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Current Events

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MOST RECENT

July 1, 2020

3:35

COVID-19 Cases Continue to Rise

As states reopen and coronavirus infection rates begin to rise, public health officials are monitoring the spread of disease. The “R,” or reproduction number, indicates how many people a sick person is likely to infect. An R of two, meaning every sick person infects two other people, translates into exponential spread in the community, and the goal of safety measures is to lower the R to less than one. Listen to learn which states currently have surging infection rates and how small changes in the reproduction number can mean big changes in the rate of illness.

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June 29, 2020

4:25

Supreme Court Decision Protects LGBTQ Workers

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.

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June 28, 2020

0:26

Weird News: Bull Causes Power Outage

Listen to hear about how a bull caused a Scottish town to lose power.

Vocabulary: culprit, suspect, oblivious

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June 24, 2020

3:59

NFL's Response to Race Protests

As protests against police brutality and racial inequities continue throughout the country, two national sports organizations have announced changes to their policies. The NFL says it will observe a company holiday on Juneteenth (June 19), the day in 1865 when enslaved people were freed by federal troops in Texas. The NFL commissioner also apologized for not listening to players protesting racism in recent years. And NASCAR announced that it is banning Confederate flags at races. Listen to a sports commentator react to the policy shifts and learn why he is skeptical about whether the NFL’s messaging signals meaningful change.

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June 22, 2020

3:09

Sheltering in Place Has Saved Millions of Lives

Researchers have concluded that months of worldwide lockdowns intended to contain the coronavirus pandemic have successfully saved millions of lives. Two independent studies analyzed COVID-19 data on several continents and reached a similar conclusion: people staying home has greatly reduced the virus’s spread. The researchers recommend keeping certain safety measures in place as lockdowns are lifted to prevent a resurgence of infections. Listen to learn more about the positive impact of the lockdown measures and why one researcher calls lifting lockdowns “a tradeoff.”

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June 21, 2020

0:26

Weird News: Robot Dog Enforces Social Distancing

Listen to hear about how a robot dog in a Singapore park reminds people to practice social distancing.

Vocabulary: instruct, patrol, enforce

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June 17, 2020

1:59

Caravans for Justice

Protesters are joining caravans as a way to stay safe while speaking out against racism and police violence. People with medical conditions and other concerns are finding that protesting from the safety of a car allows them to participate in demonstrations without exposing themselves to the risks of being in big crowds during the ongoing pandemic. Listen to a mother describe the difficulties of keeping toddlers socially distant at rallies, and hear the sounds of a protest caravan winding through the streets of San Francisco.

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June 15, 2020

3:50

Reimagining Policing in the U.S.

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.

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June 14, 2020

:26

Weird News: California Ghost Town

Listen to hear about a man living alone in a ghost town.

Vocabulary: extreme, haunted

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June 12, 2020

4:15

Debate: Should Baseball Season Open During the Pandemic?

This past spring, professional baseball shut down during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, as summer approaches, there is talk of partially reopening the season, sparking debate about the benefits and risks of resuming play. Some point to the power of baseball to console and unify the nation in times of crisis and say it is needed now more than ever. Others worry about the health risks to the players of bringing them on the field, even without spectators. Listen to hear more arguments for and against reopening baseball and then debate: Should baseball season open during the pandemic?

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June 11, 2020

3:19

Bicycles Bring Freedom for Women in Pakistan

There has been a huge increase in bicycling around the world during the pandemic. In Pakistan, women and girls are riding bicycles in larger numbers than ever before. Traditional cultural norms have resulted in frequent harassment of Pakistani women who ride bicycles. The pandemic, however, has brought changes that have opened the door for more women and girls to enjoy the excitement and freedom of traveling by bike. Listen to learn why conditions during the pandemic have made it safer for Pakistani women to ride bikes, and why the cultural change may persist even after the health crisis ends.

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June 10, 2020

3:04

Fuzzy Green "Glacier Mice" Mystify Scientists

Scientists are stumped by a mystery involving rolling glacial moss. The green, fuzzy balls move slowly across the surface of glaciers and are known as “glacier mice” because they resemble rodents. What amazes scientists is how the unusual rolling plants manage to coordinate the speed and direction of their movement, similar to a herd of animals. Listen to hear more about scientific research on these mysterious moss balls and why one scientist thinks of a “Star Trek” episode when she sees them.

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June 9, 2020

7:12

Systemic Racism Drives Protests

Protesters throughout the U.S. and the world are speaking out against racism and police brutality after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others. In this interview, a state representative from Louisville, Kentucky discusses why the demonstrations are fueled by frustrations, built up over decades, about inequities between white and minority communities. Listen to hear the representative describe how a peaceful protest she attended turned violent and how she hopes the movement will motivate young people to act.

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June 8, 2020

3:40

SpaceX Launches Crew Dragon

On May 30th 2020, the Falcon 9 rocket launched two American astronauts into orbit on a mission to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon, a space capsule developed by a private space transportation company. The historic event marked the first time NASA, the U.S. government’s federal space agency, has partnered with private industry on a project to send Americans into space. Listen to learn how past presidents contributed to the development of the unique program, and hear the SpaceX founder's reactions after the long-awaited launch.

