Everyone’s done for the semester and it’s time for new jobs, new cities, new friends and new news. Instead of the regular, weekly Sunday Sweep, this summer we’ll be posting twice monthly “cheat sheets” that span multiple topics in the news instead of just one. For daily updates delivered right to your inbox, consider signing up for the Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet or New York Times news alerts.
Here are five of the top stories in the news right now – what you need to know, when you need to know it, where to look to know more.
1. UK PHONE HACKING SCANDAL—It was recently discovered that The News of the World, a British tabloid operated by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp empire, paid private investigators to hack into the voicemail accounts of private citizens. One of the first victims to emerge from the scandal was Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old British girl who was found murdered months after her disappearance in 2002. Many were revolted to find that hackers deleted several of Dowler’s voice messages in order to make room for new ones as the account filled up, giving her parents false hope that she was alive. But as investigations delved deeper into what quickly fueled public outrage, it was discovered that victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11 and the 7-7 bombings in London were also subjected to voice mail hacking. More than two weeks after the first details were broken by the news media, what is now being called a crisis has yet to cease . Despite retiring NOTW at the age of 168, with its last issue printed shortly after the realization the Dowler hacking was not an isolated incident, Murdoch and his son, James, answered to Parliament Tuesday about his newspaper’s tactics, which may have been used by other news organizations in his empire as well. During the testimony, a man attacked Rupert with a shaving cream pie.Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International and then-editor of NOTW, resigned Friday and was arrested Sunday shortly before the resignation of London’s police chief. Evidence suggests the authorities were not entirely ignorant of NOTW’s tactics and a second “top cop” has also resigned. Later released, Brooks accompanied the Murdochs at Parliament. As the breadth of the scandal continues to expand, it brings serious questions about the honesty and integrity of British journalism and Murdoch’s empire. In yet another twist, one of the first whistleblowers of the scandal was found dead Monday. Authorities say the death is unexplained but not suspicious.
If this all seems a little overwhelming to you, check out a timeline of the phone hacking scandal compiled by Al Jazeera, starting in 2005.
If this is the first you’re hearing of the scandal, watch as The Daily Show’s John Oliver summarizes the aspects that have most angered the British public.
2. DEBT CEILING–As August 2nd looms nearer and the United States runs the risk of running out of money to pay its bills, politicians in Washington continue to squabble over the details of legislation that would prevent the United States from defaulting on its loans and other financial obligations. Although the debt ceiling, a limit to how much the United States is allowed to borrow from bond holders and foreign lenders, has been raised dozens of times in previous years, this time it has been turned into a battle of political ideologies, with neither side playing very well with the other. While some believe the debt talks are political theater as the country enters an election year, despite claims default would mean instant economic collapse, Congress’ recess is being held hostage until an agreement is reached.
Democrats say they want to increase revenue by eliminating loopholes in the tax code that give tax breaks to corporations and the wealthiest American individuals, but many Republicans are refusing to consider any kind of revenue increases. Similarly, Republicans say they want to cut spending by reducing waste in programs like Social Security, but Democrats are adamant that entitlement programs remain untouched. President Obama and his press secretary, Jay Carney, have held numerous press conferences in the past couple of weeks to update the American people on the progress that has been made, but reaching a “grand bargain” deal that effectively cuts spending while increasing revenue and still manages to please everyone in Congress is looking less likely as Washington scrambles for a “fail safe” option. Senator Mitch McConnell has proposed one plan, albeit unpopular, that would give the president the right to request a debt ceiling increase, Congress the right to deny his request, and Obama the ability to veto their refusal, effectively raising the debt ceiling without technically having Republican support. House Republicans passed a bill Tuesday that would create a “balanced budget” constitutional amendment, but Obama has vowed to veto the bill because of certain spending cuts, should it pass the Senate, which is unlikely.
3. MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA—As violence in Libya and Syria continues to claim the lives of many innocent civilians, the United States has spoken out against both governments. In Istanbul, Turkey, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the United States’ recognition of the Libyan rebels as the legitimate governing authority in Libya, further emphasizing the need for Col. Muammar Qaddafi to step down. Following an attack on the U.S. embassy in Damascus, Syria, Clinton also issued a strong statement that Bashar al Assad, the Syrian president, is “not indispensable,” encouraging him to end the violence in his nation and step down. Sudan has also recently split into two nations following a years-long civil war which is not yet over. Despite the creation of South Sudan to quell the fighting, reports of mass murder and war crimes in the border region of South Kordofan are evoking international scrutiny and a potential UN investigation.
4. HARRY POTTER—For many who grew up with the wizard boy, the opening of the last Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, marks the depressing end to a beloved era. But for Warner Bros and J.K. Rowling, the movie marks record-shattering earnings in its midnight showing and opening weekend. Check out a NY Times review of the movie if you haven’t seen it yet and watch Jon Stewart interview Danielle Radcliffe on Monday’s edition of The Daily Show. If you’re willing to poke a little fun at yourself for being a die-hard fan, take a look at The Onion’s comical account of the final ten minutes of the final movie being split into 7 separate films. For a few more laughs, take a look at their archive of Harry Potter coverage. Also be advised that Rupert Murdoch is staging a takeover of The Daily Prophet, according to Slate.
5. LGBT HISTORY–A law has been passed in California to require LGBT history to be taught in public schools. Information must be added to the textbooks, much to the dismay of opponents who threaten to pull their children out of public school because of promoting a “homosexual worldview.” Proponents of the law, which requires schools take action by 2013, say it is a step in the right direction to prevent LGBT students from feeling abnormal and estranged from their peers.