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Topic Reading-Vol.2820-12/31/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
New Zealand: 56,000 guns handed over during amnesty
New Zealand is a small island country in the South Pacific with two large islands, the North and the South, and 600 small islands. The human population of the country is nearly five million, but the population of sheep is around 30 million, approximately five to six sheep per person. Sound very peaceful, doesn’t it? Then, how many guns in the country?
The police estimated that there are about 1.2 million legal firearms owned by citizens, approximately, one for every four citizens. After the mass shooting incident that took place in Christchurch on March 15, New Zealand parliament banned the possession of semi-automatic weapons and launched a buyback program. At the end of the six-month amnesty period, they collected approximately 56,000 assault weapons and rifles. Was it a success?
Remember, the Christchurch mass shooting left 51 people dead and 49 others wounded. The gunman possessed two semi-automatic weapons, a shotgun, and a rifle. One such deadly firearm could kill a dozen or more people easily if it is used by a malicious owner. Unfortunately, it is estimated that there still are over 100,000 such deadly weapons in the island country even after the buyback program.
Hope 2019 was the last year to witness a gun crime of this scale.
Read the last article of the year and learn about New Zealand’s weapon buyback program.


Topic Reading-Vol.2819-12/30/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What is it really like to be in prison?
A prison is a facility in which inmates are confined and denied a variety of freedoms under the authority of the state. In some prisons, people are held in custody as detainees before or without trial, and in other cases, legally convicted criminals are held to serve their prison sentence as prisoners. In either case, those who are in prison are deprived of liberty against his or her will.
You might have seen prisoners in movies or dramas, but have you ever thought about what the life there is like? Though conditions like the facility, cleanliness, and treatment may differ widely by prison or country, prisoners are stripped of their identity on arrival. They have very little freedom in everyday life. They need to ask permission for nearly everything they want or need to do. They are surrounded by fellow inmates, convicted criminals. It is not easy to get by physically and mentally. In the meantime, there, one may find something that they have never thought of or tried for. Here are some stories of former inmates in the UK.
Read the article and learn about the changes some prisoners made during their prison term.


Topic Reading-Vol.2818-12/29/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How to safely enjoy India's incredible street food scene
Do you like Indian curry? Then, you may want to visit India someday or again and try other kinds of Indian dishes, like samosas (dumpling), dosas (pancake), and biryani (pilaf). Like any other food-loving culture, there are all kinds of local and traditional delicacies on the street in India whose cultures are so diverse. But is it safe to eat street food there? If not, what about a small mama-and-papa restaurant?
There are some dos and don’ts that help you enjoy ethnic tastes while keeping your stomach undamaged, like any other not-so-hygienic places where you need to avoid tap water either for drinking or cooking. Where and how was the meat processed and at what temperature? Are the ice cubes in your drink made from tap water? When was the curry made or the dumpling fried? Has the ice-cream been kept frozen all the time or refrozen?
Basically, the same rules apply to almost anywhere in the world and anything you eat.
Enjoy reading the article and learn dos and don’ts to enjoy street food.


Topic Reading-Vol.2817-12/28/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Poorest countries facing both obesity and malnutrition
Lack of proper nutrition, whether inadequate or imbalanced, is causing considerable health problems to anyone on the planet. Around the world, one in five people is getting overweight while one in five women is considered too thin. Also, more than 150 million children under four aren’t growing as they are supposed to. The problem is that overweight has become common not only in developed countries but also in developing regions including sub-Saharan Africa. That’s because more unhealthy, high-calorie foods and sugary drinks are available more easily and economically. Think of supermarkets and convenience stores that are loaded with colorful food packages of cereals, snacks, and prepared meals and soda cans that are attractively labeled. And you can find these stores almost everywhere in the world now. Also, there are fast-food restaurants on the road where people can drive in or through to get food and drinks that charge them instantly without any physical work. No wonder people become heavier as they eat more and move less.
Today’s world is suffering these two contradicting problems at the same time, overweight and malnutrition.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about how easily people could suffer their health these days.


