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Current Events

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October 20, 2021

3:33

Museum Truck Celebrates the Magic of STEM

A traveling museum is inspiring future scientists, engineers, and innovators. When the Perot Museum of Nature and Science sent their Tech Truck to visit a Texas high school, it brought learning stations and “wonder kits” that provided materials for students to engage in creative STEM projects. The school’s leader believes that bringing this museum field trip experience to her students will help bring the joy back to learning after extensive virtual school during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Listen to learn about the students’ projects and how experiences like exploring the museum truck can last a lifetime.

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October 19, 2021

2:16

The Significance of Indigenous Peoples' Day

President Biden has declared Indigenous Peoples’ Day a federal holiday. The day is designated as a time to celebrate the contributions of Native Americans, past and present, and to remember the violence and displacement they have suffered. The newly established federal holiday shares the second Monday in October with Columbus Day, an arrangement that acknowledges the complexity of America’s past. Listen to hear an Indigenous professor explain what the holiday means to her and how she hopes it will influence how Native Americans are perceived.

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October 18, 2021

3:50

Social Media on Trial in Congress

A former Facebook employee testified before Congress about the harm caused by the tech giant. She said executives at the company knew that Facebook intensified certain social problems, but they chose to prioritize profits and growth over addressing those concerns. She urged Congress to regulate the company and force greater transparency around its algorithms. Listen to hear more about the claims of a Facebook whistleblower, and learn why removing the secrecy around high tech could make it safer.

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October 17, 2021

:27

Weird News: Deep Space House

Listen to hear how one creative man has decorated his house to look like outer space.

Vocabulary: unassuming, resembling, guidelines, atmosphere

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October 15, 2021

3:50

Debate: Can the U.S. Postal Service Be Saved?

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is in trouble. Consumers are spending less money on mail, forcing the USPS to raise its prices to stay in business. At the same time, it is cutting costs by slowing mail delivery, upsetting customers and potentially making them even less likely to use mail service. Farmers and others who live in rural areas depend on the USPS for needed supplies, though. Many people believe post offices can reinvent themselves to better serve Americans today. Listen to hear more about changes within the USPS and then debate: Can the U.S. Postal Service be saved?

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October 14, 2021

3:42

The Chirps of Naked Mole Rats

Naked mole rats are unusual creatures – mostly hairless, partially blind, and able to communicate in their underground burrows using high-pitched chirps. But what has recently surprised researchers about the wrinkled rodents is the discovery that the sound of their chirps differs slightly from one colony to the next. In other words, naked mole rats speak in different dialects. Listen to hear about the importance of language to naked mole rat social groups, and learn how dialects help queen mole rats control their colonies.

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October 13, 2021

2:03

Finding the Milky Way

Students today may know less about the Milky Way than those in the past. That is because this milky band of light in the sky, the partial view of Earth's galaxy that is visible from Earth, can only be seen in very dark areas. Light pollution has made it difficult for people in cities to see the Milky Way. The city of Pittsburgh is trying to solve this problem, so people can once again look up in wonder at the starry night sky. Listen to hear how Pittsburgh is reducing light pollution and how their effort may impact young people.

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October 12, 2021

5:32

Extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds

Twenty-two endangered bird species have recently been declared extinct. Many were native to Hawaii, a region filled with biodiversity that has seen birds and other creatures go extinct at an alarming rate. In this audio story, a coordinator for a Hawaiian wildlife recovery project explains the conditions that contribute to species loss on the islands, and fondly recalls some of the birds that used to live there. Listen to learn more about bird extinctions in Hawaii and why, according to the coordinator, “the forests are getting silent.”

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October 10, 2021

:24

Weird News: Monkeys' Favorite Comfort Sounds

Listen to which sounds monkeys like to hear most in their zoo enclosure.

Vocabulary: enclosure, options

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October 8, 2021

4:37

Debate: Should Community College Be Free?

President Biden wants to make community college free. He has proposed providing enough federal funding so state community colleges can stop collecting tuition from students, with states increasing their share of the bill over several years. Advocates applaud the plan for its promise to give low-income Americans and other disadvantaged groups a better chance to succeed. Opponents note that funding sources for community college are already available in many parts of the country, and states may not embrace the idea. Listen to learn more about the controversy over federally funded higher education and then debate: Should community college be free?

