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Current Events

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November 29, 2021

6:43

Free Speech Limited in Hong Kong

After many years of British rule, Hong Kong, a peninsula and islands jutting out from China’s southern coast, was returned to China in 1997. The Chinese government agreed that for the next 50 years, the residents of Hong Kong could continue to embrace capitalism and enjoy democratic freedoms, a sharp contrast to repressive conditions in mainland China. Recently, though, the Chinese government reversed its promises and began to restrict the legal rights of Hong Kong citizens, prompting protests and, in response, a government crackdown. Listen to a reporter describe how Chinese authorities have repressed basic freedoms in Hong Kong and transformed the daily lives of its residents.

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November 28, 2021

:26

Weird News: Snakes On Planes

Listen to hear why there are snakes on planes and how airlines are solving the problem.

Vocabulary: conditions, storage, technicians, solution

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November 24, 2021

3:06

"Cotton Candy" Lobster is Star Attraction

When a lobsterman discovered a beautifully colored lobster in his trap, he knew he had found a star lobster that the world needed to see. Statistically speaking, the crustacean’s coloring is 1 in 100 million. The lobster, named Haddie by the lobsterman, has found a new home in an aquarium at The Seacoast Science Center in New Hampshire. Listen to hear more about the discovery of Haddie the lobster and the science behind her cotton candy coloring.

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November 23, 2021

4:06

Wampanoag Chief Shares Thanksgiving Recipes

No one knows exactly which dishes were served at the first Thanksgiving feast in 1621, but cookbook author Earl Mills Sr. has made some educated guesses. In this audio story, the Wampanoag chief and restaurant owner discusses some of the animals and grains native to Cape Cod that Native Americans and Pilgrims may have shared, and he describes his efforts to recreate those recipes today. Listen to hear about some delicious, authentic, and surprising Thanksgiving recipes.

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November 23, 2021

2:45

Kid News: Kids' Views on Wearing Masks

Wearing masks has become part of many students’ everyday lives and routines, including at school. Kids have all kinds of feelings about wearing masks throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In this audio story, a teacher asks her class of elementary students to share their thoughts and feelings about wearing masks. Listen to hear their thoughtful, honest, and relatable answers.

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November 22, 2021

4:59

Remembering Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State and four star general Colin Powell has died. He was the son of Jamaican immigrants who worked his way up through the ranks of the U.S. military, eventually becoming the first Black chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the first Black Secretary of State. Powell was a highly respected political figure who helped pave the way for other people of color to assume positions of power. He played a key role in launching the war against Iraq, an action he would later regret. Listen to learn more about the life and legacy of Colin Powell.

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November 21, 2021

:24

Weird News: Cats At Work

Listen to hear about the important work cats are doing in Chicago.

Vocabulary: distinction, rodents, feral, feline, infested, thrive, force

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November 19, 2021

6:48

Debate: Are Driverless Cars a Good Idea?

Driverless cars will soon be cruising the streets of Seattle, Washington. Advocates say the all-electric robotaxis, which will be guided by computerized sensors, are safer and more reliable than human drivers and will reduce carbon emissions. However, opponents question whether the vehicles can judge road conditions well enough to keep passengers and pedestrians safe. They say the sharp increase in demand for lithium batteries means more mining, a process that can harm both people and the environment. Listen to learn more about the controversy over autonomous vehicles and then debate: Are driverless cars a good idea?

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November 18, 2021

3:26

Cranberry Crisis Sparks Innovation

A health scare just before Thanksgiving in 1959 crashed the cranberry industry. The demand for cranberries dropped drastically, causing those in the cranberry business to consider how to expand the market for the tart fruit beyond the Thanksgiving season. There are similarities between this historic event and modern challenges in cranberry trade. Listen to hear more about the cranberry crash of 1959 and to learn how innovation saved the industry in the past, and may do so again in the future.

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November 17, 2021

1:34

Mysterious Disappearance of a Black Hole

Black holes are located in the center of nearly all large galaxies, where gravity pulls so strongly that even light can not escape. They are not visible to the naked eye, but astronomers can detect black holes with special telescopes that help them to see how stars close to black holes act differently from other stars. When astronomers recently viewed a galaxy where there was once a black hole, they found that it was missing. Listen to hear what scientists think about the puzzle of the missing black hole.

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November 16, 2021

7:38

Historic Moment for Organized Labor

In the shifting power relationship between employers and American workers, workers have recently gained the upper hand. During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of workers resigned from their jobs, leaving employers scrambling to fill positions, and those still employed went on strike more frequently. The trends show that many workers feel dissatisfied with working conditions and empowered to demand improvements. Listen to hear a labor historian explain what the upheaval in the labor market means for the future of the workplace and how it fits into the history of the labor movement.

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November 16, 2021

4:06

Kid News: Pledges to Protect the Planet

World leaders have gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, to talk about solutions to problems related to climate change. Many countries agreed to produce less of the harmful gases, like carbon and methane, that warm the planet. Trees help combat global warming, and many countries also pledged to slow the pace of deforestation, or cutting down trees. Although the leaders made important promises, some people are angry that they are not doing more. Listen to hear about progress – and problems – at the recent international climate summit.

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November 15, 2021

3:42

Youth Protests at the Climate Summit

Thousands of young people protested outside the gates of COP26, the climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, where world leaders were negotiating agreements about actions to slow the earth’s warming. The protesters are angry about the slow pace at which leaders have been moving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, given the intensity of the effects of climate change. They also want wealthy nations to take more responsibility for the problem of climate change, which disproportionately affects developing countries. Listen to hear the voices of young protesters demanding action and urgency around the climate change crisis.

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November 14, 2021

:26

Weird News: Lobster Escapes Seafood Restaurant

Listen to hear how one lucky lobster made it out of a seafood restaurant alive.

Vocabulary: regular, extraordinarily, critter, rare

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November 12, 2021

3:51

Debate: Should Guns Be Allowed on Movie Sets?

Recently a cinematographer was accidentally shot to death on a movie set when the star of the film, actor Alec Baldwin, discharged a gun containing live bullets. The tragedy has highlighted the issue of safety during filming. Some say the quick pace of movie production means safety measures are often ignored, and special effects should replace weapons on sets. Others argue that realistic movie-making requires real weapons to be used, and strengthening safety protocols can prevent future problems. Listen to hear how a movie shoot turned deadly and then debate: Should guns be allowed on movie sets?

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November 10, 2021

4:45

Video Game Inspires Teen's Love of Nature

The video game Firewatch helped high school senior Jack Kelley realize that the world is a surprising place. In the game, players become a character who is a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness. Kelley’s experience playing the video game inspired him to visit fire lookout towers across the US. In five years, Kelley has visited hundreds of towers. Doing so has influenced his future goals and strengthened his relationship with his father. Listen to hear Kelley discuss his visits to fire lookout towers and learn how the experiences have changed him.

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November 9, 2021

4:03

New Commitments from Climate Summit

World leaders recently met in Glasgow, Scotland, to discuss ways to slow climate change. They reached agreements in several areas, including reducing emissions of methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, and preventing further deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. The agreements are non-binding, however, and some powerful countries refused to sign on, raising questions about the effectiveness of the summit. Listen to learn how countries around the world are collaborating on the problem of climate change.

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November 9, 2021

3:10

Kid News: Asian Marvel Comic Superhero

An Asian-American superhero is fighting to save the world! “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is the first Marvel movie to feature an Asian hero, a man bravely fighting crime while struggling with family issues. The action-packed film also has an Asian director and mostly Asian cast, and was released in theatres to rave reviews. Listen to hear more about the Marvel franchise and how a young reporter responded to seeing her identity reflected on screen.

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November 8, 2021

4:15

COVID-19 Vaccine Approved for Kids 5-11

The CDC has approved a COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. The shot offers strong protection from the virus with very few side effects and is being distributed to doctors, clinics, and pharmacies. Although severe illness from the virus is rare in children, many parents feel relieved that their younger kids can finally access the same protections as older children and adults. Listen to learn details about the long-awaited new shot, including where it will be given and the risks and benefits of getting it.

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November 7, 2021

:22

Weird News: Bakery Uses Cookies to Catch Burglar

Listen to hear how a bakery used their resources creatively to help them catch a burglar.

Vocabulary: suspect, image, profile, credit

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November 5, 2021

5:32

Debate: Should Space Exploration Be Competitive or Collaborative?

China’s space program is growing quickly. The country recently sent three Chinese astronauts, known as taikonauts, to its new space station, and hopes to eventually send them to the moon. While the U.S. is vigorously pursuing a space program of its own, it is forbidden by law to cooperate with China due to China’s human rights violations. Some see the new frontier of space as a fresh opportunity for global cooperation, while others say a space race between countries with incompatible values is inevitable. Listen to learn more about China’s space program and then debate: Should space exploration be competitive or collaborative?

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November 4, 2021

2:22

Wild Boar Roam City Streets

Wild boars are roaming freely in the streets of Rome, Italy. These bristly members of the pig family have become a nuisance to residents, approaching them for food and causing sanitation and traffic problems. As their natural habitat shrinks, the intelligent beasts have been wandering down from the hills surrounding the city in increasing numbers. Listen to learn more about the problem of wild boar roaming Rome, and learn how the pandemic is offering clues for solving the problem.

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November 3, 2021

3:54

Hugs, Elbow Bumps, and Other Pandemic Greetings

It can be hard to know the best way to say hello while trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, some people thought shaking hands was gone for good. But with vaccinations and a better understanding of how the virus spreads, customs are changing again. This interview with a health expert discusses several kinds of greetings that put people in close contact with others. Listen to hear his thoughts about how to make the best decision when determining whether or not to hug, elbow bump, or kiss friends and family.

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November 2, 2021

4:41

Company Aims to Address Cultural Appropriation

The Minnetonka company has been making and selling moccasins, a type of footwear traditionally made and worn by Native Americans, for over 70 years. Indigenous tribes have never been acknowledged or compensated by the company, however. Recently, Minnetonka executives apologized for their acts of cultural appropriation, in which they exploited aspects of Indigenous culture without recognition, and are seeking ways to honor Native Americans in the future. Listen to hear an Indigenous activist describe how Minnetonka’s business damaged Native industry and why the company wants to do better.

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November 2, 2021

4:35

Kid News: Battling Mosquitoes to Beat Malaria

Mosquito bites are itchy and annoying, but they can also be deadly. In some countries, mosquitoes spread a dangerous disease called malaria from one person to another. Many people have become sick or died from the disease. Scientists are working hard to develop exciting new tools to protect people all over the world from getting malaria. Listen to learn more about this illness carried by mosquitoes and the various efforts to end it.

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November 1, 2021

4:08

Oil Spill Impacts Wetland Ecosystems

Oil that leaked from an underwater pipeline off the coast of California has polluted an ecologically valuable wetland. The Talbert Marsh is a popular stop for many species of migratory birds, and, like other wetlands, contributes significantly to a clean global environment. Removing the oil and restoring the marsh to its previous state could take ten years or more. Listen to learn about the importance of wetlands to global ecosystems and why the timing of the damaging spill is offering conservationists a glimmer of hope.

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October 31, 2021

:26

Weird News: Two-Headed Turtle

Listen to hear about a rare turtle with two heads.

Vocabulary: rare, condition, digestive

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October 29, 2021

7:22

Debate: Should Social Media Be Regulated?

Research shows that social media has a negative impact on the mental health of many young people. Photo-centered apps like Instagram, in particular, often display filtered images that create unrealistic ideals of beauty and cause feelings of social pressure and anxiety. Some companies have pledged to address the harms their products are causing, but many people believe that to truly solve the problem, the government needs to step in. Listen to a young reporter and a technology researcher discuss the effects of Instagram and other apps on teens and then debate: Should social media be regulated?

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October 28, 2021

6:11

Celebrating Dia de los Muertos

The Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a time to mourn the loss of those who have passed and to joyously celebrate and remember their lives. Family and community members often gather in a festive atmosphere at cemeteries where they await the return of souls, and share stories and objects that remind them of their loved ones.The holiday draws on both Indigenous and Spanish Catholic beliefs and traditions. Listen to learn more about a unique, centuries-old celebration and how it can help people cope during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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October 27, 2021

2:30

Living in the Age of Snakes

A recent study suggests that after dinosaurs disappeared, snakes, their slithering reptile cousins, exploded in ecological diversity. Scientists believe they have found a clue about why snakes may have evolved into the nearly 4,000 species alive today. Unlike other reptiles, snakes eat many kinds of prey, including other snakes. Listen to hear more about what snakes eat and learn why some scientists say the current geological era could be called the Age of Snakes.

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October 26, 2021

7:32

A Different Kind of Ghost Story

An author has put tracing paper, old photographs, and his imagination to work to write a picture book about a wandering ghost. The idea sprang from the mind of Oliver Jeffers, an author with a fascination for ghosts and a curiosity over what they might reveal about the energy of living things. Listen to hear Jeffers explain his creative process and why ghosts both attract and terrify people, and learn how turnips were used in Halloween traditions.

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October 25, 2021

2:31

California Will Require Student Vaccinations

California has become the first state in the nation to require COVID-19 vaccines for all public and private school students. The mandate will go into effect as soon as the FDA fully approves the shot for 12-16-year-olds, which is currently under emergency authorization. Governor Gavin Newsome says the move will help to end the pandemic, although his announcement was met with mixed reactions. Listen to hear how some parents and teachers view California’s new school vaccine policy.

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October 24, 2021

:26

Weird News: Ancient Roman Fast Food

Listen to hear what types of fast food were available to the ancient Romans.

Vocabulary: archaeologists, ruins, vendor, varied

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October 22, 2021

6:25

Debate: Should U.S. Draft Registration Include Women?

The U.S. stopped drafting men into the military in 1973 and has since depended on a volunteer army. Today, though, every male aged 18-25 still must register for the draft in case of a national emergency. Women are not required to register, but the Senate Armed Services Committee wants to change that. They argue that, ever since gender-based restrictions on military service were lifted in 2016, women have served alongside men, and requiring females to register would be another step toward equality. Others say that women already contribute to the country in ways that men do not, and compliance with the registration system is hard to enforce. Listen to learn more about women and military service and then debate: Should U.S. draft registration include women?

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October 21, 2021

4:16

Census Race Categories in Question

The latest U.S. census did not get an accurate count of Latinos living in the U.S. The survey asked respondents to identify their race, but many Latinos checked “some other race.” That’s because the 2020 census considers “Latino” and “Hispanic” to be ethnicities, not races, leaving Latinos with racial categories that they often felt did not apply to them. The undercount of Latinos has dire implications, since the census data is used to fund programs and enforce anti-discrimination laws. Listen to learn more about census race categories and how the questions could be changed for a more accurate count.

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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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