, week of
Feb. 19, 2024
1. A THREAT OR NOT A THREAT?
Last week, the head of the House of Representatives’ intelligence committee, Mike Turner, called on President Biden to declassify information about a threat to national security from Russia. Several news outlets reported that unnamed sources claimed Turner was referring to Russia potentially launching a nuclear anti-satellite weapon into space. US allies deemed it was not an urgent threat to the country, as the technology is still in development and experimentation. The director of the nuclear information project at the Federation of American Scientists also pointed out that the weapon would violate the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which Russia signed. Do you think it was the right thing to do for Mike Turner to share that there was a national security threat and call on the president to declassify information? Write a short article on your perspective and use further research on the topic to back up your opinion.
2. MOON LANDER LAUNCHES
For the first time, a private company—as opposed to a government agency—successfully launched a moon lander into space. Intuitive Machines built the spacecraft, which took off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center last week attached to Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket. The lander, named Odysseus, will spend a week in space before attempting to land on the moon’s surface. If it’s successful, it will be the first moon landing for the United States in more than 50 years. The launch was part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, that’s leaning on private companies to create moon landers that NASA could eventually use to transport cargo and scientific instruments to the moon’s surface to establish a base there. Why might NASA, a government agency, be turning to private companies to help with launches to the moon? Write a paragraph, using details from this story and/or other research, about why that might be the case.
3. THE START OF SORA
OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, has announced a new feature that’s in development. The new project, called Sora, can create generate characters in motion, simulating the physical world. The video shared by OpenAI to announce Sora showed the result of the prompt “several giant wooly mammoths approach treading through a snowy meadow” with in-depth details about how the scene should look. While the demonstration shows hyper-realistic details, the company does acknowledge Sora may struggle to capture the physics in complex scenes, which could lead to odd results. How might Sora be a useful tool for people in different fields of work? How might it be problematic? Write a pro and con list for Sora for different jobs and compare your thoughts with your classmates.
4. GREEK PRIDE
Greece became one of the first Orthodox Christian country to allow same-sex civil marriages in a landmark parliamentary decision last week. The bill passed with 176 affirmative votes from the 300-seat parliament in a rare show of bipartisan unity. Greece allowed same-sex civil partnerships starting in 2015, but same-sex couples in the country can now legally marry and adopt children, which the powerful Orthodox Church strongly opposes, as it still maintains that homosexuality is a sin. The country has also taken steps to be more accepting of LGBTQ+ youth, banning conversion therapy aimed at suppressing a person’s sexual orientation for minors in 2022. Research other Orthodox Christian countries and their policies on same-sex marriage. Then, write an article summarizing your findings and providing context for the new legislation in Greece.
5. PROSECUTOR GETS PERSONAL
Defense lawyers in former president Trump’s election interference legal case have argued that a personal relationship between the Fulton County district attorney and the special prosecutor she hired for the case should disqualify them from taking part in it. The case seeks to charge the former president and his allies for trying to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. Trump and his co-defendants’ lawyers argued that district attorney Fani Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade should be disqualified from the case because of a personal romantic relationship between them, but in a hearing last week, Willis and Wade forcefully rejected the accusations of a conflict of interest. The defense’s argument is that Wade was hired because they would both benefit financially from his inclusion on the case. The judge overseeing the case is holding the hearing to see If there is evidence of or even the appearance of a conflict of interest that could impact the case. Do you think a personal relationship between Willis and Wade would count as a conflict of interest? Why or why not? Read articles on the subject from at least two different sources, then write an article that summarizes the facts and shares your opinion on the topic.
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