David, You Are In Hot Water

David-Cameron-007

The PM of the United Kingdom, David Cameron announced his proposal for new immigration controls for the United Kingdom. Among the most controversial points of the new policy are his plan to cut immigrant healthcare and unemployment benefits.

Cameron bases his policy on what he calls the “culture of something for nothing” that has taken the nation by storm. According to Cameron, immigrants from the European Economic Area  have been signing up for unemployment benefits, while neglecting to even seek or apply for new jobs.

In order to stem the new wave of “something for nothing” immigration, he plans to cut unemployment benefits to said immigrants and also vows to bill immigrants directly for any healthcare or medical attention received. If not, he says that member nations should be responsible for covering healthcare expenses they receive in the UK.

But his new plan to curtail immigration has received serious opposition and complaints from other council members and EU member countries.

Watch the entire proposal in English and see what you think.

Keep in mind the following questions and give us your opinion:

1) Does this new proposal sound fair and just? Or is this just another way  for the UK to dissuade immigrants from entering the UK to begin with?

2) How will this new policy affect EU citizens seeking job opportunities abroad?

Just click here to view:

PM Cameron Offers His Proposal to Crackdown on Immigration in UK

Useful Terms:

to announce: v. , to make public

controversial: adj., causing controversy or misunderstanding

to base: v., to found, to formulate

to take by storm: v., to rapidly grow suddenly

to sign up for: v., to register

to stem: v., to stop, to prevent

to vow: v., to promise

to cover expenses: to pay for any bills

to curtail: to drastically reduce or decrease

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Posted in B1 - Intermediate English, B2 - Upper Intermediate (Advanced English), C1 - Proficiency, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trouble in Paradise: Hands Off Cyprus

Cyprus_2515762b

Leaders of the World Monetary Fund, along with board members of the ECB (European Central Bank) meet today to decide the fate of Cyprus.

Cyprus is in deep financial trouble. The government is against an intervention or rescue from the EU or European Union, but it is clear they have no alternative.

VOCABULARY:

trouble: problems

paradise: a heavenly place, a place of pleasure and happiness

Hands off!: Don’t touch! (No tocar)

World Monetary Fund: n – the world institution in charge of economic rules (el FMI o fondo monetario internacional)

ECB – European Central Bank: n. – most important bank in Europe

the fate: n. the future

to be in deep financial trouble: v. to have monetary problems

to be clear: v. to be evident

alternative: n. choice, option

Posted in A1 - Beginners English, A2 - Waystage English (Pre-Intermediate) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spain Richer Than Germany Says Bundesbank

BUNDESBANK

Unbelievable, but true. A new report from the German Central Bank, or as it is called, the “Bundesbank”, has announced that, according to their calculatons,  Spaniards are 33% richer than Germans.

According to them, Germans can only dream about possessing the wealth and prosperity enjoyed by the Spaniards.” But how could this possibly be true?

Stats offered by the Bundesbank cite the enormous patrimony accumulated by Spanish families, including properties, cars and objects of priceless artistic value: Spaniards enjoy an average net patrimony of 285,000 euros, while in Germany this average falls to some 195,000 euros.

Surprisingly, the report makes no mention of the overvaluation of Spanish properties that have fallen almost 30% on average from the moment they were purchased. The report does not take into account another important fact: most of these properties which are attributed to private owners are currently owned by banks, due to the real estate crisis and rise in evictions and debt default.

On the other hand – truth be told – the percentage of German homeowners is a scanty 44% compared to the astounding 82% of home ownership in Spain. This fact is largely due to the German tendency to rent, rather than to own their own home. On the surface this may seem like a disadvantage – living in someone else’s home strikes fear into the minds of Spanish families. However, the important savings in maintenance costs and real estate taxes speaks volumes to German prosperity.

Just a couple of years ago, the Bundesbank considered home ownership as a poor option to business growth. When putting together this report, this same bank should have realized what they have been preaching to the rest of Europe: “accumulating debt doesn’t necessarily mean you are rich.”

The German central bank offers the following reflection: The average German family disposes of 51,400 euros, while the average Spanish family (according to them) disposes of an annual net patrimony of over 178,000 euros. (No wonder we haven’t already been rescued!)

The same study compares the existing conditions of inequality between rich and poor, yet it neglects to include the fact that paying the bills in Spain is not as cheap as it is in Germany, where families receive substantial financial assistance in the form of subsidies and what not in the form of children’s dental care and the 170 euros each German family perceives per child every month!

To put things in perspective, a Spanish couple would have to have 15 children and earn less than 35,620 euros to even come close to receiving the amount a Geman couple with two children receives in subsidies for healthcare and benefits from the German government.

USEFUL TERMS:

to announce: to make public, to speak in public about something

to cite: to give as an example

average: the median, the most common considering all the numbers

to make no mention of: to not say anything about

to attribute to: to make reference to

default: failure to pay

“truth be told” – to tell you the truth, to tell you the real story

home ownership: owning a house

real estate: referring to properties: houses, chalets, land

to speak volumes: to say a lot about

“no wonder”: why should anyone have any doubt

to neglect: to not do, to fail to do something

to put things in perspective: to give you the real picture

Posted in A2 - Waystage English (Pre-Intermediate), B1 - Intermediate English, B2 - Upper Intermediate (Advanced English), C1 - Proficiency | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

All Is Well on the Eastern Front?

