October Policy Digest

October is the “settling in” month for debate. By this point, almost every region has started its season. Many debaters have attended several competitions. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve debated extensively, this month’s policy digest is sure to contain important information to help you win more debates!

 The Big Picture

We posted a brief follow-up to our September advice about speaking clearly and well.  We also posted several follow-ups to our August feature, American hegemony. Some argue the U.S. is not firing on all cylinders because of a mixture of factors, notably imperial hubris, the structure of government, globalization, technology, debt and energy. This has driven Foreign Policy to create a “decline-o-meter.” While many believed Obama would herald change, the Council on Foreign Relations argues he has largely stuck to the plan of his predecessors. Does this herald a return to great power conflict?

What’s up in Washington?

With the passage of the major agenda items (trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama) a new series of politics DAs entered the fore. We offered our take on which new politics DA is best. When politics began moving at the speed of light, we kept track of the daily landscape to attempt to slow it down, noting things like the connection between the Solyndra controversy and the popular affirmative to develop solar-powered satellites (SPS).

This has been a good month for the Affirmative in politics. Not only have Obama’s approval ratings hit new lows, he has been increasingly invested in space policy. This matches an agency-wide push by NASA to massively expand space exploration and development. While some might embrace those shifts, House Republicans are calling for an investigation into how the adminstration chose “winners” for government space contracts. In contrast, Mitt Romey, who is very, very likely to be the GOP nominee, wants to militarize space. How this interacts with the maxim that “all space politics is local” remains to be seen.

The Mysterious X-37

Since the launching of the USAF secret unmanned vehicle into orbit over 200 days ago, many have begun to question its exact goal. Boeing would like to modify the X-37B to become a cargo ship to the ISS. Their prototype would be roughly twice as large and labeled the X-37C. Meanwhile, NASA is clamoring for space taxis. Their message; pay us to do it or pay Russia.

The ISS, meanwhile, continues to struggle between good and bad news.


We have been following the launch of Tiangong-1, China’s “Heavenly Palace,” for some time. It was finally launched at the start of the month.  Some have termed it “an event of huge geopolitical significance.” Everything has gone pretty smoothly, save for when they accidently played “America the Beautiful.”

This has also fueled a debate over a basic question: will the future of the U.S. and China in space follow cooperation or competition? Adding fuel to the fire are China’s plans for Mars rovers. For its part, China has come out strongly against space weaponization.

From Russia, with love

We have also been extensively tracking the developments in Russian aerospace. A spate of recent catastrophes left Russia looking for answers. They’ve found one: it was the rocket scientists’ fault. Today, Russia announced that earth sciences will become a core goal.

GPS in Jeopardy

Many affirmatives cite the importance of our Global Positioning System (GPS), arguing that satellites used for GPS are endangered by current space policy. GPS may face other dangers, notably from new technology LightSquared.  The legal challenge, however, has been complicated by accusations of undisclosed business interests. It also faces challenges from other competitors, such as Europe’s newly launched GPS alternative.

Affirming the Topic

While many negatives suggest approaches by private actors, that may be increasingly difficult to administer.

A very interesting new affirmative arose when the E.U. called for the U.S. to shore up its commitment to Mars.  The plot thickened when U.S. silence drove the E.U. to seek a partnership with Russia instead.

What’s on the Moon that we haven’t already discovered? For one, lots of the rare mineral titanium. Here’s the controversy: would that belong to the government?

Is Iran outpacing the U.S. in space development? Not according to their dead test monkeys.

Updates for the Negative

You heard it here first: the Decadal Survey could become the next big process counterplan.

Many affirmatives claim to improve cybersecurity: is that a good thing?

Many affirmatives argue that we should discover new exoplanets. We have discovered several, and the newest is a baby! That led to the cutest intergalatic “baby photos.” We’ve even found mountains in space.

It was noted above that Russia is focusing on earth sciences. They aren’t alone, as the Indo-French satellite ‘Megha Tropiques’ recently launched as well. Not to be outdone, the U.S. has launched the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project (NPP).

While the idea of asteroid detection has become more popular, reporters note that the biggest obstacle in deflecting a killer asteroid away from Earth may be humanity’s inability to get along. Also, it’s not as though mining asteroids is an easy task. While we can’t manage that, we have built the world’s fastest supercomputer.

Did scientists jump the gun on neutrinos?

Everything you ever wanted to know about Martin Heidegger and more.

About Lauren Sabino

Lauren Sabino is the Director of Youth Programs at the National Center for Policy Analysis. She currently administrates Debate Central, the largest free online debate resource.
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