Friday, March 13, 2015

Is there 'free speech' in US news sources?

No. There is very little 'free speech" in US newspapers and mainstream internet news sources.

In fact, the US comes in at 49th in the world in regard to freedom of speech in its newspapers.

I would say that even the New York Times does not show freedom of speech. For example, the NY Times has many political biases (prejudices or orientations - likes/dislikes). It tends to write good stories about Democratic politicians, even if these politicians are corrupt (dishonest).

Recently one of the most corrupt Democratic politicians in history was arrested by the US Government. Everyone in NY State knew that Sheldon Silver was a corrupt guy, but you never read any articles in the NY Times about this.  There are several corrupt Democratic politicians who are left alone by the NY Times. (Interestingly, the NY Post seems to be the paper that attacks corrupt politicians the most.) In the article below, however, it seems that the NY Times no longer likes Obama and is very critical of him.

So although this article states that the amount of freedom newspapers have is limited because of Obama's policies, I would argue that the newspapers themselves are often corrupt and dishonest and they often do not present the news fairly or objectively.

Here's an article about the lack of freedom of speech in the USA.

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

drops to 49th - they had a higher ranking but fell

worst ranking since Obama became president - they seem to imply that Obama is trying to control the news in the USA

to abridge - to shorten or hurt (in this case)

fared even worse - did even worse

banning - prohibiting; so Israel killed foreign journalists and stopped other Israelis from going on TV to complain about all the children being killed by Israel in a war

cited - indicated

persecution - if someone is persecuted, he is unfairly or illegally attacked. Jim Risen had received secret information from someone in the government about Iran's nuclear program and Risen published this information. Obama wanted Risen to tell the government the name of the person in the US government who gave Risen the information. Risen would not.  The government threatened to throw him in jail but dropped matters completely instead. So this wasn't really a 'persecution.'

an arrest - when the police take someone to the police station for a supposed crime

to plummet - to drop quickly

scathing - harsh

a denunciation - an attack against something felt to be wrong

eroded - worn away, slowly gotten rid of something

leaks - when secret information is given to journalists

a precedent - an example from before

echoed - reinforced, repeated


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Two Thais were thrown in jail for insulting the King of Thailand

This happened a couple weeks ago, and I meant to post it back then, but I have been a bit overwhelmed. 

In Thailand now a military 'junta' (a group of members of the military) has taken control of the Thai government from the elected leader Yingluck Shinawatra. So there is no democracy in Thailand any more.

There is also no freedom of speech as two students were recently arrested for writing a play that was felt to be disrespectful toward the Thai King.

The story seems to indicate they had been waiting for their trial (a trial is a process in a court room where you are either found to be guilty or not guilty) for one year and they will be in jail for another two years +.

Here is the story:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to insult someone - to say things meant to make some look bad

the monarchy - in this case the monarchy means the king of Thailand

pleaded guilty - stated that they were guilty or that they had broken a law

strict - very severe, harsh, hard

a lese majeste law - this is a law that protects the reputation of a king or queen. 

the charges - the accusations, the alleged crimes, the supposed crimes

to silence dissent - to keep people who disagree with the military junta quiet; those who dissent are those who disagree 

convicted - found guilty

a sentence - in this case a punishment dealing with doing time in prison

reduced because they admitted guilt  - decreased because they said they were guilty; I believe the only reason they said they were guilty was to avoid spending 15 years in jail. Thailand seems to be a terrible place to live these days.

a verdict - a decision of guilt of innocence

activists - people who try to change things that are wrong

to dare to do something - to do something even though you may be harmed by doing it

staging the play - performing the play

allegorical songs - symbolic songs, songs in which certain symbols represent something else; for instance a wolf might represent the king.

left leaning groups - political groups that favor the people and not business or the military

bolder - stronger

the glorification of the king - making the king look much better than he actually is

transgressors - people who have violated or broken a law; so the current junta is going through past actions and finding people who insulted the king because the junta wants the people of Thailand to live in fear

a fantasy kingdom - not a real kingdom

featured a fictional king - it's main character was a fictional king

pro-democracy - for democracy; anti means against democracy

the offence - the violation, the crime

to defame - to make false statements about someone

snaring - catching

a coup - a military attack to take over the government

aiming to - they intend to, they are going to

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The US Government cracks down on illegal 'ghost' schools run by 3 Koreans in Los Angeles

U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura from the Federal Government

In the book I wrote: "New York City Sucks, but You'll Want to Come Here Anyway" I wrote about 'ghost' schools or F-1 Visa schools in New York City.

