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This is What’s Trending Today…

YouTube says it has punished an American blogger over a video that appeared to show the body of a suicide victim.

The blogger, Logan Paul, took the video in the Aokigahara forest, near Japan’s Mount Fuji. The area is known as a place where a number of people have taken their lives in recent years.

In the video, Paul and his friends see a man’s hanging body from a tree. They react with shock, but also make jokes.

Suicide rates in Japan are among the highest in the world. About 21,000 people there commit suicide each year, according to Japanese government estimates.

YouTube said in a statement that it has removed Logan Paul’s channels from Google Preferred, which presents top YouTube videos. The company offers those videos to advertisers.

YouTube also said it will not include Paul in the new season of a web-based series called “Foursome.” And it said his new videos are no longer being published.

Paul’s YouTube channel has more than 15 million subscribers. He has more than 4 million followers on Twitter. The video filmed in the Japanese forest received over 6 million views before Paul took it down.

YouTube bars violent content that is shown in a shocking or disrespectful way, the company says. It issued a “strike” against Paul’s channel for violating its community rules after the video was published.

Paul announced earlier this month he was taking a break from making YouTube videos “to reflect.” He has also published several apology videos and posts on social media.

But Paul continues to face strong criticism for the apparent suicide victim video as well as other video blogs he published during his visit to Japan.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

commit - v. to do (something that is illegal or harmful)

channel - n. a television or radio station

reflect - v. to think carefully about something

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South Korea said on Thursday it plans to ban trading of cryptocurrency, including the popular bitcoin.

The announcement sent bitcoin prices much lower and created unrest in the cryptocurrency market.

Justice Minister Park Sang-ki said the government was preparing a bill to ban trading of the virtual money on South Korean currency exchanges.

He said, “There are great concerns regarding virtual currencies and the justice ministry is basically preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency trading through exchanges.”

The price of bitcoin in South Korea dropped as much as 21 percent immediately after the minister’s comments.

Around the world, one bitcoin was valued at about $14,000 on Thursday, January 11. Over the past year, the price moved from less than $1,000 in January 2017 to a high of $19,000 last month.

Bitcoin is different from national currencies, which are supported by governments and national banks. It is stored as a line of computer code. It is not printed on paper or something you can hold.

Bitcoin is similar to real money because you can spend it without using your real identity, as you do with a credit card. People who want to buy and sell things anonymously like bitcoin.

The price of bitcoin went down after the announcement by the ministry of justice
The price of bitcoin went down after the announcement by the ministry of justice

Exchanges of bitcoin in South Korea

By Thursday afternoon, more than 55,000 South Koreans called on the government to stop the proposed ban.

After the price drop, the South Korean president’s office said a ban on cryptocurrency exchanges had yet to be finalized. It said the ban was one of the measures being considered.

A press official at the justice ministry said the proposed ban on cryptocurrency trading came after “enough discussion” with finance ministry and financial officials.

Once a bill is written, legislation for a ban of virtual coin trading still requires a majority of the vote in the National Assembly. It is a process that could take months or even years.

Mun Chong-hyun, chief analyst at EST Security, told Reuters the ban “will make trading difficult here, but not impossible.”

Mun added, “Keen traders, especially hackers, will find it tough to cash out their gains from virtual coin investments in Korea but they can go overseas, for example, Japan.”

Park Nok-sun is a cryptocurrency expert at NH Investment & Securities. Park said “Some officials are pushing for stronger and stronger regulations because they only see more (investors) jumping in, not out.”

South Korean officials are worried that the rising value has fueled huge demand for cryptocurrency in the country. They fear college students and housewives are hoping to get rich quick by investing. They likened it to a game of chance.

The news of South Korea’s proposed ban came as governments around the world are looking to control the trading of cryptocurrencies.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

The Reuters news agency reported this story. Hai Do adapted the report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

cryptocurrency - n. money that only exists electronically

virtual - adj. existing or occurring on computers or on the internet

anonymously - adv. not named or identified

analyst - n. a person who study or analyze something

hacker - n. a person who secretly gets access to a computer system in order to get information, cause damage, etc.

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Observers say French President Emmanuel Macron communicated two important messages during his recent visit to China.

One was about the huge possibilities cooperation between China and Europe could bring and Macron’s support of that effort.

The other was a warning not to underestimate European concern about China’s possibly unfair trade practices. These include Chinese restrictions on investment in many businesses and industries.

Matheiu Duchatel is deputy director of the Asia and China Program at the European Council of Foreign Relations. He said that Macron’s visit will influence actions not only in France, but in other countries also.

“He wants to present himself as a leader” of the European Union (EU),” Duchatel said. “But at the same time, I think he wants to send a signal that Europe and the EU are in better shape than many think in China,” he noted.

Duchatel said that Europe, the United States and Australia are all expressing growing concern about China’s trade practices.

“Many (people) are coming to terms with the reality that China is no longer the factory of the world,” he added. “But it is clearly a country that has very strong ambitions in terms of economic leadership for the world and it is not a market economy.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a joint press briefing at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Schiefelbei/Pool
French President Emmanuel Macron, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after a joint press briefing at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China January 9, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Schiefelbei/Pool

Macron presented Chinese leader Xi Jinping with a gift of an 8-year old horse named Vesuvius.

He promised to visit China at least once every year while he serves as France’s president. He also said that he is ready to work to “get the Europe-China relationship into the 21st Century.”

The two sides signed major trade deals during the visit. China’s president said the two countries will deepen their “strategic cooperation.”

During his first stop in Xi’an, Macron expressed French support for China’s huge trade and commerce project, the “Belt and Road” initiative.

Xi’an was once the starting point of the Silk Road, the name for roads and transportation links used by traders many centuries ago. In a speech, Macron noted that the ancient Silk Roads were never only Chinese.

“By definition these roads can only be shared,” he told a meeting of business people, students and professors. “If they are roads, they cannot be one-way.”

On Tuesday, Macron met with Alibaba founder Jack Ma and officials of other Chinese and French companies. In a speech, the president talked about the possibilities cooperation could bring. But he warned about the threat of protectionism if changes were not made.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Bill Ide and Joyce Huang reported this story for VOANews.com. George Grow adapted their report for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Words in This Story

ambition n. a desire to get things done; a goal or aim

commercen. the change of products or services

initiative – n. a plan that is designed to solve a problem

advantage – n. a gain or desirable quality

screening mechanism n. a method or model for testing

globalization – n. the combining of national economics through trade, investment and technology

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

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The local government in Washington, D.C. has approved plans to rename one of the city’s streets after Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.

The street is in front of the Russian embassy to the United States. Nemtsov, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was killed in 2015.

Time magazine reports that Russian lawmakers have criticized the plan.

On January 9, the Council of the District of Columbia passed a measure called the Boris Nemtsov Plaza Designation Act. Every member of the council voted to approve the renaming of the street 'on an emergency basis.'

The measure renames the part of Wisconsin Avenue that is home to the Russian Embassy in honor of the opposition leader. Boris Nemtsov was a reformist politician and fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Nemtsov was shot and killed nearly three years ago on a bridge in Moscow.

People come to lay flowers at the site, where Boris Nemtsov was shot dead, with St. Basil's Cathedral (R) and the Kremlin walls seen in the background, in central Moscow, February 28, 2015.
People come to lay flowers at the site, where Boris Nemtsov was shot dead, with St. Basil's Cathedral (R) and the Kremlin walls seen in the background, in central Moscow, February 28, 2015.

A change coming at a tense time

D.C. officials are seeking permission from the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Homeland Security before they make the change. Council officials said that a ceremony to set up a plaque honoring Nemtsov has been set for the third anniversary of his death on February 27.

