Pour la planète, pour vous

Pour la planète, pour vous
« Si vous ne le faites pas pour la planète, faites-le pour vous ». Une nouvelle campagne de lutte contre les déchets a été lancée vendredi par le ministre de l'Écologie. S'adressant à la fois aux particuliers, aux entreprises et aux collectivités, cette campagne, organisée par le ministère et par l'Agence de l'environnement et de la maîtrise de l'énergie, a été annoncée à l'occasion d'un déplacement du ministre à Rouen. Il a souligné l'importance qu'attachait le gouvernement à la gestion/récupération des déchets. Chaque Français produit en moyenne 590 kilos de déchets par an. La nouvelle campagne veut faire prendre conscience que la prévention et la valorisation des déchets ne sont pas seulement nécessaires pour la protection de l'environnement, mais qu'elles peuvent profiter à chacun, notamment aux entreprises. Pour le grand public, la campagne va chercher à faire baisser le gaspillage alimentaire, qui atteint 20 kilos par habitant et par an. Elle va aussi inciter au réemploi, qui permet d'éviter 850.000 tonnes de déchets, en proposant de donner ou de vendre plutôt que de jeter (« Les bons dons font les bons amis »). En termes économiques, le réemploi et la réutilisation ne sont pas à négliger. Le chiffre d'affaires qui en est retiré est estimé à 1,25 milliard d'euros par an. Au niveau des entreprises, il s'agit de les sensibiliser aux avantages économiques représentés par une meilleure gestion des déchets. Selon une enquête, 90 % des PME1 ne connaissaient pas le coût réel de leurs déchets
AFP publié sur Sciences et Avenir (Texte adapté)

Is the crisis causing an exodus?

Is the crisis causing an exodus?What if the crisis exodus caused by the crisis was not quite as massive as we believe? This is the question asked by a recent study from the Elcano Royal Institute. Based on information gathered from the Spanish consulates, the researcher Carmen González Enríquez notes that only two percent of nationals living abroad are Spanish citizens who left because of the crisis. That is just 39.912 people.
But what if the reality were different? This is what Amparo González Ferrer, a sociologist and demographics specialist at the CSIC National Research Council, claims. She says that the number of emigrants who left the country between 2008 and 2012 is close to 700.000.
That Spain is losing population to emigration is unquestionable in the view of data. But how many Spaniards are actually leaving due to the economic situation? There is a debate among the scientific community because of the absence of a statistical mechanism that can quickly and efficiently register the departure of nationals. González Enríquez feels that the concern over emigration is related to the fact that Spanish society “has been exceptionally static over the last few decades”. According to the researcher, staying close to family and friends “has been a priority for the majority”, which would explain the reticence to leave the country. Now, the majority of people leaving are university educated, that is, highly qualified. “For them, being able to go abroad and find a job is the best option.”

Buying properties in Spain

Buying properties in Spain
Gone are the days when banks were happy to grant 30-year mortgages, and an extra bit of cash for furniture. Those conditions meant getting indebted for life. But these days, with the crisis still around, seven out of every home purchases in Spain are paid in full. There is an explanation for this: the rise in foreign buyers, who now represent 17 percent of the total, according to figures from the Public Works Ministry.
Niger Salmon is the general director of Girasol Homes, a property finder based in Wales that sells homes in Florida, Spain and Portugal. Their clients, he says, are mostly retired people who have been waiting for prices to go down during the last few years, hoping they could finally afford an apartment by the sea. Girasol Homes has listings in the Valencia Region, Murcia and Andalucia for as little as 50.000 euro. Buyers are mostly British, Dutch, Belgian, French and Russian. These have recently been joined by Algerians, because of the good sea and air connections between Alicante and Oran. “They are mid-to high-class citizens in the liberal professions”, says Brigitte Castaño, a realtor at ReMax in Alicante.
Notary statistics show that it is precisely these coastal areas that have been attracting most of the foreign capital. “Although transactions fell again in the first few months of 2013, there are provinces such as Alicante, Murcia, Tarragona and Almeria where sales have picked up”, says Luis Montes, director general of Grupo Banco Sabadell.

Scientific agreement over global warming

Scientific agreement over global warming
The overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that human-caused climate change is happening. Yet a fringe minority of our populace clings to an irrational rejection of well-established science. This virulent strain of anti-science infects the halls of Congress, the pages of leading newspapers and what we see on TV, leading to the appearance of a debate where none should exist.
In fact, there is broad agreement among climate scientists not only that climate change is real (a survey and a review of the scientific literature published say about 97 percent agree), but that we must respond to the dangers of a warming planet. If one is looking for real differences among mainstream scientists, they can be found on two fronts: the precise implications of those higher temperatures, and which technologies and policies offer the best solution to reducing, on a global scale, the emission of greenhouse gases.
For example, should we go full-bore on nuclear power? Invest in and deploy renewable energy — wind, solar and geothermal — on a huge scale? Price carbon emissions through incentive-based legislation or by imposing a carbon tax? Until the public fully understands the danger of our present trajectory, those debates are likely to continue to fail.

Netflix gain is HBO's loss in subscriber wars

Netflix gain is HBO's loss in subscriber wars
According to a new report from the NPD Group, streaming services have seen a 4% rise in subscribers over the past two years. People can’t get enough Netflix. According to this report, the streaming video service and others like it have been gaining subscribers as premium pay networks like HBO and Showtime have been losing them. The NPD Group, a global information company, says over the past two years, the number of households subscribing to premium networks has fallen by 6%. Online streaming subscriptions, however, have risen by 4%, according to their report.
According to the report, in August 2013, 32% of American households paid for premium networks like HBO or Showtime and 27% subscribed to ondemand digital services. While Netflix is the most widely used service, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime are gaining in popularity. “It’s fair to say … that some of the shift that you’re seeing is probably caused by Netflix,” Russ Crupnick, a senior vice president of the NPD Group told the Los Angeles Times. “Some of this could be caused by the economy. It could be people looking at their cable bills and saying, ‘I can’t afford this.’”

Education Mamas

Education Mamas - lunch box
The first day at primary school is an important event in every child’s life. It can cause the new learner excitement, or it can cause fear. But in education-obsessed Japan, mothers of new pupils also suffer from first-day-nerves. Before the opening of the school year, many read books and magazines to find what to wear to the school’s opening ceremony and what to put into their children’s school bags.
On the first day of school, they accompany their six-year-olds to the opening ceremony in the school hall. Speeches by the headmaster focus on the new pupils’ bright futures. They stress the need to start on the right foot by studying hard and being good citizens. From the beginning until they enter university 12 years later, students will go through a series of examinations.
These exams are almost as much of a trauma for the mothers as they are for the students. The Education Mama is a well-established stereotype in Japan. It applies to those women who push their children to get better and better academic results. Seventy-two per cent of Japanese mothers do not work outside their homes so that they can look after their children.
Their husbands are usually absent during the long work day and the disappearance of extended family units has eliminated the grandmother figure from the home. As a result, many mothers feel isolated and unsure where to turn for advice in raising their children and making them excellent students.
The pressure on the Education Mamas doesn’t stop at educational achievements. Even lunch boxes may become a problem. A poorly presented packed lunch can be enough to provoke bullying by classmates and ridicule by other mothers.

Cell phone jammer

Cell phone jammer illegal - Uncle Sam
It might look like a walkie talkie, but that little box is more powerfull than you think. When a cell phone jammer is turned on, it can block any cell phone service in the area. Using one is not only a federal crime but is could result in a 16,000 dólares fine and jail time.
But that did not stop Eric, a man from Philadelphia, who was fed up whith the chatty cell phone talkers on the 44 bus. According to a TV channel, Eric would fire up that jammer when he did not want to hear the conversations. "A lot of people are extremely lod, no sense of privacy or anything. When it becomes a bother, that's when I screw on the antenna and flip the switch", Eric told the reporters.
Eric claimed that he did not know it was illegal to block a cell phone signe, and thought it was a "gray area". He said he was under the impression that it was only illegal when blocking television or radio signals. "I guess I'm taking the law into my own hands and, quite frankly, I'm proud of it", he added.
This type of jammers is illegal because they could prevent cell phone communication in emergencies and because they can block other important signals such as police radio. But the bigger issue is that Eric is not alone in this jamming practice. Jammer are easy to buy at sites on the Internet. Police reported that other people in the New Jersey and New York area are using them as well. Maybe Eric's story will remind them all of just how illegal using that powerful device is.

Courses online

Courses online
For those students who struggle to leave their beds for a 9 a.m. lecture, the idea of studying online wherever and whenever you want – including under the duvet with a laptop – may seem like a dream come true. Soon some students will be able to do just that, as will anybody with a computer and internet connection, because a number of universities are planning to offer some of their courses online. Not only will these offer greater flexibility to online learners around the world, they will also be free.
EdX, an online platform founded by Harvard, Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has already attracted 800,000 students from 192 countries since it started in autumn 2012. Significantly, the platform has developed an examination process, which means that online learners can graduate from an EdX course with a certificate and a grade.
However, it seems unlikely, for the time being, that online higher education will supersede traditional on-campus university degrees. It is well-known that many leading institutions, including Oxford and Cambridge, are absent from a list of 17 universities that have signed up to give away their course content online.
An obstacle preventing online courses from being taken seriously is the fact that many have a high drop-out rate. For instance, although 155,000 students registered online to take MIT’s courses on electronics on EdX, only 7,200 students completed them. With no tutors or lecturers to help you in person, self-motivation and discipline are required in abundance to see a course through to the end.

Eliminating trans fats

Does your mouth water when you think of potato chips, doughnuts and cakes? Many people prefer "junk food" to healthy food because they develop a taste for it. Processed, baked, and fried foods typically contain a high amount of trans fats. However, trans fat raises the bad cholesterol in your body and lowers the good cholesterol that it needs. Trans fats build up in the body and block blood flow to the heart, so people whose diet contains a high percentage of trans fats are at risk for heart disease and stroke.
Trans fat is a semi-solid type of oil. It is made by adding hydrogen to liquid oil. Food companies and restaurants like to use trans fat oil because it is inexpensive, makes food last longer and also improves its taste and texture. Today doctors know how dangerous these processed foods are. In countries such as the US and Canada there are new government restrictions on food production. Food and drink makers have to attach a Nutrition Fact label to their products. Even fast food chains are being forced to change their recipes. In Europe, food manufacturers have started using a voluntary labelling system at the consumers' request.
We all need some fat in our diet. There are three different types of fats: saturated fats, trans fats, and unsaturated fats. Doctors recommend that we get most of our fatty calories from unsaturated fats. Labels are a good way to avoid eating fatty food that is dangerous for your health. Another way is to avoid eating out and, when shopping for groceries, buy mostly fresh food.

