One of the Biggest Diamonds Ever Discovered in Lesotho

The fifth biggest diamond ever discovered has been unearthed in a mine in Lesotho, a small landlocked country surrounded by South Africa. The stone has a weight of 910 carats and the size of two golf balls.

The diamond is especially valuable because it belongs to a category of gems that are colourless and do not have grave impurities.

The diamond was found in the Letseng mine, which in the past has been famous for the size and quality of gems discovered there. Diamonds that come from the Lesotho mine usually sell at a high price. Since 2006 the mine has produced some remarkable diamonds, including the Lesotho Promis, a 603-carat diamond found in 2006.

The newly found diamond will now be cut into smaller stones and polished. After that, diamond traders can actually say how much the diamond is worth, probably around $40 million.

Gem, the British based company that operates the mine together with the Lesotho government, expects its shares to recover after prices fell and a new mine had to close in Botswana.

The largest diamond ever discovered is still the Cullinan, a 3,106-carat gem found near Pretoria in 1905. It was cut into several stones including the Great Star of Africa, the largest cut diamond in the world. The rest has been cut into the gems that are in the British Crown Jewels.

 

Cut and polished diamond
Cut and polished diamond – Image: Steve Jurvetson

Words

  • British-based = its main headquarters are in the U.K.
  • discover = to find for the first time
  • colourless = clear, so that you can see through it
  • Crown Jewels = objects that are a symbol of the British monarchy, kept in the Tower of London
  • especially = above all
  • gem = beautiful stone that has been cut into a special shape
  • government = people who rule a country
  • grave = serious, bad
  • impurity = object that is not very pure; with other substances that are mixed into it
  • including = also
  • landlocked = country that has no coast
  • mine = deep hole in the ground that people dig in order to find coal , gold and other metals or minerals
  • operate = to run a company; the owner of …
  • polish = to make something smooth, bright and shiny by rubbing it
  • recover = here: to go up again
  • remarkable = unusual, surprising
  • share = part of a company that belongs to an individual
  • surrounded = all around it
  • trader = person who buys and sells things
  • unearth = to dig something up from the earth
  • valuable = worth a lot of money
  • weight = how heavy something is
  • worth = how much money you can get by selling it

Ozone Layer Over Antarctica Is Slowly Recovering

According to the American space agency  NASA, the world’s ozone layer is slowly recovering. A report states that, for the first time,  scientists have observed a decrease in the amount of chlorine in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

Ozone in the atmosphere is essential because it protects life on our planet by absorbing dangerous ultraviolet radiation, which causes skin cancer and damages plant life. Is the 1980s, scientists discovered a hole in the ozone layer, which has become larger ever since.  It is especially large over the Antarctic continent and Australia.

Shortly after the discovery, an international agreement, the Montreal Protocol, was signed, banning the use of substances that are responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer. It limits the use of CFCs, chemical compounds that rise into the upper layers of the atmosphere where they are broken down by the sun’s ultraviolet light. In the process, chlorine is released which destroys the ozone molecules.

Since the ban has taken effect major companies have started looking for alternatives to CFCs.

Changes in the ozone level are usually measured during the Antarctic winter, between July and September, when temperatures are lower and results are more accurate. Since 2005, there has been a 20% rise in the amount of ozone. Even though it is the first time that the hole in the ozone layer has become smaller it will take decades to recover completely.

Environmentalists around the world have welcomed the announcement, stating that we can actually save the environment by acting decisively.

 

Largest ozone hole ever recorded over the Antarctic in 2006
Largest ozone hole ever recorded over the Antarctic in 2006

Words

  • absorb = take something in
  • according to = as reported by …
  • accurate = exact
  • act decisively = to do something about a problem
  • agreement = promise by two or more countries to take action
  • announcement = official statement
  • atmosphere = mixture of gases that surrounds a planet
  • ban = forbid
  • break down = chemical change
  • cancer = serious disease in which cells in your body grow in an uncontrolled way
  • CFCs = chlorofluorocarbons = a gas used in refrigerators and spray cans; they are responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer
  • chlorine = greenish-yellow gas with a strong smell, that is also used to keep swimming pools clean; it is one of the gases that are responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer
  • completely = fully
  • compound = substance containing two or more atoms
  • decade = ten years
  • decrease = when something goes down
  • destruction = when something is damaged completely
  • discover = find for the first time
  • environmentalist = person who cares about nature and the world we live in
  • especially = above all
  • essential = very important and necessary
  • even though = true, but other things are true too
  • limit = control, check
  • measure = to find out how big something is
  • molecule = smallest unit made up of two or more atoms
  • observe = watch closely
  • protect = to keep something safe
  • recover = to return to a normal condition
  • release = set free
  • responsible = the reason for
  • scientist= person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • sign = put your name on a document
  • state = say in public
  • substances = elements; material
  • take effect = start
  • ultraviolet radiation= light that comes from the sun but cannot be seen; it makes your skin darker
  • welcome = to be glad that something has happened

