The Chernobyl Disaster – 30 Years Later

The worst nuclear disaster in history happened 30 years ago at the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine. On 26 April 1986 engineers carried out a safety test in Block 4 of the reactor. A human error and the unsafe design of the building set off a fire and caused an explosion. The core of the reactor melted and huge amounts of radioactivity were released into the atmosphere.

The disaster was not made public by Soviet authorities until two days later. It was only after radioactive clouds started spreading across Sweden that government officials announced what had happened.

According to Soviet officials,  30 people died in the explosion and from radiation sickness in the days and weeks that followed. The World Health Organisation estimates that since the accident 9,000 people have died of cancer and other illnesses. Greenpeace places the number of deaths at 90,000.

Towns and villages in the disaster area were evacuated . 350,000 people had to be resettled and can never come back to their original homes.  A thousand square miles (2600 square km) in the Ukraine and Belarus will stay off limits for decades to come.

In the weeks after the Chernobyl catastrophe, half a million people were brought in from around the Soviet Union to clean up the site. The countryside around the reactor was closed off and nobody was allowed to get near the damaged reactor . A sarcophagus was built over the exploded building  to keep more radioactive waste from escaping into the atmosphere.

Currently, a new containment is being built because nuclear experts fear that the life of the old sarcophagus may be coming to an end. A shelter in the form of an arch will cover the destroyed building . The $2 billion dollar structure is expected to prevent radiation from getting out for at least a hundred years.

Ukraine officials held memorial ceremonies and laid wreaths to mark the 30th anniversary  of the disaster. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said that the Chernobyl disaster was one of the factors that led to the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. Even 30 years later the disaster is still in the minds the people who once lived in the area.

 

View of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant taken from the town of Pripyat
View of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant taken from the town of Pripyat

Words

  • according to = as said by ….
  • anniversary = day on which something important happened in the past
  • announce = to say officially
  • arch = here: with a curved roof
  • authorities = group of people with the power to make decisions for the government
  • billion = a thousand million
  • cancer = illness in which cells in your body grow in an uncontrollable way
  • catastrophe = disaster
  • collapse = break down, fall apart
  • containment = here: building that stops radioactivity from spreading into the atmosphere
  • core = place where the atoms are divided
  • currently = at the moment
  • decade = ten years
  • design = the way a building is made
  • disaster = an event in which objects are destroyed and people get killed or hurt
  • engineer = here: expert who works at a power station and controls machines there
  • error = mistake
  • escape = get away from
  • estimate = to judge something without really calculating it
  • evacuate = bring people away from a danger zone
  • factor = reason
  • former = here: at that time
  • government official = a person who is in a high position in the government
  • huge = very large, very great
  • illness = disease
  • make public = here: tell the people
  • memorial ceremony = here: event that takes places in order to remember something that happened years ago
  • mind = head
  • off-limits = you are not allowed to enter the area
  • place = here: estimate, think
  • power plant = building that produces electricity
  • prevent = stop
  • radiation sickness = illness caused by the energy that nuclear reactors send out
  • radioactivity = the energy that is released when atoms are split
  • reactor = large machine in which atoms are divided in order to produce electricity
  • release = set free
  • resettle = to move to another place to live
  • safety test = to check if an object is safe or not
  • sarcophagus = here: a massive structure used to keep radioactivity inside the building
  • set off = start
  • shelter = building designed to protect a place
  • site = here: place where the disaster happened
  • Soviet Union = largest Communist country that existed between 1922 and 1991
  • structure = building
  • waste = material that is not needed any more
  • World Health Organisation = part of the United Nations that wants to improve the health of people around the world and stop illnesses from spreading
  • wreath = flowers laid around in a circle made to remember people who ahve have

 

Drone Racing – Sport of the Future ?

Drone racing is an exciting new sport, that has become popular faster than no other sport before it. Pilots steer small and lightweight, but high-powered drones along courses with obstacles.   They fly through gates and around flags at speeds of over a hundred miles an hour.

