Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015 in Stuff You Should Know

Boehner Resigns as Speaker

Head-and-shoulders view of Ohio Representative John Boehner speaking from the podium at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota. McGraw-Hill Education/Jill Braaten. MHE World.

Ohio Representative and Speaker of the House John Boehner; Credit: McGraw-Hill Education/Jill Braaten

The last five years has been a tumultuous one for Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner. But the Republican politician from Ohio surprised everyone by announcing that he would step down as Speaker and retire from the House altogether. In a public statement, he said that he believed that, “this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution.” The announcement coincided with Pope Francis’ address to a joint session of Congress. Boehner, a devout Catholic, was reportedly very moved by his interaction with the pope, but said that his decision was not related to the occasion.

With the government facing another possible shutdown, Boehner’s exit is likely to further intensify the growing rift between congressional conservatives. Supporters have praised Speaker Boehner for balancing the need to pass essential legislation with advancing conservative priorities. His critics, however–especially those who fall on the far-right side his own party–have accused him of being too accommodating of the opposition.

Dig Deeper Find out who is being talked about to take over as Speaker and what qualities/qualifications he or she might have.

Pope Francis Visits the Americas

Ever since his election in 2013 as the 226th pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (better known as Pope Francis) has gotten a lot of attention. Last month, he made a historic visit to Cuba and the United States. The last time a sitting pope visited this country was Pope Benedict’s journey in 2008. During his visit, the 78-year-old Francis traveled first to Cuba, where he delivered a Mass (the worship service of the Catholic faith) in front of 200,000 people. Then he met with former president Fidel Castro. (Francis was largely credited with President Obama’s landmark foreign policy deal with Cuba.)

While in the United States, the pontiff had a full agenda. In Washington, D.C., he addressed a joint-session of Congress, where he urged lawmakers to remember their responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development and to cultivate a “culture of care.” In New York City, Francis visited the 9/11 memorial before attending a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly where he urged world leaders to think of the poor and to protect the earth. His last stop was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the pope visited a prison and met with other citizens. The six-day visit ended with a Mass in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in front of an estimated one million people.

What Do Think? What kind of impact do you think Pope Francis had on Americans, including politicians? Do some research and sit at least three sources to support your answer.

Volkswagen Cheats Emission Tests

German automaker Volkswagen (VW), which manufactures its own line of passenger cars and minivans and also owns the automaker Audi, has been accused of fraudulent practice. The accusation claims that VW altered its diesel engines to make them appear more energy efficient than they were. The cars performed differently on a stationary rig than they did on the road. When stationary, the cars appeared to perform well within the guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When on the road, however, the engines emitted pollutants that measured 40 times above that allowed under U.S. law. Shortly following the announcement, the company’s stock plunged around 30 percent.

Volkswagen responded by admitting fault. About 11 million cars worldwide are fitted with the faulty emissions monitoring device. VW recalled 500,000 cars in the U.S. alone, and investigations have been launched around the world in order to reassure the public. Chief executive of the car company, Martin Winterkorn, resigned in response, although he denied any wrongdoing. Volkswagen will likely face legal action from shareholders, consumers, as well as a criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

What Do You Think? The automotive industry has defended itself by saying that the current methods for testing emissions are outdated. Should Volkswagen be punished to the extent that they are? Why or why not?

Hajj Stampede in Mecca

Last month, more than 700 people were killed and another 800 injured in a stampede outside of Mecca. Located in the city of Hejaz in Saudi Arabia, Mecca is considered the holiest place in the Islamic faith because it is the birthplace of founder Muhammad the Prophet. When devout Muslims engage in prayer, five times a day, they bow in the direction of the holy city. Many Muslims (nearly 2 million each year) also undertake a pilgrimage—called a Hajj—to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.

The exact cause of the crush of people that happened on September 24 has yet to be determined. Some say that an intersection of two crowds of people coming from opposite directions may have been the source of the incident. Others say that a closed street forced those headed to the site of the Grand Mosque to use the same route as those leaving it. This was not the first tragedy to happen in Mecca. In 1990, more than 1,400 people were crushed to death inside of an overcrowded pedestrian tunnel. In 2007, a five-story bridge was erected to improve safety.

Dig Deeper Iran officials have called upon the Saudi government to accept responsibility and issue an apology. Do some follow up research to determine if this has happened and, if not, why.