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As Biofuels Show Promise, Farmers Show Human Nature

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 As Biofuels Show Promise, Farmers Show Human Nature
2008-02-12

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This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

Farmers in the United States sometimes plant switchgrass as a border crop. But could this tall grass lower the nation's dependence on foreign oil?

The Department of Energy plans to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to help produce fuels from materials that are not part of the food supply. Growing corn, or maize, for fuel has raised concerns about the supply and cost of corn available for food and animal feed.

Fuel made from switchgrass or forestry waste like sawdust is known as cellulosic ethanol. Department officials say it contains more energy and produces fewer greenhouse gases than ethanol made from corn. Switchgrass is also easier to grow.

Last month, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study of switchgrass grown on low-quality land. Government scientist Ken Vogel was the lead author. The study says the switchgrass produced five times more energy than was needed to grow it. Also, it says switchgrass, over its lifetime from crop to fuel, produces much less carbon compared to gasoline.

Fossil fuels like oil take carbon from the ground and release it as waste gas when the fuel is burned. Biofuels like corn and cellulosic ethanol also produce greenhouse gases, through growing crops and making the fuel. The difference is that biofuels remove carbon from the atmosphere through the growth of the feedstock, the material for the fuel.

Science magazine just published two studies of biofuels and the heat-trapping gases that scientists link to climate change. One of the reports notes that most studies have found that substituting biofuels for gasoline will reduce greenhouse gases.

But it says the earlier studies failed to count the carbon released into the atmosphere as farmers worldwide react to higher prices. They are clearing forests and grasslands to make way for new cropland to replace the grain used for biofuels. Doing so can release much of the carbon stored in the plants and soil, and sacrifice future storage.

The study found that corn-based ethanol could increase greenhouse gases for years from land use change. And it found that biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on American corn land, could also increase emissions, though by less.

The study team, led by Timothy Searchinger at Princeton University, says the result shows the value of using waste products for fuel. The other report says carbon savings depend on how biofuels are produced.

And that's the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT, written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Jim Tedder.
 
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Devendra Banhart Makes Imaginative Folk Music With a 1960s Sound

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 Devendra Banhart Makes Imaginative Folk Music With a 1960s Sound
2008-02-15

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Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We play music by Devendra Banhart ??br />
Answer a question about finding a job ...

And report on a new Web site that gets you to "think big."
===== BigThink.com

Where can you go to listen to a cook, a senator or a scientist talk about important subjects? BigThink.com is a new Web site created to provide discussions between world experts and Internet users. Subjects discussed on BigThink include the environment, music and questions about happiness and personal identity. The Web site has been called a YouTube for thinkers. Faith Lapidus has more.

Victoria Brown and Peter Hopkins created BigThink.com. They see the Web site as a social project that permits Internet users around the world to share a discussion space with experts. Miz Brown says that people need an international stage on which to exchange, discuss, and debate the important ideas of our time.

If you visit the BigThink Web site, you will find a series of subjects listed on the left side of the page. There are "meta" subjects that deal with general ideas like faith, love, life, death and justice. And there are "physical" subjects like art, culture, technology, history and politics. When you click on a subject, you find a video of a person talking about his or her ideas. For example, you can listen to United States Senator Ted Kennedy talking about education and civil rights.

SENATOR TED KENNEDY: "We want to try and free ourselves from the forms of discrimination and bigotry which exist in our nation."

Or you could listen to the musician Moby talk about his work and ideas for young artists.

MOBY: "My advice to other musicians first and foremost would be to make music that they love."

Among other "big thinkers" are the former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and French cook Jacques Pepin. Under their videos, you can read the comments and questions written by other visitors to the Web site. More than one hundred experts express their ideas on the Web site.

BigThink also has an important list of financial supporters. These include Peter Thiel who helped create the PayPal company; Larry Summers, a former United States secretary of the treasury, and David Frankel, a businessman from South Africa.

BigThink's creators started the Web site by first getting famous people to agree to be videotaped. They began by interviewing several well-known professors from Harvard University, which they had attended. Then they used the names of these professors to gain the trust of others and get them to take part in the project.

The Web site says BigThink belongs to everyone. Its motto is: "We are what you think." So, go online and start thinking big.

