Malala Yousafzai Returns To Pakistan

Malala Yousafzai, a 20-year-old female human rights activist, has returned to Pakistan for the first time since being shot by Taliban extremists. She was attacked and shot in the head on a school bus in 2012 because she had been demonstrating for western values and more education for girls. Malala kept a diary about girls’ life under Taliban rule. It was turned over to the BBC and made public.

Yousafzai’s arrival in Pakistan and her itinerary of the four-day visit was kept secret by Pakistani police. Ms Yousafzai said that it had been her wish to come back to Pakistan and speak with ordinary citizens there.

After the attack six years ago Malala Yousafzai was transported to the UK where a bullet was removed from her head. She recovered fully and is now studying at Oxford University.

In 2013 Yousafzai appeared before the United Nations, where she received standing ovations for her courageous action. In 2014 she became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Since then the young activist has been the figurehead of the Malala Fund, an organisation which raises money to help girls and young women in need of education.

Yousafzai’s return to Pakistan has not been welcomed by everyone. Although she has many supporters in her home country Pakistan, the country’s male-dominated society has criticized her for actively fighting for female rights.

Especially fundamentalists and conservative men are against her and have organised hate campaigns on the internet. Many say that women do not need education and should maintain their traditional role in the household.

 

Malala Yousafzai in 2015
Malala Yousafzai in 2015 – Image: Simon Davis/DFID

Words

  • actively = here: not just talking but doing something  or taking action
  • although = while
  • appear = here: to hold a speech
  • arrival = when you come to a place
  • attack = to hurt someone with a weapon
  • bullet = small piece of metal that comes out of a gun when you shoot
  • citizen = person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • courageous = brave
  • demonstrate = to protest for or against something in front of many people
  • especially = above all
  • figurehead = someone who is the leader of a movement or organisation
  • fully = completely
  • fundamentalist = someone who follows religious laws very strictly
  • extremist = someone who has very radical opinions about politics and society
  • hate campaign = things that a person does in order to harm someone they don’t like
  • human rights activist = a person who fights for basic rights that everyone should have
  • in need of = who need
  • itinerary = a list of things you want to do or places you want to visit
  • maintain = keep up
  • make public = publish; show to everybody
  • male-dominated society = country where men are more important than women and have more power
  • Nobel Peace Prize = prize that is given each year to a person who has done important work to make the world a safer and more peaceful place
  • ordinary = normal
  • raise = collect
  • receive = get
  • recover = to get well again
  • remove= take out of …
  • rule = government
  • secret = here: known only to a few people
  • standing ovations = people get up and clap their hands loudly to show that they like what you have said or done
  • supporter = person who wants to help you and shares your opinions
  • Taliban = group that took control of most of Afghanistan in 1997. They are known for following Islam very strictly.
  • traditional role = here: what they have always done
  • welcome = to be glad about something
  • western values = the way people in western countries live and what they think is good  or bad

 

 

 

MH370 – A Plane That Went Missing 4 Years Ago

One of the greatest mysteries of aviation history happened on March 8, 2014. Four years ago Malaysia Airlines MH370 went missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The plane left its programmed flight path and headed south towards the Indian Ocean. During the last four years, several search teams have tried to locate the missing plane, but up to now, it hasn’t been found.

The Malaysian Boeing 777 with 239 passengers on board disappeared from ground station radar screens but flew on for another six hours.  Nobody knows what happened during this time. The last known location of MH370 was somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean near Australia. A few parts of the plane were washed up on Africa’s east coast and on islands in the Indian Ocean

Australia, China and Malaysia have taken part in hi-tech search operations that covered a total area of 120,000 square kilometres and cost  $200 million. Now, another search is being conducted by an American firm.

Investigators speculate on what may have happened on board MH370. Some experts state that there may have been some kind of mechanical failure while others consider a sudden loss of oxygen in the cabin and cockpit. Officials do not rule out the possibility of the pilot crashing the plane deliberately in unknown waters.

Aviation inspectors say that it is important to find out what happened to MH 370 in order to prevent such an accident from happening again.

