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Obama Appoints Financial Protection Chief
This is the VOA Special English Economics Report from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish In early January, President Obama appointed Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This new government agency says it has already made home loans and credit card agreements easier for Americans to understand. But the Obama administration said the bureau cannot supervise financial products like home loans without a director. The president used a measure known as a recess appointment to fill the position. He nominated Mr. Cordray last July. But the opposition Republican Party blocked a vote in the full Senate.Mr. Obama announced the appointment during a visit to Ohio. It was his first political campaign trip of the year. He told the crowd that the severe economic crisis three years ago did not happen because of too many financial rules. Mr. Obama said: "Does anyone think the reason why we got into such a financial mess, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in a generation, that the reason was because of too much oversight of the financial industry? Of course not. We shouldn't be weakening oversight, we shouldn't be weakening accountability, we should be strengthening it!"Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized the president's appointment. Many Republicans oppose the new agency, saying its goals are not clear. They also want a group of people to lead the agency instead of a single director. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau resulted from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of twenty ten. Its goal is to make the market for financial products safer. Educating Americans about investment and loan products, enforcing financial laws and studying financial information all are part of its duties. The agency's budget is expected to be around five hundred million dollars. Richard Cordray served as Ohio's attorney general for two years. He has earned praise for bringing legal action against banks and financial companies accused of harming homeowners and borrowers. Mr. Cordray launched cases against Bank of America and insurer AIG. His recess appointment is effective only until the end of the Senate's current term.For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti.For more business news, go to voaspecialenglish.com, where you can download MP3s and texts of our programs. Read, listen and learn English and much more. Click on The Classroom for learning activities and interactive features. And join us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at VOA Learning English. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 06Jan2012)
Views: 80394 VOA Learning English
How an Allowance Helps Children Learn About Money
This is the VOA Special English Economics Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish Many children first learn the value of money by receiving an allowance. The purpose is to let children learn from experience at an age when financial mistakes are not very costly. The amount of money that parents give to their children to spend as they wish differs from family to family. Timing is another consideration. Some children get a weekly allowance. Others get a monthly allowance. In any case, parents should make clear what, if anything, the child is expected to pay for with the money. At first, young children may spend all of their allowance soon after they receive it. If they do this, they will learn the hard way that spending must be done within a budget. Parents are usually advised not to offer more money until the next allowance. The object is to show young people that a budget demands choices between spending and saving. Older children may be responsible enough to save money for larger costs, like clothing or electronics. Many people who have written on the subject of allowances say it is not a good idea to pay your child for work around the home. These jobs are a normal part of family life. Paying children to do extra work around the house, however, can be useful. It can even provide an understanding of how a business works. Allowances give children a chance to experience the things they can do with money. They can share it in the form of gifts or giving to a good cause. They can spend it by buying things they want. Or they can save and maybe even invest it. Saving helps children understand that costly goals require sacrifice: you have to cut costs and plan for the future. Requiring children to save part of their allowance can also open the door to future saving and investing. Many banks offer services to help children and teenagers learn about personal finance. A savings account is an excellent way to learn about the power of compound interest. Compounding works by paying interest on interest. So, for example, one dollar invested at two percent interest for two years will earn two cents in the first year. The second year, the money will earn two percent of one dollar and two cents, and so on. That may not seem like a lot. But over time it adds up.And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report. We invite you to share your family stories about getting or giving an allowance. Write your comments at voaspecialenglish.com. For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 27Jan2012)
Views: 68986 VOA Learning English
Are You Learning English? These Songs May Help
