Sunday, February 27, 2011

"US Foreign Policy in the 1930s" from VOA.

Sand Sculpture: Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin
at Yalta in 1945.

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

I'm Shirley Griffith. Today, Doug Johnson and I tell about American foreign policy during the 1930s.

For much of its history, the United States was not involved in world disputes. Only in the twentieth century did it become a powerful and influential nation.

President Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to see America as a great power. A few years later, President Woodrow Wilson wanted the United States to become more involved in the world.

Roosevelt and Churchill

Many Americans disagreed. They wanted to stay out of international conflicts. The presidents after Wilson stayed informed about world events. But they were much less willing to involve the United States than Roosevelt or Wilson had been. The great economic depression that began in 1929 reduced Americans' interest in the world even more.

Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1933.

Franklin Roosevelt was not like most Americans. He knew the international situation well from his own experience.

Like Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, he wanted to expand America's foreign policies. The terrible crisis of the depression, however, forced him to spend most of his time on national economic issues. He was able to deal with international issues only very slowly.

One of his most important first efforts was to improve relations with Latin American nations.

Thirty years earlier, President Theodore Roosevelt said the United States had the right to intervene in Latin America. In the years that followed, the United States sent troops to several Latin American countries. Many political leaders in the area accused the United States of treating them like children. Leaders throughout Latin America criticized the United States bitterly at a conference in 1928.

When Franklin Roosevelt became president, he promised to treat Latin American nations as friends. He called this his "good neighbor" policy.

Roosevelt's new policy had an unfriendly beginning. His administration refused to recognize a government in Cuba that opposed the United States. Instead, it helped bring to power a new government that showed more support for the United States.

After that, however, President Roosevelt was able to prove that he wanted to improve relations with the countries of Latin America.

For example, his administration speeded up plans to withdraw American troops from Haiti. It rejected old treaties that gave the United States the right to intervene in Cuba. It recognized a revolutionary government in El Salvador. It recognized the right of Panama to help operate and protect the Panama Canal. And it helped establish the Export-Import Bank to increase trade throughout the Americas.

All of these actions did much to improve the opinion of Latin American leaders about the United States. However, the most important test of Franklin Roosevelt's new policies was in Mexico.

"Woman and Cat" Frank Perri, 1940

The Mexican government seized control of oil companies owned by investors in the United States. A number of influential Americans wanted the president to take strong action. He refused. He only agreed to urge the Mexican government to pay American investors for the value of the oil companies.

As United States' relations with Latin America improved, its relations with Britain got worse.

Britain blamed Franklin Roosevelt for the failure of an international economic conference in 1933. It also felt the United States Congress was unwilling to take a strong position against international aggression by other nations.

Hirohito. Japanese Emperor
Some British leaders had so little faith in Roosevelt that they proposed seeking cooperation with Japan instead of the United States. New leaders in Japan, however, soon ended this possibility. They presented Britain with such strong military demands that the British government gave up any idea of cooperation with Japan.

One big question in American foreign policy in the 1930s concerned the Soviet union.

The United States had refused to recognize the government in Moscow after the Bolsheviks took control in 1917. Yet Franklin Roosevelt saw the Soviet Union as a possible ally if growing tensions in Europe and Asia burst into war.

For this reason, he held talks in Washington with a top Soviet official. In 1933, he officially recognized the Soviet government.

President Roosevelt hoped recognition would lead to better relations. But the United States and the Soviet union did not trust each other. They immediately began arguing about many issues.

Within two years, the American ambassador to Moscow urged President Roosevelt to cut diplomatic relations with the Soviets. Roosevelt refused. Relations between the two countries became even worse. Yet Roosevelt believed it was better to continue relations in case of an emergency. That emergency -- World War Two -- was just a few years away.

Economic issues played an important part in American foreign policy during the early 1930s. In 1930 three, a major international economic conference was held in London.

France and Italy led a movement to link the value of every nation's money to the price of gold. American delegates to the conference rejected the idea. They argued that it would slow America's recovery from the great depression. As a result, the London conference failed.

