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Current Events

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September 3, 2021


Debate: Should the Workweek Be Only Four Days?

The standard 40-hour workweek was established in the 1930s, and some are suggesting that today’s workers should spend fewer hours on the job. They say technology like wifi and laptops help people get more done in less time, and pursuing interests outside of work prevents burnout. Business leaders worry, however, that less time in the office would result in decreased productivity. Listen to learn what researchers found when workers in Iceland put in fewer hours for the same pay and then debate: Should the workweek be only four days?

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September 2, 2021


Rising Unrest in Cuba

Demonstrators in Havana, Cuba, and throughout the country gathered recently to protest food shortages and low wages. The sight of protesters is rare in Cuba, a country ruled by a repressive government that has outlawed public demonstrations. In recent years, though, Cubans have had greater exposure to democratic principles and practices, and many artists have been leading the call to gather publicly and protest hardships. Listen to a professor of Cuban history describe this significant historical moment and how she believes America should respond.

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September 1, 2021


What Elephants Have to Say

Elephant researcher and National Geographic explorer Joyce Poole has been studying African elephants and how they communicate for nearly half a century. She and her husband have created the African Elephant Ethogram, a comprehensive audio-visual library of the animals’ behavior that is now available to the public. Listen to hear elephant sounds and what they mean, and learn what Poole hopes the ethogram will accomplish.

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August 31, 2021


History of Labor Day

Labor Day, a time to honor American workers, first became a federal holiday in 1894. The history of labor rights and relations, however, goes back much farther than that and spans diverse cultures and civilizations. Listen to hear about labor milestones along the way and learn why pirates were considered champions of workers’ rights.

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August 30, 2021


Controversy Over Masking in Schools

Students across the nation are returning to in-person school, even as COVID-19 infection rates are surging in some parts of the country, and masking has become a controversial topic. Some states have forbidden school districts from imposing mask mandates, but outbreaks of COVID have already forced several schools to shut down after only a few days. Parents and school boards are fiercely divided on the issue of masks. Listen to a high school teacher describe the start of her school year and how she believes students are being affected by the conflict and uncertainty.

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August 29, 2021


Weird News: Literary Mystery Puzzle Solved

Listen to hear about a literary puzzle that took nearly a century to solve.

Vocabulary: literary, combinations, attempt

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August 27, 2021


Debate: Should Penalties for Homophobic Slurs Be Stronger?

Soccer officials are taking action against the problem of offensive chants during games. Mexican soccer fans commonly shout homophobic slurs at opposing players, and CONCACAF, soccer’s governing organization in the Western Hemisphere, has issued new rules to help end the harassment. However, some say the penalties are too light to make a difference. Listen to learn about soccer’s new anti-discrimination protocols and then debate: Should penalties for homophobic slurs be stronger?

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August 26, 2021


Animal Laughter

Humans are not the only species that laughs during play. Scientists have identified dozens of other animals, from gorillas to rats, that giggle, chuckle, and guffaw, and they are investigating the meaning of these behaviors. Listen to hear the sounds of animal laughter and find out what researchers hope to learn by studying it.

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August 25, 2021


Fifth Ocean Added to Maps

Throughout its history, the National Geographic Society has identified four oceans on its maps, atlases, and globes – the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic. Now, for the first time, the group is officially recognizing a fifth ocean – the Southern Ocean, which includes the waters surrounding Antarctica. This ocean is not new to scientists, however. Listen to hear about the Southern Ocean and what makes it unique.

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August 24, 2021


What Went Wrong in Afghanistan

The Taliban recently took control of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, and Afghans, Americans, and others are desperately trying to flee the country. The U.S. military has had a presence in Afghanistan for the past 20 years after forcing the Taliban from power, but President Biden recently announced a troop withdrawal. The Taliban responded by quickly recapturing most of the country, and many people fear retaliation and a return to repressive rule. Listen to the head of a government watchdog organization discuss what went wrong in Afghanistan, the lessons to be learned, and how the conflict in Afghanistan parallels past American wars.

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August 23, 2021


Report Warns of Accelerating Climate Change

The U.N. released a comprehensive report on climate change that was an urgent call to action. It cited overwhelming scientific evidence that human activities are causing Earth to warm at an alarming rate, and said recent extreme weather events such as hurricanes and heat waves are directly linked to climate change. Some effects of climate change are no longer reversible, according to the report, but with quick action, the most destructive changes to the planet might still be avoided. Listen to hear more about the report’s dire findings and how cooperation between nations could help address the urgent problem of climate change.

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August 22, 2021


Weird News: Historic Schoolhouse Walks to New Location

Listen to hear how a schoolhouse moved to a new location and how long it took to get there.

Vocabulary: historic, robotic, location

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August 20, 2021


Debate: Should D.C. Become the 51st State?

For decades, debate has raged over whether Washington, D.C. should legally become a state, which would allow its residents voting representation in Congress. The U.S. Constitution made D.C. the nation’s seat of government over 200 years ago, and some say a Constitutional amendment is the only way to make D.C. a state. Others say statehood can be achieved by simply redrawing district lines, or absorbing D.C. into the state of Maryland. Listen to learn more about what advocates and opponents of statehood are saying and then debate: should D.C. become the 51st state?

