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

Thailand Bans Smoking on Beaches

The government of Thailand has announced that smoking on tourist beaches will not be allowed any more. Those who do not obey the new law must pay a fine of up to $3850 or risk going to prison for a year.

The ban will affect 20 tourist beaches.  Authorities in Thailand have been coping with the problem of cigarette butts being thrown away and polluting the country’s wonderful beaches.

Tourism officials say, however, that there will be places further inland where tourists  will be allowed to smoke.

The ban was proclaimed  after authorities collected over 140,000 cigarette butts  on a 2.5 km long stretch of beach on Phuket Island – 30% of all the total waste found near the coast.

Tourism makes up about 10% of the Thailand’s income. About 35 million people visit the country’s beaches every year.

Phuket Beach
Phuket Beach

Words

  • affect = here: where the new law is put into effect
  • announce = to say in public
  • authorities = organisation or government department that has the power to make decisions
  • ban = law that forbids something
  • cigarette butt = part of a cigarette that remains when someone has finished smoking
  • cope = deal with
  • income = the money a country gets for services and products
  • inland = farther away from the beaches
  • obey = follow, respect
  • official = person who is in a high position
  • pollute = to make dirty
  • prison = building where you keep people as a punishment because they have done something wrong
  • proclaim = to say officially that something exists
  • stretch = area of land
  • waste = unwanted materials that are left over

Che Guevara Died 50 Years Ago

Che Guevara was a Marxist revolutionary who was a close aide of Fidel Castro during the Cuban Revolution. He was killed in Bolivia 50 years ago.

Che was born into a middle class Argentinian family   in 1928  and studied medicine in his youth. From the beginning he was influenced by left-wing ideas and strongly opposed the government of Argentine leader Juan Peron.

Instead of finishing his studies, the young rebel decided to travel around South America, where he witnessed widespread poverty  and oppression among the population. In the 1950s he travelled to Guatemala where he saw how the CIA helped overthrow a leftist government.

In Mexico, Che Guevara met Fidel Castro and his brother Raul.  Together , they planned to overthrow the pro-western government in Cuba. After Castro took power in 1959 , Che Guevara held some top posts in his government and also became Castro’s military adviser.  He strongly opposed the United States and its policies. Instead he tried to strengthen ties with the Soviet Union and spread socialism to Central America.

The Marxist revolutionary was sent to developing countries  in order to show  them how Cuban socialism worked. In Congo, he trained rebels to fight against government soldiers. Che Guevara was finally captured in Bolivia where he was  he was executed in 1967.

 

Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara
Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara

Words

  • adviser = person who gives you advice because they know a lot about a topic
  • aide = person who helps a politician or leader
  • capture = to catch a person and keep them as a prisoner
  • developing country = poor country in Africa, Asia or America
  • execute = to kill someone as a from of being punished
  • influence = to affect or change the way someone behaves or thinks
  • instead = in something’s place
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • Marxist = person who supports the ideas of Karl Marx.  He explained changes in history as a result of the struggle between social classes
  • oppose = to be against
  • oppression = when you treat a group of people in an unfair way and do not give them the same rights that others have
  • overthrow = remove a leader or a government
  • policy = the way a government plans to handle a topic or problem
  • poverty= the situation of being poor
  • revolutionary = person who joins or supports a revolution
  • socialism = system in which many industries are owned by the state  and rich people pay more taxes than poorer ones
  • strengthen = make stronger
  • take power = here: become a leader or the head of a government
  • ties = relationship with another country
  • widespread = all over the place
  • witness = to see something because you are there

Africa’s Great Green Wall

Africa’s Great Green Wall is a project to create a natural wall of trees across Africa. The wall will stretch across Africa south of the Sahara desert  from the Atlantic Ocean to the Horn of Africa. When finished the 8,000 km long and 15 km wide Great Green Wall will be the largest man-made structure  on earth.

The project started in 2007 in an attempt to fight desertification, permanent drought  and food shortages in countries of the Sahel zone, one of the poorest regions in the world.

However, the building of the wall is not moving forward fast enough. Up to now, only 15% of the trees have already been planted, mainly in Senegal.  The ambitious project will cost over $4 billion. 21 African countries, the World Bank, the FAO and the French government have committed themselves to financing the natural wall.

The Great Green Wall will run through an area, in which the dry season can last up to 10 months a year. Experts claim that by 2025 a large part of the  fertile land in the region could be lost if nothing is done to save it. In addition, the wall is expected to provide food for 20 million Africans and  also bind millions of tons of carbon dioxide.

