Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Poor New York City and State Leadership for Hurricane Sandy?

Personally, I find it disgraceful that America's preeminent city is virtually shut down for an entire week because the MTA (the subway system) is not running due to a severe rain storm.  This does not seem to happen in other American or world cities.

Frankly, foreigners who come to New York City are often shocked and disgusted when they see New York City's subway system.  It is quite dirty, old, falling apart and filled with rats. The signals often fail, leaving trains standing still in tunnels for short periods of time.  Over the past winter, an entire train was stuck on an elevated track for an entire night with hundreds of people inside. 

The MTA has obviously been neglected for decades while riders are forced to pay higher and higher fares each year. Now the results of this neglect are evident.

The New York Times has pointed out that months ago it ran a story in which experts stated that New York City has NOT prepared for the type of storm that recently hit it.;_ylt=ApTDckmoHEAqmdBEnPgRnLiZCMZ_;_ylu=X3oDMTVxNnVnNG12BGNjb2RlA2dtcHRvcDEwMDBwb29sd2lraXVwcmVzdARtaXQDQXJ0aWNsZSBNaXhlZCBMaXN0IE5ld3MgZm9yIFlvdSB3aXRoIE1vcmUgTGluawRwa2cDZjA3MTY4YWYtMzk1NC0zYmY1LThjZDYtNmQ1NjNhNWZmYzkwBHBvcwMxBHNlYwNuZXdzX2Zvcl95b3UEdmVyAzZlNzFmNTAwLTIzNjQtMTFlMi04YmY5LTc3YmY1OTk1YmJmMA--;_ylg=X3oDMTMzbWNjZGx0BGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDN2EyYzZjNzctMWE2Zi0zMmI4LTkwOTgtYjVhZDYyNTg5YjExBHBzdGNhdANibG9nc3x0aGVsb29rb3V0BHB0A3N0b3J5cGFnZQ--;_ylv=3

1)  Although Hurricane Sandy was a large storm, based on the above articles, do you believe that city and state leaders should have been better prepared for this situation?

2)  What should be done to avert (avoid) another mess like this?

3)  Do these stories affect your impression of New York City?  In the movies the city is usually portrayed as clean and efficient.  How does the city seem after reading these articles?

4)  Do you feel that New Yorkers should be upset that they may have to sit at home for a week doing nothing while the MTA tries to fix its problems? Is this the way a major world city should operate?

(Today it took me 5 hours to travel from Queens to Manhattan to meet a couple students.  I literally walked from 125th and Lexington to 53rd and Lexington, because I realized I could walk faster than the buses were traveling.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is this NBA team "too white?"

The Minnesota NBA basketball team has 10 "white" players and 5 "black" players, in a league in which 75% of the players are "black."

Because Minnesota is a primarily "white" state, some people feel that the team deliberately chose a predominance of "white" players.  Yet, many of the white players are from Europe, where many new great basketball players are developing.

1)  Do you think that a team with primarily "white" players should seem strange in the NBA?

2)  Do you agree with those who are accusing the owners of the team of a type of racism?

3)  NBA games are very expensive to attend and most of the fans are "white" at the games.  Should anyone be complaining about this?

4)  Do you think NBA fans care about the color of the players on their team or do they care primarily about whether their team wins?

5)  The whole country - White, Black and Asian - was excited about Jeremy Lin's success earlier this year.  Does this say something positive about people's attitudes toward race in America?

6)  Europe is turning out amazing basketball players these days, and the US Olympic basketball team had a hard time beating some European teams.  Is this situation a situation of racism or a change in the types of players who are NBA caliber? 


Please buy my book: New York City Sucks But You'll Still Wanna Live Here! It's available as an affordable and easy to read e-book:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Police Dogs: Constitutional or Not?

There will be a case going before the Supreme Court dealing with the issue of whether police can use dogs to "sniff" out drugs from outside people's homes or even in airports.

Usually, the police are not allowed to check whether a person is carrying something illegal unless the police are reasonably suspicious that the person has something illegal.  However, many people have argued that police dogs in airports randomly sniff innocent and unsuspicious people.

In the case mentioned in this article, a police dog was brought to a person's house and sniffed from outside and determined there were drugs inside.  The police then obtained a court order to enter the house and arrested the person.  However, a judge threw the case out saying that the police had no constitutional right to use the dog to sniff outside of a person's house.  Basically the judge was saying that people have a right to their privacy and that you just can't walk around neighborhoods with dogs sniffing people's homes for drugs.

1)  How do you feel about the dogs at airports that sniff for drugs?  Do you think this is necessary?  Is this right?

2)  Would you agree with the judge who threw this case out?  Why/why not?

3)  Many people are upset when New York City police officers stop them from entering the subway system in order to search their bags.  Many people feel this is a "random" search which violates our rights.  How do you feel about this policy?


Please buy my book:  New York City Sucks But You'll Still Wanna Live Here!  It's available as an affordable and easy to read e-book:

United States Military Prepares for a Major Zombie Attack

This is crazy.  I think this is a joke.  The US Marines are engaged in a "war-game" in which they fight zombies.

1)  Even though it's near Halloween, do you think this is crazy?

2)  Why do you think they are doing this?

3) Should American tax payers be upset that the Marines are preparing to fight zombies
instead of "live" enemies?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Legalization of Prostitution?

The recent Economist magazine has a story about a female Chinese activist who works to help women who are forced to work as prostitutes.  The Economist story refers to an older story about Ye Haiyan, and I found a good article about her on the site: The Daily Beast.  She was, in fact, attacked by eight men back in May of this year, due to her activism on the part of Chinese "sex-workers."

This article is somewhat heart-breaking in that it points out that many women who work as prostitutes in China have "no other economic choices."

1)  Ms. Ye believes that by legalizing prostitution, the working conditions of Chinese prostitutes will improve.  What do you think?

2)  Do you, in general, believe that prostitution should be legalized?

3)  Do you believe, as some psychologists suggest, that working as a prostitute can cause psychological problems or trauma?

4)  Ms. Ye believes that prostitution should be legalized to help these poor women who turn to prostitution to make money.  Shouldn't the Chinese government find a way to help these women so that they do not have to sell their bodies for a living?

5)  Ms. Ye became a prostitute for one day to find out how it feels.  What do you think of her action?

6)  Do you believe that a "feminist" or someone who believes in the equality of men and women should support prostitution?

7)  Do you think that legalized prostitution will increase the "objectification" of women (the viewing of women as objects?)?

8)  Toward the end of the article, a woman states that her previous job was washing dishes.  She then states that being a prostitute allows her to make more money than she did washing dishes.  What do you think of this situation?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Social Rejection Stimulates Creativity

In this article it is argued that those who are "rejected" by a social group or by society can become immensely creative.  However, these people will have to have very strong identities.  Basically, being rejected or having one's ideas rejected can either crush a person or motivate a person.  If a person already strongly believes in him/herself, social rejection will motivate the person to greater creativity.

1)  Are you crushed or motivated when you or your ideas are rejected?

2)  Many authors of great or ultimately popular literature receive numerous rejection notices.  In a famous example, the author of Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, was rejected by every publisher to whom he submitted his manuscript, and he killed himself.  Several years later his mother found a publisher for his manuscript and the book won the highest award for fiction in America. Do you think that truly creative people are always going to be misunderstood and rejected?

3)  Will this article help you to deal with rejection now?

4)  Can you speak about times you felt or were unfairly rejected?  How did you deal with that?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New Neanderthal Model Created

Apparently the "Neanderthals" or Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis preceded modern humans in evolutionary history.  Indeed, for many thousands of years, apparently, Neanderthals and humans lived side by side.  It is thought, in fact, that Neanderthals died out due to the extreme competition with humans for various resources in Europe.

Scientists have created a new model of a Neanderthal male, based on a skeleton found about 100 years ago.

1)  In the past Neanderthal models were presented as fierce and potentially violent.  Why do you think this model looks so sweet and gentle?

2)  Does it look as if there was a huge difference, in appearance, between Neanderthals and humans?

3)  A scientist in Europe has been able to retrieve some DNA from a Neanderthal skeleton.  Do you think he should be able to clone a Neanderthal so that we can see whether the models are correct?  If a Neanderthal is cloned, should he/she be given full human rights?  What if the Neanderthal can speak (it is believed that they had some speech capacity)?  Should human rights for a cloned Neanderthal be based on its genetic similarity to humans or its capacity to speak?

4)  Do you think that Neanderthal man looked alot like Chuck Norris?  (This is a joke.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Italian Earthquake Experts Found Guilty of "Manslaughter"

In 2009, after many minor tremors, a major earthquake hit an Italian town and this resulted in the deaths of about 300 people.  The Italian government, following this tragedy, arrested several scientists who, according to the government, should have warned the people of the upcoming quake. 

However, the scientists have pointed out that many people died because the government had not done its job of ensuring that the buildings of the town were "earthquake proof."

1)  Why do you think these scientists were arrested?  Are they scapegoats?

2)  Given the fact that these experts did NOT warn the townspeople, do you think they should be punished somehow?  How?

3)  Would you want to work as an earthquake expert in Italy now?  Why/why not?

4)  Who bears greater responsibility for the deaths: the scientists or the government, both or neither?

5)  Do you think the experts were negligent, or do you think they were just being overly cautious, or do you think they did their jobs?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Malala Has A Chance Of Survival and Recovery

Malala is the brave 14 year old Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for encouraging the education of women.

1)  What are women's rights like in your home country?

2)  What do you think about the relationship of men and women in the USA?  Should this be a model for the rest of the world or are there still problems?

3)  What can the world do to ensure that this type of situation cannot happen again around the world?

4)  What can be done to promote the education of women around the world?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Unequal Treatment of Babies in "Posh" NY City Hospital

A couple years ago many Americans were shocked that two pop stars were able to rent an entire floor of a famous hospital in order to give birth to their child.  Many people thought this was unfair to other women who needed rooms to give birth. 

Now there is a story that at this hospital there are certain areas for "wealthy" patients who are giving birth and "poor" patients who are giving birth.  The rooms for the wealthy patients are called "Beyonce" rooms because she and her husband were the ones who rented the entire floor of the hospital so that they might not be bothered by other people during the delivery of their child.

(By the way, a "posh" thing is a very  expensive or luxurious thing. Do you remember Posh Spice from the Spice Girls? :P)

1)  Is this situation fair?

2)  Would you ever go to a hospital that has areas for wealthy people and areas for poor people?  Do you believe that all people in need should be treated the same way or do you think this is a good system?

3)  Does this shock you or give you some special insight into how things are sometimes (or often) done in America?

4)  What is your health care system like in your country?

5) Are you worried about health care in the USA, now that you are here?

6)  What do you think of the US health care system, where 50 million people (out of 350million people) are uninsured and often go without medical attention?

"Tipping" in America

Many foreign students are confused about "tipping" in America.  Basically, in restaurants, the waiters in America are paid very low wages and they rely on "tips" to make a living.  Indeed, some waiters and waitresses can make about $100 per day just on tips.  However, it all depends on how well business is on certain days/nights.

Here's a nice article and video about when you should and when you shouldn't tip.

1)  Most countries do not have this "gratuity" or "tipping" system.  How do you feel about this system?

2)  Some restaurants add a tip to the bill if they see that you are a foreign customer.  What do you think of this practice?

3)  What if your waiter/waitress does not provide you with good service or if this person is rude to you?  The video suggests you should still tip, but then you should talk to the manager of the restaurant about the waiter/waitress.  What do you think of this policy?

Friday, October 19, 2012

City of Chicago to Tax Bullets to Stop Shootings

Foreigners are often a little scared of coming to America because they know that virtually anyone can buy a gun. 

This right is protected by the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution.  Basically, at the time the Constitution was written (1789), America was still an agricultural country and individual families often had to protect themselves.  Guns were felt to be necessary for each individual to protect his home and his family.  Although most Americans now live in towns and cities, the 2nd Amendment has never been repealed largely because many Americans still like the idea of having the right to defend themselves.

In Chicago, the murder rate from shootings has been unusually high lately.  In order to try to stop the number of killings, a politician is proposing a tax on bullets.

1)  Do you agree with the Americans who feel that the right to own a gun should be protected?

2)  Do you think that a 5 cent tax on bullets will help to decrease the number of shootings?

3)  The politician is also proposing that the tax will help to generate money which can help victims of shootings.  What do you think of this idea?

4)  Given the fact that the City of Chicago cannot prevent people from buying and owning guns, what do you think should be done to reduce the murder rate?

5)  Chicago is a very racially "segregated" city.  Generally white people live on the north side and black people live on the south side.  Most of the shootings are occurring on the south side, in poor neighborhoods dominated by street gangs.  Given this information, what should the City of Chicago do?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Penal Colony for 2 Members of Russian "Punk" Band

In America, many people were shocked to hear that two members of a Russian "punk" band were sentenced to two years in a penal colony for a protest against Vladimir Putin.

1)  Do you believe that two years in a "work camp" is too severe a penalty for these young women?

2)  Do you believe that the Russian authorities had the right to sentence these two young women to such a sentence?  (Some might argue that different cultures have different legal standards - for example, some prisoners are beaten with bamboo canes in Singapore as a punishment.)

3)  The Russian judge seemed to imply that these women were given this sentence because they disrupted a religious service at a famous Russian church.  Do you think they were punished with two years in prison because they disrupted a church service, or because they were attacking Vladimir Putin?

4)  How would this type of situation have been handled in your own country?  For example, if a punk band began protesting in the middle of Saint Patrick's Church in Manhattan, they would certainly be arrested, although they would probably not go to jail.

5)  The judge stated that these young women will "change" and become more responsible as a result of their prison time.  Do you think that prisons can change a person's behavior for the better? 

6)  Many theorists believe that punishment is purely a deterrence to ensure that others do not commit the same crimes.  Do you think that the Russian government was sendeing a message to other protesters by throwing these young women in a penal colony for two years?

Newsweek Says "Heaven Is Real."

Because of modern medical technology, many people claim to have experienced "near-death" experiences.  A near-death experience occurs when a person is technically "dead" for a short time (according to a medical definition) but is revived through advanced medical procedures.  During this period of "death" many people claim they were able to leave their bodies or they claim they had amazing experiences in heaven, or, sometimes, hell.

Newsweek magazine recently published a story by a scientist who claims he was in a coma and experienced "heaven."  Here is a link about the article (the Newsweek article is not online):

1)  Do you believe that this doctor experienced heaven, or do you believe he was hallucinating?

2)  This story has become one of the hottest stories in America.  Why do you think so many people are interested in reading this doctor's story?

3)  Do you believe there is an after-life and your placement in this after-life is based on how you performed ethically on earth?  Do you think everyone gets to go to heaven?  Do you believe that a "hell" exists for those who were evil?

4)  Do you agree with some critics who say that Newsweek is trying to make money from people's superstitions, since it is obvious that this doctor could not have experienced "heaven"?

5)  Do you think the doctor is ethical in writing a book called "Proof of Heaven"?  Do you think his experiences can prove heaven exists? Is he merely trying to make money by deceiving people?  Do you think he is sincere?

6)  According to the doctor's experience, an attractive young woman guides him on a trip to heaven but tells him he will have to return to earth.  Why would an "angel" do this?  Could this be real or is this all part of this doctor's fantasy life?

A Cardboard Bicycle?

In New York City many more people seem to be riding bicycles due to expensive public transportation fees and because they want to do something to help the environment.

In Israel an inventor has created a new type of bicycle which is not made of any metal parts.  Indeed, most of the bicycle is made out of cardboard.

1)  How successful do you think this new invention will be?

2)  Given the fact that many people like wearing and using "brand" items, do you think that people who ride this bike will be looked down on?

3)  Do you think that this type of bicycle is really necessary?

4)  The inventor claims that this bicycle will change various manufacturing trends around the world.  Do you agree with him?

5)  Would you ever ride a bicycle like this?  Why or why not?

6)  Do you think this bicycle can reach a market other than the market of "very poor" people? 

7)  Would you invest money in this type of project?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Turkey and Syria Continued

Turkey continues to report atrocities committed by the Syrian government due to the civil war which is being fought there, and is now declaring that the UN has been remiss in addressing the situation.

Yet, due to the structure of the UN, it cannot take military action without the consent of Russia and China (strong allies of Syria).

1)  Do you think this situation is similar to the situation in the old Yugoslavia?

2)  In the Vice Presidential debate, Joe Biden stated that the last thing the United States should do is commit more soldiers to a foreign war.  What do you think of Biden's statement in light of the continuing loss of life in Syria?

3)  Do you think the UN is a viable organization?  Do you think the structure of the UN is sufficient for this organization to take quick and effective action to stop military atrocities?

4)  What do you think Turkey, or NATO, should do about this situation?

5)  Joe Biden was also asked why the US intervened in Libya and will not intervene in Syria.  He stated that these were two different countries and two different situations.  What do you think of his response?  Why do you think the US intervened in Libya but has not intervened in Syria?

6)  Biden seemed to imply that Romney might get the US involved in a war in Syria.  Yet, Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate, denied they wanted war.  Ryan seemed to assert that the world no longer takes America seriously due to President Obama.  How do you feel about this?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Affirmative Action Court Case: Can the University of Texas "help" Black and Latino Students Gain Admission?

In an earlier article, we looked at "affirmative action" in regard to Stuyvesant High School in New York City.  This is a school that uses one very difficult test to determine who will be admitted.  They do not consider any other factor other than the test score.

This has caused the racial demographics of the school to be skewed.  Only about 5 % of the student population is Black and Latino.  In America, Black and Latino students traditionally underperform compared to Asian and White students.

Universities wish to avoid this lack of diversity by "helping" Black and Latino students.  This often means that Black and Latino students will be given extra points in the admissions process.  Indeed, this is what happened in 2008.  A white student was denied admission to the University of Texas because a black student, with lower overall scores, was given extra points.  So the "worse" student took the "better" student's place at the university.

The University of Texas, however, feels that diversity is an important social goal and that even if a few students are hurt by affirmative action, it benefits everyone in the long run.

There are many questions pertaining to affirmative action in the Stuyvesant posting (please refer to that posting for other conversation questions).

1)  Which is more important, the right of the individual student to gain admission based on his/her own merits or the need for universities to be diverse?

2)  Why do you think Black and Latino students underperform compared to White and Asian students on standardized tests?  Is it due to differences in "culture" or do you think that poor social and economic issues are harming the Black and Latino communities?

3)  If you believe that poverty may be causing a low performance for Black and Latino students, what would you say to a person who points out that many immigrant Asian families are quite poor but their children perform well in schools?

4)  Let's say that a student has not has as many educational opportunities as most other students because of his parents' low income.  Doesn't this student deserve some extra points in the admissions process? Shouldn't we look at a student's background and reward those students who have had to face difficulties because of race or poverty?

5)  Studies show that the more money a family makes, the higher the family's child will score on the SAT test.  Shouldn't poorer students be given extra points because of this data?  Doesn't it seem as if the more wealth a person has the better his child's chances of success in school are?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hong Kong Parents Sue "Educational Consultant" Over Harvard Rejection

In this article, we see that parents from Hong Kong have filed a law suit against an "educational consultant" in Boston who attempted to help their children gain admission to Harvard University.

According to the parents, the "consultant" claimed to have connections at the school and also claimed that if the parents were to donate a large sum to Harvard, this would improve the chances of their children being accepted.  The children, however, were not accepted.

Some experts are quoted in the article as saying that an educational "arms race" is beginning.  An "arms race" is a term from when the United States and Russia attempted to spend more and more money on arms (weapons) in order to exercise greater power around the world between 1945 and 1989.  There was also a "space race" in which the United States and Russia competed to land people on the moon.

1)  Do you think that there already is an educational "arms race"? What might have caused it?

2)  Do you think the competition for "top" schools is a good thing or bad thing for our society?

3)  Do you think it is a good thing or a bad thing for students? 

