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Topic Reading-Vol.2606-5/31/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Japan wants you to say its leader's name correctly: Abe Shinzo
In Japan, it’s the family name, not the given name, that is called first. For example, the prime minister is Abe Shinzo, not Shinzo Abe and the legendary baseball player is Suzuki Ichiro, not Ichiro Suzuki. In fact, people usually call each other by their family name followed by “san” unless they are close to each other or within the family circle. It is the same custom as China and Korea. However, ever since Japan was introduced to the Western world a century and a half ago at the beginning of the Meiji era, Japanese names were written in reverse order in English. It was part of the effort to be recognized by Westerners in a friendly and equal manner.
Three era names later, Reiwa era has just started. Now the Japanese government is taking this opportunity to ask the international media to call Japanese names in the Japanese way. Actually, foreigners seem to know and respect Japanese practice and they usually, if not always, call a Japanese by its family name and san. But when a Japanese name is written, it’s still shown reversely.
As two world sports events are going to be hosted in Japan, the Rugby World Cup this year and the Summer Olympics next year, it may be a good time to say, “please write and call my name correctly.”
Enjoy reading and try to remember any Japanese names in the correct order.


Topic Reading-Vol.2605-5/30/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Sherpa climbs Everest twice in a week, setting record 24 ascents
Sherpa people, more known as skilled mountain climbers who are employed to help visiting climbers, are ethnic groups native to the mountainous regions of Nepal and the Himalayas. They practice ancient Buddhism, and also believe in gods, goddesses, and demons who inhabit every mountain, cave, and forest. For Sherpa people, many of the Himalayan mountains, including Mount Everest, are considered sacred. So, besides guiding mountain climbers, fix ropes, and carry supplies and oxygen to help mountain climbers realize their dreams safely, Sherpas also worship the goddess of the mountain to ask her forgiveness to step on her sacred body. And indeed, it is very important for a 49-year-old Sherpa who climbed Everest twice a week, his 23rd on May 15 and 24th on May 21st, breaking the world’s record. He thinks he’s still in good shape and has no plan to retire soon. Health, experience, and devotion are all needed to ensure safety and successful mountain climbing.
Enjoy reading the article to learn about this exceptional Sherpa.


Topic Reading-Vol.2604-5/29/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How a cheap, brutally efficient grocery chain is upending America's supermarkets
No one wants to pay more for the same thing whether they are rich or poor. Especially when it comes to weekly grocery shopping, prices are so important to decide which store to shop at. Indeed, you’ll feel foolish or ripped off when you find you were charged more for a box of cereal or a carton of milk of the same brand or equivalent quality than other stores. But to get cheaper prices or do smarter shopping, how much convenience or luxuries can you sacrifice? Do you mind putting a coin to use a shopping cart or packing the merchandises you’ve purchased yourself? If you don’t, there are supermarket chains that make feel like a smart shopper, ALDI.
ALDI is the common brand of discount supermarket chains owned by two German families. Combined, there are over 10,000 stores in 20 countries. In the US, there are over 1,800 stores in 35 states and will be 2,500 by 2022, only behind Walmart and Kroger. Having been supported by loyal, budget-conscious shoppers, the growth of the supermarket chains outpaced their rivals in the fiercely competitive market. How can they offer lower prices constantly? One of their slogans says, “All of our promotional efforts are put into discount prices.”
Enjoy reading the article and learn about how this frugal and dedicated supermarket chains outprice their competitors.


Topic Reading-Vol.2603-5/28/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Eurovision: What is it and what time is it on?
The Eurovision Song Contest, or simply Eurovision is an international singing contest organized by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). As the name suggests, the participants are mainly from European their neighboring countries like Russia, Israel, and somehow Australia. The contest has been held annually since 1956 and given chances to great singers, such as Abba, Eline Dion, and Olivia Newton-John. Every year, the previous winner’s country hosts the event and this year, singers and groups from 41 countries took part in the contest and 25 finalists competed at the grand final on May 18 in Tel Aviv, Israel, which was estimated to be viewed by nearly 200 million people mainly in the participating countries.
When it comes to music or art, it is the individuals that move people and bring success, not the scale of the country, economy, or military. Will we see more of this kind of international or regional events in the future that could give people the chance to compete in a fair and friendly way?
Enjoy reading the article and learn what Eurovision is about.


