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Recurring News Themes

Theme 1: The U.S. Government

There are 3 levels of government in the United States:

  1. Federal
  2. State
  3. Local

All levels of government must obey the U.S. and State Constitutions. The U.S. Constitution gives the Federal government certain powers and assigns all other powers to the State governments. State governments establish the Local governments within their territories and delegate certain powers to them.

Each level of government is divided into 3 branches:

  1. The Legislative branch (makes the laws)
  2. The Executive branch (carries out the laws)
  3. The Judicial branch (applies the laws to specific court cases and interprets the laws)

So ultimately, the U.S. government hierarchy looks like this:

  1. Federal tier
    • Legislative branch (Congress)
    • Executive branch (President, VP, Cabinet)
    • Judicial branch (U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. District Courts)
  2. State tier
    • Legislative branch (State Congress)
    • Executive branch (Governor)
    • Judicial branch (State Supreme Court, State Courts)
  3. Local tier
    • Legislative branch (City Council)
    • Executive branch (Mayor)
    • Judicial branch (Municipal Courts, e.g. Traffic Court)

Federal Government

The Federal government produces currency, regulates taxes, establishes federal welfare programs and foreign policy. It oversees the defense of the country and makes laws that affect the nation as a whole. The Federal government ensures cooperation of State and Local governments by providing funds to operate federal programs, such as affordable health insurance, building roads, airports, and highway systems.

The Federal government is composed of 3 distinct branches: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial:

Page semi-protectedGreater coat of arms of the United States.svgGreater coat of arms of the United States.svg(117th) US House of Representatives.svg117th United States Senate.svgFlag of the United States.svgA coloured voting box.svgFederal Revenue and SpendingUnited StatesflagiconScales of justiceEdit this at Wikidata

1. Legislative branch (Congress)

  • Responsibilities
    • Pass laws (aka legislation) - Laws are like rules we must follow. Passing legislation requires agreement of both the House and Senate.
      • How laws are made
        • When someone in the House of Representatives or the Senate wants to make a law, they start by writing a bill, also known as sponsoring a bill. A bill is like an early version, or a draft, of the proposed law. The bill is then assigned to the appropriate committee for study. If released by the committee, the bill is put on a calendar to be voted on, debated or amended. If the bill passes by simple majority (>50%), it moves to the other chamber of Congress. There, it will be assigned to another committee, and if released, it will be debated and voted on. Again, a simple majority passes the bill. Finally, a conference committee made of House and Senate members works out any differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The resulting bill returns to the House and Senate for approval. The Government Printing Office prints the revised bill in a process called enrolling. The President then has 10 days to sign the bill into law or veto it. If the bill is vetoed, it is sent back to Congress. Congress can then bypass, or override, the President's veto with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate. The bill would then become a law.
  • Members (535 members)
    • Senate (100 senators)
      • The Senate is composed of 100 Senators, 2 from each state.
      • The Vice President of the United States serves as President of the Senate and may cast the decisive vote in the event of a tie in the Senate.
    • House of Representatives (435 representatives)
      • The House of Representatives is made up of 435 elected members, divided among the 50 states in proportion to their total population.
      • The presiding officer of the House of Representatives is called the Speaker of the House, and is elected by the Representatives. He or she is third in the line of succession to the Presidency.
  • Committees
    • There are 17 Senate committees, with 70 subcommittees, and 23 House committees, with 104 subcommittees. The committees are not set in stone, but change in number and form with each new Congress as required for the efficient consideration of legislation. Each committee oversees a specific policy area, and the subcommittees take on more specialized policy areas. For example, the House Committee on Ways and Means includes subcommittees on Social Security and Trade.
    • Committees deliberate over bills in their policy area when they are first introduced by a member of Congress.
    • They also hold hearings with people from the general public when there are important concerns that need to be addressed.
  • Terms and Elections
    • Both Senators and Representatives are chosen through direct election, though vacancies in the Senate may be filled by a Governor's appointment.
    • Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms and are considered for reelection every even year. Senators however, serve six-year terms and elections to the Senate are staggered over even years so that only about 1/3 of the Senate is up for reelection during any election.
    • Federal elections are held every even-numbered year on Election Day. Election Day always falls on the Tuesday following the first Monday in the month of November.
  • Location
    • There are chambers for both the House and the Senate in the U.S. Capitol building in Washington DC. The U.S. Capitol was built atop a hill, now often referred to as “Capitol Hill”.

2. Executive branch

The responsibility of the Executive branch is to execute the day-to-day responsibilities of the government through its departments and agencies.

President

The President is the head of the Executive branch, who also acts as the Head of State and the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.

Vice President

The primary responsibility of the Vice President is to be ready at a moment’s notice to assume the Presidency if the President is unable to perform his or her duties.

