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

Twitter Announces First Profits

The social media site Twitter has announced its first profit since the founding of the company in 2005. The last quarter of 2017 saw the company making $ 91 million in profits. After the announcement, Twitter shares rose more than 20%.

Twitter made the profits from an increase in ad sales and from expansion outside the US.  Overall revenue has been increasing constantly and is now at $ 731 million, due to a better targetting of ads. While revenue in the US fell, it increased strongly in Japan and other countries.

Currently, Twitter is reported to have over 330 million active users. It has been an important media outlet for celebrities and politicians, especially in the United States, for a long time. However, surprisingly, up to now, the company has failed to make any profits. Business experts have criticized Twitter for failing to grow over the longer term and step out of the shadows of its bigger brother, Facebook.

 

The company has announced its plans for 2018.  It wants to improve the quality of information and tackle security issues, for example, fake accounts and spam. As many as 15% of all accounts on Twitter are said to be controlled by bots.

 

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco
Twitter headquarters in San Francisco – Image: Runner1928

Words

  • account  = agreement you have with an organisation so that you can use its services or website
  • ad = advertisement = pictures, text or a short film that persuades people to buy a product
  • announce = to say in public, officially
  • bot = computer programme  that can control information on a website
  • celebrity = famous person
  • constantly = slowly, but all the time
  • currently = at the moment
  • due to = because of
  • especially = above all
  • expansion = when something increases in size
  • fail = here: not succeed in doing something
  • fake = not a real person
  • founding = when the company started
  • increase = grow, become larger
  • longer term = over a longer period of time
  • outlet = here: organization through which information is presented
  • overall = total; altogether
  • politician = person who works in the government, parliament or a political party
  • profit = the money you for selling things or doing business after  your costs  have been paid for
  • reported = it is said that …
  • revenue = money that a company gets in a certain time for selling products and services
  • rise – rose = to go up
  • security issues = problems in which the website is attacked by criminals and hackers
  • shares = part of a company that you can buy
  • spam = message that is sent to many different people by email or the Internet, usually as a way of advertising something
  • tackle = manage ; fight against
  • target = here: people who are chosen for getting ads

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 …