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Scientists Get Skin Cells to Act Like Stem Cells, but Much Work Remain

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 Scientists Get Skin Cells to Act Like Stem Cells, but Much Work Remains

Also: Some researchers fear a new study could lead people to believe that weighing too much is not as big a health problem as many had thought. And we answer a question about the AIDS virus. Transcript of radio broadcast:
03 December 2007

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[align=left]
VOICE ONE:

This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Pat Bodnar. This week, we will tell about efforts to make what appear to be embryonic stem cells without using embryos. We will tell how body fat may help to protect against some diseases. We also answer a question about the disease AIDS and report on its spread.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

American and Japanese scientists have reported a major discovery in the creation of human stem cells. The scientists say they have found a way to make human skin cells act like embryonic stem cells. Two groups of scientists performed similar experiments in different parts of the world. They reported their findings in the scientific publications Cell and Science.

Both teams did generally the same thing. They injected skin cells with four kinds of retroviruses. Each retrovirus carried a different gene that helps control embryo development. The scientists say the four genes "reprogrammed" the skin cells. The genes turned other genes on or off and caused the skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells.

VOICE TWO:

Scientists can make stem cells grow into any kind of cell of the body, such as nerve or heart cells. Scientists believe stem cells could be used in future treatments for many diseases.

Until now, scientists were able to get human stem cells by taking them from a human embryo several days after fertilization. The embryo was destroyed in the process. The need to destroy human embryos has made stem cell research one of the most divisive political issues in the United States.

James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin helped write the report published in Science. He said he believes more scientists will attempt to reprogram cells to get stem cells instead of taking them from embryos.

VOICE ONE:

The scientific publication Cell reported the results of researchers at Kyoto University in Japan. They said they were able to make the newly created stem cells produce many kinds of tissue cells. One of the researchers was Shinya Kamanaka. In June, his team identified four genes in the skin cells of mice that could turn other genes on or off to make skin cells act like embryonic stem cells.

The researchers say they still must confirm that the reprogrammed human skin cells really are the same as stem cells from human embryos. They say they have much to learn about the reprogrammed stem cells before they could possibly be tested in people. One concern is that the cells might lead to cancer because the retroviruses used to reprogram the skin cells can cause changes in their genes. In fact, one gene used by the Japanese researchers can cause cancer.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Is it healthy or unhealthy to be too fat? Some researchers fear a new study could lead people to believe that weighing too much is not as big a health problem as many had thought. They say that may or may not be true.

The new study included medical information about almost forty thousand Americans. The information was collected between nineteen seventy-one and two thousand four. The study also included the causes of death of more than two million people in two thousand four.

Federal government researchers wanted to learn if some earlier studies were correct. Those studies suggested reduced health dangers from being overweight. The researchers found that people who were overweight, but not extremely overweight, died at lower rates than people of normal weight. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

VOICE ONE:

The researchers found a higher death rate in extremely overweight or obese people from heart disease. But obese people did not have an increased chance of dying from cancer. And they found that being thin increased the death rate from all diseases except heart disease and cancer.

The researchers also found more than one hundred thousand fewer deaths among overweight people than was expected. They said being overweight was linked to death only from diabetes and kidney disease, not heart disease or cancer. They also found a protective effect against other causes of death such as injuries, pneumonia, tuberculosis and Alzheimer's disease.

VOICE TWO:

The researchers do not know why being overweight should protect people from some diseases. But they said it could be that extra weight may help make the body stronger to fight off sickness. They also said it is important to remember that the results are about people who weigh too much, not people who are very overweight or obese.

Other researchers have problems with the study. They say the dangers of weighing too much have already been established by research. They say many studies have linked being overweight to increased chances of developing diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

United Nations officials say fewer people than they thought are infected with the virus that causes AIDS. The agency known as UNAIDS estimated last year that more than thirty-nine million people were living with H.I.V. -- the human immunodeficiency virus. Last month, agency officials reduced that to a little more than thirty-three million. They say the lower number represents better information and information from more countries.

The single biggest reason, however, was an intensive re-examination of the problem of AIDS in India. At the same time, the agency reduced its estimates for five African countries. Also, UNAIDS says it now believes the number of new H.I.V. cases each year reached a high in the late nineteen nineties.

VOICE TWO:

Even as the number of new infections has dropped, the number of people living with H.I.V. is increasing. Better treatments are extending lives, and more people are getting the drugs. The new report also says prevention efforts appear to be changing risky behavior in several of the countries most affected by H.I.V.

But U.N. officials say AIDS is still one of the leading causes of death worldwide and the major cause in Africa. African death rates remain high, they say, because treatment needs are not being met.

African countries south of the Sahara had almost seventy percent of the new H.I.V. cases reported this year. But UNAIDS officials say this is a notable reduction since two thousand one.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

We recently received a letter from a listener in Burma. Joseph San Min wants to know if mosquitoes can carry and infect people with the virus that causes AIDS. The short answer is, luckily, no. However, scientists did worry and investigate the possibility after the disease was first recognized.

When a mosquito bites a person, it does not release any of its own blood or blood from an earlier bite into the victim. What the mosquito releases in a bite is its own saliva. This substance helps the insect feed on the human blood.

VOICE TWO:

Some viruses and parasitic organisms can live for many days in mosquitoes and are able to reproduce. The viruses and parasites also are able to enter the insect’s saliva glands. Then they could pass to a person during a bite from the host mosquito.

But, the human immunodeficiency virus, H.I.V., cannot live in mosquitoes. The mosquito’s system considers the virus as food. So the mosquito eats and breaks down the virus as part of the larger blood meal. H.I.V. never infects the insect.

VOICE ONE:

There were theories that a mosquito could pass H.I.V. if the insect moved immediately from one bite to another. If the mosquito first fed on someone infected with H.I.V., the insect might have virus particles on its mouth. Let us say the mosquito flew immediately to feed on a non-infected person. Could the remaining blood particles on its mouthparts pass to the second person?

The answer is no for two reasons. The first is just the result of simple mosquito behavior. Mosquitoes rest between meals. The second is that a mosquito cannot carry enough H.I.V. particles on its mouthparts to infect a person.

People with H.I.V. do not always have high levels of the virus in their blood. But even if a mosquito bit someone with high levels, the insect would not carry enough blood away on its mouth to make a difference.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Shelley Gollust, Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver. Our producer was Brianna Blake. I'm Pat Bodnar.

VOICE ONE:

And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again at this time next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

-----------------------
Correction: Japanese researcher Shinya Yamanaka was misidentified in this story as Shinya Kamanaka. 
No time like the present


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Want to Grow a Root? Beets Are Hard to Beat

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 Want to Grow a Root? Beets Are Hard to Beat

Advice for growing a colorful and nutritious vegetable. Transcript of radio broadcast:
03 December 2007

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[align=left]
This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Beets are a tasty root vegetable that do not require much work to grow. People might think beets are always dark red. But they can also be pink, yellow or white. Beets with circles of red and white inside are known as candy cane or candy stripe beets.

Beets are high in nutrients including folate, iron and fiber. They can be eaten fresh or frozen, canned or pickled. And not just the root but also the tops can be eaten. The leaves make good salads when the plants are young, and the greens can be cooked when the plants are older.

Beets like cool temperatures, between sixteen and eighteen degrees Celsius. They grow best in full sun and in loose soil that is not too wet.

Remove stones from the soil while preparing the ground. And test the soil before adding lime and fertilizer. Some experts say the best fertilizers for beets are low in nitrogen. Beets need the acidity level in the soil to be six to seven and a half.

Beet seeds can be planted as soon as the soil is able to be worked at the start of the growing season. Planting them every two or three weeks would provide a continuous harvest into the fall.

Iowa State University horticulture specialist Cindy Haynes suggests planting the seeds one and one-quarter centimeters deep. They should be planted in rows that are spaced thirty to forty-six centimeters apart.

A beet seed is a fruit containing several seeds. Overcrowding the plants will mean that the roots cannot spread out and grow. Thin the beets by removing the smaller ones. These can be used as greens.

Cindy Haynes says little or no fertilizer is needed in fertile soils. But once the seeds are planted, she does suggest covering the soil with a little mulch to protect it during rains and dry periods. She also suggests putting a fence around the plants to keep away rabbits and deer.

She says the only work needed once beets have been thinned is weeding and, when the weather is dry, a weekly watering.

For best results, beets should be picked when the roots are two and one-half centimeters around. Beets much larger than that can be tough and have to be cooked for a long time.

Some people like beets prepared simply in butter. Others like to cook them with cinnamon and ginger.

And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. For links to more information about growing beets, from the Iowa State University Extension and Ohio State University, go to voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Jim Tedder.
 
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The Power of Crowds: Designing a Way to Harvest Electricity

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 The Power of Crowds: Designing a Way to Harvest Electricity

Also: Astronomers discover a fifth planet orbiting a nearby star. And details of the recent shuttle flight to the International Space Station. Transcript of radio broadcast:
04 December 2007

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[align=left]
VOICE ONE:

I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Shirley Griffith with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. This week, we tell about a system of planets orbiting a star called Fifty-Five Cancri. And we hear about a plan to harvest electricity from crowds. But first, we begin with the latest trip of the space shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station.

(SOUND)

VOICE ONE:
Shuttle Discovery landing at the Kennedy Space Center

That was the sound of the space shuttle Discovery landing at Kennedy Space Center in the state of Florida last month. It was the one hundred twentieth shuttle flight and the twenty-third to the International Space Station.

The United States space agency had two main goals for this flight of Discovery. First, the crew was to move a structure from one side of the space station to the other. And then they were to add a new room to the space station. But the astronauts faced two unexpected problems during the mission.

VOICE TWO:

NASA calls the new addition to the space station the Harmony connecting module. Harmony was built in Torino, Italy as part of an agreement between NASA and the European Space Agency. It is the first new room added to the space station since two thousand one. Harmony is about seven meters long and about four meters wide. It will permit future shuttle missions to attach the European Space Agency's Columbus Research Laboratory.

It will also permit a Japanese experimental module to be added as well. Harmony will be a passageway between the laboratories and the rest of the space station.

VOICE ONE:

NASA officials had known there was a problem with a device linked to the solar energy system of the space station. The part, called a joint, lets one set of solar arrays point toward the sun at all times. Solar arrays are flat solar energy collectors that gather sunlight and turn it into electricity. The solar arrays provide power to the space station.

NASA engineers noted that the joint did not appear to be operating correctly. It shook as it moved and used too much power. NASA decided to use the fourth spacewalk of the mission to examine the joint. Astronaut Daniel Tani went outside the space station to make the examination. He looked inside the joint and found small pieces of metal.

NASA officials had hoped that the metal would be aluminum and not steel. This would have meant that important moving parts were not rubbing together. However, later examination of the metal showed that it was, in fact, steel.

This meant the joint was damaging itself when it moved. Supervisors for the space station decided to stop using the joint so that its parts would not rub against one another.

VOICE TWO:

A second problem developed with one of the space station's solar arrays. The shuttle astronauts had to move a structure carrying a solar array from one side of the space station to the other. To do so, they folded the large flat solar panels and moved the structure.

But a wire caught on one of the solar panels, tearing it in two places when the astronauts extended it again. The crew used the space station's robotic arm to carry astronaut Scott Parazynski to the torn area on the solar array. He was able to repair the array using parts made by the crew on the shuttle.

The repair was very dangerous because the array carries more than one hundred volts of electrical current. But Scott Parazynski successfully fixed the tear in the solar panel and the space station crew was able to fully extend the array.

The space station is now being prepared for a visit from space shuttle Atlantis. This mission will attach the Columbus Research Laboratory to the International Space Station. Launch for Atlantis is planned for December sixth.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Science has made it possible to harvest energy from the wind, sun and water. All these renewable resources are used today to power an energy-hungry world. But imagine harvesting energy from crowds of people moving to and from work every day. That is one of the possibilities of piezoelectricity, the science of gaining power from motion.

Some materials create an electrical charge when they are placed under pressure or stretched. These materials are said to be piezoelectric. Some crystals, such as quartz, and some ceramic materials are piezoelectric.

VOICE TWO:

James Graham and Thaddeus Jusczyk are two graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. They designed a way to capture the energy of people's footsteps. They created a design for a special floor covering that moves a little when people step on it. The movement would create an electrical current that could be captured to provide electrical power.

Mister Graham and Mister Jusczyk say one footstep could create enough energy to light two sixty-watt lights for one second. That might not sound like very much energy. But consider what hundreds of thousands of footsteps might create in an underground train station in a major city. The two researchers note that it takes about twenty-eight thousand steps to power a train for one second.

VOICE ONE:

Gathering power from the movements of large groups of people is called "crowd farming." And interest in crowd farming continues to grow. Mister Graham and Mister Jusczyk took first prize at an international competition on city design earlier this year. The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction held the competition. At this point, Mister Graham and Mister Jusczyk only have designs for their large crowd farming project, not a finished product.

However, they have built a smaller example of piezoelectronics to show how it can work. They made a seat that creates electricity when someone sits on it. The action of sitting on the seat turns a wheel that creates an electrical charge. This then turns on lights attached to the seat. Mister Jusczyk has said that one of the goals of his work is to have people understand the relationship between their movements and the energy produced.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Space scientists have been searching nearby stars for planets with great success. The United States space agency says that two hundred sixty-four exoplanets have been discovered so far. But, until now, few of the planetary systems found orbiting other stars have been like our own solar system. That has all changed with the discovery of a fifth planet orbiting a star called Fifty-Five Cancri in the constellation Cancer.

Astronomers have known of at least one planet circling Fifty-Five Cancri since nineteen ninety-six. The star is forty-one light years away from Earth. It is also very similar to our own sun.

Last month, astronomers announced the discovery of a fifth planet orbiting Fifty-Five Cancri. What makes the discovery extraordinary is that the new exoplanet orbits in what astronomers call a "habitable zone." This means temperatures on the planet may be warm enough for liquid water to exist either on its surface or on one of its moons.

VOICE ONE:

The fifth exoplanet is about the size of the planet Saturn. Its mass is about forty-five times greater than that of Earth. Scientists believe it is unlikely to hold life. But they say that the exoplanet could have one or more large moons like Titan, a large moon of Saturn in our own solar system. Such a moon could hold water and the conditions for life. Astronomers add that there may be small planets similar to Earth in this complex planetary system.

Astronomers can find exoplanets by looking for very small movements in nearby stars. The movements are evidence that the gravity of a massive planet is acting on the star. By observing a star long enough, astronomers can uncover this evidence. But currently astronomers do not have the technology to discover Earth-sized planets orbiting even nearby stars.

VOICE TWO:

Scientists made the observations at the Lick Observatory near San Jose, California and the Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii. More than three hundred twenty separate measurements were needed to identify each of the planets in the system. Eighteen years of observations were required. The observations started before anyone knew there were planets orbiting other stars. The United States space agency and the National Science Foundation supported the research.

Other planets in the system orbit the star at distances similar to planets in our own solar system. The closest orbits at only about five and one half million kilometers from Fifty-Five Cancri. After our own sun, Fifty-Five Cancri now has the most known planets of any star.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

This program was written and produced by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Shirley Griffith. You can find more space and technology news on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for Explorations in VOA Special English.
 
No time like the present


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Controlling Cholera May Be Easier Than Thought

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 Controlling Cholera May Be Easier Than Thought

A computer model shows that existing oral vaccines could cut new cases in high-risk areas. And only half the population would need vaccinating once every two years. Transcript of radio broadcast:
04 December 2007

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[align=left]
This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

There are low-cost vaccines, taken by mouth, that can protect against cholera. The vaccine is commonly provided to international travelers, but not to communities that suffer cholera epidemics. There are questions about how effective it would be as a control measure.

New findings suggest that it would be highly effective. These are based on the predictions of a computer model. Researchers say the model shows that the vaccine could reduce new cases in high-risk areas by ninety percent. And they say only half the population would have to take it once every two years.

Cholera is a serious bacterial disease found mainly in developing countries. People can get it from water or food that comes in contact with human waste. The intestinal infection causes a loss of fluids.

Cholera is treated by drinking an oral rehydration solution which replaces lost fluids and salts. In the most severe cases, fluids are injected into the body. Without treatment, it usually kills people within eighteen hours to several days. Estimates are that the disease kills at least one hundred thousand people a year.

Ira Longini at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, led the new work. A team from the United States, South Korea and Bangladesh based it on a large study of oral cholera vaccine.

The study took place between nineteen eighty-four and nineteen eighty-nine. It involved two hundred thousand women and children in rural Bangladesh.

The team developed the computer model based on the results of the study. The model showed that if fifty percent of a high-risk community is vaccinated, many unvaccinated people also would be protected.

The researchers say the number of new infections could drop below one in one thousand people in the unvaccinated population. This would be the result of what is known as "herd protection."

The idea is that vaccinated people would not become infected, so they would not create conditions for spreading the disease. Unvaccinated people then would have a better chance of avoiding it.

Ira Longini says researchers are very good at predicting where cholera is likely to spread. So vaccination efforts could target those areas. The findings appear in the medical journal published by the Public Library of Science and available free of charge at plos.org.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. For more health news, along with transcripts and MP3 files of our reports, go to voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.
 
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Excuse Me, Professor, How Much Do You Earn?

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 Excuse Me, Professor, How Much Do You Earn?

We answer a question about the salaries of American professors. Transcript of radio broadcast:
05 December 2007

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[align=left]
This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Today we answer a question from a listener who wants to become a Spanish professor. Orlando Carvajal asks how much professors earn in the United States.

We looked in the almanac published by the Chronicle of Higher Education. It shows that the average salary for full professors last year was ninety-nine thousand dollars. For associate professors it was seventy thousand. And for assistant professors it was fifty-nine thousand dollars.

Private, independent schools pay more than public colleges and universities. But how do professors compare with other professions? For that we turn to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Assistant professors earned about the same last year as workers in business and financial operations. But they earned about ten thousand dollars less than computer programmers, for example.

The highest paying group of jobs in the United States is in management. The average wage last year was ninety-two thousand dollars. Next came lawyers and other legal workers, at eighty-five thousand.

Orlando also asks about benefits, things like health insurance and retirement plans. Benefits differ from school to school just as salaries do.

The Chronicle Almanac shows that new assistant professors in foreign language earned forty-eight thousand dollars last year. That was a little more than the national average for all education jobs. But averages do not tell the whole story.

Sally Hadden is an associate professor of history and law at Florida State University in Tallahassee. She notes that language professors generally earn less than those in subjects like engineering, for example.

But these days, professors of some languages, including Arabic, can earn much more than Spanish professors. Universities are competing for them with government and industry.

Professor Hadden also notes that colleges in different areas of the country pay different salaries. Some states have strong unions that have negotiated set increases in salaries for professors.

And different schools value different skills in their professors. Community and liberal arts colleges generally value good teaching skills more than big research universities do.

Salaries can also be tied to something else -- tenure. More about that next week.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. Our reports are online with transcripts and MP3 files at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.
 
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American History Series: Britain Says No to 'No Taxation Without Repre

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 American History Series: Britain Says No to 'No Taxation Without Representation'

The Stamp Act said the colonists had to buy a British stamp for every piece of printed paper they used. They refused. Parliament finally cancelled the law -- but passed an act saying Britain could pass any law it wanted. Transcript of radio broadcast:
05 December 2007

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[align=left]
VOICE ONE:

This is Rich Kleinfeldt.

VOICE TWO:

And this is Sarah Long with the MAKING OF A NATION, A VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.

(MUSIC)

Today, we tell about relations between the American colonies and Britain after the French and Indian War about two hundred fifty years ago.

VOICE ONE:

The French and Indian War was one part of a world conflict between Britain and France. It was fought to decide which of the two powerful nations would rule North America.

The British defeated the French in North America in seventeen sixty-three. As a result, it took control of lands that had been claimed by France. Britain now was responsible for almost two million people in the thirteen American colonies and sixty thousand French-speaking people in Canada. In addition to political and economic responsibilities, Britain had to protect all these colonists from different groups of Indians.

This would cost a lot of money. Britain already had spent a lot of money sending troops and material to the colonies to fight the French and Indian War. It believed the American colonists should now help pay for that war.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

The colonists in America in seventeen sixty-three were very different from those who had settled there more than one hundred years before. They had different ideas. They had come to consider their colonial legislatures as smaller -- but similar -- to the Parliament in Britain. These little parliaments had helped them rule themselves for more than one hundred years. The colonists began to feel that their legislatures should also have the powers that the British Parliament had.

VOICE ONE:

The situation had changed in England too. In seventeen-oh-seven, the nation became officially known as Great Britain. Its king no longer controlled Parliament as he had in the early sixteen hundreds. Then, the king decided all major questions, especially those concerning the colonies.

But power had moved from the king to the Parliament. It was the legislature that decided major questions by the time of the French and Indian War, especially the power to tax. The parliaments in the colonies began to believe that they should have this power of taxation, too.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

The first English settlers in America considered themselves citizens of England. They had crossed a dangerous ocean to create a little England in a new place, to trade with the mother country and to spread their religion. By seventeen sixty-three, however, the colonists thought of themselves as Americans.

Many of their families had been in North America for fifty to one hundred years. They had cleared the land, built homes, fought Indians and made lives for themselves far away from Britain. They had different everyday concerns than the people in Britain. Their way of life was different, too. They did not want anyone else to tell them how to govern themselves.

VOICE ONE:

The British, however, still believed that the purpose of a colony was to serve the mother country. The government treated colonists differently from citizens at home. It demanded special taxes from them. It also ordered them to feed British troops and let them live in their houses. Britain claimed that the soldiers were in the colonies to protect the people. The people asked, "From whom?"

As long as the French were nearby in Canada, the colonists needed the protection of the British army and navy. After the French were gone -- following their defeat in the French and Indian War -- the colonists felt they no longer needed British military protection.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

The British government demanded that the colonists pay higher and higher taxes. One reason was that the British government wanted to show the colonists that it was in control. Another reason was that Britain was having money problems. Foreign wars had left it with big debts. The British thought the colonists should help pay some of these debts, especially those resulting from the French and Indian War.

The American colonists might have agreed, but they wanted to have a say in the decision. They wanted the right to vote about their own taxes, like the people living in Britain. But no colonists were permitted to serve in the British Parliament. So they protested that they were being taxed without being represented.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

In seventeen sixty-four, the British Parliament approved the Sugar Act. This legislation placed taxes on sugar, coffee, wines and other products imported to America in large amounts. It increased by two times the taxes on European products sent to the colonies through Britain. The British government also approved new measures aimed at enforcing all trade laws. And it decided to restrict the printing of paper money in the colonies.

The American colonists opposed all these new laws. Yet they could not agree about how to resist. Colonial assemblies approved protests against the laws, but the protest actions were all different and had no real effect. Business groups tried to organize boycotts of goods. But these were not very successful...until the British government approved another tax in seventeen sixty-five: a tax on stamps.

VOICE TWO:

The Stamp Act probably angered more American colonists than any earlier tax. It said the colonists had to buy a British stamp for every piece of printed paper they used. That meant they would be taxed for every piece of a newspaper, every document, even every playing card.

The colonists refused to pay. Colonial assemblies approved resolutions suggesting that the British Parliament had no right to tax the colonies at all. Some colonists were so angry that they attacked British stamp agents.

History experts say the main reason the colonists were angry was because Britain had rejected the idea of "no taxation without representation." Almost no colonist wanted to be independent of Britain at that time. Yet all of them valued their local self-rule and their rights as British citizens. They considered the Stamp Act to be the worst in a series of violations of these rights.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

The American colonists refused to obey the Stamp Act. They also refused to buy British goods. Almost one thousand storeowners signed non-importation agreements. This cost British businessmen so much money that they demanded that the government end the Stamp Act. Parliament finally cancelled the law in seventeen sixty-six. The colonists immediately ended their ban against British goods.

VOICE TWO:

The same day that Parliament cancelled the Stamp Act, however, it approved the Declaratory Act. This was a statement saying the colonies existed to serve Britain, and that Britain could approve any law it wanted. Most American colonists considered this statement to be illegal.

History experts say this shows how separated the colonies had become from Britain. Colonial assemblies were able to approve their own laws, but only with the permission of the British Parliament. The colonists, however, considered the work of their assemblies as their own form of self-rule.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Britain ended the Stamp Act but did not stop demanding taxes. In seventeen sixty-seven, Parliament approved a series of new taxes called the Townshend Acts. These were named after the government official who proposed them. The Townshend Acts placed taxes on glass, tea, lead, paints and paper imported into the colonies.

The American colonists rejected the Townshend Acts and started a new boycott of British goods. They also made efforts to increase manufacturing in the colonies. By the end of seventeen sixty-nine, they had reduced by half the amount of goods imported from Britain. The colonies also began to communicate with each other about their problems.

VOICE TWO:

In seventeen sixty-eight, the Massachusetts General Court sent a letter to the legislatures of the other colonies. It said the Townshend Acts violated the colonists' natural and constitutional rights. When news of the letter reached London, British officials ordered the colonial governor of Massachusetts to dismiss the legislature. Then they moved four thousand British troops into Boston, the biggest city in Massachusetts -- and the biggest city in the American colonies.

VOICE ONE:

The people of Boston hated the British soldiers. The soldiers were controlling their streets and living in their houses. This tension led to violence. That will be our story next week.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Today's MAKING OF A NATION program was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Sarah Long.

VOICE ONE:

And this is Rich Kleinfeldt. Join us again next week for another Special English program about the history of the United States.
 
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Sovereign Wealth Funds: When Governments Become Players

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 Sovereign Wealth Funds: When Governments Become Players

Government-owned investment funds are estimated to control over $2 trillion in assets. Most funds are tied to oil money. Transcript of radio broadcast:
06 December 2007

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[align=left]
This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

Last month, America's biggest bank, Citigroup, agreed to sell five percent of its shares to the government of Abu Dhabi. The deal, worth seven and a half billion dollars, was another example of growing investments by sovereign wealth funds.

