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Current Events

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September 21, 2021


A Teacher and Veteran Reflects on 9/11

Many of today’s young people were not yet born when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001 and America invaded Afghanistan in response. High school teacher and Navy veteran Darryl St. George is committed to educating his students and colleagues about these events and the experiences of the soldiers defending our country. Listen to a veteran and educator recall his experiences on 9/11 and explain why he believes it’s so important to keep these memories alive.

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September 20, 2021


L.A. Requires Student COVID-19 Vaccinations

The largest school district in California is requiring all students ages 12 and older to be fully vaccinated to attend school. The delta variant is causing COVID-19 infections to spread among young people, which is a key reason the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) says she decided to mandate vaccines. She believes a fully vaccinated student body will translate to a safer and better learning environment. Listen to the leader of the LAUSD explain more about her decision, and learn how people are responding to it.

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September 19, 2021


Weird News: Student Pilots Transport Shelter Animals

Listen to hear about how students in New Mexico have helped to save shelter animals.

Vocabulary: shelters, adoption, transport

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September 17, 2021


Debate: Should Social Media Companies Recognize the Taliban?

Social media companies are weighing whether to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate rulers. After recently taking control of Afghanistan, Taliban leaders are using social media to broadcast their ideas and messages. But the group has not yet been acknowledged by most of the international community. The Taliban has a history of brutality, and companies like Facebook and Twitter are wary of providing a platform for violent or regressive ideas. Listen to learn more about the dilemma facing social media companies and then debate: Should social media companies recognize the Taliban?

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September 16, 2021


The Hidden Value of Dirt

Climate change is causing coastal areas to erode, and building them back up with mud and dirt will become increasingly necessary. Fortunately, large construction projects like digging tunnels often involve excavating tons of dirt that could then be moved to coastlines. Instead, it typically gets dumped in the ocean. Listen to learn why dirt is becoming a valuable resource and how people are working to move it to where it can do the most good.

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September 15, 2021


Cockatoos Teach Friends to Raid Trash Bins

Ecologists have determined that cockatoos, which are big, white Australian parrots, are learning from one another how to open trash bins. This surprising and complex behavior has spread from cockatoos in three suburbs of Sydney, Australia, to cockatoos in forty-four suburbs. Listen to hear how scientists determined that cockatoos were learning this skill socially and to find out what the scientists hope to study next about the clever trash bin raiders.

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September 14, 2021


100 Year Anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party

The Communist Party of China first gained power in the 1920s. At the time, China was weak and dominated by outside powers. Communism, founded on the principle of anti-imperialism, helped China forge its own national identity by uniting against foreign enemies. Today, even though the force of communism in China has faded, the country continues to rail against foreign powers and to cultivate a strong sense of nationalism that sometimes puts it at odds with powers like the U.S. Listen to learn more about the history of communism in China and how communist ideology has shaped the relationship between China and the U.S. in the past century.

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September 13, 2021


The State of the Pandemic in Fall 2021

Students around the country are returning to school, many in person for the first time in a while. In this audio story, a public health expert looks at how far we have come in the fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic and at the challenges that lie ahead, including in schools. He is encouraged by the effectiveness of the vaccine and says high vaccination rates can help protect kids who are too young to get the shot. Listen to hear an expert’s view on the current state of the pandemic and learn what schools can do to keep students and community members safe.

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September 12, 2021


Weird News: Most Popular Dogs

Listen to hear which dog breeds are most popular in the U.S. and how rankings have changed over time.

Vocabulary: data, ranks, permanent

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September 10, 2021


Debate: Is Digital Addiction a National Problem?

The average American adult spends 4-5 hours on their digital smartphone each day. Some believe that is too much, and the time spent on digital devices could be used in other productive ways. They say that, for many people, use of digital devices has become an addiction, or a behavior that they cannot control. Others point out that phones and other devices help people socialize, connect, and be productive, and frequent use is not harmful. Listen to learn about research on self-control and phone use and then debate: Is digital addiction a national problem?

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September 9, 2021


COVID-19 Vaccine Fully Approved by FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has shifted from temporary authorization to full approval of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Full approval means the FDA has enough scientific evidence to conclude with confidence that the vaccine is safe and effective and that the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. Some public health experts believe the decision will encourage more Americans to get vaccinated and could mark a key turning point in the fight against COVID. Listen to learn what the ruling means for kids younger than 16 and how it might affect vaccine mandates.

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September 8, 2021


Saving Endangered Sea Stars

Researchers in the Pacific Northwest are trying to save sunflower sea stars that have been disappearing in recent years. These brightly colored, voracious predators with up to twenty-four arms are dissolving into piles of goo, and over 95% of them are gone. Listen to hear what is causing the sunflower sea stars to vanish and learn how researchers have formed special bonds with the creatures as they work to save an endangered species.

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September 7, 2021


U.S. Military Leaves Afghanistan after 20 Years

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is over. Evacuation flights recently ended, stranding people unable to reach the airport, including many Americans and the Afghan partners who fought with them against the Taliban over many years. U.S. troops had invaded Afghanistan and ousted the Taliban from power 20 years earlier, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. Now, the Taliban has regained control of the country and the U.S. is concerned that terrorist activity could resume. Listen to hear about the final, frantic days of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and learn what the new relationship between America and Afghanistan might look like.

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September 5, 2021


Weird News: The Richest Person in History

Listen to hear about when and where the richest person in history lived.

Vocabulary: fortune, source, wealth

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September 3, 2021


Debate: Should the Workweek Be Only Four Days?

The standard 40-hour workweek was established in the 1930s, and some are suggesting that today’s workers should spend fewer hours on the job. They say technology like wifi and laptops help people get more done in less time, and pursuing interests outside of work prevents burnout. Business leaders worry, however, that less time in the office would result in decreased productivity. Listen to learn what researchers found when workers in Iceland put in fewer hours for the same pay and then debate: Should the workweek be only four days?

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September 2, 2021


Rising Unrest in Cuba

Demonstrators in Havana, Cuba, and throughout the country gathered recently to protest food shortages and low wages. The sight of protesters is rare in Cuba, a country ruled by a repressive government that has outlawed public demonstrations. In recent years, though, Cubans have had greater exposure to democratic principles and practices, and many artists have been leading the call to gather publicly and protest hardships. Listen to a professor of Cuban history describe this significant historical moment and how she believes America should respond.

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September 1, 2021


What Elephants Have to Say

Elephant researcher and National Geographic explorer Joyce Poole has been studying African elephants and how they communicate for nearly half a century. She and her husband have created the African Elephant Ethogram, a comprehensive audio-visual library of the animals’ behavior that is now available to the public. Listen to hear elephant sounds and what they mean, and learn what Poole hopes the ethogram will accomplish.

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August 31, 2021


History of Labor Day

Labor Day, a time to honor American workers, first became a federal holiday in 1894. The history of labor rights and relations, however, goes back much farther than that and spans diverse cultures and civilizations. Listen to hear about labor milestones along the way and learn why pirates were considered champions of workers’ rights.

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August 30, 2021


Controversy Over Masking in Schools

Students across the nation are returning to in-person school, even as COVID-19 infection rates are surging in some parts of the country, and masking has become a controversial topic. Some states have forbidden school districts from imposing mask mandates, but outbreaks of COVID have already forced several schools to shut down after only a few days. Parents and school boards are fiercely divided on the issue of masks. Listen to a high school teacher describe the start of her school year and how she believes students are being affected by the conflict and uncertainty.

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August 29, 2021


Weird News: Literary Mystery Puzzle Solved

Listen to hear about a literary puzzle that took nearly a century to solve.

Vocabulary: literary, combinations, attempt

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August 27, 2021


Debate: Should Penalties for Homophobic Slurs Be Stronger?

Soccer officials are taking action against the problem of offensive chants during games. Mexican soccer fans commonly shout homophobic slurs at opposing players, and CONCACAF, soccer’s governing organization in the Western Hemisphere, has issued new rules to help end the harassment. However, some say the penalties are too light to make a difference. Listen to learn about soccer’s new anti-discrimination protocols and then debate: Should penalties for homophobic slurs be stronger?

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August 26, 2021


Animal Laughter

Humans are not the only species that laughs during play. Scientists have identified dozens of other animals, from gorillas to rats, that giggle, chuckle, and guffaw, and they are investigating the meaning of these behaviors. Listen to hear the sounds of animal laughter and find out what researchers hope to learn by studying it.

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August 25, 2021


Fifth Ocean Added to Maps

Throughout its history, the National Geographic Society has identified four oceans on its maps, atlases, and globes – the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Arctic. Now, for the first time, the group is officially recognizing a fifth ocean – the Southern Ocean, which includes the waters surrounding Antarctica. This ocean is not new to scientists, however. Listen to hear about the Southern Ocean and what makes it unique.

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August 24, 2021


What Went Wrong in Afghanistan

The Taliban recently took control of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, and Afghans, Americans, and others are desperately trying to flee the country. The U.S. military has had a presence in Afghanistan for the past 20 years after forcing the Taliban from power, but President Biden recently announced a troop withdrawal. The Taliban responded by quickly recapturing most of the country, and many people fear retaliation and a return to repressive rule. Listen to the head of a government watchdog organization discuss what went wrong in Afghanistan, the lessons to be learned, and how the conflict in Afghanistan parallels past American wars.

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August 23, 2021


Report Warns of Accelerating Climate Change

The U.N. released a comprehensive report on climate change that was an urgent call to action. It cited overwhelming scientific evidence that human activities are causing Earth to warm at an alarming rate, and said recent extreme weather events such as hurricanes and heat waves are directly linked to climate change. Some effects of climate change are no longer reversible, according to the report, but with quick action, the most destructive changes to the planet might still be avoided. Listen to hear more about the report’s dire findings and how cooperation between nations could help address the urgent problem of climate change.

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August 22, 2021


Weird News: Historic Schoolhouse Walks to New Location

Listen to hear how a schoolhouse moved to a new location and how long it took to get there.

Vocabulary: historic, robotic, location

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August 20, 2021


Debate: Should D.C. Become the 51st State?

For decades, debate has raged over whether Washington, D.C. should legally become a state, which would allow its residents voting representation in Congress. The U.S. Constitution made D.C. the nation’s seat of government over 200 years ago, and some say a Constitutional amendment is the only way to make D.C. a state. Others say statehood can be achieved by simply redrawing district lines, or absorbing D.C. into the state of Maryland. Listen to learn more about what advocates and opponents of statehood are saying and then debate: should D.C. become the 51st state?

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August 19, 2021


Dolphins Learn From Their Friends

Mother dolphins have long taught their young how to find food. Recently, though, marine scientists have noticed that young dolphins also pick up hunting tips from their peers – strategies the older generation may not know about. Listen to hear about the different tools dolphins use to find their food and the tips and tricks young dolphins are learning from their pals.

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August 18, 2021


Harriet Tubman's Birthplace Discovered

Until recently, no one knew where Harriet Tubman, the heroic Underground Railroad conductor and Civil War spy, grew up. Archaeologists have now discovered her birthplace in the muddy swamps of Maryland's eastern shore. Listen to hear details about the process of locating Harriet Tubman’s birthplace and the impact the discovery has had on her living descendants.

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August 17, 2021


The Power of Joy

During the pandemic, when people were isolated from one another, many people experienced feelings of weariness or sadness. Psychologists say that social isolation can cause people to focus too much on themselves and their own problems. Shifting the focus outward, however, away from personal worries and toward others and the larger world, can generate joy. Listen to learn about an online tool that helps people create positive emotions by finding delight in the daily sights and sounds around them.

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August 16, 2021


Capitol Police Sergeant Testifies About January 6th Insurrection

The House of Representatives recently heard testimony from Capitol Police officers who defended the Capitol against attack by domestic extremists on January 6, 2021. One of the officers, Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, described the trauma he experienced that day and its impact on his physical and mental health. He received praise for his testimony, and also some criticism. Listen to hear a police sergeant describe his experiences during the attack and its aftermath, and learn why he calls the criticism he has received “a disgrace.”

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August 15, 2021


Weird News: Neighbors Discover They Are Twins

Listen to hear about the connections two neighbors shared before finding out they were twins.

Vocabulary: records, unsealed, void

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August 11, 2021


Olympian Suni Lee: Beacon of Hmong American Pride

Gymnast Sunisa Lee won gold at the Tokyo Olympics, and the American Hmong community is celebrating proudly. Lee grew up in Minnesota among many other Hmong, an ethnic group that first arrived as refugees to the U.S. from parts of China and southeast Asia. Listen to learn how Suni Lee’s victory represents both American and Hmong cultural values and hear more about the excitement and hope that it has generated within the community.

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August 9, 2021


Vaccinations Protect Against COVID-19 Surge

The CDC recently recommended that even people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 wear masks in crowded indoor settings. The guidance was issued to help reduce the spread of a highly contagious version of the coronavirus, the delta variant, that is spreading quickly throughout the country. Unvaccinated people are at much greater risk of serious illness, although vaccinated people can become infected and transmit the virus to others. Listen to hear the director of the National Institutes of Health discuss his thoughts on school reopenings and explain why getting vaccinated is still the best way to stay safe and protect others.

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August 8, 2021


Weird News: Toy Left on Plane Finds Its Way Home

Listen to hear how an airline was able to return a toy left on a plane to its owner.

Vocabulary: scoured, passenger

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August 4, 2021


First African American Winner of National Spelling Bee Reflects on Her Success

Zaila Avant-garde became the first African American to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. In this audio story, the 14-year-old from Louisiana discusses her love of spelling, how she first started competing, and the other ways she channels her competitive spirit. Listen to hear thoughts from an accomplished spelling bee champ who hopes to become a role model for other girls.

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August 2, 2021


Stress at the Olympics

World-renowned gymnast Simone Biles has withdrawn from competing in high profile events at the Tokyo Olympics due to stress. Biles is one of several elite athletes who have recently spoken out about the pressure they feel during competition and how it impacts their mental health. Listen to hear more about Biles’ decision and learn what the Olympic Committee is doing to support the mental health of the Tokyo Games athletes.

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August 1, 2021


Weird News: Walrus Sighting in Ireland

Listen to hear how scientists believe a walrus may have landed in Ireland.

Vocabulary: confirmed, sighting, biologist

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July 28, 2021


First Active NFL Player to Come Out as Gay

A defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders has become the first active NFL player to come out publicly as gay. Carl Nassib made the announcement on social media, and he received overwhelming support from fans, teammates, and coaches. Listen to a sports journalist describe his own reaction to the announcement and why he believes this moment may inspire other young gay athletes.

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July 26, 2021


Delta Variant Causing COVID-19 Surge

The rate of COVID-19 infections is rising throughout the U.S. as a variant of the virus continues to spread. The delta variant is much more contagious than the original virus that was spreading in 2020. Unvaccinated people are most at risk for sickness and hospitalization. Listen to hear more about the rising infection rates and what medical experts are saying about how to stay safe.

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