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Topic Reading-Vol.1328-11/30/2015

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
China to spend $438b on rail network in the next five years
Double the already world longest high speed railway system. That what China is determined to do for the next five years.
High-speed rail (HSR) in China refers to railway train service at the speed of 200 km/h or higher. It already has 20,000km long such services and is going to add another 23,000 kilometers over the next five years.
The speed is not only limited to how fast the train travels but how fast the railways will have been constructed. While it took over 50 years for Japan to build 3,000 km Shinkansen railways, China has completed 20,000 km only in eight years and another five years to double it. It was 1978, China’s Den Xiaoping visited Japan and took a ride on Shinkansen. He seemed to have been strongly impressed by then the world only high speed railway and might have left a message to the future leaders to build one.
The country with the world largest economy and mightiest military, the U.S. has ten aircraft careers but no high speed railway systems.
Enjoy reading and thinking what China will be like when you get your next smartphone.


Topic Reading-Vol.1327-11/29/2015

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How to never forget a name again
Are you good at remembering names? Which do you more clearly remember, the name or the profile of the person you’ve first met?
According to a phycologist, it’s more like a matter of how memories are stored in the brain, not because how forgetful a person is. The memories aren’t stored by the type or label such as the name, place or thing but by connection. That’s why you tend to remember more about what the person did in a certain occasion or how the person did something more than his or her name.
That seems to explain why people often remember vividly the story of a book or a character in a movie but have difficulty coming up with the title of the book or the name of the actor.
But how do elephants remember things so long? Are they so good associating one thing to another?
Enjoy reading and learning this interesting mechanism of human brain.


Topic Reading-Vol.1326-11/28/2015

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Elephants can blow to get food
Have a memory like an elephant? It sounds interesting to compare human memory to the one of an animal. But the biggest and heaviest land animal seems to be even more intelligent than others. Elephants can use their long trunk not only to fetch food but also to bring out-of-reach food to within its reach.
How do they do that? Blow it. But if the food is blown, it goes farther away, doesn’t it? That is why elephants are amazingly intelligent, at least the ones observed in a zoo in Japan. They were seen manipulating the blow to move the food closer to them. They seem to be able to figure out which direction, how strongly and how long they need to blow air. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? It’s actually more than amazing.
Enjoy seeing the video and compare their intelligence and cognitive ability with apes.


Topic Reading-Vol.1325-11/27/2015

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
The last word in green transport
How green do you want to be? Or, how green can you be when you drive? There are more energy efficient and cleaner cars on the road such as hybrid, plug-in-hybrid, electric and even fuel-cell cars. But are there any that make the air greener or cleaner?
How about wrapping the body with green plants? Actually, not entirely but mostly green plant covered vehicle was introduced by a creative team called Moovel Lab.
It is estimated that this green exterior can remove seven kilos of CO2 from the air annually, far less than what a matured tree can do but far better than emitting green-house gasses. It may not be fuel-efficient as ordinary vehicles of compatible size and capacity because it weighs heavier with the plants and sacrifices the aero-dynamics.
But it may be an ideal vehicle for someone who wants to show-off his/her support towards greener society,
Enjoy reading and learning about this unique and sleek looking car for the future.


Topic Reading-Vol.1324-11/26/2015

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What to do in a terror attack: 'Don't play dead'
If you had been one of the audience at the Bataclan Music Hall in Paris on Nov. 13th, what do you think you would have done? Run, scream or play dead?
Though some people survived pretending dead in certain situations, escape might give you a better chance for survival, according to the UK's National Counter Terrorism Security Office. That sounds like a good idea if there is a way out and you aren’t trapped in the middle of the crowd or place.
Then what’s next options? Hide. Of course. But that is again viable if only you had a chance to find one and time to get there.
Somehow, playing dead isn’t suggested. Why?
Enjoy reading and thinking what would you do should you ever encounter such a tragedy.


Topic Reading-Vol.1323-11/25/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Mark Zuckerberg to take two months paternity leave
Not so many leaders of large corporations can do this. CEO of Facebook, one of the most successful and influential IT companies, is taking a two months off to take care of his first baby girl. His decision and action will certainly encourage not only the employees of his own company but also of any others to take such private leaves with less hesitation.
A similar move by a top CEO was Tim Cook of Apple, who said last year that he is gay, which inspired many people and societies in the world to become more open to their or others’ sexual orientations, partnership and rights.
America seems to lead not only new businesses and innovations but also social moves, doesn’t it?
Enjoy reading and learning about another progressive initiative by an American leader.


