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THIS WEEK'S ARTICLES
Obama's Drone-Strike Rules to Be Reviewed
GOP Stance on Death Penalty Shifts
GOP Plots Resistance To Talks On Climate
Violence Breaks Out in Baltimore After Freddie Gray's Funeral
Justices Cautious on Gay Marriage

Obama's Drone-Strike Rules to Be Reviewed
by: Carol E. Lee and Dion Nissenbaum
Apr 24, 2015
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com
Click here to view the video on WSJ.com WSJ Video

TOPICS: Obama, Terrorism

SUMMARY: Despite restrictions that President Barack Obama put on the drone program two years ago, the president had to apologize for the inadvertent killing of an American development expert and an Italian aid worker, who had been held as a hostage in the al Qaeda camp, which was struck in January. American intelligence did not know that either hostage was at the camp. Under the guidelines adopted two years ago, the president is required to sign-off of drone attack aimed at killing a terrorist on the secret "kill list." However, the president does not have to sign-off on a "signature strike" against a terrorist location, which is the operation that killed the hostages. Obama ordered another review of the use of drones, which may revisit removing the drone program from the C.I.A., locating the program solely in the Pentagon. Given that the Pentagon relies on the same intelligence sources as the C.I.A., the belief is that the result would not have been different if the military had been in charge. When Obama came into office, he criticized President George W. Bush's use of drones, but after being in office he expanded it. While some Democratic Party supporters opposed the president's use of drones, other Democrats along with Republicans and counterterrorism experts see it as a critical component of trying to stem terrorist attacks.

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: Carol E. Lee and Dion Nissenbaum report on President Obama's expression of regret for the death of two innocent hostages in U.S. drone attacks. The class can debate the issue of "collateral damage" that results from any military action, including bombing and drone strikes. Since U.S. personnel are not flying the plans, which would present a risk of being shot down, some argue that the drone strikes are safer and less likely to kill non-targeted figures. However, others suggest despite giving the impression of surgical strikes in fact people other than the intended targets are killed, which is even worse if the drone is misdirected. Students can give their views whether the terrorists should be captured rather than killed, if that is at all possible. A further issue to be considered by the class is whether the drone strikes have proven a recruitment tool for terrorists and have reduced support for the U.S. in other nations. Lastly, the extent to which governments in countries in which the strikes are occurring are secretly approving of America's actions can be discussed.

QUESTIONS: 
1. (Introductory) To what extend do you believe that the U.S. drone strikes have hurt the U.S.?

2. (Introductory) If the U.S. could capture the terrorists, would this be preferable to drone strikes to kill them?

3. (Introductory) When, if ever, should an American citizen living abroad be targeted in a drone strike?

4. (Advanced) Explain the difference between the "kill list" strike and the signature strike. Does the difference make much sense?

5. (Advanced) Discuss the use of drones against individuals in countries with which the U.S. is not at war.

Reviewed By: Edward Miller, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

RELATED ARTICLES: 
U.S. Drone Killed Two Hostages
by Adam Entous, Damian Paletta, and Felicia Schwartz
Apr 24, 2015
Page: A1


GOP Stance on Death Penalty Shifts
by: Ashby Jones
Apr 28, 2015
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com

TOPICS: Courts, States

SUMMARY: Thirty-two states currently have the death penalty with six states abolishing it since 2007. Campaigns to eliminate the death penalty, typically led by Democrats, are finding an increasing number of Republican supporters. In Nebraska the Republican-led unicameral legislature voted to abolish their state's death penalty with 17 Republicans supporting its elimination and 13 opposing. Nebraska, like other states using lethal injection, is finding it difficult to obtain the drugs. Lawmakers in Nebraska, as in many states, now fear flaws in the criminal justice system could result innocent people being put to death. Additionally, Republicans are stressing the added cost of the death penalty sentences to the state, the delay that victims' families face before the sentence is carried out, and that it is antithetical to a pro-life stance. However, Nebraska Republican Governor Pete Ricketts disagrees, believing that capital punishment is necessary for the state's worst criminals. If passed by the Nebraska legislature, Ricketts promises to veto the measure.

