Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Trouble in Venezuela

(The elected president of Venezuela - Maduro)

This is just my opinion, but there seems to be a dangerous trend in the world these days. Opposition political parties are using social media to organize protests (often violent) to try to remove elected leaders. (A trend is something that seems to be happening a lot.) (An 'opposition' political party is a political organization that does not have power, but wants power.)

This has happened in Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, Ukraine and now Venezuela.  

Again, I have to point to a country like South Korea.  They got rid of (eliminated) a dictatorship peacefully, and even though about half of Korea does not like the current president, you do not see Koreans killing each other in the streets.  Personally, I believe that if there is a problem in a democracy, peaceful means can be used to solve the problem. (A dictator is a leader who was not elected and who has total power.)

In Ukraine violent protests occurred 10 months before an election.  Was it worth it to destroy parts of Kiev, kill 25 police officers, and further ruin the Ukrainian economy when there was an election 10 months away?  Human life is not valuable?

What also bothers me is that the government of the USA seems to always support the protesters (those who gather together to show disapproval of something) when the government is not friendly with the USA, even though the protesters are taking anti-democratic action ('anti' means 'against'). But even though the US government will support these anti-democratic protests, they will then say the protesters are fighting for democracy.  This is called 'hypocrisy' - when you say one thing but do another thing, or when your actions contradict (go against) your words.

Here is a story about the protests happening in Venezuela:

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to plot with - to develop a strategy or to plan actions with; so the government of Venezuela is claiming or alleging that the US government is helping or encouraging the protesters who are trying to overthrow this government.

to expel - to kick out of the country, to remove from the country

in retaliation for - in revenge for; if someone does something to hurt you, you might retaliate by trying to hurt them

Maduro's ordered the expulsions on Monday - please be aware this is a grammar/typing error. It should be: Maduro ordered the expulsions 

an expulsion - to get rid of someone, to force someone to leave a country

a mass rally - a gathering of a huge amount of people; mass means a lot of

he challenged the government to arrest him - basically he encouraged the government to arrest him knowing that it would be a big mistake for the government to do that; to challenge someone to do something is also to 'dare' a person to do something.  You know the person doesn't want to do something so you tell the person to do it anyway.

to arrest him - to have the police take him into custody

persona non grata - a person who is not welcome somewhere

to conspire - to work secretly to do something

the charges - allegations, claims

baseless - not based on anything true

to urge - to encourage

under the pretense of - under the excuse of; Venezuela claims that the US diplomats really wanted to offer advice and support and maybe even money to the students, but claimed they were talking to the students about visas.

as cover - they pretended to go to universities to talk about visas so they could secretly talk about increasing the protests

energized - given extra strength to, made the opposition more active

ousting - getting rid of; to oust someone means to get rid of him

scattered - not organized, here and there

provincial - cities in different provinces

socialist - a socialist government tries to control the economy to make sure that the needs of citizens are met; a capitalist government protects the interests of business in the belief that the wealth generated by business will help everyone

inherited - after Chavez died, Maduro received these problems

mired in - stuck in

controls on currency - I'm not an economist but somehow by not allowing the value of the currency to change, this has caused prices to rise and apparently new products are not being made

kicked out - forced out of the country

manoeuvre - maneuver is the English spelling: an strategic action

legitimise/legitimize attempts - to make attempts seem moral or ethical or legal

destabilize - make unstable, to make something so unstable or weak that it will collapse and fall

clashes - fights

infiltrators - people who sneak into (secretly enter) an organization to cause trouble

fomenting the violence - causing the violence

hooded assailants - attackers wearing hoods

Friday, February 21, 2014

Yuna Kim gets robbed by cheating judges at the Sochi Olympics? I think so.

To many who are following the Olympics, Yuna Kim is still the Queen.

If a referee or judge prevents one athlete from winning so that another athlete can win, we, in America, say the first athlete 'got robbed.'  Basically we are saying the first athlete deserved to win and the second athlete only won because the judges cheated. To cheat, in this case, means to unfairly give one athlete higher scores than another. Of course, to rob someone is to steal something from them - to be or get robbed is to have something illegally taken from you.

