Singapore Bans Additional Cars

The government of Singapore has announced that it will ban further cars from its streets and roads starting in February 2018 . Authorities in the island state want to avoid the country from being clogged up in traffic as space is running out.

Singapore has already limited the number of new vehicles that are allowed to drive every year. It has also increased registration fees and import taxes on private vehicles. In Singapore it is four times more expensive to own a car in than elsewhere.

Singapore, which is even smaller than New York, is the most densely populated country in the world. 12 % of the land is taken up by roads. Since 2000, the population has risen by 40% to 5.6 million. Currently, there are 600 000 private cars  in operation.

Citizens need a permit to own a car. They can get them at regular auctions that are held in the country.  Fees for a ten-year permit cost  at least $30,000 .

In addition to banning the registration of new cars, the government is spending 28 billion dollars  on public transport projects in the next five years. It is expanding its rail network  and has added new bus lines. 

Traffic in Singapore
Traffic in Singapore – Image: Jacklee

Words

  • announce = to say officially, in public
  • auction = here: event where people who offer the most money can buy permits
  • authorities = people or organisations that are in charge of certain things in daily life
  • avoid = stop something from happening
  • ban = forbid
  • billion = a thousand million
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • clog up = to become blocked
  • currently = at the moment
  • densely populated = many people live on a small area of land
  • elsewhere = in other countries
  • expand = to make bigger
  • fee = the money you pay for  a service
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • in addition = also
  • increase = to become bigger or more
  • limit = to stop from becoming  more and more
  • permit = document that allows you to do or have something
  • public transport = busses, trains, subways etc.. that everyone can use
  • registration fee = the money you pay for officially owning a car
  • run out = to become less and less
  • vehicle = machine or engine that is used to take people from one place to another, such as a car, bus or truck

 

End of Australia’s Car Industry

The last car , a General Motors Holden, has come off the production line in Adelaide, Australia.  It ends a 90-year long era of car manufacturing in Australia.  At its peak, the Adelaide factory built almost 800 cars a day .

GM Holden is a subsidiary of GM . The closure of Australia’s last car factory will not only leave almost a thousand workers without a job, but also endanger industries that produce parts for Australian-made cars.

Holden has been an Australian national symbol for many decadesThe company, which started out as a family business in the mid 19th century, was bought by General Motors  in 1931. In 1948 the FX Holden became the first car to be  mass-produced in Australia. By 1960, every second car manufactured in Australia was a Holden.  The company’s most popular car was the Commodore,  which was introduced in 1978.

Since World War II a number of foreign auto manufacturers, including Toyota, Mitsubishi have opened and closed car production plants in Australia. Ford shut down its last plant a year ago.

There are many reasons behind the decline of Australia’s car industry.  Through free trade agreements automobile makers no longer have benefits when producing in Australia. Other reasons are high wages and production costs   as well as  a small domestic market of 24 million.

As the  Australian dollar became stronger  the country’s exports became  more expensive. Holden cars became less competitive , while imported foreign cars were cheaper . Since 2001 Australia’s government has been pouring in  $ 5.5 billion into the car industry.

Even though Australia’s car industry has come to an end , the GM Holden will still be available from other manufacturing plants around the world.

GM Holden Caprice, produced in 2007
GM Holden Caprice, produced in 2007

Words

  • agreement = when people, companies  or countries promise to do something
  • available = it can be bought
  • benefit = advantage, help you do or get something
  • century = a hundred years
  • competitive = to be more successful than others
  • closure = to be closed
  • decade = ten years
  • decline = when something becomes less important
  • domestic = home
  • foreign = from another country
  • endanger = to put something in danger
  • era = period of time
  • foreign = from another country
  • manufacture = produce, make
  • mass-produce = to make something in large numbers so that it can be sold cheaply
  • peak = when it was most successful
  • plant = factory
  • pour = here: give
  • production line = products move along  a line of workers who make or check each part
  • subsidiary = company that is owned or controlled by a larger company
  • wages = money a worker gets every week or month

 

Sidewalk Toronto – City of the Future in Canada

Sidewalk Labs, a Google company, has announced  plans to build a futuristic city in Toronto, Canada. The new urban area, called Sidewalk Toronto, aims at turning the waterfront of Lake Ontario into a playground for city development and a testing site  for new technologies.

