News November 27, 2018 (For English learners)


Scientists are trying to save Puerto Rico’s
endangered Amazon parrots after Hurricane Maria destroyed the birds’ habitats and food
sources. El Yunque is a large national forest on the
eastern part of Puerto Rico. Just two of the 56 wild parrots that once
lived there survived Maria. The Category-4 storm struck Puerto Rico in
September 2017. Scientists report other forests have seen
great drops in parrot populations, as well. In the 1800s, there were more than a million
of the bright green parrots living in the wild in Puerto Rico. By the 1970s, the number was down to just
13 birds after years of forest clearing. The U.S. and Puerto Rican governments launched
a special program in 1972 to help increase the parrot population. That led to the creation of three breeding
centers. Just weeks before Hurricane Maria hit, scientists
counted 56 wild parrots at El Yunque. That was the highest number in the program’s
history. Scientists say that even though several parrots
have been born in captivity and in the wild since Maria, the species is still in danger. Marisel Lopez oversees the parrot recovery
program at El Yunque for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. She says she is worried about the disappearance
of parrots in El Yunque. She said, “It was devastating, after so
many years of having worked on this project.” The Puerto Rican Amazon is the island’s only
remaining native parrot. The birds only reproduce once a year. More than 460 of the birds are kept inside
the breeding centers at El Yunque and the Rio Abajo forest. Scientists have not released any of the birds
since Hurricane Maria. A third breeding center, in a forest in the
western area of Maricao, has not been in operation since the storm. Federal and local scientists plan to meet
next month to discuss how best to bring back the species. Scientists are considering whether to capture
some of the remaining wild parrots and put them in the same cage as the birds that are
set to be released. This way, the captive birds can learn from
the wild birds how to survive in the forests. Another consideration is to release some captive
parrots in Maricao, which was not as heavily damaged by Maria. But first, scientists need to make sure the
forests can offer food and safe shelter for the birds. Jessica Ilse works at El Yunque for the U.S.
Forest Service. She says scientists are studying the amount
of fruit falling from trees and the number of leaves the trees have dropped. Many of the large trees where the parrots
used to build nests are now gone. Without these trees, the parrots could become
easy targets for their predators. Ilse does not know how long the recovery program
will take. She said the damage from Hurricane Maria has
caused “a complete change to the ecosystem.” Gustavo Olivieri works in the parrot recovery
program for Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources. He said, “We have a lot of work to do.” I’m Ashley Thompson. In earlier times, healers and health workers
used strangely-named plants for medicinal purposes. Plants with names such as dragon’s blood,
mandrake root and devil’s snare could be bought at a drugstore called an apothecary. Today, one of the best preserved apothecaries
in the United States has been turned into a museum in Alexandria, Virginia. The museum provides interesting examples of
medicines used before the development of modern drugs. The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary served customers
for more than 140 years, from 1792 to 1933. When the business failed, the store and its
contents were bought. It was redesigned to look as it had in the
18th century. In 1939, it reopened as a museum. Lauren Gleason supervises the museum. “A lot of the medicines that people would
have been purchasing here were probably for minor ailments, rashes, skin conditions, the
flu, a headache.” The apothecary has many thousands of objects. Some seem strange now, like the bloodletting
tools. They were used to take blood from patients
in hopes of removing their sickness as well. The treatment was often harmful, however,
and ended in the late 19th century. Many famous people visited the apothecary
while it was still a business, including America’s first president. George Washington and his wife Martha lived
nearby in the early 1800s at their home of Mount Vernon. But the apothecary had more than medicine. “Lots of other chemicals like paints, dyes
and perfumes, would have been made and sold here.” And, she said, customers could also buy baby
bottles, writing instruments, and even clothes-making machines at the store. One bottle at the store holds a poison that
was once used to ease pain. The drug called aconite comes from the wolfsbane
plant. In earlier times, wolfsbane was thought to
help control violence by imaginary creatures known as werewolves. In folklore, a werewolf is a human that changes
into a wolf during full moons. Jim Williams works at the apothecary. “So if you’re having werewolf trouble, it
will get you through to the next full moon.” Williams added that wolfsbane would also be
used to treat pain in human joints. Visitor Christine Zapata from California said
she was especially interested in the former store’s different plants. “Using all these different herbs and plant-based
medicines that are coming back now, for me that’s most interesting for me since I work
in the cannabis industry.” One box at the apothecary used to contain
bottles of Coca-Cola. The drinks were first sold in the late 1800s
