products that the government decides is good for them.
In the U.S. government, there are three separate branches, each with its own powers. American founding fathers established the government this way so that not one branch would become too powerful. The executive branch (President) is to carry out the law, the legislative branch (Congress) is to write the law, and the judicial branch (Supreme Court and all federal courts) is to decide the legality of the law.
In the court case, King v. Burwell, plaintiffs argue that the Obama administration is not following the law, but is instead changing the law and thus, acting like the lawmaker, Congress. The defense argues that the Obama administration is correctly acting within its powers of the executive branch, and is merely interpreting the law so that it makes sense and works. Does the law mean what is written, or does it mean what the President says it means? This is one of the questions the Supreme Court justices are deciding.
At issue is how Americans receive subsidies to help pay for their health insurance. As the law is written, only citizens in states that set up their own exchanges, or markets, will receive subsidies. A chief architect of the law, Jonathan Gruber, was videotaped multiple times explaining that the Obama administration wrote the law this way to force states to set up their own exchanges, and that whichever state did not set up the exchange, would risk having their citizens not receive subsidies. Obama, however, is currently directing the federal government to offer subsidies to citizens of over 30 states, because these states decided not to set up the exchanges. These states argue that the Obama administration is taking power illegally, creating a federal government that is taking over the rights of the state governments.
It is believed the Supreme Court will issue its ruling on King v Burwell in June. If the Supreme Court decides the Obama administration is acting unconstitutionally, the federal government will cease offering subsidies to citizens in those states that chose to not have state exchanges, and the words of a law will determine its meaning. If the Supreme Court decides in favor of the Obama administration, it will mean Obamacare will continue as it is, and most likely, that whoever is the Presidents receives great freedom in determining what a law means, even if it means going against the meaning of the words used in creating the law.
1. What is Obamacare?
2. What is King v. Burwell?
3. What is the argument in King v. Burwell?
4. How is this a Constitutional issue?
5. How do you think the Supreme Court justices should decide? Explain your answer.
In recent months, an organization called The Islamic State, (also referred to as ISIS or ISIL) has taken over a large area of Syria and Iraq. ISIS stands for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The organization is a jihadist movement, which means that it’s composed of Islamic extremists who believe that God, who they call Allah, wants them to kill people who don’t worship as they do. They also hold women to be inferior to men and strictly enforce repressive laws. The Islamic State wants to annihilate the United States because it represents freedom and wants a free Iraq. In the last month ISIS has murdered at least two American journalists by cutting off their heads and it says it will kill more Americans.
The Islamic State dates back about 15 years, during which the group bore different names and operated in states ranging from Jordan to Afghanistan and Iraq. In recent years, a power vacuum in Syria and Iraq has allowed The Islamic State to exert its influence. In Syria, various groups have been fighting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad for control in a Civil War. Syria is weak. In Iraq, President Obama pulled out American soldiers, wrongly believing Iraq was strong enough to defend itself. And, after initially declaring the United States would fight Syria if it used chemical weapons, President Obama backed down and did nothing against Assad when he did use chemical weapons. This emboldened terrorist groups like The Islamic State to believe the United States was weak. The Islamic State has taken advantage of this lack of strength in the area, gaining control over large swaths of land.
The Islamic State, it is believed, has over 31 million fighters who come from all over the world, including from 1 to 2 million westerners. Leader of The Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was born in Iraq, and was held in captivity by the United States. He was released either in 2004, or in 2009. Al-Baghdadi has had stunning success in his brutality. When ISIS takes over an area, it gives the citizens one week to make a decision: Become Muslim and believe in the religion exactly as The Islamic State believes, pay a special tax until you die, move, or be killed. It is not known exactly how many people The Islamic State has murdered, but we do know that up to 1,000,000 have fled, and we have pictures of murdered children and men.
In a speech last week, President Obama announced “we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.” What this exactly means on the battlefield is still unclear, and it is unclear if the President thinks this a war or not. The President has said we will bomb The Islamic State, and we will work with other countries, however, he has said he will not put American soldiers on the ground.
1. What is The Islamic State?
2. What is The Islamic State doing in Iraq and Syria?
3. Read at least one newspaper article about this event, and answer the question: What should the United States of America do about The Islamic State? What is the best way to defeat it?
