Thursday, 17 November 2011

Sky garages for the uber-rich

Residents of one New York building pay a premium to park their cars in private garages directly outside their apartment doors.

Google opens online music store and free storage locker

Google opened an online music store and a free Web storage locker on Wednesday for listening to tracks from computers, tablets and phones, the company announced at a news conference in Los Angeles.

The music store sells songs and albums for prices comparable to iTunes and Amazon MP3, but Google's catalog is smaller. The storefront can be found in the Android Market, an application and website where Google smartphone users can download apps.

Songs purchased from the store are automatically uploaded to Google Music, a locker that can be accessed from an app coming to recent Android phones and tablets in the next few days, or from a website. They allow users to stream songs from their various devices.

The Google locker service launched to a small group in May, and it opened to everyone in the United States on Wednesday. Google Music is free for storing as many as 20,000 songs.

More than half of all smartphones sold worldwide in the last quarter run Google's Android software, according to market research firm Gartner. Google said more than 200 million devices have been activated.

But in the music download market, Apple is king, selling more than half of all U.S. downloads through its iTunes Store, analysts say.

Apple took steps to broaden its offering with the launch of iTunes Match on Monday. ITunes Match is similar to Google Music in that it allows customers to store their music catalogs, up to 25,000 songs, on Apple's servers and access them from their computers, iPhones and iPads. Match costs $25 per year.

Google executives announce the Google Music store and locker at a news conference in Los Angeles."At Google, digital music has become fundamental to many things we care very much about," Jamie Rosenberg, Google's director of content for Android, said onstage at the news conference. "Other cloud music services think you have to pay to listen to the music you own. We don't."

ITunes Match has a technological leg up on Google because subscribers can upload their libraries much more quickly. That's thanks to Apple's deals with the music labels that allow it to provide customers with access to the high-quality versions of songs that iTunes sells. With Google Music or's Cloud Drive, users with a lot of music may have to wait several days for their entire catalogs to upload.

The iTunes Store has about 20 million songs, whereas Google has 8 million. Google has signed deals with three of the big four record labels. Warner Music Group, the third largest, whose musicians include Death Cab for Cutie, the Grateful Dead, Muse and T-Pain, is a holdout. Even without Warner, Google said it will add 5 million songs over the next several months.

Customers of T-Mobile USA's cellular network will be able to charge songs to their phone bills rather than setting up a Google account with a credit card.

After buying a song through Google Music, customers can share the track on the Google+ social network. Not surprisingly, Google Music will not integrate with Facebook Music, the aggregation service that launched recently from Google's social-network rival.

Google claims that, unlike other music stores, people who find songs through Google+ will be able to listen to each one in full for free one time before they buy. ITunes only provides 90-second previews. Google has also secured exclusive access to live records from popular bands including Coldplay and the Rolling Stones. Apple is still the only music-download store that has the Beatles.

The day's top showbiz news and headlines

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Quiz: Reported Speech

Gizmodo's Editor-in-chief Joe Brown reviews the Kindle Fire

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

"Brazil cost" may dim Foxconn's iPad dreams

Sun, Oct 30 2011

If the officials in the industrial town of Jundiai get their way to build the road, it will soon be named Steve Jobs road -- in homage to the late Apple Inc co-founder.

Brazil's government has loudly proclaimed a deal it says is worth $12 billion for Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn to produce iPads and build a whole new industry based around screens used in an array of consumer electronics from smartphones to televisions.

But the infamous "Brazil cost" -- shorthand for the bureaucracy and high taxes that plague business in the country -- is already overshadowing the deal, complicating negotiations with Foxconn over the broader investment plan. The likely need for large state subsidized loans to lure Foxconn also revives concerns about the state's heavy hand in Brazil's economy.

The deal's transformative potential for Brazil is clear, yet critics say Brazil's shallow labor pool and poor infrastructure make it ill-prepared to make the leap to high-end work and that it risks being stuck at the low end -- assembling components designed and made elsewhere. At first, Foxconn will have to fly in most of the key components such as semiconductors, modems and screens from China, as Brazil attempts to raise its ability to produce more of them locally.

"We are selling our market very cheaply, giving tax incentives for a company to come and produce something that is already developed in the world market," said Joao Maria de Oliveira, a researcher at the government-linked Institute for Applied Economic Research, or IPEA. "It's not something that adds much value and it won't leave much here."

The amount of value added to Apple products by Foxconn's approximately one million workers in China is a mere $10 or so per device, according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

Brazil has cut taxes and duties on tablet production in a move that should reduce the retail price by about a third and is phasing in production requirements to help a local components industry.

Separately, it is in talks with Foxconn on a package of incentives, including priority customs access, more tax breaks and subsidized loans from state development bank BNDES to secure the bigger investment in high-end screens.

It isn't hard to see what's in it for Foxconn, Apple and other foreign companies, including Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd that have expressed interest in making tablets here.

Apple will gain better access to Brazil's voracious consumers, who have faced high prices for its products due to high import tariffs, and will create a jumping point for other rapidly growing Latin American countries.

Foxconn, the world's largest contract electronics company, with around a third of the global market, would gain a vital foothold in Latin America's largest economy and reduce the risks of having so much Apple production in China.

Producing in Brazil would also give Foxconn and Apple preferential access to Brazil's partners in the Mercosur customs union -- Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

But the "Brazil cost" raises doubts over whether Apple will be able to make the iPad cheaply enough for the Brazilian market and use it as a major base to export to the United States and Latin America.

Brazil's consumer market is a huge bet for companies such as Apple, but analysts say the domestic industry will likely take years to move beyond assembly to higher-end production.

"It will take at least five, six years to create the entire ecosystem there," said Satish Lele, vice president, consulting, Asia Pacific at Frost & Sullivan in Singapore.

The Foxconn factory near "Steve Jobs" road is rumored by Brazilian media to already be producing iPhones and is expected to start selling iPad tablets by December for sale to Brazil's growing middle class. The company, whose main listed vehicle is Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd, has already hired more than 1,000 people in Jundiai, a medium-sized city an hour away from Sao Paulo, to work at a new plant.

Jundiai is planning to build a technology park and nearby towns are also looking to draw more such investment.

But the starting monthly wage for members of the metalworkers' union in Jundiai is about 1,058 reais ($605) -- nearly double the 2,000 yuan ($315) minimum wage Foxconn paid in China as of last October.

Those wage pressures are likely to make it hard for the iPad price to fall any time soon to a range that would give it the mass-market appeal it enjoys in the United States.

Tablet sales in Brazil will jump to 450,000 this year from 105,000-110,000 last year, according to consulting firm IDC, surging to above 1 million next year. That is significant growth -- but the 60 percent of Brazilian households without a computer won't necessarily rush out to buy tablets, cautioned Jose Martim Juacida, an analyst with the company.

"The first computer purchase is usually a desktop or a laptop, because a desktop can be shared," he said.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Quiz: Framework Level 3 - Unit 1 to 6

Daily Chart


Nov 1st 2011 by The Economist online

Over the last two decades, thanks largely to government policy, the poverty rate in Brazil has halved. With this, income inequality (measured by the Gini coefficient) has also fallen sharply, declining on average by 1.2% a year. Brazil’s economy is forecast to grow by 3.6% this year. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, a sister company of The Economist, this year Brazil will overtake Britain to become the sixth largest economy in the world. GDP per person, at around $11,000 (or 19,000 reais) has been growing at an average annual rate of 1.7% since 1990; closing the gap with high-income countries. And income growth is faster among the poorest (comparable to China’s GDP per person growth rates). Consequently by 2015 Brazil could reach its Millennium Development Goal of poverty reduction, some ten years early. But further action is needed; 8.5% of Brazil’s population still live on less than 70 reais per month, equivalent to $1.50 a day.

Credit growth shows Brazil’s resilience

October 27, 2011

Credit growth shows Brazil’s resilience

By Joe Leahy in São Paulo

Credit in Brazil grew in September at its fastest monthly rate this year in a sign of the resilience of domestic demand in Latin America’s largest economy in contrast to weakness in Europe and the US.

The loan data from the central bank come as a separate study shows property prices in some of the biggest cities are continuing to rise at an average of 22-28 per cent a year in spite of cooling in the overall economy.

“There are no signs of an accommodation in the market, since what we are seeing is in fact a substantial increase in prices,” said Antonio Carlos Ruótolo, of Ibope Inteligência, the research firm that released the real-estate study.

Brazil’s economy has been slowing from an Asia-like growth rate last year amid a decline in industrial production and a weakening global economy.