Cabinet

The Cabinet is an advisory body made up of the heads of the 15 executive departments. Appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the members of the Cabinet are often the President’s closest confidants. In addition to running major federal agencies, they play an important role in the Presidential line of succession — after the Vice President, Speaker of the House, and Senate President pro tempore, the line of succession continues with the Cabinet offices in the order in which the departments were created. All the members of the Cabinet take the title Secretary, excepting the head of the Justice Department, who is styled Attorney General.

Cabinet Responsibilities

The Cabinet, cabinet departments, and independent federal agencies are responsible for the day-to-day enforcement and administration of the federal laws and policies respectively.

Executive departments
  1. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Develops and executes policy on farming, agriculture, and food.
  2. Department of Commerce - Tasked with creating conditions for economic growth and opportunity.
  3. Department of Defense (DoD) - Provides the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of the country. The DoD consists of the:
    • Army - The branch of the military that fights on land.
    • Navy - The branch of the military that fights at sea.
    • Air Force - The branch of the military that fights from the sky.
    • Joint Chiefs of Staff - The Joint Chiefs of Staff is a body with the most senior uniformed leaders within the US military. The members include the:
      • Chairman
      • Vice Chairman
      • Head of the Army
      • Head of the Navy
      • Head of the Air Force
      • Head of the Marine Corps
      • Head of the National Guard
      • Head of the Space Force
    • Pentagon - The headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense.
    • National Security Agency (NSA) - The NSA is the intelligence agency of the US Department of defense. Under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence, it is responsible for global monitoring, collection, and processing of information and data for foreign and domestic intelligence and counterintelligence purposes.
  4. Department of Education - Promotes student learning and preparation for college and careers.
  5. Department of Energy (DOE) - Advances the national, economic, and energy security of the United States.
  6. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - Protects the health of the American people. HHS oversees a number of agencies including:
    • Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • National Insitute of Health (NIH)
    • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  7. Department of Homeland Security - Protects the American people from a wide range of foreign and domestic threats.
  8. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) - Responsible for policies and programs that address America’s housing needs.
  9. Department of the Interior - Protects America’s natural resources.
  10. Department of Justice (DOJ) - Enforces the law. The DOJ is headed by the Attorney General, who is the chief law enforcement officer of the federal government. It is made up of 40 component organizations, including:
    • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
    • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) - The principal federal law enforcement agency. As a leading U.S. counter-terrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal investigative organization, the FBI has jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crimes. The FBI reports to both the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence.
    • US Marshals
  11. Department of Labor - Oversees federal programs for ensuring a strong American workforce.
  12. Department of State - Develops and implements the President’s foreign policy
  13. Department of Transportation (DOT) - Ensures fast, efficient, and convenient transportation.
  14. Department of Treasury - Promotes inclusive economic prosperity for all Americans.
  15. Department of Veterans Affairs - Administers benefit programs for veterans and their families.
Crystal Clear app kedit.svgA coloured voting box.svgJohnny-automatic-scales-of-justice.svgEdit this at Wikidata

3. Judicial branch

  1. U.S. District Courts - These courts mostly try federal cases, which are cases involving the breaking of federal laws.
  2. 13 U.S. Court of Appeals - These are appellate courts that hear appeals from US District Court cases.
  3. The U.S. Supreme Court - There are currently 9 justices on the Supreme Court, including one Chief Justice. The Court’s caseload is almost entirely appellate in nature, and there is no higher authority that the Court’s decisions can be appealed to.
Federal Court Appointments

The members of the Judicial branch are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Congress has significant discretion to determine the shape and structure of the federal judiciary. Even the number of Supreme Court justices is left to the Congress.

State Government

The State government oversees affairs within state borders. It raises income taxes and oversees state welfare programs, such as Medicaid. It also controls the state criminal code, maintains state roads, and carries out federal laws and programs at the state level. State and Local courts hear cases and interpret the State Constitution and laws. State and Local governments work together to operate schools and ensure they meet state standards.

All State governments are modeled after the Federal government and consist of three branches: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.

1. Legislative branch

  • All 50 states have legislatures made up of elected representatives, who consider matters brought forth by the Governor or introduced by its members to create legislation that become State law.
  • Except for one state, Nebraska, all states have a bicameral legislature made up of two chambers: a smaller upper house and a larger lower house. Together the two chambers make State laws and fulfill other governing responsibilities. (Nebraska is the lone state that has just one chamber in its legislature.) The smaller upper chamber is always called the Senate, and its members generally serve longer terms, usually four years. The larger lower chamber is most often called the House of Representatives, but some states call it the Assembly or the House of Delegates. Its members usually serve shorter terms, often two years.

