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0981 Diplomatic and Economic Sanctions

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 981 – Diplomatic and Economic Sanctions.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast number 981. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast and download a Learning Guide for this episode.

On this episode, we’re going to listen to a dialogue between Andy and Marjorie about diplomatic and economic sanctions – when one country decides to punish another country or attempt to punish another country. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Andy: Well, it’s happened.

Marjorie: What’s happened?

Andy: The U.S. has placed diplomatic and economic sanctions on McQuillanland. It’s about time! The McQuillanland government has violated international law for the last time!

Marjorie: That’s great, but what does it really mean?

Andy: Well, it means that all high-level talks between the U.S. and McQuillanland have been called off, and the U.S. embassy is closing.

Marjorie: That sounds serious.

Andy: You bet it is, and that’s just the beginning. With economic sanctions, there’ll be serious consequences for business and trade. There’ll be an embargo on U.S. companies doing business there, and there’ll be a naval blockade to enforce it.

Marjorie: Wow, the McQuillanlanders have really done it this time.

Andy: They have. What made them think they could thumb their noses at us and get away with it?

Marjorie: I have no idea, but they’re about to find out what the repercussions are when they flout international law!

[end of dialogue]

Andy says to Marjorie, “Well, it’s happened.” Marjorie says, “What’s happened?” Andy says, “The U.S. has placed diplomatic and economic sanctions on McQuillanland.” “McQuillanland,” of course, is that country that very few people have visited, but it’s really a very beautiful country, I’m told. “Diplomatic” (diplomatic) refers to things dealing with other countries. “Diplomatic sanctions” (sanctions) refer to actions that a country takes in order to show another country that they don’t like what that other country is doing. It could involve, for example, closing your country’s embassy in another country – removing your country’s official representatives from that country.

“Economic sanctions” are usually financial penalties that are forced on a country. It may involve, for example, saying to the companies in your country that they can’t sell to anyone in this other country. That’s a very common type of economic sanction. “Sanctions” are things that countries do to try to force other countries to change their policies, basically.

Andy says, “It’s about time.” That expression, “it’s about time,” is used to show that you are happy that something has finally happened that you wanted to have happen. “It’s about time” is usually used when something should have happened a long time ago but hasn’t, and now, finally, it has happened. If you’ve been dating your girlfriend for many years and finally you ask her to marry you, your girlfriend and your girlfriend’s parents might say, “It’s about time.” Well, in this case, it’s about time that the U.S. placed diplomatic and economic sanctions on McQuillanland, according to Andy.

“The McQuillanland government,” Andy says, “has violated international law for the last time.” “To violate” (violate) means to break a rule, to do something that is illegal or wrong. “International law” refers to laws that affect many different countries in many different parts of the world. “International law” is something that requires everyone agree on what the law is. That, of course, is a rather serious problem many times, but in this case the McQuillanland government, according to Andy, “has violated international law” – has broken the laws – “for the last time.”

The expression “for the last time” means they won’t do it again, presumably because the U.S. is putting these sanctions on McQuillanland. Marjorie says, “That’s great, but what does it really mean?” What is the consequence of this? Andy says, “Well, it means that all high-level talks between the U.S. and McQuillanland have to be called off, and the U.S. Embassy is closing.” “High-level talks” would be important discussions between members of different governments at a very high level. That is, the president, the vice president – the most important leaders of the country – are talking to the most important leaders of another country.

“To be called off” is a phrasal verb meaning to be canceled, to have something ended even though it was planned or scheduled. If you and I decide to meet tomorrow for lunch, and I say, “Well, I’m going to have to call off our meeting,” that means I have to cancel our meeting. “To call off” is usually used for business or official meetings. You wouldn’t use that if you were going to meet your girlfriend tomorrow night. You wouldn’t say, “I have to call off our meeting.” You would have to say, “I have to cancel our meeting because . . .” and you have to then make up some excuse why you’re not going to meet your girlfriend. But that’s your problem.

Our problem is these sanctions against McQuillanland. Andy says, “The U.S. Embassy is closing” in McQuillanland. The “embassy” (embassy) is the building with the offices of the official representatives of a country in another country. The official representatives include the main or most important representative, called the “ambassador” (ambassador). Marjorie says, “That sounds serious.” Andy says, “You bet it is,” meaning yes, that’s right. “And that’s just the beginning. With economic sanctions there’ll be serious consequences for business and trade.” “Trade” (trade) refers to selling and buying things from another country or from a company in another country.

Andy says, “There’ll be an embargo on U.S. companies doing business there, and there’ll be a naval blockade to enforce it.” An “embargo” (embargo) is when companies are not allowed to buy and sell things from another country. All companies are forbidden to sell or buy things from any company in this other country. We would call that a “trade embargo.” There is also something called an “arms (arms) embargo.” That would be when you prevent or try to prevent anyone from selling weapons to another country.

This embargo, according to Andy, will be enforced by a “naval blockade.” “To enforce” (enforce) is to make sure that people follow, or obey, the law or the rule that you have established. “Naval” (naval) refers to ships on the ocean or, specifically, to the military ships of a country. A “blockade” (blockade) is when you prevent anything from leaving or coming into a certain area – in this case, a certain country. It would be very unusual for any country to have a naval blockade to enforce a trade embargo. That might happen for an arms embargo, but usually not for a trade embargo. But McQuillanland apparently is a very serious violator of international law, and so this is considered necessary.

Marjorie says, “Wow, the McQuillanlanders” – people who live in McQuillanland – “have really done it this time,” meaning they’ve done something really wrong. Andy says, “They have. What made them think they could thumb their noses at us and get away with it?” “To thumb (thumb) your nose at” someone is an interesting expression meaning to act disrespectfully towards someone or to disobey a law – to not follow a law and not really care that you’re not following the law.

Andy says that the McQuillanlanders have thumbed their nose at us and they think they can get away with it. “To get away with” something is to do something bad, but not to be punished. When you break a law but you’re not caught, that would be “to get away with it.” Marjorie says, “I have no idea,” meaning I don’t know how they thought they could get away with it, “but they are about to find out what the repercussions are when they flout national law!”

“Repercussions” (repercussions) are negative consequences of something, bad things that happen as a result of something else. “To flout” (flout) means to ignore a law or a rule – to break a rule even though you know that you’re not supposed to. That’s “to flout the law” or “to flout a rule.”

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Andy: Well, it’s happened.

Marjorie: What’s happened?

Andy: The U.S. has placed diplomatic and economic sanctions on McQuillanland. It’s about time! The McQuillanland government has violated international law for the last time!

Marjorie: That’s great, but what does it really mean?

Andy: Well, it means that all high-level talks between the U.S. and McQuillanland have been called off, and the U.S. embassy is closing.

Marjorie: That sounds serious.

Andy: You bet it is, and that’s just the beginning. With economic sanctions, there’ll be serious consequences for business and trade. There’ll be an embargo on U.S. companies doing business there, and there’ll be a naval blockade to enforce it.

Marjorie: Wow, the McQuillanlanders have really done it this time.

Andy: They have. What made them think they could thumb their noses at us and get away with it?

Marjorie: I have no idea, but they’re about to find out what the repercussions are when they flout international law!

[end of dialogue]

There is no embargo on importing wonderful language lessons, especially the ones written by our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2014 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
diplomatic sanctions – reductions or elimination of embassies and consulates to punish another country or show disapproval for its policies or actions

* When the country announced diplomatic sanctions, all the people who worked at the embassy had to return home.

economic sanctions – financial penalties forced on a country, such as restrictions on bank accounts or trade, or increases in tariffs, used to punish another country or show disapproval for its policies or actions

* The people are suffering, because the price of food and other necessities has risen as a result of the economic sanctions.

it’s about time – a phrase used to show relief that something has happened, especially when one has been waiting a long time for that thing to happen.

* Did you hear that Quincy proposed to Norah? It’s about time!

to violate – to break a rule; to do something that is illegal or is not allowed

* What can we do to prevent people from violating our copyright?

international law – laws that many countries recognize and agree to follow

* International law does not allow slavery.

high-level talks – important discussions between powerful decision-makers and/or political leaders

* The members of the United Nations are engaged in high-level talks about global warming.

to call off – to cancel or end something so that it no longer occurs as planned or scheduled

* Why did Wyatt call off his two-week trip to Asia?

embassy – a building with the offices of the ambassador and other people who officially represent their country in a foreign country

* You’ll need to come to the embassy to fill out the visa application and complete an interview.

trade – import and export; the sale and purchase of goods internationally

* What percentage of the country’s trade is in precious metals?

embargo – a ban on trade with another country; a policy or rules preventing the buying and selling of goods with another country

* Why is there an embargo on ivory?

naval blockade – prevention of a country’s ability to communicate or travel by sea through the use of ships in a specific area or a through a specific waterway

* The naval blockade is preventing all ships from delivering goods to the country.

to enforce – to make sure that people follow a law and/or are punished if they do not follow a law

* Technically it’s illegal to cross the street here, but the police never enforce it.

to thumb (one’s) nose – to act disrespectfully toward someone; to disregard a rule or a law

* You can get in trouble for thumbing your nose at a teacher like that.

to get away with (something) – to not be punished for one’s bad behavior

* Lola is their favorite daughter, so when she was a child she could get away with almost anything.

repercussion – a negative consequence; something bad that happens as a result of something else

* They never considered the repercussion of cheating on their taxes.

to flout – to ignore a rule or law; to be aware of a rule or law, but choose not to follow it

* The accountants were clearly flouting government regulations on how to report income.

Comprehension Questions
1. Which of these is an example of diplomatic sanctions?
a) Closing the embassy.
b) Placing an embargo on doing business.
c) Establishing a naval blockade.

2. What did the McQuillanlanders do when they thumbed their noses?
a) They made rude gestures with their hands.
b) They acted as if they were superior.
c) They were disrespectful toward them.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to call off

The phrase “to call off,” in this podcast, means to cancel or end something so that it no longer occurs as planned or scheduled: “School was called off yesterday due to icy roads and dangerous driving conditions.” The phrase “to call it a day” means to decide to stop working, especially because one is tired: “We haven’t finished the report yet, but I’m too tired to think clearly. Let’s call it a day.” The phrase “to call the shots” means to be in control and be able to make decisions: “Who calls the shots in your marriage: you or your wife?” Finally, the phrase “to call a meeting” means to schedule a meeting and ask people to attend: “Who called a meeting at 6:15 a.m.?”

trade

In this podcast, the word “trade” means import and export, or the sale and purchase of goods internationally: “The federal government signed a treaty to increase trade with Central Asia.” A “trade” can also refer to a particular type of work, usually one involving working with one’s hands: “James is hoping to become an electrician. Do you know anyone in the trade?” The “tourist trade” refers to all the business done to serve tourists or travelers: “The tourist trade is busiest during the warm summer months.” Finally, the phrase “tricks of the trade” means clever ways to do something well, especially when few people are familiar with them: “Hitting a clove of garlic to peel it more easily is just one of the tricks of the trade in the kitchen.”

Culture Note
Types of Economic Sanctions

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury is responsible for “administering” (creating and operating) and enforcing economic sanctions. In most cases, sanctions are designed to “hinder” (make more difficult) the work of “terrorists” (people who use violence to create fear among large groups of people) and “drug traffickers” (people who transport and sell illegal drugs), but the sanctions can also be used as a way to influence a country’s policies, especially regarding the use of “chemical weapons” (ways of using dangerous chemicals to hurt or kill people).

One type of economic sanction is to “block assets” or “freeze accounts,” which mean to “restrict” (limit) or “prevent” (not allow) a person, organization, or government to access its bank accounts. This restricts “cash flow” (the ability to access money needed to pay one’s bills) and makes continued operations almost impossible.

Another type of economic sanction is to “stipulate” (state) that certain transactions are prohibited. Prohibited transactions are usually related to trade with a particular country, but they can also affect what types of “deposits” (money placed in an account) and “withdrawals” (money taken out of an account) banks can “process” (perform for clients).

OFAC usually creates “exceptions” (certain circumstances under which the regular rules do not apply) to its economic sanctions. This is especially true where there are “humanitarian” (related to the welfare and well-being of people) concerns, such as the need to engage in trade so that people have enough food to eat. The OFAC website has a long list of questions that individuals and businesses can answer to determine whether their transactions and trade are “eligible” (qualified) for such exceptions.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - c