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It seems more and more Americans want schools to teach foreign languages to children younger than five years old. The most popular way to teach these young children another language is called immersion.
Children in immersion programs hear only the new language in the classroom. The children play games, sing songs and talk to one another in the new language. Some experts say immersion programs are the most effective way for young children to learn a language.
But there can be a problem when children in the United States begin to learn another language at such an early age. Not many elementary schools continue the effort as the children get older.
Only seven of the fifty states require schools to teach a foreign language to students between the ages of six and twelve. Language experts say it is easier for younger children to learn a language. Still, American schools generally do not begin to teach foreign languages until secondary school. By then, students are about thirteen years old.
American schools face difficult choices about the cost of educational programs. The federal government has increased support for foreign language study in its education law called No Child Left Behind.
At the college level, the Modern Language Association says more students than ever are studying foreign languages. The group recently announced its findings for the period from nineteen-ninety-eight until two-thousand-two. The number of students who studied foreign languages in American colleges and universities increased by seventeen percent.
Spanish is the most widely taught language in American colleges and universities. Other popular languages include French, German, Japanese, Chinese and Italian. The Modern Language Association says more languages are being studied now than in the past. It says the largest growth since nineteen-ninety-eight has been in the study of American Sign Language, Arabic and biblical Hebrew.
The association says about nine percent of college students in the United States study foreign languages. That is the highest level since nineteen-seventy-two.
Biocontrols are the way nature seeks balance. Consider the example of insects that attack crops. Other creatures eat these pests, unless natural controls are missing.
Biocontrols can also include organisms like worms and fungi. And they come in the form of bacteria and viruses. These are called pathogens. A good example is a disease that affects Japanese beetles.
These beetles were accidentally brought to the United States almost one-hundred-years ago. They ate crops and spread out of control.
But in the nineteen-thirties, researchers discovered some young beetles infected with a condition known as milky disease. The researchers found the bacteria that caused this infection. They put it on the soil for other beetles to eat.
The government used hundreds of tons of the bacteria, called Bacillus popilliae (ba-SI-lus po-PILL-ee-eye). It controlled the Japanese beetles. But today it seems less effective. Another control may be needed.
Plants may also find themselves in a new home where they can reproduce quickly. The alligator weed native to South America is one such plant. It came to the United States and took over wetlands and rivers in several states in the South.
In nineteen-sixty-four, researchers released flea beetles in Florida. Flea beetles are also from South America. They like to eat alligator weed. The beetle solved the weed problem in central Florida. There was no need for further use of plant poisons. This case serves as a model of biological weed control.
There are three methods for biocontrol. One is conservation. Experts say this is probably the most important. Natural enemies of pests must be protected. This means to avoid treating crops with chemicals that will harm any helpful insects.
New advice about how to treat ear infections in children.
Plus, the future of a so-called hydrogen economy.
Researchers say a new drug may work better than the current treatment to prevent a return of breast cancer in some women.
Doctors studied patients in thirty-seven countries. All of the women were beyond their reproductive years. All of them had developed a kind of breast cancer linked to the female hormone estrogen. And, all had been through operations to remove the cancerous growths. Then the women began to take the medicine tamoxifen.
Currently, five years on tamoxifen is considered the best treatment after surgery for breast cancers linked to estrogen. More than two out of three breast cancers are this kind. Tamoxifen stops estrogen from attaching to tumor cells and causing them to spread. After some time, however, tamoxifen can stop working in some patients.
Doctor Charles Coombes of Charing Cross Hospital in London led the study. It involved more than four-thousand-seven hundred breast cancer patients. All received tamoxifen after their operations.
As part of the study, half the women discontinued that drug after two to three years. They began to take another medicine, called exemestane [egg-suh-MES-ten]. This drug is known as an estrogen blocker. It stops the production of estrogen in the body.
The doctors found that the women who took exemestane reduced their risk for the return of breast cancer by more than thirty percent. This was compared to the women who continued to take tamoxifen for the remainder of the five years.
Four years ago, the World Health Organization and other groups began a campaign to end lymphatic filariasis. This disease is a leading cause of disability in developing countries. Left untreated, fluid collects in tissue. Lymphatic filariasis can cause severe enlargement of the legs, arms and areas around the sexual organs. The disease is commonly known as elephantiasis.
The cause is a parasite. It is spread to humans through the bite of mosquitoes that carry the organism. Early signs of the disease in children include learning problems and reduced growth. Once infected, humans can pass the parasite back to other mosquitoes that bite them.
About one-hundred-twenty-million people in eighty countries are infected with lymphatic filariasis. Most of these people are in Africa, Southeast Asia, South America and islands of the Pacific Ocean. The countries have a total population of more than one-thousand-million people.
The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis has released a progress report on the treatment campaign. The group says eighty-million people have begun treatment against the disease. Two drug companies, GlaxoSmithKline and Merck, are providing medicines for free.
Individuals take two drugs once a year. This combined treatment stops the spread of elephantiasis. But it will not undo any damage already caused by the disease.
The first drug is albendazol, made by GlaxoSmithKline. This drug also kills several other kinds of parasites that can infect the intestines. These include roundworm, whipworm and hookworm.
A second drug commonly given against lymphatic filariasis is called ivermectin. The Merck company manufactures it. This drug is also used to fight river blindness.
The parasite that causes lymphatic filariasis grows slowly. It is not expected to develop a resistance to the drug treatment. In addition, treatment costs are low – between ten cents and two dollars per person per year. Health officials want to put people on five-year treatment plans. The goal of the campaign is to end the disease worldwide within twenty years.
President Bush this week announced his support for a proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The plan is called a disengagement. Details published Friday said Israel would remove troops and all settlements from the Gaza Strip by the end of next year. About seven-thousand settlers live there.
Israel would also remove four settlements in the West Bank. But six large settlements would remain. The ruling Likud party of Mr. Sharon is expected to vote on the proposal on May second.
Mr. Sharon visited the White House on Wednesday. President Bush praised what he called “historic and courageous actions.” Mr. Bush said Friday that the plan gives the Palestinians, in his words, “a chance to create a reformed, just and free government.”
Palestinian leaders have denounced the president. Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said Mr. Bush is the first president to accept Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories. Opposition to settlements has been American policy for more than twenty years.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair was at the White House Friday. He said he welcomed the plan. Mr. Blair urged other countries to get involved. He said this is a chance to help the Palestinians get ready to govern the territory that would be under their control.
At least for now, Israel would continue to control airspace, waters and land passages.
Mr. Sharon says the disengagement is necessary because the Palestinian Authority has failed to stop attacks against Israelis. Diplomatic efforts also have not succeeded.
A Bush administration official said the president supports the plan because Israel is taking steps to remove existing settlements. Mr. Bush said removing all Jewish settlements in the West Bank would be unrealistic.
A new study suggests that very young children who watch a lot of television may have attention problems later in school.
Children with attention problems cannot sit still or control their actions. They talk too much, lose things, forget easily and are not able to finish tasks.
People with attention problems may suffer a condition known as Attention Deficit Disorder, or A.D.D. Experts say the cause of A.D.D involves chemicals in the brain. Teachers say many children in the United States are showing signs of the disorder. Some education researchers have been saying for years that watching television at a very young age could change the normal development of the brain. For example, they say that children who watch a lot of television are not able to sit and read for an extended period of time.
The new study tested the idea that television watching by very young children is linked to attention problems by the age of seven. It involved more than one-thousand-three-hundred children. There were two groups of children, ages one and three. Researchers at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, Washington reported the results in the publication Pediatrics. They asked the parents how often the children watched television. The parents also described their children’s actions at the age of seven using a method that can tell if someone suffers attention deficit disorders.
The children who watched a lot of television at an early age were most likely to have attention problems. Every hour of watching television increased the chances of having attention problems by about ten per cent. For example, children who watched three hours a day were thirty percent more likely to have attention problems than those who watched no television.
The researchers say that all the children with attention problems might not have A.D.D. But they still could face major learning problems in school. The findings support advice by a group of children’s doctors that children under the age of two should not watch television.
One of the researchers said there are other reasons why children should not watch television. Earlier studies have linked it with children becoming too fat and too aggressive. Other experts say the new study is important, but more work needs to be done to confirm the findings and better explain the cause and effect.
This VOA Special English EDUCATION REPORT was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.
Polio is a disease of the muscles and the nervous system. It is caused by a virus and spreads through human waste. Health workers believe they may soon be able to end polio forever. The key to ending polio is preventing the disease in children.
There are many cases of polio in only six countries. They are Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Niger, Nigeria and Pakistan. Health ministers in these countries have agreed to immunize two-hundred-fifty-million children against polio this year. To be immunized against polio, children must swallow a few drops of medicine several times while they are still young.
Polio can cause people to lose the ability to move their arms or legs or even to breathe. Some people die. But many people recover and become healthy again.
The World Health Organization estimates that there are about twenty-million people around the world who are survivors of polio. One polio survivor in Ghana wrote to VOA to say he is now a very good football player.
But W-H-O health workers say polio survivors need to understand a condition called “post polio syndrome.” Between fifteen and forty years after a person has polio, new problems may appear. These problems may include being very tired and having weak or painful muscles. A person may have trouble sleeping, breathing or doing normal activities.
