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 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.
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.
Current Event May 17, 2015
An investigation in New York City has found that hundreds of nail salons are ignoring workers’ rights. Middle and upper class customers have come to expect cheap manicures and until now, no one has questioned how the price can be so low. In a year long investigation for the New York Times journalist Sarah Maslin Nir found widespread wage theft and indentured servitude in an industry that puts its workers' health on the line. The two part series, “Unvarnished”, has prompted action from consumers and the state government. Listen to hear more from the reporter about her investigation and the reaction to the story.
Current Event May 15, 2015
The state of Montana is adopting a new approach to maintaining and reviving Native American languages in the state. The state’s new policy, to partially fund native language immersion in public schools, is very different from previous efforts to get rid of Native American language and culture through government boarding schools. Listen to learn more about the policies of the past and present, and why Native Americans in Montana feel strongly about passing their language on to the next generation.
Current Event May 14, 2015
An NFL investigation has confirmed that staffers for the New England Patriots purposefully deflated footballs used in the football game that qualified the Patriots for this year’s Super Bowl. The report also suggests that star quarterback Tom Brady knew. This scandal, known as Deflate-Gate, has led to a stiff penalty against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The penalty has the sports world talking about how it will affect the Patriots next season and whether the rule about ball inflation should be changed. Listen to learn more about this scandal and come to your own opinion.
Current Event May 10, 2015
On April 28th, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against the constitutionality of state-level bans on gay marriage. This hearing combined four different cases and tackled two big questions: whether state bans on gay marriage are legal, and whether it is legal for states to not recognize marriages from states where gay marriage is legal. The cases sparked a long and heated Supreme Court session. A decision is expected at the end of June. Listen to hear questions and arguments from the justices on this controversial issue.
Current Event April 29, 2015
Tall, ultra-skinny fashion models have graced the runways in Paris, France for decades, but a new French law could change the look of models. The new law, which aims to fight anorexia and other eating disorders, requires employers ask models for a medical certificate proving they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 18. It also requires they periodically weigh their models to make sure they aren’t too thin. If companies use models that don’t meet these standards they face a fine and potential jail time.
Current Event April 23, 2015
Educators in Atlanta, Georgia have been convicted and in some cases sent to jail for orchestrating cheating on high-stakes tests in their school districts. An investigation found widespread evidence that educators were pressured to erase wrong answers on student tests and fill in the correct bubble. This is not the only example of cheating in school systems, but it is the largest. Listen to learn more how the federal No Child Left Behind law put so much pressure on school administrators that it led to the cheating scandal.
Update: One month after issuing the sentence, the judge in the Atlanta cheating case had a change of heart and reduced the sentences of three former educators from seven years in prison to three.