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For Grades 5-8 , week of Jan. 29, 2024

1. TRUMP ON TRIAL

In the latest of former President Donald Trump’s court cases to reach a conclusion, he was ordered to pay over $83 million to writer E. Jean Carroll for repeatedly defaming her. The nine-person jury’s verdict awarded $11 million in damages for Carroll’s reputation, $7.3 million in emotional harm, and $65 million in punitive damages. It only took about three hours for the jury to reach their verdict after the former president stormed out of the courtroom during Carroll’s lawyer’s closing statement. Trump was already found liable for defamation against Carroll when he mocked her allegation that he’d sexually abused her; the jury in this case was only determining what she should be paid in damages. Read more about the case online, including the definition of defamation in the legal system. Write a brief summary of what defamation is and your opinion on why defamation laws are an important legal right in the United States.

2. ELVIS’ ACCENT HAS LEFT THE BUILDING

Before starring as Elvis Presley is a biopic about the King of Rock and Roll, Austin Butler spent three years learning as much as he could about the musician. He recently shared that he had to hire a dialect coach to get rid of the accent he adopted to embody Elvis’ signature drawl. He painstakingly perfected the accent by creating a “sound catalog” archive of every word the singer said so he could mimic the exact pronunciations, but he had a hard time shedding the voice to prepare for his next role in “Masters of the Air,” a miniseries about World War II. Consider how an accent can make or break a TV or movie role—can you think of any examples where someone has done an accent really well or stood out for getting it wrong? Have you ever heard an actor give an interview and realized their natural accent isn’t what you expected? Research how actors prepare for roles with accents, including voice and dialect coaches, and write a brief article on the topic that includes the examples you thought of earlier.

3. TEMPLE TROUBLES

A temple in India has become the source of controversy and religious tension in the country. About 80 percent of India’s population are Hindu, followed by 14 percent of the population who are Muslims. Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi consecrated, or declared sacred, a temple that has been a site of contention between the country’s Hindus and Muslims. The temple is believed to be at the birthplace of one of the Hindu gods, Lord Ram. Hindus say it was a holy site for centuries before Muslim people used the spot to build a mosque in 1528. The sixteenth-century mosque was destroyed by a Hindu mob in 1992 during riots across India that killed 2,000 people, mainly Muslims. In 2019, the Supreme Court in India allowed Hindus to build the temple on the site but ordered a separate plot of land to be given to Muslims to build a new mosque. Given this limited information about the history of Muslims and Hindus in India, do you think the Supreme Court’s decision was fair to both sides? Why or why not? Write a paragraph outlining your view, then discuss with your classmates.

4. COLLEGE CRISIS AVERTED

The largest university faculty strike in US history lasted less than a day. California State University workers went on strike last Monday, a move that could’ve impacted classes for 460,000 students, before reaching an agreement with the college system’s management Monday night. The efforts included lecturers, professors, librarians, coaches, counselors, and more at the university system, which includes 23 campuses in the state of California. In the negotiations, faculty will receive a 5 percent salary increase—which retroactively applies beginning with July 1, 2023—with another increase in July 2024. Parental leave will also be increased from six to ten weeks under the new terms. Consider the power of striking with recent examples in the automotive industry and Hollywood’s writers and actors. Write a paragraph summarizing the pros and cons of strikes for both workers and for the companies they work for. Then, research striking in the US and see whether your initial ideas were correct.

5. Alcohol in Saudi Arabia

A notoriously strict Muslim kingdom, Saudi Arabia has opened its first alcohol store in more than seventy years. The store is open to non-Muslim diplomats, as most of the country’s population is Muslim and drinking alcohol is forbidden in the Islamic faith. Previously, foreign embassies could import alcohol or sneak it into the country and often, bottles were sold on the black market for up to ten times the normal price. In the new store, authorization must be approved by the Saudi Foreign Ministry before someone can enter the store or purchase from it, and there will be monthly quotas as to how much a person can buy. The kingdom’s price, Mohammed Bin Salman, has made it a mission to attract tourism to the country to bolster its economy as the world moves toward green energy and away from oil, Saudi Arabia’s dominant export. Read more about the way of life in Saudi Arabia online. Then, write a few paragraphs explaining what you learned and how it’s different from life in America.

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