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For Many People, First the Doctor’s Office, Then the Web

This is the VOA Special English Technology Report.

A new survey finds that more than eighty percent of Internet users in the United States search for health information online. The survey is from the Pew Research Center”s Internet and American Life Project and the California HealthCare Foundation.

Susannah Fox from the Pew Internet Project says doctors are still the main source of health information. But the survey found that searching online is one of the leading ways that people look for a second opinion.

SUSANNAH FOX: “People are sort of fact-checking what they have heard from a doctor. Our studies show that people are still very likely to turn to a health professional when they need a diagnosis or are planning a treatment.”

Forty-four percent of people are actually looking for doctors or other providers when they search for health information online.

Another finding of the survey: Two-thirds of Internet users look online for information about a specific disease or medical condition.

The Internet has also become an important source of emotional support for people with health problems. Susannah Fox says one in five Internet users has gone online to find other people who have the same condition.

SUSANNAH FOX: “It was more prevalent among people with more serious health issues — one in four people living with chronic disease. And it was basically off the charts with people living with rare disease. They are so eager to find other people online who share their health concerns.”

A disease is considered rare if it affects fewer than two hundred thousand people worldwide. The rise of social networking has made it easier for people with rare diseases to connect with each other and feel less alone.

Social networking is also changing the way some doctors and patients communicate with each other.

Dr. Jeff Livingston operates a medical center for women in Irving, Texas.  His office uses password-protected software to share information with patients.

JEFF LIVINGSTON: “We provide the patient full access to their medical care. Anything I can see, the patient can see. All of their notes, all of their doctor visits are right there. All of their lab work is right there.”

Dr. Livingston says the software has increased efficiency, reduced costs and improved relations with patients.

JEFF LIVINGSTON: “It has just revolutionized the way we do health care.”

His medical center also has a Facebook page, a MySpace page and a Twitter feed.

And that”s the VOA Special English Technology Report, written by June Simms. You can stay in touch with us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English.

We would like to hear your stories about going online to search for health information. There”s a lot of information out there. How do you know if you can trust what you find?

You can also post your comments or on our website,  I”m Steve Ember.


Contributing: Carol Pearson

By |March 10th, 2011|Special English|0 Comments

The Carter Family: First Family of Country Music

STEVE EMBER: I’m Steve Ember.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I’m Shirley Griffith with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the Carter Family, the first family of country music.

STEVE EMBER: It was August second, nineteen twenty-seven. The news had spread fast. A man named Ralph Peer was coming to the city of Bristol, on the border between Virginia and Tennessee. He wanted to make recordings of local people singing and playing musical instruments. And he said he would pay fifty dollars for each song recorded. That was a lot of money in those days.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Many people came to Bristol that day to play for Mr. Peer. But one group seemed to have just the sound that he was looking for. They were a man named A.P. Carter, his wife, Sara, and her cousin, Maybelle. They had traveled more than one hundred twenty-five kilometers from their home in the mountains of Virginia. They called themselves the Carter Family.


John Carter Cash holds up his grandmother Maybelle Carter''s Gibson L-5 guitar during a celebration at the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum in Nashville.


John Carter Cash with his grandmother Maybelle Carter”s Gibson L-5 guitar.

STEVE EMBER: Sara sang lead, the loudest and highest notes. A.P. sang bass, the lowest notes. Maybelle sang harmony, somewhere in between. She also played the guitar in a new and unusual way. It sounded almost like two people were playing at the same time. She played the main part of the songs on the lowest guitar strings. And then she quickly strummed by playing all the strings at once. This kind of playing became known as the “Carter Scratch.” Guitarists around the world would soon begin to copy her style.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Those first recordings were sent to radio stations throughout the United States. Many listeners were surprised at what they heard. Instead of classical or jazz songs that radio stations usually played, a new sound was born.

The Carter Family sounded different. They did not sound like they had taken music lessons. But it did not matter. The people in poor rural areas thought they sounded just like their neighbors, or the people who sang in their churches.

Up until then, they had never heard people like themselves perform on the radio. Soon the Carters were being called country singers, because their music came from rural country areas and not big cities.

STEVE EMBER: The Carters sang songs about living in the mountains of Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. They sang about the love of a young man for a special girl. They sang about the beauty of nature. They sang about dying and sadness. And they sang religious songs that told of hope for a better life after death.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: A.P. Carter sang in the group and also searched for new songs. He often traveled long distances to small towns in the southeastern United States. He wanted to hear the songs that local people sang in their communities. He wrote down the words but kept the music in his memory. When he returned home, he helped Sarah and Maybelle fit them to the Carter Family musical style.

Country music legend Johnny Cash performs with his wife June Carter Cash, a member of the famous Carter Family.


Country music legend Johnny Cash performs with his wife June Carter Cash, a member of the famous Carter Family.

STEVE EMBER: The Carter Family soon became famous. They recorded more songs. They traveled to many cities and towns in the eastern United States to perform. Thousands of people heard them sing and bought their recordings.

Some people estimate that within three years, the Carter Family sold three hundred thousand recordings.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In the early nineteen thirties many Americans were poor. The Great Depression had begun. Many people had no jobs. But somehow they found enough money to buy the recordings of the music they loved. A.P., Sarah, and Maybelle Carter knew that the economy was very bad. They knew what it was like to be poor. So they always tried to sing a few songs to make people feel happy.


