Current Event April 19, 2019
The United States Supreme Court recently faced a case that tested the idea of “separation of church and state” that is a core tenet of American democracy. The case considered whether a giant memorial cross on public land might be unconstitutional. The justices heard a variety of arguments for and against the use of religious imagery in a public memorial. Listen to hear some of those arguments and debate: Can public memorials include religious imagery?
Current Event March 18, 2019
The recently proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexican border would not be the first of its kind. In 2006, Democrats and Republicans passed a bill to construct a secure fence across part of the border. To build the fence, the government took land from private property owners, which is allowed through a power known as eminent domain. In such cases, the government is not required to ask owners for permission to claim their land. Listen to hear about the laws that allow this kind of land seizure, how they impact landowners, and how issues related to eminent domain might resurface with the current border wall proposal.
Current Event February 25, 2019
President Trump declared a national emergency so he could reallocate funds to pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, which Congress did not agree to fund. In response, there are many lawsuits being filed, arguing that the president is exercising his executive power in a way that is unconstitutional in order to bypass the budgetary authority of Congress. The emergency declaration follows a long government shutdown, which occurred because Congress would not agree to fund the border wall that the president wanted. Listen to hear more about what might unfold as a result of this emergency declaration.
Current Event February 4, 2019
The longest government shutdown in U.S. history has ended, but the resolution is only temporary. The government has reopened, furloughed workers have gone back to work, and Congress has promised to pay government workers their lost wages, while contractors may never recover their lost pay. The future is still uncertain, however, as Congress and the president are still negotiating over the budgetary issues that initially led to the shutdown – namely funding for a wall on the U.S. Mexico border. Listen to this story to hear about what might happen next as negotiations over border security in the budget continue.
Current Event January 24, 2019
The longest government shutdown in U.S. history has been going on for several weeks. While the president and Congress argue about funding for a wall on the southern border, 25% of the government has been closed. Hundreds of thousands of government workers are not getting paid, though many of them are still required to work. As a result, many working families are struggling to pay their bills and making difficult sacrifices during the shutdown. Listen to this interview with one federal worker and mother whose family has been feeling the impact of the shutdown and hear about what the experience has been like for her.
Current Event January 14, 2019
The current partial government shutdown is affecting many employees and contractors who are not being paid while the president and Congress are arguing about whether the federal budget should include funds for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. One important area where the shutdown may pose a safety risk is air traffic control. Uncertainty about the future is influencing the day-to-day work of these federal employees as well as the experiences of the flying public. Listen to this story to hear about the various ways that the shutdown is impacting airport travel.
Current Event January 7, 2019
The government has been partially shut down since before the new year, leaving more than 800,000 federal employees without a paycheck. The government is partially closed because Congress has not passed a bill to fully fund its operations, having reached an impasse over funding a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. As a result, roughly a quarter of the government is closed, including all functions that are considered “non-essential.” Listen to this story to learn about the political standoff that is behind the shutdown and prospects for ending it.
Current Event December 28, 2018
Ronald Reagan was an actor, governor of California, and the 40th President of the United States. He served two terms and died in 2004 of Alzheimer's disease, ten years after leaving office. He was a Republican known for his conservative stance on reducing taxes, who instituted supply-side economic policies known as “Reaganomics,” which many credit with helping the economy prosper. Reagan helped to facilitate the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. However, his administration was tied up in the Iran-Contra affair, in which senior officials secretly broke an arms embargo and sold weapons to Iran. As a former actor, Reagan brought glamor to the presidency, and he is ranked as one of the more popular presidents. Listen to this conversation with an historian about how Reagan’s time in office is remembered, including some myths about his presidency.
Current Event December 27, 2018
After serving many years as governor of Arkansas, Democrat Bill Clinton was elected the 42nd President of the United States in 1992. He is remembered for signing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), passing welfare reform, and balancing the budget, among other achievements. As he ended his second term, he noted the fast economic growth, low rates of unemployment and poverty, and other indicators of economic prosperity during his presidency. Democrats and Republicans disagree, however, about what led to the economic boom during his presidency. Listen to hear competing theories about causes of economic growth in the Clinton years.
