Monday, February 28, 2011

Education reduces blood pressure


Heart Attack
Source: http://t0.gstatic.com/images
Despite exam stress, a long stint in education is good for people's blood pressure, according to researchers in the US.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is linked to heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, shows the link is stronger in women than in men. The British Heart Foundation said the findings supported the link between deprivation and heart disease risk.
Higher levels of education have been linked to lower levels of heart disease. The researchers suggest that blood pressure could be the reason why. The study looked at 30 years of data from 3,890 people who were being followed as part of the Framingham Offspring Study. People were divided into three groups, low education (12 years or less), middle education (13 to 16 years) and high education (17 years or more).
The average systolic blood pressure for the 30 year period was then calculated.

Predisposition
Women with low education had a blood pressure 3.26 mmHg higher than those with a high level of education. In men the difference was 2.26 mmHg.
Other factors, such as smoking, taking blood pressure medication and drinking, were taken into consideration and the effect on blood pressure remained, although at a much lower level.
Writing in the journal, the researchers says: "Low educational attainment has been demonstrated to predispose individuals to high strain jobs, characterised by high levels of demand and low levels of control, which have been associated with elevated blood pressure."
Professor Eric Loucks, who conducted the study at Brown University, said: "Women with less education are more likely to be experiencing depression, they are more likely to be single parents, more likely to be living in impoverished areas and more likely to be living below the poverty line."
Natasha Stewart, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: "These findings support existing evidence about the link between socio-economic deprivation and heart disease risk.
"However, the study only showed up a small blood pressure drop among women and an insignificant decrease among men.
"Action is needed across all parts of society to give children the best possible start in life and reduce health inequalities."
VOCABULARY:
stint - stretch, an unbroken period of time during which you do something
systolic blood pressure - the pressure caused by the heart's pumping
attainment - acchievement
deprivation -  condition of having too little of something
predisposed - make susceptible
impoverished - poor; reduced to poverty; deprived; depleted; limited

COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS:
1. What can education do to a person's health? Why?
2. What are the other things that can affect the blood pressure?
3. Who is more prone to heart diseases: men or women?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Shop to make breast milk ice cream


LONDON (Reuters) – A specialist ice cream parlor plans to serve up breast milk ice cream and says people should think of it as an organic, free-range treat. The breast milk concoction, called the "Baby Gaga," will be available from Friday at the Icecreamists restaurant in London's Covent Garden.
Icecreamists founder Matt O'Connor was confident his take on the "miracle of motherhood" and priced at a hefty 14 pounds ($23) a serving will go down a treat with the paying public.
The breast milk was provided by mothers who answered an advertisement on online mothers' forum Mumsnet.
Victoria Hiley, 35, from London was one of 15 women who donated milk to the restaurant after seeing the advert.
Hiley works with women who have problems breast-feeding their babies. She said she believes that if adults realized how tasty breast milk actually is, then new mothers would be more willing to breast-feed their own newborns.
"What could be more natural than fresh, free-range mother's milk in an ice cream? And for me it's a recession beater too -- what's the harm in using my assets for a bit of extra cash," Hiley said in a statement.
"I tried the product for the first time today -- it's very nice, it really melts in the mouth."
The Baby Gaga recipe blends breast milk with Madagascan vanilla pods and lemon zest, which is then churned into ice cream.
O'Connor said the Baby Gaga was just one of a dozen radical new flavors at the shop.
"Some people will hear about it and go, 'yuck' but actually it's pure, organic, free-range and totally natural," he said. "I had a Baby Gaga just this morning and I feel great."
(Reporting by Paul Casciato; Editing by Steve Addison)
(Source: Yahoo News)


VOCABULARY:
ice cream parlor: places that sell ice cream and frozen yogurt to consumers
free range: of livestock and domestic poultry
concoction: the act of creating something (usually edible things)
hefty: large in amount or extent or degree
advert: ad, a public promotion of some product or service
recession : the state of the economy declines
zest: herb/spice
pod: casing of beans
churn: stir (cream) vigorously in order to make butter

Monthly wages in Japan mark 1st rise in 5 years

TOKYO, Feb. 22 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Monthly wages in Japan edged up 0.6 percent from a year earlier to 296,200 yen in 2010, the first rise in five years, on the back of signs of an economic recovery, a survey by the labor ministry said Tuesday.


The wage level, aside from unscheduled payments including overtime, marked the year-on-year increase after posting a record fall the previous year in the wake of the financial crisis, the survey showed. The latest figure is the second-lowest since 1997 and has yet to recover to the 2008 level, the ministry said.

