Thursday, April 24, 2014

Was South Korean governmental corruption responsible for the deaths of over 300 Korean young people?

According to the Economist magazine, the previous president of Korea, Lee Myung Bak, once said that corruption could be found all throughout the country of South Korea. ('Corruption' is the belief that doing wrong things - especially in regard to making money - is OK or acceptable.  Politicians and business people sometimes become 'corrupt'.)

This article seems to suggest that over 300 Korean young people died in a shipping accident due to the fact that a Korean government agency wasn't doing its job.

In this article 'corruption' is the term applied to dishonesty and unethical/immoral behavior by government and business officials.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a ferry - a type of ship that travels short distances, usually to take people from one shore to another

a mogul - someone who has a lot of money and power

a probe - an investigation

graft - making money illegally

to track transactions - to follow them to find their source

the structural integrity - if a ship has structural integrity it is fit or able to sail safely

a bribe - receiving money illegally to allow someone to break the law

lax inspections - not very thorough or detailed inspections - usually inspections that overlook problems

civil servants - people who work for the government

a prosecutor - a lawyer for the state who brings charges (allegations) against people who might be guilty of crimes

to be arrested - to be taken in by the police (to be taken into custody)

delved deeper - dug deeper, went farther

defunct - no longer operating

to launch an investigation - to begin an investigation

extended - in this case extended means to be given

The Ukrainian crisis is becoming worse - violence leads to greater violence

Protesters are those folks who gather publicly to speak out against something they don't like or feel is wrong.  Protests can be peaceful or violent. When protesters attacked police in the city of Kiev, earlier this year, and illegally took over government buildings, the US government did not demand that the protesters give back the buildings and wait for elections that were going to occur in under one year.

Now that protesters in the eastern part of Ukraine have done the same thing as the protesters in Kiev, the US government is demanding that these folks leave the government buildings. This is called a 'double standard.' A double standard is when you expect certain people to behave in one way, in a situation, but then expect other people to act differently in the same situation.

Indeed, the US government, basically, encouraged illegal and violent activities in Kiev, which led to the removal of an elected president within one year of presidential elections.  This was done purely because the Obama administration believes it is necessary to engage in Cold War era politics in a post-Cold War world.  To Obama, Russia is still the chief 'enemy' of the United States.

The refusal of the US government to support democratic processes in Ukraine and the decision to support protesters who merely wanted to remove an elected president have led to a continually violent and escalating (rising) situation.  

Now the un-elected government in Kiev is threatening to attack the protesters in the eastern part of Ukraine and Russia is threatening to invade the eastern part of Ukraine in order to protect these folks from Ukrainian aggression and violence.

If the folks in Kiev had shown good judgment and merely waited for the elections that were coming up later this year, none of this nonsense would be occurring now. Basically, this is what happens when you throw democracy down the toilet and resort to violence.  You create a vicious cycle of more and more violence.

An article about the situation in Ukraine:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

exercises - military exercises are drills or large-scale activities by military units to, basically, practice fighting in a real war

to move on - to attack.  Many 'western' news sources are anti-Russian.  This 'journalist' uses the term 'to move on' as a nice way of saying 'to attack.'

separatists - people who wish to separate from one group or area to join another group or area or to be independent

commandos - special soldiers who are trained to act quickly and forcefully

a stronghold - a place which is powerfully controlled

to defy - to refuse to do what one is told to do

manoeuvres - practice drills or practice actions by the military

blackmail - this is when you threaten to harm someone if the person doesn't do what you want him to do

to spin out of control - if a situation spins out of control, it can no longer be controlled and becomes wild and unpredictable.  Unfortunately, this situation began to spin out of control a long time ago. Ban Ki Moon should have tried to resolve this situation months ago and should have called for peaceful action and democratic processes.  Basically, he has failed at his job of peace-keeper.

to tee something up - this is a term from the sport of golf.  If you tee up the ball, you place the ball in a position to be hit.  To tee something up means to get something ready.  Obama is threatening more 'sanctions' - economic punishments against Russia.

the outskirts - the outer areas

a checkpoint - a place in the road where soldiers try to stop traffic from coming through

to oust someone - to remove someone or get rid of someone

militants - fighters.  In kiev the militants were called 'protesters' but the Russian protesters are being called 'militants'

an armed contingent - a group with weapons

a regime - an illegal government. The current government in Kiev was not elected by the people and only took control after violent action taken to remove the elected president

flouting a deal - openly refusing to follow up on a deal or an agreement.  Of course, in Kiev the current regime flouted several deals with the elected government and continually resorted to violence.

to foster - to encourage

abducted - taken, kidnapped

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A New York Police Department Public Relations Campaign Backfires

A 'public relations campaign' is an effort that an organization makes to reach the public with a positive message about itself. This story doesn't have many good vocabulary words, I just thought it deserved to be posted.  