Topic Reading-Vol.2816-12/27/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How charity apps may be making us more generous
When and how do you give money to those who are in need or causes that make the world better? Most of the charitable donations is made in traditional ways, such as cash, deposit, cards, and checks. But if there is an app that links your certain spending to a registered cause, will that make you more generous?
In fact, with Application Programming Interfaces (API), you can donate a preset amount or percentage of a transaction you make with your smartphone. For example, you can donate a certain percentage of a ride sharing or hailing service fee to a cause that tries to protect the environment. Also, you can give some money to those who can’t find today’s bread every time you pay a restaurant tab. Though each amount may be small, you’ll feel generous each time. And of course, they add up.
It’s just like crowdfunding, the practice of funding a project by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, usually via the Internet. New technologies are surely changing the way people can help others and people are helped.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about new ways to make you more generous.


Topic Reading-Vol.2815-12/26/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Should Spain replace siesta with flexible work?
Siesta is a short nap taken often after lunch. The traditional daytime nap originated in Spain and became somewhat popular in other Spanish-influenced countries like the Philippines and Hispanic American countries. There are several factors made this midday break a tradition. First, too hot to work. It is common to take an afternoon nap in places where daytime temperatures go over 40 degrees Celsius. In such places, people work from very early in the morning, take a midday break, and resume their work in the late afternoon. Second, too much eating to work. Spain and other Mediterranean regions tend to have a big lunch with their families and friends, often goes beyond two hours. The longer you eat, the more you eat. They need time to digest it. Also, midday break was taken in a difficult time in the early 20th century in Spain where many people had to take two jobs to make ends meet. They needed some break between their work shifts.
Though siesta is only practiced less than 20% of Spain’s population, the custom makes the nation’s productivity uncompetitive against other countries in Europe. If you had a two-hour lunch followed by a two-hour siesta, you lose three hours compared to ordinary an-hour lunch break and have to make up the lost three hours by working late at night. So, you could get home around nine instead of six. Since no one has longer than 24 hours a day, such practice deteriorates not only productivity but also the wellbeing of the workers as they have less time to spend with their families or for themselves. Also, style and requirements for work are changing. As creativity and outputs are more valued than working hours in today’s work environment especially in the technology sector, spending time in the office too long and until too late means nothing but a waste of time. So, what should they do?
Enjoy reading the article and learn about siesta and today’s work environment.


Topic Reading-Vol.2814-12/25/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Climate change: 1.9 billion people rely on natural 'water towers'
When you hear a water tower, you may imagine an elevated water tank that distributes water to the projected area. The water also could be used as emergency storage for fire protection. But there are natural water towers that provide and store water to millions of people. They are mountainous regions that generate and store vast quantities of water. There are 78 of them in the world and they deliver the water in a controlled way to the people and land downstream. For example, the Himalayan, Karakoram, and other mountain ranges feed Indus basin where over 200 million people live with the rain, snow, lakes, and glaciers. But the population of the area is increasing rapidly, thus more water is consumed for drinking, living, irrigation, and industries than the supply. Human ingenuity could manage the distribution and preservation of the limited and reducing supply of the water, but the region includes Afghanistan, China, India, and Pakistan, that are not always friendly or cooperative to each other. Also, global warming is disrupting precipitation patterns, melting glaciers, and thus reducing water supply to the region where the demand for water is rapidly increasing.
A dispute or war in any fashion could erupt for this vulnerable natural resource in this fragile basin unless constructive talks and works began before it’s too late.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about natural water towers.