There is no way to cure post polio syndrome. People who have these problems may need to be less active. They may need to use special equipment like a stick for walking or do special exercises to make their muscles stronger. They should stop any activity that causes pain or tiredness after ten minutes.
There is no medicine to help these conditions. Some polio survivors may be taking medicines for other problems. Sometimes those other medicines may also cause people to become tired or weak. Polio survivors should always talk to a health care worker or doctor before starting or stopping any medicine that might increase their chances of getting post polio syndrome.
Experts say the best way to prevent post polio syndrome is to stay healthy. This means eating healthy food, not becoming too fat, not smoking and not drinking too many alcoholic drinks.
Biological controls are living things that eat organisms harmful to crops. They offer new ways for farmers to grow organic crops and protect the environment.
In modern times, farmers have depended on chemicals to kill harmful insects, plants and other organisms. But, many scientists and farmers are looking for ways to grow crops without using poisons. Limiting chemicals can save farmers money as well. One way to avoid using poisons is to release helpful insects that are natural enemies of harmful insects, or pests.
Some insects eat pests. The lady beetle, or ladybug, is well known. Round, colorful lady beetles eat many kinds of harmful insects including aphids. Aphids develop colonies and eat plant fluids.
An adult lady beetle can eat fifty or more aphids a day. Aphids attack many different kinds of crops. This makes lady beetles a good defense against aphids for growers of fruit, grains, beans, strawberries and other crops. Lady beetles live in Asia, Europe and the Americas. Farmers can buy them from suppliers.
Some insects inject their eggs inside the bodies of pests. These are called parasitoids. Young parasitoids come out of their eggs and eat the pests. Some parasitoids can be very effective. They keep the pests from reproducing. After they become adults, they lay many eggs on other pests.
A tiny wasp with a big name is a good example. Encarsia formosa is used all over the world for vegetables and flowers grown indoors.
The Encarsia formosa wasp injects eggs into the bodies of young white flies. There are many different kinds of white fly pests and E formosa likes to eat at least fifteen of them. Some of these wasps can lay enough eggs to kill ninety-five young white flies in twelve days. E. formosa is most popular in Russia and Europe.
The United States Department of Agriculture has been studying a fly that attacks another pest — the fire ant. The phorid fly attacks fire ants in the same way as E. formosa. Phorid flies kill only about three percent of the ants in a colony. But they greatly damage the colony’s ability to collect food. The U.S.D.A. has released phorid flies in an effort to control fire ants in the southeastern United States.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved a new test for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Experts say it is low in cost, easy to use and provides fast results. The method tests liquid saliva from a person’s mouth, instead of his or her blood. Results are ready within twenty minutes, and are ninety-nine percent correct.
OraSure Technologies in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania developed the test. It is called OraQuick Rapid H.I.V. Antibody Test. The test is based on technology created earlier by the company that tests a single drop of blood. OraSure President Michael Gausling says the saliva test can be used anywhere, anytime and by anyone.
He adds that there is no risk of spreading H.I.V. with the test. In the past, some health workers have accidentally become infected when testing people’s blood for the virus.
Public health officials believe the OraQuick test will help fight AIDS in two ways. First, it could result in more people getting tested. The process is simple. A piece of cotton is moved across the gums inside a person’s mouth. It is then put into a liquid in the testing device. Two colored lines appear on the device if antibodies to the virus are present.
The test also will permit people to get their results quickly. In many developing countries, blood test results can take up to two weeks. Because of this, people often do not return to find out if they are infected. The new test will let a person know within twenty minutes if he or she is infected. An infected person could receive immediate information about treatment and how to stop the disease from spreading.
World health officials estimate that as many as ninety-five percent of people with H.I.V. in developing countries do not know they are infected. Mr. Gausling hopes the OraQuick test will change this. He says that humanitarian aid workers and people with limited health care experience will now be able to quickly identify and help patients with the disease.
OraSure officials estimate the OraQuick test will cost between eight and twenty dollars in the United States. However, they believe the product will cost much less in other countries. American officials say the new H.I.V. test will be especially important for use in Africa, which is the worst affected part of the world.This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.
Wednesday was the tenth anniversary of the start of widespread ethnic killings in Rwanda. Thousands of people attended a national burial ceremony in the capital, Kigali. They gathered there to honor the victims and to show support for the central African nation.
The leaders of South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia attended the ceremony. Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt was the only Western leader to attend. Rwanda criticized Western countries for not sending high-level officials.
During the ceremony, Rwandan President Paul Kagame led Rwandans in observing three minutes of silence for the victims. Earlier, he lit a flame at the new Kigali National Memorial Center.
The killings in Rwanda began on April seventh, nineteen-ninety-four, after a plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down over Kigali. Both leaders died in the crash. Rwanda’s President Juvenal Habyarimana was an ethnic Hutu.
Following the crash, extremists in the Hutu government began a plan to kill all of the country’s minority Tutsi population and politically moderate Hutus. An estimated eight-hundred-thousand Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in three months of violence.
The killings ended when Mr. Kagame’s Tutsi-led rebel army ousted the extremist Hutu government and seized control of the capital. More than two-million Hutus later fled to nearby Democratic Republic of Congo.In a speech during the ceremony in Kigali, President Kagame said Rwanda takes the most blame for the mass killings. But he criticized the international community for failing to intervene to stop the killings. He also repeated accusations that French officials helped train and arm the Hutu government soldiers and militants who carried out the killings.
France has denied the accusations. It later withdrew its deputy foreign minister from the ceremony in Kigali.
Rwanda is one of the world’s poorest countries. Many Rwandans are still suffering as a result of the violence ten years ago. Many women were infected with the disease AIDS during widespread sexual attacks. And thousands of children lost their parents in the mass killings or from AIDS.
Last week, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries decided to reduce oil production by about four percent starting April first. Oil ministers from eleven member nations met in Vienna, Austria to approve the cut.
OPEC says low oil supplies are not the cause of current high prices. It blames oil market traders and world conditions. OPEC says oil supplies are increasing and it must take action. The organization says its goal is to keep prices between twenty-two and twenty-eight dollars a barrel.
The decision by OPEC comes at a time of record high fuel prices in the United States. In March, oil reached thirty-eight dollars a barrel. That is the highest price since the Persian Gulf War in nineteen-ninety-one.
More price increases will especially hurt the United States. This is because oil is traded only in dollars. Other countries exchange their money to buy oil in dollars. But recently, the value of the dollar has decreased against the euro and the Japanese yen. Europe and Japan can buy more dollars with their euros and yen. That means they can buy more oil too. This difference in the value of the euro, yen and dollar makes oil more costly for the United States.
Experts say OPEC nations will find it difficult to cut production. They point to the fact that OPEC countries already produce one-and-one-half million barrels a day more than the agreed limit. Experts say only Saudi Arabia could greatly cut production. This reduction would not meet the cuts required by OPEC.
Also, two of the top three exporting nations, Russia and Norway, are not OPEC members. These and other nations could increase exports to meet world needs. Still, OPEC’s announcement has caused changes in the price of oil in recent days.
Oil, or petroleum, is the most actively traded product in the world. The biggest oil trading centers are in London, New York and Singapore.
Oil is sold by the barrel. A barrel contains one-hundred-fifty-nine liters. The International Energy Agency records the world’s energy activity. It says oil provides about thirty-five percent of the world’s energy. That is down from forty-five percent in nineteen-seventy-three. But oil remains one of the most important goods in the world economy.
Many private schools in the United States teach only boys or only girls. But fewer than one-hundred public schools teach boys and girls separately. There are twenty-five single-sex public schools. Seventy-two other public schools offer some classes for only boys or only girls.
The United States government recently announced new rules concerning single-sex education in public schools. These rules were required by legislation Congress approved two years ago. That legislation represented a major change in American education policy. For thirty years, the government generally disapproved of single-sex public schools. A nineteen-seventy-two law banned unequal treatment based on sex, and single-sex schools faced possible legal action.
The new rules permit public schools that teach both boys and girls to offer single-sex classes under three conditions. The first is a good reason for offering the class. For example, if the school wants more girls to study computer science and few girls are doing so, the school could offer a computer science class for only girls. The second condition is that the school must offer a class in the same subject for both girls and boys. The third condition is that the school must examine the need for the single-sex class from time to time.
The new rules also permit single-sex schools — those that teach all boys or all girls. The only condition for operating an all-girls school, for example, is that equal classes and services are offered at other schools nearby. But those other schools do not have to be single-sex. They can have both boys and girls.
Some educators say children can learn better in single-sex schools. Others disagree. Researchers have shown that boys and girls learn information in different ways. However, research about the effects of same-sex schools has shown mixed results.
The United States Department of Education has begun a study of single-sex education. But it will not release any results until two-thousand-six. The National Association for Single-Sex Public Education says that some American educators are not waiting for these results. Officials say that ten new single-sex public schools will open in September.
This VOA Special English EDUCATION REPORT was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.
Scientists from China and Sierra Leone are the winners of this year’s World Food Prize. The winners were announced at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. led by Secretary of State Colin Powell last Monday. Chinese Professor Yuan Longping and Monty Jones will share the two-hundred-fifty-thousand-dollar prize. Both men are being honored for work they did to improve rice production in developing countries. Two-thousand-four is the International Year of Rice.
