domingo, 4 de diciembre de 2016

Extensive listening: Your smartphone is a civil rights issue

The smartphone you use reflects more than just personal taste ... it could determine how closely you can be tracked, too.

Privacy expert and TED Fellow Christopher Soghoian details a glaring difference between the encryption used on Apple and Android devices and urges us to pay attention to a growing digital security divide.

"If the only people who can protect themselves from the gaze of the government are the rich and powerful, that's a problem," he says. "It's not just a cybersecurity problem — it's a civil rights problem."

Christopher Soghoian researches and exposes the high-tech surveillance tools that governments use to spy on their own citizens, and he is a champion of digital privacy rights.

You can read a full transcript here.

sábado, 3 de diciembre de 2016

Reading test: Does travel really broaden the mind?

In this week's reading test we are going to practise the 'insert the word' kind of task. To do so, we are going to use The Independent article Does travel really broaden the mind?

Read the text and choose the word or phrase below which best fits into the corresponding gap 1 to 12. Three of the words are not needed. 0 has been completed as an example.

Does travel really broaden the mind?

Mark Twain wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Perhaps, with the summer holidays upon us, and Brexit-based discussions about tolerance, immigration and our relationship with foreigners ringing in our (0) ears, it’s worth examining Twain’s quote. Does travel really broaden the mind, or does it tend to reinforce existing (1) …?
Parts of the travel industry have long been (2) … creating a “home away from home”, with English bars and familiar pizza restaurants to comfort Brits that their holiday experience will be different, but not that different. It’s perfectly possible to stay within the (3) … and have limited contact with “the locals”.
At the other end of the spectrum, parts of the industry offering more “immersive” experiences in distant places are (4) … marketing slogans such as “come back different” or “life-changing travel” – an indication that they see their holidays as transformative, (5) … is not always true.
For some people meeting (6) …, often with different languages and ways of life is very exciting, and the essence of travel, for others it’s quite naturally a little (7) … . How the tourist chooses to manage this - whether you are an experienced traveller, like me, heading to Kenya to be hosted by the Maasai on safari, or a young family on your way to Spain for the first time – is more important than how much (8) … they have or what they book.
Despite the type of holiday we choose or can afford, as Westerners we often have the habit of thinking we know (9) …, that our ways of doing things are universal. We learn little travelling this way. Travellers who, instead, develop the habit of asking questions, being (10) …, curious and respectful find their holiday is enriched.
Of course, many tourism businesses have understood this and help (11) … mutually beneficial encounters with local people, by designing trips “responsibly” with good local benefits, a (12) … welcome and open door to learn about and experience different ways of life. Perhaps it’s time to review our approach to strangers at home and on holiday.

accused of
ears  0 Example
fond of

1 prejudices
2 accused of
3 resort
4 fond of
5 which
6 strangers
7 frightening
8 money
9 best
10 open-minded
11 facilitate
12 warm

viernes, 2 de diciembre de 2016

Eagles trained to take down drones

The BBC has been given access to the airbase where Dutch police are training eagles to take down unauthorised drones. It comes amid concerns that drones are increasingly being used to commit crimes.

Self-study activity:
Watch the report and answer the questions below.

1. What is the eagle's name?
2. What is the eagle's only interest?
3. What items are criminals smuggling into prisons through drones?
4. What is the eagle's unique selling point?
5. What is the eagle being trained to do these days?

Her name is Hunter. She's been trained to join an elite squad of airborne crime fighters, and this is their mission: to bring down hostile drones. Once again, look closely. Her talons go into the propellers, and it's instantly disabled.
The people who train these birds describe it as a low-tech solution to high-tech problem.
This is nature.
So, you are tapping into the eagles' killer instinct.
Yes. Its instinct is to catch a prey. It's not interested in people, it’s not interested in other animals, it's interested only in catching that drone and also they are able to land the drones safely on the ground and that’s where we want it.
These drones are increasingly being used by criminals. They have been used to smuggle sim cards, mobile phones and drugs into prisons, and there are concerns they could be used by terrorists, too.
The police already use radio intercepts and nets to tackle drones. This bird's unique selling point is its eagle-eyed vision.
What we cannot see, it can see. His vision is five times better than a human. Don’t forget they are born hunters. They miss nothing.
Animal welfare charities have raised some concerns. The police say they are researching ways to protect these talons, and we’ve been assured no birds have been harmed during training. But plenty of drones have been.
And this is the part they are still working on teaching the eagle where to drop the drone.
We are just approaching this baby eagle. What do you have to do in order to recover this drone?
Shot it my face. We always try to keep it safe, because it could be a member of the public looking at what is going on, it can be a dangerous drone, unless someone weird, or it doesn't know, it just flies off. I show some meat, and then he is like I’ve got this drone, I’m protecting it, but it’s not really, and then I’ve got something better and then it will jump to me.
A huge chunk of fleshy meat in exchange.
Yeah we can be proud of him.
London's Scotland Yard is so impressed it’s looking into emulating this innovative use of nature.
Anna Holligan, BBC News, Balkan Bird airbase.

1 Hunter
2 Catching the drone
3 Sim cards, mobile phones and drugs
4 Its perfect vision 
5 Where to drop the drone

jueves, 1 de diciembre de 2016

What's it like being in a driverless car

The Swedish car maker Volvo is about to start recruiting ordinary people to commute to work next year in a driverless car.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below.

1 How many members of the public are participating in the experiment?
2 What are the characteristics of the special roads where volunteers will be using the driverless cars?
3 If something unexpected happens, who will be in control, the driver or the car itself?
4 Where will driverless car be running in the UK?
5 What was to blame for the driverless car crash in US?
6 When will the driverless cars be operating?

Gothenburg in Sweden, home of Volvo, a place where drivers need to beware of the elks. On a test track, the company is showing me its unique experiment. And they will need members of the public to help.
They are going to ask a hundred ordinary people to commute in a car, but it’s not an ordinary car.
It’s an autonomous car. And then they’re going to tell those people they’re actually free to do anything else instead, so perhaps they'll want to send an e-mail.
From the track, to the evening commute. When next year Gothenburg's 100 volunteers will be driverless on specially picked roads. That's roads with no cyclists or pedestrians, and bearing in mind it’s Sweden, no snow. The computer needs to see the white lines. About as hands-free as you can get, the man in charge of the technology told me what would happen in an emergency.
If something unexpected happens, the car needs to be able to deal with it. We cannot count on a driver to immediately take over. So the car will be able to detect it and it will slow down in order to correct an accident.
So the car is going to do that, it’s not going to suddenly shove control back to the driver?
No, the driver may be sitting relaxed, reading, we cannot count on him or her to intervene immediately, so the car has to do it.
Things look a bit different in the UK. There are four major projects. In Milton Keynes, public-transport pods will eventually use the pavements to shuttle people between the shops and the station.
Would you happily share a pavement with one of those driven by a computer?
No, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. They’re like… Maybe the choice is… it has to decide, it has to decide in an instant whether it’s got to stop or it’s got to carry on going for the safety of who's in it or who is on the outside.
You don't worry about it bumping into you?
No, no because you can easily move out of the way.
In the US, Google is leading the way in driverless testing, a million miles and counting. But they’ve just had their first crash, where the computer was at least partly to blame.  Experts describe a future straight out of a science-fiction novel.
You're going to see this technology in forklift trucks, in ports, on fields, down mines. It’s the same stuff. And that, for me, is extremely interesting, that this technology is not just about transport, it’s about all things that move.
Back on the test track, time to enjoy a drama on the telly. It could still take a decade or even two, but eventually children will marvel at the idea that people actually used to drive their own cars.
Richard Westcott, BBC News, Sweden.

1 100 
2 roads with no cyclists, no pedestrians, no snow
3 the car 
4 on the pavements
5 the computer partly
6 in ten or twenty years' time

miércoles, 30 de noviembre de 2016

Talking point: Cheap holidays

This week's talking point is cheap holidays. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas come to mind more easily the day you get together with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

Read some of the ideas for cheap holidays. Discuss the questions with a partner.
1 What do you think are the pros and cons of each idea?
2 Do you know anyone who has done any of these things? Were they happy with the experience?
3 Think of some other ideas for saving money on a holiday and share them with the members of your conversation group. Which tips are the most useful? Which ideas would you be more willing to try?

1 Go couch-surfing. On websites like, local people will let you sleep on their sofa for free. It's not luxury travel, but you'll meet friendly locals and see how they really live.

2 Swap houses. Exchange houses with someone in the place you're going to visit. You stay in their place, and they stay in yours. Websites like can arrange this for a small fee.

3 Save on travel costs. Book early for good offers with low cost airlines. Use special services such as InterRail for travelling around Europe by train, or check out car-sharing websites like

4 Eat street food. In many cities, even really expensive ones, you can find food which is both tasty and cheap at stalls in the street. For example, try crépes in Paris, kebabs in Istanbul, tacos in Mexico City. Most places have their own delicious specialty.

5 Try voluntourism. These holidays combine volunteer work and tourism. Help in an orphanage, work on an organic farm, and more — all for free. You'll save money and have experiences you'd never find on a package holiday.

6 Don't move from home: Staycation. A staycation is a period in which an individual or family stays home and visits places within driving distance, sleeping in their own beds at night. Staycations are usually organized around a theme: visiting monasteries, visiting cellars, doing advanture sports.

To illustrate the topic, watch this eHow video where writer Sophie Uliano tells us how to organise a staycation.

Hi, I'm Sophie Uliano, author of "The Gorgeously Green" book series, and today I want to talk to you about how to create a staycation.
Now, what is a staycation, and why on Earth do a staycation? Well, a staycation is as it sounds. You're going to stay at home in your own city instead of getting on a plane and traveling somewhere else.
Why on Earth do that? Well, two very good reasons. One, it's going to save you a tremendous amount of money, and two, it's also going to really reduce your carbon footprint because obviously you're not getting on an airplane and flying somewhere, which is always a very, very positive thing for mother Earth.
So what are the few things, a few key points that make for a very successful staycation? Number one is the planning. Now, make sure that you plan it as you would a regular vacation. So, on a regular vacation you're going to be getting on line and you're going to be picking your hotel. You're going to be picking your activities. You're going to be basically creating an itinerary. So, for your staycation, do exactly the same because if you don't plan an itinerary you're going to end up just slipping back to your hold habits. Oh, I'm just going to go to the office, I'm just going to check my emails, I'm just going to lie around vegging out. No, no, no, no, no, you've got to have that itinerary. So planning, very important, what day are we going to start it, what time of the day are we going to start as a family, two o'clock on Friday afternoon, and then you're going to start planning things like let's plan such and such a museum or art gallery. Let's go to a botanical garden that we've never been before, etc. Now, the next point is to be a tourist in your own city which is, this is what I really like because we never are, so maybe take a tour bus and go and look at sites that you would never even dream of going to see, really fun especially if you have kids. Go and look at local sites that probably everybody comes to your city to see but you never do.
Now I would say that one of the primary rules, there's only got to be one rule on this staycation, and that has got to be turn it off, and I cannot stress the importance of this because I find it's, obviously we all do. Now, it's so tempting just to check the BlackBerry and the emails or the computer, and I think that as a couple or as a family, you have to all sit down and say right, this is what we're going to do. We're going to pretend we're on, it's like a beach in Hawaii where we wouldn't be sitting, hopefully we wouldn't be sitting or checking things, and we're going to pick a time, two o'clock on Friday afternoon when everything will be turned off and phones will all be put away in one place. Now, good for you as a family if you can take three days with absolutely no switching it back on and if you can do that, I promise you you will have a sense of peace and wellbeing that you haven't had for a very very long time.
Now, if there are some really urgent concerns, if you have teenagers that say no way or you have a serious office emergency, then maybe plan a check in time, ten minutes a day when you'll all just spend that ten minutes to check in. So, these are some very simple things that you can do to create a very simple staycation.
Finally, just think about the exercise factor because in your own city or your own environment you can do things like take hikes that you've never hiked before. You can all hire bicycles and decide that for three days instead of even getting in your car you're going to bicycle around your city. So, to have a wonderful relaxing vacation you do not have to get on a plane or book an expensive hotel. Try having a staycation at home in your own city. So, I'm Sophie Uliano and you can always do things yourself for less money and do it gorgeously.

martes, 29 de noviembre de 2016

Changing face of California agriculture

Mark Bittman visits the Central Valley to learn how Hmong farmers can sustain and expand their businesses in the face of huge cultural changes.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below.

