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

 

 

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

Disney Plans New Streaming Service

Entertainment giant Disney has announced that it intends to start its own streaming service in 2019. Subscription prices will be much lower than those of  Netflix and other competitors but the new service will not be able to compete with Netflix as far as quantity goes.

In addition to showing films like Toy Story 4 and Frozen 2,  Disney is also planning the production of a new Star Wars trilogy, a Star Wars TV series and several Marvel movies. The company is also working on TV adaptations of Pixar’s Monsters, Inc.

Disney will also launch a new  ESPN streaming service next year. It will feature many sports events including Major League Baseball, soccer and others.

Netflix has been streaming Disney and Pixar content for several years. Now Disney wants to pull their own content from Netflix’s services. A survey conducted shortly after the announcement of the new streaming platform showed that two out of 10 Netflix subscribers were willing to switch to Disney.

The world’s largest streaming service has announced that it will spend up to $7 billion on their own productions in 2018. They hope that focusing on original content will make viewers stay on board.

Consumers will have a tough time choosing which service offers the best content. In some cases, they may have to have several accounts in order to watch all their favourite shows and films.

Disney will produce its own Star Wars films
Disney will produce its own Star Wars films

Words

  • account = here: an agreement that lets you use a service; you have to have a username and password to log in
  • announce = to say officially, in public
  • billion = a thousand million
  • competitor = here: a business that does the same thing and wants to have more success
  • conduct = carry out
  • consumer = person who buys something or uses a service and pays for it
  • content = films and TV shows
  • focus on = concentrate on; give special attention to
  • in addition = also
  • intend = plan; if you want to do something
  • original content = the films and TV series they produce themselves, not the ones they buy from other companies
  • quantity = here: the number of TVs shows and films that people can watch
  • streaming service = a service that shows TV shows and movies on the Internet  whenever you want to see them, not when they are broadcast on a TV channel
  • subscription = here: the money you pay every month in order to watch a streaming service
  • survey =  a set  of questions you ask a number of people in order to find out what they want
  • switch = change to another service provider
  • tough = hard
  • viewer = a person who watches a TV show or movie

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

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

 

 

 

More Amazon Rain Forest Destroyed By Mining

A recent survey , examining the years between 2005 and 2015, has come to the conclusion that more and more of the Amazon rain forest is lost due to mining operations. According to the government, most of these mining activities  are illegal and unregulated.

Brazilian environmental organisations  now say that mining is one of the major problems of the Amazon rain forest. Whereas earlier estimates put the destruction through mining at about 2% of the total area, experts now say that over 10% of rain forest loss is caused by mining. Most of the rain forest is cleared to create settlements for mine workers , as well as new transportation routes  and airports. Minerals mined in the Amazon region include iron ore, bauxite and copper.

The destruction of the rain forest through  mining is 12 times greater outside official and regulated  areas than within. In some cases  observers saw mining activity up to 70 km from a mine’s border.

Rain forests are essential to the planet’s climate. They bind carbon dioxide and provide a living space for many plants and animals . Since 2000 more than 190 000 square kilometres of the Amazon rain forest have been cleared.  The leading cause of deforestation is still farming.

Officials  also report that, for the first time in years, deforestation throughout the year has  actually decreased – by 16 % between  August 2016 and July 2017.  This is a result of more surveillance and stricter controls, but it is also caused by lower livestock prices on world markets.

 

Deforestation of the Amazon rain forest - satellite image
Deforestation of the Amazon rain forest – satellite image