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June 7, 2020

:27

Weird News: Eating French Fries for the Economy

Listen to hear why people in Belgium are being asked to double the amount of potatoes they eat.

Vocabulary: request, surplus

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June 5, 2020

5:19

Debate: Should Videos of Community Violence Be Shared?

How do videos of violent acts affect people? This question has been raised again by the recent leaked videotape of the killing of an unarmed black man, Ahmaud Arbery, in Georgia. Some say violent videos can help achieve justice for the victim, while others point out the harms that are caused when the videos become routine. Listen to learn more about the effects of viral violent videos and then debate: Should videos of community violence be shared?

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June 4, 2020

5:38

Yellowstone Park Begins to Reopen

Yellowstone National Park, among the nation’s most popular tourist sites, has been closed during the pandemic. Now officials face unique challenges as they consider reopening the park for the summer season. A quick reopening could help local businesses that have suffered during the closure, but maintaining social distancing and other safe practices will be difficult when hordes of visitors arrive. Listen to hear local people and a park visitor discuss the benefits and risks of reopening one of the nation’s busiest national parks.

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June 3, 2020

2:20

Researchers Bring Lab Animals Home

Many scientists isolating at home during the pandemic have taken their study subjects with them. The researchers want to keep the plants and animals that they study alive and continue their experiments. Bringing spiders and even sunflower seeds home can have hazards, however. Listen to learn what scientists are doing to protect their study subjects during a health crisis and hear how one scientist’s roommates responded to the unusual critters in the house.

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June 2, 2020

3:39

Protests Follow George Floyd's Death

Protests broke out in cities around the country following the death of a black man in Minneapolis. Video footage showed a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for over eight minutes while he begged for his life and while other officers watched. Although the officers were fired and one was charged with murder, protesters are demanding sweeping changes to a police system they say suffers from deep-seated racial bias. Listen to learn more about the protests and hear one protester explain why she risked her health to participate.

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June 1, 2020

5:54

The Limits of Antibody Testing

Antibody tests look for disease-fighting proteins in a person’s blood, a sign that they have had a particular disease and have built up immunity to the illness, at least for a while. However, it is still unknown whether COVID-19 antibodies have the same protective qualities as antibodies for other diseases. Medical experts say even those who test positive for antibodies should continue to socially distance and take other safety precautions until more is known. Listen to learn why people are taking the antibody test and how the results could help guide family decisions during the pandemic.

This audio story was recorded in mid-May. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.

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May 31, 2020

1:02

Weird News: Canine Siblings Reunited

Listen to hear about two dog brothers who were accidentally reunited.

Vocabulary: reunited, similar

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May 29, 2020

2:33

Debate: Do Citizens Have a Right to Protect Themselves from the Pandemic?

Two South Dakota Native American tribes have placed highway checkpoints near their reservations to screen visitors for signs of COVID-19. Officials have demanded that they remove the roadblocks from state highways, but the tribes argue that their residents are especially vulnerable to infection and need protection. Listen to learn more about the standoff between tribal leaders and the state government and then debate: Do citizens have a right to protect themselves from the pandemic?

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May 28, 2020

6:41

Leadership Advice from a Military General

A former U.S. military commander likens the coronavirus pandemic to a war and believes that strong leadership is needed to win it. In this interview, General Stanley McChrystal outlines the leadership qualities he considers essential for instilling confidence in people during a time of crisis and fortifying them for the long battle against COVID-19. Listen to hear a 4-star general explain why fighting the virus reminds him of the war against al-Qaida, and why he thinks leaders should share information honestly and openly, even when it may be frightening.

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May 27, 2020

1:44

Dogs Trained to Detect Virus

Dogs have powerful noses, and their sniffing skills might be able to help with keeping the pandemic under control. Many diseases have particular smells. Scientists are working to identify the scent of COVID-19 and training dogs to find it in humans. The trained animals would be able to quickly screen hundreds of people in places such as airports and train stations. Listen to hear how trainers teach dogs to find certain scents and when the first group of sniffers could be ready to work.

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May 26, 2020

4:07

Seniors Prepare for Virtual Graduation

To keep students and families safe during the coronavirus pandemic, school leaders are looking for alternatives to traditional, in-person high school graduations. Some are delaying graduation, while others are strictly limiting attendance or moving the ceremony online. As they make their decisions, they struggle to balance safety with the needs and expectations of graduating seniors. Listen to hear what high school seniors are saying about the unexpected changes to graduation rituals, and find out how their opinions swayed one school leader to act.

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May 24, 2020

:26

Weird News: Chalk Drawings Encourage Social Distancing

Listen to hear about a mother who creates chalk drawings reminding people to social distance.

Vocabulary: reminder, recreate

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May 22, 2020

4:58

Debate: Should Colleges Open in the Fall?

Colleges and universities around the country have shut down during the pandemic, but many school leaders are considering how they might safely open their doors in the fall. In this audio story, the president of Brown University makes the case that welcoming kids back to campus is crucial, both for students and for the economy. Some, however, believe that the health risks associated with large groups of students living and learning together are too high. Listen to hear a university president describe her vision for an adapted college experience and then debate: Should colleges open in the fall?

This audio story was recorded in late April. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.

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May 21, 2020

3:23

Free Potatoes and the Disrupted Food Supply Chain

Because his usual customers were not buying his potatoes, an Idaho farmer dumped them in a heap two stories high and invited people to help themselves. Demand for his product dropped sharply as restaurants and other businesses closed during the pandemic. At the same time, many people could not get the food they needed. Many food producers are looking for new markets to sell their products, but the American food supply chain makes adaptation difficult. Listen to learn about the challenges facing farmers during the pandemic and why it is difficult to get their products to people who need them.

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May 20, 2020

4:47

How the Pandemic May Influence Fashion

The pandemic is causing some people to rethink their fashion choices. They are wearing more casual clothing, shaving beards, trimming nails, and choosing stylish face masks. One fashion expert says that sweeping changes in style often happen during times of social disruption. Listen to hear how past wars have influenced American fashion, which styles are currently trending, and how people may choose to express themselves through clothing when public life opens up again.

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May 19, 2020

4:06

Running While Black

A videotaped act of violence in Georgia has highlighted the challenges black men around the country face in their everyday lives. Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed young black man, was shot by two white men who said they believed he was a burglar. Arbery was jogging when he was attacked and killed. Research shows that black men of all social classes often feel threatened as they go about their daily routines. Listen to a sociologist describe his research on what black men do to appear less threatening and how the threat they regularly feel impacts their lives.

Update: Since this story aired, Ahmaud Arbery’s attackers have been arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assalt.

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May 18, 2020

6:25

Safety Tips for Resuming Contact

States are beginning to lift lockdown restrictions, and experts are weighing in on how people can stay safe as they return to normal activities. Many doctors advise that social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands continue to be the best ways to prevent the spread of infection. They especially warn against relaxing distancing guidelines as people start to mingle, and highly recommend outdoor gatherings rather than indoor events. Listen to hear a pastor’s plan for keeping worshippers safe when he reopens church, and how doctors recommend lowering the risk of virus transmission when socializing.

This audio story was recorded in mid-May. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.

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May 17, 2020

:25

Weird News: Robotic Baseball Fans

Listen to hear about why one baseball team is using robots to fill stadiums this season.

Vocabulary: robotic, mannequin

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May 15, 2020

4:30

Debate: Should the Federal Government Manage the Pandemic Response?

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about how federal and state governments balance power and responsibility during a crisis. While the Constitution says that states have the authority to manage a health crisis, some people would like the federal government to step in and coordinate responses between the states, as it would during wartime. Listen to learn more about the powers of the president during a crisis and then debate: Should the federal government manage the pandemic response?

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May 14, 2020

3:54

Addressing Health Care Inequities

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted inequities in Americans’ access to health care. Some people in underserved communities, including many black Americans, lacked adequate health insurance and access to doctors even before the pandemic. The virus has hit these vulnerable groups especially hard. A new nonprofit is working to bring resources into low-income communities so people disproportionately affected by the illness can get the help they need. Listen to learn more about the healthcare inequities exposed by the pandemic and how one organization is addressing them.

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May 13, 2020

2:32

Discovering Neanderthal String

A recent discovery indicates that our prehistoric relatives may have been smarter than previously thought. A team of paleo-anthropologists, scientists who study the origins of early humans and their relatives, found a bit of string on a prehistoric tool. This artifact offers evidence that Neanderthals had developed an important technology for survival. Listen to learn how Neanderthals made string and why the find is changing views of their intelligence.

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May 12, 2020

2:24

Kids' Reflections on the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the lives of every American. As schools around the country have closed, students have faced enormous shifts in their routines, social lives, and in how they learn. In this audio story, students in elementary, middle, and high school reflect on their experiences during the pandemic. Listen to hear the voices of kids expressing fears, sharing coping strategies, and explaining what they have come to appreciate.

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May 11, 2020

4:47

How Contact Tracing Works

A COVID-19 contact tracer tracks people who may have been exposed to the virus, but the work requires more than just detective skills. Contact tracers respond to the questions and concerns of people who may be ill, or who fear becoming ill, and help them plan for the immediate future. Contact tracers need to be able to quickly establish a bond of trust and show care for those facing the prospect of illness and quarantine. Listen to a public health doctor explain more about the important job of contact tracer and why people often feel relieved when a tracer calls.

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May 10, 2020

:25

Weird News: Playful Parrot’s False Alarm

Listen to hear about a parrot who plays a trick on the police.

Vocabulary: recently, deputies, unnerving

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May 8, 2020

7:33

Debate: Should Surveillance Technology Be Used for Contact Tracing?

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.

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May 7, 2020

3:47

The Role of the WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a United Nations agency that oversees public health worldwide. It offers advice and support to its member countries and coordinates scientific research and public health projects across borders. President Trump recently announced that the U.S. will stop funding the WHO, severely reducing the agency’s budget. Listen to learn more about the role of the WHO in protecting global health and how a withdrawal of funding could cripple its efforts.

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