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Map Whizzes Test Their Skills at the National Geographic Bee


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Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.

I'm Doug Johnson. This week:

We test our geography skills at the National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C. …

Answer a listener question about the actress Meryl Streep …

And listen to new music by the band Green Day.

Geography Bee

In nineteen eighty-nine, the National Geographic Society decided to do something about the lack of knowledge about geography among American students. So the group started a competition called the National Geographic Bee to test students' knowledge about places around the world. Almost five million students in the United States and its territories competed this year. Last week, state champions from around the country met in Washington, D.C. for the final competition. Steve Ember has more.

"Timis County shares its name with a tributary of the Danube and is located in the western part of which European country?" If you gave the correct answer, "Romania," you are very strong in geography.

Just like thirteen year old Eric Yang. This student from the state of Texas was the first place winner of last week's National Geographic Bee.

On May nineteenth, Eric competed against fifty-five students between the ages of nine and fifteen. The next day, the competition began again with the remaining top ten winners. The final round was hosted by Alex Trebek, best known for hosting the television game show "Jeopardy!" Arjun Kandaswamy from Oregon won second place. Shantan Krovvidi from North Carolina came in third.

Top winner Eric Yang will receive twenty-five thousand dollars for college and a trip to the Galapagos Islands this summer. We asked Eric how he studied for this difficult competition.

ERIC YANG: "I just read a lot of things, like the atlas, the Internet, magazines, maps, travel guide books.

We also wanted to know what Eric does when he is not studying.

ERIC YANG: "I play basketball and the piano. I listen to all types of music. I read cookbooks too, for fun."   

John Fahey is the president of the National Geographic Society. He says the aim of the group is to influence people to care about our planet. He says the Bee helps to provide children with a love of learning about Earth's many lands and cultures.

However, the National Geographic Bee seems to be a competition mainly for boys. This year, only two out of the fifty-five final competitors were girls.

Meryl Streep

Our listener question this week comes from a college student in China. Jiaqi wants to know about actress Meryl Streep. The director Sydney Pollack called her the most important actress of the late twentieth century. Streep has received fifteen Academy Award nominations. This is more than any other actor in film history.

Born in nineteen forty-nine, Mary Louise Streep grew up in Summit, New Jersey. When she was a child, she took singing lessons. She became interested in acting while in high school. She studied theater at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York.  She continued her studies at Yale University's School of Drama in New Haven, Connecticut.

Meryl Streep began her career acting in plays in New York City. Her first movie appearance was in the nineteen seventy-seven movie "Julia." She only had a small part, but she gave an excellent performance. She was nominated for her first Academy Award for her next movie, "The Deer Hunter." It is about a group of young Americans affected by the war in Vietnam. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress in nineteen seventy-nine for her work in "Kramer vs. Kramer." This movie is about a married couple going through a divorce.

MERYL STREEP: "I came here to take my son home, and I realized he already is home."

Three years later, Meryl Streep won Best Actress for her work in the movie "Sophie's Choice." She played a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp. She is also famous for her roles in movies including "Silkwood", "Out of Africa" and "Ironweed."

Meryl Streep is known for her skills in speaking English with different foreign accents. She is also known for the intelligence and strength she brings to her dramatic roles. But she also has made funny movies. These include "Death Becomes Her", "The Devil Wears Prada" and the musical "Mama Mia!"

Meryl Streep's other important roles are as a wife and mother. She married the sculptor Don Gummer in nineteen seventy-eight. They have four children. Their daughter Mamie Gummer is also an actress.

Meryl Streep's latest movie, "Julie and Julia," will be released this summer. Streep plays the famous American cooking expert Julia Child.

MERYL STREEP: " I'm Julia Child, Bon Appetit!"

Amy Adams plays the role of Julie, a woman who spends a year trying to cook all the meals in one of Julia Child's most famous cookbooks.

Green Day

Green Day returns with their first official CD since "American Idiot" in two thousand four. That album sold more than twelve million copies worldwide and earned the band many awards. So how does Green Day plan to follow that? Barbara Klein has more.

The band that brought us one of the best albums of the decade is back with a new CD, "21st Century Breakdown." It is Green Day's eighth studio album. Early reviews suggest the new CD will push the punk rock trio right back to the top. Rolling Stone Magazine gives the CD four and a half out of five stars. And "Spin" says the album's title track is the band's best song to date. Here is "21st Century Breakdown."

Green Day has been making music since nineteen eighty-seven. But it was not until their nineteen ninety-four album "Dookie" that the band experienced commercial success. Since then, they have sold more than sixty-five million CDs around the world.

However, this country's largest group of stores, Wal-mart , will not be selling "21st Century Breakdown." Wal-Mart banned the CD because of its language and content. Like "American Idiot," the new CD offers some strong political comments on religion and war. Listen to "21 Guns."

Green Day will begin performing around the world in early July to support their new CD. We leave you with "Know Your Enemy."

I'm Doug Johnson.

This program was written by June Simms and Dana Demange, who also was the producer. For transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our programs, go to voaspecialenglish.com.

Send your questions about American life to mosaic@voanews.com. Please include your full name and where you live.

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.


"American Mosaic" in VOA Special English
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Source: Map Whizzes Test Their Skills at the National Geographic Bee
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