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Obama’s Decision to Support Same-Sex Marriage

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

This week, President Obama said he now supports same-sex marriage.

BARACK OBAMA: “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

He became the first sitting American president to express that opinion. Earlier he had said his thinking on the issue was “evolving.”

Reaction in Congress was mixed. Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the minority Democrats in the House of Representatives, welcomed the news.

NANCY PELOSI: “America’s children and families and workers saw history being made right before their very eyes: the president of the United States advancing civil rights in our country.”

But Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans in the House said the president was sending the wrong message at the wrong time.

JOHN BOEHNER: “I believe that marriage is the union between one man and one woman. And the president, the Democrats can talk about all this all they want. But, the fact is, the American people are focused on our economy, and they are asking the question: where are the jobs?”

House Republicans are leading a court case against the administration for not defending a federal law called the Defense of Marriage Act. That nineteen ninety-six law defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

In the Senate, Republicans did not say much about the president’s announcement. Instead, they stressed the need for jobs. Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would support same-sex marriage if the issue were put to voters in his home state of Nevada.

Mr. Obama received strong support from politically influential gays and lesbians in the two thousand eight campaign. His re-election campaign says donations from both groups have greatly increased since his announcement.

Mitt Romney, the likely Republican presidential candidate, opposes same-sex marriage.

MITT ROMNEY: “My view is that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman, and that is the position I have had for some time and I don’t intend to make any adjustments at this point.”

Support for same-sex marriage has grown in recent years, especially among younger people. A recent Gallup public opinion survey suggested that Americans are now evenly split on the issue. Gallup first asked the question in nineteen ninety-six. That year only twenty-seven percent of people said they supported same-sex marriage.

The president’s position on the issue gained new attention after a TV appearance Sunday by Vice President Joe Biden. He was on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

JOE BIDEN: “I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying one another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.”

President Obama announced the change in his thinking on ABC News on Wednesday.

BARACK OBAMA: “At a certain point, I just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

He noted his success at ending the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and his opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act.

But Mr. Obama said he still supports the right of individual states to decide the marriage issue. He spoke a day after a large majority of voters in North Carolina approved a state constitutional ban on homosexual marriage. North Carolina became the thirtieth state to pass such an amendment. The ban also includes civil unions and domestic partnerships.

Currently, six of the fifty states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry. Nine states allow civil unions or provide rights under domestic partnership laws.

And that’s IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.


Contributing: Michael Bowman, Marissa Melton, Dan Robinson and Cindy Saine

By |May 14th, 2012|Fairy Tales|0 Comments

Event Aims to Build Interest in Science, Engineering

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This is the VOA Special English Technology Report.

Last week we reported on Microsoft Corporation’s Imagine Cup finals in the United States. Team FlashFood from Arizona State University won top honors at the event. Its mobile application and website lets hotels, restaurants and farmers markets donate food to people who need it.

The FlashFood project grew out of the Engineering Projects in Community Service program at Arizona State. The director of the program, Richard Filley, says the project has far-reaching possibilities. Mr. Filley plans to work with the team to decide what changes are necessary to make the project successful in other countries. For example, he notes a method of saving uneaten food, commonly called a doggie bag.

RICHARD FILLEY: “After you’ve gone to a restaurant, if you don’t eat all the food you take what’s left over and put it in what’s called a doggie bag. You take it home. You may feed it to the dog or you may eat it. Would those cultures in those different countries be open to the idea of taking leftover food and using FlashFood to connect with people who are hungry? We don’t know the answer to that yet.”

The Microsoft Imagine Cup competition is now in its tenth year. Mark Hindsbo is a vice president with Microsoft. He says students today have a lot of technology available to help with their projects.

MARK HINDSBO: “In the beginning people were building almost everything from scratch. We have built a lot of things in the industry over those ten years.”

Mr. Hindsbo says many of the software applications needed to complete such projects already exist. He offers Team FlashFood as a good example.

MARK HINDSBO: “The fact that they can build on the assumption that there are smartphones in the hands of most of the people that they need to coordinate with, there’s an online service with mapping and turn by turn direction.”

The Microsoft official says solving world problems is a major goal of the Imagine Cup competition. But, he adds, there is another goal that is equally important.

MARK HINDSBO: “In the U.S. alone we have probably around a million jobs that risk being unfilled over the next five years within the software and tech sector because we don’t have enough students. So when you look at the pipeline in science, technology engineering and math we come up way short.”

Mark Hindbro says he welcomes any efforts to increase interest in these areas of study.

A team from Drexel University also was a winner at the Imagine Cup finals in the United States. The Drexel Dragons designed a game to help students better understand mathematics. The Dr. Fishbowl team from Carnegie Melon University designed a game that teaches about sustainability, byproducts and waste.

Team FlashFood will represent the United States at the Imagine Cup worldwide finals in Sydney, Australia. The event takes place July sixth through the tenth. And that’s the VOA Special English Technology Report. I’m Faith Lapidus.


Contributing: June Simms

By |May 9th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

American History: Hurricane Katrina, Iraq and the Great Recession

STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember. This week in our series, we continue the story of the presidency of George W. Bush.


George W. Bush began his second term — and fifth year in office — in January two thousand five.

Early in his first term, terrorists had carried out the worst attacks in United States history. President Bush declared a war on terror and led the country into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In his second inaugural address, he promised to continue fighting to defeat terrorism and increase democracy around the world.

GEORGE W. BUSH: “So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

He also talked about his goals at home and what he called America’s ideal of freedom.

GEORGE W. BUSH: “In America’s ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence. This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the GI Bill of Rights…

“We will widen the ownership of homes and businesses, retirement savings, and health insurance, preparing our people for the challenges of life in a free society. By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear and make our society more prosperous and just and equal.”

