TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
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March 24, 2017
Although the United States has cut its emissions of smog-forming pollutants by half over the past few decades, smog levels in the Western United States have increased each year. Now, scientists believe that rising emissions in Asia are causing smog in the United States. Asian emissions have tripled over the past decades and are particularly high in China and India. During the spring, storms lift and carry emissions from Asia to the Western United States, causing fog. Listen to learn more about how emissions levels in different parts of the world are changing and how global climate systems move emissions around the Earth and then debate: How can we address global pollution?
March 23, 2017
A communal listening experience can decrease social anxiety and boost empathy. An artist is collaborating with high school teens to create a “Sound Lab” at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The Sound Lab gives community members the opportunity to listen to recordings that the high school teens made of their families, nature, and their own original monologues. The teens found that listening to their recordings with community members in the Gardner’s concert hall had a stronger emotional impact than listening alone. Engaging with the Sound Lab may help people to pay more attention to the sounds that surround them everyday. Listen to learn more about this sound project and its impact on teens and the community.
March 22, 2017
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups has jumped from 30 to over 100 in the last year, with many new anti-Muslim groups. Now, some Muslim Americans are running for elected office in order to fight back against Islamophobia. Although these candidates face strong resistance, non-profit organizations, such as Jetpac and New American Leaders Project, are supporting their campaigns and training them on how to respond to anti-Muslim rhetoric. Listen to learn more about the rise in anti-Muslim hate groups and how some Muslim-Americans are turning to politics to push back.
March 21, 2017
During women’s history month, it’s important to look back at the impact of women on history. Madeleine Albright was the first female Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton. She directed foreign policy from 1997 until the Clinton administration left office. She is most known for leading diplomatic relations during the Kosovo conflict and being the first U.S. official to travel to North Korea and meet with then leader Kim Jong-il. Listen to learn more about Albright’s behind-the-scenes diplomacy, her impressions on being a woman working in the U.S. government, and her opinions on current events.
March 20, 2017
Republicans have released a health care bill that will repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. This new bill has been reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office, which states in a report that with this plan as many as 14 million Americans will lose health coverage in the next year, with estimates of 24 million people losing health coverage over the next decade. Many Republicans believe these numbers are overestimated. They are focusing instead on how the Republican plan will reduce the federal budget deficit by over $300 billion over ten years. Listen to learn more about the changes to the U.S. health care system proposed in the Republican plan.
March 17, 2017
The government and private citizens in Austria disagree over what to do with the house where Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was born. The government is planning to seize the property from its current owner to tear it down to build something new. They are worried that the home could become a destination for neo-Nazis. However, some are worried that removing the house destroys history. Listen to learn more about the dispute over Hitler’s birthplace and then debate whether or not it’s important to preserve historic sites that have a shameful past.
March 16, 2017
Studies show that teen girls are more vulnerable to depression. In fact, girls are three times more likely than boys to become depressed, due in part to social pressures such as the overemphasis on physical appearance and the prevalence of social media. Not only are girls more likely to use social media, they also appear to be more vulnerable to the emotionally damaging effects of a constant, virtual connection. Listen to learn more about trends in teenage depression and the role of social media.
March 15, 2017
One of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. Legal professionals believe that hundreds of landowners will bring lawsuits against the U.S. government to stop the wall from being built in their backyards. While George W. Bush was President in 2006, he decided to build a fence along a portion of the border and hundreds of lawsuits were filed by landowners. Listen to learn more about the land disputes surrounding the proposed border wall and how Trump’s wall is likely to affect landowners and courts.
March 14, 2017
Concerns about national security and electronic privacy are growing following a leak of documents on WikiLeaks. The documents show how the CIA uses technology to gather intelligence from companies and individuals. This development is damaging to the CIA, because it reveals its use of surveillance, while also highlighting vulnerabilities in its technology systems. Companies will now be able to close gaps in their security, making it harder for the CIA to gather intelligence from them. At the same time, some people are worried about groups who can use this information to launch an attack against the CIA. Listen to learn more these leaks.
March 13, 2017
South Sudan is currently struggling with both drought and an ongoing civil war. These forces have led to a rising food shortage crisis that the United Nations is now calling a famine. Four million people are without sufficient food, and the U.N. warns that another million people will be affected in the coming months. Unfortunately, the international community has been unable to halt the escalation of famine in South Sudan. Listen to learn more about the crisis in South Sudan, and how the international community monitors and responds to famine.
