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Scientists Create First Map of World’s Corals

Researchers have created the first complete map of the world’s coral reefs. Development of the map was led by scientists at Arizona State University. They partnered with coral reef scientists, universities, non-profit organizations and private groups across the world. The online map is designed to be a coral conservation tool that can also support ocean planning and coral science activities. Called the Allen Coral Atlas, the map was named after Microsoft’s late co-founder, Paul Allen. Allen’s private company, Vulcan Inc., started providing financial support to the project in 2017. The idea came out of an effort by researcher Ruth Gates of Hawaii to create “super coral” to help save reefs. When announcing the launch of the map recently, the creators said it is the first worldwide, detailed map of its kind. It gives users the ability to see detailed information about local reefs, including different kinds of undersea structures like sand, rocks, seagrass and coral. The maps include areas up to 15 meters deep. They are meant to inform policymakers facing decisions about protected ocean areas, plans for structures and seawalls and coral renewal projects. Greg Asner led the effort to create the atlas. He is the director of Arizona State University's Center for Global Discovery and Conservation. He told The Associated Press that for the first time, the project had created “a uniform mapping of the entire coral reef” system. Asner said the researchers depended on a network of hundreds of field volunteers who provided local information about reefs. This enabled the team to program the satellites and software to study the right areas. The map includes a coral bleaching tool to identify corals that are struggling because of climate change and other problems.   Asner said about 75 percent of the world's reefs had not been mapped in such a complete way before. He noted that many had not been mapped at all. The University of Queensland in Australia used artificial intelligence (AI) technology and local data to help build the atlas. Anyone can look at the maps for free online. Both Allen and researcher Ruth Gates died in 2018, leaving Asner and others to carry on their work. Asner said Gates "would be so pleased…that this is really happening.” Asner said many of the calls he is receiving are from researchers who hope to use the maps to “be sure that their planning and their reef restoration work is going to have its max efficacy.” I’m Bryan Lynn. The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page. __________________________________________________ Words in This Story coral – n. a hard, usually pink or white substance produced by a type of very small sea animal reef – n. a chain of rocks or coral or a ridge of sand at or near the surface of water conservation – n. the act of keeping something safe from harm or from being damaged or destroyed uniform – adj. to be the same size, shape, amount entire –adj. whole; including all of something bleach – v. a process that removes color from something and turns it white artificial intelligence – n. an area of computer science that deals with giving machines the ability to seem like they have human intelligence restoration – n. the process of assisting the recovery of an area that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed efficacy – n. the ability to produce an intended result

Downtown Businesses Make Changes to Survive

Businesses in the central parts of cities are losing huge profits as a result of the pandemic. With offices nearby, the businesses used to be filled with workers seeking breakfast, lunch and everyday goods and gifts. With offices still closed and workers remaining at home, some businesses are adapting to the changed market. Surviving businesses have taken steps like doing more online sales, changing hours, cutting back workers, or selling new things. Business owners had looked forward to the return of nearby workers this month as offices reopened. But, as COVID-19 cases rise again, many offices have delayed plans to bring workers back. Now, downtown businesses in the U.S. and overseas wonder if the changes may become permanent. In the American city of Detroit, Michigan, Mike Frank’s dry cleaning business was running out of money. Frank started Clifford Street Cleaners eight years ago. Before the pandemic, monthly revenue was about $11,000. But by December 2020, it had dropped to $1,800, he said. Frank had to borrow money from his wife to pay the bills. “I was almost ready to go out of business.” Instead of closing, Frank adapted. He changed part of his store into a small market. Now, he sells all kinds of cleaning products, bottled water, soft drinks and other goods. He also added a delivery service. Finally, some foot traffic returned. With the combination of product sales and dry cleaning, revenue is back up to about $4,100 each month, he said. That is enough to keep the business open. And, he noted, the revenue is increasing each month. In New York City’s Lower Manhattan area, 224 businesses closed their doors in 2020 and 2021. That information is from the Alliance for Downtown New York. It says about 100 businesses have opened. Jessica Lappin is president of the organization. “There’s no question, it’s hard” for business areas, she explained to the Associated Press. “We miss our workers.” Lappin predicts office workers will come back. But it might be two or three days a week, on different days or at different hours. A block from New York’s financial neighborhood, workers would wait in long lines to buy one of the healthy meals from Blue Park Kitchen. “Things are completely different,” owner Kelly Fitzpatrick said. Online orders now make up 65 percent of the business. Those sales are less profitable, however, because Fitzpatrick has to give a percentage to the app company she uses for online orders. In all, the Blue Park has let nine of its workers go. Nearby, Aankit Malhotra and his brother took over Benares, an Indian restaurant, in 2019. Most of their customers were bankers. When the pandemic hit, those customers disappeared. No one came in for the $13 lunch special the restaurant was known for. In the past, lunch sales represented 95 percent of the restaurant’s business. Now, Benares has about 10 lunch orders a day, down from 100. But, also now, business is back to around 70 percent of levels before the pandemic. The brothers established a delivery service and began offering nighttime meals. The customers are now mostly younger people and families who live in the area. “It’s nice to see not just corporate people downtown,” said Malhotra. Jorge Guzman is an assistant professor of business at New York’s Columbia University. He said the move of economic activity away from downtowns will likely continue. But there are new businesses opening in non-downtown areas. “Downtowns are not going to die, exactly,” Guzman said. “But it’s going to be a little bit more of a mix, more residential and mixed-use” businesses. In the British capital of London, office workers have been slowly returning. The government lifted COVID-19 restrictions on July 19, as the number of new infections began to drop. Recently, however, cases have been climbing again. The number of downtown workers is far lower than before COVID. “It was good, it was busy before the pandemic,” said Rado Asatrian. He has worked as a haircutter at a beauty shop in the financial area for six years. Before COVID-19, he usually had 10 to 15 customers a day. Now, he sees three or four a day.   Asatrian said he might move to a busier area, change professions or move overseas. In some downtowns, tourists are visiting again, helping businesses stay open. In the U.S. city of Atlanta, Georgia, Kwan’s Deli and Korean Food has almost as much summer business as it did before the pandemic. During the worst part of the pandemic, Kwan’s had lost about 80 percent of its business. But the situation is improving, thanks to travelers and events happening nearby. Still, the coronavirus is causing a lot of unknowns about the autumn. Kwan’s owner, Andrew Song, said he heard that some businesses have moved permanently or downsized. “It’s sort of hard to imagine what it will look like,” he said, with office workers not returning. I’m Caty Weaver. And I'm Alice Bryant. The Associated Press reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor. __________________________________________________ Words in This Story adapt -v. to change (something) so that it operates better or is better fitted to a purpose​ revenue -n. money that is made by or paid to a business or an organization​ customer -n. someone who buys goods or services from a business​ delivery -n. the act of taking something to a person or place​ residential -adj. of or relating to the places where people live​