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • bauxite = soft material that you use to get aluminium
  • bind = here: not let something escape into the atmosphere
  • border = the end of an area
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals and people breathe out  and when carbon is burned
  • cause = reason
  • clear = here: cut down trees
  • conclusion = to decide or say something, based on the information you have
  • copper = soft reddish-brown metal that lets electricity and heat  pass through easily
  • decrease = to go down
  • deforestation = the cutting down or burning of all trees in an area
  • destruction = here: cutting down all trees in the area
  • due to = because of
  • environmental = about nature and the world around us
  • essential = extremely important and necessary
  • estimate = to calculate how big something is using the information you have
  • examine = to look closely at a topic in order to get more information about it
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • illegal = against the law
  • iron ore = rock that has iron in it
  • livestock = animals, such as cows or sheep, that are kept on a farm
  • loss = losing something
  • major = very important
  • mineral = material in the earth that is valuable and which you can sell
  • mining = the work of getting minerals, like coal, oil or metals out of the earth
  • official = here: allowed by the government
  • provide = offer, give
  • recent =  a short time ago
  • settlement = group of houses created to live in
  • surveillance = when the police watch a place very closely because there may be something wrong going on there
  • survey = questions that you ask people in order to find out more about a topic
  • unregulated = not controlled or watched by the government
  • whereas = although, while
  • within = inside

 

 

More Billionaires in Asia Than in US

For the first time in history there are more billionaires in Asia than in the United States. But, the amount of wealth among American billionaires is still higher than in Asia. There are a total of over 1500 billionaires in the world today , 10 % more than last year.  According to a new business report, one new billionaire pops up every second day.

The overall wealth of American billionaires reached $2.8 trillion last year, while Asian billionaires accumulated a total of $2 trillion.  If the trend continues,   within four years , Asian billionaires will have overtaken America . The combined wealth of the world’s billionaires has  increased to over $6 trillion.

The new Asian billionaires come mostly from India and China. Most of them make their money in consumer industries and technology. Especially in China,  billionaires are younger than elsewhere. Some haven’t even reached the age of 30 yet.

The new billionaires in Asia are investing large sums of their money in sports. They are buying whole sports teams in their home country as well as in Europe. Art and museums are other areas of interest for the new billionaires.

 

Li Ka-shing, one of the richest people in Asia
Li Ka-shing, one of the richest people in Asia – Image: EdTech Stanford University School of Medicine

Words

  • according to … =  as reported by …
  • accumulate = to get more and more money over a period of time
  • amount = here:how much money in total
  • billionaire = a person who has more than a thousand million dollars
  • combined = here: all billionaires in the world together
  • consumer industries = factories and companies that make everyday things that people need
  • especially = above all
  • increase = to go up
  • invest = to buy or spend money on something because you will need it later on
  • pop up = appears, comes up
  • overall = total, all in all
  • overtake = here: to have more than others
  • reach = climb up to ; increase to
  • sum = amount
  • trillion = 1,000,000,000,000
  • wealth = the money or valuable things that a person owns

World’s Lowest Wine Production in Over 50 years

The world’s wine production in 2017 is expected to be at its lowest since 1961. Grape harvests, especially in the major European wine-producing countries, Spain, France and Italy , are low. Thanks to surplus production in the last few years there is  enough wine available and there will be no shortages for consumers. However, wine experts say this could lead to an overall rise in wine prices.

Global wine production is expected to drop by 8%  to 246 million hectoliters, which would be the lowest overall production since 1961. Italy and France have reported that their grape harvest will go down by 20 % each  in  2017. Spanish production is expected to drop by 15 %. Nevertheless, the quality of the grapes is expected to be very good.

Countries that have had normal or larger grape harvests, like Australia, Argentina and South Africa will profit from the low European production and be able to sell bring more of their wine on world markets.

The United States, the world’s fourth largest wine producer, has witnessed wildfires in California, the country’s number one wine-growing state. But they have not done any significant damage because the crops had already been harvested.

There are two main reasons for the poor harvest in Europe. Cold temperatures  and frost in early spring damaged many vineyards. Dry summers and long heat waves have also lead to a drop in harvest figures. In some areas the decline in production means that small wine-producing families are facing financial problems and sometimes even bankruptcy.

 

Vineyard in France
Vineyard in France

Words

  • available = something that can be bought
  • bankruptcy = if you are not able to pay the money that you owe to others
  • consumer = a person who buys products
  • damage = when somersetting is destroyed
  • decline = go down, drop
  • drop = go down
  • especially = above all
  • expected = thought to be
  • face = deal with a difficult situation
  • grape = small round green or purple fruits that are grown for wine
  • heat wave = period of time when it is very hot and does not rain
  • however = but
  • major = very important
  • nevertheless = in spite of what was just said
  • profit = to have an advantage
  • rise = go up
  • shortage =  not enough of something
  • significant = to have an important effect on …
  • surplus = more than what is needed
  • vineyard = a piece of land where grapes are grown
  • witness = see,  experience

End of Australia’s Car Industry

The last car , a General Motors Holden, has come off the production line in Adelaide, Australia.  It ends a 90-year long era of car manufacturing in Australia.  At its peak, the Adelaide factory built almost 800 cars a day .

GM Holden is a subsidiary of GM . The closure of Australia’s last car factory will not only leave almost a thousand workers without a job, but also endanger industries that produce parts for Australian-made cars.

Holden has been an Australian national symbol for many decadesThe company, which started out as a family business in the mid 19th century, was bought by General Motors  in 1931. In 1948 the FX Holden became the first car to be  mass-produced in Australia. By 1960, every second car manufactured in Australia was a Holden.  The company’s most popular car was the Commodore,  which was introduced in 1978.

Since World War II a number of foreign auto manufacturers, including Toyota, Mitsubishi have opened and closed car production plants in Australia. Ford shut down its last plant a year ago.

There are many reasons behind the decline of Australia’s car industry.  Through free trade agreements automobile makers no longer have benefits when producing in Australia. Other reasons are high wages and production costs   as well as  a small domestic market of 24 million.

As the  Australian dollar became stronger  the country’s exports became  more expensive. Holden cars became less competitive , while imported foreign cars were cheaper . Since 2001 Australia’s government has been pouring in  $ 5.5 billion into the car industry.

Even though Australia’s car industry has come to an end , the GM Holden will still be available from other manufacturing plants around the world.

GM Holden Caprice, produced in 2007
GM Holden Caprice, produced in 2007

Words

  • agreement = when people, companies  or countries promise to do something
  • available = it can be bought
  • benefit = advantage, help you do or get something
  • century = a hundred years
  • competitive = to be more successful than others
  • closure = to be closed
  • decade = ten years
  • decline = when something becomes less important
  • domestic = home
  • foreign = from another country
  • endanger = to put something in danger
  • era = period of time
  • foreign = from another country
  • manufacture = produce, make
  • mass-produce = to make something in large numbers so that it can be sold cheaply
  • peak = when it was most successful
  • plant = factory
  • pour = here: give
  • production line = products move along  a line of workers who make or check each part
  • subsidiary = company that is owned or controlled by a larger company
  • wages = money a worker gets every week or month

 

Gold Found in Switzerland’s Sewers

Researchers have found that 3 million dollars worth of gold lands in Switzerland’s sewage system every year. After taking a close look at Swiss waste-water treatment plants, they claim that over a hundred pounds of gold and 6,000 pounds of silver  are washed away with waste. However,  it would be too expensive to remove the gold from the wasted water.

Switzerland is a country that processes and refines gold on a large scale.  About 70% of the world’s most precious metal passes through Switzerland in some way or other. Gold is used especially in the country’s watchmaking industry, which dominates the world market.

Other valuable metals pass through the country’ sewage system, but they do not pose an environmental threat.

Most of the refineries lie in the southern canton Ticino, only a short distance from the Italian border.

Swiss watch
Swiss watch – Image: Joe Haupt

 

Words

  • border = line between two countries
  • canton = province of Switzerland
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • dominate = to be number one
  • environmental threat = danger to the world around us
  • especially = above all
  • pose = cause a problem
  • precious = very valuable
  • on a large scale = here: large factories refine large amounts
  • refine = here: to make gold purer
  • remove = take something away
  • researcher = person who studies a subject in order to find out more about it
  • sewage system = a place where waste water  from households is collected; the water is cleaned and returned into rivers or the sea
  • valuable = expensive
  • waste-water treatment plants = place where waste water from households is cleaned from unusable material
  • waste = unwanted material that we do not need