Sunday, August 22, 2010


Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Sharks Follow Their Nose"
and other science articles
from VOA

FAITH LAPIDUS: This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Faith Lapidus.

BOB DOUGHTY: And I'm Bob Doughty. This week, we will tell how sharks use their wonderful sense of smell to find food. We also will tell about what some researchers are calling the world's oldest leather shoe. And, we will have some good news for people fifty years of age and up.


FAITH LAPIDUS: Few creatures on earth are as good as sharks at finding their dinners. People often say that a shark follows its nose to its meals. Now, scientists have learned more about how those noses work to help the much-feared fish direct its movements.

Recently published research questions a common belief about sharks.

Some people think that sharks simply follow the strongest smells that reach them to find their prey, or target. But scientists now can show that differences between the time when a shark’s nostrils receive smells is more important than the strength of the odors.

Researchers Jayne Gardiner and Jelle Atema reported their findings in the publication Current Biology.

BOB DOUGHTY: The researchers studied small sharks called smooth dogfish, common to America’s New England coast. The animals were swimming in a tank or container.

The scientists placed special equipment on the sharks to direct odors directly to their nostrils. The smells were from squids -- a favorite meal of the smooth dogfish shark.

Then the scientists watched and recorded which way the sharks turned to follow the odor.

Ms. Gardiner said the delay between the arrival of the smell at each nostril could be as little as a half second or less. The animals turned and swam in the direction of the nostril that first received the odor. Ms. Gardiner said this was true even if the odor in the second nostril was stronger.

Following the odor received by the first nostril guided the sharks into smelly areas in the water. The fish then followed the odors to the squid.

FAITH LAPIDUS: The findings also led the researchers to consider why some sharks have strangely shaped heads. The hammerhead shark family is a good example. The name hammerhead describes the animal’s wide, flat head. One theory is that the shape developed over the ages to improve this shark’s sense of smell.

When hammerheads swim into clouds of odor, they usually do not swim straight on. Instead, their bodies are on an angle.

BOB DOUGHTY: Hammerhead sharks have nostrils that are more widely spaced than those of sharks with pointed noses. The placement creates a longer delay between the time the left and right nostrils receive an odor than in sharks with pointeatd noses.

This suggests that animals with more widely spaced nostrils could attack from better positions while swimming fast. Ms. Gardiner believes this ability may have helped the development of hammerhead sharks over the ages.

Comparison of underwater odors is the idea behind some mechanical searching devices now in use by the military. These robots use odors to seek underwater bombs. Ms. Gardiner suggests that the current research with sharks may lead to better robotic devices.

Jayne Gardiner is a doctoral candidate at the University of South Florida. Professor Atema works with Boston University and the Marine Biological Laboratory at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, both in Massachusetts.


Leather shoe, an estimated 5,500 years old

FAITH LAPIDUS: Nothing fits like an old shoe -- especially if that shoe walked the earth five thousand five hundred years ago. Researchers in Armenia found the world's oldest leather shoe, and they say it was in surprisingly good condition.

Doctoral student Diana Zardaryan of the Institute of Archeology found it in a cave near the border with Iran and Turkey. In her words, "even the shoe laces were preserved."

It fact, the team of archeologists first thought it was about six or seven hundred years old. Then two laboratories in the United States and Britain did radiocarbon tests.

The tests showed it was four hundred years older than the Stonehenge formation in England -- and a thousand years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

BOB DOUGHTY: The cool and dry conditions in the cave protected the shoe and other objects. So did a thick, solid layer of sheep dung covering the floor. This acted as a seal to prevent damage.

The shoe was made from a single piece of cowhide. The researchers believe the shoe was shaped to fit the wearer’s right foot. The shoe is small -- a European size thirty-seven, or a women's size seven in the United States.

FAITH LAPIDUS: The lead author of the research says he does not know if the shoe was made for a man or a woman. Ron Pinhasi of University College in Cork, Ireland, says it could have fit a man from that period.

His team also found grass placed inside the shoe. The researchers say the grass might have been used to keep the wearer’s foot warm. Or it could have been used to hold the shape of the shoe while it was not being worn.

The shoe is similar in design to "pampooties." These were shoes worn on the Aran Islands, in the west of Ireland, until the nineteen fifties. This kind of shoe appears to have been worn for thousands of years across a large area of Europe and beyond.


The researchers also found large containers of wheat, barley and apricots in the cave, along with a broken pot and sheep's horns. They also found the graves of children buried near the back of the cave. They do not know why all these things were found together in one place. They do not know what the purpose of the cave was.

The archeologists published their findings in the online scientific journal PloS One, from the Public Library of Science. They are continuing their work in Armenia. They say there are many other parts of the cave they have yet to explore.