Tanzania's Female President Appoints Woman as Defense Minister

Tanzania's first female president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, recently named Stergomena Tax as defense minister. It is the latest in several appointments of women to top government positions. The appointment came as part of the second Cabinet reorganization Hassan has made since the death of former president John Magufuli earlier this year. Hassan said Tax’s appointment would help push back against the idea that women cannot serve in such a position. “I have decided to break the longtime myth that in the Defense Ministry there should be a man with muscles. The minister’s job in that office is not to carry guns or artillery," Hassan said. Gender equality activists have welcomed the appointment. But they say more needs to be done to deal with the country's gender equality gap. Anna Henga is head of the Legal and Human Rights Center. She said there must be changes to laws that put women in low-decision positions. She added that the government should also give money through the Health Ministry to educate people that women can also be leaders. Experts say an increase in the political representation of women at the national level does not mean women will have more power in daily life. Social scientist Nasor Kitunda said gender should not matter. “I think this tries to show that there is a direction in gender equality though I’m not a believer in gender. The primary criteria should be someone’s performance and their ability to implement those responsibilities," Kitunda said. Aika Peter is a Tanzanian human rights activist. She said appointing more women leaders is a good thing. But she added there must be a plan that lets more than just one person show their leadership skills in such a position. “We really need to see new faces in these positions — when you see the same people being recycled every day it gives the impression there are people who are so good at this job, there are no others who can be good at it,” Peter said. With Tax's appointment, there are now eight women who hold top positions in Hassan’s government. I’m Jonathan Evans. Charles Kombe reported on this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor. ________________________________________________ Words in This Story gender – n. the state of being male or female; sex myth – n. an idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true gap – n. a space between two people or things criteria – n. something that is used as a reason for making a judgment or decision implement – v. to begin to do or use something, such as a plan; to make something active or effective

World’s Largest Carbon Capturing Plant Launches in Iceland

A Swiss company that developed technology to capture carbon dioxide from the air says it has launched the world’s largest plant to do so in Iceland. The company is called Climeworks AG. It said the plant began operations on Wednesday. The plant is not far from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. The system captures carbon dioxide, CO2, directly from the air and then deposits the gas underground. The company partnered with Icelandic carbon storage provider Carbfix on the project. Climeworks says the plant is designed to capture up to 3,600 metric tons of CO2 per year. That is the same amount of CO2 produced by about 790 automobiles during a year, Reuters news agency reported. The International Energy Agency, IEA, estimates that this year, CO2 emissions worldwide will rise 1.5 billion metric tons to a total of 33 billion metric tons. Direct air capture is one of the few technologies that can remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere. Many scientists see the process as critical to limiting harmful pollutant emissions.   Such emissions are caused mainly by human activities. They can trap heat in the atmosphere and create higher temperatures. Many scientists blame this warming for increased heatwaves, wildfires, floods and rising sea levels across the world. The new plant is called Orca. Its name is based on the Icelandic word for energy, Orka. It uses eight large containers that look like those used in the shipping industry. A series of high-tech filters and blowers attached to the containers capture CO2. The captured carbon is then mixed with water and pumped deep underground, where it slowly turns into rock. Both technologies are powered by renewable energy from a nearby geothermal plant. Direct air capture is still a new and costly technology. But developers hope to bring down the price by increasing operations as more companies and individuals seek the technology. Currently, there are 15 direct air capture plants operating worldwide. The IEA estimates the plants capture more than 9,000 metric tons of CO2 per year. The American oil company Occidental is currently developing the largest direct-air-capture center. It aims to pull 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air around some of its Texas oilfields. I’m Bryan Lynn. Reuters reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English, with additional information from Climeworks and the IEA. Ashley Thompson was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page. __________________________________________________ Words in This Story deposit – v. to put something down somewhere emission – n. the act of producing or sending out something (such as energy or gas) from a source filter – v. to pass a liquid or gas through a piece of equipment to remove solid pieces of other substances renewable – n. any naturally occurring kind of energy, such as sunlight or wind geothermal – adj. related to heat produced from inside the Earth subscription – n. an amount of money paid to regularly receive a product or service