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Topic Reading-Vol.994-12/31/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Missing planes and air disasters: How bad was 2014?
There was another disaster in aviation record just before the end of the year, Air Asia’s flight QZ8501. Because of the mysterious causes, such as two Malaysian Airlines 777 aircraft, one which disappeared in the Indian Ocean, presumably, and the other Malaysia Airline’s that was shot down over Ukraine by a missile, many might feel uneasy to travel by air. But is it true that 2014 was a year of aviation disasters?
It depends on how you look at the numbers of such incidents, number of casualties and also versus the number of total flights around the world, which significantly have increased of the last decade, particularly in Asia where there hadn’t been so many air accidents until recently.
Enjoy reading and learning how safe or unsafe air traveling is.


Topic Reading-Vol.993-12/30/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
How many penguins can you count today?
There are as many as 50 surveillance cameras in Antarctica to monitor the lives of penguins in Antarctica. And the scientists want you to help count number of penguins in the photos taken by those cameras. Why is it so important to count penguins?
As ice melting on and around Antarctica, the lives and future of penguins are threatened. It is getting more important to monitor and learn how those walking and swimming birds live more precisely to protect them from being endangered. In order to automate the process of counting how many penguins live or move in the monitor, there don’t seem to be any other viable options but to count them by human eyes first.
Enjoy reading and learning how important to count penguins in the photos to save them.


Topic Reading-Vol.992-12/29/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
China on track for world's largest subway
Which subway system is the largest in the world? The answer depends on which measurement you look at, such as the total length, number of passengers, or number of stations. Here is the list of subway systems in the world.
Subway, or metro, system is essential for metropolitan cities to transport people to one place to another and also to smooth the traffic congestion on the ground while not emitting as much carbon emissions as other means of transportation such as cars and motorcycles.
When you look at China where both traffic congestion and air pollution are the major problems, the speed of expanding its metro systems is much faster than any other part or history in the world. The total length of the subway systems there will reach over 8,500 kilometers by the end of 2014. In order to operate such huge public transportation systems, safety and security must be the top priorities.
Enjoy reading and learning about how China is trying to manage its growing transportation systems.


Topic Reading-Vol.991-12/28/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
North Korean defectors share their ordeals as pressure mounts
The world knows how cruel North Korean ruler is in indirect ways. But when the firsthand stories and experiences are told by the defectors, such blur image becomes real picture.
The UN, the International Criminal Court, and even a comedy movie The Interview whose characters are tasked by the CIA to assassinate the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, all accuse the world most closed and dictated country but no action has ever been taken or unlikely to be taken in the foreseeable future. Of course, the world and neighboring countries don’t wish to see another devastating war in the peninsula.
Read the article and see the video of the firsthand stories by the defectors.


Topic Reading-Vol.990-12/27/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Birds 'heard tornadoes coming' and fled the day before
How could birds sense extreme weather conditions? It has been said in Japan that catfish can sense an earthquake coming. Sometimes birds fly away to somewhere when nothing seems unusual to human’s eyes. Then, how come these little golden-winged warblers that weigh only less than nine grams flew hundreds of kilometers just in time to avoid the tornadoes that devastated their nesting area?
The researchers think that the deep rumble that tornadoes produce, infrasound whose frequency is well below what humans can hear, might have been sensed by the birds to take an such evasive action. If that is the case, humans may be able to develop something that hears or detects such infrasound, just like infrared, to warn occurrence of extreme weather conditions like tornados or thunderstorms or even an earthquake in the future.
Enjoy reading and learning about the latest finding of Mother Nature.


Topic Reading-Vol.989-12/26/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Spectacular Real Virgin Births
This might be a good topic to look at on the day after Christmas, or Virgin Maria’s giving birth to Christ. It seems real in some species such as snakes, reptiles, birds and even sharks. Though scientists still aren’t sure what causes or triggers the female to lay fertilized eggs fully capable of produce offspring, numbers of such cases have been observed and identified.
Does such self-reproduction process occur only under extreme situations where no other options available for the female? Are those cases are so rare?
Enjoy reading and learning what virgin birth is about and how much people know about it.


Topic Reading-Vol.988-12/25/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Pope Francis attacks 'diseases' of Vatican in Curia address
Bureaucracy in the highest office in Catholic? It seems that way according to the Pope’s remark in his annual Christmas address.
Ever since the return of the Popes from Avignon, France in 1377, Vatican has been the center of now 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world. That is nearly the same size as China’s population as well as India’s. So long and so huge the history and the size of the church to be run by humans that cannot be fair and faithful all the time. Thus, there is no wonder bureaucracy, favoritism, corruption or vainglory could be seen within the organization and among the priests who are working in the office.
Enjoy reading and learning about this harsh criticism to its own organization and people by the Pope in holly Christmas.


