Russian Revolution – One Hundred Years Ago

One hundred years ago, in 1917, the Russian Revolution ended the monarchyTsar Nicholas II had to step down and the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin took control of the country. As a result, the Soviet Union evolved and became the biggest Communist country in the 20th century.

The centennial celebrations did not stir up a lot of publicity and Russian media did not report extensively on the topic. The Russian government under Vladimir Putin all but ignored the anniversary.

In contrast, thousands of Communist party members marched through downtown Moscow in honour of the Bolshevists, holding up flags of Lenin and Stalin.

During the Soviet era, November 7th  was always a state holiday with military parades and a display of power on Red Square. It was stopped after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Public opinion on the Russian Revolution is divided . While most citizens have a positive view of Lenin’s role in history they are opposed to the events that took place under Joseph Stalin’s  authoritarian regime. On the other side, many Russians are proud of having won World War II and of the country’s military and scientific achievements.

Lenin’s legacy collapsed in 1991. After years of chaos and a massive gap between the rich and poor, stability returned in the new millennium. While many cities and towns still honour Lenin in some way, others, like St. Petersburg, have returned to pre-revolutionary names.

Poster showing a Bolshevik in 1920
Poster showing a Bolshevik in 1920

Words

  • achievement = something important or successful that you have done  and can be proud of
  • anniversary = a day on which something special happened years ago
  • authoritarian regime = government that forces people to do what it wants and  where the citizens cannot state their opinions
  • Bolsheviks = group of people who supported the communist party at the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917
  • centennial = day or year exactly 100 years after a special event
  • century = a hundred years
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • collapse = break down; when something stops existing
  • divided = split
  • downtown = the centre of a city
  • evolve = grow
  • extensively = in detail, very much
  • gap = big difference
  • ignore = pay no attention to something
  • in honour = to show how much you admire or respect someone
  • legacy = here: what is left over from a certain period in history
  • massive = very large
  • millennium = the beginning of the next one thousand years
  • monarchy = country in which a king, queen or another person rules
  • oppose = to be against something
  • parade = here: public celebration where soldiers and weapons move down the streets for the people to see
  • pre-revolutionary = before the revolution
  • publicity = attention that something gets  from newspapers or TV
  • public opinion = what the people on the streets think
  • Red Square = large open area in the centre of Moscow
  • scientific = about science
  • stability = being in the same condition
  • step down = give up power
  • stir up = cause, lead to
  • tsar = king of the Russian empire before 1917

 

 

Vatican Bans Cigarette Sales

Pope Francis has announced that the Vatican will ban the sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products in the Roman Catholic state beginning in January 2018. A spokesperson for the Vatican said that the mini-state cannot allow the sales of a product that is clearly damaging to a person’s health.

Vatican employees, diplomats and a few other fortunate ones who have a so-called “shopping card” are allowed to buy cigarettes, groceries and even gas in the duty-free stores of the small country. Some employees have been buying cartons of cigarettes and selling them cheaply on the streets of Rome.

The Vatican earns about $11 million a year through the sales of cigarettes. Tobacco products are the second-largest source of income after tax-free gas.

Italy, which has a 22% sales tax has been urging the Vatican to stop selling products tax-free. It is thought that about 5,000 employees, diplomats and other residents are in possession of such a card and can shop in the Vatican’s stores.

Birds-eye view of the Vatican
Birds-eye view of the Vatican – Image: Dnalor_01
License CC-BY-SA 3.0

Words

  • announce = to say something officially, in public
  • ban = forbid, not allow
  • damage = to do physical harm to someone
  • duty free = sell products without paying any taxes
  • earn =  here: to get money for the products that you sell
  • employee = someone who is paid to work for someone else; worker
  • fortunate = lucky
  • groceries = food  and other goods that are sold at a supermarket
  • in possession = to have something that is yours to keep
  • mini-state = very small country
  • sales = selling a product
  • spokesperson = someone who has been chosen to speak for a company, country  or the government
  • source of income = the place from which the money comes that you earn
  • urge = to strongly suggest that someone should do something

Smog Returns to Delhi

Deadly smog has returned to Delhi. Air pollution reached several times the level suggested by the World Health Organisation. People were told to stay indoors and not walk on the streets of the world’s most polluted city. Doctors declared a state of emergency and some schools in the city stayed closed.

