VOA Special English - UNSV英语学习频道VOA Special Englishhttp://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/http://www.unsv.com/images/unsv.gifVOA慢速英语即VOA Special English,又叫VOA特别英语,是快速提高听力、纠正发音、改善阅读理解,扩充英语知识的绝佳节目,还被新东方、疯狂英语等培训机构选作核心教材。http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/zh-CNhttp://www.unsv.com60版权所有©2003-2011 UNSV.COM英语学习频道,保留所有权利。Fri, 23 Oct 2020 09:27:16 UTC<![CDATA[Hard Hit by Virus, Airlines Push for Tests Over Quarantines]]>Susan Shand如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

International air traffic is down 92 percent this year, with many travelers worried about getting COVID-19. There are also government travel bans and quarantine rules that make planning difficult.

What will it take to get people flying again? Airline officials believe that quick virus tests of all passengers before takeoff could be the answer.

Experiments on improving safety are taking place around the world. A United Nations organization is leading talks to set new rules. And all of this is important: As the pandemic worsens, the near total end of international travel is holding back economies as they try to return to business activity. Millions of jobs are at risk, including those at airlines, airports and businesses like hotels and restaurants.

Here is a look at some of the biggest issues.

Why is the focus on testing?

One reason people worry about taking long flights is that they fear they will sit next to someone with COVID-19, a report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) found. Flying helped carry the virus around the world after it first appeared in China in 2019. However, airplanes themselves have not been proven to be super-spreaders like large business meetings or the meat-packing industry have been.

Also, most people do not want to fly to a place with quarantine rules that restricts their movements after arrival. Quarantines are not always effective because they are often not strongly enforced.

"Testing all passengers will give people back their freedom to travel with confidence. And that will put millions of people back to work," said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's director general and chief executive officer.

How would testing work?

Because newer tests can give results in less than an hour, trials are looking at testing passengers before they leave on a plane. Tests results could be received through a smartphone app.

What do health officials say?

Health officials are open to the idea of quick testing before travel, but they are still examining how effective it would be.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control noted that testing technology and ability are improving. It added that efforts are taking place worldwide to understand the risk reduction, create a possible testing system for air travel and "gain some level of agreement on standards for testing globally in air transportation."

Who is going to make the decisions?

The IATA is calling for quick and accurate testing for all passengers. After airline executives appealed for help from the European Union and the White House, the issue has moved to the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal, Canada.

The ICAO is working on establishing rules that countries could use to create testing systems. The issue will be discussed at a meeting on October 29.

What trials are taking place?

Several testing systems have been tried for weeks in different places. Airlines seek a large, international, standardized system.

Currently, systems are very different. China's airline testing system requires a complex test that takes a long time. Frankfurt international airport in Germany uses a company that offers tests to those who appear healthy for 59 to 139 euros, depending on its requested quickness.

The Switzerland-based Commons Project Foundation and the World Economic Forum are holding trials this month for CommonPass. It is a digital health pass that lets travelers prove they are healthy with a QR code on their smartphones or on paper.

Cathay Pacific has tested CommonPass with volunteers on a Hong Kong to Singapore flight. United Airlines will soon test it between London Heathrow and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey.

The CDC's Martin S. Cetron says the center is "eager to learn" from the trials. Cetron is the CDC's head of the worldwide migration and quarantine division. Cetron added that CommonPass "could be one of many…tools" airlines could use. Individual countries could use CommonPass without waiting for international agreements.

Why the delay?

The test must be correct, fast and not too costly. Governments must agree to accept the results. There has to be a way of certifying the result and protecting the privacy rights of passengers. There also needs to be a system in place for those who are found to have the virus.

There are other concerns as well. People can test negative for the virus for a couple of days after being infected. People can be infectious before they show any signs, and these people may also test negative.

I'm Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Words in This Story

quarantine – n. to put someone with a contagious disease alone until the disease ends

pandemic – n. the movement of a contagious disease across country lines

confidence – n. to be certain or sure of one's ability

globally -adj. worldwide

accurate – adj. to be correct in the small details

QR code – n. a quick-response code is a matrix on a computer-readable machine

eager – adj. to want to do something

certify – v. to say that something is legal and true

negative adj. on the bad side

http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/23/1892/http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/23/1892/VOA Special EnglishFri, 23 Oct 2020 09:18:00 UTC
<![CDATA[Large Drugmaker to Plead Guilty to Criminal Charges]]>John Russell如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

While the United States deals with COVID-19, another public health concern is being largely ignored: the crisis of opioid addiction. Opioid addiction has been linked to the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans over the past 20 years.

That may be about to change.

Purdue Pharma is the maker of Oxycontin, a powerful painkiller at the center of America's opioid problem. The U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday that Purdue Pharma will plead guilty to federal criminal charges as part of an $8-billion legal settlement.

The deal does not free any of the company's officers or owners from legal action. The federal government is continuing to investigate the possibility of additional charges.

The settlement shows that the federal government will hold major drug makers responsible for the opioid addiction crisis.

Opioids are a class of drugs that can reduce pain. They include the illegal drug heroin, man-made opioids such as fentanyl and pain relief medicines sold at drug stores. Patients can purchase such painkillers only under doctors' orders.

In 2020, the state of Ohio may have one of its deadliest years of opioid drug overdoses. More people died there from overdoses in May than in any month in at least 14 years. That information comes from the state's health department.

Ohio is considered critical to victory for candidates seeking to become president of the United States.

The problem of opioid addiction has also become an election campaign issue. Both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have talked about their personal connections to drug addiction.

Biden's son, Hunter Biden, has had problems with drugs. Trump's brother Fred was a life-long alcoholic before his death in 1999.

Early in his presidency, Trump declared the opioid crisis a national health emergency.

In 2018, the president signed legislation to increase federal spending on opioid abuse to record levels. A Bipartisan Policy Center study found that federal spending to fight opioid addiction more than doubled in Trump's first full year in office. As part of that, federal treatment and recovery money increased by 300 percent.

But because of a shortage of medical specialists, states have not been able to spend all the money they received. Some states worry that the money will not continue, and programs would have to be cancelled, the report found.

The federal settlement comes less than two weeks before the presidential election. In the settlement, Purdue Pharma is admitting that it paid doctors to write more prescriptions for Oxycontin. The company also admits it lied when it claimed to have an effective program to avoid the misuse of the drug. And Purdue admits it reported misleading information to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Ed Bisch lost his 18-year-old son to an OxyContin overdose nearly 20 years ago. He said he wants to see the company's officers face criminal charges.

"The fact that this doesn't grant anyone immunity, I'm heartened by that," he said after the deal was announced.

I'm John Russell.

This story is based on reports from the Associated Press. Susan Shand and John Russell adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

addiction – n. a strong and harmful need to have or do something (such as gamble)

plead – v. to say in court that you are either guilty or not guilty of a crime : to make a plea​

overdose – n. an amount of a drug or medicine that is too much and usually dangerous

prescription – n. a written message from a doctor that officially tells someone to use a medicine, therapy, etc.​

immunity – n. special protection from what is required for most people by law — usually + from

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/23/1035/http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/23/1035/VOA Special EnglishFri, 23 Oct 2020 08:39:00 UTC
<![CDATA[US Links Threatening Emails to Iran, Russia]]>Jonathan Evans如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

U.S. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said on Wednesday that Iran and Russia have both tried to interfere with the 2020 presidential election.

Ratcliffe made the announcement at a news conference that also included Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Chris Wray. The announcement came just two weeks before the Nov. 3 election day. It showed the level of concern among top U.S. officials about foreign attempts to influence the results of the 2020 presidential election.

"We have confirmed that some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran, and separately, by Russia," Ratcliffe said during the news conference.

Most of that voter registration information is available to the public. But Ratcliffe said government officials "have already seen Iran sending…emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump." Ratcliffe was speaking of emails sent Wednesday designed to look like they came from the pro-Trump Proud Boys group.

U.S. intelligence agencies had previously warned that Iran might interfere to hurt Trump and that Russia was trying to help him in the election.

Outside experts said that if Ratcliffe was correct, Iran would be trying to make Trump look bad by calling attention to support and threats by the Proud Boys. The group supports white nationalism and has ties to other hate groups.

Some of those emails contained a video that claimed to show how false ballots could be submitted. Ratcliffe said that claim was false. The emails are under investigation.

Alireza Miryousefi is a spokesman for Iran's mission to the United Nations. He denied Iran has tried to interfere in the U.S. election. He said in a statement, "Iran has no interest in interfering in the U.S. election and no preference for the outcome."

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he disagreed with Ratcliffe that Iran was specifically trying to hurt Trump. He told the television network MSNBC, "It was clear to me that the intent of Iran in this case and Russia in many more cases is to basically undermine confidence in our elections."

Trump administration spokesman Judd Deere said Trump has directed government agencies to fight "any attempts to interfere in U.S. elections." He added that "because of the great work of our law enforcement agencies we have stopped an attempt by America's adversaries to undermine our elections."

One intelligence source told Reuters that U.S. officials suspect the Iranian government was involved, but that the evidence does not yet prove it.

A second government source said U.S. officials have evidence that Russia and Iran had tried to hack into voter registration information in unidentified states. But the source added that the hacking may only have been aimed at avoiding payment for the information.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English from Reuters news service and Associated Press reports. Hai Do was the editor.

http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/23/8787/http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/23/8787/VOA Special EnglishFri, 23 Oct 2020 06:27:00 UTC
<![CDATA[Thailand Cancels Emergency Order as Protests Continue]]>Bryan Lynn如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

Thailand's government has canceled an emergency order that failed to end continuing pro-democracy demonstrations.

The state of emergency was declared last week. It banned public gatherings of more than four people. It also permitted censorship of the media and gave police powers to detain people temporarily without charge. But daily protests continued in Bangkok and other cities even with the emergency order in place.

The order was lifted at 12 p.m. on Thursday. A government statement said it was canceled because "the current situation that led to the announcement of the severe situation had eased."

Government officials and state agencies were told to deal with ongoing events with existing laws, the statement said.

The protesters are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. He is a former army general who has led the country under military rule since his group seized power in 2014. The protesters are also pushing for changes to the constitution and reforms of the country's monarchy.

Pro-democracy activists march to the Government House, prime minister's office during a protest march in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Pro-democracy activists march to the Government House, prime minister's office during a protest march in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Prayuth went on national television Wednesday night to appeal to protesters to reduce political tensions. "I will make the first move to deescalate this situation," he said. "I am currently preparing to lift the state of severe emergency in Bangkok and will do so promptly if there are no violent incidents."

As he spoke, protesters marched near Government House, the place of his office, to demand that he step down. They also called for the release of activists arrested in connection with earlier demonstrations.

Protest leaders said that withdrawing the emergency order was not enough. "(Prayuth) is still seeking to stay in power while ignoring all the people's demands. The emergency decree shouldn't have been issued in the first place," said Sirawith Seritiwat, one of the leaders of the pro-democracy movement.

The demonstrators said if their demands were not met, they would return in three days.

There were no large demonstrations on Thursday, as some protesters said they were taking a day to rest. Wednesday had marked the eighth straight day of protests.

Pro-democracy activists create a human chain to confront a police barricades during their march to the Government House, prime minister's office during a protest march in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Pro-democracy activists create a human chain to confront a police barricades during their march to the Government House, prime minister's office during a protest march in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

On Tuesday, the government approved a request to call a special meeting of parliament next week to seek to find a solution to the political crisis. But the pro-democracy movement has so far not shown much interest in a parliamentary solution. Prayuth's supporters hold a majority in parliament.