as medicine believed to cure conditions like tiredness and headaches. However, Coca-Cola at that time contained
the drug cocaine and could be addictive. Some treatments fell into disuse after it
became known they were poisonous. But we continue to depend on many medicines
found in the apothecary to heal injuries and cure disease. I’m Jonathan Evans. The United States Capitol is one of the most
famous buildings in Washington. The Capitol building is also one of the best-known
symbols of the U.S. government. And it has been around for almost as long. The country’s first president, George Washington,
set the cornerstone for the building in 1793. At the time, the country’s government was
only about five years old. And the capital city was Philadelphia, in
Pennsylvania. But national leaders were preparing to move
the capital to the District of Columbia. They identified a hill on which to build a
new home for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The area around it was mostly grass, trees
and water – in other words, a swamp. But the country’s leaders imagined that
one day it would be crowded with people and buildings. And they were right. Yet efforts to set up the Capitol building
were slow. Several architects were asked to work on the
project and later dismissed. The design of the building kept changing. Finally, lawmakers began meeting in one side
in 1800, and in the other side in 1807. They passed from one side to the other on
a wooden walkway. Then, in 1814, British troops set fire to
the Capitol building. Only rain from an unexpected storm put out
the fire. After the war with the British ended, workers
made repairs and began to improve the building. They enclosed the center of the Capitol and
added a dome on top. It was made of wood and covered in copper. For some years, improvements to the Capitol
were small: running water, then gas lighting. But major changes to the country were taking
place. New states were joining. The United States was expanding. And more lawmakers needed to meet in the Capitol. By 1850, lawmakers agreed that the building
was too small. Architects and builders set to work again. In time, they would double the length of the
two sides of the Capitol. But the increase caused a new problem: now
the dome looked too small. However, the nation was facing more serious
troubles. The southern states were threatening to withdraw
from the Union. They objected to the power of the federal
government, especially its efforts to control – or end – slavery. By 1861, the country was fighting a civil
war. Most work on the Capitol came to a stop. At times during the Civil War, the building
served as a place for soldiers to sleep, a hospital, and even a place where baked goods
were made. But even before the war ended, then-President
Abraham Lincoln urged that improvements to the Capitol be finished. He reportedly said if people saw work continue
on the Capitol, they would accept that the Union would go on. In 1863, a formerly enslaved man helped add
a statue to the top of the new dome. Philip Reid was one of many enslaved workers
who had built the Capitol. Over the years, they dug the stone, cut pieces
of wood, and laid down the bricks, among other jobs. Reid was an expert in shaping metal. He was able to solve the problem of how to
get a large statue out of its plaster cast so it could be forged. The figure, called the Statue of Freedom,
still stands on top of the Capitol’s white, iron dome. The Civil War ended in 1865. As Lincoln hoped, the Union continued. And the Capitol building was slowly modernized. Elevators, electric lighting, and more rooms
were added. In the 20th century, the Capitol was equipped
with televisions, computers, and a voting machine. And a large visitor center was added so the
public can learn more about its history. Today, the area around the Capitol is completely
different than it was in 1793. Washington, D.C. is now a major city. And other government buildings stand near
the Capitol. They include the U.S. Supreme Court, the Library
of Congress, and even the Voice of America. But the Capitol remains the seat of U.S. lawmaking,
and a well-known symbol of the federal government. I’m Kelly Jean Kelly. This may seem impossible, but an American
company is seeking to change farm animals by cutting or adding to their genes. By using a process called gene-editing, the
company, Recombinetics, says it may be able to remove problem-causing genetic traits from
some animals. Recombinetics says it can produce cows born
without horns — those sharp objects on top of their heads. By using the editing process, the company
says it can also breedcows that survive in hot weather. With gene-cutting, it says, pigs could live
and never fully grow up. Why would that be a good idea? When male pigs reach puberty, their meat can
have an unpleasant smell. The company must first persuade United States
government officials that gene-edited animals are safe, and no different than ones bred
the traditional way. To date, no gene-edited animals are sold in
the country. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has
approved a kind of salmon genetically engineered to grow fast, but those fish are not yet available. There has been debate as to whether people
would want to eat food that comes from gene-edited animals. Last month, the FDA announced an action plan
that described the steps it will take to support both plant and animal biotechnology, while
safeguarding public health. To make this technology more acceptable, Recombinetics
is not yet changing animals’ genes to greatly increase their growth or productivity. That could make the animals seem too strange
