Introducing The Brush-Up, Your Weekly Current Events Cheat Sheet

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Welcome to The Brush-Up, our new weekly feature designed to quickly catch you up on the political/current events scene before you head into the weekend dating world. Ideally, none of us would need a cheat sheet, but we know how busy the workweek can get — so come date night, when your date brings up the latest news story (that you should totally know about) over a plate of pasta, you’ll know what she’s talking about, and quite possibly sound like a genius. Awkward situation avoided.

Without further ado, the top stories this week:

1. Trayvon Martin murder story goes viral, massive protest in Union Square, local police chief in Florida steps down.

The gist: On February 26, 17-year-old (and African-American) Trayvon Martin was shot to death in Sanford, FL, near Orlando. The alleged shooter was George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, who later told the police he acted in self-defense after a confrontation between the two.

Zimmerman has yet to be charged with a crime because a) Florida has the loosest gun laws in the country, which allowed him to carry a concealed weapon, and b) in 2005 the state passed what’s called a “stand your ground” law: long-story-short, you can shoot to kill in response to a “perceived threat,” not just a material one. The perceived threat in this case, however, is where things get really murky.

By last weekend, local police released audio of the police calls from the incident, and by Sunday it became one of the top stories in the country. A huge protest, dubbed the “Million Hoodie March” took place on Wednesday night in Union Square in New York, and by Friday afternoon, the local police chief temporarily stepped down amid massive outcries from the public.

Conversation starters: The two biggest threads in this story so far have been 1) racial elements in both the seemingly unprompted killing itself (Zimmerman is a white Hispanic, and appears to have uttered a derogatory epithet during his 911 call), and the lack of arrest of Mr. Zimmerman; and 2) the merits of such an unrestricted gun policy. Another big question that still remains unanswered is: Why did he find Trayvon Martin so suspicious in the first place?

2. Romney wins Illinois GOP primary, endorsed by Jeb Bush, finish line finally in sight

The gist: Ok so you’re probably already way sick of 2012 election news, and especially this drawn-out primary process, but this week — THIS WEEK! — we hit major milestones that all but wrapped it up. First, Romney took home the gold in Illinois, picking up 41 more delegates, and went a long way towards slowing down the once-surging Rick Santorum. THEN, he was endorsed by one of the big daddies in the GOP, George’s bro himself, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, and the only relatively-popular Bush left on the planet. My money says the avalanche has now started, and other Republican leaders will start piling on the “It’s time” bandwagon, forcing Rick and Newt and Ron out of the race, so the real deal can finally begin.

Conversation starters: First, Romney won Illinois with the lowest percentage of the vote in that state’s primary history, at only 46.7%. Whether you lean toward red or blue, you have to wonder if the conservatives are every really going to get behind this guy. Also worth considering: Will Newt actually take this all the way to the convention in Tampa? And if so, who would win in a wrestling match? (Especially if Newt’s three wives were allowed to fight, and also Seamus the dog.)

3. Supreme Court to tackle Pres. Obama’s signature piece of health legislation, hear six hours of arguments over three days

The gist: No one needs a reminder of the Affordable Care Act, because we all heard about it ad nauseum in 2009-2010, until it was finally signed into law. Well now 26 states are taking the massive health care law all the way to the Supreme Court on Monday, primarily so the nine justices can rule on whether Congress overstepped their bounds by including an individual mandate (the part of the law that requires basically all Americans to buy health insurance). Beyond the huge historical precedent this case could set (the Court hasn’t overturned a sitting President’s big domestic achievement in 75 years, i.e. since the Roosevelt days), it will hugely affect the landscape of the 2012 election no matter how the decision falls.

Conversation starters: Ok so pretty much everyone in the country has an opinion on the ACA, and more often than not a quite passionate opinion – so maybe not the best date-night conversation fodder? Then again, it offers a pretty smooth segue to the recent debate over birth control coverage, which I feel should be mandatory first-date conversation for everyone.

4. Finally, here’s our anecdotal story of the week:

So hopefully you already know the history between Dan Savage and Rick Santorum (if not, you might want to read this). This week when a reporter asked the Pennsylvania Senator what he would say to the popular sex columnist, Santorum said, “I would tell him that I’m praying for him. He obviously has some serious issues. You look at someone like that who can say and do the things that he’s doing and you just pray for him and hopefully he can find peace.”

Not surprisingly, Savage was ready with a wonderfully pithy response: “Rick Santorum thinks that women who have been raped should be compelled—by force of law—to carry the babies of their rapists to term, he thinks birth control should be illegal, he wants to prosecute pornographers, etc., etc., basically the guy wants to be president so that he can micromanage the sex lives of all Americans…and I’m the one with issues?” (See also: Chiara Atik’s analysis of a recent NY Times article featuring Savage.)