Basically, this is why I haven't even been watching the Olympics.  I have heard that there is cheating in the sport of figure skating.  And, according to the article below, figure skating is not a completely honest sport.  

What angers me is that the judges also tried to hurt Yuna Kim's performance by making her wait on the ice for too long before they allowed her to perform.  But Kim is, basically, a SUPERSTAR and even making her wait for too long on the ice did not hurt her performance.  She is the true champion.  

Here is an article about this disgraceful situation at the Olympics:,0,4308145.column#axzz2twJJkka9

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

flawless - no mistakes, perfect

cuts no ice - if something doesn't cut ice or cuts no ice, this means it didn't work or wasn't effective

retain - keep

feisty - energetic, aggressive

fanatical - very devoted, overly devoted

she never stood a chance - there was no hope she would win because it had been determined ahead of time that the Russian would win

a scandal - a shocking story in which one learns that something wrong happened

she could not withstand a charge - she could not hold up against an attack, she could not defend herself from an attack from the Russian skater

the home ice advantage - referees and judges will sometimes favor a performer in the performer's own city or country

stunningly - shockingly

the strength of her presence was overwhelmed by - Yuna Kim is one of the greatest skaters ever, but her strong presence on the ice was covered up by the extra cheering of the crowd. She didn't seem as great because the crowd had cheered so loud for the previous performer. 

a biased panel of judges - if someone is biased, he/she likes someone and dislikes another person for the wrong reasons.  If I am an American referee and I am involved in a game with American athletes, I might be biased for them and biased against their opponents.  A panel is a group.

to be held more accountable - if someone cheats or does something wrong, they should be punished or removed; to be held accountable means to be punished if someone does something wrong

bordered on the unbelievable - was close to the unbelievable

a moving desperation - an emotional urgency, to be desperate means to want something very badly even though you know it might not be attainable

felt burned - felt offended or upset

its landmark Olympic victory - it's most important victory (unfortunately, like a lot of things in Russia, they only got this victory through cheating and corruption)

turned up the heat - became more aggressive

to chant something - to repeat it over and over 

slowly losing steam - slowly losing energy

attempting to fix - if you try to 'fix' a competition, you try to make sure a certain athlete wins. So this judge was definitely corrupt in the past and should not have been allowed into the Olympics again.  Why does the Olympics allow corrupt judges to determine winners and losers?

to keep the crown - to keep the championship

brash - aggressive

murky - dark

irked - angered; she should have been angered - I'm not even Korean and I'm angered.  The best person did not win this competition.

she played it too safe - she was too conservative, she did not take extra risks (I think that even if she had taken extra risks the Russian skater would have won - the judges were obviously biased)

to skate lights out - to do an amazing job of skating; Wagner is saying kim skated amazingly but did not win because the judges cheated

palpable - real

scoundrel of a sport - a sport that is known for its corruption and cheating; a scoundrel is a dishonest person 

Please buy my book? It's cheap and good!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hey Ukraine: Give peace a chance!

There is a famous song by John Lennon - 'Give Peace a Chance'. Basically the title means that we should not just take violent action when we are upset, but we should look for opportunities to solve problems peacefully. There is no excuse for violence against each other. "Give peace a chance" means "Give peace an opportunity - please try peace before you try violence." John Lennon wrote some good songs.

I think this is good advice for Vitaly Klitschko and the opposition political parties which refuse to end their violent protests in Ukraine.  (An opposition political party is a political party that does not have power, but which wants power.) Too many people are dying at this point - someone needs to show great courage and take the path of peace.

Although the US government supports the opposition parties and the protesters, the American people do not seem to.  They seem to feel that Ukraine should take care of its own problems and, frankly, based on comments I have read on the internet, they would seem to agree with me that there is no reason why so many people should have died, just because the president of Ukraine signed a trade agreement with Russia.  

Basically, it looks as if Obama and Putin hate each other, personally, and I believe that Obama is encouraging the protesters to try to cause trouble for Putin and the Russian government. I also believe that Putin offered Ukraine an economic bailout to upset the western countries. The USA and Russia are using Ukraine the way countries were used during the Cold War (1945 to 1989). Barack Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize - over the years he has proved he did not deserve it.  

The fairly elected president of Ukraine signed a trade agreement with Russia - this is no reason for people to be violently protesting and dying.  Elections are 10 months away - if the president is unpopular, another president can be re-elected. There has to be a peaceful way to resolve this issue.

Sometimes, in a democracy, the president does unpopular things.  Not everyone is going to be happy with every decision.  Winston Churchill once said, "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others." Basically he was saying that democracy is not perfect, but it is better than anything else that has been developed so far. If one group or several groups does not respect democratic processes in a democratic country, there will never be peace in that country.  

Look at what South Korea did - they went from a dictatorship to a democracy in a relatively peaceful manner and even though half the country is not happy with the current president, South Koreans are not killing each other.  

Whatever happened to people who imitated Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.?  These leaders did amazing things non-violently.  Has everyone forgotten the great people who changed things peacefully?

Video of protesters throwing firebombs at Ukrainian police:

Here is a short article from an English news source about the latest violence and who might be to blame for it:

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

presidency - the president is the leader of a country, 'presidency' usually refers to the office of president or the whole system under which the president operates.  i.e. Obama assumed the presidency of the USA in 2008. Obama became the president in 2008.

to blame - to accuse, to state that someone has caused something which is wrong

snipers - people with guns who hide and then shoot at others

clashes - violent confrontations, violent encounters or meetings

on the offensive - they attacked, they were the aggressors

The lyrics for Give Peace a Chance:

Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout
Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism
This-ism, that-ism, ism ism ism
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

(Lennon is making fun of the excuses people use for violence.  Instead of saying "Everybody's talking about capitalism, communism etc..." he creates a bunch of stupid sounding 'ism's.)

Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout
Minister, Sinister, Banisters and Canisters,
Bishops, Fishops, Rabbis, and Pop Eyes, Bye bye, Bye byes
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

(Let me tell you now)
Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout
Revolution, Evolution, Masturbation, Flagellation, Regulation,
Integrations, mediations, United Nations, congratulations
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout
John and Yoko, Timmy Leary, Rosemary,
Tommy Smothers, Bobby Dylan, Tommy Cooper,
Derek Taylor, Norman Mailer, Alan Ginsberg, Hare Krishna
Hare Hare Krishna
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance

(In this last stanza he mentions a number of famous people from the late 1960s and early 1970s who were against the Vietnam War.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A nun will be thrown in jail in the US for protesting against nuclear weapons

This story makes me very angry.

A nun is a woman who works in the Catholic Church.  Many nuns wear this type of garment, although many nuns often dress in ordinary clothing as well:

A Catholic nun and two other people were able to sneak into (secretly enter) a facility in the USA that contains the uranium that the USA uses to make nuclear weapons.

They sneaked in because they wanted to show that it would be easy for terrorists to get into such a facility and they wanted to protest against nuclear weapons and war (they wanted to show that they believe it is wrong to create nuclear weapons and to prepare for war).

What is shocking is that the nun is 84 years old and she got into the very center of this very important facility. She and her fellow protesters were there for 2 hours before they were arrested by the police.  Therefore, security was a joke at this facility (there was no security).

So, in reality, this nun and her fellow protesters did the US government a favor - they showed that terrorists can just, basically, walk into US nuclear facilities and steal uranium.  Yet, a US Judge has sentenced this nun to spend the next three years in jail. This is, in my opinion, a disgrace (something morally/ethically wrong that should be an embarrassment).   

The judge is named Amul Thapar.  I believe that he did something very wrong.  In my opinion a good judge tempers justice with mercy (to 'temper' something is to soften I am saying a good judge needs to show mercy or kindness as well as punishing people).  Also, if the security guards or the government had been doing their jobs, an 84 year old woman would not have been able to get into the center of the facility.  Throw US government officials in jail instead!

