Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vocabulary review for the California wildfire article

The vocabulary words in this exercise come from this posting:

Please read the posting before you attempt the exercise.

Vocabulary words:

a blaze, to flee, a reservoir, evacuation, teeming, rugged, peak season

Many people who have lived in New York City hate walking through the Times Square area.  This area is always _____________ with tourists and it is difficult to walk quickly through the area.

Is there a _____________ for tourism in New York City?  Some people might say it's the summer because people take vacations at that time and come to the Big Apple.  Some people think most tourists come here around Christmas time because of the amazing Christmas atmosphere in New York.

Although it started as a small fire, it soon became a ___________ because the house was made of very old and dry wood.

Some people like riding their bicycles in the city, but I like more ___________ terrain and so I like going mountain biking.

In the movie China Town, politicians who have been bribed (have taken money illegally) by certain businessmen let water run out of the city's ______________ so that they can make it seem as if there is a water shortage.  They do this because they want farmers to fail and sell their land cheaply to the businessmen.

Every day thousands of people are ____________ from Syria into neighboring countries.

During Hurricane Sandy, people in certain parts of New York City and new Jersey were told there might have to be an __________________ in their areas.  They were assisted in moving to a safer location. 

Answers are below:


1. teeming
2. peak season
3. blaze
4. rugged
5. reservoir
6. fleeing
7. evacuation

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The California wildfire has reached a famous US national park (Yosemite)

How to use this blog: 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.

President Teddy Roosevelt (in the early 1900s) helped to establish a national park system in the USA.  These are huge areas where nature is preserved (saved and maintained).  You can see beautiful mountains and wildlife (among other things) in these parks.  

TR was, actually, one of the best US presidents.  Believe it or not, at one point the Republican Party was considered the 'good' party in the USA.  TR was the last 'good' Republican president.  After TR the Republican Party became the party of corporations and the very rich in the USA.

Unfortunately a huge fire is spreading across California and it has now stretched into Yosemite.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a blaze - a large fire

a wildfire - a fire that is out of control; this type of fire is usually in a forest or wooded area and such fires are relatively common (the article states there are about 50 wildfires in the western part of the USA right now). In fact, some environmentalists say that wildfires are necessary for forest areas every once in awhile.  This wildfire, however, is becoming too large and causing too much damage apparently.

scores of tourists - a score usually means 12.  So if you want to say 'a bunch' you might say 'scores of.'

to flee - to escape, to run away

the peak season - the most popular season

threatening homes - many homes might be burned down; if you are threatened you are afraid of being hurt

tackling the flames - struggling with, fighting against; to tackle is an American football term - when you tackle someone, you grab him and force him to the ground, so to tackle something means to struggle or fight with something in order to try to control it.

difficult terrain - a difficult environment, difficult surroundings

2% contained - 98% of the fire (blaze) is uncontrolled

a reservoir - an area where water is stored for use if it is needed.

not any way near to closing - they are not close to coming a decision to close the park; they do not anticipate closing the park

a handful - a few

evacuation - to evacuate means to leave an area because it is dangerous

an advisory - advice from the government to do something

issued - given

teeming with tourists - filled with tourists; teeming, however, implies activity, so if a place is teeming with tourists it is filled with tourists who are very active and doing a lot of things.

every which direction - all over the place, everywhere

steep -

rugged - not smooth, rough

hectares - an area of measurement

to scorch - to burn

Hong Kong police went after organized crime groups

How to use this blog: 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. 


Here's a little story showing that if a city or country is serious enough about eliminating (getting rid of) organized crime, they can probably do it.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to smash - in this case the BBC claims that the Hong Kong police destroyed an organized crime organization.  To smash something is to hit something with a lot of force from above, crushing it.

a crime ring - in this case 'ring' means 'organization.'

to arrest someone - when the police believe someone has committed a crime and they take the person into the station to be 'charged' with a crime.  To charge someone with a crime is to officially state that there is enough evidence to believe that the person committed the crime. The person then receives a trial in a courtroom.  A trial is the process in which a person is determined to be guilty or innocent.

a crackdown - when the police or a government cracks down on something, they attack that thing using a great amount of force.  If, for instance, there is a lot of illegal gambling in a city and the city cracks down on it, the police go after the gamblers and arrest them.

a triad - a triad is 'three' of something.  I am not sure why these gangs are called triads.

to raid some place - this is when the police enter a place suddenly and secretly using a lot of force.

a disco - a place where people listen to music and dance

a massage parlor - parlour is the English spelling.  This is a place where people get massages.  Many times a massage parlor is really a place where people can visit prostitutes.  A prostitute is a woman who sells her body for money.  Recently the NY City police cracked down on prostitution in many massage parlors in Brooklyn.

an operation - in this case operation means 'project' - if the police engaged in a month long operation, it took them 1 month of planning etc. to accomplish their goal.

pornography - pornography is 'x'-rated material.  Pornography is, basically, movies or books or magazines that are completely sexual or which just show sexual activities and cannot be thought of as 'art.'

undercover - secret

charged with offenses - accused of having committed various crimes

money laundering - when you have dirty clothes, you take them to a laundromat to get them laundered (clean).  Money laundering is a process through which 'dirty' money can be made to seem like 'clean' money.  Accountants can be used to try various tricks to make it seem as if money was made legally, when, in fact, it was made illegally.

