Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Keystone Pipeline leaks massive amounts of oil into the environment

Many of us in the USA protested against the expansion of this oil pipeline. In fact, the protests were so effective that President Obama agreed to stop the building of this pipeline from Canada through the USA. Unfortunately, one of the first things that Donald Trump did, as president, was to OK this pipeline. Since then, there have been two major oil leaks. Part of the pipeline goes through land which is sacred to Native Americans and part of the pipeline goes through the largest supply of underground fresh water in the USA.

Here is an article about this oil spill:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to protest - this is when people who disagree with an issue or action come together publicly to express themselves in order to try to change something.

a leak - when a liquid substance escapes from a container or structure that was meant to hold the liquid safely.

to be sacred - to be holy, to be a part of someone's religion.

South Dakota - a state in the American mid-west.

a barrel - a wooden container 

to stretch from - they go from 

to be approved - to be OK'd, to be allowed to happen

to give a permit approval - when a government agency provides a permit (official document allowing something) to allow something to happen.

a thumbs up - an approval, a thumbs down is a disapproval

crude oil - oil in its basic form, before it is refined into gasoline or other products

intense debate - strong arguments for and against something

amid - among, within 

hefty opposition - strong opposition, strong feelings against something

the extraction of - the removal of something

sovereign lands - if land belongs to Native Americans, the US government has no legal right to use it. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Should New York City decriminalize turnstile jumping?

This is a turnstile:

Lots of people in New York City 'jump' the turnstile, meaning they are able to climb over it or duck under it and get into the system for free.

Many of these people are arrested by the police and they get criminal records. These criminal records hurt these folks when they look for jobs.

So some folks are arguing that turnstile jumping should be 'decriminalized' - it will no longer be a criminal offense. A person will just receive a fine (a person will have to pay some money to the city) and this will not go on a person's record.

The price of the fare to get into the New York City subway system is $2.75. So that's almost $6 for a round trip ride in New York City. There are a lot of poor people for whom $6 is a lot of money. I have never jumped a turnstile, but there were times when I was a bit poor or running short of money and I realized that $6 was a lot of money for me at that time.

So I tend to think that New York should decriminalize this behavior. Too many lives are being hurt over this situation and the fares are, honestly, too high and the service is too poor. The MTA - New York's transportation system - is a badly mismanaged system. The service should be better and the fares should be lower. When poor people have to jump turnstiles, the city and state are not helping poor people to improve their lives.

Here is an article about this situation:

Vocabulary from this article:

a mayor - the person who leads a city; the person in charge of a city

fare evasion - not paying one's fare (money) to get into the subway

to lack funds - to be without money

legislation - a law or laws

to be arrested - this is when the police take you into custody; you are processed by the police and have to go to a court room for a trial

to take a stance on an issue - to take a position on an issue, to argue for or against some issue

a civil rights activist - someone who works to make sure that people have all the rights that are supposed to be guaranteed to them by the government

a stance - an attitude, a position, a belief

fare beaters - people who don't pay their fares

NYPD - New York police department

the jurisdiction - the power

to issue a summons - this means that instead of the police arresting someone they give the person a ticket and the person has to appear for a hearing in a non-criminal court

to implement something - to do something, to bring something about

prosecuting people - arresting people and forcing them to go to court

to deter other crimes - to try to scare people from committing other crimes; if someone breaks a little law and you arrest him, it will deter (scare) other people from committing that same crime. 'Broken windows' refers to a university study which showed that if a parked car has a broken window which is not immediately fixed, criminals will break into the car and steal as much as they can (because they feel nobody really cares about the car). Basically the argument is that the police should arrest people for small crimes and this shows all criminals, small and large, that the city will not tolerate any type of crime. This will, according to the theory, reduce crime. Here's a video on the 'broken windows' policy:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

How many calories do you burn while doing nothing?

