Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Test your vocabulary...9 useful words from previous postings

I think this blog is one of the best resources on the internet for foreign students who want to improve their reading and vocabulary.  Here are 9 useful words I took from the last 3 or 4 postings.  

If you don't know what each word means, please review the words in the last few postings. :)  Going through current and past postings on this blog will help your vocabulary to soar (increase rapidly).  Every few days there are new and interesting postings and more useful words.

Word Bank:

hereditary, to be offended by something, to be slain, deliberately, to collaborate with, abundant, to plummet, to emit something, to accommodate someone, 

1. The difference between murder and manslaughter depends on whether a person was killed _______________ or accidentally.  If it was an accident but the death was caused through carelessness, a person can be charged with manslaughter.

2. The two political parties in the USA rarely ________________ each other.  This is why the US government recently had to shut down for several days.

3. There are two types of the disease called diabetes.  Type one diabetes is _____________ while type two is acquired through bad eating habits and other factors a person can control.

4. A supervisor has to make it clear to an employee that he/she should not be ________________ by any type of job evaluation.  An evaluation is meant to help an employee assess how he/she has been doing and to also allow the employee to provide some feedback on what he/she might need in the future.

5. Everyone read some terrible news over the weekend in New York City.  A mother and her four children were ________________ by a mentally ill relative in Brooklyn.  He killed the entire family.  

6. The air in Los Angeles is polluted because of all the carbon monoxide gas that is ____________ by all the cars in that city every day.

7. The waiter was very kind.  Even though we were a large group and we had very specific and hard to meet requests, he was able to ___________________ us and give us the types of  meals we wanted.

8. The stock market can often be quite unstable.  If investors are confident in the government, stock prices can soar.  If investors lose confidence at any time, stock prices can _________________.

9. Many people think there is hunger throughout the world because we lack food.  No. Food is actually __________________.  But, even though there is more than enough food, political and economic systems are not efficient enough to distribute the food adequately.

Answers are below:


1. deliberately
2. collaborate with
3. hereditary
4. offended
5. slain
6. emitted
7. accommodate
8. plummet
9. abundant

Should horses and buggies be banned (prohibited) in Central Park?

Above you can see a horse that was injured (harmed) while pulling a buggy near Central Park.  Although this tradition has existed for several decades, many New Yorkers have been questioning how well the horses are being treated by the owners of the service.

When my parents brought me to New York as a child, I recall that we rode on a buggy through Central Park. We felt this was part of the New York City tourist experience.  I am sorry (I regret) that I did that, because I, too, now believe that this tradition should be ended. 1)  It is a rip-off (a rip-off is when a person is charged too much money for something).  Tourists are paying a lot of money for this experience and the experience is probably not worth the amount being paid.  2)  I do not believe the horses enjoy or really want to pull a buggy through Central Park.

The article:


Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

losing ground to - losing a battle to, losing to

an animal rights group - this is a group that tries to protect the rights of animals. Animals cannot defend themselves so this type of group tries to ensure that the animals are treated well and that they are not mistreated.

an iconic experience - if something is iconic, it is very famous.  These horses and buggies are iconic because when you think of visiting NY City with your family, you often think about these buggy rides.  Basically an iconic thing or service is something so famous that it pops into your head when you think about something connected to it. The Statue of Liberty is also an iconic image relating to NY City, as is the Empire State Building.

extinction - an end

congested - crowded

urban - city

find themselves with the upper hand - they now have the power and are winning

mayoral election - the process in which the people of NY City vote for the person who will be the next mayor.  The mayor of a city is the leader of a city.

dense - crowded

the front-runner - the candidate running for mayor who is currently leading in the polls (unofficial counts)

carriage driver - buggy driver

the face of the industry - the representative of the industry

hysteria - when a person panics (loses control) and experiences or shows too much emotion

an agenda - a goal (I don't see the difference between animal welfare and animal rights)

to breed - breed, bred, bred: bred ---> developed, grew, raised

they project their emotions onto the horses - she is saying that people think that horses feel the same way they feel

clip-clop - the sound of the horses walking

nobody wants to pet a fender - people like petting (touching, stroking) the horses.  You can't do this to a car.

a veterinarian - an animal doctor 

a daycare facility - a place where small children can be taken and supervised while their parents are working

to catch on - to become popular

nostalgic - it reminds a person of the past

cruelty - something is cruel if it hurts something unnecessarily

a compromise - when two sides reach an agreement in the middle of their two goals.

disembarking - leaving

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The New York Police Department arrested a young man just because he was black

You are not going to believe this story. A young black man was shopping at a store called Barneys, in Manhattan, and he bought a very expensive belt. This is the expensive, designer brand belt he bought:

He had saved $350 to buy the belt at Barneys.  Yet, the clerk at the store didn't think that a young black man could possibly have acquired $350 legally.  To make a long story short, after he paid for the belt the police arrested him and took him to their station to question him.  

Here is the article:


Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

busted - arrested; if a person is arrested the police take the person into custody (to their police station)

shopping while black - the newspaper is making fun of the police.  Of course a person cannot be arrested for shopping while being a black person, but that what the New York Police Department did anyway.

he got more than he bargained for - if you get more than you bargained for, this means that something bad happened that you didn't expect

to splurge - this means to spend a lot of money in order to treat oneself, to spend a lot of money to make yourself happy

cuffed -  these are handcuffs. to be cuffed means to have these placed on a person's wrists.

a lawsuit - this is when one person decides to sue another person in court to get money for something that was done which might have been wrong.

to allege - to suggest, to state, to say

a fraud - something not legal

plainclothes detectives - police officers wearing normal clothes

hauled - pulled

precinct - the place where police officers (cops) work

verified - indicated that it was true

disgust - if you feel disgust about something, something that happened was wrong and it makes you feel sick

duds - clothing

unspecified damages - no particular amount of money - the judge can decide

Friday, October 25, 2013

Should this sperm donor have to pay child support payments?

This is human sperm approaching a human egg:

After one sperm cell penetrates (enters) the egg, the egg becomes fertilized and will develop, ultimately, into a child.

In this story we read that a lesbian couple wanted to have a child but, obviously, a couple made of two women would not be able to provide any sperm.  Therefore, these women went on craigslist.org (where Americans tend to go if they need to do something illegal) and found a man who was willing to 'donate' (give) his sperm (illegally) so that the couple could have a baby.

So the man went over to their house, created the sperm :P :P :P , and they found a way to place the sperm inside one of the women artificially (not naturally) so that she would become pregnant.  This is called artificial insemination.  Usually a doctor performs artificial insemination.  In fact, in the state of Kansas (one of America's 50 states), there is a law that a doctor MUST perform artificial insemination.

Unfortunately, the women later broke up and both women are very poor.  Therefore, the state of Kansas is suing the man who donated the sperm.  If you sue a person, you take the person to court to try to get money from him. Kansas wants the man to provide money for the child until the child turns 18 years old.  Kansas seems to be claiming that he is the 'father' of the child and he should provide money for the child. The man, of course, disagrees.  

Basically, this is what the state of Kansas is arguing:  If a man has sex with a woman and a child results, that man is responsible for the child.  Kansas wants to make sure that men don't have sex, help create children and then abandon (leave) the children. So Kansas is arguing that unless a doctor performs the procedure to make a woman pregnant through artificial insemination, there is no way to really tell whether the child was due to artificial insemination or whether the man had sex to produce the child or not.  If a doctor does not do the artificial insemination, Kansas just assumes that there was sex involved and the man becomes responsible for the child.  Part of me agrees with Kansas and part of me agrees with the man who provided the sperm.

What do you think? What a sticky situation for the judge!  
(That's a joke, actually a 'pun' ---> 'a sticky situation' means 'a difficult situation' and sperm is kind of sticky.  A pun is when a word or phrase can have two meanings and when a person realizes the dual meaning, it is funny.)

The article:


Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a judge - this is a judge:

contention - argument, claim, belief

child support - this is a monthly payment a father is supposed to pay the mother of a child if the father is not living with the child.  The amount of money depends on many factors - especially how much money the father makes.

to perform artificial insemination - to artificially and not naturally transfer the sperm to the egg

antiquated - out of date (basically the State of Kansas is arguing that this was not 'real' artificial insemination because a doctor was not there.  Therefore the state does not know for sure that 'artificial insemination' occurred.

to draw up a contract - this is a common way to say 'developed a contract' or 'wrote a contract'

summary judgment - I'm not a lawyer but this seems to mean the judge will make a decision without having a full trial.

does not dispute that - does not deny that, does not say it is not true

a catheter and a syringe - 

to impregnate - to make someone become pregnant

persecuting - deliberately attacking him and causing him stress

to send a message about traditional family values - the sperm donor's lawyer is saying the donor is being attacked by the state because the state does not believe in lesbian parents and wants to scare men from providing sperm to them.

to be appealed - whoever loses will take the case to a higher court

China is cracking down on wealthy dissenters

A dissenter, or someone who dissents, is someone who disagrees with others in regard to an issue.  When a government 'cracks down' on someone or something, this means that the government uses force to stop someone from doing something or to stop something from happening.

