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December 8, 2016
Wildfires swept through the city of Gatlinburg Tennessee, destroying several businesses and homes, forcing everyone to evacuate. The Great Smoky Mountains were being threatened by wildfires, along with Ripley’s Aquarium which houses 10,000 sea creatures. The staff at the aquarium were not allowed to stay and worried about the air quality and the flames reaching the building and the animals. Listen to this story to hear about the relief felt by the staff the next day.
December 7, 2016
Dark matter is invisible and barely interacts with anything else. Finding dark matter and proving it exists is a difficult task. There are a few theories about what dark matter is but no one has found a way to detect it. It could be that the universe is mostly invisible. Listen to hear more about dark matter and what it can tell us.
December 6, 2016
In 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court barred the execution of the intellectually disabled. But states have the ability to decide who is given the label of "mentally retarded." (This outdated term is used throughout this story since it’s the language in the court case.) The U.S. Supreme Court heard a case that questions what standards states may use in determining whether a defendant convicted of murder is mentally deficient. Listen to hear about this argument.
December 5, 2016
Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has died at age 90. Castro took power in the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and was in power for nearly 50 years leading the only communist state in the Western Hemisphere. He led a movement to overthrow Fulgencio Batista, Cuba's military dictator, and had wide support from Cubans. But there were flaws in his socialist system, and the economy, education, and health care systems fell into disrepair. Castro outlasted many U.S. presidents and their attempts to overthrow him. He was a skilled politician with a complex legacy, and a man determined to continue holding power whatever the costs. Listen to hear more about the leadership and life of Fidel Castro.
December 2, 2016
The United Nations set an ambitious goal of ending extreme poverty and fighting disease by 2030. But a lot of governments and international organizations and researchers still aren't collecting basic statistics. For example, currently over 150 million kids in poor countries have stunted growth, largely due to malnutrition, but there isn’t data about which nutrients available in these countries are most needed to prevent malnutrition. The data gap is especially noticeable when it comes to statistics on girls and women. This makes it hard to prioritize health spending. Listen to this story and debate what can be done to improve data on poverty.
December 1, 2016
Scientific discoveries are rarely the result of a “eureka!” moment. A recent discovery in biotech, called CRISPR, is an example of a discovery made by many people in labs all over the world. In the CRISPR discovery, there are issues of identifying exactly what that discovery is: a way to cut and paste DNA, how to control that process, or how to make it into a tool. In science, the question of who should get the credit often depends on who gets a paper published first, and not who discovered it first. Listen to hear about the process of discovery.
November 30, 2016
Twitter and Facebook say they are cutting off bulk data access to a firm that scans vast amounts of public social media posts. Critics say the service enables police to conduct invasive surveillance. Others say that social media is a useful tool in investigating crimes. Listen to hear more about this controversy, which includes the issue of protecting civil rights and law enforcement’s use of commercial products.
November 29, 2016
The Philippines’ former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, died in exile in Hawaii more than two decades ago. Where to bury the dictator has been tied up in a court battle, but the justices of the highest court recently ruled he should be laid to rest in Manila's Heroes Cemetery. Opponents argue that he was no hero and doesn’t deserve to be buried there, but others think this will be an important step to heal the nation from his divisive rule. Listen to this story and hear about the reaction of people from the Philippines.
November 28, 2016
The U.S. federal anti-nepotism law prevents a public official from appointing a relative to a position in their agency. It was made a law in 1967 after President John F. Kennedy nominated his brother as Attorney General. It is also used to prevent congressmen from hiring their wives to work in their offices. President-elect Donald Trump has relied on his son-in-law as a key adviser during his campaign. If his son-in-law were given a job in the White House, it would raise legal questions around nepotism. Listen to learn more about nepotism laws in the U.S.
November 23, 2016
Since Donald Trump's election victory, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has come out twice to address the issue of fake news. A spokesperson said Facebook is not doing business with fake news apps. These are sites that promote false and inaccurate information which then goes viral. Facebook sells ad space inside its news feed and says these outside parties are not allowed to use the ad network. However, stories make money for Facebook when they are clicked, if they happen to get posted. Google, another tech giant, said it's working on a policy to keep its ads off fake news sites. Listen to hear more about this social media controversy.
