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Civics, Government and Politics: Republican Convention

TOPIC:   The Republican Party has formally nominated Mitt Romney as their presidential candidate to challenge President Barak Obama in November’s presidential election. What are the key positions that define the Republican platform? What are the positions that the Ron Paul supporters have brought to the convention and want heard?  What Republican politicians have enhanced their presence in the party with impressive speeches at this year’s convention? How was Romney’s speech received?

SEARCH TERMS: Republican AND convention

 Civics, Government and Politics:  Democratic Convention

TOPIC:  The Democratic Party has convened in Charlotte, N.C. to re-nominate Barack Obama and Joe Biden as their standard bearers in this year's presidential election. What Democratic politicians have or will be speaking at the convention?  Why were they chosen to speak? What does this do to their presence in the party? What issues have the Democrats chosen to highlight in their platform and how do their approaches to them differ from what is in the Republican platform?

SEARCH TERMS: Democratic AND convention

 ENVIRONMENT: Hurricane Isaac  

TOPIC:  Hurricane Isaac has moved from Haiti, past Florida to New Orleans.  What is the damage left from the hurricane and what are the relief efforts for each location? What precautionary and relief processes have been amended since Hurricane Katrina in 2005?

SEARCH TERMS: (tropical storm OR hurricane) AND Isaac


TOPIC:  As the NASA rover Curiosity explores Mars, it documents, collects and somewhat alters the landscape.  What have been the tasks the rover has completed and why?  What are some of the most interesting images it has sent back?

SEARCH TERMS: Mars AND rover and Curiosity


TOPIC:  Under the pseudonym of Mark Owen, Matt Bissonette of the United States Navel Special Warfare Group (DEVGRU) who participated in the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden, has written a book on that mission called No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden.  Why is the book being evaluated by the Defense Department for national security? How did Al Qaeda get his personal information that it released, calling on militants to seek revenge for the killing of Bin Laden?

SEARCH TERMS: No Easy Day AND (Mark Owen OR Bissonette)


 Civics, Government and Politics: Paul Ryan

TOPIC:  Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has selected Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to join him on the ticket as his candidate for Vice President.  What are his political beliefs and how are they similar and different from Romney’s? What are the most and least controversial aspects of his proposed national budget?  What political strengths does he add to the campaign? How was his speech received?

SEARCH TERMS: Paul Ryan AND vice president*

 Civics, Government and Politics: Voter ID    

TOPIC:  The voter identification law in South Carolina is being challenged in court.  What is the best case for and against this law? What has been the evidence of voter fraud that spurred the recent push for voter ID requirements? What other states have adopted or enhanced their voter identifications recently and why? Historically what kind of identification has been required to vote?

SEARCH TERMS: vote* AND (identification OR ID)

Civics, Government and Politics: Nonaligned Nations Conference

TOPIC:  Iran is hosting the conference of Nonaligned Nations this month. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be attending. How did Iran come to host this meeting? What does it hope to get out of it? Has the end of the Cold War meant that the nonaligned nation’s movement needs to redefine itself?

SEARCH TERMS: Iran AND nonaligned nations

 Civics, Government and Politics: Teddy Bear Fracas

TOPIC:  Belarus and Sweden have each declared the other’s diplomats persona non grata. The reason for this is a difference over the idea of human rights. Sweden is for them, Belarus, not so much. But it might also be related to a flight sponsored by a Swedish firm that dropped teddy bears on Belarus soil. What firm arranged this and what was the point of the teddy bear air drop? How did the leader of Belarus react to this flight? Who is the Belarusian leader and how did he gain power?

SEARCH TERMS: (Belarus OR Sweden) and teddy bears

 CRIME AND LAW: A Different Approach

TOPIC:  Uruguay proposes to legalize and regulate marijuana, seeing this as a crime fighting measure. Which drug’s use do they hope to curtail by this new policy? What European country has done much the same thing? What will the new law allow?

