, week of
July 21, 2014
1. A $9.5 Million Stamp
A one-cent postage stamp from a former South American colony of Great Britain has been sold at auction for a record $9.5 million. The stamp is the sole surviving one-cent stamp from an 1856 issue by British Guiana, which is now the nation of Guyana. Known as the One-Cent Magenta, the stamp has an image of a boat and Latin words that can be translated as “We give and expect in return.” An anonymous telephone bidder bought the stamp, which has a certificate of authenticity from the Royal Philatelic Society. It has changed hands at least 10 times and was last owned by multimillionaire John E. du Pont, who died in prison in 2010 while serving a sentence for murder. If you had $9.5 million, how would you spend it? Would you buy gifts for your family? Purchase something you’ve always wanted? Support a charity, school or cause you believe in? Scan the ads and stories of the newspaper and make a list of things you might buy or support if you had that kind of money. Then write an essay explaining your choices, titled “If I Had $9.5 Million…”
Common Core State Standards: Producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
2. Many Confessions Are False
Criminologists have concluded that about one-third of the people who confess to crimes didn’t commit them — and incriminate themselves without physical coercion or pressure from police. In the state of Pennsylvania, however, the state supreme court has said expert testimony based on those statistics may not be used in trials. In a 4-2 ruling, the court said allowing such testimony would turn trials into a battle of hired experts uttering “generalities.” That would not help jurors reach a proper verdict, the majority justices declared. The dissenting minority justices on the court said the decision on such testimony should be left to trial judges on a case-by-case basis. Trials and criminal cases are often in the news. Find a story about one in the newspaper or online. Read the story closely and create a series of comic strips illustrating the main points at issue in the trial.
Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; using drawings or visual displays when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or points.
3. Toxic Waste Off Schedule
After decades of building nuclear bombs, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has been working to remove the toxic nuclear waste on the site. But it missed a June 30 deadline it had agreed to for finishing the job. Earlier this summer, the laboratory notified the New Mexico Environment Department that it would not be able to meet the deadline, which had been set to get rid of the dangerous, radioactive waste before the yearly wildfire season peaks. Thousands of barrels of waste have been taken off the site, but 57 remain, containing items like contaminated tools and gloves. The removal of waste had been planned after a wildfire reached the edge of the lab property three years ago, triggering fears about the release of radiation into the atmosphere if the lab caught fire. The safe removal of waste products is an issue for all kinds of factories, hospitals and facilities other than nuclear research labs. In the newspaper, find a factory, hospital or other facility that needs safe waste removal. With family or friends, talk about the kinds of waste that need to be removed and how you think they could be removed safely.
Common Core State Standards: Responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement; engaging effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.
4. Shelter for Child Immigrants
Immigration and health authorities have opened a shelter at the Fort Sill Army base in Oklahoma to house unaccompanied minors caught while illegally crossing the U.S. border with Mexico. In addition, about 1,200 minors apprehended without parents are in a shelter at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and 575 are at a Navy base near Oxnard, California. The new shelter at Fort Sill is expected to hold about 1,200. Temporary holding cells have been set up in Nogales, Arizona, for those facing deportation hearings. More and more unaccompanied minors are crossing over from Mexico, with more than 47,000 apprehended at the border since October. The influx of child immigrants has presented a new challenge for state governments and the federal government. In the newspaper or online, find and read stories about the issue. Use what you learn to write a short editorial outlining three things that need to be done to start dealing with the problem.
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.
5. NYC May Legalize Ferrets
It’s illegal in New York City to own a ferret, but the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is recommending that the ordinance be repealed. The department says ferrets, which are long, low animals related to weasels, pose no greater risk to people than other domesticated creatures. The ban had been put in place back in 1999 due to concerns about attacks by ferrets on children and concerns about the disease rabies. Officials now indicate they may lift the ban on ferrets as household pets, if spaying and vaccinations are required. Many people like the idea of owning unusual pets. In the newspaper or online, find an animal you think would make an interesting and unusual pet. Design an ad for the newspaper promoting this species as a pet.
Common Core State Standards: 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.