The project wants to make cities cheaper, healthier and even more exciting to live in .  The new city will offer its residents ultra-fast WiFi connections, lanes for self-driving cars and sustainable energy sources.  Thousands of sensors will report pollution and noise levels, as well as monitor traffic and levels of carbon monoxide.

Planners of Sidewalk Toronto want to find new solutions for  overpopulation, waste management , traffic , pollution and other urban problems. Several companies have said that they will make their services  available to the new city. 

Planners estimate that the project will cost around 1 billion dollars. However, it will also offer tens of thousands of people a place to live, work  and have fun. Eventually, similar projects may spread to other parts of the world, helping to build smarter and greener  cities.

Google has also announced that it plans to move its Canadian headquarters to Sidewalk Toronto.

 

 

 

Skyline of Toronto from Lake Ontario
Skyline of Toronto from Lake Ontario – Image: George Socka

Words

  • aim = wants to , plans to
  • announce = to officially say something in public
  • available = here: something that people can use
  • carbon monoxide = poisonous gas that produces carbon when it is burned
  • development = to become bigger, more modern and advanced
  • estimate = think about how much something will cost
  • eventually = as time goes on, slowly
  • futuristic = something  that looks unusual and very modern
  • headquarters = the main building or offices used by a large company
  • however =  but
  • lane = one of two or many areas on the road that keeps cars apart
  • monitor = watch, observe
  • overpopulation = too many people live on a small area of land
  • resident = here: a person  who lives in a city
  • services = work or help that a company gives you
  • similar = almost the same
  • solution = way of dealing with a problem
  • spread = move to another place
  • sustainable = something that can be used without causing danger to the environment or nature
  • urban = about a city
  • waste management = way of getting rid of unwanted materials and dirty water
  • waterfront = part of a city or town that is next to the sea or lake
  • WiFi connection = connecting computers and other machines to the Internet by using radio signals

 

Thousands of Penguin Babies Die in the Antarctic

Thousands of penguin babies have starved to death in the eastern Antarctic recently . Observers found thousands of unhatched eggs and lifeless baby penguins  on the coast. According to scientists , only two baby penguins survived during the 2017 breeding seasonAdélie penguins live in colonies that consist of thousands of animals.  It is the second time that a whole colony has been wiped out after no babies survived in 2015.

The World Wildlife Fund says that krill fishing in the area has led to the starving of penguin babies. Officials state that fishing in the area may permanently endanger the whole penguin population in the Antarctic.

Another reason for the declining number of Adélie penguins is possibly climate change.  In regions where ice gets thicker, adult penguins must  travel further away from the shore in order to find food. When they get back they find many of their babies already dead.

The WWF  and other organisations now demand that the eastern Antarctic coastline be declared a Marine Protected Area in order to help endangered penguins. Commercial fishing should be banned around these areas .

Adélie penguins live along the Antarctic coast  and usually breed from October to February.  They lay eggs in nests made up of stones.

 

Adélie penguin
Adélie penguin – Image : Andrew Shiva

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • adult = grownup
  • ban = forbid
  • breed = two or more animals get together in order to have babies
  • commercial fishing = fishing in order to make money
  • consist of = made up of
  • declare = to officially say that something exists
  • declining = going down
  • demand = want to have
  • endanger = to put a person or an animal in danger
  • krill = small shellfish
  • lifeless = dead
  • Marine Protected Area = area in the ocean where fishing and mining is banned and where animals and plants are protected
  • permanently = exist for a long time in the future
  • observer = a person who watches something closely
  • official = person who is in a high position in an organisation
  • shore = coast; where land meets the sea
  • starve = to die because you do not have enough to eat
  • survive = to live on after a dangerous situation
  • unhatched = if a baby animal does not come out of an egg
  • wipe out =  destroy completely, so that nothing is left
  • World Wildlife Fund = organisation that protects endangered animals and plants

 

 

Estonia – A Digital Society

Estonia is a small Baltic state with a population of 1.3 million. Despite its size it is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world and has been creating a digital society since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In Estonia, citizens are allowed to do most things online.  Every inhabitant has a unique ID card that they use for a number of purposes.They can file tax returns, get medical prescriptions  and manage their health records online. They can pay for a parking ticket via mobile phone and don’t have to go to a registration office when a child is born. Parents can check their children’s grades  and communicate with teachers. For many years Estonians have been able to vote online.

In 2014 the small Baltic country started a new digital initiative. It allows non-citizens to become digital residents for 100 euros. The government wants to bring qualified people to the country because the working population is steadily decreasing. The country desperately needs new programmers, web developers and media experts. Up to now 20 000 people from other countries have applied for digital citizenship.

Many countries, among them Finland and Japan are trying to copy Estonia’s digital society. However, authorities point out that the country’s smallness is an advantage. Such a system may not work very well in larger countries with millions of people.

Digital Summit in Estonia
Digital Summit in Estonia – Image: Anna Piperal

Words

  • advanced = very modern
  • advantage = here: something that helps you to be successful
  • apply = to make a request
  • authorities = the people who are in charge of a government organisation  or department
  • Baltic = region in the northeastern part of Europe
  • citizen = person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • collapse = breakdown , end
  • create = make
  • decrease = go down
  • desperately = very much
  • despite = even though
  • file tax returns = here: to send information  on how much you have earned to the local government; it then tells you how much tax you have to pay
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • health records = information about your health
  • however = but
  • ID card = small plastic card that has information about a person
  • inhabitant = a person who lives in a country
  • initiative = a new plan
  • point out = to show something that is important
  • population = the number of people living in a country
  • prescription = a piece of paper on which  the doctor writes down what medicine a sick person should take
  • purpose = what something is needed for
  • qualified = with special skills and talents
  • registration office = place where you have report to when a baby is born or someone dies
  • resident = a person who officially lives in a country
  • society = people in general and the way they live and work together
  • size =how large the country is
  • smallness = not large in size
  • Soviet Union = largest Communist country that existed between 1922 and 1991
  • steadily = slowly
  • unique = being only one of its kind
  • via = by way of , through

 

Outbreak of Plague in Madagascar

60 people have died so far due to an outbreak of plague in Madagascar. According to the World Health Organisation, Madagascar witnesses about 400 cases of plague every year. However, this year infections have started much earlier and are spreading from remote rural areas to cities  as well.

Most cases were pneumonic plague, a dangerous and severe infection of the lung. It is highly infectious and can be transmitted through air by coughing and sneezing. It invades the lungs and can lead to death within 24 hours.

156 cases were attributed to bubonic plague, an infection that is transmitted by rats and spreads to humans through flea bites. It can be very painful and causes fever, headache, chest pain as well as swollen lymph nodes.

While both forms of plague can be treated it is important to detect the illness at an early stage and get medical help to people as soon as possible. The WHO has helped with millions of doses of antibiotics. The International Red Cross has set up treatment centres  throughout the island. In addition the government has been supplying people with masks and has closed down schools.

Madagascar, with a population of 25 million,  has witnessed outbreaks of plague since the 1980s, usually during the rainy season between November and March.  Officials fear that this time the disease  might not be contained and could spread to many regions of the country.

The most deadly plague in history occurred in Europe in the 14th century.  About a third of the continent’s population when  killed as sailors brought the infectious disease from Asia.

International Red Cross  parcel arriving at a treatment centre
International Red Cross parcel arriving at a treatment centre

Words

  • according to = as reported by
  • antibiotic = medicine that is used to kill bacteria and cure infections
  • attribute = to believe that something is caused by …
  • century = a hundred years
  • chest = front part of your body between your neck and stomach
  • contain = to stop something from spreading
  • detect = discover, notice
  • dose = an amount of medicine that you should take
  • due to = because of
  • flea = very small insect without wings that bites animals and people and eats their blood
  • in addition = also
  • infectious = disease that can be passed on from person to person, mostly by air
  • invade = here: attack
  • lymph node = small round swelling in your body with liquid that helps fight off infections
  • occur = happen
  • official = person in a high position in the government
  • outbreak = when something suddenly starts
  • remote =  far away
  • rural = in the countryside
  • severe = very bad
  • spread = move from one place ot another
  • supply = give
  • swollen = larger than normal
  • throughout = all across
  • transmit = to pass on to another person
  • treat = cure an illness with medicine and other drugs
  • treatment centre = place where people can come to in order to get medicine
  • witness = experience ; see something happen
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) = international organisation which helps countries improve health care  by giving people medicine and providing information about diseases

