WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF DRIVING?

[LIFE ★★]

WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF DRIVING?

Driver

(P1) Ten years ago, a woman called Barbara Noble asked an important question.

(P2) “Why are some young people choosing not to drive?”

(P3) Barbara was a STATISTICIAN at the Department for Transport and her report was trying to UNTANGLE a mystery.

(P4) For decades, the richer Britain got, the more people drove. But sometime in the 1990s that stopped.

(P5) In fact, young people, especially young men, were driving a lot less.

(P6) What Barbara’s report had revealed was something that became known as Peak Car – the idea that we had permanently fallen out of love with our cars.

(P7) It was not just happening in the UK, but in lots of rich countries, including the US.

(P8) In 2012, the RAC Foundation analysed Britain’s driving statistics between 1995 and 2007.

(P9) About 70% of us were driving more. But the average mileage was declining because young men, company car drivers, and Londoners were driving less.

(P10) But why was it happening? Well, the government took away the TAX BREAKS for company cars.

(P11) PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION is good in London and bus use has been going up. Parking charges make driving in the city expensive.

(P12) The increased pace of immigration has also played a big part. The SURVEYS show immigrants don’t drive as much.

(P13) But young men ABANDONING their cars is harder to explain.

(P14) Some suggest that the change is cultural – that phones have replaced cars as a STATUS SYMBOL.

(P15) The internet has reduced the need to drive so much.

(P16) More of us live in cities. The average speed of a car in Beijing is 7mph. Exactly the same average speed as a horse.

(P17) It is likely that all of these things play a part. But they’re not the key reason young people, especially men, aren’t driving.

(P18) “It’s not about desire, it’s about how difficult it is,” says Scott Le Vine, at Imperial College London.

(P19) Scott says it is more expensive to own a car and more difficult to pass your driving test than it used to be.

(P20) More than half of 17 to 29-year-olds without driver licences say they are either learning to drive, PUT OFF by the test, or put off by the cost.

(P21) Scott sums it up: “While older British people were getting richer in the 2000s, younger adults were getting poorer.”

(P22) This is RELEVANT because there has historically been a positive relationship between income and car ownership/use.

(P23) The big question then; is this change permanent?

(P24) It’s difficult to say, Scott says.

(P25) The average American also drives fewer miles now than they did in 1997. And just as in Britain, the percentage of young people getting licences is declining.

(P26) Why is it so important?

(P27) The way we will be travelling in the future has huge IMPLICATIONS for planning in the present.

(P28) Stephen Joseph, from the Campaign for Better Transport, said: “For at least 50 years, transportation policy in the UK has been based on the ASSUMPTION that car use would carry on growing.

(P29) “If car use has peaked, this will RADICALLY change transportation policy and road-building plans.”

WORDS: 509

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35242514

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do you have a driver license? What age were you when you got it?
  3. Do you enjoy driving, or is it just a necessity?
  4. How bad is the traffic in your city?
  5. Do you think that young people in your country are driving more or less?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Tax break
  • Public transportation
  • Status symbol
  • Put off

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WHALES BEACH THEMSELVES ON INDIAN COAST

[ENVIRONMENT ★]

WHALES BEACH THEMSELVES ON INDIAN COAST

chennai-whale-bodies-759

(P1) At least 45 small PILOT WHALES, part of a group which WASHED ASHORE in Tiruchendur in Tamil Nadu, India, have died. More than 100 whales were found on the 16km stretch from Alanthalai to Kallamozhi coastal HAMLETS. 36 of them have been rescued by fishermen.

(P2) “The whales started reaching the shore in groups around 5pm. It is very strange. In 1973 when we were boys, we witnessed the same phenomenon. However, not as many whales washed ashore then,” said Rajan, a fisherman in Manapad.

(P3) Ditto Mascarenhas of Kulasekarapattinam said that if local fishermen had not INTERVENED, many more whales would have died. The fishermen remained awake the whole night to keep the whales in water by pulling them back to the sea.

(P4) Tuticorin district collector M Ravikumar inspected the coast. He said officials were investigating the reason for such a huge number of whales reaching the shore.

(P5) A team from the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park in Ramanathapuram has rushed to the spot.

(P6) Former director of Zoological Survey of India K Venkataraman said cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) are social MARINE mammals. They live in groups and if the leader of the group is disturbed due to underwater changes, they become DISORIENTED. They start drifting from their normal path and head towards the shoreline, leading to their deaths.