Federal legislation to rename the area along Wisconsin Avenue was first proposed in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 2017. The proposal has yet to be approved.

The Senate bill states that the address of the property containing the embassy, the Russian ambassador’s home and consulate would be changed to 1 Boris Nemtsov Plaza.

In the past, Russian officials have expressed opposition to the renaming. However, Dimitry Peskov, a government spokesman, said it is the decision of the D.C. officials for how to name the street in front of the embassy.

'This is a prerogative of the city authorities,” he said, while noting it comes at a time when relations between the two countries have been tense. Russia’s state-operated TASS news agency reported his comments.

FILE - Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov attends a rally in central Moscow, April 6, 2013.
FILE - Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov attends a rally in central Moscow, April 6, 2013.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that Nemtsov supporters set up an unofficial memorial in his honor on the bridge where he was shot dead. But it has been repeatedly damaged or removed by unknown individuals.

Last September, a plaque honoring Nemtsov was placed on the Moscow building where the opposition leader lived. But city officials declared the plaque illegal. It was removed after less than one week by a pro-government activist group.

In June, a Moscow court found five men from Russia's North Caucasus area of Chechnya guilty of Nemtsov's murder. It sentenced them to prison for terms between 11 to 20 years.

However, Nemtsov’s relatives and other contacts believe the killing had been ordered at a higher level. They say there will be no justice until the person or people who ordered his murdered are identified and brought to trial.

Symbols can create change

Last month, Nemtsov’s daughter Zhanna Nemtsova spoke at a public hearing in Washington. She told D.C. council members that Putin's government wanted to completely remove the memory of her father. She said the Kremlin believes correctly that symbols are important and can sometimes incite change.

'This explains the nervous reaction from the Russian Foreign Ministry when they first heard of the Washington, D.C., [street-naming] initiative,' Nemtsova said.

I’m Lucija Millonig.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on this story. Phil Dierking adapted the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Do you think streets in front of Embassy’s should be named after political activists? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

consulate – n. a diplomatic office

initiative – n. the power to act or take charge before others do.

plaque – n. a piece of metal or wood with writing on it

prerogative – n. a special right or power

symbol – n. something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship or ties

address – n. a place where you can contact or communicate with an individual or organization

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This is what’s trending today…

Activists are denouncing French film star Catherine Deneuve and other women for an open letter they published this week in the newspaper Le Monde.

The letter sharply criticized the #metoo campaign. The movement began in October with accusations of sexual wrongdoing against American movie producer Harvey Weinstein. The accusations led to his dismissal from the company he founded.

In the months since, more people have come forward with abuse accusations against men in powerful positions across many industries.

Deneuve and more than 100 other French women signed the letter. It said the movement had become a public trial, in which the accused were not given a chance to defend themselves. And it said the movement is powered by a “hatred of men.”

The women also argue in the letter that the movement represses sexual freedom and serves those who see women as “separate beings, children with the appearance of adults, demanding to be protected.”

The letter begins with the statement that rape is a crime. But the letter also argues that it is not a crime “to touch a woman’s knee, try to steal a kiss, talk about intimate things during a work meal, or send sexually charged messages to women who did not return their interest.”

Social media responses to the letter have been mixed.

Actor Asia Argento, who has accused Weinstein of rape, was dismissive on Twitter. She wrote: “Catherine Deneuve and other French women tell the world how their interiorized misogyny has lobotomized them to the point of no return.”

But in answer to Argento, Twitter user Claire Fox wrote: 'Bravo Denueuve, who speaks for those many women told to shut up by the sisterhood for daring to worry about a witch-hunt atmosphere.'

A “witch hunt” is the act of unfairly punishing people who are accused of having opinions that some consider to be dangerous or evil.

On Wednesday, several French women’s rights activists dismissed the letter. The activists wrote on the website Franceinfotv that Deneuve and the others who signed the letter are making sexual violence appear “normal.”

And that’s what’s trending today.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Caty Weaver adapted this report for Learning English based on Associated Press reports. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Words in This Story

repress - v. to not allow yourself to do or express (something)

intimate - n. ​involving sex or sexual relations​

interiorize - v. ​to make interior; to make a part of one's own inner being.

misogyny - n ​ dislike of, or prejudice against women.

lobotomize - v. ​to undergo an operation in which part of the brain is cut in order to treat some mental disorders​

bravo - interjection. ​used to express approval of a performance​

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The United States has announced plans to open much of the country’s coastal waters to oil and gas drilling.

The Interior Department released the five-year plan last week. It is much more expansive than one suggested by President Donald Trump in April of last year.

The Interior Department proposed to publicly sell 47 possible drilling rights in much of the U.S. continental shelf. That is a large increase from the 11 lease sales during the presidency of Barack Obama.

The draft of the plan would permit the sale of drilling leases in 25 of 26 offshore planning areas. The one area identified as off-limits is the waters near Alaska’s far-western Aleutian Islands. The area was given special protection by former President George W. Bush.

The strongest energy superpower in the world

FILE - Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
FILE - Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told reporters last week that the United States is, in his words, “going to become the strongest energy superpower this world has ever known.”

Zinke also said that he wants to grow the country’s offshore energy industry instead of having to depend on foreign energy resources.

“We will produce enough energy to meet our needs at home, and we will export enough energy to lead the world,' he said.

The Interior Department’s broad proposal is meant to begin with a 60-day public comment period. The Interior Department is responsible for setting the start date of the comment period.

Zinke said in a press release that “not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks.”

Some critics of the plan have already expressed their feelings. The opponents include environmental groups and governors from coastal states.

When the plan was first released, waters off Florida’s coastline were included. However, Zinke announced on Tuesday that he is now banning oil and gas drilling off the Florida coast.

In a statement, Zinke said, “I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”

The Interior Secretary admitted that Florida Governor Rick Scott pressured him to amend his decision.

The Defense Department has also expressed concerns about drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, where the U.S. Navy performs exercises.

The Trump administration is currently operating under a plan set up by the Obama administration. The plan is for the years 2017 to 2022. Obama had proposed drilling off the Atlantic Coast and off Alaska's Arctic coast. However, both proposals were removed in the final version of the plan.

Last year, Zinke took a number of steps to make it easier to lease and explore for oil on land and in water. He removed some safety laws that were put into place after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The Deepwater Horizon rig caught fire after an oil well explosion. Eleven people were killed. The resulting oil spill – nearly 5 billion barrels over five months -- was the worst offshore oil spill in American history.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

FILE - The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico, April 21, 2010, after an explosion that killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in the nation's history.
FILE - The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns in the Gulf of Mexico, April 21, 2010, after an explosion that killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in the nation's history.

Marissa Melton reported this story for VOANews.com. Phil Dierking adapted her story for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Do you think coasts should be used for energy resources or protected? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

appropriate - adj. especially suitable or compatible

continental shelf - n. the area of seabed around a large landmass where the sea is relatively shallow compared with the open ocean. The continental shelf is geologically part of the continental crust.

broad - adj. covering a large number and wide scope of subjects or areas.​

drilling - v. produce (a hole) in something by or as if by boring with a drill.​

lease - n. a contract by which one conveys real estate, equipment, or facilities for a specified term and for a specified rent

marine ecosystems - n. a complex of living organisms in the ocean environement

offshore - adv. at a distance from the shore

reliant - adj. having reliance on something or someone​

tourism - n. the practice of traveling for recreation​

unique - adj. being the only one​

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South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in says he would be willing to hold talks with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un under the right conditions.

Moon made the offer as he spoke to reporters Wednesday one day after diplomats from the two sides met for 11 hours in their first official talks since 2015.

Negotiators met at the “peace village” of Panmunjom on the border between the Koreas.

Moon said, “What we can do at the moment is improve inter-Korean relations, engage North Korea in dialogue, so that North Korea can return to the negotiation table for, ultimately, denuclearization.”

It is unclear whether a meeting between the two Korean leaders could take place anytime soon. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has not met with any foreign leaders since he took power in 2011.

Koh Yu-hwan is a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul. He said such a meeting is possible during Moon’s five-year term.

“Kim has never met any foreign leader, so it would be meaningful for him to make his first summit a meeting between [the] Koreas,” he said.

Moon said he was open to any form of meeting with some conditions. He noted talks should not be empty. During last year’s presidential campaign, Moon said that he wanted to improve relations between the Koreas. However, he also has supported strong international restrictions on the North to bring it to the negotiating table.

The South Korean president noted on Wednesday that U.S. President Donald Trump was important in helping to bring about conditions that permitted the negotiations. He said Trump deserved “big credit” for increasing pressure through sanctions on the North Korean leadership.

U.S. President Donald Trump and President Moon Jae-In spoke by phone earlier, before talks were held in Panmunjom.
U.S. President Donald Trump and President Moon Jae-In spoke by phone earlier, before talks were held in Panmunjom.

In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump agreed during a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. “Without our attitude that would have never happened,” Trump said.

Trump added, “Who knows where it leads. Hopefully it will lead to success for the world — not just for our country but for the world, and we’ll be seeing over the next number of weeks and months what happens.”

The White House also said in a statement, “President Trump expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances.”

Results of Panmunjom talks

The two Koreas have agreed to reopen an emergency communications hotline. They also agreed to hold military talks to solve disputes and avoid accidental conflict.

North Korea said it would send a large delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics next month. And South Korea said it would be willing to suspend some restrictions that could interfere with North Korea attending the Games.

South Korea also proposed a reunion of families separated by the Korean War to be held some time in February.

Guarded reactions to talks

Moon called North Korea’s attendance at the Olympic Games “very desirable.” However, he said progress on the nuclear issue is necessary for relations between the Koreas to improve. He warned that new nuclear or missile tests would only increase international pressure.

Grant Newsham is with the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies based in Tokyo. He said it is important that the militaries of the two sides are talking to each other. But he warns that North Korea could use the talks to divide South Korea from its allies, Japan and the U.S.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Mario Ritter adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting from Brian Padden of VOA and the Associated Press. Hai Do was the editor.

Words in This Story

engage –v. to become involved in

dialogue –n. discussions between two groups or countries which have a disagreement

sanctions –n. measures meant to cause a country to obey international law usually having to do with trade

attitude –n. the way a person things or acts about someone or something

reunion –n. a gathering of people who have not been together in a long time

circumstances –n. conditions that affect a situation

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This is What’s Trending Today….

Har Gobind Khorana was an Indian American biochemist.

His research led to greater understanding of the makeup of human DNA. In 1968, he received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Khorana would have been 96 years old on Tuesday, January 9.

Google honored his life and work on its homepage with a Google Doodle. The image could be seen by Google users in 13 countries, including the United States, India, Argentina, Chile and Japan.

Khorana was born on January 9, 1922, in a small Indian village called Raipur. The area is now part of Pakistan.

As Google reports, Khorana’s father helped his children learn to read and write. This was not common in poor, rural places like Raipur.

Khorana received scholarships to attend Punjab University where he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. The Indian government later gave Khorana a scholarship for him to do his doctoral studies in chemistry at the University of Liverpool in England.

Khorana went on to do research at universities around the world, including Canada and the United States. In 1968, he and two other researchers at the University of Wisconsin - Madison earned the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

“Together,” Google explains, “they discovered that the order of nucleotides in our DNA determines which amino acids are built. These amino acids form proteins, which carry out essential cell function.”

In 1972, Khorana made another important scientific breakthrough when he built the first-ever synthetic gene.

Bangalore-based artist and designer Rohan Dahotre created the Google Doodle.

Google produced two other Doodles for January 9. Users in the Middle East saw a Doodle celebrating what would have been the 82nd birthday of Egyptian poet and radio host Farouk Shousha. He died in 2016 at the age of 80.

And users in Indonesia and a few other countries saw a Doodle of the “corpse flower.” The huge, unusual -- and foul-smelling -- plant was honored by Indonesian officials as a national rarity 25 years ago.

And that’s What’s Trending Today…

I’m Ashley Thompson.

Words in This Story

DNA - n. a substance that carries genetic information in the cells of plants and animals (DNA is an abbreviation of “deoxyribonucleic acid')

scholarship - n. an amount of money that is given by a school, an organization, etc., to a student to help pay for the student's education

degree - n. an official document and title that is given to someone who has successfully completed a series of classes at a college or university

amino acid - n. any one of many acids that occur naturally in living things and that include some which form proteins

essential - adj. extremely important and necessary

synthetic - adj. made by combining different substances : not natural

host - n. a person who talks to guests on a television or radio show

foul - adj. very unpleasant to taste or smell

]]>
http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2018/01/10/3356/http://www.unsv.com/voanews/specialenglish/scripts/2018/01/10/3356/VOA Special EnglishWed, 10 Jan 2018 07:55:00 UTC
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Iranian officials have banned the teaching of English in primary schools.

Mehdi Navid-Adham, chief of Iran’s High Education Council, informed state television of the ban last Saturday.

The move came after Islamic leaders warned that early learning of the English language has led to a Western “cultural invasion”.

“Teaching English in government and non-government primary schools in the official curriculum is against laws and regulations,” Navid-Adham said. He added that the government may also stop non-curriculum English classes.

The reasoning, Navid-Adham said, is that the groundwork, or basis, of Iranian culture should be taught to young children.

In Iran, English language training is usually offered in middle school, to students from 12 to 14 years of age. However, in some primary schools, students may begin taking English classes at younger ages.

Some Iranian children also attend foreign language classes at private education centers after normal school hours.

The dangers of a “cultural invasion”

Iran’s Islamic leaders have often warned about the dangers of “cultural invasion.”

In 2016, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei voiced concern over the “teaching of the English language spreading to nursery schools”.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in a meeting, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. Photo was released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in a meeting, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. Photo was released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader.

In a speech to teachers, Khamenei said that his concern, “Does not mean opposition to learning a foreign language, but (this is the) promotion of a foreign culture in the country and among children, young adults and youths.”

Khamenei accused Western countries of promoting their cultures with Iranian youth as a way of expanding their influence in Iran, according to his office’s website.

In the same speech, he urged Iranians to spend more time and money on the teaching of the Persian language, instead of English.

Last Saturday, Navid-Adham told state television that government officials want to strengthen “Persian language skills and Iranian Islamic culture at the primary school stage.” He added that it would now be against the law to teach English at the primary school level, either during or outside of normal school hours.

The Reuters news agency reported that in the past, other languages have also been targeted by Iranian officials. In 2017, Iran’s intelligence agency banned the publication of a Kurdish-language instruction book.

No link to protests

In his announcement, Navid-Adham did not link the new language education rules to recent anti-government protests. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have blamed foreign enemies for the unrest.

A video dealing with the announcement of the ban was widely shared on social media on Sunday. A number of Iranians have jokingly called it “The filtering of English.” Some compare it to the blocking of the popular app Telegram by the government during the protests.

I’m Phil Dierking.

Phil Dierking adapted this report for VOA Learning English based on Reuters news reports. The story also includes information from The Washington Post newspaper and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. George Grow was the editor.

Do you think teaching English at the primary school level in a non-English speaking country is cultural invasion? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

app - n. a computer program that performs a special function​

curriculum - n. the courses that are taught by a school, college, etc.​

filter - v. to pass something, through a filter to remove something unwanted​

nursery - adj. a room where children sleep, play, and are sometimes taught​

promotion - n. something that is done to make people aware of something and increase its sales or popularity​

regulation - n. an official rule or law that says how something should be done​

]]>
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A United Nations agency finds itself at the center of attention following criticism from Israel and comments by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Palestinian refugees receive humanitarian aid through the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Money for the program comes mainly from voluntary donations by UN member states.

Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet the agency should be closed.

Netanyahu said that UNRWA works only for Palestinian refugees and makes the refugee problem worse. He wants its financing moved to the UN's main refugee agency.

“UNRWA must become a thing of the past,' Netanyahu said. He said that the U.N. agency helps Palestinians believe they will get their land returned if Israel is destroyed.

The agency says as many as 5 million refugees can use its services. They are Palestinians who left their homes during the war that established Israel in 1948, or their descendants.

Today, more than 1.5 million Palestinians live in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestinian boys play pool in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.
Palestinian boys play pool in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said the agency will continue its work until there is a 'just and lasting solution' for the refugees.

'What perpetuates the refugee crisis is the failure of the parties to deal with the issue,” Gunness said in a statement. He added, “This needs to be resolved by the parties to the conflict in the context of peace talks, based on U.N. resolutions and international law, and requires active engagement by the international community.”

Efforts to support peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians have been unsuccessful for several years. Tensions between the two worsened last month when the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

President Trump’s decision was a break from longstanding U.S. policy and the ideas of the United Nations. UN officials have long said the future of Jerusalem and a decision on Israel’s capital are issues to be negotiated.

The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state under a two-state solution.

Trump also threatened last week to cut millions of dollars in U.S. aid to the Palestinians. Netanyahu praised the president in his own comments Sunday.

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi rejected Trump's threat. She accused him of sabotaging the peace process and then blaming the Palestinians for 'the consequences of his own irresponsible actions.'

Ashrawi said further the Palestinians 'will not be blackmailed.'

Trump did not say exactly how much government aid would be cut.

The U.S. provides one-third of UNRWA's funding and provided more than $350 million to the agency in 2016.

I'm Susan Shand.

Chris Hannas and Cindy Seine reported on this story for VOANews.com. Susan Shand adapted their reports for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

----------------_____________

Words in This Story

perpetuate – v. to continue

engage – v. to discuss or to interact with

consequence – n. the result of a person’s actions

blackmail – v. to demand money from someone in exchange for keeping information secret

descendant – n. someone related to a person or people who lived at an earlier time

]]>
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The biggest technology show of the year is taking place this week in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The show is called CES 2018.

The Consumer Technology Association estimates about 170,000 people will attend. About one-third of them are reported to come from countries other than the United States.

The show takes place every January. It was formerly called The International Consumer Electronics Show, or CES.

More than 4,000 businesses are demonstrating products in areas such as gaming, self-driving cars, digital health, artificial intelligence and robotics.

One of the biggest stars at CES 2018 is the voice-controlled digital assistant. While the technology is not new, many companies are showing off the latest in virtual assistants.

Toyota's e-Pallet concept is unveiled during a news conference at CES International, Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Toyota's e-Pallet concept is unveiled during a news conference at CES International, Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Mayfield Robotics' Kuri home robot is surrounded by attendees during CES Unveiled at CES International Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Mayfield Robotics' Kuri home robot is surrounded by attendees during CES Unveiled at CES International Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Devices controlled by digital assistants – especially those activated by voice - were already big sellers in 2017. This year, Google, Amazon and Apple are expected to release even more products to keep up with rising demand.

Digital assistants are powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning technology. They are designed to learn user preferences over time and then “think” and act on their own.

Some of the biggest developments in technology have come in the area of home automation. Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple’s HomePod and Microsoft's Cortana are a few examples of voice-activated devices. All include “smart” speakers that “talk” to users inside the home and can perform operations.

Experts with the Consumer Technology Association say sales of smart speakers are expected to nearly double in 2018, to $3.8 billion. 'That market is not just heating up. It is a wildfire,' researcher Steve Koenig told Agence France-Presse.

The internet-linked products can play music or find information when asked questions. They can also control equipment such as lighting, cameras, televisions and temperature controllers.

The HiMirror Mini, an internet-connected smart mirror with Amazon's Alexa, is displayed during CES Unveiled at CES International Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
The HiMirror Mini, an internet-connected smart mirror with Amazon's Alexa, is displayed during CES Unveiled at CES International Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Attendees take pictures of ForwardX Robotics' CX-1 self-driving luggage during CES Unveiled at CES International Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Attendees take pictures of ForwardX Robotics' CX-1 self-driving luggage during CES Unveiled at CES International Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Among new “smart” home products to be released at the CES are voice-controlled washing machines, refrigerators, showers and toilets.

Some businesses will demonstrate robots that are designed to help people do things or attend to their needs. New virtual-reality and augmented-reality technologies will also be shown. Many of these will be aimed at video gamers or sports lovers seeking to feel like they are more involved in the game.

CES is also traditionally the place for major electronics manufacturers to demonstrate their newest televisions. In an effort to get people to buy, companies are continuing to advertise new technologies, including “4K,” ″HDR” and “OLED.” Many of the televisions launched this year will come with voice controls.

Chloe Szulzinger demonstrates on CareOS, an operating system that connects multiple devices in the bathroom, during CES Unveiled at CES International Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Chloe Szulzinger demonstrates on CareOS, an operating system that connects multiple devices in the bathroom, during CES Unveiled at CES International Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The show also has many new physical fitness and health-related devices. Some are designed to help people create the best personal fitness plans to reach their goals.

Wearable health devices are equipped to study and measure body conditions, while others help recognize signs of disease.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. His story is based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and other sources. 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

virtual adj. not existing physically, but instead on a computer or the internet

artificial intelligence n. the ability of computers to copy human behavior, such as making decisions or offering suggestions

preference n. the liking of one thing over another

virtual reality n. the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment​

augmented reality n. an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to add digital information on an image of something

digitaladj. using or involving computer technology

automation n. the use of a machine or mechanical system to do work normally performed by humans

]]>
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UNSV英语学习频道 - 提供免费英语学习资料下载、系统英语听说读写训练、在线英语学习交流 - 钱柜娱乐999-www.qg999.com-钱柜国际娱乐官网Anna Matteo如果想下载文章的MP3声音、PDF文稿、LRC同步字幕以及中文翻译等配套钱柜娱乐qg999学习资料,请访问以下链接:
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

Which is more popular -- coffee or tea?

If you are on Team Coffee, your team may be ahead.

The well-known U.S. coffee shop Starbucks just opened its largest store in the land of tea: China!

The Shanghai Starbucks is 2,700 square meters and employs more than 400 people.

But now for the health question: Is coffee good for us?

There have been many studies on the health benefits of coffee. Recently, researchers at the University of Southampton's Faculty of Medicine in Great Britain looked at results from 201 observational coffee studies and 17 clinical trials of coffee.

With this “umbrella review,” researchers wanted to find a clear answer on whether coffee is good for us or not.

They discovered that coffee drinkers had a lower risk of heart and liver disease and some cancers. Coffee drinkers also had a lower risk of dying from stroke.

However, their findings are uncertain. The researchers could not prove coffee was the cause of these lowered risks.

