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For Grades 5-8 , week of Dec. 18, 2023

1. HOMELESSNESS IN THE U.S.

Homelessness in the United States is up 12 percent from last year, making it the highest recorded level since the country began keeping track using a yearly survey in 2007. Many point to the Covid-19 pandemic as a turning point: People lost their jobs, housing became more expensive, and many of the assistance programs that were started to help people pay for their housing during the pandemic have now ended. Those in minority groups are more heavily impacted. For example, “people who identify as Black make up about 13% of the U.S. population but comprised 37% of all people experiencing homelessness,” according to the Associated Press. More than half the people experiencing homelessness in the US are located in four states: California, Florida, New York, and Washington. Research an organization that’s mission is to help the homeless population, whether it’s by finding people affordable housing or providing resources to those without homes. Write a brief synopsis of their mission and what actions they’re doing to help.

2. TURNING A NEW LEAF AT THE C.D.C.

The new director for the Centers of Disease Control, Dr. Mandy Cohen, stepped into her role five months ago with the daunting task of rebuilding public trust in the public health agency. During the Covid-19 pandemic, many Americans lost trust in the agency for its response to the outbreak. As with many facets of the pandemic response, the distrust of the CDC is a partisan issue: Both Republicans and Democrats report lower trust in scientists than in April of 2020, but the number is much lower for Republicans. About 38 percent say they have little to no trust, up from 14 percent in April 2020 and compared with 13 percent of Democrats giving the same answer today. To combat this, Cohen is traveling across the country, promoting the latest round of Covid-19 vaccine boosters and sharing other public health information on social media and traditional media appearances. If you were helping Cohen with her goal of regaining public trust in the agency, how would you recommend she reach her audience? Write down specifics about who you’d say her target audience is, what her message should be, and what medium she should use to convey her message creatively in order to reach her audience.

3. FUNDING TROUBLE

Following the uproar over University of Pennsylvania’s response to an inquiry into antisemitism on campus, Republicans in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives voted to withhold more than $30 million meant for the university’s School of Veterinary Medicine. (UPenn is a private school, but its veterinary school is partially funded by the state.) The criticism of UPenn stemmed from a congressional inquiry into how antisemitism at the school, along with Harvard and MIT, was handled, to which then-president of the university Elizabeth Magill faced controversy for her responses. The state’s House Republican Leader called for more to be done to address antisemitism at the school before the funding would be released. The money accounts for about 18 percent of the school’s budget. Consider whether you think withholding funding from a part of the school will have an impact on the policies it makes. Write a short opinion piece based on your thoughts on the matter.

4. ANOTHER IMPEACHMENT?

Republicans in the House of Representatives voted last week to formalize their impeachment inquiry into President Biden. A group had already been investigating Biden for several months, looking for evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors that would be grounds for impeachment and removal from office; the offenses they suspect the president of having committed are bribery, misconduct in office, and obstruction. The group has yet to produce evidence of these offenses, but the impeachment process isn’t like a court of law. The House could vote to impeach the president without any strong evidence, though Republicans do not currently have the votes necessary to do so. By calling for an official impeachment inquiry this week, the House now has legal authority to conduct closed-door interviews of witnesses they didn’t previously have access to, like some in the Biden administration. Look up what impeachment means for a president and what threshold Congress has to meet in order to impeach. Then, write a short summary of the inquiry into President Biden so far.

5. A STEP FOR UKRAINE

Leaders of the European Union have agreed to begin talks with Ukraine about joining the group, which is currently at 27 countries. It marks the first time the EU has agreed to start accession talks with a country that is at war, as Ukraine has been since Russia’s invasion in 2022. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has close ties to Russia, was the only one to oppose the move. He also successfully blocked a budgetary move that would’ve routed more aid to Ukraine. In order to be considered, a country must have stable institutions that guarantee democracy, rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities, as well as a market economy. If eventually admitted, Ukraine would become the largest country in the EU geographically. Using research online or in your newspaper, write a short summary of Ukraine’s path to membership in the EU, including what benefits it would have from joining and what the next steps are in the process.