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AMERICAN MOSAIC - October 18, 2002: Music by Heather Headley / Question from China about the U.S. Court System / National Book Festival - 2002-10-17


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


This is Doug Johnson. On our program today:

We play music by Heather Headley ...

Answer a listener’s question about the United States court system ...

And report about a book festival in Washington, D.C.

Book Festival


On October twelfth, more than forty-thousand people gathered in Washington, D-C to see new educational technology and to hear writers speak about their books. The Library of Congress and President Bush’s wife, Laura Bush, organized the event. Steve Ember tells us more about the second National Book Festival.


Large crowds visited tents on the National Mall and the West Lawn of the Capitol building. People of all ages heard music, enjoyed food and listened to readings. More than sixty writers and artists took part.

This year, the Library of Congress wanted to show its progress in developing technology that helps researchers and the public. Library workers used computers to show visitors how to electronically search the library’s collection.

Director of Public Services Diane Kresh said visitors can now reach librarians on the Internet’s World Wide Web. They can ask questions and get answers immediately. She said about one-thousand-million people use the collection of the Library of Congress. Most use computers.

At the book festival, some of the most popular talks were given by writers of history. David Halberstam spoke about his book “Firehouse.” The book tells the story of the firefighters who died in the World Trade Center attack last year. Mister Halberstam told about their heroism in life and their sacrifice in death.

Erik Weihenmayer is the first blind person to climb Mount Everest. He wrote the book, “Touch the Top of the World,” about his experiences. He is also a very good speaker. People laughed at his jokes as he made fun of himself and people’s difficulties in dealing with the blind.

Nancy Milford spoke about her unusual experience researching her book “Savage Beauty.” The book tells about the life of poet Edna Saint Vincent Millay. Mizz Milford showed that Mizz Millay was once a very popular poet. Yet, today she is almost forgotten.

The final speaker at the book festival was David McCullough. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for writing books called biographies that tell about the lives of real people. He praised Laura Bush for helping to organize the event. Mister McCullough spoke about what he thought made a good biography. He said, “You can have all the facts, but still miss the truth.” He said we must always remember the human side of history.

U.S. Court System


Our VOA listener question this week comes from China. Baoming Shi asks about America’s courts of law.

The United States court system includes federal and state courts. Federal courts deal with criminal and civil actions involving the United States Constitution or federal laws. Federal courts try cases involving the United States government. They hear cases between people from different states and cases involving other countries or their citizens. They also hear cases involving situations that took place on the sea and violations of ownership rights.

Each state has at least one federal district court. District courts are the first courts to hear cases involving violations of federal laws. Then the cases may be heard again in appeals courts. The United States is divided into twelve district areas. Each one has a court of appeals. There is also a federal court of appeals.

The federal court system also includes special courts. They try cases involving claims against the federal government, tax disputes, and military questions.

State courts receive their power from state constitutions and laws. The first court that hears a case involving a state law is local, such as a county court. Other local courts hear only one kind of case. For example, small claims courts try cases involving small amounts of money. Probate courts handle family financial situations following a death. Other special courts deal with traffic accidents and disputes among family members.

Higher state courts are known as circuit courts or superior courts. These hear more serious cases. The decisions from these cases may be appealed to an even higher court. The highest court in most states is its supreme court.

The highest court in the nation is the United States Supreme Court. It decides questions concerning the Constitution. It also decides cases involving foreign ambassadors and disputes between states. A person who loses a case in a federal appeals court or in the highest state court may appeal to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court agrees to re-examine the case, its decision will be final. The only way to change a Supreme Court ruling on the Constitution is to change the Constitution. The only way to overturn a ruling on a federal law is to approve a new law.

To learn more about the United States Supreme Court, listen to the VOA Special English program THIS IS AMERICA on Monday.

Heather Headley


Singer Heather Headley is a theater performer. She was in one of the most successful musical plays in Broadway history. Now she has released an album of her own. Mary Tillotson tells us more.


Heather Headley has performed in two major musical plays on Broadway in New York City. In nineteen-ninety-six, she performed in “The Lion King.” She played the part of Nala, a lion.

Her performance led to a leading role in the Broadway musical play “Aida.” “Aida” is the story of a Nubian princess. Heather Headley won a Tony Award for that performance. Here she sings part of the song “Elaborate Lives” from the play “Aida.”


Heather Headley released a new album earlier this month. It is called “This is Who I Am.” She worked with some of the best known producers in the music industry. They praise her singing. Listen as she sings “He Is.”


Heather Headley helped write several songs for her album. She says she wants to perform them in concerts. We leave you now with another song from the album “This is Who I Am.” Here is the song “I Wish I Wasn’t.”



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 Lawan Davis, Mario Ritter and Nancy Steinbach. Our studio engineer was Curtis Bynum. And our producer was Paul Thompson.