Topic Reading-Vol.1322-11/24/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
This is why people cut cruise ships in half.
Cut a cruise ship in half! Is that to scrap the ship? Nope. That’s a start of rebuilding a larger passenger liner to meet the growing demand for cruise vacation. Instead of building a brand new ship, which takes years and fortune, this is much faster and cheaper to bring more passengers on board.
How they do that? It’s basically the same process as making a stretched limo, cutting the body in half, adding a piece between them, and put them together. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
You’ll see this amazing process in a video only in three and a half minutes, which actually took three months in dock in Germany.
Enjoy seeing the video and thinking if you’d like to get onboard the ship.


Topic Reading-Vol.1321-11/23/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
China third most-popular country for international students
377,000 international students in China in 2014-2015 academic year. How does it sound? If you compare the same number in the U.S.A, it was nearly a million, a 10% increase over the previous year. Among those international students who took higher education in the U.S., approximately 300,000 were from China, as reported in yesterday’s Topic Reading, Vol.1320.
Interestingly, that number is about the total of US students studying abroad, with only 5% of them went to China.
Though the majority of the international students came from South Korea and Japan, China ranked number three in the number of overseas students. Considering their rank in the size of economy, spending in military and amount of greenhouse gasses emission, it may not surprise you anymore. But what are those students studying in China?
Enjoy reading and comparing the international students studying in the US and China.


Topic Reading-Vol.1320-11/22/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
India, China provide nearly half the international students in US: Report
The two most populous countries are aggressive towards quality higher education in the U.S. Of the nearly one million international students who took higher education in the U.S. in 2014-2015 academic year, 31% of them came from China and 14% were from India. The growth by these two countries alone accounted for the two-thirds of the total growth. Especially the number of students came from India jumped nearly 30% over the previous year, while the total number of international students grew by approximately 10%, according to the Institute of International Education.
Interestingly, nearly two-thirds of the students from India are at the graduate level. One of the reasons could be the fact that most of the prominent colleges and universities in India run their courses in English, while many students from other non-English speaking countries like China or South Korea are trying to improve their English proficiency.
Enjoy reading and thinking of the sheer number of the international students studying in the U.S. and the influence over their careers and lives.


Topic Reading-Vol.1319-11/21/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Why you don’t want to your child to be a genius
Having an extraordinary child seems to impose extraordinary burden on the parents. Gifted children are demanding. They are so eager to pursue their interests that parents have hard time figuring out and catching up with what they want. In the meantime, they also need to balance the children’s physical and mental growth. Any child needs to develop social skills in order to live and work with others.
Another aspect is financial. Many parents of child prodigies try to provide what the child wants more than what they can afford, even by sacrificing their saving for their future.  They hope that the child will be one of the superstars in the respective area, sports, music or academic, which one out of over hundred could achieve.
Child prodigies seem to be grateful but troublesome.
Enjoy reading and learning what the parents of child prodigies are like.


Topic Reading-Vol.1318-11/20/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Photographer Vincent Laforet captures mega-cities from 12,000 feet
Like living or working in a big city? Either you like it or not, many of you probably feel overwhelmed by the noise and fast-moving people and things whether you’re on the ground or in a building. You may also feel small and isolated despite the fact that there are so many people around you.
That perception seems to change greatly when you see the same city from above in the air. A New York grown photographer shows astonishing photos of mega-cities from 3,600 meters in the air, a little higher altitude than the top of Mount Fuji.
There, he found more connected to the city and the people within it. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Seeing is believing. Enjoy seeing these rare photos from the air. And if you’re interested, enjoy reading the article as well.


Topic Reading-Vol.1317-11/19/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Billionaire investor: Russia faces demographic disaster
People, not the land? An interesting analysis was made by a billionaire why Russia has been so aggressive in expanding its realm. He says they need people besides or beyond the land because the country is losing its population at a pace faster than most other countries.
In fact, Russia’s population in 2015 is roughly 140 million. According to the projection by UN, the population is going to drop to around 127 million in 2035, about the population of present Japan, nearly a 10% decrease from this year. And it’s expected to go down to 117 by 2050. Moreover, when a nation’s population is shrinking, its core demographic is aging rapidly like other industrialized countries, losing workforce while adding more pensioners. 
How can the chief of the federation change the downturn course? Encourage his people to make more children while discouraging them to drink excessively and smoke heavily? When the economy is performing poorly because of the energy prices, he won’t be motivated to introduce any unpopular policies because Russia is still a democratic country. So what does this ex-KGB-turned-politician have in his mind?
Enjoy reading and learning what a prominent investor thinks Russia’s boss is up to.