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October 7, 2021

4:04

2020 Census Shows Increased Diversity

​​The U.S. Census Bureau has released results of the 2020 census, a head count of U.S. residents administered every 10 years. The statistics show that the American population has become much more diverse, and more people are identifying with multiple races. Census data are used to draw new voting districts that reflect the racial and ethnic make-up of the population, which impacts representation. Bureau officials estimate that several minority groups were likely undercounted this time, potentially affecting redistricting and resource allocation. Listen to learn more about the results of the 2020 census and how difficult conditions during the count may have influenced the results.

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October 6, 2021

1:09

Dinosaur Bone Jackpot in Utah

Scientists have found a trove of dinosaur fossils in an enormous rock in Utah. The fossils found belong to the Utahraptors, which were even bigger than the raptors featured in the movie Jurassic Park. Listen to hear how many Utahraptors where found and to learn how scientists believe they died.

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October 5, 2021

2:58

Celebrating Mexican Independence Day with Traditional Food

Chile en nogada, a poblano pepper stuffed with meat, fruits, and nuts, is considered the national dish of Mexico. It showcases the colors of the country’s flag and is typically eaten on Independence Day, when Mexicans commemorate the overthrow of Spanish rule 200 years ago. Ingredients in the beloved dish reflect the cultures of both Mexico and Spain. Listen to learn more about the origin and history of chile en nogada, a mouth-watering Mexican classic.

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October 4, 2021

4:52

Remembering Those Lost to COVID-19

A sea of white flags on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is meant to remind visitors of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died from COVID-19. Individual flags in the unusual art installation bear the names of victims of the virus and, sometimes, their stories. Listen to visitors react to the moving exhibit, and hear the artist explain the effect she hopes her work will have on those who experience it.

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October 3, 2021

:25

Weird News: Dog Joins Pro Soccer Match

Listen to hear what happened when a stray dog walked onto the field during a professional soccer match.

Vocabulary: unexpected, charmed, endorsement

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October 1, 2021

7:45

Debate: Should Schools Have Police Officers?

Police officers will no longer patrol the halls of public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland. For the past 20 years, school resource officers (SROs) have been stationed in schools where they work closely with administrators to prevent crimes and ensure safety. Recently, however, some have argued that placing SROs in schools does not keep students safe, and may actually harm them. Their presence creates an atmosphere of intimidation, they say, and contributes to the disproportionate arrest rate of Black and Latinx students. Listen to a high school student and local politician discuss how to keep schools safe and then debate: Should schools have police officers?

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September 30, 2021

3:16

Preserving Historic Latino Landmarks

The town of El Paso, Texas lies along the Mexican border. One of its neighborhoods, Duranguito, is rich with stories of the “borderlanders” who lived there in the early 1900s – Chinese Americans, Latin Americans traveling north, even a famous Mexican revolutionary. Recently, a plan to build a stadium has threatened Duranguito and its representation of Latino heritage and important aspects of American history. Listen to hear more about the historic Texas neighborhood and why community members are fighting to preserve it as a national landmark.

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September 29, 2021

3:48

Electric Racecars Lead the Way

The technology powering Formula E battery powered racecars is getting better, and that is good news for the electric car industry. The racecars, which make a high-pitched squeal as they whiz around the track, captivate onlookers and create competition among automakers. Companies like Mercedes and Nissan participate in the races to experiment with improving the basic model of the Formula E cars to win the race. Listen to hear what racecar drivers like about the cars and learn how improving technology may impact ordinary drivers.

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September 28, 2021

3:45

Afghan Refugees Await Resettlement

The U.S. government has airlifted thousands of Afghan men, women, and children out of Afghanistan and brought them to Germany, where they await flights to America. Many feared for their own safety and the safety of their families after the Taliban took control of their country. The refugees are being housed under crowded tents and in airplane hangars as they await the next leg of their journey. Listen to hear about the experiences and feelings of Afghans as they leave their home country behind and head toward a new life in America.

