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AMERICAN MOSAIC - September 28, 2001 - 2001-09-26


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.


This is Doug Johnson. On our program today:

We play music by Shemekia Copeland ...

answer a question about lie detectors ...

and tell about a book festival held recently in Washington, D.C.

National Book Festival


Earlier this month, twenty-five-thousand people gathered in Washington, D-C. to celebrate reading and story-telling. The Library of Congress and President Bush’s wife Laura Bush organized the event. Shep O’Neal tells us more about the first National Book Festival.


Missus Bush invited everyone at the National Book Festival to take pleasure in the written word --- and so they did. Many people stood on the steps of the Library of Congress. They filled several rooms in the huge library. Other people stood or sat under tents close to the nearby United States Capitol.

The Festival offered something for everyone. People of all ages heard readings and discussions by famous writers, history experts and poets. They listened to musicians from Navajo Indian country and the South Carolina Sea Islands. The Pan Masters Steel Orchestra played the lively rhythms of the Caribbean Islands.

National Basketball Association players urged people to read. Storybook characters like Peter Rabbit welcomed children and their families.

Visitors to the National Book Festival could hear presentations by almost sixty writers and artists. Many people heard John Hope Franklin. He has written more than twenty books about African American history.

Other popular speakers included mystery writers Sue Grafton and Nevada Barr. Mizz Grafton has written sixteen books about a California woman private investigator. Mizz Barr has written nine books about a woman who works in American national parks.

People also crowded into a large Library of Congress hall to hear poetry. University of Maryland professor Michael Collier read from his works. Mister Collier is the official poet of the state of Maryland.

Several other poets who read their work also had served in that position. They included Lucille Clifton. Some of Mizz Clinton’s best known poems deal with the lives and struggles of African American women.

Lie Detectors


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Ukraine. Vladimir Marchuk asks about a device called a lie detector.

A lie detector is a machine that is designed to show if a person is telling the truth or not. It does this by measuring a person’s bodily reactions while being questioned. It is also known as a polygraph.

American medical student John Larson invented the polygraph machine in Nineteen-Twenty-One. “Polygraph” means many writings. The name was chosen because the machine records many body reactions while a person answers questions. The machine is based on the idea that stress produces changes in the body when a person does not tell the truth.

Taking a lie detector test involves placing several devices on different areas of a person’s body. Rubber tubes on the chest and stomach record breathing. Two small metal plates attached to the fingers measure sweat gland activity. A device on the arm measures blood pressure. The body’s reactions are recorded by another device.

During a lie detector test, an expert first asks a series of questions that show how the person’s body reacts when giving true and false answers. Then the expert asks the important questions. All this takes about two hours. Later, the expert reads the information and decides if the person answered the questions truthfully or not.

Lie detectors are used in the United States mostly by law enforcement agencies. Lawyers also sometimes use them.

There is much debate about the use of a lie detector. Some people believe it violates a person’s privacy. Many people do not believe it really can tell if a person is lying or not. The American Polygraph Association says a trained expert can tell most times if the person has lied. But even that organization admits that mistakes happen.

Polygraph results generally are not considered legal evidence in most United States courts. They are permitted in some courts and in some states. Some areas of the country have banned the use of lie detector tests as evidence. The Supreme Court has not yet ruled about the use of lie detector test results in the American legal system.

Shemekia Copeland


In August, Down Beat Magazine asked music critics to choose the best jazz and blues musicians. Almost all agreed that blues singer Shemekia Copeland should receive more recognition. Shirley Griffith tells us about her.


Shemekia Copeland did not want to be a singer. Her father was the great blues guitarist, Johnny Clyde Copeland. He recognized his daughter’s ability when she was just a child. In fact, she first performed in public when she was only eight years old at New York City’s famous Cotton Club.

When she was fifteen years old, Mizz Copeland says she not only wanted to sing, but she needed to sing. She has now produced two albums of blues music. The most recent is called “Wicked.” Listen to Shemekia Copeland sing “The Fool You’re Looking For.”


Shemekia Copeland says no one wants to hear you sing just because you want to sell more records or make more money. She says people will only listen to you if they know you have to sing, that singing is a part of your soul.

Shemekia Copeland says she has to sing the blues. She says many young people do not like blues music. However, they love it after they see and hear her sing.

We leave you now with another Shemekia Copeland song. This one is called “It’s My Own Tears.”



This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. And I hope you will join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC—VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.

This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by Nancy Steinbach, Paul Thompson and Jerilyn Watson. Our studio engineer was Tom Verba. And our producer was Paul Thompson.