The oldest footwear of any kind ever found are sandals made of plant material. Scientists believe sandals found in the Arnold Research Cave in the American state of Missouri are about seven thousand five hundred years old.

That makes them about two thousand years older than the leather shoe found in Armenia.


FAITH LAPIDUS: Finally, old age does not sound exciting to most people. But a recent study offers good news for older adults.

It found that people become happier and experience less worry after they reach the age of fifty. In fact, by age eighty-five, people are happier with their life than when they are eighteen years old.

The findings came from a study of more than three hundred forty thousand adults living in the United States. The Gallup Organization questioned them by telephone in two thousand eight. At the time, the adults were between the ages of eighteen and eighty-five years old.

BOB DOUGHTY: The researchers asked questions about emotions like happiness, sadness and worry. They also asked about mental or emotional tension -- better known as stress.

Arthur Stone was a leader of the study. He works for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University in New York. His team found that levels of stress were highest among adults between the ages of twenty-two and twenty-five.

The study found that stress levels dropped sharply after people reached their fifties.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Surprisingly, people in their seventies and eighties were least likely to report feeling negative or harmful emotions.

Happiness was highest among the youngest adults and those in their early seventies. The study showed that men and women had similar emotional patterns as they grew older. However, women reported more sadness, stress and worry than men at all ages.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a report about the study.

BOB DOUGHTY: Researchers do not know why happiness increases as people get older.

One idea is that, as people age, they grow more thankful for what they have, and have better control of their emotions. They also spend less time thinking about bad experiences.

Professor Stone says the emotional patterns could be linked to changes in how people see the world, or maybe even changes in brain chemistry.

The researchers considered other possible influences, like having young children, being unemployed and being single. However, such influences did not affect the levels of happiness and well-being related to age.


FAITH LAPIDUS: This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Brianna Blake, Jim Tedder and Jerilyn Watson. Our producer was June Simms. I'm Faith Lapidus.


And I'm Bob Doughty. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.


CORRECTION: This story mistakenly said that the Marine Biological Laboratory is part of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. While they are neighbors, they are separate.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Stress Management" from Voice of America

This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English. I'm Phoebe Zimmermann. And I'm Bob Doughty. On our program this week, we talk about an emotional or mental influence commonly called stress. We also tell about the effects of stress on people's health.


Many people in the United States suffered emotional or mental problems after the terrorist attacks on September eleventh, two thousand one. Terrorism creates fear and fear often leads to severe stress. Studies suggest that stress can reduce the body's ability to fight disease and can lead to serious health problems.

Stress affects everybody every day. It is your body's reaction to physical, chemical, emotional or environmental influences. Some stress is unavoidable and may even be good for us. Stress can keep our bodies and minds strong. It gives us the push we need to react to an urgent situation. Some people say it makes them more productive at work and gives them more energy.

Too much stress, however, can be harmful. It may make an existing health problem worse. Or it can lead to other illnesses or disease if a person is at risk for the condition.

For example, your body reacts to stressful situations by raising your blood pressure and making your heart work harder. This is especially dangerous if you already have heart disease or high blood pressure. Stress is more likely to be harmful if you feel helpless to deal with the problem or situation that causes the stress.

Anything you see as a problem can cause stress. It can be caused by everyday situations or by major problems. Stress results when something causes your body to act as if it were under attack. Causes of stress can be physical, such as injury or illness. Or they can be mental, such as problems with your family, job, health or finances. Many visits to doctors are for conditions connected with stress.

The tension of stress can interfere with sleep or cause uncontrollable anger or sadness. A person may become more forgetful or find it harder to think clearly. Losing one's sense of humor is another sign of an unhealthy amount of stress.

Stress can lead to other health problems if people try to ease it by smoking, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or by eating more or less than normal.


Chronic stress lasts a long time or happens often. Chronic stress causes the body to produce too much of the hormones cortisol and adrenalin.

Cortisol is called the "worry" hormone. It is produced when we are afraid. Adrenalin is known as the "fight or flight" hormone. It prepares the body to react physically to a threat.

Persons under chronic stress produce too much of these hormones for long periods. Too much cortisol and adrenalin can result in physical problems and even changes that lead to stress-linked illnesses.

Cortisol provides high levels of energy during important periods. However, scientists have become concerned about the hormone's long-term effects on our health.

Evidence shows that extended periods of cortisol in the body weakens bones, damages nerve cells in the brain. It also can weaken the body's defense system against disease. This makes it easier to get viral and bacterial infections.