Topic Reading-Vol.987-12/24/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Orangutan in the Rain
Just enjoy seeing this once-in-a-lifetime shot. The photographer was taking photos of orangutans in Bali, Indonesia. Just about to leave the place, he spotted this little orangutan protecting itself from the rain. Actually, if you search “orangutan” and “in the rain”, you’ll find numerous photos like this. However, this one is just incredibly adorable.
Enjoy seeing the best photo of the year in the Sony World Photography Awards.


Topic Reading-Vol.986-12/23/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Obesity 'could be a disability' - EU courts rule
It’s a binding ruling by the European Court of Justice to all EU countries. Now, if someone is too fat to do a job properly, he or she can be regarded as disabled. It sounds fair to protect a person with excessive weight being discriminated or harassed by the employer, boss or coworkers. However, it could be a big hassle for businesses. If they are required to accommodate furniture and other settings only for certain people who aren’t cautious about their weight, it’ll not only cost a lot but could create unfairness with those who are trying to be fit and healthy.
Furthermore, do those who are obese want to be labeled “too fat”?
Enjoy reading and learning what could this ruling indicate.


Topic Reading-Vol.985-12/22/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Dalai Lama concedes he may be the last
Who is Dalai Lama? He is the head monk of the "Yellow Hat" school of Tibetan Buddhism. The first Dalai Lama was enthroned in the 15th century and the 14th and current one was named in 1950. He was forced to exile to India in 1959 when Chinese troops crushed an attempted uprising in Tibet. He has lived abroad ever since but still held the title and passion as the spiritual leader of Tibetan people.
He turns eighty in 2015 and now thinks it may be the time to decide whether or not to continue the centuries-old tradition because of the current Tibetan situation.
Enjoy reading and learning what the 14th or the last Dalai Lama think about Tibet and China.


Topic Reading-Vol.984-12/21/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Hollywood's complete moral surrender
It is just an action-comedy movie yet has become a national security matter. Here is a brief storyline. When an actor and producer run the popular celebrity tabloid TV show, they discover that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is a fan of the show. So they land an interview with him in an attempt to legitimize themselves as journalists. As they prepare to travel to Pyongyang, their plans change when the CIA recruits them to assassinate Kim Jong-un. 
But a hacking group threatened the production company for potential harm should they distribute the already produced film and leaked their sensitive information to the public. Then movie theaters pulled back and the production company gave up the release.
Is that film so different from Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” which was released in prior to Hitler’s aggression?
Enjoy reading and learning about this latest threat to the entertainment industry.


Topic Reading-Vol.983-12/20/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
'New chapter' in US-Cuba ties
Is this part of detent, which is a word has seldom mentioned since 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. For the last half century, the two neighboring countries that lay only 300 kilometers apart have never had official diplomatic or economic exchanges. Suddenly on December 17th, 2014, both of them released their long-term captives to back their respected homeland as a sign of normalizing the relationship.
It is also interesting to know that they’ve been unofficially meeting in Canada and Vatican before the announcement. It sounds like an undercover dating arrangement, doesn’t it? It is also said that Pope Francis acted as an angel for the two.
Enjoy reading and learning how significant and historical this new move is.


Topic Reading-Vol.982-12/19/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
No weddings, no funerals: China decrees new rules when singing national anthem
"March of the Volunteers" is China’s national anthem. It starts with “Arise! All those who refuse to be slaves!” Naturally, it doesn’t sound appropriate to be sung at funerals because no one wants the dead to open the casket to arise. Does it sound inappropriate for wedding or commercial events?
Chinese government, or the ruling party, seems to want the march sung more appropriately. No alteration to the melody, lyrics or musical arrangement is allowed. No interruptions should be made while it’s being sung. Singers should dress appropriately, stand still and be full of energy, according to the government. This could mean people who are sick in bed or on a wheelchair shouldn’t sing their anthem.
What is their intention? Enjoy reading and learning about this latest decree by Chinese government.


