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Current Events

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November 7, 2021


Weird News: Bakery Uses Cookies to Catch Burglar

Listen to hear how a bakery used their resources creatively to help them catch a burglar.

Vocabulary: suspect, image, profile, credit

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November 5, 2021


Debate: Should Space Exploration Be Competitive or Collaborative?

China’s space program is growing quickly. The country recently sent three Chinese astronauts, known as taikonauts, to its new space station, and hopes to eventually send them to the moon. While the U.S. is vigorously pursuing a space program of its own, it is forbidden by law to cooperate with China due to China’s human rights violations. Some see the new frontier of space as a fresh opportunity for global cooperation, while others say a space race between countries with incompatible values is inevitable. Listen to learn more about China’s space program and then debate: Should space exploration be competitive or collaborative?

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November 4, 2021


Wild Boar Roam City Streets

Wild boars are roaming freely in the streets of Rome, Italy. These bristly members of the pig family have become a nuisance to residents, approaching them for food and causing sanitation and traffic problems. As their natural habitat shrinks, the intelligent beasts have been wandering down from the hills surrounding the city in increasing numbers. Listen to learn more about the problem of wild boar roaming Rome, and learn how the pandemic is offering clues for solving the problem.

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November 3, 2021


Hugs, Elbow Bumps, and Other Pandemic Greetings

It can be hard to know the best way to say hello while trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, some people thought shaking hands was gone for good. But with vaccinations and a better understanding of how the virus spreads, customs are changing again. This interview with a health expert discusses several kinds of greetings that put people in close contact with others. Listen to hear his thoughts about how to make the best decision when determining whether or not to hug, elbow bump, or kiss friends and family.

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November 2, 2021


Company Aims to Address Cultural Appropriation

The Minnetonka company has been making and selling moccasins, a type of footwear traditionally made and worn by Native Americans, for over 70 years. Indigenous tribes have never been acknowledged or compensated by the company, however. Recently, Minnetonka executives apologized for their acts of cultural appropriation, in which they exploited aspects of Indigenous culture without recognition, and are seeking ways to honor Native Americans in the future. Listen to hear an Indigenous activist describe how Minnetonka’s business damaged Native industry and why the company wants to do better.

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November 2, 2021


Kid News: Battling Mosquitoes to Beat Malaria

Mosquito bites are itchy and annoying, but they can also be deadly. In some countries, mosquitoes spread a dangerous disease called malaria from one person to another. Many people have become sick or died from the disease. Scientists are working hard to develop exciting new tools to protect people all over the world from getting malaria. Listen to learn more about this illness carried by mosquitoes and the various efforts to end it.

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November 1, 2021


Oil Spill Impacts Wetland Ecosystems

Oil that leaked from an underwater pipeline off the coast of California has polluted an ecologically valuable wetland. The Talbert Marsh is a popular stop for many species of migratory birds, and, like other wetlands, contributes significantly to a clean global environment. Removing the oil and restoring the marsh to its previous state could take ten years or more. Listen to learn about the importance of wetlands to global ecosystems and why the timing of the damaging spill is offering conservationists a glimmer of hope.

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October 31, 2021


Weird News: Two-Headed Turtle

Listen to hear about a rare turtle with two heads.

Vocabulary: rare, condition, digestive

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October 29, 2021


Debate: Should Social Media Be Regulated?

Research shows that social media has a negative impact on the mental health of many young people. Photo-centered apps like Instagram, in particular, often display filtered images that create unrealistic ideals of beauty and cause feelings of social pressure and anxiety. Some companies have pledged to address the harms their products are causing, but many people believe that to truly solve the problem, the government needs to step in. Listen to a young reporter and a technology researcher discuss the effects of Instagram and other apps on teens and then debate: Should social media be regulated?

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October 28, 2021


Celebrating Dia de los Muertos

The Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a time to mourn the loss of those who have passed and to joyously celebrate and remember their lives. Family and community members often gather in a festive atmosphere at cemeteries where they await the return of souls, and share stories and objects that remind them of their loved ones.The holiday draws on both Indigenous and Spanish Catholic beliefs and traditions. Listen to learn more about a unique, centuries-old celebration and how it can help people cope during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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October 27, 2021


Living in the Age of Snakes

A recent study suggests that after dinosaurs disappeared, snakes, their slithering reptile cousins, exploded in ecological diversity. Scientists believe they have found a clue about why snakes may have evolved into the nearly 4,000 species alive today. Unlike other reptiles, snakes eat many kinds of prey, including other snakes. Listen to hear more about what snakes eat and learn why some scientists say the current geological era could be called the Age of Snakes.