Chronic stress has been linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. Studies suggest that people who are easily stressed develop blockages in blood passageways faster than people who are calm. A few years ago, a study of women was carried out in Japan. It found that women who reported high levels of stress were more than two times as likely to die from stroke and heart disease as other women.

High stress levels have been found to cause asthma attacks that make it difficult to breathe. Stress also is linked to mental conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders.

Studies also have shown that chronic stress reduces the levels of the hormone estrogen in women. This might put some women at greater risk for heart disease or the bone-thinning disease, osteoporosis.

Experts say long-term stress also can weaken your resistance to infections such as colds and influenza, as well as your ability to recover from these diseases. Extended periods of stress are also linked to headaches, difficulty sleeping, stomach problems and skin problems.


Mental and health experts believe personality is an important part in how we experience stress. Personality is the way a person acts, feels and thinks. Many things influence the development of a person's personality, including genetics and experience.

Some people, for example, are aggressive and always in a hurry. They often become angry when things do not happen the way they planned. They are called "Type A" personalities. Studies suggest that these people often get stress-related illnesses.

The "Type B" personality is a much more calm person. These people are able to deal with all kinds of situations more easily. As a result, they are less affected by stress.

Studies show that men and women deal with stress differently. Women usually have stronger social support systems to help them in times of trouble. These social supports may help explain why many women seem to be better able to deal with stress than men are. However, experts say women are three times more likely to develop depression in reaction to the stress in their lives.

Chronic stress is most common among people in the workplace, especially among women. Scientists studying stress in the workplace say many women are under severe stress because of the pressures of work, marriage and children.

Some experts say that pressure can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain that can lead to depression. More than thirty million American women suffer from depression. These problems are linked to their stress-filled lives and constant hurrying.

People who care for family members who are old or sick also suffer from high levels of stress. Most caregivers in the United States are women. Several studies have been done on people who care for family members with Alzheimer's disease. The studies showed that the caregivers had high cortisol levels in their bodies. This greatly weakened their natural defenses against disease.

For example, one study in the United States found that women who cared for family members with Alzheimer's took an average of nine days longer to heal a small wound. It also showed the blood cells from the caregivers produced lower amounts of substances that are important for healing and for fighting disease.


Experts say there are several ways to deal with stress. They include deep breathing and a method of guided thought called meditation. They also include exercise, eating healthy foods, getting enough rest and balancing the time spent working and playing.

Doctors say people should limit the amounts of alcohol and caffeine in their diets. People who have many drinks with caffeine, like coffee, experience more stress and produce more stress hormones.

Experts say exercise is one of the most effective stress-reduction measures. Running, walking or playing sports causes physical changes that make you feel better. Exercise also improves the body's defenses against disease. And a recent study found that it helps protect against a decrease in mental ability.

Doctors say deep, slow breathing also is helpful. And many medical studies have shown that clearing the mind through quiet meditation helps you become calm. This causes lower blood pressure, reduced muscle tension and decreased heart rate.

Experts say keeping stress to yourself can make problems worse. Researchers have linked the inability to identify and express emotions to many health conditions. These include eating disorders, fear disorders and high blood pressure. They say expressing emotions to friends or family members or writing down your feelings can help reduce stress.

Experts say people should try to accept or change stressful situations whenever possible. Reducing stress may help you feel better and live longer.


This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written and produced by Cynthia Kirk. I'm Bob Doughty. And I'm Phoebe Zimmermann. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Nineteenth Century Poet, Emily Dickinson"

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: I’m Shirley Griffith with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell about nineteenth century poet Emily Dickinson.



Because I could not stop for Death —

He kindly stopped for me –

The carriage held but just ourselves

And immortality.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The words are by American poet Emily Dickinson, who died in eighteen eighty-six. During her life, she published only about ten poems. Four years after her death, a few more poems were published. But her complete work did not appear until nineteen fifty-five.


I'm Nobody! Who are you?

Are you -- Nobody – Too?

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Some experts see Emily Dickinson as the last poet of an early American tradition. Others see her as the first modern American poet. Each reader seems to find a different Emily Dickinson. She remains as mysterious as she was when she was alive.


Tell all the Truth but tell it slant --

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: The truth about Emily Dickinson has been difficult to discover. Few people of her time knew who she was or what she was doing. The main facts about her life are these:

She was born December tenth, eighteen thirty, in the small Massachusetts town of Amherst. She lived and died in the same house where she was born. Emily received a good education. She studied philosophy, Latin and the science of plants and rocks.

Emily's parents were important people in Amherst. Many famous visitors came to their house, and Emily met them. Her father was a well-known lawyer who was elected to Congress for one term.

