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Current Events

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June 13, 2021

:23

Weird News: Lost Baby Kangaroo Found

Listen to hear about a baby kangaroo that hopped away from her mother and why volunteers searched day and night to find her.

Vocabulary: marsupial, develop, eventually

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June 11, 2021

4:44

Debate: Is Studying Classics Still Relevant?

Most universities across the country have classics departments where students can study ancient Greek and Roman literature, art, culture, and language. The Founding Fathers drew on these ancient civilizations to create American democracy, and some say a classical education is key to understanding many important aspects of American life. Others argue that classics are ancient and irrelevant. They support reconfiguring university classics departments to include other more contemporary areas of study. Listen to a Howard University professor’s perspective and then debate: Is studying classics still relevant?

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June 10, 2021

7:45

Finding Joy in the Great Outdoors

Outdoor recreation is enjoyed around the world. The U.S. has its own particular set of traditions, which, for a variety of reasons, have not always been inclusive of all Americans. Ambreen Tariq, an immigrant from India, explores the meaning of camping for immigrants and people of color in her children’s book, Fatima’s Great Outdoors. She argues that the urge to connect with nature is universal, and camping offers immigrants the chance to participate in a fun, quintessentially American activity while maintaining their own cultural identities and traditions. Listen to the author describe her own experiences camping as a child and why she begged her parents to serve bacon for breakfast.

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June 9, 2021

1:58

World Bee Day

Bees are an important part of the planet’s ecosystem. They help to create food for humans and other creatures by pollinating plants. World Bee Day was established to celebrate the contributions of these small but mighty insects, and to raise awareness about the threats that are causing their populations to decline. Listen to learn more about the importance of bees, why they are at risk, and how one TikTok star is helping to save them.

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June 8, 2021

4:50

What Science Says About Transgender Athletes

Is it fair to let transgender female athletes – those who were assigned male at birth but identify as female – compete in women’s sports? Some have argued that transgender female athletes have unfair advantages, such as speed and size, over cisgender women, or those assigned female at birth. But what does the science say? Listen to a pioneering research scientist discuss the impact of hormones on athletic performance and how women’s sports can become more inclusive.

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June 7, 2021

3:51

Tulsa Massacre Survivors Seek Justice

On May 31, 1921, a white mob attacked Black people and businesses in the prosperous Tulsa, Oklahoma neighborhood of Greenwood, killing residents and burning and destroying the district. It was among the worst racially motivated violent episodes in U.S. history. For decades, details of the horrific event were suppressed. Now, on the 100th anniversary of the massacre, some of the few remaining survivors are speaking out about their experiences. Listen to hear people who lived through the Tulsa race massacre share their memories of the event and their wishes that justice can be served.

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June 6, 2021

:27

Weird News: Feathered Dinosaur Discovered in the Southern Hemisphere

Listen to learn about a recently discovered dinosaur and what makes it special.

Vocabulary: protruding, hemisphere, hybrid

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June 4, 2021

4:29

Debate: Are Anti-Protest Bills Unconstitutional?

Dozens of states have introduced bills that crack down on protests. If passed into law, they would expand the definition of rioting and increase penalties for certain non-violent activities. The anti-protest bills come after a year of widespread demonstrations following George Floyd’s murder. Some argue they are necessary to help curb violent rioting and looting. Others say the bills violate the First Amendment rights of protesters and are meant to discourage them from gathering. Listen to learn more about the flurry of new bills and then debate: Are anti-protest bills unconstitutional?

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June 3, 2021

4:39

Millions of Cicadas Emerge After 17 Years Underground

Millions of cicadas – buzzing, red-eyed insects – are emerging from their hiding spots underground and climbing trees, where they shed their outer shells and try to mate. The dramatic event happens every 17 years, and entomologists, or scientists who study insects, are using the opportunity to learn more about cicadas and how they impact the local ecosystem. Listen to learn what scientists hope to discover about cicadas and how soft clay and superglue are helping one research team find out.

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June 2, 2021

3:57

Saving Galapagos Sharks

Fishing vessels near the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, are threatening the shark population by accidentally catching the animals in their fishing nets. The Galapagos is home to dozens of different shark species, and some are nearing extinction. Even a special area of the ocean set aside to protect the sharks has not solved the problem. Listen to a professor explain more about the threat to Galapagos sharks and how they might be better protected.