2. Executive branch

  • In every state, the Executive branch is headed by a Governor who is directly elected by the people. In most states, other leaders in the executive branch are also directly elected, including the Lieutenant Governor (next in line after the Governor), the Attorney General, the Secretary of State, and auditors and commissioners. States reserve the right to organize in any way, so they often vary greatly with regard to executive structure.

3. Judicial branch

  • State Judicial branches are usually led by the State Supreme Court, which hears appeals from lower-level State courts. Court structures and judicial appointments/elections are determined either by legislation or the State Constitution. The State Supreme Court focuses on correcting errors made in lower courts and therefore holds no trials. Rulings made in State Supreme Courts are normally binding; however, when questions are raised regarding consistency with the U.S. Constitution, matters may be appealed directly to the federal Supreme Court.

Local Governments (Counties/Cities & Towns)

States are divided into areas which carry out state laws within a specific geographic location. Cities, towns, and counties are granted specific powers by the State. Citizens of each county, town, or city elect representatives to govern them. A county has a board of supervisors. Towns or cities have mayors and councils to oversee the delivery of public services. Local government responsibilities include managing most public services, such as parks, libraries, schools, police, and fire services. Local governments solve common problems, such as funding police and fire departments and education.

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Local governments generally include two tiers:

  1. Counties - Also known as boroughs in Alaska and parishes in Louisiana.
  2. Municipalities - The cities and towns that exist within a County. Municipalities can be structured in many ways, as defined by State constitutions, and are called, variously, townships, villages, boroughs, cities, or towns.

Municipal governments — These are the governing bodies overseeing cities, towns, boroughs (except in Alaska), villages, and townships. They are generally located in a local population center. Municipalities vary greatly in size, from the millions of residents of New York City and Los Angeles to the few hundred people who live in Jenkins, Minnesota.

Municipalities generally take responsibility for:

  • Parks and recreation services
  • Police and fire departments
  • Housing services
  • Emergency medical services
  • Municipal courts
  • Transportation services (including public transportation)
  • Public works (streets, sewers, snow removal, signage, and so forth)

Whereas the Federal government and State governments share power in countless ways, a Local government must be granted power by the State. In general, mayors, city councils, and other governing bodies are directly elected by the people.

City councils generally act as the legislative arms of Local governments.

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Theme 2: Biden's Build Back Better Act

The Build Back Better Act is a bill introduced in the 117th Congress to fulfill aspects of President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Plan. It was spun off from the American Jobs Plan, alongside the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, as a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package that included provisions related to climate change, family aid, and expansions to Medicare.[1][2] Following negotiations, the price was lowered to $1.75 trillion.[3] The framework for the bill proposes increased taxes for corporations and high-income households and individuals to partially pay for the bill.[4][5]

Before the act was spun off from the American Jobs Plan (AJP), on April 5, Senator Joe Manchin proposed raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to only 25%, instead of the 28% Biden originally called for.[6] On May 25, Republican senators Pat Toomey and Roger Wicker indicated a lack of support within their caucus to change aspects of the 2017 tax act, and suggested repurposing unspent COVID-19 relief funds.[7][8] On May 28, Biden released details of a $6 trillion budget proposal for the fiscal year of 2022, which would raise taxes on corporations and millionaires to pay for both the AJP and the American Families Plan over 15 years.[9][10] On June 3, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced a tweaked AJP proposal that would not increase taxes on corporations, in exchange for closing loopholes and requiring them to pay at least 15%.[11] On June 5, finance ministers from Group of Seven announced that they would support a global 15% corporate tax minimum.[12]

Great Seal of the United States

Theme 3: Biden's Infrastructure Bill

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the U.S. Infrastructure Bill or Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) or Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal, and originally in the House as the INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684), is a bill passed by the 117th Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden. The bill was initially a $715 billion infrastructure package that included provisions related to federal-aid highway, transit, highway safety, motor carrier, research, hazardous materials, and rail programs of the Department of Transportation.[1][2] After congressional negotiations between moderate and progressive Democrats, the bill was amended and renamed to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to include funding for broadband access, clean water, electric grid renewal in addition to the transportation and road proposals of the original House bill. This newer version included approximately $1.2 trillion in spending, with $550 billion being newly authorized spending on top of what Congress was planning to authorize regularly, while the rest was regularly authorized spending.[3][4]

The amended bill was passed 69–30 by the Senate on August 10, 2021. On November 5, it was passed 228–206 by the House. President Biden signed the bill into law on November 15.[5]

Great Seal of the United States

Theme 4: 2021 United States Capitol attack

On January 6, 2021, a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump attacked the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.[28] They sought to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election[29] by disrupting the joint session of Congress assembled to count electoral votes that would formalize President-elect Joe Biden's victory.[3][30] The Capitol Complex was locked down and lawmakers and staff were evacuated, while rioters assaulted law enforcement officers, vandalized property and occupied the building for several hours.[31] Five people died either shortly before, during, or following the event: one was shot by Capitol Police, another died of a drug overdose, and three succumbed to natural causes.[19][32] Many people were injured, including 138 police officers. Four officers who responded to the attack died by suicide within seven months.[33]

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Theme 5: Critical Race Theory

Critical race theory (CRT) is a framework of analysis grounded in critical theory[1] and an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists who seek to examine the intersection of race and law in the United States and to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to racial justice.[2][3][4][5] CRT examines social, cultural, and legal issues primarily as they relate to race and racism in the United States.[6][7] A tenet of CRT is that racism and disparate racial outcomes are the result of complex, changing, and often subtle social and institutional dynamics, rather than explicit and intentional prejudices of individuals.[8][9]

The theory originated in the mid-1970s in the writings of several American legal scholars, including Derrick Bell, Alan Freeman, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Richard Delgado, Cheryl Harris, Charles R. Lawrence III, Mari Matsuda, and Patricia J. Williams.[2] It emerged as a movement by the 1980s, reworking theories of critical legal studies (CLS) with more focus on race.[2][10] CRT draws from thinkers such as Antonio Gramsci, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and W. E. B. DuBois, as well as the Black Power, Chicano, and radical feminist movements from the 1960s and 1970s.[2]

Scholars of CRT view race as an intersectional social construct that is not "biologically grounded and natural",[11]: 166 [8] and that advances the interests of white people[11] at the expense of persons of other races.[12][13][14] In the field of legal studies, CRT emphasizes that formally colorblind laws can still have racially discriminatory outcomes.[15] A key CRT concept is intersectionality, which emphasizes that race can intersect with other identities (such as gender and class) to produce complex combinations of power and advantage.[16]

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Theme 6: COVID-19 Vaccinations

The COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the United States is an ongoing mass immunization campaign for the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first granted emergency use authorization to the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine on December 10, 2020;[5] mass vaccinations began on December 14, 2020. The Moderna vaccine was granted emergency use authorization on December 17, 2020,[6] and the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine was granted emergency use authorization on February 27, 2021.[7] By April 19, 2021, all U.S. states had opened vaccine eligibility to residents aged 16 and over.[8] On May 10, 2021, the FDA approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for adolescents aged 12 to 15.[9] On August 23, 2021, the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine for individuals aged 16 and over.[10]

The U.S. government first initiated the campaign under the presidency of Donald Trump with Operation Warp Speed, a public–private partnership to expedite the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines. Joe Biden became the new President of the United States on January 20, 2021. Biden began his term with an immediate goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses within his first hundred days in office, signing an executive order which included increasing supplies for vaccination.[11][12][13] This goal was met on March 19, 2021.[14] On March 25, 2021, he announced he would increase the goal to 200 million within his first 100 days in office.[15] This goal was eventually reached on April 21, 2021.[16]

By July 4, 2021, 67% of the United States' adult population had received at least one dose, just short of a goal of 70%. This goal was eventually met on August 2, 2021. While vaccines have helped significantly reduce the number of new COVID-19 infections nationwide, states with below-average vaccination rates began to see increasing numbers of cases credited to the highly infectious Delta variant by July 2021, which led to an increased push by organizations and companies to begin imposing de facto mandates for their employees be vaccinated for COVID-19.

USA. Percent of people receiving at least one COVID-19 dose reported to the CDC by state or territory for the total population.pngGreen check.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgGreen check.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgTimeline of daily COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the US.svgCovid-Vaccine-31 (50752381423).jpgCovid-Vaccine-13 (50752382488).jpgCOVID-19 vaccination (2020) B.jpgPublic DomainPublic DomainPublic DomainPublic DomainPublic DomainCategory

Theme 7: COVID-19

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first known case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.[7] The disease has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.[8]

Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever,[9] cough, headache,[10] fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste.[11][12][13] Symptoms may begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. At least a third of people who are infected do not develop noticeable symptoms.[14] Of those people who develop symptoms noticeable enough to be classed as patients, most (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging), and 5% suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction).[15] Older people are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms. Some people continue to experience a range of effects (long COVID) for months after recovery, and damage to organs has been observed.[16] Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long-term effects of the disease.[16]

COVID-19 transmits when people breathe in air contaminated by droplets and small airborne particles containing the virus. The risk of breathing these in is highest when people are in close proximity, but they can be inhaled over longer distances, particularly indoors. Transmission can also occur if splashed or sprayed with contaminated fluids in the eyes, nose or mouth, and, rarely, via contaminated surfaces. People remain contagious for up to 20 days, and can spread the virus even if they do not develop symptoms.[17][18]

Page extended-protectedFphar-11-00937-g001.jpgScientifically accurate atomic model of the external structure of SARS-CoV-2. Each "ball" is an atom.

Theme 8: Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration to the United States is the process of migrating into the United States in violation of federal immigration laws. This can include foreign nationals (aliens) who have entered the United States unlawfully,[1][2] as well as those who lawfully entered but then remained after the expiration of their visas, parole, TPS, etc.[3] Illegal immigration has been a matter of intense debate in the United States since the 1980s.

Research shows that illegal immigrants increase the size of the U.S. economy, contribute to economic growth, enhance the welfare of natives, contribute more in tax revenue than they collect, reduce American firms' incentives to offshore jobs and import foreign-produced goods, and benefit consumers by reducing the prices of goods and services.[4][5][6][7] Economists estimate that legalization of the illegal immigrant population would increase the immigrants' earnings and consumption considerably, and increase U.S. gross domestic product.[8][9][10][11]

There is scholarly consensus that illegal immigrants commit less crime than natives.[12][13] Sanctuary cities—which adopt policies designed to avoid prosecuting people solely for being in the country illegally—have no statistically meaningful impact on crime, and may reduce the crime rate.[14][15] Research suggests that immigration enforcement has no impact on crime rates.[16][17][14] Stricter border controls have been linked to increased levels of undocumented immigrants in the United States, as temporary undocumented workers who used to enter the U.S. for seasonal work increasingly settled permanently in the U.S. when regular travels across the border became harder.[18]

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Theme 9: Mexico-United States Border

The Mexico–United States border (Spanish: frontera México–Estados Unidos) is an international border separating Mexico and the United States, extending from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Gulf of Mexico in the east. The border traverses a variety of terrains, ranging from urban areas to deserts. The Mexico–United States border is the most frequently crossed border in the world,[1][2] with approximately 350 million documented crossings annually.[1][3] It is the tenth-longest border between two countries in the world.[4]

The total length of the continental border is 3,145 kilometers (1,954 mi). From the Gulf of Mexico, it follows the course of the Rio Grande (Río Bravo del Norte) to the border crossing at Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, and El Paso, Texas. Westward from El Paso–Juárez, it crosses vast tracts of the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts to the Colorado River Delta and San Diego–Tijuana, before reaching the Pacific Ocean.[5]

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Theme 10: Climate Change

Contemporary climate change includes both global warming caused by humans and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been previous periods of climate change, but the current changes are more rapid than any known events in Earth's history.[2] The main cause is the emission of greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide (CO
2
) and methane. Burning fossil fuels for energy use creates most of these emissions. Agriculture, steel making, cement production, and forest loss are additional sources.[3] Temperature rise is also affected by climate feedbacks such as the loss of sunlight-reflecting snow cover, and the release of carbon dioxide from drought-stricken forests. Collectively, these amplify global warming.[4]

On land, temperatures have risen about twice as fast as the global average. Deserts are expanding, while heat waves and wildfires are becoming more common.[5] Increased warming in the Arctic has contributed to melting permafrost, glacial retreat and sea ice loss.[6] Higher temperatures are also causing more intense storms and other weather extremes.[7] In places such as coral reefs, mountains, and the Arctic, many species are forced to relocate or become extinct, as their environment changes.[8] Climate change threatens people with food and water scarcity, increased flooding, extreme heat, more disease, and economic loss. It can also drive human migration.[9] The World Health Organization calls climate change the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.[10] Even if efforts to minimise future warming are successful, some effects will continue for centuries. These include sea level rise, and warmer, more acidic oceans.[11]

Featured articlePage semi-protectedListen to this articleThe global map shows sea temperature rises of 0.5 to 1 degree Celsius; land temperature rises of 1 to 2 degree Celsius; and Arctic temperature rises of up to 4 degrees Celsius.The graph from 1880 to 2020 shows natural drivers exhibiting fluctuations of about 0.3 degrees Celsius. Human drivers steadily increase by 0.3 degrees over 100 years to 1980, then steeply by 0.8 degrees more over the past 40 years.Line graph with sea and land temperature rise. By 2020, the land has warmed around twice as much.Underwater photograph of branching coral that is bleached whitePhotograph of evening in a valley settlement. The skyline in the hills beyond is lit up red from the fires.The green landscape is interrupted by a huge muddy scar where the ground has subsided.An emaciated polar bear stands atop the remains of a melting ice floe.Photograph of a large area of forest. The green trees are interspersed with large patches of damaged or dead trees turning purple-brown and light red.iconiconicon

