Traditional Sports in Britain on Boxing Day

Boxing Day, the 26th of December,  has become a traditional day of sports in the UK, with many events taking place all across the country.

The day got its name from a time when many upper-class families gave boxes of gifts to poor people who had to work at Christmas while everybody else was celebrating. Boxing Day is celebrated in many Commonwealth countries.

The first important sports event on Boxing Day took place back in 1860 when two of the oldest football clubs in England played against each other. Today the Englisch Premier League schedules a full round of matches on this Christmas holiday. In many cases, teams that are geographically close to each other play on Boxing Day so that fans do not have that far to travel.

While most European football leagues take a winter break, sometimes for several weeks, English football continues between Christmas and New Year.

The holiday schedule is welcomed by many football fans, but there are critics however who say that the Christmas season is a time when everybody should be at home with their families. Some managers point out that the season is very long and major teams need a break for players to recover from injuries.

Football is not the only popular sport that is played on  Boxing Day. Horse racing and rugby have also seen regular sports events on the second day of Christmas.  Traditional fox hunting is opposed by more and more Britons. In addition, Boxing Day has become one of the strongest betting days of the year.

 

Traditional King George VI chase on Boxing Day
Traditional King George VI Chase on Boxing Day – Image: Carine06 , https://www.flickr.com/photos/43555660@N00/8315710432/

Words

  • betting = when people risk money on the results of games  or future events
  • break = pause; a time during which you have no games
  • celebrate = to have fun or do something special
  • Commonwealth = group of about 50 countries that were once a part of the British Empire
  • critics = people who think that certain things are not good
  • everybody else = all the other people
  • gift = present
  • however = but
  • in addition = also
  • injury = when a part of your body gets hurt
  • major = important
  • manager = someone who is in charge of and coaches a football team
  • oppose = to be against
  • point out = to say something that is important for you
  • Premier League = the 20 best football teams of England an Wales which play against each other
  • recover = to  get better
  • schedule = to plan something for a certain time
  • traditional = something that has existed for a long time
  • UK = United Kingdom
  • welcome = to be glad that something happens
  • winter break = time during which teams do not play because it is too cold or there is too much snow on the ground

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

Da Vinci Painting Sells For Almost 500 Million

Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Christ was sold for $450 million at an art auction at Christie’s  in New York. It was more than double the price of any art object ever sold.

The painting, Salvator Mundi,  is one of the rare masterpieces of the Renaissance painter. Created at around 1500 it is one of 20 da Vinci paintings still in private possession.

Salvator Mundi was once owned by King Charles I  of England in the middle of the 17th century.  The painting was believed to have been destroyed until it resurfaced in 1900.  In England, it was sold for a mere $125  because art experts at the time thought it was a worthless copy, either done by one of da Vinci’s followers or students. Even today, the painting’s authenticity is still in doubt.

After being restored several times, a Russian billionaire bought the painting in 2013. The new owner intends to remain anonymous.

The oil painting shows the upper body of Jesus Christ as the world’s saviour. In one hand he holds a glass sphere in, while the other hand is raised in blessing.

Currently, there is only one da Vinci in the United States. Ginevra de’ Benci can be observed in public at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

 

Da Vinci's masterpiece "Salvator Mundi"
Da Vinci’s masterpiece “Salvator Mundi”

Words

  • anonymous = not known by name
  • auction = a public meeting where paintings and other things are sold to the person who offers the most money
  • authenticity = the quality of being real or true
  • billionaire = person who has one thousand million dollars, euros etc..
  • in blessing = with the help or protection from God
  • century = a hundred years
  • Christie’s = famous auction house in New York
  • currently = now, at the moment
  • destroy = to damage completely so that you no longer can use it
  • in doubt = here: it may not be real
  • in public = where everyone can see it
  • intend = want to be
  • masterpiece = a work of art that is of very high quality or the best of a famous artist
  • mere = only
  • observe = see something
  • own = possess; if something belongs to you
  • possession = something that belongs to you
  • raise = hold up
  • rare = not found very often
  • Renaissance = period of time in Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries, when art, literature and scientific ideas became very important
  • restore = repair, so that it appears like it once was
  • resurface = to appear again after being lost or missing for some time
  • saviour =  a person who saves someone in a dangerous situation – here: Jesus Christ
  • sphere = shape of a ball
  • worthless = without any value , cheap

Russian Revolution – One Hundred Years Ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words

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

 

 

Vatican Bans Cigarette Sales

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

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

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

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

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

Words

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

Protestantism Celebrates 500th Anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Martin Luther
Martin Luther

Words

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

Estonia – A Digital Society

Estonia is a small Baltic state with a population of 1.3 million. Despite its size it is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world and has been creating a digital society since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In Estonia, citizens are allowed to do most things online.  Every inhabitant has a unique ID card that they use for a number of purposes.They can file tax returns, get medical prescriptions  and manage their health records online. They can pay for a parking ticket via mobile phone and don’t have to go to a registration office when a child is born. Parents can check their children’s grades  and communicate with teachers. For many years Estonians have been able to vote online.

In 2014 the small Baltic country started a new digital initiative. It allows non-citizens to become digital residents for 100 euros. The government wants to bring qualified people to the country because the working population is steadily decreasing. The country desperately needs new programmers, web developers and media experts. Up to now 20 000 people from other countries have applied for digital citizenship.

Many countries, among them Finland and Japan are trying to copy Estonia’s digital society. However, authorities point out that the country’s smallness is an advantage. Such a system may not work very well in larger countries with millions of people.

Digital Summit in Estonia
Digital Summit in Estonia – Image: Anna Piperal

Words

  • advanced = very modern
  • advantage = here: something that helps you to be successful
  • apply = to make a request
  • authorities = the people who are in charge of a government organisation  or department
  • Baltic = region in the northeastern part of Europe
  • citizen = person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • collapse = breakdown , end
  • create = make
  • decrease = go down
  • desperately = very much
  • despite = even though
  • file tax returns = here: to send information  on how much you have earned to the local government; it then tells you how much tax you have to pay
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • health records = information about your health
  • however = but
  • ID card = small plastic card that has information about a person
  • inhabitant = a person who lives in a country
  • initiative = a new plan
  • point out = to show something that is important
  • population = the number of people living in a country
  • prescription = a piece of paper on which  the doctor writes down what medicine a sick person should take
  • purpose = what something is needed for
  • qualified = with special skills and talents
  • registration office = place where you have report to when a baby is born or someone dies
  • resident = a person who officially lives in a country
  • society = people in general and the way they live and work together
  • size =how large the country is
  • smallness = not large in size
  • Soviet Union = largest Communist country that existed between 1922 and 1991
  • steadily = slowly
  • unique = being only one of its kind
  • via = by way of , through

 

Ocean Wind Farms Could Give Energy To Everybody

Winds and storms in the Atlantic are so strong that wind-powered turbines in the Atlantic Ocean could provide the whole world with clean energy. Energy experts now claim that ocean wind farms  can produce three to five times more energy than wind turbines on land. Over water wind speeds are up to 70% higher.

Winds on land create friction because of mountains and buildings. They slow down as they move inwards . In addition, turbines are built closer together, which takes some of the wind speed away .

Winds are especially strong across the northern Atlantic Ocean because of differences in water temperature. When the warm Gulf Stream moves up the North American coast it mixes with cold water in the northern Atlantic. This leads to higher storm activity and more winds, especially during the winter months.

Norway’s energy company Statoil has been operating floating wind turbines in the shallow North Sea for over a decade. These are connected via cable to the ocean floor.  In order to make them work  in the deep sea , however, they must be attached to vertical poles that have massive weights in the water.

One of the biggest problems that face ocean wind farms is transporting energy from the deep sea to land. Energy companies , like Statoil, are looking for high-wind areas that are closer to shore.

While wind farms on land are becoming more  and more common, production costs of running them are becoming lower. In the near future wind energy is expected to become one of the cheapest alternative energy sources .

Europe is the number one wind energy producer at the moment. Every year, about 12 gigawatts of energy are produced by wind power, whereas in America green energy from wind is still in its infancy. If  produced more effectively, the solution to the world’s energy problems may lie in ocean wind farms.

 

 

Offshore wind farm in the North Sea
Offshore wind farm in the North Sea – Image : Harald Pettersen / Statoil

Words

  • alternative energy source = energy that does not come from fossil fuels, like, coal, oil or gas
  • attach = fix, connect to something
  • claim = to say that something is true even if you cannot prove it
  • coast = where land meets the sea
  • common = widespread, popular
  • connect = fix or tie to something
  • decade = ten years
  • deep sea = far away from land
  • Gulf Stream = warm water that flows to Europe from the Gulf of Mexico
  • effectively = here: to produce more with less money
  • especially = above all
  • face = deal with, manage
  • float = to move on water without sinking
  • friction = when something rubs against a surface
  • gigawatt = one thousand million watts
  • in addition = also
  • infancy = at the beginning
  • inward = here: away from the sea
  • massive = very big
  • provide = give
  • shallow = not deep
  • shore = land near the coast
  • speed = how fast something is
  • turbine = energy or motor  in which pressure pushes a wheel around
  • weight = a very heavy object
  • whereas = on the other side

 

 

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

90% Vote For Independence in Catalonia

Over 2 million people voted in Sunday’s referendum on whether Catalonia should become an independent state. The government of the province has claimed that over 90% were in favour of breaking away from Spain. Before the referendum took place , Spain’s Supreme Court ruled that the vote  was unconstitutional.

The Spanish government in Madrid sent thousand s of policemen and other security officers to Catalonia to stop people from voting. Police in Barcelona and other towns fired rubber bullets at protesters and tried to stop people from going to schools and other public buildings used as voting stationsHundreds of people were injured, many of them seriously.

About 7 million people live in Spain’s northeastern province. Catalonia has its own language and  culture. In the past decades it has received more and more autonomy. However, Catalonian separatists still want independence and their own country.  They say that the region is a rich part of Spain and keeps pouring money into poorer parts of the country. Catalonia is highly industrialised and represents about a fifth of Spain’s GDP.

The European Union fears that Catalonia may declare independence on its own and trigger a political crisis on the Iberian peninsula. This may lead to the rise of other nationalist movements, for example in Scotland or Belgium.

People protesting for an independent Catalonia
People protesting for an independent Catalonia – Image : Manifestació Som Una Nació, Nosaltres Decidim! 13

Words

  • autonomy = the right to have your own parliament and make some decisions on your own
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • decade = ten years
  • declare = to say officially
  • GDP = gross domestic product = the total value of all the goods and services that a country produces in one year
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • Iberian peninsula = southwestern part of Europe, made up of Spain and Portugal
  • independent = free
  • in favour of = to be for something
  • injure = hurt
  • nationalist movement = group of people who want to the region to become an independent state
  • pour = here: give
  • receive = get
  • referendum = when people vote in order to decide on a certain subject
  • represent = here: to have a share of
  • rubber = a soft material, usually used to make tires or boots
  • security officers = people who are responsible for the safety of others
  • separatist = person who wants to break away from his home country and become independent
  • Supreme Court = the highest court in a country
  • trigger = start
  • unconstitutional =  not allowed by the set of rules that a country is governed by
  • voting station = place or building where people can vote