Current Event September 6, 2018
Michael Cohen, who was Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, pleaded guilty to eight felony charges, including tax evasion and campaign finance violations. In addition to owing about $1.4 million in unpaid income taxes, Cohen, who has described himself as Trump’s “fixer,” admitted to a role in paying two women to stay silent about their relationships with Trump, with the purpose of influencing the 2016 presidential election. Listen to hear more about Cohen’s admission of financial crimes and their implications for the president.
Current Event August 31, 2018
A group of students recently sued the state of Michigan for failing to teach them to read in their public schools. The students argue that literacy is a constitutional right. A federal judge dismissed their case because literacy is not explicitly mentioned in the United States Constitution. However, the case is being appealed, making the argument that students should have equal opportunities to learn, no matter which school they attend. Listen to an interview with one of the lawyers working on this case, and then debate whether students have a legal right to learn how to read.
Current Event August 29, 2018
President Trump recently called the news media “the enemy of the American people.” Now, one news publication has started a movement to respond to this claim. Over 300 news publications have decided to support the effort and run editorials about the importance of a free press. Listen to learn more about one journalist’s project to defend the free press.
Current Event August 27, 2018
The Trump administration recently established a policy of separating immigrant families at the U.S. border, detaining parents and children in different places, even if they are legally seeking asylum. Although this rule has been reversed, some Americans want to help reunite the families that were separated while the policy was in effect. People who are passionate about this issue have raised more money than anticipated to help these families. Listen to find out how a simple act can snowball into a larger effort.
Current Event August 24, 2018
A city in California is experimenting with a new program in which it will give certain poor citizens $500 a month. Unlike other types of assistance, this money won’t come with any requirements or conditions. It’s what’s called a “guaranteed basic income,” a system other countries like Finland and Kenya have tried. Listen to hear the city’s mayor describe his vision for the program.
Current Event August 13, 2018
Facebook recently deleted pages and accounts it believed were run by Russians attempting to influence the upcoming midterm elections. Unfortunately, this also affected a valuable page American protesters were using to gain grassroots support. This issue raises important, unresolved questions about the relationship between Facebook, free speech, and propaganda. Listen to learn what an expert on civil liberties thinks about censorship on social media.
Current Event August 10, 2018
Recently, tech workers have been protesting some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Salesforce. They’ve urged their employers not to work with certain segments of the U.S. government. This is a very unusual request for employees to make of their companies, but it isn’t completely unheard of. Listen to learn more about these protests and what they could mean for the future of technology.
Current Event July 16, 2018
After months of being caught up in various ethical scandals, Scott Pruitt recently stepped down as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA. Despite the criticism Pruitt faced, President Trump and many conservative groups supported his work in this position. Andrew Wheeler, a lawyer and former lobbyist for the coal industry, will replace Pruitt as the leader of the EPA. Listen to learn more about Pruitt’s decision, Wheeler’s approach to his new job, and what the future holds for the EPA.
Current Event May 4, 2018
A lot of classroom skeletons, in high schools, universities and medical schools, are real human bones. A former student investigated the skeleton that hung in the back of her high school classroom. She consulted with the Smithsonian, and with a lab at Penn State and analyzed the skeleton to find out where it was from, how old it was and even what the person ate. In the 1800s there was a legal trade in human bones, which leads to some tricky questions about whether skeletons should be used in classrooms at all. Listen to this story and then debate: Should schools keep using classroom skeletons?
Current Event January 16, 2018
Being homeless means continually wondering what you will eat and where you will sleep at night. In some cases this means homeless people break laws by sleeping in public spaces because there isn’t room at a shelter. In Texas, community courts have been established to help homeless people manage tickets they have gotten for breaking the law. In exchange for waiving the tickets for public sleeping, they take part in community service. Listen to learn what local people are trying to do to help rather than hurt those living on the street.
Current Event December 1, 2017
Doctors faced an ethical dilemma recently in a case of conjoined twins. They had separate heads and torsos, but they were connected at the abdomen and the pelvis. They shared a liver and a bladder and other organs, and had just three legs in all. One of the twins had heart and lung disease so serious that she was likely to die soon, and as a result, her sister would die in the process. Listen to hear how doctors discussed what to do in this situation and then debate: Should doctors separate conjoined twins to save one of them?
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.