jueves, 31 de diciembre de 2015

Near drowning in Morocco

Watch this short story of a  holiday that turned awry.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below about it.

1 What did the couple's friend (of a friend), John, do the first night?
2 What activity did John insist on doing the next day?
3 What happened to him when he was a long way off the shore?
4 Why couldn't the hotel use their lifeboat?
5 How did the swimmer pull John back to the beach?
6 Who was in fact the person who saved their friend's life?

Sometimes you agree to go on holiday with people you don’t really know. And sometimes those people (1) drink too much on the first night.
My husband and I found ourselves on such a holiday in Morocco, where a friend of a friend, let’s call him John, had a place at a beach resort in Ashilla. John insisted on taking Ashilla’s night life by storm and the next day, even though he looked like he could use a nap, continued to amp up the activity level with a bout of (2) windsurfing. This is a vacation after all, why relax?
When he jumped on to the windsurf board he was immediately swept 300 metres off shore and then (3) the mast broke. My husband and I couldn’t swim out to help. He’s not a strong swimmer, neither am I. So we watched with increasing dread as John was rapidly swept further out to sea.
Crowds gathered on the beach and began to get rowdy:
If he doesn’t drown, the sharks will definitely get him. 
Come here! There’s a guy drowning.
The hotel offered to call in a lifeboat from Tangiers, (4) theirs was broken. Tangiers was over an hour away.
Suddenly, Morocco’s version of Arnold Schwarzenegger parted the crowds with his rippling muscles and proclaimed: I watched a guy die here last year. I can’t let that happen again, and in he dove, swimming towards the small dot that John had become on the horizon. He seemed to swim for hours, stopping only briefly to catch his breath and began pulling John back (5) on the broken windsurfer.
As they came on to the shore the previously cut-throat crowd was cheering and crying. The lifeboat from Tangiers had just arrived, the crew basking in undeserved glory.
Turns out the Moroccan Arnold was (6) a professional bodybuilder on vacation from LA. And if he hadn’t weighed 300 pounds we would have lifted him on our shoulders and paraded him through the Medina.

miércoles, 30 de diciembre de 2015

Talking point: Emotions

This week's talking point is emotions. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

Complete these sentences so that they are true for you. Then discuss them with a partner.
1 It brings a lump to my throat when …
2 The most heart-breaking thing I have ever seen was …
3 When I feel a bit down, I …
4 I would be beside myself with worry if …
5 I was overtaken by fear when …

In what situations do you find it easier or more difficult to express your emotions?
Is there anything that helps you when trying to share feelings?
When do you have a hard time expressing emotions?

Rank these factors in order of importance (1-5) for a successful relationship:
sharing the same hobbies and interests
being physically attracted to each other
respecting each other
liking each other’s family and friends
sharing religious and political beliefs

What advice would you give to a young couple about how to manage their different attitudes towards expressing their emotions?

Which of these statements do you agree with?
1 Women are better at expressing their feelings than men.
2 Society doesn’t allow men to express their feelings openly.
3 Women are emotional and men are rational.

To illustrate the topic, you can watch the video How To Talk About Your Emotions and Express Your Feelings

martes, 29 de diciembre de 2015

10 questions with Rachael Ray

Time Magazine interviews Rachel Ray, the popular daytime TV host, cook, and best-selling author, for their 10 Questions with feature.

Self-study activity:
Watch the interview and say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 Rachel's grandfather looked after her when she was a kid.
2 Rachel wasn't a popular girl at school.
3 Rachel and her husband have always ignored what tabloids published about them.
4 Most of the information the press publish about her is false.
5 She agrees with Anthony Bourdain's comments on her.
6 Rachel has been criticized for working for Dunkin Donuts. 
7 Rachel used to eat Dunkin Donuts as a child.
8 Rachel loves everything which has to do with fashion.
We are here today for Time.com’s 10 Questions, and bravely submitting herself to the readers questions today is Rachel Ray. Thank you for doing this.
Thank you, I think, in advance.
What were your favorite foods as a child?
My grandfather lived with us and was my caretaker when I was itty-bitty, so I liked everything that old Italian men liked. I liked sardines and squid and calamari, eating calamari with your fingers and anything with anchovies, anything with garlic and oil and I still eat much the same way today. I was not a very popular girl when I opened my lunch sack at the lunchroom, I just cleared out the whole left side of the lunchroom. You could smell my food at 20 paces.
You see, you have lots of negative comments thrown at you in the past concerning both your professional and personal life. How do you not let it get you down?
You know, people gossip about you no matter what you do. If you’re a waitress, you know, there’ll be a couple of waitresses that gossip about you. I mean, that’s just human nature, you know, you have to learn how to deal with that when you’re a little kid on the playground. You can’t let, you know, people calling you names, putting you down or you wouldn’t get very far in life. And, you know, with regards to tabloid press, especially my husband and I, I mean, we've been through the whole gamut of emotions. First we were angry, and then sad and then back to angry, and then frustrated, and then, you know, you wanna hire lawyers and armies to, you know, you get all self-righteous about it, and then at the day, you’re like ‘Really? I don’t have anything better to do with my time or my money?’ And, you know, there's nothing that people write about me when it comes to that, they're just criticizing my cooking skills or something or the fact that I'm, you know, a newbie at it, the whole talk show. Again, there's very little right that isn't true. I'm not a chef. I don't bake. I am loud. I do giggle. I am goofy. After a while my voice is annoying. Yeah. I mean what am I gonna say to that? Call them up and say, ‘Yeah, you know me  and you’re so right. I just can’t go on’. I mean, no, of course not. You get up and go to work.
Anthony Bourdain likes to rip you on your show. Actually, this is a combination of two questions. One person asked that, another person asked, would you like to punch him?
No. I actually love and appreciate Anthony Bourdain’s work and I think I… I don’t know if he bashes me. I think everybody has a right to their own opinion and I think, usually when he criticizes me, he’s got a point to make, you know, and, you know, you can’t be all things to all people. It doesn’t keep me from appreciating his work or his books.
How do you choose, more or less, what you endorse? Are there products that you would not endorse?
Well, there are very different, and this goes back to sort of the Tony Bourdain thing. One of the criticisms Tony made of me once, I thought it was quite legitimate and I’ve had a good answer for it but, you know, whatever. He said, you know, you worked with Yum-O! and you’re trying to reduce the child obesity rate working with President Clinton, you're always talking about family's cooking with healthier products. Why would you work with a company like Dunkin Donuts? and Dunkin Donuts came to me and said, listen, you know, we really love who you are and how you work and we want to get healthier. We want to offer our people everything in the building trans fat-free which at the time was a very big deal. I mean, I didn't think he could make a doughnut trans fat-free. And everyone goes ‘wow’. Once in a while I would just soak up and have a Dunkin Donut. Dunkin was my favourite. Do you remember the Dunkid Donit? You ... on it. It was round and it had a little handle. That was fabulous, full of nutmeg and superhot. It was delicious. Anyway, they said, look, you know, we’re making some big changes. We’re going trans fat-free. We’re bringing in a line of healthier foods and we know how much you love coffee, and you know, do you like ours? And I said, Do I like yours? I grew up with it. And, you know, I thought, all right. I do drink gallons of their coffee and they’re wanting to get involved with, and did, our Yum-O! organisation. So I was proud to work with them. You know, in a short term and see where we could go with that.
Now, I did say they were feisty. John wrote in Salt Lake City, Therer’s an old axiom, never trust a skinny chef. Do you have any comment?
What is he trying to say?
I have no idea.
If he’s trying to say I'm too skinny, thank you. I'd kiss you in a really inappropriate way if you were here. I don’t know what he’s trying to say there, I mean, you can trust me because I ain’t skiny. Everything I have has a stretch in it and lots of it, yeah. I've never, I've never loved, you know… the funny thing about being in television is some of these people would expect you to start dressing a little better, you know. You know, when I worked in restaurants and markets my whole life I had three pairs of work boots to my name, thanks to my name, ripped jeans, you know. I never wore makeup. And now this whole world of, you know, long dresses and fancy shoes and stuff, you know, I still trip from time to time, I’m still wobbly on them. I'm not good at it, but I've never loved clothes because I just didn’t grow up that kinda girls girl. I’ve never loved clothes enough to give up food, and I never will, so I’ll remain a proud six.

