Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Mapuche "Indians" and their struggle with Chile

Welcome to one of the most popular English reading/vocabulary blogs on the net!

How to use this resource: First, please review the vocabulary list and understand the meanings of the words.  Then, please read the article provided.  Refer back to the vocabulary list if you do not remember the meanings of some words.

By reviewing the vocabulary words over and over, they will begin to 'stick' in your memory and you will be able to use them when you speak.

The Mapuche are a group of 'indigenous' people in South America.  This means that they existed in South America before the Spanish came over from Europe to colonize the area.

Over the centuries (a century is 100 years) The Mapuche have fought hard to maintain their independence and identity.  Apparently now the Chilean government is trying to classify this indigenous group as 'terrorists.'

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a rapporteur - basically this is the person whom an organization chooses to do research about an issue and to write a report.

a dispute - this is a type of argument in which both sides believe something different about a situation.  For instance, Japan and Korea have had a dispute about which country owns a specific island - both countries believe the island belongs to them and they dispute that the island belongs to the other country.

to boil over into violence - if you heat water on a stove for long enough, it will begin to boil.  If the water is too high in the pot, the water will boil over.  So if a situation boils over, it is a critical situation and trouble comes from it.

a systematic use of excessive force - they regularly or often or commonly use too much force against the Mapuche. (pronounced:  Mah POO che)

to discriminate against - remember you always use 'against' with discriminate.  If someone discriminates against someone else, the first person takes action against the second person to harm him/her because of some racial or ethnic issue.  If someone doesn't like black people and he refuses to hire black people for his business, he is discriminating against black people.

arbitrary - this means random.  If they are using an anti-terrorism law against the Mapuche in an arbitrary manner, they use it when they feel like it and there are no real or objective standards.

if something is volatile - it is unstable and unpredictable.

prompt - if you are a prompt person, you are always on time

to escalate - to get worse

a vast swath(e) of land - a large area spread out over a great distance.

renowned for their ferocity - famous for how cruel and  brutal they were.  If a dog is ferocious, it will bite a person easily.

they resisted conquest - they fought against being conquered or beaten.

waged a campaign - fought

arson - starting stuff on fire

to sabotage machinery - to deliberately destroy machines

to invoke a law - to use a law. So if the Mapuche fight to try to get their land back, the government calls them terrorists and tries to throw them in jail.

drafted - written by Pinochet.  Pinochet was a violent dictator in Chile who helped assassinate the Chilean president Salvador Allende.

to stamp out opposition - to eliminate, get rid of

harshest - most severe

statute book - law book

a conviction - when a person is determined to be guilty.  By using this law, the Chilean government can find people guilty without providing any evidence or witnesses.

anonymous - you don't know the person's name.

a paradigm shift - a change in the way that the government views the situation.  A paradigm is a way you look at things.  The government has to stop looking at the Mapuche as terrorists and view them as people who had their land stolen.

conspicuously - obviously

rumbling on - going on slowly but steadily

sporadic - every once in a while

assailants - attackers

the blaze - the fire

a hunger strike - when people refuse to eat to protest something

a raid - when the police suddenly and quickly attack someone or some group.


Writing/discussion questions:

How do you determine when a group is a group of freedom fighters or terrorists?

How do you determine when a government is engaged in terrorism?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A man left alone in a jail cell in America (for 4 days) will receive $4,000,000

A student was arrested (perhaps falsely) and placed in a jail cell in California.  The individuals responsible for him then left the jail and did not return for 4 days.

The student suffered a great deal due to this and was able to sue the US government.  The government has admitted that its Drug Enforcement agents acted improperly and they have awarded the young man $4,000,000.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to be arrested - this is when the police or federal agents believe a person has committed a crime and they take the person into custody (they take the person to a police station or jail).

to sue - this is when you hire a lawyer and take someone to court in order to win money from the person you are suing.  In this case the young man took the US government to court and the government admitted it was guilty.  They gave the student $4,000,000 because the student suffered so much.

to be abandoned - if you abandon something, you put it aside and forget about it.

compensation - in this case it means money given to the young man because he suffered so badly. Compensation can also mean money you receive for doing work.

he drank his urine - urine is the liquid waste you flush down the toilet.

a drug raid - a raid is when the police surprise a group of people in a building and investigate the building for a crime.  So the police entered a building, by surprise, in San Diego, looking for drugs.

dehydration - not enough water

cramps - when your muscles tighten causing extreme pain. Your muscles can cramp when you don't get enough water.  Sometimes athletes experience muscle cramps during games.

perforated - if something is perforated, it has a hole in it.  An esophagus is an inner tube in the throat.

detention - when a person is held against his will by the police or federal agents.

Writing/Discussion Topics:

Do you think this amount of money is fair?

Do you think the agents should be arrested?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Protests and deaths in Egypt

Welcome to one of the most popular English reading/vocabulary blogs on the net!

How to use this resource: First, please review the vocabulary list and understand the meanings of the words.  Then, please read the article provided.  Refer back to the vocabulary list if you do not remember the meanings of some words.

By reviewing the vocabulary words over and over, they will begin to 'stick' in your memory and you will be able to use them when you speak.

Protests and deaths in Egypt:

Recently the president of Egypt was ousted (removed from power) by Egypt's military.  The military claimed that this president - Morsi - was running the country terribly.  

In the West, many leaders were happy that Morsi was removed from power.  He belongs to a group called The Muslim Brotherhood.  This group is felt to be a very extreme Islamic organization.  Yet, Morsi had been elected by the Egyptian people.

