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Iraq Conflict Deadly for Children, Says UNICEF

5 saat 43 dak önce
  The continuing conflict in Iraq has brought destruction to many areas of the country. It also has had an extreme cost for families and children, as well. The United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, says fighting has displaced more than 1.5 million children in the last three years. Their stories are hard to hear. Zamin Makhool is 28 years old. Last December, she lost two of her children in an airstrike in her neighborhood. An explosive struck her home, leaving it a pile of wreckage. It left a hole three meters deep. Her four-year-old son and nine-month-old daughter died. Her son died while playing with his “spinning top” toy, she says. Her baby daughter was crushed in the collapsed house. The attack took place at a time when Islamic State militants controlled the neighborhood. Since 2014, UNICEF says more than 1,000 children have been killed in Iraq. The organization says Islamic State militants claimed territory -- including Mosul and other cities -- during that period. Peter Hawkins is a UNICEF representative in Iraq. He said in a statement that, “Across Iraq, children continue to witness sheer horror and unimaginable violence.” Families risk lives when fleeing militant controlled areas The fighting continues in Mosul’s Old City, the last place in Mosul where Islamic State still holds power. Several families recently arrived at a field hospital near the Old City neighborhood to seek treatment. One mother brought her baby, Saja, who is one year old. She told the doctors that the child had not been fed enough for months. The doctors tried to inject nutrients into her bloodstream with a needle.  “Even the families of militants are trying to flee the Old City now,” said the child’s mother. “It’s too dangerous.” One day before she came to the hospital, she said, militants had heard that her family was planning to run away. They shot her husband in their house. She then took her children and fled the neighborhood. UNICEF and fleeing civilians say militants are killing parents and children. They also are preventing families from fleeing and punishing ones that do. Mortars, airstrikes and so-called improvised explosive devices are harming children and adults. But starvation and disease are  greater threats to children. Poor conditions exist at camps for displaced Conditions for those displaced by conflict are extremely difficult. Families have gathered in refugee camps in the desert areas surrounding Mosul. Temperatures during the day can reach 40 degrees Celsius in the summer. Living conditions in the camps in Iraqi-controlled Mosul are poor, with bad food and dirty water. There is also a lack of health care. Major Mohammad Hassan Abdullah is a medical doctor with the Iraqi Army. He works at a field clinic near the front lines. “We have 500 to 600 people coming every day, mostly babies and elderly people,” he said. “The problem could nearly be solved with clean water.” Zamin Makhool has one daughter still living. The family lives in a refugee camp. She says they get their food from non-governmental organizations. But food does not come every day. Makhool’s husband, Ibrahim, says violence against children will continue as long as Islamic State militants hold territory in Iraq. Ibrahim says he was trying to sell his car when the family’s two young children were killed in the airstrike. The target of the attack was likely nearby Islamic State bases, or a house next door where militants were living. “It wasn’t a mistake that airstrikes hit our neighborhood,” Ibrahim Makhool said as he showed a picture of his destroyed home. “There were three IS (Islamic State) bases in the area.” “They live between families to try to stay safe,” he said. “Then when we are hit, they move on.” I’m Mario Ritter.   Heather Murdoch reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor. What do you think can be done for families in Iraq? Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story sheer –adj. complete, total front line --n. an area where soldiers are fighting elderly –adj. old, aged

US Military: Islamic State Problem 'Not Getting Better' in Afghanistan

Cts, 24.06.2017 - 23:55
In 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan. Since that time, the U.S. military has lost lives and spent large amounts of money in an attempt to stop armed groups. The battles continue. ISIS and Al-Qaida Dana White is the chief spokesperson for the U.S. Defense Department. She spoke to VOA for her first filmed interview. White said the Islamic State problem in Afghanistan is "not getting better.” "It's not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of ISIS. We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.” White said that the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, is still learning about what U.S. army leaders need on the ground. Some officials have said that the military will likely increase the number of forces for operations against al-Qaida and Islamic State in Afghanistan. White said that Mattis will speak to NATO counterparts in Brussels next week before making a final decision on a plan. The U.S. military says three American service members were killed in April during operations against Islamic State militants. The Taliban On Thursday, a car bomb explosion in Afghanistan's Helmand province killed at least 34 people and wounded more than 60 others. The suicide attack came ahead of Sunday's Eid festival, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Witnesses said soldiers and government employees were waiting outside of a bank to collect their salaries when the bomber struck. The Taliban claimed responsibility. Mohammad Yousaf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesperson, said the bombing happened on a day when the bank does not permit civilians to enter. Omar Zwak, a local government spokesperson, said that civilian and military personnel were among the victims. This attack comes one day after other Taliban activity. On Wednesday, the Taliban released a new video showing two kidnapped professors. American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks were teachers with the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. They were kidnapped last August. "My captors treat me well. They treat me and my colleague Tim Weeks as their guests; but, every prisoner's final wish is to get freedom from the prison," said King. The video's release comes at a time when Afghan officials are reportedly planning to execute a group of Taliban prisoners. They were found guilty of terrorism.  The Taliban wants these prisoners freed in return for letting the two hostages go. The U.S. State Department declined to give comments on the video.   Unclear future U.S. General John Nicholson is the top commander in Afghanistan. In February, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he needs "a few thousand" more troops to complete his mission of supporting Afghan forces. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump gave Secretary Mattis permission to increase the military presence in Afghanistan. The defense secretary has promised lawmakers a new strategy by "mid July." The extent to which a new military troop increase will take place – and if it will have success against Afghanistan's insurgent groups – remains unclear. I'm John Russell.   Carla Babb and Ayaz Gul wrote versions of this story for VOA News. John Russell adapted them for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   focused – adj.  giving attention and effort to a specific task or goal counterpart – n.  someone or something that has the same job or purpose as another salary – n. an amount of money that an employee is paid each year, usually divided into equal amounts and paid once every two weeks or once every month. colleague – n. a person who works with you: a fellow worker​ decline – v. to say that you will not or cannot do something​ strategy – n. a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time​ insurgent – n. a person who fights against an established government or authority​  

Researchers: Russia Has Technology to Cause Major Power Outages

Cts, 24.06.2017 - 23:33
  Computer experts said to be allied with Russia have created a weapon with the ability to cause major damage to the world’s electrical systems. Researchers have identified the cyber-weapon as a harmful software program or virus. They say it is designed to interfere with a computer’s normal operations. The researchers are calling this malware program “CrashOverride” or “Industroyer”. It is known to have affected the electrical system in Ukraine in December 2016. The attack briefly cut off one-fifth of all electric power in Kyiv, the capital. Interest in attacking U.S. power stations The cybersecurity business Dragos identified the malware in a report released on June 12. It said Russian government hackers appeared interested in targeting power centers in countries other than Ukraine. Currently, the malware is able to attack power systems across Europe and Asia. But Dragos said it could be used against the United States. With only “some small modifications,” it could cause power outages of up to a few days in parts of the U.S. electric grid. That information comes from Dragos’ threat intelligence director, Sergio Caltagirone. The company believes that with other changes, the malware could also attack local transportation providers, water systems, and natural gas suppliers. Researchers say hackers linked to Russia have shown an interest in targeting such infrastructure. News of the malware’s discovery led the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to make an announcement on June 12. It advised all critical infrastructure operators to make sure they were following suggested rules for security. Similar malware used in Ukraine in 2015 Dragos identified the group responsible for creating the new malware as “Electrum.” The company said it strongly believes that Electrum used the same computer systems as the hackers who attacked Ukraine's electrical grid in December 2015. The 2015 attack left 225,000 people without power. U.S. researchers found that Russian government hackers were responsible. That attack was linked to a group called Sandworm, which is said to have ties to the Russian government. Dragos said that Sandworm and Electrum are either the same group, or two separate groups working within the same organization.  Researchers are not sure if they are individuals working for the Russian government or actual government employees. Like a Swiss Army knife In the 2016 attack, the malware helped the hackers to get control of Ukraine’s power supply. Danu Gunter of Dragos told the Washington Post newspaper what was shocking about the CrashOverride malware is that it is part of a “larger framework.” He said that it works like a Swiss Army knife, where you can open the different tools you need to perform different operations. In theory, the CrashOverride malware can be changed to attack different kinds of controls systems.  ESET, a Slovakian research group, collected malware samples from the 2016 attack. The group later shared them with Dragos. ESET has named the malware “Industroyer,” while Dragos is calling it “CrashOverride.” The malware was specifically designed to cause harm or destroy industrial-control systems. It represents the most powerful threat since Stuxnet, a worm created by the United States and Israel to slow Iran’s nuclear activities. I’m Phil Dierking.   ­­­­­­­­­­­­This story was based on a report from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Phil Dierking adapted it for VOA Learning English. His story has information from other sources. George Grow was the editor. How large a threat do you think cyberterrorism is?  e want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. _______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   framework - n.  the basic structure of something​ grid - n. a network of electrical wires and equipment that supplies electricity to a large area​ hacker - n. a person who secretly gets access to a computer system in order to get information, cause damage, etc.​ infrastructure - n. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly​ malware - n. software that is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems.​ modification - n. the act or process of changing parts of something​  