In December 2014, President Obama announced that the United States is moving to normalize relations with Cuba, including having an American ambassador in Cuba and ending the American trade embargo. For 18 months, the Obama administration has been secretly negotiating with the Cuban government towards this end. Pope Francis assisted in the negotiations. Within a month following the announcement, the American government released three Cuban spies from prison and the Cuban government released a 65 year old American contractor, a Cuban who had spied for the U.S., and 53 Cuban political prisoners. While some Americans believe normalizing relations with Cuba is a good step, others think it will only strengthen the grip the Communist leadership, the Castros, have on the Cuban people.
Cuba, 1492 – 1895
In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the New World for Spain, and Spain quickly colonized much of North and South America. For the next four hundred years, Spain ruled Cuba. As Spanish colonies in the New World revolted in the early 1800s and countries such as Mexico gained independence, Cuba remained loyal. In the mid to late 1800s, Cubans wanted independence from Spain and fought for many years. In the Ten Years’ War (1868-78) Cubans struggled to break away, but Spain kept control of the island.
The United States of America and Cuba, 1895-1959
During the second war for independence (1895-98) the United States entered the war on the side of the Cubans, fighting what Americans call the Spanish-American War. The United States defeated Spain, and at the Treaty of Paris it was decided that Spain would surrender Cuba, Puerto Rico, parts of the West Indies, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States. The Americans gave Cuba its independence in 1901, but the U.S. insisted on the right to have a permanent naval base on Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), and claimed the right to militarily intervene in Cuban affairs should there be unrest. Over the next 60 years, the U.S.A. militarily intervened in Cuba on numerous occasions.
Cubans suffered under military dictatorships, and at times, the United States supported Cuban leaders who were undemocratic. Fulgencio Batista (1901-1973) seized power militarily in 1933, was elected Cuban President in 1940, and he made himself rich through his connections as the Cuban President. In 1944, he left office and lived in Florida. While Batista was in Florida, Cuba became unstable and corruption was rampant. The American government supported Batista’s return to power in 1952, and for the next seven years he led Cuba as dictator. Batista did not tolerate anyone going against him, controlled the media, and arrested, tortured and executed those who he believed were Communists. It is not known how many he killed, and the number historians give ranges from 1,000 to 20,000 Cubans.
Cuba, 1959 – Present Day
In 1959, Communist Fidel Castro and his brother Raul Castro overthrew Batista. The Castro government nationalized (took over) all foreign owned businesses, and eventually took over all businesses owned by Cubans, as well. Communists believe that only the government should own property, and they do not trust businesspeople. Communists are also against religion, and anyone wanting to pray to God in Cuba is punished. In the first few years of the Castro regime, the Cuban government terrorized those who did not obey. Tens of thousands of Cubans were tortured and executed because they did not want to follow the Castro regime. Che Guevara, Castro’s chief enforcer, in response to questions about Castro's firing squads, said, "To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution. And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate."
For the next few years, the U.S.A. tried to get Cuba back into its sphere of influence, but failed. In 1961, President Kennedy approved of a plan to support a group of Cubans to invade Cuba and conquer Castro. Called “The Bay of Pigs Invasion”, it failed miserably. In 1962, America realized that the Soviet Union was building a network of nuclear missile launch sites on Cuba. After a U.S. naval blockade, the Soviet weapons were withdrawn, and the U.S. promised to never invade Cuba, again. From 1962 on, Cuba was allied with the Soviet Union, America’s enemy throughout most of the second half of the 1900s. The Soviet Union gave Cuba money, food, and a great amount of support.
Cuba after the Fall of the Soviet Union
In 1991, the Soviet Union fell apart and could no longer give Cuba subsidies. As a result, Cubans suffer greatly from a lack of food and basic necessities. After 50 years of Communist rule, Cuba has become a poor country run by a government that only cares about itself. The Castro brothers are much older now, but they remain rich, as the average Cuban suffer. Thousands of Cubans are jailed because they oppose the Castros and the Communists, and many are executed for their beliefs. Whoever tries to escape Cuba and is caught is killed by the police or government.
