Friday, November 18, 2016

Singapore will execute a black man for possessing marijuana

Chijioke Stephen Obioha, a University of Benin Industrial Chemistry graduate and football player

According to Human Rights Watch, "Singapore uses overly broad legal provisions on public order, morality, security, and racial and religious harmony to limit fundamental civil and political rights." Basically Singapore is a dictatorship (no democracy) which censors what people want to say, still has anti-gay laws (they recently banned a book because it was about gay penguins), and they brutally beat some of their prisoners with bamboo canes.

Singaporean justice: 

Now this country is going to execute a black man from Nigeria because he possessed marijuana. Please notice that Singapore claims he is a drug 'trafficker'; yet, their definition of a trafficker does NOT involve the selling of marijuana. If you possess more than a certain amount of the drug they call you a trafficker. 

This is outrageous but most of the world remains silent about the human rights abuses in Singapore because it is a business hub. In my opinion it is a backward country that I would never travel to under any circumstances.

Please pray that Chijioke Stephen Obioha does not suffer too greatly during his execution due to the lack of basic human decency in the nation of Singapore.

The article from Human Rights Watch

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/11/17/singapore-execute-nigerian-citizen

Vocabulary from the article:

to execute - this is when the state or government kills a person. Usually the person is killed because he murdered someone. In Singapore a black man can be killed for possessing marijuana.

to convict, convicted - to find someone guilty

a court - the place where a person is put on trial to determine whether he/she is guilty or innocent

trafficking - the transportation and selling of drugs

an appeal - if one court makes a decision, you can often appeal the decision, meaning you can ask a higher appeals court to overturn or change the initial decision

anti-death penalty - against the death penalty

sentencing - when a person who is found guilty is told how he will be punished

inherently cruel - cruel in and of itself

triggered - caused

a presumption - a guess, an assumption

mandatory - no choice, it has to be that way

amendments - changes

judges - the people in courts who either determine guilt or innocence or the sentence for a punishment

rigorous - strong, severe, strict

a drug mule - just a carrier for drugs and not a dealer or manufacturer

a clemency appeal - an appeal for mercy, for a lighter sentence than death

breached - broke, violated

the threshold of - a drug offense is not serious enough to cross the line into a crime that should be punished by death

to be deprived of life - to be denied one's life, to lose one's life

a moratorium - a break, a period of time in which something does not occur

abolishment - elimination

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Dakota Access Pipeline Controversy - What Will Obama Decide?

{{{Image from US News - click on image to enlarge}}}

A big controversy in the US these days involves the Dakota Access oil pipeline. This controversy involves many different issues, including the issue of the extent to which Native Americans (Indians) should have control over land which has been traditionally/historically theirs.

Essentially, this is a conflict between a large oil company and a group of Native Americans.

Basically, an oil company and the US government would like to run an oil pipeline through land that a group of Native Americans considers sacred (holy). They believe this oil pipeline is not appropriate for a sacred Native American area and they are also worried that the oil may pollute their drinking water.

There have been a number of protests there and many people are waiting to see what the president will say or determine about this situation.

Personally, I am on the side of the Native Americans and I attended a protest held on their behalf in Chicago yesterday (protests took place around the United States as many Americans believe that the US government should respect the rights and wishes of Native Americans).




An article about this topic:


Vocabulary from the article:

a controversy - an issue or topic about which many people disagree; controversial - adjective version

admin - administration, the president's administration or close advisers

Army Corps of Engineers - these folks engage in major government engineering projects; a corps means a group and the word is pronounced 'core'

citing - listing, stating

environmentalists - people who want to save the environment from destruction or pollution

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe - the Sioux are a tribe or group of Indians who were forced to move to their current territory in the 1800s. Standing Rock, North Dakota is where the protests against the pipeline are happening. 

allies - friends, supporters

an opponent - someone who is against something: a proponent is for something

sacred - holy, of religious importance

build-outs of fossil fuel structure - extensions or greater development of structures which make it easier to use fossil fuels (oil, coal)

to exacerbate - to make something worse; so opponents are saying we should not be building more structures to make it easier to use fossil fuels (oil) but we should be building alternative energy structures

an easement - the right to use land which doesn't belong to you

to build under Lake Oahe - environmentalists are certain that oil will seep (leak) from this pipeline into drinking water if the pipeline is built under this lake 

has been on hold (to be on hold) - it has stopped while people wait for a decision

consultations - apparently they are consulting with Native American tribes (speaking to them and getting their opinion)

skirmishes - minor battles, little fights

Greens - environmentalists

a new iteration - a new version

The Keystone Pipeline - this was a pipeline (from Canada through the US) part of which was stopped by President Obama.

to frame an issue - to look at an issue in a certain way

sitting on the easement - not doing anything about the easement

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Elon Musk's plan to use a new business model to help save the planet


Elon Musk was the founder of Paypal and he is now, among other things, the CEO of Tesla Motors.

