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Topic Reading-Vol.1633-9/30/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
6 great secrets from the Trans-Siberian railway
This probably is the most famous railway in the world, for the last 100 years.
Yes, the Trans-Siberian railway was completed a year before the Russian Empire collapsed during the World War I. The most notable passenger of that time was then Tsar, Nicholas II, who was abdicated and later executed during the Russian Revolution.
It is famous for the original line between Moscow and Vladivostok passing along Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world that sits north of the Mongolian border. Those who took this train ride often mention that seeing this beautiful lake from the train was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
But there are lesser known railway routes that travel Siberia. One goes to through Manchuria to Beijing from the lake and another through Mongolia. Passengers of these lines can experience trans-cultural places and scenes from the train.
Enjoy reading the guide and seeing the photos of this 100-year-old railway.


Topic Reading-Vol.1632-9/29/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Zuckerberg and Chan aim to tackle all disease by 2100
The couple already committed to donate 99% of their Facebook shares to fund good causes when they had their first baby girl. Now they revealed a bold and ambitious plan to make use of the fund. They are investing three billion dollars to cure, manage or prevent all diseases before the next century.
Even though the amount isn’t that significant compared to other causes and researches trying to deal with just certain diseases, such attempt to transform medical solutions is in line with other philanthropists, including Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Also, there is AI, which is transforming the ways that business, service, operations, and even research and development have been conducted into the next stage. It seems that this century is going to produce a lot of revolutionary changes and transformations.
Enjoy reading and thinking which common disease should be conquered first.


Topic Reading-Vol.1631-9/28/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
A city without traffic lights
The city doesn’t look modern at all. Rather, it looks either very ancient or futuristic. There aren’t any tall buildings or highways. It spreads out with eight main roads from the central square in a very organized fashion, forming an octagonal shape.
One distinctly unique feature of this remote city in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is there are no traffic lights. Is that because there aren’t so many cars on the roads, people drive so decently that there is no need for traffic control, or there is no electricity or budget to lit traffic lights?
Enjoy reading and seeing the photos of this remote but well-organized city in Uygur.


Topic Reading-Vol.1630-9/27/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
France becomes first country to ban plastic cups and plates
Plastic disposable tableware. Sounds economical, convenient and hygienic but harmful to the environment, doesn’t it? It is so widely used all over the world that eliminating or reducing the use of plastic cups, plates, forks and spoons seems quite challenging.
But France is taking the lead. As the hosting country of the COP21 Climate Change conference in December 2015, it has set the way to reduce greenhouse emissions 40% by 2030 from 1990 levels. The country already banned the use of light plastic bags at supermarket checkouts in July, and now requires all disposable tableware to be made from 50% biologically-sourced materials by January of 2020.
This sounds environmentally friendly to ordinary citizens but economically and practically worrisome to those who produce, distribute and use them.
Whenever an ambitious initiative is raised, there is always backlash from someone.
Enjoy reading and thinking if disposable tableware is necessary in the first place.


Topic Reading-Vol.1629-9/26/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What is the food that can really improve your eyesight?
Eat green leaves, not carrots, to improve your eyesight. That’s what the writer of this article recommends after being tested and advised by the experts. Yes, there are effective supplements out there that you can take to improve, or slow the process of losing, your eyesight. But the key elements of those supplements are mainly take from natural produces such as green kale and spinach, corn and bell peppers, or the yellow yolks of eggs and fish.
Yes, supplements work to help maintain or even improve your eyesight but proper diet also does. And that’ll get you extra benefit, better nutrition to improve your health.
Enjoy reading and learning what makes your eyesight better.


Topic Reading-Vol.1628-9/25/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
China's high speed railway exceeds 20,000 km
Just amazing. Look at this map.

It took China only less than 10 years to build this 20,000km high speed railway network, which is already longer than the rest of the world's high-speed rail tracks combined. And it is still expanding. Their plan is to build 40,000km network by 2025!

China already has built highways to cover most of the major cities. Its annual car sales exceed over 25million, easily surpassing the U.S. (#2) and Japan (#3) combined.
It is also expanding the air transportation capacity, ordering thousands of passenger airplanes for the next several years.
Why not taking advantage of this soon-to-be the world most accommodating country for travelers, at least for public transport?
Enjoy seeing the maps and thinking of what the country will be like a few years from now.


