Open Data May Beat World Hunger

The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative seeks to use data innovation as a key tool towards their goal to end global hunger by 2030. The group has called on government and international and private sector organizations to make agriculture and nutrition data publicly available and accessible; this includes information that is already gathered from satellites and on the ground.

In revealing the particulars in the form of ‘big data’, GODAN aims to encourage innovation in farming, insurance, and technology, with the goal of increasing efficiency in order to feed the estimated 800 million people who go hungry every day. GODAN aims to address the fact that governments and the private sector collect enormous quantities of relevant data but seldom have the ability to process it all, let alone use it for innovation.

According to GODAN spokeswoman Natasha Mudhar, “Open data leads to innovation in agriculture and nutrition, and hence promoting food security, by improving farming methods, enhancing food production and providing better information and advice.”

“Copyright is Not a Divine Right”

Delhi University is now allowed to photocopy textbooks published by major publishers, thanks to a ruling in the Delhi High Court in September. The court declared that “copyright is not a divine right.”
The landmark verdict on intellectual property rights came on a case that started in 2012 when a small copy shop in Delhi University’s North Campus was sued by a group of international publishers, including both Oxford and Cambridge University Press, for copyright infringement for their role in photocopying textbooks for students.
The decision was based on the fact that students are unlikely to buy entire textbooks when they only need a portion for their readings, but the disparity between the cost of foreign textbooks and incomes in India certainly played a role. University textbooks cost more than 800 percent what they did three decades ago, while the consumer price index only increased 250 percent in the same timeframe.

Costa Rica Renewable for 75 Days and Counting

For more than two months straight, Costa Rica hasn’t burned any fossil fuels to generate electricity; it has been running solely on renewable power. This is a milestone for the country but not a one-off occurrence. Last year, Costa Rica’s electricity came solely from renewable sources for a total of 300 days. The country is on track to reach its goal of being carbon-neutral by 2021.

Costa Rica’s main source of energy is its hydro-electric dams; however, it also benefits from other sources, including solar, wind power, biomass, and geothermal energy.

Though Costa Rica is on its way to carbon-neutral electricity, there are other areas where it needs to improve. The country is still reliant on carbon-based transportation and other industries. Costa Rica nonetheless serves as a role model and an inspiration for other countries as they seek to lower emissions in line with the goals they committed to at COP21.

Cervical Cancer Rates Halved Thanks to Vaccine

The world’s first cancer vaccine was administered a decade ago in Australia. The vaccine protects against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer. Since the vaccine was instituted in Australia, there has been a 90 percent reduction in HPV infections. The vaccine has now been introduced in more than 130 countries and has halved the number of new cases of cervical cancers.

HPV is an extremely common virus that lives in skin cells in intimate areas and is propagated either through skin-to-skin or genital contact. Many people are carriers without knowing it.
“If we vaccinate enough people, we will eliminate these viruses because they only infect humans,” said Professor Ian Frazer, the chief executive of the Translation Research Institute, who believes that the vaccine could eradicate cancers caused by HPV by 2055. The vaccine also protects against oropharyngeal cancer, a type of mouth cancer caused by the same virus.

Medical Aid Group Pulls Out of Yemen Following Hospital Bombing

The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced that it is withdrawing aid and closing its hospital in northern Yemen due to what it called “indiscriminate bombings” by the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in the country. This follows the bombing of its hospital in Abs, which killed 19 people and wounded 24 in August. It was the fourth attack on one of their medical facilities during the conflict in Yemen.

The attack on their hospital came despite MSF sharing their GPS co-ordinates with all of the parties involved in the conflict, according to the organization. Attacks on medical facilities is in violation of international law. Coalition officials had made vocal commitments to honor international humanitarian laws.

The conflict in Yemen has already killed more than 10,000 civilians and has brought the region’s poorest nation to the brink of famine. A variety of Yemeni factions are engaged in the fighting and face heavy bombing from the Saudi-led coalition’s air campaign, which is supported by a variety of nations including the United States, UK, France, and Canada.

MSF is a humanitarian-aid, non-governmental organization that operates in conflict zones and developing countries around the world. The organization was founded in 1971 and is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Turkish Academics Banned From Leaving Country

The Turkish higher board of education has banned all academics from leaving the country. The Turkish government says this is a temporary measure in order to prevent alleged coup planners from escaping the country.

The ban follows closely on the government’s forced resignation of all university deans, as well as the firing of more than 600,000 professionals. Both of these actions have been widely criticized by academics around the world as chilling attacks on academic freedom and the freedom of speech.

The government’s new restrictions are all in response to the attempted military coup in July which left 280 dead. Since then, Turkish president Erdogan has removed many opponents from key positions in the military, judiciary, and now academia. This is addition to earlier extending his control over the government, police, and military.

“Warehouse of Souls”: 60,000 Refugees in Greece

Over 60,000 refugees are stranded in Greece in “appalling and unsafe” conditions, according to human rights group Amnesty International. This includes almost 1,500 unaccompanied children. Many of the camps they are detained in lack health facilities and simple necessities, such as proper beds and sanitation.

The report comes as world leaders met in New York for a U.N. summit on the global refugee crisis. Despite E.U. leaders agreeing last year to provide for 120,000 refugees, many countries have taken in less than 5 percent of the people they had pledged to shelter. Some countries, such as Hungary, Poland, and Austria, have taken in no refugees.

Greece has become a “warehouse of souls”, and Western countries “should be pulling together to deal with a level of refugee migration that is embarrassingly small compared to that experienced by many far poorer countries in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa”, according to Steve Symonds, the Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme Director for Amnesty International U.K.

Zika Virus has Become Global Health Emergency

The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus to be a global health emergency. The virus has now been confirmed in over 280 people in Thailand. It has been detected in Puerto Rico, where two people have died due to Zika-related conditions, and has reached the mainland U.S., where a man who died in Salt Lake City was the first confirmed death in the continental United States. More than 47 countries have experienced their first outbreak of the Zika virus since 2015.

Up to 2 billion people are at risk of contracting the Zika virus, according to a study published in the scientific journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The study points to mass air travel as a major factor and noted that risk is particularly elevated during holiday seasons.

Limited access to healthcare, proper infrastructure, and high rates of poverty are all key factors in the spread of the disease. Due to this, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria are the most vulnerable, according to the study, due to high levels of travel. Philippines, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are also at high risk due to poverty and infrastructure conditions.

Autumn 2016