This is Judge Amul Thapar. You might disagree and feel that he did the right thing.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a complex - a group of buildings

to be sentenced - a sentence is a punishment involving spending time in a jail

defacing - if you deface something, you don't destroy the thing, but you damage it and make it look ugly. For instance, if someone defaces your property, he might paint something on your property or if someone defaces your car, he might put a scratch into your car

a bunker - a giant room with thick walls

a demonstration - in this case an action

exposed serious security flaws - showed big problems with the security system

much longer criminal histories - the others had been arrested before for protesting other things, they were definitely not criminals

detonated - exploded

a dirty bomb - this is a bomb that also contains uranium; if such a bomb is exploded, radiation will spread and cause cancer in many people

bomb-grade uranium - uranium pure enough it can be used in a bomb immediately

contractors - the security guards who worked there, worked for an independent company (a contractor)

leniency - to be lenient is to be forgiving or to show mercy; the opposite of lenient is strict

a miracle - something that happens with God's help, something good that science can't explain

to sabotage - this is to deliberately destroy something so that it can't work any more

the plant - the facility

federal - US government

an activist - someone who takes action to correct something that is wrong

banners - long signs

hammered off a small chunk - they used a hammer to break off a piece of the bunker. They wanted to show that if they could do that, a terrorist could easily do something worse.

restricted area - an area that nobody is supposed to go to unless they are authorized

offering to break bread with them - basically to share bread as a sign of caring about each other and showing a love of God and others

the inspector general - the top person who investigates things that might be wrong at a government organization

a scathing report - a super critical report

a felony - this is the most serious type of crime; to be charged with a crime is when the police and prosecutors formally state that you have done something wrong and bring you to trial before a judge in a courtroom.

to be stunned - shocked, very surprised

time they had served - so they had spent 9 months in jail, so their lawyers asked the judge to sentence all of them to 9 months and then let them go home.  So basically the lawyers were saying, "Look, we know you feel you have to punish these people to prevent (to deter) others from trying to break into nuclear facilities, but they have already been punished enough - please let them go home."

their record of goodwill - so at one point the writer of this story said they had criminal histories but now he is saying they had a record of goodwill.  If you have a sense of goodwill you want good things for other people.

no remorse - they were not sorry for what they had done; yet, why should they have been sorry?

So what do you think?  Should the judge have been more lenient?  Why do you think the judge was so severe in his sentencing?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Be careful using

There has been another 'craigslist' killing. Indeed, this murderer has admitted that she has killed at least 22 people by using this website.

What is craigslist?  Basically has become one of the most used websites in the USA.  It has tried to expand to other countries, but it has never become as popular in other countries as it is in the USA.

On craigslist you can buy, sell, get or give away almost anything.  If you are looking for an apartment, people can post ads for available apartments.  If you want to buy or sell something, craigslist offers that possibility as well.  You can also advertise services and you can meet people. 

The problem is that many people have begun using craigslist as a way to harm others, either by cheating them out of money (tricking them out of money - stealing money from them using a dishonest method) or by killing people. 

It also seems incredibly easy to hack into the system to acquire information about users. In the past, and perhaps currently, people have been able to place their own software into the craigslist system to continually place their own ads above all other ads in categories or to delete or remove ads they don't like. (Craigslist denied this was happening but now seems to have taken some kind of action against this.)

When craigslist started, in the early 2000s, it was an amazing site - there was no other site like it, and, generally, people used craigslist honestly.  As the site became more popular, and more people began using it, people began to complain that they had unfairly lost money and then everyone began hearing of people being killed who met strangers for dates on craigslist.

Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that the staff and management at craigslist are not responsive to the concerns of internet users.  If you feel something is wrong at the site, and try to address the issue, craigslist will seem to deny the problem completely.  For many years, craigslist had a special section where prostitutes (women who sell their bodies for money) could advertise for free.  Many people thought this was wrong and complained and craigslist did nothing about it.  Finally, there were stories of men killing prostitutes they had met through craigslist and the government actually put pressure on the site to remove that category.

As you can read in the following article, craigslist is still used by people to meet other people for casual or random sex for money (the prostitutes use the 'personals' section to advertise now).

