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March 26, 2021
Mandatory mask requirements have been lifted in Texas, giving restaurants and other businesses the freedom to set their own pandemic safety rules. Those in favor of the move say people, not the government, should take responsibility for the health and safety of their businesses. They note that the spread of COVID-19 is slowing, and lifting restrictions can help businesses recover. Opponents fear that it’s too early to roll back safety rules. They argue that it’s the government’s job to safeguard public health, and that masks should not yet be optional. Listen to Texas restaurant owners react to the change and then debate: Should business owners be allowed to decide their mask policies?
March 25, 2021
Half of the world’s population uses feminine hygiene products at some point in their lives. Access to these products is crucial for girls and women to participate fully in school, work, and other daily activities. The cost of menstrual products can be high, though, and some women have trouble accessing them. Advocates for menstrual equity argue the government should do more to ensure that all women can get the products they need. Listen to an advocate explain why menstrual equity is an important public policy issue and which laws could change to promote equitable access.
March 24, 2021
The International Space Station is a large spacecraft and science lab orbiting Earth. The astronauts who live and work there temporarily sometimes miss the foods and other conveniences they enjoyed at home, but there is nowhere to buy them. Instead, they often trade, or barter, with fellow astronauts for the things they want. With astronauts from different countries with various skills and preferences, there are plenty of opportunities to trade. Listen to hear about a lively barter economy in space, and learn what the astronauts all agree should never be traded.
March 23, 2021
Recently a gunman in Atlanta killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The attack followed a year that saw a dramatic increase in verbal and physical attacks against Asian Americans, accompanying a rise in racist rhetoric that scapegoated China for the coronavirus pandemic. Anti-Asian discrimination and racism have a long history in the U.S., and tend to worsen during periods of tension and fear, according to a former professor of Asian American studies. Listen to learn about the history of anti-Asian violence in the U.S. and how today’s situation parallels the past.
March 22, 2021
In an address to the nation, President Joe Biden set an aggressive timeline for getting Americans vaccinated and back to normal life. He said he expected the pace of vaccinations will be fast enough to allow friends and family to celebrate the 4th of July holiday together safely. Biden also expressed excitement over his recently passed $1.9 trillion package designed to bring economic relief to Americans. Listen to hear more about Biden’s optimistic remarks and plans for moving the country forward after a very difficult year.
March 21, 2021
Listen to hear about a 90-year-old grandmother who climbed a mountain in Scotland without leaving home.
Vocabulary: scale, summit, charity
March 19, 2021
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Even full-time workers often find it difficult to support themselves or their families at that rate. Democrats have proposed a dramatic boost in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, arguing it would energize the economy by encouraging people to spend more and would help address income inequalities. Opponents argue the economy would suffer under a higher federal minimum wage, as some small businesses could be forced to lay off workers and raise prices. Listen to business owners discuss the pros and cons of a $15 minimum wage and then debate: Should the minimum wage be raised?
Update: Since this story aired, the COVID relief bill passed Congress and became law.
March 18, 2021
After being canceled during the pandemic, many high school sports are starting up again. This audio story focuses on a high school girls’ tennis team in California where athletes are both nervous and excited to resume play. Listen to learn how one school community is handling the reopening of school sports, and hear high school athletes describe what this moment means to them.
March 17, 2021
Coral reefs, home to fish and plant life in oceans throughout the world, have been severely damaged by climate change, among other human impacts. In the Caribbean Sea, the dead and dying reefs have been taken over by seaweed that has choked out any new coral reefs trying to grow. To tackle the problem of dying reefs and to figure out a way to restore them, scientists paired up with an unlikely partner – the Caribbean king crab. Listen to hear a marine scientist explain how seaweed hurts coral reefs and how crabs may be able to help bring them back.
March 16, 2021
In a recent television interview, Prince Harry, grandson of Queen Elizabeth of England, and his wife, Meghan Markle, aired their grievances against the British royal family. The couple spoke publicly for the first time since stepping back from their royal duties a year ago. Meghan, who is biracial, objected to what she felt were racist comments from family members as well as the palace’s insensitivity to her mental health needs. Listen to hear more about the young couple’s disappointment with Buckingham Palace and why they chose to leave the royal life behind.