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September 27, 2021

4:27

Wildfires Threatening Giant Sequoia Trees

Sequoia National Park in California is home to some of the oldest and largest living things on Earth. Giant sequoia trees can grow to 300 feet tall and live for thousands of years. The sequoias in the park have survived dozens of forest fires over their long lifetimes. Recently, however, extreme heat, wildfires, and droughts have killed many of the treasured trees and prevented new ones from growing. Listen to hear how climate change is threatening the future of giant sequoias, and learn what people are doing to protect them.

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September 26, 2021

:27

Weird News: Walking Around the World Without Leaving Home

Listen to hear why one man started his “walk around the world” and how he did it.

Vocabulary: technically, circumference

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September 24, 2021

4:52

Debate: Should the U.S. Mine Lithium on Sacred Land?

​​More and more electric cars are being produced each year, and they require lithium batteries for power. The U.S. has just one lithium mine and relies primarily on foreign sources of the valuable mineral. Now, a mining firm has proposed a new lithium mine in northern Nevada. It says the project will provide close to 2000 jobs, with many going to local Native American tribes. Tribal activists have fought the project, though, saying the proposed mine would destroy sacred land. Listen to learn more about the controversy over a proposed lithium mine and then debate: Should the U.S. mine lithium on sacred land?

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September 23, 2021

3:56

New YA Fantasy Novels

​​Calling all fantasy fans! In this audio story, an author – and fantasy writer himself – recommends some of his favorite fantasy titles for young adults. From Legendborn, a reimagining of the legend of King Arthur by debut novelist Tracy Deonn, to Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars, set in the magical Grishaverse, and more, fantasy readers will find stories that intrigue. Listen to learn more about a recent new crop of exciting fantasy reads and the universal themes that they address.

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September 22, 2021

3:57

Space Junk Cleanup Mission

Pollution is everywhere, including outer space. A private company recently launched a satellite called ELSA-d on a demonstration mission for removing space junk. More than 9,000 tons of trash are currently orbiting the planet, which can put the International Space Station and other spacecraft in danger of being hit. Listen to hear what kind of trash is in space and learn how the space junk removal system works.

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September 21, 2021

6:35

A Teacher and Veteran Reflects on 9/11

Many of today’s young people were not yet born when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001 and America invaded Afghanistan in response. High school teacher and Navy veteran Darryl St. George is committed to educating his students and colleagues about these events and the experiences of the soldiers defending our country. Listen to a veteran and educator recall his experiences on 9/11 and explain why he believes it’s so important to keep these memories alive.

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September 20, 2021

4:53

L.A. Requires Student COVID-19 Vaccinations

The largest school district in California is requiring all students ages 12 and older to be fully vaccinated to attend school. The delta variant is causing COVID-19 infections to spread among young people, which is a key reason the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) says she decided to mandate vaccines. She believes a fully vaccinated student body will translate to a safer and better learning environment. Listen to the leader of the LAUSD explain more about her decision, and learn how people are responding to it.

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September 19, 2021

:25

Weird News: Student Pilots Transport Shelter Animals

Listen to hear about how students in New Mexico have helped to save shelter animals.

Vocabulary: shelters, adoption, transport

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September 17, 2021

2:21

Debate: Should Social Media Companies Recognize the Taliban?

Social media companies are weighing whether to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate rulers. After recently taking control of Afghanistan, Taliban leaders are using social media to broadcast their ideas and messages. But the group has not yet been acknowledged by most of the international community. The Taliban has a history of brutality, and companies like Facebook and Twitter are wary of providing a platform for violent or regressive ideas. Listen to learn more about the dilemma facing social media companies and then debate: Should social media companies recognize the Taliban?

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September 16, 2021

4:22

The Hidden Value of Dirt

Climate change is causing coastal areas to erode, and building them back up with mud and dirt will become increasingly necessary. Fortunately, large construction projects like digging tunnels often involve excavating tons of dirt that could then be moved to coastlines. Instead, it typically gets dumped in the ocean. Listen to learn why dirt is becoming a valuable resource and how people are working to move it to where it can do the most good.

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September 15, 2021

2:40

Cockatoos Teach Friends to Raid Trash Bins

Ecologists have determined that cockatoos, which are big, white Australian parrots, are learning from one another how to open trash bins. This surprising and complex behavior has spread from cockatoos in three suburbs of Sydney, Australia, to cockatoos in forty-four suburbs. Listen to hear how scientists determined that cockatoos were learning this skill socially and to find out what the scientists hope to study next about the clever trash bin raiders.