Mr. Dickinson believed that women should be educated. But he also believed that women should not use their education to work outside the home. He felt their one and only task was to care for their husband and children. Emily once said: “He buys me many books, but begs me not to read them, because he fears they upset the mind. "

Emily Dickinson wrote more than one thousand seven hundred poems. There are three books of her letters. And there are many books about her life.

Some of her best work was written in the four years between eighteen fifty-eight and eighteen sixty-two.


I live with Him -- I see his face --

I go no more away

For Visitor -- or Sundown--

Death's single privacy

Dreams -- are well -- but Waking's better,

If One wake at Morn --

If One wake at Midnight – better --

Dreaming -- of the Dawn --

This is my letter to the World

That never wrote to me--

The simple News that Nature told--

With tender Majesty

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: In those years, Dickinson seems to have found her "voice" as a poet. She settled into forms she used for the rest of her life. The forms are similar to those of religious music used during her lifetime. But her choice of words was unusual. She wrote that her dictionary was her best friend. Other influences were the English poet, William Shakespeare; the Christian holy book, the Bible; and the forces of nature.


I dreaded that first robin so,

But he is mastered now,

And I'm accustomed to him grown--

He hurts a little though

I dared not meet the daffodils,

For fear their yellow gown

Would pierce me with a fashion

So foreign to my own.

I could not bear the bees should come,

I wished they'd stay away

In those dim countries where they go:

What word had they for me?


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Throughout her life, Emily asked men for advice. And then she did not follow what they told her. As a child, there was her father. Later there was her father's law partner, and a churchman she met in the city of Philadelphia. Another man who helped her was the writer Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Higginson had written a magazine story giving advice to young, unpublished writers. Emily Dickinson wrote to him when she was in her early thirties. She included a few poems. Higginson wrote back and later visited Dickinson in Amherst.

In the next few years, she sent him many more poems. But he did not have them published, and admitted that he did not understand her poetry.


'Tis not that dying hurts us so --

'Tis living hurts us more;

But dying is a different way,

A kind behind the door --

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Some historians wish that Emily Dickinson’s poems had reached the best American writers of her day: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau or Walt Whitman. These men could have overlooked her strange way of living to see only her ability. Historians also say it is possible that she chose to write to someone like Higginson so she would not be understood.


To hear an oriole sing

May be a common thing

Or only a divine

It is not the bird

Who sings the same unheard,

As unto crowd.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: So little is known about Emily Dickinson’s life that many writers have created a life for her. One writer says part of the joy in studying her is what we cannot know. The poet herself said: "I never try to lift the words which I cannot hold."

In two thousand ten, a new book about the poet was published. It is called “Maid as Muse: How Servants Changed Emily Dickinson’s Life and Language.”

The author, Aife Murray, writes that over the years, Dickinson employed an ethnically diverse group of servants. These included African-American gardeners, Native American laborers, maids from Ireland and men from England who worked with the horses. Murray writes about the relationship between Dickinson and her workers. She says their language and culture influenced Dickinson’s life and her writing.

Before her death, the poet wrote about her wishes for her funeral. She chose six of the family’s workmen, laborers, gardeners and stablemen to carry her coffin. This shocked her family and neighbors.


I cannot live with you,

It would be life,

And life is over there

Behind the shelf

So we must keep apart,

You there, I here,

With just the door ajar

That oceans are,

And prayer,

And that pale sustenance,



SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Emily Dickinson sewed the pages of her poems together with thread and put them away. She also seems to have sewed her life together and put it away, too. Step by step, she withdrew from the world. As she grew older, she saw fewer visitors, and rarely left her house.

This was the time of the American Civil War in the eighteen sixties. The events that changed America's history, however, did not touch her. She died in eighteen eighty-six, at the age of fifty-five, completely unknown to the world.

No one wrote about Emily Dickinson's poems while she was alive. Yet, so many years after her death, she remains one of America's greatest poets.


The brain is wider than the sky,

For, put them side by side,

The one the other will contain

With ease -- and you beside.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: After Emily Dickinson died, her sister Lavinia found the poems locked away. Lavinia wrote to Thomas Wentworth Higginson and demanded that the poems be published. Higginson agreed. And a few of the poems about nature were published. Slowly, more and more of Dickinson’s poems were published. Readers soon learned that she was much more than a nature poet.

In her life, Dickinson was an opponent of organized religion. Yet she often wrote about religion. She rarely left home. Yet she often wrote about faraway places.

She lived quietly. Yet she wrote that life passes quickly and should be lived to the fullest.

Will we ever know more about the life of Emily Dickinson? As she told a friend once: "In a life that stopped guessing, you and I should not feel at home. "

We have her poems. And for most readers, they are enough.


Surgeons must be very careful

When they take the knife!

