Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Trees Increase Korean Tensions

The approach of Christmas is bringing tensions between rival neighbours North and South Korea. The source of the latest friction is the proposed erection of two 30-metre-tall Christmas-tree-shaped towers near the border of the two Koreas. The South Korean government has agreed to a request from Christian groups to put up the towers within sight of the North Korean city of Kaesong. The move has provoked strong reaction from North Korea. Its state-run website has said putting up the towers would amount to ‘psychological warfare’. South Korea has denied such claims. It says the huge steel trees are simply a sign of the freedom of expression and religion people in the South enjoy.

Relations on the Korean Peninsular are still low following the sinking of one of South Korea’s warships in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives. It is the first time in seven years that the trees will be visible from the North. The last time it happened, Pyongyang accused Seoul of using the trees to try and spread Christianity to people in atheist North Korea. South Korean religious leaders disagree. Tak Sejin, chairman of the group organising the tree lighting, said: “This is a ceremony for peace on the Korean peninsula and national unity. It is being held with our desire for harmony among our fellow men and between North and South Korea.” Mr Sejin added: “We are doing this with the expectation that some day our people can become one.”

Vocabulary Review: Read the sentence and choose the best answer from the choices.
1. The dog's approach scattered the geese.

a. arrival
b. attack
c. departure

2. Tension is expected today in the meeting of government officials.

a. balance
b. pressure
c. fear

3. Two of the most gifted and talented people in all the land are also rivals.

a. friends
b. competitor
c. equal

4. Spending to much time together may cause friction in the relationship.

a. peace
b. agreement
c. conflict

5. Mr. Dolby has supervised the erection of the boilers and machinery.

a. construction
b. destruction
c. ruin

6. A nationwide campaign of protests provoked the authorities.

a. threaten
b. irritate
c. make happy

Comprehension check: Answer the questions based on the article.
1. What does the huge steel trees (Christmas Trees) symbolize?
2. What is the religion of North Koreans?
3. Why is tension increasing in North and South Korea?

Viewpoint Discussion: AGREE or DISAGREE. Support your answer.
1. Christmas is a time of peace.
2. It is fun to celebrate Christmas in Japan.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Self-Cleaning Clothes Coming

Just put it under the sun!
Good news may be on the way for people who hate doing the laundry – self-cleaning clothes. Scientists in China are developing a fabric that cleans itself under the sunlight. This could make washing clothes a thing of the past. Researchers at Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University and Hubei University created a chemical that causes cotton materials to clean themselves under the sun. The chemical coating is made from titanium dioxide, which breaks down dirt and stains, and removes odors when placed under the sun.

The researchers say their discovery is cheap, non-toxic and environmentally friendly. Titanium dioxide is one of the most widely used chemicals in the world. It is in sunscreen, kitchen and bathroom tiles, and odour-free socks. A test showed that the chemical completely removed a large orange stain on a white piece of cotton cloth in just two hours of sunlight. Many stores are interested in selling self-cleaning clothes. However, shop owners from rainy countries are keeping quiet about the product.

Vocabulary Review: Read the sentence and choose the best answer from the choices.
1. Her company developed (v.) a new software.
a. copied
b. created
c. conducted
d. produced

2. My professor resigned from teaching and became a researcher (n.) instead.
a. inspector
b. inspector
c. analyst
d. officer

3. Her dress is covered with stain (n.).
a. dirt
b. decoration
c. color
d. design

4. This odor (n.) of this house is not so good.
a. size
b. fragrance
c. color
d. smell

Comprehension check: Answer the questions based on the article.
1. How can we remove odors from self-cleaning clothes?
2. What chemical was used to "coat" the self-cleaning clothes?
3. Where else can we find titanium oxide?

Viewpoint Discussion: AGREE or DISAGREE. Support your answer.
1. Doing the laundry is time-consuming.
2. Housework is fun!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Indian clerk wins game show with history question

Level: Intermediate
Sushil Kumar, the winner of 1 million dollars
NEW DELHI (AP) — The question that made a poor clerk from eastern India the first person to win $1 million on an Indian game show has been revealed.

It is: "Which colonial power ended its involvement in India by selling the rights to the Nicobar Islands to the British on Oct. 16, 1868?"

The answer: Denmark.

Last week, it was announced that Sushil Kumar had won the top prize on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire." But producers declined to reveal the question until the show aired yesterday.

His wife closed her eyes and prayed as Kumar grappled with the question.

When he won, the audience whooped and gave him a standing ovation. He and his wife wept.

