Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Feb 16, 2017 in Current Events

Trump’s Travel Ban Blocked

Two weeks ago, Election Central brought you information about President Trump’s January 27 executive order banning immigrants and travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen). Since then, the “travel ban” has been put on hold indefinitely after a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Friday.

Chicago's O'Hare airport terminal with passengers

Chicago’s O’Hare airport; Credit: groveb/Getty Images

The ban was first challenged by federal Judge James Robart in Seattle a week earlier, which blocked the travel ban nationwide. In Friday’s ruling by the Court of Appeals, a three-judge panel refused to reinstate the travel ban. This is not the same thing as “striking down” the travel ban. It just means that it is currently not in effect. This means that, for now, normal travel has resumed between the United States and the seven nations listed under the ban.

In a unanimous decision, the judges stated that they refused to reinstate the travel ban because it does not improve national security, and because there is no evidence that anyone from the seven nations has ever committed any terrorist attack against the United States. However, the part of the executive order that was allowed to stand is the cap on the number of Syrian refugees allowed into the country: 50,000, down from 110,000 under President Obama. This means that only about 16,000 more Syrian refugees will be allowed into the United States this year.

President Trump vowed to fight the ruling, which probably means an appeal to the Supreme Court. At the moment, the Supreme Court has only eight justices (four liberal, four conservative). If the Court were to tie, then the ruling by the Appeals Court would hold permanently. It is also possible that Trump will attempt a new executive order, one with a stronger legal basis than his original travel ban.

What Do You Think? Trump’s supporters argue that the courts do not have a right to infringe on the president’s decisions about national security. His critics, on the other hand, argue that the judicial branch has a responsibility to evaluate the constitutionality of the president’s orders as one of our country’s essential checks and balances. Which position do you agree with, and why?

Warren Silenced on Senate Floor

Last Tuesday, Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was formally silenced by the Senate. During the Senate’s debate over the confirmation of Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Warren read a letter written in 1986 by Coretta Scott King, wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, condemning Sessions and criticizing his record on civil rights. As Senator Warren read the letter aloud, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell objected. When Senator Warren protested, Senator Steve Daines cited Rule XIX and ordered Warren to take her seat. McConnell, defending the Senate’s position, said of Warren: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Rule XIX prohibits senators from saying things about each other during a debate that would accuse them of “any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.” However, many Democrats claim that the rule is used selectively. For example, in July 2015, Senator Ted Cruz accused Senator McConnell of repeatedly lying. Last year, Senator Tom Cotton compared the leadership of Senator Harry Reid to a cancer. Neither senator was silenced under Rule XIX.

Fair or not, the Republicans’ plan to silence Warren seems to have backfired. After leaving the Senate floor Tuesday evening, Warren read Mrs. King’s letter on Facebook, receiving more than two million views, far more than she would have been able to receive had she been allowed to continue reading the letter within the Senate chambers. Her silencing also sparked a movement on social media, as #LetLizSpeak and #ShePersisted gained immediate popularity. “Nevertheless, she persisted” has become the latest feminist rallying cry.

Dig Deeper Can you think of any other recent examples, especially during last year’s presidential election, when a public official or candidate’s words were used as a rallying cry for his or her opposition? What makes these rallying cries so instantly popular? What role do you think social media plays in forming these overnight “movements”?

What’s the Progress on Self-Driving Cars?

btw has been tracking the development of self-driving cars for a while now. Last July, we looked at the first fatality involving a driverless car. What has been happening since then?

On Friday, the Ford Motor Company announced that it would pay one billion dollars over five years to Argo Al, a new self-driving car startup company based in Pittsburgh. Ford has declared that it would like to deliver its own driverless cars by 2021. Meanwhile, Uber has formed a $300 million partnership with Volvo and is testing self-driving car software. Waymo and Fiat Chrysler have also teamed up to create one hundred Pacifica hybrid minivans. In most cases, 2021 is the stated target for offering these cars to consumers.

Legislation regarding self-driving vehicles is also changing. While California requires companies testing a driverless car to keep a human driver at the wheel in case of emergencies, Michigan’s governor signed a law in December allowing companies to test-drive the vehicles without a human safety driver. President Trump and Elaine Chao, the new Secretary of Transportation, have not yet revealed their views on autonomous vehicles.

Meanwhile, researchers are busy looking at the ways in which driverless cars would impact traffic flow. Most traffic disturbances are caused by human error, such as braking too suddenly, not paying attention, or driving around endlessly searching for a parking space. Self-driving cars, in addition to parking themselves, will become synchronized, meaning that they communicate with each other, adjusting their speed and identifying disturbances ahead automatically. In theory, this should alleviate traffic problems. However, human drivers may still cut in front of driverless cars, which will interfere with the cars’ settings. Also, as traffic conditions improve, more humans will want to use the road, leading to as much congestion as ever.

What Do You Think? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of driverless cars? Would you ride in one? Why or why not?

What’s Obama Been Up To?

When President Obama left office in January, he announced his plans to write and to build his presidential library--but first, he said, he and Michelle were going on vacation.

He seems to be keeping true to his word. Recently, the Obamas spent several days as guests of Sir Richard Branson on the island of Necker in the British Virgin Islands. Born in Hawaii, Barack Obama has always loved watersports, but was prevented from participating in them for safety reasons during the eight years of his presidency. Now, however, he is free to enjoy them again. On this recent trip, Sir Branson taught Obama kitesurfing, a relatively new sport that involves riding a board while being towed by the wind using a parachute-shaped kite. You may have seen the photograph of the former president in mirrored sunglasses, grinning widely as he holds the board up over his head. While some Democrats have criticized the picture, saying that Obama has a responsibility to help challenge the new administration, most agree that after eight years of hard work and criticism, both Obamas now deserve some time to rest.

What Do You Think? What do you like to do to unwind after a difficult day of school and work? Imagine that you have just served the last eight years of your life as president of the United States. How would you spend your first few weeks of “regular” civilian life?