Current Event October 11, 2017
One of the most famous presidential pardons came when President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon. Recently, a former sheriff in Arizona and was found guilty of criminal contempt for defying a court order to stop detaining people based on suspicion that they were in the country illegally. President Trump pardoned the sheriff, which means he was forgiven of his crime and excused from punishment. Listen to hear the historical context for presidential pardons and about this pardoning, which has prompted questions about ethics and political procedures.
Current Event October 9, 2017
In Las Vegas, more than 20,000 people were at a music festival when a man shot into the crowd, killing more than 50 people and injuring almost 500. This mass shooting is the deadliest in recent history and has no known links to international terror groups. Investigators are still gathering information about the shooter. Law enforcement is avoiding calling this domestic terrorism. Listen to a discussion of the definition of domestic terrorism and the other cases that have also prompted this discussion.
Current Event September 29, 2017
Teens who vandalized an historic black schoolhouse in Virginia got an unusual sentence. The teens pled guilty to spray-painting swastikas and lewd symbols on the building. Instead of jail time, the judge ordered them to visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum and read books written by black, Jewish and Afghan authors and write essays about them. Listen to this story and then debate: Can consequences change the way students think?
Current Event September 26, 2017
In a surprise and historic ruling, Kenya's Supreme Court annulled the recent presidential election. It threw out the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta due to illegalities and irregularities, and ordered a new election within two months. This ruling was a surprise and sends a message that even those in power can be challenged by the court. Listen to hear more about these elections and this historic decision not only for an African nation but for any country.
Current Event September 25, 2017
In 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri, a police officer shot and killed a 24-year-old black man following a car chase. The officer, Jason Stockley, claimed it was self-defense, but he was heard saying on an in-car video camera that he was going to kill the driver Anthony Lamar Smith. Recently the case went to court and Officer Stockley was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Smith. People in St. Louis have been protesting this verdict over the course of many days. Listen to an alderman in St. Louis discuss his frustration and disappointment in the verdict.
Current Event April 7, 2017
There is a debate going on in Massachusetts about whether people should have the right to seek medical aid in ending their own life if they are suffering from a terminal illness. An “end-of-life” measure did not pass in Massachusetts in 2012. Now, the debate has been reopened because a retired doctor with terminal cancer is suing the state so he can be allowed to seek medical aid in dying. Part of the debate centers around the question of whether courts should be in charge of end-of-life cases or if the legislature should create a law addressing the issue. Listen to learn more about the legality of giving medical aid in dying.
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.