Domestic demand has also been showing signs of easing but there is no indication of a collapse, with spending thanks to Brazil’s growing middle class, low unemployment, wage increases and a boom in the availability of credit.

“The Brazilian people are accustomed to spending. I think they are not feeling the crisis, no,” said Pedro Moraes, a customer at a news stand on Avenida Paulista in São Paulo’s central business district.

In a survey of the Brazilian economy released on Wednesday, the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development forecast that Brazil’s gross domestic product would grow 3.6 per cent this year and 3.5 per cent in 2012 compared with 7.5 per cent in 2010.

“Domestic demand, spurred by strong investment, is likely to continue to sustain activity,” the OECD said.

The central bank said Brazilian credit in September received a boost from the depreciation of the country’s currency, the real, against the dollar in September.

Excluding the foreign exchange effect, which boosted the value of Brazil’s dollar debt in local currency terms, credit growth would still have risen 1.8 per cent in September, a growth rate comparable with August.

Total loans in the 12 months to September were up 19.6 per cent from a year earlier, with mortgage credit showing a rise of 45.3 per cent, although from a small base.

“Credit operations in the financial system in September had more pronounced growth in relation to the previous month,” the central bank said on Wednesday.

The central bank abruptly ceased a tightening cycle at the end of August and has since cut the benchmark Selic interest rate by 100 basis points to 11.5 per cent, citing its concern over the global slowdown.

But some economists are worried that if the sharp slowdown in growth does not materialise, Brazil’s tight labour market and still robust credit growth could lead to a resurgence of inflation, which was 7.12 per cent in the year to end-October.

The central bank has predicted that inflation will converge to the centre of its target of 4.5 per cent plus or minus 2 percentage points next year even with the interest rate cuts.

Other economists warned, however, that the economy is slowing faster than expected.

Goldman Sachs has repeatedly revised down its forecasts for real GDP growth and is now predicting 3.3 per cent for this year and 3.0 per cent in 2012.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011. You may share using our article tools.

Sotheby’s Impressionist art


The audience that packed into Sotheby's, New York was not disappointed. The auction house's autumn Impressionist sale was a roaring success, with top lot, Gustav Klimt's "Litzleberg am Attersee" selling at a hammer price of 36 million U.S. dollars -- well above its low estimate of 25 million. And the total for the auction was far above that for the same sale last year. Co-chairman for impressionist art for Sotheby's, David Norman, says he thinks the market is strong and that's reassuring buyers. SOUNDBITE: David Norman, co-chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art worldwide for Sotheby's, saying (English): "To reach a 200 million dollar (USD) total, well in excess of our last equivalent season, within our estimate and set a variety of records was just enormously gratifying and as one of my colleagues said earlier, the market, which was a little bit shaky yesterday, really roared back today." The sale's success came just 24 hours after rival auction house Christie's slumped with their Impressionist sale. Bidding for several top artworks including the sale's star, Degas' "Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans" was weak and the lot was eventually passed. Norman says he puts Sotheby's success down to accurate estimates. SOUNDBITE: David Norman, co-chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art worldwide for Sotheby's, saying (English): "I think it's a very savvy audience, very selective. I think they want to buy art, certainly like we saw tonight, but they won't tolerate estimates that are too high. When something was estimated correctly, the bidders were incredibly responsive. And if one day can make such a difference, art market followers are keen to see how next week's New York postwar and contemporary auctions will fare. Tara Cleary, Reuters

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Beyond the PC

Economist Video: Beyond the PC
As this video from The Economist online explains, we are entering what some in the technology industry refer to as a post-PC era. Mobile digital gadgets are overshadowing the personal computer and their impact will be far-reaching. This does not mean that the personal computer is about to disappear, but according to estimates from Gartner, a research firm, combined shipments of web-connected smartphones and tablet computers are likely to exceed those of desktop and laptop computers for the first time this year, putting PCs in the shade.

Thursday, 6 October 2011


Quiz - Vocabulary check - Intermediate to Upper Intermediate

Apple's Steve Jobs dead at 56

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Cartoon of the day: Prevailing Trends.

Amazon's Kindle Fire takes aim at the Apple iPad

Quiz: Business Vocabulary Review

Brazilian stocks turn hostage to euro woes

The mood at a conference on Brazil in Washington on the sidelines of the annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings was dark last week.