1T 2F 3F 4F 5F 6T 7T 8F

lunes, 28 de diciembre de 2015

Listening test: Religion in America

Listen to a news report on religion in America and in each of the spaces provided, complete the information required with ONE or TWO WORDS. 0 is an example.

0 Example:
According to a poll fewer Americans believe in God, pray daily and regularly go to church than in 2007.

1 The name of the study carried by the Pew Research Center was ‘The 2014 _______________________’ .

2 The study shows that 53% Americans are absolutely certain about _______________________ .

3 The survey’s writers have called _______________________  to the people who don’t belong to a religion.

4 The people who are affiliated with a religion have remained _______________________ .

5 Alan Cooperman thinks that on some aspects the levels of religious practice _______________________ among religious people.

6 People who consider themselves Christians show more tolerance towards _______________________ .

7 62% of Americans said they believed humans _______________________ over time.

Fewer Americans believe in God, pray daily and regularly go to church than in 2007, a poll says. More than 35,000 Americans were polled about their religious beliefs over four months in 2014 by the Pew Research Center. The study, called the 2014 Religious Landscape, was released Tuesday. It updates research done seven years ago. The Pew Research Center said the percentage of Americans who are “absolutely certain” God exists fell to 63 percent from 71 percent. One reason for this, the Center says, is the large population of young adults – called Millennials – who say they don’t belong to any religion. The other reason is that older, more religious Americans, are dying. The people who don’t belong to a religion are called “nones” by the survey’s writers. “Nones” made up 16 percent of the adult population in 2007. This time around, the number is 23 percent. Among the “nones,” about 61 percent said they believed in God.
But the research center said there is a “great deal of stability in the U.S. religious landscape” in spite of the lower numbers. Within the category of people who are affiliated with a religion, the numbers stayed mostly stable. Seventy-seven percent of the people surveyed said they were connected to a religion. In that group, 89 percent of those surveyed said they believe in God, which was only a small change from the last time the survey came out. Alan Cooperman, the Pew center’s director of religious research, says those who identify as “religious” are as observant as ever. “On some measures, there are even small increases in their levels of religious practice.”
The survey asked Americans about a number of hot-button issues related to religion. The survey looked at Americans’ views on homosexuality, abortion and evolution. People who identified as Christian were about 10 percent more accepting of homosexuality than they were seven years ago. Most Christian institutions officially oppose homosexuality. Views about abortion were mostly unchanged compared with the survey seven years ago. Fifty-three percent of Americans said abortion should be legal in most cases. About evolution, 62 percent of Americans said they believed humans evolved over time. Thirty-four percent said they did not believe in that theory.

1 Religious Landscape
2 God’s existence
3 Nones
4 stable / the same
5 have increased
6 homosexuality
7 evolved

domingo, 27 de diciembre de 2015

Extensive listening: Adele the Interview

Adele recently sat down with 60 Minutes Australia for an interview, and as part of the show, she also sang “When We Were Young,” the album track that she co-wrote with young singer-songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr., live in a studio. 
WHEN Liz Hayes sat down with Adele, one of the most successful singers of our time, she wasn’t expecting such an emotional and candid interview.
The British singer-songwriter, who soared to fame after the release of her debut album 19 in 2008, has since landed an astonishing 10 Grammys, four Brit awards, an Oscar and a Golden Globe. She’s already on track to become a billionaire by the age of 30, but admits there’s never been a time that she hasn’t felt nervous or unsure of herself.
“There was quite a long period where I didn’t believe in myself,” the 27-year-old star told Hayes in the exclusive 60 Minutes interview. “I’m waiting for someone to send me back to Tottenham or something.”
Despite already having two hugely successful albums under her belt, and with her long-awaited third album, 25, released last week, the Rolling In The Deep singer said it’s only now that she feels like she’s taking control of her life. “For the first time in my entire life I feel like I’m dealing with myself,” she told Hayes, adding that she was an “emotional wreck” and was paranoid about disappointing her fans with her latest album.
Hayes, who spent several days with Adele in London while she was recording 25, says the young woman she got to know is incredibly hard on herself and felt immense pressure to succeed after taking several years off.
Adele’s years away from the spotlight coincided with an operation to remove a benign polyp on her vocal cords in 2011. The next year she made a spectacular comeback, winning an Oscar for her Bond theme song, Skyfall.
Hayes added: “Adele has struck success from the get-go and even she finds it hard to believe. She feels the pressure because she was so successful so early, she felt pressure to maintain great work and so that’s why she felt so very nervous about releasing this album, she was just so worried that it wasn’t going to be up to everybody’s expectations.”
The TV presenter said her time with Adele left her with no doubt that the singer is uncomfortable with the notion of being a ‘celebrity’.

sábado, 26 de diciembre de 2015

What's going on in the picture?

Every Monday The New York Times publishes an eye-catching photograph in their section What's Going on in the Picture. The picture comes with no caption, no headlines, no links or other clues about its origins. The idea is that students use the picture as a sprinboard for conversation: They will have to construct some kind of meaning from what they see and develop their critical thinking.

The basic questions students have to answer are:
What’s going on in this picture?
What do you see that makes you say that?
What more can we find?

Additional ideas would include students imagining what has led to this situation and what's going to happen afterwards.

The following day The New York Times will publish background information about the picture and students will be able to read some other students' ideas on the photograph.

All in all the What's Going on in the Picture looks like an invaluable tool to develop conversation inside and outside the classroom.

viernes, 25 de diciembre de 2015

Victoria Beckham Interview In the Studio

Victoria Beckham chats with Vanessa Friedman about being a working mother in charge of a growing fashion label at her office in the Battersea area of South London.

Self-study activity:
Watch the interview and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 and Advanced students.

1 What is people's reaction when they visit her office?
2 How big was her office when she first started in the business?
3 Who tried on the clothes at that time?
4 What does '150' refer to?
5 How well does Victoria draw?
6 What is Victoria's fashion message?
7 When does she usually get home in the evening?

You know, it’s always been about David playing football, watching David. It wasn’t until they first came to the show a few seasons ago that they actually realised that mummy does have a proper job.
(1) People often are quite surprised when they come in here. They probably expect something much more glamorous. It’s just not really about that for me here, you know, a lot of work goes on here.
When I first started working (2) I had a really small room over the other side. It was tiny. It was really, really tiny and just three people, just saying, okay, what do we want, (3) and me literally in my knickers putting on the clothes saying, how do I feel, how do I look, how is a woman going to feel in this and I still do that now. It’s still very important to me that I put on the clothes.
And just as we’ve grown, the team has grown and (4) we have about 150 people now working, and though I enjoy being here, you know, it’s going to be physically impossible for us to spend that much more time here.
We like to play a lot, you know. (5) I don’t draw, so I’m very hands-on. That’s how I create with my team. It’s not going from a sketch to a finished garment, it’s going from a basic shape and playing.
You know, I think it’s better if we fix this, but then we make it so that people can actually open the bow.
My office is clean, minimal. I haven’t really done a lot with it to be honest with you. I just wanted to keep it really neutral, so it was all about the clothes and this is about as much I’m going to call it junk chunks chops... if you like it. So we went to Elton John’s wedding at Christmas and the children made these snow globes, and then they made this one here of myself and David.
I have a very specific eye I know how I think things should look and how I think things should feel, and I’m always thinking about my customer. Then I also want to, I want to play a little as well, you know, I want to experiment, (6) I want to have a strong fashion message, I want to surprise people.
We’re going to make this shirt a little bit smaller, won’t we? I think the problem with it with someone who’s not so broad is because of these dropped shoulders, it just look enormous, doesn’t it?
We started going a little store-crazy after about four o’clock in the afternoon if we’ve been locked in here. I always complain, and say, I’m locked in this room and then I realise, well actually I’m the one that’s locked us in this room, so it’s my fault.
(7) I try to get home before the kids go to bed, but sometimes I’m here until really late, if it's the lead up to the show and I’ve spoken to Diane von Fürstenberg about it actually, I said, Diane, you know, you’ve always worked, and you had children, did you feel guilty? And she said, never. And good, you're right, actually. She said, I’m a great mum but I go to work. End of, you know.

jueves, 24 de diciembre de 2015

How safe is the air you breathe on planes

Several former and serving cabin crew are planning legal action against British airlines, claiming they have been poisoned by contaminated air. Reports submitted to the air safety watchdog here in the U. show that there are hundreds of so-called fume events each year - where engine oil and other toxic chemicals may have leaked from the engines into the plane itself. The industry, though, says there is no scientific evidence of any danger to public health.

Self-study activity:
Watch this BBC video and say whether the statements below are true or false.

The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 and Advanced students.

1  Three quarters of the air you breathe in most modern commercial jets is recycled.
2 In general, breathing recycled air is not a problem.
3 Since April last year there have been 271 reports of fumes on flights operated by British Airlines.
4 In some of the incidents, pilots were considered unfit to fly.
5 Dee Parsons thought her health problems had to do with the fact that she was getting older.
6 The Unite Union -which represents cabin crew- is preparing 70 cases against airlines in the civil courts.
7 Breathing normal cabin air is safer on a plane than at home.

Around half the air you breathe in most modern commercial jets is recycled, it just goes round and round and round the cabin. The other half, though, is drawn through here, the engines. Now normally that’s not a problem. If there’s a fault in the seal of these engines, that’s where some people think engine oil and other toxic fumes could be sucked up from here into the cabin itself.
Airlines say fume events are very rare, but we have obtained full safety reports submitted to the regulator, the CAA. Since April last year there have been 251 reports of fumes on flights operated by British Airlines. In 104 of those cases an illness was reported. Oxygen was given on at least 28 of those flights. The detailed logs which should not be made public until now show some pilots were made so sick they couldn’t operate. On other flights, every crew member was sent to hospital.
April 13 2015. Airbus A320, Heathrow. Oily smell in the cockpit intensified post landing. At A&E crew reported feeling ‘things felt unreal and slightly confusing.’ Both pilots were considered unfit to operate.
February 29 2015, Boeing 747. Fumes in the cabin. During the cruise, the senior crew manager informed the captain that nine cabin crew were now reporting similar symptoms. These consisted of dizziness, nausea and headaches. One cabin crew member collapsed and was administered first aid and oxygen.
Former stewardess Dee Parsons was made redundant after a long sickness she blames on contaminated air.
You think it’s jet lag or it’s just getting older and you don’t realise actually until your body completely breaks down and grinds to a halt. You don’t realise that you’re ill. You just keep putting it down to other things.
Campaigners are now waiting for the outcome of two high-profile inquests. Richard Westgate and Matthew Bass both worked for British Airways, both died after long illnesses which their families blame on toxic fumes.
The Unite Union which represents cabin crew is open to dedicating legal units and is preparing 17 more cases against airlines in the civil courts. Plane makers and airlines themselves say there is no proof of any long-term health effects from breathing cabin air. In 2013 a group of independent scientist reviewed the evidence from the Department of Transport.
The levels were often as low or even lower than those in the home or the workplace. This is in normal flight. Of course we can’t be sure what the levels are in the so-called fume events which are very rare.
The lawyers working in this area are now comparing toxic air to other industrial health scares.
If you look at the tobacco industry, the asbestos, contaminated blood issues, if you look at all that governments say it’s perfectly safe, perfectly safe and then, pam!, suddenly they have to admit they got it wrong for so many years. So that’s what’s going to happen again with air toxic, no doubt about it.
Is the air we breathe at 30,000 feet a genuine threat to staff and plane passengers. That’s likely to be decided one way or another in our courts in the months and years to come. 


1F 2T 3F 4T 5T 6F 7T

miércoles, 23 de diciembre de 2015

Talking point: Big cities

This week's talking point is big cities. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

Which criteria are important to define a great city? Choose from the list below. If you can think of any other ideas, add them to the list.
having an international airport
being a world-famous landmark or tourist attraction
being the country's financial centre
being the seat of the government
being a centre for arts and culture
having a successful sports team
having an efficient public transport system
having a top university
having a multicultural population
Think about the most important city in your country. According to the criteria you chose above, would you define it as a great city? Why (not)?
Describe a city you know for your group to guess.
What do you think cities of the future will be like? You can touch on the following:
- how different from today's cities?
- sustainability
- type and location of buildings and homes
- transport
- population distribution

To illustrate the point you can watch this National Geographic video on New York City, where Brooklyn Grange farms more than two and a half acres of rooftops in Brooklyn and Queens, and then sells what it produces to New Yorkers.

So many cities face the same challenge as aging infrastructure and rooftop farming is a terrific way of making use of these industrial buildings. And then of course they really have such a tremendous environmental benefit to the ecosystem. At the small scale which is practised in cities around the world, you know, it’s a drop bucket but if we can gain some momentum we can really create a tidal shift.
I grew up in Wisconsin but I didn’t realize my passion until I was out in New York City. And then looking around the city and seeing thousands of open-flat roofs with full sun on them with absolutely no utilization. It was a great opportunity to just dive into it and to pioneer a movement.
We have two and a half acres of rooftop farm space in Brooklyn and Queens. Our core business is vegetables but we’ve also started New York City’s first urban apiary. We also have twenty-two chickens. They are not a considerable revenue stream for us but they’re valuable in terms of completing the circle of life upon the farm. We have well over a million pounds of soil on the roof.
This roof took several weeks of pumping up the soil with a blower truck. Essentially a hopper with a pressurized tube pushes the soil up. It’s a compost from a mushroom production in Pennsylvania wanted with a mixture of several different types of stone that are very porous so they weigh less than a typical rock, and then they can allow water to fill under the pores, they can also harbor microbial activity and they can also allow for proper drainage in relation to the soil, meaning that we don’t end up with one big swimming pool up on the roof if we get a lot of rain.
Our rooftop farms each manage about a million gallons of storm water per year. We also reduce urban heat island effect. We clean the air around us and decrease the amount of HVAC of the upper floors of the buildings beneath us. But probably the most unique benefit of our farm is to the community around us, so we have the opportunity to link New Yorkers back into the food production system. It’s something from which we have been so alienated.
Utilizing even all our total roofs would not even produce a significant fraction of the amount of food that New York City needs to eat. However, that definitely does not mean that something like this shouldn’t be happening.
I was born and raised here in New York City. I want to live in a healthier city, in a more beautiful city and a more delicious city.

martes, 22 de diciembre de 2015

10 Questions for Arianna Huffington

The political commentator and co-founder of the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, talked to Time Magazine some time ago.

Self-study activity:
Watch the interview and say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 Arianna Huffington objects to average ordinary Americans gaining power in the political scene.
2 Arianna Huffington is a religious person.
3 The media tend to always offer a balanced presentation of a story.
4 The global warming debate has delayed solutions unnecessarily.
5 Voters have the perception that Republicans are more reliable than Democrats as far as national security is concerned.