In the following article we see that the Chinese government has arrested a very wealthy Chinese businessman who seemed as if he was going to provide money to a group that does not agree with the current governmental system in China.  The article states that the Chinese government will allow business people to become rich, but it will not allow these rich business people to try to change the government or economic system.

Most Americans would condemn what the Chinese government did to this businessman. (to condemn something is to say it is wrong)  Yet, I feel that it's important to look at both sides of this issue.  The Chinese government has been trying to make various reforms (changes) and it has been moving slowly in making various changes.  For instance, the level of poverty (poorness) has decreased significantly in the country.

It seems to me that the Chinese government is following a plan to slowly change the economy and improve life for more Chinese.  I think the government is concerned that wealthy businessmen will try to bring about changes too quickly, or that these businessmen will not show adequate concern for all the Chinese people in regard to the changes they hope for. 

The article:


Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to be arrested - to be taken in by the police for a crime

crossing the 'red line' of political activism - there seems to be an unwritten rule that businesspeople in China can make money for themselves, but they must stay out of politics.  This is referred to as a type of 'red line' that a person should not cross.  Political activism means political change.

a crackdown - when the government uses force to stop something

dissent - when a person or people disagree with some policy. It is a noun and a verb.

crucial - very important

gathering - meeting

a billionaire venture capitalist - he has over $1,000,000,000 and he likes to loan money to businesses that are starting so that he can make more money. A 'venture' is a risk.

human rights issues - such issues would be freedom of speech and other freedoms

detention - when someone is kept against his will by the police or other authorities

rising entrepreneurial elite - an entrepreneur is a business person, to be elite is to be one of the 'highest' or 'best'.  In China now there is a social and economic class of people who are growing in numbers and who have a huge amount of money.  The Chinese government seems worried that they will try to take control of how the government is being run.

to agitate - to cause trouble, to try to change things

reform - change

ascendant - rising, increasing

supremacy - dominance, control

a prosecutor - a lawyer for the government

seized - grabbed, taken

suspicion - if you suspect someone of doing something illegal, you think he may have done that illegal thing

disrupt order - cause disorder or chaos

paves the way - makes it possible for

a court trial - this is when a person goes to court to defend himself against charges that eh did something wrong.  The court will have a judge and lawyers etc.

urbanites - people who live in cities

to advocate - to speak out for, to say that something should happen

enshrined in China's constitution - these activists say that there are freedoms promised to Chinese people in China's constitution (main legal document) that the Chinese people do not have yet. Enshrined in means: to have a special place in.

government transparency - to be able to see clearly what the government is doing

disclosure of assets - this group wants to know how much money each government official is making

integrity -  a deep sense of honesty and honor

outspoken - someone who has strong opinions

causes - political movements can be called causes.  Human rights is a cause that many people are fighting for.  A 'cause' is a social goal that people are trying to make real.

to portend - to predict, to point to

his ilk - his type or his kind

Thursday, October 24, 2013

An Indian elementary school girl was 'gang' raped and set on fire

A few days ago I put up a posting about slavery around the world.  It turns out that 1/2 of all slaves are in India.  So out of 30 million slaves in the world, 15 million are in India. India also has massive poverty (a huge amount of poor people) and huge malnutrition rates (malnutrition is when people - especially children - do not receive enough food).

Several months ago there was a report about a young woman who was 'gang raped' and beaten after being taken from a train by several men.  A 'gang rape' is when several men force themselves on a woman sexually. At that time it was revealed that the Indian government and police tend to ignore such situations - therefore, this type of thing seems to happen a lot to women in India.

Now there is another story coming from India about a child who was gang raped and then set on fire.  Yes, the rapists attempted to burn the child to death after they raped her.  The child, in fact, died.  It seems that the rapists were afraid the child would go to the police.

I think it is time for the world to start to speak out about the terrible things that are happening in India on a daily basis.  For instance, US news sources often present information about malnutrition in North Korea. There is terrible malnutrition there, yet, the malnutrition numbers are much higher in India, but this is rarely reported. India, after all, is a 'democracy' and an 'ally' (friend) of the United States, so there is often silence about the lingering abuses there. ('lingering' means continuing or never-ending)

We live in a globalized, civilized world, but India seems to be in a situation in which brutal and barbaric things happen on a daily basis.  This should be unacceptable.  If India doesn't want to change, the civilized world should make it change.

This is a very short article with relatively easy vocabulary.

The article:


Vocabulary from the article:

to no avail - to no good consequence; so the sister ran for help but help did not arrive in time to save her sister.

raiding - if the police 'raid' a place, they go there secretly and enter the place forcefully to catch people before they can escape

assailants - the attackers, the rapists

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Should this "Sponge Bob" gravestone be allowed?

In this article you can see that the family of a woman chose an unusual gravestone (tombstone) for their relative after her death.  They chose a 7 foot tall (2.15 meter) statue of Sponge Bob.

People who have dead relatives buried in that cemetery do not feel that the tombstone is appropriate and the cemetery has removed the giant Sponge Bob.  

What do you think?  If you had a relative buried in this cemetery, would a giant statue of Sponge Bob bother you (upset you)?

The article:


Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a vet - a veteran. In this case it means someone who served in the US military as a soldier.

a gravestone is a marker placed over a person's grave when the person dies and is buried in the ground in a cemetery.  The grave is the hole in the ground into which a coffin (box containing the corpse - dead body) is placed.

to be slain - to be killed

towering - huge, large, big like a tower

an impasse - a situation in which people cannot go farther; if you are at an impasse, you are stuck

fashioned in the likeness of - made to look like

erected - set up

erected for the twin sister - the sister has not died yet, but she wanted a tombstone like that as well

went to great lengths - they did a lot of work

a fitting tribute - an appropriate way to honor her memory

strangled - when someone uses his hands or something else to stop a person from breathing until that person is dead

charged with her killing - he has been formally accused of killing her and must appear in court on these charges

to accommodate someone - to make someone happy

interred there - buried there in the ground

a dispute - an argument

to field all the comments - to accept and listen to all the comments

An ex-Playboy model was fired from her teaching job

A few months ago there was a story in the news about a California teacher who was fired from her job because she had done some pornographic movies (sex movies) when she was younger.

Now there is a story about a teacher in Texas who was fired because she posed for some naked photos for Playboy magazine when she was younger.

How do you feel about this?

The article:


Vocabulary from the article:

mayhem - chaos, disorder

to rally behind someone - to gather with other people to show your support of a person

infuriated - very angry

allegedly - apparently, it looks this way

exposed - revealed, publicly presented

a peer - someone of the same background; a peer is usually someone of your profession or same situation

racy photo work - sexually exciting photo work

the Disney of porn - porn or the pornography industry is the industry that presents sexually oriented material in magazines and online.  This model states that Playboy is 'nice' porn - it is not too dirty or too extreme.

tame - the opposite of wild.  Tame means domesticated or nice.

some big nest egg - a large amount of money that is sitting in the bank for a person, like an egg sitting in a nest.
skin mag - a magazine that shows naked skin

stay under the radar - she avoided being caught; radar is a device that tracks or monitors airplanes electronically

to hinder you - to stop you or slow you down

a buzz - public interest

Toward the end of this article there are problems with spelling and grammar...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Polish artist is criticized by Russia for documenting the rape of women by Russian soldiers in WW II

It's one of the dirty secrets of World War II that is not in the history books:  as Joseph Stalin's Soviet army advanced toward Berlin, Russian soldiers raped millions of women in Poland and Germany. Since Russia was our 'ally' (friend) at the time, this atrocity has been covered up. (An atrocity is something terrible that happens in a war, beyond the actual fighting.)

Recently a Polish art student created a giant sculpture of a Russian soldier sexually attacking a pregnant woman.  He placed this work right next to a sculpture in his town that celebrated the Russian victory over the Nazis in World War II.

The Russian government immediately attacked the sculpture and demanded that it be removed. Unfortunately, officials from that Polish town did remove the piece of art, stating that it was placed in the town illegally.

Yet, I think it's important for the world to know that 1) World War II started because Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler made a secret agreement to both attack Poland at the same time and 2) many Russian soldiers were absolute animals in regard to their treatment of women in the cities that they conquered.  English and American soldiers did not acquire a reputation for raping women in World War II.  Russian soldiers did. The Russian government should probably acknowledge the truth and issue an apology for the harm caused by its soldiers in World War II instead of attacking a Polish student who wants the truth to be known.

The article:


Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to condemn s/t - to say that something is wrong

rape - when a man forces himself on a woman to obtain sexual pleasure

to denounce - to state that something is wrong

blasphemous - it's strange that the Russian ambassador would use this word. Blasphemous usually means something that offends a person's religion.  If someone creates a work of art that makes fun of the Christian religion, this would be a blasphemous work of art.

pseudo-art - pseudo means 'a bad imitation' of s/t.  The ambassador is saying this isn't even a good work of art.  I think it's an excellent work of art.  If a person pretends to be an intellectual, but he isn't, he can be called a pseudo intellectual.

depicting - showing (from to depict)

installed - placed

offending - if you are offended by something you are emotionally hurt by it

to cope with  - to deal with something, to be able to handle something emotionally

to feel compelled - to feel as if you have to do something

a stunt - a crazy action; for example, a publicity stunt is something an advertiser might do in a public space to get publicity for a product

the independence of Poland - I think what the ambassador is forgetting is that Poland wouldn't have needed its freedom if Stalin and the Russian army had not attacked Poland in 1939.

hooliganism - this is a strange word-choice as well.  English soccer (football) fans who cause trouble and destroy property are often referred to as hooligans.  So a hooligan is a trouble-maker.

explicitly - openly
World War II has not died around the world.  In China and Korea people still blame Japan for atrocities committed in the war.  In Poland, obviously, people cannot forget how Russia pretended to be a liberator after having helped start the entire war.  Do you think it is important for artists or others to recall what happened 70 years ago or should this be forgotten and buried (covered up)?

The people of Poland simply do not trust Russia.  Poland was one of the first Eastern European countries to join NATO after it left Russia's Warsaw Pact.  Do you think that this artist was motivated by current events and a current distrust of Russia to create this piece?

Do you think the Russian ambassador was right in denouncing this piece of art?

How do you feel about what this Polish artist did?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

India leads the world in: slavery

Some shocking statistics were released recently about slavery around the world.  Yes, slavery - especially 'sexual slavery' (where women and children are forced to be prostitutes - a prostitute offers sex for money) - is thriving (strongly surviving) in the world.  What is especially shocking to me is that about half the cases of slavery in the world are in India.  India is supposed to be a developed nation and a democracy. According to this report about 15 million of the world's 30 million slaves are located in India.

Here is an amazing documentary about the children of prostitutes in India and how they are expected to become prostitutes themselves.  This documentary won an Oscar and is worth watching.  I think the international community has to put pressure on the Indian government to change this type of problem.  The world simply cannot tolerate the lack of adequate concern and action for this type of situation.  The documentary is called:  Born into Brothels (a brothel is a place where women work as prostitutes).

Part of the problem might be the cultural and religious tradition of 'castes' and the belief in 'karma' in India.

A caste was a social class that a person was born into and which the person could never leave.  So for generations there was no social or economic mobility (movement up or down) in India. 

Furthermore, Hinduism involves the belief in 'karma.'  Karma is a religious concept meant to explain why bad things happen to good people.  Many Hindus believe that when a person dies, he/she becomes 'reincarnated.' To be reincarnated means to come back again in a different type of body (human or otherwise).  So if a person were born into a 'low' caste and had a hard life, it would be said, "Well, you deserve your suffering because in your previous life you must have done terrible things!'  So according to karma, we are all punished in this life for what we did in a past life.

So if a child is forced to work as a prostitute or a person is enslaved in India, the attitude might be, if the person believes in karma: "Well, that slave or prostitute must have done something terrible in a previous life, so he/she is suffering now."  In any case, that's my theory as to why slavery is so pervasive (all over the place) in India.  What's your theory? 

Here's the shocking article:


Vocabulary from the article:

bonded labor - when a person is forced to serve a person as a slave because he/she owes the other person money.  In this type of slavery, the 'bonded' person never seems to be able to pay off his/her debt and remains a slave forever.

commercial sex exploitation - let's say that a woman or child in a third-world country is very poor.  This type of person might be recruited by or encouraged to join a 'brothel" - a place where men can come to have sex.  This is a form of 'exploitation' - poor and vulnerable people are being used to make money for others by becoming prostitutes.

trafficked - basically this means 'kidnapped' and forced to work as a prostitute

manual labor - hand labor, machine work or sewing etc.

an index - a chart or series of statistics

a quarry - a place where materials have to be dug out of the earth

a kiln - a type of oven that produces food or goods

to quantify - to give a number to, to count

hereditary slavery - you 'inherit' your position as a slave, a person who is born into slavery

staggering - shocking

domestic workers - maids, house-cleaners

to be lured into something - to be attracted into something by a false promise.  Let's say that someone says there is a good job for you teaching in a village, but when you go there you are kidnapped and forced to work as a prostitute.

coercion - force

indentured servitude - this means a person works for free for a number of years, usually to pay off a debt

prevalence - how common something is.  The flu is prevalent in the winter.  Slavery is more prevalent in India than any other country.

allocating resources - putting money aside to deal with a problem

to devise policy - to create policy

Do you agree that a caste system in the past and the belief in karma might be reasons for the situation of slavery in India?

Why do you think slavery is allowed in India?  Who is at fault?  Is it the people who don't care?  Is it the government's fault?

When South Africa treated black Africans terribly during the apartheid era, the world began to boycott South African goods.  Do you think it is time for the world to tell India that enough is enough and that millions of people simply cannot be treated this way?  India is generating great wealth (for some).  Do you think it is time for the world to take action toward a country that does not seem to care about its own people?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Test your intermediate English vocabulary

to abandon – to get rid of, to leave behind
abundant – more than enough
an optimist – someone who always sees the bright side of things
to plummet – to drop quickly, to fall
a quest – a search for something important or meaningful
chronological order – to order a set from earliest to latest
to collaborate – to work together with others instead of competing
retaliation – getting revenge
unanimous – everyone agrees
to dissent – to disagree with what a majority of people believe
domestic – dealing with your home
to vow – to promise
meager – not much
a controversy – a topic or issue that causes people to argue
an innovation – something new

King Arthur and his knights were never bored – each of them was constantly engaged in some type of ___________ and they all sought to find the Holy Grail.  

When students learn US History they often go through it in _________________, although some teachers like to teach ‘themes’ instead. 

Are our schools too competitive?  Might it not be better if students _______________ with each other and learned better social skills? 

A jury’s decision has to be ________________.  If even one person dissents, there can be no real verdict. 

This will be my first international flight, although I have taken many ____________ flights around the USA. 

I loved my old Converse All Stars but they were getting old and I needed a new pair of casual shoes, so I _______________ them for some cool new running shoes. 

The internet seems to have been around forever, but I can still remember in the 90s when this was an ___________________ and people were thinking about what might be possible from it. 

Capital punishment remains a huge ______________.  Should the state have the right to execute criminals if they have killed others? 

Many economists have pointed out that there should not be any cases of world hunger since the amount of food being produced now is ___________________. 

Many world religions do not believe in the morality of _________________. They recommend that a person should show mercy and forgive others.

Answers are below: 


chronological order

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Ravens are very smart

There is not much vocabulary in this article (but the vocabulary is pretty useful); however, I liked the video of a raven which seemed to deliberately (not accidentally) seek help from a person, after the raven had had a bad experience with a porcupine.

Here's what a raven looks like:

What's a porcupine?  It is an animal that has many protective 'quills.'  A quill is very sharp and tends to stick into an animal which attacks it.  In fact, I think the porcupine can 'shoot' its quills when it feels threatened (when it believes it is in danger).  Somehow this young raven in the video got too close to a porcupine and the porcupine struck the raven with a few quills.  But, ravens are pretty smart, so this raven got some help from a kind lady.

Here's what a porcupine looks like:

The article and video:


Vocabulary from the article/video:

a splinter - this is a little tiny, sharp piece of wood that can stick into a person's skin.  When a child gets a splinter (usually in his/her finger) he/she runs to his/her mom/dad and gets it removed.

to holler and screech - holler means yell and screech means to yell in a very high pitch.  Men tend to speak in a lower pitch while women tend to speak in a higher pitch.

fledgling - a fledgling teacher is a new teacher, a fledgling baseball player is just beginning to play baseball...so this was a young raven just starting to learn about the world.

borne the brunt of an attack - suffered the consequences of an attack.  The 'brunt' of an attack could be considered the 'main force' of an attack.  "to bear the brunt of something" is an idiom you hear every once in awhile.  Let's say that you are working on a project with a group, but you are doing most of the work.  You could say, "I am bearing the brunt of all the work for this group."  You are carrying most of the weight.

extracting - removing.  A dentist might extract a bad tooth.

Quoth the raven - this means, "The raven said..."  There is a famous poem which was written by Edgar Allen Poe in the 1800s called The Raven.  He uses the phrase "Quoth the raven: nevermore!" in the poem.  It's very old fashioned language.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Yes, this bozo is a supreme court judge

The Supreme Court is very important in the USA because it has the power to review (look at) laws that are made in Congress and this court can 'overturn' those laws (eliminate them).  Indeed, Obama was afraid that the Supreme Court was going to eliminate or overturn the law he worked with Congress to create in regard to health care insurance in America.

Because this is such an important Court, you would think that the nine people on the court would be amazing individuals.  No.  For instance, let's look at Antonin Scalia.  He is one of the most conservative judges on the court. Conservatives usually do not like to see things change and are not usually considered to be very open-minded. 

When Scalia was asked his opinion about allowing gay people to get married, he said something like: "Oh my God!  If we allow gay marriage this year, will people want to marry animals next year?" 

He has made many crazy statements like this.  For instance, affirmative action is the policy that some universities use to bring in more black and Latino students, since these students are underrepresented in many good American universities.  When Scalia was questioning a lawyer from the University of Michigan about affirmative action, he literally asked: "If you want more black and Latino students at Michigan, why don't you just drop your academic standards?"

So the following interview with Scalia will probably not surprise you. 

By the way, you might be asking, "Why are there such bozos on the US Supreme Court, and what's a bozo?

If you call a person a bozo, you are, basically, calling the person an idiot.  This is Bozo the Clown:

This is Antonin Scalia, who is, in my opinion, a bozo:

Why are there such bozos on America's top court?  Because liberal presidents pick liberal judges to sit on the court, and conservative presidents pick conservative judges to sit on the court.  So basically the last several presidents were not looking for judicial geniuses.  They were looking for judges who agreed with their political views.  So the judges are kind of like puppets.  This is a puppet:

Right now there are 4 very conservative judges who were appointed by conservative presidents and 4 very liberal judges who were appointed by liberal presidents.  There's one guy who is mostly conservative but who sometimes votes as a liberal. Ronald Reagan, one of the most conservative of recent presidents, appointed Antonin Scalia to the court in 1986.

The article:



the devil, Seinfeld - the devil is, in the Christian religion, the force or influence that causes 'evil.' Seinfeld was a very popular and very funny TV show in America in the 1990s. As you can see from the article, Scalia loves Seinfeld.

Here's a sample:

hilarious - very funny

The Nazi Soup Kitchen - a very funny Seinfeld episode about the owner of a chain of soup restaurants in New York who had the reputation for being very mean or nasty.  So Seinfeld called him "The Soup Nazi."  Here:

coarsening of society - Scalia thinks that US society is becoming less 'nice' - it is becoming tougher and rougher because people lack manners and politeness.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A long-time McDonald's worker confronts the president of the McDonald's Corporation

Believe it or not, there was a time in America when the Republican Party was considered the 'good' party and when there was not a huge gap between the wealthy and the poor in this country.

From the 1860s to the early part of the 20th century, an income gap began developing and the Republican Party changed from the party that believed in equal economic opportunity for everyone willing to work, to a political party for the very wealthy. 

Indeed, at the beginning of the United States, in the late 1700s, the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, believed that wealth could be generated privately in the USA, but to the benefit of the whole society.  Now we have a system where wealth is generated privately only for private individuals and the money only gets spread around through taxes or philanthropy.

So the following story really made me upset.  A woman has been working for the McDonald's Corporation for 10 years for the same salary of $8.75 per hour.  In 10 years McDonald's had never given this woman a raise.  So when she confronted the president of the company, he not only did not give her a raise, he had the police give her a ticket for trespassing.

What really angers me is that if corporations paid their workers more money, this would be good for the overall economy!  John Maynard Keynes (a famous economist) pointed out that the more money people have, the more money they spend and this generates business growth.  So these corporations which refuse to treat their workers like human beings (I would starve before I ever ate at an unethical  place like McDonald's) are hurting the entire economy.

The article:



an income gap - the difference between what the very wealthy receive and what the very poor receive. New York has the widest income gap in the USA.  The top 20% of New Yorkers make 40 times as much as the bottom 20%. 

wealthy - those with a lot of money

America has two political parties - The Democrats and the Republicans.  The Republicans are conservative, the Democrats are liberal.  What does this mean?  The Republicans, basically, want to help individual business people make money, so they believe that the government should not regulate or control businesses.  The Democrats want to tax businesses a lot and use the money to create social programs. Obama is a democrat, Bush was a Republican.

philanthropy - when wealthy people donate money.  Philanthropy doesn't help, however, because it does not create a 'sustainable' system.  The organization receiving the philanthropy becomes dependent on the philanthropy.  Lately the system of 'micro-loans' seems to be creating  sustainable system in which people are initially helped and then continue helping themselves. 

a raise - an increase in her salary

to confront - to meet a person face to face to address an issue

a ticket - if the police give you a ticket, you have committed some minor offense and have to pay a fine for it. 

trespassing - being somewhere you shouldn't be

budget cheat sheet - a basic sheet showing how much money McDonalds had made and how much money McDonalds had spent.  A 'cheat' sheet means the sheet was shorter than it might normally have been - like a sheet of paper you might take secretly into school to cheat on a test (to look at the answers for the test secretly).

a protester - someone who believes something is wrong and who publicly shows this

to be duly compensated - to get the money she deserves.  Compensation usually means receiving pay for doing a job.

multi-tasking - doing different things at the same time

that's what we're worth - that's the amount of money they should be getting

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A New York City police officer was arrested for participating in the motorcycle gang attack

A few days ago I posted an article stating that a New York City 'undercover' police officer was at the scene of the beating of an Asian man by members of a motorcycle gang (please refer to the next article).

At that time many people felt that the officer was justified in not trying to help the man who was being beaten, because the officer would have blown his cover (revealed his secret identity).

Now, however, it looks as if the undercover police officer not only refused to help Mr. Lien, but he also participated in the attack against Mr. Lien by smashing his helmet against one of Mr. Lien's windows.  This officer has now been arrested.

The article:


Vocabulary from the article:

undercover police officer - a police officer who pretends to be a member of a group that is being investigated

to be justified - if someone is justified in doing something, what he did is considered right or acceptable

to be arrested - this is when the police suspect you have committed a crime and they take you into custody (to the police station)

an SUV - a Sports Utility Vehicle. Basically a really big car

allegedly - this means something hasn't been proved yet, but it looks as if someone is guilty of something

a mob - a disorderly group

subsequent - following

to be charged with a crime - this is when the police officially state the crime a person is accused of and the person is then processed through the criminal justice system based on this alleged crime

charged with riot - I think this is a mistake.  It should be: charged with rioting

mischief - when you do something wrong for the fun of it

the veteran detective -  the experienced detective

banging - hitting something hard

clipped the biker  - hit the rider obliquely, just barely hit the biker

NYPD Commissioner - the leader of the New York Police Department

modified duty - his duties have been changed so that he is kept inside in an office

pending the outcome - until the outcome of an investigation by Internal Affairs (they investigate police misconduct)

a badge - a piece of metal that identifies the officer as a member of the police department

murky, murkier - less clear

blowing their cover - revealing their real identity as police officers when they are supposed to be keeping it secret

compromising his identity - ruining the false identity he had established could compromise (ruin) all the work he had done undercover

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The police are looking for members of the motorcycle gang who beat up an Asian dad

Actually, this happened a couple weekends ago.  An Asian guy and his wife and child were simply driving down the highway in New York City when their SUV (sports utility vehicle - a big type of car) was surrounded by about 30 guys driving motorcycles.

At one point, a couple motorcyclists started driving in front of the Asian man's car and they slowed down, forcing the Asian man (Mr. Lien) to slow down.  When they stopped, he had to stop.

Other motorcyclists then attacked Lien's car and when they started slashing his car's tires (cutting his tires with knives) he decided that he and his family were not safe and he drove forward to escape.  Unfortunately, he drove right over a motorcyclist, who survived but is in the hospital now.  It looks as if the motorcyclist will be paralyzed (unable to walk).

After Mr. Lien drove away, the other motorcyclists chased after him.  When Lien had to stop his car on a busy Manhattan street, they attacked his car again, were able to pull Lien out, and they beat him badly.  He was taken to the hospital but released.

One of the motorcyclists videotaped most of what happened:

Now the police are attempting to find all the members of this gang.  Interestingly, the guy who was rolled over by Mr. Lien has hired a lawyer and is threatening to sue Lien.  Basically, however, it looks as if Lien was simply trying to protect his family and a lot of us would have done exactly what he did.

In this latest article about what the police have been doing, we learn that there WAS a police officer on the scene where Lien was being beaten.  However, he was an 'undercover' cop.  This meant that he was not supposed to let anybody know he was a cop.  So he stood there and did nothing while Lien was badly beaten.

(As it now turns out, the undercover police officer DID participate in the attack.  Here is the latest article: http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/10/08/20870446-undercover-cop-seen-on-video-attacking-suv?lite )

The article:


Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to be caught in the middle of something - to be deeply involved in something

a pack - a group

a role - to have a role in something means to play a part in something

to portray - to portray something is to act as if you are something; actors often portray roles on TV, in the movies and on stage

a handler - this is a person who is a middle person between the police and the person who is undercover

harrowing - scary, frightening

Internal Affairs - the department of the New York Police Department which investigates mistakes or crimes by police officers

cases could be compromised - his cases have been ruined because now the criminals he was working with might know who he is

to swarm - a large group of bees or wasps will sometimes swarm something they want to kill, this means they attack in a large group

to a halt - to a stop

he plowed through the group - he drove through forcefully, like a plow (a snow plow pushes snow aside so cars can use the street)

being sought - being looked for

arraigned - a legal process in which the person is charged with crimes (formally accused of crimes)

turned him in - they meant 'turned himself in'

yanking - pulling

mischief - doing something wrong for the fun of it

to calm tempers and disperse the crowd - so the guy who was run over has a lawyer and the lawyer claims this guy was innocent and was trying to stop people from attacking Lien and trying to encourage everyone to leave.  That may or may not be true.


Should this undercover cop have tried to save Mr. Lien from being beaten? 

What would you have done?  Couldn't he have phoned for police to help this man?