Trump's Numbers Falling After Video Fallout

Trump's Numbers Falling After Video Fallout

2 hours ago from VOA

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump appears at a campaign rally in Panama City, Florida, U.S., Oct. 11, 2016.

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump appears at a campaign rally in Panama City, Florida, U.S., Oct. 11, 2016.

The Republicans’ withdrawal followed the release of a video from 2005. In it, Trump said that he kisses and touches women sexually without their permission.

“…when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump said. That includes, he continued, grabbing women in their private areas.

The Washington Post newspaper first published the video. In it, Trump was speaking off-camera to journalist Billy Bush. At the time, Bush hosted the entertainment news program Access Hollywood. The two men were on a bus going to a television studio. They were speaking informally but wearing microphones that recorded their conversation.

Trump later apologized for the comments he made on the video. He called the conversation “locker room talk.” In other words, the conversation included rude, sexual language between men that was not meant to be heard in public.

Trump added Tuesday in a Fox News interview that many women have told him they have heard much worse.

"If that's what it is going to take to lose an election, that will be pretty sad," Trump said in the interview.

Since the video was released last week, Trump has fallen sharply in national polls. He now trails Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by 14 points. A week ago, the polls showed Clinton leading by only seven points.

Politicians answer Trump

Republicans who have withdrawn their support for Trump include former Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

McCain said in a statement that Trump’s behavior and comments “make it impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy.”

But Trump does not appear to be concerned about losing support from other party leaders. He wrote on Twitter Tuesday that “it is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.”

In his interview Tuesday on Fox News, Trump said that Ryan and other powerful Republicans would support him in office if he wins the election.

President Barack Obama’s administration said Obama found Trump's remarks about touching women "repugnant," or disgusting. He said he considered it sexual assault.

Women answer Trump

Women voters, including longtime Republicans, have also been turned off by Trump’s 2005 comments.

Esther Rosser is a 71-year-old grandmother from Virginia. She has voted for Republicans candidates her whole life. But she said she has decided to vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton, in part because of Trump’s remarks about women.

“I know he apologized, and all you can do is apologize, but he could have said more,” Rosser told the Reuters news agency. “He disrespected us.”

LeighAnn Chase is a 27-year-old registered Republican voter from Florida. She told Reuters that she “can’t in good conscience vote for someone with that kind of mindset to the presidency.” She said she is now supporting Clinton.

But some women voters are sticking with Trump.

Amy Fryzelka is from Missouri. She told Reuters she thought Trump’s remarks were “horrible,” but she believed his personal life would not affect how he would govern. She said she will probably vote for Trump because she does not trust Clinton.

"I'd prefer not to vote for either of them, really," Fryzelka said.

Trump says Hillary Clinton disrespects women

Trump apologized again for his 2005 words during Sunday's presidential debate with Hillary Clinton. He said he was embarrassed about what he said.

But he also said that Clinton threatened several women who had accused her husband, former President Bill Clinton, of sexual attacks. Trump gave three of those women seats at the debate and pointed them out to the audience several times.

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton ignored the sexual assault issue. She spoke in Miami, Florida, about what she called a global crisis: climate change. She said the U.S. could take the lead in dealing with it.

Clinton said she fully backed the Paris Agreement on climate change. She reminded the crowd that Trump has called global warming a Chinese-created hoax.

I’m Dorothy Gundy

And I'm Ashley Thompson.

Caty Weaver and Ashley Thompson adapted this VOA News story for Learning English, with additional materials from Reuters. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

Share your thoughts in the Comments Section or post a message on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story


better off - adj. in a better position

locker room - n. a room in a school, sports stadium, etc., for changing clothes and for storing clothes and equipment in lockers

informally - adv. relaxed in tone: not suited for serious or official speech and writing

nasty - adj.​ unpleasant and unkind​

rude - adj. relating to sex or other body functions in a way that offends others

poll - n. study of voters opinions

trail - v. to be behind in a race or competition​

shackles - n. one of two rings or bands that are placed around a person's wrists or ankles and that are connected by a chain; (figuratively) something that prevents people from acting freely ​

repugnant - adj. causing a strong feeling of dislike or disgust

turned off - phrasal verb. to start to dislike something or someone

remarks - n. comments

conscience - n. the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong

assault - n.​ the crime of trying or threatening to hurt someone physically​

hoax - n. an act that is meant to trick or deceive people​


Study: Humans Will Never Live Much Past 115 Years

Study: Humans Will Never Live Much Past 115 Years
October 10, 2016 from VOA 

American researchers found that the longest a human being can live is about 115 years.

The researchers are with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. Their findings were published in the journal Nature.

The study was based on mortality and population records from the Human Mortality Database. The database has a collection of records from more than 40 countries dating back to 1900.

Great strides in life expectancy

The researchers found that the average life expectancy has risen greatly since the 19th century. This has resulted partly from developments in modern medicine, including the use of vaccines, antibiotic drugs and improved treatments for cancer and heart disease. In addition, there have been many improvements in public health and nutrition.

In 1900, someone born in the United States could expect to live 47 years. Today, Americans can expect to live to an average age of 80.

According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, the Mediterranean nation of Monaco has the highest average life expectancy in the world -- 89.5 years. Next are Singapore and Japan -- each at 85 years.

The oldest documented person to ever live was Jeanne Calment of France. Calment was 122 years old when she died in 1997. An Italian woman, Emma Morano, is currently recognized as the world's oldest living person. She is 116 years old.

Highest lifespan reached in '90s

Researchers in the new study said their findings suggest that the greatest average human lifespan was reached during the 1990s. They noted that some individuals born in the U.S., France, Japan and Britain lived to be at least 110 years old between 1968 and 2006. But the number of people living past 110 years is very small, and considered not reachable by most of the population.

The study found that survival rates have improved since 1900, with some older adults living to age 100 and above. But then many of those individuals died a short time later, regardless of when they were born.

The head of the study, Jan Vijg, is head of the genetics department at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He said the findings show a decrease in the ability to reduce death rates among older adults. He said this suggests a possible limit to human lifespan.

Brandon Milholland was a lead scientist on the study. As he noted, “It is possible that someone might live slightly longer, but the odds of anybody in the world surviving to 125 in any given year is less than one in 10,000.”

Jan Vijg noted that continued medical developments to improve the quality of life - especially in the developed world - could push average life expectancy beyond 80. But he said researchers still do not expect the average human lifespan to ever break 100.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Jessica Berman wrote this story for VOANews.com. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English, with additional information from a report by Reuters. George Grow 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

mortalityn. the number of deaths that occur in a particular time or place

sanitationn. – process of keeping places free from dirt, infection, disease, etc.

life expectancy – n. how long someone (or something) can expect to live

regardless – adj. something not dependent on current conditions


Roller Coaster Rides Can Help With Painful Condition

Roller Coaster Rides Can Help With Painful Condition
from VOA
 People ride a roller coaster at Worlds of Fun amusement park Saturday, June 2013, in Kansas City, Missouri. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

People ride a roller coaster at Worlds of Fun amusement park Saturday, June 2013, in Kansas City, Missouri. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Roller coasters are fast and exciting. But passing a painful kidney stone is not. The process is painful and can take a long time.

But American researchers have found that a roller coaster ride just might help those suffering from a kidney stone. They say such rides help patients pass the stones with a 70 percent success rate.

The findings come from researchers at Michigan State University. They published their findings in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

David Wartinger led the study. He says he became curious after hearing many stories of people who passed kidney stones after going on a fun ride at a theme park in Florida.

Patients told him that after riding a “roller coaster at Walt Disney World, they were able to pass their kidney stones.” One man even said he passed three different stones after going on the ride more than once!

To test whether the claims were true, Wartinger used a 3-dimensional model of a hollow kidney. Inside the model he placed three kidney stones, each no larger than 4 millimeters.

Then he placed the man-made kidney into a backpack. The researchers put the kidney on Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster for 20 rides.

There are many variables

Wartinger found that where the person sits on the roller coaster can make a big difference.

He said “in the pilot study, sitting in the last car of the roller coaster showed about a 64 percent passage rate.” Sitting in the first few cars only had a 16 percent success rate.

Researchers decided to expand the study. They rode the same roller coaster with several kidney models. When sitting in the back car, the success rate of passing the stones was 70 percent.

It also mattered where the stones were located in the kidney. The researchers found that stones located in the upper part of the kidney model were passed 100 percent.

Another variable – it depends what kind of roller coaster. When it comes to passing kidney stones, not all roller coasters are equal.

The researchers used 174 kidney stones of differing “shapes, sizes and weights to see if each model worked on the same ride and on two other roller coasters.”

They found that “Big Thunder Mountain was the only one that worked.” The other two roller coasters both failed the test.

Wartinger said the other rides were "too fast and too violent." The movement forced the stones against the side of the kidney. He said that the ideal roller coaster is rough and quick with some twists and turns.

How common are kidney stones?

About 300,000 people in the United States go to hospital emergency rooms with kidney stones each year.

One common treatment for kidney stones -- called lithotripsy -- breaks up larger stones into smaller ones. But Wartinger said the treatment can leave many smaller stones. To solve this problem, he suggested riding a roller coaster “after a treatment when the remnants are still small."

Wartinger thinks roller coaster rides could also be used as a preventative measure. He said that a yearly ride on a roller coaster could even prevent stones from developing.

"You need to heed the warnings before going on a roller coaster," he said. "If you have a kidney stone, but are otherwise healthy and meet the requirements of the ride, patients should try it."

He adds that it’s “definitely a lower cost alternative” to other treatments.

And riding a roller coaster is definitely more fun!

I’m Anna Matteo.

VOANews.com reported on this story. Anna Matteo adapted the story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story


curious adj. having a desire to learn or know more about something or someone

theme park n. an amusement park where the rides and attractions are based on a particular theme

3-dimensional adj. An object that has height, width and depth, like any object in the real world.

hollow adj. having nothing inside : not solid

factor n. something that helps produce or influence a result : one of the things that cause something to happen

variable n. something that changes or that can be changed : something that varies

pilot adj. done as a test to see if a larger program, study, etc., should be done

rough adj. having or causing sudden, violent movements

ideal adj. exactly right for a particular purpose, situation, or person

remnant n. the part of something that is left when the other parts are gone

heed v. to pay attention to (advice, a warning, etc.)

alternative adj. offering or expressing a choice


What Is the Best Way to Teach English?

What Is the Best Way to Teach English?
 from VOA 

Children attending a summer school program in Cos Cob, Connecticut, last August. Educators are now discussing how to best teach English learners. (Chris Palermo/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP)

Children attending a summer school program in Cos Cob, Connecticut, last August. Educators are now discussing how to best teach English learners. (Chris Palermo/Hearst Connecticut Media via AP)

U.S. Education Secretary John King said the issue is important. That is because one in every 10 U.S. students from grades Kindergarten to 12th grade are English learners.

Most English learners arrive from a country that speaks another language, or have parents from a non-English-speaking country.

There has been progress in recent years, King said. He noted Spanish-speaking students are graduating high school and attending college at higher rates than ever before.

“But in too many places across the country, English learners get less -- less access to quality teachers, less access to advanced coursework, less access to the resources they need to succeed,” King said.

Education Secretary John King

Education Secretary John King


King said a new federal law called the Every Student Succeeds Act can help. It allows school districts more ways to use federal money to improve programs for English learners. That includes better training for English language teachers.

Kelly Gonez is a policy adviser at the Department of Education.

She said research shows giving instruction in two languages, English and the student’s native language, is better for English learners.

Although it takes them a little longer to master English, they do better on tests that measure reading and math skills, Gonez said.

So do people who enter dual-language programs already proficient in English, Gonez said. To be proficient means able to read and speak a language.

Sarah Catherine Moore is director of online learning at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington D.C.

She said two recent studies found English learners do better if they attend classes that use both English and the student’s native language.

But Gonez said such programs are still not offered by a majority of schools teaching English learners.

One problem is finding enough qualified teachers. Gonez said some school districts are hiring teachers from Spain and China. They are trying to make up for a shortage of teachers in the United States who can offer instruction in two languages.

But such programs are not always easy to set up.

In New York City, for example, the city’s Department of Education says its students speak a total of 180 different languages.

About sixty percent are Spanish speakers, and another 14 percent are Chinese speakers.

It also has 6,546 students who speak Bengali, 6,501 who speak Arabic, and 3,591 who speak Haitian-Creole. Thousands more speak Russian or Punjabi.

Gonez said that it may be hard to find instructors who can speak all the different languages spoken by students. But she said schools can get educational material in many more languages that just Spanish and Chinese.

Terry Richards is in charge of federal programs for the state of Delaware. She welcomes the new federal education law. It will allow state and local education departments to make more decisions about how to teach English learners, she said.

Richards said the law permits local school districts to consider “local” needs in developing English education programs.

I’m Bruce Alpert.


Bruce Alpert reported this story for VOA Learning English. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Mario Ritter was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and share your views on our Facebook Page. Tell us how you learned to speak another language!


Words in this Story


allow -- v. to permit (something): to consider or treat (something) as acceptable​

access -- n. a way of being able to use or get something done

advanced coursework -- n. subjects that are more difficult than basic subjects

resources -- n. a supply of something (such as money) that someone has and can use when it is needed

dual language -- n. programs using two languages

hire -- n. to give work or a job to (someone) in exchange for wages or a salary​

qualified -- adj. having the necessary skill, experience, or knowledge to do a particular job or activity

instruction -- n. the action or process of teaching​


Wild Surroundings at Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Wild Surroundings at Black Canyon of the Gunnison
October 07, 2016 from VOA
The inner canyon of Black Canyon of the Gunnison

The inner canyon of Black Canyon of the Gunnison

The canyon is so narrow and so deep that sunlight shines only briefly at the bottom at midday. That frequent darkness is what has given this canyon its name.

Welcome to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park!

Black Canyon seems impossibly steep and narrow. The fast moving Gunnison River formed the canyon over millions of years. As the river flows through the canyon, it drops an average of 18 meters per kilometer. The Gunnison River loses more elevation in its 77 kilometer canyon stretch than the Mississippi River does in 2,400 kilometers from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

This loss in elevation causes the river to gain speed and force. Over time, that force has carved and cut the hard rock, and created the wild and jagged rock formations found at Black Canyon. That process is known as erosion.

The Gunnison River is seen flowing through Black Canyon

The Gunnison River is seen flowing through Black Canyon


At its widest, Black Canyon is 14 kilometers. At its deepest point, it is 829 meters from the canyon edge to the floor.

Black Canyon attracted little attention from early Western explorers. In fact, no early Spanish explorers to the southwestern United States reported seeing Black Canyon. The first written record about the canyon came in 1873.

The Ute Indians certainly knew of Black Canyon. But only its rim, never the gorge, shows evidence of past human occupation. Even today, the depth and steepness of Black Canyon make it extremely difficult for humans to access.

Birds, however, have no problem surviving in the canyon environment. Black Canyon is home to many kinds of birds. They live at the canyon rim, along its walls, and by the river. Mountain bluebirds and great horned owls live in the rim area. The owls eat seeds and berries from the pinyon, juniper and oak trees found there.

Great horned owl chicks sit in their nest

Great horned owl chicks sit in their nest


Canyon wrens sing loudly within Black Canyon. Visitors are more likely to hear the birds than seen them. They build their nests on flat surfaces of the canyon walls. So do peregrine falcons. They prey on other birds. They dive at speeds up to 300 kilometers per hour to catch them.

American dippers build their nests in the gorge, next to the Gunnison River. A gorge is a narrow valley between hills or mountains. These dippers feed on insects and small fish.

Some people come to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park for world-class birdwatching.

But, it is the canyon itself that appeals to most visitors. Walking along the rim, seeing the canyon’s towering cliffs, and hearing the powerful flow of the Gunnison River far below is an overwhelming experience.

At Black Canyon, visitors can view some of the planet’s oldest exposed rocks. They are Precambrian rocks. Precambrian accounts for the Earth’s history from its very beginning up until about 540 million years ago.

Precambrian rocks are described as “basement rocks” because they are usually buried deep under the surface. The only become exposed when younger rocks have been cut away by erosion or other forces. At Black Canyon, the Gunnison has eroded the canyon walls so greatly that Precambrian rocks have become visible.

The canyon walls, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The canyon walls, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park


Often, the canyon’s rock walls look like works of art. Different kinds of rocks fold together and form colorful patterns. The patterns change as the sun hits different parts of the walls.

One area of the canyon is known as Painted Wall. It is the highest cliff in Colorado. Long pink bands of rock cover this section of the canyon, as if a person took a paintbrush to the wall.

The Painted Wall

The Painted Wall


This pattern formed as hot liquid from below the Earth’s surface forced its way into rock cracks. As it slowly cooled, large crystals formed. The bands get their pink color from a crystallized mineral called potassium feldspar.

Protecting the canyon

Local people knew how just special Black Canyon was. They began urging Congress to protect the canyon in the 1930s. It became a national monument in 1933. And in 1999 it became a national park.

The park protects more than 22 kilometers of the canyon. Most visitors spend their time exploring the canyon rim by foot or by car. Several kilometers of trails lead to many overlook points. A road also leads to several breathtaking views.

People look out at Gunnison Point

People look out at Gunnison Point


The U.S. Congress named the lands below the canyon rim a Wilderness Preservation System. This is meant to “protect forever the land’s natural conditions.”

Some adventurous travelers choose to explore this wilderness by hiking down to the inner canyon. There are no marked trails to guide them. Hikers must first get a wilderness use permit. These permits are free, but only a limited number are available each day.

Many of the paths are difficult to follow. Some are also dangerous. The Warner Point trail, for example, drops more than 820 meters. Walking down takes more than two hours. Walking back up can take up to four hours.

The park service warns that poison ivy grows wildly in the inner canyon. There is also the risk of falling rocks.

But, to reach a place where no humans ever tried to live is the reward. In the words of a 1901 explorer to Black Canyon’s river area, “Our surroundings were of the wildest possible description. The roar of the water...was constantly in our ears...Occasionally a rock would fall from one side or the other, with a roar and crash, exploding like a ton of dynamite when it struck bottom, making us think our last day had come.”

I’m Ashley Thompson.

And I’m Caty Weaver.


Ashley Thompson reported and wrote this story with materials from the National Park Service. Caty Weaver was the editor.


Words in This Story


steepadj. almost straight up and down : rising or falling very sharply

elevationn. the height of a place

jaggedadj. having a sharp, uneven edge or surface

erosionn. the process by which something is worn away

rimn. the outer edge of a usually round object

accessn. a way of getting near, at, or to something or someone

cliffn. a high, steep surface of rock, earth, or ice

overwhelmingadj. very great in effect

basementn. the part of a building that is entirely or partly below the ground

adventurousadj. not afraid to do new and dangerous or exciting things


Plane Evacuated Because of Smoking Samsung Phone

from VOA
Plane Evacuated Because of Smoking Samsung Phone

A customer holds a Samsung Electronics Galaxy Note 7 smartphone at the headquarters of South Korean mobile carrier KT in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.

A customer holds a Samsung Electronics Galaxy Note 7 smartphone at the headquarters of South Korean mobile carrier KT in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.

A plane was evacuated Wednesday in Louisville, Kentucky, after a passenger reported smoke coming from a Samsung smartphone.

All passengers were safe after getting off the Southwest Airlines plane. The plane was to travel to Baltimore, Maryland.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration confirmed in a statement that a Samsung phone had caused the smoke. The agency did not say which Samsung model was involved and said it is continuing to investigate the incident.

Samsung also did not say which smartphone model caused the emergency. The company said in a statement that it would examine the device.

Samsung issued a recall of its new Galaxy Note 7 device last month after receiving several reports of overheating problems. The company said the overheating was linked to problems with batteries that caused some phones to catch fire. The recall reportedly covered at least 2.5 million phones worldwide.

Sarah Green is the wife of the airplane passenger whose phone overheated. Green told the media that the phone was a new Samsung Galaxy Note 7. She said her husband, Brian, recently got the phone as a replacement following the Samsung recall.

Green told Louisville’s Courier-Journal newspaper that her husband called from someone else’s phone to explain what happened.

He told her the phone began making popping noises and started giving off smoke after he turned it off. “He took it out of his pocket and threw it on the ground,” she told the newspaper. The plane had not yet taken off.

An official with Louisville’s Metro Fire Department confirmed the passenger threw the phone on the ground after it started smoking. The official said the phone caused minor damage to the floor where the device landed.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning to airplane passengers last month about the Samsung phones. It urged passengers not to use Galaxy Note 7 devices during flights. It also urged passengers not to put them in checked baggage.

Flight attendants on many airlines have also added a warning about the Samsung devices during pre-flight safety demonstrations.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Joshua Fatzick reported this story for VOANews.com. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English, with additional information from reports by the Associated Press and Reuters. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.


Words in This Story


evacuate – v. to remove people from a dangerous place or situation

recall – n. – a request by a company for people to return a product because it has a defect or problem

battery – n. power source placed inside a car or other device to supply it with electricity

replacement – n. a thing that takes the place of something else

baggage – n. cases and bags used when people travel


Wildlife Convention Protects Animals Great and Small

from VOA
Wildlife Convention Protects Animals Great and Small

Delegates from around the world met this week in Johannesburg, South Africa to discuss how to stop the trade in endangered animals.

Representatives from 183 countries attended the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species conference, known as CITES.

Pangolins are mammals found in Asia, India and Africa. They eat insects. Hunters catch pangolins and sell them for their meat and their scales. Some cultures believe the scales can be used in medicine.

They are the most illegally traded animal in the world.

While CITES often deals with the protection of large animals like big cats, elephants and rhinoceroses, it also pays attention to smaller animals.

One of the first agreements to come from the convention was to reclassify all eight species of pangolins. They are now in the most protected group of animals. This means the CITES considers them in danger of extinction.

John Scanlon is the CITES Secretary General. He said they used to call the pangolin “little-known.” But in recent years, Prince William spoke out against the pangolin trade.

Scanlon said he is pleased a famous person brought attention to the pangolin. But he noted that there are still hundreds of small, unknown animals that need help.

“But, we’ve got the snakes here, we’ve got the lizards here, we’ve got the frogs here. And some really interesting ones, the earless monitor [lizard], the Titicaca frog, the psychedelic rock gecko; there are some really interesting animals there that nobody’s paid much attention to.”

Dan Ashe is the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He said it is hard to make people aware of strange animals.

“We’re dealing with things like the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly or the Houston toad. These are things which often the public questions, ‘why is this important, why should we save this?"

Jen Creamer is president of Animal Defenders International. She said even a cockroach has a “strange sort of beauty.” Events like CITES provide the chance for discussion of all sorts of animals.

“With certain species it takes time to realize that they’re in trouble.”

One of the species Ashe is happy to see thriving is a small fish called the Oregon chub. It took nearly 20 years to bring the fish’s population back to strong levels.

The Titicaca water frog is another endangered animal that could use the support of a prince, or even a movie star. The Peruvian animal faces the threat of fungal infection and predatory fish.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Anita Powell wrote this story for VOANews.com. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

What do you think of the efforts to protect these animals? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story


endangered – adj. used to describe a type of animal or plant that has become very rare and that could die out completely

mammal – n. a type of animal that feeds milk to its young and that usually has hair or fur covering most of its skin

scale – n. one of many small thin plates that cover the bodies of some animals (such as fish or snakes)

psychedelic – adj. suggesting the effects of psychedelic drugs by having bright colors, strange sounds, etc.

predatory – adj. an animal, fish or insect that lives by eating others

aware – adj. knowing that something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists

reclassify – v. to reconsider an arrangement of people or things that have already been grouped by ways they are alike


'Achievement Gap' Closing Slightly for Young Students in U.S.

'Achievement Gap' Closing Slightly for Young Students in U.S.

 United States President Barack Obama sits with 3- and 4-year-old students in a pre-kindergarten class at Powell Elementary School in Washington, DC, March 2014.

United States President Barack Obama sits with 3- and 4-year-old students in a pre-kindergarten class at Powell Elementary School in Washington, DC, March 2014.

It is no surprise that within many education systems, wealthier students often test better than poorer students.

To education experts this is often called the “achievement gap.”

What is a surprise is that, in the United States, the achievement gap seems to be closing, at least a little. That result surprised researchers at Stanford University in California.

Sean Reardon is a professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford. He studied children and how they prepare for kindergarten classes. He also looked at how their preparation has changed since the 1990s.

Kindergarten programs are for boys and girls before they enter first grade. At this level, children need to demonstrate simple counting, an ability to listen and language skills. They need to be able to focus on a project and act responsibly in a classroom.

Reardon found that from 1998 to 2010 the achievement gap closed a small amount. He said it was not a huge change. The important thing, he said, is that the gap is closing.

One way to reduce the gap is to offer pre-kindergarten programs to very young children.

Education experts and some politicians have long pushed for pre-kindergarten classes for all young children. In fact, it has been a promise heard on the political campaign trail -- universal pre-kindergarten classes for all 3- and 4-year-olds.

Such classes are already being offered in some areas around the United States, including the U.S. capital, Washington, D.C. In fact, education reformers may want to look to Washington as a role model.

Vincent Gray is a former mayor of the District of Columbia. When Gray was chairman of the D.C. Council, he wrote the legislation for universal pre-K. His measure gave parents of all children in Washington the choice to begin school at either age 3 or 4.

“We’ve always had some form of early childhood care in the District of Columbia, for decades. But what we didn’t have was universal access. And I did the legislation in 2009 as Chairman of the Council to get it done. And then when I became the mayor, when I was sworn in in 2011, it gave me an incredible opportunity to be able to fully implement the legislation. The reason why I did it is that I believe that the opportunity to learn in a formal sense should not wait until a child is 5 years old.”

Gray says he made sure the legislation was in effect and fully enforced during his four years as mayor. He was defeated for re-election, but is now a candidate for re-election for a seat on the D.C. council.

Today, most of Washington’s youngest children are in school. Gray explains that the pre-K programs are not a requirement in the city. Parents can still choose what is best for their family. But many parents are choosing education.

"We now have in the District of Columbia, we have over 80 percent of our 3-year-olds that go to school. And I might add, it's not mandatory. You’re not required to put your child in school. But virtually no parent at this stage is saying ‘I don’t want my child in school.’ They want them in school because there’s not a cost associated with it, other than the cost of them not having the opportunity to learn. And then we have 94 percent of our four-year-olds who go to school all day. We have essentially reached universality.”