Question for discussion/writing:

These triads have been around a long time. The article states that they have deep roots in communities.  Why do you think the police acted now, suddenly, after so many years?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Australian man was shot in Oklahoma by 'bored' teenagers

How to use this blog: 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. 


Every American citizen has the right to own a gun.  This is a right granted (given) to US citizens in the US Constitution (the basic law of the USA).

This is one of the reasons why some foreigners are afraid to come to the USA - they perceive (feel, sense) that guns are everywhere.

Indeed, I do not know how three teenagers in Oklahoma (a US state in the mid-western part of the country) were able to get a gun, but they did.  They then decided to shoot and kill a person because they were bored. 

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

charged with murdering - they were accused of murdering the man, to be charged means that the police have arrested a person and they are claiming that the person committed a specific crime.

an accessory to murder - someone who helps someone else commit a murder

prosecutors filed charges - a prosecutor is a lawyer for the state; to file charges means to officially bring those charges against people the prosecutor feels to be guilty. The person or people accused are then given a trial in a courtroom.

randomly - without any reasoning, by chance; if you choose someone randomly you just choose without thinking.

to target s/o - to pick out, to select someone

to jog - to run for exercise

the well-to-do north side - if an area is a well-to-do area, it is an area for people who have a lot of money

the gritty part of town - the part of town where life is difficult; gritty means dirty or tough

1st degree murder - the worst form of murder

ordered held without bond - they will be kept in jail until their trial; they cannot pay money to live at home before their trial.

an accessory after the fact - he helped after the crime was committed

the trigger - the part of the gun you pull with your finger to shoot the gun

his bond was set at $1M - if he can pay a huge amount of money, he can stay out of jail until the trial.

a motive - why someone does something

to mourn - to feel grief after the death of someone

a pastime - a hobby, a leisure activity

a streetside memorial - a place to remember the murdered Australian, probably on the street where he was killed

impromptu - if something is impromptu, it happens suddenly, without much planning

to adorn - this often means to decorate, but in this case it means these objects were placed at the spot

a tourism boycott - this politician wants Australians to stay away from the USA.

his remains - his dead body, his corpse

condolences - expressions of sadness

a Mass - a religious service

to force its Congress - this Australian politician wants people to stay away from the USA so that the US Congress (which makes laws in the USA) will try to pass laws making it harder for people to get and use guns.

bitter harvest and legacy of the NRA - the NRA is the National Rifle Association. They are a powerful organization which opposes gun control laws.  Basically the Australian politician is saying that what happened in Oklahoma was the result of the NRA's actions.

a callous attitude - an insensitive attitude; an "I don't care" attitude

cement - this is the material that sidewalks are made of.

perched on the roof - placed on the roof

foil - material that you wrap food in to keep it fresh

tending to Lane - trying to help Lane

obscene language - dirty language, curse words


1. Do you think that foreigners should stay away from the USA until the Congress does something about gun control?

2. These murderers are very young.  Should any mercy or compassion be shown toward them?

3.  Should these young men be tried as adults or as minors?

4.  Do you think US citizens should have a right to own guns?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Do you think the song "Asian Girlz" is racist? (I think it is satire.)

If someone is a racist, that means the person doesn't like (or looks down on) people of a different race.  In US history there has been a lot of racism - primarily white people have felt prejudiced against and discriminated against black people. (Prejudice is a hateful attitude; discrimination is a type of action which denies a person some rights or benefits.) 

There has also been anti-Asian racism in America. ('anti' means against, 'pro' means for). In the late 1800s there was a law passed in the USA stopping Chinese people from immigrating to this country and there was also a 'gentleman's agreement' made between the governments of Japan and the USA limiting immigration of Japanese individuals.

Lately many people have been attacking the song "Asian Girlz" as being an example of this type of anti-Asian attitude.  Yet, I just read an interview with the singer from the group that does the song, and I believe what he says.  Basically he is saying that the song is a satire.  A satire is a work of art that attacks something that the creator of the work of art feels is wrong or feels is a problem socially.  For instance, Psy's song "Gangnam Style" was a satire (a 'parody' is the same thing) about people with a lot of money in Korea and how empty or meaningless their lives are.

So if Asian Girlz is a satire, what is it satirizing? It is a song making fun out of white guys who are attracted to Asian women.  These guys usually 'objectify' Asian women - they treat Asian women like 'objects' and not people.  These guys think Asian women are sexy and want Asian women as girlfriends for all the wrong reasons.  Basically, the guys who are singing the song are singing the song as if they are stupid white guys who don't know anything about Asian culture but who feel as if Asian women are sexy.   