Now supporters of Morsi are engaged in a peaceful protest, and over the weekend many seem to have been killed by the new military government.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

turmoil - there is social turmoil when there is a situation which is not peaceful.  Turmoil would be the opposite of peaceful.  If there is turmoil, there is trouble.

a protest - when a group of people get together to express the fact that they are unhappy or upset about a situation.

to defy someone or something - to refuse to do what someone or some group has told you to do.

a removal threat - a threat is when someone makes another person feel that he is in danger.  Here the military is threatening to remove the protesters by using force.

to be ousted - to be kicked out of office.

a sit-in - this is a type of protest where the people just merely sit down and refuse to move.

a clash - this is when two groups meet each other violently.

pro-Morsi - if a person is 'pro' something, he/she is for something (approves of something); if you are 'anti' something you are against it (you disapprove of it)

to back down - to stop fighting and to give up.

to be reinstated - to be put back in power.

to disperse - to disperse a group is to break the group up.

to oust - to get rid of; to kick out

to condemn s/t - to say something is wrong

tyranny - this is when one person or group dominates the government and violates the rights of the people.

a coup - this is when the military takes control of the government violently

barricades - these are structures set up to block a road.

morale - please don't confuse this word with 'moral.'  If you are a moral person, you are a good person.  (Moral is pronounced: MORE ul).  If you have or a group has good morale (pronounced: more AL), that means you are in good spirits or optimistic and enthusiastic.  If a crowd has good morale, they are happy and enthusiastic.  Morale is a noun, moral is an adjective.

to carry out s/t - to do something.

a just cause - a 'cause' can mean something that you do or a group does to try to make the world better.  So a 'just cause' is a cause which is supported by the concept of justice.  i.e.  I think I am going to donate money to a homeless shelter - ending homelessness is a good cause.   i.e. Even though we all oppose war, most Americans felt that fighting in World War II was a just cause, sine the USA was attacked.

the death toll - the number of people who died.

thugs - criminals; a thug is usually someone young and male who looks uneducated and aggressive.

plain-clothed police - police dressed in normal clothes.

come to your senses - if someone tells you to come to your sense, he/she is telling you to accept reality.  Basically the person is saying: "Don't be stupid!"

lawsuits - legal cover -  it looks as if some people in that area went to a court and filed legal papers to have the protesters removed.  Therefore the military is using this as an excuse (legal cover) to remove the protesters.

to deny - to say that something is not true.

live rounds - real bullets.  Bullets are the things fired from guns.

tear gas - a type of gas that causes people to experience extreme pain in their eyes.

severity - the degree to which something is forceful.  Extremely severe means that something as very forceful.

an interim government - a temporary government.  A government which will be replaced by another one.

excessive - too much

to extend the barricades - to push the barricades out farther

medics - doctors or people trained in basic medical techniques

live fire - real bullets shot by real people at real people

snipers - military guys who hide on roofs or in tress and shoot at people

a confrontation - when two people or groups meet each other in anger.

to unfold - to happen.

militants - people who believe that violence is ok to accomplish what they want.

a mandate - a order; in this case, an order from the people to the government.  So after the military kicked Morsi out fo office, they encouraged people who hated Morsi to 'take to the streets' (go out into the streets) and protest.  the military felt this would show that they had a 'mandate' to kick out Morsi.

to flood an area - when people flood an area, they fill the area quickly.

remanded in custody - held by the police; kept in a prison cell by the police.

premeditated - if you commit premeditated murder, that means you thought about the murder ahead of time.  Premeditated means that someone thought about something before doing it - the person did not do something due to his immediate emotions.

alleged - apparent; if someone is an alleged criminal, it is being said that he is the criminal, but this hasn't been proved yet.

to plot something - to develop a plan to do something (usually illegal).

to conspire with - to work (illegally) with others

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Test your vocabulary - 14 useful intermediate level words in English

These 14 words are taken from the last two articles posted on this blog. Please review the vocabulary from these entries before you try to do the exercises:

remote, detrimental to, no strings attached, bleak, to clamor for, to document something, bipartisan, to enhance, insolvency, due diligence, to mitigate, a constraint, an appetite, an advocate,

1.  According to the United States Constitution (the chief document concerning how the government will be run), The Congress is supposed to be a ____________ to the power of the president.  Otherwise, the President of the United States might become a dictator (someone with unlimited power who does not care about the rights of the people).

2.  Some people are talking about the possibility of building colonies on the moon or the planet Mars.  Yet, I am not so sure I would want to live in such a __________ place.

3.  When Bob was a child, his parents wanted to treat him very well, so they often bought him lots of soda and other sugary drinks.  At that time, people did not know how ______________ such drinks could be to a person's health.

4.  By continually reviewing the vocabulary in the various postings on this blog, you can greatly ______________ your vocabulary and fluency.

5.  Many professional people, who often work hard for high salaries, enjoy doing volunteer work and helping others with _____________.

6.  Although Bob was very angry when Debra did not show up for their date, his anger was ______________ when he learned that Debra really wasn't feeling well that night.  He was still a little upset, but not as much as he had been.

7.  The chances for economic recovery in Detroit look so ____________ that the city has been forced to declare bankruptcy.

8.  Although Bob believed that his supervisor was engaged in tax fraud, he was not able to _____________ this, and so he never filed a formal complaint to the government.

