TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
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April 1, 2020
The group in charge of emojis is issuing some new designs, and scientists are buzzing. Researchers studying mushrooms, rocks, microbes, and insects enjoy using emojis to represent their work. They are happy to have appropriate images to share on social media, even if the emojis do not represent every scientific detail correctly. Listen to learn which group of animals have the most emojis, which groups are not well represented, and what happened when marine scientists complained about the accuracy of the squid emoji.
March 31, 2020
A chunk of chewed birch resin has revealed surprisingly detailed information about a woman who lived 5,700 years ago. Scientists investigated a brownish blob discovered at an archaeological site and were able to extract and analyze a complete strand of DNA that revealed details about the diet, health, and appearance of the Stone Age woman who had chewed it. Listen to learn why ancient people chewed birch pitch and how this very old piece of gum could inspire archaeologists to look in new places for clues to the past.
March 30, 2020
Listen to hear about a radio station designed for lonely dogs.
Vocabulary: guilt, praise, soothing
March 30, 2020
Countries that have extensively tested their populations for the COVID-19 virus have generally succeeded in containing the outbreak. Now debate has begun in the U.S. over how much testing makes sense in this country. Although many medical experts say aggressive testing would help to slow the spread of the disease, production of test kits has not kept up with demand. Listen to hear a public health expert explain why he believes testing is important for controlling the spread of COVID-19 and when he expects enough test kits to become available.
March 27, 2020
A town in Washington state made plans to boost voter turnout by offering smartphone voting. Less than 1% of eligible voters showed up for a prior election in King County, Washington, and officials reasoned that making elections more accessible to all voters, including people living overseas and the disabled, would increase voter participation. Opponents say the security risks of smartphone voting threaten our democracy, since it is only a matter of time before they are hacked. Listen to hear more about the pros and cons of electronic voting, and then debate: Is smartphone voting a good idea?
Update: Since this story aired, the election has taken place, and voters cast ballots by smartphone or in person. Voter turnout was half of 1%.
March 26, 2020
States around the country are ordering new restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. State governors have put various orders in place, including closing nonessential businesses, restricting big gatherings, and directing people to stay at home. Essential services such as food stores, pharmacies, and public transportation, remain open. These leaders hope limiting social contact will slow the spread of the disease enough to avoid overwhelming hospitals and health care workers with patients. Listen to learn how states plan to enforce the orders and why one governor struggled mightily with his decision to close businesses.
March 25, 2020
A famous cat has died. C.C. the cat, sometimes known as Carbon Copy, was the world’s first cloned pet. Texas A&M University scientists cloned C.C. to investigate whether the process could be used by owners to keep their beloved pets alive. C.C. became a celebrity when a photo of her sitting in a lab beaker circulated around the world. Listen to hear the scientist who cloned C.C. explain the cloning process and learn why he does not recommend cloning your cat.
March 24, 2020
The U.S. space program has big plans for 2020. Two private companies are preparing to send astronauts into space, which has not been done since 2011. A rover mission to Mars is planned, this time with a special instrument to pull oxygen from the Martian atmosphere. And hundreds of small satellites will be launched into orbit, providing global internet coverage. Listen to learn more about the space program’s ambitious goals and the challenges it faces.
March 23, 2020
Scientists are one step closer to finding a vaccine to protect people against COVID-19. A biomedical research company has vaccinated eight patients in Washington state with a new trial vaccine and has plans to vaccinate dozens more. The patients will be closely watched over time to make sure the vaccine is both safe and effective. The careful process means a vaccine will likely not be available to the general public for at least a year. Listen to learn how the new vaccine testing works and what motivates the scientists involved in the project.
March 23, 2020
Listen to hear about two men who made a sandwich out of the whole world.
Vocabulary: latitude, longitude, coordinate
March 20, 2020
A new definition was recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary, causing some concern. The word, a racial slur against Jews, has been used for years by fans of an English Premier League soccer team to refer to themselves. Opposing fans, though, often use the word in anti-Semitic chants. Some say adding it to the dictionary makes the offensive word seem more acceptable, but the publisher claims the dictionary is simply reflecting common usage. Listen to hear how English soccer fans feel about their controversial nickname and then debate: Should the dictionary reflect offensive language?
March 19, 2020
What is the best way to persuade others to support your views? A stump speech contest in New Hampshire invited teens to explore that question. Students from across the country wrote and delivered compelling political campaign speeches focused on issues that matter to them, including climate change, immigration, and equal pay for women. Listen to hear students read parts of their winning speeches and learn what one judge believes makes speeches especially strong.
March 18, 2020
Peacocks are pestering residents of an historic neighborhood in Miami, Florida. It’s mating season, and the male birds are trying to attract attention by showing their feathers, screeching loudly, tearing into flowers, and attacking cars. Some residents admire the birds’ beauty while others complain about noise and damaged property. Listen to learn what the town is doing to solve the peacock problem and why one man compared the birds to ninjas.
March 17, 2020
Leaders in over 30 states have closed schools statewide to help contain the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Millions of students will be home, and parents and guardians are scrambling to find child care. Children from low-income families who rely on free or reduced-price lunches, and parents who are unable to stay home from work, will face particular challenges. Listen to learn why schools are closing for long periods of time and what politicians are doing to help people affected by the virus.
This audio story was recorded in mid-March. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
March 17, 2020
The new coronavirus is a highly infectious disease that is spreading rapidly around the world. The virus causes mild symptoms for many people, like those of the common cold, but it affects others more seriously. The new coronavirus is very contagious, and public health experts are trying to better understand it and control the global outbreak. Listen to hear about the effects of the virus and what people can do to slow its spread.
This audio story was recorded in mid-February. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
March 16, 2020
Listen to hear a story about a man whose Disneyland adventure was fit for a king.
Vocabulary: display, plaque, hail, brute
March 16, 2020
COVID-19 has officially been declared a pandemic, a disease infecting populations throughout the world. The virus spreads easily, and once a few people have it, they can quickly infect many others with whom they have contact. A graph of the infection’s spread shows a sharp peak when the rate of infection is highest. As schools close, more people work from home, and other steps are taken to limit human interaction, scientists expect the rate of infection to slow down and the graph’s curve to flatten. Listen to learn how flattening the curve can help the health care system handle the COVID-19 outbreak, and how past epidemics can help guide today’s decisions about how to respond.
March 13, 2020
Many stores have recently gone cashless, requiring shoppers to pay for their purchases with a credit card or digital app. These business owners say security is better without cash on hand, and check-out lines move faster. But not everyone has a credit card, say opponents, who claim that the policy discriminates against low-income shoppers. Several big cities have now banned cashless businesses in response to complaints. Listen to hear more about the pros and cons of a cashless economy and then debate: Should cashless businesses be allowed?
March 12, 2020
Health care workers at a Seattle hospital can now drive their cars up to a window to be tested for COVID-19. Washington state has been one of the places hardest hit by COVID-19, an illness caused by a new coronavirus, and the city hopes to protect health workers who are essential to keeping the virus contained. Listen to learn how coronavirus testing is done and why drive-through test sites are considered safer than traditional clinics.
March 11, 2020
The earth is getting warmer. Records kept for the past century show a steady increase in temperature each decade, and 2019 was the second hottest year ever. As humans send carbon dioxide into the air from cars, factories, and other sources, the trapped heat warms the planet, causing glacial ice to melt, oceans to rise, and big weather events like floods and droughts to increase in intensity. Listen to learn more about changes to the earth caused by global warming and what to expect in the future.
March 10, 2020
Authorities have locked down the city of Wuhan, China, where the first cases of the highly contagious coronavirus were found. Wuhan residents need to stay in their homes at all times and receive food and other supplies by delivery. Even foreigners cannot leave, since many airlines have suspended flights to and from China. Listen to hear an American teacher in Wuhan describe her daily routine and how she copes with the isolation of life under quarantine.
This audio story was recorded in late February. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
March 9, 2020
Listen to hear about why iguanas were falling from the sky in southern Florida.
Vocabulary: uncommon, tumble, advice, slumber
March 9, 2020
The House of Representatives voted to require the President to get permission from Congress for any further military action against Iran. The move is a response to the Trump administration’s recent killing of a top Iranian general and other aggressive acts. Lawmakers who support the resolution say the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war against a foreign power. The President, however, believes that laws passed after 9/11 give him the authority to act alone when the U.S. is threatened. Listen to learn more about the struggle between Congress and the President over war powers.
Note: After the publication of this story, the Senate approved a measure to block President Trump from further attacks on Iran without consulting Congress.
March 6, 2020
Caucuses and primaries are two different ways of allowing voters to choose their party’s presidential nominee. The caucus system requires citizens to gather together for discussion and debate before casting their vote. Some prize the highly democratic nature of caucuses, where people meet face-to-face to discuss political issues. But others say caucuses discourage participation since they demand so much time and energy. Most states have opted for primaries, a simpler system of voting at a ballot box. Listen to hear more about the pros and cons of each method of voting and then debate: Are caucuses or primaries more democratic?
March 5, 2020
A new, highly contagious virus is spreading quickly, prompting many people to wonder how they can protect themselves. COVID-19, an illness caused by a new strand of coronavirus, spreads through tiny droplets sent into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Experts say simple measures like hand washing and avoiding handshakes can help prevent illness. Listen to a science reporter explain how Americans can prepare for a possible outbreak of COVID-19 in their communities and what individuals can do to keep themselves healthy.
This audio story was recorded in early March. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
March 4, 2020
For years, doctors struggled to diagnose an unusual set of symptoms: feeling angry or upset when hearing certain noises. Now scientists have identified the condition, misophonia, and doctors and patients are finally learning more about it. People with misophonia are highly sensitive to a range of everyday sounds like chewing and sniffling. They can experience extreme stress, making events like sharing a family meal challenging. Listen to hear a misophonic person describe what it feels like to hear chewing noises and why those suffering from misophonia and their families are relieved that the condition has been named.
March 3, 2020
The high cost of college in California is prompting students to cross the Mexican border in search of affordable options. CETYS, a private university with campuses in three Mexican border towns, currently enrolls over 300 California students. Many live at home and make the short commute across the border each day. Listen to hear CETYS students explain what drew them south for college and how their American friends and family reacted.
March 2, 2020
The FBI announced it is moving racist violence to the same threat level as foreign terrorism. The change comes in response to a nationwide rise in racially motivated crimes, including attacks on blacks, Jews, Latinos, and other minority groups. To combat the trend, the FBI director instructed his special investigative teams to keep their eyes on domestic terrorism, and they have already arrested seven members of a violent neo-Nazi group. Listen to learn more about the FBI’s crackdown on domestic threats and why some people question whether the move will make a difference.
March 2, 2020
Listen to hear about the mysterious disappearance of a special stone.
Vocabulary: baffled, precious, boulder, heist
February 28, 2020
Fleets of self-driving cars may hit city streets soon, ready to give pedestrians a lift when they need it. But where will the cars wait to be called? To avoid parking fees, experts say driverless cars may circle slowly or even turn deliberately into heavy traffic, clogging city and residential roads and wasting fuel. To discourage this behavior, some have suggested charging cars not just for parking, but for the time they spend on the road. Listen to learn why some people favor “congestion pricing” and then debate: Should self-driving cars be charged for idle time?
February 27, 2020
For Black History Month, a major bookseller placed “Diverse Editions” on its shelves with classic books by white authors featuring black faces on the covers. The bookstore says it hoped the covers would help to engage new audiences in classics like The Wizard of Oz, Frankenstein, and Romeo and Juliet. However, the action sparked outrage among many who say the bookseller is cashing in on Black History Month without truly honoring black authors. Listen to hear a writer explain why she considers the move to be “literary blackface” and what bookstores can do to support diversity.
February 26, 2020
A beloved elephant in Kenya has died. Tim was one of the few remaining “tuskers,” elephants with big, fully developed tusks. His dramatic good looks and willingness to pose beautifully for wildlife photographers made Tim an international celebrity. He lived a long life and died of natural causes, a surprising fact since many African elephants are poached, or killed illegally, for their tusks when they are young. Listen to learn why local farmers feared Tim and how wildlife scientists helped them learn to appreciate him.
February 25, 2020
An interactive art installation with giant lights and booming loudspeakers is helping people communicate across the U.S.-Mexico border. Visitors to the exhibit on both sides of the border are invited to send searchlights into the sky and when they intersect, a conversation can begin. Americans and Mexicans are using the opportunity to chat, sing, and even celebrate birthdays together. Listen to hear visitors describe the effect of speaking to neighbors across a border wall and why the artist calls his creation a “bridge.”
February 24, 2020
Where did the new coronavirus start? Scientists believe the highly contagious virus spreading quickly among humans probably originated with bats. Bats’ amazing immune systems allow them to carry viruses without getting sick themselves. Just as with past viral outbreaks like SARS and MERS, scientists believe bats infected other animals with coronavirus, and those animals then passed it to humans. Listen to learn more about the origin of coronavirus and why scientists believe studying bats could unlock secrets about fighting disease.
February 24, 2020
Listen to hear about a batch of chocolate-chip cookies sent from outer space.
Vocabulary: cargo, capsule, orbit, experiment
February 21, 2020
Filmmakers often make movies based on popular and beloved books, prompting audiences to wonder whether to read the book or watch the movie first. The argument has been made that movie adaptations can broaden the audience for books, especially older classics. Another view is that people who see the movie version of a book first will miss out on the benefit of fully engaging their imaginations while reading. Listen to hear a discussion about popular books and movies that raises points on both sides and then debate: Should you read the book before you watch the movie?
February 20, 2020
Several universities are offering students the chance to major in a subject unheard of just a few years ago: competitive video gaming, or esports. Esports have gained a huge following in recent years, allowing athletes to earn money through sponsorships, merchandise, and tournament winnings. Fans watch games not only online, but also at arenas that can draw thousands of enthusiastic spectators. Listen to hear how schools are preparing students for careers in this growing field and how some people are working to make esports more inclusive.
February 19, 2020
An exhibit at a Philadelphia museum explores how ideas about infection have changed over two thousand years. “Going Viral” examines early views of illness, when people believed body fluids like blood and snot regulated the body, and helps visitors understand the devastation brought by epidemics like the Black Death and Spanish flu. It even demonstrates through an interactive display how germs might spread on a modern-day subway. Listen to hear more about the exhibit and what museum curators hope visitors will learn from it.
February 18, 2020
The United Kingdom (UK), which includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, has officially left the European Union (EU), a partnership of 28 countries promoting peace and economic cooperation. Since the vote to exit the EU in 2016, known as “Brexit,” British leaders and citizens have struggled to determine what the move will mean for their economy and way of life, including the freedom to work and travel easily throughout Europe. Listen to hear what Prime Minister Boris Johnson says about Brexit now that it has finally happened, and why Brits across the country are reacting with glee, dismay, and calls for action.
February 17, 2020
Listen to this story about a cat who is famous for his ability to escape.
Vocabulary: agenda, contained