I used to love this web site, but now I feel that the folks who run it are more interested in making money than in protecting the safety of the users of the site.  I believe that if they really wanted to, they could 'clean up' the site, but I do not believe they are even trying.  Indeed, they seem to claim that they have a 'right' to run their site as they choose and that they are exercising their freedom of speech and protecting the freedom of speech of others by not cleaning up the site.

Some of my private students have even told me they have lost money through illegal ads on craigslist.  This site, however, is acquiring such a bad reputation, that it will probably disappear within the near future.  Few people actually trust this site any more.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

Satanic - Satan, of course, is the character from the Bible that is supposed to be the enemy of God and human beings.  Some people embrace Satanism as a protest against the world.  Some Satanic cults are harmless while others seem to encourage killing.

a cult - this is usually an organization (sometimes quite large) that promotes a belief system that is supposed to be religious in nature.  It is usually called a 'cult' if it is not recognized by most people as a true or legitimate religion.

to be charged with murder - to be charged with a crime means the police have arrested you (taken you into custody - the police station) and they are formally claiming that you committed a crime.

to lure - to attract; if you lure someone somewhere, you promise something attractive or desirable to the person to get him to meet you somewhere; if you go fishing, you can use a fishing lure - this is a shiny object that attracts fish so that they try to eat it...they then bite onto a hook

when I hit 22 - when she had killed 22 people, when she had reached that number, she didn't bother to count the next people she had killed.  Hello - what's going on in Alaska that people can kill each other and get away with it so easily?

she was coming clean - if you come clean, that means you tell the truth after not telling the truth or remaining silent for a long time 

to stab, to strangle - to stab someone is to use a knife on him, to strangle a person is to use a rope or something else to stop the person from breathing by wrapping the object tightly around his neck.

So she is saying they were going to strangle him to death but he said something they didn't like and they stabbed him - killed him more violently.

the trigger - the device on the gun you pull back with your pointer finger in order to fire the bullet

pinpoint on a map - point to exactly

a 14 year sentence - a 14 year punishment.  Sexual abuse often 'desensitizes' a person to the pain of others.  people who are physically, verbally or sexually abused as children often become abusers later in life.  Part of me pities this young woman, part of me is disgusted.

So what do you think?  The murderer was sexually abused as a child and this totally ruined her life.  She became angry toward the world and insensitive toward the pain others might feel.  Does she deserve pity in this case? 


If you like this blog, you might like my ESL book:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A controversial policy at a Copenhagen zoo

This story is a few days old, but it is worth reading and has some good vocabulary words.

A zoo in Denmark (Copenhagen) recently killed a young giraffe because they said they had too many giraffes. When other zoos offered to take the giraffe, the Copenhagen zoo refused to send the giraffe to other zoos. The Copenhagen zoo said the giraffe had to be killed because its genes were not good enough.

The term "genes" is short for 'genetic material' - 'chromosomes' or 'dna'.  Genes are the little coding units in our cells that are used to determine what each of us will look like or become.

The Copenhagen zoo argued that the animal, basically, deserved to be killed because it did not have the best possible genes.  (You can read the story at the link below and better understand what happened.)

Do you agree with what the zoo did or do you feel that what the zoo did was wrong?

One of my students pointed out that if this zoo had wanted to stop the giraffe from spreading weak genes, it could have 'neutered' the giraffe (made it impossible for the giraffe to pass on its genes through sex) and given it to a different zoo.  This zoo surely seemed eager, for some reason, to kill this harmless animal.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

controversial - if something is controversial, it is an issue or topic about which people disagree strongly

surplus - something extra which is not needed

to be put down - this is a term used for animals who are killed, but who are not killed in the context of hunting.  For example, if you have a very old dog who is ill, the vet (dog doctor) might say, "Unfortunately, we can't help your dog any more and we don't want him to suffer.  It might be a good idea to put him down."

a bid - in this case a bid means an attempt; 'bid' is often used as part of a preposition phrase: "In a bid to win the election, the politician promised to lower taxes."  "In a bid to prevent a war, diplomats secretly met last night to negotiate."