November 22, 2016
Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans from across the country gathered in central Seoul recently, in an organized and peaceful protest against the president, Park Geun-hye. They are demanding she resign because she has been charged with abuse of power and fraud. The South Korean president shared classified information with a friend and was advised by her on a range of state affairs. President Park says she understands the seriousness of this situation, but shows no sign she will resign. Listen to hear more about the government crisis in South Korea.
November 21, 2016
Immigration was a big issue in the U.S. presidential election and president-elect Donald Trump has said he definitely plans to build a barrier on the U.S. border with Mexico. He said he will prioritize deporting unauthorized immigrants with criminal records. Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimates about 2 million undocumented immigrants fall into this category, but the majority are not drug dealers or murderers, but charged with nonviolent crimes such as shoplifting. Listen to hear more about the potential plans of the incoming Administration.
November 18, 2016
The United Nations is set to appoint Wonder Woman as its honorary ambassador for a new social media campaign focused on the empowerment of women and girls. Many people agree that Wonder Woman is an appropriate choice, and think that she sends a strong message that girls can do anything. However, some feminist groups oppose the decision. Listen to hear what each side thinks about Wonder Woman becoming an ambassador for women’s issues and then debate: Is Wonder Woman a good Ambassador for Women’s Empowerment?
November 17, 2016
More than 65 million people around the world have been forced to leave their homes. These refugees are fleeing violence, persecution and natural disasters in their countries. The journey is often dangerous. Doctor’s Without Borders, an international humanitarian aid organization, created an exhibit to help Americans understand what it’s like to be a refugee. Listen to hear how visitors reacted to this experience.
November 16, 2016
Scurvy is an ancient disease that used to prevent long distance sea travel. People need to eat food containing vitamin C to prevent scurvy, so it's rarely seen today because most people have a vitamin rich diet. But recently, cases of scurvy have appeared in some populations. Low-income males and people with mental health issues are especially at risk. Scurvy is easy to treat, and eating more vitamin C is enough to reverse its effects. However, doctors often don’t think to look for scurvy, thinking it’s a disease from the Ancient Egyptians, not today. Listen to hear how doctors are helping their patients deal with the reappearance of this old illness.
November 15, 2016
Reaction to the results of the U.S. Presidential election were both positive and negative. This story describes the reaction by Trump supporters in Pennsylvania. To hear about people protesting Trump’s election, listen to this story.
Many voters in Morgantown Pennsylvania voted for Donald Trump because they say they think he will bring back blue collar manufacturing jobs in the area. Trump’s message of reforming the government and preventing illegal immigration were also appealing to these voters. Listen to hear the reaction of these Trump supporters.
November 15, 2016
Reaction to the results of the U.S. Presidential election were both positive and negative. This story describes the reaction of some people who supported Hillary Clinton and other candidates to election results. To hear about the reaction of Trump supporters, listen to this story.
Across the country people gathered to voice their anger and disappointment that Donald Trump won the Presidential election. There were marches in several cities, including New York, Seattle, D.C., Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Chicago. In Miami a group of Immigrant’s Rights activists protested and students in California high schools walked out of class. Listen to hear the reaction to the election.
November 14, 2016
BB guns are popular among children, but they can pose a threat to the safety of communities. BB guns typically look almost identical to real guns, unless closely inspected. When a BB gun is held by someone in public, it is often mistaken as a real gun and a threat to anyone in the area. Parents and educators encourage children not to use BB guns because it could put them in danger. Listen to hear more from children and parents in Baltimore about their opinions on BB guns.
November 11, 2016
There is pressure to increase the minimum wage from low wage workers around the country. Some cities and states, including New York and California, have already increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour. For employees working minimum wage jobs, like in some fast food chains, the bump would make it easier for them to afford their rent and other essentials. However, raising the minimum wage also will also affect small business owners, who are concerned about the high costs of running their shops. Listen to hear different perspectives on this issue and debate whether it’s a good idea to raise the minimum wage.
