Current Event January 14, 2021
Rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol could be charged with sedition, or an attempt to “overthrow, put down, or destroy the government by force.” The mob attacked legislators as they were carrying out a fundamental duty of American democracy: certifying the electoral votes confirming the country’s next president. Although sedition is hard to prove in court, some say that holding violent extremists responsible for their actions will help prevent future attacks. Listen to learn more about the meaning of sedition and how it has been used in the past to prosecute terrorism.
Current Event December 18, 2020
The U.S. Supreme Court has declared certain rules restricting religious gatherings unfair. Some states, including California and New York, had strictly limited the number of people allowed to gather in places of worship during the pandemic. The states said the rules were meant to protect public health, since large indoor gatherings can trigger viral outbreaks. But the Supreme Court decided that these limitations were too strict and unfairly limited freedom to assemble and worship, a right protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Listen to learn more about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling and then debate: Are religious freedom and public safety in conflict?
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 November 2, 2020
The Senate voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as a justice of the US Supreme Court. Barrett fills the seat vacated by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September. Democrats objected to the timing of the vote, which took place a week before the 2020 election, and senators voted almost entirely along party lines. Barrett’s confirmation gives the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority. Listen to hear Republican and Democratic leaders react to the confirmation process, and learn how the pandemic affected the proceedings.
Current Event October 16, 2020
Americans are currently eligible to vote at age 18, but some say the age should be lowered to 16. Supporters of the change say younger generations have proven they are engaged and informed through their political activism and should have a voice in decisions that will affect their future. Opponents fear that 16-year-olds lack the maturity to vote and may be heavily influenced by parents and teachers. Listen to hear a young activist argue for lowering the voting age and then debate: Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote?
Current Event October 5, 2020
Amy Coney Barrett, a judge, former law professor, and mother of seven, is President Trump’s nominee for the next Supreme Court Justice. She is highly accomplished and well-regarded at Notre Dame Law School, where she taught for 15 years. She once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and her conservative judicial record generally follows his approach to interpreting the Constitution. If her nomination is approved by the Senate, some worry that the Court will pursue a conservative agenda that includes overturning the Affordable Care Act. Listen to learn more about Amy Coney Barrett and what her appointment could mean for the future of the Supreme Court.
Current Event September 28, 2020
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died. Ginsburg, the second woman ever to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, was a fierce advocate for gender equality. Her groundbreaking work as a lawyer and judge changed how both men and women are treated in the workplace. Ginsburg was a hero to Americans fighting for gender equity and is affectionately known as RBG. Listen to learn more about the life and legacy of RBG and hear about the discrimination she herself faced as a working mom.
Current Event September 24, 2020
Systemic racism, also called structural racism, refers to the way institutions in our society are set up to disadvantage black Americans. Often the racist systems are rooted in the past, such as the “redlining” system banks used in the early 20th century to refuse housing loans to people of color, but they created racial inequities still felt today. George Floyd’s death prompted protesters and others to call attention to systemic racism in policing, education, criminal justice, medicine, and other key societal institutions. Listen to a writer explain how systemic racism works to keep minorities from advancing, and what she believes could lead to meaningful change.
Current Event September 3, 2020
President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The law ensured people with disabilities had full access to jobs, schools, transportation, and public places. Listen to two disability rights activists, one who fought for the passage of the law and the other who grew up protected by it, talk about how each was inspired by the other, and how they believe life has changed for disabled Americans since the passage of the law.
Current Event August 12, 2020
Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to protect the right of every citizen to vote. It ensured that unfair tests for voters could be challenged in court and gave the federal government oversight over states with a history of voter suppression. In 2013, however, the Supreme Court decided that a key part of the Voting Rights Act could no longer be enforced. Listen to learn about this change in federal voter protections and why one expert believes it puts the legacy of voting rights activist John Lewis at risk.
Current Event July 8, 2020
The Supreme Court announced that DACA recipients, sometimes called Dreamers, can stay in the U.S. DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a program enacted in 2012 to protect children brought to the U.S. illegally at a young age from being deported. President Trump canceled the program, but the Supreme Court rejected his action and kept protections for Dreamers in place. Listen to hear how DACA recipients are responding to the high court’s decision and why their battle to stay in the U.S. is not yet over.
Current Event June 29, 2020
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employers may not discriminate against workers for being gay or transgender. The court based its decision on the 1964 Civil Rights Act barring discrimination on the basis of sex, saying that law applied to LGBTQ people. The ruling makes discrimination against LGBTQ people illegal everywhere in the country, overriding laws already in place in states and local governments. Listen to hear the man who filed the lawsuit seven years ago react to the decision, and learn how life for LGBTQ people may change as a result of the landmark ruling.
Current Event June 15, 2020
Protesters angry over the death of black people at the hands of police are demanding sweeping changes to policing systems around the country. Some say police department budgets are too large and want some of the money diverted to community support services. Others argue the only way to bring real change is to dismantle and replace police departments with entirely new systems. Listen to learn how policing rules in Minneapolis have already changed and why one former police officer and professor thinks abolishing the police is risky.
Current Event May 8, 2020
Governments around the world are using surveillance technology to help keep citizens safe from the spread of the coronavirus. Collecting cell phone location data can help officials implement some of the most effective tools for containing the virus, including contact tracing. In some countries, however, the government’s use of personal data to track people’s movements is raising privacy concerns. Listen to learn how three different countries are tracking personal data to fight the pandemic and then debate: Should surveillance technology be used for contact tracing?
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 May 1, 2020
States, political parties, and the federal government are considering how to hold safe elections this November during a pandemic. Many states have postponed their presidential primary elections or are allowing citizens to vote by mail. In the Wisconsin primary, there were long lines at the polls and fears about increasing the spread of COVID-19. Voters had to choose between maintaining social distance by staying home or risking their health while exercising their right to vote. Listen to this story about rules related to voting by mail and then debate: Should voting procedures change during a pandemic?
Current Event February 3, 2020
President Trump is taking steps to remind students and teachers of their right to pray in school. Under the Constitution, students have a right to freely practice their religion. However, the Constitution also says that public schools may not promote any religion. Listen to learn which religious expressions are allowed in public schools and how the law aims to prevent discrimination on the basis of religion.
Current Event January 31, 2020
Felons in Mississippi often permanently lose their right to vote, even after serving their sentence. The practice has resulted in the disenfranchisement of 10% of the state’s population. Now, civil rights groups are challenging the law in court, claiming it discriminates against black citizens and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Those in favor of the law say although it was originally passed to suppress the black vote post-Reconstruction, there is no evidence of racial bias today. Listen to learn more about the lawsuit against the state of Mississippi and then debate: Should former felons be allowed to vote?