WOMEN WRITE BETTER SOFTWARE CODE

[TECHNOLOGY ★]

WOMEN WRITE BETTER SOFTWARE CODE

Software Engineer

(P1) Computer code written by women has a higher approval rating than that written by men – but only if their gender is not identifiable, new research suggests.

(P2) The US researchers analysed nearly 1.4 million users of the open source program-sharing service Github.

(P3) They found that pull requests – or suggested code changes – made on the service by women were more likely to be accepted than those by men.

(P4) The researchers, from the computer science departments at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and North Carolina State University, looked at around four million people who logged on to Github on a single day – 1 April 2015.

(P5) Github is an enormous developer community which does not request gender information from its 12 million users.

(P6) However the team was able to identify whether roughly 1.4m were male or female – either because it was clear from the users’ profiles or because their email addresses could be matched with the Google + social network.

(P7) The researchers accepted that this was a privacy risk but said they did not intend to publish the RAW DATA.

(P8) The team found that 78.6% of pull requests made by women were accepted compared with 74.6% of those by men.

(P9) The researchers considered various factors, such as whether women were more likely to be responding to known issues, whether their contributions were shorter in length and so easier to APPRAISE, and which programming language they were using, but they could not find any significant CORRELATIONS in those areas.

(P10) However, for users whose profiles made clear that they were women (and who were not familiar users of Github), their pull requests had a much lower acceptance rate than those whose gender was not obvious.

(P11) “For OUTSIDERS, we see evidence for GENDER BIAS: women’s acceptance rates are 71.8% when they use gender-NEUTRAL profiles, but drop to 62.5% when their gender is identifiable. There is a similar drop for men, but the effect is not as strong,” the paper noted.

(P12) “Our results suggest that although women on Github may be more competent overall, bias against them exists nonetheless,” the researchers concluded.

(P13) But the researchers’ findings are still encouraging, computer scientist Dr Sue Black said.

(P14) “I think we are going to see a SURGE of interest from women in not only coding but all sorts of tech-related careers over the next few years,” she said.

(P15) “Knowing that women are great at coding gives strength to the case that it’s better for everyone to have more women working in tech.

(P16) “It was a woman – ADA LOVELACE – who came up with the idea of software in the first place. We owe it to her to make sure that we encourage and support women into the software industry,” Dr Black added.

(P17) Tech firms continue to show low staff diversity, in terms of both gender and ethnicity.

(P18) Just 16% of Facebook’s tech staff and 18% of Google’s are women, according to figures released in 2015.

WORDS: 495

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-35559439

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do the findings of this study surprise you?
  3. Why did women’s pull requests have a lower acceptance rate when their gender was known?
  4. Are technology forms doing enough to attract women and minority workers?
  5. Can you use HTML or any other coding languages?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each  expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Raw data
  • Gender bias

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JENRRY MEJIA PERMANENTLY BANNED FROM BASEBALL FOR DRUG USE

[SPORTS ★★]

JENRRY MEJIA PERMANENTLY BANNED FROM BASEBALL FOR DRUG USE

Jenrry Mejia

(P1) Jenrry Mejia is 26 years old. With any kind of luck at all, that leaves him with a lot of life left, and with any kind of PRUDENCE, he would have had a long baseball career left.

(P2) He grew up in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, where he shined shoes for a few pesos at a time. He discovered baseball at 15, found he was good at it, and began to understand that it could be his career.

(P3) He was in the major leagues with the New York Mets at 20. He was a regular in their BULLPEN at 24. He was suspended twice after testing positive for PERFORMANCE-ENHANCING DRUGS [PEDS] at 25. And on Friday afternoon, at 26 years old, Jenrry Mejia became the first player in professional baseball to be banned for life because of a third positive test.

(P4) In a period of 10 months, Mejia tested positive for Stanozolol, and was suspended for 80 games; then tested positive for both Stanozolol and Boldenone, and was suspended for 162 games; and then tested for Boldenone again and was permanently disqualified.

(P5) He probably would have been the Mets’ CLOSER. He would have made millions of dollars.

(P6) Instead, he will have a hard time pitching anywhere. The professional leagues in Japan, Korea, and Mexico all have agreements with Major League Baseball, and will honor the ban.

(P7) Mejia can apply for REINSTATEMENT here in two years, but it is highly unlikely to be granted.

(P8) So what kind of a young man is BUSTED for STEROIDS, twice, and while serving each of those suspensions is busted again for using the same drugs? Mejia, as of Friday, was six months from pitching in a big-league game. Why take illegal drugs now? Or, maybe, why do those drugs linger in him still?

(P9) Maybe he is that FOOLISH, that SHORTSIGHTED, that RECKLESS. Maybe he is that INSECURE. That FRAGILE.

(P10) Maybe he believed that everything – the fastball, the big-league life, the big-league paycheck, and his entire professional future – depended not on his talent, but on those drugs.

(P11) The Mets, through a statement, would only say they were “deeply disappointed” to learn of Mejia’s VIOLATION. Now they’ll MOVE ON.

(P12) While the simplest and quite understandable reaction is to wonder how a grown man could make such a dumb decision – three times – you may also ask why he would choose to kill his own career. That’s nobody else’s problem today, of course. Just his. And he’ll have an AWFULLY long time to think about it.

WORDS: 429

SOURCE: http://sports.yahoo.com/news/jenrry-mejia-a-major-leaguer-at-20–banned-for-life-at-26-003952536.html

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Why do people make stupid decisions?
  3. Why do rich, famous, and talented people seem to make more stupid decisions than other people?
  4. Have any athletes in your country gotten into trouble recently?
  5. Are professional athletes paid too much?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation:

  • Performance-enhancing drugs
  • Move on

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SHOPPING CENTERS IN VENEZUELA CUT HOURS IN HALF

[BUSINESS ★]

SHOPPING CENTERS IN VENEZUELA CUT HOURS IN HALF

No Light

(P1) Shopping centers in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, say they will be halving their open times to four hours a day.

(P2) The move will allow them to COMPLY WITH government energy RATIONING.

(P3) Ministers say that a DROUGHT has brought 18 of the country’s HYDRO-ELECTRIC DAMS to very low water levels. The SHORTAGE of electricity has caused many BLACKOUTS. (“No hay luz” in the photograph above means “There is no light” in Spanish.)

(P4) A spokesman for the country’s RETAIL association said the drop in working hours would have an impact on jobs.

(P5) The state energy corporation (Corpoelec) had wanted cuts twice a day, between 1pm and 3pm and then again between 7pm and 9pm.

(P6) The retail association, The Chamber of Venezuelan Commercial Centres (Cavececo), said it had made an ALTERNATIVE proposal: that shops should open late at 12:00 and close at 19:00 saving five hours of energy use daily.

(P7) But they had not received a response to this suggestion, the organisation said.

(P8) “To turn the lights off at one in the afternoon and not to be able to work would have a huge impact on our business,” said Mleidys Galves who works in a pizzeria in the Lider Shopping Centre in Caracas.

(P9) “That is our peak selling time when people come out to eat lunch.”

(P10) Cavececo said opening and closing twice in a day would be disastrous for banking operations, health centers, servicing companies, supermarkets, and restaurants.

(P11) The government has also asked private residences to start saving energy and has been rationing domestic water supplies since January.

WORDS: 263

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-35519167

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. The Venezuelan government has been criticized for its handling of recent economic and political CRISES. Does the government in your country handle crises well?
  3. If you owned a business and could only be open five hours each day, which five hours would you choose?
  4. Have you ever experienced a blackout?
  5. Does your country get enough rain, or are there sometimes droughts?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Comply with
  • Hydro-electric dam

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WILL THE NICARAGUA CANAL BE BUILT?

[WORLD NEWS ★★]

WILL THE NICARAGUA CANAL BE BUILT?

Nicaragua Canal

(P1) Manuel Coronel Kautz isn’t a man who GIVES UP easily. This is a good thing. Because as head of Nicaragua’s CANAL Authority, he’s seen the $50 billion project suffer SETBACK after setback. The latest: 12 months of construction delays.

(P2) “SKEPTICISM about the canal will fade as things start happening,” Kautz said.

(P3) Three years after President Daniel Ortega awarded the construction contract for the 170-mile long project to the Hong Kong-based HKND Group, PRELIMINARY studies are nearing completion, Kautz said. Chinese officials who traveled to Nicaragua last month visited the Pacific Coast town of Brito, where construction on the PORT where the canal will join the ocean is now scheduled to begin in December, about a year later than originally planned.

(P4) The VIABILITY of the project, which would be 300 miles (480 kilometers) from the century-old Panama Canal, has been questioned by shipping experts and ENGINEERS since Ortega first announced his plans.

(P5) BACKERS say the canal will attract larger ships that wouldn’t be able to fit through a new set of LOCKS on the Panama Canal — a $5.3 billion project that is itself nearly two years behind schedule. A new canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans would provide a significant BOOST to Nicaragua’s $12 billion economy.

(P6) Kautz said that most of the financing would now probably come from private funding. He said the project could be divided into several phases so smaller sums of money can be raised for each phase.

(P7) Anti-canal protests continued in January. A survey by Cid Gallup and published in newspaper Confidencial showed that 34 percent of respondents considered the canal to be “pure PROPAGANDA.” Skeptical residents say the canal is a plan by Ortega to DRUM UP support ahead of November’s presidential election. But a separate study published by the government said that 81 percent of Nicaraguans support the canal.

(P8) “I think the canal only exists in Ortega’s head,” said 24-year-old university student Yader Sequeira. “Absolutely nothing is happening.”

(P9) Kautz doesn’t see it that way.

(P10) “Things are being prepared to start at the end of this year, starting with the port on the Pacific coast,” he said. “Things are moving forward.”

WORDS: 363

SOURCE: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-08/china-s-faltering-but-nicaragua-isn-t-giving-up-on-canal-plans

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. This canal would be one of the major engineering FEATS in the history of mankind. Do you think it will be built?
  3. China is investing money all over the world. Why?
  4. How much of what politicians say do you believe?
  5. Have there been any large public construction projects in your city or country recently?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Give up
  • Drum up

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WHY TOURISTS ARE AVOIDING THIS BEAUTIFUL ITALIAN ISLAND

[TRAVEL ★★★]

WHY TOURISTS ARE AVOIDING THIS BEAUTIFUL ITALIAN ISLAND

Lampedusa

(P1) A sunny Italian isle in the Mediterranean with beautiful beaches and SPARKLING seas, Lampedusa sounds like an ideal holiday DESTINATION – but tourists are staying away.

(P2) Police have become a constant presence, sent to deal with the huge number of MIGRANTS arriving on the island from North Africa and the MIDDLE EAST.

(P3) At the island’s HARBOR, Giorgio is checking the engine of his small boat. Giorgio, a SKIPPER, tells me he rarely gets the chance these days to take tourists out on the OPEN SEA – he’s got no CLIENTS.

(P4) The island has some of the best beaches in the world. Its weather is mild and comforting even during the winter months. The surrounding COBALT-BLUE sea is full of dolphins, turtles, and beautiful coloured fish.

(P5) “Yes,” Giorgio agrees. “But I sit IDLE here in the harbor.”

(P6) His girlfriend, Angela, hands him a cloth to wipe the salt off the boat’s windows.

(P7) “I used to work eight months of the year as a hotel RECEPTIONIST,” she complains. “Now I’m lucky to get three months work a year – the guests just aren’t coming anymore, even in summer.”

(P8) On the other side of the island, looking out over a beautiful COVE, Angela’s old boss Andrea looks DESPERATE. He’s just put down the phone on a potential visitor who told him he’d like to book for next spring, but his wife is a bit concerned they might bump into a CORPSE when they go swimming.

(P9) Andrea says that last year he was 50% down on BOOKINGS, but he doesn’t blame the migrants. He says it’s the way they’re managed.

(P10)”Welcome to Lampedusa police state!” he says SARCASTICALLY.

(P11) “This whole island has become militarised – you can’t go anywhere without seeing men in uniforms with guns. It’s hardly a welcome is it?”

(P12) Lampedusa’s EXHAUSTED-looking MAYOR had assured me that tourism on the island was experiencing a RENAISSANCE, welcoming a new kind of socially-aware visitor who feels SOLIDARITY with the migrants’ situation.

(P13) Andrea agrees. “The mayor is right,” he says. “But unfortunately our new visitors are generally young and BROKE – they’ve no money for a nice hotel or dinner.”

WORDS: 356

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35540017

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. What is the warmest place you have ever traveled to?
  3. Have you spent much time on islands?
  4. Tourism can be negatively affected by health issues such as the Zika virus, or political issues such as the migrant situation. What would prevent you from visiting a place?
  5. Is it necessary to have a lot of money to travel, or can you travel cheaply and still enjoy it?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Middle East
  • Open sea
  • Cobalt-blue

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LEOPARD ATTACKS SIX PEOPLE AT INDIAN SCHOOL

[ENVIRONMENT ★]

LEOPARD ATTACKS SIX PEOPLE AT INDIAN SCHOOL

Leopard Attack

(P1) A male LEOPARD which entered a school in the Indian city of Bangalore injured six people who were trying to capture it.

(P2) A scientist and a FORESTER were among those MAULED during the near 10-hour long effort to CORNER the dangerous animal on Sunday.

(P3) The leopard, which entered the GROUNDS of the Vibgyor International Echool, was eventually TRANQUILIZED and released.

(P4) A recent wildlife CENSUS ESTIMATED that India has a leopard population of between 12,000 and 14,000.

(P5) The eight-year-old male leopard was spotted walking inside the school grounds in the Kundalahalli area.

(P6) Footage on the school’s security cameras showed it attacking a man near a swimming pool.

(P7) CONSERVATION scientist Sanjay Gubbi and forest department employee Benny Maurius were injured when they tried to corner the animal and tranquilize him, reports say.

(P8) “It was a long struggle to capture the leopard. It took some time for the tranquilizers to TAKE EFFECT,” senior police official S Boralingaiah told reporters.

(P9) Wildlife official Ravi Ralph told the BBC Hindi’s Imran Qureshi that the leopard possibly entered the school from a nearby forest.

(P10) The captured animal has been moved to a national park and the six injured people, including a cameraperson of a TV channel, have been treated for minor injuries.

(P11) Leopards and other big cats have been known to enter populated areas in India, and scientists have warned that such CONFRONTATIONS may increase as humans ENCROACH ON animal HABITATS.

WORDS: 241

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-35519414

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do large wild animals ever enter your town from wild areas nearby?
  3. Are you afraid of wild animals? What would you do if you were confronted by one?
  4. In situations like these, the animal is often killed instead of tranquilized. Is that fair?
  5. Large cats are scary, but snakes are more dangerous to people. Why is that true?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Take effect
  • Encroach on

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YEMEN’S CULTURAL HERITAGE IS IN DANGER

[CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT ★★]

YEMEN’S CULTURAL HERITAGE IS IN DANGER

Yemeni Manuscript

(P1) Since a Saudi-led COALITION last March began its bombing against the anti-government forces now controlling much of Yemen, more than 5,800 people have been killed. Experts say the bombs have also done IRREPARABLE damage to historical sites and precious ANTIQUITIES, including ancient MANUSCRIPTS dating back to the 10th century.

(P2) Unless action is taken soon, SCHOLARS warn, Yemen’s rare collection of manuscripts may be permanently lost.

(P3) “Within these manuscripts are the collective memory of a people, a CONTINUOUS cultural tradition from the 10th century to the present. Once this memory is ERASED, an important chapter of the story of what it is to be human will no longer exist,” said David Hollenberg, director of Arabic at the University of Oregon.

(P4) The estimated 50,000 ancient handwritten books, called codices, represent the largest and most important set of unexplored Arabic-language manuscripts in the world, according to the website of Princeton University’s Yemeni Manuscript Digitization INITIATIVE (YMDI).

(P5) With the help of a grant, Hollenberg set up YMDI in the 1990s in an effort to preserve Yemen’s manuscripts using digital technology.

(P6) “The manuscripts are the CORE of the classical Islamic tradition,” said Hollenberg.

(P7) In response to the immediate threat to the manuscripts by the recent air strikes, Hollenberg launched the organization Save Yemen’s Heritage last November. The project is working with a local organization in Yemen to send badly needed digital workstations and funds to staff in the country’s capital, Sanaa.

(P8) “The machines will allow staff in Sanaa to continue their digitization work,” Hollenberg said.

(P9) But before he can send any equipment, he needs permission from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which is responsible for enforcing ECONOMIC SANCTIONS against certain countries and groups. The OFAC last year IMPOSED sanctions against anti-government forces in Yemen. Americans who send funds to Yemen without OFAC permission are SUBJECT TO criminal and civil penalties.

(P10) The Yemeni manuscripts cover topics ranging from poetry, theology, and Islamic law to history, grammar, and ETIQUETTE, Hollenberg said.

(P11) Access to manuscripts in Yemen has historically been limited to the families in possession of the codices.

(P12) “They tell the story of the Yemeni people and the greater Islamic world,” he said.

(P13) Hollenberg said his team is in A RACE AGAINST TIME to preserve the texts — many of which have already been destroyed in military action, including bombings. Both the Saudi coalition and anti-government forces have faced heavy criticism for striking HERITAGE sites, the most recent being the National Museum in Taiz. The museum housed a collection of manuscripts among other antiquities.

(P14) In response to the WIDESPREAD destruction of historical sites and antiquities, UNESCO in July 2015 launched an emergency action plan to SAFEGUARD Yemen’s cultural heritage.

(P15) When the plan was announced, Yemen’s AMBASSADOR to UNESCO, Ahmed Sayyad, urged the international community to RALLY BEHIND the effort.

(P16) “Sanaa, Aden, Taiz … are all my cities and they are all your cities,” Sayyad says.

(P17) “They are the past and present for every man and woman, whatever their religion or their identity. For this reason, the work to stop the destruction and to preserve is the duty of every Yemeni, every Arab, every Muslim, and every man and woman.”

WORDS: 532

SOURCE: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2016/2/5/american-professor-in-race-to-save-yemens-cultural-heritage.html

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. What ancient sites and antiquities are important to your country’s identity?
  3. Why has digital technology become so important in universities and scholarship?
  4. Why is this effort to save Yemeni manuscripts a “race against time”?
  5. Why would one nation impose economic sanctions on another?

EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:

What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Economic sanctions
  • Subject to
  • Rally behind
  • A race against time

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