Sunday, September 30, 2012

Study Says Organic Food Not Healthier than Regular Food

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

1. organic (adj.) 
[awr-gan-ik] – not making use of chemicals
ExampleOrganic fruits are expensive, but they are also very delicious.

2. conventional (adj.) [kuh n-ven-shuh-nl] – standard, ordinary or common
Example: Using chemicals is a conventional way to protect plants from pests.

3. contaminant (n.) [kuh n-tam-uh-nuh nt] – something that makes another thing unclean or unsafe
Example: I try to carefully wash vegetables to remove contaminants. 

4. residue (n.) [rez-i-doo, -dyoo] –something that stays or remains on something
Example: We could see oil residues from the used frying pan.

5. anecdote (n.) [an-ik-doht] – a short report of an interesting event
Example: He shared an anecdote about what happened during his dinner with friends.

Read the text below.

A study by researchers from Stanford University and Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System suggests that organic food is not healthier or more nutritious than conventional food products.

Lead author Dr. Crystal Smith-Spangler and her colleagues studied over 200 works that assessed the health of people who ate organic food. Researchers also looked at studies that compared the levels of nutrients and contaminants found in both organic and conventional poultry, eggs, milk, vegetables, fruits and grains.

The results showed that the nutritional content of organic and conventional food was the same, although organic food had only a little more phosphorous, a nutrient that builds strong bones. A few studies also said organic chicken and milk might have more omega-3 fatty acids which are also beneficial to health.

The research said that only 7% of the organic food in the studies had pesticide residue, while residue was found on more than 33% of the conventional food samples.

According to the researchers, the level of chemical residue in both conventional and organic food is often within the limit set by the US Department of Agriculture. As such, it can be hard to tell how the difference in levels of chemical residue in both foods affects people’s health.

Despite the study’s results, many people remain supporters of organic food. Chensheng Lu, a student at the Harvard School of Public Health, said Smith-Spangler’s study was based only on anecdotes. It did not prove that conventional food is safer. He believes that until more studies are done, choosing organic food is still the best way to protect one’s health.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Do you believe that organic food is better than regular food? Why do you say so?
·         Would you still want to buy organic food if it would be proven to have just the same health benefits as regular food?

Discussion B

·         What is the most important factor to consider when buying food (e.g., price, taste, health benefits, etc.)? Please explain your answer.
·         How can we encourage people to buy and to eat healthier food?


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Astronauts Train in Caves for Spaceflights

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

1. astronaut (n.) 
[as-truh-nawt, -not] – a pilot a crew member on a spacecraft
Example: He dreams of becoming an astronaut and exploring the space.

2. simulation (n.) [sim-yuh-ley-shuhn] – anything that is made to look like, act like or feel like something else
Example: Military simulations help soldiers practice for actual war scenarios.

3. orbiting (adj.) [awr-bit-ing] – moving around something else
Example: The orbiting moons around the planets were discovered many years ago.

4. seclude (v.) [si-klood] – to keep apart from others
Example: The children’s room is secluded from the adults’ area.

5. survey (v.) [ser-vey– to make a detailed study or check of something
Example: The engineer surveyed the area for any damages.

Read the text below.

Astronauts from different international space agencies went deep into the caves of Sardinia in Italy for survival training and preparation for their next spaceflight.

This training is part of the CAVES project, which stands for Cooperative Adventure for Valuing and Exercising human behavior and performance Skills. The project allows astronauts to work together and help each other through problems and challenging situations.

Caves provide a good simulation of the environment in an orbiting spacecraft, since caves are dark and secluded from the world. In caves, astronauts can experience the discomfort and lack of privacy that they will also likely experience in space.

The team includes astronauts from NASA, European Space Agency, Russia, Japan and Canada. Three of the team’s members already have spaceflight experiences.

The astronauts went down the cave last September 6 and stayed for six days. They tested safety routines and communication systems similar to what they would use in outer space.

Aside from exploring the cave, they also surveyed life forms in the cave, as astronauts would do if they were to go to other planets.

Test courses for the CAVES project began in 2008. In 2011, five astronauts from NASA, ESA, Russian and Japanese agencies participated in the project.

Aside from CAVES, several other space simulation programs exist to train astronauts for difficult space conditions. NASA, for example, is operating its own undersea training mission called NEEMO or NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations Program.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Why should astronauts have a lot of practice at helping each other solve problems?
·         Have you ever helped or worked with others to get through a difficult situation? How did it go?

Discussion B

·         Have you tried practicing or preparing very hard for something? What did you do?
·         Why is training and preparation important?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Olympics Fail to Increase Sales in UK Shops

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

1. retail (adj.) 
[ree-teyl] – pertains to sale of goods in small quantities directly to customers
Example: She opened a retail store for clothes and fashion items.

2. contrary (adj.) [kon-trer-ee] – very different; quite the opposite
Example: The success of London Olympics is contrary to the bad forecast of some newspapers.

3. opt (v.) [opt] – to choose one thing instead of another
Example: She opted to buy the red dress instead of the yellow one for her birthday party.

4. broadcast (n.) [brawd-kast, -kahst] – to show or to transmit message or information through radio or television
Example: There will be a live television broadcast of the band’s concert.

5. vacancy (n.) [vey-kuhn-see] –  the  availability of rooms or space for use
Example: The vacancy rates in hotels decreased because of many tourists visiting the country.

Read the text below.

The Olympic games that ended last August caused a drop in UK retail sales, contrary to hopes that the games would help British economy.

In a survey by the British Retail Consortium, retail sales decreased by 0.4% compared to the figures from the same month last 2011. Data also show that the sales in August were the weakest since November last year.

Instead of encouraging people to shop, the Olympics led people to just stay home and watch the games.