Pre-kindergarten classes for 3- and 4-year-olds offer hope for many youngsters. It is more than learning the ABCs or counting to 100. These classes give the youngest students the chance to learn how to listen, develop social skills, and interact with others.

However, there are theories that say a child does not need schooling at the age of 3 and 4. If we are looking at test results, Finland beats the United States and most other countries in mathematics, reading and science. Yet Finnish children do not start school until age 7.

Perhaps there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. Perhaps different children need school at different times.

Generally, wealthier parents have more financial resources to help their children. Educated parents -- wealthy or not -- may know how to use the resources that are available to them. For example, they may take their children to free events at a public library or recreation center. Washington, D.C. also has many museums with free admission.

Perhaps children who grow up with these types of activities don’t need to start attending school at age 3. However, children who are growing up in what Vincent Gray calls socio-economically challenging situations may not have access to such activities. For some families, he says, starting school at age 3 can be a game changer.

“It’s especially important for kids who may the victims of an achievement gap, especially important for kids who are in socio-economically challenging situations.”

Pre-kindergarten classes do more than educate the child. They also bring parents and caregivers into the schools. This point of contact, explains Gray, is a valuable time to educate families.

A federal study found that, overall, parent involvement increased with such contacts. But it increased even more among low-income parents. It shows schools offer a place where conversations with these parents can happen.

I’m Anna Matteo.


Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story


focus v. to direct your attention or effort at something specific

universal adj. done or experienced by everyone : existing or available for everyone : existing or true at all times or in all places : - n. universality

campaign trail n. a route that takes a candidate for office to different places in order to talk to people during a campaign <The candidates talked about the people they met on the campaign trail.>

role model n. a person whose behavior in a particular role is imitated by others

incredible adj. extremely good, great, or large

implement v. to begin to do or use (something, such as a plan) : to make (something) active or effective

mandatoryadj. required by a law or rule

virtuallyadv. very nearly : almost entirely

associatedv. to combine or join with other parts

essentiallyadv. basically

library n. a place where books, magazines, and other materials (such as videos and musical recordings) are available for people to use or borrow

socio-economically adv. in a way that relates to, or involves a combination of social and economic factors

challenging adj. difficult

game changer n. an element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way


Study: Do Fitness Trackers Help You Lose Weight?

October 03, 2016 from VOA
Study: Do Fitness Trackers Help You Lose Weight?

 From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

We begin with bad news for people who bought a wearable fitness tracker in hopes of losing weight.

A new study finds the electronic device probably does not help with weight loss.

The study was a project of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.

Fitness trackers are designed to record your physical activity. They are usually worn around the wrist, where they measure a person’s heart rate.

The University of Pittsburgh research team looked at two groups of individuals. The first wore a fitness tracker and took part in health counseling. In other words, they spoke with nutrition and physical fitness experts to consider the best weight loss plan.

The researchers compared this group with people who only took part in health counseling.

The study found that those who simply had health counseling lost more weight than those who had counseling and wore a fitness tracker. In fact, those who only spoke with the health experts lost nearly six kilograms. Those who used a fitness tracker lost only 3.5 kilograms.

John Jakicic is the lead researcher. He is also chairman of the university’s Department of Health and Physical Activity. He questioned the use of electronic devices as tools for weight control in place of “effective behavioral counseling for physical activity and diet.”

The study involved 470 subjects between the ages of 18 and 35. Some of them were overweight, while others were heavier and considered obese. Over three fourths of the subjects were women, and 29 percent were minorities.

The researchers told all the subjects to increase their physical activity. The men and women also were told to start on a low calorie diet.

The subjects were told to have their weight measured once every six months over the two-year study.

After six months, researchers divided the group into two parts: one continued with monthly counseling, while members of the other group were given a wearable fitness tracker.

Eighteen months later, both groups "showed significant improvements in body composition, fitness, physical activity, and diet,” with no major difference between groups.

However, when it came to losing weight, the people who spoke with experts lost nearly twice as much weight.

Jakicic said the study’s findings “are important because effective long-term treatments are needed to address America's obesity epidemic.” He warned that “questions remain regarding the effectiveness of wearable devices.”

More information is needed, he adds, to learn how to best use these devices to change “physical activity and diet behaviors” in adults who want to lose weight.

The researchers published their findings in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

I’m Anna Matteo.


