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Read the following article from the New York Times and post an opinion about the death penalty. Do you think that governments should use this extreme form of punishment? Why or why not? What is your argument?

State-Sponsored Horror in Oklahoma

At 6:36 p.m. on Tuesday in McAlester, Okla., Clayton Lockett started kicking his leg, then twitching, then writhing and moaning in agony, and everyone watching knew something had gone terribly wrong. Mr. Lockett, a convicted murderer, was strapped to a gurney in the death chamber of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, about to be executed by lethal injection, but the untested combination of a sedative and a paralyzing agent had failed.

According to an eyewitness account by a reporter for The Tulsa World, Mr. Lockett tried to raise himself up, mumbled the word “man,” and was in obvious pain. Officials hastily closed the blinds on the chamber and told reporters that the execution had been stopped because of a “vein failure.” But at 7:06, the inmate was pronounced dead of a heart attack.

This horrific scene — the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment — should never have happened. The Oklahoma Supreme Court tried to stop it last week, concerned that the state refused to reveal the origin of the deadly cocktail. But several lawmakers threatened to impeach the justices, and Gov. Mary Fallin blindly ignored the warning signs and ordered the execution to proceed. (She said it was outside the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, which normally deals with civil matters.)

On Wednesday afternoon, a few hours after her employees tortured a man to death, Ms. Fallin suddenly showed an interest in execution procedures.She ordered an independent review of the injection protocol, halting further state killings until the investigation is complete.

She should have gone much further and followed other governors and legislatures in banning executions, recognizing that the American administration of death does not function. Mr. Lockett’s ordeal, along with the botched deaths of other inmates around the country, showed there is no reliable and humane method of execution. As Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon said in 2011: “I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am governor.”

Seven states have put the death penalty on hold over the last five years because of issues of fairness or methods; another 11 states are debating the issue. Even in states where the death penalty is applied, the number of executions has fallen sharply since 2009. Republicans in Oklahoma seemed so eager to buck this tide that they ignored what happened during a January execution, when an inmate named Michael Lee Wilson said “I feel my whole body burning” just before the drugs killed him.

See the rest of the article here: State-Sponsored Horror in Oklahoma

Climate Efforts Falling Short

  • Please read this short article and post an opinion about it.
  • Try to write at least 125 words. 

Climate Efforts Falling Short, U.N. Panel Says

Delivering the latest stark news about climate change on Sunday, a United Nations panel warned that governments are not doing enough to avert profound risks in coming decades. But the experts found a silver lining: Not only is there still time to head off the worst, but the political will to do so seems to be rising around the world.

In a report unveiled here, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that decades of foot-dragging by political leaders had propelled humanity into a critical situation, with greenhouse emissions rising faster than ever. Though it remains technically possible to keep planetary warming to a tolerable level, only an intensive push over the next 15 years to bring those emissions under control can achieve the goal, the committee found.

“We cannot afford to lose another decade,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the report. “If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.”

The good news is that ambitious action is becoming more affordable, the committee found. It is increasingly clear that measures like tougher building codes and efficiency standards for cars and trucks can save energy and reduce emissions without harming people’s quality of life, the panel found. And the costs of renewable energy like wind and solar power are falling so fast that its deployment on a large scale is becoming practical, the report said.

 

Does Music Make You Smarter?

Are Children Who Learn Music Smarter?

Many people believe that teaching children music makes them smarter – better able to learn new things.  But the organizers of a new study say there is no scientific evidence that early musical training affects the intelligence of young people.  Jery Watson joins us with details.

An estimated 80 percent of American adults think music classes improve children’s ability to learn or their performance in school.  They say that the satisfaction from learning to play a new song helps a child express creativity.

An Afghan student practices playing the guitar in a class.
An Afghan student practices playing the guitar in a class.

Researchers at Harvard University, however, have found that there is one thing musical training does not do.  They say it does not make children more intelligent.

Samuel Mehr is a graduate student at Harvard’s School of Education.  He says it is wrong to think that learning to play a musical instrument improves a child’s intellectual development.

He says the evidence comes from studies that measured the mental ability of two groups of four-year-olds and their parents.  One group attended music class.  The other went to a class that places importance on the visual arts – arts that can be seen.

“The answer there is ‘no.’  We found no evidence for any advantage on any of these tests for the kids who were participating in music classes.”

Samuel Mehr says researchers have carried out many studies in an effort to learn whether musical training can make children smarter.  He says the results have been mixed.  He says only one study seemed to show a small percentage increase in IQ – intelligence scores – among students after one year of music lessons.

He does not believe that IQ is a good measure of a child’s intelligence.  He says researchers in his study compared how well children in the music training group did on mental processing tasks, or projects.  Then the results were compared to those of children who did not take lessons.

There was no evidence that the musical training group did much better on the mental tasks than the other group.  The researchers confirmed their results with a larger group of children and their parents.

Mr. Mehr says music lessons may not offer children a fast, easy way to gain entry to the best schools later on in life.  But he says the training is still important for cultural reasons.  In his words, “We teach music because music is important for us.”  He notes that the works of writer William Shakespeare are not taught so that children will do better in physics.  He says Shakespeare is taught because it is important.

“And I don’t think music needs to be any different than that.”

[This article comes from VOA News: http://learningenglish.voanews.com/content/brain-music-work/1852567.html]