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Taj Mahal Center of Political Dispute

Paz, 22.10.2017 - 23:58
  India's most famous attraction, the Taj Mahal, is under attack by some members of the country's ruling party. The most recent attack came from Sangeet Som, a lawmaker from the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP. According to Som, the monument is "a blot on Indian culture" that was built by "traitors." This isn't the first time that India's Islamic past has come under attack by members of the BJP or other Hindu groups. In Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, the government removed the Taj Mahal from its official tourism booklet. The booklet was published earlier this month. The federal government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been accused of trying to change history textbooks – especially India's past of Muslim rulers. Som's comments drew criticism from federal lawmaker and Muslim leader Asaduddin Owaisi. He asked if the government would urge tourists not to visit the Taj Mahal and other monuments built by India's former Muslim rulers. The BJP distanced itself from Som's comments. The party's general secretary, Vijay Bahadur Pathak, said the Taj Mahal is part of Indian pride. "Whatever Som said is his personal view. BJP has nothing to do with it," he noted. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan had the Taj Mahal built between 1632 and 1654 for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. He planned on being buried with her.   The Taj Mahal complex has their graves as well as several other graves of lesser Mughal royalty. The monument is India's top tourist attraction. It draws some 3 million visitors every year. I'm John Russell.   Biswajeet Banerjee reported on this story for AP News. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section. _____________________________________________________________ Words in This Story monument – n. a building or place that is important because of when it was built or because of something in history that happened there blot – n.  a mark of shame or dishonor populous – adj. having a large population

Refugee Food Event Designed to Sweeten Way to People's Hearts

Paz, 22.10.2017 - 23:57
  The Swiss city of Geneva was a good place to be for food lovers earlier this month. Foodies enjoyed the tastes and smells of food from around the world at a Refugee Food Festival. The event gave refugees from five countries a chance to demonstrate their cooking skills. Local restaurants turned over their cooking spaces to chefs from Syria, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Tibet and Nigeria. One of the refugee chefs was 29-year-old Nadeem Khadem Al Jamie from Syria. He says cooking is a driving force in his life. He told VOA he learned how to cook from his uncle. Nadeem Khadem Al Jamie worked in his family’s restaurant in Damascus before he was forced to leave Syria in 2015. He said that he traveled from Syria to Turkey, and then to Greece. From Greece, he walked all the way to Germany, and then to the Swiss border. His wife and two daughters eventually joined him through a family reunification program. He hopes his involvement with the Refugee Food Festival will lead to a job. Louis Martin is one of the founders of Food Sweet Food, a non-governmental organization. It started the Refugee Food Festival in 2016 in partnership with the United Nations’ refugee agency. Martin told VOA the festival has two main goals. “The first one was to change the way we look at refugees by showcasing their skills. The second was to create a professional accelerator for the refugee chefs participating… and we asked to every restaurant to recommend the chef to his network and then create professional opportunities for him.” Martin said he became concerned after the arrival of thousands of refugees to Europe in the summer of 2015. He said their images led him and his Food Sweet Food partner, Marine Mandrila, to create the festival. “So, we thought, how can we leverage food, how can we leverage all that we have learned through our travels and food documentaries … to create a better understanding between citizens and refugees.” Louis Martin and Marine Mandrila brought their idea to the UN refugee agency in Paris. Celine Schmitt works for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. She told VOA she immediately liked their idea. “Food is a great way to create connections. It is also a great way to change the way people see refugees because if someone eats well, he will maybe have another idea, perspective afterwards. But, also, it’s a way to integrate refugees." The festival offered food for people with different tastes and from different walks of life. Nadeem Khadem Al Jamie’s five-course Syrian meal cost about $90 at one of Geneva’s luxury hotels. People with less money to spend enjoyed tasty Nigerian or Ethiopian food at two other restaurants. Each of those meals cost about $20. Schmitt said one great part of the festival was the teamwork between the restaurant’s usual chef and the refugee chef. “The chefs who have invited the refugee chefs, they have all told us that they want to start again and that they learned something. And, they were so happy to be able to learn from another chef because food has always been inspired by different cultures and different spices, tastes.” I’m Jonathan Evans.   Lisa Schlein reported this story for VOANews.com. Jonathan Evans adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. ________________________________________________________________ Words in this Story   accelerator – n. a method for increasing the progress of something recommend – v. to suggest or propose festival – n. a special time or event when people gather to celebrate something opportunity – n. a chance leverage – v. to use something valuable to achieve a desired result luxury – adj. a condition or situation of great comfort, ease, and wealth; something that is expensive and not necessary uncle – n. the brother of one’s father or mother

Rights Group Says Afghanistan Failing to Educate Girls

Cts, 21.10.2017 - 23:57
Human Rights Watch is giving the government in Afghanistan and international donors a failing grade in their efforts to educate Afghan girls. In a report released on October 17, the rights group found that about two-thirds, or nearly 66 percent, of Afghan girls do not attend school. The report says efforts to educate Afghan girls have weakened as security in the country worsens and international donations decrease. The findings come nearly 16 years after the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan. The goal of the operation was to remove the Taliban from power for sheltering al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The new report is called I Won’t Be A Doctor, And One Day You’ll Be Sick: Girls’ Access To Education In Afghanistan. It is based 249 interviews with girls, ages 11 to 18 years, from four parts of Afghanistan. More girls are attending school in Afghanistan today than under the Taliban. But the Western-supported Afghan government is far from reaching its target of educating all of the girls.  The government estimates that 3.5 million children are out of school, and 85 percent of them are girls. Only 37 percent of adolescent girls can read, compared to 66 percent of adolescent boys. The barriers girls face in Afghanistan to get an education are many, the report says. Afghanistan is a country where coed education is not a choice. Boys and girls are almost always taught separately. The government provides fewer schools for girls than boys at both the grade school and high-school levels. Fewer than 20 percent of teachers are female in more than half of Afghanistan’s provinces. Human Rights Watch says this creates a barrier because many families who won’t let their daughters be taught by male teachers. Many girls are forced to remain at home, the group notes, because of "discriminatory attitudes that do not value or permit their education.” In addition, with one-third of girls marrying before age 18, many are required to leave school. Still, many Afghan families are doing all they can to educate their daughters, the report notes. Human Rights Watch contacted families that moved across cities and even the countryside to find a school for their daughters. Other families separated to give their girls the chance to study. In some situations, older brothers traveled to Iran to work illegally to pay school costs for their younger sisters back home. Even when school is free, there are other costs families face when sending their children to school. When money is limited, many families choose to send their sons instead of their daughters to school. About one-fourth of all Afghan children work to help their families survive extreme poverty. And many of the girls ask strangers for money, weave or sort through waste rather than study. The Taliban and other militants now control or are seeking to control more than 40 percent of Afghanistan’s districts. Fighting between Taliban and government forces has pushed thousands of families from their homes. And more than one million Afghans have been displaced within the country. In areas under its control, the Taliban often limits girls to only a few years of schooling or bans them from education completely. In disputed areas, girls who want to go to school face increased security threats. The conflict has brought lawlessness as militias and criminal organizations have grown. The report said girls who attend school in those areas face threats including sexual abuse, kidnapping and acid attacks. They also face targeted attacks and threats against girls’ education. Human Rights Watch praised efforts by the Afghan government and international donors to develop community-based education, or CBE. In CBE programs, classes usually take place in homes. This gives children, especially girls, a chance to receive an education in areas far from government schools. But the group noted that these programs are operated by non-governmental organizations and depend completely on money from foreign donors. And, that makes their financing unpredictable. So they can end at any time without notice. Among Human Rights Watch's suggestions is the expansion of CBE programs. The group is urging the Afghan government to make them part of its education system and guarantee long-term funding. I'm Jill Robbins. And Alice Bryant.   Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted the report for VOA Learning English. The editor was George Grow. _____________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   interview – v. a meeting at which people talk to each other in order to ask questions and get information adolescent – adj. a young person who is developing into an adult coed – adj. having both male and female students province – n. any one of the large parts that some countries are divided into weave – v. a young person who is developing into an adult : a young person who is going through adolescence district – n. an area or section of a country, city, or town acid – n. an area or section of a country, city, or town