 

Search operation for MH370
Search operation for MH370 – Image: US Navy

Words

  • aviation = the science of flying an airplane
  • conduct = carry out
  • consider = think about
  • cover = stretch = reach from one place to another
  • deliberately = on purpose; if you really want to do something
  • disappear = here: to be lost; not seen
  • firm = company
  • flight path = the course an airplane takes
  • ground station = here: building that watches and has contact with planes
  • head = to go in a certain direction
  • inspector = person who checks to see if something is done the way it should be
  • investigator = person who has the job of finding out what caused the accident
  • hi-tech = with the best and most modern technology
  • locate = to find out where something is
  • loss = to lose something
  • mechanical failure = an object or a machine on board the plane did not work the way it should have
  • official = person in a high position in an organisation
  • oxygen = element that is in the air and which we need to breathe
  • possibility = here: something may have happened
  • prevent = stop from happening again
  • programmed = here: the course it should have taken, according to flight computers
  • radar = machine that uses radio waves to find where something is and watch its movements
  • several = some
  • speculate = to guess about the possible causes or effects of something without knowing all the facts and details
  • sudden = something happening quickly
  • unknown = not known
  • wash up = when something drifts from the open sea to the coast

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

Nepal Bans Solo Mountain Climbers

In an attempt to reduce the number of accidents and make climbing safer, Nepal has banned solo mountaineers from climbing Mount Everest and other peaks. In addition, beginning in January 2018, all foreign climbers will need a guide. The new law also prohibits blind and double amputee climbers from trying to reach the top peaks.

More than 200 people have died in an attempt to reach Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, since 1920. The majority of deaths have occurred within the last 40 years. Recently, an 85-year-old mountaineer died in an attempt to be the oldest human to reach the top of Mount Everest. Two Europeans died while making a solo climb last spring.

Although mountaineers die for a number of reasons, almost every fifth death is caused by acute mountain sicknessAuthorities have announced that they will check medical certificates of climbers to see if they are physically capable of such a demanding task.

In addition to more safety, Nepalese authorities hope that the new law will create more jobs for mountain guides in the country. The government will also give Everest climbing certificates to high altitude guides and workers hired by foreign climbers.

Local citizens have welcomed the new law, but some officials fear that banning physically handicapped people from climbing could get them into conflict with human rights organisations.

According to statistics, 4,800 climbers have reached the top of Mount Everest since Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary’s historic climb in 1953.

Mountaineer in Nepal -
Mountaineer in Nepal – Image: McKay Savage

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • acute = an illness that comes very quickly
  • although = while
  • announce = to say officially
  • attempt = try to do something
  • authorities = organisation in a government that controls and decides certain things
  • ban = stop; forbid
  • capable = able
  • create = make
  • demanding task = activity that is very difficult to do
  • double amputee = someone who has lost both legs or both arms
  • foreign= from another country
  • guide = a person who shows you the way
  • high altitude = very high place
  • hire = to pay money to a person for a job they do
  • historic = when something important happened in history
  • human= person
  • human rights organisation = organisation in which people fight for the basic rights that everyone should have, like the right to vote or freedom of the press
  • in addition = also
  • law = rule, regulation
  • local citizen= person who lives in the region
  • majority = most of
  • medical certificate = piece of paper you get from a doctor or hospital that shows you are fit to do something
  • mountaineer = person who climbs high mountains in their free time
  • occur = happen
  • official = person who is in a high position in an organisation
  • peak = the highest part of a mountain
  • physically handicapped = person who cannot use parts of their body because of an accident or illness
  • prohibit = not allow
  • recently = a short time ago
  • reduce = lower
  • sickness = when you are ill
  • welcome = to be in favour of

IOC Bans Russia from Olympic Games

The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from taking part in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Russian officials are not allowed to take part in the opening ceremony and the Russian flag will not be raised.

Russian athletes, however, will be able to take part as individuals under a neutral flag if the IOC has determined that they have been clean athletes in the past.

The decision comes after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed that Russia was guilty of systematic doping during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. In a case of state-sponsored doping, officials tampered with urine samples to hide athletes’ drug abuse.  More than 20 Russian athletes, among them some medal winners,  have been disqualified from the final Sochi results.

The whole investigation into the doping claim started when Grigory Rodchenko, director of Russia’s   anti-doping lab in Sochi 2014, defected to the United States. He stated that the country ran an official doping programme and switched samples during the Games.  Doping was especially widespread in sports like biathlon and cross-country skiing.  A report by the World’s anti-doping organization (WADA) stated that between 2012 and 2015 a thousand Russian athletes in 30 sports benefited from the programme.

Although many countries welcomed the IOC’s decision, it was sharply criticized in Russia. Some officials urged the country not to allow any of its athletes to take part in Pyeongchang Olympics. Russia would have ranked first in the Sochi medal table, but lost 13 medals because of the scandal, 4 of them in gold.

Vladimir Putin congratulates Alexandr Zubkov at a ceremony for Russian athletes during the Sochi Olympic
Vladimir Putin congratulates Alexandr Zubkov at a ceremony for Russian athletes during the Sochi Olympics. Zubkov is one of several Russian athletes who lost his medals because of doping. Image: www.kremlin.ru

Words

  • although = while
  • athlete = someone who takes part in a sports competition
  • ban = an order that does not allow a country to take part
  • benefit = something that helps you get better
  • biathlon = event in which athletes ski across fields and then shoot a rifle
  • claim = to say that something is true even if you have not proved it
  • clean athlete = an athlete who has not taken any illegal drugs
  • confirm = to say that something is true by giving proof
  • cross-country skiing = a race in which you ski-across fields
  • decision = order
  • defect = to leave your home country to go somewhere else, mostly because you have something to be afraid of
  • determine = find out the facts
  • disqualify = to take athletes out of the official results
  • doping = the practice of using drugs to improve performance in sport
  • drug abuse = here: taking drugs illegally
  • especially = above all
  • guilty = to do something that is not allowed
  • however = but
  • individual = here: a single person, not part of a country’s team
  • investigation = here: when organizations try to find out the truth about something
  • medal table = list that shows the number of medals that each country has won
  • official = person in a high position in an organisation
  • opening ceremony = the first event at the start of the Olympic Games
  • raise = put up
  • rank = the position in a table
  • sharply = very strongly
  • state-sponsored = the government knew about doping
  • switch = replace, exchange
  • tamper = to change something without permission
  • urge = to strongly suggest that you do something
  • urine samples = yellow liquid waste that comes out of your body; by examining urine experts can see if there are any illegal substances that  an athlete has taken
  • welcome = to be in favour of the decision
  • widespread = common

Did the Indus Valley Civilisation Grow Without a River?

Many great civilisations in history developed along rivers.  Up to now, historians have assumed that one of the oldest civilisations grew on the banks of the Indus River and its tributaries. Now, scientists may have found proof that people settled in the region after the Indus River had changed its course.

Archaeologists and scientists who have been working the region took probes from dried up river beds.  They found out that water hadn’t run through the Indus Valley for over 8,000 years. That means that when people started settling in the area about 5,000 years ago there was no river.   In addition, some ancient sites were found in the old river bed, which would not have been the case if a river had been flowing through it.

According to experts, the people who lived during that time may have got their water from yearly monsoon rains. There may have also been underground water supplies that they accessed.

Other great cultures used the advantages of a river to bring water to their fields and as a means of transporting goods throughout the region. That happened in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Historians point out that civilisations do not necessarily need to be near a river in order to grow. In fact, not having a river nearby may have advantages as well because people would not have to deal with regular floods.

