Brief #1 - okładka

The mass graves in Spain and conflicts over museums in India

The Spanish government approved the new Law on Democratic Memory (“Ley de Memoria Democrática”) that will make the state responsible for unearthing the mass graves from the era of civil war and the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. About 100 000 victims stay in unmarked graves across the country. According to Amnesty International, that number is surpassed only by Cambodia. The draft bill is to, i.e. secure finances for the exhumations, create a DNA database, and prepare the legal framework for the investigation of human rights abuse of that time. It is a part of the continuous process of handling the Spanish past. In 2019 Franco’s remains were moved from the mausoleum in the Valley of the Fallen, and the new law would turn the place into an educational site about the dictatorship. The bill still needs to be approved by the parliament. The right-wing opposition accuses the government of using the past to divert the public’s attention from the country’s problems with the pandemic.

A museum in Agra, India is to be renamed and refocused to cover Hindu, not Muslim Mughal dynasty history. The move is criticized by the government’s opposition as another one in a series of actions that discriminate against the Muslim minority. The museum will now bear the name of Shivaji Bhosale I – an Indian warrior-king who did not have much to do with the region. It’s not the first time when the role of Muslims in India’s history is contested. In 2017 Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of the north Indian state Uttar Pradesh, considered taking out Taj Mahal (also located in Agra and built by Mughals) from the region’s tourism brochures.

Congolese activists put online a stream of the protest during which they stole an African funeral statue from the Afrika Museum in Nijmegen, Netherlands. The activists claimed that they were recovering the artwork that was looted by Belgians during the colonial era. Last year a group of Dutch museums, including Afrika Museum, presented a set of principles they will follow in handling claims on artefacts in their collections.

Mysterious language of chatbots and robots in care homes

Care homes in the UK will use robots. Among their tasks will be, i.e. having simple conversations with residents which improve people’s mental health and reduces loneliness, according to an international trial. The robots move independently, gesture, and can learn personal interests and backgrounds. They can also play music, teach languages, and offer practical help, including medicine reminders. Robots are to help the care homes’ staff not replace it.

In stadiums, hospitals, on the airports, and in public transport in the United States robots are cleaning, disinfecting, and eradicating germs with the UV lights. According to researchers epidemics of illness, public health crisis, and the recessions to come after will cause automatization and lasting changes in the labor market. Robots will replace mostly custodial workers and those employed in retail.

Facebook abandoned the negotiation experiment with two artificially intelligent chatbots. During the conversation between the programs, they started to use their own, altered version of English that made their task easier but was incomprehensible to the engineers overlooking the experiment. The chatbots were negotiating over trading books, hats, and balls. Some of the negotiations conducted in the bizarre language ended up successfully. Programs also were able to pretend interest in one particular object, to get better negotiating terms when resigning from it. The experiment was terminated by researchers, not due to fear but because the aim of it was to work on communication between chatbots and humans, not between the programs.

Heat, mass migration and CO2 levels

This year could be the hottest on record, although it will also be the one with the highest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. According to scientists, there is a 75% chance that every year in the coming decade will be among the ten warmest since the measuring started. By 2035 we may observe ice-free summers in the Arctic. Some of the global changes could have a heat-related impact on human cognitive abilities and motor skills. Healthwise, the most affected will be the poorest countries.

Unless CO₂ emission drops dramatically, by 2100 we will observe a rise in temperature by 3 degrees Celsius in comparison to the pre-industrial era. That is higher than the numbers set by the Paris climate change agreement in 2015 – 1.5 °C and 2 °C. Currently, Earth is 1.1 °C hotter than in the 1800s, but a new science update from the UN and the global science groups informs of almost one in four chance that one of the next five years will surpass the 1.5 °C limit – faster than expected in the 2018 UN report. That “increased the odds of extreme events that are unprecedented in our historical experience”, said Noah Diffenbaugh from Stanford University.

The climate crisis may result in the mass migration with 1.2 billion people from 31 countries on the move, according to the report released by a global think tank, Institute for Economics & Peace. The study assessed 157 states, with eight ecological risks. It found that 141 countries face at least one of them. Especially the countries ranked low on the peace index and the ones with a rapidly growing population were named as the least resilient to climate change. They are mostly found in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa regions. Sweden, Norway, Ireland, and 13 other countries faced no threat. The significant number of the displaced people most probably will look for shelter in the developed world.

The peace talks in Sudan and Afghanistan and the conflict in Yemen

Sudan’s peace agreement signed between the transitional government and a coalition of rebel leaders is a chance to end conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. The fight along the peripheries of the country involved the Army of Sudan and South Sudanese Sudan’s People Liberation Army, as well as rebels supported by both belligerent countries. The peace agreement brings the rebels into the transitional government and provides them positions which they will hold until the elections in 2023. They will be incorporated within the Sudanese military. Millions of displaced people will be assisted in returning to their homes.

The unprecedented official peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are taking place in Doha. The conflict that lasts for almost two decades left the Taliban in control or having an influence over nearly half of the territory of Afghanistan. They oppose democratic elections, demand withdrawal of American forces from the country, and expect a meaningful role for themselves in the new government. Delegates of the current government of Afghanistan want the current constitution to remain unchanged, and protection of women’s and minority rights as well as civil liberties ensured.

The Saudi-led coalition has launched air raids on the Houthi barracks and military sites in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, according to the Houthi-run Saba news agency. Attacks were preceded by a strike on an “important target” in the capital of Saudi Arabia that, according to Houthi, was done with drones and ballistic missiles. The situation in Yemen worsens with the COVID pandemic. According to the UN Yemen experiences the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

Body fat in legs and blood pressure, antimicrobial resistance

People with a higher percentage of body fat in the legs less often have high blood pressure, compared to those with low levels. The study found that people with high body fat levels in their lower limbs were 53% less likely to have high diastolic blood pressure, and 39 percent less likely to have high systolic blood pressure. The probability of them exceeding the recommended limits of both was 61% lower than in the second group. In the study, high blood pressure was defined as 130/80 mm Hg or above.

High blood pressure and diabetes impair brain function, causing structural changes to grey and white matter which harm memory and thinking. People suffering from those medical conditions scored lower in tests that measured their thinking speed and short-time memory.

Scientists warn of antimicrobial resistance as a growing issue and „superbugs” or drug-resistant bacteria. High rates of antibiotic prescription for treatment of humans and animals and using the same drugs for both populations, like in Fiji, increases the risk of antimicrobial resistance. In August ten people died there from leptospirosis. Antibiotic resistance is estimated to cause at least 700 000 deaths a year globally.

Who really benefits from charity and NASA looking for the private partners for the Moon mining

With the biggest number of philanthropists in history, it’s not the poor but the rich who benefit the most from billions of dollars offered to different causes each year. Donors often give money to universities and schools their children attend, to sports teams, healthcare and political organizations closest to their views. In the US, only a fifth of the money spent went to the poor. Even if donations find the way to the neediest, it’s sometimes counterproductive as money may redirect attention from issues considered more important by the local communities. It’s also taxpayers who “fund” the causes chosen by the rich. Charity allows avoiding tax that otherwise would end up in the budget. That’s 3.64 bln pounds in tax breaks in England alone in 2012.

There’s an 80% bigger chance that a migrant, not a native will be an entrepreneur in the US, according to the recent study. Researchers from MIT, Northwestern Kellog, and US Census found that companies started by migrants provide 42% more jobs than ones funded by Americans – a characteristic true for businesses of all sizes.

The learning losses due to the COVID pandemic may cost students up to 3% of their career earnings – as suggested by various researches, including one from OECD. For many of them, remote learning is not as effective as the traditional one, and students may carry today’s shortcomings in their work. It could also result in the lower GDP for the countries affected – an estimated number of 1.5% for the rest of the century. Or even more, if the education does not go back to the pre-COVID quality soon.

NASA announced that it will pay private companies to provide the Moon soil for research as a part of the Artemis exploration program that aims at landing Americans on the Earth’s natural satellite again by 2024. The samples will be used to develop possibilities for astronauts to use local resources in their missions. It’s the first time in history when private entities will be legally incentivized to collect and sell celestial materials. NASA’s administrator called to “establish the regulatory certainty to extract and trade space resources”.