They control the drones using VR-like headgear. Every drone has a camera attached to it so that spectators can also view flights either on a big screen or with special headgear.

The races take place either outdoors – in big stadiums, or indoors in old warehouses and sports arenas. Competitions are short because the battery time of drones is limited.

Although drone racing started only a few years ago there  are already international competitions that take place all over the world. In professional leagues, drone pilots  compete for thousands of dollars.  In March, the World Drone Prix was staged in Dubai. A 16-year old British teenager not only one the race but also received a prize money of 250 000 dollars.

Television and  other media have become aware of drone racing. ESPN, an Amercian sports channel,  will be broadcasting international drone races starting this August. Races are also recorded and uploaded to YouTube and other video platforms where they can be viewed over and over again.

The first drones that hit the  markets were heavy and expensive. Today they have become much cheaper so that more and more people buy them and take up their new hobby.

Drones were originally used in the military to make surveillance images of enemy territory or send bombs with pinpoint accuracy. Recently, Amazon has considered using drones for making deliveries.

drone racing
Drone used for racing – Image: Stefan Niedermayr

Words

  • although = while
  • attach = connect
  • aware = to know that something new exists
  • broadcast = to send out a programme on TV or radio
  • channel = television station
  • compete = here: to take part in a race against other pilots
  • competition = here: race
  • consider = think about doing something
  • delivery = bringing products to the homes of people
  • drone = an object that can fly by a person controlling it on the ground
  • headgear = something you wear on your head
  • high-powered = with a lot of strength or energy
  • hit = here: come to
  • image = picture
  • lightweight = not heavy
  • limited = here: only a short time
  • media = radio, newspapers, TV, internet etc..
  • military = army
  • obstacle = something that makes moving around more difficult
  • originally = at first
  • pinpoint accuracy = here: exactly where you want something
  • popular = much liked
  • receive = get, win
  • recently = a short time ago
  • speed = how fast somehitng is
  • staged = took place
  • steer = move into a certain direction
  • surveillance = to watch something carefully
  • territory = land
  • view = watch
  • VR = virtual reality = images and sounds that make it seem like you are in the real world
  • warehouse = large building used for keeping things before they are sold

 

Queen Elizabeth II Celebrates 90th Birthday

Queen Elizabeth II has celebrated her 90th birthday. The Queen  was honored all across Great Britain and around the world, especially in the countries of the Commonwealth. Elizabeth II became the first British monarch to reach that age. While the Queen’s birthday is on 21 April, the official ceremony always takes place in June  at Trooping the Colour.

The popular monarch is the longest-reigning  queen in British history. She was born on 21 April 1926 and became queen after her father George VI had died in February 1952. Her official coronation was on 2 June 1953.

Queen Elizabeth II spent the day at Windsor castle, where the royal family often resides. Thousands of people roamed the streets of the small town to greet the Queen. American photographer  Anie Leibovitz took a birthday portrait of the Queen with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. During the day, she carried out most of her duties, including preparations for a lunch meeting with Amercian President Barack Obama on Friday.

During her reign, Queen Elizabeth II has visited 117 countries and given countless speeches. She has been monarch to 12 Prime Ministers. However, the Queen has also suffered bitter times, especially in the 1990s when her eldest son Charles divorced Princess Diana, who later died in a car accident.

While in the 1990s many citizens in the U.K. were sceptical about the British monarchy, approval rates have risen in the last decade, not only because Elizabeth II  is a much-admired queen but also because of the popularity of Prince William and his wife Kate.

In London, Prime Minister David Cameron praised the Queen for being a decade-long symbol of continuity for the United Kingdom. In the past years, there have been many rumours and speculations on whether the Queen Elizabeth II would resign soon, but the monarch shows no signs of doing so. She is in good health and enjoys regular horse rides and long walks.

