Know Your English – The Hindu (Feb 19, 2017)

Know Your English – The Hindu (Feb 19, 2017)

What is the meaning of ‘mansplaining’? (KS Nitya, Vellore)

‘Mansplaining’ is a relatively new word; it is a combination of ‘man’ and ‘explaining’. For further reading, visit “The Hindu”.

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Everyday Grammar: Linking Verbs – VOA Learning English (Feb 19, 2017)

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Eyes in the Sky Map Amazon on the Ground – VOA Learning English (Feb 19, 2017)

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The Peruvian Andes and Amazon created with laser-guided imaging spectroscopy. Credit: Greg Asner

Looking at a rainforest from high in the sky, you might think all the trees look about the same.

But they are not.

Take, for example, the Amazon rainforest in South America. Research shows that the Amazon’s biological diversity—the huge number of plants and animals living there—is more of a mix than experts believed. It turns out the rainforest has many species of trees and even different kinds of forests.

The Amazon covers an area of about 7 million square kilometers. It lies within the borders of nine countries: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, which belongs to France.

About 60 percent of the rainforest falls within Brazil.

For about 150 years, researchers have explored the Amazon. They searched under its tall trees to study the many plants growing there.

Greg Asner has done that too. He is the principal investigator for the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) program.

Asner studied the plants and then, with his team, developed a tool to identify what is growing in the Amazon rainforest. They use an airplane equipped with a high-technology laboratory to create maps of the area.

When the plane flew over Peru, the team learned there are many more — and different kinds of — forests than was documented before.

Researchers once thought the western Amazon had three to five different forests. Then, Asner notes, his team mapped the area in the CAO aircraft.

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Map of Peru Showing Different Tree Species Identified by CAO

“We flew over and we mapped 36 distinct forest types. And so what we did, we just increased the diversity of the region by tenfold and that’s important because the region, the Peruvian Andes and Amazon, just like all the other countries that occupy that region, are rapidly developing.”

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Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) inside the airplane and laboratory used the map Peru and the Amazon rainforest. (Courtesy Greg Asner)

The CAO is equipped with airborne laser-guided imaging spectroscopy. This technology enables Asner and his team to take three-dimensional images of the forest far below. These pictures give the appearance of length, width and depth. They have bright colors and look like modern art paintings. Yet they show different tree species.

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Three-dimensional image using laser-guided imaging spectroscopy taken by CAO shows natural color of trees in one hectare of rainforest

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Three-dimensional enhanced image using laser-guided imaging spectroscopy taken by CAO shows different species of trees in same hectare of rainforest

Asner says the team is gathering more than just pictures of plants.

“And at the same time we’re able to assess the health, composition and types of trees that are there, from their chemical signatures.”

He says getting chemical information on the trees is like a doctor taking blood from a patient. The images tell the researchers about the health of the forests, and give them genetic information, too.

But how can you get chemical information from trees while flying above them?

Asner says the CAO aircraft uses sunlight as the main measurement tool. The sunlight reflects off the tops of the trees. With the equipment on the plane, they can measure infrared light – the light that cannot be seen.

“This is in the shortwave infrared. So we can’t see this with the naked eye. But we are able to read the molecular composition of the tree canopy.”

This information helps them understand how the plant species and forests change in different areas.

Asner says they can use airborne laser-guided imaging spectroscopy over a huge area that has never been mapped. In this case, it is 76 million hectares in the Amazon.

The Carnegie team joined with the Peruvian Ministry of Environment to study that country’s forests. Asner says this technology is still new to science, and it can help officials watch over and protect the forests.

“The application to Peru is really a big step forward because it tells us that we can use this still-new approach to map the composition of forests, in this case,and use that information to do better forest management, conservation and planning for future changes that we know the region is undergoing.”

He says their maps help researchers and government officials make decisions based on the actual biodiversity of each area. No longer are people treating the Amazon rainforest “like a big green carpet” – one that is the same everywhere.

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The view of the Amazon forest looking down from the tree top. (Greg Asner)

NEWS Researchers will be busy because they noticed plant species that are little known, or completely unknown, in the forest communities.

The Carnegie team is now working with Equador to map its countryside. The images will help Ecuadorean officials preserve their forests.

The next step is to take the technology even higher—to orbit the Earth. Then researchers may observe the biodiversity not just of the Amazon, but the whole planet.

The orbiting satellite would remap the entire Earth every 30 days and measure the health of its biodiversity.