9.  One part of the Congress of the United States is now dominated by the Republican Party, while the other is dominated by the Democratic Party.  There are very few ______________ decisions.

10.  Every landlord (a person who rents rooms or apartments) has an obligation to practice _______________ and to make sure his/her tenants are safe and living in good conditions.

11.  After several long years of ridiculous and badly managed wars, the American people seem to have lost their ____________ for more fighting.

12.  Even though Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder, many people in America are upset and are ________________ the US government to arrest Zimmerman again for a different crime.

13.  Cesar Chavez was an amazing American hero.  During a period of time when most Americans did not know or care about Mexican migrant farm workers (poor Mexicans who would come to the USA and travel around California picking fruits and vegetables for farm owners) he became an ______________ for these folks and tried to help them gain their rights.

14.  The USA has very liberal bankruptcy laws, but you have to prove that you are close to or experiencing _____________ before you are given the opportunity to declare bankruptcy.

Answers are below:


1. constraint
2. remote (bleak might also work here)
3. detrimental
4. enhance
5. no strings attached
6. mitigated
7. bleak (remote might work here)
8. document
9. bipartisan
10. due diligence
11. appetite
12. clamoring for
13. advocate
14. insolvency

remote means far away, bleak means very plain - but in questions 2 and 7, either word would have worked

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Does the World Bank Care Enough about Human Rights?

Human rights are the basic rights that every person alive should have.  Different societies would define these rights differently, but in America we believe that everyone has the right to freedom, freedom of expression, freedom to practice whatever religion a person chooses, freedom from fear or injustice etc.

Human Rights Watch has criticized the World Bank for not caring enough about issues of human rights.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

detrimental to - harmful to

The World Bank lacks checks - the World Bank doesn't check or monitor situations satisfactorily.  It hands out money to governments that might be treating their citizens badly (according to the organization Human Rights Watch).

to ensure - to make sure, to make certain something happens

ill-treatment - bad treatment,

relocation of villagers - the forced moving of villagers from their homes

drug detention centers/centres - places where people have been thrown in jail for using drugs

documented - proved, evidence was acquired to show that something really happened.

due diligence - if an organization practices due diligence, they are careful about doing their work. A diligent worker works carefully.

shaming - making someone or in this case a government feel ashamed or embarrassed

an advocate - a spokesperson for something

mitigate - to make something less worse,; so to mitigate human rights risks would mean to try to avoid getting into these risky situations. If a doctor mitigates pain in a part of your body, he makes it less severe, but you still have pain.

safeguard policies - policies to make sure something works well.

insufficient - not good enough

enhanced - something made better or stronger

a priority - something most important

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Detroit declares bankruptcy; the US Government will not help.

To go bankrupt in the USA means that a person's debts are so high that he/she will probably never be able to pay them off.  In this case, a person (or corporation or even a city) can go to court and 'declare bankruptcy.' A judge then determines whether that person is really insolvent (incapable of paying back his/her loans).

This is a photo of a judge:

If this is decided, the person declaring bankruptcy will only have to pay back 10% of the money he/she owes.  So if he/she owes $50,000 to creditors, he/she will only have to pay them $5,000.  However, the person's credit history will be damaged and he/she will probably not be able to get any more credit (no credit cards or loans) for at least 7 years. Also, the person will not be able to declare bankruptcy again for at least 7 years.

The city of Detroit has recently declared bankruptcy.  Basically the city used to be wealthy (rich) because of the automobile industry.  There were many jobs in this industry and the government was able to collect a lot in taxes from the companies and employees.  The US auto industry, however, has not competed well against foreign car companies, which have been making smaller, less expensive and more fuel efficient models. 

Therefore, due to the problems of the auto industry in Detroit, not much money has been generated, the government continually borrowed money to provide services to the people, and now Detroit must declare bankruptcy and find a way to create businesses and jobs in that city for the future.

During his election campaign against Mitt Romney, Barack Obama boasted (spoke proudly) of how he saved two huge automobile companies through "bailouts."  A bailout is when the US government gives money to companies to stop them from failing.  Usually the money is in the form of low-interest loans.

Unfortunately for the people of Detroit, the federal government (Washington D.C.) is not going to help them.  The city where the automobile industry began is at least 20 billion dollars in debt and will have to declare bankruptcy.

Please read the article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

bleak - if an environment is bleak, it means there is very little there.  Antarctica has a bleak environment - it is nothing but ice and snow.  Parts of Africa have lush environments - there is a huge variety of different plants and trees and wildlife.  So if a situation is 'bleak' this means there is very little hope or few opportunities for the situation to get better.

The Great Recession - we are now still in, apparently, the Great Recession.  The world economy has slowed down to the point where there is high unemployment and not much is being produced.

bipartisan - bi means two. Partisan means political party.  So if there is a bipartisan vote, it means two political parties agree with each other and cooperate with each other instead of fighting with each other.

appetite - in this case it means 'desire.'  Neither party really wants to do anything to help Detroit.

to rescue something - to save something from harm

resources are strained - this means that at one time there were enough resources but they have been mostly used up: there are few resources left but many needs for these resources.

a constraint -  a limit.  The government is limited as to how much it can spend because the Congress did not take timely action earlier and, by law, money was automatically cut (removed) from the US budget because of Congress' inaction.

in firm control - they control that part of the Congress easily.  The US Congress is divided into two parts: The Senate and the House.  Democrats control the Senate and Republicans control the House.  Very little can be accomplished under this situation.

