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For Grades 9-12 , week of Dec. 18, 2023

1. HOUSING CRISIS ONGOING

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 the homeless population in your state, including how it’s changed since the pandemic, and what organizations or resources there are in your state for helping people experiencing homelessness. Then, design a flyer or advertisement that could be used to share these resources with those that need it. Write a summary of the organization or resource you’re sharing and how your flyer best communicates that information to the population you’re trying to reach.

2. MORE TROUBLE ON CAMPUS

Six more colleges are being investigated for hateful rhetoric and campus discrimination. Among those currently under scrutiny are Stanford, UCLA, UC San Diego, the University of Washington, Rutgers University in New Jersey, and Whitman College in Washington State. The Education Department looks into complaints against universities for discrimination based on ancestry or ethnicity, and 21 of the 29 investigations opened this year came after the Israel-Hamas war began in October. The department has described its investigations as an effort to address the rise in antisemitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab harassment and discrimination. Research news articles on incidents that have taken place on college campuses or within campus life since October. Then, write an article that summarizes your findings.

3. HUNTER BIDEN SPEAKS OUT

President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, defied a subpoena last week that required him to privately give a deposition to Republican investigators who have been combing through his business dealings. In a statement outside the Capitol, Hunter said that information from closed-door interviews can be selectively leaked and manipulated, so he would only testify in public. Hunter is currently facing criminal charges in Delaware and California relating to owning firearms and not paying his taxes from 2016 to 2019, but this deposition related to the impeachment inquiry into his father. Republicans have spent months investigating whether Joe Biden took bribes or benefitted from his son’s business dealings while he was Vice President. Read more from at least two different sources about the impeachment inquiry President Biden is facing. Then, write an article summarizing the case and Hunter Biden’s involvement.

4. HEALTH WOES

A study in Sweden has discovered that people with hypochondriasis (now called illness anxiety disorder) tend to die earlier than people who aren’t hyper-vigilant about their health. Hypochondriacs have an excessive or extreme concern over their health or developing a serious medical condition, despite normal findings in lab work or exams. It’s an anxiety disorder that can have serious impacts on the person; some seek excessive medical treatment while others avoid medical care for fear of what they think will be discovered. The study in Sweden looked at thousands of people from 1997 to 2020 and found that those with hypochondriasis had a risk of suicide that was four times higher, and they had a higher incidence of circulatory and respiratory diseases. One reason could be the effect chronic stress has on the body, particularly the heart. Consider how a health care provider might handle someone they suspect has illness anxiety disorder. Write down what steps you think they should take. Then, research what health care professionals recommend and write down how your answers compare with what you find.

5. SMITHSONIAN PRACTICES REVEALED

A previous investigation from the Washington Post uncovered that an anthropologist at the Smithsonian who gathered some 30,000 body parts during his 40-year tenure at the museum scavenged them mainly from Black, Indigenous, and Asian people across the world. Now, a new groundbreaking report from the Post also reveals that the museum targeted Washington, DC’s vulnerable Black communities in the early 1900s, collecting at least 70 brains from local people, only three of which were donated to science. Many were harvested by local doctors, hospitals, and medical schools and donated to the museum because of connections to the anthropologist. The Smithsonian previously pledged to repatriate, or return, remains, but none of the local brains have been returned and neither have the majority of the other 35,000 body parts. Read more about the Smithsonian and the recent allegations. Then, write an article summarizing what the Smithsonian has done so far and what you think they should do in the future to rectify the situation.