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February 27, 2017


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Republicans’ Town Hall Meetings Disrupted by Constituents

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.

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February 24, 2017


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Debate: How Can Social Media Help Save More Abandoned Dogs and Cats?

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.

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February 23, 2017


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Wind Power on Forest Land

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.

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February 22, 2017


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Judges and Presidents and the Balance of Power

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.

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February 21, 2017


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Making Lunch in Japan is High Stakes

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.

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February 20, 2017


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Controversy Over Russia

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.

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February 17, 2017


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Debate: Can Virtual Reality Make You More Empathetic?

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.

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February 16, 2017


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How Art in the White House Reflects America

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.

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February 15, 2017


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Why Frog Tongues Are So Sticky

Frog tongues work to quickly and effectively catch prey. According to a scientist's research, the unique softness of a frog’s tongue, along with the snot-like saliva, make the tongue super sticky. This allows frogs to catch many different kinds of prey quickly without the meal slipping off their tongues. Listen to learn more about frog biology, the research methods, and why scientists want to learn more about sticky frog tongues.

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February 14, 2017


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North Korea is Increasing Nuclear Threat

North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile recently that few for about 300 miles and landed in the Sea of Japan. The test increases the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. The Prime Minister of Japan called the test "absolutely intolerable". If a nuclear warhead can be paired with a missile of this power, North Korea would be able to use the threat of nuclear attack to deter the United States from interfering in its affairs. Listen to learn more about North Korean weapon development and the danger it poses for the United States.

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February 13, 2017


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How the Travel Ban is Affecting Science

President Trump’s travel ban has already affected tens of thousands of people traveling to and from the United States. Among the affected groups are scientists. Scientific discovery often depends on the ability to communicate and collaborate with experts from around the world. However, with the travel ban in place, many are forgoing the trip to the United States entirely. Listen to learn more about specific examples of affected scientists and the impact the travel ban is having on the scientific community of the United States.

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February 10, 2017


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Debate: What is the Difference Between a Lie and a False Statement?

If you look up “lie” in the dictionary, it says a “false statement with the intent to deceive.” At President Trump’s first speech at the CIA headquarters, he made a number of untrue claims including falsely inflated numbers of attendees at his inauguration. Journalists have struggled with how to characterize the President’s wrong facts. NPR reporters used terms like “untrue claims” and “false denials” to describe the inaccuracies in Trump’s speech rather than labeling them as lies. The reporters were criticized for not referring to these falsehoods as lies. Listen to learn how reporters are debating when to use the word lie and then debate in your classroom: What is the difference between a lie and a false statement?

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February 9, 2017


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Anonymous Compliments Via App

A new app is available allowing people to send anonymous compliments to one another. A twenty-five year old developer came up with the idea of creating a virtual compliment box able to impact people around the world. On the app, people can leave each other anonymous compliments, see photos of positive reactions and can choose to reveal their identity later. Listen to learn more about the origins of the app, and how the founder hopes to use it to create a kinder, more empathetic culture.

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February 8, 2017


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Keystone and Dakota Access Oil Pipeline Get Green Light

Environmentalists are taking a strong stance against President Trump’s executive order to revive two controversial oil pipelines—Keystone XL and Dakota Access. Several environmental groups have vowed to fight these pipelines in the courts and the streets if they are moving ahead. In addition, there are still hundreds of indigenous protestors at the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota who are committed to blocking construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Backers of the projects say we need pipelines to transport oil more safely and efficiently. Listen to learn more about Trump’s plans to expedite pipeline construction and the groups working to block these projects.

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February 7, 2017


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Supreme Court Pick Expected to Face Confirmation Battle

President Donald Trump has selected Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch is a respect and deeply conservative justice. It’s expected many Democrats will oppose his nomination, in part because former President Obama had selected another justice to replace Scalia and the Republican majority Congress refused to meet with him for political reasons. Listen to hear about the political battle that is expected over the Supreme Court nominee.

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February 6, 2017


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Immigration Ban's Potential Implications

Last week President Trump issued an executive order banning refugees for from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for a 90 day period. The order also prevents all refugees from entering the country for 120 days and Syrian refugees indefinitely. Some experts fear this policy will have a strongly negative impact on foreign affairs, sending the message that the United States is at war with Islam and willing to restrict immigration based on religious beliefs. Listen to learn more about Trump’s refugee ban and its potential foreign policy consequences.

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February 3, 2017


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Debate: What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Having a Very Rich Administration?

President Trump has assembled the richest administration in history. With the nomination of Vincent J. Viola as secretary of the Army, Trump’s cabinet now has a combined net worth of about $13 billion and includes four billionaires. Federal ethics regulations require many of these cabinet appointees to sell off some of their investments to avoid conflicts of interest. However, cabinet members who do sell investments are allowed to keep all of the profits without paying a capital gains tax. Listen to learn more about Trump’s cabinet and then debate the benefits and drawbacks of having a very wealthy people in key government positions.

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February 2, 2017


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Storing Rain Underground

California has been in a severe drought since 2014. It’s underground aquifers, which are permeable rocks that can hold groundwater are dry. During recent droughts, farmers pumped groundwater to irrigate their crops, which dropped the water table and drained the aquifers. In the Sierra Nevada Mountains, they are also getting less snow and more rain, which just runs into the ocean. Farmers are now experimenting with water management and ways to store excess water. With some recent heavy rains, rivers all over the state flooded and some farmers flooded their fields, letting the water seep deep into the ground to refill the aquifers. Listen to hear about ways to catch and store rainfall to help farmers.

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February 1, 2017


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Teaching Millennial Police Officers to Communicate

For centuries police officers have used face-to-face conversations as a central part of their work. But as more younger officers join the force, these Millennials are used to having much of their social interaction online, and they don’t have a lot of experience engaging in conversation. Police departments are now requiring new police officers to have face-to-face conversations with the public and are teaching them how to read body language. A new training program for young police officers includes having them engage with strangers in conversation and providing feedback. Listen to hear more about this new training and why it’s needed.

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January 31, 2017


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Foreign Expectations of President Trump

Three countries are watching the policies of President Trump closely, since their relationship to the United States will likely change under this administration: China, Russia and Mexico. In China, they are watching what Trump has said about the One China policy, along with possible trade wars. In Mexico they are worried about the U.S. building a longer border wall and the President’s threat to impose a 20% tax on imported goods. In Russia, they are hoping sanctions will be lifted. Listen to hear three NPR reporters in China, Russia and Mexico talk about perceptions of the new President in each country.

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January 30, 2017


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President Trump Pulls out of Trans-Pacific Partnership

As a part of his campaign promise to re-evaluate America’s free trade commitments, President Trump is pulling the United States out of a negotiated but not ratified agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. Trump promised on the campaign trail to withdraw from the TPP. He is also expected to renegotiate NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Listen to one of Trump’s former economic advisors explain the new administration’s views on trade.

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January 27, 2017


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Debate: How Can Students Become Prepared to Spot Fake News?

A recent study tested over 7,800 teenagers on their ability to differentiate fake from real news and sponsored ads from news articles. The results showed that 80-90 percent of high school students had a difficult time judging the credibility of news. This skill is necessary to make choices about what to believe and what to share. Listen to this story to hear more about this study and what can be done to educate people about fake news and then debate with your students, how can students become prepared to spot fake news?

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January 26, 2017


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Women's Marches Around the Country Protest President Trump

Millions of people across the country and around the world marched the day after President Donald Trump took the oath of office. Women, men and children marched in hundreds of cities including Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Austin, New York, Chicago, Paris, Delhi and Bangkok. The purpose, marchers say, is to take a stand for women's rights and against Donald Trump's agenda. Climate, science, women's rights, human rights, LGBT rights and minority rights are just a few of the issues that were highlighted by those who attended the women's marches. Listen to hear more about these demonstrations across the country.

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January 25, 2017


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Donald Trump's Inauguration Speech

Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. In his inaugural address, he laid out his vision for the country. He repeated themes from his campaign saying “Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves.” He called these “just and reasonable demands.” And he vowed to always put “America first.” Listen to hear parts of Trump’s inauguration speech.

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January 24, 2017


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Preventing Radical Islam

Parents in France who want to prevent their kids from joining militant groups like ISIS now have some support. A French Muslim anthropologist, Dounia Bouzar, has written a book to help parents identify and defend against recruiters who "set out to break every emotional, social and historical tie in the kids' lives." She travels the country training psychologists, police and experts to deal with homegrown radicalization. One of the keys is reestablishing connections for the radicalized youth with their former lives. Listen to hear more about this woman’s method of diffusing the pull of radical Islam.

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January 23, 2017


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Vetting Process for Cabinet Nominations

The Senate is holding confirmation hearings for President-elect Trump's Cabinet choices. Democrats say majority Republicans are rushing the nominees through the process and that several of them haven't yet completed or submitted all of the financial disclosure and ethics paperwork required. Each committee holding a hearing has its own set of rules about the information it requires. Listen to hear about this push to confirm Cabinet nominees quickly.

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January 20, 2017


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Debate: Which Moral Principle Should Prevail in the Death Penalty?

The man found guilty of killing 9 church members in South Carolina was recently sentenced to death. However, before the jury decided to put Dylann Roof to death, there was a lot of division among family members of the victims as to whether the death penalty should be applied. This story looks at the ethics and the moral positions in this case.

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January 19, 2017


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The History of Inaugural Addresses

Donald J. Trump will be sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States. Inauguration day always occurs on January 20th following the presidential election. In recent history, at the start of every American presidency, the new president gives an inaugural address after being sworn into office. These speeches have sometimes become memorable tag lines for the president's priorities. This story is an historical reflection on several past inaugural addresses.

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January 18, 2017


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Art Museums Offer Tours for Blind Visitors

For people who are visually impaired, many of the experiences sighted people take for granted aren’t available, such as going to an art museum. Now, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. are offering special tours to help blind and visually impaired visitors “see” the art. This story takes you on a tour with this unique group of visitors.

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January 17, 2017


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A Breakthrough Vaccine for Ebola Virus

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is under control now, according the the World Health Organization. During the outbreak in 2014, 11,000 people in Africa died of Ebola. Now scientists have discovered a vaccine against Ebola. The vaccination is different from other vaccines, which are typically given to healthy people before they are exposed to a virus. This new vaccine is given to someone after they are exposed to Ebola and can protect them. Listen to this story to learn more about this important discovery.

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January 13, 2017


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Debate: Can Racism be Outlawed? Brazil has Tried

People around the world experience racism. In the United States the Civil Rights act of of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race. It’s a civil law, which means companies could face fines if they break it. Countries respond to racism in different ways. In Brazil, in an effort to curb racism, the country had made it a criminal act to be racist. If caught and found guilty, you could go to jail. This audio story explores how even with laws against racism, the practice continues in Brazil. Listen and debate this question: Can racism be outlawed?

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January 12, 2017


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Genetically Engineering Mosquitoes to Wipe Out Malaria

Scientists are experimenting with genetically modifying mosquitoes to wipe out some diseases like malaria. Every year malaria kills a million people. This new technique uses genetic engineering to alter mosquitoes genes. It’s a practice called “gene drive” and it’s controversial because it can be use to eradicate disease but could also be used as a weapon. This audio story explores the science behind gene drives and the controversy surrounding the technique.

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January 11, 2017


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Comparing Black Lives Matter to Civil Rights Movement

There are parallels between the race struggles of Martin Luther King half a century ago and the Black Lives Matter movement of today. This story tells of how attention is being brought to the disparities between races in the United States, and how the message has changed from an aspirational tone to a commitment to truth-telling. Protesters in both struggles were working to transform America and focus on respect. Listen to hear more about civil rights activism in this interview recorded on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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January 10, 2017


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Air Pollution in France Leads to Temporary Ban on Sports

A week of high pollution levels in Paris has brought strict restrictions on driving. The Paris mayor is making public transportation free in an effort to reduce the pollution particles in the air. There are also health concerns if people breathe this air for more than an hour, so some school sports and outdoor activities were banned temporarily. Listen to hear more about how Paris is managing this pollution crisis.

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January 9, 2017


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Russian Sanctioned for Cyberattack on Elections

This week, the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russia after saying it was confident the Russian government interfered in last year's presidential election. The purpose is to deter Russia from cyberspace hacking in the future. The United States also expelled 35 undercover intelligence agents to deter Russia from harassing U.S. diplomats in Russia. Listen to hear more about possible retaliation and what actions are legal when the U.S. is not at war.

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January 6, 2017


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Debate: What Helps Students Learn Best? A Lesson from China

China is working to improve its public education by focusing on sparking curiosity and encouraging students to think independently. Traditionally, the focus was on gathering knowledge, passing tests and following orders. Now, students in some schools do their own research and discuss their ideas, which is helping to improve student achievement. In a country where Chinese authorities traditionally assign students’ college majors and jobs, these changes in the education model will help students think for themselves and also thrive in Chinese society.

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January 5, 2017


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Hearing from a Fake News Creator

Fake news stories with clickable headlines that millions of people read and share have become a focus during the U.S. Presidential Election. People who run fake news sites make a lot of money from advertising. The identities of these fake news creators can be hard to track. In this story a reporter pursued one story to its creator to learn about why he started writing fake news. Listen to hear more about how untrue news goes viral, and who creates these stories.

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January 4, 2017


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Social Media and the Creation of the Lutheran Church

Five centuries ago, a German monk named Martin Luther protested the practice of indulgences. Christians who hoped to go to heaven and escape purgatory could make a cash offering to buy an “indulgence” certificate. The money often supported corrupt church officials and politics. Martin Luther presented 95 “theses” against the sale of indulgences, and sparked the Protestant Reformation. These ideas were circulated widely due to the recent invention of the printing press. Listen to hear more about how this technology changed religious ideas.

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January 3, 2017


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The Dogs of Capitol Hill

The U.S. Capitol is a very dog-friendly workplace and lawmakers have been bringing their dogs to the Capitol since the 1800s. They used to sit at Congressmen’s feet in the Senate Chamber and roam the hallways with their owners. There are occasions when the dogs fight with each other, but mostly they are a friendly face in the lawmakers’ workplace. Listen to hear more about these dogs and their long history in the Capitol.

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December 23, 2016


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Debate: Should Government Interns be Paid?

The Department of Labor has guidelines for companies that want to use unpaid interns. Essentially, unpaid interns have to be treated like students and shouldn't do the work of paid employees. But those rules don’t apply to government internships. There are hundreds of interns that work for free in government agencies, and one former intern is trying to change that because he says it favors students who come from wealthy families who can afford to support the students during the internship. Listen to this story and debate whether government interns should be paid.

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