Theme 11: QAnon

QAnon[a] (/ˌkj.əˈnɒn/) is an American far-right political conspiracy theory and movement centered on false claims made by an anonymous individual or individuals, known by the name "Q", that a cabal of Satanic,[1][2][3] cannibalistic pedophiles operate a global child sex trafficking ring that conspired against the former U.S. President Donald Trump during his term in office.[2][3][4][5] QAnon has been described as a cult.[6]

One shared belief among QAnon members is that Trump was planning a massive sting operation on the cabal, with mass arrests of thousands of cabal members to take place on a day known as the "Storm".[7][8] QAnon supporters have baselessly accused many Hollywood actors, Democratic politicians, and high-ranking government officials of being members of the cabal.[9] QAnon has also claimed that Trump simulated the conspiracy of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to enlist Robert Mueller to join him in exposing the sex trafficking ring, and preventing a coup d'état by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros.[10][11] Some of QAnon's claims have been described as antisemitic or rooted in antisemitic tropes.[12][13] QAnon's conspiracy theories have been amplified by Russian state-backed troll accounts on social media,[20] as well as Russian state-backed traditional media[14][21] and networks associated with Falun Gong.[22]

Page semi-protected2021 storming of the United States Capitol 09 (cropped).jpgA block letter "Q" overlaid with an American flag patternA modified version of the American flag with ten white stars and three gold stars forming a letter Q in the cantonYellowbadge logo.svgCategoryTwo soldiers meeting Pence on a tarmacDetail of one soldier's uniform, showing a patch with a black "Q" on a red background, and a second patch with a black field bearing an axe and scythe crossed over one anothericonflag

Theme 12: Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a decentralized political and social movement protesting against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against black people.[1][2][3][4][5] While there are specific organizations such as the Black Lives Matter Global Network that label themselves simply as "Black Lives Matter", the Black Lives Matter movement comprises a broad array of people and organizations. The slogan "Black Lives Matter" itself remains untrademarked by any group.[6] The broader movement and its related organizations typically advocate against police violence toward black people as well as for various other policy changes considered to be related to black liberation.[7]

The movement began in July 2013, with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin 17 months earlier in February 2012. The movement became nationally recognized for street demonstrations following the 2014 deaths of two African Americans, that of Michael Brown—resulting in protests and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, a city near St. Louis—and Eric Garner in New York City.[8][9] Since the Ferguson protests, participants in the movement have demonstrated against the deaths of numerous other African Americans by police actions or while in police custody. In the summer of 2015, Black Lives Matter activists became involved in the 2016 United States presidential election.[10] The originators of the hashtag and call to action, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, expanded their project into a national network of over 30 local chapters between 2014 and 2016.[11] The overall Black Lives Matter movement is a decentralized network of activists with no formal hierarchy.[12]

This is a good article. Click here for more information.Page semi-protectedAmbox current red Asia Australia.svgBlack Lives Matter logo.svgProtesters lying down over rail tracks with a "Black Lives Matter" bannerFile:Anti-Trump protest in NYC, beginning of day, March 19, 2016, part 3 of 3.webmimage icon

Theme 13: NFTs, Bitcoin, Blockchain

A non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique unit of data, a bit sequence, that is tracked using a digital ledger (which is called a blockchain). In general, a ledger is a book that is used to record all financial transactions for a business. Blockchain, however, is a distributed, digital ledger that is a set of replicated and synchronized databases around the world. These databases store who transfers what digital data to who. A single transaction of data is recorded across all the databases in the blockchain in exactly the same way.

The digital units of data, or bit sequences, tracked by the blockchain can be unique but interchangeable (like bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies) or can be unique and non-interchangeable (like a unique tokens or NFTs).

The term coin is used for unique, but interchangeable digital data that is used as currency. I don’t have first hand experience working with crypto under the hood, but I’m assuming that there are two parts to every bitcoin file. The bitcoin binary, which I’m assuming is either a common sequence of 1’s and 0’s that has been defined as the standard unit of data, or a unique binary UUID that uniquely identifies the coin. The second part or the data is the digital signature that is stored with the binary that shows proof of ownership.

This digital signature is the same type of digital signature used by websites for securing communication over HTTPS. Digital signatures are created using cryptography, hence the term, cryptocurrencies. Cryptography is a computer science term that refers to the methods used to secure information and communication.

To understand the difference between digital coins and tokens better, let’s look at real world examples. Say you have a penny and I have a penny. Both pennies are unique. Say yours says 1945 and mine says 1985. They are unique, but we can exchange them and still have a penny in both our pockets. On the other hand, the term token is used for unique and non-interchangeable digital data. For example, let’s say you get a token from Arcade 1 in California that you use to play games in that arcade. Then you fly out to New York and get a token from Arcade 2 to play games there. Unless the two arcades across the country are from the same franchise, which most likely they are not, you won’t be able to use the tokens from Arcade 1 in California at Arcade 2 in New York. The tokens are unique and not interchangeable.

