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For Grades 9-12 , week of Aug. 14, 2023

1. COUNSEL APPOINTED

Attorney General Merrick Garland recently appointed a special counsel in the case against Hunter Biden, the 53-year-old son of President Joe Biden. Hunter Biden was set to accept a plea deal on tax and gun charges, but the deal fell through when he refused to accept without the condition of blanket immunity from future prosecution. As a special counsel, prosecutor David Weiss will be required to inform Attorney General Garland of any major developments and decisions in the case, and will have to submit a comprehensive report of his findings to Garland, who has pledged to release as much of that report as he can to the public. Read more about this development in your newspaper or online and research what a special counsel means for a case like this. Then, write an article summarizing the developments of the case, citing other cases where a special counsel has been used recently.

2. GROWING PAINS

College professors and administrators are struggling to keep up with the implications of advances in artificial intelligence technology in the classroom. Some are rewriting curriculums to embrace AI and use it in new ways, while others are working to “ChatGPT-proof” their assignments and exams through methods like returning to paper tests and requiring students to show drafts or editing history to prove their work is original. The chatbots boom has lead to an explosion in academic integrity cases, which can be difficult to tease out. So-called “AI detectors” have not proven to be reliable in identifying chatbots-generated material, especially when it comes to pieces that are a combination of AI and human work, which can lead to false allegations. Write down a list of pros and cons for whether college professors should allow the use of AI in their classes. Consider whether your answer would change depending on the subject—for example, science- or math-based classes versus creative classes like art or English. Have a debate in your classroom and discuss some of the different viewpoints that come up.

3. A VOTE ON VOTING

A ballot initiative in Ohio made national news when voters turned out to maintain their rights for how their voice is heard in state elections. Issue 1 would have raised the threshold for amending the state’s constitution from a simple majority (50 percent plus one vote) to 60 percent, an attempt that likely stemmed from the state’s abortion debate. This November, the state will vote on adding the legal right to an abortion to the state’s constitution and some polls show 58 percent of Ohioans in favor of that measure. Issue 1 failed, with 57 percent of voters rejecting the proposal. How would changing the threshold for a vote from 50 to 60 percent alter the way political issues play out in Ohio? Write an opinion article that describes whether you think the measure would have taken away democratic rights from the people if it had passed.

4. ISLAND TRAGEDY

Hawaii is now the site of one of the deadliest wildfires in US history as fires spread through the historic town of Lahaina on the island of Maui. Some residents reported jumping into the nearby Pacific Ocean to avoid the blaze, which spread quickly because of high winds. Search-and-rescue crews and handlers with cadaver dogs flew in from Nevada and California to help local officials with the efforts to identify remains in the hundreds of burned buildings on the island’s western coast. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has brought in teams to help with coordination and distribute supplies, including enough meals, water, cots, blankets, and other supplies to last 5,000 people for five days. Consider what it’s like to report on a natural disaster like this one and the balance of getting information out to those who need it while respecting the victims. Who would you interview and what kinds of questions would you ask them? What kind of photos would you run alongside your story? Once the initial event is over—in this case, the blaze has been put out—what kind of approach would you take to continuing coverage of the story? Write down your thoughts and discuss with your classmates.

5. SPACE LAUNCH

For the first time in almost 50 years, Russia has launched a rocket into space with the intention of landing on the moon. Luna-25, a robotic lander, launched from the far eastern side of Russia last week and is expected to attempt its landing on the moon’s surface around August 21. The country has a storied history with space exploration: While known as the Soviet Union, it was the first to launch a satellite into orbit, the first to put a man—Yuri Gagarin—in space, and was the other half of the so-called Space Race, a battle of innovation against the United States to be the first to put a man on the moon. Read more about the history of competition in space between the US and Russia. Then, write an article summarizing the recent launch of the Luna-25 lander and what it means for Russia to be re-emerging in the field of space exploration.

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