 

The Sahel Zone
The Sahel Zone

 

Words

  • ambitious =  good but difficult to do
  • bind = here: to make it stay in the ground and not let it escape into the atmosphere
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals breathe out  or when carbon is burned in the air
  • claim = to say that something is true, even if you cannot prove it
  • commit = here: to say that you will do something
  • desert = land where it is always dry and where there are few plants and a lot of rocks and sand
  • desertification = when farmland changes into desert
  • drought = long period of dry weather when there is not enough water for plants and animals to live
  • FAO = Food and Agriculture Organisation = organisation in the United Nations that helps produce food and gives it to poor people around the world
  • fertile = here: land that is good enough to produce food
  • mainly = mostly
  • move forward = to make progress; here: to continue building
  • permanent = existing for a long time
  • provide = give
  • Sahel zone = dry area of land between the Sahara desert and tropical Africa
  • shortage = not enough of something
  • stretch = reach from one place to another
  • structure = object that has been built

 

Japanese Woman Dies After Working Too Hard

Miwa Sado is a Japanese journalist who died in 2013 after working too hard. Her case became public this week after labour inspectors published a detailed report

The journalist worked 160 hours of overtime  a month and then died of heart failure.  She was working for Japan’s public broadcaster NHK and at the time of her death was gathering information on a Tokyo election

The death of Sado is expected to make the Japanese government more aware of the health risks involved in working too much. According to a survey, about one in five workers risk a critical health condition because of too much work . Now the government wants to limit overtime to a maximum of 100 hours a month and fine companies that do not comply.

In another case that became known, 24-year old Matsuri Takahashi, killed herself in 2015 after suffering from stress and working long hours for a a Japanese advertising agency.

Japanese employees , on average, work more hours than anywhere else in the western world. They also consume only a third of the holidays they are entitled to. Many Japanese work hard in order to show that they are loyal to their company.

In 2016, two thousand Japanese workers killed themselves  due to  stress and overwork. Many other died from stress-related diseases, suffering from heart attacks and high blood pressure.  The Japanese refer to such work-related deaths as karoshi

 

Too much work causes stress and illnesses
Too much work causes stress and illnesses

Words

  • according to = as reported by
  • advertising agency = company that designs ads for other companies
  • aware = when you know that a situation exists
  • blood pressure = the power with which blood flows through your body
  • case = here: what happened to her
  • comply = follow the rules and laws
  • consume = use up ; spend
  • critical = dangerous
  • due to = because of
  • election = when people vote to  choose someone for an official position
  • employee = person who works for a company
  • entitled = the right to have something
  • fine = money that you have to pay as punishment
  • gather = collect
  • government = the people who rule the country
  • heart failure = when your heart stops beating
  • labour inspector = a person who checks to see if companies obey the rules and the law
  • limit = here: not allow more than a certain number
  • loyal = here: to show that you are connected to a company
  • overtime = time that you spend working in addition to your normal working hours
  • public = known about by everyone
  • public broadcaster = TV company that belongs to the state
  • publish = to print something so that everyone can read it
  • refer = call
  • stress-related = coming from stress
  • survey = set of questions that you ask many people in order to find out what they think about a topic

Rohingya People Flee from Myanmar

More than half a million Rohingya have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh in the past year. For ages, the people have been oppressed and discriminated against by the Myanmar government, which does not officially recognise them as a minority.

The Rohingya are a group of people without their own state. Living in western Myanmar, they have been denied citizenship, even though they have been there for ages.

The United Nations estimates that there were originally over 1 million Rohingya. Most of them are Muslim, a minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar.  They are among the most persecuted people in the world.

Since 2016, army forces have been carrying out attacks against the Rohingya. There have been reports that whole villages in western Myanmar  have been burned down as well as accusations of mass killings. Refugees arriving in Bangladesh also tell stories of  women being raped by soldiers.

Myanmar’s government says it is responding to attacks by rebel Rohingya groups. Officials say that the Rohingya are not being persecuted and  treated like other ethnic groups in the country.

The United Nations , Amnesty International and other human rights groups have called for a stop to what they call the ethnic cleansing of western Myanmar.

Rohingya Refugee Camp in Bangladesh
Rohingya Refugee Camp in Bangladesh –
Image: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Words

  • accusation = to say that someone has committed a crime or has done  something wrong
  • citizenship = the right to belong to a certain country
  • deny = here: not give
  • discriminate against = to treat someone differently or in an unfair way
  • estimate = here: to guess how many there really are
  • ethnic cleansing = to make people leave a country because of their race , religion or culture
  • ethnic group = group of people who belong to a certain race , or who have their own culture, tradition and language
  • flee – fled = to leave a place very quickly in order to escape from a dangerous situation
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • minority = small group of people who live in a country
  • oppress = to treat a group of people in an unfair way and not give them the rights that other people have
  • persecute = to treat someone badly or unfairly over a period of time, because of their religion, or social status
  • predominantly = mostly
  • rape = to force someone to have sex
  • recognise = to officially accept
  • refugee = someone who has to leave their country because of a war or other dangerous situations
  • respond = react

 

 

90% Vote For Independence in Catalonia

Over 2 million people voted in Sunday’s referendum on whether Catalonia should become an independent state. The government of the province has claimed that over 90% were in favour of breaking away from Spain. Before the referendum took place , Spain’s Supreme Court ruled that the vote  was unconstitutional.