Pakistan Builds Afghan Border Fence in Effort to Reduce Terrorist Attacks

Cts, 21.10.2017 - 23:55
  The Pakistani military is building a fence along the 2,600-kilometer border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The military is also setting up forts and other defensive positions on mountain tops in the area. The work will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Pakistani officials hope it will effectively increase security on both sides of the border. Afghanistan opposes the fence project. Afghan officials have long disputed the border created in 1893, when Pakistan was a British colony. Officials do not recognize it as an international border. The Afghan government says a fence would add to the problems of divided families and tribes, mainly ethnic Pashtuns, living along the dividing line. Pakistan dismisses Afghan objections over the border. Pakistani officials say their country took possession of the area when Pakistan gained independence from Britain in 1947. On Wednesday, the Pakistani army flew reporters to the tribal border areas of South Waziristan and North Waziristan. The two areas share a more than 300-kilometer border with Afghanistan. They are part of the Federal Administered Tribal Areas, known as FATA. Until a few years ago, they were known for sheltering militants blamed for terrorist attacks on both sides of the border. Pakistani commanders now say security operations have neutralized the threat of militancy in almost all of FATA. Pakistan new border defense Crews are building four-meter high chicken wire fences in the border area. On top of the fences, crews are adding barbed wire. Major-General Nauman Zakaria, a local army commander, met with reporters at a newly-built fort. The commander used the term “paradigm change” to describe the new defenses. “There will not be an inch of international border (here), which shall not remain under our observation by December of 2018,” he said. Zakaria noted that Pakistani troops occupy over 150 positions in the area under his command. He said Afghan forces have only 21 posts on their side because of capacity issues and a lack of armed forces members. Drone aircraft and other modern equipment are being deployed so Pakistani officials can make sure the border area is being watched 24 hours a day. Officials expect the new defenses to be ready within the next two years. It will cost Pakistan an estimated cost of $532 million. About 180 of the 750 forts the army plans to build along the border have been either completed or are being built. Military officials say they have already fenced off more than 40 kilometers of territory where militants are likely to cross the border. Stronger border controls have been added at the two main border crossings of Torkham and Chaman to document identities of daily crossers. Area military commanders admit the fencing plan will divide villagers around Chaman. But they say the government plans to offer financial help to some Pakistani families to get them to move. Yet the country remains under international pressure. Both Afghanistan and the United States say Pakistan has been helping the Taliban and its ally, the Haqqani militant group. They say militants are using Pakistani territory to plot attacks against the Afghan government. Afghan officials also say militant leaders are on the Pakistani side of the border and are being protected by the Pakistani spy agency. Pakistan strongly rejects the claims. It says security operations have cleared all areas of militants on its side of the border. In turn, Pakistan says militants have taken refuge in ungoverned Afghan areas and are plotting cross-border raids. Speaking in Angoor Adda, General Zakaria said the fence will answer both sides’ concerns "once forever" and help Pakistan have a stable relationship with the neighbors he described as "Afghan brothers." I'm John Russell. And I'm Susan Shand.   Ayal Guz reported this story for VOANews.com. George Grow adapted his report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   barbed wire – n. wires with very sharp points paradigm – n. a model for something that may be copied inch – n. a small amount; a form of measurement capacity – n. one’s mental or physical ability complement – n. something that completes or makes perfect drone – n. an unmanned airplane or ship stable – adj. firmly established; not changing We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.  

British Navy Submarine Designs Look Like Real Sea Creatures

Cts, 21.10.2017 - 00:05
  New images released by Britain’s Royal Navy show how future submarines could look and move like real sea creatures. The designs were created by young British engineers and scientists. They were challenged by the Royal Navy to imagine how future underwater war machines might look. The engineers and scientists are members of the group UKNEST. This not-for-profit organization promotes science, engineering and technology for British naval design. The group kept the same requirements used in advanced submarines used today. But the designers added new technological ideas to make them easier and less costly to build, as well as more effective in battle. Current submarines were designed to perform many roles as a single piece of equipment. But the Royal Navy of the future is expected to operate a family of submarines. This would include many shapes and sizes to carry out different operations. Some submarines would be manned and others unmanned. The designs included a “mothership” that would act as a major command and control center supporting other submarines and ships. This submarine, with a crew of about 20 people, would be shaped like a manta ray with wide wings to guide it through the sea. The futuristic mothership would travel to British-controlled waters worldwide, docking with other underwater bases. The future Royal Navy might also use eel-like unmanned underwater vehicles. The designers imagined these submarines as capable of curving around objects like an eel and disguising themselves as sea lifeforms. They could be launched from the mothership and travel hundreds of miles in near silence. Some of the naval equipment would be engineered with materials to dissolve after a period of time to avoid being captured by enemies. One image even shows flying missile weapons shooting out of the water like sharks or dolphins. ​ The submarine design project was called Nautilus 100. It was named after the U.S. Navy’s USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear-powered submarine. Britain’s Minister for Defense Procurement, Harriet Baldwin, praised the project. “These remarkable designs display the great promise of our young engineers and scientists and the great ambition of the Royal Navy.” She added that the futuristic concepts are an example of what Britain’s navy could produce to meet future military challenges. Commander Peter Pipkin is a robotics officer with the Royal Navy. He said that with more than 70 percent of the planet covered by water, there will be more competition between nations in the future to live and work at or under the sea. For this reason, he said the Royal Navy is looking 50 years into the future to find new ways to protect British interests around the world. “If only 10 perb cent of these ideas become reality, it will put us at the cutting edge of future warfare and defense operations," Pipkin said. I’m Bryan Lynn.   Bryan Lynn wrote this story based on information from the Royal Navy website. Hai Do 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   challenge – v. invite a person to compete in a contest or fight dock – v. join together with another ship disguise – v. change the appearance of something so it cannot be recognized dissolve – v. break down or disappear ambition – n. goal or aim to do or be something concept – n. an idea of what something could be  