Topic Reading-Vol.1627-9/24/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Jane Goodall's latest mission to save chimpanzees
Educate people to save chimps. That sounds a little odd, doesn’t it?
But when a once-forested area is inhabited and farmed without limitation or consideration to the environment, the area becomes uninhabitable for primates that depends their lives on the forest. Then they are divided to small groups that are sustainable enough to live in limited space where they can find food. But when the size of such groups becomes too small, they’ll face difficulty to maintain genetic and social diversity of the species. In order to protect the population of wild animals, humans need to learn what good not only for themselves but also for other inhabitants in and around the area.
That’s why Jane Goodall, a renowned primatologist and animal right activist, set up a micro-funding program to finance the poor farmers in Tanzania. When they earn more, women and children receive education. When they are educated, they become more conscious of their environment while, interestingly, shrinking their family size. Thus, the more forest could be protected, or at least less forest is destroyed. It’s a long way to achieve the goal but a surer way to save chimps.
Enjoy reading and thinking if there is any short cut to do things in a sustainable way.


Topic Reading-Vol.1626-9/23/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
UNICEF: 50 million children uprooted by crises
Children are so vulnerable. They can be abused, abandoned, kidnapped, trafficked, enslaved, brainwashed or humiliated. And according to the UNICEF’s report, there are as many as 50 million children in the world who were displaced or moved from their homeland due to conflicts or violence. Some become refugees and others are seeking asylum but in either case, children are the ones need most attention and support from the world, such as proper nutrition, education and medical services, not to mention the food to eat and place to live in.
As you know, the UNICEF is an agency of the UN, and this report was published right before the 2016 UN Assembly.
Enjoy reading and thinking if this report will be seriously paid attention by the world leaders in the General Assembly. 


Topic Reading-Vol.1625-9/22/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Why 'tents of love' are popping up in Chinese colleges
Commencement is a big deal for American parents to celebrate their child’s academic achievement and completion of their college life. Those parents make every effort to attend the ceremony to honor their child’s accomplishment and wish them the best for their upcoming career.
In China, it is quite common for parents to accompany their child when they start college. Those parents come almost at the same time and many of them come from distant places, hotels around colleges are fully booked when schools start new academic year. Some universities set mats and tents in the gym in order to provide accommodation to such parents who can’t find a place to stay.
Some say those children under one-child policy are spoiled having been over-cared by their parents, and their parents. Parent’s accompanying a freshman to college whose average age is around 18 too coddling compared to parents’ attending a commencement of a graduating student aged over 22?
Enjoy reading and thinking if those Chinese parents enjoy staying overnight in a mat in the gym.


Topic Reading-Vol.1624-9/21/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Making babies without eggs may be possible, say scientists
A bit confusing. But some day in the distant future, a man could have a child of his own, or two men could be the parents of a child. These are not-so-unrealistic possibilities when a man’s sperm are tricked to fertilize normal eggs of a man or himself. This means men can have babies without women’s eggs.
UK scientists succeeded in producing mice from genuine sperm and fake embryos which were produced from unfertilized embryo. Those mice are healthy and capable of reproducing their offspring. The entire process didn’t require a woman’s egg.
Is this something beyond what humans should or could do?
Enjoy reading and thinking what the families will be like a half century from now.


Topic Reading-Vol.1623-9/20/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
The widows who can’t return home
While there are philanthropic, or simply just economic, investors in India who offer smartphones and 4G services at incredibly low prices, there are unbelievable customs still being practiced in India. Thrown out widows. Right after the moment their husband dies, they seem to be treated as if they no longer exist or become harmful on others in the family. The affection, dedication and relationship they had built for years turned into the past. They have nowhere to go or live in.
There seem to be numbers of such unfortunate, miserable widows in India, especially in rural areas. Some of them live by themselves under miserable conditions, waiting to finish their lives while others settle in dedicated shared houses for widows in a city south of Delhi where over 20,000 such widows live.
Is that their very religion that turns their lives into the situation like this while the religion is their only hope and pillar of their rest of lives?
Enjoy reading and thinking what the causes of such practice are. 


Topic Reading-Vol.1622-9/19/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
India's richest man offers free 4G to one billion people
It seems that India is becoming a source of new initiatives. The most cost effective alternative solutions have been provided in automobiles, heart and eye surgeries, and tablets and smartphones in order to create and meet the demands of the so-called bottom-of-the-pyramid population. Yes. While the country’s GDP as a whole is ranked seventh, the per capita GDP ranks below 140th in the world, which means there a lot of people who can’t afford to get the things and services that are enjoyed in other developed countries, including its arch-rival China.
This time, one of the richest persons in the country initiated a break-through Internet service that can be enjoyed by those who haven’t gotten any, little or slow connection to the Internet. As the price is too low, none till the end of the year, competitors are left no choice but to slash the prices or upgrade the services.
Enjoy reading and thinking if this new initiative is more philanthropic than economic. 


