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Current Events

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January 17, 2021

0:25

Weird News: Big Tip for No Service

Listen to hear about a coffee shop barista who was generously rewarded for his efforts.

Vocabulary: shame, haul

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January 15, 2021

4:10

Debate: Should Breakdancing be an Olympic Sport?

Breakdancing is the latest sport to be added to the Olympic games. Breaking is an athletic dance style incorporating acrobatics, dance moves, and freestyle footwork. It was first performed on New York City streets in the 1970s, typically to hip hop music. Some say becoming an Olympic sport could cause breaking to lose its character as it moves farther away from its urban roots. But it might also inspire a new generation of young breakers. Listen to hear a veteran breakdancer’s response and then debate: Should breakdancing become an Olympic sport?

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January 14, 2021

5:37

The Meaning of Sedition

Rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol could be charged with sedition, or an attempt to “overthrow, put down, or destroy the government by force.” The mob attacked legislators as they were carrying out a fundamental duty of American democracy: certifying the electoral votes confirming the country’s next president. Although sedition is hard to prove in court, some say that holding violent extremists responsible for their actions will help prevent future attacks. Listen to learn more about the meaning of sedition and how it has been used in the past to prosecute terrorism.

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January 13, 2021

2:46

Why Dogs Don’t Learn More Words

Dogs and humans have long had a special relationship. Part of the reason they get along so well is that dogs can understand human language, at least some of it. But why can’t they learn more? To find out, researchers played words for dogs and observed how their brains responded. Listen to learn what scientists discovered about how dogs learn words and why it’s unlikely they will ever be able to understand Shakespeare.

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January 12, 2021

5:58

How Martin Luther King, Jr. Channeled His Anger

Martin Luther King, Jr. practiced nonviolent protest and advocated for racial harmony. The racism and violence he experienced throughout his life, however, sometimes filled him with rage. King believed anger could be a useful, positive force if it was channeled productively. Listen to hear more about MLK, Jr.’s views on the strong emotion of anger and how he used it to help him accomplish his goals.

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January 11, 2021

6:09

Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol

Pro-Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol building while Congress was meeting inside to officially count the electoral college votes establishing Joe Biden as the next U.S. president. They broke windows and looted offices, forcing lawmakers to flee to secure locations. Trump has falsely claimed that the election was stolen, and some say his words and actions incited the violence. Lawmakers met later in the day, after the building had been cleared, to finish their work. The insurrection, or act of rebellion against the government, has prompted a shift in support for the president in his final days in office. Listen to hear about a major attack on American democracy and the questions it raises.

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January 10, 2021

0:29

Weird News: Relaxing with Bees

Listen to hear about how bees help students at a school in Slovenia reduce stress.

Vocabulary: routine,restless, relax

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January 8, 2021

3:27

Debate: Will Deepfakes Change How People View Media?

A deepfake is a piece of audio or video that has been manipulated to represent something that never actually happened. Created using advanced technology, deepfakes often look and sound so real that it is easy to be fooled by them. Many people worry that deepfakes will cause damage by spreading false information so widely that the truth will be lost. Some are concerned that deepfakes will erode people’s trust in the media, causing them to dismiss truth as fiction. Listen to learn more about media manipulation and then debate: Will deepfakes change how people view media?

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January 7, 2021

7:50

Megan Rapinoe Reflects on Her Life

Professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe is considered one of the world’s top athletes. Among her many accomplishments, she helped bring the U.S. women’s national soccer team to victory in several Women’s World Cup tournaments. Rapinoe is also an activist who champions causes she cares about, including gay rights, equal pay for female athletes, and racial equity. She speaks openly about her personal struggles, and many view her as a role model. Listen to hear Megan Rapinoe reflect on a range of topics, from the current state of youth soccer to how it felt to realize she was gay.

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January 6, 2021

5:03

Teens Deliver PPE to Health Care Workers

High school students in Atlanta have organized an effort to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers throughout the country. It started in their home state of Georgia, where the group began delivering donations of masks and gloves to local hospitals when the pandemic hit. Their efforts went national when they realized that 3D printers could quickly produce large numbers of plastic face shields, a critical piece of protective gear. Listen to an interview with the teen entrepreneur who started the project, and learn how his volunteer work has impacted his life at school.

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January 5, 2021

2:29

Body Odor Gives Away Bee Thieves

The human microbiome, a community of tiny organisms that live inside us, is important to our health in a variety of ways. Scientists have discovered that the microbes living inside bees also play an important role in their survival. Microbes give bees a particular body odor, a scent that can communicate to the hive if the bee is a friend or enemy. Listen to learn why bees invade the hives of other colonies and hear about the role that bees’ body odor plays in defending against such intruders.

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January 4, 2021

2:18

Latino DACA Recipient Wins Rhodes Scholarship

A prestigious Rhodes Scholarship was recently awarded to the first Latino DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient. The Rhodes Scholarship offers college graduates an opportunity to study at Oxford University in England. Rhodes Scholarships are among the most competitive and respected awards in the world. The winner, Santiago Potes, was brought to the U.S. from Colombia at age four by his parents, who entered the country illegally. Listen to learn about the influences in Santiago’s life that helped him succeed, and hear how he reacted when he got the good news.

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January 3, 2021

0:28

Weird News: New Zealand Wizard Retires

Listen to hear about a wizard from New Zealand who is passing on his wand.

Vocabulary: successor, possess

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December 23, 2020

1:50

A Stylish Hairless Possum

An unusual baby possum was dropped off at an animal rehabilitation center in Texas. The tiny creature had no hair! Workers at the center started nursing the undernourished possum back to health, but the hairless critter had trouble keeping warm. When word of the animal’s plight got out, tiny sweaters and other clothing started pouring into the center. Listen to hear more about the stylish possum’s wardrobe and how she may one day help educate visitors about marsupials.

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December 22, 2020

2:49

The Popularity of Agatha Christie's Mysteries

Mystery writer Agatha Christie has sold more books than any other novelist. Christie’s books have been entertaining readers for the past 100 years with exotic settings, suspenseful plots and strong characters, including detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Some of her titles have been made into classic movies and long-running plays. Listen to learn why Christie’s mysteries have achieved such success, and hear people who knew the author describe what she was like.

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December 21, 2020

3:44

Rollout of COVID-19 Vaccine Begins

The first vaccines developed to protect people from COVID-19 have been approved by the FDA and shipped throughout the country, giving Americans hope that an end to the coronavirus pandemic is in sight. Most of the initial 2.9 million doses will be given to health care workers and people working and living in long-term care facilities. The vaccine must be kept frozen at very low temperatures, one of many factors that make nationwide distribution extremely complicated. Listen to hear more about the plan to distribute doses, what could go wrong, and how the government is preparing for possible mishaps.

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December 20, 2020

0:28

Weird News: Mystery of the Missing Shoes

Listen to hear about a sneaky fox with a soft spot for used shoes.

Vocabulary: resident, stash

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December 18, 2020

4:55

Debate: Are Religious Freedom and Public Safety in Conflict?

The U.S. Supreme Court has declared certain rules restricting religious gatherings unfair. Some states, including California and New York, had strictly limited the number of people allowed to gather in places of worship during the pandemic. The states said the rules were meant to protect public health, since large indoor gatherings can trigger viral outbreaks. But the Supreme Court decided that these limitations were too strict and unfairly limited freedom to assemble and worship, a right protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Listen to learn more about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling and then debate: Are religious freedom and public safety in conflict?

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December 17, 2020

4:43

School Sports During the Pandemic

The cancellation of school sports during the pandemic has had a big impact on students. Without structured sports activities, many kids lose the opportunity to exercise, socialize, and develop teamwork skills. For some students, the loss of school sports may even dash their hopes of attending college. Listen to hear high school athletes explain the importance of sports in their lives, and learn why many students may not return to sports after the pandemic ends.

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December 16, 2020

2:16

Water on the Moon

Robots sent into space have discovered water in a sunny spot on the moon. The finding has surprised scientists who, until now, only knew about moon water buried in dark corners, away from the sun. The discovery has raised many questions, including how the water might be used by future visitors to the moon. Listen to learn more about an exciting new space discovery and how it could change future moon missions.

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December 15, 2020

2:38

Rhode Island Changes Its Name

The state of Rhode Island is getting a name change. From its founding in 1643, the state’s official name has been Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Recently, though, voters elected to remove “and Providence Plantations.” The word “plantation” is commonly associated with large farms in the South worked by enslaved people before the Civil War, and the reference in the state’s name offended many people. Listen to learn more about the significance of the word “plantation,” and hear an indigenous resident explain what the name change means to her.

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December 14, 2020

5:27

The Concession Speech Tradition

There is a long tradition of US presidential candidates delivering a concession speech when they lose an election. A concession speech gives the losing candidate a chance to publicly acknowledge their loss and offer congratulations to the winner. Hearing a concession speech helps all Americans, including the candidate’s supporters, accept the newly-elected leader and feel reassured that a peaceful transfer of power will occur. This year, President Trump has refused to concede, breaking with long tradition. Listen to hear parts of presidential concession speeches from the past few decades, and learn why one candidate conceded the election twice.

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December 13, 2020

0:28

Weird News: Aquarium Cashes in on Wishes

Listen to hear how an aquarium is paying its bills in an unusual way.

Note: Since this story aired, the aquarium shared that it spent $8563.71 in wishes on animal care.

Vocabulary: reveal, cash in

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December 11, 2020

2:39

Debate: Should Theme Parks Reopen?

Theme parks throughout the country closed soon after the pandemic hit, although some have since reopened. To control outbreaks of infection, reopened parks have limited the number of visitors and imposed strict rules, including mandatory mask wearing. Many people lost their jobs when parks closed, and the reopenings have put some back to work. California public health officials have decided that theme parks like Disneyland should not reopen until the risk of COVID-19 spread in the surrounding community is lower. Listen to hear from people for and against theme park reopenings and then debate: Should theme parks reopen?

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December 10, 2020

2:29

Jelly Donuts for Hanukkah

Jelly donuts are traditionally eaten to celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah, but even many Jews are not sure why. The holiday began in ancient times, when a miracle was declared after a small amount of oil burned for eight days. Eating foods fried in oil, such as donuts, reminds Jews of the miracle. But why the jelly? Listen to hear the story behind jelly donuts and how they became a traditional Hanukkah food.

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December 9, 2020

4:45

Free Food Refrigerators Feed Communities

The number of Americans who do not have enough food has increased dramatically during the pandemic. To address this problem of food insecurity, groups across the country are putting refrigerators filled with free food in public places and inviting people to take what they need. The “freedges” are feeding thousands of people, many of whom had never visited a food bank. Listen to hear more about a grassroots effort to feed hungry Americans, and learn why one activist worries about the sustainability of the movement.

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December 8, 2020

2:17

Deaf Community Considers Signs for New Leaders

The deaf community is considering how to say “Joe Biden” and “Kamala Harris” in sign language. Each of the country’s newly elected leaders has distinct characteristics, such as wavy hair or trademark sunglasses, that might translate into a sign. With the help of technology, the process of choosing new signs has become more inclusive, increasing the likelihood that they will be culturally sensitive. Listen to hear more about how new signs are chosen, and learn which ones are being considered for Biden and Harris.

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December 7, 2020

3:23

Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, Japanese forces bombed a U.S. military base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise attack killed more than 2,400 people and damaged the entire fleet of U.S. battleships docked in the harbor. The event drew America into World War II, which lasted until 1945. Listen to hear one of the few remaining survivors of the attack recall the day of the bombing, and learn why he chose not to return to Pearl Harbor to commemorate the event.

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December 6, 2020

0:28

Weird News: Farmer Invites Neighbor to Solve a Mystery

Listen to hear about a farmer who invited his neighbors to help solve a mystery.

Vocabulary: ornate, speculation

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December 4, 2020

3:56

Debate: Should Broadband Access Be a Universal Right?

Americans living in rural areas often have little or no access to high-speed internet, also called broadband. Broadband is used for many everyday activities and essential tasks, including remote learning. Some argue that access to broadband is a basic need, and the government should supply it to every American household, just as it provides access to electricity and clean water. Ensuring that broadband reaches the remotest corners of the country would require a major investment of time, effort, and money, competing with other funding priorities. Listen to people from rural areas describe the challenges of remote learning without broadband, and then debate: Should broadband access be a universal right?

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December 3, 2020

5:22

Pronouns for All

“He” and “she” are useful pronouns for referring to people in many situations, but they are not suited for every occasion. Multiple options are now available as the English language continues to evolve, including the singular “they.” Experts say the search for gender-neutral pronouns dates back hundreds of years, when people wanted an inclusive pronoun to refer to gender-neutral nouns such as “person” or “writer.” Listen to learn more about the history of gender-neutral pronouns and hear a language expert’s views on choosing which to use.

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December 2, 2020

1:35

Following 10,000-Year-Old Footsteps

Archaeologists, who study prehistoric sites for clues to the past, made an exciting new discovery in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park. They found tracks of humans and animals left around 10,000 years ago. The scientists say the prints show activity around a puddle among children, adults, and giant prehistoric creatures. Listen to hear more about the story told by these ancient footprints, and learn why scientists are especially excited by the finding.

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December 1, 2020

2:42

12-Year-Old College Student Loves Space

A 12-year-old student from Georgia is enrolled in college with dreams of becoming an aerospace engineer. Caleb Anderson was an exceptionally smart baby, according to his parents. They recognized his gifts and supported him as he advanced quickly through school, outpacing his peers. Caleb’s unusual journey was not always smooth, though. Listen to hear how Caleb felt as the youngest kid in his 7th grade class, and learn why Caleb’s dad believes his son’s story can inspire other Black boys.

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November 30, 2020

4:04

Why Vaccines Need to Be Frozen

Two American pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have developed vaccines that have been shown in trials to offer safe and effective protection against COVID-19. Now, the country needs to develop a coordinated plan for distributing them. The vaccines from both companies must be kept cold – one at temperatures colder than winter in Antarctica – which has implications for how they are shipped and distributed. Listen to learn how the vaccines will be kept cold as they move around the country and how state coordinators are deciding where each of the vaccines might work best.

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November 29, 2020

0:26

Weird News: Separated Brothers Find Each Other

Listen to hear about two long-lost siblings who were finally reunited.

Vocabulary: decades, reunion

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November 25, 2020

2:06

Rescue Jet Suit

When mountain hikers get in trouble, it can take time for first responders to reach them. With jet suits, however, paramedics can fly to the rescue, arriving in just seconds and potentially saving lives. People wearing jet suits have a jet engine and turbines strapped to their bodies that lift them into the air. Listen to hear the inventor of jet suits describe how it feels to fly, and learn how one company tested the new technology to see how well it worked.

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November 24, 2020

3:55

VP-Elect Kamala Harris Inspires Youth

As the first woman, who is also biracial, to be elected vice president, VP-elect Kamala Harris is an inspiration to young people around the country. Girls and young people of color, in particular, see her as a role model, and many have attended campaign events to catch a glimpse of her in person. Harris has used those opportunities to encourage girls to become leaders and imagine new roles for themselves. Listen to hear girls who admire Kamala Harris describe the impact she has had on them, and hear the incoming VP’s own words of advice to young people.

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November 23, 2020

7:15

COVID-19 Advisory Board Looks Ahead

President-elect Joe Biden has formed a scientific advisory board to support the nation’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.This audio story features an interview with a prominent medical expert on the board, Dr. Atul Gawande, who outlines the major challenges facing the country as Americans plan for holidays in the midst of surging infection rates. He also looks ahead, speculating on the future of the virus and vaccines that can help to stop its spread. Listen to hear more about next steps in the battle against COVID-19 and how to stay safe – and keep others safe – during the holidays.

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November 22, 2020

0:28

Weird News: Alligator Floatie Scares Florida Couple

Listen to hear about a Florida couple who were spooked by an alligator in their shed.

Vocabulary: wrangled, deputy, predator, deflated

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November 20, 2020

6:58

Debate: Is the Constitution Outdated?

The U.S. Constitution, written over 200 years ago, established the structure of the new government, the basic laws of the land, and the rights of citizens. At the time, the institution of slavery still existed, and only white men had the right to vote. It might be argued that the document needs to be rewritten to better serve and reflect today’s diverse American society. It could also be argued that the Constitution is a living document that can be adapted to changing circumstances through amendments and flexible interpretation. Listen to learn about a play that explores the relevance of the Constitution and then debate: Is the Constitution outdated?

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