Bleaching Endangers World’s Coral Reefs

A recent study shows that the world’s coral reefs have been showing signs of strong bleaching due to global warmingIn the 1980s bleaching was rare, occurring about once every 25 years. Now the rate has risen to about once every five years. Environmentalists predict that by 2050 bleaching will happen every year or two.

Bleaching is caused when warm water breaks down the algae inside the reefs. They provide food for the corals and keep them healthy. When algae fall off, corals lose their colour and can die within a short period of time. Even if the water surrounding the reefs gets colder again it may take years for the damaged reefs to recover completely.

While bleaching is especially a problem in the waters of the Carribean Sea and Western Atlantic, reefs around Australia and South Africa have hardly been hit. In addition to the warming temperatures of the oceans, coral reefs are also endangered by pollution and overfishing.

Coral reefs are an important ecosystem. They are home to 25% of all marine species and provide a  habitat for countless types of fish. Reefs protect coastal regions from flooding and tidal waves. In addition, coral reefs are tourist attractions that lure millions of people every year.  The tourist industry around the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, for example, is worth about 5 billion dollars a year.

 

Healthy coral on the left and bleached coral on the right
Healthy coral on the left and bleached coral on the right

Words

  • billion = a thousand million
  • bleaching = to make something pale or white; when an object loses its colour
  • break down = to change its structure
  • Carribean Sea = sea between North and South America
  • cause = the reason for something; why something happens
  • countless = too many to be counted
  • due to = because of
  • ecosystem = all the animals and plants in a certain area and the way they live together
  • endangered = to be in danger
  • environmentalist = a person who cares about the world around us
  • especially = above all
  • global warming = when the temperatures in the atmosphere get higher because of increased amounts of carbon dioxide
  • habitat = place to live
  • in addition = also
  • lure = attract; here: bring people to the area
  • marine species = animals and plants that live in the oceans
  • occur = happen
  • overfishing = when you take too many fish from the sea so that the overall number of fish becomes too low
  • pollution = when water becomes dirty so that it cannot be used anymore
  • predict = to say that something will happen in the future
  • protect = keep safe
  • provide = give
  • rare = not very often
  • recent = a short time ago
  • recover = to become as healthy as they were before
  • sign = to show that something is happening
  • study = a piece of work that is done to find out more about a certain topic
  • surrounding = around
  • tidal wave = very large ocean wave that flows over land and destroys things

 

 

 

Iran Bans English From Primary Schools

Iran’s government has banned English from primary school classrooms in an attempt to fight Western influences. The country has been blaming the West for protests and demonstrations that have been staged throughout the country in the past months.

Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, has repeatedly blamed the spread of English in schools for destabilizing his country. Authorities say that teaching English at an early age makes it possible for pupils to adopt the culture of Western societies. They state that primary education is the basis of Iranian culture and should be free of Western values.

English language lessons generally start in middle schools, with students aged between 12 and 14. Recently, however, more and more primary schools have been offering English lessons. It has also spread to some of the country’s nursery schools too.

The new ban only applies to the first years of education, where all lessons will be in Persian, the country’s official language.

 

Primary school class in Tehran
Primary school class in Tehran – Image: Farzad Khorasani

Words

  • adopt = here: to use; take on; let something into your country
  • apply = here: where the ban is in effect
  • attempt = try to do something
  • authorities = government organisations that have the power to decide things
  • ban = forbid; not allow
  • blame = to say or think that you are responsible for something bad that has happened
  • destabilize = when a government has problems controlling events that happen there
  • generally = normally
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • influence = power to affect the way something changes or develops
  • nursery school = kindergarten; school for children between 3 and 5 or 6
  • official language = the language that all the people in a country speak
  • primary school = the first years of education; usually between 5 and 11
  • recently = a short time ago
  • repeatedly = over and over again
  • society = the way people live in a country
  • spread = when something moves from one place to another
  • stage = organize
  • supreme = highest
  • throughout = all across the country
  • values = the things you believe in

Equal Pay For Men and Women in Iceland

Iceland has become the first country to make it illegal to pay women less than men. The new law, which took effect on January 1, imposes a fine on companies and government organisations employing more than 25 workers if they pay men more than women. The Scandinavian country wants to eliminate the pay gap between the sexes completely within the next four years.