Topic Reading-Vol.1621-9/18/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Turkey removes 24 mayors over PKK links
Can the government, not the court, remove an elected mayor and assign someone else in a democratic nation? That’s what happened recently in Turkey and not only just one of the municipal mayors but as many as 28 on the ground of helping or having a link with the terrorists.
The Justice Minister commented that being elected does not grant a right to commit a crime. That doesn’t sound unreasonable. But how will the removal and arrests of 28 publicly elected officials be justified?
Both Turkey and the Philippines are essential, democratic allies for the U.S. but their leaders are cracking down their domestic enemies ruthlessly and even lawlessly. No nationwide protest against such purge or crack downs have been made by the public, yet. Does it mean those moves are supported by the citizens?
Enjoy reading and thinking about what the assurance and safety valve of democracy is.


Topic Reading-Vol.1620-9/17/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Will an advert change the way Singaporeans think about education?
In school, what success means varies by student, doesn’t it? It could mean grades for some while participation to certain activities may mean more to others. But in Singapore whose school system is said to be one of the best in the world, it simply means grades or academic performance, in short, test scores.
The ministry of education doesn’t seem happy by simply enjoying the current education. They are now trying to encourage students and teachers, and more importantly parents, to look and work beyond test scores.
It is a sensitive and controversial topic because schools, teachers and parents are used to having one measurement for all.
Enjoy reading and thinking what education means to the small city country where there are no natural or geographical resources to sustain its growth.


Topic Reading-Vol.1619-9/16/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Clues to your personality appeared before you could talk
Do you remember what your personality was like when you were an infant or a little child? If not, you might ask your parents the question. And compare what you were like then and what you are now. Are there recognizable similarities between them?
It seems there are for most people. How close they are may vary but some characteristics of yourself seem to have appeared in the very early stage of life. Three common signs of such characteristics have been observed in studies; “Effortful control,” “negative affectivity” like fear and frustration, and “extroversion”, or confident and social.
If you have difficulty comparing yourself now and when you were very young, how about looking at someone you’ve known for a long time, like your own children, close relatives or friends?
Enjoy reading and identifying signs of your or someone’s personality.


Topic Reading-Vol.1618-9/15/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Hajj 2016: Pilgrims gather at Mount Arafat for key rite
The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, in today’s Saudi Arabia. It is one of the five pillars of Islam and a mandatory duty for adult Muslims who can physically and financially afford to take this journey. It is in fact one of the world’s largest scale displays of religious devotion with over a million and half pilgrims attending. Every year, the events of Hajj take place in a five-day period by the Islamic calendar.
The most significant ritual of this religious event is to step up the 70-meter high Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad gave his final sermon, and recite prayers and supplications. Before and after this ritual, the pilgrims also walk around the famous Kaaba in Mecca.
Enjoy reading the text and seeing the video of this massive ritual. 


Topic Reading-Vol.1617-9/14/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Laos US: Obama regrets 'biggest bombing in history'
Laos, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, sits in the heart of the Indochinese peninsula, bordered by Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. It is a small country with a population just under seven million. Most people work in farms to produce rice mainly for themselves.
So why this tiny country is visited by the president of the U.S.?
During the Vietnam war between 1964 and 1973, Laos was dropped 260 million bombs by the U.S., more than the total amount of bomb used during the World War II. If all the bombs detonated as designed, only the horrific and painful memory remains. However, as much as 30% of the cluster munitions did not. They are called Unexploded Ordnance, or UXO. Now, over half of the provinces of Laos are labeled as contaminated by UXO, meaning anyone, anywhere and at any time, they could detonate. And most likely victims are innocent children or farmers. Those bombs are indiscriminate, just like the US policy and constitution.
Enjoy reading and thinking of any actions could be taken to remove the danger from Laos. 


Topic Reading-Vol.1616-9/13/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How did China save the giant panda?
The status of the giant panda was changed from endangered to vulnerable. That sounds like good news at least for a while. Thanks to the Chinese government’s effort for the last few decades, the population of the cute animal increased to a little over 2,000, up from 1,200 in the 1980s.
How did they do that? Did they domesticate all or most of them and put them in nice and comfortable zoos all over the world? No. That wouldn’t have the job done because they would have starved to death if there wasn’t enough food to eat.
Pandas eat nearly just bamboo, nothing else. So what they did was to reforest bamboo, protected the habitat and took great care of the animal.
Enjoy reading and learning what it took to have saved this once endangered species.


