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Current Events

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April 25, 2021

:24

Weird News: Scientists Airlift Rhinos Upside Down

Listen to hear why rhinos were transported by helicopter hanging upside down.

Vocabulary: dangling, location, cram

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April 23, 2021

4:58

Debate: Are Vaccine Passports a Good Idea?

A vaccine passport certifies that a person is fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and therefore unlikely to have the infection or transmit it to others. Many businesses like the idea of requiring guests to prove their vaccination status. They say that ensuring a safe environment in stores, theaters, and other places would encourage people to enter, and many consumers agree. Others argue that giving privileges to the vaccinated would unfairly divide Americans, and that making people reveal their health status raises privacy concerns. Listen to learn more about the controversy over vaccine certification and then debate: Are vaccine passports a good idea?

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April 22, 2021

4:35

Guilty Verdict in Killing of George Floyd

Former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder for the May 2020 death of George Floyd. During Floyd’s arrest in Minneapolis on the suspicion that he was using a fake $20 bill, Chauvin held a knee to Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes while he lay face down and handcuffed. Floyd’s painful death, captured in a video recording taken by a bystander and recounted in the televised trial, drew attention to the problems of systemic racism and police brutality, and triggered protests around the world. Listen to hear how the crowd outside the courthouse reacted to the verdict and what it may signal for the future.

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April 21, 2021

3:38

The Surprising Intelligence of Cuttlefish

A scientist has discovered that cuttlefish, which are marine animals related to the squid and octopus, are surprisingly smart. The scientist measured the self-control of the tentacled creatures by seeing how long they could wait for a treat. Her research was informed by a previous study involving children that found that self-control and intelligence are connected. Listen to learn more about the landmark “marshmallow experiment” and how it was adapted for cuttlefish.

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April 20, 2021

4:47

Congress Investigates Domestic Extremism

A violent mob stormed the Capitol building on January 6, 2021 and temporarily halted the process of certifying the presidential election of Joe Biden. The events of that day highlighted the growing problem of domestic terrorism in America. Domestic terrorist groups believe in a range of extreme ideologies, including anti-government, anti-Semitic, and racist views, and they threaten the safety of fellow Americans. The government is looking for ways to stop groups posing threats of violence from growing more powerful. Listen to a former CIA analyst discuss the rising threat of domestic terrorism and what Congress is doing to address it.

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April 19, 2021

4:43

Biden's Plan for Jobs and Infrastructure

President Biden has ambitious plans to improve America’s infrastructure and create new jobs. He recently announced the American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion proposal to fix roads, bridges, and highways, expand broadband access, support green energy projects, and more. The new plan would create millions of jobs, Biden says, and help America keep up with powerful economic competitors like China. Listen to learn more about the president’s new proposal and the changes it would bring.

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April 18, 2021

:23

Weird News: No Screaming Allowed

Listen to hear about new rules at theme parks that are reopening in California.

Vocabulary: operate, limit, capacity, patrons

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April 16, 2021

4:42

Debate: Should Congress Restrict Gun Purchases?

The U.S. has an especially high rate of gun violence, and several recent mass shootings have renewed calls for restrictions on gun purchases. Advocates of tighter gun laws say simple measures like expanding background checks and banning assault weapons would help keep guns away from people who should not have them. Several such bills are being considered by Congress and are widely popular. Opponents say their right to bear arms is protected by the Constitution, and new gun restrictions would interfere with that right. Listen to learn about the latest battle in the long fight over gun laws and then debate: Should Congress restrict gun purchases?

Update: Since this story aired, President Biden announced a series of executive orders restricting “ghost guns,” handmade firearms that do not require background checks.

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April 15, 2021

3:42

Young Cancer Survivor Heads into Space

A former cancer patient at St. Jude Research Children’s Hospital is scheduled to become the first person in space with an artificial limb. Hayley Arceneaux lost her leg to cancer when she was 10. Now she’s a physician’s assistant heading into orbit with SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission, a project that is raising money for St. Jude. Listen to a pioneering young astronaut describe how she first heard about the mission and what most excites her about the upcoming trip.

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April 14, 2021

2:25

Honoring Vancouver's Oldest Apple Tree

The residents of Vancouver, Washington have said goodbye to a beloved old friend: a 194-year-old apple tree. The state of Washington produces more apples than anywhere else in the country, and the old apple tree was widely considered the “mother” of the apple industry there. Residents protected her when city planners threatened to chop her down and celebrated her life at an annual festival. Listen to learn who planted the apple seeds that grew into the famous tree and why she has so many descendants.

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April 13, 2021

4:08

History of the Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is a 120-mile waterway dug in the Isthmus of Suez, between Africa and Asia, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. When it was built in 1869, the Suez Canal cut the travel time for ships bringing goods around the world, and global trade increased. Over the years the canal has been the site of conflict between powerful nations, and occasional disaster. Recently, a giant container ship got stuck in the canal and jammed water traffic for six days. Listen to learn more about the history and importance of the Suez Canal and why experts say accidents there are likely to recur.

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April 12, 2021

3:56

COVID-19 Vaccine Works for Kids

A new study has found that a COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children as young as 12. The vaccine is currently approved for people aged 16 and older, but the drug company Pfizer has successfully tested its product on thousands of young people and will continue its research until a vaccine can be approved for all ages. The news is especially welcome because, like adults, children can become infected with COVID-19 and spread it to others. Listen to learn more about the study and what next steps are needed before the process of vaccinating kids can begin.

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April 11, 2021

0:26

Weird News: Auction Bidder Breaks Record for Video Game Price

Listen to hear about a video game that sold for a very high price.

Vocabulary: anonymous, auction, remarkable

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April 9, 2021

3:49

Debate: Should Kids Go to School All Year Round?

Many students have struggled academically and socially during the pandemic. Some education leaders are suggesting that a longer school year could help fill the learning gaps. It would allow at-risk students to get the academic support they need and give all students a chance to reconnect socially after a year of relative isolation. Summer jobs, camp, and family time would suffer, though, and some are unwilling to give up these valuable activities. Listen to a school superintendent discuss his plans for extending the school year and then debate: Should kids go to school all year round?

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April 8, 2021

4:04

The Many Meanings of "Hispanic"

The term “Hispanic” refers to a broad array of Spanish-speaking people from various countries, backgrounds, and ethnicities. Many Americans associate the word primarily with Mexicans or Spaniards, though, and do not fully appreciate the diversity it represents. A narrow understanding of “Hispanic” can lead to stereotyping and historical narratives that exclude certain groups. Listen to Hispanic Americans discuss the assumptions people make about them based on the Hispanic label and why it’s important for people to appreciate the complexities of their identities.

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April 7, 2021

2:24

Glow-in-the-Dark Sharks

Sharks are known as the ocean’s top predators, but some of them have a skill that is less widely known: they can glow. Several species of sharks are bioluminescent, or able to produce their own light. Many other ocean creatures have a similar ability, which leads scientists to believe that it is easier than it may seem. Listen to hear how one scientist hunted for a glow-in-the-dark shark and learn about how sharks benefit from bioluminescence.

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April 6, 2021

4:53

10 Years After the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

In 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami set off explosions at a nuclear power plant near the Japanese town of Okuma. The disaster killed more than 20,000 people in the region and forced many others to flee their homes. In this audio story, a reporter returns to Okuma ten years after the explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to check on the city’s rebuilding efforts. Listen to newly-returned residents discuss the town’s past and future, and learn how removing the top of a mountain could help protect them from future devastation.

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April 5, 2021

4:17

New Laws Worry Voting Rights Advocates

Georgia recently passed a series of laws restricting voting in the state. For example, the rules reduce the number of drop boxes where voters can cast ballots and forbid handing out food and water to people waiting in line to vote. The laws disproportionately affect minority communities. Other states are considering similar laws, and some see the trend as a deliberate effort to suppress voting among people of color. Listen to learn more about Georgia’s new voting restrictions, how they fit into U.S. history, and what they mean for voting rights in America.

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April 4, 2021

0:27

Weird News: Space Perfume

Listen to hear about a perfume that smells like space.

Vocabulary: campaign, fragrance

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April 2, 2021

4:24

Debate: Should the Senate Filibuster Be Changed?

Filibustering is a strategy used by U.S. senators to delay or block a vote on a bill they oppose. In the past, it involved non-stop speaking on the floor of the Senate to prevent the vote from taking place. Now, however, a simple email is enough to trigger a filibuster and require 60 votes to pass legislation rather than a simple majority. The filibuster was designed to encourage compromise, but in today’s highly divided Senate, it is often used as a tool by one side to obstruct the other side’s agenda. Listen to hear arguments for and against the current rules and then debate: Should the Senate filibuster be changed?

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April 1, 2021

3:27

March Madness Highlights Gender Equity Gap

Title IX is a civil rights law banning sex-based discrimination in school activities, including sports. In the decades since the law was passed, girls’ and women’s sports have grown tremendously, but there are still inequalities between how men’s and women’s teams are treated. A female basketball player in the March Madness tournament recently tweeted a video showing that the training spaces given to women’s teams were inferior to those of men’s teams. Listen to a sports writer explain why the tweet caused such a strong response and how language can reflect respect.

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March 31, 2021

4:54

Sea Turtle Rescue in Texas

Cold-blooded animals like turtles depend on their environment to maintain their body temperature. When water in the Gulf of Mexico recently turned freezing, thousands of sea turtles were “cold-stunned,” or forced into a trance-like state where they could no longer swim, which is life-threatening. A group of volunteers joined in a huge effort to collect the turtles and bring them to an animal rehabilitation center. Listen to learn more about the largest “cold-stun” event in history, and hear what happened to the turtles after they were rescued.

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March 30, 2021

7:59

Reflections on the Anniversary of Breonna Taylor's Death

On March 13, 2020, police raided the apartment of a young Black woman, Breonna Taylor, and fatally shot her while she slept. The incident followed other killings of Black people by the police and sparked outrage around the world. This audio story features an interview with a leader of Black Lives Matter, an organization fighting racism and police brutality, on the one-year anniversary of Taylor’s death. Listen to an activist reflect on why Beonna Taylor’s death affected people deeply and how citizens can help prevent similar acts of violence in the future.

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March 29, 2021

3:22

New CDC Guidance for Schools

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced new guidance recommending that students should stay three feet away from others, rather than six feet, which was the previous recommendation, provided they are following other safety guidelines like wearing masks. The updated guidance is based on new research showing that COVID-19 transmission rates did not differ among schools maintaining three feet of distance in classrooms versus six feet. Many school leaders welcome the change, as it will help more schools return to full-time, in-person learning. Listen to learn more about the CDC’s new guidelines, the research behind them, and how they could affect school schedules.

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March 28, 2021

0:25

Weird News: Golden Retriever Celebrates 20th Birthday

Listen to hear about a golden retriever celebrating a milestone birthday.

Vocabulary: milestone, breed

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March 26, 2021

7:01

Debate: Should Business Owners Be Allowed to Decide Their Mask Policies?

Mandatory mask requirements have been lifted in Texas, giving restaurants and other businesses the freedom to set their own pandemic safety rules. Those in favor of the move say people, not the government, should take responsibility for the health and safety of their businesses. They note that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing, and lifting restrictions can help businesses recover. Opponents fear that it’s too early to roll back safety rules. They argue that it’s the government’s job to safeguard public health, and that masks should not yet be optional. Listen to Texas restaurant owners react to the change and then debate: Should business owners be allowed to decide their mask policies?

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March 25, 2021

5:29

Menstrual Equity

Half of the world’s population uses feminine hygiene products at some point in their lives. Access to these products is crucial for girls and women to participate fully in school, work, and other daily activities. The cost of menstrual products can be high, though, and some women have trouble accessing them. Advocates for menstrual equity argue the government should do more to ensure that all women can get the products they need. Listen to an advocate explain why menstrual equity is an important public policy issue and which laws could change to promote equitable access.

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March 24, 2021

3:25

Trading Onions for Oranges on the Space Station

The International Space Station is a large spacecraft and science lab orbiting Earth. The astronauts who live and work there temporarily sometimes miss the foods and other conveniences they enjoyed at home, but there is nowhere to buy them. Instead, they often trade, or barter, with fellow astronauts for the things they want. With astronauts from different countries with various skills and preferences, there are plenty of opportunities to trade. Listen to hear about a lively barter economy in space, and learn what the astronauts all agree should never be traded.

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March 23, 2021

4:37

History of Racism Against Asian Americans

Recently a gunman in Atlanta killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The attack followed a year that saw a dramatic increase in verbal and physical attacks against Asian Americans, accompanying a rise in racist rhetoric that scapegoated China for the coronavirus pandemic. Anti-Asian discrimination and racism have a long history in the U.S., and tend to worsen during periods of tension and fear, according to a former professor of Asian American studies. Listen to learn about the history of anti-Asian violence in the U.S. and how today’s situation parallels the past.

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March 22, 2021

4:06

Pandemic Relief is On The Way

In an address to the nation, President Joe Biden set an aggressive timeline for getting Americans vaccinated and back to normal life. He said he expected the pace of vaccinations will be fast enough to allow friends and family to celebrate the 4th of July holiday together safely. Biden also expressed excitement over his recently passed $1.9 trillion package designed to bring economic relief to Americans. Listen to hear more about Biden’s optimistic remarks and plans for moving the country forward after a very difficult year.

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March 21, 2021

0:26

Weird News: Grandma Scales Mountain at Home

Listen to hear about a 90-year-old grandmother who climbed a mountain in Scotland without leaving home.

Vocabulary: scale, summit, charity

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March 19, 2021

3:51

Debate: Should the Minimum Wage Be Raised?

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Even full-time workers often find it difficult to support themselves or their families at that rate. Democrats have proposed a dramatic boost in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, arguing it would energize the economy by encouraging people to spend more and would help address income inequalities. Opponents argue the economy would suffer under a higher federal minimum wage, as some small businesses could be forced to lay off workers and raise prices. Listen to business owners discuss the pros and cons of a $15 minimum wage and then debate: Should the minimum wage be raised?

Update: Since this story aired, the COVID relief bill passed Congress and became law.

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March 18, 2021

3:51

High School Sports Resume

After being canceled during the pandemic, many high school sports are starting up again. This audio story focuses on a high school girls’ tennis team in California where athletes are both nervous and excited to resume play. Listen to learn how one school community is handling the reopening of school sports, and hear high school athletes describe what this moment means to them.

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March 17, 2021

2:27

Crabs to the Rescue

Coral reefs, home to fish and plant life in oceans throughout the world, have been severely damaged by climate change, among other human impacts. In the Caribbean Sea, the dead and dying reefs have been taken over by seaweed that has choked out any new coral reefs trying to grow. To tackle the problem of dying reefs and to figure out a way to restore them, scientists paired up with an unlikely partner – the Caribbean king crab. Listen to hear a marine scientist explain how seaweed hurts coral reefs and how crabs may be able to help bring them back.

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March 16, 2021

4:44

Racism and British Royalty

In a recent television interview, Prince Harry, grandson of Queen Elizabeth of England, and his wife, Meghan Markle, aired their grievances against the British royal family. The couple spoke publicly for the first time since stepping back from their royal duties a year ago. Meghan, who is biracial, objected to what she felt were racist comments from family members as well as the palace’s insensitivity to her mental health needs. Listen to hear more about the young couple’s disappointment with Buckingham Palace and why they chose to leave the royal life behind.

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March 15, 2021

7:28

Female Militia Fights ISIS

A small but powerful band of Kurdish women has led the fight against ISIS, or the Islamic State, a group of militant Islamic fundamentalists, as they tried to overtake northeastern Syria. The women of the YPG force trained as warriors to defend their neighborhoods and towns, and fought side by side with American forces. Becoming fighters was unusual for women living in a traditional society, and their actions helped advance their goals of gender equality. Listen to learn what motivated the women to take up arms against ISIS and how one warrior’s uncle treated her differently after she fought.

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March 14, 2021

0:26

Weird News: Australian Mouse Feared Extinct Found Alive

Listen to hear about an endangered Australian mouse that has proved to be a survivor.

Vocabulary: rodent, location, extinct, endangered

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March 12, 2021

4:47

Debate: Should Shoplifters Go to Prison?

People caught shoplifting less than $1000 worth of goods generally do not go to prison. But American businesses lose billions of dollars each year to shoplifting, and some are pushing for more serious penalties to help deter the crime. They argue that longer jail sentences would stop people repeatedly caught shoplifting and those involved in schemes to resell the stolen goods. Others say sentencing rules often result in punishments that are overly harsh, and prison time does not help address the root causes of shoplifting. Listen to learn more about the controversy over punishing shoplifters and then debate: Should shoplifters go to prison?

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March 11, 2021

8:19

The Inspiration Behind Nike's Hands-Free Sneaker

For people with physical disabilities, sometimes simple but important daily tasks are impossibile. That was true for Matthew Walzer, who was born with cerebral palsy (CP), a condition that affects muscle tone and movement. CP left Walzer unable to tie his shoes, which he worried might interfere with his ability to attend college independently. At age 16, he wrote a letter to Nike asking for a hands-free sneaker, and the company responded. Listen to Walzer describe some of the challenges people with disabilities face each day and how he inspired Nike to design a cool new sneaker that anyone can wear.

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March 10, 2021

1:48

Photographers Bring Kids' Dreams to Life

Two photographers in Atlanta have undertaken an unusual project: turning kids into real-life versions of their wildest dreams. Whether it’s a creature from a fairy tale or an ancient prince, kids are invited to imagine who or what they might like to become, and to express their personalities in creative ways in front of the camera. Listen to hear the reactions of kids who have participated in an imaginative photo shoot, and find out what the photographers hope to accomplish through their project.

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