Topic Reading-Vol.2602-5/27/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
A woman took a picture of three Irish men in Times Square. It took Twitter only an hour to track the lads down.
Another example of the power of SNS. When a woman posted a photo of three men to Twitter, their identities were revealed just in an hour and retweeted over thousands of times. Fortunately, this was an act of goodwill and resulted in a happy reconnection.
A woman walking in Times Square in New York was asked to take a photo of the three male Irish tourists. It sounds quite common in tourists’ spots. However, they asked her to use her smartphone because none of them had one. When she asked how they would get the photo, they simply said they would find it someday. And in fact, they did.
Though this is a heartwarming story, it also suggests how fast a simple photo or video clip could become widespread and go viral in cyberspace. One’s identity and whereabouts can so easily be revealed and published online so fast. Isn’t that just convenient or scary?
Enjoy reading the article and think if a photo is exposed online like this without his or her consent or knowledge.


Topic Reading-Vol.2601-5/26/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
'Shut up and drive': Uber's quiet option for silent rides
Do you like or mind talking with the driver in a cab or rideshare vehicle? Never, sometimes, or depends? When you want to avoid conversing with a driver, what do you usually do, ask the driver to leave you alone or reluctantly respond as little as possible? In any case, you don’t want to be rude or unfriendly to the driver. So, what if there were a “quiet preferred” button on the ride-sharing app? Would it help you feel less unfriendly than saying it directly to the driver?
Some worry that such an easy option to avoid making a hard-to-ask request could affect our day-to-day interactive skills. Indeed, there are uncountable number of opportunities to ask or tell others that might not be perceived favorably in our life. In the meantime, a clear sign like in the app surely helps both parties avoid miscommunication.
After all, it’s up to the passenger whether to activate the silence mode.
Enjoy reading the article and think if you would use the function when you don’t feel like talking with the driver.


Topic Reading-Vol.2600-5/25/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Taiwan legalizes same-sex marriage in historic first for Asia
What is one thing common among Canada, Brazil, France, Sweden, South Africa, New Zealand, and Taiwan? In all these countries, same-sex marriage is recognized and legalized.
In Taiwan, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage became effective yesterday, two years after the Constitutional Court ruled that the law that limited the marriage only between a man and a woman was unconstitutional. Taiwan is the first to legalize same-sex marriage in Asia. In mainland China, where the same traditions and values exist, homosexuality is not illegal, but such practice could get discriminated. In Brunei, gay sex carries a death penalty by stoning, though the penalty may not be executed because of the criticism from the world.
Even in Taiwan, about two-thirds of the voters at last year’s national referendum were against same-sex marriage. For the LGBT community in Taiwan, it is just a new start to be free from social discrimination
Enjoy reading the article and think how much part of the article’s table map will be blue a decade from now.


Topic Reading-Vol.2599-5/24/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
San Francisco is first US city to ban facial recognition
What is one thing that is common among these tech giants, Apple, SAP, Linked in, YouTube, Yahoo,, Airbnb, and Facebook?
The location. They are all located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Indeed, San Francisco is regarded at the heart of technology innovation and revolution. You may assume that the city is armed with all high-tech tools to keep the city safer. However, unlike China where millions of surveillance cameras monitor streets, public places, and even parking spots (as covered in Topic Reading Vol.2598) , the bay city has decided to ban the use of facial recognition software by the police and other agencies. They are afraid that the technology is still not reliable enough to identify one from another yet and it could infringe privacy and liberty of the people.
While the supporters of the restriction welcomed the city’s decision to become the first US major city to ban the use of facial recognition by authorities, some people think the city should leave the doors open for future reconsideration as technologies improve fast.
Enjoy reading the article and think which should be prioritized, safety or privacy.