Topic Reading-Vol.1316-11/18/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Emperor Penguins get too hot
Penguins can swim but can’t fly. More importantly, they can keep themselves warm enough to survive in Antarctica where temperatures goes -20°C or below in winter, cold enough to keep tuna meat vividly red, suitable for sashimi. As you most probably know, they gather closely together to form a huddle to stay warm in the severe winter. You can easily imagine that penguins on the outskirts must endure icy winds and feel the coldest. But there is something else going on inside the huddle.
Researchers have recently found that the ones on the inside the huddle get too hot, for penguins, so that penguins in a huddle constantly change their positions to get wormed and cooled.
Enjoy reading and thinking what the life for the flightless birds is like on the coldest continent.


Topic Reading-Vol.1315-11/17/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Dogs look like their owners
A recent research shows that people can match the random photos of dog owners and their dogs with good accuracy. This doesn’t sound unnatural. In fact, it may seem quite true when you recall anyone with his or her dog(s), and yourself if you have one(s).
When people choose a dog to live with, they have this instinct when they see one, often by an eye contact, sometimes beyond logical and physical rationales. And the dog chosen by the master friend tries to be a good companion and behave the way the master friend is pleased.
As the average marriage in some places are shorter than how long an average dog lives, it may become increasingly important what dog to live with.
Enjoy reading and thinking this dog-human resemblance.


Topic Reading-Vol.1314-11/16/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Report: U.S. aircraft carriers could become ineffective
Unlike the naval battles, big battle ships with powerful cannons played no significant roles during WWII. Instead, what played a decisive role in the Pacific theater where the largest scale of naval battles took place in history was aircraft carriers which carried numbers of aircraft.
Towards the end of the last century, aircraft carriers were the symbol of the US military power. During The Persian Gulf War in 1991, six U.S. aircraft carriers were on active duty in the Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and Persian Gulf and launched thousands of sorties. When China threatened Taiwan in 1996, two US aircraft carriers were deployed straight into Taiwan Strait and ceased the crisis. Aircraft carriers have been the backbone of US oversea military operations.
In the meantime the technologies and situations have been changing, too. There are more precise and longer range missiles and unmanned aircraft to name a few. Also, there seem to be more domestic or inter-region conflicts that require different tools and deployment to deal with. So what will the future of the naval icons be?
Enjoy reading and thinking about historical transition of navy vessels.


Topic Reading-Vol.1313-11/15/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Why your older sibling is smarter than you
The elder the smarter? Though it hasn’t been scientifically proven, it seems to have been mentioned or thought commonly for years beyond places and cultures. Is this just a kind of stereotyped view or based on tracking record?
A research was conducted to 20,000 people in Germany, the UK and US to examine how people view themselves compared to their siblings as well as their personal qualities and sexual orientations. Though their personality doesn’t seem to be affected by the order they were born, it does seem to influence their intelligence and physical health.
What does your experience tell you?
Enjoy reading and learning what this research has found.


Topic Reading-Vol.1312-11/14/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Google's Project Loon internet balloons to circle Earth
Internet connection via balloons? Sounds like a hybrid idea of today’s technology on a yesterday’s vehicle. There are optical fiber cables on the ground and under the waters. Also, more antennas and towers have been built all over the places. In space, communication satellites transmit signals to and from the land, sea or air. Then are there anything high in the air other than clouds? That’s what the Internet giant Google has been working on to provide Internet connections anywhere in the world.
They are planning to launch Helium-filled giant balloons that are equipped with solar panels, position adjusting system and radio transceivers to send and receive data streams. The life expectancy of this balloon is now about half a year. They think 300 of such balloons will be able to cover the whole world. Sounds very ambitious, doesn’t it?
While NASA focuses more on outer space, Google seems to be taking care of the domestic businesses with its deep pocket.
Enjoy reading and imagining having Internet connection via balloons.


Topic Reading-Vol.1311-11/13/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Singles Day online sales shatter records
US$14 billion sounds like annual budget of a state department or turnover of an international corporation, doesn’t it? Nope. It’s just sales volume generated only in a day by a single e-commerce operator, Alibaba in China. Just to grasp how substantial this sales volume is, compare Cyber Monday on Dec.1 2014 in the U.S. which is estimated to have posted a little over two billion dollars in the whole country.
Ever since 2009, this Internet giant has run this singles’ day sales event on November 11th, or 11.11, which looks like four singles. This year, they generated 91 billion yuan in sales, an increase of 60% from last year. Not surprisingly any longer, over 70% of the orders came from mobile devices like smartphones or tablets.
What did people buy? They bought anything from daily necessities to mobile phones.
How busy the e-commerce site was? At the peak time, there were 45 million shopper online.
How many boxes are going to be shipped?
Enjoy reading and imagining the scale of volume in China’s e-commerce.