Topic Reading-Vol.2813-12/24/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Where the money is really made at Amazon
Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the Internet, “the cloud.” Users of cloud computing services don’t need to own, buy, or lease data centers, operation facilities, hardware, or software to use IT resources over the Internet and pay as they use. Examples of such cloud computing service providers are IT giants like Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Cloud computing initially helped small startups and businesses that don’t have financial or operating resources to set up and run IT services, but recently, it has been used by large enterprises and even public and government agencies. It is one of the fastest-growing businesses in the IT industry. You might think Amazon makes money by shipping boxes, but actually, 70% of the company’s profit in the last quarter was generated by Amazon Web Services. In the meantime, such large data centers consume nearly 2% of electricity worldwide and is responsible for 0.3% of the world’s carbon emissions.
Amazon is one of the most profitable and valued enterprises in the world while being one of the largest users of cardboard boxes and electricity.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about what brings money to Amazon.


Topic Reading-Vol.2812-12/23/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
What’s wrong with this picture?
A placard is just a brief written notice or explanation for public display. In a museum, you often find ones below or beside artworks. They are usually written in the main language of the place and often accompanied by another common language of the region for the visitors. But they are so plain and generic that they don’t always present the insight or information that the visitors want to learn. So, more museums nowadays offer audio devices or mobile apps to provide more in-depth and intriguing information of the artworks with more language options. Accordingly, you might have seen more visitors holding and gazing their smartphones in front of famous pictures or sculptures, but you never know what they are looking at in their smartphones.
Here is a photo of three girls sitting on a bench just in front of a famous painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. What can you tell from the photo? Are these young girls checking the info about the artwork or just chatting with their friends? Some say it’s a shame to use phones in the museum, but others argue that nothing is wrong with or unusual about it. Nowadays, when people see something unusual or extraordinary, they tend to focus more on shooting photos or a video of it rather than watching it in their own eyes.
Enjoy reading the article and seeing the photo, and then guess what these girls are doing. It seems as mysterious as the famous smile of Mona Lisa.


Topic Reading-Vol.2811-12/22/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
'World's first' fully-electric commercial flight completed
Ever since the Wright Brothers invented the airplane in 1903, there have been a countless number of flights made. It was January 1, 1914 when the first scheduled commercial flight carried passengers between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida by a small propeller aircraft. Though it was a short-lived service, it paved the way for today's aviation service industry. In 1952 the first jet aircraft began commercial service, carrying passengers from London to Johannesburg, South Africa on the de Havilland DH 106 Comet, the world's first commercial jet airliner. Today, nearly 40 million commercial flights are performed globally a year, over 100,000 flights every day. They make our travels easier, faster, and cheaper while emitting tons of CO2, the most prevalent manmade greenhouse gas, as well as nitrogen oxides (NOx), which contribute to the formation of ozone, another greenhouse gas. Emissions of NOx at high altitudes result in greater concentrations of ozone than ground-level emissions. CO2 emissions from all commercial operations in 2018 reached over 900 million metric tons, roughly 2.4% of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use and growing fast. In fact, there has been a 32% increase in emissions over the last five years.
Unlike automobiles on the ground, airplanes have been nearly exempted from the use of greener alternative energy sources, such as electric, hybrid, or fuel cells. Only the fuel efficiency has been constantly improved for economic reasons.
Now, the first commercial flight by e-airplanes are about to come into service in Canada. Though it is not a newly designed or created aircraft, but a 62-year-old seaplane refitted with an electric motor. It can carry six people for about 160 kilometers, enough distance for local services. New technology on an old aircraft. Sounds even environmentally friendly.
Will Greta Thunberg agree to fly on this zero-emission aircraft?
Enjoy reading the article about this new milestone for the aviation industry.