March 10, 2017
It is easier today for whistleblowers to leak confidential information to the press as a result of several new high-tech tools for leaking. Using encrypted messaging apps and email services, ordinary people are now able to give anonymous tips to news outlets. The Washington Post, New York Times and ProPublica have published guides that outline different options for sending in anonymous tips. At the same time, technology is also allowing the government and law enforcement to seize the personal information and communication history of whistleblowers and journalists. Listen to learn more about these new tools and then debate: Do you believe leaks are criminal or is leaking information acceptable in some cases?
March 9, 2017
During the space race between the United States and Russia, many of the NASA mathematicians who made space flight possible were women. Moreover, many of these important scientists were black women, which is significant, because segregation was still in full effect. Although white male engineers and astronauts have been the most highlighted in history, people are now celebrating the essential contributions of these female, African-American scientists, including the movie “Hidden Figures.” Listen to learn more about the black female scientists like Katherine Johnson and their important contributions to space travel.
March 8, 2017
In today’s world, there are more new disease outbreaks than ever before. Over the past century, the number of new infectious diseases appearing each year has quadrupled. Now, scientists are trapping and testing animals in rainforests around the world in an effort to find new viruses before they reach the human population. Listen to learn more about how infectious diseases pass from rainforest ecosystems to human populations and what scientists are doing to stop this growing trend.
March 7, 2017
Indian Information Technology companies are concerned about changes in the United States’ H-1B visa program. The visas allow a limited number of skilled workers into the U.S. each year. President Donald Trump’s “America First” initiative is reported to include limitations on visas for foreign skilled workers because some believe they take jobs from Americans. Indian IT companies argue that Indian tech workers are only filling a void left by the lack of skilled workers in technology, engineering and mathematics in the United States. Listen to learn more about how Indian IT companies collaborate with U.S. companies and potential plans to limit H-1B visas.
March 6, 2017
In recent weeks, Jewish schools and community centers in at least a dozen states have received bomb threats. In addition, Jewish cemeteries in Pennsylvania and Missouri have been vandalized. Although it is unclear if these threats and attacks are the work of a few isolated individuals, the Jewish community believes they indicate a growing anti-Jewish sentiment. President Donald Trump has condemned the threats and vandalism, but so far there has been no direct government response. Listen to hear more about what the Jewish community is facing and the response they are hoping to see from law enforcement.
March 3, 2017
The reality television series the Bachelor/Bachelorette has been frequently criticized for the lack of diversity in its contestants and lead characters. Recently, the show has announced its first black Bachelorette. By including more people of color in the pool of contestants, the show’s executives hope to foster more diversity both in who wins the competition, and who is selected to be the lead in future seasons. Both scripted TV shows and reality TV shows have been criticized for not being diverse. Listen to this story and then debate the best way to increase diversity on TV.
March 2, 2017
New studies have found that when people eat the same food, they feel more connected, leading to greater trust and cooperation. Scientists have found that in addition to the experience of spending time together and enjoying conversation during meals, people also strengthen connections when they eat the same food. Listen to learn more about the relationship between food, trust and cooperation.
March 1, 2017
The role of First Lady is one that has been performed very differently by each presidential spouse. Melania Trump is no exception, and has already broken with some of the traditions around being the First Lady. Most notable is the fact that she has chosen to live in New York where her son attends school, rather than move into the White House right away. Listen to learn more about the roles of the first families now and in the past.
February 28, 2017
ISIS has been pushed out of the eastern part of the Iraqi city, Mosul. Under ISIS control, children in Mosul were not able to go to school. Now, schools in Mosul are beginning to reopen. In the years that schools were closed, students fell behind in their education. But recently teachers have returned to work, although they haven’t been paid, and schools are still without heat or electric light. Listen to learn more about how the Education Ministry in Mosul is working to rebuild the city’s school system.
February 27, 2017
It’s a tradition of American democracy that members of Congress who are on recess hold town hall meetings in their districts to hear the concerns of the people they represent. This most recent recess, many Republican members of Congress are facing angry voters who are raising concerns about the Trump Administration’s policies. Most of the criticism has centered around the Republican party’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Listen to learn more about the backlash Republican Congress members are facing in different parts of the country.
