All Social Studies

Current Event March 31, 2015

Plane Crash Answers

World History II Psychology

Last Tuesday, March 24, 2015, a German plane flying from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany was crashed on purpose by Andres Lubitz, its 27-year-old co-pilot. All 150 people on board were killed. When the pilot went to the bathroom, Lubitz locked the cockpit and took the plane off auto-pilot, leading to a 8-minute direct descent into the mountainside. Authorities have uncovered evidence that helps explain what happened, but doesn’t identify the co-pilot's motives. Listen to learn how this tragedy is changing the airline industry.

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Current Event May 1, 2020

Debate: Should Voting Procedures Change During a Pandemic?

Politics Law

States, political parties, and the federal government are considering how to hold safe elections this November during a pandemic. Many states have postponed their presidential primary elections or are allowing citizens to vote by mail. In the Wisconsin primary, there were long lines at the polls and fears about increasing the spread of COVID-19. Voters had to choose between maintaining social distance by staying home or risking their health while exercising their right to vote. Listen to this story about rules related to voting by mail and then debate: Should voting procedures change during a pandemic?

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Current Event April 29, 2020

Handshakes May Be History

Health Culture

The spread of the novel coronavirus has indicated that the time-honored custom of shaking hands may be history. Handshaking began thousands of years ago as a peaceful greeting, and has been praised for its ability to bring people together as equals. In light of new rules of social distancing, however, some people are suggesting alternative greetings that continue to connect us while keeping us safe. Listen to learn how handshakes were once used to check for concealed weapons and why some people are happy to see the practice end.

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Current Event March 23, 2020

COVID-19 Vaccination in Development

Health Viruses

Scientists are one step closer to finding a vaccine to protect people against COVID-19. A biomedical research company has vaccinated eight patients in Washington state with a new trial vaccine and has plans to vaccinate dozens more. The patients will be closely watched over time to make sure the vaccine is both safe and effective. The careful process means a vaccine will likely not be available to the general public for at least a year. Listen to learn how the new vaccine testing works and what motivates the scientists involved in the project.

This audio story was recorded in mid-March. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.

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Current Event February 24, 2020

Bats and Coronavirus

Health Animals Viruses

Where did the new coronavirus start? Scientists believe the highly contagious virus spreading quickly among humans probably originated with bats. Bats’ amazing immune systems allow them to carry viruses without getting sick themselves. Just as with past viral outbreaks like SARS and MERS, scientists believe bats infected other animals with coronavirus, and those animals then passed it to humans. Listen to learn more about the origin of coronavirus and why scientists believe studying bats could unlock secrets about fighting disease.

This audio story was recorded in early February. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.

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Current Event March 12, 2020

Drive-Through Coronavirus Testing

Health Viruses

Health care workers at a Seattle hospital can now drive their cars up to a window to be tested for COVID-19. Washington state has been one of the places hardest hit by COVID-19, an illness caused by a new coronavirus, and the city hopes to protect health workers who are essential to keeping the virus contained. Listen to learn how coronavirus testing is done and why drive-through test sites are considered safer than traditional clinics.

This audio story was recorded in early March. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.

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Current Event April 6, 2020

Health Care Providers Need Protective Gear

Health Viruses

Health care workers treating COVID-19 patients around the country need more equipment to protect themselves against the highly contagious virus. They say a shortage of masks, gowns, gloves, and other protective gear puts them and their families at risk of catching the disease. The federal government says production is underway and equipment should arrive soon, but health care workers feel a sense of urgency. Listen to hear how an ER doctor on the front lines is coping and learn about a newly reported symptom of COVID-19.

This audio story was recorded in mid-March. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.

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Current Event March 30, 2020

The Importance of COVID-19 Testing

Health Viruses Biology

Countries that have extensively tested their populations for the COVID-19 virus have generally succeeded in containing the outbreak. Now debate has begun in the U.S. over how much testing makes sense in this country. Although many medical experts say aggressive testing would help to slow the spread of the disease, production of test kits has not kept up with demand. Listen to hear a public health expert explain why he believes testing is important for controlling the spread of COVID-19 and when he expects enough test kits to become available.

This audio story was recorded in mid-March. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.

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Current Event March 27, 2020

Debate: Is Smartphone Voting a Good Idea?

Technology Democracy Human Behavior

A town in Washington state made plans to boost voter turnout by offering smartphone voting. Less than 1% of eligible voters showed up for a prior election in King County, Washington, and officials reasoned that making elections more accessible to all voters, including people living overseas and the disabled, would increase voter participation. Opponents say the security risks of smartphone voting threaten our democracy, since it is only a matter of time before they are hacked. Listen to hear more about the pros and cons of electronic voting, and then debate: Is smartphone voting a good idea?

Update: Since this story aired, the election has taken place, and voters cast ballots by smartphone or in person. Voter turnout was half of 1%.

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Current Event April 24, 2020

Debate: Is Public Safety More Important Than Civil Liberties?

Politics U.S. Constitution

A survey conducted by the University of Virginia School of Law early in the COVID-19 outbreak asked people about their willingness to give up civil liberties for public safety during a pandemic. Results indicated that a majority of Americans across the political spectrum favored restrictions on citizens’ freedom, including some unconstitutional ones, in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Recently, however, some people have been arguing that they should be free to gather in public, for example, despite public health risks. Listen to hear more about the survey results and then debate: Is public safety more important than civil liberties?

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Current Event February 17, 2014

Chinese Oreo Cookies

Economics Culture Geography

Twist, lick, and dunk is familiar to Americans growing up with Oreos, but it did not make sense to Chinese cookie lovers when Oreos were first introduced. It was only after the Oreo team changed the shape and taste of the Oreo did it succeed. Listen to this story to learn what the Chinese Oreo looks like.

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Current Event April 17, 2020

Debate: Should the Spanish Language Be Gender Neutral?

Gender Language International

Teens in Argentina are pushing to make Spanish gender-neutral. They say the rules of the language favor men over women and exclude nonbinary people. The Royal Spanish Academy argues that it is important to maintain the purity of a language that has been spoken for hundreds of years. Listen to hear more about the dispute over changing Spanish and then debate: Should the Spanish language be gender-neutral?

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