So the good news is that you burn about 700 calories just sleeping 8 hours a day. Then, even if you do nothing, just sitting at a desk, sitting in a chair, you'll burn another 1,000 or so calories throughout the day. So your body is burning about 1,700 calories a day for you for free - no effort needed. Now, if you want to lose weight, you just have to cut back on the amount of food you eat and increase your activities a little more. The weight should start flying off!

to lose weight - many students will say, "I need to lose my weight." or "Joe is trying to lose his weight." There is no need, however, for a possessive pronoun. 

You should say, "I need to lose weight." or: "Joe needs to lose weight."

Interesting article about burning calories while doing nothing.

Vocabulary from the article:

bowling - I don't know why they included bowling along with these other activities. I have not been bowling in 20 years and I don't think I know one person who regularly bowls. Here is an image of a bowling ball hitting some pins in a bowling alley:

thermal energy - heat energy

body composition - what your body is made up of, the proportion of fat to muscle to bone etc.

There is very simple vocabulary in this article, I just wanted to point out that you don't have to use a possessive pronoun with 'weight'.

Also, as someone who is trying to lose weight, I found this article useful.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Kyrgyzstan breastfeeding controversy

The daughter of the president of Kyrgyzstan posted this photo of herself breastfeeding and then removed it shortly thereafter, when her parents requested that she do so.

{{{photo from the BBC}}}

Do you think it is ok for women to breast feed their children publicly?

Some folks think this woman was trying to show off her (sexy) body more than showing the process of breast-feeding? Was she 'sexualizing' the breast-feeding process?

Do you think Aliya should have taken the photo off of social media?

Article about this topic:

Vocabulary from this article:

a controversy - when a topic causes people to strongly disagree with each other 

to spark - to cause, to initiate

a debate - when a topic is discussed and there are at least two differing opinions

the row - this is an English term meaning the controversy or disagreement or conflict

hyper-sexualized - too sexualized, over sexualized

sexualisation vs. sexualization - sexualisation is how the English spell this word and sexualization is how Americans spell it. So images of women are 'sexualized' when the images are deliberately meant to excite or arouse sexual desire when one sees the image

the caption - explanatory words under an image

immoral - not moral, not ethical, not acting in a right way; if you are doing something immoral you are doing something wrong.

vulgar - dirty, overly and inappropriately sexual

physiological needs - body needs

to disapprove - to express that one does not like something, when one expresses that something is wrong

conservative - someone who is conservative doesn't like things to change; a conservative person is usually not considered to be very open-minded

the outskirts - near the outer border of the city

stylized portraits - not realistic, more attractive and stylish than realistic

the backdrop - the background, what can be seen behind something that you will first focus on

landscapes - wide areas of nature depicted/shown in paintings

a recurring theme - it is something that happens over and over again in her postings

her flat - her apartment

prestigious - famous for being really good or special

a rarity - not common, not usual

the context of a post-Soviet Muslim society - The Soviet Union used to contain many countries including Russia and many smaller countries surrounding Russia. The Soviet Union broke up and these smaller countries gained their independence in the early 1990s. Some of these countries have traditional Islamic values. So the author is pointing out that this young woman is really different from most others in her traditionally Muslim society.

the generation gap - this is when the values and culture of the generation of one's parents is very different from the values and culture of the children. There was a lot of talk about the generation gap in the USA in the 1960s. Parents from the World War II generation generally supported the Vietnam War but their university student children opposed it.

compromise - when both sides in a disagreement meet in the middle

to be ousted - to be kicked out of office, to be removed from office

the incumbent leader - the current leader, the person in charge right now

to pledge - to promise

to meddle in - to get involved in, to interfere in

to cause a stir - to create controversy, to create heated discussion

Friday, April 21, 2017

Should restaurants have to provide free access to restrooms for the public?

A politician in Chicago wants to create a law which will force restaurants to provide free access to anyone who needs a bathroom if the situation is an 'emergency'. 

