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2017-01-10 Postcards
   2017-01-09 19:14:34    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Zhang Kun


Hello and welcome to Postcards, a show that takes you across borders without actually making the trip. I'm Wenjie.

It's the new obsession taking Australian schoolyards by storm: throwing a bottle half filled in the air and making it land upright. While "bottle flipping" can be disruptive in some circumstances, some schools have turned the game into something positive and educational. Here's Zhao Jianfu with this postcard from Australia.

It may look easy, but 'bottle flipping' takes more skill than you think.

This growing fad is taking Australian school children by storm and many are spending their lunch breaks competing to see who can get the most successful flips.

The rules are simple: throw a half full plastic bottle in the air and try to make it land so that it stands up.

The loud noises have resulted in some schools banning the game. Other schools, though, have turned it into a positive activity.

Greg Jones, the principal at Sydney's Mona Vale Public School, believes this is a good way to keep children physically active.

"We are looking to promote activities where students are outside, not in front of a screen. And although we are a school that has technology, it's important for students to be doing things together that don't involve screen time."

Jones has even turned the game into a competition, whereby any student who can flip a bottle three times on his desk gets a treat at the canteen.

At St Joseph's School in the regional city of Wagga Wagga, bottle flipping is used as an educational tool to learn maths.

Year 5 teacher Lauren Hinton uses the game to teach subjects like probability.

"They were into it. Some of them asked if they could stay in at lunch time to keep doing it. I got emails at night from kids who'd gone home and done it again and they've sent me their graphs that they created electronically."

A way for kids to learn while having fun, at least until the next fad comes along.


Walnuts were first introduced to Europe from Kyrgyzstan during the time of Alexander the Great. At least, that's according to growers from Arslanbob, a vast, ancient walnut forest that produces 1,500 tones of walnuts a year. Here I'd like to share with you this postcard from Kyrgyzstan.

This is Arslanbob, a walnut forest, about 700 kilometres South-West of the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.

According to local legend, Alexander the Great took walnuts from this land to Greece more than two-thousand years ago.

Two-thousand hectares of the 13,000 hectare forest are taken up by walnut trees.

Residents pay the forestry to collect the walnuts and then sell them.

Batyrbek Umetov is the chief forester of the Arslanbob forestry.

"The walnut forest itself covers 2,085 hectares. We lend it to local residents. Lessees sign an agreement with us, they pay us money and they use it."

Some of the trees here are 1,000 years old.

At 30 metres tall, they grow on the banks of rivers and on foothills at an altitude of 1,000-1,800 metres above sea level.

Bakytbk Ermekov, the head of territorial administration of the Jalal Abad State Environmental Protection Agency and Forestry, says the walnut trees are protected.

"These are the first relics, unique walnut forests on the territory, the walnut genetic pool is under conservation."

Locals say the trees are part of their heritage and want visitors to preserve and respect the natural wealth of the forest.

Abdulla, a student from Turkey, says he came here especially to visit the forest.

"I came from Antalya to see this beautiful landscape, those walnut forests, those waterfalls which are in Arslanbob. Arslanbob has very interesting and beautiful history. Alexander the Great was here himself. He took walnuts from here."

Locals say that Arslanbob is the largest and only natural walnut source in the world, producing some 1,500 tones of walnuts a year.

The walnut industry creates employment for thousands of people, with some employed to crack the nuts and others working to sort them ready for packaging and selling.

Up to 10,000 people may be employed in the walnut kernel industry in high season, according to an estimate by the Program on Forests at the World Bank.

The Institute for Walnut and Fruit crops is currently working on developing types of walnuts that ripen faster.


Autism is at least four times as common in boys as it is in girls. But now scientists taking a closer look are finding some gender-based surprises that could lead to new ways of diagnosing, treating and perhaps preventing the condition. Here's Doris Wang with this postcard from the United States.

Allison Klein worried about her daughter, Jillian, for three years before the little girl was finally diagnosed with mild autism.

Jillian couldn't tolerate loud noises, she became withdrawn around her preschool classmates and she lagged behind academically. She was labelled anxious, not autistic.

"She didn't meet the stereotypical behaviours of no eye contact, no communication, hand flapping."

A few months ago, just before Jillian turned 6, Klein's concerns were confirmed by specialists.

Teachers and doctors had previously suggested she was just shy and would grow out of it. Had she been a boy, there would have been much more pressure to check for autism earlier on.

The gender effect is a hot topic in autism.

There's growing awareness among scientists studying the condition that it can manifest differently in some girls, who have social skills that mask the telltale symptoms.

And scientists are exploring emerging evidence that autism is somehow absent in other girls who face genetic risks.

Finding answers could lead to new ways of diagnosing, treating and perhaps preventing a condition that affects at least 1 in 68 U.S. children.

The causes of autism aren't known, but genes and outside factors including older-aged parents and preterm birth have been implicated.

Recent studies on autism-linked genes have challenged conventional thinking about the condition.

Brain imaging suggests there may be an additional explanation for why many girls with autism have more subtle symptoms than boys.

Joseph Buxbaum is the director of the Seaver Autism Center at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City.

"Girls actually can have the same mutation as a boy and not have autism, and even need to have twice as many mutations on average to actually manifest with autism."

Buxbaum is among researchers trying to identify a "protective factor" that may explain how some girls at genetic risk remain unaffected, perhaps a protein or other biological marker that could be turned into a drug or other therapy to treat or even prevent autism.

He is seeking to enroll hundreds of families with autistic sons but unaffected daughters in a study looking for genetic clues and protective factors.

Girls and their families visit the New York lab to give saliva samples for DNA analysis and are assessed for other traits that may be related to the genetic findings.

Efforts are under way to expand DNA collection to other sites. The goal is to build a big database that other scientists can also use, to help speed up the research.

Fifteen year-old Evee Bak hopes her saliva samples will eventually benefit her older brother Tommy.

"I hope that the outcome could be something that could eventually help my brother like a therapy or something just so that it could make his life easier or make him like be able to be successful in his life."

The Philadelphia siblings are just a year apart and Evee is protective of Tommy. They play in a garage band, Evee on drums, Tommy on guitar and vocals.

He's a masterful musician, but has trouble reading social cues and doing things that come easy to other teens, like shopping alone or using public transport.

Tommy was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3, after he stopped using words he'd learned months earlier and showed unusual behaviour including repetitively lining up toys instead of playing with them.

A cure for autism is likely to be a long way off, but this line of research has prompted excitement among autism scientists.


The global seed vault is literally buried under snow and ice in a small Norwegian town on the remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Very few are allowed to enter the vault - its contents are considered too precious. It is used to store seeds from around the world which can be used as backup copies in case of disasters, and to ensure diversity. Here's Victor Ning with this postcard from Norway.

You can't get much more remote than this. The town of Longyearbyen is as close to the North Pole as it is to mainland Norway.

It's here that scientists store spare copies of the world's crop seed varieties, a kind of insurance policy of smaller collections whose role is to protect diversity.

Marie Haga is the executive director at Crop Trust.

"This vault is the backup of the backup of the system that we have globally."

Due to ongoing snowfall and because the vault is built in a mountain, from the outside only the very tip of the building is visible.

The vault is 130 metres into the mountain and stores around 865,000 seed varieties from every part of the world.

The seeds of course vary greatly.

Among the seeds are important ones like rye, wheat and barley, which can be preserved in the vault for hundreds of years.

But after only a few years Syrian researchers retrieved their deposit in late 2015 because their seed bank in war-torn Aleppo was no longer able to operate.

You can now see a space on the shelf left open by the Syrian boxes in the hope that the seeds will one day be returned.

No country is excluded, despite international tension. Even North Korea has a deposit.

Brian Lainoff is the spokesperson for the vault.

"Obviously we took a lot of care in making this deposit, but it also shows the true global nature of this seed vault. When you're in the vault politics don't matter, what matters is keeping the seeds safe."

At the back of the vault, there are 12 boxes containing 11,000 seeds from Australia. Australian scientists are preparing more deposits for 2017.

Australia is currently the fourth largest contributor to the vault and has placed more than 10,000 seed varieties there.

There have recently been new arrivals from Japan and the United States.

For much of the year the vault is locked.

Bente Naeverdal is the building manager.

"We have all this alarmed if someone is trying to break in or something, but that has never happened. I can't imagine anyone wants to try to break into the vault. We don't have that type of crime up here."

The vault is funded by the Norwegian Government and the organization, Crop Trust.

The town only has a population of 2,000 residents. They share their land with plenty of wildlife, in fact they're outnumbered by polar bears.

"I think this must be the most special place on earth."

It's certainly a remote community that's proud of hosting a unique international collection.


A UAE company is planning to expand the use of 3D printing in the construction industry, launching a printer that uses concrete. The device is on show at Dubai's Big 5 Exhibition, the largest construction event in the Middle East. Here's Zhao Jianfu with this postcard from Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.

We've seen them create elaborate designs in everything from food to plastic, and now there are plans to use 3D printers to produce buildings.

This robotic 3D printer is on display at the Big 5 construction exhibition in Dubai. It was built by UAE company Digirobotics.

Managing Director Bilal al-Hattab says the company plans to start small, making supplemental concrete materials for buildings as the development of the project continues.

"We launched the first robotic 3D printing concrete system. It is based on robotic technology, our software and hardware that we have developed at Digirobotics, as a UAE company. And we developed the chemical mixtures of the concrete to be able to print directly as a 3D concrete material or building or component of a building."

Digirobotics wants to capitalize on the UAE's push to become a world leader in 3D printing.

The Government says it wants 25 percent of all new construction materials to be made with the 3D printing method by 2030.

Al-Hattab says 3D printing saves time and money:

"From making the design itself, to make the mould, then cast it, then double it, then the whole process. We are talking about it reducing at least 40 percent of the process of casting. Plus at the same time, saving the material itself which you use for the cast."

For now, the printer can build anything from outdoor landscape furniture to small blocks for construction.

The printer is used by 2 companies in the UAE and Digirobtics hopes to expand that even further.

Al-Hattab is confident Dubai will meet its ambitious targets for 3D printing construction.

"Of course when they gave us until 2030, they consider the time of development of such technology to be ready and mature enough to use it on a bigger scale or a commercial scale. So I wouldn't call Dubai a test, rather it is initiating it."


Clean and effortless, but not obviously groomed - that's the latest trend for men at classic barbershops and new-age salons in Italy. A world away from hipsters, Italian men choose a smooth jaw or a carefully clipped beard, and never decline a facial. Before we come to the end of today's show, I would like to share with you an extra postcard from Italy.

This isn't your grandfather's barbershop.

At the Wonderfool club in Rome, clients abandon their garments and slip into white robes.

The service here goes beyond a mere trim or shave. The club offers the modern Italian man a deep grooming experience.

Client Andrea Rebuzzi doesn't like long decorative beards. He only trusts his expert barber, Gaetano Di Martino, to lay a straight blade on his face.

By law, clients must bring their own straight blade or let the barber use a protective blade.

Di Martino has been practicing with the classic barber's tool since he was a child.

"This is a free-hand razor. I started using it at 11 years old. I practiced on balloons, before using it on people, until the balloons didn't pop anymore. Then I moved on to using it on clients. That's how I started. These razors require a lot of care and maintenance. You have to be very quick to use them and even to sharpen them. Our clients often use them, but we always recommend that they be very careful. They are very delicate and very dangerous objects because they have no protection."

According to the Italian Cosmetics Association, while Italian men spend more than 3 billion US dollars a year on grooming products, Italian women still spend twice as much. But women are no longer the sole buyers of anti-aging creams, eye creams, and peeling masks.

Italy's cosmetics market is worth 10 billion US dollars. and Italian men represent 30% of the customer base.

Wonderfool, like many salons in Italy, now offers spa treatments.

Wonderfool founder Prospero Di Vicoli says clients love to indulge in facial skincare.

"The current trend is that a man who takes care of himself and devotes plenty of time to his wellbeing and his appearance doesn't look too obvious or flamboyant. So at the moment, the ideal man, the kind of man that we try to help look his best, is a man who takes care of himself in all aspects, but doesn't look like he just came out of a spa."

But many still do look meticulously groomed. Rebuzzi says he and many fellow Italians go to great lengths to look good.

"Rather than being vain, the Italian man is concerned with being liked - it's more about looking good for others than for yourself."

In Naples, the exclusive Boellis barber has turned a 1924 shop into a full male spa and solarium.

Owner Michele Boellis, a third generation barber and hair stylist, says today's Italian men are on their way to spending more time and money on beauty treatments than women.

But when it comes to shaving, their policy is strictly old-fashioned Neopolitan, soft brush, rich cream, hissing blade and hot towels, followed by cold towels.

With his exclusive clientele, Boellis barbers is an institution in Naples. But in a city that considers shaving an art, the owner says technique must come with a purpose.

"We need to debunk a myth. The perfect shave is not the one that leaves your skin smooth. The perfect shave is the one that leaves your skin healthy. We need to curb inflammations and redness, and shave while respecting the hair. We prepare the skin with hot towels, excellent soaping, and we finish with more hot towels because it's pleasant. But the most important part is the cold towels at the end. What do they do? They help close the pores and prevent any possible inflammation."

It's a ritual Giancarlo Maresca could never give up. He's been coming here for 25 years.

"How did it go today? Great as always. But to be honest, in places like this, a 'today' doesn't really exist, it's an 'always'. These places have a kind of male sacredness. This is our sacred space."

With that, we wrap up today's "Postcards." Your comments, suggestions or questions are always appreciated and you can contact us via e-mail at: postcards@cri.com.cn. For program producer Zhao Jianfu, I'm Wenjie. See you next week.

(source: AP)


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