Topic Reading-Vol.1615-9/12/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What Al Capone can teach India about prohibition
Who loses the most if alcohol production, distribution and consumption are all prohibited? Liquor shops, bars and restaurants, wineries and brewers, or government?
Several states ban any consumption of alcohol in India and some others are considering to follow the suit. Women are supporting the move and so do the Muslims.
You might assume that they drink cold beers because of the heat. But in fact, the vast majority of the alcohol consumption in India is spirits, or hard liquors. Drinking such strong alcohol in quantity often leads to alcoholic, domestic violence and crimes. And make the situation even worse, some of the liquors are homemade and badly-made, and even toxic. And those who make money of such alcohol drinks are gangsters or mobs. Underground business and money, some of which is used to bribe officers and politicians. And no tax revenue form such illegal businesses which are not supposed to exist.
Now you know who loses the most, the government.
Enjoy reading and learning what India could learn from America.


Topic Reading-Vol.1614-9/11/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Surface water shifting around the Earth
Very interesting, yet arguable changes were observed on the surface of our planet. Over the last 30 years, more land surface created than water cover that appeared on the land surface. It this good news or bad news?
Melting glacier and new dams created new water cover especially in inland area such as Tibetan Plateau, Myanmar and North Korea while water in the Aral Sea in Central Asia and Lake Mead near Las Vegas was lost. In the meantime, new land was created artificially along the coastlines in Arabian Peninsula and south eastern China.
It seems that human activities are really changing the environment.
Now, the extent of the changes was revealed. What about the impact on nature?
Enjoy reading and seeing the images of the changed surface of earth.


Topic Reading-Vol.1613-9/10/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
The lonely men of China's 'bachelor village'
Ever since they were born, men have to face this social challenge in China where there are around 15 more boys per every 100 girls. But that’s national average. In rural areas especially where only limited, long and harsh transportation is available, there aren’t so many girls who want to stay in or come to to marry local men, even with a new house.
That is what this tiny rural village of 1,600 population is facing. There are 112 unmarried men between the age of 30 and 55 in the village. Where are the women? Do they prefer not to get married? It seems that many young women left the village to work and/or get married. Then why don’t those men leave the village to do the same?
Enjoy reading and learning what makes young Chinese people stay or leave their hometown.


Topic Reading-Vol.1612-9/9/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
UK girls becoming more unhappy – study
There are always pros and cons to new media.
Social media surely removes barriers between genders, ages groups, or places. It allows children to get access to any photos or articles that are presented by and for adults. They therefore naturally get in touch with the issues for grownups, such as weight, appearance, relationships and jobs. And they become worried by comparing themselves with those shown in the media. How do I look?
That’s what researchers found through the annual survey conducted among 40,000 households across the UK. It found that girls are more worried about how they look than before while the responses from boys showed no significant change.
May be boys are more excited and interested to do things like sports or games rather than fashion or appearance.
Enjoy reading and thinking if you’ve noticed considerable change in the attitudes among young children around you.


Topic Reading-Vol.1611-9/8/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Quest for Planet Nine turns up 'extreme objects' on edge of solar system
Another planet in our solar system? As was reported in Vol.1384, existence of the ninth planet has been speculated, or even theorized. While having downgraded beloved then-farthermost-planet Pluto, astronomers have been researching the outer space beyond Neptune, now the farthest planet.
They are hoping to discover this yet to be confirmed planet within a few years. That sounds really exciting because the last discovery of a planet in our solar system was in 1846, namely Neptune, and Pluto was discovered in 1930 (though downgraded to dwarf planet in 2006).
It seems a new planet has been discovered only once a century. And in this century, one planet lost its status but another is about to be found. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?
Enjoy reading and thinking what the new planet would be like.


Topic Reading-Vol.1610-9/7/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Mother Teresa declared saint by Pope Francis at Vatican ceremony
She dedicated her life to save the poor and those in need for help in India since 1929 until her death in 1997. She was awarded the Novel Peace Prize in 1979 for her extraordinary work and dedication to help people. Now she is a Saint to be recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness to God.
Pope Francis seems to want to urge world leaders to stop creating poverty saying, “The crimes of poverty they themselves created,” twice in his speech at the ceremony in Vatican. True. Due to the gross negligence, thoughtless or egoistic actions by those who have the power, more people are struggling to survive their lives or escape from the disaster these days, like the refugees from Syria.
Enjoy reading and learning about Saint Teresa’s exceptional work and life.