I'm Alex Villarreal with the VOA Special English Education Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish Songs teach language. Consider a song like "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega. An American teaching English overseas once told us that students love that song.Recently we asked people on the Special English Facebook page to suggest other songs that English learners might like. Noemi Nito wrote: I'm one of those English students who love "Tom's Diner." I started learning English with "Lemon Tree" by Fool's Garden. Another favorite is "Truly Madly Deeply" by Savage Garden. Another person, Asi Tambunan, suggested the song "God Only Knows" by Orianthi. Gyongyi Jako wrote that ABBA's songs from Sweden are perfect for class work. Other good songs for learning English are songs by the Beatles and John Lennon, as well as Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World." Paul Cifuentes says Bob Marley's songs are amazing for teaching. Another teacher, Joseph Deka, says songs by Johnny Cash have always worked in his classroom. He says his students can hear the words, plus the songs often have stories. He also likes "We Will Rock You" by Queen and "Beautiful Girls" by Sean Kingston. He says young children love "C Is for Cookie" by Cookie Monster from the TV show "Sesame Street." Nina John Smith suggested these songs: "It's My Life" and "We Weren't Born to Follow" by Bon Jovi. Also "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica.Aurelio Lourenco Costa Gusmao says he began to like English after his teacher played the Westlife song "I Have a Dream." He wrote: That was eight years ago. I was in the seventh grade. And from that day on, my dream of improving my English skills became attached in my mind. Teachers can use this song to convey the message to their students that they should have their own dream for the future. Aurelio's story was no surprise to another commenter, Katie Kivenko. She especially likes songs by Michael Jackson and Queen. She wrote: When you listen to your favorite songs, you feel emotionally high and it moves you to action.For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal. Do you have any favorite songs for learning English? You can share other music suggestions for English learners at our website, voaspecialenglish.com or on Facebook at VOA Learning English. We are also on Twitter and iTunes. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 06Jan2011)
Views: 1519377 VOA Learning English
Facebook Finds New Friends in the World of Private Finance
I'm Alex Villarreal with the VOA Special English Economics Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish Facebook is the world's biggest social network -- and the subject of the movie "The Social Network."The real Mark Zuckerberg and his friends at Harvard University launched the site in two thousand four. Facebook says it reached five hundred million users last July.Now, the American bank Goldman Sachs and the Russian company Digital Sky Technologies have friended Facebook. They are investing a total of five hundred million dollars in the company. The deal values Facebook at fifty billion dollars -- more than many publicly traded Internet companies. Goldman Sachs is expected to raise a billion and a half dollars more by selling shares of ownership in Facebook to rich investors. The plan does not include a public stock offering -- at least not right now. For now, Facebook would remain a private company -- meaning a company that does not sell shares to the public. The plan has brought new attention to the largely secretive world of private financing and the rules for private companies in the United States.The idea is that investors in public companies have protections that investors in private companies do not. The Securities and Exchange Commission says a private company must report financial information if it has more than five hundred shareholders. A new business, a startup company, is usually considered too risky for average investors. But a promising startup may find a small number of private investors, often known as "angels." These investors are willing to lose everything for a chance at big returns.Rikki Tahta has been involved in raising money for startups. He is now chairman of his own investment company, Covestor, with offices in New York and London.Mister Tahta compares the difference between public and private companies to the difference between marriage and dating. When people are dating, he says, there are understandings but few rules. In marriage, the rules are more clear and well-defined.In his opinion, the only real benefit for a private company is lower administrative and record-keeping costs. Yet he tells us Covestor remains a private company after a few years because it is still too risky for most investors.For VOA Special English I'm Alex Villarreal. You can comment on our programs and find transcripts and MP3s at voaspecialenglish.com. We're on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 07Jan2011)
Views: 349088 VOA Learning English
With Resistant Crops, Progress Can Raise New Problems
