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Current Events

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April 12, 2020

:26

Weird News: Students Design Minecraft School

Listen to hear about how students recreated their school in the virtual building game Minecraft.

Vocabulary: scale model, congregate

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April 10, 2020

4:43

Debate: Should Companies Offer Paid Sick Leave During the Pandemic?

Workers at big companies are demanding paid leave, among other protections, as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread. Amazon workers in New York, where some employees have COVID-19, want their warehouse to be deep cleaned while they continue to be paid. Instacart workers, contractors who do not receive benefits, are asking for paid leave if they get sick or are exposed to illness. Workers at both companies say these benefits are necessary and fair, given the risks they are facing, though the companies do not normally offer extended paid leave. Listen to learn more about the workers’ demands and then debate: Should companies offer paid leave during the pandemic?

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April 9, 2020

2:08

Laptops for Remote Learning

With schools around the country closed due to COVID-19, teachers are using technology to help educate kids remotely. However, some students lack access to a computer, making online learning impossible. One school district in California is leveling the playing field by distributing laptops to children from low-income families. Listen to hear a principal describe the joy of seeing students in the computer line, and learn how a high school student has been spending her time at home.

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April 8, 2020

3:27

Caring for Zoo Animals

What happens to the animals when no one visits the zoo? Though the coronavirus pandemic has shut down many public gathering places and cultural institutions, including zoos, the animals continue to need daily care and feeding. Places like The Cincinnati Zoo depend on a small group of dedicated workers to show up each day to care for their beloved animals. Listen to hear zoo workers describe some of their favorite animals and learn how one baby hippo became an internet star.

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April 7, 2020

2:02

Poetry Out Loud

High school students recited poems with dramatic flair in the semi-finals of the national Poetry Out Loud contest. Competitors recited works by Toi Derricotte, Vijay Shishadri, and other poets, and their performances were judged on a variety of criteria. Listen to hear clips of high school competitors reciting poems and learn how the rules have changed for non-citizens hoping to enter the competition.

Update: Since this story originally aired, Minnesota high school senior Isabella Callery was selected as the 2019 Poetry Out Loud National Champion.

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April 6, 2020

4:16

Health Care Providers Need Protective Gear

Health care workers treating COVID-19 patients around the country need more equipment to protect themselves against the highly contagious virus. They say a shortage of masks, gowns, gloves, and other protective gear puts them and their families at risk of catching the disease. The federal government says production is underway and equipment should arrive soon, but health care workers feel a sense of urgency. Listen to hear how an ER doctor on the front lines is coping and learn about a newly reported symptom of COVID-19.

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

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April 5, 2020

:26

Weird News: Worlds Longest Cake

Listen to hear about the longest cake ever baked.

Vocabulary: resolution, regret, previous

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April 3, 2020

2:23

Debate: Should Online Discussions Be Preserved as Historical Records?

Online discussions document history as it is lived, functioning as digital primary source artifacts. As Verizon prepared to delete archives of Yahoo Groups, among the earliest online discussions on the internet, some people were upset. They argued that these online discussions offered a valuable record of life in the early 2000s that should be preserved. Verizon said that maintaining the archives required resources that they wanted to use for other priorities. Listen to hear more about the dispute over Yahoo Groups and then debate: Should online discussions be preserved as historical records?

Update: Verizon deleted all content from Yahoo Groups on January 31st 2020, allowing users to archive their data before that date.

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April 2, 2020

4:01

Grocery Cashiers on the Front Lines

Grocery store clerks have become essential workers during the COVID-19 outbreak, performing the crucial service of helping people feed themselves and their families. They put their own health at risk each day as hundreds of shoppers file through stores, often standing closer than the recommended safe distance of six feet away. Listen to hear a grocery store cashier describe life on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and how she feels about taking risks to help others during a health crisis.

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April 1, 2020

5:28

How New Emojis Are Created

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.

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March 31, 2020

2:58

Ancient Chewing Gum Holds DNA Clues

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.

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March 30, 2020

:26

Weird News: Dog Radio

Listen to hear about a radio station designed for lonely dogs.

Vocabulary: guilt, praise, soothing

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March 30, 2020

4:51

The Importance of COVID-19 Testing

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.

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

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March 27, 2020

4:31

Debate: Is Smartphone Voting a Good Idea?

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%.

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March 26, 2020

3:26

States Lock Down to Protect Lives

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.

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March 25, 2020

2:11

Remembering C.C. the Cloned Cat

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.

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March 24, 2020

4:23

What's Next for the Space Program

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.

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March 23, 2020

4:01

COVID-19 Vaccination in Development

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.

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

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March 23, 2020

:27

Weird News: Earth Sandwich

Listen to hear about two men who made a sandwich out of the whole world.

Vocabulary: latitude, longitude, coordinate

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March 20, 2020

4:57

Debate: Should the Dictionary Reflect Offensive Language?

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?

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March 19, 2020

4:29

Kids Give Stump Speeches

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.

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March 18, 2020

2:31

Ninja Peacock Takeover

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.

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March 17, 2020

3:18

Schools Closing Around the Country

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.

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March 17, 2020

3:16

Coronavirus Explained for Kids

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.

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March 16, 2020

:26

Weird News: Disney's Sword Pulled from the Stone

Listen to hear a story about a man whose Disneyland adventure was fit for a king.

Vocabulary: display, plaque, hail, brute

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March 16, 2020

4:32

Flattening the Curve of Infection's Spread

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.

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March 13, 2020

3:57

Debate: Should Cashless Businesses Be Allowed?

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?

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March 12, 2020

2:56

Drive-Through Coronavirus Testing

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.

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

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March 11, 2020

2:29

The Warming Earth

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.

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March 10, 2020

5:05

American Teacher Stuck in China

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.

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March 9, 2020

:26

Weird News: Chance of Falling Iguanas

Listen to hear about why iguanas were falling from the sky in southern Florida.

Vocabulary: uncommon, tumble, advice, slumber

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March 9, 2020

3:38

War Powers Act and Iran

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.

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March 6, 2020

3:51

Debate: Are Caucuses or Primaries More Democratic?

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?

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March 5, 2020

6:02

Avoiding Coronavirus

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.

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March 4, 2020

3:44

When Noises Drive You Crazy

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.

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March 3, 2020

3:42

Crossing the Southern Border for College

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.

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March 2, 2020

3:56

Racist Violence Declared High Priority for FBI

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.

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March 2, 2020

:32

Weird News: Thieves Return Stolen Boulder

Listen to hear about the mysterious disappearance of a special stone.

Vocabulary: baffled, precious, boulder, heist

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February 28, 2020

3:09

Debate: Should Self-Driving Cars Be Charged for Idle Time?

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?

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February 27, 2020

3:54

Black Representation in Literature

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.

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