Here's the video:

Here's an interview where the singer tries to explain why his band wrote the song (to be honest with you, I didn't think the song was funny or intelligent, and I don't like the music, but I don't think they were trying to be racist - I think they were trying to point out that many white guys have 'yellow fever'):

So the song is satirizing white guys who have yellow fever.  What's yellow fever?

Here's a good chapter from my amazing book about New York City:

(If you have an e-reader you can buy my amazing ESL book :P I deliberately kept the price low and I think you can learn some amazing things from it.  If you don't have an e-reader or you need to save money, please send me e-mail to and I will send you a FREE copy via e-mail attachment.  It will be a pleasure!!!)

(By the way, the book is written in the voice of "Suzy" an immigrant to the USA from South America.)

Please look at the vocabulary words after this chapter and then try to read the chapter.

7. Yellow Fever

So I was sitting in a Starbucks with my Japanese friend Naoko and every two minutes I could see that someone was sending her text messages.  So I said, " found an American guy who fell in love with you?  That's great, your English is going to soar!"  Naoko looked at me sadly and replied: "An American guy, yes.  One of my teachers at my language school has yellow fever.  He tries to go out with all the sexy, skinny (opposite of fat) Asian ladies.  He's got quite a reputation at the school. He won't leave me alone and I don't know what to do."

Well, this was freaking Naoko out, so I gave the teacher's cell number to an American guy friend of mine and he placed a call to the horny teacher.  I'm not exactly sure what he said, but the horny teacher seemed to stop being so horny - at least with Naoko.  But back to what Naoko said: yellow fever.  What the heck is yellow fever?

My language exchange partner totally has yellow fever.  He’s a white guy and I’m teaching him Spanish and he’s helping me with my English.  When we sit and chat in a Starbucks or other type of cafe he always checks out the cute Asian girls as they come in.  So I guess he doesn’t think that I’m very sexy, which is good, because he’s fat. I’m glad he doesn’t like Spanish-speaking girls.  Yes, let him keep looking at the cute Asian ladies. ^^
Here's a little trick gals.  Just tell every American guy that you meet that you have a boyfriend.  Then they'll leave you alone.  But, I have to be honest, yellow fever has spread through New York City.  You see sexy Asian ladies and (ugly) white guys all over the place around here.  Now, this really pisses some Asian guys off and they’ll say, “Only the ugliest Asian women will go out with white guys and white guys don’t know the difference between an attractive and an ugly Asian.”  No.  I don’t think so.  Sour grapes, my friend.  I have seen some hot Asian ladies with some not-so-hot white guys, and I’ve seen couples in which both partners were equally hot.

My fat native-speaking language exchange partner: I answered his ad on  He wants to learn Spanish and was looking to teach someone English.  I need to stay sharp - I need really intensive English and I can get it with this guy and he doesn't hit on me because he has yellow fever.  So we chat for an hour in English and then an hour in Spanish.  That does the trick for both of us. 
What’s yellow fever?  Well, literally, yellow fever was some kind of tropical disease that plagued various cities several generations ago.  When someone in New York City says that some guy has yellow fever, however, he means that the guy is hot for Asian women.  Get it?  Asians are said to have “yellow” skin by white people and if you have a “fever” you burn inside.  So a guy with yellow fever “burns inside for Asian women."  He’s basically a white guy who likes Asian women.  He might even be a horny guy who wants to date sexy Asian chicks.

Naoko and some of my other Asian friends have mixed emotions about this.  They are kind of proud that Asian ladies are so popular, but they also sense that there might be something wrong with a guy who just likes Asian women.  Are the guys who like Asian ladies objectifying them?  Yet, when I got here one of my first thoughts was, wow, people in New York City are kind of fat.  Then I read this article in one of New York City’s really cheap and badly written tabloid newspapers.  The article said that 35% of Latinos in New York City are obese.  28% of African Americans are obese.  24% of white people are obese.  Asians weren’t mentioned, so I’m guessing not many of them are obese. I don’t think I’ve seen an obese Asian in Manhattan :P

Now, in regard to the statistics, we're talking obese here, not just fat. 

Obese means dangerously fat.  So if 35% of a population is obese, I'm not even sure what the numbers would be for just plain fat.  But let me tell you, Americans are just kind of just plain fat.  So you get all these skinny, cute Asian ladies walking around New York City, and they are like sex goddesses or something compared to all the fat ladies.  The white guys who are used to looking at chunky ladies of all different races can't get enough of the seeeeeeeeeeeexy Asian ladies.

Why are they so sexy?  Well, I think it's diet and I think it's basic cultural values.  Even though I started to become a little chunkier here a little voice inside of me kept saying: stay skinny girl!  Show some self-restraint.  My Asian friends tell me the same thing. Now this is an issue among some Asians who say that they get skinnier in America and anticipate becoming fatter back in Taiwan, China, Korea or Japan.  Their argument goes something like this: they really like Korean and Japanese food and just tolerate American food, so when they get back home they are going to eat more and get fatter.  Maybe, but I have heard the other argument more often: the portions of food offered at American restaurants are huge and a lot of fried food is offered here.