November 10, 2016
This week the United States elected Republican Donald Trump as the 45th President. He defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton, the first female candidate for President. Trump will be the first U.S. President to have never served in public office nor served in the military. He tapped into widespread dissatisfaction voters feel toward the political establishment. While Trump won the electoral college votes needed to become president, it appears Clinton won the popular vote, which reveals a deeply divided country. In his acceptance speech Trump talked about bringing the country together. Listen to hear more about the results of this election.
November 9, 2016
North Korea has shown it is close to having the scientific ability and political will to launch a nuclear weapon. Recently the Communist nation has conducted a number of nuclear missile tests. Even though these tests weren’t successful, many intelligence officials believe North Korea is close to becoming a nuclear power. There is growing concern among U.S. intelligence experts that their technology is improving as they learn from their failed missile launches. Listen to hear how the experts view the threat of North Korea.
November 8, 2016
When the founding fathers of the United States were writing the Constitution in the 1780s, they were deadlocked about what to call the leader of the executive branch. At the time, “president” was used in other contexts. University heads were called presidents and heads of colonies sometimes used that title as well. But until President George Washington, this word had never been used to describe a leader of a country. Listen to hear how the decision was finally reached.
November 7, 2016
This election will be the first time some young people will be able to vote. Listen to a few first-time voters who are preparing to vote in the presidential election. Some are certain they are voting for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Gary Johnson while others are still undecided. They discuss their feelings about their choice of candidates and what their friends are talking about related to the election. Listen to hear more from young voters and the issues that are most important to them individually.
November 4, 2016
On election night in the United States, most news organizations won’t report results until the polls close. But this year, voting information may be released in real time while many people are still voting. It is commonly thought that publishing information on voting projections would change voters’ actions and possibly change the election results. Others think that voters should have the same access to information as news organizations. Listen to this story and then debate whether you think we should have real-time voting projections on election day.
November 3, 2016
Self-driving cars have been getting a lot of attention lately, with companies such as Uber, Tesla and Google trying out their autonomous vehicles on city streets. However, the big shift towards self-driving vehicles may not be with fancy electric cars, but with long-haul trucks. Trucks are well-suited for self-driving technology and will make the job of driving less dangerous. Listen to hear why people are predicting that trucks will undergo the shift earlier than cars.
November 2, 2016
Astronomers have noticed blobs of eerie light glowing in outer space and have been puzzled by them since their discovery. Astronomers were studying galaxies in the distant universe, when they noticed strange glowing clouds of gas that were 10 times the diameter of the Milky Way. They have been looking into the source of light coming from the blobs and have recently made an interesting discovery that reveals why the blobs produce a glow.
November 1, 2016
The city of Mosul, Iraq is the largest city under ISIS control. After 2 years of violence in Mosul, Iraqi government forces and their allies are planning to retake the city of about one million people. The long-awaited military operations could take weeks or even months. Some people fleeing Mosul do not intend to return home when ISIS is defeated. Like many displaced people, they fear chaos and violence will continue in Mosul, and do not trust that local officials will maintain order. Listen to hear what Mosul may look like after the war.
October 31, 2016
Climate change and energy policy are issues that are important to millions of Americans, but the issue has not been front and center in the presidential election. Both candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have said they want to make the country energy-independent but their views on how to do that are very different. Listen to hear how Trump and Clinton differ sharply on topics such as coal, renewable energy and the Paris climate agreement.
October 28, 2016
The Federal Bureau of Prisons can petition the court for the early release of a prisoner for extraordinary and compelling reasons, called compassionate release. It is typically granted in cases where the inmate is dying or has a debilitating medical condition. This story highlights the case of a former Massachusetts House Speaker who was sentenced for corruption in 2012. He is dying of cancer and the Federal Bureau of Prisons has filed a motion to release him early. Listen to hear more about this extraordinary type of release and debate whether sick prisoners should be released for compassionate reasons.
Update: A federal judge ruled to grant the Massachusetts House Speaker early release because of his health.
October 27, 2016
Democracy has lasted in the United States when it has failed in other countries. This is due to many reasons, but mainly because there has always been a peaceful transfer of power following an election. Going against political norms for hundreds of years, Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has claimed the election will be rigged and has hinted that he may not concede if his opponent, Hillary Clinton, is elected. Trump has expressed concerns about voter fraud at polling stations, and encouraged people to closely monitor voting. Listen to this story to hear an expert in election law explain why he doesn’t believe the recent polls are not close enough for concerns about a rigged election to be realistic.
