The Week That Was: New Jersey Honors Whitney Houston, A Kennedy Steps Up and North Dakota Heats Up

Six things you need to know about the candidates and campaign issuess right now

We've been keeping an eye on political news, both big and small, that's bound to make for good debate. Here are six topics you need to know about in The Week That Was:

1. Whitney Houston
The entertainment world is still reeling over the sudden death of singer Whitney Houston. And of all the possible controversies surrounding her death, it's hard to imagine any of them would be political. But New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has created a political firestorm by calling for flags in New Jersey to be flown at half-staff on Saturday for the New Jersey native's funeral. Critics are up in arms over the decision, saying Houston doesn't deserve that honor in light of the questionable circumstances of her death. But Christie was quoted in one news report as saying that "he rejects complaints that Houston 'forfeited the good things that she did' because of her struggles with substance abuse."

2. Birth control
President Obama and religious leaders came to a compromise about how birth control coverage would be paid for in employers' health insurance packages.  But the controversy continued this week after the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee invited a panel of all men, yup, all men, and no Democrats to testify. Can you say "one-sided?" Two congresswomen did and  walked out of the hearing over the affront -- Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) left the hearing when it became clear that all of the witnesses called were against birth control and when they were precluded from having a woman testify. Congresswoman Maloney asked, " ...[W]here are the women?  ... I don't see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventive health care services, including family planning."

3. North Dakota is getting hot
No, this isn't about global warming. Things are heating up unexpectedly in a variety of races around the country that some observers thought would be slam dunks for Republicans.  For example, when U.S. Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) announced he wouldn't seek another term, common wisdom suggested that North Dakota's one congressman, Rick Berg, a Republican, would be the natural and inevitable replacement.  But Berg might want to have a chat with Mitt Romney about political inevitability.  Former North Dakota State Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, is challenging Berg and is coming on strong.  It seems that many voters are unhappy with sitting congressmen and congresswomen, and may vote them out in favor of newcomers, regardless of political affiliation.

4. The President and Facebook
For a long time many voters, especially women who are mothers of young children, have complained that they want to be involved in getting a candidate elected, but dragging the kids canvassing or hoping they'll behave while phone-banking is difficult.  President Obama's campaign apparently took those complaints to heart, as it announced this week the opening of its first "technology campaign office."  The first such office, opening in San Francisco, will be a place where supporters can come and do voter outreach through the myriad online tools so many people are using today.  The Obama campaign's deputy press secretary told the San Francisco Chronicle, "We’re ... providing tools and space for supporters in the technology community to help the campaign extend our current tools like BarackObama.com and our mobile applications.”

5. Hillary Clinton headed to the World Bank?
Is she or isn't she?  That's the speculation that started when the current World Bank president Robert Zoellick announced he'll step down in June.  Clinton has stated she will only stay on as Secretary of State until the end of President Obama's current term, and she's pretty much shot down all the "Hillary for President in 2016" rumors.  But it's hard to picture Hillary sitting at home knitting baby booties, so what about the World Bank?  The position would fit nicely with the work she's done through the State Department to advance global women's issues.  And I would imagine that Christine Largarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, would appreciate having another woman's voice around when it comes to managing the world's economic crisis.

6. Sports Illustrated meets Congress
There's always a lot of excitement when the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue hits the stands.  But this year there's an interesting intersection of two distinctly different worlds.  The model to make this year's cover is Kate Upton, but it turns out she's not the only Upton in the spotlight.  Her uncle is U.S. Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), who now finds himself way more popular on Capitol Hill now that he has a niece who's become a cover girl.

You can read more from iVillage iVote Editor and Correspondent Joanne Bamberger at her blog, PunditMom. Joanne is also the author of Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America, on sale now at Amazon.com. Follow her on Twitter at @PunditMom.

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