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Topic Reading-Vol.2636-6/30/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Christchurch attack: New Zealand launches gun buy-back scheme
A gun buyback program purchases guns, and in some cases with ammunition, from private owners to reduce the number of firearms. Some programs also give the chance for those who own firearms illegally to surrender the weapons to the authority without prosecution
In Argentina, over 100,000 firearms were collected in the 2007-2008 buyback program, which was voluntary and anonymous.
In Brazil, more than one million guns were collected and destroyed in two programs between 2003 and 2009.
In Australia, as many as 660,000 firearms were retrieved and destroyed in a similar program in 1996.
New Zealand banned semi-automatic weapons shortly after the March 15 Christchurch massacre which left 51 victims. They’ve now launched a buyback program to collect as many as 14,300 licensed military-style semi-automatic weapons until December 20.
In any case, even though the number of guns on the streets is reduced at least for some period of time, the chance for another mass shooting still remains until the last gun is collected.
Read the article and learn what gun buyback program is about and what it does and doesn’t.


Topic Reading-Vol.2635-6/29/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Carbon fiber subway trains complete trial run
Written by a renowned Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin in 2008, The Dark Forest is the second book of the science fiction trilogy "Remembrance of Earth's Past." In the book, in the not-so-distant future, auto-driven vehicles are flying in the air, people are touching monitor screens that appear almost anywhere and robots are serving customers in restaurants in the underground world. Does this sound too futuristic or unrealistic?
Nowadays, many new technological advances in transportation infrastructures are realized in China. Nearly-nationwide Highspeed Railway network, Magnetic Levitation Trains, or Maglev, and subway system in most major cities. Now, they’ve got a brand-new advanced subway train made of fiber composite materials, which make the train 13% lighter than conventional subway trains. The auto-driven train is equipped with an intelligent monitoring and warning system that initiates repair work when needed. Its windows are touch panels that show videos and news when they are touched by passengers. Also, the newly applied fully active suspension gives smoother-than-ever ride even at a faster-than-usual speed.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about another technological break-through in China.


Topic Reading-Vol.2634-6/28/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
India to overtake China as the world's most populous country: UN
The world’s population was about 2.5 billion in 1950, six billion in 2000, seven billion in 2012, and 7.7 billion this year. So, there are over three times as many people now as were shortly after WWII on the planet. That is quite a leap in a very short period of time in Homo Sapience’s seventy-some millennium history. And the increase has been accelerated especially for the last two decades, which have added nearly two billion people. The world is surely getting more crowded especially in Asia and Africa.
And for the next three decades, the world is predicted to add two more billion people. The growth rate declines as over 50 countries are expected to lose their populations more than one percent mainly due to low fertility rate. China alone is going to lose 300 million people by 2050 due to the decreasing fertility rate that is caused by urbanization, later marriage, and rising living, especially education costs.
The growth is expected to come from other part of Asia, but not from eastern countries like Japan or Korea but from South and Southeast Asia like India, Pakistan, and Indonesia and also from Africa. For example, Nigeria, whose present-day population is about two hundred million, is expected to add more than half a billion people just in the next three decades.
Will the world have enough food and fresh water, not sea water, to feed this rapid population growth? Also, will the environment allow humans and other species to survive?
Enjoy reading and think how far 2050 is from now, not only for us but also for our children.


Topic Reading-Vol.2633-6/27/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Dogs' eyes evolve to appeal to humans
You know it.
Dogs often make an attention-grabbing expression or noise when they want their owner to do something for them, such as petting and feeding. You may take it for granted, but researchers found that such infant-like expression is a result of evolution over millenniums.
Since domesticated dogs no longer need to develop strong jaw muscles to bite other animals or tear the meat off the bone, they seem to have developed a muscle to raise the inner eyebrow over time instead to make a non-verbal appeal to humans, just like human infants do. Indeed, they seem to have learned such subtle and delicate, yet effective communication means to get along with, or even take advantage of human feeling.
Are they getting smarter than our cousins in the wild, apes or monkeys, that share the same ancestor? Maybe, at least when it comes to living with humans.
Over the next few millenniums, humans may be trained to do what dogs’ eyes tell them to do.
Enjoy reading the article and look at dogs’ eyes carefully when they demand something.


