TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
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April 12, 2017
Vermont-based Keurig Green Mountain, a coffee company, makes K-cup pods for single coffee servings. They are now trying to solve the problem of the waste created by these pods. The hot beverage machines are so popular they have created a recycling problem because there are now billions of used plastic cups that are not recyclable. Keurig has pledged to make all K-Cups recyclable by 2020, which is a big challenge. Once a recyclable material is found for the cups, there is also the issue of sorting them at recycling facilities. Listen to hear more about the challenges of meeting this promise to recycle K-Cups.
April 11, 2017
In Jerusalem, a team has restored the shrine that is believed to hold the tomb of Jesus Christ. The team cleaned and reinforced the shrine, called the Edicule, located in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe that the Edicule houses the cave where Jesus was buried and then was resurrected. Listen to learn more about the Edicule and the effort to restore it.
April 10, 2017
In an historic move, Democrats filibustered, or blocked, the appointment of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. This move is significant because neither party has ever tried to block a vote on a Supreme Court nominee in this way. A few days after this story aired, Senate Republicans, the majority party, voted to change the rules of the Senate to block future filibusters on Supreme Court candidates by lowering the number of votes needed to approve a nominee. Listen to learn more about how this could affect the future of the Senate.
Note: On 4/6/17, the Senate successfully voted to change Senate rules to allow the confirmation of Gorsuch and all other Supreme Court nominees by a majority vote. On 4/7/17 the Senate voted to confirm Gorsuch with 54 votes, the lowest in history.
April 7, 2017
There is a debate going on in Massachusetts about whether people should have the right to seek medical aid in ending their own life if they are suffering from a terminal illness. An “end-of-life” measure did not pass in Massachusetts in 2012. Now, the debate has been reopened because a retired doctor with terminal cancer is suing the state so he can be allowed to seek medical aid in dying. Part of the debate centers around the question of whether courts should be in charge of end-of-life cases or if the legislature should create a law addressing the issue. Listen to learn more about the legality of giving medical aid in dying.
April 6, 2017
Not only is the peanut butter and jelly sandwich a classic American comfort food, it is also a wildly popular snack in the National Basketball Association. The tradition of PB&J sandwiches in the NBA is believed to have started when Celtics star Kevin Garnett asked for one before a game. Garnett played well and asked that PB&J’s be provided before every game. Although it is not the most nutritious snack, PB&J makes players feel relaxed and happy when they are stressed out on the road. Listen to learn more about the PB&J fad in the NBA and the unique preferences of various teams and players.
April 5, 2017
Traditionally, medical animal testing has been conducted primarily on male subjects. Several reasons have been cited, such as complications in pregnant animals and difficulties creating controlled experiments for both genders. Now, the National Institutes of Health is requiring the studies it funds to test male and female subjects. This new requirement is a response to inequalities in health outcomes between men and women. Many researchers believe that the higher incidence of negative reactions to medication found in women is a result of the gender bias in the testing phase. Listen to learn more about gender bias in animal testing.
April 4, 2017
Since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011, the neighboring country of Jordan has taken in more than 650,000 Syrian refugees. Many of these refugees were farmers in Syria and are leaving behind their ancestral land. Only one in 10 Syrian refugees in Jordan live in camps, the rest live mostly in cities. For farmers, city and camp life is a difficult transition, so many gravitate towards farms in Jordan where they live and work as migrant laborers. Listen to learn more about Syrian farmers living in Jordan and the effect of migration on their families.
April 3, 2017
Thousands of Russians took to the streets this week in Moscow and other cities to demand the resignation of Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev. Ten thousand people showed up to protest in St. Petersburg and about 20,000 people joined protests in Moscow, making this the largest anti-government protest the country has seen in years. Anti-corruption activist and government opposition leader Alexei Navalny organized the nationwide protests after publishing an investigation that alleged serious corruption charges against the prime minister. Listen to learn more about the mass protests and the motivations behind them.
March 31, 2017
Howard Zinn is best known for his book, “The People’s History of the United States” in which he reveals the United States’ long history of war, invasion, and human rights violations. A lawmaker in Arkansas has introduced a bill to ban the writings of historian Howard Zinn from schools in the state. Some people view Zinn’s work as an important insight into the negative aspects of U.S. history, while critics say that it is anti-American. Listen to hear more about Zinn’s perspective on United States history and an Arkansas educator’s views on the proposal to ban Zinn’s books from schools. Listen and then debate with your students: Should some books be banned?
March 30, 2017
Researchers have completed a study that documents the environmental impact of producing a loaf of bread. They determined the amount of greenhouse gas emissions at each stage of bread production—from wheat farming to transportation—and added up the total. They found that 2.6 million tons of greenhouse gases are emitted each year in the U.K. as a result of bread production. The study’s authors hope the findings will lead to more efficient and sustainable production methods. Listen to learn more about the environmental footprint of a loaf of bread and how consumers can help make a difference.
March 29, 2017
During Women’s History Month, we celebrate the accomplishments of women who have made change in the world. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese politician, diplomat and author who shaped the opposition of Myanmar, also known as Burma, is one such leader. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 because of her opposition to the military dictatorship. But she was unable to leave Burma to accept the prize because she was under house arrest. In 2012 she was freed from house arrest and gave her Nobel prize acceptance speech. Listen to this story about her speech accepting the Nobel Prize and learn more about Suu Kyi’s legacy that led to her to win the award.
March 28, 2017
The latest research shows that humans are the leading cause of wildfires in the United States. As global warming leads to longer fire seasons and larger wildfires, human activity is causing wildfires to happen at times of the year when they would not be happening naturally. Human activity has also extended the normal fire season in the U.S. by three months, and ecologists worry that without action taken on this issue, wildfires will become even larger and more frequent. Listen to learn more about humans’ role in increasing wildfires, and what ecologists believe must be done to reverse this trend.
March 27, 2017
The results of the 2017 World Happiness Report are in, and Norway is at the top of the list as the happiest country in the world. As one might imagine, developing countries show some of the lowest rates of happiness, but some low- and middle-income countries such as Nicaragua are showing encouraging gains. Interestingly, the United States has dropped from 13th to 14th place on the list, which the World Happiness Report attributes to declining social support. Listen to learn more about the findings and what factors support happiness around the world.
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.