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Rare earth minerals are very important to today's electronics. Your iPod, laptop, and television use them. They make electronics light so they don't need much power. But the Chinese have a lock on the production of rare earth elements and this could become a problem for the US.
History tells us that peaceful empires are very rare. In the 21st century, China is the fastest-growing world power. China claims that its rise is peaceful: it has no plans to invade and conquer new territory. But is it possible for any nation to grow without causing any conflicts? In the 15th century the Chinese explorer Zheng sailed across the Eastern Hemisphere from Taiwan to India to Arabia to Africa. He was on a trade mission, but the kingdoms he encountered were not really free to choose whether or not they would become part of the Chinese trade empire. This public radio story looks at China’s past to draw some conclusions about its future.
Chinese foot-binding was a common practice in the 1800s. This practice created tiny stumps of feet by breaking bones and wrapping the feet tightly. It was very painful, and made many women unable to walk properly. But the bound feet were prized by the wealthy class as the ultimate sign of feminine beauty. The custom was banned in 1912. This public radio story features women whose feet were bound talking about the pros and cons of this old Chinese tradition.
Rome, 2000 years ago, was the capital of an empire. It was a republic with elections, a Senate, and a sophisticated political processes. Marcus Cicero is considered one of Rome's greatest orators and provided counsel to leaders in government, including Julius Caesar. There was a power struggle between the two ambitious men, Julius Caesar and Marcus Cicero, that led to the collapse of republican government and eventual dictatorship. Listen to learn more about Cicero and how the fall of Rome relates to politics today.
In ancient Greece, people were thrown out or ostracized from the city because they broke the rules. Anyone could get ostracized – kicked out of the city for 10 years – based on voting done by the citizens using broken pieces of pottery. This public radio story explores the nature of corruption and voter fraud in ancient Athens.
There is debate about whether violent or non-violent resistance is more effective when faced with oppression. There have been conflicts and resistance movements over time that show the effectiveness of fighting back without violence. There were two points of view in the Civil Rights Movement as well as in uprisings in many countries. Listen to hear why those fighting in the civil war in Syria finds it necessary to use arms to fight oppression.
People of all races from all over the country participated in desegregation demonstrations in the South in the 1960s. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called on clergy—religious leaders—from around the nation to participate in nonviolent protest demonstrations. These clergy joined a growing movement that would sweep the nation, demanding equal rights for people of color and creating a legacy of social change. Listen to hear the story of a Rabbi who participated in these marches and was arrested and threatened with violence.
The first African American volunteer infantry unit of the Civil War was the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts. A monumental relief sculpture in Boston honors the 54th Regiment and its commander, Robert Gould Shaw. When the regiment was crushed at the battle of Fort Wagner in South Carolina, Shaw, a white man, was the first to take a bullet, making him a hero to his surviving men. Listen to hear how his sacrifice inspired sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create a uniquely powerful monument.
Carbon exists in all living things, including proteins, DNA, and fats. When living things exhale, the result is carbon dioxide. As our world develops, we produce more carbon dioxide with the burning of fossil fuels and the use of cars, trains, and planes. This gas is causing an imbalance in the atmosphere which affects the warming of the planet. Listen to hear how much carbon dioxide humans are responsible for and the effects of global warming.
Migration has been a huge part of human history. Experts agree that early humans started out in Africa and began to migrate out of Africa to different parts of Europe and Asia around 100,000 years ago. This migration occurred in waves but we don’t know why early humans left Africa. Recent research supports the theory that climate change may have been the force that drove early humans out. Looking at things such as dust, buried pollen, and coral, scientists have been able to show a correlation between changes in these things and periods in early human history of migration. As early humans looked for new food sources, the research indicates, they began to relocate. Listen to hear more about what may have caused humans to migrate.
American doctors rely on clinical trials to determine which drugs to use in treatment. Researchers have found that clinical trials have not been effective in creating drugs for America’s diverse population. When clinical trials are too homogeneous, they can leave important discoveries undiscovered. Patients who are diverse ethnically and racially can respond differently to medications, leading to dire consequences. Listen to learn how a lack of diversity in clinical trials affects patients and how researchers are trying to fix it.
There is a debate over whether cloud seeding is an efficient way to produce more snow and rain in places where droughts are the worst. Opponents claim that the chemicals that are sprayed into the air to create more water are toxic and could cause health issues in the future. Others believe this is the only way to for some gas and electric companies to obtain more energy. Listen to learn about the other concerns at hand and if this the history of this process.
Coal fueled the Industrial Revolution in England, and then America, and the whole world. But the new manufacturing came at a high price: coal pollution. This public radio story takes you to the place where the Industrial Revolution began, and explains how coal, iron, and steam created a new world. Coalbrookdale was one of the busiest coalfields in Europe, but today it seems quiet and clean. Is it really? The world is still powered by fossil fuel, which pumps greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—we’ve just changed the way we burn the coal.
