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Current Events

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July 18, 2021


Weird News: Dog Surfing Championship

Listen to hear about what some dogs are doing to support their local humane society.

Vocabulary: surf, coveted, title

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July 14, 2021


Supreme Court Rules in Favor of NCAA Athletes

For generations, college athletes have been forbidden to profit from their sports. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which governs college athletics, has argued that keeping money out of college sports helps student-athletes prioritize their education. Successful college athletes often bring in enormous revenue for their schools, however, and critics argue that the athletes deserve a share of that wealth. The Supreme Court recently agreed, ruling that schools may help student-athletes with certain education-related expenses. Listen to learn more about the decision and how it could impact the lives and fortunes of college athletes.

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July 12, 2021


Keystone XL Oil Pipeline Project Canceled

A controversial project to build a pipeline to transport oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. has been canceled. The fight over the pipeline has been waged for 10 years, as activists challenged the safety and environmental impact of the project and past presidents have alternately shut it down and revived it. President Biden’s order canceled the project amid public concerns about climate change that continue to grow. Listen to learn more about the Keystone XL pipeline project and hear an activist recall her decade-long battle to defeat it.

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July 11, 2021


Weird News: Deepest Shipwreck Ever Discovered

Listen to hear how far explorers went to find the deepest shipwreck ever reached and learn about what they discovered.

Vocabulary: submersible, vehicle, images, visible

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July 7, 2021


Learning Engineering with Dirt Bikes

Calculating angles while popping wheelies? That’s what students in Baltimore are doing in an unusual program that channels students’ love of dirt bike riding into lessons in science, math, and engineering. Off-road motorcycle riding is very popular in Baltimore, especially among Black youth, but it’s often illegal. The B-360 program gives kids a place to ride, helping them stay off the streets, while building academic skills and a sense of community. Listen to hear participants describe the joys of dirt bike riding and how the program is making a difference in their lives.

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July 4, 2021


Weird News: Woman Finishes Gigantic Puzzle

Listen to hear how many pieces were in the gigantic puzzle that a woman completed.

Vocabulary: assembling, commercially, marathon

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June 30, 2021


"Mount Recyclemore" Sculpture Made of Electronic Waste

A striking sculpture set in the hills of Cornwall County, England, greeted the leaders who recently attended the G-7 summit, a gathering of heads of the world’s wealthiest democracies. Mount Recyclemore depicts the faces of the seven leaders side-by-side - each created from discarded electronics. The artist based his work on Mount Rushmore, the massive rock carving of four U.S. presidents set in South Dakota, and he had a particular message to convey. Listen to hear the artist explain the idea behind his work, and learn how visitors responded to it.

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June 28, 2021


Juneteenth Declared a Federal Holiday

Although President Lincoln outlawed slavery in 1863, it was not until two years later that enslaved people in Texas learned the news, when a Union general rode into Galveston to announce it. Black communities have long celebrated Juneteenth – June 19 – to remember that day in 1865 and celebrate freedom. Many other Americans are unfamiliar with the event, but recently, Congress unanimously voted to make Juneteenth a national holiday. Listen to learn more about the meaning and importance of Juneteenth and how recent events helped raise awareness of the holiday.

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June 27, 2021


Weird News: Daily Zoom Calls for Chimps

Listen to hear about how video calls helped some zoo chimpanzees stay connected.

Vocabulary: reluctant, primates

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June 23, 2021


Cicada Cycle Documented by Benjamin Banneker

Every 17 years, billions of buzzing cicadas emerge from their hiding spots under the ground and climb into trees, where they shed their outer shells and try to mate. One of the first scientists to observe and document the dramatic 17-year cicada cycle was Benjamin Banneker, a free Black man living in Maryland in the 1700s. Banneker recorded cicada patterns and behaviors for over 50 years, but until recently, has not been recognized for his work. Listen to learn more about the unsung naturalist Benjamin Banneker.

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June 21, 2021


Remembering the Challenger Crew

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded in mid-air only seconds after launch, shocking the nation. All seven crew members died in the tragic accident, including Christa McAuliffe, a beloved educator enrolled in NASA’s Teacher in Space Project. A recent book examines the disaster and the lives that were lost as a result. Listen to the author describe the backgrounds and talents of the Challenger astronauts, one of the most diverse space crews in history, and how they are being remembered today.

