B1 Intermediate US 355 Folder Collection
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Scientists are trying to save Puerto Rico's endangered Amazon parrots after Hurricane
Maria destroyed the birds' habitats and food sources.
El Yunque is a large national forest on the eastern part of Puerto Rico.
Just two of the 56 wild parrots that once lived there survived Maria.
The Category-4 storm struck Puerto Rico in September 2017.
Scientists report other forests have seen great drops in parrot populations, as well.
In the 1800s, there were more than a million of the bright green parrots living in the
wild in Puerto Rico.
By the 1970s, the number was down to just 13 birds after years of forest clearing.
The U.S. and Puerto Rican governments launched a special program in 1972 to help increase
the parrot population.
That led to the creation of three breeding centers.
Just weeks before Hurricane Maria hit, scientists counted 56 wild parrots at El Yunque.
That was the highest number in the program's history.
Scientists say that even though several parrots have been born in captivity and in the wild
since Maria, the species is still in danger.
Marisel Lopez oversees the parrot recovery program at El Yunque for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
She says she is worried about the disappearance of parrots in El Yunque.
She said, “It was devastating, after so many years of having worked on this project.”
The Puerto Rican Amazon is the island's only remaining native parrot.
The birds only reproduce once a year.
More than 460 of the birds are kept inside the breeding centers at El Yunque and the
Rio Abajo forest.
Scientists have not released any of the birds since Hurricane Maria.
A third breeding center, in a forest in the western area of Maricao, has not been in operation
since the storm.
Federal and local scientists plan to meet next month to discuss how best to bring back
the species.
Scientists are considering whether to capture some of the remaining wild parrots and put
them in the same cage as the birds that are set to be released.
This way, the captive birds can learn from the wild birds how to survive in the forests.
Another consideration is to release some captive parrots in Maricao, which was not as heavily
damaged by Maria.
But first, scientists need to make sure the forests can offer food and safe shelter for
the birds.
Jessica Ilse works at El Yunque for the U.S. Forest Service.
She says scientists are studying the amount of fruit falling from trees and the number
of leaves the trees have dropped.
Many of the large trees where the parrots used to build nests are now gone.
Without these trees, the parrots could become easy targets for their predators.
Ilse does not know how long the recovery program will take.
She said the damage from Hurricane Maria has caused “a complete change to the ecosystem.”
Gustavo Olivieri works in the parrot recovery program for Puerto Rico's Department of
Natural Resources.
He said, “We have a lot of work to do.”
I'm Ashley Thompson.
In earlier times, healers and health workers used strangely-named plants for medicinal
Plants with names such as dragon's blood, mandrake root and devil's snare could be
bought at a drugstore called an apothecary.
Today, one of the best preserved apothecaries in the United States has been turned into
a museum in Alexandria, Virginia.
The museum provides interesting examples of medicines used before the development of modern
The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary served customers for more than 140 years, from 1792 to 1933.
When the business failed, the store and its contents were bought.
It was redesigned to look as it had in the 18th century.
In 1939, it reopened as a museum.
Lauren Gleason supervises the museum.
“A lot of the medicines that people would have been purchasing here were probably for
minor ailments, rashes, skin conditions, the flu, a headache.”
The apothecary has many thousands of objects.
Some seem strange now, like the bloodletting tools.
They were used to take blood from patients in hopes of removing their sickness as well.
The treatment was often harmful, however, and ended in the late 19th century.
Many famous people visited the apothecary while it was still a business, including America's
first president.
George Washington and his wife Martha lived nearby in the early 1800s at their home of
Mount Vernon.
But the apothecary had more than medicine.
"Lots of other chemicals like paints, dyes and perfumes, would have been made and sold
And, she said, customers could also buy baby bottles, writing instruments, and even clothes-making
machines at the store.
One bottle at the store holds a poison that was once used to ease pain.
The drug called aconite comes from the wolfsbane plant.
In earlier times, wolfsbane was thought to help control violence by imaginary creatures
known as werewolves.
In folklore, a werewolf is a human that changes into a wolf during full moons.
Jim Williams works at the apothecary.
"So if you're having werewolf trouble, it will get you through to the next full moon."
Williams added that wolfsbane would also be used to treat pain in human joints.
Visitor Christine Zapata from California said she was especially interested in the former
store's different plants.
"Using all these different herbs and plant-based medicines that are coming back now, for me
that's most interesting for me since I work in the cannabis industry."
One box at the apothecary used to contain bottles of Coca-Cola.
The drinks were first sold in the late 1800s as medicine believed to cure conditions like
tiredness and headaches.
