Saturday, March 31, 2012

Gorilla Genes Give Clues to Origin of Human Characteristics

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. decode (v.) 
[dee-kohd] – to understand or interpret a code
Example: It is difficult to decode the hidden meaning in his letter.

2. link (n.) [lingk] – a connection or a relationship between two things that affect each other
Example: There is a link between the academic background of an employee and his work performance.

3. match (n.) [mach] – one that is a perfect pair of another
Example: Puzzles are solved by finding the match of each piece.

4. anatomical (adj.) [an-uh-tom-i-kuhl] – related to the body structure of an organism
Example: He performed an anatomical comparison of four-legged animals.

5. ancestor (n.) [an-ses-ter or, especially Brit., -suh-ster] – a relative from which one came from
Example: Apes, whose features resemble man’s, are said to be our ancestors.

Read the text below.

Researchers from Cambridge University in the UK have finally decoded the gorilla genome, which may help them discover how humans have come to understand the concepts of language, culture and science.

The scientists compared 11,000 genes of one female western lowland gorilla to genes of humans, chimpanzees and orangutans.

As past studies have shown, chimpanzees have the closest genetic link to humans, with 99% DNA similarity.  Next are gorillas with 98%, and then orangutans with 97% similar DNA to humans.

However, according to the new study, 15% of the human genome is more similar to the gorilla than to the chimpanzee. In addition, although humans still have the closest overall genetic match with chimpanzees, humans have more individual genes like those of gorillas. These genes allow gorillas to have more human abilities than other apes, such as better hearing.

The researchers also learned about the anatomical changes in each ape species, as they evolved from a common ancestor. By comparing such genetic evidence from all Great Ape species, researchers hope they can solve the mystery of how humans genetically became capable of higher thinking.

Now, researchers are planning to study the bonobo, the only Great Ape whose genome has not yet been decoded. The bonobo is closely related to chimpanzees, and scientists believe they will also reveal genes that are very similar to those of humans.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Do you believe that humans evolved from apes? Why or why not?
·         What other similarities can you point out between apes and humans?

Discussion B

·         What do you think is the importance of genomics or the study of an organism’s genes?
·         Do you think it will have a negative effect in the future? Why or why not?


Friday, March 30, 2012

Researchers Say Sleep Gets Better as One Ages

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. equipment (n.) – set of tools or devices used for a special purpose
Example: The clinic is complete with all the necessary medical equipment.

2. complaint (n.) –  expression of one’s dissatisfaction, pain, anger and other such emotion
Example:   Customers can make a complaint if they do not like the restaurant’s service.

3. adjust (v.) – to change something for a better fit or match
Example: The employee adjusted his schedule so that he could work in another part-time job.

4. drawback (n.) – disadvantage; something that may cause problems
Example: Cutting trees has environmental drawbacks.

5. myth (n.) – something many believe to be true but is usually false
Example:  It is only a myth that dreams come true.

Read the text below.

According to a US study, the belief that older people have worse sleeping patterns may only be a myth.

Researchers from the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania surveyed 150,000 adults via telephone. The subjects were asked about the quality of their sleep, as well as their race, income, education, mood and general health.

The data were then adjusted to make up for poor health and depression, both of which affect sleep, and a clear relation between age and sleep quality was seen.

The results showed that apart from people in their 40s, older adults actually feel better about their sleep. Researchers learned that complaints about poor sleep decreased as age increased, with the least number of complaints coming from adults 70 years old and above.

Meanwhile, adults over 80 years old reported the best sleep.  However, middle-aged people said their sleep quality was generally poor.

Usually, sleep studies use equipment to measure how long and how well a person is able to sleep. But equipment data do not always match study volunteers’ opinions about the quality of their sleep.  This is why the new study tried to ask only about sleep quality.

Dr. Michael Grandner said it is also possible that even if the older adults really did get poor sleep, they did not feel too bad about it.

