Sunday, December 20, 2009

RIP Brittany Murphy

Newspapers across the English speaking world are reporting on Brittany Murphy's death. The Washington Post is running an article entitled, "Hospital: Actress Brittany Murphy Dead at Age 32." The article begins, "Brittany Murphy, the actress who got her start in the sleeper hit "Clueless" and rose to stardom in "8 Mile," has died in Los Angeles. She was 32." According to the Washington Post, "She is best known for parts in 'Girl, Interrupted,' 'Clueless' and '8 Mile.'"

At this holiday season, what can we learn from the death of a young woman of only 32 years old?

Ashton Kutcher tweeted, "2day the world lost a little piece of sunshine..." What does it mean to be "a little piece of sunshine?" What does it take to be "a little piece of sunshine?"

Brittany Murphy had a dream to become an actress. She achieved it. What is your goal? Is it OK for adults to have dreams similar to a child's dream of entering a specific profession? Why or why not?

Brittany Murphy's mother sold her home in New Jersey so that she could move with Brittany to L.A. Do you think that parents should make major changes in their own lives if it benefits their children? What changes should parents make? What changes should parents not make? Why?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

60 Votes

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "Democrats Clinch a Deal on Health Bill." The article states, "The legislation, the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system in more than a generation, seeks to extend health benefits to more than 30 million uninsured Americans by expanding Medicaid and providing subsidies to help moderate-income people purchase private insurance." It continues, "The bill also imposes tight new regulations of the health insurance industry, barring insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions and limiting how much extra they can charge for people based on their age."

Do you think that states should have the power to prohibit government funded health insurance from paying for abortions? Why or why not?

Do you think that Senators Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray, two strong proponents for abortion rights, are betraying abortion rights advocates by supporting legislation that allows states to prohibit the funding of abortions? Why or why not?

Imagine that the year is 2060. Do you think that there will still be U.S. citizens who do not have insurance? Why or why not? Do you think that there will still be private insurance companies that are not incorporated into a government program? Why or why not?

Winston Churchill reportedly said, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." When it comes to information discussed in this article, do you think that this statement is true? Why or why not?

Thursday, December 17, 2009


The New York Times is running an article entitled, "U.S. Offer of Long Term Aid Pushes Climate Talks Forward." The article begins, "With time running out on the stalled Copenhagen climate negotiations, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave new hope that an agreement might still be reached when she announced Thursday that the United States would help raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to enable poor nations to combat climate change."

The United States has long led the world as the leading emitter of carbon dioxide. However, China has not caught up. Though the United States continues to have the world's largest economy, China's economy continues to grow. Do you think that that the United States has a greater responsibility to ensure that the levels carbon dioxide emissions lowers in the coming year? Why or why not?

Do you think that wealthier nations should pay less developed nations in exchange for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and maintaining the sustenance of trees? Why or why not?

Do you think that the leaders of the world will actually be able to slow pollution? Why or why not? Do you think that world leaders believe that they can accomplish this feat? Explain!

What one question would you like to answer about the Copenhagen Conference? Why would you like to answer this question?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Time Magazine Names Ben Bernanke Person of the Year

Time Magazine has chosen Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, its "
Person of the Year 2009." The article explains, "Bernanke is the 56-year-old chairman of the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the U.S., the most important and least understood force shaping the American — and global — economy. Those green bills featuring dead Presidents are labeled "Federal Reserve Note" for a reason: the Fed controls the money supply. It is an independent government agency that conducts monetary policy, which means it sets short-term interest rates — which means it has immense influence over inflation, unemployment, the strength of the dollar and the strength of your wallet. And ever since global credit markets began imploding, its mild-mannered chairman has dramatically expanded those powers and reinvented the Fed."

Does Ben Bernanke sound like somebody with whom you would enjoy chatting? Why or why not?

Do you think that such an important position as Chair of the Federal Reserve Board should remain unelected? Why or why not? What are some advantages to having this position filled by appointment instead of election? What are some disadvantages?

Somebody once said that the most important factor of a healthy economy is consumer confidence? What does the term "consumer confidence" mean? Do you think that this understanding of the economy is correct? Why or why not?

What three questions would you most like to answer about the United States economy? Do you think that there are some questions about the economy that even Ben Bernanke cannot answer? Why or why not?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Moving Detainees to Illinois

The Washington Post is running an article entitled, "U.S. to Announce Transfer of Detainees to Ill. Prison." The article begins, "Dozens of terrorism suspects being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be moved to a little-used Illinois state prison that will be acquired and upgraded by the federal government, an Obama administration official said."

1. Challenge students to find ten interesting bits of information about the Guantanamo detention center. After students find this information, make a lit of interesting bits of information, on the board.

2. Do students think that the United States of America should arrest individuals who have the potential to commit terrorist acts against the United States, if they have not yet committed these acts? Why or why not?

3. Should non-citizens of the United States who have allegedly committed acts of terrorism against the United States be entitled to the same Constitutional protections as citizens of the United States who have broken the law? Why or why not? (Do non-citizens deserve the same rights as citizens? Why or why not?)

4. Do students think that detainees should be moved to United States soil? Why or why not? Consider the fact that this relocation will create approximately 3,000 jobs in the State of Illinois. Is it worth it? Why or why not?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Obama Urges Banks to Lend

The New York Times is running an article entitled, "Obama Tells Bankers that Lending Can Spur Economy." The article begins, "President Obama on Monday called on the chiefs of the nation’s biggest banks to take “extraordinary” steps to revive lending for small businesses and homeowners, making the case that the fate of banks was inextricably linked to the health of the overall economy."

1. Challenge your students to explain why banks could speed the growth of the economy by lending money to small business owners and home buyers.

2. Last year, many banks got themselves into trouble by lending money that borrowers were unable to repay. Ask students to imagine that they are bankers. How would they respond to the President's request, given the recent history of the banking industry? Challenge them to explain their opinions, thoughtfully.

3. Ask students to imagine that they are members of Congress. Should they develop laws to protect banks in the case of bad loans? Why or why not?

In other economic news, today: Citigroup to Repay $20B in Tarp Funds.