Queen Elizabeth II at the coronation ceremony in 1953
Queen Elizabeth II at the coronation ceremony in 1953

Words

  • approval rate = here: the number of people who think that the monarchy is something good
  • carry out = do a job
  • citizen = person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • Commonwealth = organization of countries that have once been a part of the British empire; Queen Elizabeth II is still head of state in 16 Commonwealth countries
  • continuity = the fact that something has gone on for a long time without change
  • coronation = ceremony in which a person is made king or queen
  • countless = so many that you cannot count them
  • decade = ten years
  • divorce = when a marriage ends and husband and wife go separate ways
  • duty = something that you do because it is part of your job
  • enjoy = like
  • especially = above all
  • greet = say hello
  • honour = to show great respect for someone
  • however = but
  • monarch = king or queen
  • much-admired = popular, much-liked and respected
  • official ceremony = formal act or event
  • popularity = the fact that many people like and support someone
  • praise = speak highly about a person
  • preparation = getting ready for something
  • reign = time during which a person is king or queen
  • reside = live
  • resign = step down ; here: not be monarch anymore
  • roam = wander around, wait for someone
  • rumour = news that may or may not be true, buts spreads very quickly
  • sceptical = not sure about something
  • speculation = rumour; guessing something without knowing if it is true or not
  • suffer = to be in a bad situation and show that you don’t feel good

 

Japan Set for Invisible Trains by 2018

A Japanese architect has designed a train that is not only fast but blends into the landscape so well, that onlookers find it hard to see. Such invisible trains are expected to be introduced to the Tokyo area in 2018.

Kazuyo Sejima, the Japanese architect who has designed the new high-speed train,  is known for creating glass buildings that blend into their environment. This is the first time, however, that she has designed something that is actually moving.

The invisible trains will be made out of reflective material that has been used on other objects in the past, for example, the Louvre-Lens museum in France.

Seijima has created the train for Seibu railway company’s 100th anniversary. The company, famous for their colourful high-speed bullet trains,  already operate 180 km of railway lines around Tokyo. The new invisible trains will be travelling on a limited number of routes in Japan.

Not only the outside of the trains will be new. Seijima has created the interior with bigger windows and more seat space. According to the train company, passengers will have the experience of a train ride in a moving living room.

Seibu Railway will be operating invisible trains
Seibu Railway

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • anniversary = birthday
  • blend = to mix together
  • design = plan and create
  • experience = feeling
  • however = but
  • interior = the inside
  • introduce = here: to start travelling
  • invisible = something that you cannot see
  • landscape = countryside
  • limited = only a certain number
  • onlookers = people who stand nearby and see the train
  • operate = here: trains that travel
  • passenger = here: person who travels in a train
  • reflective = something that sends back most of the light that shines on it
  • seat = where a person sits

 

Abortion Remains Illegal in Northern Ireland

Women in Northern Ireland, although they are British citizens, cannot get an abortion. A mother has recently been on trial for obtaining abortion pills for her daughter. In Belfast, a woman who bought abortion drugs online has received a suspended sentence. Women who abort still face criminal charges and a possible prison sentence in Northern Ireland.

While in England, Scotland and Wales abortion can be carried out legally up to the 24th week of pregnancy, this law has never been enacted in Northern Ireland. There, abortion is only legal if a woman’s  health is at risk, but not if they are raped or the foetus shows mental or physical irregularities.

In the past Northern Irish women have been travelling to other parts of the U.K. in order to get an abortion. However, this can be expensive   because the British National Health Service does not pay for Northern Irish residents. Poor women who can’t afford to pay up to $3000 buy abortion pills on the internet.

In 2015, a high court judge in Northern Ireland  ruled that abortion laws in the province are a violation of human rights. But, at the moment, politicians are unwilling to change the law. All across the UK pro-choice protesters have been demonstrating for equal rights for all British women.

Recent polls suggest that two-thirds of  the voters in Northern Ireland support abortion, at least in certain cases.

Religion’s influence in Northern Ireland is higher than in the rest of Britain, which may be why many people have very conservative thoughts about abortion.

Belfast demonstration against abortion laws in Northern Ireland
Belfast demonstration against abortion laws in Northern Ireland – Image : Ardfern

Words

  • abortion = the killing of an unborn baby
  • afford = have the money to buys something
  • although = while
  • carry out = do a job
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • conservative = old fashioned; everything should stay the way it is
  • criminal charges = when someone says that you have committed a crime
  • enact = put into effect, to make a law
  • equal rights = the same rights
  • foetus = a baby that develops in a mother’s body
  • however = but
  • human rights = the basic rights that everyone should have, like the right to speak freely or the right to vote
  • influence = the power to have an effect on people or things
  • irregularity = if something is not the way it should be
  • judge = person who is in charge of a court and decides legal matters
  • law = rules of a country
  • legal = allowed by the law
  • mental = about the mind or brain
  • National Health Service = service in the UK that provides free and cheap medical help for everyone; it is paid for by taxes
  • obtain = get, buy
  • physical = about the body
  • politician = person who has a position in the government or works for a political party
  • poll = a study in which people are asked about their opinion on  a certain topic
  • pregnancy = time during which a woman carries a baby inside her body
  • prison sentence = to go to prison for a certain time
  • pro-choice = people who are in favor of letting women decide if they want to have an abortion or not
  • rape = to force someone to have sex with you, even if you are unwilling to do so
  • receive = get
  • recently = a short time ago
  • resident = a person who lives in an area
  • rule = make a decision
  • support = to be in favor of ….
  • suspended sentence = a person will only go to prison if they commit the same crime again  in a certain period of time
  • trial = when a judge and a jury decide in court if a person is guilty of a committing a crime
  • violation = an action that breaks the rules or a law

Yellowstone Supervolcano Eruptions More Massive Than Thought

The geysers and hotspots which are the main features of America’s Yellowstone Park are merely what is left of massive volcanic eruptions that occurred in the area millions of years ago. British researchers have used new techniques  to identify where the eruptions took place and how strong they were.

Scientists now know that the whole northwestern region of the United States was hit by gigantic eruptions. They say that there were at least a dozen eruptions in the area over the last 12 million years, some of which were much stronger than previously thought.

The last Yellowstone supervolcano outburst occurred 640 000 years ago. The last flow of lava took place 70000 years ago. The new study suggests that a further gigantic eruption, about 2000 times as strong as the Mount St. Helen outburst in 1981,  may take place within the next few thousand years. Scientists have discovered a massive new magma chamber under Yellowstone. The next eruption would release thousands of cubic kilometres of material into the atmosphere, covering the whole North American continent in ash.

The Yellowstone supervolcano is one of a series of volcanoes that spread from Oregon eastward across the Snake River Valley and the northwestern US. Geologists now think that this moving hotspot may have run into a thicker geologic plate , needing more energy for an eruption to occur.

caldera after eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano
Part of the Yellowstone caldera, which was formed in the last volcanic eruption

Words

  • atmosphere = the mixture of gases that are around the earth
  • ash = soft grey or black powder that is left after something has burned
  • caldera = large hole that is formed when the top of a volcano collapses after an eruption; often filled with a lake
  • chamber = room, area
  • discover = to find out for the first time
  • dozen = 12
  • eruption = when flames, rock and gas come out of a volcano
  • feature = important part of an area
  • flow = move down a mountain slowly
  • geologic plate = one of the moving parts of the earth’s surface
  • geologist = person who studies the rocks that make up the earth’s surface
  • geyser = hole in the ground from which hot water and steam come up
  • hotspot = place with volcanic activity and earthquakes
  • identify = find out
  • magma = hot liquid rock below the surface of the earth
  • massive = great
  • merely = only
  • occur = happen
  • outburst = eruption
  • previously = earlier
  • release = set free
  • researcher = person who studies things closely in order to find out more about them
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • spread = move from one place to another
  • suggest = here: to say that something may have been possible
  • technique = method

Disney’s New Jungle Book Starts in Cinemas

A new version of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book has been released to the cinemas. Many remakes of the famous storyteller’s adventures have hit the big screen , but the new film is the most spectacular ever, a treat for children and adults alike. The new Disney film is completely computer-animated with only one human actor. Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli, has never acted before and was chosen out of 2000 auditioners.

The story is based on both Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and Walt Disney’s animated film of the 1960s . Mowgli is a child who is taken into the jungle and raised by animals after he is separated from his family.

He is looked after by a panther named Bagheera and brought up by a pack of wolves. The boy is threatened by a tiger called Shere Khan , who thinks that Mowgli will be a danger to the animals when he gets older.

Together with his friends , Mowgli sets out on exciting new adventures in which he meets exotic creaturesAll the scenery and the jungle animals are computer animations. According to the film’s director, Jon Favreau, over 100 000 images of India were taken and blended into the film.

Even though only one person stars in the Jungle Book , famous actors were hired as voices of the jungle animals. BenvKingsley is the narrator and caretaker Bagheera, Scarlett Johannsen the snake Kaa and Christopher Walken  is the ape, King Louie.

Rudyard Kipling - Jungle Book
Rudyard Kipling

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • animated = moving pictures created by a computer
  • ape = large monkey
  • auditioner = an actor or singer shows if they are fit for a role
  • based on = where something comes from
  • big screen = here: cinema
  • blend = mix
  • bring up = educate, raise, show how life is in the real world
  • caretaker = someone who looks after a person
  • computer-animated = made by a computer
  • creature = living thing
  • director = person who is in charge of a film and tells the actors how to play their parts
  • even though = while
  • exotic = unusual and exciting
  • hit = here: come to
  • hire = to get someone to do a certain job
  • human = person
  • narrator = person who tells the story
  • pack = group of animals that live and hunt together
  • raise = bring up
  • release = to show to the public for the first time
  • remake = to create something new , based on an early version
  • scenery = landscapes
  • separate = here: not be a part of
  • set out = start a long journey
  • spectacular = very exciting and great
  • threaten = to be a danger to
  • treat = a special experience or event

 

Capital Punishment on the Rise in 2015

Capital punishment is on the rise as a record number of executions were carried out around the world in 2015. According to a report issued by Amnesty International 1634  executions took place in 2015, 500 more than the previous year. The real number is probably much higher.

Amnesty International has not included China in its report because the human rights organisation does not get reliable data from the country. In China alone thousands are thought to be executed each year, making it the leading country.

90% of all the executions around the world were carried out in only three countries – Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.These countries kill people who threaten state security or are charged with terrorist activities. Most of the executions take place after mock or unfair trials. Pakistan did not execute any prisoners between 2008 and 2014, but resumed state killings in 2015.

The United States ranks fifth in the global execution list. Only 28 were carried out in 2015, the lowest number since 1991.  This is partly due to the problems that have come up with lethal injections.

More than two-thirds of all countries have abolished the death penalty and the trend is growing steadily.60 states around the world still have some form of capital punishment.

Capital punishment in San Quentin Cailfornia
Lethal injection room at San Quentin prison

Words

  • abolish = get rid of , ban
  • according to = as reported by …
  • are thought to be = it is reported that something is true, even if there are no facts
  • capital punishment = when the state officially kills a person who has committed a crime
  • carry out = do something
  • charge with = to make a formal statement saying that someone has committed a crime
  • data = information
  • death penalty = capital punishment ; the official killing of a person by the state
  • due to = because of
  • execution =when someone is killed by the state
  • global = worldwide
  • human rights = the basic rights that everyone should have, like the right to speak freely or the right to vote
  • include = here: it is not in the report
  • issue = to make public so that everyone  can see it
  • lethal injection = killing someone by injecting a mixture of drugs into their body
  • mock = not real; just to show off
  • previous = here: the year before
  • rank = position on a list
  • record = more than ever before
  • reliable = something you can trust
  • resume = continue after a break
  • rise = go up
  • state security = to defend or protect the interests of a state
  • steadily = slowly, constantly
  • threaten = to be dangerous  to someone
  • trial = when a judge and a jury tries to find out if someone is guilty or not

 

Facebook Introduces Chatbots to Messenger

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerbook has announced that so-called chatbots would soon appear in the company’s Messenger app.