His win echoes the 2008 Oscar - winning film "Slumdog Millionaire."

Vocabulary Review: Read the vocabulary words and the definitions. Make your own sentence using the vocabulary word/s afterwards.
1. reveal (v.) - to make known (something concealed or secret); expose
Example: She revealed her talent for cooking.

2. colonial (adj.) - relating to, possessing, or inhabiting a colony or colonies
Example: On 8th April 1945, the French colonial army entered the town.

3. decline (v.) - to express polite refusal
Example: I declined their offer of help.

4. air (v.) - to broadcast on television or radio
Example: The ad was submitted to NHK and they aired it.

5. grapple (v.) - struggle; exert effort with difficulty
Example: She grappled to get through the crowd.

6. whoop (v.) - shout, as if with joy or enthusiasm
Example: The children whooped when they were led to the picnic table.

7. standing ovation (n.) - clapping accompanied by standing
Example: He was pleasantly surprised by the standing ovation he received.

8. echo (v.) - appear like; be similar or bear a likeness to
Example: This paper echoes my own work.

Comprehension check: Answer the questions based on the article.
1. Who was the first person who won a million dollars in the game show "Who wants to be a millionaire?"
2. What was the winning question?
3. What happened after he won?

Viewpoint Discussion:
1. What would you do if you win a million dollars? How are you going to spend it?
2. What would life be like without money?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Plastic Surgery For Pets Increasing

 Level: Easy
Dog having a plastic surgery
A British pet insurance company has said plastic surgery for pets is increasing. The insurer, Petplan, reported a 25 per cent increase in spending on cosmetic surgery for cats and dogs. In 2010, the company paid almost $2.5 million for nose operations for dogs and over $1.6 million for eyelid lifts. Petplan managers say the rise in cosmetic surgery means animals can live “healthier and more active lives”. Many operations are for medical reasons. Some dogs have nose jobs to help fix breathing problems.

Source: News English Lessons (Click link to read more)

Vocabulary Review: Read the vocabulary words and the definitions. Make your own sentence using the vocabulary word/s afterwards.
1. insurance (n.)
ExampleSompo Japan is an insurance company.

2. plastic surgery (n.) - surgery to repair or fix body parts; s surgery to improve a person's appearance
Example: The singer had a plastic surgery.

3. insurer (n.) - the company or person that gives a insurance
Example: Sompo Japan is a famous insurer.

4. operation (n.) - surgery
Example: She had an operation because she has cancer.

5. eyelid lift (n.) - a surgery to make the eyes beautiful
Example: The woman's eyelid lift was successful.

6. nose job (n.) - a surgery to make the nose beautiful/tall
Example: My grandmother had a nose job.

Comprehension check: Answer the questions based on the article.
1. How much did the insurance company pay for nose operations?
2. How much did the insurance company pay for eyelid lifts?
3. Why are some dogs having nose jobs?

Viewpoint Discussion: AGREE or DISAGREE. Support your answer.
1. Pets are very important to human beings.
2. It is okay to spend money on cosmetic surgery.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rich world 'pessimistic' but developing world 'upbeat'

Level: Intermediate
People in developing countries such as Kenya were more upbeat, despite the difficult lives many face

A BBC World Service survey in 25 countries has found strikingly different attitudes to the economic outlook between rich and developing countries.
In the rich world, consumers were pessimistic, while in emerging economies people were more upbeat.
It is a pattern that reflects the very uneven recovery from the recent global recession.
More than 25,000 people were surveyed by the polling firm Globescan.
Japan, France and Britain emerged as particularly gloomy. The percentage expecting good times in all three countries was in single figures. More than half expected bad times.
Recession danger
The picture across the rich world was one of pessimists outnumbering the optimists, though by smaller margins.
The one exception to this pattern was Germany, where 36% expected good or mostly good times, well ahead of those who were downbeat. Even there, the optimists were outnumbered by those expecting a mix of good and bad times ahead.
In the developing world, optimists outnumbered pessimists in nearly every country surveyed. In Nigeria more than seventy per cent expected good times. The results were strongly upbeat in Kenya and Egypt as well.
There was one exception, Pakistan, where pessimists were slightly more numerous. In Russia, Chile and Ecuador, the optimists were only just ahead.
The difference in attitudes does broadly reflect recent economic performance: strong growth in many emerging economies, sluggishness in the rich world.
It is also consistent with most forecasts, which suggest an increasing danger of at least some developed economies sliding back into recession.
The research was done between July and September this year.
Since then the situation in the world's biggest economic trouble spot - the eurozone - has moved on and in some respects the uncertainty there has deepened.
Source: BBC News

Vocabulary Review: Read the vocabulary words and the definitions. Make your own sentence using the vocabulary word/s afterwards.
1. upbeat (adj.) - optimistic; very happy
Example: My friend was very upbeat today until she saw her worst enemy.

