Friday, November 30, 2012

A Mother Inherits Her Dead Son's Debt, and Asks for Its Cancellation

Foreign students often learn how expensive American tuition is when they consider coming over to the USA to study.  Indeed, as foreign students, they are charged even higher rates.

Many American students have to borrow money in order to attend college and graduate school.  After college is over, they are expected to pay back these loans, little by little, month after month. Sometimes this takes years, and the student is forced to pay back a huge, extra amount of money in the form of "interest."

However, the loan organizations have acquired a terrible reputation.   If a student falls behind in his/her payments, they often harass the student, the student's family and sometimes acquaintances of the student, in an attempt to get their money back.  (This type of harassment if often illegal and the loan organizations or their collection agencies can be sued.)

In the following story, a mother co-signed for a student loan for her son.  This meant that the mother agreed that if the son could not pay the loan back, she would assume responsibility for it.  Then, after the son graduated, unfortunately, at a very young age, the son died.

The mother then became responsible for paying back the son's debts for which she had co-signed (equalling tens of thousands of dollars).  The Federal Government released her from the obligation to pay the debt back (he had taken some loans from the US government), but a private company which gave a large loan to her and her child is expecting their money back.

1)  Do you feel that this private loan company should cancel the debt owed by the dead son?

2)  Some people feel that the mother should have to pay the money back because 1: She co-signed for the loan and 2: The son accepted and used the money. The son spent four years studying at a college with this money. 

Furthermore, this loan organization is a business and they cannot operate unless they receive their loan money back with some interest.  How do you feel about this?

3)  Some people seem to be upset that the Federal Government cancelled the loan payments upon the death of the son.  People point out that the tax dollars of Americans went to pay for her son's tuition, he used that money, and the government should receive the money back.  How do you feel about this?

4)  If you had to take out a massive amount of loan money to pay for your education, would you do it? 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Obese Woman Dies, Unable To Board Plane Home

A 400 lbs (182 kg) woman was able to fly via a Dutch airline to Hungary, from America, but several problems prevented 3 airlines from helping her fly back home.  Unable to fly home, she then died, and her husband is blaming the airlines for her death.  He seems to be arguing that had the airlines found a way home for her, her American doctors would have saved her.

1)  Do you think the Dutch airline is to blame for this situation?  After all, they got her to Europe and were supposed to get her back home again.

2)  To what extent do you feel she is to blame for her excessive weight?

3)  Two other airlines attempted to help her get back home, but were unable to.  The husband wants to sue them as well.  Do you feel they are to blame?

4)  If you were on a jury for this case, would you find the airlines guilty or not guilty?

5)  Do you think that airlines should even accomodate passengers who are in such poor health and dangerously overweight?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Europe Considers Banning "Baby Boxes."

In New York City, each year many newly born babies used to be abandoned by their mothers in garbage containers, where the babies would die.  The police department, therefore, established a special program in which women can bring in their babies to any police department and leave the baby with the police, and the police will not ask any questions.

Because of this program, fewer babies have been found in garbage containers over the past few years and many babies have been handed over to the police.

In Germany a similar program was established through a hospital.  The hospital established a special, warm, safe structure in which a woman could place her unwanted baby.  Many baby's lives have been saved through this method.

However, a UN human rights organization is declaring this apparently humanitarian practice to be "wrong" and a violation of human rights.  Here is an article on this subject:

1)  Do you think that by providing a baby box the German hospital is encouraging mothers to abandon their babies?  Or do you think they are encouraging women to save the lives of their babies?

2)  How do you feel about this issue?  Can you understand why new mothers might want to abandon their babies, or do you think this is a terrible practice?

3)  Ostensibly (on the surface) the baby box idea seems like a nice gesture.  Do you think they should stay or be removed?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Great Depression and The Great Recession

Here's an interesting article I found online that compares and contrasts the Great Depression and the current Great Recession.  This might be of interest to various foreign learners of English who have heard about the Great Depression in America in the 1930s but who do not know much about it:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Russia and the US Accuse Each Other of Human Rights Violations

The US Congress is considering a proposal to punish certain Russian officials who were involved in the death of a prominent Russian in a Russian prison. The Congress claims that Russia often violates human rights.

