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Affirmative Action
Affirmative action has sunk deep roots in American higher education, government and business. But tension still runs strong between the ideal of choosing school and job candidate purely on merit, and requirements to factor in other criteria – including race. This November, ballot initiatives in at least two states would eliminate race, but not socioeconomic, preference. And big states including California, Florida and Texas are still struggling to reconcile legal mandates restricting the use of race in college admissions with the goal of increasing diversity. One stumbling block: Affirmative action didn’t lessen the stunning disparities that plague elementary and high school education, disparities that often follow the color line. Still, the open racial hostility that marked opposition to affirmative action decades ago has faded. Even some race-preference critics don’t want to eliminate it entirely. Instead, they’re exploring ways to keep diversity without eroding admission and hiring standards.
By Peter Katel

Financial System Bailout
In the wake of widespread failures on Wall Street – including the federal bailout of insurance giant American International Group and the bankruptcy of venerable investment bank Lehman Brothers – Congress approved a $700 billion bailout proposed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. But many question whether the bailout will stem the financial crisis that grips not only the United States but the global banking system. Experts also are asking whether the costs of the bailout to U.S. taxpayers would be excessive, and whether Congress will have to take further action to correct the nation’s systemic financial problems.
By Thomas J. Billitteri

Gun Rights Debates

The Supreme Court gave gun rights advocates a major victory on June 26, recognizing for the first time an individual right under the Second Amendment to own and possess firearms. The 5-4 decision struck down a handgun ban adopted by the District of Columbia in 1976. Gun rights advocates began filing suits the very same day challenging similar bans in Chicago and elsewhere. In his opinion for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said the decision did not invalidate laws establishing qualifications to buy weapons, limiting the carrying of weapons in “sensitive” places or barring possession by felons or the mentally ill. Gun control groups hope the ruling sets the stage for more reasoned debate over gun regulations by removing the specter of confiscation of weapons. But gun owners plan to use the ruling to challenge licensing schemes and to urge state legislators to ease restrictions on carrying weapons in public.
By Kenneth Jost