China Bans Use of Uyghur, Kazakh Books, Materials in Xinjiang Schools

Cum, 20.10.2017 - 23:55
Chinese officials in Xinjiang have banned the use of ethnic minority languages in schools in at least one area of the autonomous region, Radio Free Asia reports. Local education officials sent an order to schools in Yining county in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture. The order bans the use of any school books or teaching materials written in the languages of the mostly Muslim Uyghur and Kazakh ethnic groups. It also said that any materials in those languages must be placed in “sealed storage." The document’s letterhead referred to the education department of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region government. The document’s wording may suggest that the ban could spread to a wider area. The document states: "Schools must not flout these rules by continuing to use ethnic minority-language materials. Any found doing so will be reported to a higher level of government." Luo Dan is the official named on the document as the contact person for the Yining county education bureau. Luo confirmed to Radio Free Asia that the order is real and is being carried out. In Luo's words, "The use of all Uyghur and Kazakh-language textbooks and teaching materials in language and literature has ceased." 'All Chinese now' RFA spoke to an ethnic minority citizen of Xinjiang who asked to remain unidentified. He said official government policy commands respect for minority languages. But he said that for several years, the government has increasingly restricted the use of minority languages in the education system. In his words, "Right now, math, physics and chemistry are all taught in Chinese. There are still some Uyghur and Kazakh-language textbooks around, but they are gradually disappearing. "It's all Chinese now," he said. China says Uyghurs have carried out terrorist attacks in recent years. But experts outside China say it is government has inflated the threat from Uyghurs. Those experts say China’s increasingly repressive policy in the northwest has led to the growing violence there. Hundreds have died in the violence since 2009. I'm Caty Weaver.   Qiao Long and Yang Fan produced this report for RFA's Mandarin Service. Luisetta Mudie translated and edited the piece. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   autonomous region - n. an area of partial self-rule within a larger country under a central government seal - v. to prevent access to something or someplace letterhead - n. the name and address of an organization (such as a company) that is printed at the top of a piece of paper used for writing official letters​ refer - v. to mention (someone or something) in speech or in writing​ flout - v. to break or ignore (a law, rule, etc.) without hiding what you are doing or showing fear or shame​  

Spanish Officials to Meet on Taking Local Powers from Catalonia

Cum, 20.10.2017 - 00:00
  Spain has called for a special cabinet meeting on Saturday that could start a process that would take away local powers from Catalonia. Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy made the move after Catalonia’s leader wrote that the autonomous area would seek independence unless the two sides began talks. Catalonia’s leader Carles Puigdemont sent a letter to the Spanish prime minister shortly before a time limit for clarifying his position on secession. “If the State Government persists in blocking dialogue and the repression continues, the Parliament of Catalonia will proceed, if deemed appropriate, to vote on the formal declaration of independence,” he wrote. Rajoy’s office answered by announcing a special cabinet meeting that would discuss putting Article 155 of Spain’s constitution into effect. A government statement said, the meeting will “approve the measures that will be sent to the Senate to protect the general interests of all Spaniards.” The law gives Spain’s government the power to take away some or all of the area’s powers of self-rule. The article has never been used since Spain approved its democratic constitution in 1978. Disputed independence vote Voters in Catalonia approved independence in a disputed referendum held on October 1 called for by the Catalan leader. However, opponents said they would boycott the vote and fewer than half of voters took part. The government in Madrid considered the referendum an illegal act and sent police to block voting. Hundreds of people were injured in clashes with police. The government added that many police officers also were injured. Last week, Puigdemont appeared to declare independence in a speech to parliament. However, he suspended official steps for a parliamentary vote. Instead, he called for talks on the issue. Wanting clarification on the question of secession, Rajoy’s government asked the Catalan leader to answer “yes” or “no” by Monday. The government also gave Puigdemont until Thursday to pull back from an independence claim. In addition, the government said it would delay Article 155 if the Catalan separatist leader called for immediate elections in Catalonia to “reestablish legal order.” However, Catalan officials have not accepted that request. Europe watching closely At a meeting of European Union leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU was watching events closely. “We hope that there will be solutions that can be found on the basis of the Spanish constitution,” she said. French President Emanuel Macron called for discussions of the crisis. He also has expressed support for Rajoy and called for “unity” at the EU meeting. However, some European leaders oppose formal discussions of the situation. They say it is an internal issue for Spain. Catalonia is one of 17 autonomous areas in Spain. The area has its own parliament and president. It also represents about one fifth of Spain’s economy and one seventh of its population. The city of Barcelona, the second largest in Spain, is an important center of technology, industry and tourism. The area has a history of seeking independence for hundreds of years and carried out a referendum in 2014. Andrew Dowling is an expert in Catalan history at Cardiff University in Wales. He said an independence declaration by Catalonia would only be symbolic without control over government institutions and borders. He said Catalonia might already have seen the economic results of the dispute. Spain’s Association of Commercial Registers says 700 companies have moved their registration addresses out of the region. They include Catalan banks and large to medium-sized businesses. I’m Jill Robbins. I'm Mario Ritter.   Chris Hannas reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional materials from the AP. Hai Do was the editor. _______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   autonomous –adj. have elements of self-rule, acting separately secession –n. to withdraw from a nation or state referendum –n. a vote on a single issue or law by the public clarification –n. the process of explaining for better understanding internal –adj. taking place inside symbolic –adj. something that may serve as a sign, but has no real effect We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Clinton Criticizes Trump's North Korea Tweets, But Not Policies

Per, 19.10.2017 - 23:55
  Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized President Donald Trump this week on her visit to South Korea. Clinton, a former U.S. presidential candidate, said she disapproved of Trump’s angry words about North Korea. “There is no reason for us to be bellicose and aggressive,” she said in a speech to the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul. Clinton expressed concern about the president’s description of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “little rocket man.” She also criticized Trump’s threats to answer a North Korea provocation with “fire and fury.” Clinton said that threats to start a war are dangerous. She noted that a conflict with North Korea could endanger millions of people if a diplomatic solution is not found. She also said that starting fights with Kim Jong Un “puts a smile on his face” and gives him the attention he wants. Recently, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended Trump’s public words and comments on the Twitter messaging service. Tillerson said they help to “create action forcing events” to move diplomacy forward. While Clinton disagreed with Trump’s words, she seemed to support his administration’s efforts to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program. She agreed that North Korean plans to develop a nuclear-armed ballistic missile that can reach the U.S. mainland represent a serious threat to the United States. But the former secretary of state did not suggest other ways to prevent North Korean testing, and offered no ideas to start talks. She did not say anything about the Russian and Chinese plan to suspend the North Korean nuclear program if the U.S. and South Korea end military exercises. Instead she said that other countries, including China, should increase economic pressure on North Korea. She also said the U.S. and its allies need to have strong military defenses. Clinton also was critical of Chinese actions against South Korean businesses operating in China. The actions came after the United States deployed an anti-missile system in South Korea. Clinton said the actions of the United States and its allies should react with “proportional” force to North Korean actions against their interests. Trump has said the United States would “totally destroy North Korea” if attacked. Any preventative military action directed at North Korea’s nuclear or missile test areas could start a war. Some leaders and observers say economic pressure alone will not make the North Korean leadership give up its nuclear activities. Gary Samore is with the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He believes Americans must accept the idea that North Korea will have nuclear arms. He thinks it is no longer realistic to believe the situation can be reversed.  Samore worked as an arms control expert in the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama. Clinton also said the action of the United States must be calm and predictable to keep peace in Asia. Trump’s methods, she believes, have been dangerous and damaging. She said U.S. allies have expressed concerns about whether they can depend on the United States. They note Trump’s comments about unfair trade and criticism of allies for failing to provide enough financial support for U.S. military forces. President Trump to set to make his first official visit to Asia in early next month. He will visit Japan, South Korea and China before going to attend trade and security meetings in Vietnam and the Philippines. The South Korean presidential office said that it expects the U.S. president to talk about relations between the countries and North Korea’s activities. The office said it also expects Trump to explain his policy for the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia.   VOA’s Brian Padden reported this story from Seoul. Susan Shand adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. _____________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   bellicose - adj. having or showing a tendency to argue or fight fury - n. violent anger proportional – adj. having a number or amount that is directly related to reverse - v. to move to an opposite direction peninsula - n. a piece of land that is almost entirely surrounded by water and is attached to a larger land area