Men serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War suffered extreme stress as they prepared daily for nuclear war. But when the Cold War ended, they were not recognized as veterans because they weren’t technically in combat. In this audio story you hear from several Air Force pilots who flew on nuclear training missions who are disappointed they are not treated like other combat veterans. It explores their fight for recognition as veterans by the federal government.
In Brazil today, there are still laws dating back to Portuguese colonization. If you were to buy a home in the Brazilian city of Petropolis, you would make the usual payments, but also something more: a tax or tribute to a local family. These families, the descendants of Portuguese colonial royalty and nobles, legally still own over half the country’s land and charge a “rent” to property owners due to laws left over from 500 years ago. Listen to hear how this system, called enfiteuse (Pronounced: en-fee-TEE-oh-see), affects wealth distribution in Brazil, and what citizens are doing about it.
Throughout time, the American dairy industry has been in desperate need of workers and this attracts immigrants from all over the world. This story begins in the home of an immigrant family as they start their workday. Listen to learn about the experiences of new immigrants to the United States, from Guatemala, who work on dairy farms in northern New York and Vermont.
The Communist Revolution in the Soviet Union led to a totalitarian dictatorship that killed or imprisoned tens of millions of people. It was a period of cruelty that has not been forgotten in Russia today. However, some former Communist rulers are still in current-day Russia’s government, which means there’s a complicated relationship with the Soviet past and bringing back some Soviet-era practices. Listen to this story to understand how Russia’s Communist past still plays a role in present-day politics.
Confucius was a philosopher who was born more than 2500 years ago in China, and his ideas have become central to China’s identity. His ideas became Chinese imperial philosophy and they were especially popular during the pivotal Han and Tang and Song Dynasties. Today, China is working to broaden not only its economic and diplomatic power, but also its cultural influence, and is looking back to Confucianism for help. China hopes that extending their soft power will lead to an increase in its ability to export Chinese values as well. But this story finds that Chinese values may not be applicable across all cultures. Listen to hear more about this soft-power powerhouse and how a centuries-old philosopher still leads a nation.
Over the course of American history, debates have raged over the extent of presidential powers. When the founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they intended for there to be limits on what presidents could do without congressional approval or oversight. Nonetheless, presidents from Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln in the 19th century to Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan in the 20th century exercised an extraordinary amount of power. This story looks at presidential power in the 21st century, focusing on the “war on terror”. Listen to hear to what extent, and for what length of time, presidents should be granted expanded power.
During colonial times, free settlers were not the only arrivals to North America. Enslaved Africans and indentured servants, or people who agreed to work for several years in exchange for paid travel, accompanied their masters. A third, far less known group of servants also came to the colonies. Convicted criminals were punished with either three- or seven-year sentences as unpaid servants in the colonies. Listen to find out who these people were and how they played a role in the United States colonial history.
Giant volcanoes appear every few million years, and their eruptions are rare, but they are deadly. The ash and gas released into the atmosphere have the potential for significant harm. So scientists are studying two new suspected volcanic “hot spots" and are trying to figure out why they erupt. Listen to learn how seismic waves give scientists a picture of the large regions where intense volcanic activity could develop in the distant future.
What makes up a coral? This audio story takes you to an underwater observatory where a scientist is studying coral reefs. The scientist has found that CO2 in the ocean is making the ocean warmer and dissolving the coral reef system. But the scientist also discusses how coral reefs can recover. Listen to this story to hear the factors that threaten coral reefs and how they can recover.
When the two towers of the World Trade Center were attacked on September 11, 2001, the towers collapsed on themselves, creating a disaster area known as Ground Zero. A perimeter wall was quickly built around the area to contain the destruction in an effort to rebuild. One journalist spent five months with unrivaled access to the recovery effort and wrote about the experience. Listen to learn more about Ground Zero and how 9/11 changed America.
The Vietnam War has a controversial legacy in United States history and culture. The U. S. was immersed in the conflict in Vietnam for 20 years. The draft of young men to fight far from home in the seemingly endless war led to widespread resistance and protest against the war itself. This discontent led to a disrespect of veterans when they returned. Since then the sacrifice of soldiers has been honored in memorials, movies and books. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was built in 1982 in Washington DC. But it was controversial at the start because it honored soldiers by etching the names of the more than 58,000 soldiers killed in polished black granite. Listen to this radio story to learn the history behind this war memorial.
The Federal Reserve System is the central bank of the United States. It is responsible for the effective operation of the U.S. economy and conducts the nation’s monetary policy, stabilizes prices and moderates interest rates, and promotes the safety of individual financial institutions. In 1907, J. P. Morgan organized other leading financiers to backstop a run on banks and bring an end to a nationwide financial crisis. Later, with the encouragement of a powerful senator, a group of New York bankers went on to develop a plan for a central bank that was eventually adopted and that is still in effect today. Listen to the story to learn more about the formation of the Federal Reserve and America’s central banks by Congress.
For 12 days in October 1962, the world seemed poised on the brink of nuclear war. This public radio story describes President John F. Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It focuses on his role in finding a way to avoid his military advisors’ recommendation that the U.S. launch a military attack on recently discovered Soviet nuclear missiles being built in Cuba. It includes archival sound of his military advisors and the voice of Kennedy as he tells the American people about the crisis. It examines how Kennedy's actions avoided war.
