Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"The Marx Brothers" from Voice of America


VOICE ONE:

I'm Mary Tillotson.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today we tell about the Marx Brothers. They made many funny movies in the nineteen thirties and nineteen forties that are still popular today.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Marx Brothers as young men.
There were five Marx Brothers. The most famous were Julius, Leonard and Adolph. They were born in New York City between eighteen eighty-six and eighteen ninety. Their father made clothing. Their mother wanted them to become performers. Julius, Leonard and Adolph started performing when they were children. Along with their two brothers, they performed in stage shows called vaudeville in New York. They sang songs, danced and told jokes.

Julius, Leonard and Adolph Marx began making funny movies in nineteen twenty-nine. They changed their first names. Julius became Groucho. Leonard became Chico. Adolph became Harpo. Another brother, Herbert, appeared in the first five Marx Brothers movies. He was called Zeppo. He did not play a funny man like the other three. He played a good-looking young man.

VOICE TWO:

Groucho Marx looked funny. He had large black eyebrows and a hairy mustache. But they were painted on his face. He spoke very quickly. And he walked in a funny way. He played people with funny names, like Rufus T. Firefly. Otis B. Driftwood. And Doctor Hugo Z. Hackenbush.

Marx Brothers, 1931
Groucho was not a very nice person in the movies. He often insulted or made fun of rich or important people. He made fun of doctors, college officials, opera singers, diplomats and government officials. He even insulted his son, played in this example by Zeppo.

ZEPPO: "Dad, let me congratulate you. I'm proud to be your son."

GROUCHO: "My boy, you took the words right out of my mouth. I'm ashamed to be your father. I'd have horsewhipped you if I had a horse. You may go now. Leave your name and address for the girl outside and if anything turns up, we'll get in touch with you. Where are you going?"

ZEPPO: "Well, you just told me to go."

GROUCHO: "So that's what they taught you in college. Just when I tell you to go, you leave me. You know you can't leave a schoolroom without raising your hand, no matter where you're going."

ZEPPO: "Anything further, father?"

GROUCHO: "Anything further, father? That can't be right. Isn't it "anything father, further"? The idea! I married your mother because I wanted children. Imagine my disappointment when you arrived!"

VOICE ONE:

Chico Marx
Chico Marx talked as if he was born in Italy. He spoke English that was not correct. Many other funny men spoke as though they came from other countries. They were making fun of themselves and other immigrants who did not speak English well. Chico also made funny jokes about words and expressions that sound alike but have different meanings. For example, in one movie a woman sings with a very high falsetto voice. She says "I have a falsetto voice." Chico then says "Well, my last student had a false set of teeth."

Chico also was known for performing what was called the comedy of the absurd. He talked about things that were so untrue or unreasonable that they were funny. Here is an example. Chico is supposed to spy on someone called Rufus T. Firefly. Chico reports his progress to the man who asked him to spy on Firefly. To "shadow" someone is to secretly follow that person.

CHICO: "Well, you remember you gave us a picture of this man and said follow him?"

MAN: "Oh, yes."

CHICO: "Well, we get on the job right away. And in one hour, even less than one hour, we lose the fix. That's pretty good work, eh?"

MAN: " I want a full, detailed report of your investigation."

CHICO: "All right. I tell you. Monday we watch Firefly's house. But he no come out. He wasn't home. Tuesday we go to the ball game, but he fool us. He no show up. Wednesday, he go to the ball game, but we fool him. We no show up. Thursday was a double-header, nobody show up. Friday it rained all day. There was no ball game. So we stayed home. We listened to it over the radio".

MAN: "Then you didn't shadow Firefly!"

CHICO: "Oh, sure, we shadow Firefly. We shadow him all day."

MAN: "What day was that?"

CHICO:" It was Shadowday (Saturday)! That's some joke, eh, Boss!"

Chico also played the piano in a funny way. Chico did to music what he did to the English language. He made fun of it.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Harpo Marx had curly yellow hair, but it was not really his hair. It was false hair, called a wig. He never said a word in any of the movies. Instead, he acted out what he wanted to say. He could make people laugh without saying a word. People always knew what he was thinking. He made funny sounds with horns and whistles to express his thoughts and feelings.

