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Unit 24 – The Collapse of the Soviet Regime

Difficulty: Easy/Medium

Time: 4 minutes 30 seconds

The following is an extract of an article by David Remnick, published In volume 191 of the official journal of the National Geographic

It was the summer of 1991. The societ regime was crumbling like week-old bread, and my wife and I were scheduled to fly home to New York for the last time, ending a nearly four-year stint in Moscow – mine for the Washington Post, hers for the New York Times. The flight was scheduled for August 18, a Sunday. A few days before, I had interviewed Aleksandr Yakovlev, who had been Mikhail Gorbachev’s closest aide throughout the perestroika years. The “forces of revenge” within the party and the KGB, he said, were preparing a putsch.
I didn’t know what to make of his comment except to put it in the paper. The next day, at a party with some Russian friends on the Moscow River, we talked about Yakovlev’s prediction. My friends and I agreed – a coup seemed far-fetched. The Soviet Union, after all, was no banana republic.
“But I will tell you one thing,” I said, in the plummy tone of one rehearsing his valedictory, “Check out Moscow in a few years, and there will be shopping malls everywhere.”
“You’ve gone nuts,” said my friend Sergei.
“Oh, you’re right!” Sergei’s wife, Masha said mockingly. “Downtown will look just like Fifth Avenue. Be sure to visit!”
So that was the consensus: no coup, no shopping malls. The world would change, to be sure, but Moscow could forget about Sears, much less Saks Fifth Avenue. A couple of days later the first prediction went sour. There were tanks parked not a hundred yards from my front door on Kutuzovsky Prospekt. The coup was on. (It was over three days later.)
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Unit 1.12 – The History of Public Relations

Difficulty: Easy/medium

Time: 6 minutes

The following are extracts from Toxic Sludge is Good For You – Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry, by John C. Stauder and Sheldon Rampton.

 

Passage 1

In 1836 legendary showman P.T. Barnum began his career by buying an old Negro slave woman named Joice Heth and exhibiting her to the public as “George Washington’s childhood nursemaid.”

Joice Heth claimed to be 160 years old. Was she for real? The man who coined the phrase, “there’s a sucker born every minute,” kept the public guessing through a clever series of forged letters to the editors of New York newspapers. Written by Barnum himself and signed by various fake names, some of the letters denounced Barnum as a fraud. In other letters, also written by Barnum, he praised himself as a great man who was performing a service by giving the public a chance to see George Washington’s “mammy.” The letters succeeded in stirring up controversy. Joice Heth was discussed in news reports and editorial columns, and the public turned out in droves to see for themselves. Barnum collected as much as $1500 per week from New Yorkers who came to see the pipe-smoking old Negro Woman.

When Joice Heth died, doctors performed an autopsy and estimated her true age at around eighty. Barnum handled the situation like the PR pro that he was. He said he was shocked, deeply shocked, at the way this woman had deceived him.

Barnum knew that in his publicity for “the greatest show on earth,” it didn’t matter whether people called him a scoundrel or a saint. The important thing was that the newspapers spelled his name right, and that they mentioned him often. He was one of the first people to manipulate the news for fun and profit.
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Unit 1.11 – Return of the Amish

Congratulations to everyone who got the results they needed today. And to those of you who did not, here’s a nice easy unit of questions to ween you back into studying. (Sorry, get yourselves an ice cream or something!)

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 6 minutes

 

The following is an extract from Alleluia America! – An Irish Journalist in Bush Country, by Carole Coleman

Almost three centuries after their arrival from Europe in a small group of a few hundred, there are now about one hundred and fifty thousand Americans living the Amish lifestyle – twenty-five thousand of them in this corner of Pennsylvania. The Amish are descendants of the sixteenth-century Anabaptists, a religious group formed in Europe. “Anabaptist” means to be opposed to the practice of infant baptism. As they see it people should join a church when they are young adults and in a position to reject or accept membership for themselves. The original Anabaptists were the Mennonites, followers of a former Catholic priest called Menno Simons, but in 1693 in Switzerland, a new group called the Amish split from the Mennonites, claiming the latter had become too lax in enforcing certain rules. The Amish believed that errant or lapsed church members needed to be shunned until they had repented and come back into compliance with the strict rules that govern how they live. Like many groups remaining outside of the mainstream European religions of the time, the Amish suffered persecution and in the eighteenth century some moved to the United States. They settled on farmland in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and in Pennsylvania, where Willian Penn’s experiment in religious tolerance had begun. Eventually they too disagreed over rules on how to live their lives and split into a number of smaller groups, including the New Order Amish and Beachy Amish, who are more liberal than the Old Order.
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Unit 1.5 – Japanese History

Difficulty: Easy/Medium

Time: 6 minutes

 

The following passages have been adapted from A History of Japan, 1582-1941 – Internal and External Worlds, by L.M.Cullen.

 Passage 1

Japan in the sixteenth-century was an archipelago of which the main component was a large island (Honshu) separated from three middle-sized islands (Kyushu, Shikoku and Ezo) by narrow straits. It was already in physical and human terms a remarkably isolated country. To the west it faced two inward-looking countries, one the great landmass of China, the other the Korean peninsula whose proximity to Japan made it the vehicle of contact with China. To the east lay the enormous north Pacific ocean, little explored until the late eighteenth century. Cultural influences (Confucian philosophy and Japan’s writing system, both Chinese in origin, and the Buddhist religion itself) had all been transmitted through Korea more than a thousand years previously, by a small elite body of monks, scholars and noblemen, some of them returning Japanese. Later contact was fitful, and at the end of the sixteenth century, there was little trade and even less cultural movement between Korea and Japan. However, unsettled international conditions would give Korea, in the seminal decade of the 1590s and again after 1868 in the troubled times of renewed western encroachments in Asia, an importance transcending existing isolation. Isolation to the east and west was reinforced by an absence of contacts to the north, accounted for by climatic conditions, and to the south, created by economic circumstances.
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