4)  Why is there such intense competition for these top schools?  Many successful people go to ordinary schools and some successful people do not attend a university at all.

5)  What do you think the benefits are of attending a "top" or "elite" school?  Do you think the education is really better there than at other schools?  If a student goes to a "second tier" school, will it be harder to succeed or does everything depend on the student's drive or desire to succeed?

6)  In regard to this article, who is right and who is wrong?  Were both parties (parents and consultant) wrong?  Were both parties right?

7)  Can the parents be considered to be "bad guys" in this situation?  Were they, essentially, trying to bribe their children's way into Harvard?  Were these "good" parents?  If you need to bribe your way into a school, is it worth it to even go there?

8)  Based on what you read in this article, does it seem as if admission to the "top schools" is a fair process?  Or was the "educational consultant" trying to make it seem as if getting into a top school requires deceitful behavior? 

9)  Do you think the consultant deliberately mislead the parents into believing that a person could bribe his/her way into an American school?  Do you think the admissions process at an "Ivy" school is fair?

10)  Do you think these consulting services, who employ ex-admissions officers from Ivy League schools, are ethical places?  What if a parent cannot afford to pay their huge fees?

11)  Are parents in your home country similar to these parents?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pro-Muslim Ads Placed In NY City Subway Stations

Recently an anti-Muslim group paid to have many ads posted in the NY subway system in which followers of Islam are compared to "savages" (primitive, barbaric people).  Now some Christian church groups are placing ads in the subway system encouraging people to love each other and to ignore the anti-Muslim ads.

1)  The MTA (New York City's subway system) stated that they had to accept the anti-Islamic ads because they had to follow "freedom of speech" laws.  How do you feel about this?

2)  The church groups have ads running which state that all religions should be respected and that we should love each other regardless of our religion.  Do you feel these ads are necessary?

3)   If you were to see an anti-Islamic ad on the subway system, how would you feel?

4)  Do you feel as if Islam has been portrayed badly by the media, in America and elsewhere?

5)  In New York City people from all over the world and from every religion live side by side peacefully.  Do you think this is possible in the world?

6)  Why do you think these church groups spent their own money to place very expensive ads on the subway system?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Maine Mayor Offends Somalis

Many refugees have been coming to America from Somalia due to the wars there, and due to a recent drought.

The mayor of a small town in Maine, where many Somalis have relocated, made statements that were very offensive to the Somali community. Basically, the mayor (whose own ancestors came from Scotland) stated that immigrants need to instantly adapt to American culture.  He also implied that immigrants use resources provided by non-immigrants.

1)  To what extent do you think an immigrant should adapt to US culture?

2)  Is it all that easy to adapt to US culture?  What are some of the problems?

3)  In the past, usually the first generation of immigrants retained their culture, but their children learned American culture in the school system and adapted.  Is this an acceptable system?

4)  If you have been here for awhile, how welcoming are Americans to immigrants?

5)  How easy is it to make American friends?  What are some of the difficulties, other than language?

6)  Is the USA a melting pot or a salad bowl?  Do people adapt here or retain their cultures?

7)  Do you think it is possible to succeed in a society without adapting as completely as possible?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Pope's Butler Is Found "Guilty."

In America there is the term "whistle-blower."  This term is applied to a person who sees something wrong somewhere, usually where he/she works, and then reports the problem to the press or to the proper authorities.

The Pope's butler saw a number of problems with the Catholic Church and literally stole the Pope's diary to prove his allegations.  He was arrested and has now been found guilty.  He claims that what he did was morally right, since the Catholic Church needs to change.

1)  Is the Pope's butler a hero or a criminal?

2)  Many times, when a whistle-blower comes forward, people doubt his/her motives and claim he/she is just trying to make money or become famous.  Do you doubt the butler's motives?  Why? Why not?

3)  Do you think that the author who was given the stolen diary should or shouldn't have used the information which was obtained illegally?

4)  Do you think this butler should have been arrested and prosecuted?  Do you think that the Church may just be trying to cover up a scandal through prosecution?  Was it an "over-reaction" to literally arrest this person?  Why or why not?

5)  The Catholic Church has received a huge amount of negative publicity over the past several years because of various scandals which Church authorities have covered up.  Why do you think there are problems in this Church?  What should the Church do to clean itself up?  Can it be cleaned up?

6)  The Catholic Church refuses to allow its priests to get married.  It also refuses to allow women to become priests.  Do you think the Church should change these policies?  Do you think the Church would be less corrupt if these policies were changed?  Why or why not?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Syria and Turkey

Many refugees have been fleeing Syria and seeking safety in Turkey.

Now, the Turkish government is threatening to respond militarily to attacks to
Turkish border towns by the Syrian government.

1)  Do you feel that it might be possible for a diplomatic solution to resolve this situation?

2)  Do you feel that the USA should have been more active in helping the Syrian freedom fighters?

3)  What do you think should be done by the international community in regard to this situation?

4)  Why do you think the USA assisited freedom fighters in Libya but not in Syria?

5)  How responsible do you believe Russia is for the high number of people who have been killed
in this civil war?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Euthanasia (part 2): A daughter wants to die, parents refuse to allow her to

This is a heart-breaking story about a young woman who is in pain and who will never recover
from her terminal illness.  She literally wants to have her life support system removed so she can die.  Doctors have told her there is no hope for recovery and she cannot even breathe without a tube inserted into her throat. She is in pain and is dying, yet, her parents are Christian and believe that she will go to "hell" if this happens (they believe it would be a form of suicide).

Interestingly, this case would not be considered "euthanasia."  This would be a removal of life support type of situation and it looks as if many religions do NOT consider this to be wrong or a "sin" if the person is terminally ill.

Please refer to the previous article on euthanasia (mercy killing) for questions about this general topic.

More questions about this article:

1)  Do you think this girl should be allowed to die? 

2)  How do you feel about the attitude of the parents?

3)  Doctors are not allowed to actively "kill" this patient.  By removing the breathing tube,
the young woman would die through suffocation (which might be a terrible death).  Do you
think the doctors should have the right to administer a drug to help her leave life peacefully?

Google To Obey Turkish Law

This article seems to touch on similar issues in a previous posting.  In the posting on Brasil and how that government asked Google to obey its election laws, Google refused to comply and the CEO was arrested. 

In this article we see that Google, however, has agreed to follow Turkish law and to even give the Turkish government control over what might or might not be posted.

This seems similar to what Google did in 2006 in regard to the Chinese government, when Google agreed to help that government censor the internet in China.

Here is the article:

Questions for discussion:

1)  Does Google seem hypocritical to you?  The company has agreed to obey the Turkish government but not the Brasilian government.  Why do you think Google is doing this?

2)  What are the similarities and differences between the Turkish and Brasilain situations?

3)  Do you think that Google should have this type of agreement with every government?  The issue is whether Google will obey specific laws in each country or whether they will just run their search engine the same way everywhere.

4)  Do you think that Google should pay taxes in each country where it operates and makes a profit?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Free Speech or Distraction?

Foreigners often think that Americans can say and do whatever they want.  There are some limits to free speech, however, in the USA.  For example, here's a good case.  This teenager, in this article, wore a very provocative tee-shirt to her high school. 

The female student identifies herself as being bisexual. The tee-shirt had a Coca Cola design but instead of saying "I love Coke!" the tee-shirt read "I love vagina!"  Her school sent her home for being a "distraction."

1)  What do you think?  If you had a child in high school, would it bother you if another student wore a tee shirt advocating lesbian or bi-sexual sex, or, in fact, any type of sex?

2)  Do you think the student had a right to openly express her sexuality and do you think this student has a right to complain about how she was treated by her school? 

3)  What do you think of the mother, who, perhaps, bought the shirt for her child and approved of her child wearing it to school? 

4)  Would this be a good reason to require high school stduents to wear school uniforms?  Do you think there should be some type of dress code in high schools?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Gay Conversion "Therapy"

In the old days, in America, homosexuality was considered a mental illness.  These days,
most Americans feel that being gay is no big deal.  However, there are some parents
who definitely do not want their children to be "gay" and they are willing to pay
psychologists who claim they can change or "convert" their children into non-gay
(heterosexual) individuals.

Gay people are often offended by these attempts, since the implication is that being gay
is "wrong."

The State of California has recently banned so-called "gay-conversion therapy."  Here is a brief
article about the new California law.

Also, here is another link from a young person who went through the "conversion therapy" and who is suing California to try to stop the law:

Questions for discussion:

1)  How are gay people treated in your home country?

2)  Do you believe that people are "born" gay, or do people become gay as a result
of their early childhood rearing?

3)  Why do you think the State of California decided to ban this type of "therapy"?

4)  Do you believe in gay marriage?  Why or why not?

5)  Do you feel that parents have a right to seek "gay conversion therapy" for their children?
What if a child actually wants this therapy?  Should the state have the right to ban this type of

6)  How would you feel if a sibling or other relative told you he/she was gay?

7)  Have you seen or experienced anti-gay bullying in your school or society? 
What should be done to protect young people who are gay?

8)  How do you feel about gay couples who adopt children?

9)  How do you feel about religious organizations that claim that being gay is morally wrong?


Yes, I'm also the guy who wrote the very funny ESL book: New York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway

Monday, October 1, 2012

Brasil Versus Google: Is Google Responsible?

Brasil, which is a democracy, has strict election laws.  One of the laws indicates that political attacks cannot be publicly made during a certain period of time before an election.

Recently a Brasilian judge ordered that Google remove a political attack from Google-owned Youtube (or to restrict access of this political attack so that it cannot be shown in Brasil). The attack was made against a certain political candidate and posted during a period of time when it was illegal to do so in Brasil.  When Google refused to do this, the judge ordered a high-ranking Google executive to be arrested and the judge has threatened to fine Google heavily for refusing to obey a court order.

Google claims that it is not "responsible" for what people post on Youtube and that they are not responsible for what shows up in Google searches.  The Brasilian government, on the other hand, feels that its laws should be respected by Google and that Google is, in fact, capable of removing illegal material and has a responsibility to do so.

Here is a link from Businessweek magazine about this issue:

Questions for discussion:

1)  Do you believe that Google should respect Brasil's law?

2)  Google claims that it is not "responsible" for anything that is posted on youtube and that it is not responsible for anything that Google carries as a search engine.  How do you feel about this attitude?

3)  Recently I read that someone had said that the internet is no longer an "information super-highway," but that it is now an "information sewer."  (A sewer system is the place where human waste material goes after a person flushes a toilet.)  The implication was that information on the internet is no longer reliable.  Do you feel that the internet is no longer reliable because anyone can post anything and search engines like Google refuse to remove material which might be illegal, false or which might cause problems in various countries?

4)  The US government requested that Google remove the video "Innocence of Islam" from Youtube because it is a malicious attack against a religion, but Google refused to do this.  Do you think that Google was right to do this even though people around the world are protesting this video? 

5)  Anyone can apparently control where his/her information appears on a search engine like Google or Yahoo by paying enough money.  Do you feel that the Google search engine is really providing the "truth" or just providing what people who are willing to pay enough money want to be shown?

6)  Do you feel that Google has become a type of "monopoly"? Are there alternatives to Google?  if there are, do you use them?  Why or why not?

7)  In general, do you think that Google has a moral obligation to remove false or illegal material from its site if someone points this out to Google?  (Google argues that it has no responsibility whatsoever to do this.)   

8) In 2006 Google helped the Chinese government to prevent Chinese internet users from seeing certain websites and accessing certain information.  Now Google refuses to prevent illegal information from being shown in Brasil.  What do you think Googles motives are?  Why do you think it is acting this way in 2012?

9)  If you "google" virtually any topic, a "wikipedia" page will probably appear at the top of your possible choices.  Yet, not one teacher or professor in the United States allows students to use "wikipedia" in research papers and most scholars believe this site provides badly written, biased, censored and inaccurate information.  How do you feel about "wikipedia" always showing up high on any internet search?  Do you try to avoid this site or do you use it "just because it is always there?"