Topic Reading-Vol.2810-12/21/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Keep Chinese simplified, schools told
China has and always has had very diverse cultures with different peoples, traditions, and languages. But one thing that has been uniting them is Chinese characters that originated thousands of years ago. Though there have been continual changes in the forms and pronunciations, today’s traditional Chinese characters have been used for nearly two millenniums not only in mainland China but also in surrounding countries like Korea and Japan in some way or another. After World War II, mainland China and Japan started simplifying traditional Chinese characters separately while Taiwan and Hong Kong kept the tradition. Today, Macao and Singapore use the same simplified Chinese characters as mainland China.
Since simplified Chinese characters decreased the number of strokes and replaced complicated components of characters with simper shapes, some say it misses the aesthetic beauty of traditional Chinese and deteriorate the meaning of Chinese characters and cultural heritage.
The ministry of education says students can learn about traditional Chinese when they study Chinese classic writings and Chinese calligraphy at school.
Thanks to the standardization of diverse characters, Qin Shi Huang managed to unify China in 221 BC. But today, people either type or touch/speak-and-choose characters on their computers or smartphones to write documents or messages. Pinyin, the Romanization of the Chinese characters based on their pronunciation, may someday become more popular than characters as Chinese become more popular around the world.
Enjoy reading the text about what today’s Chinese characters are like.


Topic Reading-Vol.2809-12/20/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Russia banned for four years to include 2020 Olympics and 2022 World Cup
Authorized Neutral Athlete, ANA, seems to have settled as a new identity for Russian athletes at international competitions. It is now the only category under which Russian athletes can compete at international competitions after the doping scandal which first came to light in December 2014 and will be so for the next four years, including 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games and 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as the Russian Federation is banned from all major sporting events by the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA.
After the former head of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, who helped develop and distribute banned performance-enhancing substances for thousands of Russian Olympians from 2005 to 2015, became a whistleblower and fled to the US in 2016, Russia was banned from the 2016 Summer Olympics and total ban from the 2018 Winter Olympics. But that didn’t stop Russia manipulate laboratory data that was handed to WADA’s investigators January this year. Now, for the next four years, Russia’s flag will not be seen from major international sporting events. It also prohibits Russia to host or bid for any major events for four years, including the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Though it sounds like a harsh penalty, some say it isn’t enough to punishment for such deceiving and falsifying conducts and practices.
Is this charge the same as a speeding ticket? A driver who is caught for speeding could be charged a penalty and suspended from driving for a certain period of time, but he can get back on the road sooner or later. If one isn’t caught, is he or she just lucky?
Enjoy reading the article to learn about this organizational doping scheme and its consequences.


Topic Reading-Vol.2808-12/19/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Finnish minister Sanna Marin, 34, to become world's youngest PM
The Republic of Finland is a Nordic country in Northern Europe with a population of just over five million, about the same size as Denmark, Finland, and Singapore. It is a parliamentary republic of 311 municipalities and one autonomous region. The 200-member parliament exercises supreme legislative authority in the country. In the parliament, a new leader was chosen by the center-left coalition formed by five parties all of which are headed by women. Her name is Sanna Marin, a 34-year-old woman who first became a member of parliament in 2015 and has been transport and communications minister since June this year. Though she is young and novice in national politics, she seems pretty much determined and prepared to lead the country. Other sitting young female national leaders are New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern is 39, while Ukrainian premier Oleksiy Honcharuk is 35.
What matters more to be a leader, years of life (age), experience, or determination? Is a 30-year old CEO of an IT company who started his business while she was in college campus still too young or unexperienced to do the job compared with a middle-aged male manager who has never managed cashflow or dealt with shareholders?
At least in Finland, there seems to be much lower gender barrier in politics as over 40% of the ministers are female.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about this Nordic country where women have nearly the same power and representation in politics.


Topic Reading-Vol.2807-12/18/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Saudi Arabia ends gender segregation in restaurants
Until recently, restaurants in Saudi Arabia were required to have men-only entrance and women and family entrance separately, at least officially. But now, it is up to restaurants whether to maintain segregated entrances, according to the ministry of municipalities and rural affairs. This will certainly help restaurant owners save space, equipment, and people especially for cafes and fast food restaurants. But won’t women feel secure or comfortable to have a dedicated entrance for them?
This is part of the liberalization moves in the oil-rich super-conservative kingdom under the crown prince who took power in 2017. Last year, women were allowed to get driver’s licenses, and this year, they became free to travel abroad without the consent of a male guardian.
Enjoy reading the article and think if a women-only entrance or cash counter is a segregated or preferential treatment.