The New York City Police Department has, in my opinion, a pretty bad reputation.  A reputation is how people generally feel about something or someone.  

During the Occupy Wall Street protests the police were terrible toward the protesters and New York City cops (a cop is a term for a police officer) generally seem rude and violent.  

So the NYPD decided to use twitter to show how kind and warm and cuddly they are. (to cuddle means to hold someone affectionately - cuddly is the adverbial form).  Their plan backfired.  If something backfires, it has the opposite effect.

The NYPD asked people to submit photos of themselves standing next to a NY police officer.  Instead people began sending in photos they had taken of NY police officers harming people.  You can see the photos by clicking the link below.

What I think is interesting is that none of these photos was ever in a newspaper in New York City. This is because journalism in America is a joke and many things which are wrong exist because newspapers do not report on them.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to harness twitter - to use twitter; you put a harness on a horse in order to be able to use the horse to pull a carriage or buggy

to drum up support - to bring about or cause support

apprehending - catching

a suspect - someone who is thought to be a criminal 

NYPD officers are known worldwide for their timely and hands-on response to citizen grievances - this is a good example of 'sarcasm.' Sarcasm is when you make a statement that everyone knows to be false in order to point to the real truth of a situation.  A sarcastic statement is usually funny and points to the truth.  A grievance is a complaint.  The person who posted this is, basically, saying that if you call up the NYPD and complain about something, they might just beat you up.

justified - it should have happened, it can be excused

overly brutal police presence - many people feel New York City police are not educated and are violent people

anti-police - against the police

co-opting - taking something away and using it for another purpose

You might not have known this, but the NYPD can help you with that kink in your neck - another example of sarcasm.  The poster is saying, sarcastically, "If you have a problem with your neck, a police officer will kindly kneel on your neck to give you the appropriate medical attention."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Racial segregation in New York City: black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods

Segregation is when people of different types live apart from each other.  Integration is when you have 'diversity' - people of differing types that live among each other.

Many people around the world believe that New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the world. Well, yes and no.  There are people from over 200 countries who live in New York City, but people from the same ethnic and racial backgrounds tend to live in the same neighborhoods (areas).

What's the difference between race and ethnicity?  Let's say a woman has Chinese parents. Her race is Asian and her ethnicity is Chinese.

Here are some interesting charts that show how segregated New York City is.  You can see that there are neighborhoods which are mostly either black or white.  In the article, New York City is compared to Chicago in regard to racial segregation.  Basically Chicago has traditionally been considered the most racially segregated city in America - most white people live on the north side while most black people live on the south side.

In the history of the USA there have always been two attitudes toward the racial integration of black and white citizens.  Martin Luther King Jr. believed that people of all colors should live together.

Malcolm X, however, literally believed that white folks were 'evil' and that it would be better for black folks to segregate themselves and live in their own neighborhoods helping themselves. 

Here's an interesting article on how segregated New York City is:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

starkly - so clear that it is shocking; so obvious it is shocking

census data - every ten years the US government collects data about people who live in the USA. Everyone is asked to fill out a form and mail it in.

a grad student - he already has his BA and is working toward a higher degree.

a breakdown - analysis, to see how the numbers can be applied to reality or what statistics mean

intrigued - interested and motivated to think more about a subject

exceeded - surpassed; if something exceeds something else, it has more of something than something else

swaths - areas

the median - right in the middle

a patchwork - a pattern showing large areas contrasted with other large areas

apartheid - this was a system in South Africa from 1945 to 1989 in which black people and white people were separated.  

a charter school - this is a type of school in America which receives money from the government but which is privately run.  This is a very controversial system. Some people believe strongly in charter schools while others think they are a terrible idea. Charter schools are free and can take or reject any students they want.  So they often only take 'the best' poor students, leaving the 'worst' poor students in the public school system.  Also, many charter schools are run almost like military schools where the discipline is very strict and harsh.  

the epicenter - right in the middle of something

the breadth - the scope, the extent, the amount of

an unholy alliance - an agreement among politicians based on the wrong attitude or motives

civil rights enforcement - civil rights are the rights that an average citizen is supposed to enjoy; basically this person is saying that segregation is a violation of the civil rights of people - people have the right to live in integrated neighborhoods. To enforce the law means to make sure that people are following the law.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Men murdered by the Pinochet regime finally receive a proper burial after 40 years

A 'regime' is usually a term for an illegal government or a government that does not value or protect the rights of the people.