Malala - PAU Andalucía 2014

Malala Yousafzai
“Dear brothers and sisters of the United Nations Youth Assembly, I am Malala Yousafzai, I am sixteen and I was shot on the left side of my forehead on October 9, 2012 by the Taliban. I am just one girl out of thousands of people who have been injured or killed by terrorists because they are frightened of the power of education: they are afraid of books and pens, and they fear the power of the voice of female teachers. This is why terrorists kill innocent students. I remember a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist: ‘Why are the Taliban against education?’ He answered very simply by pointing to his book, and said: ‘A Taliban doesn't know what is written inside this book.’ So I speak not only for myself, but also for all those without a voice. I want them to be heard. I am here to speak for the right to education for every child, even for the sons and daughters of the Taliban. Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty and injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of their schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are expecting for a bright, peaceful future.
Today, we call upon the world leaders and all governments to ensure free, compulsory education all over the world for every child, no matter their caste, creed, sect, colour or religion. Let us fight against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens. Education is the most powerful weapon, and the only solution to change the world.”

Titanic - PAU Andalucía 2014

A floating palace sailed from Southampton in 1898 on her first voyage. She was declared unsinkable, and was the biggest and most magnificent ship ever built. Rich passengers enjoyed her luxury as they travelled to America. But the ship never reached her destination. It crashed into an iceberg and it sank with a heavy loss of lives. Most of the people drowned.
That ship existed only in paper, in the imagination of a novelist called Robertson. The name he gave to his fictional ship was Titan. But the fiction soon turned into terrifying fact. Fourteen years later a real luxury ship set out for America. The ship was the RMS Titanic. She was full of rich and important people. Contrary to popular belief, this ship had not been described as “unsinkable” at the time of its making, but only after events came to a tragic conclusion. On her first voyage she collided with an iceberg, sank, and many lives were lost by drowning, as in the novel. It was the night of April 10, 1912.
The similarity between fiction and reality was more than just the name. They were roughly the same size, had the same speed and the same capacity of about 3,000 people. But the strange coincidences do not end there. Both sank in exactly the same point of the North Atlantic.
While the Titanic was sinking, a passenger made a drawing of it. She painted the ship breaking in half. However, this fact was never mentioned until the famous film Titanic, directed by Cameron, proved that to be true. The Titanic went down in two hours forty minutes, taking 1,513 people with her.

The connected classroom

The connected classroom
Imagine a classroom where everyone uses a smartphone, laptop, tablet, or other device to search the Web, complete assignments, and help each other solve problems. Students use their devices to record presentations and post the video to a blog. When the students go home, they take their devices with them so they can continue working on projects and contact each other or their teacher. The traditional model of education – one teacher instructing students for a set period of time using a narrow set of resources – is no longer how the real world works. But it is the model that persists today in schools, and it is critical that we transform the current state of education.
Unfortunately, mobile devices are perceived as a distraction, and kids are asked to turn them off. But they can dramatically improve student success by providing access to learning resources. In North Carolina, Project K-Nect began as a pilot programme to discover if smartphones could help students who scored poorly in maths. They learned algebra through their smartphones, which were loaded with educational software and had constant Internet activity. Teachers spent less time on direct instruction, and instead encouraged students to talk and learn from each other. Student results exceeded all expectations, and their grades in maths increased 30%. Students in the programme obtained much better results than their classmates who learned algebra via traditional instruction from the same teacher. Student achievement increased in other subjects as well.
With over 6.3 billion connections globally, wireless technology is now the dominant way people access the Internet. So it isn’t difficult to imagine a day when mobile technologies have a presence in every classroom.

Why do we enjoy mysteries so much?

Why do we enjoy mysteries so much?
Have you ever thought about that? Detective stories and legal thrillers are among the most popular genres in literature. Murder mysteries are the only genre of literature which offers you the chance to figure out the story for yourself. Readers love to catch the killer before he or she is revealed. Detective stories are really a game, a puzzle to solve. The reader must put together the clues, and if you do this one step ahead of the detective, you feel really proud.
In no other genre does a team of people spend so much energy to understand the identity of one person. We usually focus on the murderer, but it is really the dead who is the star. To solve the murder, the team of detectives must know the victim’s history. They have to find out who would want to kill them and why. In looking for the killer, they use their brain power to deduce the truth behind the appearances the killer has created. In a mystery, death is explained through reasoning. You can see the dark side of people, but you know that justice prevails. Good will defeat evil.
People who like detective stories usually love forensics shows like CSI or Bones. They are a new variation on an old formula: instead of solving crimes with guns and car chases, the ‘good guys’ use microscopes and DNA, and the investigators, like any detective of the past—Sherlock Holmes or Miss Marple, for example—are intelligent guardians of justice, caught in a battle against an equally intelligent criminal.