Topic Reading-Vol.2806-12/17/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
When the best way to take note is by hand
When you take notes in class or a meeting, which do you prefer, typing on the keyboard or writing by hand? In most cases, you can take notes faster by typing than by writing with a pen and paper. But that does not necessarily mean you learned it better. According to a study conducted in a US university, even though those who typed and wrote showed no significant difference when it comes to remembering the fact, students in the latter group were able to explain what they learned better. The researchers found that students who used keyboards simply typed what was said without thinking so much while those who took notes by hand wrote what they thought was important. It seems like verbatim notetaking versus summarizing, the former of which involves shallower cognitive processing. Indeed, when you take notes, you tend to process the information more deeply and write down only the essence or what you think is important, which certainly requires more thinking.
It sounds like typing is nearly just moving your fingers without thinking too much while writing activates your brain more but moves your hands less.
But what if there is no textbook to annotate in and you have to make notes on your own piece of paper? Will you revise it later?
Whichever the way you prefer, using your brain is the key to learn things better.
Enjoy reading the article and think about how you take notes in the next class or meeting.


Topic Reading-Vol.2805-12/16/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Artificial eyes: How robots will see in the future
How do autonomous cars drive? What are their “eyes” to identify objects on the way to react? You can think of technologies like cameras, ultrasonic sensors, or radar, but they have limitations on the road. Cameras aren’t reliable in the fog, ultrasonic sensors’ range is limited, and radars can’t differentiate a human and a tree.
The most applicable solution at present is Lidar, light detection and ranging technology. It emits laser beams, measures the time for a bounce back, and create 3D maps around the vehicle very accurately, thanks to the high-speed computing technology to process an enormous amount of real-time data.
However, the cost and size are both still too much for conventional vehicles. When the Lidar system becomes cheap and small enough to fit in your car, you’ll be freed from driving and able to enjoy chatting or watching a drama on your smartphone.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about this arising technology to help you drive or allow you to sit back and relax in your car.


Topic Reading-Vol.2804-12/15/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Could Asia's passion for tofu help solve the plastic crisis?
The world is now seeking to replace plastic with more environmentally friendly alternatives. One such idea is the biodegradable food wrap made from soybeans, but not from the nutritious and edible part but from the waste created by soybean products such as tofu or soymilk.
A professor in Singapore, where soybean products are used widely in food menus, has made cellulose extracted from soybean waste from a local soy-based drinks producer which generously provided the waste for free. One significant benefit of this bioplastic is there is no need to grow plants to produce it, which is economically and environmentally advantageous. It is also fully digested by microbes and disappears within a month without special treatment or heating. In other words, you can simply throw it out with other food or burnable waste without sorting. That sounds very convenient as plastic is used widely to wrap food.
The world needs more such practical and economical plastic alternatives to protect the environment.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about this innovation from traditional food.


Topic Reading-Vol.2803-12/14/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
BolaWrap: LA police to use 'Batman-style' device to snare suspects
The BolaWrap is a hand-held remote restraint device that discharges a 2.4-meter tether at a speed of 150 meters per second to entangle torso or legs at a range of three to 7.6 meters. It’s like a web shooter used by Batman or Spiderman to subdue a bad guy without harming them from a distance. The hand-held remote restraint device has been used by several law enforcement departments across the country. Now, the City of Los Angeles Police Department, more known as LAPD, the third-largest municipal police department in the US after New York (NYPD) and Chicago (CPD), with nearly 10,000 officers is training some officers to use this device from January. Will that help the police officers avoid using lethal weapons? Just like any other weapon or gadget, it could be used by hands of criminals like a kidnapper, rapist, or burglar. At any rate, it may not be so long before you see BolaWrap in a movie.
Enjoy watching the video and learn about this human wrapping gadget.