Unrest to Follow Expected Collapse of IS

Ça, 18.10.2017 - 23:57
  The self-declared Islamic State (IS) group appears to be nearing collapse. IS fighters have lost control of Raqqa – the city the group has called its capital. They are now fighting to keep control of small areas of Iraq and Syria. Local forces are said to be attacking them from all sides. But almost no one believes the group will disappear or that the fighting will end soon. The Associated Press notes that the Islamic State was created from what was left of another group: al-Qaida in Iraq. That group battled United States forces after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. In early 2014, the Islamic State began to spread across the Middle East. Its supporters quickly captured the Iraqi city of Fallujah and parts of nearby Ramadi. In Syria, IS militants forced competing Syrian rebel groups to flee Raqqa and took control of the city, naming it as the capital of its caliphate. In June 2014, IS fighters captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. It was there that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared creation of the caliphate. IS promised justice, equality, and an Islamic religious system. But over the next few years, it terrorized people living under its control. The group killed members of Iraq’s small Yazidi community. It executed Western reporters and aid workers. And it destroyed some of the area’s most important archaeological and cultural treasures. Some foreigners traveled to the Middle East to support IS. Many of them were young men from Europe. However, IS angered many Sunni Muslims. They worried as they saw the group’s version of Islam spread to areas far from Syria and Iraq. When IS declared a caliphate, it created a target. Soon, an international anti-IS coalition was formed. The United States launched its campaign of airstrikes on Islamic State forces in Iraq in August 2014, and a month later on IS targets in Syria. In Iraq, the U.S. military partnered with government forces working with state-approved Shiite-led militias and with Iraqi Kurdish fighters. In Syria, the U.S. partnered with Syrian Kurdish-led fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Supported by tens of thousands of U.S.-led airstrikes, these fighters ousted IS militants from the territories they controlled. The worst defeat for IS took place in July, when they were forced out of Mosul. IS also appears to be heading for collapse in Syria. The SDF and Syrian government forces supported by Russia are attacking IS forces in separate offensives. This week, a top SDF commander announced his forces had taken Raqqa from IS militants. Over the weekend, Syrian troops captured Mayadeen, a town in the Euphrates River Valley near the border with Iraq. The militants had been expected to fight to the death in the town. In northern Iraq, IS forces no longer hold any cities or towns. They lost control of Hawija earlier this month. Iraq’s army is now preparing to fight IS in the last place the terrorists control -- Anbar province, which stretches to the Syrian border. In Syria, IS still controls the town of Boukamal, near the Iraqi border, and small areas in the East. Syria and Iraq have paid a high price to destroy IS. And many people suffered in areas controlled by the militants. The fighting and airstrikes have destroyed cities and towns that had been economically strong. Many apartment buildings, homes, roads and bridges have been destroyed.  Two weeks ago, the U.S.-led coalition said it had returned more than 83 percent of IS-held land to local populations since 2014. It said more than 6 million Syrians and Iraqis had been freed from IS control. At least 735 civilians are reported to have been accidentally killed in coalition airstrikes, but activists believe the number is much higher. The rise of the Islamic State group -- and the wars and alliances that defeated it -- have worsened tensions in Syria and Iraq. Kurdish populations in the two countries gained power, worrying the central governments. Iran and Turkey are also fighting Kurdish separatist movements within their countries. In 2014, during the fight against IS, Iraq’s Kurds seized the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Iraq has now regained control of the city, seizing oil fields and other infrastructure to try to stop the Kurdish independence movement. More violence may result from the Syrian civil war, tensions between Kurds and ethnic Arabs, and the presence of Shiite militias and government troops in the Sunni towns and cities. In many ways, the fight over former IS territories has just begun. All of the forces fighting IS will have to watch their territories closely even after they recapture the last militant-held areas. Experts say in some ways they face a more difficult fight. Groups linked to the Islamic State continue to carry out attacks in Egypt and Libya. Experts fear IS could re-form and gain strength in the years ahead.   Associated Press Correspondent Zeina Karam reported this story from Beirut. AP Writer Philip Issa provided reporting from Baghdad. 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   caliphate – n. the office of an important Muslim leader or the land he governs archeological – adj. of or related to the study of past human life and activities valley – n. a stretch of land between hills or mountains apartment – n. a room or set of rooms that is used as a place to live infrastructure – n. public services, such as roads, bridges and water treatment centers

Researchers Aim to Clean up South Asia's Dirty Kilns

Ça, 18.10.2017 - 23:55
  Brick, a simple, square block made from baked clay, has been an important building material for thousands of years. But traditional brick-making methods create pollution that affects health and the climate. Laws governing the industry are weak and not enforced. And there seems to be little motivation for kiln owners to improve on the system. Low cost labor in brick making Brickmaking is big business in the South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. Around 300 billion bricks per year come out of kilns – the large ovens used for hardening the clay. In India, the industry creates nearly 10 percent of the country's soot. And, it has become a health threat and powerful contributor to climate change. The brick-making industry depends on low-wage seasonal labor. Whole families of workers move from one kiln to another to find work. An estimated 23 million workers are employed in at least 100,000 brick kilns operating across the northern state of Punjab, according to a study released in September by Anti-Slavery International.  Nearly all of the workers are given loans from kiln owners before the brickmaking season begins, immediately putting them into debt. The owners withhold their wages during the season, which lasts up to 10 months. They also keep no records, allowing them to pay workers far less than what is due. Because workers are paid for each piece of brick they make, families put their children to work to increase their output. Many children under the age of 14 work an average of nine hours a day during the hot weather months, according to the study. Health and climate costs The industry also uses low cost fuel in low-technology kilns. The fuel includes high-polluting materials such as powdered coal, coal chips, waste oil, agricultural waste, wood, old automobile tires and plastic. Sachin Kumar is with India's Energy and Resources Institute, also known as TERI. He said that nearly all of the kilns follow one basic design. "[The] existing technology of brick making in India is [the] Bull's trench kiln, which is highly polluting and energy consuming." The Bull's trench kiln dates back to the 1800s. A study by Urban Emissions, an India-based non-profit organization, found that in south Delhi, India, pollution from the kilns might be linked to 15 percent of early deaths caused by pollution in that area.  And in Pakistan, a study by Quaid-i-Azam University found a possible link between brick making and increased cases of anemia and other health disorders. A better method exists TERI and others have been pushing the industry to use zigzag kilns. This kiln is named for how air moves back and forth through the bricks.  "So this technology of zigzag kiln is better than the Bull's trench kiln, not only in terms of energy performance but also in terms of environmental emissions." Kumar says black carbon emissions from the zigzag kiln are about 75 percent lower and it uses 15 to 20 percent less fuel.  That saves owners money, which is a good reason to replace the old kilns. But experts say lack of information, weak laws and poor enforcement make change less likely.   One problem is that authorities generally do not know where many of the polluting kilns are located.  But, Stanford University researchers are working on a way to map them from space.  Stephen Luby is with the Stanford Woods Institute. He saw smoke clouds from kilns while flying over India.  "So then I got thinking, 'Well, wait a minute, if I can do this sitting in a plane, we must be able by remote satellite to detect these as well.'" Luby's team combined satellite images with heat signals to find the kilns. They even found kilns that a team on the ground did not find during their data collection. Mapping is just the first step. Redesigned kilns may be cheaper to operate, but replacing the older kilns costs money in advance. And the owners need technical help, too, notes Sachin Kumar. "Apart from the financial challenge, I think one of the major issues will be availability for the local service providers, because they are the ones who can help him, who can guide him in adopting the zigzag technology." Across South Asia, there are tens of thousands of Bull's trench kilns to replace. I'm Alice Bryant.   This story based on two VOA news reports, including a report by Steve Baragona. It also includes information from other news sources. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. _______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story clay – n. a heavy, sticky material from the earth that is made into different shapes and that becomes hard when it is baked or dried soot – n. a black powder that is formed when something (such as wood or coal) is burned output – n. the amount of something that is produced by a person or thing anemia – n. a condition in which a person has fewer red blood cells than normal and feels very weak and tired emissions – n. something sent out or given off black carbon – n. the most strongly light-absorbing component of fine matter formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass remote – adj. capable of being controlled from a distance