One of the researchers of this umbrella review is Robin Poole. Poole’s team notes that their umbrella review included mainly observational data. Therefore, they could not prove any cause and effect relationship.

The National Institutes of Health in the United States define an 'observational uncontrolled study' as a study where “researchers simply watch what happens to a series of people in one group.” There is no control group.

Still, researchers found that the benefits of moderate coffee drinking seem to outweigh the risks. Their report says that drinking coffee 'was more often associated with benefit than harm.'

Poole calls these findings 'headline benefits.'

'There are some headline benefits such as a lower risk of dying from any cause, a lower risk of dying from heart disease and stroke and a lower risk of developing heart disease in the first place. And for those outcomes the maximum benefit was around three to four cups of coffee per day.'

Poole means that if people read only the headline, they may think that the results are simply positive. But he warns that the coffee story is much more complicated.

He advises people to not drink more than four cups a day. And not everyone should drink so much coffee.

Researchers found that:

- Too much coffee during pregnancy can be dangerous.

- People, especially women, whose bones break easily should limit how much coffee they drink.

- People with abnormal heart beat patterns are advised to drink decaffeinated coffee.

Healthy coffee is black coffee

In addition, the scientists point out that the research was only about coffee. Yet many coffee drinkers don't just drink coffee. They put sugar into it. They add milk or cream. They may have a baked treat on the side.

Researcher Robin Poole warns that to get the full health benefits of coffee, keep it simple. Drinking it black is the healthiest. And skip the pastries.

A selection of pastries, including doughnuts, bagels, rolls, croissants, turnovers and sticky buns are displayed in a New York coffee cart. (File Photo)
A selection of pastries, including doughnuts, bagels, rolls, croissants, turnovers and sticky buns are displayed in a New York coffee cart. (File Photo)

'It is not about the sugar and the syrups and the biscuits, cakes and pastries. And we would urge people who are already drinking moderate amounts of coffee -- about the three or four cups per day mark -- to enjoy it, but try and make it as healthy as possible because standard health messages still apply to those other things.'

The researchers found that the greatest benefit to drinking coffee seemed to be in fighting liver diseases. Based on that finding, they are planning a clinical test using coffee as a treatment for cirrhosis, a serious liver disease.

But the final takeaway is the same as before: If you drink coffee, keep it simple and don’t eat the pastries or other baked treats that often come with a cup of coffee.

And if you’re not coffee drinker, you don't need to start drinking coffee to be healthier.

And that's the Health & Lifestyle report. I'm Anna Matteo.

The coffee versus tea argument is always interesting. In the Comments Section, let us know which one you prefer.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for Learning English with additional reporting from Geogrge Putic. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

Quiz

Now, test your understanding by taking this short quiz.

Quiz - Large Review of Coffee Studies Finds ... Not Much New

Quiz - Large Review of Coffee Studies Finds ... Not Much New

Words in This Story

data n. factual information (such as measurements or statistics) used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation

outweigh v. to exceed in weight, value, or importance

associate v. to bring together or into relationship in any of various intangible ways

allege v. to state without definite proof

maximum adj. greatest possible in amount or degree

decaffeinated adj. having the caffeine removed

skip v. to pass over or leave out (something)

pastry n. a sweet baked treat that often has fruit, icing, etc., on top

syrup n. a thick sticky solution of sugar and water often flavored

cirrhosis medical noun a serious disease of the liver that can be caused by drinking too much alcohol

takeaway n. a main point or key message to be learned or understood from something experienced or observed

]]>
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Bangkok, Thailand, is known for having some of the best street food in the world. Now, one street seller is being officially recognized for her tasty creations.

The roadside restaurant Jay Fai in Bangkok was recently awarded a star in the highly respected Michelin Guide to restaurants around the world. Officials from the guide visit restaurants and then give them a rating of 1 to 3 stars, based on overall quality.

Jay Fai is like many other street eateries across Bangkok. It servers a variety of Thai dishes in simple surroundings.

The owner and main cook is 72-year-old Fai Junsuta. She prepares the food in an open-air kitchen. She does all of the cooking in a couple of large pans called woks, and wears special glasses to protect her eyes from an endless stream of smoke.

The Michelin Guide describes her restaurant as “a place that both taxi drivers and foodies wax lyrical about.” It says that some of the restaurant’s most popular food items are crab omelets, crab curries and dried congee.

Many restaurants wait years to receive Michelin stars. But Fai Junsuta says was not aware of the honor before being chosen.

Chef Fai Junsuta from the Jay Fai street food restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand poses for a photograph with the Michelin Guide Bangkok 2018 at the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok. (Michelin Guide Thailand)
Chef Fai Junsuta from the Jay Fai street food restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand poses for a photograph with the Michelin Guide Bangkok 2018 at the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok. (Michelin Guide Thailand)

'Before, I knew the Michelin name but I did not know it had to do with cooking,' she told Agence France-Presse. 'I am very proud.'

But she added that she would quickly be returning to the kitchen after attending an awards ceremony. 'We do not have a lot of staff because I'm a bit difficult and crazy,' she said.

Jay Fai was one of 17 restaurants chosen for the first-ever Michelin Guide for Bangkok.

Three of the city’s restaurants – serving Indian, French and European food - received two stars. The others – seven of which are Thai restaurants - received one star. Many other eateries, including 28 street food places, are also included in the guide, but they did not receive any stars.

In announcing the selections, Michelin said Bangkok has learned how to successfully offer many kinds of international cooking styles without giving up its own food heritage.

Thailand’s Tourism Authority signed a partnership with Michelin to create the Bangkok guide.

A street vendor cooks food on a street in central Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, April 22, 2016. In Bangkok, street food remains the heart and soul of local cuisine, sold day and night from carts and makeshift stands. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A street vendor cooks food on a street in central Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, April 22, 2016. In Bangkok, street food remains the heart and soul of local cuisine, sold day and night from carts and makeshift stands. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

The partnership followed an announcement last year that Thai officials planned to ban street food sellers in Bangkok in an effort to clean up the city.

The government later backed away from its plans to completely remove all street food vendors. But officials did tighten some rules to prevent sellers from blocking traffic and people.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from Reuters, Agence France-Presse and other sources. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Where have you eaten the best street food? Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

----------------

Words in This Story

wok n. large, bowl-shaped pan used for cooking

wax lyrical phrase. talk about something in a very enthusiastic way

staff n. people who work at an organization

heritage n. the traditions, achievements, beliefs, etc., that are part of the history of a group or nation

vendor n. person who sells something outside

]]>
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Actor Cate Blanchett will head the awards jury at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival in May.

The Australian movie star is a major voice in the campaign against sexual harassment.

In a statement, Festival officials Pierre Lescure and Thierry Fremaux praised Blanchett. They called her “a rare and unique artist whose talent and convictions enrich both screen and stage.”

Blanchett is a two-time Academy Award winner. She also was an early supporter of the women who accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual wrongdoing.

Weinstein resigned as head of the powerful Weinstein Company in October. He left a few weeks after the first reports of widespread accusations against him were published.

Blanchett recently joined the Time's Up campaign with movie stars Reese Witherspoon, Emma Stone and others. The campaign aims to act against sexual harassment and inequality in the workplace.

Blanchett said she had been to Cannes for many reasons over the years: as an actress, producer and in competition. But the actor said she has never attended only for the pleasure of watching the many films the festival offers.

“I am humbled by the privilege and responsibility of presiding over this year's jury. This festival plays a pivotal role in bringing the world together to celebrate story,” Blanchett said.

Blanchett won the 2014 best actress Oscar for her part in the movie “Blue Jasmine.” Ten years earlier, she had won the Academy Award for best supporting actress in “The Aviator.”

In 2012, the French government honored Blanchett with the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Blanchett follows Spanish director Pedro Almodovar. He headed the 70th festival in the coastal town of Cannes last year. This year's event will take place from May 8 to 19.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Caty Weaver adapted this story for Learning English based on Associated Press news reports. Mario Ritter was the editor.

Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

Words in This Story

unique adj. used to say that something or someone is unlike anything or anyone else

conviction n. a strong belief or opinion

harassment n. the act of annoying or bothering (someone) In a repeated way

humbled adj. not thinking of yourself as better than other people

privilege n. a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud

pivotal adj. very important

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China has made the sale of ivory in the country illegal.

Conservationists have welcomed the decision. They say any legal ivory trade in the world hurts efforts to stop the killing of elephants.

Max Graham is the Chief Executive of the group Space For Giants which works to protect elephants. He said, “There’s a new conservation superpower in the world that is taking its responsibilities seriously.”

He said that the ban on the ivory trade will support a larger struggle against all kinds of illegal trade in wildlife. The traditional use of wildlife parts in Asia, and especially in China, he said, has been responsible for the loss of “rare species around the world.”

China announced the ban at the end of 2016. The measure went into effect in December 2017. Conservationists are pleased about China’s decision, but they worry about its enforcement.

Frank Pope is the chief of another environmental group, Save the Elephants. He believes the ban could greatly improve the future for elephants. But there is one problem, he says.

“You’re going to see secondary markets,” he notes. Pope adds that these markets are “…in Vietnam, in Laos, in Myanmar and in Hong Kong. All of these places have markets that have boomed” when China announced its ban.

Philip Muruthi is an official with the African Wildlife foundation. He also welcomes the ban but notes the importance of keeping new markets from growing.

“About 35,000 elephants…are lost each year. There are 415,000 on this continent (Africa). That means that in 20 years…we will not have any elephants,” he said.

He added that the loss of the elephant population would destroy Africa’s wildlife tourism and the jobs that it creates in countries like Kenya and South Africa.

“It’s about the African peoples’ well-being. It’s about our heritage,” he said.

Conservationists say that stopping the illegal killing of elephants for their ivory tusks is important, but so is managing their living areas. They urge African governments to do more to reduce threats to wildlife.

I’m Susan Shand.

Words in This Story

ivory – n. a hard white substance that forms the tusks of elephants and other animals with tusks

conservationist –n. a person who works to protect animals, plants and natural resources to prevent their loss

species – n. a group of animals or plants that are similar and can produce young animals or plants

tourism –n. the industry of providing hotels, restaurants and entertainment for people who travel for pleasure

heritage –n. the traditions, history, art and knowledge of a group or nation

tusk – n. a very long, large tooth that sticks out of the mouth of an animal such as an elephant

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A new and sharply critical book about Donald Trump’s first year in office went on sale Friday, four days earlier than planned.

Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” describes a chaotic White House, a president who was not prepared to win in 2016, and Trump aides who question his intelligence and ability to lead.

Trump has dismissed the book, saying it is full of lies.

On Thursday, lawyers representing the president called on the book’s publishers to stop the book’s release. They also sent a “cease and desist” letter to Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist. The book includes critical comments Bannon reportedly said about Trump and Trump’s family.

FILE - Stephen Bannon waits for President Donald Trump to make a statement about the U.S. role in the Paris climate change accord, June 1, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House.
FILE - Stephen Bannon waits for President Donald Trump to make a statement about the U.S. role in the Paris climate change accord, June 1, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House.

“Fire and Fury” had been set to be released January 9. Instead, it began sales early. It is now the top-selling book on Amazon.com.

In Washington, D.C., people waited outside bookstores in extremely cold weather to buy the book. One popular bookstore, KramerBooks, began selling “Fire and Fury” at midnight Friday. It and another local bookstore reportedly sold out by 10 in the morning.

A sign posted at the door for Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe shows that the book 'Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House' is sold out at the bookstore located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood in Washington, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. (AP Photo)
A sign posted at the door for Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe shows that the book 'Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House' is sold out at the bookstore located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood in Washington, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018. (AP Photo)

Wolff spent 18 months reporting on both the Trump campaign and the Trump White House. He reported from inside Trump Tower in New York City and later from inside the White House.

On Twitter Thursday, Trump said the book is “full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist.” He also said he never spoke with Wolff for the book, and turned down his request for an interview many times.

However, Wolff said Friday on NBC’s “Today” show that he had talked to the president for the book.

“I absolutely spoke to the president. Whether he realized it was an interview or not, I don’t know, but it was certainly not off the record,” he said. He said he spent about three total hours talking with the president.

Wolff says the book is mostly based on talks with people who have worked closely with the president. He said he has records and notes from about 200 interviews with people connected to the Trump campaign or Trump White House. Wolff has confirmed he has audio recordings of some of those talks.

Author Michael Wolff is seen on the set of NBC's 'Today' show prior to an interview about his book 'Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House' in New York City, Jan. 5, 2018.
Author Michael Wolff is seen on the set of NBC's 'Today' show prior to an interview about his book 'Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House' in New York City, Jan. 5, 2018.

Wolff also said on the “Today” show that, “100 percent of the people around him [Trump]…they all say he is like a child.”

Some parts of “Fire and Fury” were released earlier this week. They led to a vicious public flight between Trump and Bannon. In one passage, Bannon describes a meeting between a Russian lawyer and top Trump campaign aides -- including Trump's own son and son-in-law -- as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

After the passage was published, Trump said in a statement, “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

Who is Michael Wolff?

Michael Wolff is a longtime writer and reporter based in New York City. He has been a media critic and columnist for USA Today, The Hollywood Reporter, New York Magazine and Vanity Fair.

In 2009, Wolff published “The Man Who Owns the News,” a book about media business leader Rupert Murdoch. Just before its publication, Murdoch publicly questioned some of Wolff’s reporting in that book.

Reuters reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for Learning English, with additional materials from VOA News and the Associated Press. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Words in This Story

chaotic - adj. in a state of complete confusion or disorder

aides - n. a person whose job is to assist someone

cease and desist - (legal term). an official order to stop doing something immediately

midnight - n. the middle of the night : 12 o'clock at night

interview - n. a meeting at which people talk to each other in order to ask questions and get information

absolutely - adv. in an absolute way -- often used to make a statement more forceful

certainly - adv. without doubt

fire - v. to dismiss (someone) from a job

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Welcome to another episode of Everyday Grammar on VOA Learning English.

English learners have difficulty with gerunds and infinitives. A gerund is the –ing form of a verb that functions the same as a noun. For example, “Running is fun.” In this sentence, “running” is the gerund. It acts just like a noun.

The infinitive form of a verb appears either as the basic form (with no marking) or with the word “to.” For example, you can say “I might run to the store” or “I like to run.” In this sentence, “to run” is the infinitive.

It is difficult for English learners to know whether to use a gerund or an infinitive after a verb.

Here’s an example. Which sentence is correct?

Sentence One: I suggested going to dinner.

Sentence Two: I suggested to go to dinner.

Sentence One, with the gerund, is correct. “I suggested going to dinner.” Why? You can only use a gerund after the verb “suggest.”

Let’s take the word “like.” You can say “I like' running” or “I like to run.” Both sentences have the same meaning. You can use either a gerund or an infinitive after “like.” Now let’s try “enjoy.” We can say, “I enjoy running.” But we cannot say, “I enjoy to run.” Why? Only a gerund can follow the verb “enjoy.”

Are you confused yet? You’re not alone. Gerunds and infinitives confuse even very advanced English learners.

Basically, some verbs are followed by gerunds, some verbs are followed by infinitives, and some verbs can be followed by gerunds or infinitives. Native speakers do not think about the difference. But English learners have to memorize the hundreds of different verb combinations.

Here are a few tips.

Tip Number 1: you almost always find a gerund after a preposition. For example, “She is afraid of flying.” In this sentence “of” is the preposition and “flying” is the gerund. You cannot say “She is afraid of to fly.” An infinitive cannot be the object of a preposition, only a gerund can. You could say, “She is afraid to fly,” but in this sentence, the preposition “of” is gone.

Tip Number 2: When you are talking about an activity, you usually use a gerund. For example, “I stopped smoking.” You can describe many activities by using “go” before a gerund. “Let’s go shopping,” or “We went skiing.”

Let’s see how much you know. Try to complete these sentences using the verb “study.” Ready? I’ll read the first part of the sentence and you finish it.

I enjoy … (studying)

I considered … (studying)

I managed … (to study)

I hope … (to study)

I suggested … (studying)

I like… … (studying) or … (to study)

This is only a simple introduction to a complicated grammar topic.

There is no quick and easy way to learn gerunds and infinitives. It takes years of practice and familiarity with the English language. Next time you read or listen to a VOA Learning English story, pay attention to use of gerunds and infinitives. Over time, you will begin to hear the right verb combination.

Below is a helpful reference list for using gerunds and infinitives.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

And I’m Ashley Thompson.

Adam Brock wrote this story for Learning English. Dr. Jill Robbins was the editor.

Words in This Story

gerund - n. an English noun formed from a verb by adding -ing

infinitive - n. the basic form of a verb; usually used with to except with modal verbs like should and could and certain other verbs like see and hear

preposition - n. a word or group of words that is used with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, location, or time, or to introduce an object

Now it’s your turn. In the Comments section, write one sentence that uses a verb followed by a gerund or an infinitive. We’ll respond with feedback about your usage.

Only a gerund can follow these verbs:

admit, avoid, be used to, can’t help, can’t stand, consider, deny, discuss, dislike, end up, enjoy, feel like, finish, get used to, give up, go on, have difficulty, have problems, have trouble, imagine, it’s no use, it’s worthwhile, keep, look forward to, mention, mind, miss, recommend, remember, quit, spend time, stop, suggest, understand, waste time, work at

Either a gerund or an infinitive can follow these verbs, and there is no change in meaning

advise (requires object with infinitive), begin, continue, hate, intend, like, love, prefer, start

Either a gerund or an infinitive can follow these verbs, but the meaning may change:

forget, remember, stop

An infinitive follows these verbs:

afford, agree, appear, arrange, ask, care, decide, demand, expect, fail, hope, learn, manage, mean, offer, plan, prepare, pretend, promise, refuse, remember, seem, stop, volunteer, wait, want, wish

A noun or pronoun and an infinitive follow these verbs

advise, allow, ask, cause, challenge, command, convince, expect, forbid, force, hire, instruct, invite, order, pay, permit, program, remind, teach, tell, urge, want, warn

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This is What’s Trending Today…

When it comes to weather, it is hard to sound more frightening than to call a storm a “bomb cyclone.”

But that is how weather experts are describing a huge winter storm that is hitting the U.S. East Coast this week.

From the northern state of Maine to Georgia in the south, the storm has brought high winds and heavy snow. Schools and government offices have closed because of the weather and thousands of flights have been cancelled.

But as fearsome as the storm is, it probably will not be as “explosive” as the name sounds.

Weather experts, or meteorologists, have used the term “bomb” for storms for many years. The word has a clear definition for weather experts, says University of Oklahoma meteorology professor Jason Furtado.

After “bomb cyclone” appeared in a Washington Post story this week, the weather term became popular, or “blew up,” on social media. It became a top trending topic. The same thing happened four years ago with the phrase “polar vortex” -- another long-used weather term that was not well known to the public.

The technical term is “Bombogenesis.” Bomb cyclone is a shorter way of saying it, which is better for social media, says meteorologist Ryan Maue. He helped popularize “polar vortex” in 2014.

Although “bomb cyclone” sounds bad, Maue notes, nothing will actually explode.

Storm strength is measured by central pressure. The lower the pressure, the stronger it is. A storm is considered a “bomb” when the pressure drops quickly -- at least 24 mililbars in 24 hours.

This week’s storm in the United States is expected to strengthen at two times that rate, says Bob Oravec. He is the lead forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.

Around the world, about 40 to 50 bomb cyclones develop each year. However, most are over the open ocean and few people notice them.

“We use the term bomb,” Furtado said. “We (weather experts) know what it means, but I do think it gets a little hyped up.”

I’m Mario Ritter.

Ashley Thompson adapted this AP story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

Words in This Story

cyclone –n. n extremely large, powerful, and destructive storm with very high winds that turn around an area of low pressure

mililbars –n. a unit used to measure atmospheric pressure

forecaster –n. a person whose job it is to predict something in the future, for example a weather forecaster

hyped up –phrasal verb. to talk or write about something in a way to get people excited about it

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A Chinese official says the United States should not blame China for the widespread use of opioid drugs in America.

Yu Haibin of the China National Narcotics Control Commission spoke to reporters last week. He said there is little evidence that China provided much of the chemicals used to produce the powerful drug fentanyl.

FILE - A bag of 4-fluoro isobutyryl fentanyl which was seized in a drug raid is displayed at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Testing and Research Laboratory in Sterling, Virginia, Aug. 9, 2016.
FILE - A bag of 4-fluoro isobutyryl fentanyl which was seized in a drug raid is displayed at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Testing and Research Laboratory in Sterling, Virginia, Aug. 9, 2016.

Fentanyl is a synthetic drug similar to morphine that is prescribed by doctors to block pain. Fentanyl is said to be 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

The U.S. and China have worked together to fight the worldwide flow of illegal man-made drugs. But some issues remain disputed.

In November, U.S. President Donald Trump voiced strong concerns about what he called a “flood of cheap and deadly” fentanyl that is made in China. He said the drug is part of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history.

Speaking of recent drug shipments, Yu said, “China doesn’t deny that shipments to the U.S. happen, but there isn’t the proof to show how much – whether it’s 20 percent or 80 percent.”

He said U.S. officials have sent him information about only six shipments from China in the past year.

In October, the Associated Press identified 12 Chinese companies willing to export the drug carfentanil around the world. AP says the cost was a few thousand dollars for one kilogram.

Carfentanil is said to be 100 times more powerful than fentanyl. It is used as an anesthetic for elephants and other large animals.

Yu urged the U.S. to share more information with Chinese officials. He said the over-use of pain medication and cultural attitudes about drugs have increased the demand for opioids in America.

“As many states decriminalize marijuana, the public’s attitudes and trends of thinking toward drugs will also have a bad effect,” Yu said.

Yu told reporters that China wants to work more closely with U.S. law enforcement and also with officials in Mexico. The drugs are believed to pass through Mexico on their way to the U.S.

Chinese officials announced that they raided a factory that makes fentanyl in November. Officials said they seized 4.7 kilograms of the drug. The U.S. immigration and customs agency provided information about an online seller named “Diana.” It turns out that “Diana” was an illegal drug organization of 19 people.

China has supported a U.S. proposal this year to add substances used to make fentanyl to a United Nations list of controlled substances.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that most fentanyl overdoses come from illegally made versions of the drug.