The order's cancelation came as a Bangkok court was preparing to rule on legal motions to force the government to end the order on the basis that it illegally restricted freedom of assembly.

The government suffered a legal setback Wednesday when a judge barred it from carrying out orders to ban several media companies for failing to obey rules under the emergency order. A police order permitted officials to block news websites that published what was described as "distorted information."

In Geneva, the United Nations' human rights office said its experts had urged Thailand's government to honor the rights of peaceful assembly and free speech. The U.N. statement said Thai people should be permitted "to freely speak their mind and share their political views, both online and offline, without prosecution."

I'm Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

censorship – n. the process of removing opinions from books, movies, letters and other media

monarchy - n. a system of government in which a country is ruled by a king and queen whose power is limited by a constitution

deescalate - v. decrease the size, scope, or intensity of something

prompt - adj. acting quickly and without delay

decree – n. an official order or decision from a government or leader

assemblyn. the bringing of people together in a group

setback – n. a problem that makes progress difficult or success less likely

distort – v. to change the information so that it is not true or realistic

prosecute – v. to officially accuse someone of a crime in a court of law

http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/23/8622/http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/23/8622/VOA Special EnglishFri, 23 Oct 2020 06:14:00 UTC
<![CDATA[EVERYDAY GRAMMAR - Taking Adjectives to the Extreme]]>Alice Bryant如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

A friend of mine had a very small wedding last weekend. Only close family attended in person. Everyone else, myself included, watched the ceremony in real time on YouTube. My friend, the bride, looked very, very pretty. She and her new husband were very happy. And I was very glad to see them take this step together.

You probably noticed that I used the word "very" repeatedly in my story. I did it to demonstrate this point: Rather than repeat an intensifier too often, we can usually choose stronger adjectives. We call the strongest adjectives non-gradable, or extreme, adjectives.

Extreme adjectives are the subject of today's Everyday Grammar program.

How do extreme adjectives work?

An adjective is a word that describes the qualities of a noun. Most adjectives in English are gradable: There can be different levels to their qualities.

Take the word "funny," which is a gradable adjective. Someone or something can be, for example, kind of funny, pretty funny, very funny or extremely funny. I used adverbs (such as "kind of" and "pretty") to show how strong (or weak) the humor is.

Extreme adjectives work a bit differently. They are words that mean extremely + adjective. For example, the adjective "hilarious" means extremely funny. Generally, we do not say someone or something is "kind of hilarious" or "very hilarious" because "hilarious" itself already expresses the idea of being extremely funny.

As an English learner, you probably already know some extreme adjectives. Here are a few common ones:

  • exhausted, which means extremely tired
  • excellent, which means extremely good
  • freezing, which means extremely cold
  • delicious, which means extremely tasty
  • huge, which means extremely large

With extreme adjectives, there are a few basic rules. However, English is a constantly evolving language. So, exceptions to these rules continue to grow.

Rule #1: comparatives, superlatives

With that in mind, let's discuss the first rule.

Gradable adjectives have comparative and superlative forms while extreme adjectives usually do not.

Here are some examples for gradable adjectives:

  • funny, funnier, the funniest
  • good, better, the best
  • tasty, tastier, the tastiest

Someone might say, for example, "This dish is tastier than that one" or "It is the tastiest dish I have ever had."

With extreme adjectives, we usually avoid comparatives and superlatives. The adjective "excellent" is an example. It means extremely good. Native speakers generally would not say "This show is more excellent than that one" or "It is the most excellent show."

But over the years, spoken English has influenced grammar rules. So, you might hear some extreme adjectives in comparative or superlative form. Take the adjective "delicious." A person might say, "This is the most delicious dish I have ever had." It would not be considered wrong, even in written English.

Knowing which extreme adjectives have these exceptions comes with time and experience. It is not something to memorize from a list.

Rule #2: use other adverbs

Now, let's talk about the second rule.

With extreme adjectives, we avoid using most adverbs that suggest varying degree, or level.

Many adverbs express the degree of a gradable adjective. You heard some earlier, such as "kind of" in kind of funny and "very" in very good. Other common ones include a bit, a little, and rather. For instance, you could say, "Her house is a bit cold" or "That story is rather dull." The words "cold" and "dull" are gradable adjectives.

But with extreme adjectives, we often avoid using these adverbs. For example, it might sound strange to say, "Her house is a bit freezing" or "That man is rather gorgeous."

Yet, we can use other adverbs with extreme adjectives for stronger emphasis. Generally, adverbs that express the meaning of totality are used with extreme adjectives. Some examples are totally, utterly, absolutely and completely.

Listen to how they are used in sentences:

That comedian is absolutely hilarious.

I am totally exhausted.

The rug looks completely filthy.

Rule #3: adverbs for both

Now, onto rule number three. This is more of an exception to rule number two.

Only a few adverbs can be used with both gradable adjectives and non-gradable (extreme) adjectives. They include pretty, really, so and fairly.

Listen to these speakers using a couple of these adverbs with both gradable and non-gradable adjectives:

My parents are pretty tired.

My parents are pretty exhausted.

This painting is so nice.

This painting is so beautiful.

What can you do?

So, what can you do with the information you learned today?

Here is something you might enjoy: Choose a day to focus on adjectives. On that day, listen and look for adjectives wherever English is used. When you hear or see one, ask yourself if it is gradable or extreme and if an adverb is used with it. Write down the sentence you heard or saw the words in and note where you found them. This will help you remember them better later on.

I'm Alice Bryant.

Alice Bryant wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Words in This Story

bride – n. a woman who has just married or is about to be married

glad – adj. feeling pleasure, joy, or delight

intensifier – n. a word (such as really or very) that gives force or emphasis to a statement

evolving - adj. changing slowly, often into a better, more complex, or more advanced state

dish - n. food that is prepared in a particular way

varying - adj. differing in size, amount, degree or nature

dull – adj. not exciting or interesting

emphasis – n. a forceful quality in the way something is said or written

rug – n. a piece of thick, heavy material that is used to cover usually a section of a floor

focus - v. to direct your attention or effort at something specific

http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/23/8080/http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/23/8080/VOA Special EnglishFri, 23 Oct 2020 05:11:00 UTC
<![CDATA[Autumn Is Not the End of Gardening]]>Anna Matteo如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

As the Northern Hemisphere moves deeper into autumn, the daylight hours get shorter and the weather colder. This means the gardening season is ending, right?

Well, not so fast.

Lee Reich is a gardener and writes for The Associated Press. He shared his thoughts on growing plants in and around the home.

In mid-October, Reich was cleaning up his garden in northern New York state when he heard a weather report on the radio. The announcer warned that freezing temperatures were coming, and this would put an end to the gardening season.

The weather reporter may know about weather conditions, Reich writes, "but he is no gardener."

To Reich, colder weather does not mean the end to gardening. He admits that his more tender vegetables and flowering plants froze to death when temperatures dropped to 1.6 degrees Celsius. The beans, peppers and marigolds did not survive the cold.

However in his story, Reich writes lovingly about what is still growing in his garden. Even with a recent frost, he says, there are still leaves on the trees turning beautiful colors of red, yellow and orange. His butterfly bush is still producing flowers.

This undated photo shows New York asters (aster novae-belgii) in New Paltz, N.Y. Asters can be enjoyed in the garden as well as in the wild. (AP Photo/Lee Reich)
This undated photo shows New York asters (aster novae-belgii) in New Paltz, N.Y. Asters can be enjoyed in the garden as well as in the wild. (AP Photo/Lee Reich)

Reich says his rhododendrons and heaths, two hardy flowers, "look as healthy the morning after the frost as the warm day before it." Hardy is a way to describe plants that can live in harsh conditions or colder weather.

In my garden, my butterfly bush, rosemary and hardy flowers like chrysanthemums are also doing fine. So far, night-time temperatures have dropped as low as 7 to 8 degrees Celsius.

Reich also suggests looking around your garden or the grounds around it. Some areas may not be as cold as others. A wall or a tree can prevent temperatures from dropping as low as in more open, exposed areas. Reich noted that some flowering plants, growing next to the west side of his house still look healthy and strong.

Hardy vegetables

Pictured here, are hardy vegetables, such as cabbage and other seasonal greens, growing in Lee Reich's upstate New York garden. Growing fall vegetables is like having a whole other growing season in the garden. (AP Photo/Lee Reich)
Pictured here, are hardy vegetables, such as cabbage and other seasonal greens, growing in Lee Reich's upstate New York garden. Growing fall vegetables is like having a whole other growing season in the garden. (AP Photo/Lee Reich)

It is not just flowers and trees that can do well in colder temperatures. Hardy vegetables can still be productive. There are plenty of cold-hardy vegetables growing in his garden. His kale, spinach, broccoli, lettuce and radishes looked fine, he said, after a night or a few nights of below-freezing temperatures. In fact, he adds, such vegetables look and taste better during this kind of weather than they do in summer heat.

Another writer and gardener, Robin Sweetser, provides advice on gardening for The Old Farmer's Almanac. She notes that autumn is a favorite time of year to plant some things.

On the Almanac.com website, Sweetser says this is the best time to plant trees and small woody plants or shrubs. She explains that the combination of warm soil and cool air helps their roots to grow. Roots will get established in the ground before the ground freezes.

The kinds of trees and shrubs to plant and when to plant will depend on the climate where you live. Both experts advise gardeners to think about their plants for autumn and winter.

Before planting, Robin Sweetser suggests asking yourself these three questions:

  • Does the plant have colorful berries for winter interest?
  • Will it interest birds?
  • How will it look in other seasons?

Lee Reich adds that at his home, there is less sunlight at this time of year. And all plants, hardy or tender, make little growth. Once the tender flowers are gone, he says, it is time to enjoy the "hardworking shrubs."

Both gardeners tell us that colder weather does not have to mean your gardening is done. Or that the ground should look empty and dead. With some planning, you can enjoy something in your garden even during the cold weather.

I'm Anna Matteo.

Lee Reich writes about gardening for The Associated Press. Robin Sweetser has been a contributor to The Old Farmer's Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide. Anna Matteo adapted this story for VOA Learning English. The editor was George Grow.

Words in This Story

garden – v. to work in a garden : to take care of the plants in a garden

garden – n. an area of ground where plants (such as flowers or vegetables) are grown

tender – adj. not tough

frost – n. the occurrence of weather that is cold enough to cause water to freeze and frost to form

leaf– n. one of the flat and typically green parts of a plant that grow from a stem or twig (plural leaves)

hardy – adj. able to live through difficult conditions (such as a cold winter or a drought)

exposed – adj. not shielded or protected

berry– n. a small fruit (such as a strawberry, blueberry, or raspberry) that has many small seeds (plural berries)

http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/22/4849/http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/22/4849/VOA Special EnglishThu, 22 Oct 2020 06:43:00 UTC
<![CDATA[Pope Francis Supports Same-Sex Civil Unions]]>Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germ如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

Pope Francis has become the first leader of the Roman Catholic Church to support "civil union" laws for same-sex couples.

Speaking in a film documentary, the pope called for the creation of such laws. He said that "Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God."

"What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered," Francis said. "I stood up for that."

The statements represent a break from the Church's teachings and his strongest comments yet on the issue.

The comments came in "Francesco," a documentary about his life and the social issues that concern him. The film was shown for the first time in Rome on Wednesday.

