TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
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December 10, 2018
President George H.W. Bush died recently at the age of 94. Bush served as president of the United States from 1989–1992. The former president is remembered as a Republican moderate who presided over the end of the Cold War, nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, led military interventions in Latin America and Iraq, and signed legislation prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities. Listen to President Bush’s biographer talk about his legacy as the 41st president of the United States of America.
December 7, 2018
A Chinese scientist claims to have created genetically edited human babies, igniting a major ethical controversy. The scientist says he used a new genetic engineering technique to modify genes in human embryos to resist HIV infection and then created twin girls from those embryos. His claim has yet to be verified. The scientific community has responded with strong ethical concerns about the risks of this type of human experimentation. Listen to this story to learn more and then debate: Should humans be genetically modified?
December 6, 2018
Record numbers of women ran and were elected during the 2018 midterm elections. In particular, more women were elected to the House of Representatives than ever before, including many notable firsts. Listen to this audio story to hear more about why the surge of women in politics is such an important development.
December 5, 2018
A new government report on climate change warns of the rapidly increasing negative effects of climate change and offers recommendations to help slow down its adverse impact. The report explains that not only are humans responsible for climate change, but our ongoing actions are making it worse. Listen to this interview with a climate change expert to hear about the urgency of this warning and what makes her hopeful.
December 4, 2018
Laurie Simmons is a New York artist whose photographs frequently feature dolls in domestic scenes. As a retrospective exhibit of her work opens in Texas, she reflects on her art and what it means to her. Listen to this interview with the artist to learn more about what is behind her fascination with photographing dolls.
December 3, 2018
A large group of Central American migrants fleeing violence and seeking asylum in the United States have been gathering at the Mexican border as they await processing of their applications. Tensions erupted recently in Tijuana, Mexico during a protest by migrants impatient with the process, and some made a run for the U.S. border during the unrest. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers fired tear gas on the migrants and temporarily closed the border. Listen to this story to learn more about reactions to these events and ideas about how to improve the situation.
November 30, 2018
There has been increasing interest recently in teaching students about consent and sexual assault prevention as part of sex education in public schools. A series of workshops for teens aims to build awareness and change social norms in order to reduce sexual violence. Listen to hear students’ reflections on the workshops and then debate: Should schools teach sexual violence prevention?
November 29, 2018
A former illustrator who now owns an ink company finds ingredients for his ink in unlikely places, including city streets. Jason Logan has written a book that explains how he searches the environment for interesting sources of color that he uses to create a wide variety of inks. Listen to this story and follow the artist and his interviewer as they turn city trash into colorful ink.
November 28, 2018
Scientists have discovered bones of giant sea reptiles called mosasaurs in West Africa that are 72 million years old. A new Smithsonian exhibit will feature mosasaur fossils and reconstructions showing how these enormous predators looked. Paleontologists have been studying the mosasaur fossils to learn about a time long ago when the Atlantic Ocean was new. Listen to hear what they are learning about these ancient sea monsters and the world in which they lived.
November 27, 2018
Renowned author Khaled Hosseini, who wrote The Kite Runner and other novels about Afghanistan, has written a new short illustrated book called Sea Prayer about the Syrian refugee crisis. The book takes the form of a letter from a father to a son, describing his memories of their homeland before war forced them to leave. Listen to the author read excerpts and explain why he wrote the book.
November 26, 2018
The deadliest wildfire in California history has devastated a town called Paradise, burning homes and killing dozens of people. The town’s mayor, Jody Jones, lost her own home and has been evacuated along with 26,000 other residents. Jones said the town looks like a war zone, but she and others are committed to rebuilding. Listen to hear the mayor’s reflections on the current state of Paradise and plans for its future.
November 21, 2018
There are many potential hassles of air travel, including getting sick. Airports can be virus incubators, and researchers have investigated which particular airport spots carry the most germs. Recent studies have revealed that the dirtiest places in airports might not be where people expect. Listen to this story to find out how air travelers can take precautions to avoid bringing home a cold for the holidays.
November 20, 2018
Art can be a helpful outlet for self-expression. This is the case for Texas-based artist Arthur Peña, who found that art offered him a safe retreat while growing in a community that could be dangerous. His mother, who was also an artist, encouraged his interest. After earning his credentials at prestigious art schools, he moved back to Texas and began a successful career. When he encountered some life challenges, however, Peña’s art suffered. Listen to hear how working through his relationship with art helped to put his life back on a positive course.
November 19, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently resigned at the request of the president. Sessions was one of President Trump’s earliest political supporters, but Trump has been critical of Sessions since appointing him to lead the Department of Justice. Listen to hear about what preceded the president’s request for Sessions to resign and why many people consider it to be a significant development with implications for the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference.