Syrian Commander: Raqqa Captured from IS Forces

Sa, 17.10.2017 - 23:58
  Militias operating in Syria have declared victory over Islamic State, or IS fighters in Raqqa. The militias raised flags over the city on Tuesday after a four-month battle against IS forces. Raqqa served as capital of the self-declared Islamic State militant group. The Reuters news agency said the fighting had ended, but noted that Kurdish and Arab militias were clearing a sports center of mines and any remaining militants. A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, said his group plans to formally declare victory after the work is completed. The SDF has been fighting since June to take Raqqa. The militia has received help from the United States and its allies. The final SDF attack on Raqqa began on Sunday after a group of Syrian jihadists withdrew, leaving only 300 IS fighters to defend their positions. On Monday, the SDF captured “Paradise Square,” a place where the militants carried out executions in front of city residents. Some locals called it “Hell Square” as bodies and severed heads would be left there for days. The fighters captured Raqqa’s main hospital after fierce fighting Monday night and early on Tuesday, said SDF spokesman Mostafa Bali in a statement. The fighters then lowered the black flag of Islamic State at the hospital, the site of an IS command center. One witness told Reuters that militia fighters and commanders celebrated in the middle of wreckage and ruined buildings around the square. An SDF field commander said explosions from mines killed three militiamen on Monday. Another commander said SDF fighters had found burned weapons and documents in the sports center. The fall of Raqqa is a sign of the Islamic State’s collapse. It was the first big city captured by IS forces in early 2014. After a series of victories in Iraq and Syria, the group declared the establishment of a caliphate, with Raqqa as its capital. The Islamic State created its own laws, passports and money. It used the city as a base to plan attacks overseas and to imprison Western hostages before killing them in videos published online. The group has lost most of its territory in Syria and Iraq this year, including the city of Mosul. In Syria, IS forces have been forced back into small areas in the Euphrates valley and surrounding desert. I'm Pete Musto.   Hai Do wrote this story for VOA Learning English. His report was based on information from the Associated Press and Reuters. George Grow was the editor. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. _____________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   formally - adj. made or done in an official and usually public way jihadist - n. a Muslim who advocates or participates in a jihad resident - n. someone who lives in a particular place sever - v. to cut off site - n. a place that is used for a particular activity caliphate - n. the land ruled by a caliph (a Muslim political and religious leader)

Expert: North Korea’s Cyber Abilities Growing

Sa, 17.10.2017 - 23:56
Some experts believe North Korea’s ability to carry out computer attacks is increasing. They point to a reported attack that took place in September of last year as evidence. Attackers, believed to be North Koreans, took thousands of military documents including war plans aimed at destroying North Korea’s leadership if war takes place. The war plans, known as Operation Plan 5015, were jointly created by the U.S. and South Korean militaries. Expert: ‘entirely possible’ North Korea responsible Kenneth Geers is a security expert and a researcher with the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence based in Estonia. Recently, he spoke to VOA. Geers said it is “entirely possible” that U.S.-South Korean war plans were taken. He added that it is possible that North Korea received help from Russia or China to do so. All digitized information, Geers said, is very difficult to protect. He said large computer systems often have many points that can be attacked and North Korea knows who to target. He said one possibility is that North Korea may be trying to steal money. The country has been under increasingly tight sanctions after two United Nations Security Council resolutions this year targeted its export income. Another possibility, Geers said, is that North Korea wants to know if it is about to be attacked. In order to do that, they would need plans form the U.S., Korea and Japan. Other cyberattacks linked to North Korea North Korea has been linked to computer attacks that have caused notable damage in the past. In 2014, North Korea was blamed for entering the computer systems of Sony Pictures Entertainment. The attack caused many computers belonging to the movie production company to become useless. It was seen as a reaction to that studio’s attempt to release the film, The Interview. The movie showed an attempt to kill North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. More recently, reports from 2016 linked the theft of $81 million from the central bank of Bangladesh to North Korea. South Korea suspects North Korea has attempted attacks in recent years on computer systems of its energy system and some of its banks as well as its military. Cyberattacks can seek information, target equipment But Geers does not believe that North Korea could win a cyberwar with the U.S., South Korea or other Western countries. He said North Korea’s internet system is small and an easy target for cyberattacks that can limit or shut down its networks. Geers said cyberwarfare can take many forms. It can involve secretly getting information and spying on computer systems. Cyberwarfare methods also can seek to make changes to computer systems that limit or block advanced weapons from operating correctly. In the case of missiles, a cyber attack might block important information that is needed in order to fly a missile in the right direction. It is even possible to cause a missile to travel in the wrong direction. “A computers might have no way of knowing that it’s the right or wrong target. Computers don’t think that way. They just respond to commands. In that way, they can be very smart and very stupid at the same time.” One example of a cyberattack targeted Iran’s nuclear program and was identified in 2010. The Stuxnet virus is said to have caused damage to computer systems linked to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. I’m Mario Ritter. Kim Youngnam reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Hai Do 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   cyberattacks –n. attacks that take place not physically, but electronically through computer networks sanctions –n. measures taken by countries to force one or more countries to obey international law, usually by limiting trade or finance cyberspace –n. the world that exists on computer networks online scramble –v. to mix up, to take out of the usual order advanced –adj. at a high level of development, modern

