Monday, December 15, 2014

What do you think of this 'faceless' Muslim doll?

You can read the article and find out why she's faceless.

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to launch something - to begin something, like launching a boat

in accordance with - according to, or paying attention to

adorned - is wearing

a headdress - something covering one's head

to comply with - to follow, if you comply with the law you follow or obey the law

rulings - laws, rules

depictions - showings, to depict means to show

the brainchild - the creation

from scratch - from the beginning, from nothing

compiling - putting together

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Chinese government will force artists to live in rural areas - is this as bad as the Western press says it is?

Most Chinese would say that one of the most horrible periods of time in 20th century Chinese history was the "Cultural Revolution". This was when Mao Tse Tung used force to try to take away privileges that educated and wealthy Chinese people might have gained from their parents or families.

So if a person had a university education, Mao basically said, "You got your education only because your family was able to make money under the previous capitalist system. There were many people who were not as lucky as you. So now you will have to live the type of life that those unlucky people had to live!"  Many educated Chinese were forced to work at jobs that did not require their high level of education and this greatly harmed Chinese society and the Chinese economy.

Now there is a story that the current leader of China will be forcing Chinese artists to live at least one month per year in the countryside.  The reason for this, according to the government, is to help Chinese artists create more meaningful art work.  The perception among government officials seems to be that Chinese artists are adopting Western 'art market' attitudes and that art is no longer being used in a socially relevant way in China.

Some members of the Western press (journalists) seem to feel that the current leader of China is repeating some of the mistakes of Mao's Cultural Revolution.   

Yet, it also seems apparent that the Western press is using this decision by Xi to create anti-Chinese propaganda. (Propaganda is a story meant to make a country look better or worse than it is - it seems that western news sources are using this story to attack the Chinese government and make the government seem as bad as Mao's was during the Cultural Revolution.)  For example, the BBC classifies this decision by Xi as an attempt at 're-education.' In the West, re-education means 'brainwashing' or forcing people to believe what a government wants them to believe.  So the BBC is not presenting an 'objective' or fair story by using a headline which uses the word "re-education".  This is obvious anti-Chinese propaganda (propaganda against China). The government of China never used the word 're-education.'

Indeed, someone could argue that American artists should be forced to spend time among America's poor, since American visual art is often meant to be consumed by wealthy patrons (buyers) and does not seem to be exposing terrible social problems like racism, government corruption and poverty.  We have a terrible racial situation in the USA and artists in the USA seem to be ignoring it. Initially, I felt the Chinese government was doing something wrong; now I'm not so sure. 

So what do you think about the Chinese government's decision?

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

re-education - 're' means again. re-education means that one has to go through a new type of education. Often 're-education' means 'brainwashing' or forcing a person to believe something a government wants him/her to believe

a heyday - a successful time, a time of prosperity

the masses - the people

an echo - you hear the same sound twice

well-trodden - to trod is to walk on; a well-trodden path is a path that many people have walked on before

wayward artists - artists who are not presenting the type of art the government wants them to present

recruits - people chosen

deemed - considered

drafted - selected and brought into the program

media watchdog - the agency that monitors or watches what is being done by the media

the stench of money - the smell of money

dissent - when someone disagrees with the government

censorship - when the government prevents someone from expressing him/herself freely

Friday, December 5, 2014

Obamacare forces people to live in pain, without medical care

If a person is working as a freelancer (working for him/herself), or if that person's company does not provide him/her with health insurance, that person will be required to buy a type of health insurance called Obamacare.  This means the person might have to pay $300 or $400 a month to be covered by this insurance.

So here's the problem: this does not mean that this person can go to a doctor and receive free or low cost medical help.  Obamacare insurance has a 'deductible.' If your deductible is $5,000, that means that you have to pay the first $5,000 of your medical bill. After $5,000 the insurance company pays about 60% of the rest.

