Topic: Politics

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Current Event April 17, 2017

United States Launches Airstrikes on Syria

Politics Middle East war

On Thursday, April 6, President Donald Trump authorized airstrikes against Syrian military infrastructure targets in response to an apparent chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar Assad. Now, Congressional leaders are asking Trump to outline his broader strategy for dealing with the Middle East conflict. Among their questions are how Trump plans to defeat the Islamic state, or ISIS, and how he will deal with Assad’s regime in Syria without creating a failed state. Listen to hear more about the challenges of creating a broader Syrian strategy.

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Current Event April 13, 2017

Clash on Climate Change Beliefs within a Family

Politics Environment Climate Change Economy

Southwestern Pennsylvania is coal country, though most of the mining and steel jobs are long gone. A reporter talked with a father and daughter who have very different outlooks on life. The father is skeptical about climate change. His daughter is in college with plans to be an engineer and work on environmental issues. Their first conversation about climate change happened a year ago and was revisited recently. Listen to hear the common ground and differences in opinion between this father and daughter.

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Current Event April 10, 2017

Supreme Court Senate Filibuster Is Over

Civics/Government Politics

In an historic move, Democrats filibustered, or blocked, the appointment of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. This move is significant because neither party has ever tried to block a vote on a Supreme Court nominee in this way. A few days after this story aired, Senate Republicans, the majority party, voted to change the rules of the Senate to block future filibusters on Supreme Court candidates by lowering the number of votes needed to approve a nominee. Listen to learn more about how this could affect the future of the Senate.

Note: On 4/6/17, the Senate successfully voted to change Senate rules to allow the confirmation of Gorsuch and all other Supreme Court nominees by a majority vote. On 4/7/17 the Senate voted to confirm Gorsuch with 54 votes, the lowest in history.

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Current Event April 3, 2017

Russia Sees Biggest Anti-Government Protests

Politics Protest Global

Thousands of Russians took to the streets this week in Moscow and other cities to demand the resignation of Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev. Ten thousand people showed up to protest in St. Petersburg and about 20,000 people joined protests in Moscow, making this the largest anti-government protest the country has seen in years. Anti-corruption activist and government opposition leader Alexei Navalny organized the nationwide protests after publishing an investigation that alleged serious corruption charges against the prime minister. Listen to learn more about the mass protests and the motivations behind them.

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Current Event March 31, 2017

Debate: Should Some Books Be Banned?

Politics Education Ethics

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?

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Current Event March 29, 2017

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi

Politics Gender Global

During Women’s History Month, we celebrate the accomplishments of women who have made change in the world. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese politician, diplomat and author who shaped the opposition of Myanmar, also known as Burma, is one such leader. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 because of her opposition to the military dictatorship. But she was unable to leave Burma to accept the prize because she was under house arrest. In 2012 she was freed from house arrest and gave her Nobel prize acceptance speech. Listen to this story about her speech accepting the Nobel Prize and learn more about Suu Kyi’s legacy that led to her to win the award.

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Current Event March 22, 2017

American Muslims Running for Office

Politics Religion

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups has jumped from 30 to over 100 in the last year, with many new anti-Muslim groups. Now, some Muslim Americans are running for elected office in order to fight back against Islamophobia. Although these candidates face strong resistance, non-profit organizations, such as Jetpac and New American Leaders Project, are supporting their campaigns and training them on how to respond to anti-Muslim rhetoric. Listen to learn more about the rise in anti-Muslim hate groups and how some Muslim-Americans are turning to politics to push back.

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Current Event March 21, 2017

Madeleine Albright

Politics Gender

During women’s history month, it’s important to look back at the impact of women on history. Madeleine Albright was the first female Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton. She directed foreign policy from 1997 until the Clinton administration left office. She is most known for leading diplomatic relations during the Kosovo conflict and being the first U.S. official to travel to North Korea and meet with then leader Kim Jong-il. Listen to learn more about Albright’s behind-the-scenes diplomacy, her impressions on being a woman working in the U.S. government, and her opinions on current events.

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Current Event March 20, 2017

New Health Care Bill

Politics Health

Republicans have released a health care bill that will repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. This new bill has been reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office, which states in a report that with this plan as many as 14 million Americans will lose health coverage in the next year, with estimates of 24 million people losing health coverage over the next decade. Many Republicans believe these numbers are overestimated. They are focusing instead on how the Republican plan will reduce the federal budget deficit by over $300 billion over ten years. Listen to learn more about the changes to the U.S. health care system proposed in the Republican plan.

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Current Event March 15, 2017

Lawsuits Over Border Fence

Politics Law Borders

One of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. Legal professionals believe that hundreds of landowners will bring lawsuits against the U.S. government to stop the wall from being built in their backyards. While George W. Bush was President in 2006, he decided to build a fence along a portion of the border and hundreds of lawsuits were filed by landowners. Listen to learn more about the land disputes surrounding the proposed border wall and how Trump’s wall is likely to affect landowners and courts.