The impossible moment of delight

The impossible moment of delight
A recent survey has examined the well-trodden ground of the relationship between pleasure and money. Many studies have examined this, from any number of starting points, often concluding, in the oldest of old clichés, that money can’t buy you happiness or, in more sophisticated terms, that happiness and pleasure often reside, not in riches in absolute terms, but in being richer than the people who happen to live to your left or your right. Other studies have claimed that comparison with the wealth of others leads to a “set-up for disappointment” and that a good attitude is all that matters.
This most recent study inquired into the wellbeing of 136,000 people worldwide and compared it to levels of income. It found, overall, that feelings of security and general satisfaction did increase with financial status. Money, however, could not lift its possessors to the next level, and was unable to provide enjoyment or pleasure on its own. The survey, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, examined large numbers of people from almost every culture on Earth, and found much the same thing. The stereotype of the rich man who finds life savourless and without pleasure was not invented simply to keep the poor happy with their lot.
Paul Bloom addresses the same issue in his book How Pleasure Works. According to Bloom, at the point when people get the thing they really want, they enter a state of perfect pleasure. Both Bloom’s book and the enormous survey concentrate on status and on the moment of getting possession of something we want. Are we satisfied and filled with pleasure when we get what we want? Bloom, looking at eager consumers, would say ‘yes’; the survey tends to say ‘not necessarily’. In my view, it’s rare that we can actually pin down the specific moment when the feeling of pleasure is at its clearest.
Take the teenager determined to buy the latest must-have gadget, a woman setting out to get a new handbag, or a prosperous businessman who wants to add to his collection of Japanese netsuke. The setting out with the happy intention of spending; the entering of the shop; the examination of the wares; the long decision; the handing over of the money; the moment when the ownership of the goods is transferred; the gloating at home; the moment when the object is displayed to others. All these steps form a process in enjoyment, but almost all of them are redolent with anticipation or with retrospective glee. The moment where bliss is at its peak is over in a flash, and hardly exists at all. Everything else is expectation or memory.
Composers have always known this simple, basic truth: pleasure is half anticipation and half blissful recollection, and hardly at all about the fulfillment of the promise. The great musical statements of ecstasy, such as Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde or Schubert’s first Suleika song, are literally all half crescendo and half languid recall. We look forward to pleasure; we look back on it. The moment of pleasure itself is over in a flash, and often rather questionable.
The hairband and geegaw emporium Claire’s Accessories has a thoughtful, rather philosophical slogan to tempt its young customers. It sells itself under the strapline ‘where getting ready is half the fun’. That is honest and truthful. A group of 14-year-old girls in their party best is nowhere near as successful an enterprise of pleasure as exactly the same girls putting on and trying out and discussing their hopes for the party in advance; not as successful either as talking it over the next day. The party itself, from the beginning of time, has consisted of a lot of standing around and gawping and giggling, and someone crying in the lavatory.
So any notion of fulfilled pleasure which insists on the moment of bliss is doomed to failure. Mr Bloom and the researchers of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology were clearly happiest when undertaking their research, during which time they were looking forward to coming to a conclusion. And now they can sit back and start to say ‘Yes, when I concluded my theory of pleasure and satisfaction…..’ Even for philosophers of pleasure, another ancient and well-handled cliché about travel and life is true: getting there really is half the pleasure.

Génération tout à l'ego

Génération tout à l'ego
C’est devenu une manie. Presque une obsession. Une à deux fois par semaine, Lola, 13 ans, change la photo de son profil Facebook. Sur la dernière en date, cette brunette montre son nouveau chapeau. Bingo ! Quarante-deux amis ont « liké » et seize ont fait des commentaires. Lola est sur le réseau social depuis six mois, et elle adore s’y exposer. « Facebook est comme un livre où je me raconte », dit-elle. 
« Je montre ma vie, ce que je fais, les derniers vêtements que j’ai eus. » Elle n’est pas un cas isolé, les adolescents envahissent le réseau. D’après le baromètre 2012 « Enfants et Internet », 80 % des 13-15 ans et 92 % des 15-17 ans y sont inscrits et, comme Lola, 86 % de ces derniers y publient des photos. On les y voit entre copains, en vacances, en soirée. Regard droit dans l’objectif, tête de côté, poses provocantes… Ils sont totalement narcissiques, nos adolescents numériques ?* « Oui, mais c’était déjà le cas avant », estime la philosophe Anne Dalsuet. « Les réseaux sociaux donnent juste une nouvelle résonance à cette tendance. Avant, on faisait des albums photos, maintenant, on les met sur Facebook, car tout le monde a intégré le principe selon lequel ‘‘ pour exister, il faut être vu. ’’ Les jeunes aussi ».
Ils y sont même particulièrement sensibles. « C’est un âge où l’on aime être admiré, rassuré* sur son corps et sur son apparence », estime Jacques Henno, spécialiste du numérique. « Pour eux, les ‘‘ Like ’’ prouvent leur valeur », affirme le psychiatre Xavier Pommereau. Car être « liké », c’est être populaire, une notion clé pour les adolescents, un élément indispensable à la construction de leur identité.
Mais se raconter sur Internet peut être risqué car les plus jeunes postent parfois la photo ou le message de trop. « Quand ils sont derrière leur écran, ils ne mesurent pas toujours le poids des mots », dit Jacques Henno. « Mais s’ils ont écrit n’importe quoi, la ‘‘ vraie vie ’’ les rattrape le lendemain sous la forme d’une dispute à la sortie de l’école. Ils comprennent vite la leçon. »
Le temps porte aussi ses fruits. À la longue, les jeunes se lasseraient* de ce « tout à l’ego ». « Des adolescents commencent à quitter Facebook », remarque Pascal Lardellier, professeur en sciences de la communication. « Ils sont saturés d’auto-narration continue. » Julie, 15 ans, trois ans de réseau social derrière elle et 355 amis, se connecte pour écrire à ses copains qui vivent loin et retrouver des camarades de maternelle ou de primaire. « Au début, je faisais surtout attention à mon image », dit-elle, « je mettais plus de jolies photos de moi. Aujourd’hui, je trouve que ce n’est pas si intéressant de faire ça. » La jeune fille est sur Twitter depuis un an. « On s’y prend moins au sérieux. » Des adolescents utilisent aussi Instagram, un réseau social d’images, qu’ils jugent plus créatif. Comme sur Facebook, on y met des photos, mais l’idée est de donner à voir le monde. Pas seulement son nombril.
D’après Le Nouvel Observateur (17 octobre 2013)

Holly and Lauren spoke to Malala Yousafzai

Holly and Lauren spoke to Malala Yousafzai
Mural by Eduardo Kobra
Holly and Lauren, from Green School, Birmingham, spoke to Malala Yousafzai and wished her happy birthday after the Youth Assembly event at the United Nations. Malala was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus in Pakistan, but recovered almost miraculously. Their day began early, and after a walk to the UN, they were able to meet Malala. Soon after they arrived, they piled into the Council Chamber with over 500 other young delegates and were immediately seated. They had a panoramic view of the room and were almost opposite the main speakers.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, spoke of his education as a child himself: "I didn't learn the importance of education from a book, I lived it." His school experience was similar to that of many of the other young delegates in the room. What surprised them was the lack of resources he had had. Pupils today have access to specialist technology but Ban Ki-Moon began with very little. It shocked them how a man of such power began with so little. Then Malala spoke. They were astonished at how courageous and confident she was, and how strongly she believed in rights to education for all.
Holly and Lauren's trip to New York has been a source of inspiration and excitement. They flew for the first time, met lots of interesting people from around the world and saw some sights, but most importantly they heard how going to school is vital for so many people. The highlight of the trip for both of them was meeting Malala. She was so full of confidence. And although in some ways her life is so different to theirs, in others ways it is not - she now goes to school in Birmingham!

So, you want to plan a gap year between school and university?

So, you want to plan a gap year between school and university?
So, you want to plan a gap year between school and university? Here at Real Gap, we're bringing you a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so you can see and do whatever you want during your gap year. If you don't have a whole year off, don't worry, because our trips start from a one-week duration, so you can go on your own mini-adventure, whenever you want!
How much will it cost? Gap year adventures are as expensive as you want them to be. We also have the option to work abroad on your travels, so you can earn cash while you're exploring. For example, you could work in Australia and then move on to South East Asia afterwards, where the cost of living is considerably cheaper!
Planning your adventure is easy! There are many options available: volunteering, working, learning, travelling, and so on. If you want advice about where to go, give our travel advisors a call.
Will you be safe? If you're sensible, you almost certainly will be. Gap year adventures aren't 100 per cent safe, but neither is a trip to your local cinema. Sometimes things don't go to plan, but one of the things that gap year adventures teach people is how to deal with unfamiliar situations. If you're a first time traveller, our 'Experience' trips will probably suit you; they involve group tours around the country (with a guide), and this can definitely make people feel more comfortable.
Real Gap has programmes in over 30 countries - so there really is something for everyone! You could make a list of all the places that really interest you. Are you sporty, cultural, artistic, a party-goer? All of these elements of your personality will help us prepare the trip that will most suit you.

Michelle Obama was brought up in Chicago

Michelle Obama was brought up in Chicago
(c) Platon Antoniou
Michelle Obama was brought up in Chicago in a one-bedroom apartment. Her father worked for the city authorities and her mother, Marian, was originally a secretary who later stayed home to look after Michelle and her older brother, Craig. The family has been described as a closely united one that shared family meals, read and played games together. Craig and Michelle, 21 months apart in age, and often mistaken for twins, slept in the living room with a sheet serving as their room divider. Their parents were not well off, but both children were brought up with an emphasis on education. The brother and sister learned to read at home by the age of 4, and in primary school both were put into classes advanced for children of their age. By the beginning of secondary school, Michelle was attending special classes, where she learned French and took various accelerated courses. She then went on to attend a special high school for gifted children, where she continued to be an outstanding student. "Without being immodest, we were always smart, we were always driven and we were always encouraged to do the best you can do, not just what's necessary," her brother, Craig, has said. "And when it came to going to schools, we all wanted to go to the best schools we could." Michelle graduated from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in 1981. After high school, she followed her brother to Princeton University, graduating in 1985 with a degree in Sociology. She went on to Harvard Law School in 1988, where she took part in demonstrations demanding more places for minority students and professors. After law school, Michelle worked for the law firm Sidley Austin in the area of marketing and intellectual property. There, in 1989, she met her future husband, Barack Obama.

What you eat and the way it affects your body

What you eat and the way it affects your body
What you eat and the way it affects your body depend very much on the kind of person you are. For one thing, the genes you inherit from your parents can determine how your metabolism deals with particular foods. The tendency to put on weight rather easily, for example, often runs in families – which means they have to take particular care. But there are certain unhealthy eating habits which you can avoid. One of these is skipping breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but when you have to rush to work or school in the mornings it's easy to neglect it. Doing so not only drains you of energy, but also makes it more likely that you will eat snacks during the day. Skipping breakfast also confuses your metabolism, causing you to burn fewer calories. So, if you are trying to lose weight, skipping breakfast is not a good idea. “Bingeing” or eating large amounts of food in one session is another unhealthy eating habit that you should avoid. Do you tend to skip meals, then eat a lot in the next meal to compensate? Do you fill yourself with junk food during the weekend after a week of dieting? Do you often continue eating even though you are full? These are signs that you are a habitual binger. Eating several small meals in a day helps you to avoid bingeing. If you eat while watching TV, while working, or while reading then you are also developing an unhealthy eating behavior. When you eat while doing other activities, you become unable to measure how much you eat. As a result, you tend to overeat without knowing it. You should try to have a specific time and place for eating.

Headphones are a danger to life

Headphones are a danger to life
Walking with your head in the clouds can be dangerous – but not as risky as listening to your iPod. The numbers of people suffering serious injury or death while wearing headphones for MP3 players has tripled in six years, according to a US study. An increase in the use of headphones while walking in the street has led to a dramatic rise in the number of injuries, with men and young adults the most at risk from hurting themselves.
In the study, experts looked at data from 2004 to 2011. They found that 116 people in the US wearing headphones had died or been seriously hurt during that period. The number of people who died or were injured jumped from 16 in 2004-2005 to 47 in 2010-2011. Most victims were men (68%) and under the age of 30 (67%), with about one in 10 of all cases under the age of 18.
According to the study, published in the online journal Injury Prevention, 70% of the incidents resulted in death. The study found that wearing headphones may have played a direct part in many of the accidents, because the users could not hear warnings that they were in danger. The experts concluded: “The use of headphones may result in a safety risk to pedestrians, especially in environments with moving vehicles.”
Other studies have found that people wearing headphones – or who are talking on a mobile phone – can suffer from ‘inattentional blindness’ or ‘iPod oblivion’. This is a reduction in attention to the outside world and it can lead to people paying less attention to traffic when they cross the street.
Kevin Clinton, the head of road safety at the UK Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, advised pedestrians with headphones to: “Ensure you are not dangerously distracted and that you remain aware of what is happening around you.”

The teacher who changed my life

The teacher who changed my life
A fortnight ago I heard that the English master who taught me at school, the great Frank Miles, had died, aged 92. Although he was a teaching giant and recognised as such by former pupils and colleagues, there is just a brief mention of him on the Internet. That is exactly as he would have wanted it: modern communication methods were not for him. He only just tolerated the telephone; a telephone which rang at an inopportune moment, such as when he was marking essays or exam papers, could easily be thrown out of the window.
But when he was teaching, Frank made his inflexible views extremely plain. The classroom was his theatre. In physical presence he was quite slight. But to a boy of my age his reputation made him seem several times life-size. That reputation alone was enough to cause fear into the lazy and quell the uncontrollable. He didn’t have to do anything to keep order. Lessons would begin with what a friend has described as a “ferocious, almost neurotic intensity.” They could also be very funny, as long as the class was performing to the highest level.
Frank’s critical remarks were annihilating. After the first homework our class ever did for him, Frank judged the standard so poor throughout the entire class that he tore up every incorrect composition and threw it in the bin. All except one, and I blush to write that the piece saved was mine. It would have been much better for me if someone else’s homework had been picked.
He was highly intolerant of those who disagreed with him. By today’s standards he was deeply politically incorrect and had little time for rules and regulations. In fact, in the modern bureaucratic world he would be considered a problematic teacher.
Yet he was a truly inspirational teacher who held his class in focused attention. Because, above all, he had a complete passion not only for his subject but also for education. What was most important to him was his pupils’ intellectual understanding of English, and he was not afraid to reprimand them when they were failing to reach his high standards. Frank would have taught anyone who showed a spark of aptitude for his subject as he was determined to raise standards. He was particularly pleased when a boy who had previously had a low level could achieve spectacular results.
He was quite a peculiar man. His mannerisms and language lent themselves so well to imitation that the image of boys pretending to be Frank is sometimes more vivid than the memory of Frank himself.
In the restaurant, after the funeral service, we discussed the never-ending question: who was Frank? He once told me how lucky I was to come from a loving family. He had not got on with his father. Other than that, his childhood was to us a complete blank, as was his emotional life.
He lived for his pupils; if other relationships had once existed, nobody knew about them. Although he detested snobbery and money, he could be considered an elitist—but only in the sense that he expected the best from every boy he taught, whatever their background or potential.
I was lucky to come under the eyes of a classroom colossus. Sadly, Frank did not find relationships outside the classroom easy. He became a recluse in his last decade and died in a basic flat. And the tragedy is that I never told him how much he had influenced my life—and that of many others.
Text adapted from the Daily Mail (July 16, 2013)

The right to vote

The right to vote
Votes for women? What a ridiculous idea!” Some of the arguments that male voters used in the past to prevent women the right to vote would seem unacceptable to most of us nowadays. However, many people would be surprised to read that the women of Switzerland received the right to vote in 1971, and yet canton Appenzell Innerrhoden resisted until 1991. Most male and female residents in that part of the country saw the law preventing women’s suffrage as one of their cultural traditions, along with voting by assembly in the town square. Only after two women filed suit with the Swiss Federal Court was the canton forced to extend suffrage to its female residents.
Some argued that women were less intelligent than men, that their brains were smaller than men’s. Others feared women would go out to campaign without asking their husbands’ permission. The point was also raised for equality because, they said, “women’s natural modesty would stop them going out to vote when pregnant, and since rural women have more babies than those in towns, this would give an unfair advantage to the latter.” “And if women were actually elected, that would be a source of humiliation for their husbands!”
Such were the arguments that convinced Switzerland’s male population to turn down every proposal to allow women the vote. In New Zealand women had the right to vote since 1893 and in most European countries since the end of World War I. Even though both chambers of the Swiss parliament finally gave the green light to women’s suffrage in 1958, more than 50 years after Europe’s pioneer Finland, when proposed to the people, two thirds of the male citizens turned parliament’s recommendation down.
But it wasn’t as if Swiss women had stood idly waiting for their rights to be given to them. Emilie Kempin-Spyri (1853-1901), Switzerland’s first woman lawyer, had claimed that the article of the Federal Constitution which stated “All Swiss are equal before the law” meant that men and women had equal rights. However, this assertion was rejected by the Swiss Federal Court.
The first feminist association was established in 1868, calling for civil rights, and the right to attend university. There had been proposals to include women’s suffrage in the 1874 constitution. In 1929 a petition for voting rights managed to collect a quarter of a million signatures—but it was ignored.
Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, which gave voters the final say on legislation, ironically kept women out. However, the extensive autonomy of even the smallest administrative units gave them their chance to break in to political life. It was a tiny commune in Canton Valais that, in 1957, was the first to allow its women members to vote. Several cantons gradually followed and in the 1960s women started occupying more and more important positions in local parliaments and governments. In 1968 Geneva, then the country’s third largest city, had a woman mayor—but she still couldn’t vote in federal elections.
When the human rights convention of the Council of Europe was signed, Switzerland remained out of those parts that call for sexual equality. The protest this provoked forced the government to revise its position and a new referendum was put to the country.
The result: on February 7th 1971 Swiss males finally gave their female compatriots the full federal voting rights by a two thirds majority. The official results showed 621,403 of the all-male electorate supported the vote for women and 323,596 were against.
Text adapted from Swissworld.org

