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Topic Reading-Vol.719-3/31/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Catching a yawn is linked to age, study shows.
Do you tend to yawn when others do? It seems that most people haven’t recognized that many do, especially the young, just like laughing or smiling.
A new research has found that yawning seems to be more contagious, just as laughing, than tiredness or energy levels. In other words, when someone yawns for whatever the cause is, people around the person tend to yawn. You might have observed or experienced such contagious effect in a meeting or classroom, especially among young people. But why?
It may be because the human tends to act more as a member of the group rather than as an individual.
Enjoy reading and learning about how people react to others’ behaviors.


Topic Reading-Vol.718-3/30/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Busting the myth of France’s 35-hour workweek
How long do you want to work a week? If you work from nine to six with an hour lunch break, you work for eight hours a day, 40 hours a week and 1,920 hours a year (48 weeks). That’s about the average work hours for US and Japanese workers. Countries where shorter work hours are set by law such as France or Germany, they work fewer hours, or they are paid overtime payment.
It is often said that people in northern European countries are industrious and those who live in the south are easygoing. However because of the border-removing effort by EU, people’s lifestyles across Europe seem to have been chagned. Instead of having an over-an-hour lunch break, more professional workers take their sandwiches or take-out meals at their desks and work even after five. It seems that the more globalized the world is, the more converged work requirements, practices are styles are.
Enjoy reading and learning about the changes in work practices in Europe.


Topic Reading-Vol.717-3/29/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Hippo saves gnu from crocodile
Very amazing! A gnu, a kind of antelope in Africa, was bitten tightly by a croc near the shore of a muddy river and was slowly dragged into the water. And that very life-or-death moment, a group of hippos appeared to save the poor gnu by threatening the predator! Even more amazingly, they not only scared the croc to give up its prey but also guided the gnu to get out of the peculiar water safely! Why they did that?
Enjoy seeing these very rare photos of animal saving operation by hippos, especially the cute and kind-looking eye of the giant animal in the last photo.


Topic Reading-Vol.716-3/28/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Xi urges PLA modernization
Any country in the world save just a few has armed forces to defend its country and people. But when a country, especially one of the two world leading countries says they need to modernize and build up its military to protect its core interests, it threatens the neighboring countries, especially the ones that have disputes over waters and borders.
During China’s top legislature, the National People's Congress, the country’s, party’s and military’s top Xi Jinping urged the military leaders to further and rapidly strengthen and modernize the military capabilities and forces to protect the nation’s core interests. What are the core interests of China that need to be protected? What drives them to further expand its military power that has been increasingly reinforced for the last decade in a speed that no other country has ever done in history?
Enjoy reading the article and thinking what could be their core interests to be protected and by who or what.


Topic Reading-Vol.715-3/27/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Elephants recognise human voices
The Elephant is no doubt the largest land animal on Earth. Then, what is the most threatening predator to them? Of course humans. So, they seem to have developed the sense to adapt to human threats, and not just to any humans but to specific ones, Masai men.
Researchers found that African elephants that live near Masai tribes react more defensively when they see the figures or hear the voices of Masai men than their women or children. More interestingly, they didn’t react as much when they heard men’s voice of a different tribe who mostly live by farming, not hunting like the Masai does.
Enjoy reading and learning how wild animals have been adapting themselves to the surroundings.


Topic Reading-Vol.714-3/26/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
How dangerous is sleep deprivation, really?
How long do you usually sleep a night? Do you always sleep enough? For most of you in most cases, it will probably never be enough because there are so many things you’ve got to do or fail to do, so that you need to stay up late or get up early.
However, sound and enough sleep seems no less important than healthy diet or exercises. Sleep deprivation no only bothers you but also embarrasses others during a meeting or classroom. It could put others in danger if you’re driving a car, even if you don’t fall in asleep because it affects your reaction time or judgment.
Then, how long is enough? It seems to vary by person, conditions and situations, and also the timing.
Enjoy reading and learning what sleep deprivation is about and how it affects you.


