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Topic Reading-Vol.2414-11/20/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Five myths about wild fires
It this a new normal? There seem to be more and more deadly wildfires raging in many places around the globe, widespread wildfires in Siberia last year, a series of wildfires in Greece this year, and now in California only to name a few. Unfortunately, an increasing number of such devastating wildfires seems to be neither temporary nor coincidental.
What are the main causes of, and countermeasures to deal with these disasters? Are they caused by natural phenomena, human activities, or climate change, or a combination of all? There also seem to be actions to be or not to be taken to prevent or reduce the damage and victims of wildfires that might not have been properly practiced or understood.
Read and learn about this present and clear danger to human lives, properties, and wildlife.

Also, watch this intense escape from a wildfire to feel how furious it is.


Topic Reading-Vol.2413-11/19/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Australians outraged over Sausage Sizzle safety ruling
When you order a hot dog, most of you probably expect the onions will be placed on top of the sausage, if you want any. That seems to have been the most commonly accepted and expected way a hot dog is served.
The Sausage Sizzle sandwich, made of a sausage wrapped in bread, is a popular hot dog sold inside and outside of the Bunnings hardware stores, Australia’s leading DIY retailer that runs nearly 300 outlets. When the retailer announced a plan to place onions under the sausage instead of on top for a safety reason, numbers of enthusiastic fans of the sandwich expressed strong outrage at the change, including the PM.
Do you think it’s a big deal? Well, imagine a slice of tomato or cheese is placed under a beef patty, how does the burger look and taste?
Enjoy reading the article and think about how sensitive people are when it comes to a simple recipe.


Topic Reading-Vol.2412-11/18/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
How Amazon delivers in the Himalayas
Amazon has been expanding the customer base in populous markets of India. Now, the e-commerce giant is getting its foot in the door of the Himalayas.
Leh is a small town in northern India which lies at an altitude of 3,500 meters. The present-day population of this ancient capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh is just about 30,000. Though there aren’t so many business or commercial activities in this mountainous town, residents, including monks, seem to be interested in buying things online. The last-mile of e-commerce in this remote town has been longer than the one of other populated areas until recently. Now aggressive Amazon recruited delivery personnel to complete the final part of the logistic process. Bike riders. Since there aren’t signs or addresses on the street, the delivery personnel have to be familiar with the local residents to ensure that the delivery is made to the right recipient. Some worry about environmental impacts. What will happen to the worn-out items that have never been used in the self-sufficient old town, not to mention the discarded cardboard boxes and packaging materials? It will take longer for the nature to degrade those foreign objects in the beautiful environment.
Enjoy watching the video and think if e-commerce will become part of the lifeline in the Himalayas.


Topic Reading-Vol.2411-11/17/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Mourning dog waits for 80 days in road where owner died
Dogs are mostly loyal. Unlike another popular long-domesticated pet animal, cats, they learn to do what the owner expects them to do maybe for a reward or a praise. Some dogs are so loyal that they keep waiting for the owner at a place where they used to meet or spend time together often, or where the owner passed away.
The former case was demonstrated by a famous Akita dog, named Hachiko in Japan. The loyal dog awaited his master’s return for nine years after his death at the train station at the precise time when they used to meet. His statue is still placed in front of the busy Shibuya station in Tokyo.
Now there is another case that a loyal dog stays in the middle of a busy street where his owner was killed. Ever since the owner of this lonely dog died on the road in the capital city of Inner Mongolia, China last August, he has been staying there. It is not clear whether he doesn’t know the fact that his owner is gone forever, or he just doesn’t want to recognize it. Whichever the motive might be, he hasn’t accepted any offer of help by other people.
Enjoy reading the article and see the video and think how much longer this poor dog will stay around there, particularly when freezing winter is approaching in Inner Mongolia.


Topic Reading-Vol.2410-11/16/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Alibaba Singles Day sales top $30 billion
How substantial $30 billion is? It is about the GDP of small or developing countries ranked about 100th in the world, such as Jordan or Tanzania. Alibaba, China’s e-commerce giant, generated record sales exceeding $30 billion during the 24-hour sales extravaganza, known as Singles Day Sales on 11/11/2018. The sales event has been taking place every year since 2009 and is now held in other Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam by Alibaba’s subsidiaries.
Most of the orders came from smartphones and most likely paid by Alipay, Alibaba’s online payment platform. The company not only generated the biggest sales of the year but also collected an enormous amount of personal data. Who buys what and how much will make the online e-commerce site more attractive to not only online shops but also advertisers.
Brick-and-mortar shops also took advantage of the sales bonanza, as well as exporters in Japan, the US, and Australia.
Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Fathers or Mothers Day were all originated in Western cultures. Now, this single-day sales event created by a Chinese firm seems to spread to other parts of the world as well.
Enjoy reading and learn what this sales event will be like ten years from now.


Topic Reading-Vol.2409-11/15/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Armistice Day: Macron and Merkel mark end of World War One
The armistice of World War I was signed on November 11, 1918, between Germany and the Allies. During the 51-month period, battles took place in and around Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and even the Pacific Islands, Eastern Asia, and Latin America. Nearly 10 million military personnel were killed and almost the same number of civilians lost their lives.
Why did it take too long time and too many lives to end the war? People should have learned that no one wins a war by then. But even after the deadliest war, another world war took place only three decades later mainly between the same nations.
At least, isn’t it mind resting to see a photo of the leaders of then enemies sitting peacefully together to remember the armistice day a century later? The sad thing is that while then US president took a big role to end the war, the incumbent US president seems to have any respect or consideration for the past and the future of other countries.
Enjoy reading the article and think why people repeat the same mistakes over and over again.


Topic Reading-Vol.2408-11/14/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Forget the trade war, China's economy has other big problems
China’s growth seems to have been overly financed by debts. A number of generous investments were initiated to vitalize the economy back in 2008 when the financial crisis hit the world, and indeed they’ve pushed China’s economy to the second largest only after the US. As long as the real economy is growing, such debts don’t always create so much headache. However, when economic growth slows down, repaying debts becomes a serious burden, especially for often inefficient and uncompetitive state-owned enterprises. The same is true for the real estate market. Many emerging middle-class Chinese have invested heavily in residential properties, not just one but a few. Such investment is also financed by borrowings from banks with an expectation of higher market prices. But the housing market seems to be cooling, too. And then, the declining birth rate. The government relaxed the decades-long one-child policy recently but that seems to have done too late. Education costs and modern lifestyles have already changed the formation and value of Chinese families.
And now, a trade war with the U.S is about to kick in. No wonder China’s middle-class feel weary of their lives (Vol.2407).
Will China be able to manage this new challenge and start a sustainable and consistent growth?
Enjoy reading and learn what is going on in China’s economy.


Topic Reading-Vol.2407-11/13/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
China's middle class: We're being picked like leeks by the government
When the country’s economy is booming, many can enjoy the benefits. Among those beneficiaries, the middle class is the people who drive the economy the most.
The middle class usually mean the broad group of people socio-economically between the working class and upper class. Their activities are one of the key indicators of the economy because they spend, borrow and invest more when they think the future is prosperous. On the other hand, when they feel clouds in the economic horizon, they cut back their loans for homes and automobiles, spending on luxurious items and activities such as traveling and dining out, expenditures for daily necessities.
Recently, the fast-growing Chinese middle class seems to have been experiencing their first financial downturn. While their salary prospects are uncertain, the cost of living, especially rents, is increasing. To make the things worse, some had invested heavily in the stock market that has plunged nearly 40% this year. Many investors are now forced to cut the losses of the investment. Many of such middle-class people now feel that they are the victims of the government and the exploiting class and call themselves leeks.
It seems like a situation where populism prevails in a democratic state.
Enjoy reading and learn how the current Chinese economy affects their middle class.

Topic Reading-Vol.2406-11/12/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Suicides among Japanese young people hit 30-year high
Of the 21,000 people who committed suicide in Japan in 2016, 240 were students of elementary, middle and mostly high school students. Unfortunately, the 30-year-high figure represents nearly one student suicide per school day. The causes of these early suicides ranged from family problems, worrying about their futures and school bullying, according to the notes or logs left by those who took their lives. As the number of students’ suicide surge in September and April, those students seem to have had a very difficult time to get back to school after the summer vacation or to start a new school year. (Note: School year starts in April in Japan)
In fact, suicide is the leading cause of death among young people aged between 15 to 34 in Japan. While the country is known for safety and modesty, some students seem to suffer serious emotional pressures that don’t seem to be recognized or eased by their classmates, teachers or parents.
Read the article and learn one of Japan’s underlying social problems.  


Topic Reading-Vol.2405-11/11/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Nepalese festival celebrates 'day of the dogs'
When people celebrate a festival, should dogs be part of the festive occasion? In Nepal, they take part in the five-day Nepalese Hindu festival of Tihar. The second day of the festival is a designated day for dogs. Pet dogs are celebrated and blessed with a red mark called Tika, applied to their forehead and given flowers garlands whether they like them or not. They are also treated with a special food they like, such as milk, meat or eggs. Some people say just a day of special treatment is not enough for their beloved partners, but dogs look quite happy to get special attention from people. 
Because of the religious nature of the festival, the treatment is not limited to pet dogs but is offered to non-pet dogs and cats. They may wish that the festival takes place not just annually but weekly or even daily.
Enjoy reading and seeing the photos of happy dogs in Nepal.


Topic Reading-Vol.2404-11/10/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
South Koreans are working themselves to death. Can they get their lives back?
It seems that necessity to work hard to rebuild the country became a custom and obsession in South Kora. The nation underwent the deadly and destructive three-year-war until 1953. People had no choice but to work whatever it took to put food on the table. And men seem to have been expected to do the job for their families and by the employers ever since. Workplaces are understaffed, workers are overburdened, and organizations are mismanaged. Korean workers worked much longer hours than other OECD member states. As a result, the numbers of deaths by overwork went so high that a word dedicated to such death was created, gwarosa.
Good news is that a new regulation will be put into effect next year to limit weekly working hours to 40 from 68. That’ll make significant changes to workplaces, workers and their families if it is enforced. The problem is that the law applies only to large companies that employ 300 or more workers, at least for a while.
Read the article and learn what working could mean in different cultures


Topic Reading-Vol.2403-11/9/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
How your heart age is key to heart attack or stroke risk
You probably know and heard of what could increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. Obesity, poor diet, a lack of exercise and high blood pressure, you name it. If you simply keep eating and doing what you want, such risk factors increase greatly. Unfortunately, it requires a certain determination for one to do what he or she is usually not willing to do, such as exercising regularly or cutting the amount of alcohol or sweets. But what if there is a wake-up call, like a simple web-test that tells you an estimated heart age? In fact, Public Health England offered a free online test to the residents. Surprisingly, as many as nearly two million people took the test. The 16-question test found that almost 80% of the test takers had a heart age higher than their actual age. Those whose heart ages are older are told that they have a greater risk of an early death. Very straightforward warning, isn’t it? Interested or afraid to know the result?
Enjoy reading the article and take the test to find out how much older or younger your heart is than your age.


Topic Reading-Vol.2402-11/8/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Custom KitKat shop opens in Japan
Four scores and five years ago, its father brought forth in London a new confectionary. The unique chocolate-covered wafer bar confection became soon popular in Europe and America. KitKat is now sold by Nestle around the world. Ever since it landed on Japan 1973, Kit Kat has been one of the top-selling chocolate products. There have been over 300 permanent, limited and seasonal flavors, such as ginger ale, soy sauce, green tea, and banana to keep momentum and stimulate impulsive purchase. For Japanese, KitKat sounds like "Kitto Katsu" a phrase meaning "You will surely win." It is one of the most popular gifts to entrance exam takers, especially in January and February.
Now, a brand-new KitKat chocolatory opened in a busy subway station in Osaka. Shoppers can customize KitKat with their favorite flavor, such as milk, matcha or strawberry flavored white chocolate, and nine toppings including marshmallow, pineapple, cranberry, mango, green raisin, almond, cashew, macadamia, and shredded coconut, and then have it hardened before their eyes by a blast of liquid nitrogen. What a show to watch! Another cool spot to visit in Japan.
Enjoy reading and design your own KitKat, you will win!


Topic Reading-Vol.2401-11/7/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Meet Sophia: The robot who laughs, smiles and frowns just like us
A robot that not only expresses human emotions naturally but also understands the emotional state of people, up to a certain extent. This robot, named Sophia, was developed to represent the intersection of humanity and technology as well as to enhance humanity.
To realize such complex movements of the face and voice, researchers had to study neurobiology and biology of human facial expressions to design how to move each part of the artificial muscle. She can generate various expressions such as joy, confusion and even frustration. She also shows up as a model and delivers a speech. With these human-like abilities, she became the first robot to be granted a citizenship, in Saudi Arabia.
Enjoy watching the video and think if you may want to have a robot partner or pet in your home someday.


Topic Reading-Vol.2400-11/6/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Can music therapy work on dogs?
Some pet dog owners or carers might believe that music calms dogs. In fact, some study shows that dogs in animal shelters are less likely to bark and more likely to sleep to classical music than more upbeat music like heavy metal or no music. But what about specially trained dogs like police dogs that are often under stress for their intensive searching tasks?
Here, in a Spanish police dog training center, dogs hear classical music when they are off duty and in their respective cage. The staff members say that they bark less and look more relaxed.
Have the trainers found what type of classical music dogs prefer?  Do German Shepherds like Wagner more than Verdi, or Retrievers prefer symphonies to chamber music? Maybe we should put a “Like” button next to those dogs to gather data.
Enjoy watching a video and think if what makes you feel calm and relaxed.


Topic Reading-Vol.2399-11/5/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
India unveils the world's tallest statue
Will the Statue of Unity in India become as popular as the Statue of Liberty in New York?
This newly inaugurated statue in the western Indian state of Gujaratis is 182 meters tall, nearly twice as tall as the famous copper statue in Manhattan, and now is the world’s tallest statue. Unlike other religious or anonymous statues, this new statue is a tribute to one of the independence leaders, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who served as the first Deputy Prime Minister of India. Though he is not as known as Nehru in the world, he worked very closely with Gandhi and was, in fact, the last person to talk privately with Gandhi before he was assassinated only minutes later.
Will this founding father serve the nation once again by bringing millions of tourists as incumbent PM Modi expects?
Enjoy reading and watching the video and think if a statue, however huge or tall might be, is attractive to you to visit the remote site.


Topic Reading-Vol.2398-11/4/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Why is Seven Samurai so good?
This over-six-decade-old, black-and-white work by Akira Kurosawa is one of the most well-known and referred to films among movie producers, actors, and critics. In the 16th century in Japan, seven master-less samurais were hired by farmers to protect their village from bandits. Though the story sounds simple, the making and acting of this movie are both outstanding. It won Silver Lion award in the Venice Film Festival in 1954 and won or nominated in other prominent film awards. Scores of years later, movie critics were asked by BBC to choose their favorite non-English language movies. Among the 100 top listed films, Seven Samurai came to the top of the list.
Why is this particular old movie?
Enjoy reading and learn about this legendary milestone work in cinema history.


Topic Reading-Vol.2397-11/3/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Amazon is investing millions to keep packaging out of landfills
While generating billions of dollars in bottom line profit, Amazon is also creating tons of trash on the earth as their fulfillment centers ship over a million packages daily. That’s a lot of cardboard being used, opened and trashed or recycled. In each box or package, there is bubble wrap and/or Styrofoam to keep the merchandise in good shape. How much of such plastic packaging materials is properly collected and recycled?
Now, in order to respond to the rising criticisms and demands for reducing or replacing single-use plastic items like straws and lids, Amazon announced to invest “ten million dollars” to a fund that invests in recycling programs, sustainable goods, and landfill reduction efforts through venture capitals and investment funds.
Does is sound generous or sufficient to you considering the amount of trash the online giant is creating every day?
Enjoy reading and think how much trash from the delivered packages you throw out a week.


Topic Reading-Vol.2396-11/2/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Is it OK to be average?
Do you consider yourself an average person? If you are, do you want to stay in or stand out from the crowd?
Being an average or ordinary person gives you a chance to fit in a classroom, workplace, or community easily. Many people prefer to be that way simply to stay in the comfortable zone or to intentionally hide their identity, such as a criminal or undercover operative. But unless you have some distinguished talent or particular reasons, you can decide and control mostly how you are seen by the way you look to, speak to, or treat others.
Indeed, being an average, you’ll get fewer hassles, troubles, or worries. But isn’t that too boring to you?
Enjoy reading and think if being average an insult or compliment.


Topic Reading-Vol.2395-11/1/2018

Dear MEL Topic Readers
Driverless cars: Who should die in a crash?
Driving a van with passengers, your family or friends, and suddenly noticed an extended family, grandparents, parents and two kids are walking across the street at a distance that is no way to avoid a collision. What would you do?
This is a kind of situation you never want to face when you sit in the driver’s seat, who to save and who to hit if there is ever any moment to think or judge. Instinct probably prevails over logic, and reaction likely comes before conscious control.
A research found that how people cope with such situation differs widely by culture. The Japanese chose to avoid hitting pedestrians while the Chinese wanted to save the passengers. The French chose to save young people but the people in Confucianism cultures, such as China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japanese, chose otherwise.
So, what would a self-driving vehicle do in such a situation? What sort of decision-making algorithm is going to be set? Would that vary by country or situation? Should the driver be asked to choose an algorithm option before activating the self-driving system?
Enjoy reading and think what you would do at such a critical moment.