World’s Fishing Fleets Tracked From Space

For the first time, global fishing activity has been tracked from space. The data collected shows that 55% of the world’s oceans are used for commercial fishing, four times the area that is used for farming. In contrast, fish provides only 1.2% of the world’s food. 

According to the data, China is the world’s top fishing nation. In 2016 Chinese vessels spent 18 million hours catching fish on the high seas, travelling a total of 460 million km.

The fishing fleets of 5 countries (China, Spain, Taiwan Japan and South Korea)  account for more than 85%  of the world’s fishing.

Almost half of the total catch comes from the high seas, where industrial ships fish for tuna and shark. Smaller fleets stay near coastal areas.

The data was collected over a period of four years from 22 billion automated emergency radio signals of over 70,000 ships.  Although it is not totally accurate because smaller boats are not required to use tracking signals, it does show where most of the fishing takes place. Special software was used to generate maps that show where fishing is most intensive, such as the northern Atlantic and northwestern Pacific Ocean.

The study also shows that the biggest influences on fishing come from political and cultural activities. Environmental problems, seasonal differences or the changing of ocean currents do not affect fishing that much.

British fishing vessel
British fishing vessel

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • account for = to form a certain part of something
  • activity = things that people do
  • accurate = exact, perfect
  • affect = change
  • although = while
  • automated = here: created automatically
  • billion = a thousand million
  • catch = the fish that are caught at a certain time
  • coastal areas = near land
  • commercial fishing = here: ships catch fish and process them so that they can be sold to customers
  • data = information
  • emergency radio signal = every ship sends  signals to show where they are in case something happens to them
  • environmental = about nature and the world around us
  • fleet = the ships that belong to a country
  • generate = produce
  • global = worldwide
  • high seas = the parts of the ocean that are far away from land
  • in contrast = on the other side
  • influence = the power to affect or change something in a certain way
  • intensive = here: where most of the activity takes place
  • map = drawing of an area that shows where something is
  • ocean current = the movement of water in the world’s oceans
  • provide = offer, give
  • required = need to do or have something
  • seasonal = referring to the seasons
  • space = outside the earth; here: from satellites that orbit the earth
  • track = to follow the movements of an object
  • tuna = large sea fish caught for food
  • vessel = ship

 

EU Plans To Recycle All Plastic Waste by 2030

The European Union has released plans to recycle all plastic by the year 2030. It wants to ban all types of plastic that can only be used once. The measure comes as a  consequence of China’s decision to ban imports of foreign plastic that is to be recycled in in the country. Currently, the EU exports half of its collected plastic,  most of which goes to China.

The European Commission also plans to reduce plastic waste that is washed up on North Sea, Atlantic and Mediterranean shores. According to the new proposal, it will be illegal to dump plastic waste in the open seas.

Although the EU does not want to introduce a tax on plastic yet, it does aim at the development and production of new kinds of plastic that can be recycled in Europe. EU countries produce 25  million tons of plastic every year but only a fourth is recycled. It takes plastic hundreds of years to degrade.

The EU wants to invest 300 million euros to develop better plastic materials. The new strategy aims at making plastic recycling more profitable

While the production of one-time-only usable plastic items, like drinking straws, coffee cups and takeaway packaging is to be reduced, families should also be persuaded to cut down on plastic usage altogether.

Non-EU countries are also considering cracking down on plastic. Some countries have already started to tax the use of plastic bags. Iceland has announced that it will ban all plastic packaging for domestic products.

 

Plastic waste
Plastic waste

Words

  • according to = as planned by…
  • aim = hope to do something
  • although = while
  • announce = to say something in  public or in front of the media
  • ban = forbid
  • consequence = result of something that has happened
  • crack down on = to become more strict about dealing with a problem
  • currently = now; at the moment
  • cut down on = reduce
  • decision = choice you have made after thinking about something
  • degrade = when a material or substance changes into a simpler form
  • development = designing and producing something new
  • domestic = made in your home country
  • dump = here: throw something away at sea
  • European Commission = central organisation in the EU that has certain tasks to do
  • illegal = against the law
  • item = product
  • measure = action that should deal with a problem
  • persuade = to make someone decide to do something and give them reasons for doing it
  • profitable = to make more money out of something
  • proposal = plan or suggestion made by a group of people
  • recycle = to use over and over again
  • reduce = lower
  • release = announce; to say something in front of people and the media
  • shore = coast; where land meets the sea
  • tax = here: money you must pay to the government if you use or buy something
  • takeaway packaging = here: the packages that are used to put takeaway food into
  • usage = using  a product
  • wash up = here: to land on …

 

Ford To Invest $11 Billion in Electric Cars

The Ford Motor Company has revealed plans to invest over $11 billion dollars in the development and production of electric cars by 2022. The announcement was made public at the Detroit Motor Show.

The American carmaker plans to produce 16 fully battery-driven vehicles and 24 hybrid cars by 2022. At the moment the Focus is the only Ford car that can be driven by batteries alone.