STEVE EMBER: The Carter Family continued to make recordings and perform their music live for several years. In nineteen thirty-eight, they traveled to Texas. A very powerful radio station was a short distance across the border in Mexico. It could broadcast much farther than any radio station in the United States. The Carters performed on the station twice each day. Now people from all over America and in some foreign countries could hear them.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: As a musical group, the Carter Family was a great success. But there were problems that the public did not know about. For years, A.P. and Sarah had not been happy with each other. Finally, their marriage ended in divorce. Three years later, Sarah married A.P.’s cousin. The group continued to perform together, but it was not easy. And then, in nineteen forty-three, it all came to an end. Sarah and her second husband moved to California. A.P. Carter also stopped performing, and moved back home to Clinch Mountain to live out the rest of his life.


STEVE EMBER: So now the Carter Family was down to one. Maybelle Carter was the only one left to perform. She decided it was not yet time to retire to her “Old Clinch Mountain Home.” She continued to play her guitar and sing. She also played the autoharp. She appeared many times on the live radio program “The Grand Ole Opry” in Nashville, Tennessee. She became known as Mother Maybelle, the mother of American country music.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In the nineteen fifties and sixties, her daughters performed and made recordings with Mother Maybelle. They appeared many times with the famous country music singer Johnny Cash. June Carter, one of Maybelle’s daughters, married Johnny Cash in nineteen sixty-eight. They all sang together until Mother Maybelle’s death in nineteen seventy-eight.

Janette Carter, daughter of A.P. and Sara Carter, speaks at the 12th Annual Bluegrass Music Awards.


Janette Carter, daughter of A.P. and Sara Carter, speaks at the 12th Annual Bluegrass Music Awards.

STEVE EMBER: The Carter Family is remembered today as the First Family of American country music. Their most famous song is still played today. It is about love that did not last. It is called “Wildwood Flower.”



He told me he loved me and called me his flower

That blossomed for him all the brighter each hour

Though my heart is now breaking, he shall never know

That his name makes me tremble, my pale cheeks to glow

I’ll sing and I’ll dance and my laugh shall be gay

I’ll charm every heart and the crowd I will away

I’ll live you to see him regret the dark hour

When he won and neglected this frail wildwood flower

STEVE EMBER: This program was written by Jim Tedder and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Steve Ember.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I’m Shirley Griffith. Our programs are online with transcripts and MP3 files at And you can find us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.

By |March 10th, 2011|Special English|0 Comments

Patricia Neal, 1926-2010: Actress Had Great Success, but Also Tragedy

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: I’m Shirley Griffith.

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: And I’m Christopher Cruise with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell about Patricia Neal, a famous actress who reached the top of her profession but had many personal tragedies.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In the nineteen forties and fifties, one American actress could be identified by listening to her speak just a few words:

PATRICIA NEAL: “I didn’t want to be tied to anything. I wanted to destroy it rather than let it be part of a world where beauty and genius and greatness have no chance.”

That was Patricia Neal in the nineteen-forty-nine film “The Fountainhead.”

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: She was named Patsy Louise Neal when she was born in nineteen twenty-six in Packard, Kentucky, a coal-mining camp. Her father was a manager at a coal mine. Packard no longer exists. It disappeared, as mining camps often do, and few people remember it. But Packard’s most famous daughter is remembered for her great beauty, success, talent, bravery and activism.

Later the family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. Patricia began acting as a teenager. She studied drama at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois for two years but left to go to New York City.  In nineteen forty-seven she won a Tony award the first year the awards were given for her first Broadway performance. She played a teenage girl in “Another Part of the Forest” written by Lillian Hellman. Her success on Broadway quickly brought offers from Hollywood filmmakers.

By the age of twenty-one, Patricia Neal was on the cover of Life magazine. Being on the cover meant you were a star. Millions of Americans read the magazine every week.

Patricia Neal at the opening night performance of "Doubt" on Broadway


Patricia Neal at the opening night performance of “Doubt” on Broadway

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Soon after Patricia Neal arrived in Hollywood, she met Gary Cooper, one of the most famous movie stars of the time. They starred together in “The Fountainhead” in nineteen forty-nine. It was the film version of Ayn Rand’s famous book.

GARY COOPER (AS HOWARD ROARK): “Come in…I expected you to come here.”

PATRICIAL NEAL (AS DOMINIQUE FRANCON): “I didn’t know your name. You knew mine, but you haven’t tried to find me in all these months.”

GARY COOPER: “I wanted you to find me and have to come to me.”

PATRICIA NEAL: “If it gives you pleasure to know that you are breaking me down I’ll give you a greater satisfaction…I love you, Roark. Would it please you to hear that I’ve lived in torture all these months? Hoping never to find you again and wishing to give my life just to see you once more. But you knew that, of course – that’s what you wanted me to live through.”

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Gary Cooper was forty-eight years old and married. Patricia Neal was just twenty-three. But they soon became lovers. Their three-year love affair ended when Cooper refused to leave his wife and daughter for Neal, even after Neal became pregnant with his child. This hurt Patricia Neal terribly. She had an illegal abortion. She suffered an emotional collapse. She left Hollywood and moved to New York City.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In nineteen fifty-three, she met and married the British writer Roald Dahl. More than thirty years later, she said in an interview that she did not love Dahl when she married him. But she wanted very much to be a mother.

PATRICIA NEAL: “So I thought, well, I will marry him because he will give me divine children, and I wanted children so much – you have no idea how much I wanted children. And that, that is really why I married Roald Dahl because I thought I would never be deeply in love again because I had been deeply in love with Gary Cooper.”