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August 19, 2021


Dolphins Learn From Their Friends

Mother dolphins have long taught their young how to find food. Recently, though, marine scientists have noticed that young dolphins also pick up hunting tips from their peers – strategies the older generation may not know about. Listen to hear about the different tools dolphins use to find their food and the tips and tricks young dolphins are learning from their pals.

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August 18, 2021


Harriet Tubman's Birthplace Discovered

Until recently, no one knew where Harriet Tubman, the heroic Underground Railroad conductor and Civil War spy, grew up. Archaeologists have now discovered her birthplace in the muddy swamps of Maryland's eastern shore. Listen to hear details about the process of locating Harriet Tubman’s birthplace and the impact the discovery has had on her living descendants.

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August 17, 2021


The Power of Joy

During the pandemic, when people were isolated from one another, many people experienced feelings of weariness or sadness. Psychologists say that social isolation can cause people to focus too much on themselves and their own problems. Shifting the focus outward, however, away from personal worries and toward others and the larger world, can generate joy. Listen to learn about an online tool that helps people create positive emotions by finding delight in the daily sights and sounds around them.

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August 16, 2021


Capitol Police Sergeant Testifies About January 6th Insurrection

The House of Representatives recently heard testimony from Capitol Police officers who defended the Capitol against attack by domestic extremists on January 6, 2021. One of the officers, Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, described the trauma he experienced that day and its impact on his physical and mental health. He received praise for his testimony, and also some criticism. Listen to hear a police sergeant describe his experiences during the attack and its aftermath, and learn why he calls the criticism he has received “a disgrace.”

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August 15, 2021


Weird News: Neighbors Discover They Are Twins

Listen to hear about the connections two neighbors shared before finding out they were twins.

Vocabulary: records, unsealed, void

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August 11, 2021


Olympian Suni Lee: Beacon of Hmong American Pride

Gymnast Sunisa Lee won gold at the Tokyo Olympics, and the American Hmong community is celebrating proudly. Lee grew up in Minnesota among many other Hmong, an ethnic group that first arrived as refugees to the U.S. from parts of China and southeast Asia. Listen to learn how Suni Lee’s victory represents both American and Hmong cultural values and hear more about the excitement and hope that it has generated within the community.

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August 9, 2021


Vaccinations Protect Against COVID-19 Surge

The CDC recently recommended that even people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 wear masks in crowded indoor settings. The guidance was issued to help reduce the spread of a highly contagious version of the coronavirus, the delta variant, that is spreading quickly throughout the country. Unvaccinated people are at much greater risk of serious illness, although vaccinated people can become infected and transmit the virus to others. Listen to hear the director of the National Institutes of Health discuss his thoughts on school reopenings and explain why getting vaccinated is still the best way to stay safe and protect others.

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August 8, 2021


Weird News: Toy Left on Plane Finds Its Way Home

Listen to hear how an airline was able to return a toy left on a plane to its owner.

Vocabulary: scoured, passenger

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August 4, 2021


First African American Winner of National Spelling Bee Reflects on Her Success

Zaila Avant-garde became the first African American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. In this audio story, the 14-year-old from Louisiana discusses her love of spelling, how she first started competing, and the other ways she channels her competitive spirit. Listen to hear thoughts from an accomplished spelling bee champ who hopes to become a role model for other girls.

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August 2, 2021


Stress at the Olympics

World-renowned gymnast Simone Biles has withdrawn from competing in high profile events at the Tokyo Olympics due to stress. Biles is one of several elite athletes who have recently spoken out about the pressure they feel during competition and how it impacts their mental health. Listen to hear more about Biles’ decision and learn what the Olympic Committee is doing to support the mental health of the Tokyo Games athletes.

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August 1, 2021


Weird News: Walrus Sighting in Ireland

Listen to hear how scientists believe a walrus may have landed in Ireland.

Vocabulary: confirmed, sighting, biologist

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July 28, 2021


First Active NFL Player to Come Out as Gay

A defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders has become the first active NFL player to come out publicly as gay. Carl Nassib made the announcement on social media, and he received overwhelming support from fans, teammates, and coaches. Listen to a sports journalist describe his own reaction to the announcement and why he believes this moment may inspire other young gay athletes.

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July 26, 2021


Delta Variant Causing COVID-19 Surge

The rate of COVID-19 infections is rising throughout the U.S. as a variant of the virus continues to spread. The delta variant is much more contagious than the original virus that was spreading in 2020. Unvaccinated people are most at risk for sickness and hospitalization. Listen to hear more about the rising infection rates and what medical experts are saying about how to stay safe.

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July 25, 2021


Weird News: Virtual "Minecraft" Gardener

Listen to hear about what is required to be hired as a Minecraft gardener.

Vocabulary: *consultant, beneficial, essential *

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July 21, 2021


The Case for Gymnast Simone Biles as the Greatest Athlete of All Time

Is gymnast Simone Biles the greatest athlete of all time? Some say yes. Biles is a highly decorated female gymnast who challenges herself to learn difficult – and dangerous – gymnastic moves. In a punishing sport that sidelines most young athletes after only a few years, Biles is headed to Tokyo to compete in her second Olympic games. Listen to a sports writer discuss Biles’ amazing accomplishments and some of the factors that contribute to her success.

