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DOUG JOHNSON: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.

I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

Grammy-nominated music from the hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas 鈥?

\

Answers to questions about theAmerican flag ...

And a look at some unusual laws.

Unusual Laws

Most laws are meant to make life safer or better in some way.Lawmakers usually have a good reason for approving a law. Or, asFaith Lapidus tells us, maybe it only seemed like a good reason atthe time.

FAITH LAPIDUS: There are lots of Web sites with old laws thatsound stupid, or at least they do today. But who knows which lawsare real, so why repeat them here? All we will say is, if you everwant to take a lion to the movies in Maryland, better investigatethe local laws. Really, who would want to take a lion to the movies?

Now, here is one case you might have heard about. In nineteenninety-nine, a man in Michigan was in a small boat that hit a rock.He fell into the water and became very angry. He said some wordsthat we cannot repeat.

p>The man was arrested for using offensive language in front ofwomen and children. He was tried and found in violation of a lawdating back to eighteen ninety-seven. His sentence was aseventy-five dollar fine and four days of doing community service.

He appealed -- and won. In two thousand two, a higher court saidthe Michigan law violated the First Amendment. The First Amendmentto the Constitution guarantees free speech.

Other states have done away with similar old laws protectingwomen, but not all such laws. In Washington state, in the PacificNorthwest, a person who makes false statements about a woman may beguilty of a crime. It is not illegal, though, if the woman is whatthis law calls a "common prostitute."

The law is from nineteen oh nine. It has not been enforced formany years. But some people see no reason to keep it.

State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles first proposed a bill two yearsago to end the law. Her bill got nowhere. Now, she is more hopefulwith a new Legislature. Jeanne Kohl-Welles teaches women's studiesat the University of Washington in Seattle. She argues that the lawis out of date in modern society. She says it raises constitutionalissues of free speech and equal protection.

Her new bill comes as the state faces a serious budget deficit.The Seattle Times called her "sense of fairness" understandable. Butthe newspaper questioned the urgency of the bill, given the problemsfacing the Legislature. It said the last record of an appeal relatedto this crime was ninety years ago.

American Flag

DOUG JOHNSON: Two listeners have sent us questions about the samething: the American flag. Lawrence Akingbulugbe from Ondo, Nigeria,wants to know the meaning of the red, white and blue colors of theStars and Stripes. And M.S. Haque in Bangladesh wants to know thehistory of the flag.

The history goes back to the thirteen British colonies thatbecame the first American states. Each colony had its own flag. But,during the Revolutionary War against Britain, all the coloniesfought together under a common flag. It had red and white stripes,thirteen in all, one for each colony. And it had a blue square inthe upper left corner. Red was for honor, white for innocence andblue for justice. Inside the blue square were the red cross andwhite stripes of the British flag.

The American colonists declared their independence on Julyfourth, seventeen seventy-six. Then, on June fourteenth, seventeenseventy-seven, the Continental Congress approved the design of anational flag. Thirteen red and white stripes remained. But nowthirteen white stars replaced the British Union Jack inside the bluearea. The stars were meant to represent "a new constellation."

Two more stripes were added when two more states joined the Unionafter the Revolutionary War.

In eighteen eighteen, Congress passed a law to require that theflag return to thirteen stripes, to honor the first colonies. Butthe number of stars increased as new states joined the Union. Todaythere are fifty states, and fifty stars.

A delegate to the Continental Congress, Francis Hopkinson, tookcredit for the flag design. And tradition says a committee led byGeorge Washington asked a woman with expert sewing skills, BetsyRoss, to make the first flag. Betsy Ross lived in Philadelphia,Pennsylvania.

Black Eyed Peas

(Photo - Marina Chavez)
(Photo - Marina Chavez)

The Black Eyed Peas are enjoyingmuch success. That hip-hop group will perform just before the SuperBowl of the National Football League on February sixth. And theyhave four Grammy Award nominations. Shep O'Neal tells us about theBlack Eyed Peas.

SHEP O'NEAL: The four members call themselves Will I.Am,Apl.de.Ap, Taboo and Fergie. Their real names are William Adams,Allen Pineda, Jaime Gomez and Stacey Ferguson.

Their newest album is called "Elephunk." They say the namedescribes the sound inside. The music mixes traditional hip-hop withlive instruments. This popular single is performed with JustinTimberlake: "Where Is the Love?"

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One song on the "Elephunk" album is nominated for three Grammys:Record of the Year, Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, and BestRap Song. The song is "Let's Get It Started."

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The Black Eyed Peas are competing with themselves for the BestRap Song Grammy. Another song on "Elephunk" is nominated in thatcategory, too. We leave you with the Black Eyed Peas and "Hey Mama."

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DOUG JOHNSON: I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our programthis week. This show was written by Nancy Steinbach and PaulThompson, who was also the producer. Our engineer was Efeem Drucker.

Send your questions about American life to mosaic@voanews.com.Please include your full name and mailing address. Or write toAmerican Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C.,two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A.

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


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