This is a type of (illegal) place where foreign students pay money to get an F-1 student visa, but they don't have to go to classes. These are places which call themselves schools, but which are not really schools.  They are able to do the paper work to give students an F-1 student visa and students can stay in the USA and enjoy themselves. They have to pay the 'ghost' schools, but the amount is less than what they would pay for a real school.

Some students I have worked with in the past have attended 'ghost' schools in New York City. There is a government agency called The New York State Education Department which is supposed to investigate 'ghost' schools, but my students have told me NYSED sucks and doesn't care. Indeed, NY state is one of the most corrupt (dishonest) states in the USA and there are lots of people in positions of power who simply don't care about doing proper investigations. 

Someone told me that NYSED gets much of its funding money by fees the schools it investigates pays to them. So if they close down these schools, they receive less funding money. Some of my students have told me that NYSED will give a 'school' notice that it will be investigated on a certain day. So on this day people actually show up and pretend to be students. After this day, nobody shows up.

So thank goodness the Federal Government cares. They shut down some ghost schools in Los Angeles. These fake schools were being run by some Koreans who were making millions of dollars illegally. They need to come to New York City.

Here is an article from the LA Times:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to crack down on something - to take forceful action to stop something

feds - investigators from the federal government - Washington D.C. There are 50 states with state governments and one federal government in Washington D.C. with power over the states.

to allege - to claim, to assert, to state that something is true

fraud - illegal activity in which money is stolen

trade schools - these are schools which teach skills, including languages

to arrest - when the police believe a person has committed a crime and they take him/her in to the police station to charge the person with a crime (to formally accuse a person of having done something wrong). The person then has to go to trial in a courtroom.

a scam - an illegal activity

foreign nationals - people from foreign countries.

to tap, tapped - to tap something or tap into something means to reach something or gain access to something

booming - increasing

suspects - the people who were believed to be running the ghost schools

an indictment - pronounced in DITE ment, when the court system agrees that there is enough evidence for a person who has been arrested to go to jail. A 21 count indictment means the court believes the people arrested should be charged with 21 crimes.

a federal grand jury - this is a collection of citizens who determine whether there is enough evidence for the people accused of the crimes to go to a trial in a court room.

to enroll - to take in as students

abused their responsibility - they acted illegally, they were not responsible

to ensure - to make sure

legitimate - lawful, those who follow the law

integrity - honesty

arraigned - another legal term meaning they'll go before a judge and say whether they want a trial or they want to say they are guilty

money laundering - a legal term for a type of crime where money is hidden or not reported properly

the culmination - the final result

The key to the scam was an immigration document that allows shows - this doesn't make sense, remove "shows" for this sentence in the article to work.  Someone didn't edit this article very well.

to fake something - to make something seem real when it isn't

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Are Western countries responsible for the crisis in Ukraine? Yes.

I would tend to agree that Western countries are responsible for the crisis in Ukraine.

Viktor Yanukovych had been fairly elected as the president of Ukraine. In 2013 he made a deal with the government of Russia so that $15 billion would be provided to Ukraine from Russia. This $15 billion was badly needed and, basically, would have helped Ukraine greatly. The $15 billion was a gift from Russia to continue good and peaceful relations with a neighboring country.

Only because Yanukovych signed this agreement, people from an anti-Russian (against Russia) political party began protesting every day in Maidan Square in Kiev.  Day by day the protests became more violent and 25 Kiev police officers were killed (many burned to death) by Kiev protesters. It also seemed that many of the protesters supported a neo-nazi ideology ('neo' means 'new'). Many of the protesters were Nazis.

Western countries openly supported the violent protests.  Not one leader of one Western country called for the protesters to stop the violence and to wait for peaceful elections. 

Many people who supported the illegal overthrow of Yanukovych say that he was corrupt (dishonest). I don't know - maybe he was and maybe he wasn't. There was an election which was just one year away. If everyone in Ukraine had waited for this election, there would have been no civil war in Ukraine. If Yanukovych had been as corrupt as his opponents say he was, he would have lost the election and there would have been PEACEFUL change in Ukraine.

The anti-Russian political party might have felt that it could not beat Yanukovych in fair elections, and this is why they chose the road of violence and not peace. The only choice now, obviously, is to divide Ukraine into two countries so that the violence ends.