Topic Reading-Vol.713-3/25/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Taiwan's services agreement with China triggers concerns
You might have seen hundreds of students and protesters stormed the government headquarters and occupied them in protest at a bill that will bring closer trade ties with China. Why they are opposing so fiercely against a trade deal that could benefit more to the small island country than the huge mainland?
After what happened in Crimea, more people in Taiwan seem to become more afraid to increase dependency on the neighboring dragon, which intention is clearly officially and internationally reunify the two, or annex the island.
Enjoy reading and learning the sensitivity of the people in Taiwan.


Topic Reading-Vol.712-3/24/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Jordan: 10 reasons to visit the Middle East's most easygoing country.
Where is Jordan? It isn’t as popular as its bordering neighbors like Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Israel. You might have heard of the Dead Sea, where you can float in waters because of its rich mineral or enjoy hiking under 400 meters below sea level. But that isn’t the only attraction this Middle East kingdom offers the tourists. There you can enjoy the grand desert scenery, ancient monuments and its centuries-old Bedouin, nomadic cultures and traditions. Also, because of its relatively small population, Jordanians seem to be easier-going than others in Arabia.
Enjoy reading the article and seeing the photos of this unique desert country.


Topic Reading-Vol.711-3/23/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Cooking meat 'may be dementia risk'
What AGE? Advanced glycation ends, or AGEs, are chemicals that are formed when proteins or fats react with sugar during the cooking process. In short, when you grill or pan-fry meat, you also produce chemicals that could raise the risk of suffering from dementia.
A research showed that mice fed a high-AGEs diet had built more proteins in the brain and impaired cognitive function that is seen in dementia than those that were fed a low-AGEs food.
Although dementia is not a single disease but a non-specific syndrome, it affects cognitive areas such as memory, attention, language, and problem solving. One of the common and known forms of the syndrome is Alzheimer's disease.
Can we prevent dementia if we stop browning meat? Should we eat beef sushi rather than a steak?
Enjoy reading and learning about what a new research on AGEs has found.


Topic Reading-Vol.710-3/22/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
How to learn like a memory champion
Do you like to or have to remember new words at school or for work?
Remembering something, like phone numbers, new words and the spelling, isn’t as essential as it used to be because your phone, tablet or PC does or helps you do that. However, you still got to learn a lot of things particularly at school to be well-learned or achieve academic success. Are there painless or effortless ways to remember things than repeating new words over and over?
Memrise ( )is an organization that helps you remember things more easily with its website and apps. It was founded and managed by one of the memory champions who wanted to help others remember things like he does. Their approach has three basic disciplines to help improve memory functions, science, fun and community. Sounds tuned into today’s networked society doesn’t it?
Enjoy reading and learning how one can improve their memory like a champion.


Topic Reading-Vol.709-3/21/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
World's most expensive city is ...
Living globally, you may be interested in finding where in the world offers the best deals in terms of economy, the living cost. This by-annual survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, EIU, lists 131 global cities and compares the cost of living of living. To make the comparison as fair as possible, they use a certain internationally common living requirements. Their cost-of-living index takes prices of food, drink, clothing, household supplies and personal care items, home rents, transport, utility bills, private schools, domestic help and recreational costs. In other words, their index doesn’t necessarily show the actual living costs that the local residents bear with. The list shows the cost index all the cities surveyed including the least costly ones.
Enjoy reading and finding where you might be interested living in the future.


Topic Reading-Vol.708-3/20/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Sugar tax may be necessary, England's chief medical officer says
As reported in the previous issue, Volume 707, WHO is going to reduce the daily sugar intake target for the first time in 12 years. Now England, where obesity and overweight ratios are both among the highest in developed countries, is trying to find ways to reduce sugar intake in a practical and aggressive way. Tax on sugar, sounds old fashioned, doesn’t it?
Sugar seems addictive, or at least attractive, to the human brain’s reward circuits even in a smaller scale than drugs like cocaine. Many, even a very intelligent and logical adult, has to try to overcome this attraction at the end of a big meal when a desert menu or sample is presented, and often times, indulges in a short-time satisfaction and regrets the act later. So, it is more challenging for kids to give up sugar enriched carbonated drinks when they have a chance or access to one.
Will higher prices discourage kids to drink sugary drinks? How high is enough? Will more labeling on the bottle help consumers give up drinking it? Smokers may know the answer.
Enjoy reading and learning about the battle against obesity.