Although President Roosevelt opposed linking the value of the American dollar to the price of gold, he did not oppose international trade. During the 1930s, his administration negotiated new trade agreements with more than twenty countries.

The 1930s saw major political changes in Asia and Europe. President Roosevelt watched these developments with great interest. In Japan, military leaders gained control of the government. Their goal was to make Japan Asia's leading power.

Benito Mussolini
In Italy, the government was headed by fascist Benito Mussolini. Another fascist, Francisco Franco, seized power in Spain. And, most important, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party increased their strength in Germany. Franklin Roosevelt understood much sooner than most Western leaders the threat that these new leaders represented.

Most Americans shared Roosevelt's dislike for the new fascist movements. However, Americans felt another emotion much more strongly. It was their desire to stay out of war.

World War One had ended just 15 years earlier. It was still fresh in the minds of many Americans. A majority of the population opposed any policy that could involve the United States in another bloody conflict.

A public opinion study was made in 1937. The study showed that seventy-one percent of Americans believed it had been a mistake for the United States to fight in World War One.

So, President Roosevelt was not surprised when Congress passed a law ordering the administration to remain neutral in any foreign conflict. Congress also refused an administration proposal that the United States join the World Court.

Franklin Roosevelt shared the hope that the United States would stay out of foreign conflicts.

Adolph Hitler
However, Adolf Hitler and other fascists continued to grow more powerful. The situation forced Americans to begin to consider the need for military strength.


You have been listening to THE MAKING OF A NATION, a program in Special English on the Voice of America. Your narrators have been Shirley Griffith and Doug Johnson. Our program was written by David Jarmul. The Voice of America invites you to listen again next week to THE MAKING OF A NATION.


During the 1930s, Japan's major object was _____________________ .
a: to become a major producer of electronic products
b: to achieve number one military power status in the Asian arena
c: to sell economically competitive cars in the US market
d: to join with Italy and Germany in a three-way empire of world domination

2. During the 1930s, President Roosevelt tried to ____________________ .
a: dominate Latin America
b: exploit Latin America's agricultural resources as much as possible
c: intervene as much as possible in Latin America to discourage the spread of Communism
d: become a better neighbor with Latin America

3. Fascist states in the 1930s, such as Italy, Germany, and Japan weren't
a: open to criticisms of their ideologies
b: committed to a strict national identity
c: opposed to democratic processes and institutions
d: suspicious of foreign influences

4. The majority of Americans in the 1930s ___________________________ .
a: believed that the US needed to send troops to protect nations from the spread of fascism
b: thought that military preparations could get the country out of its economic depression
c: wanted to avoid war or any involvement in international problems
d: wanted to purchase more European products

5. Britain and the United States didn't have friendly relations during the 1930s because ____________________________ .
a: Britain still resented the American victories in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812
b: Roosevelt said that London was the wrong venue for the Olympic Games
c: Roosevelt through the Inport-Export bank was doing better business with Latin America than Britain
d: Britain perceived that the USA would not help if aggression from fascist countries happened

6. When Mexico seized control of oil companies owned by investors in the United States, the president ___________________________ .
a: took strong action to retake the oil companies
b: urged the Mexican government to pay American investors for the value of the companies
c: refused to talk with the Mexican government
d: seized all bank accounts of Mexicans living in the United States

7. At a major economic conference held in London in 1930, the United States ____________________________ .
a: worked hard to prevent trade agreements with other countries
b: refused to link the value of the American dollar to the price of gold
c: asked other nations to help the U.S.A financially to get out of the great depression
d: was mainly responsible for the significant success of the London conference

8. The most powerful fascist government in Europe in the 1930s was __________________ .
a: Germany
b: Italy
c: Spain
d: Japan

9. Roosevelt's dislike of the new fascist movements was ___________________ .
a: not shared by most Americans
b: shared by most Americans
c: combined with a determination to defeat these governments militarily as soon as possible
d: only because he hadn't met and had dinner with any of the fascist leaders yet

10. Although there was a lot of distrust between the two countries, Roosevelt wanted the United States to remain on good terms with the Soviet Union because ___________________ .
a: he recognized that he might need the Soviet Union as an ally in a future emergency
b: he didn't want the United States to run out of vodka especially since Prohibition had been repealed.
c: many American men were interested in communicating with Soviet women
d: the Bolshoi Ballet Company based in Moscow was negotiating for a national tour of the United States

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Margaret Bourke-White" A great photo-journalist, from VOA, Part 2

I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Steve Ember with PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English. Today we tell complete our report about photographer Margaret Bourke-White. She helped create the modern art of photojournalism.


