America - Voice of America Learn English as you read and listen to news and feature stories about the U.S. and American life. Our daily stories are written at the intermediate and upper-beginner level and are read one-third slower than regular VOA English. Everything is free. America - Voice of America en 2016 - VOA 60 Fri, 09 Dec 2016 06:00:12 +0000 Pangea CMS – VOA John Glenn, First American to Orbit Earth, Dies at 95 Astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, has died. Glenn was 95. He was admitted to the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University more than a week ago. John Glenn was the last surviving member of a group known as "the Mercury Seven," test pilots who, in 1959, were chosen to become America’s first astronauts. President Barack Obama released a statement about Glenn's death. "Our nation has lost an icon and Michelle and I have lost a friend," he said.​  He praised Glenn for a lifetime of breaking barriers, including setting a transcontinental speed record and becoming the oldest man ever to go into space.​ Pilot and Astronaut He served as a military pilot in World War II and the Korean conflict. Then, he served as a test pilot on military airplanes. On February 20, 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. He flew a spacecraft named the Friendship 7. He orbited three times during the almost five-hour flight. Much later, in 1998, he also became the oldest man to fly in space. He served as a crew member on the space shuttle Discovery. The United States space agency, NASA, wanted to study the possible effects of space travel on old people. NASA said that Glenn was perfect for the job because they already had so much information about him. U.S. Senator Glenn was not only an astronaut. He was a politician, too. Glenn was a member of the Democratic Party. He first sought political office in 1964, to represent Ohio in the U.S. Senate. He withdrew from the race after an injury, however. He ran again six years later but did not win the party’s nomination. Finally, in 1974, on his third attempt, Ohio elected John Glenn to the U.S. Senate. During the race, Glenn famously defended attacks by his political opponent, Howard Metzenbaum. Metzenbaum, a wealthy businessman, suggested that Glenn’s service in the military and NASA meant he had never had a job.   Glenn's answer became one of the most famous retorts in American political history. It is called the “Gold Star Mothers” speech. A gold star mother is a mother whose child has died in active U.S. military service. Glenn told Metzenbaum, "You go with me to any gold star mother and you look her in the eye and tell her that her son did not hold a job." Many experts say that speech helped Glenn win the election. The astronaut remained a member of the U.S. Senate until 1999. Public Service and Awards After leaving the Senate, Glenn helped to create a public service school at Ohio State University. Later, this school became the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. Glenn won many awards, including honorary degrees at several universities, the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service, a U.S. senate public service award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I’m Caty Weaver. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section. Marissa Melton wrote this story for VOA News. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor. ___________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story icon – n. a person who is very successful and admired transcontinental – adj. going across a continent retort – n. a quick and often angry reply Fri, 09 Dec 2016 01:33:27 +0000 HomeAmericaLevel Two Trump Names US Defense Secretary Nominee American President-elect Donald Trump named retired Marine General James Mattis to be his secretary of defense this week. Mattis left military service three years ago. At the time, he led the U.S. Central Command, which carries out U.S. operations in the Middle East. He was also the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces. His leadership in the fight against enemy forces in Afghanistan and Iraq won him respect among many military leaders. General John Nicholson is the commander of international forces in Afghanistan. “I first met him in Nangahar province in Afghanistan, where we were in a tough fight in 2006, and he’s a very inspirational leader -- I know he inspired me.” Michael O’Hanlon writes about military affairs at the Brookings Institution, a research group in Washington. “He’s thought of as one of the best-read, best-informed and most-experienced generals of his generation.” O’Hanlon says Mattis knows the limits of military power. He says he believes the former general’s battlefield experience gives him persuasive power with Trump. O’Hanlon says Trump will be more likely to listen to an argument for restraint, for example, if it comes from Mattis. Currently, Mattis is not permitted to take the office of defense secretary, however. A U.S. law bans military officers from the position who have fewer than seven years in retirement. Congress would have to change that law. The 1947 law first called for a 10-year ban. But Congress cut it to seven years in 2008. Congress has let only one general serve as secretary of defense before the time permitted by law. In 1950, Congress voted to let General George Marshall serve as secretary of defense. Marshall had been a top general during World War II. I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.   VOA Pentagon reporter Carla Babb wrote this story. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   tough – adj. physically and emotionally strong; able to do hard work, to deal with harsh conditions, etc. inspirational – adj. causing people to want to do or create something; giving inspiration generation – n. a group of people born and living during the same time Wed, 07 Dec 2016 21:02:37 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel Two TIME Magazine Names Donald Trump “Person of the Year”   This is What’s Trending Today. Time magazine named Donald Trump its “Person of the Year” on Wednesday. The magazine called him “President of the Divided States of America” on its cover. Trump is the president-elect. He will take office on January 20, 2017. The magazine calls the U.S. “the Divided States” in part because Trump did not win the most votes in the election. He did, however, easily win enough electoral votes to defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. In its story about selecting President-elect Trump, the magazine said that he won the presidency by inspiring “new levels of anger and fear within his country.” The magazine says the cover goes to the “person (or people) who wielded the most influence in the previous 12 months.” It said Wednesday that American presidents become “Person of the Year” about half the time in election years. The last time someone other than a U.S. president won the title in an election year was 1996. That year, AIDS researcher David Ho won. Time magazine ran its first “Man of the Year” issue in 1928. That year, the honors went to airplane pilot Charles Lindbergh. Wallis Simpson was the first woman Time magazine chose for the yearly award. She was named in 1937, when she married King Edward VIII and became the Duchess of Windsor. That year, the cover said “Woman of the Year.”  But the name of the award was officially “Man of the Year” until 1999. Others who have made the cover include Joseph Stalin, Deng Xiaoping, and Winston Churchill. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was on the cover last year. But, Time magazine does not always name just one person, or even a person at all. In 1988 it named the Endangered Earth. And in 1975, it named “American women.” The choice of Trump had both his supporters and detractors talking on social media. “Person of the Year” was one of the top trending topics on Wednesday. One person wrote: “Whatever you think of him, it’s a fitting choice.”  Other commenters suggested Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Julian Assange of Wikileaks, or Harambe, the gorilla who was killed at a zoo in Ohio after a child fell into his enclosure. Time said it also considered Hillary Clinton, computer hackers, and singer Beyonce, among others, for the title of 2016 Person of the Year. And that’s What’s Trending Today. I’m Dan Friedell. Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor. What do you think of Time magazine’s decision? Who would you select as the Person of the Year? Let us know in the comments section. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   inspire – v. to make (someone) want to do something : to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create entrepreneur – n. a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money wield – v. to have and use (power, influence, etc.) fitting – adj.  of a kind that is appropriate for the situation or purpose Wed, 07 Dec 2016 20:32:49 +0000 HomeAmericaWhat's Trending Today?Level One Trump Uses Twitter to Defend Call with Taiwan President   Some people in China welcomed the election of businessman Donald Trump as president of the United States. They believed he would negotiate deals helpful to both countries. But President-elect Trump’s decision to speak directly with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen led the Chinese government to protest to the U.S. ambassador in Beijing. Some Chinese officials said the telephone call between Trump and Tsai violated America’s 1979 pledge of support for a one-China policy. Since then, the U.S. has not had official contact with Taiwan’s government.  Tsai told a small group of U.S. reporters Tuesday that she did not sense a major change in U.S. policies toward Taiwan. "One phone call does not mean a policy shift," Tsai said. Trump has used social media to defend his decision to speak with Taiwan’s president.  On Twitter, the president-elect criticized some of China's policies. He wrote that China devalued its money to make it harder for American businesses to sell goods in the country. He said the Chinese government continues to heavily tax U.S. exports to China. And he said the Chinese military is expanding its presence in the South China Sea, all without asking the United States, in his words, “if it was OK.” Mark Toner is a spokesman for the U.S. State Department. He said the Chinese government called the U.S. ambassador to China on Saturday to protest Trump’s contact with Taiwan’s president. Toner also defended America’s “one China policy,” which has been in effect for 37 years. “It’s allowed us to develop relations – frankly, closer relations with Beijing and also to deepen our unofficial ties with Taipei,” Toner said. The policy also provides economic and security benefits to the United States, he said.  Wang Dong is a political science professor at Peking University. He said Trump’s tweets may be all about improving his negotiating position with the Chinese government. Trump has said he sometimes uses strong words to help him negotiate better deals later. But Wang said Trump may also be following the opinions of some Republican Party activists who want the U.S. government to take a harder position with China. The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal both reported that the telephone call between Trump and Tsai was planned weeks ago by Trump aides. “And I think that gives us reason to be worried about U.S.-China relations going forward,” Wang said. “There (has) been too much wishful thinking and overly optimistic expectations about Donald Trump and China and I think now, people have to come back to reality.” John Bolton served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush. Bolton said the United States needs to deal with what he called China’s “aggressive and belligerent claims” in the South China Sea. He is reportedly under consideration for a diplomatic position with the Trump administration.    On  Tuesday, a Republican Party official arrived in Taiwan for a week-long visit. The official, Stephan Yates, is the party’s chairman in the state of Idaho. Yates said he is not carrying any messages from Trump to Tsai. But he said that China should respect the “political reform and democratization of Taiwan,” as President-elect Trump has. Jeffrey Bader was the lead adviser on China for President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011. He now works at the John L. Thornton China Center, part of the Brookings Institution research group. Bader said Trump’s phone call with the Taiwan leader raises concerns about his foreign policy skills. “There are serious risks posed by his failure to take briefings by government professionals,” Bader said. He added that Trump “appears to have little respect” for the possible damage to longtime U.S. security interests. I’m Ashley Thompson. And I'm Caty Weaver. William Ide and Nike Ching reported on this story for Bruce Alpert adapted their reports for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and share your views on our Facebook Page. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   pledge – n. promise shift - n. to move to a different position frankly - adv. speaking candidly optimistic - adj. expecting good things to happen belligerent - adj. angry and aggressive pose - v. to create a possible problem briefing - n. people with expertise providing information to someone Tue, 06 Dec 2016 21:16:37 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel Two Trump Still Using Twitter to Speak Out on China, Other Issues U.S. President-elect Donald Trump says he would not be tweeting as much if he got fairer news coverage. But he wrote on Twitter, Monday, that he did not know if “that will ever happen.”     Trump has been busy on Twitter in recent days. Among other subjects, he wrote about his telephone call with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen. Their discussion broke diplomatic norms. For more than 30 years, U.S. presidents have avoided direct contact with Taiwan’s leaders in support of the government’s one-China policy.   Last week, Trump said on Twitter that he plans to stop the Obama administration’s move to normalize relations with Cuba, unless Cuba gives the United States “a better deal.”   ​His comments came after the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. It was not the first time Trump and his advisers said a Trump administration might end President Barack Obama’s two-year efforts to improve ties with Cuba. But it was the first time the next U.S. leader announced a major foreign policy decision on social media. Twitter has been Trump's chosen social media network to express his opinions -- both as a presidential candidate and, more recently as he forms his administration. Trump will be sworn-in as president on January 20, 2017. Trump Still a Twitter Regular Also last week, Trump expressed on Twitter his position about a move to recount ballots from the U.S. presidential election. Former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein asked for the vote recount in three states. Trump, a businessman, was the Republican Party’s candidate. He said on Twitter that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote because of millions of illegal votes. Clinton was the candidate of the Democratic Party. She now leads the popular vote by 2.5 million ballots. In his tweets, Trump said there was "serious voter fraud" in Virginia, New Hampshire and California -- all states won by Hillary Clinton. He also attacked the cable news network, CNN. State election officials, both Republican and Democratic, have rejected Trump's claim. Trump won enough states to enjoy a large lead in America’s Electoral College. Members of the Electoral College are set to meet on December 19 to officially elect the next president. All signs point to Trump winning, even with the vote recounts. Trump's supporters say they enjoy reading his comments on Twitter. At his campaign events, people praised Trump for “telling it like it is.” Trump Says Tough Talk Leads to Better Negotiating Trump has defended his strong language. Taking strong positions, he said, is part of his negotiating style to get better deals. But some diplomats say his strong words on Twitter and elsewhere could lead to misunderstandings, or worse. Aaron David Miller was a Middle East negotiator for three different U.S. administrations, Democratic and Republican. He is now a vice-president at the Wilson Center, a research-policy center based in Washington, D.C. “We’ve never really confronted a potential like this before -- certainly not in the administrations I’ve worked for,” Miller said. Kellyanne Conway directed Trump’s presidential campaign. She told CNN television on Sunday that no decision has been made on how much Trump will tweet once he is president. Conway told CNN that Trump believes Twitter and Facebook provide him with a good way to talk directly to people. She said his tweets and Facebook posts reach 25 million people or more. But it can be hard to express positions on major issues in the 140 characters permitted by Twitter. Kathleen Hall Jamieson is a communications expert at the University of Pennsylvania. She said that discussing important policy issues on Twitter increases the risk that the president elect’s message might not be understood. Tweets by U.S. Leaders Not New Twitter is not an altogether new way of communicating for presidents. Barack Obama was the first U.S. president to take office in the age of social media. He has used Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.  But Obama’s Twitter account, like that of many world leaders, is operated by his top aides. The president himself only rarely issues personal statements on Twitter.   I’m Ashley Thompson.   William Gallo reported on this story for Bruce Alpert adapted his story and did additional reporting for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. What do you think of President-elect Trump's use of Twitter and social media? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and share your views on our Facebook Page. _______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   norms - n. standards of proper or acceptable behavior network - n. a group of organizations that provide similar services style - n. a particular way in which something is done, created, or performed confront - v. to challenge someone in a direct and forceful way potential - n. a chance or possibility that something will happen certainly - adv. without doubt post - n. to make information or opinions known to people characters - n. the number of letters and spaces Mon, 05 Dec 2016 21:19:58 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel TwoU.S. Elections 2016 Pipeline Protesters Cheer In North Dakota   This is What’s Trending Today.   