Topic Reading-Vol.2802-12/13/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
ABCs of vocational and training centers in Xinjiang
Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China, located in the far northwest of the country. It spans over 1.6 million , nearly twice the size of Turkey. The region has a population of over 20 million and is home to various ethnic groups, such as the Uyghur, Han, Kazakhs, Tibetans, Hui, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Mongols, and Russians. Nearly half of this diverse ethnic population are Uyghurs, most of whom are Muslims.
According to China Daily, there had been a large number of acts of terrorism took place and civilians and police officers were killed between 1990 and 2016. It also states that religious extremists have been trying to brainwash those who have limited communication or interaction with the outside world with strong religious doctrines to engage in a holy war against the secular government. In order to cope with extremism and terrorism, vocational education and training centers were set up to stop spreading such movement by isolating those who were influenced by such extremism. There, they learn the Chinese language and laws, vocational skills, and deradicalization to stay away from violent extremist groups with freedom in language, belief, customs, and cultural needs. As a result, no violent activities have occurred since 2016 and tourism has boomed, according to the media arm of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China.
Enjoy reading the other side of the story about Xinjiang vocational and training centers.


Topic Reading-Vol.2801-12/12/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Artificial neurons developed to fight disease
Neurons, or nerve cells, are the basic units of our nervous system. They respond to electrical signals from the nervous system and carry signals to and from the brain and the rest of the body. Since neurons of an Alzheimer's patient degenerate or die, replicating neurons could pave the way to treat the brain disorder.
Recently, researchers in England have developed artificial neurons that respond to electrical signals from the nervous system. They replicated two types of neurons, brain cells that control memory and breathing in miniature brain chips that act like the real neurons.
Will we soon see Google or SoftBank medical solutions that provide chips or cloud services to doctors and patients?
Enjoy reading the article and learn about this new digital medical solution.


Topic Reading-Vol.2800-12/11/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Sperm whale dies with 100kg 'litter ball' in its stomach
Whales are the largest mammals on earth. They feed, mate, give birth and raise their young at sea. Their size could be as long as 30 meters and as heavy as 190 tons.
The sperm whale is the largest toothed predator. They usually dive between 300 and 800 meters but occasionally go down to 1,000 to 2,000 meters deep to search food, such as squid, octopuses, and fish.
Recently, a young adult sperm whale was found dead on the Isle of Harris in Scotland. What was found in the stomach was not a lot of squid or fish but 100 kilograms of human waste, such as fishing nets, rope, packing straps, plastic bags, and cups. Though it is not clear if the litter ball was the cause of the death of the whale, it isn’t hard to guess that other whales have similar substance in their stomach as they basically swallow anything in the water.
While whales are now protected by international law, save a few still-whale-hunting nations like Japan and Norway, they are facing other human-caused problems in their realm.
Enjoy reading the article and learn what could kill the largest living creature on earth.


Topic Reading-Vol.2799-12/10/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Why Inclusive Wealth Index is a better measure of societal progress than GDP?
You often hear or see “GDP”. It stands for Gross Domestic Product, meaning the sum of the output, income, and expenditure in an economy like a country or region. In short, it is the size of the economy, but it doesn’t reflect the well-being of the people or problems to the environment. For example, if you burn more fossil fuels to produce more goods or buy more things in single-use plastic bags, you’ll gain GDP but cause more pollution to the environment.
Another word is GDP per capita, which is the divided GDP by the population of the economy. It shows how wealthy the economy is on average but doesn’t reflect how much of the wealth is owned by a certain segment or population of the economy. If only a handful of people own the vast majority of the wealth and they become richer, GDP per capita also increases while leaving most of the people in poverty. GDP is like the sales amount without taking cost or capital into account, so no one knows the bottom line only from the index.
Are there any better indexes to measure sustainable economic progress? The UN has adopted a new index called Inclusive Wealth Index, or IWI, in 2012. It measures more comprehensive wealth taking all five capitals that are associated with the economy into consideration, financial, manufactured, human, social and natural. The new index shows the impacts on the environment and the quality of social welfare and education. Surprisingly, South Korea marked the highest growth per capita from 1992 to 2012 followed by small countries like Singapore, Malta, and Latvia.
Though indexes just show the status or changes from the past. Without actions, they are just numbers.
Enjoy reading the article and learn about the new wealth index.