(P7) EARTHQUAKES and other oceanic disturbances could disorient cetaceans.

(P8) On Monday, an earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale and another one measuring 6.9 occurred in the Philippines and Indonesia, respectively. These could have disoriented the whales.

(P9) In India, the first report of mass STRANDING of this whale species was reported in Salt Lake in Kolkata in 1852. The maximum number of whales stranding on the Indian COASTLINE happened in 1973 during which time 147 whales got stranded, Venkataraman said.

(P10) Annually world over 2,000 whales get stranded. More than 1,500 whales have been stranded along the Indian coastline since 1800 till 2015.

(P11) So far no study on this issue has been made in India. One of the reasons is that not many funding agencies are ready to finance the study.

(P12) Studies of cetacean populations, BREEDING, habitat, and other related issues needed to be made by the government. Only such an effort would help in protecting these ENDANGERED marine mammals.

WORDS: 382

SOURCE: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/environment/flora-fauna/Of-the-over-100-whales-that-washed-ashore-on-Tamil-Nadu-coast-45-dead/articleshow/50542387.cms

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. When animals are in danger, people often PITCH IN to help. Why is this true?
  3. Are animals sensitive to environmental disturbances and signals that human beings cannot feel?
  4. Do earthquakes ever happen in your country?
  5. Have you ever seen a whale or dolphin in the ocean or in an AQUARIUM?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Wash ashore
  • Pitch in

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FEW CHILDREN IN SOUTH SUDAN ATTEND SCHOOL

[EDUCATION ★]

FEW CHILDREN IN SOUTH SUDAN ATTEND SCHOOL

South Sudan School

(P1) More than half of the children in South Sudan are not in school, the highest percentage in any country, the U.N. children’s agency announced.

(p2) Fifty-one percent of children between ages 6 and 15, or 1.8 million children, are not in school in South Sudan, which has seen violence for two years as government forces battle rebels, UNICEF said.

(P3) Even before the war began, 1.4 million children were already missing class. Since the war broke out, over 800 schools have been destroyed and more than 400,000 children had to ABANDON their classrooms, according to UNICEF.

(P4) South Sudan’s government and the rebels signed a peace agreement in August, although violence persists in some areas.

(P5) South Sudan is followed by Niger, where 47 percent of the children are not in school, according to UNICEF.

(P6) Only one in 10 South Sudanese students who enter school finish primary education amid a shortage of FACILITIES and trained teachers, said Phuong T. Nguyen, UNICEF’s chief of education for South Sudan.

(P7) “There is a very, very low budget from the government to the education sector,” she said. “It is not holding steady and we see a decline.”

(p8) A South Sudanese official said enrollment actually went up from under 30 percent before South Sudan became independent in 2011, but that the war and a lack of school buildings and qualified teachers have slowed the growth.

(P9) Defense spending is taking a large percentage of the national budget with only 4 percent going to education, said Avelino Adrongo Said, director general of planning and budget in the Ministry of Education.

(P10) Worldwide, one in four children in CONFLICT ZONES are missing out on their education, translating to nearly 24 million children out of more than 109 million living in countries at war, UNICEF said.

WORDS: 299

SOURCE: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2016/01/12/world/africa/ap-af-south-sudan-education-.html?_r=0

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. If education is the key to the future, what will the future of a country without education be like?
  3. Why are many African countries doing an INADEQUATE job of educating their children?
  4. What do you think the relationship is between poverty and lack of education?
  5. South Sudan is the newest generally recognized independent country and the newest member of the United Nations. What should the international community do about the educational CRISIS there?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Conflict zone

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TAIWAN ELECTS FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT

[WORLD NEWS ★★]

TAIWAN ELECTS FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT

Tsai Ing-wen

(P1) Tsai Ing-wen has been elected Taiwan’s first female president.

(P2) Ms Tsai, 59, leads the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

(P3) In her victory speech, she promised to preserve the STATUS QUO in relations with China, adding Beijing must respect Taiwan’s democracy and both sides must ensure there are no PROVOCATIONS.

(P4) China sees the island as a BREAKAWAY province – which it has threatened to take back by force if necessary.

(P5) In her speech, Ms Tsai hailed a “new era” in Taiwan and promised to COOPERATE with other political parties on major issues.

(P6) She thanked the US and Japan for their support and vowed Taiwan would contribute to peace and STABILITY in the region.