February 24, 2017
One animal shelter is using social media to lead to raise animal adoption rates. Over the course of the last five years, a government-run shelter in Virginia went from euthanizing one-third of all stray animals to a nearly 90% adoption rate. By reaching out to the public for help on social media, the Animal Care and Control department has been able to find more animals homes more quickly. Listen to learn more about this department's innovations and then debate solutions in class on how social media can help save more abandoned dogs and cats.
February 23, 2017
The very first commercial wind project on U.S. Forest Service land will locate 15 turbines on government land in southern Vermont by the end of 2017. This project sets a precedent since it's the first agreement in the country between wind developers and the forest service. Some support the turbines saying the project will bring jobs and save money, and some oppose the project. Protesters say this is public land and shouldn’t be developed because it will hurt wildlife. Listen to hear more about this project and what is being done to protect the land.
February 22, 2017
Recently President Trump has publicly criticized individual judges who have ordered temporary halts to his travel ban. Trump has questioned judges’ motives, claiming these decisions are political and have nothing to do with actual legal concerns. His personal attacks on individual judges is unprecedented in U.S. history. American democracy rests on a balance of three branches of government: the executive, legislative and judicial. Although presidents have disagreed with court decisions and complained privately in the past, none have ever made public attacks against individual judges. Listen to learn more about the relationship between presidents and the courts in the past and the implications of Trump’s recent criticisms.
February 21, 2017
Packing a child's lunch in Japan can take more than an hour, since moms create bento lunches that take lunch ingredients and transform them into cute characters. Ham and rice can be made into Pokemon, cute animals, or famous people. It's called character bento, or kyaraben, and there's a lot of pressure to produce these food creations. In Japan, women are highly educated, but about 70 percent quit working after having children. Thus a lot of talent and creative energy is sometimes going into creating competitively cute lunches. Listen to hear more about the lunch making culture in Japan.
February 20, 2017
General Michael Flynn has resigned from his position as White House National Security Advisor following controversy surrounding his communication with Russia’s ambassador before he took his post in the Trump Administration. Beyond the violation of diplomatic protocol, Flynn also gave Vice President Mike Pence false information about the content of his conversation with the Russian ambassador. President Trump says this violation of trust is the cause for Flynn’s resignation. Listen to learn more about Flynn’s misconduct and concerns about Russia’s involvement in U.S. politics.
February 17, 2017
Charities are beginning to use virtual reality as a way to make donors feel more empathetic to a cause and potentially increase the amount they might donate. Several charities have created virtual reality experiences designed to put ordinary people in the place of others who are suffering. The hope is that virtual reality will make these unfamiliar experiences more concrete, and therefore, make people feel more empathetic. Listen to learn more about the virtual reality experiences being developed and then debate whether you think virtual reality can make you more empathetic.
February 16, 2017
When a new administration takes over the presidency, the first family has the right to make some decorative changes to the White House, including changes to the art that hangs on the walls. The White House is an accredited museum, with a committee of curators that work to select, obtain and pay for new pieces of art. Part of a White House curator's job is to make decisions about how to make a collection that best represents the United States and its history. Listen to learn more about the history of the art collection in the White House and how the curation works today.
February 15, 2017
Frog tongues work to quickly and effectively catch prey. According to a scientist's research, the unique softness of a frog’s tongue, along with the snot-like saliva, make the tongue super sticky. This allows frogs to catch many different kinds of prey quickly without the meal slipping off their tongues. Listen to learn more about frog biology, the research methods, and why scientists want to learn more about sticky frog tongues.
February 14, 2017
North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile recently that few for about 300 miles and landed in the Sea of Japan. The test increases the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. The Prime Minister of Japan called the test "absolutely intolerable". If a nuclear warhead can be paired with a missile of this power, North Korea would be able to use the threat of nuclear attack to deter the United States from interfering in its affairs. Listen to learn more about North Korean weapon development and the danger it poses for the United States.
February 13, 2017
President Trump’s travel ban has already affected tens of thousands of people traveling to and from the United States. Among the affected groups are scientists. Scientific discovery often depends on the ability to communicate and collaborate with experts from around the world. However, with the travel ban in place, many are forgoing the trip to the United States entirely. Listen to learn more about specific examples of affected scientists and the impact the travel ban is having on the scientific community of the United States.