They moved to England where they had five children. In the nineteen fifties Patricia Neal again appeared on Broadway.  In nineteen fifty-seven she returned to film and starred in “A Face in the Crowd” directed by Elia Kazan. But two tragedies happened to Neal and Dahl in the nineteen sixties. Their infant son Theo suffered brain damage when a car hit him in New York City. Their seven-year-old daughter Olivia died from the disease measles.

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Patricia Neal lived in England with her husband and children, but she continued to make movies in Hollywood. In nineteen sixty-four, she received an Academy Award for best actress. She won the award for her performance as Alma the housekeeper in the movie “Hud,” starring Paul Newman.

Patricia Neal holds a replica of her Hollywood Walk of Fame star that was installed on  May 20, 2005


Patricia Neal holds a replica of her Hollywood Walk of Fame star that was installed on May 20, 2005

PATRICIA NEAL (AS ALMA): “Don’t you ever ask?”

PAUL NEWMAN (AS HUD): “Well, the only question I ever ask any woman is ‘What time is your husband comin’ home?’”

PATRICIA NEAL: “Must say I’ve been asked with a little more finesse in my time.”

PAUL NEWMAN: “I’ll bring ya a two-pound box of candy and maybe a bottle of perfume from the drugstore.”

PATRICIA NEAL: “No thanks. I done my time with one cold-blooded bastard. I’m not lookin’ for another.”

PAUL NEWMAN: “It’s too late, honey, you already found him.”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In nineteen sixty-five, a year after she won the Oscar, Patricia Neal suffered three strokes. She was thirty-nine years old and three months pregnant with her fifth child. She was unconscious for three weeks. When she woke up, she was blind and could not speak. And she was unable to move parts of her body.

She was in such terrible condition that Variety, a national entertainment newspaper, reported that she had died.

PATRICIA NEAL: “I’ve read about my death in the paper.”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The report read: “Patricia Neal, thirty-nine, last-year’s Oscar-winning best actress who won five prizes for her first Broadway performance in nineteen forty-seven, died last night at UCLA Medical Center.”

The report was wrong, but not by much. She was near death. It was three months before she was able to walk again and speak a little. Her husband forced her to improve. But every day was difficult. She said she hated life. “I wanted to commit suicide,” she said, “but I didn’t know how.” Six months after the strokes, she gave birth to a healthy daughter named Lucy. She believes the strokes kept her from becoming a major star.

PATRICIA NEAL: “I’d just won the Academy Award. I was going to go sensational. I was gonna get the most heavenly parts in the world. I would win Oscar after Oscar after Oscar.”

INTERVIEWER: “You were thirty-nine years old – at the beginning, in fact, of a career.”

PATRICIA NEAL: “And it was killed.”

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: But by nineteen sixty-eight she was back in the movies. The strokes affected her brain so much that it was very difficult for her to remember her lines. But she worked hard. And she received an Academy Award nomination for her role in “The Subject Was Roses.”

She played an angry mother who uses her son as a weapon against her husband.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In nineteen seventy-eight, she dedicated the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. The center helps people who have had strokes. Patricia Neal raised money for children and adults who had suffered brain injuries. She showed that a brain injury did not mean the end of life or the end of joy. She said: “I can’t see from one eye. I’ve been paralyzed. I’ve fallen down and broken a hip. Stubbornness gets you through the bad times. Don’t give in.”

Patricia Neal received a lifetime achievement award at the Nashville Film Festival in April 2008


Patricia Neal received a lifetime achievement award at the Nashville Film Festival in April 2008

In nineteen eighty-three, Patricia Neal suffered another personal tragedy. She learned that her husband had been having a long relationship with her closest friend. After thirty years in England, she ended her marriage and returned to the United States.

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Patricia Neal was eighty-four when she died of lung cancer in two thousand ten. She had made almost forty movies.

They include “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” She had worked with the most famous actors of her time.

She also appeared in many television programs. She had had a productive career, but it was not everything she had wanted it to be. She wished she had become a great star.

A friend remembered her as one of the most extraordinary women of our time. “She was constantly inspiring everyone for her courage and dedication. Whether on stage, in motion pictures or in her personal life, she maintained her unique beauty and personality.”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Jennie Morrow raises money to support the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center. She said Patricia Neal faced severe problems with such style and grace. “She was so inspirational to the patients. She stopped to hear their stories, held their hands and applauded their success. And she knew about the value of applause.”

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Patricia Neal struggled back to a productive life after many personal and professional problems. She helped others who were recovering from strokes. But one writer said after she died: “She wished to be remembered not for gossip, or for her personal life, but for her performances on stage and screen.”

In two thousand five, Patricia Neal said: “I am an actress, and I will take any good part as long as I can stand up. And when I can no longer do that, I will take them lying down.”

After she died, the New York Times newspaper wrote that her life moved back and forth between victory and tragedy. A book about her is called “Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life.” That seems like a good way to describe the life she lived.

PATRICIA NEAL: “I’ve loved being here…”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: This program was written by Christopher Cruise and produced by Dana Demange.  I’m Shirley Griffith.

CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: And I’m Christopher Cruise. Our programs are online with transcripts and MP3 files at You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.