Getting back to yellow fever.  I have to be honest.  It's not going to be politically correct to say this, but if you're a cute Asian lady in New York City, black and Latino guys are going to hit on you.  Alot.  Simple fact.  "Hey Miss Wonderful..."  That's what some black guy said to Naoko yesterday before he gave her his phone number.  Ask any Asian lady.  This has become a sociological FACT among Asian women.  Deal with it.  It's true.  I won't lie about it.

I knew a girl who literally had to move from her neighborhood because 5 or 6 black and Latino guys would hit on her daily and she just got freaked out by the whole situation.  If you don't like what I'm saying, then talk to the Black and Latino guys and tell them to stop it, because it actually kind of pisses me off.  It's totally disrespectful and I think it shows a big chunk of racism among some guys of color.  They see petite Asian women and they think they are cute and they think they have the right to interrupt their thoughts by hitting on them.  Hello.  That's not wrong?  Do these guys hit on White and Black and Latina women?  My language exchange partner told me they don't because these women would make a scene.  So because Asian ladies tend to be polite, they get hit on.  Maybe they need to start making a scene.
So now let me tell you a story about an Asian girl from Hong Kong and a guy with yellow fever.  This girl chose to use an “Americanized” name – Sarah.  One day she was sitting in a Starbucks and a guy came over to her table and asked whether he could sit there.  The place was crowded and she just thought that he needed a place to sit.  But, after a short while he began chatting with her.  He looked a little attractive, although a bit chubby.  But, she was happy to be speaking English with someone for free! 
Ultimately, he invited her to get some drinks at a nearby bar and, being an open-minded girl from Hong Kong, she went.  It turns out that he was part South American and so after Sarah became a little drunk he invited her back to his place to listen to “cool South American music.”  So she went.  And they had sex.  Then they had sex again a couple days later.  She told me they had sex four times on four different occasions before she had to leave New York City.
However, the last time she was at his place she accidentally left a very expensive scarf at the guy’s apartment.  So she emailed him and told him she might be coming back in the future and she asked him to hold onto her scarf.  Well, sure enough, she came back to NY City four months later and emailed him again.  To be honest with you, I think she was looking for more South American sex by offering to pick up her scarf.  But time waits for no one!  He emailed her back and told her that he no longer had the scarf.  He had given it to his new Korean girlfriend! 
Sarah, however, demanded this scarf back and he told her he would get it from the Korean girl.  I don’t know what kind of story he had to tell, but he got the scarf back and returned it to Sarah.  Was she happy?  No.  She had started to develop warm feelings for the guy and was shocked and disappointed he was just a horny guy with yellow fever.  

Definitions of terms

to fall in love with s/o – you might already know that the verb “to fall” goes with the emotion “love” but, what the hell, I’m telling you again.

to soar – to take off or to rise into the sky figuratively or literally

a reputation – this is the general attitude that people have or feel about you based on what they know about you.  If you have a good reputation people have heard good things about you.

to freak s/o out – if someone gets freaked out they become shocked and a bit disgusted

horny – a person who is horny is someone who thinks about sex a lot and who devotes a lot of his energy to trying to have sex.

to check s/o out – to look a person over, to see whether the person’s physical appearance is attractive to you.

a trick – literally something a magician does that surprises people because of an unexpected outcome.  Figuratively, a trick is something you can do to get a predictable outcome.  i.e.  Let me show you a little trick; if you do x then you’ll get y.

sour grapes – this is from one of Aesop’s fables.  A wolf who cannot reach a bunch of grapes then says that they were probably sour anyway and he doesn’t need them.

to stay sharp – to maintain your excellent skills, or to ensure that your skills are not lost.

to hit on someone – to try to get someone to become interested in you, to try to get someone to go out with you or to have sex with you.

it does the trick – this means it works.

tropical – this is a geographical region where it is very hot.

to be plagued by – a plague is a horrible disease that spreads rapidly and that often people have little control over.  To be plagued by something is to be bothered by something that won’t seem to go away and which is kind of terrible.

to be hot for someone – to really really want someone very badly.

chicks – slang term among some white young people for girls or young women.

to have mixed emotions – to feel more than one emotion at a time – usually conflicting emotions.

to objectify s/o – to treat a person as if he/she is an object.

a tabloid – a type of newspaper.  New York City has, basically, three big newspapers.  Two are tabloids and one is a broadsheet.  The New York Times is a high-level and intelligently written broadsheet paper.  The Post and Daily News are often poorly written papers that have lurid stories (stories of violence, sex, gossip etc.).  Sometimes the lurid stories are fun to read, though.  A tabloid type of paper is called a tabloid because of the way it looks – it is easy to hold and read on the subway.  A broadsheet is difficult to read on the subway.

obese – really fat.

just plain fat – obviously fat.

chunky – not skinny but not fat.  A chunky person is a person who has some meat on his or her bones.

the argument goes something like this – the argument sounds like this

a portion – an amount

to be politically correct – to say what everyone expects you to say or to say what any good liberal American would say.  So even if a person is in favor of the death penalty, if he considers himself liberal on most issues he might say, “Of course, the death penalty is morally wrong!”

