Almanac – 20 August 2010 – Friday

Read the text first, then listen to the audio at the bottom of the page.

Good Morning!

It is the twentieth of August 2010. It is Friday.

On this day in 1991 Estonia became independent from the Soviet Union.

The Garden

It is another barren day in the garden. It is not a good time for planting. The week-end is a good time to plant above ground crops.

Do you have a vegetable garden, or a pot-plant with herbs in it? What vegetables are you growing at the moment? Answer the question orally. Answer it now.
[audio:what grow.mp3]
What are you growing at the moment?

Are you growing any of these:

chili peppers
eggplants (aubergines)

Answer the question orally (say your answer aloud)
[audio:growing these.mp3]
Are you growing any of these?

You should answer “Yes, I am” or “No, I am not”. If your answer is “Yes, I am” then give some details, for example:

I am growing lettuce and spinach and chinese cabbage at the moment but I am not growing potatoes.


I am growing radishes, carrots and rocket at the moment but the plants are very small because it is winter.

Tell us about your garden. Tell us what your garden is like. Use these phrases if you can:

I have a small garden.
I have a small vegetable patch.
It is not large or small.
It is about two metres by three metres in size.
It is about four metres by six metres in size
It is a long thin garden bed.
It is in a big back yard.
It is a big back yard.
It is a field near my house.
It is a vacant area near my apartment.

Answer the question now. Answer it orally (say your answer aloud) After you have answered the question orally, write an answer in the “comments” section at the bottom of this post.

[audio:what like.mp3]
What is your garden like? What’s your garden like?


It is wet.
It is wet and windy.
Yesterday the wind picked up and last night a storm blew in.
It is raining now.
The sky is overcast and it is raining.

Look at these parallel expressions:

A storm blew in during the night.
A storm came in during the night.
A storm arrived during the night.
Rain blew in overnight.

Now I want you to tell me about the weather where you are. What is the weather like where you are? Answer this question. Say your answer aloud.
What is the weather like today?

Now write an answer. What is the weather like today in your area? (Post the answer below in the “comments” section)



Here is a current news headline:

Media mogul donates million to Republicans

In English “newspaper headline” style present simple tense is used instead of present perfect tense so

“has donated”

has become simply


Rupert Murdoch, the owner of News Corp, one of the most powerful media interests in the United States and the world, has shown his colours. He has donated a million dollars to the Republican party.

Look at the phrases below. Which one is the odd one out?

one of the most powerful media interests in the world
one of the most largest banking corporations in the world
one of the largest military forces in the world
one of the richest nations in the world
one of the most peaceful places on earth

Do you think one phrase stands out from the others? Which one is it? Why? Say your answer aloud. Say it now:
[audio:odd one out.mp3]
Which one is the odd one out?

Now write an answer in the “comments” section at the bottom of the page. Answer like this:

I think the odd one out is “……” because……….

True Colours

“To show his colours”


“to reveal his political affiliations”


“reveal his political views”


“reveal his political biases”.

In a modern free democratic state the media is an essential tool for the disemination of information to the public. If the media is biased the public will not have free access to information.

Look at these phrases:

an unbiased media
an impartial media

The opposite is:

a media which is biased
a media which is not impartial


Do you have to do an IELTS writing or speaking test? Here is a common IELTS question:

How important is an impartial media and why?
[audio:impartial media.mp3]
How important is an impartial media? How important is an impartial media and why?

The answer, of course is that an impartial media is vital.

Look at this scale:

of minor importance
of some importance
of importance
very important
extremely important
of crucial importance
of critical importance
of vital importance

Do you think an unbiased media is unimportant to the functioning of a free democratic state in the internet age? It would be hard to argue “no”. You could argue that the internet allows free access to information which makes large commercial news services less important but basically the media in a western democratic system is seen as a vital guarantee that the democratic parliamentary process of periodically electing new leaders will take place.

The media is like our ears and eyes. It is our sense organ. It is our information source. Now imagine if the brain said:

“I want to see that tree”

and your eye showed a picture of a small shrub instead. Imagine that the eye could be bribed.

By selecting from news stories and describing events from a certain point of view, the media can sway public opinion. If the media is not free and impartial then the public will not get an accurate picture of what is happening.

Look at these words:


those people are suffering from a delusion
those people are deluded


those people have been tricked by an illusion

Basically those phrases mean:

Those people have been mislead


Those people are being misled.

A biased media service is one that edits the news for political reasons.

Are you able to explain this orally under pressure? Are you able to explain how the lack of an impartial media hampers the democratic process? If you do the IELTS test, you might have to do that. Practise now. Practise orally first and then give a written answer in the “comments” section at the bottom of the page.

[audio:impartial media.mp3]
How important is an impartial media? How important is an impartial media and why?

Rupert Murdoch is mentioned in a recent edition of the almanac. Listen to this news and weather report from August 11


and answer this question:

What did Murdoch do and where did he do it?
[audio:what where.mp3]
What did he do and where did he do it?

Answer the question orally first and then write your answer with correct spelling and punctuation at the bottom of the post in the “comments” section.

Is anybody from Estonia listening? Do you remember media repression during the Soviet era? Was there language repression? What was it like? Does anybody have any memories? Write an answer in the “comments” section at the bottom of this page.


Look at another headline:

France expels nomads

As mentioned above, in English “newspaper headline” style present simple tense is used instead of present perfect tense so

“France has expelled nomads”

becomes simply

“France expels nomads”.

The headline is ambiguous. It could also mean:

“France is expelling nomads”

which is present continuous tense.

About nine hundred ethnic Roma people are being deported from mainland France back to Romania.

Compare these two pairs of phrases:


are being deported
have been deported


is being sent
has been sent

A million bucks

is being donated
has been donated


are being pulled out
have been pulled out

What is the difference? What is the difference between them?
[audio:what difference.mp3]

In each case the upper phrase is in present continuous tense which means that the event is taking place now while the lower phrase is in present perfect tense which means that it has already taken place.

Look at another headline:

US combat troops pull out of Iraq

again we see that in English “newspaper headline” style present simple tense is used instead of present perfect tense so

US combat troops have pulled out of Iraq

becomes simply

US combat troops pull out of Iraq

however again there is ambiguity as it could also mean:

US combats troops are pulling out of Iraq

at this moment.

In fact:

The last combat brigade has left Iraq but there are still fifty thousand American soldiers there. That does not include the mercenary soldiers who work for private security firms.

Yesterday the leader of Afghanistan banned these private armies of westerners from operating in his territory.

News and weather Summary

Now listen to a summary. If you do not understand everything you hear, go back and read the text again. Look up all the new words in the dictionary.

Download audio file (nw200810.mp3)

7 Responses to “Almanac – 20 August 2010 – Friday”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Stanca Margeanu says:

    Stanca Margeanu , from Romania

    Yes , we have many vegetables in our garden : carrots , tomatoes , potatoes , spinach , cabbage , onoin and garlic. Our grandparents planted them and we eat them.

    We have a large garden located behaind the house.In our garden , we have vegetables , fruits and fruit trees . In a part of the garden we have a grass and a benches when we relax.

    The weather , today is OK . Last night rained. It is wet and windy.
    The sky is overcast but I hope to became nice weather today.

    I think the odd out is – one of the most peaceful places on earth- because it refers peaceful and silence , not power ,where ,usually is

    I think that an imparial media is vital but I think that the media is not totally impartial.

  2. Aleksej says:

    I do not have any vegetable garden but my parents do and when I visit them I help them and do any work with a pleasure in the garden. There grow a lot of different vegetables.

    • Mark White says:

      What are they growing at the moment? At the moment I am growing:


      What are your parents growing? What season is it? Here in Australia it is the end of winter.

      • Aleksej says:

        Hi Mark, thank You for your question.
        Here is the end of summer in Latvia now and my parents are growing

        and(maybe some more vegetables)

        at the moment.

  3. Mark White says:

    Do you have a pot plant in the window?
    It is good for the soul to have a relationship with a plant. It is so refreshing to see a living plant each morning when you wake up.

    I used to have a pumpkin vine growing near my window and each morning, in summer, I awoke to see the beautiful yellow flowers and the tiny curly tendrils on the pumpkin vine.

    The plant was alive. It seemed to be smiling. It absolutely shone with life energy; it glowed!

    It was so beautiful!

  4. neziha says:

    No, am not growing any vegetable garden.

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