European Officials Expecting Terror Attacks, Even As IS Weakens

Sa, 17.10.2017 - 23:55
  Terrorism experts say the collapse of the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria and Iraq may not reduce its efforts to spread in Europe. European officials remain concerned that the group will continue to gain and radicalize European followers. They also say it may not reduce so-called "lone wolf" attacks in Europe.  Kurdish-led forces supported by the United States are close to removing Islamic State forces from the Syrian city of Raqqa. The terror group has used the city as its headquarters in Syria. But French and Belgian officials do not believe killings will stop in Europe for the next few years. Experts say territory held by the Islamic State helped the group gain fighters from other countries. They say it also helped the group show it was different from the terror group al-Qaida which opposed the creation of the Islamic State, or IS. Al-Qaida’s leaders criticized Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for naming himself caliph, or leader. Experts say one way for IS to show it still has power is to carry out attacks on targets in the West like al-Qaida did. Last month, al-Baghdadi released a recording in which he criticized the United States. It was the first time he had spoken publicly in 11 months. In the recording, he called on jihadists to attack the Syrian government. And he said IS still exists although it has lost much of the territory it had captured. He repeated the words of IS propaganda chief Abu Mohammad al-Adnani. He said holding territory was less important than the desire to fight. Al-Adnani is now dead. Al-Baghdadi also praised attacks on the West. He said “America, Europe and Russia are living in a state of terror." French president says terrorism a top priority French President Emmanuel Macron spoke about terrorism in August. At the time, IS had been ousted from the Iraqi city of Mosul and Kurdish-led forces began their attack on Raqqa. Macron said the fight against Islamic terrorism is France’s “top priority.” He said it would remain so for some time. Since 2015, a series of terror attacks has killed more than 240 people in France. The country has 350 Islamic extremists in prison and nearly 6,000 militants under surveillance. Belgium also has supplied an unusually large number of fighters to IS and other jihadist groups. French and Belgian officials say IS is very innovative. They say efforts to reduce the group’s activities on the internet have not been very successful. The group makes changes to its messages often to target possible recruits. It tests new ideas, much like companies that sell products do.              Charlie Winter recently published a study on IS for the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence. The research center is based in King’s College, London. Winter says the media war has always been as important for IS as victories in Syria and Iraq. He wrote that, for IS, “propaganda production and dissemination is at times considered to be even more important than military jihad.” Winter says that although IS has lost much of its territory, it can still take part in information warfare and recruit and incite. And he says “the international community must be equally as creative and strategic-minded in its approach towards counter-communications.” Officials and experts warn that radicalization remains a serious problem. Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has called radicalization “a deadly social model.” France is not alone in struggling to understand radicalization and to develop effective ways to fight it. Western governments still do not know how people are radicalized and why they take part in deadly attacks. Farhad Khosrokhavar is a sociologist and professor in Paris, France. He is concerned that governments still consider radicalization only a national security problem. He says governments should understand radicalization as part of other long-term problems. These include problems of stigmatization, social exclusion and delinquency. He says experts are only beginning to understand how the internet and closed social media groups can help form jihadist groups. He said they can be used to create the cult of what he calls the “negative hero.” At a conference in London last year, Khosrokhavar said a number of jihadist attackers in the West had been diagnosed with depression or other mental illnesses. But political leaders facing public demands to stop violence often resist efforts to increase understanding of radicalization. Former French Prime Minster Valls once said he was tired of social and cultural excuses used to explain jihad. “To explain is to excuse,” he said. Both France and Belgium have struggled to create programs that reduce radicalization. Earlier this year, an effort to create de-radicalization centers in France ended because of differences over how to run the programs. I’m Bryan Lynn. And I'm Anne Ball.   Correspondent Jamie Dettmer reported this story from Brussels, Belgium. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter 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   radicalize – v. to cause someone to become more extreme, especially in politics jihadist – n. someone who joins or supports a holy war against non-Muslims priority – n. something that is considered more important than other things innovative – adj. having new ideas about something; creative dissemination – n. the spreading or sharing of something strategic-minded – n. a person’s ability to think imaginatively or systematically stigmatization – n. the act of describing something in a way that shows strong disapproval social exclusion – n. the act of making groups of people feel unimportant delinquency – n. actions that are in competition with or opposition to accepted behavior cult – n. a system of religious beliefs

Kurds Withdraw as Iraqi Forces Move into Kirkuk

Pzt, 16.10.2017 - 23:59
Iraqi troops seized oil fields and the area around Kirkuk in response to last month’s Kurdish vote for independence. Tensions have grown since the Kurds voted for independence from Iraq. The Iraqi central government in Baghdad, as well as Turkey, Iran and the United States, rejected the vote. But midday Monday, Iraqi federal forces took several major oil fields north of Kirkuk, as well as the city’s airport and an important military base, according to Iraqi commanders. Kurdish party headquarters inside Kirkuk were abandoned. In a statement, the United States military task force in Iraq described the fighting outside Kirkuk as a “misunderstanding.” The U.S. has armed, trained and supported both sides in the fight against the Islamic State group. After reports of clashes in and around the city, Kurdish forces -- known as the peshmerga – appeared to withdraw without much of a fight. Local police remained in place in Kirkuk. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi called on civil servants to remain at their posts to serve the city. Still, thousands of people could be seen carrying their belongings and heading north to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region. Kirkuk is home to about 1 million Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians. The city has been at the center of a long-running dispute between the autonomous Kurdish government and the central government in Baghdad. Both are close allies of the U.S. The Iraqi government and the Kurds have long been divided over the sharing of oil money as well as over disputed territories like Kirkuk. The city is controlled by Kurdish forces but is outside of their self-ruled region. The Kurds took control of Kirkuk, a major oil-producing area, in 2014. At the time, Islamic State militants had advanced across northern Iraq and the country’s armed forces collapsed. Iraq has since rebuilt its armed forces with U.S. aid. And they are driving out IS militants from most of the territory they once held. Shiite Arab militias backed by Iran are fighting alongside the Iraqi armed forces in Kirkuk. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said the militias will remain outside the city, however. Al-Iraqiya, the Iraqi government TV network, reported that the prime minister ordered federal forces to “impose security in the city in cooperation with the inhabitants and the peshmerga.” Since the September independence vote, the Iraqi government has been pushing Kurdish leaders to accept shared administration of the oil-rich area. I'm Alice Bryant. Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on AP and Reuters news reports. Ashley Thompson was the editor. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story response  - n. ​ something that is done as a reaction to something else​ according to - prep. ​as stated, reported, or recorded by (someone or something)​ abandon - v. ​to leave (a place) because of danger​ advance - v. to move forward impose  - v. ​to force someone to accept​ autonomous - adj. having the power or right to govern itself region - n. part of a country (or the world) that is different or separate from other parts in some way  