Trees can stand up to 100-mile an hour winds during strong hurricanes. Why do some trees survive and others don’t? The answer may be in a mathematical pattern in tree growth—first observed by Leonardo da Vinci. The rule states that smaller tree branches have a precise, mathematical relationship to the branch they came from. A scientist that is studying how air flows around objects is also studying this pattern in tree branches and looking for an explanation. Listen to hear more about these observations about trees and mathematics in nature.
This Public Radio Story describes the great importance of Syria’s ancient cultural heritage sites, for Christians, Jews, Muslims, and people of many other national and ethnic identities. Unfortunately, these sites are under attack as Syria’s civil war rages on.
Millions of people invest billions of dollars in the stock market to make their money grow. Some pool their money with other investors in high risk investment vehicles known as hedge funds. Hedge fund managers employ a variety of strategies with the goal of doing better than the stock market as a whole. The third richest person in the world, Warren Buffett, made a $1 million bet that he could beat the earnings of any hedge fund with his own investments in low-risk index funds. A hedge fund manager took him up on the challenge. Listen to the story to learn who is on his way to winning the bet and why.
Note: At the end of the 10 year time period, Warren Buffett won the bet as the index funds outperformed actively managed hedge funds.
What is heroism? Explore this question through a discussion with author Conn Iggulden who wrote a book about heroes throughout time. From Florence Nightingale to Harry Houdini, and the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, the author analyzes the moments and patterns of courage and bravery that make ordinary people heroes.
When getting knocked around by the ocean waves, a scientist realized the only things that were staying in place were the barnacles and muscles. This is due to the natural glue they produce that scientists are trying mimic to create a power glue that is non-toxic and can be used for things such as medical surgeries. Listen to learn more about how scientists developed these experiments and how this discovery could lead to a very useful resource.
Modern campaigning can get pretty dirty, but politicians today are only taking their cues from politicians in ancient Athens. This public radio story describes how direct democracy was carried out in ancient Athens, a Greek city-state. Listen to learn who was allowed to participate in Athenian politics and how the people of Athens voted for and controled their elected officials.
A tank holding 2 million gallons of molasses burst open and flooded the streets of Boston in 1919. This strange disaster killed 21 people and led to a scapegoating a group of people. An author has written a children’s story about the incident and what happened after the tank exploded. Listen to hear the author talk about this event and what happened in the years afterward.
The novel “Wonder” tells the story of a fifth grade boy with a facial deformity who enrolls in school for the very first time. In this audio story, the author, Raquel Jaramillo (a.k.a., R.J. Palacio) shares the incident that first prompted her to write the novel. She discusses how the boy, Auggie, struggles to feel ordinary in the face of extraordinary reactions. Listen to learn more about this novel and how the choices we make can have a lasting impact.
Many of the characters in books written for children don’t reflect everyone’s background. One girl became frustrated when she couldn’t connect to the characters. In response, she began to gather books about black girls and then give these books to schools. Now that she has exceeded her original goal and collected almost 4,000 books, the girl has started to consider how to impact schools in an even larger way. Listen to hear what actions this girl decided to take to promote diverse books in schools.
Many cities have seen growth in their population, and the high schools in these cities have become a fusion of races and ethnicities. Frisco, Texas has changed dramatically in the last twenty-five years. Not only has it changed from a sleepy railroad town into a bustling suburb of a major city, it has also changed a great deal demographically. A town that was once 75% white is now a mix of people from all over the world. Listen to hear how those demographic changes have affected the lives of students at one of its newest high schools.
The system we use to organize life is called the Linnean system, named after Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. The name of every living thing has a place because of Linnaeus. But now new DNA technology is changing the way to think about the classification system. Scientists are debating whether it is possible to change a system that has been strictly followed for the past few hundred years. Listen to learn how scientists discovered this change in the system.
J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel “The Catcher in the Rye” has long been a staple of high school reading lists, though it has also frequently been banned from them. The story is told by Holden Caulfield, a rebellious 17-year old who has just been expelled from prep school. The novel is considered a classic of American literature, and Holden is thought to be a character every teenager can relate to—but is this still true today? Listen to hear about how this novel earned its status as a classic and the arguments in the debate about whether it should still be required reading for high school students.
"The Handmaid’s Tale" is a dystopian novel set in a near future version of America. It was published in 1985, and tells the story of Offred, a woman living in the theocratic, authoritarian country of Gilead. More than 30 years after publication, a TV adaptation has sparked renewed interest in the novel. Listen to hear three journalists discuss connections between Offred’s story and contemporary American society.
Most scientists agree that human beings originated in Africa. The first humans to come to North and South America has long been believed to be the Clovis people. But a 2002 discovery in the Paisley Caves in Oregon has challenged this view. Archaeologists discovered animal bones and fossilized excrement, known as coprolites. Some of these coprolites included human molecules, providing the earliest human DNA ever found in the Americas. This discovery has given archaeologists new clues to better understand the earliest humans found in North America.