Latin America`s largest economy and its capital markets are hostage to the same uncertainties over the eurozone that have pushed almost all emerging markets to lows in recent weeks and have weakened their currencies.

In spite of a 22 per cent fall in Brazil`s benchmark Bovespa index this year and a 13 per cent depreciation of the real against the dollar in the past month, only the bravest are willing to set foot back in a market that until last year was among the most favoured in the emerging world.

“No matter how oversold it may seem, I am not touching Brazilian stocks or the Brazilian real until Europe either blows up or the problems there are resolved,” says a US-based fund manager who attended the conference.

Among the large global emerging markets, few are as well-placed as Brazil to withstand a large external shock with its $352bn of foreign exchange reserves, sound financial system and significant capacity for counter-cyclical stimulus measures.

Yet Brazilian stocks are the among worst-performing in the emerging world. The reason for this goes beyond the uncertainty over the eurozone to domestic issues, most notably the unpredictable outlook for Brazilian inflation.

“In Brazil, clearly there is a prioritisation of growth over inflation in the short term,” says Oliver Leyland, of Mirae Asset Management in Sao Paulo. “The central bank has made a big bet that inflation will drop and the external scenario will be reflected in the local economy.”

Many economists do not disagree that at a macro-level Brazil is better placed than in 2008 to battle a slowdown. Goldman Sachs, in a stress test of the Brazilian economy in the event of a shock, concluded: “Brazil is capable of dealing with financial shocks because the fiscal and external accounts are in reasonable shape; the domestic banking system is strong and the stock of reserves is large.

The uncertainty for some investors is what will happen if an economic shock does not happen. The central bank has already taken a gamble on much lower global growth with its rate cut. But if growth proves better than expected, inflation in Brazil could stay high, forcing policymakers to begin tightening again.

At the conference in Washington, Fabio Kanczuk, a partner with Sao Paulo-based Reliance Asset Management, told the gathering that in the event of a slowdown in the global economy but not a Lehman Brothers-like shock, Brazilian inflation would be 7 per cent next year, above the official target.

Others argue that the government should use the eurozone crisis as an opportunity for Brazil to rebalance its policy mix to deliver steadier growth in the future. In the past, the Brazilian economy has been characterised by “one foot on the accelerator, one on the brake”, with loose fiscal policy from the government driving up inflation, forcing the central bank to react with tight monetary policy and high interest rates.

If the government can control fiscal spending during this slowdown and instead use monetary policy to counteract falling growth, Brazil could reduce its historically high real interest rates.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Central Park ban angers NYC buskers

Buskers have been banned from performing in parts of New York's Central Park, to give visitors an escape from the constant noise of the city that never sleeps.

But local musicians have voiced objections to the move, as Keith Wallace reports.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Quiz: Framework Level 3 - Unit 1 and 2

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Vocabulary check - Intermediate and Upper-Intermediate Level -

Toefl - Vocabulary in Use Exceptions and Curiosities.

Programa do Jô - Expressões brasileiras em inglês

Pretty people still get the best deals in the market, from labour to love.

The economics of good looks.

The line of beauty.

Pretty people still get the best deals in the market, from labour to love.

Physically attractive women and men earn more than average-looking ones, and very plain people earn less. In the labour market as a whole, looks have a bigger impact on earnings than education.

Good-looking people are generally happier than their plain looking or unattractive counterparts, largely because of the higher salaries, other economic benefits and more successful spouses that come with beauty, according to new research from economists at The University of Texas at Austin.

"Personal beauty raises happiness," says Hamermesh.

In previous research, Hamermesh has established that better-looking people generally earn more money and marry better-looking and higher earning spouses than others. His upcoming work, Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People are More Successful, will be released this summer by Princeton University Press.

The current study suggests these indirect, economic benefits account for at least half of the additional happiness that good-looking people report. Beauty affects women's happiness more directly than men's.

Beauty is naturally rewarded in jobs where physical attractiveness would seem to matter, such as prostitution, entertainment, customer service and so on. But it also yields rewards in unexpected fields. Not everything comes easier: good-looking women seeking high-flying jobs in particularly male fields may have to work twice as hard to prove their competence and commitment. But the importance of beauty in the labour market is far more pervasive than one might think.

Daniel Hamermesh, an economist at the University of Texas, reckons that, over a lifetime and assuming today’s mean wages, a handsome worker in America might on average make $230,000 more than a very plain one. There is evidence that attractive workers bring in more business, so it often makes sense for firms to hire them.

In examining the case for legal protection for the ugly, Mr Hamermesh relies to a degree on the work of Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University and author of “The Beauty Prejudice”. Ms Rhode clearly struggles to see why any woman would willingly embrace fashion (particularly high heels). She is outraged that virtually all females consider their looks as key to their self-image. She cites a survey in which over half of young women said they would prefer to be hit by a truck than be fat. Her indignation is mostly moral. Billions of dollars are now spent on cosmetic surgery—up to 90% of it by women—at a time when almost a fifth of Americans lack basic health care. The more women focus on improving their looks, Ms Rhode argues, the less they think about others.

Discriminating against people on the grounds of personal appearance should be banned, she says. It limits a person’s right to equal opportunity, reinforces the subordination of groups where unappealing characteristics, including obesity, are concentrated (ie, the poor, some ethnic minorities), and restricts self-expression. Yet because ugliness is harder to define than race or sex, some argue that anti-discrimination laws are impossible to maintain.

Men too, having lost their monopoly of well-paid jobs, are investing in their erotic capital to enhance their appeal to mates and employers. They are marching off to gyms and discovering face cream in record numbers.

from the print edition
Books and Arts

Friday, 26 August 2011

Toefl - Vocabulary in Use #3

Cartoon of the day.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Fantastic cover of The Economist.

Apple consumers stand by brand

TRANSCRIPT: The resignation of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple, the company he co-founded decades ago, is not likely to have a huge impact on the innovation that brought the world the iPad, iPhone, iPod and iTunes, according to analysts and customers. Just ask one of his competitors. Todd Bradley is an executive vice president at Hewlett-Packard. SOUNDBITE: TODD BRADLEY, EXECUTIVE VP, HEWLETT-PACKARD (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I'm sure Steve and his board has built a transition plan that will continue their momentum. We will certainly continue to view them certainly as an aggressive competitor." Jobs, who has been battling pancreatic cancer, is seen as the brains behind Apple's meteoric rebound and expansion into the digital and retail worlds, with its stores considered just as sleek and stylish as its products. Outside this store in Washington, D.C., customers offered well wishes and expressed mostly confidence. SOUNDBITE: BARBARA MEYER, APPLE CUSTOMER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It's a fabulous company so I'm sure there is other talent and I just feel very badly about his health, because that is why he stepped down, at least that is what I heard on the news." So as an individual I wish him the best and I have confidence that he would build a company that has great talent ready to step forward." SOUNDBITE: PAT VOLINI, APPLE CUSTOMER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I feel terrible about it. He is a genius and you know it's really bad. But I believe in Apple products and I think things will be fine." SOUNDBITE: ALEXANDRA, APPLE CUSTOMER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of months...." (OFF CAMERA REPORTER: And why do you say that?) SOUNDBITE: ALEXANDRA, APPLE CUSTOMER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Just because he was such a visionary for so many different reasons, so it will be very interesting." Jobs is staying on as Chairman of the board, which means he still will be involved, his diminished role, however, doesn't diminish his legacy. SOUNDBITE: TODD BRADLEY, EXECUTIVE VP, HEWLETT-PACKARD (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I think as a competitor, he has raised the bar for all of us in the industry and really reset, helped to reset what personal computing is." Apple is set to debut a new iPhone this fall. Conway Gittens, Reuters

Great Job, Steve!

Steve Jobs made music more fun

Aug 25th 2011

STEVE JOBS, who has resigned as the boss of Apple, is departing the stage rather the way he used to at those over-controlled press conferences. And rightly so, because he is a huge figure in technology and business. But one of his achievements is in danger of being overlooked. It’s in the field of music. Sure, he shook the foundations of the music industry, but that’s just an industry. The music is the thing, and Mr Jobs, along with his chief designer, Jonathan Ive, has made music more fun.

The iPod isn’t just an elegant design and a miracle of compression. Putting it in shuffle mode is the most satisfying way yet devised of enjoying your record collection. It allows the present and the past to intertwine, which is how music works anyway. If you’re a rock and pop fan, it gives you a stream of songs that is eclectic, unpredictable and serendipitous.