The movie examines his support for migrants and refugees, the poor, and his work on the issue of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. It also explores his ideas on the role of women in society, and the Church's relations with those who identify as LGBTQ.

While serving as Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2010, the future pope opposed efforts to legalize same-sex marriage. But he supported the idea of civil unions as one way to prevent the approval of same-sex marriage in Argentina.

After being elected pope, Francis once said in 2013, "Who am I to judge?" while answering a reporter's question about homosexuals in the church. He has not publicly expressed support for civil unions until now.

The Reverend James Martin is an American clergyman who supports the Church's efforts to reach members of the gay community. He wrote on Twitter, "Pope Francis's support for same-sex civil unions is a major step forward in the church's support of LGBTQ people." Martin added that it "sends a strong signal to countries where the church has opposed such laws."

FILE - In this Saturday Dec. 6, 2008 file photo two men kiss each other outside St. Peter's Square at the Vatican during a candle-lit demonstration for gay rights.
FILE - In this Saturday Dec. 6, 2008 file photo two men kiss each other outside St. Peter's Square at the Vatican during a candle-lit demonstration for gay rights.

Filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky told Catholic News Agency that the pope talked about civil union laws during an interview for the movie. The news agency says the Vatican's press office did not answer its questions on the pope's comments.

Another person interviewed for the film is Juan Carlos Cruz. He is a survivor of clergy sexual abuse whom Francis at first discredited during a 2018 visit to Chile.

Cruz, who is gay, said they have since repaired the relationship. In one of the meetings, Cruz said Francis told him that God made Cruz gay. The filmmaker used Cruz's story to document the pope's understanding of sexual abuse and changing ideas about gay people.

In 2003, under Pope John Paul II, the Vatican said that "respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions." That statement was written by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany. He became Pope Benedict XVI, the predecessor to Pope Francis.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English with information from Catholic News Agency and the Associated Press. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

couple - n. two people who are married or who have a romantic or sexual relationship

homosexual - n. a person who is sexually attracted to a person of the same sex

migrant - n. a person who goes from one place to another especially to find work

role - n. the part that someone has in a society

LGBTQ - an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning. These terms are used to describe a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

archbishop - n. the highest rank bishop of an area

gay - adj. sexually attracted to a person of the same sex

predecessor - n. a person who had a job or position before someone else

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<![CDATA[Facebook Develops Machine Translation System for 100 Languages]]>Bryan Lynn如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

Facebook has developed the first machine learning model that can translate between any two of 100 languages without going into English first.

Facebook says the new multilingual machine translation model was created to help its more than two billion users worldwide. The company is still testing the translation system – which it calls M2M-100 - and hopes to add it to different products in the future.

The social media service says it has made the system open source -- meaning its computer code will be freely available for others to copy or change.

Angela Fan, a research assistant at Facebook, explained the new machine translation model this week on one of the company's websites. She said its development represented a "milestone" in progress after years of "foundational work in machine translation.'

Fan said the model produces better results than other machine learning systems that depend on English to help in the translation process. The other systems use it as an intermediate step -- like a bridge -- to translate between two non-English languages.

One example would be a translation from Chinese to French. Fan noted that many machine translation models begin by translating from Chinese to English first, and then from English to French. This is done "because English training data is the most widely available,' she said. But such a method can lead to mistakes in translation.

'Our model directly trains on Chinese to French data to better preserve meaning," Fan said. Facebook said the system outperformed English-centered systems in a widely used system that uses data to measure the quality of machine translations.

Facebook says about two-thirds of its users communicate in a language other than English. The company already carries out an average of 20 billion translations every day on Facebook's News Feed. But it faces a huge test with many users publishing massive amounts of content in more than 160 languages.

The development team trained, or directed, the new model on a data set of 7.5 billion sentence pairs for 100 languages. In addition, the system was trained on a total of 2,200 language directions. Facebook said this is 10 times the number on the best machine translation models in the past.

One difficulty the team faced was trying to develop an effective machine translation system for language combinations that are not widely used. Facebook calls these "low-resource languages." The data used to create the new model was collected from content available on the internet. But there is limited internet data on low-resource languages.

To deal with this problem, Facebook said it used a method called back-translation. This method can create "synthetic translations" to increase the amount of data used to train on low-resource languages.

For now, the company says, it plans to continue exploring new language research methods while working to improve the new model. No date has been set for launching the translation system on Facebook.

But Angela Fan said the new system marks an important step for Facebook, especially for the times we live in. 'Breaking language barriers through machine language translation is one of the most important ways to bring people together, provide authoritative information on COVID-19, and keep them safe from harmful content,' she said.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from Facebook and Agence France-Presse. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

translate – v. change written or spoken words from one language to another

code – n. a set of rules used to instruct computers how to behave or do things

milestone - n. an event that reaches never before seen levels

intermediate – adj. between two different stages in a process

preserve – v. keep something the same or prevent it from being damaged of destroyed

pair – n. two things that look the same and are used together

content – n. information contained in a piece of writing, a speech, a movie or on the internet

synthetic – adj. not made from substances or in the usual way

authoritative – adj. respected and considered to be accurate

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<![CDATA[California Approves Company to Test Cars with No Drivers]]>Bryan Lynn如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

A company testing driverless cars has received permission from the state of California to operate the vehicles without backup drivers.

The tests will be carried out by Cruise, the self-driving car company owned by General Motors.

Cruise reported last week that it got a permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to let the self-driving cars travel on their own. The company plans to have them operating in San Francisco by the end of this year.

Cruise is still just testing its self-driving vehicles. But it plans to offer ride-sharing services in major cities across the United States in the future.

Until now, testing was only carried out with human backup drivers in all Cruise vehicles. Rules required the backup drivers to be inside the cars and ready to take control of the vehicles if necessary.

Cruise has completed enough testing to feel that it is now ready to safely operate the cars without humans, said company spokesman Ray Wert.

Wert said that Cruise will go neighborhood-by-neighborhood in San Francisco and launch the driverless vehicles slowly before spreading to the whole city. It will also hold community meetings to answer people's questions about the program.

"We understand that this is a trust race as much as it is a technology race," Wert told The Associated Press. "This is absolutely about making sure that we're doing this with San Francisco."

The approval in California followed a similar decision in Arizona. Arizona state officials approved a request by Waymo, a company owned by Google's parent company Alphabet Inc., to open its ride-sharing service to the public in vehicles without human drivers. The service was launched last week in the city of Phoenix.

The service, which serves a 129 square kilometer area in Phoenix, had already been available to a small group of riders for the past year. Waymo officials did not say how many fully autonomous vehicles would be made available to the public.

"We are worried about our ability to meet demand with the capabilities of the vehicle we have right now," Waymo's chief John Krafcik said to reporters last week.

Industry experts say Waymo and Cruise are among the leaders in autonomous vehicle technology.

Progress toward autonomous vehicles slowed after one such vehicle struck a pedestrian during a test in Tempe, Arizona, in 2018. That vehicle was operated by Uber Technologies.

Steven Shladover is a research engineer at the University of California, Berkeley. He has studied autonomous driving for 40 years. Shladover says the latest moves by Waymo and Cruise are the next logical steps as the technology progresses.

"I don't see them as revolutionary steps, but they're part of this step-by-step progress toward getting the technology to be able to work under a wider range of conditions," he said.

Shladover said that although Cruise and Waymo program their vehicles to drive more conservatively than humans, both still need to progress safely. He noted that Cruise will first deploy its vehicles to easier areas in San Francisco before sending them into complex traffic situations.

Cruise Chief Executive Office Dan Ammann noted that its driverless vehicles are fully electric. He said this meets another major goal of the company: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Gasoline-powered vehicles are the second largest cause of greenhouse gases. Such emissions have been linked to rising temperatures in Earth's atmosphere.

"We need big solutions," Ammann said. "And we need them now."

I'm Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English, with additional information from Cruise. George Grow was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

autonomous – adj. independent and having the power to operate automatically without human involvement

capability - n. the ability of power to do something

pedestrian - n. a person who is walking in a city, along a road, etc.

logical – adj. using reason

revolutionaryadj. completely different from what was done before

greenhouse (gas) – n. relating to or caused by the warming of the Earth's atmosphere that is caused by air pollution

emission – n. the act of producing or sending out something (such as energy or gas) from a source

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<![CDATA[US Files Case against Google for Harming Competition]]>Jonathan Evans如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday brought legal action against Google for its business methods. It said the company used its market power over internet search and advertising to limit competition and harm users.

The case marks the government's most notable antitrust legal action since its case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago. The U.S. started the case against Google while continuing its investigations into other major technology companies. Those companies include Apple, Amazon and Facebook.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen led the antitrust case against Google. The government called Goggle the "gatekeeper for the internet." It said Google kept its power using methods "that are harmful to competition."

Such methods include paying billions of dollars to companies like Apple, Samsung and T-Mobile to make Google the default search engine on mobile devices and internet browsers. And the company also entered agreements with companies to bar preinstalled software from competitors. Eleven states, all with Republican Party attorneys general, joined the federal government in the case.

Google called the government's case "deeply flawed." The company said in a blog post, "People use Google because they choose to, not because they're forced to, or because they can't find alternatives."

The company said that the case would "make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use." It defended the agreements as normal business methods that "are no different from the agreements that many other companies have traditionally used to distribute software."

Google has such a commanding lead in the market that its name has become a verb to describe searching for information on the internet.

A man using a mobile phone walks past Google offices, Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A man using a mobile phone walks past Google offices, Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Statcounter reported that Google's Chrome browser has more than 66 percent of the worldwide market. And its Android software runs 74 percent of mobile phones around the world. The company also owns the top video website, YouTube, and operates the Google Map system.

The market value of Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., is more than $1 trillion. The company reported more than $160 billion in earnings last year.

U.S. federal and state antitrust laws are designed to place limits on the economic power a business has over a market. The goal is to protect competition and Americans who use the company's goods and services. In 1974, the antitrust case against AT&T led to the breakup of the huge, American telephone company.

When asked what action should be taken against Google, a Justice Department official said, "Nothing is off the table." The officials added that a court should hear all the evidence before any decisions are made.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee released its 16-month long investigation into the "state of competition in the digital economy." The committee called for stronger antitrust measures against Google along with Apple, Amazon and Facebook for their business methods.

Google has faced similar antitrust legal action outside the United States. The European Union fined Google $1.7 billion in 2019 for stopping websites from using Google's competitors to find advertisers.

The company was fined $2.6 billion in 2017 for hurting competitors of its own shopping business with its search engine. Google also was fined $4.9 billion in 2018 for blocking competing services on its wireless Android operating system.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Hai Do wrote this report for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

Words in This Story

gatekeeper –n. a person or company that controls access to something

default –n.(computer) a setting that a computer operates in if a user does not choose a different setting

preinstalled –adj.(computer) a program that comes with a computer or device from the manufacturer and does not have to be added by the user

alternatives –n.(pl.) additional choices that can be made instead of something else

distribute –n.(computer) the process of providing software to the user

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

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<![CDATA[Schools in Washington, DC Experiment During Health Crisis]]>Alice Bryant如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

Returning to school in Washington, D.C. during the coronavirus crisis has been an experiment in learning. Charter schools are trying out in-person schooling for small groups.

A charter school is a tax-supported school created through a legal agreement between a school board and an outside group.

Meridian Charter School, for example, experimented with ways to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The school set up tall, three-sided dividers to keep students separated. But then school officials learned that this would not really prevent the spread of the virus. Now the dividers are not required. But more than half of the students still use them as personal organizers – putting notes and pictures on them.

