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Minister: Pakistan Could Block US Supply Lines to Afghanistan

Per, 31.05.2018 - 23:57
  A Pakistani official says his country may block supply lines into Afghanistan if relations with the United States do not improve. In an interview with VOA, Foreign Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said the U.S. and Pakistan are currently “not speaking to each other.” Relations have worsened to a point where direct, high-level contacts are no longer happening, he said. Besides being the country’s top diplomat, Khan also serves as Pakistan’s defense minister. He blames the current state of ties on a lack of communication by the U.S. administration. “At the moment Pakistan is not being heard,” he said. “Pakistan is just being vilified and castigated in Washington without being heard at all.” Khan criticized the U.S. for urging that Pakistan be placed on an international terrorism-financing watch list. The list is made by the Financial Task Force, or FATF, which is based in Paris. The group decided in February to include Pakistan on its “gray list” of nations it sees as not doing enough to reduce the financing of terrorism. Pakistan is required under an agreement with the FATF to work on an action plan to get itself removed from the list. If no progress is made, the country faces the possibility of being moved to the organization’s more severe "black list" of nations. U.S. support for Pakistan’s listing was part of a South Asia policy announced by President Donald Trump in August. The U.S. administration accuses Pakistan of having ties to the Taliban and other terrorist groups that have attacked U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Part of Trump’s South Asia policy seeks to pressure Pakistan to cut ties to terrorist groups. Pakistan denies it supports any terrorist groups. Pakistani officials say any U.S. moves to pressure the country are an attempt to blame Pakistan for international failures to end the Afghan war. Khan says Pakistan is officially still a major non-NATO ally of the United States. The U.S. has cooperated with Pakistan on military matters although Pakistan is not a member of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The military alliance includes the U.S. and 28 nations from North America and Europe. Khan noted that Pakistan has kept its ground and air lines open for American and allied nations transporting supplies to troops in Afghanistan. But when asked whether the supply lines would remain open, Khan said Pakistan may have to “rethink” this cooperation. ​“Yes, we have to consider all options that are in front of us,” he said. "Because it would appear to us that the U.S. is following what can be termed a non-violent compellence of Pakistan.” International forces heavily depend on Pakistani territory to transport supplies. Pakistan closed the supply lines one time before. That was after a U.S. airstrike in 2011 mistakenly killed a group of Pakistani soldiers. The action forced the U.S. and NATO for months to transport supplies through other areas by land and sea. The forces then used what came to be called the Northern Distribution Network, which runs through other countries, including Russia. But military experts say this may not be possible again if Pakistan decided to block the supply lines. Current tense relations between the U.S. and Russia would likely prevent it, they said.  I’m Bryan Lynn.   Ayaz Gul reported this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter 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   vilify – v. to say or write very harsh and critical things about castigate – v. to severely criticize option – n. the opportunity or ability to choose something or to choose between two or more things compellence – (not standard usage) n. the ability of one state to convince another state into action, usually by threatening punishment  

Kurds Criticizes Turkey’s Plan to Move Ballot Boxes

Per, 31.05.2018 - 23:56
  Turkey has announced plans to move voting stations in some areas with a high Kurdish population. The government says the move is designed to stop threats against Kurdish voters. But the main pro-Kurdish party say the plan is aimed at keeping its members out of parliament in elections later this month. Turkey’s High Election Board announced the plan earlier this week. The board did not say how many ballot boxes would be moved. But it noted that 144,000 voters lived in the affected areas. The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, the HDP, said the voting stations were being moved from villages where the party has strong support. The party said they are to be set up in nearby villages that support the AK Party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It added that the move was designed to keep the HDP below a 10 percent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament. The move was made possible by legislation that passed in parliament two months ago. The law gave the election board’s members permission to combine electoral areas and move ballot boxes to other areas. The government said the law was changed because of concerns that the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, could threaten voters in the mainly Kurdish southeast to vote for the HDP. The PKK is banned in Turkey. The group launched an armed campaign against the government in 1984. The board’s chairman, Sadi Guven, reportedly said, “Security is important but going to the polls with free will is also very important.” The state-operated Anadolu news agency reported his comments. Under the electoral law, Turkish officials will accept ballots that are not marked by the local electoral board. It also gives security force members permission to enter a polling station when invited by a voter. Opposition parties say the changes will make the vote counting less open. "We see that the decision (to move the ballot boxes) was made for villages where the HDP gets a large share of the votes," HDP spokesman Ayhan Bilgen said. The government accuses the HDP of being a political extension of the PKK and says its support rises when voters are threatened. The HDP denies this. The United States considers the PKK a terrorist group. The elections are set for Sunday, June 24. Opinion studies have shown that the HDP is likely to win about 10 percent of the vote. They also show the total opposition share at around 50 percent - making it a close race to get control of parliament. If the HDP fails to reach the threshold, its votes could be split between other parties. That probably would raise AK Party's numbers and likely guarantee it a majority.   The Reuters news service reported this story. George Grow adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor. _____________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   board – n. a group of people with power to supervise or direct something threshold – n. the point at which an effect is produced; the point at which something begins to change poll – n. an election or activity in which people are asked a question or series of questions; the record of votes that were made in an election We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.  

Scientists to Use DNA in Search for Loch Ness Monster

Ça, 30.05.2018 - 23:58
  For hundreds of years, visitors to Scotland's Loch Ness have described seeing a creature that some people believe lives deep in the lake. But now the story of “Nessie” -- the Loch Ness Monster -- may have no place to hide. A New Zealand scientist is leading an international team to the lake next month. They plan to take some of the water and study genetic material from the lake to see what species live there. Neil Gemmell is a professor at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. The 51-year-old researcher says he does not believe all the stories about Nessie. But he said he wants to take people on an interesting trip and communicate some science to them along the way. Besides, he added, his children think it is one of the coolest things he has ever done. One of the more unusual theories is that Nessie is a long-necked dinosaur that somehow survived after other dinosaurs died out. Another theory is that the creature is actually a large fish, such as a sturgeon or giant catfish. Many people believe the claims of sightings are tricks or can be explained by trees floating in the water or strong winds. Gemmell said that when creatures move in water, they leave behind small pieces of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. DNA is found in the cells of all animals and plants. It carries their genetic information. DNA comes from their skin, hair and waste fluids. The New Zealand researcher said his team will take water from different points around the lake and at different depths. After removing the organic material, they will take the DNA, and sequence it by using technology created for the human genome project. The goal of that project was the complete mapping and understanding of all the genes of human beings. Gemmell said the results of his team’s DNA tests will then be compared against all known species. He said they should have answers by the end of the year. "I'm going into this thinking it is unlikely there is a monster, but I want to test that hypothesis," Gemmell said, adding that the results will also show “the biodiversity of the Loch Ness." He noted that the real discoveries may come in finding things like the number of invasive species. Gemmell said he first visited Loch Ness when he was in his late 20s. Like thousands of visitors before him, he looked out over the lake trying to see a monster. He said he first came up with the idea of testing DNA from the lake a few years ago and many people liked it, including his children. Graeme Matheson, chief of the Scottish Society of New Zealand, said he, too, had visited Loch Ness and looked for a monster. "I hope he (Gemmell) and his cohorts find something, although I think they'll be battling," Matheson said. "Still, it's a good way to get a trip to Scotland." Gemmell said that even if his team fails to find any monster DNA, it won't stop some Nessie believers. He said they have already been offering him theories. One idea is that Nessie might have left the lake and, after a lot of swimming, gone somewhere else for a rest. Another theory is that the monster might be an extraterrestrial, perhaps coming may another planet, and not leave behind any DNA. "In our lives we want there still to be mysteries, some of which we will solve," Gemmell said, adding that sometimes we find what we were not expecting to find. I'm Susan Shand.   The Associated Press reported story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   species – n. a group of animals or plants that are similar and can produce young animals or plants dinosaur – n. one of many reptiles that lived on Earth millions of years ago sequencing – v. to determine the order in which things happen or should happen hypothesis – n. an idea or theory that is not proven but that leads to further study or discussion biodiversity - n. the existence of many different kinds of plants and animals in an environment cohort – n. a friend or companion extraterrestrial – n. coming from or existing outside the planet Earth cool – adj. very good or excellent