The United States policy towards Cuba has been aimed at starving the Castro government. The United States does not trade with Cuba, and there is a limit to how many Americans may travel to Cuba, and a limit on how much money can be sent to Cuba. However, President Obama wants to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba. He thinks that increased American tourism and business will open up Cuba. Other Americans, like Senator Marco Rubio, argue that doing business with Cuba means helping the Castros stay in power. All foreign money spent in Cuba goes straight to the Communist leaders, so more American business means a richer Communist regime. And, Rubio argues, by negotiating with the Castros, Obama has given them legitimacy and importance.
1. Who controlled Cuba, from 1492 to 1898?
2. Who fought over Cuba from 1895-1898?
3. Who was Batista?
4. What did Fidel Castro do?
5. What do you think America’s policy towards Cuba should be?
On January 22, 2015, from tens of thousands to 200,000 mainly young people marched in Washington, D.C. to demand the end of abortion in the United States of America. It was the 42nd anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade that mandated legal abortion nationwide. The pro-life march, which happens every year, was not covered by the major news networks, NBC, ABC, CBS, even though it is an annual event that draws large numbers of people. The history of abortion rights in the United States is one of deception and racism.
Before 1973, the legal issue of abortion was an issue that was determined by each state. When the American Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they included the first ten amendments, which are explicit (stated in writing) guarantees of rights for the people and to the states. The framers of the Constitution did not want the U.S. federal government to become too powerful, as they believed Great Britain’s king was. The tenth amendment reserves all power that is not explicitly granted to the federal government to the states and the people. There is no power in the Constitution that refers to medicine or health. It is because of this, that from 1789 to 1973, health was considered a power that was specifically a state issue.
The Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade (1973) changed the relationship between Americans, their health, and the federal government. In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court justices created a right to privacy that had not before existed and is not found in the Constitution, claiming that a woman had the right to end her pregnancy with an abortion, because she had a right to privacy. The justices argued that since Congress had not yet declared when human life begins, the unborn does not yet enjoy the right to life. The justices ordered that in every state, abortion would be legal. From then on, issues of health became a federal issue.
Jane Roe, the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade (1973), was really Norma McCorvey. The court called her Jane Roe to hide her identity. Ms. McCorvey had a challenging childhood and great difficulties in the first part of her life. In 1970, she was pregnant and was not married. Under Texas law, a person could not have an abortion unless they were raped. Ms. McCorvey went to two lawyers, who had been seeking a pregnant woman who wanted an abortion to challenge the Texas law, and worked with them to file a lawsuit against the state of Texas. In the lawsuit, the lawyers argued that “Jane Roe” had been gang raped, and that the Texas law against abortion hurt women. Ms. McCorvey gave birth to a baby, who was adopted. The case went to the Supreme Court, however, and the lawyers won, making abortion legal throughout the U.S.A.
Ms. McCorvey worked in an abortion clinic for years, but eventually, she converted to Christianity. In 1995 McCorvey was baptized by evangelical minister Filip Benham in a Texas swimming pool filmed for national television. She became a vocal proponent in the pro-life movement and joined the Roman Catholic Church. In her book, Won by Love, she writes, “Abortion wasn't about 'products of conception'. It wasn't about 'missed periods'. It was about children being killed in their mother's wombs. All those years I was wrong.”
Since 1973, it is estimated that over 56,000,000 abortions have taken place in the United States, and today, American doctors perform 3,000 abortions every day. The largest abortion provider in the country is Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood was started by Margaret Sanger in the early 1900s as “American Birth Control League”. Ms. Sanger believed in selective breeding, the idea to make a better human race by preventing reproduction of the ‘unfit’. Sanger believed the unfit were people of color, racial minorities, and those who were not performing well in society economically. The U.S. federal government gives hundreds of millions of dollars every year to Planned Parenthood. In 2013, it received $540.6 million (45% of its revenue) from the U.S. government, for health services.
The March for Life that takes place in Washington, D.C., is an attempt to bring to light the truth behind abortion in the United States of America, and, to shed light on the abortion industry. Most Americans do not know the history of Planned Parenthood or the large amounts of money that taxpayers give to this industry.