Topic Reading-Vol.2798-12/9/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Solar, wind and hydro power could soon surpass coal
Even in America, where the leaders in politics and businesses are mostly concerned about ballots at elections and shareholders meetings, renewable energies are about to generate more electricity than coal, which has been the most convenient and cost-effective source of power generation. Is that because American voters are more concerned about the environment despite the ignorance by the political leaders who decided to withdraw from the landmark Paris climate accord? Partially yes. But the main driver for the move is the economy.
Coal still is the main source of power in the major carbon-emitting nations, China, the US, and India. But coal powerplants in the US have been aging and become less economical as the cost for natural gas became cheaper. So, gradually, old coal power plants have been closed and no new ones have been built. It’s partially good news because natural gas emits less greenhouse gas, though it still does. Also, the cost of renewable energies, such as solar, wind, hydro and geothermal have become more competitive, and people and businesses are becoming more environmentally conscious and supporting renewable energies. Thus, coal is projected to be surpassed by renewable energies as the primary source of electric power generation in America within a year or two. Bad news for coal miners, mining towns and industries but good news for homo sapience and other creatures on the planet.
Enjoy reading the article and think what really drives people, businesses and politics.


Topic Reading-Vol.2797-12/8/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
'Just Dunzo it.' How Google's favorite Indian startup is making city life easier
When you need a ride, you may activate an app like Uber to get a ride without calling or paying to the driver. The company’s biggest shareholder is SoftBank. When you want a particular food delivered in China, you may use an online-to-offline food delivery service like Meituan, which is owned by Alibaba. Now, if you want to get certain transportation or a delivery task done, such as picking up something like laundry, deliver a forgotten textbook to your kid, bike taxi to somewhere like Uber or get a food delivery like Meituan, there is a one-click service for you in India.
Founded in 2014 in Bangalore, India’s tech capital, Dunzo Digital Private Limited is a delivery and transportation service company. It became spotlighted when it obtained funding from Google in 2017. Their delivery men wearing a bright green helmet with a lightning bolt logo are seen in major cities such as Bengaluru, Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Pune, Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad. If you think about the traffic congestion and air pollution in these major cities in India, such service saves not only your time and but also your health. Since their services aren’t limited to what other delivery servicers offer, "Just Dunzo it" is becoming an increasingly common phrase as the app expands its service range and coverage.
Sounds like a handyman on a bike, doesn’t it?
Enjoy reading the article and learn about new online-to-offline, or O2O, service in India.


Topic Reading-Vol.2796-12/7/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Russian dairy farmers gave cows VR goggles with hopes they would be happier and make better milk
Cows understand what threatening and pleasing. The growl of a wolf or a bear certainly make them scared and become uneasy. In contrast, calm, pleasing music seems to make them feel easy and relaxed and make them become more productive. Indeed, some premium beef producers play music in the cow house to make the meat tenderer. Also, some dairy farmers play easy music in an attempt to make their cows produce more and better milk. Audio seems to be an effective tool to improve cows’ productivity.
What about visual effects? Now, a cow farm in a suburb of Moscow (the capital of Russia, not a kind of cow), is putting virtual reality goggles on its cows trying to produce more and better milk. The VR goggles are customized to fit the head shapes and eyesight of the cow. Through the customized VR goggles, the cow can feel like being in a wild, expansive field beneath the summer sun wherever it is and whenever. It might be helpful in a cold place like Russia where cows have to endure a long winter in a crowded and stressful barn.
Will Muscovites be able to enjoy richer milk in winter because of these cow VR goggles?
Enjoy reading the article and think if VR goggles help produce better beef, pork or chicken.


