Sunday, January 28, 2018

A Critical Lesson for Parents to Learn from the Kentucky High School Shooting?

{{{The two kind and bright young people killed in the recent Kentucky shooting. It's enough to break your heart forever.}}}

A 15 year-old young man shot 16 other young people at a Kentucky high school, killing the two teenagers pictured above.

It seems that the young man came from a home where his father was abusive. His father once had to spend 90 days in jail for hitting his mother and someone described the father as a 'bully'. A bully is a strong person who enjoys attacking or abusing people weaker than himself. The father was also described as having a "short fuse". This means that he lost his temper and became angry very quickly.

So it seems to me that the young man who shot the 16 young people came from a home where his father was abusive. The young man must have endured, I am guessing, abuse himself, and he lived in an environment that was more negative than positive. He must have lived under a great amount of stress. I am guessing that his negative and abusive environment was a big cause for him to 'snap' and to violently express his anger, hatred and rage at innocent people. People are not "born" to do this. They are pushed to do this.

I wish that our popular culture actually expressed some messages of humanity and goodness. Parents in the USA are not getting the message that if they have children they must elevate their own behavior. There is no strong message being sent in America that parents must demonstrate good and humane values in their homes, because their children are going to pick up the negative values that they demonstrate. 

I think the message that has to be sent out now is that we have to begin challenging our parents in this country to elevate their behavior and to look at the types of people that they are and to change their behavior, if necessary, so that they do not harmfully influence their children. Nobody should bring other people into the world just to cause them so much pain that they may become violent. We, as Americans, have to begin sending out more humane messages to each other and working toward more humane relationships. 

An article about the Kentucky shooting:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a suspect - someone thought to have committed a crime. The young man has not been given a trial yet, so they have to refer to him as a suspect.

gunfire had broken out - this is a useful idiom. A fight broke out. Gunfire broke out. A riot broke out. Often times something violent 'breaks out'.

to remain in custody - he is being held by the police

to support trying him as an adult - this shooting was so terrible that they do not want this young man to go to a juvenile court (a place where young people are put on trial). They want to treat him as an adult even though he is only 15. If he were to go to a juvenile court, his punishment would not be very severe. If they try him as an adult, he might be placed in jail for his entire life.

to barge into - to enter a place forcefully

unleashing a hail of bullets - shooting many bullets. If you have a dog and you are walking the dog publicly, you have to have the dog on a leash. A leash is a long piece of material attached to the dog's collar. To unleash a dog is to let it run wild. So if you unleash bullets, you let them fly all over the place.

chaos - confusion, a lack of order

he peered into - he looked into, he stared into

to flee - to run away from

he kept to himself - he didn't talk to other people that much

he was charged with 4th degree assault - to be charged means to be formally accused by the police. 4th degree assault indicates how severe the assault was. Assault is when one person attacks another.

disorderly conduct - it means that he was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge than assault. Sometimes if a person does not have a criminal record, or if the person is well-educated or has a good job, the judge will show mercy and drop the charges to something lesser. Disorderly conduct means acting badly. 

controlling - he liked to have his way, he wanted things to be done his way.

a petition for a domestic violence order - if a woman is afraid of her husband, she can ask a judge to offer her protection through an order to the husband that he must not hurt his wife. If the judge provides or issues this order and the husband violates it, he has now committed a very serious crime and he will be punished even more severely.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Turkey and the PKK

A couple days ago I posted an article from the New York Post which was critical of the Turkish government (the article criticized the Turkish government). Some folks have emailed me and told me they felt the article was biased against Turkey.

(If an article is biased toward someone or something, it tries to be supportive of that person or thing despite what the truth might be. If an article is biased against someone or something, the article attacks a person or thing despite what the truth might be.)

So I found an article which tries to explain the Turkish government's attitude toward the Kurdish people and the organization called the PKK. I think this article is more objective (it tries to be as truthful as possible and does not take sides).

This article argues that in order to fight ISIS the USA was willing to partner with a group which is considered to have links to terrorist organizations if it is not a terrorist organization itself. This organization is considered a threat by the Turkish government and Turkey is concerned about the support the USA seems to be giving it.

So I am a bit uncertain what to believe or whom to support. Please recall the expression: the enemy of my enemy is my friend. 

ISIS was an insane and inhumane organization that had to be crushed/destroyed. They were the worst terrorist organization around. This group of Kurds came forward and offered to help the USA to destroy ISIS, and they did. This now, of course, puts the USA in a bad situation, since the folks who helped the USA will now expect help in return. Yet, the USA has been allies/friends for decades with Turkey, which wants to crush the organization that helped the USA crush ISIS. 