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Current Event March 1, 2017

Melania Trump: A New Style of First Lady


The role of First Lady is one that has been performed very differently by each presidential spouse. Melania Trump is no exception, and has already broken with some of the traditions around being the First Lady. Most notable is the fact that she has chosen to live in New York where her son attends school, rather than move into the White House right away. Listen to learn more about the roles of the first families now and in the past.

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Current Event February 27, 2017

Republicans’ Town Hall Meetings Disrupted by Constituents


It’s a tradition of American democracy that members of Congress who are on recess hold town hall meetings in their districts to hear the concerns of the people they represent. This most recent recess, many Republican members of Congress are facing angry voters who are raising concerns about the Trump Administration’s policies. Most of the criticism has centered around the Republican party’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Listen to learn more about the backlash Republican Congress members are facing in different parts of the country.

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Current Event February 22, 2017

Judges and Presidents and the Balance of Power


Recently President Trump has publicly criticized individual judges who have ordered temporary halts to his travel ban. Trump has questioned judges’ motives, claiming these decisions are political and have nothing to do with actual legal concerns. His personal attacks on individual judges is unprecedented in U.S. history. American democracy rests on a balance of three branches of government: the executive, legislative and judicial. Although presidents have disagreed with court decisions and complained privately in the past, none have ever made public attacks against individual judges. Listen to learn more about the relationship between presidents and the courts in the past and the implications of Trump’s recent criticisms.

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Current Event February 20, 2017

Controversy Over Russia


General Michael Flynn has resigned from his position as White House National Security Advisor following controversy surrounding his communication with Russia’s ambassador before he took his post in the Trump Administration. Beyond the violation of diplomatic protocol, Flynn also gave Vice President Mike Pence false information about the content of his conversation with the Russian ambassador. President Trump says this violation of trust is the cause for Flynn’s resignation. Listen to learn more about Flynn’s misconduct and concerns about Russia’s involvement in U.S. politics.

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Current Event February 16, 2017

How Art in the White House Reflects America

Politics Arts

When a new administration takes over the presidency, the first family has the right to make some decorative changes to the White House, including changes to the art that hangs on the walls. The White House is an accredited museum, with a committee of curators that work to select, obtain and pay for new pieces of art. Part of a White House curator's job is to make decisions about how to make a collection that best represents the United States and its history. Listen to learn more about the history of the art collection in the White House and how the curation works today.

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Current Event February 14, 2017

North Korea is Increasing Nuclear Threat

Politics Asia

North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile recently that few for about 300 miles and landed in the Sea of Japan. The test increases the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. The Prime Minister of Japan called the test "absolutely intolerable". If a nuclear warhead can be paired with a missile of this power, North Korea would be able to use the threat of nuclear attack to deter the United States from interfering in its affairs. Listen to learn more about North Korean weapon development and the danger it poses for the United States.

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Current Event February 13, 2017

How the Travel Ban is Affecting Science

Life Science Politics Religion

President Trump’s travel ban has already affected tens of thousands of people traveling to and from the United States. Among the affected groups are scientists. Scientific discovery often depends on the ability to communicate and collaborate with experts from around the world. However, with the travel ban in place, many are forgoing the trip to the United States entirely. Listen to learn more about specific examples of affected scientists and the impact the travel ban is having on the scientific community of the United States.

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Current Event February 10, 2017

Debate: What is the Difference Between a Lie and a False Statement?

Politics Journalism

If you look up “lie” in the dictionary, it says a “false statement with the intent to deceive.” At President Trump’s first speech at the CIA headquarters, he made a number of untrue claims including falsely inflated numbers of attendees at his inauguration. Journalists have struggled with how to characterize the President’s wrong facts. NPR reporters used terms like “untrue claims” and “false denials” to describe the inaccuracies in Trump’s speech rather than labeling them as lies. The reporters were criticized for not referring to these falsehoods as lies. Listen to learn how reporters are debating when to use the word lie and then debate in your classroom: What is the difference between a lie and a false statement?

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Current Event February 8, 2017

Keystone and Dakota Access Oil Pipeline Get Green Light

Politics Economics Environment

Environmentalists are taking a strong stance against President Trump’s executive order to revive two controversial oil pipelines—Keystone XL and Dakota Access. Several environmental groups have vowed to fight these pipelines in the courts and the streets if they are moving ahead. In addition, there are still hundreds of indigenous protestors at the Standing Rock camp in North Dakota who are committed to blocking construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Backers of the projects say we need pipelines to transport oil more safely and efficiently. Listen to learn more about Trump’s plans to expedite pipeline construction and the groups working to block these projects.

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