Topic Reading-Vol.1609-9/6/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Nasa ends year-long Mars simulation on Hawaii
Can you imagine what the mission is like? A full year of complete isolation from outside world with five other previously-unknown people from different places and backgrounds in an experimental tent with limited equipment and supplies without fresh air. There are always the same people around, meaning very little privacy or escape from others’ eyes. When going outside, you need to wear an expensive but clumsy and heavy space suit and breathe the air from the tank. And again, for 365 days without a break.
This NASA funded simulation program put six people in near-Mars conditions in beautiful Island of Hawaii. That’s because it takes one to up to three years to get to the red planet, not including the time to be spent on the planet and the journey back Earth.
They are recruiting volunteers for the next two experiments.
Enjoy reading and thinking if you’re interested in taking part in this challenging environment.


Topic Reading-Vol.1608-9/5/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Safety tip from India's tourism minister: Don't wear skirts
What’s his job? The person who is in charge of promoting tourism in India was backfired when he commented that women who visit India shouldn't wear skirts for their own safety. For what reasons?
As many of you know, recently, sexual assaults against any women, foreigners or children, have been reported and accused of extensively in India. One of the reasons seems to be historical and traditional view and treatment of women. Another is the fact that there are fewer police officers per citizen in India than most of the countries. Indeed. You won’t see much police presence on the street in India where traffic goes crazy.
Enjoy reading and thinking what the minister wanted to tell or warn foreign visitors.


Topic Reading-Vol.1607-9/4/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Of war and coffee in Lebanon
Imagine your decades old family business is torn by a war, not just once but twice. You may lose physical assets like merchandises, equipment and facility. You might also lose intangible assets like the loyal customers and presence in the marketplace that have been built over a long period of time, sometimes through generations.
Starting up a new business is risky but exciting. Rebuilding the same business from scratch requires painstaking effort and ordeals, especially in a war-torn place where many of the residents had no choice but to flee from.
Enjoy reading and learning about this story of the coffee shop in Beirut, Lebanon.


Topic Reading-Vol.1606-9/3/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
India proposes to ban commercial surrogacy
Sounds very controversial. There seem to be un-ignorable number of surrogate mothers in India to earn not-so-great amount of money that is considerable to them but not so much for those who want them to bear their babies, such as foreigners and celebrities. But there is more to this issue.
Homosexuality is criminalized in India. The government wants to discourage same sex couples to have their children by using another woman’s womb.
Where there is demand, there are always people who try to satisfy the demand to make money, either legitimately or not. But will this ban solve such ethical or legal problem?
Enjoy reading and thinking of living in a non-secular country.


Topic Reading-Vol.1605-9/2/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Why you don’t give praise in Japan?
It may be true that the Japanese weren’t as used to being praised in workplaces as Westerners are. It’s partly because they are expected to work as a team, not solo in traditional companies or organizations where most of the employees work until retirement. There is no need to rush or take risks to be promoted fast or awarded often. The return is assured when no errors or disorders are created.
However, things seem to be changing as more companies face fierce competition with others from the world. Also, more professionals are pursuing more challenging or rewarding career opportunities instead of waiting to be given one in the same company. People are now simply pleased and motivated when they are praised, either by their seniors or bosses.
Enjoy reading and thinking if Japanese workplaces are more distinct than the ones of other countries.


Topic Reading-Vol.1604-9/1/2016

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Ramen noodles 'are most valuable US prison commodity', study finds
Underground economy. Where there is no currency to exchange, barter is a form of economy. One typical example is prison, where there is very limited interaction or transaction is made with the outside world. Inmates are provided daily necessities such as food and clothes but nothing fancy. They therefore barter things that are in demand such as cigarettes, sweets or preserved foods. You may think cigarettes are the most valued item for exchange as seen in movies but nowadays, to your surprise, ramen noodles are taking the place. They are high in calorie, sodium and fat, which offer immediate and lasting satisfaction where no such junk food is usually served. And according to the researcher, the less satisfying foods in prison, both in quality and quantity due to budge shortage, seem to have boosted the value of such instant food.
Enjoy reading and thinking what you’d want the most besides daily necessities when you’re isolated from the outside world.