a petition - a document containing the names of people who are in favor of or opposed to something

appealing for a change of heart - in this case 'appealing for' kind of means 'begging for' or sincerely asking for; a change of heart means a change in one's decision...they asked the zoo to change its decision to kill a baby giraffe

to avoid - to not do something

in-breeding - this is when birth occurs and the parents are somewhat related to each other; so in this case, two giraffes who were very close genetically apparently bred this new giraffe.  The zoo felt that the 'in-breeding' might have created a 'weaker' set of genes (in-breeding usually leads to health and disease problems in the long term).  For instance, in the history of Europe, many royal families (families of kings, queens, princes etc.) suffered from in-breeding since all the royal families had some kind of connection to each other.  Many members of the royalty in Europe had and died from weird diseases due to this in-breeding

a bolt gun - this is scary.  This is a type of gun that does not shoot out a bullet.  When you pull the trigger, the a 'bolt' temporarily shoots out (and then comes back in) - a long, heavy piece of metal - that hits the animal in the forehead and kills it.  So it is like taking an object and hitting an animal in the head with it to kill it.

a lethal injection - a shot from a needle that causes something to die from poison.  So they did not want to use a more 'gentle' way to kill this baby giraffe because it would have poisoned the meat that they wanted to give to the lions.

post mortem - after death; so they cut up the giraffe, while people watched, after the giraffe died

carcass - the dead body of an animal; a corpse is the dead body of a human

skinned - the removal of the animal's skin after death

anatomy -  the muscles and organs of the animals

death threats - people have told him that they are going to kill him

to alter - to change

state-of-the-art - up-to-date, current, up to the best standards

last ditch - a desperate last attempt, a last try before something is too late

ethical - being able to do the 'right' thing instead of the 'wrong' thing in any given situation

to portray itself as being - to show itself as being

to ensure - to make sure of

a campaign - an effort by a lot of people

barbaric - not civilized, something done by ignorant people


Yes I'm the guy who caused the scandal in Asia a few years ago:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Can Vietnam profit from luxury chocolate production?

I am always happy to read about good things happening in Vietnam.  This country suffered greatly during the Vietnam War (1964 - 1975) and still suffers from some problems that were caused by the war and which have not ended (like harmful chemicals left in the soil from the war).  Here is a story about the developing chocolate industry in this country.

Vietnam is a developing country of about 90 million people.  One of their main exports is coffee. Like many of the South East Asian economies, it is primarily an agricultural (farming) country that has a limited industrial sector - so economic growth is dependent on the various crops that might be grown. 

An interesting article about two French businessmen who are developing a chocolate business in Vietnam:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

luxury - an item is a luxury item if only a few people can afford it or if it is of high quality and very expensive

a pioneer - someone who does something first; someone who goes where others have not gone

The Mekong Delta - this is a little area at the southern tip of Vietnam.  A delta is any area that is shaped like an upside down triangle and which faces the sea.

they have their heads buried - they have their heads literally inside the sack (bag) containing the beans so that they can smell the beans better

cocoa bean - the cocoa bean actually comes from a type of fruit that is grown from a tree.  This type of tree was first found in South America and later imported to other parts of the world, especially West Africa.  The cocoa bean is extracted (removed) from the fruit and then dried and then processed into chocolate.

an artisan is someone who makes something by hand, so an artisan chocolate maker is someone or a small group that makes fine, quality chocolate from the best materials.

resurface - they take their heads out of the sack

to murmur - to speak in a low tone, usually to yourself, so that nobody can even hear what you are saying

appreciatively - they murmured appreciatively, meaning they liked what they smelled; if you do anything appreciatively, it means you valued or appreciated something

sweet-toothed - if you have 'a sweet tooth', this means you like sweet tasting things

an entrepreneur - a businessman/woman

fermented - do you know how wine is made?  Grapes are crushed and then 'yeast' (little microorganisms) is introduced into the liquid and engage in a chemical process that turns the grape juice into an alcoholic beverage.  Cocoa beans are also treated in this way - they are packed together and yeast is introduced and the beans begin to undergo a chemical process that turns them into chocolate.  Unless the cocoa beans are fermented, you will not get chocolate.