Somalia Truck Bombing Kills Over 300

Pzt, 16.10.2017 - 23:58
  Somalis have been burying people killed in a huge explosion Saturday in the capital, Mogadishu. The Associated Press reported on Monday that the head of an emergency medical service said over 300 people were killed in the explosion. The Somali government said the number of dead is expected to rise in what has become one of the world’s worst attacks in years. Some families may never recover their loved ones because many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. "There is no tragedy worse than when someone comes to the dead body of their relative and cannot recognize them," said the mayor of Mogadishu, Tabid Abdi Mohamed. He said the horror of the attack was "unspeakable." Mogadishu's hospitals have been struggling to treat the badly burned victims. The Somali government says it has set up an emergency center to help reunite families. The government has called for three days of national mourning. It also has asked that flags be flown at half-mast as a sign of respect for the victims. Al-Shabab believed to be responsible There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.  Angry protesters, however, condemned al-Shabab. The militant group has yet to comment publicly on the bombing. But the government and terrorism experts strongly believe the group was responsible. "Whether they claim or not claim makes no difference, we know the act that has happened. It’s al-Shabab,” said Abdi Hassan Hussein, a former intelligence officer. He added, “The information we are getting so far shows this is the work of al-Shabab." On Sunday, hundreds of Somalis denounced the group at a protest in Mogadishu’s business center, where a truck carrying the bomb exploded. Some demonstrators wept when they saw the damage caused by the explosion. In a statement, the U.S. State Department condemned the attack "in the strongest terms." It said the United States “will continue to stand with the Somali government, its people, and our international allies to combat terrorism and support their efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity.” The victims Maryan Abdullahi just finished Benadir University where she studied medicine. She left her voluntary work at Benadir hospital Saturday and was waiting a bus when the bomb exploded. She died immediately. Her mother called her daughter's telephone number as soon as she heard about the explosion. She told VOA Somali, “I called her number immediately, but someone else answered and they said the owner of the phone died." Abdullahi’s father flew from London on Saturday to attend his daughter’s graduation from the university. He arrived in Mogadishu Sunday morning and attended her funeral instead. Also killed were five members of the same family who were operating a clothing business.   VOA reporter Hundreds of people were wounded in the attack. One of them is VOA’s reporter in Mogadishu, Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulle. Abdulle suffered injuries to the neck, hand and burns throughout his body. But he was in good spirits when he spoke about his condition. He said, “I’m injured in the lower neck, there is shrapnel inside. I have a second injury on the right hand, maybe it’s broken, and third, my body is burned in particular on the torso. I have smaller injuries throughout the body, (and) facial injuries.” Abdulle has memories of the attack. He said, “I remember leaving the building near Safari hotel, I wanted to get into my car, as I stepped towards the car the explosion went off, that is all I remember. The next thing I know is this morning when I woke up at 10 a.m. when I saw people standing around my bed.” I’m Jonathan Evans. Harun Maruf wrote this story for VOANews.com. George Grow adapted this report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. _____________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   beyond – adv. on the farther side; in addition half-mast – n. the position in the middle of a pole or long stick achieve – v. to carry out successfully graduation – adj. of or related to the act of finishing a study program shrapnel – n. small pieces of metal from an exploding shell or mine torso – n. the human body except for the head, arms and legs We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.  

Children Making Pictures of Myanmar Conflict

Pzt, 16.10.2017 - 23:55
  In Bangladesh, the children of Rohingya refugees are making pictures. That activity may seem perfectly normal. Except the pictures they are making show the horrors the children experienced recently as they fled Myanmar. Anthony Lake is the executive director of UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. He spoke with reporters earlier this month in the Bangladeshi town of Cox’s Bazar. He said that experts believe one way for children to deal with the bad things they remember is to have them draw pictures. The Rohingya refugees have made pictures of homes being set on fire; of helicopters shooting from the sky; and families running away from gunfire and men armed with knives. Lake noted that, at some refugee camps, children make happy pictures. But the pictures from the Rohingya boys and girls reflect the terrible things they saw. “The pictures we have seen here are horrifying,” the UNICEF chief said. “They reflect children seeing things that no child should ever see, much less endure.” Lake said he spoke with one boy who said he saw other children killed while they were playing football. “Imagine if you were a child, and you saw that, how long would it take you to recover from that, if you ever could?” he asked. Myanmar’s army and the civilian government have repeatedly denied claims that the armed forces are harming civilians. They say they will investigate reports of atrocities if evidence is presented to them. Late last month, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi announced that military operations were suspended after September 5. But people continue crossing the border into Bangladesh. Many new arrivals are likely searching for food. UNICEF says more than half of the refugees are children, and half of them are under five years old. One UNICEF official gave a VOA reporter drawings she said were made by children in the Balukhali camp who went to the group’s “child-friendly centers.” The children who made them are from six to 14 years old, and all were produced over the past few weeks. Myanmar’s Rakhine State is close to Bangladesh. The area has been largely closed off to aid groups and foreign observers since August 25. Last month, Myanmar’s government flew reporters to Rakhine to see where a large number of Hindu residents were buried. The government claims the Hindus were victims of the rebel Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. The group denied the claim. Last Monday, the Myanmar government gave permission for a group of diplomats and U.N. officials to visit Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township. In a tweet, one diplomat said the area looked like “a ghost town.” I’m Dan Friedell.   Joe Freeman reported this story for VOANews.com. Dan Friedell adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.  What do you think of the drawings by Rohingya children? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   horror – n. something that causes feelings of fear, dread, and shock draw – v. to create an image or picture of someone or something reflect – v. to show (something) : to make (something) known endure – v. to experience (pain or suffering) for a long time atrocity – n. a very cruel or terrible act or action ghost town – n. an empty place with no people

Transportation Apps for Women Become Popular in Brazil

Pzt, 16.10.2017 - 23:53
  Private car services that work only with women are becoming more popular in Brazil due to concerns about safety. One of the car services has a mobile app called FemiTaxi. It has more than 1,000 drivers giving some 20,000 rides per month. FemiTaxi has expanded into six Brazilian cities and may go to other Latin American markets. A competing app, LadyDriver, launched in Sao Paulo in March. It has some 8,000 drivers and over 100,000 users. It plans to expand operations to Rio de Janeiro this month. The rapid growth of these apps in cities such as Sao Paulo highlights the rising concerns about public safety in Brazil. From August 2016 to August 2017, reports of crimes such as attempted rape rose by more than 10 percent in Sao Paulo state. Well-known transportation companies, such as Uber, along with Spain's Cabify and 99, have also increased efforts to improve safety for drivers and passengers in Brazil this past year. High-profile cases of sexual assault on public buses have drawn attention to the issue of violence against women. Metros in the cities of Belo Horizonte and Recife have recently started female-only train cars. There have been female-only cars in Rio de Janeiro's trains for over a decade.   Gabriela Correa is the founder and CEO of LadyDriver. "I think the problem of sexual harassment in public transport always existed, but it wasn't discussed," she said. "Now women are standing up, taking initiatives like our own to seek safety." Ride-hailing apps for female drivers and passengers are not unique to Brazil. See Jane Go, an all-women transportation app, launched in the American state of California in 2016. A rival company, Safr, launched in the American city of Boston earlier this year. I'm John Russell.   Taís Haupt reported on this story for Reuters. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section. _____________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   app – n. a computer program that performs a special function  highlight – v. to make or try to make people notice or be aware of (someone or something) : to direct attention to (someone or something) sexual assault – n. illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent initiative – n.  a plan or program that is intended to solve a problem  