1 Where and when can you buy a Japanese eggplant in California?
2 How far from the market do the Hmong families live?
3 When did the Hmongs arrive in US?
4 What are some of the challenges that the Hmong farmers are facing?
5 On how much land does Bentley Vang grow his crops?
6 What is the new project Jennifer is initiating with Hmong farmers?
7 What is the other project that she mentions?
8 What are some of the new measures the Hmong farmers have implemented as a result of the second project?

I'd like pretty much everyone to know that I've never had more fun cooking than I have since moving to California. One recent meal was a simple eggplant sandwich, but it wasn't your normal run-of-the-mill globe eggplant but a Japanese eggplant, which you can pick up at almost any decent market in the Bay Area, or for that matter, the state, most times of the year.
At the downtown Berkeley farmer's market there are several Hmong families selling their produce. They drive more than three hours from Fresno, which is home to the nation's largest Hmong farming community.
On a chilly morning, I was joined to the market by UC Berkeley's Jennifer Sowerwine. She helps small scale Hmong farmers sustain and expand their businesses. I sat down with Jennifer to learn more about what she calls the changing face of California agriculture.
The Hmong farmers, they've been farming since they arrived from Laos, beginning in around the 1980s or so. They were able to access small plots of land and adapt a lot of their cultural practices in farming here in the Central Valley, you know, in this hotbed of corporate agriculture. And so they began slowly cultivating a lot of the crops they were familiar with and then they began looking, seeking out markets.
So I was out there in Fresno a couple of years ago, saw some Hmong farmers. And I thought it was really interesting. They were struggling, needless to say. You have all these small farmers doing real food, mostly for their communities, but when you go to standard supermarkets you might as well be in Boise. What's happening with the food in Fresno that small farmers are growing? Where is it getting to?
You're right. The Hmong farmers, you know, are up against a lot of challenging odds. They've had huge challenges with limited English language and limited ability to access connections. So a lot of them have turned to farmers markets where, you know, it's fairly easy to get in. And they produce a lot of these vegetables for their customers all across the state.
One of those farmers is Bentley Vang, who leases land in Fresno County and is a regular vendor at the Berkeley farmer's market. Like many Hmong farmers he fled Laos and the aftermath of the Vietnam War. But since arriving in the US he's been farming, and he now grows a huge number of crops on around eight acres.
Jennifer travels often to the Central Valley to work with local regulating agencies to provide more culturally accessible training for Hmong farmers.
So what's your current work and what are you hoping to get done?
I'm just initiating a new project to look at the impact of the drought on Hmong farmers. So what we're going to do is interview about 150 farmers just to get a sense of what strategies are they using to cope with the drought and the extent to which they're able to access the government support programs. Another project we're looking at, too, is food safety. There already have been some implications where the buyers are requiring the Hmong to have food safety certification, and that's very costly. So we are already seeing evidence that some of the Hmong farmers are losing market.
Wow. Oh, that's delicious.
So we developed a very straightforward training program for a number of Hmong farmers in the Fresno area and it's a very hands-on applied food safety class. I mean, it's just washing your hands, making sure that you have a hand washing station next to the bathroom and you have paper towels. And one of the farmers, because he went through the food safety training, now he's able to sell to Fresno Unified School
District. And so it was really exciting to see the benefits of those classes on some of the farmers instituting a lot of the practices. And we would like to see more farmers being able to access markets like this.
Meanwhile, the stands at Bay Area farmer's markets do brisk business as new and repeat customers like Jennifer and me pick up tender cooking greens, squashes, and yes, the best eggplant.
I love these little eggplant.

1 at almost every market in the state most times of the year
2 a three-hour drive 
3 in the 1980's or so
4 limited English, limited ability to access connexions
5 eight acres
6 the impact of the drought
7 food safety 
8 washing their hands, using paper towels

lunes, 28 de noviembre de 2016

Listening test: Identity

Listen to a BBC radio programme on ethnicity and choose the option A, B or C which best completes each of the sentences below.