The United States Constitution limits presidents to two terms. Presidential historian Russell Riley at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center says presidents traditionally use their first term to focus on their major goals for the country.

Second terms, he says, “tend to be unhappy times.”

During his second term, Richard Nixon resigned over the attempt to hide political wrongdoing in the Watergate case. Bill Clinton faced a trial in the Senate over his attempt to hide a relationship with a young aide.

But the first major problem of George Bush’s second term dropped from the sky.


SUSAN BENNETT: “You saw people on the rooftops. You saw people using claw hammers trying to break through their attic to get up onto their roof. That’s why you had so many people who drowned.”

In August of two thousand five, Susan Bennett received a phone call from her daughter, a television reporter in New Orleans, Louisiana.

SUSAN BENNETT: “She called, on a Friday, and said, ‘I think you need to come pick up my son, because there’s a really big storm coming.'”


It was Hurricane Katrina — one of the worst natural disasters in American history. Along the Gulf of Mexico the hardest hit states were Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Over one thousand eight hundred people died. Property damage totaled more than seventy-five billion dollars.

But Katrina will be remembered mostly because of what happened in New Orleans.


Thousands of people gathered at the New Orleans Superdome sports center before the storm


Thousands of people gathered at the New Orleans Superdome sports center before the stormA day before the storm hit, officials had ordered everyone to leave the city. But thousands of people stayed. Some chose not to leave. Others were too poor, too old or too sick to go.

Then, the levees broke.


Those flood barriers were supposed to protect the city. Much of New Orleans was built on land that lies below sea level.


As Katrina hit, more than eighty percent of the city flooded. In some areas, the water was six meters deep.

Many people who stayed were caught in the floods.

Officials struggled to get food, water and medicine to the survivors. The displaced included thousands of people who took shelter in the Superdome, a big sports arena.

Out on the streets, lawless acts fed a sense of disorder and helplessness.

WOMAN: “It’s disgusting and frustrating. And we are human beings, and they’re treating us like we’re criminals.”

GROUP OF PEOPLE SHOUTING: “We want help! We want help! Help us!”

Susan Bennett helped create an exhibit about Hurricane Katrina at the Newseum, a museum of news in Washington.

SUSAN BENNETT: “Not only in this country, but also in newspapers across the world, you saw the same headline. It ranged from ‘Engulfed’ to ‘Our Tsunami.’ ‘Chaos.’ And then it went to ‘Anarchy,’ ‘National Disgrace.'”

Congress later found that officials at every level of government — local, state and federal — had failed in doing their jobs.


President Bush looks out the window of Air Force One over New Orleans, to inspect the damage from Hurricane Katrina


President Bush looks out the window of Air Force One over New Orleans, to inspect the damage from Hurricane KatrinaPresident Bush flew over New Orleans to inspect the damage. A photograph showed him looking out the window of Air Force One at the ground below. Russell Riley at the University of Virginia says the picture expressed what many people were thinking about the handling of the disaster.

RUSSELL RILEY: “Because of the ineffectiveness of the government response at the time, that image communicated to the American people that the president was remote. That he wasn’t on the ground. That the best he could do was just look out the window of a passing plane.”

In two thousand five a different kind of storm was hitting Iraq. American and Iraqi officials were struggling to create a democratic government. Local militias were on the rise and attacking coalition forces and other Iraqis.

The violence also included al-Qaida suicide bombings in Iraq, which angered many Iraqis. And there was international anger as the result of photos that showed American troops abusing Iraqi prisoners.

President Bush had declared the end of major combat operations on May first, two thousand three. That was less than two months after the invasion. But the numbers of civilian and military deaths were growing. And, in the United States, surveys were showing that a growing number of Americans thought going into Iraq was a mistake.

JUDITH YAPHE: “The bad news was we were uncomfortable with it, and we wanted to get out, and we could not understand how things could go so terribly wrong.”

Judith Yaphe joined the National Defense University after twenty years as a Middle East expert at the Central Intelligence Agency.

JUDITH YAPHE: “That’s where the lack of strategy and the mismanagement come in. But I think it’s also true that, you know, Americans just wanted to say, ‘Why are we in Iraq? Why are we in any of these places?’ Because, historically speaking, it’s not a role we’ve been comfortable with.”

She says by President Bush’s second term, few Iraqis wanted to cooperate with the Americans to make the country more secure. But President Bush said American troops could not leave until Iraqi forces replaced them.


In two thousand six, an Iraqi court sentenced the country’s former leader to death. Saddam Hussein was hanged for crimes against humanity. But nothing else seemed to change — violence and insurgent attacks continued.

Iraq seemed to be on the edge of being torn apart by civil war.

These soldiers from the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team were among the troops deployed to Iraq as part of 'the surge'


These soldiers from the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team were among the troops deployed to Iraq as part of ‘the surge’Early the next year, President Bush announced that he was sending more troops to Iraq. He thought it would help stop the violence.

GEORGE W. BUSH: “These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations. Our troops will have a well-defined mission – to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs.”

The temporary increase of about thirty thousand troops came to be called “the surge.”

In September of two thousand seven, the top commander in Iraq reported to Congress that the violence was decreasing. The surge may have helped create the conditions for this change but there were other reasons as well. Middle East expert Judith Yaphe says many Iraqis decided to work with the Americans to defeat the insurgency.

JUDITH YAPHE: “The real truth is – and it’s a good news story – that the Iraqis themselves saw that this was a greater danger to them, that there was nothing to be gained, the Sunnis of Iraq in particular, saw that al-Qaida was hurting them, that it was a danger to them, that there was much more to be gained by aligning with the US forces.”

