Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Does McDonalds sell 'junk' food?

The CEO (Chief Executive Officer - the top person/leader at McDonalds) claims that they do not sell 'junk food.'  He claims that all of the ingredients of the food at McDonalds are 'real' ingredients. 

What do you think? To be honest with you, I stopped eating at McDonalds a long time ago.  I am not sure they care about my health.

The article:


junk food - junk means garbage. Junk food would be food that does not provide nutrition or food that can be used effectively by the body.  'Waste' food might also be a term for 'junk' food.

fast-food chain - a chain is a group of stores using the same brand name. McDonalds is a famous chain of food stores.  KFC is another.

shareholders - people who have invested money in McDonalds.  They placed their money  into McDonalds by buying McDonalds' stock.

an option - a choice

obesity - fatness.  If a person is obese, he/she is FAT, really fat.

epidemic - an epidemic is when a health problem is out of control.  There is an obesity epidemic in America because there are too many fat people and the number of fat people is growing every year.  An epidemic is, basically, a bad health situation that keeps getting worse. AIDs is a kind of epidemic in Africa.

This sentence in the article is written in REALLY bad English.  It doesn't make any sense:

"My medical and public health colleagues the world over have repeatedly acknowledged the science I think McDonald’s-style fast food and the fast food practices to the decline in children’s health and McDonald’s has yet to make substitute changes," the doctor, Andrew Bremer, said to Thompson. 

I think the sentence should be:  My medical and public health colleagues (co-workers) the world over have repeatedly (over and over again) acknowledged the scientific fact that McDonalds harms children.  I think McDonalds style fast food and the fast food practices are leading to a decline (decrease) in children's health and McDonald's doesn't care and isn't changing anything. 

Vocabulary Review for "Cambodian workers were harmed..."

The following vocabulary words come from this article (please review the definitions from this link before doing the exercise):

Words to be used:

minimum wage, to decline to, to collapse
a clash, to account for, a strike,
a protest, a coffin, to be deployed

Vocabulary exercise (answers are below the exercise):

1)  Right now the US government has US soldiers _______________ in over 100 countries around the world.

2)  If we want to stimulate the economy, perhaps we should raise the __________________ law.  $7.25/hr. is way too low.  If people made more money, they would spend more and more goods and services would be needed.

3)  In the movies, Dracula, or other vampires, usually have to be inside their ____________ by daybreak, or they will finally die.

4)  There was a _____________ between protesters and police near Wall Street last year, when young people were protesting the unequal distribution of wealth in the USA (as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement).

5)  Although Bob invited his old friend to attend his wedding anniversary party, Joe ____________ come because he still felt angry with Bob over a negative situation that had happened years before.

6)  The Vietnam War was one of the most foolish wars that the USA ever got involved in.  In the late 1960s thousands of young people began to ____________ the war, and thankfully this lead to the US government removing troops from Vietnam.

7)  Last month over 1,000 people died at a factory in Bangladesh because the roof was too weak and it ________________.

8)  Internet and computer companies are beginning to _________________ a larger and larger portion of the money generated in the US economy.

9)  Only if workers become truly dissatisfied do they seem to ________________.  Nobody wants to stop working and start losing wages unless he/she really has to.

Answers are below:


1) deployed
2) minimum wage
3) coffins
4) clash
5) declined to
6) protest
7) collapsed
8) account for
9) strike

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Some astronomers have developed the oldest 'map' of the universe

So some astronomers have been able to determine what the universe looked like about 400,000 years after the 'big bang'.  The 'big bang' is what astronomers call the beginning of the universe - when something happened and the universe began to expand (get larger) from a single point in space and time. 

They still can't answer the questions:

How could something come from nothing? Or:  How could something always have existed?

So astronomers seem to be excited that they can learn a lot more about how the universe expanded.  Greater satisfaction would come from answering the two questions above.

Here's a funny rhyme:

How could something come from nothing? 
How could something always be?
It's the riddle you can't answer...
It's the answer you can't see.

The article:

Workers were harmed after protesting at a Nike factory in Cambodia

Many major US companies have built their factories in developing countries because they can pay lower wages than they would have to pay if they had their factories in the USA. 

They claim that they are helping other countries to develop economically, but the workers are paid outrageously (crazy) low salaries.

In Cambodia many workers held a protest due to the terribly low wages they were receiving.  The police were called in and attacked the (women) protesters with sticks that cause electric shocks to the victims.  (I don't think I'll ever buy anything from Nike again.)

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a clash - a conflict, when two different groups fight against each other.  This, however, did not seem to be a 'clash.'  This seemed to be an 'attack' by the police.  The women did not have weapons, but the police had weapons and were dressed in 'riot gear.'

a stun baton - a baton is a long, thick wooden stick.  To stun someone is to shock someone.  Apparently scientists have made such batons that have electrical charges and which can be used to give people electric shocks.

a protest - this is when a group of people do not believe they are being treated well or when a group of people disagree with something, and they gather together to publicly express that they are upset.

a coffin - this is the wooden box into which a dead body (a corpse) is placed

a trade union - this is an organization of workers that tries to defend the rights of the workers

riot gear - a riot is when a protest becomes violent.  "gear" is any type of equipment that can be worn over clothing.  Riot gear is protective stuff the police wear over their clothing (like helmets and bullet-proof vests).