"It's all a learning experience, and it's all playing out in real time," said Matt McCrea, Meridian's head of school.

In this Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, photo English Language Arts teacher Rebecca Ain, right, helps a student in her class at The Social Justice Public Charter School, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
In this Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, photo English Language Arts teacher Rebecca Ain, right, helps a student in her class at The Social Justice Public Charter School, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Most of Washington's 52,000 public school children are dealing with learning on computers in virtual classrooms. But more than 10 charter schools have experimented by giving in-person classes to small groups of students.

The charter schools are smaller and sometimes have better resources than the D.C. Public Schools system, or DCPS. So they have been able to make these changes quickly.

"This is our attempt to redesign school," said Myron Long. He is executive director of the Social Justice School. It is offering in-person classes to about 15 of its 50 total students.

It is a process that Washington D.C. Public Schools has watched as the organization plans its own return to the classroom.

Mayor Muriel Bowser had planned to start the 2020 to 2021 school year with a combined model. The idea was to have virtual learning with two days each week of in-school teaching. However, the city had to change that plan because of safety concerns raised by the teachers' union.

The city studied the charter experiments "to see what's working," Bowser said. But, she noted, "…DCPS will have to make decisions that affect…60 buildings, 50,000 [students] and over 4,000 employees."

The most recent reopening plan for Washington D.C.'s public schools seems to take ideas from the charter schools' experiences. Parents are given choices for how they want their child to attend.

For example, one choice would give in-person classes to a small group of students. Students with special-education needs, students learning English and students who are homeless or otherwise at-risk would be included in this group. Those are mainly the kinds of learners D.C. charter schools chose for their own student groups for in-person classes.

"We wanted (the spots) to go to students and families that had the greatest need," said Justin Lessek. He is executive director of the Sojourner Truth charter school, which is giving in-person classes to 20 of its 93 students.

In some cases, "spots," or placements, were given to the children of essential workers. Meridian Charter School had to deny some parents. But the Social Justice School was able to take every student whose parent showed interest.

"Some parents contacted us and just said, 'We have nowhere for them to go during the day,'" Long said.

Each charter school develops its own health safety rules. At Meridian, all students and visitors have their temperature taken upon arrival. Social Justice School does more. There, visiting reporters were required to wear full medical clothing, including hand and face coverings, just to enter the building.

There is a huge amount of trial and error, said Shannon Hodge. She is with the D.C. Charter School Alliance, a nonprofit group that advocates for the charter system.

At the Social Justice School, each of the three student groups is given a bathroom to use.

At both Meridian and Social Justice, water fountains are not in use. Students at Meridian have their own water containers and can fill them at special water devices.

In this Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, photo Reginald Galloway, director of operations at The Social Justice Public Charter School, waves goodbye to fifth and sixth grade students after class, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
In this Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, photo Reginald Galloway, director of operations at The Social Justice Public Charter School, waves goodbye to fifth and sixth grade students after class, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Social Justice School opened its doors for the first time this fall after approval from the D.C. Public Charter School Board. So, it has never operated under normal conditions.

The school places importance on the values of social and racial awareness. It seeks to build a strong community around its 50 students and families. But it has been nearly impossible for this new community to meet over the summer. Now, school officials have started holding outdoor gatherings around the city on Wednesdays. During those hours, there are no classes, so students, parents, teachers and other workers can safely meet each other.

The school has also launched a new kind of in-person teaching. Students attending class in-person are joined by students attending online through video. Everyone in the in-person classroom is on a computer. The teachers in the classroom teach all of the students together.

Long said the idea came about partly because the small school did not have enough teachers to teach in physical and virtual classrooms. But the communal plan also fits the school's values of equality, he said.

Mayor Bowser's education officials have been in contact with charter schools to learn from all of the activities.

I'm Alice Bryant.

The Associated Press reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

Quiz - Schools in Washington, DC Experiment During Health Crisis

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Words in This Story

virtual –adj. existing or taking place on computers or on the internet

(labor) union –n. an organization of workers formed to protect the rights and interests of its members

essential workers –n. workers who are required to work during a business closure to meet operational requirements

advocate –n. a person who argues for or supports a cause or policy

fountain –n. a device that sends out a stream of water (for drinking)

awareness –n. knowledge of something

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<![CDATA[On Brazil's Island of Cats, Virus Led to Starvation]]>Alice Bryant如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

All the local people knew Furtada Island was full of cats.

People left food for the cats and even brought tourists. Then the coronavirus crisis hit, and human support for the animals stopped. That is when fishermen witnessed something very sad: a group of cats eating dead cats.

Furtada Island is widely known as "Island of the Cats." It is just west of Rio de Janeiro and 20 minutes by motorboat from the city of Mangaratiba. It sits on one side of Brazil's Green Coast, an area known for its mountainous forests and hundreds of small islands.

Over the years, fishermen threw unwanted pieces of fish and unneeded catch onto the island to feed the cats. Other people left containers filled with water and store-bought cat food. That has helped the hundreds of animals stay fed.

A boat belonging to Animal Heart Protectors is anchored off Furtada Island, popularly known as
A boat belonging to Animal Heart Protectors is anchored off Furtada Island, popularly known as "Island of the Cats," where they deliver food and water to the cats in Mangaratiba, Brazil, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Mario Lobao)

Some of the cats on Furtada Island are new arrivals. They lack the skills of their wild-born relatives, which climb trees to raid birds' homes.

When the pandemic forced people to stay at home, tourism slowed and restaurants that serve seafood closed. Boat traffic around the island fell sharply — and with it, the cats' food and water supply.

Locals did not realize the situation on the island until the fishermen reported back in April.

"The number of boats fell, the number of tourists, and we saw the condition of those animals on the island," said 58-year-old Jorge de Morais. He works with a local group that rescues animals from abuse. So, we went to work, he said.

Volunteers from Animal Heart Protectors fill a dispenser with food for cats on Furtada Island, popularly known as
Volunteers from Animal Heart Protectors fill a dispenser with food for cats on Furtada Island, popularly known as "Island of the Cats," in Mangaratiba, Brazil, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

He and other volunteers asked local businesses for donations. In April, they started putting simple food and water dispensers on the island. The dispensers were made from plastic pipes.

Now, volunteers make weekly trips to add food and water to the machines.

Recently, de Morais and three others returned to the island, where thick plant life spills down to meet a rocky coast.

"Cats that are recently discarded, they're more sociable," said Joice Puchalski, the organizer of the group. You saw we can get close and touch them, she said. But not the wild ones. They all are hidden. "You see them at night, because of their eyes," she said.

Cats rest in the sun on Furtada Island, popularly known as
Cats rest in the sun on Furtada Island, popularly known as "Island of the Cats," in Mangaratiba, Brazil, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

The population of nearly 250 cats can be traced back to a man and woman who lived on the island around 20 years ago, Puchalski said. They left and did not take their two cats. So those animals did what most creatures, when left alone, would do. They had babies. As the cat population grew, people took notice. And some saw it as a place to leave unwanted cats from the city.

Brazilian officials are exploring ways to prevent people from leaving animals on the island. It is already a crime, but signs noting that have had little effect.

Karla de Lucas is responsible for animal protection in Rio state. She inspected the Island of the Cats in June. And she met with the Navy and environmental officials to explore punishments, a statement said. Last month, Brazil's Congress passed a law increasing the punishment for abuse of cats and dogs. Those arrested for the crime can serve up to five years in prison.

Cats rest near a shelter built for them by volunteers from Animal Heart Protectors on Furtada Island, popularly known as
Cats rest near a shelter built for them by volunteers from Animal Heart Protectors on Furtada Island, popularly known as "Island of the Cats," in Mangaratiba, Brazil, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)

There are no freshwater springs on the island and limited drinking water causes kidney problems for the cats, Puchalski said. But the biggest problem is bites from poisonous snakes. Another animal, a kind of lizard, will also attack and hurt young cats. And some cats are injured when boatmen throw them onto the rocks.

The volunteers bring cats to the mainland, as needed, for medical treatment. They try to find someone to adopt each animal. If that does not happen, they bring it back to the island so they can help others requiring medical attention.

It is a job that is never finished, Puchalski said.

"We really need someone who can join forces with us to try to heal this criminality that, for us, is cruelty," she said.

I'm Alice Bryant.

The Associated Press reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

tourist – n. a person who travels to a place for pleasure

pandemic – n. an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area or throughout the world

dispenser – n. a machine or container that lets you take small amounts of something

discard – v. to throw something away because it is useless or unwanted

trace – v. to follow something back to its cause, beginning, or origin

kidney – n. either of two organs in your body that remove waste products from your blood and make urine

snake – n. an animal that has a long, thin body and no arms or legs

adopt – v. to take a child (or animal) legally as your own child

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<![CDATA[Eight Nations Sign US-led Artemis Moon Agreements]]>Susan Shand如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

Eight countries have signed an international agreement for moon exploration called the Artemis Accords.

The U.S. space agency, NASA, announced the agreement last week. NASA is trying to create rules for building long-term human settlements on the moon's surface.

The agreement is named after NASA's Artemis moon project. It seeks to build on existing international space law by creating "safety zones." These zones would surround future moon bases to prevent conflict between states operating there. It would also permit private companies to own the lunar resources they find.

The United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates signed the agreements. Officials met during a yearly conference on space that took place last week. The deal followed months of talks in a U.S. effort to build allies under its plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2024.

"What we're trying to do is establish norms of behavior that every nation can agree to," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters. He said the agreements accept a 1967 treaty that says the moon and other planets cannot be claimed for national ownership.

Bridenstein said the agreements create the "the broadest, most inclusive, largest coalition of human spaceflight in the history of humankind."

The governments of the United States and other countries that have space programs consider the moon important to their long-term goals. The moon has value for scientific research that could make possible future missions to Mars. However, these activities are subject to international space law that many experts consider outdated.

In 2019, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to return humans to the moon by 2024. This cut in half the amount of time the agency had planned to take. The goal now is for humans to live on the moon for a long time.

The NASA program is expected to cost billions of dollars. It will send robotic vehicles to the moon before a human being.

NASA also plans to build a space station that will orbit the moon. Plans call for it to be built by companies supervised by NASA and international partners.

I'm Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

Words in This Story

zone– n.an area that is different from other areas in a special way

lunar– adj. of or related to the moon

norm– n. something, such as a way of behaving or of doing some activity, that is usual or expected

inclusive –adj. open to everyone, not limited to certain people

http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/20/8483/http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/20/8483/VOA Special EnglishTue, 20 Oct 2020 01:01:00 UTC
<![CDATA[More Women Drinking Alcohol]]>Anna Matteo如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

Women in the United States are dying of alcohol-related causes at a growing rate, the U.S. government says.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on that issue in October. It found that in the United States more men than women die each year from alcohol-related causes. However, the rate of increase in deaths was higher for women.

The study also found that more women are using alcohol to deal with restrictions meant to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

In many cases, women take care of the home and childcare. And now childcare often includes supervising online learning. These tasks are added to women's work responsibilities inside or outside the home. This can lead to an increase in stress levels.

"Having children in the home was associated with more drinking," Lindsey Rodriguez recently told NBC News. Rodriguez is one of the writers of a study about the pandemic and alcohol use. The study was recently published in Addictive Behaviors.

Rodriguez said that, for women, "the most problematic alcohol use happened around March and April' of this year when the lockdown went into effect.

