Historic Las Vegas Neon Signs Are Shining Again
Las Vegas, Nevada is a city famous for its exciting nightlife.
One of the main streets is called The Las Vegas Strip. It has many large hotels and casinos, places where people can watch shows when they are not playing games of chance. Nearly all the buildings have bright, neon signs.
Now, a new museum will give visitors a chance to see famous neon signs from the earliest days of Las Vegas.
Forty signs from some of the city’s most famous casino-hotels and other businesses are shining once again at the Neon Museum. But their lights are not truly on.
Over the years, the signs have been worn down by the weather, hot sunshine and desert winds. But a process called projection mapping has been used to bring the signs back to life. Projection mapping creates life-like digital animations of the signs onto the metal.
Rob McCoy is the president of the Neon Museum. He told the Associated Press “We are combining art, history and technology in this space. This is Las Vegas as it was. It is very emotional. Even people who don’t live here, but live around the United States or around the world, they all have in their heads a romantic image of Las Vegas, and it’s usually that vintage, neon Las Vegas.”
The new museum has the signs of the Golden Nugget, Lady Luck, and Binion’s Horseshoe.
The museum presents a special 30-minute long show after sunset. Visitors are permitted to walk freely and get close to the signs.
Songs like Elvis Presley’s “Night Life,” ″Mr. Sandman” by The Chordettes and Ella Fitzgerald’s “I’m Beginning to See The Light” play as each sign lights up.
In the United States, neon signs were first used at the 1893 World Fair in Chicago. But no city used the bright tube lights like Las Vegas. Many of the old signs are kept at the museum, but not all of them work.
Visitors can only imagine what the signs looked like 30 or more years ago. Repairing the signs can cost tens of thousands of dollars each. Projection mapping is a less costly process to show what they once looked like lighted up.
Craig Winslow is the digital artist and designer who helped create the museum’s neon sign exhibit. He used old photographs, video and other information to digitally recreate each sign. He then used a scanning process to set the exact placement of eight projectors to align everything with the light bulbs, rusted metal and tubes of the signs.
“There are moments here where there’s no bulb, but I’ve created a digital bulb that is in its place,” Winslow said. “From far away it just looks like the sign is lit. You get up closer, and you realize all these are broken or there are missing bulbs or hanging bulbs.”
Historical video of the city will be projected onto the signs as well. Some of the video shows the famous performer Liberace playing the piano and gamblers playing table games.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Regina Garcia Cano reported this story for the Associated Press. Jonathan Evans adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
align – v. to organize things so that they form a line or are in the right position
casino – n. a building or room that has games of chance, such as roulette or blackjack
neon – n. a colorless gas
museum – n. a building where interesting and sometimes valuable objects are collected and shown to the public
illuminated – adj. lit by bright lights
vintage – adj. used to describe something that is not new but that is valued because of its good condition or design
digital animation – n. a process for creating moving images
Winter's Tragic Effects on Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
Safe from the violence in Syria, Hussein Hassan now fears his children face another threat – the icy water that floods their shelter in Lebanon.
Hassan and his 11-member family fled conflict near their village near Deir ez-Zour two months ago. They are now among the refugees who have to deal with Lebanon’s winter weather in tents.
“We are afraid of the cold weather and afraid our children will get sick,” he said. “Our lives are as nothing. We have nothing but fear. Fear from illness, from the rain, and there is nothing to keep warm with.”
Of one million refugees registered in Lebanon, an estimated 250,000 Syrians live in tent camps across the country.
Many, like Hassan, live in the Bekka Valley, where winter temperatures sometimes drop below freezing.
A storm last week showed how helpless the refugees are when faced with freezing conditions. The amount of money available to help them is shrinking.
Rains beat against the temporary home of Hassan and his family. Some of the rainwater passed through holes in the cloth, while other water landed outside, but then spread along the ground and into the tent.
“The wood broke and we were flooded. We had to go to our neighbors,” said Hassan as he described the collapse of the tent’s roof.
In front of him, some clothing and bedding were completely wet.
Following months of relatively mild weather, the storm showed just how cold winter can be in Lebanon’s central valley.
Some Syrians are spending their seventh year in camps like this one.
Outside Hassan’s home, children ran through muddy, flooded passages on a cold day.
Nearby, Zahra Hamad, mother of 10 children, wondered how much longer she could keep their tent warm. Her family sleeps in the only room that doesn’t leak. They keep warm with a diesel-fueled heater in the center of the room.
The family has used the heater every winter for the past four years. It costs 7 dollars a day to operate – an amount she does not always have.
Over time, her savings have shrunk to nothing, and it is difficult to find work at this time of the year. Jobs for refugees are seasonal and difficult to find.
“Sometimes it is better outside than inside, things get so bad,” Zahra Hamad said. “There used to be aid…but now there is no wood…nothing,” she said.
The non-governmental organizations and agencies that help refugees are also facing problems. As the Syrian conflict continues, it is difficult for them to get the money they need.
The Lebanese government refuses to make the refugee camps official. It is afraid that letting Syrians become members of Lebanese society could change Lebanon’s political and social balance. So these camps continue to be built without government oversight.
The United Nations refugee agency has received just $143 million of a requested $228 million for its winter program. UN spokesman Scott Craig says the agency faced very difficult problems because it had to choose who should get the aid and who would not.
Craig told VOA there is little difference between a family whose problems are serious and a family whose problems are severe.
It is not just in the camps that winter has affected the refugees. On January 19th, a group of 30 to 35 Syrians were trying to cross Lebanon’s closely guarded border when a snow storm hit. Sixteen of the Syrians died.
In a room on the second floor of Bekka Hospital, Mishaan al Abed looks at the images on his phone. He saw a picture of his six-year old daughter, Hiba. She was wearing a white coat and looking up at the camera.
The next image showed several bodies lying in the snow after the storm. He found it on social media while waiting for information about his family as they tried to cross the border. Six members of his family including his wife, his mother and little Hiba were among the dead.
His other daughter, three-year-old Sarah, survived. She lay on a hospital bed, her face marked with frostbite scars.
Abed says he was frightened when he heard his family planned to try to cross the border, but “they had to do it,” he said. He was already living in Lebanon at the time, and waiting for his family to arrive to start a new life.
“If we could move somewhere where there isn’t any wars maybe she will forget,” he said, “but she has lost her mother…God help them.”
I'm Susan Shand.
John Owens reported this story for VOA. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
tent – n. a temporary shelter that is made of strong cloth (such as canvas or nylon) and used outdoors
illness – n. sickness or disease
roof – n. a top or covering
muddy – adj. relating to or involving soft, wet dirt
diesel - n. a kind of fuel
oversight – n. supervision; the act or job of directing work that is being done
Progress Made Against Malaria at Risk
From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.
In recent decades, countries around the world have made great progress against malaria. However, a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) says that progress is at risk.
This WHO annual report looks at the global fight against the disease. It says that malaria cases are on the rise in several countries.
Many countries are moving toward eliminating malaria, among them Madagascar, Senegal and Zimbabwe.
However, the WHO report warns that in others, progress has stalled.
Malaria cases increased by more than 20 percent from 2015 to 2016 in eight African countries - including Rwanda, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At the same time, funding for malaria prevention and treatment has leveled off, reaching $2.7 billion in 2016. This amount is less than half of the 2020 target.
Professor David Conway is from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He says money for fighting malaria has plateaued, meaning it has not increased in a long time.
"That amount of funding internationally has plateaued.Possibly it has reached the realistic maximum. And it has always been assumed; indeed it has been important that countries themselves should commit to funding malaria control. And I think the big opportunity now is for those countries to step up and realize that this is good value."
Overall, Africa continues to suffer the most from malaria. In 2016, just over 400,000 people died from the disease. This is slightly less than in 2015. However, in Africa the malaria parasite does not yet appear to be developing drug resistance.
The same cannot be said for Southeast Asia.
Conway explains that there are renewed concerns that in Southeast Asia malaria will become drug-resistant in the future.
“The current treatments within Africa – they work very well. There is resistance in Southeast Asia which has spread, which potentially going to be more of a problem in the future. Insecticide resistance has spread much more. That’s resistance in the mosquitoes.”
The WHO is calling for improving the coverage of existing methods of malaria prevention as well as an urgent investment in new tools -- namely a malaria vaccine.
Again, here is Professor Conway.
"More research is needed to develop an effective malaria vaccine that could cover the populations that at the moment have high malaria rates and that perhaps don't use the available interventions even when they are being funded."
Several malaria vaccines are under development. Starting in 2018, the WHO is planning a major trial of the RTSS vaccine in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
But this latest report from the WHO warns that the world is at a crossroads. Without better funding and more effective tools to fight malaria, the progress made in recent decades could be undone.
And that's the Health & Lifestyle report.
I'm Anna Matteo.
Henry Ridgwell reported this story for VOA News. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
stall – v. to bring to a standstill
plateau – v. to reach a level, period, or condition of stability or maximum attainment
realistic – adj. able to see things as they really are and to deal with them in a practical way
maximum – adj. the highest number or amount that is possible or allowed — usually singular
assume – v. to think that something is true or probably true without knowing that it is true
commit – v. to say that (someone or something) will definitely do something : to make (someone or something) obligated to do something
step up – phrasal verb to come forward : to increase, augment, or advance especially by one or more steps
insecticide – n. a chemical substance that is used to kill insects
intervention – n. to become involved in something (such as a conflict) in order to have an influence on what happens
trial – n. a test of the quality, value, or usefulness of something
crossroads – n. often used figuratively to refer to a place or time at which a decision must be made
President Fillmore Signs Compromise of 1850
From VOA Learning English, welcome to The Making of a Nation, our weekly program of American history for people learning American English. I’m Steve Ember.
In 1850, the northern and southern states threatened to split over the issue of slavery. At that time, owning slaves was legal in the southern states. Many northerners opposed slavery. And the question remained: should slavery be legal in new territories in the western part of the country?
The two sides disagreed strongly. But the issue needed to be settled. So Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky offered a compromise. Conservative southern lawmakers rejected it. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina especially spoke against the compromise.
But other lawmakers supported it, including one of the nation's top political leaders. Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts said the compromise was the only way to save the Union of states.
Four days after Webster’s speech, Senator William Seward of New York presented his ideas to the Senate – and to the nation.
Seward was a northerner. He said he opposed any compromise with the South. He said he did not want slavery in the new western territories. And he called for a national policy to start ending slavery everywhere peacefully.
Seward criticized Daniel Webster for speaking against Abolition societies. He said such groups represented a moral movement that could not be stopped. He said the movement would continue until all the slaves in America were free.
Seward then criticized John C. Calhoun. He denounced Calhoun's demands for a political balance between the North and South. He said this forced balance would change the United States from a united, national democracy to an alliance of independent states. In such a system, he said, the minority would be able to veto actions of the majority.
A few weeks after Seward spoke, John C. Calhoun died. One newspaper in Calhoun's home state said: "The senator's death is best for the country and his own honor. The slavery question will now be settled. Calhoun would have blocked a settlement."
In fact, many lawmakers had come to support the idea of Senator Henry Clay's compromise. But they could not agree on which parts of it to pass first. Southern supporters were afraid that if a statehood bill for California was passed first, then northerners would refuse to pass the other parts of the compromise. So, southerners wanted to include all parts in one bill.
A committee of 13 men was named to write a bill based on Henry Clay's compromise. The committee had six members from slave states and six from free states. Senator Clay was named to lead it.
Three weeks later, the committee offered its bill. It was much like the compromise Clay had first proposed. It made California a free state. It created territorial governments for New Mexico and Utah. It settled the border dispute between Texas and New Mexico. It ended the slave trade in the nation’s capital, the District of Columbia. And it urged approval of a new law dealing with runaway slaves.
For about a month, the bill seemed to have the support of President Zachary Taylor. But then the president made it clear that he would do everything he could to defeat it.
Taylor did not think the nation was in crisis. He did not believe the dispute over slavery was as serious as others did. He had his own plan to settle one part of the dispute. He would make the new territory of California a free state. There, slavery would be banned.
Taylor's plan did not, however, settle other parts of the dispute. It said nothing about laws on escaped slaves. It said nothing about slavery in the District of Columbia. It also said nothing about the border dispute between Texas and New Mexico.
Senator Clay, who had offered the compromise, questioned President Taylor's limited proposal. Clay said: "Now what is the plan of the president? Here are five problems, five wounds that are bleeding and threatening the life of the republic. What is the president's plan? Is it to heal all these wounds? No such thing. It is to heal one of the five and to leave the other four to bleed more than ever."