Thanks to shuffle, you can create a radio station of a kind that died out when the broadcasters allowed niche playlisting to become a tyranny. And it doesn’t have any chit-chat or jingles or adverts. The music really is the thing.

Some people, as they look round a crowded carriage at all the commuters lost in white headphones, see isolation, self-absorption, atomization. What they don’t see is a lot of people enjoying an art form, and turning the dullest stretch of their day into a treat. The iPad is beguiling, but it's essentially a slimmer, sexier laptop; the iPhone is just first among smartphones. Mr Jobs's greatest hit, the Apple gadget that has done most to enrich the fabric of daily life, is still the iPod.

The revival of vinyl.

Back to black.

Oddly, the hunger for records is widespread.

Aug 20th 2011.

ONE common trend in many Western countries, regardless of the health of their recorded-music markets, is clear: vinyl is back. Sales of LPs were up in both Britain and Germany last year. In America vinyl sales are running 39% above last year’s level. In Spain sales have risen from 16,000 in 2005 to 104,000 in 2010.

This is a second revival for vinyl. The first, in the late 1990s, was driven largely by dance music. Teenagers bought Technics turntables and dreamed of becoming disc jockeys in Ibiza. But being a DJ is difficult and involves lugging heavy crates. Many have now gone over to laptops and memory sticks.

These days the most fervent vinyl enthusiasts are mostly after rock music. Chris Muratore of Nielsen, a research firm, says a little over half the top-selling vinyl albums in America this year have been releases by indie bands such as Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes. Last year’s bestselling new vinyl album was “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire. Most of the other records sold are reissues of classic albums. Those idiosyncratic baby-boomers who were persuaded to trade in their LPs for CDs 20 years ago are now being told to buy records once again.

What is going on? Oliver Goss of Record Pressing, a San Francisco vinyl factory, says it is a mixture of convenience and beauty. Many vinyl records come with codes for downloading the album from the internet, making them more convenient than CDs. And fans like having something large and heavy to hold in their hands. Some think that half the records sold are not actually played.

Vinyl has a distinction factor, too. “It is just cooler than a download,” explains Steve Redmond, a spokesman for Britain’s annual Record Store Day. People used to buy CDs containing music that none of their friends could get hold of. Now that almost every track is available free on music-streaming services like Spotify or on a pirate website, music fans need something else to boast about. That limited-edition 12-inch in translucent blue vinyl will do nicely.

Emerging economies.

Sunday, 21 August 2011



Why small doses of vitamins could make a huge difference to the world's health.

The decline of Asian marriage.

Women are rejecting marriage in Asia. The social implications are serious.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Sunday, 14 August 2011

For all ages, ethnicities, experience levels, the search for a job is a way of life in this economy.

Is poverty getting better?

Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, Charles Kenny, tells Felix Salmon that global development is succeeding and most people are living healthier, more prosperous lives than their parents and grandparents.

A couple get to a Beyonce concert 'in the nick of time'. Find out more about this slang phrase.

Helen: Hello, and welcome to The English We Speak. My name is Helen.

Rob: And I'm Rob. Helen, you look like you've been rushing. Here, have some water.

Helen: Oh thanks. I'm a bit out of breath. My appointment at the bank took longer than expected.

Rob: You got here just in the nick of time then.

Helen: Just in the nick of time? Shouldn't it be just in time?

Rob: You can say both. It means at the very last moment. Let's hear how this phrase is used.

Woman 1: Alice gave birth to a baby girl last night.

Woman 2: I thought she wasn't due for another three weeks.

Woman 1: It was early and they got to the hospital just in the nick of time.

Man: Sarah and I were on our way to see Beyonce in concert. But she left her mobile in the office, so we had to go back and get it.

Woman: Did you miss the show?

Man: Thankfully not, we got there just in the nick of time.

Helen: In the first example, we heard one woman got to the hospital just before her baby was born. And in the second example, a couple nearly missed their Beyonce concert.

Rob: That would've been awful. You hear this phrase often used to suggest a disaster had been averted. If the action happened any later, then something awful could happen.

Helen: I see. I have another question – is this phrase a British expression?

Rob: I don't think the phrase 'in the nick of time' is specifically British. It originated from the UK, but English speakers from all over the world use it.

Helen: Let's listen to a few more examples then.

Man: We arrived just in the nick of the time. Another five minutes, our plane would have left without us.