New Airport Opens on Remote St. Helena

The first commercial flight landed on the British island of St. Helena a few days ago.  It was the first passenger flight ever to land on the remote island, located  in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. St. Helena’s authorities hope that the new air service from Johannesburg, South Africa  will help boost tourism on the island.

Up to now only a boat service every three weeks connected the island with the African continent. It took a ship about 6 days to travel from  South Africa. The small island relies heavily on British aid to survive. St. Helena’s tourism officials say that the new air link will bring 30,000 visitors to the island every year, compared to only 4,000 last year.

The airport cost  almost £ 300 m  and has been widely criticised  as being the most useless airport in the world. Only smaller airplanes can fly to the island because strong winds to not allow large jet planes to take off and land.

Saint Helena is mostly known as the island to which French emperor Napoleon was banned  and died after he had suffered a defeat at WaterlooThe British overseas territory is only 122 square kilometres large and lies 2000 km off the coast  of Africa. It has a population of 4,200 .

Development on the island has been slow. It got its first mobile phone service in 2015 and the first luxury hotel on the island  is opening soon. Wildlife and nature  on and around the island is why tourists find there way to St. Helena.  A Marine Protected Area was established there last year.

 

The New airport on St. Helena
The new airport on St. Helena – Image: Paul Tyson

Words

  • aid = financial help; money
  • air link = flights to and from a place
  • air service = company that arranges flights
  • authorities = the people who rule a place
  • ban = here: to bring someone to a faraway place so that he/she cannot escape
  • boost = improve; make better
  • coast = where land meets the sea
  • commercial = with passengers on board who pay for the flight
  • development = to increase business, trade and growth in a region
  • emperor = man who rules a group of countries
  • establish = create
  • heavily = very much; strongly
  • luxury hotel = very expensive hotel
  • Marine Protected Area = place in the ocean where animals and plants are protected
  • official = a person who is in a high position in an organisation
  • population = the number of people who live in an area
  • rely = depend on; need
  • remote = very far away
  • suffer a defeat = here: lose a battle in a war
  • survive = to continue to exist
  • useless = not needed
  • wildlife = animals and plants that grow under natural conditions
  • widely = very much

 

Where Did Easter Island Inhabitants Really Come From?

Easter Island , or Rapa Nui as the natives call themselves , belongs to the remotest  places on earth.  The Chilean island, famous for its carved statues,  is located in the middle of the southern Pacific Ocean.

For decades, scientists have been wondering how the natives got to the island before the first Europeans came in 1722. Most experts think that the first settlers came to Easter Island  at around 1200 A.D. , probably on small boats  crisscrossing the Pacific Ocean. 

Other anthropologists have been trying to find out if the natives have any connections to early South Americans, three thousand kilometres away. Latest research now claims that the Easter Islanders were, in fact, more isolated than previously thought.

Scientists have been examining the skeletons and  bones of five people that go back hundreds of years. However, they have found no evidence that suggests they have might have ancestors in South America.

The first theory of South American ancestry came up when Thor Heyerdahl saw  sweet potatoes when he arrived there in the 1950s. He also found people using fishing tools that South Americans also used.  Scientists at that time thought the people of the Easter Islands may have sailed to South America and back again some time before the Europeans came.