===== Finding a Job

This week's listener question comes from China. Eric wants to know how Americans find jobs. Experts say that January is the top month for getting a new job. Many Americans make a promise that they will find a new or better job in the new year. And many businesses decide to fill empty positions this time of year.

There are many ways to find a job. It can be as easy as walking into a neighborhood store to look at its announcement board. Local stores often have areas where people can put small signs telling what kind of service they need or can provide. Such services include caring for children or cleaning houses.

Or, job searchers can look in the newspaper. Local newspapers have employment announcements placed by companies seeking workers.

Another popular tool for finding jobs is the Internet. For example, people in four hundred and fifty cities around the world can use the Craigslist Web site to buy objects, meet people or find a job. Craigslist says that it receives two million new job listings each month.

Another useful way to find a job is through a college or university. For example, students at the University of Texas in Austin can go to the Career Exploration Center to get help in finding a job. People who graduate from universities can also use alumni groups and resources. This means that new graduates can get advice about jobs from older graduates. Each American state also has an employment services office that can help people train and look for jobs.

Of course, looking for a job requires knowing what kind of work you want to do. For example, there is a book called "What Color is Your Parachute?" by Richard Bolles. This book has been helping people choose a career since it was first published in nineteen seventy.

Some experts also help people find jobs. Susan W. Miller owns a company called California Career Services in Los Angeles. She says her company helps people find jobs by first helping them understand their strengths, goals and interests. Then she provides them with methods and resources to help them find the right job.

===== Devendra Banhart

Devendra Banhart is a musician who creates imaginative folk songs that take you back to the sounds of the nineteen sixties. The twenty-six-year-old singer and songwriter recently released his fifth album, called "Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon." Critics say this album is his strongest yet. Mario Ritter has more.
===== MARIO RITTER:

That was the song "Sea Horse". It is a good example of Devendra Banhart's emotional voice and dreamy songs. It is not often clear what his songs are about, but they are always interesting. Rolling Stone magazine listed this record as one of the top albums of two thousand seven.

Devendra was born in Houston, Texas and grew up in Venezuela. He started playing music at the age of twelve. He began his studies at the San Francisco Art Institute in California, but dropped out of the program and moved to Paris, France. During this time Banhart made recordings of his music by borrowing recording devices from his friends. After returning to the United States, Devendra Banhart was discovered by the owner of Young God Records. Here is the sensual beat of "Rosa", which he sings in Portuguese.
Devendra Banhart is also a skilled artist. He currently has a show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Thirteen of his drawings are shown along with the works of the famous artist Paul Klee. The show explores the relationship between art that you look at and art that you listen to. We leave you with Devendra Banhart's "Lover."
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

Dana Demange wrote and produced the show. Transcripts and MP3 files of our programs are at voaspecialenglish.com.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.
 
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Microsoft's Play for Yahoo | Hollywood Writers Back to Work

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 Microsoft's Play for Yahoo | Hollywood Writers Back to Work
2008-02-15

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This is the VOA Special English ECONOMICS REPORT.

The competition between Microsoft and Google took a new turn on February first. Microsoft made a public offer to buy the Internet company Yahoo. Microsoft says the combined companies would be in a better position to compete against Google in the online services market.

This week, Yahoo rejected the offer. Its board of directors said the price undervalued the company. The offer was worth almost forty-five billion dollars in cash and stock, or thirty-one dollars per Yahoo share. Yahoo is said to want forty dollars a share.

Microsoft says it offered a full and fair price. It says moving forward quickly with the deal would be in the best interest of shareholders. Yet since February first, the value of Microsoft's offer has fallen to twenty-nine dollars a share because of a drop in its stock.

Microsoft thinks it could better compete against Google with Yahoo's expert knowledge. Microsoft could attempt a hostile takeover. But that is not the way it normally does business, and there is risk of angering Yahoo's employees.

In the last two weeks, Yahoo has discussed possible combinations with other companies, including the News Corporation, AOL and Google. But Yahoo may not be able to avoid a buyout by Microsoft. The latest reports are that some big Yahoo shareholders would support a deal if Microsoft raised its offer.

The purchase would be the largest ever by the world's leading software maker. Yet Microsoft has made little progress in its Internet search abilities and in the growing business of online advertising. Google, the leading Internet search company, is the strongest competitor for those advertising dollars.