Bitcoin and NFTs are both just bit sequences that contain a digital signature of ownership, and whose transfer of ownership is traced using the blockchain. Every transfer of a bitcoin or NFT is recorded and synchronized across all the databases in the entire blockchain. Bitcoin is being used as currency (it is interchangeable). In contrast, NFTs are being used for saving unique works of art in digital form, like images, videos, music, etc. (They are not interchangable. One piece of art is not the same as another piece of art).

The different blockchains track their own economy of digital coins and tokens. Each type of cryptocurrency is managed by its own blockchain ecosystem of databases and endpoints (like digital wallets and crypto ATMs).

When you buy something with bitcoin, you transfer the coin data to the seller’s digital wallet. In this transaction, your signature is removed from the sequence, their signature is added to the sequence, and the transaction is recorded and mirrored across the entire blockchain.

Extended-protected articlePrevailing bitcoin logoimage iconimage iconvideo iconvideo iconBitcoin electricity consumptionBitcoin-core-v0.10.0.png

Theme 14: Republican efforts to restrict voting following the 2020 presidential election

Following the 2020 United States presidential election and attempts by Donald Trump and Republican officials to overturn it, Republican lawmakers initiated a sweeping effort to make voting laws more restrictive.[2][3] According to the Brennan Center for Justice, as of March 24, 2021, more than 361 bills that would restrict voting access have been introduced in 47 states,[4] with most aimed at limiting mail-in voting, strengthening voter ID laws, shortening early voting, eliminating automatic and same-day voter registration, curbing the use of ballot drop boxes, and allowing for increased purging of voter rolls.[5][6]

Supporters of the bills argue they would improve election security and reverse temporary changes enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic; they point to substantial public distrust of the integrity of the 2020 election,[a] as well as false claims of significant election fraud, as reasons to tighten election laws.[9][10][11] Opponents argue that the efforts amount to voter suppression,[12] are intended to advantage Republicans by reducing the number of people who vote,[b][17] and would disproportionately affect minority voters;[18] they point to reports that the 2020 election was one of the most secure in American history[c] to counter claims that election laws need to be tightened and argue that public distrust in the 2020 election arises from falsehoods pushed by Republicans, especially former president Donald Trump.[26][27][28]

Republicans in at least eight states have also introduced bills that would give lawmakers greater power over election administration after they were unsuccessful in their attempts to overturn election results in swing states won by Democratic candidate Joe Biden in the 2020 election.[29][30][31][32]

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Closed Theme 1: Russia Collusion in the 2016 Presidential Election

How did Russia meddle in the 2016 election?

The Russian interference included:

  • The creation of thousands of fake social media accounts that pretended to be Americans supporting Trump and planing events in support of Trump against Clinton. They reached millions of social media users between 2013 and 2016
  • They hacked the emails of the DNC and Clinton campaign officials, most notably John Podesta, and publicly released stolen files and emails through WikiLeaks and other sites during the election campaign.
  • Supposedly several individuals connected to Russia contacted various Trump campaign associates offering business opportunities to the Trump Organization and offering damaging information on Clinton during the campaign. Trump has denied any such communication took place.

Who is Christopher Steele? (Source of the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory)

Christopher Steele is a British former intelligence officer with the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) from 1987 until his retirement in 2009. He ran the Russia desk at MI6 headquarters in London between 2006 and 2009. In 2009, he co-founded Orbis Business Intelligence, a London-based private intelligence firm.

Steele became the center of controversy after he authored a dossier, thereafter called the "Steele Dossier", which was a political opposition research report for the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign, using anonymous sources, that claimed that Trump conspired with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election. The dossier, leaked by BuzzFeed News in January 2017, without its author's permission, was an unfinished 35-page compilation of raw intelligence, written for the private investigative firm Fusion GPS, paid for by Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

The release of the dossier triggered a series of events which led to the launch of the Special Counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, led by Robert Mueller.

Who is Carter Page? (Trump appointee)

Carter Page MSNBC June 2017 YouTube.png

Carter Page held two roles during the Trump 2016 presidential election campaign:

  • He was an petroleum industry consultant specializing in the Russian and Central Asian oil and gas business, and also
  • A foreign-policy adviser to Trump

In 2017, Page was a focus of the Special Counsel investigation into links between Trump associates and Russian officials, on behalf of Trump, for interference with the 2016 election.

In April 2019, the Mueller Report concluded that the investigation did not establish that Page coordinated in Russia’s interference efforts.