his plate is so full - he has so many things to do.

throwing Detroit into the mix - adding Detroit to the rest of what he has to do

the era - the period of time

a declining population, accelerated by hard times - this sentence might be a bit confusing. The author is saying that the decline or drop in population was due to the difficult times the auto industry in Detroit has had.

punishing - here it means very difficult.  If you go through a punishing workout at the gym, you really really workout.

in near gridlock territory - gridlock is the term for non-cooperation between the political parties.  If the parties do not cooperate, nothing gets done, and this is called gridlock.

a wait and see approach - they are not going to do anything yet...they are just waiting to see what might happen and whether they can do anything.

federal - this is the US government in Washington D.C.

to rule something out - to say something is not an option or is not possible.

insolvency - when someone (or in this case some city) just simply can't pay its debts.

diligent - careful, precise, meticulous, detailed

a tough step - a difficult move or action to take

delegation - each state gets a number of Congressmen/women based on the state's population.  This is the state's delegation.

to clamor for - to demand, to strongly request

pension funds sued - a pension is money a person gets after he retires from a job.  City workers feel that their pensions will be cut (lowered) after this bankruptcy decision, so they went to court hoping a judge would stop the bankruptcy.  The judge refused to do that.

strings attached - this means, basically, I'll give you something but I want something in return! If someone is generous they might give you something and say, "No strings attached!"

a lifeline - if someone falls into the ocean, someone might throw him/her a lifeline so that the person can be pulled to safety.

stimulus spending - when the government spends money to try to stimulate the economy (make the economy more active).

a mortgage - monthly payments people make in order to buy a house.

remote - far away; in this case, remote means unlikely.

to be off the hook - to be safe, to be able to avoid responsibility.

align them - make sure they provide Detroit with the money that Detroit really needs and requests.  To align something means to put in in line with something else - to make sure something fits something else.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Life on an American 'jury.'

In America, if a person is arrested (taken by the police) and if the person has to go to trial (the process, in a courtroom, where the person is determined to be guilty or innocent) the person who was arrested can choose either a judge or a jury.

This is a judge:

This is a jury:

Basically a jury is usually made up of 12 people, chosen randomly (chosen by chance), who decide whether a person is guilty or innocent.  In Florida, sometimes there are just 6 jurors.  Yes, a person on a jury is a juror.

In the recent Zimmerman case, the jury was 'sequestered.' That means that the jury was not allowed to know what was happening in the world during the course/process of the trial.  They were kept in hotel rooms for 22 days.  The reason this is done is to make sure that they are not influenced by newspapers or TV stations or the internet during the trial.

But, this is America, where everyone likes to enjoy himself and have fun, so the court system spent a huge amount of money to entertain the jurors!  Here's kind of a funny article about how the Florida court system tried to keep the jury happy and in touch with their families during the Zimmerman trial.  (You can read about the Zimmerman trial elsewhere on this blog.)

The article:


to acquit - to find 'not guilty.'  to convict - to find 'guilty'.

fatally shooting - shooting someone to death.

an excursion - a trip.

bowling -

screened - officials read the messages (so the jurors were not able to send or receive private messages.

logged - the date and time the messages were sent or received was listed.

distance themselves - one juror went on a TV show and made various statements. The other jurors wrote that they did not necessarily agree with these statements.

a sheriff - a type of police officer

Is the internet destroying academic skills?

When I was in college and graduate school, I remember going to the library, doing research and carrying home massive amounts of books for every major paper I had to do.  Every research paper was a significant effort and I was often proud of what I had finished when I was done with the paper.

Now, students, apparently, tend to rely almost exclusively on the internet to do their research.

This article points out that, these days, because of the internet, American students are having a more difficult time reading longer passages or books and that their writing skills are diminishing (decreasing, dropping) compared to students of previous generations.

Indeed, in this article it seems that students regularly just cut and paste from a site like Wikipedia to do their papers.  What's the problem? First of all, that is plagiarism (the stealing of text from another source); second of all, if you are plagiarizing from Wikipedia, that probably means it's the second time material has been plagiarized since most of Wikipedia is badly written and plagiarized material itself. 

Finally, the 'authors' of Wikipedia articles (as was reported here: ) are anonymous and potentially lacking (lacking - not having something) in any academic skills.  As you can see from the article just cited, there is a core group of 500 - 1,500 people who dominate Wikipedia (some folks have lots of time on their hands) and nobody knows whether they have adequate academic backgrounds (the article mentions two mass-murderers who loved contributing to Wikipedia).

So the following article seems to imply that students are becoming lazier and less critical about their sources.  After all, if you do a search engine search for anything, it immediately presents a Wikipedia article and most people seem too lazy to even scroll down a little bit and find a REAL article written by someone who actually has spent a significant amount of time researching the subject.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

teens and 'tweens - a teenager is someone between 13 and 19 - a 'tween is someone between childhood and teenage a 'tween (short for 'between') might be 11 or 12 years old.

a survey - a number of teachers were contacted and asked questions and their answers were recorded and analyzed.

an atrocity - something terrible

to plagiarize - to steal text or ideas

facilitating personal expression - making it easier for teens to express themselves

collaboration - working together.

citation - properly indicating where you got your research from.

copyright infringement - stealing material from books or magazines etc.

to digest - this usually means 'to eat' but here it means to read and understand

mediocre - not good and not bad; plain,

symbolism - when a term or object represents something that is not easily spoken about.  For instance if we say that the moon is a symbol in a poem, it might symbolize some deeper concept.

silly-putty -  a type of clay that can be used by children to make things; he is saying that the brains of young Americans are being turned into clay.

that doesn't gel with - that doesn't follow or make sense compared to what they were complaining about.

but w/e - with eraser?

a temptation - a feeling that you want to do something that you know you shouldn't.

Do you feel that the internet has been a blessing or a curse in regard to education?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Syrian refugee situation reminds some people of the Rwanda tragedy of the 1990s.

Here is a brief article about the human suffering due to the civil war in Syria.

This civil war seems to be between the dictator of Syria (and his army) and an army of "Islamists" who wish to establish a religiously based government.

To me it seems as if this war is being supported by both Russia and the USA, and neither Russia nor the USA is taking in any of the refugees who are being created by this situation.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you read the article:

a tragedy - this is a situation, usually, when an innocent person dies or people die.

a civil war - this is generally a war within one country which is fought by groups with different ideologies (beliefs).  A civil war can also be due to differing ethnic groups within a country. An ethnic group is a group of people who identify themselves differently from other groups based on the language they speak or the type of  family groups they come from, for instance: Serbians are ethnically different from Bosnians.  If a person is from China, her race would be Asian, but her ethnicity would be Chinese. I was born in the USA, as was my father, but I would be considered white and German-American.

a dictator - a leader who does not allow the people of a country to experience freedom.

a crisis - this usually means a very serious if not desperate situation that requires action immediately.

to displace millions - to force millions of people to leave their home country and become refugees in another country.

seeking refuge - seeking safety in a foreign country

fled - perfect tense of 'to flee' ...flee, fled, fled. To flee means to escape.

an outflow - a pouring out of people; a situation in which huge numbers of people leave a country

to escalate - to get worse; escalators are found in many shopping malls and buildings - you can stand on the moving stairs of an escalator and ascend up or descend down

a frightening rate - the rate is increasing so rapidly it is scaring some people at the UN and in various governments.

The Rwandan situation - this was a war between two 'tribes' in Rwanda in the 1990s.  In that situation the world merely ignored the situation until one tribe began to engage in acts of genocide against the other tribe (one tribe tried to kill every member of the other tribe).

About genocide in Rwanda:

on their soil - another way of saying 'in their countries'

aggravated - made worse

aggravated by the host summer weather - I think this is a typing mistake and it should be: hot summer weather.

stressing during Ramadan - this is a Muslim holiday in which people are supposed to 'fast' every day (to avoid eating) for 40 days from sunrise to sundown.  The holiday makes the situation more stressful for some people.

the generosity comes at a heavy price - because they are allowing people to come into their countries, they are being forced to spend a lot of money.

urgent - if something is urgent, it should eb taken care of immediately

to alleviate s/t - to make something better; alleviate is often used with the word suffering.  In order to alleviate the suffering of the patient, the doctor gave him some pain medication.

Friday, July 12, 2013

California prisoners are going on a hunger strike

Although the United States government often accuses other governments of human rights abuses or violations, there are significant problems in the USA which are just being ignored.

For instance, about 16% of Americans live below the poverty line and about 20% of all American children live in poverty.  The following link points out that the number of poor people in the USA has 'spiked.' That means the number has risen sharply or has risen a lot quickly.

Not one American presidential candidate mentioned those facts during the last election - including Barack Obama.

It also turns out that a huge number of Americans are in jail or were convicted of crimes and are being monitored.  An amazing 1/32 Americans are either in jail or being monitored because they committed a crime.

Furthermore, if we look at the types of people who are going to prison, it turns out that 60% of prisoners in the USA are Black and Latino.  33% of African American men - or one out of three - has spent or will probably spend some time in jail according to the US government.

Furthermore, if we look at how prisoners are treated once they go to jail, we see obviously poor treatment.

Here is an article about prisoners in California who are refusing to eat because they feel that the conditions for prisoners in California are so terrible.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to refuse - to say 'no' to

a hunger strike - a strike is usually when workers stop working in order to protest poor treatment or to try to gain better wages.  A hunger strike is usually when a prisoner (or prisoners) stops eating food to protest (complain about) poor treatment.

corrections officials - people who work for the prison system.

out-of-state private prisons - believe it or not, America has private prisons.  This means that the prisons are run like businesses.  These are jails run by private companies.  So California sends some of its prisoners out to these private prisons.

2/3 of 33 prisons = 21 prisons

a protest, to protest - a protest is when a group gets together to complain or speak out against something they think is wrong.  To protest is to take this type of action.  The prison authorities are calling what is happening in their prisons a 'protest' and not a 'hunger strike.'

consecutive - one after the other

a less than stellar reputation - a bad reputation, a rotten reputation.  Stellar comes from the word for 'star' or 'stars.'  A stellar reputation is a great reputation.  A less than stellar reputation means  a less than great reputation. 

a handful of issues - a few issues

to trace back to - if you trace a problem back, you'll find the source or the origin of the problem.  The author is saying most of the problems in the California system come from (stem from) overcrowding (too many prisoners).

astonishing - shocking, surprising

those locked in solitary confinement - solitary means alone.  Confinement means to be kept in a small area against your will.  Sometimes prisoners are put all alone into small rooms.

a hiker - someone who likes wandering around in the wilderness.

comprised of - made up of

isolation - being kept alone

to condemn - to say something is wrong

torture - when extreme actions are taken to harm a powerless person

they've outlined demands - they've briefly written down what they feel needs to be changed

modify - change

a gang - a group (in prison people often join gangs for self-protection or to harm others or to make money etc.)

constructive programming - I don't understand all of the demands, but in regard to constructive programming, I think the prisoners want classes or meaningful things to do.

a tally - a count.  A number of things.

a current lawsuit - the prisoners are suing the jail system in California. They have filed legal papers and a judge will determine whether changes will be made. When a person sues another person, usually the person submits (files) a complaint to a judge in a courtroom and tries to receive some money because of something wrong that was supposedly done to the person.  In this case prisoners are suing to change their circumstances.


Does this information about poverty and the prison system surprise you?

Why is there so much poverty and crime in the USA?

Some people feel that prisoners do not even deserve human rights.  They deserve the bad treatment they are receiving.  How do you feel about this?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Test your high-level English vocabulary (adjectives)

These are commonly used adjectives in some of America's best newspapers and magazines.  Please see whether you can complete the fill-in-the-blank exercise.

Answers are below the exercise.

*ailing – hurting, suffering 
*autonomous – independent, free   
*brutal – cruel, too severe, 
*conclusive – certain, absolute 
*disinterested – objective, not biased, no pre-established feelings
*effervescent – bubbly, enthusiastic, mirthful,  
*esoteric – difficult to understand, secret 
*fallacious – false 
*frantic – disordered, wild;
*grave – very solemn or serious;  
*immaculate – pure, unpolluted; 
*incessant – continual, nonstop 
*indigent - poor 
*innocuous – harmless, benign 
*itinerant – one who moves around, one who travels
*lucid  - very clear, understandable 
*mercurial- quick to change one’s emotions 
*nefarious – evil, corrupt, criminal
*obsolete – no longer up to date, old fashioned and unusable
*paltry – quite small, too small 
*petulant – quick to lose one’s temper 
*predatory – acting like a predator or hunter, 
*prosaic – opposite of poetic, mundane, common place, boring
*reactionary – opposite of radical, ultra conservative 
*resurgent – coming back
*spendthrift  - opposite of miserly, spending too easily 
*supercilious –haughty, arrogant, full-of-oneself 
*threadbare – worn out through overuse
*unprecedented – something that had never happened before
*vital – essential, absolutely necessary

1. Sophie’s World is such a good book because the author makes a difficult and sometimes esoteric subject, the history of philosophy, very _____________ and easy to understand.

2. Although the Warren Commission stated that the evidence was _____________ that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the Kennedy assassination, to this day many feel that much evidence was overlooked and that the findings of the commission were faulty.

3. Contestants for the Miss Universe pageant are expected to act in an _____________ manner, regardless of how terrible the state of their nation or the world might be.

4. After the fall of communism, many states that had been included in the Soviet Union became ____________ nations with their own executives and legislatures.

5. Most ESL teachers in New York City language schools are paid a ________ sum of money, sometimes as low as $13.33/hr.  This is why they are often lazy and disinterested.

6. In Knut Hamson’s novel Hunger, the main character is so indigent that he has been unable to replace his winter coat for many months and it is ____________ and falling apart.

7. The economic crisis that began to truly be felt in 2008 was not an ____________ event.  There have been numerous economic crises and depressions in the history of the USA.

8. Although some passengers did act in a ____________ manner after the plane landed in the Hudson River, most remained calm and exited as instructed by the crew.

9. Even though some people think that the life of a journalist is bound to be romantic and exciting, I have found it to be quite ___________ and even boring.

10. Bobby Knight, a basketball coach, was felt to be a bit too ___________ by Indiana University, which fired him after a series of violent outbursts at basketball games.

11. Of all the ____________ politicians in the corrupt history of Chicago, perhaps Rod Blagojevich will go down in history as being the most disgusting and corrupt for trying to sell a political office.

12. The airline industry was already ___________ due to increased gas prices when it was hit by the economic crisis, which made the industry suffer even more.

13. Although the economic stimulus plan is meant to improve the economy, I wonder whether it will help the truly ____________ - those people who are so poor that they have little hope for a better life.

14. It seemed ironic: even though greed and the desire for “more more more” had caused the economic crisis, the government seemed to encourage people to become more ______________ and to continue buying more and more goods.

15. The world refuses to forget how ____________ and oppressive the Chinese government’s reaction was to the student protests at Tienamen Square. Tanks literally drove into the square and students were shot dead for peacefully protesting.

16. Oil had once been considered a resource __________ to the prosperity of the nation, but it is slowly being replaced by alternate sources of energy and does not seem as essential any more.

17. The pain was no longer sporadic, it just would not seem to go away. Because the pain had now become ___________, Bob went to the doctor.

18. Although the security guards for the New York Public Library threw the homeless man out of the library, many patrons complained because the man was totally _____________: so what if he was homeless and was sleeping, he wasn’t hurting anyone.

19. Americans no longer seem to even look for a potential president with an ____________ or perfect reputation. Everyone seems to think every politician is partially corrupt – even Obama supported Rod Blagojevich in two Illinois elections

20. After the extreme liberalism of the previous two administrations, the conservative policies of the new president almost seemed ________________.

21. Many people bought the novel The DaVinci Code hoping to learn of various ___________ secrets, only to be disappointed by a quite prosaic and unbelievable story.

22. It would be _____________ to assert that someone else wrote Shakespeare’s plays.  there is no evidence for this assertion.  Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

23. We could tell that the doctor was going to reveal bad news by the _________ look on his face.

24. Bob said that one thing he liked about Asian culture was that an Asian might go to great schools and do impressive things but never would act in a ______________ manner that might offend or embarrass others. 

25. After weeks of economic stagnation and even of times when the market declined, investors were quite happy to see the market ____________ and bouncing back strongly.

26. She was the typical opera diva with a totally ____________ personality. One minute she could be the sweetest person on the planet and the next she could be petulantly screaming bloody murder over nothing at all.

27. Billy Sunday was one of the last, famous ____________ preachers, who traveled around the USA in the early 1900s, speaking out against various evils he thought he saw, especially the evils of alcoholic beverages.

28. After thirty years there were to be trials in Cambodia concerning “The Killing Fields” of Pol Pot’s regime.  Many felt, however, that it might be hard to find  ____________judges for the tribunal since so many people had heard so many horrible things about Pot’s regime.

29. Bank loans were never supposed to be ___________ in nature.  Banks were supposed to wait for people to come to them, not go searching for people they could sign up as borrowers at high interest rates.

30. Although the type-writer is considered _____________, I still have one and although I always use a word processor now, I miss the good old days of typing letters and school papers on the old fashioned machine.

Answers are below:


1. lucid
2. conclusive
3. effervescent
4. autonomous
5. paltry
6. threadbare
7. unprecedented
8. frantic
9. prosaic
10. petulant
11. nefarious
12. ailing
13. indigent
14. spendthrift
15. brutal
16. vital
17. incessant
18. innocuous
19. immaculate
20. reactionary
21. esoteric
22. fallacious
23. grave
24. supercilious
25. resurgent
26. mercurial
27. itinerant
28. disinterested
29. predatory
30. obsolete

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Test your high-level English vocabulary ----> 1 (adjectives)

*ambiguous – not certain, vague, unclear 
*avant garde – (pronounced: ah vant GUARD) in the forefront, experimental, in the lead, innovative
*bygone – a time past, in the past 
*conscientious – very sincere, concerned
*despondent – feeling hopeless 
*dispassionate – not passionate, impartial, objective
*egocentric – only concerned about oneself  (opposite = altruistic)
*exemplary – excellent, the best, the example to be followed
*fastidious –concerned with details, have a demanding attitude, critical over little things
*freelance – working for oneself 
*humane – possessing the best human qualities of kindness, mercy, forgiveness
*immutable – unchanageable 
*indigenous - original inhabitants, natives to a region
*intangible – untouchable, non-physical, can’t be physically touched
*integrated – a meaningful part of something, equally mixed in with something else
*lethargic – feeling weak and lacking energy, not capable of doing work through lack of energy
*marginalized – pushed off to the side, not central
*mercenary – doing something solely for the sake of money (like a hired soldier)
*nonchalant – carefree, unconcerned, easy-going
*obsequious – subservient, submissive, willingly doing what an authority wants you to do
*parsimonious – cheap, very frugal, miserly
*pragmatic – practical, non-idealistic
*provisional – temporary, until something better comes along
*quixotic – overly idealistic, so idealistic as to be impractical (like Don Quixote)
*relentless – not giving up, continually pursuing s/t  
*robust – strong, healthy
*sedentary – characterized by sitting 
*ubiquitous – everywhere 
*virulent – especially destructive, very strong (from the word for virus)

1. Although the Impressionist painters of the early 20th century are now looked on as being somewhat conservative in their approach to painting, the first Impressionists were truly _________________ artists who defied current standards and broke with traditions.

2. It’s true that Manhattan has not preserved a lot of it’s history, but the cemetery at Trinity Church, in lower Manhattan, helps a person see a little bit of a ____________ era in that the tombs and gravestones are from the 17th through 19th centuries.

3. There are benefits and detriments to doing ___________ work.  On the one hand you have your freedom but on the other hand you don’t have as much financial security as you would have if you received a regular paycheck.

4. I would like to think that many people in the medical profession are driven by a sense of concern for their fellow men and women, but I have seen many doctors whose motives seemed entirely _____________and who seemed to live to make money.

5. The number of health clubs has increased as our jobs have become more _____________. Some people literally sit at their desks for 6 to 8 hours a day.

6. “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”, a poem by Robert Frost, seems to have a highly ______________ meaning; but maybe great art should not provide easy and clear answers.

7. Yellow taxi cabs are _____________ in Manhattan – you can see them all over the place - yet it is still hard to find one that is unoccupied.

8. Members of the ____________ tribes of North America have been forced to determine whether they will choose to become integrated into the dominant American culture or whether they will try to retain their own culture on marginalized reservations (areas set aside by the US Government for Native Americans).

9. Recently a best-selling book claimed that deep down inside we are all, basically, ______________, but that, coincidentally, by pursuing our own needs and desires we accidentally help others and seem altruistic.

10. Scientific laws are ______________, they never change – Newton’s Law of Gravity is the same everywhere on earth.

11. It was April 14th and completed tax forms were due the next day, yet Bob seemed quite _______________ even though he had not even begun his taxes; one would think that he would have been frantic!

12. When a young person goes to college he/she is faced with a difficult choice: should one be, perhaps, quixotic in one’s studies and major in philosophy or ancient languages, or should one be more ____________ and study something that will lead to an unambiguously prosperous or secure financial future?

13. Bob was usually quite energetic, but his recent flu had made him feel quite _____________ and he just did not feel like doing much of anything anymore.

14. Although it is true that Barack Obama, a person of color, has been elected president of the United States, it is debatable that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has come true since it does not seem that African Americans have yet to become ______________into American society on a level of equality.

15. The most violent and authoritarian dictators tend to surround themselves with the most _______________ assistants; such “leaders” require “yes-men” more than individuals who will challenge important decisions or policies.

16. In Hugo’s Les Miserables, Jean Valjean is pursued by a _____________police investigator named Javert, who simply refuses to give up.

17. A _____________ teacher will often be so sincere and concerned about his/her work that he/she will work with students beyond the regular school hours and will do various types of volunteer work around the school.

18. In a high-profile or very emotional court case, the defendant will hope for a _____________ judge who will not be swayed by public opinion or approach the case with his/her own prejudices.

19. The American goal in Iraq was to depose Saddam Hussein and then establish a _______________ government which would be replaced by a government elected by the Iraqi people.

20. The fashion designer had acquired a reputation as a micro-manager, but she felt that she needed to be _________________ if her clothing was going to be scrutinized closely by the press and public.

21. Although the Civil Rights Movement in America made remarkable achievements, it is still a sad fact that racial minorities are still _______________ in American society; they do not seem to receive equal amounts of funding or fair treatment in general.

22. Although Bob had lost his job due to the financial crisis, he had not become _____________: indeed, he was quite hopeful that a new opportunity would come along soon.

23. Were the ideals of the French revolution – liberty, equality, fraternity – too __________ to be established in human society, or were the leaders of the revolution not humane enough to establish these ideals?

24. Racism in the American south was so ____________ in the early 20th century that black people lived in fear of continual violence and had no hope for equality.

25. Although the Japanese economy went through a difficult period of time and became relatively weak in the 90s, the economy became more ____________ as the new century loomed and production rates increased.

26. Bob was highly praised by his boss for having done an _____________ job on the recent presentation; his boss wished everyone would do as well as Bob did on that presentation.

27. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is supposed to be someone who exhibits the most ______________ qualities in regard to addressing difficult world problems . Such values should include: tolerance, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, empathy etc.

28. It’s true that the world has been changed by science and its emphasis on the measurable and concrete; but most people in the world still value the more _____________ pursuits involved in spiritual activities.

29. It’s good to be frugal but Bob had become quite ________________: he only shopped at dollar stores and counted every penny that he earned and spent.

Answers are below:


1. avant garde
2. bygone
3. freelance
4. mercenary
5. sedentary
6. ambiguous
7. ubiquitous
8. indigenous
9. egocentric
10. immutable
11. nonchalant
12. pragmatic
13. lethargic
14. integrated
15. obsequious
16. relentless
17. conscientious
18, dispassionate
19. provisional
20. fastidious
21. marginalized
22. despondent
23. quixotic
24. virulent
25. robust
26. exemplary
27. humane
28. intangible
29. parsimonious

Test your English vocabulary :)

20 words, 10 sentences.  Let's see how good you are at understanding these verbs!!!! :)

*to abduct -  to kidnap, to illegally capture and hold against one’s will
*to absolve – to formally wipe away the guilt of another
*to bellow – to yell out, often in emotional or physical pain, in a deep voice
*to chronicle – to document, to preserve for history
*to debunk – to disprove  
*to ebb – to decrease in intensity 
*to facilitate – to make more easy 
*to grapple with – to struggle with
*to hone – to perfect, to make better, to sharpen
*to incense – to make angry 
*to laud – to praise 
*to mollify – to soften s/o's anger or other emotional response
*to nurture – to care for, to raise from infancy
*to perjure oneself – to lie in court
*to ratify – to formally agree to, to approve before establishing
*to saturate – to fill or soak completely
*to taint – to poison or corrupt
*to unveil – to reveal something  
*to vacillate – to change, to not remain certain
*to yearn for – to desire intensely

If a student wishes to really ___________ a foreign language skill, he/she should probably go to a host country and immerse him/herself in the language.

Although the CIA engaged in brutal and inhumane forms of torture against suspected terrorists, the Obama administration has chosen to ___________ these officers of guilt and to not pursue criminal trials.

In times of economic or social crisis many people seem to miss and____________ more simple days when life was easier and there was less stress.

In Nanjing, during the Japanese occupation, many foreigners began to feel helpless to stop the Japanese massacre of innocent people; all they could do was ____________ what happened in the hopes that justice would be done at a later date.

Once a person in a position of authority makes a decision, he/she sometimes feels it is not a good idea to _______________; the public can interpret that as a sign of weakness.

The smart phone market world-wide has become _______________: virtually everyone has a cell phone and it’s really tough to sell more of them.

After Somali pirates _____________ members of a ship’s crew, they usually take them to dry land and hold them as hostage.

Perhaps the most difficult yet interesting topic a psychological researcher can _________________ involves our moral judgments: what is morality, how did it evolve and what control do we have over our moral actions?

No matter how many times scientists have ___________ ESP (Extra Sensory Perception), many people still believe that mind-reading is possible and there is one guy who even claims that he can bend spoons with the power of his thoughts (Yuri Geller)!

The government of China has stated that it will soon ___________ a new type of totally electric car that nobody outside of the Chinese auto industry has yet to see.


1. hone
2. absolve
3. yearn for
4. chronicle
5. vacillate
6. saturated
7. abduct
8. grapple with
9. debunked
10. unveil