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 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.
Current Event 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.
Plagiarism is a vexing problem for administrators in high schools and colleges. Students caught using someone else’s words or ideas could face serious consequences including possible expulsion. But plagiarism doesn’t just happen with research papers and schoolwork. It happens in the world of crossword puzzles. In this interview with Will Shortz, puzzle editor of The New York Times, we learn more about a recent plagiarism scandal affecting crossword puzzles published in many newspapers. Was it inadvertent or intentional plagiarism, and are we likely to see more of it in the future in the crossword community?
Current Event January 22, 2021
Following the attack on the U.S. Capitol, big tech companies have taken action. Facebook and Twitter shut down the social media accounts of thousands of people involved in the attack, including President Trump, who has been impeached for inciting insurrection. Some say big tech companies have grown too powerful, and should not be able to restrict speech or business transactions. Others point out that private companies have the right to make and enforce their own rules for participation on their sites. Listen to learn more about the power of online giants and then debate: Is big tech too big?
Current Event January 21, 2021
A teen diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes created an app to help himself and others manage the disease. Thirteen-year-old Drew Mendelow felt overwhelmed by all the data he had to keep track of as a diabetes patient, like food intake and blood sugar levels. He designed an app to help him, and he’s sharing it with as many other patients as he can. Listen to hear how a teen entrepreneur took action to manage his illness and help others, and learn why one medical professional thinks his efforts will make a positive difference.
Current Event January 8, 2021
A deepfake is a piece of audio or video that has been manipulated to represent something that never actually happened. Created using advanced technology, deepfakes often look and sound so real that it is easy to be fooled by them. Many people worry that deepfakes will cause damage by spreading false information so widely that the truth will be lost. Some are concerned that deepfakes will erode people’s trust in the media, causing them to dismiss truth as fiction. Listen to learn more about media manipulation and then debate: Will deepfakes change how people view media?
Current Event December 4, 2020
Americans living in rural areas often have little or no access to high-speed internet, also called broadband. Broadband is used for many everyday activities and essential tasks, including remote learning. Some argue that access to broadband is a basic need, and the government should supply it to every American household, just as it provides access to electricity and clean water. Ensuring that broadband reaches the remotest corners of the country would require a major investment of time, effort, and money, competing with other funding priorities. Listen to people from rural areas describe the challenges of remote learning without broadband, and then debate: Should broadband access be a universal right?
Current Event November 25, 2020
When mountain hikers get in trouble, it can take time for first responders to reach them. With jet suits, however, paramedics can fly to the rescue, arriving in just seconds and potentially saving lives. People wearing jet suits have a jet engine and turbines strapped to their bodies that lift them into the air. Listen to hear the inventor of jet suits describe how it feels to fly, and learn how one company tested the new technology to see how well it worked.
Current Event October 19, 2020
The actions of armed anti-government groups, often calling themselves “militias,” are gaining attention in the U.S. One such group was recently accused of plotting to kidnap the governor of Michigan. Militant groups sometimes claim the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which calls for “a well-regulated militia,” protects their right to exist. But are private militias really legal? Listen to learn whether armed anti-government groups can operate legally in the U.S. and how social media platforms help them thrive.
Current Event October 13, 2020
Russia is trying to meddle in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, just as it did in 2016, through disinformation campaigns on social media. This year, experts say it is easier because foreign actors need only repeat falsehoods being circulated by Americans, including the current administration, which has questioned the integrity of the U.S. election process without supporting evidence. This has the effect of eroding voter confidence in democratic institutions and processes and encouraging actual interference with those processes. Listen to learn which tactics foreign adversaries are using to influence the 2020 election and how American national security experts and technology companies are trying to combat them.
Current Event October 9, 2020
A judge recently blocked President Trump’s order to ban all U.S. downloads of the video sharing app TikTok, which is currently owned by a Chinese company. Trump views the app as a national security threat, saying that the data it collects from American users may be accessible to the Chinese government. Defenders of the app say no evidence exists that the Chinese government could access American TikTok data, which is housed in the U.S. Listen to learn more about the controversy surrounding TikTok and then debate: Should TikTok be banned in the U.S.?
Current Event September 18, 2020
Text messaging is changing the way people are using punctuation to express themselves. Some feel that periods at the end of texts can indicate seriousness or even anger. Others believe that writing sentences without periods is an insult to their teachers. Not everyone uses punctuation in the same way, and a period at the end of a text can easily be misinterpreted. Listen to hear a variety of reactions to texts ending with periods then debate: Should texts include punctuation?
What is artificial intelligence? How does it differ from other computer programs? Currently, artificial intelligence is being used to help people in many ways, such as detecting when and where earthquakes will occur before they happen, determining how to slow down the spread of disease, and outlining the best way to get relief to people after a disaster. However, artificial intelligence is a developing field with ever-expanding applications. Listen to hear more about what artificial intelligence is, how it has developed over time, and how it can be used to help people.