The Russian government, on the other hand, is accusing the US of also being a "human rights violator."  Russia has pointed out that the CIA tortured prisoners and that the US has an illegal prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Russia could also point out that the USA has a greater percentage of prisoners in its jails than any other country, and that most of these prisoners come from poor and minority backgrounds.;_ylt=AkCL.v2GjdWue8GD1jI7SpCbCMZ_;_ylu=X3oDMTVxZGxtaHV0BGNjb2RlA2dtcHRvcDEwMDBwb29sd2lraXVwcmVzdARtaXQDQXJ0aWNsZSBNaXhlZCBMaXN0IE5ld3MgZm9yIFlvdSB3aXRoIE1vcmUgTGluawRwa2cDNzc3NWRkZGQtNjRhOC0zNTZkLTg1YmYtMThjYzc2MDUwMjRkBHBvcwM4BHNlYwNuZXdzX2Zvcl95b3UEdmVyA2Q1OTgyZjQwLTJmM2MtMTFlMi1iYmRkLWQxZTUxY2M4NWI3Zg--;_ylg=X3oDMTM1YzI4MzNpBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDYWM5YzJiYTctOGQzYy0zNzFmLWJjYTItYzQyZGQyNGY3YmI1BHBzdGNhdANwb2xpdGljc3x0aGV0aWNrZXQEcHQDc3RvcnlwYWdl;_ylv=3

1)  Is the USA hypocritical in its attacks on other countries' human rights records?  Why or why not?

2)  Does the Congress have the right to criticize the actions of other governments?

New York City's "Stop-and-Frisk" Policy

Many foreign students believe that the USA is the "land of freedom" and that this extends to the way the police interact with people.  However, the Mayor of New York City and NY City's Police Chief have established a very controversial policy which many New Yorkers object to.  It is called "stop-and-frisk."

Basically, if a police officer feels that a person might be a criminal, or if the police officer feels the person might be acting suspiciously, he can stop the person and "frisk" him or her.  "Frisking" also goes on at airports where security guards run their hands over a person's body to try to detect any type of weapon.

So the police in NY City have the authority to stop ANYONE at any time and frisk him/her, supposedly if the person looks suspicious.  It is up to the police officer to determine what "suspicious" means.

Here is an article about the "stop-and-frisk" policy.

1)  How do you feel about this policy?  Do you think the police have the right to stop a person just because they think he "might" be a criminal or that he "seems" to be acting suspiciously?

2)  Does this happen in your home country?

3)  Did you know that this occurs in New York City? Does this change your perception of America and its freedoms?

4)  Why do you think the city is doing this?  Do you think this can be an effective way to stop
people from carrying weapons?

5)  An opponent of this policy states that it is wasteful of resources and that the police should be doing something more meaningful.  How do you feel about that?

6)  How would you feel if you were just walking down the street and a police officer demanded that you put your arms against a wall so he could frisk you?

7)  Do you think that this policy helps or hurts the relationship between the police and common people?

8)  Most of the people stopped and frisked are Black and Latino.  Do you think that "stop-and-frisk" is a racist policy?

9)  Only a small number of weapons have been found through this policy.  Is the policy worth all the effort? - over 1,000 people are frisked every day and hardly any weapons are found.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Jocks" Protect High School Girl From Bullying

In American schools, bullying used to be openly tolerated by teachers and school administrators.  Basically, if a boy was being bullied, teachers would blame him for being "weak" and for not "standing up for himself."  This was the attitude even though virtually all bullies pick on students who are not as physically strong as they are.

This attitude was forced to change, somewhat, after the Columbine High School shootings.

Apparently two boys became upset by the constant bullying they faced from "jocks" (athletes) and planned a vindictive shooting spree as a result.

The following article shows that bullying still seems to be a problem in US high schools,  although in this case the "jocks" are protecting a young woman from being bullied.

1)  How bad is bullying in your home country's schools?

2)  What do teachers and administrators do about bullying in your home country?

3)  What do you think should be done about bullying?

4)  In the above article, members of the school's football team have to protect a young woman from bullies.  Do you think this is necessary?  What do you think of a school administration where the football team has to protect students and not staff or teachers?


Yes, I'm the guy who caused the "scandal" in Asia two years ago :P

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, November 5, 2012

Why The Poor Are Ignored In America

About 15% of individuals in America can be classified as "poor."  In some places, poverty is worse than in others. 

For instance, in New York City it is estimated that 1 out of 5 children are born into poverty.  There are 8 million New Yorkers and about 1.8 million receive "food-stamps," coupons for free food from supermarkets.

A person would think that eliminating poverty in America would be a priority for politicians.  However, in this presidential campaign, neither Obama nor Romney spent much time, if any, speaking about the poor.

Here is an EXCELLENT article explaining why the poor are ignored in America.

1)  What are the basic reasons, according to this article, as to why the poor are ignored, especially during presidential elections?

2)  How do you feel about this? 

3)  How is poverty addressed in your home country?

4) Do you think there is a link between racism in America and poverty?

5)  The article states that in America, if you are poor, you are usually blamed for being poor.  It is somehow "your fault" that you are poor.  How do you feel about this attitude?

6)  What do you think should be done?  Should the poor be ignored or should there be another "War on Poverty?" 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Female "Masturbation" Bar Opens in Tokyo

Apparently there is a stigma against female masturbation in some cultures.  Indeed, there has been a stigma against women even enjoying sex with a partner in many cultures.

In some cultures women are not only discouraged from viewing sex as something pleasurable, but female "circumcision" is practiced to ensure that the female clitoris is surgically removed so that women cannot even have sexual pleasure.

In Tokyo a "masturbation" bar has been opened so that women can come to a place where they can freely discuss sexual issues with other women and shop for sex toys which they can use on themselves to help themselves achieve orgasm.  If a woman can easily achieve an orgasm by herself, through masturbation, it becomes easier to have orgasms with sexual partners.  The owners of the bar might even argue that achieving an orgasm by oneself is sufficient.

1)  Why do you think there is a stigma against female masturbation?  Why isn't there a stigma against male masturbation?

2)  Do you think this type of bar is needed? If so, is it needed everywhere, or just some countries?

3)  Why do you think some women feel such a bar is necessary in Japan?  Do you think these bars
are more necessary in Asia, where women are just starting to really experience full equality with men?

4)  Would you go to this type of bar?  Why or why not?

5)  Do you like this concept or do you think it is silly or ridiculous?

6)  Why do you think some people might object to such a bar?

7)  Do you think there should be sex education classes in college which teach about attaining sexual pleasure (instead of the academic approach to human sexuality)?

Brasilian "Virgin" Auctions Her Body For A Charity

A Brasilian young woman has promised to have sex with a Japanese guy who "bought" the right to have sex with her through internet bidding.

Many people around the world are shocked by her action, but she claims that she will be using the money (over $700,000) to help build homes for poor people. 

Here's one article, please judge for yourself:

1)  There is a common philosophical or ethical debate:  does the end justify the means?  Or, is it right to pursue a "good" goal through "unethical" ways?  What do you think?

2)  The woman claims she is not a prostitute because she is only going to do this one time.  But the definition of a prostitute is a woman who sells her body for money.  What do you think?

3)  In general, do you approve or disapprove of what this woman is doing?

4)  In the USA, some young women work as strippers or take other types of jobs in the sex industry to pay for their college tuition.  How do you feel about this?

5)  If someone offered to provide $700,000 to a charity of your choice, on the condition that you have sex with that person, would you do it?