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June 20, 2021


Weird News: Toy Pirate Ship Crosses the Atlantic

Listen to hear about a toy pirate ship that traveled across the Atlantic Ocean.

Vocabulary: released, aptly, attach, GPS

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June 16, 2021


Painting Cow Butts to Save Their Lives

A visitor to rural Botswana might notice an odd sight: eyes painted on the rear ends of cows. It all began when farmers started complaining that predators, including lions and leopards, were killing their cows, which has contributed to the endangerment of the cats. Enter two Australian biologists with an unusual idea: painting eyes on the rumps of cows to confuse the predator cats. Listen to hear the scientists explain more about their novel idea and how well it worked.

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June 14, 2021


How Systemic Racism Shaped Urban Development

Many of America’s highways were built in the mid 1950s when the Eisenhower administration expanded the nation’s network of roads. The new freeways often ran right through thriving, ethnically diverse communities, destroying them. Now, the Biden administration is working to dismantle some of the highway projects that they say resulted from a pattern of discrimination against communities of color. Listen to a history professor explain how systemic racism has shaped the development of America’s freeways and how these past wrongs might be remedied.

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June 13, 2021


Weird News: Lost Baby Kangaroo Found

Listen to hear about a baby kangaroo that hopped away from her mother and why volunteers searched day and night to find her.

Vocabulary: marsupial, develop, eventually

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June 11, 2021


Debate: Is Studying Classics Still Relevant?

Most universities across the country have classics departments where students can study ancient Greek and Roman literature, art, culture, and language. The Founding Fathers drew on these ancient civilizations to create American democracy, and some say a classical education is key to understanding many important aspects of American life. Others argue that classics are ancient and irrelevant. They support reconfiguring university classics departments to include other more contemporary areas of study. Listen to a Howard University professor’s perspective and then debate: Is studying classics still relevant?

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June 10, 2021


Finding Joy in the Great Outdoors

Outdoor recreation is enjoyed around the world. The U.S. has its own particular set of traditions, which, for a variety of reasons, have not always been inclusive of all Americans. Ambreen Tariq, an immigrant from India, explores the meaning of camping for immigrants and people of color in her children’s book, Fatima’s Great Outdoors. She argues that the urge to connect with nature is universal, and camping offers immigrants the chance to participate in a fun, quintessentially American activity while maintaining their own cultural identities and traditions. Listen to the author describe her own experiences camping as a child and why she begged her parents to serve bacon for breakfast.

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June 9, 2021


World Bee Day

Bees are an important part of the planet’s ecosystem. They help to create food for humans and other creatures by pollinating plants. World Bee Day was established to celebrate the contributions of these small but mighty insects, and to raise awareness about the threats that are causing their populations to decline. Listen to learn more about the importance of bees, why they are at risk, and how one TikTok star is helping to save them.

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June 8, 2021


What Science Says About Transgender Athletes

Is it fair to let transgender female athletes – those who were assigned male at birth but identify as female – compete in women’s sports? Some have argued that transgender female athletes have unfair advantages, such as speed and size, over cisgender women, or those assigned female at birth. But what does the science say? Listen to a pioneering research scientist discuss the impact of hormones on athletic performance and how women’s sports can become more inclusive.

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June 7, 2021


Tulsa Massacre Survivors Seek Justice

On May 31, 1921, a white mob attacked Black people and businesses in the prosperous Tulsa, Oklahoma neighborhood of Greenwood, killing residents and burning and destroying the district. It was among the worst racially motivated violent episodes in U.S. history. For decades, details of the horrific event were suppressed. Now, on the 100th anniversary of the massacre, some of the few remaining survivors are speaking out about their experiences. Listen to hear people who lived through the Tulsa race massacre share their memories of the event and their wishes that justice can be served.

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June 6, 2021


Weird News: Feathered Dinosaur Discovered in the Southern Hemisphere

Listen to learn about a recently discovered dinosaur and what makes it special.