 

Famous statues on Easter Island
Famous statues on Easter Island – Image: Horacio_Fernandez

Words

  • ancestor = a member of your family who lived a long time ago
  • anthropologist = a person who studies people , their cultures and where they come from
  • carved = to cut an object with a knife
  • claim = to say that something is true even if you cannot prove it
  • Chilean = from Chile
  • crisscross = to travel many times back and forth without a certain pattern ; zigzag
  • decade = ten years
  • evidence = facts that clearly show that something is true or exists
  • examine = to look very closely at an object
  • however = but
  • isolated = here: to be alone and far away from others
  • located = can be found
  • native = a person who was born in a country or place
  • previously = earlier
  • remote  = very far away from civilisation
  • research = the study of a subject  in order to find out new facts
  • sail =  the wind brings you somewhere on a boat
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • settler = a person who goes to live in a place where not many people have lived before
  • sweet potato = a vegetable that looks like a red potato ,is yellow inside and tastes sweet

 

Massive Hole Discovered in Antarctic Ice

Scientists have discovered a gigantic hole that has reappeared in the Antarctic ice. It is about the size of the Netherlands and is located around the Weddell Sea.

In the 1970s climatologists found a similar hole at almost the same spot. At that time  they didn’t have the observation equipment that they have now, so they couldn’t study the hole closely enough. After a few years it disappeared . Last year, the hole came up again.

Researchers cannot explain how the hole emerged.  One theory is  that warmer salt water from deep under the Antarctic ice sheet  may have come up and mixed with cold water near the surface, thus , melting the ice sheet above.  Normally a thick layer of ice covers Antarctica at the end of the  southern winter. Scientists also claim that it may be connected to climate change and global warming.

Such a hole in the ice is called a polynya.  Although not totally uncommon, it is strange that the hole in the Antarctic ice has appeared very far from its edge . Usually such holes are found in coastal regions.

Climatologists are not sure whether the hole will have an impact on the water temperature in the world’s oceans. If warmer water continues to surface to the top of the hole it may stay there for a longer period of time because it would then be difficult for ice layers to form.

Severe weather conditions during the Antarctic winter make it difficult to find holes in the ice . This is the second time in two years that such a hole has emerged , although last year’s was not that big.

 

Antarctic Ice Shelf
Antarctic Ice Shelf

Words

  • although = while
  • claim = to say that something is true even if you cannot prove it
  • climatologist = person who studies the weather and how it changes the climate on earth
  • coastal = where land meets the sea
  • disappear = go away
  • discover = to find something that has not been there before
  • edge = the part of an object that is furthest from the centre
  • emerge = come out  from somewhere
  • equipment = the tools or machines you need to do something
  • gigantic = huge; very big
  • global warming = the increase in the temperature of the atmosphere
  • ice sheet = area of thick ice that covers the North and South Poles
  • impact = influence, change
  • layer = material or substance between two other things
  • reappear = to come again, after it has gone away for some time
  • researcher = a person who studies a subject in order to find out more about it
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • severe = bad, extreme
  • similar = almost the same
  • size = how big something is
  • surface = the top layer of something
  • thus = therefore; that is why
  • uncommon = unusual, strange

Gold Found in Switzerland’s Sewers

Researchers have found that 3 million dollars worth of gold lands in Switzerland’s sewage system every year. After taking a close look at Swiss waste-water treatment plants, they claim that over a hundred pounds of gold and 6,000 pounds of silver  are washed away with waste. However,  it would be too expensive to remove the gold from the wasted water.

Switzerland is a country that processes and refines gold on a large scale.  About 70% of the world’s most precious metal passes through Switzerland in some way or other. Gold is used especially in the country’s watchmaking industry, which dominates the world market.

Other valuable metals pass through the country’ sewage system, but they do not pose an environmental threat.

Most of the refineries lie in the southern canton Ticino, only a short distance from the Italian border.

Swiss watch
Swiss watch – Image: Joe Haupt

 

Words

  • border = line between two countries
  • canton = province of Switzerland
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • dominate = to be number one
  • environmental threat = danger to the world around us
  • especially = above all
  • pose = cause a problem
  • precious = very valuable
  • on a large scale = here: large factories refine large amounts
  • refine = here: to make gold purer
  • remove = take something away
  • researcher = person who studies a subject in order to find out more about it
  • sewage system = a place where waste water  from households is collected; the water is cleaned and returned into rivers or the sea
  • valuable = expensive
  • waste-water treatment plants = place where waste water from households is cleaned from unusable material
  • waste = unwanted material that we do not need