Topic Reading-Vol.707-3/19/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
WHO: Daily sugar intake 'should be halved'
How much sugar is enough or too much? Some may say he doesn’t eat any sugar. Another may say she doesn’t put sugar in her tea. But sugar is unfortunately and unknowingly contained in many of the foods and drinks sold and consumed, and the make the matter even worse, in tasty ones as you all know.
You don’t need a calculator to figure out how much sugar you put in your drinks or cooking. Also, you can easily imagine that cakes, sweets and sweetened drinks contain sugar, not to mention alcohol beverages. But there is also sugar that is naturally contained in ordinary food such as honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.
The World Health Organization (WHO) currently sets a daily sugar intake at10% of total calorie intake, which has been thought too high considering the mounting evidence of obesity around the world. The health organization now is now going to recommend the daily calorie intake by sugar to be less than 10%, with 5% as target.
Although 10% of something is relatively easily calculated, it isn’t so to measure how much sugar and calorie the portion of the food or amount of the drink you are taking. The new recommendation may simply put everyone into a dark cloud.
Enjoy reading and learning about how serious the calorie intake is.


Topic Reading-Vol.706-3/18/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Snake eats crocodile after battle
It’s hard to imagine the crocodile has any predators in the wild, save for armed humans.
Though the name Queensland sounds like a graceful place, the one in Australia is a home to some of the world's most dangerous snakes, as well as saltwater crocodiles. These photos taken by the local residents show astonishing battle between two predatory creatures, a croc and a python. Neither of them sounds like a prey for any other wild creatures, doesn’t it? But if such a battle ever happened, which one is the likely winner? And can you imagine how the winner eats the prey?
Enjoy seeing these amazing photos and learning how wild the wildlife is.


Topic Reading-Vol.705-3/17/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Huge US thermal plant opens as industry grows
If a renewable energy project provides “greater benefits,” will it override the impacts to the environment? Even if the majority of people agree with the logic, will they all agree with how the “benefits” are assessed and valued? The value and roles of wildlife and nature are very difficult to measure, especially in a long run. How much of the local wildlife or nature can be justified to be sacrificed to achieve a short-term environmental goal?
The newly opened gigantic solar thermal plant lies on the Mojave Desert near Nevada-California border. There aren’t so many trees or greens around the desert but unbroken sunshine throughout the year. There, 350,000 computer-controlled mirrors take the sun's rays and reflect them onto towers where water is heated to turn the turbines to generate power enough to light up 140,000 homes.
The project is the largest of its kind in America where coal, gas and oil still account for nearly 70 percent of the total power generation.
Enjoy reading the article and watching the video of this ambitious but controversial solar power project.


Topic Reading-Vol.704-3/16/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Globetrotters’ passion: Collecting maps
How much interest do you have in seeing or collecting old maps? Modern maps printed on commodity paper or posted online may be just disposable information. But when it comes to old maps that were handcrafted with full of imagination, they seem to earn high appreciation by collectors or viewers, just like paintings. With limited information, knowledge and accuracy, those century-old maps show art-like beauty to those who like imagining the places, people and things then. That is quite different from seeing Google Earth Map or Street View that show very accurate geographical and visual information of the site. It may be similar to the different way of traveling; just to get to the destination as quickly, comfortable and cheaply as possible just like traveling by air, or to enjoy seeing, resting and feeling things and people along the way by train or bus.
Enjoy reading and learning what old maps may offer you beyond information.


Topic Reading-Vol.703-3/15/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Is ‘Chinawood’ the new Hollywood?
It’s no surprise that China has already become the second largest market in box office sales only after the U.S. if you think about its population. But it may surprise you that there is a larger scale movie studio there than Hollywood’s Universal and Paramount studios combined. It is located in the south of Shanghai where there was nothing but rice fields before this mega project was launched by a farmer-turned-entrepreneur a quarter century ago.
Though the movie industry has been growing rapidly, it is still strictly censored and controlled by the state administration. The number of foreign films shown is limited. Any criticism or even a slight hint of criticizing the ruling Chinese Communist Party is out of question. As a result, most of all Chinese movies or dramas are about the past while foreign films show the past, present and future. Still, the quality of Chinese movies, effects and acts are getting better and drawing more audience in the most populous country and second largest economy.
Enjoy reading and learning about the rising industry in a rising country.


Topic Reading-Vol.702-3/14/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Kenneth Griffin makes largest gift in Harvard College history
What has made or moved this man to donate a large sum of $150 million to the college he graduated 25 years ago even though he’s as successful and wealthy as the school itself?
Griffin earned his bachelor’s degree at Harvard University in 1989 and founded his financial firms called Citadel the next year and has grown it to one of the most successful financial institutions. Though he has deep pockets, the amount he contributed is huge for a single person even for Harvard, which is given more money from its graduates than any other educational institution. And the money given seems to be very wisely used and invested. Of course, he’s a finance guy!
Enjoy reading and learning how the largest donation of its history is made in Harvard history.


Topic Reading-Vol.701-3/13/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
NASA discovers 715 new planets
Isn’t that incredible to find planets, not self-shining stars, thousands of light years away? How could scientists of astronomy find or figure them out?
They seem to have gotten a new gadget to explore the universe called Kepler space telescope. It was launched in 2009 to find planets similar to Earth that are in, or near, habitable zones. Habitable zones means the right distance from a parent star that could provide a moderate temperature to sustain water in liquid form, not solid or gas.
But how could they discover such small dark planets in the distance-away space? And how could they figure out whether those planets are habitable like earth?
Enjoy reading and learning about the new discovery of planets in our galaxy.


Topic Reading-Vol.700-3/12/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Learn From Students' Biggest High School Lessons, Regrets.
What is the topic for the 700th MEL School’s Topic Reading?
“Useful tips to choose your major or college.”
Many of Japanese students tend to decide which college to enter (should be study at or attend but “enter” sounds closest to their desire) based on how good their grades are, how close the standard deviation of their test scores and their desired college is, or how famous or highly regarded the college is. That’s because they and their parents still think which college they graduate from matters more than what and how well they study at college.
However, if you attend college, you’ll invest precious time and money. Furthermore, your future will be somehow determined or at least affected depending on what major you are going to take. Therefore, some studies during your high school days could widen your scope, gain different perspectives and explore new opportunities or options for your future. Talking to people or students, spending time or participating activities in your interested field might give you better idea what the job is like. Traveling foreign countries or meeting people with different cultural backgrounds might also help you open your eyes to the new world.
Enjoy reading and learning what college students regret for not having studied what to study.


Topic Reading-Vol.699-3/11/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
North Koreans vote in rubber-stamp elections.
Election in a solely dictated country? That’s what took place in North Korea on 9th March. Surprisingly, there are 687 electoral districts across the country and the unshakable leader Kim Jong-un is also registered as a candidate in one of the districts.
What happened if he fails to be elected? No need to worry. It is said that only one candidate runs for the seat, so the electors need to choose either “yes” or “no”, and the latter choice seems most unlikely to be seen even at nearly 100% turnout.
Enjoy reading and learning about a democratic political process in one of the most dictated states in the world.


Topic Reading-Vol.698-3/10/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
World needs pilots! Record growth leads to record need
Will air travels be as safe, comfortable, and punctual, if they are, as today in the next decades?
There will be 13,000 new commercial aircraft added to the globe by 2032. To fly that many new airplanes, nearly 200,000 new pilots are needed. Are there enough training facility and capacity in the market, not to mention the candidates who want to spend their life in the tiny cockpit?
Furthermore, in order to keep that many aircraft up in the air, about a half a million new technicians are required to maintain and service them. That seems more challenging than recruiting and training new pilots because those mechanics have to work outside day and night, any time of year, no matter how severe the weather or climate conditions are. It is also quite surprising to know that while it takes mere 18 months to train a copilot, which sounds amazingly short to most passengers, it requires 60 months to train a certified mechanic who can sign off a plane certificate for takeoff. And their pays and status aren’t as good as the ones of pilots.
Enjoy reading and learning about what sorts of shortages the commercial aviation industry is going to face.


Topic Reading-Vol.697-3/9/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Mozilla plans '$25 smartphone' for emerging markets
Which user category do you fall into, smartphone, feature phone, or just-talk-and-message phone?
The first category users are the ones who want to enjoy fashionable and slim all-in-one phones such as iPhone and Galaxy. They spend good money not only the device but also the communication fees.
Most of the just-talk-and-message phone users live in developing countries where other communication infrastructures are rarely available. These users are expected to step up to smart phones or things alike in the coming years.
Then what are feature phones? They are the ones may step up basic or first-time users to the next level with basic applications and functions. Step up is a good strategy to develop an emerging market where both the number and income of users are expected to increase for some time.
Enjoy reading and learning about what the feature phones like and which market segment the world mobile phone manufactures and OS providers are looking at.


Topic Reading-Vol.696-3/8/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
South Korea to develop Stuxnet-like cyberweapons
What is Suxnet? It was the first-known computer virus designed to target real-world infrastructure like power station, specifically Iranian nuclear enrichment plants.
Now, South Korea’s military is preparing to use a similar offensive tool to attack North’s nuclear facility as the second phase of their cyber operation strategies.
What is their first phase then? Propaganda. Even in North Korea where public media are strictly controlled, there are people who use social networking and social media services.
Will such malware to distort or disrupt social networking or disrupt infrastructures do just as it is intended to? Even though some countries’ sensor system detects and blocks unfavorable accesses or interactions, the Internet doesn’t respect state borders or isn’t always blocked by security guards. Therefore, any virus could spread around the world just in a matter of a blink or click. And what could happen if such malware is captured and altered by the hand of other cyber attackers? An attempt to secure regional peace could threaten global security.
Enjoy reading and learning about a new state-level cyber threat.


Topic Reading-Vol.695-3/7/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Japanese cuisine by region -- which is best?
Japanese archipelago consists of over 6,000 islands, which lie between latitudes 24° and 46°N, including semi-tropical Okinawa, main island called Honshu, and Russia-neighbored Hokkaido. Accordingly, its climate, cultures, dialects and lifestyles pretty much vary by region, not to mention the widely diversified local foods.
Furthermore, on top of variety of traditional Japanese foods and dishes, there are even more adapted local cuisines that originated in other part of the world, such as ramen noodles, pan-fried dumplings, and curry and rice. Some of such imported-and-adapted dishes are actually even more popular than traditional foods.
Here are 10 most popular local but are also nationally eaten Japanese cuisines. How many of them have you tried or are you attracted to try?
Enjoy seeing the gallery of 10 most popular local tastes.


Topic Reading-Vol.694-3/6/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
WhatsApp? 10 other things Facebook could have bought with $19 billion
What would you do if you had that much money? It may be too far off from the range of money that you usually think of earning, spending, paying or investing. 
Facebook, always one of the biggest surpriser in tech industry, made another big purchase to dress up their business. It’s buying a popular messaging service called “WhatsApp” for staggering 19 billion dollars. It is the largest purchase in tech industry. 
Now, what could you make, buy or enjoy for that amount of money should you decided to use it for something different?
Enjoy reading and seeing some other options you could take instead of paying the money to a message service company.


Topic Reading-Vol.693-3/5/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
In profile: 2014 Oscar winners
Which of these highly praised productions or whose outstanding act is your choice from all the films produced last year? Some people like seeing fantasy or romantic movies while others enjoy watching horror or action films. You may be impressed by skillful and masterly acts by a seasoned actress while the person sitting next to you in the theater may be excited by wild but appealing performance by a rookie actor.
The Academy Awards is an annual American awards ceremony for movies, also known as Oscar because of its famous statuettes given to the winners. There are other entertainment awards such as the Golden Globes for foreign and domestic productions, the Emmy Awards for American television, the Tony Awards for theater, and the Grammy Awards for music and recording.
Enjoy finding the winders of 2014 Academy Awards. How many of those nominated movies you saw and which ones will be on your must-watch movie list?


Topic Reading-Vol.692-3/4/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Are drones the next target for hackers?
A drone is a flying computer? Indeed it is.
If so, can drones be used as conveniently and economically as PCs or smartphones by anyone anywhere in the world? Actually, they are now and they will be more.
Drones aren’t limited to the US militaries’ surveillance and bombing missions. They’ve already been used commercially, such as rescue searches, site monitoring and even in farming, and are expected to deliver goods or mails to homes in the near future.
This means drones could be used for criminal purposes such as smuggling drags, delivering firearms, or stealing information.
Also, if drones are no more different from flying PCs, they aren’t fee from vulnerabilities like PCs have. They could be hacked to do unintended or malicious acts like infected PCs.
Enjoy reading and learning how convenient but vulnerable drones, or flying PCs are.


Topic Reading-Vol.691-3/3/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Shocking Surprise for Woman Expecting Identical Triplets.
Any idea how rare it is to have spontaneous quadruplets, four naturally conceived girls and/or boys born at the same time?
It’s mere one in nearly every three quarters of million births.
Then, what about having two sets of identical twins at a same time?
It’s just one in 70 million cases.
So, what if the four were identical, meaning they were all developed from just one embryo?
It is just unthinkably rare and un-calculable.
That is what happened to a Mississippi mom who gave birth to her four identical baby girls. To make this surprising incident even more newsworthy, the mother hadn’t known the coming of the fourth one until after delivering her three sisters.
In addition, the mother was just a day short to her 42nd birthday when her family expanded from three to seven. They will surely have big birthday party in every coming year.
Enjoy reading and learning about this surprising rare incident and its odds.


Topic Reading-Vol.690-3/2/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Panel: Japan should lift ban on collective defense.
Interpretation is a particular way in which something is understood or explained. When it comes to constitutions, which are usually written in general and philosophical language, heated and divided interpretations could be made.
After the last world war, no one in the world wanted Japan to take any military roles to or in other countries. Therefore, Japan adopted a pacifist constitution under the U.S. direction. Seven decades have passed and the roles Japan is expected to take in the international community and power balance in the region are changing. Although the country is contributing as high as 10% of the UN budget, twice as much as China and four times more than Russia, it is expected to play more active roles in UN peace keeping missions.
And there are other sensitive and critical issues surrounding the country as the power balance in military and economy are rapidly but steadily changing.
What and how much the pacifist country can or should do should be determined by how the constitution is interpreted or how it is defined?
Enjoy reading and learning about the recent Japan’s move to set its defense guidelines.


Topic Reading-Vol.689-3/1/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Cocoa-nomics: Why chocolate really doesn't grow on trees
Chocolate is loved by many and more around the world. Adding more middle-class populations in China and Asia, the demand for chocolate is increasing. If demand increases, the price should also rises unless the supply exceeds the pace. It sounds like good news and trend to the farmers in Ivory Coast in Africa where a third of world cocoa beans are produced. That’s true if they are paid more according to the price and such demand. But the truth seems to be far from it.
There is huge number of child labors who work for the bottom end of the supply chain that get the least or no benefit from the rising demand for chocolate. Those poor children seem to be living just to help farm and harvest cocoa beans to survive, none or little chance to be educated. It sounds like a problem for everyone who enjoys trading, producing, selling and eating chocolate but no one is taking responsibility for it. This situation makes even Willy Wonka look like a generous capitalist, doesn’t it?
Enjoy reading and learning about the very inside of your chocolate bar or hot chocolate.