March 30 – April 4 Weekly News

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UK Report on Racism Draws Criticism

A report on racism has been criticised. The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities was set up in the UK last year after the death of George Floyd. The commission said racism remains a "real force," but said the UK is no longer "deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities". It said people use racism as a "catch-all explanation" for not getting ahead. It added things like geography, culture and religion have a bigger impact on success in life.

Critics of the report called it "a truly historic denial of the scale of race inequality". A UK politician was deeply critical of the report. He accused the government of "gaslighting" the British public. He tweeted: "For my own mental well-being I am not doing media interviews on the race commission today. Like so many in Britain's Black community, I'm tired of the endless debate about whether structural racism exists with little desire to actually address it."

https://breakingnewsenglish.com/2104/210404-racism.html

Earliest cherry blossoms in Japan city in 600 years

Cherry blossoms in Japan bloomed at their earliest in 600 years. Researchers say blossoms in the city of Kyoto peaked on the 26th of March. This peak was a day earlier than the previous record set in 1409. Data on Kyoto's cherry blossoms go back 1,200 years. As far back as the year 812, officials at Japan's imperial court wrote about the blooms in diaries. Japan had much warmer weather in the first few months of this year. Meteorologists say this is because of climate change. They say plants are flowering and blossoming earlier than normal because of global warming.

Cherry blossoms are important in Japanese culture. People keep a close eye on the news of blossoming times from cherry-blossom forecasts. The blossoms are called "sakura" in Japan. People plan trips to famous cherry blossom spots and have picnics under the sakura. The blossoms provide Japan with an important economic boost each spring. A Japanese newspaper explained the importance of sakura. It wrote: "Sakura has deeply influenced Japanese culture for centuries. It has regularly been used in poetry and literature. Their fragility is seen as a symbol of life, death and rebirth."

https://breakingnewsenglish.com/2104/210402-cherry-blossoms-2.html

Suez Canal Reopens After Stranded Ship is Freed 

The Suez Canal is open again after the ship that blocked it is free. The 220,000-ton Ever Given container ship got stuck last week. The blockage disrupted global trade and international markets. It cost Egypt $100 million in lost revenue. There is now a backlog of 450 ships waiting to go through the canal. They are anchored in the Red Sea and Mediterranean near the ends of the canal. Authorities will try and double the daily average of ships to go through the channel.

There have been big efforts to free the 400-metre-long ship. Dredgers cleared sand underneath it to refloat it. Around 30 tug boats worked to pull it away from the canal's banks. A high tide helped the salvage operation. Egypt's president said it was a "massive technical complexity". He added: "The world can now rest assured about the passage of goods through this pivotal shipping route. Egyptians proved that they are always up to the challenge."

https://breakingnewsenglish.com/2103/210331-suez-canal-4.html

Study: Long Periods in Space Can Shrink the Heart

A new study suggests that long periods in space can cause the human heart to shrink. The study -- by a team of American researchers -- comes as the U.S. makes plans to build a long-term base on the moom and prepares to send astronauts to Mars. Part of the study was based on the experiences of retired astronaut Scott Kelly. The U.S. space agency NASA says that during his career, Kelly spent more time in space than any other American astronaut. One of Kelly’s stays aboard the International Space Station (ISS) lasted 340 days.

Researchers from the University of Texas’ Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern) in Dallas examined physical data collected during Scott’s long stay aboard the ISS. The goal was to learn the effects of weightlessness on heart health and performance. The team found that during Kelly’s stay in space, the left ventricle of his heart shrank about 0.74 grams per week.

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/study-long-periods-in-space-can-shrink-the-heart/5838247.html

50-Year-Old Nigerian Woman Goes to School for First Time

Until recently, Shade Ajayi had never gone to school. Now 50, the businesswoman is learning to read and write alongside students nearly 40 years younger than she is. Ajayi attends a school in Ilorin, in Nigeria’s western Kwara state. She wears the same uniform, or school clothing, as hundreds of girls at the school: a pink dress and head covering. “I’m not ashamed that I wear a uniform,” she said.

As a child, Ajayi worked in her aunt’s shop instead of attending school. She now runs her own business making and selling purses and bags. But she believes her inability to read or write is holding her back. Ajayi signed up to attend school last year, but the school closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Schools reopened in January and Ajayi finally got her chance. She sits in a class with students aged 11 to 13 and raises her hand to answer questions. And she does not seem to care what others may say about her. Ajayi said, “It’s my duty not to pay attention to what they’re saying.”

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/nigerian-woman-goes-to-school-for-first-time-/5835706.html

College Basketball Tournaments Lift Student Spirit

The American college basketball tournaments known as “March Madness” look a little different than they used to. There are very few fans watching the games in person. The players stay in safe areas called “bubbles” in the states of Texas and Indiana. But at least the games are happening. Last year, the tournaments were just about to start when the United States closed all public events to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The college tournaments include over 60 teams made up of college students. There is a tournament for men and a tournament for women. In U.S. cities with large colleges and universities, people would go out to eat, drink and watch the games on television. Group activities are a big part of the college experience. And students whose universities had good basketball teams in 2020 lost out on one of those experiences: cheering for their schoolmates in the tournaments. The final games of the college basketball tournaments are played on April 4 and 5.

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/college-basketball-tournaments-lift-student-spirit/5835797.html

New York Attack Has Asian Americans on Alert

A 65-year-old woman who came to the United States from the Philippines was attacked while walking to church in New York City on Monday. A man kicked her several times. Police arrested him on Wednesday on assault and hate crime charges. The man shouted anti-Asian insults and reportedly said “you don’t belong here.” The woman, identified as Vilma Kari, was taken to the hospital with broken bones. She was released a day later. Nguyen Van is a 76-year-old woman who lives in the Bronx area of New York City. She told VOA that she is afraid to go out even though she does not know of any problems in her neighborhood.

AAPI stands for Asian American and Pacific Islanders. A group called Stop AAPI Hate said 3,800 anti-Asian incidents were reported in the last year. While the number seems large, the group said many incidents do not get reported. Research from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino shows hate crimes against Asians rose 150 percent last year while hate crimes overall dropped by seven percent.

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/new-york-attack-has-asian-americans-on-alert/5837171.html

A New Robot Aims to Do the Heavy Lifting

The American robotics company Boston Dynamics recently made public a new robot called Stretch. It is designed to do only one job: to move containers, or boxes, in large storage buildings called warehouses. Michael Perry is vice president of business development for Boston Dynamics. He said Stretch is the first robot designed for one job that the company has built. He added that the robot was developed because of requests from companies around the world.

“We heard pretty much universally across warehousing that truck unloading is one of the most physically difficult and unpleasant jobs... And that’s where Stretch comes into play,” Perry told Reuters. Perry said Stretch can pick up boxes that weigh about 23 kilograms. He adds that the robot can move about 800 boxes in one hour. Experts say the warehousing industry experienced strong growth in 2020. That growth is expected to continue this year. They say online buying during the coronavirus health crisis drove the need for a huge expansion in delivery services.

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/a-new-robot-aims-to-do-the-heavy-lifting-/5832940.html

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