German Cities Plan To Start Free Public Transport

German cities are planning to start free public transport services. The German government has suggested this action after the country, together with 7 other EU member states, have not met EU air quality standards. Pollution, especially in large cities, has become a major problem.

Free public transport will be introduced in five cities including Bonn, Essen and Mannheim by the end of the year.

Some major cities have already experimented with free transport services.  In Estonia’s capital Tallinn, residents have been able to use buses, trams and trains in the city for free since 2013. Paris and Seattle have tried offering free public transport, but only for a short time.

Germany’s decision to provide free public transport could prove to be expensive for its taxpayers. Many transport services get up to half of their money through ticket sales. Thus, the federal government would have to subsidize free transport in cities heavily. Experts claim that it may cost up to 12 billion euros in extra money to run the system for free.

Critics of the proposal say such a measure could put too much burden on public transport systems in large cities. Berlin, Hamburg and Munich already have major problems during rush hours and experts state that inviting more people to use public transport would overload existing systems. As a result, even more money would be needed to expand the country’s public transport services.

In addition to making cities as car-free as possible, car-sharing schemes, low emission zones and incentives for buying electric cars are also measures that are being considered.

City bus in Leipzig
City bus in Leipzig – Image: Christian A. Schröder

Words

  • action =here: something that someone does or wants to do
  • burden = here: to cause problems for …
  • capital = the most important city in a country; where the government is
  • car-sharing scheme = plan in which two or more people travel to places using the same car
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • consider = think about
  • especially = above all
  • expand = make larger and better
  • federal = here: the central government of a country
  • government = people who rule a country
  • in addition = also
  • incentive = something that makes you want to do something
  • including = also
  • introduce = here: start
  • low emission zone = here: an area  in which dirty cars or trucks are not allowed to enter because they produce too much pollution
  • major = very important
  • measure = action, law
  • offer = give someone to use
  • overload = here: not manage
  • pollution = making air, water etc.. dirty
  • proposal = suggestion or plan
  • provide = give
  • public transport = buses, trains, trams etc.. that everyone can use
  • resident = here: a person who lives in a city
  • run = operate
  • rush hour = time of day when buses, trains and trams are full because people are travelling to or from work
  • service = here: help or work that a country gives to its people
  • standard = the level that you have to reach
  • subsidize = to pay part of the costs
  • taxpayer = person who pays money to the government according to the income he/she gets  from working
  • thus = that is why

 

 

Kosovo – Ten Years of Independence

Ten years ago Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia. Recently, celebrations marked the 10th anniversary of the new state as thousands of people marched the streets of its capital, Pristina.

However, not all countries in the world have recognised Kosovo as an independent state.  While the US and Great Britain have been its staunchest supporters, China, Russia and a few EU nations still consider Kosovo as a part of Serbia. It is not yet been able to join the United Nations.

The Balkan state has a population of 1.8 million. 90% are ethnic Albanians, 120 000 live as a Serb minority in Kosovo.

Over 13,000 people died and a million were displaced in the Kosovo War between 1998 and 1999 – a conflict in which Kosovo rebels tried to free themselves from Serbia.  Serb troops pulled out of Kosovo after intensive NATO bombing. After the war, the area was put under UN administration in which NATO supervised a peace-keeping force.

Ten years after the declaration of independence, there are still tensions between Serbia and Kosovo.  Many Serbs see Kosovo as the heart of their nation, because of the important historic sites located there. The European Union has pointed out that Serbia must normalise its relations with Kosovo if it wants to become an EU member. On the other side, Kosovo must also grant Serbs living in their country a certain degree of autonomy.

The young state faces many problems.  Kosovo has a young population but cannot create enough jobs, leaving 60% of its youth unemployed.  Many are well-educated and speak several languages but fail to see any perspectives for their future. Almost 200,000 Kosovars have left the country in the last decade. In addition, corruption is widespread and war crimes are unresolved.