March 15, 2021
A small but powerful band of Kurdish women has led the fight against ISIS, or the Islamic State, a group of militant Islamic fundamentalists, as they tried to overtake northeastern Syria. The women of the YPG force trained as warriors to defend their neighborhoods and towns, and fought side by side with American forces. Becoming fighters was unusual for women living in a traditional society, and their actions helped advance their goals of gender equality. Listen to learn what motivated the women to take up arms against ISIS and how one warrior’s uncle treated her differently after she fought.
March 14, 2021
Listen to hear about an endangered Australian mouse that has proved to be a survivor.
Vocabulary: rodent, location, extinct, endangered
March 12, 2021
People caught shoplifting less than $1000 worth of goods generally do not go to prison. But American businesses lose billions of dollars each year to shoplifting, and some are pushing for more serious penalties to help deter the crime. They argue that longer jail sentences would stop people repeatedly caught shoplifting and those involved in schemes to resell the stolen goods. Others say sentencing rules often result in punishments that are overly harsh, and prison time does not help address the root causes of shoplifting. Listen to learn more about the controversy over punishing shoplifters and then debate: Should shoplifters go to prison?
March 11, 2021
For people with physical disabilities, sometimes simple but important daily tasks are impossibile. That was true for Matthew Walzer, who was born with cerebral palsy (CP), a condition that affects muscle tone and movement. CP left Walzer unable to tie his shoes, which he worried might interfere with his ability to attend college independently. At age 16, he wrote a letter to Nike asking for a hands-free sneaker, and the company responded. Listen to Walzer describe some of the challenges people with disabilities face each day and how he inspired Nike to design a cool new sneaker that anyone can wear.
March 10, 2021
Two photographers in Atlanta have undertaken an unusual project: turning kids into real-life versions of their wildest dreams. Whether it’s a creature from a fairy tale or an ancient prince, kids are invited to imagine who or what they might like to become, and to express their personalities in creative ways in front of the camera. Listen to hear the reactions of kids who have participated in an imaginative photo shoot, and find out what the photographers hope to accomplish through their project.
March 9, 2021
One of the NASA engineers responsible for sending the Perseverance rover to Mars is a young Latina woman. In this interview, Christina Hernandez recounts what made the mission exciting for her both personally and professionally. She credits her upbringing and her family’s immigrant past, in particular, for her present success. Listen to hear a Latina scientist explain what she loves about her work and why she believes Latinas are well equipped to take on the toughest challenges.
March 8, 2021
The city of Washington, D.C., hosted a mass COVID-19 vaccination event for its public school employees. It was a huge operation requiring hundreds of volunteers and provided vaccinations to thousands of workers in one day. For this audio story, a reporter visited the event and asked attendees to share their thoughts on getting vaccinated. Listen to hear from a school custodian, a teacher, and a principal who received their shots, and hear a doctor explain how he addresses peoples’ fears about the vaccine.
March 5, 2021
Some people say universal basic income, or a regular cash payment from the government to each American, is one of the best ways to address economic inequality in America. They argue that guaranteed income would help everyone, especially those who are struggling financially, to cover basic living costs and feel supported during hard times. Opponents argue that guaranteed income could reduce the labor force by encouraging people not to work, and the costs of such a program would be high. Listen to a former mayor explain Martin Luther King, Jr.’s views on economic equality and then debate: Should there be universal basic income?
March 4, 2021
NFL coaching has become more diverse in recent years, but most top positions continue to be held by white men. Only five of the league’s 32 head coaches are minorities. While more people of color and women have become qualified for leadership positions, they are not being hired for the top jobs. Listen to a sports writer describe the problem of discrimination within the NFL, and learn whom he blames for the league’s failure to diversify its leadership.
March 3, 2021
A 9-year-old boy in Colorado has raised thousands of dollars for food banks by writing and selling his own newsletter. He was inspired to help after learning that many people are unemployed during the pandemic, and some struggle with hunger. Writing his kid-friendly newsletter has connected him with neighbors and taught him what it means to be a journalist. Listen to an interview with a young writer to learn why he started a fund-raising project and what he likes best about the job.
