Sunday, September 29, 2013

Putin's Russia throws Greenpeace activists in jail

Greenpeace is an organization that was founded in the early 1970s to help protect the environment from harm.  The first action Greenpeace took was, in fact, in 1971 near a small island off the coast of Alaska, where the US government wanted to conduct an underground nuclear explosion.

Although Greenpeace was not able to stop that nuclear test, they caused so much negative publicity that no further tests were scheduled at the island.  The island is now, in fact, a bird sanctuary.

{publicity - basically this means news, or information about an event that is widely spread.}
{a bird sanctuary - a safe place for birds to live.}

Recently Greenpeace protested the fact that Russia is drilling for oil in the Arctic.  (The Arctic region is around the North Pole. Drilling means they are using technology to penetrate the ocean bottom to obtain oil. )  Greenpeace felt that such drilling was very dangerous and that it could cause an environmental disaster - especially an oil spill which might not be easily controlled.

{a protest - this is when one or more people openly complain about a situation which they feel is wrong.)

In response to the protest, Russia arrested everyone from Greenpeace, as well as two journalists, and the Russian government has thrown all of these people in jail.

Here is an article about this:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

an activist - someone who feels something is wrong and who takes action to stop that wrong thing

no leniency - no mercy; the court was very severe with the 30 members of Greenpeace

to be detained - to be held by the police; detained is similar to arrested

a marathon court session - a very, very long court session.  A marathon is a very long foot race.

it stretched late into the night - it continued late into the night

no charges have been brought against them - they have not been formally accused of any type of crime.

a prosecutor - this is a lawyer for the government who attempts to bring charges and find individuals to be guilty of various crimes.

piracy - the prosecutor is claiming that the Greenpeace members are pirates.

offenses - crimes

pending the investigation - while the investigation is happening and depending on what the results of the investigation are

to disrupt - to interrupt, to interfere with, to stop

The Coast Guard - every country with access to the sea has a Coast Guard - they act as police on the sea near the country.

to scale an offshore platform - to climb up a platform (piece of equipment) offshore (in the water)

to seize - to capture, to take

to tow a ship - when one ship pulls another ship

hostile - showing a sense of bad will

bombed the Rainbow Warrior - this was a ship which was, apparently, blown up by the French government because the ship was protesting French nuclear tests.

a deckhand - someone who works on the ship

a subsidiary - a branch, a smaller part of a larger company

an offshore rig - a giant piece of technology from which oil can be drilled in the ocean

to be deployed - to be sent somewhere to be used

its launch - its first use

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Test your higher-level English vocabulary (20 words, 10 fill-in-the-blanks)

resentment - the way you feel if a person hurts you and you can't forget it; a grudge
fortitude - strength
elation - extreme joy
eloquence - being able to speak beautifully
elite - among the very top or best
colloquial - conversational
peripatetic - moving around a lot
remunerative - receiving money for a service
vivacious - lively
garrulous - talking too much
amiable - friendly
reticent - not speaking much
symbiotic - a relationship in which two organisms benefit each other
regressive - going backwards
empirical - that which can be sensed, touched, heard etc.
to coerce - to force
intuitive - a feeling that something is right or wrong which cannot be verified
to retract - to take back
to consolidate - to bring a bunch of things together
to disseminate - to spread out

1) Many educators believe that a child will not learn anything that he/she is __________ into learning.  To learn, a child needs to be motivated by something other than fear.

2) Although many state universities are not considered to be as selective as the ________ Ivy League schools, they are less expensive and provide excellent educational opportunities, perhaps as excellent as the Ivy schools.

3) We don't often think of the bacteria in our stomachs as being our friends, but we have an important ____________ relationship with these bacteria.  They help us break down food and we provide them a place to survive.

4)  When the internet was started most people felt this would be a great way to ___________ useful information around the world.  At that time nobody could have anticipated all of the abuses and problems that have come with it.

5)  Martin Luther King Jr. was not only a principled person who fought for the human rights.  People were amazed by his _____________.  He speeches were always well-written and beautifully spoken.

6)  When we look at a work of art we often can't really say what it means, but we often have an ________________ understanding of it.

7)  Although the professor was known as one of the greatest physicists in modern history, students were surprised by how ______________ his lectures were.  It was as if he were having friendly conversations with his students instead of formal lectures.

8)  If a person wants to be a great leader, perhaps the most important character trait will be ______________.  A great leader must be able to withstand a great amount of adversity.

9)  It's true that Jake was amazingly smart, but it was hard for people to tell that because he was so _______________.

10)  In order to go to college, many American students take out loans from several sources.  When it is time to pay the loans back, it is wise to have the loans _______________. This means all the loans are handled by one agency and one payment is made each month to the agency, which disseminates the payment equally to the different loan organizations.