Other sleep experts find the study interesting; although the drawback of the results is that the subjects’ moods during the survey may have affected their answers.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         How do you feel about aging? Do you worry about it?
·         Should people be afraid of aging? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         What do you feel when you lack sleep?
·         What do you do when you did not get enough sleep?


Luxury Fashion for Men Becomes More Popular

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. luxury (adj.) – something expensive but not necessarily important
Example: Buying luxury clothes on a tight budget is not wise.

2. board (n.) – a group of people who manages a business or organization
ExampleBoardof directors makes the final decision on company issues.

3. nurturing (adj.) – able and willing to help others grow
Example: Mothers are nurturing by nature.

4. recession (n.) – a period in which economic activity, like buying and selling, is decreased
Example: Profits decrease during economic recession.

5. high-end (adj.) – (informal) expensive, top-quality
Example: Only rich families can afford high-end products.

Read the text below.

It is a common belief that luxury fashion mostly targets women. But men are now becoming more interested in luxury fashion, says Antoine Arnault, son of one of Europe's richest men and board member of luxury group LVMH.

According to consultancy firm Bain & Company, there was a 14% increase in global menswear spending in 2011. Many say this growing popularity of men’s luxury fashion has allowed the luxury industry to survive despite the European recession. For Arnault, this just shows that men today give importance to quality and craft.

Arnault is CEO of Berluti, a brand under the LVMH group, which also manages brands like Louis Vuitton and Moet & Chandon. Berluti aims to be at the top end of the market, with its global and stylish clothing products. Its products are certainly high-end—Berluti shoes can take almost 20 hours for craftsmen in Italy to produce.

Berluti products, Arnault says, are for unique men who travel often. He describes the “Berluti man” as a man of any nationality, who often flies to cities like New York and Paris.

Additionally, Berluti receives financial support and advice from LVMH senior management. Arnault says this kind of nurturing environment will surely contribute to the promising future of the brand.

As long as Berluti is part of the luxury group, Arnault predicts that the brand and other LVMH brands will continue to be successful even a hundred years from now. 

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Why do you think luxury fashion sells despite economic problems?
·         What are the possible reasons for men’s sudden interest in luxury fashion?

Discussion B

·         How can a company remain strong for years?
·         Does quality matters more than quantity for companies that sell products or services? Please explain further.  


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chinese May Replace English as the Universal Language

Unlocking Word Meanings 
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. overtake (v.)-  to move ahead something
Example: With his incredible strength and speed, the athlete overtook the defending champion.

2. domination (n.) – state of becoming the most known or most important
Example: With its rising economy, China continues its domination in the world market.

3. strenuous (adj.) – requiring much effort; difficult
ExampleStrenuous training is needed to become a judo expert.

4. phase out (phrasal verb) – to slowly bring or to come to an end
Example: Some machines are soon phased out with the release of better models.

5. resist (v.) – to fight against accepting or doing something
Example: The people are resisting the cultural influence brought by the foreigners.

Read the text below.

Because of China’s rising economic power, many people believe Mandarin Chinese will one day overtake English as the world’s most spoken language. However, the popularity of English is not slowing down just yet.

In Singapore, English is already a national language. But the business potential in China has made companies start looking for more Mandarin speakers rather than English speakers. The government has also been giving some financial support to students who want to study Mandarin.

But Mandarin’s global domination may take time.  Even in China’s neighboring Southeast Asian countries, like Malaysia and Vietnam, many would still prefer to study English.

In Malaysia, around 15,000 children from southern Johor take two-hour bus rides to Singapore every day, to go to a school where subjects are taught in English.

The strenuous travel is worth it, mothers say, as they feel the value of English in Malaysia has declined. Since the British left Malaysia in 1957, local schools that teach English have been phased out.

Vietnam, on the other hand, resists promoting Chinese languages for emotional reasons. The country’s history involves 2000 years of fighting against China’s invaders. They are learning English instead for the sake of economic progress, though they have not forgotten the scars left by the Vietnam War against the US.