Vocabulary: protruding, hemisphere, hybrid

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June 4, 2021


Debate: Are Anti-Protest Bills Unconstitutional?

Dozens of states have introduced bills that crack down on protests. If passed into law, they would expand the definition of rioting and increase penalties for certain non-violent activities. The anti-protest bills come after a year of widespread demonstrations following George Floyd’s murder. Some argue they are necessary to help curb violent rioting and looting. Others say the bills violate the First Amendment rights of protesters and are meant to discourage them from gathering. Listen to learn more about the flurry of new bills and then debate: Are anti-protest bills unconstitutional?

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June 3, 2021


Millions of Cicadas Emerge After 17 Years Underground

Millions of cicadas – buzzing, red-eyed insects – are emerging from their hiding spots underground and climbing trees, where they shed their outer shells and try to mate. The dramatic event happens every 17 years, and entomologists, or scientists who study insects, are using the opportunity to learn more about cicadas and how they impact the local ecosystem. Listen to learn what scientists hope to discover about cicadas and how soft clay and superglue are helping one research team find out.

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June 2, 2021


Saving Galapagos Sharks

Fishing vessels near the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, are threatening the shark population by accidentally catching the animals in their fishing nets. The Galapagos is home to dozens of different shark species, and some are nearing extinction. Even a special area of the ocean set aside to protect the sharks has not solved the problem. Listen to a professor explain more about the threat to Galapagos sharks and how they might be better protected.

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June 1, 2021


D-Day Recordings Discovered

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces launched the largest seaborne invasion in history, landing ships on the coast of Normandy, France, and turning the tide of war against Nazi Germany. Sounds from the D-Day invasion were captured in recordings made by a radio reporter on board one of the ships, but they went undiscovered until recently. Listen to hear the sounds of war from first-hand recordings and learn how the remarkable artifacts finally came to light.

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May 30, 2021


Weird News: Eavesdropping Monkeys

Listen to hear about a trait that monkeys share with humans.

Vocabulary: trait, eavesdrop, interact

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May 28, 2021


Debate: Can Schools Discipline Students for Online Speech?

The right to free speech at school is limited. Expression that disrupts school activities, for example, is not allowed. But what if a student posts on social media from home? Can schools discipline students for disruptive speech even if it takes place off school property? Some say the location of a student posting online speech is meaningless, and school officials should have the right to discipline students for violations wherever they occur. Others say that giving schools that power amounts to trampling on students’ rights. Listen to learn about a high school cheerleader whose case against her school reached the Supreme Court and then debate: Can schools discipline students for online speech?

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May 27, 2021


The First 100 Days of a Presidency

The first few months in office can be an important time for new presidents. The public watches closely to see how well their new leaders perform on the job. Franklin Delano Roosevelt put dozens of New Deal programs in place during his first 100 days in office that helped pull the country out of an economic depression. Ever since then, reaching 100 days has become a key presidential milestone, a time to look back at accomplishments and challenges. Listen to hear about President Biden’s early days in office, and learn how other presidents made an impact during their first 100 days.

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May 26, 2021


Whale Hit Songs

Whales are highly intelligent animals that live in social groups. One way they communicate is through vocalizations, or whale “songs.” In fact, every year, whales create – and memorize – new songs! Recently a photographer took pictures of whale activities and examined the role that singing plays in whale culture. Listen to learn more about the sophisticated social life of whales and hear some of their songs.

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May 25, 2021


Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The dispute between Israelis and Palestinians over land in the Middle East dates back centuries. Recently, violence broke out again when Israeli authorities tried to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem, an area of the capital city that both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their own. The conflict escalated, with protests, police raids, and rockets fired in both directions between Palestinian-controlled Gaza and Israel. Listen to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how the recent violence compares to events of the past.

Update: Since this story aired, the Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to a cease-fire.

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May 24, 2021


COVID Vaccine Approved for 12-15-Year-Olds

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a COVID-19 vaccine for 12-15-year-olds. Kids who tested the vaccine, developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, were extremely well protected against the virus and had only mild side effects. Approval of the new vaccine means that 87% of Americans are eligible to be vaccinated, raising hopes that life can return to normal and the pandemic can be defeated. Listen to learn more about the new vaccine and how teens and preteens – and their parents – are responding.

