1. PC Recycler Strikes Gold in Old Computer Chips
This is the VOA Special English Technology Report.
Each year, Americans throw away millions of tons of electronic devices. That means business is good for a small electronics recycler in Chantilly, Virginia.
Company President Jeremy Faber established PC Recycler. He spoke to us from the floor of his company’s processing center. Workers were busy taking apart televisions, cell phones and computers -- anything electronic.
Jeremy Faber says the flow of discarded electronics is only increasing.
JEREMY FABER: “Electronics recycling is the fastest growing waste stream in the United States right now.”
Recycling electronic waste is not a single job. Newer devices can be rebuilt and resold. Breaking down electronics into small parts for refiners to melt and purify is another part of the business. Operations Manager Andrew Portare says computer circuit boards are rich resources. ANDREW PORTARE: “Boards have the highest scrap value in them so you can actually see on the back you’re looking at different types of metals. This one is a really good example. Some of the older ones are mainly all gold.”
Gold now sells for more than one thousand three hundred dollars an ounce. Twenty-five percent of PC Recycler’s sales come from selling parts to refiners.
Refining companies pay more than ten dollars a kilogram for computer boards. PC Recycler can also lift profits by holding metal-rich parts until prices rise.
ANDREW PORTARE: “If copper’s up one day, we can ship all of our copper extract and capitalize on the market.”
Computers also hold private or secret information. And securing that data is the fastest growing part of PC Recycler's business. Completely removing data from a computer hard drive is not easy. PC Recycler can remove data magnetically or completely destroy and recycle the drives. Discarding waste in a way that meets government environmental protection rules is also important. Old TVs can contain over a kilogram of lead as well as cadmium -- both highly poisonous. PC Recycler supports the Basel Action Network, which seeks to limit harmful waste and technology. The company says it does not export electronics to China, India or Africa where environmental rules are weak.
Jeremy Faber says PC Recycler has been in business since two thousand three, expanding from waste management to other, more technical services.
JEREMY FABER: “There really aren’t a lot of industries out there that are like this. There’s either the scrap industry where they’re shredding cars and shredding tires and there’s the refurbished PC
market and we’re sort of sit right in between both of those.”
And that’s the VOA Special English Technology Report. Go to voaspecialenglish.com and click on the Classroom to explore our new English teaching activities. I’m Mario Ritter.
2. Itzhak Perlman: A Citizen of the World, With His Violin as a Passport
Many consider him the greatest concert violinist in the world. The music of Itzhak Perlman is our program today on the VOA Special English program THIS IS AMERICA. I’m Steve Ember.
(MUSIC: Giovanni Viotti Violin Concerto No. 22 in A Minor)
Itzhak Perlman was born in Tel Aviv, in what was then Palestine, in nineteen forty-five. Today he lives in New York City. But his music has made him a citizen of the world. He has played in almost every major city.
He has won many Grammy awards for his recordings. He has also won Emmy awards for his work on television.
Itzhak Perlman suffered from polio at the age of four. The disease damaged his legs. He uses a wheelchair or walks with the aid of crutches on his arms.
But none of this stopped him from playing the violin. He began as a young child. He took his first lessons at the Music Academy of Tel Aviv. Very quickly, his teachers recognized that he had a special gift.
At thirteen he went to the United Sates to appear on television. His playing earned him the financial aid to attend the Juilliard School in New York.
In nineteen sixty-four Itzhak Perlman won the Leventritt Competition in that city. His international fame had begun.
His music is full of power and strength. It can be sad or joyful, loud or soft. But critics say it is not the music alone that makes his playing so special. They say he is able to communicate the joy he feels in playing, and the emotions that great music can deliver.
Anyone who has attended a performance by Itzhak Perlman will tell you that it is exciting to watch him play. His face changes as the music from his violin changes.
He looks sad when the music seems sad. He smiles and closes his eyes when the music is light and happy. He often looks dark and threatening when the music seems dark and threatening. In nineteen-eighty six, President Ronald Reagan honored Itzhak Perlman with a Medal of Liberty. In two-thousand, President Bill Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Arts. Several major universities have awarded him honors. He continues to receive honors for his music. (MUSIC)
Today, Itzhak Perlman is also busy leading orchestras. He appears on television. He teaches young musicians. He has worked with most of the top young violinists. He has recorded every major work for the violin, and has also recorded jazz, ragtime and Jewish folk music. Years ago a reporter asked Itzhak Perlman why he did not play the Violin Concerto in D Major by Beethoven. He answered that he would play it when he had more experience. He has since played it and recorded it several times.
