2018 Australian Open

The 2018 Australian Open, a world-famous tennis tournament, took place from January 15 to 28 in Melbourne, Australia. Roger Federer (from Switzerland, image) beat Marin Cilic (from Croatia) to win the men’s singles title. This was Federer’s 20th Grand Slam title. This makes him the first male to take 20 Grand Slam singles play titles.



The women’s singles winner was Caroline Wozniacki (from Denmark). She beat Simona Halep (from Romania). It was Wozniacki’s first Grand Slam title. There were winners in other categories as well.

The Australian Open is held every January and is one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments (the other three are the French Open, US Open, and Wimbledon).


Image Credits: https://ausopen.com for Federer’s image, Andrew Campbell for Caroline Wozniacki’s image
Sources: https://ausopen.com

Cape Town approaching Day Zero

South Africa’s second largest city, Cape Town, might run out of water very soon. City officials predict that the day will be April 12, which the citizens of the city are referring to as “Day Zero”. People are trying to recycle water, take shorter baths, use hand sanitizer instead of water to wash their hands, and do more to conserve water. However, it is not enough. In recent years, Cape Town has suffered a terrible drought and the city’s population has been increasing, leading to water shortages. The city has asked people not to use over 50 liters per person per day starting February 1.

A famous landmark of Cape Town is Table Mountain. Its name certainly describes its shape – a wide flat top.

One of South Africa’s famous leaders is Nelson Mandela. He died in 2013.  He is remembered for his fight against apartheid and for his beliefs that all people are equal, regardless of skin color, religion, or background. One of the biggest issues that South Africa faced in the last century was apartheid, where people of different races were treated differently and led separate lives.




Apartheid went into effect as an official policy in the country in 1948. The schools, hospitals, restaurants, and even the beaches that people could go to depended upon their race. The majority of South Africans were black people, and the minority were white. The white people were favored over the others, and were treated in a superior manner. Apartheid came to an end in 1991, and Mandela became the country’s first black president in 1994.

Here is a video about Mandela.


Did you know?

Table Mountain is often covered in cloud, referred to as the “table cloth”.

Did you know?

The second highest waterfall in the world is the Tugela Falls in South Africa.

Image Credits: http://www.tablemountain.net for Table Mountain’s image, https://www.nobelprize.org for Mandela’s image, Dewet for the Apartheid era sign
Sources: http://www.capetown.gov.za, CNN, https://www.theguardian.com, https://tablemountainnationalpark.org, http://www.history.com, https://www.britannica.com, https://www.worldwaterfalldatabase.com, Biography.com

Movie causing an uproar in India

Padmaavat, an Indian film released on January 25, has caused quite a stir in India this past year. There have been protests, some violent, in parts of the country demanding that the movie be banned. The film is based in the 14th century. It tells the story of a Muslim ruler and a Hindu queen, and is part historical and part fictional. Some Hindus are upset because they feel the movie disrespects the queen. It is unclear if the queen ever really existed or not. The actress playing the role of the queen and the director of the film have both received death threats. A lot of police have been sent to guard movie theaters where the movie is being shown.

India is a secular country, with about 80% of its population following the religion Hinduism, 14% Islam, 2% Christianity, and 1.7% Sikhism. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh were all part of one nation called India until 1947, when India got its independence from the British. India split into two nations, India and Pakistan. In 1971, Bangladesh got its independence from Pakistan and became a separate nation.


Here is a preview of Padmaavat.

Image Credits: Bhansali Productions for Padmaavat’s image, http://www.culturalindia.net for the Indian flag image
Sources: Times of India, http://www.imdb.com, CIA World Factbook, Vimeo

North and South Korea will march together

North and South Korea have agreed to march together under a unified flag at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games being held next month in PyeongChang, South Korea. Not only that, the countries will form a joint women’s ice hockey team that will take part in the upcoming Games. This is big news as the two nations have not been on friendly terms for quite some time.

North and South Korea were part of a single country called Korea until 1948, when it split into two nations. This was followed by a war (1950 to 1953) between the two nations. After the war ended, the border between North and South Korea became the most guarded border in the world. The two countries have evolved very differently from each other.

North Korea has been led by people from the same family since it was founded. Kim Jong-un (image) is the current leader, and his grandfather and father were the leaders before him. There isn’t much communication between North Korea and the rest of the world. The government very strictly controls many aspects of its citizens’ lives. People don’t have many gadgets and conveniences.


South Korea is democratic. The citizens of the country have a very high standard of living, and South Koreans are one of the world’s most hi-tech people. The current president is Moon Jae-in (image).



Korean is the official language of both North and South Korea. The Korean alphabet is called Hangul. A popular Korean food is kimchi, a dish made of pickled vegetables. Taekwondo is a form of martial arts that originates from Korea. Hanbok is a traditional dress of Korea.

The two countries have marched under a unified flag previously in the opening ceremony of a Winter Olympics (the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy). However, since then, the two nations have had quite a few tiffs and quarrels.

Image Credits: https://www.pyeongchang2018.com for the Olympic logo, User P388388 for Kim Jong-un’s image, History – Washington State University for the North Korea South Korea map image, http://korea.net for the women making kimchi image and Moon Jae-in’s image
Sources: https://www.pyeongchang2018.com, New York Times, http://korea.net

Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival 2018

The 34th Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is going on in Harbin, China. It started on January 5 and will last for over a month (depending upon the weather). It is one of the largest ice and snow festivals in the world. There are life-sized buildings carved out of ice that are lit up with colorful lights. It looks like a magical land of fairy tales with castles, statues, and ice slides. Harbin is nicknamed “City of Ice”, and there is a good reason for that. The average daily high temperature for the month of January in Harbin is -13 °C (9 °F). Brrr – that’s cold!

Did you know?

The world’s first ice hotel was built in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden and is called “ICEHOTEL“. An ice hotel is built every year from ice and snow when it is cold enough. When the weather warms up, the hotel melts away.

Image Credits: http://www.harbinice.com for the Snow Festival image
Sources: https://www.huffingtonpost.com, https://www.travelchinaguide.com

New president in Liberia

On January 22, George Weah was sworn in as President of Liberia. He used to be a professional soccer player, and got into politics after he retired from playing soccer. He is regarded as one of Africa’s best soccer players. Weah won one of soccer’s most prestigious awards, the Ballon d’Or, in 1995 and was also named FIFA World Player of the Year. He was born into a poor family, and was raised in a slum of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.

The land Liberia is on was once owned by a group of people in the United States in the early 1800s. Freed African American and Caribbean slaves were sent there to live, and hence the name “Liberia” (from liberty, meaning freedom). Monrovia is named after an American president, James Monroe. The flag of Liberia has some similarities with the flag of the United States.

Image Credits: http://www.emansion.gov.lr for Weah’s image
Sources: https://www.theguardian.com, https://history.state.gov

2018 Dakar Rally

The 2018 Dakar Rally was held from January 6 to 20. The race had competitions in 5 categories: bikes, cars, trucks, quads, and SxS (side-by-side off-road vehicles). The winners were Matthias Walkner from Austria in bikes, Carlos Sainz from Spain in cars, Eduard Nikolaev from Russia in trucks, Ignacio Casale from Chile in quads, and Reinaldo Varela from Brazil in SxS.



The Dakar Rally is an annual long-distance off-road race that takes place over two weeks. It started in 1978 and most of the races began in Paris, France, and ended in Dakar, Senegal. In 2009, the race was moved to South America because of political instability in Africa. This year, the race went through 3 countries – Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. The Dakar Rally is a difficult and wild race – it goes over sand dunes, rocks, grass, rivers, mud, and can be quite dangerous. This year, the race started with over 330 vehicles, and finished with 185. The race was around 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles) long.

Here is a video with the Best of Dakar.


Image Credits: https://www.dakar.com for the Dakar Rally map and logo images
Sources: https://www.dakar.com

Lots of news in Saudi Arabia

As of January 1, 2018, the government of Saudi Arabia has imposed a 5% Value Added Tax (VAT) on most services and goods sold in the country. Before this, Saudi Arabia had no taxes. Folks buying clothes, shoes, groceries, etc., will now have to pay 5% more on the goods. The taxes collected will go to the government. The money will be used to fund development projects for the Saudi citizens.


A 35-year-old ban on movie theaters was lifted in December last year, and the first public screening of a movie was recently held in Saudi Arabia. The Emoji Movie was the first movie screened.




The King Abdulaziz Camel Festival is taking place in Saudi Arabia this month. The Festival celebrates camel traditions in the nation’s culture. There are many activities and competitions around camels including a camel beauty contest. This year, 12 camels have been disqualified from this contest as they were given medical treatment to make them look more handsome.


Saudi Arabia is a monarchy, where the leader of the country is the king. King Salman (image) is the current king. Various tribes ruled the area that is today called Saudi Arabia. Abdulaziz Al-Saud conquered and united the tribes and formed the modern nation of Saudi Arabia in 1932, becoming the first king. He is believed to have had over 30 sons and about 20 wives. All the kings after him have been his sons, including the current king. The capital is Riyadh and the official language is Arabic. All Saudis follow the religion of Islam.

Did you know?

A weekend in Saudi Arabia is on Friday and Saturday.

Image Credits: http://www.alaibilfestival.com for the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival image, https://www.saudi.gov.sa for the image of King Salman, http://www.imdb.com for the Emoji movie image, https://www.vat.gov.sa for the VAT image
Sources: http://www.alaibilfestival.com, reuters.com, https://www.vat.gov.sa, Newsweek, https://www.saudi.gov.sa, PBS

A bit more news

According to the American government agency, NASA, 2017 was the second-warmest year ever recorded (since record keeping started in 1880). The warmest year ever recorded was 2016. According to another American government agency, NOAA, 2017 was the third-warmest year ever recorded, with 2016 being the warmest followed by 2015. According to both agencies, the five warmest years on record all have taken place since 2010.

Moscow, the capital of Russia, saw only six or seven minutes of direct sunlight in December.




SplashData, a company based in the United States, publishes a list every year of the “worst” passwords. These passwords are terrible because they are the most leaked passwords on the Internet. SplashData published its list for 2017, and the worst of all the bad passwords was “123456” followed by “password”, “12345678”, and “qwerty”. The 16th worst password of 2017 was “starwars”.

As of January 1, 2018, a new law for companies and institutions employing more than 24 full-time workers annually has gone into effect in Iceland. The law states that an employer has to offer equal pay to women and men for jobs of equal value. Not only that, the companies and institutions need to get certification showing that they do offer equal pay.


January 31 will be a special day to observe the moon. Three lunar events are taking place, and its being called “the super blue blood moon”. It will be a blue moon, which means that January will see the second full moon. It will be a supermoon, which means that the moon will be at the closest point in its orbit to Earth, and so it will appear larger and brighter. It will be a blood moon, which means that a lunar eclipse will take place giving the moon a reddish color.


A new prime number has been found. It is the largest prime number ever discovered. Want to memorize it? It only has 23,249,425 digits. :-) If you really want to know the number, multiply together 77,232,917 twos, and then subtract one. Prime numbers are whole numbers greater than one that are divisible only by 1 and themselves.


Amazon has opened its first physical grocery store in Seattle, USA called Amazon Go. You just walk in, shop, and walk out. There is no checkout.

Here are 3 videos – one is about Amazon Go, the second is a prime number rap, and the last is a video showing the temperature of our planet over the years.


Image Credits:  NOAA for the image of events on Earth, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for the Moon’s image, https://www.teamsid.com for the SplashData image, https://www.mersenne.org for the prime number image, https://www.amazon.com for Amazon Go’s image

Sources: http://tass.com, NASA, NOAA, https://www.teamsid.com, https://www.government.is, https://www.mersenne.org, https://www.amazon.com

TIME Person of the Year 2017

TIME magazine named “The Silence Breakers” as its “Person of the Year” for 2017. A movement on social media took off this year called #MeToo. It encouraged people to come out and openly talk about sexual abuse or harassment they’ve suffered in their past. Many women have come out and spoken about abuse they’ve gone through, and who their abuser was. Some of the abusers were well-known men, and this has led to some of them being fired from their jobs.


Some of the other contenders for TIME’s Person of the Year were Kim Jong Un (the North Korean leader), Patty Jenkins (the director of the movie Wonder Woman), Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon and the current richest person in the world, image), Xi Jinping (President of China), Donald Trump (President of the United States), and Mohammed bin Salman (Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia).

The Person of the Year award by TIME magazine (called Man of the Year until 1998) has been given since 1927. It is awarded to individuals (or sometimes groups of people or even things) that significantly influence the world, for better or worse. There have been some interesting winners in the past that were not individuals. In 1982, the award went to the computer for the impact it was having on us. In 1988, planet Earth was the winner because our environment and its protection became a significant subject. In 2006, the Person of the Year was “You”, as in all of us. This was to recognize the impact that user-generated information had caused because of the Internet.

Here is a video showing the shortlist of candidates for TIME’s 2017.

Image Credits: time.com for its cover image,  Giafranco Gorgoni and time.com for the image of Time’s cover from January, 1989, https://twitter.com/JeffBezos for the image of Bezos
Sources:  time.com