Woman: Sam was experimenting with stir frying last night and the wok caught fire. Luke rushed in with the fire blanket just in the nick of time.

Helen: That was close. Stir frying can get pretty hot sometimes. And it's good that Luke didn't try to put out the fire with water.

Rob: That would have been a catastrophe. So Helen, are you the kind of person who likes to do things at the very last minute?

Helen: Well, I'd like to think of myself as a person who can do things in the nick of time. Thanks for listening. Bye.

Rob: Bye.


Saturday, 13 August 2011

The “CSI effect”.

Forensic science.

The “CSI effect”.

Television dramas that rely on forensic science to solve crimes are affecting the administration of justice.

OPENING a new training centre in forensic science at the University of Glamorgan in South Wales recently, Bernard Knight, formerly one of Britain’s chief pathologists, said that because of television crime dramas, jurors today expect more categorical proof than forensic science is capable of delivering. And when it comes to the gulf between reality and fiction, Dr Knight knows what he is talking about: besides 43 years’ experience of attending crime scenes, he has also written dozens of crime novels.

The upshot of this is that a new phrase has entered the criminological lexicon: the “CSI effect” after shows such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”. In 2008 Monica Robbers, an American criminologist, defined it as “the phenomenon in which jurors hold unrealistic expectations of forensic evidence and investigation techniques, and have an increased interest in the discipline of forensic science.”

Now another American researcher has demonstrated that the “CSI effect” is indeed real. Evan Durnal of the University of Central Missouri’s Criminal Justice Department has collected evidence from a number of studies to show that exposure to television drama series that focus on forensic science has altered the American legal system in complex and far-reaching ways. His conclusions have just been published in Forensic Science International.

Criminals watch television too, and there is evidence they are also changing their behaviour. They are learning on the TV shows how not to be caught. Most of the techniques used in crime shows are, after all, at least grounded in truth. Bleach, which destroys DNA, is now more likely to be used by murderers to cover their tracks. The wearing of gloves is more common, as is using tapes — rather than the DNA-full licking—of envelopes, leaving fewer traces of themselves behind.

Mr Durnal does not blame the makers of the television shows for the phenomenon, because they have never claimed their shows are completely accurate, nor had the intention of teaching criminals how not to leave traces behind.

In that respect, unfortunately, life can and has imitated art.

Salary Gap: Men vs. Women

The BlackBerry riots

Technology and disorder

The BlackBerry riots

Rioters used BlackBerrys against the police; can police use them against rioters?

Aug 13th 2011

AS BRITONS ask themselves what has changed in their country that might have caused these riots, one obvious answer stands out: technology. The digital revolution allows people to organise against the authorities—not just in the Middle East, but also in Britain.

In Iran, it was the Facebook revolution. In Tunisia, the Wikileaks revolution. In Egypt, it was called a Twitter revolution.

In London, it’s the BlackBerry riots.

The communications tool of choice for rioters has been the BlackBerry. It has 37% of the teenage mobile market. Young people like its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) feature, which allows users to send free messages to individuals or to all their contacts at once. It was used to summon mobs to particular venues. David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, has called for BBM to be suspended.

The rioters use BBM against the police. But can the police use it against the rioters? Research in Motion (RIM), the firm behind the BlackBerry, and the mobile operators hold at least one, and probably two, sorts of useful information. The first is traffic data: who messaged whom, when and from where. Used in conjunction with CCTV pictures, that could well help police put names to faces—though if many of the rioters were using pay-as-you-go phones; it will prove less useful, as it is harder to track their owners down.

Security experts say it is pretty clear that the law empowers police to demand that phone companies hand over traffic information. The Data Protection Act, which normally prevents companies from sharing such information, has a clause for cases where it is clear that a crime has been committed. The legal position is less clear when it comes to the actual content of messages.

Handing content over could, however, cause problems for RIM and the phone companies. Revealing such information to the police could be bad for business; they might be sued for breach of confidentiality. The police could issue warrants, but it is not clear whether they have the power to intercept phone messages en masse.

Caution at the mall

Understanding New York Accents

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Apple and Samsung's symbiotic relationship

Slicing an Apple

Aug 10th 2011

How much of an iPhone is made by Samsung?