The agency says more than 66,000 people in America died from drug overdoses in the 12-month period ending in May of 2017. That is more than a 17 percent increase from the year before.

I’m Jill Robbins.

Mario Ritter adapted this Associated Press story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do 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

opioid –adj. describing a drug that chemically acts like opium based drugs that block pain

narcotic –adj. a powerful drug that affects the brain

synthetic –adj. not natural, made artificially

anesthetic –adj. a drug that causes sleep or uncosciousness

attitudes –n. the way people think about something, feelings that affect one’s behavior

trends –n. the way an issue is changing or developing

regulate –v. to control with rules

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American Attorney General Jeff Sessions has cancelled a federal policy that let American states legalize marijuana.

The move came just days after California, the country’s largest state, began permitting recreational use of the drug.

President Donald Trump’s top law enforcement official announced the change Thursday. Instead of the earlier hands-off policy, Sessions will let federal lawyers in states where marijuana is already legal decide how aggressively to enforce federal law.

In a memo, Sessions asked federal lawyers to consider the seriousness of the crime and its impact “in deciding which marijuana activities to prosecute under these laws.”

The move by Sessions is likely to create questions in states where it is legal to buy, use and grow marijuana.

Although some state laws have legalized the use of the drug for medical and recreational reasons, marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law.

In 2013, the Obama administration announced in a memo that it would not resist states’ efforts to legalize marijuana. The memo urged the states to keep marijuana from getting to places where it remained illegal. And it asked the states to keep the drug from criminal gangs and children.

Customers stand in line for recreational marijuana outside the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S., Jan. 2, 2018.
Customers stand in line for recreational marijuana outside the MedMen store in West Hollywood, California U.S., Jan. 2, 2018.

Opposition to Sessions’ policy change

Republican lawmaker Cory Gardner of Colorado quickly voiced opposition to Sessions’ plan. Colorado is among eight states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Gardner said in a Twitter message that the Justice Department “has trampled on the will of the voters” in Colorado and other states. He also said the action goes against what Sessions had said he would do before becoming attorney general.

Along with Colorado, recreational use of marijuana is legal in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Maine and Masachussetts and in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. Another 21 U.S. states permit the use of marijuana for medical reasons.

The legal sale of marijuana has become a multi-million-dollar business. It helps fund schools, educational programs and law enforcement. In California, the business is estimated to bring in $1 billion a year in tax money within the next several years.

Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno is with the Drug Policy Alliance. She called Sessions’ policy a return to outdated drug-war policies that mainly affected minorities. She added that Sessions “wants to maintain a system that has led to tremendous injustice ... and that has wasted federal resources on a huge scale.”

A public opinion study carried out by Gallup in October 2017 shows that 64 percent of Americans support legalizing marijuana.

Different types of marijuana sit on display at Harborside marijuana dispensary, Jan. 1, 2018, in Oakland, Calif.
Different types of marijuana sit on display at Harborside marijuana dispensary, Jan. 1, 2018, in Oakland, Calif.

Support for Sessions policy

The attorney general and some law enforcement officials have blamed legalization for increased drug trafficking. They said drug traffickers have taken advantage of state laws to grow marijuana. Then, they sell it across state lines for more money.

Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana called Sessions’ decision a “victory.”

Sessions has blamed the illegal use of marijuana and heroin for rising violence in America.

But activists argue that legalizing the drug would likely reduce violence, since criminals would no longer control the marijuana trade.

I’m Caty Weaver.

The Associated Press reported this story. Hai Do adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Words in This Story

recreational - adj. (of a drug) used for pleasure instead of for medical purposes

hands-off - adj. allowing people to do what they want to do without bothering or stopping them

memo - n. a usually brief written message from one person or department in an organization, company, etc., to another

prosecute - v. ​ to hold a trial against a person who is accused of a crime to see if that person is guilty​

trample - v. ​ to treat other people's rights, wishes, or feelings as if they are worthless or not important​

outdated - adj. ​no longer useful or acceptable : not modern or current

tremendous - adj. ​very large or great

take advantage of - to use (something, such as an opportunity) in a way that helps you : to make good use of (something)

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As a stalemate between China and Taiwan continues, experts say China’s government may seek new efforts in 2018 to try to restart negotiations.

Officials from both countries recently named some of the issues they expect to be important in the coming year.

A statement from China’s Taiwan Affairs Office says the government will continue to emphasize its long-held one-China policy. Chinese officials have said acceptance of this policy is a condition for negotiations.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen rejects that idea, however.

China considers Taiwan a rebel province and believes it must eventually be reunified with China, even if by force. Public opinion studies show most Taiwanese oppose unification.

China’s official Xinhua news agency reported the Taiwan Affairs Office described China-Taiwan relations in 2017 as “complex and severe.” The office said it would oppose all forms of “Taiwan independence” in the coming year, Xinhua said.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech during the year-end media event at the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science & Technology in Taoyuan county, Taiwan, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech during the year-end media event at the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science & Technology in Taoyuan county, Taiwan, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

Tsai, a former law scholar, has said she seeks continued cooperation with China and a peaceful relationship. But she has also promised to strongly defend the country’s security and political system.

During a year-end press conference, Tsai said that as president, she is “responsible for safeguarding national sovereignty and maintaining regional peace and stability.”

She said Taiwan is currently part of an “unpredictable geopolitical environment.” Among the conditions creating this environment, she said, are the growing number of Chinese military activities in the air and at sea. “China's intention to expand their military presence in the region has become increasingly evident.”

She added that other security issues in the area include increased tensions on the Korean Peninsula and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Taiwan South China Sea
Taiwan South China Sea

Tsai said Taiwan has been expanding and upgrading its military capabilities in recent years as a result. She said it is important for the country to be able to depend on its own military.

She also called for respect in future relations with China and promised not to take a “reckless” path.

Many experts say the president’s Democratic Progressive Party will delay making changes to its China policy until after local elections in late 2018.

Wu Chung-li is a political science research fellow at Taipei-based university Academia Sinica. He says voters who do not agree with China policy changes might choose opposition candidates, some of whom might favor Taiwan’s legal independence from China.

Wu said he believes Taiwan’s government sees improving ties with China as an issue of top importance. “But the ruling party is also kidnapped by the local elections. I really don’t know how they can make any change,” he added.

Pigeons are released during the first flag raising ceremony of the year with the Guard of Honor of the Chinese People's Liberation Army taking over the ceremonial duty from the Paramilitary police in Beijing, China, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. (AP Photo)
Pigeons are released during the first flag raising ceremony of the year with the Guard of Honor of the Chinese People's Liberation Army taking over the ceremonial duty from the Paramilitary police in Beijing, China, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. (AP Photo)

Gratiana Jung is a political researcher with the Yuanta-Polaris Research Institute in Taipei. She says she thinks China might decide to use more “creative” means in 2018 to pressure Taiwan to return to talks and accept its one-China position.

This could include increases in Chinese military planes circling Taiwan in a show of force, Jung said. She added that Chinese officials could also attempt to limit Taiwan’s overseas diplomacy. China currently has more than 170 diplomatic allies, compared to Taiwan’s 20.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Ralph Jennings reported this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted it for VOA Learning English, with additional information from Reuters, Xinhua news agency and other sources. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

stalemate n. dispute in which parties cannot come to agreement

emphasize v. give special attention to something

sovereignty n. a country's independent authority and the right to govern itself

maintain v. to continue something that has been started

regional adj. relating to a specific area

stability n. continuous state of something, not easily changed

geopolitical adj. relating to the political and geographic parts of something

intention n. something you plan to do or achieve

reckless adj. doing something dangerous and not caring about what might happen

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