For Grades 9-12 , week of Apr 15, 2024


Thousands of Russian soldiers have defected from the country’s army amid the invasion of Ukraine and two years of fighting that’s followed. They face criminal cases and potential prison time in Russia and have instead fled to Western nations, mostly living in hiding for fear of persecution and exile from their new homes. They’ve been greeted with suspicion that they’re spies and concerns of threats to national security; while requests for asylum from Russian citizens have skyrocketed, few are granted the protection by Western nations. While many countries have said they would welcome Russian deserters, most of those seeking to leave only have passports that allow them to travel within some former Soviet states. Fewer than 300 Russians were granted refugee status in the United States in 2022, while in 2023, Customs and Border Patrol officials encountered more than 57,000 Russians at US borders. Write an opinion article about how you think it’s best to balance concerns of national security with individual rights of the deserting Russian soldiers, using online research and facts from this story to bolster your points.


NBC News Group is one of the most prominent news organizations in the United States, overseeing NBC’s national and local news affiliates, CNBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo. However, the organization is now under question for potential ethical concerns and conflicts of interest. The chairman of the group, Cesar Conde, is also on the corporate boards of Walmart and PepsiCo, putting him in paid positions for three of the country’s largest corporations. While there is no evidence that this has had any effect on news coverage of the other two corporations by NBC or its affiliates, critics have raised questions of whether it goes against journalism’s staunch ethics about conflicts of interest in stories, even when that conflict is only perceived. “Perception can be as important as an actual conflict,” reporter David Bauder says in an Associated Press story about Conde’s role. Research the code of ethics by which journalists try to operate and examples of times where someone has acted outside of it. Then, write an opinion piece in which you take a stance on whether Cesar Conde’s role at the three companies is problematic and what you suggest NBC News Group do to rectify the situation, if necessary.


After a dramatic showdown in the House of Representatives, a bill that would reform a government surveillance program finally passed with bipartisan support. The subject of the bill is a tool created in 2008 that is used to gather intelligence and disrupt terror attacks, cyber intrusion, and foreign espionage. The program allows the US government to collect communications of non-Americans outside of the country, without a warrant, for the purpose of foreign intelligence, but it can also collect communications of Americans when they are in contact with the foreign targets. As such, its created a large database of American intelligence that the FBI has used to search for information about people in the US, which was the specific sticking point for lawmakers when reauthorizing the program. The final bill that passed the House extends it for two years instead of the proposed five and restricts the FBI from using it to search for Americans’ data. Do you think the FBI should be able to access information that’s already been gathered in order to aid in their efforts? Consider who you would interview to get more information on the effects of this kind of intelligence gathering. Write a list of interview subjects and questions you would ask them to write an article about the effects of the bill and the spy tools it’s focused on.


Rapper J. Cole is apologizing for a track on his new album, “Might Delete Later,” where he slammed Kendrick Lamar. A feud between the two started in October when J. Cole and Drake called themselves plus Lamar the “big three” of hip-hop in a song. Last month, Lamar had a guest verse in a song where he rapped that there was no big three, “just big me.” J. Cole then dropped his surprise new album that included a diss track aimed at Lamar, but just two days later, apologized for the new song. Onstage at his Dreamville Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, J. Cole said the track didn’t “sit right with my spirit” and called Lamar one of the greatest to ever use a microphone. He vowed to change the track or remove it from steaming services. Research other rap feuds and rivalries and how they’ve played out in the media. Then, write an article summarizing J. Cole’s apology and how it differs from other examples you’ve seen.


A Houston doctor is being investigated to see if he altered transplant lists to keep his patients from receiving lifesaving organs. Dr. J. Steve Bynon Jr. works at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and oversaw liver and kidney transplant programs at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center since 2011. Last week, the medical center abruptly shut down both transplant programs pending an investigation after it said a doctor admitted to changing patient records in the liver program. The doctor was identified as Dr. Bynon and an investigation by the hospital has already shown “irregularities” in the patient data on the waiting lists for liver transplants. When patients in need of a transplant are placed on a waiting list, the doctor selects what donors they would consider, using parameters like age and weight. Some patients were listed as only accepting donors with impossible parameters, which essentially denied them transplants. A disproportionate number of Bynon’s patients died while waiting for a liver, but the investigation is still ongoing. Research the organ donor and transplant waitlist process in America. Then, write an article that summarizes what is currently known in the investigation against Dr. Bynon and how it could have happened in the first place.