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: Ashby Jones writes about the Republican supported effort in Nebraska to abolish the death penalty. The class can first review the Supreme Court's reviews of the death penalty, ultimately allowing it with specific procedural requirements. After the court ruled in Furman v. Georgia in 1972, the death penalty was effectively suspended until the case of Gregg v. Georgia in 1976. A series of subsequent cases narrowed its use: can't be mandatory, can't be used for rape when the victim did not die, mitigating factors must be admissible, can't be used for a person who is a minor participant in a felony and did not do the killing, cannot be used for an offender who is under 18 at the time of the crime, and cannot be applied to an insane or mentally retarded person. Further the class can discuss the evidence problems that have been found, including the recent issue with false testimony by staff members of the FBI lab. In this context, students can describe the role of the innocence project that has exonerated several death row inmates. The class can also discuss the problems that states are having in getting the drugs that they have traditionally used and the options states are pursing, including using other untested drugs and combinations, use of compounding pharmacies, developing their own compounding pharmacy, and allowing other means of executing death row inmates. Students can also consider the seemingly conflicting views, held by some conservatives, that oppose abortion but accept capital punishment. Lastly, why 32 states have kept capital punishment while all other development countries have abolished it can be discussed.

QUESTIONS: 
1. (Introductory) Why are states having difficulty in getting drugs that are administered in executions?

2. (Introductory) Why did the state of Illinois first suspend and then abolish its death penalty?

3. (Advanced) Describe the court procedures necessary for imposition of the death penalty?

4. (Advanced) Describe the groups of individuals that the Supreme Court has said cannot be sentenced to death.

Reviewed By: Edward Miller, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

RELATED ARTICLES: 
De Blasio Opposes Death Penalty in Boston Marathon Bombing
by Michael Howard Saul
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Boston Bombing Jurors to Decide Between Life Sentence and Death
by Jennifer Levitz
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GOP Plots Resistance To Talks On Climate
by: Colleen McCain Nelson
Apr 27, 2015
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com
Click here to view the video on WSJ.com WSJ Video

TOPICS: Congress, Constitution, Environmental Policy, Obama

SUMMARY: Senate Republicans are challenging President Barack Obama over the international pact to cut greenhouse gasses to confront climate change. The administration submitted the U.S. goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 30% by 2025 from 2005 levels. Republicans are challenging this, claiming that the president does not have the authority to submit a plan to the U.N., that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacks the legal basis for promulgating regulations, and that such reductions would hurt the coal industry. The White House responded that the president and the EPA have the appropriate power under existing laws. Similar to the letter that 37 Senate Republicans sent to Iranian leaders questioning the president's authority to bind the U.S. to a negotiated nuclear agreement, Republicans senators want to send a letter to other nations stating that the president doesn't speak for Congress and that the U.S. cannot be held to the emission cuts to which Obama agreed. Because of the possible Republican letter, other nations want to be reassured that the U.S. will keep its commitments. Republican Senator James Inhofe (R., Okla.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said that his committee will hold hearings this summer on the U.S. plan submitted to the U.N.

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: Colleen McCain Nelson reports on actions by Republican senators who want to telli other nations that the U.S. cannot be bound by the cut in greenhouse gases included in the U.S. goals document presented by President Obama to the U.N. This letter would be similar to the one sent to Iranian leaders, saying that the U.S. cannot be bound by a nuclear deal signed by the president. The class can first examine the constitutional provision that gives the president the power to negotiate with other nations and suggest whether this type of letter is inconsistent with both the constitutional language and the ideas of the framers. While the Constitution does give the Senate the foreign policy power to "advise and consent" on treaties, this power is rather limited and does not extend to communicating with foreign governments. Students can discuss this, including whether the senators are exceeding their power and damaging U.S. foreign policy. Included in this discussion would be the idea of overlapping powers, which are in the Constitution and whether the use of executive agreements has given presidents more power than the Constitution foresaw in referencing treaties. More broadly the class can examine Republican efforts to minimize climate change, especially human contributions to it, and to ignore most scientific evidence. To be able to take this stance, the risk from global warming, while propounded by climate scientists, is minimized because the stark evidence is not readily apparent. Thus Republicans can argue for the impact on industries, such as harm to the coal industry which they can see, a while giving less concern for global warming, which is not visually and immediately present.