Professor Yuan is head of the National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center in Hunan, China. He received his share of the prize for work he did in the nineteen-seventies.
Mr. Yuan developed ways to genetically combine different kinds of rice to increase production. He discovered that combining two kinds of rice results in a better, more productive new rice. He established the hybrid rice seed industry in China. He also shared research and helped train scientists from more than twenty-five countries. For his efforts, Mr. Yuan is called the “Father of Hybrid Rice.”
Monty Jones is being honored for his part in developing the “New Rice for Africa” or NERICA. He developed NERICA while he was head of the Upland Rice Breeding Program. At the time, the program was part of the West Africa Rice Development Agency in Ivory Coast.
NERICA is a combination of Asian and traditional African kinds of rice. It resists insects and dry conditions and can produce up to fifty percent more rice. It also grows faster and contains more protein than rice native to West Africa. Mr. Jones is now a top official of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa in Accra, Ghana.
The two scientists will officially receive their prize on October fourteenth in Des Moines, Iowa.
Norman Borlaug first developed the idea of a world food prize. He wanted to honor people who increased food production to help feed the growing world population.
Mr. Borlaug knows something about major prizes. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in nineteen-seventy. He received the award for his work to develop more productive agriculture.
Nations from around the world agreed this week to give more than eight-thousand-million dollars in development aid to Afghanistan. That amount is to be provided during the next three years. The agreement was announced during a two-day conference in Berlin, Germany. Delegates from more than fifty nations attended the meeting.
In this year alone, Afghanistan will get more than four-thousand-five-hundred-million dollars in aid. The United States is providing almost half of that amount. Reports say the aid would help the Afghan government pay wages to its workers, prepare for national elections and continue rebuilding roads and schools. The United States also offered an additional one-hundred-twenty-three-million dollars to fight the illegal drug trade in Afghanistan.
American Secretary of State Colin Powell attended the conference in Berlin. He praised the progress made by Afghanistan since an American-led attack ousted the Taliban government in late two-thousand one. Mr. Powell said that United States forces would remain in Afghanistan for as long as needed. He urged America’s military allies to provide more troops and military equipment to fight three threats: the illegal drug trade, private armies and terrorists.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai thanked other countries at the conference for their continued support. He said his country is working to become independent.
Afghanistan is one of the most aid-dependent countries in the world. Reports say it produces just five-percent of all the money collected by the Afghan government. Afghan officials have said that almost twenty-eight-thousand-million dollars is needed during the next seven years for rebuilding and development.
However, studies show that poor security and a lack of foreign aid have slowed rebuilding efforts. Private armies and rebel groups control about one-third of Afghanistan. Most of them are in an area along the border with Pakistan.
Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium from poppy plants. Opium is used to produce the illegal drug heroin. President Karzai described Afghanistan’s battle against illegal drugs as a long-term struggle. He said other legal forms of economic activity must replace the drug trade.
This week, Afghanistan and six other countries agreed to cooperate in the fight against illegal drugs. The other six are China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
For fifty years, the business magazine Fortune has published a list of the five-hundred biggest companies in the United States. The new Fortune five-hundred list has come out. For the third year, the magazine names Wal-Mart the biggest company in America.
Wal-Mart is known for low prices in its stores. The company had sales of about two-hundred-fifty-nine-thousand-million dollars last year. Wal-Mart is first on the Fortune five-hundred list by revenue, or the total amount of money it received. Second is Exxon Mobil.
But Exxon Mobil is first in profit among the five-hundred companies listed by Fortune magazine. The company recorded earnings of more than twenty-one-thousand-million dollars in two-thousand-three.
Wal-Mart had a profit of nine-thousand-million dollars. That puts Wal-Mart in eighth place on the list of the most profitable companies in America.
The new Fortune five-hundred list rates General Motors as the third largest company in the nation, down from second place last year. The Ford Motor Company is fourth. And fifth is General Electric.
Two more oil companies are sixth and seventh on the list. Like Exxon Mobil, high oil prices helped sales at ChevronTexaco and ConocoPhillips last year.
Citigroup is eighth on the Fortune five-hundred list by revenue. But the financial services company is second in profits. Citigroup recorded earnings of nearly eighteen-thousand-million dollars last year.
Ninth on the Fortune five-hundred list is International Business Machines, the computer maker known as I.B.M. And the tenth biggest money-maker in the United States is the insurance company American International Group, or A.I.G.
A seventeen-year-old boy from the northeastern state of Massachusetts has won the top prize in the Intel Science Talent Search. The competition is the oldest program in the United States that honors the science projects of high school students. The Intel Science Talent Search is sixty-three years old this year.
The winners receive a new computer and money for a college education. A record one-thousand-six-hundred-fifty-two students from forty-six states entered projects for the competition this year. Their research involved nearly every area of science, including chemistry, medicine, physics, mathematics, engineering, computer science and social science.
Forty students were invited to Washington, D.C. for the final judging. A group of well-known scientists judged them on their research abilities, critical thinking skills and creativity. The judges also questioned the students about scientific problems before deciding on the winners.
The top winner is Herbert Mason Hedberg of North Attleboro, Massachusetts. He received one-hundred-thousand dollars for his college education. He developed a faster, more effective method to tell if a person has cancer. He explored a way to separate telomerase, an enzyme found in most cancer cells. His findings have helped advance research into ways of stopping cancer cells from growing. Herbert said he started the project after watching his grandmother struggle against cancer. He plans to be a doctor and continue doing medical research.
The second place winner is seventeen-year-old Boris Alexeev of Athens, Georgia. He received a seventy-five-thousand dollar scholarship. His research in computer science could be used in the study of genetics.
The third place winner is seventeen-year-old Ryna Karnik of Aloha, Oregon. She won fifty-thousand dollars for describing a new way to build microchips used in computers.
Andrew Yeager of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center was chairman of the judges for the Intel Science Talent Search this year. He said the competition is an excellent way to discover future leaders in science and technology. Past competition winners have gone on to receive many of the world’s highest honors for science and mathematics.
This VOA Special English EDUCATION REPORT was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.
It was called the last great goal in flying. It would be a flight around the world without stopping or adding more fuel. Today, Frank Oliver and Doug Johnson tell about a special plane called Voyager and the effort to set a difficult world record.
Voyager began as a quick drawing on a small piece of paper. Six years later, the drawing was a plane that made history.
Many people gave their time, energy and money to help make the flight happen. But three people had lead parts in the event. Dick Rutan. Burt Rutan. And Jeana Yeager.
Dick Rutan was an experienced flier. He had been a pilot in the United States military during the war in Vietnam. After the war, he worked as a test pilot. He flew planes designed by his younger brother Burt.
Burt Rutan was well-known as a designer of experimental planes. And Jeana Yeager held nine world flight records as a pilot.
One day in early Nineteen-Eighty-One, Dick, Burt and Jeana were eating in a restaurant in Mojave, California. Burt turned to his brother and asked a wild question. “How would you like to be the first person to fly around the world without stopping to re-fuel?”
The three considered the idea. A non-stop flight around the world without re-fueling was the last flight record to be set. The flight always had been considered impossible. No plane could carry enough fuel to fly that far: forty-thousand kilometers.
But now there were new materials for planes. Burt thought he could build a plane that could make the voyage. Dick and Jeana thought they could fly it. No one could think of a good reason not to try.
When people feel sick, doctors treat them. So, who treats animals? Veterinarians are doctors for animals. But they also protect human health.
Veterinarians are the first line of defense against animal diseases that can spread quickly. Diseases, like some kinds of bird flu, can spread to humans. Others, like foot and mouth disease, cause economic damage.
Some veterinarians in the United States inspect animals raised for food. Some study diseases. Others work for drug companies and medical companies. And about half of all veterinarians care for more than one-hundred-million cats and dogs that Americans keep for pleasure.
Becoming a veterinarian is hard work. Students take two years of preparatory studies in college. They must learn in the classroom about animal biology, diseases, medicines and treatments.
Then, they attend four years in a college of veterinary medicine. There, students work in laboratories and treatment centers to gain real experience with animal health. They also learn to perform medical operations.
There are twenty-eight schools of veterinary medicine in the United States. More than eight-thousand-five-hundred students study the subject. Seventy-five percent of the students are women. About two-thousand new veterinarians enter the job market each year.
States give veterinarians official permission to treat animals. A veterinarian must take a test to receive a license from any state where he or she works.
A number of groups help veterinarians. The American Veterinary Medical Association is one of the oldest. It started in eighteen-eighty-nine. The organization officially approves schools that teach veterinary science.
Reports from western Afghanistan say at least fifty young women have killed themselves in recent months. In each case, they set themselves on fire.
Poverty, forced marriage, limited rights to education, violence against women, a sense of hopelessness. These are all given as reasons for an increase in cases of self-immolation. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has sent a delegation to Herat province to investigate.
Medica Mondiale is a German-based organization that supports women and girls in crisis situations. The group has started to organize projects in Kabul and Herat in an effort to improve the lives of women. It says many do not believe their lives have improved since the ouster of the Taleban more than two years ago.
The Islamic Taleban group ruled Afghanistan for five years. Women could not work or study. They could not leave their homes unless they had a male with them. And they were forced to wear a cloth burqa that covered all of their body.