Iceland has been considered the world’s fairest country in terms of gender equality for the past nine years. In a country where half of the parliamentarians are female, women still earn about 15% less than men. The new Icelandic law aims at helping to change the attitude towards women in business and politics.

According to the World Economic Forum, a Swiss-based non-profit organisation,  there is a global  58 % difference in pay between the sexes.  Economic experts predict that, if the current trend continues,  women will have to wait over two hundred years to get equal pay and the same opportunities at work.

There is also a lack of female politicians. Only a quarter of the world’s politicians is female and fewer than one in five ministers are women. Only 23% of the world’s parliamentary seats go to females.

 

Women campaigning for more rights and gender equality in Iceland
Women campaigning for more rights and gender equality in Iceland – Image: Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • aims at = wants to achieve something
  • attitude = the feelings you have about someone or something
  • considered = thought to be
  • current trend = if the situation of today goes on
  • eliminate = get rid of; do away with
  • employ = to give a person work
  • equal = the same
  • gender equality = the same chances and opportunities for men and women
  • global = worldwide
  • illegal = against the law
  • impose = to force people to accept something
  • in terms of = if you look at or observe closely
  • lack = not enough
  • law = rule or regulation that a country has
  • non-profit = to use the money you get to help other people
  • opportunities = chances
  • parliamentarian = member of parliament
  • pay gap = the difference in the amount of money men and women get for their work
  • predict = to say that something will happen in the future
  • quarter = 25%
  • seat = here: an elected member of parliament
  • Swiss-based = organisation that operates out of Switzerland
  • take effect = start; become law

Chocolate in Danger of Becoming Extinct

Chocolate may be in danger of becoming extinct by the middle of this centuryPests and fungal diseases have been found in cacao trees that may endanger the crop’s survival.

In addition, cacao is also under attack by global warming. Trees grow in a very small area about 20° north and south of the equator, where humidity and temperatures are the same all year round. By 2050 rising temperatures and drier weather will push cacao production up into mountainous areas, many of which are home to wild animals.

Scientists from the University of California are trying to save the plant. Together with researchers from the American food company Mars, they are trying to grow cacao seeds that are more resistant and can grow at higher altitudes.

Most of the world’s cacao production comes from two countries in western Africa, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. These areas may not be suitable for cacao production in the decades to come. Millions of farmers depend on cacao for a living.

 

Cacao tree
Cacao tree – Image: Luis Ovalles

Words

  • altitude = how high up something is
  • cacao = seeds from which chocolate is made
  • decade = ten years
  • endanger = to be a threat to something
  • equator = line around the middle of the earth
  • extinct = die out; not exist anymore
  • century = a hundred years
  • depend on = need
  • fungal disease= disease caused by  a simple plant that has no leaves  and grows in the ground or on other plants; mushrooms are a type of fungus
  • global warming = an increase in the world’s temperatures caused by growing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere
  • humidity = the amount of water that is in the air
  • in addition = also
  • mountainous = in the mountains
  • pest = a small animal or insect that can destroy crops and plants
  • researcher = person who studies a topic in order to find out more about it
  • resistant = here: it cannot be destroyed or damaged
  • rise = to go up
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • seed = small hard object from produced by plants, from which a new plant can grow
  • suitable = here: to be the ideal place to grow something
  • survival = existence ; staying alive
  • under attack = to be attacked by something

2017 Safest Year in Air Travel

According to world aviation officials, 2017 was recorded as the safest year in air travel.  There were no deaths caused by commercial plane crashes last year.

However, the total number of people killed on civilian aircraft and cargo planes has increased slightlyThe deadliest incident occurred in January 2017 when a Turkish cargo jet crashed into a village in rural Kyrgyzstan as it tried to land in foggy weather. All four crew members and 35  people on the ground were killed.

Over the past 20 years, fatalities caused by commercial jetliners have sunken steadily. In 2005, for example, over a thousand people were killed on board commercial flights.

Air travel has become very safe. It is estimated that the accident rate is at 0.06 per one million flights or one fatal accident every 16 million flights.

According to flight experts, chances are that the zero death toll on commercial airlines will not be repeated. Because there are over 37 million flights every year, some kind of accident involving the death of passengers is bound to happen in the near future.