While the debate continued in Washington, the situation in Texas and New Mexico got worse. Texas claimed a large part of New Mexico, including the capital, Santa Fe. Early in 1850, Texas sent a representative to Santa Fe to take control of the government.
The United States military commander in New Mexico advised the people not to recognize the man. The governor of Texas was furious. He decided to send state soldiers to enforce Texas's claims in New Mexico. He said if trouble broke out, the United States government would be to blame.
President Taylor rejected Texas's claims. He told his secretary of war to send an order to the military commander in New Mexico. The commander was to use force to oppose any attempt by Texas to seize the territory.
The secretary of war said he would not send such an order. He believed that if fighting began, southerners would hurry to the aid of Texas. And that, he thought, might be the start of a southern struggle against the federal government. In a short time, the North and South would be at war.
So the secretary of war refused to sign the order. President Taylor answered sharply, "Then I will sign the order myself!"
Taylor had been a general before becoming president. He said he would take command of the army himself to enforce the law. And he said he was willing to hang anyone who rebelled against the Union.
President Taylor began writing a message to Congress on the situation. He never finished it. On July 4th, 1850, Taylor attended an outdoor Independence Day ceremony. The event was held on the grounds where a monument to America's first president, George Washington, was being built.
The day was very hot, and Taylor stood for a long time in the burning sun. That night, he became sick with pains in his stomach. Doctors were called to the White House. But none of their treatments worked.
Five days later, President Zachary Taylor died. His vice president, Millard Fillmore, was sworn-in as president.
Millard Fillmore was from New York State. His family was poor. His early education came not from school teachers, but from whatever books he could find. Later, Fillmore was able to study law. He became a successful lawyer. He also served in the United States Congress for eight years.
The Whig Party chose him as its candidate for vice president in the election of 1848. He served in the office for about a year and a half before the death of President Taylor.
Fillmore had disagreed with Taylor over the congressional compromise on slavery and the western territories. Unlike Taylor, Fillmore truly believed that the nation was facing a crisis. And he truly believed the compromise would help save the Union.
Now, as president, Fillmore offered his complete support to the compromise bill. Its chances of passing looked better than ever. Fillmore asked the old cabinet to resign. He named his own cabinet members. All were strong supporters of the Union. All supported the compromise.
Congress debated the compromise bill throughout the summer of 1850. The bill included several proposals. Supporters decided not to vote on the proposals as one piece of legislation. They saw a better chance of success by trying to pass each proposal separately. Their idea worked.
By the end of September, both the Senate and House of Representatives had approved all parts of the 1850 Compromise. President Fillmore signed them into law.
One part of the compromise permitted California to enter the Union as a free state. One established territorial governments in New Mexico and Utah. One settled the dispute between Texas and New Mexico. Another ended the slave trade in the District of Columbia.
Many happy celebrations took place when Americans heard that President Fillmore had signed the 1850 Compromise. Many people believed the problem of slavery had been solved. They believed the Union had been saved.
Others, however, believed the problem only had been postponed. They hoped the delay would give reasonable people of the North and South time to find a permanent answer to the issue of slavery. Time was running out.
It was true the 1850 Compromise had ended a national crisis. But both northern and southern extremists remained bitter. Those opposed to slavery believed the compromise law on runaway slaves violated the constitution.
The new law said blacks accused of being runaway slaves could not have a jury trial. It said government officials could send the suspected runaways to the individual who claimed to own them. It said blacks could not appeal such a decision.
Those who supported slavery had a different idea of the compromise. They did not care about the constitutional rights of blacks. They considered the compromise a simple law for the return of valuable property. No law approved by Congress, and signed by the president, could change these beliefs.
The issue of slavery was linked to the issue of secession. Did states have the right to leave the Union? If southern states rejected all compromises on slavery, did they have the right to secede? The signing of the 1850 Compromise cooled the debate for a time. But disagreement on the issues was deep. It would continue to build over the next ten years.
How the situation affected slaves themselves will be our story next week.
I’m Steve Ember inviting you to join us next time for The Making of a Nation – American history from VOA Learning English.