Apart from producing electric-driven cars for the North American market, Ford also aims at increasing sales to China, the largest growing car market in the world. In addition, it wants to become the world’s leader in fuel-efficient trucks. The car producer also plans to bring a battery-driven SUV on the market by 2020.

Instead of creating completely new electric vehicles from scratch, Ford wants to electrify cars that are already popular because people will know what they get and buy more easily.

Automobile manufacturers around the world are under pressure to develop electric cars because many large countries, including China, India, France and the U.K. have said they would phase out vehicles powered by internal combustion engines within the next two decades. They also face fierce competition from companies like Tesla, a car-maker that specialises in innovative technologies.

As battery costs are going down rapidly, carmakers may find it easier to produce electric cars with higher mileage and at cheaper prices.

 

The electric version of the Ford Focus at an Amsterdam automobile show
The electric version of the Ford Focus at an Amsterdam automobile show – Image: Overlaet

Words

  • aim = target , plan
  • announcement = official statement
  • apart from = other than
  • battery-driven = run by a battery
  • billion = a thousand million
  • competition = trying to be more successful than other companies
  • decade = ten years
  • development = working on a new product
  • electrify = make electric
  • fierce = here: strong
  • from scratch = to start something from the beginning without using anything that has existed before
  • fuel-efficient = car that burns fuel in a more effective way than usual; it does not need as much fuel as others do
  • fully = completely
  • higher mileage = here: to make an electric car that can travel more miles or kilometres before you have to recharge it
  • hybrid car = a car that has both a petrol or diesel engine and an electric motor
  • in addition = also
  • innovative = new way of doing something; often better than existing methods
  • instead of = in something’s place
  • internal combustion engine = engine that produces power by burning petrol or diesel; it is used in most cars
  • invest = spend money on …
  • make public = to say something for everyone to hear
  • manufacturer = producer
  • phase out = to slowly stop using or producing something
  • popular = well-known and liked by many people
  • production = here: making cars
  • rapidly = quickly
  • reveal = announce to many people
  • sales = selling cars
  • SUV = sport-utility vehicle = car that is bigger and is made for travelling over rough ground; mostly with a 4-wheel drive
  • under pressure = to make someone do something  by using arguments and threats
  • vehicle = a machine with a motor that is used to take people or things from one place to another

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

Equal Pay For Men and Women in Iceland

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

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

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

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

 

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

Words

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

China Bans Ivory Trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words

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

 

 

Cailfornia Legalises Marijuana For Recreational Use

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Words

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

 

 

Automation Could Cost Up To 800 Million Jobs

Up to 800 million people worldwide could lose their jobs because of automation. About half of them will have to learn new skills to get another job. In the United States alone, up to a third of the workforce could become unemployed within the next few decades. These are the results of a recent publication by McKinsey Global Institute.

Jobs that involve manual or factory work are the ones that are most at risk. People who work in social fields, the environment or management are less likely to lose their jobs. In countries with ageing populations, more jobs will be needed in health care.

The report says that there is no reason to panic because new job fields will emerge which will more than compensate the loss of traditional jobs. In addition, economic activity and rising productivity will also provide for more jobs.  However, workers will need to adapt to jobs more quickly than before and lifelong learning will be essential.

Artifical intelligence is already spreading quickly in some areas. Technological inventions, like self-driving cars, will become hugely popular within a decade. More jobs will be needed in the energy sector and people will find more work building modern infrastructure in cities.

However, governments around the globe will have to give support and spend money on programs to train workers for new tasks.

The report states that the situation today is similar to the beginning of the 20th century when agricultural societies became more and more industrialised.  The invention of the automobile contributed to this change. In the 1980s the computer revolution eliminated some jobs but created many others.

Automation in a German factory
Automation in a German factory – Image: KUKA Roboter Gmbh

Words

  • adapt = change; get used to
  • ageing = getting older
  • agricultural = farming
  • artificial intelligence = the study of how to make computers do intelligent things  that people can do, such as think and make decisions
  • automation = the use of computers and machines to do jobs that normally people do
  • century = a hundred years
  • compensate = replace
  • contribute = here: to play a major part
  • decade = ten years
  • economic activity = producing and consuming goods
  • eliminate = lose; do away with
  • emerge = come up, appear
  • environment = people and things that are around you in your life
  • essential = extremely important and necessary
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • health care = services that a country provides for its people
  • hugely = very much
  • in addition = also
  • infrastructure = the basic systems that a country or city needs, like railways, banks, schools etc..
  • invention = a useful machine that is created
  • involve = here: to be about
  • less likely = will probably not …
  • management = controlling and organising the work of a company
  • manual = with your hands and physical strength
  • productivity = the goods that are produced by workers in a certain time
  • provide =  give, offer
  • publication = when information is printed for everyone to read
  • recent = a short time ago
  • similar = like
  • skill = the ability to do something well
  • task = job
  • traditional = here: jobs that have existed up to now
  • train = here: prepare people for a new job
  • workforce = all the people in a country who can work
  • unemployed = without a job , out of work

 

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

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