The decline in passenger deaths is due to increased safety measures by the airline industry. Airplanes are becoming more robust and airlines tend to buy newer, more modern aircraft. But aviation officials are worried about the risk of in-flight fires caused by an increase in lithium-ion batteries that are being brought on board, mostly through smartphones and notebooks.

Among the world’s largest countries, the UK has the best air-safety record .  Since the end of the 1980s, there has been no fatal accident involving a British plane. In contrast, African countries have the worst safety records.

Crewman inspecting an Airbus 320 before takeoff
Crewman inspecting an Airbus 320 before takeoff – Image: Kristoferb

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • air-safety record = here: facts about how safe travel has been in the past
  • aviation = everything that is connected to flying  an airplane
  • bound to happen = probably will happen
  • cargo plane = plane that transports goods, but not passengers
  • civilian aircraft = private airplanes
  • commercial airplane = an airplane that flies on a regular schedule with passengers on board
  • decline = when something is reduced or goes down
  • due to = because of
  • estimate = to calculate how big something is based on the information that you have
  • fatal = deadly
  • fatality = death in an accident
  • foggy = cloudy air on the ground which is difficult to see through
  • however = but
  • in contrast = on the other side
  • incident = here: accident involving an airplane
  • increase = go up
  • in-flight = during a journey; when a plane is in the air
  • jetliner = modern, passenger airplane
  • lithium-ion = modern, rechargeable battery type used in smartphones, tablets etc..
  • occur = happen
  • official = person in a high position in an organisation
  • record = write down
  • repeat = happen again
  • robust = strong; not likely to have any problems
  • rural = in the countryside
  • safety measures = something you do which helps to make things safer
  • slightly = a bit
  • zero death toll = here: situation in which no people are killed

China Bans Ivory Trade

China has put a ban on all ivory trade in the country.  The ban came into effect on January 1 of this year. 67 official ivory processing factories and shops were closed last year and a remaining 100 were shut down on December 31. A similar ban in the U.S. went into effect in June 2016.

The Chinese decision to stop the ivory trading business has been welcomed by the World Wildlife Fund and other organisations as a major effort in protecting the world’s elephant population. It is estimated that over 30,000 African elephants are killed every year.

Chinese citizens regard ivory as a status symbol. People buy jewellery, chopsticks and other objects made of ivory, leading to the development of one of the world’s largest ivory markets. When trading ivory was officially banned worldwide in 1990, China continued to sell it through shops and factories. The legal trade also brought illegal ivory into the country.

However, there is a major concern that the new law does not apply to HongKong, an important ivory trading hub. Authorities in the former British colony are working on a ban of their own, expected to take effect soon. On the other side, customers will probably go to Laos, Vietnam or other Asian countries, where trading laws are not so strict.

In the past year, ivory prices started to go down as more and more Chinese shops were closing. The ban will have a big impact on African countries, especially Kenya and Tanzania,  where most of the elephant poaching is taking place.

Elephant tusk with a carved decoration
Elephant tusk with a carved decoration

Words

  • apply = take effect
  • authorities = government organisations that have the power to make decisions
  • ban = to forbid something; not allow
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • concern = feeling of worry about something important
  • development = growth
  • effort = try
  • especially = above all
  • estimate = to calculate how big something is by the information that you have
  • former = in the past
  • however = but
  • into effect = start to work
  • illegal = not allowed; against the law
  • ivory = hard, smooth yellowish-white material from the long teeth of elephants
  • jewellery = small things that you wear for decoration, like necklaces or rings
  • legal = allowed by the government
  • major = important
  • official = allowed by the government
  • poaching = to shoot or catch animals illegally
  • processing = here: when you make an elephant’s tusk into jewellery and other objects
  • protect = here to keep animals safe
  • remaining = those that were left
  • similar = almost the same
  • status symbol = something that you have that you think shows high social rank or position
  • strict= here: law that must be obeyed
  • trading hub = here: a place where ivory is bought and sold
  • welcome = to be glad that something has happened
  • worldwide = around the world
  • World Wildlife Fund = organisation that tries to save and protect endangered animals

 

 

Cailfornia Legalises Marijuana For Recreational Use

California has become the largest American state to legalize the sales of marijuana for recreational use. In November 2016,  citizens in the state voted in favour of a proposition that would allow citizens to possess small amounts of the substance. It is now legal to grow six plants of your own or have an ounce of pot.