Smog in northern India is a big problem, especially during the winter months. From November to March cold temperatures force pollutants and dirt particles closer to the ground, mixing with the foggy air. Low wind speeds and dust from construction sites have also contributed to high pollution levels in the area.

Environmentalists say that factories and traffic are the biggest causes of smog. In addition, farmers in northern India burn the leftovers of crops after harvest and therefore produce more smoke.

Critics say that Indian government is not doing enough to protect India’s second-largest city. New measures took effect last October. Traffic became more regulated and several power plants were shut down. Authorities also want to restrict the personal use of cars to every second day, a measure that already worked in the past.

Last November Delhi was hit by the highest air pollution levels in 20 years, forcing over a million children to stay at home. Researchers claim that 2.5 million Indians die of pollution every year.

Smog in Delhi
Smog in Delhi – Image: Saurabh Kumar

Words

  • air pollution = when the air becomes dirty through factories and cars
  • authorities = official organisation or a government department that has the power to make decisions
  • cause = reason
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • construction sites = places where new houses are built
  • contribute = to help make something happen
  • declare = to say something officially, in public
  • environmentalist = person who cares about nature and the world  around us
  • especially = above all
  • dust = dry powder made up of small  bits of dirt
  • fog = cloudy air near the ground which is difficult to see through
  • force = to make something happen
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • harvest = when crops are gathered from the fields
  • in addition = also
  • leftovers = here: leaves and stems that are left over when crops are harvested
  • measure = action
  • particle = very small piece of something
  • pollutant = substance that makes air and water dirty
  • power station = building that produces energy and electricity
  • regulated = controlled
  • researcher = person who studies a topic closely in order to find out more about it
  • restrict = limit; control
  • several = many
  • shut down = close
  • smog = a mixture of smoke and fog
  • state of emergency = when the government gives itself special powers in order to try to get a dangerous situation under control
  • take effect = when something starts to work
  • therefore = that is why
  • World Health Organisation = international organisation that helps countries improve  their people’s health by giving medicine and providing information about diseases

 

 

 

Paradise Papers – How To Hide Your Money

The Paradise Papers are documents which show how rich people – celebrities, politicians and businessmen use offshore countries to protect themselves from paying high taxes. The documents were leaked to the German Süddeutsche Zeitung and examined by 400 journalists from all over the world.

There are more than 13 million documents that contain 1,400 GB of information. They reveal financial transactions of hundreds of individuals, as well as famous corporations like Apple and Nike.

Among those accused of investing money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes are close advisors of US President Donald Trump and German ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.  The documents also reveal that some of Queen Elisabeth’s private money was invested in offshore accounts. Russian oligarchs with ties to the Kremlin and an aide to Canada’s Prime Minister are also named in the report.

The majority of the Paradise Papers comes from Appleby, a law firm that helps companies and rich people reduce their tax burden through offshore accounts. The firm with headquarters in Bermuda has thousands of clients and offices around the world. The other documents come from various businesses in the Carribean.

 

Two years ago the Panama Papers revealed similar documents. It showed how hundreds of people set up businesses in tax havens in order to hide their money and pay fewer taxes.

Bermuda - Headquarters of the Appleby law firm
Bermuda – Headquarters of the Appleby law firm – Image: Eric Gaba

Words

  • accuse = to believe that someone has done something wrong or illegal
  • advisor = a person who helps you  and gives you information because they know a lot about a certain subject
  • aide = someone who helps a politician
  • avoid = to prevent something from happening
  • business = company
  • celebrity = famous person
  • chancellor = here: leader of the German government
  • corporation = large company
  • examine = to look at very closely
  • financial transaction = here: money moves from one place to another
  • headquarters = the main building or offices used by a large company
  • individual = single person
  • leak = to give secret information to a newspaper, TV station or journalists
  • majority =  most
  • politician = person who works in politics, either for a government or a political party
  • offshore = here: country in which you pay less tax than elsewhere
  • offshore account = bank account in a country where you pay fewer taxes than in your home country
  • oligarch = boss of a group of people who run  a country or organisation
  • reduce = lower
  • reveal = show something that hasn’t been known before
  • similar = almost the same
  • tax = the money you must pay to the government based on your income
  • tax burden = here: the amount of taxes you pay
  • tax haven = country where people go to live in order to avoid paying high taxes in their own country
  • tie = close relationship to
  • various = different, several

 

 

 

Twitter Increases Number of Characters to 280

The social networking service Twitter has increased the number of characters that can be used for a single tweet to 280. The new limit will apply to English and other languages that use a Roman alphabet. Languages, such as Chinese, Japanese or Korean, are not affected by the change because users can say more with fewer characters.