Underneath their fine incisions

Stirs the Culprit – Life


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: This program was written by Richard Thorman and produced by Lawan Davis. The poetry reader was Kay Gallant. I’m Shirley Griffith. You can comment on this program on our website, You can also find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts. And you can find us on Facebook, Twitter and iTunes at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.

"W.E.B. Du Bois: African-American Writer and Teacher"

I’m Steve Ember. And I'm Sarah Long with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today we tell about W.E.B. Du Bois. He was an African-American writer, teacher and protest leader.


William Edward Burghardt Du Bois fought for civil rights for black people in the United States. During the nineteen twenties and nineteen thirties, he was the person most responsible for the changes in conditions for black PEOPLE IN AMERICAN society. He also was responsible for changes in the way they thought about themselves.

William Du Bois was the son of free blacks who lived in a northern state. His mother was Mary Burghardt. His father was Alfred Du Bois. His parents had never been slaves. Nor were their parents. William was born into this free and independent African-American family in eighteen sixty-eight in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

William's mother felt that ability and hard work would lead to success. She urged him to seek an excellent education. In the early part of the century, it was not easy for most black people to get a good education. But William had a good experience in school. His intelligence earned him the respect of other students. He moved quickly through school.

It was in those years in school that William Du Bois learned what he later called the secret of his success. His secret, he said, was to go to bed every night at ten o'clock.

After high school, William decided to attend Fisk University, a college for black students in Nashville, Tennessee. He thought that going to school in a southern state would help him learn more about the life of most black Americans. Most black people lived in the South in those days.

He soon felt the effects of racial prejudice. He found that poor, uneducated white people judged themselves better than he was because they were white and he was black. From that time on, William Du Bois opposed all kinds of racial prejudice. He never missed a chance to express his opinions about race relations.


William Du Bois went to excellent colleges, Harvard University in Massachusetts and the University of Berlin in Germany. He received his doctorate degree in history from Harvard in eighteen ninety-five.

His book, "The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study," was published four years later. It was the first study of a black community in the United States. He became a professor of economics and history at Atlanta University in eighteen ninety-seven. He remained there until nineteen ten.

William Du Bois had believed that education and knowledge could help solve the race problem. But racial prejudice in the United States was causing violence. Mobs of whites killed blacks. Laws provided for separation of the races. Race riots were common.

The situation in the country made Mr. Du Bois believe that social change could happen only through protest.

Mr. Du Bois's belief in the need for protest clashed with the ideas of the most influential black leader of the time, Booker T. Washington.

Mr. Washington urged black people to accept unfair treatment for a time. He said they would improve their condition through hard work and economic gain. He believed that in this way blacks would win the respect of whites.

Mr. Du Bois attacked this way of thinking in his famous book, "The Souls of Black Folk." The book was a collection of separate pieces he had written. It was published in nineteen-oh-three.

In the very beginning of "The Souls of Black Folk" he expressed the reason he felt the book was important:

"Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here at the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color line. "

Later in the book, Mr. Du Bois explained the struggle blacks, or Negroes as they then were called, faced in America:

"One ever feels his twoness -- an American, a Negro: two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideas in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. ... He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face."

W.E.B. Du Bois charged that Booker Washington's plan would not free blacks from oppression, but would continue it. The dispute between the two leaders divided blacks into two groups – the "conservative" supporters of Mr. Washington and his "extremist" opponents.

In nineteen-oh-five, Mr. Du Bois established the Niagara Movement to oppose Mr. Washington. He and other black leaders called for complete political, civil and social rights for black Americans.

The organization did not last long. Disputes among its members and a campaign against it by Booker T. Washington kept it from growing. Yet the Niagara Movement led to the creation in nineteen-oh-nine of an organization that would last: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Mr. Du Bois became director of research for the organization. He also became editor of the N.A.A.C.P. magazine, "The Crisis."

W.E.B. Du Bois felt that it was good for blacks to be linked through culture and spirit to the home of their ancestors. Throughout his life he was active in the Pan-African movement. Pan-Africanism was the belief that all people who came from Africa had common interests and should work together in their struggle for freedom.

Mr. Du Bois believed black Americans should support independence for African nations that were European colonies. He believed that once African nations were free of European control they could be markets for products and services made by black Americans.

He believed that blacks should develop a separate "group economy." A separate market system, he said, could be a weapon for fighting economic injustice against blacks and for improving their poor living conditions.

Mr. Du Bois also called for the development of black literature and art. He urged the readers of the N.A.A.C.P. magazine, "The Crisis," to see beauty in black.