The United States Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit that would be needed to complete a major oil pipeline under the Missouri River. The announcement on Sunday ended a tense situation between the U.S. government and several thousand people. They had set up a protest camp on federal land in North Dakota. For months, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has been leading demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline project. The tribe says the pipeline would affect its drinking water supply and destroy its holy places. The Corps of Engineers is responsible for studying and approving permits for all water crossings nationwide. In North Dakota, protesters are celebrating the federal agency’s decision. Many people who followed the story on social media also are celebrating. They posted articles and videos about the news on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. “North Dakota,” “Dakota Access Pipeline” and “Army Corps of Engineers” were all trending topics on Sunday and Monday. Some news media produced videos of tribe members cheering when they heard the news. Corry Westbrook is an environmental activist in Florida. She called the agency’s decision “great and wonderful news” in her Facebook post. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted that the protesters “showed the importance of standing together against injustice.” Members of the tribe started protesting in late July after the Corps of Engineers approved the final land easements and crossing of the Missouri River. The river feeds a nearby, man-made lake, which is used to collect drinking water. The pipeline is designed to bring oil over 1,800 kilometers from western North Dakota to oil processing centers in southern Illinois. The Army Corps of Engineers controls the land along the way close to the tribe’s reservation. The crowd of protesters grew over time. At one point, protesters fought with police who tried to break up the crowd by firing tear gas, rubber bullets and a water cannon. Even with the arrival of cold weather, the number of protesters grew. They were joined last week by thousands of U.S. military veterans who offered their support by building temporary shelters. The Corps of Engineers said on Sunday it will work with Energy Transfer, the company responsible for building the pipeline, to find another way to cross the lake. But Energy Transfer said the decision is only a delay and it plans to finish the project without changing the direction of the pipeline. That means some of the protesters will be back. Many people warned that work on the pipeline could begin again in early 2017 once Donald Trump is sworn-in as president. A Trump aide says the president-elect will “support construction” of the pipeline and will consider the project once in office. And that’s What’s Trending Today. I’m Dan Friedell. Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. What do you think of the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   trend – n. something that is currently popular or fashionable injustice – n. lack of justice reservation – n. public land set aside for a special purpose construction – n. the act of building something; putting several pieces together Mon, 05 Dec 2016 21:10:51 +0000 HomeAmericaWhat's Trending Today?Level One US Air Force Faces Shortage of Fighter Jet Mechanics   The United States Air Force has a shortage of mechanics to provide support for its fighter airplanes. VOA recently reported that the Air Force has 725 fighter pilots less than the 3,500 it is permitted to have. It is training about 135 more fighter pilots this year than in 2014. But it will be a long time before they are ready for action. Pilots must train for years -- at a cost of millions of dollars -- before they have enough experience to fly fighter jets. The fighter pilot shortage is happening at a time when private airline companies are adding pilots. Private airlines pay more and their pilots spend less time away from home. Two Air Force generals told VOA that the military is still able to meet the demands for fighter jet support. But they added that unless more pilots choose a career in the Air Force, the service will soon be unable to meet the demands of top commanders. They warn that this could possibly affect both U.S. troops and civilians. But even if the Air Force can train and keep jet fighter pilots, it must have enough mechanics to maintain the jets. And right now it has a shortage of more than 3,000 of these maintainers. Mechanics at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in the state of Virginia have much work to do. They help keep F-22 Raptor jets flying. They also work on the T-38 Talon -- a jet that is about 50 years old and must often be repaired. This Air Force fighter pilot says the mechanics work hard. “Maybe once a day to once every other day we’ll bring back a jet that needs, has some kind of issue that needs to get fixed by our maintenance before it can get launched back up. So even at night when we’re not flying, they’re workin' on the planes and making sure that they’re ready to go for the next day.” This senior airman is one of the mechanics. “We all understand that the whole ‘(do) more with less’ is, is happening, but I mean it, regardless, jets have to fly. So we’re gonna make it happen, but yeah there's, there’s definitely pain in that process.” Air Force Lieutenant General John Cooper works on ways to train and keep pilots and mechanics. “We were livin', you know, on the edge with our maintainers for a long time, but we were able to accomplish the mission.” Now, General Cooper says budget cuts have made his job much harder. But he says the Air Force has begun enlisting and training new fighter jet mechanics. And he says if the budget does not get smaller, the shortage will end in 2021. I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise. VOA Pentagon Correspondent Carla Babb reported this story. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page. _____________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   mechanic – n. a person who repairs machines (such as engines) and keeps them running properly maintain – v. to keep (something) in good condition by making repairs, correcting problems, etc. living on the edge – expression very close to something such as success or failure accomplish – v. to succeed in doing (something) mission – n. a specific military or naval task Sun, 04 Dec 2016 21:05:43 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel Two Appeal for Next US President to Help Women in Business   Before Americans knew who would become the next president, a group of business leaders sent a letter to the two main candidates. Elizabeth Gore wrote the letter, and 85 business leaders, both men and women, signed it. Gore serves an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Dell computer company. Her letter urges the next president to take steps that would make it easier for businesses owned by women to grow. The letter was called “What We Need to Succeed.” Gore noted that in the United States, women are starting new businesses twice as often as men, but their businesses too often fail. She thinks this is because women do not receive the same amount of financial support as men when their companies are launched. Also, she wrote, companies operated by men get more attention in the media. Gore and the business leaders who signed the letter offered a list of things the government could do to help women-owned businesses. Their suggestions include helping more women entrepreneurs get start-up loans. One way to do this is by offering incentives – motivation for banks or investors to make such loans. For example, cutting taxes on earnings from investments in women-owned businesses would make those companies more appealing to investors. Gore’s letter called on the new U.S. president to make it easy for businesses of all sizes to sell products and services in other countries. The letter went on to ask the new president to support changes in America’s education system. Gore wrote about the importance of  science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She said some young women do not get the support they need to study those subjects while in school. Actress Jessica Alba was one of the people who signed the letter. Alba started The Honest Company, which makes products without using dangerous chemicals. Another signatory was Melanie Whelan, who launched an exercise studio business called SoulCycle. Two other signatories are Steve Case, the founder of AOL, and Rhonda Vetere, the chief technology officer of Estee Lauder. The business leaders were not just appealing to the idea of equality between men and women. Gore noted a study that found the U.S. economy could grow by $30 billion if women were more actively involved. Gore told VOA “I always think about the venture funding gap, but there’s really a gap in the whole cycle.” Another study found that women-owned businesses grew faster than those owned by men in the 10 years ending in 2007. A U.S. Department of Commerce report showed these businesses added 500,000 jobs to the economy. Gore said there are many good social reasons to support women in business. But the most important reason is that it is good for business. “If [women] get access to capital, they outperform their male peers,” she said. “That is a good business bet, not just a social bet.” Gold told VOA recently that president-elect Donald Trump has yet to answer her letter. But she and some of the other signatories plan to visit Washington in February. They plan to meet with politicians and “explain why it’s critical for our country and the economy to be prioritizing the success of women entrepreneurs.” I’m Dan Friedell. Tina Trinh wrote this story for Dan Friedell adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. Do you think more women will start businesses in the U.S. with Donald Trump as president? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   start-up – n. a new business capital – n. money, property, etc., that is used to start or operate a business critical – adj. extremely important prioritize – v. to make (something) the most important thing in a group venture – n. a new activity, project, business, etc., that typically involves risk attractive – adj. having a feature or quality that people like incentive – n. something that encourages a person to do something entrepreneur – n. a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money in-residence – n. having an official position as a writer, artist, etc., who has been chosen to live and work at a college or other institution for a period of time Sat, 03 Dec 2016 20:52:21 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsU.S. Elections 2016 Thousands of Veterans to Join Dakota Pipeline Protest   More than 2,000 U.S. military veterans are expected to join a protest at a camp in North Dakota. Thousands of activists have been protesting against a large oil pipeline project near a Native American reservation. A reservation is an area of land in the United States that is kept separate for Native Americans to live and govern. The protesters, who call themselves "water protectors," are concerned about drinking water on the reservation and downstream on the Missouri River. At the camp, activists are facing snow, storms and below-freezing temperatures. The veterans are part of a group called Veterans Stand for Standing Rock. They are building temporary housing and working with protesters. Protesters have spent months opposing plans to build the Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s reservation. The protesters say the $3.8-billion pipeline is a threat to water resources and holy Native American burial grounds. The veterans plan to form a human wall in front of police to protect protesters. Local police officers say they have made more than 525 arrests connected to the protest since August.  On November 21, police fired tear gas and large water cannons in below-freezing temperatures. They also fired rubber bullets. Some people were wounded. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s department said protesters had started fires on the bridge and other places that night. But protesters said they lit controlled fires for warmth. CNN reported that protesters also said police flares started fires in the grass. Protesters ordered to leave On Monday, North Dakora state officials ordered that activists leave the camp because of dangerous weather conditions. On Wednesday, however, officials also said they would not force the people to leave. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineeres controls the land where the protest is taking place. However, the protesters say the Standing Rock Sioux tribe owns the land under a treaty from the 1800s. On Thursday, North Dakota's chief law enforcement official called some of the protesters “frightening” and said it was "time for them to go home.” U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday said he supports the completion of the pipeline. Trump’s transition team also said he supports peaceful protests. Members of the North Dakota Veterans Coordinating Council condemned the involvement of veterans and asked them not to take part. North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has said it was probably not possible to build the pipeline in a different place. But, he said he would try to rebuild a relationship with Standing Rock Sioux leaders. Dalrymple said that state officials never thought about forcibly removing protesters. He also said his order for them to leave was mostly because of concerns about extreme weather putting people in danger.​ The Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, LP, owns the 1,885-kilometer pipeline project. It is complete except for the part under protest.  I'm Alice Bryant.  And I'm Anne Ball.    Alice Bryant adapted this story for Learning English from Reuters. Caty Weaver was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   veteran - n. someone who fought in a war as a soldier, sailor, et cetera pipeline - n. a line of connected pipes that are used for carrying liquids and gases over a long distance downstream - adv. in the direction in which a stream, river, etc., flows water cannon - n. a machine that shoots a large, powerful stream of water and that is used by police to control violent crowds flare - n. a weapon that fires out a large flame – often used to attract attention attorney - n. lawyer; a person whose job is to guide and assist people in legal matters transition team - n. a group of people who manage the change between one system or administrative regime and another Fri, 02 Dec 2016 21:23:39 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel Two US Air Force Has Severe Shortage of Pilots   The United States Air Force is reporting a shortage of pilots of fighter airplanes. The lack is so severe that some generals say it may affect the service’s ability to carry out operations as soon as next year. The Air Force is training about 135 more fighter pilots this year than two years ago. But it will be a long time before they are ready for action. Pilots must train for years -- at a cost of millions of dollars -- before they are qualified to fly fighter jets. The high-tech aircraft could be described as flying supercomputers so lengthy training is required. The Air Force is permitted to have 3,500 fighter pilots. However, there are now about 725 fewer.  Major General Scott Vander Hamm and Lieutenant General John Cooper supervise Air Force pilots and mechanics who take care of the planes. They recently spoke with VOA about the pilot shortage. General Vander Hamm says the Air Force does not have enough pilots to meet the needs of commanders. Pilot numbers began to fall following budget cuts that took effect after the United States left Iraq in 2010 and had plans to leave Afghanistan. But General Cooper says that did not happen. “We didn’t plan for ISIS -- we planned to come home.” VOA spoke with some fighter pilots at an Air Force base in Virginia. They said longer and additional deployments have hurt morale. One pilot said the rotations were 45 days at first. Then they increased to 90 and later 120, he said. Now, he said, the pilots are deployed for six months or even a year. And pilots must often spend much of their non-deployed time on administrative duties and additional training. After 10 years of service, jet fighter pilots are offered an additional payment if they agree to stay on active duty. But this year only about 40 percent of the pilots agreed to stay. The Air Force says it must keep at least 65 percent of its pilots to complete its missions. The fighter pilot shortage has happened at the same time private airlines are hiring more pilots. Private airlines pay more and their pilots spend less time away from home. This Air Force fighter pilot said his family will decide whether he stays in the service. “If it’s up to just me, I definitely would stay in, but my family has a vote and so if they're doing well and they're enjoying where we’re at, then we’ll stay. If they want me to leave to do something else, then that’s probably what I’ll end up doing.” Tom Hunt left the Air Force in 2013. He earns more money working as a lawyer in Washington, D.C. than he was paid as a fighter pilot. He says the Air Force could end the shortage if it paid the pilots a large bonus. “Some people say you can’t throw money at everything (but) you can. You absolutely can. If you said ‘The pilot bonus is now $500,000, single-lump sum payment,’ (I) guarantee you will solve your pilot shortage.” The Air Force is asking Congress for money to increase the bonus from its current $25,000 to $48,000 a year. It would be the first bonus increase since 1999. The Air Force hopes that amount will be enough to persuade experienced pilots to stay in the service. It says they are needed to help the Air Force succeed in its missions and to train new pilots. The generals also have agreed to reduce administrative work for pilots who are not deployed. The generals say they are still able to meet the demands for fighter jet support. But they say if more