‘Murdered' Reporter Appears Alive with Ukrainian Officials

Ça, 30.05.2018 - 23:57
  A Russian journalist who was reportedly murdered turned up alive in the middle of a televised news conference in Ukraine about his own killing. “I’m still alive,” Arkady Babchenko said to reporters at the news conference at Ukrainian Security Service headquarters in Kyiv. On Tuesday, Ukrainian officials said Babchenko had been shot dead and that his wife had found him in a pool of blood. He is a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his policy in Ukraine and Syria. The report of his murder started a war of words between Ukraine and Russia. It also brought condemnation from the United States and European countries. But on Wednesday, Babchenko appeared before reporters saying he had been part of a special Ukrainian operation to stop a Russian attempt on his life. Babchenko apologized to his wife “for the hell she had to go through in the past two days.” He said she did not know about the operation in advance. Neither he nor Vasyl Gritsak, head of the Ukrainian Security Service, provided details of how they staged Babchenko’s injuries or made his wife believe he was dead. The surprise came as Gritsak held the news conference to announce that Ukrainian police had solved the reported killing. Before Babchenko’s appearance, Gritsak said investigators had identified a Ukrainian citizen who allegedly was paid $40,000 by the Russian security service to kill Babchenko. Gritsak also said killing Babchenko was part of a larger terror plot by Russian security services in Ukraine. Babchenko said he was approached by the Ukrainian Security Service a month ago to set up the operation. “The important thing is my life has been saved and other, bigger terrorist attacks have been thwarted,” he said. Babchenko is one of Russia’s best-known war reporters. He fled the country in February 2017 after receiving death threats against him and his family. He said his home address was published online and the threats he received were made by phone, email and social media. I’m Mario Ritter.   Hai Do adapted the story for VOA Learning English from AP and Reuters reports. Mario Ritter was the editor. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   hell –n. (figurative) a very difficult or unpleasant experience in advance –phrase, before something   stage –v. to arrange for a purpose allegedly –adv. said to have happened but not proven thwart –v. to prevent something from happening We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Hong Kong Researchers Worried About Possible ‘Loyalty Test’

Ça, 30.05.2018 - 23:56
  Earlier this May, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Hong Kong scientists could seek government money to fund their research. It is the first time since 1997 that Hong Kong researchers have been permitted to request money from the Chinese government. But the official Xinhua news agency said those seeking such support must show they “love the country and Hong Kong.” Some Hong Kong researchers are worried the requirement is a patriotism test that could interfere with their work. More than 20 individuals and education groups started a petition protesting the measure. The petition said the term “love the country and Hong Kong” was unclear. And, it said, making researchers show their loyalty could limit freedom of thought and study. Signers to the petition  also worried the order could be extended to people working in other areas – the law, for example, or history and written works. But Hong Kong’s top official, Carrie Lam, said people had misunderstood the order. Lam told reporters: “Of course, in Hong Kong we do expect, whether you are a scientist or researcher, or government official like myself, to love our country and love Hong Kong. So that is nothing unusual.” Lam aims to help make Hong Kong a worldwide center for research and discovery.  As of this Monday, some researchers said they still were not sure whether evidence of patriotism was required to seek government money. They also noted that past Chinese government attempts to establish patriotism among Hong Kong’s people had failed. For example, six years ago more than 100,000 protesters objected to a proposed school program designed to make Hong Kong children feel good about China. In time, the Hong Kong government cancelled the program. I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.   Suzanne Sataline reported this story for VOA News. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   petition - n. a written document that people sign to show that they want a person or organization to do or change something We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Nigerian University Stays Open, Ignoring Boko Haram Threats

Ça, 30.05.2018 - 23:54
  Since the start of 2017, Boko Haram militants have launched at least 12 attacks on the University of Maiduguri. The university sits in Maiduguri, the same Nigerian city where Boko Haram was formed. The group has launched attacks against Nigeria’s central government since 2009. Boko Haram has also attacked the University of Maiduguri. Yet the university remains open, and thousands of students continue to attend its classes. More than 20,000 students officially attend the school, and those numbers continue to grow. Growing in the face of threats Muktar Muhammed produces a music show for the university’s radio station.  He begins each broadcast with a cheerful “Good Morning” message to keep students calm. “We have to make it a point…to keep them positive. Of course, to try and stay relaxed and focused on their studies,” he told VOA. Muhammed said students were still frightened a few weeks ago after suspected Boko Haram militants invaded the city. But the militants left after they were driven away by government troops. Third-year student Tasiu Hassan was at the school in January 2017 when a suicide attacker exploded a bomb, killing a professor. Later, Boko Haram released a video claiming responsibility for the attack. "I found myself in a very terrible situation in such a way that I had even thought of going back home," Hassan told VOA. But he still stayed at school, like many other students. Since then, the university has been attacked at least 12 times by suicide bombers, university officials told VOA. In July 2017, suspected Boko Haram supporters kidnapped 10 members of the university's geology and surveying department. The Nigerian military later rescued them. Resisting terrorists The University of Maiduguri is the largest and most famous public education center in northeastern Nigeria. Its students are resisting Boko Haram's message that condemns Western education as sinful. Throughout Boko Haram's rebellion against the government, the university never closed. "To show how resilient we are, to show how much sacrifice we are making and that is the true reflection of the Maiduguri spirit -- we are here because we have a responsibility to keep the system going.” Those are the words of Danjuma Gambo, a mass communications professor and a spokesman for the university. “Someone has to be around no matter how bad the situation is,” he added. Gambo said that the university was too important to close, even for a day.  He said it provides a lot “to the local economy, to the business, to the finance, to even social activities in Maiduguri.” That is why city and state officials said they would do anything in their power to keep the university open. The commissioner for the Borno State Ministry for Education, Musa Inuwa Kubo, told VOA the university has helped create a sense of self-respect in the community. "Most of us are products of that institution,” he said. He added that the resiliency of the university during the Boko Haram attacks should be respected by everybody. Last year, workers dug a 27-kilometer-long trench around the university, mainly on its eastern side. This side faces the border with Cameroon, where many Boko Haram fighters operate. The hole is designed to slow down attacks from the militant group. Its fighters often invade cities on motorcycles. Every day, dogs trained to smell bomb chemicals and weapons perform inspections at two entrances to the university. No other public university in the area has this level of security. That is one reason why Esther Clement continues to attend the university. She has one more year of studies before she will receive a degree in mass communication. "I want to become a reporter, so I can inform people about Boko Haram," she added.  I’m Phil Dierking.   Chika Oduah wrote this story for VOANews.com. Phil Dierking adapted the story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. Do you know of other schools that stay open despite danges? Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   commissioner - n.  an official who is in charge of a government department or part of a government department​ degree - n. an official document and title that is given to someone who has successfully completed a series of classes at a college or university​ focus - v. to direct your attention or effort at something specific​ motorcycle - n. a vehicle with two wheels that is powered by a motor and that can carry one or two people​ positive - n. thinking about the good qualities of someone or something reflect - v. to cause people to think of someone or something in a specified way​ relax - v.  to become or to cause (something) to become less tense, tight, or stiff​ resilient - adj. able to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens​ sinful - adj.  wrong according to religious or moral law​ survey - n. an act of measuring and examining an area of land​ trench - n. a long, narrow hole that is dug in the ground​

