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Teachers Edition: Grades 3-6 (Backgrounders)

  • Environmentalism

    Download this backgrounder as a Word documentWorth ReadingFrank Uekoetter: Global Warming – It's 1970 All Over AgainBrian Hamilton: Making “Environmentalism” Relevant for Everyone Nancy Unger: Fifty Years After “Silent Spring,” Let's Not Roll Back Environmental Protections Background

  • Taxes

    by David Austin Walsh

    Download this backgrounder as a Word documentWorth ReadingRay Raphael: The Income Tax Amendment Turns One Hundred and It’s Worth CelebratingIs the Income Tax Illegal?Michael Lind: What If All Sides are Wrong about Taxes?Q&A: How FDR Built Today’s Tax SystemBackgroundHow does the federal income tax – due on April 15 each year – work in the United States?It’s complicated.

  • Gun Control

    by Rick Shenkman

    Download this backgrounder as a Word document Worth Reading New York Times backgrounder on gun controlHNN Hot Topics: Gun ControlDo Guns Cause Crime?Background

  • Medicare

    by David Austin Walsh

    Download this backgrounder as a World documentWorth ReadingHNN's History of Healthcare Reform http://hnn.us/articles/hnns-history-healthcare-reformNYT Times Topic: Medicare http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/diseasesconditionsandhealthtopics/medicare/index.html?8qaColin Gordon: “Hands Off My Medicare: The Deadly Legacy of Social Insurance” http://hnn.us/node/122017BackgroundAs people get older, they tend to get sicker. You've probably seen this yourself with your parents and grandparents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those 65 and older (usually called “the elderly” in the media) are nearly twice as likely to need to take pills in order to stay healthy; they are also much more likely to require hospitalization -- in fact, the CDC estimates that nearly 25 percent of those aged 65 and up are in “fair or poor health.”

  • Social Security

    by Rick Shenkman

    Download this backgrounder as a Word documentWorth ReadingWhen Did Social Security Become the Third Rail of American Politics?BackgroundSocial Security is the nation's largest social program. More than 50 million people receive benefits totalling more than $600 billion a year. Originally established to provide retirement benefits, the program was extended to widows, the disabled, and children in some cases. It is estimated to keep 40 percent of the elderly out of poverty. Currently, retirement benefits are paid to people when they reach the age of 65, though younger people will have to wait until they are 66 or 67, depending on the date of their birth.

  • Presidential Inaugurations

    Download this backgrounder as a Word documentWorth ReadingHNN Hot Topics: Presidential InaugurationsHighlights of Past InauguralsNixon Pigeon-Proofed His Inaugural Parade RouteBackground

  • Deficits and the Debt Ceiling

    Download this backgrounder as a Word document.Worth ReadingBernard Weisberger, "What History Tells Us Will Likely Happen to Those Giant Surpluses"HNN Hot Topics: Tea Party HistoryHNN Hot Topics: The Debt CeilingBackground

  • What Does the President Actually Do?

    Download this backgrounder as a Word document Worth Reading Peter M. Shane: How Has the Presidency Changed Most in the Last Thirty Years? David E. Kyvig: How Presidential Power Became Untouchable Ray Raphael: Foreign Policy and Original Intent: The Powers of the President Warmaking: President vs. Congress Background

  • What Does the Vice President Actually Do?

    Worth Reading Joshua Spivak: Why Do We Have Vice Presidents?Joel K. Goldstein: How the Vice President Can Serve as the President's Most Unbiased AdvisorChristopher Bates: The Vice Presidency Should Not Be an Accident Waiting to Happen Background According to John Nance Garner, Franklin D. Roosevelt's first vice president, the vice-presidency “isn't worth a bucket of warm [spit].” (He actually used a ruder word than spit, but it was bowlderized by reporters). And indeed, for most of American history, the office of the vice-president really wasn't much more than an afterthought -- there have been sixteen non-consecutive occasions throughout American history when the office has been vacant.

  • Electing the President: Who Actually Votes?

    by Rick Shenkman

    Download this backgrounder as a Word document Worth Reading HNN Hot Topic: Election 2012 HNN Hot Topic: Electing Presidents HNN Hot Topic: The Electoral CollegeBackground Ever wonder why presidential candidates talk so much about issues like Medicare that affect people in the upper age brackets? It's because older people vote at much higher rates than others. In 2008 70 percent of eligible voters 65 and older voted. Only 49 percent of young voters (age 18 to 24) cast a ballot. If you were a politician which group's concerns would you most care about?

  • Constitution Day: Backgrounder

    Though the thirteen colonies declared independence from Great Britain in 1776 and the Revolutionary War ended in American victory in 1783, the Constitution was not drafted until 1787, ratified until 1788, and George Washington did not become the first president of the United States until 1789. So how was the U.S. Governed between 1776 and 1787?

  • Electing the President: Voter Apathy

    Worth ReadingHNN Hot Topics: Election 2012HNN Hot Topics: Electing PresidentsHNN Hot Topics: The Electoral CollegeShould We Take Away the Voting Rights of 18 Year Olds?Background

  • Syria

    Download this backgrounder as a Word documentWorth ReadingJuan Cole: The Dilemma over Whether to Intervene in SyriaDaniel Pipes: Fin de Regime in Syria?Wadah Khanfar: Syria Between Two Massacres … Hama's Memory EnduresDavid W. Lesch: What Could Shake Syria's RegimeBackground

  • Iran

    Worth ReadingWalid Phares: It's a MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD World for IranJuan Cole: How Zoroastrianism Influences the Worldview of Iran's LeadershipJohn T. McNay: The Road Not Taken by the U.S. in 1950s IranBackgroundThere is perhaps no situation more fraught with peril than the unfolding crisis in the Middle East over Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program. Israel is rumored to be preparing a military strike against key Iranian nuclear facilities, the Iranian government alleges that the Israeli Mossad and the American CIA are behind a series of assassinations of nuclear scientists and computer sabotage, and Israel alleges that Iranian agents are behind a series of bombings targeting Israeli embassies in Georgia and India. Iranian agents may also have plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

  • Electing the President: How Do You Make Up Your Mind?

    Worth ReadingHNN Hot Topic: Election 2012HNN Hot Topic: Electing PresidentsHNN Hot Topic: The Electoral CollegeShould We Take Away the Voting Rights of 18 Year Olds?BackgroundWhat qualities should one look for in a presidential candidate? Since the advent of television, many Americans seem to have decided that presidents should be selected on the basis of their personality and image: how they come across on television. The way many Americans choose presidents today marks a sharp departure from the past. While personality and image were always important factors, they were usually not decisive until TV came along. Before TV, voters placed a high emphasis on a candidate's resume and political party affiliation.

  • North Korea

    Download this backgrounder as a Word documentBackgroundNorth Korea caught headlines at the very end of last year when Kim Jong-il, the supreme leader of the country since 1994, died suddenly but not unexpectedly. The older Kim had been grooming his son Kim Jong-un to take power since June 2010. Before Kim Jong-il came his father Kim Il-Sung (who, after his death, was proclaimed “Eternal President of the Republic”)—a Kim has been supreme leader of North Korea since the end of Japanese rule in 1945.

  • Electing the President: Caucuses and Primaries

    Download this backgrounder as a Word documentWorth ReadingHNN Hot Topics: 2012 ElectionsHNN Hot Topics: Electing PresidentsHNN Hot Topics: The Electoral CollegeTimothy R. Furnish: Should We Take Away the Voting Rights of 18 Year Olds?BackgroundEvery four years the United States elects a president. In the modern era the two main parties (Democrats and Republicans) select their nominees at caucuses and primaries that take place during the first six months of the year. Candidates compete for delegates to the national conventions, which formally select a nominee during the summer.

  • Occupy Wall Street

    Worth ReadingHNN Hot Topics: Occupy Wall StreetBackgroundOccupy Wall Street began on September 17, 2011, when a group of protesters, prompted by a July 13 blog post by the Canadian anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters proposed that “20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months,” borrowing tactics from the protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square which toppled the Mubarak regime and the Indignants movement in Spain, especially their use of online social networks like Facebook and Twitter for communication.Though the movement itself has been criticized, even by its supporters, for its lack of specific demands and goals, Occupy Wall Street has indisputably changed the national conversation from the debt and deficit talk of August to a discussion of income inequality and the fading sense of opportunity in modern America, particularly for young people.

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