Current Event March 15, 2017
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.
Current Event February 1, 2017
For centuries police officers have used face-to-face conversations as a central part of their work. But as more younger officers join the force, these Millennials are used to having much of their social interaction online, and they don’t have a lot of experience engaging in conversation. Police departments are now requiring new police officers to have face-to-face conversations with the public and are teaching them how to read body language. A new training program for young police officers includes having them engage with strangers in conversation and providing feedback. Listen to hear more about this new training and why it’s needed.
Current Event January 20, 2017
The man found guilty of killing 9 church members in South Carolina was recently sentenced to death. However, before the jury decided to put Dylann Roof to death, there was a lot of division among family members of the victims as to whether the death penalty should be applied. This story looks at the ethics and the moral positions in this case.
Current Event January 13, 2017
People around the world experience racism. In the United States the Civil Rights act of of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of race. It’s a civil law, which means companies could face fines if they break it. Countries respond to racism in different ways. In Brazil, in an effort to curb racism, the country had made it a criminal act to be racist. If caught and found guilty, you could go to jail. This audio story explores how even with laws against racism, the practice continues in Brazil. Listen and debate this question: Can racism be outlawed?
Current Event December 12, 2016
A fire broke out in a warehouse in Oakland where a number of people lived. The warehouse was converted to artist studios and living spaces. At least 36 people died in the fire. Some people are raising questions about this housing arrangement and other artists’ communities because there were no sprinklers or fire alarm system in the building. Listen to hear from one artist who lived in the warehouse and escaped from the building after the fire broke out.
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.