February 10, 2017
If you look up “lie” in the dictionary, it says a “false statement with the intent to deceive.” At President Trump’s first speech at the CIA headquarters, he made a number of untrue claims including falsely inflated numbers of attendees at his inauguration. Journalists have struggled with how to characterize the President’s wrong facts. NPR reporters used terms like “untrue claims” and “false denials” to describe the inaccuracies in Trump’s speech rather than labeling them as lies. The reporters were criticized for not referring to these falsehoods as lies. Listen to learn how reporters are debating when to use the word lie and then debate in your classroom: What is the difference between a lie and a false statement?
February 9, 2017
A new app is available allowing people to send anonymous compliments to one another. A twenty-five year old developer came up with the idea of creating a a virtual compliment box able to impact people around the world. On the app, people can leave each other anonymous compliments, see photos of positive reactions and can choose to reveal their identity later. Listen to learn more about the origins of the app, and how the founder hopes to use it to create a kinder, more empathetic culture.
February 8, 2017
Environmentalists are taking a strong stance against President Trump’s executive order to revive two controversial oil pipelines—Keystone XL and Dakota Access. Several environmental groups have vowed to fight these pipelines in the courts and the streets if they are moving ahead. In addition, there are still hundreds of indigenous protestors at the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota who are committed to blocking construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Backers of the projects say we need pipelines to transport oil more safely and efficiently. Listen to learn more about Trump’s plans to expedite pipeline construction and the groups working to block these projects.
February 7, 2017
President Donald Trump has selected Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch is a respect and deeply conservative justice. It’s expected many Democrats will oppose his nomination, in part because former President Obama had selected another justice to replace Scalia and the Republican majority Congress refused to meet with him for political reasons. Listen to hear about the political battle that is expected over the Supreme Court nominee.
February 6, 2017
Last week President Trump issued an executive order banning refugees for from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for a 90 day period. The order also prevents all refugees from entering the country for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely. Some experts fear this policy will have a strongly negative impact on foreign affairs, sending the message that the United States is at war with Islam and willing to restrict immigration based on religious beliefs. Listen to learn more about Trump’s refugee ban and its potential foreign policy consequences.
February 3, 2017
President Trump has assembled the richest administration in history. With the nomination of Vincent J. Viola as secretary of the Army, Trump’s cabinet now has a combined net worth of about $13 billion and includes four billionaires. Federal ethics regulations require many of these cabinet appointees to sell off some of their investments to avoid conflicts of interest. However, cabinet members who do sell investments are allowed to keep all of the profits without paying a capital gains tax. Listen to learn more about Trump’s cabinet and then debate the benefits and drawbacks of having a very wealthy people in key government positions.
February 2, 2017
California has been in a severe drought since 2014. It’s underground aquifers, which are permeable rocks that can hold groundwater are dry. During recent droughts, farmers pumped groundwater to irrigate their crops, which dropped the water table and drained the aquifers. In the Sierra Nevada Mountains, they are also getting less snow and more rain, which just runs into the ocean. Farmers are now experimenting with water management and ways to store excess water. With some recent heavy rains, rivers all over the state flooded and some farmers flooded their fields, letting the water seep deep into the ground to refill the aquifers. Listen to hear about ways to catch and store rainfall to help farmers.
February 1, 2017
For centuries police officers have used face-to-face conversations as a central part of their work. But as more younger officers join the force, these Millennials are used to having much of their social interaction online, and they don’t have a lot of experience engaging in conversation. Police departments are now requiring new police officers to have face-to-face conversations with the public and are teaching them how to read body language. A new training program for young police officers includes having them engage with strangers in conversation and providing feedback. Listen to hear more about this new training and why it’s needed.
January 31, 2017
Three countries are watching the policies of President Trump closely, since their relationship to the United States will likely change under this administration: China, Russia and Mexico. In China, they are watching what Trump has said about the One China policy, along with possible trade wars. In Mexico they are worried about the U.S. building a longer border wall and the President’s threat to impose a 20% tax on imported goods. In Russia, they are hoping sanctions will be lifted. Listen to hear three NPR reporters in China, Russia and Mexico talk about perceptions of the new President in each country.
January 30, 2017
As a part of his campaign promise to re-evaluate America’s free trade commitments, President Trump is pulling the United States out of a negotiated but not ratified agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. Trump promised on the campaign trail to withdraw from the TPP. He is also expected to renegotiate NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Listen to one of Trump’s former economic advisors explain the new administration’s views on trade.