Topic Reading-Vol.2598-5/23/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Parking fees in Beijing to be tied to drivers' credit
China is so advanced in the use of high-tech tools, such as smartphone, facial recognition, surveillance video, and drone. For example, Alibaba’s Sesame Credit is a credit scoring service that is integrated with the Alipay app. The rating system is based not only on purchases and other financial transactions through the app but also from social media interactions and personal profile. Those who have high scores can enjoy faster and more advantageous financial and commercial services, such as loans and special offers. This kind of credit rating is becoming more common and influential and is now used as a social, financial, and even personal reference of the user.
Now, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport has introduced a monitoring and charging system for its public parking spots. A car parked along the street is monitored by an overhead electric device, and the driver is billed via an app which can be paid through the app. If the driver misses the due date, he or she will receive a text reminder, and if the driver still hasn’t paid within a set time, they will be fined, and their driver's credit will be negatively affected. Everything is done automatically.
Wherever and whenever a person is and whatever he or she does, they are not free from being monitored and rated these days. It seems quite transparent and fair to everyone, but …
Enjoy reading the article and learn about the innovative use of new technologies.


Topic Reading-Vol.2597-5/22/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Abu Dhabi startup is using AI to transform how kids learn
In most classrooms around the world, even though some students learn faster than the others, they are taught and tasked under the same curriculum and pace. They may be praised by scoring 100% in tests, but that also could mean they are missing opportunities to learn more. The reverse is also true. Slow learners are left behind the class and losing interest to learn. It has long been the common practice among most schools to simply put a set number of students in one place and teach them the same things at the same pace.
Now, there are tools that offer personalized learning curriculum that is tailored for individual students by using artificial intelligence. You might think such a high-tech teaching style is being practiced in Silicon Valley or Shenzhen, China’s tech hub, but it is happening in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. There are no books, no whiteboards, no markers or pens in the classrooms. Instead, students use their own-created avatars to work with computers that offer tailor-made curriculum to study subjects like math, science, and English. The curriculum is made and adjusted by AI that utilizes millions of data points on a daily basis from classrooms. In these classrooms, the teacher’s role is not to teach students but to assist them to learn through the program and offer help when needed. Ideally, everyone in the classroom can learn most effectively at their capacity. Well, as business practices have been and will be changing with AI, why not for teaching and learning in classrooms?
Enjoy reading the article and watching the video and think which way you would prefer if you were a middle school student, a textbook and pencil, or a display and keyboard to work in 2030 and beyond.


Topic Reading-Vol.2596-5/21/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Located in the western Pacific Ocean, the Mariana Trench is the deepest natural trench in the world. The bottom of the trench sits about 11 kilometers below the ocean surface, whose depth is more than the height of Mount Everest and nearly as the same as the cruising altitude of a jetliner. There, water pressure is immense, more than 1,000 times the standard atmospheric pressure. To give you an example, 100 litter water on the surface becomes about 95 litter at 11-kilometer depth. Also, the temperature goes near the freezing level. It is an extremely challenging environment for any creature to live in and for a man-made machine to dive into.
Earlier this month, an American explorer and his team recently broke the world record and reached the bottom of the trench at 10,927 meters below sea level in a 6m-long, 3.7m-high submersible. There, he found a few marine creatures that had never been seen by humans. Also, he saw very-unexpected objects at the bottom of the deep sea, a plastic bag, and sweet wrappers.
So, if there is a plastic bag at the deepest spot in the oceans, how much plastic wastes are lying on the bottom of other oceans and seas?
Enjoy reading and watching the video and think how and when, if ever, humans will stop polluting the marine environment.


