TEACHERS: Current events podcasts for the classroom!
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September 4, 2020
A recent public opinion poll has found that the majority of Americans want the federal government to take strong measures to control the spread of COVID-19, including requiring people to wear masks in public. Infectious disease experts say that masks can slow the spread of the virus, and supporters of mandates say they are a necessary tool for controlling a highly contagious disease. Opponents argue that masks are unnecessary, and some say mask mandates violate their individual rights and restrict their freedom. Listen to hear more results from the poll and then debate: Should mask wearing be required by law?
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.
September 2, 2020
Zoos animals and their keepers are welcoming visitors after months of closures due to the pandemic. Some of the animals were content to interact with their own social groups while the zoo was closed. Others seemed bored without the usual flow of visitors, and keepers had to find creative ways to keep them occupied. Listen to hear an animal keeper explain which animals missed people the most and how her team used Facebook to keep animals entertained.
September 1, 2020
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been in financial trouble for years.The postmaster general implemented cost-cutting measures that are reportedly slowing down the mail system, which is cause for concern among many as the national election approaches, with the expected rise in voting by mail during the pandemic. Listen to a historian explain the important role of the postal service in U.S. history, and why she believes it is more critical than ever to maintain smooth functioning of the USPS in support of American democracy.
August 31, 2020
Another police shooting of a Black man has provoked protests across the U.S., including among professional athletes. Jacob Blake was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and is paralyzed below the waist. The shooting, which was captured on video, has led to violence on the streets. Athletes have been refusing to play important games, such as NBA playoffs, risking their own professional legacies for the cause of racial justice. Listen to hear why a sports commentator believes these protests reflect an important shift in the relationship between athletes and the owners of the teams for which they play.
August 30, 2020
Listen to hear about how the first woman to walk in space traveled to the deepest part of the ocean.
Vocabulary: depth, crevice
August 28, 2020
Statues of Confederate leaders, long considered offensive by many, have been removed in states around the country. Now, protesters are calling for the dismantling of statues with more complex backgrounds. These statues depict historical figures respected for their significant contributions to the advancement of America’s democratic ideals, but whose personal stories include ownership of enslaved people or other examples of complicity with systemic racism. Listen to a Civil War historian caution against extreme responses to monuments and then debate: Should statues of historic figures with complex legacies be removed?
August 27, 2020
The 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo have been postponed until July 2021 due to the pandemic. The delay is forcing some elite American athletes to permanently give up on their Olympic dreams and seek new careers. This is not the first time America has unexpectedly withdrawn from Olympic competition, although the reasons for skipping the games, and their effect on the athletes, have varied. Listen to learn why America has missed Olympic games in the past and how the athletes scheduled to compete in those games coped when their plans suddenly changed.
August 26, 2020
Drive-in movie theaters are having a resurgence during the pandemic. The first drive-in was created by Richard Hollingshead in the 1930s and quickly gained popularity as an easy, inexpensive place to go for a night out. At one point, the country had over 4,000 outdoor movie theaters, although as new forms of entertainment arose, drive-ins declined. Listen to learn how the inventor’s mother helped launch the idea and what people found most appealing about watching movies from their cars.
August 25, 2020
Many states are encouraging voters to cast ballots by mail in November to protect themselves from virus exposure. However, voter confidence in the process has been shaken by politicians who are saying that mail-in ballots may not be secure. Listen to a Republican election official from the state of Washington, where elections are 100% vote-by-mail, explain why voter confidence in elections is crucial and what steps she takes to ensure that voting is secure.
August 24, 2020
The U.S. has reached a milestone of five million COVID-19 infections, the highest number of any country in the world. New data shows that children have caught the virus in larger numbers than previously expected, raising questions about the safety of reopening schools. Health care professionals say more widespread testing with quick results is needed to contain the virus. Listen to learn more about the current state of the pandemic in the U.S. and what one official says is fueling the spread of the virus.
August 23, 2020
Listen to hear about how two teenagers created a grocery shopping program for the elderly.
Vocabulary: connect, volunteer, appreciation
August 21, 2020
Since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, protests against racial inequities have taken place in cities around the country. Some have turned violent, and recently federal troops were sent into several cities to patrol streets and make arrests. Officials in those cities have not requested this help, however, and many do not welcome it. They claim it is the job of local and state governments, not the federal government, to control unrest. Listen to a mayor explain why she believes the police sent to her city do not belong there and then debate: Should federal troops intervene in protests?
August 20, 2020
The Washington Redskins football team is changing its name, which has been considered a racist slur against Native Americans for decades. The team’s owner recently took action in the midst of nationwide protests against racism and America’s reckoning with its treatment of minorities. Listen to hear a Native American activist react emotionally to the football team’s decision and learn which events she thinks created a “tipping point” for the team owner.
August 19, 2020
A teen in India has become a celebrity after bicycling across the country carrying her dad. Fifteen-year-old Djoti made the trip when she and her father found themselves close to starvation and desperate to return to their home village. Djoti rode roughly 100 miles a day on a bicycle with no gears. Listen to hear the young athlete describe how she felt during the long journey, and learn how sports officials responded to her incredible feat.
August 18, 2020
Presidential candidate Joe Biden has announced that Kamala Harris will be his vice presidential running mate. Harris will be the first black woman to run on a presidential ticket. Her candidacy comes in the midst of national protests over racial inequities, and many leaders of color are marking this historic moment. Listen to learn about Kamala Harris’s background and views, and hear how other leaders have reacted to the announcement.
August 17, 2020
A colossal explosion in Beirut, Lebanon has killed at least 200 people and injured 5,000 others. The blast occurred when explosive material stored in a warehouse in the port city caught fire. The catastrophe follows a year of protests against government corruption and mismanagement, and many Lebanese now blame the government for failing to remove the dangerous explosives earlier. Listen to learn more about one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, and hear Lebanese citizens explain why they no longer have faith in their government.
Update: Several days after this story aired, the prime minister of Lebanon, Hassan Diab, resigned.
August 16, 2020
Listen to hear about how a shower curtain helped a man safely hug his grandma during the coronavirus pandemic.
Vocabulary: solution, transparent
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.
August 10, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens in the U.S., experts are saying that traditional ways of fighting it are no longer working. U.S. public health professionals pioneered the methods that have successfully contained past pandemics, but coronavirus has spread so widely and quickly in the U.S. that experts say these steps will no longer be effective at containing it. Listen to learn why an infectious disease doctor describes the pandemic as “a national forest fire of COVID” and what public health professionals recommend for next steps.
August 9, 2020
Listen to hear about special shoes that can help people keep a healthy social distance from others.
Vocabulary: typical, benefit
August 5, 2020
People infected with COVID-19 are often “silent spreaders,” able to infect others with the virus while showing no symptoms of illness themselves. The symptoms of COVID-19 often do not appear for several days in a newly infected person, but it is during this pre-symptomatic period that the person is most contagious. Because of this, public health experts are finding coronavirus especially hard to contain. Listen to an epidemiology professor describe the challenges of containing a virus that spreads silently, and which strategies have been proven to work best.
August 3, 2020
John Lewis, a celebrated civil rights leader and long-time member of Congress, has died. As a young man, Lewis fought courageously for racial justice alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., and others. Among other acts of nonviolent resistance, he led the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in support of voting rights, where he was severely beaten and arrested. Lewis continued to champion issues of justice as a legislator, earning him the nickname, “the conscience of Congress.” Listen to learn more about the life of John Lewis and how his passion and commitment to racial equality has inspired lawmakers and citizens for generations.
August 2, 2020
Listen to hear about the adorable roller coaster riders replacing human visitors during the pandemic.
Vocabulary: hurtle, historic
July 29, 2020
The Emancipation Memorial in Washington, DC, was created in 1876 to commemorate the freeing of enslaved people. It depicts a newly freed slave kneeling at the feet of Abraham Lincoln. Now, as Confederate statues and other symbols of racism are being dismantled around the country, some people are calling for this statue’s removal, too. They view the statue as a representation of oppression, while others see it as an image of liberation. Listen to learn more about the history of the Emancipation Memorial and the controversy surrounding it and hear black citizens from different generations express their views.
July 27, 2020
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, public health experts urged people to wear masks to protect others from getting sick. Now, scientists are finding that masks protect the wearer, too. Wearing a mask can block virus particles from entering a person’s body, and even if some particles enter, the mask wearer is less likely to become seriously ill. Listen to an infectious disease doctor explain the science behind mask wearing and how this new information could encourage more people to cover their faces in public.
July 26, 2020
Listen to hear about bald eagle sightings on Cape Cod for the first time in more than 100 years.
Vocabulary: deforestation, century, symbol
July 22, 2020
School leaders across the country are grappling with questions of when and how to reopen schools safely. While there is a shared interest nationwide in kids returning to school buildings, the virus is still widespread in communities across the country. Although kids are less likely to suffer from COVID-19, they may carry the germ back to their families and communities. The CDC’s safety recommendations are challenging for many schools to follow without additional space, staff, and supplies. Listen to school leaders throughout the U.S. discuss their hopes, priorities, and fears as they decide what school will look like in the fall.
July 20, 2020
Crew Dragon, a space capsule launched by the private company SpaceX, recently transported two American astronauts to the International Space Station. In this audio story, the astronauts reflect on their experiences in space and what it feels like to view Earth in the midst of a pandemic. Listen to hear the space travelers describe how space travel today is different from 50 years ago and explain why future space travel could be similar to scuba diving.
July 19, 2020
Listen to hear about two astronauts in space playing chess with an expert on Earth.
Vocabulary: versus, draw, anniversary
July 15, 2020
With the presidential election months away and the coronavirus pandemic raging, some people are concerned about the health risks of in-person voting. Now, athletes are helping to address that problem. Several NBA teams have volunteered their sports arenas as polling places. The large spaces provide plenty of room for social distancing, which election officials hope will encourage voter turnout. Listen to learn how sports arenas could solve a range of voting challenges and why black athletes are speaking out about political causes more than ever before.
July 13, 2020
The Mississippi legislature voted to remove the Confederate emblem from its state flag. Designed in 1894, Mississippi’s flag incorporated an image of the Confederate battle flag, a symbol that is offensive to many citizens. The decision to remove the emblem was made amidst protests over police killings of black people and a national reckoning with racism in America, past and present. Listen to hear a Mississippi politician recount the experiences that shaped his understanding of the Confederate symbol and why he thinks the long-overdue change is finally happening.
July 12, 2020
Listen to hear about an old pair of sneakers that was sold for a very high price.
Vocabulary: auction, permanent
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.
July 6, 2020
Leaders throughout the world are working to control the spread of COVID-19 in their nations. Some have managed to keep their country’s illness rates very low or to quickly limit outbreaks. This story examines the qualities and strategies of these successful leaders and the commonalities in their responses to the pandemic that have so effectively addressed the health crisis. Listen to learn what the New Zealand prime minister said to calm her nation, how leaders of several Asian countries mobilized their governments, and what the German Chancellor did for the first time ever to rally her citizens to work together to reduce the threat of the virus.
July 5, 2020
Listen to hear about how a hairstyle in Kenya has become popular again due to COVID-19.
Vocabulary: era, resemble, resurgence, austere
July 1, 2020
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.
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.
June 28, 2020
Listen to hear about how a bull caused a Scottish town to lose power.
Vocabulary: culprit, suspect, oblivious
June 24, 2020
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.