Current Event April 7, 2017
There is a debate going on in Massachusetts about whether people should have the right to seek medical aid in ending their own life if they are suffering from a terminal illness. An “end-of-life” measure did not pass in Massachusetts in 2012. Now, the debate has been reopened because a retired doctor with terminal cancer is suing the state so he can be allowed to seek medical aid in dying. Part of the debate centers around the question of whether courts should be in charge of end-of-life cases or if the legislature should create a law addressing the issue. Listen to learn more about the legality of giving medical aid in dying.
Current Event March 31, 2017
Howard Zinn is best known for his book, “The People’s History of the United States” in which he reveals the United States’ long history of war, invasion, and human rights violations. A lawmaker in Arkansas has introduced a bill to ban the writings of historian Howard Zinn from schools in the state. Some people view Zinn’s work as an important insight into the negative aspects of U.S. history, while critics say that it is anti-American. Listen to hear more about Zinn’s perspective on United States history and an Arkansas educator’s views on the proposal to ban Zinn’s books from schools. Listen and then debate with your students: Should some books be banned?
Current Event February 24, 2017
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.
Current Event February 3, 2017
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.
Current Event July 7, 2016
Volkswagen, the largest car maker in Europe, is known for making cars that are good for the environment. Last year Volkswagen admitted to knowingly cheating the emissions tests of their diesel cars. They have now agreed to pay more than $15 billion to compensate customers and to fix damage done to the environment. This is the biggest judgment ever made against an automaker.
Current Event June 3, 2016
Sending someone to jail because they can’t pay a debt is against the law. But often courts in the United States imprison people who cannot pay court fines. For example, homeless people can be ticketed for sleeping in a park and then put into prison for not paying the fine. The city of Colorado Springs is stopping this practice. The city is also paying people who have previously been held in jail under these circumstances. Listen to hear more about this new policy and debate the pros and cons with your students.
Current Event May 27, 2016
Poverty is an ongoing problem that is difficult to solve. One charity is addressing global poverty in a new, unique way. It is planning to provide people living in poverty with guaranteed annual salaries for about a decade. The charity’s co-founder says that people living in poverty are capable of making smart decisions about how to spend their money. These salaries will enable the poor to take steps to improve their own lives. Listen to learn more about how “universal basic income” may change people’s lives for the better.
Current Event May 4, 2016
Colleges and Universities across the state of Texas are providing food pantries in order to keep students from going hungry. Schools don’t want students to skip meals, so they are providing this short-term fix to avoid their students going hungry. Some colleges have considered providing more access to school cafeterias or temporary meal plans for these students. Colleges don’t want to stop recruiting students who come from low income families, but they have had to increase tuition due to a decline in state funding. Listen to hear more about hunger on college campuses.
Current Event April 16, 2016
A new law in Vermont has created an opportunity. This law requires institutions to avoid sending lots of food waste to landfills. Now, much of the food that would have been thrown away is being donated to hungry local residents instead. In fact, food rescue was up 30% last year, while overall waste is down 56%. Volunteers check food items for quality and then re-box them before sending them off to people in need. Listen to the story to hear more about how the Universal Recycling Law has increased food donations.
Current Event April 5, 2016
A key leader in the Bosnian War was convicted of genocide by a United Nations tribunal. Radovan Karadzic was a former leader of the Serbian Republic during the Bosnian War of the 1990s. Bosnia was one of the ethnically mixed republics in the former country of Yugoslavia. Karadzic managed to escape arrest for twelve years. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison for ethnic cleansing, including killing more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica. His trial was compared to the Nuremberg trials of German Nazi officials. Listen to hear more about this important war crimes trial.
Current Event February 29, 2016
President Obama has wanted to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay since his second day in office. Now, the President has announced a plan to transfer prisoners to the U.S. and other countries before his term ends. He faces resistance from members of Congress who are trying to block the closure of Guantanamo. Many are concerned about bringing known terrorists to U.S. soil. While the Administration hopes to work with lawmakers, it argues that the President does have the authority to act on his own in this matter. Listen to learn more about arguments for and against the President’s plans.
Current Event January 25, 2016
For more than a year, Flint Michigan’s tap water has been unsafe to drink. The problem started in 2014 when the city decided to switch the drinking water supply to the Flint River to save money. This water damaged the pipes and lead seeped into the drinking water. But the state ignored complaints about the smell and taste of the water. It wasn’t until January 2015 that the governor of Michigan declared a state of emergency because of the high lead levels in the water. This story looks at how the water crisis has caused residents to lose trust in their government officials.
Current Event August 23, 2015
Thousands of migrants fleeing instability in Africa and the Middle East are in a refugee camp in a small town on the coast of France. It’s become a refugee crisis for France as the migrants are living in campsites, building their own homes and waiting for asylum in France or transport to Britain. Many are teenagers without families, and the camp can sometimes be a competitive environment where only the fittest survive. But there are also inspiring stories of people with little helping those who have less. The camp does not provide shelter, which is one of the many ways it does not meet international standards for refugees, says an international aid group. Listen to hear more about this crisis that doesn’t have a ready solution.
Current Event June 21, 2015
The NAACP is a national civil rights organization that represents and works to serve the African American community. It was recently discovered that an NAACP leader from Spokane Washington lied and misrepresented her race. Rachel Dolezal was born to two white parents but identifies as black and has falsely claimed African American and Native American heritage. This falsehood had prompted a larger conversation about about racial boundaries and how they are observed.
Current Event June 14, 2015
Top officials at FIFA, the group that governs international soccer and the World Cup, have been accused of corruption. Investigators in the United States and Switzerland have uncovered bribes and wire transfers between World Cup host countries and FIFA officials. Sepp Blatter, who has served as FIFA’s president for 17 years has resigned in the face of this scandal. Listen to learn more about the scandal rocking the soccer world.
Current Event June 11, 2015
A new scientific tool can edit or change genes. It can target genes that cause problems, like disease, and snip them out of the DNA, sort of like scissors at a molecular level. The potential to change the human genome has some scientists celebrating and others worrying about the ethical implications. Listen to learn more about this technique and the debate it has provoked.
ELA High School
In 'The Scarlet Letter' Nathaniel Hawthorne explores inclusion and exclusion in Puritan Boston. Hester Prynne is exposed to public humiliation and exclusion for breaking societal standards and having a child out of wedlock. Veterans experience similar exclusion and dishonor. When they are discharged with the label of "Other Than Honorable," they are marked with a figurative Scarlet Letter, ashamed and unable to gain veterans' benefits.
Current Event May 21, 2015
The provision of the U.S. Patriot Act that authorized the mass collection of phone records in the United States and abroad is set to expire at the end of this month. The National Security Agency has been collecting data from personal phone calls in an effort to prevent another terrorist attack. The U.S. House of Representatives has taken action and passed a bill that strictly narrows the scope of this surveillance. But some members of the U.S. Senate want to leave the Patriot Act as it and renew it. Listen to learn more about this debate and the impact it will have on how government surveillance is used to fight terrorism.
Current Event May 19, 2015
The sentencing phase of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has come to a dramatic conclusion. After just a day and a half of deliberation the jury voted to put Tsarnaev to death on 6 of the 17 eligible counts. An appeal is automatic but some families directly impacted still feel relieved by the sentence. Listen to learn more about the sentence and the response to it.