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AMERICAN MOSAIC - October 3, 2003: Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride / Giant Pandas in America / Music by Simon and Garfunkel - 2003-10-02



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC -- a VOA Special English program about music and American life. And we answer your questions.


This is Doug Johnson. This week – we answer a listener who wants to know how many giant pandas are in the United States. And we play some music by Simon and Garfunkel as they get ready for another reunion.

But first – a report about a cross-country demonstration.

Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride


A demonstration called the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride ends Saturday. Organizers say they expect thousands of supporters to gather in New York at the final stop. The ride took place to call for equal rights for all people in the United States. This includes workers who are in the country illegally. Faith Lapidus has details.


Eighteen buses left from different parts of the United States last month to cross the country with around nine-hundred people. Planners organized visits to more than one-hundred towns and cities, including Washington D.C.

Labor unions and groups active for the rights of immigrants were among the organizers. Supporters also included community and religious groups and some elected officials. Planners of the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride took the idea from the Freedom Rides of the nineteen-sixties. Those rides were to fight for civil rights for blacks in the South.

The riders of today hope the public and Congress will support legal rights for workers who entered the country illegally.

They also called for labor protections for immigrant workers. And they want immigration policies changed so families can reunite in less time. The demonstrators also say the government should do more to honor the civil rights of immigrants.

Organizers of the ride say immigrants often take low paying jobs that others do not want. They say workers may lose their jobs if they demand fair treatment from employers. Also, they say many immigrants are afraid to report crimes because they are in the country illegally. The government says the country has about eight-million illegal immigrants. Some groups say more.

Leaders of organized labor say immigrant workers are a growing and important part of the American economy. But the event also had critics who want to restrict immigration. Critics say illegal immigrants take jobs away from legal ones and add to the use of public services.

The terrorist attacks of September eleventh, two-thousand-one, ended immigration reform efforts by lawmakers. But now, several members of Congress are trying again. Political experts say immigration laws are not likely to change in the near future. But Freedom Ride organizers say they hope their event will increase discussion of this issue in the presidential campaign. The election is in November of next year.

Giant Pandas


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Shandong Province, China. Dong Ning asks about the giant pandas on loan from China to the United States.

Currently, there are ten giant pandas in American zoos. Four are in San Diego, California. Two are in Memphis, Tennessee. Two are in Washington, D.C. And two are in Atlanta, Georgia.

People love to watch the giant pandas at play. These black-and-white bears come from central China. Only about one-thousand are still in the wild.

American zoos are helping with efforts to save the giant pandas. The two in Washington at the National Zoo are Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and Tian Tian (te-YEN te-YEN). These young pandas have become interested in each other. But zoo scientists say Mei Xiang has not become pregnant yet.

Across the country, in San Diego, Bai Yun (by-YOON) gave birth in late August. The baby weighed about one-hundred-fifty grams at birth. He now weighs more than nine-hundred grams. And he measures about thirty centimeters from his nose to the end of his short tail. The baby will not get a name until he is one-hundred days old.

American zoos pay China one-million dollars a year for the loan of two breeding pandas. The zoos also pay up to six-hundred-thousand dollars for every baby that is born. Once the baby is three years old, it must be sent to China.

Later this month, a San Diego panda is expected to travel to her ancestral homeland. Hua Mei (hwa-MAY) is the first giant panda born in the United States to survive to adulthood.

Simon and Garfunkel Reunion


Later this month, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel begin a series of reunion concerts. The last time the two singers traveled together was twenty years ago. They plan to perform in more than thirty cities in North America. And they say the concerts will include the songs that made them famous in the nineteen-sixties. Bob Doughty has more.


Paul Simon began to write songs at the age of fourteen. He and his school friend Art Garfunkel recorded their first song in nineteen-fifty-eight.

In the sixties, they became popular singers of folk rock. Young people liked the feelings in the songs Paul Simon wrote. They also liked the beauty of Art Garfunkel’s voice. Together, Simon and Garfunkel produced one best-selling album after another. Their first big hit was “The Sound of Silence.”


Simon and Garfunkel gained more fans after their music appeared in "The Graduate," a popular movie. One of the best remembered songs from the movie was “Scarborough Fair.”


Simon and Garfunkel broke up in nineteen-seventy, after they recorded “Bridge Over Troubled Water." Art Garfunkel appeared in movies and recorded by himself. Paul Simon also recorded alone. They have performed together at times. But Paul Simon recently told a reporter they never could have made a bigger success than "Bridge Over Troubled Water." We leave you now with the title song from the album.



Before we go, we want to talk about a recall. This one affects the two-wheeled vehicle called the Segway Human Transporter. Two weeks ago we answered a listener in Iran who asked about the Segway. Well, last week, owners learned that when the battery power gets low, the rider can fall off. About six-thousand are in use. The Segway company offered a free computer fix.

This is Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Jill Moss, Nancy Steinbach and Paul Thompson, who is also our producer. Our engineer was Vosco Volaric. And our e-mail address is Join us again next week for American Mosaic -- VOA's radio magazine in Special English!