 

Turkish peacekeepers in Kosovo
Turkish peacekeepers in Kosovo

Words

  • administration = political control of an area
  • anniversary = date on which something important happened years ago
  • autonomy = to make your own decisions and govern yourself
  • Balkans = large area in southeastern Europe that extends from Greece to Slovenia
  • capital = most important city in a country; where the government is
  • celebration = an event where you have fun and do something that you enjoy
  • consider = here: to look at a country as …
  • declare independence = to say in public that you are a free country and not under the control of another one
  • decade = ten years
  • degree = amount
  • displaced = to leave your home because of a war or another conflict
  • ethnic = from a certain race, or nation with special customs and traditions
  • face = manage, solve
  • fail = here: do not
  • grant = give
  • historic site =  place at which something important happened in the past
  • however = but
  • in addition = also
  • intensive = strong
  • Kosovar = person from Kosovo
  • minority = small group in a country
  • mark = here: celebrate an important event
  • normalise = to make something normal
  • peacekeeping force = group of soldiers who are sent to a place to keep two enemies from fighting
  • perspectives = here: hope for something better
  • point out = to say very clearly
  • rebel = someone who opposes the government and fights  against it
  • recently = a short time ago
  • recognise = to officially accept
  • several = a few
  • staunch = very loyal
  • supervise = here: to make sure that two groups of people do not fight against each other
  • supporter = here: a country that wants to help you
  • tension = here: nervous feelings because the two groups do not trust each other
  • troops = soldiers
  • unemployed = out of work; with no job
  • unresolved = not solved; not finished
  • war crimes = cruel, illegal  act done during a war
  • widespread = when something is common and happens a lot

Putin Wins Fourth Term as Russian President

Vladimir Putin has won another six-year term as President of Russia.  He received over 75 % of the vote in Sunday’s presidential election. Although the victory was expected Putin received more votes than he did in the 2012 election.

Putin’s strongest opponent, Alexei Navalny was not allowed to take part because of a criminal case against him. He called for a boycott of the election.  Putin’s closest rival, millionaire Pavel Grudinin received only 12% of the vote.

Over 60% of Russians went to the polls. In order to get as many Russians as possible to vote, food and other free services were offered near polling stations. Young voters in Moscow were given free concert tickets if they voted.

Independent election monitorshowever, registered some irregularities in the election. They received evidence of stuffing ballot boxes with extra ballots and authorities forcing citizens to vote.

It was also the first time Crimean citizens were allowed to vote after the peninsula had been annexed by Russia in 2014.

Vladimir Putin has been either president or Prime Minister of Russia since 1999. He has become Russia’s longest-serving leader since Joseph Stalin . The law requires him to step down after his term ends in 2024.

Putin’s election victory came at a time of increased tensions with the West. A week before the elections, the United States imposed sanctions on Russia because of its interference in the 2016 US presidential election. The British government accused Moscow of poisoning a Russian double agent on the streets of London.

 

Vladimir Putin, Russian President
Vladimir Putin, Russian President – Image: www.kremlin.ru

Words

  • accuse = to say that someone has committed a crime
  • although = while
  • annex = to take control of an area by sending an army and soldiers into it
  • authorities = here: people who organise an election
  • ballot = piece of paper on which you make a cross for your favourite candidate
  • boycott = not take part
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • criminal case = an event in which  someone might have broken the law and now comes before court
  • double agent = a spy who works for two countries at the same time
  • election = when people choose someone for an official position
  • evidence = facts that show something is true
  • expected = it was not a surprise
  • force = to make someone do something
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • however = but
  • impose = to force something on someone
  • increased = getting higher or more
  • independent = here: not belong to a political party
  • interference = to get involved or mixed up in something
  • irregularity = here: something that is against the law and not correct
  • law = rules that a country has
  • monitor = a person who watches things closely
  • opponent = someone who tries to win against you; a rival
  • peninsula =piece of land that has water on three sides
  • poison = to kill someone with a deadly chemical
  • polling station = building that you go to in order to vote
  • polls = the place where you can go to vote in an election
  • Prime Minister = the leader of the government
  • receive = get
  • register = realise; notice something
  • require = you have to do something
  • rival = opponent ; the person who also wants to win
  • sanction = form of punishment against a country
  • service = things that are offered to you
  • step down = here give up your job as President
  • stuffing ballot boxes = here: putting more votes in boxes than you have people who vote
  • tension = here: nervous feelings between two or more countries
  • term = here: period of time during which you are president
  • victory = win
  • vote = the result of the election

New Eurostar Service Between London and Amsterdam

Eurostar, the company that operates train services between Great Britain and the European mainland through the Channel Tunnel, will start a new service between London and Amsterdam in April. The company has said that the new route is another step towards connecting major European capitals to the UK by rail.

Trains will travel twice a day between London and Amsterdam via Brussels and Rotterdam. The journey will take about three hours and 40 minutes.

Eurostar will offer tickets starting at £35 one-way, which is expected to compete with cheap budget airlines on the route between London and the Dutch capital.

The service especially targets businesspeople who prefer comfortable foot space and WiFi. In addition, Amsterdam has become increasingly popular among UK tourists. Over 4 million passengers travel between London and Amsterdam, one of Europe’s busiest air routes, every year.

Travel between the UK and Western Europe has increased strongly in the last two decadesSince the start of Eurostar services in 1994,  the number of travellers between London and Paris, Eurostar’s first route,  has doubled.

While passengers leaving London will be able to travel to Amsterdam without interruption, travellers from Amsterdam to London will be required to undergo passport and security checks in Brussels. This is only a temporary measure and only should only last until the end of 2019.

 

Eurostar high-speed train
Eurostar high-speed train – Image: Kabelleger / David Gubler

Words

  • budget airlines = airlines that offer cheap tickets, but not as many services as other airlines do
  • capital = the most important city in a country; where the government is
  • compete = here: to be able to attract as many passengers as airlines do
  • connect = link together
  • decade = ten years
  • double = to be twice as much
  • especially = above all
  • foot space = room for your legs when you sit
  • in addition = also
  • increasingly = more and more
  • interruption = to stop something
  • mainland = the European continent, without the islands that belong to it
  • major = very important
  • measure = law, action
  • offer = sell
  • one-way = only to a destination; not back again
  • operate = here: to run a service
  • popular = liked and well-known
  • prefer = like
  • require = need to; must
  • security check = here: officials check your passport and see that you don’t bring anything illegal into a country
  • service = here: a train that travels between two cities
  • step = stage, phase
  • target = aim at a certain group of people
  • temporary = only for a short time
  • twice = two times
  • undergo = here: you must do something
  • via = through; by way of
  • WiFi = wireless internet connection

Polar Bears Could Face Extinction Earlier Than Thought

Polar bears could become extinct faster than predicted. That is because there is a shortage of food in their habitat and scientists have now found out that polar bears need more energy than previously thought.

As a result of global warming, Arctic ice is melting quickly, so that polar bears have to travel further in search of food. In a study that has spanned the last three years, scientists found out that polar bears have to travel one and a half times more than in the past.  As a result, they lose weight.

Experiments conducted with modern technology show how polar bears move and behave. High-tech GPS collars were put on 9 female polar bears. Their movements and energy consumption have been tracked over a period of 12 days. Results show that a few of them lost up to 10%of their weight.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, polar bears spend half of their time hunting for something to eat. They rely mostly on young seals as the main source of food, but the seal population is getting scarce because of the melting ice.

A polar bear needs about 12000 kilocalories a day to stay healthy and even more to put on the body fat it needs to survive the winter months.

Over the past ten years, the number of polar bears has declined by 40%. Ice on their habitat, Arctic Sea ice is decreasing at a rate of 14% per decade.  It is currently at its lowest level in 40 years.

 

Polar bear feeding on a dead seal
Polar bear feeding on a dead seal – Image: AWeith

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • behave = act in certain situations
  • body fat = here: the fat an animal needs to protect itself from the cold weather
  • collar = band of leather or plastic that is around an animal’s neck
  • conduct = carry out
  • currently = at the moment
  • decade = ten years
  • decline = to go down
  • decrease = become lower
  • energy consumption = the amount of energy you need and use up
  • extinct = to die out and not exist anymore
  • global warming = increase in the atmosphere’s temperature caused by more carbon dioxide and other gases
  • further = a longer distance
  • GPS = system that shows where your position is on earth through a system of radio signals
  • habitat = natural home of a plant or animal
  • lose weight = become thinner
  • melt = when ice turns into water
  • predict = to say that something will happen before it does
  • previously = at an earlier time
  • rely = here: eat
  • scarce = not very much left
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • seal = large sea animal that eats fish and lives near coasts
  • shortage = not enough
  • source = where something comes from
  • span = period of time between two events
  • study = piece of work that is done to find out more about a subect
  • survive = stay alive
  • track = monitor, watch closely
  • World Wildlife Fund = organisation that wants to protect the environment and save animals and plants

 

 

India’s Unwanted Girls

The Indian government has announced that 63 million females are missing from its population.  About 2 Indian females go missing across all age groups because of abortions, diseases and malnutrition.

As in China, Indian society prefers men to women. Many families would rather have a son than a daughter. This can be seen in the country’s birth statistics.  For every 1,000 males that are born, there are only 940 females, which is much lower than average in many countries. According to population experts, there are about 21 million unwanted girls in India, females whose parents actually wanted a son.

Although testing for the gender of an unborn child is illegal, it still happens in many areas.

In Indian society, not only low-income families in rural areas prefer having a son instead of a daughter. In upper-class families, sons carry on the family tradition or take over the family business. While land and property pass on to a family’s son, many parents have to pay a fee, called dowry, when their daughter marries.

Social problems also arise in Indian society. Girls are often treated worse than boys. Some families keep on having babies until they get a son.  Although the preference for boys in Indian society cannot be ignored, the situation of girls and young women is improving. They are being better educated and have more opportunities in the workforce than decades ago.

 

Boy in an Indian family -
Boy in an Indian family – Image: Praveenpaavni

Words

  • abortion = a medical operation that kills an unborn baby
  • according to = as said by …
  • although = while
  • announce = to say officially, in public
  • arise = come up; emerge
  • average = normal, usual
  • decade = ten years
  • fee = amount of money you have to pay to someone
  • gender = being male or female
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • ignore = to pay no attention to something
  • illegal = against the law
  • improve = to get better
  • low-income = if you earn very little money
  • malnutrition = when someone becomes ill or weak because they have not had enough to eat
  • opportunity = here: the chance to get a job
  • pass on = to give to someone else
  • population = all the people who live in a country
  • prefer = to like something  more than something else
  • property = land that you own
  • rural = in the countryside
  • society = people in general and how they live together
  • take over = continue; take control from someone else
  • workforce = all the people who work in a country

Oldest Human Fossil Found Outside Africa

A human fossil found in Isreal in 2002 now shows that humans may have left Africa up to 100,000 years earlier than originally thought. Researchers spent one and a half decades studying an upper jawbone and stone tools found in a cave in Isreal.

The jawbone was found with teeth that were thought to be between 170 000 and 190 000 years old.  CT scans helped to build a 3D model, which researchers then compared with other fossils from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The tools found nearby suggest that prehistoric people were busy making various objects that they used for hunting animals and gathering.  While some scientists say that the tools could only have been made by homo sapiens, modern people, others do not ignore the fact that Neanderthals could also have made them.

Up to now, the oldest fossils found outside Africa were also located in Israel. According to archaeologists, they were no more than 90,000 to 120,000 years old.

The new discovery also sets back the date at which homo sapiens appeared in Africa. While the current theory says that they originated in Africa 200,000 years ago, we now may believe that they actually showed up between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago. If that is true, then they probably left Africa on short trips to other continents as early as 200,000 years ago.

 

Skull of a Homo Sapiens
Skull of a Homo Sapiens – Image: Dr. Günter Bechly

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • appear = show up; start to exist
  • archaeologist = a person who studies ancient civilisations by looking at what is left of buildings, tools etc..
  • cave = a large natural hole in the side of a hill or mountain
  • compare = to look at two or more things and find out the differences between them
  • CT scan = an  examination in which the inside of an object  is produced on a computer using x-rays
  • current = now
  • decade = ten years
  • discovery = finding something for the first time
  • fossil = an animal or plant that lived many thousands of years ago and that has been preserved in rock
  • gathering = to look for plants to eat
  • homo sapiens = modern man; the type of human that exists now
  • humans = people
  • ignore = pay no attention to …
  • jawbone = one of the bones that are in your teeth
  • located = found
  • Neanderthal = early type of human being who lived in Europe during the Stone Age
  • originally = at first
  • originate = come from
  • prehistoric people = people who lived a long time ago, before anything was written down
  • researcher = someone who studies a subject in detail in order to find out more about it
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • skull = the bones of a person’s head
  • stone tools = early tools that the first people made out of stone; they were used for hunting, gathering food and making fire
  • suggest = to say that something may be true
  • various = different kinds of …

 

 

Roger Federer Wins 20th Grand Slam Title

Tennis superstar Roger Federer has won his  20th Grand Slam Title and his 6th Australian Open trophy. In a dramatic match, the Swissman beat Croatian  Marin Cilic  6-2, 6-7, 6-3, 3-6 and 6-1. The match went on for over  3 hours with both players being exhausted at the end. It was one of the hottest tournaments ever played on the ATP tour. In some of the matches temperatures reached 40° C (104 ° F).

Federer is the first to win 20 Grand Slam titles. He has won three out of the last 5 Grand Slams. At 36 Federer became the second oldest man to win a grand slam title after Ken Rosewall who won the Australian Open in 1972. In addition, he has become the oldest player ever to climb to the top of the ATP rankings.

The sympathetic Swiss player had the majority of supporters on his side at Melbourne Park. Red and white flags dominated the arena. In a game that went back and forth, Federer’s experience was decisive in winning the final set.

After dominating men’s tennis for a decade, the Swissman’s intermediate downfall started in 2013 when he lost in the second round at Wimbledon and failed to reach the quarter-finals in the following three Grand Slam events. After suffering from a series of back injuries between 2013 and 2016  Federer made an amazing comeback last year.

Tennis is a sport in which injuries take their toll during the latter part of an athlete’s career. Federer rivals Raphael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, both in their 30s, are also coping with injury problems.

 

Roger Federer
Roger Federer – Image: Tatiana

Words

  • ATP tour = worldwide series of tournaments for professional tennis players; they take place at the same time every year
  • back = back part of your body between the neck and legs
  • back and forth = here: both players took turns winning sets
  • beat = win against
  • comeback = here to win again after an unsuccessful time
  • cope with = deal with
  • decade = ten years
  • decisive = here: it is why he won
  • dominate = here: more than other flags
  • downfall = here: when you suddenly start losing matches
  • exhausted = very tired
  • experience = here: the skill and knowledge you have from winning many difficult matches
  • fail = did not
  • Grand Slam = the four most important tennis tournaments = Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open
  • in addition = also
  • injury = damage to a part of your body
  • intermediate = here: for a short time in between other phases
  • latter = last
  • majority = here: most of the people in the stadium
  • quarter-finals = the last eight players in a tournament
  • ranking = position on a list that shows how good you are compared to others
  • reach = get to
  • rival = person who you play against
  • suffer = to be in pain
  • supporter = person who cheers for you in an event
  • take their toll = to have a bad effect on something over a longer period of time
  • tournament = series of matches in which players play against each other until there is one winner
  • trophy = large object, like a cup or plate made out of silver or gold, that someone receives as a prize for winning a sports event

Cloning of First Monkeys in China

Two monkeys have been cloned in a Chinese laboratory. They were created with the identical technique used to clone Dolly, the sheep back in 1996. Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were born a few weeks ago at a Chinese lab. Researchers say they are growing normally.

Over two decades ago, Dolly, became the first successfully cloned mammal. Since then cows, pigs, dogs and other mammals have been cloned.  The cloning of primates was thought to be more difficult than the creation of other mammals in a lab. The Chinese team has brought the scientific community one step closer to the cloning of humans.

The technique used in the test involves transferring the nucleus of a cell into an egg which has had its nucleus removed. The experiment was remarkable because it used fetal cells instead of adult cells. It took the Chinese scientists many attempts and 127 eggs to clone just two monkeys.

According to scientists, the cloning of monkeys will help to research human diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It is also important in drug research.

China has invested heavily in research in the past years. The successful test came at a time when American and European scientists have backed away from using monkeys and apes for ethical reasons.

 

Close-up of Dolly, the sheep in her stuffed form
Close-up of Dolly, the sheep in her stuffed form – Image: Toni Barros

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • Alzheimer’s disease = disease that affects the brain, especially of older people; it makes it difficult for you to move, talk or remember things
  • attempt = try
  • back away = stop doing something
  • cancer = serious illness in which cells can grow in an uncontrolled way
  • clone = an animal or plant produced by scientists from one cell of another animal or plant so that they are exactly the same
  • creation = making something
  • decade = ten years
  • disease = illness
  • drug research = creating new forms of medicine
  • ethical = something that is morally good or bad
  • fetal = belonging to an unborn baby or animal
  • human = a person
  • identical = the same
  • including = also
  • invest = put money into …
  • laboratory = room or building in which scientific experiments take place
  • mammal = type of animal that drinks milk from its mother’s body when it is young; humans, dogs and cows are mammals
  • nucleus = the central part of an atom
  • primate = member of a group of mammals that includes humans and monkeys
  • remove = take away
  • remarkable = unusual, surprising
  • researcher = person who studies something in order to find out more about it
  • scientific community = all the people who do research work in labs
  • technique = method; way of doing something
  • transfer = move from one place to another

 

Amazon Go – The First Automated Store

Amazon has opened its first automated store to the public. Amazon Go is a grocery store located on the ground level of the corporation’s Seattle headquarters.

The store, which offers food, salads and boxed meals could revolutionize our shopping experience in the future.

As soon as you arrive at the store, a cell phone app connected to an Amazon account registers your presenceEverything that happens in the store is tracked by hundreds of infrared cameras. When you pick up items from the shelves they are automatically put into your virtual shopping cart. The cameras also detect when you put an item back on the shelves and remove it from your cart. The moment you walk out your account is charged without making any physical payment.

The technologies used at Amazon Go are the same as with driverless cars –  computer tracking, weight sensors on shelves and complicated algorithms.

The 1,800 square foot store has been open to Amazon employees for a year. Now the public can also shop there.

However, not everything has been running smoothly in the store’s opening year.There were hardships to overcomeFor example, it’s hard for cameras to distinguish between different flavours or products that look the same. They also have problems handling people who move around or identifying shoppers with similar body sizes and clothes.

Even though there are no checkout counters and cashiers who make you wait in line, there are shop assistants who restock goods and help customers find their way around.

 

Amazon Go store in Seattle
Amazon Go store in Seattle – Image: SounderBruce

Words

  • account = here: the  services of a company that you use
  • algorithm = set of instructions that are followed in a fixed order and used  for solving problems
  • automated = using computers, cameras and machines
  • boxed meal = meal that has already been cooked and is ready to eat
  • cashier = person who you pay money to in a shop
  • charge = you have to pay money for the goods you buy
  • checkout counter = place where you pay for products when you leave a store
  • complicated = difficult
  • connect = link
  • corporation = big company
  • detect = discover, notice
  • distinguish = find the difference between two things
  • driverless = without a driver
  • employee = a person who works there
  • even though = although, while
  • flavour = the taste of something
  • hardships = problems, difficulties
  • headquarters = place from where a company operates
  • however = but
  • identify = find out the name of someone
  • infrared = light that gives out heat but cannot be seen
  • item = product
  • located = to be found; situated
  • overcome = solve
  • physical payment = real money you pay with in a store
  • presence = someone is present
  • public = here: everybody
  • register = record
  • restock = bring in more items to replace those that have been bought
  • revolutionize = to change completely the way you do something
  • shopping experience = the way we shop
  • similar = almost the same
  • smoothly = here: the way it should; without any problems
  • track = watch closely
  • virtual = not real; here: your Amazon account
  • weight sensor = small object that finds out if there is something on the shelf or not