Can Trump’s Non-Diplomatic Team Make Progress in Middle East?

Cts, 24.06.2017 - 00:00
  U.S. President Donald Trump is taking a new approach in trying to get Israel and the Palestinians to sign a peace deal. He sent two negotiators with no international diplomatic experience to meet with both sides. The team that traveled to Jerusalem and the West Bank was led by Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior aide. Also taking part was Jason Greenblatt, an assistant to the president in charge of international negotiations. Kushner, 36, is a former New York real estate businessman and newspaper publisher. Greenblatt also has a background in real estate. For many years, he also worked as the chief lawyer in the Trump Organization. In that position, he oversaw large business deals for the company.     For the past 50 years, the United Nations and many U.S. presidents have tried – but failed – to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East. ​These efforts included many rounds of negotiations involving Israeli and Palestinian officials. Experienced diplomats and international negotiators led the talks, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former World Bank president James Wolfensohn and longtime diplomat Dennis Ross. The first major success in Arab-Israeli peace talks came in 1978, under the leadership of U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords in Washington, D.C. Egypt and Israel had been in a state of war. The Camp David Accords led to a formal peace treaty signed between the two nations in 1979. And Sadat and Begin received the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.   Every American president since has launched their own Middle East peace efforts. In the Trump administration’s approach, Kushner and Greenblatt will bring their business experience to the negotiating table. A spokesman for Kushner recently told Politico he had the president’s goals in mind as he put together his team. “Jared brought in people he trusts, and they are embracing the fact that they are not career diplomats but great listeners with deal-making experience who can try a new approach.” Guy Ziv is a professor at American University and an expert in Israeli-Palestinian relations. He says the Trump administration’s approach is much different than past efforts. “It's different in the sense that Trump has assigned the most difficult, the most intractable conflict to individuals with next to no experience and very little knowledge on the issues.” Trump has said that he considers a possible peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians “the ultimate deal.” He made a visit to the region last month. He appeared to have started a good working relationship with both sides. Many issues have prevented a peace agreement. Among them are disputes over borders and competing claims to Jerusalem. Others include the future of millions of displaced Palestinians and demands for more economic opportunities for Palestinians. Ziv says he does not agree with the argument that, since previous negotiations by experienced diplomats have not led to an agreement, a completely new approach is needed. “I'm very skeptical in this regard because we're dealing, as I said, with some of the most difficult, complex issues that take years to learn. And they're getting a crash course on something that takes years to learn.” He added that when it comes to actual policy, not much has changed from the Obama administration. “Despite all the rhetoric, we are not seeing a different approach on any of the specifics. The (American) embassy (in Tel Aviv) is not being relocated (to Jerusalem). The administration is maintaining longstanding U.S. support for a two-state solution.” The two-state solution would create an independent Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel. Ziv added that the Trump administration is also expressing opposition to new Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This issue has long been a major dispute between the two sides. Shortly before Kushner arrived in Israel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted a photo of construction work being done on a new settlement. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the move a “serious escalation” designed to set back peace efforts.  During his trip, Kushner first met in Jerusalem with Netanyahu, who is a friend of his father’s. He then held talks with Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. After the talks, the White House said in statement that Netanyahu and Abbas had “reaffirmed their commitment” to the goal of getting a lasting peace agreement. However, the statement also said that establishing peace “will take time.” It added that U.S. officials urged both sides to do “everything possible to create an environment conducive to peacemaking.” Professor Ziv said he believes the only way a peace agreement will have a chance is if the Trump administration is willing to put pressure on both sides. “Without a massive amount of pressure at the highest level, I don't think you're going to see any progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front.” I’m Bryan Lynn. And I'm Caty Weaver. Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from VOA News, the Associated Press and Reuters. Ashley Thompson 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   framework – n. basic structure of something approach – n. way of doing something embrace – v. gladly accept something intractable – adj. not easily managed opportunity – n. chance to do something crash course – n. class in which a lot of information is taught in a very short period of time rhetoric – language intended to influence people escalation – n. a rise or increase in activity forge – v. create something conducive – adj. make something possible of likely to happen massive – adj. large amount  

UN: Deaths, Injuries Rising as Ukraine Enters Fourth Year of Conflict

Cum, 23.06.2017 - 23:00
  The United Nations reports that deaths and injuries from the conflict in Ukraine have been rising in recent months. The conflict has now entered its fourth year. Russian-supported separatists in eastern Ukraine are fighting forces loyal to Ukraine’s central government. This week, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on the situation. U.N. investigators noted evidence of 193 conflict-related casualties among civilians from the middle of February to the middle of May 2017. The report says the number includes 36 deaths. “This is a 48 percent increase over the last reporting period,” said High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein. He spoke to the U.N. Human Rights Council Wednesday. Zeid noted that, “The majority of these casualties resulted from shelling, explosive devices and remnants of war.” U.N. officials estimate that about 10,000 people have been killed and more than 23,500 injured since the fighting started. Sergiy Kyslytsya, deputy minister for foreign affairs for Ukraine, confirmed the findings of the report. It noted "continuous inflow of foreign fighters and supply of ammunition and heavy weaponry from the Russian Federation into parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.” The minister added that while these activities continue, there is “no end to the conflict in sight.”   Peace efforts have failed Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe signed an agreement to end the fighting in September 2014. But this deal and other peace efforts have failed to end the violence. The U.N. reports hospitals and schools in eastern Ukraine have been damaged by repeated shelling. It said shells hit the Donetsk Filtration Station and the South Donbas pumping station first, “endangering safe water supply to more than one million people on both sides of the contact line.” Zeid said that both sides of the conflict were to blame for human rights violations. He added that his team has documented cases of unlawful and arbitrary detention on both sides of the contact line. He noted reports of “almost systemic use of torture and ill-treatment by the Security Service of Ukraine.” Investigators were told the security service used such methods to force conflict-related detainees into making statements against their will. Zeid said that efforts to investigate claims by victims often failed. Sanctions to continue The United States and European Union took steps to answer Russia’s takeover of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine three years ago. The U.S. government and EU ordered sanctions to punish Russian businesses and individuals. In a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he has no plans to end the sanctions. After the report’s release, Russia expressed concerns about new cases of arbitrary and illegal detention. It also criticized the use of torture by Ukrainian security forces “to obtain confessions in the Donbass region.” Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister said the only way to improve human rights in the area is “through full consolidation of the international community” and pressure on Russia. I’m Jonathan Evans.   Lisa Schlein reported on this story for VOANews.com. George Grow adapted her report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   casualty – n. someone who is killed or hurt in an accident or conflict remnant – n. usually a small part of piece of something sanction – n. an action taken by one country to make another country follow a rule or law arbitrary – adj. existing or coming about by chance confession – n. the act of admitting something consolidation – n. the process of uniting   We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

Chinese General's Early End to Vietnam Visit Worries Some Experts

Per, 22.06.2017 - 23:55
A Chinese general’s shortened visit to Vietnam has raised concerns about whether this could be a sign of a major change in relations. China and Vietnam are currently involved in a dispute over territory they both claim to own in the South China Sea. General Fan Changlong is part of a group of Chinese officials that came to visit the Vietnamese capital Hanoi this week. The general suddenly left the country after a private meeting with Vietnamese defense officials on Tuesday. There are some differences in public and private reports of what happened. Chinese and Vietnamese state-run media report that defense relations are going well. They say the defense ministries of both countries reached an agreement on how to train members of their militaries. But experts say government sources told them that discussions about the disputed South China Sea might have led Fan to cut short his visit. China is currently building man-made islands and military infrastructure in the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea. And Vietnam has made efforts to form military partnerships with Japan and the United States. Recently, Vietnam has also permitted a foreign company to explore for oil in the area known as the Vanguard Bank. The country has long claimed Vanguard Bank, about 700 kilometers off the coast, as part of its continental shelf. Le Hong Hiep is a researcher at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. He could only wonder about the dispute because there is no official information about it. “In the past, Vietnam has been under pressure to [continue] its growth rate, so it has had discussions on [increasing] oil exploration on the South China Sea,” he said. “Vietnam’s activities in the South China Sea have touched China's interests, and as usual, China will find ways to [prevent] the country from [seeking] them,” he said. This may be why Fan suddenly ended his visit, he added. Carl Thayer is a Southeast Asia expert based in Australia. He said it is likely that Fan asked Vietnam to stop the search for oil in Vanguard Bank. Thayer said China wants Vietnam to continue with their past agreement not to explore for oil in disputed areas. But Le Hong Hiep said what makes things difficult is the two countries see the agreement differently. Vietnam believes it owns Vanguard Bank, while China calls it a disputed territory. In May 2014, China put a large oil-drilling platform about 193 kilometers off the coast of Vietnam. This led to a series of conflicts between the countries. I’m Caty Weaver.   Radio Free Asia reported this story. Pete Musto adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. We want to hear from you. How do you think China and Vietnam can solve this dispute? Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   source - n. a person, book, etc., that gives information​ infrastructure - n.  the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly​ continental shelf - n. the part of a continent that lies under the ocean and slopes down to the ocean floor​

UN: Amphetamines, Synthetic Drugs a New Threat for Asia

Per, 22.06.2017 - 23:31
  The United Nations says amphetamines and synthetic, or man-made, drugs are a new threat to communities in Asia. UN officials have reported an increase in the production and use of such substances. Two million pills of the drug methamphetamine were seized last weekend in northern Thailand. Drug traffickers tried to pass a road guarded by police in Chiang Rai province, but soldiers and police saw them. One trafficker was shot dead. The incident took place near the Golden Triangle region of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. That area is known for drug production. Methamphetamine is a synthetic drug. It can affect behavior by changing how the brain thinks. Synthetic drugs are responsible for many drug overdoses. Some overdoses are accidental. In others, the person may take large amount of the drug on purpose. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, noted in a recent report that methamphetamine production and seizure rates have increased. The report said that 287 million methamphetamine pills were seized in East and Southeast Asia in 2015. That is more than two times the amount of pills seized in 2011. The UNODC said Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were thought to have an increase in the use of methamphetamine pills in 2015. Cambodia, China, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam all reported increases in use and trafficking of crystalline methamphetamine. Crystalline methamphetamine is a liquid form of the drug. UNODC data shows that the flow of illegal drugs continues to rise across the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, an area covering six countries. Methamphetamine has been a leading product in the illegal drug trade for many years. Synthetic drugs made in secret laboratories in Asia are sold in markets as far away as North America. The United States is currently facing an opioid epidemic. Opioids are drugs that reduce pain. They are causing up to 60,000 deaths a year nationwide. Inshik Sim is a UNODC information specialist in Thailand. He told VOA that while methamphetamine seizures increased nearly seven times over the past 10 years, heroin seizures are largely unchanged. He said increases in methamphetamine use have also raised concerns in China, Singapore and Malaysia. Olivier Lermet is a UNODC regional advisor. Lermet said in an email to VOA that amphetamine-type stimulants, a kind of drug, are easy to produce and are made in laboratories close to where the drugs are sold. With a growing middle class and rising incomes, more people are turning to methamphetamines. Men, women, older adults and young people are buying the drug. The UNODC report said organized crime groups play “a significant role in methamphetamine manufacturing and trafficking in the region.” These groups include those in northeastern Myanmar, eastern China and Taiwan. Traffickers target markets with high earnings, such as Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. “In fact, seizures of crystalline methamphetamine at the borders of these four nations have increased rapidly in recent years,” the UNODC said. The United Nations has called on countries to have a more “balanced response to drugs.” It wants countries to place more importance on treatment. But Southeast Asia has been slow to reform its drug laws and some countries have launched a “war on drugs.” In the Philippines, police and unidentified gunmen have killed more than 7,000 people during the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte. In Thailand, up to 70 percent of all 300,000 prisoners in jail were sentenced on drug-related charges. But activists say there is need for reform to fight drug use. They say programs that require drug users to go to special treatment centers should end. Voluntary community-based treatment and services should come into effect, they say. Joe Maier is a Catholic clergyman who operates aid projects in Klong Toey, one of the poorest areas in Thailand. He said the government offers communities little support in providing activities to keep people away from drugs. Maier said the government has never put money into community efforts. He said, “They never have dumped huge amounts of money into sports. The government does not see sports fields, athletics and sport programs and sports heroes as combating drugs," Maier said. I’m Mario Ritter. And I’m Olivia Liu.   Ron Corben reported this story for VOA News. Olivia Liu adapted this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   amphetamine – n. a drug known to cause changes in the central nervous system pills – n. a small round object that contains medicine or drugs epidemic – n. the sudden, quick spread of disease incomes – n. money earned from work significant – adj. major or important rapidly – adj. happening in a short amount of time We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

Will Relations Between Two Koreas Affect US?

