Current Event March 26, 2021
Mandatory mask requirements have been lifted in Texas, giving restaurants and other businesses the freedom to set their own pandemic safety rules. Those in favor of the move say people, not the government, should take responsibility for the health and safety of their businesses. They note that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing, and lifting restrictions can help businesses recover. Opponents fear that it’s too early to roll back safety rules. They argue that it’s the government’s job to safeguard public health, and that masks should not yet be optional. Listen to Texas restaurant owners react to the change and then debate: Should business owners be allowed to decide their mask policies?
Current Event March 12, 2021
People caught shoplifting less than $1000 worth of goods generally do not go to prison. But American businesses lose billions of dollars each year to shoplifting, and some are pushing for more serious penalties to help deter the crime. They argue that longer jail sentences would stop people repeatedly caught shoplifting and those involved in schemes to resell the stolen goods. Others say sentencing rules often result in punishments that are overly harsh, and prison time does not help address the root causes of shoplifting. Listen to learn more about the controversy over punishing shoplifters and then debate: Should shoplifters go to prison?
Current Event March 11, 2021
For people with physical disabilities, sometimes simple but important daily tasks are impossibile. That was true for Matthew Walzer, who was born with cerebral palsy (CP), a condition that affects muscle tone and movement. CP left Walzer unable to tie his shoes, which he worried might interfere with his ability to attend college independently. At age 16, he wrote a letter to Nike asking for a hands-free sneaker, and the company responded. Listen to Walzer describe some of the challenges people with disabilities face each day and how he inspired Nike to design a cool new sneaker that anyone can wear.
Current Event February 16, 2021
Recently a group of more than a thousand produce market workers in New York went on strike for higher wages. Banding together and organizing into labor unions can give workers more power to advocate for their rights. Especially during the pandemic, when providing essential services often means risking their own health, more workers are joining with others to demand the pay and working conditions they feel they deserve. Listen to learn more about why workers are organizing and what gives them more, or less, bargaining power.
Current Event January 6, 2021
High school students in Atlanta have organized an effort to deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers throughout the country. It started in their home state of Georgia, where the group began delivering donations of masks and gloves to local hospitals when the pandemic hit. Their efforts went national when they realized that 3D printers could quickly produce large numbers of plastic face shields, a critical piece of protective gear. Listen to an interview with the teen entrepreneur who started the project, and learn how his volunteer work has impacted his life at school.
Current Event November 13, 2020
The U.S. Department of Justice recently filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming that the company has abused its power in dominating online searches. The lawsuit accuses the technology giant of striking unfair deals and blocking competitors, leaving consumers with few choices of search engines. Google has denied crushing the competition and says their customers are freely choosing the product they like best. Listen to learn more about the antitrust lawsuit against Google and then debate: Does Google have an unfair monopoly on internet searching?
Current Event June 22, 2020
Researchers have concluded that months of worldwide lockdowns intended to contain the coronavirus pandemic have successfully saved millions of lives. Two independent studies analyzed COVID-19 data on several continents and reached a similar conclusion: people staying home has greatly reduced the virus’s spread. The researchers recommend keeping certain safety measures in place as lockdowns are lifted to prevent a resurgence of infections. Listen to learn more about the positive impact of the lockdown measures and why one researcher calls lifting lockdowns “a tradeoff.”
Current Event June 4, 2020
Yellowstone National Park, among the nation’s most popular tourist sites, has been closed during the pandemic. Now officials face unique challenges as they consider reopening the park for the summer season. A quick reopening could help local businesses that have suffered during the closure, but maintaining social distancing and other safe practices will be difficult when hordes of visitors arrive. Listen to hear local people and a park visitor discuss the benefits and risks of reopening one of the nation’s busiest national parks.
Current Event May 22, 2020
Colleges and universities around the country have shut down during the pandemic, but many school leaders are considering how they might safely open their doors in the fall. In this audio story, the president of Brown University makes the case that welcoming kids back to campus is crucial, both for students and for the economy. Some, however, believe that the health risks associated with large groups of students living and learning together are too high. Listen to hear a university president describe her vision for an adapted college experience and then debate: Should colleges open in the fall?
This audio story was recorded in late April. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
Current Event April 16, 2020
During the COVID-19 pandemic, toilet paper has been in high demand, and one Maine factory owner is working around the clock to supply it. He moved to Maine a year before the pandemic hit and invested his life savings in a toilet paper factory. Now, he and his son can barely fill all the orders they are receiving, and they hope that means the business will succeed. Listen to hear the owner’s son explain the lessons he has learned and why he finds his work rewarding.
Current Event April 10, 2020
Workers at big companies are demanding paid leave, among other protections, as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread. Amazon workers in New York, where some employees have COVID-19, want their warehouse to be deep cleaned while they continue to be paid. Instacart workers, contractors who do not receive benefits, are asking for paid leave if they get sick or are exposed to illness. Workers at both companies say these benefits are necessary and fair, given the risks they are facing, though the companies do not normally offer extended paid leave. Listen to learn more about the workers’ demands and then debate: Should companies offer paid leave during the pandemic?
Current Event April 2, 2020
Grocery store clerks have become essential workers during the COVID-19 outbreak, performing the crucial service of helping people feed themselves and their families. They put their own health at risk each day as hundreds of shoppers file through stores, often standing closer than the recommended safe distance of six feet away. Listen to hear a grocery store cashier describe life on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and how she feels about taking risks to help others during a health crisis.
Current Event March 26, 2020
States around the country are ordering new restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19. State governors have put various orders in place, including closing nonessential businesses, restricting big gatherings, and directing people to stay at home. Essential services such as food stores, pharmacies, and public transportation, remain open. These leaders hope limiting social contact will slow the spread of the disease enough to avoid overwhelming hospitals and health care workers with patients. Listen to learn how states plan to enforce the orders and why one governor struggled mightily with his decision to close businesses.
Current Event October 3, 2019
College students overwhelmed by challenging assignments and deadlines are turning to a growing industry for help: essay writing companies. These companies produce original papers written by ghostwriters that students buy and submit as their own. Colleges are trying new technologies to prevent cheating and also working to change campus culture. Listen to hear students, teachers and experts discuss the problem of cheating on college campuses and how to combat it.
Current Event September 27, 2019
In response to the recent epidemic of opioid deaths, many states have filed lawsuits seeking millions – even billions – of dollars from drug companies. They say the companies misled the public about the dangers of opioids and ignored the problem of misuse. The companies say they are not responsible for how people used their product. A recent settlement awarded the state money to help pay for addiction treatment. Listen to hear more about penalties against drug companies and then debate: Should drug companies pay for opioid addiction treatment?
Current Event September 24, 2019
How much is a pair of sneakers worth? Shoe enthusiasts from around the country recently gathered in Washington, D.C. to settle that question at Sneaker Con, a marketplace for buying and selling sneakers. Thousands of “sneakerheads” lined up for a chance to get in on the action, much of which took place in the trading pit where negotiators haggled with each other to reach a deal. Listen to hear visitors and vendors explaining the appeal of sneaker culture and what drew them to the marketplace.
Current Event August 29, 2019
Last winter, when the U.S. government shut down for 34 days, hundreds of thousands of workers were furloughed. This meant that these employees were suspended from work and did not receive their regular paychecks. In order to deal with this difficult circumstance, two sisters decided to start their own business making cheesecakes. Listen to learn how they made enough money to get through the holidays and create a successful new business.