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September 14, 2021

5:40

100 Year Anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party

The Communist Party of China first gained power in the 1920s. At the time, China was weak and dominated by outside powers. Communism, founded on the principle of anti-imperialism, helped China forge its own national identity by uniting against foreign enemies. Today, even though the force of communism in China has faded, the country continues to rail against foreign powers and to cultivate a strong sense of nationalism that sometimes puts it at odds with powers like the U.S. Listen to learn more about the history of communism in China and how communist ideology has shaped the relationship between China and the U.S. in the past century.

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September 13, 2021

5:53

The State of the Pandemic in Fall 2021

Students around the country are returning to school, many in person for the first time in a while. In this audio story, a public health expert looks at how far we have come in the fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic and at the challenges that lie ahead, including in schools. He is encouraged by the effectiveness of the vaccine and says high vaccination rates can help protect kids who are too young to get the shot. Listen to hear an expert’s view on the current state of the pandemic and learn what schools can do to keep students and community members safe.

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September 12, 2021

:26

Weird News: Most Popular Dogs

Listen to hear which dog breeds are most popular in the U.S. and how rankings have changed over time.

Vocabulary: data, ranks, permanent

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September 10, 2021

3:11

Debate: Is Digital Addiction a National Problem?

The average American adult spends 4-5 hours on their digital smartphone each day. Some believe that is too much, and the time spent on digital devices could be used in other productive ways. They say that, for many people, use of digital devices has become an addiction, or a behavior that they cannot control. Others point out that phones and other devices help people socialize, connect, and be productive, and frequent use is not harmful. Listen to learn about research on self-control and phone use and then debate: Is digital addiction a national problem?

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September 9, 2021

3:52

COVID-19 Vaccine Fully Approved by FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has shifted from temporary authorization to full approval of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Full approval means the FDA has enough scientific evidence to conclude with confidence that the vaccine is safe and effective and that the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. Some public health experts believe the decision will encourage more Americans to get vaccinated and could mark a key turning point in the fight against COVID. Listen to learn what the ruling means for kids younger than 16 and how it might affect vaccine mandates.

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September 8, 2021

4:59

Saving Endangered Sea Stars

Researchers in the Pacific Northwest are trying to save sunflower sea stars that have been disappearing in recent years. These brightly colored, voracious predators with up to twenty-four arms are dissolving into piles of goo, and over 95% of them are gone. Listen to hear what is causing the sunflower sea stars to vanish and learn how researchers have formed special bonds with the creatures as they work to save an endangered species.

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September 7, 2021

5:58

U.S. Military Leaves Afghanistan after 20 Years

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is over. Evacuation flights recently ended, stranding people unable to reach the airport, including many Americans and the Afghan partners who fought with them against the Taliban over many years. U.S. troops had invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban from power 20 years earlier, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. Now, the Taliban has regained control of the country and the U.S. is concerned that terrorist activity could resume. Listen to hear about the final, frantic days of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and learn what the new relationship between America and Afghanistan might look like.

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September 5, 2021

:27

Weird News: The Richest Person in History

Listen to hear about when and where the richest person in history lived.

Vocabulary: fortune, source, wealth

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September 3, 2021

2:39

Debate: Should the Workweek Be Only Four Days?

The standard 40-hour workweek was established in the 1930s, and some are suggesting that today’s workers should spend fewer hours on the job. They say technology like wifi and laptops help people get more done in less time, and pursuing interests outside of work prevents burnout. Business leaders worry, however, that less time in the office would result in decreased productivity. Listen to learn what researchers found when workers in Iceland put in fewer hours for the same pay and then debate: Should the workweek be only four days?

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September 2, 2021

6:52

Rising Unrest in Cuba

Demonstrators in Havana, Cuba, and throughout the country gathered recently to protest food shortages and low wages. The sight of protesters is rare in Cuba, a country ruled by a repressive government that has outlawed public demonstrations. In recent years, though, Cubans have had greater exposure to democratic principles and practices, and many artists have been leading the call to gather publicly and protest hardships. Listen to a professor of Cuban history describe this significant historical moment and how she believes America should respond.

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