2. gloomy (adj.) - depressing
Example: The atmosphere of the house became gloomy since grandmother died.

3. recession (n.) - a situation where the state of the economy declines
Example: The global recession affected millions of people.

4. outnumber (v.) - to be large in number; to be greater than
a. The boys in class outnumber the girls.
b. Males outnumbered the females and in addition drank more frequently.

5. sluggishness (n.) - very slow movement
ExampleThe sluggishness of the compass in the Arctic cold became a very serious problem for seamen.

6. eurozone (n.) - the collective group of countries which use the Euro as their common currency.
Example: The Eurozone has been in crisis since the start of this decade.

Comprehension check: Answer the questions based on the article.
1. Is there a difference between rich and poor countries? If yes, what is/are the difference/s?
2. What countries exhibited pessimism? What countries exhibited optimism?
3. When did the researchers conduct the study?

Viewpoint Discussion: AGREE or DISAGREE.
1. The richer a person is, the happier he becomes.
2. People should worry about money.
3. Happiness comes from within.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Threat of disease from historic flooding looms in Thailand

Level: Advanced

The death toll in the current floods has risen to 98.
Credit: Thai Travel News
(CNN) -- Worries about high tides overwhelming parts of Thailand in recent days have morphed into fears about water- and insect-borne diseases in the flood-ravaged country.

Bangkok's central business district has avoided major flooding so far, but outlying areas are chest- or waist-deep in water.

"The water in those parts is a filthy black color containing sewage, garbage and dead animals with a nasty smell. Mosquitoes are also breeding rapidly," said Igor Prahin of Bangkok.

More than 370 people have died since the flooding began after heavy monsoon rains.

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie A. Kenney said Monday that "the worst may be over for central Bangkok," but about 2 million people are still affected by the flooding. The United States has pledged a total of $1.1 million in aid. Charities working in the country have warned of diseases such as diarrhea, dengue fever and malaria in the coming days and weeks.

"There are places on the outskirts of Bangkok and in other parts of the country which have been flooded for nearly two weeks," said Matthew Cochrane of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

"The country's prime minister has said that the city has 'dodged a bullet' -- the economic impact of central Bangkok being flooded would have been huge, and thankfully that did not happen -- but a huge part of the country is still under water," Cochrane said.

"Outside the city it is certainly a humanitarian crisis, because there are people who have been cut off for weeks without any aid, supplies or food."

UNICEF said it was providing 20,000 mosquito nets and handing out 20,000 pamphlets explaining how to stay safe and healthy in flood-stricken regions. The Red Cross said it had provided more than 130,000 relief kits, and 120,000 packs of bottled water, but representatives in Bangkok said they were concerned at the lack of food and drinking water in communities isolated by the floodwaters.

Supatra (Jenstitvong) Assavasuke, who lives east of central Bangkok, took in two friends whose house on the west side of the city is submerged under 1 to 2 meters (3 to 7 feet) of water. It's unclear how long they will need to stay. She and her family have helped donate about 3,000 liters (almost 800 gallons) of drinking water to those in worse-off areas.

"Those who got affected, they lose their houses, they lose their jobs, their cars -- many things," she said.

But even those in the capital faced possible shortages of water.

The Metropolitan Waterworks Authority said it had reduced the amount of tap water processed for residents from 900,000 to 400,000 cubic meters per day, because of high algae counts at one of its plants.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said authorities would speed up the process of draining water into Bangkok's canals and into the sea, raising hopes that water levels in the city could start to sink. However, the government has warned it may take more than a month for the floods to recede.

Already, the flooding has caused an estimated $6 billion in damages, the Thai Finance Ministry has said.

The Thai government has set up more than 1,700 shelters across the country, where more than 113,000 people have taken refuge. Yet many are trying to push through with their daily routines.

In Bangkok's Chinatown area, a food vendor up to her knees in murky water continued to serve patrons at her small cart.

One resident traveled down a street by row boat as a nearby bicyclist pedaled through thigh-deep flooding. And a man walked his dog near Bangkok's Grand Palace, the dog chest-deep in water.