November 16, 2018
Many teachers use food to reward students, but often these foods are unhealthy. Since childhood obesity is a growing problem nationally, there is concern that celebrating with junk food at school may be contributing to students’ poor health. Listen to hear why one California school district is discouraging the use of edible prizes in school and debate: Should teachers reward students with junk food?
November 15, 2018
The Smithsonian has selected a design for its National Native American Veterans Memorial to be built on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The artist is Harvey Pratt, a Native American veteran from Oklahoma, and his design is called “Warriors’ Circle of Honor.” It aims to engage all Americans in appreciating and learning about the tradition of Native American service. Listen to hear the artist’s reflections on the meaning of his design, how he hopes people will experience it, and why honoring veterans is an important part of his heritage.
November 14, 2018
The Sahara Desert is expanding due to cycles of drought. A scientist at the University of Maryland who studies the earth’s atmosphere has proposed a solution to this problem involving solar panels and windmills. Listen to learn how her proposed solution could change the future climate of the Sahara region and harness energy at the same time.
November 13, 2018
The recent midterm elections had especially high voter turnout. While each of the major political parties claimed some victories, one of the most significant election results was a shift in Congressional power. The Democrats gained a clear majority in the House of Representatives, while the Republicans reinforced their Senate majority. Listen to this story to hear about this significant change to the U.S. Congress, where Republicans had previously held a majority in both the House and the Senate.
November 9, 2018
Electric scooters are becoming increasingly popular in big cities where traffic is congested and public transportation can be unreliable. Some companies are offering electric scooters that can be unlocked via mobile app, ridden, and dropped off anywhere in the city. This may be convenient for some people, but it can be hazardous for others. Listen to this story to learn about the controversy caused by electric scooters and debate: Should electric scooter rentals be allowed in cities?
November 8, 2018
After 130 years in business, the department store Sears has filed for bankruptcy. Sears began as a catalog company and was an historically important innovation in shopping that offered many people opportunities to buy products that were not available to them locally. Sears department stores made one-stop shopping a common practice in many communities around the country. However, recent shopping trends have had a negative impact on Sears. Listen to this story to learn what made Sears a dominant influence in shaping American shopping habits and what changes have contributed to its downfall.
November 7, 2018
Mexico City faces a water shortage because an underground aquifer that stores water is being drained faster than it is being replenished. In addition, the imbalanced drainage of the aquifer is causing the city to sink, leading to all sorts of other issues. Listen to this story to learn about the problems this major metropolis is facing because of high demand on its underground water supply.
November 6, 2018
Traffic, usually considered an urban problem, has been an issue at Yosemite National Park for a long time. While the park is sometimes shut down to all traffic because of forest fires, when it reopens, hundreds of cars come back to enjoy the majestic natural beauty of the park. Figuring out a solution to this problem has become even more important recently with an increase in bear deaths in the park. Listen to hear about how traffic jams in this popular national park are affecting the wildlife there as well as visitors’ experiences.
November 5, 2018
The gunman who recently attacked a Pittsburgh synagogue made reference to anti-Semitism, refugees, and conspiracy theories via social media. The man who allegedly sent mail bombs to prominent political and cultural figures had a social media history that indicated an anti-media bias and a presence at political rallies. There has been an increase in U.S. mass-casualty attacks in recent years by mentally unstable, violent individuals who link themselves with ideological or political causes. Listen to this interview with a counter-terrorism expert to learn more about the connection between hostile political rhetoric and violence.
November 2, 2018
A popular, powerful weed killer has been banned in Arkansas, but some farmers are still using it. The herbicide intended for weeds also harms crops and wildlife. Although some farmers are planting new varieties of soybeans and cotton that are resistant to the weed killer, others are not. When farmers with the resistant crops spray the weed killer, it impacts their neighbors’ farms, often with dire consequences. Listen to hear about the battle in Arkansas among neighboring farmers, and then debate: Should farmers be allowed to use a powerful weed killer?
November 1, 2018
NASA recently sent a probe into space aiming to get closer to the sun than ever before. The spacecraft is the first ever NASA has named after a living person. The Parker Solar Probe is named after solar science rock star Eugene Parker, who is a legend in the field. Listen to hear about Parker’s breakthrough discoveries that earned him fame, as well as what mystery he and other scientists are hoping the new probe will help them solve.
October 31, 2018
The annual MacArthur Foundation Fellowship awards, known as “genius grants,” are a very highly respected prize dedicated to “celebrating and inspiring the creative potential of individuals.” Among this year’s recipients is Reverend William Barber II, whose work aims at increasing awareness of problems such as poverty and racism by using creative approaches to activism. Listen to hear about Barber’s efforts to improve American lives and how he plans to use the grant to support their continuation.