This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com Plant breeders and genetic engineers keep working to give crops the strength to resist threats like insects, diseases, droughts or floods. But before you can resist a threat, you need to understand it. We told you last week about a newly completed genetic map of the organism that causes late blight. That disease led to starvation in Ireland from potato shortages in the middle of the eighteen hundreds. The new genome could lead to better ways to protect potatoes, tomatoes and other crops. Science may supply a stronger crop. Yet that does not always guarantee demand. Nik Grunwald from the United States Agriculture Department worked on the international team that completed the genome. He says it is possible to grow potatoes that resist late blight. But these may not look like Russet potatoes. And most American farmers grow Russets because, as Nik Grunwald puts it, "that is where the demand is." Another example of scientific progress involves a natural bacterium known as Bt. Bt is used as a pesticide to fight cotton bollworms, corn borers and other pests. Scientists have found a way to grow cotton plants that contain a Bt gene, reducing the need for pesticides. But sometimes, when one problem gets solved, another one appears. In China, some farmers and researchers blame a decrease in pesticide use for an increase in pests unaffected by Bt. Also, there are concerns that some organisms could begin to resist the plants designed to resist them. And in October, scientists reported on what they call the "indirect costs" of a virus-resistance gene in Cucurbita. This is the species of squash that includes pumpkins and gourds. The scientists say virus-resistant transgenic squash are grown throughout the United States and much of Mexico. The genetically engineered squash are usually larger and healthier than wild squash. But a three-year study showed that beetles like to feed more on the transgenic plants, increasing cases of wilt disease. The report by a team from the United States and China appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers point out that gene flow between crops and their wild relatives is common and difficult to contain. They note concerns that wild plants could, as a result, gain genetically engineered resistances. And these could affect the natural balance in their environment. And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 27Oct2009)
Views: 11589 VOA Learning English
US Launches Effort to Support Muslim Entrepreneurs Around the World
This is the VOA Special English Development Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish The Obama administration has launched the first in a series of projects to support entrepreneurs in Muslim communities worldwide. The Global Entrepreneurship Program will provide advice and other help for businesses to succeed. Partnerships between public and private organizations aim to assist with everything from securing financing to writing a business plan. The first project is being launched in Egypt. A second project in Indonesia is expected to follow soon. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about the programs at a Presidential Summit on entrepreneurship. She said: "Now these initiatives comprise a first wave of programs to promote global entrepreneurship. But they reflect the Obama administration's commitment to a new approach to development -- one based on investment, not aid. On supporting local leadership and ideas, rather than imposing our own." More than two hundred fifty people attended the two-day summit meeting held in Washington in late April. Most were from majority Muslim countries. President Obama promised to hold a summit on entrepreneurship in his speech to the Islamic world last June in Cairo. He says the business market is the most powerful force for economic growth and lifting people out of poverty. He also says entrepreneurship is an area where countries can learn from each other. Tim Kane is with the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation, a nonprofit in the United States that works to increase entrepreneurship worldwide. He says the World Bank has found that simpler rules and other regulatory reforms make it easier to do business in the Middle East. The Global Entrepreneurship Program in Egypt will create several partnerships between American and Egyptian groups. These include the Egyptian Junior Business Association and the American University in Cairo. The United States Agency for International Development has a team of entrepreneurs in Egypt to supervise the program. The Obama administration plans to expand the program to twelve countries within the next two years. And that's the VOA Special English Development Report. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts are at voaspecialenglish.com. We're also on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and iTunes at VOA Learning English. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 10May 2010)
Views: 13827 VOA Learning English
A Stock Market Big Enough to Stretch Across the Atlantic
I'm Alex Villarreal with the VOA Special English Economics Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish A ten-billion-dollar deal aims to create the world's largest exchange company. The plan would combine the operators of the New York Stock Exchange and Germany's Frankfurt Stock Exchange.The two companies, NYSE Euronext and Deutsche Borse, announced the agreement in February. Deutsche Borse shareholders would own about sixty percent of the combined group. One thing it still needs is a name. The new company would have headquarters in Frankfurt and New York City. The New York Stock Exchange is the world's most famous stock market and a symbol of American capitalism. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says New York will remain at the heart of the world's financial system for a long time to come. But the exchange business has changed in these days of high-speed trading by computers in a globally connected economy. The Big Board now has to compete with smaller exchanges. Where stocks are traded has become less important than how much those trades cost.NYSE Euronext and Deutsche Borse had profits of almost four and a half billion dollars last year. They expect to save four hundred million dollars a year by combining their operations. These savings could lower the cost of stock orders. But the size of the company could raise concerns about competition in the exchange industry. The new company would also have trading operations in Britain, France and other European countries.Stock trading and other financial services would remain important to the combined company. But much of its income is expected to come from trading complex financial products called derivatives. The deal requires approval by American and European officials and by shareholders. Other exchange operators, like the CME Group, could try to offer a higher price for NYSE Euronext. The CME Group, operator of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, is one of the world's largest traders of derivatives. Duncan Niederauer, chief executive of NYSE Euronext, is expected to keep that job in the new company. He says combining with Deutsche Borse will make the company more competitive. In February, the operators of the London and Toronto stock exchanges announced a deal to combine their companies. And in October the Singapore Exchange offered to merge with Australia's exchange.For VOA Special English I'm Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 18Feb2011)
Views: 47028 VOA Learning English
An International Treaty Targets Fishing Abuses
This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com Some pirates catch fish instead of ships. The problem is known as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Such fishing harms the productivity of fisheries, and hurts developing countries especially. The fish pirates can easily land in ports that are not well controlled. Then they sell their catch at prices too low for the local fishing industry to compete. The catch may enter international markets, yet rob communities of needed food and raise the risk of fishery collapse. In November, the governing conference of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization approved a new treaty. The agreement, once it takes effect, will be the first under international law to target this problem. It has a long name: the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. The F.A.O. says that by signing the treaty, governments promise to take steps to guard their ports against ships involved in such fishing. The behavior of a fishing boat is mainly the responsibility of the nation whose flag it flies. The new treaty is directed at countries where fishing ships enter port. The aim is to get the countries to identify, report and deny entry to offending vessels. To land, foreign fishing ships will have to request permission from ports that are able to inspect them. And before they arrive, they will have to send information on their activities and the fish they are carrying. If a ship is denied entry, other ports will be told. And the nation whose flag it is sailing under must take action. The agreement will take effect once twenty-five countries have ratified it into law after signing it. Eleven members of the Food and Agriculture Organization immediately signed the treaty. They included Angola, Brazil, Chile, the European Union, Indonesia and Iceland. The others were Norway, Samoa, Sierra Leone, the United States and Uruguay. Activists with the Pew Environment Group say countries should use the measures even before the treaty takes effect. The group notes that a past fishing treaty took almost ten years to come into force. But the director of international law programs at Southern Illinois University is more hopeful. Cindy Buys thinks the treaty might take effect in only about a year. But she points out that the success of the treaty depends on the ability of nations to enforce it. And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 08Dec2009)
Views: 10572 VOA Learning English
Want to Stay Warm in Winter? Think COLD
This is the VOA Special English Health Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com Freezing weather can mean frostbite and hypothermia unless a person is prepared. Today we talk about how to stay warm, dry and safe. Frostbite is damage that happens when skin is exposed to extreme cold for too long. It mainly happens on the hands, feet, nose and ears. People with minor cases of frostbite that affect only the skin may not suffer any permanent damage. But if deeper tissue is affected, a person is likely to feel pain every time the area gets cold. If blood vessels are damaged, people can suffer an infection of gangrene. Sometimes, doctors have to remove frostbitten areas like fingers and toes. Hypothermia happens when the body cannot produce as much heat as it releases. The condition comes on slowly. Signs of hypothermia include uncontrollable shaking, very slow breathing and difficulty thinking clearly. If not treated, hypothermia can be deadly. To avoid cold-related injuries, here is a simple way to remember four basic steps to staying warm. Think of COLD -- C.O.L.D. The C stands for cover. Wear a hat and scarf to keep heat from escaping through the head, neck and ears. And wear mittens instead of gloves. In gloves, the fingers are separated, so the hands may not stay as warm. The O stands for overexertion. Avoid activities that will make you sweaty. Wet clothes and cold weather are a bad mix. L is for layers. Wearing loose, lightweight clothes, one layer on top of another, is better than wearing a single heavy layer of clothing. Also, make sure outerwear is made of material that is water resistant and tightly knit. Can you guess what the D in COLD stands for? D is for dry. In other words, stay as dry as possible. Pay attention to the places where snow can enter, like the tops of boots, the necks of coats and the wrist areas of mittens. And here are two other things to keep in mind, one for children and the other for adults. Eating snow might be fun but it lowers the body's temperature. And drinking alcohol might make a person feel warm. But what it really does is weaken the body's ability to hold heat. Next week: advice from experts about what to do, and not to do, to help someone injured by extreme cold. And that's the VOA Special English Health Report. For more health news, along with transcripts and MP3s of our reports, go to voaspecialenglish.com. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 23Dec2009)