In one movie, a kind policeman tries to give him some advice to stay away from bad people. As the policeman shakes Harpo's hand, you can hear pieces of silver that Harpo has stolen fall out of his clothes.

POLICEMAN: "You better come with me, young fellow."

GROUCHO: " Don't take him away, officer."

POLICEMAN: "All right. I'll let him go this time. But I want to give you some advice. You're running around with the wrong kind of people. Why don't you go home?"

Harpo on the harp
CHICO: "He got no home."

POLICEMAN: "Go home for a few nights. Stay home. Don't you know your poor old mother sits there, night after night, waiting to hear your steps on the stairs?"

CHICO: "He got no stairs."

POLICEMAN: " I can see a little light burning in the window."

GROUCHO: "No you can't. The gas company turned it off."

POLICEMAN: "Now, what I'm telling you is for your own good. And if you listen to me, you can't go wrong."

As you might have guessed from his name, Harpo Marx was famous for playing the musical instrument called the harp. He made beautiful music like this on the harp in several movies.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:


The three Marx Brothers -- Groucho, Chico and Harpo -- made fourteen movies together. The movies made fun of officials in many areas of society, like colleges, hospitals or the government. The Marx Brothers made most of their movies during the nineteen thirties. This was during the great economic Depression. Many Americans had no jobs and not much hope. Many people went to the movies to try to forget their troubles. The Marx Brothers thought people might like to see funny things happen to rich and important people.

VOICE TWO:

The Marx Brothers' first two movies were "The Cocoanuts" and "Animal Crackers." These were based on earlier shows that they starred in on Broadway in New York City. Some of their most famous movies are "Horse Feathers," "Duck Soup," and "A Night at the Opera."

In "Horse Feathers," the Marx Brothers make fun of colleges. Groucho is a professor and the president of Huxley College. He wants to improve the college by having a successful football team. Here, he talks to other college officials.

GROUCHO: "Now I say to you gentlemen that this college is a failure. The trouble is, we're neglecting football for education."

COLLEGE OFFICIALS: "Exactly, the professor is right."

GROUCHO: "Oh, I'm right, am I? Well, I'm not right. I'm wrong. I just said that to test you. Now I know where I'm at. I'm dealing with a couple of snakes. What I meant to say was that there is too much football and not enough education."

COLLEGE OFFICIALS: "That's what I think."

GROUCHO: "Oh you do, do you? Well, you're wrong again. If there was a snake here, I'd apologize. Where would this college be without football? Have we got a stadium?"

COLLEGE OFFICIALS: "Yes."

GROUCHO: "Have we got a college?"

COLLEGE OFFICIALS: "Yes."

GROUCHO: "Well, we can't support both. Tomorrow we start tearing down the college."

COLLEGE OFFICIALS: "But, professor, where will the students sleep?"

GROUCHO: "Where they always sleep – in the classroom!"

VOICE ONE:

Rufus F. Firefly, Imposter of Freedonia
Some critics say "Duck Soup," is one of the greatest comedies ever made. Groucho is the leader of a country called Freedonia. He declares war on a nearby country. The movie makes fun of war, diplomats and dictators.

Other critics say "A Night at the Opera," is their finest film. Groucho tries to get a rich woman to invest in an opera company. The movie has many funny parts. One of the most famous is when fifteen people are crowded into a very small room on a passenger ship.

VOICE TWO:

Experts say the Marx Brothers movies were extremely popular for several reasons. The brothers had been performing together since they were children. They shared a sense of what was funny.

In addition, they all loved music. Most of their movies include music. When a song begins in their movies, everything else stops. When Harpo plays his harp, his face shows how much he loves what he is playing. Then, when the music is over, the Marx Brothers immediately start being funny again.

The Marx Brothers' movies were like vaudeville shows. They contained something for everyone. There was comedy, speeches, music and songs. Often Groucho sang a funny song. Here is an example, called "Hello, I Must be Going."