American-led forces began a campaign in October of two-thousand-one to oust the Taleban and to attack al-Qaida bases in Afghanistan. This followed the September eleventh terrorist attacks by the al-Qaida group on the United States.
With the Taleban out of power, women regained their right to work and study. But Medica Mondiale says many still face oppression in parts of the country. Tribal leaders control these areas.
In January of this year, delegates at a traditional meeting called a Loya Jirga approved a new constitution for Afghanistan. The document guarantees equal rights for women. It also guarantees a strong representation of women in the future parliament. Women’s Affairs Minister Habiba Sarabi says she plans to set up family courts. She also plans to open centers to assist women around the country.
The governor of Herat, Ismail Khan, recently launched a media campaign to urge women to seek help. Husbands are also urged to show more consideration toward their wives.
Hearings took place this week into intelligence and law enforcement failures before the attacks on the United States in two-thousand-one.
The Bush administration is disputing accusations that it did not consider terrorism an urgent threat before September eleventh. Officials said they had worked throughout that year to prepare a plan to deal with the threat from al-Qaida.
Former anti-terrorism official Richard Clarke made the accusation Wednesday in Washington. He spoke before an independent commission of former lawmakers and officials. There are five Democrats and five Republicans.
Mr. Clarke has worked in four administrations. He helped direct anti-terrorism policies for almost ten years. Mr. Clarke says the administration did not take his warnings seriously. He says he had called for action against al-Qaida and its Taleban supporters in Afghanistan before September eleventh.
Three-thousand people died in the attacks of that day. Hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center and the military headquarters at the Pentagon.
Mr. Clarke told the commission that intelligence agencies warned repeatedly in two-thousand-one that al-Qaida appeared ready to attack the United States. He said he expressed his concern in a letter to National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice a week before the attacks. Mr. Clarke also accused the administration of harming the war on terrorism by invading Iraq.
Republican members of the commission accused Mr. Clarke of making baseless accusations in an effort to sell his new book. They questioned his truthfulness. They also suggested that he wanted to help the presidential campaign of Democratic Senator John Kerry.
Democrats on the commission said the accusations by Mr. Clarke should be taken seriously. They said his years of government work showed that he had been trusted by presidents from both parties.
The European Union’s Commission on Competition ruled Wednesday that the Microsoft Corporation has used its powerful market position illegally. The E-U ordered Microsoft to provide information about its Windows operating system to other software companies. The E-U commission also ordered Microsoft to make a version of Windows without one of the company’s own software products. And, it ordered the American software company to pay about six-hundred-million dollars.
Microsoft says it will appeal the decision to the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg.
Microsoft is the world’s biggest software maker. Software is a set of orders for the parts of a computer. An operating system is a complex set of orders that control the computer, its software and other devices. Microsoft software runs more than ninety percent of all personal computers in the world.
The E-U commission ruled about Microsoft’s addition of a media player to its operating system. A media player lets a computer play music and video through the Internet. The commission ordered Microsoft to make a version of Windows without the Microsoft Media Player. Microsoft has said that is not possible.
Other software makers are increasingly using open code operating systems. Any company can make software for these systems. But Microsoft uses a secret code. The commission did not order Microsoft to share its secret code. But it did order Microsoft to share information that will permit competing companies to make software that works with Microsoft systems.
Microsoft says the commission’s actions will give European buyers fewer choices. The company says a settlement it proposed would have been better. The company had offered to include three competing media players along with Windows.
European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti says companies with powerful market positions have a special responsibility to make sure they do not prevent competition. He says the decision restores the conditions for fair competition.
In the nineteen-nineties, the United States government charged Microsoft with harming competition. Microsoft settled its case with the government in two-thousand-one.
Today we complete an eight-part series about learning disabilities. Such disorders interfere with skills like reading, writing or thinking. Students with learning disabilities are not considered slow learners. They are generally of average or above average intelligence. But many need help to succeed in school.
In the United States, some students with learning disabilities are placed in classes called special education. The teachers have been trained as specialists and work with these students full time. Other students remain in traditional classes, but receive help from specialists. The parents of these students may like this way better. Or they may not have much choice.
The movement in education is to include students with special needs in traditional classes, but to provide extra help. Yet limited school budgets often mean large classes and not as much individual help as parents would like.
Another concern is students who need special instruction because they are extremely intelligent. Parents say they worry that the needs of these gifted students may not be met.
American law guarantees all students the right to a free public education. Disabled students have special protections and rights under the law. For example, a student who cannot write the answers to a test may be able to use a computer instead.
But conflicts can develop with the current movement in American education to increase testing requirements in schools. Almost half the states now require students to pass what is called an exit exam before they are permitted to graduate from high school.
Some people say this is unfair to disabled students, who might not get the extra help they need to take the test. They say disabled students fail the tests in greater numbers than other students.
Lawyers for the rights of the disabled have brought actions in California and Oregon. And on March sixteenth the same group brought a federal case in Alaska. Parents in that state want more protections for disabled students who take a new exit exam in reading, writing and mathematics.
Every year, people from all over the world get information from the United States National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. The library is part of the National Institutes of Health. It is the world’s largest center of medical information. Doctors, scientists, teachers and historians use the library. So do people who just want to know more about health and sickness.
Thousands of people visit the Library near Washington, D.C. Others get information by computer. For example, people can get health information from a National Library service called Medline Plus. This service cannot identify or advise about individual cases of disorders. But it provides general knowledge about more than six-hundred-fifty diseases and conditions.
A Medline Plus dictionary includes descriptions of medical words. For example, you might hear that someone has had an appendectomy. In the medical dictionary, you can learn that the person has had an operation to remove a part of the intestine called the appendix.
Drug information on the site describes medicines. Suppose you want to know the possible effects of taking the pain-killer aspirin. You can check a long list of drug descriptions. You can get Medline Plus services through the National Library of Medicine’s Web Site, Information appears in English and Spanish.
The Library also offers a Web site especially for older adults and their families. It is called NIH Senior Health, found at The National Library created the site with the National Institute on Aging. The site makes it possible for people to find current information from National Institute of Health centers. For example, older people can learn the latest news about the treatment of heart disease or osteoporosis, a bone disorder.
The site designers developed NIH Senior Health from Institute on Aging studies about changes in the thinking abilities of older people. These include understanding, learning, memory and ability to see. Because of these changes, the site contains print that can be made bigger and sharper. Information has been kept short. And a “talking” operation can speak the words.
This VOA Special English HEALTH REPORT was written by Jerilyn Watson.
The idea to grow a crop that improves the land and prepares it for other crops is thousands of years old. But scientists continue to search for new and better ways to use what are called cover crops.
Aref Abdul-Baki is with the Agricultural Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. He works at the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.
Mr. Abdul-Baki has found some cover crops that resist worms that attack tomatoes. These crops are sunn hemp, cowpea and velvet bean. They are planted during the months when the main crops are not normally grown. In states with moderate climates like Maryland and Virginia, the winter months are a good time to grow cover crops.
For tomatoes, cover crops can be planted in September. They can be turned over in the soil in May. The same method can be used for other summer crops like peppers, sweet corn, green beans and some melons.
After the cover crop is cut and turned, the result is a layer of organic material. This will provide fertilizer for the new crop. Also, the cover crop provides extra nitrogen to the soil.
Cover crops mixed with soil into mulch prevents the growth of unwanted plants. It also keeps soil from drying out and prevents the loss of soil.
In hot, dry parts of California, cover crops help keep down soil temperatures. They also reduce water loss and erosion.
Mr. Abdul-Baki has shown that cover crops can save farmers a lot of money. Tomato farmers, for example, have used methyl bromide to treat their soil before they plant their tomatoes. This chemical kills many kinds of organisms that harm crops. Such treatment can increase the size of the harvest. But the government restricts the use of methyl bromide. And countries have agreed to an international treaty to ban it.
Learn how satellites may give early warning of disease outbreaks.
Also, a study of sexually transmitted diseases in young Americans.
And a report on World TB Day, all coming up.
Scientists have found an object far away in our solar system. They say it is planet-like. They are calling it a planetoid.
The red object is thirteen-thousand-million kilometers from Earth. But it will get ten times farther. It is the most distant object known to orbit the sun. The discovery means that the solar system is bigger than scientists thought.
NASA, the American space agency, helped pay for the research. Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, Caltech, in Pasadena led the team. Chad Trujillo of Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii, also took part. So did David Rabinowitz of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
The three scientists first saw the object in November though a telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California. They named it Sedna, after a goddess of the Inuit people of the Arctic. Tradition says she lived in an icy cave at the bottom of the ocean and created the sea creatures of the Arctic.
But Sedna the planetoid is in a much colder place. The scientists estimate the surface temperature at about two-hundred-forty degrees below zero Celsius. When Sedna is even farther from the sun, the temperature drops close to what scientists call absolute zero. This is minus two-hundred-seventy-three degrees Celsius. In theory, this is as cold as cold can get.
This is Steve Ember with In the News, in VOA Special English.
President Bush said Friday that every government has a duty to fight and destroy terrorism. He said any sign of weakness only invites more violence for all nations. Mr. Bush made the comments as he observed the first anniversary of the American-led invasion of Iraq. Diplomats from more than eighty nations gathered at the White House to hear his speech.
Mr. Bush also said differences over Iraq belong to what he called, the past. He said the ouster of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has removed a cause of violence and aggression in the Middle East.