Topic Reading-Vol.981-12/18/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Pakistan's 9/11, Taliban attack Pakistani school
They seem to have been over allocating their troops and resources against an external enemy, India. Now it is clear that their main enemy is within their own territory and own people, Taliban, which have killed thousands of the soldiers, police and civilians over the past decade. Ironically, Pakistani military in the past supported them in the hope of establishing a regime in Afghanistan which would be favorable to them.
After several attempts had been made to establish a peace deal which never lasted long, Pakistani military initiated a campaign June 2014 to demolish this monster they had created and supported. Now the monster struck back and killed over a hundred school children.
What will be the next move? How will their allies and international community help their fight against one of the most dangerous and notorious extremists on the planet?
Enjoy reading and learning how Pakistan has been dealing with Taliban on their soil.


Topic Reading-Vol.980-12/17/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Embrace the luxurious slow life with Japan's answer to the Orient Express
It’s not five but seven. That is the number of stars this train offers to lucky travelers who have won the lottery to get tickets to board.
This Japanese version of the Orient Express is created and operated in the most southwesterly island of Japan where there are numbers of hot springs are volcanos are seen and local traditions are still in place. Those 30 passengers who won the lottery, 21 applications per berth, can enjoy luxurious cabin and services, magnificent scenery, slow local lives, relaxing hot springs and local delicacies for two or four day trip.
Enjoy reading the article and seeing some photos of this rare luxury in Japan.  


Topic Reading-Vol.979-12/16/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Xi attends China's first memorial ceremony for Nanjing Massacre victims
In 1931, Japan invaded northeast China. Then in 1937, it started a full-scale invasion all over China and captured Nanjing, then China's capital. There, over 300,000 Chinese soldiers and residents were murdered by Japanese troops, according to the Chinese announcement,
77 years after the massacre, China’s top leaders suddenly decided to designate Dec. 13 as the National Memorial Day for Nanjing Massacre Victims to mourn those war crimes as well as to convey the Chinese people's stance for world peace.
There is something clearly shown in Xi Jinping’s speech at the ceremony. He mentioned that the intention of the commemoration is to remember the severe crimes committed by aggressors lies with a few militarists but not to blame on Japan or Japanese people.
Enjoy reading and learning how China is voicing criticism over the war crime and calling for world peace after all these years.


Topic Reading-Vol.978-12/15/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Kiribati: The world's next Atlantis?
Always the weak are the ones who suffer the most from any wrong doings or negligence. People in this tiny Pacific island haven’t emitted even the one tenth of the greenhouse gasses that have been emitted in developed countries that lie far away from them. But they are forced to pay for it.
The rising sea level by the climate change
Kiribati is one of the six Pacific Island countries most threatened by rising sea-levels, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The coastlines are eroded, infrastructures are sunk, and fresh water is contaminated. Many of the residents have had no choice but to move to other islands nearby, which made the capital city the most densely populated place on earth.
Now, they are not only calling for help but also fighting to stop the cause of the problem which they are not responsible for.
Enjoy reading and learning about this big problem in a small island.


Topic Reading-Vol.977-12/14/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Royal twins born in Monaco
What is Monaco? It is a city state surrounded by France and the Mediterranean Sea. Although it is one of the smallest states in the world with mere 36,000 or so residents, it is famous for the comfortable climate, wealth and F1 race. The official name is Principality of Monaco, which is reigned over by a prince. The incumbent prince is Albert II.
On the 10th of December 2014, the royal couple announced on their Facebook that they had twin babies, a girl and a boy who came out two minutes after his sister. The prince also has two children born out of wedlock in 1992 and 2003.
Who do you think is the first heir to the throne in this situation in Monaco?
Enjoy reading and finding who the next prince/princess in the little principality.


Topic Reading-Vol.976-12/13/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Malala and Kailash Satyarthi receive joint Nobel award
It seems that the Nobel Peace Prize award has two aspects, recognition and expectation.
Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, a 60-year old Indian children’s right campaigner, and Ms. Malala Yousafza, a 17-year old Pakistani education activist for children, were jointly awarded the prominent prize.
Mr. Satyarthi has rescued tens of thousands of children from hazardous industries despite death threats to him and loss of two of his colleagues.
The other recipient, more known by her given name Malala, was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in 2012 in the bus for campaigning for girls' education. She has been campaigning even harder getting more support from the world since her recovery from the wound.
Their homes are two neighboring countries, India and Pakistan, which have been in fights and disputes continually since the middle of the last century. The Nobel Committee seems to have hoped this dual peace prize recognition could help dissolve or ease the tension between them.
Enjoy reading and learning about the latest recipients of the prominent awards.