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

The Marx Brothers performed together and then separately for more than seventy years until the last one died in the late nineteen seventies. Their comedy influenced many other present day comedians including Woody Allen and Robin Williams. Critics have called the Marx Brothers the most influential comedy team of the twentieth century.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

This Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Steve Ember.

VOICE ONE:

And I'm Mary Tillotson. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

COMPREHENSION CHECK

1. One of the ways Chico Marx made fun of English was to ________________________ .
a: not speak it correctly
b: mix it with Italian words
c: to use sign language instead of words
d: to whistle instead of speaking

2. The Marx Brothers made popular and comic films ________________________ .
a: in the 1990s
b: in the 1930s and 1940s
c: in the first decade of the 21st Century
d: in the 1950s

3. In "___________________" , the Marx Brothers make fun of colleges.
a: Horse Feathers
b: The Cocoanuts
c: Animal Crackers
d: Duck Soup

4. "Anything further, farther? Isn't it anything father, further?" This is funny because______________________ .
a: Groucho is too young to be Zeppo's father
b: "Father" and "Further" mean something different, but sound alike
c: Zeppo is confused by what Groucho is saying
d: Groucho is disappointed that Zeppo is his son

5. "Freedonia" is _________________________________ .
a: a country north of Venezuela
b: a small country between the United States and Canada
c: an island country near Cuba
d: a fictitious country whose leader is played by Groucho Marx

6. "_______________________" has a funny scene where 15 people are crowded into a small room on a passenger ship.
a: The Gay Divorcee
b: A Night at the Opera
c: Royal Wedding
d: Animal Crackers

7. Rufus T. Firefly was performed by ____________________________ .
a: Doctor Hugo Z. Hackenbush
b: Chico Marx
c: Otis B. Driftwood
d: Groucho Marx

8. "But, professor, if we tear down the college, where will the students sleep?" "Where they always sleep, _______________!"
a: in the dormitory
b: in the football stadium
c: in the classroom
d: in the cafeteria

9. When a person speaks or sings in a falsetto voice, the sound is ________________ .
a: lower in pitch than their normal voice
b: higher in pitch than their normal voice
c: an imitation of another person's voice
d: an imitation of an animal's voice

10. The following is not a Marx Brothers movie: "_____________________"
a: Royal Wedding
b: Animal Crackers
c: Duck Soup
d: Horse Feathers

11. ________________ didn't speak, but played a musical instrument with passion.
a: Fred Astaire
b: Zeppo Marx
c: Harpo Marx
d: Cole Porter

A crowded room on a passenger ship, from "A Night at the Opera"



Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Ann Morrow Lindbergh" - from Voice of America



VOICE ONE:

I'm Shirley Griffith.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Every week we tell about a person who was important in the history of the United States. Today, we tell about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She was a famous pilot and writer.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Anne Spencer Morrow was born in nineteen-oh-six in Englewood, New Jersey. Her father was a very rich banker. He later became the American ambassador to Mexico. Her mother was an educator and poet. Anne went to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She wanted to become a writer. She won two major prizes from the college for her writing.

VOICE TWO:

Anne Morrow was a quiet, shy and small young woman when she met Charles Lindbergh in nineteen twenty-seven. He was staying with her family in Mexico City. The twenty-five year old man was tall and good looking. Charles Lindbergh was one of the most famous people in the world. He had just become the first person to fly a plane alone across the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to Paris. Two years later, Anne and Charles Lindbergh were married. Reports about their marriage were on the front pages of newspapers around the world.

VOICE ONE:

After her marriage to Charles Lindbergh, Anne became a pilot. She learned to plan an airplane flight as a navigator, operate a radio and fly a plane.She began making many long airplane flights with her husband.

In nineteen thirty, she became the first woman in the United States to get a pilot's license to fly a glider, which does not have an engine. That same year, the Lindberghs set a speed record for flying across the United States.They flew from Los Angeles, California to New York City in fourteen hours and forty-five minutes. Anne Lindbergh was seven months pregnant at the time.