For a few moments, close your eyes and imagine you are in a theater. In front of us is the stage. To the left, Itzhak Perlman sits in his chair, near the conductor. The orchestra has already played the first two movements of Beethoven's D Major Concerto. The violin leads us to the third, and immediately announces the major theme.
Listen now as Itzhak Perlman performs with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London. Carlo Maria Giulini is the conductor.
Our program was written and produced by Paul Thompson. I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for the VOA Special English program THIS IS AMERICA.
3. Fight to End Rinderpest Is Declared a Success
This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.
In nineteen ninety-four, animal health experts started a worldwide campaign to end rinderpest. This disease is closely related to the measles virus but it does not infect people. Yet for thousands of years rinderpest has affected people by killing cattle and other animals and causing starvation. The last known outbreak of rinderpest took place in Kenya in two thousand one. Now the World Organization for Animal Health is declaring victory against this much-feared sickness. Official confirmation is not expected until May, when the organization will have reports
from the last few countries.
But the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has announced it is ending field operations against riderpest. Jacques Diouf is head of the FAO.
JACQUES DIOUF: "Rinderpest affected Africa, Asia and Europe for millennia and caused widespread famine and decimated millions of animals, both domestic and wild."
Experts believe rinderpest first came from Asia. The name means "cattle plague" in German. The disease was common in Europe until the nineteenth century.
In Africa in the eighteen hundreds, rinderpest killed eight out of ten infected cattle. Whole herds died, leaving people without meat or milk and damaging economies.
Rinderpest can spread quickly through the air and in water containing waste from animals with the virus. The disease was deadly in eighty to ninety percent of cases. It mainly sickened cattle and buffalo, but also other animals including giraffes, yaks and antelope.
Some areas of the world escaped rinderpest. This was probably because of careful efforts to prevent the import of sick animals.
In nineteen ninety-nine, Walter Plowright won the World Food Prize as a hero of the fight against rinderpest. The British researcher fought the disease in Africa in the nineteen fifties and sixties. He led the development of a vaccine called TCRV. A single dose of it could protect animals against rinderpest. Food production increased.
Now, rinderpest expert John Anderson calls the end of the disease "the biggest achievement in veterinary history" Officials say they must still decide where to keep some of the virus and infected tissue for future research. Rinderpest is only the second disease ever declared to have been eliminated. The other disease is smallpox.
And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. You can read and download our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I'm Bob Doughty.
4. Scientists Search for New Clues About Parkinson’s Disease
BOB DOUGHTY: This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I’m Bob Doughty.
FAITH LAPIDUS: And I’m Faith Lapidus. Today we tell about the latest research and treatments for Parkinson’s disease.
BOB DOUGHTY: Parkinson’s is a disease of the central nervous system. It is a progressive
disorder, meaning it gets worse over time. The disease affects a small area of cells in the middle of
the brain. This area is called the substantia nigra. The cells slowly lose their ability to produce a chemical called dopamine.
The decrease in the amount of dopamine can result in one or more general signs of Parkinson’s disease. These include shaking of the hands, arms and legs. They also include difficulty moving or keeping balanced while walking or standing. Also, there may be emotional changes, like feeling depressed or worried. The symptoms of Parkinson's differ from person to person. They also differ in their intensity.
FAITH LAPIDUS: The disease is named after James Parkinson. He was a British doctor who first described this condition in eighteen seventeen.
During the nineteen sixties, researchers discovered changes in the brains of people with the disease. These discoveries led to medicines to treat the effects of the disease. There is no cure for Parkinson's and no way to prevent it. And doctors still are not sure about the cause. BOB DOUGHTY: America’s National Institutes of Health says at least five hundred thousand people in the United States are believed to have Parkinson’s disease. About fifty thousand new cases are reported each year. That number is expected to grow as the average age of the population increases.
Parkinson’s appears most often in people over the age of fifty. Some researchers believe that almost everyone would develop Parkinson’s eventually if they lived long enough.
FAITH LAPIDUS: Most patients have what is called idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. Idiopathic means the cause is unknown. People who develop the disease often want to link it to something they can identify. This might be a medical operation or extreme emotional tension. Yet many doctors reject this idea of a direct link to Parkinson’s. They point to people who have similar experiences and do not develop the disease.
There are several theories about the cause of Parkinson’s, but none has ever been confirmed.
Studies have shown a link between the disease and some chemical products. Two years ago, an American study found a link between Parkinson’s and pesticides, like those used for killing insects. The study compared three hundred nineteen Parkinson’s patients to more than two hundred family
BOB DOUGHTY: In two thousand seven, a European study also showed a link between pesticide use and Parkinson's. This study found that serious head injuries also increased a person's risk. Scientists at Aberdeen University in Scotland collected information about more than nine hundred people with Parkinson's or similar conditions. They compared this group to almost two thousand people without the disorder. All the people were asked about their use of pesticides, chemical fluids and metals like iron. The researchers also collected information about family history of the disease and head injuries.
Farm workers and people who said they often used pesticides had a forty-one percent greater risk of Parkinson's than others. The disease was also two and one-half times more common among people who had been knocked unconscious more than once in their lives. These people temporarily lost consciousness after suffering a blow to the head.
FAITH LAPIDUS: Another area of study is family genetics. There are examples of members of a family having the disease. The National Institutes of Health says about fifteen percent of people with Parkinson’s have a family history of the disease. However, most cases involve people with no
such family history.
A few years ago, researchers completed what they called the first large map to show genetic links with Parkinson's disease. The map identifies changes in genes that may increase the risk in some people.
BOB DOUGHTY: Recently, a gene-testing company announced plans for a large genetic study of Parkinson’s patients. The company, 23andme, was the idea of Ann Wojcicki. She is the wife of Sergey Brin, who helped create the Internet search engine Google.
Mister Brin has a gene that increases his risk of developing Parkinson’s. His mother has the disease. The company is working with two not-for-profit groups. They hope to collect DNA from ten thousand Parkinson’s patients. The goal is to search for common genes that may cause the
FAITH LAPIDUS: There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease. But improved treatments to ease the effects of the disease make it possible for many patients to live almost normal lives. People who have lost their ability to do many things are sometimes able to regain some of these abilities with treatment.
The most commonly used drug is levodopa combined with carbidopa. The National Institutes of Health says levodopa is a chemical found naturally in plants and animals. When it reaches the brain, levodopa is changed into dopamine, the chemical that is lacking in people with the disease. Carbidopa delays the change in levodopa until after it reaches the brain.
BOB DOUGHTY: Levodopa helps ease the symptoms of Parkinson's. But it does not prevent more changes in the brain that are caused by the disease.
Other drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease act like dopamine. They produce reactions in the nerve cells in the brain. They can be given alone or in combination with levodopa. Many of the possible side effects are similar to those linked with the use of levodopa. They include sleepiness, feeling sick or having bad dreams.
FAITH LAPIDUS: A surgical operation called deep-brain stimulation also is used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Doctors use this treatment to shock the brain in areas that help send messages to the body. These areas can become blocked in Parkinson’s patients. When this happens, the messages give misinformation to the body.
In deep brain stimulation, doctors make two small holes in the patient’s head. Two thin, electrical
wires are then placed in the brain. They are connected under the skin to another wire that leads to a small battery placed in the chest. The device supplies electricity.
Doctors do not know exactly how the brain stimulation works to help Parkinson’s patients. But
experts believe the electrical current might help activate nerve cells that are not working correctly. BOB DOUGHTY: Deep brain stimulation can reduce the need for levodopa and other drugs. It also helps to reduce symptoms such as shaking and slowness of movement.
Last year, researchers in the United States published a study that examined the effectiveness of deep brain stimulation. They found that the physical condition of Parkinson’s patients often improves after they receive deep brain stimulation.
In fact, the patients who were treated reported an average gain of nearly five hours each day of good control of their symptoms. But brain stimulation was also shown to have more side effects than drug treatments.
FAITH LAPIDUS: Deep brain stimulation is not the answer for all Parkinson's patients. Doctors
say it is best for patients whose medicines cause side effects or are not working. The treatment is not new. It was first approved for use in the United States in nineteen ninety-seven. Deep brain stimulation has been performed about forty thousand times throughout the world. In the United States, about three hundred medical centers offer the treatment to Parkinson’s patients.
BOB DOUGHTY: Scientists are also exploring other experimental treatments. Last year, President Obama ended restrictions on the use of federal money for studies of human embryonic stem cells. Stem cells from very early embryos are able to grow into any tissue in the body. Scientists say such cells might be able to cure or treat diseases like Parkinson’s. But opponents say stem cell experiments are wrong because human embryos are destroyed. They say this is just like destroying a human life.
FAITH LAPIDUS: This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by George Grow and Brianna Blake. Our producer was June Simms. I’m Faith Lapidus.
BOB DOUGHTY: And I'm Bob Doughty. Listen again next week for more news about science, in Special English, on the Voice of America.
5. Defeat Malaria, or Just Control It? A Better Vaccine for Polio
This is the VOA Special English Health Report.
Malaria kills about one million people a year and sickens another two hundred fifty million. Most of the deaths are in young children in Africa. Malaria causes twenty percent of childhood deaths in Africa.
People become infected when they are bitten by mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite. A new study estimates the possibility of ending malaria in countries that have the deadliest form of the disease. Researchers found that this could be possible in most parts of the world within ten to fifteen years.
What it would require, they say, is reducing the spread of malaria by ninety percent from two thousand seven rates.
An international team created mathematical models and maps of areas where the disease is gone or almost gone. Andrew Tatem, an assistant professor at the University of Florida, led the study. Professor Tatem says a number of things have helped countries successfully fight malaria. ANDREW TATEM: " ... such as relatively low levels of malaria risk to start with, political stability, a good health system and low levels of population movement bringing in infections from
The study says malaria could be eliminated if countries are serious about using proven control measures. These include insecticides and bed nets.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation partly financed the research. The study appears in the Lancet medical journal in a series of reports on eliminating malaria.
Other malaria experts writing in the Lancet expressed concern about giving too much attention to eliminating malaria. They say such a goal could take many years, if it is possible at all. The concern is that resources for controlling malaria could be lost if the money is spent instead on trying to defeat it.
Years of efforts to eliminate another disease, polio, have largely succeeded. Now, the World Health Organization says a new vaccine combination will help in the fight to end polio in countries where it is still found.
That report, based on a study from India, also appears in the Lancet.
There are three kinds of polio virus. Vaccination campaigns normally use vaccines designed to protect against all three types.
But cases of the type two virus have not been seen in years. And the new study confirmed that the type two vaccine reduces the effectiveness of the other vaccines when given together. To avoid that problem, the new combination contains vaccine only for the type one and type three polio viruses.
And that's the VOA Special English Health Report. For more health news, go to voaspecialenglish.com. You can also find captioned videos of our reports on the VOA Learning English channel on YouTube. I'm Steve Ember.
6. 12 Cultural Sites in Developing World Listed as Most Threatened
BOB DOUGHTY: I’m Bob Doughty.
FAITH LAPIDUS: And I’m Faith Lapidus with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. The Global Heritage Fund organization recently released a list of cultural treasures in the developing world that are in danger of disappearing.
These “On the Verge” places face many threats. They include war and conflict, development
pressures, poor supervision, stealing and misuse by visitors.
The Global Heritage Fund says these places are important because they are records of our human civilization. And the group says countries can learn to use these treasures to help support responsible development in the future.
BOB DOUGHTY: The Global Heritage Fund says globalization has created an international culture that is about sameness. But the endangered places it is trying to protect represent the rich differences of human culture throughout history.
The group says there are more than two hundred places around the developing world that are at serious risk. In a new report, the fund has chosen twelve places that are the most threatened. FAITH LAPIDUS: One of these is Ani, a city in Turkey near the border with Armenia. This ancient city is now mostly in ruins. But it was once the capital of a large and powerful Armenian kingdom.
Ani’s ruined buildings tell an important story about the Armenian culture that existed there during
the tenth and eleventh centuries. The city contains many fine examples of religious and civil buildings.
But these buildings have long been damaged by robbers. Experts say the Turkish government has done little to protect the buildings and many are at risk of collapse.
