Sunday, December 28, 2014

New York City Police Acted Unprofessionally toward Mayor de Blasio

{{{image taken from NY Daily News}}}

Over the summer New York City police officers killed a black man named Eric Garner. They wanted to arrest him because he was selling cigarettes illegally in a public area, but he did not want to be arrested and tried to avoid being handcuffed. The police then violently forced him to the ground where he died. As he was dying he kept saying: "I can't breathe! I can't breathe!" A New York City newspaper seems to have bought the rights to the video and they have removed the video of how the police killed Garner from youtube.  I did find another copy here:

After a government office decided not to arrest the cop who killed Garner, people began to protest. During one protest, some people attacked and hurt NY police officers. At this point Mayor de Blasio did not seem to acknowledge that an attack had occurred.  He called the attack an 'alleged' attack (an apparent attack, or an attack that hasn't been proved yet).  This angered the police department a great deal.

Then, a mentally ill man decided to kill two New York City police officers as a way to get revenge for the death of Garner.  Some police then began to blame de Blasio for encouraging violence against police by not speaking out against the protests or the violence against NY police officers.

At the funeral for one of the police officers who was killed, police turned their backs to a screen on which de Blasio was being shown while speaking in the church. Previously, a group of cops had turned their backs to him in a public area.

Personally, I think this is unprofessional behavior on the part of the NY police department. The people of New York City voted for de Blasio and the police work for him.  They have no right to act this way toward a mayor. If they do not like de Blasio, they can vote against him in the next election. They need to act with class, professionalism and civility in this democratic system. Sometimes being a professional means working for someone you do not completely like or even respect, but deliberately showing that contempt (lack of respect) publicly is crossing the line. Most people would be fired if they did this to their bosses.

I believe the Chief of Police, Bill Bratton, should stop this childish behavior on the part of officers in his department.

Here is an article about this situation:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a funeral - a ceremony for a person who has died.  By the way, many foreign students have a hard time with 'to die' and 'to be dead'. Just remember that 'dead' is an adjective.  He is dead.  'to die' is a verb.  He died.  He is dead; he died last night at 8pm.

an assassination - a planed killing of a public official

amid - here it means 'during'

heightened tensions - tension means that things are not completely calm but they are not openly violent either, so heightened tensions mean that emotions are becoming more heated or intense

spontaneous - at that moment, without thinking about it ahead of time

a public relations officer - someone who provides information to the newspapers and TV stations

a block from the church - one city block is the measure between streets, so it is one block from 119th to 120th street

dump de Blasio - get rid of, remove, force de Blasio out of office; to dump someone is to get rid of him/her

condolences - feelings of sorrow and compassion

unconscionable - too extreme, too horrible

sole - only

controversy - to create controversy is to do something that upsets many people and/or causes people to argue

demonstrations - protests, when many people publicly show they are upset by something

to indict - to arrest or take to trial (it is pronounced in DITE). If a person is indicted for a crime, he must go to trial in a court.  The cop who killed Garner was not indicted.

a chokehold - the cop grabbed Garner around his neck so that Garner had a hard time breathing.  This is called a choke hold - you can choke a person this way (stop the person from breathing).

a slight - an insult, words that hurt others

a petition - a document that many people can sign to show that they agree or disagree with something

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Have we Americans learned the right lesson from the North Korean hacking of Sony?

As you probably know, North Korean hackers got into the computer system of Sony - a company that makes Hollywood films.

They did this because the North Korean government objects to a movie developed by Sony, which was going to be shown, in which Kim Jong Un was going to be assassinated (murdered).

President Obama criticized Sony for not showing the film (theaters in America were worried they might be attacked if they showed the movie) but I don't think Obama realizes what we all, in the USA, should learn from this situation.

1) We claim to value unlimited free speech - even free speech that attacks innocent people and can harm others.  Even John Stuart Mill - one of the strongest advocates of free speech - did not think this was right.

2) We think we can impose our values on the rest of the world.  Because extreme 'free' speech is allowed here, we think we can use this speech to attack religious prophets and leaders from around the world. Well, now we know folks can bite back. We should have learned this a long time ago.

Most of the world does NOT share American values. Our internet companies and search engines and now our entertainment companies are learning that what goes on in America will not be tolerated in other parts of the world, where they view our lifestyle as extreme, self-indulgent, unethical and petty.

3)  What happens in America does not stay in America any more.  It used to be that what was said and written here pretty much stayed within the borders of the USA. Now, in this 'globalized' world, what we create goes world wide and we obviously do not consider how the rest of the world might feel about what we send out into the world.  Obama seemed to think it was Ok that Sony made a film about the murder of a foreign leader. I am not so sure that was "OK". Our entertainment industry needs, perhaps, to consider the fact that the USA is one nation in a global community and just as one of us would not say anything overly offensive at a cocktail party (for fear of being hit in the face) maybe we should consider using the same approach with the other countries who share this planet with us.

But of course you, the foreign reader of this blog, must already know that the USA simply never learns any lessons.  For example, 30 years after Vietnam, we started more Vietnams.  We just don't learn things here. So this big lesson will be lost and our communications companies will continue to alienate the rest of the world.

Monday, December 15, 2014

What do you think of this 'faceless' Muslim doll?

You can read the article and find out why she's faceless.

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to launch something - to begin something, like launching a boat

in accordance with - according to, or paying attention to

adorned - is wearing

a headdress - something covering one's head

to comply with - to follow, if you comply with the law you follow or obey the law

rulings - laws, rules

depictions - showings, to depict means to show

the brainchild - the creation

from scratch - from the beginning, from nothing

compiling - putting together

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Chinese government will force artists to live in rural areas - is this as bad as the Western press says it is?

Most Chinese would say that one of the most horrible periods of time in 20th century Chinese history was the "Cultural Revolution". This was when Mao Tse Tung used force to try to take away privileges that educated and wealthy Chinese people might have gained from their parents or families.

So if a person had a university education, Mao basically said, "You got your education only because your family was able to make money under the previous capitalist system. There were many people who were not as lucky as you. So now you will have to live the type of life that those unlucky people had to live!"  Many educated Chinese were forced to work at jobs that did not require their high level of education and this greatly harmed Chinese society and the Chinese economy.

Now there is a story that the current leader of China will be forcing Chinese artists to live at least one month per year in the countryside.  The reason for this, according to the government, is to help Chinese artists create more meaningful art work.  The perception among government officials seems to be that Chinese artists are adopting Western 'art market' attitudes and that art is no longer being used in a socially relevant way in China.

Some members of the Western press (journalists) seem to feel that the current leader of China is repeating some of the mistakes of Mao's Cultural Revolution.   

Yet, it also seems apparent that the Western press is using this decision by Xi to create anti-Chinese propaganda. (Propaganda is a story meant to make a country look better or worse than it is - it seems that western news sources are using this story to attack the Chinese government and make the government seem as bad as Mao's was during the Cultural Revolution.)  For example, the BBC classifies this decision by Xi as an attempt at 're-education.' In the West, re-education means 'brainwashing' or forcing people to believe what a government wants them to believe.  So the BBC is not presenting an 'objective' or fair story by using a headline which uses the word "re-education".  This is obvious anti-Chinese propaganda (propaganda against China). The government of China never used the word 're-education.'

Indeed, someone could argue that American artists should be forced to spend time among America's poor, since American visual art is often meant to be consumed by wealthy patrons (buyers) and does not seem to be exposing terrible social problems like racism, government corruption and poverty.  We have a terrible racial situation in the USA and artists in the USA seem to be ignoring it. Initially, I felt the Chinese government was doing something wrong; now I'm not so sure. 

So what do you think about the Chinese government's decision?

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

re-education - 're' means again. re-education means that one has to go through a new type of education. Often 're-education' means 'brainwashing' or forcing a person to believe something a government wants him/her to believe

a heyday - a successful time, a time of prosperity

the masses - the people

an echo - you hear the same sound twice

well-trodden - to trod is to walk on; a well-trodden path is a path that many people have walked on before

wayward artists - artists who are not presenting the type of art the government wants them to present

recruits - people chosen

deemed - considered

drafted - selected and brought into the program

media watchdog - the agency that monitors or watches what is being done by the media

the stench of money - the smell of money

dissent - when someone disagrees with the government

censorship - when the government prevents someone from expressing him/herself freely

Friday, December 5, 2014

Obamacare forces people to live in pain, without medical care

If a person is working as a freelancer (working for him/herself), or if that person's company does not provide him/her with health insurance, that person will be required to buy a type of health insurance called Obamacare.  This means the person might have to pay $300 or $400 a month to be covered by this insurance.

So here's the problem: this does not mean that this person can go to a doctor and receive free or low cost medical help.  Obamacare insurance has a 'deductible.' If your deductible is $5,000, that means that you have to pay the first $5,000 of your medical bill. After $5,000 the insurance company pays about 60% of the rest.

So if you are a young person - maybe 25 - 40 - the chances are that you will not need to go to a hospital and receive a huge medical bill.  Yet, you have to pay $400 a month into an insurance plan that gives you nothing in return.  If you get sick, you have to pay the doctor yourself. BUT!!!! if you are paying $400 a month for insurance that you don't even need, you no longer have the money to pay the doctor!

So in this article in the Wall Street Journal it is reported that people are not even going to the doctor any more.  They are just living with their pain and illnesses in America. Money spent on healthcare is lower than it has ever been in America.

Therefore, Obama's health care plan has, basically, hurt many more people than it might have helped. Whom did Obamacare help?  Insurance companies, hospitals and doctors.  Whom did it hurt? Anyone who is young and healthy.

Here's the article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a shift - a movement; so the cost of healthcare is shifting or moving to people who can't afford it

deductible - as I explained above, if your deductible is $5000, you pay your medical bills up to $5,000 and then the insurance company pays the rest

to prompt - to cause; the high deductibles are causing people not to seek medical help, to delay going to the doctor (to wait as long as they can)

dig into their own pockets - come up with their own money

to curb the growth - to lessen the growth

The Affordable Care Act - Obamacare

hefty - high

out-of-pocket costs - costs paid by people themselves

to prompt - to cause

steeper - more expensive

to defer - to put off, to delay

an upside - a benefit. Actually, I don't see how it can be a benefit if people are living in pain and suffering because they are not afford to go to the doctor in the richest country in the world.

eases the federal deficit - the deficit is the amount of money the US government owes. So, basically, if I can't afford to go to a doctor insurance companies and the government don't have to spend money either.  I am guessing this is how money is being saved - I am not sure, the article does not do a good job of explaining this point.

more skin in the game - more responsibility

an impact - an effect

premiums - the amount you have to pay each month. How is $400 per month a low premium?

to be leery of something - to be worried about doing something, to be cautious

a sliver of the costs - just a little bit; Medicare is for older people

sluggish - slow

to infer something - to draw a conclusion, to believe something based on some evidence

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

No 'indictment' for a New York City police officer who killed a black man with a 'choke-hold'

The youtube video below shows New York City police officers killing a black man in Staten Island - one of the 5 boroughs (areas) of New York City. (I'm sorry, for some reason the video has been removed from youtube! 12/05/14)

Apparently the guy was selling individual cigarettes to people outside on the sidewalk. He was selling each cigarette for about 50 cents, to make a little extra money.  This is a very minor crime in New York City.

New York City has, however, a crazy approach to situations like this.  The police department believes that even the smallest crimes must be punished or crime will become worse and worse. So even though this guy was doing something quite minor, as you can see in the video, two under-cover cops decided to arrest him (take him to the police building and charge him with/accuse him of a crime). An under-cover cop is a police officer pretending to be a normal citizen (he is dressed noramlly and not in a uniform).

Eric Garner, the guy illegally selling the cigarettes, was upset that he was going to be arrested for something so small and he argued with the police.  When the police wanted to put handcuffs on him, he resisted (he wouldn't let the police put the handcuffs on his wrists). As you can see from the video, the police then act violently toward Garner and one cop places him in a 'choke-gold'. This means the cop put his forearm around the man's throat (you can see this in the video). By putting Garner in a choke-hold, the cop cut off Garner's supply of air and Garner died.

All of this happened in the summer of 2014.  Many people expected that the cop who killed Garner would be arrested himself and charged with murder. However, today a group of jurors (average people asked to investigate situations that might be crimes) decided not to indict the cop who killed Garner.  An indictment is when it is determined that there is enough evidence or proof to charge (officially accuse) a person with a crime.  If a person is indicted, he must go to trial.  The jury in this case said the cop had done nothing wrong and would not have to go to trial.

Here is an article about this situation:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to be indicted - (pronounced: in DITE id) this is when there is an investigation by a small group of citizens to determine whether a person should go to trial in a court. If a decision not to indict (in DITE) a person is reached, this means the person is considered completely innocent

a chokehold - 

US Justice sets probe - the US Justice Department will probe (investigate) this case. So the jury said the cop was not guilty of murder, but the US government might decide that the cop violated Garner's human rights. If so, the US government can arrest the cop for breaking the law by not giving Garner his  rights as a human being in the USA.

a grand jury - this is the official name of the group of citizens who decide whether to put a person on trial or not.  A regular jury is a group of 12 people who can decide whether a person is guilty of innocent. the grand jury has a different function

to charge someone with a crime - to officially state that a person committed a crime so that the person now must stand trial in a courtroom

an unarmed black man - the guy didn't have any type of weapon

sparked outrage - caused people to become very upset and angry

protests - when groups of people go into the streets to show they are unhappy about something

to tackle - to force a person to the ground

resisting arrest - not allowing himself to be arrested

homicide - murder, an illegal killing

fueled debate - caused arguments or caused people to discuss

minorities - blacks and Latinos

racially charged killing - a killing that might have had something to do with 'race' or the person's skin color, a killing that caused many people to feel that racism had occurred

a spasm of violence - a quick but forceful reaction of violence

to be looted - when a business is looted people break in and steal things

excessive - too much

demonstrators - protesters

denial - not addressing something or not acknowledging something that should be acknowledged; to dent something is to say it didn't happen

apprehended - caught

doing something defiantly - doing something even though you might be punished for it

accountability - responsibility; if you are accountable for something, you are responsible for something; so the police are supposed to be accountable to the people and are supposed to treat the people with respect

initiated - begun

expeditiously - quickly

distraught - very depressed, very upset

a makeshift memorial - a little temporary set-up to show that people are sad about what happened

wide latitude - a lot of room; this means the police are often allowed to do whatever they have to in order to arrest a person

compressing - squeezing, forcing

obesity - being very overweight; this guy weighed 400 lbs - 181 kilograms -  and this is one of the reasons, apparently, for why he died

launched - created, started

to frisk someone - this is when a cop or security guard runs his/her hands over a person's clothing to see whether the person has any weapons hidden