Current Events: AP U.S. History

By Brittany Plange

On Tuesday Oklahoma lawmakers voted almost unanimously to ban Advanced Placement U.S. History classes in high schools. Why, you might ask? Because that class allegedly only teaches “what is bad about America.” The bill in question, HB 1380 sponsored by state Rep. Dan Fisher (R), would defund the current curriculum. The state would also end funds geared toward preparing students for the AP exam. When the news broke of this event the community in Oklahoma was outraged, much like the rest of the country. Within a few days petitions focused on ending the bill were created. One in particular now has 19,241 signatures and the numbers still rise every day. In light of the massive backlash Republican lawmakers made revisions to the bill that would change the framework of the class to what lawmakers consider more “pro-American.” This translates into students being required to read 3 Reagan speeches and a speech by George W. Bush. The curriculum does not include any speeches from a democratic press after Lyndon Johnson. Ultimately the revisions have not helped ease the opposition to the bill. Fisher is not the only person opposed to AP History courses. According to Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern (R), “…AP courses are similar to Common Core, in that they could be construed as an attempt to impose a national curriculum on American schools.” Sally Kern has asked the Oklahoma Attorney General to issue a ruling on the matter. Many students and members of the Oklahoma community are outraged and should continue to be.  We can hope that our representatives will be forced to note this.

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Current Events: Chapel Hill Shooting

By Brittany Plange

On Tuesday Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu Salha, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu Salha were gunned down and killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Police have arrested and charged Craig Hicks with the murder of the three college students.  The police, Hicks attorneys, and the majority of major news media outlets are saying that the motives behind this crime stem from a parking dispute. However, many people around the world including the victim’s family are not only calling this a hate crime but an act of domestic terrorism. It was not until a few days ago that this tragic murder reached national attention due to the media’s idleness on the matter. In the aftermath there have been a number of protests over the issue. President Obama weighed in on the event in a statement released Friday saying that the killings are “outrageous.” He also went on to state that “No one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.” That same day the FBI declared it would be starting an investigation on whether or not any federal laws were violated by the crime. Additionally, Palestinian officials have stated they would like to do their own investigation of the murders. The Palestinian foreign minister stated on Saturday, “We consider it a serious indication of the growth of racism and religious extremism which is a direct threat to the lives of hundreds of thousands of American citizens who follow the Islamic faith.” While officials seem to be doing their best to bring justice to the victims the rhetoric and behavior exhibited by the media has been disturbing to say the least. This hate crime is one of many that will happen this year to innocent civilians. Since September 11, 2001 there are around 500 hate crimes against Muslims every year. These crimes must be stopped. It is up to us as the next generation and future leaders of this nation to spark change. It is up to us to make sure their lives were not taken in vain.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson

While these words have not been upheld fully in this country to every person, they hold truth and value in them. We must always continue the fight of freedom and equality.

R.I.P. Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Abu Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu Salha.

Current Events: Immigration

By Brittany Plange

Immigration reform seems to be something that has always been debated in congress. Each year, both parties in Congress promise us that we will get some form of comprehensive immigration reform legislation passed. Each year, there seems to be an attempt that falls through in congress. This year, instead of a piece of legislation, we have gotten an Executive Order initiated by President Obama. The executive order would give over 3 million undocumented immigrants protection against deportation that will be funded through Homeland Security. Republicans have vowed to dismantle the order, and now that they have control over the House and Senate they have more power to do so. One key way they are trying to block the action is through the country’s budget. The Senate put to vote, for the second time, a bill that would undo the executive order but still fund Homeland Security. The bill was again shot down by Senate Democrats who stated that “…that no matter how many times Republicans held the vote, the outcome would be the same unless the contested language on immigration was removed.” Republican Senator Jim Jordan of Ohio claimed, “We have the strategy, it’s to do what the American people sent us to do. That’s our legislation…I look at it as a chance for seven Democratic senators to find Jesus and do the right thing.”

