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Topic Reading-Vol.1756-1/31/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What the US-Mexico border looks like before Trump's wall
A firewall protects computers and devices against unauthorized access. It is absolutely necessary to connect to the Internet.
The Great Firewall of China is an extensive and advanced Internet censorship to protect the interest of the ruling party. It not only blocks unfavorable website content but also monitors the Internet access of individuals.
Now, the newly elected president of the U.S. has given an order to build a physical border wall between the U.S. and Mexico without talking or negotiating with his counterpart. It doesn’t require rocket science to predict the consequences of such an unfriendly move.
Enjoy reading and thinking if such a wall could solve any problems or function like the Great Wall of China.


Topic Reading-Vol.1755-1/30/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Morocco to get Africa's first high-speed train
Sounds very fast. The new high-speed railway in Morocco is going to connect between Tangier, a historical port and gateway town, and Casablanca, the nation’s economic center, at a top speed of 320km/h, cutting the travel time by half to a little over two hours. And further upgrade of the railway will reduce the time to an hour and a half after 2020. 
This is the first high-speed train service in the continent and expected to draw foreign investment and boost the nation’s lagging economy. However, not all the Moroccans seem proud of having this fast train system. They think there are other priorities in the nation’s economy and future such as education, and other regions in the country that need more attention and investment.
Enjoy reading and thinking which high-speed connection could boost economy faster, by train or via the Internet 


Topic Reading-Vol.1754-1/29/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Why moving the US embassy to Jerusalem is so controversial
Usually, foreign embassies are located in the capital of the host country. But there are no foreign embassies in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. Instead, all of the 86 countries that have embassies in Israel have theirs in Tel Aviv. And the commitment by the 45th president of the U.S. to relocate the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem sparked a big political controversy around the world.
Why are all foreign embassies to Israel in Tel Aviv, which is the financial and high-tech center of the country but not the capital. And then why is the move to relocate an embassy to the capital a problem?
Enjoy reading and learning how complex Jerusalem is to the world.


Topic Reading-Vol.1753-1/28/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Browned toast and potatoes are 'potential cancer risk', say food scientists
Acrylamide [əˈkrɪl əˌmaɪd, -mɪd]. Another unhealthy substance in food. It is said to increase the risk to cause cancer. It is found in various kinds of food, especially in high-carbo foods such as potatoes, bread and cereals. The bad news is that this substance is also produced when such foods are heated at a high temperature, like brown toast and potato chips.
Though not everyone is convinced that acrylamide causes cancer to humans, it is advised that overcooking of such starchy foods should be avoided.
The bottom line is to make and eat food moderately to avoid other cancer-causing factors, such as obesity and imbalanced nutrition.
Enjoy reading and thinking if you know any other cancer-causing foods or recipes.


Topic Reading-Vol.1752-1/27/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Women marches across the world draw huge crowds
Incredibly influential. That seems to be true about the 45th president of the U.S. Though there weren’t as many supporters as his predecessors in his inauguration ceremony in the nation’s capital, as many as a million people marched across the world to protest against him and his disciplines for women, minorities and human rights.
Those protesters look pretty much determined and united. The scale and speed to occur such worldwide rallies is unprecedented just for a man’s becoming a leader of a nation. Like the Arab Spring in 2011 or the Sunflower Student Movement in Taiwan in 2014, people could get together to protest against leaders or ruling bodies in a matter of few hours.
Enjoy seeing the photos and thinking who could be worried to witness such civil protest.


Topic Reading-Vol.1751-1/26/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Are we one step closer to being able to use the world's strongest material?
Graphene. This next generation super substance is very tough. It is expected to replace steel to sustain the structure of buildings or bridges or carbon fiber that is used in automobiles and airplanes. Also, because of the flexibility and thin layer, it is an ideal material for computer or smartphone screens. The inventor of this super substance was rewarded Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 and many patents have been filed for numbers of applications ever since. While the potential of graphene is promising, none of such dreams has been realized yet because of the nature of this material that stays in two-dimensional structure, and the cost. However, researchers at MIT have designed a new material to bring this dream into practice.
Enjoy reading and thinking what the buildings or smartphones will be like 10 years from now. 


Topic Reading-Vol.1750-1/25/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
As Groundwater Dwindles, a Global Food Shock Looms
Pumping groundwater sounds local but it is in fact a global issue. Surprisingly, much of the crops are produced in places where not enough surface water is available for farming, such as India, Pakistan, southern Europe, and the western United States. Farmer in such regions pump underground water at a pace fast enough to meet the demand for increasing world population, which is estimated to reach nine billion in sometime in the 2040s from seven billion in 2011.
The water those farmers are pumping up from is underground reservoirs called aquifers. They are created by water seeping down through the ground from rain, snow or streams.
So just like oil, the supply is not limitless, and if more water is pumped than recharges, the reservoir is going to be depleted. Then food supply drops and prices hike, not only in the region but to the world. Sounds like the same mechanism as global warming, doesn’t it?
Enjoy reading and learning what aquifers do to fill the world stomach.


Topic Reading-Vol.1749-1/24/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
This might be how stress and heart attacks are linked
How many people are stress-free? How stress-resistant are you?
Scientists have long been suspecting the link between stress and heart diseases, such as heart attack and stroke, which are the number one cause of natural death around the world. But until recently, it has never been revealed the clue as to how and why.
But this new study finds that activity in some part of the brain, called amygdala, links with fear and stress, and predicts the risk for heart disease and stroke. Though it still requires further validation, the study seems to have provided a new aspect for this long-disputed topic.
Enjoy reading and thinking what you’ll be doing when you get stressed next time.


Topic Reading-Vol.1748-1/23/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Why it’s never be too late to learn an instrument?
Have you recently started something new to you or reengaged in something that you used to practice or enjoy doing? Do you find anything that relieve you from the what-to-do list or never-ending digital interactions?
Though it requires some practice, patience and concertation, playing a musical instrument is one that fills you with mental, emotional and spiritual pleasure. It may still sound too difficult to do but what if you could learn to play one of Bach’s piano works just in six weeks?
Now, there is a book introduced in this article that encourages you to challenge playing the piano. You may think you have neither talent or time for practicing, but practicing itself will enrich your time after work and obligations. After all, every day, our lives are getting shorter.
Enjoy reading and thinking if you’re interested in checking this book.


Topic Reading-Vol.1747-1/22/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Eight billionaires 'as rich as world's poorest half'
The rich and the poor. Among the factors that divide the world or society, such as gender, race, belief, social class, education, Internet access, wealth is by no means no less influential or substantial than others. And the gap between those who have and don’t has been widening to the level that undermines the validity of democracy.
The combined wealth of the top eight richest people is worth more than the half of the world wealth, and the top 1% of the world population has as much wealth as the rest of the world combined, according to Oxfam, an international confederation of 18 NGOs whose aim is to reduce world poverty. Even if you aren’t one of the top 1% elites, a net worth of $71,600 gets you into the top 10% group.
While the life of the bottom half of the world population is improving gradually, the wealth of the top group is increasing at a speed of sound. Distorted distribution of wealth is surely creating economic inequality, isn’t it?
Enjoy reading and thinking how you could use your mental wealth to help the poor.


Topic Reading-Vol.1746-1/21/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
'Puppy talk' - why do we use it and do dogs respond?
Puppies and infants. Most people speak to them in the same or similar way. Both look cute and innocent. Neither speaks nor thinks. But they react to some of the words or phrases you say to them. Therefore, people tend to speak slowly and clearly to make sure they respond as you expect.
Does it really work for puppies? It seems so. Researchers found that puppies in fact respond to recorded voices of such phrases. But what about grown up dogs? Do they respond to such dog-directed speech?
Enjoy reading and learning how you should use your language to dogs and infants.


Topic Reading-Vol.1745-1/20/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
New candidate for 'missing element' in Earth's core
What’s in the core of our planet?
Before thinking or guessing the answer to this question, you may want to know what “the core” is. According to simple.wikipedia, the outer core is a liquid layer about a little over 2,000 kilometers thick and made of 90% iron, 5% nickel, and the rest unknown. To reach the boundary of this region, you need to dig nearly 3,000 kilometers from the surface. It doesn’t sound feasible to send a drone to investigate the elements, at least in a foreseeable future.
So how could you discover, or predict what’s inside the core? Scientists use artificially created earthquake-like waves and study how the waves pass the region. And Japanese scientists made a guess of the unknown element, composed alloys and tested them with the waves.
It seems landing on the surface of other planets is easier than reaching the core of our own planet, doesn’t it?
Enjoy reading and thinking if humans ever reach Earth’s inner core.


Topic Reading-Vol.1744-1/19/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How Japan has almost eradicated gun crime
Once you have one, you tend to use it. This dogma seems to apply to firearms for civilians. There are very few firearms owned by civilians in Japan. Only shotguns and air rifles are allowed for hunting, not for self-defense or other recreational purposes.
And if you still want to own one, you need to obtain a license which requires a dedicated class, a paper exam and shooting test, mental health and drug tests and thorough background check including your relatives, friends and colleges. And there are other detailed regulations as to where to store the firearm and how to buy ammunitions.
Unlike the U.S., it seems that owning a gun in Japan is almost impractical. And it is. As a result of strict regulations and gun control measures, there are only six guns per 1,000 people owned by civilians in Japan and the number of gun death is below 10 a year.
Is it just gun control law that keeps the gun crimes so low?
Enjoy reading and learning what makes Japan the safest country in terms of gun crime. 


Topic Reading-Vol.1743-1/18/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What happens when all of China goes on vacation at once
Be warned, if you’re planning to visit China during this period. This year’s Lunar New Year Festival has started January 13th and lasts until February 21st. During this 40-day period, air, roads and railways are all packed with migrant workers, their families and students to travel back to their home towns to see their family members and relatives. The sheer number of such travels during this period is astronomical, almost three billion trips and 1.2 billion kilometers in distance, nearly the same distant to Saturn!
But they aren’t only satisfied to see their families and friends. Most of them spend a lot of money on shopping and eating. Stores and restaurants are packed with holiday-goers who want to enjoy something special for the season and occasion. And the number of travelers and the volume of business has been increasing as more people work and study in different places for better opportunities.
Enjoy reading and thinking if you want to experience or avoid this extravaganza when visiting China.


Topic Reading-Vol.1742-1/17/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Virtual reality just got (more) interesting
As 3D printing getting used more widely, human creativity seems to become more three-dimensional, especially with the assist of virtual reality. Today’s artists are given tools that allow them to create images without physical restrictions, and some designers went wild at a global forum for design in Miami last year. They look a little worried how to deal with the 3D virtual reality canvas in the beginning, but once their brushes start painting colors in the space, their imagination took off. They look pretty satisfied their creative works in the end.
Enjoy seeing the video of what VR-3D art is like and think if you want to try it.


Topic Reading-Vol.1741-1/16/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
It is almost impossible to herd cats, thanks to evolution
Cats are independent and solitary animal, in general. Unlike dogs or birds, they don’t live in a group. They try to stay away from others and tend to fight each other when they accidentally encounter. Even when they are domesticated, they aren’t loyal to their owners. Unlike dogs, they approach people only when they want to.
Why are dogs and cats so different even though both have been humans’ friends for long? And why are cats so distinct from their close relative, lions, which usually form a group to dominate a territory and hunt and share preys?
Enjoy reading and learning the distinctive differences between cats and other animals, birds and fish.


Topic Reading-Vol.1740-1/15/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
20 coolest drone photos of 2016
How drones are used is quite diverse. They not only fly to please the drone flyers but also to sow seeds, deliver merchandises, monitor situations, patrol areas, drop a bomb and take photos. New terms have emerged relating to this convenient vehicle, such as drone photographs and photographer, dronist and Dronestagram. There is even an international drone photo contest which collects photos taken by drones from angles or spots that had never been tried.
CNN presents 20 stunning drones photos of beaches, mountain cliffs, farms, volcanoes, people, shadows, and even selfie. They are absolutely distinct from conventional photos.
Enjoy seeing these amazing and amusing photos and think if you’re interested in getting a drone for photo shooting.


Topic Reading-Vol.1739-1/14/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Venezuela minimum wage to rise by 50% 'to combat inflation'
Good news or bad news? A sudden increase of your wage by 50%! If the value of the increase matches or exceeds the hike of commodity prices and living expenses, Great news. But if the rate of inflation substantially surpasses your wage increase, not so much.
This is the dilemma what the people in Bolivia, an oil-rich South African country, are facing now. Because of the low oil prices, the nation’s export plunged and economy has been suffering from hyperinflation. Exchange rates to the US dollar vary widely, the official rate is as low as the one-fifth on the street market rate. International Monetary Fund estimates the country’s inflation could reach over 1,000%!
Butch and Sundance wouldn’t have gone to the country if they had known that the country’s economy was in chaos.
Read the article and think what you would do if your saving shrinks and salary decreases 10% every month. 


Topic Reading-Vol.1738-1/13/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
A new police beat in China: Smog
New force awakens. Not in Star Wars but in China. Though it is a counteractive measure, it still is a progressive move to create a dedicated police force to curb air-polluting activities, such as outdoor barbecues, garbage incineration and biomass burning.
China has been struggling to improve air quality in major cities. They incentivize the use of environmentally friendly vehicles and motorcycles but the sheer number of vehicles on the roads exceeds the effort. Also, especially in winter time, more coal is burnt for heating in northern cities like Beijing. It’s no longer unusual to see people wearing all kinds of air pollution masks like these. 
Enjoy reading and think if this new force could create a new hope to beat the dark days in the capital of the country (not the empire). May the force be with them.


Topic Reading-Vol.1737-1/12/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Michelle Obama Signs Off as First Lady: 'I Hope I've Made You Proud'
After eight years in front of the public eye, she became a little emotional in her last official address in the White House. In her speech at an event to recognize the 2017 school counselor of the year, she stressed the power of hope, which she said had been the message that the first family believed during the eight years her family spent in the White House. She also emphasized the power of education to empower oneself.
She wasn’t born rich but worked hard and managed to graduate from two most prestigious schools, Princeton University and Harvard Law School. However, it was not easy for an African-America girl from a working-class family to be enrolled and study in Princeton, both ethnically and financially. In fact, both she and her husband completed higher education mainly by taking out loans. It took them 25 years to pay off the debts after their marriage.
She surely knows the importance and power of education, doesn’t she?
Enjoy hearing this moving speech by First Lady.


Topic Reading-Vol.1736-1/11/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
'We are failing the elephants'
There used to be as many as 20 million elephants in Africa. But the population is estimated to have shrunk to only half a million at most in the continent. Global warming to blame?
In fact, they have been killed by bullets of poachers for their ivory. It is popular especially among Chinese as a luxury gift, a purported medicine and also as a valuable investment. As the economy grew rapidly, demand for such highly-valued body part has increased, thus stimulated poaching and trafficking. Despite the governments’ and non-government institutions’ initiatives to catch those illegal poachers and traders, there still are intolerable number of killings of elephants. The savanna is just too huge to keep an eye on all the time.
Enjoy reading the article and watching the video, and think what else could be done to save the largest animal on the land. 


Topic Reading-Vol.1735-1/10/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Why you shouldn’t work at full capacity?
Balancing time is essential to succeed in study, work or life. You could put long hours to prepare for exams or to meet the deadline for a short period of time but not every day or forever. Also, you may burn yourself out or not achieve anything if you set your goals or standards too high. In either case, you get frustrated or unsatisfied with the outputs or even yourself.
However, some people, especially those who were born in 80s and 90s, tend to put more hours to work than other generations because of the competition, conditions or pressures in their work places. There seem to be certain reasons that cause such self-destructive situations.
Enjoy reading and thinking if you’ve ever studied or worked beyond the level you can comfortably continue.


Topic Reading-Vol.1734-1/9/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Saudi music video on women’s rights goes viral
In the Middle Eastern kingdom, women are not allowed to drive a car, show their beauty, or travel without permission by a male relative. There are number of things that they can’t do freely that are enjoyed by women in other countries, including sports and swimming.
It has been that way for a long long time but things are changing. As the number of young people, those under 25 years old, accounts over the half of the nation’s population, there seems to be increasing demand for social and legal changes.
One of the ways to express such voices is to produce a video and post it on the Internet. It is quite a cost-efficient but effective way to deliver a message to the public, and could cause a social uproar. Here is an example of such videos that went viral.
Enjoy watching the video and think if it could help spur a movement for a change in the conservative kingdom.


Topic Reading-Vol.1733-1/8/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Kangaroos in boxing match
You might have seen how a kangaroo confronts a human in the wild in the video introduced in Vol. 1707, Did Greig Tonkins break the law when he punched the kangaroo?
(click or touch the above title to see the video)
In the video, though the wild kangaroo looked ready for a boxing match, he looked stunned when he got a blow in his head by the zoo keeper.
The question is how kangaroos really fight, especially when they try to mate, which is an essential part of any species. If you recall how giraffes fight for the reason, you may recall a video shown in Vol.1695, Africa Giraffes in epic battle.”
(click or touch the above title to see the video)
Enjoy seeing the video to find how kangaroos in the wild fight each other over a female.


Topic Reading-Vol.1732-1/7/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Six bright ideas that are changing city driving
Right now, most people drive cars according to the lanes, signs and signals that are set previously. Drivers are the ones that make judgements as to what to do based on the signs and situations such as other cars, traffic and weather conditions. A car navigation system or app shows maps, routes and traffic updates but it is still the driver that controls the vehicle.
But what if cars on the roads communicate with each other, so that each driver or the driving (assistant) system can choose the best course of action in a cohesive way? And if such real-time information and interactions are integrated into the traffic control system to adjust traffic lights and signs, how much more smoothly the traffic flows? There are more such ideas that advance the traffic and transportation in the near future.
Enjoy reading and thinking what will the driving be like when you drive a car 1,000 days from today.


Topic Reading-Vol.1731-1/6/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Could you pass China's grueling, 5-hour civil service exam?
Taking a test to get a chance to be interviewed isn’t that unusual for government jobs in any country. But the extent and volume of China’s civil service jobs seem extraordinary demanding to the test takers. There are 135 questions to choose answers in various fields, such as math, logic, law and cultures, followed by three hours of essay questions.
This once-a-year test is held for a civil service job in China. As many as 36 people compete for one job. Why do so many people want to work for the government?
Stability and perks. While upfront salary isn’t especially high compared to the jobs that those best and brightest applicants could get in the job market, the right and free accommodation to live in the nation’s capital is tremendous especially for those who live in rural areas. Also, the stability and credit a civil servant gets is incomparable to any other job, such as a car loan, mortgage and marriage.
Enjoy challenging sample questions to find if you could think of getting a prestigious job in China.


Topic Reading-Vol.1730-1/5/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
The ornate beauty of Moscow's palatial metro stations
No need to visit museums in Russia’s capital. Just buy a ticket or pass for the metro in Moscow, you’ll enjoy the architectural beauty of underground stations that are not seen anywhere else.
Why are their stations so beautiful and architectural? Many of them were built in 1920s to 30s when then ruling party, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, tried to show off their might and also to present future possibilities to their people and the world. It’s just like other absolute rulers in history who left things that are more enjoyed in later times.
Enjoy seeing the photos of the elegant architecture of Moscow’s metro stations and think if and when you want to go there and see them in your eyes.


Topic Reading-Vol.1729-1/4/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Is Japan’s culture of overwork finally changing?
Go-home-early Day. Japanese government is going to set a day in each month when employees should leave early from their work, being triggered by a young worker’s suicide because of overwork.
Japanese workers are known to put longer work hours than Americans or Europeans, sometimes over 100 hours a month. In many offices, an hour or two a day of extra work is common. Why? One of the reasons is their work volume, especially for small businesses that are under severe pressure to stay in business. Another reason is low productivity. Japan’s productivity is lower than any other industrialized country especially in service industry. And there is distinctive Japanese culture, too. Teamwork. Many employees feel guilty about leaving their colleagues in the office, so that they do things that can be done next day or more efficiently.
The bottom line seems to be lack of eagerness or motivation to leave early to enjoy their lives, or different priorities from others in the world.
Enjoy reading and thinking which sounds more difficult, to have Japanese speak or leave work early.


Topic Reading-Vol.1728-1/3/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Refugee crisis 2016: 12 countries, 12 months
While most people are celebrating a new year at home with their family, numbers of refugees are struggling for daily necessities, such as water, food or clothes. Worrying about what to wear for special occasions or reunions in the closet is a dream for refugees who feel grateful if they have something to wear today. If you feel that cleaning the toilet is burdensome, think about those who don’t have one.
These are photos that show how difficult and miserable lives are for refugees who fled or are displaced from their homelands, such as Mozambique, Somalia and Syria to name a few. When will they find a place to live in and their children go to school?
See the photos and think what can be done to help them settle in a place where they can sleep and live like many others do in the world.


Topic Reading-Vol.1727-1/2/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Sir-vice! Tennis star Andy Murray knighted in New Year's Honors List
Today, one doesn’t have to be a warrior or serve in military to be honored a knighthood or damehood in Britain. Such honorary titles can be offered to a rock singer, tennis champion or Olympic athlete. And this year, UK’s proud tennis hero Andy Murray, who has won two Wimbledon titles and gold medals in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympic games. is knighted in New Year's Honors List. In fact, he was ranked number one as of the end of 2016. Perhaps more importantly, he was given a baby daughter in the same year. Sounds like he was one of the happiest person last year, doesn’t it? And his effort and hard work in tennis court is recognized by the royal court where tennis originated. In any case, what matters the most to win an honorable title seems to be service.
Enjoy reading and thinking which sounds more significant to you, an inherited noble title or an earned honorary title.


Topic Reading-Vol.1726-1/1/2017

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
$500b to boost high-speed rail plan
Not just a new year’s resolution but an implementation plan. Though China celebrates lunar new year, or the Spring Festival, it does use the ordinary calendar for business plan.
They seem to committed to extend their high-speed rail network to 30,000 kilometers, up from present 20,000 in the next three years, according to the newly revealed white paper by the transportation ministry.
High-speed rail is a type of rail transport that operates 200 km/h or faster. China has been investing to build a nationwide grid network of such high-speed transportation system since 2008, and now covers most of the large cities. The total length represents about the two-thirds of the world high-speed rails.
High-speed trains cut the travel time significantly. For example, the newly opened 2,250-kilometer Shanghai-Kunming line reduces the travel times along the route from more than 20 hours to around eight hours at between 300 and 350 kilometers per hour.
Enjoy reading and thinking if you’re interested in riding a high-speed land travel in China.