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AMERICAN MOSAIC - January 25, 2002: Music by Aaliyah/a question about Guantanamo/a report on the Olympic Flame - 2002-01-24



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


This is Steve Ember. On our program today we:

play songs by Aaliyah ...

answer a question about the American naval base in Cuba ...

and report about the Olympic Flame.

Olympic Flame


The Two-Thousand-Two Winter Olympic Games will begin in Salt Lake City, Utah, on February eighth. The games will open with the lighting of the Olympic Flame from fire that has been carried from Greece. Shep O’Neal explains.


The Olympic Flame links the old and new Olympic Games. In ancient Olympia, a fire burned for the god Zeus during the Olympic sports competition. Now, runners bring a torch carrying the flame from Olympia, Greece to every new Olympics.

The torch was lit on November nineteenth in Olympia. It first traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, where the last Olympic Games in the United States were held. Then it began a twenty-two-thousand kilometer trip across forty-six states to Salt Lake City.

Many kinds of vehicles are carrying the Olympic torch. They include cars, airplanes, trains, ships, dogsleds, sleighs, and even a snow mobile. Runners in many cities across the country are also carrying the torch.

The flame lights a torch each morning to start the run that day. Each runner then lights the next runner’s torch. Officials say the flame travels about three-hundred-thirty kilometers each day.

The Salt Lake City Olympic Committee chose the runners who are carrying the torch. People in their towns and cities nominated the runners for the honor. Some of the runners are famous. Others are not. Last week in Los Angeles, for example, one-hundred people carried the torch. They included Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a teenaged girl who helps young students.

Olympic officials say more than eleven-thousand runners will have carried the flame by the time it reaches Salt Lake City on February eighth. The name of the last person to carry the flame is kept a secret. He or she will enter the sports center to light the torch that will officially start the Winter Olympic Games.



Our VOA listener question this week comes from Vietnam. A listener in Ho Chi Minh City asks about the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Guantanamo Bay is a one-hundred-sixteen square kilometer area on the eastern edge of Cuba. It includes the island’s only deep water bay, and is controlled by the United States. The American base is surrounded by a wire fence, Cuban land mines and Cuban guards armed with machine guns.

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. It said the United States could stay as long as it wanted.

Fidel Castro took power in Cuba in Nineteen-Fifty-Nine. He immediately demanded the return of the base. The United States refused. The Defense Department continues to send payment to the Cuban government each year.

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 had to send drinking water to the area until it built its own equipment to remove salt from the water in the bay.

In recent times, the United States has used the base at Guantanamo to hold Cuban and Haitian refugees. Now, it is holding more than one-hundred-fifty Taleban and al-Qaida prisoners. The fighters were captured during the war against terrorism in Afghanistan. Officials say they are the most dangerous people ever held at Guantanamo. The United States is now building a permanent building to hold two-thousand prisoners at the naval base. It will be completed in several months.

American officials had expected President Castro to protest use of the base, as he has so many times in the past. They were surprised that the Cuban leader did not criticize the United States action. In fact, he ordered his troops to cooperate in the anti-terror operation.



The American music industry presented the yearly American Music Awards earlier this month in Los Angeles, California. One of the winners was the singer, songwriter and actress Aaliyah. She was named favorite rhythm and blues artist. Her last album was named favorite rhythm and blues album. Aaliyah died in a plane crash last year. Sarah Long tells us about her.


Aaliyah Haughton was born in Brooklyn, New York in Nineteen-Seventy-Nine. She began performing at the age of eleven when she sang on stage with her aunt, Gladys Knight. She released her first album in Nineteen-Ninety-Four. It was called “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” One of its big hits was this song, “At Your Best (You Are Love).”


Aaliyah was also a successful actress. Her first movie was “Romeo Must Die.” She sang two songs that are included in the film. One was the hit “Try Again.”


Aaliyah and eight other people were killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas last August. She was in the islands making a music video film for her album, “Aaliyah.”

That album has been nominated for a Grammy Award as Best Rhythm and Blues Album of the Year. We leave you now with the song from that album that is nominated for a Grammy Award as Best Female Rhythm and Blues Performance. It is called “Rock the Boat.”



This is Steve Ember . 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.

Remember to write us with your questions about American life. We will try to answer them on future programs. Listeners whose questions are chosen will receive a Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.

Send your questions to American Mosaic, Special English, Voice of America, Washington, D.C. two-zero-two-three-seven, USA. Or use a computer to e-mail your question to Please include your name and postal address.

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