Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Sep 20, 2018 in Stuff You Should Know

Kavanaugh Update

Recently, btw brought you a closer look at Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s most recent Supreme Court nominee, and the challenges he faced as he began his week of Senate confirmation hearings. Now that those hearings are finished, however, Congress, as well as the American public, are more divided than ever over Kavanaugh’s nomination.

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One of the main points of controversy that came up during the hearings was the issue of Kavanaugh’s debt. Kavanaugh listed between $15,000 and $80,000 of debt in 2016, and an additional $60,000 to $200,000 in 2017. All of this, he blamed on expenses associated with the fact that he and his wife own an older home. This year, however, all of the debts disappeared.

Another concern for Democrats remains the number of documents about Kavanaugh that haven’t been released. So far, the Senate committee has only had access to 7 percent of the documents from Kavanaugh’s six years serving under former President Bush. Several Senate Democrats have pushed to have more documents released, or to at least receive an itemized list of why each document is being withheld from them, but their requests have been repeatedly voted down by Republicans.

In an eleventh-hour twist, however, Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat from California) released information to the FBI about an alleged sexual assault that Kavanaugh participated in while in high school. Republicans, in response, have been quick to point out that during his many years of public service, Kavanaugh has passed several background checks performed by the FBI. The matter remains under investigation.

The Senate vote on Kavanaugh will take place on September 20 at 1:45 pm.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, should the White House be required to release all of Kavanaugh’s documents so that the Senate can make a more informed vote, or do you think the president has the right to withhold information for national security purposes? Explain.

Space Wars

Lately, it’s hard to imagine the United States and Russia collaborating on much of anything. But there’s one place where the two nations have worked together for decades: outer space. However, as of last month, that spirit of cooperation might now be threatened.

On August 29, astronauts detected a small leak, less than one-tenth of an inch wide, in a Russian spacecraft docked to the International Space Station. The astronauts sealed the hole with tape, and it presented no threat to the spacecraft or to the astronauts themselves. Originally, it was assumed that the hole was caused by a passing micrometeorite. Last week, however, rumors began circulating in Russian newspapers that the hole was actually created from the inside-out, not the outside-in, which rules out the micrometeorite idea and instead indicates that someone inside the spacecraft created the leak intentionally. They are pointing to NASA astronauts as the guilty party. NASA, of course, vehemently denies the claim.

Russian authorities have demanded video footage of NASA astronauts on the spacecraft, to monitor their movements aboard the ship, though they admit that NASA is unlikely to release this footage on the grounds of protecting the astronauts’ privacy. Administrators from both NASA and the Russian space program have spoken and reaffirmed their dedication to the safety of all astronauts on board. Leaders of both programs will meet face to face in Kazakhstan next month. Both agreed that they will not jump to any conclusions before the official investigation is completed.

Dig Deeper When did the United States and Russia first begin collaborating in space? What were the circumstances? Feel free to use internet resources to help you answer the question.

Tragedy in Dallas

Just before 10:00 pm on September 6, a white off-duty Dallas police officer named Amber Guyger came home to her apartment to find her door ajar. She pushed it open and saw someone inside, moving around in the darkness. Believing that the person was an intruder, Guyger made verbal commands, and when he did not respond, she shot him in the chest. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

But in a tragic twist, it turns out that the man wasn’t an intruder at all. Guyger had entered the wrong apartment. The so-called “intruder” was the man who rightfully lived there, a 26-year-old African American man named Botham Jean. Guyger had mistakenly entered an apartment on the fourth floor, though she lived on the third.

In the wake of this disastrous night, Guyger was charged with manslaughter, but she posted bail and was released less than an hour later. She is now on administrative need. Many people in the Dallas community and nationwide have expressed concern and anger that the investigation is moving so slowly–it took several days for her to even be charged–and that Guyger’s story contradicts accounts by witnesses of the events. For example, other people in the apartment building claim that they heard Guyger knocking repeatedly on the door, shouting to be let into the apartment. And they also note that Jean had a distinctive red doormat that would make it hard for someone to mistake his apartment for their own.

Guyger was tested for drugs and alcohol in her blood, but the results of those tests have not yet been released. There is no official date yet to bring the case to trial.

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources and what you’ve seen in the news to write a paragraph about Botham Jean’s life. Remember to include details such as where he was originally from, his family, his job and education, or anything else you feel helps give you a better idea of who he was as a person.

The Future of FAFSA

If you are college-bound in a few years, you’ve likely already heard of FAFSA: the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. In the past, FAFSA has been notoriously difficult to navigate. That’s all changing, however, with the advent of new digital options that will be available as soon as next month.

Up until now, FAFSA could only be completed on a desktop computer. But with the new digital options, students can complete the form on a smartphone. There are other improvements too, such as the fact that only one question is presented per screen, making the form easier for students to navigate. The new format also has the ability for parents and students to work on the form independently from two different devices, rather than having to sit down to work on it together as in years past. Even more importantly, the new app will allow a student’s financial information to be automatically transferred from the I.R.S. (Internal Revenue Service).

So, why are these changes important? Sure, they make filling out the difficult form easier and more convenient. But this really matters because the more convenient and accessible the form is, the more students who will fill it out, including disadvantaged students who might not have access to a traditional desktop computer. Because an estimated 95 percent of Americans have access to a mobile device, the application will now be available to more students than ever before.

The new app will be available on October 1, 2018, through the myStudentAid app, which can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store. Or, for Android users, it can also be downloaded from Google Play.

What Do You Think? This app is important because it allows more students than ever before to easily access college financial aid forms. In your opinion, what other steps could be taken to make sure that all students have access to the information they need to apply to college?