This summer’s debate about health care may determine the success of Barack Obama’s presidency. In this leader, The Economist analyses the problems and suggests some solutions:
Diagnosing what is wrong with America’s health-care system is the easy part. Even though one dollar in every six generated by the world’s richest economy is spent on health—almost twice the average for rich countries—infant mortality, life expectancy and survival-rates for heart attacks are all worse than the OECD average. Meanwhile, because health insurance is so expensive, nearly 50m Americans, an obscene number in such a rich place, have none; those that are insured pay through the nose for their cover, and often find it bankruptingly inadequate if they get seriously ill or injured. Full article >>
COMMENTS Michael Moore's Sicko is one of the best resources for teaching about the American health care system. I've used several clips from it in class. Here's the trailer:
As millions upon millions of people rush to the internet to find out the latest on Michael Jackson, the underground network of spammers have sensed a business opportunity too good to miss.
They figure that at such a time, people have their guard down in their eagerness to substantiate rumours and half-truths. That has meant, for the legion of internet swindlers, this has been the ideal moment to trot out spam e-mails and throw up malicious websites to infect victims' computers.
As news of Michael Jackson's death was coming through, the scams started appearing almost instantaneously. As the days have passed, the guys behind these nefarious operations have stepped up their game. Full story >>
We see Prince Philip dressed in one of Michael Jackson's old costumes. The Queen says to him: "I know money's tight, but don't buy any more uniforms off eBay." The corgi at the computer is a nice touch (the Queen is a corgi lover).
VOCABULARY If money's tight, you don't have much money to spare and have to make economies. • Money's a little tight at the moment, so we won't be going abroad this summer.
The Daily Mail leads with the royal finances. It says the Queen had to raid her savings for £6.4m to boost her civil list earnings. Full story >>
VOCABULARY 1. A spendthrift is someone who spends money prodigiously and who is extravagant and recklessly wasteful. The origin of the word is someone who is able to spend money acquired by the thrift of predecessors or ancestors. Historical examples of spendthrifts include George IV, Ludwig II and Marie Antoinette. The term is often used by the press as an adjective applied to governments who are thought to be wasting public money. [Source: Wikipedia]
2. The impersonal "one" is only used in very formal language. It is often used with humorous intent to represent the way the Queen is supposed to speak. So instead of saying 'my family' (too informal), she says 'one's family'. Similarly, the Royal "we" is sometimes used by people in high office (including Margaret Thatcher) where mere mortals would employ the first person singular "I". As Queen Victoria is famously reported to have said: "We are not amused."
I came across this ad for McVitie's Original biscuits on AdsOfTheWorld. The ad was produced by Paris-based agency Fred & Farid but I'm not sure what the target is—French biscuit consumers, one assumes. But if that's the case, why is the ad in English? Extensive research (OK, Google) has not provided any answers. Whatever the "raison d'être", it's a great ad, which uses typically English self-deprecating humour to poke fun at some classic stereotypes.
In England we have lousy weather—but the girls are always half-naked.
We live on an island—but you get there by train.
We have a queen—but her husband’s only a prince.
We built the European Community—but in the end we kept the pound.
We have dominated the world—but also we like to be dominated.
We invented football—but our national team is run by an Italian.
We have the most ridiculous police uniforms—but somehow it seems to work.
We love a well-tailored suit—but we also love a well-tailored dress.
We don’t know how to cook—but we make good biscuits.
McVitie’s Original. They’re English but they’re good.
COMMENTS 1. The ad is based on a series of paradoxes. A paradox is a situation which involves two or more facts or qualities which seem to contradict each other.
2. I'm not sure about England having "built the European Community"!
3. I don't know why anyone in France would want to buy English biscuits. France has a fantastic selection of biscuits, usually made with butter as opposed to margarine. 4. The origin of the word biscuit is from a Middle French word meaning "twice cooked".
1. Get students to provide further examples of English stereotypes. E.g., It rains a lot in England, The English hate the French, The English don't like to complain, etc. See here for more examples of English stereotypes.
2. Show students the video and see if they can fill in the gaps on this worksheet.
UPDATE I saw the ad, dubbed into French, on French TV last night. The English version must be for web consumption only.
The National Union of Students has warned that young people's chances of getting summer work in the UK this year could be the worst in living memory. It is predicting a squeeze on temporary jobs and there is also growing concern that lack of money could be disastrous for students who are already heavily in debt. BBC's Simon Gompertz reports.
COMMENTS This is bad news for students from the Normandy Business School, many of whom traditionally head for Brighton in the hope of finding a summer job. I notice that the hard-up students in the video can still afford to drink pints of beer! They don't seem very motivated about finding a job either—20 CVs is nothing. And if you just sit there waiting for firms to reply, you're never going to get a job. Oops, I think I'm showing my age ...
LESSON IDEA The picture would make a good discussion starter. Here are some possible questions: • If you were a recruiter, would you employ this woman? • Should a person's appearance influence an interviewer? • What is suitable dress for a job interview? • What would you consider to be unacceptable work wear? • Have you any examples of unsuitably dressed candidates or employees? • What dress codes does your company/school have?
The Met Office has issued its first-ever heatwave warning. UK temperatures are forecast to reach highs of 33C this week. An early warning system is being used to alert hospitals and health workers. Sky's Simon Newton reports.
COMMENTS Temperatures reached 28°C here in Le Havre yesterday, which was the hottest day of the year so far. (UPDATE: 31.5C today!) I hate extreme heat just as much as I hate extreme cold. And lying on the beach in the baking sun is near the top of my list of "Things You Would Have To Pay Me To Do."
This cartoon by Stephane Peray, The Nation, Bangkok, shows a selection of newspaper front pages from around the world, all of which carry the story of Michael Jackson's death. President Ahmadinejad can be seen at the bottom saying, "Thank you Michael!" He's obviously grateful that news of events in Iran has been completely overshadowed by the media frenzy surrounding Jackson's death.
The Spelling Society started in 1908 (as the Simplified Spelling Society), and has the aim of raising awareness of the problems caused by the irregularity of English spelling and to promote remedies to improve literacy, including spelling reform. The Spelling Society publishes leaflets, newsletters, journals, books and bulletins to promote spelling reform of the English language.
The Spelling Society website has a page of useful links for anyone interested in spelling reform and a two-page PDF leaflet entitled Why English Spelling Should be Reformed.
Michael Jackson's death (I'm assuming you've heard about it) provides a good excuse to feature this 2007 version of Thriller by 1,500 plus inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines.
COMMENTS I would never have imagined that Filipino prisons could be so much fun. Still, I suppose they've got plenty of time to rehearse.