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July 19, 2021


Trust in Doctors Boosts Vaccinations

COVID-19 vaccination rates in the U.S. are slowing, and many people who remain unvaccinated feel hesitant about getting the shot. Primary care doctors are playing an increasingly critical part in the next wave of efforts to reduce the spread of the virus. Doctors often have the trust and respect of their patients and can answer their questions, address their concerns, and help guide their decision-making around getting vaccinated. Listen to hear patients and medical professionals discuss the important role primary care doctors can play in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Update: Since this story first aired, the vaccination rate in Texas has risen to just over half, and the Fair Park vaccination site has closed.

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July 18, 2021


Weird News: Dog Surfing Championship

Listen to hear about what some dogs are doing to support their local humane society.

Vocabulary: surf, coveted, title

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July 14, 2021


Supreme Court Rules in Favor of NCAA Athletes

For generations, college athletes have been forbidden to profit from their sports. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which governs college athletics, has argued that keeping money out of college sports helps student-athletes prioritize their education. Successful college athletes often bring in enormous revenue for their schools, however, and critics argue that the athletes deserve a share of that wealth. The Supreme Court recently agreed, ruling that schools may help student-athletes with certain education-related expenses. Listen to learn more about the decision and how it could impact the lives and fortunes of college athletes.

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July 12, 2021


Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Project Canceled

A controversial project to build a pipeline to transport oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. has been canceled. The fight over the pipeline has been waged for 10 years, as activists challenged the safety and environmental impact of the project and past presidents have alternately shut it down and revived it. President Biden’s order canceled the project amid public concerns about climate change that continue to grow. Listen to learn more about the Keystone XL pipeline project and hear an activist recall her decade-long battle to defeat it.

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July 11, 2021


Weird News: Deepest Shipwreck Ever Discovered

Listen to hear how far explorers went to find the deepest shipwreck ever reached and learn about what they discovered.

Vocabulary: submersible, vehicle, images, visible

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July 7, 2021


Learning Engineering with Dirt Bikes

Calculating angles while popping wheelies? That’s what students in Baltimore are doing in an unusual program that channels students’ love of dirt bike riding into lessons in science, math, and engineering. Off-road motorcycle riding is very popular in Baltimore, especially among Black youth, but it’s often illegal. The B-360 program gives kids a place to ride, helping them stay off the streets, while building academic skills and a sense of community. Listen to hear participants describe the joys of dirt bike riding and how the program is making a difference in their lives.

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July 4, 2021


Weird News: Woman Finishes Gigantic Puzzle

Listen to hear how many pieces were in the gigantic puzzle that a woman completed.

Vocabulary: assembling, commercially, marathon

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June 30, 2021


"Mount Recyclemore" Sculpture Made of Electronic Waste

A striking sculpture set in the hills of Cornwall County, England, greeted the leaders who recently attended the G-7 summit, a gathering of heads of the world’s wealthiest democracies. Mount Recyclemore depicts the faces of the seven leaders side-by-side - each created from discarded electronics. The artist based his work on Mount Rushmore, the massive rock carving of four U.S. presidents set in South Dakota, and he had a particular message to convey. Listen to hear the artist explain the idea behind his work, and learn how visitors responded to it.

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June 28, 2021


Juneteenth Declared a Federal Holiday

Although President Lincoln outlawed slavery in 1863, it was not until two years later that enslaved people in Texas learned the news, when a Union general rode into Galveston to announce it. Black communities have long celebrated Juneteenth – June 19 – to remember that day in 1865 and celebrate freedom. Many other Americans are unfamiliar with the event, but recently, Congress unanimously voted to make Juneteenth a national holiday. Listen to learn more about the meaning and importance of Juneteenth and how recent events helped raise awareness of the holiday.

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June 27, 2021


Weird News: Daily Zoom Calls for Chimps

Listen to hear about how video calls helped some zoo chimpanzees stay connected.

Vocabulary: reluctant, primates

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June 23, 2021


Cicada Cycle Documented by Benjamin Banneker

Every 17 years, billions of buzzing cicadas emerge from their hiding spots under the ground and climb into trees, where they shed their outer shells and try to mate. One of the first scientists to observe and document the dramatic 17-year cicada cycle was Benjamin Banneker, a free Black man living in Maryland in the 1700s. Banneker recorded cicada patterns and behaviors for over 50 years, but until recently, has not been recognized for his work. Listen to learn more about the unsung naturalist Benjamin Banneker.

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June 21, 2021


Remembering the Challenger Crew

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded in mid-air only seconds after launch, shocking the nation. All seven crew members died in the tragic accident, including Christa McAuliffe, a beloved educator enrolled in NASA’s Teacher in Space Project. A recent book examines the disaster and the lives that were lost as a result. Listen to the author describe the backgrounds and talents of the Challenger astronauts, one of the most diverse space crews in history, and how they are being remembered today.

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