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For Grades 5-8 , week of Sep. 25, 2023

1. BRIBERY ACCUSATIONS

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez has been charged with bribery and corruption but has said he will not step down from his role in Congress, despite calls to do so by his home state’s governor. The 69-year-old Democrat was accused of aiding Egypt’s authoritarian government and attempting to obstruct the criminal prosecution of a friend in exchange for gold bars and cash. The charges accuse Menendez of pushing for a particular US attorney for New Jersey to be appointed because he believed he could influence that person in the case against his friend. Menendez’s wife and three other New Jersey businessmen are also included in the charges. The DNA of one of the men was found on an envelope filled with thousands of dollars in cash at Menendez’s home. Read more about the case against Menendez, then write an article summarizing the facts.

2. BUDGET STRATEGY

The Biden administration recently directed federal agencies to consider climate change and the economic damage it brings when considering their budgets, including in decisions on which vehicles and other equipment to buy. The federal government is the world’s largest consumer of goods and services, and these instructions could shift how agencies spend the approximately $600 billion in their combined annual budgets. One expected change is a push toward electric vehicles in the government’s 600,000-plus cars and trucks. Think about different government agencies you know of and what they might buy. How would a directive to be more climate conscious could affect those purchases? Write your thoughts down and share them with your classmates.

3. MEDIA MOGUL

Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old man behind a global media empire built over 70 years in the industry, announced last week that he will retire from the boards of the Fox and News Corporations, handing the company over to his son Lachlan. Rupert Murdoch started in the media business when he inherited his father’s newspaper in southern Australia. After buying up several local papers and founding a national paper in his home country, he moved to the British market, then finally to the United States, where he began buying up newspapers through his media company, News Corp. In 1985, he broke into the entertainment industry, purchasing the movie studio 20th Century Fox, and later launching the Fox broadcast network. He moved into book publishing with the purchase of Harper & Row, which later became HaprerCollins, and started what may be his most influential and controversial media stake in the US: Fox News. He also owns the Wall Street Journal’s parent company, Dow Jones & Company. Murdoch led a complicated but influential life in the media world. Write an article summarizing how his companies changed the way we interact with media now, using research from your newspaper or online to back up your claims.

4. INFLUENCERS NOT WELCOME

A town in Vermont is fighting back against an influx of influencers that they say have damaged roads, gardens, and more during the high of “leaf peeping” season in the fall. Cloudland Road, which is home to Sleepy Hollow Farm, a popular fall destination for its beautiful views, will be shut down to outside traffic for the three weeks in September and October. Sheriff’s deputy checkpoints will ensure that only locals can access the road to come into the town during the closure. According to the townspeople, visitors have been coming for decades, but in the last five years, influencers have flocked to the area to create content, causing safety hazards by blocking roads and damaging property in their wake. How would you approach writing an article about this topic? Write down who you would interview and what questions you would ask.

5. INSURANCE INFLUX

More than 500,000 low-income people who lost their health insurance last spring because of errors on the state level in determining whether or not they were eligible will receive coverage again now that the mistakes have been uncovered. A Covid-era policy guaranteed people on Medicaid or the children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which are government-backed health insurance programs for low-income people, would not lose coverage during the pandemic. When that policy ended in April, states began removing people from the programs based on income eligibility. A recent federal inquiry shows that at 30 states did not verify the information correctly, removing hundreds of thousands of people who should have still qualified—many of them children. Nearly 1.4 million children lost their health coverage countrywide and more might get coverage back as states continue to look into the errors in eligibility determinations. This is a widespread issue with implications for children and adults across the country; write an article that summarizes how the errors occurred and what states are doing to fix it. Use research in your newspaper or online to support your claims.

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