The Lindberghs explored new ways to fly around the world. They flew almost fifty thousand kilometers over five continents. Anne and Charles Lindbergh were famous around the world. They seemed to enjoy the greatest luck that any young people could have.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Then in nineteen thirty-two something terrible happened. The Lindbergh's first baby, twenty-month-old Charles, was kidnapped from their home in New Jersey. The body of the baby was discovered more than ten weeks later.

Bruno Richard Hauptmann was arrested, tried, found guilty and executed for the crime. There were a huge number of press reports about the case. Newspapers called it "the Crime of the Century." After the trial, the Lindberghs found it difficult to live in the United States. There were threats on the life of their second child.

And there were too many newspaper stories about them. So Anne and Charles Lindbergh moved to Europe in nineteen thirty-five. Four years later they moved back to the United States.

VOICE ONE:

Anne Morrow Lindbergh never fully recovered from the death of her first child. Yet, she and her husband had five more children.She continued flying. In nineteen thirty-four, she became the first woman to win the National Geographic Society's Hubbard Gold Medal. She was honored for her exploration, research and discovery.

Anne Lindbergh began writing to ease her sadness. She wrote several books about the flights with her husband. Her first book was "North to the Orient" in nineteen thirty-five.She wrote about their flight in a single-engine airplane over Canada and Alaska to Japan and China. This is what she wrote about landing in northern Canada and jumping out of the plane.

VOICE THREE:

"Then two little Eskimo boys came up shyly and followed me about. Their bright eyes shone under their caps as they searched my face and costume curiously. 'You see,' said one of the traders, 'You're the first white woman they've ever seen. There's never been one here before.' "

VOICE TWO:

Three years later Anne Lindbergh wrote "Listen! The Wind." It was about the Lindberghs' fifty thousand kilometer flight. It became very popular. One critic said it described the poetry of flight as no other book on flying had ever done.

In nineteen forty, Anne Lindbergh wrote a book called "The Wave of the Future."She wrote it while Europe was fighting World War Two. She wrote that she did not support communism or fascism. But she said they were unavoidable. She wrote that she hoped the United States could avoid entering the conflict. And, in a letter, she wrote that she was beginning to feel that the German Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler was a very great man.Her husband had become unpopular for expressing similar beliefs.

Many people criticized the book. Missus Lindbergh later admitted that both she and her husband failed to see the worst evils of the Nazi system. She stopped writing for many years.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

Anne Morrow Lindbergh began writing again in nineteen fifty-five. She wrote a book called "Gift from the Sea." It was about women's search for meaning in their lives.

"Gift from the Sea" was one of the most popular books in America. It has sold more than one million copies and has influenced many women.In "Gift from the Sea", Missus Lindbergh wrote about the many different kinds of pressures that women face.

She wrote that women who are wives and mothers have many different interests and duties. They must be able to deal with their husband, children, friends, home and community. She found it difficult for women to balance all these duties and still make a place for themselves. Yet she said that women must try to find a balance in their lives.

VOICE TWO:

In "Gift from the Sea," Anne Lindbergh described how women had to perform many jobs that pulled them in different directions like a circus performer.

VOICE THREE:

"What circus act we women perform every day of our lives. It puts the trapeze artist to shame. Look at us. We run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby-carriage, parasol, kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now!This is not the life of simplicity but the life of multiplicity that the wise men warn us of. It leads not to unification but to fragmentation.It does not bring grace; it destroys the soul."

VOICE ONE:

Anne Lindbergh found that one answer to this problem was to be alone. The book described how she spent time by herself on an island by the sea. She studied the sea shells she found. And she made her life simpler.

During the nineteen seventies, Anne Lindbergh wrote several more books about the happy and sad events of her life. One of these is called "Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead." She wrote about the joy of flying. She also wrote about the pain she and her husband felt after the body of their baby son was discovered.