pilots do not join the Air Force and stay in, the service will soon be unable to meet the demands of commanders. They warn that this could possibly cost the lives of troops and civilians. I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise. VOA Pentagon Correspondent Carla Babb reported this story from Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   qualify – v. to have the necessary skill or knowledge to do a particular job or activity; to have the qualifications to do something morale – n. the feelings of enthusiasm and loyalty that a person or group has about a task or job rotation – n. the group of people who take turns doing something mission – n. a specific military or naval task bonus – n. an extra amount of money that is given to an employee throw money at – expression. to try to solve (a problem) by spending a large amount of money on it, sometimes without giving enough thought to exactly what should be done absolutely – adv. completely or totally (often used to make a statement more forceful) lump sum – n. an amount of money that is paid at one time; a single sum of money Thu, 01 Dec 2016 21:00:10 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel Two Islamic State Calls Ohio Attack Suspect 'Soldier of Caliphate'   The Islamic State terror group has called a man who attacked people with a car and a knife at Ohio State University a "soldier of the caliphate.”   The group made the statement on the Amaq news agency website, which is linked to Islamic State, or IS. Police say Abdul Razak Ali Artan carried out the attack, which injured eleven people, at the university in Columbus, Ohio Monday. Police then shot and killed him. Artan was a refugee born in Somalia. He was a legal permanent resident of the United States studying business at Ohio State University. He posted a statement on the social media network Facebook shortly before the attack.  In it, he blamed America for killing Muslims in other countries. He also praised al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as a hero, law enforcement officials told U.S. media. Officials are still investigating why Artan carried out the attack. But, in his statement, he said he was willing to kill, those he called, “infidels” to stop America from "interfering with other countries." Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said terrorism is a possibility in the attack. Artan drove a car into a group of people near the street. He then got out of the car and began stabbing people with a knife. Jacobs said, because Artan drove onto the sidewalk, police believe the attack may have been planned.  Leaders of the Muslim and Somali communities in Columbus condemned the attack. They said they were "heartbroken" by it. Hassan Ali Omar, Chairman of the Somali Community Association of Ohio, told VOA the Somalis he spoke to were distressed to learn Artan was a Somali refugee. "Some women told me they felt sick, they were heartbroken, they were shocked because they feel they have had enough troubles already," he said. Omar was one of the community elders who visited Artan’s family. He said he met his mother and siblings and they told him they are feeling, "at a loss and a lot of pain." "They said he was (a) hard-working person who loved education. They said their son had good culture and that they were not expecting that he would do this kind of act," he said. There are nearly 60,000 students at Ohio State University’s main campus. The people injured in the attack include both employees and students. Police Chief Jacobs noted a previous terrorism case linked to Columbus. Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud was arrested in 2015 after returning from Syria. Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, was charged with providing material support to terrorists. Columbus has one of the largest Somali communities in the United States. I’m Mario Ritter. Alice Bryant adapted this report from VOA news. VOA Somali service's Harun Maruf and VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report. Mario Ritter was the editor. _______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story caliphate – n. an area that is supervised by an Islamic leader cleric – n. a member of the clergy in any religion infidel – n. a person who does not believe in a religion that someone considers the true religion campus – n. the area of and around a university, college, school heartbroken – be very sad elders – n. a person who is older We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section. Wed, 30 Nov 2016 21:17:49 +0000 HomeAmericaEducationAs It Is Trump Wants Flag Burners to Face Prison or Loss of Citizenship President-elect Donald Trump says people who burn the American flag should be punished. He suggested that punishment could be up to a year in prison or a loss of citizenship.   ​ But it will not be easy for Trump to carry out his proposal. Supreme Court says burning flag is permitted form of protest In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that flag burning is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech. Changing a Supreme Court decision requires either amending the amendment or a new opinion by the High Court. Neither is easy to get done. The Supreme Court case involved a man named Gregory Lee Johnson. He was arrested in 1984 for burning an American flag at the Republican Party’s national convention in Texas. Johnson said he set the flag on fire to protest the nomination of Ronald Reagan for a second term as U.S. president. A lower court had ruled against Johnson. But the high court overturned the decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that a lot of Americans are offended by the burning of the American flag. But he noted that in the Texas case, Johnson burned the flag as an act of protest. As an act of protest, he said, flag burning is protected under free speech. “The hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like,” Kennedy wrote. “We make them because they are right, right in the sense that the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the result.” Four Supreme Court justices agreed with Kennedy. Four others disagreed. Writing for the minority judges, Justice William Rehnquist noted that burning a flag is not really free speech. He said it is more like a person grunting, making sounds like an animal. Trump has not said why he is raising the flag burning issue now. Flag protests at Massachusetts college But his comments on Twitter came after a group of U.S. military veterans protested at a small Massachusetts college last weekend.  The veterans objected to the removal of an American flag at Hampshire College, a private school in the town of Amherst. The removal came after some students lowered the flag to half-staff on November 9th. That was the day after the U.S. presidential election, of which Trump has been declared the winner. Flags are flown at half-staff to recognize deaths of important people or to recognize sad events. Some Hampshire College students and teachers said they are fearful of what will happen under Trump’s presidency. The flag continued to be flown at half-staff until November 10th, when it was burned. The college says it does not know who burned the flag. A new flag was ordered flown at half-staff. But later, College President Jonathan Lash ordered the flag removed, saying some had seen it flying at half-staff as a comment on the presidential election. It was not, Lash said. He said it was part of an effort by the college to deal with divisions over the flag among members of the college community. “We’ve heard from members of our campus community that, for them and for many in our country, the flag is a powerful symbol of fear they’ve felt all their lives because they grew up in marginalized communities, never feeling safe,” Lash said. “For others, the flag is a symbol of their highest aspirations for the country.” On CNN television Tuesday, Trump spokesman Jason Miller said that the country’s next president believes flag burning should be illegal. “The president-elect is a very strong supporter of the First Amendment, but there’s a big difference between that and burning the American flag,” Miller said. I’m Ashley Thompson.   Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and share your views on our Facebook Page. ____________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   compel - v. to force someone to do something grunting – v. top make a sound like a pig symbol - n. an action, object, event, etc., that expresses or represents a particular idea or quality marginalized - adj. putting someone in a powerless or unimportant position within a society or group aspiration - n. something that a person wants very much to achieve Tue, 29 Nov 2016 21:36:41 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel Two Trump Calls Millions of Votes 'Illegal'   This is What’s Trending Today... President-elect Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had their last debate before the presidential election on October 19. The moderator of the debate asked Trump if he would accept the results of the election. In response, Trump said, “I will look at it at the time.” Later in the conversation, he said, “I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?” Trump is now the president-elect. He is set to take office in January. But officials have announced they will re-count the votes in some states. In response, Trump wrote on Twitter that “millions” of people voted illegally for his opponent. Almost 50,000 people forwarded the tweet, and close to 150,000 more “liked” it. News organizations and political analysts say no evidence supports Trump’s claim.  One reason that people are still disputing the results is because of how presidents are elected in the United States. States – not voters – choose the president. The system is called the Electoral College. In the 2016 election, Trump won enough states under the Electoral College system to beat Hillary Clinton, but he did not win the most votes overall. Members of the Electoral College will meet on December 19. The results were very close in three of the states Trump won -- Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Activists are raising money to request the votes there be re-counted. If the results change, Trump risks losing the Electoral College and therefore the election. This weekend, Trump said on Twitter that he won the Electoral College. He would have won the popular vote, too, he said, “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Trump also claimed there were illegal votes in three of the states Clinton won: Virginia, New Hampshire and California. Trump asked, “Why isn’t the media reporting on this?”  Alex Padilla is the secretary of state in California. He said Trump did not have evidence for his claim of illegal votes in California. Padilla added that Trump’s tweets were “reckless” and “unbecoming” of a president-elect. Others warned news organizations not to report Trump’s comments without considering first whether they were true. One social media user brought some humor into the debate, saying: “Trump won the popular vote 100-percent if you deduct the millions and millions of people who did not vote for him.”  And that’s What’s Trending Today.   Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor. What do you think of Donald Trump’s election comments? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   moderator – n. someone who leads a discussion in a group and tells each person when to speak suspense –n. a feeling or state of nervousness or excitement caused by wondering what will happen assert – v. to state (something) in a strong and definite way deduct –v. to take away (something, especially an amount of money) from a total inappropriate –adj. not right or suited for some purpose or situation unbecoming –adj. not appropriate or acceptable for a person in a particular job or position Mon, 28 Nov 2016 22:50:58 +0000 HomeAmericaWhat's Trending Today?Level One Obama, Trump React Very Differently to Death of Fidel Castro   The death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro has produced a mix of reactions in the United States. The death confirms sharp differences in the thinking of President Barack Obama and his replacement, President-elect Donald Trump. It has also led to discussions about how the U.S. government will deal with Cuba when Trump becomes president in January. President Obama considers reestablishing ties with Cuba after more than 50 years of tensions one of his greatest foreign policy successes. Obama, who visited the country in March, became the first sitting U.S. president to do so since 1928. Obama told the Cuban people: “I have come here to bury the last remnants of the Cold War in the Americas.” In September 2015, Trump supported Obama’s decision to open up relations with Cuba. “I think it's fine,” he told The Daily Caller website. “We should have made a better deal (but) the concept of opening with Cuba -- 50 years is enough.” However, during the election campaign, Trump began to strongly criticize the decision to normalize relations. Now, he is almost always critical of the move. In a statement released soon after Castro’s death last Friday, Obama said: “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and the world around him.” He added that the United States offers “a hand of friendship to the Cuban people.” Some U.S. lawmakers immediately criticized the statement. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, called it “pathetic.” He noted that the statement did not talk about the thousands of people Castro killed and imprisoned. Rubio’s parents lived in Cuba, and moved to the United States in the 1950s. Another Republican, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, told ABC News that he hopes “we don’t see any U.S. government officials going to Fidel Castro’s funeral.” Cruz’s father was born in Cuba and now, like Rubio’s parents, is a Cuban-American. Trump released a statement after Castro’s death. He called the former leader “a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades.” He blamed Castro for “firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty, and the denial of fundamental human rights.” Trump promised that, as president, he will do all he can “to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.” It is not known how relations between the two countries will change when Trump takes office. Kellyanne Conway is a top aide to the president-elect. She told ABC News that Trump will demand that Cuba make changes. Conway said the release of political prisoners would have an important effect on relations. She also said the president-elect is “absolutely” willing to change the Obama policy on Cuba. Some lawmakers hope Castro’s death will lead to improved relations between the two countries. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and some Republicans support a bill that would end the 50-year-old ban on U.S. trade with Cuba. I’m Alice Bryant.     VOA’s Cindy Saine and Fern Robinson reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the reports for Learning English. He also used information from George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   sitting - adj. In this context, sitting means currently having a political office or job remnant - n. the part of something that is left when the other parts are gone concept - n. an idea of what something is or how it works enormous - adj. very great in size or amount singular - adj. better or greater than what is usual or normal pathetic - adj. very bad, poor, weak, etc. funeral - n. a ceremony held for a dead person firing squad - n. a group of soldiers whose job is to shoot a prisoner who has been sentenced to death prosperity - n. the state of being successful -- usually by making a lot of money Mon, 28 Nov 2016 21:41:21 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel Two Castro's Death, Trump Presidency Raise Questions About US-Cuba Ties During his life, Fidel Castro blamed Cuba’s economic problems on the United States and its restrictions on trade with Cuba. Now, after Castro’s death, many people are wondering what will happen to the economic relationship between the two countries. The election of Donald Trump as U.S. president will likely make the situation even more complex. The U.S. trade restrictions on Cuba – or, the embargo – remain in place. But President Barack Obama recently eased some of those limits. Obama reestablished diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States. The two sides opened embassies in each other’s capitals in 2015. And the improved relations have led to an increase in the number of U.S. visitors to Cuba. Yet many U.S. companies say the government in Cuba makes it hard for foreigners to do business there.   U.S. Senator Bob Menendez says economic links remain firmly connected to Castro's family. "Do you want to do business in Cuba, do you want to be a part of the hotel tourism industry? You have to see Raul's (Cuban President Raul Castro) son. You want to go ahead and do agriculture business in Cuba? You have to do it with his son-in-law, both high-ranking officials of the Cuban military." Jose Azel is an expert on Cuba at the University of Miami in Florida. He agrees that the Cuban government has too many restrictions on foreign businesses. Azel said that foreign investors must share control of their business interests with the Cuban military. And, he adds, the foreigners cannot control who works for their company in Cuba.  But Azel does not believe the country will change its central planning system soon. Another issue for U.S.-Cuba relations is the election of businessman Donald Trump. During the presidential campaign, Trump criticized President Obama's moves to ease tensions with between the two countries. Trump said he will undo Obama’s actions unless Cuba gives more religious and political freedom to its people. He also wants Cuba to release political prisoners. I'm Ashley Thompson. Ken Bredemeier and Jim Randle reported this story for VOA. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted their story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. _______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   embargo – n. a government order that limits trade in some way high-ranking – adj. having a high rank or position central planning – adj. In a centrally planned economy, the government makes most economic decisions Mon, 28 Nov 2016 21:30:46 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel One Less Energy Now Produced by Coal in US South Three large machines called turbines produce electricity at the Buck Combined Cycle Station in central North Carolina, near the town of Salisbury. Tall chimneys that once released smoke into the air all day and night are now unused. The last coal-fueled generators that operated at the energy center were closed a few years ago. Trains full of coal no longer arrive at the center, and large piles of coal no longer cover the ground. The center is owned by Duke Energy. Energy companies have had to sharply reduce the amount of coal they use for several reasons: Stronger government rules have reduced the level of carbon permitted to be sent into the air. And there is a growing demand for clean energy. The new energy center is fueled by natural gas. It is a much cleaner source of electricity than coal. Bill Wilson is the senior engineer of the Buck Combined Cycle Station. He says Duke Energy has closed about half of its coal-fueled energy centers in recent years and has replaced them with ones fueled by natural gas. He told VOA it is less costly to fuel the plant with natural gas than with coal. Switching over Coal was the main fuel used to generate electricity in the United States for many years. But the U.S. Energy Information Administration says in 2015 coal and natural gas were used equally to create electricity -- about 33 percent each. The shift from coal to natural gas is happening at energy centers throughout the country. In July, coal was removed from the Clinch River Coal Plant in Russell County, Virginia. The plant is owned by American Electric Power. Last year, parts of the center were converted from coal to natural gas use. Ricky Chaffin is the manager of the plant. He says it is now not only cleaner but produces more electricity. “You don’t have to handle the coal,” he says. “You don’t have to move the coal from the pile to the plant. We’ve got a lot less equipment. So (there is) a whole lot less manpower required to (operate) a (natural) gas plant,” he said. When the plant was fueled by coal, 182 people were needed to operate it. Now, 46 people work there. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has predicted that natural gas will become the country’s largest source of electricity this year. In North Carolina, Duke Energy plans to close most of its coal-fueled power plants in the next few decades. But as it does, it faces environmental problems. Last month, the company reached an agreement to remove the coal ash from its Buck Steam Station that has been polluting groundwater and the nearby Yadkin River for many years. I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.     VOA Correspondent Nadeem Yaqub reported this story from Charlotte, North Carolina. Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted the report for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page. ______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   turbine – n. an engine that spins and can be used to produce electricity chimney – n. a tall structure on a building that allows smoke to rise and escape outside plant – n. a building or factory where something is made convert – v. to change from one thing to another pile – n. a group of things that are put one on top of another manpower – n. the number of people who are available to work decade – n. a 10-year period coal ash – n. waste that remains after coal is burned groundwater – n. water that is underground Sun, 27 Nov 2016 21:00:19 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel Two An American National, But Not a Citizen   The United States is made up of 50 states, the District of Columbia and 16 territories. Five of these territories are permanently inhabited. They are the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa. More than four million people live in them. Except for American Samoa, people born in these territories automatically become U.S. citizens. They have many of the same rights as other U.S. citizens; however, they may not vote for president, and they do not pay federal taxes. People who live in American Samoa are U.S. nationals but are not automatically given birthright citizenship. In other words, they do not automatically become U.S. citizens at birth. American Samoans can apply to become naturalized citizens, but the process is lengthy and costly. In addition, they must live in the U.S. for three months before they can apply. Then they must stay in the U.S. for months or even years while their application is being processed. During that time, they may not hold a job that requires U.S. citizenship. A debate about citizenship Some American Samoans believe the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution already gives them citizenship. Section 1 of the Amendment says, in part: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” In 2013, some American Samoans used the amendment to argue for citizenship. They asked a federal district court judge to order that they be given birthright citizenship. But the judge refused. They appealed the decision. But, a three-judge federal appeals court panel also refused to grant American Samoans birthright citizenship. The panel said only Congress, not the courts, had the power to make rules for territories. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of that ruling. It did not say why. But the justices seemed to be saying a ruling the Supreme Court made in 1901 should not be changed. At that time, the Supreme Court considered a series of cases about how the territories won by the United States in the Spanish-American War should be governed. It ruled 5-4 that people in those territories did not have full constitutional rights, even if they are U.S. citizens. The majority said only Congress -- not courts or even the Constitution -- could give people in the territories full rights. Since then, Congress has given birthright citizenship to people born in Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands. Many writers, professors and constitutional law professors disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year not to hear the appeal. They said people should not be governed unless they can fully take part in the decisions of a government. And many said the 1901 Supreme Court decision, which spoke about “savages” and “alien” and “uncivilized” races, is both embarrassing and racist. They believe American Samoans, like people born in the other four populated territories, should be given automatic citizenship. What does American Samoa say? The government of American Samoa disagreed with those who wanted birthright citizenship. It said it did not want any change to be made in the current policy. It said "the people of Samoa are happy with this situation.” One reason the government of American Samoa is not seeking birthright U.S. citizenship is because of land ownership. It told the Supreme Court that if the U.S. Constitution applied fully to the territory, laws that stop non-Samoans from buying land could be threatened. Currently, more than 90 percent of the territory’s land is owned communally.   Some legal experts disagreed with the territorial government. They said land ownership rights were separate from citizenship rights. In any case, the territorial government believes American Samoans should decide for themselves in a referendum whether they want to automatically become U.S. citizens. It says if they do, they should then ask Congress to change the law. I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise. (You can learn more about the case here.) VOA Correspondent Christopher Jones-Cruise reported this story from Washington and wrote it in VOA Special English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section, or visit our Facebook page. ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   inhabited – adj. occupied or lived in by someone or something automatically – adv. always happening because of a rule, law, previous agreement, etc. naturalize – v. to permit (someone who was born in a different country) to become a new citizen panel – n. a small group of judges chosen from a larger court to hear a case and make a decision communally – adj. shared or used by members of a group or community Sat, 26 Nov 2016 21:00:14 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel Two Calls for US Vote Recount Grow, but Trump’s Win Likely Will Stand   Calls for a recount of ballots in the American presidential election grew louder this week as Hillary Clinton increased her lead in the popular vote.   News media say Clinton, the candidate of the Democratic Party, lost the election to businessman Donald Trump, the Republican candidate. They say he will win more electoral votes than the former Secretary of State.   Trump is busy forming a new government. Political experts say a vote recount is unlikely to keep him from being sworn-in as president on January 20th, 2017. Clinton won the popular vote – winning more than 2 million more votes than Trump, according to the Cook Political Report. But in the United States, the candidate who wins the most votes does not always win the presidency. If Trump wins, as appears likely, he would be the fifth person to become president after losing the popular vote. Electoral College Decides The 538-member Electoral College decides the presidential election, not the popular vote. Electoral College members are chosen state-by-state -- based on which candidates win the most votes in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. As of this week, Trump has 306 Electoral College votes, while Clinton has 232. Trump’s number had been 290 until Michigan election officials announced on Friday that he won the state by 10,704 votes. That was the closest presidential election in Michigan’s history. More than 4.7 million people there marked ballots in the November 8 vote. Experts Speak to Clinton Campaign Last week, Clinton campaign head John Podesta spoke with lawyers and computer scientists who urged him to ask for a recount in three states: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They said it is possible that voting machines could have been attacked to affect the results. Trump’s lead in the three states was 1.2 percent, according to The New York Times newspaper. If Clinton, instead of Trump, won those three states, she would end up with 274 Electoral College votes, enough to win the presidency. The experts, mentioned in a New York Magazine story, said their findings show Clinton’s support dropped seven points in areas that used electronic voting machines. Those machines, the experts said, are more open to hacking. So far, the Clinton campaign has not reacted to calls for a vote recount. But another presidential candidate, Jill Stein, began raising money required to finance recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. As of Friday, she had raised $5 million. That is enough, the Stein campaign said, to start recounts in all three states. Stein, the Green Party candidate, won a little more than one percent of the popular vote. A statement on her website said the recount is not meant to help Clinton, whom Stein criticized during the election. It is “about protecting our democracy,” the Stein campaign said. Still, it is very unlikely her recount efforts will keep Trump from winning the presidency, according to Nate Silver, a political expert. He operates the website FiveThirtyEight. Silver told VOA it is unlikely unlawful activities affected the election results. He said the differences between districts using electronic voting machines in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could be explained by race and education levels. He said they are the two factors that most closely predicted voting in the 2016 presidential election. Two Democratic Electoral Collect Members Say Vote Conscience The 538 members of the Electoral College are set to officially choose the next president on December 19. Two Democratic members of the Electoral College called on members to vote their conscience, even if that means going against the wishes of voters in the states they represent. They said that Trump lacks the skills necessary to serve as president. But so far, there are no signs enough Electoral College members will change their votes to keep Trump from winning. Before Election Day, Clinton, who had been expected to win, promised to accept the election results. Trump, who had said he thought cheating might affect the results, refused to make such a promise. “We are a country based on laws, and we’ve had hot, contested elections going back to the very beginning,” Clinton said, before the voting. “But one of our hallmarks has always been that we accept the outcomes of our election.” The last person to lose the popular vote but win the presidential election was Republican George W. Bush in 2000. He lost to Democrat Al Gore that year by 547,000 votes. I’m Bruce Alpert.   Joshua Fatzick reported on this story for Bruce Alpert adapted his story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and share your views on our Facebook Page. _______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   mention - v. to talk about, write about, or refer to hack - v. to secretly get access to the files on a computer or network in order to get information, cause damage or change results conscience - n. the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong contest - v. to challenge hallmark - n. an important tradition Fri, 25 Nov 2016 21:04:11 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel TwoU.S. Elections 2016 Americans Traveling More Internationally, Including Vietnam   Americans are traveling internationally more than ever, the U.S. Commerce Department says. [In 2015], Americans took 74 million trips abroad. That is a nine percent increase from 2014. It is also the highest number ever. The information was released in a recent Commerce Department report. The department said the countries that U.S. residents visited most often last year were Mexico and Canada – America’s neighbors. The third-most popular destination was the United Kingdom. The Dominican Republic and France were the fourth- and fifth-most popular places to visit. France, Spain, and Mexico had the biggest increases in American visitors in 2015, the Commerce Department report says. Vietnam is also growing in popularity among American travelers. More than 330,000 Americans visited Vietnam in 2015. That is a 33 percent increase from 2014. Vietnam is especially popular among travelers between 18 and 35, or millennials, says Kim Sykes. She is with Carefree Vacations. She recently spoke with VOA Learning English. “Vietnam is a popular destination among millennials because it is off-the-beaten- path travel that offers an authentic experience and also provides a lot of bang for the buck,” she said.  By “bang for your buck,” she means a good value. Sykes also said river cruise lines recently started operations in Vietnam and Cambodia. They are popular among older travelers, she said. The International Air Transport Association said travel has been increasing in recent months, after a decrease following terrorist attacks earlier this year in Belgium, Turkey and France. International air traffic was 7 percent higher in September 2016 compared to September 2015. That is the largest year-on-year increase in seven months, the association reported. “Importantly, this rebound from August weakness suggests that travel demand is showing its resilience in the aftermath of terror attacks,” said Alexandre de Juniac, the association’s top official. I'm Alice Bryant.   Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and share your views on our Facebook Page. What country would you like to visit? ________________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   destination - n a place to which a person is going or something is being sent off the beaten path - expression. not the most popular tourism destinations authentic - adj. real or genuine resilience - n. ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens rebound - n. an increase or improvement after a decrease or decline aftermath - n. the period of time after a bad and usually destructive event​ Fri, 25 Nov 2016 21:02:11 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel One U.S. Government Sells Lucky Dollars for Chinese New Year The United States Department of the Treasury is selling “Lucky Money” for the Chinese New Year. The special one-dollar note comes with a series of numbers beginning with 8888. The number 8 is considered lucky in Chinese culture. The special U.S. dollar comes in a bright red envelope, with Chinese symbols or lettering. The envelope has a picture of a colorful bird: a rooster. That makes sense. 2017 is the Year of the Rooster. The rooster is one of 12 signs connected with the Chinese Lunar Calendar. The Lucky Money Collection went on sale recently. Sales will continue until the Lucky Money collectibles sell out, even if that comes before the Chinese New Year. In 2017, the New Year will begin on January 28. Selling Chinese New Year products is nothing new for the U.S. government. Since the Year of the Dragon in 2000, the Treasury Department has sold Lucky Money collectibles. “It’s extremely well received,” said Leonard Olijar. He is director of the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing. He went on to say: “It’s our most successful cultural product that we have. We expect we’ll sell out in the first week of its release.” Lydia Washington already has her Lucky Money. She believes it will bring her good luck. “I mean, it’s pretty and shiny. What more can you ask? Lucky money products are awesome.” The Treasury Department said it is limiting sales this year to 88,888 lucky dollars. That makes sense for a product connected to the lucky number, 8. Each Chinese New Year product sells for $5.95. They are sold through this website.  I’m Bruce Alpert.   Nike Ching reported on this story for Bruce Alpert adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section and share your views on our Facebook Page. Do you believe your luck would improve if you had a lucky dollar? _______________________________________________________________ Words in This Story   envelope - n. an enclosing cover for a letter, card or money rooster - n. an adult male chicken Lunar Calendar - n. a calendar based on cycles of the moon awesome - adj. extremely good Fri, 25 Nov 2016 21:00:32 +0000 HomeAmericaAs It IsLevel One