SEARCH TERMS:  Uruguay AND marijuana AND legalization

 CRIME AND LAW: Prisoner Religious Rights   

TOPIC:  U.S-born Taliban John Walker Lindh is suing the U.S. government claiming he has been denied the right to pray in prison.  What are the religious rights of prisoners in the U.S.?  What are the best arguments for and against his case?

SEARCH TERMS: John Walker Lindh AND prayer  

ECONOMICS: Apple vs. Samsung        

TOPIC:  A jury has ruled that mobile devices made by Samsung Electronics Co. have violated Apple Inc.’s design and utility patents.  What specifically are covered in the patents held by Apple and how did Samsung violate them?  What are the implications of this verdict to other competitors in the industry? What was the verdict on Apple/Samsung in South Korea, how do the cases differ and what was the reasoning behind their verdict?

SEARCH TERMS:  Samsung AND Apple AND patent*

 ECONOMICS: Semi-autonomous Sovereign Debt

TOPIC: Spain’s semi-autonomous regions have begun asking the central government for economic help, as they cannot go directly to financial markets to borrow what they need. While Spain has set up a fund for these purposes, it is nowhere large enough to cover the combined debt. What will be the impact on these finances? How will this impact the Euro? What are the possible implications for Spain’s relations with the rest of the European Union nations?

SEARCH TERMS: Spain AND semi-autonomous regions AND debt

 EDUCATION: Student Protests in Chile

TOPIC:  Student demonstrations continue in Chile, with marches demanding better schools. Students had recently occupied some high schools and police had driven them out. What do the students want? What has been the educational policy of the current government and of the government that preceded it?

SEARCH TERMS: Chile AND student demonstrations

 EDUCATION:  Women’s Colleges    

TOPIC:  Of the more than 200 women’s colleges in 1960, the Women’s College Coalition show only 47 are members today as more and more women’s colleges are becoming coed.  What are the reasons for this change?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of a singe-sex education?

SEARCH TERMS: women AND college AND Women’s College Coalition

 HISTORY: Presidential Race 1912    

TOPIC:  One of the most interesting U.S. presidential campaigns was 100 years ago when three strong candidates, Republican William Howard Taft, Democrat Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt for the new progressive Bull Moose Party all competed for the presidency.  What were the platforms of each party and how did they compare?  Why did Teddy Roosevelt split from the Republicans to form the Bull Moose Party?  What was the full contribution to changing the United States made by each of these men over their full political career?

SEARCH TERMS: Woodrow Wilson AND William Howard Taft AND (Teddy OR Theodore) AND Roosevelt

 HISTORY: Ned Kelly’s Remains

TOPIC:  Australia has decided to return the bones of Ned Kelly to his family. They had been discovered in a mass grave at a closed prison and lack his skull. DNA tests verified his identity. Who was Ned Kelly? When did he live and how did he die? Why is he considered a folk hero in Australia?

SEARCH TERMS: Australia AND Ned Kelly



TOPIC:  France is cracking down on illegal camps set up by gypsies from Romania. Last time the government did this, it deported thousands of them back to Romania. Why are the Roma leaving Romania for France? Why is France choosing to crack down on them now?


 SOCIAL ISSUES: Language Matters

TOPIC:  The Ukraine has passed a law allowing the use of the Russian language for official documents and other business. What percent of population in any given area of Ukraine must speak Russian in order for this to take effect? What do critics of the law claim will happen?

SEARCH TERMS:  Ukraine AND Russian language

 SOCIAL ISSUES: Augusta National Golf Club   

TOPIC:  The Augusta National Golf Club has changed its policy to admit women members.  Who are the first two women admitted and why?  What was the reason for the clubs original policy and what led to the change?

SEARCH TERMS: Augusta National Golf Club AND women


 ENVIRONMENT: Ice Cover Shrinking

TOPIC: The ice cover in the Arctic follows a regular pattern of expanding until springtime, then melting somewhat over the summer. This year the ice has melted more than ever. What conditions lead to this record melt-off? What might be the long term implications of it?