1. What happens every year in January in Washington, D.C.?
2. Why does it take place in January?
3. What court case made abortion a mandated legal right?
4. Who started Planned Parenthood and what did she believe in?
5. Why do you think the major news networks do not cover this massive march?
For the last thirty or forty years, there has been great disagreement among scientists about global warming. Global warming is the term that means the climate is becoming warmer. You may also hear the term climate change. Climate change is a term that can mean global warming, but it can also mean any change in the climate. Is the Earth’s climate warming? If so, is man the cause of the warming? If it is warming, what are the best policies for governments to take? If it is not warming, is it worth spending enormous amounts of money and resources battling climate change? How much influence can man have in making the Earth warmer, or in slowing or reversing a climate change? The above questions all involve science and policy making. However, much discussion and many decisions about climate policy are political. This means, politicians make decisions based on what will get them elected, or, what will give them more power, instead of basing their ideas in science. Unfortunately, it appears that many who do not question that man is destroying the climate use aggressive tactics, instead of science, to promote their ideas. These "climate alarmists" give the appearance to many in the United States that humans are in imminent danger of destroying the environment, even though there is much evidence against this theory.
One author has made many enemies among those who claim global warming is man-made. His name is Dr. Bjorn Lomborg. Dr. Lomborg was born in Denmark in 1965 and earned his Ph.D. in political science at the University of Copenhagen in 1994. While visiting the United States, he listened to a professor challenge those who argued that man is destroying Earth and that life is worse today than in the past. Wanting to research the truth behind these claims, Dr. Lomborg began a thorough study of the quality of life today versus one hundred years ago and discovered that in every category, the quality of life for humans has improved. More people have access to clean water; Life expectancy has increased worldwide over 30 years; Literacy is more widespread than ever. In his research, Dr. Lomborg also questioned why governments were spending massive amounts of money to slow global warming without analyzing the costs and benefits of the policies.
Two books that Dr. Lomborg has written are The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It. Cool It is also an interested documentary. Both books and the documentary make for interesting springboards for discussion. In his works, Dr. Lomborg points out that humans should focus their attention on the smartest solutions to problems on Earth, instead of throwing money to politicians who claim that their actions are good for the environment. Because of his work, Dr. Lomborg was initially treated with great disdain and hatred. In Denmark, he was sued for libel for claiming that man could not influence the climate as much as many politicians and journalists claimed. In the trial, it was decided that Dr. Lomborg was innocent, because he was not intelligent enough to be responsible for his ideas.
In an editorial published in the Wall Street Journal on February 1, 2015, Dr. Lomborg notes that there are many encouraging signs that humans need not be as worried about climate change as some would have us think. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, temperatures have risen .09 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 15 years. This is 90% less of a rise than all of the climate alarmists had been predicting. The Arctic sea is melting, but, the Antarctic sea ice is increasing. A study has shown that the world is experiencing less drought since 1982. Landfalling tycoons have declined since 1950, according to a 2012 study. In the 2010s, the death rate due to natural disasters is 97% lower than at the beginning of the century.
Even though Dr. Lomborg has had great challenges arguing with climate alarmists who try to depict him as someone out of his mind, he has consistently brought enlightenment to the discussion on climate change. He is the director of Copenhagen Consensus Center, which brings together some of the world’s top economists to think of solutions to world problems. Dr. Lomborg’s commentaries have been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Economist, CNN, Fox, 60 Minutes, and many other publications and News Networks. The issues of climate and man’s influence on the climate will continue to be one of great debate. Professors such as Dr. Lomberg bring reasoned thought and research to the discussion.
1. What are some common questions asked about the climate and climate change?
2. What do climate alarmists claim?
3. Who is Dr. Lomborg?
4. What is some positive news Dr. Lomborg writes about involving Earth’s climate?
5. Ask as many college age students in your neighborhood, what they think is a greater danger to the U.S.A., Muslim terrorists or global warming? Ask them to explain their answer.
“But the one thing that I’m very confident about is that the values that we share with the French people, a belief — a universal belief in the freedom of expression, is something that can’t be silenced because of the senseless violence of the few,” Obama said in the statement. President Obama made these remarks as a reaction to the Islamic terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. However, while most Americans believe that freedom of speech should be a universal right, it is not. According to a recent article in the OC Register, 35% of the world is not free and 25% is partly free. Individuals in the world who enjoy freedom of speech are in the minority.