So if you are a young person - maybe 25 - 40 - the chances are that you will not need to go to a hospital and receive a huge medical bill.  Yet, you have to pay $400 a month into an insurance plan that gives you nothing in return.  If you get sick, you have to pay the doctor yourself. BUT!!!! if you are paying $400 a month for insurance that you don't even need, you no longer have the money to pay the doctor!

So in this article in the Wall Street Journal it is reported that people are not even going to the doctor any more.  They are just living with their pain and illnesses in America. Money spent on healthcare is lower than it has ever been in America.

Therefore, Obama's health care plan has, basically, hurt many more people than it might have helped. Whom did Obamacare help?  Insurance companies, hospitals and doctors.  Whom did it hurt? Anyone who is young and healthy.

Here's the article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a shift - a movement; so the cost of healthcare is shifting or moving to people who can't afford it

deductible - as I explained above, if your deductible is $5000, you pay your medical bills up to $5,000 and then the insurance company pays the rest

to prompt - to cause; the high deductibles are causing people not to seek medical help, to delay going to the doctor (to wait as long as they can)

dig into their own pockets - come up with their own money

to curb the growth - to lessen the growth

The Affordable Care Act - Obamacare

hefty - high

out-of-pocket costs - costs paid by people themselves

to prompt - to cause

steeper - more expensive

to defer - to put off, to delay

an upside - a benefit. Actually, I don't see how it can be a benefit if people are living in pain and suffering because they are not afford to go to the doctor in the richest country in the world.

eases the federal deficit - the deficit is the amount of money the US government owes. So, basically, if I can't afford to go to a doctor insurance companies and the government don't have to spend money either.  I am guessing this is how money is being saved - I am not sure, the article does not do a good job of explaining this point.

more skin in the game - more responsibility

an impact - an effect

premiums - the amount you have to pay each month. How is $400 per month a low premium?

to be leery of something - to be worried about doing something, to be cautious

a sliver of the costs - just a little bit; Medicare is for older people

sluggish - slow

to infer something - to draw a conclusion, to believe something based on some evidence

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

No 'indictment' for a New York City police officer who killed a black man with a 'choke-hold'

The youtube video below shows New York City police officers killing a black man in Staten Island - one of the 5 boroughs (areas) of New York City. (I'm sorry, for some reason the video has been removed from youtube! 12/05/14)

Apparently the guy was selling individual cigarettes to people outside on the sidewalk. He was selling each cigarette for about 50 cents, to make a little extra money.  This is a very minor crime in New York City.

New York City has, however, a crazy approach to situations like this.  The police department believes that even the smallest crimes must be punished or crime will become worse and worse. So even though this guy was doing something quite minor, as you can see in the video, two under-cover cops decided to arrest him (take him to the police building and charge him with/accuse him of a crime). An under-cover cop is a police officer pretending to be a normal citizen (he is dressed noramlly and not in a uniform).

Eric Garner, the guy illegally selling the cigarettes, was upset that he was going to be arrested for something so small and he argued with the police.  When the police wanted to put handcuffs on him, he resisted (he wouldn't let the police put the handcuffs on his wrists). As you can see from the video, the police then act violently toward Garner and one cop places him in a 'choke-gold'. This means the cop put his forearm around the man's throat (you can see this in the video). By putting Garner in a choke-hold, the cop cut off Garner's supply of air and Garner died.

All of this happened in the summer of 2014.  Many people expected that the cop who killed Garner would be arrested himself and charged with murder. However, today a group of jurors (average people asked to investigate situations that might be crimes) decided not to indict the cop who killed Garner.  An indictment is when it is determined that there is enough evidence or proof to charge (officially accuse) a person with a crime.  If a person is indicted, he must go to trial.  The jury in this case said the cop had done nothing wrong and would not have to go to trial.