There was another study published recently in JAMA Network Open. It said that Americans increased their alcohol use by 14 percent from 2019 to 2020. Women in the U.S., however, increased their heavy drinking by 41 percent. Heavy drinking is having more than four drinks at one time.

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism researches alcohol and health. It defines moderate drinking as up to one drink a day for a woman and up to two drinks a day for a man. One drink is defined as about 14 milliliters of pure alcohol.

Alcohol is the "easiest coping strategy," said Natalie Crawford. She is an assistant professor of behavioral, social and health education at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health.

Crawford told NBC News recently that "over a short time period, the system does a really good job of adapting to stress, but this is chronic," she noted. Chronic describes something that happens over a long period of time.

How and why alcohol affects women differently

Studies find that alcohol affects women differently than men. Research shows that women start to have alcohol-related problems sooner and at lower drinking levels than men.

On its website, the U.S. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) explains that women, on average, weigh less than men. This can affect how the body processes alcohol. Alcohol can also damage the brain. And it can affect a woman's brain differently than it affects a man's brain. The government agency's website also states that "alcohol misuse produces brain damage more quickly in women than in men."

In addition, research shows that alcohol can hurt normal brain development during the years before adulthood. And "there may be differences in the impact of alcohol on the brains of teenage girls and boys who drink."

Some studies have suggested that some alcohol drinking can be healthy. However, experts at the American Heart Association say no research has proved a cause-and-effect link between drinking alcohol and better heart health. They add that drinking too much alcohol increases the risk for many health problems. These can include high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, depression, suicide and alcoholism.

Breast cancer risk higher

Studies show that alcohol also has been found to increase a woman's risk of breast cancer, say experts at the U.S. National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Its website says that women who drink about one drink a day have a five to nine percent greater chance of developing breast cancer than women who do not drink at all. That risk increases for every additional drink they have each day.

However, many people do not know this. A 2017 survey by the American Society of Clinical Oncology showed that about 70 percent of Americans did not know that drinking alcohol increases cancer risk.

Drinking around the world

Problems with alcohol are not limited to the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports on alcohol use around the world.

The WHO's most recent report on alcohol and health from 2018 estimated that 237 million men and 46 million women around the world have alcohol use disorders. The WHO said North and South America and Europe have the highest number of women who have problems with alcohol.

Alcohol use disorders are more common in high-income countries. The WHO report said that as societies become wealthier, there is a "strong tendency" for the level of alcohol use to increase.

The report uses Vietnam as an example. Vietnam has a fast-growing economy. In the past 10 years, there also has been a 50 percent increase in alcohol production. Between 2002 and 2016, the percentage of female drinkers increased from two percent to 11 percent.

And that's the Health & Lifestyle report. I'm Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo adapted this story from VOA News, adding additional information from several websites including the U.S. National Institute on Health (NIAAA), the American Heart Association, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Quiz - More Women Drinking Alcohol

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Words in This Story

rate –n. the speed at which something happens over a particular period of time​

stress –n. a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in a person's life

associated – adj. ​related, connected, or combined together

pandemic – n. the fast spread of an infectious disease over a wide area or large part of the world

coping strategy – n. a long-term method or plan for dealing with problems

adapt – v. to change one's behavior so that it is easier to live in a place or situation

lockdown – n. a temporary state of restricted movement or activity

impact – n. a powerful or major influence or effect

survey – n. a study in which people are asked questions to gather information and to find out their opinions on issues

tendency – n. a way of behaving that is developing and becoming more common

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<![CDATA[Harvest Workers Among COVID World's Last Normal Travelers]]>Susan Shand如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

Alexandra Ichim's hands moved quickly, cutting and dropping grapes into plastic containers. Nearby, a few Italian students also working in the vineyard tried to work just as quickly but could not.

Alexandra Ichim lives in Romania. She had never worked in vineyards before traveling to Italy's Lombardy area for the September grape harvest. For the Italian work, the 20-year-old came on a 12-hour bus ride and returned by plane to Romania when the harvest was finished.

Eastern European seasonal workers, many of them Romanians, are important for getting food to homes throughout Europe. Their willingness to work hard in temporary jobs for low pay makes them valuable in agricultural areas. They send most of their earnings home, where many people are poor.

At a time when travel for work is seen as dangerous for everyone, seasonal workers are among the world's last border-crossers. The European Union does not offer them any special protection should they fall sick.

Around one in five Romanians works overseas. About 1.2 million of them have made a home in Italy. Thousands of others travel back and forth for temporary jobs in Italy, France and Spain.

When coronavirus struck, around a million people living throughout Europe returned to Romania. They ignored the Romanian president's calls to stay in place and avoid bringing the virus home.

Workers can earn around 1,200 euros a month by working eight-hour days in Italy. By comparison, they can make around 700 euros for a month of 10-hour days in Romania.

Alexandra Ichim speaks perfect Italian and has lived off and on in Lombardy with her mother since 2006. She was in Romania with her father when the coronavirus outbreak first struck Italy earlier this year. She was working in a factory, but it later sent her home because of the virus.

Ichim left to join her mother nearly as soon as the borders reopened. At the time, Romania's infection rate was low, and no quarantine was required. But a few weeks later, a 14-day quarantine was required in Italy for travelers from Romania and Bulgaria.

One area in Italy, Trento, permitted farms and vineyards to put in place "working quarantines." Seasonal workers were permitted so long as they wore face coverings and stayed in housing at the farm.

"A company cannot afford to keep a foreigner for 14 days without putting him to work," said Roberto Caponi of the Italian agriculture confederation. Also, the fruit growing in the fields cannot wait, notes Ottavia Giorgi di Vistarino.

Her family's vineyard includes four hillsides in Rocca de' Giorgi, a small community about 60 kilometers south of Milan. The harvest starts with Pino Nero for Spumante, an Italian sparkling white wine.

Ichim joined a group of workers for the first Pino Nero harvest in September. The winery's full-time chief is Christian Florisan. He is also Romanian, as are many of the men who work the wine presses.

"Corona(virus) has brought the agriculture business to its knees more than any others. Everywhere, at home in Romania and here in Italy, we are having difficulties finding people," said Florisan. He has lived in Italy for 14 years.

Florisan added that many workers are afraid of catching COVID-19 and being forced to quarantine, which might use up all the money they have earned.

He estimated more than 50 percent of his workers are Romanian, but the numbers are down by 25 percent this year. Across Italy, wineries are down 36,000 workers, which means not all the fruit will be harvested in time.

All who came from Romania had medical exams, Florisan said.

As many as a million seasonal workers cross EU borders every year, notes the European Commission.

When the virus first broke out, Romania's president asked citizens not to return from their jobs outside the country, but his appeal was mostly ignored. Many Romanians either needed or wanted to return for what would become weeks of staying at home. Back in Romania, suspicious neighbors contacted government officials to report returnees from Italy or Spain or France.

Now, Romania has Europe's second highest coronavirus death rate after Spain.

Ichim and her boyfriend, Dennis Sirca, were already planning to return to Romania and may have to quarantine when they arrive.

That is fine with them because they made two to three times as much during the harvest as they could have in their "real" jobs. Ichim said she would do it again.

"In Romania, we do not make money, we cannot make money working so we came here to do the grape harvest," she said.

After borders closed last spring, Western Europeans realized they needed the Romanians and other seasonal workers for the harvest. German and British companies even sent planes to get Romanian workers.

I'm Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

vineyard – n. a place where grapes are grown to make wine

outbreak – n. the sudden appearance of a contagious disease

quarantine – v. to live alone when one has a contagious disease

afford – v. to be able to pay for

confederation – n. an organization or group

wine – n. an alcoholic drink made from grapes

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<![CDATA[Carmakers Compete to Improve Electric Vehicles]]>John Russell如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

Carmakers from the United States and other countries are thinking about ways to manufacture and improve a technology called an e-axle or e-drive. This technology is fast becoming an area of competition in the automobile industry.

The e-axle, or e-drive, joins an electric vehicle's gear, motor, and power-control electronics. It is the "brain" that controls how a vehicle uses energy stored in its battery. This "brain" turns that energy into power. It also helps get back energy lost when stopping the vehicle.

In other words, a well-designed e-axle increases a vehicle's power efficiency and ability to change speeds. It also helps extend the vehicle's driving range and its smoothness.

The technology has become a competitive area, in part, because automakers are under pressure to cut electric vehicles' manufacturing costs. The goal is to make them cost as much as cars powered by gasoline.

Progress in new technologies is also important for efforts to cut pollution, including carbon dioxide, also known as CO2.

Vehicle-based CO2 emissions are responsible for about 17% of emissions from all sources, says Zifei Yang. She is with the International Council on Clean Transportation in Washington.

Yang noted that the reduction in vehicle emissions has slowed as more people drive bigger, more polluting sports utility vehicles. Other industry experts point to changes in countries such as China and India, where more people are buying and using cars.

In recent years, the Japanese business Nidec has turned its attention to automobiles and e-axles. Shigenobu Nagamori is the company's founder.

Nagamori says he wants Nidec to control up to 35% of the world's e-axle market by the year 2030. That market could be worth $20- to 30-billion a year by then, up from an estimated $2.8 to $3 billion today.

Nagamori has said he believes the way to become a market leader in e-axles is to reduce the cost for the technology. The way to do that, he said, is by being able to produce every part that goes into an e-drive system.

Some automotive technology suppliers are working together to manufacture e-axle systems. Japan's Denso and Aisin formed a group called BluE Nexus in 2019. This year, U.S. parts supplier BorgeWarner agreed to purchase Britain-based Delphi, and Japan's Hitachi Automotive joined with three Honda group suppliers. Automakers Volkswagen, Ford, Toyota and smaller Japanese brands are each making technology groups in part to drive down e-axle manufacturing costs.

Electric car maker Tesla developed its own e-axle technology. But it is unclear whether the company continues to use it in more recent Tesla models, noted Reuters news agency.

General Motors, or GM, Nissan and some other carmakers believe e-axles offer such a large area for growth that they want to design and manufacture their own systems.

GM believes it can better join the e-axle with the battery and the rest of the vehicle, making for a quieter, smoother and more economical drive, said the company's Adam Kwiatkowski.

I'm John Russell.

Reuters news agency reported this story. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

gear – n. a set of wheels that work together to affect the relation between the speed of a moving vehicle and the speed driven parts

battery – n. a device that is placed inside a machine to supply it with electricity

efficiency – n. the ability to do something or produce something without wasting materials, time, or energy

range – n. the distance within which something can be reached

gasoline – n. a liquid fuel used to power motor vehicles

emission – n. the act of producing or sending out something (such as energy or gas); something sent out or given off

source – n. a place or thing from which something comes

brand – n. a model or kind of product

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

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<![CDATA[Pennsylvania Becomes a Battleground over Election Security]]>Dorothy Gundy如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

Throughout the United States, people are concerned about voting and ballot counting in the presidential election next month. But it is hard to top the levels of concern in the eastern state of Pennsylvania.

The city of Philadelphia is home to 20 percent of all Pennsylvania voters likely to support Democratic Party candidates. U.S. President Donald Trump has described Philadelphia as a place "where bad things happen." Trump's political campaign has taken election officials in the city to court. They were forced to explain security measures after election equipment disappeared from a building where it was stored.

There is an investigation into military ballots that were mistakenly thrown away in one Pennsylvania county. In Harrisburg, the state capital, lawmakers are fighting over the way to count the large number of mailed-in ballots.

Pennsylvania is trying to hold the election in an environment where Republicans and Democrats believe the other side wants to "steal" the election.

A voter fills out his ballot as a woman waits her turn during primary voting at the public safety building in McKeesport, Pa., Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
A voter fills out his ballot as a woman waits her turn during primary voting at the public safety building in McKeesport, Pa., Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

State and local election officials say they are doing all they can to make sure the voting is fair. They recall the counting of ballots in Florida 20 years ago, when the presidential election was decided in the U.S. Supreme Court.

"For years, we have trusted our election officials to be…nonpartisan. Why should we suddenly not trust them?" said Eileen Olmsted. She is with the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, a nonpartisan group. It works to increase people's involvement in government.

Olmsted added that there is no evidence of any voter wrongdoing in the state.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was born in Pennsylvania. He has visited it more than any other state since September 1. Kantar/CMAG watches the amount of money the candidates spend on political advertising. It says the political campaigns have spent more on television ads in Pennsylvania than any other state except Florida.

Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes. Republican activists have made it clear that they will look at the legitimacy of each ballot before they will admit defeat.

States are given electoral votes based on their population. A presidential candidate must win 270 electoral votes to win the election.

Suzanne Almeida is with Common Cause Pennsylvania, another nonpartisan group. She says, "we are seeing the kind of incidents that are likely to happen in every election be "blown up to mean there is something…wrong with" the state's election administration.

"There are any number of reasons why that's not true," she added.

A voter, right, checks in with an election worker before casting her ballot in the Pennsylvania primary in Philadelphia, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A voter, right, checks in with an election worker before casting her ballot in the Pennsylvania primary in Philadelphia, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The biggest difficulty may be verifying and counting the large number of mail-in ballots. Election officials expect more than 3 million state residents will vote by mail because of fear of the coronavirus. Four years ago, only 300,000 people voted by mail.

In Pennsylvania, election officials are not permitted to start counting the votes until election day. Attempts to change that law have been blocked by the Republican-controlled state legislature. So, the vote count will continue for days after the November 3rd election. It could delay a final result in the presidential election.

Yet for all the accusations and investigations, many Pennsylvania residents say they have not had any problems registering and voting. There is hope that all will go well on election day.

Elzena Hall changed her registration from independent to Democrat and voted last week at a small election office in Philadelphia.

"It was…easy," said Hall.

Susan Stirling is a university academic adviser. This week she decided to vote early at one of the city's election centers.

"It went really quickly and smoothly," she said.

Voters prepare to cast their ballot in the Democratic primary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., June 2, 2020.
Voters prepare to cast their ballot in the Democratic primary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., June 2, 2020.

But that may change. There are several legal cases before judges that will decide which ballots get counted.

One case is about whether to count mailed-in ballots that arrive late. Another is about efforts to limit the number of places to drop off a marked ballot. These cases can cause confusion and other problems for election officials.

"Confusion does not promote safe, accessible and secure elections," said Witold J. Walczak. He serves as legal director for the non-profit American Civil Liberties Union.

Republicans and the Trump campaign say they are only trying to protect the fairness of the election.

"His position was we have to have an election that is fair, and that every vote is counted and counted the right way," said Bernadette Comfort, Trump's state campaign chair.

Democrats use the same argument to criticize Republicans, who, they say, are trying to "steal" the election.

Mail-in ballots come with a "secrecy sleeve" that covers the outside of the ballot. Many voters throw away the sleeve, and simply put their ballot in the envelope. Republicans say these ballots should not be counted.

"That's voter suppression," said State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta, a Democrat from Philadelphia.

But election officials are pressing forward, hoping that election day and the weeks that follow are calm.

I'm Dorothy Gundy.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

county – n. an electoral and administrative area within in American state

non-partisan – adj. without preference for one political party or another

electoral – adj. having to do with an election

legitimacy – adj. legally correct and true in all ways

verify – v. to check the truthfulness of something

academic – adj. pertaining to scholarly study

accessible – adj. able to get or to be given something

sleeve – n. the arm of a shirt or a protective cover

envelope – n. the paper holder used to mail a letter

http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/19/0337/http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/19/0337/VOA Special EnglishMon, 19 Oct 2020 00:06:00 UTC
<![CDATA[Asteroid or Space Junk? NASA Thinks Mystery Object Could Be Old Rocket]]>Bryan Lynn如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

A space object recently discovered as a possible asteroid may actually be an old rocket from a failed moon-landing attempt in the 1960s.

Astronomers observed the object last month through a telescope based in Hawaii. The scientists documented the object as an asteroid that was on its way toward Earth. Searching for such objects is common among astronomers as part of international efforts aimed at protecting Earth against asteroid hits.

The object was given the name 2020 SO. It was added to the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center's list of asteroids and comets found in our solar system. Currently, the list is just a little under 1 million.

But the American space agency NASA's leading asteroid expert, Paul Chodas, says he believes the newly discovered object is not an asteroid at all. Instead, he believes the object is a piece of space junk.

Chodas has suggested that the object is likely the old booster rocket that successfully pushed NASA's Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966.

"I'm pretty jazzed about this," Chodas told The Associated Press. "It's been a hobby of mine to find one of these and draw such a link."

Chodas has been studying asteroids for many years. He is currently director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Surveyor 2 was a robotic spacecraft that crashed into the moon after one of its engines failed to start during the trip. The rocket, named Centaur, kept flying past the moon as planned and became space junk.

The object being observed is estimated to be about 8 meters long based on its brightness. That is about the size of the old Centaur rocket.

This Oct. 26, 2018, image captured by Rover-1A, and provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, shows the surface of asteroid Ryugu. (JAXA via AP)
This Oct. 26, 2018, image captured by Rover-1A, and provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, shows the surface of asteroid Ryugu. (JAXA via AP)

Chodas said the first thing that caught his attention was the object's near-circular orbit around the sun, which is very similar to Earth's. Such behavior is unusual for an asteroid. Chodas said the movement represented "flag number one" that the object is not an asteroid.

The mysterious object is also in the same plane as Earth, not positioned above or below. That was the second red flag for Chodas, since asteroids usually travel at uneven angles. Lastly, Chodas said the object is coming toward Earth at about 2,400 kilometers an hour, which is considered very slow for an asteroid.

As the object gets closer to Earth, astronomers should be able to better follow its orbit and observe how much it is pushed around by radiation and heat effects of the sun. If it is an old empty rocket, it will move differently than a heavy space rock that is not as affected by outside forces.

The movements are how astronomers usually tell the difference between asteroids and space junk such as used rocket parts.

FILE - On August 20, 1975, Viking 1 was launched by a Titan/Centaur rocket from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 5:22 p.m. EDT to begin a half-billion mile, 11-month journey through space to explore Mars. (Image credit: NASA)
FILE - On August 20, 1975, Viking 1 was launched by a Titan/Centaur rocket from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 5:22 p.m. EDT to begin a half-billion mile, 11-month journey through space to explore Mars. (Image credit: NASA)

Chodas said there are likely numerous fake asteroids out there. But if the movements of the objects cannot be effectively observed or measured, it is difficult to confirm their exact identities.

Sometimes, however, it can be the other way around. In 1991, Chodas and others identified a mystery object as an asteroid rather than space junk, even though its orbit around the sun was very similar to Earth's.

In 2002, Chodas discovered what he believes was the leftover Saturn V booster rocket from 1969′s Apollo 12, the second moon landing by NASA astronauts. He admits the evidence was circumstantial, given the object's one-year orbit around Earth. The object was never documented as an asteroid, and left Earth's orbit in 2003.

But Chodas says the latest object's path is more direct and much more stable, which strengthens his theory. "I could be wrong on this. I don't want to appear overly confident," he said. "But it's the first time, in my view, that all the pieces fit together with an actual known launch."

This computer graphics image released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the Hayabusa2 spacecraft above the asteroid Ryugu. (ISAS/JAXA via AP)
This computer graphics image released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the Hayabusa2 spacecraft above the asteroid Ryugu. (ISAS/JAXA via AP)

Carrie Nugent is an asteroid hunter at Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts. She said Chodas' theory is "a good one" based on strong evidence. Nugent is the writer of the 2017 book "Asteroid Hunters."

"Some more data would be useful so we can know for sure," she told the AP in an email. "Asteroid hunters from around the world will continue to watch this object to get that data. I'm excited to see how this develops," she added.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English, with additional information from NASA. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Quiz - Asteroid or Space Junk? NASA Thinks Mystery Object Could Be Old Rocket

Start the Quiz to find out

Start Quiz


Words in This Story

asteroid – n. a rocky object that goes around the sun like a planet

jazzed - adj. excited and happy

junk - n. things that are considered to be no longer useful or valuable

hobby – n. something done for pleasure, not for a job

anglen. a space between two lines or surfaces that meet at one point

fake – adj. not real

booster – n. engine on a spacecraft that gives extra power for the first part of a flight

circumstantial – adj. containing information about something that makes you think it is true but not having enough evidence to completely prove it

stable – adj. firmly fixed and not likely to move or change

confident – adj. feeling or believing that one has the ability to succeed in something

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<![CDATA[Mexico Experts Find 2,000 Ruin Sites near Maya Train Route]]>Susan Shand如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

Experts in Mexico said Wednesday they have found more than 2,000 pre-Hispanic ruins along the proposed path of the president's "Maya Train" project on the Yucatan peninsula.

Scientists discovered the ruins using LiDAR elevation mapping technology. LiDAR involves shooting a laser at the ground through heavy vegetation to get a detailed image of the surface.

The discovery could slow down the train project, which has already caused arguments and protests in the area. Critics of the project say it threatens indigenous communities and water supplies.

The information from the mapping technology showed a total of 2,187 "archeological monuments" along 366 kilometers of the planned path. That covers about 25 percent of the total train route. Experts already knew about the existence of some of the ruins, but some are new.

The Maya had a large number of city-states throughout Yucatan and Central America between 2,000 B.C. and A.D. 900. Their ancestors still live on the peninsula and across Central America.

The term "monument" can mean many things, such as a pre-Hispanic Maya home, or the remains of a religious building.

Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History said at least 91 of the discovered ruins were large structures like plazas, or temple bases. Maya houses were generally small wooden structures with stone bases that were easily destroyed.

The institute said in a statement that the builders of the train route would have to take "measures" to avoid damaging the ruins. It did not say whether that meant parts of the route will have to be replanned.

In July, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador opened the building of the "Maya Train," his own special project. It is expected to run about 1,500 kilometers around Yucatan.

The train will connect Caribbean hotels to areas far from the beaches that have archeological ruins. The train will have 15 stations to bring visitors and – hopefully -- economic growth to the mostly poor area.

The government says it will cost as much as $6.8 billion, but others say it could cost much more.

Critics say there was not enough study of the effects the train project will have on the environment and archeological ruins.

Some Maya communities have taken legal steps to stop the project, arguing that it will cause environmental damage.

I'm Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

peninsula – n. a piece of land that juts out into the ocean

elevation – n. a place that is high above

indigenous – adj. the original people who lived in a place

monument – n. an edifice built by humans to mark an event or memory

route - n. the path a vehicle takes to get to its destination

temple – n. a place of worship

http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/18/6568/http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2020/10/18/6568/VOA Special EnglishSun, 18 Oct 2020 01:08:00 UTC
<![CDATA[Prague Restaurant Creates Coronavirus-Shaped Dessert]]>Jonathan Evans如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

A restaurant in Prague, Czech Republic has invented a sweet treat shaped like the new coronavirus. The cake is an attempt to increase business -- and it is already popular with diners.