Topic Reading-Vol.2632-6/26/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Beijing says US legalization of marijuana is a 'threat to China'
Ordinary civilians usually aren’t allowed to possess or use guns and cannabis in most of the countries without permission or prescription. However, presently in the US, people can carry guns and even machineguns in most of the states and possess and use marijuana at least in 10 states. Though it is not part of the ongoing trade war, China accuses the US of increasing cannabis trafficked to the country where smuggling, trafficking, and using drugs are severely punished, including the death penalty. Will the dispute escalate to another war like the Opium Wars in the 19th century?
In the meantime, the US has been criticizing China for uncontrolled production and distribution of Fentanyl, a painkiller 50 times stronger than morphine or heroin, to the country. It claims that one in four overdose deaths in the US last year was linked to the deadly strong painkiller.
Neither marijuana nor Fentanyl should be used as a tool for the trade war as both are a health issue for people.
Enjoy reading the article and think if other countries are witnessing a similar increase in drug smuggling and trafficking from North America.


Topic Reading-Vol.2631-6/25/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Backlash grows against cashless society
Is cash still king?
In China, nearly 600 million people use mobile payment, such as Alipay and WeChat Pay that dominates over 90 percent of the market. In fact, the total number of transactions made via mobile payment platforms surged to 60 billion in 2018, up from 1.7 billion in 2013. People can buy mantou at a food stand, book a rideshare vehicle, make utility payments, or even pay a speeding fine. More and more people in large cities stop carrying their wallets when they go out.
In the US, six out of every 10 retail transactions were made in cash a decade ago but now it's only three in 10 transactions. More retailers prefer accepting only plastic or mobile payment to cash to save time and cost as well as to reduce the risk of robberies.
In Sweden, many banks abandoning handling cash as the Scandinavian country is moving towards a cashless society.
It seems that money control is shifting from banks to card issuers and mobile payment platformers. And this move gives convenience for both ends of the transaction. As a result, more retailers are accepting only non-cash payment. However, what about those who don’t have a plastic card, mobile phone, or bank account? Will they all be left out when no one accepts cash? To save such cash-dependent payers, some cities have past laws to require small retailers to accept cash for goods and some services, such as Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Cash used to be the most preferred payment method, but it is not any longer.
Enjoy reading the article and think about how you will make payments a decade from now.


Topic Reading-Vol.2630-6/24/2019

Topic Reading-Vol.2630-6/24/2019
Life in India's first city that's almost out of water
Located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal, Chennai, used to be called Madras, is the biggest cultural, economic and educational center of south India. With a population of nearly five million, it is the sixth largest city in India.
Chennai usually gets most of the seasonal rainfall during the monsoon season from October to December that refills water reservoirs. Since no major rivers flow through the region, Chennai suffered from massive floods during the monsoon season in 2015 that was caused the record-breaking rains in a century. But when there is little rain during the season, the city gets water shortage. And that is what happed in the last monsoon season. As a result, the city’s four major reservoirs are almost dried out after having no rain for nearly 200 days. Now people, businesses, hotels, schools and even hospitals get no tap water. They are solely depending on water tankers. Only large hospitals get priority for water delivery, but most others get rationed quota of water once a day or week. Many restaurants and hotels are closed for weeks. People have a hard time washing their dishes, bodies and even hands before a meal, which is hygienically problematic as people eat by hand. Don’t even think about toilet flush. Furthermore, farmers are badly hit by this drought as they mostly depend on ground water which is also running very low. Only those who are driving water trucks are exempt from this crisis.
Are major cities in other regions free from such severe water shortage?
Read the article and learn what water shortage is like in a major city.


