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O.Henry’s Surprising Life Before He Was a Famous Writer
DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I’m Doug Johnson.
This week we answer a question about the life of magician Harry Houdini …
We also play music by some of this year’s biggest concert money-makers …
But first, we visit the former home of one of America’s best-loved writers.
DOUG JOHNSON: One of America’s best-loved writers of short stories was William Sydney Porter — better known as O. Henry. Beginning in eighteen ninety-three he lived with his family in a house in Austin, Texas. It is now a museum. Katherine Cole has our story.
KATHERINE COLE: Visitors to central Austin will find many huge hotels and modern buildings. It would be easy to miss one very small, old house where one of America’s favorite writers once lived. It is now called the O. Henry Museum. It was saved from destruction, moved, and turned into a museum in nineteen thirty-four. The museum is a good way to learn about the interesting life of O. Henry.
William Porter rented this house in Austin and lived there with his wife Athol and daughter Margaret for about two years. Many objects in the museum belonged to the Porters. Others did not, but are in the house to recreate the way it looked during their lifetime. Our guide takes us into the living room.
William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry
GUIDE: “Another important piece in the room is the original photograph over here. It was taken here in the house about eighteen ninety-five. The piano dates back to the eighteen sixties. His wife took lessons on it when she first moved to Austin.”
William Porter did not start his career as a successful writer. He worked at a pharmacy, farm, land office and bank. He also loved words and writing. The museum has special proof of Porter’s love of language — his dictionary.
GUIDE: “Very, very well used. It’s said that he has read every word in that dictionary.”
Porter started a small publication called the Rolling Stone.
GUIDE: “We have a copy of the Rolling Stone magazine. He wasn’t being published early on, so he published himself.”
His funny stories, poems, and drawings were published in the magazine. But it was too costly to continue for long, so he closed the project after about one year.
Other troubles would lead the Porters to leave Austin. Porter was accused of financial wrongdoing at the bank and lost his job. Fearing a trial, he fled the country. But he returned because his wife was dying. After her death, he faced trial and was found guilty. He served three and a half years in a federal prison in Ohio.
William Porter would keep his time in prison a secret. But there was one good thing about it. It provided him with time to write. By the time of his release, he had published fourteen stories and was becoming well-known as O. Henry.
Porter would later move to New York City and find great success there. He published over three hundred eighty stories in the last eight years of his life.
One of his most famous stories is “The Gift of the Magi.” You can hear it next Saturday, December twenty-fifth, on the Special English program AMERICAN STORIES.
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The Great Houdini
DOUG JOHNSON : Our listener question this week comes from Anemina Raente Vaijero who wants to know about the life of magician Harry Houdini.
His real name was Ehrich Weisz. He was born in Budapest, Hungary in eighteen seventy-four. His father was a rabbi, a Jewish religious leader. His family moved to the United States two years later.
Young Ehrich loved show business. At the age of nine, he called himself “The Prince of the Air” as he performed on a swing high above the audience. But Ehrich always dreamed of becoming a magician.
One of his favorite entertainers was a French magician named Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. Ehrich took his last name, changed the pronunciation, added an “i” and began calling himself Harry Houdini. At first, he performed many different kinds of magic. But in eighteen ninety-nine, he decided to spend most of his time working on “escapes.”
Harry Houdini began performing his escape from the Chinese Water Torture Cell in 1913
One of his most famous tricks was the “Chinese Water Torture.” His feet were locked together and he was lowered, upside down, into a glass box filled with water. A curtain was placed in front of the box so the audience could not see how he did the trick. Several minutes would go by. Just when everyone was sure the Great Houdini had drowned, the curtain would drop. There stood Houdini on the stage, free from the deadly box.
Harry Houdini also was famous for escaping from handcuffs. He said he would give one hundred dollars to anyone who could lock him into a set of handcuffs from which he could not escape. In his long career, he never had to pay the money.
Harry Houdini enjoyed a long career as a magician and escape artist. He wrote books and performed in movies. He became the most famous magician in the world. But it all came to an end on Halloween, October thirty-first, nineteen twenty-six. Houdini died after being hit several times in the stomach by a college student.
In October, the Jewish Museum in New York City opened an exhibit called “Houdini: Art and Magic.” Visitors can see old photographs, posters and videos of his escapes. They can also see some of the things he used in his magic tricks, including a straitjacket and eleven pairs of handcuffs.
Although Houdini did not believe in talking with the dead, his wife, Bess, tried to communicate with his spirit. Did she succeed? This Sunday on the Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA we will tell more about Houdini’s magic and how he lived and died. And we will also tell you why the words “Rosabelle, believe” are important for magicians around the world.
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South Korea Prepares for Live Fire Artillery Exercises Near Border
The United Nations Security Council’s emergency talks on easing Korean tensions have ended without an agreement, just hours before South Korea was due to begin an artillery exercise on the border island that North Korean guns attacked last month.
North Korea has warned there could be «catastrophic» effects if the South Korean military goes ahead with its plans in the disputed area around Yeonpyeong Island.
As preparations went ahead Monday for the live-fire drill — a military exercise using live ammunition — the South Korean military ordered everyone on Yeonpyeong and adjacent islands into air-raid shelters.
There were unconfirmed reports that the artillery exercise would be delayed several hours, until the afternoon, due to foggy weather.
The focus of the crisis shifted to the Korean peninsula after diplomatic efforts collapsed at U.N. headquarters in New York.
Russian U.N. envoy Vitaly Churkin emerged from hours of talks late Sunday and told reporters that Security Council members could not agree on wording of a statement urging the two Koreas to exercise «extreme restraint.» Churkin said it would be better if South Korea did not hold military drills at this time, but at that moment journalists and others on the islands were already being ordered to take shelter.