Topic Reading-Vol.2595-5/20/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
For many young South Koreans, dating is too expensive, or too dangerous
South Korea is now one of the world’s least fertile nations by marking below one child per woman in 2018. This low fertility isn’t traditional but new as the figure used to be close to three four decades ago. The major reason is the increasing number of unmarried young people. In 2015, over 37% of women aged 30-34 were unmarried, up from around 10% in the millennium year. Also, the number of unmarried young people aged between 20 and 44 who are in relationships is declining, only 26% of men and 32% of women. Why young South Koreans aren’t dating, marrying, or making children as much as they used to?
That’s because they are struggling to get a job that brings a steady income. Though youth unemployment is just over 10% in the country, not everyone is a fulltime employee. Many young people are looking for better pay and more stable jobs. Also, only one in 10 students who are graduating this year have found full-time employment because of the sluggish economy, according to a recruitment firm. So, many students are investing their money and time on taking courses and getting skills to be better qualified for prospective jobs. They claim their priority is to get a job and they don’t have enough time or money for dating. However, there seem to be other social and mental factors that deter young people from dating or having relationships.
Enjoy reading and learn about modern South Korea’s social problems.


Topic Reading-Vol.2594-5/19/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Over 180 countries -- not including the US -- agree to restrict global plastic waste trade
The US emits more greenhouse gasses than any other country except for China but withdrew from the 2016 Paris Agreement to deal with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance.
Having been pushed by a global petition by nearly one million people, most countries but the US have agreed to regulate the movement of plastic waste beyond borders just like hazardous materials. As covered in Vol.2574 on May 4th, plastic waste from developed countries have been sorted, cleaned and recycled in developing countries in Asia. However, the import of plastic waste is exceeding the capacity of proper process and handling. As a result, water and waste pollutions are becoming the most serious and urgent problems, especially in the oceans and seas. According to the resolution, prior consent is required from receiving countries before contaminated and mixed plastic wastes are shipped. Now, exporting countries must ensure that plastic wastes are clean and recyclable. Importing countries have the right to refuse to receive plastic wastes that do not meet the requirements.
Of course, this agreement doesn’t solve the problem overnight. However, it at least urges those exporting countries to properly sort and clean the plastic waste before shipping, as well as to reduce such wastes. As for the US, even though they did not join to sign the agreement, their plastic wastes will not be imported unless the new requirements are met. Why did the US show the world another negative attitude towards the environment?
Enjoy reading the article and start sorting and cleaning your plastic wastes before they are collected.


Topic Reading-Vol.2593-5/18/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Why are flowers so expensive?
Did you buy flowers before or on Mother’s Day last week? Did you find it expensive just for a small bouquet of roses? In fact, two occasions you are paying much higher prices on flowers are Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Since the demand for gift flowers surges in many countries before these celebratory days, costs to put sellable and givable flowers increase drastically. That’s because gift bouquets are fresh, cut flowers that are grown in the soil of far-away lands, such as the Netherlands, Columbia, and Kenya and transported all the way to the florists in your town. No one buys dying or dead flowers or just buds for a gift. Since not all the cut flowers arrive at florists in sellable conditions and not all the flowers on the shelves are sold in time, quite a lot of flowers are discarded on the way or at the shop. Also, imagine how much risk, effort and cost those flower growers have to take for the peak seasons. Unlike most other farm produces, flowers must be shipped and transported flawlessly. Furthermore, popularity of flowers fluctuates like fashion as color, shapes, textures change. Yes, those peak sales occasions are surely great opportunities, but at a very high cost and risk for growers, wholesalers and florists.  
Enjoy reading the article and learn how to appreciate how much time, effort and risk are put into the flowers you see at florists.


Topic Reading-Vol.2592-5/17/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
The beautiful ways to different cultures sign emails.
How do you usually open and close your email, if you still use it? While “Yours sincerely” or “Truly yours” are often used to close a letter, “Warmest Regards,” “Regards,” or just “Best” is commonly used at the end of an email. For SNS, an emoji or initials of the sender is a popular ending. Of course, you don’t want to use an emoji in your business letter or any other forma exchanges. It is a matter of common practice.
Sometimes, though, a style that is common in one culture may not be perceived in the same way in other cultures even in the same format. For example, an American working in the UK found that closing an email with “Regards,” isn’t perceived as warmly in the UK as in the US. For Americans, a closing may be just a matter of formality or practice and doesn’t mean so much like in other cultures. But even if an email is written in English, some people try to insert their cultural or religious nuance at the end of their emails, such as “Stay blessed” by a Nigerian and “Accept an abundance of respect and appreciation” by an Arabic speaker.
After all, a closing is typed and shown at the very end of an email. It could mean more to the recipient than you might think. It is probably similar to a farewell like “Good-bye,” “See you,” or “Ciao.” You might want to think twice before clicking or touching the “Send” bottom.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about cultural differences close an email.