In nineteen thirty-four, W. E. B. Du Bois resigned from his position at "The Crisis” magazine. It was during the severe economic depression in the United States. He charged that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People supported the interests of successful blacks. He said the organization was not concerned with the problems of poorer blacks.

Mr. Du Bois returned to Atlanta University, where he had taught before. He remained there as a professor for the next ten years. During this period, he wrote about his involvement in both the African and the African-American struggles for freedom.

In nineteen forty-four, Mr. Du Bois returned to the N.A.A.C.P. in a research position. Four years later he left after another disagreement with the organization. He became more and more concerned about politics. He wrote:

"As...a citizen of the world as well as of the United States of America, I claim the right to know and think and tell the truth as I see it. I believe in Socialism as well as Democracy. I believe in Communism wherever and whenever men are wise and good enough to achieve it; but I do not believe that all nations will achieve it in the same way or at the same time. I despise men and nations which judge human beings by their color, religious beliefs or income. ... I hate War."

In nineteen fifty, W. E. B. Du Bois became an official of the Peace Information Center. The organization made public the work other nations were doing to support peace in the world.

The United States government accused the group of supporting the Soviet Union and charged its officials with acting as foreign agents. A federal judge found Mr. Du Bois not guilty. But most Americans continued to consider him a criminal. He was treated as if he did not exist.

In nineteen sixty-one, at the age of ninety-two, Mr. Du Bois joined the Communist party of the United States. Then he and his second wife moved to Ghana in West Africa. He gave up his American citizenship a year later. He died in Ghana on August twenty-seventh, nineteen sixty-three.

His death was announced the next day to a huge crowd in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of thousands of blacks and whites had gathered for the March on Washington to seek improved civil rights in the United States. W. E. B. Du Bois had helped make that march possible.


This Special English program was written by Vivian Chakarian and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Sarah Long. And I'm Steve Ember. Listen again next week to another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Edward Weston's Straight Photography"

I’m Mary Tillotson. And I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today, we tell about the American photographer Edward Weston.


Edward Weston is one of the most recognized of all American photographers. He is probably most responsible for helping people to see photography as an art form.

Today, art experts consider photographers who took pictures like Mr. Weston’s to be part of the art movement called Modernism. The kind of photographs Mr. Weston took are called “straight photography.” No unusual effects were used to change the image of the subject. The photographs appear to show reality in a pure and clear way.

Yet, Mr. Weston did not always use his camera to take pictures that way. At first, he took pictures influenced by the popular photographs of his time. Photographers, then, made pictures that did not appear sharp and clear. Instead, they appeared “soft.” They were similar to painted pictures that tried to be beautiful, not realistic.


Edward Weston was born in Highland Park, Illinois, in eighteen eighty-six. When he was sixteen, his father gave him one of the early cameras made by the Kodak Company. Edward soon showed some of his photographs at the Chicago Art Institute.

In nineteen-oh-six, Edward Weston decided to move west where he worked for a railroad company. He briefly returned to Chicago to study at the Illinois College of Photography. But, he soon returned to California. He married Flora Chandler in nineteen-oh-nine. They later had four sons.

Edward Weston owned a store in the area of Glendale, California. He made and sold pictures of people. He also had some of his writing on photography published.

Several important photographers he met in southern California influenced him. Imogen Cunningham and Margrethe Mather were two of them. Ms. Mather worked with Mr. Weston on several pictures. Ms. Cunningham praised Mr. Weston’s work. She gave moral support that led Mr. Weston to seek out other photographic influences.


Edward Weston decided to travel to New York City in nineteen twenty-two. He wanted to meet the most influential American photographers in the East. He expected to be praised by members of the artistic community there.

Alfred Stieglitz was the most influential photographer in the United States at the time. He was the reason for Mr. Weston’s trip to New York City. He was responsible for a magazine called Camera Works. Mr. Stieglitz helped many of the photographers whose work he liked, including Paul Strand and Ansel Adams.

Alfred Stieglitz met with Edward Weston two times. He did not say that he liked Mr. Weston’s work. Mr. Stieglitz would point to some parts of the pictures he liked. Then he would point to something he did not like.

Edward Weston discovered an art community in New York that he had never imagined before. He met many people who, today, are recognized as important American photographers and artists. One of them was Georgia O’Keeffe.

Ms. O’Keeffe became one of America’s most famous woman painters. Mr. Weston saw some of her work in New York. He wrote that he would remember it for many years to come.

Edward Weston felt good about his visit to New York, although he was criticized there. He wrote to a friend saying that his artistic sense was changing. He said Alfred Stieglitz had not changed him—only intensified him.