We are here with Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post for Time Magazine. Arianna, thanks for joining us.
Thank you. Good to be with you.
What would you say it’s been the defining moment for you as a political figure?
For me, there’s a kind of aha moment when Kent Lott had to resign as majority leader because of the persistence of some bloggers starting with Josh Marshall, and stayed with it and stayed with it and developed the story and added new facts until the mainstream media had to pick it up again, leading to Kent Lott’s resignation. That was pretty much a defining moment in terms of my understanding of a new power in the hands of average ordinary Americans and the power of staying with the story, basically being OCD as opposed to ADD, you know, demonstrating obsessive compulsive disorder, which I love, and staying with your story.
In your world, how do you combine spirituality with politics?
That’s a great question. I am… First of all, my spirituality is very important to me. It’s the way I bring balance to my life and I profoundly believe in God. I meditate, I’m… I try to bring up my children with that belief that there is… that we are just not material beings, that death is not the end. And this is some of the values that I bring to them to our living page.
Conservatives complain that the media has a bias to the left. Do you believe this is true?
The problem with the media is not that they are veering to their left or veering to their right. But that they are… they have an addiction to presenting two sides to every issue, even when the truth lies on one side or the other. And that’s why I describe them as the Pontius Pilate media. And just to give you a couple of examples. Global warming. We’ve wasted years debating global warming with the media presenting, let’s say, Al Gore or the equivalent discussing the dangers of global warming and, on the other hand, Senator James Inhofe or Michael Crichton telling us that global warming is a fraud. Now these two positions are not of equal value. So the media’s responsibility has always been to ferret out the truth. And the truth is often on one side or the other and is not often to be found by splitting the difference. So I think that the national debate would be greatly enhanced if journalists really followed their original mission, the highest mission of journalists, which is what is the truth, especially after 71/2 years when we have suffered from a contempt for facts, evidence and the truth. It’s very important to really put them at the center of everything we’re doing. After 71/2 years of mission accomplished and heck of a job brownie, insurgency, death rows,, we’re gonna be greeted as liberators. All those things which have turned out in retrospect to have been devoid of any connection to truth or facts.
What can liberal politicians learn from republican tactics?
The most important thing liberal politicians can learn is to go after your opponent’s strength. That is Karl Rove’s great gift to the Republican Party. And if we translate that into practicality, what Barack Obama’s campaign would do, and it would mean recognizing that John McCain’s strength is the perception that he would be better for our national security and Barack Obama needs to grasp after that.
Ron Golden in Old Greenwich, Connecticut, wants to know who would you rather date, Bill Maher or Al Franken?
You see, these 'either or' things are so old media. Why not date Bill Maher or Al Franken. 

1F 2T 3T 4T 5T

lunes, 21 de diciembre de 2015

Listening test: Harper Lee

This week's reading test deals with American writer Harper Lee. Listen to the news report and choose the option A, B or C which best completes each sentence. 0 is an example.

0 How to Kill a Mockingbird
A. was the first book by Harper Lee.
B. was written in the 1970’s
C. wasn’t always a popular book.

1 How to Kill a Mockingbird
A. deals with social issues.
B. is based on a well-known film.
C. sold 40 million copies the year of its release.

2 Go set a Watchman
A. has become the most pre-ordered book on Amazon.com ever.
B. was written before How to Kill a Mockingbird.
C. was written by Harper Lee at the age of 55.

3 Harper’s Lee second novel
A. has been widely acclaimed.
B. is considered a masterpiece by some critics.
C. might affect the writer’s reputation.

4 In How to Kill a Mockingbird
A. a child tells the story.
B. the main character has been falsely accused of committing a crime.
C. the main character is a black man.

5 In Go set a Watchman
A. the character of Atticus has become a racist.
B. the character of Atticus still lives in Alabama.
C. the story takes place 30 years after the ending of How to Kill a Mockingbird.

6 In Go set a Watchman readers think Atticus
A. is a symbol of racism in America today.
B. is still a hero.
C. may have a positive influence on today’s America.

7 Harper Lee biographer, Charles Shields, has said
A. Atticus is a perfect man.
B. Atticus reflects many people’s attitudes to racism.
C. the controversy has slowed the sales of the book.

American writer Harper Lee’s first - and until now, only - book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” is one of America’s best-loved novels. The 1960 publication explores racism and injustice in the American South. It was an instant best-seller. Two years later it was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
Readers around the world have bought 40 million copies of the book since its release. “To Kill a Mockingbird” also inspired an Oscar-winning movie of the same name. Harper Lee’s second book “Go Set a Watchman,” was released, 55 years after the first. Lee had announced in February that she would publish a sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The new novel became the most pre-ordered book on Amazon.com since the final book in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series. Lee wrote “Watchman” in 1957, before she wrote “Mockingbird.” Her editor at the time encouraged her to rewrite “Watchman” from the point of view of a child. She agreed. That effort became “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
But so far, Ms. Lee’s second novel has received mixed reviews. It has also led to debate. Some observers are questioning how “Go Set a Watchman” will affect Ms. Lee’s legacy, as well as the legacy of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The Wall Street Journal described the novel as a “distressing book.” The Los Angeles Times called it “an apprentice effort.” And a U.S. public radio critic said it was “a kind of a mess that will forever change the way we read a masterpiece.”
“To Kill a Mockingbird” takes place in the 1930s in a small town in the southern state of Alabama. Six-year-old Scout Finch narrates the story. Her father, lawyer Atticus Finch, defends a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Lee wrote the character of Atticus as a strong believer in justice. He bravely faces, and fights, deep prejudice and hate among the people in his town. The story of “Go Set a Watchman,” is set about 20 years after the ending of the first book. An adult Scout returns from New York to visit her father in Alabama. Some readers are protesting the character of Atticus as he is written in “Go Set a Watchman.” They say he is a racist. And, they say that that is unacceptable. In a letter to The New York Times, one man wrote, “As a native of Alabama, I had held up Atticus in my own mind as a redemptive figure, a symbol of hope, a hero who was brave enough to fight for what is right despite the poisonous and dangerous pools of racism long associated with whites in the Deep South.” Others consider this latest version of Atticus good for today’s America. Harper Lee biographer Charles Shields spoke to the New York Times about the book. He said this Atticus could help support a national discussion about racism. He said, “It turns out that Atticus is no saint, and none of us are, but a man with prejudices.” So far, any negative press has not slowed sales of Harper Lee’s work. The number one and two spots on Amazon’s bestseller list are filled by “Go Set a Watchman” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

1A 2B 3C 4A 5B 6C 7B

domingo, 20 de diciembre de 2015

Extensive listening: Spies and the law

In his first UK TV interview US whistleblower Edward Snowden has given the BBC new details of the UK government's ability to hack users' smartphones without their knowledge.

Edward Snowden, the man responsible for the biggest leak of top secret intelligence files the world has ever seen, gives his first BBC interview to Panorama.

Russia has given him sanctuary. America wants him back. With opinion sharply divided, Snowden is acknowledged to have raised the debate over privacy and national security to a new level – framing the agenda for this autumn’s parliamentary debate over controversial new legislation previously criticised as ‘the snoopers’ charter’

sábado, 19 de diciembre de 2015

Reading test: Do You Find It Easier to Make New Friends Online or In Person

In this week's reading test we are going to practise the 'insert a sentence' kind of task.

In the New York Times article Do You Find It Easier to Make New Friends Online or In Person seven sentences have been removed. Choose the sentence A-I which best fits the corresponding gap 1-7. There is one sentence you do not need to use. 0 is an example.

