Topic: Civics/Government

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Current Event May 17, 2017

The Cost of Presidential Travel

Civics/Government US government Economy

President Donald Trump has made frequent trips to his Palm Beach resort to get away for the weekend or host foreign officials on official business. Each one of these visits is estimated to cost the U.S. government about $1 million for operating Air Force One, lodging Secret Service agents, and reimbursing local police. At this rate, President Trump is on course to surpass all eight years of Obama’s travel costs in a single year. Listen to learn more about presidential travel costs.

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Current Event April 21, 2017

Debate: Why Should Citizens Pay Taxes?

Civics/Government Culture

In India, only 2% of citizens pay income taxes. There are many reasons for this, including that a large number of Indians do not meet the minimum salary for taxation. But there are loopholes in income reporting, and there is a cultural belief that the government is not using taxes to help the people, so many people just don’t pay. In India, unlike in America, the government doesn’t run large social welfare programs like Social Security, so Indians avoid paying taxes even if it’s illegal. Listen to this story and then debate: Should citizens pay taxes? Why or why not?

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Current Event April 14, 2017

Debate: Should the Citizenship Question Be Included in the Census?

Civics/Government Immigration US government

The U.S. Census Bureau is set to announce the proposed questions for the 2020 census. Many are concerned that under the Trump administration, Latinos will be less likely to respond for fear that immigration enforcement will use their answers against the Latino community. As a result, these communities may be undercounted, leading to less political representation and federal funding for these areas. Listen to learn more about the concerns around the politicization of the U.S. Census.

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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 February 3, 2017

Debate: What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Having a Very Rich Administration?

Civics/Government Politics Ethics Government structures

President Trump has assembled the richest administration in history. With the nomination of Vincent J. Viola as secretary of the Army, Trump’s cabinet now has a combined net worth of about $13 billion and includes four billionaires. Federal ethics regulations require many of these cabinet appointees to sell off some of their investments to avoid conflicts of interest. However, cabinet members who do sell investments are allowed to keep all of the profits without paying a capital gains tax. Listen to learn more about Trump’s cabinet and then debate the benefits and drawbacks of having a very wealthy people in key government positions.

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Current Event December 6, 2016

The Death Penalty and Intellectual Disabilities

Civics/Government Law

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.

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Current Event November 30, 2016

How Police Use Social Media

Civics/Government

Twitter and Facebook say they are cutting off bulk data access to a firm that scans vast amounts of public social media posts. Critics say the service enables police to conduct invasive surveillance. Others say that social media is a useful tool in investigating crimes. Listen to hear more about this controversy, which includes the issue of protecting civil rights and law enforcement’s use of commercial products.

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Current Event May 3, 2016

Puerto Rico in Debt

Civics/Government Economics US government

Puerto Rico is at risk of defaulting on a $400 million debt payment due May 1, 2016. House Speaker Paul Ryan pledged to have a plan ready by then to help Puerto Rico find a way to repay its debt. Many people have started predicting what a collapse of the Puerto Rican economy will mean for bond markets and the U.S. economy. There is currently a plan in Congress to set up a process to restructure Puerto Rico’s debt. Listen to learn more about this crisis and how it might be solved.

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Current Event May 2, 2016

Populist Appeal

Civics/Government Politics

Populism has been a big factor the presidential election. In both Republican and Democratic races, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are tapping into frustrations against the elites and the establishment. Many voters see this election as being about economic fairness, and they feel like they've been left behind. The resentment has become more intense and politicians who name a clear target of blame have many people rallying behind them. Listen to hear about the lasting effect this may have on American politics.

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Current Event April 25, 2016

$20 Change

Civics/Government Gender Civil RIghts

The $5, $10, and $20 bill are all due for an update, and there has been a big push to honor a woman on the face of U.S. currency. Escaped slave Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the face of the $20 bill. Jackson will be moved to the back of the bill. The change came after the US Treasury Secretary invited the public to submit their own ideas of which female from US history should be featured. Tubman not only escaped slavery but created the Underground Railroad through connections and networks, bringing people together to reach a goal. Listen to learn more about the changes in store for U.S. currency.

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Current Event April 14, 2016

A President Shot

Civics/Government Politics

On this day in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by actor John Wilkes Booth. In this radio story, an author and reporter visited Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., where Lincoln was shot. They describe how the assassin carried out his attack, fled to the countryside, and finally met his end. They remember, too, how spectators responded to the President’s death. Listen to learn more about how these dramatic events unfolded.

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Current Event April 12, 2016

Superdelegates

Civics/Government Politics

The 2016 Democratic National Convention is scheduled for the end of July. During the convention, delegates will vote for the Democratic Party’s nominee for the President of the United States. The race for delegate votes is close between candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The attention is now on “superdelegates” consisting of about 700 party leaders who can support any candidate and may change their minds at any time, regardless of how residents in their states voted. Listen to learn more about superdelegates and their potential influence in the upcoming election.

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Current Event April 4, 2016

FBI Hacks Phone

Civics/Government US government Government structures

After the San Bernardino terrorist attack, the FBI took Apple to court to try and require them to unlock the iPhone of the suspected shooter. Apple refused, but then the FBI figured out how to get past the phone’s security on its own to look for evidence. After that, more cases of locked phones possibly containing evidence in criminal cases are showing up around the country. The FBI recently agreed to help prosecutors in Arkansas hack into to a phone that is believed to have information in a murder case. Listen to the possible privacy repercussions of the government hiring people to unlock phones and devices.

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Current Event March 28, 2016

Historic Visit to Cuba

Civics/Government US government

Recently President Obama made an historic trip to Cuba. As the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928, the President pledged to restore diplomacy and cooperation between the two countries. He met with Cuba’s president Raul Castro as well as anti-government activists, hoping to normalize relations with both Cuba’s leadership and citizens. Listen to hear more about how Obama’s visit represents a new page in U.S.-Cuban relations.

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Current Event March 25, 2016

Debate: Who Should Control the Supreme Court Nominating Process?

Civics/Government Politics Government structures

President Obama has selected Judge Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Garland was approved for confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., by the Senate in 1997 with strong bipartisan support. However Senate Republican leaders have vowed to block any action on his confirmation for political reasons. They believe a president who is leaving office within the year shouldn’t nominate a new justice. The Supreme Court is one of the three branches of government and was established to be above politics. Listen to this audio story and debate with your students: Who should control the Supreme Court Nominating Process?

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Current Event March 4, 2016

Debate: Data Privacy vs. National Security

Civics/Government Technology Law

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.

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Current Event March 2, 2016

Kesha Fights Sony

Civics/Government Law entertainment

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.

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Current Event February 29, 2016

Closing Guantanamo

Civics/Government Politics Ethics Constitution

President Obama has wanted to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay since his second day in office. Now, the President has announced a plan to transfer prisoners to the U.S. and other countries before his term ends. He faces resistance from members of Congress who are trying to block the closure of Guantanamo. Many are concerned about bringing known terrorists to U.S. soil. While the Administration hopes to work with lawmakers, it argues that the President does have the authority to act on his own in this matter. Listen to learn more about arguments for and against the President’s plans.

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