Views: 23438 VOA Learning English
'I Am Deeply Sorry,' Toyota Chief Tells US Congress
This is the VOA Special English Economics Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com The United States Congress has been dealing with the safety problems at Toyota. In March, a Senate committee examined the recent safety recalls and the government's response. The House of Representatives held two days of hearings. Lawmakers questioned Akio Toyoda, the head of the company since June. He said he was deeply sorry for any accident that Toyota drivers have experienced. Defects have been linked to at least thirty-nine deaths over the past several years. Toyota has recalled more than eight million vehicles worldwide because of the risk of gaining speed suddenly and uncontrollably. Toyota is Japan's biggest company. In two thousand eight it passed General Motors as the world's biggest carmaker. Akio Toyoda said his company paid too much attention to growth and not enough to safety. He said Toyota may have been expanding its business too quickly. The grandson of the company's founder rejected the possibility that the acceleration problem is related to the electronic controls in his vehicles. The company has blamed problems with the accelerator pedal and badly positioned floor mats. But lawmakers released a company document showing Toyota had saved one hundred million dollars by negotiating a limited recall over the issue. The document added to criticisms that federal officials did not act aggressively enough against Toyota. But others say Toyota is being treated unfairly because the government now owns sixty percent of General Motors. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was questioned and dismissed that idea. He praised the agency that deals with auto industry recalls, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA. He said over just the last three years, NHTSAs investigations have resulted in five hundred twenty-four recalls involving twenty-three million vehicles. Rhonda Smith of Tennessee described how in two thousand six her Toyota-made Lexus sped up for a time to one hundred sixty kilometers an hour. NHTSA blamed a floor mat, but she blames the electronics and says Toyota dismissed her concerns. Ray LaHood says his department will investigate the electronics used by Toyota and other automakers. And Akio Toyoda promised a new level of openness and speed in dealing with safety issues. And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 26Feb2010)
Views: 9885 VOA Learning English
Educational Technology: Not Just Computers
This is the VOA Special English Education Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com We received a question from a listener about how American schools use educational technology. There is not a simple answer. It depends on the subject and level of students, of course. But it also depends on the interest and training of the teachers, and the goals and budgets of the schools. Schools are almost all connected to the Internet. But some have more technology, and use it more, than others. For example, some schools use computers for activities like video conferencing, to bring the world into the classroom. And some classrooms are equipped with things like a Smart Board, a kind of interactive whiteboard. Interactive whiteboards are large displays for presentations. They connect to a computer and can operate by touch. They can be used for documents or writing or to project video. Some teachers are trying creative new ways to teach with devices like iPods and mobile phones. But educators say the most important thing, as always, is the content. Yet technology can have special importance in some cases. Cosmobot is a therapy robot. It stands about half a meter tall and has a blue body and a friendly face with big eyes. One child who works with it is six-year-old Kevin Fitzgerald. Kevin has developmental dyspraxia; he has difficulty moving his mouth and tongue. He works with Carole Semango-Sprouse as he uses a set of buttons attached to a computer. He can make the silent robot move forward, backward or around in circles. Kevin's mother thinks the robot has had a calming influence, helping her son get along better with his friends. Cosmobot was developed by AnthroTronix. Corinna Lathan started the company ten years ago to work with children with cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome, autism and other developmental disabilities. Children become friends with the robot, she says. That can have a big effect on their behavior, helping them work harder and longer in therapy sessions. Corinna Lathan is currently working with a British company to develop other socially assistive robots. She says they are still considered research tools in the United States. They are not used as much as in places like Britain and Japan. But she hopes to change that. And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. You can comment on our reports at our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 17Dec2009)
Views: 86183 VOA Learning English