Topic Reading-Vol.2629-6/23/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Can we spot a killer asteroid before it hits Earth?
Can you imagine how vulnerable our planet is to asteroids? Have we been hit only once a century or millennium? How deadly could that be if the Earth is hit by one in the near future?
When an over-100-meter-wide meteor crashed into Earth in 1908, as many as 80 million trees were knocked down over an area of 800 square miles in the Siberian forest.
In 2013, when a 20-meter-wide asteroid exploded in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia, the airburst caused shockwaves that smashed windows and injured 400 people.
Last year, a small asteroid called 2018 LA exploded over Botswana, Africa and a meteoroid of a size of 2-meter-across landed in thick grass, which was retreated after an intensive search.
Aren’t these asteroid impacts frequent and significant enough for human beings, and all the other earthlings, to worry about? If it had been Central Europe, not Siberia, what scale of destruction would have recorded in human history? People would not have had enough energy or resources to engage in WWI. What if the last year’s tiny meteoroid had hit Beijing or Washington DC instead of the grassland in Africa? The damage and casualty would have been beyond imagination.
In order to save earthlings from killer space rocks, a system of telescopes called Atlas is tracking objects flying around our planet. Once a potentially hazardous asteroid is discovered, astronomers begin plotting trajectories and predicting impact sites. When the asteroid comes close enough for radars, they can estimate the density of the object to predict landing area and the impact when it enters the atmosphere. Then an early warning could be issued to the people in the predicted area.
Is there any way to avoid such devastating impact?
Enjoy reading the article and learn about this not a present but clear danger to all earthlings.


Topic Reading-Vol.2628-6/22/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Reading the tea leaves about whether drinking green tea is good for you
Originated in China, green tea is popular among Asian countries. Unlike black tea or oolong tea, green tea doesn’t undergo withering and oxidation process. Because of the abundant catechins, green tea has been believed to have various health benefits, such as preventing cancers and cardiovascular diseases, lowering fasting blood sugar, losing weight, and deterring cognitive decline. Is green tea really an almighty medicine or life-savor?
Unfortunately, none of such health benefits has been chemically or medically proven. However, that does not mean you cannot enjoy the flavor and taste of green tea. For example, what is an appropriate or ideal drink after a Chinese or Japanese cuisine, coffee or black tea with sugar and milk? Indeed, food and tea, like wine or sake, have long been evolved together. Also, there is undeniable relaxation benefit for having green tea, just like having a cup of coffee or black tea after a meal, during work or for a break.
The bottom line: you can certainly enjoy green tea without harm to your health.
Enjoy reading and learn about what green tea does or doesn’t do for you.


Topic Reading-Vol.2627-6/21/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
World's most popular theme parks
Have you planned your family vacation for this summer yet? If your children, or yourself, are big fans of Harry Potter, go to one of the Universal theme parks in Orlando, Florida, Los Angeles, or Osaka. For Star Wars enthusiasts, Disneyland in California or Disneyworld in Florida are the hottest spots with their new Galaxy’s Edge theme park. And for those who want to enjoy Disney characters and atmospheres, choose one of Disneyland parks closest to you, like the one in Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, or Paris.
Not surprisingly, most popular theme parks last year were Disney properties in various locations, such as Disneyland, Disneyworld, DisneySea and so on.
Even in today’s digital age, theme parks are still popular destinations attracted a little over half billion visitors in 2018. About half of them enjoyed at 25 most popular parks around the world.
Enjoy checking the top-25 list to help you plan your next vacation.


