mercredi 31 octobre 2012

A famous english painter: William Hogarth


 William Hogarth (10 November 1697 – 26 October 1764) was an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic and editorial cartoonist who has been credited with pioneering western sequential art. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called "modern moral subjects". Knowledge of his work is so pervasive that satirical political illustrations in this style are often referred to as "Hogarthian."




mardi 30 octobre 2012

Medieval Female Skeleton May Be Church Founder

A skeleton found in the same boneyard where English King Richard III may have been buried might be one of the founders of theChurch of the Grey Friars, archaeologists announced Tuesday (Oct. 30).
Scientists have yet to examine the female skeleton, though they are subjecting a male skeleton suspected to be Richard III's to rigorous testing. Nevertheless, the researchers said it was no surprise to find a woman buried at the medieval church in Leicester, England.
"We know of at least one woman connected with the friary, Ellen Luenor, a possible benefactor and founder with her husband, Gilbert," said Mathew Morris, the site director of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services.
Mystery lady
Unfortunately, the definitive identity of the skeleton will likely remain a mystery, Morris said in a statement. The friary would have cared for the destitute and homeless, he said, so the woman could be a pauper as well.  
"[W]ithout knowing where Ellen Luenor had been originally buried, we are unlikely to ever know who the remains are of, or why she was buried there," Morris said.
The female bones had been dug up and reburied at some point in the past, said Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on the project to find Richard III's bones. The medieval church site was later transformed into the garden of a mansion house during the 1600s, which may have been when the bones were disturbed, Buckley said in a statement. [See images of the Richard III discoveries]
A lost king
The female skeleton is merely a sidelight in the project, which aims to find the bones of the lost King Richard III. The monarch ruled England from 1483 and 1485, before dying in battle during an English civil war. Historical records show that Richard III's remains were taken to Leicester and interred in the Church of the Grey Friars. However, the grave — and the church — were eventually lost.
Plenty of unsubstantiated rumors about Richard's body popped up in later centuries, including one myth that his bones were dug up and thrown in a river, and another claim that his coffin was used as a horse-trough. In fact, archaeologists have now found a skeleton in the church with battle wounds and a distinctive curved spine that matches historical descriptions of the lost king.
The team is careful to say that they're not sure they have found King Richard III, only that the skeleton warrants further examination, including DNA tests. Results are expected in January.

Russian ship with 700 tons of gold ore missing

MOSCOW (AP) — A vessel with a nine-person crew and 700 tons of gold ore onboard has gone missing in stormy seas off Russia's Pacific Coast.
The ship sent a distress call on Sunday as it was sailing from the coastal town of Neran to Feklistov Island in the Sea of Okhotsk.
The vessel, hired by mining company Polymetal, was carrying 700 tons of gold ore from one deposit to another where it was to be processed. Gold ore is the material from which gold is extracted and contains only a small percentage of the precious metal.
Polymetal's spokesman on Monday would not estimate the value of the cargo.
The company said it has shipped ore via that route before, and there was nothing unusual in shipping it by the sea.

lundi 29 octobre 2012

Famous American writer : Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (September 24, 1896 – December 21, 1940) was an American author of novels and short stories, whose works are the paradigm writings of the Jazz Age, a term he coined himself. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Fitzgerald is considered a member of the "Lost Generation" of the 1920s. He finished four novels: This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, Tender Is the Night, and his most famous, The Great Gatsby. A fifth, unfinished novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, was published posthumously. Fitzgerald also wrote many short stories that treat themes of youth and promise along with despair and age.

Illness and death

Fitzgerald had been an alcoholic since his college days, and became notorious during the 1920s for his extraordinarily heavy drinking, leaving him in poor health by the late 1930s. According to Zelda's biographer, Nancy Milford, Scott claimed that he had contracted tuberculosis, but Milford dismisses it as a pretext to cover his drinking problems. However, Fitzgerald scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli contends that Fitzgerald did in fact have recurring tuberculosis, and Nancy Milford reports that Fitzgerald biographer Arthur Mizener said that Scott suffered a mild attack of tuberculosis in 1919, and in 1929 he had "what proved to be a tubercular hemorrhage". It has been said that the hemorrhage was caused by bleeding from esophageal varices.
Fitzgerald suffered two heart attacks in late 1930. After the first, in Schwab's Drug Store, he was ordered by his doctor to avoid strenuous exertion. He moved in with Sheilah Graham, who lived in Hollywood on North Hayworth Ave., one block east of Fitzgerald's apartment on North Laurel Ave. Fitzgerald had two flights of stairs to climb to his apartment; Graham's was on the ground floor. On the night of December 20, 1940, Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham attended the premiere of This Thing Called Love starring Rosalind Russell and Melvyn Douglas. As the two were leaving the Pantages Theater, Fitzgerald experienced a dizzy spell and had trouble leaving the theater; upset, he said to Graham, "They think I am drunk, don't they?"
The following day, as Fitzgerald ate a candy bar and made notes in his newly arrived Princeton Alumni Weekly, Graham saw him jump from his armchair, grab the mantelpiece, gasp, and fall to the floor. She ran to the manager of the building, Harry Culver, founder of Culver City. Upon entering the apartment to assist Fitzgerald, he stated, "I'm afraid he's dead." Fitzgerald had died of a massive heart attack. His body was moved to the Pierce Brothers Mortuary.

Zelda and Fitzgerald's grave in Rockville, Maryland, inscribed with the final sentence ofThe Great Gatsby
Among the attendants at a visitation held at a funeral home was Dorothy Parker, who reportedly cried and murmured "the poor son-of-a-bitch," a line from Jay Gatsby's funeral in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
His body was shipped to Baltimore, Maryland, where his funeral was attended by twenty or thirty people in Bethesda; among the attendants were his only child, Frances "Scottie" Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith (then age 19), and his editor, Maxwell Perkins. Fitzgerald was originally buried in Rockville Union Cemetery. Zelda died in 1948, in a fire at the Highland Mental Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina. Frances "Scottie" Fitzgerald Lanahan Smith worked to overturn the Archdiocese of Baltimore's ruling that Fitzgerald died a non-practicing Catholic, so that he could be buried at the Roman Catholic Saint Mary's Cemetery where his father's family was interred. Both Fitzgerald's and Zelda's remains were moved to the family plot in Saint Mary's Cemetery, in Rockville, Maryland, in 1975.
Fitzgerald died before he could complete The Love of the Last Tycoon. His manuscript, which included extensive notes for the unwritten part of the novel's story, was edited by his friend, the literary critic Edmund Wilson, and published in 1941 as The Last Tycoon. In 1994 the book was reissued under the original title The Love of the Last Tycoon, which is now agreed to have been Fitzgerald's preferred title.