What's interesting about the NY Times article below is that it seems to indicate that Musk has developed a new business model based on his awareness of human nature and his concern for the environment. 

For example, everybody knows that gas-burning cars pollute the environment. Few people have, however, abandoned their gas-burning cars because these cars make their lives easier. So although people know they are polluting the environment, they just don't seem to think about it nor does this make them want to switch to electrically generated cars (which would not contribute to adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere).

Therefore, Musk wants to appeal to everyone's self interest since appealing to the interests of the planet does not seem to work. It is Musk's intention to make a car that is better and cheaper than fossil-fuel (gas-burning) cars so that people will want to switch to cars which are better for the environment, and they will switch for completely selfish reasons.

Here is an interesting and thought-provoking article followed by interesting vocabulary from the article and some good discussion questions. 

The article:



Vocabulary:

to be unveiled - to be revealed

to hit a speed bump - a speed bump is a literal bump in the road that drivers have to slow down for; these speed bumps are often placed near schools so that drivers will not speed through areas where there are children. Figuratively, a speed bump is anything that slows your progress down. The speed bump in this article is the fact that a man died while driving a Tesla run by auto-pilot and this is causing problems for Tesla.

premature - too early

fatality - a death

to hail something as - to praise something as 

to be bent on - to be committed to; if you are bent on something, you have determined you are going to do something and it might not be possible to stop you

muttering - when you are upset and can't stop saying something quietly to yourself, but you don't want others to hear what you are saying

schadenfreude - this is a German word...it means to feel happy when someone you don't like is suffering 

a sheer need - a pure or obvious need

to crank out - to produce

ramping up production - increasing production

his wit is dry and understated - his sense of humor is very subtle

the turd in the punch bowl - a turd is a piece of crap or shit; a punch bowl is a bowl filled with a type of fruit drink that you often find at parties (people scoop the punch out of the bowl with a scooper and fill their cups with it). So to have a turd in your punch bowl is to have something disgusting in something you would like to use. He is saying that we are ignoring these greenhouse gases but we would not ignore a turd in a punch bowl.


to epitomize - to be the best example of (so here the Paris accords (meetings) were the perfect example of how slowly the governments around the world work to solve problems)

to be agile - to be flexible

resentment - when you dislike someone or something because you think they have hurt you

a disruptive entrepreneur - usually the word disruptive has a negative meaning but here it means Musk has disrupted the way entrepreneurs usually do business and he is forcing them to change

a nagging question - a question that won't go away; one person nags another person if he keeps bothering him: i.e. Did you take out the garbage? When will you take out the garbage? Didn't you say you were going to do this? Can you do this soon? etc.

volatile - unstable

audacity - being bold, showing courage when nobody expects you to

to muse about something - to think deeply about something

the advent of something - the beginning of something

flaws - problems or errors in some type of system 

detractors - people who disagree with Musk

full throttle forward - to go forward as fast as possible

Questions:

What do you think motivates Elon Musk?

How does he want to contribute to saving the planet?

Should he be held accountable for the man who died in the auto-pilot car?

Is Tesla using its drivers as guinea pigs? (A guinea pig is a small furry animal that some scientists use for experiments. So let's say there is a new restaurant in your neighborhood but you don't know whether it is good. And let's say your roommate says he is hungry and looking for a restaurant. You might tell him to go to the new restaurant because you want to use him as a guinea pig - you want to test the restaurant on him first before you try it.)

Was the death a big deal to you?

Why do energy companies view Tesla 'warily'?

How might Musk be the Henry Ford of this era?

What will finally motivate people to buy electric cars?

Who would be more successful in regard to protecting the environment - business or government?

How is the government helping business to create 'greener' technology?

What impact will Tesla cars have in the immediate future?

How is Musk influencing other businesses?

Should more scientists try to be entrepreneurs?

What is Musk's background?

Do we really need autopilot cars?

Can autopilot ever really work?

Did Brown cause his own death?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Hope Solo (Sore Loser?) Insults the Swedish Women's Soccer Team

Photo of Solo from the Washington Post

I have to admit that I have never liked the US women's soccer team. The USA is a very racially and ethnically diverse country, yet the women's team is almost always made of all-white girls. I find this to be very problematic. There's something wrong here that needs to be fixed.