Topic Reading-Vol.2626-6/20/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Is it time to treat sugar like smoking?
Plain tobacco packaging requires the removal of all branding, such as colors, imagery, logos, and trademarks, and permits manufacturers to print only the brand name in a regulated size, font, and place on the pack. The rest of the package’s area must be printed with, often severely discouraging health warning to deter smoking. In 2012, Australia became the first country to introduce plain packaging. In the UK, plain packaging became a requirement for all cigarettes sold after May 2017. In Asia, Thailand is becoming the first country to mandate plain packaging starting from September this year.
There is a more serious health problem in the UK. Obesity is now one of the leading preventable cause of death. More than one-third of men and over 8 in 10 women are thought to be overweight or obese, and by next year, the ratio is predicted to reach 90%. This serious weight problem has been increasing the number of deaths by diabetes, heart diseases, and cancers as well as medical costs. And children are no exception. They are constantly exposed to attractive sweets and sugary drinks, which often contains multiple times of recommended daily sugar intake per serving.
In order to make people think twice before opening the attractive package of a such-rich snack or twisting the cap of a sugary drink, a new move to introduce “discouraging packaging” is on the rise. Imagine a chocolate or candy bar wrapped in a plain package full of health warning with a plain brand name. For producers, it would be awfully difficult to market or promote new products that aren’t familiar to consumers. It would also be difficult for consumers to distinguish Coke from Pepsi.
Though it may sound too radical when the smoking ban in public places or plain tobacco packaging was first discussed, neither of which had been expected to pass Parliament.
Enjoy reading the article and think if the idea is a good step towards a sugar-free diet.


Topic Reading-Vol.2625-6/19/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
The unique culture of Japan’s convenience store
There are over 57,000 convenience stores in Japan, whose population is about 126 million. That is about one convenience store for every 2,200 persons, or every 900 households. About 90 percent of those stores are franchise outlets of three giants, Seven-Eleven, Lawson, and FamilyMart, all of which also own and run many stores abroad.
Most of Japan’s convenience stores are open 24/7 and essential for people’s daily lives.
First, they sell foods and daily necessities of good quality. Neatly-packaged chips and ice cream, freshly-made sandwiches and rice balls, and instore-fried nuggets and broiled chicken are just a few examples. You can eat three meals a day at their eat-in counter without getting tired of the food variety. And of course, you can find toilet paper and toothpaste, socks and underwear, liquors of any kind and freshly brewed ice or hot café latte. In fact, they stock over 3,000 items in their tiny floor space.
Second, they introduce about 100 new items every month. The above-mentioned prime food items are constantly refreshed their taste and flavor to entice repeat customers. New snacks and drinks are put on the shelves almost daily (and removed quickly if they don’t sell fast enough to meet their expectations).
Third, they offer convenience. You can buy concert or plane tickets, pay taxes and utility bills, send or receive packages, withdraw cash or transfer money, and use the toilet. You don’t worry about if they have what you need or not. Just get in there and ask or find what you need.
Lastly, they serve as lifeline and security. Some people use convenience stores as their fridge and stock room especially for those who live with limited space. Also, they are equipped with security hotline to protect their employees and report any emergency especially late at night. In case you are followed by someone, find a suspicious person, or see an accident or trouble, just get there and ask for help.
Indeed, convenience stores are working hard for not only their profit but also people’s benefit. Without convenience stores, the lives in Japan don’t seem to be sustained any longer.
Enjoy reading and learn what commercial enterprises can do for people’s lives.


Topic Reading-Vol.2624-6/18/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Can you really have a plastic-free kitchen?
In yesterday’s Vol.2624, you learned the problems plastic wastes are creating in India and which is the best solution to the problem among “3-Rs.” Reduce. Then, you may want to know how to reduce the use of plastic in your life and home.
The first thing that most people think of is to bring a reusable bag when going shopping. It’s the simplest and easiest way for anyone to reduce plastic waste. Whichever reusable bag you use, paper, polyethylene, or cotton, try to use it as many times you can.
You can also gradually switch from plastic containers like a lunch box, freezer bags, or jars to non-plastic ones. But make sure to use the ones that you already have as long as you can instead of creating waste right now.
You may wonder why many food items, such as potatoes, cucumbers, bananas, and beef usually are wrapped in plastic in supermarkets. One reason is for convenience. When things are sold in a package, it’s much easier for the store staff to put them on the shelves and scan the barcode. It’s also convenient for the shoppers to pick up the items from the shelves and store them in the fridge. Another reason, which is impactful to the environment, is that when such foods are wrapped in plastic, they last longer, thus less food waste is produced. Controversial, isn’t it?
Instead of worrying about which is better for the environment, plastic or food waste, enjoy reading the article and find what you can do practically.