SEARCH TERMS: Arctic AND ice AND melting

HEALTH: Cholera Outbreak

TOPIC:  Sierra Leone is suffering from an outbreak of cholera that has killed over 200 people and infected thousands more. What are the symptoms of cholera? Why can it be fatal? What is contributing to its outbreak in Sierra Leone?

SEARCH TERMS: Sierra Leone AND cholera

 HEALTH: Cigarette Marketing

TOPIC:  Australia’s highest court upheld a law that forces cigarette makers to stop using their logos and colors on their packaging and replaces them with graphic images showing the health risks of smoking. Presumably these photos will stop people from starting smoking. Do you think this will work? Would higher taxes on them to cover the costs to society of smoking also help? Would such a law be found constitutional in the U.S.?

SEARCH TERMS: Australia AND cigarettes AND marketing

 HEALTH: Medicare   

TOPIC: President Obama’s health care reform law and Paul Ryan’s budget proposal both involve changes to Medicare.  What specifically are those changes and what is the purpose of each?  When was Medicare first passed into law and what was its sustainability based on at the time?

SEARCH TERMS: (Obamacare OR affordable care act OR Ryan budget) AND Medicare

 HEALTH: HIV Pill   

TOPIC: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new pill called Stribild that can be taken once daily to treat HIV infection.  What four medicines are combined in this pill and how do they work in the body to treat AIDS? What was the result of the clinical trials on this drug?



TOPIC:  Sir Bernard Lovell was the longtime head of the Jordell Bank Observatory, a steerable radio telescope. How does a radio telescope work? What were the Jordell Bank Observatory’s contributions to astronomy?

SEARCH TERMS: Sir Bernard Lovell OR Jordell Bank


 SPORTS: Lance Armstrong     

TOPIC:  Champion road-racing cyclist Lance Armstrong has decided to end his battle with the United States Anti-Doping Agency. What were the charges against him brought by the USADA and what are the best arguments for and against their charges? What are the reasons and the consequences for his decision? How should fans think about his victories in the Tour de France in light of his decision? 

SEARCH TERMS: Lance Armstrong AND (USADA OR United States Anti-Doping Agency OR U.S. Anti-Doping Agency)

 SPORTS: Lydia Ko

TOPIC:  Lydia Ko has won the LPGA Canadian Women’s Open. She is the youngest winner at 15 and has become the fifth amateur to win an LPGA event. What other tournaments has she won? What other age-related honors has she held?


 SPORTS: 2012 Paralympics

TOPIC:  The Paralympics have begun in London. This worldwide sporting event is twinned with the Olympic Games. When did these games come into being? Who started them? How have they grown in the years since their founding?

SEARCH TERMS: Paralympics

 SPORTS: Eduardo Najero    

TOPIC:  Eduardo Najero of the Dallas Mavericks is the first Mexican head coach in the NBA.  What is his prior coaching experience?  What is his coaching style?

SEARCH TERMS: Eduardo Najero  

 SPORTS: Don Nelson    

TOPIC: Don Nelson, National Basketball Association coach with the most wins in the history of the league, is retiring.  What teams did he coach and what were their records?  What was his coaching technique?






TOPIC:  Tony Scott was a popular and critically acclaimed film director.  What are some of his most famous and acclaimed films?  How has his directing style been described?

SEARCH TERMS: Tony Scott AND director


FILM AND TELEVISION: Michael Clarke Duncan    

TOPIC:  Michael Clarke Duncan, nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Green Mile, has died. What was his role in that movie? How did the difference between his appearance and demeanor in that role help increase his popularity as an actor within the industry? What other roles did he have?

SEARCH TERMS: Michael Clarke Duncan    



TOPIC:  The Venice Film Festival has opened. What new films are scheduled to open there? Which seem most interesting? Where does Venice stand among the various film festivals that take place around the year?

