Current Event May 14, 2021
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?
Current Event May 13, 2021
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.
Current Event May 11, 2021
In 1915, the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey, began a systematic process of deporting, torturing, and killing over a million of its Armenian population in what many regard as one of history’s worst atrocities. The United States had previously avoided officially labeling the massacre a “genocide.” Recently, though, President Biden changed course and joined the dozens of other countries that have declared the Armenian Massacre a genocide. Listen to a member of Congress explain what was behind the president’s decision and the effect it may have on our international relationships.
Current Event May 4, 2021
The U.S. and China have a long history of mistrust and competition. In 1971, though, an unusual situation helped thaw this chilly relationship. At the invitation of China’s communist leader, Mao Zedong, the U.S. Olympic table tennis team visited China for a 10-day tour and tournament. The widely publicized visit sparked a process that eventually allowed President Richard Nixon to accomplish one of his top priorities – opening dialogue with China. Listen to learn how Ping-Pong Diplomacy influenced the relationship between the U.S. and China and where that relationship stands 50 years later.
Current Event April 26, 2021
Tens of thousands of Latin American children hoping to enter the United States arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border this spring. The U.S. government is quickly building emergency shelters to house the wave of unaccompanied minors, or children traveling without adults, but they are having trouble keeping up. The Biden administration says the flow of migrants is typical, although some lawmakers disagree. Listen to learn why there are so many Central American migrants at the border and how the U.S. government handles children who migrate alone.
Current Event April 23, 2021
A vaccine passport certifies that a person is fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and therefore unlikely to have the infection or transmit it to others. Many businesses like the idea of requiring guests to prove their vaccination status. They say that ensuring a safe environment in stores, theaters, and other places would encourage people to enter, and many consumers agree. Others argue that giving privileges to the vaccinated would unfairly divide Americans, and that making people reveal their health status raises privacy concerns. Listen to learn more about the controversy over vaccine certification and then debate: Are vaccine passports a good idea?
Current Event April 19, 2021
President Biden has ambitious plans to improve America’s infrastructure and create new jobs. He recently announced the American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion proposal to fix roads, bridges, and highways, expand broadband access, support green energy projects, and more. The new plan would create millions of jobs, Biden says, and help America keep up with powerful economic competitors like China. Listen to learn more about the president’s new proposal and the changes it would bring.
Current Event April 16, 2021
The U.S. has an especially high rate of gun violence, and several recent mass shootings have renewed calls for restrictions on gun purchases. Advocates of tighter gun laws say simple measures like expanding background checks and banning assault weapons would help keep guns away from people who should not have them. Several such bills are being considered by Congress and are widely popular. Opponents say their right to bear arms is protected by the Constitution, and new gun restrictions would interfere with that right. Listen to learn about the latest battle in the long fight over gun laws and then debate: Should Congress restrict gun purchases?
Update: Since this story aired, President Biden announced a series of executive orders restricting “ghost guns,” handmade firearms that do not require background checks.
Current Event April 2, 2021
Filibustering is a strategy used by U.S. senators to delay or block a vote on a bill they oppose. In the past, it involved non-stop speaking on the floor of the Senate to prevent the vote from taking place. Now, however, a simple email is enough to trigger a filibuster and require 60 votes to pass legislation rather than a simple majority. The filibuster was designed to encourage compromise, but in today’s highly divided Senate, it is often used as a tool by one side to obstruct the other side’s agenda. Listen to hear arguments for and against the current rules and then debate: Should the Senate filibuster be changed?
Current Event 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?
Current Event 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.
Current Event 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.
Current Event 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?
Girls growing up in America often receive conflicting messages about ambition. In her new children’s book, Ambitious Girl, author Meena Harris redefines the meaning of ambition for girls. Her story empowers girls to become leaders and encourages them to pursue their dreams. Listen to hear how the experiences of the author’s aunt, Vice President Kamala Harris, inspired the book, and learn why the author wants Black and brown girls, in particular, to see themselves reflected in its pages.
Current Event 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.
Current Event 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.
Current Event 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.
Current Event 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?
Current Event 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.