East African Rift is Growing Quickly

A large crack in the surface of the earth, several kilometres long,   has caused a highway to collapse in Kenya. The area lies on the East African Rift, where the Arabian and African plate meet.

The earth’s crust is broken up into several tectonic plates which are constantly on the move, gliding towards or against each other at various speeds. When these plates collide energy is set free, resulting in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The East African Rift stretches over 3000 km from the Gulf of Aden in the north to Zimbabwe in the south.  It consists of several valleys that are filled with long lakes. Because the two plates are moving away from each other Eastern Africa will be separated from the rest of the continent.

A rift is the first phase of a plate that is breaking apart. After millions of years, it can lead to the formation of a new ocean.  A well-known example is a separation of Africa and South America and the creation of the Atlantic Ocean.

Where the earth’s plates move away from each other magma plumes come up through the mantle and cause volcanic activity. Forces are so strong that the plate breaks apart and causes major earthquakes. In many cases, plates move slowly, at a rate of only  a few cm per year and most of the time we don’t notice these movements.

East African Rift from outer space
East African Rift from outer space – Image: Christoph Hormann

Words

  • at a rate = how fast something happens
  • collapse = fall apart; break down
  • collide = crash into each other
  • consist of = is made up of
  • constantly = always
  • crack = a line that you see when something starts to  break apart
  • crust = the hard, outer layer of the earth
  • forces = here: the power or strength of an activity
  • formation = when something new is created
  • earthquake = a sudden shaking of the earth’s surface that can cause a lot of damage and kill people
  • eruption = if something  breaks out suddenly
  • glide = move slowly and quietly
  • magma plumes = hot melted rock from the inner part of the earth which comes to the surface
  • major = here: very strong
  • mantle = part of the earth below the crust
  • notice = to see something happen; to be aware of something
  • resulting in = something that leads to something else
  • separate = divide, split apart
  • several = a few
  • stretch = to spread from one place to another
  • surface = here: the top layer of the earth
  • tectonic = about the movments of sheets of rock that form the earth’s surface
  • various = different

 

Winnie Mandela – South Africa’s Mother of the Nation

Winnie Mandela was a female South African activist who fought against Apartheid, together with her husband, South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela. She died at the age of 81  in her home in Soweto, Johannesburg after a long illness.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was born in 1936  in the Eastern Cape province, which at that time was the homeland of Transkei. In her early life, she was a social worker in a hospital.

In the 1950s she met Nelson and married him in 1958. When her husband was imprisoned in 1963 it was Winnie who led the movement against Apartheid. For over two and a half decades she campaigned for his release. During this period Winnie Mandela was her husband’s link to the outside world.

Winnie was a prominent member of the African National Congress and the head of its Women’s League. When Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island, it was the “Mother of the Nation”, as she was often called, who marched with him to freedom.

Shortly afterwards, the couple separated and divorced in 1996, two years after Nelson Mandela had become South Africa’s first black president.

Winnie Mandela continued her political career and became a deputy minister in the first post-Apartheid government. She was a member of parliament for several years.

However, Winnie was also a controversial figure and involved in many scandals. During the final years of Apartheid, she was accused of violence and blamed for killing and kidnapping informers in Soweto. She was sentenced to six years in prison, which was later turned into a fine.

After her death on 2 April 2018, politicians and human rights activists from all over the world praised South Africa’s most famous woman. Former Archbishop Desmond Tutu admired her as a revolutionary figure in his country’s history. The African National Congress said that the party had lost an icon.

 

Winnie Mandela - South Africa's Mother of the Nation
Winnie Mandela – South Africa’s Mother of the Nation

Words

  • accuse = to say that someone committed a crime
  • activist = a person who fights for something they believe in
  • African National Congress = political group that fought for the rights of black people in South Africa. It’s most famous leader was Nelson Mandela.
  • Apartheid = political system in South Africa, in which only white people had rights and people from other races, especially blacks, had to live separately; it existed between 1948 and 1990
  • blame = to be responsible for something
  • continue = to go on doing something
  • controversial = here: not everyone liked her and she also did bad things
  • deputy minister = person who is directly below the minister
  • divorce = to end a marriage
  • fine = to pay money as a form of punishment
  • freedom = being free and not in prison anymore
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • homeland = separate areas within South Africa where black people had to live
  • human rights = rights that everyone should have, like the right to vote or the freedom to speak freely
  • icon = someone who is famous and admired by many people
  • illness = being ill
  • imprison = put into prison
  • informer = someone who secretly tells the police about things that are going on
  • movement = campaign ; fight for beliefs and ideals
  • post-Apartheid = the time after Apartheid
  • praise = to admire a person for what they have done
  • prominent = famous; well-known
  • release = set free
  • revolutionary = here: a person who wants to change the system
  • Robben Island = famous prison island off the southern coast of South Africa
  • sentence = punishment that a judge gives to  someone who is guilty
  • shortly afterwards = a short time later

4400 Year-Old Tomb Found Near Giza Pyramids

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a tomb that dates back 4,400 years. Found near the famous pyramids at Giza, it probably belongs to a woman known as Hetpet, who was a female priest and closely connected to the royal family of the Fifth Dynasty.

Hetpet is well-known among ancient Egyptian archaeologists. Even though her mummy has not yet been found, some of her private belongings were discovered over a century ago.

The tomb found in the western part of the Giza necropolis is made out of mud brick and is in good shape. Its wall paintings show hunting and fishing scenes as well as animal offerings and monkeys gathering fruit.

Excavators unearthed 300 cubic meters of earth before they found the tomb. They hope there may be more discoveries to be made in what they call a very promising area of the cemetery. Even though much of the area has been thoroughly examined in the past centuries, modern technologies may still reveal new findings under the desert surface. Increased digging is also going on in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings

Authorities hope that the recent discovery will help boost Egypt’s tourism industry which has been declining since the Arab Spring of 2011.

 

The Giza Pyramid area
The Giza Pyramid area – Image: Ricardo Liberato

Words

  • animal offering = here: animals that are killed and given to God
  • Arab Spring = series of protests and revolutions in northern Africa and the Middle East in 2010 and 2011
  • archaeologist = person who studies old civilisations  and examines their buildings, tombs and what is left of that time
  • authorities = organisation within the government that is responsible for certain things
  • boost = improve ; make better
  • cemetery = area where dead people are buried
  • century = a hundred years
  • connect = link to; here: a close friend
  • decline = go down
  • desert = large area of dry land with rocks and sand
  • dig = to move the earth on the surface so that you can find something
  • discover = find for the first time
  • even though = while
  • excavate = to dig carefully in an area in order to find old objects like bones, cups or tools
  • examine = look at; observe
  • gather = collect
  • increased = more and more
  • mud brick = wet earth that is dried and used as a building material
  • mummy = a dead body that has been preserved  by wrapping it in cloth
  • necropolis = area of land where dead people are buried
  • priest = man or woman who does performs religious acts
  • private belongings = what belonged to her
  • promising = here: an area where archaeologists hope to make new discoveries  in the future
  • reveal = to find something that was not known at first
  • royal family = the king, his wife and children
  • surface = the top layer of something
  • technologies = methods of doing something
  • thoroughly = very closely; completely
  • tomb = stone structure  above or below the ground where a dead person is buried
  • unearth = to find something that has been buried in the ground
  • Valley of the Kings = area in central Egypt where kings and queens of ancient Egypt were buried between the 16th and 11th century B.C.

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

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

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

 

 

Europe’s Muslim Population Will Continue to Grow

Over the next few decades, Europe’s Muslim population is expected to continue growing.  A study estimates that by 2050 the Muslim population could grow to 58 million, or 11 % of the total European population, compared to 5 % today.

The study conducted by Pew research, is based on census and immigration data from  30 countries. It created three scenarios. In the first scenario, Muslim immigration into Europe would come to a complete halt.  Even then, the Muslim population would rise to 7.4 %. This is because Muslims, on average,  are 13 years younger than Europeans and have a higher birth rate.

On the other side, a high migration scenario is based on the flow of refugees from 2015- 2016 and expects it to continue. If this happens, the total Muslim population in Europe will rise to 75 million, about 14% of the total population.

According to the Pew report, not all countries will be affected evenly by future Muslim immigration.  Germany and Sweden will see the biggest increases because these two countries accepted most asylum seekers during the 2015-2016 refugee crisis.

At the moment, Germany (5 million) and France (5.7 Million)  have the largest Muslim populations in Europe.

The recently published study is likely to cause more debate on immigration into Europe.  It cites instability in the Middle East and Northern Africa as well as the ongoing conflict in Syria as the main factors that drive people to European countries.  In the last 6 years seeking asylum in conflict regions was the most important motive for Muslims coming to Europe. Only few came to Europe for employment or education.

 

Migrants near the Hungarian-Serbian border during the 2015 refugee crisi
Migrants near the Hungarian-Serbian border during the 2015 refugee crisis – Image: Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • affect = here: changed by the situation
  • asylum seeker = person who leaves their country because they are in danger, mostly for political reasons, and asks another country to let them live there
  • birthrate = the number of births for every 1,000 people in a year
  • census = official counting of a country’s population
  • cite = mention
  • compared = to look at two things in a similar way
  • conduct = carry out
  • data = information
  • debate = discussion
  • decade = ten years
  • employment = job, work
  • factor = reason
  • flow = steady movement of people
  • estimate = to calculate how big something will be  based on the information that you have
  • halt = stop
  • immigration = when you go to another country and plan to live there permanently
  • increase = to go up
  • instability = when the situation in a country is not stable because of war or other conflicts
  • is based on = use something as the starting point for your research
  • is expected to = will probably
  • motive = reason
  • ongoing conflict = here: conflict or war that is continuing
  • refugee = people who have to leave their home because of war or a natural disaster
  • rise = go up
  • scenario = situation that could possibly happen
  • study = piece of work that is done to find out more about a subject

Era of Robert Mugabe Comes to an End in Zimbabwe

After being president for 37 years, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has finally stepped down. At 93, he was the world’s oldest leader. Mugabe headed the country since its independence from Britain in 1980. In his letter of resignation, Mugabe said he would allow the peaceful transition of power to his successor.

Moments after the announcement, people started celebrating in the country’s capital Harare and elsewhere in the country.  While some see him as a great African hero and statesmen, a majority of the population regard Mugabe as a dictator who has economically brought down the southern African nation. He is criticised for using his power to crush opposition leaders and crack down on his political opponents.

After holding on to power for decades, Mugabe made his biggest mistake by trying to make his wife, Grace, instead of his Vice President his successor. In the days and weeks before finally stepping down, the military took control of the country and put Mugabe under house arrest.

When it became clear that the end was closing in, his own party, Zanu PF, removed him as party leader and started an impeachment process. After Mugabe’s resignation, opposition leaders are calling for quick and fair elections.

After Britain’s colony Southern Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980, Robert Mugabe was the first, and only, black president. In sweeping economic changes, he nationalized white-owned private farms. Instead of being given to poor black people, Mugabe gave them to generals and his loyal followers. As a result, food production went down and the country’s people started suffering from hunger.

After independence, about 3 million people left the country for neighbouring South Africa. Those who stayed were left without work.  Today unemployment is estimated at 80%. Tourism has slowed down and industrial output has decreased. Zimbabwe’s diamond mines, the largest source of income, are now run by the army.

 

Zimbabwe's long time leader Robert Mugabe resigns
Zimbabwe’s long time leader Robert Mugabe resigns – Image : www.kremlin.ru

Words

  • announcement = official statement that can be heard by everyone
  • celebrate = to have fun and be happy
  • crack down on = here: to be strict with someone and punish them
  • crush = here: to stop someone from getting too powerful
  • decade =  ten years
  • decrease = to go down
  • economically =  about money, trade and business in a country
  • election = when people vote  to chose someone for an official position
  • estimated = thought to be …
  • head = to be the leader
  • house arrest = to be kept a prisoner by the government; you have to stay inside your house  rather than in prison
  • impeachment = when an important member of the government, often the president, has committed a serious crime and a special court decides if he can keep his job
  • independence = being free from the control of another country
  • industrial output = what factories can produce in a given time
  • loyal followers = people who admire and support him a lot
  • majority = most of the people
  • nationalize = when the government takes control of a private company
  • opponent = rival
  • opposition leaders = the people who were against him
  • peaceful = not violent
  • population = the people who live in a country
  • regard = think of someone as ….
  • remove = replace
  • resignation = to announce that you have decided to give up your job
  • source of income = where you get your money from
  • statesman =political leader who is respected  as being wise and fair
  • step down = to give up power and control of a country
  • sweeping = things that make a big difference
  • transition of power = when you give up power and another person takes over
  • unemployment = people who are out of work and don’t have a job

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

 

Outbreak of Plague in Madagascar

60 people have died so far due to an outbreak of plague in Madagascar. According to the World Health Organisation, Madagascar witnesses about 400 cases of plague every year. However, this year infections have started much earlier and are spreading from remote rural areas to cities  as well.

Most cases were pneumonic plague, a dangerous and severe infection of the lung. It is highly infectious and can be transmitted through air by coughing and sneezing. It invades the lungs and can lead to death within 24 hours.

156 cases were attributed to bubonic plague, an infection that is transmitted by rats and spreads to humans through flea bites. It can be very painful and causes fever, headache, chest pain as well as swollen lymph nodes.

While both forms of plague can be treated it is important to detect the illness at an early stage and get medical help to people as soon as possible. The WHO has helped with millions of doses of antibiotics. The International Red Cross has set up treatment centres  throughout the island. In addition the government has been supplying people with masks and has closed down schools.

Madagascar, with a population of 25 million,  has witnessed outbreaks of plague since the 1980s, usually during the rainy season between November and March.  Officials fear that this time the disease  might not be contained and could spread to many regions of the country.

The most deadly plague in history occurred in Europe in the 14th century.  About a third of the continent’s population when  killed as sailors brought the infectious disease from Asia.

International Red Cross  parcel arriving at a treatment centre
International Red Cross parcel arriving at a treatment centre

Words

  • according to = as reported by
  • antibiotic = medicine that is used to kill bacteria and cure infections
  • attribute = to believe that something is caused by …
  • century = a hundred years
  • chest = front part of your body between your neck and stomach
  • contain = to stop something from spreading
  • detect = discover, notice
  • dose = an amount of medicine that you should take
  • due to = because of
  • flea = very small insect without wings that bites animals and people and eats their blood
  • in addition = also
  • infectious = disease that can be passed on from person to person, mostly by air
  • invade = here: attack
  • lymph node = small round swelling in your body with liquid that helps fight off infections
  • occur = happen
  • official = person in a high position in the government
  • outbreak = when something suddenly starts
  • remote =  far away
  • rural = in the countryside
  • severe = very bad
  • spread = move from one place ot another
  • supply = give
  • swollen = larger than normal
  • throughout = all across
  • transmit = to pass on to another person
  • treat = cure an illness with medicine and other drugs
  • treatment centre = place where people can come to in order to get medicine
  • witness = experience ; see something happen
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) = international organisation which helps countries improve health care  by giving people medicine and providing information about diseases