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


This is Doug Johnson.

On our show today, we have music from the Grammy-winning group Evanescence. And we answer a question about the rights of Americans to vote in foreign elections.

But first, we tell about an event that happens every four years, and has nothing to do with voting.

Leap Year


Sunday is February twenty-ninth -- Leap Day. Shep O'Neal takes time now to explain why this is one of those years with an extra day in it.


Everyone knows the Earth takes three-hundred-sixty-five days to travel around the sun. Well, that is not exactly correct. The Earth really takes three-hundred-sixty-five days, five hours, forty-eight minutes and forty-six seconds to complete its orbit around the sun.

The problem for people developing calendars is what to do with the extra five-hours, forty-eight minutes and forty-six seconds.

People needed calendars to help them know when to plant crops and when to celebrate religious holidays. The ancient Greeks and Chinese had a solution. They produced calendars that included extra months every nineteen years.

The ancient Romans had a different solution. In the year forty-six, Julius Caesar made a new calendar. The ruler of Rome had help from the astronomer Sosigenes. The Julian calendar included an extra day every four years.

But there was a problem. The Julian year was just over eleven minutes longer than the cycle of the seasons. So, over the next few hundred years, the seasons moved slowly backward on the calendar.

In fifteen-eighty-two, Pope Gregory the Thirteenth established a new calendar to keep a better record of the days. Pope Gregory was the religious leader of most of Europe. He decided that years that can be divided by four would add a day. However, years that end in two zeros that cannot be divided by four-hundred would not have a leap year. Hmm ... a little confusing.

For example, seventeen-hundred, eighteen-hundred, nineteen-hundred and twenty-one hundred are not leap years. But sixteen-hundred, two-thousand and two-thousand-four-hundred are leap years.

The Gregorian calendar is widely followed today. The calendar is good. But ... every three-thousand years or so it loses a day. Well, we don't know anyone who really cares!

Electing a Pope


Our VOA listener question this week is from Dalby, Sweden. Thomas Corcoran wants to know how Roman Catholic clergy in America are able to take part in the election of a pope.

Our listener states that American citizens are not permitted to take part in foreign elections. He says they risk losing their passports and even their citizenship. The pope is leader of an independent city-state. So, Mister Corcoran asks, what happens to American cardinals if they vote for a pope?

In our research, we found that United States law does not bar American citizens from voting in foreign elections. However, it is not wrong to say that they could lose their passports and citizenship. But that is unlikely.

The main legal decision involving this issue is from nineteen-sixty-seven. The Supreme Court considered the case of a Polish-born American named Beys Afroyim. In nineteen-fifty, he voted in elections in Israel.

The following year, the State Department refused to renew his passport. It said he was no longer an American citizen under the Nationality Act of nineteen-forty. That act said citizens of the United States shall lose their citizenship upon voting in a foreign political election.

Mister Afroyim argued that this violated his rights under the Constitution. The Supreme Court agreed with him by a vote of five to four. The court decided that the government cannot withdraw citizenship; a citizen must be willing to surrender it. In nineteen-seventy-eight, Congress amended the Nationality Act to remove the part about elections.

In any case, when Roman Catholic cardinals choose a pope, the election is not considered political. We talked to a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington. He told us that the College of Cardinals elects the Supreme Pontiff as head of the church. The Constitution of the Holy See names the pope as head of the Vatican City State.

Our listener also asks what would happen if an American were elected pope, and thus head of a foreign country. We will answer that next week.



"Evanescence" is a word that describes the slow disappearance of something like smoke or fog. But many people hope the music of the group Evanescence is here to stay. More from Phoebe Zimmermann.


Evanescence won a Grammy Award this month as best new artists. They also won a Grammy for best hard rock performance for their first hit, "Bring Me to Life."


Group founders Ben Moody and Amy Lee met as children in their hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. They wrote most of the songs on the album "Fallen." They said the music was meant to let people know they are not alone in feeling pain and hurt. Here is "Tourniquet."


Ben Moody appeared at the Grammys. But, a few months ago, he suddenly left the group during performances in Europe. Guitar player Terry Balsamo has replaced him. Will the sound of Evanescence change? No one knows. But the other members are planning to record another album later this year.

We leave you with another song from "Fallen." Amy Lee describes it as the one that best shows what Evanescence tries to sound like. It is called "Haunted."



This is Doug Johnson.

Send us your questions about American life! We'll send you a gift if we use your question. So be sure to include your name and postal address.

Our e-mail address is Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, USA.

This program was written by Nancy Steinbach, Caty Weaver and Paul Thompson, who was also our producer. And our engineer was Andreas Regis.

I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us again next week for VOA's radio magazine in Special English.