The voices of America and other countries

A recent press release touted the Voice of America's new World Wide Web site. Nothing unusual about that—lots of federal agencies have Web sites. What made this press release different was the glaring absence of the VOA Web site address.

This is not the first time. Once before, when the VOA sent out a notice about its Internet offerings, the address was missing. Strange as it may seem, the VOA omits the address on purpose. Calling up the VOA office to get the address verbatim will do you no good. If you live in the United States, you're stuck; VOA is legally bound NOT to tell any of us living in the United States where we can find the site.

It all goes back to the Smith-Mundt Act, which prohibits the VOA from seeking a domestic audience.

But we at Federal Computer Week can tell you. You'll find the VOA's new World Wide Web page at http://www.voa.gov.

The site offers audio files for downloading in Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Czech, English, Farsi, French, Hindi, Hungarian, Korean, Polish, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swahili, Ukrainian and Urdu. VOA supports the Internet standard—Sun Microsystem's Inc. M-law files (sometimes called .AU files), and WAVE files, a Microsoft format. VOA also just started supporting RealAudio by Progressive Networks Inc., which allows users to hear the audio without actually downloading the audio file. However, if you do not have the sound cards to listen to the files, or if you do not want to install the audio software, you can always read the text versions.

You can also take a cyberwalk around the VOA studios, get a glimpse of thumbnail photos and learn about the day-to-day workings of the VOA. An estimated 100 million people listen to the VOA direct broadcasts each week, and an uncounted number of others listen to AM and FM stations that use some VOA programs. Compared with that massive listenership, VOA's Internet audience is tiny; VOA said the Internet audience is no more than 100,000 a week, perhaps much less. It is an "enthusiastic" audience nonetheless, according to VOA.

FedWorld Traveler

If you visited the VOA Web site, you got one look at how the United States sees the world. Now, at a National Technical Information Service site, you can get a look at how the world sees the United States. NTIS' FedWorld now carries a service called World News Connection (WNC), a compilation of news stories culled from thousands of non-U.S. sources. All stories appear with an English translation within 48 to 72 hours of original publication.

For information, go to the FedWorld Web site at www.fedworld.gov and look under the entry "FedWorld-Hosted Web Sites." At this site, you can do a sample search for articles and review the pricing. Signing on to WNC isn't free; the most economical plan runs $50 a month.

Suffrage and Other Memories

The Library of Congress keeps adding more flashbacks to its "American Memory" collection. Access this cache of history at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/ammemhome.htm. There you'll find personal stories gathered as part of the Folklore Project for the U.S. Works Projects Administration from 1936 to 1940.

If you have Microsoft Video for Windows or QuickTime for either the Mac or Windows, you can watch some of the earliest motion pictures ever taken. These early movies, which span the years 1897 to 1916, show scenes of President William McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition and scenes of New York City or scenes of San Francisco before and after the great earthquake and fire.

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