(P7) Ms Tsai had a COMMANDING lead in the vote count when Eric Chu of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) admitted defeat.

(P8) Mr Chu CONGRATULATED Tsai Ing-wen and announced he was quitting as KMT head. Taiwan’s Premier Mao Chi-kuo also resigned.

(P9) The FLAGGING economy as well as Taiwan’s relationship with China both played a role in the voters’ choice.

(P10) The KMT has been in power for most of the past 70 years.

(P11) Ms Tsai, a former SCHOLAR, became chairwoman of the DPP in 2008.

(P12) She lost a presidential bid in 2012 but SUBSEQUENTLY led the party to regional election victories. She has won increased support from the public partly because of widespread dissatisfaction over the KMT and President Ma Ying-jeou’s handling of the economy and widening wealth gap.

(P13) The election came just months after a historic meeting between President Ma and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Singapore in November. These were the first official talks between the “two Chinas” in more than 60 years.

WORDS: 278

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35333647

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. South Korea also recently elected its first female president. How are attitudes about women in politics changing in Asia?
  3. Taiwan and mainland China both claim to be the “real China.” Do you think that they will ever SETTLE THEIR DIFFERENCES?
  4. Has there been a recent major election in your country? What was the result?
  5. Are you active in a political party?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Status quo
  • Settle differences

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CHILEAN ARCHITECT IS AWARDED PRITZKER PRIZE

[CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT ★★★]

CHILEAN ARCHITECT IS AWARDED PRITZKER PRIZE

Alejandro-Aravena_portrait_sq

(P1) Chilean ARCHITECT Alejandro Aravena has been named as the 2016 winner of the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s EQUIVALENT of the Nobel prizes.

(P2) Aravena, 48, will be the 41st winner of the Pritzker Prize, receiving a $100,000 GRANT and a bronze medal during a ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, on 4 April.

(P3) Aravena is best known for his work with Elemental, an architecture group that aims to tackle poverty and eliminate slums using a PARTICIPATORY approach that engages local communities in early stages of the design process.

Alejandro-Aravena-Quinta-Monroy-Housing_dezeen_ban

(P4) Elemental, of which Aravena is executive director, won international praise for its 2004 “half a house” Quinta Monroy development in Iquique, Chile. The scheme was designed to make the most of a tiny budget by building the frame and the ESSENTIAL spaces for each house, leaving the remainder for residents to complete themselves over time according to their own needs and financial means.

(P5) The success of the project has led to the “half a house” concept being used at a number of other locations across Central and South America.

(P6) The group also played an important role in the rebuilding of Constitución, one of the towns that was almost destroyed by the 2010 Chilean EARTHQUAKE and TSUNAMI.

(P7) It is the second time in three years that the Pritzker JURY has chosen an architect who is best-known for HUMANITARIAN design rather than “statement architecture.”

(P8) The 2014 winner was Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, who is highly respected for his PIONEERING use of cardboard in disaster relief projects around the world.

(P9) The 2016 jury said that Aravena had “meaningfully expanded the role of the architect” through his social housing work.

(P10) “Alejandro Aravena is leading a new generation of architects that has a HOLISTIC understanding of the built environment and has clearly demonstrated the ability to connect social responsibility, economic demands, design of human habitat and the city,” said the CITATION. “[He] EPITOMISES the revival of a more socially engaged architect.”

(P11) Aravena is the CURATOR of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, one of the most significant events in the architectural calendar. The biennale will take place in May with the theme Reporting from the Front, which aims to focus on the biggest social and political issues that architects are involved with around the world.

(P12) He was a member of the Pritzker jury from 2009 to 2015.

Siamese-Towers_Universidad-Catolica-de-Chile_Alejandro-Aravena_dezeen_936_61

(P13) Other projects by the architect include a series of major buildings for the Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, including the “Siamese Towers” (above) and the monumental UC Innovation Center (below), which was named architecture winner in the London Design Museum’s 2015 Designs of the Year awards.

Aravena

(P14) He was selected as the winner of the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize by a jury including British architect Richard Rogers, who won the Pritzker in 2007, and Australian architect Glenn Murcutt, who was the 2002 recipient.

(P15) “He understands materials and construction, but also the importance of poetry and the power of architecture to communicate on many levels,” said the jury.

(P16) “The younger generation of architects and designers who are looking for opportunities to affect change, can learn from the way Alejandro Aravena takes on multiple roles instead of the singular position of a designer to FACILITATE a housing project, and by doing so, discovers that such opportunities may be created by architects themselves.”

(P17) The jury was led by architecture PATRON Peter Palumbo, and also included US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Chinese architect Yung Ho Chang, Spanish architect Benedetta Tagliabue, Berlin-based writer and curator Kristin Feireiss, and steel executive Ratan N. Tata.

(P18) Aravena is the first Pritzker winner from Chile, and the fourth from South America. Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who was awarded the prize in 1988, designed the UN building where Aravena will collect his medal.

(P19) Last year’s winner was German architect and engineer Frei Otto. Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas, Toyo Ito, and Jørn Utzon are among others on the list of previous winners, which can be read as a WHO’S WHO of contemporary architecture.

WORDS: 670

SOURCE: http://www.dezeen.com/2016/01/13/alejandro-aravena-elemental-named-2016-pritzker-prize-laureate/

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. How would you describe the architectural style of your house or apartment building?
  3. What makes Alejandro Aravena’s architectural work “socially engaged”?
  4. Aravena believes that good architects should work for ordinary people and the poor, not just for rich clients. What is your opinion?
  5. Is the housing for LOW-INCOME families in your city attractive or ugly?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Who’s who
  • Low-income

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WHERE ELECTRONIC GOODS GO TO DIE

[TECHNOLOGY ★]

WHERE ELECTRONIC GOODS GO TO DIE

Electronics Dump

(P1) At a vast dumpsite in the west of Ghana’s capital Accra, small fires burn among piles of old computers, television screens, and laptops.

(P2) This is one of the biggest dumps for electronic waste in the world, and among the most polluted places on earth.

(P3) Every year hundreds of thousands of tons of e-waste find their way here from Europe and North America, where they are stripped of their valuable metals.

(P4) For many it’s a LUCRATIVE business in a country where nearly a quarter of people live below the POVERTY LINE.

(P5) “It’s an instant job,” said Sam Sandu, a scrap dealer who works on the site. “Today you work on it, and you can get your money the same day.”

(P6) But experts warn the TOXINS present in the waste are slowing poisoning the workers, as well as spreading pollution into the soil and atmosphere.

(P7) “Mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic – these are the four most toxic substances [in the world], and these are found in e-waste residues in very large quantities,” explains Atiemo Sampson, an environmental researcher at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission.

(P8) There is little data yet on the numbers of people who have fallen ill or even died as a result of working with e-waste.

(P9) But exposure to these toxins are known to cause a whole range of illnesses from cancers to heart disease to respiratory illnesses.

(P10) “The consequences are already quite apparent,” says Atiemo Sampson. “We are not waiting for 10 years or 20 years, the effects are already happening within the Ghanaian community.”

(P11) Analysts estimate the world will produce 93 million tons of e-waste this year alone – an ever-growing volume that is the result of the DISPOSABILITY of many high-end electronic products.

(P12) Much of it will find its way to a handful of e-waste dumps in Africa and Asia, rather than being RECYCLED in the country in which it was sold.

(P13) Atiemo Sampson believes electronics producers have a responsibility to help clean up the mess their products helped create.

(P14) “Across the world there is a growing acceptance that the producer of the equipment must bear responsibility for ‘end of life’ management,” he says.

(P15) “They should be investing in collections systems, in recycling systems in Africa. It is morally right and legally right.”

(P16) But the e-waste at sites like Agbogbloshie continues to pile up.

(P17) Experts like materials scientist Hywel Jones of Sheffield Hallam University in the UK says the solution to the e-waste problem is complex.

(P18) His ‘What’s In My Stuff?’ project aims to educate the public about the materials found in a typical smartphone. Since smartphones look “clean,” consumers believe they are clean – but they really are not.

(P19) Jones says companies and governments need to be involved too.

(P20) “Two billion mobile phones are manufactured every year – more than 15 billion manufactured since 1994, and that’s not counting cameras, laptops and televisions,” he says.

(P21) “We have an enormous problem and we’re starting very LATE IN THE DAY to fix it.”