Topic Reading-Vol.975-12/12/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Inequality 'significantly' curbs economic growth – OECD
Is it just income inequality? According to research by the organization of the developed countries reports the gap between the rich and poor has been widening for the last two decades. It also suggests that the income gap has been affecting economic growth.
Then what is causing such unfair distribution of wealth and what could be effective countermeasures to the problem? Education. A lack of investment in education seems to have been the key factor behind this rise in inequality. The fewer educational opportunities are, the lower job qualifications or social mobility is. It seems the earlier the better to start investing on education.
Enjoy reading and learning about this rising trend of income inequality.


Topic Reading-Vol.974-12/11/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Family planning policy dilemma unraveled
How much does it cost parents to have another baby? That seems to be still a question in China where the famous “one-child policy” is still in place despite the announcement made to loosen it in the near future. Parents who have violated the policy are imposed heavy fines. A famous movie director was fined as much as US$1.2 million, when he admitted that he has his second and third children. Does it sound rational in order to be fair to the couples who have been abiding by the policy?
The controversial policy has been implemented since the 1980s to curb the population growth at a time over-population was the main concern. Now, because of the effect and success (?) of the policy, the world most populous country is facing an imbalanced demography and aging at much faster pace than predicted.
Enjoy reading and learning about the dilemma China is facing in its own domain.


Topic Reading-Vol.973-12/10/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Hotter, weirder: How climate has changed Earth
Will future generations be angry at the today’s negligence or ill conducts to deal with the climate change? The numbers don’t lie. For the last two decades since the world leaders first met and identified the possibility of the climate change, humans have simply made the situation worse instead of tackling the potential problems. There are numbers that show, not just suggest, the change in the climate of the mother planet; global temperature has increased by six-tenths of a degree, population has been up 1.7 billion, sea level has risen 3 inches, and much more disastrous extreme weather s.
While the wise, world leaders, politicians and business leaders are all aware of the problem and potential consequences, a little has been done, and not so much is expected to be done in the foreseeable future. It seems too difficult for human beings to give up something convenient to their lives.
Enjoy reading and learning more sure facts of the climate change.


Topic Reading-Vol.972-12/9/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
New smartphone app promises easy eye testing worldwide
It seems that simple devices and smartphone app could create breakthroughs in various fields and practices. Credit card reading device and app is one of such corroborations. It made small business operators become capable of accepting credit cards much more economically and conveniently than ever before even without fixed communication line. Here is another eye-opening example to be looked at. It’s a simple and yet it is going to change the way eye-experts look at eyes of people having difficulty in eye-exams especially in remote locations. It’s a smartphone app and low-cost adaptor that enables professional eye examinations anywhere in the world. It doesn’t require any other heavy and clumsy equipment or battery power, which means neither extra labor nor facility is required to conduct a test. An expert says that 80 percent of the blind could be detected and avoided if proper eye examination is made.
Enjoy reading and learning about another breakthrough by smartphone!


Topic Reading-Vol.971-12/8/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
South Korea approves cigarette price hike
Forget about Christmas presents or New Year’s gift money. South Korean smokers are rushing to stock up their cigarette inventory before a huge price hike on New Year’s Day.
An 80% price increase was approved by the parliament with the aim of reducing the male smoking rate down to below 30% by 2020 from current 43%, which is the highest among the developed countries.
The price of a pack of cigarettes is going to rise from 2,500 won to 4,500, about the same price for two litters of gasoline, a Big Mac meal in McDonald's or a Twister meal from KFC.
The new comparable price doesn't seem so extreme compared to the ones in other developed countries but it’s a significant hike for Korean smokers.
Besides stoking up their favorite cigarettes, they have two options. Maintain the number of cigarettes to light a day by cutting the budget on other items or consumption, or quit or reduce smoking. Though the impact of the price hike looks substantial, the effect remains to be seen in the next few years.
Enjoy reading and learning about the challenges for 43% of male adults in Korea.


Topic Reading-Vol.970-12/7/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Five myths about Pearl Harbor
63 years ago today was the day of Pearl Harbor attack. While Japanese remember the eighth of December, 1941 was the day of the attack, it was the seventh for Americans and the international community because of the International Date Line which lies just in the west of Hawaii.
Though neither the US base nor the fleet seemed to have prepared for the attack, it has been popular myth, like the assassination of JFK, whether the US had predicted the attack or detected the move of the Japanese Imperial fleet.
Also, other significant surprise offensive moves were taken place on the day and on by Japanese army and navy in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and other islands.
Enjoy reading and learning what happened on the historic day.