But even online shopping experienced the lowest growth since October 2008. The decline was evident during evenings, when residents opted to watch broadcasts of Olympic events rather than go online shopping.

Other products like clothes for women also had low sales, although women’s shoe sales were higher compared to men’s footwear. The number of shop visitors, specifically in central London, also significantly decreased during this period.

Not surprisingly, the sales of food and drinks increased as a result of the Olympics plus the hot summer weather. However, these products had poor sales during the rest of the year.

Overall, the situation of retail industry in Britain does not look good. Vacancy rates in London shops increased from January to June. According to Local Data Company, an average of 14.6% of retail shops in Britain is empty. This is mainly due to less consumer spending, popularity of online shops and stores moving out to expand.

BRC explained that the effect of the Olympics in the low retail sales should not cause panic, since other areas in the country are exhibiting better performance than in London.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         What do you think are the factors that can affect the sales of a store or a company?
·         What kinds of products usually sell the most in your country? Why do you think a lot of people buy these products?

Discussion B

·         Would you say the UK made a good investment by hosting the Olympics this year? Why or why not?
·         What are some of the long-term benefits that the UK may gain after hosting the Olympics?

Technology May Cause Vision Problems in Children

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

1. vision (n.)
[vizh-uhn] – ability of the eyes to see
Example: A child generally has better vision than  adults.

2. focus (n.) 
[foh-kuhs] – ability to see an object clearly or sharply
Example: Because elderly people have problems with focus, most cannot read the newspaper without eyeglasses.

3. glare (n.) 
[glair] – very bright light
Example: Sunglasses protect the eyes from the glare of the sun on a hot summer day.

4. coordination (n.) 
[koh-awr-dn-ey-shuhn] – ability of different parts (of the body) to move together at the same time
Example: Eye coordination is important when reading a book, because both eyes must move in the same direction at the same time across the page. 

5. optometric (adj.) 
[op-tom-i-treek] – relating to the eye
Example: The doctor prescribed eyeglasses after the optometric exam.

Read the text below.

More and more children are at risk of suffering from a health problem called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) as technology is increasingly used in classrooms.

Eye strain, blurred vision, loss of focus and attention, neck pain, double vision, and headaches are the known symptoms of CVS.

This condition happens because computer screens make the eyes work harder.  Computer screens give off glare and require the eye to look closely at images that are not as clear as those on paper. In addition, reading on the computer makes eye coordination difficult because computer screens are usually positioned a little higher than the normal reading position.  

Thirteen-year-old Casey Connelly who suffers from CVS says she often get “tired eyes” as most of her school work involves computers and electronic tablets. Some schools in the US are now using electronic devices not only for typical activities like typing but also for more advanced function such as storing text books.

This set-up requires students like Casey to work longer with computers.  The American Optometric Association (AOA) says that people who spend more than two continuous hours on the computer every day are most likely to develop CVS.

To avoid vision problems, Dr. Andrea Thau from AOA suggests taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes spent on the computer. Other tips include positioning the computer screen four to five inches below eye level and blinking often to keep the eyes from getting dry. An annual eye exam before the school year starts may also help students avoid CVS.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Do you think that computers and tablet devices are necessary tools in classroom education? Why or why not?
·         Aside from health problems, what can be the disadvantages of using computers in teaching students?

Discussion B

·         What other eye-care tips can you offer to better protect the eyes?
·         Is it possible to have good eyesight these days, when almost everything people do involves computers? Please explain your answer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Commercials Influence Unhappy Children to Want More Material Things

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

1. capitalize (v.) 
[kap-i-tl-ahyz] – take advantage of someone or something; to profit from someone
Example: Hackers capitalize on people who do not know how to keep their computer secure.

2. tween (n.) [tween] – an informal term for a child that has grown but is still too young to be considered a teenager
Example: Many of today’s tweens are already experts at using mobile phones and tablets.

3. possession (n.) [puh-zesh-uhn] – something that is owned
Example: The businessman’s most expensive possession is a car worth over a million dollars. 

4. materialism (n.) [muh-teer-ee-uh-liz-uhm] – a way of thinking in which material things matter the most
Example: Too much exposure to advertising can lead to materialism

5. life satisfaction (n. phrase) [lahyf sat-is-fak-shuhn] – how a person feels about his life
Example: A person’s life satisfaction should not be based only on wealth.

Read the text below.

Marketers often try to capitalize on tweens who believe the latest toys, gadgets or clothing can make them happy and popular. But a recent study in Netherlands shows that only unhappy tweens put high value on material possessions [puh-ZESH-uhns].

Lead researcher Suzanna Opree from the University of Amsterdam studied the connection between materialism and the happiness of tweens over a long time period.

The researchers asked 466 Dutch children, aged 8 to11, to answer questions about the level of their life satisfaction, their attitude towards possessions and the amount of time they spend on watching TV. Opree said this age group was chosen because the tween stage is when materialism starts to develop.

Researchers learned that children in the study became materialistic if they were unhappy and watched a lot of television. Opree said the reason for the result may be that these children want the happiness promised by products in commercials.

In contrast, materialism did not develop in happy children, even if they watched hours of TV.  Similarly, tweens with low life satisfaction who watched little TV were not very interested in possessions as well.

Opree believes parents are important in increasing children’s life satisfaction.  She advises parents to make children watch less TV if the children seem to be developing materialism. She says adults should discuss anything negative they see on advertisements with tweens to lessen tweens’ desire for the products.  

In the US, the total yearly spending of tweens amounts to $28 billion, while parents spend $200 billion each year on their tween children.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Do you think it is natural for children to want so many things these days? What makes you say so?
·         What are some other ways to teach children not to be materialistic?

Discussion B

·         Can you describe something you own that you care a lot about? Why is it special to you?
·         How can we stop ourselves from wanting or buying more things than we need?