QUESTIONS: 
1. (Introductory) If Senate Republicans send a letter on reduction in greenhouse gases similar to the one sent to Iranian leaders on the nuclear deal, will the president and State Department be able to negotiate any agreements?

2. (Introductory) How does the situation that now exists between Congress and the president on international dealings compare with President Wilson's problem with Congress on the Versailles Treaty?

3. (Advanced) The Constitution clearly mentions treaties. What authority does the president have under the Constitution to negotiate executive agreements? Does Congress have to consent to any of them?

4. (Advanced) Discuss the political pressures on Republicans to resist regulations that would limit greenhouse gases in the U.S.?

Reviewed By: Edward Miller, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

RELATED ARTICLES: 
Wealthy Jeb Bush Supporter Aims to Push Him to Combat Climate Change
by Heather Haddon
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Violence Breaks Out in Baltimore After Freddie Gray's Funeral
by: Scott Calvert and Kris Maher
Apr 28, 2015
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com
Click here to view the video on WSJ.com WSJ Video

TOPICS: Cities, Race

SUMMARY: After the well-attended funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25 year old African-American who died in police custody of a broken spine, riots, looting, and fires broke out in several areas of Baltimore City. The Maryland National Guard and State Police were mobilized to assist the city police. Youth, the principal participants in the riots, threw rocks, bricks, glass, and other items at the police, injuring several officers. Patrol cars and buildings were ransacked and set on fire, and stores were looted, similar to that which occurred in Baltimore and other cities in 1968 after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King. Looting and violence had broken out a few months earlier in Ferguson, Mo., after police fatally shot Michael Brown, an 18 year old African-American. New York City saw large protests after a white police officer killed a 43 year old unarmed black man by putting him in a chock hold. Other similar police fatal interactions with blacks have occurred in the last few months, including one in South Carolina this month. Blacks in Baltimore City charge the police with frequent harassment of them. The mass action on Monday began after a call on social media, making reference to the movie "The Purge," to high school students to meet at a shopping mall, which was the initial point of the break-ins and looting, which subsequently stretched to the downtown area.

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: Scott Calvert and Kris Maher report on the riot in Baltimore City, occurring after the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody of a broken spine. Since the incident with video showing Gray's arrest, neither the police nor the city provided the public with information of what they believed happened to cause Gray's death. Given the similarity to the riots that occurred in the 1960s in many U.S. cities, the class can review the history. Based upon a number of investigations, including by the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, the riots of the 1960s were predicated upon a number of social problems in the African-American community and poor relations between police and blacks, the kind of harassment being spoken of today in Baltimore, and sparked by a high profile incidence between the police and an African-American, which in the last few months would be the death of black men, most of whom where young. The Report of the 1960s National Advisory Commission can be examined with students noting that most of the recommendations made almost 50 years ago would be appropriate today. For example, the Report makes extensive recommendations on reforming the police, including hiring police who would serve as "community service officers," establishing a line of communications between the police and neighborhood residents, especially youth. The class can also look at motivations of the rioters. Studies of past riots have shown them to be mixed, including young people wanting to be part of the group action and people who want to loot. Despite this, studies have shown a broader group motive to articulate their concerns about the problems in their community and treatment by the police, which is likely to motivate today's riots. Lastly, the class can evaluate the strategy used by the authorities to confront the riots and suggest those that students feel would be effective.

QUESTIONS: 
1. (Introductory) In the 1960s one recommendation of the investigatory commissions was to have more black police officers. Today in Baltimore there are many African-American police, and both the chief of police and the mayor of the city are black. Given this, why do you believe that charges of harassment of blacks, especially youth, are similar to that which existed in the 1960s?

2. (Introductory) In comments on the situation in Baltimore, a number of ministers and others mentioned that youth lacked the education needed to find a good job and become a productive member of the community. Analyze the problems of education found in many large cities, resulting in a widening disparity of opportunities between inner city youth and those living in the suburbs.

3. (Advanced) Beyond individual motives to participate in the disturbances, discuss the "purposes" of the city riots and whether you feel that anything productive will come from them?

4. (Advanced) Internet available social media did not exist in the 1960s. What role do you believe it is playing in the marches and riots that have taken place in the last few months?