Here is an article about this situation:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to be indicted - (pronounced: in DITE id) this is when there is an investigation by a small group of citizens to determine whether a person should go to trial in a court. If a decision not to indict (in DITE) a person is reached, this means the person is considered completely innocent

a chokehold - 

US Justice sets probe - the US Justice Department will probe (investigate) this case. So the jury said the cop was not guilty of murder, but the US government might decide that the cop violated Garner's human rights. If so, the US government can arrest the cop for breaking the law by not giving Garner his  rights as a human being in the USA.

a grand jury - this is the official name of the group of citizens who decide whether to put a person on trial or not.  A regular jury is a group of 12 people who can decide whether a person is guilty of innocent. the grand jury has a different function

to charge someone with a crime - to officially state that a person committed a crime so that the person now must stand trial in a courtroom

an unarmed black man - the guy didn't have any type of weapon

sparked outrage - caused people to become very upset and angry

protests - when groups of people go into the streets to show they are unhappy about something

to tackle - to force a person to the ground

resisting arrest - not allowing himself to be arrested

homicide - murder, an illegal killing

fueled debate - caused arguments or caused people to discuss

minorities - blacks and Latinos

racially charged killing - a killing that might have had something to do with 'race' or the person's skin color, a killing that caused many people to feel that racism had occurred

a spasm of violence - a quick but forceful reaction of violence

to be looted - when a business is looted people break in and steal things

excessive - too much

demonstrators - protesters

denial - not addressing something or not acknowledging something that should be acknowledged; to dent something is to say it didn't happen

apprehended - caught

doing something defiantly - doing something even though you might be punished for it

accountability - responsibility; if you are accountable for something, you are responsible for something; so the police are supposed to be accountable to the people and are supposed to treat the people with respect

initiated - begun

expeditiously - quickly

distraught - very depressed, very upset

a makeshift memorial - a little temporary set-up to show that people are sad about what happened

wide latitude - a lot of room; this means the police are often allowed to do whatever they have to in order to arrest a person

compressing - squeezing, forcing

obesity - being very overweight; this guy weighed 400 lbs - 181 kilograms -  and this is one of the reasons, apparently, for why he died

launched - created, started

to frisk someone - this is when a cop or security guard runs his/her hands over a person's clothing to see whether the person has any weapons hidden

Friday, November 21, 2014

Does Harvard discriminate against Asians?

It looks as if there are so many well-qualified Asian students who are applying to Harvard that many are being rejected just because they are Asian.  It's hard to say for sure, however, since every private school has it's own way of choosing students, and diversity might be an important goal for a private school and it might be possible to reach the goal of 'racial' diversity without breaking US law. 

I don't think the Asian students who are suing Harvard are going to win their legal case. Harvard takes a look at each applicant (supposedly) and chooses whom they want.  This seems to be legal.  The students don't seem to realize that SAT scores are not the biggest deal for an Ivy League admission.  They are, basically, trying to 'hijack' Harvard's admissions process and make it work in their favor. (to hijack an airplane is to take control of the airplane away from its pilots)

{By the way, the SAT is a test which measures reading, vocabulary, writing and math skills. Many US universities require that students take this exam. This is because many American high schools differ in their levels of difficulty.  Some high-schools are incredibly easy, so if a student presents good grades from this easy school while another student presents less good grades from a more difficult school, the SAT results should reveal a student's basic academic ability.}

What was shocking to me, however, was the fact that an acceptable SAT score for 'white' students at Harvard was only 1320.  This comes out to (theoretically) 660 on the verbal and 660 on the math. Frankly, those are not elite numbers.  After reading this article and seeing the numbers, I am not sure that Harvard really lives up to its reputation.

It could be that Harvard accepts many relatively stupid rich kids or accepts many 'legacy' admissions (students who had parents who went to Harvard) - perhaps this is why the SAT scores can be so low. I think the big question should be whether such 'legacy' admissions are legal.  If my dad and his grand-dad went to Harvard, I can automatically get in?  What? 

So, coming from the 'working class', I attended a state university for my BA and then an Ivy university for my MA.  To be candid (honest) with you, I feel the University of Wisconsin at Madison was better than Columbia University.  I saw a lot of cheating, ignorance, hypocrisy and worse at Columbia.  Students regularly received high grades for handing in mediocre (average) work because they were paying such a high amount for tuition.  I think the Ivy League is over-rated.

Furthermore, there was a study of American Nobel Prize winners done awhile ago and most Nobel winners hadn't even gone to schools like Harvard or MIT - they went to 'good' schools and worked hard.  So the goal should be getting into a good school where you can learn and work hard.

You can read the full article below. So what do you think? Do you think Harvard is discriminating against Asians?  Are the Asian students over-reacting and trying to force Harvard to accept them?

Here's the article:


rejected - not accepted

to sue - to claim that someone or some place did something wrong to you and to take them to court to receive money from them as a punishment

minorities - anyone who is not 'white' is considered a minority in the USA

affirmative action policies - policies meant to make sure there is a diversity of students, by diversity they mean students of all races.  Affirmative means positive - so affirmative action means positive action to make campuses diverse

vaunted - highly regarded, highly esteemed, well-thought of, well-respected

to discriminate against - to treat someone unfairly because of his/her race; prejudice is a feeling or attitude, discrimination is action

A GPA - Grade Point Average For example, if a student gets an A in a class, he/she earns a 4, for a B - 3, for a C - 2 for a D - 1.  So the GPA of a student is his/her average after all his her classes were taken.  Funny thing, my GPA at Wisconsin and Columbia was 3.65.

filed the suit - he initiated or brought about the suit (the law case)

a quota - a certain number of a type of people who should be included in an activity.  For instance, I might set a quota - we want 40% white students, 20% black, 20% Latino and 20% Asian.

remanded it with orders - gave it orders or forced it to make sure it did not look at a student's race before determining the admission of the student

pending - we are waiting for it (this is confusing because previously it seems a decision was made)

disproportionately high - too high compared to other groups.  If Harvard accepted Asians based on their SAT scores compared to other groups, Harvard might have a student population of 80% Asians - that would be disproportionately high

a plaintiff - someone who is suing someone else. The person being sued is the defendant

holistic - looking at the whole picture

vibrant - exciting

aspirations - hopes

elite - the 'best'

to give a leg up to someone - to assist, to help

explicit - openly stated, openly revealed

unambiguously - there can be no ambiguity or doubt or mistakes

invidious - sneaky, not honest, undercover, hidden

My book, please consider buying it:

Should this stripper receive any money from H & M?

I like presenting stories from the news that can generate interesting discussions. This next story generated some interesting discussions among my private students and me.

A stripper is a person, usually a woman, who removes her clothing in a sexually provocative way (a way that will arouse or excite men) in order to make money.  To 'sue' someone is to take a person (or company) to court and try to get money from that person because that person did something wrong.  The money awarded is a type of punishment. The type of court you can sue people in, in America, is called a 'civil' court. In a 'criminal' court a person can be punished by being thrown in jail.

So in the following story you will read that a stripper was at H & M (a department store) and changing clothes in a dressing room.  Apparently an employee of H & M opened the dressing room door twice to try to force the woman (the stripper) to leave that particular room. The stripper seems to claim in the article that she was naked (totally without clothing) when the employee tried to chase her out.  It's my understanding that you are never supposed to be totally naked in a dressing room - aren't you supposed to keep your bra and panties on while you try on clothing?

So the stripper is claiming she has suffered psychologically because this employee looked at her twice and that other people saw her naked.  Yet, the newspaper writer seems to be saying, "Hey - she's a stripper!  How can she be embarrassed by having people see her naked?"

My students tended to disagree. They felt that stripping is her job while she deserved her privacy in the H & M dressing room.  However, many of my students did not seem to think she deserved any or much money from H & M.  They seemed to think that the employee should be punished and that this would be justice enough.

So what do you think? Do you think that this stripper is making a big deal out of nothing?  Do you feel she should be awarded money for being psychologically harmed?

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a clerk - this is a general term for a person who works at a department store. Most clerks work behind counters where things are scanned and paid for.  There are also sales clerks.

Scores - a place to go in Manhattan to watch strippers

horny men - you hear the word 'horny' alot in the USA.  If a guy is a horny guy, he thinks about and wants sex a lot.  A horny guy is always thinking of sex or looking at women sexually.

violated her privacy - she had a right to her privacy but he broke a rule or law guaranteeing her privacy

to yank something - pull something very hard

garments - pieces of clothing

to burst into - to enter a place forcefully

ushered - guided

buxom - having large breasts/boobs

brunette - having brown hair

scrambled - quickly took action

belligerent - forceful, warlike, aggressive

imminent - soon (the stripper seems to be claiming that she was afraid she was going to be hit by the employee)

commotion - noise due to some type of argument or disagreement

to kick someone out of some place - to force a person to leave some place immediately

tantric masseuse - from what I have been able to determine, tantric massage is massage in which the masseuse (the person giving the massage) touches and rubs and strokes a male's penis.  What's a penis?  It's the thing that makes a guy a guy - you know, it's the thingee down there under his pants and underwear.  OK, so a cynical person (a person who always sees the negative side of things) might say, "Oh my God! She was a stripper and touches men's penises for a living...but she is so sensitive that she was psychologically harmed by being seen naked, when she probably shouldn't have been naked in a dressing room in the first place!"  I don't know, I wasn't there so I can't judge. 

an undisclosed amount of money - it is not known how much money she wants to get from H & M

a real estate magnate - a powerful real estate business owner

a scuffle - a small fight

his advances - his attempts to get her to go out with him

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Chinese baby was killed in NY City - and there was NO justice

This story made me both depressed and angry. 

A driver who had been drinking (wine) ran over a 3 year old Chinese baby in Flushing - a neighborhood in New York City.

The police did NOT arrest him. (When the police 'arrest' someone they formally accuse him of a crime and force him to go to court and he can be thrown in jail.) Instead, the police gave him 2 tickets (you get a ticket when you drive too fast or go through a red light etc.). When the driver went to traffic court, the judge told him that he had not done anything wrong and let him go with no punishment.

So in New York City it is OK for drivers to kill 3 year old Chinese babies with their cars. Many people feel this shows that there is a lot of anti-Asian prejudice and discrimination in New York City. ('anti' means 'against', 'prejudice' is when a person is hated because of his/her skin color or race, 'discrimination' is when people are treated badly just because of their race) 

Here is an article about this:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a toddler - a baby

a ticket - if a person breaks some type of traffic law, a police officer will give him/her a ticket and the person will go to traffic court or just pay the fine (the amount of money for breaking the law) through the mail.  In this case, the driver should have been arrested (the police should have taken him to the police station and charged him with a serious crime).

to drop a ticket - to eliminate a ticket, to indicate the person will not have to pay some type of fine.

Queens - one of the 5 boroughs of New York City (Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn , Queens, Staten Island)

an SUV - sports utility vehicle (a very large car)

to plow into someone or something - to hit something with extreme force; a plow is used by farmers to turn dirt over in a field and a snow plow is used on city streets to push snow to the side of a street

tossed - the tickets were tossed: they were thrown out

"Just found out today that the DMV drop the two tickets..." - he meant to write: dropped

failure to yield - when a driver does not slow down to let someone pass him/her

failure to show due care - the driver wasn't careful enough

I'm pissed - I'm very angry.

to void tickets - to get rid of them, eliminate them

to testify - to make statements in a court room

a civil suit - so the father of the baby is suing the driver. This is a civil case - the driver can lose money but cannot be thrown in jail. There are two types of courts in America - civil and criminal.

crossing with the light - she had a green light, she was obeying the law

barreled into them - drove into them forcefully

a breathalyzer test - a test to see whether a person is drunk or not

a meager amount - hardly anything, a small amount

dismissed the summonses - got rid of the tickets

a hearing - like a trial

to be outraged - to be extremely angry

remorse - a feeling of sorrow or sadness for something wrong someone has done

Queens DA - this is the government office which is supposed to throw people in jail for committing crimes. DA stands for District Attorney

insufficient evidence - not enough proof to show a crime occurred (this is not true since there was a videotape).