Topic Reading-Vol.2591-5/16/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Nature crisis: Humans 'threaten 1m species with extinction'
Global warning by a UN report. Humans are destroying the environment with their economic driven activities and environmentally destructive appetites, and as a result, an average of one in every four animals and plants is now threatened to extinction. This is an unprecedented decline in biodiversity and nature in a very short period of time. As the world’s population has doubled for the last 50 years, the global economy has grown by four times and international trade has increased by 10 folds. To fill hungry stomachs and meet the demanding appetites, forests have been transformed to farmland especially in tropical regions. Also, to produce goods and generate energy for living and comfort, more trees have been cut and the seas are reclaimed for residential and industrial uses. In fact, the size of urban areas around the world has doubled since 1992.
These are all at the cost of environment, on land, in the seas, in the sky. Temperatures are rising and animals, insects, birds, and fish are disappearing. This path to destruction seems to continue until decisive actions are taken immediately. It seems to be the time to change our focus from economic wealth for humans to the environmental welfare of the planet.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about the impacts of human activities on the environment and ecosystem.


Topic Reading-Vol.2590-5/15/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
The golden years of Paparazzi have almost gone
Paparazzi are freelance photographers who take photos of famous or popular people. They could be movie stars, TV hosts, politicians, or any other celebrities whose events or gossips are worth public attention. Paparazzi try to take photos of a private or secretive moment of high-profile people and sell them to media outlets that focus on tabloids and gossip magazines.
Their income is far from steady. You can imagine the chances to get sellable scenes at the right moment. They need a network of informants to tell them if there is a celebrity with someone or in somewhere that he or she doesn’t want to be known. Even if they get photos of such a private moment, the photos may not be priced as much as the time and effort. There is idiosyncratic risk, or inherent risk involved in investing in a specific asset – such as a stock.
Also, their business as a whole fluctuates from time to time, and it is actually in decline. While fewer people are now buying tabloids at newsstands, more sensational photos and videos are being posted online, free of charge. It is systematic risk, like stock market crashes and affects almost everyone onboard.
Are paparazzi the only ones that suffer such business risk? Aren’t robotics, IoT and AI changing the landscape of job opportunities and creations?
Enjoy reading the article and learn about two kinds of risks that could affect any type of jobs.


Topic Reading-Vol.2589-5/14/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
25 of the most beautiful places around the world
One of the hardest things to define or determine is beauty. It is subjective and personal. An artwork that looks the most beautiful to one person might be seen as just ordinary paintwork to another. Also, it is quite conditional. If you see a supposedly breathtaking view of nature on a rainy day, it may not look as spectacular as the one you saw in photos on the travel website.
Still, there are a number of places around the world that many people agree to list as the most beautiful place to see or visit.
Enjoy seeing the photos of the top 25 sites that are chosen by a team of travel experts.


Topic Reading-Vol.2588-5/13/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
A Ramadan etiquette guide for non-Muslims
As more people travel to other places or study, work or live with others in the world, the chances for non-Muslims to interact with Muslims increase. In fact, nearly one in every four persons in the world is Muslim and their population is growing faster than any other major religious group. However, while many of non-Christians know, or even celebrate Christmas with a special meal or Saint Valentine’s Day with roses, not so many non-Muslims are familiar with Muslims Ramadan.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar and is the holy month of fasting between sunrise and sunset. Muslims refrain from food, drink, sexual activity, and any immoral acts or thoughts during the day. After the sunset prayer, they gather in their homes or mosques to break their fast with a special meal, ifār, often with extended family members and friends. Unlike other religious holidays, Ramadan lasts for 29-30 days.
So, if your friend, classmate, or coworker is a Muslim who is obliged to observe this important month with strict restrictions, what should, or shouldn’t you do to be nice with them? Should you never eat or drink anything before them, or can you join them for ifār?
Enjoy reading the article and learn about dos and don’ts during Ramadan.


