Recess Appointments, Willie Nelson and the Appeal of NASCAR

2005-8-18

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HOST: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

I'm Bob Doughty. On our show this week:

We hear some music from Willie Nelson…

Answer a question from a listener about a recess appointment …

And report about a hugely popular American sport known as NASCAR.

NASCAR

Most people outside of the United States probably think football, basketball and baseball are the most popular sports in the country. They would only be partly right. Barbara Klein explains.

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BARBARA KLEIN: More people watch stock car racing on television than either basketball or baseball. Only the National Football League has higher television ratings than NASCAR. NASCAR is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. It was formed in nineteen forty-eight.

A stock car looks similar to an average car from the stock at any dealer. But this kind of vehicle is much better made for a racetrack than for trips to the market. Drivers race around speedways for up to eight hundred kilometers or more. Top speeds are above three hundred kilometers an hour.

NASCAR first gained popularity in the Southeast. States such as North Carolina, Virginia and Florida have held big races for many years.

But, in recent years, the sport has grown beyond local appeal. There are new speedways in areas like Las Vegas, Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles.

NASCAR tradition has paid a price. Some old races are no longer held. But NASCAR has helped its television ratings with a new system of points developed last year. Drivers get points based on the order of finish in each race. There are thirty-six races in the top NASCAR series, known as the Nextel Series. The last ten races are called the Chase for the Nextel Cup. Many drivers will compete. But the idea is that only the top ten drivers from the series will compete for the season championship.

The season began in February. The chase for the cup will take place from the middle of September through November. The point system has helped to increase interest in races during the middle of the season. And greater appeal means more sales of goods with the NASCAR name. NASCAR had more than two thousand million dollars in sales of products last year. Only the National Football League sells more.

A report by Nielsen Media Research says up to forty-two percent of NASCAR fans are women. The growth of NASCAR has a lot to do with how well it appeals to women.

But NASCAR also wants to appeal not just to Americans. This season it experimented with international expansion. The NASCAR Busch Series held its first official race outside the United States. The event took place in March in Mexico City.

Recess Appointments

HOST: Our VOA listener question this week comes from Yemen. Belal Abdo asks about something called the "recess appointment" that has been in the news recently. A recess appointment is a power given to the President of the United States by the Constitution. It concerns the naming or appointing of citizens to government jobs that usually require the approval of the Senate.

The Constitution says the president can appoint citizens to such jobs without Senate approval when Congress is not meeting or is in recess. Recess appointments are only temporary, however. The person can stay in the job only until the end of the following one-year meeting of Congress unless the Senate approves the appointment.

Earlier this month, President Bush used the recess appointment to name John Bolton as the new United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Congress is on its yearly recess for the month of August. Mister Bush made the appointment because he said the job of U.N. ambassador was too important to be unfilled any longer. The yearly meeting of the U.N. General Assembly begins in the middle of September.

Mister Bush had nominated Mister Bolton as U.N. ambassador in March. But Senate Democrats and some Republicans opposed the nomination. Senate Democrats had refused to vote on the nomination until they received more documents about Mister Bolton. He will serve as U.N. ambassador only through the end of the next one-year session of Congress unless he is confirmed by the Senate before then.

History experts say presidents used the recess appointment often in the early years of the nation. In those early years, Congress sometimes met for as little as three or six months during the year. American presidents have made good use of the recess appointment in recent times as well. President Bush has already used recess appointments more than one hundred times. President Clinton made one hundred forty recess appointments during his eight years in office.

Willie Nelson's New Album

American country musician Willie Nelson has a new album. This famous singer has recorded many country albums. But this time his songs are not only rooted in country music. Nelson has added a new sound-- the beat of reggae music. Faith Lapidus has more.

FAITH LAPIDUS: In his new album, "Countryman," Willie Nelson mixes musical traditions. He takes the country sounds of his voice and guitar and combines them with the music of reggae. Reggae music first started in the country of Jamaica. It is defined by the beating sounds of the drum instrument.

Willie Nelson works closely with other musicians in this album. In one song, he sings with the famous reggae performer Toots Hibbert. Here they sing a song that was written in the nineteen seventies by another famous country singer, Johnny Cash. It is called "I'm A Worried Man."

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Willie Nelson wrote other songs on the album. He created new reggae versions of some of his old songs. Here he sings a song he wrote in the nineteen sixties called "One in a Row."

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We leave you now with Willie Nelson singing a very famous reggae song written by Jimmy Cliff. It is called "The Harder They Come."

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HOST: I'm Bob Doughty. I hope you enjoyed our program.

Our show was written by Dave Maiocco, Dana Demange and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer.

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