Margaret Bourke-White began her career as an industrial photographer in the early nineteen thirties. Her pictures captured the beauty and power of machines. They told a story – one image at a time. The technique became know as the photographic essay. In nineteen thirty-six, American publisher Henry Luce started a new magazine, called Life, based on the photographic essay. In this magazine, the pictures told the story. Bourke-White had worked as a photographer for one of Luce's other magazines called Fortune. Luce chose her to work on his new magazine.

Margaret Bourke-White took the picture that appeared on the first cover of Life magazine. It was a picture of a new dam being built in the western state of Montana. The light on the rounded supports showed the dam's great strength. The small shapes of two men at the bottom showed the dam's huge size. Bourke-White was no longer satisfied just to show the products of industry in her pictures, as she had in the past. She wanted to tell the story of the people behind the industry: In this case, the people who were building the dam.

The dam in Montana was a federal project. Ten thousand people worked on it. Bourke-White took pictures of those people – at the dam, in the rooms where they lived, and in the places where they had fun. With her pictures in Life magazine, she told a story about America's "Wild West" in the twentieth century.


Margaret Bourke-White was a social activist. She was a member of the American Artists Congress. These artists supported state financial aid for the arts. They fought discrimination against African-American artists. And they supported artists fighting against fascism in Europe.

In the nineteen thirties, Bourke-White met the American writer Erskine Caldwell. Caldwell was known for his stories about people in the American South. The photographer and the writer decided to produce a book to tell Americans about some of those poor country people of the South. They traveled through eight states, from South Carolina to Louisiana. Their book, "You Have Seen Their Faces," was published in nineteen thirty-seven. It was a great success.

Caldwell's words were beautiful. But Bourke-White's pictures could have told the story by themselves. They showed the faces of people in a land that still wore the mask of defeat in America's Civil War.


In nineteen thirty-eight, some countries in Europe were close to war. Bourke-White and Caldwell went there to report on these events. They produced another book together, this time about Czechoslovakia. It was called "North of the Danube." The next year Margaret Bourke-White and Erskine Caldwell were married. They continued to work together.

By the spring of nineteen forty-one, Europe had been at war for a year and a half. Bourke-White and Caldwell went to the Soviet Union. They were the only foreign reporters there. For six weeks, Bourke-White took pictures of the Soviet people preparing for war. Then, one night in July, Soviet officials announced that German bomber planes were flying toward Moscow. No civilians were permitted to stay above ground because of the coming attacks.

As others were hurrying to safety, Bourke-White placed several cameras in the window of her hotel room. She set the cameras so they would remain open to the light of the night sky. Then she joined the others in rooms under the hotel. While she waited for the bombing attack to end, her cameras recorded the explosions, which lit up the rooftops of the city.

Before leaving the country, Bourke-White received permission to meet with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. She returned home with his picture and a series of other photographic essays for Life magazine. She also had enough material for a book on the war in the Soviet Union. Margaret Bourke-White's marriage to Erskine Caldwell ended in divorce in nineteen forty-two.

During World War Two, she became an official photographer with the United States Army. Her photographs were to be used jointly by the military and by Life magazine. She was the first woman to be permitted to work in combat areas during World War Two.

Bourke-White flew with American bomber planes in England as they prepared to attack enemy targets on the European continent. She wanted to fly with the Army to North Africa, where the allies were fighting German troops in the desert.

But the commanding general told her it would be too dangerous. So she sailed for North Africa instead. Before she reached the African coast, enemy bombs hit the ship and sank it. An allied warship rescued Bourke-White and the other survivors and took them to Algeria.