The group "War" performing "Why can't we be friends?" :P :P :P

Here is the article:

Here is vocabulary from the article to help you understand it:

an offensive - this is a military attack.

to arm a group - to supply a group with weapons

to deem someone/thing to be something - to consider someone to be something

emboldening - making stronger and more confident

intimately connected - close to

tactical and logistical necessity - only in order to plan their effort against ISIS effectively the USA has partnered with this group. Tactics means plans/strategy - logistics is how to move supplies from one point to another.

internal cohesion - cohesion means being able to stick together. So this group has a strong sense of unity.

aerial support - support by airplanes with bombs and missiles

to reliably commit troops - to send soldiers into battle in a predictable way that the US and England could trust (this is from an English newspaper).

implicitly our best bet - it goes without saying that if they were good for America they would also be good for England. Implicit means you don't even have to say anything to understand the truth of the matter.

a slick rebranding of the PKK - they are basically the PKK but they are called something different. A slick rebranding means a clever and attractive rebranding.

a joint fighting force - when differing groups joins one larger group and fight jointly.

a fig leaf that covers the reality etc. - a fig leaf is a large leaf that was sometimes placed over the sexual organs of statues of naked men so that the public would not have to look at the sculptures penis. So a 'fig leaf' is anything that covers something else up.

token Arab fighters - just a few fighters so that the claim can be made that Arabs are fighting as a part of this group

ideologically connected - they believe the same things

de facto leader - he may not be the official leader, but, in fact, as things work out, he is the leader. de facto is from the Latin language and means 'in fact'

was hoisted - was lifted up, was displayed prominently

liberated by - freed by

the chain of command - who leads an organization from top to bottom

traced - followed

to be unfazed by this - not to be bothered by this

arch-nemesis - the worst possible enemy

annexed - took over

progressively - more and more

predominantly - mostly

it was all bluster - it was nothing but loud talking and verbal threats

the straw that broke the camel's back - the one last little item that destroyed a good thing

nonchalant - casual, informal

audaciously - forcefully and with courage, strongly, showing aggression that is felt to be offensive to others

Turkey's ears perked up - when a dog's ears perk up, they rise. If your ears perk up, you suddenly hear something interesting and start paying more attention

thwart - stop

preclude the resurrection of ISIS - stop the re-birth of ISIS, stop ISIS from developing again

neglecting Turkey's sensitivities - not paying attention to what might bother Turkey

push Turkey into Russia's ambit - push Turkey closer to a friendship with Putin

incursions launched - an incursion is an invasion or a military movement into territory, to launch something is to start something

to root out - to eliminate totally, as if pulling a plant out from its root

militia - small army

a quagmire - a place where you get stuck. So the author of this article seems sympathetic toward Turkey and acknowledges that these are terror organizations to Turkey, but the author is warning Turkey about starting  battles against these groups because it will lead to disaster.

inflicted on - forced on

residents - people who live there

will face fierce resistance - people will defend themselves fiercely - aggressively

deployed -used

added strain - added stress, increasing the possibility that things will fail

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Turkey and the Kurds - Should the USA Defend the Kurds from Turkey?


After World War I England and France occupied large territories in the Middle East which had once belonged to the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey - one of the countries which had lost World War I).

England and France were only concerned about extracting (getting) oil and so they created a number of countries just by drawing lines across a map. They created Iraq, Transjordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.

It did not matter to either England or France who was living in which parts of the Middle East, they just needed to draw lines through the map to divide this large area up into countries that England and France would control. So a number of countries that had never existed before were created by England and France by two guys who drew lines around a map to divide the area up between them.

If you don't believe me, here's proof

So the Kurdish people, unfortunately, had lines drawn through the area where they were living. This one ethnic group was, therefore, separated and forced to live in four different countries.

For about 100 years now, the Kurds have been seeking to get their own homeland. Turkey, a country in which many Kurds live, does not like this idea. Nor does Iraq. It seems that the land which rightfully belongs to the Kurds also has lots of oil on it. Iraq, for instance, does not want to lose this oil to the Kurds.