However, Coca-Cola at that time contained the drug cocaine and could be addictive.
Some treatments fell into disuse after it became known they were poisonous.
But we continue to depend on many medicines found in the apothecary to heal injuries and
cure disease.
I'm Jonathan Evans.
The United States Capitol is one of the most famous buildings in Washington.
The Capitol building is also one of the best-known symbols of the U.S. government.
And it has been around for almost as long.
The country's first president, George Washington, set the cornerstone for the building in 1793.
At the time, the country's government was only about five years old.
And the capital city was Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania.
But national leaders were preparing to move the capital to the District of Columbia.
They identified a hill on which to build a new home for the U.S. Senate and House of
The area around it was mostly grass, trees and water – in other words, a swamp.
But the country's leaders imagined that one day it would be crowded with people and
And they were right.
Yet efforts to set up the Capitol building were slow.
Several architects were asked to work on the project and later dismissed.
The design of the building kept changing.
Finally, lawmakers began meeting in one side in 1800, and in the other side in 1807.
They passed from one side to the other on a wooden walkway.
Then, in 1814, British troops set fire to the Capitol building.
Only rain from an unexpected storm put out the fire.
After the war with the British ended, workers made repairs and began to improve the building.
They enclosed the center of the Capitol and added a dome on top.
It was made of wood and covered in copper.
For some years, improvements to the Capitol were small: running water, then gas lighting.
But major changes to the country were taking place.
New states were joining.
The United States was expanding.
And more lawmakers needed to meet in the Capitol.
By 1850, lawmakers agreed that the building was too small.
Architects and builders set to work again.
In time, they would double the length of the two sides of the Capitol.
But the increase caused a new problem: now the dome looked too small.
However, the nation was facing more serious troubles.
The southern states were threatening to withdraw from the Union.
They objected to the power of the federal government, especially its efforts to control
– or end – slavery.
By 1861, the country was fighting a civil war.
Most work on the Capitol came to a stop.
At times during the Civil War, the building served as a place for soldiers to sleep, a
hospital, and even a place where baked goods were made.
But even before the war ended, then-President Abraham Lincoln urged that improvements to
the Capitol be finished.
He reportedly said if people saw work continue on the Capitol, they would accept that the
Union would go on.
In 1863, a formerly enslaved man helped add a statue to the top of the new dome.
Philip Reid was one of many enslaved workers who had built the Capitol.
Over the years, they dug the stone, cut pieces of wood, and laid down the bricks, among other
Reid was an expert in shaping metal.
He was able to solve the problem of how to get a large statue out of its plaster cast
so it could be forged.
The figure, called the Statue of Freedom, still stands on top of the Capitol's white,
iron dome.
The Civil War ended in 1865.
As Lincoln hoped, the Union continued.
And the Capitol building was slowly modernized.
Elevators, electric lighting, and more rooms were added.
In the 20th century, the Capitol was equipped with televisions, computers, and a voting
And a large visitor center was added so the public can learn more about its history.
Today, the area around the Capitol is completely different than it was in 1793.
Washington, D.C. is now a major city.
And other government buildings stand near the Capitol.
They include the U.S. Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and even the Voice of America.
But the Capitol remains the seat of U.S. lawmaking, and a well-known symbol of the federal government.
I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.
This may seem impossible, but an American company is seeking to change farm animals
by cutting or adding to their genes.
By using a process called gene-editing, the company, Recombinetics, says it may be able
to remove problem-causing genetic traits from some animals.
Recombinetics says it can produce cows born without horns — those sharp objects on top
of their heads.
By using the editing process, the company says it can also breedcows that survive in
hot weather.
With gene-cutting, it says, pigs could live and never fully grow up.
Why would that be a good idea?
When male pigs reach puberty, their meat can have an unpleasant smell.
The company must first persuade United States government officials that gene-edited animals
are safe, and no different than ones bred the traditional way.
To date, no gene-edited animals are sold in the country.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a kind of salmon genetically engineered
to grow fast, but those fish are not yet available.
There has been debate as to whether people would want to eat food that comes from gene-edited
Last month, the FDA announced an action plan that described the steps it will take to support
both plant and animal biotechnology, while safeguarding public health.
To make this technology more acceptable, Recombinetics is not yet changing animals' genes to greatly
increase their growth or productivity.
That could make the animals seem too strange to people.
Instead, the company says it is adding gene-edited traits to ease animals' suffering.
“It's a better story to tell,” Tammy Lee told the Associated Press.
She is chief executive officer of the company, based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Cow horns can hurt other cows, animals and people.
Animal rights activists criticize the way farmers currently remove cow horns.
They use hot irons or a caustic, burning substance to remove the bone.
This is how Recombinetics says gene-editing works: In a laboratory, workers use an instrument
called a “molecular pencil” to “erase, or cut, re-write, remove, or add genes.”
This newly edited gene then would be included when an animal is impregnated.
Recombinetics solves the cow horn problem by cutting out the gene for growing horns,
ending the need for painful removals.
Once the gene is taken out, all future generations after that first animal will also lack the
gene -- and would not develop horns.
Last year, the company had a gene-edited male cow without horns.
It fathered several cows.
They were also all born hornless and are being raised on the grounds of the University of
California, Davis.
When the female offspring grow up and begin producing milk, the milk will be tested for
any problems.
Recombinetics is also developing cows that are less likely to suffer in high temperatures,
so they can live in hotter climates.
When it comes to raising pigs for their meat, Recombinetics is working with ones that will
not go through puberty.
When male pigs go through puberty, their meat can develop an unpleasant smell.
Currently, farmers castrate the males, removing their sex organs.
Animal rights activists say the treatment is painful because it is usually done without
medicine to kill the pain.
Editing genes to stop pigs from experiencing puberty would make castration unnecessary.
The company says that it is doing the work of traditional animal breeders, only much
faster and with the exact science of cutting and editing genes.
Recombinetics' Tammy Lee said she thinks if the public accepts gene-editing, farmers
would be interested in traits that increase productivity in the animals.
For example, she said, pigs would edited to have larger number of babies for each pregnancy.
Change the animal or change the system?
Critics question whether using this technology is “playing God,” doing something that
is not natural.
Paul Thompson is a professor of agriculture at Michigan State University.
He told the Associated Press that gene-editing may serve as evidence of how modern food production
already treats animals.
Thompson said there has been a debate for at least 20 years, “of whether you need
to change the animal or change the system.”
Support for changing the genes may also depend on how the technology is used.
For example, will it be used to help the animals, prevent disease, or increase productivity?
A Pew Research Center study last August found 43 percent of Americans supported genetically
engineering animals for more nutritious meat.
The Humane Society of the United States works for better treatment of animals.
The society supports gene-editing to end castration of pigs and removing cows' horns.
But the group has yet to give the technology its complete approval.
I'm Anne Ball.
For almost 200 years, the House of Representatives – part of the United States Congress – has
barred lawmakers from wearing hats.
But this year, voters in Minnesota elected Ilhan Omar to represent them in the House.
Omar, who was born in Somalia and is Muslim, wears a scarf that covers her head.
In answer, some political leaders are calling for a change to the rules so that lawmakers
can wear religious headwear during official meetings.
The proposed change would enable Omar to wear a headscarf on the House floor.
It would also permit lawmakers to wear other kinds of religious headwear, such as kippahs.
But it is unclear whether any current lawmaker would do so.
The reason for the ban on hats is mostly related to ideas about respectful behavior.
Currently, the rule appears alongside bans on smoking or using small computers, such
as iPhones, while lawmakers are meeting publicly.
But Democratic Party lawmakers have suggested a proposal to permit religious headwear.
Nancy Pelosi and Jim McGovern were two of the writers of the proposal.
They noted to NBC News that this year, voters had elected the most diverse Congress in history.
McGovern added the amended headwear rule would permit lawmakers to do their jobs, regardless
of their religious beliefs.
The Washington Post newspaper notes that the headwear proposal also denounces some of the
anti-Muslim language heard in several election campaigns.
The Postadded, “It is also notable coming at a time when several U.S. allies in Europe
are adopting countrywide bans on face veils.”
I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.
Mexico has begun taking steps to increase security near its border with the United States.
Mexican officials announced Sunday that police arrested 39 people after a peaceful march
turned violent.
The march was called to protest long processing delays for immigrants seeking asylum in the
United States.
The violence began when a group of migrants broke away from the protesters and attempted
to cross the border.
U.S. border agents reacted by firing tear gas into Mexico.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Customs and Border Patrol agents
were struck by objects thrown by members of the group.
The agency said that officers decided to use the tear gas “because of the risk to agents'
Mexico's Interior Ministry said that officials were able to contain a group of about 500
people who “violently” tried to cross the border.
The ministry said that those found to have taken part in the violence would be expelled
About 5,000 Central American migrants have been staying at a sports center in Tijuana
for more than a week.
Many are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Most say they are trying to escape poverty and violence in their homelands.
After the violence, Lurbin Sarmiento of Honduras walked back to the sports center with her
four-year-old daughter.
Sarmiento said she had been near the bottom of the Tijuana River when U.S. agents fired
tear gas.
She told the Associated Press, “We ran, but the smoke always reached us and my daughter
was choking.”
She said she never would have gotten that close with her daughter if she thought there
would be tear gas.
The wind carried some of the gas toward hundreds of migrants after some tried to get through
the wire and fencing separating the two countries.
U.S. officials closed the border crossing at San Ysidro for several hours at the end
of last week.
On Friday, Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum declared a humanitarian crisis in his city,
which is home to 1.6 million people.
He said that Tijuana is struggling to shelter the large number of migrants.
Irineo Mujica has traveled with the migrants for weeks as a representative of the aid group
Pueblo Sin Fronteras.
He said the aim of Sunday's march was to make the migrants' suffering more visible
to U.S. and Mexican officials.
“We can't have all these people here,” he said.
On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump expressed his displeasure with the group of migrants
who traveled through Mexico to the border.
He also made new arguments for his promised border wall.
He wrote on Twitter, “Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are
stone cold criminals, back to their countries.
Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the
We will close the Border permanently if need be.
Congress, fund the WALL!”
Trump has repeatedly suggested without evidence that the group of migrants is filled with
But The Associated Press reports that many are poor people with few belongings who have
fled violence in their home countries.
During his presidential election campaign, Trump promised he would have Mexico pay for
the wall.
Mexico's Interior Ministry reported on Sunday that the country has sent 11,000 Central Americans
back to their countries since October 19.
That was when the first of the two recent large migrant groups entered the country.
Mexico will likely send a total of around 100,000 Central Americans back home by the
end of this year.
A new U.S. government report says climate change is affecting the United States.
It warns that the danger of destructive weather events -- from powerful storms to extremely
dry weather and wildfires -- is worsening.
Some findings are in conflict with the statements and policies of President Donald Trump.
The report, called the Fourth National Climate Assessment, was released on November 23.
It was written long before the deadly fires in California this month and before Hurricanes
Florence and Michael struck the East Coast.
The report noted that new U.S. records for destructive weather have been set in recent
Weather-related damage has cost nearly $400 billion since 2015, The Associated Press reported.
The climate assessment is required by law every few years.
It was based on more than 1,000 earlier research studies.
More than 300 researchers in 13 U.S. government offices and agencies prepared the report.
It explains how the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is affecting different areas of
the country and how this affects the U.S. economy, including energy and agriculture.
The report noted that temperatures in the Lower 48 states have risen 1 degree Celsius
since the year 1900.
By the end of the 21st century, the country will be 1.6 to 6.6 degrees higher, depending
on how much pollution is released into the atmosphere.
Studies have linked the temperature increase to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
The climate assessment warned of longer and more powerful disasters resulting, at least
in part, from rising temperatures.
It said weather disasters are becoming more commonplace and warned that without aggressive
action, they could become much worse.
The report avoids proposing policy changes.
But it said that people must take steps to stop future weather disasters “to avoid
substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming
“Future risks from climate change depend primarily on decisions made today,” the
report said.
The Trump administration is downplaying the importance of the findings.
It says the report was largely based on “the most extreme scenario” and fails to consider
new technology and other actions that could reduce carbon emissions and the effects of
climate change.
A White House spokeswoman noted that, since 2005, carbon dioxide emissionsrelated to energy
production in the United States have dropped 14 percent.
Yet emissions worldwide continue to rise.
The Trump administration has eased enforcement of several environmental rules enacted during
the presidency of Barack Obama.
The administration also has a campaign for the production of fossil fuels like coal.
Last year, President Trump announced plans to withdraw the United States from the 2015
Paris Agreement.
He said the agreement would hurt the U.S. economy and said there was little evidence
it would improve the environment.
The measure, signed by nearly 200 countries, sets rules for fighting climate change.
I'm Alice Bryant.
From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.
Most of us know that physical activity leads to better health.
That is nothing new.
But for the first time in 10 years, the United States government has changed its guidance
on how much exercise people need to stay healthy and when they should start.
Brett Giroir is Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human
In a video, he spoke with the Associated Press about the new guidelines.
Dr. Giroir says he is excited about the new guidelines.
He adds that getting or attaining the health benefits from exercise may be easier than
earlier thought.
“I'm very excited about the guidelines because what we've found out is that it's
actually easier to attain the health benefits than we thought before.
And the health benefits are so much greater.”
That is good news for people in the U.S. who may need to lose weight.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2016 about 93 million adults
nationwide were overweight or considered obese.
Its website notes that obesity rates for both adults and children have been rising since
The new federal guidance states that children as young as 3-years-old need to be physically
Earlier guidelines used to begin at age 6.
Dr. Girior says that the most important time for children to begin exercising is between
the ages of 3 and 5.
He notes that boys and girls in this age group need at least three hours of activity every
“That was not present in our previous guidelines.
But essentially, those recommendations are that children in the 3- to 5-year-old age
group really require about three hours of active activities per day.
That could be light activities, moderate activities, or even vigorous activities.
This is the kind of play that children normally engage in.”
Doctors say it is important to start young.
They add that from birth to age 5, a child's brain develops more than at any other time
in life.
These developments have a lasting effect on a child's ability to learn and to succeed
in school and in life.
Also, Giroir says that children who start exercising at a young age are more likely
to establish healthy behaviors they will continue into adulthood.
Dr. Giroir does not suggest putting your 5-year-old on a “treadmill” or other exercise equipment.
He said, simply giving a child the time and space to play actively as they normally would
is enough.
The new guidelines say that children ages 6 through 17 get at least one hour of moderate
to vigorous activity a day.
Most of this activity should be aerobic exercise, such as biking, swimming or running.
Aerobic activity can strengthen the heart and lungs by making them work hard for several
minutes or more.
Exercise should also include muscle- and bone-strengthening activities, such as climbing trees or playground
equipment and playing sports.
Experts suggest that children get this kind of exercise at least three times a week.
For adults, the suggested length of time for exercise remains the same.
“So for adults, the guidelines recommend 150 minutes
per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
That could be brisk walking; it could mowing the lawn; it could be gardening; it could
be dancing … any kind of activity that gets your heart rate up and gets you exercising
The federal government has changed its guidance for the amount of aerobic exercise adults
should have.
Earlier guidelines stated that aerobic activity is only effective if it lasts for at least
10 minutes.
Experts now say that even short amounts of aerobics can help.
It can provide short-term health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, reducing
anxiety and improving sleep.
They also think adults need at least two days of muscle-strengthening exercise like pushups
or lifting weights.
The advice for older adults remains mostly unchanged from earlier federal guidelines.
However, those over age 65 should include activities that help aid balance and flexibility.
Better balance means fewer falls and less chance of injury.
The new guidelines have changed nothing about the dangers of sitting too much.
It is especially harmful and can even undo the benefits of exercise you may have gained.
And that's the Health & Lifestyle report.
I'm Anna Matteo.
The website Dictionary.com has chosen the term 'misinformation' as its word of the
The announcement comes less than two weeks after Oxford Dictionaries chose 'toxic'
as its word of the year.
Many people mix up the meaning of misinformation with the word disinformation.
They sometimes use one term in place of the other.
Dictionary.com defines misinformation as “false information that is spread, regardless of
whether there is intent to mislead.”
And it describes disinformation as “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated
narrative or facts; propaganda.”
So what's the difference?
Officials at Dictionary.com say it comes down to what the writer or speaker actually means.
They say that “when people spread misinformation, they often believe the information they are
But disinformation is often shared with the goal of misleading others.
For example, if people share information that they know to be false in a story or a picture,
that is disinformation.
Jane Solomon is a language expert with Dictionary.com.
She told VOA that the choice of misinformation, instead of disinformation, was done for a
She said, “disinformation is a word that looks outside of ourselves.
You can point a finger at someone who is spreading this disinformation.”
As for misinformation, “there is a quality of looking inward and it helps us evaluateour
own behavior” to fight against the spread of misinformation.
The word misinformation has been used since the late 1500s.
But Solomon said the word was chosen this year because it also “ties to a lot of events
that are happening in 2018.”
In Myanmar, misinformation, like hate speech and propaganda, fueled violence against Rohingya
And there were riots in Sri Lanka after stories that proved false set the country's Buddhist
majority against Muslims.
The disappearance and reported killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi fueled misinformation
about him and his fiancée.
And stories about Brazil's recent presidential election were filled with misinformation,
everything from incorrect voting times to false campaign promises.
Facebook and other social media websites have published misinformation, including images
of police arresting immigrants and long lines at voting stations in the United States.
They also posted incorrect voting hours and false voting requirements before the November
6 elections.
Liz McMillan is head of Dictionary.com.
She noted that the online publisher has chosen words like identity
in 2015, xenophobia in 2016, and complicit in 2017.
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News November 27, 2018 (For English learners)

355 Folder Collection
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