Update: Since this story aired, the Pfizer vaccine has become available for kids aged 12-15.

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May 23, 2021


Weird News: Scientists Discover What May Be World's Smallest Reptile

Listen to hear just how tiny the world's smallest chameleon is.

Vocabulary: chameleon, subsist, diet

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May 21, 2021


Debate: Should the FDA Ban Menthol Cigarettes?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a plan to ban menthol cigarettes and cigars. Menthol is a flavor additive that masks the harshness of tobacco smoke and makes nicotine products more addictive. Tobacco companies have pushed menthol-flavored products aggressively in minority and low-income communities, and Black smokers are much more likely to use them than whites. Some say the ban will save Black lives and address health disparities. Others worry it will force smokers to seek menthol products illegally, resulting in confrontations with law enforcement. Listen to learn more about the agency’s decision and then debate: Should the FDA ban menthol cigarettes?

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May 20, 2021


Buried Underwear Tests Health of Soil

A simple experiment can help farmers determine how healthy their soil is for planting: bury a pair of cotton underpants! Healthy dirt is full of microbes that feed on the cotton fibers in the pants, breaking them down over several weeks. The “Soil Your Undies Challenge,” first launched in the U.S., asks farmers and others to use this testing method as a way of raising public awareness of the importance of healthy soil and the need to protect it. Listen to an Australian scientist explain how he organized the challenge in his country and why he invited schools to participate.

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May 19, 2021


The Importance of Name Pronunciation

People with uncommon names often hear them mispronounced. They say it can be annoying, but also hurtful. A person’s name often reflects their background, identity, or family history. When others bungle the pronunciation, those with unusual names sometimes report feeling excluded and different, as if they don’t belong. Listen to people with less common names explain why they care about proper pronunciation and what people can do when they’re not sure how to pronounce a name.

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May 18, 2021


D.C.'s Fight for Statehood

Like other Americans, the residents of Washington, D.C. pay taxes to the federal government, but they do not get a say in how that government runs. That’s because D.C., or the District of Columbia, is not a state, and its representative to Congress cannot vote on bills. Since D.C. was formed as the nation’s capital over 200 years ago, many have pushed for statehood so D.C. residents can be represented in government, but the effort has faced strong opposition. Listen to learn more about the history of D.C.’s struggle for statehood and where it stands today.

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May 17, 2021


U.S. Pledge to Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In his early days in office, President Biden has made fighting climate change a top priority. He has pledged to invest heavily in green technologies and restore the U.S. to its role as a world leader in the fight against global warming. While many consider the issue to be a high priority, the president also faces resistance to his efforts. Listen to former Secretary of State John Kerry, appointed by Biden as a special climate envoy, discuss the president’s plan and why he considers climate change to be such an urgent issue.

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May 16, 2021


Weird News: Purpose of Ancient Conch Shell Discovered

Listen to learn what scientists discovered about a conch shell that is thousands of years old.

Vocabulary: ceremonial, produce, demonstrate

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May 14, 2021


Debate: Should Some Post Offices Be Closed?

The U.S. Postal Service has been delivering mail and packages for over 250 years and consistently ranks as Americans’ most trusted government agency. But ever since the start of email, the postal service has been losing money. Some suggest that closing post offices or using the buildings for other essential government services could help save the institution financially. Others say post offices should not be closed. Their long history and central role in the community, they argue, make post offices worth preserving, regardless of revenue. Listen to learn more about the troubles of the U.S. Postal Service and then debate: Should some post offices be closed?

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May 13, 2021


First Openly Transgender Federal Official Appointed

Dr. Rachel Levine has become the first openly transgender U.S. federal official. She was confirmed as assistant secretary of health around the same time that many states were passing restrictive laws targeting transgender youth. She hopes her position will help educate Americans, and dispel any fears they may have, about LGBTQ people. Listen to an interview with Dr. Levine to learn about the challenges trans people face and how her appointment could help change attitudes.

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