Current Event March 23, 2020
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.
Current Event August 30, 2019
It’s been 50 years since man first walked on the moon. Now, decades later, NASA is working on sending a manned spacecraft back to the moon. This time, however, the trip to the moon is part of a larger plan: getting man to Mars. However, NASA will need bipartisan political support to make their goals a reality, and some have dismissed this mission as unnecessary. Listen to learn how and why NASA plans to send astronauts to the moon and beyond and then debate: Should we send astronauts to the moon again?
Current Event March 27, 2020
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%.
Current Event August 16, 2018
Scientists recently discovered a variety of million-year-old stone tools in Kenya. These discoveries allow archaeologists to better understand our early human ancestors’ lives and how they developed more sophisticated tools as time went on. As it turns out, there are some important parallels between ancient stone tools and modern technologies. Listen to learn more about this exciting find and hear how it relates to life today.
Current Event March 26, 2020
States around the country are ordering new restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. State governors have put various orders in place, including closing nonessential businesses, restricting big gatherings, and directing people to stay at home. Essential services such as food stores, pharmacies, and public transportation, remain open. These leaders hope limiting social contact will slow the spread of the disease enough to avoid overwhelming hospitals and health care workers with patients. Listen to learn how states plan to enforce the orders and why one governor struggled mightily with his decision to close businesses.
Current Event February 21, 2020
Filmmakers often make movies based on popular and beloved books, prompting audiences to wonder whether to read the book or watch the movie first. The argument has been made that movie adaptations can broaden the audience for books, especially older classics. Another view is that people who see the movie version of a book first will miss out on the benefit of fully engaging their imaginations while reading. Listen to hear a discussion about popular books and movies that raises points on both sides and then debate: Should you read the book before you watch the movie?
Current Event March 25, 2020
A famous cat has died. C.C. the cat, sometimes known as Carbon Copy, was the world’s first cloned pet. Texas A&M University scientists cloned C.C. to investigate whether the process could be used by owners to keep their beloved pets alive. C.C. became a celebrity when a photo of her sitting in a lab beaker circulated around the world. Listen to hear the scientist who cloned C.C. explain the cloning process and learn why he does not recommend cloning your cat.
Current Event April 29, 2016
There is an important debate in the United Kingdom about whether they should stay in the European Union or leave. One opinion is that there is a huge amount of discontent with the workings of the European Union and it will dissolve in the future. Another opinion is that the European Union has helped facilitate change in Europe and has promoted democracy, human rights and market economies. Listen as two brothers debate this issue, then discuss your students’ opinions about whether Britain should leave the EU.
Current Event April 22, 2016
In Spain, Italy and other Mediterranean countries, it was a tradition to rest after the mid-day meal. The siesta was created to escape the heat of the day. Over time this has turned into a two or three hour lunch break, where errands are done or people simply continue working. However, they are expected to still work until 8 or 9 p.m. Recently, the acting Prime Minister of Spain proposed skipping the mid-day break and ending the work day at 6pm. This news has been reported in ways that highlighted negative stereotypes of Spain. Listen and debate the pros and cons of getting rid of the afternoon nap in Spain.
Current Event April 15, 2016
There are a number of young teens getting married in the United States. They include teens of every race and ethnicity and teens who are not being forced into arranged marriages. Most states set the minimum age for marriage at 18, but there are ways to get around this law, such as providing a note from the teens’ parents. Some states are taking steps to close all loopholes in this law. Advocates of new laws say child marriage endangers girls' health, and undermines their education and economic opportunities. Some say teens should be allowed to decide for themselves. Listen to this story and debate whether there is an age at which someone is too young to get married.
Current Event April 8, 2016
World leaders gathered recently in Washington D.C. to ensure terrorists never get access to a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, Russia has a large stock of nuclear weapons and is not attending this summit. North Korea and Iran have never been invited. There’s concern nuclear materials will fall into the hands of terrorists, and there is concern about the large stockpiles dedicated to military purposes. The past three Nuclear Security Summits have helped more than a dozen countries get rid of nuclear materials, and began steps toward Obama’s goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. Listen to hear how world leaders are working to prevent nuclear terrorism and debate with your students other ways to prevent this.
Current Event March 18, 2016
Britain's Prime Minister promised to bring migration numbers down six years ago. But the numbers have risen. Now the government wants to cut migration by having non-Europeans with skilled worker visas leave the country if they don’t make at least $50,000 a year. Lower-paid workers such as artists, health care workers, and people in the trades will be affected by these new rules. Listen to hear about the new plan and debate the pros and cons of setting a salary benchmark for immigrants.
Current Event March 25, 2016
President Obama has selected Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Garland was approved for confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., by the Senate in 1997 with strong bipartisan support. However Senate Republican leaders have vowed to block any action on his confirmation for political reasons. They believe a president who is leaving office within the year shouldn’t nominate a new justice. The Supreme Court is one of the three branches of government and was established to be above politics. Listen to this audio story and debate with your students: Who should control the Supreme Court Nominating Process?
Current Event March 4, 2016
After a shooting in San Bernadino, California, a controversy has erupted around national security and data privacy. A federal judge has ordered the technology company Apple to access private data on the shooter’s cell phone. Apple has refused to comply. While the government feels that accessing this data is crucial for national security, Apple believes that doing so would be an invasion of privacy. The results of the case could impact the ways that phones are designed in the future. Listen to the story and debate with your students the issue of personal privacy versus national security.
Update: The FBI dropped its case against Apple to require them to unlock the iphone because it was able to use a third party to access the data on the phone.