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.


Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by


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.


Words in the News: Turmoil


Turmoil is a state of confusion, disorder, uncertainty, or great anxiety. • But what does this week's financial turmoil mean for the average person on the street?


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Living to 100 May Take Genes, Not Lifestyle

By Oliver Renick - Aug 3, 2011

People who live 95 years or more are as likely as the rest of the population to smoke, drink and eat an unhealthy diet, suggesting their survival to that ripe age is based on genetics and not lifestyle, researchers found.

Scientists studied 477 Ashkenazi Jews who were 95 years and older, picking that population for their similar genetic makeup. Along with the lifestyle findings, the researchers discovered shared genetic mutations that may have helped the group survive, and could be the basis for further scientific study, said Nir Barzilai, lead author for the study published today in the journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

“To be 100, you need genetic help,” said Barzilai, director of the Longevity Gene Project at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, in a telephone interview. “They didn’t do anything special as a group.”

The elderly group showed higher rates of daily alcohol consumption and fattier diets than 3,000 people who died earlier and were interviewed at an average of 70, studied in a previous report. About the same percentage of people in each group were smokers or overweight, according to the study.

Among long-living men, 24 percent consumed alcohol daily, compared with 22 percent of the 70-year-olds, and 43 percent regularly exercised, compared with 57 percent of the younger men. Of elderly women, 35 percent attempted a low-fat diet, compared with 39 percent of the 70-year-old group.

“You want everybody to be 100,” Barzilai said. “The medical cost of that last two years of life of someone who dies at 100 is a third of the last two years of life of somebody who dies at 70.”

BlackBerry Readies iPhone Challenge

AUGUST 3, 2011

Research In Motion Ltd. plans to release a group of new BlackBerry devices, a delayed effort to reinvigorate its brand and gain back some of the market share it has lost in North America.

But it's unclear the new devices will be able to deliver the sort of buzz—and sales—that will help BlackBerry catch up quickly to offerings by Apple Inc. and Google Inc.

RIM, which once dominated the sector, has taken more than a year to release a new model and is now a distant third place in North America.

The Canadian company's stock has fallen 68% year-to-date and on Tuesday closed at $24.15—near its 52-week low.

RIM has acknowledged that delays in launching the new phones have kept them out of some carriers' back-to-school programs, which will cost the company sales.

The new BlackBerrys also won't be running the company's recently acquired operating system, QNX. The company has bet its future on the new software, but QNX phones won't be ready until next year. Instead, the new models will run on an update to RIM's existing BlackBerry software.

RIM bought QNX last year, betting a major overhaul of its legacy software would help its phones compete better with faster video and other features. But QNX phones won't be ready until early next year.

Meanwhile, Apple is expected to roll out an updated iPhone this fall, and a number of new phones with Google's Android software are on the way, including models that will work on U.S. carriers' fast, new 4G networks.

Consumers have shifted away from BlackBerry in favor of Apple and Android's more innovative, consumer-friendly devices.

RIM is also seeing pressure among business customers, its traditional stronghold, as more companies allow their employees to buy their own phones and use them at work.

Steve Chong, manager of messaging and collaboration for San Francisco-based Union Bank, part of UnionBanCal Corp., said that over the past year its employees have been electing to use iPhones and Android devices instead of BlackBerrys.

Mr. Chong doesn't believe RIM's new products will be able to reverse the company's market-share losses. "There will probably be a significant decrease in usage," he said. "The people still consider BlackBerry a business device."

At the end of the first quarter of this year, smartphones that run on Android made up 50.9% of the North American market, followed by the iPhone operating system at 27.1% and RIM, at 16.5%. RIM's market share fell from 41.3% in the first quarter of 2010, according to Gartner Inc., a technology advisory.

Underscoring the severity of the crisis, RIM announced massive job cuts last week, slashing more than 10% of its global work force. While the cuts will reduce costs, analysts said they won't speed along new products to compete with Apple and Android.

Missed deadlines have also cost the company some credibility with carriers, which want RIM to succeed but believe the company is struggling to come up with products that appeal to consumers.

Brazil moves to protect industries from foreign rivals.

3 August 2011

Dilma Rousseff unveils her 'Bigger Brazil plans for industry

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff has unveiled plans to help her country be more competitive.

The measures include tax breaks for Brazilian-made products and anti-dumping measures on cheaper imports mostly from China.

Brazil's booming economy has pushed the value of its currency, the real, higher making its exports more expensive.

The president said it was "imperative" to protect Brazilian industry and jobs from unfair competition.

Brazil's manufacturing industry has been suffering because of a surge in foreign imports, mainly from China, and industrial production has been falling in recent months.

This has happened despite the fact that Brazil's economy is one of the world's fastest growing.

Brazil has accused the US and China of lowering the value of their currencies, driving up the real, which has gained 6% against the US dollar this year.

