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For Grades 5-8 , week of Oct. 30, 2023

1. MAPS THROWN OUT

A federal judge in Atlanta ruled that Republicans violated a civil rights law when they redrew the state’s voting maps, as they didn’t have equitable representation for Black residents. The Georgia General Assembly must now redraw the voting districts to be more fairly representative of the state’s population before the 2024 election cycle. Seven Southern states are defending their congressional maps against federal judges who have said they’re discriminatory against minority voters, particularly Black residents. Redistricting, or the redrawing of voting districts for state and federal elections, happens every decade after the census results are made available. It became a hot topic in recent years when some Republican-led states appeared to dilute Democratic-leaning districts, particularly those heavy in minority populations. Using your newspaper or online, research the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and what parts of it are still upheld today. Then, write a short article that summarizes how that legislation affects the recent decisions in Georgia.

2. QUESTIONS OF COVERAGE

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reached out to the prime minister of Qatar to request that Al Jazeera, an Arabic-language news television network owned by the Qatari government, tone down the rhetoric they’re using to describe the war in Gaza. While Al Jazeera is funded by Qatar, it maintains that it operates independently, but Qatar has been linked to the militant group Hamas that it currently at war with Israel. The United States has asserted its support for Israel and globally supports independent press sources, which complicates the situation. However, there is concern that the rhetoric on Al Jazeera could escalate the tension in the Middle East outside of Israel. Consider the pros and cons of a media outlet operating independently versus the possibility of increasing tensions during a war. Write an opinion article, taking a stance on an aspect of the issue—whether Secretary Blinken was right to reach out, whether Al Jazeera should adjust its coverage, etc.

3. A SPEAKER ELECTED

After several House Speaker candidates came up short, a relatively unknown representative from Louisiana successfully united the Republican Party on a vote to fill Kevin McCarthy’s vacant position. Among Mike Johnson’s most contentious views, he denies that burning fossil fuels is affecting the planet’s climate—a claim widely confirmed by scientists and upheld by the majority of the Democratic Party and an increasing number of Republicans. Still, his views aren’t necessarily out of line with what the majority of his party believes. A recent survey showed that 85 percent of Democrats believe climate change is very or extremely serious, while 47 percent of Republicans say it isn’t too serious or isn’t a problem at all. Using your newspaper or online, read about Speaker Mike Johnson’s background and views on key issues. Then, write a short biography that shares these facts and how they could affect the American public now that he’s the leader of the House of Representatives.

4. META UNDER FIRE

Attorneys general from dozens of states are suing Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, Meta, for knowingly putting out products and features on its apps that pose psychological risks to its child and teen users. It’s the latest in a series of lawsuits against tech companies and the impacts social media has on adolescents’ mental health. The lawsuit comes from an investigation that started two years ago, when internal company files were leaked by a whistleblower that position Meta as knowing Instagram was harmful to teen girls’ mental health. The suit also alleges Meta knowingly created and distributed apps and features that were intentionally addicting to young people. Write about your own experiences with social media. Do you consider yourself or your friends addicted to the online world? Do you think the company behind these apps could be to blame, or is it up to the users and content creators?

5. TRUMPS TO TESTIFY

Donald Trump and his children Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka are all anticipated to testify in the New York civil fraud trial. The former president is set to take the stand November 6, following his children’s testimonies. In the case, New York Attorney General Letitia James alleges Donald Trump overstated his wealth on financial statements that were used to secure loans from banks and broker deals in his real estate empire. If successful, the case could strip him of some of his corporate holdings. Judge Arthur Engoron ruled last month that some of Trump’s business licenses be rescinded and that an independent monitor must oversee the Trump Organization in response to Trump and his company exaggerating his net worth. Read more about Ivanka Trump’s involvement in the case and why it was a surprise that she will be called to testify. Then, write an article summarizing the current state of the case and what the next steps are.