Here is the article about this situation:

Vocabulary from the article:

restroom, bathroom, washroom - these terms are used interchangeably for the place where a toilet is located. 

gotta go? - Do you have to go?

an ordinance - a law

when nature calls - another way of saying: when a person has to go to the bathroom

rookie - someone new is often called a rookie. If it is your first year as a nurse, you are a rookie nurse. Teacher: rookie teacher. a rookie Ald. means rookie Alderman. An Alderman in Chicago represents his neighborhood in the city government and helps make laws for the city.

to be humiliated - to be deeply embarrassed, to do something that others might laugh at or look down on someone for

who had just had an accident - this means that she either peed or pooped in her pants. If you are a parent and your very young child pees or poops in his/her pants, you might say, "Oops my child just had an accident. We need to change his/her pants."

to be inhumane - to be lacking in real human values or morality, not to act like a kind and caring human being

Moore's ordinances goes further - it should be 'ordinance'

general counsel - general adviser/lawyer

well-intentioned - the person who created the ordinance wants to do something good, but....

Wrigley Field - the place where the Chicago Cubs play baseball. It is an area with lots of restaurants.

St. Patty's Day - St. Patrick's Day, a day celebrating the accomplishments of St. Patrick, who brought civilization to Ireland. Lots of people drink on this day and there are parades in many American cities.

massive amounts - huge, large amounts

too much of a burden - too difficult to deal with; a burden is something heavy you have to carry

the mandate - the law

burdensome - difficult

to be equipped - to have the capacity or facilities necessary to do something

substantial - big enough to matter

a genuine emergency - a real emergency

hit the head without having to walk too far - to hit the head means to go to the bathroom

edict - law

imposed on - forced on

death by a thousand cuts - business owners are saying that the government of Chicago is killing business slowly by doing one little thing after another that hurts business, like the form of execution (public killing) called 'death by a thousand cuts' where the person dies slowly after being cut by a knife several times. Chicago has some of the highest taxes in the country because it did not transition well after all of its factories moved to other cities in other countries. So the government keeps trying to get as much money as it can from its businesses (thus causing more and more businesses to leave the city). Chicago, as well as its businesses, is dying a slow death. 

a higher minimum wage - the minimum wage in Chicago is now $11/hr. Businesses would prefer that wages be established by the market and by supply and demand. Many business owners feel that a higher minimum wage hurts their businesses. Proponents (supporters) of a higher minimum wage feel this helps people overcome poverty and that it puts more money into the economy.

paid disproportionately - there are many people in labor unions in Chicago. A labor union is an organization that is supposed to protect workers in a particular industry. The biggest unions in Chicago are of government workers: the police, firemen and teachers. There are many of these people and so politicians have given them good salaries and large pensions after their retirement. Politicians have done this to get the votes of these union workers. In order to pay for the huge pensions (money paid to a person after he/she retires) the city is taxing businesses well above and beyond what citizens are being taxed (businesses are being taxed disproportionately - not in the right proportion). Yes, Chicago is PIGS: Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain.

to be nickeled and dimed - to have someone stealing small amounts of money from you repeatedly

piling on - when one burden is added to another, then another burden is added then another etc.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The guy who was dragged off an airplane in Chicago...

United Airlines had a full airplane ready to go on a flight from Chicago to Louisville. They then realized that they needed to put 4 United employees on that last flight of the day to Louisville so they could begin work in Louisville the next morning. This meant removing 4 paid customers who were already seated.

Usually an airline will offer money to people who might be willing to give up their seats in a situation like this. In this case, nobody wanted to accept the money and leave and people were chosen randomly to be forced off the flight.

One man refused to move. When the police arrived, they violently removed him.

This is just another example of how people simply do not seem to have basic problem solving skills and will resort to violence and force instead of fully using their intelligence to defuse and resolve a problem.