According to the Pew Research Center, 57 percent of American teenagers age 13 to 17 say they have made a friend online — say (0) while browsing social networks like Instagram or playing a game like Call of Duty. Have you made good friends online? Meanwhile, in a recent Education Life piece, one researcher suggests that young people have unique chances to make new friends at times (1) … when many people are entering a new environment.
How do you tend to make friends, whether in “real life” or online? In “Making Friends in New Places,” Nicholas A. Christakis writes:
Freshman year is critical, (2) … . American students have the luxury of a long horizon to settle on good classes, select a major and chart a career; there’s plenty of time to make academic mistakes and recover from them. But it’s important to set off on the right foot in one respect: making friends.
At the start of freshman year, (3) …, when customary rules about social interactions are suspended, and when it seems perfectly normal for someone to sit down next to you at lunch or in class and strike up a conversation.
Social inhibitions tend to dissolve (4) … . Think of adults on a cruise, teenagers at a summer camp, or Chaucer’s garrulous pilgrims, chatting and revealing volumes about themselves. The bond is all the more guaranteed when facing a shared hardship — say, the boredom of freshman orientation sessions or the stress of placement exams.
But after that critical window, (5) … . In my experience, which includes serving as master of a residential college at both Yale and Harvard, this tends to occur about three weeks in. Attitudes begin to solidify. Friendships become fixed. And behaviors that initially seemed open and generous might come to feel forced, or even a little creepy.
It turns out that we are hard-wired to seek and make friends in novel, stressful circumstances. Students naturally assemble themselves into elaborate social networks — and not just Snapchat, Tumblr, Facebook or Twitter: (6) … .
In fact, studies that my colleagues and I have conducted of face-to-face social networks of college students and of the Hadza hunter-gatherers of Tanzania (7) … . Whether in a college dormitory or on the African savanna, living as they might have 10,000 years ago, people form the same sort of network — one or two best friends, in a group of five to six close friends, within a still broader group of 150 people.
And the intricate structure of these friendship webs is similar too. The networks we form obey certain mathematical and sociological rules, and they have profound influence on our lives.

A a curtain begins to fall on the welcoming social scene
B but not for the reasons most students (and their parents) imagine
C like the start of a new school year
D our modern technology is merely put into the service of more ancient and powerful impulses
E reveal that, in fundamental ways, they are not very different
F there’s a window of opportunity
G when a group of strangers enters a new environment
H whether you like it or not, it’s bound to happen
I while browsing social networks like Instagram

Photo: The New York Times

1C 2B 3F 4G 5A 6D 7E

viernes, 18 de diciembre de 2015

A giant panda gives birth to twins in Washington Zoo

Giant panda Mei Xiang has given birth to a pair of cubs at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington.

Self-study acvtivity:
Watch this short news clip and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 1 and Intermdiate 2 students.

1 What time was the first cub born?
2 And the second one?
3 Where was one cub placed after the birth of the second panda?
4 What happened in 2005 and 2013?
5 What are the names of the new-borns?
6 How many giant pandas live in the wild?

Double the panda cuteness. Giant panda Mei Xiang has given birth to a pair of cubs at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington.
Mei gave birth to (1) her first cub at 5:34 p.m. after her waters broke about an hour beforehand. And about four and one-half hours later, (2) at 10:07 p.m., a second cub arrived and both appear to be healthy.
Zoo officials said Mei picked up the cub soon after giving birth and is being "a great mother". After the second surprise birth, one cub was placed (3) in an incubator in line with protocol when twins are born.
(4) Mei has previously given birth to two surviving cubs: Tai Shan in 2005 and Bao Bao in 2013. She was artificially inseminated with frozen sperm from a panda in China, and fresh sperm from the National Zoo's male panda. The gender of the cubs and which of the sperm donors is the father will be determined later.  (5) No decision has yet been made yet about naming the cubs.
With a very low reproductive rate, particularly in captivity, panda's natural home is in a few mountain ranges in central China. There are (6) around 1,600 giant pandas known to be living in the wild and some 300 in captivity, mostly in China.

jueves, 17 de diciembre de 2015

New York's abandoned island

It's one of New York 's best kept secrets. Lying in plain sight of the city is an island which no one has inhabited for more than 50 years. Photographer Christopher Payne shares the secrets of North Brother Island.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 and Advanced students.

1 Why is 1963 a relevant year?
2 Why did Norther Brother island become popular in the late 19th century?
3 What is Mr Softee?
4 How long was the tuberculosis pavilion used for its intended function?
5 What was it used for after 1943? 
6 What's the title of the book by Allan Weisman? 

North Brother Island is an uninhabited island of ruins in East River New York city. It’s the most unexpected of places in a city like New York. It is a secret hiding in plain sight. (1) It is been abandoned for the last 50 years or so, since 1963, but from the 1880’s all the way up to the 1960’s it was home to thousands of people.
In the late 19th century there was a constant scare of contagious diseases with the huge burden in population in New York city and diseases were always making headlines, and so that’s when (2) North Brother island came in a prominence as a quarantine hospital.
You step onto it and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of the city and yet you’re completely alone. It’s an experience that I’ve never had anywhere else. It’s like you’re walking back into time, into another world and yet you still hear the sounds of the city. One time I even heard the Mr Softee truck, which is (3) an ice-cream truck and I heard that and then it was bizarre because on the one hand that’s part of the living, that’s part of the present, the world that we’re living in is New York city, vibrant and alive. And yet I was in one of these abandoned buildings which hasn’t been used in, in decades and so being on the island is full of contrast.
The most interesting building on North Brother island by far is the tuberculosis pavilion. (4) It was never used for its intended function. By the time it was completed in 1943 the threat of tuberculosis had passed and there really wasn’t the need to quarantine people on islands like North Brother anymore, and so (5) it was used mostly for housing, for the returning veterans after World War II and later on for the juvenile delinquents.
I’d like to think that my photographs tell more than just what’s there now. They are looped back to the past, and certainly when they’re paired with a historical photograph, you can get a sense of what happened before but also how quickly things disintegrate.
And then I read this wonderful book called (6) The World Without Us by Allan Weisman and it discusses what will happen to the world if people just left and nature took over. And it made me realize that the work I was doing was just not a look into the past but it was a look into the future, and that these photographs show what will happen to New York City and the world around us if people just suddenly left. And how quickly nature would just reclaim what it’s hers. It alludes to the conundrum we face of living in a natural world which we try to alter but always reasserts itself in the end.

miércoles, 16 de diciembre de 2015

Talking point: Photography

This week's talking point is photography. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

In what situations do you usually take photos?
Say whether you agree or disagree with these statements:
I can't stand having my photo taken.
I prefer photos of people to photos of beautiful scenery.
Have you ever taken a photo you regretted taking?
Do you remember having a family photo taken? Give details.
Do you ever look at family photos?
Have you started an online photo album?
Would you consider signing up for a photography course?
Do you know anyone who's crazy about photography?
If so, how does this person typically behave?
Do you ever take selfies? If so, in what situations?
Why are selfies so popular these days?
Are images in the media edited too much? Give reasons.
What do you think the expression 'the camera never lies' means?
Do you agree?

How to describe a photo
The description of a photograph is very often a task English students have to deal with as part of their oral exam. I have selected here a number of online resources that may help students come to terms with this task:

To illustrate the point you can watch this National Geographic video on photographer Aaron Huey and his trip to Svanetia, a remote region of Georgia, to revisit the people and the place that inspired his career.

The first time I went to Svanetia I was not planning on going to Svanetia. I wasn’t a photographer yet.I was a backpacker but this is the story that made me a photographer.
I met
a German linguist who told me about a place where people spoke a language that had never been written, that was surrounded by seventeen, eighteen thousand foot peaks, so this German linguist drew a map on a napkin for me and I transferred it into my journal and I left the next day.
And on a bus ride into the mountains a woman turned round me after about two hours and said where are you going and I said, Well 
I'm going to camp when the bus stops at the end of the road and she just looked at me and said, no, God, please don't do that and she took me with her and she took me to a wedding.
that wedding was of the eldest daughter of the family that ended up adopting me in this region and they got me drunk and made me dance and I woke up the next morning in their home and they probably felt some pity on me and thought we should shelter this kid, he doesn't know what he's doing. That started a three-year relationship, that's now I guess a sixteen-year relationship, now that National Geographic sent me back.
Yeah, my journals really are pretty pedestrian at times. I was very young. They’re embarrassing to read sometimes but there are some things I still really love in the journals.
I wrote down recipes and I wrote down vocabulary so I would have like daily language lessons for myself and, of course, the song. I wrote down all the songs.
I saw the potential for a story that was a little bit more like poetry, that was revealed more about the soul of people and the space and it was that third year that I returned specifically to try to make a story with pictures and that became my first photo story.
That was some of my first rolls of film. It’s the first story that made me fall in love with the people, with the place. That really is what it is, like the story made me fall in love with a whole community. It was imagery of that family, that family is central to all of those early trips and the photographs. They were beautiful people, they were musical and their home was filled with song. All the time I would wake up to
singing. I would go to bed to the family singing together and from the very first trip they taught me their songs. And I remember those songs when I came back 13 years later.
You know I might think,
the songs are about heroes and about love and about your friends having you back, all good things that good country songs are about.
The reunion with my adopted family was a little embarrassing because a Georgian television crew followed me and I told them they had to stay back at the gate. It was really emotional for me, you know, and I saw my, my mother from that family, Nuna. I went to her and I, I hugged her and it just
made me start weeping. Like the songs that were really buried in me that, they just came out like I, I love this woman and that came out when I saw her and when I held her and it was exciting to see them and it was confusing to see them in how you restart a relationship after 13 years but the fact that they wanted to bring me in again, that they had not forgotten me, that they still thought of me in that way was very moving to me. And they did, they took me in again.
so I found this, I found all the families again. I sat down with them again, and sang with them again, and talked to them about their lives. And the old man still played chess in the backyard in the same spot. And the girls, the whole family still sings in the kitchen. And there are some other things that just never change and I found a lot of those again.
There were, other scenes that I found that weren't necessarily literally the person in the same place, but I found the same scenes again. I found the dancers and the traditional singers and it brought back that memory of those first images when I see them together side by side like I see what has survived.
These stories are not just about making pretty frames. We, we tell the stories of entire peoples, so if we do the story right, we preserve those things, you know, in…
that's what our job is, to preserve that poetry.
 So many people that have never heard of Svanetia or this region in the Georgian Republic or where these people, these ones, this may be the only thing they ever read about these people and I think that's what I look for now in all of my projects is can I can I keep finding that? Can I keep carrying that much?

martes, 15 de diciembre de 2015

10 Questions for Ingrid Newkirk

Ingrid Newkirk is the co-founder and president of PETA, the world's largest animal-rights organization. She answers questions from Time magazine readers in this interview.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false. The activity is suitble for Advanced students.

In the course of the interview the name Michael Vick comes up. Michael Vick was a quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons football team, who was discovered to have a dog fighting ring with over seventy dogs, some of which showed signs of injuries. The case drew publicity to the issues of animal abuse and dog fighting. It also drew attention to unlawful gambling and drug activities which authorities claim often accompany dog fighting.

1 Our diet makes a great difference to animals.
2 PETA advocates for human milk to be used in the making of ice-cream.
3 Michael Vick feels sorry for what he did.
4 Ingrid claims that people at PETA have a good time doing their job.
5 Not all PETA members agree with the campaigns.
6 Baboons and pigs are still used by car manufacterers in car-crash tests.
7 PETA approves of both cloning animals for meat and using an in-vitro technique to get meat.
8 In-vitro meat is healthier.
9 Some people have a wrong idea about PETA.

I’m Albert Cruz here for Time.com and we’re here with Ingrid Newkirk, president and co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of animals, otherwise known as PETA. Ingrid has a new book coming out called One Can Make a Difference, and she’s here to answer questions from Time readers. Thank you for being with us today.
My pleasure.
Our first questions is from James Dodds in Katonah, New York, and James asks, is there an effective, fairly simple way that people can help animals in their everyday lives?
Everybody can make a difference. If you just change to one vegetarian day a week, that’s a wonderful step that will save animals’ lives. If you just choose clothing that isn’t made from animals, that makes a difference. There are alternatives to dissection if you’re in school or you have a child in school, so yes, you can just choose one thing and that one thing means the world. It means you’ve chosen something kind instead of something cruel. That’s fanastic.
PETA recently tried to advocate for the use of human breast milk in Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream as opposed to cow milk, and Erica Cole from Westford, Massachusetts asks that… or she says that doesn’t seem very feasible. What was the point of this…?
It isn’t feasible at all, but it’s great fun to suggest that the Ben and Jerry’s, who also knew it was a joke. But the thing that was serious is that television stations listened to why we said that making anything out of cow’s milk is unkind, and that’s because they take the calves away from their loving mothers when they’re just a few hours old, winch them away with a chain and a tractor and put them in a stall for veal. We drink the milk that’s meant for those little calves and as a result those little calves suffer greatly. So we were very glad when people started to come to the website, watch the footage and actually show the footage on television.
Bobby Mullins from Norfolk, Virginia, asks if you think that the punishment that Michael Vick received was fair.
I can’t really comment on the punishment. I do… have spoken to Michael and I do know that he’s contrite. And I still talk to him. He came to our office, he didn’t have to, it wasn’t going to get him anywhere with the judge and I told him that and I told the judge that, and he attended an empathy class. And I do believe that he learned a lot about dogs and other animals that no one had ever shown him as he grew up. And his eyes were opened, and I believe when we see him emerge that he’s going to have strong message for inner city youth, for anyone who’s dog-fighting, that that was not the way to go.
Sidney Jorgenson from Ridgefield, Connecticut, has a question about fun versus seriousness. He wants to know if you ever have fun fighting for animals’ rights.
Oh, Sydney, come and look at our website, peta.org. At the moment, we are repositioning fish as sea kittens so that children will wonder why it’s all right to eat them. But, of course, at the heart of it, it’s a very sad situation for animals. But yes, we would all probably have jumped off a ledge if we hadn’t had fun along the way.
Max Wilson from Seattle has a question about some of the campaigns that you were on, and he wants to know if you think any of them have been counterproductive.
I don’t think so. Honestly, I think that they haven’t… they may have caused many of our members to leave us and they may have caused people to dislike us, but we’re not here to win a popularity contest. We’re here to get people to find out the facts about various ways in which animals suffer and the choices they have to make. Because when you rile people up, when you antagonise people, they have to come and look for more, and that’s when they think, oh, maybe these people have a point.
Laura Sanders from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and she wants to know what you would say has been PETA’s greatest victory for animals to date.
It’s probably the most intangible, which is changing people’s outlook and putting animals’ rights on the map. But really I look back on things like stopping car-crash tests on baboons and pigs. Whenever you see the mannequins on TV, think PETA. We stopped all the car companies in the world from car tests on animals. They were crude, they were cruel, didn’t need them.
We do have a question here from Eric Myers from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who wants to know what PETA standing on cloning animals for food or in-vitro meat is.
Well, cloning animals for meat is just rubbish. The animals suffer greatly in the cloning process and who wants it anyway? We’re all suspect of it. But we do… We have offered one-million-dollar reward for the first scientist to come up with in-vitro, which is tissue-culture meat. And that will mean you take just a couple of cells from animals and you grow meat in a laboratory. And that process has already begun. The first conference has taken place. And if someone can market it by 2012, the first in-vitro chicken, it will taste and look and have texture like chicken, then we’ll give them a million dollars.
So you would be able to grow a steak in a dish without having to kill an animal?
There will be lines and lines of dishes, and you can eliminate diseases like salmonella and campylobacter because you’re growing it in culture. You can make it clean meat. So there’s no suffering, no disease. You can even make sure that the cholesterol level is reduced.
Will in-vitro meat even come close to approximating the taste of a good sirloin or…?
There is no reason to believe that with our scientific prowess today, that we can’t a meat that if you want it to taste exactly like the decomposing corpse of a small tortured animal.
What would you say is the biggest misconception that people have about PETA?
I think they think that we want to give dogs the right to vote or giraffes the right to ride a car or something. I’m not really sure why they’re so upset when all we’re asking for is consideration for the basic interests of animals. Animals don’t need very much. They need a little air. They need fresh water. They need patience and understanding. They need some nutritious food. Well, they need to be left alone in peace. Is that really too much to ask?

1T 2F 3T 4T 5T 6F 7F 8T 9T

lunes, 14 de diciembre de 2015

Listening test: Shopping

In this week's listening test we are going to pracise the heading-matching kind of task.