By the time President Bush was finishing his second term, Iraqi and American officials had agreed on a withdrawal date to end the war. The last American forces would leave Iraq by the end of twenty-eleven.

Russell Riley at the University of Virginia says it is too soon to know how history will judge the United States’ actions in Iraq.

RUSSELL RILEY: “If Iraq proves to be a policy success, then the surge will be a critical turning point and a terrific exercise of presidential leadership.”

He also points out that the war is not the only measure by which the forty-third president will be judged.

Professor Riley put it this way: “The great debate among historians will not be whether Bush was a powerful president or consequential president, but whether he directed those powers in the most fruitful way that he could have.”


So, what else was going on in the United States during this period? Millions of people were voting for which singer should get a recording contract on “American Idol.” Year after year it was the most popular show on television.

SIMON COWELL: “Oh, Robert, I think you just killed my favorite song of all time.”

ROBERT: “Killed in a good way or a bad way?”

SIMON: “Killing is never good. There’s never a happy killing.”

ROBERT: “I’m sorry to hear that.”

SIMON: “No, that was first degree on that one.”


But the biggest story in music was not what people were listening to, but how. Sales of CDs in stores fell as more and more people downloaded songs from the Internet. On iTunes, Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” was the most downloaded song of two thousand seven.


For the first half of the decade, there seemed to be nothing to cry about in the American housing market.


Home prices were going up and up, which made sellers happy. And lenders were offering bigger and bigger loans at easy terms and low interest rates, which made buyers happy.

A collapse in the housing market caused huge drops in home sales and prices


A collapse in the housing market caused huge drops in home sales and prices

The government supported the easing of lending rules as a form of social policy, a way to help more people buy homes. Rates of home ownership — a part of the American Dream — reached record highs. In two thousand five nearly seven out of ten Americans owned their own home.

But many home buyers had been given mortgage loans that they could not afford to pay back. And that was not the only problem. Banks had been selling those loans as securities to investors around the world. Everyone thought they were getting a good deal — the banks, the borrowers, the investors.

But then the price bubble burst and the housing market collapsed.


Many borrowers lost their homes because they were unable to make their monthly loan payments. That was the situation Karen Lucas and her husband, of Cleveland, Ohio, found themselves in.

KAREN LUCAS: “I’ve done my crying. I’ve made my peace, and I put it in God’s hands.”

As home values fell, many people found themselves “underwater,” meaning they owed more on their mortgage than their house was worth.

Suddenly there was a lot to cry about. By the end of two thousand seven, the economy was sliding into the Great Recession. That — and the election of two thousand eight — will be our story next week.


You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I’m Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION — American history in VOA Special English.


This was program #239. For earlier programs, type “Making of a Nation” in quotation marks in the search box at the top of the page.

By |May 5th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Charles Taylor Found Guilty of War Crimes in Sierra Leone

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

This week, an international court found former Liberian president Charles Taylor guilty of war crimes in Sierra Leone.

Charles Taylor stood silently as Presiding Judge Richard Lussick read the judgment by a special United Nations court in The Hague.

RICHARD LUSSICK: “The trial chamber unanimously finds you guilty of aiding and abetting the commission of the following crimes pursuant to article 6.1 of the statute; planning the commission of the following crimes in the attacks on Kono and Makeni in December 1998, and in the invasion of and retreat from Freetown between December 1998 and February 1999 …”

The reading of the judgment — which included details of terrible crimes — lasted two hours.

The judges found the sixty-four-year-old former president guilty of helping rebels from the Revolutionary United Front. The rebels killed tens of thousands of people and terrorized civilians during Sierra Leone’s civil war. The war lasted from nineteen ninety-one to two thousand two. Crimes by the RUF included murder, rape, drafting of child soldiers and sexual slavery.

Judge Lussick said Charles Taylor was publicly involved in peace efforts while secretly financing the hostilities. The court said he received what are called blood diamonds, mined in eastern Sierra Leone. In return, he provided arms, ammunition, communications equipment and planning help to the rebels. But there was not enough proof that his influence amounted to effective command and control of the rebels.

Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Geraldine Mattioli-Zeitner said she was pleased with the ruling.

GERALDINE MATTIOLI-ZEITNER: “We think this is an historic moment.  It’s the first time a former head of state is prosecuted and judged for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed while he was in office.”

The former Liberian leader has denied the charges and can appeal the judgment. Sentencing is set for May thirtieth. He faces a possible life sentence. He is expected to serve any prison term in Britain.

Charles Taylor was arrested in two thousand six — three years after he was charged and resigned as president. The trial opened in two thousand seven. It was moved from Freetown, in Sierra Leone, to the Netherlands to avoid unrest.

The court heard evidence from ninety-four witnesses for the prosecution and twenty-one witnesses for the defense, including Taylor himself.

The case is expected to be the last major trial for the special court. It was established to try the most serious cases of war crimes during the conflict in Sierra Leone.

People in Sierra Leone welcomed the conviction of Charles Taylor. There were mixed emotions in his native Liberia, where he still has some support. Tamba Cole was among Liberians who welcomed the guilty verdict. He said Taylor has now set an example to other leaders in Africa and around the world. Such crimes will no longer be accepted by the international community, he said.

Charles Taylor is the first head of state to be found guilty by an international court in almost seventy years. The last time was in ninety forty-six, in the trials in Nuremberg, Germany, for war crimes during World War Two. Karl Doenitz — who briefly led Nazi Germany after Adolf Hitler killed himself — was found guilty of crimes against peace and war crimes. He spent ten years in prison.

And that’s IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember.


Contributing: Lisa Bryant and Kate Thomas

By |April 30th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

What You Can Do About Headaches

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BARBARA KLEIN: This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I’m Barbara Klein.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember. Today we tell about headaches, the pain that strikes almost everyone at some time.


BARBARA KLEIN: Have you had a headache recently? If your answer is yes, you are like many millions of people worldwide who experience pain in the head. The pain can be temporary, mild and cured by a simple painkiller like aspirin. Or, it can be severe.

The National Headache Foundation says more than forty-five million people in the United States suffer chronic headaches. Such a headache causes severe pain that goes away but returns later.

Some headaches may prove difficult and require time to treat. But many experts today are working toward cures or major help for chronic headaches.

STEVE EMBER: The U.S. Headache Consortium is a group with seven member organizations. They are working to improve treatment of one kind of headache — the migraine. Some people experience this kind of pain as often as two weeks every month. The National Headache Foundation says about seventy percent of migraine sufferers are women.

Traditional health workers in Indian-controlled Kashmir use blood-sucking leeches to treat skin diseases and ailments such as arthritis, gout, chronic headaches and sinusitis.


Traditional health workers in Indian-controlled Kashmir use blood-sucking leeches to treat skin diseases and ailments such as arthritis, gout, chronic headaches and sinusitis. The leech therapy follows the traditional unani system of medicine that originated in ancient Greece and is recognized by Indian health officials. Some people describe the pain as throbbing, causing pressure in the head. Others compare it to someone driving a sharp object into the head. Migraine headaches cause Americans to miss at least one hundred fifty million workdays each year. A migraine can be mild. But it also can be so severe that a person cannot live a normal life.

BARBARA KLEIN: One migraine sufferer is Curtis Croley of Ellicott City in Maryland. He had head pain as a child. Mr. Croley says he does not know what kind of headaches they were. But when he suffered severe headaches as an adult, doctors identified the problem as migraine.

Today, Mr. Croley produces and directs films and videos. He says months can pass without a headache. But then he will have three migraines within a month. If he takes the medicine his doctor ordered early in his headache, it controls the pain in his head. If not, the pain becomes extremely bad. Sometimes he has had to be treated with a combination of drugs in a hospital.


STEVE EMBER: Some people take medicine every day to prevent or ease migraine headaches. Others use medicine to control pain already developed. Doctors treating migraine sufferers often order medicines from a group of drugs known as triptans.

Most migraines react at least partly to existing medicine. And most people can use existing medicine without experiencing bad effects. Doctors sometimes use caffeine to treat migraine headaches. Interestingly, caffeine can also cause some migraines.

BARBARA KLEIN: Medical experts have long recognized the work of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic says several foods are suspected of being “triggers” that start migraines. They include cheese and alcoholic drinks. Food additives like salt and monosodium glutamate also may be triggers.

The Mayo Clinic tells patients to avoid strong smells that have seemingly started migraines in the past. Some people react badly to products like perfume, even if they have a pleasant smell.

The clinic’s experts say aerobic exercise can help migraine sufferers. Aerobic exercise increases a person’s heart rate. It can include walking, swimming or riding a bicycle. But a sudden start to hard exercise can cause headaches. So it is a good idea to perform some mild exercises before beginning activities that require more energy.

The experts advise that people should plan to exercise, eat and sleep at the same times each day.

STEVE EMBER: The Mayo Clinic also has advice for women who suffer from migraines. The female body makes estrogen. Drugs like birth control pills contain a version of this chemical. Such drugs may produce headaches or cause them to worsen, the clinic warns. But they can also cause an easing of headache pain. The same is true for estrogen replacement drugs for women. Doctors sometimes order estrogen replacement for women who are no longer able to have children.

BARBARA KLEIN: The Mayo Clinic says there are alternative, or nontraditional, ways to treat migraine.  Among them is acupuncture, in which thin needles are placed below the skin at defined areas.

The clinic says another method, biofeedback, is especially effective for migraine. In biofeedback, patients use special equipment to learn how to observe and control physical reactions linked to stress. Some people get help from massage, systematic rubbing of the body. Others use herbs, minerals or vitamins.


STEVE EMBER:  More people suffer tension headaches than migraines. But most tension headaches are not as powerful. Events that start tension headaches may include emotional pressure and the deeper than normal sadness called depression. Other tension headaches can start from something as simple as feeling tired. Common changes in atmospheric conditions also can be responsible.

The Mayo Clinic says you may feel a tension headache as tightness in the skin around your eyes. Or, you may feel pressure around your head. Episodic tension headaches strike from time to time. Chronic tension headaches happen more often. A tension headache can last from a half hour to a whole week.

BARBARA KLEIN: The Mayo Clinic says the pain may come very early in the day. Other signs can include pain in the neck or the lower part of the head. Scientists are not sure what causes tension headaches. For years, researchers blamed muscle tension from tightening in the face, neck and the skin on top of the head. They believed emotional tension caused these movements. But that belief has been disputed.

The International Headache Society began organizing a system for identifying differing forms of headaches in nineteen eighty-five. The society says there is no evidence that tense muscles are the only cause of pain. So it suggests that tension headaches be called tension-type headaches.

STEVE EMBER: Some scientists now believe that tension headaches may result from changes among brain chemicals such as serotonin. These changes may start sending pain messages to the brain. The changes may interfere with brain activity that suppresses pain.

Whatever the cause of the headache, people do not enjoy the experience. Treatment can be as simple as aspirin or other painkillers. But if your pain is too severe, you will need a doctor’s advice.

BARBARA KLEIN: A website called provides information from the American Academy of Family Physicians. It offers suggestions to ease or end a tension headache.