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June 1, 2021

2:52

D-Day Recordings Discovered

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces launched the largest seaborne invasion in history, landing ships on the coast of Normandy, France, and turning the tide of war against Nazi Germany. Sounds from the D-Day invasion were captured in recordings made by a radio reporter on board one of the ships, but they went undiscovered until recently. Listen to hear the sounds of war from first-hand recordings and learn how the remarkable artifacts finally came to light.

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May 30, 2021

:27

Weird News: Eavesdropping Monkeys

Listen to hear about a trait that monkeys share with humans.

Vocabulary: trait, eavesdrop, interact

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May 28, 2021

6:23

Debate: Can Schools Discipline Students for Online Speech?

The right to free speech at school is limited. Expression that disrupts school activities, for example, is not allowed. But what if a student posts on social media from home? Can schools discipline students for disruptive speech even if it takes place off school property? Some say the location of a student posting online speech is meaningless, and school officials should have the right to discipline students for violations wherever they occur. Others say that giving schools that power amounts to trampling on students’ rights. Listen to learn about a high school cheerleader whose case against her school reached the Supreme Court and then debate: Can schools discipline students for online speech?

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May 27, 2021

4:14

The First 100 Days of a Presidency

The first few months in office can be an important time for new presidents. The public watches closely to see how well their new leaders perform on the job. Franklin Delano Roosevelt put dozens of New Deal programs in place during his first 100 days in office that helped pull the country out of an economic depression. Ever since then, reaching 100 days has become a key presidential milestone, a time to look back at accomplishments and challenges. Listen to hear about President Biden’s early days in office, and learn how other presidents made an impact during their first 100 days.

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May 26, 2021

1:55

Whale Hit Songs

Whales are highly intelligent animals that live in social groups. One way they communicate is through vocalizations, or whale “songs.” In fact, every year, whales create – and memorize – new songs! Recently a photographer took pictures of whale activities and examined the role that singing plays in whale culture. Listen to learn more about the sophisticated social life of whales and hear some of their songs.

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May 25, 2021

4:10

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The dispute between Israelis and Palestinians over land in the Middle East dates back centuries. Recently, violence broke out again when Israeli authorities tried to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem, an area of the capital city that both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their own. The conflict escalated, with protests, police raids, and rockets fired in both directions between Palestinian-controlled Gaza and Israel. Listen to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how the recent violence compares to events of the past.

Update: Since this story aired, the Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to a cease-fire.

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May 24, 2021

3:32

COVID Vaccine Approved for 12-15-Year-Olds

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a COVID-19 vaccine for 12-15-year-olds. Kids who tested the vaccine, developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, were extremely well protected against the virus and had only mild side effects. Approval of the new vaccine means that 87% of Americans are eligible to be vaccinated, raising hopes that life can return to normal and the pandemic can be defeated. Listen to learn more about the new vaccine and how teens and preteens – and their parents – are responding.

Update: Since this story aired, the Pfizer vaccine has become available for kids aged 12-15.

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May 23, 2021

:27

Weird News: Scientists Discover What May Be World's Smallest Reptile

Listen to hear just how tiny the world's smallest chameleon is.

Vocabulary: chameleon, subsist, diet

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May 21, 2021

3:54

Debate: Should the FDA Ban Menthol Cigarettes?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a plan to ban menthol cigarettes and cigars. Menthol is a flavor additive that masks the harshness of tobacco smoke and makes nicotine products more addictive. Tobacco companies have pushed menthol-flavored products aggressively in minority and low-income communities, and Black smokers are much more likely to use them than whites. Some say the ban will save Black lives and address health disparities. Others worry it will force smokers to seek menthol products illegally, resulting in confrontations with law enforcement. Listen to learn more about the agency’s decision and then debate: Should the FDA ban menthol cigarettes?

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May 20, 2021

3:57

Buried Underwear Tests Health of Soil

A simple experiment can help farmers determine how healthy their soil is for planting: bury a pair of cotton underpants! Healthy dirt is full of microbes that feed on the cotton fibers in the pants, breaking them down over several weeks. The “Soil Your Undies Challenge,” first launched in the U.S., asks farmers and others to use this testing method as a way of raising public awareness of the importance of healthy soil and the need to protect it. Listen to an Australian scientist explain how he organized the challenge in his country and why he invited schools to participate.

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May 19, 2021

3:13

The Importance of Name Pronunciation

People with uncommon names often hear them mispronounced. They say it can be annoying, but also hurtful. A person’s name often reflects their background, identity, or family history. When others bungle the pronunciation, those with unusual names sometimes report feeling excluded and different, as if they don’t belong. Listen to people with less common names explain why they care about proper pronunciation and what people can do when they’re not sure how to pronounce a name.

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May 18, 2021

7:18

D.C.'s Fight for Statehood

Like other Americans, the residents of Washington, D.C. pay taxes to the federal government, but they do not get a say in how that government runs. That’s because D.C., or the District of Columbia, is not a state, and its representative to Congress cannot vote on bills. Since D.C. was formed as the nation’s capital over 200 years ago, many have pushed for statehood so D.C. residents can be represented in government, but the effort has faced strong opposition. Listen to learn more about the history of D.C.’s struggle for statehood and where it stands today.

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May 17, 2021

5:36

U.S. Pledge to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In his early days in office, President Biden has made fighting climate change a top priority. He has pledged to invest heavily in green technologies and restore the U.S. to its role as a world leader in the fight against global warming. While many consider the issue to be a high priority, the president also faces resistance to his efforts. Listen to former Secretary of State John Kerry, appointed by Biden as a special climate envoy, discuss the president’s plan and why he considers climate change to be such an urgent issue.

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May 16, 2021

:29

Weird News: Purpose of Ancient Conch Shell Discovered

Listen to learn what scientists discovered about a conch shell that is thousands of years old.

Vocabulary: ceremonial, produce, demonstrate

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May 14, 2021

3:53

Debate: Should Some Post Offices Be Closed?

The U.S. Postal Service has been delivering mail and packages for over 250 years and consistently ranks as Americans’ most trusted government agency. But ever since the start of email, the postal service has been losing money. Some suggest that closing post offices or using the buildings for other essential government services could help save the institution financially. Others say post offices should not be closed. Their long history and central role in the community, they argue, make post offices worth preserving, regardless of revenue. Listen to learn more about the troubles of the U.S. Postal Service and then debate: Should some post offices be closed?

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May 13, 2021

4:56

First Openly Transgender Federal Official Appointed

Dr. Rachel Levine has become the first openly transgender U.S. federal official. She was confirmed as assistant secretary of health around the same time that many states were passing restrictive laws targeting transgender youth. She hopes her position will help educate Americans, and dispel any fears they may have, about LGBTQ people. Listen to an interview with Dr. Levine to learn about the challenges trans people face and how her appointment could help change attitudes.

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May 12, 2021

2:26

Man's Best Friend for 6000 Years

How long have dogs been man’s best friend? Archaeologists recently found the 6000-year-old remains of a dog that was laid to rest alongside a human, suggesting the dog had been domesticated and lived with people when it was alive. The researchers quickly searched for other clues to confirm what they suspected: that ancient people kept dogs as companions, much as humans do today. Listen to hear what and how scientists learned about the relationship between humans and dogs thousands of years ago.

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May 11, 2021

5:40

U.S. Recognizes Armenian Genocide

In 1915, the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey, began a systematic process of deporting, torturing, and killing over a million of its Armenian population in what many regard as one of history’s worst atrocities. The United States had previously avoided officially labeling the massacre a “genocide.” Recently, though, President Biden changed course and joined the dozens of other countries that have declared the Armenian Massacre a genocide. Listen to a member of Congress explain what was behind the president’s decision and the effect it may have on our international relationships.

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May 10, 2021

3:45

New Guidance on Masking Outdoors

New guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says Americans can safely remove their masks when outdoors alone or with household members, but not in crowds. Research has shown that the risk of virus spread is very low during individual or small group activities outside where distance can be safely maintained. The agency recommends that in indoor and tightly packed outdoor settings, however, masks should still be worn to prevent virus spread. Listen to hear the reasons behind the CDC’s updated guidelines, and learn what experts believe is the key to putting the pandemic behind us.

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May 9, 2021

:28

Weird News: Koala Triumphs with Prosthetic Foot

Listen to hear how a new prosthetic foot has helped a koala.

Vocabulary: prosthetic, triumph

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May 7, 2021

4:34

Debate: Should National Parks Be Controlled by Native Americans?

The U.S. National Park System includes over 84 million acres of land that is open to the public. Much of that land once belonged to Native American tribes. A writer and member of the Ojibwe tribe is suggesting a return of control of national park land to Native American people. He says the move would give our country a chance to make amends for long-standing injustices. Questions remain about how the parks would be controlled by the hundreds of tribes in the U.S., and how to ensure that the land would be protected. Listen to a tribal member’s proposal and then debate: Should national parks be controlled by Native Americans?

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May 6, 2021

2:29

Afghan Girls Stand Up for Their Right to Sing

In Afghanistan, education officials have banned girls over the age of 12 from singing in public, but the girls are speaking up. Many are posting videos of themselves singing on social media as part of a protest campaign. The ban comes as the Afghan government negotiates a peace agreement with the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group opposed to equal rights for women and girls. Listen to the director of an Afghan music institute explain why depriving girls of the right to sing is a “big issue,” and how it could impact the country’s future.

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May 5, 2021

5:07

New Pasta Shape Designed for Maximum Appeal

A new pasta shape has been invented. Cascatelli took three years to develop, and the man who designed it says he considered a variety of different aspects of the pasta eating experience. He wanted a pasta shape that stayed easily on the fork, for example, and held sauce well. Listen to learn about the process of designing and testing a new type of pasta and hear a reporter’s reaction when she samples it for the first time.

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May 4, 2021

4:38

Ping-Pong Diplomacy 50 Years Later

The U.S. and China have a long history of mistrust and competition. In 1971, though, an unusual situation helped thaw this chilly relationship. At the invitation of China’s communist leader, Mao Zedong, the U.S. Olympic table tennis team visited China for a 10-day tour and tournament. The widely publicized visit sparked a process that eventually allowed President Richard Nixon to accomplish one of his top priorities – opening dialogue with China. Listen to learn how Ping-Pong Diplomacy influenced the relationship between the U.S. and China and where that relationship stands 50 years later.

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May 3, 2021

4:32

The Benefits of Herd Immunity

The term “herd immunity” means that an entire population is protected against a disease. Herd immunity is achieved when most people in a group are immune to an illness, limiting the ability of germs to spread. The U.S. is vaccinating people against COVID-19 as quickly as possible in an effort to reach 85% of the population, the number medical experts say is needed for herd immunity. Many people are reluctant to get vaccinated, however, raising concerns among public health officials about the country’s ability to achieve its goal and beat the virus. Listen to learn about the push to achieve herd immunity and how public health officials are addressing vaccine hesitancy.

Update: Since this story aired, everyone in the U.S. aged 12 and over has become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

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May 2, 2021

:29

Weird News: 4-Year-Old Finds Dinosaur Footprint

Listen to hear about a young girl who discovered a dinosaur footprint on the beach.

Vocabulary: paleontologist, specimen

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April 30, 2021

4:25

Debate: Is In-Person Schooling Essential?

The debate over returning to in-person learning is complicated. Some argue that returning safely to in-person schooling should be among our nation’s top priorities. Remote and hybrid learning, they say, have not adequately served the needs of students. They want teachers to be considered essential workers, like health care and grocery workers, and protected from the pandemic accordingly. Others say that opening stores and restaurants, which will help preserve jobs and repair the economy, should come first. They argue that schools should be made as safe as possible but some degree of risk will likely always exist. Listen to learn more about the controversy over returning to school and then debate: Is in-person schooling essential?

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April 29, 2021

6:46

Sheltering in Poems

Poetry can entertain, make us think about things in a different way, or give comfort during hard times. During National Poetry Month, NPR challenged listeners to share poems via Twitter that gave them courage during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this audio story, a celebrated poet reads and reacts to some of his favorites. Listen to hear some creative and surprising lines of verse read aloud, and learn why the poet selected them.

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April 28, 2021

3:43

Mysterious Light in Outer Space

How dark is outer space? Although the night sky looks black, it actually contains light that comes from stars and galaxies. Scientists were curious how space would look without those sources of light, so they turned to photographs taken by a spacecraft hurtling through space four billion miles away. Listen to learn what researchers discovered about light in space and why one scientist called the possibilities “amazing.”

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April 27, 2021

7:25

Asian American Teens Reflect on Experiences of Prejudice

Hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased over the last year, as anti-Asian scapegoating rhetoric, harassment, and violence have accompanied the pandemic. The alarming trend has affected Asian Americans in a variety of ways. In this audio story, three teens explain how this threatening social climate has affected their day-to-day lives. Listen to hear the students describe their experiences at school, why they fear for their families, and what they are doing to stay safe.

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