New Measles Outbreak in Europe

According to the World Health Organisation, there was a new massive outbreak of measles in Europe last year. There were four times as many cases in 2017 than there were in 2016, a record low year. Across Europe, over 20,000 people fell ill and 35 died.

The outbreak affected 15 countries. Romania, Italy and Ukraine reported the highest number of measle cases. 

One of the reasons for the new outbreak is that more and more adults don’t want to get vaccinated. Most children in European countries are vaccinated at an early age, however, recently more and more parents have not wanted their children treated. Italy, for example,  reported that only 85% of all under two-year-olds are vaccinated.

Measles is an infectious disease that can be deadly if not treated. It starts with a runny nose, coughing and sneezing and is often accompanied by fever. Typical symptoms show a red-brown rash on various parts of the body. One in a thousand cases develops a swelling of the brain that may cause serious diseases and even lead to blindness.

Apart from Europe, measles has been on the decline worldwide.  For the first time in history, there were less than 100,000 measles deaths a year. About  85 % of the world’s children receive immunisation by the time they reach their first birthday.

The WHO has now put pressure on European countries to raise public awareness. Many are introducing measures to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated.

 

Measles on a person's skin
Measles on a person’s skin – Image : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • accompany = together with
  • affect = here: happen in
  • apart from = except for
  • blindness = not being able to see anything
  • brain = organ inside your head that controls how you think, feel and move
  • decline = to go down
  • encourage = to get people to do something
  • however = but
  • infectious disease = illness that can be passed on from one person to another, especially through the air that you breathe
  • massive = very strong
  • measles = infectious disease in which you have a fever and small red spots on your body or face
  • measures = action; to do something
  • outbreak = here: an illness or disease that starts very quickly and affects many people
  • pressure= to try to make a person do something that you think is important
  • public awareness = to make more and more people know and understand something about a subject
  • raise = improve
  • rash = a lot of red spots on a person’s skin
  • receive = get
  • record = here: lowest ever
  • runny nose = when sticky liquid comes out of your nose, usually because you have a cold
  • swelling = a part of your body that becomes larger than normal
  • symptom = something wrong with your body that shows you have an illness
  • treat = to cure an illness by giving someone medicine
  • vaccinate, vaccination = to protect a person from an illness by giving them medicine that contains  a weak form of bacteria or the virus that causes the disease
  • various = different
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) = international organisation which helps countries improve their people’s health by giving them medicine and information about diseases

Scientists Come One Step Further in Creating Quantum Computers

The world of technology has got one step closer to creating quantum computers.  Dutch scientists have recently created a 2-qubit (quantum bitprocessor running on a silicon chip.

While standard computers work with bits of information that can have only two states, 0 or 1, quantum processors are based on the fact that bits can exist in both states at the same time. As a result, they have tremendous computing power and can do things that no classical computer can do. Quantum computers can be used for solving complex problems and can manage much larger number of calculations at once.

Scientists explain that they are still in the early stages of developing a real quantum processor. Hardware manufacturer IBM has already built a 50-qubit computer, but with superconductive materials that need extreme cooling. Putting a quantum processor on a silicon chip, which is already used in the computer industry, may be the first step toward mass production.

In such quantum processors, electrons can be in many states at once. This is called superposition. In the lab, scientists have managed to keep electrons between both positions at the same time, however, such electrons are not stable and quickly fall apart. By linking these electrons together on a silicon chip qubit hardware manufacturers could produce quantum processors for commercial use.

Design of a quantum computer chip
Design of a quantum computer chip – Image: D-Wave Systems, Inc.

 Words

  • bit = the smallest unit of information that a computer uses
  • calculation = when you use numbers to find out something
  • classical = here: normal; the ones we have today
  • commercial use = here: something that is produced so that people buy it
  • complex = very complicated
  • electron = very small piece of matter with a negative electrical charge that moves around the central part of an atom
  • hardware manufacturer = company that producers computers
  • however = but
  • lab = laboratory
  • link = connect with each other
  • manage = work with; succeed in doing something
  • mass production = products that are produced in factories in large numbers so they can be sold cheaply
  • processor = central part of a computer that deals with commands and the information it is given
  • quantum = unit of energy in physics
  • qubit= quantum bit = piece of information that can exist in two states at the same time
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • silicon chip = small piece of silicon  that has electrical connections and can store information
  • stable = steady; something that does not change
  • stage = phase, time during which something happens
  • superconductive = when electricity can flow through a material very easily, especially at low temperatures
  • state = condition that something is in
  • tremendous = very big, fast, powerful

Earth Hour 2018 – The World Goes Dark

Once again, the earth has gone dark.  Every year since 2007, thousands of public buildings and landmarks around the globe are switched off  for an hour to raise awareness for climate change. Earth Hour 2018 started in Samoa and spread to all continents.