The Economist offers some solutions to this situation in this brief article:

Vocabulary from the article:

to compensate - in this case, to provide money for a service or action

a bumped passenger - someone who has to leave the plane because it was overbooked

habitually - a habit is something you tend to do over and over again, for instance smoking is a habit, and drinking sugary soft drinks is a habit

the assumption - the belief

to misfire - in this case: to be wrong, to miscalculate, to develop in a way you did not want it to

plumped for - chose (this is an obscure word choice, don't bother memorizing it)

would strike someone as wrong - someone would realize it to be wrong

they upped the ante - a poker term meaning it raised the amount of money at stake or available

to tempt them to leave - if you tempt someone to do something you try to get them to do something by offering something pleasurable. 

randomly selected two people - they did not deliberately choose two people, they allowed a computer to choose two people by chance or without making a conscious choice

to disembark - to leave

distress - emotional pain

unrepentant - not sorry

mealy-mouthed - if someone says something in a mealy-mouthed way, he is lying because he is afraid to say what really happened

stinginess - cheapness

publicity - news

Questions to consider:

Why do airlines sometimes overbook flights?

Have you ever been in a situation where a flight was overbooked? What happened? 

If an airline overbooks a flight and nobody wants to leave, what should the airline do?

If the police come to a passenger who refuses to leave, what should they do?

If you had been that passenger, what would you have done?

Who was right and who was wrong in this situation?

Do you feel differently about United Airlines because of this video?

Some people want to boycott United now, how do you feel about this?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Were chemical weapons used by Assad's army in the Syrian Civil War?

{{{Photo from NY Daily News}}}

The Syrian Civil War began in 2011 when a series of protests around the country led to the formation of rebel armies meant to overthrow the dictator of Syria, Bashar al Assad. Anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 people have died in the fighting. Millions of refugees have been forced to leave the country.

Initially the United States, under Barack Obama, tried to avoid involvement in this conflict. Later, the Obama administration began to support various rebel armies in their attempt to overthrow Assad. It is hard to understand what Trump's policy might now be - he seemed willing to support a Russian plan to keep Assad in power while eliminating ISIS and negotiating with other rebel groups to stop fighting.

The latest development concerns allegations that Assad's government attacked a city controlled by rebels with chemical weapons. Russia and Assad deny this. Hopefully this latest act of horror will not cause this war to escalate.

Below is an article from the BBC about this latest situation. 

Vocabulary from the above passage:

a protest - when groups of people gather publicly to express disapproval of some government policy or action.

a rebel group/army - a group or army opposed to the established government.

a dictator - one person who controls or dominates the government.

refugees - people forced to leave their own country due to war or some other horrible situation.

allegations - claims that something wrong has occurred.

to escalate - to get worse.

The article:

Vocabulary from the article:

fury (uncountable) - extreme anger

UN Security Council - an organization at the United Nations which is supposed to help ensure peace in the world.

an ally - a friend

pledged - promised

a monitoring group - a group that is supposed to watch what happens

choking - not being able to breathe

foaming at the mouth - lots of small bubbles due to the reaction between poisonous air and internal bodily fluids

to feel dizzy - not to feel stable, to feel as if you are going to fall down

symptoms - evidence of some type of disease or physical problem

neurotoxic - harmful to brain cells

to launch an attack - to make an attack or begin an attack

a depot - an area where things are stored

militants - fighters, soldiers

aviation - air planes

made a strike on - dropped bombs on or shot missiles at

munitions - stuff to be shot out of guns or dropped from planes, ammunition

making a mockery of the peace process - making a joke out of the peace process, not taking the peace process seriously, showing contempt for the peace process

brokered - negotiated

senseless - if something is senseless there is no reason for it

to impose sanctions on - if a country has sanctions imposed on it, other countries might not trade with that country or be allowed to interact with it

obsessed with - completely and totally focused on

a UN Security Council resolution - an order to do something issued by the Security Council

to be staged - if something did not really happen, but people made it look as if it happened, it has been staged

a false narrative - a false story

to deflect attention from - to deflect something means to push it to the side

hinting - not saying something directly but implying something, suggesting something

unilateral action - action by the USA alone

to be compelled to do something - to feel forced to do something

an array - a grouping

broadly aligned groups - groups agreeing with each other in general terms

fanciful - like a fantasy, not real

unsustainable - in this case, not provable

an affront - an insult

subsequently - afterwards

internally displaced - no longer living in their own homes