All Is Well on the Eastern Front?

North Korea prepares to attack

North Korea prepares to attack (Feb. 2013)

China has appealed for calm on the Korean peninsula, hours after North Korea said it had scrapped all peace pacts with the South and threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes.

China, the North’s only major ally, said all sides should continue to talk and avoid “further escalation“.

Pyongyang has reacted angrily to another round of sanctions imposed by the UN over its recent nuclear test. The sanctions restrict luxury goods imports and banking activities. Beijing provides fuel, food and diplomatic cover to Pyongyang. It has repeatedly voted in favour of UN sanctions imposed over the nuclear programme, but enforcement of the measures in China is patchy.

Hua Chunying of China’s foreign ministry told a news conference on Friday: “China and North Korea have normal country relations. At the same time, we also oppose North Korea’s conducting of nuclear tests.

The threatened pre-emptive nuclear strike seems more bluff than reality, since the North’s leaders know it would be suicidal, and an attack on the US seems impracticable given the still technically rudimentary quality of the North’s ballistic missile programme and the unproven state of its nuclear miniaturisation technology needed to place a nuclear warhead atop a missile.

A more troubling possibility is that the North might choose – out of irritation with the UN – to precipitate a border clash with South Korea, either on land or sea, as it did in 2010.

Will sanctions persuade or provoke?

“China calls on the relevant parties to be calm and exercise restraint and avoid taking any further action that would cause any further escalations.”

Chinese and US officials drafted the UN resolution passed on Thursday.

It contains similar measures to earlier resolutions, but the US said it had significantly strengthened the enforcement mechanisms.

In response, the North Korean regime published a message on the official KCNA news agency saying it had cancelled all non-aggression pacts with the South.

The two Koreas have signed a range of agreements over the years, including a 1991 pact on resolving disputes and avoiding military clashes.

However, analysts say the deals have had little practical effect.

The KCNA report detailed other measures including:

  • cutting off the North-South hotline, saying there was “nothing to talk to the puppet group of traitors about”
  • closing the main Panmunjom border crossing inside the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two countries
  • pulling out of the armistice that ended the Korean War.

The North also claimed it had a right to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against its enemies.

The threat drew an angry response from the South’s defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok, who said that the North would become “extinct from the Earth by the will of mankind” if it took such an action.

The US State Department said such “extreme rhetoric” was not unusual, but said the US was well-protected.

USEFUL TERMS:

to appeal for: to ask for again

to scrap: to desist, to stop

escalation: an increase or rise

a round: a number of

to impose: to apply to

enforcement: making sure the rules or laws are followed

patchy: vague

bluff: a deception or lie

unproven: without being tested or proved

clash: a fight or friction between

restraint: the act of desisting or placing obstacles to the probability that something occurs

drafted: to put together, to come up with, to print

cutting off: separating

pulling out of: to exit or leave

to draw a response: to invite an answer to

rhetoric: language used, terms

Posted in B2 - Upper Intermediate (Advanced English), C1 - Proficiency, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

You Have No Shame!

You Have No Shame

valdes

Last Saturday night, the goalkeeper for FC Barcelona Victor Valdes lost his cool after the final whistle of the game between Madrid and Barcelona. In a rant of anger and disgust, he repeatedly insulted the referee, shouting at him in his face: “You have no shame! You screwed up and you know it!

But Barcelona’s “keen-eyed” goalkeeper, at a distance of 70 meters when the referee failed to whistle an apparent penalty in favour of Barcelona, continued on after the incident, shouting “You Have No Shame”, reminiscent of the “Yes We Can!” of Barack Obama.

But aside from the alleged penalty that went unnoticed by the referee was the irony of the words coming from the mouth of a Spanish footballer: “You have no shame!” The fact of the matter is that football in Spanish society has not only not lost its popularity, but also even seems to be enjoying its own particular August in Spain, despite the crisis.

So what gives? Is football so important to us that we have to spend millions of euros televising and attending these sporting events, while thousands upon thousands in Spain lose their homes, their jobs, their dignity and in some sad cases, their very lives?

Case in point: FC Barcelona and R. Madrid

Together, only these two teams have a market value of roughly, 2.427 thousands of millions. That may sound like a lot of money, and to be fair, IT IS! Just these two teams represent 2,7% of the entire National Debt of Spain. So is football important? You bet it is.

So why do we insist on investing valuable time and money in football? It’s only a sport, you know. Let’s remind our readers of some rather disgusting, but relevant facts: Between these two clubs, there are two of the highest paid players of all Spain, which ranks number 2 in the world’s highest salaries for footballers.