Answers are below:


1. coerced
2. elite
3. symbiotic
4. disseminate
5. eloquence
6. intuitive
7. colloquial
8. fortitude
9. reticent
10. consolidated

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sexual jihad? Now I've heard everything.

Thankfully, the American people seem to have stopped Obama from making the civil war in Syria even worse. (A 'civil' war is a war within one country fought by two different groups in that country.)

(My friend Giulia took this photo while we were in Chelsea...Nobomba!)

Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama had argued, among other things, that the 'rebels' (those who are fighting against the Syrian government) are the 'good guys,' whereas the dictator of Syria (a dictator is a leader who rules the country by himself) and his army make up the 'bad guys.'  They made this argument because most Americans believe that the rebels are just as bad, if not worse, than Assad.

In the following brief story we see that the rebels seem to be bringing women from Tunisia to Syria to provide sexual services for them.  Some of the women are being tricked (deceived, fooled) into going to Syria - they think they are going there for one reason but when they get there they find out that they are expected to be prostitutes for Syrian rebel soldiers. (A prostitute is a woman who sells her body for money or who provides sexual services to strangers.)

And then the rebel soldiers tell the women: "Don't worry!  You are doing God's will by having sex with us! You are serving God!  We, men, do the fighting for God, and you, women, give us sexual pleasure when we are not fighting!"

This is what they mean by a 'sexual jihad.'  Jihad seems to be a term some Muslim extremists use for a 'holy war,' or a war that is fought for God. 

Here's the article:

Useful vocabulary from the article:

to be pregnant - a woman is pregnant when she is carrying a baby inside of her.  But in America it is somewhat controversial to say this. (a controversy is an issue about which people might argue)  Some people who are in favor of abortion (this is when a woman goes to a doctor to stop the pregnancy) would not sat that the woman is carrying a 'baby' while she is pregnant.  They would say she is carrying an 'embryo' (the first stages of a baby) or a 'fetus' the last stages of development before a child is born.  Only when the child comes into the world is it a baby to these folks.  What do you think of abortion?

to stand guard at a checkpoint - 'to stand guard' would be the verb here.  That means a person is guarding an area - or watching the area to make sure it is safe.  A checkpoint is a place where people have to pass through and their identity is usually checked before they can get through.

swapped - traded.  Basically, the article is saying that one soldier uses the woman sexually, then 'swaps' her - gives her to another guy, who swaps her to another guy.  Swapping usually means trading, but here it just means handing the girl over to a new guy.  If I have a bottle of soda and I don't want it, and you have a bottle of orange juice and don't want it, but you want my soda, I might say, "OK, let's swap.  I'll give you this soda for your orange juice."

bearing the fruit of sexual contact - showing the results of being raped (I would argue these women are 'raped' - they are forced to have sex when they don't want to).

standing idle - standing and doing nothing

a liaison - a brief relationship; again, this is not a liaison, this is rape

to elaborate - to speak in detail

hardliners - people who are dogmatic; those who are super conservative, those who refuse to change their opinions and believe very extreme things

to stem the flow - to stop the flow

moral educational corruption - he's saying they are making religious excuses to rape women and this is something immoral and it is teaching people the wrong thing.  If you are 'moral' you are 'good.'  Corruption means extreme dishonesty and wrongful behavior.  If something becomes corrupt, it was once good but has become bad.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Popular Chinese Blogger "Confesses" His Crimes on TV

In America we tend to judge other countries based on our own values.  We seem to want the whole world to look and act like America.  I think it's important to realize, however, that other societies have values that are just as legitimate (just as 'right').  In America we value freedom, but we have more people in jail than any country in history (1% of all Americans are in jail). We have lots of crime, poverty and almost every week the world hears of another terrible shooting where innocent people are killed.

In China a Chinese-American guy was continually posting nasty (hateful; nasty information would be information attacking someone) information about the Chinese government.  Apparently some of the things that he posted online were just rumors (things he had heard but which might not have been true). 

For instance, he seems to have posted that the Chinese government was putting chemicals into the drinking water so that people would not want to have sex.

The Chinese government arrested him and he went on TV to apologize to the Chinese government and to confess that what he had done was wrong. 

I am a little confused, though. The government seemed to arrest him because they claimed he tried to hire a prostitute (a woman who sells her body for sex).  But he went on TV and confessed that his blogs and statements were wrong.  Many people think the government just wanted to arrest him for anything - to keep him quiet.

Also, I do not know whether he confessed 'voluntarily'.  (If you do something voluntarily, nobody is forcing you to do something.) I tend to think that he confessed so that he would not receive as harsh a punishment as he might have. 

To be honest with you, I'm somewhat sympathetic to the Chinese government in this situation. 

In America the internet is not regulated (controlled), and we read stories every week about teenagers who kill themselves because of 'cyber-bullying' or 'internet-bullying.' (Bullying is when one person or a group attacks another person.)  We have lots of freedoms in the USA, lots of things are unregulated, and foreign countries would point out that this is why there are always shootings and other terrible things that happen. Foreign countries could argue that the people of the USA do not use their freedom wisely.