Freedom of the press is the right to print what you think is true and is enjoyed by only 15% of the world’s population. This right is guaranteed to all U.S. citizens by the First Amendment. However, the right to a free press is one that many world leaders do not allow their citizens to have. The right to a free press means that a journalist can report news that makes the leader look bad. In Russia, it is against the law to publish news that is not approved by the government, and journalists who oppose the government have been murdered. In China and Cuba, all news media is owned by the government.
One aspect of freedom of expression is the right to organize politically. In much of the world, citizens are not allowed to start political parties or support political parties that do not get governmental approval. In the year preceding the 2012 Presidential election, the Internal Revenue Service (I.R.S.) did not approve nearly 400 non-profit organizations that wanted to promote conservative ideas. Most think this helped President Obama win the election. In over 60 countries of the world, citizens are not allowed to start a political party and must vote for government-approved political organizations.
There are countries in which citizens find it dangerous, but not illegal, to practice freedom of expression. In France during the beginning of January, Muslim terrorists attacked journalists at a satirical magazine, killing 12. The journalists had offended Muslims by breaking an Islamic law against depicting images of Muhammad. Even though there is no law in France against this, the journalists were murdered. The American news corporation CNN and the New York Times, as well as other American news organizations, have censored themselves, as well, by not showing images that are offensive to Muslims. They claim they are doing this out of respect for religion. However, these organizations continue to show images that are offensive to Christians and Jews.
Most of the countries that are not free are located in Asia and Africa and are either predominantly Muslim or atheist. The world’s most heavily populated country, China, and the world’s largest country by territory, Russia, are not free. All of the countries on the Arabian peninsula, except one, are both Muslim and not free. The only free country in Arabia is the Jewish country of Israel. All of the world’s communist countries are not free, and only one, Cuba, is located in North America.
While it is easy for Americans to imagine that people all over the world live and think the same as we do, the facts are very different. Americans are part of a minority of people in the world who believe in and practice freedom of expression. The majority of the world’s leaders do not want their people to have freedom of expression, and, a great many citizens in countries also do not want to have this freedom. For example, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France, there have been widespread rallies throughout Asia supporting the Muslim terrorists. Opposite what President Obama declared recently, freedom of expression is not a universal belief and its practice is the exception to the rule.
1. What does President Obama believe is a universal belief, that is, a belief shared around the world?
2. About what percentage of the world enjoys freedom of the press?
3. What does it mean to organize politically?
4. What do most countries that are not free have in common?
5. Task: Find out what the first amendment states. Why do you think the American Founding Fathers included this in the Constitution?
On July 17th, 2014, Eric Garner died in New York while resisting arrest by New York policemen. A video of the incident was taken and has been viewed by millions of Americans. Policemen believed Mr. Garner was illegally selling individual cigarettes. Mr. Garner was black and the policemen on the video were white. This video, along with the incident in Ferguson, Missouri, has led many to believe police mistreat black Americans. Protests in cities have been widespread since these two events, and at least two policemen have been executed by one protester who claimed to seek vengeance for police brutality.
The politicians of New York, and the majority of voters who elected them into office, believe that smoking is wrong and should be discouraged. They also believe that smokers will smoke less if cigarettes cost more. Thus, New York taxes on a pack of cigarettes total $5.95. Those looking to make money illegally in the underground cigarette market buy cigarettes in another state, drive them into New York, and sell the packs or “Loosies” (individual cigarettes) without paying New York taxes. Local business owners had called the police to complain about Mr. Garner, who was allegedly selling Loosies.
The arrest of Mr. Garner was captured on video. A few policemen begin speaking with Eric Garner, and Mr. Garner is heard saying that he was not selling Loosies and was doing nothing wrong. As Mr. Garner continues to tell policemen to leave him alone, more policemen come and they tell him to put his hands behind his back. An officer tries to grab Mr. Garner’s arm, and Mr. Garner pushes the officer’s arm away, saying, “Don’t touch me!” Then, an officer comes from behind Mr. Garner and places his arm around Mr. Garner’s neck. The officer brings Mr. Garner to the ground, while multiple policemen physically force Mr. Garner to put his hands behind his back. During the arrest, Mr. Garner is heard stating, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe,” over and over.
Mr. Garner died within an hour of the arrest. After policemen subdued him, he became unconscious. An ambulance came and he was driven to a hospital. On the way, he suffered a cardiac arrest and died. Mr. Garner weighed 350 pounds and had heart disease, severe asthma, diabetes, obesity, and sleep apnea. It is clear that his health problems, coupled with the severity of the arrest, led to Mr. Garner’s death.