Matthew Hilburn reported this story for VOANews.com. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

fitness ­– n. the quality or state of being fit

tracker – n. a device that is aware of a fact, progression or condition

counseling – n. advice and support that is given to people to help them deal with problems, make important decisions, etc.

calorie – n. a unit of heat used to indicate the amount of energy that foods will produce in the human body

composition – n. the way in which something is put together or arranged : the combination of parts or elements that make up something

journal – n. a magazine that reports on things of special interest to a particular group of people


Scientists Explore Underwater Volcanoes

October 02, 2016 from VOA  
Scientists Explore Underwater Volcanoes

What covers nearly 29 million square kilometers of this planet beneath the sea?

The answer is seamounts.

Seamounts are mountains, usually volcanoes, that rise up from the sea floor. Some of the volcanoes are ancient, some are still active. But they are hard to find because they do not reach the surface of the water.

Scientists say seamounts cover more of the earth’s area than deserts, tundra, or any other land-based habitats. Marine life gathers at seamounts because they carry nutrient-rich water upward from the sea floor.

In September, a group of scientists set out to explore Cook Seamount. It rises almost 4,000 meters from the Pacific Ocean floor about 160 kilometers off the island of Hawaii. Humans have never seen it up close before.

The Associated Press went with the scientists, and provided exclusive images and information about this seamount and the marine life around it.

"Pisces V surface you're going in. Roger, going in."

Three people went in a submarine down to over 900 meters below the ocean surface to the top of the seamount. As the blue waters became darker, underwater creatures that glow, by chemically creating their own light, began to swim past the submarine.

The scientists dove below the level where sunlight can reach.

They spotted some wonders-- like a rare octopus with big fins that look like elephant ears. One even changed colors as it swam by the submarine.

The scientists also found several kinds of deep sea corals on the seamount’s sides. These included a possible new species of violet-colored coral they named “Purple Haze.”

Conservation International and the University of Hawaii worked together for the trip to Cook Seamount.

Greg Stone is the lead scientist with Conservation International. He spoke to AP news service on the ship.

“This three day expedition is the start of an effort to survey seamounts throughout the Pacific Ocean over the next five years. And we hope to study a total of 50 seamounts.”

He said humans know very little about seamounts, but they are a “key part” of what drives the ocean. Stone said he wants to find out what is living on the seamounts and how they support ocean life.

“From that, we will understand ocean health, and ocean health relates directly to human health.”

M. Sanjayan is Executive Vice President of Conservation International. He told AP that there are “10,000, maybe 100,000” seamounts across the world’s oceans. He called them “hotspots for marine diversity,” and because most have not been explored, he expects that they will see things new to science when they get there.

Sonia Rowley is a researcher at the University of Hawaii who is taking part in the project. She will be studying the samples taken from Cook seamount.
University of Hawaii researcher Sonia Rowley logs coral samples taken from deep ocean seamounts during an expedition to unexplored underwater volcanoes off the coast of Hawaii's Big Island on Sept. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)
University of Hawaii researcher Sonia Rowley logs coral samples taken from deep ocean seamounts during an expedition to unexplored underwater volcanoes off the coast of Hawaii's Big Island on Sept. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

“They were really magnificent actually, there were these huge structures that were going like tens of hundreds of meters high, and then on the edges they were kind of encrusted in many places with this beautiful purple Gorgonian sea fan.”

Cook seamount is an extinct volcano, which means it is not active anymore. It is part of a group of undersea volcanoes known as the Geologist Seamounts, that are about 80 million years old and could hold many new animal species. They could also contain elements such as nickel and cobalt that mining companies could extract.

One of the other two seamounts studied on their trip was Lo'ihi, an active volcano.

Lo'Ihi has been studied by manned submersibles over the past 30 years.

The scientists saw an “old friend” on Lo’Ihi—a shark they had seen there before. They also saw a two-meter long eel and a number of new geological formations around the volcano’s crater.

Scientists say Lo'ihi could someday be the newest island in the Hawaii chain as volcanic activity pushes the seamount upward. But do not look for it to break the surface of the water any time soon. Estimates are that it will not be for tens of thousands of years, if ever.

I’m Anne Ball.

Caleb Jones of The Associated Press wrote the exclusive report. Anne Ball adapted his story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, and find us on our Facebook page.



Words in This Story

exclusive –adj. not available anywhere else

habitat –n. a kind of place where certain kinds of animals and plants live and grow

marine –adj. having to do with the sea

virtually –adv. through digital technology rather than physically

encrusted –adj. covered, overgrown

crater –n. a round hole at the top of a volcano or caused by the impact of a meteorite





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