The incident did not stop Bourke-White from reporting on the war. She flew in an allied bombing attack on a German airfield at El Aouina in Tunisia. She flew over the terrible fighting in the Cassino Valley in Italy. And she moved along the Rhine River with the United States Third Army, under the command of General George Patton. At the end of the war, she was with American troops when they entered and freed several Nazi death camps. She took photographs of the prisoners in the Buchenwald death camp in Germany in nineteen forty-five.

Later, she wrote about the war. She said she sometimes pulled an imaginary cloth across her eyes as she worked. In the death camps, she said, the cloth was so thick that she did not really know what she was photographing until she saw the finished pictures. In addition to her stories for Life magazine, Bourke-White published books on the allied campaign in Italy and on the fall of Nazi Germany.


After the war, Life magazine sent Margaret Bourke-White to India. She stayed for three years as India prepared for its independence from Britain. She photographed the battles between Muslims and Hindus. And she met with the leader of India's non-violent campaign for independence, Mohandas Gandhi. She made a famous photograph of him called "Gandhi at His Spinning Wheel." She was the last person to photograph Gandhi before he was murdered in nineteen forty-eight.

After that, Bourke-White traveled to South Africa. Her job was to tell the story of the black people who worked in the country's gold mines. To get the pictures she wanted, she followed the workers deep into the mine tunnels.

In the early nineteen fifties, she went to Korea to photograph the effects of war on the Korean people. She took a famous photograph of a returning soldier reunited with his mother in South Korea in nineteen fifty-two. The mother had believed that her son had been killed several months earlier in the Korean War.

Margaret Bourke-White tried to make her pictures perfect. Often, she was not satisfied with what she had done. She would look at her pictures and see something she had failed to do, or something she had not done right. Reaching perfection was not easy. Many things got in the way of her work. She said: "There is only one moment when a picture is there. And a moment later, it is gone forever. My memory is full of those pictures that were lost."


More of Margaret Bourke-White's beautiful pictures were to be lost, sooner than anyone expected. In the middle nineteen fifties, she began to suffer from the effects of Parkinson's disease.

Her hands shook so badly that she could not hold a camera. She wrote a book about her life, called "Portrait of Myself." And, even though she was unable to take photographs, she continued to work for Life magazine until nineteen sixty-nine. She died in nineteen seventy-one at the age of sixty-seven.

Margaret Bourke-White was a woman doing what had been a man's job. Her work took her around the world, from factories to battlefields. Her life was full of adventure. She was one of the most important photographers of the twentieth century.


This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.

Margaret Bourke-White, Part One


1. Margaret Bourke-White's first job was as a photographer with the _________________ .
a. Life Magazine
b. Fortune Magazine
c. Otis Steel Company
d. Russian Government

2. Looking at her life, you might conclude that Margaret Bourke-White was a _______________ woman.
a. traditional
b. courageous
c. family-centered
d. outspoken

3. Margaret Bourke-White took pictures in many different places in the world such as The Soviet Union, India, and ____________________ .
a. South Wales
b. South America
c. South of Norway
d. South Korea

4. In one of her Soviet Union photos, she actually showed ________________ in Moscow.
a. a bomb attack
b. a parade with horses
c. a revolutionary coup
d. a beauty pageant

5. Margaret Bourke-White's first photographs might be found in a book of _______________ photography.
a. political
b. social
c. propaganda
d. industrial

6. Bourke-White collaborated with Erskine Caldwell in a book about Czechoslovakia called _________ .
a. "North of The Danube"
b. "You Have Seen Their Faces"
c. "Portrait of Myself"
d. "How to Take Pictures"

7. Bourke-White couldn't be a photographer in the middle 1950s because she was sick with ________________ , and couldn't hold the camera steady.
a. Asthma
b. Parkinson's disease
c. Pneumonia
d. Leukemia

8. In India, Margaret Bourke-White was the last person to photograph India's non violent independence leader, _________________ .
a. Mohandas Gandhi
b. Jawaharlal Nehru
c. Gautama Buddha
d. Erskine Caldwell

9. Another name for this selection could be _______________________ .
a. "The Diary of a World Traveler"
b. "The First Great Photojournalist"
c. "The History of Life Magazine"
d. "How to Photograph Wildlife"

10. This story is mainly about ____________________ .
a. a highly courageous and innovative photojournalist
b. a woman who broke with tradition
c. the history of photography in the twentieth century
d. the development of the photo essay in America

Margaret Bourke-White Collection from Youtube:

Margaret Bourke-White, Part One

Friday, February 18, 2011

"The Stock Market Crash of '29" from Voice of America.

Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.

The election of Herbert Hoover in nineteen twenty-eight made Americans more hopeful than ever about their future.

Hoover seemed to have just the right experience to lead the nation to more economic progress. He was an engineer and businessman who had served in the government as commerce secretary. He understood economics and had faith in the future of private business.

Herbert Hoover's Inauguration Day
On a rainy day in March of nineteen twenty-nine, Hoover rode down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to become the new president. "I have no fears for the future of our country," he told the cheering crowd. "It is bright with hope."

This week in our series, Faith Lapidus and Bob Doughty tell more about the Republican administration of Herbert Hoover.


FAITH LAPIDUS: The clearest evidence of the public's faith in the economy is the stock market. And the New York Stock Exchange reacted to the new president with a wild increase in prices. During the months after Hoover's election, prices generally rose like a rocket. Stocks valued at one hundred dollars climbed to two hundred, then three hundred, four hundred. Men and women made huge amounts of money overnight.

Publications and economic experts advised Americans to buy stocks before prices went even higher. Time and again, people heard how rich they could become if they found and bought stocks for companies growing into industrial giants.

"Never sell the United States short," said one publication. Another just said, "Everybody ought to be rich."

BOB DOUGHTY: A number of economic experts worried about the sharp increase in stock prices that followed Hoover's election. The president himself urged stock market officials to make trading more honest and safe. And he approved a move by the Federal Reserve Board to increase the interest charged to banks.

However, both efforts failed to stop the growing number of Americans who were spending their money wildly on stocks.

Some experts pointed to danger signs in the economy during the summer of nineteen twenty-nine. The number of houses being built was dropping. Industries were reducing the amount of products that they held in their factories. The rate of growth in spending by average Americans was falling sharply. And industrial production, employment, and prices were down.

These experts warned that the American economy was just not strong enough to support such rapid growth in stock prices. They said there was no real value behind many of the high prices. They said a stock price could not increase four times while a company's sales stayed the same. They said the high prices were built on foolish dreams of wealth, not real value.

FAITH LAPIDUS: But the prices went still higher. Buyers fought with each other to pay more and more for company stocks. The average price of all stocks almost doubled in just one year.

It seemed everybody was buying stocks, even people with little money or economic training.

A clothing salesman got advice from a stock trader visiting his store and made two hundred thousand dollars. A nurse learned of a good company from someone in the hospital. She made thirty thousand dollars. There were thousands of such stories.

By early September, the stock market reached its high point of the past eighteen months. Shares of the Westinghouse company had climbed from ninety-one dollars to three hundred thirteen. The Anaconda Copper company had risen from fifty-four dollars to one hundred sixty-two. Union Carbide jumped from one hundred forty-five to four hundred thirteen.

Life was like a dream. But like any dream, it could not last forever.


BOB DOUGHTY: In September, nineteen twenty-nine, stock prices stopped rising.

During the next month and a half, stock prices fell, but only slowly. Then suddenly, at the end of October, the market crashed. Prices dropped wildly. Leading stocks fell five, ten, twenty dollars in a single day. Everyone tried to sell their stocks. But no one was buying. Fear washed across the stock market. People were losing money even faster than they had made it.

FAITH LAPIDUS: The stock market collapsed on Thursday, October twenty-fourth, nineteen twenty-nine. People remember the day as "Black Thursday," the day the dreams ended.

The day began with a wave of selling. People from across the country sent messages to their stock traders in New York. All the messages said the same thing: Sell! Sell the stocks at any price possible! But no one was buying. And so down the prices came.

The value of stock for the Montgomery Ward store dropped from eighty-three dollars to fifty in a single day. The RCA radio corporation fell from sixty-eight dollars to forty-four – down twenty-four dollars in just a few hours. Down the stocks fell, lower and lower.