By |March 1st, 2011|Special English|0 Comments

This Year’s Oscar Choices: From ‘True Grit’ to True Stories

STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I’m Barbara Klein. Each year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presents the Academy Awards in Los Angeles, California. The awards are called Oscars. They are the American film industry’s top honors. This year’s awards ceremony will be held next Sunday.

Today we tell about the movies nominated for best picture. We also hear what some local moviegoers have to say about them.


STEVE EMBER: This year marks the eighty-third Academy Awards. Nominees and other members of the film industry will gather for the awards ceremony at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood on February twenty-seventh. About six thousand members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences vote for the winners by secret ballots. Oscars are given in twenty-five categories. They include best actors, directors, writers and producers among others.

BARBARA KLEIN: But the top award, best picture, is announced last. Last year the academy increased the number of best picture nominees from five to ten. The change was an attempt to increase interest and gain more television viewers for the Academy Awards show. It seems to have worked. Nearly forty-two million people watched last year’s television broadcast of the awards show. That was an increase of five million viewers from the year before.

This year Academy Awards producers are targeting younger audiences. Actress Anne Hathaway and actor James Franco will host the awards show. A new marketing campaign will include behind-the-scenes live streaming at before the show.

Viewers will see video from about thirty cameras capturing movie stars entering the theater on the famous red carpet as well as the control room and press room.


STEVE EMBER: This year’s best picture nominees include several films based on true stories about a king, a boxer, a website creator and a rock climber. There is also a psychological thriller about ballet and an animated children’s movie. The stars of most of these movies are also nominated for acting awards.

Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in "The King''s Speech"Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in “The King”s Speech”

One of the most highly praised films of the year is “The King’s Speech.” This historical film tells the story of how Britain’s King George the Sixth overcame a speech problem in order to speak to his country during World War Two. It deals with friendship and the universal problems of loneliness and communication. The drama has earned twelve nominations, the most of any film this year.

BARBARA KLEIN: Another film based on a true story is “127 Hours.” The film documents the near-death experience of rock climber Aron Ralston. In two thousand three, the twenty-six-year-old became trapped in a canyon in Utah.

The climber, played by James Franco, spends one hundred twenty-seven hours trapped alone with little chance of survival. In order to break free, he cuts off his arm and escapes.

STEVE EMBER: “True Grit” is a movie based on the novel by Charles Portis. It was written and directed by Oscar-winning brothers Ethan and Joel Coen. It tells the story of a young girl trying to bring her father’s killer to justice. It is a remake of a nineteen sixty-nine western movie starring John Wayne. “True Grit” is nominated in ten categories.

(SOUND: “True Grit”)

STEVE EMBER: The movie stars Jeff Bridges as the United States Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn. Newcomer actress Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross. She hires Cogburn to help her find the killer, Tom Chaney, played by Josh Brolin.

BARBARA KLEIN: The thriller “Black Swan” is another best picture nominee. It stars Natalie Portman who trained intensely to play the part of Nina Sayers, a ballerina with a New York ballet company. Nina struggles to perform the leading role in “Swan Lake” while dealing with a controlling mother, played by Barbara Hershey.

The film explores the competitive world of ballet that Nina lives in and that threatens to destroy her.

STEVE EMBER: Another best picture nominee is “The Social Network.” It received eight Academy Award nominations. This film is based on the story of the creation of the extremely popular Internet website Facebook.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. In two thousand three, Zuckerberg and his friends invented the website while students at Harvard University. The success of Facebook made him the youngest billionaire in history. However, some of his friends brought lawsuits in disputes over rights and ownership to the website.

(SOUND: “The Social Network”)

BARBARA KLEIN: The best picture nominees includes one animated film, Pixar’s “Toy Story 3.” The children’s movie continues the story told in two earlier versions. A boy named Andy’s beloved toys are accidentally given to a daycare center when Andy goes off to college. At first, the toys enjoy the new attention from children. But they soon realize they are imprisoned by an evil teddy bear. They must work together to plan an escape.

Toy Story 3Toy Story 3

STEVE EMBER: Also up for best picture is “Winter’s Bone.” This film was made on a very small budget. The main character, Ree Dolley, is a seventeen-year-old living in a poor rural area in southern Missouri.

She cares for her mentally ill mother and her younger brother and sister. Her father is a local drug dealer who has disappeared. Her family risks losing their home if her father does not show up for court. Ree sets out to find her father and discovers secrets about him. Ree is played by newcomer actress Jennifer Lawrence.

BARBARA KLEIN: “Inception” is a movie about dreams. It received eight nominations. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb who steals valuable information from people’s minds while they dream. His rare skill makes him a valuable corporate spy.

He has sacrificed everything for his work. Now he is being given a chance to get his life back if can complete one last job. This time, however, instead of stealing information, he must plant information in the mind of one man. He comes up with a plan for the inception using a series of dreams within dreams.

(SOUND: “Inception”)

BARBARA KLEIN: Cobb must now face the question of what is reality and what is only a dream.


STEVE EMBER: Another best picture nominee is “The Fighter.” The story takes places in the nineteen eighties in Lowell, Massachusetts. It is based on the true story of boxer Micky Ward, played by Mark Wahlberg, and his rise to become a junior welterweight champion.

Christian Bale plays Dickie Ecklund, Micky’s half-brother. Dickie’s boxing career was cut short by his addiction to drugs. So he spends his time training Micky with their mother Alice as manager. But Micky cannot win a fight. He decides to stand up to his family and quit boxing.

Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg in "The Fighter"Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg in “The Fighter”

(SOUND: “The Fighter”)

STEVE EMBER: But then Micky gets one more chance in the ring, under one condition: his family has to stay out of his career. The movie is a story of family struggles and relationships between brothers as well as boxing.

BARBARA KLEIN: “The Kids Are All Right” is another movie about a family. Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play a same sex couple with two teenage children. Their children decide to find their biological father. But the mothers worry that Paul is not a good influence for their children. Paul begins spending more and more time with the family and everyone’s lives are affected.

STEVE EMBER: We talked to movie goers recently at a theater near Washington to hear about their favorite movies of last year.

ERNA ATKINS: “I did see ‘The Fighter’ and ‘Social Network.’ I think ‘Social Network’ could win, the writing was amazing.”

STEVE EMBER: That was Erna Atkins, from Alexandria, Virginia. She said she liked the movies for different reasons.

ERNA ATKINS: “The wit of ‘The Social Network,’ and the bond of brotherhood in ‘The Fighter.’”

STEVE EMBER: We spoke with Barbara, from northern Virginia, who was leaving the theater after seeing “True Grit.”

BABARA KLEIN: “That was very good. We were just saying the young girl who starred should”ve had top billing. She was fabulous.”

STEVE EMBER: Michael Claros-Saenz is a member of the United States military stationed in Okinawa, Japan. He took his two younger brothers to the movies while visiting family in Virginia. Michael said he thinks ‘Toy Story 3’ could win best picture.

MICHAEL CLAROS-SAENZ: “It was a great way to end it. It made me really sad, because I was growing up with ‘Toy Story’ my whole life so just to see them being passed on was very touching.”


BARBARA KLEIN: Our program was written and produced by Brianna Blake. I’m Barbara Klein.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember. Tell us about your favorite movie of last year. You can comment at Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

By |February 28th, 2011|Special English|0 Comments

A Possible Safe New Way to Kill Mosquitoes That Spread Malaria

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Israeli researchers say they have developed a substance that attracts and kills mosquitoes infected with the malaria parasite. However, the sweet smelling substance is said to be harmless to people and animals.

Scientists at Hebrew University in Jerusalem developed the sugary bait by combining fruit juice oils and boric acid. The fruit juice gets the attention of the mosquitoes. Boric acid kills the insects when they eat it.

The scientists took the boric acid sweet bait to the West African nation of Mali. They sprayed it on plants near man-made ponds. Villagers use water from the ponds during the dry season. But the area is also home to Anopheles gambiae, the mosquito that carries the most deadly form of malaria.

The researchers also placed a sweet-smelling spray on grasses near other ponds. But that spray contained no boric acid.

Both substances also contained a substance that would mark any mosquito that came in contact with it. This way the scientists could count the mosquitoes that fed on the bait.

Yosef Schlein is an expert on insects that affect human health. Professor Schlein led the sweet bait research. He says thirty-eight days of results show the sweet boric acid bait proved very effective at killing mosquitoes.

YOSEF SCHLEIN: “In Mali, we got down by some eighty percent, the females, and ninety percent of the males. But the area is full of little ponds in there, so it is impossible to stop mosquitoes from flying from an untreated pond to a treated pond.”

At the ponds treated only with sweet-smelling bait, Professor Schlein says, more than seventy five percent of mosquitoes fed on the false bait. He says most people do not know that female mosquitoes feed on sweet plant nectars to survive. Their blood feedings are part of reproduction.

The Israeli researchers now hope to develop a bait that is even more desirable to the malaria mosquitoes.

Boric acid is generally safe for human beings and other mammals. Professor Schlein says scientists might be able to develop a mosquito bait for enclosed spaces. Boric acid has been used to kill other insects including cockroaches, termites and ants inside homes since the middle of last century.

A report about the malaria mosquito sweet bait was published in Malaria Journal.

And that’s the VOA Special English Health Report. You can find this report and more health news at You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. I’m Mario Ritter.

By |February 25th, 2011|Special English|0 Comments

Calls for Political Change Keep Protests Going in Mideast

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Anti-government protests continued this week in several countries across the Middle East and North Africa.

In Bahrain, the crown prince went on television Friday and appealed for calm. Thousands of mourners tried to return to Pearl Square in Manama, the capital, after a funeral for an anti-government protester.

Security forces fired on the mourners, who were disobeying a protest ban. Local officials and witnesses said at least twenty-three people were wounded. Later, angry protesters gathered next to a hospital. Many shouted “Down with Khalifa” — Bahrain”s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.

The military cleared Pearl Square of protesters during a raid on Thursday. The protests in Bahrain began on Monday.

Seventy percent of Bahrain”s population is Shi”ite, but Sunni Muslims lead the government. Bahrain is also home to the United State Navy”s Fifth Fleet.

In Yemen, demonstrators have been calling for more than a week for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign. Thousands protested across Yemen on Friday. Protesters fought with security forces in Aden. Medical officials say four people were shot to death.

At least one person was killed in the city of Taiz. A passenger in a car threw a grenade that exploded as a crowd demonstrated against the Yemeni government.

In Amman, Jordan, witnesses say at least eight people were injured when government supporters used sticks to attack demonstrators. Jordan has had weeks of protests demanding constitutional changes and limits on the power of King Abdullah.

In Libya, there were “Day of Rage” demonstrations Thursday against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Human Rights Watch says Libyan security forces killed twenty-four protesters.