Numerous sites, including Sydney’s Opera House, the Paris Eiffel Tower and Brandenburg Gate in Germany, went dark at exactly 8.30 pm local time. In addition, millions of private citizens joined in the event and turned off lights in their homes. 187 countries took part in this years Earth Hour , organised by the WWF.

In the past the Earth Hour movement has achieved breakthroughs in  many environmental fields. In 2014 Ecuador’s government banned the use of plastic bags on the Galapagos island. Solar-powered lights were  installed in remote villages in India and 17 million trees were planted in Kazakhstan.

According to the WWF, Earth Hour 2018 will concentrate on the preservation of forests and oceans, as well as wildlife protection. The organisation says that it hopes to raise awareness of global warming especially in the USA, where President Trump has vowed to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

 

 

 

Earth Hour 2012 in Berlin
Earth Hour 2012 in Berlin – Image : David Biene / WWF

Words

  • achieve = reach, get
  • according to = as said by …
  • agreement = document signed by two or more groups or countries
  • ban = forbid
  • breakthrough = here : to do something really important after trying for some time
  • citizen = person who lives in a country or city and has rights there
  • environment = nature and the world we live in
  • especially = above all
  • globe = world
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • in addition = also
  • including = also
  • join = take part in an event
  • landmark = something that is easy to recognise, like a famous building
  • movement = campaign ; a group of people who have the same ideas and want to work together to achieve things
  • numerous = many
  • preservation = to keep something in its original condition
  • public = place where everyone can go to
  • pull out = leave; not be a part of
  • raise awareness = to get people to see and understand a problem
  • remote = far away and hard to get to
  • solar-powered = operated by the sun
  • spread = move to
  • switch off = turn off
  • vow = promise
  • wildlife protection = to save and protect animals that live in the wild
  • WWF = the World Wide Fund for Nature

 

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

Plastic Found in Bottled Water

A new test, conducted by scientists from the State University of New York, shows that bottled water has microplastic particles in them.

250 bottles of water from nine different countries were examined. More than 90% contained tiny pieces of plastic. Sometimes concentrations were as high as thousands of plastic pieces per litre of water. Only 17  examined bottles were free of plastic.  On average, 10 plastic particles, about the width of a human hair, were found in each litre of water.

The companies, whose bottled water was examined, claim that their production met the highest quality standards. In most cases, the plastic gets into the water through the packaging process.

Although the results are not catastrophic scientists and doctors are concerned.  However, they state that there is no proof that the smallest particles of plastic can cause damage to your body. Most of it is turned into waste which leaves the body through faeces.

Apart from bottled water, plastic particles have also been found in beer, tap water, seafood and even in the air.

Bottled water is the fastest growing beverage in the world.  Currently, about 150 billion dollars worth of  water is sold worldwide. Packaged water is especially important for millions of people around the world who do not have access to safe drinking water.

 

Bottled water
Bottled water – Image by Ravitave

 

Words

  • access = the ability to get something
  • although = while
  • beverage = hot or cold drink
  • bottled water = drinking water that is sold in a bottle; sometimes it has bubbles in it
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • concentration = the amount of something in a liquid
  • concerned = worried
  • conduct = carry out
  • contain = to have in them
  • currently = at the moment, now
  • especially = above all
  • examine = to test or look at somehting very closely
  • faeces = solid waste that leaves your body after a certain time
  • microplastic particles = very very small pieces of plastic
  • packaging process = the method used to put  water into the bottle
  • proof = facts that show something is true or correct
  • quality standards = level of quality a company accepts in its products
  • safe = clean
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • state = to say officially
  • tap water = water that comes naturally from a tap rather than a bottle
  • tiny = very very small
  • waste = unwanted material
  • width = how wide somehting is
  • worldwide = around the world

Stephen Hawking Dies Aged 76

Stephen Hawking, world-famous British physicist, died at the age of 76 at his home in Cambridge, England. The scientist became famous for his work on black holes, relativity and quantum mechanics.