Topic Reading-Vol.1310-11/12/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Really? ANOTHER cool proposal for a supersonic airliner?
The faster the better? How much extra would you pay on top of the standard air fare, not the low fares you are accustomed to purchase, to shorten say, a ten-hour transoceanic flight to three hours?
Do you remember the fact that such supersonic flight was regularly operated between New York and London and Paris decades ago? Does “Concord” ring a bell?
The exotic supersonic jet flew twice faster at almost 50% higher altitude than B747s. The aircraft’s narrow body accommodated only about 100 economy-size seats at the price of first class. It sounds like a super sports car like Ferrari or something, doesn’t it?
Slower but roomier and cheaper, or faster but smaller and costlier?
Enjoy reading and thinking what would make you take a supersonic flight.


Topic Reading-Vol.1309-11/11/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
North Korea believed to earn a fortune from forced labor overseas, U.N. says
Sending its own people overseas to work. It doesn’t sound so odd if those workers are paid and treated fairly. However, there are tens of thousands North Korean workers being forced to work overseas under harsh conditions, according to a UN report. These forced labors are sent to mines, construction sites or garment factories to earn money not for them or their family but for the nation to arm the forces and also for the top elite to enjoy luxury. Only a handful of such forced workers had success in getting asylum in South Korea but most of them aren’t so lucky.
How would such abuse of its own people be possible? Will such inhumane practice sustain the regime?
Enjoy reading and learning what’s going on in and outside of North Korea.


Topic Reading-Vol.1308-11/10/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Xi-Ma meeting hailed as 'historic page'
Will this historic meeting prevent the historical tragedy from happening again?
Xi’s all-time smile in the photos on China Daily clearly shows how pleased he is to have this meeting. It is a clear message to his own people in the mainland and fellows in the island that he is willing to enhance their ties officially.
He has numbers of political enemies in his own turf. He has challenges in the South China and East China seas. He has opponents of one-China policy in the island across the Strait. In this meeting, Xi clearly stated that the Chinese from both sides of the Strait have the capabilities and wisdom to solve their own problems. It sounds like a message to the US not to intervene their issues any more in the future like it did back in 1996 by sending two aircraft carriers to the Strait.
It remains to be seen if this meeting will open up a historic page for peace in the region.
Enjoy reading the intention and message of this milestone meeting.


Topic Reading-Vol.1307-11/9/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Shah Rukh Khan criticizes 'intolerance' in India
Intolerance is getting a bigger issue in India. A recent incident of the lynching of a man over suspicions for eating beef, which is strictly prohibited in Hinduism, sparked widespread protests by scientists, historians and filmmakers. And here is this guy, Shah Rukh Khan, whose popularity is unmatched in India’s movie world voiced his concern about extreme intolerance to religious beliefs ad practices.
Hindus warship cows. So no excuse can justify producing or eating beef for those who are deeply faithful to Hinduism. As a matter of fact, most of the items on MacDonald’s menu in India are chickens and vegetables. But can anyone force others to be or do the same?
Maybe it is time to learn and think what generosity means to the society and world.
Enjoy reading and learning about this growing religious intolerance in India.


Topic Reading-Vol.1306-11/8/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Artist transforms travel photos with paper cutouts 
Artist or photographer? This guy doesn’t consider himself an artist, yet people saw his photo works on Instagram thought he is.
He shot photos of popular landmarks and monuments and humorously added pieces of icons that make them appealing and interesting. He did it originally just for fun. Now people all over the world enjoy his works on the Internet photo sharing site.
You never know what becomes so popular and so fast.
Enjoy seeing these humorous photo works (need a bit of background knowledge to read what he meant). 


Topic Reading-Vol.1305-11/7/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Morocco to build world's largest concentrated solar power plant
On the fringe of the Sahara desert, a mega solar project has been taken place. When the construction is completed in 2018, the plant will supply electricity to over one million people of the 33 million population of the country. This is part of the nation’s ambitious initiative to install various types of clean-energy plants to supply 42% of its power consumption, 14% of which is by solar in 2020.
If you look at Sub-Saharan Africa, only 24% of the population have access to electricity. That includes rather developed South Africa. But in rural areas, power is available only a few percentage points such as Kenya, Mali and Ethiopia. How are they going to supply power in Africa? Will they simply pick economical ways like people did in the last century and heat up the globe? Or, will they be wise enough to choose renewable or cleaner source for energy? It seems to be the responsibility of other part of the world as well.
Enjoy reading and learning about this small African nation’s shining investment.