Microsoft is based in Redmond, Washington. Yahoo and Google are in California's Silicon Valley.

Internet technology was also at the heart of the television and movie writers strike, which ended this week. Writers voted in Los Angeles and New York to return to work after one hundred days on strike. A proposed new contract would pay them for the first time for creative material that appears online and in other new media.

Members of the Writers Guild of America are expected to approve the three-year deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Now the producers need to negotiate a new agreement with the Screen Actors Guild or risk another strike. The current contract with the actors union ends June thirtieth.

And that's the VOA Special English ECONOMICS REPORT, written by Mario Ritter. I'm Bob Doughty.
 
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Kosovo Moves Toward Independence, While a Crisis Shakes Timor

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 Kosovo Moves Toward Independence, While a Crisis Shakes Timor
2008-02-16

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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Kosovo is expected to declare its independence from Serbia in the coming days, possibly on Sunday.

Serbia's newly re-elected President Boris Tadic says he will never give up his fight for Kosovo, but will also fight for Serbia to join the European Union. He said Friday that Serbia would reduce diplomatic relations but not cut ties with countries that recognize an independent Kosovo.

Kosovo's leader, Hashim Thaci, is calling on displaced Serbs living outside Kosovo to return.

Serbia and its chief ally, Russia, say Kosovo's independence will lead to separatist

efforts by other dissatisfied territories across the world.

Serbia has offered self-rule for Kosovo which it considers an important part of its history and territory. Yet Serbia has not controlled the southern province since nineteen ninety-nine. That was when NATO bombed the former Yugoslavia until Yugoslav military leaders agreed to withdraw troops from Kosovo.

About two million people live there. Ninety percent are ethnic Albanian. The area is currently administered by the United Nations and policed by sixteen thousand NATO-led peacekeepers.

The United States and most European countries support independence. Once Kosovo acts, the European Union plans to take over many of the administrative duties now held by the United Nations. Serbia and Russia say that plan is illegal.

In March of two thousand four there was violence mainly against ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. That led, almost two years later, to the opening of international negotiations on Kosovo. Finally, in December, the United Nations Security Council declared itself in hopeless disagreement.

As Kosovo prepares to become the world's newest country, the six-year-old nation of East Timor struggles with a crisis. Foreign troops are searching for suspected rebels after attacks against its leaders.

On Monday, president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos-Horta was shot twice and seriously wounded. Gunmen later shot at Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao but he escaped unhurt.

Wanted rebel leader Alfredo Reinado died in a gunfight with guards during the attack at the president's home in Dili, the capital. He escaped from prison after being found guilty of inciting clashes between government forces and former rebels in two thousand six.

East Timor, or Timor-Leste, is a former province of Indonesia, and one of the world's poorest countries. On Wednesday the government of the young democracy extended a state of emergency for ten days.

Australia has more than one thousand soldiers and police there, including extra forces sent after the shootings. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd briefly visited Dili Friday. He later visited President Ramos-Horta at a hospital in Darwin, Australia.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake.
 
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A House Big and White, and About to Get New Occupants in January

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 A House Big and White, and About to Get New Occupants in January
2008-02-18

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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty.

And I'm Barbara Klein. In the United States, the third Monday in February is a federal holiday. Federal law calls it Washington's Birthday, honoring the nation's first president. But Americans now commonly know it as Presidents Day. And for this Presidents Day, or Washington's Birthday, we tell you about the presidents' home, the White House.
George Washington supervised the building of the White House. Yet he and his wife, Martha, never had the chance to live there. It was completed after he left office in seventeen ninety-seven.

Since then, America has had forty-two other presidents. All of them have lived at sixteen hundred Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, in Washington, D.C. George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, have lived there since two thousand one.

This November, Americans will elect a new president. The new first family will meet with White House employees after the election to plan for the move. Then the family will move in on January twentieth, two thousand nine -- Inauguration Day.

The White House has an East Wing and a West Wing. The Oval Office, the large round room where the president works, is in the West Wing. The first family lives in the East Wing. The official home of the vice president is on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in Washington.

The White House has more than one hundred thirty rooms. It also has collections of more than forty thousand objects. Presidential families often find things in storage that they like when they move in. For example, Jimmy Carter's children found a chair that Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of President Abraham Lincoln, had bought.