The Black Madonna restaurant has suffered as travel to the Czech Republic decreased because of the coronavirus health crisis. The country is battling one of the highest rates of coronavirus infections in Europe.

The cake's creator, Olga Budnik, said she got the idea while most businesses in Prague were closed earlier this year.

She told the Reuters news service, "I found a photo of the virus on the internet and I figured out in detail how to make the dessert - how to make the spikes, what the color would be like, and I prepared it all."

The cake is a little smaller than a tennis ball. It has a chocolate surface and is covered with cocoa butter. The virus' "spikes" are made of white chocolate and dried raspberries.

Inside the cake is a nut filling with raspberry sauce and raspberries in the center.

A confectioner arranges a cake shaped like a microscopic view of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 at a bakery.
A confectioner arranges a cake shaped like a microscopic view of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 at a bakery.

The cake has been a big success. The restaurant has been selling more than 100 each day.

Vojtech Hermanek is the restaurant's marketing manager. He said the coronavirus crisis has caused "a huge drop" in business for Black Madonna and other Prague eateries.

He added, "But at the same time it was a chance to bring out the coronavirus cake which is a symbol...showing that not everything is lost."

Olga Budnik said she already looking ahead to the next product – a COVID-19 vaccination-themed sweet that tastes like "lots of lime with a bit of alcohol."

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Jiri Skacel and reported on this story for the Reuters news service. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Words in This Story

caken. a sweet baked food made from a mixture of flour, sugar, and other ingredients such as eggs and butter

managern. someone who is in charge of a business, department, etc.

spiken. something pointed like a nail

symboln. an action, object, event, etc., that expresses or represents a particular idea or quality

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<![CDATA[Ancient Greek and Roman Statues Reappear After Years in Storage]]>Susan Shand如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

Visitors to Rome can now see one of the most important private collections of ancient Greek and Roman marble sculptures.

The 90 works from the Torlonia Collection opened this week in the newly rebuilt Palazzo Caffarelli, overlooking the Roman Forum.

Among the works is a marble fountain that was made in ancient Greece. Experts on ancient Rome believe the fountain once stood in the garden of the general and statesman Julius Caesar. At the time, it was already hundreds of years old.

The 620-piece Torlonia collection is believed to be the greatest private collection of classical art in the world.

It was begun more than a century ago by Prince Alessandro Torlonia. He found many of the pieces on the grounds of his family's Roman properties. Wealthy from a business relationship with the Vatican, the family purchased other well-known sculpture collections.

In 1884, the Prince built his own museum to show off his collection. When the museum closed in 1976, the pieces went into storage.

"The reappearance of such a…collection is a very important event," said art historian Salvatore Settis. "When I saw them for the first time it was very emotional because I knew most of those pieces from books, but I had never seen them."

The Torlonia family chose Settis to help with the difficult job of deciding which works should be shown to the public.

Anna Maria Carruba helped prepare the statues for the show.

"Many of these pieces were already restored from (the year) 1600 onwards. We didn't need to work on the structure of the statues but only on the surfaces, cleaning them," she said.

Italy's culture minister Dario Franceschini says the works "take your breath away." He spoke to reporters on Monday.

He added that it was unfortunate that COVID-19 safety restrictions would limit the number of people who can visit.

The show will stay open until June 29, 2021. It is the result of public and private cooperation among the culture ministry, the city of Rome, the Torlonia Foundation and the Roman jeweler Bvlgari.

Show organizers said there had been plans to bring the artworks to other countries, but the coronavirus pandemic has left those plans uncertain.

I'm Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

sculpture – n. a three-dimensional piece of art that is made from stone or metal

fountain – n. an outdoor, stone structure that water flows through

garden – n. an outdoor area of flowers and shrubs

restore – v. to return something to its original condition

unfortunate – adj. not having good luck

pandemic – n. a contagious disease that moves from country to country

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<![CDATA[WORDS AND THEIR STORIES - Hard Nuts to Crack]]>Anna Matteo如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

Now, Words and Their Stories from VOA Learning English.

During autumn in many parts of the United States, you can watch squirrels gathering nuts for the winter. The squirrel puts the nut in its mouth, runs to a place it considers safe, digs a hole, and then drops the food in the ground. Hopefully, the animal will remember where it hid the nut weeks later.

And all the while they do this, they look really funny. But it seems like a wise thing to do. Nuts are a healthy food source. They provide healthy fats and nutrients. That is, if you can break off the shell around the nut. The part of the nut we eat is protected by the shell -- or nutshell.

And that word is the basis for a common saying: in a nutshell.

The expression "in a nutshell" means to provide important details in a short statement. If I give you information in a nutshell, I am describing the important parts of something in only a few words. We call this a summary. And that is the definition of "in a nutshell" … in a nutshell.

Now, let's talk a little more about those shells. They are usually hard to break open. Unless you are a squirrel, you need some sort of tool or device for cracking open the shells. And sometime this is not very easy.

In American English, the saying a hard nut to crack means something hard to understand. It can also describe an individual whose actions are perplexing. Why did she do that? What is he doing? How are they going to fix that?

The expression a hard nut to crack can also describe someone who is simply difficult to deal with. Maybe her actions are confusing or perhaps his behavior is unpredictable. Or we simply do not know how to deal with them. So, we can say she or he is a hard nut to crack.

You can use this expression for people, problems, or situations that are difficult to understand, solve, or deal with.

When we use the expression, we can say "tough" instead of "hard." Here the two words mean the same thing: difficult.

The English language has some great words that mean the same thing. Mysteries, riddles, and enigmas are all hard nuts to crack. In 1939, then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used these words to describe Russian intentions in World War II.

On October 1st, 1939 Winston Churchill gave his first broadcast during the war to the British people. It was during this broadcast that he shared his now famous comments about Russia, which was then part of the Soviet Union. He likened it to "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." In other words, very difficult to figure out.

"I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest." (BBC Broadcast, London, October 1, 1939)

These days we also use his expression to describe something very secretive and nearly impossible to know or predict.

And that is our show for this week.

In a nutshell, our intention here at VOA Learning English is to help you learn English. As you know, some English expressions can be tough nuts to crack.

Make sure and join us again next week for another Words and Their Stories! Until next time … I'm Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

source n. someone or something that provides what is wanted or needed

perplexing adj. difficult to understand : causing confusion

confusing adj. to make (something) difficult to understand

tough adj. difficult to accomplish, resolve, endure, or deal with

riddle n. a puzzling question to be solved or answered by guessing

enigma n. something hard to understand or explain

intention n. the thing that you plan to do or achieve : an aim or purpose

forecast v. to say that (something) will happen in the future : to predict (something, such as weather) after looking at the information that is available

key – n. something extremely important

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<![CDATA[US Study: School Is a Hostile Place for LGBTQ+ Students]]>Jill Robbins如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

This week, researchers released a report on LGBTQ+ students at schools in the United States. It found that almost all LGBTQ+ students who were questioned reported hearing offensive comments about their sexuality or gender identity.

The GLSEN 2019 National School Climate Survey noted that they reported hearing comments such as 'that's so gay' on school playgrounds and in college dining halls.

GLSEN is a national education and support group for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Teachers set up the group to provide support to individuals facing a hostile climate in school.

LGBTQ+ is short for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning.

The 2019 National School Climate Survey involved 16,700 students, all of them members of the LGBTQ+ community. They were questioned between April and August of last year. Just under 99 percent of those between 13 and 21 years of age reported hearing critical comments about their sexuality or gender identity. Almost 92 percent said the things they heard had made them feel 'distressed.'

Aiden Cloud attends a small, private school in Nashville, Tennessee. The 17-year-old student said that his teachers are not open to talking about LGBTQ+ issues.

'Even though there are a lot of queer students at my school - just as there are at any school - there's a very big lack of visibility. It feels very isolating,' said Cloud.

Discussing LGBTQ+ issues in schools has led to fierce criticism in other countries. Last year, some parents in Britain protested the discussion of sexuality and gender identity in local schools.

The GLSEN report surveyed students in all 50 U.S. states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa and Guam. The results show that homophobia was common within educational organizations.

More than 95 percent of those taking the survey said that they had heard hurtful comments about LGBTQ+ students at school. More than half the students reported hearing such comments, threats or experiencing name-calling because of their sexual identity.

Eleven percent reported physical attacks because of their sexuality, the report noted.

Eliza Byard is the executive director of GLSEN, a group formerly known as the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. She said that the results show the need to continue to deal with the problem.

"This is a very significant wake-up call about how the progress we've won is directly under attack."

However, Byard notes that the situation now is very different from the past.

'Where we are now is so different from where we were 20, 25 years ago in terms of how [much] better things are. On the other hand, where we are is clearly still unacceptable.'

One action GLSEN plans is No Name-Calling Week, from January 18 to 22, 2021. The aim of the week is to end name-calling and abuse in schools. Its organizers want students to learn how to be kind to one another.

I'm Jill Robbins.

Matthew Lavietes, Hugo Greenhalgh and Oscar Lopez reported on this story for Thompson Reuters. Jill Robbins adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Quiz - US Study Says School is a Hostile Place for LGBTQ+ Students

Start the Quiz to find out

Start Quiz

Words in This Story

gendern. the state of being male or female

surveyn. an activity in which many people are asked a question or a series of questions

gay adj. of or relating to a sexual or love interest in members of one's same sex

lesbiann. a woman who is sexually interested in other women

queer adj. a word to describe individual who self-identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community. It was once hurtful but is now used in a neutral or approving way especially by some homosexual and bisexual people.

distress – v. to subject to great pain or difficulties

visibilityn. the ability to see or be seen

isolatev. to put or keep (someone or something) in a place or situation that is separate from others

homophobia n. a person who hates or is afraid of homosexuals or treats them badly

significant adj. large enough to be noticed or have an effect

Are there organizations to help LGBTQ+ students where you live? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

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<![CDATA[US Approves First Treatment for Ebola Virus]]>Caty Weaver如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the world's first treatment for the deadly Ebola virus.

The treatment, Inmazeb, is a combination of three genetically-engineered antibodies. The company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals developed it to treat both young and old patients with the virus version called Zaire Ebola. It is the deadliest kind of Ebola known to infect humans. Zaire Ebola usually kills 60 to 90 percent of patients.

FDA officials announced the approval of Inmazeb on Wednesday.

The Zaire Ebola virus can spread easily through direct contact with body fluids of infected people or animals. Signs of the disease include increased body temperature, pain, stomach sickness, kidney and liver damage, and bleeding. People who provide care to infected individuals are at highest risk of contracting the virus.

FILE - In this July 13, 2019 file photo, health workers wearing protective suits tend to an Ebola victim kept in an isolation tent in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo.
FILE - In this July 13, 2019 file photo, health workers wearing protective suits tend to an Ebola victim kept in an isolation tent in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Regeneron's drug was one of four tested during a Zaire Ebola outbreak in Congo between 2018 to 2019. The outbreak killed almost 2,300 people.

Regeneron received support from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and international health agencies.

The study involved 681 people infected with the virus. After four weeks, about one-third of 154 patients who received Inmazeb had died. Similar results were reported for a group that got a different drug. But, about half the patients died among the other two groups given one of the other two drugs.

The study ended early last year so all patients could get Inmazeb.

Leah Lipsich leads Regeneron's infectious diseases program. She said, "When you have three drugs that bind to the (virus), there's a low probability that the virus can evade all of them."