a premium on the market price - basically they are paying a higher price for quality beans.

to nibble - to bite gently on something

a nib - a piece

never took off - never became successful

emerging markets - developing countries

eyeing - assessing, determining whether it will be good or not

communist - a communist economy is a state-controlled economy; the USA has a capitalist economy, which means that the government can regulate businesses a little bit, but it does not determine what is produced or try to control the production processes

inventory - the amount of cocoa that exists

a deficit - this means that cocoa or chocolate will be in high demand but there will be a low supply or inventory

to diversify its beans - to get beans from all over the world and to grow more of them all over the place

supply crunches due to political unrest - for instance, Ivory Coast recently had a civil war. That country had been supplying most of the world with chocolate. During the war, there was a supply shortage or crunch of chocolate - there just wasn't enough.  If more countries grew chocolate, there would never be this type of crunch.

nascent - growing

a crossroads - if your life is at a crossroads, you have to make an important decision and you might not be able to change your mind later

quality or quantity - so the choice is to produce a lot of cheap chocolate or less but higher quality chocolate

US anti-dumping measures - the US refuses to allow Vietnamese catfish to be brought into the US because the price is so low it will hurt other suppliers of catfish.  So if you have a lot of a product and it is cheap and you introduce the product into a market, you are dumping the product on the market. (anti means against)

a rebellion against homogeneity - they are fighting against one type of product

incredibly soulless - if chocolate is made cheaply, it tastes bad and has no real quality; a soul is the spiritual part of a human...some people say we are made up of a body and a soul

to push - to encourage

they aimed - the set a goal

certified beans - beans that meet very high standards

new cocoa strains - new types of cocoa

praline - this is the powder that can be made from unfermented cocoa beans (it can be used in cookies)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt

As well as posting articles from the news, I thought it would also be helpful if I posted articles about American historical figures.  So here's an interesting article about one of America's best presidents:  Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 (A photo of FDR with his dog and a little girl - possibly his daughter. He had polio and had to use a wheelchair. His dog was named Fela.)

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a legacy - this is what is left to people who come afterwards.  A president's legacy is, basically, the effect that he had in the world and what people will remember him for.

impact - this basically means influence, but it's a stronger word than influence - it means the real change that this person made in the world

tenure - in this case tenure means amount of time; Roosevelt served as president longer than anyone else has or ever will.  The law was changed after he died to make sure that a president can only serve two four-year terms.  Most people feel that Roosevelt did a great job, but this is America - we don't want 'kings' so it was felt that we needed to limit the amount of time a president could serve.

predecessors - people who came before him

save Abraham Lincoln - 'save' in this case means 'except'

a defining figure - someone who changed things significantly, who changed the definition of what America is

to combat the Depression - to fight against the Depression, when the stock market crashed and people lost lots of money and many people became unemployed (it started in 1929)

an opponent - someone you are competing against

to implement - to create and establish

innovative - new, creative

the brink - the edge

prosperity - financial success, the gathering of wealth

the federal government - America has lots of governments.  New York City has New York City government, New York state government and then the federal government in Washington D.C. The federal government is the strongest government and it covers and serves all 50 states.

unions - collections of workers 

bargain collectively - this means that if I belong to a union, I might be one member out of thousands of union members.  So we can elect a representative to negotiate with the company that we work for.  We are acting collectively and our representative is bargaining for us.

a floor under wages and a ceiling on hours - a floor under wages meant that employers had to pay a certain amount to their workers - a minimum wage - a ceiling on hours meant that employers could not make their workers work too many hours. You walk on a floor and look up at a ceiling.

infirm - ill

rural and agricultural  - the countryside

price supports - the amount that food costs often depends on how much food there is.  If too much corn is grown, corn prices will be low and consumers will benefit but farmers will suffer.  So under Roosevelt the government controlled the amount of food that was being sold.  If too much was grown, to protect the farmers, the government would buy the extra food and send it to poor countries for free.  This would keep the price of food reasonable so that buyers and sellers both benefitted as well as poor people in other parts of the world.  This was a brillian idea.