Biodiversity is important to the health of the planet, Asner explains. It is the “fabric” that is under all the planet’s systems, like water and food.

“So where the different species are and what types of species we have actually affects all the major processes that regulate our climate.”

So, Asner adds, finding ways to watch the Earth will help researchers make better decisions on how to save more species and help stop destruction of our planet.

I’m Anne Ball.

Anne Ball wrote this story for Learning English with information from Kevin Enochs from VOA. George Grow was the editor.

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

Now check your understanding by taking a listening quiz.

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Words in This Story

biodiversity – n. the existence of many different kinds of plants and animals in an environment

tenfold – adj. ten times as much or many

laser – n. a device that produces a narrow and powerful beam of light that has many special uses in medicine, industry, etc.

spectroscopy – n. using a tool to measure different properties of light.

assess – v. to make a judgment about (something)

reflect – v. of light, sound, etc. to move in one direction, hit a surface, and then quickly move in a different and usually opposite direction

infrared – adj. producing or using rays of light that cannot be seen and that are longer than rays that produce red light

shortwave – n. a radio wave with a wavelength between 10 and 100 meters

canopy – n. the highest layer of branches in a forest or on a tree

conservation – n. the protection of animals, plants, and natural resources

This article was originally published on the www.learningenglish.voanews.com  and reproduced here with permission.

Courtesy: Voice of America

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US Aircraft Carrier Begins Patrol in South China Sea – VOA Learning English (Feb 19, 2017)

A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group has begun “routine operations” in the South China Sea. The operations came despite a warning from China not to interfere with Chinese sovereignty in the area.

The U.S. Navy announced the operations on Saturday. The strike group includes Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

The Navy Times reported last week on the planned operations with information provided by unnamed Navy officials. The report clearly angered China’s foreign ministry. A foreign ministry spokesman urged U.S. officials “not to take any actions that challenge China’s sovereignty and security.”

China claims the man-made islands are part of its territory, along with many other parts of the South China Sea. Satellite images suggest China has added military weapons to some of the islands.

Other countries with territorial claims in the sea are the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

Freedom of navigation operation

A U.S. Navy release said the California-based Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group left last month for a deployment to the western Pacific. A Navy official was reported as saying the deployment would, among other things, contribute “to freedom of navigation and lawful use of the sea.”

Freedom of navigation operation, or FONOP, is meant to show military force and free movement of shipping in international waters. But the operation represents a test to countries holding territorial claims in disputed areas.

China has objected to earlier freedom of movement exercises performed in or around its territory. The U.S. military has carried out at least four FONOP operations in the South China Sea in recent years. The most recent one took place last October, when a U.S. Navy destroyer was sent to waters near Chinese-claimed islands. At the time, a Chinese official called the move “illegal” and “provocative.”

In the past, China has sent military airplanes and/or ships to follow American ships taking part in freedom of navigation exercises.

The U.S. government defends the operations, saying they fully comply with international law. During a recent visit to East Asia, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the U.S. military was prepared to hold future freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

Zack Cooper is with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, a research group based in Washington, D.C. He says international law is clearly described in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“Beyond 12 nautical miles from the shoreline, basically any country can fly, sail or operate military vessels in those areas – despite the fact that some countries claim that they can limit that sort of operation.”

Zack Cooper of CSIS has been watching new U.S. President Donald Trump. He thinks the new U.S. administration is likely to take a more assertive position to freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

Cooper added that the next test for China’s government could be in waters near Mischief Reef, in the Spratly Islands. China has been expanding that man-made island for years and has reportedly built extensive military positions on the reef.

“I would expect that one of the early operations that the Trump administration might do would target Mischief Reef by sailing fairly close to it – (to) demonstrate that the new administration is willing to accept more risk to directly challenge Chinese claims.”

U.S. freedom of navigation operations can send an important message to any state testing international maritime law, he added.

“It’s important for the United States and other countries to demonstrate to China that where the law has been made quite clear, that those countries are not going to be intimidated into walking away from what is very clear international law.”

Still, Cooper said, it is not likely that freedom of navigation operations will stop Chinese militarization or existing development projects in the South China Sea. But he said it could prevent China from claiming and developing new territory.

China announced changes to its maritime law

China recently announced a proposal to change its own laws controlling how it can react to foreign ships entering its territory. According to the country’s official Global Times, a draft of the law “would empower maritime authorities to prevent foreign ships from entering Chinese waters if it is decided that the ships may harm traffic safety and order.”