About 90 licences are to be handed out statewide to shops that want to sell recreational marijuana. In the last two decades, special shops have been allowed to sell marijuana only for medical reasons, in order to treat pain and anxiety. People who want to buy medical marijuana need a prescription from a doctor.

Apart from legalizing the drug, there will be strict controls monitored by state authorities. Californians will not be allowed to consume marijuana in public places or near schools. Local governments will be able to set up their own rules on where smoking is allowed.

Despite this new state law, the federal government still looks at marijuana as an illegal substance. California has become the eighth state to legalize the drug.

In 2016 California produced about 13 million pounds of pot. 80% of it was transferred illegally out of the state.The illegal marijuana market, currently at 5 billion dollars, is expected to grow to 7 billion in California by 2020. In addition, the state will be able to generate additional taxes from selling legal marijuana.

Shopkeepers who have been able to sell medical marijuana are worried that prices will go up because of additional taxes. Some fear that additional licences could ruin their business.

 

 

medical marijuana
Medical marijuana card that allows a person to buy marijuana for medical purposes

Words

  • additional = extra
  • anxiety = feeling worried about or afraid of something
  • apart from = besides
  • authorities = organisation that can make decisions
  • billion = a thousand million
  • citizen = person who lives in a place and has rights there
  • consume = here: smoke
  • currently = at the moment
  • decade = ten years
  • despite = even though
  • federal government = the government of the United States, not the state government
  • generate = produce, get
  • government = people who rule a country or state
  • hand out = give to someone
  • illegal substance = drug that is not allowed
  • in addition = also
  • in favour of = to be for something
  • legal = allowed
  • legalize = allow
  • licence = here: a document that allows you to sell something
  • marijuana = illegal drug that is smoked like a cigarette
  • monitor = to watch carefully
  • ounce = unit for measuring weight = 28.35 grams
  • pain = feeling you have when something hurts
  • possess = own, have
  • pot = another word for marijuana
  • prescription = piece of paper on which a doctor writes down what medicine you need
  • proposition = a suggested change of the law
  • public place = place where everyone can go to
  • recreational use = for fun or pleasure
  • ruin = destroy
  • small amounts = a little bit
  • statewide = in the whole state
  • substance = material ; here: drug
  • transfer = take, carry
  • treat = to try to help if oyu have an illness

 

 

Regular Exercise Can Improve Your Memory

According to a new publication by Amercian neurologists, regular exercise can improve your memory and thinking skills. We know that exercise has proven to be good for your heart and overall fitness, but now doctors say that it can actually help you remember things.

As we get older most of us have problems  with memory, language  and thinking about certain things. This is called mild cognitive impairment (MCI) .In most cases, such problems don’t influence our everyday life but we realize them. Exercising may slow down the rate of MCI and reduce the risk of getting dementia at a later phase in life.

Unlike people with dementia, those with mild cognitive impairment can cope with their regular routine, like getting dressed or preparing meals. However, they may have trouble remembering dates, appointments and where they left their keys.  This may be the first step to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

While there is no medicine and dietary way to fight against memory loss, neurologists encourage people to do some form of aerobic exercise, like walking, running or cycling or swimming for a total of 2 .5 hours a week. They recommend exercising just so fast that you don’t sweat and can talk to others.

More than 6% of all people around the world have a mild form of cognitive impairment. As people get older the rate increases and jumps to 37% of all over 85 year olds.

Jogging and other forms of aerobic exercise helps you with your memory
Jogging and other forms of aerobic exercise helps you with your memory – Image: Ed Yourdon

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • aerobic exercise = activity that makes your lungs and heart stronger
  • Alzheimer’s disease = disease that affects the brain, especially of old people; it is difficult to move, talk and remember things
  • appointment = meeting you have with someone
  • cope = deal with
  • dementia = illness that affects the brain and memory; you slowly lose the ability to think clearly and remember things
  • dietary = about the food you  eat
  • encourage = say that you should do something because it is good for you
  • exercise = do physical activity
  • however = but
  • improve = to make a situation better
  • increase = go up
  • influence = change
  • memory = the ability to remember things, places and events
  • memory loss = losing your memory
  • publication = when information is printed so that everyone can read it
  • neurologist = person who studies the brain and our nervous system and the diseases connected to them
  • overall = general
  • rate = how fast something grows
  • realize = know that something is there or exists
  • recommend = suggest
  • reduce = make lower
  • regularly = often; at the same time every day or week
  • skill = things we can do because we have practised them
  • slow down =make slower
  • sweat = to do something so fast that you have drops of salty liquid coming out of your skin
  • unlike =different from something