Also Friday, justice and interior ministers from European Union countries agreed at talks in Belgium to do more to fight terrorism. On March eleventh, bombs exploded on four trains in Madrid. More than two-hundred people were killed. More than one-thousand others were injured.
Many people in Spain blamed the government of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar for the bombings. Mr. Aznar has been a strong ally of President Bush and the war in Iraq. The Spanish government provided more than one-thousand troops for the American-led coalition. Ninety-percent of Spaniards opposed the war.
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will be the next Prime Minister of Spain. Mr. Zapatero says support for the war made his country a target for terrorist attacks. He has said he plans to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq unless they are placed under United Nations command by the end of June.
The People’s Party of Mr. Aznar lost power in general elections in Spain last Sunday, three days after the bombings. The opposition Socialist party of Mr. Zapatero defeated the ruling conservatives. Before the attacks, the People’s Party was widely expected to win the election.
The Spanish government says it had reason to blame the Basque separatist group ETA for the bombings. Police now say they believe Islamic militants linked to the al-Qaida group carried out the attacks. Some Spaniards say the government attempted to hide what it knew about links to Islamic extremists.
The United States recently reported a record deficit in its current account balance. The current account is a measure of the nation’s trade with other countries. Last year, America’s combined deficit on trade in goods, services and other economic activity rose to almost five-hundred-forty-two-thousand-million dollars. That is nearly thirteen percent more than the record current account deficit set in two-thousand-two.
A deficit is often described as a shortage. This is true for the financial situation of an individual. For example, if you spend more than your earn, you must borrow from a creditor.
However, economists see deficits differently. When money is taken away in one place, it becomes a credit someplace else. It all must balance. This does not mean that deficits are good necessarily. It just means that a deficit shows that another economic activity is increasing.
In two-thousand-three, the United States had a huge trade deficit in goods. It had a moderate trade surplus in services of about sixty-thousand-million dollars. But, the question remains, how did the United States pay for everything it bought?
The answer is that the United States paid in dollars. Other countries, then, accepted those dollars. They could then use the money to buy American goods, or they could buy American investments.
That is what has happened since the United States developed large trade deficits in the nineteen-eighties. Countries that trade with the United States have increasingly invested in it. This foreign investment is recorded in the nation’s financial account.
Last year, other countries invested five-hundred-seventy-nine-thousand-million dollars more in America than it invested in them. That investment surplus is greater than the trade deficit.
Foreign investment has become an important part of economic development in the United States. In nineteen-ninety-three, foreign money represented about nine-percent of all investment activity in America. By two-thousand, that had grown to almost twenty-five percent.
We continue our series about learning disabilities. So far, we have discussed some of the brain disorders that make different skills unusually difficult to learn. Last week, we told how schools can help.
Today, we discuss something that is not considered a learning disability itself. We include it in our series because it can interfere with learning. Our subject is attention deficit disorder, or A.D.D. A related form is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — A.D.H.D.
These are some of the signs of one or both: Children cannot sit still and control themselves. They talk excessively, and do not seem to listen. They lose things, forget easily and are not able to finish tasks.
Many of us experience problems like these at one time or another. But people with A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. say it interferes with their lives and threatens their chances for success. One woman says it is like having twenty televisions in her head, all on different programs.
Doctors say the cause involves chemical balances in the brain. It can affect not only school performance, but also personal relationships and the ability to keep a job. Many people with attention deficit are also found to have a learning disability or suffer from depression.
A doctor has to identify A.D.D or A.D.H.D. There are drugs to help the chemical balances in the brain. These drugs calm people down, so they can finish tasks. But there are also possible side effects.
Critics say parents and doctors are often too quick to give drugs. Some children outgrow effects like hyperactivity. Critics also express concern at the growing numbers of boys and girls identified with A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. Others say these are real disabilities.
Drugs alone are not enough. Other important parts of treatment include providing a supportive environment. Students need to learn organizational skills, better use of time and different ways to study. They often need extended time to take tests, and individual help from concerned adults. Experts say children who make problems in class may not find their schoolwork interesting enough or difficult enough.
American researchers have reported progress in learning how the ancient traditional Chinese method of acupuncture fights pain and other conditions. During acupuncture, very small, sharp needles are placed in the skin at targeted points on the body. Bruce Rosen presented an acupuncture study at a meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Orlando, Florida. Doctor Rosen is with the Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.
Doctor Rosen reported that the study findings could show how the brain might help people suffering from a number of health problems. These include pain, unexplained worry and sadness and some disorders of the stomach and intestines. The findings also may aid people who are fighting dependence on substances like illegal drugs.
Doctor Rosen led a team that studied about twenty healthy people. The team examined the people with functional magnetic resonance imaging devices. MRI’s can show changes in the flow of blood and the amount of oxygen in the blood. They studied the people before, during and after acupuncture. The researchers placed acupuncture needles in the skin on the peoples’ hands. They chose places linked to pain relief in traditional Chinese acupuncture.
Most of the people reported that their hands felt heavy after the needles were placed. Blood flow to some areas of the brain decreased quickly in these people. Doctor Rosen said that was a sign that the acupuncture was working correctly.
But a few of the people said their hands hurt. Their needles were probably not placed correctly. Their MRI’s showed an increase in blood in the same areas of the brain where the other people showed a decrease.
Doctor Rosen reported that this means that acupuncture eased the work of the brain. The affected brain areas are the forebrain, the cerebellum and the brainstem. They help control pain and emotions. These areas have a rich supply of a chemical called dopamine.
Doctor Rosen said the reduced blood flow may lead to changes in dopamine. This, in turn, leads to a reaction that releases endorphins. These brain chemicals reduce pain and help fight feelings of sadness.
Jerilyn Watson wrote this VOA Special English HEALTH REPORT.
Some chemicals are very good at killing insects and plants that cause trouble. But the trouble with these chemicals is they can also harm people and the environment. This was the case with the pesticide D.D.T. It is now banned in some countries. But others still use it. Another example involves the widely used pesticide methyl bromide.
In nineteen-eighty-seven, nations met to discuss evidence of a decrease in the level of ozone in the atmosphere. Ozone helps protect against skin cancer from the sun. Negotiators met in Montreal. They developed the first part of an agreement called the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. This treaty sets out steps to protect the ozone in the atmosphere.
In nineteen-ninety-two, methyl bromide joined the list of chemicals to ban. Developed countries agreed to end the use of methyl bromide by two-thousand-five. Developing nations have ten more years.
The Bush administration says it will seek permission for some uses of methyl bromide at least until two-thousand-six. The administration says no replacement can be found for some farm uses. Other nations are also expected to seek special permission.
One-hundred-eighty-three nations have signed the treaty. The United States Congress amended federal pollution laws in nineteen-ninety-five. It did so to meet the requirements of the Montreal Protocol. Since then, the Department of Agriculture has supported programs to find a pesticide to replace methyl bromide.
But its Agricultural Research Service says there is no one chemical or method that can do the job. One of the main problems is that methyl bromide is used on more than one-hundred crops and products. It goes on as a gas in a process called fumigation. The gas works quickly. It is able to kill worms, insects, harmful plants — many different kinds of organisms. But this poison also affects the nervous system in people and is carried into the atmosphere.
The Montreal Protocol permits countries to continue to use some banned chemicals if they must. Nations that signed the agreement have organized a meeting this month in Montreal to discuss the methyl bromide issue.
This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by Mario Ritter. This is Steve Ember.
A study measures the effects of dirty conditions on child growth.
Plus … the mystery of dark energy.
Six years ago, a British study suggested the possibility of a link between autism and the M.M.R vaccine. Autism is a brain disorder that appears in young children. It affects communication and the ability to relate to people and environments. The M.M.R. vaccine is a medicine given to millions of children to prevent three diseases: mumps, measles and rubella.
Thirteen scientists did the study. Their report appeared in the British medical magazine The Lancet. But The Lancet has now published a letter from ten of those scientists. One of the others could not be reached. The ten withdrew the suggestion of a possible link between autism and the M.M.R. vaccine. They said they wish to make clear that they never stated that the vaccine caused autism.
The ten scientists did not include Andrew Wakefield who led the study. Recently he has been criticized for accepting money from lawyers for a group of families of autistic children. The families wanted a separate study done to support legal claims against companies that make the vaccine.
Doctor Wakefield says his work for the families was no secret and created no conflict of interest with his study. He is reported as saying he still believes a possible connection between autism and the vaccine needs further investigation. Lawyers for Doctor Wakefield have demanded an apology from The Lancet.
Public trust in the M.M.R. vaccine has dropped in large part because of the nineteen-ninety-eight study. The ten scientists said they recognize there have been major effects on public health. Some parents in Europe and the United States have refused the vaccine for their children. Doctors say this is a serious risk. Mumps, measles and rubella can all make people very sick.
Since the study, other studies have shown no link between autism and the vaccine. Some critics say a lot of money has been wasted trying to prove that the nineteen-ninety-eight study was false. But others have called the study “poor science.” They note that only twelve children took part.
More than three-million people died of AIDS last year. The estimate is that five-million others became infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes the disease. And there are warnings about what could happen unless much more is done to increase efforts to prevent AIDS. Right now, researchers say around forty-million people are living with the virus. The United Nations says there could be forty-five million new cases by two-thousand-ten.