Reviewed By: Edward Miller, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

RELATED ARTICLES: 
Probe of Baltimore Man Freddie Gray's Death Stymied by Gaps
by Scott Calvert
Apr 24, 2015
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Justices Cautious on Gay Marriage
by: Jess Bravin and Brent Kendall
Apr 29, 2015
Click here to view the full article on WSJ.com
Click here to view the video on WSJ.com WSJ Video

TOPICS: Constitution, Discrimination, Supreme Court

SUMMARY: In an historic case argued before the Supreme Court, the court heard arguments on an appeal from gay and lesbian couples challenging bans on same-sex marriage in states that a federal court of appeals had not overturned prohibitions to same-sex marriages. Both the legal environment and public opinion have increasingly accepted same-sex marriage. In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 59% of the public approved of same-sex marriage, up from 30% in 2004. Liberals challenged the rationale used by opponents of gay and lesbian marriages, who claim that marriage is mainly to produce children. This opposition argument was challenged on the basis that many heterosexual do not have children and a number of gay couples do have children. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored three landmark gay rights cases since 1996, took both sides of the issue in his questioning, but emphasized the dignity of couples to wed, which would be denied gay and lesbian couples if the bans on same-sex marriage were not overturned. Kennedy also questioned the notion that children are better off in traditional marriages. Attorneys for the gay couples argued that they were being denied equal protection and due process of law as guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. Justice Samuel Alito inquired if the court rules for same-sex spouses, why would polygamous couples be denied the right to marry as well. U.S. Solicitor General David Verrilli said that the denial of the right of same-sex couples to marry would be similar to the illegal, historic ban on interracial marriage. The second part of the case concerned if the court did not overturn bans on same-sex marriage, would states that did not permit gay and lesbian marriages have to accept those performed in other states because of the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution.

CLASSROOM APPLICATION: Jess Bravin and Brent Kendall report on the arguments before the Supreme Court in the case dealing with same-sex marriage, Obergeff v. Hodges. The class can review the line of gay rights cases, including those that overturned sodomy laws and the most recent case, written by Justice Kennedy, which ruled most of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Given Kennedy's authorship of these cases, does the class believe that he could rule against same-sex marriage in this case? Students can also speculate whether Chief Justice Roberts will join a majority in favor of same-sex marriage. Roberts is particularly concerned about the place of the Supreme Court in history, and with public opinion's dramatic turn in favor of same-sex marriage and with the Supreme Court not holding up the implementation of the rulings from several Courts of Appeals, to rule against same-sex marriage would create more problems that to rule for it. If the court would go against it, some states will return to banning it, resulting in some same-sex couples being married and others who want to be married being denied. This would in itself create an equal protection problem. The class an analyze Justice Alito's question of why shouldn't polygamous spouses be allowed to marry. One response is that the equal protection argument relates two heterosexual individuals who want to married to two gay individuals who want to do the same. Lastly, the class can examine the argument that marriage is an institution designed to have children and same-sex couples cannot have their own children. Although made multiple times, this argument is the most questionable. Some heterosexual couples don't want children and some can't have children. Should the state deny a marriage licenses to two people who are 70 years old because they cannot procreate?

QUESTIONS: 
1. (Introductory) It is evident that public opinion has dramatically changed on same-sex marriage. How can this change in a relatively short period of time be explained?

2. (Introductory) Why would the Supreme Court apply Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act instead of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to overturn bans on same-sex marriage?

3. (Advanced) What did Justice Kennedy write in U.S. v. Windsor that would suggest his position in Obergeff v Hodges, the current same-sex marriage case?

4. (Advanced) A second issue before the Supreme Court would be that if the court did not overturn bans on same-sex marriage, would they be required based upon the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution to accept same-sex marriages performed in other states. Are there areas in marriage and divorce law that states are not required to accept action in another state? If so, give examples.

Reviewed By: Edward Miller, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

RELATED ARTICLES: 
Q&A: The Supreme Court's Same-Sex Marriage Arguments
by Jess Bravin
Apr 28, 2015
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Gay Marriage at the Supreme Court: Previewing the Arguments
by Jacob Gershman
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