Listen to six people talking about shopping and what they enjoy and dislike about shopping and match the headings A-H below with the corresponding speaker. There are two headings you do not need to use.

A - This speaker doesn’t enjoy shopping with some specific company.
B - This speaker doesn’t like doing jobs in the house.
C - This speaker doesn’t like shopping on his/her own.
D - This speaker doesn't like the money-related side to shopping.
E - This speaker is crazy about shopping for just one item.
F - This speaker spends a fortune when shopping.
G - This speaker spends the least possible time shopping.
H - This speaker uses his/her nose when shopping for an item he/she likes.

photo: elllo.org

Something I like shopping for? I like shopping for everything. I like shopping for clothes. I like shopping for food. I like shopping for presents. Everything. Maybe the one exception would be shopping for DIY things: things like pliers and gardening tools and wallpaper. I'm not really interested in things like that but that's the exception. Other than that, everything.

What do I like shopping for? I like shopping for food, going to the supermarket looking at -- especially a nice good supermarket and looking at all the weird and cool and wacky food. That's pretty fun. What I don't like shopping for is everything else. I'm not really a big shopping fan. I like to buy as quickly as possible and get out as quickly as possible and that's it.

I don't really enjoy shopping at all but I guess if I have to go shopping, the one type of shopping I enjoy is bread shopping. I really enjoy looking for really good bread and smelling the bread in the bread shop, but usually I don't, I'm not a big fan of shopping anyway.

I enjoy shopping for food because I like eating and I do not enjoy shopping for cosmetic stuff like for example shampoo - girls stuff. I do not like shopping with girls because they tend to take long and look at every item at least ten seconds but I enjoy shopping for food for myself.

The thing I most enjoy shopping for is shoes. I could shop and shop and never get tired of them. The last time I visited Ireland. I bought five pairs of shoes in three days. I just love them.

I like shopping for clothing. It's a lot of fun finding new shirts or new jeans to put on, trying out new outfits that I normally wouldn't wear. The only thing I dislike about it are the prices of course, but I really have a good time going out and looking for things - that hunter-gatherer instinct in me.

1B 2G 3H 4A 5E 6D

domingo, 13 de diciembre de 2015

Extensive listening: How food shapes our cities by Carolyn Steel

Every day, in a city the size of London, 30 million meals are served. But where does all the food come from? In this TED talk Architect Carolyn Steel discusses the daily miracle of feeding a city, and shows how ancient food routes shaped the modern world.

In Carolyn Steel's opinion, food is a shared necessity, but also a shared way of thinking and by looking at food networks we can learn how cities evolved.

You can read the full transcript for the talk here.

sábado, 12 de diciembre de 2015

Channel One News

Channel One News is a US news provider for American high-school students. Channel One News offers a catalogue of video activities in its Video Library which corresponds with the US National Curriculum for schools, although access to it can only be gained through subscription.

For the English student, especially the advanced one, the most appealing feature of  Channel One News is its five-minute Daily Show, which deals with the most relevant both world and domestic news. The show is close-captioned and the transcript is also available. The access to The Daily Show is free.

In addition, Channel One News has a News section where students can read about the latest news.

viernes, 11 de diciembre de 2015

Hungary builds migrant border fence

There has been a sharp rise in the number of migrants trying to enter Hungary. In response to this Hungarian authorities have built a fence stretching the Hungary-Serbian border.

Self-study activity:
Watch the news report and answer the questions. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 students.

1 Who has built the fence at the steelworks in Dunaujvaros?
2 Who is putting up the fence?
3 What does 'November' refer to?
4 What message is the Hungarian government trying to send to migrants with the fence?
5 Where are the migrants taken once they arrive in Hungary?

The race is on to get Hungary’s border fence ready by the end of the month. It’s been built by (1) prison inmates at this steelworks at Dunaujvaros in central Hungary and put in place by (2) soldiers and the unemployed. It’s a radical answer to what the Hungarian government says it’s an intolerable situation.
The nature and the number of illegal migrants entering the European Union is unwanted by, by all the European countries. Nobody’s prepared for the integration, for the incorporation of a million people that’s going to reach, according to the estimates, this year.
This fence is something of an experiment for the Hungarian government. (3) First, they said it would be ready by the end of November, now by the end of August. It’s designed to send their message to the tens or hundreds of thousands of people on their way up through the Balkans to Hungary: (4) stay away, you’re not welcome here.
38,000 people entered the EU through Hungary last month alone. Rumours that a new barrier would soon block their path have probably increased their numbers. On arrival, they’re rounded up by police and (5) taken to this registration camp near the border.
You said you come from Ghana?
How difficult was the journey?
It’s very bad. Very bad with the pregnant women, with the children.
How old are your children?
Two and four.
While the Hungarian government sometimes gives the impression that Hungary is a country opposed to all asylum seekers, many dozens of volunteers here in Schengen close to the Serbian border and elsewhere in the country are out to give a different impression.
The majority are from either Afghanistan, Syria, of course, Iraq, and a lot are also from Pakistan and, and Bangladesh.
Across the border the Serbian authorities have largely turned a blind eye to all the people travelling through their country, at best they’re pointing them the way to Hungary.
We are Syrians, from Syria, from Damascus or Alipo. We’re going through Europe to Germany, Netherlands, to Sweden, to find a better life.
The Hungarian government is building a fence now. Will that stop you if there’s a fence in the way?
That will be harder to us but I think when we’re looking for life, nothing will stop us.

jueves, 10 de diciembre de 2015

Hiroshima: The tram that survived the atomic bomb

One of the few remaining trams which survived the Hiroshima bomb has been restored to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the attack.

Self-study activity:
Watch this BBC video and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 students.

1 When did the tram car stop being in regular service?
2 When was the tram service back in service after the bomb exploded?
3 What material was the Bank of Hiroshima made of?
4 How high were the temperatures after the explosion?
5 What prediction was wrong about Hiroshima after the atomic blast?

...of August 6 Japanese time, the first atomic bomb hit an enemy target.
This has to be the most famous building in Hiroshima, and one of the most famous in Japan. But many people outside Japan think the A-bomb dome is the only thing that survived in the middle of Hiroshima after the atomic explosion. That’s simply is not true.
So this actual tram car survived the atomic blast, was restored after the war, put back into operation and, in fact, this car was running on the streets of Hiroshima in regular service (1) until just a few years ago. It’s now used for tourists rides. But the tram system itself is another remarkable story because they got the trams up and running on part of the system (2) just three days after the atomic bomb exploded here. So the trams are a symbol of rejuvenation and survival for the people who live here.
Quite a lot of other large buildings in the middle of Hiroshima actually survived, especially if they were made of (3) reinforced concrete. And one of them was the Bank of Hiroshima. It’s just down the street over here.
So actually this is the Bank of Japan building and it’s only around 400 metres from the hypercentre of the explosion. This building survived despite temperatures which would have risen to (4) 3,000º. Everything and everybody around here was incinerated but amazingly, inside this building, because of its thick walls, some people survived.
After the bombing a lot of people here thought (5) Hiroshima would be an atomic wasteland and nothing would grow here for 50 or maybe 70 years, but that, too, was wrong.
These are the grounds of Hiroshima castle, and all of the buildings here were completely wiped out in the explosion. But look at the trees. You come here and you can’t help thinking some of the trees must be older than 70 years, and indeed they are. This one is a survivor. Not only has it survived, it seems to have thrived and there are many trees in Hiroshima like this. And they are an incredible testament to the resilience of nature.

miércoles, 9 de diciembre de 2015

Talking point: Risk

This week's talking point is risk. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

What different types of risks do you think people in each of these professions take?
Which do you think are the most/least risky?
firefighter - actor - politician - stock trader - small business owener
How much of a risk taker are you?
What risks, if any, do you take regularly?
What makes you stressed?
How good are you at coping with stress?
What strategies do you use to deal with stress?
When was the last time you dared to take a chance and do something new?
Were you afraid of failure?
How important is security to you?
Do children today have less freedom than in the past?
Are they exposed to less danger?