In the early 1970s Salvador Allende was fairly elected as the president of Chile. Indeed, he became the first 'socialist' to be elected president of any country. (A socialist is someone who opposes 'capitalism' - so a socialist believes that the state should provide goods and services to the people and control the business production of the country.)

After Allende became president, US and English companies became quite upset because Allende started to nationalize foreign business operations.  Foreign businesses had been making lots of money from the Chilean people, but not contributing much to the Chilean economy.  So Allende took over these businesses in the name of the people.

President Salvador Allende had been a medical doctor before becoming president.

President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger then ordered that Allende be assassinated (killed) and the CIA (the American spy agency) helped General Pinochet overthrow the Chilean government. Salvador Allende was killed as he fought to protect himself and his government.

After Pinochet took power, he tortured and killed many people in Chile and turned the country into a dictatorship (no freedom) for many years.  The people of Chile finally overthrew the dictatorship but Pinochet was never thrown in jail for his crimes.

Here is a story about 4 men who were killed by Pinochet and how they are finally receiving a proper burial.

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

buried - to have one's corpse (dead body) placed in a hole and then covered with dirt

the remains - same thing as the 'corpse' - the dead body of the person

a grave - the place where corpses are buried in a cemetery; in this case, after they were killed they were just dropped into a hole in the ground with no indication that they were there.  I am not sure how they were found in 1992 and I am not sure why it took so long for them to be properly buried. I think it took a long time for the dead bodies to be identified.

a coup - when the military violently takes over a government.  This coup was supported by the US government at the time because President Allende was considered to be a socialist who was taking over foreign businesses and giving them to the people

executed - killed

firing squad - when soldiers fire their guns at a person in a formal procedure to kill the person

forensic tests - medical tests done on corpses to determine the person's identity, cause of death etc.

a caravan - a group of travelers or a group going to a destination together

notorious - famous for negative reasons

a delegation - usually a government group appointed by a president or other leader to accomplish some goal

provincial - away from the major cities

opponents - those who did not support the coup/takeover

S. Korea's National Health Insurance Company will sue tobacco manufacturers

Since the 90s there has been a backlash against cigarette makers in the USA.  (A backlash is when there is a negative response to what someone has been doing.)  For many years cigarette companies denied that there was conclusive proof (real proof) that cigarettes caused cancer.  Finally, during the Clinton presidency (in the 90s), the US government supported efforts to curb smoking in the USA. (To curb something means to lessen something, or inhibit something.)

We can see that a government agency in Korea is finally trying to hold cigarette companies responsible for the bad health that cigarette smoking causes.  I was shocked, by the way, to see that 1/4 of South Koreans smoke.  I have worked with many Korean students and they tell me that men often pick up the habit of smoking while they are in the military (military service is compulsory for men - they have to do it) and I have been told that South Korea is a very competitive country in which people often feel a great deal of stress and pressure. ('Competitive' means the opposite of 'cooperative' - to compete means to try to beat another person at something or to struggle against others.)

Here is an article about this situation:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to sue someone or some company - to take someone or a company to court to legally stop them from doing something or to receive money from them as a type of punishment against them.  So this Korean agency is trying to get a judge to punish the tobacco companies by fining them a great amount of money for the harm these companies have done to people's health.

to offset costs - to cut down on their costs or to help pay their costs; the government health insurance provider is spending a lot of money treating people with respiratory (breathing) problems due to smoking, so they want the tobacco companies to have to share in these costs.

damages - this would be the punishment; if someone is awarded damages, he/she receives money from the 'guilty' party

$1.6bn - 1.6 billion dollars - 1,600,000,000

a lack of proof - this is really confusing to me.  The Supreme Court seems to be protecting the cigarette companies, since most developed countries have openly admitted that cigarettes cause various types of diseases.  So one government group is saying that ciagarettes cause cancer while the Supreme Court is denying what seems to be the truth.

addiction - when you can't stop using/eating/doing something

to be banned - to be against the law, to be prohibited

Friday, April 11, 2014

Some Russian lawmakers want to investigate and prosecute Gorby

Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union. Under his leadership the Soviet Union became Russia and all of the smaller countries that had made up the Soviet Union became independent states.  Basically, Gorbachev ended the system of 'communism' in Russia and allowed the Soviet Union to break up into smaller states.