In December 2019, the Inspector General for the Justice Department, Michael Horowitz, issued a report on his inquiry into the FBI’s investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign and its ties to Russia. (The Justice Department is responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, including the FBI) Horowitz found fault with the FBI’s conduct, including false statements made to the FISA court when applying for a warrant to conduct surveillance on Page.

Notes:

  • The FISA court, or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, is the court that entertains applications submitted by the US government for approval of electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes.
  • The DOJ Inspector General reports to the Attorney General and Congress and investigates alleged violations of criminal and civil laws by DOJ employees and agencies it oversees, like the FBI in this case.

Who is Michael Horowitz? (Objective investigator)

Michael E. Horowitz official photo.jpg

Michael Horowitz is the Inspector General of the United States Department of Justice. He was appointed to that office during the Obama presidency.

As stated above, the DOJ Inspector General investigates alleged violations of criminal and civil laws by DOJ employees and agencies it oversees.

Horowitz did an internal probe of the FBI's investigation of Russia collusion with the Trump campaign. He found that there was mishandling on the part of the FBI when they conducted their investigation.

Who is Rod Rosenstein? (Trump appointee)

Rod Rosenstein official portrait 2.jpg

President Donald Trump appointed Rod Rosenstein to serve as Deputy Attorney General in February 2017. In May 2017, Rosenstein authored a memo that President Trump cited as the basis for his decision to dismiss FBI director James Comey.

Who is James Comey? (Fired by Trump)

Comey-FBI-Portrait.jpg

James Comey was the FBI Director appointed by Obama. Comey leaked information to the Washington Post about Michael Flynn that resulted in Flynn's departure from the White House. This was the foundation of Rod Rosenstein's memo that caused Trump to fire Comey in May 2017 for his mishandling of the FBI's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Who is Michael Flynn? (Trump appointee)

Michael T Flynn.jpg

Michael Flynn is a retired US Army lieutenant general who was the US National Security Advisor for the first 22 days of the Trump administration. He resigned in light of reports by James Comey that he had lied regarding conversations with Sergy Kislak.

Who is Sergey Kislyak? (Russian diplomat)

Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak 2016.jpg

Sergey Kislyak served as the Ambassador of Russia to the United States from 2008 to 2017. He became a key figure in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, receiving significant media coverage while denying that Russia was behind the hacking of the DNC.

Who is John Podesta? (Hillary campaign)

John Podesta official WH portrait (cropped).jpg

John Podesta is a political consultant and was the Chairman of the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign. Prior to that he served as the White House Chief of Staff to Presdient Bill Clinton and was Counseler to President Barack Obama.

Who is John Durham? (Objective investigator)

In April 2019, US Attorney General William Barr assigned John Durham, the U.S. attorney in the District of Connecticut, to oversee a DOJ probe into the origins of the FBI investigation into Russian interference. This probe was in parallel to IG Horowitz's investigation into the same. Durham had already been conducting an investigation in the Department of Justice into leaks, possibly by FBI Director James Comey, to the Washington Post about Michael Flynn that resulted in Flynn's departure from the White House.

The Durham inquiry has been described as a criminal "inquiry into its own Russia investigation", "investigating the investigators" of the Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, and a cover-up to protect Trump.

Durham brought criminal charges against Kevin Clinesmith, a former FBI laywer, who admitted altering an email about Carter Page, a Trump campaign aide, who'd been under FBI surveillence. Clinesmith pleaded guilty to a felony violation of altering an email used to maintain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants. In Janurary 2021, Clinesmith was sentenced to 12 months federal probation and 400 hours of community service after pleading guilty in court.

The Durham investigation is still on-going and he is considering additional criminal charges. Durham is expected to complete a report at some point.

Who is Peter Strzok? (Against Trump)

Stzok is a former FBI agent. He led the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server. More importantly, he led the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US elections. It was under his leadership that the FBI mislead the FISA court to get approval to spy on Carter Page.

The IG's (Inspector General Horowitz's) investigation examined hundreds of text messages exchanged using FBI-issued cell phones between Strzok and Lisa Page, with whom he was having an affair. Some of the texts disparaged then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Strzok called Trump an "idiot" in August 2015 and texted "God Hillary should win 100,000,000 - 0" after a Republican debate in March 2016.

These text messages showed a political bias against Trump, even though Strzok's collegues denied that he ever had a political bias.

Who is Robert Mueller? (Objective investigator)

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller is an American lawyer and was the director of the FBI from 2001 to 2013. Mueller led the Special Counsel's investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump presidential campaign in 2016.

The conclusion of the Special Counsel investigation

At the end of his investigation in March 2019, Mueller released his "Mueller Report", a 448-page document split into two volumes, which concluded that the investigation did not find sufficient evidence that Trump's campaign "coordinated or conspired with the Russian government in its election-interference activities".

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