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Test 1 / 26

Island of Hale

We live on the island of Hale. It’s about four kilometres long and two kilometres wide at its broadest point, and it’s joined to the mainland by a causeway called the Stand – a narrow road built across the mouth of the river which separates us from the rest of the country. Most of the time you wouldn’t know we’re on an island because the river mouth between us and the mainland is just a vast stretch of tall grasses and brown mud. But when there’s a high tide and the water rises a half a metre or so above the road and nothing can pass until the tide goes out again a few hours later, then you know it’s an island.

We were on our way back from the mainland. My older brother, Dominic, had just finished his first year at university in a town 150 km away. Dominic’s train was due in at five and he’d asked for a lift back from the station. Now, Dad normally hates being disturbed when he’s writing (which is just about all the time), and he also hates having to go anywhere, but despite the typical sighs and moans – why can’t he get a taxi? what’s wrong with the bus? – I could tell by the sparkle in his eyes that he was really looking forward to seeing Dominic.

So, anyway, Dad and I had driven to the mainland and picked up Dominic from the station. He had been talking non-stop from the moment he’d slung his rucksack in the boot and got in the car. University this, university that, writers, books, parties, people, money, gigs… And when I say talking, I don’t mean talking as in having a conversation, I mean talking as in jabbering like a mad thing. I didn’t like it … the way he spoke and waved his hands around as if he was some kind of intellectual or something. It was embarrassing. It made me feel uncomfortable – that kind of discomfort you feel when someone you like, someone close to you, suddenly starts acting like a complete idiot. And I didn’t like the way he was ignoring me, either. For all the attention I was getting I might as well not have been there. I felt like a stranger in my own car.

As we approached the island on that Friday afternoon, the tide was low and the Stand welcomed us home, stretched out before us, clear and dry, beautifully hazy in the heat – a raised strip of grey concrete bound by white railings and a low footpath on either side, with rough cobbled banks leading down to the water. Beyond the railings, the water was glinting with that wonderful silver light we sometimes get here in the late afternoon which lazes through to the early evening.

We were about halfway across when I saw the boy. My first thought was how odd it was to see someone walking on the Stand. You don’t often see people walking around here. Between Hale and Moulton (the nearest town about thirty kilometres away on the mainland), there’s nothing but small cottages, farmland, heathland and a couple of hills. So islanders don’t walk because of that. If they’re going to Moulton they tend to take the bus. So the only pedestrians you’re likely to see around here are walkers or bird-watchers. But even from a distance, I could tell that the figure ahead didn’t fit into either of these categories. I wasn’t sure how I knew, I just did.

As we drew closer, he became clearer. He was actually a young man rather than a boy. Although he was on the small side, he wasn’t as slight as I’d first thought. He wasn’t exactly muscular, but he wasn’t weedy-looking either. It’s hard to explain. There was a sense of strength about him, a graceful strength that showed in his balance, the way he held himself, the way he walked…

In the first paragraph, what is Caitlin's main point about the island?
What does Caitlin suggest about her father?
Caitlin emphasises her feelings of discomfort because she
In the fourth paragraph, what is Caitlin's purpose in describing the island?
In 'because of that' the word 'that' refers to
What do we learn about Caitlin's reactions to the boy?
Test 2 / 26

A lawsuit against McDonald’s

If Caesar Barber dreamed of winning fame, he probably didn’t think it would be due to his obesity. However, since the 120kg maintenance worker filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King last month – seeking damages for selling him food that made him obese – Barber’s 15 minutes of fame are proving as painful as the two heart attacks he has already had.

“Does anyone really believe that Mr Barber was too dumb to know that eating saturated fat was less healthy than having, say, a fruit dish or a chef salad?” said Steve Dasbach, who is the executive director of the Libertarian party. Barber says that he was in the dark about the nutritional content of the fast food he was eating up to five times a week from the 1950s onwards. Incredibly, he didn’t give up burgers and salty fries after he had his first heart attack in 1996. He is now a diabetic with high blood pressure.

In his lawsuit – the first of its kind in the United States – he contends that deceptive advertising misled him about the nutritional value of the food until a doctor pointed it out. “Those people in the advertisements don’t tell you what’s in the food,” he says. “Now I’m obese. The fast-food industry has ruined my life. They said 100% beef. I thought that meant it was good for you.”

Attacks on Barber’s character and perceived IQ became a sport in the US media. Barber wasn’t stupid, columnists and radio hosts joked, just out to make money by failing to take responsibility for his diet. More than 75 million Americans eat fast food every day. But who, the journalists asked, doesn’t know that too much will make you overweight?

“Mr Barber honestly didn’t know what the dangers were when he started eating fast food in the 50s,” says his lawyer, Samuel Hirsch. “The fast-food chains made no effort then, and little today, to inform consumers about the dangerously high fat, cholesterol or salt content of their food.” Hirsch says that his client, who has now gone into hiding, is not trying to make money but to get the chains to inform customers that their food is guilty of expanding their waistlines.

Barber and his lawyer are following hard on the heels of a series of lawsuits win over some tobacco companies for the addictive nature of nicotine and subsequent diagnosis of cancer. It actually seems that Hirsh believes that there might be similarities between tobacco and fast food products as he claims that both nicotine and fast food products create a craving.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine applauded the lawsuit. The committee’s research coordinator, Brie Turner-McGrivey, says that whether Barber wins or loses, the hype surrounding the case has been good for doctors, spotlighting America’s obesity epidemic and the role that fast food plays in it.

One might consider Mr. Barber’s case an act of stupidity or an attempt to make some quick money but Ceasar Barber definitely takes credit for initiating the discussion about whether obesity is a matter of personal responsibility or if fast food chains are also to blame for failure to inform consumers and fighting obesity has become a one of the priorities of American health organizations.

Why is Caesar Barber famous?
What does Caesar Barber say about fast food?
After the first heart attack, Caesar Barber
How did the American media react to this lawsuit?
Caesar Barber’s lawyer argues that
is meant by the expression “hard on the heels”?