1. Bat Plague Spreads
A disease called white-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats in the eastern United States, and now it has spread across the country to the West Coast, horrified biologists have learned. The discovery came after an autopsy of a bat found in western Washington state showed that it had died of the fungus infection. It’s the first sign of the fungus affecting bats west of the Midwest state of Nebraska — a 1,000-mile leap. White-nose syndrome has killed nearly 7 million bats, and all that wildlife biologists know for sure about this threat is that it kills virtually every bat it touches and leaves a residue of white fungus on the bats’ noses. Spread of the disease could potentially be an ecological disaster, since bats eat insects that otherwise would damage farm crops and people. “Containment is not going to be possible,” the Bat Conservation International group laments. White-nose syndrome is upsetting the balance of nature because it is wiping out bat populations in areas that are affected. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about this syndrome or something else that is disrupting the balance of nature. Use what you read to write a paragraph detailing the effects of the disruption on the environment, what can be done about it and what scientists think lies ahead.
Common Core State Standards: Writing informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
2. Major Cities Under Water?
U.S. coastal cities from New York to Miami could be under water or at risk of flooding over the next 100 to 500 years, new research predicts. Sea levels will rise more than previously expected unless greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are reduced dramatically, researchers say. The most recent prediction by the International Panel on Climate Change is that sea levels will rise as much as 38 inches by the year 2100 because of melting glaciers and the fact that warming makes water expand. This does not take into account atmospheric warming in Antarctica that will melt major ice shelves and elevate sea levels by as much as an additional three to six feet by the year 2100. The melting of glaciers and ice shelves is just one effect of global warming. But warming is having an effect in many other ways in environments around the world. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about one way that global warming is affecting wildlife, habitats or people in the world. Use what you read to brainstorm an idea for a video or short film explaining this effect, what has caused it and what can be done about it. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Then write the opening scene in the style of a movie screenplay.
Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.
3. False ‘Charities’
They called themselves the “Cancer Fund of America” and “Cancer Support Services” and they raised more than $187 million in donations. But to the Federal Trade Commission the two “charities” were “shams,” and the FTC went after them in a fraud case supported by all 50 states. As a result, the “charities” have agreed to a $75.8 million judgment and will be broken up and put out of business. Though they raised money in the name of cancer support, the FTC charged that officers spent donations for cancer patients on six-figure salaries and luxury vacations, while much of what went to patients was virtually worthless, including sample-size soaps, Little Debbie snacks and blank greeting cards. Government agencies like the FTC regulate and monitor businesses and organizations to make sure they are not breaking the law and are doing what they say they are doing. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a government agency taking action against a business or organization. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor, giving your opinion on whether the action taken by the agency seems justified.
Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.
4. Huge Drug Tunnel
United States authorities have closed down a drug tunnel that crossed the border from Mexico into the United States in southern California — and seized more than a half ton of marijuana. The tunnel was longer than four football fields and connected a restaurant in Mexicali, Mexico, to a newly-built house in Calexico, California. It’s the 12th completed drug tunnel to be discovered between Mexico and California and the 75th discovered along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. Prosecutors say the first tunnel shipment took place in February, leading to the seizure of 1,350 pounds of marijuana in West Covina, outside Los Angeles. Four people have been arrested in the operation. Efforts to control illegal drug trafficking have been stepped up in the United States and other nations. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an effort to crack down on illegal drug sales. Use what you read to draw an editorial cartoon giving your opinion on whether the effort is a good or effective idea. Give your cartoon a title and share with the class. You may look at editorial cartoons in the newspaper to see how they are drawn and make their points.
Common Core State Standards: Using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
5. ‘Both Sides Win’ Ballgame
During President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba, he and Cuban President Raul Castro sat together behind home plate in a Havana stadium to watch a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and a Cuban national team. The Rays won, 4-1, but just by playing one fan said “both teams win.” The game was a highlight of the president’s historic visit to Cuba last month, the first in 88 years by a U.S. president. While in the Caribbean nation south of Florida, Obama told the Cuban people that a “nueva dia” (“new day”) was dawning in U.S.-Cuban relations, after a long estrangement and standoff over politics. The opening up of relations between the U.S. and Cuba is creating new opportunities for business, travel and cultural exchanges. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about new opportunities between the nations. Use what you read to prepare a multi-media presentation for the class, summarizing some of the opportunities and how they will benefit both nations.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.