The United States has been very sympathetic to the Kurdish people. Indeed, the Kurds have been very helpful to the United States in its war on terror. As you can read from the following article, Turkey has begun to attack Kurds who had helped the United States to fight against ISIS. So far the United States has not done anything to help the Kurds. The person who wrote the following article recommends that the US government begin to help the Kurds.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to abandon someone/some group/some thing: to leave it helpless, to just walk away.

mercies - this is an ironic or sarcastic term here. Turkey is clearly not interested in being merciful or kind to the Kurds. To be merciful or to show mercy means not to harm someone when you feel like harming them. Turkey has no desire to show mercy and that's why "mercies" is in quotation marks.

a tyrant - a dictator, someone who is not part of a democratic system, a leader who has too much power. So this writer is calling the leader of Turkey a tyrant.

an ally - a friend.

a quarter century - 25 years. 1/4 of 100 years.

man-for-man, woman-for-woman - meaning that if you compare the average Kurdish man or woman to anyone else from any other ethnic group or country which has fought against ISIS, the Kurds are better or superior.

Kurdish boots on the ground - Kurdish soldiers on the ground, fighters (soldiers wear boots so instead of him saying "Kurdish soldiers on the ground..." he says "Kurdish boots on the ground...")

sweeping - wide, thorough, complete

caliphate - the type of government ISIS created

to crush something - to step on something in order to destroy it

wriggling - if you step on a snake, it will wriggle and try to bite you, it will twist around wildly

snapping - trying to bite (the author is comparing ISIS to a trapped snake)

we're turning our backs on them - we are turning away or abandoning them

NATO - the North Atlantic Treaty Organization...a group of European countries plus the USA. It was created during the Cold War to protect Europe from Soviet Russia. Turkey and the USA are supposed to be allies in NATO, but Turkey's leader has been turning against the USA for some time now.

gone rogue - to have become uncontrollable; if someone is a rogue, he is highly independent to the point where he can't be trusted, because he will always pursue his own needs.

Islamist strongman - a dictator or tyrant who believes in the Islamic religion

odious - hateful

President is in quotation marks like this "President" because the writer believes that Erdogan is NOT really a president, but instead is a dictator.

to be captive - to be prisoners

a census - when a population is officially counted

butchered en masse - violently killed in large numbers

scapegoated - blamed for things they didn't do

unnervingly familiar - so familiar to the bad way that Israel has been treated (according to this author) that one should be unnerved or upset.

letting the Kurds down at Versailles - The Treaty of Versailles was the agreement that ended World War I. According to that treaty England and France were allowed to divide Kurdish territory up and place it into 4 different countries. So America did not try to help the Kurds at that point - the USA let them down (disappointed them).

acquiesced - to agree without wanting to agree

in the wake of Desert Storm  - following Desert Storm, the war in the early 1990s against Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

a succession of - a number of

combating - fighting

on the verge of - close to

a slaughter - a violent and often mass killing

an underdog - someone who does not have a lot of power but who is good

a rabid dog - a dog with a disease that makes it a ferocious (aggressive) killer

he has gutted democracy - he has removed the essence or reality of democracy from his government

false charges - he has accused people of fake crimes and thrown them in jail

suppressed - pushed down, held down

rigged the courts - if you rig something you change it so that justice does not occur, what you want to happen will occur. So people do not get justice in the Turkish court system any more.

to back someone - to support someone

Islamic hardliners - these are very extreme followers of the religion of Islam, very conservative

reignited - restarted; to ignite something is to start something on fire

inertia - this means that when something comes to a stop, or is in a resting state, it is hard to move it again

strategic interests - strategy or plans as to how the US will carry out its foreign policy

restricted use of an airbase - the USA seems to need an airbase in Turkey and Erdogan seems to be threatening to refuse to allow the US Air Force to use it if the USA does not support Erdogan's policies. So the USA seems to be afraid to offend or upset Erdogan for fear of losing this airbase.

Turkey uses the airbase as leverage - leverage is the ability to move a heavy object using a long stick and something you can place the stick on top of - you then push down on one end of the stick while the other end moves the object. If something is being used as leverage, it is being used to force someone to do something he doesn't want to do.

call Erdogan's bluff - if you are bluffing, you are pretending to do something you really aren't going to do. So the writer is basically saying we should defend the Kurds and see whether Erdogan will actually try to force Americans out of the air bases. The writer does not seem to think Erdogan will, but if he does, it doesn't matter, the USA will just lose two air bases.

liberated by the Kurds - freed by the Kurds through fighting

a bogus claim - a fake claim, a lie

the alphabet game - the writer is joking about all of the organizations represented by all the different three-letter combinations

indistinguishable - cannot be differentiated from, cannot be told apart from, to look the same as

a domestic resistance group - a group within Turkey that resisted the government and demanded a homeland for the Kurds

political accommodation - this Kurdish group that functioned within Turkey gave up violence in order to work within the Turkish political system. 

oppressed - held down, not allowed their rights

solidarity - a feeling of brotherhood, when individuals feel they belong in a group and are willing to work together with others toward a goal

the YPG is the same as the PKK - the writer is trying to make a joke saying that just because names sound similar it does not mean that things or organizations are similar.

to cling to - to hold on to too tightly

to draw a red line - to tell Erdogan that he cannot continue to do things which are clearly wrong; to draw a red line is like drawing a line on the ground and telling someone that he cannot walk past this line with punishment.

the terrorist sits in his president's chair in Ankara - Ankara is the capitol of Turkey, so the writer is saying that Erdogan is the real terrorist in this situation.

Friday, January 19, 2018

People in Chile express their disgust toward the Catholic Church as the Pope arrives

{{{A sarcastic cartoon about how the Catholic Church has failed to protect children from sexually abusive priests. Obviously, there has been more than just one victim, there have been thousands throughout the world.}}}

It seems that many people in Chile are outraged by the number of Chilean Catholic priests who have sexually attacked children. They expressed this anger at the Pope when he visited Chile.

Article about this issue:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a protest - when a large group of people meet publicly because they are upset about something. This group expresses its anger or outrage, usually peacefully. If a protest becomes violent it is often called a riot.

a threat - a statement that someone makes to indicate that he intends to hurt another person

papal - relating to the pope. The pope is the leader of the Catholic Church.

wept - cried, to weep = weep, wept, wept

hostility - anger

anti-pope - people against the pope; pro-pope would be people in favor of the pope

tear gas - a type of gas police around the world use which hurts the eyes of protesters or rioters and often produces tears

pamphlets - little booklets

cassock - the robe he wears

unprecedented - it has never happened before

friction - conflict, anger caused by disagreement with something

a fluke - something uncommon, something that just happened once and won't happen again

a harbinger - something which indicates that something will happen again or even over and over again; like a prediction

to ban demonstrations - Peru will not let people gather because the government is afraid they will express anger toward the pope as well.

to impact the image of the country - Peru is afraid that Peru will look bad in the eyes of the world if people demonstrate against (protest against) the pope.

to condemn - to attack something verbally and to strongly say it is wrong

condoms - those rubber birth control devices used by men...the Catholic Church has declared that it is wrong for men to use condoms. The Church says the condoms kill sperm cells. 

ferocity - extreme aggression; if a dog is ferocious, it will attack and seriously hurt a person.

theology - the study of God

changed radically - changed completely

a pedophile priest - a priest who enjoys thinking of having sex with children

a bungled response - to bungle something means to mess things up; not to handle things as well as you should have

to accelerate - to speed up

contested - to contest something is to oppose it, to argue against it

notorious - famous for the wrong reasons

to sour in regard to something - if a person becomes soured on/in regard to something, he used to have favorable feelings about that thing but now feels bad about it. i.e. At first our boss seemed like a nice guy, but under pressure he snaps and becomes very angry. The whole office has soured against him.

were torched - were set on fire

arson attacks - arson is when a building is started on fire

indigenous - the first people of an area, the people of Chile whose ancestors lived there before the Europeans

ancestral lands - the territory of their ancestors was taken away from them years ago

discrimination - when people are not allowed rights because of their identity. Remember, prejudice is an attitude while discrimination is action.

his homily - a speech a priest gives during a religious service

to take someone to task - to blame someone

an elegant agreement - an agreement that looks good but does not mean anything

a tactic - something done as part of a larger strategy, something done to get someone else to do something you want them to do

employed by - used by

a radical group - usually a far leftist group, a group that is anti-capitalist or pro-socialist or strongly anti-government

to be disgruntled - a disgruntled person is an unhappy person, a person very upset because things are wrong and they are not changing

moral authority - to have moral authority is to be recognized as a good person with power who has a right to tell other people what they should do

to celebrate mass - to hold a Catholic religious service, a Catholic religious service is called a mass

LGBT - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender

a socialist - someone who does not believe in capitalism, someone who believes that wealth should be shared among everyone in a society

to be resolved - to be taken care off satisfactorily

an accomplice - someone who helps a criminal to do something. So the protesters are accusing the Church of helping priests who were attacking children

overshadowed his visit - if something overshadows something else it shows itself to be more significant or important then what is supposed to be important

a protege - someone coached or guided by someone else

slanderous - when a statement is deliberately (not accidentally) untrue and meant to hurt the reputation of another person

proof - evidence that something actually happened, something which shows that something really happened

his reception - his greeting, the way people would receive him

Friday, January 12, 2018

Vicente Fox says that Trump's mouth is the "foulest shithole in the world."