Twitter says that the change has been made to give people more opportunity to say what they think and express their opinions without making texts shorter or using bad grammar. More space makes it easier to put your thoughts in writing.

Twitter decided to implement the change after a month of intensive testing .Those who tested the new character limit said it was good because they were able to express themselves in a better way.

In the first few days after the new rule took effect, many people used up the full 280 character limit. A spokesperson said that, after a few days, everything had become normal again.  Only five percent of all tweets exceeded the old 140 character limit, probably because most users were used to it.

Twitter’s 140-character limit goes back to the days when the company was founded in 2006. Back then, the limit for sending SMS text messages was 140 characters and Twitter based the new service on that limit. Texting today is considered out of date and not used that much anymore.

 

Twitter logo
Twitter logo

Words

  • affect = here: to do something that produces a change
  • apply = affect; to be used for
  • character = letter, number or sign used in an alphabet
  • considered = thought to be …
  • exceed = to be more than …
  • express = tell or show what you think or feel
  • found – founded = here: to start a new company
  • implement = here: to make changes
  • increase = to go up
  • intensive = here: a lot of
  • limit = here: the number of characters you are allowed to use
  • opinion = what you think about something
  • opportunity = chance
  • out of date = not useful, because something more modern has taken its place
  • Roman alphabet = alphabet used in English and other European languages
  • spokesperson = someone who speaks for a company and makes announcements in public
  • take effect = to start to produce results after something has changed
  • thought = what you think
  • tweet = a message on twitter

 

Brain Scans Could Predict Suicide Thoughts

A new study shows that brain scans might be able to find out if people are thinking about killing themselves. Scientists have trained a computer program to examine the thoughts of people based on brain scans.

The study examined two groups of people – one group were known to have suicidal thoughts and the other group were without such thoughts.  During a brain scan doctors gave them words related to certain topics. Ten words were related to positive things, like “carefree” and “praise“, the other ten were connected to negative things like “desperate” and “death”.   The computer program then recorded the emotions they were feeling.

Researchers said that in 94 % of all cases they could identify people who had suicidal thoughts.They were also able to find out who had attempted suicide before.

This new experiment gives scientists a method of looking at what goes on in your brain and what you think about topics related to death.

According to the World Health Organisation, about 800,000 people die from suicide every year. In the United States, it is the second largest cause of death in the age group between 15 and 24. Although the findings are not 100% accurate,  we may be able to assess a person’s mental health by looking at brain scans in the near future.

 

Scan of a normal human brain
Scan of a normal human brain

Words

  • according to = as said or reported by …
  • accurate = exact ; correct in every detail
  • although = while
  • assess = here: to find out how good or bad something is
  • attempt = try
  • brain scan = doctors take photos of the inside of your brain and look at them closely
  • carefree = if you have no worries or problems
  • cause = reason why something happens
  • desperate = needing or wanting something very much
  • examine = look at closely to find out facts
  • identify = name, find
  • mental = about the brain and mind
  • praise = to say that you admire someone or what a person does
  • related to = about
  • researcher = a person who studies  a topic closely in order to find out more about it
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • study = a piece of work that is done to find out more about a certain topic
  • suicidal = wanting to kill yourself
  • thoughts = what you think
  • topic = subject
  • World Health Organisation = international organisation that helps countries improve their people’s health by giving them medicine  and information about diseases

Mysterious Chamber Discovered in Egyptian Pyramid

A mysterious chamber in an  Egyptian pyramid has been recently discovered by scientists. A special technique shows a  large void hidden in the Great Pyramid of Giza  near Cairo

The ScansPyramid project, led by the University of Cairo and the Egyptian government,  uses advanced technology to find out more about ancient structures. Scientists from Egypt, France and Japan installed special detectors which could detect small particles called muons. These are a type of cosmic rain which constantly falls down on the earth. Three separate teams have conducted the research and have found the same cavity in the pyramid.

The newly found chamber in the Egyptian pyramid is 30 metres long and about the size of the Grand Gallery which is a known passageway that leads to the King’s Chamber. However, nothing else is known about the new room. It is also impossible to reach the space as there is no passage that leads to it. Experts also warn against having great expectations about new discovery inside the cavity.  It is possible that the void does not have any meaning at all and was just left there for construction reasons.

The Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, was built at around 2650 BC. after the death of the pharaoh. It is the largest of the three remaining pyramids at Giza, which belong to the wonders of the ancient world.

The Great Pyramid at Giza -
The Great Pyramid at Giza – Image: Nina Aldin Thune

Words

  • advanced technology = modern and complicated machines and tools
  • ancient = old; from a long time ago
  • cavity = hole
  • chamber = room
  • conduct = carry out
  • cosmic = coming from space
  • detector = a machine that finds or measures something
  • discover = find something for the first time
  • expectation = here: what you think or hope you will find
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • however = but
  • mysterious = difficult to understand and explain
  • particle = very small piece of something
  • passageway = long narrow area in a building; corridor or hallway
  • pharaoh = king in ancient Egypt
  • recently = a short time ago
  • remaining = … which still exists
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • structure = any kind of building
  • technique = special way fo doing or finding  something
  • void = empty space in which nothing exists

 

Asteroid That Wiped Out Dinosaurs Led to Severe Winter

Scientists have now found out that the asteroid that hit the earth and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago also caused a long period of winter and extremely cold temperatures.

The asteroid hit the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico and created a crater with a diameter of 15 km. As a result about three-quarters of all plant and animal species died, including the dinosaurs. The impact sent tons of dust and sulphur gas into the atmosphere.

Now we know that three times more sulphur gas was catapulted into the atmosphere than previously thought. Sunlight was blocked from getting in, which resulted in much lower temperatures. A new study shows that temperatures worldwide dropped to about -10° Celsius for at least three years after the impact. Thus, the earth was plunged into a deadly winter, which many plants and animals could not survive.

While air temperatures probably rose shortly after impact, ocean temperatures may have been affected for centuries. Scientists also found out that the amount of carbon-dioxide that was released into the atmosphere was probably over-estimated.

In new research on the Yucatan peninsula, scientists drilled into the surface of what’s left of the crater and collected rock samples. This allowed them to examine and reconstruct what happened.

 

Crater caused by a meteor crash
Crater caused by a meteor crash – Image : Steve Jurvetson

Words

  • affected = to do something that leads to a change later on
  • asteroid = one of the many small planets that move around the sun especially between Mars and Jupiter
  • block = stop from getting in
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals or people breathe out or when you burn carbon in the air
  • catapult = when something moves through the air very quickly
  • cause =  lead to; result in
  • century= a hundred years
  • crater = a round hole made by a large object crashing into something
  • diameter = a straight line from one side of a circle to the other
  • drill = to make a hole into the surface
  • drop = go down
  • examine = look at closely
  • extinction = when animals or plants die out
  • impact = crash
  • over-estimated = less than thought at first
  • peninsula = land with water on three sides
  • plunge = here: to suddenly change
  • previously = earlier
  • reconstruct = to see how something happened by putting the facts together
  • release= set free
  • research = to look at something closely in order to find out more about it
  • sample = here: rocks that scientists can study and look at
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • species = group of animals and plants whose members are similar and who can produce babies together
  • sulphur gas = a yellow bright substance that burns and has an unpleasant smell
  • survive  = continue to live after a dangerous situation

Protestantism Celebrates 500th Anniversary

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant religion. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 theses, which criticized the Roman Catholic Church. As a result, the new religion broke away from the high church in Rome.

Luther nailed his list of criticism on the door of a church in Wittenberg, where he taught theology. He attacked the Church because it claimed that a sinner could reduce God’s punishment by giving money to the church. He also claimed that popes were too powerful and abused their power.

A few years later Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. However,  because of the printing press, which was invented at that time, his message spread across most of Europe. The Reformation caused widespread change in Europe. It led to wars and people leaving their home country in pursuit of religious freedom.

In England, Henry VIII broke his ties with the Roman Catholic Church and, based on Luther’s theses, founded the Anglican Church.  Over the centuries Protestants have created many different branches of their religion.  Many Protestants are found in Scandinavia, Germany and the United States.

About 800 million Protestants live in the world today. Even though there are still many disagreements between Protestantism and Catholicism, both churches have overcome their differences. Their relationship has improved since the 16th century.

The anniversary was celebrated throughout the Protestant world. Most ceremonies took place in Germany, the cradle of Protestantism.

 

 

 

Martin Luther
Martin Luther

Words

  • abuse = to use something in the wrong  way
  • anniversary = date on which something important happened in the past
  • attack = to criticise something in a strong way
  • based on = here: to create a new church out of Protestant ideas
  • cause = lead to
  • century = a hundred years
  • ceremony = important event that is performed in a traditional way
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • cradle = here: where everything began
  • disagreement = when two or more people do not have the same opinion
  • even though = while, although
  • excommunicate = to punish someone by no longer allowing them to be a member of the Roman Catholic Church
  • found – founded = create something new
  • however = but
  • invent =  to make or design something new
  • message = news
  • printing press = machine that prints newspapers, books  etc.. in large numbers
  • publish = to make something official, for everyone to see
  • pursuit = follow
  • nail = to fasten something to an object
  • overcome = here: not to argue anymore
  • reduce = make something smaller or less
  • Reformation = religious changes in Europe in the 16th century that led to the creation of Protestantism
  • sinner = a person who does not obey or follow God’s laws
  • spread = to move from one place to another
  • theology = the study of religion and religious ideas
  • theses = an opinion about something, often in writing
  • widespread=  something that happens in many places at the same time

Environmental Pollution Kills More People Than Smoking and Wars

A new report concludes that environmental pollution is world’s number one killer. Every year it kills more people than global wars , natural catastrophes,  or hunger. About 9 million people die prematurely every year because of our polluted environment.  Experts state that this costs  about $4.5 trillion  a year, 6% of the world economy.

Researchers say that pollution has never reached such a dangerous level before. Pollution-related deaths are one and a half times higher than the number of people killed through smoking and six times higher than people who die in road accidents. The real figures are thought to be even higher because pollution isn’t monitored in some remote place in Africa , South America or Asia.

Two thirds of the deaths are caused by air pollution. Burning wood and coal, as well as fumes of cars and other vehicles cause 6.5 million deaths every year.

The authors of the new report examined not only air quality , but took soil and water probes as well. They received additional data from the World Health Organisation.

Most of the deaths  occur in poor developing countries  , where governments care less about the environment and do not have strict laws in effect. Bangladesh and Somalia are among the most polluted countries.  In India, the second most populous country in the world,  one out of four deaths is caused by some form of pollution. China’s environment is also considered to be one of the deadliest  in the world. 

On the other side Sweden and Brunei have the lowest pollution levels. Pollution in developed countries is especially high in low-income areas of large cities, whereas  the rural countryside shows very low pollution levels.

The report makes a few recommendations . Fighting pollution should become a priority everywhere and more funds should be made available to combat pollution.

Environmental pollution from a factory
Environmental pollution from a factory

Words

  • additional data = more facts and information
  • available = to be used
  • coal = hard black stone which is dug out of the earth and can be used  to produce heat and energy
  • combat = fight
  • conclude = to come to a result
  • developed countries = the richest countries in the world
  • developing countries = the poorest countries in the world
  • economy = the system of products , services and money in a country
  • environmental pollution = the process of making air, water  and soil dangerously dirty so that we cannot use it
  • especially = above all
  • examine = to look at something closely
  • fumes = gases and smoke that come out of a car or factory
  • funds = money
  • global = worldwide
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • level = amount
  • low-income = people earn very little money
  • monitor = watch closely
  • occur = happen
  • populous = many people live there
  • prematurely = something that happens before the normal time
  • priority = the thing that you think is most important  and that needs attention before anything else
  • probe = a sample of water or soil
  • recommendation = suggestion
  • remote = faraway
  • researcher = person who studies a subject very closely in order to get more information about it
  • rural = countryside
  • soil = the top layer of the earth, on which plants can grow
  • state = to say that something is true
  • strict = something that you must obey
  • whereas = on the other side
  • World Health Organisation = UN organisation that helps countries improve the health of the population by giving medicine and offering information about diseases
  • vehicle =  machine with an engine that is used to  take people or things from one place to another