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During a long day spent roaming the forest in search of edible grains and herbs, the weary divine farmer Shennong accidentally poisoned himself 72 times.
But before the poisons could end his life, a leaf drifted into his mouth. He chewed on it and it revived him, and that is how we discovered tea. Or so an ancient legend goes at least.
Tea doesn't actually cure poisonings, but the story of Shennong, the mythical Chinese inventor of agriculture, highlights tea's importance to ancient China.
Archaeological evidence suggests tea was first cultivated there as early as 6,000 years ago, or 1,500 years before the pharaohs built the Great Pyramids of Giza.
That original Chinese tea plant is the same type that's grown around the world today, yet it was originally consumed very differently. It was eaten as a vegetable or cooked with grain porridge.
Tea only shifted from food to drink 1,500 years ago when people realized that a combination of heat and moisture could create a complex and varied taste out of the leafy green. After hundreds of years of variations to the preparation method, the standard became to heat tea, pack it into portable cakes, grind it into powder, mix with hot water, and create a beverage called muo cha, or matcha. Matcha became so popular that a distinct Chinese tea culture emerged.
Tea was the subject of books and poetry, the favorite drink of emperors, and a medium for artists. They would draw extravagant pictures in the foam of the tea, very much like the espresso art you might see in coffee shops today.
In the 9th century during the Tang Dynasty, a Japanese monk brought the first tea plant to Japan. The Japanese eventually developed their own unique rituals around tea, leading to the creation of the Japanese tea ceremony. And in the 14th century during the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese emperor shifted the standard from tea pressed into cakes to loose leaf tea.
At that point, China still held a virtual monopoly on the world's tea trees, making tea one of three essential Chinese export goods, along with porcelain and silk. This gave China a great deal of power and economic influence as tea drinking spread around the world. That spread began in earnest around the early 1600s when Dutch traders brought tea to Europe in large quantities.
Many credit Queen Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese noble woman, for making tea popular with the English aristocracy when she married King Charles II in 1661. At the time, Great Britain was in the midst of expanding its colonial influence and becoming the new dominant world power. And as Great Britain grew, interest in tea spread around the world. By 1700, tea in Europe sold for ten times the price of coffee and the plant was still only grown in China.
The tea trade was so lucrative that the world's fastest sailboat, the clipper ship, was born out of intense competition between Western trading companies.
All were racing to bring their tea back to Europe first to maximize their profits.
At first, Britain paid for all this Chinese tea with silver. When that proved too expensive, they suggested trading tea for another substance, opium.
This triggered a public health problem within China as people became addicted to the drug. Then in 1839, a Chinese official ordered his men to destroy massive British shipments of opium as a statement against Britain's influence over China. This act triggered the First Opium War between the two nations. Fighting raged up and down the Chinese coast until 1842 when the defeated Qing Dynasty ceded the port of Hong Kong to the British and resumed trading on unfavorable terms. The war weakened China's global standing for over a century.
The British East India company also wanted to be able to grow tea themselves and further control the market. So they commissioned botanist Robert Fortune to steal tea from China in a covert operation. He disguised himself and took a perilous journey through China's mountainous tea regions, eventually smuggling tea trees and experienced tea workers into Darjeeling, India. From there, the plant spread further still, helping drive tea's rapid growth as an everyday commodity.
Today, tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water, and from sugary Turkish Rize tea, to salty Tibetan butter tea, there are almost as many ways of preparing the beverage as there are cultures on the globe.
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  |  9605 learners#Culture #Stories

How many times have you heard someone say they want to make a better world? It is a noble sentiment, but very hard to achieve, right?

Well, actually, it’s quite easy. All we have to do is increase just one human trait. This trait is so powerful that it alone can make people happier without working on their happiness, and make them better – and by “better,” I mean more generous, more honest, more kind, more everything good – without a single lesson in morality.

So, then, what is this one almost magical thing? Drumroll, please.

It’s gratitude.

You can’t be a happy person if you aren’t grateful, and you can’t be a good person if you aren’t grateful. Almost everything good flows from gratitude, and almost everything bad flows from ingratitude.

Let’s begin with ingratitude. Here’s a rule of life: ingratitude guarantees unhappiness. It is as simple as that. There isn't an ungrateful happy person on Earth. And there isn’t an ungrateful good person on Earth. There are two reasons.

Reason one is victimhood. Ingratitude always leads to or comes from victimhood. Ungrateful people—by definition—think of themselves as victims. And perceiving oneself as a victim or perceiving oneself as a member of a victim group may be the single biggest reason people hurt other people—from hurtful comments to mass murder. People who think of themselves as victims tend to believe that because they’ve been hurt by others, they can hurt others.

And the second reason ungrateful people aren’t good people is that ingratitude is always accompanied by anger. The ungrateful are angry, and angry people lash out at others. If ingratitude makes people unhappy and mean, then gratitude must make people happy and kind.

And so it does. Think of the times you have felt most grateful—were they not always accompanied by a feeling of happiness? Weren’t they also accompanied by a desire to be kinder to other people? The answer, of course, is yes. Grateful people aren’t angry and they also don’t see themselves as victims.

The problem, however—and it’s a big one, is that in America and much of the rest of the world, people are becoming less grateful. Why? Because people are constantly told that they are entitled to things they haven’t earned—what are known as “benefits” or “entitlements.” And the more things that people think they should get, the less grateful they will be for whatever they do get. And the more angry—and therefore unhappy—they will be when they don’t get them.

Here are two rules of life. Rule number one: The less you feel entitled to, the more gratitude you will feel for whatever you get and the happier you will be. Rule number two: The more you feel entitled to, the less happy you will be. That’s why, for example, children who get whatever they want are usually less happy children. We have a word for such children: spoiled. And no one thinks of a spoiled child as a happy child, and certainly not a kind one.

The more that you feel that life or society owes you, the angrier you will get, the less happy you will be. As a result, we are increasing the number of angry, unhappy, and selfish people. The other way we are making people unhappy, and even meaner, is by cultivating a sense of victimhood. People are constantly told that they are victims because of their upbringing, because of past prejudice against their group, because of material inequality, because they are female, and for many other reasons.

Next time you want to assess any social policy, ask this question first: Will this policy increase or decrease gratitude among people? You will then know whether it is something that will bring more goodness and happiness to the world—or less.

If I were granted one wish, it would be that all people be grateful. Gratitude is the source of happiness, and the source of goodness; and the more good people, and the more happy people there are walking around, the happier and better our world will be. If you have a way of achieving such a world without increasing gratitude, let me know what it is.
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  |  9467 learners#Social #Essays

67 segments Intermediate Male
The Copperpod tree was in full bloom. Vibrant and vivacious it swayed gracefully from side to side, sending down a shower of copper yellow petals.

“Gosh, you’re beautiful!” exclaimed the other trees.

The Copperpod tree stood up straight and rustled its leaves, clearly enjoying the attention.

A gust of wind blew through the forest causing all the trees to bend westwards.

“Oh no…my flowers!” cried the Copperpod tree, trying its best to stand still.

Another gust of wind sent the trees swaying the other way.

“That’s enough!” said the Copperpod tree, as a bunch of flowers fell from its top most branches, “I’ve just about had enough!”

All the other trees turned to look.

“Now look here Mr. Wind, I refuse to dance to your tunes anymore! I wish to sway by myself! Not the way you want me to!” said the Copperpod tree firmly.

A gentle whisper broke out among the trees.

The wind stopped blowing. The din of dead silence rang through the forest.

A moment later the wind swept through the air again. It circled around the trees and made a whooshing sound. But it never touched the Copperpod tree.

The Copperpod tree watched the other trees giggle as the wind tickled their branches. Then it turned the other way and admired its flowers. Out of the corner of its eye it looked to see if any tree was watching. But they were all dancing with the wind.

The Copperpod tree tried to ruffle its flowers. But it couldn’t. It tried to shake its branches. But it couldn’t. It tried to lean closer to the other trees. But it couldn’t. All it could do was stand still.

“Gosh, you’re beautiful!” said the trees.

A few days later, the Copperpod tree opened its tired eyes with a glimmer of hope. But the other trees were looking elsewhere. They were looking at the Gulmohar tree, which was ablaze with fiery red flowers. It was scattering its petals in the air like tiny sparks of fire. The wind blew around it; tousling its branches and making its flowers flush an even brighter red.

Nobody paid any attention to the Copperpod tree which was all bent now. There wasn’t a single copper yellow flower on it. Dried flowers and leaves still clung to its branches.

The Copperpod tree let out a groan. Its trunk was hurting from standing so still. It longed to sway at least once! But the wind refused to even come near it.

“Alright, Mr. Wind, I’m sorry! The truth is that I need you,” sighed the Copperpod tree. It felt a slight waft of air near its side. The wind had come closer to listen.

“I know I’m a big beautiful tree, with lovely flowers and healthy branches and a nice strong trunk. But all that doesn’t matter, if all I can do is be still!” said the Copperpod tree.

“I want to sprinkle my petals over the little children that sit beneath me. I want to reach out my branches and kiss the sky. I want to stretch and protect the people that take shelter under me. I want to dance again. I want to be a living, breathing tree that sways with the wind!” the Copperpod tree hunched lower, unable to even stand up straight anymore.

A gentle breeze floated over the Copperpod tree. It started out at its roots, awakening them from their slumber. It travelled upwards wrapping itself around its trunk and permeating through its gnarled branches. It gave the tree a little shake, causing its dried flowers and leaves to fall away. It nuzzled the little flower buds which started blooming. The wind encompassed the Copperpod tree in a giant hug and swayed with it in a soft gentle dance.

The Copperpod tree threw its branches around the wind and danced like it had never danced before!
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  |  10191 learners#General #Stories

25 segments Advanced Female
Hello everyone. I'm the counselling administrator here at St. Ive’s College and I’ve been asked to come and talk to you about our counselling team and the services that we offer. We have three professional counsellors here at St. Ives: Louise Bagshaw, Tony Denby and Naomi Flynn. They each hold daily one-on-one sessions with students, but which counsellor you see will depend on a number of factors.
If you’ve never used a counsellor before, then you should make an appointment with Naomi Flynn. Naomi specialises in seeing new students and offers a preliminary session where she will talk to you about what you can expect from counselling, followed by some simple questions about what you would like to discuss. This can be really helpful for students who are feeling a bit worried about the counselling process. Naomi is also the best option for students who can only see a counsellor outside office hours. She is not in on Mondays, but starts early on Wednesday mornings and works late on Thursday evenings, so you can see her before your first class or after your last class on those days. Louise staffs our drop-in centre throughout the day. If you need to see someone without a prior appointment then she is the one to visit. Please note that if you use this service then Louise will either see you herself, or place you with the next available counsellor. If you want to be sure to see the same counsellor on each visit, then we strongly recommend you make an appointment ahead of time. You can do this at reception during office hours or by using our online booking form.
Tony is our newest addition to the counselling team. He is our only male counsellor and he has an extensive background in stress management and relaxation techniques. We encourage anyone who is trying to deal with anxiety to see him. Tony will introduce you to a full range of techniques to help you cope with this problem such as body awareness, time management and positive reinforcement.
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  |  10048 learners#General #Speeches

English learners can improve their listening skills by transcribing spoken English.

That advice comes from Pascal Hamon, the Academic Director for the English Language Institute at Missouri State University.

Students often study listening comprehension in less than interesting, even boring ways, he adds. Transcription, however, provides a fun way to improve one's listening skills.

At VOA Learning English, we often receive questions from English learners about how they can improve their listening skills.

Some learners want to build up general English skills, while others want to take exams that involve listening skills.

Take the TOEFL exam, for example. International students who want to attend an American college or university are often required to pass TOEFL, short for the Test of English as a Foreign Language.

This test has a listening section. It asks students to show their ability to understand short and long conversations in English. Those discussions are designed to test one's understanding of common vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, and special grammatical constructions used in speech.

Whether you want to build general English skills or prepare for a test, being able to understand spoken English is a necessary skill. And you will not get better at this skill unless you practice!

Pascal Hamon says that listening exercises should force English learners to focus on turning the sounds that they hear into words. Then, learners must use their brains to turn these words into a message.

Many students try to learn listening skills by performing listening comprehension activities. Hamon believes that such exercises have value but do not force the student to decode individual sounds.

Worse, some English learners listen to television or radio programs in English, but do not actively try to study how native speakers say words and sentences.

Building listening skills does not have to be boring, says Hamon. There are fun, game-like activities that build listening skills.

One such activity, Hamon says, is to make transcriptions.

Transcribing is the act of writing down the words that have been spoken.

English learners should start working with transcriptions by finding audio or video material that has a transcript with it, Hamon says.

Then, he adds, English learners can start practicing.

They listen to a segment as many times as they need, and they try to write everything they hear without subtitles, without, just focusing on what they hear. And then they can check with the actual transcript to see what they got right, what they did not get right, if there are areas where they thought they heard two words but there is actually only one, or they missed a verb ending or plural or something.

Students should not stop the transcription exercise there, however. Hamon says that students should always try to learn from their mistakes. Students should think, Hamon adds, about what they could do better. By identifying problems, and repeating the exercise, English learners will improve their listening skills.

You can start practicing transcription on your own by following these steps. First, find audio that has a printed transcript, but do not look at the words. You should choose audio that is right for your level. One way you could do this on our website is to open a story and start listening to the audio before reading the story. All of our stories have audio below the headline of the story.

Second, listen to a short section of the audio many times. After you have listened many times, try to write down what you hear.

Third, compare what you wrote against the story.

Finally, think about, as Hamon suggested, where you had problems. Ask yourself the following questions. What do I need to improve? What words or sounds did I not hear?

Remember, when you transcribe something, you do not always have to choose a news story. You could choose a song or part of a movie that you like. Just be sure that you are able to find a transcript for it to check your work.

To get you started, let me give you something to transcribe. Listen to part of a song at the end of this story. The song is called, How Deep is the Ocean, and the singer is American Billie Holiday.
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  |  10463 learners#Education #Speeches

So, I was walking along the street, on my way to work, as usual, but for some reason I was in a hurry. I wasn't really sure why I was in a hurry. And then I realised that I was holding a banana in my hand. I didn't know why I was holding a banana in my hand, but I knew that the banana was really important for some reason. The banana had something to do with the reason that I was late, and in a hurry. It was a really important banana, only I didn't know why the banana was so important. Then I met my Aunty Ethel on the street corner. It was strange, because I hadn't seen Aunty Ethel for about twenty years.

Hello, I said to her. I haven't seen you for about twenty years! I was really surprised to see her, but she didn't seem surprised to see me. Be careful with that banana, she said. And I laughed, because I knew that it was a really important banana, and yes, I had to be careful with it. Aunty Ethel decided to walk to work with me, which was a problem because I was late and in a hurry, and she walked really, really slowly. Then, when we went round the corner, there was an elephant blocking the street. It depends where you live, I guess, but in Manchester it's pretty strange to see an elephant blocking the street. The strange thing was, though, that I wasn't really that surprised. Oh no, I was thinking, another elephant blocking the street, what a pain. Especially this morning when I'm late and in a hurry, and with Aunty Ethel, and this really important banana. Then I started to get really worried, and then I woke up.

I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness for that I thought. How strange dreams are, I wonder why I was dreaming about elephants and bananas and Aunty Ethel. The radio was already on. The radio comes on automatically at 7 o'clock, to wake me up. I looked at the clock. It was already ten past seven. I had to get up quickly. I went into the shower, and I could hear the news on the radio. I couldn't hear it very well, but there was a story on the news about an elephant who had escaped from a local circus. The elephant was causing a lot of trouble walking around the town. I thought this was an incredible coincidence, but then I realised that I had probably heard the news story on the radio when I was half-asleep. That was why I was dreaming about an elephant. I quickly got dressed and went into the kitchen to get some coffee before I went to work. I work for a film company. We get ideas for films and film scripts, then we try to produce the films. I thought a film about an elephant in Manchester would be great.

There was a note on the kitchen table. It was from my wife. Don't forget to buy bananas on your way home from work today, it said. It was a good job she had written the note, because I had completely forgotten about the fact that she has to eat a lot of bananas because of the crazy diet she's on at the moment. I tried to remember to buy bananas on my way home from work, and rushed out of the house. As I was walking down the road my mobile rang. It was my mum. Hello mum, I said. What are you ringing at this time for? I've got some sad news, I'm afraid, love she said. Do you remember your Aunty Ethel? Just about I said, But I haven't seen Aunty Ethel for about twenty years.

Yes, well she was very old, and I'm afraid she died last night. She'd been very ill, I told you a couple of weeks ago. That's sad I said.

So there I was, walking down the street, late for work, thinking about Aunty Ethel and bananas and elephants, and of course I realised that it was all exactly the same as my dream. And as I started to think more about this, I realised I was walking more and more slowly, and I looked down and saw that the street was turning into hot, wet, sticky toffee, and it was sticking to my shoes, and the quicker I tried to walk, the slower I went I looked at my watch and saw that my watch was going backwards. That's OK, I was thinking. If my watch is going backwards, then it means that it's early, and not late, so I'm not late for work at all and then I woke up. Again.

Now this was strange. This was very, very strange. I got up and pinched myself to make sure I was really awake this time. Ouch, the pinch hurt. This meant I really was awake, and not dreaming this time. It was early. I wasn't late. The radio alarm clock hadn't come on yet. It was only half past six. My wife was still at home.

Have you got enough bananas? I asked her. She looked at me as if I was crazy. What do you mean bananas? She asked. I thought you had to eat lots of bananas for your special diet. I have no idea what you're on about! She said. Why, do you think I need to go on a diet? Do you mean that I'm fat? No, no, no, not at all, by the way, have you heard anything about an elephant? An elephant. Yes, an elephant which has escaped from a circus. We live in Manchester. There aren't any circuses in Manchester. And there certainly aren't any elephants. Listen, are you suffering from stress or something. You're working too hard on that new film you're trying to produce, aren't you? Perhaps you should just stay at home today, take it easy. Perhaps you're right, I said. I'll just phone my mum. Why do you need to phone your mum at half past six in the morning? Oh, nothing important, I said Well, I'm off to work. See you later, and take it easy today, OK.

OK. I phoned my mum. Hello mum. Hello love. What are you calling this early for? Do you remember Aunty Ethel? Of course I do, but I haven't seen her for about twenty years or so. How is she? I've got no idea. Why on earth are you worried about your Aunty Ethel who you haven't seen for twenty years. Oh nothing, bye.

I made a cup of tea and went back to bed. Perhaps my wife was right. Perhaps I should just relax and take it easy today. I phoned up my boss. Listen I said. I'm not feeling too good today, perhaps too much stress with the production schedule of the new film project. That's a shame said my boss. We've just got a really exciting new idea for a film. I wanted to talk to you about it today. It's a kind of action movie. It's a great story. You have to hear this, an elephant escapes from a circus in a big city, and it has eaten some strange, radioactive bananas, so it's going completely crazy. They eventually manage to stop the elephant by covering all the streets with sticky toffee, so that it can't walk. I see I said. And where does my Aunty Ethel come into it. Aunty who?

I hung up the phone, and hoped that I would wake up. Soon.
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  |  9970 learners#General #Stories

Halloween is a popular festival in many countries all over the world, and every year it seems to get bigger. It's getting dark earlier and it's starting to get cold. Christmas is still a long way away. We need something to cheer us up and take our minds off the fact that winter is nearly here. Find out some more about the traditional festival of Halloween.

The festival of Halloween has its roots in Celtic and Roman traditions. Over 2000 years ago the Celts in Britain, Ireland and parts of France celebrated Samhain to mark the beginning of winter. When the Romans invaded, they merged this with Feralia, their celebration of the passing of the dead. As Christianity spread, the Church tried to replace these pagan feasts with official Church holy days. One of these was November 1. It was called All Saints Day, or All Hallows, and October 31 was known as All Hallows Eve, and then Halloween.

In the past there was a tradition called souling. Poor people went around houses asking for food. In exchange, they promised to say prayers for the dead. People no longer go souling, but the habit has been transformed into a modern Halloween game for children in America, who dress up as ghosts, witches and monsters and go around people's houses, asking for sweets. This game is called Trick or Treat.

Halloween wouldn't be fun without witches. Witches have always been part of popular folklore. Shakespeare's play Macbeth opens with three witches. A witch was someone, usually a woman, who had special powers and had dealings with the devil. The American town, Salem, in the state of Massachusetts, is famous for the witchcraft trials, which took place there in 1692.

The pumpkin has become a symbol of Halloween. People empty a pumpkin, cut a face into the side, and put a candle inside to make a lamp. It's known as a Jack-o'-lantern, from an Irish legend about a man called Jack, who made a deal with the devil.

Black cats, frogs, mice and spiders are just some of the animals associated with Halloween. Generally, the more unpleasant the animal, the stronger the Halloween connection. Nocturnal animals like bats are particular favourites, and if, as is the case with vampire bats, they like drinking blood, they are high on the Halloween list.
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  |  10320 learners#Culture #Essays

What is April Fool's Day and what are its origins? It is commonly believed that in medieval France, New Year was celebrated on 1 April. Then in 1562, Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar for the Christian world, changing New Year to 1 January. With no modern communications, news travelled slowly and new ideas were often questioned. Many people did not hear of the change, others chose to ignore it, while some merely forgot. These people were called fools. Invitations to non-existent New Year parties were sent and other practical jokes were played. This jesting evolved over time into a tradition of playing pranks on 1 April. The custom eventually spread to England and Scotland, and it was later transported across the Atlantic to the American colonies of the English and the French. April Fools Day has now developed into an international festival of fun, with different nationalities celebrating the day in special ways.

In France and Italy, if someone plays a trick on you, you are the fish of April. By the month of April fish have only just hatched and are therefore easy to catch. Children stick paper fish to their friends' backs and chocolate fish are found in the shops.

In Scotland, April Fools Day lasts for two days! The second day is called Taily Day and tricks on this day involve the bottom or the tail in informal speech. Often a sign saying kick me is stuck onto someone's back without them knowing.

In Spain and Mexico, similar celebrations take place on 28 December. The day is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Originally, the day was a sad remembrance of the slaughter of the innocent children by Herod in his search for the baby Jesus. It eventually changed to a lighter commemoration of innocence involving pranks and trickery.

Today, Americans and the British play small tricks on friends and strangers alike on 1 April. A common trick is to point to a friend's shoe and say Your shoelace is untied. When they look down, they are laughed at. Schoolchildren might tell a friend that school has been cancelled. A bag of flour might be balanced on the top of a door so that when the victim opens the door, the flour empties over their head. Sometimes the media gets involved. Once, a British short film was shown on April Fools Day about spaghetti farmers and how they harvest their crop from spaghetti trees!

Most April Fool jokes are in good fun and not meant to harm anyone. The best trick is the one where everyone laughs, especially the person upon whom the joke has been played.

Two British policemen were sent to investigate a glowing flying saucer on 31 March, the day before April Fool's Day. When the policemen arrived at a field in Surrey, they saw a small figure wearing a silver space suit walking out of a spacecraft. Immediately the police ran off in the opposite direction. Reports revealed that the alien was in fact a midget, and the flying saucer was a hot air balloon that had been specially built to look like a UFO by Richard Branson, the 36-year-old chairman of Virgin Records.

Branson had planned to land the balloon in London's Hyde Park on 1 April. However, a wind change had brought him down in a Surrey field. The police were bombarded with phone calls from terrified motorists as the balloon drifted over the motorway. One lady was so shocked by the incident that she didn't realise that she was standing naked in front of her window as she was describing the UFO to a radio station.
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  |  10196 learners#Culture #Essays

The West African Republic of Senegal has a population of 10 million 95 percent Muslim and there are about 80000 cases of HIV-AIDS in the country. It seems like a large number but in fact, at about 2 percent of the population, it's very low in comparison to other countries. And this percentage rate has not increased for the last ten years. The United Nations recognises this success and has named Senegal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Uganda, as countries which have done the most to fight HIV-AIDS. How has Senegal achieved this? The political stability of the country over the past few decades has been an important factor. But what other things may have contributed to this success story? There is no doubt that social and religious values are an important factor. The Senegalese culture is traditional and religious belief is strong. This means that there is less sexual activity outside of marriage than in many societies. And many young people still believe in the traditional values of no sex before marriage and being faithful to your husband or wife.

Many nations in the world have strong religious and social values, but the Senegalese government decided early on that the subject of HIV-AIDS must be discussed openly. Political, religious and community leaders could not treat it as a taboo subject. This wasn't easy. Speaking openly about the use of condoms means accepting that people may have sex outside of marriage. Religious leaders spoke about HIV-AIDS and condoms in the mosques. They still talked about sexual abstinence and fidelity as the best way to avoid becoming infected, but they also recommended condoms for those people who were not going to abstain from sex.

The National Plan to Fight HIV-AIDS was already in operation in 1987, less than a year after the first cases were diagnosed in Senegal. Its aim was information, education and prevention and it was the first such campaign in Africa. A compulsory class was introduced into the national curriculum in schools. Private companies were encouraged to hold classes for their workers. The government gave the campaign strong support and a regular budget and the religious leaders became strong supporters too. Senegal has a long tradition of local community organisations and there were marches and workshops all over the country. High-risk groups such as sex workers, soldiers and lorry drivers were specially targeted. Women were particularly important in this process. Senegal recognised that women need more than education and condoms. They need to have the economic and social power to say No to unprotected sex. Many young, popular musicians also became involved in the campaign reaching young people all over the country. Prostitution was legalised in Senegal in the 1960s. Sex workers were registered and had to have regular medical check-ups.

Anyone who was suffering from a sexually transmitted disease was treated free of charge. This system gave Senegal two big advantages in the war on HIV-AIDS. Firstly, it wasn't too difficult to extend the system of testing and treatment to HIV-AIDS. And secondly, the fact that sex workers were registered and known to the authorities meant that it was easy to reach them with education programmes. Many prostitutes themselves became involved in educating other women, and distributing free condoms. Twenty years ago fewer than 1 million condoms were used in Senegal. Now the figure is more than 10 million.

In 1970, Senegal began testing all the donated blood in its blood banks. So, unlike many Western countries, infected blood transfusions never caused the spread of the virus. Senegal has HIV-AIDS scientists who are known and respected all over the world. Professor Souleymane Mboup, is a world-renowned AIDS researcher. He is most famous for his work on documenting HIV2, a strain of the AIDS virus which is common in West Africa. Professor Mboup is in charge of his country's National AIDS Programme. He co-ordinates the Convention of Research between Senegal and Harvard University in the United States. He also works with the African AIDS Research Network. So far so good, but Senegal itself knows that it still has a long way to go. The biggest challenge is to hold on to what has already been achieved. Many experts are afraid that this initial success will spread a false sense of security and people will become less careful. One problem is that Senegal is a regional crossroads. Many men go to work in neighbouring countries and return infected with the virus.

There is still a great deal of poverty in the country and many people cannot read or write. HIV-AIDS grows well in these conditions. Large numbers of prostitutes are working secretly without registration. Many sex workers cannot afford to refuse customers who don't wear condoms. And if women had more economic power they would not have to turn to prostitution to feed their families in the first place. So Senegal must continue with the work. And maybe we can all learn a little from what the country has achieved so far.
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  |  9271 learners#Health #Stories

Many animal and plant species have become extinct and many more are in critical danger. Finding ways to protect the earth's wildlife and conserve the natural world they inhabit is now more important than ever.

Extinction is a natural process. Many species had ceased to exist before humans evolved. However, in the last 400 years, the number of animals and plants becoming extinct has reached crisis point. Human population levels have risen dramatically in the same time period and man's predatory instincts combined with his ruthless consumption of natural resources are directly responsible for the situation.

The dodo is a classic example of how human behaviour can cause irreparable damage to the earth's biological diversity. The flightless dodo was native to the Island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. It lived off fruit fallen from the island's trees and lived unthreatened until humans arrived in 1505. The docile bird became a source of food for sailors and lacked the ability to protect itself from animals introduced to the island by humans such as pigs, monkeys and rats. The population of dodos rapidly decreased and the last one was killed in 1681.

In 2002, many animals remain threatened with extinction as a result of human activity. The World Wildlife Fund works tirelessly to raise awareness of the predicament facing these animals and find ways to protect them. By focusing on a number of high profile, charismatic icons such as the rhino, panda, whale and tiger, the WWF aims to communicate critically important environmental issues. The organization's ultimate goal is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.

The rhino horn is a highly prized item for practitioners of Asian medicine. This has led to the animal being relentlessly hunted in its natural habitat. Once widespread in Africa and Eurasia, most rhinos now live in protected natural parks and reserves. Their numbers have rapidly decreased in the last 50 years, over half the remaining rhinos disappeared in the 1970s, and the animals remain under constant threat from poachers.

The future of the WWF's symbol is far from certain. As few as 1000 remain in the wild, living in small isolated groups. These groups have been cut off from each other as a result of deforestation and human expansion into their natural habitat. The Chinese government has set up 33 panda reserves to protect these beautiful animals and made poaching them punishable with 20 years in prison. However, the panda's distinct black and white patched coat fetches a high price on the black market and determined poachers still pose one of the most serious threats to the animal's continued existence.

The International Whaling Commission meets every year. The agenda covers ways to ensure the survival of the species and the complex problems arising from countries such as Japan, wishing to hunt certain whales for scientific purposes. Despite the fact that one third of the world's oceans have been proclaimed whale sanctuaries, seven out of 13 whale species remain endangered. The plight of the North Atlantic Right Whale is particularly serious. Hunted for their rich supply of oil, their numbers have dwindled to just 300. Collisions with ships, toxic pollution and becoming entangled in fishing nets are other major causes of whale deaths.

The last 100 years has seen a 95 percent reduction in the numbers of remaining tigers to between 5000 and 7000 and the Bali, Javan, and Caspian tigers are already extinct. The South China tiger is precariously close to disappearing, with only 20-30 still alive. Like the rhino horn, tiger bones and organs are sought after for traditional Chinese medicines. These items are traded illegally along with tiger skins.

The WWF is actively involved in many areas of the world fighting to protect the natural habitats of endangered animals from further damage and curb the activities of poachers. They also work to influence governments and policy makers to introduce laws aimed at reducing the threat of pollution and deforestation. Our own individual efforts at home and in the workplace can also make a difference. By reducing waste and pollution, saving water, wood and energy, and reusing and recycling whenever possible, we can reduce the possibility of even more animals being lost, never to return.
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  |  10410 learners#Science #Lectures

Amelia Earhart was born in 1897, in Kansas, USA. Even as a child she didn't behave in a conventionally feminine way. She climbed trees and hunted rats with her rifle, but she wasn't particularly interested in flying. She saw her first plane when she was 10, and wasn't impressed at all. But she was very interested in newspaper reports about women who were successful in male-dominated professions, such as engineering, law and management. She cut them out and kept them.

During the First World War she worked as a nursing assistant in a military hospital, and later started to study medicine at university. Then, in 1920, Amelia's life changed. She went to an aviation fair with her father and had a 10 minute flight in a plane. That was it. As soon as the plane left the ground, Amelia knew that she had to fly.

So Amelia found herself a female flying teacher and started to learn to fly. She took all sorts of odd jobs to pay for the lessons, and also saved and borrowed enough money to buy a second-hand plane. It was bright yellow and she called it Canary. In 1922 she took Canary up to a height of 14000 feet, breaking the women's altitude record.

In 1928, Amelia was working as a social worker in Boston when she received an amazing phone call inviting her to join pilot Wilmer Stultz on a flight across the Atlantic. The man who organised the flight was the American publisher, George Putnam. Amelia's official title was commander but she herself said that she was just a passenger. But she was still the first woman passenger to fly across the Atlantic. She became famous, wrote a book about the crossing called 20 Hours, 40 minutes and travelled around the country giving lectures. George Putnam was like a manager to her, and she eventually married him in 1931.

Then, in 1932, Amelia flew solo across the Atlantic, something that only one person, Lindbergh, had ever done before. Because of bad weather, she was forced to land in the middle of a field in Ireland, frightening the cows. She broke several records with this flight, the first woman to make the solo crossing, the only person to make the crossing twice, the longest non-stop distance for a woman and the shortest time for the flight.

Now she was really famous. She was given the Distinguished Flying Cross another first for a woman, wrote another book, and continued to lecture. She also designed a flying suit for women, and went on to design other clothes for women who led active lives.

Amelia continued to break all sorts of aviation records over the next few years. But not everyone was comfortable with the idea of a woman living the kind of life that Amelia led. One newspaper article about her finished with the question But can she bake a cake?

When she was nearly 40, Amelia decided that she was ready for a final challenge, to be the first woman to fly around the world. Her first attempt was unsuccessful the plane was damaged but she tried again in June 1937, with her navigator, Fred Noonan. She had decided that this was going to be her last long-distance record breaking flight.

Everything went smoothly and they landed in New Guinea in July. The next stage was from New Guinea to Howland Island, a tiny spot of land in the Pacific Ocean. But in mid flight the plane, navigator and pilot simply disappeared in the bad weather.

A rescue search was started immediately but nothing was found. The United States government spent 4 million dollars looking for Amelia, which makes it the most expensive air and sea search in history. A lighthouse was built on Howland Island in her memory.

Amelia always knew that what she did was dangerous and that every flight could be her last. She left a letter for her husband saying that she knew the dangers, but she wanted to do what she did. People today are still speculating about what might have happened to Amelia and Fred Noonan. There are even theories that they might have landed on an unknown island and lived for many more years. Whatever happened, Amelia Earhart is remembered as a brave pioneer for both aviation and for women.
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  |  9013 learners#General #Biography
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