I am guessing that within the next four years, due to the presidency of Donald Trump, the world will become familiar with every curse word/dirty word in the English language.

President Trump just introduced the dirty word 'shithole' to English learners world-wide.

So, as a responsible English teacher, let me discuss the meaning of this term that my president so suddenly introduced to you.

You could say that, literally, a shithole is a toilet, but it is actually an outdoor toilet, basically a hole in the ground where people might defecate (to defecate is the polite verb for to poop or to shit). 

If you say that a place is a shithole, you are saying it is really a lousy, rotten, bad, dirty, disgusting place - like what you might find at the bottom of a shithole.

So, apparently, Trump asked the question, "Why do only people from shithole countries come to America?"

What the world has to understand is that Donald Trump has no capacity for self-restraint (self-control). He can't say 'no' to any urge or desire he feels. Whatever he feels like saying, he has to say. Sometimes he'll change his mind and say exactly the opposite. He lacks the ability to reflect on or think about his actions and he never questions whether the way he feels is right or wrong or whether he might hurt someone through something he does or says. He is like a boat just being pushed around on the ocean, going wherever his emotions or emotional responses take him. 

Furthermore, after he does something, he is incapable of assessing whether what he did was right or wrong. He seems capable of attacking others for their faults and errors, but self-assessment is beyond his little pea-sized brain.

So Trump is, basically, the perfect example of a Republican in the USA.

Here is an article about the current president of the USA and his 'shithole' comment.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to prompt - to cause

condemnation - to condemn something is to say it is very wrong

divisive - it pushes people apart instead of bringing them together

explicitly - openly, directly (the opposite of explicitly is implicitly - this is when you hint or imply something and don't say it outright)

to summon someone - to call someone to appear before you

to commemorate - to remember

to displace - to force something out of its usual space

to be accorded - to be given

granted - given

strife - trouble

vacant - nobody is there

the foulest -  if something is foul it is super disgusting

to proclaim - to loudly state something

a betrayal - not being loyal to something/someone

a narcissist - someone who is in love with himself

white supremacist - a white person who thinks that white people are better than other people of other races

to defy logic - to violate the laws of logic, to make no sense

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will charge non-New Yorkers a $25 admission fee

{{{Yep, that's me in front of the Met Museum}}}

One of the best features of coming to New York City, for visitors, was being able to get into the Metropolitan Museum of Art for whatever the person chose to pay. The Met had a recommended admission fee, but you could get in for a dollar if you wanted to. 

Now the Met is changing its policy and requiring anyone who is not from New York State to pay a $25 admission fee. So people from New York can still pay a dollar to get in, but visitors will have to pay through the nose (pay a lot). Indeed, $25 to get into a museum seems to be close to a standard fee, but I feel it is outrageous. The most time anyone can realistically spend in a museum is about 3 hours. If you really want to see everything at the Met, this will require multiple visits. $25 is way too much for a visit (even though the Met will give a person a 3 day pass under the current policy).

The Met is an amazing museum - clearly the best art museum in the United States. But I tend to disagree with this policy. What do you think? It seems to me that the Met wants to take advantage of visitors. The average visitor to New York City spends around $1,200 here. So the Met thinks people from out of town have money, and the Met wants more of it.

The following article implies that the Met has not been wise about handling its money and that is one reason why this crisis and this new policy have developed. Please feel free to read the following article and judge for yourself.

The article:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

to pay through the nose - this is an expression meaning to pay a lot of money

the resignation of - when a person voluntarily leaves a position/job

financial stability - financial health, how well someone or some organization is doing in regard to money

mandatory - no choice, you have to do this

satellite museums - there are 3 museums that are operated by the same organization, the Met is the primary one, with two 'satellites'

the wheels began turning - the plans to change things began developing

a deficit - a debt, when someone or an organization owes money

fueled by - made worse by

a head for numbers - someone good at accounting and money

righting the financial ship - fixing the financial mess

to vouch for something - to say that it is true, to indicate that something is a fact

stat-heavy - lots of statistics

support contingent on - the support from the city was based on a pay-what-you-wanna policy

gamely renegotiated - aggressively renegotiated

a budget crunch - a lack of money in the budget, not enough money

a silver bullet - an easy solution, a quick effective solution that fixes everything (a Werewolf or other monsters can be killed with a silver bullet)

stingy - cheap, not willing to spend money, not generous