To determine if the policemen had acted illegally, a grand jury of 23 members reviewed evidence of the case. Of the 23 jurors, 9 were not white. On September 29, the grand jury decided the police did not act illegally. The grand jury decided that if an individual is believed to be breaking the law, policemen’s duty is to stop this activity, and if the person resists arrest, force is necessary. Police did not try to kill Mr. Garner, but as a result of the arrest and Mr. Garner’s health, he died.
Those who believe Mr. Garner was a victim of police brutality claim that he was a “gentle giant,” however, the facts present another scenario. Mr. Garner had a history of breaking the law, and had been charged with selling “Loosies” in the past. Aged 43, Mr. Garner had been arrested 30 times since 1980, on charges including assault and grand larceny. At the time of his arrest and death, Mr. Garner was on bail for illegally selling cigarettes, driving without a license, marijuana possession and false impersonation.
The video of the arrest is terrible, sad, and frightening. It is horrible to witness someone in his last moments of life physically resisting policemen. It is sad to see the challenge that regular-sized policemen have in detaining a huge man who is resisting arrest. And, it is frightening to see that our policemen are forced to enforce outrageous taxes on cigarettes and to know that our country’s laws have become so insane that it makes buying and selling tobacco dangerous.
1. Why have there been protests in cities across America related to Mr. Garner’s case?
2. Try to hold your breath and speak without exhaling or inhaling. Is it possible?
3. When Mr. Garner was saying, “I can’t breathe,” do you think policemen didn’t believe him?
4. What evidence do we have that the police in this case were acting out of racism?
5. What is the bias of the author of this article involving taxes on cigarettes? What words inform you of this bias?
On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an 18 year old, 6 ‘ 5”, 289 pound man was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Nobody argues with these facts. However, many do disagree with evidence of the case and the meaning of the incident. Some view the killing of Michael Brown as a case of police brutality caused by racism, whereas others see it as a policeman protecting himself from a violent and dangerous criminal. Some people have reacted violently by destroying buildings, looting businesses, and attacking policemen, because they wanted to see Officer Wilson punished.
A great amount of investigation took place to uncover what happened the night of August 9th. Initially, the Ferguson police department investigated and found that Officer Darren Wilson acted correctly, shooting in self-defense. Following this investigation, there was a grand jury investigation. St. Louis County prosecutors presented evidence and the jurors (a group of people from society who agree to listen to evidence and decide) determined there was not enough evidence to charge Officer Wilson of a crime. Unlike other grand jury hearings, St. Louis County released all testimony and evidence regarding this case. There were at least three types of evidence related to what happened August 9th: eyewitness testimony, video recording, and forensic evidence.
According to Wilson, he had been called to investigate a crime of a small store being robbed. When he arrived, two men were walking in the middle of the street. After Officer Wilson told the men to go to the sidewalk, they shouted profanities at him. One of the men, Michael Brown, went towards the car, reached in and fought with Officer Wilson. Wilson reported that Brown punched him twice and then reached for the officer’s gun. Wilson then shot at Brown. Mr. Brown then ran back 30 yards and turned around. Wilson shouted for him to lie on the ground. Brown didn’t and charged. Wilson shot him. Brown continued to charge him. Then, Wilson shot more times until Brown was fatally hit.
There were at least 60 witnesses called to testify. All agree that Brown and Wilson fought in the police car, with Brown standing outside reaching in. Dorian Johnson, the man who had robbed the store with Brown, reported that Wilson shot Brown in the back, and that Brown had his hands raised saying, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Some witnesses claimed Wilson had shot Brown in the back. Other eyewitnesses testified the exact same story Officer Wilson had told. And, some eyewitnesses changed their story during the grand jury, initially saying Brown had been shot in the back, to saying that what they said was actually a lie.
The second piece of evidence we have is a tape recording of the store that Brown robbed with his accomplice, Dorian Johnson. In the video, Brown menacingly stares down the store owner, who attempts to stop Brown before he walks out of the store.
The third piece of evidence we have is the forensic, or physical evidence. According to the autopsy, Brown’s right hand was shot within a distance of 6 to 9 inches of the barrel of a gun, which is consistent with Officer Wilson’s testimony of shooting Brown when there was a struggle in the police car. The other wounds to Brown are also consistent with Officer Wilson’s testimony. Brown suffered from non-fatal wounds on the front, right side of his body, and the final wound was a bullet going down on the top of his head. These wounds contradict some of the witnesses who claim Brown was shot in the back. 12 shell casings were recovered from the scene. Two were found next to the car, and ten were found next to the path that Wilson had claimed Brown took when charging him.
In the U.S.A., Americans have attempted to live in a society that follows the rule of law for over 200 years. This means that all people have to follow the law, and no matter how powerful one person may be, all individuals are equal under the law. Also, the ancient notion of innocent until proven guilty is one that is honored in American courts. Both of these concepts were crucial to enable the St. Louis County grand jury research, listen to, and ably judge the evidence.
Immediately after the shooting, protests exploded in cities across America. Some Americans chose not to wait and find out what the evidence was and convicted Wilson simply because of the color of his skin, which is white. Famous athletes and politicians joined in this activity, as did news media. Officers were attacked, and there are reports of increased violence in St. Louis against the white immigrants from Bosnia. Officer Darren Wilson resigned from his job as a police officer, because he felt that his presence on the Ferguson force would place himself and his fellow policemen in danger. Although he was found 100% innocent, he now lives a life where he will always be looking over his shoulder, wondering if somebody is out to seek vengeance for a crime he didn’t commit.
1. If Officer Wilson had been black, do you think people would have questioned his actions?
2. Was there any evidence presented that showed Officer Wilson was racist?
3. After the grand jury decided not to have a trial, some people in Ferguson destroyed buildings, and others in a major U.S. city attacked policemen. Were these perpetrators justified?
4. Before you read this article, what did you think about “police brutality?” Did your mind change?
5. Imagine you were a policeman. How would you want to be treated if someone accused you of racism?
Immigration to America surged in the second half of the 1800s. This “immigration wave” led the U.S. to organize a system to process all the people in a systematic way that was viewed as most beneficial way for America, and, to limit the influx of people.
In 1882, the U.S. government passed two pieces of major legislation regarding immigration. One was the Chinese Exclusion Act. The other was the Immigration Act of 1882. The Chinese Exclusion Act forbade Chinese to move to the U.S. The U.S. did this because it believed Chinese would not assimilate into American culture and because Americans feared Chinese were taking jobs. There was no such restriction for Europeans. The Immigration Act of 1882 set up a federal bureaucracy to handle the mass immigration from Europe of the 1880s. Immigrants entering the country by ship had to pay a tax. Any person unable to care for himself, with a criminal record, or with a mental of physical issue could be denied entry. From 1892-1954, many immigrants arrived through Ellis Island in New York, where U.S. officials accepted or rejected the applicants.
Mass immigration to America continued in the first decade of the 1900s but dropped dramatically after. This was due to three causes: World War I, American desire to allow entry only to those who support a free republic, and racial prejudices.
1. World War I, 1914-1917, made it difficult for people to immigrate to America because of all the personal hardships and duties of citizens at war. In addition, World War I was started by a Serbian anarchist and Americans didn’t want to admit any dangerous individuals.
2. In 1901, anarchist Leon Czolgosz assassinated President McKinley. Czolgosz was a Polish-American and Catholic whose parents had emigrated from Eastern Europe. McKinley’s murder made it obvious that some immigrants had the potential to harm the country. Because Czolgosz was of Polish and Catholic background and the majority of Americans were Protestant English, French, or German, Americans wanted to limit people from eastern and southern Europe. Also, America’s immigration policies were meant to keep out communists, who had pledged to destroy the United States.
3. The eugenics movement of the early 1900s promoted the idea that Americans of English, French, and northern German origin were genetically and socially superior than the rest of the world. Leaders in academia supported this idea. The Immigration Restriction League, comprised of presidents of Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford, believed in the idea of eugenics.
The Immigration Act of 1924, the National Origins Act, and the Asian Exclusion Act placed restrictions on the number of immigrants allowed to enter the U.S.A. based on their country of origin. Americans believed their country would be stronger if its population was from similar cultures and that people from certain ethnic and religious groups were genetically or socially inferior to others. The number of immigrants allowed to enter into the country was limited to 2% of foreign-born residents from a particular country in the 1890 census. In 1929, this was changed so that the total immigration from any one country could be 150,000, based on a percentage of a country’s representation of the U.S. population in 1920. During this time, illegal immigration to America increased.
In the second half of the 1900s, two changes regarding immigration to America greatly influenced immigration.
Under the Bracero Program, Mexican citizens were allowed to come and work temporarily. When this program ended in 1964, Mexicans began coming illegally to the United States in every-increasing numbers. The number of Mexicans and Latin Americans living illegally in the United States is estimated at somewhere over 11 million.
In 1965, the United States abolished the nation of origin restrictions in the Hart-Celler Act, opening up immigration to America base on kinship ties, refugee status, and needed skills. This law dramatically changed the number and origion of people immigrating to the U.S. And, as the Vietnamese War ended, many war refugees fled the communists and moved to America, where the immigrants were received as refugees.
On September 11, 2001, terrorists from Asia (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon) hijacked American planes and crash-landed them into the World Trade Center towers in New York city, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and in a field in Pennsylvania. The terrorists had entered the United States legally. The United States began a war on terror that we are currently in. Because of the threat of terrorism, many Americans are worried that there is a grave threat to the United States from legal and illegal immigration to the country.
Illegal immigration has continued from America’s southern borders in great numbers. Because the United States government has not done enough to secure the southern border, various states have tried to implement federal law. To fight a state attempting to follow the law, the Obama administration has sued Arizona for trying to implement federal law regarding immigration.
Questions to Discuss:
1. Is it correct for the United States to limit immigration? Why do you think this?
2. Does the fight with terrorists affect how the U.S.A. should legislate immigration control?
3. What should the U.S. do with its illegal immigrants?
On Monday, November 11th, 2014, the Veteran's Day National Ceremony took place at Arlington National Cemetery, located in Arlington, Virginia. The ceremony began exactly at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It continued with a parade of colors by veteran's organizations and speeches by dignitaries. Veteran's Day is a day set aside to honor all members who have fought in America's wars, including our current war, the War of Terror. In the War on Terror, there has been difficulties within the U.S. government determining who is a veteran and who is not.
November 11th, 11:00 a.m., is the moment that fighting in World War I stopped. World War I - known at the time as "The Great War" or "The War to End All Wars" - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles in France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of World War I.
Each year on this day, Americans remember and give thanks to all veterans. A veteran is a person who served in the United States Armed Forces. This year, American leaders give honor to those Americans who fought in wars that are over and to the veterans of The War on Terror, the war that we are currently fighting.
The war the U.S.A. is currently in may be our most complicated war, beginning with what it is called. In 1984, President Reagan used the words "war against terrorism" as he attempted to persuade Congress to pass legislation aimed at freezing bank assets of terrorist organizations. Five days after 9/11/2001 attacks against America, the U.S. Congress passed the "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorism," which allowed the President to use force against the terrorists and the regimes that sponsored them to carry out the 9/11 attacks. On September 20th, 2011, President George W. Bush used the words "War on Terror" to describe the global war America is in. President Obama did not like the title, however, and described the war as "Overseas Contingency Operation."
Veterans of the War on Terror number in the millions and include personnel who have fought abroad, but not at home. Since 9/11, over 2,333,627 military personnel have served in Afghanistan or Iraq (according to ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/us-veterans-numbers/story?id=14928136#1 ) in the War on Terror, and some argue, military personnel have also fought terrorists in the United States. On October 5, 2009, U.S. Major Nidal Hasan, fatally shot 13 American servicemen at Ft. Hood, Texas. Hasan was injured and is being held for murder. He has declared his attack was part of jihad, an act of Islamic holy war. Hasan has applied for citizenship in the Islamic State, the terrorist state in the Middle East. The Obama administration refuses to call Hasan's attack an act of terror, and instead calls it, "workplace violence." Survivors of Hasan's attack and family members of the deceased do not enjoy benefits of soldiers injured during war.
1. Why is November 11th Veteran's Day? Why was this date chosen?
2. What words did President Bush use to describe our current war and what words do President Obama use?
3.Do you think that the soldiers killed and injured by Major Hasan should be considered as war veterans? Why or why not?
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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