The survey suggested the overall upward trend only emerged at larger corporations with the salaries of regular employees increasing at companies with a workforce of 100 or more but declining at firms with smaller workforces.

The survey in July last year was based on responses from 46,226 concerns that employ at least 10 regular workers.


VOCABULARY:
edged up: go up
in the wake of: as a result of
workforce: total number of workers actively employed in a company


FOLLOW-UP QUESTION:
1. How did the Japanese economy recover from the recession?
2. Is it true that the wage level of the workers in Japan increased?
3. How should Japan maintain this situation? / How should the Japanese economy cope up with the problems it is facing?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Brazilian woman finds alligator behind sofa

Alligator
Source: Wikipedia Images
A woman in Brazil was shocked to find an alligator hiding behind her sofa after heavy rains flooded her house in the town of Parauapebas, in Para state.

She said she was alerted to the reptile's presence by her three-year-old son, who was patting its head. The woman snatched the child away and called the fire brigade, who trapped the 1.5m-long (5ft) alligator.

The firefighters said the family was lucky the reptile was not hungry. Firefighter Captain Luiz Claudio Farias said it could have seriously hurt or even killed the boy.

Capt Farias said it was not uncommon for animals such as alligators and snakes to enter people's houses in towns such as Parauapebas which are built very near rivers and the rainforest. He said the reptile had been released in a less populated area of the town.

Source: BBC NEWS

VOCABULARY:
  • flood - v.
    • the act of flooding (the rising of a body of water and its overflowing onto normally dry land)
    • Japan experienced floods after the tsunami.
  • alert - v.
    • warn; alarm
    • Alert the driver if he is driving too fast.
  • pat - v.
    • tap; touch
    • The boy pats the head of the crocodile.
  • snatch - v.
    • grab or get quickly
    • The man snatched the bag of the lady.
  • brigade - n.
    • a group of people working for the military / fire / police department
    • The brigade protected the city.
FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS:
1. What will you do if you see an alligator inside your house?
2. What was your most dangerous experience?

Music 'releases mood-enhancing chemical in the brain'


By Sonya McGilchrist
Health reporter, BBC News

Music releases a chemical in the brain that has a key role in setting good moods, a study has suggested.

The study, reported in Nature Neuroscience, found that the chemical was released at moments of peak enjoyment.

Researchers from McGill University in Montreal said it was the first time that the chemical - called dopamine - had been tested in response to music.

Dopamine increases in response to other stimuli such as food and money. It is known to produce a feel-good state in response to certain tangible stimulants - from eating sweets to taking cocaine. Dopamine is also associated with less tangible stimuli - such as being in love.

In this study, levels of dopamine were found to be up to 9% higher when volunteers were listening to music they enjoyed.

The report authors say it's significant in proving that humans obtain pleasure from music - an abstract reward - that is comparable with the pleasure obtained from more basic biological stimuli. Music psychologist, Dr Vicky Williamson from Goldsmiths College, University of London welcomed the paper. She said the research didn't answer why music was so important to humans - but proved that it was.

"This paper shows that music is inextricably linked with our deepest reward systems."

(Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12135590)


VOCABULARY:
1. stimuli - anything in the environment that causes a something to react
2. stimulant - a substance that promotes activity, interest, or enthusiasm
3. tangible - existing physically; that which can be touched
4. inextricably - impossible to untie or disentangle; impossible to solve; impossible to escape from



COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS:
1. How does music make us feel good?
2. Aside from music, what are the other things that makes us release dopamine?

FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS: http://www.rarejob.info/material/advanced/conversation/questions/mat-con-adv-music.pdf

Elvis Presley
(Source: jazzgitarren.k-server.org)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Watson Wins Jeopardy!