WORDS: 499

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35244018

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. How often do you replace your smartphone and other electronic devices?
  3. Are there any garbage dumps or LANDFILLS near where you live?
  4. When you have to throw away a battery, do you follow the special instructions, or do you just put it in the regular trash?
  5. Are you sensitive to toxic substances such as air pollution, or is your body very ROBUST?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Poverty line
  • Late in the day

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HOW TO START A WHISKY DISTILLERY

[BUSINESS ★★]

HOW TO START A WHISKY DISTILLERY

Whisky

(P1) Considered by most AFICIONADOS to be the PINNACLE of the industry, SINGLE MALTS are WHISKIES made from a single DISTILLERY.

(P2) They typically command a PREMIUM PRICE over BLENDED WHISKIES.

(P3) Whisky consultant Jim Swan says selling a popular single malt can be “very profitable”.

(P4) “A single malt whisky [from an independent distillery] might cost £45, with a profit of £15 per bottle,” he says.

(P5) “On more expensive whisky, you could be looking at 90% profit per bottle.”

(P6) Meanwhile the industry is continuing to boom – exports alone of single malt whiskies in the first half of 2015 totalled £406m, a rise of 5%, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

(P7) But creating a new whisky business is not for the FAINT-HEARTED, or the cash-poor.

(P8) It requires millions of pounds in UPFRONT investment, but it can take three to ten years to have whisky ready for sale and to see any profit.

(P9) “There’s no point in even thinking about it unless you come up with at least £5m,” says Mr Swan. “And then you need money to keep you going until the whisky is ready.”

(P10) He estimates £250,000 per year is needed to keep a small distillery operating, and it is likely to be eight years before a whisky business BREAKS EVEN.

(P11) Despite this, the number of distilleries in Scotland, the world’s largest producer of single malt whisky, is growing. There are currently 117, up from 100 a couple of years ago, and 30 of these are small independents.

Kingsbarns

(P12) The time it takes to get your product to market can create major challenges, as 38-year-old Kingsbarns Distillery founder Douglas Clement found out.

(P13) He worked as a CADDY at St Andrews golf course for 20 years, and decided to start a whisky distillery after visiting golfers repeatedly expressed frustration at the lack of a nearby distillery. Mr Clement raised initial funds for Kingsbarns by approaching his golf clients, but was rejected by many VENTURE CAPITALISTS.

(P14) “Most investors want a profit in three to five years. The trouble with whisky is that they won’t see much money for about 10 years,” explains Mr Clement.

(P15) The TURNING POINT came in 2012 when he SECURED a £670,000 GRANT from the Scottish Government. That convinced one of the oldest distilling families in Scotland, the Wemysses, to invest £2.5 to £3m.

(P16) Mr Clement sold his interest to them, and he is now employed as the manager and is credited as the founding director, an arrangement he says he’s “extremely happy” with.

(P17) “This project for me personally was never about profit. It was about taking my idea for a whisky distillery and turning it into a reality,” he says.

(P18) It will be summer 2018 before the first release of Kingsbarns single malt whisky. In the meantime, they are finding other ways to make money, such as the income from their visitor centre, shop, and cafe.

WORDS: 481

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/business-35300685

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do you have a dream for your own business?
  3. Would you have the PATIENCE to wait three to ten years for a profit?
  4. In order to realize his dream of starting a whisky distillery, Douglas Clement had to sell his ownership of the business. He says he is “extremely happy,” but do you think he was actually frustrated?
  5. Why is it easier for people who already have a lot of money to start new businesses and make more money? (The phrase for this in English is, “The rich get richer.”)

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Single malt and blended whiskies
  • Premium price
  • Faint-hearted
  • Break even
  • Venture capitalist
  • Turning point

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WILL THE JAPANESE BOY BAND BREAK UP?

[CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT ★]

WILL THE JAPANESE BOY BAND BREAK UP?

SMAP

(P1) Rumours are RIFE in Japan that one of the country’s most well-known and long-lived pop groups, SMAP, might be ON THE VERGE OF a BREAK-UP.

(P2) Their TALENT AGENCY has said only that they are in NEGOTIATIONS over their future, but a split would be a huge shock for Japan.

(P3) SMAP – which stands for sport, music, assemble, people – formed in 1988 when its six original members were in their teens.

(P4) Now in their 40s – and minus one member – they have appeared in movies and soap operas, have dozens of advertising deals, and have become AMBASSADORS for Japan abroad.

(P5) Masahiro Nakai, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Shingo Katori and Takuya Kimura have been a constant presence in the media landscape with Japanese fans calling them their idols.

(P6) They were the first boy band to not only have multiple hit songs but also to PARLAY that success into comedy and acting with a weekly VARIETY SHOW and numerous other appearances.