Per, 22.06.2017 - 00:00
The new president of South Korea is working to improve relations with North Korea. American experts are watching the efforts to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex closely. South Korean President Moon Jae-in named Cho Myoung-gyun to lead efforts to improve relations with North Korea on June 13th. Shortly after being named to the post, Cho told reporters that “operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex should be restored.” Cho played an important role in opening the economic cooperation project between the two Koreas in 2004. The jointly-operated industrial complex reportedly paid $100 million a year in wages to 54,000 North Korean workers. South Korea closed the complex in February 2016 to punish North Korea for its nuclear testing and long-range rocket launches. Americans not happy with reopening plan Some American officials were not happy with Cho’s plans. Many experts believe reopening the complex could hurt relations between the United States and South Korea. Sue Mi Terry is a former CIA analyst. She studies North Korea. She told VOA that any action that benefits North Korea would be in opposition to the Trump administration’s goal of stopping North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. “Because don’t know where the money is going, it could be contributing to North Korea’s WMD [weapons of mass destruction] missile program. There is no evidence that it’s not." Thomas Countryman was the assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation in the Obama administration. He says reopening the complex would harm international efforts to stop the North’s nuclear weapons program. “There is simply no way that the Republic of Korea could convince China to have a strict enforcement of the U.N. resolutions if South Korea is reopening a complex that provides tens of millions of dollars of hard currency every year to the North Korean regime.” Gary Samore works at the Belfer Center at Harvard University. He was the coordinator for arms control and WMD during the Obama administration. He says South Korea should use the possibility of reopening the complex as a negotiating tool to force North Korea to limit and then end its nuclear activities. "Well I think it would be a big mistake to resume the Kaesong Industrial Park without getting something in return.” South Korea and U.S. not in agreement Negotiations on ending North Korea’s nuclear program have not taken place in almost ten years. The United States and South Korea have increased economic pressure on North Korea, but the North has not ended its nuclear program. However, since taking office last month, South Korean President Moon appears to be easing conditions for talks with the North. At a recent event on relations between the two Koreas, Moon said “we will open dialogue without a precondition” if North Korea stops launching missiles and testing nuclear devices. But when U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson led a U.N. Security Council special meeting in April, he rejected negotiations with North Korea. He said the North “must take concrete steps to reduce the threat that its illegal weapons programs pose to the U.S. and our allies before we can even consider talks.” Those steps include cancelling its nuclear and missile programs. Moon Chung-in is South Korea’s special presidential advisor for foreign and security affairs. He spoke in Washington recently. He said President Moon had proposed a reduction in joint U.S. – South Korea military exercises if North Korea “suspends its nuclear and missile activities.” The State Department said the statement was not significant. In an email to VOA, the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs spokeswoman Alicia Edwards said the department believes “these views are the personal views of Mr. Moon Chung-in and may not reflect official (South Korean) government policy.” A senior official at the South Korean presidential office said Moon Chung-in did not communicate with the president’s office about the proposal. I’m Jonathan Evans.   VOA Korean Service Correspondent Jenny Lee reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report into Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page. _______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   restore – v. to put or bring (something) back into existence or use benefit – v. to be useful or helpful to (someone or something) contribute – v. to help to cause something to happen hard currency – n. money that comes from a country with a strong government and economy and that is not likely to lose its value regime – n. a form of government dialogue – n. a discussion or series of discussions that two groups or countries have in order to end a disagreement precondition – n. something that must exist or happen before something else can exist or happen concrete – adj. relating to or involving specific people, things or actions rather than general ideas or qualities pose – v. to be or create (a possible threat, danger, problem, etc.) reflect – v. to cause people to think of someone or something in a specified way

Terror Attacks, Disasters Test European Leaders

Ça, 21.06.2017 - 23:00
  How national leaders react to crisis can influence the rest of their term in office. Leaders may be forced from office early if the public is critical of, or questions the effectiveness of, their reaction. People are interested not only in whether a leader will work to fix what went wrong, but also whether he or she inspired the nation at a difficult time. In Britain, many people are now asking that question of Prime Minister Theresa May. They have been critiquing her reaction to a major fire last week. The fire destroyed a high-rise apartment building in London. Officials believe at least 79 people were killed. Many others are missing. Hundreds have no place to live. May has been dealing with terrorist attacks in addition to the fire. Some of her critics say she has seemed cold and unfeeling. They criticize her for failing to quickly visit victims and survivors of the terror attacks and deadly fire. May’s aides say the criticism is unfair. But even British newspapers that support her Conservative Party have turned critical. Writer Simon Heffer criticized May’s “robotic” performance and her “complete failure to connect with the public.” In Western countries, people are quick to criticize national leaders for how they react to crises or disasters. Many people do not trust politicians anymore and are ready to follow leaders who have no political experience but offer simple answers. Some observers say Europe’s leaders are being tested. And they say how these leaders deal with the effects of disaster is either helping them suppress populist anger, redirect it or be destroyed by it. Last week, The Economist magazine noted a weakness in Britain’s political leaders, both conservative and liberal. Part of the problem, the magazine suggested, is that many politicians are “professionals who make their livelihood out of politics.” It noted that earlier leaders had a wide experience of life before entering politics. May is not the only European leader who has been criticized for her reaction to crises. Francois Hollande, the former president of France, left office with the lowest popularity ratings for a French leader since researchers first studied French politicians more than 30 years ago. But if national leaders react as people believe they should, a crisis may not hurt them. In 2016, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was praised for his government’s reaction to earthquakes in central Italy. The quakes killed almost 300 people. Renzi quickly put in place new building rules to make structures safer. And he quickly visited the area, talking with workers, survivors and family members of the dead. Italy’s La Stampa newspaper said Renzi “has understood more than anyone that this earthquake involves him and exposes him personally. The quake calls for a strong demonstration of leadership.” Experts say national leaders must react within hours of a terror attack or a disaster. They say leaders should release statements and help people deal with mourning -- in addition to supervising the problem. May seems to have listened to the criticism. After an attack in March on London’s Westminster Bridge, she did not communicate for six hours. But on Monday, she released a statement within four hours of an attack that targeted Muslims. She also spoke to the country on television and visited an Islamic center to meet with Muslim leaders. I’m Jill Robbins.   Jamie Dettmer wrote this story for VOANews.com. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   inspire – v. to cause someone to have (a feeling or emotion) apartment – n. a usually rented room or set of rooms that is part of a building and is used as a place to live professional – n. someone who has a lot of experience or skill in a particular job or activity; someone who engages in an activity full-time or for many years livelihood – n. a way of earning money in order to live expose – v. to leave unprotected

American’s Death Raises Concerns about N. Korean Rights Violations

Ça, 21.06.2017 - 00:00
The death of an American college student is raising concerns about human rights violations in North Korea. Twenty-two-year-old Otto Warmbier died on Monday. Warmbier returned home to the United States last week. U.S. officials say he was unable to communicate and in a coma after his release from a North Korean prison. Doctors said Warmbier had suffered severe brain damage while in North Korea. In January of 2016, the student was arrested on a visit to Pyongyang. North Korean officials accused him of attempting to steal a propaganda sign at a hotel. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labor. North Korean officials said Warmbier became sick from botulism while in detention and was given medication to help him sleep. They said he fell into a coma 15 months ago and never awoke. After his release from North Korea, Warmbier was taken to a hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. Doctors there disputed the North Korean explanation of what happened. But they could not say what caused his brain damage. His parents said in a statement on Monday their son was “at peace.” “Unfortunately, the awful, torturous treatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today,” the statement said. Sympathy and anger U.S. President Donald Trump offered his sympathy to the family. “There is nothing more tragic for a parent than to lose a child in the prime of life,” he said. Trump added that Warmbier’s death strengthens his desire to prevent future tragedies “at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency.” Tensions between the two countries have increased in recent months because of North Korea’s missile and nuclear activities. North Korea has launched more than 20 missiles and carried out two nuclear bomb tests since the beginning of last year. U.S. officials have said they are concerned about three Korean-Americans who are being held in North Korea. At least six South Koreans are also believed to be jailed there. Some were Christian religious workers. The North Korean government accuses them of spying. Others were reportedly kidnapped by North Korean agents while helping defectors in China. The U.S. government says North Korea uses the detainees for political reasons. North Korea accuses the United States and South Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government. Abuses in North Korea “The North Korean regime also wages war on their own citizens,” noted Marion Smith, the director of The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. In 2014, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) report compared current abuses in North Korea to those that took place in Nazi Germany during World War II. The report said the North Korean government is holding between 80,000 and 120,000 political prisoners in four large camps. It accused the government of using torture during questioning. And it said North Koreans suspected of major political crimes often “disappear” without trial or judicial order into prison camps. The report also noted that North Korea’s policy of carrying out executions in public causes people to fear the government. “The ruling Kim dynasty has shown time and time again that they have no regard for human rights,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch. “They have no regard for human life, and that whatever is necessary for them to hold onto power, they will do,” he said. Robertson added that Warmbier’s treatment should cause other countries to restart efforts to hold North Korea responsible for human rights violations. After the COI report was released in 2014, the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution to send North Korea to the International Criminal Court. It called for the North Korean government to face charges of crimes against humanity. But the Security Council has yet to approve the measure. Experts believe North Korea’s allies, China and Russia, are stopping the Council from taking action on the resolution. I’m Jonathan Evans. And I'm Ashley Thompson.   VOA’s Smita Nordwall and Chris Hannas wrote this story for VOANews.com. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   coma - n. a state in which a sick or injured person is unconcious for a long time botulism - n. a serious illness caused by eating food filled with bacteria torturous - adj. causing great pain prime - n. a period in life when a person is best in health, strength, etc. regime - n. a form of government decency - n. behavior and attitude that show respect for other people defector - n. a person who leave a country, political party, organization, etc. dynasty - n. a family of rulers regard - n. care or concern

Rights Activists Criticize Trial of 17 Reporters in Turkey

Sa, 20.06.2017 - 23:25
A trial of 17 journalists opened this week at a courthouse in Istanbul. The writers and media workers are accused of involvement in the failed attempt last July to overthrow Turkey’s government. The defendants face long jail sentences, of up to life in prison, if they are found guilty. The first hours of the trial on Monday were spent reading from more than 200 pages of charges. Government lawyers say the journalists are followers of the Turkish Islamic religious leader Fethullah Gulen. The government blames Gulen for the overthrow attempt. He now lives in the United States. Much of the evidence noted by government lawyers did not deal with the journalists’ activities, but with their suspected ties to the clergyman. Gulen has denied involvement in the attempted coup. Nazli Ilicak writes a newspaper column. She rejected the government’s charges. Ilicak told the court that she was a supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before he came to power. She added that she opposed coups. She noted that her father had been jailed after the military seized control of the government in 1960. Ilicak and the brothers Mehmet Altan and Ahmet Altan are among the most famous writers and journalists facing charges. They have been critics of Erdogan’s government. All 17 reporters have been detained for months. Even before the trial opened, international observers criticized the quality of the evidence being presented. The media rights group Reporters Without Borders strongly criticized the case. It said, “This trial marks a new level in the growing absurdity of the charges being brought against journalists.” Many international and Turkish human rights groups sent representatives to the trial on Monday. Milena Buyum of Amnesty International spoke after the first day of hearings. She said, "...People are really facing serious charges, with potentially three life sentences on the basis of very, very little evidence of criminal acts, and that’s really worrying.” Human rights groups accuse Turkey of jailing more journalists than any country in the world. They say more than 170 reporters and media workers have been imprisoned since the failed coup attempt. Emma Sinclair Webb is a researcher with the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch. She said, “A very legitimate task of trying to bring coup plotters to justice has been completely lost in a mass purge of those the government does not like.” The Turkish president dismissed criticism of the trial during a speech to national media leaders on Saturday. Erdogan said that only two of the 177 people who have been identified as journalists have documents showing they work for the press. He said one of the people is in jail for murder and the others for involvement in terrorist organizations. Last month, Erdogan warned that the current state of emergency put in place after the coup would not end because of terrorist threats and economic problems. The head of the Turkish Press Council, Pinar Turenc, expressed support for the jailed reporters. “The jailed journalists are inside because of their journalistic activities, because they chase the news, because they chase the truth,” she said. But rights groups are warning that journalists may not chase after the news when they see so many journalists on trial. “It sends a message to the rest of society, to other journalists, expressing your opinion, being critical of power,” noted Amnesty’s Milena Buyum. The Associated Press estimates that about 50,000 people have been arrested after the failed coup. It also notes that about 150 media organizations have been closed. I’m Mario Ritter.   Dorian Jones reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   journalist – n. a person who collects, writes or edits news stories for the media coup – n. a sudden attempt by a small group of people, or military leaders, to take over a government usually through force absurdity – n. something that makes no sense hearing – n. a meeting in which evidence is given and arguments are made purge – n. to remove people from a group, organization or government legitimate – adj. fair or reasonable​ page – n. a document; part of a book, newspaper or magazine column – n. a commentary or political opinion piece   We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

UN: One in Every 113 Persons Forcibly Displaced

Sa, 20.06.2017 - 00:00
  Last year, more people than ever were refugees or forcibly displaced from their home because of war, violence or persecution. This information comes from the United Nations’ refugee agency’s “Global Trends Report.” The UN agency said it found a record 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2016. That is about 300,000 more people than in 2015, and the most ever documented. The agency said its report shows one of every 113 people worldwide is either a refugee or has been forcibly displaced within their own country. “By any measure, this is an unacceptable number, and it speaks louder than ever to the need for solidarity and common purpose in preventing and resolving crises,” said Filippo Grandi of Italy. Grandi is the UN high commissioner for refugees. He has worked on refugee issues for over 30 years. Syria and South Sudan crises leading to displacement The major reasons for the large number of displaced people are the civil war in Syria and the growing numbers of people fleeing South Sudan after the failure of peace efforts. The UN agency found 40.3 million people were forcibly displaced and living somewhere inside their own country.  The number of refugees was 22.5 million.  A refugee is defined as someone living outside their homeland because of war, violence or persecution – threats of punishment or bad treatment. The UN report said the world’s poorest nations are taking up the biggest responsibility of housing and providing food for displaced persons. The UN report said 84 percent of all refugees are living in developing nations. Most of those fleeing from South Sudan have gone to neighboring Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. The UN Report called the large number of unaccompanied children asking for asylum a growing and difficult problem. “Tragically, 75,000 asylum claims were received from children traveling alone or separated from their parent,” the report noted. Grandi said he is worried that the United Nations has received only about 23 percent of the $8 billion it requested to deal with the continuing Syrian civil war. He told VOA he hopes the shortfall is not because “the Syrians are forgotten” and that the money will soon be made available. Grandi said the U.S. government gave $1.5 billion to the UN refugee agency last year -- more than any other nation. The Trump Administration has proposed cutting the government’s $30 billion foreign-aid budget by nearly one third for 2018. At a hearing last week, Maryland Senator Ben Cardin said cutting foreign aid hurts suffering people, but also makes “the world more dangerous” for America.  The Trump administration has defended the proposed cuts. In its budget proposal to Congress, administration officials said other countries must do their “fair share” as the U.S. works more on its own concerns and problems. Some returned home in 2016 While people continued to flee in record numbers, the UN report noted that around 500,000 refugees returned home last year. Another 6.5 million people who had been forcibly displaced returned to their home communities. But the report said many who returned “did so in less than ideal circumstances” and facing an uncertain future. I’m Jonathan Evans.   Lisa Schlein reported on this story for VOANews.com. Bruce Alpert adapted this story for Learning English, with additional reporting by The Associated Press and other sources. George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and share your views on our Facebook Page. __________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   persecution - n. to treat (someone) cruelly or unfairly especially because of race or religious or political beliefs solidarity - n. a feeling of unity between people who have the same interests, goals resolve - v. to take care of a problem unaccompanied - adj. children without parents or adults to oversee or supervise them circumstance - n. a condition or fact that affects a situation uncertain – adj. unsure; not clear  

Britain Moves to Ease Tensions after Attack on London Muslims

Pzt, 19.06.2017 - 23:42
  UPDATE: British media have identified the suspect as 47-year-old Darren Osborne. He is from Cardiff, Wales.    British officials and Islamic leaders acted quickly to ease concerns among Muslims after an attack on a mosque early Monday. A man drove his vehicle into a crowd near the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London early in the morning. At least 10 people were injured. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, called the incident "a truly horrific terrorist attack on our city." British Prime Minister Theresa May called it, "an attack on Muslims near their place of worship." Police are treating the incident as a terror attack. The incident outside the religious center follows three attacks inspired by Islamic extremists over the past three months. The violence has fueled a rise in hate crimes across Britain. The Metropolitan Police Service announced on Monday it was deploying extra officers on the streets of London to protect the public. May announced that police will examine the security of mosques and provide any help needed before celebrations marking the end of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month. The attack happened early Monday when a speeding van hit people who were giving medical care to a man near the mosque. That man later died.  A crowd of people gathered around the driver. Witnesses said the crowd began attacking him. A local religious leader, Mohammed Mahmoud, and a few men protected the suspect until police could take him away. “By God’s grace," he said, "we were able to protect him from harm.”   Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu praised the actions of those who detained him. "What it proves to me is that Londoners will act together to protect themselves, but they will do so in a way that doesn't feed into terrorists' and extremists' hands," Basu said. Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that based on reports from witnesses, the driver was "motivated by Islamophobia." "Given we are approaching the end of the month of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid with many Muslims going to local mosques, we expect the authorities to increase security outside mosques as a matter of urgency," Khan said in a statement. Toufik Kacimi, head of the Muslim Welfare House, told Britain’s Sky News the attack clearly targeted Muslims leaving evening prayers during Ramadan. But he said there was no need for the community to be frightened because police and government officials have been “very, very supportive.” Britain, especially London, has been “on edge” over several recent incidents, including the terror bombing in Manchester and the vehicle attack and stabbings on London Bridge. The police service is investigating these attacks and a deadly fire last week at an apartment building. At least 79 people are reported to have died in the fire. London’s mayor called the fire a “preventable accident.” He has faced  anger over the incident and questions about why the fire caused so much damage. The fire added to tensions in Britain’s capital. I’m Anne Ball.   Chris Hannas reported this story for VOANews.com. George Grow adapted his report for Learning English. His story also has information came the Associated Press. Mario Ritter was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section. _______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   mosque – n. an Islamic religious center inspire - v. to influence or guide; to affect grace – n. a quality coming from God; a pleasing appearance; approval Islamophobia – n. fear of Islam or Muslims approach – v. to come near to; to move near to something matter – n. a subject or substance on edge – expression nervous or worried apartment – n. a building with several rooms, used mainly for housing  