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October 26, 2021


A Different Kind of Ghost Story

An author has put tracing paper, old photographs, and his imagination to work to write a picture book about a wandering ghost. The idea sprang from the mind of Oliver Jeffers, an author with a fascination for ghosts and a curiosity over what they might reveal about the energy of living things. Listen to hear Jeffers explain his creative process and why ghosts both attract and terrify people, and learn how turnips were used in Halloween traditions.

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October 25, 2021


California Will Require Student Vaccinations

California has become the first state in the nation to require COVID-19 vaccines for all public and private school students. The mandate will go into effect as soon as the FDA fully approves the shot for 12-16-year-olds, which is currently under emergency authorization. Governor Gavin Newsome says the move will help to end the pandemic, although his announcement was met with mixed reactions. Listen to hear how some parents and teachers view California’s new school vaccine policy.

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October 24, 2021


Weird News: Ancient Roman Fast Food

Listen to hear what types of fast food were available to the ancient Romans.

Vocabulary: archaeologists, ruins, vendor, varied

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October 22, 2021


Debate: Should U.S. Draft Registration Include Women?

The U.S. stopped drafting men into the military in 1973 and has since depended on a volunteer army. Today, though, every male aged 18-25 still must register for the draft in case of a national emergency. Women are not required to register, but the Senate Armed Services Committee wants to change that. They argue that, ever since gender-based restrictions on military service were lifted in 2016, women have served alongside men, and requiring females to register would be another step toward equality. Others say that women already contribute to the country in ways that men do not, and compliance with the registration system is hard to enforce. Listen to learn more about women and military service and then debate: Should U.S. draft registration include women?

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October 21, 2021


Census Race Categories in Question

The latest U.S. census did not get an accurate count of Latinos living in the U.S. The survey asked respondents to identify their race, but many Latinos checked “some other race.” That’s because the 2020 census considers “Latino” and “Hispanic” to be ethnicities, not races, leaving Latinos with racial categories that they often felt did not apply to them. The undercount of Latinos has dire implications, since the census data is used to fund programs and enforce anti-discrimination laws. Listen to learn more about census race categories and how the questions could be changed for a more accurate count.

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October 20, 2021


Museum Truck Celebrates the Magic of STEM

A traveling museum is inspiring future scientists, engineers, and innovators. When the Perot Museum of Nature and Science sent their Tech Truck to visit a Texas high school, it brought learning stations and “wonder kits” that provided materials for students to engage in creative STEM projects. The school’s leader believes that bringing this museum field trip experience to her students will help bring the joy back to learning after extensive virtual school during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Listen to learn about the students’ projects and how experiences like exploring the museum truck can last a lifetime.

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October 19, 2021


The Significance of Indigenous Peoples' Day

President Biden has declared Indigenous Peoples’ Day a federal holiday. The day is designated as a time to celebrate the contributions of Native Americans, past and present, and to remember the violence and displacement they have suffered. The newly established federal holiday shares the second Monday in October with Columbus Day, an arrangement that acknowledges the complexity of America’s past. Listen to hear an Indigenous professor explain what the holiday means to her and how she hopes it will influence how Native Americans are perceived.

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October 18, 2021


Social Media on Trial in Congress

A former Facebook employee testified before Congress about the harm caused by the tech giant. She said executives at the company knew that Facebook intensified certain social problems, but they chose to prioritize profits and growth over addressing those concerns. She urged Congress to regulate the company and force greater transparency around its algorithms. Listen to hear more about the claims of a Facebook whistleblower, and learn why removing the secrecy around high tech could make it safer.

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October 17, 2021


Weird News: Deep Space House

Listen to hear how one creative man has decorated his house to look like outer space.

Vocabulary: unassuming, resembling, guidelines, atmosphere

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October 15, 2021


Debate: Can the U.S. Postal Service Be Saved?

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is in trouble. Consumers are spending less money on mail, forcing the USPS to raise its prices to stay in business. At the same time, it is cutting costs by slowing mail delivery, upsetting customers and potentially making them even less likely to use mail service. Farmers and others who live in rural areas depend on the USPS for needed supplies, though. Many people believe post offices can reinvent themselves to better serve Americans today. Listen to hear more about changes within the USPS and then debate: Can the U.S. Postal Service be saved?

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October 14, 2021


The Chirps of Naked Mole Rats

Naked mole rats are unusual creatures – mostly hairless, partially blind, and able to communicate in their underground burrows using high-pitched chirps. But what has recently surprised researchers about the wrinkled rodents is the discovery that the sound of their chirps differs slightly from one colony to the next. In other words, naked mole rats speak in different dialects. Listen to hear about the importance of language to naked mole rat social groups, and learn how dialects help queen mole rats control their colonies.

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October 13, 2021


Finding the Milky Way

Students today may know less about the Milky Way than those in the past. That is because this milky band of light in the sky, the partial view of Earth's galaxy that is visible from Earth, can only be seen in very dark areas. Light pollution has made it difficult for people in cities to see the Milky Way. The city of Pittsburgh is trying to solve this problem, so people can once again look up in wonder at the starry night sky. Listen to hear how Pittsburgh is reducing light pollution and how their effort may impact young people.

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October 12, 2021


Extinction of Hawaiian Forest Birds

Twenty-two endangered bird species have recently been declared extinct. Many were native to Hawaii, a region filled with biodiversity that has seen birds and other creatures go extinct at an alarming rate. In this audio story, a coordinator for a Hawaiian wildlife recovery project explains the conditions that contribute to species loss on the islands, and fondly recalls some of the birds that used to live there. Listen to learn more about bird extinctions in Hawaii and why, according to the coordinator, “the forests are getting silent.”

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October 10, 2021


Weird News: Monkeys' Favorite Comfort Sounds

Listen to which sounds monkeys like to hear most in their zoo enclosure.

Vocabulary: enclosure, options

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October 8, 2021


Debate: Should Community College Be Free?

President Biden wants to make community college free. He has proposed providing enough federal funding so state community colleges can stop collecting tuition from students, with states increasing their share of the bill over several years. Advocates applaud the plan for its promise to give low-income Americans and other disadvantaged groups a better chance to succeed. Opponents note that funding sources for community college are already available in many parts of the country, and states may not embrace the idea. Listen to learn more about the controversy over federally funded higher education and then debate: Should community college be free?

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October 7, 2021


2020 Census Shows Increased Diversity

​​The U.S. Census Bureau has released results of the 2020 census, a head count of U.S. residents administered every 10 years. The statistics show that the American population has become much more diverse, and more people are identifying with multiple races. Census data are used to draw new voting districts that reflect the racial and ethnic make-up of the population, which impacts representation. Bureau officials estimate that several minority groups were likely undercounted this time, potentially affecting redistricting and resource allocation. Listen to learn more about the results of the 2020 census and how difficult conditions during the count may have influenced the results.

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October 6, 2021


Dinosaur Bone Jackpot in Utah

Scientists have found a trove of dinosaur fossils in an enormous rock in Utah. The fossils found belong to the Utahraptors, which were even bigger than the raptors featured in the movie Jurassic Park. Listen to hear how many Utahraptors were found and to learn how scientists believe they died.

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October 5, 2021


Celebrating Mexican Independence Day with Traditional Food

Chile en nogada, a poblano pepper stuffed with meat, fruits, and nuts, is considered the national dish of Mexico. It showcases the colors of the country’s flag and is typically eaten on Independence Day, when Mexicans commemorate the overthrow of Spanish rule 200 years ago. Ingredients in the beloved dish reflect the cultures of both Mexico and Spain. Listen to learn more about the origin and history of chile en nogada, a mouth-watering Mexican classic.

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October 4, 2021


Remembering Those Lost to COVID-19

A sea of white flags on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is meant to remind visitors of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died from COVID-19. Individual flags in the unusual art installation bear the names of victims of the virus and, sometimes, their stories. Listen to visitors react to the moving exhibit, and hear the artist explain the effect she hopes her work will have on those who experience it.

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October 3, 2021


Weird News: Dog Joins Pro Soccer Match

Listen to hear what happened when a stray dog walked onto the field during a professional soccer match.

Vocabulary: unexpected, charmed, endorsement

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October 1, 2021


Debate: Should Schools Have Police Officers?

Police officers will no longer patrol the halls of public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland. For the past 20 years, school resource officers (SROs) have been stationed in schools where they work closely with administrators to prevent crimes and ensure safety. Recently, however, some have argued that placing SROs in schools does not keep students safe, and may actually harm them. Their presence creates an atmosphere of intimidation, they say, and contributes to the disproportionate arrest rate of Black and Latinx students. Listen to a high school student and local politician discuss how to keep schools safe and then debate: Should schools have police officers?

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September 30, 2021


Preserving Historic Latino Landmarks

The town of El Paso, Texas lies along the Mexican border. One of its neighborhoods, Duranguito, is rich with stories of the “borderlanders” who lived there in the early 1900s – Chinese Americans, Latin Americans traveling north, even a famous Mexican revolutionary. Recently, a plan to build a stadium has threatened Duranguito and its representation of Latino heritage and important aspects of American history. Listen to hear more about the historic Texas neighborhood and why community members are fighting to preserve it as a national landmark.

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September 29, 2021


Electric Racecars Lead the Way

The technology powering Formula E battery powered racecars is getting better, and that is good news for the electric car industry. The racecars, which make a high-pitched squeal as they whiz around the track, captivate onlookers and create competition among automakers. Companies like Mercedes and Nissan participate in the races to experiment with improving the basic model of the Formula E cars to win the race. Listen to hear what racecar drivers like about the cars and learn how improving technology may impact ordinary drivers.

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September 28, 2021


Afghan Refugees Await Resettlement

The U.S. government has airlifted thousands of Afghan men, women, and children out of Afghanistan and brought them to Germany, where they await flights to America. Many feared for their own safety and the safety of their families after the Taliban took control of their country. The refugees are being housed under crowded tents and in airplane hangars as they await the next leg of their journey. Listen to hear about the experiences and feelings of Afghans as they leave their home country behind and head toward a new life in America.

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September 27, 2021


Wildfires Threatening Giant Sequoia Trees

Sequoia National Park in California is home to some of the oldest and largest living things on Earth. Giant sequoia trees can grow to 300 feet tall and live for thousands of years. The sequoias in the park have survived dozens of forest fires over their long lifetimes. Recently, however, extreme heat, wildfires, and droughts have killed many of the treasured trees and prevented new ones from growing. Listen to hear how climate change is threatening the future of giant sequoias, and learn what people are doing to protect them.

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September 26, 2021


Weird News: Walking Around the World Without Leaving Home

Listen to hear why one man started his “walk around the world” and how he did it.

Vocabulary: technically, circumference

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September 24, 2021


Debate: Should the U.S. Mine Lithium on Sacred Land?

​​More and more electric cars are being produced each year, and they require lithium batteries for power. The U.S. has just one lithium mine and relies primarily on foreign sources of the valuable mineral. Now, a mining firm has proposed a new lithium mine in northern Nevada. It says the project will provide close to 2000 jobs, with many going to local Native American tribes. Tribal activists have fought the project, though, saying the proposed mine would destroy sacred land. Listen to learn more about the controversy over a proposed lithium mine and then debate: Should the U.S. mine lithium on sacred land?

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September 23, 2021


New YA Fantasy Novels

​​Calling all fantasy fans! In this audio story, an author – and fantasy writer himself – recommends some of his favorite fantasy titles for young adults. From Legendborn, a reimagining of the legend of King Arthur by debut novelist Tracy Deonn, to Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars, set in the magical Grishaverse, and more, fantasy readers will find stories that intrigue. Listen to learn more about a recent new crop of exciting fantasy reads and the universal themes that they address.

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September 22, 2021


Space Junk Cleanup Mission

Pollution is everywhere, including outer space. A private company recently launched a satellite called ELSA-d on a demonstration mission for removing space junk. More than 9,000 tons of trash are currently orbiting the planet, which can put the International Space Station and other spacecraft in danger of being hit. Listen to hear what kind of trash is in space and learn how the space junk removal system works.

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