Current Event December 9, 2016
Law enforcement’s use of facial recognition databases is expanding, but the technology is not as accurate as it could be. Nearly half of all American adults, more than 117 million people, have been entered into a database for use by police and FBI. In large databases, it is more likely to find people who look similar. This technology also does not work well with darker skin. Listen to hear more about this technology and debate whether law enforcement should rely on facial recognition.
Current Event December 6, 2016
In 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court barred the execution of the intellectually disabled. But states have the ability to decide who is given the label of "mentally retarded." (This outdated term is used throughout this story since it’s the language in the court case.) The U.S. Supreme Court heard a case that questions what standards states may use in determining whether a defendant convicted of murder is mentally deficient. Listen to hear about this argument.
Current Event September 1, 2016
Colleges and universities in the U.S. can consider a student’s race when they are deciding if they will admit that student or not. Selecting a racially balanced student body has been important to many colleges and now the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the affirmative-action program at the University of Texas at Austin is legal. The difficulty will be to consider race without discriminating against other students during the admissions process. Listen to hear more about the issue of promoting diversity in admissions policies of colleges and universities.
Current Event August 20, 2016
After the death of Baltimore native Freddie Gray at the hands of Baltimore city police officers and subsequent public outcry and protest, the Baltimore Police Department is attempting to use foot patrols to improve relations between law enforcement and the community. The Baltimore Police Department is requiring all officers to undergo a foot patrol refresher class and asking that officers walk on foot for some portion of their ten-hour shift. The idea is that officers will get out into the communities they serve, forming relationships outside of the suspect or victim dynamic that usually define their interactions with citizens. Listen to learn more about the BPD’s plans to improve community relations as well as what types of foot patrols do and do not work.
Current Event June 30, 2016
After a mass shooting that killed 49 people at a nightclub in Florida, the U.S. Senate voted down a set of gun control measures. The measure included expanding background checks at gun shows and Internet sales, as well as preventing people on the terror watch list from buying guns. Some people say the National Rifle Association, or NRA, is blocking these laws, and others say the real target should be terrorists, not gun control. Meanwhile, there is another bill being written that would deny people on the no-fly list from buying guns. Listen to hear the reactions to the failed legislation and what the future may bring for gun control.
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 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 11, 2016
A law firm in Panama that sets up shell companies for people around the world so they can hide their financial transactions recently had a huge number of documents leaked to the public. Now these world leaders, movie stars and athletes’ tax avoidance isn’t hidden anymore. Regulators in a number of countries say they will use these documents to identify illegal activity. Following the release of this story, the scandal forced the Prime Minister of Iceland to resign. Listen to this story to hear more about identifying and regulating tax avoidance schemes.
Current Event March 24, 2016
When an American college student tried to steal a propaganda sign in a North Korean hotel he was arrested and sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor. As a result, the United States has strongly recommended that U.S. citizens not travel to North Korea. Diplomats have tried to negotiate with North Korea and have urged them to release this man on humanitarian grounds. The U.S. assumes North Korea will use him to bargain for something in return. Listen to hear more about the politics of this unfortunate arrest.
Current Event March 23, 2016
Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to sit on the United States Supreme Court in 1981. Her selection came as a surprise to some, as she was not well known in the world of judicial writing. Despite struggles early on as she learned her role in federal court, O’Connor had a long and successful career until her retirement in 2006. Listen to learn more about O’Connor’s path to the Supreme Court and her experiences as a woman in law and politics.
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.
Current Event March 2, 2016
The popstar Kesha is in a legal battle regarding her recording contract with Sony Music. She has accused her producer of abusing her, and she does not want to continue producing music with him or with Sony. That’s why her last album was released in 2012. While her lawsuits are ongoing her legal contract with Sony prevents her from producing music under other labels. Fans and other stars, such as Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and Lena Dunham have expressed their support. Listen to the story to learn more about Kesha’s legal battle and about the power the music industry has over the making of a star.
Current Event February 17, 2016
Justice Atonin Scalia served 29 years on the United States Supreme Court and passed away this week. His created the idea of “originalism” as a way to view the Constitution as the founding fathers wanted it to be considered at the time they wrote it. Scalia became an icon in the conservative political world. He was known for his acerbic dissents on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Until his position on the Supreme Court is filled, the court will be divided with 4 liberals and 4 conservatives. Listen to hear more about Scalia’s legacy and the next steps for the Supreme Court.
Current Event February 5, 2016
Denmark is poised to pass a new law related to refugees. It requires police to seize cash and valuables from people seeking asylum in Denmark. The idea behind the law is to help defray the costs of caring for refugees. The Danish government hopes that this new law will make Denmark unattractive to other refugees and discourage people from seeking asylum. Many support the new measures because they say Denmark is a small country and can’t support a large number of refugees. Others believe it is a violation of human rights. Listen to hear more about this crisis and debate whether refugees should pay countries that support them.
Current Event February 3, 2016
At an event in Texas, children and toddlers practice shooting with air rifles in a protected environment. Volunteers teach them how to hold the gun, where to place their hands, and about gun safety. They take time to answer any questions kids have about shooting. While some parents are opposed to these lessons, others feel they are a necessary and valuable part of growing up. This story looks at the different opinions about gun safety lessons for children.
Current Event November 20, 2015
Millions of people play fantasy sports, drafting teams and winning and losing real money. Regulators in Nevada decided they think fantasy sports companies are actually gambling operations. Fantasy league websites like DraftKings and FanDuel can no longer operate in Nevada without gaming licenses. New York is taking a look at allegations of insider trading and Washington lawmakers are now paying attention. This may lead to a Congressional hearing and regulations for these companies. Listen to this story and have your students debate whether fantasy teams are gambling companies. Do they think fantasy sports should be regulated?
Current Event November 9, 2015
Ideas are changing across the nation about who should be behind bars. Federal sentencing guidelines have recently changed. As a result, tens of thousands of people serving prison terms for drug trafficking will be released before their sentences end. These sentences are being cut short by an average of 2 years. There are thousands of undocumented immigrants in prisons, and deportation proceedings will begin in these cases. For others, probation officers are being hired to manage the increased work. Listen to hear more about how the United States government changed sentences for drug criminals, how this is affecting current inmates and what it could mean for the general public.