First ladies have all added to the White House in some way. Jacqueline Kennedy, for example, created a colorful garden that is named in her honor.
George Washington entered office in seventeen eighty-nine. He had great hopes for the house he started. In seventeen ninety, he signed an act of Congress to create an area for the federal government in the District of Columbia, along the Potomac River. President Washington and the French city planner Pierre L'Enfant chose the land for the new presidential home.

A competition took place to find a designer. An architect named James Hoban entered a design similar to where the Irish Parliament meets, Leinster House in Dublin. Hoban was from Ireland. He won five hundred dollars and a piece of land for his winning design.

Grayish white sandstone was chosen for the walls. Work started in seventeen ninety-two, while George Washington lived in Philadelphia.

America's second president was John Adams. He and his wife, Abigail, were the first to live in the new home. They moved in on November first, eighteen hundred. The house was not yet finished.

John and Abigail Adams lived in six rooms and used others to entertain guests. But they lived there for only four months.

John Adams lost re-election to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson tried to finish work on the home. So did the next president, James Madison.

But in eighteen fourteen, British forces invaded Washington. They burned the White House. President Madison's wife, Dolly, tried to save valuable objects from the fire as she fled.

She rescued a painting of George Washington. This famous portrait by Gilbert Stuart hangs in the White House to this day.

After the fire, James Hoban helped rebuild the house he had designed. During this time, it was painted white. Over the years, the White House has been enlarged and almost totally rebuilt.

One of the most recent projects was completed in July of two thousand seven. Workers made about eight million dollars in improvements to the press briefing room. The work included a better look for television, new electrical system, better air conditioning and more comfortable seats. Some of the old ones were broken.

News organizations paid for part of the cost of the work. Reporters moved to temporary offices across the street from the White House while the press room was closed for almost a year.

The room is named in honor of former White House press secretary James Brady. He and President Ronald Reagan were shot and wounded by a man with mental problems outside a Washington hotel in nineteen eighty-one.

The press briefing room is built over Franklin Roosevelt's old swimming pool. Polio disabled his legs, but President Roosevelt still swam. The pool was built in nineteen thirty-three.

Roosevelt was president from nineteen thirty-three to nineteen forty-five. The thirty-second president led the nation through the end of the great economic depression and most of World War Two.

He was elected four times, more than any other president. He died in office. Today, the Twenty-second Amendment to the Constitution limits a person to being elected president twice.
In nineteen sixty-one, Congress decided that furniture of historic and artistic value would always be White House property. In effect, Congress made the White House a museum.

As visitors enter the White House, they see pictures of past presidents on the walls.

In another hall on the same floor are paintings of first ladies. A room off this hallway contains a collection of fine dishes. Each presidency has added to this collection.

Wide marble steps lead to the next floor. It is called the State Floor. Presidents use rooms here for official duties and to entertain guests.

The largest room on the State Floor is the East Room. News conferences and music performances take place here. But this room has had other uses over the years.

Abigail Adams hung her family's clothes to dry from the wash. Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the thirty-fifth president, John F. Kennedy, rode her tricycle in the East Room.

Other rooms on the State Floor are named for their colors: the Blue Room, the Green Room and the Red Room. The president meets with diplomats and other guests in these rooms. They are also used for special events.

The twenty-second president, Grover Cleveland, married Frances Folsom in the Blue Room in eighteen eighty-six. The Green Room held the body of President Abraham Lincoln's son Willie, who died in eighteen sixty-two.

And the nineteenth president, Rutherford Hayes, took his oath of office in the Red Room in eighteen seventy-seven following a disputed election.

Nearby is the State Dining Room, where big events take place, like official dinners for visiting leaders. The Treaty Room on the second floor is used for meetings. Important documents have been signed there. At different times, this was the cabinet room or the president's office.
The next floor of the White House contains bedrooms for guests. One of these is the Lincoln Bedroom, named for the sixteenth president. But Abraham Lincoln never slept there.

Lincoln used the room as an office while he led the country through the Civil War in the eighteen sixties. President Lincoln was murdered days after the war ended with the surrender of Robert E. Lee, the Southern general. John Wilkes Booth, a stage actor and supporter of the South, shot Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, not far from the White House.

Over the years, presidents and other people have reported seeing Lincoln's ghost or feeling his presence in the White House.

Long gone are the days when people could simply walk into the White House. In fact, the White House was closed to visitors temporarily after the terrorist attacks of September eleventh, two thousand-one.

Information about public tours can be found at whitehouse.gov. Tours are available for groups of ten or more people. Requests for these self-guided tours must be made through a member of Congress. A limited number of tours are available. People can also see inside the White House through virtual tours at whitehouse.gov.
Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Bob Doughty.

And I'm Barbara Klein. Transcripts and MP3s of our programs are on the Web at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.
 
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Chickenfeed: It Doesn't Add Up to Much

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 Chickenfeed: It Doesn't Add Up to Much
2008-02-18

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I'm Susan Clark with WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, a program in Special English on the Voice of America.

(MUSIC)

Almost every language in the world has a saying that a person can never be too rich.

Americans, like people in other countries, always want more money. One way they express this is by protesting that their jobs do not pay enough. A common expression is, "I am working for chickenfeed." It means working for very little money. The expression probably began because seeds fed to chickens made people think of small change. Small change means metal coins of not much value, like nickels which are worth five cents.

An early use of the word chickenfeed appeared in an American publication in nineteen thirty. It told about a rich man and his son. Word expert Mitford Mathews says it read, "I'll bet neither the kid nor his father ever saw a nickel or a dime. They would not have been interested in such chickenfeed."

Chickenfeed also has another interesting meaning known to history experts and World War Two spies and soldiers.

Spy expert Henry S. A. Becket writes that some German spies working in London during the war also worked for the British. The British government had to make the Germans believe their spies were working. So, British officials gave them mostly false information. It was called chickenfeed.

The same person who protests that he is working for chickenfeed may also say, "I am working for peanuts." She means she is working for a small amount of money.

It is a very different meaning from the main one in the dictionary. That meaning is small nuts that grow on a plant.

No one knows for sure how a word for something to eat also came to mean something very small. But, a peanut is a very small food.

The expression is an old one. Word expert Mitford Mathews says that as early as eighteen fifty-four, an American publication used the words peanut agitators. That meant political troublemakers who did not have a lot of support.

Another reason for the saying about working for peanuts may be linked to elephants. Think of how elephants are paid for their work in the circus. They receive food, not money. One of the foods they like best is peanuts.

When you add the word gallery to the word peanut you have the name of an area in an American theater. A gallery is a high seating area or balcony above the main floor.

The peanut gallery got its name because it is the part of the theater most distant from where the show takes place. So, peanut gallery tickets usually cost less than other tickets. People pay a small amount of money for them.

(MUSIC)

This Special English program, WORDS AND THEIR STORIES, was written by Jeri Watson. This is Susan Clark.
 
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A Rare Disease Can't Stop Will Downing From Making His Kind of Music

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 A Rare Disease Can't Stop Will Downing From Making His Kind of Music
2008-02-29

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Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We play music by Will Downing ??br />
Answer a question about the meaning of the American dream ??br />
And explain Leap Day, February twenty-ninth.
#Leap Day

Today, February twenty-ninth, is Leap Day. This date only appears on the calendar once every four years. But why? Faith Lapidus explains.

Everyone knows the Earth takes three hundred sixty-five days to travel around the sun. Well, that is not exactly correct. The Earth really takes three hundred sixty-five days, five hours, forty-eight minutes and forty-six seconds to complete its orbit around the sun.

The problem for people developing calendars was what to do with the extra five hours, forty-eight minutes and forty-six seconds.

People needed calendars to help them know when to plant crops and when to celebrate religious holidays. The ancient Greeks and Chinese had a solution. They produced calendars that included extra months every nineteen years.

The ancient Romans had a different solution. In the year forty-six, the Roman ruler

Julius Caesar made a new calendar. The Julian calendar included an extra day every four years. But there was a problem. The Julian year was just over eleven minutes longer than the cycle of the seasons. In fifteen eighty-two, Pope Gregory the Thirteenth established a new calendar to keep a better record of the days. Pope Gregory was the religious leader of most of Europe. He decided that years that could be divided by four would add a day. However, years that ended in two zeros that could not be evenly divided by four hundred would not be leap years.