The Chinese government would probably argue that the US has done a terrible job of making sure that innocent people are not harmed by the internet, and the Chinese government does not intend to make the same mistake.

In America anyone can post anything about the government, even if it is a lie.  Citizens are expected, in America, to be able to tell the difference between the truth and rumors.  But China has different values.  The government does not tolerate the posting of lies or rumors.  Therefore, this person was arrested, and he made a humiliating confession on TV (you feel humiliated when you feel deep shame - when you do something that makes you look bad).

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a confession - when a person states that he/she did something wrong

startling - shocking; if something startles a person, he doesn't expect it and is very surprised

handcuffs - the metal device the police use to keep a person's hands locked together

to renounce - to say something is worng

to intimidate - to scare, to threaten

speaking critically - speaking negatively

It gratified my vanity greatly - basically he is saying that by blogging attacks against the Chinese government to thousands of people, he felt wonderful (gratified) - a person's vanity is his sense of how great he is.  If a person is 'vain' the person thinks he is amazing and better than others.

an alleged crime - an apparnet crime; if something is aleged, it might have happened but hasn't been proved yet

aired - shown on TV

likened the practice - compared the practice

Mao-era justice - an era is a period of time. Apparently Mao justice was not justice. It was a situation where many innocent people were forced to confess to things they had not done.

routine - common

the accused - those who supposedly had committed crimes

hiring a prostitute - a prostitute is a woman who sells her body for money.  So he was not arrested for making nasty statements, he was arrested for hiring a prostitute.

an activist - someone who wants to change something that is wrong

vaildity - truthfulness

denials he had been set up - some people think that he was deliberately arrested to stop him from making any more negative statements about the Chinese government.

solicitation - asking a woman to have sex for money

to curb his influence - to lessen his influence

rumor-mongering - promoting rumors instead of the btruth

attribute microblooging to addictive drugs - he means that blogging became like a drug for Xue

verified - made sure they were true

gorgeous - wonderful.  He loved the attention he was getting from others.

contraceptives - this is what I mentioned before. he seemed to claim that the government was adding chemicals to water to stop people from having sex.

to double-check facts - to make sure facts are correct.

regulation - control

an entreprenuer - a business person

chastened - humbled; if you are chastened you feel ashamed of what you did

slander - when you deliberately make false statements about a person

Monday, September 16, 2013

Vietnamese 'dognappers' are being beaten to death

For dog lovers, this is a serious topic.  Indeed, I consider myself to be a huge dog lover. When I was a child I even fed stray dogs (dogs without homes) in my neighborhood.

Apparently in countries where restaurants serve dog meat, there are dognappers (a kidnapper steals a child, so a dognapper steals a dog) who steal dogs that belong to families.  It is too difficult to catch stray dogs, because they do not trust people and run away from everyone. The dognappers find it easier to steal dogs which have been pets, since these dogs are friendly and trusting.

In Vietnam hundreds of people in a village caught two dognappers and beat these men to death. To be honest with you, part of me says, "Good!" but the better part of me thinks this was excessive (too severe a punishment).    

Here's the article.  It's from a Bangkok newspaper, so the English toward the end of the article isn't that good.  The vocabulary in the article is relatively basic, so there is no need for me to list or define the words. I just wanted to pass this article on.

One Russian shoots another Russian while arguing about Kant

There aren't really any challenging vocabulary words in this article, I just wanted to pass this on.  I guess it's good that some people still take the philosophy of Kant so serious.

Basically he had two big ideas.  One was that there is a big difference between the world as it is and the world as we perceive it.  His other big idea was that we needed to act according to 'universal' moral principles (principles that were true beyond any doubt and that everyone would have to agree on). Only by doing this could we free ourselves from the way nature often willed us to act (against reason).

Kant, of course, would have argued that it was wrong to shoot another person who disagreed with his philosophy.  :P  So the guy who shot the other guy DEFINITELY lost the argument. :P :P :P

The article:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

12 higher-level words - test yourself!

to intervene – to get involved in a situation in order to resolve it
to exacerbate – to make something worse
to impeach – to remove a president who had committed a crime; or, to cast doubt on a statement
to absolve – to provide forgiveness for some wrong action, to make someone pure again
to feel antipathy for s/t – not to like something
primitive – very old, original, not modern
sanctioned – approved
analgesic – something that reduces pain
punitive – something done as a punishment
meticulous – very detailed
belligerent – warlike, aggressive
a harbinger – something that predicts something else

1. I felt that my back pain was probably not due to anything serious, so I just went to the pharmacy and bought an over-the-counter ______________. 

2. Some people believe that the USA should act as the world’s ‘policeman’ and it should ___________ in any situation around the world where there is trouble. 

3. I saw some of the old space capsules from the 1960s at a museum.  I looked into the capsule and saw the wiring/circuits.  I was shocked by how ____________ it all looked compared to today’s technology. 

4. When Richard Nixon received a presidential pardon from President Gerald Ford, Nixon was ___________ of all guilt that he might have had due to the Watergate scandal. 

5. When the dictator used a small amount of chemical weapons to attack the rebels, the US was afraid this might be a ______________ of even worse actions.  Therefore they sought military intervention. 

6. The Republicans in Congress did not try to ___________ Bill Clinton because he had had an affair with one of his young interns.  They claimed he had lied to Congress about the affair. 

7. These days Sweden is not known as a __________ country. Yet, in the past, Sweden had a huge military and fought with the great powers of Europe.

8. I told Bob not to scratch his itch, but he did and he only _____________ the problem. 

9. Sometimes a bride’s family will feel some amount of _________ for the groom (and vice versa).  Yet, everyone has to learn to live together peacefully in a family. 

10. Bob was one of the best auditors at his company.  He was super ___________ and would spend as much time as needed to go over all the details to make sure he was doing a good job. 

11. The boxing match was just an exhibition because it had not been ____________ by the appropriate boxing authority. 

12. In a courtroom the judge or jury can award ____________ damages.  This means that one party has done something so wrong that he/she should be punished and the other person should receive extra money.  (In court, 'damages' refers to the amount of money a victim will receive to make the victim feel better about what had happened.)
Answers are below:
1. analgesic
2. intervene
3. primitive
4. absolved
5. harbinger
6. impeach
7. belligerent
8. exacerbated
9. antipathy
10. meticulous
11. sanctioned
12. punitive

Will tourists go to Jamaica for marijuana "tastings"?

How to use this resource:

This 'blog' has some amazing news articles and vocabulary words.  If you go through one or two articles each day (in the archives) your reading vocabulary will definitely increase and the better your vocabulary is, the better your speaking skills will be

Go through the vocabulary list first and read the definitions in simple English. Then read the article.  If you do this each day (there are about 150 articles with vocabulary words that are defined), your English will get better and better.

Please enjoy this resource and please share it with your friends.  It is completely free.  I created this for my own private students, but I am happy when I learn that others around the world are using it.

Some farmers in Jamaica are taking advantage of an ineffective government and police department - they are offering to take tourists (illegally) to locations where they can sample some of the best marijuana on the island.

Marijuana is a type of drug which is smoked and which can make a person feel peaceful or happy, although sometimes the drug makes a person feel anxious (nervous) or paranoid (the person feels threatened and thinks others want to hurt him/her).  The main ingredient of the drug is tetra hydrocannabinol (THC).

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a twist on wine tours - when there is a 'twist' on something, this means there is 'a different version' of something or a new thing that is kind of like an old thing.  Let's say that someone makes a movie and you ask me what kind of movie it is.  I might say, "It's a horror film.  In fact, it's a twist on 'Dracula.'"  That would mean that the film starts with the basic Dracula idea but changes it a bit.  So here, you have marijuana tastings, which are a twist on the idea of wine tastings.

pot - a slang term for marijuana

Napa and Sonoma - these are valleys in California where you can see the vineyards (where the grapes are grown) and you can taste some of the wine.

to flock to - if tourists flock to a location they all go to that location.  A flock is, literally, a group of birds.  Birds tend to flock together - travel together - to places.

a connoisseur - someone who really values or appreciates something

ganja - a slang term for marijuana

mystical - dealing with the religious

cannabis plantations - cannabis is a name for the marijuana plant. A plantation is a large farm.

a strain - in this case, a type of marijuana plant

reggae - a type of music

verdant - green, lush, filled with plant life

dreadlocks -   

mystique - here this word means reputation; a mystique is a very good reputation bordering almost on a 'myth'

weed - another term for marijuana

sinsemilla, chocolate skunk - types of marijuana

his plot - his area of land

a legalization drive - an attempt to make something legal

an advocate - something who believes in something and speaks in favor of it

a struggling economy - a economy which is not doing well; it is not a healthful economy

a boost - a rise, an increase

sprinters - runners like Usain Bolt

dynamic - if something is dynamic, it changes or is exciting

evolving - moving forward

in light of - because of, or due to

this hemisphere - the western hemisphere; since some US states and one South American country have legalized marijuana, Jamaica might do it as well

decriminalize - make it legal

to regulate pot - to establish some standards and laws concerning it

reform - any type of reform means positive change

prospects for - the chances of something happening.  i.e.  There is a 50/50 chance (prospect) it will rain tomorrow.  That means a 50% chance.

commercialization - the selling of something

laid-back - casual, informal

conservative - a conservative person does not like to take chances or see things change

Rasta - this refers to a religion that uses marijuana as part of its ceremony

pervasive - all over the place

illicit - illegal

a crop - this is what is grown on a farm: a crop of potatoes, a crop of corn etc.

enthusiastically - eagerly

rolling paper - it's the paper used to make marijuana cigarettes

a caveat - a warning.

a spliff - a type of marijuana cigarette

presumably - apparently

culturally entrenched - a deep part of the culture.  A trench is a deep hole in the ground. If you are entrenched somewhere, it is as if you have dug a hole and are in the hole to defend yourself from an enemy.

cast off - eliminate, get rid of

a prominent - famous

glaucoma - an eye disease which can be made better by using that person's drug

a hub - a place where people flock to

indentured servants - they were almost like slaves.  They worked for 7 years without pay before receiving their freedom.

alleviate - make something better.  Aspirin alleviates pain (gets rid of, eliminates, makes a person feel less pain)

a remedy - a cure

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

13 higher-level words to review and practice using

obsolete - out of date, no longer used
elusive - hard to catch, hard to get
to plummet - to fall or decrease sharply or quickly
dogmatic - a dogmatic person refuses to ever change his/her beliefs, even if you prove something to the person
phlegmatic - apathetic, not active, passive
morose - depressed, sad, in a bad (rotten) mood
incongruous - it doesn't fit, it is out of place, it doesn't make sense
laggard - to fall behind, to be behind where you should be
redoubtable - hard to deafeat, hard to beat
stoic - not showing emotion, able to control your emotions
austere - very severe, very strict
ostentatious - showy, flamboyant
cordial - very kind or nice

1) I knew that something rotten (bad) had happened to Bill. He was usually quite gregarious (outgoing) and cordial (nice) but he was now ______________ and a little rude.

2) Do you remember the Chicago Bulls basketball team of the 1990s with Michael Jordan?  This was one of the most _____________ sports teams ever.  One year they won 72 games and only lost 10.

3) A fashion designer is supposed to dress in an _______________ manner.  This shows that he is dedicated to a life of creativity.

4) Just a few years ago I recall buying a CD player.  Now CD players are totally ___________ and have been replaced by iPods and other products.

5) Although Professor Higgins had a reputation for being morose and somewhat irritable, when I met him he was quite ____________ and open.

6) Osama bin Laden had been quite ____________.  It took the US government over 10 years to hunt him down because he regularly changed locations and took methods to maintain his secrecy. 

7)  A Buddhist monk agrees to live a very ____________ life in which he tends to deny himself the pleasures that many people live for.

8)  The 1920s were good times for investors, until one day when the stock prices suddenly ___________ and many investors lost their life savings.

9)  Some people just seem to have been born with certain types of personalities.  Jim, for instance, is ______________.  His house could be burning down and he wouldn't seem to care that much.

10) Reporters were surprised to see how __________ the criminal responded to hearing his death sentence.  The murderer did not even change his facial expression and just looked directly at the judge.

11)  It's important for students to attend every day of classes or they might become ____________ and fall behind.

12) A good student is never ______________. It's important to keep an open-mind and to examine every argument on its own merits.

13) His story was _______________ with the facts.  Although he stated he was working on the night of the murder, it turned out he had taken that day off.

Answers are below:


1. morose
2. redoubtable
3. ostentatious
4. obsolete
5. cordial
6. elusive
7. austere
8. plummetted
9. phlegmatic
10. stoic
11. laggard
12. dogmatic
13. incongruous

The state of Iowa is providing gun licenses to blind people

In the USA, every citizen has a right to own a gun.  This 'right' is in the US Constitution, a document that was written in 1789.  It is very hard to change anything in the Constitution - 3/4 of the US states (38 out of 50) would have to agree to change anything in the Constitution.  Since about 1/2 of Americans seem to like the idea of owning guns, the right to own guns will not be eliminated from the Constitution any time soon.

Also, in the USA, the rights of people who suffer from physical handicaps are protected.  So if a person is blind or has trouble walking, extra efforts are made to make this person's life easier.  Additionally, a person cannot be denied a job because of a handicap.

So now we have a very strange situation in Iowa (an American state).  Everyone in Iowa has the right to own a gun, and if you are blind in Iowa, you cannot be discriminated against (a person cannot treat you differently because you are blind).  So if a blind person wants to buy a gun, the law states that the gun has to be sold to the blind person! 

I am assuming that this might be the case in other states as well, although I think it should be possible for a state to pass a law that a person who cannot see cannot own a gun for public safety reasons.  After all, if you are blind you cannot legally drive in the USA.

But some blind people in Iowa state that their hearing is so good that they can shoot a person based on sound, and not sight!  Let's hope they shoot the 'right' person though.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a right - a right is an ability to do something that the government can't stop you from doing.  i.e.  In America everyone has the right to say what he/she wants to say, unless what is said is knowingly false or can cause unfair harm to others.

to discriminate against someone - prejudice is an attitude, discrimination is an action.  If a person is not given a job because he is black or because he cannot walk, he has been discriminated against in the USA.

to grant s/t - to provide something, to give something

a permit - this is a small document that gives someone the right to do something

alarming - shocking, scary

a debate - an argument; when there is a disagreement about an issue one often uses the term 'debate': the gun debate, the abortion debate, etc.(abortion is when a woman is pregnant and she ends the pregnancy)

to issue - to provide, to give

impairment - if something is impaired, it doesn't work as well as it should.  If you are visually impaired, you cannot see as well as others.

a sheriff - a law enforcement official, like a police officer

detrimental effect - harmful effect

a blurry mass - if something is blurry to you, you cannot see it clearly.  A blurry mass would indicate an object, but not indicate what kind of object you are looking at.

to win an appeal - if one government official denies something, you can often 'appeal' his decision - go to another person and ask him/her to overturn the first decision.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Is Japan Bouncing Back?

Japan's new Prime Minister, Abe, is aggressively trying to stimulate the Japanese economy and it looks as if "Abenomics" might be working.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to bounce back - if you drop a rubber ball, it will bounce.  If something bounces back, it was doing well, started doing poorly, but has begun doing well again.

to stimulate the economy - to make the economy more active and to show more growth.

to revise - to correct, to bring something up to date.

annual - yearly.

to spur growth - to stimulate or motivate growth.  To make something grow faster. A spur is literally something a cowboy uses to make a horse run faster:

stagnation - if you leave a container of water just sitting around for a few days, it becomes stagnant.  If something like water stagnates, it doesn't move or change and it becomes bad tasting and unhealthful.  An economy that doesn't grow becomes stagnant.

aggressive - very active, forcefully active.

fueled optimism of a recovery - caused a positive belief that recovery (a good economy) can happen.

to invest - to place money in a company to help the company develop and make more money for the investors.

trickling down - if something trickles down, it slowly moves down like rain drops rolling down a window.  So when economists talk about money trickling down the economy, they mean that the rich build businesses and make money, but this money slowly makes its way 'downward' to the rest of society.  This was Ronald Reagan's economic policy - some believed it worked and others didn't.

the move is key to -  the move is important to, is central to.

welfare costs - money the government provides to those who have a hard time surviving without help.

domestic demand - if you raise taxes, you'll cut the amount of money people have to buy stuff, this will 'hurt demand' - demand will drop...meaning people will not want to buy as much stuff.  Economics is so tricky.  Domestic means in your own country. The opposite of domestic would be international.

to derail something -  a train or subway runs on rails.  If it derails, it can't run any more.  So if recovery gets derailed, the recovery stops.

public works spending - so economists are saying that the Japanese people are buying a lot of stuff and the government is spending a lot of money creating stuff in Japan, so even with a tax the recovery should continue.

a boost - increase.

the bid - a proposal, a plan.

refurbishing - fixing up and making them nicer.

to derive something - to get something.

sentiment - feeling.

Test your higher-level vocabulary 09/08/13

malignant - evil, causing harm, causing death (in regard to medical terminology)
obscured - covered
elated - very happy
utilitarian - useful
aesthetic - dealing with art or design
inexplicable -  can't be explained
provisional - temporary
pedantic - wanting to show that one possesses knowledge, just to impress and not educate others
altruistic - concerned about others more than oneself
a din - a loud noise or amount of noise
to be conducive to - to lead to
plausible - possible

1. Although it is _____________ that there was more than one assassin of John F. Kennedy, no firm evidence has come to light.

2. Rebecca was relieved when the doctor told her that the tumor found in the X-ray was not _____________. As a benign tumor it would cause no real problems.

3. The architect has a great deal of style and was quite innovative, but the company who hired him was not happy with his new building design.  They felt it was not _________________: it did not provide the necessary rooms for the necessary activities the company needed a building for.

4. An inability to negotiate is not_______________ to good diplomacy.  

5. During a solar eclipse the sun is _____________ by the moon.

6. We met at a Starbucks but the ___________ from the music and the loud conversations was too much for us, so we left.

7. Joe was ____________ to receive the news that he had been accepted for graduate studies at the university he wished to attend.

8. A dress designer certainly needs utilitarian skills like sewing and computer design, but a good ______________ sense is the foundation of good dress design.

9. One would think that doctors and lawyers would be attracted to their professions through _____________ reasons, yet many feel that their primary concern is money, money and more money. 

10. It's true that Dr. Schneider was a brilliant man who had studied in his field for several decades, but he was not a good educator.  Indeed, he was too ____________.  In every lecture he tried to impress his students with his knowledge instead of teaching them anything.

11. The reasons as to why prehistoric people painted various animals inside of caves remains ______________. There are many theories, but none of them is really satisfying.

12. Although Bob's company signed a contract to supply parts to an automobile manufacturer, the contract was ________________ and could be changed or replaced if Bob's company was not able to obtain certain materials.

Answers are below:


1. plausible
2. malignant
3. utilitarian
4. conducive
5. obscured
6. din
7. elated
8. aesthetic
9. altruistic
10. pedantic
11. inexplicable
12. provisional

If you like art, you might like my blog about art in New York City these days:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A New Model for the World's Oldest Profession?

Prostitution - when a woman sells her body for sex - is often called the world's oldest profession.  Here's a story about how the internet is affecting the world's oldest profession in Nevada. Indeed, this is a pretty good article with a huge amount of interesting vocabulary and expressions.

Nevada is the state in which Las Vegas is located, and it is the only state in the USA where prostitution is legal (although prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas).

As you'll see from the article, in Nevada they have brothels - these are actual places (buildings) where men can go to visit prostitutes.  However, the internet and the bad economy are harming the brothels.  Men can find prostitutes more easily through the internet, yet the brothels claim that they are safer because their prostitutes are medically checked very often and there is a predictable level of service.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a brothel - this is the actual place of business where prostitutes can work.  A brothel usually contains several rooms where the prostitutes can meet their customers as well as waiting rooms etc.

to disrupt - to interfere with, to interrupt; if something is disrupted by something else, it does not work as well because of something else.

dim - not much light

a parlor - a room

red velvet couches - velvet is a very soft, fuzzy material.  A couch is a piece of furniture that 3 or 4 people can fit on.

a stripper pole - in strip clubs (clubs where women remove their clothing) there is usually a long pole that the stripper can use in her stripping performance.  She can climb up the pole, spin around it etc.

she is having a sale on herself - this is a humorous or funny way of saying she is dropping the price a guy needs to pay to have sex with her.

an incentive - this is an added benefit a person gets if he does something another person wants.  For instance, if a baseball player can hit over 50 home runs, his team owner might give him an extra bonus.  So hitting over 50 home runs is an incentive for the player.  The prostitute might offer her own incentives - for instance, if a customer arrives before noon, she'll charge him half-price.

brunette - she has brown hair

took root - they were created; a flower or plant takes root before it grows

silver-mining boom -  a boom is a sudden increase in business or activity.  At one point there were many silver mines in Nevada and the miners were primarily men who sought the company of women.  Therefore, women were provided for a price at brothels.

dwindling - dropping, decreasing

a lobbyist - in America a lobbyist is someone who represents a business to members of the US government.  Lobbyists often contact Senators and Congressmen and try to encourage them to pass certain laws or not to pass certain laws.

sparsely populated - not well populated , few people; so many of these brothels are in very small communities.

stretched budgets - the state is not getting much money in the form of taxes but is still trying to offer the same services as before.  This means their budgets are stretched.  To stretch something is to pull it in order to make it bigger.

and marks the end to local institutions -- though not the universally beloved sort - I didn't understand this either.  This is really bad writing.  Can't writers for Bloomberg News make understandable sentences?

flagging - declining, decreasing

decreased patronage by truckers - truck drivers used to use these brothels a lot but they are spending more of their money on fuel now and, therefore, are not spending as much on prostitutes.  A patron is someone who uses some service.

to arrange liaisons - guys are just choosing their prostitutes from the internet now instead of driving to Nevada brothels. A liaison is a meeting.

discretionary income - this means, basically, extra income that can be spent on fun stuff.

the madam - the female boss of a brothel is called a madam

a recession - when the economy does poorly

recent years have not been kind to Nevada - Nevada has been suffering during recent years.

holds a grip on the state - the state still suffers from a bad economy.

density - the number of people or things in an area. If an area has a high density, it might have 1,000 people per x square miles.  A low density might be 50 people per x square miles.

a comptroller - every city has a comptroller.  This person monitors and audits the cities money.

a lineup of women - the women are asked to stand in a line so the customer can choose which one he wants to have sex with.

independent contractors - this means the women work for themselves but use the facilities of the brothel.  Actually this means the brothel and the women are cheating the state out of tax money.  If the women call themselves independent contractors, accurate records of how much money they make cannot be obtained by the government.

$200 to $600 on average - yes, you understood this correctly.  Some guys pay $600 to have sex with strange women.

a suite - a fancy room

a four-poster bed - some kind of fancy bed, I'm not sure.  I didn't feel like looking up 'four-poster bed' because I'm never going to use this term. :P

takes a dive - if you take a dive at a swimming pool, you jump into the water from a diving board.  If the economy takes a dive, it declines/drops/decreases quickly.

less frills - fewer fun things, fewer extra things

the downturn is overdue - some people feel that prostitution is evil or morally wrong.  They feel that it is a good thing that these brothels are suffering from a lack of business.  I tend to agree that prostitution harms women.

profoundly - deeply

a bordello - another term for a brothel

an emblematic industry - an industry that a city or state is known for.  Disneyworld is an emblematic industry for Florida.  Gambling is emblematic for Atlantic City and Las Vegas.  Banking is an emblematic industry for New York City.

a gangster - in the 30s and 40s there were organized crime gangs.  Members were called gangsters.

Bugsy Siegel was a gangster who helped create the gambling casinos in Las Vegas and who wanted to turn the city into a sinner's paradise (a place where people could do immoral things safely)

cultivated a reputation - developed a reputation.  Las Vegas has developed a reputation of a place where a person can come and do things he/she wouldn't be able to do any where else.  Las Vegas wants people to believe they can do dirty things there.

louche - dirty in a fun way

woven into the fabric of -  these brothels were created as a real part of the whole society of that time

the pioneers - the first people to arrive and settle the area

to ban something - to make something illegal

scantily clad - to be clad means to wear clothing, scanty means not having much; so scantily clad means not wearing much clothing

booms - this means the music is quite loud

The spectacle masks the fall of the fleshpot - this event, which seems popular, in reality covers up the fact that 'fleshpots' (strip joints and brothels) are failing.

intermediary - something between two things

outlawed - against the law

escorts - a prostitute can't advertise as a prostitute, so they call themselves something else: escort.  They pretend that they will escort a guy on a date (go out with a lonely guy). In reality they offer sex.

a come-on - a way a woman can attract a man.

vice enforcement - the part of the police department that deals with crimes like prostitution is called 'the vice squad.'

fetish friendly - a fetish is a sex practice that is different from a normal practice.

freelance - working for oneself

a panic button - if a prostitute gets really scared by a violent client, she can push this button and people will come into the room to help her.

a case manager for adults with developmental disabilities - she used to be a social worker. Well, I guess she's still doing a type of social work.

struggling brothels - brothels not doing well economically.

rural - out in the country. The opposite of urban.

the hardest hit - those that have suffered the most

hedged his bet on fornication - the writer is being humorous.  Flint isn't completely confident that he can make money from 'fornication' (people having sex) so he has opened other businesses. To hedge your bet means you don't bet/gamble all your money on one thing - you also bet on something else.

Get off now - receive sexual pleasure now.

timers - apparently they have clocks to make sure that the sex occurs within a certain time limit.

Questions for writing/discussion:

Do you feel that prostitution should be legalized?  Proponents (those for legalization) say that legalized prostitution in brothels will make this practice safe and provide more tax dollars to the state. Opponents feel that prostitution is wrong and that it harms women psychologically.  How do you feel about this?

Test Your Higher-Level Vocabulary

to diverge  to go in different directions
to coincide with s/t - to happen at the same time
to truncate s/t  to shorten something
dubious  - doubtful, probably not true
solace  a sense of peace, calm
melancholy  a sense or feeling of sadness
innocuous  - harmless, not a threat
malicious  - wishing to cause harm
enervated  - lacking energy
venerable  - someone is venerable if he deserves respect
a philanthropist  someone who donates money to a charity or charities
ambivalent  - not certain, being unable to decide

1. Joe’s birthday also __________ with Christmas, which means that he often just receives one present at that time. 

2. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize was felt by many to be a ___________ achievement for President Obama, since he had not done anything to promote world peace at that time.

3. __________ seems to be a goal of almost every major religion.  If one follows the teachings of these religions, one can find a deep sense of peace.

4. During the fall and winter many people feel a sense of ____________ because there is a lack of sunlight.  This is actually called Seasonal Affective Disorder – the lack of sunlight literally causes depression.

5. We started out with a specific plan for our vacation in Chicago, but we ____________ from it when we got there and really learned about the city.

6. There are a few historians who remain __________ about the legacy of President Franklin Roosevelt.  They cannot call him either a great or terrible president because they have found reasons to support both conclusions.

7. Although Bill Gates acquired the reputation for being a ruthless businessman, he now enjoys the reputation of a benevolent ______________.

8. The Golden Bough is an amazing book about religion and mythology, but it is way too long.  Most students read a _____________ version.

9. In the philosophy of Confucius, one’s parents, and the elderly in general, are considered ___________.

10. After hiking all morning and mountain climbing in the afternoon, we were all _____________ and went to sleep early.

11. Although major discoveries concerning atomic structure seemed ______________, later they were used to help create the atomic bomb, which lead the deaths of over 200,000 people in Japan.

12.  Jack could be a very candid person and he always spoke truthfully.  Whatever he said, however, was never meant to be _____________.  He didn’t want to hurt anyone, he just wanted to be honest.

Answers are below:


1. coincides
2. dubious
3. solace
4. melancholy
5. diverged
6. ambivalent
7. philanthropist
8. truncated
9. venerable
10. enervated
11. innocuous
12. malicious