October 26, 2016
Eating a lot of sugar may change the brain and affect how many calories a person eats. There are many researchers trying to understand what controls our eating and one researcher is looking for a link between exposure to a diet high in sugar and obesity. There may be a way to control eating by using biochemistry, which will change the view that controlling eating is just a matter of willpower. Listen to hear more about research into the effect of sugar on the brain.
October 25, 2016
Combat veterans have started long-distance hiking on wilderness trips across the country as a way to transition to civilian life. Having time in nature can help veterans process the war. A non-profit, Warrior Expeditions, sponsors dozens of combat vets each year to walk the Pacific Crest, the Continental Divide and the Appalachian Trail. They hike with other veterans who can support each other since they have been through similar experiences. Listen to hear from veterans who have hiked over 2,000 miles together and their reflections on the journey.
October 24, 2016
The Supreme Court is short handed with only eight justices to do the job of resolving the important legal questions of the United States. Since February 2016 when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly, the Supreme Court has been evenly divided in important cases. Under the Constitution, the Senate’s job is to confirm or reject the President’s nominee. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has promised that no Obama nominee would get a hearing or a vote and he believes the next president should select a nominee. Listen to hear more about how the presidential election may impact the next appointment to the Supreme Court.
October 21, 2016
Affordable housing is become increasingly scarce in many cities around the country. Many low-income tenants often find themselves unable to pay their rent and at risk of eviction. Most tenants who fail to pay rent and are taken to court have no lawyer, while most landlords do. Some people believe this could be improved by providing free legal help to tenants. Listen to hear stories of people facing eviction and the struggle for affordable housing. Then debate whether the government should have a role in increasing affordable housing.
October 20, 2016
When dog owners talk to their pets, they usually use praising words and speak in an approving, cheerful tone. Neuroscientists studied the brains of dogs to learn more about how they interpret praise. By looking at certain pathways in the brain scans, the research team discovered some interesting results that suggest dogs may process the meaning of the words they hear in addition to the tone of voice. Listen to hear the details of the study about what dogs understand when we speak to them.
October 19, 2016
Hurricane Matthew has left destruction in Haiti, with over 1,000 fatalities. In some towns, 80 to 90 percent of the homes were damaged or destroyed. Aid workers are making their way to the most vulnerable Haitians and trying to overcome the obstacles in getting food and water to some towns. Listen to hear more about the concerns about the spread of disease as well as what it will take to rebuild these devastated areas of Haiti.
October 18, 2016
In Colombia, there has been fighting between the Colombian Government, rebel groups and other factions for over 50 years. FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a rebel guerrilla group, remains in control of some remote areas of the country but has not gained significant political power. An historic peace deal signed by Colombia’s President and the FARC leader was expected to end decades of hostility. Colombia’s President was even recognized for his efforts with a Nobel Peace Prize. But when the deal was put to a popular vote, it was rejected by a narrow majority. Listen to hear more about this conflict and reasons why Colombian voters rejected the deal.
October 17, 2016
Both U.S. Presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, have said they are committed to creating more economic opportunities for Americans.There is a sense that economic opportunity is slipping away for some Americans, which is causing them to become angry. While both candidates have addressed this topic in their campaigns, they have presented their plans in different ways. Listen to hear how each candidate talks about the economy, and their plans to create more jobs and improve the lives of Americans.
October 14, 2016
Implicit racial bias has been discussed in recent police shootings, preschool suspensions, and in both the presidential and vice-presidential debates. Unconscious attitudes or stereotypes can lead us to draw conclusions about each other that are sometimes opposite of what we consciously think or believe. In this study on bias, over one hundred preschool teachers looked for disruptive behavior in some children more than in others. Listen to hear how race and empathy are involved in how children are viewed, and debate whether you think everyone has a bias.
October 13, 2016
Former Israeli President and statesman Shimon Peres was one of the founders of Israel. His participation and influence in Israeli politics spanned decades. After his recent passing, he is remembered for winning the Nobel Peace Prize and for his optimism about forming peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Listen to learn more about Peres’ legacy.