For example, the years seventeen hundred, eighteen hundred and nineteen hundred were not leap years. But the years sixteen hundred and two thousand were leap years.

So leap years are years with three hundred sixty-six days, instead of the usual three hundred sixty-five. This extra day is added to the calendar on February twenty-ninth, sometimes known as Leap Day. People born on Leap Day may be called "leaplings." They usually celebrate their birthdays on February twenty-eighth or March first.
#The American Dream

This week's listener question comes from Ghana. Kwaku Kwakye wants to know the meaning of the expression "the American dream."

Each individual may define the American dream differently. But the general idea is that

a person in the United States has the freedom to carry out his or her goals. It usually means a person has the chance to work hard, earn money and create a secure life. For many people, this means being able to get a good education, have a good job and own a house. The expression is often linked to immigrants who have come to this country seeking more freedom or a better life than they could have in their own countries.

The definition appeared in nineteen thirty-one in a history book by James Truslow Adams, "The Epic of America." He wrote that the American dream is "that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement."

Some people would say that the United States Declaration of Independence first defined the American dream. Thomas Jefferson wrote this document in seventeen seventy-six. It expressed why the American colonies decided to fight British colonial rule in order to become an independent nation. The Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal." And that they have the rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

In the nineteen sixties, the African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Junior had his own dream for America. He said that America's declaration that "all men are created equal" is a great expression of the idea of democracy. But he noted that this dream was not a reality. He said that it was the moral duty of Americans to work so that racial minorities and people of different social levels could be treated equally.

An organization called the Center for a New American Dream deals with another kind of dream. Its goal is to help Americans live in ways that protect the environment, improve the quality of life and support social justice.

Do you have any ideas about the American dream? You can send them to special@voanews.com.

#Will Downing
Music critics and fans of Will Downing know him as a skillful singer and songwriter. He is recognized as one of the leading singers of romantic, rhythm and blues music. He has had many loyal fans since his first album in nineteen eighty-eight. He recently released another successful album while dealing with a serious, life-changing sickness. Katherine Cole has more.

(MUSIC: "Will's Groove")

#KATHERINE COLE:

That was "Will's Groove" from Will Downing's latest record called "After Tonight." It is his thirteenth album in twenty years. It includes songs that combine rhythm and blues and his easy, jazz style of singing.

After recording a few songs for "After Tonight," Will Downing became sick with a rare, incurable disease called polymyositis. The condition causes severe muscle weakness that makes it difficult to move. Yet, Downing worked very hard to complete his new record. Instead of a studio, he sometimes recorded songs from a hospital bed or a wheelchair in his home.

Although he is facing difficult times, Will Downing says, he remains thankful. He wrote the song "God Is So Amazing" to express his feelings.
The other songs on "After Tonight" are the kind of emotional love songs that make Will Downing so popular, especially among women. The words in his songs and his smooth, rich voice tell a story of how wonderful love should be. Here he sings "Satisfy You."
We leave you with another love song by Will Downing from his album "After Tonight." Here he sings "No One Can Love You More."
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by Lawan Davis, Dana Demange and Caty Weaver, who was also our producer.Send your questions about American life to mosaic@voanews.com. Please include your full name and mailing address. 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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Hollywood Looks Overseas for Talent and Profit

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 Hollywood Looks Overseas for Talent and Profit
2008-02-29

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This is the VOA Special English ECONOMICS REPORT.

This year, something happened at the Academy Awards that had not happened since nineteen sixty-four. All the winners for best acting were from outside the United States.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Tilda Swinton are British. He won best actor for "There Will Be Blood"; she won best supporting actress for "Michael Clayton." French actress Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for best actress for "La Vie en Rose." And Spain's Javier Bardem won best supporting actor in "No Country for Old Men."

Hollywood is increasingly looking outside America's borders for stars and profit.

Jonathan Taplin is a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. He says that today, about fifty-four percent of the ticket sales for Hollywood studios now come from outside the United States.

For the last three months of two thousand seven, foreign sales totaled about eight hundred eighty million dollars. But there is fierce competition for each movie dollar.

Hollywood has lost market share in some places as other countries develop their own film industries. For example, in the mid-eighties, American films had eighty percent of the market in South Korea. Today that share is about forty percent.

Hollywood also faces competition from illegally copied movies, a major issue to the Motion Picture Association of America. The trade group estimated more than eighteen billion dollars in worldwide losses from piracy in two thousand five.

Hollywood reporter Alan Silverman says piracy has influenced how American movies are released. In the past, Hollywood studios waited months after the American release of a film to release it in foreign markets. Now, many aim to release films at the same time around the world.

Foreign markets may also influence how people get their movies. Different nations have different levels of technology.

Efforts to settle on the next-generation DVD got a lot of attention recently. Sony's Blu-ray technology for high-definition televisions won the competition with Toshiba's HD DVD format.

Yet DVD sales have dropped in recent years. This may be a sign that people are increasingly getting their movies off the Internet. The Internet is another front in Hollywood's war on piracy. But more than that, it presents complex business questions for an industry now built mostly on DVD and ticket sales.

And that's the VOA Special English ECONOMICS REPORT, written by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.
 
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The Story of the Largest Beef Recall in US History

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 The Story of the Largest Beef Recall in US History

2008-03-11

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This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

On February seventeenth, the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company of Chino, California, recalled almost sixty-five million kilograms of beef. The government declared the products unfit for human food. Officials at the Department of Agriculture said the cattle did not receive complete and proper inspection.

The beef recall was the largest in American history. But the government rated the health risk as low. No cases of sickness have been reported.

The beef was produced over the last two years. Almost all of it went to federal programs to provide lunches for schoolchildren. Some also went to federal programs for Indian reservations and emergency food aid.

About half of the beef had already been used when the recall took place. The recall followed the public release of video secretly recorded by the Humane Society of the United States. The video showed workers at the Chino slaughterhouse mistreating "downers" -- the name for sick or injured cows unable to stand.

The workers kicked them and shot water at their faces. They also used electric shocks and forklift trucks to force the animals to their feet. The Agriculture Department bans downer cattle from entering the food supply. The ban is part of measures to protect against the human version of mad cow disease.

Westland/Hallmark is closed until investigations are completed, and its deals to supply federal programs are suspended. Local officials have brought animal cruelty charges against two employees. And lawmakers in Congress have ordered the head of the company to appear at a hearing this week, saying he refused an earlier invitation.

At the end of February, the Humane Society brought a lawsuit against the Agriculture Department over a change in its inspection rules. The group says the change made last year could make it easier for sick and injured cows to enter the food supply.

Officials defend the inspection process, but have also announced new measures, including inspections outside approved hours of operation.

When food recalls are announced, they often include the names of some of the stores that were supplied with the products. But under a new state law, California has published an online list of the names, addresses and phone numbers of thousands of places affected by the beef recall. These include markets, restaurants, hotels and school systems.

And that's the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT, written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Steve Ember.
 
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Device Gives New Meaning to the Idea of Power Walking

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 Device Gives New Meaning to the Idea of Power Walking

2008-03-11

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This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Barbara Klein.

VOICE TWO.

And I'm Bob Doughty. This week, we will tell about a device that makes electrical power from something as simple as walking. We will tell about a common disease many people have never heard of. And, we report on a study linking all blue-eyed people in the world.
Electrical devices could soon use power made by human energy. Scientists say they have developed an experimental device that produces electricity from the physical movement of a person walking. A report on the device was published recently in Science magazine.

Max Donelan is an assistant professor of kinesiology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Colombia. He and other scientists in Canada and the United States developed the device.

Mister Donelan says the goal of the study was to store energy from walking in a way that can get electricity without having to increase effort.

The device connects to a person's knee. As the person walks, the device captures energy each time the person slows down. To do this, the device assists with the slowing down movement of the leg. The movements of the person walking push parts of a small machine that produces electricity.

Using the device, an adult walking quickly could produce thirteen watts of electricity in just a minute. Mister Donelan says walking at that speed could produce enough power to operate a laptop computer for six minutes.

There are several possible uses for the device. Developers say it could help people who work in areas without electricity to operate small computers or wireless telephones. The device could also be used to operate life-saving health devices like heart pacemakers. It could even be used to assist in the movement of robotic arms and legs.

The experimental version of the device currently weighs about one and a half kilograms. It is too costly for most people to buy. But the researchers hope to make a lighter, less costly version.