The Spanish government in Madrid sent thousand s of policemen and other security officers to Catalonia to stop people from voting. Police in Barcelona and other towns fired rubber bullets at protesters and tried to stop people from going to schools and other public buildings used as voting stationsHundreds of people were injured, many of them seriously.

About 7 million people live in Spain’s northeastern province. Catalonia has its own language and  culture. In the past decades it has received more and more autonomy. However, Catalonian separatists still want independence and their own country.  They say that the region is a rich part of Spain and keeps pouring money into poorer parts of the country. Catalonia is highly industrialised and represents about a fifth of Spain’s GDP.

The European Union fears that Catalonia may declare independence on its own and trigger a political crisis on the Iberian peninsula. This may lead to the rise of other nationalist movements, for example in Scotland or Belgium.

People protesting for an independent Catalonia
People protesting for an independent Catalonia – Image : Manifestació Som Una Nació, Nosaltres Decidim! 13

Words

  • autonomy = the right to have your own parliament and make some decisions on your own
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • decade = ten years
  • declare = to say officially
  • GDP = gross domestic product = the total value of all the goods and services that a country produces in one year
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • Iberian peninsula = southwestern part of Europe, made up of Spain and Portugal
  • independent = free
  • in favour of = to be for something
  • injure = hurt
  • nationalist movement = group of people who want to the region to become an independent state
  • pour = here: give
  • receive = get
  • referendum = when people vote in order to decide on a certain subject
  • represent = here: to have a share of
  • rubber = a soft material, usually used to make tires or boots
  • security officers = people who are responsible for the safety of others
  • separatist = person who wants to break away from his home country and become independent
  • Supreme Court = the highest court in a country
  • trigger = start
  • unconstitutional =  not allowed by the set of rules that a country is governed by
  • voting station = place or building where people can vote

 

 

60 Years Ago – Sputnik First Satellite in Space

60 years ago , on October 4th, 1957, the Soviet Union  launched the first man-made satellite into space. Sputnik showed that the Soviets were willing to overtake American technology.  The launch was also the beginning of a new episode in the Cold War – the Space Race.

Sputnik looked like a big basketball and weighed 84 kilograms. Two radio transmitters  and four antennae were attached to it. The satellite sent out a beeping signal and could be seen on Earth with the naked eye.

The Soviet satellite orbited the Earth over 1,400 times in a period of three months before it burned up in the atmosphereA month later Sputnik 2 was launched, this time with the first animal on board, a dog named Laika.

Sergei Korolev was the father of the Soviet space program. He oversaw the creation of a booster rocket that sent Sputnik into orbit. Korolev was also responsible for bringing  German engineers to the Soviet Union after World War II.

While Sputnik took the rest of the world by surprise, the Soviet Union told their people about the historic launch only a few days later.

In January 1958 the Americans were able to launch their first satellite into orbit. Explorer I  remained in orbit until 1970 and was the  first satellite to detect the Van Allen radiation belt.  Later that year Congress passed a law that created NASA , the American space agency.

 

Sputnik 1
Sputnik 1

Words

  • antenna = a long  piece of wire used to receive radio or television signals
  • atmosphere = the mixture of gases that is around the Earth
  • booster rocket = a rocket that has enough power to send a satellite into Earth orbit
  • Cold War = unfriendly relationship between the USA and the Soviet Union after World War II
  • detect = to show that something existed
  • engineer = here: person who can understands how to build rockets and satellites
  • episode = time during which something happens
  • launch = start ; here: send into space
  • naked eye = without the help of a telescope
  • orbit = to go around a planet or star
  • oversee = to be in charge of ; the leader of
  • overtake = here: to do something more quickly than someone else
  • remain = stay
  • Soviet Union = largest Communist country in the world ; it existed between 1917 and 1991
  • space agency = government organisation that controls space travel and the study of space
  • transmitter = object that sends out radio signals
  • Van Allen radiation belt  = particles of energy that are kept together by the Earth’s magnetic field
  • weigh = how heavy something is

Related Articles

2011 Tsunami Drives Marine Animals to US Coast

The 2011 tsunami , which led to the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, has swept thousands of sea creatures across the Pacific Ocean to the  US coast. In the past 6 years scientists have found mussels, starfish, crabs  and other marine animals washed up on the American Pacific coast. Marine biologists expect that there are even more species to arrive in the future.