VOICE THREE:

"We sleep badly and wake up and talk. I dreamed right along as I was thinking – all of one piece, no relief. I was walking down a suburban street seeing other people's children and I stopped to see one in a carriage and I thought it was a sweet child, but I was looking for my child in his face. And I realized, in the dream, that I would do that forever. "



(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Charles Lindbergh died in nineteen seventy-four at the age of seventy-two. The next year, the readers of Good Housekeeping magazine voted Anne Morrow Lindbergh one of the ten women in the world they liked the most. In nineteen ninety-six, Missus Lindbergh was invited to join the National Women's Hall of Fame. She was honored for her success as a pilot.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh died at her home in Vermont in two thousand one. She was ninety-four years old. Many people have been influenced by the way she dealt with both happiness and sadness. They respect the way she lived life to the fullest. And they like the advice about living that they find in her books.

VOICE THREE:

"If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly in those moments."

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

This Special English program was written by Shelley Gollust. Our reader was Sarah Long. And our producer was Caty Weaver. I'm Shirley Griffith.

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Michael Jackson, 1958-2009 - He Amazed the World With His Music and Dancing.




VOICE ONE:

I’m Faith Lapidus.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Bob Doughty with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell about one of the most famous performers in the world, Michael Jackson. Known as the “King of Pop,” Jackson sold more than seven hundred fifty million albums over his career. Michael Jackson redefined popular culture with his energetic music, dance moves and revolutionary music videos.

But Jackson’s huge success as a performer was not always easy. He was a complex individual with an often troubled private life.

(MUSIC: "Billie Jean")

VOICE ONE:

That was a song that hardly needs an introduction. “Billie Jean” first came out on the nineteen eighty-two hit album “Thriller.” The Guinness World Records lists that record as the best-selling album of all time. Other famous songs on the album include “Thriller,” “Beat It” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’.”

The album “Thriller” was as much about moves as it was about music. Michael Jackson brought attention to his body’s movements by wearing a shiny white glove, shortened black pants and white socks. He created dance movements that were electrifying. He could be as hard as a robot, or as smooth as liquid. While doing his famous “moonwalk” step, he seemed to be walking backwards on air.

(MUSIC: "I Want You Back")

VOICE TWO:

Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana in nineteen fifty-eight. He was the seventh of nine children. He was five years old when he began singing with his brothers in a group called the Jackson 5. In nineteen sixty-eight the group signed a recording deal from Motown Records. Michael was eleven years old when they released their first album a year later.

The Jackson 5 became an immediate success. Their music set records. Their first four songs were “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save” and “I’ll Be There.” They all reached the number one position in pop music record sales in nineteen seventy.

VOICE ONE:

Michael was the star of the group. He was the lead singer and danced with great energy. His extraordinary skill and presence on stage was remarkable, especially for someone so young. The group made youthful and fun music that was very popular with both African-Americans and white listeners.

In the nineteen seventies, the group changed record companies and shortened their name to the Jacksons. They continued to perform together, although Michael Jackson started to record music on his own as well. His first album performing alone was “Off the Wall,” released in nineteen seventy-nine.

(MUSIC: "Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough")

VOICE TWO:

Three years later, Jackson released “Thriller.” The album was not just the best selling album of all time. It also won eight Grammy Awards and seven American Music Awards. And it helped establish the popularity of a new form of entertainment, music videos. The video for the song “Thriller” was important in the history of the music industry. Michael Jackson understood the power of these videos in bringing attention to his music and to his image. He worked hard to make exciting videos with complex stories and dances.

VOICE ONE:

In nineteen eighty-five, Michael Jackson helped write the song “We Are the World.” He recorded it with many other famous performers. The aim of the record was to raise money for starving people in Africa. The project raised millions of dollars with this best selling song.

Michael Jackson’s next album, “Bad,” produced five number one hits, including “The Way You Make Me Feel.”

(MUSIC: "The Way You Make Me Feel")

VOICE TWO:

The train station at Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, California, as preparations are made for a possible memorial service for the late pop star Michael Jackson, 01 Jul 2009
The train station at Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, California
Michael Jackson was a huge success, but he was also a very troubled man. His behavior and appearance became increasingly strange. He had many operations to change his face.

He acted and spoke in a childlike way. Jackson bought a huge property in California which he called Neverland after the children’s story of Peter Pan. He had amusement park rides, a zoo and a large movie theater built for his home. Michael Jackson also went into major debt.And he suffered from injuries and illness that reportedly led him to take many kinds of pain-killing medicines.

VOICE ONE:

In nineteen ninety-three, a thirteen-year-old boy accused him of sexual abuse. The child molestation case was settled out of court with Jackson reportedly paying the boy millions of dollars. But ten years later, a similar accusation by another boy led to a criminal trial which began in two thousand five. A jury cleared Jackson of all charges. He called the trial the hardest thing he had ever done in his life.

During this time, Michael Jackson kept recording and performing music. His later albums include “Dangerous,” “HIStory” and “Invincible.”

(MUSIC: “Black and White”)

VOICE TWO:

Michael Jackson was briefly married to Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of musician Elvis Presley. He later married a nurse named Deborah Rowe. They had two children, Michael Joseph Jackson and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson. The couple divorced in nineteen ninety-nine. Mister Jackson later had a third child, Prince Michael Jackson.

VOICE ONE:

After his two thousand five trial, the singer spent much of his time in Europe and the Middle East. He returned to the United States with the aim of planning what was to be a victorious comeback. Michael Jackson died on June twenty-fifth, two thousand nine of heart failure. He was just days away from launching a series of fifty concerts in London.

VOICE TWO:

Fans around the world mourned his death. Prisoners in a jail in the Philippines danced for him. Fans in Paris, France attended a service at the city’s ancient religious center in his honor. Famous performers around the world told about the influence he had on their work. Michael Jackson left a huge mark on popular culture. His memory will live on in his unforgettable music.

(MUSIC: "Man in the Mirror")

VOICE ONE:

This program was written and produced by Dana Demange. I’m Faith Lapidus

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Bob Doughty. You can learn about other famous Americans on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.



Monday, July 6, 2009

"The Milky Way Galaxy is Larger Than We Thought" from Voice of America


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

VOICE TWO:

And I'm Barbara Klein. This week, we will tell you about new measurements of our own Milky Way galaxy. We will tell about a study linking diamonds to climate change nearly thirteen thousand years ago. We also will tell about efforts to grow crops with less water.

(MUSIC)

VOICE ONE:

The biggest structures in the universe are galaxies. These huge groups of stars, gas and dust can be many thousands of light years across. They also are home to an untold number of planets.

Until recently, space scientists have thought that our galaxy was not very special. It was considered a smaller member of a group of galaxies.

Now, new measurements show that our Milky Way galaxy is bigger than scientists once thought. The measurements were reported at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, California.


VOICE TWO:

Mark Reid is an astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He led the international team that studied the Milky Way. He said the new measurements mean that our galaxy is fifty percent larger. That makes it at least equal in size to the largest galaxy in our local group, the Andromeda Galaxy. The Andromeda Galaxy is big enough and near enough to be seen by the unaided eye in the star group Andromeda on a dark night.

Mister Reid said: "No longer will we think of the Milky Way as the little sister of the Andromeda Galaxy in our Local Group family."

VOICE ONE:

The team made the discovery by measuring the speed at which our galaxy is moving through space. It found that we are traveling at about two hundred seventy kilometers a second. That is about fifteen percent faster than scientists had believed.

The difference in speed also means a difference in mass of fifty percent. Astronomers have always thought that the Andromeda Galaxy was more massive than the Milk Way because it is believed to have more stars. Now, they will have to rethink that model.

VOICE TWO:

The team measured a number of areas in the Milky Way where stars are forming. These areas, called cosmic masers, are rich in gas molecules that have the effect of strengthening radio waves. The radio waves are measured when the earth is at two points opposite one another in its orbit. The difference in the apparent position of the cosmic masers lets astronomers measure their distance from the Earth.

The team used the most powerful telescope in the world -- the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array. It is really ten telescopes that are as distant from one another as Hawaii and the United States Virgin Islands. Instead of collecting light, the twenty-five meter wide telescopes collect radio waves. Their combined observing power gives the Very Long Baseline Array the ability to see the finest details of any telescope in the world.


VOICE ONE:

The new information also adds to astronomers' understanding of our galaxy's spiral arms. Mister Reid noted that: "Our galaxy probably has four, not two, spiral arms of gas and dust that are forming stars."

Recent observations had suggested that two of the four spiral arms hold most of the older stars in the Milky Way galaxy. That information was gathered by the American space agency's Spitzer Space Telescope.

(MUSIC)

VOICE TWO:

Many scientists believe that a huge object from space hit Earth about sixty-five million years ago. They believe the object crashed about the time dinosaurs disappeared. Some experts believe the crash led to the death of dinosaurs and other ancient creatures.

Now, a group of research scientists says it has found evidence of a similar event that happened about thirteen thousand years ago. It says an explosion or explosions by comets could explain the disappearance of many animals and human beings who lived in North America at that time.

Douglas Kennett of the University of Oregon led the team of researchers. Their findings were reported this month in Science Magazine.

VOICE ONE:

The researchers say the report offers evidence that one or more comets were responsible for a sudden cooling period on Earth's surface. They say this ice age lasted about thirteen centuries. It is called Younger Dryas. During this period, large North American animal species like mammoths and saber-toothed cats disappeared.

The researchers reported finding nanodiamonds in several areas across North America. These extremely small particles are believed to be linked to comets. Nanodiamonds are produced under only a very high temperature and high pressure event, such as a comet striking Earth.

VOICE TWO:

The researchers say the nanodiamonds were all found in a level of soil thought to be about thirteen thousand years old. Under this layer of nanodiamonds, they found remains of many ancient animals, including those that disappeared after Younger Dryas. The researchers also found tools used by the Clovis culture, a group of human beings who lived at that time. The tools were also found under, but not above the diamonds.


The researchers say their findings support the idea that a huge explosion or explosions caused fire and pressure powerful enough to kill off life on the Earth. They say an event of this size could have resulted in climate change. They say it would have caused huge clouds of dust to block sunlight.

VOICE ONE:

Many scientists dismiss the comet theory. They say there are other reasons why the large animals and people from that period disappeared.

Some scientists believe that the Clovis people died off because they killed too many native animals. Others say climate change caused the Clovis people and the animals to die. One argument against the comet theory is that a comet would have left a large hole in the Earth's surface. Others say the evidence is important, but that more evidence is needed to confirm the theory.

(MUSIC)


VOICE TWO:

Scientists are working to develop crops that can reduce the amount of water used for agriculture. Almost sixty percent of the world's freshwater withdrawals from rivers, lakes and other water resources go toward irrigating fields.

Thomas "Tommy" Carter is a plant scientist in North Carolina. He works for the Agricultural Research Service in the United States Department of Agriculture. He leads Team Drought, a group of researchers at five universities. They have been using traditional breeding methods to develop soybeans that can grow well under dry conditions.

VOICE ONE:

Tommy Carter started working on drought-resistant soybeans in nineteen eighty-one. His research has taken him as far as China, where soybeans have been grown for thousands of years.

Farmers in the United States, however, have grown soybeans for only about a century. Tommy Carter says the soybeans they grow are for the most part genetically similar.

More differences could better protect crops against climate changes that can reduce production. Those changes include water shortages which could increase from rising temperatures in Earth's atmosphere.

VOICE TWO:

The Agriculture Department has a soybean germplasm collection, a collection of genetic material passed from one generation to the next.

Members of Team Drought studied more than two thousand five hundred examples from the collection. They looked at ones from Asia. They searched for germplasms that could keep plants from weakening and wilting during hot, dry summers in the United States.

Tommy Carter says they found only five. But these slow-wilting lines, he says, produce four to eight bushels more than normal soybeans under drought conditions. The yield depends on location and environment.

The team is now doing field tests. The first breeding line is expected to be released this year for use by private seed companies and public soybean breeders.


VOICE ONE:

Scientists are also working on other plants that either use less water or use it better, or both. For example, companies like Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta are developing corn with reduced water needs. Monsanto expects to be ready in four years to market its first corn seeds genetically engineered to resist drought.

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VOICE TWO:

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written by Mario Ritter, Jerilyn Watson and Brianna Blake, who also was our producer. I'm Barbara Klein.

VOICE ONE:

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