Speaking of problematic, after the US women were eliminated from the Olympics, the goal-keeper, Hope Solo, verbally attacked the Swedish team for being 'cowards'. A coward is someone who is scared or frightened to do something others would expect him/her to do. Solo said that the Swedish team, which beat the American team, had not taken risks and had played purely defensive soccer.

However, the US women have been so dominant in international competition because of circumstances in the USA which other women on other national teams do not enjoy.  For example, all of the US women played college soccer. In the USA colleges which receive money from the US government HAVE TO provide a fair amount of money to women's sports programs if they have men's sports programs. So the college teams these women played for all received excellent funding from their colleges/universities.

The US women also play for professional women's soccer teams. In Japan, which has been highly competitive with the US team, and which beat the USA in 2011 for the World Cup, the women hold down 9-5 jobs and train when they can. Sweden has a women's soccer league, but I would still argue that the USA will always be dominant as long as the college system exists. The US women play highly competitive soccer throughout college on especially well-funded teams in organized athletic conferences.

So how dare Hope Solo attack the Swedish women?! The American team approaches soccer competition with an advantage over other teams and in what often seems to me to be an arrogant and aggressive manner. If the Swedish women are 'cowards' then maybe the US women are 'bullies' - people who are bigger and stronger and who enjoy physically scaring and frightening others.

Thank you Sweden for beating the US women! The cowards beat the bullies.

By the way, I wanted to introduce you to the expression "a sore loser". This is a player who does not take a loss with character and dignity, but who complains and attacks the opponent after a loss. In the USA we believe that if you compete as well as you can, you can be proud even if you do not win a game. If you complain after a loss, you are called a sore loser. To be sore means to be in pain or to be suffering. It is an insulting term.

The article about Hope Solo's attack on the Swedish women:


Vocabulary from the article about Hope Solo and her insults against the Swedes:

to rip someone or something - in this case it means to verbally attack s/o or s/t

a coward - someone who refuses to take action because of fear

to suffer a loss - to experience a loss...try to remember you can use the verb 'to suffer' with the words 'loss' or 'defeat'

a brutal meltdown - a meltdown is when everything goes wrong, usually because a person or group panics or loses their sense of calm. So a brutal meltdown would be an extreme case of totally failing to do what one had intended to do

to be less than complimentary - to be less than complimentary is to be insulting and not to reach the level of complimenting someone

courageous - showing courage, bravery, a lack of fear

we showed a lot of heart - we demonstrated a lot of character, courage, we showed inner strength

a combative game - like a war

They dropped into a 50 - I apologize ...I have no idea what she's talking about

to press - to be aggressive on offense

conservatively - without taking risks

lost in this rant is Solo calling out Sundhage - a rant is a long and angry speech. "...lost in this rant..." means that people are missing the fact that in Solo's rant against Sweden she specifically attacked the coach of Sweden, Pia Sundhage, who used to be the American coach and who is, apparently, someone Solo doesn't like.

a simple reply to the jab - the jab means the insult. Sundhage's reply was: "I don't give a crap what Hope Solo says." 

to be heated - to be upset (this term is rarely used, don't worry about using 'heated' in this way - 'heated' is, however, often used as a adjective in this manner: they had a heated debate, a heated discussion, a heated argument...meaning a passionate debate, discussion, argument)

to be gracious - to show good character, kindness, a lack of anger and hatred

to bow out - to lose a competition and to leave

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Chicago Police (Stupidly) Shoot at Each Other and Kill Another Black Teenager


Some police officers in the USA still do not seem to be intelligent or ethical enough to get the messages that America is shouting at them: "Just because a person may have committed a crime, you DO NOT have the right to kill the person!" and "Black lives matter!" ('Black lives matter' means that black lives are important and the police need to stop killing black men because of racist attitudes.)

In Chicago, ANOTHER unarmed black teenager was killed recently by the (very corrupt and STUPID) Chicago Police Department. (to be unarmed means to be without a weapon)

Apparently the black teen had stolen a car. He crashed the car into two police cars and then started running away to escape. 

Ridiculously, after the car crash, police started shooting all over the place, to the point where many confused cops (police officers) apparently thought that the black teen had a gun and was shooting at them. However, it was the cops basically shooting at each other.

Ultimately, a cop caught up to the black teen and shot him IN THE BACK.

Every week we seem to hear stories like this and every week police officers in America STUPIDLY keep illegally killing people regardless of public anger and protests. The only alternative, now, is to begin throwing cops in jail for LONG prison terms if they shoot at unarmed citizens.  

An article from the Chicago Tribune:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-chicago-police-shooting-paul-oneal-video-met-20160805-story.html

Vocabulary from the article:

procedural errors - these are mistakes made in regard to the way you are supposed to do your job; the police made several mistakes in doing their job - they should not have shot at each other (obviously) and they should not have shot a teenager in the back.

fatal - deadly

succession - one after the other

a fleeing vehicle - a car driving away

in harm's way - capable of being harmed

to be armed - to have a gun or other weapon

erroneously - falsely, incorrectly

barreling in his direction - moving in his direction with great speed and force, like a barrel rolling toward you


acting with uncharacteristic swiftness - Chicago's corrupt mayor and corrupt police department usually take a lot of time to cover up police abuses - this time they acted more quickly...swiftness means quickness

the oversight agency - an agency that is supposed to monitor the police and punish them if they do something wrong. In Chicago, oversight agencies NEVER see anything wrong

her heart went out to O'Neal's family - she felt sympathy for them

to be devastated by something - to be in shock and deep depression at the same time; a person is often devastated after some horrible tragedy or sudden death of someone he/she knows

a trade school or ComEd - a trade school is a school where you learn a job skill; ComEd is the electric company in Chicago

a Jaguar convertible - a sports car with no top

shouting down someone - yelling so loudly that the other person cannot speak

activists - people who believe something is wrong and who try to change things

Superintendent - the head or boss of the Chicago police

Bridging that gap... - they are using words the Superintendent was using and making fun of him for lying

a scapegoat - someone you blame for a problem caused by someone else. So the activist is saying the corrupt (dishonest) mayor is to blame, but he is forcing the black Superintendent to take the blame publicly

retreated - ran away

to be transparent - to be completely honest

shell casings - what flies out of a gun when bullets are shot

distraught - panicky, scared, shocked, depressed

This is so f_____ up - This is so fucked up. This is what the killer cop said. He then says, "I don't want anything..." He meant to use the past tense: "I didn't want anything to happen to that fucking guy." 

sergeant - someone who supervises lower-level cops

The way s____'s going... - "The way shit's going, I'm going to get crucified..." The way things are happening, I am going to be punished severely and ruined because of this.

to reassure the officer - to make the officer feel better

...he was in a hot car - he was in a stolen car. So the sergeant, unbelievably, is saying, "Don't worry, you killed a guy who stole a car. Nobody will even care. he was a criminal."

to contradict oneself - to say something against what you had previously said

a special prosecutor - an objective lawyer from the government to determine whether the cops who shot their guns should be arrested

coldblooded - something rationally chosen. Actually, this shooting was not coldblooded.

to commend each other - to congratulate each other, to say "Good job!" to each other

to wrap up the probe - to end the investigation

a raft of reforms - a number of new policies to change what was wrong

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A New York City Math Professor Donates His Sperm to Women Who Want Smart and Attractive Children


If a woman in the USA wants a child but does not have a husband or male partner, she can go to a sperm bank and doctors will inseminate her with the sperm of a donor. The men who donate their sperm remain anonymous but the 'bank' will not accept sperm unless the male donor is under 25, healthy, over 6 feet (180cm), and college educated. Getting this super-sperm is very expensive.

So this New York City professor offers a less expensive and probably just as good alternative. 

The only problem for him is, by providing his sperm outside of a sperm bank, he is legally responsible for the child: he is legally considered the child's father and can be sued by women and forced by a judge to pay them child support. In fact, he has been sued a few times and it seems that money is garnished (taken) from his paycheck and sent to women he has helped in the past.

Despite the fact that he can be sued, he keeps providing his sperm to women who want smart and attractive babies. My guess is that judges can only garnish a certain percentage of his earnings - he has to be allowed to make enough money to survive. Therefore, he has already probably reached this percentage limit and cannot be hurt further by women who sue him. Indeed, suing him now would be a waste since the woman suing would receive a very small amount (if anything) from him.

The big problem I see is that he is creating many single-parent families. It would be nice if a child could have a dad around the house. Also, he is creating a greater tax burden for all of us since the government will give a single mom money and free food to help the baby.

