Accessibility links

Breaking News

Pets and Disasters; Presidential Security; New Album from The Killers

A man walks with his dog to a National Guard vehicle after leaving his flooded home in Moonachie, New Jersey, after Hurricane Sandy
A man walks with his dog to a National Guard vehicle after leaving his flooded home in Moonachie, New Jersey, after Hurricane Sandy

Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary.

Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

I’m June Simms.

On our show this week, we play new music from The Killers…

We also look at the people who protect the president…

But first, we tell about efforts to protect pets and other animals from natural disasters.

Pets in Natural Disasters

The northeastern United States continues to clean-up, repair and re-build in communities hit by Hurricane Sandy. Many people ignored warnings to leave their homes for emergency shelters. Often, this was because of their pets or livestock. Shelters rarely permit animals.

This issue comes up in almost all floods, large wildfires and earthquakes. Christopher Cruise tells about efforts in the state of Oregon to inform people about how to protect their animals from disasters.

“Thank you for coming to our ‘Animals and Emergency Preparedness’ class…”

That is Jo Becker of the Oregon Humane Society. She is opening a training program with pictures taken in New York during and after super-storm Sandy blew through the city last month.

“…firemen immersing themselves in chest deep water for dogs and cats. We don’t want our firefighters immersing themselves in polluted water…”

A number of people drowned in their homes because they stayed with their pets.

“Emergency shelters won’t accept animals. If you’re lucky, people and animal shelters will be located close to each other.”

It is a nationwide policy to keep pets, except for service dogs, out of human shelters. Many people suffer allergic reactions to animal fur. There is also the danger of fighting between animals, attacks on humans and other possible problems.

Some estimates suggest as many as seventy-three million American households include a cat, dog or other pet. So what are these animal owners to do when natural disasters strike?

Class attendee Wendy Colvin is among those millions.

“We own two pygmy goats and about a dozen chickens.

Wendy Colvin signed up as a volunteer with a disaster aid service after the Hurricane Katrina wrecked much of the coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. So, she has learned about helping her human neighbors recover from disaster. But, what about animals? She says the rule against animals at shelters leaves her with little choice.

“If we had to move them, I guess we would probably put them into the pick-up truck and take them wherever we had to go.”

Holly Smith works at an animal hospital in Olympia, Washington. She says she has a plan for her dog, two cats and two rabbits. She has plastic boxes ready to go with a seven day supply of pet food, toys and other things. She also has pet carriers for all members of her little zoo. Holly Smith says her animals are more prepared for an emergency than she is. But she wants to do more.

“My biggest thing is getting the government to realize that animals need to be part of the solution and part of the plans. Otherwise they are going to be a major hiccup, a major problem.”

Ms. Smith studied her local government’s plan for sheltering animals. She found it lacking. So, she volunteered to work on an animal and agricultural disaster plan for Thurston County Emergency Management. And, she says progress has been made.

“We’re looking several different horse arenas, horse stable facilities, dairy farms. We have a couple of dairy farms, or cattle farms, that have gone out of business. The properties are there. They have everything on the property, stables and all that stuff. We could just come in and use them.”

Thurston County is just one of many communities working to improve safety plans for animals in disasters. But experts say pet owners themselves should remember a general rule. Whatever you do to prepare yourself for emergencies, do the same for your pets.

Presidential Security

Last week we talked about how the president of the United States gets from place to place. Sometimes he flies on Air Force One. Other times he rides through towns on a black bus called Ground Force One. Even more often, the president is driven around Washington in a big car called “The Beast.” In fact, if you visit the city, you might find yourself stopped in traffic so the president can pass by.

Secret Service agents protect the president at all times
Secret Service agents protect the president at all times
However he travels, the president never goes anywhere alone. He has special guards with him at all times, even at home in the White House. These guards are members of the United States Secret Service.

The Secret Service has been protecting American leaders and their families since nineteen-oh-one. But the agency was created almost forty years earlier as part of the Department of Treasury. The Secret Service first served to investigate and prevent financial crimes in the United States, especially the use of counterfeit money. Illegally-made money was a big problem in the years following the Civil War.

But in nineteen-oh-one, President William McKinley was murdered. He was the third president to be assassinated while in office. So Congress expanded the duties of the Secret Service to include protection of the president.

Secret Service agents have many methods for protecting presidents. For example, they examine the president’s food to protect him from poison. They also make detailed security plans before all presidential appearances. They study and secure the places he expects to visit before he arrives. Agents even decide how he will get there to make sure it is safe. And the Secret Service works closely with security experts in other parts of the government, like the military, to ensure the president’s safety.

The Secret Service also protects the Vice President and his family. Secret Service protection is also required for all major presidential and vice presidential candidates, starting three months before the election.

Federal law also requires that former presidents and families receive protection, unless they refuse it.

The Secret Service also protects foreign leaders when they visit the United States. And the president can order the Secret Service to protect other people, too.

The Secret Service became part of the Department of Homeland Security soon after its formation in two thousand two. More than six thousand people work for the Secret Service. It has about one hundred fifty offices in the United States and around the world.

More than-one-thousand agents provide security at the White House, the Vice President’s official home and other buildings.

The Killers “Battle Born”

The Killers released their fourth album in September. “Battle Born” is the band’s first release in four years. The group’s members spent some of that time working on individual projects. But they also just needed a break. Katherine Cole has some on the songs from the new album.

Band members say this record was difficult. Several very successful, and persuasive, producers were involved in the process. Lead singer Brandon Flowers said he was nervous about whether the new work would be liked. He said “bands that say they don’t care about how their records sell are liars.

Singer Brandon Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci of The Killers performs during Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California
Singer Brandon Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci of The Killers performs during Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California
Last summer, when the record was being made, Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci spoke to Rolling Stone magazine. He said the record was “living up to its title.”

The Killers released “Runaways” as the album’s first single.

Most critics have noted a return to an edgier rock and roll sound on “Battle Born.” Brandon Flowers credits the Killers drummer. He said Ronnie Vannucci told the band “we’re ditching disco and going back to rock.”

But the song “From Here On Out” has a clear country-western sound.

The Killers sold more than fifteen million copies of their first three albums. “Battle Born” entered Billboard Magazine’s Rock Albums chart at number one. The band is currently on a concert tour to support the new album.

We leave you the love song “Miss Atomic Bomb” from the Killers’ new album, “Battle Born.”