Called "Bigger Brazil" the long-awaited plans include tax breaks and export incentives for local producers, as well as tougher controls on the importation of foreign goods.

Speaking at the unveiling of the plans, Finance Minister Guido Mantega said Brazil was operating on "a predatory, competitive world stage" and promised rigorous regulation of imports.

Brazil's government believes that many countries try to bypass import controls by routing goods through a third country.

Brazil has already enacted a series of anti-dumping measures aimed at Chinese-made goods.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Quiz: Toefl Essential Words - Part 1

Quiz: Toefl Essential Words - Part 2

A Point of View: Does more information mean we know less?

We pay a price for all the information we consume these days - and it's knowing less, says Alain de Botton.

One of the more embarrassing difficulties of our age is that most of us have quite lost the ability to concentrate, to sit still and do nothing other than focus on certain basic truths of the human condition.

The fault lies in part with our new gadgets. Thanks to our machines, of which we are generally so proud, the past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds on anything. To sit still and think without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine has become almost impossible.

But we can't just blame the machines. There is a deeper issue at stake - the feeling, so common in modern secular culture that we must constantly keep up with what is new.

The obsession with current events is relentless. We are made to feel that at any point, somewhere on the globe, something may occur to sweep away old certainties. Something that if we failed to learn about it instantaneously, could leave us wholly unable to comprehend ourselves or our fellow human beings.

We honour the power of culture, but rarely admit with what scandalous ease we forget its individual monuments. Three months after we finish reading a masterpiece, we may struggle to remember a single scene or phrase from it.

We are reluctant to admit that we are simply swamped with information and have lost the ability to make sense of it. For example, a moderately industrious undergraduate pursuing a degree in the humanities at the beginning of the 21st Century might run through 800 books before graduation day.

By comparison, a wealthy English family in 1250 would have counted itself fortunate to have three books in its possession, this modest library consisting of a Bible, a collection of prayers and a compendium of lives of the saints - these nevertheless costing as much as a cottage.

If we lament our book-swamped age, it is because we sense that it is not by reading more, but by deepening and refreshing our understanding of a few volumes that we best develop our intelligence and our sensitivity.

We feel guilty for all that we have not yet read, but overlook how much better read we already are than St Augustine or Dante, thereby ignoring that our problem lies squarely with our manner of absorption rather than with the extent of our consumption.

The need to diet, well accepted in relation to food, should be brought to bear on our relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.

The Israel Chamber Orchestra breaks with a long-standing taboo becoming the first Israeli orchestra to perform Wagner in Germany.

The Israel Chamber Orchestra plays Wagner's "Siegfried Idyll" at the annual Wagner opera festival in Bayreuth. The delicate strains made all the more poignant because it's the first time an Israeli orchestra has played Wagner in Germany. Adolf Hitler's favourite composer has largely been kept off Israel's airwaves since before that country's formation. And previous attempts to perform Wagner in Israel have triggered heated public debate. This performance is a sign of understanding says Bayreuth's mayor, Michael Hohl. SOUNDBITE: Mayor of Bayreuth, Michael Hohl, saying (German): "It is an olive branch and I think it is also encouragement for all of those who work in this area to intensify their efforts. For us, in the town of Bayreuth, it is of course an impetus to not let our efforts in dealing with Bayreuth's past drift off, but rather that we step up our efforts." And head of Israel's Wagner Society, Yonatan Livni agrees. SOUNDBITE: Yonatan Livni, Head of Israel's Wagner Society, saying (English): "Art and culture are the foremost, supreme thing and political issues should not involve anything that has to do with the performance of art and culture and any kind of boycott, wherever it is, I'm against and I think that that was one step in the right direction." Even though Wagner died half a century before Hitler rose to power, the Nazi dictator was a fervent admirer and drew on the composer's writings in his own theories on Germanic racial purity. But for better or worse, this orchestra is focusing on the music. Tara Cleary, Reuters.


Quiz: Describing Trends - Market Leader

This is a new video by Teacher Paul.. It shows different ways of how to say "yes," "no," and "maybe."

Monday, 1 August 2011

Brazilians buy up Miami.

The trouble with outsourcing.

Outsourcing is sometimes more hassle than it is worth.

Jul 30th 2011
from the print edition

WHEN Ford’s River Rouge Plant was completed in 1928 it boasted everything it needed to turn raw materials into finished cars: 100,000 workers, 16m square feet of factory floor, 100 miles of railway track and its own docks and furnaces. Today it is still Ford’s largest plant, but only a shadow of its former glory. Most of the parts are made by sub-contractors and merely fitted together by the plant’s 6,000 workers. The local steel mill is run by a Russian company, Severstal.

Outsourcing has transformed global business. Over the past few decades companies have contracted out everything from mopping the floors to spotting the flaws in their internet security. TPI, a company that specialises in the sector, estimates that $100 billion-worth of new contracts are signed every year. Oxford Economics reckons that in Britain, one of the world’s most mature economies, 10% of workers work in “outsourced” jobs and companies spend $200 billion a year on outsourcing. Even war is being outsourced: America employs more contract workers in Afghanistan than regular troops.

Can the outsourcing boom go on indefinitely? And is the practice as useful as its advocates claim, or is the popular suspicion that it leads to cut corners?

There are signs that outsourcing often goes wrong, and that companies are rethinking their approach to it.

Poor figures in the Americas (ie, mostly the United States) dragged down the average: the value of contracts there was 50% lower in the second quarter of 2011 than in the first half of 2010. This is partly explained by America’s gloomy economy, but even more by the maturity of the market: TPI suspects that much of what can sensibly be outsourced already has been.

Some of the worst business disasters of recent years have been caused or aggravated by outsourcing. Eight years ago Boeing, America’s biggest aeroplane-maker, decided to follow the example of car firms and hire contractors to do most of the hard work on its new 787 Dreamliner. The result was a nightmare. Some of the parts did not fit together. Some of the dozens of sub-contractors failed to deliver their components on time, despite having sub-contracted their work to sub-sub-contractors. Boeing had to take over some of the sub-contractors to prevent them from collapsing. If the Dreamliner starts rolling off the production line towards the end of this year, as Boeing promises, it will be billions over budget and three years behind schedule.

Outsourcing can go wrong in a colourful variety of ways. Sometimes companies squeeze their contractors so hard that they are forced to cut corners. (This is a big problem in the car industry, where a handful of global firms can bully the 80,000 parts-makers.) Sometimes vendors overpromise in order to win a contract and then fail to deliver. Sometimes both parties write sloppy contracts. And some companies undermine their overall strategies with injudicious outsourcing. Service companies, for example, contract out customer complaints to foreign call centres and then wonder why their customers hate them.

When outsourcing goes wrong, it is the devil to put right. When companies outsource a job, they typically eliminate the department that used to do it. They become mixed with their contractors, handing over sensitive material and inviting contractors to work alongside their own staff. Removing themselves from this mix can be tough. It is much easier to close a department than to rebuild it.

None of this means that companies are going to re-embrace the River Rouge model any time soon. Some companies, such as Boeing, are bringing more work back in-house. But the business logic behind outsourcing remains compelling, so long as it is done right. Many tasks are peripheral to a firm’s core business and can be done better and more cheaply by specialists. Cleaning is an obvious example; many back-office jobs also fit the bill. Outsourcing firms offer labour arbitrage, using cheap Indians to enter data rather than expensive Swedes. They can offer economies of scale, too. TPI points out that, for all the problems in America, outsourcing is continuing to grow in emerging markets and, more surprisingly, in Europe, where Germany and France are late converts to the idea.

Companies are rethinking outsourcing, rather than leaving it. They are dumping huge long-term deals in favour of smaller, less rigid ones. The annualised value of “mega-relationships” worth $100m or more a year fell by 62% this year compared with last. Companies are forming relationships with several outsourcers, rather than putting all their eggs in few baskets. They are signing shorter contracts, too. But still, they need to think harder about what their core business is, and what is peripheral.

Apple has more money than the US Government.

Apple holding more cash than USA.

US President Barack Obama is known to be an iPad owner, along with 28 million other people.

Apple now has more cash to spend than the United States government.

Latest figures from the US Treasury Department show that the country has an operating cash balance of $73.7bn (£45.3bn).

Apple's most recent financial results put its reserves at $76.4bn.

The US House of Representatives is due to vote on a bill to raise the country's debt ceiling, allowing it to borrow more money to cover spending commitments.

If it fails to extend the current limit of $14.3 trillion dollars, the federal government could find itself struggling to make payments, and risks the loss of its AAA credit rating.

The United States is currently spending around $200bn more than it collects in revenue every month.

Apple, on the other hand, is making money hand over fist, according to its financial results.

In the three months ending 25 June, net income was 125% higher than a year earlier at $7.31bn.

With more than $75bn either sitting in the bank or in easily accessible assets, there has been enormous speculation about what the company will do with the money.

Apple keeps its cards close to its chest," said Daniel Ashdown, an analyst at Juniper Research.

Industry watchers believe that it is building up a war chest to be used for strategic acquisitions of other businesses, and to secure technology patents.

Bookstore Barnes and Noble and the online movie site Netflix have both been chosen as possible targets, said Mr Ashdown.

The company may also have its eye on smaller firms that develop systems Apple might want to add to its devices, such as voice recognition.

A Stanford professor claims multitasking with technology doesn't do us any favors

How the default affects you.

Key Vocabulary:

debt ceiling

Related Posts with Thumbnails