These are owned by governments. They are separate from the holdings of central banks. Sovereign wealth funds are estimated to hold more than two trillion dollars.

The largest is the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, established in nineteen seventy-six. The emirate does not say how much its fund is worth. Estimates are between five hundred billion and nine hundred billion dollars.

Most sovereign wealth funds are tied to money from oil exports. Oil prices reached a record high near one hundred dollars a barrel in November. Oil is traded in dollars. And dollars have been flowing into Gulf economies like Abu Dhabi.

But there is a limit to how much money can be pumped into an economy without causing inflation to jump.

Brad Setser is a fellow for geoeconomics at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He notes that one problem facing these oil exporters is that their currency values are linked to the dollar, and the dollar has fallen.

Oil exporters can use sovereign wealth funds to build up reserves of money to protect against a drop in oil prices. But a severe drop seems unlikely. So instead they are making foreign investments that they hope will pay good returns.

Sovereign funds are known for highly conservative investments. But now some appear willing to take more risk.

Not all funds involve oil money. A good example is the China Investment Corporation. This newly formed company is financed by selling government bonds and buying foreign exchange from the Chinese central bank.

Much of the money in the China Investment Corporation is meant to provide capital for state-owned Chinese banks. The fund will also support the international expansion of state-owned Chinese companies. The fund is expected to reach a value of about two hundred billion dollars.

Back to Abu Dhabi: Ministers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries met there on Wednesday. They decided to leave OPEC production unchanged for now, but agreed to meet again February first. They also welcomed their thirteenth member, Ecuador, which rejoined OPEC in November.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.
 
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A Museum in Pittsburgh Gives Its Dinosaurs a Timely Makeover

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 A Museum in Pittsburgh Gives Its Dinosaurs a Timely Makeover

Also: A listener in Cambodia asks about the space race between the United States and the former Soviet Union. And music from a new album by Judy Kuhn, singing songs of Laura Nyro. Transcript of radio broadcast:
06 December 2007

[External Link Removed for Guests]
 


[align=left]
HOST:

Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

(MUSIC)

I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We listen to some music from Judy Kuhn …

Answer a question about the Space Race …

And tell about a new display of dinosaur bones.

Dinosaurs In Their Time

HOST:

Dinosaurs are not what they used to be, at least not at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Katharine Cole tells us about big changes in the museum's Dinosaur Hall.

KATHARINE COLE:

The Carnegie Museum has one of the largest collections of dinosaur bones in the world. The only problem is that the way they were presented all these years was wrong.

Visitors might have come away with the idea that all dinosaurs were huge, slow moving creatures. But newer discoveries show that dinosaurs were generally smaller and faster than scientists once thought.

So directors of the Carnegie Museum decided to rebuild the ten dinosaurs in their collection. And they added new ones.

Andrew Carnegie, the wealthy businessman, built the Dinosaur Hall a century ago. He paid for a scientific trip that discovered a new kind of dinosaur. Those bones are still in the collection. But it was time to give the hall a makeover. Now, after more than two years and thirty-six million dollars, most of the work is finished.

The museum opened its new exhibit to the public on November twenty-first. The collection is now called "Dinosaurs in Their Time."

Museum officials say the aim is to show the great diversity of life that existed during the Mesozoic period. The dinosaurs are placed among examples of the hundreds of plants and animals that shared their environments.

Officials say they wanted to show the way groups of dinosaurs really lived. The rooms in the exhibit hold plants and animals that existed more than one hundred fifty million years ago. And they show how some creatures evolved into animals that exist today.

The new exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh is three times the size of the old one. It will hold nineteen dinosaurs once the second part opens in the spring.

The Space Race

HOST:

Our VOA listener question this week comes from Cambodia. Rey Sopheak asks about the history of the space race between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

It began fifty years ago. In October of nineteen fifty-seven, the Soviets launched the first manmade satellite into orbit around Earth. It was called Sputnik One. Weeks later Sputnik Two was launched.

Their success was a victory for the Communists. It added to the tensions of what was known as the Cold War, which many people worried could lead to nuclear war. And it pushed Americans to teach more science and math in school -- and to work harder to reach outer space.

Three months later, the United States launched its own satellite. Then, in nineteen sixty-one, the Soviet Union sent the first person into space, Yuri Gagarin. American Alan Shepard followed less than a month later.

The race continued. The finish line was the moon. And it was reached when the crew of Apollo Eleven landed in nineteen sixty-nine. Americans returned to the moon five more times. No one has been back since nineteen seventy-two. NASA, the American space agency, hopes to send astronauts to the moon again by two thousand nineteen. That will be the fiftieth anniversary of the first landing.

Today, there is cooperation between the Russian and American space programs. Astronauts and cosmonauts share duties on the International Space Station. And other countries are expanding their space programs.

In two thousand three, China became the third country ever to send a person into space using its own rocket. Then, in two thousand five, it sent a crew of two on a five-day flight. Another manned trip is planned next year. And China launched a moon orbiter in October.

Other active countries include Japan, India and South Korea. Some experts say that space exploration today should not be compared to the Cold War space race fifty years ago. Just this week, a Chinese official said his country's moon orbiter has no military purposes and that China supports the peaceful use of space.

Judy Kuhn Sings Laura Nyro

HOST:

Laura Nyro was one of the most influential singers and songwriters of the nineteen sixties and seventies. Judy Kuhn is a Broadway singer who has performed on concert stages around the world. Their talents combine on a new album. Shirley Griffith plays some of the music.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH:

Judy Kuhn has been nominated for several awards for singing in musicals on Broadway in New York. She has also performed in musicals in other cities, in concert, on television and in movies. Her new album is called "Serious Playground: The Songs of Laura Nyro."

Judy Kuhn says Laura Nyro's songs live in a world where loneliness and loss exist side by side with joy in the pleasures of life. Here she sings "Sweet Blindness."

(MUSIC)

Laura Nyro was born in New York in nineteen forty-seven. She began writing songs as a teenager. Her songs combined the music of gospel, pop, soul, folk, rock and jazz.

When she was nineteen, she released the first of four albums of personal and emotional songs. Judy Kuhn says this opened the door for female songwriters who at that time were not recording their own songs.

Several of Laura Nyro's songs became huge hits when they were recorded by other performers. These include Barbra Streisand, the Fifth Dimension, Blood, Sweat and Tears and Three Dog Night. Here Judy Kuhn sings "Stoney End."

(MUSIC)

Laura Nyro died of ovarian cancer in nineteen ninety-seven at the age of forty-nine. Her music influenced many female singer-songwriters working today. Judy Kuhn recorded "Serious Playground" to honor the composer of these beautiful, sad and joyful songs. We leave you with "Save the Country."

(MUSIC)

HOST:

I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

Our writers were Shelley Gollust and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer. Transcripts and MP3 files of our programs are at voaspecialenglish.com.

Send your questions about American life to mosaic@voanews.com. And please include your full name and where you are from. Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.
 
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US Intelligence Report Enters Into Debate on Iran Nuclear Issue

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 US Intelligence Report Enters Into Debate on Iran Nuclear Issue

American intelligence agencies say Iran halted a weapons program in 2003. But President Bush and some other leaders say Iran is still a danger. Transcript of radio broadcast:
07 December 2007

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[align=left]
This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Sixteen government agencies form what is known as the intelligence community in the United States. From time to time, this community puts together reports called National Intelligence Estimates that deal with foreign activities and threats. Parts are sometimes made public.

This week, officials released major judgments from a new report on Iran's nuclear activities. It says Iran operated a secret program to develop nuclear weapons but halted that program in late two thousand three.

The report suggests that Iran did so mainly because of international pressure. It says Iran may be more open to influence than was thought. But Iran continues to enrich uranium for civilian use, the report says, and this could be used to produce weapons if desired.

The report says Iran might have enough nuclear material to build a bomb in the next three to eight years, at the earliest. But it says Iran now appears less determined to produce nuclear weapons than was believed.

The findings came as a surprise. A National Intelligence Estimate two years ago said Iran was working hard to develop nuclear weapons.

President Bush said the report released Monday was the result of better intelligence. But he said nothing has changed. He said Iran is still a danger. And he urged governments to continue to pressure Iran about its nuclear activities. That the program was halted, he says, is not as important as the finding that it once existed and could be restarted.

The report comes as the Bush administration has been trying to win support for new international restrictions against Iran. In recent weeks, the president has warned that the world cannot risk a nuclear-armed Iran, saying it could lead to World War Three.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the new American intelligence report a declaration of victory. He says it shows that Iran's nuclear program is for energy, not weapons.

In Israel, Defense Minister Ehud Barak rejected the intelligence report. He said he believes it is incomplete and that Iran has restarted its nuclear weapons program. He offered no evidence, though.

On Thursday, NATO foreign ministers expressed support for a proposed third set of sanctions in the United Nations Security Council. And, in Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Iran is still a danger. Britain also says it remains concerned about Iran's nuclear program.

But Russia and China have resisted further sanctions. Russian and Chinese officials say the new report will have to be considered in those discussions. Both countries, as permanent members of the Security Council, could veto any additional sanctions.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. Transcripts and MP3s of our reports are at voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Steve Ember.
 
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Barbara Cooney, 1917-2000: She Created Popular Children's Books

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 Barbara Cooney, 1917-2000: She Created Popular Children's Books

08 December 2007

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[align=left]
Now, the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today, Shirley Griffith and Steve Ember tell about the life of Barbara Cooney, the creator of many popular children’s books. She died in March two thousand.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

For sixty years Barbara Cooney created children’s books. She wrote some. And she provided pictures for her own books and for books written by others. Her name appears on one hundred ten books in all.

The last book was published six months before her death. It is called "Basket Moon." It was written by Mary Lyn Ray. It tells the story of a boy who lived a century ago with his family in the mountains in New York state. His family makes baskets that are sold in town. One magazine describes Barbara Cooney's paintings in "Basket Moon" as quiet and beautiful. It says they tie together "the basket maker’s natural world and the work of his craft."

VOICE TWO:

Barbara Cooney was known for her carefully detailed work. One example is in her artwork for the book "Eleanor." It is about Eleanor Roosevelt, who became the wife of President Franklin Roosevelt. Miz Cooney made sure that a dress worn by Eleanor as a baby was historically correct down to the smallest details.

Another example of her detailed work is in her retelling of "Chanticleer and the Fox." She took the story from the "Canterbury Tales" by English poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Barbara Cooney once said that every flower and grass in her pictures grew in Chaucer's time in fourteenth-century England.

VOICE ONE:

Barbara Cooney wondered at times if her concern about details was worth the effort. "How many children will know or care?" she said. "Maybe not a single one. Still I keep piling it on. Detail after detail. Whom am I pleasing -- besides myself? I don't know. Yet if I put enough in my pictures, there may be something for everyone. Not all will be understood, but some will be understood now and maybe more later."

Miz Cooney gave that speech as she accepted the nineteen fifty-nine Caldecott Medal for "Chanticleer and the Fox." The American Library Association gives the award each year to the artist of a picture book for children. She received a second Caldecott Medal for her folk-art paintings in the book, "Ox-Cart Man."

VOICE TWO:

Barbara Cooney’s first books appeared in the nineteen forties. At first she created pictures using a method called scratchboard.

The scratchboard is made by placing white clay on a hard surface. Thick black ink is spread over the clay. The artist uses a sharp knife or other tool to make thousands of small cuts in the top. With each cut of the black ink, the white clay shows through. To finish the piece the artist may add different colors.

Scratchboard is hard work, but this process can create fine detail. Later, Barbara Cooney began to use pen and ink, watercolor, oil paints, and other materials.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Barbara Cooney was born in New York City in nineteen seventeen. Her mother was an artist and her father sold stocks on the stock market. Barbara graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts in nineteen thirty-eight with a major in art history.

During World War Two Barbara Cooney joined the Women's Army Corps. She also got married, but her first marriage did not last long. Then she married a doctor, Charles Talbot Porter. They were married until her death. She had four children.

VOICE TWO:

Barbara Cooney said that three of her books were as close to a story of her life as she would ever write. One is "Miss Rumphius," published in nineteen eighty-two. We will tell more about "Miss Rumphius" soon.

The second book is called "Island Boy." The boy is named Matthias. He is the youngest of twelve children in a family on Tibbetts Island, Maine. Matthias grows up to sail around the world. But throughout his life he always returns to the island of his childhood. Barbara Cooney also traveled around the world, but in her later years always returned to live on the coast of Maine.

VOICE ONE:

The third book about Barbara Cooney’s life is called "Hattie and the Wild Waves." It is based on the childhood of her mother. The girl Hattie lives in a wealthy family in New York. One day she tells her family that she wants to be a painter when she grows up. The other children make fun of the idea of a girl wanting to paint houses.

But, as the book explains, “Hattie was not thinking about houses. She was thinking about the moon in the sky and the wind in the trees and the wild waves of the ocean."

Hattie tries different jobs as she grows up. At last, she follows her dream and decides to "paint her heart out."

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Of all of Barbara Cooney's books, the one that seems to affect people the most is "Miss Rumphius." It won the American Book Award. It was first published in nineteen eighty-two by Viking-Penguin. "Miss Rumphius" is Alice Rumphius. A young storyteller in the book tells the story which begins with Alice as a young girl:

VOICE THREE:

"In the evening Alice sat on her grandfather's knee and listened to his stories of faraway places. When he had finished, Alice would say, 'When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.’

‘That is all very well, little Alice,' said her grandfather, 'but there is a third thing you must do.'

'What is that?' asked Alice.

‘You must do something to make the world more beautiful,' said her grandfather.

'All right,' said Alice. But she did not know what that could be.

In the meantime Alice got up and washed her face and ate porridge for breakfast. She went to school and came home and did her homework.

And pretty soon she was grown up."

VOICE ONE:

Alice traveled the world. She climbed tall mountains where the snow never melted. She went through jungles and across deserts. One day, however, she hurt her back getting off a camel.

VOICE THREE:

“'What a foolish thing to do,' said Miss Rumphius. 'Well, I have certainly seen faraway places. Maybe it is time to find my place by the sea.' And it was, and she did.

Miss Rumphius was almost perfectly happy. 'But there is still one more thing I have to do,' she said. 'I have to do something to make the world more beautiful.'

But what? 'The world is already pretty nice,' she thought, looking out over the ocean."

VOICE TWO:

The next spring Miss Rumphius' back was hurting again. She had to stay in bed most of the time. Through her bedroom window she could see the tall blue and purple and rose-colored lupine flowers she had planted the summer before.

VOICE THREE:

"'Lupines,' said Miss Rumphius with satisfaction. 'I have always loved lupines the best. I wish I could plant more seeds this summer so that I could have still more flowers next year.'

But she was not able to."

VOICE ONE:

A hard winter came, then spring. Miss Rumphius was feeling better. She could take walks again. One day she came to a hill where she had not been in a long time. "'I don't believe my eyes,' she cried when she got to the top. For there on the other side of the hill was a large patch of blue and purple and rose-colored lupines!”

VOICE THREE:

"'It was the wind,' she said as she knelt in delight. ‘It was the wind that brought the seeds from my garden here! And the birds must have helped.' Then Miss Rumphius had a wonderful idea!"

VOICE TWO:

That idea was to buy lupine seed -- lots of it. All summer, wherever she went, Miss Rumphius would drop handfuls of seeds: over fields, along roads, around the schoolhouse, behind the church. Her back did not hurt her any more. But now some people called her "That Crazy Old Lady."

The next spring there were lupines everywhere. Miss Rumphius had done the most difficult thing of all. The young storyteller in the book continues:

VOICE THREE:

"My Great-aunt Alice, Miss Rumphius, is very old now. Her hair is very white. Every year there are more and more lupines. Now they call her the Lupine Lady. ...

"'When I grow up,' I tell her, 'I too will go to faraway places and come home to live by the sea.'

'That is all very well, little Alice,' says my aunt, 'but there is a third thing you must do.'

'What is that?' I ask.

"'You must do something to make the world more beautiful.'"

VOICE ONE:

Many readers, young and old, would agree that Barbara Cooney did just that.

VOICE TWO:

Many of Barbara Cooney's later books took place in the small northeastern state of Maine. She spent summers there when she was a child, then moved to Maine in her later years.

She loved Maine. She gave her local library almost a million dollars. The state showed its love for her. In nineteen ninety-six, the governor of Maine declared Barbara Cooney a "State Treasure."

(MUSIC)

ANNOUNCER:

This Special English program was written by Avi Arditti and produced by Paul Thompson. Your narrators were Shirley Griffith and Steve Ember. Adrienne Arditti was the storyteller. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.
 
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More People Hear Call of Mobile Activism

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 More People Hear Call of Mobile Activism

MobileActive.org seeks to share knowledge of people using mobile phones to effect change. Transcript of radio broadcast:
09 December 2007

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[align=left]
This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Activists fight for different things. But one thing many activists around the world hold in common is their use of mobile phones as a tool for their work.

In South Africa, for example, AIDS activists are using text messages to direct people to the nearest H.I.V. testing station.

In Argentina, activists used their phones to get city officials in Buenos Aires to support a waste reduction campaign.

Politicians are often a target of mobile activism.

(SOUND)

This is a ringtone popular among Filipinos in the last two years. It came, supposedly, from a phone call between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and an election official. Opponents said the call showed that she cheated in the two thousand four elections. The Philippine government said the call was recorded illegally and then falsified.

These and other examples of mobile activism can be found at MobileActive.org. MobileActive describes itself as a community of people who are using mobile technology in their work to make the world a better place. So far, two thousand people have become members of the site.

MobileActive.org offers free information about mobile-related tools and services. It also has resource guides on how to sign up voters, organize campaigns or raise money using mobile technology.

Nokia, the mobile phone company, gave the group money to create its resource guides. Other partners have helped build its Web site and organize small training events. MobileActive hopes to hold its next meeting in July in Johannesburg.

Katrin Verclas helped start MobileActive in two thousand five. She lives in New York but we reached her on her mobile phone in Amman. She was in Jordan for a meeting of nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups. They were discussing uses for mobile technology in observing elections.

She noted that in many countries, mobile phones are the least costly way to communicate, and far more common than the Internet.

More than three billion people worldwide use mobile phones. And Katrin Verclas says people keep finding new uses for the technology. The goal of MobileActive, she says, is to collect their stories and experiences and then spread that knowledge.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. I’m Steve Ember.
 
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A Quilt Exhibit Pieces Together a Story About American History

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 A Quilt Exhibit Pieces Together a Story About American History

The exhibit "Going West! Quilts and Community" shows the creative expression and skill of generations of women. Transcript of radio broadcast:
09 December 2007

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[align=left]
VOICE ONE:

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Shirley Griffith. This week on our program, we visit a quilting exhibit at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Quilts are colorful bed coverings made by sewing together pieces of cloth into different designs. These finely crafted works of art celebrate the creativity and skill of generations of women.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

The Renwick exhibit is called "Going West! Quilts and Community." It includes fifty quilts made from around the eighteen thirties to the nineteen thirties in the area of what is today the Midwestern state of Nebraska.

Robyn Kennedy is the chief of the Renwick Gallery. She says the guest curator of the exhibit, Sandi Fox, wanted to look at the quilts that settlers in a certain area of the United States brought with them, then later made. Sandi Fox looked at more than two thousand quilts before she chose the ones to show.

VOICE TWO:

Starting in the eighteen forties, three major paths leading to the western territories of the United States ran alongside each other. The Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail and California Trail came together along the Great Platte River. This area by eighteen fifty-four was called the Nebraska Territory.

Settlers in their wagons pulled by horses followed these trails to find land and create a new life for themselves. Some settlers continued on to areas further west. But others decided to settle in Nebraska. The Renwick exhibit explores quilts made by settlers and later generations of quilters in this part of America known for its severe winters.

VOICE ONE:

A few of the quilts in the "Going West!" exhibit were treasures that families brought with them from Europe as reminders of the life they left behind. For example, one family from Sweden who settled in Nebraska in the eighteen sixties brought with them a whole cloth quilt made from red silk.

The quilt is remarkable for its richly detailed stitching. Looking at this quilt, you can imagine how the family enjoyed its warmth and beauty while building a new life in America.

Robyn Kennedy explains how some quilts in the exhibit tell a story about the groups of people who settled in Nebraska.

ROBYN KENNEDY: "Well, it really gives you an idea of the sense of community that these people had. Many of these were done as fund raisers for a variety of different projects. And sometimes they were auctioned several times. People would pay twenty-five cents to have their name on it, but then once the completed quilt was done, then that would be auctioned off."

VOICE TWO:

For example, one red and white piece called the "Omaha Commerce Quilt" was made in eighteen ninety-five by a women’s aid group at a Lutheran church. Local businesses bought advertising space on the quilt. Different women in the church group stitched each cloth advertisement.

The quilt was probably set out to create publicity for the businesses that gave money to the women’s cause. It might also have been sold to raise more money.

Robyn Kennedy points to a quilt that shows a community coming together for another reason.

ROBYN KENNEDY: "This is an anniversary quilt for this couple, for their fiftieth anniversary, nineteen-oh-seven. But they first got married in eighteen fifty-seven. So this is their community celebrating."

VOICE ONE:

This shiny blue quilt with yellow stitching also represents a change in the technology of quilt making. One area of the quilt was clearly sewn by hand by different friends and family members of the married couple being honored.

But the words sewn into the center of the cloth proudly announce that they were stitched with a sewing machine made by the New Home company.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Other quilts tell a story about an individual’s life. Edith Withers Myers made a quilt called "You Are the Darling of the Earth" in about eighteen ninety-eight. This crazy quilt is like a written journal of this young woman’s social life.

Crazy quilts are a popular form of quilt design. There is no set pattern. A quilter can use her imagination to piece together cloth in whatever form or shape she wishes.

Edith Meyers stitched onto her quilt words describing parties and dances she attended. She stitched in the names of her friends as well as popular slang words at the time, including "toots" and "buzz."

VOICE ONE:

For a quilt made in about nineteen ten, a woman named Azuba Read recreated the objects found in a hat maker’s store. She was a professional hat maker herself. She covered her spirited crazy quilt with flowers and feathers like the ones she might have placed on the hats she made for women.

VOICE TWO:

By definition, a quilt is made from two layers of fabric with a soft material such as wool or cotton batting in between. The two sides of fabric are sewn together to keep the filling from moving around inside the quilt.

The stitches can be made in such a way as to form detailed patterns or designs on the quilt. A quilt made from a solid piece of fabric on top is called a whole cloth quilt.

Patchwork quilts are made from many pieces of different colored fabrics that have been sewn together, or "pieced," in a design. Often the small pieces of fabric that make up the quilt come from old pieces of clothing.

A quilter can also sew different pieces of fabric onto the top of the quilt to form designs. This method is called appliqué.

VOICE ONE:

Quilting in general is not American. Through history, cultures around the world have created quilted coverings and clothing. But quilting in the United States developed qualities that are now very much American, such as patchwork.

Quilts were more than warm protection against cold winters. Quilt making provided women with an important form of creative expression and invention. Quilting is also a social activity. Quilters come together at quilting bees to work on coverings together and to enjoy socializing.

VOICE TWO:

There are many traditional American designs that appear on quilts. These include the double wedding ring, bear’s paw and honeycomb patterns.

Some patterns like the wagon wheel, log cabin and lone star represent the experiences of settlers on the American frontier.

VOICE ONE:

Quilt exhibits are very popular in the United States. The Smithsonian has had several quilt exhibits over the years. People enjoy the expressive colors and inventiveness of the art. And quilt exhibits are especially popular among the large and active quilting communities around the country.

Every Tuesday and Friday, for the exhibit, several members of the Annapolis Quilting Guild set up their materials in the Renwick Gallery. The quilters are there to answer the questions of museum visitors and to show them how quilts are made.

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VOICE TWO:

One quilt in the exhibit tells a story about a life other than that of the person who made it. In fact, historians do not know who made "The Civil War Quilt." In eighteen sixty-one, a young soldier in the American Civil War was ordered to visit nearby farms and ask for warm blankets for the troops.

One family gave Joseph Miller this extraordinarily detailed appliqué quilt covered in red flowers and leaves. He kept the quilt throughout the war. It became black with dirt, but somehow remained in one piece. After the war, he cleaned the quilt and kept it with him for the rest of his life.

VOICE ONE:

Looking at the beautiful condition of the quilts at the Renwick Gallery, you might find it hard to believe many are well over a hundred years old.

Robyn Kennedy explains that to help preserve the quilts, the Renwick shows them in rooms that have low lighting. The quilts are hung from the walls in such a way as to permit air to move behind them. Also, museum workers always wear white gloves when touching the quilts. The oils or dirt on a person’s hands could harm the cloth.

Miz Kennedy says the museum sometimes has a problem with visitors who want to touch the quilts to look at how they were made. So the Smithsonian offers public "white glove" events where visitors can look up close at the methods used for each quilt.

When the quilts travel, they are gently folded, wrapped in acid-free paper and placed in acid-free boxes.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Some quilts in the show are made from more unusual materials. For example, one is made out of the cloth from men’s suits. Another quilt, from nineteen thirty-five, is made from men's neckties. "The Holen Boys Ties Quilt" is made from almost one hundred silk ties.

They form a striking pattern and radiate outwards like the rays of the sun. Robyn Kennedy says that ninety-three relatives of the Holen family plan to visit their ancestral quilt at the Renwick.

VOICE ONE:

The Holen quilt helps show that generations later, the personal stories and experiences captured by these skillful works of art are still powerful. The quilts remain as expressive and lovely today as they were when they first were stitched.

VOICE TWO:

Our program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Shirley Griffith.

VOICE ONE:

And I’m Steve Ember. Our programs are online with transcripts and MP3 files at voaspecialenglish.com. We also have pictures of some of the quilts in the exhibit. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.
 
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