 

Archaeological ruins along the Indus River in Pakistan
Archaeological ruins along the Indus River in Pakistan – Image : Junhi Han

Words

  • access = use
  • according to = as said by …
  • advantage = good side of something
  • Ancient Egypt = old civilisation that grew along the Nile River thousands of years ago
  • ancient site = a place where something was built a long time ago
  • archaeologist = person who studies old societies by looking at what is left of buildings or the objects that people made at that time
  • assume = think that something is true although you can not prove it
  • bank  = land along the side of a river
  • course = path
  • deal with = handle a problem
  • develop = grow
  • flood = when an area of land becomes covered with water
  • goods = products
  • historian = someone who studies history
  • in addition = also
  • means of transporting = what you use to bring things from one place to another
  • Mesopotamia = area in western Asia along the River Tigris and Euphrates; in ancient times the world’s first cities were built andan advanced  civilisation developed there
  • monsoon = rainy season in India and southeast Asia; it lasts between April and October
  • not necessarily = when you don’t really need something in order for  something else to work
  • probe = rocks from an area
  • proof = facts, information or documents  that show that something is true or has happened
  • river bed = the ground at the bottom of a river
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • settle = to start living in a place for the first time
  • supply = something that you need and use every day
  • tributary = a small river that flows into a larger one

 

Plague May Have Entered Europe in Prehistoric Times

According to recent scientific research conducted by Germany’s Max Planck  Institute, the plague was in Europe as far back as the Stone Age. When scanning the remains of 500 prehistoric skeletons, scientists found plague bacteria in six individuals. The samples come from Russia, Germany and the Baltic countries.

The deadly bacterium came to Europe during the mass migration of people who moved from Central Asia eastwards about 5,000 years ago. The findings suggest that the disease came to Europe in waves during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Some experts think that people may have been moving eastwards to escape the bacterium.

Most of the people at that time were nomadic farmers who travelled with their livestock. Animals may have harboured the plague bacterium and helped spread it.

By analyzing the bacterium scientists hope to find out how it evolved and became more deadly over periods of time.

The plague was responsible for many mass killings in history.  The deadliest was the Black Death which occurred in Europe during the 14th century and killed about a third of the continent’s population.   It still causes deaths in certain areas of the world. Recent outbreaks in Madagascar have killed hundreds of people.

Stone Age people may have spread the plague from Central Asia to Europe - Image: Gugatc
Stone Age people may have spread the plague from Central Asia to Europe – Image: Gugatchitchinadze

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • bacterium, bacteria  = some living things, some of which cause illnesses or diseases
  • Baltic countries = Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
  • Bronze Age = time between  6,000 and 4,000 years ago when bronze was used for making tools
  • century = a hundred years
  • conduct = do, carry out
  • disease = illness
  • escape = get away from
  • evolve = grow; develop; change
  • harbour = here: to have something in them that is dangerous
  • livestock = animals such as cows, sheep, goats that are kept on a farm
  • mass migration = when many people leave their homes, often  in order to escape from a dangerous situation
  • Neolithic = the last period of the Stone Age, about 10,000 years ago, when people started to live in small groups
  • nomadic = people who travel from place to place  instead of living in one place all the time
  • outbreak = when something suddenly starts to happen
  • plague = deadly disease that produces high fever and swollen places in the body; it often leads to deaths of a large number of people
  • prehistoric = time in history before anything was written down
  • recent = a short time ago
  • remains = what is left of a body
  • research = to study a subject seriously so that you can find out more about it
  • responsible = the reason for something
  • scan = look at something carefully
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • spread = take from place to place
  • suggest = imply; to say that something is probably true
  • Stone Age = early time in human history when stone was used for making tools

China Overtakes US in Number of Supercomputers

For the first time in history, China has overtaken the United States in the number of supercomputers.  Currently, China has a total of 202 of the world’s 500 fastest computers, up from 159 half a year ago. The number of US supercomputers has dropped to 144.

The world’s most powerful computer is located in China. The Sunway  TaihuLight ,  at Wuxi can do 93 quadrillion calculations per second. The fastest US computer, the Titan, is ranked fifth while Europe’s speediest computer is Switzerland’s Piz Daint, ranked third.

Supercomputers are machines that occupy entire buildings and use the combined power of thousands of processors. They are used to carry out special tasks that involve a huge number of calculations.  Among them are weather forecasts and climate studies, as well as strategic tasks like nuclear weapons simulations.

Chinese supremacy in the world of supercomputing reflects the country’s  investment in research and development. One-fifth of the money used on research and development around the world is spent in China.

On the other side, many Chinese systems have been created to earn money. Processing power is rented to other national and international companies.

For years the speed of supercomputers has steadily increased although since 2012 this increase has slowed down.

 

America's Titan2  - Supercomputers
America’s Titan2 Supercomputer – Image: Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Words

  • although = while
  • calculation = here: a single task
  • combined = everything  put together
  • create = make
  • currently = at the moment, now
  • drop = go down
  • entire = whole
  • huge = very big; very many
  • investment = to use money for special things
  • involve = need
  • located = can be found
  • nuclear weapons simulation = here: software that tries to find out how nuclear bombs will affect the world and its population if they are used
  • occupy = use up; need
  • overtake = to be better than
  • processor = central part fo a computer that deals with commands and the information you give it
  • quadrillion= the number one followed by 24 zeros
  • ranked = position in a list
  • reflect = show, demonstrate
  • rent = let someone use something for money
  • research and development = to study special fields and use new ideas to create new things
  • speediest = fastest
  • steadily = slowly
  • strategic = here: about the military
  • supremacy = being number one or the best in the world
  • task = piece of work
  • weather forecast = a description of what the weather will be like in the next few days

Singles Day Achieves Record $25 Billion

Singles Day is the biggest e-commerce day in the world. Organized by China’s Alibaba, shopping sales on November 11 hit a record $25 billion,  40% more than on Singles Day 2016. In contrast, Prime Day, organized by Amazon achieved only $1 billion in sales. During the Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend of 2016 American online shoppers spent $5 billion.

Singles Day started out as an informal holiday in China, celebrating people who stayed single. Similiar to Valentine’s Day in the western world Singles Day took place on 11/11 .  In 2009, Alibaba turned it into a shopping holiday and in the past 8 years, sales have steadily increased.

Although the event targets mostly Chinese customers, shoppers came from  220 countries.  Over 80 brands took part in the event, with Nike and Xiaomi Corp. among the biggest winners.  Household goods and electrical appliances were the most bought products, but customers sought bargains for almost everything, ranging from cheap toilet paper to rice.

At its peak Alibaba’s computers handled 250 000 transactions per second, most of them coming in via mobile phones. In the weeks before the event was held, Alibaba had helped  600,000 companies upgrade their computer systems to make them fit for Singles Day.

The event was also turned into a gala in Shanghai where celebrities Nicole Kidman and tennis star Maria Sharapova counted down the seconds until the world’ largest sales event started.

Many critics of the event say that Singles Day is environmentally controversial.   It creates an enormous amount of wasteAccording to Greepeace, 1 billion packages were delivered in the days that followed the event.

Alibaba’s Singles Day is a display of Chinese spending power. The company’s owner, Jack Ma, is one of China’s richest men. He has been investing heavily in new technologies including automated stores which use facial recognition systems.

Singles Day in China
Singles Day in China – Image: Chrionexfleckeri1350

Words

  • according to = … as said by
  • achieve = here: reach a number of sales
  • automated = where everything is done automatically, without people helping
  • although = while
  • bargain = to buy something cheaply, for less money than usual
  • billion = a thousand million
  • brand = type of product made by a company
  • celebrate = here: in honour of, to show respect for
  • celebrity = famous person
  • controversial =  here: to cause a lot of disagreement
  • critic = a person who is against something
  • customer = a person who buys something
  • deliver = to bring to a person’s home
  • display = to show something
  • e-commerce = buying and selling things with computers over the Internet
  • electrical appliance = things you use at home and need electricity, like a cooker or washing machine
  • enormous = very large
  • environment = nature and the world around us
  • facial recognition = when a computer image of a person can find out who they are
  • handle = deal with
  • heavily = very much
  • household goods = things that you need in the house and use every day
  • in contrast = the difference between two things
  • including = also
  • increase = to go up
  • informal = not official
  • record = highest
  • sales = buying and selling products
  • seek – sought = look for
  • steadily = slowly
  • target = people who the event aims at; potential customers
  • transaction = here:  the sales of a single product
  • upgrade = here: to give a computer more power, so that it can do more things
  • via = by way of, through
  • waste = unwanted things that you throw away and don’t need any more

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