Topic Reading-Vol.2587-5/12/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Brunei says it won't enforce death penalty for gay sex
Brunei lies on the north coast of the island of Borneo, the world’s third-largest Asia’s largest island, which is shared by Malaysia and Indonesia. This small but oil-and-gas rich country with a population of only 420,000 became independent from the U.K. quite recently in 1984. It is a Muslim country and ruled and governed by the Sultan.
When this Muslim monarchy announced laws last month that would punish gay sex and adultery by stoning to death, it met an outcry from the world including human right activists and even celebrities. The Sultan might not have gotten or listened to the potential outcome of the laws before the announcement, but he became aware of the seriousness of the severe backlash quite soon. Though he didn’t withdraw the new law, he announced an extension of a moratorium of the death penalty. The death penalty could also be imposed for robbery and insult of the Prophet Muhammad in Brunei. It is unclear whether capital punishment could be executed on these crimes. But there is at least an absolute leader who listens to others and corrects a wrong course of action before too late.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about this small but rich country on the largest island in Asia.


Topic Reading-Vol.2586-5/11/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Xi Jinping is determined to end all poverty in China by 2020. Can he do it?
It was October seven decades ago when the Communist Party of China, CPC, established the People’s Republic of China after decades of civil war and Japan’s intrusion. The main force of the party was poor farmers in rural areas. While lasting peace and steady economic growth should have been the priorities, then party chairman and the absolute leader, Mao Zedong, lead a social and economic campaign called the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to rapidly transform the still war-torn country into a socialist society by drastic industrialization and collectivization, which resulted in drastic decline in food output and great famine instead. Then, another social and sociopolitical movement, called the Cultural Revolution was initiated by the same leader from 1966 until his death in 1976. Both of the politically-motivated initiatives brought nothing but economic devastation and deaths of millions of people. It had taken nearly three decades since its independence before the party finally initiated economic reform led by Deng Xiaoping at the end of 1978. Only in the first three decades, coastal regions, state-owned enterprises, and exporting industries grew rapidly and became the second largest economy in the world around 2008. And the last decade, astronomical numbers of private enterprises emerged, massive rural-to-urban migration occurred, and the world’s largest middle-class was formed. Now the party leader Xi Jinping wants the rest of the people in rural areas to get out of poverty and has initiated a strong campaign in both central and local party and government leaders.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about this new social and economic movement in modern China.


Topic Reading-Vol.2585-5/10/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
The most effective ways to curb climate change might surprise you 
The temperatures are rising all around the world because of global warming. In order to fight climate change, emitted carbon by human activities must be reduced. And there are numbers of things and ways people, businesses, and policymakers can do.
For example, to reduce carbon emissions, should we;
- cook our food in a more environmentally friendly way or reduce food waste,
- drive electric cars or fly less,
- switch to LED lights or install green roofs,
- protect tropical forests or return lands to the indigenous people,
- use more wind or solar energy?
- clean up chemicals in the fridge and A/C or use better cement compound,
- and, educate girls or provide family planning?
While some are much more effective than others, they may not be so easily implemented or changed. In any case, learning what works more is the first step to make our planet greener.
Enjoy taking quizzes about various solutions to curb climate change.


Topic Reading-Vol.2584-5/9/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How to solve the plastic packaging paradox
Not all plastic products are evil. Of course, single-use plastic shopping bags shouldn’t be justified only for convenience and economy. However, plastic bags and packaging make food last longer, which reduce food waste substantially during transportation, on the store shelves, and in the fridge. Also, pre-cut meat packed and wrapped by see-through plastic keeps its color longer and allows you to choose the one you like without sacrificing hygiene and freshness. Indeed, it’s been over eighty years since plastic became popular for food packaging. It’s part of our daily lives especially in cities where most of the daily necessities are transported, traded, and purchased. It’s hard to imagine what our life would be like without plastic packaging. But are we recycling or reusing it enough? In fact, some plastic packaging items, such as PET and PP are often recycled but others like PVC or PS are almost never. Also, can more single-use plastic be replaced by more environmentally friendly materials like paper or degradable plastic? It’s time to make use of human ingenuity and consciousness to the environment rather than just convenience and economy.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about one of the greatest inventions of the previous century and biggest problems in the present century.


Topic Reading-Vol.2583-5/8/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
World is angry and stressed, Gallup report says
How was yesterday for you? Did you smile or laugh a lot? Were you stressed or worried? When such questions were asked, people in Latin American Countries answered that they had good experiences more than others, according to the annual Gallup Global Emotions Report. That may be because of their cultural tendency to focus on positives in their daily lives. On the other hand, people in African countries like Chad, Niger and Sierra Leone, along with troubled Iraq said the opposite. Food, security, and safety seem to be more concerned issues in those countries where domestic conflicts and violence threaten people’s lives.
Also, while 35% of the total respondents said they were stressed, over 50% of Americans and nearly 60% of Greece said they were stressed. Is just the economy to blame for stress? Are there any other factors, such as job security, politics, or technology that cause stress for people?
Enjoy reading the article and recall what yesterday was like to you.


Topic Reading-Vol.2582-5/7/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Is it worth it to fly an ultra-low-cost airline?
One of the most mysterious prices is airfares. When you fly from A airport to B that is serviced only by one carrier, you most likely pay a standard economy-class fare, which costs like a first-class fare. But when you search for a lower fare well in advance in a route where multiple airlines compete, you may have a better chance to find a heavily discounted ticket, like below $200 from London to New York. However, the fare goes up as high as the standard fare if you book closer to the departure date. Does the cost to fly an airplane change so much? In fact, the only cost variance airlines have to bear for the same route is fuel, whose prices change time to time while other costs, such as staffing, operation, and depreciation are almost fixed. So, what makes airfares different so much is competition and demands. Low-cost carriers offer bargain prices to pack as many passengers as possible and charge baggage fees and sell in-flight meals and drinks during the flight. If no one checks in baggage and buys any drink or meal, the airline makes no money or lose some. Big airlines have upper-grade seats that generate most of their revenues. So, if there are no business class passengers or generous economy class passengers booked their seats at the very last moment, they are in trouble.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about airlines’ dynamic pricing mechanism for competition.


Topic Reading-Vol.2581-5/6/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Indonesia's planning minister announces capital city move
Located on the northwest coast of the world's most populous island, Java, Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country. The megacity is the center of economics, culture, and policy of the world’s fourth most populous country. Sitting on swampy land and crisscrossed by 13 rivers, the megacity with a population of 10 million has two serious problems. It has the world’s worst traffic congestion. With over 13 million motorcycles and 4.4 million cars running on the roads, rush hour is a nightmare. Another problem of Jakarta is that the city is sinking at a rate of one to 15cm a year. Half of Jakarta is already below sea level and large parts of the city are predicted to submerge by the middle of the century. In fact, some places in Jakarta has sunk four meters four decades. Besides the geographical factor, the major cause of this sinking problem is the fact that over 60% of the residents pump out water from the ground for their everyday use.
So, the newly reelected president wants to relocate the capital to another island.
Is this a good solution or best use of tax? What will those abandoned residents and businesses do with the sinking problem? Should the government be the first to evacuate from the sinking capital?
Enjoy reading the article and learn about a solution that only saves the government but not the 10 million residents of the sinking capital.