In Iran, thousands of government supporters shouted “Death to Moussavi! Death to Karroubi!” after Friday prayers in Tehran. Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi are leaders of Iran’s opposition Green Movement.

But a top Iranian religious leader told a prayer service at Tehran University that execution was needless. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said the two men were, in a sense, dead already because they have lost their influence. Both men have been held effectively under house arrest this week.

On Monday, the Green Movement held its first public protest in a year. The movement grew out of Iran’s disputed presidential election in two thousand nine. Opposition websites have called for nationwide demonstrations on Sunday.

In a separate development, Egypt approved a request for two Iranian navy ships to pass through the Suez Canal. Israel’s Foreign Minister says the ships are expected to sail toward Syria. This is believed to be Iran”s first naval mission into the Mediterranean in years.

And in Cairo, thousands of Egyptians crowded into Tahrir Square on Friday for a day of celebration. They marked one week since President Hosni Mubarak resigned.

And that”s IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I”m Steve Ember.


Contributing: Lisa Bryant, Selah Hennessy and Brian Padden

By |February 22nd, 2011|Special English|0 Comments

Sam Cooke, 1931-1964: A Singer Who Crossed Racial Lines

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: I”m Shirley Griffith.

RAY FREEMAN: And I”m Ray Freeman with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Every week we tell about someone important in the history of the United States. This week we tell about singer and songwriter Sam Cooke.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The song is called “You Send Me.” It was written and sung by a young singer and songwriter, Sam Cooke.

During the late nineteen fifties and early sixties, Sam Cooke was one of the biggest stars in the music industry. His smooth voice and musical style were popular with both blacks and whites. His influence still is present in today”s music.

RAY FREEMAN: Sam Cooke was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in nineteen thirty-one. He grew up in Chicago, Illinois. His father was a minister in a Baptist church. Sam started singing religious music when he was only fifteen years old. When he was nineteen, he became the lead singer of a famous gospel singing group called the Soul Stirrers.

He became gospel music''s biggest star while singing with the group the Soul Stirrers.He became gospel music”s biggest star while singing with the group the Soul Stirrers.

In nineteen fifty, he began writing and recording for the Soul Stirrers. During his six years with the group, Cooke brought his own kind of expression to gospel music. He became gospel music”s biggest star. His good looks and singing abilities made him very popular among women, both young and old.

Here is Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers singing “Touch the Hem of His Garment.”


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Although Sam Cooke was a star with the Soul Stirrers, he wanted to sing other kinds of music. So, he decided to sing popular music instead.

Cooke”s decision to “cross over” to pop music shocked many blacks. That was because making such a change was not as easy then as it is today.

Racial tensions were high between blacks and whites in the nineteen fifties. And gospel music was popular among black people. It was considered an important part of black culture.

The company that recorded the Soul Stirrers” records urged him not to start singing pop music. They thought it would offend the group”s fans.

RAY FREEMAN: Cooke, however, wanted to sing to all groups of people. He wanted to express his racial identity without offending whites. At that time, most records by black artists were not played on radio stations that had white listeners. So, he left the gospel music world where he was extremely popular with blacks. But the move was not a mistake. He soon became a big star singing pop music.

His smooth voice and musical style were popular with both blacks and whites. His smooth voice and musical style were popular with both blacks and whites.

Sam Cooke”s first pop record was released by a small company, Keen, in nineteen fifty-seven. It was “You Send Me.” It was a huge success. It sold one million seven hundred thousand copies in the first year alone. It is one of his most memorable recordings. Here is the first version he recorded of that song. It was made to show Cooke”s ability to sing.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Sam Cooke had a voice that was unlike any the public had ever heard. His voice was soft, yet intense. He made singing seem effortless.

Cooke was also a wise businessman. In nineteen fifty-nine, he became the first black artist to establish his own record company, SAR Records. He wrote most of his own material. And, he owned the rights to his songs through his music publishing company, Kags Music. Very few blacks at that time were able to control their musical profession in such a way. And, without such business control, they lost money.

Here is another hit by Sam Cooke, when he was with the Keen record company, called “Wonderful World. ”


RAY FREEMAN: In nineteen sixty, Sam Cooke signed an agreement with a major record company, RCA. Such a move is common today. But, a move from an independent black-owned record company to a major record company was something few black artists were able to do then.

Cooke had a number of big hits at RCA. In this song, Sam Cooke uses a “call and answer” form of musical expression that started in the black church. The song is called “Bring it on Home to Me. ”


In nineteen sixty-two, Sam Cooke recorded a song for RCA about a popular new dance step, the Twist. The song is called “Twistin” the Night Away. ”


His song "A Change is Gonna Come" was released after his death.His song “A Change is Gonna Come” was released after his death.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In December nineteen sixty-four, Sam Cooke”s life was suddenly cut short. He was shot and killed at a hotel during a visit to Los Angeles. He was thirty-three years old.

His death shocked his fans. Thousands of people gathered at his funeral.

Two of Cooke”s last songs were released after he died. One of the songs is called “A Change is Gonna Come.” It is a powerful song that combines gospel and pop music. The song is like many of Sam Cooke”s that made him so popular as a singer and songwriter. It is about never losing hope.


RAY FREEMAN: This Special English program was written by Cynthia Kirk. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I”m Ray Freeman.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I”m Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

By |February 22nd, 2011|Special English|0 Comments

Harriet Tubman, 1820-1913: She Fought Slavery, Oppression

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: I”m Shirley Griffith.

RAY FREEMAN: And I”m Ray Freeman with the Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Every week we tell the story of someone important in the history of the United States. Today we tell about Harriet Tubman, an African American woman who fought slavery and oppression.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Historians say Harriet Tubman was born in the year Eighteen-Twenty. Nobody really knows. In the United States in the Nineteenth Century the birth of slaves was not recorded.

We do know that Harriet Tubman was one of the bravest women ever born in the United States. She helped hundreds of people escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad. This was a system that helped slaves escape from the South to states where slavery was banned.

Because of her work on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman was called Moses. In the Bible, Moses was the leader of the Jewish people enslaved in Egypt. He brought his people out of slavery to the promised land. Harriet Tubman died in Nineteen-Thirteen. All her life, she always tried to improve life for African Americans.


RAY FREEMAN: From a very early age, Harriet knew how slaves suffered. Her parents were slaves. They belonged to Edward Brodas, a farmer in the middle Atlantic state of Maryland. Harriet”s parents tried to protect her and their ten other children as much as they could. There was little they could do, however. Slaves were treated like animals. They could be sold at any time. Families often were separated. Slave children were not permitted to act like children. By the time Harriet was three years old, Mister Brodas ordered her to carry notes from him to other farmers. Some of these farmers lived as far as fifteen kilometers away. Harriet was punished if she stopped to rest or play.

A sign marks the place where Harriet Tubman was born in  Bucktown, Maryland


A sign marks the place where Harriet Tubman was born in Bucktown, Maryland

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: When Harriet was six years old, the Brodas family sent her to work for another family who lived near their farm. While there, Harriet was infected with the disease measles. Even though she was sick, she was forced to place and remove animal traps in an icy river. She was sent home when she became dangerously ill. Harriet”s mother took very good care of her. The child survived. Then she was sent to work in the Brodas”s house. Her owners never gave her enough to eat. One day she was working in the kitchen. She was looking at a piece of sugar in a silver container when Missus Brodas saw her. Harriet ran away in fear. She was caught and beaten very severely. Her owners decided that Harriet never would make a good worker in the house. She was sent to the fields.

RAY FREEMAN: Harriet”s parents were sad. They worked in the fields and they knew how difficult it was to survive the hard work. But working outside made Harriet”s body strong. And she began to learn things from the other slaves. These things one day would help her lead her people to freedom. Harriet heard about Nat Turner. He had led an unsuccessful rebellion of slaves. She heard about other slaves who had run away from their cruel owners. She was told that they had traveled by the Underground Railroad. They did not escape by using a special train. Instead of a real train, the Underground Railroad was a series of hiding places, usually in houses of people who opposed slavery. These were secret places that African Americans could stop at as they escaped from the South to the North. As Harriet heard stories of rebellion, she became more of a rebel.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: One day when Harriet was fifteen she was at a local store. A slave owner entered and threatened a young boy who was his slave. At first, the slave refused to move. Then he ran for the door. Harriet moved in front of the young man. The slave owner reached for a heavy weight. He threw it at his slave. He missed. Instead, the heavy metal object hit Harriet in the head. Harriet almost died. Months passed before she could get out of bed. For the rest of her life, she carried the mark of a deep wound on her head. And she suffered from blackouts. She would suddenly lose consciousness as though she had fallen asleep.

RAY FREEMAN: Mister Brodas felt he would never get any good work out of Harriet. So he decided to sell her. Harriet thought of a way to prevent this. Each time she was shown to someone who might buy her, she acted as if she were falling asleep. After a while, Mister Brodas gave up hope of selling Harriet. He sent her back to the fields. She dreamed of freedom while picking vegetables and digging in the fields. In Eighteen Forty-Four, at about age twenty-four, she married a free black man named John Tubman. By now, Harriet was sure she wanted to try to escape. It would be very dangerous. Slaves who were caught often were killed or almost beaten to death. Harriet knew she must wait for just the right time.

The entrance to the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, New York


The entrance to the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, New York

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Suddenly, in Eighteen-Forty-Nine, the time came. Mister Brodas died. His slaves probably would be sold to cotton farmers further South. The situation there would be even worse. John Tubman tried to make Harriet forget about running away. He was free. Why should he make a dangerous trip with a woman breaking the law? Harriet decided that her marriage to John must end. Harriet heard that she was to be sold immediately. She knew she needed to tell her family that she was leaving. She began to sing, softly at first, then louder. She sang the words, “I”m sorry to leave you…I”m going to the promised land.” Her family understood.


RAY FREEMAN: Harriet ran to the home of a white woman who had promised to help. This woman belonged to the Quakers, a religious group which hated slavery. The Quaker woman told her how to reach another home where she could hide. Harriet went from house to house that way on the Underground Railroad. Each place was a little closer to the eastern state of Pennsylvania. Slavery was banned there. Once she was hidden under hay that had been cut from the fields. Another time, she wore men”s clothing. Finally, she crossed the border into Pennsylvania. Later, she told a friend, “I felt like I was in heaven.”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Now that Harriet was free, she did not forget the hundreds of other slaves back in Maryland. During the next ten years, she led a much expanded Underground Railroad. She freed her parents, her sister, brothers and other family members. She found a home for her parents in Auburn, New York.

Harriet traveled back and forth eighteen times, helping about three-hundred slaves escape into free territory. She became an expert at hiding from slave hunters. At one time, anyone finding Harriet was promised forty-thousand dollars for catching her — dead or alive. The people she helped called her Moses. She had rescued them from slavery just as the biblical Moses rescued the Jews.