Here is an article about this topic:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

conflict - this is both a countable and non-countable noun meaning a lack of peace or a situation in which there is fighting and struggle

to renew - to begin again

blame - to say that someone has done something wrong

Franco-German - French and German

pledges - promises 

amid - in the middle of

to deny - to say something didn't happen

accusations - claims that something wrong happened

rebels - those fighting against a government

claimed more than 5,000 lives - more than 5,000 people have been killed in a war that didn't have to happen

intense - very strong, fierce

fatalities - deaths

to adopt a tougher stance - to be tougher or stronger; but, basically, John McCain is a right-wing idiot who thinks the US military should be fighting in about 10 different places right now.

our correspondent - our journalist

a rift - a division, a disagreement

to revive - to bring back to life

collapsed - fell apart

a demilitarized zone - an area where neither country's army can go; this is an absolutely stupid idea which will not bring peace. Ukraine simply has to be divided into two countries.

renewed - begun again

hollow - empty, of no value

to prompt them - to cause them

a coup d'etat - this is when an elected leader is illegally and violently forced out of office. Putin is correct, there was a coup d'etat and it was supported by Western countries. This countries continue to make the situation worse while pretending to talk about peace.

ousting - forcing out

to annex - to take over


Friday, January 30, 2015

Protesters recall Henry Kissinger's war crimes and crimes against humanity

Why would protesters call Henry Kissinger (National Security Advisor and Secretary of State of the USA for President Richard Nixon) a war criminal?

Probably because policies he recommended or created lead to the deaths of many innocent people, especially in South East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia). As most international readers of this blog already know, however, no government leader from the USA ever gets arrested for war crimes or crimes against humanity because the USA is too powerful. George Bush should probably be in jail for war crimes for attacking Iraq in 2003, but he sits safely in his ranch in Texas.

In 1968, when Richard Nixon was running for the presidency, he told the American people that he had a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. History shows he lied in order to win an election. With Richard Nixon as president the war became worse. Indeed, Kissinger and Nixon even secretly sent US troops into Cambodia and other neighboring countries.

The Vietnam War was one of the most horrible and immoral wars the USA ever fought. Over 2 million Vietnamese were killed by the US military while the USA lost about 50,000 soldiers. Vietnamese children are still suffering from the effects of chemicals that were deliberately dropped on forests in that country to destroy trees so that Vietnamese soldiers could be seen more easily. To this day the people of Vietnam suffer because of people like Henry Kissinger.

Indeed, the Vietnam war should never have been fought. In 1964 one of the most corrupt and dishonest presidents the USA ever had - Lyndon Johnson - began the war when he lied about Vietnamese ships attacking American ships (The Gulf of Tonkin incident). The war lasted until Nixon finally removed US troops in 1972 because the USA could not beat the Vietnamese people.

{{{The flag of North Vietnam - when the US military was defeated by a third-world nation of farmers and Buddhists.}}}  

Here is an article about the protests. In the video Senator John McCain attacks the protesters and calls them various names. I am so glad this idiot never became president.

Vocabulary from the article:

protesters recall Kissinger's war crimes - protesters remember Kissinger's war crimes

to call out - basically this is a slang term meaning to insult people or speak badly of them; to verbal phase 'to call out' is not used very often

a protester - someone who does not like something and expresses his/her disapproval publicly

to swarm - to surround someone and bother him; bees sometimes swarm people who get too close to their hive

low-life scum - this term was meant as an insult...'low-life' means a very basic life form like bacteria or a type of worm...scum means dirt. So if someone calls you low life scum they are saying you are a type of dirt, basically.

disgraceful - not something to be proud of, something terrible that shoulod embarrass a person who does it

outrageous - unacceptable, terrible

despicable - something that should be hated because it is so wrong

demonstrations - protests, when people take action to demonstrate they are angry

to chant - to repeat something over and over

controversial - something that makes people argue; a hot topic

to be arrested - to be taken away by the police

the greatest distinction - if you have done something great, you have done something 'distinguished'...of great distinction means of great accomplishments

off the dias - the dias is the area where speakers usually sit

to be held fully accountable for their actions - to be punished

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Do you know these 5 high-intermediate vocabulary words?

a fiasco - a disaster, something that goes very badly
to demote or to be demoted - this is the opposite of to promote or to be promoted.  For instance, when I was younger, it was possible for students to be demoted to lower grades if they were not doing well in their particular classes.  If someone has a supervisory position but does not perform satisfactorily, he/she might be demoted.
a probe - an investigation.  To probe can mean to investigate.  A doctor will sometimes do a medical probe on a patient...a device with a little camera might be inserted into the patient, through the patient's mouth or whatnot, and this will allow the doctor to see inside the patient.
a shakeup - a sudden change to an organization due to poor performance.  Usually some people are demoted, some are promoted, some might be fired and some newly hired.  A CEO might say that he needs to shakeup his organization because people have become too corrupt or lazy.
to hoard - to collect some type of thing or differing things and store those things even though you do not need them or might not ever need them.  Animals, for instance, tend to hoard food in case the weather turns bad.
answers to the exercises are way at the bottom of this message
Because the huge amount of snow that fell during the recent blizzard was not plowed from the streets promptly, the newspapers demanded a __________________ at the Department of Sanitation.  Several high-ranking officials were later fired. 

{{{to plow - to push the snow, using a type of vehicle with a huge shovel on the front of it, toward the side of the road.  promptly - in a timely manner.  If you are a prompt person, you are generally on time.  The Department of Sanitation is basically the department that has to pick up garbage and plow snow.}}}
It was discovered that when the city government began its program of distributing free food in poor neighborhoods, some residents would take food they really didn't need and _______________ it, while others who truly needed the food could not gain access to it once the city ran out of supplies.
Once it was learned that a Governor of New Jersey was giving high-ranking government positions to handsome men who were not qualified for the positions, a newspaper launched (initiated or started) a _________________.  They then discovered that the Governor was secretly gay and was giving out important jobs to his lovers.
When David Patterson became Governor of New York State, after Governor Spitzer was caught secretly visiting prostitutes (women who sell their bodies for sex), many people had high hopes for him.  However, his term as Governor was a complete and total _________________.  The government became more corrupt and ineffective and taxes and MTA fares rose greatly.
Because Bob had been such an excellent journalist, he was promoted to the position of editor.  However, the skills required for being an editor were different from the skills required for being a journalist and he was shortly ________________ back to journalist, where he was quite happy again.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Should Greece have to pay back its entire debt to the EU?

(photo taken from the BBC)

It looks as if people in Greece do not like the idea of 'austerity'. Actually, probably nobody likes the idea of austerity.  Austerity means, basically, giving up luxuries and extra comfortable things and living as simply as possible.  It doesn't necessarily mean you will live uncomfortably, but it means you won't have the extra things you might want or have become accustomed to (used to).

When Greece borrowed billions of dollars from The Eurozone to keep the country running, the government of Greece agreed to austerity measures.  The government agreed to cut spending and other wasteful things (government workers, for instance, were receiving huge pensions upon retirement - a pension is free money you get after you retire). Now, however, there is a new political party in Greece and 1) they don't believe in austerity any more and 2) they don't want to pay back the money they borrowed from other Europeans. This party - Syriza - is now in power.

Apparently Greece is threatening to leave the European Union if they are forced to continue austerity measures and if they are forced to pay off their debts completely. If Greece leaves the EU, this will probably destroy the EU in that economic investors will lose confidence in the Union - they will fear that other countries may leave in the future as well (and many probably will).  So Greece is partially blackmailing the EU - "If you don't give us what we want, we will do something to severely hurt you." The EU does not want to give in to blackmail since other countries seriously in debt will do the same thing in the future.

What do you think?  Should Greece pay off its debt completely or should the EU cut some of the debt and stop requiring austerity measures? 

An article from the BBC about this:

Vocabulary from the article:

Syriza - this is the new political party that recently won the Greek elections.  They won because they promised the Greek people they would not continue austerity programs and that they would not pay off the complete Greek debt.

negotiation not confrontation - confrontation is when two people or groups have a different solution to a problem and they fight over the solution instead of using negotiation strategies.

the debt is not sustainable - usually if something is sustainable it can continue existing. Here I think he means that if Greece and the EU do not help Greece get rid of this debt there will be a disastrous situation.  Basically he is saying, "This situation cannot continue, or something terrible will happen."

a bailout - this is when a company or country desperately needs money in order to survive and a government or other lending sources provide this emergency money.

to live up to its commitments - it must honor its commitments, it must do what it promised to do

to unveil - to reveal or show

centrifugal - a centrifuge is a machine that spins very quickly so that heavy stuff in the machine stays toward the middle but lighter stuff gets thrown farther from the center of the machine. So this person is saying that the powerful contries will throw the less powerful countries out or force them away from the center of European life.

to incorporate change - to accept and live with change

to collapse - to fall apart

credible - serious, believable

protectionist - someone who wants to protect his/her own economy and who does not care about other economies or countries

sangfroid - cold blood, in this case I think it would test and see how strong the markets would be

a rupture - a tearing apart, an explosion

nationalists are in the ascendant - a nationalist is someone who only believes in his/her own country. To ascend is to rise. So investors might feel that any country dominated by nationalists will acquire huge debts and just refuse to pay them or drop out of the EU.

frenzied - wild

panic - when you are no longer acting in a calm manner

implausible - not easily believed

reason will prevail - to prevail means to win; so here if reason prevails, the right thing or the most reasonable thing will happen

to sanction a write-off - to agree to or to approve a cancellation of the huge debt

peers - those around us

viable - possible

troika - a group of three

not on the radar - radar is used to track airplanes, if something is not on the radar it doesn't exist

a volatile start - a shaky, quickly changing start


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