Current Event December 26, 2018
President George W. Bush was the governor of Texas before he became the 43rd President of the United States. Bush, who is the son of President George H.W. Bush, was elected in 2000 in a close, controversial race involving a recount in Florida and was reelected in 2004. His presidency was defined by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001, eight months into his presidency. Listen to learn how this event shaped Bush’s legacy.
Current Event December 24, 2018
President Barack Obama served as an Illinois Senator before he was elected President of the United States in 2008 and again in 2012. Born in Hawaii, he worked as a community organizer, civil rights attorney, and law professor before entering politics. Obama, a Democrat, was the first African American elected president, entering office at the beginning of a global financial crisis. He is widely credited with saving the U.S. economy from the brink of recession, and his other accomplishments include passing a major health care bill known as the Affordable Care Act. Listen to hear an economist discuss his thoughts on Obama’s legacy.
Current Event December 10, 2018
President George H.W. Bush died recently at the age of 94. Bush served as president of the United States from 1989–1992. The former president is remembered as a Republican moderate who presided over the end of the Cold War, nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, led military interventions in Latin America and Iraq, and signed legislation prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities. Listen to President Bush’s biographer talk about his legacy as the 41st president of the United States of America.
Current Event November 19, 2018
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently resigned at the request of the president. Sessions was one of President Trump’s earliest political supporters, but Trump has been critical of Sessions since appointing him to lead the Department of Justice. Listen to hear about what preceded the president’s request for Sessions to resign and why many people consider it to be a significant development with implications for the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference.
Current Event November 13, 2018
The recent midterm elections had especially high voter turnout. While each of the major political parties claimed some victories, one of the most significant election results was a shift in Congressional power. The Democrats gained a clear majority in the House of Representatives, while the Republicans reinforced their Senate majority. Listen to this story to hear about this significant change to the U.S. Congress, where Republicans had previously held a majority in both the House and the Senate.
Current Event October 31, 2018
The annual MacArthur Foundation Fellowship awards, known as “genius grants,” are a very highly respected prize dedicated to “celebrating and inspiring the creative potential of individuals.” Among this year’s recipients is Reverend William Barber II, whose work aims at increasing awareness of problems such as poverty and racism by using creative approaches to activism. Listen to hear about Barber’s efforts to improve American lives and how he plans to use the grant to support their continuation.
Current Event October 29, 2018
Many voters do not realize the importance of state elections and therefore do not pay as close attention to candidates for state office as they do to those for federal office. Governors and state representatives make many decisions that affect people’s daily lives, such as how money will be spent on schools and roads, and often these state politicians move on to national leadership positions. Listen to hear how campaign leaders from both major political parties are working to try to gain or hold power in these influential midterm races.
Current Event October 23, 2018
Russian agents interfered in the last major U.S. election in many ways, including planting “disinformation” or false information intended to mislead voters about the voting process. A new state office in California has been established to combat such disinformation leading up to the next election in November. While some welcome the role the state is playing, others are concerned about the potential for domestic political interference. Listen to hear how voters have been misled and what the state of California is trying to do about it.
Current Event October 15, 2018
In a recent Senate vote, Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired. The confirmation proceedings were very contentious, and the Senate vote was among the closest in history. After hearings about accusations of assault, reactions to Kavanaugh’s nomination were full of emotion and partisanship. Listen to hear about this historic vote.
Current Event October 12, 2018
Top executives from Facebook and Twitter recently met with Congressional committees about their roles in stopping interference in American elections by international powers such as Russia and Iran. Signs indicate that such interference remains a significant problem heading into the upcoming elections, and major social networks report that they are making efforts to address the issue. Listen to learn about what the networks are doing and debate: Should Facebook and Twitter be required to protect us?
Current Event October 10, 2018
In some instances, voting laws cause confusion about who is eligible to vote. For example, laws about whether citizens with a felony record can vote vary from state to state. In addition, efforts to keep voting registration records accurate have sometimes mistakenly removed eligible voters from the list. Listen to learn how various legal barriers influence voting and hear about the experiences of some of the people who have encountered these obstacles.