Congress seems more polarized than ever on an issue that will have dire consequences on our countries physical and financial security. Ironically, any attempt to shutdown Homeland Security will not affect the executive action from being enacted since 85% of DHS employees, including those necessary for the order, would still work. However shutting down DHS would halt, according to Domenico Montanaro of PBS News Hour, non-disaster FEMA functions like risk mapping, delaying hiring additional Secret Service agents for the presidential election, delaying improvements to immigration detention centers, delaying new border surveillance, and much more.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri argued, “At a time when the world is united in trying to send a strong signal about confronting ISIS and defeating ISIS, I think putting veto bait in the funding for homeland security is a very bad idea.” I find myself completely agreeing with Senator McCaskill. As February 27th comes closer and closer, the stench of another government shutdown swiftly follows.

Current Events: State of the Union

By Brittany Plange

This year’s State of the Union address was filled with lots of applause, slight shade, and promises for future. President Obama touched on various issues, ranging from net neutrality to advances in western medicine, and access to higher education. Obama spent a large portion of his time talking about the economic gains that have been made since he was elected into office and the strides his administration will be taking to ensure this success continues. President Obama also made it very clear to Congress that he plans to veto any bill that attempts to undermine the work done to healthcare, rules on Wall Street, any sanctions on Iran, and immigration. Ultimately the majority of what was said in the speech was expected, except for the historic mention of transgender people: “As Americans, we respect human dignity…and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender” (source). What was unexpected was what was not mentioned in the president’s speech. President Obama neglected to mention Boko Haram and the recent tragic events in Nigeria when discussing his administration’s plans to address terrorism on our planet. This left me wondering if the U.S. would intervene or continue to stay silent while thousands of Nigerians and citizens of Africa are being massacred. Immigration was also seemingly left out of the speech in comparison to last year’s speech when the president called for a comprehensive reform bill by this year. This may be due to the president’s recent executive order on the topic; nonetheless, we are are still entering the new year with no sign of a partisan comprehensive immigration reform bill coming out of congress.

The lack of bipartisanship is still very much present in Washington. With republican control of both the House and Senate, we may actually see a more productive congress than last year. Ultimately we will just have to wait to see what this year will hold and hope our future will be bright.

Current Events: Resources

2015 State of the Union

Transcript: Obama’s State of the Union address 2015

Republican Responses: Republicans reject Obama’s economic proposals

Republican Responses: Four republicans rebut Obama’s State of the Union speech – and expose their own internal divisions

What didn’t make the SOTU: Obama avoided immigration, ObamaCare, gun control, and campaign finance reforms

What didn’t make the SOTU: Obama makes no mention of Boko Haram 

What didn’t make the SOTU: Obama discusses Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan far less than in previous speeches

SOTU and the economy: Obama’s proposals add to growing 2016 debate

SOTU and the economy: A view of the economy from ground level

SOTU and the economy: But is the economy fixed?

On terrorism, the State of the Union is strangely quiet

Obama warns against terrorist fear factor

Obama confronts race relations and Ferguson

Obama mentions policing in address, but no Ferguson-related guests in audience

Police brutality activists angry Obama glossed over Ferguson ‘events’

Ferguson

U.S. not expected to fault Darren Wilson

Judge rejects request for new Ferguson grand jury

Push in Ferguson for criminal justice reform draws comparisons to 60’s fight for civil rights

Climate Change

Senate votes 98-1 that climate change is real and not a hoax

Obama: No greater threat to future than climate change

Everyday climate change in photos

Op Ed: Dangerously in denial on climate change

Pope’s climate-change stance deepens conservatives’ distrust

Boko Haram

Boko Haram boasts of slaughter as it rampages in Cameroon and Nigeria

Freed German hostage calls Boko Haram captivity ‘total darkness’

Boastful Boko Haram leader throws down gauntlet to ‘kings of Africa,’ saying ‘come and get me’ 

Boko Haram leader claims Baga raid

As Nigerian election nears, Boko Haram looms large

United States intervention in Nigeria is complicated, officials say

U.S. Secretary of State says Boko Haram attacks are threat to humanity

Hillary Clinton’s refusal to put Boko Haram on terrorist list will hurt her in 2016

U.S. says Nigeria vote a factor in Boko Haram attacks

Boko Haram affects west Africa in its entirety because the Nigerian government isn’t doing enough to stop it

With schoolgirls taken by Boko Haram still missing, U.S.-Nigeria ties falter