Topic: Civics/Government

Current Event February 17, 2016

Justice Scalia’s Legacy

Civics/Government Law

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.

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Current Event February 9, 2016

Clinton and Sanders Battle In New Hampshire

Politics Civics/Government US government

Today voters go to the polls in the New Hampshire primary. Both parties have hotly contested primary races that are expected to continue through the spring. The Republican Party is having difficulty defining what it means to be a Republican, but the Democratic Party is also struggling to shape the future of its party. Candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have very different visions of what the Democratic Party can do for the country. Listen to a variety of opinions from voters and discuss the differences between these candidates.

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Current Event February 3, 2016

Gun Safety and Kids

Civics/Government Law Bill of Rights

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.

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Current Event January 31, 2016

Voter's Mood

Civics/Government Politics US government

The first votes in the 2016 presidential election will take place today in the Iowa caucus. As this important election event and other primaries approach, voters and candidates are expressing powerful emotions about the state of the country. Democrats are upset about the economic divide between the rich and poor, while Republicans fault President Obama’s policies on immigration and healthcare. Meanwhile, many voters feel anxious about terrorism and personal finances. Listen to this story to hear the feelings that are defining this election.

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Current Event January 25, 2016

Tainted Water

Civics/Government Health Ethics

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.

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Current Event January 20, 2016

Latinos in the Iowa Caucuses

Civics/Government Politics

Iowa plays a big role in the Presidential election process because it’s the first state to cast its vote for a presidential nominee. The state is overwhelmingly white, but has a growing Latino population. The caucus process is complicated and meetings are held at night, which discourages some Latinos from participating. But efforts are being made to include Latinos in the caucus process. This story looks at how Latinos play a key role in the upcoming elections.

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Current Event January 18, 2016

Ranchers on Federal Land

Civics/Government US government Protest

The occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in southeast Oregon has brought attention to the federal government’s management of public lands. The group of armed protesters want the land to be handed over to locals. Some people making their living off the land are experiencing economic hardship and are pointing to mismanagement and the red tape and regulations set by the Bureau of Land Management. Others have no problems with land management but simply want more people to understand the issues of the rural west. Listen to this story to learn more about this divisive issue.

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Current Event January 11, 2016

Bill Clinton Stumps for Hillary

Civics/Government Politics

With just weeks before the first votes are cast in the 2017 presidential race, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s husband hits the campaign trail. Former President Bill Clinton remains a popular figure among Democrats, but he also comes with a mixed history. Some are worried that he will overshadow Hillary on the campaign trail, but there are positives to having a former President promote a candidate. Listen to hear about the pros and cons of having Bill Clinton on the campaign trail.

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Current Event November 13, 2015

Debate: Should Political Spending Be Limited?

Civics/Government Government structures

Presidential campaigns reported their latest fundraising totals recently. There is a shift in campaign fundraising focus from a candidate’s own committee raising money to independent superPACs. A candidate’s own campaign committee can't take contributions greater than $2,700. SuperPACs have no contribution limits at all. Also, a candidate cannot raise big money for a superPAC, but it's fine for a superPAC to raise money for a candidate's campaign. Are the fundraising laws fair? Listen to this story with your students and debate whether political campaign spending should be limited.

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Current Event October 27, 2015

Pandas and Politics

Civics/Government Animals Elementary Communism

Pandas from China have served as fluffy diplomats between the Communist China and the Democratic United States. In 1972, the Smithsonian National Zoo first received their first pair of pandas from China as “gesture of goodwill” following President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China. Panda diplomacy continues today as a newborn panda's name was unveiled at the National Zoo. Listen to the story and learn more about the newest link between the world’s two largest economies.

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Current Event October 7, 2015

Economic Power of Latinos

Civics/Government Economics Immigration

When Donald Trump announced he was running for President he made derogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants, characterizing them as criminals. The Latino community responded not with riots and protests, but with their economic power. In reaction to Trump’s remarks, companies that see a lot of revenue from Latino customers pulled out of Trump owned products or events. Macy’s will no longer carry Trump’s menswear line, NBC will no longer allow him to host and Univision will no longer air beauty pageants that he partially owns. Latinos’ purchasing power is expected to reach $1.5 trillion this year. Listen to hear more about how Latinos are using their economic influence.

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Current Event October 2, 2015

Debate: What Role Should Religious Leaders Play in Politics?

Politics Civics/Government Religion

During his visit to the United States, Pope Francis delivered a speech before a joint meeting of Congress. The Pope’s message, “Remember the Golden Rule. Do unto others what you would have them do to you.” The Pope addressed immigration, protecting human life and climate change- all issues that Congress is divided about. He supported the position of Democrats on some issues and the position of Republicans on others. According to the First Amendment, there should be a separation of church and state, and the government cannot promote a particular religion. Are the Pope’s statements about controversial topics promoting religion in Congress? Should the Pope’s opinion influence U.S. policy? What role do religious leaders in general play in influencing politics? Discuss these issues and debate the role of religious leaders in politics.

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Current Event September 14, 2015

Why Run For President?


The next U.S. President will be elected in November, 2016. But the race is already packed with candidates. There are more than two dozen major candidates who are seeking the job as president. Running for president is difficult and exhausting, so why would so many people want to run? There are many reasons, both legitimate and delusional. Without an incumbent president, a lot of people think they have a chance to win this election. Some candidates hope to bring attention to their message and some to cash in on their new celebrity. Listen to hear about this race and the reasons so many people are running for President this year.

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Current Event September 10, 2015

Kentucky Clerk Refuses Same-Sex Couples

Civics/Government Religion Constitution

A county clerk in Kentucky was briefly jailed for contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. A 2015 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage and requires all clerks to issue licenses to same-sex couples. The Kentucky clerk says she won’t go against her religious beliefs, which condemn same sex relationships. Although the law does not support her decision, she has supporters in Kentucky. She lives in a state where same-sex marriage was banned in 2004.

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Current Event August 16, 2015

Military Rations in School Lunches

Civics/Government World War II Nutrition chemistry

The search for food that is low cost, tasty and slow-to-spoil has been an ongoing goal of the military, especially during World War II. That’s why military science has influenced the food in school lunches, as well as other convenient foods such as granola bars and juice boxes. Military research and ingredients are found in many foods, including the McDonald’s McRib Sandwich. A new book encourages people to think more about where convenient, non-perishable food comes from and whether this food science should be used so commonly outside the military.

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Current Event August 12, 2015

Raining Nitrogen

Civics/Government Earth and Space Science Environment

Levels of nitrogen in the soil and water in Rocky Mountain National Park have been on the rise over the last few decades. Dairy farming in the state has contributed to this rise in nitrogen but dairy farmers are working be part of the solution. Technology is helping to warn farmers about wind shifts that would bring nitrogen into the park. Listen to learn more about this source of nitrogen and how self regulation might help the problem.

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Current Event July 28, 2015

Iran Deal Faces Congress

Civics/Government Politics

The Obama Administration has signed a deal with Iran aimed at preventing Iran’s ability to create nuclear weapons. In exchange, the US will lift some economic sanctions against Iran. The President is allowed to make treaties, so President Obama doesn’t need approval from Congress. However, the President does need the legislative branch to agree to lift the sanctions. This push and pull between branches of government has the power to destroy the deal if Congress won’t agree to lifting the sanctions. President Obama’s cabinet members are aggressively promoting the deal to Congress in the hopes of getting enough Democratic support for it to survive. Listen to hear more about this debate.

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