Summary of last week's most important good news from around the world.
New Malaria Vaccine: A highly effective malaria vaccine has been approved for widespread use by the World Health Organization. It's only the second malaria vaccine to be recommended by the WHO and is the first to meet the WHO’s target of 75 percent efficacy. “As a malaria researcher, I used to dream of the day we would have a safe and effective vaccine against malaria. Now we have two,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO.
Tonight's The Night: In good news for sky watchers in the northern hemisphere, the 2023 Draconid meteor shower reaches its peak tonight. Best seen a couple of hours after sunset, before the moon rises.
Legal History: Dame Sue Carr has made legal history by being sworn in as the first Lady Chief Justice of England and Wales (a title she chose, in preference to "Lord Chief Justice" or the gender-neutral "Chief Justice"). She is the 98th judge to take the role - which dates back to the 13th century.
New Language Discovered: In yet another example of how much we still have to learn about our distant past, a previously unknown language - at least 3,500 years old - has been discovered on stone tablets in a UNESCO World Heritage Site being excavated in northern Turkey.
Student Debt Relief: The Biden-Harris administration just approved student loan debt relief for an additional 125,000 people, reports CNN. The forgiveness adds up to $9 billion in student loans, bringing the total approved debt cancellation to $127 billion for nearly 3.6 million borrowers.
White Man's Law: In Brazil, an Indigenous leader recently inspired an Amazon city to pass a law granting personhood status to an endangered river. The river is vital to the Wari' people, but this immemorial relationship is under increasing threat, reports AP. To protect themselves, the Wari’ people resorted to a new strategy: the white man’s law. The municipality has now passed a groundbreaking law designating the river and its tributaries as living entities with rights, ranging from maintaining their natural flow to having the forest around them protected.
Digital passports are here! But only if you’re a Finn flying from Helsinki to Britain. In a world-leading pilot scheme by the Finnish Border Guard, travellers on some Finnair flights can now slide quickly through border control by registering a digital version of their passport in advance. Other destinations will be sure to follow the innovation-loving Nordic nation.
Nobel Prize for Medicine: Awarded to a pair of scientists who developed the technology that led to the mRNA Covid vaccines. Prof Katalin Kariko and Prof Drew Weissman share the prize. The same mRNA technology is now being researched for other diseases, including cancer. The Nobel Prize Committee said: "The laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times."
Remarkable Baskets: 'Oh my God, that's not possible'. Discovery of 9,500 year old woven baskets challenges the simplistic assumptions about early humans.
Beaver Born in London: A baby beaver has been born in London for the first time in 400 years, 18 months after an initiative began to reintroduce the species to the capital. Enfield council began London's beaver reintroduction programme last year as part of a wider rewilding and natural flood-management project.
Global Web Access: According to the UN agency ITU, 5.4 billion people are now online, an increase of 100 million from the previous year and the highest number ever recorded. This means that two-thirds of humanity now has access to the internet. "This improvement in connectivity is another step in the right direction, and one more step towards leaving no one behind," said ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin in a statement.
Groundbreaking Achievement: Engineers from MIT and China have designed a passive solar desalination system that converts seawater into drinkable water. Better yet, it's cheaper than tap water.
Extraordinary Strides: In the last three decades humanity has made extraordinary strides in combating the threat of communicable disease. In 1990, diseases like malaria and tuberculosis made up almost a third of the global health burden, but by 2019 that had fallen to around a sixth, reports the Financial Times. Overall, the number of healthy years of life lost due to infectious diseases more than halved during this period.
Worth Smiling About: Toregem Biopharma, a Japanese pharmaceutical startup, is set to start clinical trials next summer on the world's first drug to regrow teeth, Global News reported. Researchers are hopeful that within the next decade, "tooth-regrowth medicine is a third choice alongside dentures and implants."
Insanely Optimistic? Based on what we're seeing happen in Europe and China, it takes around six years for electric vehicles to go from 1% to 10% of new car sales, and then another six to get to 80%. Assuming that kind of exponential growth, EVs will make up between 62% and 86% of global car sales by 2030. Sounds insanely optimistic - until you read this report from RMI.
Space Trash: There's rather a lot of space trash floating around miles above our heads, but who is going to do anything about it? The Federal Communications Commission, that's who. For the first time, they just fined a company, Dish Network, for not picking up the trash left behind by one of its satellites.
India Gender Parity: India is to reserve one-third of parliament's lower house seats for women, reports Reuters. It's positive progress. Women account for almost half of India's 950 million registered voters but make up only 15 percent of parliament and about 10 percent of state legislatures, currently pushing the world's largest democracy to the bottom of global rankings on gender parity in legislatures.
Teenage Girls Nigeria: Following a successful pilot that increased the number of teenage girls attending school in seven Nigerian states from 900,000 to over 1.6 million, the World Bank has approved $700m to roll the program out over 18 more states, reaching an estimated 8.6 million girls, as well as teachers, administrators, families, and communities.
Ingenious Beds: The current cost of buying 1,000 camp beds for a refugee camp is $110,000 to $220,000, it takes two weeks to produce them, another two weeks to ship them (by land or sea) and 24 hours to set them up. By comparison, 1,000 Humanitaria beds cost $17,000, can be produced in hours on existing, readily-available packaging machinery in every major city in the world, delivered folded flat by plane next day and a single person can set up 70 beds in an hour. The first 24 hours is critical in disaster response and this invention brings massive promise! Furthermore, this simple idea seems likely to contribute billions of dollars in humanitarian aid by making existing aid significantly more efficient. Bravo Humanitaria!
Greenwashing Ban: To empower consumers and crack down on false, misleading advertising, the EU just passed a law to ban companies from using “generic” environmental and “climate-neutral” claims without proving those claims.
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