BOB DOUGHTY: The town of Lamu is one of the oldest and best-kept traditional Swahili settlements in East Africa. Lamu is on an island of the same name, off the coast of Kenya. Lamu’s buildings are made of coral stone and wood from mangrove forests.
Ancient settlements on this island date as far back as the eighth century.
Lamu was once a very important trading center in East Africa. It is also important for its special Islamic culture and celebrations. This ancient city became part of the United Nations World Heritage list in two thousand one. But it still faces the threats of modern development, such as the possible building of a modern port nearby.
Several old buildings in town are also in danger of collapsing.
FAITH LAPIDUS: The town of Maluti in India is known for its many religious buildings which date back to the seventeen hundreds. Pala rulers built the Maluti Temples to honor their gods including Shiva, Durga and Kali.
Many of the temples have fallen apart, and rainwater has further weakened those that are still standing. If repaired, these beautiful buildings could offer this small town an important source of income.
Other endangered places include the ancient city of Ninevah in northern Iraq, the Sans-Souci palace in Haiti, and the former capital of Ayutthaya in Thailand.
BOB DOUGHTY: The Global Heritage Fund is a nonprofit organization based in California. Its goal is to protect places of cultural importance in developing countries.
The group says it pays attention to developing countries because they often have few resources to protect places of cultural importance. And, other major cultural organizations often pay more attention to protecting places in the developed world.
For example, the fund points out that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has forty-five World Heritage places in Italy. UNESCO has forty-two in Spain. But Peru, famous for its ancient Incan buildings, has only nine World Heritage Places. Guatemala has only three.
FAITH LAPIDUS: Many of the Global Heritage Fund’s efforts help communities learn how best to protect their cultural treasures. The fund says it also aims to show how countries can use these places to support economic growth.
The organization has developed a protection method using local communities, science and partnerships with other groups.
The Global Heritage Fund recently published a report called “Saving Our Vanishing Heritage.” The report has several goals. One is to raise public awareness about the threats to historical places around the world.
The fund says the problem is an international crisis that is equal to environmental destruction around the world. Another goal of the report is to identify inventive technologies to help solve the crisis. The report also aims to increase funding to these projects through partnerships between public and private groups.
BOB DOUGHTY: The Global Heritage Fund says its new report attempts to place a value on cultural places so that they can also be considered as economic resources. The group says thinking of the cultural places in economic terms can help to meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of ending poverty.
It also estimates that by two thousand twenty five, these places of cultural importance could produce one hundred billion dollar a year in income for developing countries.
Protecting a cultural place has a big effect on local economies by creating jobs and bringing new life to city areas. Once a place of cultural importance begins to attract visitors, property values increase and small businesses find new markets.
But the Global Heritage Fund says increasing the number of visitors to an area must be done responsibly. Controls and policies must be established to avoid overuse.
FAITH LAPIDUS: Both the Global Heritage Fund and UNESCO work toward protecting historical places. UNESCO’s World Heritage list includes over nine hundred natural or cultural places considered to have universal value.
However, UNESCO has very little money in its budget to pay for protecting historical places. UNESCO does provide professional help and training to help countries and communities create and maintain programs.
BOB DOUGHTY: Experts say that being selected for the UNESCO World Heritage List can bring needed aid as well as problems. Once a place of cultural importance makes the list, it can become so popular with visitors that the goal of protection fails.
UNESCO has said that business goals aimed at increasing visitors often end up shaping policies instead of protection goals. Other critics say there are so many places on UNESCO’s World Heritage list that the organization can no longer be very effective.
Still, UNESCO plays a very important role in bringing attention to culturally and historically important places around the world.
FAITH LAPIDUS: One of the Global Heritage Fund’s current projects is in Guatemala’s Mirador Basin. This area in northern Guatemala contains several important examples of ancient Mayan settlements. These include the Mayan cities of El Mirador, Nakbe, Tintal and Wakna. The many buildings are surrounded by forest. Centuries of tree growth have covered the pyramids and religious buildings. These buildings provide some of the finest examples of the early part of the Mayan civilization.
But this area is in danger from robbers and people cutting trees illegally. Also, over the past ten years, much of the natural environment in the Mirador area has been destroyed by fires. The Global Heritage Fund says over seventy percent of the environment in this area has been lost in