Five ideas

What people should be talking about
Sunday, May 6, 2007 | 10:25 a.m. CDT; updated 8:02 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

[1] War over Iraq

President Bush vetoed a war spending bill passed by Congress that would have imposed timelines to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. The bill called for a six-month pullout starting in either July or October, depending on the war’s circumstances. The legislation also proposed more than $100 million in emergency spending for the conflict.

The bill’s supporters say the veto defies the wishes of the American people, who, polls show, are growing more uncomfortable with the war. They also criticized Bush for declining the emergency fund, saying the President seeks a “blank check” for the war.

Bush contends that U.S. military leaders also oppose a withdrawal. He says telling Iraqi insurgents when the U.S. is going to pull out would give insurgents an advantage and that a deadline would impose impossible standards on the military. Bush blamed Democrats for playing politics with the war and U.S. troops.

How and when should U.S. troops begin to withdraw to ensure the least amount of chaos in Iraq?

[2] Cheating scandal

Officials have uncovered a cheating scandal involving 34 graduate students at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. The scandal revolved around a take-home exam and other assignments. Nine students could be expelled as a result of the cheating and 15 others could be suspended for a year. Others could receive a failing grade. The students will be allowed to finish classes and have until mid-May to appeal the school’s findings.

The Fuqua School of Business is one of the nation’s best and most competitive business schools; U.S. News & World Report ranked the school 12th in the nation in 2007. The school accepted 36 percent of its applicants last year.

Cheating is not unique to Duke, however. According to a Rutgers University survey, 56 percent of the graduate business students questioned said they cheated in 2005.

What, if anything, can university officials do to reduce student cheating?

[3] Prioritizing projects

With $450 million in capital projects looming over the next 10 years and not nearly enough money, Columbia officials asked residents last week what projects the city should begin first. The list includes some $212 million worth of new projects scheduled for the next two fiscal years and $146 million worth of projects currently underway.

The Capital Improvements Plan is the city’s five-year blueprint for rebuilding or replacing aging infrastructure. The money funds a variety of things including railroads, sewer lines, stormwater projects, streets, transit and public safety improvements. Sales taxes and bond issues help fund the projects.

The request for citizen input on the projects comes early this year. Usually the city asks residents for their thoughts during the summer or fall, when officials hold three public hearings regarding the city’s budget. City leaders urged residents to begin reviewing the list of potential projects, which can be found at

How would you prioritize Columbia infrastructure needs?

[4] Abortion law

Parents whose teenage girls have abortions can sue the people who helped them obtain the procedure, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. The state upheld a 2005 law stating, “No person shall intentionally cause, aid or assist a minor to obtain an abortion without consent.” The law allows parents and guardians to seek compensation for emotional harm and punitive damages.

In making the decision, the court rejected several arguments previously posed by Planned Parenthood, which said the law could limit its freedom of speech by prohibiting counseling and the distribution of abortion information. Tuesday’s ruling did not infringe on either of those rights, although Planned Parenthood said the ruling would place an unfair burden on young girls who want an abortion.

But Missouri Right to Life, which helped write the new law, said it is aimed at prohibiting actions such as paying for a minor’s abortion or taking a minor to an out-of-state clinic without her parents’ permission.

What does this ruling mean for young women trying to get an abortion?

[5] Free trips

Gov. Matt Blunt reported Tuesday that he received $21,500 in free out-of-state trips last year. Among the excursions were a $6,000 trip to visit Missouri troops in Iraq and Afghanistan funded by the U.S. Department of Defense. He also took a trade trip to Europe, visited a biotechnology trade show in Chicago and attended a Japanese Chamber of Commerce program in New Jersey, all paid for by the Hawthorn Foundation, a nonprofit group meant to attract new industries to the state.

Blunt’s expenses totaled more than any other state official. The governor’s spokeswoman said Blunt was representing Missouri during many of the out-of-state trips.

Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder tallied $11,700 in free out-of-state trips last year. That included a Hawthorn Foundation-funded trip to China and a trip to New York to hear the St. Louis Symphony.

Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan reported $3,500 in trips to New Orleans and Boston.

What problems do you think could arise when government officials take trips funded by interest groups?

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