Harriet found another way to fight slavery after the Civil War began in Eighteen-Sixty-One. Seven southern states decided to separate from the United States, mainly over the issue of slavery. The northern states refused to let the United States of America break apart.

After fighting began, Harriet Tubman went into enemy territory to spy for the North. She also served as a nurse. After four years of bloody fighting, the North won the war.

President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in Eighteen-Sixty-Three. There was no longer any need for Harriet to be Moses.


RAY FREEMAN: After the fighting ended, Harriet Tubman returned to Auburn, New York. She married a man named Nelson Davis. This could have been the beginning of a few quiet years of family life for her. But she kept working. She traveled and gave speeches to raise money for better education for black children. She also worked for women”s rights and housing. And she sought help for old men and women who had been slaves. Harriet Tubman died in Nineteen-Thirteen. She was about ninety-three years old. By that time, she was recognized as an American hero. The United States government gave a funeral with military honors for the woman known as Moses.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH:This program was written by Jeri Watson. I”m Shirley Griffith.

RAY FREEMAN: I”m Ray Freeman. Listen again next week at this time for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

By |February 16th, 2011|Special English|0 Comments

Group Offers Shortwave Radios to Poor Communities

This is the VOA Special English Technology Report.

A shortwave radio might seem like ancient technology these days. But for some people, it remains their only link to the wider world.

Ears to Our World is an organization based in the United States. It provides shortwave radios to schools and communities in some of the poorest areas of the world.

The radio is small, about the size of a book, and self-powered. Users turn a crank. Winding it for two minutes provides about forty minutes of listening time.

Ears to Our World is supported by private donations and partners including Eton, the company that makes the Eton Grundig radios.

Thomas Witherspoon started Ears to Our World in two thousand eight.

THOMAS WITHERSPOON: “Our radios are going to people who have no other source of international news and information. It’s hard for them to learn new languages and be connected to the bigger world.

“In fact, in a lot of these communities, the feedback we get is before they had their radio, most of their news and information came word of mouth, from other people. So this way they’re getting more accurate information. And teachers use this information in the classroom to enhance a student’s learning ability about the world around them.”

Ears to Our World works with local organizations to get the radios to where they are needed most. Mr. Witherspoon says the radios are now in eleven communities, most of them in Africa.

He says many of these communities are unable to get information any other way.

THOMAS WITHERSPOON: “We take our radios to parts of the world that lack access to the Internet, to a national power grid of any sort. We’re talking about places maybe in South Sudan that are very, very remote. No one in the community or the village has power in their homes.”

Thomas Witherspoon says information is the most important tool to improve the lives of poor people.

THOMAS WITHERSPOON: “In this economy, information is sort of the lifeline for all of us to function and get along. Especially if you’re living in a place where you have no information, information is your way out of poverty.”

The self-powered radios are also useful in emergencies. Teachers in Haiti used them to get information after last year”s earthquake.

Mr. Witherspoon says Ears to Our World has sent out about one thousand two hundred radios. More than half have gone to earthquake victims, mostly in Haiti. About five hundred have gone to individual teachers and schools.

More recently, Ears to Our World worked to bring the radios to children with vision problems in Belize.

THOMAS WITHERSPOON: “Having a radio that they can control and listen to, and search around on, it just opens a world of information to them.”

And that”s the VOA Special English Technology Report, written by June Simms. You can read and listen to all of our reports at You can also join us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube at VOA Learning English. I”m Steve Ember.

By |February 16th, 2011|Special English|0 Comments

Fish Farms May Soon Supply More Than Half the World’s Catch

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Traditional fisheries may no longer be the world’s most important provider of fish. A new United Nations report shows that fish farming or aquaculture may soon lead fish production.

The Food and Agriculture Organization says aquaculture is growing by a rate of 6.6 percent a year.

Aquaculture now produces forty-six percent of the world’s supply of fish. That represents a forty-three percent increase from two thousand six. The report also said aquaculture earned more money in two thousand eight than traditional fisheries.

The FAO headquarters in Rome published the document, “State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture.”

In aquaculture, fish are raised in tanks or small bodies of water called ponds. They also are raised in cages or nets in oceans, lakes and rivers.

The report says increased aquaculture has helped people around the world eat record amounts of fish. The FAO says each person ate an average of almost seventeen kilograms of fish last year.

But the FAO says the current yearly wild-fish harvest of ninety million tons shows no improvement. Decreasing numbers of fish and stronger catch limits have reduced the possibilities for catching wild fish.

The FAO report says about thirty-two percent of world supplies are overfished, depleted or recovering. It said these supplies of fish need to be urgently rebuilt.

Some scientists have criticized aquaculture. They say the nets and cages permit fish diseases and pests to spread.

Some aquaculture critics doubt that aquaculture can keep growing at the current rate. But Wally Stevens of the trade group Global Aquaculture Alliance says the industry must continue developing to feed growing populations.

Mr. Stevens says a one hundred percent increase in fish farming over ten years is necessary to keep providing for people at the current level. He notes that aquaculture creates jobs and wealth, especially for people in coastal areas of China.

The FAO reports that China remains the world’s largest fish-producing nation. China produces more than sixty percent of the world’s farmed fish.

And that’s the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. Our programs are online with transcripts and MP3 files at You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I’m Bob Doughty.

By |February 10th, 2011|Special English|0 Comments
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