Researchers Create Seed Bank in Exile

Pzt, 19.06.2017 - 00:00
In Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, a non-profit organization stores and grows seeds. The organization used to operate a research center just outside of Aleppo, Syria. But violence in Syria led the group to leave the country. Now, many employees hope their efforts will help rebuild the country they left behind. Former site near Aleppo The organization is named the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas, or ICARDA. ICARDA hopes to produce crops to help feed people around the world. When it was in Aleppo, the seed bank was spread across 1,000 hectares. It had 150,000 seed samples stored and ready to be grown. Each sample could hold traits that could help crops survive changing weather conditions. "We try to figure out how to produce crops better adapted to climate change," says Ali Shehadeh, a researcher for ICARDA. But the group’s work was limited by violence during Syria’s civil war. Ali Shehadeh explains: "It started when they started stealing the cars from the centers, or even blocking the roads, capturing the cars, stealing the cars by force – it wasn't a pleasant experience for a lot of us." ICARDA sends seeds out of Syria In 2012, the ICARDA team copied most of the samples and sent them to Svalbard. Svalbard is a global seed vault dug into a mountain in Northern Norway. In 2015, ICARDA took the seeds from Svalbard to help build collections in Lebanon and Morocco. An area called Terbol, in the Bekaa Valley, is the new home for ICARDA. The new site has laboratories and a seed bank. Mariana Yazbeck is a seed bank manager at the new site. She says the work of the bank will become more important as the climate continues to change. "You will need to make new crops, new varieties that can withstand very high temperature, that can produce yield even with less rainfall." Climate Change and Conflict In fact, some analysts say climate change may have contributed to the conflict in Syria. The Levant region, which includes Syria, began suffering from a drought in 1998. It continued through the start of the war in Syria in 2011. A study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research says this drought is likely to be the worst in almost 900 years. The drought caused widespread change and challenges. Those factors -- along with other issues in Syria -- put pressure on the country’s economy, government and population.   Since it began, the war has also hurt Syria's agricultural sector. According to a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization or FAO study last year, the war has done $16 billion dollars in damage. Adam Yao is an FAO representative. "To rebuild the agricultural sector, there will need to be a major rethink of Syria's whole agricultural policy." He added that ICARDA's experts could have an important role in helping the country. Although no one is currently at the site, the ICARDA center in Aleppo may still be working. Some 150,000 seeds are still thought to be frozen there, waiting for the researchers to return. I'm John Russell.  John Owens wrote this story for VOA News. John Russell adapted this story for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story sample – n. a small amount of something that gives you information about the thing it was taken from trait – n.  a quality that makes one person or thing different from another drought – n.  a long period of time during which there is very little or no rain adapt – v. to change (something) so that it functions better or is better suited for a purpose vault – n. a locked room where money or valuable things are kept

Governments, Aid Groups Help Freed Chibok Girls

Paz, 18.06.2017 - 23:00
  The government in Nigeria recently negotiated the release of 82 young women. All 82 were students three years ago when Boko Haram militants raided their school in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok. The militants kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in all. Today Nigeria’s Ministry of Women Affairs is caring for a total of 106 freed Chibok girls in the capital, Abuja. Boko Haram released most of them during a prisoner exchange last month. Others were freed in October after negotiations. Three of the girls escaped. The ministry is providing skills training and educational classes to the young women. They are also receiving psychosocial support.   Women Affairs Minister Aisha Jummai Alhassan spoke about the young women at a recent event in Abuja. She said the government hopes they can return to school, possibly in September. “They are going back to school because they had aspirations," said Alhassan.  "That was why their parents put them in school from where they were abducted. When they stabilize and when they recover, we will still put them back to school.” The government said the Chibok girls will not return to their former school. The girls’ families and some activists have criticized the decision. But the government says it is protecting the young women. Officials are also closely watching the girls’ progress as they take part in recreational activities and weekly religious programs. They also are taking classes in biology, English and mathematics. The girls are expected to be in the rehabilitation program for nine months. Allen Manasseh is a member of the Bring Back Our Girls group. He spoke with some of the young women at their rehabilitation center. “Wherever they are, the fact that they are not with the terrorists is considered OK for them,” he said. Manasseh told VOA the women are healthy. But more than 100 other Chibok schoolgirls are still missing. That number includes two of his cousins. Foreign governments and aid groups are helping the former kidnap victims. The Canadian government recently gave health care products and clothing to the girls. They smiled when they were given the items, but they did not make any statements. Christopher Thornley is the Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria. “The Chibok Girls are symbolic of a vast humanitarian challenge affecting millions of lives. This is why Canada has stepped up this year to provide $27 million to U.N. agencies and NGO partners for humanitarian assistance in the Northeast. This includes $2 million that we have provided to UNFPA to support the Chibok girls as well as its interventions in the Northeast.” The raid on Chibok by Boro Haram was the largest and most famous kidnapping in the group’s history. The Nigerian government says it continues to negotiate with Boko Haram to gain the release of the missing schoolgirls. I’m Alice Bryant.   Chika Oduah reported this story from Abuja for VOANews.com. VOA’s Hausa language service provided additional reporting. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   psychosocial – adj. a combination of psychological and social   aspiration – n. something that a person wants very much to achieve stabilize – v. to become stable or to make (something) stable, such as to stop quickly changing, increasing, getting worse, etc. rehabilitate – v. to bring (someone or something) back to a normal, healthy condition after an illness, injury, drug problem, etc. cousin – n. a child of your uncle or aunt symbolic – adj. relating to or being used as a symbol; expressing or representing an idea or quality without using words vast – adj. very great in size, amount or extent challenge – n. a difficult task or problem; something that is hard to do NGO – n. acronym for “non-governmental organization” UNFPA – n. acronym for United Nations Population Fund (formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities)