Topic Reading-Vol.2580-5/5/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Should AI be used to catch shoplifters?
How does it sound to train an AI algorithm by surveillance data to identify potential shoplifters? A Japanese tech venture developed a shoplifting warning system that alerts the shop staff when it detects a suspicious figure. It doesn’t examine a person’s biological profiles, such as gender, age or race. Instead, it monitors shoppers’ facial expressions, movements, and clothing. With the system, shoplifting losses were reduced by nearly 80% at convenience stores, according to the tech startup.
Critics argue that it violates privacy. The developer says the system just gives warning based on the behaviors of suspicious shoppers and leaves the judgment for action to the store personnel.
Since the system is to prevent shoplifting, it seems to be beneficial for both the store and potential shoplifter. In fact, there already are similar systems being used in public places to prevent crimes and acts of terrorism. Does it violate privacy?
People seem to sacrifice privacy for convenience but become reluctant to give it up when it comes to security.
Enjoy reading the article and think if preventive use of AI violates privacy.


Topic Reading-Vol.2579-5/4/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
China's recycling ban has sent America's plastic to Malaysia. Now they don't want it -- so what next?
Even if everyone is environmentally conscious enough to properly sort and dump plastic waste into recycling bins, the collected wasted needs to be properly recycled by someone somewhere on the globe. Then how much of the used plastic is collected, how much of the collected plastic is recycled domestically, and how much of the exported plastic is illegally processed or dumped? Your environmentally conscious act to your place might be causing environmental nightmare somewhere else.
Especially since January 2018 when China stopped importing plastic waste, much of the exported plastic waste from developed countries like the US started to land in other developing Asian countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and India. Then these countries took tougher actions to restrict such plastic import from foreign countries. This ripple effect turned Malaysia into a final destination of some of the plastic waste from the US. If the imported plastic waste reaches to a properly managed and operated recycler, it will be fed into a series of machines to be washed, crushed and sliced into small flakes, and then melted and processed to become small pellets that are sold to plastic users. But not all the imported plastic waste ends up such desirable reincarnation.
Enjoy reading the article and seeing the video to learn about what happens to plastic waste once collected.


Topic Reading-Vol.2578-5/3/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Smart Speakers: Why your voice is a major battle in music
Smart Speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home are getting popular especially in English speaking countries. Among the multiple features that these voice-activated devices offer, such as weather news, traffic information, reading podcasts and ordering food or diapers, the most popular request for smart speakers is to play music. The request can be very specific like the title, musician, or label, or could be rather indirect like the type, genre, or mood of the music the user wants to hear. Then, how does the “Smart Speaker”, not a human DJ of a radio station, pick up songs that suits your taste or mood?
That is what Algorithm does by searching the metadata. Metadata is the information embedded in an audio file that is used to identify the content, such as the name of the album and artist and the title, as well as the writer, producer, and publisher of the music.
Sounds like the tags of a homepage. Indeed, the chance a certain music title is picked up by those algorithms depends on the metadata. If the name of the musician or the title of the song is hard to remember or pronounce, it is less likely to be chosen no matter how suitable it is to the listener. It seems that smart speakers are taking place the place of radios and human DJs.
Enjoy reading and learn about the technology and new rules of the game music industry and musicians have to deal with.


Topic Reading-Vol.2577-5/2/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Mongolia: A toxic warning to the world
Ulaanbaatar is the capital of Mongolia, a landlocked country in central Asia. It is also the largest city with a population of over 1.3 million, nearly half of the population of the country. Ulaanbaatar is also known as the world’s coldest capital, where minimum temperatures drop below minus 20 degrees Celsius in winter months, when many of the capital’s residents burn raw coal to heat their houses and coal-fired power stations run at their full capacity to supply enough electricity needed to warm the city.
Here is the problem. Since Ulaanbaatar lies in a valley where high mountains shield the city from winter winds, the smog caused by coal-burning stuck in the valley, resulting in disastrous air pollution. And who are the most vulnerable to air pollution? Young children. They suffer severe breathing problems and lung diseases even wearing masks. Indeed, Ulaanbaatar is not just the coldest but also the most air-polluted capital in the world. And it’s not hard to imagine what is happening to the surrounding environment.  
Watch the video and learn the changes occurring in the grassland, herds and pastoral lives in Mongol.