Photograph by Seth Wenig, AP
Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings points to his IBM supercomputer opponentWatson, during a practice round for the TV game show last month. Jennings and fellow human contestant Brad Rutter competed against Watson in a three-episode tournament this week in the U.S.—and were summarily beaten by the computer last night.
Watson boasts a nearly 3,000-computer-processor "brain," which can perform various tasks simultaneously—an ability that could be unique and potentially very important in artificial intelligence, or AI, research, computer scientists say.
The "Watson program may turn out to be a major advance, because unlike most previous AI projects, it does not depend mainly on a single technique, such as reinforcement learning [learning via reward and punishment], or simulated evolution ... but tries to combine multiple methods," MIT computer scientist Marvin Minsky wrote in an email.
Minsky added, however, that Watson's contribution and importance to the field of AI won't be known until IBM publishes a technical report about the computer. (Published February 17, 2011)

Source:  National Geographic Channel

A. VOCABULARY:

1. opponent - a contestant that you are matched against; adversary
2. summarily - over a short period of time, briefly
3. boast - show off
4. potentially - with a possibility of becoming actual or real
5. artificial intelligence - the concept of making computers do tasks once considered to require thinking; makes computers play chess and recognize handwriting and speech, etc.
6. turn out - result
7. advance - progress, development
8. reinforcement learning - sub-area of machine learning, learning via reward and punishment
9. simulate - copy, imitate


B. QUESTIONS


1. Who/what is Watson?
2. There is an article in www.time.com which says that in 2045, humans can be immortal because of technology. Do you think this will happen?
3. Should humans be scared of robots?


C. FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS:
http://www.esldiscussions.com/t/technology.html
http://www.esldiscussions.com/r/robots.html

Monday, February 21, 2011

Energy Drinks Harmful to Kids

Energy drinks packed full of caffeine may be harmful for children. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the University of Miami. Study author Judith Schaechter said popular drinks like Red Bull and Monster Energy have no health benefits. Many of the ingredients used to make them are not regulated. Dr. Schaechter warned that children with conditions such as diabetes, mood swings and heart, kidney or liver diseases may have negative reactions to the drinks and could even die after drinking them. Report co-author Steven Lipshultz said: “Pediatricians need to be aware of the possible effects of energy drinks.” He advised that: “Toxicity surveillance should be improved and regulations of…sales…should be based on appropriate research assessing energy drink safety.”


Nearly a third of American children between the ages of 12 to 14 regularly buy these beverages. Sales are steadily rising in the U.S. from $6.5 billion in 2008 to $6.9 billion in 2009. Sales for 2010 are expected to be much higher. American teens say the drinks help them at school. Tracy Wong, 18, said she needs them because, “it pumps my system full of caffeine. That's why I have energy. Caffeine energizes you and keeps you awake." A Red Bull spokesman said: “Red Bull Energy Drink is available in over 160 countries because health authorities across the world have concluded that [it] is safe to consume.” However, it is banned in Germany and Taiwan for containing minute traces of cocaine.


VOCABULARY:
caffeine - a bitter substance that can be found in plants; it makes somebody awake
conclusion - opinion or judgment
ingredient - component or part
regulated - controlled; fixed
toxicity - how toxic or poisonous something is
surveillance - examination; survey
pump - supply 
consume - to use; to eat; to drink
banned - not allowed
cocaine - an addictive drug


Source: energydrinkguru.com
http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRDjiUm6eD_gnCRq0ERFpjXs8OiBeu_NHlpaaLbxAj2mP0BnsUq




Source: Breaking News English
(http://breakingnewsenglish.com/1102/110215-energy_drinks.html)

Suspended teacher defends critical blog

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – A high school English teacher who was suspended from her job after she blogged that her students were "rude, disengaged, lazy whiners," said on Wednesday that she did nothing wrong.
"Some of the students, parents and administrators don't want to hear the truth," said Natalie Munroe, 30, a teacher at Central Bucks East High School north of Philadelphia.
In a blog that she said was intended to be seen only by a handful of her friends but was shared on Facebook by a student who discovered it, Munroe was highly critical of some students and school administrators.
"My students are out of control," she wrote. "They are rude, disengaged, lazy whiners. They curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire and are just generally annoying."
Munroe, who is nearly nine months pregnant, was suspended with pay pending an investigation into her blog, said Carol Counihan, spokeswoman for the school district.
Steven Rovner, Munroe's lawyer, described her as a "working class hero for teachers" and said if she is fired he may file a lawsuit charging violation of her First Amendment right to free speech.
Munroe said she still wants to be a teacher.
(Reporting by Dave Warner; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)
source: Yahoo News, Reuters

VOCABULARY:
1. disengaged - irresponsible, detached, do not obey/follow
2. whiner - a person given to excessive complaints, complainer
3. handful - a small number or amount
4. critical - marked by a tendency to find and call attention to errors and flaws
5. fancy - illusion, visualize
6. working class hero - a person who has given up their dreams for a realistic life in the working middle class to provide for his/her family


Source: http://www.sanfranciscoemploymentlawfirm.com/teacher.jpg


Follow up questions: