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Current Events

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August 12, 2020

5:43

The Power of the Voting Rights Act

Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to protect the right of every citizen to vote. It ensured that unfair tests for voters could be challenged in court and gave the federal government oversight over states with a history of voter suppression. In 2013, however, the Supreme Court decided that a key part of the Voting Rights Act could no longer be enforced. Listen to learn about this change in federal voter protections and why one expert believes it puts the legacy of voting rights activist John Lewis at risk.

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August 10, 2020

4:25

Pandemic Expansion in the U.S.

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in the U.S., experts are saying that traditional ways of fighting it are no longer working. U.S. public health professionals pioneered the methods that have successfully contained past pandemics, but coronavirus has spread so widely and quickly in the U.S. that experts say these steps will no longer be effective at containing it. Listen to learn why an infectious disease doctor describes the pandemic as “a national forest fire of COVID” and what public health professionals recommend for next steps.

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August 9, 2020

0:26

Weird News: Social Distancing Shoes

Listen to hear about special shoes that can help people keep a healthy social distance from others.

Vocabulary: typical, benefit

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August 5, 2020

3:54

The Silent Spread of COVID-19

People infected with COVID-19 are often “silent spreaders,” able to infect others with the virus while showing no symptoms of illness themselves. The symptoms of COVID-19 often do not appear for several days in a newly infected person, but it is during this pre-symptomatic period that the person is most contagious. Because of this, public health experts are finding coronavirus especially hard to contain. Listen to an epidemiology professor describe the challenges of containing a virus that spreads silently, and which strategies have been proven to work best.

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August 3, 2020

5:59

Remembering Civil Rights Icon John Lewis

John Lewis, a celebrated civil rights leader and long-time member of Congress, has died. As a young man, Lewis fought courageously for racial justice alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., and others. Among other acts of nonviolent resistance, he led the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in support of voting rights, where he was severely beaten and arrested. Lewis continued to champion issues of justice as a legislator, earning him the nickname, “the conscience of Congress.” Listen to learn more about the life of John Lewis and how his passion and commitment to racial equality has inspired lawmakers and citizens for generations.

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August 2, 2020

0:26

Weird News: Stuffed Animals Ride Roller Coaster

Listen to hear about the adorable roller coaster riders replacing human visitors during the pandemic.

Vocabulary: hurtle, historic

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July 29, 2020

3:53

Reconsidering the Emancipation Memorial in DC

The Emancipation Memorial in Washington, DC, was created in 1876 to commemorate the freeing of enslaved people. It depicts a newly freed slave kneeling at the feet of Abraham Lincoln. Now, as Confederate statues and other symbols of racism are being dismantled around the country, some people are calling for this statue’s removal, too. They view the statue as a representation of oppression, while others see it as an image of liberation. Listen to learn more about the history of the Emancipation Memorial and the controversy surrounding it and hear black citizens from different generations express their views.

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July 27, 2020

3:32

The Importance of Masks

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, public health experts urged people to wear masks to protect others from getting sick. Now, scientists are finding that masks protect the wearer, too. Wearing a mask can block virus particles from entering a person’s body, and even if some particles enter, the mask wearer is less likely to become seriously ill. Listen to an infectious disease doctor explain the science behind mask wearing and how this new information could encourage more people to cover their faces in public.

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July 26, 2020

0:25

Weird News: Bald Eagles Return to Cape Cod

Listen to hear about bald eagle sightings on Cape Cod for the first time in more than 100 years.

Vocabulary: deforestation, century, symbol

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July 22, 2020

6:47

The Dilemmas of Reopening Schools

School leaders across the country are grappling with questions of when and how to reopen schools safely. While there is a shared interest nationwide in kids returning to school buildings, the virus is still widespread in communities across the country. Although kids are less likely to suffer from COVID-19, they may carry the germ back to their families and communities. The CDC’s safety recommendations are challenging for many schools to follow without additional space, staff, and supplies. Listen to school leaders throughout the U.S. discuss their hopes, priorities, and fears as they decide what school will look like in the fall.

This audio story was recorded in mid-July. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.

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July 20, 2020

3:33

View of Earth from the International Space Station

Crew Dragon, a space capsule launched by the private company SpaceX, recently transported two American astronauts to the International Space Station. In this audio story, the astronauts reflect on their experiences in space and what it feels like to view Earth in the midst of a pandemic. Listen to hear the space travelers describe how space travel today is different from 50 years ago and explain why future space travel could be similar to scuba diving.

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July 19, 2020

0:25

Weird News: Space Chess

Listen to hear about two astronauts in space playing chess with an expert on Earth.

Vocabulary: versus, draw, anniversary

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July 15, 2020

3:34

NBA Teams Offer Polling Places

With the presidential election months away and the coronavirus pandemic raging, some people are concerned about the health risks of in-person voting. Now, athletes are helping to address that problem. Several NBA teams have volunteered their sports arenas as polling places. The large spaces provide plenty of room for social distancing, which election officials hope will encourage voter turnout. Listen to learn how sports arenas could solve a range of voting challenges and why black athletes are speaking out about political causes more than ever before.

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July 13, 2020

4:02

Mississippi Votes to Remove Confederate Emblem from Flag

The Mississippi legislature voted to remove the Confederate emblem from its state flag. Designed in 1894, Mississippi’s flag incorporated an image of the Confederate battle flag, a symbol that is offensive to many citizens. The decision to remove the emblem was made amidst protests over police killings of black people and a national reckoning with racism in America, past and present. Listen to hear a Mississippi politician recount the experiences that shaped his understanding of the Confederate symbol and why he thinks the long-overdue change is finally happening.

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July 12, 2020

0:27

Weird News: Old Sneakers Sell for High Price

Listen to hear about an old pair of sneakers that was sold for a very high price.

Vocabulary: auction, permanent

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July 8, 2020

4:01

Supreme Court Upholds DACA

The Supreme Court announced that DACA recipients, sometimes called Dreamers, can stay in the U.S. DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a program enacted in 2012 to protect children brought to the U.S. illegally at a young age from being deported. President Trump canceled the program, but the Supreme Court rejected his action and kept protections for Dreamers in place. Listen to hear how DACA recipients are responding to the high court’s decision and why their battle to stay in the U.S. is not yet over.

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July 6, 2020

5:23

World Leadership During the Pandemic

Leaders throughout the world are working to control the spread of COVID-19 in their nations. Some have managed to keep their country’s illness rates very low or to quickly limit outbreaks. This story examines the qualities and strategies of these successful leaders and the commonalities in their responses to the pandemic that have so effectively addressed the health crisis. Listen to learn what the New Zealand prime minister said to calm her nation, how leaders of several Asian countries mobilized their governments, and what the German Chancellor did for the first time ever to rally her citizens to work together to reduce the threat of the virus.

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July 5, 2020

0:26

Weird News: Coronavirus Hairstyle

Listen to hear about how a hairstyle in Kenya has become popular again due to COVID-19.

Vocabulary: era, resemble, resurgence, austere

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July 1, 2020

3:35

COVID-19 Cases Continue to Rise

As states reopen and coronavirus infection rates begin to rise, public health officials are monitoring the spread of disease. The “R,” or reproduction number, indicates how many people a sick person is likely to infect. An R of two, meaning every sick person infects two other people, translates into exponential spread in the community, and the goal of safety measures is to lower the R to less than one. Listen to learn which states currently have surging infection rates and how small changes in the reproduction number can mean big changes in the rate of illness.

This audio story was recorded in mid-June. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.

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June 29, 2020

4:25

Supreme Court Decision Protects LGBTQ Workers

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers may not discriminate against workers for being gay or transgender. The court based its decision on the 1964 Civil Rights Act barring discrimination on the basis of sex, saying that law applied to LGBTQ people. The ruling makes discrimination against LGBTQ people illegal everywhere in the country, overriding laws already in place in states and local governments. Listen to hear the man who filed the lawsuit seven years ago react to the decision, and learn how life for LGBTQ people may change as a result of the landmark ruling.

