Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"Can a Woman Read a Man's Face?" from VOA

This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Faith Lapidus. This week -- learn about three separate studies that all involve faces. One has to do with facial blindness -- scientists have found that this disorder is more common than they thought ...

The second study examines the ability of women to read a man's face ...

And the third compares the ability of men and women to look at a face and recognize different emotions.

Some people never forget a face. Some never remember them.

Facial blindness is the inability to recognize the faces of people you have seen in the past or even recently. The scientific name for this condition is prosopagnosia.

Facial blindness can happen in rare cases after a stroke or a brain injury. There is also a genetic form which scientists have considered even rarer.

But a new study suggests that the congenital form of facial blindness is much more common than researchers have believed. And the scientists say the findings provide evidence that this disorder almost always runs in families.

A team led by researchers at the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Muenster, in Germany, did the study. They tested almost seven hundred students from local schools. The students answered a series of questions to identify if they had facial blindness.

The researchers found that seventeen students had the condition. Fourteen of those students agreed to have their family members also take part in the study. The researchers found that each one of the fourteen had at least one immediate family member with facial blindness.

The scientists published the first report on how common the disorder is. The report appeared recently in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.

An abnormality in a single gene is believed to cause this condition. The scientists have not yet found the gene.

Many people with facial blindness recognize close family members. But they can find it difficult to follow along with things like television shows because they do not recognize the actors' faces. In extreme cases, people cannot even recognize their own face in a picture of a group.

Some people with facial blindness avoid social situations. Others use excuses like they need new glasses. No cure is known for facial blindness. People who have it usually develop other methods to recognize people. They pay close attention to other details, like voices, clothing, body shape or the way a person walks.

There is a Web site where you can learn more about facial blindness. The site is operated by research centers at Harvard University in the United States and University College London. The address is faceblind.org.

You are listening to SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

The next study we look at examines the ability of women to tell some things about a man just by looking at him.

This recent study found that a man's face can tell a woman if he is interested in children. The researchers say women are also able to rate the amount of male sex hormone that a man has just by reading his face.

The research took place at the University of Chicago and the University of California, Santa Barbara. The findings appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

A group of twenty-nine female students at the California school looked at photographs of men's faces. The young women had to rate what they believed to be the men's interest in children and their manliness. The women also had to rate their own interest in each man. The women were asked if they would be interested in the man as a short-term lover or a long-term partner.

The men in the pictures came from different ethnic backgrounds and were told to have a neutral expression.

Researchers in Chicago used thirty-nine male college students in the study. They tested them to see how much they liked children. The young men looked at pictures of babies and adults and had to say which pictures interested them more. Five showed no interest in the babies. Some showed little or no interest in the adults.

The scientists also tested saliva from the men to measure how much testosterone each man had.

The researchers compared the results from the women and the men.

The women were able to tell from the photos of the men which ones had high testosterone levels and which ones liked children the most. Twenty of the twenty-nine women correctly identified the men who liked babies. And nineteen of the women correctly identified the men who showed the least interest in children.

So what about when it came to choosing which men appealed most to the women? The study found that the women were more interested in men with high testosterone levels for short-term relationships. The women considered these men to look more masculine.

Earlier research has suggested that a well-defined jaw and thick facial hair are among the signals of high testosterone levels.

The men more likely to be chosen for long-term relationships were those who appeared to like children. The men seen as most interested in children were the same ones who had expressed the most interest in children in the picture test.

Some people might not find these results all that surprising. But the researchers were surprised at how well women can judge testosterone levels and interest in children. Still, they are not sure what it is exactly about men's faces or their expressions that signal these things to women.

Five female graduate students also looked at the pictures of the men. These women had to rate how happy or angry the men looked. The men who were more interested in babies were more likely to be rated as looking happy.

In any case, the researchers say they found no connection between how much testosterone a man had and how much he liked babies.

A third recent study looked at the way people recognize emotion in facial expressions. For this study, researchers showed pictures of faces to seventy-eight men and seventy-eight women. Each face expressed one of six emotions. These were anger, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness and surprise.

The researchers asked the study group to identify the different expressions. They also noted the amount of time it took each person to identify the emotion.

The researchers found that anger was the emotion most quickly recognized, a fact that has also been shown in earlier studies. They also found the men were especially quick to identify the faces of angry males. The women were quicker to recognize other expressions, like happiness or sadness.

The researchers believe their study provides evidence that skills for identifying facial expressions have developed differently in men and women. Men were more likely to face a deadly threat from another man than from a woman. So being able to quickly identify the face of an angry man would have been helpful for survival.

Scientists from the United States and Australia led the study. The findings appeared in Current Biology.

Finally we have one more study to tell you about. This one involves people who at times become uncontrollably angry. Scientists call it intermittent explosive disorder. They say it is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and at the University of Chicago did the study. They used information from a study of more than nine thousand adults in the United States. They say intermittent explosive disorder is "much more common" than has been recognized. They say it affects as many as seven percent of adults at some point in their lifetimes, depending on how widely it is defined.

Doctors say it is made worse for some by stress from bad drivers, crowded roads and busy lives.

The findings appeared in the Archives of General Psychiatry. More than eighty percent of the people with the disorder also had depression, anxiety or problems with drugs or alcohol. But less than thirty percent were ever treated for their anger. The researchers suggest that early treatment of anger might prevent some of the other disorders.

SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written and produced by Brianna Blake. Transcripts and archives of our shows are at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Faith Lapidus. We hope you can join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.


1. In a recent study, women looking a photographs of men were able to tell which men _____________________ .
a: had a girlfriend
b: were homosexual
c: had false teeth
d: liked children

2. Scientists measured the presence of male sex hormone in men by ________________ .
a: seeing how they responded to photographs of women
b: finding out how many times they were married
c: testing their saliva
d: asking them how many children they had fathered

3. In a study of the ability to recognize emotions, the easiest one to identify was ___________________.
a: disgust
b: anger
c: happiness
d: surprise

4. Women can identify sadness and happiness in a face more quickly than men. What does this show?
a: Women are not worried about angry people.
b: Women are more empathetic than men.
c: Women have stronger feelings of happiness and sadness than men.
d: Women are more likely to face a deadly threat from another woman

5. Prosopagnosia is the inability to ____________________________ .
a: recognize a face
b: read a man's face and tell if he likes children
c: feel emotion when seeing a face
d: convey an emotion using one's face

6. Intermittent Explosive Disorder is caused by ________________________ .
a: too much alcohol
b: crowded roads and lives
c: a chemical imbalance in the brain
d: too many visits to a psychiatrist

7. The study found that woman preferred long-term relationships with men who _____________________ .
a: didn't drink too much beer
b: didn't watch football on TV
c: didn't have multiple affairs
d: liked children

8. Testosterone is ___________________________________ .
a: a man with a dark beard
b: a musical instrument played in an all male band
c: the male sex hormone
d: a type of cell phone that causes the male voice to sound sexier

9. Scientists have determined that facial blindless is ____________________.
a: curable with therapy
b: genetically inherited
c: extremely rare
d: never found in the same family

10. Probably, Intermittent Explosive Disorder is not made worse by ______________________
a: soothing music
b: bad drivers
c: crowded roads
d: problems with depression

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Everglades National Park (Florida, USA)

This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember. And I’m Faith Lapidus.

This week, we tell about Everglades National Park in the American state of Florida.

When many people think of Florida, images of sandy coastlines or fun theme park rides come to mind. Yet about an hour south of Miami lies a natural wilderness different from anywhere else in the United States.

Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the country. The park is home to several rare and endangered species. It is also the third largest national park in the lower forty-eight states, after Death Valley and Yellowstone. Each year, more than one million people visit the Everglades.

In 1947, President Harry Truman spoke at the official opening of Everglades National Park. He said the goal of creating the park was to protect forever a wild area that could never be replaced.

The Everglades is considered one of the great biological wonders of the world. The expansive wetlands stretch across more than six hundred thousand hectares. It is a place where plants and animals from the Caribbean Sea share an ecosystem with native North American species.

Nine different environments exist within the Everglades. They include mangrove and cypress swamps, estuaries and coastal marshes.

In the 1940s, Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote a book called, “The Everglades: River of Grass.” She described the area as, “the liquid heart of Florida.”

Unlike most other national parks, Everglades National Park was created to protect an ecosystem from damage. The Everglades is home to about fifteen species that federal officials say are threatened and endangered. They include the Florida panther, the American crocodile and the West Indian manatee.

In addition, more than three hundred fifty bird species and three hundred species of fresh and saltwater fish live within the park. The Everglades is also home to forty species of mammals and fifty reptile species.

Visitors to the Everglades will see many exotic plants. They include what is said to be the largest growth of mangrove trees in the western world. Gumbo-limbo trees, known for their peeling red skin, strangler figs and royal palms are also among the area’s plant life. The country’s largest living mahogany tree also lives in the Everglades.

Sawgrass grows in some areas of the park. Be careful – sawgrass is very sharp, with teeth just like a saw. It can grow up to four meters tall.

With about one and one-half meters of rainfall each year, plants and trees never stop growing in the Everglades. That is why it is hard to tell that a storm, Hurricane Andrew, caused severe damage to the area in 1992.

The dry, winter season is the favorite of most visitors, when insects like mosquitoes are less of a problem. The rainy season lasts from June to November. There are many ways to explore the Everglades. Visitors can see alligators while hiking the Anhinga Trail.

The Everglades is one of the only places on Earth where freshwater alligators and saltwater crocodiles live in the same area. Visitors using canoes or airboats are likely to see large groups of wading birds like the wood stork or the great blue heron. It is even possible to see flamingos in the Everglades.

Some visitors might enjoy riding bicycles through Shark Valley. Others may want to move slowly through shallow waters where they can see insects and wildlife up-close. Park guides also lead visitors on tram rides.

Experts say changes to the Everglades are threatening several different kinds of wildlife. They say the threats are a result of actions the United States government began more than fifty years ago, and settlers began even earlier.

The National Park Service says that early colonial settlers and land developers believed the Everglades had little value. The settlers had plans to remove water from the area. In the 1880s, developers began digging canals to reduce water levels.

At the time, they did not understand the complexity of the Everglades’ ecosystem. As a result, they were not prepared for all the work and caused environmental problems. The ecosystem, however, was able to survive.

Even larger efforts to drain the wetlands continued between 1905 and 1910. Farms were built on large pieces of land. This led to increased development, with more people moving to the Everglades and also more visitors.

More changes came in 1948. At that time, Congress approved the Central and South Florida Project. As part of the plan, the Army Corps of Engineers built roads, canals and water-control systems throughout South Florida.

The aim of the project was to provide water and flood protection for developed areas and agriculture. Workers built a huge system of waterways and pumping stations to control the overflow of Lake Okeechobee, north of the Everglades.

Today, fifty percent of South Florida’s early wetland areas no longer exist. Populations of wading birds have been reduced by ninety percent. Whole populations of animals are in danger of disappearing. The endangered creatures include the manatee, the Miami blackhead snake, the wood stork and the Florida panther.

In recent years, environmental experts have learned about the damage to the Everglades. They say the balance of nature there has been destroyed.

About ten years ago, Congress approved a plan to restore and improve the Everglades. Federal, state and other organizations are partners in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The project is expected to cost about twelve billion five hundred million dollars.

Early in two thousand ten, work began on the Picayune Strand Restoration Project. A goal of the project is to re-establish natural water flow across more than twenty-two thousand hectares of land. Workers removed water from that area in the early 1960s. At the time, the goal was to develop the land of Picayune Strand for homes. However, the development harmed healthy wetlands.

Project organizers hope to re-create wetlands in Picayune Strand and nearby lands by redirecting the flow of water in that area. At the same time, they are seeking to re-establish natural water flow to the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife refuge.

Goals of the project are to make major additions to the size and improve wetland ecosystems in nearby lands. The area includes the Collier Seminole State Park and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. If the goals are met, the project should help threatened and endangered animals.

For example, the population of one big cat has been falling in recent years. Panthers once existed in much greater numbers. But too much hunting, loss of panther homelands and vehicle strikes have reduced their population. Fewer than one hundred of the animals now live in Florida. Earlier this year, however, a mother panther and her two kittens were seen as they walked along a road.

Wildlife experts are working to increase the number of panthers and other animals at risk. At the same time, biologists are attempting to remove Burmese pythons. Officials believe there are as many as one hundred fifty thousand of these large snakes in the Everglades.

However, the snakes are a foreign species, native to Southeast Asia. Owners of pythons left their unwanted snakes in the Everglades years ago. Biologists say adult pythons are able to eat small deer and bobcats. When pythons are found in the Everglades, they are often killed. In two thousand eight, the National Park Service removed and destroyed three hundred eleven of the snakes.

Scientists are now experimenting with other ways to remove the snakes, including use of traps and offering payments to hunters.

The future of the Everglades is not clear. However, efforts to protect the area are continuing so people from all over the world may continue visiting this biological treasure.

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS was written by Brianna Blake and Jerilyn Watson. Our producer was June Simms. I’m Faith Lapidus. And I’m Steve Ember. Read and listen to our programs at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

"The Greatest Baby Doctor" from Voice of America.

I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell about the world's most famous doctor for children, Benjamin Spock.

Benjamin Spock's first book caused a revolution in the way American children were raised. His book, "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care," was published in nineteen forty-six. The book gave advice to parents of babies and young children. The first lines of the book are famous. Doctor Spock wrote: "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do".

This message shocked many parents. For years, mothers had been told that they should reject their natural feelings about their babies. Before Doctor Spock's book appeared, the most popular guide to raising children was called "Psychological Care of Infant and Child." The book's writer, John B. Watson, urged extreme firmness in dealing with children. The book called for a strong structure of rules in families. It warned parents never to kiss, hug or physically comfort their children.

Doctor Spock's book was very different. He gave gentle advice to ease the fears of new parents. Doctor Spock said his work was an effort to help parents trust their own natural abilities in caring for their children.

Doctor Spock based much of his advice on the research and findings of the famous Austrian psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud.

Doctor Spock's book discusses the mental and emotional development of children. It urges parents to use that information to decide how to deal with their babies when they are crying, hungry, or tired.

For example, Doctor Spock dismissed the popular idea of exactly timed feedings for babies. Baby care experts had believed that babies must be fed at the same times every day or they would grow up to be demanding children.

Doctor Spock said babies should be fed when they are hungry. He argued that babies know better than anyone about when and how much they need to eat. He did not believe that feeding babies when they cry in hunger would make them more demanding. He also believed that showing love to babies by hugging and kissing them would make them happier and more secure.


"The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care" examined the emotional and physical growth of children. Doctor Spock said he did not want to just tell a parent what to do. He said he tried to explain what children generally are like at different times in their development so parents would know what to expect.

Doctor Spock's book did not receive much notice from the media when it was published in nineteen forty-six. Yet, seven hundred fifty thousand copies of the book were sold during the year after its release. Doctor Spock began receiving many letters of thanks from mothers around the country.

Doctor Spock considered his mother, Mildred Spock, to be the major influence on his personal and professional life. He said his ideas about how parents should act were first formed because of her. He reacted to the way in which his mother cared for him and his brother and sisters.

Doctor Spock described his mother as extremely controlling. He said she believed all human action was the result of a physical health issue or a moral one. She never considered her children's actions were based on emotional needs.

Doctor Spock later argued against this way of thinking. Yet, he praised his mother's trust of her own knowledge of her children. In his book, "Spock on Spock," he wrote about his mother's ability to correctly identify her children's sicknesses when the doctors were wrong.

Benjamin Spock was born in nineteen-oh-three. He was the first of six children. The Spock family lived in New Haven, Connecticut. His father was a successful lawyer. Benjamin was a quiet child. He attended Phillips Academy, a private school in Andover, Massachusetts. Later he attended Yale University in New Haven. He joined a sports team at Yale that competed in rowing boats. In nineteen twenty-four, he and his team members competed in rowing at the Olympic Games in Paris, France. They won the gold medal.

Benjamin Spock worked at a camp for disabled children for three summers during his years at Yale. He said the experience probably led to his decision to enter medical school. He began at Yale Medical School, but he completed his medical degree at Columbia University in New York City. He graduated as the best student in his class in nineteen twenty-nine. Benjamin Spock had married Jane Cheney during his second year in medical school. They later had two sons, Michael and John.

Doctor Spock began working as a pediatrician, treating babies and children in New York City in nineteen thirty-three. During the next ten years he tried to fit the theories about how children develop with what mothers told him about their children. In nineteen forty-three, a publisher asked him to write a book giving advice to parents. He finished the book by writing at night during his two years of service in the United States Navy.

Jane Spock helped her husband produce the first version of "Baby and Child Care." She typed the book from his notes and spoken words.

During the nineteen fifties, Doctor Spock became famous. He wrote several other books. He wrote articles for a number of magazines. He appeared on television programs. He taught at several universities. And he gave speeches around the country to talk to parents about their concerns.

During this time, he discovered things he wanted to change in the book. He wanted to make sure parents knew they should have control over their children and expect cooperation from them. So, in nineteen fifty-seven the second version of the book was published. He continued to make changes to "Baby and Child Care" throughout his life.

In the nineteen sixties, Benjamin Spock began to be active in politics. He supported John F. Kennedy in his campaign for president. He joined a group opposed to the development of nuclear weapons.

Doctor Spock also took part in demonstrations to protest the Vietnam War. In nineteen sixty-eight, he was found guilty of plotting to aid men who were refusing to join the American armed forces.

Doctor Spock appealed the ruling against him. Finally, it was cancelled. However, the legal battle cost Doctor Spock a lot of money. The events damaged public opinion of the once very trusted children's doctor. Fewer people bought his books. Some people said Doctor Spock's teachings were to blame for the way young people in the nineteen sixties and seventies rebelled against the rules of society. A leading American religious thinker of that time called Doctor Spock "the father of permissiveness."

In nineteen seventy-two, Doctor Spock decided to seek election as president of the United States. He was the candidate of the small "People's Party."

He spoke out on issues concerning working families, children and minorities. Doctor Spock received about seventy-five thousand votes in the election that Richard Nixon won.

Doctor Spock's marriage had been suffering for some time. For years, Jane Spock drank too much alcohol and suffered from depression. She reportedly felt her husband valued his professional and political interests more than he valued her. In nineteen seventy-five, Benjamin and Jane Spock ended their forty-eight-year marriage. One year later, Mary Morgan became his second wife.

Doctor Ben Spock
and Associate
More than fifty million copies of Doctor Spock's "Baby and Child Care" book have been sold since it was published. It has been translated into thirty-nine languages. The eighth edition was published in two thousand four. It includes the latest medical information about nutrition, physical disorders and behavior. It also deals with social issues such as working mothers, day care centers, single parents and gay and lesbian parenting.

Benjamin Spock died in nineteen ninety-eight at the age of ninety-four. Yet his advice continues to affect the lives of millions of children and their parents.

This program was written by Caty Weaver. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program in VOA Special English.


1.Dr. Benjamin Spock didn't believe that _____________________ .
a: mothers should trust their own knowledge
b: babies should be fed when they cry
c: babies would grow to be more demanding if their needs were satisfied
d: showing babies love would make them happier

2. The 2004 version of "Baby and Child Care" differs from earlier versions because it ________________________
a: encourages mothers to trust their instincts
b: encourages mothers to give love to their infants
c: additionally deals with social issues such as working mothers and day care centers
d: shocked mothers who were accustomed to an old way of thinking

3. In college, Benjamin Spock was _______________________ .
a: an accomplished athlete
b: a shy scholar
c: a ladies man
d: an average student

4. In "Psychological Care of Infant and Child", writer John B. Watson didn't recommend ______________________ .
a: timed feedings for babies
b: hugging or kissing infants
c: firmness and discipline
d: adherence to rules

5. Benjamin Spock's mother, Mildred Spock, was _____________________ .
a: the example of all Doctor Spock's ideas about baby care
b: like other mothers, didn't trust her own knowledge of infants
c: was more correct diagnosing child illnesses than doctors
d: wasn't very controlling

6. Benjamin Spock's experience _________________ eventually led to his decision to enter medical school.
a: at a camp for disabled children
b: in the U.S. Navy
c: as a writer of books about babies
d: in his undergraduate career at Yale University

7. In 1972, Doctor Spock became ________________________ .
a: a candidate for president of the United States
b: a short story writer
c: film maker
d: an alcoholic

8. Doctor Spock protested the Vietnam War and helped men who refused to join the American armed forces because ______________________ .
a: he had been a pacifist from an early age
b: he felt that the war cost too much money
c: he wanted to increase his fame in order to sell more books
d: his work with babies made him realize how precious human life is

9. In the book "Spock on Spock", Benjamin Spock __________________ .
a: updated his earlier books with the most recent medical advances
b: wrote about his mother and his personal life
c: wrote about methods for treating disabled children
d: wrote about his political philosophy

10. Before Dr. Spock's book became known after 1946, most mothers _____________.
a: were instructed to be more affectionate towards their babies
b: were encouraged to respond to babies when they cried
c: were told that they must get up during the night to attend to the needs of their infants
d: were told they should reject their natural feelings about their babies

11. Doctor Spock's critics have accused him of _____________.
a: creating rules that are too strict for parents to follow
b: advocating principles that led to the kind of permissive behavior seen in the 1960s
c: creating unreal expectations for the growth of children
d: indirectly causing the Vietnam War

Doctor Spock speaks with Jacqueline Kennedy from Youtube:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"Lonesome George Lives in The Galapagos Islands"

I’m Faith Lapidus. And I’m Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Today, we tell about the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean and the unusual creatures that live there.


Love is not easy to find when you are the last male of your kind. At least that is how it seems for the Galapagos Islands tortoise that scientists call Lonesome George. He is just one of the many animals and plants that live on the famous group of Pacific Ocean islands.

The islands were named for the large land turtles that live on them. At one time, the islands were home to about 15 different kinds of land turtles. The largest island, Isabela, has five different kinds of tortoises. But, Lonesome George is not one of them. He comes from a smaller island called Pinta.

Scientists found George in 1971. Humans and non-native animals had caused much damage to the environment on his island. Some animals and plants had disappeared. Lonesome George was the only tortoise found on Pinta.

Scientists took the turtle to the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island. They wanted to help him find a female tortoise for mating to produce baby tortoises. The scientists had been successful in similar efforts for thousands of other tortoises

The researchers placed George in the same living area as females from the nearby island of Isabela. Scientists thought George would be more closely related to the females from Isabela than to other Galapagos tortoises. However, George has not been able to mate successfully with the female tortoises. No eggs have been produced. Scientists say this might be because of the genetic differences between George and the tortoises on Isabela Island.

Scientist Edward Lewis has studied the genetic material of tortoises around the world. But he has not found one with DNA like George’s. Scientists are also investigating George’s diet to make sure a lack of nutrients is not causing his failure to reproduce. He eats papaya fruit, grass and a special balanced diet. He weighs 88 kilograms.

Scientists also say there is a possibility that other tortoises might exist on George’s native island of Pinta. Scientists did not discover any other young tortoises when they removed George from the island more than 30 years ago. However, young tortoises are very small and like to hide.

Any other tortoises on the island would now be adults and might be easier to find. However, one major problem is that Pinta is thickly covered with plants. Scientists are planning to search the island for a possible mate for Lonesome George. If no babies are produced, the Pinta Island tortoises will disappear when George dies. He is between 70 and 80 years old. But some tortoises live longer than 150 years.


Mystery always has been part of the Galapagos. In 1535, a ship carrying the Roman Catholic Bishop of Panama came upon the Galapagos accidentally. Tomas de Berlanga named the Galapagos group the Enchanted Isles. He was surprised to see land turtles that weighed more than 200 kilograms and were more a meter long. He said they were so large each could carry a man on its back. Bishop Berlanga also noted the unusual soil of the islands. He suggested that one island was so stony it seemed like stones had rained from the sky.

The British nature scientist Charles Darwin is mainly responsible for the fame of the Galapagos Islands. He visited the islands in 1835. He collected plants and animals from several islands. After many years of research, he wrote the book "The Origin of Species." He developed the theory of evolution that life on Earth developed through the process of natural selection. The book changed the way people think about how living things developed and became different over time. Darwin said the Galapagos brought people near "to that great fact -- that mystery of mysteries -- the first appearance of new beings on earth".


More than 125 landmasses make up the Galapagos. Only 19 are large enough to be considered islands. The Galapagos are a province of Ecuador. The island group lies across the equator about 1,000 kilometers west of the coast of South America.

Scientists have been wondering for years about the position of the Galapagos in the Pacific Ocean. Scientists used to think that the islands were connected to the South American mainland and floated out to sea slowly

Today, most scientists think the islands were always where they are now. But they think the islands once were a single landmass under water. Volcanic activity broke the large island into pieces that came to the surface of the sea over time.

But scientists wonder how animals arrived on Galapagos if the islands were always so far from the mainland. Scientists think most Galapagos plants and animals floated to the islands. When rivers flood in South America, small pieces of land flow into the ocean. These rafts can hold trees and bushes. The rafts also can hold small mammals and reptiles. The adult Galapagos tortoise clearly is too big for a trip hundreds of kilometers across the ocean. But, turtle eggs or baby turtles would be small enough to float to the islands.

The islands are home to many unusual birds, reptiles and small mammals. Some of the animals live nowhere else on Earth. The tortoise is the most famous Galapagos reptile. But the marine iguana is also unusual. It is the only iguana in the world that goes into the ocean. The marine iguana eats seaweed. It can dive at least 15 meters below the ocean surface. And it can stay down there for more than 30 minutes.

Several strange birds also live on the Galapagos. One of them is the only penguin that lives on the equator. Another is the frigate bird. It has loose skin on its throat that it can blow up into a huge red balloon-like structure. It does this to attract females who make observation flights over large groups of males.

The Galapagos also are noted for a bird that likes water better than land or air. The cormorant is able to fly in all the other places it lives around the world. But the Galapagos cormorant has extremely short wings. They cannot support flight. But they work well for swimming.

The Galapagos Islands also have a large collection of small birds called Darwin’s finches. Charles Darwin studied the finches carefully when he visited the Galapagos in 1835. He separated the birds by the shapes of their beaks. Finches that lived in different places and ate different foods had different shaped beaks.


Scientists continue to study life on the Galapagos Islands. They have also studied the deepest parts of the ocean that surrounds the islands. A few years ago, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. sent marine biologist Carole Baldwin to the Galapagos. Ms. Baldwin traveled 900 meters down to the bottom of the ocean near the islands. She did so in a clear plastic bubble watercraft called the Johnson Sea-Link Two.

The Sea-Link had powerful lights to battle the extreme darkness of the deep. The watercraft also had several long robotic arms. They collected sealife. The trips to the bottom of the sea resulted in the discovery of more than ten new kinds of sea life. Some of the discoveries were captured on film. A movie called "Galapagos: The Enchanted Voyage " was made in 1999.

The movie was filmed using the Imax Three-D technique. It was shown on a huge screen at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington for several years. Later, the movie was released on DVD for people to buy and watch in their own homes. The movie provides an experience similar to a 40-minute visit to the interesting and unusual Galapagos Islands.


This program was written by Caty Weaver. It was produced by Mario Ritter. I’m Steve Ember.

And I’m Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Black People in America Seek Change: 1920s from VOA

THE MAKING OF A NATION – a program in Special English by the Voice of America.

The early years of the twentieth century were a time of movement for many black Americans. Traditionally, most blacks lived in the Southeastern states. But in the 1920s, many blacks moved to cities in the North.

Black Americans moved because living conditions were so poor in the rural areas of the Southeast. But many of them discovered that life was also hard in the colder Northern cities. Jobs often were hard to find. Housing was poor. And whites sometimes acted brutally against them.

The life of black Americans forms a special piece of the history of the 1920s. That will be our story today.

The years just before and after 1920 were difficult for blacks. It was a time of racial hatred. Many whites joined the Ku Klux Klan organization. The Klan often terrorized blacks. Klan members sometimes burned fiery crosses in front of the houses of black families. And they sometimes beat and murdered blacks.

The Ku Klux Klan also acted against Roman Catholics, Jews, and foreigners. But it hated blacks most of all.

The United States also suffered a series of race riots in a number of cities during this period. White and black Americans fought each other in Omaha, Philadelphia, and other cities. The worst riot was in Chicago. A swimming incident started the violence. A black boy sailing a small boat entered a part of the beach used by white swimmers. Some white persons threw stones at the boy. He fell into the water and drowned.

Black citizens heard about the incident and became extremely angry. Soon, black and white mobs were fighting each other in the streets.

The violence lasted for two weeks. Thirty-eight persons died. More than five-hundred were wounded. The homes of hundreds of families were burned.

The violence in Chicago and other cities did not stop black Americans from moving north or west. They felt that life had to be better than in the South.

Black Americans left the South because life was hard, economic chances few, and white hatred common. But many blacks arrived in other parts of the country only to learn that life was no easier. Some blacks wrote later that they had only traded the open racism of the rural Southeast for the more secret racism of Northern cities.

Blacks responded to these conditions in different ways. Some blacks followed the ideas of Booker T. Washington, the popular black leader of the early 1900s.

Washington believed that blacks had to educate and prepare themselves to survive in American society. He helped form a number of training schools where blacks could learn skills for better jobs. And he urged blacks to establish businesses and improve themselves without causing trouble with whites.

Other blacks liked the stronger ideas of William Du Bois.

William Du Bois
Du Bois felt that blacks had to take firm actions to protest murders and other illegal actions. He published a magazine and spoke actively for new laws and policies to protect black rights. Du Bois also helped form a group that later became the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The N.A.A.C.P. became one of the nation's leading black rights organizations in the twentieth century.

Probably the most important leader for black Americans in the 1920s did not come from the United States. He was Marcus Garvey from the Caribbean island of Jamaica. Garvey moved to New York City in 1916. He quickly began organizing groups in black areas.

His message was simple. He said blacks should not trust whites. Instead, they should be proud of being black and should help each other. Garvey urged blacks to leave the United States, move to Africa, and start their own nation.

Marcus Garvey organized several plans to help blacks become economically independent of whites. His biggest effort was a shipping company to trade goods among black people all over the world.

Many American blacks gave small amounts of money each week to help Garvey start the shipping company. However, the idea failed. Government officials arrested Garvey for collecting the money unlawfully. They sent him to prison in 1925. And two years later, President Coolidge ordered Garvey out of the country.

Marcus Garvey's group was the first major black organization in the United States to gain active support from a large number of people. The organization failed. But it did show the anger and lack of hope that many blacks felt about their place in American society.

Blacks also showed their feelings through writing, art, and music. The 1920s were one of the most imaginative periods in the history of American black art.

Langston Hughes
Claude Mckay, Langston Hughes, and Countee Cullen were three of the leading black poets during this time. Mckay was best known for his poems of social protest. Hughes produced poems about black life that experts now say are among the greatest American poems ever written.

Black writers also produced longer works. Among the leading black novelists were Jessie Faucet, Jean Toomer, and Rudolph Fisher.

The 1920s also were an exciting time for black music. Black musicians playing the piano developed the ragtime style of music. Singers and musicians produced a sad, emotional style of playing that became known as the blues. And most important, music lovers began to play and enjoy a new style that was becoming known as jazz.

Jazz advanced greatly as a true American kind of music in the 1920s. Musicians Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Eubie Blake played in gathering places and small theaters. White musicians and music experts from universities came to listen. Soon the music became popular among Americans of all kinds and around the world.

Blacks began to recognize in the 1920s their own deep roots in the United States. They began to see just how much black men and women already had done to help form American history and traditions.

The person who did the most to help blacks understand this was black historian Carter G. Woodson. Woodson received his training at two leading universities: Harvard in Massachusetts and the Sorbonne in France. He launched a new publication, The Journal of Negro History, in which he and other experts wrote about black life and history. Historians today call Woodson the father of the scientific study of black history.

Carter G. Woodson
The 1920s also were a period in which a number of blacks experimented with new political ideas and parties. The difficult social conditions of the period led many blacks to search for new political solutions.

Two leftist parties -- the Socialists and the Communists -- urged blacks to leave the traditional political system and work for more extreme change. Two leading black Socialists, Chandler Owen and A. Philip Randolph, urged blacks to support Socialist candidates. However, they gained little popular support from blacks.

Communists also tried to organize black workers. But generally, black voters showed little interest in communist ideas.

The most important change in black political thinking during the 1920s came within the traditional two-party system itself. Blacks usually had voted for Republicans since the days of Abraham Lincoln. But the conservative Republican policies of the 1920s caused many blacks to become Democrats.

By 1932, blacks would vote by a large majority for the Democratic presidential candidate, Franklin Roosevelt. And blacks continue to be a major force in the Democratic Party.

You have been listening to THE MAKING OF A NATION, a program in Special English on the Voice of America. Your speakers have been Harry Monroe and Kay Gallant. Our program was written by David Jarmul. The Voice of America invites you to listen again next week to THE MAKING OF A NATION.

Note: In order to fully understand the discrimination against African Americans for one hundred years, from 1865 to 1965, it is important to know about the "Jim Crow System" of segregation under which black people, who had suffered greatly under slavery, were denied their rights even after the end of slavery. The following link tells you about this repressive system which was much more prevalent in the South than the North, and is the reason many blacks came North to find greater equality and freedom. The Jim Crow System

Choose the correct answer.

1. In the 1920s, many blacks moved from the Southeast U.S. to Northern Cities because ______________________ .
a: they wanted to escape slavery
b: living conditions in the rural south were very poor
c: they were tired of living in a hot climate
d: they wanted to reunite with relatives who had already moved north

2. The Ku Klux Klan didn't hate ___________________ .
a: white southerners
b: Jews
c: Roman Catholics
d: foreigners

3. Brooker T. Washington felt that _______________________ .
a: blacks should move back to Africa
b: blacks should acquire skills through education so that they could get better jobs
c: blacks should fight for new laws that would lead to greater equality for them
d: blacks should depend only on each other, not the white community

4. Marcus Garvey's plan to start a shipping company run by blacks for blacks failed because ____________ .
a: he couldn't get enough African Americans to contribute to his business
b: he couldn't resist the government's claim that he collected money illegally
c: he couldn't organize the enterprise well because other countries didn't cooperate
d: President Coolidge ordered him out of the country

5. In the 1920s, African Americans excelled in __________________ .
a: literature and music
b: politics
c: academics and university life
d: journalism

6. A form of music not developed by African Americans in the twenties was ___________ .
a: rock and roll
b: ragtime
c: the blues
d: jazz

7. Carter G. Woodson helped African Americans to understand their ___________________ .
a: poverty
b: future
c: history
d: artistic potential

8. The "Jim Crow System" was a group of laws that ___________________ .
a: allowed African Americans to acquire greater freedom
b: improved economic conditions for blacks
c: enabled the south to keep blacks in a lower class, subservient position
d: legitimized the Ku Klux Klan

9. William Du Bois, founder of a group that later became the N.A.A.C.P., _________________________
a: felt that the situation would not improve for African Americans if they did not have legal rights.
b: felt that African Americans should not try to change U.S. laws
c: felt that blacks should acquire training to get better jobs
d: felt that African Americans should turn to religion in order to better cope with their suffering

10. Politically, African Americans ______________________ .
a: became attracted to the ideas of communism and socialism
b: continued to believe in the party of Abraham Lincoln
c: switched in large numbers to the Democratic Party and helped to elect Franklin Roosevelt
d: organized a new political party that would recognize and fight for justice and equal rights for African Americans

"I, Too, Am America" by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.

A tribute to Carter G. Woodson from Youtube:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"D-Day - The World War Two Normandy Invasion" from VOA

STEVE EMBER: Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember.


On June fifth, nineteen forty-four, a huge Allied force waited for the order to invade German-occupied France. The invasion had been planned for the day before. But a storm forced a delay.

At three-thirty in the morning, the Allied commander, General Dwight Eisenhower, was meeting with his aides. The storm still blew outside the building.

General Eisenhower and the other generals were discussing whether they should attack the next day.

A weatherman entered the room. He reported that the weather would soon improve. All eyes turned toward Eisenhower. The decision was his. His face was serious. And for a long time he was silent. Finally he spoke. "Okay," he said. "We will go."

And so the largest military invasion ever known, D-Day, took place on June sixth, nineteen-forty-four.


The German leader, Adolph Hitler, had known the invasion was coming. But he did not know where the Allied force would strike.

Most Germans expected the Allies would attack at Calais. But they were wrong. Eisenhower planned to strike along the French coast of Normandy, across the English Channel.

The Second World War was then almost five years old. The Germans had won the early battles and gained control of most of Europe. But in nineteen forty-two and forty-three, the Allies slowly began to gain back land from the Germans in North Africa, Italy and Russia. And now, finally, the British, American, Canadian and other Allied forces felt strong enough to attack across the English Channel.

Eisenhower had one hundred fifty thousand men and twelve thousand planes for the attack. But most importantly, he had surprise on his side. Even after the invasion began, General Erwin Rommel and other German military leaders could not believe that the Allies had really attacked at Normandy.

But attack they did. On the night of June fifth, thousands of Allied soldiers parachuted behind German lines. Then Allied planes began dropping bombs on German defenses. And in the morning, thousands of ships approached the beaches, carrying men and supplies.

The battle quickly became fierce and bloody. The Germans had strong defenses. They were better protected than the Allied troops on the beaches. But the Allied soldiers had greater numbers. Slowly they moved forward on one part of the coast, then another.


DWIGHT EISENHOWER: "People of Western Europe: a landing was made this morning on the coast of France by troops of the Allied Expeditionary Force."

STEVE EMBER: General Dwight Eisenhower

DWIGHT EISENHOWER: "This landing is part of a concerted United Nations plan for the liberation of Europe. I have this message for all of you: Although the initial assault may not have been made in your own country, the hour of your liberation is approaching. All patriots -- men and women, young and old -- have a part to play in the achievement of final victory.

"To members of resistance movements, whether led by nationals or by outside leaders, I say: Follow the instructions you have received. To patriots who are not members of organized resistance groups, I say: Continue your passive resistance, but do not needlessly endanger your lives. Wait until I give you the signal to rise and strike the enemy."

STEVE EMBER: The Allies continued to build up their forces in France. Within one week they brought nearly ninety thousand vehicles and six hundred-thousand men into France. And they pushed ahead.

Hitler was furious. He screamed at his generals for not blocking the invasion. And he ordered his troops from nearby areas to join the fight and stop the Allied force. But the Allies would not be stopped.


In late August, the Allied forces liberated Paris from the Germans. People cheered wildly as General Charles de Gaulle and Free French troops marched into the center of the city.

The Allies then moved east into Belgium. They captured the port of Antwerp. This made it easier for them to send supplies and fuel to their troops.

Only when Allied troops tried to move into the Netherlands did the Germans succeed in stopping them. American forces won battles at Eindhoven and Nijmegen. But German forces defeated British "Red Devil" troops in a terrible fight at Arnhem.

Germany's brief victory stopped the Allied invasion for the moment. But in less than four months, General Eisenhower and the Allied forces had regained almost all of France.

At the same time, in nineteen forty-four, the Soviets were attacking Germany from the east. Earlier, Soviet forces had succeeded in breaking German attacks at Stalingrad, Moscow and Leningrad. Soviet forces recaptured Russian cities and farms one by one. They entered Finland, Poland, and Romania. By the end of July, Soviet soldiers were just fifteen kilometers from the Polish capital, Warsaw.

What happened next was one of the most terrible events of the war. Moscow radio called on the people of Poland to rise up against the German occupation forces. Nearly forty thousand men in the Polish underground army listened to the call. And they attacked the Germans. The citizens of Warsaw probably could have defeated the German occupation forces if the Soviet army had helped them.

But Soviet leader Josef Stalin betrayed the Poles. He knew that many members of the Polish underground forces opposed Communism as much as they opposed the Germans. He feared they would block his efforts to establish a new Polish government that was friendly to Moscow.

For this reason, Stalin held his forces outside Warsaw. He waited while the Germans and Poles killed each other in great numbers. The Germans finally forced the citizens of Warsaw to surrender.

The real winner of the battle, however, was the Soviet Union. Both the Germans and the Poles suffered heavy losses during the fighting. The Soviet Army had little trouble taking over the city with the help of Polish Communists. And after the war, the free Polish forces were too weak to oppose a Communist government loyal to Moscow.

(SOUND: Adolf Hitler)

Adolf Hitler was in serious trouble. Allied forces were attacking from the west. Soviet troops were passing through Poland and moving in from the east. And at home, several German military officials tried to assassinate him. The German leader narrowly escaped death when a bomb exploded in a meeting room.

But Hitler refused to surrender. Instead, he planned a surprise attack in December nineteen-forty-four. He ordered his forces to move quietly through the Ardennes Forest and attack the center of the Allied line. He hoped to break through the line, separate the Allied forces, and regain control of the war.

The Germans attacked American troops tired from recent fighting in another battle. It was winter. The weather was so bad that Allied planes could not drop bombs on the German forces. The Germans quickly broke through the American line.

But the German success did not last long. Allied forces from nearby areas raced to the battle front to help. And good weather allowed Allied planes to begin attacking the Germans.

The battle ended by the middle of the following month in a great defeat for Hitler and the Germans. The German army lost more than one hundred thousand men and great amounts of supplies.

The end of the war in Europe was now in sight. By late February, nineteen forty-five, the Germans were forced to retreat across the Rhine River.

American forces led by General Patton drove deep into the German heartland.

To the east, Soviet forces also were marching into Germany. It did not take long for the American and Soviet forces to meet in victory. The war in Europe was ending.

Adolf Hitler waited until Russian troops were destroying Berlin. Bombs and shells were falling everywhere. In his underground bunker, Hitler took his own life by shooting himself in the head. Several of his closest aides also chose to die in the "Fuhrerbunker."


One week later, the German army surrendered to Eisenhower and the Allies.

WINSTON CHURCHILL: "Yesterday morning at two forty-one a.m. at General Eisenhower’s headquarters, General Jodl, the representative of the German High Command and of Grand Admiral Doenitz, the designated head of the German state, signed the act of unconditional surrender of all German land, sea and air forces in Europe to the Allied Expeditionary Forces, and simultaneously to the Soviet High Command."

STEVE EMBER: British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

WINSTON CHURCHILL: "Hostilities will end officially at one minute after midnight tonight, Tuesday, the eighth of May. We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing. Today is Victory in Europe Day. Long live the cause of freedom."

STEVE EMBER: The defeat of Germany was cause for great celebration in Britain, the United States and other Allied nations. But two facts made the celebrations less joyful than they might have been.


One was the discovery by Allied troops of the German death camps. Only at the end of the war did most of the world learn that the Nazis had murdered millions of innocent Jews and other people.

The second fact was that the Pacific War had not ended. Japanese and American forces were still fighting bitterly. The war in the Pacific will be our story next week.

Our program was written by David Jarmul. You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I’m Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.


1. In Poland, Soviet leader Josef Stalin called on Poland to rise against the German occupation forces, _____________________ .
a: and he sent Soviet troops to help the Poles
b: but he held back the Soviet troops and abandoned the Poles
c: but instead of attacking the Germans, he sent his troops against the anti-communist Poles
d: then, his troops attacked both Poles and Germans because he realized both sides were against him

2. Not among the troubles Adolph Hitler was seriously experiencing at this time was ________________ .
a: an assassination attempt
b: allied troops moving on Germany from the west
c: Soviet troops winning battle after battle in the east
d: scratchy records in his possession of Wagner's Ring Cycle

3. Calais is on the northern coast of France. It is the nearest French land to the coast of Britain. ___________________.
a: That's why England expected an attack from Germany there.
b: That's why Hitler expected an invasion there.
c: That's why Hitler expected an attack by the Allies on the coast of Normandy
d: That's why Hitler's forces were not surprised at the location of the invasion

4. In the winter of 1944, Hitler launched a successful counter attack in the Ardennes Forest. Part of the reason for his success in this desperate attack was ______________________ .
a: German troops were able to take advantage of the cover of many trees
b: the weather was so bad that Allied planes could not bomb the German forces
c: the Germans were better equipped and had more men than the Allies
d: the Allies were exhausted from the enormous amount of fighting in Normandy and elsewhere

5. In 1942 and 1943, the Allies were able to gain back some of the land conquered by the Germans in _________________________ .
a: France
b: Holland
c: Italy
d: Austria

6. Many Allies lost their lives on the coast of Normandy because ______________________ .
a: the Germans had strong defenses and were able to pick off undefended soldiers on the beaches
b: German planes attacked them
c: the parachutes didn't work
d: the German defenses were not bombed

7. On June 5th, 1944, Dwight Eisenhower spoke to the people of Western Europe by radio. He told them that ______________________ .
a: the initial assault was not going to take place in their country
b: the hour of their liberation was approaching
c: resistance groups should not strike the enemy
d: men and women, young and old, have an obligation to resist the enemy, even if it means endangering their lives

8. The invasion of German-occupied France was delayed because _______________________ .
a: there weren't enough ships
b: of a storm
c: the planes didn't have enough fuel
d: General Eisenhower couldn't decide when to invade

9. When Adolph Hitler at the "fuhrerbunker" heard the Russian troops destroying Berlin, ______________________ .
a: he sold his record collection and with the money bought a plane ticket for Argentina
b: he took his own life
c: he began to write his memoirs
d: he decided he needed to learn the Russian language

10. At three o'clock in the morning of June 5th, 1944, Dwight Eisenhower was meeting with his aides. A weatherman entered the room and ________________________ .
a: said that the weather would soon improve
b: predicted another five days of terrible rainstorms
c: announced that the Germans were in the English Channel
d: stated that it would be unwise to fly over France in this weather

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Past Perfect Tense

"Siesta" Joan Miró, 1925
This video, from Learning American English, is a good
explanation of the "Past Perfect Tense"
Here is a good introduction to the grammar of the Past Perfect Tense.
A very simple "Past Perfect" exercise to get us started.
This grammar exercise will help you to learn The Past Perfect Tense.
The Job Fair is this Wednesday. You can use these dialogues to prepare for your interview.