APPLE doesn't make the iPhone itself. It neither manufactures the components nor assembles them into a finished product. The components come from a variety of suppliers and the assembly is done by Foxconn, a Taiwanese firm, at its plant in Shenzhen, China. The “teardown” graphic below, based on data from iSuppli, a market-research firm, shows who makes what inside the iPhone, and how much the various bits cost. Samsung turns out to be a particularly important supplier. It provides some of the phone’s most important components: the flash memory that holds the phone's apps, music and operating software; the working memory, or DRAM; and the applications processor that makes the whole thing work. Together these account for 26% of the component cost of an iPhone.

(click on the picture to view it larger)

This puts Samsung in the somewhat unusual position of supplying a significant proportion of one of its main rival's products, since Samsung also makes smartphones and tablet computers of its own. Apple is one of Samsung's largest customers, and Samsung is one of Apple's biggest suppliers. This is actually part of Samsung's business model: acting as a supplier of components for others gives it the scale to produce its own products more cheaply. For its part, Apple is happy to let other firms handle component production and assembly, because that leaves it free to concentrate on its strengths: designing elegant, easy-to-use combinations of hardware, software and services.

Stranger still, Apple sued Samsung in April over the design of its Galaxy S handset (a smartphone that is similar to an iPhone) and its Galaxy Tab tablet computer (which looks rather like an iPad), claiming that they copied hardware and design features from Apple products. Samsung retaliated by counter-suing. In the latest twist, Apple has just won the case to prevent the sale of Samsung's Galaxy Tab in Europe and Australia. But the two firms' mutually beneficial trading relationship continues.

The second part of the graphic shows that, beyond manufacturing and component charges, the lion’s share of the iPhone's $560 price tag goes to Apple, though just how much it spends on software development, R&D, marketing, shipping, packaging and others is unclear. But Apple now commands the largest slice of the handset industry's profit share, so its margins are still impressive even when these costs have been taken in account. Apple also became the world's largest supplier of smartphones in the second quarter (see chart), with Samsung in second place. And on August 9th, on the same day as its victory over Samsung in the European courts, Apple even briefly surpassed Exxon Mobil to become the world's largest company by market capitalisation.

So although Apple does not actually make the iPhone, it certainly makes a lot of money from it.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Face2Face Elementary - Unit 8

According to a new poll many smartphone users would rather give up sex, hygiene or their significant other for a week than their smartphone.


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How much do you love your smartphone? More than sex? Your significant other?! Personal hygiene?! According to a recent study many would choose their phones over all of the above. At least for a little while.

WTVJ Miami explains.

“One third of the nation says that they would rather be sex free for one week than ditch their cell phone. The phone war survey also showed 28% of iPhone users would rather refrain from seeing their significant other than give up their phone. 22% of people would even give up hygiene, saying bye bye to their toothbrush and hello to who’s on the other line.”

And the survey, which polled nearly equal numbers of men and women may have some more disturbing news -- depending on your sexual preference. CNET explains.

“That's especially bad news for anyone who's a fan of females, because 70 percent of those who say they'd choose their phone over sex are women.”

But hold on, it gets worse. The study also found that 21% of users would go so far as to give up the very shoes on their feet for their phones. According to Wired -- even shoeless, dirty and anti-social -- these iPhone fetishists wouldn’t have to look too hard for companionship.

“Those hordes of of bad-breathed, corpulent, barefoot singles wouldn’t be alone for long – 83 percent percent of iPhone owners think other iSheep make the best romantic partners. The same went for 70 percent of Android customers who prefer their own type.”

So is all of this device devotion a problem? It must be. Even writers at smartphone blog, PhoneDog, are begging us to stop the insanity.

“I understand the importance of cell phones; I write about them for a living and I eat, sleep and breathe mobile tech. But even I -- a self-proclaimed addict to the nth degree -- am not so attached to my phone that I would give up essentials like my computer, shoes and toothbrush.”

Would you rather buy or rent your music? With 15 million songs, Spotify's digital music service could rival iTunes.

Standard and Poor's cuts the U.S. AAA credit rating over concerns about the government's budget deficits and rising debt burden.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Quiz: Exceptions and Curiosities (updated) - Advanced Level

Quiz: Face2Face Intermediate - Vocabulary Review - Unit 1 to 5.

Words in the News: Liability


Liability is the state of being legally responsible to someone because of your actions or failure to act. • Regardless of who is at fault an insurance adjuster will usually deny liability for an injury inflicted by the driver of the automobile the company insures.

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