Why bilinguals are smarter

Why bilinguals are smarter
Speaking two languages has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even protecting against dementia in old age.
This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the   one through much of the 20th century. Researchers and educators used to consider that a second language was an interference that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development. They were not wrong: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when only one language is being used, therefore creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as an advantage. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, making the mind strengthen its cognitive muscles.
Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be better than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital boxes—one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle. In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by colour, placing blue circles in the box marked with the blue square and red squares in the box marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with similar easiness. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a box marked with a different colour. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.
The evidence from such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s executive function—a command system that directs the processes that we use for planning, solving problems and doing other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include avoiding distractions, switching attention from one thing to another and holding information in mind—like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.
The main difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: an increased ability to monitor the environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often—you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the Pompeu Fabra University in Spain. “This requires observing changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr Costa found that the bilingual speakers did them better and needed less brain activity, indicating that they were more efficient.
The bilingual experience appears to influence the brain from infancy to old age. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists directed by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and developed them later.
Nobody ever doubted the power of language. But who could imagine that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might have such a big influence?
Text adapted from The New York Times (March 17, 2012)

Wanted: Two drinking pals for dad

Wanted: Two drinking pals for dad
When Jack Hammond, 88, moved from his flat in Hampshire, southern England, to a nursing home 20 miles away, he struggled to find someone to have a beer with. Nearly all the residents of the home are women and Hammond, a radar technician during the Second World War, felt embarrassed asking the ladies to go for a drink with him.
As a last resort, Jack’s son, Mike, put an advert in the post office asking for a man with similar interests and background to accompany his dad to the pub. He offered £7 an hour plus expenses.
Mike was so inundated with offers that he interviewed all the candidates by phone. He then asked a small group of men to join him and Jack for a trial drink in the pub. The successful pair Mike finally chose were Henry Rosenvinge, 58, a former doctor, and Trevor Pugh, 78, a retired kitchen fitter. They will now spend several nights a week with Jack chatting about military history and current affairs.
Pugh said: “I like having topical discussions and meeting new people and I’m happy to take him down the pub. We are both ex-army so we have that in common.” He will accept the hourly fee to boost his pension, but he will not take the expenses. On the other hand, Rosenvinge will do the job for free. He said: “He has a lot of stories and we are both from Lancashire so we have a lot we can talk about.”
Mike has no regrets because his father has stopped feeling miserable and lonely. Ideally, Jack wanted to be taken out for a drink seven nights a week but his son cannot go out with him that often. Jack will now be going five times a week — three with his new friends and twice with his son. 

Why do young readers prefer print to e-books?

Why do young readers prefer print to e-books?
A recent survey by Voxburner, a British marketing strategy agency, has suggested that 62% of 16- to 24-year-olds prefer reading printed books to e-books. The research is especially interesting, as it reflects the opinions of people that are as dependent on mobile phones and laptops as they are on oxygen and water.
The two main reasons for preferring print are value for money and an attachment to physical books. In fact, more than 25% of the participants in the study think that ebooks are priced too high. They explained that, if you buy a book, you can share it with as many friends as you like. On the other hand, if you get it in an electronic format, you would have to lend your e-reading device out in order for anyone else to read it.
The top-rated emotional comments for preferring physical to digital products are "I like to hold the product", "I like the smell" and "I like the packaging". However, if traditional books and e-books contain the same content, aren't they basically the same thing?
The 20th century philosopher Jacques Derrida thought so. In his book Paper Machine, he described the transition his generation had seen from the pen to the introduction of the electronic typewriter and the computer. According to him, the ebook is just a phase in the evolution of reading technologies. Following his argument, e-books are not less natural than the printed ones, but people may feel that way because paper books have always been around.
Considering that millions of people read and generate billions of words per day on computers across the world, why can't young people come to terms with e-books?
They read the news, their mail, advertisements and text messages in a digital format on a daily basis. In fact, they belong to a generation umbilically linked to their mobiles and laptops so, why are they so resistant to e-books?

The Boyhood of Pablo Picasso

The Boyhood of Pablo Picasso
Pablo Ruiz Picasso was the favourite child of his family. He was the only boy among a great many girl cousins. That was enough to make him important. Since his very early childhood it was clear he was going to be an artist. Pablo learned the word for “pencil” before he could say “mama” and “papa”. When he was small he spent hours alone making delightful drawings of animals and people. If his mother sent him out to play in the square, he went on drawing in the dust under the trees. One of his favourite models was his younger sister, Lola.
Don José Ruiz, Pablo's father, was director of the museum in Málaga. There was not much work to do there, so he was able to practise his hobby, which was painting pigeons. He painted them dead or alive, in ones and twos and in dozens.
Sometimes he painted them on paper, cut them out and stuck them on to canvas; sometimes he stuck real feathers on to his pictures. He knew a great deal about the technique of painting and he taught it all to Pablo.
Life in Málaga was very pleasant. In summer, father and son would walk down to look at the boats on the shore or wander round the open markets. They made a strange pair. Don José Ruiz was tall and thin, with red hair and beard and sad grey eyes. He was so shy and correct that he was nicknamed "the Englishman". Pablo was quite the opposite. He had his mother's small, strong build; he had straight black hair and bright eyes that noticed everything that was going on around him.

The Jack the Ripper case finally solved

The Jack the Ripper case finally solved
For just over 125 years, the mystery of the Jack the Ripper serial murders has been inspiration for books, movies and periodic re-openings of the unsolved cases. But after years of investigation, a retired detective is confident he has finally found the criminal behind some, if not all, of the killings attributed to the infamous "Jack."
Retired homicide detective Trevor Marriott says that, after 11 years of investigation, he believes German merchant sailor Carl Feigenbaum committed an unknown number of the murders. What does appear to be true is that between Aug. 31, 1888, and Nov. 9, 1888, five women were stabbed to death within one-fourth of a mile from each other in the Whitechapel neighbourhood of London. Most assume the victims were prostitutes and all killed by the same man.
Marriott had begun to think about Feigenbaum when he found out that his ships often docked near the neighbourhood where many of the unsolved murders occurred. Sailors were known to seek out prostitutes in the Whitechapel district.
Perhaps most convincing was the fact that Feigenbaum's own lawyer, William Lawton, had once told reporters he believed his client had confessed to the crimes by claiming that a disease made him kill and mutilate women. Indeed, Feigenbaum was eventually convicted and executed for an unrelated murder in New York City in 1894.
"Jack is supposed to be responsible for five murders, but there were other similar killings before and after the ones attributed to him, both in this country and abroad in America and Germany," Marriott says, adding that the widely appropriated image of Jack as a well-dressed gentleman is probably nothing but an "urban myth."

Teenager designs platform to clean seas

Teenager designs platform to clean seas- Boyan Slat
A Dutch teenager has invented a device that could clean up some 20 billion tonnes of plastic waste from the world's oceans. Boyan Slat, a nineteen year old engineering student, was worried about the amount of plastic rubbish that accumulates on the surface of some sea areas, so he came up with the idea of a series of floating barriers and processing platforms designed to collect floating plastic rubbish, while allowing fish and plankton to pass through undamaged. An additional advantage of the system is that the plastic waste collected by these barriers would be stored so that it can be later recycled.
Millions of tonnes of plastic waste are littering oceans and tend to accumulate in specific areas due to sea currents. This litter not only kills millions of aquatic animals annually but also introduces and spreads harmful algae and invasive species. Besides, plastic waste also contains pollutants that can enter the human food chain through fish. The existing methods for cleaning sea water are not very useful and they cost governments and organisations millions of dollars every year.
Boyan Slat believes that humans must drastically reduce their use of plastic items in the near future, but meanwhile his innovation could make a big difference to the cleanliness of oceans in the shorter-term. He thinks that, once operational, his device could dramatically reduce the amount of rubbish in the oceans in just about five years’ time.
Boyan Slat has offered his design to environmental companies and agencies and has already received offers to start producing experimental models of his platforms by the end of this year.

Hollywood’s Connections with Nazi Germany

Hollywood’s Connections with Nazi Germany - Ben Urwand
A controversial new book by Harvard scholar Ben Urwand claims that Hollywood movie studios agreed to the demands of the Nazis and even collaborated with them. “The studio executives wanted to preserve business in Germany all through the 1930s,” says the author. “So they invited the Nazi German consul in Los Angeles to their studios and showed him pictures that could be considered potentially offensive to Germany, and they would allow him to make cuts to their pictures.”
The Nazis, according to Urwand, could also prevent movies from being made. He claims a Hollywood film about Hitler was never produced because of Nazi pressure. The film’s original idea came from the great Hollywood screenwriter, Herman Mankiewicz, who also wrote the script for the legendary Citizen Kane – for some, the greatest movie ever made. Mankiewicz had a script about Hitler’s treatment of the Jews. According to Urwand, the Nazi German consul told studio executives that if any studio made this picture, then all of the Hollywood studios would be banned from the German market.
Steven Ross, Professor of History at USC, sees the studios’ alliance with the Nazis as understandable. He claims that studios were primarily business companies and, therefore, although they were run by Jews, they put their business interests before Judaism. “And it all has to be understood in the context of the times,” says historian Thomas Doherty. He observes that in the 1930’s, the Nazis had not become the universal symbol for absolute evil they are today, “so, to condemn producers for negotiating with the Nazis, to my mind, lacks historical perspective.”

Rome bans lovers' locks to protect bridge

Rome bans lovers' locks to protect bridge
Thousands of ‘love locks’ fixed to an ancient bridge in Rome, the Italian capital, have been cut off to save the structure from damage. For years teenage lovers have written their initials on the love locks and attach them to the bridge. They have then sworn eternal love for each other and thrown the key into the Tiber river below. The habit has also become popular at other bridges around the world, particularly in Paris.
The love lock idea was first inspired by characters in the 2006 Italian teenage novel I want you, written by Federico Moccia. In the book, a young couple places a bicycle lock around a lamp post on the Milvian bridge and throws the key into the Tiber. The famous bridge was first built in 206 BC and is one of the oldest in Rome. It was the scene of an important Roman battle in AD 312.
In 2007 a lamp post on the ancient bridge almost collapsed under the weight of the love locks and special posts were put up for them. But last month officials said that enough was enough. “We decided to remove the love locks to restore the decorum of the bridge,” said the local area president, Gianni Giacomini. Since the habit started, the residential neighbourhood has become a busy centre for late-night bars and city officials said that 86% of local people wanted the locks to go. They promised to give the love locks a place in a Rome museum and said they would create a spot near the bridge where locks could be left in the future.
“The bridge will be guarded day and night to stop more locks being attached,” said local public official Stefano Erbaggi. However, Federico Moccia is unhappy about the move. “The removal of the locks is inconsiderate,” he told the newspaper La Repubblica. “Rome is giving Paris the ‘bridge of love’ tradition which was born here and should stay here.”
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