Topic Reading-Vol.2623-6/17/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
India's trash mountains are a fetid symbol of the country's plastic problem
Convenience stores, supermarkets, online shopping, and food delivery services. They all create an unprecedented amount of trash, especially single-use plastics. Environmentally conscious consumers are trying their best to sort out the trash for proper collection, whether to be recycled, incinerated, or dumped. So, their houses and communities are kept clean and the residents feel proud. But even if the trash is properly collected, is it properly handled? Are the plastic wastes, either sorted or mixed, all recycled properly?
It is estimated that approximately 70% of the plastic wastes are discarded in India. Large amounts of them are washed down to the Indian Ocean via the River Ganges. Others were dumped in the landfills with other biodegradable garbage and hazardous materials.
But don’t just blame on India or China. The US, Canada, and other developed countries had shipped their plastic wastes along with other unsorted garbage to China until last year when it was banned and have been shipping to other southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and the Philippines until they were recently rejected.
Among three “R”s, reduce, reuse and recycle, the reduction seems the most urgent and essential action needs to be taken decisively to tackle the plastic waste problem because there is only so much that even environmentally conscious people can do.
Enjoy reading the article and think if human ingenuity can someday overcome the disasters caused by human insanity.


Topic Reading-Vol.2622-6/16/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Why do airlines still mislay 25 million bags a year?
Have you been the last arriving passenger waiting for your checked-in bags beside the luggage carousel in an airport? Being the last is still much better than being the one to claim lost luggage. Think of the hassles you need to deal with after a long flight and inconvenience you’ll need to endure until you get the luggage. Though the total number of baggage mishandling has been reduced dramatically for the last decade, there still were nearly 25 million bags, out of 4.3 billion in total, went astray in 2018. Nearly half of those mislead or lost bags missed their connecting flights. That happens. When a flight is delayed and you have to rush in the terminal building to catch your connecting flight, your luggage could still be sitting in the baggage cart. In other cases, your baggage might have been misplaced by handlers in either departing or connecting airport or picked up by someone else. Though you can track your own baggage with an app by placing a device that transmits its location, that won’t prevent your baggage from being misled.
By the way, there also are thousands of pieces of unclaimed luggage each year. Do you know where their destinations are?
Enjoy reading the article and learn how your baggage is being handled while you are sipping wine of taking a nap on the flight.


Topic Reading-Vol.2621-6/15/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How to be a good traveler in the 'overtourism' era
When visiting other places for travel or fun, some people tend to go loosen up too much without considering other people around. Whether you are an obsessive Instagrammer or selfie maniac, you might have tried to take photos at spots where people praise on the Internet. That’s quite typical in popular tourist destinations. But nowadays, ordinary places could suddenly become a hot Instagram spot and disrupts the lives and activities of the locals. Imagine an ordinary scenic spot that has been enjoyed quietly by neighbors went viral on the Internet overnight. In a few days, the place could be stopped by sightseeing buses, rental cars, and bikes.
Also, there are aggressive tourists from emerging economies who try to get the most out of the money and time. Eating like starving children at a buffet, rushing into souvenir shops like looters, and speaking loudly on the train or bus like TV debaters, only to name a few examples.
Indeed, thanks to the rising middle class and low-cost carriers, the world is more traveled by the growing number of tourists than ever before. But not all the places are used to being visited by naughty tourists or strangers just like your neighborhood.
Here are a few tips for tourists from experts by China Daily.
Enjoy reading the article and guess who should read it to be good a traveler.


Topic Reading-Vol.2620-6/14/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
EU Budget: who pays most and who gets most back?
With a population of a little over half billion in 28 member states, still including the UK, the European Union as a whole is the world’s second-largest economy only after the US. Some member states, such as Germany, UK, France, or Italy has a large population and Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, respectively ranked within top 10 in the world while small states like Malta, Cyprus, or Estonia produces little and ranked below 100.
The EU budget, roughly €166 billion for the year 2019, is mainly for investment to complement national budgets in the agreed policies in the fields, such as agriculture, regional development, space, trans-European networks, research, health, education, migration, border protection, and humanitarian aid. Each member state pays its allocated contribution and receives a budget for respective objectives. So, some countries pay more and receive less while others pay less and receive more. No wonder people become supportive of or skeptical about being a member state of the union. If your tax is spent on a bike-sharing program in another country to help curb greenhouse gas emissions, will you feel proud of it or betrayed by the government?
Remember, many countries in the European Union fought with each other nearly to the end during WWII, but they are now cooperating each other through talks and negotiations. Will such cooperative activity, if not by the form of union, be tried in other regions, such as Eastern and Southeastern Asia, or the Middle East?
Enjoy reading the articles and think about how cooperative the region where you live could be in the future.


Topic Reading-Vol.2619-6/13/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Ultraprocessed foods are easy, cheap and could be killing you
To avoid health risks, choosing foods by ingredients isn’t enough. You also need to pay attention to how the food is prepared, according to new studies. The more processed the food is, the higher the risk of cardiovascular disease seems to be.
Fruits, milk, eggs, meats, seafood, yogurt, grains are considered unprocessed or minimally processed foods, and they are thought to be harmless. But while cheese, bread, wine, and traditional ham are processed foods, sausages, mayonnaise, chips, pizza, cookies, chocolates, artificially sweetened drinks are classified as ultra-processed foods. These heavily processed foods are found to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and early death because they are rich in unhealthy fat, too much sugar, and salt, but poor in healthy nutrients. Another problem is that these industrial foods are not only more profitable for the producers and sellers but also convenient and palatable for consumers. So, even if the physical and chemical characteristics of these foods are clarified and known to people, they may not be avoided so easily. Also, in developing countries, as more convenience stores and supermarkets appear, more packaged foods will be found on the shelves and in the freezers.
Environmentally, these industrial foods are packed in single-use plastic materials.
Enjoy reading the article and think about what you should be having for lunch or dinner today.


Topic Reading-Vol.2618-6/12/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What to wear on Mars: A look at the future of spacesuit technology
Space travel is becoming a reality, from reaching low Earth orbit to flying around the Moon or even landing on Mars. But when you set out on a space trip, what should you wear? Though the dress code is simply a proper spacesuit, the specifications, appearance, and comfortability all vary depending on where you are traveling to and what you are doing there. If you’re simply taking a short suborbital trip to see the Earth and experience zero-gravity in the cabin, you can wear a relatively stylish, not-so-clumsy one. But if you want to walk on Mars, you’ll need a puffy, fully featured life-supporting suit to endure extreme temperatures and toxic environment, according to NASA.
In the meantime, private enterprises are also working on more comfortable spacesuits. BioSuit is one of such designs. It’s not as puffy as conventional spacesuits because it applies pressure directly to the skin. Will there be branded spacesuit in the future, such as Gucci, Zara or Muji?
Whatever spacesuit you might be wearing, it’ll be the same one with others onboard. But don’t worry about the price, your space trip will be all-inclusive.
Enjoy reading the article and imagine how you will feel and look in a spacesuit.


Topic Reading-Vol.2617-6/11/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
The Pakistan city where almost 700 people have been infected with HIV
HIV is a virus spread through certain body fluids that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. It is estimated that about 37 million people are infected by HIV/AIDS in the world, and nearly one million people died of HIV-related illnesses in 2017. The number of people who are infected by this deadly virus varies considerably between countries and regions. In fact, nearly one of every 25 adults, or four percent, live with HIV in Africa, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the world’s total.
In Pakistan, many people believe that receiving drugs via injection is more effective than taking pills. There, despite having known what causes the infection and how to prevent it from spreading, some thoughtless medical practitioners or institutes in rural regions seem to have reused needles or syringes on different patients. Can imagine the end results? Children are the ones most infected by the deadly virus. It sounds like gross negligence.
Read the article and learn what could happen if a medical procedure is done improperly.


Topic Reading-Vol.2616-6/10/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Meet the photographer documenting life on the Korean Peninsula's DMZ
After the deadliest three-year war, which killed millions of soldiers and civilians, a 250-kilometer-long, four-kilometer-wide restricted area was established in 1953 between North Korea and South Korea. It still is the most heavily guarded border in the world as the two Korean states are technically still at war. Even though South Korean side of the guard post is visited by over a million civilians annually, inside the militarized zone is almost free from human interference or interaction, save occasional defectors from the north. Sure enough, anyone who attempts to go across the DMZ, where estimated over two million landmines are laid, will be shot from the back.
Because of the very little human interference, Korean Demilitarized Zone is now the most heavily protected sanctuary for numerous wildlife species. For example, thousands of White-naped and red-crowned cranes rest at a reservoir and fly over the Hantan River, where other wild birds like eagles, swans, and ducks are also around to find food.
Indeed, peace is preserved in this sanctuary as armed soldiers from both sides are there 24-7 to prevent any humans to enter.
Enjoy reading the articles and watch the videos and photos to learn about this 66-year-old demilitarized zone.


Topic Reading-Vol.2615-6/9/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
A historic win. The National Spelling Bee has not one -- but 8 champions
The National Spelling Bee is a youth competition in which contestants are asked to spell a broad selection of words. This contest is intended to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop proper English usage that will help them their lives. The annual competition has been held since 1925, except the war years, and this year, 562 contestants gathered and competed in National Harbor, Maryland. On May 30, after five rounds of preliminary competitions that eliminated 34 contestants, 16 finalists advanced to the final rounds. After the 20th round in over three hours, the competition organizer was the only one that finally lost the competition. Eight finalists answered all the challenging spellings posed to them and the 92nd competition resulted in an unprecedented eighth-way tie. They all looked very happy sharing the honorable title together. Besides the honor and joy, each “Octo-champs” earned 50,000 dollars prize.
Can you imagine what kind of words they spelled correctly? Omphalopsychite, Geeldikkop, and auftaktigkeit are just a few examples, none of which was recognized by the ordinary spellchecker.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about these miraculous champions.


Topic Reading-Vol.2614-6/8/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Various ways to pray for gaokao good luck
Starting today, nearly 10 million students are taking the national university entrance examination, gaokao, across China. The three-day examination is taken mainly by the third or final year of high school students whose scores are used for university admission criteria. If a student scores higher than the requirements of the university he or she applied for, they can be enrolled. If not, they will be passed on to another nominated school to see if the score meets their requirements. If the score does not meet the requirement of any of the universities the examinee applied for, he or she has to wait for the next year’s exam. It is an ultra-high-stake exam on which the student’s future depends. The good news is that one can challenge as many times as they want as there is no official age limit to take the exam.
So, when everybody is studying die-hard, praying for good luck is the last thing exam takers, and their parents can do. Indeed, they pray to anyone or anything, from English mathematician and physicist Isaac Newton, Chinese philosopher Confucius, or even a replica statue of The Thinker, a legendary turtle in mythology.
Enjoy seeing the photos of desperate students and their parents praying for good luck.


Topic Reading-Vol.2613-6/7/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Plastic waste dumped in Malaysia will be returned to UK, US and others
Ever since China banned plastic waste imports to clean up its environment last year, countries in Southeast Asia like the Philippines and Malaysia has seen a surge of containers filled with all sorts of waste. Even if they are all recyclable plastic wastes as documented, the sheer volume is way beyond their recycling capacity. But most of those wastes were found to be contaminated plastic waste or non-plastic garbage. In short, developed countries like the US, UK, Canada, and the Netherlands have been exporting their own wastes in containers to Asia. (covered in Vol.2579 on May 4)
So, last month, the governments of 187 countries, excluding the US, agreed to control the movement of plastic waste between national borders to combat the dangerous effects of plastic pollution around the world. (covered in Vol.2594 on May 19)
Now, Malaysia is returning 450 tons of contaminated plastic waste to their origins, like the Philippines is doing to Canada that shipped tons of mixed wastes in containers labeled as plastic waste for recycling. Where will all this excess amount of plastic or non-plastic wastes go eventually? It seems that the world is producing more materials and goods than humans can manage. Where is your shopping bag or reusable water bottle?
Enjoy reading and think about what you can do to the global environment.


Topic Reading-Vol.2612-6/6/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
North Korea: UN report says people 'trapped in cycle of corruption'
Approximately 70% of North Korea’s population, or roughly 17 million people, live on food rations. When food is rationed, it is never sufficient in calories, not to mention nutrition. This year, the ration was cut to nearly by half due to the worst harvest in 10 years which had been caused by dry spells, heat waves, and flooding. According to the food assessment conducted by the UN, the food ration was cut to 300 grams per person per day, from 550 grams. It is estimated that over 10 million people who depend on food rations are now suffering from severe food shortages, which is expected to last until the next harvest.
It’s hard to imagine how the food rations and other daily necessities are distributed fairly to all. Also, in this autocratic regime, there are numerous restrictions and permissions for activities and movement of the citizens that are administered by the relevant authority. When so many essential issues for a living are at the discretion of officials, what do you think people are forced to do to survive?
Read the article and imagine a situation where almost everything is controlled by the authority.


Topic Reading-Vol.2611-6/5/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What does the European Parliament actually do? One clue lies in your phone bill
The ninth election to the European Parliament ended on May 26 and elected 751 members of the parliament, who represent over 500 million citizens of the 28 member states. The election results seem polarized, while pro-EU liberal and far-right parties gained their presence, the center-left and center-right parties lost their seats.
But how much do you know about the parliament? What roles do they actually play in the EU? What are the other two pillars of the union, the European Commission and the Council of European Union do? What “groups” are there in the parliament and what are the relations and correlations with the political parties of their respective states? How high the voting turnout by election and by country?
By the way, when the United Kingdom depart from the union, their representatives will also retire their seats, which makes the total number of the seats to 705, unless a new member state has joined by then.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about this significant but vague function of the EU.


Topic Reading-Vol.2610-6/4/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Virtual kidnappings are rattling families across the US
Phone scams are increasing. Recently, 15 Japanese nationals were arrested in Thailand in connection with a large-scale phone scam involving what is believed to be hundreds of victims. Those scammers used phones voice over internet protocol to pretend to be customer service representatives and told the victims to make payments for subscription services. In other cases, scammers call old parents, pretend to be their child, and ask for cash to pay for their debt or compensation.
In America, a new type of scam is on the rise, called spoofing. It is a form of robo-calling that alter the caller ID  so that the scammer can make a call as if they are calling from a family member’s phone. Then, they pretend that they’ve kidnapped the receiver’s child and demand an affordable ransom that can be paid immediately without being checked by the authority. In order to convince the suspicious parents that it is indeed a kidnapping, they use personal information they find online, too.
Phone companies came up with a tool to identify spoofing attempts or autoblock robocalls. However, with voice manipulation technology, scammers may mimic the voice of a loved one or someone familiar just like in the movie soon. With the caller ID and mimicked voice, it might be hard to identify who is really calling.
Enjoy reading and think if you may want to establish secretive words or a number to identify your family member or even business associates.