‘Bicycle Mayor’ Program Shows Promise in Mexico City

Paz, 15.10.2017 - 23:55
  Her position is not official, but Areli Carreon of Mexico City is a “mayor.” She may be the “bicycle mayor,” but to her it is an important position. She works to make people in one of the world’s most congested cities more interested in riding bicycles. Carreon works with a group based in Amsterdam called CycleSpace. The group says it wants 50 percent of all trips made in cities to be made by bike by the year 2030. There are “mayors” like Carreon in seven cities around the world, including Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Sydney, Australia; and Baroda, India. More cities are expected to “inaugurate” mayors soon. Amsterdam’s “mayor” is Anna Luten. She said the organization’s goal will “make cities livable again by integrating bikes.” And, more bikes will make it easier for the remaining cars to get around. However, Carreon says the cycling program will do more than just make daily trips to work or the market easier. When a disaster strikes, like the recent earthquake that shook Mexico City, cyclists may be among the first to get out and look for survivors. Carreon and 1,000 other cyclists helped identify buildings where people might be trapped. They were able to travel on streets littered with rubble more easily than larger vehicles. The cyclists also may be able to bring tools and supplies to rescue teams. Carreon said bicycles “served as an emergency breathing system for the city.” And she noted that, no matter how bad the roads were, bicycles were the fastest way to move around. There are already a lot of cyclists in downtown Mexico City. Two hundred fifty thousand are members of a bike-sharing program that offers 6,000 bicycles at 450 parking stands. But riding in the city can be dangerous. Around the city, the white-painted outlines of bicycles can be found on the streets. These markers show where cyclists have been killed in traffic accidents. As the bicycle “mayor,” Carreon wants Mexico City to reduce the number of cycling deaths each year, and increase the availability of bike lanes to 340 kilometers.   She would also like to see people who live in the outer parts of the city use bicycles more often. Carreon says rich people can move around Mexico City without much trouble, but poor people might spend four hours walking to and from work. As the “mayor,” Carreon has a lot of work to due to publicize the projects she is working on. She delayed an event that was planned before the earthquake. But she thinks the way  cyclists of Mexico City were able to help after the earthquake may have been the best publicity of all. “At the city’s worst moment, we were there,” she said. I’m Ashley Thompson.   Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on a report by Reuters. Mario Ritter was the editor. What do you think of the plans in Mexico City? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   inaugurate– v. to introduce (someone, such as a newly elected official) into a job or position with a formal ceremony integrate– v. to make (something) a part of another larger thing litter– v. to cover (a surface) with many things in an untidy way rubble– n. broken pieces of stone, brick, etc., from walls or buildings that have fallen publicize– v. to give information about (something) to the public  

India’s High Court Temporarily Bans Firecrackers in New Delhi

Cts, 14.10.2017 - 23:56
  The air in the Indian capital, New Delhi, is among the most polluted of any city in the world. That is one reason India’s highest court has ordered a temporary ban on firecracker sales during Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. The observance lasts five days. During this period, many Hindus light oil lamps in homes, windows and on housetops. Crowds gather to watch fireworks at night. But the court order has angered many Indians as they prepare for Diwali, which starts October 19th. They say the order prevents them from taking part in a Hindu tradition: the lighting of fireworks. Critics have likened the court’s action to banning Christmas trees on Christmas Day. Yet supporters of the firecracker ban say the health of New Delhi’s 18-million residents is more important than traditions. They note that the city’s air can endanger human health at this time of the year because of slower winds and colder temperatures that trap more pollution. When the Indian Supreme Court announced its decision on Monday, one of the judges said “let’s try at least one Diwali without firecrackers.” The court banned fireworks last year, but only after the Diwali festival, when smog had already covered much of New Delhi. The ban was partly lifted last month. But it was put back in place after lawyers for three children asked the court to force the city to clean up its air. Supporters of the ban hope the decision will keep air pollution from reaching the levels it did last year. In the days after the 2016 festival, air quality was almost 20 times the safe limit set by the World Health Organization. Many people became sick. That led New Delhi officials to take emergency measures, including closing schools. Recently, officials temporarily banned trucks from the city, limited the movement of other motor vehicles and suspended work at building projects. Opponents of the ban ask why only firecrackers are being targeted. They say it is more important to deal with the causes of air pollution, including the large number of vehicles and the burning of waste in neighboring states. They say the explosion of firecrackers for a few hours will not affect the air pollution problem. But environmental experts say the ban will help at a time when the air is already full of pollutants. In 2015, researchers reported that the lungs of half of the children in New Delhi have been damaged because of poor air quality. Doctors blame the pollution for an increase in breathing disorders and heart attacks. They tell older adults to leave the city in winter. Harsh Vardhan is India’s environment minister. He supports the ban. He has urged people to obey it, adding that the country should “give green Diwali and our environment a chance.” But some members of his Hindu nationalist party BJP are angry about the court’s decision. One party official noted that the ban affects only the sale of firecrackers and not their use. Tajinder Singh Bagga said he plans to give firecrackers to poor children in the city, as he does each year. He said when he announced on social media that he would do so, “many people sent the message we also want to distribute, because of this ban, because people were in anger.” Chetan Bhagat is a well-known writer in India. He said on Twitter that officials should “Regulate. Don’t ban. Respect traditions.” I’m Jonathan Evans.   Anjana Pasricha reported this story from New Delhi. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report for VOA 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   firecracker – n. a small paper tube containing an explosive festival – n. a celebration or observance resident – n. someone living in a place for some length of time smog – n. a fog made heavier by smoke and chemicals green – adj. relating to or being part of an environmental movement regulate – v. to bring order; to govern; to make rules  

Kenyan Police Kill Two as Opposition Protests Presidential Revote

Cts, 14.10.2017 - 23:55
  Police in Western Kenya have killed two people during a protest against the planned revote of August’s presidential election. The violence took place in Siaya County. The police chief of Bondo said three others were injured with gunshot wounds. Police used tear gas to break up demonstrations that were defying a ban on protests in Kenya’s three major cities, including the capital, Nairobi. Kenya’s electoral commission, the IEBC, decided this week that the repeat presidential election will take place on October 26. Opposition candidate Raila Odinga and his coalition withdrew from that election earlier this week. They hope the move would lead to the cancelation of the election and new candidate nominations. Odinga cited a Supreme Court decision in 2013 that says a withdrawal must lead to the cancelation of the race. The IEBC said that it cannot force a candidate to take part in an election.  But it said Odinga did not submit the official document needed to remove his name, but only sent a letter. The protest ban came after the opposition party promised to hold demonstrations to demand changes in election procedures. Interior Minister Fred Matiangi released the order on Thursday. It bars protests in central Mombassa, Kisumu and Nairobi. The order said there was a “clear, present and imminent danger of breach of peace.” Peaceful demonstrations are permitted by Kenya’s constitution. But Matiangi said he would not accept those who “destroy property and businesses of innocent people.” Matiangi said it was the responsibility of the opposition to follow the law unless it meant to hurt innocent people. Thousands of protestors demonstrated on the streets of Nairobi Wednesday, one day after Odinga announced he would not take part in the re-vote. In September, the Supreme Court cancelled the results of the August 8 election after charges of problems with the vote counting. The high court required that new elections take place within 60 days. I’m Susan Shand Susan Shand adapted this story for Learning English from reports by VOA News. Mario Ritter was the editor. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   cite - v. to mention (something) especially as an example or to support an idea or opinion. procedures –n. imminent - adj. happening very soon breach - v. a failure to do what is required by a law, an agreement.

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