vendredi 26 octobre 2012

How to improve your english conversation skills

Foreclosed Family’s Belongings Taken After Misunderstood Craigslist Posting

A family in Woodstock, Georgia, learned a difficult lesson about the dangers of posting an online advertisement. The Vercher family, who recently lost their home of 20 years to foreclosure, posted an ad on Craigslist on Tuesday night, informing people that a yard-sale-style giveaway would take place at their home the following day.
Well, on Wednesday morning, people turned out in droves. However, instead of just taking the free furniture that the family had placed outside, crowds ransacked the house, taking nearly everything inside. The Verchers tried to stop people from walking off with their belongings, but their pleas were ignored.
Michael Vercher thinks the wording of the Craigslist ad may have confused people. It read, in part, as follows: "Fairly large, free yard sale. Moving and we want everything to go for free. So come over and take whatever you want and how much you want." Some of the missing items were simply irreplaceable, including two guitars that belonged to Vercher's fiancee; they were given to her by her father.
Vercher hopes the incident was an honest misunderstanding, saying, "You'd like to think there's good people. I hope they would have a good enough heart to bring our stuff back." Although police say it is impossible to track down all the missing items, the Verchers plan to search online to see whether anyone is selling the family's possessions.

English stereotypes

 The perfect Brit should be:

1. Humble as the royal family
2 Welcoming as the weather
3. Polite as a punk
4. A great cook .. like the English
5. Sober as a judge
6. Relax as a guardsman
7. Generous as a Scot
8. Intelligible as the Welsh?

What do you think about that? Try to find 5 stereotypes about your country

jeudi 25 octobre 2012

Best extract of the last presidential debate

To practice your English read and write a little sum-up of this text!

Discovery Rekindles Wish for a Journey to the Stars

What will you wear to Alpha Centauri?


The news last week that there is a planet circling Alpha Centauri B, only a little more than four light-years away, set off an epidemic of daydreaming among the astronomical and sci-fi set, me among them.
For people who believe that interstellar voyages, either for people or for robots, are in the future, Alpha Centauri, a triple-star system that is the Sun’s nearest known neighbor, has always loomed large and close as a destination. It was the home of the mythical jungle world Pandora in James Cameron’s epic “Avatar,” for example.
The new planet doesn’t have jungles, giant blue-skinned cats or, as far as we know, the magical mineral unobtainium. It is, rather, a hellish unlivable blob of lava probably about the size of Earth, only four million short miles from the fires of Alpha Centauri B, the second brightest star in the system.
But if astronomers have learned anything over the last few years from devices like the Kepler satellite, it is that small planets come in packs. There is plenty of room in the system for more planets, habitable ones.
“I think we should drop everything and send a probe there,” said Sara Seager, an astronomer at M.I.T., echoing a call made last year by the exoplanet pioneer Geoff Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley.
There is in fact somebody in charge of doing something just like that. Her name is Mae Jemison, a former astronaut, engineer, dancer, actor and entrepreneur. This year she, in conjunction with the nonprofit foundation Icarus Interstellar, won a $500,000 government grant to set up 100 Year Starship, an organization that is to come up with a business plan for interstellar travel.
Darpa, the government agency that helped invent the Internet and now wants to help invent interstellar travel, estimated that just planning for such a trip could take 100 years. Dr. Jemison, 56, hopes it can happen sooner.
The Centauri planet was officially announced on her birthday, and over the phone from her new headquarters in Houston she sounded practically bubbly. “I can’t imagine a cooler birthday,” she said.
Dr. Jemison’s main work these days is spreading the word and raising money. The prospect of habitable real estate makes the idea of journeying to other stars that much more real, she said, adding: “This is a boon, because most people have heard of Alpha Centauri. It’s close.”
Well, sort of close. Space is deeper and older than most humans can comprehend. You can’t measure a light-year by your stride. There are 4.4 of them — 27 trillion miles — from here to Alpha Centauri B.
We won’t get there by doing business as usual. Voyager 1, the fastest and most distant human artifact, is more than 11 billion miles from the Sun and is speeding away at 11 miles per second; it would take 78,000 years to get to Alpha Centauri if it were going that way, which it is not.
Other schemes, based on existing or about-to-be-existing technology like solar sails and thermonuclear rockets, have been proposed that could reach a tenth the speed of light and make the crossing in less than a human lifetime. (If you have a design for a faster-than-light warp drive, send it directly to Dr. Jemison, not me.)
Of course the cost would be staggering, even for the robots (perhaps genetically engineered nanoprobes) that would precede humans. And whoever eventually goes won’t ever come back.
It won’t be me, despite what I once wrote in my high school yearbook: “Ambition: To go to the stars.”
Perhaps it is a sign of my age that I think more these days about what I would be leaving behind than what I would be gaining: my family and other loved ones, autumn in the Catskills, one more cowboy trout stream or New Year’s Eve with old friends.
I asked Dr. Jemison if she would go, knowing it was forever.
“Yeah,” she answered. “I would go.”
Perhaps hearing the catch of loneliness in my voice, she added, “It makes a difference who goes with you.”
In science fiction, she said, space travel is sterile.
“I think it won’t be like that,” she said. “It has to be reimagined. We will bring our culture along with us.”
All that is part of the Starship study’s mandate, she said.
At a recent symposium that was a sort of housewarming for the new institute, Dr. Jemison said, there was a lot of talk about what it means to be an interstellar civilization. “Do we start calling ourselves Earthlings instead of Americans?”
Another big topic of conversation, surprisingly or not so surprisingly, was how to dress on a star cruise. As Dr. Jemison pointed out, not all of us are going to look good in those little spandex Star Trek uniforms. And even for those who do, the look will get old after 40 years.
Perhaps, some people suggested, we won’t need clothes at all on the starship. Everyone would go around in the Band-Aids that passed for underwear in this summer’s “Prometheus,” Ridley Scott’s not-quite prequel to “Alien.”
But the urge to decorate oneself seems built into human nature. And anyway, the urge to see what concoctions can be worn successfully in zero gravity is likely to be overwhelming. The Japanese fashion designer Eri Matsui has already designed a wedding dress — actually a clever pantsuit — that was worn for a wedding aboard a “vomit comet” flight in 2009.
So start shopping and packing — if you dare.
Presumably you won’t be limited to one carry-on.
A version of this article appeared in print on October 23, 2012, on page D2 of the New York edition with the headline: Discovery Rekindles Wish for a Journey to the Stars.

Famous Poet : Simon Armitage

About His Person

Five pounds fifty in change, exactly,
a library card on its date of expiry.

A postcard stamped,
unwritten, but franked,

a pocket size diary slashed with a pencil
from March twenty-fourth to the first of April.

A brace of keys for a mortise lock,
an analogue watch, self winding, stopped.

A final demand
in his own hand,

a rolled up note of explanation
planted there like a spray carnation

but beheaded, in his fist.
A shopping list.

A givaway photgraph stashed in his wallet,
a kepsake banked in the heart of a locket.

no gold or silver,
but crowning one finger

a ring of white unweathered skin.
That was everything.

Simon Armitage

mercredi 24 octobre 2012

British food: best in the world?

Union Jack place setting
A Union Jack place setting. Photograph: Adrian Burke/moodboard/Corbis
Next week, as part of the London Restaurant Festival I'm looking forward to attending "The Great Debate". It's going to be held here at Guardian Towers and AA Gill, Rosie Boycott, Jonathan Meades and Janet Street-Porter are going to argue the motion that "This House believes that French Cuisine is a spent force". I'll leave you to work out who's defending which side

I'm sure that such stellar advocates will, by now, have rigorously structured arguments well prepared, but, in the unlikely event that any of them are reading this, I'd like to add a thought.

This year, like many others, I holidayed in southern Europe. I do most years. I wouldn't class myself as a Francophile in any sense but you can reach it by train, it has sun, and family, kids, friends and the other trappings of a couple of weeks away don't find it too hard to reach. The food, as I'm sure those of you who read any David, Mayle, Olney, Fisher, Child (or indeed Meades or Gill) will recognise, is pretty good. I have no desire to sound like an espadrille and straw hat wearing Englishman-in-Provence stereotype but, yep, they got fruit, they got veg, they got oil, cheeses, wine and sun and, all things considered, they got it good.
What has been slightly different about these last few years is what the French refer to as "Wee Fee", which is not a repressive Scottish church but wireless broadband - a facility which puts a slightly bored food-writer on holiday in instant connection with an entire twitter list of others just like him.
As you can imagine, conversation is strictly professional but, as I noticed for the first time this year, not a compulsive comparing of notes on a simply delicious Cote du Rhone, a marvellous, undiscovered little restaurant or a divine canteloupe. No, by week two most of us were talking about curry.
Almost any curry really. Or pho, or ramen, or burrito … a greasy sweet and sour or a full-on Szechuan inferno, bacon sarnie, steak and kidney pudding or a salt beef bagel.
From about day seven of the holiday, those initial yearnings for "simply grilled fish, an achingly fresh, crispy baguette and creamy local cheese with an icy rosé on the terrace under the mimosa" had passed like the food-porn cliches they are. We were bored, and it wasn't just those of us holidaying in France that felt this way. The Italian contingent were green round the gills from pasta. From Spain and Greece came reports of surfeit of octopus and meze overload. Even the Maghrebi adventurers wanted anything that wasn't a tagine. Every single one of us was jonesing in the worst possible way for proper food.
Proper food like you get in a civilised city. Food that's in inspired by the cultures and daily needs of an indescribably complex group of individuals. Food with resonance, spirit, challenge, not some faded outdated recollection of a mythical, romantic, classical past. If you love honey, you'll know that the stuff that comes from bees that forage a single crop can be interesting. Monofloral honeys like acacia or lavender can be delightful in their place, but polyfloral honey is in a different league of complexity and fascination.
Within an hour of getting home, I wolfed sushi. The following morning I was pickling onions. Within three days I'd set up stories on hares, Mexican street food in London markets and the best recipes for bún bò huế. Sure, France reinvigorated my love of food - as it does every year - by making me realise how much more interesting it's all going to be when I get back, how lucky I am to live in a food culture that's alive, not preserved and worshipped like a relic.
So tell me. When you get back from a European holiday, are you desolate to be thrown back onto the English diet or thrilled to be home, in what I regard as one of the most exciting food cultures in the world?

lundi 22 octobre 2012

Lance Armstrong case: 'He deserves to be forgotten,' says UCI President

Lance Armstrong case: 'He deserves to be forgotten,' says UCI President

Although Lance Armstrong was finally and definitively cast out of his sport and stripped off his seven Tour de France titles on Monday, the cycling world will have to wait a while longer to discover whether or not new winners will be declared for the races held between 1999 and 2005.
Pat McQuaid, the president of the UCI, the International Cycling Union, announced at a press conference in Geneva on Monday that the governing body has accepted the verdict of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada), which concluded last week that Armstrong and his US Postal and Discovery Channel teams had colluded in what it called "the biggest doping conspiracy in the history of sport".
The UCI will not be taking an appeal against Usada's 1,000-page "reasoned decision" to the court of arbitration for sport, with McQuaid making it clear that he would now like to erase the former seven-times champion from cycling's history.
"Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling," McQuaid declared. "He deserves to be forgotten."
On Friday his management committee will meet to decide whether the runners-up in those seven Tours will be retrospectively handed a winner's yellow jersey, or whether the top step of the podium will be left blank in the record books, with an accompanying asterisk. The complication of elevating riders from second and third places is that so many of them – the likes of Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso – have subsequently been implicated in one or more of the various doping scandals that have brought the reputation of the sport to its lowest point at a time, paradoxically, when cycling as a sport and a recreation is enjoying a resurgence of popularity.
The committee will also discuss whether or not Armstrong will be made to refund his Tour prize money. Traditionally the winner's cheque is divided between all nine riders of his team; since Usada's case against Armstrong implicates his colleagues, then a wholesale recovery of the money would seem to be justified.
McQuaid also announced that the UCI will be supporting Usada's decision to hand reduced six-month suspensions to all the currently active riders who admitted doping as part of Armstrong's Tour campaigns, and on whose evidence the case depended.
McQuaid denounced as "absolutely untrue" the claims made by Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, two of Armstrong's former team-mates, that their team leader had given more than $100,000 to the UCI in order to persuade them to cover up an alleged positive test for EPO at the 2001 Tour de Suisse. The money was said to have been used to buy a blood analysis machine to increase the effectiveness of the UCI's dope testing programme.
While admitting that Armstrong had indeed made two donations, one of $25,000 in 2002 and another of $100,000 promised in 2005 and paid in 2007, McQuaid said that any suggestion of a cover-up was "absolutely untrue". In similar circumstances, he said, he would accept further donations from riders.
Friday's committee meeting will also consider the possibility of setting up some sort of truth and reconciliation process on the lines of that utilised by the South African government in the wake of apartheid, including the notion of an amnesty. "The trouble is that amnesty means different things in different languages," Philippe Verbiest, the UCI's legal advisor, said on Monday. "It's not something that you can figure out in one day."
The idea of an amnesty does not, however, appear to extend to journalists. McQuaid confirmed that he and Hein Verbruggen, fromer UCI president, will be continuing their legal action for defamation against the Irish journalist and former rider Paul Kimmage, one of a handful of reporters who showed the persistence and courage to pursue the Armstrong story through years of veiled and explicit threats.
"It's a straight defamation case," McQuaid said. "He called us corrupt." Kimmage's supporters have raised a significant sum of money to help with his defence.

vendredi 19 octobre 2012

jeudi 18 octobre 2012

Ancient 'Predator X' Sea Monster Gets Official Name

It's official: A giant, marine reptile that roamed the seas roughly 150 million years ago is a new species, researchers say. The animal, now named Pliosaurus funkei, spanned about 40 feet (12 meters) and had a massive 6.5-foot-long (2 m) skull with a bite four times as powerful as Tyrannosaurus rex.
"They were the top predators of the sea," said study co-author Patrick Druckenmiller, a paleontologist at the University of Alaska Museum. "They had teeth that would have made a T. rex whimper."
Combined with other fossil finds, the newly discovered behemoth skeletons of P. funkei paint a picture of an ancient Jurassic-era ocean filled with giant predators.
In 2006, scientists unearthed two massive pliosaur skeletons in Svalbard, Norway, a string of islands halfway between Europe and the North Pole. The giant creatures, one of which was dubbed Predator X at the time, looked slightly different from other pliosaurs discovered in England and France over the last century and a half. [See Images of Predator X]
Now, after years of painstaking analysis of the jaw, vertebrae and forelimbs, the researchers have determined that Predator X is in fact a new species, and they have officially named it for Bjorn and May-Liss Funke, volunteers who first discovered the fossils.
The pliosaurs, marine reptiles that prowled the seas 160 million to 145 million years ago during the Jurassic period, had short necks, tear-shaped bodies and four large, paddle-shaped limbs that let them "fly through the water," Druckenmiller told LiveScience.
The new species likely lived closer to 145 million years ago and ate plesiosaurs, related long-necked, small-headed reptiles.
The new analysis shows P. funkei had proportionally longer front paddles than other pliosaurs, as well as slightly different vertebrae shape and different spacing of teeth within the jaw, Druckenmiller said.
In 2008, scientists initially estimated that Predator X could have been up to 50 feet (15 m) long. The current study suggests the creature is smaller than that, but still bigger than the largest living apex predator, the killer whale, which tops out at about 30 feet (9 m) long, Druckenmiller said.
The Pliosaurus funkei fossils were just two of nearly 40 specimens discovered at the Svalbard site. In the Oct. 12 issue of the Norwegian Journal of Geology, the authors also describe two new ichthyosaurs, or dolphinlike reptiles, the longest-necked Jurassic-era plesiosaur on record, and several invertebrates.
Together, the fossils suggest an ancient Arctic sea teeming with fearsome predators and invertebrate fauna, said study co-author Jorn Hurum of the University of Oslo in an email.
"It's not just that we found a new species, we've been discovering a whole ecosystem," Druckenmiller said.

English Listening

A bit of grammar !

English tenses

Simple Present
Affirmative She drinks.
Negative She does not drink.
Interrogative Does she drink?
Form I, you we they play | he, she, it plays
  • action in the present taking place once, never or several times
  • facts
  • actions taking place one after another
  • action set by a timetable or schedule
Present Progressive
Affirmative He is reading.
Negative He is not reading.
Interrogative Is he reading?
Form To be (in the simple present) + verb + ing
  • action taking place at the moment of speaking
  • action arranged for the future
Simple Past
Affirmative I cried.
Negative I did not cry
Interrogative Did I cry?
Form Regular verbs: Verb + ed | Irregular verbs: forms differ and should be learned by heart. This is a list of irregular verbs
  • action in the past taking place once, never or several times
  • actions taking place one after another
Past Progressive
Affirmative He was driving.
Negative He was not driving.
Interrogative Was he driving?
Form to be (in the simple past) + verb + ing
  • action going on at a certain time in the past
  • actions taking place at the same time
  • action in the past that is interrupted by another action
Present Perfect Simple
Affirmative They have slept.
Negative They have not slept.
Interrogative Have they slept?
Form Have / has + past participle (past participle of regular verbs: verb + ed | Past participle of irregular verbs: forms differ and should be learned by heart. This is a list of irregular verbs)
  • emphasis is on the result (not the duration)
  • action that started in the past & is still going on
  • action that stopped recently
  • finished action that has an influence on the present
Present Perfect Progressive
Affirmative He has been thinking.
Negative He has not been thinking.
Interrogative Has he been thinking?
Form have or has + been + past participle (past participle of regular verbs: verb + ed | Past participle of irregular verbs: forms differ and should be learned by heart. This is a list of irregular verbs)
  • putting emphasis on the course or duration (not the result)
  • action that recently stopped or is still going on
  • finished action that influenced the present
Past Perfect Simple
Affirmative She had won.
Negative She had not won.
Interrogative Had she won?
Form had + past participle (past participle of regular verbs: verb + ed | Past participle of irregular verbs: forms differ and should be learned by heart. This is a list of irregular verbs)
  • action taking place before a certain time in the past
  • sometimes interchangeable with past perfect progressive
  • putting emphasis only on the fact (not the duration)
Past Perfect Progressive
Affirmative He had been waiting.
Negative Had he been waiting?
Interrogative He had not been waiting.
Form had + been + past participle (past participle of regular verbs: verb + ed | Past participle of irregular verbs: forms differ and should be learned by heart. This is a list of irregular verbs)
  • action taking place before a certain time in the past
  • sometimes interchangeable with past perfect simple
  • putting emphasis on the duration or course of an action
Future Simple
Affirmative You will win.
Negative You will not win.
Interrogative Will you win?
Form will + verb
  • action in the future that cannot be influenced
  • spontaneous decision
  • assumption with regard to the future
Near Future
(going to)
Affirmative He is going to watch TV.
Negative He is not going to watch TV.
Interrogative Is he going to watch TV?
Form to be (in the simple present) + going + to + verb
  • decision made for the future
  • conclusion with regard to the future
Future  Progressive
Affirmative She will be listening to music.
Negative She will not be listening to music.
Interrogative Will she be listening to music?
Form will + be + verb + ing
  • action that is going on at a certain time in the future
  • action that is sure to happen in the near future
Future Perfect
Affirmative He will have spoken.
Negative He will not have spoken.
Interrogative Will he have spoken?
Form will + have + past participle (past participle of regular verbs: verb + ed | Past participle of irregular verbs: forms differ and should be learned by heart. This is a list of irregular verbs)
  • action that will be finished at a certain time in the future
Future Perfect Progressive
Affirmative You will have been studying.
Negative You will not have been studying.
Interrogative Will you have been studying?
Form will + have + been + verb + ing
  • action taking place before a certain time in the future
  • putting emphasis on the course of an action

London 2012 festival success signals new era for culture

Piccadilly Circus Circus
A scene from Piccadilly Circus Circus in central London.

A new era of arts collaborations and partnerships was signalled today as the London 2012 festival came to a close and released figures that showed 19.5m people took part.
The 12-week festival was the biggest of its kind in the UK, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad which traditionally runs alongside the sporting Olympics.
Chief executive of the Royal Opera House and Cultural Olympiad chairman, Tony Hall, said festival organisers had set out to make the festival better than any country before: "We said that with a slight trepidation, but I think what we have delivered right across the UK is absolutely that – we have done it better than anybody else before. We have had an extraordinary summer of arts and culture on a scale that has never ever been done before by any nation at the time of the Olympics."
The number of artistic collaborations and partnerships has been unprecedented and Hall said he hoped it would change the way arts organisations work. "If I think about our collaboration with the National Gallery [a Titian/Royal Ballet project], I think 'why have we not done this before?' I hope that now people have done things together that those links and contacts will continue. We have all learnt so much this summer."
Hall said the festival had made it easier for people to work on projects in the future. The festival director, Ruth Mackenzie, pointed to the example of Piccadilly Circus – which was turned into an actual circus for a day – which had never been closed for an event since VE Day. "I'm prepared to bet we're not going to have to wait as long before we can see an event of that scale and artistic ambition again," she said.
After the final weekend of festival events, including choreographer Michael Clark at Barrowlands, figures were released that showed 19.5m people took part in the festival. That figure included 16.5m taking part in free events and 2.9m ringing bells as part of Martin Creed's All the Bells artwork.
The Cultural Olympiad board will stay on for another year to work on the festival's legacy and whether such an event can become a regular fixture in the arts calendar, while Mackenzie and her team will depart over the coming months.
The cultural baton was handed on to Derry, next year's UK city of culture.

mercredi 17 octobre 2012

Self-assured Obama recovers with better balance of style and substance

Mitt Romney puts up a fight against a more decisive opponent but can't overcome the president's sharp delivery
obama romney debate
Obama won the best lines of the night as Romney came off overly aggressive in an attempt to maintain his lead.
Barack Obama had one thing going for him coming into this debate: he couldn't be any worse than the last time. Mitt Romney had one drawback: he apparently couldn't be any better.
As it turned out Obama was much better. Clearer, sharper, more decisive and passionate, he challenged Mitt Romney on the facts and rhetorically he overwhelmed him. It was a rout every bit as conclusive as the first debate. Only this time the victor was Obama. Last time he barely showed up; tonight he showed Romney up.
Self-assured without being too cocky, focused without being too wonkish, he managed to strike the right balance between being firm with Romney and empathetic with the questioners. There was little of substance that he said that was different; but there was a great deal of difference in the way that he said it.
To him were gifted the best lines of the night. When taking on his Republican challenger over his shift from supporting a ban on assault weapons as governor of Massachusetts to opposing them as a presidential candidate, he said: "He was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it."
When Romney pushed him on investments in his pension funds Obama, asking if he'd seen his pension recently, Obama responded: "I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours so it doesn't take as long."
When Romney was corrected by the moderator, Candy Crowley, after suggesting that Obama did not call the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi a "terrorist attack" Obama shouted with a smile: "Say it louder, Candy."
Romney did put up a fight. Approaching the debate with the same style as he did in Denver he brought his best self. Probably his best line came in an answer about why, given the hard times of Obama's first term, he should be trusted with a second. "We just can't afford another four years like the last four years," said Romney.
It is difficult to equate the stiff and impersonal figure of the conventions with the man who showed up tonight. But it simply wasn't enough. Indeed, if anything it was too much. For in his effort to reassert the control he enjoyed during the first debate he overreached.
Where he once appeared animated he now came off as aggressive. His interruptions looked desperate and his interjections were shrill. In the two weeks since his triumph in Denver he went from persuasive to petulant.
The other loser tonight was US politics. Two men circling, talking over each other, drawing on different facts and calling each other liars looked like a metaphor for much that has gone wrong in American political culture over the last generation. Town hall meetings are supposed to be less confrontational. But more caustic than consensual, this was a bad-tempered affair.
Obama's performance will energise his base and shore up the doubts of those shaken by his earlier drubbing. It will staunch the bleeding of support towards Romney but it is unlikely to reverse the flow.
They called it a town-hall meeting. But in truth there are very few towns like it. It was a room full of undecided voters: the nation is not

mardi 16 octobre 2012

Is boredom bad for your health?

Man sitting at desk looking bored
Boredom can unlock creativity in some, but can be corrosive for others.
What were you doing before you started reading this? Were you fully focused on another article? Or doing the crossword? Eating breakfast? Organising your day? Or were you staring out of the window, feeling restless and bored?
It is more likely to have been the latter. Fleeting moments of boredom are universal, and are often what drives us to stop what we are doing and shift to something that we hope will be more stimulating.
But although boredom is common, it is neither trivial nor benign, according to Dr John Eastwood, a psychologist at York University, Toronto. Eastwood is the joint author of The Unengaged Mind, a major new paper on the theory of boredom.
Boredom, he points out, has been associated with increased drug and alcohol abuse, overeating, depression and anxiety, and an increased risk of making mistakes. Mistakes at work might not be a matter of life and death for most of us, but if you are an air traffic controller, pilot or nuclear power plant operator, they most certainly can be.
Commercial pilot Sami Franks (not his real name) confirms that boredom can make pilots lose attention. "When you fly long haul, there are two pilots, one of whom is monitoring all the screens while the other does the paperwork, talks to air traffic control and so on. You need to be alert for landing and takeoff, but once you're 500ft above the runway, the plane's on autopilot and it can be very quiet and boring.
"In a study I saw of co-pilots who woke up after a nap, 30% reported seeing the other pilot asleep too," adds Franks, in a comment that will not play well with nervous flyers.
The stakes are not usually so high, but boredom can be protracted, heavy and associated with an unpleasant sensation, according to Eastwood. And despite having attracted the attention of philosophers, psychologists, neuroscientists and educationalists, there is no precise definition of boredom and no consensus as to how we counter it. The report says boredom is most often conceptualised as "the aversive experience of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity."
"All instances of boredom involve a failure of attention," says Eastwood. "And attention is what you are using now to blot out the plethora of stimuli around you while you focus awareness on a given topic."
There are three functions involved in attention. We have to be suitably aroused, so as not to fall asleep on the job. Then we have an orienting system that can cut in so that if you cross the road, deep in thought, you will still respond to a flickering light on the edge of your visual field that heralds a fast-approaching car. And the third type of attention is an executive system that oversees our mental activities, so we can consciously stay engaged even if the task is not very interesting. Boredom results when any of these functions breaks down.
Dr Esther Priyadharshini, a senior lecturer in education at the University of East Anglia, has studied boredom and says it can be seen in a positive light. "We can't avoid boredom – it's an inevitable human emotion. We have to accept it as legitimate and find ways it can be harnessed. We all need downtime, away from the constant bombardment of stimulation. There's no need to be in a frenzy of activity at all times," she says.
Children who complain that they have nothing to do on rainy half-term breaks may find other things to focus on if left to their own devices. The artist Grayson Perry has reportedly spoken of how long periods of boredom in childhood may have enhanced his creativity. "We all need vacant time to mull things over," says Priyadharshini.
But if boredom can enhance our creativity and be a signal for change, why is it such a corrosive problem for some individuals?
People who have suffered extreme trauma are more likely to report boredom than those who have had a less eventful time. The theory is that they shut down emotionally and find it harder to work out what they need. They may be left with free-floating desire, without knowing what to pin it on. This lack of emotional awareness is known as alexithymia and can affect anyone.
Frustrated dreamers who haven't realised their goals can expend all their emotional energy on hating themselves or the world, and find they have no attention left for anything else. Bungee jumpers and thrill-seekers may also be particularly susceptible to boredom, as they feel the world isn't moving fast enough for them. They constantly need to top up their high levels of arousal and are always searching for stimulation from their environment.
"Boredom isn't a nice feeling, so we have an urge to eradicate it and cope with it in a counterproductive way," says Eastwood. This may be what drives people to destructive behaviours such as gambling, overeating, alcohol and drug abuse, he says, though research is needed to tease out whether there's a direct causal link.
"The problem is we've become passive recipients of stimulation," says Eastwood. "We say, 'I'm bored, so I'll put on the TV or go to a loud movie.' But boredom is like quicksand: the more we thrash around, the quicker we'll sink."

lundi 15 octobre 2012

Why I became a teacher: because I know education changes people's lives

Sandra Reston
Keen to change career, Sandra Reston pursued teaching and discovered a passion for teaching people who had lost faith in education.
I had an horrendous time at school. I deliberately failed my entrance exam at grammar school so I could go to the local comprehensive with my friends. I started off in A stream and ended up in D stream. I was completely disengaged. Everything was too slow, I was bored. I didn't think I was clever and I was told I was stupid. My strongest memory is being caned on my last day at school and being told I would never make anything of myself.
That level of low self-esteem stayed with me for many years. I didn't leave home until I got married and then I ran my own fashion and travel businesses, but I still felt stupid.
I decided to do my A-levels at night school when I in my 20s. It was like Educating Rita really: my husband was totally unsupportive. When my sociology lecturer said I should apply to Durham University my husband made me feel that was completely impractical and basically impossible. So it wasn't until we got divorced that I thought this is the time for me and I did an Open University degree in humanities.
My first year was a star burst. I loved it so much, I couldn't believe what I was learning. The final 18 months of the degree were more difficult because I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It became very complicated fitting in the chemotherapy but I didn't want to stop because I thought I was going to die. I knew I just couldn't die without completing my degree so I struggled on. The treatment worked, I survived and went straight on to do an MA.
At the time, I felt my MA was more valuable than a PGCE but in hindsight I probably should have done one. I knew I wanted to pass on my love of learning and my love of literature. But conventional routes to teaching didn't work for me.
I did some supply teaching in schools but realised I felt more engaged with adults and young people who needed a second chance. I could make more of an impact on them and this was the way teaching career went.
I started working at Wetherby Young Offenders Institution and then went on to Full Sutton High Security Prison. At Wetherby Young Offenders I was teaching 13 to 19 year olds. I was there to teach them humanities but if you can imagine all these kids who are off the wall and use the f word as punctuation, you can understand why what I ended up teaching was life skills. I also spent a lot of time teaching young offenders and adult prisoners how to read and write. Many of my students couldn't read but you can actually learn to read at any age. At Full Sutton the dyslexia rate was 62%. Most of my students were from very fractured backgrounds, some had been homeless or had lived in hostels. Prisons have an incredibly eclectic mix of people and for many of the prisoners on long stretches education was just something to pass the time and relieve the monotony. But some ended up doing degrees with the OU. I taught in prisons for four years, just on an hourly rate so I also worked as a private tutor with individual students mostly in English and sociology and was also an examiner. So it was quite a variety.
When I got my job teaching at Leeds City College I was over the moon. I walked in the first day to a real classroom with real students. It was enormous for me. There's not a day when I don't go into work and think how much I love what I do. For me teaching is theatre. I'm in charge, people are learning from what I know.
My students didn't get their qualifications at school for whatever reason or never really went to school at all, so I can relate to them. Many are very bright. One of our star students last year go 4 A*s and one A in his GCSEs yet he'd failed all his exams at school.
Many of our students have very difficult home lives and have to be really determined to come to college. We have 16 year-old students who are carers, mums who want to get some qualifications and missed out the first time, students who have been disrupted all their lives with enormous personal problems to face alongside trying to get an education. Everyone has their story or a challenge to face and they've decided to get some qualifications. They know it will change their lives and it will also change how they think.
Here at college they have tutors who are great role models. All of us in our team have come into teaching through a number of ways, none of them conventional. We all have real life experiences. We understand what it's like to have to work evenings or be up against flack of someone trying to demoralise you. When you've lived at the financial edge yourself I guess it makes you have different approach – I know you anything is possible rather than thinking nothing is possible.
I think my pupils would say I was tough and demanding but they know they will get results. Our attendance for our access course is 96% which is phenomenal.
I feel so proud of my students. I love them - I just think they're great! They come in with their books, they've done their homework - often for the first time in their lives. When it's results day I'm like a mother hen clucking over her chicks. When my students see what they have achieved it's an amazing moment. They can believe in themselves.
I think it's vital that FE colleges give people a second chance. FE is very different to school. If you walk down the corridor you don't know who is a teacher and who is a pupil as obviously there's no school uniform. It's all first names, there are different relationships. We provide high levels of pastoral support. We are strict, we don't allow lateness, if you miss a session I'll know about it. But being at college is not compulsory.
I'm a huge believer in life long learning. I did my degree because I loved it and at the moment I'm planning taking some short literature courses at Oxford University. I think, in fact I know, education changes lives.
Sandra Reston is curriculum manager at Leeds City College where she manages the ACCESS programme, BTEC science and the Step Up programme.

Thanks to Sandra for sharing her poetry lessons resource, which she developed for her access students at Leeds City College. Sandra has found the resource helps students overcome their fear of poetry, particularly of it being 'high culture' and not for them.

jeudi 11 octobre 2012

11 teammates testified in case against Armstrong

Lance Armstrong challenged the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to name names and show what it had on him. On Wednesday, it did. The anti-doping group released a report on its case against Armstrong — a point-by-point roadmap of the lengths it says Armstrong went to in winning seven Tour de France titles USADA has ordered taken away.
In more than 150 pages filled with allegations, USADA names 11 former teammates — George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis among them — as key witnesses. It details the way those men and others say drugs were delivered and administered to Armstrong's teams. It discusses Armstrong's continuing relationship with and payments to a doctor, Michele Ferrari, years after Ferrari has been sanctioned in Italy and Armstrong claimed to have broken ties with him.
It presents as matter-of-fact reality that winning and doping went hand in hand in cycling and that Armstrong's teams were the best at getting it done without getting caught. He won the Tour as leader of the U.S. Postal Service team from 1999-2004 and again in 2005 with the Discovery Channel as the primary sponsor. The report also uses Armstrong's own words against him.
"We had one goal and one ambition and that was to win the greatest bike race in the world and not just to win it once, but to keep winning it," the report reads, quoting from testimony Armstrong gave in an earlier legal proceeding. But, USADA said, the path Armstrong chose to pursue his goals "ran far outside the rules." It accuses him of depending on performance-enhancing drugs to fuel his victories and "more ruthlessly, to expect and to require that his teammates" do the same.
Armstrong did not fight the USADA charges, but insists he never cheated. His attorney, Tim Herman, called the report "a one-sided hatchet job — a taxpayer funded tabloid piece rehashing old, disproved, unreliable allegations based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat-induced stories." Aware of the criticism his agency has faced from Armstrong and his legion of followers, USADA Chief Executive Travis Tygart insisted USADA handled this case under the same rules as any other. He pointed out that Armstrong was given the chance to take his case to arbitration and he declined, choosing in August to accept the sanctions instead.
"We focused solely on finding the truth without being influenced by celebrity or non-celebrity, threats, personal attacks or political pressure because that is what clean athletes deserve and demand," Tygart said. Some of the newest information — never spelled out in detail before Wednesday — includes USADA's depiction of Armstrong's continuing relationship with Ferrari, who, like Armstrong, has received a lifetime ban from USADA. Ferrari, long thought of as the mastermind of Armstrong's alleged doping plan, was investigated in Italy and Armstrong claimed he had cut ties with him after a 2004 conviction. USADA cites financial records that show payments of at least $210,000 in the two years after Ferrari's conviction.

1) Write a summary of the article
2) Who is your favorite athlete? Why?

UN warns of rising food costs after year's extreme weather Warning comes as shops struggle to fill shelves and farmers' union reports wheat yields are at lowest level since 1980s

UN warns of rising food costs after year’s extreme weather
Barley is checked in a field south of Moscow. This summer, Russia banned grain exports after a severe drought reduced harvest estimates. 
The UN has warned of increasing meat and dairy prices in the wake of extreme weather in the United States and across large parts of Europe and other centres of global food production.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome, global wheat production is expected to fall 5.2% in 2012 and yields from many other crops grown to feed animals could be 10% down on last year.

"Populations are growing but production is not keeping up with consumption. Prices for wheat have already risen 25% in 2012, maize 13% and dairy prices rose 7% just last month. Food reserves, [held to provide a buffer against rising prices] are at a critical low level
"It means that food supplies are tight across the board and there is very little room for unexpected events," said Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist with the FAO.

"The decrease in cereal production this year will result in a significant reduction in world reserves by the close of seasons in 2013, even with world demand sliding as a result of high prices," he said.
The warning of further food prices came as some British supermarkets said they were struggling to keep shelves stocked with fresh produce and the National Farmers Union (NFU) reported that UK wheat yields have been the lowest since the late 1980s as a result of abnormal rain fall.

The NFU president, Peter Kendall, said: "There are many farmers who are down 25% to 30% on the wheat crop. In some cases you looked from the outside and you thought, this crop will do over four tonnes to the acre – and it's been struggling to do three and some cases two tonnes to the acre."
"It's been soul-destroying for the farmers growing the crops," he said.

Kendall added that the increase in the global price of wheat over the past year was also putting pressures on pig and poultry farmers, who rely on grain to feed their livestock.

Confirmation of one of the worst global harvests in years will come on Thursday, when the US government is expected to announce that drought and heat damage to crops this year has reduced its wheat, maize and soy harvests by more than 10%.

Because the US is by far the world's biggest grower and exporter of grains, this is expected to have repercussions around the world.

Farmers are still harvesting their crops but the maize harvest is expected to be the lowest in nine years.

Nearly 40% of all US maize is now used in biofuels, further restricting exports and raising prices.
British supermarkets said they had not ruled out the prospect of price rises of staple foods, but they pledged to offer "competitive pricing" of essential food items in their value and economy ranges.
A spokeswoman for Waitrose said: "There's no doubt that this has been an exceptionally tough growing season for our farmers, who have been coping with very bad weather and rising costs for critical inputs such as fuel. We are working closely with all our growers to help them manage their costs and get as much of their crop on our shelves as possible through initiatives such as selling cosmetically imperfect but good-quality fruit and veg – something we have always done."
Sainsbury's said in a statement: "We continue to work with British farmers and growers to get the most out of the crop. We've taken the decision to radically change our approach to buying British fruit and vegetables as a result of this year's unseasonal weather."
The run of unpredictable weather this season has left farmers and growers with bumper crops of "ugly"-looking fruit and vegetables, with reported increases in blemishes and scarring, as well as shortages because of later crops. This week, Sainsbury's launched a trial of its Basics range of potatoes, which have visible cracks and blemishes, in more than 35 stores in the Midlands. Last month, the supermarket said it was relaxing its rules on the cosmetic appearance of fresh produce.
New research by the consumer group Which? found that the average cost of a shopping bill is now £76.83 a week – an increase of £5.66 in a year. Richard Lloyd, the group's executive director, said: "The rising price of food is one of consumers' top financial worries and is changing the way we shop. Recent Which? research found more of us are shopping at discount supermarkets and four in 10 people told us they planned to cut back on their food shopping. We want retailers to be clearer about food pricing and offer responsible price promotions that give the consumer the best possible value for money."

New figures from the charity FareShare – which fights hunger and food waste in the UK – shows that lower-income families have cut their consumption of fruit and vegetables by nearly a third in the wake of the recession and rising food prices, to just over half of the five-a-day portions recommended for a healthy diet.

mardi 9 octobre 2012

The road to the White House leads through wild, wonderful and weird Florida

JUPITER, Fla.—Republicans do not mince words when discussing the importance of Florida. This is the state that could determine whether the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, moves into the White House in January or spends Inauguration Day contemplating What Could Have Been on the balcony of his beach home in Southern California.
"Florida's a must-win for Mitt Romney. This is it," said Lenny Curry, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. "We have to win Florida."
It's not quite the same in Ohio, where GOP state operatives decline to use such dire language and where polls showed Romney struggling before last week's presidential debate. An Ohio loss would make matters difficult, yes, but Romney could lose the Buckeyes and still beat Obama.
But that's not the case here.
Arguably one of the most fascinating and (depending on whom you ask) frustrating hotbeds of American politics, Florida continues to live up to its reputation of mercurial voters and questionable electoral practices (hanging chads notwithstanding). The state swings and flips harder than a hammock left out in a hurricane, and this year should be no exception. Of all the hotly contested battleground states, Florida is the biggest get, offering 29 of the 270 electoral votes needed to clinch the presidency.
The Sunshine State supported Richard Nixon in 1960, voted for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and then went back to Nixon in 1968 and 1972. Floridians handed Jimmy Carter its electoral votes four years later. The Republicans locked it down during an impressive stretch through the years of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, but then it reverted right back to blue when Bill Clinton ran for re-election in 1996. Four years later, the up-for-grabs swing state stole the spotlight. With some help from hanging chads and the Supreme Court, George W. Bush carried it by a nose and held on through his second election. In 2008, Obama won the state back for the Democrats.
As of this writing, before polls can reflect a possible debate bump, statewide surveys suggest a dead heat. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll conducted Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 shows Romney and Obama tied. The latest Florida state poll reflects a recent surge of support for Romney, who trailed by several points in surveys taken through September.
All politics is local
In the past few years, Floridians have veered decidedly Republican at the state and local level. The GOP currently controls the state Legislature, the state Senate and the governor's mansion. In 2010, voters here enthusiastically sent Republican Marco Rubio to the U.S. Senate, and 19 of the 25 House members in the Florida delegation are Republicans.
But Romney faces serious hurdles before he can assume a Sunshine State victory and focus his resources elsewhere. In recent months Obama has all but locked up support from Hispanic voters, a group that comprises about 23 percent of the Florida population. To make up for this deficit, Romney may be forced to make inroads elsewhere. Among the elderly, who flock in droves to Florida—and to voting booths—Romney appears to be standing strong. However, his decision to tap Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as a running mate risked shaving off a few points with the Blue Hair Bloc.
Regionally, Romney's strongest base of support lies in the southwest part of the state, where thousands of retirees from the conservative Midwest flock to retire. Obama is more popular along the eastern coastline, where most of the snowbirds and retirees hail from the more reliably liberal Northeast. Romney is expected to dominate the northern part of the state along the panhandle, which culturally is more like the South than South Florida. But, still, he can't take the north for granted. Bush carried that region solidly in 2000 and 2004, but Obama made great strides to narrow the gap in 2008. If Florida is going to be a close race, Romney cannot afford the same level of support as John McCain in those areas. He must dominate.
Of course, Obama has his own Florida issues. The voting demographics are not the same as they were when he defeated McCain four years ago. Today, there are 141,000 fewer registered Democrats and about 74,000 more Republicans registered in Florida than when Obama was first elected. Registered Democrats still outnumber Republicans by 443,166 here, but the gap could make all the difference in this game of inches.
The battle for Florida, then, lies in the heart of the state. Commonly referred to as the "I-4 corridor," the region stretches 130 miles from Daytona Beach through Orlando and on to Tampa. It's the swingiest part of this swing state, chock-full of undecided voters who could determine the election's outcome. Voters in this region went for Bush in 2004, Obama in 2008 and now ... who knows?

Skydiver's supersonic jump on weather hold

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — Plans for extreme athlete and skydiver Felix Baumgartner to make a death-defying, 23-mile free fall into the southeastern New Mexico desert were on hold Tuesday morning because of winds, but his team was still hoping the weather would clear in time to make the jump.
The 43-year-old former military parachutist from Austria planned to take off in a 55-story, ultra-thin and easy-to-tear helium balloon that would take him into the stratosphere for a jump that he hopes will make him the first skydiver to break the sound barrier and shatter three other world records.
Mission meteorologist Don Day said winds on the ground were an ideal 1 to 2 mph, but were 20 mph at the balloon-top level of 700 feet before sunrise.
"We need 3 mph or less at 800 feet," Day said, putting the chance of a launch Tuesday at "50-50."
After sunrise, Day said there were indications the upper level winds might calm, so the team pushed the launch window from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., noon at the latest. A final decision would have to be made about 9:30 as it takes about an hour and half to fill the balloon and get Baumgartner suited up and ready.
"We are going to stick it out for another couple of hours," he said, adding, "We've got everyone here. We are going to wait and see if we can take advantage of it."
If the launch, already delayed one day by a cold front, can't go Tuesday, Day said the next try probably wouldn't be until Thursday. In addition to the wind, he said, the team was having some issues with the GPS system.
The balloon had been scheduled to launch about 7 a.m. from a field near the airport in a flat dusty town that until now has been best known for a rumored 1947 UFO landing.
If the mission goes, Baumgartner will make a nearly three-hour ascent to 120,000 feet, then take a bunny-style hop from a pressurized capsule into a near-vacuum where there is barely any oxygen to begin what is expected to be the fastest, farthest free fall from the highest-ever manned balloon.
Baumgartner spent Monday at his hotel, mentally preparing for the dangerous feat with his parents, girlfriend and four close friends, his team said. He had a light dinner of salmon and a salad, then had a massage. He spent Tuesday morning resting in an Airstream trailer near the launch site.
Among the risks: Any contact with the capsule on his exit could tear the pressurized suit. A rip could expose him to a lack of oxygen and temperatures as low as 70 degrees below zero. It could cause potentially lethal bubbles to form in his bodily fluids, a condition known as "boiling blood."
He could also spin out of control, causing other risky problems.
The energy drink maker Red Bull, which is sponsoring the feat, has been promoting a live Internet stream of the event at from nearly 30 cameras on the capsule, the ground and a helicopter. But organizers said there will be a 20-second delay in their broadcast of footage in case of a tragic accident.
Despite the dangers and questionable wind forecast, high performance director Andy Walshe said the team was excited, not nervous. Baumgartner has made two practice jumps, one from 15 miles in March and another from 18 miles in July.
"With these big moments, you get a kind of sense that the energy changes," he said Monday. "It really is just kind of a heightened energy. It keeps you on your toes. It's not nervousness, it's excitement."
During the ascent, Walshe said, the team will have views from a number of cameras, including one focused directly on Baumgartner's face. Additionally, they will have data from life support and other systems that show things like whether he is getting enough oxygen.
The team also expects constant communication with Baumgartner, although former Air Force Capt. Joe Kittinger, whose 1960 free-fall record from 19.5 miles Baumgartner hopes to break, is the only member of mission control who will be allowed to talk to him.
And while Baumgartner hopes to set four new world records, his free fall is more than just a stunt.
His dive from the stratosphere should provide scientists with valuable information for next-generation spacesuits and techniques that could help astronauts survive accidents.
Jumping from more than three times the height of the average cruising altitude for jetliners, Baumgartner's expects to hit a speed of 690 mph or more before he activates his parachute at 9,500 feet above sea level, or about 5,000 above the ground in southeastern New Mexico. The total jump should take about 10 minutes.
His medical director is Dr. Jonathan Clark, a NASA space shuttle crew surgeon who lost his wife, Laurel Clark, in the 2003 Columbia accident. No one knows what happens to a body when it breaks the sound barrier, Clark said.
"That is really the scientific essence of this mission," said Clark, who is dedicated to improving astronauts' chances of survival in a high-altitude disaster.
Clark told reporters Monday he expects Baumgartner's pressurized spacesuit to protect him from the shock waves of breaking the sound barrier. If all goes well and he survives the jump, NASA could certify a new generation of spacesuits for protecting astronauts and provide an escape option from spacecraft at 120,000 feet, he said.
Currently, spacesuits are certified to protect astronauts to 100,000 feet, the level Kittinger reached in 1960. Kittinger's speed of 614 mph was just shy of breaking the sound barrier at that altitude

1) What is this article about?

2) What is a personal goal you have that you wish to achieve?

3) What is the craziest thing you´ve ever done?