Now some members of Russia's Congress (the Duma) want Gorbachev to be investigated and arrested because they believe that he destroyed something amazing. Of course, all of this happened from 1989 to 1991, and it is now 2014.

Here is an article about this topic:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to collapse - when something falls apart or falls down, it collapses

pro-Kremlin - they support 'the Kremlin' (basically they support Vladimir Putin). 'anti' means against

a faction - a political group with a particular belief system

a prosecutor - someone who takes 'criminals' to court to try to punish them for the benefit of society

dissolution - break up

illegitimate - not lawful, wrong, not genuine

thorough - complete (pronounced THUR oh)

reaping - after you sow (plant) seeds, the seeds grow and then you reap (cut down and gather) the crop (the fruit or vegetable). To reap something is to get the consequences of something

hardline - uncompromising; if someone is a hardliner, he/she refuses to change his/her opinion and has extremely strong beliefs

a coup - when the military tries to take over the government

Yes, I'm the English teacher who caused the huge scandal in Asia:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

An innocent man was released from a NY prison after 25 years

This is a terrible story of injustice in America.

A man was in Florida, in 1989, when his friend was killed in Brooklyn (one of New York City's 'boroughs' or 'areas').

However, he was arrested by the police and charged with (accused of) the murder. He was put on trial (to be put on trial means to go into a courtroom before a judge or jury to determine whether a person is guilty or not guilty) and he was found guilty.  (I do not know whether a judge or a jury found him guilty. A jury is made up of 12 regular citizens.)  After 25 years, he is being released. He was falsely thrown in jail when he was 27 and he is now 51.

I guess the 'hero' of the story is Ken Thompson.  He is the new head of the District Attorney's Office of Brooklyn. So he is in charge of all the lawyers who 'prosecute' people who have been accused of crimes. To prosecute someone is to take the person to trial to try to find the person guilty.  A 'prosecutor' or DA (District Attorney) argues that a person is guilty while the 'defense attorney' argues that his client is innocent.

Ken Thompson has learned that many innocent people were thrown in jail in Brooklyn in the past, and he is trying to get all of these innocent people released.

So what's the lesson?  The American criminal justice system often does not work properly. Innocent people go to jail.  Part two of the lesson is that it is possible, however, given good people, to change the injustices of the past and to try to make sure such horrible things never happen again.  How many people involved in the criminal justice system in the USA are currently good people?  Who knows.

The article about this shocking situation:

Vocabulary to help you understand this article:

convicted - to be convicted means to be found 'guilty' of a crime.  Wrongfully convicted means the person should not have been found guilty.  If a person is found innocent, he has been 'exonerated.'

a quarter century - 1/4 century (25 years)

By the way, in newspapers they often drop words if the title is too long.  The full title of this piece should be: A wrongfully convicted man who had spent 24 years in prison for a Brooklyn murder, committed while he was in Disney World, has been set free. 

homicide - murder. Anything with 'cide' in it means 'killing.'  Suicide - killing yourself Infanticide - killing a baby  

evidence - this is different from proof.  Proof shows without a doubt that something happened.  Evidence 'hints' or indicates that something happened.

a hearing - a formal procedure where people argue for or against something

not disclosed - not revealed, not shown

confirmed his alibi - if you have an alibi for a crime, this means you can show you were someplace else when the crime happened.  To confirm something means to prove something.  So the prosecutor in 1989 knew that this man was not even in Brooklyn, but he did not give the evidence to the man's lawyers.

slaying - murder

unearthed - found after a long time

non-disclosures - evidence that wasn't shown to his lawyer. The man's current lawyer stated this was no accident.  The DA at that time deliberately (not accidentally) refused to show proof that this man was innocent.  Why?  DAs are promoted based on the number of people they convict.

recanting witness - during his trial in 1989 someone said she had seen him kill the man.  She has now 'recanted' her story. She has 'taken her story back.'  She is now saying that she lied during the trial.  She had been arrested by the police for a serious crime and the police told her they would let her go free if she lied in court about this man.

felony charges - very serious accusations.  A felony is a major crimes. A misdemeanor is a minor crime.

erupted in applause - to applaud means to clap your hands.  They suddenly and enthusiastically began applauding.

a burden - something heavy you have to carry

a trove - a huge number; Thompson, now the new DA, is looking through a huge number of cases where people are probably in jail for things they didn't do.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Empire State Building is suing an artist, the artist is suing back (naked photos on the observation deck)

This happened a couple weeks ago but I just learned of it today.

I am a little confused.  In New York City there is a law that people are allowed to be naked publicly if they are engaged in some type of artistic performance or activity.

In fact, there is a guy in Times Square who paints on the bodies of naked women and the police do not bother him.  Even children stand there with their parents and watch this.

So I don't understand why the Empire State Building is suing an artist who took a photo of a naked woman on the 86th floor observatory of the Empire State Building.  Indeed, this not only seems ridiculous but it seems to be an attack on the artist's freedom to express himself.

{{'to sue' someone is to take the person to court to answer some type of complaint you have made - usually you are seeking or asking for money from the person as a type of punishment against that person...}}

The artist did not break any laws - or he would have been arrested by the police.

So what do you think?  The Empire State Building does not want people taking naked photos on their property. Yet, the artist claims that the Empire State Building is 'iconic' (hugely famous) and that artists have a right to use iconic buildings and images in their art. Furthermore, the Empire State Building does not explicitly (openly and clearly) state that naked photos cannot be taken (from what I can tell).  And where are their security guards? If someone is doing something that you don't want done on your property, aren't security guards supposed to be there to stop it?

The artist points out that over 30 people have jumped from the Empire State Building in its history (since the 1930s).  So where's the security at this place?

An article about this topic:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

NSFW - not safe for work.  This means: Be careful when you view this story! If your boss sees it you might get into trouble.

to countersue - is someone sues someone, the person being sued can countersue (in many cases).  So the artist is claiming that his reputation (what people think of him) was damaged by the Empire State Building when they sued him for taking a photo of a woman not wearing the top part of her clothing.  Personally, I think it was foolish for the Empire State Building to sue this photographer.

boobs about town - boobs are a female's breasts. So this photographer wanders around NY City taking photos of half-naked women.

a stunt - an action, often a risky action. In movies there are 'stunt men' who do dangerous things in place of actors

defiant - if you refuse to surrender or quit, or if you fight back you are considered defiant

intentionally - deliberately, not randomly; if you do something intentionally, you choose to do it

unauthorized - the Empire State Building did not give him permission

objectionable - people are offended or bothered by things which are objectionable; so the Empire State Building (ESB) is stating that people were morally/ethically bothered by what this person did

way before - long before

to snuff out - to end; if you want to stop a candle from burning, you snuff out the flame

mindsets - attitudes; this photographer doesn't seem to realize that although Austin is in Texas, it is a very open-minded city.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Washington Post: 25 interesting charts about America

These are some amazing charts.  They give you a real insight into stuff that's happening in the USA these days.

Please view the charts and maps below:

Vocabulary to help you understand and enjoy the charts:

a think tank - a group of 'scholars' or experts who meet to discuss political and social issues

peel back - to peel something back means to remove some type of covering to see what's really underneath

charting the nation's course - planning the direction in which the country should go

most well off - who has the most money

the top one percent - the top one percent in regard to income

gobbled up - eaten, or, in this case 'taken'

marginally - a little bit

liquid assets - you can get cash from this stuff easily

soared - rose

a permit - a license to do something

conservatives and liberals - in America a conservative believes that the government should leave businesses alone and drop taxes; liberals like to raise taxes and offer free social programs

politically toxic - politically harmful - politicians who openly call themselves liberal usually lose their elections

partisan - if a politician is partisan, he votes the way his political party wants him to vote.  

dipped - dropped

disparate - different

Protestants vs. Catholics -  what's tthe BIG difference between these religions?  Believe it or not the big difference is in the 'eucharist.' This is the piece of bread given during a Christian religious service.  The Catholic Church says it is really the body of Jesus and by eating it you will be changed.  The Protestants don't believe that.  The Catholics also have a Pope.

booze - alcoholic drinks

promoting homosexuality - encouraging homosexuality

felon voting - a felon is someone who has been convicted of a serious crime; in many states felons can't vote, and since many felons are African American, this hurts black people in general because it limits their voting numbers (according to the article)

disenfranchisement - not being able to vote

abortion - this is when a woman gets pregnant and ends the pregnancy using a medical procedure

a legislature - a place where laws are made

lag behind - they are behind and cannot catch up

peers - people who surround you, usually who live as you do and sometimes who are around the same age as you

drought - when it does not rain for a long time

a pizza joint - a place to eat pizza