Black and Latino – black folks in New York City are usually called African Americans and folks from Mexico, Puerto Rico, South America are often called Latinos.

deal with it – this means to accept something that exists and is going to continue to exist

a big chunk of something – a big portion of something

petite – small and skinny

to make a scene – to cause trouble, to make noise, to argue, to complain.

chubby – a person who is chubby is not fat but not skinny.  We might say he/she has “meat on his/her bones.”  A chubby person is a little fat.

ultimately – finally.  At the very end.

it turns out  you say “it turns out” when you want to say, basically, “I didn’t know this originally but I discovered that….”

a scarf – this is an item of clothing you often wrap around your neck in the winter time.

to hold onto – to keep safe, to keep for awhile, not to give something away. 


Grammar stuff:  this type of vs. these types of, this, these, that, those

Many students get these types of statements mixed up.  Furthermore, many foreign speakers do not know how to use “type of” correctly.  Let’s say you see two dogs and one is a German Shepard and the other is a Rottweiler.  You can’t say: There are two different dogs there.  To say “two different dogs” means there are two non-identical dogs, but they could still be of the same breed.  You would have to say, “There are two different types of dogs there.”

If one neighbor is very nice and cooperative and the other is mean and nasty, you don’t have two different neighbors, you have two different types of neighbors.  If you have formal and casual clothing you have two types of clothing.

The big problem, however, is that students do not show consistency when using the term “type” or “types.”  Sometimes a student will say: “This types of beer is good” Instead of correctly saying: These types of beers are good”.  This type of dog is gentle.  These types of dogs are gentle.  This stuff is important.

Do you know what the real problem is?  First, most Americans don’t even speak grammatically correct English.  Second, they don’t care whether you speak grammatically correct English either.  Many foreign students are surprised to learn that if an American can basically understand what you are trying to say, he/she is happy.  Americans don’t often care whether your English is broken or not. 

Well, kind of.  Of course, if you speak really broken English they’ll never give you a job here.  But, if you are asking directions or just casually chatting, they won’t care about your English.

This person, these people.  Please know that people is the plural of person.  You will never say “persons.” That person, these people.  This really matters.  If you do not maintain your consistency using this, that, these, those, your English will sound terrible, even to an American who speaks bad English.

12 Essential vocabulary words.  Fill-in-the-blanks

to soar, a reputation, to be horny, tropical, to plague, mixed emotions, obese, chunky, petite, to freak out, lurid, a portion

I have _________________ about the new immigration law in Arizona.  On the one hand I am in favor of immigrants coming to America, but, on the other hand, I do not like the idea of people coming to this country illegally and not paying taxes.

Because Sunmi’s children were born in America, and were eating lots of fried foods and junk foods, they started to become as ___________ as many other American children.

In August many New Yorkers leave the city because the weather becomes almost ___________, with temperatures reaching over 90 degrees F (32 degrees C).

It’s one thing to be a little chunky but people who are ___________ are at a greater risk of developing the disease of diabetes as well as various forms of heart disease.

Whenever oil prices climb around the world, we then see the price of airplane tickets __________.

Every foreign student in New York City seems to realize that the __________ of food which is served here is much larger than in their home country.

The New York Times presents world news, but for the really _________ stories about NY, a person should read the New York Post or the Daily News.  They have stories about people jumping from the Empire State Building and subway murders that the New York Times does not write about.

Recently a man who was riding on a subway train was accidentally hit by some garbage that another rider was trying to throw through the open doors of the train.  He ______________ and killed the man who had thrown the garbage.

Asian women have a reputation for being __________, but once they get to America their weight often soars!

Political corruption continues to __________ both the city of New York and the State of New York.  Many New York politicians are often arrested by the Federal Government and thrown in jail.

Everybody seemed to think that Tiger Woods was, basically, a good guy and a real family man.  Few people suspected that he was, in reality, a __________ guy who lived to have sex with as many women as he could find.

Although Eliot Spitzer tried to establish a ____________  for being an honest politician, in reality he seemed to care more about being a horny guy than he cared about the people of New York city and state.



Answers: mixed emotions, obese or chunky, tropical, obese, soar, portions, lurid, freaked out, petite, plague, horny, reputation

Actually, many years ago a singer named Randy Newman did a song called Short People. In this song he seems to be attacking short people.  But, again, this was satire.  Newman was pretending to be a very stupid person (in the song) who didn't like short people.  So he was attacking people who don't like other people because of their appearance - he was not attacking short people.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

So much for democracy in Egypt!

"So much for..." is a sarcastic idiom.  What is sarcasm?  A sarcastic statement is usually meant as an insult but the statement is not, in itself, insulting.  For example, if a politician is very dishonest or corrupt (makes money illegally), someone might say, "Wow, this politician is a saint!" (a saint is a holy or Godly person). 

So a statement becomes a sarcastic statement when everyone knows it is not a true statement - in fact, everyone knows the opposite is true.  For instance, some Americans feel that Vladimir Putin embarrassed President Obama recently by giving Snowden protection (asylum) in Russia.  Someone who doesn't like Obama might say, "What a strong leader Obama is!"

"So much for..." is a sarcastic idiom.  Let's say the most popular baseball player in America gets caught (is discovered) using steroids (drugs that make your muscles illegally develop to be stronger).  Someone might say, "So much for honesty in baseball!"  Meaning: There is no honesty in baseball.  Or let's say that some type of injustice happens.  Someone might say, "So much for justice!"  Meaning: There was no justice in this situation. 

For instance, many people are upset about the fact that George Zimmerman was found 'not guilty' of killing Trayvon Martin. Those people might say, "So much for justice in Florida!" Meaning: There is no justice in Florida.  If someone does something unkind or mean to another person: "So much for kindness!"

So when I say: "So much for democracy in Egypt..." I am saying, "There is, obviously, no democracy in Egypt." 

A president was elected in Egypt but he was felt to be too extreme as a Muslim.  The military in Egypt forced him out of the presidency.  Very few countries in the west seriously complained about this because they did not want an extreme Muslim as president of Egypt (so much for honesty in the west).

You know, in the 1970s President Nixon ordered the CIA (America's spy agency) to arrange the assassination (murder) of the president of Chile (Salvador Allende) because Allende was a socialist.  So in the 70s the USA was happy when socialists were illegally removed from office and killed, and now the USA is, apparently, happy when orthodox Muslims are removed and their followers killed. I don't see any difference between the US attitude then and now.

If Obama had cared about democracy, he would have criticized the removal of an elected president by the military in Egypt.  (Here comes a sarcastic statement): But Obama is a great man peace and a Nobel Prize winner - so he said nothing!

Now the Egyptian military (that the western countries did not complain about) is killing large numbers of people.  Those people have a right to protest.  These murders are a disgrace.

Here is an article about the situation:

Here is vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a death toll - the number of people who have died

condemnation widens - the number of people around the world who are criticizing or saying that this attack was wrong is growing.

Wednesday was the deadliest day - I just want to point out that in headlines, newspapers and internet news sources often deliberately (not accidentally) shorten the headline by leaving out some words.  For instance, in this headline, 'the' is left out.  Also it says "Americans urged to leave."  This should be "Americans are being urged to leave."  They leave out (omit) words to save space.

to topple - to overthrow.  If you topple a glass of water, the glass falls over and the water spills out.  If some group topples a government, they eliminate it or get rid of it.

to urge - to encourage.

ousted - if someone has been ousted, he has been gotten rid of; he is no longer there...

stormed and torched - attacked and burned;  to torch something is to burn something

to stage a protest - to stage is the verb often used with 'protest.'  To start a protest.

to condemn - to say that something is wrong.

joint military operations -  Egypt and the USA were supposed to practice fighting together.

unrest - a lack of peace; when something isn't peaceful

sit-in camps - places where protesters were sitting in order to protest what they felt was wrong.

injured/killed -  if you are not killed, but you are harmed, you are injured or wounded.

moved on the camps - attacked the camps

torched - burned

blocked - if obstacles or things are placed in the road to stop traffic from moving, the road is blocked

were keen to -  intended to, they wanted to

a gradual plan - everything was not supposed to happen all at once, things were supposed to happen slowly

appealed to people to leave -  asked the people to leave

to disperse the crowd - to force the crowd to leave; initially the crowd was dense (very tightly packed together) - to disperse the crowd is to make it less dense and to force people to go home

started shooting at the police - the military is saying that the protesters started the trouble.  In a 'riot' (when a protest becomes violent) the police or military often blame the protesters for starting the riot.

iconic pyramids - if an image is iconic, it is very famous.  Indeed, an iconic photo or image is usually associated with someone or something. In this case, the pyramids present an iconic photo usually associated with Egypt.

an encampment - a place where many people are located in temporary housing.

countered - if you 'counter' an argument you claim the first argument was wrong and you make a second argument or statement which you claim is true.

pledged - promised.

robust - strong.

erupted - exploded.  A volcano erupts.  This is a volcano:

bearing little sign of the labyrinth of tents that crammed the area -  showing no evidence or no trace of the large number of tents that used to be in the area.  A labyrinth is a maze.  So there were so many tents packed together it looked like a maze...but now they are all gone and it is hard to tell that they had even been there.

solidarity - when everyone supports each other and everyone sticks together

posters - large pieces of paper that can be glued to walls, in which images or messages are conveyed (given)

coffins - the boxes that dead bodies are out into.