Lipsich noted that the FDA's approval will make it easier for the company to get permission to use the drug during outbreaks in African countries.

George D. Yancopoulos is Regeneron's chief scientific officer. He said the drug maker is using the same technology to develop an antibody drug to treat COVID-19. He said in a statement, "we hope this will be one of many demonstrations of how the power of science can be successfully deployed against dangerous infectious diseases."

The antibody combination technology has also been used to develop drugs to treat HIV, the cause of AIDS. Regeneron and drug maker Eli Lilly are now asking the FDA to permit emergency use of experimental engineered antibody medicine to treat patients with COVID-19.

The FDA approved ​the first vaccine for Ebola last December. That drug, Ervebo, is made by Merck

I'm Caty Weaver.

Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English with information from the FDA, Regeneron and the Associated Press. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Words in This Story

outbreak - n. a sudden start or increase of disease

bind - v. to tie or wrap something

evade - v. to avoid or stay away

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<![CDATA[NY Philharmonic Cancels Season, Plays Along City Streets]]>Caty Weaver如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

The New York Philharmonic made the historic decision this week to cancel its entire performance season.

The president of the famed symphony orchestra Deborah Borda said on Tuesday that it had lost a combined $30 million in ticket sales for this season and next. The orchestra's total budget for the 2019-2020 season is $87 million.

Borda said the company raised more money than expected from individual donors. But that money, "cannot make up for those massive amounts of lost ticket revenue,' she said.

'Because we live on earned ticket revenue."

The New York Philharmonic is the oldest orchestra in the United States at 178 years old. It is part of the country's so-called "big five" symphonies. It has continued its performance seasons through crises including the Civil War, Great Depression, the September 11th terror attacks and even other disease outbreaks.

But the spread of the new coronavirus, and restrictions related to it, has brought the organization to its breaking point.

The full Philharmonic has not performed since March 10. It announced on June 10 that it had canceled the autumn part of the 2020-21 season and would restart normal performances in early January.

About seventy Philharmonic support employees have lost their jobs. Orchestra musicians have seen pay cuts of 25 percent.

Members of the NY Phil Bandwagon perform outside the Casita Maria Center For Arts & Education in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx borough of New York, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Members of the NY Phil Bandwagon perform outside the Casita Maria Center For Arts & Education in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx borough of New York, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Some have continued to perform in less formal settings.

At the end of August, the orchestra launched NY Phil Bandwagon, a series of socially-distanced outdoor performances.

The bandwagon itself is a bright red Ford truck. It holds a sound system, music stands, lights and an operations crew. The musicians follow it in another vehicle.

Fiona Simon plays the violin for the Philharmonic. She took part in a day of outdoor shows this month. She said the experience returned to her a sense of purpose, something she had not felt since indoor shows stopped in March.

"You're not a complete musician if you're just playing for yourself," Simon said.

She and a few other Philharmonic musicians played at three different street corners that day. The first show took place near a Bronx school. The second was held outside a public library in Queens. The final show took place in a Brooklyn greenspace.

As the group began its final performance of the day, singer Anthony Roth Costanzo opened the show, standing in the open back of the Bandwagon.

"We're going to play you a little concert," he said as people began to gather around in the warmth of an early autumn sunset.

The show lasted 20 minutes and included famous songs by George Gershwin and Charlie Parker.

People listen as members of the NY Phil Bandwagon perform outside the Casita Maria Center For Arts & Education in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx borough of New York, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
People listen as members of the NY Phil Bandwagon perform outside the Casita Maria Center For Arts & Education in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx borough of New York, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

As the audience grew, it became clear that the concert was as much an emotional release for the crowd as it was for the musicians. Violinist Curtis Stewart, a guest performer, expressed it this way: "We need a place to put our feelings, we need a place to feel safe," he said.

"You don't know what you've got until it's gone."

The Philharmonic is holding its final 2020 Bandwagon concert this weekend. It plans to restart the program next spring.

On the New York Philharmonic's website, President Borda expressed her hope for a return to full orchestra shows.

"We cannot wait to be reunited with you, our audience, and we look forward to sharing that magical moment when you hear the very first downbeat of a New York Philharmonic concert."

I'm Caty Weaver.

The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


Words in This Story

symphony orchestra – n. a large orchestra of musicians who play classical music together and are led by a conductor​

revenue – n. money that is made by or paid to a business or an organization​

formal – adj. requiring or using serious and proper clothes and manners​

concert – n. a public performance of music​

guest – n. a person who is invited to appear or perform on a program, at an event, etc.​

magical – adj. very pleasant or exciting​

moment – n. a very short period of time​

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

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<![CDATA[ASK A TEACHER - Little and Small]]>Jill Robbins如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

Today we answer a question from Brigitte in France. She writes:


Could you tell me when to use little and when to use small?

Thank you – Brigitte, France.


Dear Brigitte,

Thank you for writing to us. The words "little" and "small" may seem to have the same meaning, but they do have different uses. First, we can look at them separately.


We use "little" to talk about a small or unimportant amount of something. For example:

There is a little dirt on the floor.

You can also use "little" to describe someone who is young, as in this example:

The little girls laughed at the dog.

Note that when the article "a" is placed before "little," it means you do have some amount of a thing.

She has a little experience with political campaigns.

But without the article, "little" means you are lacking or missing something.

I have little need for swimwear in the winter.


There is an important difference between the words "little" and "small." The difference is, when describing an amount, we use "little." But when describing the size of someone or something, we use "small." Here is an example:

The airplane seats are only a good fit for small adults.

Another different use of "small" is when comparing one thing with another.

My new phone is smaller than the old one.

It is not correct to compare amounts with the word "little." In spoken English, people add the ending -est to "little" when comparing sizes. The word "littlest" is often used when describing sometime cute and very small.

That is the littlest puppy I have ever seen!

Little Puppy
Little Puppy

I hope that helps to answer your question, Brigitte.

And that's Ask a Teacher.

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com

I'm Jill Robbins.

And I'm Greg Stachel.

Jill Robbins wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

article – n. grammar. a word (such as a, an, or the) that is used with a noun to show whether or not the noun refers to a specific person or thing

cute – adj. having a pleasing and usually youthful appearance

puppy – n. a young dog

Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com.

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<![CDATA[World Bank Approves $12 Billion to Finance Coronavirus Vaccines, Care]]>Susan Shand如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

The World Bank has approved $12 billion in financing to help poor countries buy and give out coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments. The aim is to support the vaccination of up to 1 billion people in the developing world.

The $12 billion in financing is part of a larger World Bank Group effort. It plans to spend up to $160 billion to help developing countries fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the bank said in a statement on Tuesday.

The World Bank said its COVID-19 emergency programs are already reaching 111 countries.

People in developing countries need safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, it said.

The World Bank is "fast-tracking" its delivery systems so that poorer nations "have fair and equal access to vaccines," said the bank's president, David Malpass. He added that fair and equal access was important to defeat the pandemic and to "help countries experiencing catastrophic economic and fiscal impacts."

The International Finance Corporation is the agency of the World Bank that provides loans to private businesses. It is giving money to vaccine manufacturers through a $4 billion Global Health Platform, the bank said. Researchers are working on creating more than 170 possible COVID-19 vaccines.

The disease has killed more than 1 million people and sickened more than 38 million. It has also weakened many economies and left many people out of work.

The world's richest countries have already bought up most of the world's possible COVID-19 vaccine supply through 2021. This has made health experts concerned that poorer countries will not be able to get the vaccine.

The World Bank said it will use expertise and experience from its involvement in many large immunization programs worldwide and other public health efforts. The financing also is meant to help countries get medical tests and treatments and to support direction of logistics for vaccinations in the developing world.

I'm Susan Shand.

The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

pandemic – n. a contagious disease that spreads to other countries

delivery – n. to bring something to someone

access – v. to get to or be able to get

catastrophic – adj. very bad, disastrous

fiscal – adj. financial

immunization – n. efforts to give people medication so they cannot catch or spread a contagious disease

logistics – n. the specific details of a project or undertaking

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<![CDATA[EVERYDAY GRAMMAR - There Is Something Strange about Indefinite Pronouns]]>Ashley Thompson如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套英语学习资料,请访问以下链接:

Today on Everyday Grammar, our subject is indefinite pronouns. The pronouns we will consider today end with words such as "thing," "body," and "one."

Think about words such as nothing, something, everyone, and anybody. They are sometimes called expanded indefinite pronouns. Such pronouns are unusual and can be very interesting, as we will see.


Pronouns are words that take the place of nouns. Indefinite pronouns refer to people or things that are unknown or unclear.

First, let's talk about how we arrive at expanded indefinite pronouns. In English, a few short and fairly common words have the ability to expand or grow. Take, for example, words such as every, any, no, and some. We can expand them by adding another word, such as body, thing, and one, to the ending.

expanded indefinite pronouns
expanded indefinite pronouns

Unusual things

Unlike most nouns, expanded indefinite pronouns can be modified by a single adjective. What is unusual about that, you ask? The adjective can, in some cases, come after the pronoun.

Consider this example:

I think that something strange is happening here.

In this sentence, the word something is the subject of a clause. The adjective strange comes after it.

In general, sentences have adjectives that come before nouns or after a linking verb, as in:

He is a strange man.

That man seems strange.

Another unusual thing about these expanded indefinite pronouns is that when they show possession, they need an apostrophe followed by the letter "s." Yet other pronouns that show possession, such as mine or his, do not have an apostrophe + "s."

Consider these examples:

Somebody's phone is on the chair.

Everyone's concerns were ignored!

When expanded indefinite pronouns are the subject of the sentence, English speakers treat them as singular in terms of the verb - even if the pronouns refer to many people.

For example, an English speaker might invite a group of people to dinner by saying:

Everybody is invited to dinner.

Here, everybody clearly means many people. But because it is the sentence subject, the verb is singular.

After our fictional dinner invitation, a person might say:

Everyone plans to be there!

Very unusual

But here is where things get a little strange. When the expanded indefinite pronoun is not the subject of the sentence, English speakers often use the pronoun they. This makes sense since everybody or everyone generally means several people. Consider this:

After everyone arrived for dinner, they played a football game.

But, because there are questions about the meaning of these indefinite pronouns, English speakers also use they when talking about one person. Consider this example:

Someone sent me a text message yesterday, but they didn't say their name. I didn't write back to them.

The reason the English speaker used they is because the pronoun someone is not clear. It gives no information about the person's sex. It could be a man or a woman. Since gender is unclear, English speakers use the term they as a kind of gender-neutral pronoun.

Closing thoughts

When you read books written in English or watch American television shows, pay attention to how native speakers use the group of indefinite pronouns that we talked about today.

Listen for subject-verb agreement. Ask yourself about what the indefinite pronoun is doing in the sentence. Consider why the speaker used an indefinite pronoun instead of another pronoun. These questions may be difficult. But remember this: With hard work, anything is possible.

I'm Ashley Thompson.

And I'm John Russell.

John Russell wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

* They is the subject form. Their and them are the possessive and objective forms, respectively.

Words in This Story

indefinite – adj. not clear in meaning or detail

refer to – phrasal verb to have a direct connection or relationship to (something)

modify – v. grammar : to limit or describe the meaning of (a word or group of words)

clause – n. grammar : a part of a sentence that has its own subject and verb

apostrophe – n. the mark ʼ used to show the possessive form of a noun (as in "Lee's book" or "the tree's leaves")

fictional – adj. meaning or involving a story or literature created from one's imagination

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

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