SEARCH TERMS: Venice Film Festival



TOPIC:  Robert Hughes was an Australian-born art critic Robert Hughes. Where did he work for since the 1970s? What were some of the books he wrote? How did he feel about many contemporary artists like Damian Hurst or Jeff Koons?

SEARCH TERMS: Robert Hughes



TOPIC:  The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is presenting the work of artist Ori Gersht in film, photographs and video.  What are some of the main themes of his work and how are they expressed?  What does he draw from his background in his work?



LITERATURE: Farewell to the Dandy

TOPIC:  The long-running British comic book The Dandy, begun in 1937, will shut down because of low sales. Two of its long running characters are Desperate Dan and Bannanaman. When will its final issue be on sale? Who was its target audience? What other comics from the 1930s still exist today?



PERFORMING ARTS: Buenos Aires Festival

TOPIC:  The 10th annual festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina, celebrating its national dance, the tango, was recently held. What differentiates the tango from other dances? Whose career was celebrated at this year’s festival? Who won the dance competition that is part of the festival?

SEARCH TERMS: Tango Buenos Aires Festival and World Cup


PERFORMING ARTS: David Henry Hwang  

TOPIC:  David Henry Hwang has been awarded the Steinberg award for his career as a playwright.  What are some of his most critically acclaimed plays and what were the qualities that impressed the critics?  What kind of playwright does this award seek to recognize and why?

SEARCH TERMS: David Henry Hwang



TOPIC:  Lyricist Hal David, best known for the songs he wrote with Burt Bacharach that were performed by Dionne Warwick, has died? What were some of those songs? What hits did he have before and after his work with Bacharach? What honors did he earn?





PEOPLE: Neil Armstrong     

TOPIC: Astronaut Neil Armstrong is most famous as the first man to walk on the moon. When did he do this, what were some of the key conditions that NASA had to secure for his safety and how did they achieve that?  What are some other key high points in his career?

SEARCH TERMS:  Neil Armstrong


PEOPLE: Rachel Corrie

TOPIC:  Rachel Corrie’s parents have lost their civil suit that tried to place blame for their daughter’s death on the Israeli army when the judge ruled her death to be an accident. How did Rachel Corrie die? Why did her parents think the army was to blame?

SEARCH TERMS: Rachel Corrie


PEOPLE: Dom Mintoff

TOPIC:  Dom Mintoff was a former prime minister of Malta. He is best remembered for his policies towards Great Britain and NATO. What were those policies and how effective were they? How did he come to power? What were his activities after he left office?



PEOPLE: Sun-Myung Moon

TOPIC:  Rev. Sun-Myung Moon, best known for the mass weddings he presided over, was the founder of the Unification Church. What are the tenets of the church? What historical religious figures did Rev. Moon claim to have met? What were his business interests and political views?

SEARCH TERMS: Sun-Myung Moon


PEOPLE: Marvin Hamlisch

TOPIC: As an American composer and conductor, Marvin Hamlisch distinguished himself as a rare winner of the Emmy, Oscar, Tony and Grammy awards.  What are some of his most celebrated songs and who sang them? What are some popular films and plays scored by him? What role did he play in revitalizing the popularity of the music of Scott Joplin?

SEARCH TERMS: Marvin Hamlisch


PEOPLE: Steve Van Buren

TOPIC: Hall of Fame halfback for the Philadelphia Eagles Steve Van Buren was an early star of the NFL. In what years did he play and how was the professional football season and game different now?  What championship games did he play in and what were his key contributions to each of them?

SEARCH TERMS: Steve Van Buren   


PEOPLE: Phyllis Diller

TOPIC:  Phyllis Diller was a popular comedienne and actress through the second half of the 20th century.  What were some recurring themes of her comedy? What were some of the highlights of her career?

SEARCH TERMS: Phyllis Diller  

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updated 09/07/12