Will Trump-Kim Meeting Go Forward

Sa, 29.05.2018 - 23:57
  The U.S. secretary of state will meet with a top North Korean official later this week to discuss a possible meeting between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea. The planned visit is the latest in a group of diplomatic moves among countries with ties to the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with the vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling party, Kim Yong Chol. Kim is also a former intelligence chief for the North. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports that Kim is expected to travel to New York City on Wednesday. The development followed President Donald Trump’s tweet early Tuesday. The president noted Kim Yong Chol’s visit, calling it a “solid response” to his letter. Trump was referring to a letter he sent last week to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un cancelling a planned meeting in Singapore on June 12. The meeting had been scheduled to permit Trump and Kim to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. On, off, on? After Trump canceled the meeting, North Korean state media have reported on Kim’s “fixed will” that the summit with Trump go forward. And now, the Trump administration says preparations for the summit are continuing. The White House press secretary said officials from both sides held talks Sunday in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “They plan to have additional meetings this week” at the border area of Panmunjom. She added that the “U.S. continues to actively prepare” for the Trump-Kim summit. Trump tweeted, “We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea. Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more.” The Trump administration said that U.S. officials traveled to Singapore on Sunday to plan for the previously planned leaders meeting. South Korean leader to meet with Trump and Kim? The government of South Korean President Moon Jae-in also may be seeking to meet with the U.S. president and North Korean leader in Singapore. A government official in Seoul raised the possibility on Monday. The suggestion follows a surprise meeting between the South Korean president and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Moon said Kim is still committed to “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea requested the meeting between Kim and Moon after the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit. Developments after a weekend of diplomacy In another development, Trump plans to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two leaders spoke by telephone on Monday. In a statement, the administration said the two leaders share the desire to seek the “complete and permanent dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and ballistic missile programs.” U.S. spokeswoman Sanders said Trump will meet with Abe at the White House on June 7. Both leaders are to attend the Group of Seven Economic meeting in Canada on June 8 and 9. On Saturday, Abe traveled to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The leaders discussed four islands in the Pacific that Russia occupies but are claimed by Japan. The dispute over the islands has prevented Japan and Russia from formally signing a peace treaty ending World War II. I’m Mario Ritter.   Steve Herman reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly 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   denuclearization - v. to remove nuclear weapons from a country or place demilitarized zone –n. an area where soldiers and weapons are banned dismantlement –n. the process of taking something apart in an orderly way sanction - n. a measure designed to punish a country for failure to obey international laws or rules  

Strong Demand in Illegal Pangolin Trade Leads Countries to Take Action

Pzt, 28.05.2018 - 23:56
  You may be surprised to learn that the world’s most trafficked endangered mammal is a strange-looking animal. It is the pangolin, also known as the scaly anteater. An adult pangolin can be almost 100 centimeters in length, although the smallest are only about 30 centimeters long. The animal’s body is covered in small, thin scales that help to protect the animal from attack. Pangolins can fight off attackers with their sharp claws. Yet they possess little defense against human attackers. Several years ago, demand for the meat and scales of pangolins was rising in China. It got so high that all eight kinds of pangolin were declared vulnerable or critically endangered. The International Union For Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, is an organization working to protect wild animals and their environment. It claims that pangolins represent as much as 20 percent of all illegal wildlife trade. The IUCN reports that more than a million pangolins were illegally hunted in the 10 years leading up to 2014. Environmental activists and nongovernmental organizations have worked hard to learn all they can about pangolins. An IUCN Species Survival Commission formed a pangolin specialist group in 2012. One hundred experts from 25 countries are a part of the group. Commission members organized a pangolin awareness day each year in February, starting in 2014. It is called World Pangolin Day. Pangolins can be found in parts of Asia, including China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. In Africa, Uganda appears to be a leading supplier of pangolins. Radio Free Asia reports the pangolin trade is highly profitable. Traders can purchase the animals at low prices in Uganda, for example, and then sell them at high prices in Asia. Experts say that most of the illegally bought and sold pangolins are shipped either to China or to Vietnam. In both countries, the animals’ scales are said to be prized for medicinal value. At least one media report noted that some people have worn pangolin scales like jewelry. In addition, pangolin meat is considered a rare, very costly food. In Vietnam, some restaurants serve the meat as their most costly meal. In 2016, an international agency governing wildlife trading worldwide banned illegal hunting, trafficking and sale of pangolins. All 182 member nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species voted to support the ban. Some countries slow to move China’s government has been increasing its efforts to fight the pangolin trade. And on January 1, Vietnam amended its laws to increase prison sentences for illegal wildlife sales. The longest sentence is now 15 years, up from seven years.  But when it comes to the illegal trade of pangolins and rhinoceros horns, Vietnam has been slow to act on its promises. The same has been true of its willingness to enforce the strongest sentences. In 2014, CNN television reported that Vietnam had only a limited ability to deal with rescued pangolins. Activists working to halt the trade and care for captured pangolins had little support, the report said. Hong Kong has also been slow in enacting punishment. There is no scientific evidence to support the belief that pangolin scales have medical uses. Still, many citizens in Hong Kong apparently believe they do. Pangolins’ thick protective scales are made from keratin, the same material that makes up human fingernails. Users heat the animal’s skin in water to remove the scales, then dry and cook them. On March 22, the French news agency Agence France Presse reported that some Hong Kong businesses were still involved in the trade. They were selling pangolins scales, sometimes hidden behind boxes containing other goods. One salesman selling the scales for $108 for only 40 grams claimed that the scales could remove toxic substances. The scales can cost more than $3,000 for just one kilogram. The illegal trade in pangolins is reported to be widespread in Indonesia. Between 2007 and 2015, Indonesian officials seized 31,000 pangolins. Separately, in Malaysia, Thailand, and Uganda, some 21,000 pangolins were reported to have been collected during the same period. Indonesia has declared bans on the hunting and trading of the endangered animals, while threatening severe punishment for violators. But enforcement is a problem, with a lack of money going to control the trade. ​Pangolin publicity problem Endangered pangolins have gained much less international attention than elephants and rhinoceroses. Some experts say these larger animals possess a kind of special appeal lacking in the smaller anteaters. Pangolins are only active at night, making them difficult to observe in the wild. In captivity, pangolins easily fall victim to disease and depression, so they are rarely to be found with other animals in zoos. An exception can be seen in Taiwan, where they have been treated as stars of the animal world. They are taken to zoos, brought back to good health when injured, and returned to the wild when possible. I’m Pete Musto. And I’m Dorothy Gundy.   Dan Southerland first reported this story for Radio Free Asia. Pete Musto adapted his report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. What more can countries do to stop the illegal trade of pangolins? Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   trafficked – adj. bought or sold illegally, especially between countries mammal – n. a type of animal that feeds milk to its young and that usually has hair or fur covering most of its skin scaly – adj. covered with many small thin plates claw(s) – n. a sharp curved part on the toe of an animal, such as a cat or bird vulnerable – adj. easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally species – n. a group of animals or plants that are similar and can produce young animals or plants awareness – n. knowledge that something, such as a situation, condition, or problem, exists horn(s) – n. one of the hard pointed parts that grows on the head of some animals, such as cattle, goats, or sheep fingernail(s) – n. the hard covering at the end of your fingers toxic – adj. containing poisonous substances

Everest Climber Breaks New Record

Cts, 26.05.2018 - 23:56
  The most successful female climber of Mount Everest broke another record in reaching the top of the mountain a ninth time. The climber is Lhakpa Sherpa. She is a 44-year-old single mother who lives in the United States with her three children. She was born in Nepal and has been climbing for many years. Sherpa was guiding about 50 people up the mountain when she completed her latest climb on May 16. This broke her own record for the most climbs of Mount Everest by a woman. Her first successful attempt came in 2000, and she completed her eighth climb last spring. She told the Associated Press the ninth climb was her hardest one yet. She said severe wind and snow forced the group to wait a few days before making their final climb to the top. One member of the group was Sherpa’s brother, Mingma, who operates a mountaineering company in Nepal. “Only two of our clients did not make it, but most of them made it to the top and were happy,” Sherpa reported. Lhakpa Sherpa says she hopes her climbs will inspire women everywhere to keep reaching for their own dreams. “If an uneducated woman who is a single mother can climb Everest nine times, any woman can achieve their dreams.” Sherpa never got the chance to get a full education. She began working at a young age in jobs providing assistance and carrying supplies for Everest climbers. She now works as a dishwasher at a Whole Foods Market in West Hartford, Connecticut. In an interview last month with espnW, Sherpa said she never does much preparation for her Everest climbs. “My training is here...washing dishes, taking out garbage. I want a hard job,” she said. She told the publication that many climbers see Everest not just as a physical test, but also as a spiritual experience.  "We believe Everest is a god,” she said. “The Earth and the mother. Mount Everest and I have a connection. I feel it talking when snow blows on the top of the mountain.” Sherpa told the Associated Press she still feels healthy and fit enough to keep mountaineering for years to come. “People who are 70 years old are still climbing Everest, I am no where there,” she said. She plans to climb the mountain again next year. Nepalese mountaineer Kami Rita holds the record for most completed Everest climbs. The 48-year-old has reached the top of the mountain 22 times. I’m Bryan Lynn.   The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver 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   client – n. someone who pays someone else for services or advice inspire – v. to make someone want to do something or give an idea about what to do or create​ achieve – v. to get or reach something by working hard garbage – n. items that are no longer useful or wanted that have been thrown away challenge – n. a difficult task or problem: something that is hard to do  

New Details of Sunken Treasure Ship Released

Cum, 25.05.2018 - 23:55
  New details about a 300-year-old sunken treasure ship were released this week with permission from groups involved in the search effort, including Colombia’s government. The wreck of the Spanish ship San Jose was discovered in November 2015 with the help of a robotic device, an autonomous underwater vehicle. It is based at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in the United States. The institution reported details of the discovery on Monday. Rob Munier works for WHOI, which is a private, not-for-profit group. He said, “We’ve been holding this under wraps out of respect for the Colombian government.” The exact place where the San Jose went down was a mystery for more than three centuries. It is sometimes called the “holy grail” of shipwrecks. By any measure, the sailing ship was very large in size and the treasure it held. The three-masted ship was carrying gold, silver and jewels when it sank. The San Jose had 62 large guns. But it was sunk on June 8, 1708 with 600 people in a battle with British ships in the War of Spanish Succession. The San Jose may be the largest treasure ship ever found. Some suggest all the valuables could be worth as much as $17 billion. The WHOI was invited to join the search because of its expertise in deep sea exploration. Crews used an autonomous underwater vehicle called the REMUS 6000. It helped find the wreckage of an Air France passenger airplane in 2009. The plane crashed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of kilometers off the coast of Brazil. The REMUS 6000 discovered the wreck of the San Jose in more than 600 meters of water in November 2015. It took sonar images of the ship. The vehicle then got within 9 meters of the wreck to take pictures. Some of these include dolphin engravings on the San Jose’s cannons. Mike Purcell is an engineer for the Woods Hole institution and was a leader in the search effort. He said the wreck is partly covered with sediment. But he said the images were good enough to show identifying markings. Rob Munier received a telephone call from Purcell, but was far from the shipwreck. “It was a pretty strong feeling of gratification to finally find it,” Munier said. “It was a great moment.” However, ownership of the treasure is the subject of legal battles. The Associated Press reports that there are legal cases involving nations and private companies over claims to the shipwreck. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has called on Colombia not to exploit the historic shipwreck for financial gain. Colombia has not signed the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. The treaty requires countries to follow international rules and to inform UNESCO of what will be done with shipwrecks. For now, the San Jose remains at the sea bottom. Where it rests is a state secret for Colombia. I’m Mario Ritter.   Mario Ritter adapted this Associated Press story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   under wraps  –adj. something that is being withheld or hidden for a later time holy grail – (literary) n. something that is greatly desired but is very hard to get mast – n. a tall pole on a sailing ship that supports a sail or sails sonar – n. a device that uses sound waves to find things underwater engravings –n. details that are cut into the surface of wood, stone or metal cannon – n. a large, heavy run sediment – n. material that sinks to the bottom of water forming a layer gratification – n. a feeling of being happy or satisfied with something moment – n. a point in time exploit – v. to use up, often in an unfair way We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

20 Years Later, Indonesia Reflects on Its Democratic Experiment

Per, 24.05.2018 - 23:55
  Indonesia marks its 20th anniversary as a democracy this month. The country won its independence from the Netherlands in 1945. But, for 30 years, the military ruler Suharto led the country. He resigned in 1998 as a result of the Indonesian Reformasi, or reformation. Now, 20 years later, many Indonesians are examining the promises kept and broken during its democratic experiment. The democratic experiment President Suharto, a former army general, seized power in 1965 after his military killed as many as one million suspected communists, opposition supporters and minorities. Suharto helped make the Indonesian government more modern. But he also restricted civil liberties. And he used his power to increase his family wealth by tens of billions of dollars. Suharto resigned on May 21, 1998. The country was in economic and political crisis. There were years of huge protests and riots. Ethnic Chinese became victims of targeted killings and other attacks. Western countries also pressured Suharto to resign in answer to human rights abuses in East Timor. After his resignation, freedom of speech laws were established in Indonesia. This permitted the growth of an independent media.  Conservative Islamists also gained greater power. They formed the Islamic Defenders Front in 1998 and the Indonesian Mujahideen Council in 2000. It supports rule by Islamic law, called sharia. ​Freedom of expression In May of 1998, Indonesian novelist and filmmaker Richard Oh, lived in Pluit, an ethnic-Chinese neighborhood of North Jakarta. He told VOA he remembers seeing trucks of young men destroying homes, and attacking and raping ethnic Chinese women in apartments near his home. Oh later wrote two books based on those events, The Pathfinders of Love and The Heart of the Night.  Oh said the subject of free speech is complex. He said it is not as if there was no freedom of expression under Suharto and total freedom in the democratic era. During Suharto’s rule, Oh said, there was some non-political artistic expression. Now, in his words, “there is the Information and Electronic Transaction Law that could be invoked by anyone. Freedom of expression has also been usurped by intolerance… and, more importantly, disregard for social unity.” ​Growing intolerance Andreas Harsono sees the situation a little differently. While media freedom is not perfect, he says, it has surely improved since the Reformasi. Harsono is a Human Rights Watch researcher, former reporter, and creator of Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists. He also said that civil society is getting stronger. Harsono argues that the biggest issue facing Indonesian democracy is the relationship between Islam and the state of Indonesia. He described it as “problematic.” He added that the Reformasi has not succeeded in ending discriminatory rules and government departments, such as the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Also critics argue that Indonesia has not dealt with many human rights abuses of its recent past. Public discussion of the mass killings of the mid-60s is rare. And, little action has been taken about calls for investigations of that violence. Indonesian human rights activist Maria Sumarish says even current President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, the first non-military president in Indonesia, has not been successful on human rights. “President Jokowi committed to resolve cases of gross human rights violations and to end impunity for them,” she said, adding that there have never been any steps to do this. She also expressed her concern over the appointment of several Suharto allies to important positions in government. ​Still fighting corruption Indonesia may have problems to face 20 years after the Reformasi. However, its “experiment” produced what remains the world’s third-largest democracy today. The country has seen some success in fighting corruption. Just in April, the former speaker of the Indonesian legislature, Setya Novanto, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for stealing money.   Novanto is one of the most powerful Indonesian politicians ever to be found guilty for corruption. Adnan Topan Husodo of Indonesia Corruption Watch called the decision, “a new milestone for anti-corruption efforts in Indonesia.” I’m Phil Dierking.   This story was originally reported by Krithika Varagur for VOANews.com. Phil Dierking adapted the story for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor. How do you feel Indonesia is moving forward since becoming a democracy? Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. _____________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   commit - v. to make (someone or something) obligated to do something​ communist - n. a person who believes in communism or is a member of a political party that supports communism​ disregard - v. to ignore (something) or treat (something) as unimportant​ impunity - n. freedom from punishment, harm, or loss​ intolerant - adj. not willing to allow or accept something​ invoke - v.  to mention (someone or something) in an attempt to make people feel a certain way or have a certain idea in their mind​ milestone - n. an important point in the progress or development of something​ society - n. people in general thought of as living together in organized communities with shared laws, traditions, and values​ usurp - v.  to take and keep (something, such as power) in a forceful or violent way and especially without the right to do so​

Trump Calls Off June 12 Meeting with North Korean Leader

Per, 24.05.2018 - 20:58
  United States President Donald Trump has called off a planned meeting on June 12 with North Korea’s leader in Singapore. In a letter, the Trump administration said the decision was based on the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in recent statements from North Korea. A Trump administration official noted that North Korea’s vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui had insulted U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. The official called the insult the “last straw.” In his letter, President Trump called the cancellation a “missed opportunity” but left open the door to a future meeting. He wrote, “Do not hesitate to call me or write.” Speaking later at the White House, the president called the cancellation a “setback.” He added that South Korea and Japan had been informed and supported the U.S. position. A Trump administration official said, “There is a backdoor that’s open still if the North Koreans are willing to walk through it. But it involves some changing of their rhetoric.” North Korea had threatened to withdraw from the meeting after U.S. officials called for the country to completely dismantle its nuclear program before any concessions are made. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations committee Thursday that the U.S. still seeks “complete” denuclearization of North Korea. North Korea, however, has called for a gradual process that links some concessions to steps that lead to denuclearization. On Tuesday, Trump met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House. After news of the cancellation, a spokesman for President Moon told reporters that officials were “trying to figure out what President Trump’s intention is and the exact meaning of it.” North Korea closes nuclear test area Although the June 12 meeting has been cancelled, North Korea closed down its Punggye-ri nuclear test area on Thursday. The move took place hours before Trump called off the meeting.  South Korea’s government welcomed the developments at the test area. “We are hoping that this action will become the opportunity for complete denuclearization in the future,” a foreign ministry spokesman said. North Korea invited a small group of international reporters from the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Britain to see the closure of the site. At first, the North barred South Korean reporters from the group, but later permitted them to join. Experts say the move to close the site in the country’s northeast is symbolic. All six of the North’s nuclear tests, starting in 2006, were carried out there. But they expressed doubt whether closing the site will seriously reduce North Korea’s ability for further nuclear tests. There were reports that the most recent test in September 2017 caused a tunnel to collapse making part of the area unusable. But experts believe that other tunnels at Punggye-ri remain operational. This year, Kim Jong Un said his country no longer needs to carry out tests because it had reached its nuclear development goals. North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said this month that dismantling Punggye-ri would involve several steps. These would include collapsing all tunnels with explosives, blocking entrances and removing research buildings and security and observation posts. I’m Mario Ritter. Steve Herman reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional material from VOA’s Brian Padden. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor. _____________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   tremendous –adj. very great hesitate –v. to be unwilling to do something because of doubt rhetoric –n. language used to influence people that might not be completely honest or reasonable dismantle –v. to take apart in an orderly way concessions –n. things that are permitted or given up in order to reach a deal gradual –adj. moving or changing in small steps over a long period of time figure out –v. to understand something by thinking intention –n. a plan to reach a goal or purpose denuclearization - v. to remove nuclear weapons from a country or place We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