Here's the NY Post article:

http://nypost.com/2016/06/12/professor-who-donates-sperm-in-city-bathrooms-has-sired-22-kids/

Vocabulary from the article:

to sire - to father, to produce offspring (children)

sperm - in case you couldn't figure out what sperm is from the context of the article, it is the substance provided by a male partner that combines with a woman's 'egg' to produce a child

flushed - red faced

semen - sperm

CUNY - City University of New York

Kingsborough - a location in Brooklyn

This isn't time-consuming and.... - so it doesn't take him long to produce the sperm in the public restroom and he jokes that he engages in that activity every day any way.

in a committed relationship - she was his chosen partner, not someone random, not a stranger

offspring - children

the old fashioned way - this means he has sex with the woman and inseminates her through having sex

for moral support - for encouragement (because it cannot be easy for a lesbian to have sex with a man). If you provide 'moral support' to a person you are there with the person to encourage him or her.

to engage in intercourse - the sexual process that can result in sperm being combined with a woman's ovum (egg)

he supplies his goods in a cup - he ejaculates his sperm into a cup for the women who then inserts it into herself to try to achieve pregnancy

I'm not doing it for easy action - he claims he is not doing this to get easy sex with women

Isn't that what Tinder is for? - he jokes that if someone wants easy sex, he/she should use the dating app Tinder 

to procure his samples - to get his sperm sample

ovulating women - women who are ready to get pregnant (their egg is ready)

menstrual - referring to menstruation, when a woman bleeds once a month; a menstrual cup catches blood usually

to conceive - when a woman conceives, this means a sperm cell has entered an egg cell and the baby is being produced

This time might do the trick - this time might work. If something does the trick, it works. So if you are stressed out and drink a glass of wine, you might say, "Whew, I am relaxed now. That wine did the trick."

prolific - doing something over and over. A prolific writer has written many books.

off the charts - when something is off the charts it is immeasurable, so many that they can't be counted

his first foray - his first attempt

to fix her up - to help her meet a guy

he got cold feet - he changed his mind, he lost his courage

a fertility clinic - a place where they help women to become pregnant

craigslist - a very popular website in the USA (10th most popular in the country), but a very dangerous site where people often lose money or are harmed through people they meet through the site

are a draw - are an attraction

toddler - a baby who can walk

siblings - brothers and sisters

a large brood - a large family

without the hassle - without the trouble

garnished - when a judge takes money from a person's paycheck to pay someone else. I think the most that can be taken is 1/2, so nobody else can really benefit from suing him now.

to sue - to take a person to court to try to get money from another person because of some wrong or illegal action

got left in the dust - were abandoned, were not properly taken care of

contentious - to be contentious is to argue about something

Am I chopped liver? - Do I look ugly? Am I not important?

in-vitro fertilization - when a special, more scientific, container is used

progeny - offspring

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Taiwanese company polluted Vietnamese waters, seriously harming the fishing industry, for the sake of its profits




Many developing countries will invite foreign companies to set up operations in order to help the government create jobs and generate tax revenue. Vietnam is such a developing country and many foreign companies have invested in Vietnam and have set up production facilities there.

The Formosa Ha Tinh Corporation of Taiwan, however, created a huge scandal by pouring lots and lots of pollutants into surrounding Vietnamese waters, destroying the fishing industry in FOUR Vietnamese districts. Formosa killed about 100 tons (!!!) of fish and damaged the environment to the point that it may never recover. When a Formosa spokesman was asked about this horrific environmental damage, he said, basically, "Well, the Vietnamese people have to choose between factories and fish." 

Apparently Formosa will have to pay $500,000,000 to help clean up the pollution and to help the fishermen.

The article is below:

http://thediplomat.com/2016/07/its-official-formosa-subsidiary-caused-mass-fish-deaths-in-vietnam/

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

It's official - this means an investigation has happened and now the truth can be told. It's official - it's certain.

subsidiary - a branch of a larger company, a smaller section of a larger company

mass death - many dead

the blame - the responsibility for something bad happening

compensation - to provide compensation is to offer something to make up for something bad that happened

unprecedented - never seen before; if something is unprecedented it has never happened before

labeled the crisis - called the crisis

from the outset - from the beginning

a steel plant - a factory making steel (the material tall buildings and bridges are made of)

discharged - poured, spewed, sent, forced

industrial waste - pollution that is created when products are made at a factory

to blame - to accuse, to claim that someone/some group has done something wrong

to mitigate the consequences - the soften or make less severe the consequences

pledged - promised

rare mass protests - rare means it does not happen often, mass protests means many Vietnamese people took to the streets and openly complained and demanded that something should be done

protests were marred by - to mar something is to make it less clean or to make something look worse; so the protests were made worse by the fact that people were arrested by the police and that there was violence

to implement - to put a plan into action

investment kept rolling in - to make sure other companies from other countries would continue to invest in Vietnam

to shoulder responsibility - to accept responsibility, as if you are carrying it on your shoulder

to mediate a situation - someone who mediates tries to reach an agreement that both sides find acceptable