Film Shows Pain Suffered by "Comfort Women" in WWII

Paz, 18.06.2017 - 00:00
  A woman known as Grandma Adela is one of three women featured in a new documentary called “The Apology.” The film is about the Japanese military’s sexual enslavement of women during World War II. Filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung worked for five years to persuade the three victims to tell their stories. Hsiung says the women continue to suffer the effects of the torture. “The war hasn’t really ended for any of the survivors, and that’s what I was really interested in documenting.” Last year, the film was named best documentary at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea. It was shown recently at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York City. The documentary tells about the lives of Grandma Adela in the Philippines, Grandma Gil in South Korea and Grandma Cao in China. They were among the reported 200,000 girls and young women across Asia who were known as “comfort women.” They were reportedly kidnapped by the Japanese army and held in what were called “comfort stations.” There, the women say they were regularly raped as well as abused in other ways. The reports are disputed in Japan. Some Japanese officials have even tried to get changes made to school history books in their telling of the period.  Some officials suggest the women volunteered to work providing sex to soldiers. For 20 years, surviving comfort women and their supporters in South Korea have gathered every week at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to demand an official public apology. They want Japan to accept responsibility for what they say happened to them. They also want the Japanese government to pay the victims for wrongdoing. In 2015, then-South Korean President Park Geun-hye and [Japanese] Prime Minister Abe reached an agreement on the issue. But both the comfort women and current South Korean President Moon Jae-in have rejected the agreement. It included a statement of apology by Abe and an $8-million donation to a fund for the victims. Grandma Gil is a leading activist seeking justice for the survivors. In the film, she is shown speaking in Japan. She is publicly criticized by conservative protesters who call her a prostitute. But she is also warmly welcomed by teenage girls at a school who cried when they heard her story. She told the girls: “For over 70 years I have not lived like a normal person. Would the wound go away if you apologize? No. The scars will remain but my heart can heal. I am waiting for that day.” On the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Prime Minister Abe expressed sympathy to victims of Japan’s military aggression. But he said, “generations not involved in the conflict should not be burdened with continued apologies.” Hsiung said her documentary is not an attempt to place guilt on Japan forever. She says she just wants Japan to admit the truth and learn from the past. “Just because everyone who has been responsible for that, and committed that, have all passed away, you know, it doesn’t mean that that history and those atrocities get lost.” The documentary shows both the support South Korean comfort women receive and the lack of support and isolation for survivors in China and the Philippines. It notes that China’s restrictive political environment has made it difficult for supporters of the comfort women to organize. Hsiung said during the filming of the documentary she helped comfort women meet others who had also been abused. In one part, Grandma Adela is encouraged to speak about her experiences when she watches a video of a comfort women gathering in Seoul. “I think when people get to see that they are not alone, it is not an isolated issue, it’s not just in their village, it’s not just this one grandmother. When they see that it is part of a bigger thing, they feel more inclined to participate, to talk about and to share what they know.” I’m Jonathan Evans . VOA Asia Correspondent Brian Padden reported this story from Seoul. He had reporting help from Youmi Kim. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   documentary – n. a movie or television program that tells the facts about actual people and events scar – n. a feeling of great emotional pain or sadness that is caused by a bad experience and that lasts for a long time burden – n. someone or something that is very difficult to accept, do or deal with atrocity – n. a very cruel or terrible act or action isolated – adj. separate from others inclined – adj. wanting to do something or likely to do something participate – v. to be involved with others in doing something; to take part in an activity or event with others

ILO Warning on Children Caught in Conflict and Natural Disasters

Cts, 17.06.2017 - 23:38
  The International Labor Organization, or ILO, has launched an appeal in support for children caught in conflict and natural disasters. A new ILO report warns that those children are more at risk of child labor than boys and girls in other areas. It also says they are most at risk of falling victim to human trafficking and abuse, including sexual abuse. The ILO report was released earlier this week to mark the World Day against Child Labor. It is urging governments to target and stop the worst forms of child labor. The worst forms of child labor The ILO says the world faces its largest refugee and displacement crisis ever. War and persecution have forced more than 65 million people to flee from their homes. The report says children are among those most at risk of abuse from the breakdown of families and social systems. In December of 2016, the United Nations estimated that 535 million children -- nearly one in four -- live in countries affected by conflict or disaster. The report says an estimated 168 million children are in child labor around the world. That number is said to include 85 million involved in the worst forms of child labor. This includes the use of children employed in slave-like conditions, in dangerous jobs, such as mining and agriculture, and in the use of children in battle or as sex workers. Most children at risk live in Africa The ILO report says child labor is more common in Africa than other areas. Officials estimate that about 59 million children in African countries are actively engaged in child labor. A United Nations finding provides support to this estimate. It found that three quarters of children living in areas affected by conflict (about 393 million) are in Africa.  Insaf Nizam works for the ILO. He told VOA that children are often abused in situations of conflict in Africa. He noted that many work as child soldiers for armed groups in places like Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. "We also have seen certain armed groups using children for extreme types of violence as suicide bombers or forcibly recruiting them as brides and for sexual slavery. So, the types of violations against children have increased in diversity," Nizam said. Natural Disasters are also an issue Nizam said that children also work as soldiers and suffer other forms of abuse in conflicts in Asia and the Middle East. He noted that in places such as Myanmar and the Philippines, children face greater risks from powerful storms or other natural disasters. "You get a lot of displacement of children,” Nizam said. “Families lose their livelihoods. Their community networks are lost. They are displaced. Communities become poor overnight. They lose their sources of income. Schools are either damaged or destroyed due to natural disasters. So, there children are pushed easily because of that."  Nizam said that people around the world are more likely to pay more attention to conflicts than natural disasters. This is especially true, he added, in the case of slow forming disasters such as extremely dry weather conditions and climate change.  According to Nizam, natural disasters are as harmful to children as conflicts. I’m Phil Dierking.   ­­­­­­­­­­­­Lisa Schlein reported this story for VOANews.com. Phil Dierking adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. How do you think the world can prevent child labor and exploitation? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   persecution – n. to treat someone cruelly or unfairly especially because of race or religious or political beliefs​ quarters – n. an amount equal to three of the four parts which make up something​ recruiting – v. to find suitable people and get them to join a company, an organization, the armed forces, etc.​ bride – n. a woman who has just married or is about to be married​ diversity – n. the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.​ livelihood – n. a way of earning money in order to live​ network – n. a group of people or organizations that are closely connected and that work with each other​ income – n. money that is earned from work, investments, business, etc.​

New Bike Share Apps in China Create Bike 'Revolution'

Cts, 17.06.2017 - 23:34
  New Chinese computer apps that let people share bicycles are easing traffic and reducing pollution, but they are also creating problems. China used to be called the "kingdom of bicycles," but since then, cars have taken over the country. Now, new apps that help people register and find bikes are being used more and more across cities like Beijing. Easy and nostalgic The apps combine cell phone technology and GPS tracking to help users find a ride.  Because of traffic jams, it can be difficult to travel across major Chinese cities. Even going a few kilometers can take up to an hour. Cheng Li started using bike share services about six months ago. He said now he is using a car less and the metro more. "After I get off the metro, I usually have to walk another kilometer or two, so I'll grab a bike share and go. It is less stressful." For many, the best part about cycling is how easy it is to do. Beijing has had a government-run bike share program for a long time.  However, many of its bike share stations were not placed in convenient places.  Now, it is easy to find a bike, and to register for the program with a smartphone. For Zhang Jian, the bike share revolution is nostalgic. "Now, when we're riding home from work, especially in the evening, when it's not as rushed, it feels like we're reliving the past," Zhang said. Flooding the streets with bikes However, there is now a lot of competition among bike share providers because of their popularity. Some providers are trying to flood the streets with bikes to be more visible. Sometimes there are so many bikes that they completely block the sidewalks. This has become a problem for city governments. It is not uncommon for bike users to leave bikes in the middle of the street or on the sidewalk.  This blocks cars and people in already crowded cities. In Beijing's southern district of Daxing, officials have been trying to fix the problem by seizing illegally parked bikes. VOA spoke to a woman who said, "Bike sharing is really convenient, but no one is taking care of the problem of illegally parked bikes." Behind her were several thousand seized bikes.   She added, "Since the Lunar New Year, the number of bikes has been growing rapidly. At least 10,000 bikes have been added to the streets (of Daxing) since then and we've collected about a third of that total." China's two biggest bike share operators are Ofo and Mobike.  At present, they have already deployed more than three million bikes in cities across China. And the numbers continue to grow. Mobike aims to expand to 100 cities in China and around the world by the end of this year. Bike hunters Some people are trying to fix the problem of illegally parked bikes themselves.  Gao Xiaochao calls himself a ‘bike share hunter.’  He is a regular citizen who finds and reports stolen and damaged bikes that users park illegally. With some bike share apps, riders can report illegally parked bikes or problems with the bicycles they have. Gao says he uses his lunchtime to find, report and move illegally parked bikes. "Bike hunting is like a game, a hobby, a way to get some exercise. It's like a new way of living," Gao said. "Sometimes, I spend two to three hours looking for illegally parked bikes and it's just like talking a walk." Many people in China feel that bike shares are helping the county’s transportation problems and polluted air. However, they also hope companies will do more to improve their service and avoid flooding the streets with bikes. I’m Phil Dierking   ­­­­­­­­­­­­This story was originally written by Bill Ide for VOA News. Phil Dierking adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor. Do you use a bike share?  Do you think they are good for a city?  We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. _______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   convenient - adj. allowing you to do something easily or without trouble​ traffic jams - n. a line of road traffic at or near a standstill because of road construction, an accident, or heavy congestion.​ nostalgic - adj. when something causes you pleasure and sadness by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again​ rapidly - adj. happening in a short amount of time​