to be deployed - to be sent to do a job

blocked a road - stopped anyone from being able to travel on that road

accounted for - made up.  Exports of clothing make up 75% of Cambodia's economy.

a strike - this is when workers refuse to work.

a warehouse - a place where goods or products are stored (kept) until they can be sent to retailers (stores where the goods can be sold).

it fell in on them - the roof fell on top of them

to collapse - to fall down

to stage a strike or protest - to have a strike or protest

at the plant - plant is also a term for factory

minimum wage - the lowest amount that a government allows an employer to pay an employee.  In the USA minimum wage is $7.25/hr. (which is very low).  The amount that workers are paid in developing countries, through minimum wage) is outrageously low.

to decline to comment - refused, wouldn't comment

Conversation/writing topics: 

Do you think that companies like Nike are helping poorer countries to develop, or are they just using the workers to make money?

Before you buy any type of 'brand' item, do you think about where the item might have been made?  Would you refuse to buy an item if you knew the workers were being treated badly?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Vocabulary Exercise For: Riots in Sweden

The vocabulary words are taken from this article (please review the definitions of the words at this link before doing the exercise):

Words to be used:

to beef up, a suburb, a riot,
to abate, to vandalize, to hurl,
to be sparked by, to confirm, ambivalence,
to swell, looting, to be deprived,


1)  In the story of David and Goliath, David is able to ___________ a stone at a giant and kill him, thus saving his own army from defeat (losing a battle).

2)  During riots, young people often express their outrage (extreme anger) by ______________ various buildings around town.  Often they will break windows or set buildings on fire.

3)  The pain in my back would not go away until my doctor prescribed some very strong medication.  Slowly but surely the pain began to ____________ until finally it disappeared.

4)  Although my new website was not receiving many views, once people started recommending it to their friends and information about it started to spread, I noticed that the number of views began to _____________.

5)  When people argue about controversial issues, they rarely show a sense of ________________.  In regard to abortion, capital punishment and gay marriage, people usually have very strong and well-defined beliefs.

6)  One of the most famous ___________ in America happened in 1993 in Los Angeles.  After police officers were found 'not-guilty' of beating a black man, many black people took to the streets and began burning cars and buildings.

7)  Whenever there is an increase in crime in a city, the city government will usually try to ________________ its police presence.  This is often a short-term solution - a long term solution might be to try to eliminate poverty and violent neighborhoods in the city.

8)  When I was younger my parents seriously thought of moving from Chicago to a nearby ______________.  The thought of living away from the city horrified me, and they stayed in the city for my benefit.

9)  The divorce between my friend and his wife was _______________ by the fact that his wife was seeing another guy.

10)  It seems that the more economically ______________ a neighborhood is, the more violence there will be there.

11) After natural disasters in America, there always seems to be _____________; people take advantage of the situation to break into stores to steal things.

12)  Although Bob claimed that Joe had stolen his smartphone at school, the police were not able to ________________ that this happened, and they did nothing to help Bob.

Answers are below:


1) hurl
2) vandalizing
3) abate
4) swell
5) ambivalence
6) riots
7) beef up
8) suburb
9) sparked
10) deprived
11) looting
12) confirm

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Riots in Sweden

To many people around the world, Sweden seems like an ideal (perfect) place to live.  Unfortunately, it looks as if there has been growing unemployment among young people, and there are tensions (troubles) between native-born Swedes and immigrants. 

There have been riots for the past 6 days in this country.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:
Please read through the vocabulary before you read the article. :)

a community patrol - a group of members of a neighborhood/community who travel around the neighborhood to try to help people or to report problems to the police.

a beefed up presence - to beef something up is to strengthen something.  So this is a stronger police presence. 'to be present' means to be there...'present' is the opposite of 'absent' 

cars were torched - set on fire.  Cars were set on fire or started on fire.

a suburb - an area just outside of a city.  In the past wealthy (rich) people used to live in suburbs.  Now the trend is for rich people to live in cities and for poor people to be pushed out into the suburbs (although some wealthy people still live out there).

a riot - this is a violent form of protest.  A riot is when people go crazy and begin to destroy things because they are upset about something.

to abate -  to lessen.  To get less worse.

masked youths - youths wearing masks to conceal (hide) their identities.

to vandalize something - this is when public or private property is deliberately destroyed (destroyed on purpose). 

setting cars alight - starting cars on fire

to hurl a stone - to throw a stone

taking to the streets - going out into the streets

fluorescent jackets - jackets that can be easily seen because they are bright

residents - people who live there

to keep your eyes open - to be alert, watchful

to be engaged - to be involved, aware

to torch a police station - to set it on fire

the rioting was sparked by - started by

they stormed his apartment - they forced their way in without any prior notice

to confirm something - to verify it, to indicate it is true

a model welfare state - a state that is a model to others is a state that others wish to emulate (imitate).  A welfare state is a state that provides many free services to people.

a fault-line between the wealthy and the poor - a fault-line is literally a line where an earthquake starts.  Here they mean a 'problem' that divides the rich and poor.

underscoring - highlighting, showing

ambivalence - uncertainty; so basically the article is saying that Sweden is divided in regard to its immigration policies.  On the one hand it allows many people to enter the country.  On the other hand, many people in Sweden oppose this and have formed a political party to protest the policy.