to people. Instead, the company says it is adding gene-edited
traits to ease animals’ suffering. “It’s a better story to tell,” Tammy
Lee told the Associated Press. She is chief executive officer of the company,
based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Cow horns can hurt other cows, animals and
people. Animal rights activists criticize the way
farmers currently remove cow horns. They use hot irons or a caustic, burning substance
to remove the bone. Gene-editing This is how Recombinetics says gene-editing
works: In a laboratory, workers use an instrument called a “molecular pencil” to “erase,
or cut, re-write, remove, or add genes.” This newly edited gene then would be included
when an animal is impregnated. Recombinetics solves the cow horn problem
by cutting out the gene for growing horns, ending the need for painful removals. Once the gene is taken out, all future generations
after that first animal will also lack the gene — and would not develop horns. Last year, the company had a gene-edited male
cow without horns. It fathered several cows. They were also all born hornless and are being
raised on the grounds of the University of California, Davis. When the female offspring grow up and begin
producing milk, the milk will be tested for any problems. Recombinetics is also developing cows that
are less likely to suffer in high temperatures, so they can live in hotter climates. When it comes to raising pigs for their meat,
Recombinetics is working with ones that will not go through puberty. When male pigs go through puberty, their meat
can develop an unpleasant smell. Currently, farmers castrate the males, removing
their sex organs. Animal rights activists say the treatment
is painful because it is usually done without medicine to kill the pain. Editing genes to stop pigs from experiencing
puberty would make castration unnecessary. The company says that it is doing the work
of traditional animal breeders, only much faster and with the exact science of cutting
and editing genes. Recombinetics’ Tammy Lee said she thinks
if the public accepts gene-editing, farmers would be interested in traits that increase
productivity in the animals. For example, she said, pigs would edited to
have larger number of babies for each pregnancy. Change the animal or change the system? Critics question whether using this technology
is “playing God,” doing something that is not natural. Paul Thompson is a professor of agriculture
at Michigan State University. He told the Associated Press that gene-editing
may serve as evidence of how modern food production already treats animals. Thompson said there has been a debate for
at least 20 years, “of whether you need to change the animal or change the system.” Support for changing the genes may also depend
on how the technology is used. For example, will it be used to help the animals,
prevent disease, or increase productivity? A Pew Research Center study last August found
43 percent of Americans supported genetically engineering animals for more nutritious meat. The Humane Society of the United States works
for better treatment of animals. The society supports gene-editing to end castration
of pigs and removing cows’ horns. But the group has yet to give the technology
its complete approval. I’m Anne Ball. For almost 200 years, the House of Representatives
– part of the United States Congress – has barred lawmakers from wearing hats. But this year, voters in Minnesota elected
Ilhan Omar to represent them in the House. Omar, who was born in Somalia and is Muslim,
wears a scarf that covers her head. In answer, some political leaders are calling
for a change to the rules so that lawmakers can wear religious headwear during official
meetings. The proposed change would enable Omar to wear
a headscarf on the House floor. It would also permit lawmakers to wear other
kinds of religious headwear, such as kippahs. But it is unclear whether any current lawmaker
would do so. The reason for the ban on hats is mostly related
to ideas about respectful behavior. Currently, the rule appears alongside bans
on smoking or using small computers, such as iPhones, while lawmakers are meeting publicly. But Democratic Party lawmakers have suggested
a proposal to permit religious headwear. Nancy Pelosi and Jim McGovern were two of
the writers of the proposal. They noted to NBC News that this year, voters
had elected the most diverse Congress in history. McGovern added the amended headwear rule would
permit lawmakers to do their jobs, regardless of their religious beliefs. The Washington Post newspaper notes that the
headwear proposal also denounces some of the anti-Muslim language heard in several election
campaigns. The Postadded, “It is also notable coming
at a time when several U.S. allies in Europe are adopting countrywide bans on face veils.” I’m Kelly Jean Kelly. Mexico has begun taking steps to increase
security near its border with the United States. Mexican officials announced Sunday that police
arrested 39 people after a peaceful march turned violent. The march was called to protest long processing
delays for immigrants seeking asylum in the United States. The violence began when a group of migrants
broke away from the protesters and attempted to cross the border. U.S. border agents reacted by firing tear
gas into Mexico. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen
Nielsen said Customs and Border Patrol agents were struck by objects thrown by members of
the group. The agency said that officers decided to use
the tear gas “because of the risk to agents’ safety.” Mexico’s Interior Ministry said that officials
