Thursday, November 30, 2006
How English Can Make You Tense

Everyday I study my English,
Which is not as simple as it seems.
My head is continuously spinning;
Now verbs are turning in my dreams.

I was learning the Past Continuous,
Which unfortunately didn't last;
For, as I was happily going along,
Up jumped the Simple Past.

I had hoped to learn more quickly;
The Past Perfect I'd wanted to clear,
And it would've been much easier
If the Conditional hadn't appeared.

The Present Perfect I haven't perfected,
Though believe me how I've tried.
The Continuous I've been attempting;
I'm surprised I haven't cried.

The Future won't be simpler,
Of that I am quite sure.
It's going to be confusing
On the evidence of before.

As yet I haven't considered
The Future in the Past.
I was going to make an effort,
But it left me quite aghast.

But the thing that keeps me going,
As I struggle with each tense,
Is that maybe in the future
It just might make some sense.

Source: Alan R. Beresford
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What are Genetically Modified foods ( GM foods )?

The term GM foods or GMOs ( Genetically Modified Organisms )can be defined as organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non-related species. The resulting organism is said to be "genetically modified", genetically engineered" or "transgenic".

Are GM foods harmful or helpful?

It all depends on which side you're on.

The biotech industry claims that GE ( Genetically Engineered ) food crops will save the environment and solve the hunger crisis. But a growing number of scientists, doctors and consumers consider them a threat to the planet, and organizations like Christian Aid and the Institute for Food and Development Policy say GE food crops are actually likely to increase world hunger.

Here are a few myths and realities of GE foods to help you decide who's right and who's wrong!

MYTH #1:

Genetic engineering is merely an extension of traditional breeding.

REALITY: Genetic engineering is a new technology that has been developed to overcome the limitations of traditional breeding. Traditional breeders have never been capable of crossing fish genes with strawberries. But genetically engineered "fishberries" are already in the field. With genetic engineering, these types of new organisms can be created and released into the environment.

MYTH #2:

Genetic engineering can make foods better, more nutritious, longer-lasting and better-tasting.

REALITY: The reason for the 70 million acres of GE crops grown in the USA today has nothing to do with nutrition, flavour or any other consumer benefit. There is little benefit aside from the financial gains reaped by the firms producing GE crops.

MYTH #3:

GE crops eliminate pesticides and are necessary for environmentally sustainable farming.

REALITY: Farmers who grow GE crops actually use more herbicide, not less. For example, Monsanto created Roundup-Ready (RR) soy, corn and cotton specifically so that farmers would continue to buy Roundup, the company's best-selling chemical weed killer, which is sold with RR seeds. Instead of reducing pesticide use, one study of more than 8,000 university-based field trials suggested that farmers who plant RR soy use two to five times more herbicide than non-GE farmers who use integrated weed-control methods. GE crops may actually be the greatest threat to sustainable agriculture on the planet. Many organic farmers rely on a natural bacterial spray to control certain crop pests. The advent of genetically engineered, insect-resistant crops is likely to lead to insects that are immune to this natural pesticide. When this biological pesticide is rendered ineffective, other farmers will turn to increasingly toxic chemicals to deal with the "superbugs" created by GE crops. Meanwhile, organic farmers will be out of options.

MYTH #4:

There is no scientific evidence that GE foods harm people or the environment

REALITY: There is no long-term study showing that GE foods or crops are safe. Doctors around the world have warned that GE foods may cause unexpected health consequences that may take years to develop. Laboratory and field evidence shows that GE crops can harm beneficial insects, damage soils and transfer GE genes in the environment, thereby contaminating neighboring crops and potentially creating uncontrollable weeds.

MYTH #5:

GE foods are necessary to feed the developing world's growing population.

REALITY: In 1998, African scientists at a United Nations conference strongly objected to Monsanto's promotional GE campaign that used photos of starving African children under the headline "Let the Harvest Begin." The scientists, who represented many of the nations affected by poverty and hunger, said gene technologies would undermine the nations' capacities to feed themselves by destroying established diversity, local knowledge and sustainable agricultural systems. Genetic engineering could actually lead to an increase in hunger and starvation. Biotech companies like Monsanto force growers to sign a technology use agreement when growing their patented GE crops which stipulates, among other things, that the farmer can not save the seeds produced from their GE harvest. Half the world's farmers rely on saved seed to produce food that 1.4 billion people rely on for daily nutrition.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006
English: the official U.S.language ?

