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Current Events

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November 4, 2019

3:52

Ensuring Election Security

For many years, Americans have questioned whether our election system is secure. After Russians meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, officials have been trying to replace old voting machines and add other safeguards to ensure secure elections in 2020. In spite of their efforts, however, experts predict that millions of people will still vote on outdated machines in the next presidential election. Listen to hear about the risks to voting security posed by digital technology, how old-fashioned technology can help, and why more election interference is expected in the future.

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November 1, 2019

3:29

Debate: Should a River Be Granted Personhood?

A Native American tribe in California took an unusual step to protect a river central to its way of life – it gave the river the same rights as a person. The move allows the tribe to take legal action against anyone who harms the river. Listen to hear a tribal member explain the special role of the river in tribal life and why the group decided to take such bold action.

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October 31, 2019

2:12

Singular "They" Enters the Dictionary

The editors of the Merriam-Webster dictionary added a new meaning of the pronoun “they” to its pages, sparking controversy. Although “they” has long been understood to mean several people, now it can also be used to refer to one person who does not identify as either male or female. Some people find this confusing, while others welcome the addition of a word that is already commonly used. Listen to hear a dictionary editor explain how the tricky decision to add a new word to the dictionary is made.

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October 30, 2019

4:24

Birds Are Disappearing

According to a new report, bird populations are generally decreasing throughout North America. Having fewer birds could negatively impact our ecosystems and our lives. However, there are steps we can take to help our feathered friends bounce back. Listen to learn what factors are causing bird populations to decline and some simple steps people can take to help slow the trend.

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October 29, 2019

4:12

Vampire Bats

With their sharp teeth and thirst for blood, vampire bats can be frightening. They have been known to bite the feet of sleeping children, and they sometimes spread disease. But these fuzzy, wrinkle-nosed creatures are also loving friends. Listen to learn more facts, both scary and surprising, about the legendary vampire bat.

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October 28, 2019

3:51

Who Are The Kurds?

The Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the Middle East without a country of their own. The population is spread among Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, and many have been fighting to create an independent Kurdistan. Recently, the U.S. withdrew troops from northern Syria that were protecting the Kurds, and Turkey attacked Kurdish areas because of a longstanding conflict. The Kurds’ ethnic identity and their freedom to express it depend on which country they call home. Listen to the voices of a Kurdish guide and poet explain what it means to be a Kurd and describe the experience of living in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

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October 25, 2019

3:41

Debate: Can Social Media Cause Depression?

A recent study says teens are experiencing increased rates of depression, anxiety, and other serious mental health issues. Although the causes of the trend are not clear, some experts believe hours spent surfing online and using social media have sparked feelings of isolation and anxiety among young people. Others argue the stress stems from teens facing an uncertain future. Listen to experts discuss the roots of this troubling trend and then debate: Can social media cause depression?

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October 24, 2019

4:50

Revitalizing Neglected Urban Spaces

Landscape architect Walter Hood is famous for transforming worn out urban spaces into beautiful and useful places. The winner of a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as a “genius grant,” Hood researches the history of a neighborhood, talks to residents, and then incorporates their ideas into his designs. Listen to learn how Hood’s childhood memories influence his work and how he integrated a slave ship drawing into a museum design project.

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October 23, 2019

3:37

Fighting Aggressive Seagulls

The boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey, was plagued by food-stealing seagulls. They would dive down and snatch French fries, pizza, and even ice-cream right out of people’s hands. The city devised a creative solution to remedy this situation–more birds! Listen to learn how bringing in bigger birds made the boardwalk a friendlier place.

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October 22, 2019

3:40

Race-Conscious Admissions Allowed at Harvard

A Boston judge ruled that Harvard University’s admissions process is legal. Harvard had been sued by a group claiming the university discriminated against Asian-American applicants when deciding whether to admit them. The judge ruled that Harvard’s process was fair because it considers many other factors when admitting students, and affirmative action allows the university to ensure a diverse student body. Listen to learn how a ruling for Harvard could affect schools throughout the country and why the legal battle over using race in college admissions continues.

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October 21, 2019

2:56

Ocean Warming Is Accelerating

A recently released United Nations report looks at changes in the world’s oceans caused by a warming climate. The report found that oceans are rising at a faster rate than ever before and becoming more acidic, threatening human and fish populations. Communities that depend on the sea for their food and way of life are especially vulnerable. Listen to learn more about the challenges humans will face as sea levels continue to rise.

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October 18, 2019

2:52

Debate: Should College Athletes Profit from Playing Sports?

College athletes have been banned from earning money from their sports, but a new law in California will change that. Starting in 2023, college players in California will be allowed to endorse products and sign sponsorship deals. Supporters say that the law will finally give skilled college athletes who bring in millions of dollars for their universities an opportunity to profit themselves. Opponents argue the new law will ruin college athletics by making them more like professional sports. Listen to hear from people on both sides of the issue and then debate: Should college athletes profit from playing sports?

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October 17, 2019

5:31

Deadly Mosquito Changes History

Mosquitoes are biting insects that can bother people at summer barbecues, but they have also played an important role in human history. One historian says that mosquitoes have been critical in changing the course of history, primarily by spreading deadly diseases that have killed billions of people. He explains how new genetic tools might be used to eliminate the threat to humans posed by these dangerous insects, which offer no clear ecological benefits. Listen to hear the surprising ways that mosquitoes have influenced history and how mosquito populations could potentially be controlled.

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October 16, 2019

5:35

Trees Can Help Beat City Heat

Low-income urban neighborhoods are often hotter than wealthier neighborhoods in the same city. This is problematic, especially during heat waves, when residents’ health and even their lives could be at risk. One of the reasons poorer areas get hotter is because they tend to have fewer trees. Listen to learn how trees keep communities cool and why they are more prevalent in some neighborhoods than others.

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October 15, 2019

5:47

Reconsidering the "Hispanic" Label

“National Hispanic Heritage Month” is a time to celebrate the histories, cultures, and contributions of Americans with origins in countries once under Spanish influence. The term “Hispanic” was added to the U.S. census to identify members of a diverse group of people with common interests. However, some people feel the term is problematic because of its connection to Spanish colonialism. Many prefer the term “Latino,” while others like to be identified by their national heritage. Listen to hear a journalist explain various preferences for naming ethnic identity and what they mean to people.

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October 14, 2019

3:59

History of Impeachment

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to impeach a president considered unfit for office. First, the House of Representatives investigates whether the president has committed a crime and votes on articles of impeachment, and then the Senate holds a trial and votes on whether to remove the president from office. The current impeachment inquiry investigating President Trump is taking place in a strongly divided country. Listen to an expert explain what today’s Congress can learn from the past, and why no president facing impeachment has ever been removed from office.

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October 11, 2019

5:03

Debate: Should Congress Consider Reparations for Slavery?

Congress is debating whether and how to compensate the descendants of African-American slaves. Some argue that reparations, which means money paid to those who have been wronged, would fairly compensate African-Americans for the crimes committed against their ancestors. Others believe that the past is past, and that today’s citizens should not be required to pay for actions that did not involve them. Listen to hear a congressional representative explain how the legacy of slavery continues to impact black communities today and how the government might invest in addressing ongoing issues, and then debate: Should Congress consider reparations for slavery?

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October 10, 2019

5:06

Vaping Ads Target Teens

Vaping has been linked to illness and even some deaths, and critics are arguing that ads targeting young people contribute to this growing public health problem. Vaping advertisers are looking to successful cigarette ads of the past to help them attract new users. They emphasize flavored varieties that appeal to young people and promote vaping as a healthy alternative to smoking. Listen to hear how vaping companies are working with advertisers to skirt regulations and craft ads that attract teens to the risky practice of vaping.

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October 9, 2019

3:48

Newly Discovered Leech

Would you be willing to wade into swamp water filled with bloodsucking worms? That is exactly what scientists did in order to learn more about leeches. Their efforts paid off when they discovered a brand new species of leech. Listen to hear how this recently discovered parasite uses its three jaws and why it is called a “medicinal” leech.

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October 8, 2019

3:49

Finding Home after Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Atlantic, destroyed people’s homes in the Bahamas and sent thousands of islanders fleeing to Florida for refuge. The refugees are facing many challenges, such as gaining entry to the U.S. without proper documents, finding schools for their children, and supporting themselves. Listen to learn how some Bahamians are coping with the effects of a devastating hurricane and what they are doing to move forward with their lives in a new country.

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October 7, 2019

3:48

Zimbabwe's First President's Complex Legacy

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s leader for almost 30 years, died at age 95. In his early career, Mugabe was beloved by his own people and the international community for his stands on democracy and racial justice and against corruption. But as his power grew, Mugabe ruled with an increasingly iron fist. Listen to learn about this autocratic leader’s legacy of reform and repression, and how his countrymen ultimately forced him from power.

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October 4, 2019

7:24

Debate: Should More Be Done to Keep Cyclists Safe?

Cycling deaths are on the rise throughout the country. As more cyclists take to roads already crowded with cars, accidents are increasing. One cause may be older urban streets designed for horses, not cars and bicycles. The attitude of drivers unwilling to share the road with cyclists could also be to blame. In some states, laws that increase penalties for drivers who hit cyclists are under consideration. Listen to hear experts describe the upward trend in cycling deaths and how the problem might be addressed, and then debate: Should more be done to keep cyclists safe?

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October 3, 2019

5:37

Cheating in College

College students overwhelmed by challenging assignments and deadlines are turning to a growing industry for help: essay writing companies. These companies produce original papers written by ghostwriters that students buy and submit as their own. Colleges are trying new technologies to prevent cheating and also working to change campus culture. Listen to hear students, teachers and experts discuss the problem of cheating on college campuses and how to combat it.

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October 2, 2019

2:39

Squirrels Are Listening

Have you ever wondered what chirping birds might be saying to each other? Squirrels seem to understand communications between their feathered neighbors, and they use this information to help them stay alive. Recently, scientists decided to see just how much information “eavesdropping” squirrels gather from birds. Listen to discover what they learned and how these animals’ networks operate “almost like Facebook.”

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October 1, 2019

3:57

Climate Change Strike

Frustrated by the slow pace of progress on addressing climate change, millions of young people around the world recently skipped school and took to the streets in protest. The strike came days before the U.N. Climate Action Summit, and protesters of all ages joined the students with signs demanding that their governments take urgent action. Listen to hear more about these worldwide strikes and what the marchers hoped to accomplish.

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September 30, 2019

4:25

Congress Launches Presidential Impeachment Inquiry

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her support for a presidential impeachment inquiry by the U.S. Congress in response to a report suggesting that President Trump may have pressured the Ukranian president to investigate his political rival, presidential candidate Joe Biden. The “whistleblower complaint” alleges that financial aid may have been withheld from the Ukraine pending cooperation of its leadership with the U.S. president’s request. The U.S. Constitution empowers the Congress to charge the president with “high crimes and misdemeanors,” a process known as impeachment, as a check on executive power. Listen to hear what led to this important development and what is expected to happen next.

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September 27, 2019

4:15

Debate: Should Drug Companies Pay for Opioid Addiction Treatment?

In response to the recent epidemic of opioid deaths, many states have filed lawsuits seeking millions – even billions – of dollars from drug companies. They say the companies misled the public about the dangers of opioids and ignored the problem of misuse. The companies say they are not responsible for how people used their product. A recent settlement awarded the state money to help pay for addiction treatment. Listen to hear more about penalties against drug companies and then debate: Should drug companies pay for opioid addiction treatment?

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September 26, 2019

3:55

News for Teens, by a Teen

Many teens care about what is happening in the world, but they typically hear news from an adult perspective. One California teen is changing that. Fifteen-year-old Olivia Seltzer publishes a daily newsletter in her own voice, targeting issues important to youth. She brings in diverse viewpoints through an editorial team comprising teens from around the world. Listen to hear why one young person gets up at very early every morning to offer her generation an alternative to mainstream news media.

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September 25, 2019

3:29

How to Avoid Snake Bites

Recent weather has led to an increase in snake populations across the United States. Given this trend, it is important to understand how to avoid being bitten by these animals and what to do if the worst case scenario does occur. Listen to hear insights from a biologist and an emergency room doctor about how to avoid snake bites and how to handle them if necessary.

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September 24, 2019

3:24

Sneaker Culture on Display

How much is a pair of sneakers worth? Shoe enthusiasts from around the country recently gathered in Washington, D.C. to settle that question at Sneaker Con, a marketplace for buying and selling sneakers. Thousands of “sneakerheads” lined up for a chance to get in on the action, much of which took place in the trading pit where negotiators haggled with each other to reach a deal. Listen to hear visitors and vendors explaining the appeal of sneaker culture and what drew them to the marketplace.

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September 23, 2019

3:37

Fires Burning in the Cold Arctic

The Arctic may seem like an unlikely place for fires, but every year wildfires burn millions of acres of forest in Alaska, northern Canada, and Siberia. This century, the blazes have grown bigger, hotter, and more frequent, causing health problems for local residents and releasing harmful greenhouse gases into the environment. Listen to hear a climate scientist describe the effects of wildfires in the Arctic and how the global community can respond.

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September 20, 2019

3:43

Debate: Should Student Communication Be Monitored?

In response to mass shootings, many schools are turning to new technologies to help keep their campuses safe. There are a variety of systems that can monitor students’ communication and behavior and detect indicators of potential violence. However, some argue that these technologies violate students’ privacy rights and civil liberties. Listen to learn more about this complex issue and then debate: Should student communication be monitored?

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September 19, 2019

5:35

4 Day School Week

Some school districts are exploring a new approach to saving money and improving educational outcomes: 4-day school weeks. Both urban and rural school districts throughout Colorado are trying out 4-day school weeks and observing how the change is impacting budgets, teacher retention, and student achievement. Listen to learn about the logic behind the 4-day school week and how this schedule has affected Colorado schools so far.

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September 18, 2019

3:42

Fireflies Thriving

People have noticed more fireflies, or “lightning bugs,” than usual in Chicago this summer. In this story, a scientist who has been studying these insects explains why he thinks fireflies are currently thriving in the area, what this might mean for local ecosystems, and what can be done to help cultivate the firefly population. Listen to learn more about these popular summer insects and how they “light the way” in the ecosystems where they live.

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September 17, 2019

4:43

Being Told to "Go Back"

President Trump recently tweeted that some Congressional representatives should “go back” to “the places from which they came.” These comments sounded familiar to many Americans, who have had others tell them to “go home,” though they were born in the United States. Listen to hear stories of Americans who have been told to “go back” and learn how such remarks have affected them.

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September 16, 2019

3:21

India Removes Special Status for Kashmir

India and Pakistan have been arguing for decades over control of the Muslim-majority Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir. Since 1947, the state has officially been a part of India with special status. However, recently, the Prime Minister of India took this special status away by presidential decree. Many Muslim Kashmiris are very upset about this decision and how it was made, but others consider it a positive development. Listen to learn more about the conflict surrounding this change.

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September 15, 2019

:26

Weird News: The Ketchup Thief

Listen to hear about how someone who stole ketchup from a restaurant felt guilty enough to make amends.

Vocabulary: repent

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September 14, 2019

2:14

Unsafe Drinking Water

In Newark, New Jersey, and other places like Flint, Michigan, the water that comes out of the tap is no longer safe to drink. Lead that was used to prevent old pipes from rusting has now contaminated it. Listen to hear more about how this water crisis is affecting people’s daily lives and how New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is trying to change the law and use state funds to replace Newark’s old water pipes.

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September 13, 2019

3:56

Debate: Are Online Platforms Threatening Democracy?

Congress recently held a hearing to consider how technology companies might be endangering the news industry and threatening democracy. Some newspaper publishers argue that online platforms like Google and Facebook unfairly threaten their existence and are controlling public access to information. Some technology executives say this is not the case, suggesting that the news media are not keeping up with innovative competition. In order to resolve this issue, lawmakers have proposed a bill with bipartisan support. Listen to learn more and then debate: Are online platforms threatening democracy?

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September 12, 2019

7:47

Rural Doctor Tries to Bridge Cultural Divide

Dr. Ayaz Virji moved to Dawson, Minnesota to help fill a need for doctors in rural America. At first, all was well, but during the 2016 election, the climate began to shift. As a Muslim, he no longer felt as welcome in Dawson, and he regularly faced discrimination. Virji decided to take action to help his community and others like it better understand and tolerate his faith and has since written a book about his experiences. Listen to hear Dr. Virji’s story and learn about his plans for the future.

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