For example, it says putting heat or ice on your head or neck can help. So can standing under hot water while you are getting washed in the shower. The group also advises exercising often. Another idea is taking a holiday from work. But you had better ask your employer first.


STEVE EMBER: Ask anyone with a cluster headache, and they will tell you that the pain is terrible. The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio says the cluster headache can be many times more intense than a migraine.

Cluster headaches usually strike young people. Smokers and people who drink alcohol often get such headaches. Men are about six times more likely than women to have them. The Cleveland Clinic says this is especially true of younger men. Doctors say cluster headaches often strike during changes of season.

Cluster headache patients describe the pain as burning. The pain is almost always felt on one side of the face. It can last for up to ninety minutes. Then it stops.  But it often starts again later the same day. Eighty to ninety percent of cluster headache patients have pain over a number of days to a whole year. Pain-free periods separate these periods.

BARBARA KLEIN: The Cleveland Clinic says the cause of cluster headaches is in a brain area known as a trigeminal-autonomic reflex pathway. When the nerve is made active, it starts pain linked to cluster headaches. The nerve starts a process that makes one eye watery and red.

Studies have shown that activation of the trigeminal nerve may come from a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The Cleveland Clinic says injections of the drug sumatriptan can help. Many other drugs could be used. For example, doctors say breathing oxygen also can help.

Thankfully, modern medicine has ways to treat almost all of our headaches.


STEVE EMBER: This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. Our producer was June Simms. I’m ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Steve Ember.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I’m Barbara Klein. Visit us at, where you can find transcripts and MP3s of our reports. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

By |April 26th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

World Bank and IMF Meet in Washington

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This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

Representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have gathered in Washington. World Bank President Robert Zoelick spoke to them on Thursday. This is the last time he attends the spring meetings of the two organizations as World Bank president. Earlier this week, Jim Yong Kim was officially chosen as the bank’s twelfth president.

Mr. Zoellick said developing countries are now engines of growth.

“Developing countries have provided two thirds of global growth over the past five years,” he said. But he added that many developing nations still face big problems. He said all members need to work together better “for their common interest.”

The United States traditionally chooses the World Bank head and Europe chooses the IMF chief. But developing nations want more influence.

The World Bank is a development agency. The IMF supports monetary cooperation and provides loans.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde announced Thursday that her group has received promises of over three hundred twenty billion dollars. The money would help nations in trouble. She also said developing nations, what are called the emerging markets, needed to do more.

CHRISTINE LAGARDE: “If you look at, for instance, the emerging markets. They, too, have to address some of their issues. They, too, have to be very attentive to a volatile market situation. And that means, for some of these emerging markets, refocusing on their domestic growth.”

Ms. Lagarde said emerging markets need to work toward growth and building demand. But that requires resources.

Two issues are access to banks and safety nets. The World Bank says three-fourths of the poor have no access to banks. That means no savings in their communities to finance growth. The problem is greater for women. Poor women are twenty-eight percent less likely to have bank accounts than poor men.

Social programs are also needed. Sixty percent of the developing world cannot depend on social programs to protect citizens from hunger or provide services in crises. As a result, experts have called for safety nets.

ROBERT ZOELLICK: “And for the poorest, let’s focus on basic safety nets for every country to deal with the volatility and uncertainty because the other lesson we learned is if you wait until a crisis, it’s too late.”

And rich nations have a lot to learn from developing ones. Mr. Zoellick said programs in Brazil and Mexico are not costly, but help millions.

Finally this week, the World Bank Group welcomed its newest member: South Sudan. The nation received its first grant of nine million dollars. The money is to help create jobs and provide financial services.

And that’s the VOA Special English Economics Report. I’m June Simms.

By |April 22nd, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How Safe Do You Feel in Your Neighborhood?

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FAITH LAPIDUS: Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Faith Lapidus.

BOB DOUGHTY: And I’m Bob Doughty. Political and social scientist James Q. Wilson was interested in a great many subjects. But he was best known for his research into the behavior of criminals and police. He helped change the way policing is done is America.

FAITH LAPIDUS: James Q. Wilson died last month at the age of eighty. This week on our program we look back at his influence on modern policing. We also look at some of the ways technology is leading law enforcement into the future.


James Q. Wilson in 1972


James Q. Wilson in 1972BOB DOUGHTY: In March nineteen eighty-two, the Atlantic magazine published an article that described a theory of community policing. That theory would come to influence a new direction in American law enforcement.

James Q. Wilson wrote the article with criminologist George Kelling. Crime and disorder in a community are usually linked, they said, and they used an example. “Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. This is as true in nice neighborhoods as in rundown ones,” they wrote.

The idea was that keeping order in a community and fighting low-level crime can lead to a reduction in more serious crimes. The article was called “Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety.”  The theory came to be known as the “broken windows” theory.

FAITH LAPIDUS: The ideas the authors presented were largely based on psychology and how people form opinions about the safety of a neighborhood. Their research showed that people base their opinions less on the actual crime rate and more on whether the area appears safe and orderly.

They said “one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares.” If a window is broken and then quickly fixed, it sends a message that people care enough to keep order in the neighborhood.

The link that the two researchers made between disorder and crime is indirect. Disorder leads to citizen fear, which leads to weakened social controls. And those weakened controls create conditions where crimes are more likely to occur.

The solution, the authors said, was a kind of community policing centered on preventing crimes rather than just reacting to them.

BOB DOUGHTY: The broken windows theory represented a very different way to look at policing methods at a time when, in many cities, crime seemed out of control.

John DeCarlo is a professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. He says crime rates in the United States rose sharply from the nineteen sixties to the middle of the nineteen nineties.

JOHN DeCARLO: “We had seen crime rates during the eighties that the country had literally never seen before. The violent crime rate and the property crime rate were exceptionally high. Criminologists across the United States had pretty much given up hope that police could have any effect on crime.”

That crime wave included the so-called crack wars, the violent competition between drug dealers in the rise of crack cocaine.

FAITH LAPIDUS: In the nineteen nineties, the mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, began a crime reduction program in the city. His first police commissioner, William Bratton, used ideas similar to what James Q. Wilson had been writing about. These included putting more police officers on foot instead of in cars. More attention went into targeting low-level criminals and keeping order in neighborhoods.

Professor DeCarlo says this was the beginning of a new way of operating within a police force.

JOHN DeCARLO: “When Bratton came into New York he concentrated on low-level criminals rather than higher-level criminals, thinking that taking care of the low level criminals would automatically take care of the higher-level criminals because, indeed, they were the same people.”

BOB DOUGHTY: In nineteen ninety, New York had more than two thousand killings. That same year, William Bratton arrived as chief of the city’s transit police. One of the things he did, says Professor DeCarlo, was to send more police officers into the subway system to arrest people for turnstile jumping. That is jumping over the fare gates without paying for a train ride.

JOHN DECARLO: “What happened was they started arresting people for the low-level crime of turnstile jumping, and what happened is they diminished the number of violent criminals because indeed they were the same people. As they started arresting that segment of the population, crime started coming down.”

Turnstile jumpers were sometimes found carrying guns or knives. So arresting them prevented more serious crimes, Mr. Bratton would say. He served as transit police chief from nineteen ninety to ninety-one. He left to lead the Boston police. But he returned three years later to become commissioner of the New York Police Department.

By nineteen ninety-eight — two years after he left that job — America’s largest city had just six hundred twenty-nine homicides. Mr. Bratton has credited his success in reducing crime rates to the methods he based on James Q. Wilson’s ideas of community policing.

Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton ceremonially hands in his badge as he prepares to leave the job in October 2009


Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton ceremonially hands in his badge as he prepares to leave the job in October 2009William Bratton went on to serve as police chief in Los Angeles, where crime also fell sharply. Today, he is the chairman of Kroll, an investigations and risk consulting company.

FAITH LAPIDUS: The idea of community policing — of trying to work with the community being policed — has spread throughout the country.

Finding a balance is not always easy. If policing is seen as overly aggressive, it can deepen mistrust. Police may find more weapons by searching more people on the street. But they need a legal reason to stop someone. If not, they could be accused of violating a person’s rights, or racial profiling — targeting people just because of their race.

Criminal justice professor John DeCarlo says paying attention to low-level crimes can mean different things in different communities. For example, police may focus on traffic violations like speeding. This may not only reduce accidents and improve the quality of life in a community. It also gives the police a chance to check the records and see if a speeder is wanted for more serious crimes.

BOB DOUGHTY: Another change in policing that began in New York in the nineteen nineties is greater use of information technology. CompStat is a name for the idea of using computers to map daily reports of crime and disorder in individual neighborhoods. Professor DeCarlo says this CompStat information can help police know where to target enforcement efforts and resources.

JOHN DeCARLO: “It’s a policing management strategy. CompStat is about holding policemen accountable for the areas they work in.”

CompStat has critics. They say officers and supervisors who feel pressure to show improvements may be tempted to think of dishonest ways to do it. There have been some cases like this. But experts say the use of CompStat is widely accepted as having revolutionized crime fighting.

FAITH LAPIDUS: James Q. Wilson was born in Denver, Colorado, in nineteen thirty-one. He earned advanced degrees in political science at the University of Chicago. Over his long career, he was a professor at Harvard University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and Pepperdine University.

His books ranged from “Negro Politics: The Search for Leadership,” published in nineteen sixty, to “The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families.” That book came out in two thousand two. He served on a number of national and presidential commissions. And in two thousand three President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

James Q. Wilson died on March second at a Boston hospital. He had been receiving treatment for leukemia.

BOB DOUGHTY: Policing methods continue to evolve and change. New technology continues to be one of the biggest trends in law enforcement.

Tod Burke is a professor of criminal justice at Radford University in Virginia. He says improved crime mapping is a big help for police.

TOD BURKE: “This is taking police officers and placing them in the area where they’re really needed. This becomes critical particularly as resources and finances are problematic in many law enforcement departments across the United States, and probably throughout the world.”

There are thousands of law enforcement agencies at the local, state and national level in the United States. Today improved CompStat systems are helping to connect departments across the country to share information.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Surveillance cameras are a method of policing widely used in Britain. Cameras are also increasingly used by police in the United States. The trend has spread, especially in busy areas and areas with large populations, like New York.

Computer programs can recognize faces, watch for signs of trouble and attempt to locate gunshots.

In some law enforcement agencies, officers even wear small video cameras. The recordings may help settle any questions about the behavior of officers or the people they deal with.

The use of video cameras can raise privacy concerns, but Professor Burke points out that these days almost everyone has one.

TOD BURKE: “Let’s face it, many people have video cameras themselves, many attached to their phones. And that is also aiding in law enforcement efforts — what I call video vigilantes. Everything is being videotaped, and much of it is going onto social networks such as YouTube and Facebook.”

But officers worry that some people are just looking for a chance to try to make the police look bad while doing a dangerous job.

Officials are concerned about an increase in the killing of law enforcement officers in the United States, even as crime rates have dropped.


BOB DOUGHTY: Our program was written and produced by Brianna Blake. I’m Bob Doughty.


And I’m Faith Lapidus. You can find transcripts and MP3s of our programs at You can also find a link to that “Broken Windows” article by George Kelling and James Q. Wilson that appeared in the Atlantic magazine. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.


By |April 18th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

China, Mexico and Brazil Lead Gains in US Graduate School Applications

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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Graduate schools in the United States are reporting a nine percent increase in applications from international students this year. The increase is the same as two years ago. Last year’s gain was eleven percent.

China, Mexico and Brazil showed the biggest increases in applications to enter master’s and doctoral programs this fall.

Engineering is the top area of study for international students and had the biggest increase in applications. Gains in business and physical and earth sciences were close behind. Life sciences showed no growth in the latest survey by the Council of Graduate Schools.

The survey includes the top five countries that send graduate students to the United States, plus Mexico and Brazil. The top five are China, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Canada.

Applications from China climbed eighteen percent this year. That was down from last year. India’s number increased just two percent. Applications from South Korea and Taiwan decreased by one to two percent.

Applications from Africa were down five percent, while the Middle East and Europe showed growth.

Council President  Debra Stewart says final results will not be available until the summer.

DEBRA STEWART: “Remember, applications do not necessarily convert to enrollment. So about forty-seven percent of all international applications to U.S. graduate schools actually come from students from China. But the share of the applicant pool that actually ends up enrolling in U.S. graduate programs is a bit lower though their application numbers were considerably higher.”

Ms. Stewart says last fall, for example, twenty-nine percent of all international graduate students were from China.

This year is the seventh year of big increases in applications from China, where Ms. Stewart points out that more and more students are finishing college.

DEBRA STEWART: “There are just a huge number of talented students, the number growing ever year, because of the tremendous growth in the undergraduate population in China. Now, China has felt the recession like the rest of the world has felt the recession. So it certainly is possible that these very exceptionally strong numbers could be a reflection of recession experiences in China, as well.”

George Ofosu from Ghana is working toward a doctorate in political science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He says he was attracted to UCLA’s coursework, libraries and other resources, including financial aid he would not have had at home.

GEORGE OSOFU: “It was an ideal opportunity for me to go through the system and get admission here. One, get the training and, two, get some funding to pursue the studies. So I think, yeah, the experience here is really phenomenal.”

And that’s the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Jerilyn Watson.  I’m Christopher Cruise.


Contributing: Ira Mellman

By |April 14th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

How Gold Became the Gold Standard for Trade

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This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

The best example of something is often called the “gold standard.” It sets the standard against which other things are measured. In economics, the term describes how major trading nations once used gold to set currency values and exchange rates. Many nations continued to use the gold standard until the last century.

In the United States, people could exchange paper money for gold from the eighteen seventies until nineteen thirty-three. Then-President Richard Nixon finally disconnected the dollar from the value of gold in nineteen seventy-one. From time to time, some politicians call for a return to the gold standard.

But in nineteen seventy eight, the International Monetary Fund ended an official gold price. The IMF also ended the required use of gold in transactions with its member countries.

Since that time, gold prices have grown. But the growth was uneven. Prices — uncorrected for inflation – continue near record highs. Gold is trading above one thousand six hundred dollars an ounce.  An ounce is about twenty-eight grams.

But people keep buying.  Some people are “gold bugs.” These are investors who say people should buy gold to protect against inflation.

People have valued gold for thousands of years. The soft, dense metal polishes to a bright yellow shine and resists most chemical reactions. It makes a good material for money, political power — and, more recently, electrical power. If you own a device like a mobile phone or a computer, you might own a little gold in the wiring.

The gold standard was the subject of one of the best-known speeches in American political history. It took place at the eighteen ninety-six Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

William Jennings Bryan wanted the country to use both gold and silver as money. The idea was to devalue the dollar and make it easier for farmers to pay their debts. Here is Bryan reading his speech much later, in nineteen twenty-one.

WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

The speech made William Jennings Bryan famous. He was a presidential candidate three times. But he never won.

And that’s the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. To read and hear news and information for people learning English, and for transcripts go to You can also find MP3s and now PDFs of our programs for e-readers. And follow us on Facebook, YouTube and iTunes at VOA Learning English. I’m Christopher Cruise.

By |April 9th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Elephants in Cameroon Fall Victim to Killings

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BARBARA KLEIN: This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English. I’m Barbara Klein.

MARIO RITTER: And I’m Mario Ritter. Wildlife experts are concerned about the growing number of elephants and rhinoceros being killed in Africa. Today we tell about the issue, and about some efforts to help the animals.


BARBARA KLEIN: The nation of Cameroon recently suffered one of the worst mass killings of elephants in years. Up to four hundred fifty of the animals have been found dead in the country’s Bouba Ndjida National Park since January.

A United Nations agency expressed deep concern over the killings. John Scanlon is head of CITES — the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

A CITES study showed an increase in the number of elephant kills in two thousand eleven. Secretary-General Scanlon said people are killing the animals for ivory – the substance that makes up their tusks. He said the deaths are a major concern not only for Cameroon but for all areas where African elephants live.

MARIO RITTER: The CITES chief said the incident shows that a new poaching problem is taking place. He said poachers are using high-powered weapons to destroy elephant populations. Reports say groups from Chad and Sudan have attacked elephants during recent weeks. The hunters are thought to sell the ivory to get money, weapons and ammunition for armed conflicts.

CITES is offering African governments support for catching the hunters, and seizing the poached ivory. Countries where poachers pass through or trade are being asked to cooperate. And CITES has appointed its chief enforcement officer to organize an effort to respond to major elephant poaching.