Topic Reading-Vol.2795-12/6/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Go master quits because AI 'cannot be defeated'
Born in March 1983, Lee Sedol is a South Korean professional Go player of 9 dan rank. He became a professional Go player when he was 12 and has been considered as one of the most prominent Go players in the modern era. Originated in China, Go is a three-millennium old game. It is a very complex game as each player usually has 200 moves to choose, ten times more than chess.
In March 2019, he played a five-game match against the computer program AlphaGo, developed by DeepMind, an artificial intelligence arm of Google. Before the match, he was confident that he would win but was defeated one-to-four, though the games were very close. The defeat of this legendary Go champion is regarded as a landmark moment for artificial intelligence. Now, the 18-time world Go champion has decided to retire from his glorious Go career. He said that there is an entity that cannot be defeated.
Was he the last line of human defense against machines?
Enjoy reading the article and think about what humans can do better than artificial intelligence, instead of what AI can do.


Topic Reading-Vol.2794-12/5/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
US life expectancy is still on the decline. Here's why
Despite the world’s highest health care spending per capita, life expectancy is declining in the US. The average length of time expected to live 60 years ago was about 70 and it went up to nearly 79 five years ago. However, it went down slightly to 78.6 in 2017. There have been no plague, war, famine, or great economic depression after World War II in America. In fact, the US has been enjoying no less prosperous era compared with other developed countries like Japan, Singapore, or Western and Northern European countries whose average life expectancy has been growing steadily. So, why does America suffer a downward trend?
It seems like Americans do things excessively, such as drug overdoses, over drinking, overeating, and overstress. For example, seven per every ten adults are either overweight or obese, which could cause cancer, diabetes, heart problems and chronic conditions. Also, more people are killing themselves. Suicide rates increased over 55% for people aged between 55 and 64 over the course of the last twenty years.
America is proud of being a free country. But it may be the time to learn to be modest, at least in how much to put into their mouths.
Enjoy reading and learn about this underlying problem of the most prosperous nation.


Topic Reading-Vol.2793-12/4/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
Turkey’s ancient tradition of “paying it forward”
Askıda ekmek, meaning bread on a hook, is an old tradition through which the wealthy support the poor in Turkey. For example, someone buys a loaf of bread for a price of two at a bakery, so that the baker can give the already paid loaf of bread to someone in need. It is a practice originated back in the Ottoman era to help people without expectation of reward or recognition. It also follows one of the five pillars of Islam teaching. Sounds like a practical way to connect those who can afford to those in need in an anonymous way. This tradition is also practiced online connecting people across the country. Using social media platforms, donors can simply click the amount and recipients can enjoy free meals at participating restaurants or cafes. This is especially helpful to connect college students to the companies that intend to help them. Innovation can be used not only for convenience but also for conscience.
Enjoy reading the article and think about this street practice and online practice to connect people and their wills.


Topic Reading-Vol.2792-12/3/2019

Dear MEL Topic Readers,
How to save the planet: Five simple things you can do
A Green House Gas, GHS, has the property of absorbing infrared radiation (net heat energy) emitted from Earth’s surface and reradiating it back to Earth’s surface, and as a result, it contributes to the greenhouse effect. It includes water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. It is thought to have been causing global warming since the Industrial Revolution, having produced a 45% increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. The majority of carbon dioxide emission comes from burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Other factors like deforestation, changes in land use, agriculture and soil erosion are also to blame. Should GHG emission increase at the current pace, global temperatures would rise by 2°C before the middle of the century, which would cause potentially harmful effects on ecosystems, biodiversity, and human livelihoods.
While governments and businesses are reluctant or slow to tackle this most dangerous and catastrophic human-caused problem in human history, there are things that individuals can do to help reduce the emission of such hazardous gasses.
Enjoy watching the video to learn what you can do to save the planet.