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June 28, 2020

0:26

Weird News: Bull Causes Power Outage

Listen to hear about how a bull caused a Scottish town to lose power.

Vocabulary: culprit, suspect, oblivious

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June 24, 2020

3:59

NFL's Response to Race Protests

As protests against police brutality and racial inequities continue throughout the country, two national sports organizations have announced changes to their policies. The NFL says it will observe a company holiday on Juneteenth (June 19), the day in 1865 when enslaved people were freed by federal troops in Texas. The NFL commissioner also apologized for not listening to players protesting racism in recent years. And NASCAR announced that it is banning Confederate flags at races. Listen to a sports commentator react to the policy shifts and learn why he is skeptical about whether the NFL’s messaging signals meaningful change.

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June 22, 2020

3:09

Sheltering in Place Has Saved Millions of Lives

Researchers have concluded that months of worldwide lockdowns intended to contain the coronavirus pandemic have successfully saved millions of lives. Two independent studies analyzed COVID-19 data on several continents and reached a similar conclusion: people staying home has greatly reduced the virus’s spread. The researchers recommend keeping certain safety measures in place as lockdowns are lifted to prevent a resurgence of infections. Listen to learn more about the positive impact of the lockdown measures and why one researcher calls lifting lockdowns “a tradeoff.”

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June 21, 2020

0:26

Weird News: Robot Dog Enforces Social Distancing

Listen to hear about how a robot dog in a Singapore park reminds people to practice social distancing.

Vocabulary: instruct, patrol, enforce

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June 17, 2020

1:59

Caravans for Justice

Protesters are joining caravans as a way to stay safe while speaking out against racism and police violence. People with medical conditions and other concerns are finding that protesting from the safety of a car allows them to participate in demonstrations without exposing themselves to the risks of being in big crowds during the ongoing pandemic. Listen to a mother describe the difficulties of keeping toddlers socially distant at rallies, and hear the sounds of a protest caravan winding through the streets of San Francisco.

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June 15, 2020

3:50

Reimagining Policing in the U.S.

Protesters angry over the death of black people at the hands of police are demanding sweeping changes to policing systems around the country. Some say police department budgets are too large and want some of the money diverted to community support services. Others argue the only way to bring real change is to dismantle and replace police departments with entirely new systems. Listen to learn how policing rules in Minneapolis have already changed and why one former police officer and professor thinks abolishing the police is risky.

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June 14, 2020

:26

Weird News: California Ghost Town

Listen to hear about a man living alone in a ghost town.

Vocabulary: extreme, haunted

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June 12, 2020

4:15

Debate: Should Baseball Season Open During the Pandemic?

This past spring, professional baseball shut down during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, as summer approaches, there is talk of partially reopening the season, sparking debate about the benefits and risks of resuming play. Some point to the power of baseball to console and unify the nation in times of crisis and say it is needed now more than ever. Others worry about the health risks to the players of bringing them on the field, even without spectators. Listen to hear more arguments for and against reopening baseball and then debate: Should baseball season open during the pandemic?

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June 11, 2020

3:19

Bicycles Bring Freedom for Women in Pakistan

There has been a huge increase in bicycling around the world during the pandemic. In Pakistan, women and girls are riding bicycles in larger numbers than ever before. Traditional cultural norms have resulted in frequent harassment of Pakistani women who ride bicycles. The pandemic, however, has brought changes that have opened the door for more women and girls to enjoy the excitement and freedom of traveling by bike. Listen to learn why conditions during the pandemic have made it safer for Pakistani women to ride bikes, and why the cultural change may persist even after the health crisis ends.

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June 10, 2020

3:04

Fuzzy Green "Glacier Mice" Mystify Scientists

Scientists are stumped by a mystery involving rolling glacial moss. The green, fuzzy balls move slowly across the surface of glaciers and are known as “glacier mice” because they resemble rodents. What amazes scientists is how the unusual rolling plants manage to coordinate the speed and direction of their movement, similar to a herd of animals. Listen to hear more about scientific research on these mysterious moss balls and why one scientist thinks of a “Star Trek” episode when she sees them.