third in the polls - 3rd place in the recent voting

its ranks might swell - the number of people in this party might rise because many people will become upset with immigrants as a result of these riots.

far-right - very conservative, very anti-immigrant.

it echoes riots in Paris and London - it is like those riots, but more 'mild' - not as severe.

looting - this is when people break into stores and steal stuff during riots or natural disasters

social safety net - protections from the government for people who are in need

center-right rule has chipped away at it - some free programs have been eliminated by the new government, which is more conservative than previous Swedish governments.  To chip away at something is to cut away at something hard to remove parts of it.  A sculptor chips away at stone to create a work of art.

deprived - lacking stuff.  A deprived neighborhood is a neighborhood that doesn't have jobs or stuff that might be needed to make life comfortable. Economically deprived means poor.

asylum seekers - people who seek safety in Sweden because living in their home countries is dangerous.

war-torn countries - places where wars are happening

a gap - a divide, a division, a space between two things
Discussion/Writing Question:

Sweden seems to have a very liberal immigration policy. They take people into the
country freely.  However, many young immigrants are unemployed and some of them
spent the past 5 days burning schools in Sweden.
What do you think the real problems might be in regard to Sweden's immigration policy?  Do you think the country is probably doing a good job once immigrants arrive?  If not, what should Sweden do?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Vocabulary Exercise Based On: Some NY School Children Were Forced To Do An Exercise Based on A Slave-Owner's Perspective

The posting from which these vocabulary words were taken is here (you can find the definitions of the words here):

Words to be used (answers are below the exercise):

to be based on something, a curriculum, common sense
to be appalled by something, inappropriate, nonchalant
to be ticked off by something, a whistleblower, to haggle over

{By the way: to be ticked off by something means you are a little upset. To be appalled by something means you are shocked.}


In some foreign countries there are no price tags on products sold in markets.  People are expected to ________________ the price of the item.  In America, most people dislike this type of negotiation - they want to see a price tag and will either accept or reject that final offer.

In the 1800s a man named Horace Mann worked hard to create a public school system in the United States.  He thought this would help ensure equality of opportunity for everyone.  A central aspect of his public school system idea was to have a uniform _____________, or, in other words, to make sure that every child in the system studied the same educational materials. (uniform means 'the same')

By the expression on Bob's face I could see that he had been _______________ by someone of something.  It turned out that a clerk at a Starbucks had been rude to him and he was a little upset.

Although it is _______________ that a person should carry an umbrella when it rains, Bob just hated carrying an umbrella. Therefore, the last time it rained he got soaked and caught a cold.

Many visitors to New York City are _________________ how dirty and disgusting the subway system is.  It is a very old and ugly system that often runs unpredictably.

The current economic policies that the Obama administration is using seem to be ___________________ the suggestions made by John Maynard Keynes to president Roosevelt in the 1930s.

Although women have gained a great deal of equality to men in America, they are still sometimes subjected to ________________ comments about their beauty or sexiness by male workers.  This is sometimes called 'sexual harassment' in America.

Often when an honest person sees something wrong and complains about it, the wrongdoer will try to get revenge against the ___________________.  There are now laws in America that attempt to protect these concerned and honest people from the reprisals (revenge) of those who are guilty.

Bob was an easy-going guy who smiled a lot and who was quite friendly.  Yet, despite his apparently _______________ attitude, he was a hard worker who never missed a deadline.

Answers are below:


1. haggle over
2. curriculum
3. ticked off
4. common sense
5. appalled by
6. based on
7. inappropriate
8. whistleblower
9. nonchalant

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Vocabulary Exercise for "Where Are America's Poor People Going?"

The vocabulary words were taken from this posting (definitions of the words can be found here):

Words to be used:

a suburb, ill-equipped, to handle
a surge, to plummet, segregated
integrated, to skyrocket, a voucher

Exercise (answers are below):

1) During the Great Depression, which began in 1929, unemployment in America ________________ from 6% to 25%.

2)  In the 1970s and 1980s, many upper middle class families decided to move to the _______________ because the cities were considered too dangerous.  Now the trend is reversing and people from the upper middle class are flooding the cities of America.

3)  In order to try to end the Iraq War, George Bush initiated (started) a troop ___________.  He sent a huge number of new soldiers to Iraq.  Apparently the strategy worked and now US soldiers have been steadily leaving Iraq.

4)  The City of New York seemed ________________ for the terrorist attack on 9/11/2001.  For instance, there was an emergency center which the city had created for a potential disaster, but the center was located at the World Trade Center Building and was made useless by the attack.

5)  There is a saying in America:  The people of the USA are never more segregated than on Sunday.  This means that in America there are very few racially _______________ churches.  Many Christian churches are either filled with all white or all black worshippers.

6) Many conservative politicians believe that poor families should be given school ______________. So instead of relying on the public school system, poor parents can use this system to pay tuition at private schools. 

7)  A good manager knows how to ______________ his staff fairly. 

8)  During the early 2000s, many internet stocks rose very quickly but then suddenly they all seemed to _______________ at the same time.  It turns out they were not worth as much money as investors had thought.

9)  The difference between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. was that Malcolm X did not trust the dominant white culture and wished for blacks to remain _________________ from whites.  He did not think it was a good idea for the races to mix.

Answers are below:


1) skyrocketed
2) suburbs
3) surge
4) ill-equipped
5) integrated
6) vouchers
7) handle
8) plummet
9) segregated
If you like art, you might like my new blog about artists who show their work in New York City:
Yes, I'm also the guy who created the scandal in Asia awhile ago. :P

Yes, I'm the guy who wrote the very funny ESL bookNew York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway.

If this page is useful to you, please buy the book (it's quite inexpensive and useful!!!!). If you don't have an e-reader, drop me a line at and I'll send you a free copy via Word file. Let me know whether you have Word 2010 or an earlier version.

Where are America's poor people going?

Over the past 12 years New York City's mayor has been creating policies making it very difficult for poor people to survive in New York City.  Rents have increased, jobs in the manufacturing industry have completely disappeared, taxes have increased and prices for common items (like food) have skyrocketed (risen sharply). It seems to have been this mayor's deliberate (chosen) policy to force more and more poor people out of the city.

One of the benefits of this is that the violent crime rate in New York City has dropped. (That's obvious - if you flood a city {fill a city} with wealthy people, there will be less violent crime.) The mayor and the police often take credit for the dropping crime rate, but it is a matter of economics and not police policy.  So a person might say, "Well, it's good for New York City that the crime rate is dropping. This is a good policy!"  Yet, it is becoming difficult for non-wealthy (non-rich) people to live here and where do the poor people go?  Can't something be done in New York City to help poor people live more meaningful lives instead of just pushing them out?

When I explain to my private students that poor people are being pushed out of New York City, they ask me where they go.  I didn't know until I read these two articles.

Vocabulary (for the first article):

a suburb - suburbs were created in America in the 1950s.  Basically they were smaller cities/towns, located outside of major cities, for middle class and upper middle class (primarily white) families.  Did you ever see Desperate Housewives?  Those women live in a suburb.  Within the past few years many wealthier people have been moving back into the cities of America (where the jobs are and where life is exciting) and poorer people have been moving out to the suburbs.

ill-equipped - the suburbs are ill-equipped means they are not ready and do not have the resources or services to help poor people

to handle the surge - a surge is a sudden increase of something.  The suburbs are not ready to deal with or provide help for the huge numbers of poor people who are coming into the suburbs: they cannot handle the surge.

affordable - at a reasonable price.

service sector jobs - these are jobs in which you provide a service.  In this case, since the poor will probably not have formal educational backgrounds, they might serve as clerks in stores or as waiters/waitresses.

housing vouchers - these are "vouchers" or forms that state that the government will provide some money for the person's housing costs.  A voucher is basically a type of money from the government.

housing prices plummeted - to plummet means to drop suddenly and sharply.  Skyrocket would be the opposite of plummet.

The myth of suburban prosperity has been a stubborn one - there is a myth, or false belief, that the suburbs are only for people who are wealthy (have a lot of money).  This is not true. Prosperity: If you prosper, you do well.  Prosperity means doing well, making money, living comfortably.

segregated - kept apart.  In many American cities poor people and rich people are segregated from each other.  Integrated is the opposite of segregated.

use to hand groceries to - grammar mistake --> used to

to skyrocket - to rise suddenly.  The opposite of plummet.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Vocabulary Review from "North Korea" Article

Here's a vocabulary review exercise from this previous article:
Please review the vocabulary words at this link before doing the exercise.

Words to be used (two words are used twice):

to stem from, a sanction, hostility
to retaliate, imminent, a double-standard
to ban, billowing, to resemble
apparent, a PR stunt, provocative


1)  These days, many parents are concerned because performers like Lady Gaga and Rhianna try to make their songs and music videos as sexually _______________ as possible, to draw attention to themselves and to sell their music. This sends the wrong message to young people about women and interpersonal relationships. 

2)  Although there will probably be immigration reform (changes) in the USA, the changes are not ________________.  The new laws will probably not be passed until next year and it will take some time before the laws can take effect.

3)  The mayor of New York City tried passing a law making it illegal for fast-food establishments (like McDonalds) to sell very large containers of soda.  This _____________ of large soft drinks, however, was ruled "unconstitutional" by a judge (the judge decided that it is a person's right to drink whatever he wants to drink).

4)  The novels of Dostoyevsky are among the most _______________ novels ever written.  They cause you to think, feel a variety of emotions and even become angry at times. 

5)  The current world financial crisis _________________ a terrible decision by the US Congress to force banks in the USA to loan money to people who had bad credit histories.  Obviously these people were not be able to pay back their loans, and so they defaulted (were officially not able to pay the loans back) and banks lost billions of dollars.

6)  Many of the world's great religions teach that if a person harms us, we should not __________________.

7)  The Macy's Thanksgiving Parade is one of the largest parades in the world and, of course, takes place on the American holiday of Thanksgiving each year.  Tens of millions of Americans watch this parade on TV and about a million people show up in downtown Manhattan to see it.  Therefore, it is a huge ________________ stunt by Macy's, which generates lots of publicity and new customers.

8)  Don't you think the world should be concerned about whether the nation of Iran acquires nuclear weapons?  Most people would think so, but how can we stop that government from doing so?  Israel would like to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, but the Obama administration prefers to use economic ________________.

9)  On 9/11/2001, I was teaching in the Bronx.  Indeed, The Bronx is quite far from where the World Trade Center attacks occurred.  Yet, even from the Bronx I could the smoke ________________ up into the sky from lower Manhattan on that day.

10)  There was an immense (strong) feeling of ______________ between the US and Soviet governments during the Cold War (1945 to 1989), but, thankfully, another World War in Europe did not occur.

11)  The pain in Bob's back ______________ an accident he had had 3 years ago.

12)  In some countries, young men are required to do military service.  Many of these young men feel that there is a _______________ involved in this situation.  Women and men might have equal rights in their country, but only the men are expected to make a two year sacrifice for their society.

13)  Three women had inexplicably (without explanation) disappeared in the city of Cleveland 10 years ago.  It suddenly became ______________, however, that these women had been kidnapped (captured) and held as prisoners in a man's house.  This was realized one day when one woman was able to scream for help, and was heard by a neighbor who took action to save her and the others.

14)  Bob's brother looks more like his father while Bob tends to _____________ his mother more.

Answers are way below:

Keeping going down please:

Father, please:

OK, here they are:


1) provocative
2) imminent
3) ban
4) provocative
5) stems from
6) retaliate
7) PR stunt (here's a good web site of PR stunts:
(the peanut protest is my favorite!!!!! so creative!)
8) sanctions
9) billowing
10) hostility
11)  stemmed from
12) double standard
13) apparent
14) resemble

Friday, May 17, 2013

Vocabulary Review for "Japanese Politicians...War Shrine"

This vocabulary review is from this article:

Words to be used:

to pledge, a memorial, an outcry
a protest, to elaborate, an atrocity
a landmark decision, to be convicted, a symbol


1)  Brown vs. The Board of Education was a ____________________ by the US Supreme Court, which made it illegal for a public school system to prevent African American students from attending schools with white students.

2)  When Coca Cola tried to change the formula of its drink a few years ago, there was an ______________ and many people pledged that they would not drink the new version.

3)  The American Eagle is the official ____________ of the United States of America.  It holds arrows in one claw and an olive branch in the other.  What does this mean?  Basically it means that the US wishes to have peace with other countries, but will fight if necessary. (a 'claw' is a bird's foot)

4)  Recently many organizations around the USA raised a lot of money so that a ______________ could be built to honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights activist.

5)  Although Richard Nixon did many things that were morally wrong as president of the United States, he was never actually ______________ of a crime.

6) Hiroshima was a Japanese city which did not have any military purpose.  When the USA dropped an atomic bomb on that city, many innocent people died.  Yet, this has never been classified as an ________________ in history books, since the US government claimed it was necessary to drop the bomb to end the war quickly.

7)  When I went off to college, my parents _____________ that they would support me as well as they could financially, even though they were relatively poor.

8)  I didn't quite understand the plan fully.  It seemed to vague.  That's the reason why I asked him to ___________________.

9)  Many historians believe that the Vietnam War might have lasted longer if so many young Americans had not ______________ the war as being morally wrong.

Answers are below:

Farther down:


1) landmark decision
2) outcry
3) symbol
4) memorial
5) convicted
6) atrocity
7) pledged
8) elaborate
9) protested

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Vocabulary Review for "Taiwan and The Philippines"

This vocabulary review is from this article:
Please review the vocabulary at this link before doing the exercise.

Words to be used:

a dispute, a rift, to oscillate,
to implement,  compensation, sloppy
tension, to impose sanctions, aviation


1) Although Howard Hughes was a movie producer, he became famous because of his feats (amazing actions) in the field of ______________.  For instance, he built one of the largest airplanes ever: The Spruce Goose.

2) Although Japan and Korean are allies and normally have friendly relations, the dispute over the island the Koreans call Dokdo and the Japanese call Takeshima has created a ___________ in relations between the two countries.

3)  If a person does a job for an employer, he/she is certainly entitled to a fair amount of ________________.

4) Scientists are still _____________ whether or not global warming is a fact or not with many conservative politicians.  The politicians claim that changes in global temperature are natural and are not due to carbon emissions.

5)  I used to like Bob, until I learned that he had been gossiping about me.  He knows that I know that he was gossiping, so now, every time I see him, there is a great amount of ______________ between us.

6) Joe couldn't make up his made. He kept ____________ between going back to graduate school and staying at a job he didn't like.

7) The current educational strategy to help poorer students do as well as wealthier students has not worked. It is time we ____________ a new policy in which we helped lower income families make more money to provide their children with better lives, and then better educations.

8)  Bob was a genius.  But, when Bob showed up for his job interview, he looked really ___________. His suit was wrinkled, there was a stain on his tie and the employer did not want to hire someone who looked like a slob (a slob is a messy, dirty person).

9) Whenever North Korea does something terrible, the USA tries to __________________ against North Korea in the United Nations.  Unfortunately, this has not changed the attitude of the government there.

Answers are below:

Keep going down please"

Farther down:

Here they are:

The answers:

1. aviation
2. rift
3. compensation
4. disputing
5. tension
6. oscillating
7  implemented
8. sloppy
9. impose sanctions
If you like art, you might like my new blog about artists who show their work in New York City:
Yes, I'm also the guy who created the scandal in Asia awhile ago. :P

Yes, I'm the guy who wrote the very funny ESL bookNew York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway.

If this page is useful to you, please buy the book (it's quite inexpensive and useful!!!!). If you don't have an e-reader, drop me a line at and I'll send you a free copy via Word file. Let me know whether you have Word 2010 or an earlier version.

Tension between Taiwan and The Philippines

A hot issue between many East Asian countries has been who owns which islands which lie between the various countries.  This is an especially divisive (dividing/separating) issue among the various countries. 

Recently when the government of Japan 'purchased' an island from individuals who had been living there (in an attempt to stop extreme Japanese nationalists from purchasing the island), the Chinese government became irate (very angry) and there were many protests in China against Japan.  Many Japanese businesses were vandalized (the property was destroyed or damaged) and many Chinese people stopped buying Japanese goods. 

A famous example of a heated disagreement concerning islands has been Korea's claim that it owns an island which it calls Dokdo, but which Japan claims to own and which it calls Takeshima.  The instance above concerns islands China refers to as the Diaoyu Islands while Japan refers to the same islands as being a part of their territory, calling them the Senaku Islands.

Sometimes three or more Asian countries can be involved in disputes concerning various islands that lie between the various countries.  Some islands seem to be claimed by Vietnam, The Philippines, China and Taiwan at the same time.

Recently a Filipino sailor from the Philippine Coast Guard did the unthinkable - he shot a 65 year old Taiwanese fisherman and killed him.  Here is a photo of the man who was shot. The person next to the photo is the president of Taiwan.

Even though the Philippines finally issued an apology, the government of Taiwan does not seem satisfied.  It could be that the government of Taiwan is using this situation for political purposes now, but it also seems necessary for Taiwan to take strong action to make sure this does not happen again.

The article:

Vocabulary with simple definitions:

tension - stress; there might be a feeling of tension between two people if they don't like each other or if they disagree with each other.

a dispute - a disagreement

to impose sanctions - if one country imposes sanctions on another, it provides some type of economic punishment in regard to the other country.  "To impose on" means "to force on." A 'sanction' is a type of punishment.

a rift - a separation, a disagreement that moves two groups or people farther apart

the initiation - the beginning

oscillating - changing directions; if one oscillates a lot, one changes his/her mind a lot

a visa waiver program - a waiver means that something normally required will not be required.  For instance, in the USA, if a student is too poor to pay for an SAT test, the testing company will waive his fee.  So a visa waiver program is a program that waives the need for a visa to enter a country.

bilateral - it affects both sides

aviation - flying

to implement - to start something, to put something in place

compensation - a monetary (money)  amount given to someone

sincerity - you are sincere if you really mean something, if you are genuine about something

sloppy - messy, not organized.  If a person is wearing sloppy clothing, the clothing is not neat, and does not look nice because it hasn't been taken care of.  If a person is a sloppy eater, food might fall out of his mouth as he/she eats.


1) What do you think the Philippines should do in this matter?  Initially they claimed the fishing boat was deliberately interfering with their Coast Guard ship.

2)  Do you think Taiwan is making a big deal out of this situation?

If you like art, you might like my new blog about artists who show their work in New York City:
Yes, I'm also the guy who created the scandal in Asia awhile ago. :P

Yes, I'm the guy who wrote the very funny ESL bookNew York City Sucks, But You'll Wanna Live Here Anyway.

If this page is useful to you, please buy the book (it's quite inexpensive and useful!!!!). If you don't have an e-reader, drop me a line at and I'll send you a free copy via Word file. Let me know whether you have Word 2010 or an earlier version.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Vocabulary Review for "Russian NGOs"

This vocabulary review comes from this article:
Please review the vocabulary before doing the exercise.

Answers are below the exercise.

Words to be used:

to crackdown on, controversial, an activist
to assure, to enforce, to cast suspicion on
to meddle in, treason

Verbs can be used in various tenses.

1) Although there are laws against restaurants using illegal immigrants as waiters and other staff members, these laws are never _______________. A huge proportion of restaurants in New York City use less expensive illegals as staff members and waitstaff.

2)  Benedict Arnold is the person most Americans would think of when you mention the
word ________________.  He was a General for the American army during the Revolution, but switched sides and joined the English.

3)  Many countries around the world felt that President George Bush ______________ in the affairs of other countries too often.  They welcomed Obama's approach of trying to keep the US out of the affairs of other nations.

4)  Because there was too much litter (garbage) being thrown onto subway tracks, the police decided to ________________ on litterbugs (this is a term for people who litter - who throw little pieces of garbage on the street or subway tracks).  Police began actively looking for litterbugs and giving them severe fines.

5)  The fact that Joe had had a fight with his roommate two nights previous to the roommate's disappearance __________________ on Joe.  The police needed to ask him some questions.

6)  The issue of gay marriage was quite ______________, with many people supporting it and many opposing it.  Now that it is legal in New York, however, people have forgotten the issue and don't seem to care any more.

7)  When I bought the used laptop I was ____________ that it was in good condition and that it had not been used much in the past.  However, the hard drive soon died.

8)  Mike considered himself to be a "good-government" _______________. When he saw instances of corruption or dishonesty at his government office, he reported this to the proper authorities.

Answers are below:

A little farther please:
/Here they are:


1) enforced
2) treason
3) meddled
4) crackdown
5) cast suspicion
6) controversial
7) assured
8) activist

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Should Russian NGOs Register as Foreign Agents If They Receive US Donations?

Last year the US Congress passed a law preventing Russian lawmakers from coming to the USA if the lawmakers are considered to have engaged in "human rights" violations.  The law is called The Magnitsky Act.  Magnitsky was a Russian businessman who died in a Russian jail in 2009.

The Russian Government has accused the US Congress and President Obama of merely playing politics and not showing a concern for human rights.  In retaliation (revenge, as a consequence) Vladimir Putin passed a law preventing US families from adopting Russian babies.

The diplomatic situation between Russia and the USA does not seem to be getting better.

Recently the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, traveled to Russia and spoke to individuals who were involved with Russian NGOs (non-governmental organizations).  Usually such organizations do charitable or social-service work in a country.

The Russian government has passed a law requiring Russian NGOs to register with the state as "foreign agents" if the NGOs receive foreign money and if the NGOs are involved in political activities (and not purely charitable activities).

Apparently many organizations from the USA donate to Russian NGOs and therefore Kerry visited with these NGOs and met with officials from the Russian government, apparently to try to resolve any difficulties.

The Russian government does not believe that foreign countries should be allowed to influence Russian politics, while Kerry and the NGOs seem to be arguing that the Russian government just wants to stop political opponents from gaining power. 

Is the USA trying to secretly influence Russian politics or is Vladimir Putin trying to stop organizations that oppose his policies from gaining power?

The article:

Vocabulary from the article:

a crackdown - this is when a government begins to take serious action against something they feel is illegal or wrong.

to mount - to increase.  Mounting pressure means increasing pressure.  A Mounting crackdown means increasing action by the government to stop something.

controversial - a controversial topic is something people like to argue about.

an activist - someone who tries to change something for the better in his society.

to assure someone - to make it clear to someone that you care and will try to help them. To reassure. To try to convince someone that something will happen. i.e. I assure you that I will be able to meet you at 3pm tomorrow.  Please don't worry!

legal pressure - legal pressure is legal force being applied to these organizations.

a civil war - a war within a country.

to enforce - to make sure that the laws are obeyed and that people who break the laws will be punished.

vaguely defined political activities -  not clearly defined.  So the author of the article is trying to make it seem as if the Russian government has not established a clear definition of what a political activity might be.

to register - to declare that you are doing something to the government; to fill out a form stating you are doing something.

foreign agents - people who work for a foreign government or source; people who are assisting some foreign source.

to recall - to remember, to remind

Soviet-era propaganda -  propaganda is information provided by a government to make the government look good or to make the government's enemies look bad.  To be honest, this article looks like propaganda to make the US government look good and the Russian government look bad.  Sometimes US news stories are 'biased' (prejudiced) toward the US government (they make the US government look good).  I don't know the complete truth about this situation, but I do know that the US government has gotten involved in the politics of many foreign countries in the past.

to cast suspicion on s/o- if you are suspicious of a person, you do not trust the person.  To cast suspicion on someone means to indicate you are suspicious of that person or organization.

undermining their credibility - to destroy their credibility.  To make it seem as if they are not believable.

interpretation - what a person believes or the conclusions a person draws from reading or seeing something.

a spy - someone who gathers information illegally for a foreign government.

to accuse s/o of s/t - to claim or state that someone did something wrong.

a front - a front organization is a 'fake' organization that is really serving a hidden purpose.  Putin claims that many of these NGOs are really just working for the US government.

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

to raid a group - to invade the group; to suddenly show up and investigate the group without the group's prior (previous) knowledge.

an election monitoring group - a group which tries to make sure that elections are fair.

to be fined - to be punished by being forced to pay a certain amount of money.

to appeal a court decision - to go to a higher court and ask that a decision be overturned (changed).

"Mind your own business!" - You hear this every once in awhile - it means, "Worry about your own things!  Do not worry about what I am doing!"

unduly - unfairly.

revisions - changes.

treason - when someone does something to harm his own society or government.

advocacy - if you advocate for something, you promote something or encourage people to believe or accept something.

a watchdog organization - an organization that watches how the government works and reports on illegal activities or corrupt (dishonest) activities.

a crane sanctuary - a crane is a type of bird with a long neck.  A sanctuary is a place where cranes can safely live.  So the author claims that a crane sanctuary - which is something non-political - was punished according to this new law.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Japanese Government Officials Will Continue Visiting A Controversial Shrine

Although World War II ended almost 70 years ago, various East Asian countries cannot forget some of the terrible things that happened.

For instance, many Koreans find it hard to forget that their country was occupied (Japanese soldiers had control of their land) from 1910 to 1945 and many Chinese cannot forget atrocities like Nanjing. (an atrocity is something horrible that happens involving the killing/murder of innocent people)

Here is an article about what the Japanese military did in Nanjing:

To many Americans, this attitude seems strange because the war ended so long ago.  Most, if not all of the people responsible for the war, are dead. Indeed, in Europe animosity (bad feelings) over World War II does not seem to exist.  It has become ancient history.

Many of my Asian students have different theories as to why World War II has not been forgotten in Asia.  Many of my Korean and Chinese students say that Japan never fully or sincerely apologized for what they did in the war.  Many of those students also claim that the war is not reported accurately (truthfully) in Japanese history books.  Some of my Japanese students, however, tell me that an apology was issued (given) but that there are political reasons as to why the war has not been forgotten.

One of the most controversial issues causing problems between Japan and China and Korea involves the Yasukuni War Shrine. 

Each year Japanese politicians visit the shrine to pay respect to the Japanese young men who died in World War II.  China and Korea object to this because they believe that many of the Japanese war dead committed terrible actions against people in China and Korea

(A controversial issue or topic is a topic that people like to argue about.  A shrine is like a holy or sacred place).

Here is a brief article stating that members of the Japanese government will continue to visit the shrine since they feel this is an "internal" Japanese matter.  Basically they are saying that every country has the right to do what it wants inside of itself.  If Japanese politicians want to honor their war dead, no other country has the right to tell them not to.

The article:

Vocabulary from the article:

to pledge - to promise.

a ruling party - the political party that has power currently.

a memorial - a place people go to remember something from the past.  In Brooklyn there is an amazing memorial to American soldiers who died in the 1770s and 80s in the Revolutionary War. Specifically, the memorial is for Americans who were taken prisoner by the English and who died on prison ships.  It's been a favorite place of mine to visit over the years.

the outcry - complaints; when people speak out against what they feel is wrong

protests - when people take action to show that they disapprove of some policy or action

a mass visit - many people visited at one time

convicted of war crimes - after WWII the USA held war-crimes trials and found 14 Japanese soldiers guilty.  These soldiers were convicted by an American court.

a symbol - something that represents something else

a past aggression - a warlike action taken in the past

to be colonized - America was colonized initially by England.  Colonization is when a stronger country takes land from a weaker country and tries to duplicate itself there.  To colonize a country is to take it over and to try to make it look like your own country to serve your own country.

to be vocal in condemning something - to be very loud about saying something is wrong

the principle of non-interference - a principle is a starting point or a basic belief that can be shared by many people.  In 1972 both countries agreed not to interfere in each other's internal affairs.

tremendous sufferings - it should be tremendous suffering.  Suffering is non-countable.

a landmark apology - a famous apology.

The policy chief said... - Basically this politician seems to be saying that Japan feared becoming a colony of Western countries and this was why Japan developed its military and attacked other countries.

to revise an apology - to change an apology

an atrocity - something horrible that involves the killing/murder of innocent people.  The term is usually used in relation to something horrible that happened in a war.

to elaborate - to add details. Without elaborating - without adding details.

post-war - after the war.  So Abe seems to be saying that he might agree that some Japanese soldiers or military leaders had been war criminals.


What do you think?  Does Japan have a right to honor its war dead?  Should China and Korea continue protesting this action each year?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Vocabulary Review: 9 Words from "Tools of Terrorism in The USA"

Here are nine highly useful words from the posting: Tools of Terrorism in The USA.

Here is the article:

Please test yourself on these words.  If you have trouble remembering the meanings of the words, please refer back to the article from last month.

Before I begin posting more articles, I want to do a few more vocabulary reviews. I think these reviews will really help you.

Words to be used:
(In this exercise, some words are used twice.)

to bolster, a hazard, resilient
incendiary, crude, to disrupt
an insurgent, passersby, vigilant 


1) Whenever we learn a new type of concept, at first we have a ____________ understanding of it; later we begin to see the concept more and more clearly and perfectly.

2)  This is at least a 12 person project, and we only have 8 staff members.  We are going to have to _____________ our staff by 4 people.

3)  When oil is drilled from the ground, it is initially in its ___________ or basic form.  Through various refining processes, oil becomes gasoline or various other substances.

4)  Every person in every city has to now realize that large, unattended (left alone) packages are a serious _______________.  People in Boston did not seem to realize that two unattended backpacks contained bombs that killed 3 people and wounded over 200.

5)  If a person loses his job, he has to be _______________.  It's important to bounce right back and to look for another.

6)  Once I felt dizzy, lost consciousness and then collapsed on 5th avenue in Manhattan. When I regained my consciousness, I noticed that all the _________________ were avoiding me because helping me would have made them late for their appointments.  

7)  Bob is one of the most ____________ guys I know.  He loved his father but right after his father's death he was right back at work.  he recovered from the loss quickly.

8)  Many people think that Americans have an unlimited freedom of speech.  No, this is not true.  One type of speech that is prohibited is called _________________ speech.  You cannot encourage a group of people to commit an act of violence.

9)  These days, when I read something, I turn off all my electronic appliances, since I do not want some incoming e-mail, text message or phone call to ____________ my thoughts.

10)  The people of New York City have learned to be extra _______________.  If something doesn't look right, they take action and call the police.  This is one reason why there have not been terrorist attacks here since 2001.

11.  Many young men around the world are often influenced by the _____________ speech of extremist religious figures, who encourage others to use violence to change things in the world.

12. You simply cannot learn a new language unless you believe you can learn it, and everyone at any age can learn a new language.  We all have to ___________ our self-confidence.

13.  Although the war against Iraq seemed to be over in 2003, shortly after it began, the US military did not realize that many _______________ would begin to secretly attack US soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

14.  While the politician was speaking, one person who disagreed with her kept yelling in order to ____________ her speech.

Answers are below:

Farther down....

A little farther

Just a little more...

Here you go:


1. crude
2. bolster
3. crude
4. hazard
5. resilient
6. passersby
7. resilient
8. incendiary
9. disrupt
10. vigilant
11. incendiary
12. bolster
13. insurgents
14. disrupt