weaved - move in and out of

a mourner - someone who experiences grief or deep sadness over another person's death

a mosque - a place where Muslims go to pray and to worship

burial - when you place a coffin in the ground

scribbled - written quickly

charred - burned

scattered - thrown all over the place

steadfast - unmoving, strong, resolved - if you are steadfast you are not going to give up

underscoring - if you underscore something, you underline it.  So if you find an interesting sentence in a book, you might draw a line under it.  If one event underscores another, it is making the other event seem more if a line is being drawn under it.

sealed - closed

a curfew - a time by which everyone is supposed to be inside of their homes

interim - temporary

prosperous - if someone is prosperous, he is doing well, making a lot of money etc.

to endorse - to say that the removal of the president was ok.

turned its back on Egypt - Sisi is saying that Obama promised to support Egypt but not he is refusing to do that.  If someone turns his back on you, you ask the person for help but he refuses.

unhinged - a door swings open because it is on hinges.  If the door is off its hinges, it falls down - it is unstable.

a resignation - if you resign, you quit your job

assault - an attack

preceded - came before

dodging - avoiding

a stalemate - a situation in which nobody can win and nobody can lose

crushed prospects of mediation - ruined or destroyed opportunities for mediation - mediation is when another person steps in to try to resolve a problem two different sides are having

a glimmer of hope - a glimmer is a faint (weak) light.  A glimmer of hope means there was a little bit of hope that  things could get batter.

moot - if a problem is moot, it no longer matters.

repression - oppression, when something stronger forces something weaker to act in a certain way; when a strong government takes away the rights of its people.

to dismantle - to take apart

a coup - when the military takes over a government

assets frozen - they can't get their money out of the bank

somber - very very serious

hectic - wild, chaotic

shuttered - closed

to regret - to feel bad that something happened

house arrest - if a person is placed under house arrest, he cannot leave his house

undisclosed - not mentioned, not told to anyone

inciting - causing



The Obama administration clearly does not like the Muslim Brotherhood - which used to control the Egyptian government.  Do you think Obama should have condemned the military coup and demanded that Morsi be placed back in power?  After all, the USA is a democratic country and claims to support democracy around the world.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Federal Government Stops an ILLEGAL New York City Police Policy: 'Stop and Frisk'

Believe it or not, until yesterday, if you were simply walking down the street in New York City, a police officer could have stopped you and frisked you.

What is frisking?  It's when a police officer makes you raise your arms and then feels up and down your body to see whether you have any weapons.  This policy was called 'stop and frisk.'  Yesterday a federal judge (a judge from the US government) determined that this policy is unconstitutional. 

The Constitution is the law of the United States but it also contains a special type or set of laws called 'Amendments.'  These amendments tell the government what it can't do to US citizens.  The government can't stop me from speaking freely, it can't stop me from going to the church I wish to go to etc.  Indeed, the Constitution even states (in the Second Amendment) that the government cannot stop US citizens from owning guns (many people would like to see that changed).

"Stop and Frisk" was found to be unconstitutional because the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution (the amendments are the set of laws that protect the rights of US citizens) states that the police have to have a good reason before they stop anyone for anything.  The police cannot just stop anyone because they want to.  And, this was happening a lot - especially to black and Latino men.  It seems that the New York Police Department regularly went into poor neighborhoods and stopped lots and lots of black and Latino men for no good reason.  In only 1% of the cases did they find weapons.

So for every 100 people who were illegally stopped by the police, they found 1 weapon.

So how did this policy get stopped?  We can thank Alexander Hamilton for that.

Hamilton is the person on the 10 dollar bill.  He was a handsome guy.

He was also a genius.  He argued for a system of government called 'federalism.'  In a federalist system, you have many states but one strong central government.  The central government is stronger than any state or city government.  So the US government in Washington D.C. is the federal government.  Yesterday a federal judge helped the people of New York by declaring that the stop and frisk policy was unconstitutional. 

Here is a picture of the judge who decided 'stop and frisk' was wrong (Judge Shira Scheindlin):

This is a common image of what most people imagine a judge looks like:

Therefore, the policy is now useless.  Stop and frisk is, basically, dead. Mayor Michael Bloomberg (perhaps the worst mayor in NY City history - a mayor is the leader of a city) is very upset and has stated he will try to go to a higher court.  I think the higher court will have to agree, however, that stop and frisk was WRONG.  This is supposed to be a free country.  How can you have a free country if you have a bunch of cops running around frisking black and Latino folks?  To be honest with you, however, Bloomberg never really cared that much about black and Latino folks.

In this case, the American system worked.  Alexander Hamilton is laughing at Michael Bloomberg somewhere, right now.

Here's an article from Time magazine.  I apologize - when you click on the link you are going to see huge advertisements - please ignore the ads and go to the story.