March 2, 2021
In a landmark 2020 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that employers may not discriminate against gay and transgender workers. Soon after taking office, President Biden signed an executive order that broadened these protections beyond just the workplace. The order says discrimination in housing, healthcare, and other areas is also illegal, and the LGBTQ community is welcoming the news. Critics, though, say Biden’s order represents a misuse of executive power. Listen to hear why one attorney called Biden’s approach “transformational,” and learn about possible next steps to solidify protections.
March 1, 2021
NASA’s Perseverance rover has landed safely on the surface of Mars. It had to slow from a traveling speed of 12,000 miles per hour and complete a complex series of steps to make a safe landing. The rover landed in the rock-filled Jezero Crater, an area scientists believe was once flooded with water. Listen to learn what scientists hope to discover through the mission, and hear how they reacted when the rover finally touched down.
Update: Since this story aired, the Perseverance has sent videos of its landing back to Earth, which are available online.
February 28, 2021
Listen to hear about a pair of emus who were banned from a pub for bad behavior.
Vocabulary: ban, establishment, emu
February 26, 2021
The Tokyo Summer Olympics were originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, but the pandemic forced a year-long delay. Now, as the new date approaches, controversy is raging over whether to postpone this one too. Organizers insist they can manage the risks of COVID-19 outbreaks with a set of rules, outlined in a handbook, designed to keep athletes safe. The Japanese people overwhelmingly favor cancelling the event, though, saying the rules are inadequate and leave too many questions unanswered. Listen to hear more about the controversy over the upcoming Olympic Games and then debate: Should the Tokyo Summer Olympics be held in 2021?
Update: Since this story aired, Yoshiro Mori, the head of the Tokyo Games organizing committee, has resigned.
February 25, 2021
Between 1920 and 1948, Black baseball players were excluded from major league teams, so they formed their own group, the Negro League. While Major League Baseball (MLB) carefully charted the stats of its white players during this period, many top players in the Negro League went unacknowledged. Now, on the Negro League’s 100th anniversary, the MLB has welcomed its players into the majors retroactively. Its star players will assume their rightful place on the leaderboards, shifting and diversifying the names that appear there. Listen to hear a Negro League museum founder react to the long-overdue announcement, and learn about the painstaking process he used to compile stats on Black ballplayers.
February 24, 2021
Bats and humans may look very different, but it turns out they have something surprising in common. A bat researcher discovered that mommy bats change their voices when they talk to their babies, just like human mothers often do. For both species, this special tone is a way to help the young learn language. Listen to hear recordings of adult and baby bats vocalizing, and learn more about how mother bats teach their pups to communicate.
February 23, 2021
Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation has prioritized those who speak the Cherokee language to receive the coronavirus vaccine. The language declined hundreds of years ago, when native populations were forced off their land, and today there are very few Cherokee speakers left. Mastery of the language is highly valued because it preserves native culture, and those who speak it can pass their knowledge to the next generation. Listen to hear a Cherokee sing a hymn in her native tongue, and learn why she changed her mind about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
February 22, 2021
A huge power outage in Texas has left millions of people without electricity. The crisis occurred when a storm brought frigid temperatures causing equipment to freeze in every part of the state’s power generation system, including wind turbines, natural gas wells, and coal and nuclear plants. The cold weather was unusual for Texas, but experts say the state needs to prepare its power systems for more extreme weather events in the future. Listen to learn more about the crisis and how politicians are discussing it in the media.
February 21, 2021
Listen to hear about a woman who cooked over a thousand lasagnas for her neighbors.
Vocabulary: fund, furloughed
February 19, 2021
Remote schooling during the pandemic has negatively affected both the learning and the mental health of many students. As schools start to resume in-person learning, some people are suggesting that summer school could help. They argue that extending the school year would allow time for intensive programs to help students catch up academically and reconnect with teachers and peers. Summer school programs cost money, though, and require teachers to work extra hours. Listen to learn about programs that have helped struggling students in the past and then debate: Should learning time extend into the summer?