Mister Donelan says an improved version should be ready in one year. The researchers also hope that soldiers could use the device. The machine could supply power to electronic devices with a battery that would re-gain power as the soldier walked.

The developers also hope the device will one-day help developing countries. Nearly twenty-five percent of people around the world live without electric power.

A similar product was invented in two thousand five by Larry Rome of the University of Pennsylvania. He created a bag carried on a person's back that also produces power from walking. The knee device does not produce as much electricity as the bag. But the bag requires the walker to carry a load of twenty to thirty kilograms.
You are listening to the VOA Special English program SCIENCE IN THE NEWS. With Bob Doughty, I'm Barbara Klein in Washington.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or C.O.P.D., affects more than two hundred million people around the world. The World Health Organization says at least five million people died from it in two thousand five. Ninety percent were in developing countries.

In the United States, C.O.P.D. is the fourth leading cause of death. But even with these numbers, many people have never heard of it.

The Canadian Lung Association says C.O.P.D. is the new name for emphysema and chronic bronchitis. These are the two most common forms of it. Many people with C.O.P.D. have both of them.

The result is progressive and incurable lung damage. The tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs become partly blocked. This makes it difficult to breathe and often produces a cough that will not go away.

People with C.O.P.D. often have swelling that causes the airways to narrow. And they often produce more mucus than normal. This oily substance protects the airways, but too much of it blocks them.

Smoking is the most common cause of C.O.P.D. Nonsmokers can get the disease from breathing other people's tobacco smoke.

Air pollution can also cause the disease. Miners and others who work around some kinds of dust and chemicals are at higher risk. Children who repeatedly suffer lung infections have a greater chance of developing the disease as adults. Genetics may also be involved.

Doctors can perform a quick breathing test with a machine called a spirometer that can help diagnose C.O.P.D. But experts say people are often not tested or treated correctly for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Patients may not consider a continuous cough serious enough to seek medical attention. Or doctors may mistakenly identify it as asthma or another infection.

Some of the early warning signs are a cough that will not go away and an increase in mucus production. Another sign is difficulty breathing after minor activity like walking up stairs.

There are ways to slow the progress of the disease. Doctors say the most important thing is to stop smoking. There are medicines that can reduce inflammation and open air passages. Also, exercise is often advised. If the disease is severe, a doctor may order oxygen treatment or even operations to remove damaged lung tissue.
Researchers in Denmark say all human beings had brown eyes until a change in genetic orders produced the first blue eyes. The researchers also say people with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor. They found that blue-eyed people are genetically linked to the first person ever to have blue eyes. That person is said to have lived six thousand to ten thousand years ago.

The University of Copenhagen research team reported its findings in Human Genetics magazine.

Team members examined genes of blue-eyed individuals from countries like Denmark, India, Jordan and Turkey. They found that most people with blue eyes had changed genetic orders near a gene called OCA Two. More than ninety nine percent of those studied had the same difference in their genetic material. Team member Hans Eiberg said they all have the same change at exactly the same place.

The researchers say the result of the changed orders is a lack of brown in the iris of the eye. They say the orders stop production of melanin in the eye. Melanin is a substance that gives color to eyes, skin and hair.

The researchers say the first person with the changed genetic orders did not have blue eyes. That is because eye color results from genes passed from both the mother and the father. Blue eyes do not appear unless both parents pass the same gene for it to a child. So a child with one gene for brown eyes and one for blue will have brown eyes.

The first blue-eyed person was the product of two people with brown eyes. But they both had one brown-eyed gene and the changed gene for blue eyes. Those blue-eyed genes came together in the first person to have blue eyes.

The Danish researchers say that person probably lived in an area northwest of the Black Sea. They say this would explain why blue eyes are mainly found in people from northern Europe and southern Russia.

The researchers say they do not yet know why the blue-eyed gene was able to survive and spread. They estimate that the changed gene is now found in about three hundred million people. And, they say that about eight percent of all the people today have blue eyes.

We leave you now with a song that Crystal Gayle made famous thirty years ago: "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue."
This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Brianna Blake and Nancy Steinbach. Our producer was Brianna Blake. I'm Barbara Klein.

And, I'm Bob Doughty. Read and listen to our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.
 
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