Topic Reading-Vol.1304-11/6/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
China opens drone schools as demand for pilots soars
China produces, exports and uses more commercial drones than any other country. DJI, the world largest producer of commercial drones, alone sold approximately 70 percent of commercial drones in 2014. In its domestic market, the demand for maintenance, mapping, filming and agricultural industries is increasing rapidly.
So, what do they need to meet such an exploding market? Licensed pilots. More than 10,000 drone pilots are needed this year alone. In fact, there are already 42 schools that teach and train drone pilots. Even though new models are likely to self-fly with GPS and tracking technology, there are still huge opportunities for drone pilots and operators, and programmers to auto-pilot drones.
Enjoy reading and learning about this new type of school that trains people to fly for the future.


Topic Reading-Vol.1303-11/5/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Australia drops knights and dames from honours system
Knights and Dames. You may think this honoring system only exists in England or the United Kingdom. Actually, Australia, a former colony of Great Britain, has honored people of great achievements or service time to time, depending on the government.
Most notably, the recently ousted PM resumed the system in 2014, which is thought to be one of the main reasons he lost supports from his own party.
Now, the newly elected PM, who once campaigned to abandon the monarchy and become a republic, scrapped the system.
How much respect today’s people pay to those who are honored a knighthood or dame hood?
Enjoy reading and learning about this controversial topic in a country that plays a key role in the Pan Pacific region now rather than keeping a colonial tradition.


Topic Reading-Vol.1302-11/4/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
The private lives of 'Star Wars' Stormtroopers
Do they have names or identities? What gender or how old are they? What do they eat? Stormtroopers all look the same. Little attention has been paid to the corps of Star Wars despite their frequent appearances throughout the movie series.
A Spanish photographer created images of their everyday life scenes shortly before the release of the long-awaited new episode, “The Force Awakens.” All of the troopers wear the usual white armor but don’t carry or fire the light-gun. Instead, they eat cereal, pee, take a Jacuzzi, and do laundries. They look like human soldiers or ordinary civilians.
By the way, they aren’t good at shooting their light-rifles in the movie, are they?
Enjoy seeing the photos of their off-duty lives.


Topic Reading-Vol.1301-11/3/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
China to allow two children for all couples
Now you can have two children. A radical and long-expected change was suddenly announced by the nation’s top policy planning meeting, the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.
The famous one-child policy was officially in place since 1979, has prevented 400 million births. Parents have faced fines and other punishments for having more children.
The policy was relaxed in 2013, allowing pairs to have a second child if one the pair is a single child. However, this change hasn’t caused any surge in the number of new born babies because of the change in lifestyle and high education cost.
Gender selective abortions have been another cause of China's unusual gender imbalance. It is said that there are approximately 1.16 to 1.26 boys per girl, depending on the source of data. Men have difficulty finding their partners.
Enjoy reading and guessing how this policy change will affect the family planning of Chinese couples.


Topic Reading-Vol.1300-11/2/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Pumpkins’ Surprising Origin
Calabaza, the Mexican word for pumpkin and squash. It’s one of the most popular
Are you a pumpkin lover? Whether you are or not, Mexico seems to be a great place to visit to enjoy both tasting and seeing it. It’s their traditional food, called Calabaza locally, used in variety of local cuisines. It is also a popular and essential decorative item or Halloween, or Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). As a matter of fact, now world-popular pumpkin is originated in Mexico back in pre-history days and were enjoyed by Aztecs and the Mayans.
So, Mexico isn’t just yellow of the corn, their favorite crop, but also orange of pumpkin.
Enjoy reading and learning how essential pumpkins are in Mexico.


Topic Reading-Vol.1299-11/1/2015

Dear MEL School’s Topic Readers,
Processed meats do cause cancer – WHO
How bad is it? This new WHO report says that and regular consumption of processed meat increases the risk of getting bowel cancer by 18%.
What is processed meat? It includes bacon, sausages, salami, corned beef, beef jerky, ham, canned meat and meat-based sauces. Wow. Sounds like a menu of a fast food restaurant, doesn’t it?
How much is too much? Well, what matter is the balance. If you relay too much on processed meat to fill your stomach, that’s definitely too much. Just a slice or two of ham or bacon won’t matter match, but not every day.
What about red meat, tobacco and alcohol? Yes, they also increase the chance of getting cancer. However, while tobacco is solely harmful and has no health benefit, moderate consumption of red meat and alcohol doesn’t seem to cause much problem.
Enjoy reading and learning what matters to your health.