Have a look at the situations below and try to agree on the two which are the most risky/stressful and the two which are the least risky/stressful.
speak in front of a large audience
speak to a stranger
do a test at college
make a long journey on your own
manage with little money for a while
find a new place to live
take care of little children for a day
complain about bad service in a restaurant

To illustrate the point you can watch the New York Times video on Brent Weingard, who has battled dirt and grime high above New York City for as far as he can remember.

You know, I get up in the morning sometimes, and I get out there on the ledge. I just have to say, God! I love the smell of ammonia in the morning.
We are window cleaners. You know, some people will refer to us as window washers and I know they are either not that knowledgeable of this business or they are trying to put us down.
I’ve been working for thirty-five years, primarily here in New York City. I think heights… we never want to take our equipment for granted or our ability to work safely at great heights, so a certain amount of respect for the height and fear can… is healthy.
We take advantage of this door frame, and it’s a very, very good anchor. So if I were to lose my balance, free fall, one foot, this would certainly stop me, out of luck.
In pre-war buildings and buildings that have been properly renovated they have anchors outside of the windows that we can clip on with our window cleaning belt. First time I used the window cleaning belt I remember going out and just hugging the window as much as I would not lean back on that and trust those anchors enough.
For washing, the universal solvent is water. Added to the water we prefer mostly ammonia and just a squirt of Joy for lubrication. I was visiting my grandmother and I was about ready to clean her windows and she said ‘before you put anything in the water I’ve got the best thing for you’ and she pulled out a bottle of Joy dishwashing liquid and I said, ‘grandmother, that’s what the professionals in New York use’ and she says, ‘that’s right, it’s the best stuff’.
I can think of five occasions, were things we dropped, either a pole or squeegee and it is one of my biggest fears, our care not to drop equipment. We sometimes hold that equipment very tightly, tighter than necessary, kind of a dead grip.
I remember when one of my earliest realizations was my hands cramping at night, feeling very sore but I would say the more wear-and-tear for a window cleaner is in the knees. I’ll be ready for knee replacement.
When I was younger, guys, used to say to me or the super ‘you missed a spot’.  I guess that’s the oldest joke in the window cleaning industry, but I always took them very seriously and I would always try to find that spot and fix it.
Voila! Looks good, eh?

martes, 8 de diciembre de 2015

10 Questions for Anne-Marie Slaughter

On this Time interview Anne-Marie Slaughter, the foreign policy analyst, talks about why she left her job at the U.S. State Department, motherhood and the new feminism.

Self-study activity:
Watch the interview and say whether the statements below are true or false. The activity is suitable for Advanced students.

1 Anne-Marie Slaughter was dismissed from the State Department.
2 Anne-Marie Slaughter has been in the center of a controversy because of her situation in the State Department.
3 Femminists object to Anne-Marie Slaughter's ideas on work and motherhood.
4 The magazine that published Anne-Marie Slaughter's article sold 800,000 issues.
5 In American work culture, mothers are not considered suitable for all the jobs.
6 Anne-Marie Slaughter objects to the fact that a worker's value is measured by the time they spend at work every day.
7 Anne-Marie Slaughter understands why her professional activities don't have as much recognition as her article on work and motherhood.
8 Anne-Marie Slaughter still gets nervous when talking in front of a large audience.

Hi, I’m Belinda Luscombe. I’m and editor-at-large at Time magazine. Anne-Marie Slaughter is a professor at Princeton. She was formerly the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department. Most significantly, for our interview, she is the mother of two. Anne-Marie, welcome.
Thank you.
So you had a high-powered job in the State Department and you gave it up to spend more time with your family. Are you sure you weren’t fired?
I am quite certain I succeeded actually very nicely at the State Department. I won the Secretary’s most distinguished service medal, all those good things, so definitely not fired. But as you know, leaving to spend time with your children is a euphemism in Washington for getting fired.
So you have been in the news, in the center of an incredible swirl of discussion, because you wrote an article for The Atlantic in which you speak about how the American system for employment and being a mother are almost mutually exclusive. What made you out yourself at this point?
It was very hard to do. I realised when I was in Washington and I had these teenage sons and they really needed me at home that the sort of assumption that I could just do this and have the job that I wanted and be the mother I wanted to be was not proving possible, but the idea of saying it publicly that there was a problem and, as I put it, you know, that you can’t have it all, that it’s much harder than you think, felt like a betrayal. It felt like breaking a taboo, because my generation of feminists believe that you don’t admit anything other than absolutely women can do it. We need another round of conversation, feminist conversation.
Any response?
You know, the article goes up online on 21st June and by June 25th almost 800,000 clicks on the article. I have heard from hundreds directly, mostly women but I’d say probably 20% men, which is pretty, pretty high, and all mostly saying ‘thank you’, but then of course other women saying you’re going to hurt feminism, you’re gonna set the cause back. Men saying you’ve validated my wife’s experience. Thank you. Men also saying I want these things too.
So one of the things that has sort of stymied thinkers, business people, CEOs, is this persistent gender wage gap that we have. Is that motherhood?
A certain percentage, and I don’t have the statistics here, is motherhood in a sense that no one says anymore that’s not a job for a woman, that may be actionable legally, but plenty of people say that’s not a job for a mother. And there is quite a lot of evidence that there is, in fact, structural discrimination against mothers. I think there’s an assumption that mothers are not going to be able to work the same, get the same amount of work done, that men do, and it may be that mothers also feel less comfortable than women in general asking.
No, I know you’re probably not in the blame finding business. But is it men who are keeping these mothers down or is it the mothers themselves?
I’m sure it’s either. I think it is the structure of our workplace and a lot of our cultural assumptions. I mean, our workplace was set up for individuals who would enter the workforce in their mid 20’s and go through their mid 60’s and never have to make any compromises for child bearing or child rearing. That is the men of the 1950’s. And it was assumed you had to be in the office, so it’s designed for a time with much less technology, and that the person who was in the office the longest worked the hardest. If a woman leaves at 6pm and a man stays till 9pm the assumption is, well, he’s working harder as opposed to looking at what did they… what was the output, not the input, what was the output? So I think there are a lot of different factors, and actually you need to tackle them one at a time.
Does it goad you that you’ve written a number of books, you know, some incredibly influential policy, something like hundreds of foreign policy papers and the article on motherhood is the one that gets you on all the talk shows? Does that?
Yeah, I’ve, I’ve definitely thought why exactly can’t I create the same kind of reaction about foreign policy and there are still not nearly enough women at the top in foreign policy, not enough voices, but I also think foreign policy is not something that touches millions of people’s lives every day. It is by definition a much smaller crowd. And what I said, and at the time I said it, more than I could have foreseen, hit a chord with people’s everyday lives. But I’m going to insist on being recognised as a foreign policy person as well as a mother.
Let’s talk about foreign policy for a while, then. I’ll give you that chance. What would you do or what do you think should be done about Syria?
So right now I would say, let’s, let’s keep doing what we’re doing, providing lots of intelligence, communications and some arms to the opposition, a lot of support. And let’s keep pushing diplomatically. Let’s give that, you know, some more time. I would say if by the fall that has not worked, I still think then we need to take more, more action, and that probably does include no-fly zones, what I’ve called no-kill zones.
You have sons. If you had daughters, what adv…, of similar age, of teenagers, what advice would you be giving them?
One thing I would absolutely tell my daughters and I tell all my young women in class, raise your hand, speak out. I was terrified of public speaking until I was 35, so much so that I didn’t dare go into litigation in law school. I make my living at public speaking today. I can stand up in front of an audience of a thousand people without notes and speak for 30 minutes without any problem. But it took determination and practise. And I’d tell them exactly what I do tell my sons, which is get out there and fail.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, thank you so much.
You’re welcome.

1F 2F 3T 4F 5T 6F 7T 8F