sectors - parts of the economy

embracing - adopting, accepting

an activist fiscal policy - the government became active in issues concerning the value of money

writ large - looking at the bigger picture (writ large is short for written large)

Depression-induced ills - problems caused by the Depression

double digits - the number 4 is a single digit number; 23 is a double digit number

to jump start the economy - if people could purchase more things, more money would go to companies and the companies could produce more and make more money and pay their workers more and the workers could continue buying more things...this would create a cycle of success.  This would jump start the economy.  This means the extra money would get the economy working again.  But people did not have the money to jump start the economy. 

torpor - not being active; so many historians believe that it was World War II that ended the Great depression because many unemployed men could join the army and many companies were hired by the government to make weapons and ships etc.  World War II jump started the economy.

capitalism - the American economic system in which people own property and money is made by private individuals. The opposite of capitalism is socialism - according to this system the government owns everything and it creates jobs and wealth and then spreads the wealth around to everyone.

maladies - problems

accrued - gained

treacherous - dangerous

threatened - were a danger to

cherished - loved, beloved

the onset - the beginning

ably - competently, skillfully

allies - friends

without formally entering - even though the USA was not really fighting in the war, it was helping its friends to fight

forced his hand - forced him to do what he did

rallied - brought Americans together and encouraged them

massive - huge

post-war - after the war

proponent - someone who supports something

successors - those who followe dhim

a thorny problem - a difficult and painful problem; thorns are found on roses and can prick your finger

adversary - enemy, opponent

a sea change - a huge change, as if the sea has started flowing in the opposite direction

fireside chats - he would sit by the fireplace in the White House and speak to the American people about the problems the country faced.  People would sit near their fireplaces and listen.

a bond - a connection

encompass - include

an implementer - a starter or originator, a creator

a chief legislator - in the past presidents did not try to create laws - that was Congress' job. But Roosevelt began creating laws and sending them to Congress so that Congress could create good laws for the people.

a drafter - a creator

domestic - at home

enhanced - made it larger

capacity - ability

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Test your higher-level English (free English vocabulary exercise)

precipitous (precipitously - adverb) - this adjective comes from the noun 'precipice.' A precipice is a high point or cliff on a mountain - if you accidentally step off a precipice, you drop to your death.  So 'precipitous' means a quick decision that you make without thinking about it and often you can't change it after you make it.

prodigious - basically this means huge or much bigger than normal

ambit - a range or a boundary within which something or someone works

ad hoc - put together for just one reason or purpose; often you will read about ad hoc committees or ad hoc action - this means a committee is put together or action is taken to address this one situation

enmity - very strong hatred toward someone; often enmity means that two groups or two people really hate each other

ruthless -  showing no mercy or pity or compassion for others when taking an action

to curdle - when milk is treated with chemicals to become harder, so that it can be made into cheese; this term usually has another common meaning though: if a person is really shocked or scared, he might say that his/her blood curdled.

Answers are beneath the exercise: 

It was very dark in the room, and the light switch would not work.  Suddenly I heard a scream that made my blood ______________________.

The pirates of the Caribbean were renowned for being totally __________________ toward any ship that provided resistance.  If a ship's captain surrendered, the crew was spared but the cargo was stolen. If the captain chose to fight, no mercy would be shown and the entire crew would be slaughtered. 

Bob was a little too ___________________ in his choice to marry Becky.  They had only gone out with each other for 2 months before he proposed marriage to her, and their marriage only lasted 6 months.

Cyrano, with his __________________ nose, is a story of unrequited love (un-returned) love. His huge nose made him ugly to women but he was able to coach his handsome friend to be beautifully eloquent and to win the heart of the woman that Cyrano, himself, loved. 

Bill was an amazing US History professor, but he had spent so much time doing research within his academic________________ that he knew very little else about other fields of study.

There seems to be so much long-standing ______________ between countries in the Mideast that some US presidents do not even try to initiate peaceful negotiations.

Bob was not the most organized person in the world, nor was he good at predicting problems.  Instead, he chose to deal with things in an _______________ manner.

Answers are below:


ad hoc