1 Neil is
A in his 30’s.
B thin.
C white skinned.

2 If a girl is described as a typical English rose she
A has a pale skin colour.
B is not very beautiful.
C was born in a rural area.

3 New York City actress and playwright, Sarah Jones
A has some European roots.
B is adopted.
C is white on her dad’s side.

4 Alice’s neighbours
A eat meat at Christmas.
B haven’t integrated into British culture.
C have lived in Britain all their lives.

5 In Julian Baggini’s opinion, who we are depends on
A both ourselves and the others.
B the people around us.
C ourselves.

6 The percentage of the UK population who describe themselves as ethnically mixed is
A 0.9%.
B 5.9%.
C 9%.

7 The real percentage of ethnically mixed population is
A around 2%.
B around 3%.
C around 12%.

Hello and welcome. I'm Alice…
And I'm Neil. So, Alice, what do you see when you look at me?
Well, male, Caucasian, early 40s, short auburn hair, bushy eyebrows, thin lips...
OK. So that's how you see me? It sounds like a police report, and I'm not sure I like your observation about thin lips. Caucasian means white skinned and European, by the way.
And today the show is about identity – who or what a person is. And the way people see us forms part of our sense of identity, while another part comes from our ethnic – or racial – identity. Now, Neil, you are, of course, many more things than my physical description of you!
I'm glad to hear that. And it's true, that until you actually hear somebody speak, there are lots of things you can't know about them. For example, which country they're from, what language they speak…
Yes. So looking at me, what would you say, Neil?
I would say Alice that you're a typical English rose.
Thanks, Neil – and English rose describes an attractive girl with a pale delicate complexion – or skin colour – but you can't actually tell where a person is from by the way they look.
Yes, I suppose you're right.
Well, let's hear from New York City actress and playwright, Sarah Jones, talking about her complicated ethnicity.

My family on my dad's side, my grandparents, are from the South. There's some Caribbean in there, black Americans from the South and the Caribbean, and then on my mother's side there are people from the Caribbean, from Ireland but you know Irish American, German American. People would ask me if I was adopted when they saw my mother's white skin – she's actually mixed but she's white from a distance, and I'm black from a distance.

Sarah Jones there. Well, Sarah has family from all over the world! And people think Sarah is adopted because she looks so different to her mum.
But I expect Sarah sees herself as American. New York is where she was born and raised.
That's right. But her grandparents weren't. Do you think you change when you go and live in another country with people different to you?
Yes, I do. My neighbours are Turkish but they've lived in England for 45 years so they've integrated into our culture. They enjoy English things like… our TV soap operas, cooking turkey at Christmas, and drinking tea with milk. So Neil, to what extent does the way other people see us, actually change us? Let's listen to Julian Baggini, a writer and philosopher here in the UK and find out what he thinks.

It seems very evident that our sense of self isn't something that comes entirely from within. And of course we're affected by the way other people see us. And that's one of the most formative things in creating our sense of identity. I mean, I think it's kind of a two-way process that's ongoing. Our sense of who we are is always a response in part to how other people see us.

So Julian Baggini believes the way other people see us is formative in creating our sense of identity – or who we are.
So if enough people see you as an English rose, you might start to see yourself as an English rose, even if you aren't ethnically English.
I'm not so sure. The friend I talked about earlier, she comes across as much more Brazilian than English in the way she behaves. She doesn't have the famous English reserve – but you'd never know it by looking at her. OK, I think it's time for the answer to today's quiz question.
Okey-dokey, fair enough. I asked you: What percentage of the UK population described themselves as ethnically mixed? Is it … a) 0.9%, b) 5.9% or c) 9%?
I said a) 0.9%.
Yes. And you were on the money today, Neil! Well done! According to a survey conducted by the BBC in 2011, when asked about their own ethnic origins, 0.9% of the UK population said they were mixed race, although it's thought that the real figure is 2% more.
And that's the end of today's 6 Minute English.

KEY: 1C 2A 3A 4A 5A 6A 7B