the brief: issue twenty


Moderna incoming!

by Neo Allert

image credit: Eduardo Munoz (Reuters)

Good news on the Covid frontline! On March 7, Moderna, the company that developed the Spikevax vaccine, stated its readiness to set up a vaccine factory in Kenya. This manufacturing site, producing Moderna’s mRNA vaccine, would be the first of its kind on the African continent. About $500 million would be invested in this facility, which is expected to produce as many as 500 million doses a year. These are much needed in Africa, the least-vaccinated continent against the novel coronavirus.

Moderna’s announcement follows the signing of an agreement between BioNTech, Senegal, and Rwanda in October last year. This agreement should have laid the foundation for Africa’s first start-to-finish vaccine factories. Hopes are high in Africa that these developments will end their dependency on other countries to provide the vaccine: A dependency that has stifled Africa’s vaccine campaign for far too long.


Central Asia flooded with Russian migrants

by Joe Mawer

image credit: Eurasianet

As the Russian economy collapses, many people in the professional classes have attempted to get out of Russia. Due to the travel ban from most of Europe, many of these migrants have had to use the only available flights, which are to non-European countries in the former Soviet Union. Reports from experts in Central Asia, such as Dr Erica Marat, report that hotels in Bishkek are filled with Russians.

This may be a small economic silver lining for Central Asia, with many predictions stating that they will face harsh economic problems. Many economies in Central Asian countries are reliant on remittances from migrants in Russia, – a region that is already feeling the effects of climate change and the Taliban invasion of Afghanistan. It will be interesting to see how these new changes manifest themselves.

Wholesome moment in a time of political uncertainty

by Maisze Cheng

image credit: Chris Devers (Flickr)

An anonymous visitor to the Studio Ghibli museum, located in Mitaka Japan, leaves a wholesome surprise for Totoro, a spiritual tree guardian from the movie ‘My Neighbour Totoro’. A bundle of little acorns, wrapped in leaves, was left for Totoro at the ticket booth, making an adorable reference to when the character Mei, from the 1988 animated movie receives acorns from Totoro. Studio Ghibli was founded by 4 creators, a chairman, editor, executive director and a director. 

This loving gesture comes as Japan finds itself in a time of political uncertainty. The situation in Ukraine has seen diplomatic talks with China over acts of similar aggression rear their head once more. As a result, this delightful surprise adds some joy and allows us to pause and appreciate the little things in life.


Spain’s standoff with childhood obesity

by Rachael Ward

image credit: Marco Verch (Flickr)

Spain is putting plans in motion for an advertising blitz of unhealthy food and drinks targeted at children. Anyone in a position of influence, such as TV presenters, teachers, and sports stars, will be banned from promoting products high in fat, sugar, salt, or sodium. Spain hopes that this will nudge children to cut back on consumption, with the clampdown following a similar ban for TV, radio stations and social media.

Looking across the West with little envy at their childhood obesity rates, Spain is trying to prevent a similar problem. Childhood obesity has been a hot political topic in Spain since a report in 2019 found that around 40 percent of children aged six to nine exceeded the recommended weight. While this announcement will not be a sweet sound to children’s ears, health experts insist that a blackout ban of sugary food and drinks is needed.


USA looks to Venezuela for gas alternative

by Max Bedford

image credit: 12019 (Pixabay)

President Biden has claimed that banning Russian gas and oil imports is attacking ‘the main artery of Russia’s economy’, estimated to make up 60 percent of the nation’s GDP as the third largest oil producer in the world behind the US and Saudi Arabia. This has coincided with both the EU and UK ending their reliance on Russian energy, despite threats of “catastrophic” consequences from the Kremlin. This has resulted in domestic backlash as petrol prices reach record highs, with just under half of the population supporting involvement with European affairs.

During the crisis, Venezuela has attempted to present itself as a close alternative to Russian petrol, releasing two Americans had previously held in the country as accused terrorists, and announcing they could increase oil production to 1.2 million barrels a day; presenting a hopeful alternative to European involvement.


Verdict over fatal shooting of Aboriginal teenager

by Connor Crout

image credit: walesjacqueline (Pixabay)

In November 2019, Aboriginal teenager Kumanjayi Walker was fatally shot while being arrested at his home in the Northern Territory. This led to community-led protests throughout Australia. Constable Zachary Rolfe, the shooter was granted bail at the time before being suspended with pay. He argued that he was acting to protect himself and another officer, as Walker had threatened officers with an axe and stabbed Rolfe with scissors. Over two years later, he has now been found not guilty of murder and two manslaughter charges.

Walker’s death, since November 2019, has been seen as a national symbol of Aboriginal people’s grievances towards the police, as hundreds of Aboriginal people have died in police custody since an inquiry into the matter in 1991. The divides between Aboriginal people and police officers are now inevitably wider.


The Amazon’s tipping point

by Eleanor Austin

image credit: João Laet

A study released this week came with an ominous prediction that the Amazon rainforest is reaching its tipping point. The research has analysed three decades of satellite images, evaluating how the Amazon has responded to different events such as deforestation or fires. It ultimately showed that the rainforest is unstable; it is losing its resilience and can no longer recover from damage. This will have dangerous and deadly consequences globally as the trees dying rapidly will release stored carbon into the atmosphere. This would result in the Amazon no longer being a rainforest, but a savannah, losing its local biodiversity. 

Whilst there is no exact prediction for when this tipping point will occur, the study has highlighted once again the damaging effects of global industrialisation, with a fifth of the rainforest already depleted. Some hope that further loss can be prevented by stopping the human impacts on the Amazon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s