There is an intense debate over whether or not legislation should be passed making English the official language of the U.S. Below are a number of arguments that have been presented for and against the issue at hand.

Making English the official U.S. language would unite Americans.
Such a bill would apply only to the Federal government (federal documents, etc…)
Immigrants would be more encouraged to become involved in the U.S. democratic process.
There would be fewer racial conflicts.
Government operations would be more streamlined.

Making English the official U.S. language overlooks the importance of an individuals native language and culture.
It would cause a health hazard where minorities would have difficulty accessing health care.
Language restrictions would make it difficult for law enforcement officials to question people speaking different languages.
Having multiple languages is a great resource for America in diplomatic efforts.
94% of Americans already speak English, there is no legislation necessary.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Democratic Donkey and the Republican Elephant

Ever wondered what the story was behind these two famous party animals?

The now-famous Democratic donkey was first associated with Democrat Andrew Jackson's 1828 presidential campaign. His opponents called him a jackass (a donkey), and Jackson decided to use the image of the strong-willed animal on his campaign posters. Later, cartoonist Thomas Nast used the Democratic donkey in newspaper cartoons and made the symbol famous.

Nast invented another famous symbol—the Republican elephant. In a cartoon that appeared in Harper's Weekly in 1874, Nast drew a donkey clothed in lion's skin, scaring away all the animals at the zoo. One of those animals, the elephant, was labeled “The Republican Vote.” That's all it took for the elephant to become associated with the Republican Party.
Democrats today say the donkey is smart and brave, while Republicans say the elephant is strong and dignified.
Latest News On The USA

Mid term elections for the House of Representatives: on Tuesday 7th November 2006.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is the first female to become a speaker for the House.

Thursday, November 02, 2006
Language Curiosities

Euouae, a medieval music term, is the longest word in English that contains only vowels. It’s also the word with the most consecutive vowels.

Screeched, which means to make a harsh sound, is the longest one-syllable word in English.

Unprosperousness, meaning not wealthy or profitable, is the longest word in English in which each letter is used at least two times.

At 45 letters, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, which refers to a lung disease, is often considered the longest word in English.

Feedback is the shortest word in English that has the letters a, b, c, d, e, and f.

No words in English rhyme with : month, orange, silver or purple.

“Q” is the only letter that does not occur in any of the U.S. state names.

Maine is the only U.S. state whose name is just one syllable.

Bookkeeper is the only English word that has three consecutive double letters.

The sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is a pangram, which is a sentence that uses every letter of the alphabet.

Fact Monster/Information Please® Database, © 2005 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
Most Widely Spoken Languages in the World

Language / Approx. number of speakers

1. Chinese (Mandarin) - 1,075,000,000
2. English - 514,000,000
3. Hindustani * - 496,000,000
4. Spanish - 425,000,000
5. Russian - 275,000,000
6. Arabic - 256,000,000
7. Bengali - 215,000,000
8. Portuguese - 194,000,000
9. Malay-Indonesian - 176,000,000
10. French - 129,000,000

Source: Ethnologue, 13th Edition, and other sources.

* Encompasses multiple dialects, including Hindi and Urdu.

The Top 10 worst polluted places in the world are:

1. Chernobyl, Ukraine
2. Dzerzhinsk, Russia
3. Haina, Dominican Republic
4. Kabwe, Zambia
5. La Oroya, Peru
6. Linfen, China
7. Maiuu Suu, Kyrgyzstan
8. Norilsk, Russia
9. Ranipet, India
10. Rudnaya Pristan/Dalnegorsk, Russia

Top 10 Worst Polluted Sites Serve as Examples of Widespread Problems. Russia leads the list of eight nations, with three of the 10 worst polluted sites. Other sites were chosen because they are examples of problems found in many places around the world. For example, Haina, Dominican Republic has severe lead contamination—a problem that is common in many poor countries. Linfen, China is just one of several Chinese cities choking on industrial air pollution. And Ranipet, India is a nasty example of serious groundwater pollution by heavy metals.

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The purpose of this blog is to encourage you, students, to use your English, or should we say your Englishes? , to exchange ideas, opinions , materials ... on a variety of topics you have to study at school and on current events. By giving you the opportunity to express youselves freely, we hope to get to know you better and to develop your critical thinking, your autonomy and your communicative skills. Have fun!

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