The photographer Ansel Adams said that in the early nineteen twenties Mr. Weston had a growing business taking pictures of people. Yet, he gave up his business and left his family to travel to a foreign land. In February of nineteen twenty-three, Mr. Weston wrote, “I leave for Mexico City in late March to start life anew.”

Mr. Weston traveled to Mexico with Tina Modotti. The two had developed a relationship in Los Angeles. Both were active in the artistic community of southern California. They spent most of three years in Mexico. At the time, many artists and writers were gathering in the Latin American country.

Mr. Weston depended on Ms. Modotti a great deal. With her help, Mr. Weston was able to experience a cultural life that was completely foreign to him. He could not speak Spanish, so she helped him communicate.

For a time, the two had both a working and personal relationship. Mr. Weston agreed to teach Ms. Modotti photography. In return, she ran his photography business and helped organize shows.

Soon, Ms. Modotti became a well-known photographer on her own. The two photographers met many famous Mexican artists during their stay. Painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were among them. Ms. Modotti photographed many of Mr. Rivera’s wall paintings. Mr. Weston made one of his best-known pictures by capturing the intense expression of another Mexican painter, Jose Clemente Orozco.


In Mexico, Edward Weston started to sharpen the straight photography way of taking pictures that he had begun to develop before his trip to New York. He took pictures of people he met and of objects and buildings. His pictures appeared to represent the true nature of his subjects. He also took many photographs of cultural objects called folk art. At that time, many artists were reconsidering the importance of folk art. They began to realize that traditional forms of art are as important to culture as the art that normally is shown in museums.

Mr. Weston’s experience in Mexico changed his ideas about photography. He returned to California permanently in nineteen twenty-six to continue his own work. Ms. Modotti became involved in political activism. She traveled to Europe to photograph the rise of Fascism there before she died mysteriously in nineteen forty-two.


After Edward Weston returned from Mexico he began producing fully developed work. He now made simple photographs that were sharp representations of their subjects.

A sea shell and a vegetable called a green pepper were the subjects of two of his most famous photographs. The idea he presented was that simple objects are, in fact, beautiful forms. He would often take pictures of rocks, coastlines, vegetable life and even the unclothed human body. Mr. Weston’s goal was to celebrate the beauty of shapes.

Edward Weston’s life began to change. His marriage to Flora Chandler ended and he married Charis Wilson. They moved to Carmel, California. Mr. Weston spent a lot of time at a nearby place on the coast called Point Lobos. Many of his best-known pictures show the beauty of the rocky coastline of northern California. His pictures often were of unusual rock formations. His new wife, Charis, was his most important model during this time.

In nineteen thirty-seven, Mr. Weston received the highest honor of his lifetime. He was given the first Guggenheim Fellowship ever presented to a photographer. The award signaled that photographers were now considered “serious artists.”


Edward Weston continued to work through the nineteen thirties and forties. Yet, he never earned much money. He lived in a small house that his sons built for him in Carmel, California. In nineteen forty-five, his second wife, Charis, left him.

Mr. Weston had to stop work three years later. The effects of Parkinson’s disease ended his ability to take photographs and process them. His sons took care of him until he died ten years later in nineteen fifty-eight.

Experts say that Edward Weston helped change the way Americans understood photography. Photography had been thought of mainly as a way to record information. Edward Weston showed that photographers worked to capture the same forms that other artists did in their search for beauty.


This Special English program was written by Mario Ritter. It was produced by Caty Weaver. I’m Mary Tillotson. And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"The History of Jazz, Part Two"

Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Faith Lapidus. Today we have the second of two reports about the history of jazz. Last week, we talked about how this kind of music began. As the years passed, jazz changed and grew in many directions. Today, Steve Ember and Shirley Griffith talk about American jazz since World War Two.


After World War Two, swing jazz became less popular. Americans began to listen to different sounds. One was bebop, also called bop. Young musicians had created this music earlier in the nineteen forties. They included trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie, alto saxophone player Charlie Parker and piano players Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell.

Dizzy Gillespie

Bebop gained popularity slowly. The music had unexpected breaks and many notes. But many people learned to like it. Listen now as Dizzy Gillespie and His All Star Quintet play "Salt Peanuts."


In the nineteen fifties, hard bebop gained popularity. This music borrowed from traditional jazz sounds like blues and religious music. Drum player Art Blakey and piano player Horace Silver became especially famous for hard bebop. Blakey led a group called Jazz Messengers for thirty-five years. Some of the greatest jazz players performed with this group. Here is Horace Silver playing "Doodlin' " with the Jazz Messengers.


Cool jazz also became popular in the nineteen fifties. Saxophone player Lester Young and guitar player Charlie Christian helped create this music years earlier. Cool jazz instruments sound softer than in bebop. And the rhythm is more even.