Topic Reading-Vol.969-12/6/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Stunning geometric shapes appear in snow on frozen, isolated lakes
Aborigines aren’t the only ones that enjoyed drawing on something won’t last so long. An Oxford educated former engineer seems to have been enjoying foot-crafting on snow-covered lakes and mountain sides. How a man makes foot crafting? He designs and makes snow drawing by his footsteps, which usually takes as long as 30 kilometers walk in half a day before taking phots of it. The photos are posted on Facebook and followed by hundreds of thousands.
Why does he do that? He seemed to have started it simply to pass the time but found it more challenging and enjoyable, and made it his primary winter exercising.
What kind of shapes on snow? Enjoy reading and seeing this beautiful art on snow!


Topic Reading-Vol.968-12/5/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Death and the goddess: The world's biggest ritual slaughter
Are gods really happy with animal sacrifices? An estimated up to 10,000 buffalos and 150,000 goats are offered to Gadhimai, the goddess of power, during this year’s Hindu ritual in Nepal. Those poor animals are slaughtered by special knives by 400 experts who are licensed hack those sacrificed animals during the two-day event. Some of these animals have been imported from India, on foot without food. By the time such scape-buffalos and scapegoats are gathered to the slaughter place, they are nearly dead. It was even worse in the last event in 2009 where more than 20,000 buffalos and 200,000 goats were sacrificed.
The government is afraid of stopping such practice as nearly 80 percent of the citizens are Hindus in the country. Animal rights activists have been advocating this massive animal killing event and successfully have reduced the number of the animals being killed this year. However, it seems like a long way to either abandon this practice or replace animals with farm produces.
Enjoy reading and learning about this unthinkable animal slaughter even for the goddess.


Topic Reading-Vol.967-12/4/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Secrets from a Japanese master: How to make sushi
Which type of sushi, do you like Nigiri-zusi, Makizushi, Chirashizushi, or Ohizushi? Whatever the type is, the key to make good sushi is how you prepare rice and ingredients, and how to make good harmony between them.
You may be surprised to know that seafood is very seasonal and regional. Even the same fish is sometimes called differently, depending on the size, fat containment, and texture of the meat. These factors vary depending on when and where you catch it.
But you needn’t to be afraid. As the sushi chef in the text says, everyone can make good maki-rolls at home. So, enjoy reading and go ahead and stuff it!


Topic Reading-Vol.966-12/3/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Media workers support smoking ban on screen
Will China be the first smoking-free country on screen? If this legislation is implemented (no need to pass the parliament as it’s a one-party ruled country), China may become the first and most aggressive country to restrict smoking scenes on any type of screens in movie theaters, TV sets, and even smartphones. It does sound like a rational move towards modern, environmentally friendly and health conscious society.
But what are movie directors saying who might worry about losing their artistic appeal or touch especially when they shoot historical scenes? Surprisingly, some of the renowned directors are officially and publically supporting the idea on state-affiliated media.
Then what about the ones already in the market or videos that have smoking scenes in? That still remains to be seen until the legislation is finalized.
Will this move make Beijing’s air clearer?
Enjoy reading and thinking how soon such strict regulation will be implemented in other countries.


Topic Reading-Vol.965-12/2/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
'I couldn't move': Patients who wake up during surgery
It would be much worse than a most horrifying nightmare; to become conscious during a surgery. It is called anesthetic awareness. The unfortunate patient doesn’t feel pain physically but psychologically devastated as his or her mind becomes fully conscious on the operation flat but the body is fully in asleep. To make the situation even worse, the surgeon who is performing the operation can hardly recognize the patient’s awareness. As a result, some of the patients who had such an experience are badly affected psychologically and could suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, for a long time or even ever.
Though, there don’t seem to be a sure solution to this accidental awareness during surgeries, it seems to help patients avoid being paralyzed if they are warned or advised that such awareness could occur but there is no need to worry.
Enjoy reading and learning about this not-so-rare phenomena during surgeries.


Topic Reading-Vol.964-12/1/2014

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
What makes space travel so dangerous?
Space travel or research doesn't seem to require just finance and technology. You need to be physically and mentally rigorous enough to conduct daily two-and-a-half hour exercise on top of routine tasks and months of rehabilitation after the mission. That is because human bodies aren’t made for zero or micro gravity environment.
Also, the farther the space one stays, the more radiation and cosmic rays he or she is exposed to because there is no or very little shield by earth’s gravity in space.
So if you could afford a stay in space or trip to Mars in the near future, would you be willing to take such a challenge?
Enjoy reading and learning how severe staying in space is and how comfortable living on earth is.