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For Americans, New Passports Hold Memories of the Electronic Kind


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We answer a question about American actor Kirk Cameron …

Play some music from Susan Cagle …

And report about a new kind of American passport.

New Passport

The United States has begun providing new, electronic passports for its citizens. State Department officials say the new passports are designed to improve border security and travel. Mario Ritter has more.


The new electronic passport is the same as the traditional United States passport except that it contains a small computer chip in the back cover. The chip holds the same information as normal, paper passports. This includes the person’s name, birth date, and place of birth. The State Department says the information contained on the chip can only be read using a special device at airports.

The chip also stores a computerized version of the passport photograph. This will help border security workers to identify the person pictured on the passport. Officials say the information stored on the chip will make it more difficult to illegally change information on the passport. The chip in the passport uses technology that is already commonly used in credit cards and other secure documents.

However, some privacy groups are concerned about the security of the electronic information stored in the chips. Last month, a German security expert showed how information on the passport could be copied and moved to another device.

But State Department officials say the electronic passport provides a higher level of security than the old version. They say the new passport contains materials that prevent information from being easily read off the chip.

The United States passport agency in the state of Colorado is producing the new electronic passports. Other agencies throughout the country will produce them in the coming months. However, Americans who still have the old passports will be able to use them until they are no longer in effect.

Kirk Cameron

Our VOA listener question this week comes from China. Jin Yan asks about American actor Kirk Cameron.

Kirk Cameron is best known for the part he played on the popular television show, “Growing Pains.” The show was broadcast from nineteen eighty-five to nineteen ninety-two. Kirk began acting at age nine. He was just fourteen years old when the television series began. On the show, he played Mike Seaver, a young man who kept people laughing with his jokes and by getting into trouble.

Since then, Kirk Cameron’s life has taken a different path. He appeared in some films, including two “Growing Pains” movies. He also acted in movies based on the popular Christian “Left Behind” books. Cameron’s work is now centered on his religion.

While working as a child television actor, Cameron says he and his family did not attend religious services. He did not believe in God. But when he was sixteen years old, a friend invited Cameron to a church service. He says the message spoken that day got him thinking more about his life. He became interested in reading the Christian holy book, the Bible. Cameron says his life felt empty even though he was a famous actor and had more money than most people his age. But he says things began to change after he became a Christian.

Kirk Cameron currently leads a ministry, an organization that works to help bring people to the Christian religion. The ministry is called The Way of the Master. It helps young people share their beliefs with others. The ministry creates books and teaching materials. It also has a Web site. Cameron does not have any formal training in religion, but says he feels he is doing important work.

Kirk Cameron now travels around the country speaking at schools, churches, and community events. He also produces and appears on a television and radio program called “The Way of the Master.” The program won the National Religious Broadcaster’s award for Best Program of the Year in two thousand five.

Susan Cagle


In big American cities you can often see musicians playing on street corners, in parks or even in public transportation areas. But not many artists become famous this way. Susan Cagle is an interesting exception. She has become successful playing her lively music in New York City underground train stations. Now, she has made a new album with a major record company. Faith Lapidus tells us about her and plays some of her music.



If you listened carefully to that song, “Shakespeare,” you might have heard the sounds of an underground train. That is because Susan Cagle’s album was recorded among the trains and tunnels of New York City’s subway system. Not surprisingly, the album is called “The Subway Recordings.”

Susan Cagle has been playing music most of her life. As a child, her parents and nine brothers and sisters traveled around the world giving street performances. They traveled to spread news about their religious group. Susan learned to sing by the age of four. By age seven she could play the guitar. When Susan grew up, she decided to separate from the religious group. She also started to perform alone.

Here is “Manhattan Cowboy”. It is about finding love in New York.


Susan Cagle began playing in the New York City subway five years ago. She soon became very popular and large crowds gathered to listen to her. She sold thousands of CD recordings she made herself. Cagle says she loves the way her music sounds late at night as it expands and echoes off the subway walls.

But she says performing there is not always easy. To play music legally in the New York City subway, Cagle had to get a permit from the city. Also, subway performers can become aggressive as they compete for popular stations that have large crowds. We leave you now with “Stay.” Susan Cagle sings about deciding to make New York City her home.



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

Our show was written by Brianna Blake and Dana Demange. Caty Weaver was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.