Several of the country's leading bankers met to discuss ways to stop the disaster. They agreed to buy stocks in large amounts to stop the wave of selling. The bankers moved quickly. And for two days, prices held steady.

But then, like snow falling down the side of a mountain, the stocks dropped again. Prices went to amazingly low levels. One business newspaper said simply: "The present week has witnessed the greatest stock market disaster of all time."


BOB DOUGHTY: The stock market crash ruined thousands of Americans. In a few short weeks, traders lost thirty billion dollars, an amount almost as great as all the money the United States had spent in World War One.

Some businessmen could not accept what had happened. They jumped from the tops of buildings and killed themselves. In fact, one popular joke of the time said that hotel owners had to ask people if they wanted rooms for sleeping or jumping.

But the stock market crash was nothing to laugh about. It destroyed much of the money that Americans had saved. Even worse, it caused millions of people to worry and lose faith in the economy. They were not sure what to expect tomorrow. Business owners would not spend money for new factories or business operations. Instead, they decided to wait and see what would happen.

This reduced production and caused more workers to lose their jobs. Fewer workers meant fewer people with money to buy goods. And fewer people buying goods meant less need for factories to produce. So it went. In short, economic disaster.

FAITH LAPIDUS: Why did the stock market crash? One reason, people had been paying too much for stocks. Everyone believed that prices would go higher and higher forever. People paid more for stocks than the stocks were worth. They hoped to sell the stocks at even higher prices.

It was like a children's balloon that expands with air, blowing bigger and bigger until it bursts.

But there were other important reasons. Industrial profits were too high and wages too low. Five percent of the population owned one-third of all personal income. The average worker simply did not have enough money to buy enough of all the new goods that factories were producing. Another problem was that companies were not investing enough money in new factories and supplies.

There were also problems with the rules of the stock market itself. People were allowed to buy stocks when they did not have the money to do so.

BOB DOUGHTY: Several government economic policies also helped cause the stock market crash of nineteen twenty-nine. Government tax policies made the rich richer and the poor poorer. And the government did little to control the national money supply, even when the economy faced disaster.

The stock market crash marked the beginning of the Great Depression -- a long, slow, painful fall to the worst economic crisis in American history. The Depression would bring suffering to millions of people. It would cause major political changes. And it would be a major force in creating the conditions that led to World War Two.

We will look at the beginning of the Great Depression in our next program.


JIM TEDDER: Our program was written by David Jarmul. The narrators were Faith Lapidus and Bob Doughty. You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- an American history series in VOA Special English.


1. During the year leading up to the stock market crash, many Americans thought they ________________ from stocks.
a: could get out of poverty
b: could learn about economics
c: could become wealthy
d: could lose their shirts

2. During the summer of 1929, there were _____________________ in the economy. For example, the number of house construction projects was dropping.
a: danger signs
b: positive indicators
c: ups and downs
d: normal developments

3. Thursday, October 24th, 1929 became known as "______________________."
a: Halloween
b: Get Rich Day
c: The Teacher's Birthday
d: Black Thursday

4. Leading bankers met to discuss ways to stop the crash from continuing. They agreed _____________________ .
a: to buy stocks in large amounts
b: to sell as many shares as possible
c: give out loans at low interest rates
d: stimulate new housing projects with their large holdings

5. The following situation is not likely to have a negative effect on the economy: ______________________ .
a: Business owners don't spend money for new factories
b: millions of people worry and lose faith in the economy
c: many people are unemployed
d: people believe that, "The future of the country is bright with hope."

6. When Herbert Hoover was elected president in 1928, the people of the United States _________________________ .
a: had little confidence in their new president
b: were very optimistic about their future
c: expected a stock market crash soon
d: were afraid for the future of their country

7. A situation that is similar in 1929 and today, in 2012 is that _______________________ .
a: computer trading is common
b: a very low percentage of the population owns most of all the personal income
c: there is a feeling of great optimism about the future
d: there is a a great effect on our economy from the economy of other countries

8. On the day the stock market collapsed, the value of RCA stock ______________________ .
a: rose from $68.00 dollars a share to $100.00 a share
b: fell from $100.00 a share to $98.00 a share
c: fell by $24.00 in just a few hours
d: doubled in price in just a few hours

9. In June of 1929, _____________________________________ .
a: many people lost money on the stock market
b: stock prices increased dramatically
c: many people lost their jobs
d: Herbert Hoover became President of the United States

10. The story of the crash of 1929 demonstrates the powerful role that _______________ plays in economic decisions.
a: buying and selling
b: emotion
c: the stock market
d: the politics of the president


Read Ann Douglas, professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, speak about
the Cold War Culture, America in the 50's

Monday, February 14, 2011

"The Sixty-Seventh Balloon Flight" from Edcon Publishing

Welcome to Reading Comprehension for ESL students. The page you're looking for has moved. It is now here. I hope you enjoy the article and that you will return to enjoy the many other articles and materials for learning at these websites

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Kepler Telescope Scores" from VOA

STEVE EMBER: I’m Steve Ember.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: And I’m Shirley Griffith with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about an American spacecraft that has a date with a comet. We hear the latest about a space shuttle commander whose wife continues to recover from a deadly gun attack. And we remember a sad anniversary. But first, the discovery of possible planets like our own.

STEVE EMBER: Last week, American space agency scientists announced the discovery of possible Earth-like planets. The announcement came from newly released information from the Kepler space-based telescope.

NASA scientists say the Earth-like planets are among one thousand two hundred thirty-five possible planets orbiting other stars that have been discovered so far.

The researchers say six new planets have been confirmed. But the Kepler mission’s chief scientist, William Borucki, says eighty percent of the possible planets will probably be confirmed in the coming months and years.

Before last week’s announcement, the total number of so-called exoplanets outside our solar system was just over five hundred. Mr. Borucki says that number increased, based on new information from the small part of the sky examined by the Kepler telescope.

WILLIAM BORUCKI: “Kepler looks at one-four-hundredth of the sky. If we had four hundred of these fields of view, we would see four hundred times that number of candidates.”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Mr. Borucki notes that they have found many possible planets in a small part of the sky. This suggests that there are countless planets orbiting stars like our sun in our galaxy. He says there must be millions of planets orbiting the stars that surround our sun.

Mr. Borucki says he was surprised to find sixty-eight suspected planets about the size of Earth or smaller. Fifty-four of the possible exoplanets are in so-called habitable areas with moderate temperatures where liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface. He says some of the possible planets could even have moons with liquid water. And he says five of the planetary candidates are both close to the size of Earth and orbit in the habitable area of their parent stars.

STEVE EMBER: NASA scientists using the Kepler space telescope also announced the discovery of six planets orbiting a star called Kepler-11. Investigator Jack Lissauer described the discovery.

JACK LISSAUER: “Kepler 11 is a surprising flat and compact system of six transiting planets. The five inner planets are especially close together, something that we didn’t think would happen for worlds of this size.”

NASA says Kepler-11 has the fullest, most compact planetary system yet discovered beyond our own. Mr. Lissauer says the five inner planets are among the smallest confirmed planets beyond our solar system. He says they are mixtures of rock and gases, possibly including water ice.

The Kepler space telescope looks for planets by measuring tiny decreases in the brightness of stars when planets cross in front of them. Scientists say extensive observations from earth-based telescopes are needed to confirm the existence of the planets.

Yale University astronomer Debra Fischer says non-professional astronomers around the world are helping study the new information about the possible planets. They are doing this on an Internet website called


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: A spacecraft from the United States space agency has a date with comet Temple 1 on February fourteenth. The Stardust-NExT spacecraft is to meet the comet on Valentine’s Day. This is the day when many people will be going out on a date with someone special in their lives.

This meeting is all the more meaningful because comet Temple 1 has been visited before. And scientists are very interested in seeing how this solar system body has changed over the years.

The goal of the Stardust-NExT spacecraft is to gather scientific evidence about one of the solar system’s most changeable objects -- comets. Comets are balls of ice and rock that leave behind a trail of gas and dust in space as they approach the sun’s warming light.

Sometimes, observers see this as a comet’s tail, which can be visible to the unaided eye stretching across the night sky.

On February fourteenth, Stardust will approach to within two hundred kilometers of comet Temple 1. The spacecraft will take seventy-two high quality pictures of the comet’s nucleus, which is about six kilometers across. But this is not the first time that Temple 1 has been observed closely.

STEVE EMBER: In two thousand five, another NASA spacecraft called Deep Impact paid a visit to Temple 1. It released a small device, or probe, that crashed into the comet. This released huge amounts of material into space.

The main Deep Impact spacecraft was able to send back information to scientists on Earth. They found evidence of carbon-based chemicals, sand and, most importantly, water ice. Scientists will have a second look at comet Temple 1 with Stardust. This double take is something new for comet experts.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Joe Veverka is principal investigator of Stardust-NExT. He says it will give scientists their first chance to see how comets change with each close approach to the sun.

JOE VEVERKA: “We know that comets lose material, but the question is, ‘How much does the surface change and where does the surface change?’ So we’ll be able to answer that question by comparing our images with those taken by Deep Impact in 2005.”

STEVE EMBER: Astronomers have known about Comet Temple 1 for a long time. They discovered it in eighteen sixty-seven. They have observed it on most of its returns to the inner solar system since then.It is a short-period comet. This means it orbits the sun in a relatively short time. For Temple 1, that is about five and a half years.

Where does the comet go when it is not close to the sun? Short-period comets like Temple 1 have orbits that take them only as far as the outer planets like Jupiter. In fact, Temple 1 is a member of the Jupiter family of comets. These are all influenced by the gravity of the solar system’s largest planet. Long-period comets, however, may take several hundred years to orbit the sun.

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: Scientists have described comets as leftovers from the creation of the solar system. Some scientists believe comets brought water and carbon compounds to Earth. That means they may have supplied the Earth with the basic building blocks of life nearly four billion years ago. That is a big reason why scientists are so interested in them.


STEVE EMBER: Late last week, NASA said astronaut Mark Kelly would return to train with crewmembers on the last flight of the space shuttle Endeavor in April. Mark Kelley is the husband of United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. A gunman shot her in the head on January eighth at a political gathering in Tuscon, Arizona. Six people were killed in the attack, including a young girl and a federal judge.

Gabrielle Giffords has since been moved to a hospital in Houston, Texas. Astronaut Mark Kelly trains at the Johnson Space Center in that city.

Recently Mr. Kelly said he plans to command the final flight of the Endeavor. He said he hopes his wife Gabrielle Giffords will be at the launch. Mr. Kelly’s brother, Scott Kelly, is the current commander of the International Space Station. NASA plans to retire the space shuttle program this year.


SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: On January twenty-eighth, nineteen eighty-six, tragedy struck NASA’s Space Shuttle program.


It was only seventy-three seconds into the twenty-fifth flight for the program. A problem with one of its booster rockets caused space shuttle Challenger to explode. Seven astronauts were killed. Many Americans clearly remember the event as if it were yesterday. Students were watching the launch from their classrooms. One of the astronauts was Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher.

NASA grounded the space shuttle program for more than two years while investigators tried to find out what happened. The space agency developed new safety rules as a result of the accident. NASA went on to launch more than one hundred shuttle flights following the Challenger disaster. But in two thousand three, another accident on the space shuttle Columbia claimed the lives of seven more astronauts.

STEVE EMBER: Valerie Neal supervises the human spaceflight collection at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. She says because spaceflight is experimental, it continues to be risky. But Ms. Neal says the United States space program always seems to recover from hardship.

VALERIE NEAL: “The fact, though, that the space shuttle program didn’t close down, that we didn’t close up shop and say, ‘This is too dangerous. We’re not going to do it anymore,’ I think is a tribute to the American people and the American spirit.”

SHIRLEY GRIFFITH: This program was written and produced by Mario Ritter. I’m Shirley Griffith.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

This is a great video produced and narrated by Carl Sagan who encourages us to think about the possibility of life on other planets and not be afraid to venture into space and satisfy our curiosity.