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June 9, 2020

7:12

Systemic Racism Drives Protests

Protesters throughout the U.S. and the world are speaking out against racism and police brutality after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others. In this interview, a state representative from Louisville, Kentucky discusses why the demonstrations are fueled by frustrations, built up over decades, about inequities between white and minority communities. Listen to hear the representative describe how a peaceful protest she attended turned violent and how she hopes the movement will motivate young people to act.

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June 8, 2020

3:40

SpaceX Launches Crew Dragon

On May 30th 2020, the Falcon 9 rocket launched two American astronauts into orbit on a mission to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon, a space capsule developed by a private space transportation company. The historic event marked the first time NASA, the U.S. government’s federal space agency, has partnered with private industry on a project to send Americans into space. Listen to learn how past presidents contributed to the development of the unique program, and hear the SpaceX founder's reactions after the long-awaited launch.

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June 7, 2020

:27

Weird News: Eating French Fries for the Economy

Listen to hear why people in Belgium are being asked to double the amount of potatoes they eat.

Vocabulary: request, surplus

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June 5, 2020

5:19

Debate: Should Videos of Community Violence Be Shared?

How do videos of violent acts affect people? This question has been raised again by the recent leaked videotape of the killing of an unarmed black man, Ahmaud Arbery, in Georgia. Some say violent videos can help achieve justice for the victim, while others point out the harms that are caused when the videos become routine. Listen to learn more about the effects of viral violent videos and then debate: Should videos of community violence be shared?

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June 4, 2020

5:38

Yellowstone Park Begins to Reopen

Yellowstone National Park, among the nation’s most popular tourist sites, has been closed during the pandemic. Now officials face unique challenges as they consider reopening the park for the summer season. A quick reopening could help local businesses that have suffered during the closure, but maintaining social distancing and other safe practices will be difficult when hordes of visitors arrive. Listen to hear local people and a park visitor discuss the benefits and risks of reopening one of the nation’s busiest national parks.

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June 3, 2020

2:20

Researchers Bring Lab Animals Home

Many scientists isolating at home during the pandemic have taken their study subjects with them. The researchers want to keep the plants and animals that they study alive and continue their experiments. Bringing spiders and even sunflower seeds home can have hazards, however. Listen to learn what scientists are doing to protect their study subjects during a health crisis and hear how one scientist’s roommates responded to the unusual critters in the house.

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June 2, 2020

3:39

Protests Follow George Floyd's Death

Protests broke out in cities around the country following the death of a black man in Minneapolis. Video footage showed a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for over eight minutes while he begged for his life and while other officers watched. Although the officers were fired and one was charged with murder, protesters are demanding sweeping changes to a police system they say suffers from deep-seated racial bias. Listen to learn more about the protests and hear one protester explain why she risked her health to participate.

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June 1, 2020

5:54

The Limits of Antibody Testing

Antibody tests look for disease-fighting proteins in a person’s blood, a sign that they have had a particular disease and have built up immunity to the illness, at least for a while. However, it is still unknown whether COVID-19 antibodies have the same protective qualities as antibodies for other diseases. Medical experts say even those who test positive for antibodies should continue to socially distance and take other safety precautions until more is known. Listen to learn why people are taking the antibody test and how the results could help guide family decisions during the pandemic.

This audio story was recorded in mid-May. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.

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May 31, 2020

1:02

Weird News: Canine Siblings Reunited

Listen to hear about two dog brothers who were accidentally reunited.

Vocabulary: reunited, similar

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May 29, 2020

2:33

Debate: Do Citizens Have a Right to Protect Themselves from the Pandemic?

Two South Dakota Native American tribes have placed highway checkpoints near their reservations to screen visitors for signs of COVID-19. Officials have demanded that they remove the roadblocks from state highways, but the tribes argue that their residents are especially vulnerable to infection and need protection. Listen to learn more about the standoff between tribal leaders and the state government and then debate: Do citizens have a right to protect themselves from the pandemic?

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