While many argue on which language will be more successful, Manoj Vohra, Asia director at the Economist Intelligence Unit, says both languages will likely be equally important in the future.

Viewpoint Discussion 
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         In your opinion, will Mandarin Chinese dominate English in the future?
·         If you were to choose between these two languages, which will you study? Why?

Discussion B
·         Which do you think determines the dominant language: culture or economics?
·         What do you think makes English the universal language?


Adele Brings Home Six Grammy Awards

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. nominate (v.) – to choose someone for a certain position or award
Example: We nominated the top student in class to be president.

2. standing ovation (n.) – happens when an entire audience stands and claps for an excellent performance
Example: After playing a very difficult piece, the pianist received a standing ovation.

3. postpone (v.) – to delay until a certain time
Example: The officers postponed the meeting and moved it the day after next.

4. tribute (n.) – an act or object given to show gratitude or respect
Example: The children offered a song as a tribute to their teachers.

5. posthumous (adj.) – happening or continuing after one’s death
Example: The publishing company released the writer’s posthumous book a year after he died.

Read the text below.

The 54th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles brought many amazing performances, but singer Adele, conquered the show, winning a total of six prizes that night.

Adele’s album, “21,” won Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album. Meanwhile, her song “Rolling in the Deep” won Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Short Form Music Video. The British singer was also awarded Best Pop Solo Performance for the song “Someone Like You.” She won all the titles she was nominated for.

In her award speech, she said her album was inspired by a bad relationship, something many people have experienced.

She sang “Rolling in the Deep” and received a standing ovation from the audience. It was her first time performing again after her throat surgery, which forced her to postpone all her live concerts last year. Adele expressed thanks to the doctors who brought her voice back.

Next to Adele in number of awards was rock band Foo Fighters, who received five prizes, while artist Kanye West won four.

Apart from its wins, the awards night would be remembered for its tributes to singers who had passed away. Jennifer Hudson performed “I Will Always Love You” to honor singer Whitney Houston, who died a day before the event.

Amy Winehouse, who died in July last year, was also remembered and given a posthumous award.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Should artists, like singers, aim for awards? Why or why not?
·         How do awards like the Grammy’s help artists?

Discussion B

·         Are awards a good measure of one’s talent? Why or why not?
·         What for you is a talented artist?


Monday, March 26, 2012

Former F1 Champion is Set on Winning 2012 Title

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. streak (n.) – a series of wins or losses
Example I had a streak of bad luck today.

2. snag (v.) – to grab; to win, by quick action or luck
Example The lucky customer snagged a major prize in the lottery.

3. subpar (adj.) – below the normal level
Example: Lack of practice leads to subpar performance.

4. support system (n.) – a person or a group who provides help or encouragement
Example: My parents were my support system during the most difficult part of my career.

5. mindset (n.) – a way of thinking
Example: An athlete’s mindset during a game determines his victory.

Read the text below.

Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton is hoping to regain his former glory after a streak of losses from 2009 to 2011.

Hamilton, 27, snagged the F1 world championship title in 2008. He said that he spent the past few months thinking about his mistakes—and how he could make up for them.

The British racer attributed his subpar performance last year to the wrong combination of people in his management team. Hamilton was previously managed by his father, Anthony, but they ended their professional relationship in 2010.

Because of this, Hamilton and his racing team McLaren invited Didier Coton, a long-time friend of Hamilton, to join his management.  Coton is an experienced F1 manager, best known for being the former manager of two-time F1 champion Mika Hakkinen.

According to Hamilton, working with Coton should take him a step closer to his goal of winning the world title again. Hamilton also said that his new support system would help him focus and try to keep a positive mindset throughout this year’s Formula One races.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         What sport do you consider as the most challenging? Please explain your answer.
·         Would you be willing to try a challenging sport like car racing? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         What are the difficulties of working professionally with one’s family?
·         If you were an athlete, would you consider adding a family member to your management team? Why or why not?