Cooper said the revision suggests the law would give China the power to declare control over foreign ships passing through the South China Sea and other major waterways.

“If China was to revise the law in that way, it would again directly contravene the restrictions on those kinds of domestic laws that are in the UN Convention on the Law of the sea. So in many ways it would be seen I think as a direct challenge to the UN Convention.”

He said other nations should send a strong message to China that they would oppose such changes.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn reported this story for VOA Learning English. His report includes information from Reuters, the Associated Press, Navy Times 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.

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Words in This Story

navigationn. moving a boat or ship over an area of water

sovereigntyn. power of a country to control its own government

assertiveadj. confident or strong in speaking or actions

intimidatev. intentionally make someone afraid

revisionn. a change to something that already exists

provocation – n. something causes anger or action; incitement

comply – v. to do what you have been ordered or asked to do

maritimeadj. of or related to the sea

contravenev. to fail to follow a rule or law

This was originally published on www.learningenglish.voanews.com and reproduced here with permission.

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English in a Minute: On a Roll – VOA Learning English (Feb 18, 2017)

What does it mean to be “on a roll?” Watch this week’s EIM to find out!

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How to Win an Election – VOA Learning English (Feb 18, 2017)

And now the VOA Learning English program — Words and Their Stories.

On this show, we explore common expressions in American English.

Today we talk about expressions related to the biggest contest in the United States – the election of the American president.

Well, except for the first election. That was not much of a contest. On February 4, 1789, all 69 members of Congress voted for George Washington.

Supposedly, Washington didn’t even want to be president. John Adams was the runner-up. So, according to the rules at the time, Adams became Washington’s vice president.

Elections these days are much harder to win. They can last for years and cost millions and millions of dollars. So it is not surprising that there are many expressions to describe the race for the White House. That expression, in fact, is one of them.

We often call political elections races, a word you probably know from sports. Many expressions we use for political campaigns are borrowed from sports competitions. In fact, sometimes we just cut to the chase and call the presidential election, a horse race.

If the race is close, we can say the candidates are neck-and-neck. This horse racing term means the two candidates are nearly tied in the polls and a winner is difficult to predict. We call such a race – political or otherwise – a dead heat.

In the early part of an election cycle when a party is picking its nominee, usually many candidates are in the running. Sometimes a candidate pulls away from the pack and becomes the clear favorite.

These two terms also come from horse racing. So does down to the wire.

In a horse race, the horses race to the finish and run through a wire as they cross the finish line. A presidential race that is down to the wire is very close. The only way to know the winner is to wait for all the votes to be counted.

If a candidate wins the election by a large margin — that is to say won by many, many votes — he or she has won hands down. We also say the race was a landslide. Or you could say the race was simply no contest.

These expressions all mean a candidate won easily.

But if a candidate loses an election by a big margin, we could say that campaign got blown out of the water, as if by a submarine torpedo. Or we might say simply that the candidate got crushed at the polls. More informally, we might also say the candidate got beat like a rug, which is visually entertaining.

Some candidates lose an election because they are unwilling to toe the party the line. In other words, they refuse to go along with the rules and standards of their own political party. This may upset the candidate’s base — the people who usually support that party.

The opposite of toeing the party line is reaching across the aisle. In the U.S., the two major parties are the Democrats and the Republicans. In this expression, the “aisle” refers to the actual physical walkway that divides the legislative halls. Members of the two parties sit on opposite sides.

So “to reach across the aisle” means to make an effort to negotiate with members who are not in your party. Many politicians win elections because of their willingness to work with members of the opposing party. On the other hand, some politicians lose for the same reason.

Voters can, sometimes, be very difficult to predict.

And that brings us to the end of another Words and Their Stories.

I’m Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly edited the story.

This was originally published on the www.learningenglish.voanews.com and reproduced here with permission.

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India Launches 104 Satellites Into Orbit – VOA Learning English (Feb 18, 2017)

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This photograph released by Indian Space Research Organization shows its satellite launch vehicle lifting off from a launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, Feb.15, 2017. (Photo Courtesy: ISRO)

A single Indian rocket launch Wednesday morning sent a record 104 satellites into space.

The government-run Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said the rocket launched from Sriharikota in eastern India. It broke Russia’s record of launching 37 satellites one year ago.

Most of the satellites are so-called nano satellites—small ones weighing up to 10 kilograms. There is also an Earth observation satellite that weighs 714 kilograms.