Stan Getz
Stan Getz, Woody Herman and Gerry Mulligan earned fame for this music. People loved cool jazz played by the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Listen as the Dave Brubeck group plays "Take Five."


Jazz gained many new listeners in the nineteen fifties. People went to jazz clubs and bought jazz recordings. The introduction of the long-playing record also helped the music become more popular. People could listen to a long piece or a number of short pieces without changing the record.

The first big American jazz event was held at Newport, Rhode Island, in nineteen fifty-four. Now jazz musicians celebrate these festivals around the world.

Jazz developed in several directions during the nineteen fifties. Classical musician Gunther Schuller wrote new orchestra pieces with jazz expert John Lewis. This music combined modern jazz and classical concert music.

Miles Davis
In this same period, Miles Davis recorded new sounds in written music and music created during performances. Famous jazz artists like saxophone players John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley performed in the Miles Davis Sextet. Here is the group playing "So What."


In nineteen sixty, the great saxophone player Ornette Coleman recorded a collection called "Free Jazz.” Coleman and his group played unstructured music. John Coltrane also developed new music during the nineteen sixties. For example, he played jazz influenced by the music of India. Other musicians began playing jazz with unusual timing.

But a new kind of music--rock and roll -- also grew very popular in the nineteen sixties. People throughout the world listened to the rock music of Elvis Presley and groups like the Beatles. The new music cut deeply into the popularity of jazz.

During the nineteen-seventies, some jazz musicians began playing jazz that sounded like rock. This fusion jazz added rock instruments and rhythm to traditional themes and creative inventions of jazz. Electronic music also helped develop fusion jazz. Here is guitar player George Benson playing his version of "Come Together." Two members of the Beatles wrote this song.



Minimalism in jazz became popular in the nineteen eighties. This music repeats simple groups of notes over a long period. Musicians like trombone player George Lewis experimented with mixing several kinds of jazz.

Wynton Marsalis
Also in the nineteen eighties, trumpet player Wynton Marsalis helped lead a return to more traditional jazz. This mainstream jazz borrows sounds from swing, bebop and cool jazz. Marsalis also played other kinds of jazz. And he performed classical music with symphony orchestras. He is one of the most praised musicians. Listen to Wynton Marsalis play "Deep Creek."


Today, jazz musicians play all kinds of music. Their jazz can sound like swing or bebop. It can sound like rock and roll. It can sound like American Western music. It can sound like the music of several nations and ethnic groups. Or, it can sound traditional.

We leave you now with a traditional song, "My Foolish Heart," played by the Oscar Peterson jazz group.


This program was written by Jerilyn Watson. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. Our studio engineer was Holly Capehart. I'm Shirley Griffith.

And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.



1. After World War II,___________________ .
a: big band swing jazz continued to be very popular
b: the bebop, or bop, style replaced swing as the most popular variety of jazz
c: jazz disappeared
d: Dixieland was the number one jazz style.

2. The best and most famous bebop musicians included _______________ .
a: Dizzy Gillespie and Charley Parker
b: Dick Groat and Bill Mazeroski
c: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkle
d: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis 

3. The Jazz Messengers, led by Art Blakey, played ________________ .
a: hard bebop in the fifties
b: soft rock in the seventies
c: light classical in the eighties
d: grunge rock in the nineties.

4. Cool jazz, although developed by African-Americans Charlie Christian and Lester Young in the forties, was made popular by ____________________ .
a: white musicians like Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan
b: Mexican singers like Juan Gabriel and Vicente Fernandez
c: English rockers like the Beatles
d: Cuban artists like Benny Moret.

5. "Deep Creek" was written and performed by ____________________ .
a: Wynton Marsalis
b: Dizzie Gillespie
c: Miles Davis
d: John Coltrane

6. The first and most famous of all jazz festivals takes place in ________________ .
a: Connecticut
b: Massachusetts
c: Louisiana
d: Rhode Island

7. Rock and roll influenced jazz greatly in the seventies. This new variety of jazz was called ___________________ .
a: the Name Game
b: fusion
c: silhouettes
d: Elvis Presley

8. Wynton Marsalis, a great trumpet player from New Orleans, returned to the roots of jazz in the eighties by playing an updated form of ____________________ .
a: bachata
b: son
c: swing, cool jazz, and bebop
d: calypso

9. Current forms of jazz offer ___________________________ .
a: only New Orleans-style music
b: Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
c: influences from many different countries
d: donuts and coffee.

10. Jazz performers now come from _______________________ .
a: countries all over the world
b: only the American South
c: usually just Canada
d: only Russia.

The great Miles Davis: "Walkin'"

The History of Jazz: Part One