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For Grades 9-12 , week of Jan. 29, 2024

1. Defamation trial – what is defamation?

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. Research defamation law, including what it means, how it’s proven in court, and the types of damages that can be awarded as a result. Write an article that summarizes Trump’s recent case and explains the legal measures at play in the case.

2. OSCARS BUZZ

A hot topic in the news last week was the Academy Award nominations—or lack thereof—for one of 2023’s top movies. “Barbie” was the top grossing movie of the year, making director Greta Gerwig the first female solo director to have a billion-dollar movie. But many were shocked when Gerwig and the film’s star, Margot Robbie, didn’t receive nominations for Best Director or Best Actress, respectively. The film still received eight nominations overall, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Ryan Gosling, and Best Supporting Actress for America Ferrera. While some, including Ferrera and Gosling, expressed disappointment or outrage at the “snubs,” others pointed out that there are still five talented women nominated for Best Actress, including Lily Gladstone, who is the first Native American woman to be recognized in the category. Ferrera, similarly, is one of the thirteen Latina actresses to ever be nominated for an Oscar. Research the films that each of the five women nominated for Best Actress starred in. Then, write brief summaries of each woman’s role and her background as an actress.

3. RELIGIOUS NONES

A new group has been named in considering religions in the United States. The Pew Research Center conducts surveys and other research on demographics, public opinion, social media content analysis, and more in the US. After a recent study that gathered updated data on what religion people in the US identify with, a researcher dubbed a new group: The “nones.” This group of people identify as atheists, agnostics, or “nothing in particular,” Pew’s report says, and about 28 percent of Americans fall into this category. While the majority of the “nones” still say they believe in God or another higher power, they often don’t ascribe to the beliefs of religious institutions, like churches or temples. According to this data, this group holds more positive views of science than their religiously affiliated counterparts. Comparatively, Pew found in 2022 that 45 percent of American adults believed the US should be a “Christian nation.” How would you define this group, which doesn’t uniformly align with anti-religion, spirituality, or other established categories? Do you think there is inherent conflict between the group that believes the US should be a Christian nation and those that don’t identify with religious beliefs? Write an opinion article on this topic, detailing your views.

4. EMPTY NESTERS

New research shows that fewer parents are becoming “empty nesters” nowadays. About one-third of people age 18 to 34 still live with a parent; for those 25 and older, Hispanic and Black young adults are more likely to live with their parents than Whites and Asians, which could be a result of systemic poverty and wage gaps among racial groups. Young adults today are more likely to have college degrees and earn more money, when adjusting for inflation, than their parents did at the same age, but they’re also more likely to have significant student loan debt. This, along with inflation and increasing cost of living over the last few years, can impact young people’s ability to be financially independent, despite earning average or even high wages. Similarly, 59 percent of parents say they’ve financially helped their adult child in the past year. Consider what kinds of questions you would ask to draft a survey about this topic. What kind of questions would you ask and what groups would you survey in order to learn everything you would need to know? Write a list of questions, including any demographic questions. Don’t forget how a respondent would answer (like agree/disagree, true/false, or multiple choice). Then, share your questions with your classmates and discuss.

5. STANLEY FACES STRUGGLE

Stanley-brand drink cups have reached peak popularity in the past few months, but not without controversy. The brand is now under scrutiny for possibly exposing consumers to lead, which is used in its manufacturing process, as social media users have pointed out. However, the cups need to be damaged in order to expose lead—the circular, stainless steel disc on the bottom of each tumbler covers a lead-containing pellet that seals the product’s vacuum insulation. The stainless steel barrier protects users from coming into contact with the lead, but in the rare instance that the disc comes off, it could expose the user to lead if they touch the bottom of the cup, then touch their nose or mouth. Lead exposure typically isn’t dangerous unless it’s repetitive, causing it to build up in the body. If the disc comes off, Stanley cup owners can submit a claim against the product’s lifetime warranty. Consider how you would approach this issue if you were the head of Stanley and this was brought to your attention amid a social media-fueled craze for your tumblers. How would you address the public and what would you do to alleviate concerns? Write a press release or other formal statement that covers the issue and what you would do to address it.

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