Current Event December 20, 2019
People who mail their DNA to a genetic testing company typically do not imagine that their data will be viewed by the police. But law enforcement finds genetic databases useful in solving crimes and has asked the courts to give them better access to people’s genetic information. Citizens worry that the data they thought would be kept private will be used without their consent. Listen to hear a legal expert discuss the benefits and risks of sharing information with law enforcement and then debate: should police have access to genetic data?
Current Event November 15, 2019
The Nike Vaporfly, a super-light, bouncy running shoe, is helping athletes achieve record-breaking times, but also raising questions. Some argue the shoe gives athletes an unfair advantage, making sports more about equipment than conditioning. They believe running shoes should be regulated to make races fair. Others say it is impossible to define “unfair advantage” or to know how best to regulate shoes. Listen to hear a Boston Marathon winner explain the technology that has runners buzzing, and then debate: Should athletic shoes be regulated?
Current Event November 12, 2019
“Quid pro quo” refers to someone doing a favor for another person and expecting something in return. Exchanging favors is common, but off-limits to politicians who could abuse their power. Congress is investigating whether President Trump sought a quid pro quo from the president of Ukraine by asking him to investigate a political rival in exchange for releasing U.S. aid funds. Listen to learn how the meaning of the Latin term quid pro quo has evolved over centuries and why asking for a favor can be complicated, even embarrassing.
Current Event November 8, 2019
DNA is the molecular code that controls cells, instructing them to do everything from producing hormones to fighting an infection. For years, scientists have been making synthetic DNA and inserting it into cells in order to produce helpful chemicals for new medicines, food products, and more. But the genes in DNA can also be combined to make dangerous viruses like Ebola, and some people are questioning whether the system of safeguarding synthetic DNA works well enough to protect against dangerous misuse. Listen to hear what could happen if DNA falls into the wrong hands, and then debate: Should synthetic DNA production be regulated?
Current Event October 10, 2019
Vaping has been linked to illness and even some deaths, and critics are arguing that ads targeting young people contribute to this growing public health problem. Vaping advertisers are looking to successful cigarette ads of the past to help them attract new users. They emphasize flavored varieties that appeal to young people and promote vaping as a healthy alternative to smoking. Listen to hear how vaping companies are working with advertisers to skirt regulations and craft ads that attract teens to the risky practice of vaping.
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 6, 2019
FaceApp allows people to modify photos to change their appearances, trying out different hairstyles or even seeing what they may look like decades from now. While the app is fun and silly, some political leaders have warned against using it due to privacy issues related to its facial recognition capabilities. However, a technology writer argues that FaceApp is no more dangerous than many other social media applications. Listen to learn more and then debate: Should facial recognition apps cause concern?
Current Event August 26, 2019
A man recently shot and killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Just before he committed this terrorist act, he posted a manifesto describing his motivations in an online forum called 8chan. Two other mass shooters also published their intentions on 8chan before their attacks this year. Listen to learn more about the role digital technology can play in extremist violence and the consequences 8chan has faced since the El Paso shooting.
Current Event August 23, 2019
Should some animals be considered “persons”? One lawyer is working to classify certain animals as “persons” so they can be protected under the law. Specifically, the lawyer wants to send three elephants from the “Big E” fair in New England to a sanctuary, where they will no longer have to give rides to customers. The fair owner disagrees and wants to keep the animals. Listen to hear the arguments on both sides of this complex animal rights issue and then debate: Should elephants be considered property?
Current Event August 19, 2019
Boris Johnson was recently elected the new prime minister of the United Kingdom. His first challenge will be to withdraw Britain from the European Union, which is required under a referendum voted by a slim majority of citizens in 2016. This is a difficult and controversial issue, commonly referred to as “Brexit.” Johnson is a distinctive and divisive figure. Some British citizens like and believe in him, while others find him unlikable, incompetent, and even dangerous. Listen to learn more about this new British leader and what he promises to do as prime minister.
Current Event August 16, 2019
YouTube has started removing videos containing extremist content promoting white supremacy. Some people and organizations support this policy as a way to make social media platforms safer. Others point out that the system for removing videos is imperfect, and this policy could interfere with video creators’ right to freely express themselves. Listen to learn more about YouTube’s new restrictions and then debate: Should YouTube remove extremist videos?
Current Event August 13, 2019
Retired Supreme Court Justice Paul Stevens recently died at the age of 99. Appointed in 1975, he served on the Supreme Court for decades. He authored numerous important majority opinions for the court and helped to decide many significant cases, even through difficult times and political changes. Listen to learn more about the judicial legacy of Supreme Court Justice Stevens.
Current Event June 14, 2019
The National Park Service has proposed new rules for protests on park property. The proposed rules would limit the amount of available protest space and require protesters to pay fees to hold a protest. Many people have expressed opposition to these rules, arguing that they would limit the freedom of speech that is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Listen to hear more about why the rules were proposed and why people are concerned about them, and then debate: Should public protests be restricted?
Current Event May 17, 2019
Opinions vary about the importance of speaking English in the U.S. Some people believe that it is unAmerican to speak languages other than English, while others believe that speaking multiple languages reflects the essence of what it means to be American. Listen to hear the opinion of one bilingual woman and her response to those with different perspectives. Then debate: Is encouraging people to speak only English unAmerican?
Current Event April 1, 2019
Special counsel Robert Mueller led a two-year investigation into Russain interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. The inquiry has ended, and the team’s report has been submitted to the federal Justice Department. Although the full report has not been released to the public yet, a summary of its conclusions has been shared. Listen to this story to learn about the questions that framed the investigation and what the Mueller team found.
Current Event March 28, 2019
A recent scandal has exposed multiple cases of bribery and fraud in college admissions. A number of wealthy parents paid to falsify test scores and applications and bribe coaches to get their children admitted to competitive colleges. While these actions are clearly illegal, there are other ways in which privileged students have been able to influence the college admissions process that feel unfair to students who have had to earn their place without those advantages. Listen to hear college students talk about their reactions to the scandal and their views about inequities in the college admissions process.
Current Event March 22, 2019
A clinic in Kiev, Ukraine is offering a controversial experimental procedure that allows parents experiencing infertility to have babies with three genetic parents. While this type of genetic engineering is allowed in some countries, it has been banned in the U.S., as there are many concerns in the medical community about the procedure’s safety and its ethical implications. Listen to this interview with the mother of one of a handful of three-parent babies that have been born and debate: Should three-parent babies be allowed?