Public health experts say the media have a central part to play in the fight against AIDS. They point to drama series on television and radio in a number of countries.
In Ivory Coast, for example, the weekly show “AIDS in the City” has been on television since nineteen-ninety-four. The program tells stories with actors in an effort to educate people about AIDS. Recently, broadcasts of the show were extended into nine other countries in West and Central Africa.
Researchers say about two-thirds of people in South Africa watch the show “Soul City.” This program has dealt with other social issues in addition to H.I.V/AIDS. These include violence against women and alcoholism. “Soul City” also began in nineteen-ninety-four.
A show created with BBC help has become one of India’s most-watched dramas. In “Detective Vijay,” the main hero is a policeman with H.I.V. A United Nations report says the program appears to be educating people. The report says eighty-five percent of those questioned had learned something new about AIDS from the show.
But people who watch have yet to learn how Detective Vijay became infected. One of the main ways to get AIDS is through sex. Many people consider public discussion of such issues culturally unacceptable.
In China, millions watch a daily program called “Ordinary People.” A non-profit group based in the United States helped create this drama show about social issues. The group is called Population Communications International. P.C.I. assists governments, local groups, and radio and television stations to develop media campaigns. The group supports what it calls the magic of entertainment for social change.
P.C.I. is on the Internet at The mailing address is: P.C.I., seven-seven-seven United Nations Plaza, fifth floor, New York, New York, one-zero-zero-one-seven, U-S-A.
A temporary constitution signed this week in Iraq takes effect on July first. That is one day after a temporary government is expected to take office.
All twenty-five members of the Iraqi Governing Council or their representatives signed the constitution on Monday. Members called it a new beginning for their country. The document will serve as the law during efforts to approve a permanent constitution and to hold elections for leaders.
The constitution is officially known as the Transitional Administrative Law in Iraq. It calls for elections by the end of next January to choose a temporary assembly. This group will propose a permanent constitution and choose a president and two deputy presidents.
Those three officials will choose a prime minister and a cabinet. The temporary government is to remain in power until Iraqis vote on a permanent constitution and directly elect leaders.
The document signed this week includes a bill of rights. It guarantees freedom of speech and religion. It also guarantees other rights denied by the government of Saddam Hussein, like the right to gather. The constitution says women will be represented in the government. Islam will be the official religion and what the document calls “a source of legislation.” And Kurds will continue to have self-rule in northern Iraq.
The signing was delayed last week after bombings in Baghdad and Karbala. The ceremony was delayed a second time last Friday.
Shiite members of the American-appointed council had refused to sign the constitution because of objections by their leaders. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani objected to two parts of the document. One would veto a permanent constitution if two-thirds of voters in any three provinces rejected it. This could give veto power to ethnic Kurds. They control three provinces.
Kurds say this part of the document protects them against having Shiites decide the terms of a permanent constitution. But Shiite leaders want it removed. They say it would let the Kurds block the will of the Shiite majority.
Last Friday, a jury in New York found that businesswoman Martha Stewart lied and tried to interfere with a federal investigation. She is in the business of advice and products for home design. But the case did not involve Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. She built that company and headed it until the charges last June.
The case involves her sale of shares of a biotechnology company, ImClone Systems. In December of two-thousand-one, Martha Stewart sold her shares for two-hundred-twenty-eight-thousand dollars. The next day, some bad news about ImClone caused the share price to drop. Government lawyers charged that she had illegally used inside information from a friend, the man who started ImClone. She denied any wrongdoing.
At the end of February, the judge cancelled a charge of insider trading. But the jury found her guilty of all four other charges. Her stock trader was found guilty of similar charges and also lying to the court.
Her lawyers have been preparing their appeal. Sentencing is set for June and could result in prison. Martha Stewart is one of a number of business leaders accused recently of crimes.
But last week another business leader faced a different kind of judgment. This came at a shareholders meeting of the Walt Disney Company. Investors had to vote yes or no to re-elect Michael Eisner as chairman and chief executive officer. Forty-three percent voted no.
The Disney board of directors answered within hours. It kept Mr. Eisner as chief executive. But it made board member George Mitchell acting chairman. Mr. Mitchell is a former Senate majority leader and diplomat.
Many shareholders, including former directors Roy Disney and Stanley Gold, were not satisfied. They say Mr. Eisner has done a poor job. He has led the company for twenty years. Critics also say Mr. Mitchell is too much of his friend.
The Disney board also again rejected an offer by the cable television company Comcast to buy Disney. Last month, Comcast offered more than sixty-thousand-million dollars in stock and acceptance of debt. Since then, Disney shares have gone up; Comcast shares have gone down. Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts said this week that Disney was not a “must-have” for his company.
We continue with part six in our series about learning disabilities. So far, we have discussed problems with skills like reading, writing, speech and mathematics. Today we examine what schools are doing to help students with learning disabilities.
Public schools and colleges in the United States are required by law to provide help. Congress approved the Rehabilitation Act in nineteen-seventy-three. This law requires schools to provide disabled students with opportunities equal to those for other students.
A more recent law requires public schools to establish a program for each child found to have a disability. Schools must write, and follow, a statement called an I.E.P., an individualized education program. If not, parents may take legal action. States must provide special education services for free. Teachers with these skills are in great demand.
There are many ways to meet the needs of a student who has disabilities. One way is to give the student extra time to complete work. Teachers might also permit the student to take tests differently from others in class. For example, the teacher might let the student speak the answers. Or another person could write the answers that the student gives. Also, students who have trouble concentrating might wish to take tests in a room that is extra quiet.
Some students might want others to take notes for them during class. Or they might want to listen to recordings of books instead of reading them.
Technology is one way to help. There are computer programs, for example, designed for the needs of people with learning disabilities.
There are some schools in the United States that teach only students with learning disabilities. One is Landmark College in the northeastern state of Vermont. Students attend for up to three years. It prepares them to continue their education at other colleges. Classes at Landmark College are small. Students have their own learning plan, and a special teacher to help them study.
Our series about learning disabilities continues next week. You can find all of our programs on the Internet at Included are some links to lists of schools for students with learning disabilities.
A United Nations report says outbreaks of animal disease could reduce world meat exports by one-third this year. The Food and Agriculture Organization says losses could reach ten-thousand-million dollars if import bans stay in place all year. And this does not include costs like the measures to control the current outbreaks in Asia, the United States and Canada.
In late February, the United States reported an outbreak of bird flu on a farm near San Antonio, Texas. The highly infectious virus was different from the one found earlier in the Northeast. But officials said there was no danger to the public in either case.
Texas officials immediately destroyed almost seven-thousand birds. Jim Rogers of the Animal and Plant Inspection Service at the United States Department of Agriculture says the outbreak is under control. He says no new cases have been reported. He says birds experience a flu season just like people do.
But the outbreak in Texas led the European Union to suspend all imports of live chickens, turkeys and eggs from the United States. The ban will remain at least until March twenty-third. One-third of world poultry exports come from the United States.
The world market in beef has also suffered, because of mad cow disease. Last year one case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was found in Canada and one in the United States. The United States and Canada hold a twenty-five percent share of the world beef market.
Last week Mexico agreed to reopen its border to some United States beef products. But many countries continue to ban imports of beef or chicken, or both. Some have banned chicken imports only from affected states.
Import bans can affect countries differently. Japan, for example, imports much of its chicken and beef. The result was an increase of forty-percent last month in the price of meat from pigs. Japan has also had its own problems with bird flu and mad cow disease. A third outbreak of flu virus H5N1 was reported late last month, this time at a farm in Kyoto. That is the virus that has killed more than twenty people in Vietnam and Thailand.
Concern about bird flu has affected even countries in Asia where the virus has not been reported. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says lower demand for chicken and eggs in India, for example, has cut prices there by one-third.
Plus, some hopeful news from research on a dangerous disorder of pregnancy.
Two doctors in South Korea are in the news a lot these days. They are the first scientists to report success in efforts to create a human embryo and to remove stem cells from it. Stem cells have the ability to grow into other cells, such as heart, nerve or brain cells. So they might offer new ways to treat disease.
Hwang Woo-suk and Moon Shin-yong are doctors at Seoul National University. Their study was published in February in Science magazine.
Sixteen women took part in the research. They agreed to take fertility drugs for a month. These caused them to produce a large number of eggs. The doctors collected two-hundred-forty-two eggs for their study.
They removed the nucleus from each cell in the eggs. The nucleus contains DNA material, the complete genetic plans for an organism. Then the researchers used electricity to join each egg cell to a different cell taken from the women’s ovaries. The ovaries are the organs that produce eggs.
Thirty of the joined cells grew into what are called blastocysts, an early form of an embryo. The doctors say they were able to collect stem cells from twenty of them.
There are many political and moral questions about this work. Lawmakers around the world remain divided over how to supervise cloning research. But scientists, politicians and clergy generally agree that cloning should not be used to copy human beings.
It has been done with animals. In each case, scientists created an embryo and placed it in a female animal to grow. There was Dolly the cloned sheep, for example. This form of science is called reproductive cloning.
American officials estimate that at least 800,000 people a year are brought across borders, into slavery. But they admit this estimate is probably low. Last June, the International Labor Organization estimated that at least 1,200,000 children a year are victims of trafficking. Slavery involves the sex trade, as well as other kinds of forced labor and military service.
One of the groups fighting to end the slave trade is the International Justice Mission. This non-profit group in the United States helps nations enforce laws against slavery.
Gary Haugen started the group in 1997. He was a trial lawyer for the United States Justice Department. He fought cases of police wrongdoing. He also assisted the United Nations. He directed the investigation into the 1994 killings in Rwanda.
The International Justice Mission receives information from aid and religious workers about possible cases of slavery. IJM lawyers then build legal cases against those responsible. Investigators secretly gather evidence. They use tape recorders and video cameras. The group intervenes once it has enough information to support a case. Members go to local officials to seek legal charges.
IJM estimates that it helps free several hundred people a year from slavery. Its Web site includes the story of a boy named Sridhar in southern India. It says his parents sold him to a local moneylender to pay for food. He was 10 years old at the time. His parents owed the moneylender $31.
So, for six days a week, the boy made cigarettes to pay off the debt. The amount he earned each day would have kept him in slavery until he was an adult. IJM investigators say they helped the boy appeal to the local government. They say he is now free and attending school.
Another job of the group is education. IJM officials say have a religious duty to fight slavery. The group says it provides people of faith with the training, tools and resources to become active.
Gary Haugen says international treaties are important. But he says sometimes the best way to fight slavery is to attack it at the local level.
Companies often give work to an outside business that can do the job for less money than their own employees could. This is called outsourcing. Outsourcing has become a political issue in the campaign for the American presidential election in November.
Many companies in the United States have been moving jobs to countries where costs are much lower. Factory production jobs have moved away for years. But the jobs now also involve computer programming and other skills based on knowledge.
Labor groups and workers are angry. They point to reports that say the United States has lost two-and-a-half million jobs since two-thousand-one. Most were jobs in manufacturing. Some states have lost more jobs than others. But no one seems to know for sure how many jobs left the country.
There was a recession. Jobs were cut. Yet, so far, the economic recovery has produced fewer jobs than expected. So outsourcing has created an emotional debate.
Lou Dobbs has a business news program on CNN television. He keeps a list of companies that have sent jobs to foreign countries. Almost every night, Mr. Dobbs talks about what he calls the “exporting of America.”
Gregory Mankiw [man-CUE] is the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to President Bush. Recently Mr. Mankiw said outsourcing is probably good for the economy in the long term. He said it makes sense to import goods or services produced at lower cost. He called it “just a new way of doing international trade.”
Most economists would probably agree. But Democrats and Republicans criticized Mr. Mankiw. He later apologized for having appeared to praise the loss of United States jobs.
Criticism of outsourcing has led some people to condemn free trade. They argue that if jobs are lost to foreign countries, then America should seek protective measures.
This week, the French Senate approved a law to give public schools the right to ban almost anything worn clearly as a show of religion. The law passed by a vote of two-hundred-seventy-six to twenty. The National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, passed a similar measure last month. Conservatives control both houses of parliament.
President Jacques Chirac proposed the legislation. He is expected to sign the ban into law within fifteen days. Mr. Chirac says the ban is designed to defend the French tradition of separating religion from civil life and education. He says there is a dangerous and growing extremist threat against this tradition. There have been times, for example, where Muslims girls refused to remove their head coverings in school.
Under the new law, students could not wear headscarves or such things as large Christian crosses or Jewish skullcaps. French officials say public schools should be places of education, not places to display religious or ethnic identities.
But many Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders have sharply criticized the legislation. They say it violates freedom of expression in France, including religious expression. Some foreign governments, including the United States, have also expressed concern about such a ban.
The ban has widespread public support in France. But it has angered many Muslims and led to demonstrations in several countries.
Some Muslims say the ban unfairly targets them. They say that some of the objects listed are cultural, not religious. Some say they fear that the headscarf issue may cause some Muslim girls to leave school or attend Islamic schools.
France has an estimated five-million Muslims, the most of any country in western Europe. Most other people in France are Roman Catholic. Several top French officials have expressed concern that the law may damage relations with French Muslims.
Yet public opinion research finds that not all Muslims in France oppose a law like this. In fact, some studies find that many, especially women, support the idea of a ban on too much show of religion.
We continue our series about learning disabilities. So far, we have talked about problems with skills like reading, writing and movement. Today we tell about a condition called dyscalculia. People with dyscalculia have unusual difficulty working with numbers.
Experts say people with this disorder have trouble reading numbers and seeing them in their mind. They can have problems with similar numbers like three and eight. They also have trouble lining up numbers correctly on paper. Another problem is that people with dyscalculia may have difficulty remembering. So they cannot remember the order of operations they must follow to solve a mathematics problem.
Such difficulties can lead to failure in school, which can lead to a fear of mathematics. Students may believe they cannot do math at all.
Experts say dyscalculia cannot be cured, but children can be helped. Teachers and parents need to recognize the signs of the condition. These include such things as making mistakes when writing groups of numbers. Another possible sign is performing mathematical operations backwards. Still another is reading numbers in the wrong order or becoming confused about the order of past or future events.
Older students may show difficulty counting money. They might not be able to understand the rules and ideas of mathematics. They might perform a mathematical operation one day, but not the next. People with dyscalculia may also have a poor sense of direction and get lost often. They may have difficulty keeping score during games, and limited ability to plan during games like chess.
Adults can provide extra help with math problems for students with dyscalculia. For example, a picture might help explain the situation being described. Rhymes or songs or other memory aids might help students remember things. Students with dyscalculia could use extra time to learn facts and take examinations. Using a calculator or computer might also help.
We continue our series about learning disabilities next week. All of our programs are on the Internet at Links to more information about dyscalculia are also included.
This VOA Special English EDUCATION REPORT was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.
Fruit flies can damage four-hundred kinds of crops. These insects lay eggs not just in fruit but also vegetables and nuts. The young eat the produce, making it unusable. A female can lay a thousand eggs in her short lifetime.
One of the most destructive kinds of fruit flies is the Mediterranean fruit fly. California, for example, has spent almost thirty years fighting to keep the medfly out of the state.
Even islands far out at sea are not protected. The state of Hawaii has a history of problems with imported pests. The medfly came to Hawaii in the early nineteen-hundreds. Since then, three more kinds of fruit fly pests have arrived.
The Agricultural Research Service of the Department of Agriculture has a team to deal with the problem. The United States Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center is located in Hilo, Hawaii.
The center has designed a program that aims to keep damage below an economically important level. Lost markets now cost Hawaiian growers an estimated three-hundred-million dollars a year. Roger Vargas is an expert on insects. He started what is called the Hawaii Area-Wide Fruit Fly Integrated Pest Management program. The team says this program is showing success after three years.
Past campaigns tried to kill all the fruit flies. The new program attacks the problem through a series of steps. One is to stop fruit fly reproduction. Infertile male flies are released to mate with the wild population. Also, growers are told to bury all unharvested fruit or vegetables. Or they can place them under a screening structure to keep young flies from escaping.
The program in Hawaii also uses a biological pesticide to kill fruit flies. It is called spinosad. It is produced by a microscopic organism. Spinosad is put into a substance that the fruit flies like to eat. The researchers say this is better for the environment than the common pesticide malathion. Malathion is a chemical that is sprayed on crops.
The program also uses a natural enemy of fruit flies. A kind of wasp called Biosteres arisanus feeds on medflies and oriental fruit flies.
Indian lawmakers call for stronger safety rules for food and drink.
And, chemistry students may get two more elements to learn.
Last week, the World Health Organization led a three-day campaign against the spread of polio in Africa. The goal was to vaccinate sixty-three-million children in ten countries in west and central Africa. The World Health Organization is trying to end the spread of polio anywhere in the world this year. Recently, however, there have been more cases in Nigeria and India.
In Nigeria, Islamic leaders in several northern states have banned the vaccine that prevents polio. Leaders in Kano and the other states say the vaccine is unsafe. They say the medicine contains chemicals that give people AIDS or prevent females from having babies. They say it is part of an American plot.
The World Health Organization and the Nigerian government have done tests. Health officials say the vaccine is completely safe. They also asked Islamic leaders to help test the vaccine.
Recently the Nigerian government appointed a committee to gather the facts. Last week the chairman said the committee was still waiting for the results of a test performed in India. He said the committee does not expect to release its final report to the public until early March.
The ten countries in the vaccination campaign last week included Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad and Cameroon. The others were Ghana, Ivory Coast, Niger, Togo and Nigeria.
Also last week, the W-H-O reported a case of polio in Ivory Coast. The agency said Ivory Coast could be the eighth polio-free country re-infected because of the spreading virus from northern Nigeria.
Researchers say more than two-hundred-thousand women a year die from cervical cancer. These deaths are most common in developing countries.
The main cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus, or H-P-V. This is a common virus that men or women can give each other through sex. H-P-V may go away. But if it remains in the body, it greatly increases the chances of cervical cancer.
The cervix is part of the female reproductive system. It is the opening at the end of the uterus.
Cervical cancers develop slowly, usually over a period of ten or twenty years. There are tests that can find the disease early enough to save a woman’s life. A common test is called a Pap smear. Laboratory workers examine cells under a microscope.
But many national health systems do not have money for these tests. In other cases, there might be cultural issues. As a result, more than eighty percent of women who die from cervical cancer are in poor nations.