Vocabulary to help you understand the story:

violated rights/federal intervention - a right is when some type of behavior or action is protected by the law.  Americans have the right to free speech, freedom of religion etc.  Federal intervention is when the federal government thinks that a state or city is stopping (violating) people's rights that are promised to the people in the Constitution and then the federal government steps in (intervenes) or interferes with this violation - the federal government stops the state or city government from harming the rights of the people.

controversial - if something is controversial many people like the thing and many people dislike it. Something controversial generates a lot of arguments.

a tactic - a strategy or a way to try to solve some type of problem.

to be dealt a blow - if something is dealt a blow it is hurt by something.  A 'blow' is like a punch (when one person hits another person).  To be dealt a blow means to be given a blow or punch.  if something happens to eliminate something altogether, that something is dealt a death blow.  In the 1950s there was a law that black children could not go to white schools.  That law was dealt a death blow by the Supreme court in 1954.

siding with - if you side with someone, you favor or support that person as opposed to another person.  If you take someone's side, you agree with or support that person.

to be targeted - if someone or a group is targeted, this means that they are the only ones who are affected by something; they are picked out for a different type of treatment.

widespread - all over the place.

racial profiling - this is when the police think that just because a person is black or Latino he might be more likely to commit a crime than a white or Asian person.

violating the 4th Amendment - the 4th Amendment states that the police cannot search people for no good reason, so the New York Police were breaking this law or violating this amendment. An amendment was an addition to the Constitution.

equal protection clause - a part of the Constitution that says every has to be protected regardless of race or sex or other reason.

tension between liberty and public safety -  if there is tension between two things or two people, there is a type of struggle between them.  It's as if freedom and safety are fighting against each other - Bloomberg would claim to believe in safety while the federal judge would claim to believe in freedom.

Hispanic - Latino

a person's life was interrupted - the judge is saying that every time an innocent person was stopped, his life was kind of messed up.  Nobody wants to be stopped by the police for no reason.  When the police stopped innocent people, it was as if they stopped the person's life and bothered the person so much that the person's life was interrupted.

it punts the decision - to punt is an American football term. If a team is not successful it will often punt the football, which means it will give the football to the other team but it will kick the ball very far down the field so the other team has to work hard to score points.  So if you punt something to someone else, you hand a problem over to them.  Here is a punt - in this case the team that caught the punt ran the ball all the way back.

the legacy -  a politician's legacy is how the politician will be remembered.  Basically Bloomberg will not be remembered for anything good.  He will either be forgotten or remembered as the mayor who did nothing for 12 years.

vigorously defended - strongly defended.

integral to the drop in crime - an important reason, or the important reason, as to why  crime numbers dropped.  Actually Bloomberg has been following a policy that many cities are following.  They are making American cities too expensive for the very poor to live in them and so poor people are moving out of cities and into suburbs (areas around the city).  If you push very poor people out and bring very rich people in, the crime rate of a city will drop.  You are not solving the crime problem, however, you are just pushing it away.  Bloomberg was very good at pushing problems away.

tenure - the amount of time that a person works at a job.

vowing to appeal the decision - he promised to take this court case to a higher court. To appeal a decision is to ask a higher judge to reconsider the opinion.

deterring crime - to deter something means you punish one person to scare others from doing something.  So deterring crime means doing something to scare people from committing crimes.

to detain a person - to hold onto a person; to stop a person

reasonable suspicion - is you feel suspicion, you feel that someone is doing something wrong. reasonable suspicion means you have a good reason to believe a person is doing something wrong.

probable cause - this is a legal term which means that you are very very sure someone is doing something wrong or will do it.  If a person seems angry and is walking through the streets with a knife and a police officer sees this, he has probable cause to stop the person.

proactive - very active

crime-tracking - keeping count or keeping track or keeping a record of the number of crimes that happen

an incentive for more stops - an incentive means a reward for doing something.  If a baseball player is told that he will be paid double if he hits 50 home runs, that is his incentive to hit more home runs.  So cops (police officers) were rewarded for the high number of stop and frisks they made.

uniformly - if something is uniform it is the same

cumulative - all together.  If you have a cumulative number of something, you have one number of everything of a certain type that happened.

criminalize everyone - basically they are saying that if you live in a certain area, the police will just assume or guess that you are a criminal.  Or if you have dark skin, the police will assume you are a criminal.

alleged bias - it is said that this is a bias.  A bias is a prejudice.  You are biased if you like or dislike someone because of his skin color.

a monitor - someone to watch over the New York Police Department. 

to pledge - to promise.

cheered - showed approval, showed a liking for something

oversight - oversight means monitoring - when people watch over something.

compelled - forced

to reform - to change something for the better.

to implement - to implement something is to put something in place, to make something work.

delay becoming an art form - the city of Oakland has become really good at delaying - at not doing something they should be doing.  they are almost like artists at delaying.

kabuki - a type of theater in Japan.

furious - very angry.

reputation - how people feel about a person or group.  You can have a good reputation or a bad reputation.

civil liberties - freedom you should have if you are an American citizen.

best case fantasy - what is happening in LA would be what many people would like to see in New York City.  A fantasy is a dream.

beneficial - good

hostility - anger, hatred

Discussion/writing topics:

What is more important: freedom or safety?  When should freedom be sacrificed for safety?

Based on the article, do you agree with the judge or Bloomberg?