School for Blind Announces Effort to Train 1 Million Teachers

Cum, 16.06.2017 - 23:19
A school for the blind in Massachusetts has announced an effort to train one million teachers for disabled children around the world. The Perkins School for the Blind launched the effort as United Nations members gathered this week for a meeting on the rights of disabled persons. The goal of the meeting was to bring attention to the issue of including and educating people with disabilities—especially children. Experts say more than six million children with more than one disability are not being served by education systems around the world. A disability could be blindness, deafness or other inabilities to do things. Educating disabled children important for society Dave Power is the president of Perkins School for the Blind. The school is the oldest academic institution for people who cannot see or who are blind and cannot hear. He said children with more than one disability often do not receive an education. “These children for the most part don’t get an education – something on the order of 90 percent,” said Power. He and other experts say children with more than one disability have a lot of potential. But, they need the right education to realize it. Gopal Mitra is an expert on disabilities at UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. He says there are many barriers to disabled children. “The stigma and discrimination that exists around disabilities – it is the attitudinal barrier – it has a wide ranging impact,” he said. A lack of resources is another problem. Governments do not set aside enough money for people with disabilities. Also, families often lack the ability to provide an education for disabled children. Mitra said, “Within the family, often parents do not see the value of educating the child who cannot see or cannot hear.” Roseanne Silberman is an educator. She said, “I think that the greatest challenge across the world is to get the government involved in the need for teacher training.” School seeks to standardize its programs to train teachers This week, Perkins School for the Blind announced its effort to train one million teachers by 2030 to educate children with multiple disabilities. Michael Delaney is the executive director of Perkins International, a division of Perkins School for the Blind. He described the effort as providing important training to teachers. “We want to do that in a way that supports teachers who are in public schools and teachers that are in special schools, so all children will have a quality education,” Delaney said. He noted the program will have three levels with courses lasting from two days to nine months. These classes would train teachers in international standards. Perkins School for the Blind has a history of training teachers from other countries to work with blind, deaf and blind, and low-vision children. Dave Power now says the school wants to standardize its program to reach more people. The school is seeking to fund the program by combining government support with private donations. “Because we already have the knowledge and know-how and have done it, we can do it very efficiently,” he said. UN also brings attention to women with disabilities Another issue discussed at the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was women with disabilities. The World Report on Disability estimates that one in five women are likely to experience a disability in their lifetimes. It says disabled women and girls face many barriers and discrimination that prevent them from getting education, economic opportunities and from taking part in politics. One success story is Maricar Marquez who was born deaf. At the age of seven, doctors said she had Usher syndrome, a disease that causes a loss of sight over time. Today she is deaf and blind. Her sister has the same condition. Although she was born in the Philippines, Marquez’ family moved to Canada. There, both girls received specialized education. Marquez did not listen to people who said people with disabilities cannot learn. She went to college and earned a Master’s Degree. “Had I not gotten the services I did, I would not be where I am,” she said using sign language. I’m Mario Ritter.   Margaret Besheer reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   potential – n. a possibility that something can be developed and made better stigma – n. unfair negative beliefs attitudinal – adj. related to attitudes or demonstrated feelings people have challenge – n. something that is difficult to do standard  – n. a level of quality that is considered acceptable We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Will China’s Belt and Road Projects Ease Disputes in the Middle East?

Cum, 16.06.2017 - 00:00
  China may find it difficult to increase its influence in the Middle East because of the diplomatic dispute between Qatar and its neighbors. China’s Belt and Road trade Initiative, a development plan valued at more than $1 trillion, could affect the Middle East in many ways. It may permit China to influence the region economically. However, experts say there are doubts that many of the projects may be completed. That means China has less influence in the Middle East than many experts would expect, although it has the world’s second largest economy. In addition, the Middle East suffers from conflicts within and between its countries. It also is an area of competition between major world powers. China’s diplomatic policy of “non-interference” limits its ability to develop close ties with Middle Eastern countries. Recently, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Those nations may also cut air and sea traffic because they believe Qatar is supporting terrorism. Qatar denies this. The United Arab Emirates has threatened economic restrictions against Qatar while Bahrain has said “all options” are on the table. The U.S. and Kuwait have tried to prevent further intensification of the dispute. Some say China needs to make changes to its “non-interference” policy to increase its economic power in the region. They want China to be more active there. Experts say the dispute between Qatar and its Gulf neighbors will cause problems for Belt and Road trade deals in the region. Projects for the initiative stretch across 65 countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. Li Quofu is a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Affairs. He said China is not in a rush to mediate conflicts in the Middle East. He said China believes Gulf nations are willing to solve their differences. He also said the projects China has proposed can help Middle Eastern countries work together. He added, “In this regard, I think China is already playing an active role there.” Wu Sike is a former special diplomat for China to the Middle East. Wu said China’s cooperation with the region has deepened partly because of the Belt and Road trade initiative. Kuwait’s proposed Silk City is part of that effort. It will help connect Europe and Asia. Kuwait plans to invest $130 billion on the proposed northern city. Wu said in May that China is turning to investments supporting trade in manufactured goods in the Middle East. China’s earlier investments focused on energy. Half of China’s imported oil comes from the region. Wang Tofar, an economics professor from the National Taipei University, said China will place its interests in the region before its political role. He said this is the case, although the Belt and Road Initiative expands its international influence. Wang told VOA that the initiative has strategic value since it lets China compete with the economic or political power of the U.S. But China’s willingness to help the Middle East depends on whether it thinks economic interest is its first concern. Kerry Brown is with the Asia Program at Chatham House, a foreign policy research group based in London. He said China will need to be involved in the Middle East because it depends on the region for energy. But he said China’s involvement will be limited. Brown said in an email to VOA that China has interests in the region, but does not want to be trapped in the problems there. In addition, China’s “non-interference” policy will always interfere with its desire to be more involved. “So in the end it has to perform a balancing act,” Brown wrote. Liu Chang is the China economist at the research group Capital Economics. He wrote in an email that he doubts whether China has the economic ability to influence the region. He said the initiative’s plans and reality do not match. For example, Kuwait’s Silk City may not be completed. And it is unclear how it is being financed. China’s latest information on commerce shows its foreign direct investment in Kuwait decreased from $162 million in 2014 to $144 million in 2015. China’s total investment in Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia was $560 million in 2015. Liu said that is not a major investment. He said it is about 5 percent of what China invested in Singapore and 0.4 percent of China’s total foreign investments in 2015. Liu said there is little evidence that China has been investing more in countries that are part of the Belt and Road Initiative than before it announced the plan. I’m Mario Ritter. And I'm Olivia Liu.    Olivia Liu adapted this story for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   intensification – v. to become stronger or more extreme option – n. the opportunity to choose among two or more choices mediate – v. to work with opposing sides to reach an agreement focused – adj. giving attention and effort to a specific task or goal strategic – adj. of or relating to a general plan that is created to achieve a goal in war, politics, etc., usually over a long period of time commerce – n. activities that relate to the buying and selling of goods and services We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.



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