BARBARA KLEIN:The government in Cameroon also has attempted to help elephants. On March first, it sent as many as one hundred fifty soldiers to the Bouba Ndjida National Park. They were deployed in an effort to save the remaining elephants. But a World Wildlife Fund official said another twenty elephants were killed after the soldiers arrived. Another Fund official described the effort as too little, too late.

The CITES study was the second recent one on elephant-poaching from Africa. The first came last month from the animal warden at a U.N. World Heritage Site in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He said poaching is so severe that dogs are trained and used to follow poachers.


MARIO RITTER: Like elephant tusks, rhinoceros horns have great value when sold. Some observers say people from Asia are paying high prices for jewelry and other objects made from elephant ivory. They also say more Asians are demanding rhino horns for use as medicine. The horns contain keratin, a protein substance found in material including hair.

In South Africa, thirteen rhinoceros were killed for their horns in two thousand seven. Four years later, almost four hundred fifty rhinoceros were killed in just twelve months. The losses include both white rhinoceros and the smaller, black rhinoceros. Strangely, both animals are a gray-brown color instead of white or black, as their names suggest.

BARBARA KLEIN: Twenty ten was also a record year for rhinoceros kills in South Africa, the world’s largest homeland for rhinos. Three hundred thirty three rhinos were lost to poachers during that time. The hunters cut off the rhino’s horn while a drug makes the animal unable to move. Many times the rhino is left to bleed to death. Or it never recovers from its drugged condition.

It is easy to understand why poachers want the horns. The International Rhino Foundation says the price of one is close to fifty seven thousand dollars a kilogram. Others place it much higher.

Lucy Boddam-Whetham works for the group Save the Rhino International. She is very concerned.

LUCY BODDAM-WHETHAM:  “We are incredibly worried at the moment.  We are actually facing the worst rhino poaching crisis for decades.”

A Hong Kong customs officer stands guard near seized rhino horns shipped from South Africa


A Hong Kong customs officer stands guard near seized rhino horns shipped from South AfricaRhino poaching is not new. Rhino horns have been used for centuries in traditional human medicines. The horn has been thought to effectively treat high body temperatures and head pain. But recently, false reports have spread that rhino horn material can cure cancer. The reports are perhaps responsible for the huge increase in poaching.

MARIO RITTER: Tom Milliken studies international trade in wildlife products for the organization Traffic International. He says rhino horn cannot cure anything, let alone cancer.

Mr. Milliken directs Traffic International’s operations in southern and eastern Africa from Zimbabwe. He says the horn is usually ground into small pieces. These are mixed with medicines to form a pill that is swallowed. Or, he said it can be ground and mixed with water and drunk as a liquid.

Mr. Milliken says rhino horn is especially popular in Vietnam, where it is being sold for home use. An industry there manufactures small containers for grinding the powder at home.

Ms. Boddam-Whetham says many Asians have enough money to buy costly rhino horn products. She also notes the growth of trade links between Africa and Asia.


BARBARA KLEIN: What can be done to save the rhino population from falling in South Africa?

One idea being tried is removing a rhino’s horn to prevent the animal from being killed illegally. Many ranchers who raise rhinoceros for profit support this idea. That includes some whose animals were killed for their horns. The landowners say horns removed humanely then would be available for the market, reducing the price. And poachers would not attack rhinos without horns.

Another idea that has been proposed is making the sale of rhino horn legal. Activists for that plan say it would reduce criminal activity.

MARIO RITTER: Dr. Jacques Flamand is a wildlife specialist in South Africa. He has been working to help rhinos in other ways. These methods also involve ranchers.

A white rhino in Kruger National Park, South Africa


A white rhino in Kruger National Park, South AfricaEarlier in Dr. Flamand’s career, he became known for helping to rescue the white rhino population from disappearing forever. Now he is leading the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project. Its goal is to increase the home territories of rare black rhinos, which can raise their numbers. The activist organizations WWF and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife are working to provide wider, safer spaces where the animals can move freely.

BARBARA KLEIN: Over the years, Dr. Flamand supervised the transport of many black rhinos by helicopter. The process begins when the animals are given a drug that makes them sleepy. Then they are suspended upside down from the helicopter. They hang by their legs on strong ropes for a fast trip to another territory — much faster than traveling by truck.

Veterinarians say the trip does not hurt the animals. Health experts watch them during the flight, after landing and during their release. And they say the creatures simply wake up in their new surroundings with much more space than before.

But Dr. Flamand said it was not always easy to get landowners to provide that space. Black rhinos interest many people, especially foreign tourists. But, as we know, they also get the attention of poachers. Not all landowners are interested in earning money from the tourist trade. Others are just not pleased to have two-ton visitors.

MARIO RITTER: Dr. Flamand told a VOA reporter that some landowners have combined their properties to create large areas. He said a lot of hard work was needed to persuade them. But now, many landowners have removed barriers that would have stopped rhinos from moving freely.

Recently, nineteen black rhinos were among a group of animals “translocated” to new territory. That brought the total population of the transported creatures to one hundred twenty.

Jacques Flamand says their rangeland territory has been expanded by thirty-four percent. Their safety has been improved. And landowners have increased security to protect the animals – and themselves – from poachers.

BARBARA KLEIN: Dr. Flamand says other wildlife also have gained more security and breeding space from the project.

JACQUES FLAMAND:  “It is not only good for black rhino. It is good for elephants, vultures and especially another critically endangered species, the wild dog.”

Many activists praise Dr. Flamand’s work for rhinos. Still, as one South African said, “Any animal with the possibility of that kind of value will always be in some danger.”


MARIO RITTER: This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Jerilyn Watson. I’m Mario Ritter.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I’m Barbara Klein. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

By |April 5th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments
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