The majority of the nano satellite customers were from the United States. Others were from Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Israel, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

The launch was broadcast on Indian national television. It showed scientists in the mission control room, cheering as the rocket flew higher.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that the “remarkable feat by ISRO is yet another proud moment for our space scientific community and the nation.”

India’s space program has centered mostly on low-cost ways to get into space. In 2014, an Indian spacecraft reached Mars’ orbit. The ISRO Mars mission cost $74 million. In comparison, the United States space agency, NASA, spent $670 million on its Mars mission a few months later. India’s effort was welcomed as evidence that an economical program can achieve technological success.

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan is a space expert with New Delhi’s Observer Research Foundation. She said this record breaking satellite launch highlights India’s technological “sophistication.” She said it may lead more countries ask the ISRO to do their space launches.

Growing demand for more high-tech communication systems among governments has increased demand for such launches. So, has the growing demands of private telephone, Internet and other tech companies. Last year, India launched 75 satellites for foreign customers.

The South Asian country increased the budget for its space program this year. It also has set up a fund for a possible second mission to Mars and its first to Venus.

But scientists say that while India can put smaller satellites into space, it still has some way to go before it can launch heavier ones.

I’m Anne Ball.

Anjana Pasricha wrote this story for VOA. Anne Ball adapted her story for Learning English with additional material from the Associated Press. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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

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Words in This Story

feat – n. an act or achievement that shows courage, strength, or skill

proud – adj. very happy and pleased because of something you have done

highlights – v. to make people notice or be aware of something

sophistication – adj. having or showing a lot of experience and knowledge about the world and about culture, art, literature, etc.

fund – n. an amount of money that is used for a special purpose

This article was originally published on the www.learningenglish.voanews.com  and reproduced here with permission.

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Venezuelan VP Dismisses US Sanctions – VOA Learning English (Feb 18, 2017)

The United States is accusing a top Venezuelan official of being a major international drug trafficker.

The Trump administration has announced sanctions against Vice President Tareck El Aissami for his reported involvement in cocaine shipments from Venezuela.

The administration barred Al Aissami from using any money or other assets under his name in the United States. The Associated Press says the government also has banned him from entering the country.

El Aissami is the highest Venezuelan official ever to face U.S. sanctions. The government has classified him as a drug kingpin – someone who directs people in the illegal drug trade. ­

On Tuesday, El Aissami said the Trump administration’s actions only strengthen his support for the revolution started by former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

In messages on social media, El Aissami said U.S. aggression will not stop him from doing his job of rescuing Venezuela’s economy from sabotage by its conservative opponents.

Observers are unsure if the sanctions mean a tightening of U.S. policy toward Venezuela or a continuation of policies from the presidency of Barack Obama.

Under Obama, U.S. officials were careful not to demand the removal of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, as the opposition had been seeking. Instead, the U.S. government chose to support discussions aimed at avoiding violence. The Vatican also supported this policy.

Chris Sabatini is with Latin America Goes Global, a website that follows U.S. policy toward Latin America. He said there is increasing dissatisfaction that the discussions have yet to show results.

‘Criminal’ state?

El Aissami has been the target of U.S. law enforcement investigations for years, starting in his days as interior minister. The investigations began when falsified Venezuelan passports were found in the Middle East. Some were in the possession of suspected Hezbollah members.

A few years ago, Walid Makled, a jailed drug trafficker, told investigators he sent payments to Venezuelan officials through El Aissami’s brother. He said in return for the money, officials permitted cocaine shipments through the country’s ports and airports.

The U.S. announcement Monday said El Aissami had worked with drug traffickers in Mexico and Colombia to direct cocaine shipments from Venezuela.

Venezuelan businessman Samark Lopez was also sanctioned. Lopez is accused of hiding money earned from the drug trade in a number of companies and real estate in the U.S., Panama, British Virgin Islands and Venezuela.

The Associated Press reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

sanction – n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws

asset – n. something that is owned by a person or company

real estate – n. property consisting of buildings and land

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News Words: Executive Order – VOA Learning English (Feb 17, 2017)

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English @ the Movies: ‘Write Your Own Rules’ – VOA Learning English (Feb 17, 2017)

Our saying today on English @ the Movies is “write your own rules” from the movie “La La Land.” It is about a woman and a man who fall in love, while trying to make it big in the movie and music worlds. Do you know what “write your own rules” means? Watch our video and then take the quiz!

This was originally published on "VOA Learning English" and reproduced here with permission.

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