February 18, 2021
In his second impeachment trial, the Senate acquitted former president Donald Trump on charges of inciting an insurrection. The vote to convict Trump was 57-43, with seven Republicans siding with the Democrats, but it fell short of the 67 needed for a conviction. The acquittal meant the Senate could not take steps to bar Trump from holding office again. Listen to learn why Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell condemned Trump after voting to acquit him, and hear a reporter explain how the impeachment trial could impact the former president’s legacy.
February 17, 2021
The height of the world’s tallest mountain is changing. The height of Mount Everest, located on the border between China and Nepal, was recorded at 29,029 feet. But over hundreds of years, natural events, such as earthquakes and moving plates in the Earth’s crust, have caused the mountain’s height to shift. In recent years, Chinese and Nepalese scientists have worked together to re-measure the giant peak. Listen to learn about the methods used to measure the mountain and challenges involved, and hear a climber explain why the height of the mountain matters to her.
Note: Since this story aired, the height of Mt. Everest was newly measured at 29,032 feet.
February 16, 2021
Recently a group of more than a thousand produce market workers in New York went on strike for higher wages. Banding together and organizing into labor unions can give workers more power to advocate for their rights. Especially during the pandemic, when providing essential services often means risking their own health, more workers are joining with others to demand the pay and working conditions they feel they deserve. Listen to learn more about why workers are organizing and what gives them more, or less, bargaining power.
February 14, 2021
Listen to hear about a very old shipwreck found on the coast of Italy.
Vocabulary: merchant, archaeologist
February 12, 2021
After the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, many people are calling for national unity, but opinions differ as to how it can be achieved. Some say unity will only come through a process of reconciliation, or examining past wrongs and holding those who are guilty accountable. They argue that seeking justice allows a country to move beyond its painful past. Others say focusing on the past diverts energy from the task of looking ahead, keeps anger and divisions alive, and slows the healing process. Listen to learn parallels between post-Civil War America and today and then debate: Are unity and accountability mutually exclusive?
February 11, 2021
Before the pandemic, a snowstorm often meant a day off from school because it made transportation difficult. Now, with many students learning from home, snow days are often unnecessary. After a recent storm, one school superintendent in West Virginia decided to declare one anyway, although they were remote, to give kids and their families the chance to experience the many joys a snow day brings. Listen to a school leader explain why she called off school and how people responded.
February 10, 2021
A lot of new baby elephants have recently been born in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. Elephants need just the right environmental conditions to have babies, and the mothers spend years nursing and rearing their young. The unusual baby boom means that elephants are thriving in one part of Kenya, but their rising population could also mean trouble for their future survival. Listen to hear a journalist and his guide search for baby elephants in a safari truck, and learn how long the babies stay with their moms.
February 9, 2021
Mardi Gras is a festive occasion celebrated in New Orleans each year with parades, music, art, and other cultural events. The annual parades have been canceled this year because of the pandemic, but organizers have invented a creative alternative. They founded Hire a Mardi Gras Artist, a program pairing talented artists with New Orleans residents interested in installing “house floats” at their homes. Money raised from the project supports the city’s “culture bearers” – artists, musicians, and performers who embody the special culture of New Orleans. Listen to learn how the project is inspiring the city during a challenging time.
February 8, 2021
President Biden has nominated New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland to head the U.S. Department of the Interior. If confirmed by the Senate, Haaland would become the first Native American to hold a Cabinet-level position in the government. The Interior Department oversees public land such as national parks. In the past, the U.S. government removed indigenous people from much of their land, and some say Haaland’s Native American background gives her a unique perspective on issues of land use and rights. Listen to hear more about Deb Haaland and reactions to her nomination, and learn what she hopes to accomplish as Interior secretary.
Update: Since this story aired, Deb Haaland has been confirmed by Congress as U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
February 7, 2021
Listen to hear about a rare hybrid turtle competing in a sea turtle race. Track Maisy’s travels here.
Vocabulary: contender, migration, hybrid