The giant waves caused by the tsunami in Japan  were almost 40 metres  tall and washed objects into the open sea.  In 2012, scientists found debris together with living creatures on them near the Alaskan coast as well as in Hawaii. They were sea animals that have never before been seen there.

Scientists are surprised that marine species have been able to survive over such a long period in such bad conditions. However, most species travelled on plastic or glass objects, things that do not decompose and stay the same for many years. On the other hand, animals that travelled on wooden objects did not make the long journey across the Pacific, because wood lasts only for a short time.

Because the debris moved slowly across the ocean the animals had time to get used to their new surroundings as they travelled the 4,000 mile journey across the Pacific.

With so much plastic and other garbage swimming in the world’s oceans, the danger of marine animals being washed up on foreign coasts has never been greater.

Experts are not sure what effect these new species may have on the local environment. Such invasive species may change the ecosystem of the area  they arrive at. They might transport new diseases or kill off existing species . In any case, it will take a decade or more to see the results.

 

Starfish found off the Pacific coast
Starfish found off the Pacific coast

Words

  • crab= sea animal with a hard shell , five legs on each side and two large claws
  • creature = animal; living thing
  • debris = garbage, waste
  • decade = ten years
  • decompose = to break down into many smaller parts
  • disease = illness
  • ecosystem = the animals and plants in a certain area and they way they live together
  • effect = result ; change caused by an event
  • foreign = another country
  • garbage = waste; things people throw away
  • however = but
  • invasive species = plant or animal that does not grow naturally in an area but has come there from somewhere else
  • journey = trip
  • local environment = the world around the place that you live in
  • marine species = animals and plants that live in the ocean
  • mussel = small sea animal with a soft body  that can be eaten and a black shell that is split into two parts
  • nuclear catastrophe = here: an atomic power plant explodes and sends dangerous radioactive waves into the atmosphere
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • starfish = flat sea animal that has five arms and looks like a star
  • surroundings = the place or natural area around a person or animal
  • survive = live on after a dangerous situation
  • sweep – swept = to push something away
  • tsunami = very large waves, most of the time cause by an earthquake in or near the sea.

 

 

Italian Supervolcano May Erupt Soon

Scientists have discovered that one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes , Campi Flegrei, a huge caldera near Naples may erupt soon. Geologists have  found evidence that magma may be  building up inside the volcano, which could blow up soon.

The supervolcano is only a few miles west of Naples, Italy’s third largest city. To the east lies Mount Vesuvius,  the famous volcano that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in a massive eruption in 79 A.D.

The last eruption of Campi Flegrei happened in 1538 after a series of earthquakes hit the area. A catastrophic outburst, however, occurred 39,000 years ago when an eruption formed today’s caldera and sent 48 cubic miles of ash and magma into the atmosphere. Geologists fear that a similar eruption could be catastrophic for the 2 million people who live in Naples and the towns around it.

In the last few decades scientists have  discovered a hotspot, a zone of magma, that lies about 4 km under the town of Pozzuoli , a few miles away from the supervolcano. They think that this zone of magma has been in motion in the past years but cannot locate in which direction. At the beginning of the 1980s,  the surface of the caldera rose by 2 metres but sank again shortly afterwards. This may be a sign of building pressure inside the volcano.

While geologists cannot predict when a major eruption will take place, they are sure that there is activity going on inside Campi Flegrei.

 

Caldera at Campi Flegrei
Caldera at Campi Flegrei – Image : Donar Reiskoffer

Words

  • activity = here: magma that is moving
  • ash = soft grey powder that comes from an eruption
  • atmosphere = the mixture of gases that is around the Earth
  • caldera = a large crater at the top of a volcano; in some cases it is filled with water
  • cubic mile = one mile high, long and wide
  • decade = ten years
  • destroy = to damage something completely so that it no longer exists
  • discover = to find out something for the first time
  • earthquake = a sudden shaking of the Earth’s surface  that often causes a lot of damage and may kill people
  • erupt = break out
  • evidence = facts that show something is true
  • geologist = a person who studies rocks that make up the Earth and the way they have formed
  • in motion = moving all the time
  • locate = find out where exactly something is
  • magma = hot melted rock below the Earth’s surface
  • major = important, very large
  • massive = great
  • predict = say that something will happen
  • pressure = weight that is put on something
  • occur = happen
  • outburst = eruption
  • shortly afterwards = a short time later
  • similar =like; almost the same
  • surface = top part of an object