October 30, 2018
What you eat after working out can make a difference in how your body recovers. Consuming the right types of snacks after exercising can help to replenish your energy, build muscle mass, and burn fat. Listen to this interview with a dietician to learn more about what to eat after exercise and why. Spoiler alert: chocolate milk is a good choice!
October 29, 2018
Many voters do not realize the importance of state elections and therefore do not pay as close attention to candidates for state office as they do to those for federal office. Governors and state representatives make many decisions that affect people’s daily lives, such as how money will be spent on schools and roads, and often these state politicians move on to national leadership positions. Listen to hear how campaign leaders from both major political parties are working to try to gain or hold power in these influential midterm races.
October 26, 2018
In the wake of Hurricane Florence, extreme flooding caused an enormous amount of damage along the coast of North Carolina. Many of the affected areas have experienced repeated flooding, yet the majority of these homes and businesses are not covered by flood insurance. Some people want to rebuild in the same spot, and others want to move inland away from waterways that could flood again. Listen to hear about the dilemma facing eastern North Carolina residents, and then debate: Should people rebuild on coastal property after major storms?
October 25, 2018
Ravens have long had a reputation for being spooky in literature and popular culture. Featured in Greek myths, Native American tales, and a famous poem by Edgar Allan Poe, the raven is frequently associated with darkness. However, many people are not aware how intelligent these feathered creatures are. Ravens communicate with and learn from each other, and they behave in ways that often bear little resemblance to how they are represented in literature. Listen to learn the real story behind what makes ravens special.
October 24, 2018
A recent report by a United Nations panel indicates that if we do not take action immediately to lessen the impact of global climate change, the negative consequences will be severe. A professor who worked on the report explains that global warming is already influencing our lives and the ecosystems that surround us. Listen to hear more about the rapid pace of climate change and what we can do to decrease the potential for disaster associated with it.
October 23, 2018
Russian agents interfered in the last major U.S. election in many ways, including planting “disinformation” or false information intended to mislead voters about the voting process. A new state office in California has been established to combat such disinformation leading up to the next election in November. While some welcome the role the state is playing, others are concerned about the potential for domestic political interference. Listen to hear how voters have been misled and what the state of California is trying to do about it.
October 22, 2018
Since the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida in February 2018, there has been significant national interest in the issue of gun violence in schools. The federal government surveyed all U.S. schools in order to find how exactly how many school shootings had occurred within a year. Investigative journalists followed up on the survey results, finding that the actual number of shootings was much lower than reported by the government. Listen to hear about the investigation and its implications.
October 19, 2018
Malaria is a devastating disease transmitted by mosquitoes, affecting millions each year. A team of scientists has been experimenting with genetic engineering that would cause the mosquito population carrying malaria to destroy itself. Listen to hear how the genetic engineering process works and how different groups are responding to the controversial experiment, and then debate: Should mosquitoes be genetically modified to self-destruct?
October 18, 2018
When plastic is thrown away, it crumbles into tiny pieces, known as microplastics. These small bits of plastic, less than 5 millimeters (or 0.2 inches) in size, are polluting rivers, lakes, oceans, and even soil. Scientists are studying how microplastics find their way into the ecosystem and what happens when they do. Listen to hear what research ecologists are doing to learn more about how microplastic waste may be affecting us and our world.
October 17, 2018
An earthquake and 18-foot tsunami hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on September 28th, devastating the coastline. Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes, and thousands more are dead or missing. Communication is difficult, and recovery efforts face significant challenges. Listen to hear a reporter in Palu, Indonesia describe the aftermath of the tsunami and its impact on people’s lives.
October 16, 2018
Originally organized by the Jefferson estate and the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, an exhibit called “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello” has been expanded to include recently discovered items associated with Sally Hemings. Hemings was an enslaved woman owned by Thomas Jefferson and also the mother of several of his children. Listen to hear one of their descendants, who now works at Monticello, reflect on the complexity of American history as represented in the exhibit.
October 15, 2018
In a recent Senate vote, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired. The confirmation proceedings were very contentious, and the Senate vote was among the closest in history. After hearings about accusations of assault, reactions to Kavanaugh’s nomination were full of emotion and partisanship. Listen to hear about this historic vote.
October 12, 2018
Top executives from Facebook and Twitter recently met with Congressional committees about their roles in stopping interference in American elections by international powers such as Russia and Iran. Signs indicate that such interference remains a significant problem heading into the upcoming elections, and major social networks report that they are making efforts to address the issue. Listen to learn about what the networks are doing and debate: Should Facebook and Twitter be required to protect us?
October 11, 2018
Researchers are studying barn owls to better understand how they are able to focus so intensely, with the goal of shedding light on why some humans struggle with focused attention. Specifically, they are studying how the owl brain ignores all the information that distracts from what is most important to the owl’s survival. Listen to learn how and why research on owl brains might be able to help people with attention issues.