The U.S. ambassador at the U.N., Susan Rice, said most Security Council members wanted a strongly worded condemnation of North Korea’s two attacks on the South this year. However, Rice said several nations — presumably including China, North Korea’s closest ally — would not agree.
The U.S. envoy, speaking separately after the Security Council session ended, also reiterated Washington’s view that South Korea has the right to conduct military drills in the Yellow Sea, and has done so without any deception.
Seoul says hostile action by North Korea has killed at least 50 of its citizens this year.
North Korea ‘s November 23 attack on Yeonpyeong Island killed four people, including two civilians, and an explosion on March 26 that sank a South Korean warship in the same area killed 46 sailors. An international investigation concluded the ship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo, but Pyongyang has vehemently denied any role in the sinking.
During the emergency talks at the U.N. Sunday, Churkin said Security Council members discussed appointing an international envoy to begin diplomatic talks with both sides. The Russian diplomat said the talks started too late to pursue that goal, and that too many members were unable to act without consulting their governments about the wording of any statement.
Rice said she would not expect the Council to agree on a joint statement regardless how long the meeting lasted.
No one would name the countries to which they were referring.
Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson has been in North Korea trying to resolve the tense situation, and he told a reporter (for CNN) Sunday that his talks in Pyongyang had made «some progress.» Specifically, Richardson, said a North Korean general was receptive to his proposal for setting up a hotline between North and South Korean forces.
Richardson ‘s four-day trip to North Korea was due to end Monday.
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Iranian Police on Alert as Government Cutbacks Begin
Iran has deployed security forces around sensitive locations, including fuel stations Sunday, as cutbacks on subsidies began to take effect, meaning hefty price increases for fuel.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad justified subsidy cuts in an interview on state TV Saturday night, explaining that they were necessary for the country’s well-being. Subsidies, he said, are draining close to $100 billion from the national treasury each year.
He thanked Iranians for their unity, solidarity and understanding in accepting the subsidy cuts. He asked Iranians to stay the course and implement all phases of the program.
Nader Hashemi, who teaches Middle East politics at the University of Denver, says the subsidy cuts are risky for the government.
«This is a game of high stakes politics that can badly go wrong, with huge consequences for the regime’s stability given the fact that Iran’s economy is already hurting due to mismanagement and economic sanctions.»
Hashemi says the government also tried to reduce gasoline subsidies in 2007, but had to backtrack after major demonstrations.
Subsidy cuts are due to be imposed not only on gasoline, but also on water, electricity and natural gas. The government has announced that it will deposit about $80 in the bank accounts of each Iranian citizen to help cope with the cuts over two months.
Houchang Hassan-yari, who teaches at Canada’s Royal Military College, warns of inflation in the wake of the subsidy cuts.
«If the government does not control the situation, inflation is going to jump drastically. Some economists, including the former Minister of Economics Danesh-Jaffari, talk of a 25 percent jump in inflation, so if you add that to the normal [rate] of 10 to 15 percent, which in my view is optimistic, we’re talking about an inflation [rate] of 40% or more.»
Under the new measures, gasoline increased to about 40 cents a liter for the 60 liters allotted per car per month, up from about 10 cents a liter.
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Lukashenko Wins Belarus Presidential Election, Mass Protests Follow
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko won a fourth 5-year term Monday, after a landslide election marred by a violent police crackdown on demonstrators and the arrest of opposition candidates.
Electoral commission figures released early Monday show Mr. Lukashenko has been re-elected with almost 80 percent of the votes. The opposition says Mr. Lukashenko rigged the vote.
Immediately after polls closed Sunday, Belarusian riot police used batons to break up a huge protest in central Minsk.
Tens of thousands of people defied the president and packed Independence Square.
After a crowd of demonstrators smashed windows and doors of government headquarters and tried to storm the building, troops surrounded the square as riot police waded into the crown, swinging batons.
Hundreds were arrested and witnesses report numerous injuries.
Earlier, police beat and seriously injured opposition candidate Vladimir Neklyayev, who was taken to a hospital unconscious.
They also used noise grenades and flooded another central square with water in Arctic-like temperatures to create an impromptu ice rink to discourage protesters. That did not stop thousands from chanting pro-democracy slogans and waving European Union flags.
While casting his vote Sunday, Mr. Lukashenko denounced the opposition and said there would be no one on the square that night.
The opposition says authorities urged voters to cast ballots before election day, which it says opens the door to massive fraud.
Former U.S. president George W. Bush has called Mr. Lukashenko «Europe’s last dictator» for suppressing free speech, human rights and rigging past elections. The European Union also maintains sanctions against some Belarusian officials.
Mr. Lukashenko has recently been feuding with long-time ally Russia over gas and oil prices and has spoken of closer ties to the West. But European Union foreign ministers have said they are concerned with a lack of progress towards democracy and human rights in Belarus.
Вопросы к семинару и самостоятельной работе
- Понятие термина «безопасность».
- Уровни безопасности.
- Объекты и субъекты безопасности.
- Виды безопасности.
- Механизмы обеспечения безопасности.
- Понятие термина «национальная безопасность».
- Суть понятия «угроза национальной безопасности».
- Проблема определения понятия «национальная безопасность».
- Соотношение национальной и государственной безопасности.
- Понятие «национальный интерес».
- Понятие «национально-государственный интерес».
Вопросы для обсуждения:
- Суть понятия «угроза безопасности».
- Классификация угроз безопасности.
- Угрозы, представляющие для России наибольшую опасность в настоящее время.
- Угрозы национальной безопасности РФ в международной сфере.
- Основные источники потенциальных угроз РФ.
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