Now a company in the United States says it plans to create a new test for cervical cancer in developing countries. The biotechnology company Digene says it expects research and development to take up to five years.
The test will be based on Digene technology already approved for use in laboratories in the United States and Europe. This technology uses computers to examine the genetic material in cells.
The goal is a test that is fast and low cost, has ease of use and is culturally acceptable. Women themselves might even be able to collect the cells during their visit to a doctor. The company says the aim is to collect cells and get the test results during the same visit. If pre-cancerous cells are found, health workers may then freeze them to kill them. If cancer is found, doctors may order radiation or other treatments.
President Bush this week urged Congress to pass an amendment to the United States Constitution to ban same-sex marriages. He said this is needed to stop what he called activist judges and local officials who want to redefine marriage.
The president says all cultures and religions honor the union of a man and woman. He says changing this would weaken the influence of society.
Amending the Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress. Then it requires approval by at least thirty-eight of the fifty states. All this can take years, if it succeeds at all.
Democratic opponents of an amendment say Mr. Bush is trying to use the issue to help him win re-election. Not all Republicans support the idea of an amendment. Some say the issue should be decided by the states. But many conservatives had been urging Mr. Bush to speak out on recent events.
In November, the top court in Massachusetts ruled that a state ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. The court ordered lawmakers to change the law so gays can marry. This has not happened yet. But the mayor of San Francisco recently began to permit homosexuals to marry at City Hall. California law bans same-sex marriage. The California attorney general is trying to defend that law by having the state Supreme Court rule on the actions in San Francisco.
More than three-thousand same-sex weddings have been performed in San Francisco during the past two weeks. On Friday the mayor of a small college town in New York state also began to let same-sex couples marry.
In Massachusetts, opponents tried to have gay marriages barred through an amendment to the state constitution. That effort failed, but it might be reconsidered in March. At least thirty-eight states have passed laws or amendments to bar recognition of gay marriages.
President Bush says a constitutional amendment is needed to defend the nineteen-ninety-six Defense of Marriage Act. That federal law declares that marriage in the United States is the legal union between a man and a woman. It also gives the states the right not to honor same-sex marriage permits from other states. President Bill Clinton signed it into law.
People who have unusual difficulty with reading, writing or other skills may have a learning disability. Today we continue our series about learning disabilities with a report about a movement disorder. This condition is called dyspraxia.
With dyspraxia, the brain does not send messages clearly to other parts of the body. People with dyspraxia have a poor understanding of the messages sent by their senses. They have difficulty linking these messages to actions. As a result, people with dyspraxia have trouble planning and organizing thoughts. Physical activities are also difficult to learn and perform.
Experts say the kinds of difficulties experienced by a person with dyspraxia can change from day to day or at different times in life. Babies with dyspraxia do not try to crawl or roll over. Later, they may have difficulty with eye movements. They may move their head instead of just their eyes. Children with dyspraxia may have trouble walking or holding a cup, riding a bicycle or throwing a ball.
Social skills may be difficult for people with dyspraxia to learn. So they might have trouble making friends. People with dyspraxia can find sports activities extremely difficult. They may even have trouble speaking. Some cannot make the physical movements necessary to speak clearly. Adults with dyspraxia can have problems driving a car or cleaning the house. They can have problems cooking, writing, typing, even washing and dressing themselves.
Experts say dyspraxia cannot be cured. They say people with this disorder must understand that it takes them longer to learn to do things than other people. It will also take them longer to remember how to do what they have already learned.
Early intervention can help. Professional therapists say there are ways to help make life easier for those with dyspraxia. They say parents and teachers must understand that people with dyspraxia need help learning simple movements. Experts say children should be urged to take part in easy physical activities that can increase their trust in their abilities.
We continue our series about learning disabilities next week. All of our programs are on the Internet at Links to more information about dyspraxia are also included.
One of the major health agencies in the United States is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is known as the C-D-C. “Prevention” was added to the name later. The agency has many jobs. For example, it recently provided information to the public about ricin. Some of that poison had been found in a Senate office building in Washington. The C-D-C advised people about ways to stay safe if they ever found ricin.
The C-D-C warns, advises and reports on health subjects from around the world. For example, it is currently providing information about avian influenza. The outbreak of bird flu in Asia has killed more than twenty people in Thailand and Vietnam.
The agency also is advising people how to protect against cold weather and poorly heated homes in winter. And the C-D-C just gave Americans the newest estimate of how long they can expect to live. In two-thousand-two, average life expectancy reached seventy-seven-point-four years. But the C-D-C also reported an increase in the rate of deaths among newborn babies that year. It was the first increase in the United States since nineteen-fifty-eight.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its main offices and laboratories are in Atlanta, Georgia. Eight-thousand-five-hundred people work for the C-D-C. These include doctors, nurses, scientists, engineers and others. They all have some part in trying to learn how diseases start, and where and how they spread.
C-D-C laboratories examine tissue, blood and other substances to help identify diseases. For example, the C-D-C recently confirmed the presence in Bangladesh of a viral infection similar to the Nipah virus. This virus was first recognized in nineteen-ninety-nine in Nipah, Malaysia. It was blamed for widespread cases of encephalitis, a brain infection. More than one-hundred people died of the disease.
C-D-C experts are ready to travel anywhere in the world to help deal with outbreaks of disease. The faster the cause is identified, the faster health workers can take steps to contain and control it.
The C-D-C Web site offers information about how to prevent and treat a number of sicknesses, and how to stay healthy. The address is w-w-w dot c-d-c dot g-o-v.
Our report begins high in the mountains of northern California’s Shasta-Trinity National Forest. A man and his son have reached an area called Little Mount Hoffman. It is more than two-thousand meters high in the beautiful mountains.
The two are camping. They carry all their clothing, food, water and other things they need on their backs. They have come to this area of the great national park to enjoy the outdoors.
It is late in the day and both are hungry. They build their camp for the night and cook their evening meal.
After their meal, the man reaches into his pack and pulls out a special kind of telephone. It can be used from anywhere on Earth. It does not use wires. It links with a system of satellites in orbit high above the Earth.
Minutes later, the man talks to a business partner in Japan. They discuss developments that are important to their company.
A few minutes later, the young boy uses the telephone to talk to his mother. She is at home, in Miami, Florida. He tells her not to worry. The two of them are having a good time. He tells her he will call again tomorrow night.
Satellite telephones are not really new. But now they can be used anywhere in the world. Also, satellite telephones were once very large. Now, they are not much larger than any other small telephone. And, they are no longer as costly as they once were.
A company called Iridium produces a satellite telephone. It also supplies the link to satellites. The Iridium company uses more than fifty satellites that provide communications for their telephones.
United States agriculture officials have ended their investigation into the case of mad cow disease found in Washington State in December.
The Department of Agriculture reported this month on steps taken to prevent the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE. These include new restrictions on how cattle can be killed.
New rules also ban the use of what are called “downer” cows for human food. Such animals are too sick or injured to walk. However, the infected cow was reported not to have been a downer.
The cow was born in Canada. It was imported into the United States with eighty other cattle. Investigators found twenty-eight of those other cows. In all, officials identified two-hundred-fifty-five of what they called “animals of interest” in the case All were killed. Officials say tests found no additional cases of BSE.
Foreign bans on American beef continue. Major importers like Japan and Mexico say it is too soon to end their bans. They say American officials must do more to test cattle.
International experts appointed by the Agriculture Department urged American farmers to no longer feed any animal protein to their cows. Some protein can spread the disease. The experts also said the United States had probably imported other infected cows.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association criticized the report. It said the report does not fully recognize steps taken by the United States and Canada to reduce the risk of BSE.
Last week, there was an unrelated development affecting the beef industry. A federal jury found that America’s largest meat processor restricted competition. The jury found that Tyson Fresh Meats unfairly controlled the price of live cattle and forced prices down.
Also … an explosion laboratory with a burst of creativity … and a possible sign of recovery for mountain gorillas in Africa.
A study suggests a possible connection between use of antibiotic drugs and increased risk of breast cancer. However, the study does not answer the question if antibiotics are a cause of breast cancer. The study appeared last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers in the American Northwest studied more than ten thousand women. The study involved members of Group Health Cooperative, a health plan based in Seattle, Washington.
Antibiotics are used to fight many different kinds of infections caused by bacteria. The study found that women who took more antibiotics compared to other women had higher rates of breast cancer. Some women had taken antibiotics for more than five-hundred days over an average period of seventeen years. These women had more than two times the risk of breast cancer as women who had not taken any antibiotics.
The study found that women who took antibiotics for fewer days had less risk. Yet even these women had one-and-one-half times the risk of those who took none.
Doctor Stephen Taplin of the National Cancer Institute was among the leaders of the study. Doctor Taplin says the risk increased with all the kinds of antibiotics they studied.
Some cancer experts suggested that antibiotics could suppress “good” bacteria in the intestinal system. They say these bacteria help the body process foods that may help defend against disease. Or, they say, antibiotics might damage the immune system that protects the body against infection.
But Doctor Taplin and others say women who need more antibiotics may already have weakened immune systems. Another possibility is that the infections being treated may increase the risk of breast cancer. So the experts say more studies are needed before any direct link is made between antibiotics and breast cancer.