Chatbots are small software programs based on artificial intelligence and can communicate with people. They will change the way we receive information. A chatbot, for example, can talk to a customer, order items or listen to complaints. It can answer questions, solve complicated problems or make appointments. It’s like talking to a robot. As time goes on chatbots will be able to learn, based on the experience they have .

Facebook’s Messenger is an extremely popular piece of communication software, used by 900 million people around the world. With its announcement users will be able to develop their own chatbots and use them in Messenger. People can then send a message to a bot which will know what to do depending on the situation.

While internet experts say that chatbots can be a big advantage, there are those who see risks. There is no way we can monitor every action that chatbots carry out. Others think that such bots may encourage you to do things that you really wouldn’t want to do, like open a new website or install new apps.

However, bots are still in a developing stage. As time goes on their performance will improve and, in time ,  they will become your personal assistant that can help you in any situation.

Chatbots soon to appear on Facebook's Messenger
Facebook Messenger – Image:  Zuzi461

Words

  • advantage = the good side of something
  • announce = to say officially
  • appear = here: introduce
  • appointment = formal arrangement to meet someone or visit a place at a certain time
  • artificial intelligence = the study of how to make machines do intelligent things that people can do like think and make decisions
  • assistant = helper
  • based on = when you use facts or ideas to create something
  • communicate = talk to
  • complaint = not being satisfied with something
  • complicated = difficult
  • customer = person who buys things
  • depending on = based on
  • develop = create, make
  • developing stage = at the beginning
  • encourage = try to make you do something
  • experience = here: what they have learned as time goes on
  • founder = the person who created something
  • however = but
  • improve = get better
  • install = to put a program onto your computer or smartphone
  • in time = as time goes on
  • monitor = watch, observe
  • performance = the way in which something works or does a job
  • popular = liked by many people
  • receive = get

China Wants To Become A Soccer Superpower

The Chinese government plans to make soccer the number one sport in the country. By 2050 it wants to get 50 million children and adults to play the game.

Although the most populous country in the world , China has never been really good at the world’s most popular sport.  According to the government, 20000 training centres are planned  and 70000 new soccer fields will be built within the next decades. It also wants to set up soccer schools and offer young players more training programs.

FIFA hopes that the China’s desire to become a global player in soccer will raise the country’s rankings, currently at number 80 in the FIFA list. In contrast to men, who have only qualified for the World Cup once in 2002, Chinese women are more successful in the sport. They have even made it to the World Cup finals in 1999.

China’s leader Xi Jinping is the driving force behind the new sport initiative . He loves soccer and  played the game during his youth. Xi wants China to play a major role in Asia and maybe even win the World Cup one day. Recently, Chinese billionaires  have started to invest in China’s Super League, luring top European players to the country. Guangzhou Evergrande, one of China’s top teams,  has  paid 45 million dollars for Athletico Madrid top star Jackson Martinez.

But before China reaches its goal it must clean up its own house. Corruption charges loom over the league. In 2013 33 players were banned from competition after they had been accused of match-fixing.

 

National Soccer Team of China
Chinese National Football Team in 2008

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • accuse = to say that a person has done something against the law
  • although = while
  • ban = here: not allow
  • billionaire = a person who has a billion dollars, euros etc…
  • competition = here: to take part in league matches
  • corruption charges = to say that people have manipulated matches and paid illegal money to players and others
  • currently = at the moment
  • decade = ten years
  • desire = to want something very much
  • driving force = here: the person who really puts all their power and strength into doing something they really want
  • FIFA = the world’ soccer organisation
  • global = worldwide
  • goal = aim, what you want to achieve
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • initiative = a new plan
  • in contrast = on the other side; compared to
  • loom = to appear frightening
  • lure = here: offer a player a lot of money to make him come to China
  • major = very important
  • match-fixing = to take money in order to make sure that a game has a certain result
  • popular = liked by many people
  • populous = with a  lot of people living in the country
  • raise = move up
  • reach = get to
  • recently = a short time ago
  • soccer = European football
  • youth = when a person was young