were able to contain a group of about 500 people who “violently” tried to cross
the border. The ministry said that those found to have
taken part in the violence would be expelled immediately. About 5,000 Central American migrants have
been staying at a sports center in Tijuana for more than a week. Many are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Most say they are trying to escape poverty
and violence in their homelands. After the violence, Lurbin Sarmiento of Honduras
walked back to the sports center with her four-year-old daughter. Sarmiento said she had been near the bottom
of the Tijuana River when U.S. agents fired tear gas. She told the Associated Press, “We ran,
but the smoke always reached us and my daughter was choking.” She said she never would have gotten that
close with her daughter if she thought there would be tear gas. The wind carried some of the gas toward hundreds
of migrants after some tried to get through the wire and fencing separating the two countries. U.S. officials closed the border crossing
at San Ysidro for several hours at the end of last week. On Friday, Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum
declared a humanitarian crisis in his city, which is home to 1.6 million people. He said that Tijuana is struggling to shelter
the large number of migrants. Irineo Mujica has traveled with the migrants
for weeks as a representative of the aid group Pueblo Sin Fronteras. He said the aim of Sunday’s march was to
make the migrants’ suffering more visible to U.S. and Mexican officials. “We can’t have all these people here,”
he said. On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump expressed
his displeasure with the group of migrants who traveled through Mexico to the border. He also made new arguments for his promised
border wall. He wrote on Twitter, “Mexico should move
the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries. Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway
you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need
be. Congress, fund the WALL!” Trump has repeatedly suggested without evidence
that the group of migrants is filled with criminals. But The Associated Press reports that many
are poor people with few belongings who have fled violence in their home countries. During his presidential election campaign,
Trump promised he would have Mexico pay for the wall. Mexico’s Interior Ministry reported on Sunday
that the country has sent 11,000 Central Americans back to their countries since October 19. That was when the first of the two recent
large migrant groups entered the country. Mexico will likely send a total of around
100,000 Central Americans back home by the end of this year. A new U.S. government report says climate
change is affecting the United States. It warns that the danger of destructive weather
events — from powerful storms to extremely dry weather and wildfires — is worsening. Some findings are in conflict with the statements
and policies of President Donald Trump. The report, called the Fourth National Climate
Assessment, was released on November 23. It was written long before the deadly fires
in California this month and before Hurricanes Florence and Michael struck the East Coast. The report noted that new U.S. records for
destructive weather have been set in recent years. Weather-related damage has cost nearly $400
billion since 2015, The Associated Press reported. The climate assessment is required by law
every few years. It was based on more than 1,000 earlier research
studies. More than 300 researchers in 13 U.S. government
offices and agencies prepared the report. It explains how the burning of coal, oil and
natural gas is affecting different areas of the country and how this affects the U.S.
economy, including energy and agriculture. The report noted that temperatures in the
Lower 48 states have risen 1 degree Celsius since the year 1900. By the end of the 21st century, the country
will be 1.6 to 6.6 degrees higher, depending on how much pollution is released into the
atmosphere. Studies have linked the temperature increase
to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The climate assessment warned of longer and
more powerful disasters resulting, at least in part, from rising temperatures. It said weather disasters are becoming more
commonplace and warned that without aggressive action, they could become much worse. The report avoids proposing policy changes. But it said that people must take steps to
stop future weather disasters “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment,
and human health and well-being over the coming decades.” “Future risks from climate change depend
primarily on decisions made today,” the report said. The Trump administration is downplaying the
importance of the findings. It says the report was largely based on “the
most extreme scenario” and fails to consider new technology and other actions that could
reduce carbon emissions and the effects of climate change. A White House spokeswoman noted that, since
2005, carbon dioxide emissionsrelated to energy production in the United States have dropped
14 percent. Yet emissions worldwide continue to rise. The Trump administration has eased enforcement
of several environmental rules enacted during the presidency of Barack Obama. The administration also has a campaign for
the production of fossil fuels like coal. Last year, President Trump announced plans
to withdraw the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement. He said the agreement would hurt the U.S.
economy and said there was little evidence it would improve the environment. The measure, signed by nearly 200 countries,
sets rules for fighting climate change. I’m Alice Bryant. From VOA Learning English, this is the Health
& Lifestyle report. Most of us know that physical activity leads
to better health. That is nothing new. But for the first time in 10 years, the United
States government has changed its guidance on how much exercise people need to stay healthy
and when they should start. Brett Giroir is Assistant Secretary for Health
at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In a video, he spoke with the Associated Press
about the new guidelines. Dr. Giroir says he is excited about the new
guidelines. He adds that getting or attaining the health
benefits from exercise may be easier than earlier thought. “I’m very excited about the guidelines
because what we’ve found out is that it’s actually easier to attain the health benefits
than we thought before. And the health benefits are so much greater.” That is good news for people in the U.S. who
may need to lose weight. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
reports that in 2016 about 93 million adults nationwide were overweight or considered obese. Its website notes that obesity rates for both
adults and children have been rising since 1999. The new federal guidance states that children
as young as 3-years-old need to be physically active. Earlier guidelines used to begin at age 6. Dr. Girior says that the most important time
for children to begin exercising is between the ages of 3 and 5. He notes that boys and girls in this age group
need at least three hours of activity every day. “That was not present in our previous guidelines. But essentially, those recommendations are
that children in the 3- to 5-year-old age group really require about three hours of
active activities per day. That could be light activities, moderate activities,
or even vigorous activities. This is the kind of play that children normally
engage in.” Doctors say it is important to start young. They add that from birth to age 5, a child’s
brain develops more than at any other time in life. These developments have a lasting effect on
a child’s ability to learn and to succeed in school and in life. Also, Giroir says that children who start
exercising at a young age are more likely to establish healthy behaviors they will continue
into adulthood. Dr. Giroir does not suggest putting your 5-year-old
on a “treadmill” or other exercise equipment. He said, simply giving a child the time and
space to play actively as they normally would is enough. The new guidelines say that children ages
6 through 17 get at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity a day. Most of this activity should be aerobic exercise,
such as biking, swimming or running. Aerobic activity can strengthen the heart
and lungs by making them work hard for several minutes or more. Exercise should also include muscle- and bone-strengthening
activities, such as climbing trees or playground equipment and playing sports. Experts suggest that children get this kind
of exercise at least three times a week. For adults, the suggested length of time for
exercise remains the same. “So for adults, the guidelines recommend
150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical
activity. That could be brisk walking; it could mowing
the lawn; it could be gardening; it could be dancing … any kind of activity that gets
your heart rate up and gets you exercising moderately.” The federal government has changed its guidance
for the amount of aerobic exercise adults should have. Earlier guidelines stated that aerobic activity
is only effective if it lasts for at least 10 minutes. Experts now say that even short amounts of
aerobics can help. It can provide short-term health benefits,
such as lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety and improving sleep. They also think adults need at least two days
of muscle-strengthening exercise like pushups or lifting weights. The advice for older adults remains mostly
unchanged from earlier federal guidelines. However, those over age 65 should include
activities that help aid balance and flexibility. Better balance means fewer falls and less
chance of injury. The new guidelines have changed nothing about
the dangers of sitting too much. It is especially harmful and can even undo
the benefits of exercise you may have gained. And that’s the Health & Lifestyle report. I’m Anna Matteo. The website Dictionary.com has chosen the
term ‘misinformation’ as its word of the year. The announcement comes less than two weeks
after Oxford Dictionaries chose ‘toxic’ as its word of the year. Many people mix up the meaning of misinformation
with the word disinformation. They sometimes use one term in place of the
other. Dictionary.com defines misinformation as “false
information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” And it describes disinformation as “deliberately
misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.” So what’s the difference? Officials at Dictionary.com say it comes down
to what the writer or speaker actually means. They say that “when people spread misinformation,
they often believe the information they are sharing.” But disinformation is often shared with the
goal of misleading others. For example, if people share information that
they know to be false in a story or a picture, that is disinformation. Jane Solomon is a language expert with Dictionary.com. She told VOA that the choice of misinformation,
instead of disinformation, was done for a reason. She said, “disinformation is a word that
looks outside of ourselves. You can point a finger at someone who is spreading
this disinformation.” As for misinformation, “there is a quality
of looking inward and it helps us evaluateour own behavior” to fight against the spread
of misinformation. The word misinformation has been used since
the late 1500s. But Solomon said the word was chosen this
year because it also “ties to a lot of events that are happening in 2018.” In Myanmar, misinformation, like hate speech
and propaganda, fueled violence against Rohingya Muslims. And there were riots in Sri Lanka after stories
that proved false set the country’s Buddhist majority against Muslims. The disappearance and reported killing of
Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi fueled misinformation about him and his fiancée. And stories about Brazil’s recent presidential
election were filled with misinformation, everything from incorrect voting times to
false campaign promises. Facebook and other social media websites have
published misinformation, including images of police arresting immigrants and long lines
at voting stations in the United States. They also posted incorrect voting hours and
false voting requirements before the November 6 elections. Liz McMillan is head of Dictionary.com. She noted that the online publisher has chosen
words like identity in 2015, xenophobia in 2016, and complicit
in 2017.

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