(P7) The group’s leader, Masahiro Nakai, has been the main newscaster in Japan for several Olympic games.

(P8) The most popular and internationally recognised member, Takuya Kimura, has been voted the sexiest man in Japan for 15 years in a row by one magazine.

(P9) Their popularity has even made them ambassadors between Japan, China and South Korea. In 2011, they were the first Japanese pop group to visit China in a decade. Their Beijing concert was attended by 40,000 people.

(P10) As with many pop groups, there has been SPECULATION before that SMAP could be about to split. One of its members, Katsuyuki Mori, left in 1996 – at the height of their popularity – to become a successful motorbike racer.

(P11) But the new rumours indicate there is politics at play at the talent agency that manages them, Johnny & Associates. Reports say SMAP’s manager, Michi Iijima, who MASTERMINDED their rise since the late 1980s, has FALLEN OUT WITH the agency and is leaving.

(P12) All but one of SMAP’s members are reported to be considering following her out of the company, which would almost certainly be the end of the group as we know it.

(P13) The agency has acknowledged the reports but only said: “It is a fact that negotiation and discussions are being held regarding the matter.”

(P14) On the other hand, they could be negotiating for more money in order to stay with the firm.

(P15) Although Korean pop (KPop) has now largely OVERTAKEN JPop in popularity, SMAP and others like it are seen as among the first to spark a boy band craze in Asia.

(P16) They had developed a huge fan base over their nearly three decades in the industry.

(P17) For people in their 30s and younger in Japan, who have grown up with this band, news of a split would be shocking.

(P18) But they also have many older fans, including women who would travel across Japan to all their concerts and give them expensive gifts, seeing them as the ideal sons.

(P19) Some have questioned SMAP’s singing and acting skills.

(P20) But love them or hate them, many continued to follow their careers.

WORDS: 519

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35299532

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Are there similar “boy bands” or “girl bands” that are popular in your country?
  3. Do child pop stars and actors in your country usually keep their success as adults?
  4. Do you think that contemporary society has a healthy or unhealthy attitude towards celebrities?
  5. Do you believe most of the news you hear about celebrities, or do you think that some of it is invented in order to attract attention?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • On the verge of
  • Break-up
  • Talent agency
  • Variety show
  • Fall out with

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CRUISE INTO THE COLD

[TRAVEL ★★]

CRUISE INTO THE COLD

Hurtigruten

(P1) Norway’s COASTLINE is long, RUGGED, and packed with natural MARVELS, including the famous FJORDS.

(P2) DEPARTING year-round from the southern city of Bergen, ships of Norway’s Hurtigruten (“express route”) service follow this dramatic coast north to the remote town of Kirkenes, far above the Arctic Circle.

hurtigruten-route-map

(P3) The 2,500-nautical-mile (4,700 kilometers) journey takes 11 days to complete.

(P4) Norway’s coastal cities, towns and villages are located on MAJESTIC fjords kept ice-free by the warm waters of the GULF STREAM.

(P5) Begun in 1893, the Hurtigruten service has long been a LIFELINE for these otherwise ISOLATED communities.

(P6) “Some of the smaller SETTLEMENTS in particular still rely heavily on our daily service,” says Hurtigruten managing director Gordon Dirker. “We deliver mail and consumer goods, as well as passengers.”

(P7) Today the Hurtigruten fleet consists of 12 ships, each fully EQUIPPED with cabins and modern conveniences such as onboard wi-fi, restaurants, bars, gyms, and laundry rooms.

(P8) Passengers are a mix of Norwegian locals traveling up and down the coast and international tourists on multi-day CRUISES. The latter are offered a range of EXCURSIONS each day, depending on the weather, season, and PORT OF CALL.

WORDS: 190

SOURCE: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/14/travel/norway-hurtigruten-cruise-arctic-circle/index.html

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Would you be interested in taking a cruise like this, or would it be too cold for you?
  3. Do you get SEASICK when you are out on the ocean?
  4. What is the smallest community you have ever lived in?
  5. The fjords are extremely SCENIC. What are the most impressive natural sights in your country?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Gulf Stream
  • Port of call

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“I’M NOT AFRAID OF DYING ANYMORE”

[SPORTS ★★★]

“I’M NOT AFRAID OF DYING ANYMORE”

Togo Goalkeeper

(P1) Six years ago, on 8 January 2010, Togo goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale found himself in a DEADLY situation.

(P2) In a bus, in the dark of night, in the DISPUTED Angolan ENCLAVE of Cabinda.

(P3) Obilale and his Togo team-mates were EN ROUTE to the Africa Cup of Nations when the bus was AMBUSHED by armed gunmen.

(P4) In a HORRIFIC attack that shocked the world of football, three people were killed and seven were injured, including Obilale, who was shot twice.

(P5) For several hours, it was reported that Obilale had been killed.

(P6) But six years and eight operations later, Obilale is very much alive.

(P7) The 31-year-old now lives in the French town of Lorient, Brittany.

(P8) He works as a SPECIAL NEEDS instructor for Remise en Jeu, an organisation that helps young people with social, mental, and physical problems improve their lives with sports.

(P9) “Today, my life has changed,” he said. “Mentally I feel fine and when the mind is OK, the body normally FOLLOWS SUIT.

(P10) “I’m working and the fact my mind is busy means I can leave the past behind and move forward.”

(P11) These days, Obilale still needs CRUTCHES, but he no longer uses a WHEELCHAIR.

(P12) He has regained 50% use of his right leg and is even driving again.

(P13) The shooting itself happened a few miles into Cabinda from the border with Congo-Brazzaville.

(P14) The Togo team were travelling to their training base a few days before their first match of the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations against Ghana.

(P15) The ambush was CARRIED OUT by gunmen from the Front for the LIBERATION of the Enclave of Cabinda, who were fighting for the independence of the oil-rich enclave from the rest of Angola.

(P16) Bus driver Mario Adjoua, assistant manager Abalo Amelete, and media officer Stanislas Ocloo were killed.

(P17) News of the shooting was broken on BBC World Service and very quickly became a global story.

(P18) Obilale says his one LASTING memory of that FATEFUL day was when he was in the bus, being spoken to in Portuguese by a young Angolan woman.

(P19) “I didn’t understand a word she was saying, but DEEP DOWN I felt there was a connection between us,” said Obilale. “She was trying to REASSURE me.

(P20) “By CONCENTRATING on her voice and listening to what she was saying, it was as if I understood her. That calmed me down.”

(P21) The day after the shooting, the Togo team decided it was impossible to take part in the TOURNAMENT and PULLED OUT.

(P22) The tournament took place without Togo, who were not replaced, and the shooting inevitably CAST A SIGNIFICANT SHADOW OVER the competition.

(P23) Although Obilale has made great progress, the horrors of that night in Cabinda are still RAW.

(P24) He had “dark thoughts, really dark thoughts” when he was in hospital in South Africa.

(P25) “I just didn’t want to fight any more,” he told me.

(P26) “Before one of the operations, I said to my brother ‘This time, I don’t think I’ll survive. I think I’m going to die’.”

(P27) In the end, it was the thought of LETTING DOWN his family, and in particular his two children, that pulled him BACK FROM THE BRINK.

(P28) “I thought it would be really selfish of me to do something like that,” he said. “But I did have dark thoughts.

(P29) “If I had been single, with no children, I think the whole struggle would have been different, because I was really, really weak.”

(P30) The shooting in Cabinda cost Obilale his career and almost his life.

(P31) But his lack of BITTERNESS is truly HUMBLING.

(P32) He says he no longer misses playing football and insists he BEARS NO GRUDGES against the gunmen who shot him.

(P33) “I’m not angry with them,” said Obilale. “It’s not worth it.

(P34) “Today, we live in a world where some people are prepared to take a life just to get themselves heard and it’s got to stop.”

(P35) Obilale still has pills to take and long nights to get through.

(P36) The past six years have changed his life, not just physically and financially, but morally, too. It’s changed his OUTLOOK on life – and death.

(P37) “With everything I’ve been through, if something’s going to happen to me, it’ll happen,” he said. “I’m not as scared as before.

(P38) “I’d say 70-80% of people are afraid of dying. That’s not the case for me.”

WORDS: 722

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/35225295

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do you think you could have been as brave as Kodjovi Obilale?
  3. Do you believe in staying angry with those who have harmed you, or in forgiving them?
  4. Do you think the world is getting more violent?
  5. How can sports improve people’s lives?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • En route
  • Special needs
  • Follow suit
  • Carry out
  • Deep down
  • Pull out
  • Cast a shadow over
  • Let down
  • Back from the brink
  • Bear a grudge

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