Vocabulary Words: Read the vocabulary words and the definitions. Make your own sentence using the vocabulary word/s afterwards.
morph (v.) - transform
Example: He morphed a nerd into a pop star.

ravaged (adj.) - destroyed
Example: The typhoon has left the houses ravaged.

filthy (adj.) - the extremely dirty
Example: The filthy room was impossible to sleep in.

sewage (n.) - waste matter carried away in sewers or drains
Example: The sewage from our town is collected weekly and converted into electricity.

nasty (adj.) - very unpleasant
Example: The weather is nasty.

outskirts (n.) - outlying areas; borders; boundary
a. They lived on the outskirts of Osaka.
b. They mingled in the outskirts of the crowd.

dodged a bullet (idiom) - to successfully avoid a very serious problem
Example: I almost failed the final test, but I dodged the bullet.

pamphlet (n.) - a booklet
Example: I can finish writing an 80-page long pamphlet about colds in just one week.

algae (n.) - aquatic plants (plants that live in water)
Example: The dead lake is full of algae.

patron (n.) - loyal customer
Example: She is a patron of my goods.

Comprehension check:
 Answer the questions based on the article.
1. According to the article, how was the flood-water contaminated by diseases?
2. What diseases are being brought by the flood?
3. How did some of the people continued their daily routine?

Viewpoint Discussion: AGREE or DISAGREE.
1. Cities are more affected by floods than rural areas.
2. Floods can be tolerated or controlled using technology.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Gut Bacteria: We Are What We Eat

Level: Advanced

Good Food

The human digestive system is full of bacteria -- mostly good bacteria. These organisms help break down food so the body can use the nutrients. Scientists are exploring the link between what kinds of bacteria live in our gut and what kinds of food we eat.

Gary Wu from the University of Pennsylvania and other scientists did two studies. Mr. Wu says the studies looked for connections between the food that people ate and the kind of microbes living in their intestines.

"We collected stool samples to look at the types of bacteria in the gut of people who provided us information about what they ate," said Gary Wu.

He says people with one kind of diet had very different bacteria than people who ate a different diet.

"So, we found essentially that there are two major categories in which individuals could be classified by the bacteria in their gut: one associated with sort of a western-type diet, and another one associated with a more agrarian or fruit-vegetable type of diet," he added.

In the second study, ten volunteers took part in a so-called controlled feeding experiment. They had to change their normal diet. Yet their digestive bacteria remained much the same. This suggests that the mix of bacteria is based on long-term dietary patterns, not what people ate in recent days.

Gary Wu thinks testing people's mix of intestinal bacteria might be a better way to measure their disease risk than asking about their diet. He says intestinal bacteria might even play a part in the development of disease. If so, this could lead scientists to new ways to help prevent diseases.

"It means that if you could switch the types of bacteria in your gut, perhaps you could influence the development of certain types of diseases -- perhaps the types of diseases associated with western or more industrialized nations. That's a little bit more speculative, but that's something that is certainly very much of interest in the field," Gary Wu said.

The two studies are in the journal Science. The research may add to understanding of how diet affects health.

Another recent study involving diet warned that obesity is increasing worldwide, but especially in the United States and Britain. The findings appeared in the Lancet medical journal.

Worldwide, experts say one and a half billion adults are overweight. Another half-billion are obese. At current rates, about half of all American adults could be obese by twenty-thirty. In Britain, obesity rates could reach forty-eight percent for men and forty-three percent for women.

Experts say the rise in obesity is likely to lead to an increase in cases of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other conditions.

Obesity is also on the rise among children.

Source: VOA News

Vocabulary Words: Read the vocabulary words and the definitions. Make your own sentence using the vocabulary word/s afterwards.
1. link (n.) - connection
Example: There is a link between sleep and mental illness.

2. gut (n.) - intestine, part of our digestive system
Example: My gut is so full!

3. microbes (n.) - bacteria / small organisms
Example: Some microbes can cause diseases.

4. stool (n.) - human digestive waste
Example: The stool of the baby contains blood.

5. agrarian (adj.) - relating to agriculture
Example: Prior to 1959, the Cuban economy was underdeveloped and primarily agrarian in character.

6. speculative (adj.) - theoretical or hypothetical
Example: Most of their projects, like the carbon tower, remain speculative.

Comprehension check: Answer the questions based on the article.
1. What does the article say about the food we eat and the bacteria inside our gut?
2. How is the answer in number one (1) proven?
3. What are the results of the experiments done by Gary Wu's team?
4.  What was said about the study on obesity?

Viewpoint Discussion: AGREE or DISAGREE.
1. It is alright to eat junk foods once in a while.
2. A healthy diet should always be accompanied by exercise.