We all know who they are: Leo Messi for FC Barcelona, chiming in at 33 million euros, and CR (Cristiano Ronaldo) making a cool 29 million. These are the top number one and number three players on the list of the worldest highest-paid players in the world. Not a bad duo, representing 15 percent and 2 percent of the total value of each club respectively.

So where is the diversification in the Spanish league? Why are we putting all our eggs in two baskets? The real story behind all of this is the battle for television rights and more importantly, the cost of televising these events. These events cost television magnates a fortune, just because of their entertainment value. But as the Spanish league becomes more and more “bipolar” (either Barcelona or Madrid winning national championships), will the Spanish public start to or at least, partially lose interest in football?

What would happen if there were a referendum in Spain to liquidate football teams?

If public money and private money were invested into legitimate Spanish businesses, Spain would most assuredly have no crisis in sight. The fact of the matter is that we continue to “shamefully” invest money and time in entertainment, while turning our heads to avoid the sight of our fellow citizens who suffer evictions, unemployment, and a dismal outlook for the future. “You have no shame?” – Yes, indeed, politicians, footballers, and average citizens….. have no shame.

  • to lose your cool: to lose your composure or temper
  • a rant: a moment of rage
  • to screw up: to make a mistake
  • to whistle: to indicate a penalty or foul via whistle, to signal
  • roughly: approximately
  • alleged: supposed
  • magnates: leaders or important owners
EXPRESSIONS:
  • So what gives?: So what seems to be the problem?
  • You bet it is! : Of course, it is!
  • to put all your eggs in one basket: to not diversify
Posted in B1 - Intermediate English, B2 - Upper Intermediate (Advanced English), C1 - Proficiency | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Spanish Leeway?

spain euro

Madrid looks much further off track.

Spain, in recession last year and seen shrinking again this year, was asked last July to cut its structural deficit by 2.7 points in 2012 to 4.3 percent of GDP and by 2.5 points in 2013.

Commission data showed it came nowhere near doing so, and will fall short again in 2013.

Yet Rehn signaled Madrid’s efforts may be seen positively when the Commission decides in May whether to grant more time to governments or to step up disciplinary action.

“In the case of Spain, its seems that the structural fiscal effort has been undertaken and there has been also an unexpected shortfall of growth,” he said.

One of Spain’s main problems is a record high level of unemployment which is to reach almost 27 percent of the workforce this year. Joblessness in the whole euro zone is set to peak at 12.2 percent, or more than 19 million people, in 2013, the Commission said.

Germany will remain the motor of the euro zone economy, expanding 0.5 percent this year and 2.0 percent in 2014, while the second biggest economy of France stagnates and third biggest Italy only emerges from recession next year.

France will also miss its nominal deficit targets – this year’s shortfall will be 3.7 percent rather than the 3.0 percent agreed with the EU, because of the weaker than expected growth.

But Paris hit its nominal deficit target last year and cut its structural deficit by more than required. It could repeat that feat this year.

Commission forecasts showed Portugal’s headline budget deficit rose to 5.0 percent of GDP last year from 4.4 in 2011 and will only ease to 4.9 percent this year, unless policies are altered.

But Portugal’s GDP is now seen shrinking almost twice as much as previously this year — 1.9 percent instead of 1 percent.

“I think it would not be surprising if there was an opening on behalf of the European Commission,” Passos Coelho said.

VOCABULARY:

leeway: room for improvement, more time to do something; more room to maneuvre

structural deficit: budget deficit that results from a fundamental imbalance in government receipts and expenditures

GDP: Gross Domestic Product

to fall short: to not reach

to grant: to concede

to step up: to increase

to undertake: to do, to begin to do

shortfall: a reduction

workforce: the people working

to set: to establish

to peak:  to reach a high point, to reach  a maximum

to stagnate: to remain unchanged, to neither increase nor decrease

to emerge: to rise

feat: accomplishment, a major achievement

to ease: to slow down

to alter: to change

on behalf of: in representation of

 

 

 

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Eurozone in Recession Until 2014

Image

The euro zone will not return to growth until 2014 and struggling Spain and France will be among those who miss debt-cutting targets as a result, the European Commission said on Friday.

Paris and Lisbon said they would seek more time from Brussels to reach their deficit goals. Madrid has already indicated the same.

The EU’s executive said the euro zone economy, which generates nearly a fifth of global output, would shrink 0.3 percent in 2013 after a 0.6 percent fall last year, blaming a lack of bank lending and record joblessness for delaying the recovery.

VOCABULARY:

to return: (v.) to go back to

struggling: (adj.) fighting, trying to survive

to miss: (v.) to not obtain

target: (n.) objective

seek: (v.) to look for

reach: (v.) to get, to obtain

generate: (v.) to produce

output: (n.) production

shrink: (v.) to make smaller, to reduce

blame: (v.) to attribute fault, to assign guilt

lend: (v.) to give to someone temporarily, waiting for the same in return

joblessness: (n.) unemployment, not having a job

delay: (v.) a short interval of time before beginning

recovery: (n.) recuperation, returning to another state

Posted in B1 - Intermediate English, B2 - Upper Intermediate (Advanced English) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment