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Guantanamo Bay: How the US Came to Have a Naval Base in Cuba

Also: the story of Perky the lucky duck in Florida. And music by this year's Grammy Award nominees. Transcript of radio broadcast:

Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


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

We answer a question about an American naval base ...

Play some music nominated for a Grammy Award ...

And report about a world-famous duck.

Perky the Lucky Duck

People around the world love stories about animals. One story came to a sad end last week with the news of the death of the race horse Barbaro. The horse fought for his life for eight months after breaking his leg during a race in Baltimore, Maryland in May. But another happier story has appeared on news shows around the world recently. Faith Lapidus explains.


This story is about a brown female Canadian duck that weighs only four hundred fifty grams. The duck had flown to the southern state of Florida for the winter. A hunter shot it on January fifteenth and took it to his home in the city of Tallahassee. He put it in the refrigerator. Two days later the man’s wife opened the refrigerator door. The duck lifted its head and looked at her. It was alive!

The family took the duck to a doctor who treats animals. The doctor gave the duck to the Goose Creek Animal Sanctuary. Animal sanctuaries provide homes for animals and teach people about their care.

The doctor said it was easy to understand why people thought the duck was dead. He said ducks generally do not move a lot, especially after being shot. And he said its low body temperature helped it survive in the refrigerator.

That was enough to make the duck famous around the world. The Tallahassee newspaper published the story that was re-printed in many different countries. But that was not the end of the story.

Workers at the wildlife sanctuary named the duck Perky. And they arranged for the doctor to perform an operation to repair the duck's damaged wing. During the operation, Perky stopped breathing — not just once but two times. The doctor tried to save Perky by giving her oxygen through a face mask. But he finally said the duck had died. A few seconds later, however, Perky began to move. Reports say the people in the operating room were so happy that they cried.

Workers at the wildlife sanctuary say Perky will not have any more operations. It seems she had a bad reaction to the drugs that were used. Perky is expected to live at the sanctuary. And a local company has begun to sell t-shirts showing a picture of the lucky duck. Money from the sale of the shirts will help pay for Perky’s care.



Our VOA Listener question this week comes from Vietnam. Dang Cam Y asks about the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Guantanamo Bay naval base covers one hundred sixteen square kilometers in southeastern Cuba. It is controlled by the United States. The naval base at Guantanamo is the oldest American base outside the United States mainland. It is also the only American base in a country that does not have open political relations with the United States.

United States Marines took control of Guantanamo Bay during the Spanish-American War in eighteen ninety-eight. In nineteen oh-three, an independent Cuba agreed to permit the United States to use the base in exchange for a yearly payment of two thousand dollars in gold. A treaty confirmed the agreement in nineteen thirty-four. Agreement by both governments is needed to end the treaty.

Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in nineteen fifty-nine and demanded the return of the base. The United States refused. Since nineteen sixty, the Cuban government has refused to accept the annual payment of five thousand dollars from the United States.

In the nineteen sixties, tensions increased at Guantanamo following the American-supported Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and the Cuban missile crisis. These incidents led American forces to increase security at the base. In nineteen sixty-four, President Castro cut off its water supply. The United States sent drinking water to the base until it built its own equipment to remove salt from the water in the bay.

During the nineteen nineties, thousands of refugees fleeing Cuba and Haiti were temporarily housed at the base.

Since two thousand two, the United States has held hundreds of prisoners suspected of having ties to the Taleban or al-Qaeda. They were captured in Afghanistan and other countries during the war against terror. Human rights groups have criticized the United States for its treatment of these prisoners and for the length of time they have been held without being tried.

In December, the United States Congress approved legislation that established military groups to try the prisoners. Last month, the Defense Department announced new rules to carry out the law. Reports say the military will finally charge between sixty and eighty of the almost four hundred men held at Guantanamo. The trials are expected to begin in the spring.

Grammy Nominations

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences will present the forty-ninth yearly Grammy Awards on Sunday, February eleventh. The awards ceremony will be broadcast on television from Los Angeles, California. Bob Doughty tells us about the Grammies and plays three nominated songs.


The Grammy Awards recognize excellent musical recordings and the people who create them. The award is a small statue that is shaped like the early record player called a gramophone. The word Grammy is a short way of saying gramophone.

Members of the Recording Academy choose the best music each year. Awards are given for all kinds of music — popular, jazz, classical, country, rap and many others.

One of the major Grammy Awards is Record of the Year. Five records are nominated. One of these is from Mary J. Blige -- "Be Without You.”


Another nominee for Record of the Year is “Put Your Records On” by Corrine Bailey Rae.


Other nominees for Record of the Year are Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready To Make Nice.” We leave you now with the fifth song nominated for “Record of the Year.” It is “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt.



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. It was written by Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

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