Russians Downed Malaysia Passenger Plane in 2014

Per, 24.05.2018 - 20:50
  The chief lawyer of a Dutch-led team of international investigators said the missile and launcher used to shoot down a Malaysian Airlines plane over eastern Ukraine in July of 2014 came from the Russian military.  The long-running investigation had already had decided that a Russian-made Buk antiaircraft missile downed Flight 17. On Tuesday, the team announced that the launcher belonged to Russia's 53rd anti-aircraft brigade. The announcement opens the possibility that the Dutch could sue the Russians for the attack that killed all 298 people on board. The Russian Defense Ministry rejected the findings of the investigative team. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov questioned the fairness of the investigation. “The investigation team had two main sources – the Internet and the Ukrainian special services," he said, adding that these two sources “cannot help but cause doubts." Blaming Russia for the deaths of the European tourists on their way to Kuala Lumpur and bringing criminal charges against the Russian military or Russia’s government probably would worsen problems between the Kremlin and the West. After the attack on July 17, 2014, the West brought strong sanctions against Russia. The Kremlin has always denied involvement in the incident Since then, the Kremlin has argued with Europe and the United States over issues such as Russia’s support for the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, the attempt to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the poisoning in March of a former Russian spy in Britain. The investigative team “has come to the conclusion that the Buk TELAR by which MH17 was downed originated from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade from Kursk, in the Russian Federation,” said Wilbert Paulissen, the head of the criminal division of the Netherlands’ national police. He added that the convoy carrying the missile was a part of the Russian armed forces. However, the team allowed for the possibility that the missile could have been fired by another party.  Konashenkov said no Russian missile launchers had ever been sent to the Ukraine to aid anti-Western rebels. Rebel leaders said at the time that they were receiving military assistance from Russia. Investigators have been working hard to find out if Russian troops shot the missile or if it was Ukrainian rebels to whom the antiaircraft system had been given. The missile system is technically complex, and Western experts have said they do not believe the rebels would have had the technical expertise to target the plane. The team said Thursday that the Buk missile system was brought to the Ukrainian shortly before the attack and went back to Russia shortly afterward. Paulissen added that the investigators had “evidence that will stand in a courtroom.” At the time of the attack, the battlefield in eastern Ukraine was filled with different armed groups. That spring, separatist fighters opposed to a new pro-Western government in Kiev seized control of territory in Ukraine’s industrial east. They were operating with Russian support, and Western journalists saw some Russian troops moving into eastern Ukraine that summer. The Russian government has long denied involvement in the conflict. Vladi­mir Chizhov, Russian ambassador to the European Union, also dismissed the findings Thursday, saying, “This is an old story that was thrown into the informational environment back then, in 2014,” Interfax reported. Rebels in eastern Ukraine on Thursday also denied possessing Russian weapons systems, Interfax reported, citing Eduard Basurin, a rebel official. Flight 17 took off from Amsterdam and passed over eastern Ukraine on its way to Kuala Lumpur. In video footage from immediately after it was shot down, rebel fighters can be seen gathering in fields where most of the fuselage fell, celebrating what they thought was the downing of a Ukrainian military plane. Their celebration turned to worry when they realized it was a passenger jet. The investigators on Thursday offered only open-source video and photographic evidence to support their decision that the missile came from a Russian military antiaircraft system. Some of the evidence already had been reported by the Bellingcat research group. But the international investigative team said that the decision was their own. They also said they had had additional information to back their decision, but would only release it in a courtroom. Of the 298 people killed, 196 were Dutch, 42 were Malaysian and 27 were Australians. The victims were among more than 30 nationalities. Dutch prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said the team is beginning the last part of the investigation. Anybody charged criminally with the plane’s shooting down could face justice in Dutch courts, but it is unlikely that Russia would be willing to extradite citizens to face charges.  Eastern Ukraine remains in the hands of pro-Russian rebels and Western police cannot enter the area. Parts of the plane stretched across many miles of fields and small villages in eastern Ukraine. Bodies decayed in the hot July sun. Dutch-language travel books and card games from the children aboard the flight were spilled across the crash area. I'm Susan Shand. This story was reported by the Associated Press. It was adapted by Susan Shand and edited by Kelly J. Kelly. _____________________________________________________________ Words in this story: sue – v. to use a legal process by which you try to get a court of law to force a person, company, or organization that has treated you unfairly or hurt you in some way to give you something or to do something tourist – n. a person who travels to a place for pleasure sanctions – n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country fuselage – n. the main part of an airplane open-source – adj. material that is available to anyone, not secret extradite – v. to send a person who has been accused of a crime to another state or country for trial decay – v. to be slowly destroyed by

France Worries New US Sanctions on Iran Could Hurt Middle East

Ça, 23.05.2018 - 23:56
  The foreign minister of France has warned that the United States risks more problems in the Middle East if it places new restrictions on Iran. The statement comes after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new policy goals for U.S. dealings with Iran. On Monday, Pompeo described demands for any new nuclear deal  with Iran that includes the United States.  And on Tuesday, the secretary of state promised to bring home American hostages now held in Iran. However, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Inter radio that new sanctions on Iran would not improve dialogue. Instead, he said, new restrictions  would help Iran’s conservatives and weaken President Hassan Rouhani. Le Drian said, “This posture risks endangering the region more.” Pompeo gave what American media  have described as his first major foreign policy address on Monday. In it, he gave a list of nuclear activities that Iran must give up. Among the demands he noted, Pompeo said Iran must give up work on nuclear weapons “in perpetuity” – in other words, forever. He said Iran must stop uranium enrichment and not seek the processing of plutonium. In addition, Iran must provide the United Nations nuclear agency “unqualified access to all sites throughout the country.” Pompeo also said that Iran must stop its support of militant groups in the Middle East. These include Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Palestinian group Hamas, Houthi militias in Yemen and the Taliban in Afghanistan. If Iran meets the new demands, Pompeo said the U.S. was prepared “to support the modernization, reintegration of the Iranian economy into the international economic system.” But if Iran does not change its actions, he warned, the U.S. “will apply unprecedented financial pressure” on Iran. On Tuesday, Pompeo expanded on another demand: that Iran must release all U.S. citizens “as well as citizens of our partners and allies.” The secretary of state added that “the entire United States government is using all possible means to gain the hostages’ release.” Iranian President Rouhani dismissed the new U.S. position in a statement published in Iranian state media on Monday. He said, “Countries have their independence.” U.S. withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal Earlier in May, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal of 2015. The agreement was known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Under the plan, Iran agreed to place limits on its nuclear development in exchange for the removal of many economic restrictions. ​However, Pompeo noted on Monday that although sanctions on Iran were greatly reduced, the country had failed to free American detainees. Pompeo compared the situation to the “frosty relations” between the U.S. and North Korea only a few months ago. However, North Korea recently released three Korean-Americans held in the country. The families of some of the American hostages are worried about the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. They are concerned it will make it harder for their family members to be returned home. The French foreign minister’s warning is similar to comments from other European leaders. France is among the nations that negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Other parties to the deal – Britain, China, Russia and Germany – have expressed a desire to keep the existing agreement in place. I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.   Nike Ching and Chris Hannas reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional material from VOA News. Kelly Jean Kelly 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   dialogue –n. discussion between two or more sides posture –n. an attitude or position a person or group has toward a subject region –n. an area in a country or the world perpetuity –n. a state of continuing without end reintegration –n. a condition of being brought together with others again unprecedented –adj. not happening in the past frosty –adj. cold, frozen  

Irish Voters to Decide Whether to Change Abortion Law

Ça, 23.05.2018 - 23:55
Irish voters will decide on Friday whether to end the country’s ban on abortion in most cases. Voters will be asked in a referendum whether the country’s constitution should be changed to remove current restrictions on abortion. A constitutional amendment banned all abortions in Ireland in 1983. A change was made five years ago to permit abortions only in cases where the mother’s life was in danger. Thousands of Irish women seek abortions each year in Britain, where they are legal. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s government supports lifting current abortion restrictions. If voters agree, the government will propose legislation to change the rules. Varadkar has said the legislation would permit women to have abortions with no restrictions up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy. Recent public opinion studies suggest that there is more support for changing the existing law than for keeping it in place.  Campaigns on both sides of the issue grew intense leading up to the vote. Ireland is a majority Roman Catholic country. The Church opposes abortion. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Varadkar criticized those opposed to abortion for some campaign advertising. His criticism centered on the use of images of people with Down Syndrome. Some ads had suggested that lifting current restrictions would lead to abortions of babies with the genetic disorder. Facebook and Google have moved to restrict or remove ads relating to the vote. The companies said concerns were raised about influence from unknown sources. Lawmaker James Lawless is a technology spokesman for Ireland’s opposition Fianna Fail party. He told the Associated Press that there are no rules for political campaigning on social media in Ireland. “Somebody at the moment can throw any amount of money, from anywhere in the world, with any message - and there’s nothing anybody can do about it,” Lawless said. The issue of social media’s role in elections has been raised in other countries as well. Facebook has admitted that Russian groups bought ads on its service in an effort to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Several European nations have also accused foreign groups of trying to influence elections through social media campaigns.  Craig Dwyer is with Ireland’s Transparent Referendum Initiative. The volunteer group was set up to collect information on ads being used to target Irish Facebook users. Dwyer said the group had collected and examined nearly 900 Facebook ads connected to the referendum. Many were placed by registered lobby groups, and most were inside Ireland. But many others could either not be traced or were from overseas. Dwyer said some were linked to U.S.-based anti-abortion organizations. I’m Bryan Lynn. Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. Mario Ritter 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   referendum – n. election in which people in an area vote for or against an issue of public concern abortion – n. a medical procedure used to end a pregnancy source – n. where something comes from moment – n. a very short period of time lobby – n. an organized group of people who work together to influence government decisions that relate to a particular industry, issue, etc. trace – v. find the origin of something role –n. the part someone or something plays in an activity or a performance  

UN Condemns Collective Expulsions of Migrants From Algeria

Sa, 22.05.2018 - 23:38
  United Nations officials are calling on Algeria to stop the collective expulsions of thousands of migrants. The migrants are mainly from sub-Saharan Africa. The U.N. Human Rights office condemned the expulsion activity as a violation of international human rights law. The U.N. office says Algerian officials carried out at least six mass expulsions of migrants in Oran, Duira and Boufarik between March 8 and April 19. Ravina Shamdasani is a spokesperson for the U.N. agency. She said that raids are reportedly carried out at building industry workplaces and in neighborhoods where migrants live. She said police also stop migrants in the street and detain them. Shamdasani told VOA that Algerian officials are taking the action without any examination or consideration of the individuals. “We are told that people are often just arrested and detained without even checking their documents. Of the 25 people that my colleagues spoke to in Niger, only one said that she actually had her passport checked." Shamdasani said many of the migrants were not permitted to get their belongings before they were expelled. She said some migrants were quickly sent to Niger. Others, she said, have been detained in reportedly inhumane conditions in military bases. “Nigeriens are transferred by bus to Agadez in Niger, while the others are crammed in to big trucks to be transferred to the Nigerien border where they are then abandoned and left to walk for hours in the desert heat." Shamdasani said that the U.N. office has heard statements suggesting that the migrants who remain in Algeria are “very fearful.” Shamdasani added that U.N. observation workers have expressed concern about these collective expulsions to Algerian officials. She would not discuss any answers they might have provided. But she said governments usually claim security issues as a reason for expulsions. Under international human rights law, migrants are not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. They also are not to be arbitrarily deprived of property or documents. The law says migrant returns should be carried out in safe conditions and with respect.  I’m Caty Weaver. Lisa Schlein reported this story for VOA News. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Ashley Thompson was the editor. ___________________________________________________________ Words in this Story sub-Saharan – adj. south of the Sahara Desert cram – v. crowd into a small space abandon – v. to leave without needed protection or care arbitrary – adj. not planned or chosen for a particular reason deprive – v. to take something away from someone or something : to not allow (someone or something) to have or keep (something)

Venezuelan President Wins Second Six-Year Term

Pzt, 21.05.2018 - 23:55
  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro won re-election in a disputed vote on Sunday. The result led his main political opponents to call for another vote to prevent a national crisis. Venezuela’s National Election Council announced that Maduro won nearly 68 percent of the votes Sunday. It said he defeated Henri Falcon by more than 40 points. Falcon accused the Maduro government of buying votes and dirty tricks to increase the number of poor Venezuelans voting. Falcon refused to recognize the results, and said the election “lacks legitimacy.” Falcon told supporters that he will fight on instead of joining others in exile. Third-place finisher Javier Bertucci agreed on the need for new elections. Venezuelan officials say Bertucci won around 11 percent of the vote. He urged the president against being a candidate in a re-vote. Bertucci warned that if Maduro pressed forward, Venezuela would explode before his new six-year term begins in January. International pressures Maduro’s disputed victory is likely to raise international pressure on the Venezuelan leader. On Monday, the United States government announced economic sanctions to punish Venezuela for what officials called its “fraudulent” election. President Donald Trump signed an order that bars Americans from dealing with Venezuela’s oil industry. The European Union and some Latin American countries also warned that the presidential election was not fair. Chilean president Sebastian Pinera, said, “Venezuela’s elections do not meet minimum standards of true democracy.” He added that, “Chile does not recognize these elections.” Panama’s government also said it would not recognize the results. But Cuba and El Salvador, two allies of Venezuela, sent their congratulations on the vote. Venezuela’s economic crisis Maduro called for discussions with his defeated opponents, but he showed no sign of wanting new elections. He told supporters, “It doesn’t faze me when they say I’m a dictator.” The Venezuelan leader promised to repair an economy he says has been damaged by Colombia and the U.S. In the past two years, more than 1 million Venezuelans have fled to neighboring countries as the value of the national currency dropped. Venezuela’s oil production — the source of almost all of its overseas earnings — has collapsed to its lowest level. And U.S. government sanctions have made it impossible for Venezuela to renegotiate its debts. I'm Jonathan Evans.   The Associated Press reported this story. Hai Do adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   legitimacy – n. the state of being lawful or rightful sanction – n. a measure designed to punish a nation for violating international law fraudulent - adj. done to trick someone with the goal of getting something valuable minimum – adj. the lowest level or amount permitted standard – n. a measure or level of quality faze – v. to make someone feel afraid or worried currency – n. paper money; money that a country uses We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

Somali Fishermen Struggle to Compete with Foreign Fishing Boats

Pzt, 21.05.2018 - 23:52
  Each morning, fishermen in the Somali port of Bosaso pull in their catch of tuna, marlin, and other fish. The waters off northern Somalia are some of the richest in Africa. As businesspeople negotiate at the port over the price of fish, the daily catch looks plentiful. But all is not well for the local fishermen. Many are unhappy about larger, foreign boats that enter Somali waters. The locals say they are losing out to the foreign fishers. “Now there is illegal fishing, fish stealing, and so on," explains boat captain Mohammed Elias Abdiqadir. He told VOA that some of the foreign fishing boats come from Iran. "We don’t have a powerful government who can stop these illegal fishermen who are creating problems," said Abdiqadir. Foreign boats in Somali waters have been a problem for years, he added. Some of them operate without the government’s permission. Others buy permits from Somali officials, at times under questionable conditions. From protectors to pirates Ten years ago, Somali fishermen took up arms against foreign boats. The fishermen hoped to retake their waters from the outsiders. But some of the Somalis then became pirates. They attacked and hijacked oil transport and other commercial ships off the Horn of Africa. At one point, Somali pirates were seizing more than 40 ships a year and holding hundreds of sailors as hostages.  An international naval effort has mostly stopped the threat from pirates. Somalia has started to build small local navies, including the Puntland Maritime Police Force, which guards the waters off Bosaso. But neither has been able to clear the area of foreign fishing boats. Abdiqadir says one problem is that the foreign boats are larger and have better technology than the Somali boats, which are mostly small and made from fiberglass. “They fish in the deep ocean, and they have long nets and better tools than us," he said. Somalia's fledgling fish industry But the problems for Somalia's fishing industry do not only lie off the coast. Bosaso's port needs more modern equipment to prepare fish in a clean, healthy environment to export. And there is yet to be a strong, dependable system for exporting Somali fish overseas. A new program by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization may prove helpful to Somalia's fishing industry. Just outside Bosaso, women have been trained to process fish meat into a dried fish product to be sold in inland Somalia. The women work on clean tables, where they cut fresh fish into pieces and let them dry. The bright sun naturally cures and purifies the meat. Local young people catch the fish. The FAO trained them in deep-sea fishing. The organization provided them with larger, better-equipped boats that can reach the most profitable sea creatures. The women are paid with money and fresh fish each day to feed their families. “This job works for me fine because my home is here," explains Daawo Sheikh Mahamoud, who recently started working at the fish processing station. In the past, she said, her children were cared for by neighbors while she worked. But now, she said, "I can take care of them while doing the work in the morning." Australian Michael Savins, a fisheries and boatbuilding expert, designed the program. He says it employs more than 100 people, including fishermen at sea and processors on land. He hopes that number will increase to 500 by the end of this year. The idea, he explains, is to employ local Somalis, and eventually start selling Somali fish internationally. I'm Caty Weaver.   Jason Patinkin wrote this story for VOA News. George Grow adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor. _____________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   captain – n. someone who leads or supervises commercial – adj. related to skills or subjects used in business fiberglass – n. a light and strong structural material net – n. a device for catching fish, birds or other things eventually – adv. ​at some later time: in the end We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.    

Chinese Tourists Fuel Tension in Vietnam

Pzt, 21.05.2018 - 23:48
  A series of incidents involving Chinese tourists in Vietnam has fueled tension despite the countries’ efforts to improve relations. Last week, 14 Chinese tourists passed through immigration in the central Vietnamese province of Khanh Hoa, all wearing the same red-on-white T-shirts. The shirts showed a nine-dash line marking China’s claim to the entire South China Sea. The marking covers area that Vietnam also claims as its own. Vietnam’s immigration officials seized the shirts. And Vietnamese voiced their anger online toward the Chinese tourists. The incident is at least the fourth involving Chinese tourists over the past two years. Trung Nguyen is head of international relations at Ho Chi Minh University of Social Sciences and Humanities. He said, "We can see that the Chinese government might increasingly use civilians as a way to spread their sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, from militia fishermen to uber-nationalist southbound tourists.” A series of incidents China and Vietnam have had a long history of dispute. In the 1970s, the two neighboring countries fought a border war that resulted in many deaths on both sides. Now, the two are involved in a dispute over parts of the South China Sea rich in fisheries, oil and gas. China commands the more powerful armed forces and has militarized small islands in the disputed parts of the sea. VnExpress International is a news website with official permission to operate in Vietnam. It said that in 2016, the city of Da Nang suspended a travel agency because it offered travel services to Chinese visitors who burned Vietnamese money. That same year, China asked Vietnam to investigate whether immigration officials had written profanity into the passport of a Chinese visitor to Ho Chi Minh City. VN Express also said Chinese tour guides have sometimes spread anti-Vietnamese information about history to tour groups. Oh Ei Sun teaches international studies teacher at Singapore Nanyang University. He said people in both countries are influenced by the nationalist traditions in their education. "Of course they would think that those disputed territories unquestionably belong to them and therefore all others are sort of occupiers and should be gotten rid of as soon as possible," Sun said. Still trying to get along Officials from the two countries, however, are trying to get along. China and Vietnam have held defense talks and exchanged state visits. The two ruling Communist parties have also met regularly since 2014. And the two countries depend on each other for economic activities. Adam McCarty is the chief economist with Mekong Economics in Hanoi. He said China sees Vietnam as an economic link to Southeast Asia. Vietnam looks to China as a top trading partner and Chinese tourism to support its service economy. He said, "There will still be some on both sides who are overtly nationalistic and trying to push issues with these silly T-shirts. I think the Vietnamese government (is) not going to be provoked by that.” I’m Phil Dierking.   Ralph Jennings reported this story for VOANews. Phil Dierking adapted the story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. Have you seen tourist try and make political statements while traveling? Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. ______________________________________________________________​ Words in This Story profanity - n.offensive language province - n.  any one of the large parts that some countries are divided into provoke - v. to cause the occurrence of (a feeling or action) sovereignty - n. a country's independent authority and the right to govern itself uber - adj. used to indicate that someone is a great or extreme example of a particular kind of person​

Australia Increases Efforts to Protect Koalas

Paz, 20.05.2018 - 23:57
  Koalas are officially listed as at risk of disappearing in New South Wales, Australia. Now, the state’s government has $34-million plan to protect the beloved animals. Koalas have large, hairy ears. They have especially sharp claws, which help them climb trees. They are marsupials, meaning they carry their babies in an opening of skin on the mother’s stomach. The animals are native to Australia, and are described in many Aboriginal stories of creation. Over the last 20 years, the koala population in New South Wales has fallen by 25 percent. About 36,000 koalas remain. The animals’ numbers have fallen in other parts of Australia, too. As part of its plan, the government of New South Wales is setting aside nearly 25,000 hectares of forest where koalas will be able to breed freely. It will also add more signs to help car drivers avoid koalas that walk into roadways. And, the state will build specially made bridges so that koalas and other wildlife can cross roads while avoiding cars and trucks. Koalas face several threats, including loss of habitat due to land-clearing, dog attacks and heatwaves. A sexually transmitted disease – chlamydia – is also harming koalas’ health. Gabrielle Upton is the environment minister of New South Wales.  She told VOA about her state’s plan to set up a group of wildlife hospitals to treat injured and sick koalas. She also said researchers are testing a vaccine that would protect the koalas against chlamydia. A new koala hospital will open in Port Stephens, north of Sydney. It will join an already existing hospital in the New South Wales town of Port Macquarie, which began treating injured marsupials in the 1970s. Conservationists have welcomed the idea of opening a second hospital. However, they argue that the government's multi-million dollar plan does not deal with the number-one threat to koalas: land-clearing. Koala live in trees. They are herbivores, and need forest environments to survive. I’m Susan Shand.    This story was reported by Phil Mercer for VOA News. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor. _________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   claw – n. a sharp curved part on the toe of an animal Aboriginal – n. native people of Australia habitat – n. the place or type of place where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives or grows breed – v. to produce young animals, birds, etc. : to produce offspring by sexual reproduction transmit – v. to cause (a virus, disease, etc.) to be given to others herbivore - n. an animal that only eats plants  

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