In his most famous discovery, Hawking showed that black holes leak a bit of energy, known as Hawking radiation and then shrink and evaporate.

At the age of 22, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS,  a rare disease of the nervous system.  At that time doctors gave him only a few years to live.  However, Hawking proved them wrong and fought bravely against his illness. He spent most of his life paralyzed in a wheelchair and was only able to speak through a voice synthesizer.

Hawking was not only a professor at Cambridge University until 2009, but also a popular celebrity who appeared in TV shows like the Simpsons, and the Big Bang Theory.  He also wrote a bestselling book about the mysteries of the universe called A Brief History of Time, which sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. His early life was dramatized in the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything“, which received several Academy Award nominations.

Because of him, many ordinary people got interested in physics and the universe. Scientists, politicians and other experts around the world praised Hawking as a person with a  brilliant and extraordinary mind.

 

Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking

Words

  • Academy Award = an Oscar
  • black hole = an area in space into which everything near it, including light, is pulled
  • bravely = with a lot of courage
  • brilliant = extremely clever and intelligent
  • celebrity = famous person
  • diagnosed = to find out what illness someone has
  • discovery = finding something for the first time
  • evaporate = here: disappear slowly
  • extraordinary = great and impressive
  • however = but
  • leak = a hole that lets something through
  • mind = your thoughts and ability to think
  • nervous system = your brain and nerves in your body; it controls what you feel and how you move
  • ordinary = normal, like you and me
  • paralysed = unable to move or feel all or parts of your body
  • physicist = a scientist who has special knowledge of physics
  • politicians = people who work in the government, parliament or for political parties
  • popular = well-known
  • praise = to admire and approve of someone
  • quantum mechanics = the scientific study of the way atoms and smaller parts of things behave
  • radiation = form of energy  which may be dangerous in large amounts
  • rare = something that does not exist very often
  • receive = get
  • relativity = the relationship in physics between  time, space and movement; the theory was created by Albert Einstein
  • several = some, a few
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • universe = all of space, including the stars and planets
  • voice synthesizer = a computer system that produces sounds like human speech
  • wheelchair = a chair with wheels, used by people who cannot walk

SpaceX Launches World’s Most Powerful Rocket

SpaceX, a private space transport company owned by American billionaire Elon Musk, has launched the world’s most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy. It is the larger version of the Falcon 9 rocket, which has successfully been putting payloads into space for years. The booster is made up of three rockets strapped together for combined thrust.

The Falcon Heavy was developed over a period of 7 years and cost about $500 million. It is 23 stories tall and has 27 engines. The rocket’s thrust equals that of 18 Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

The new rocket is designed to send large satellites into earth orbit. It can carry 64 metric tons, twice the payload of other rockets, into space at a lower price. The rocket can also transport spacecraft to destinations further away from earth. In addition, its starting boosters are reusable.

The first flight was set to travel as far as the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The rocket had an electric sports car, Elon Musk’s privateTesla Roadster, on board.

SpaceX has been flying NASA cargo missions to the International Space Station for a few years. The company wants to compete with other business in carrying payloads to space. Musk’s company has several commercial customers and has been receiving contracts to fly government payloads. The first manned mission to space is planned for the end of 2018.

 

Space X rocket Falcon Heavy on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida
Falcon Heavy on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida

Words

  • asteroid belt = large rocks that move around the sun between Mars and Jupiter
  • billionaire = person who has a billion dollars, euros etc.. or more
  • booster = a rocket that gives you the power to leave the earth
  • cargo mission = here: a trip that carries goods and other products into space
  • commercial = here: private
  • compete = be as good as or better than others
  • contract = an agreement to do a job for someone
  • design = the way something should work
  • destination = place you want to go to
  • develop = to design and create a new product
  • equal = the same as
  • in addition = also
  • International Space Station = ISS = space station that was built by scientists from 16 countries; it is mainly used for scientific experiments
  • launch = to send an object into space
  • manned mission = here: trip that sends people into space
  • orbit = move around an object in a circle
  • payload = the goods or products that a machine transports to a place
  • receive = get
  • reusable = you can use it again
  • several = some, a few
  • stories = floors
  • strapped together = bind together so that it works as one
  • successfully = if something works the way it should
  • thrust = power of an engine that makes a rocket move upwards
  • twice = two times