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Under The Radar – 15 April

Good morning,

Under The Radar was launched at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with the noble aim of shining a light on the important stories that were being overlooked by a scrambled media landscape. On a weekly basis since April 2020, we’ve covered the key stories emerging at the busy intersection between politics, business and the media.

But with the pandemic no longer leading the news bulletins, it’s time for us to retire Under The Radar. It had a great run.

Instead, we will be bringing something new and more relevant to today’s media environment to your inboxes.

Trafalgar Strategy is launching a brand new newsletter: The Rebuttal. In it, we will spotlight how politicians, public figures, brands and businesses are using language and different media channels to communicate their way through crises.

You may be wondering, why?

We are living in an unprecedented time. Your conduct and your choice of words has never been under greater scrutiny. This is powered by digital platforms that accelerate the speed at which crisis spreads. In the current environment, it’s never been more important for individuals and businesses to understand the do’s and don’ts of crisis communications.

At Trafalgar Strategy, we help clients navigate this environment every day. We are excited to showcase our expertise and give you a peek behind the curtain, so please do keep careful look out for the inaugural edition of The Rebuttal, coming to your inboxes soon.

For now, please enjoy the final edition of Under The Radar.

This week we discuss:

  1. Don’t look up

  2. Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream

  3. Another dodgy government contract

Don’t look up

What happened?

Chile has announced a plan to ration water in the rivers that supply its capital, Santiago, as the nation-wide drought enters its thirteenth year. What does it mean? Chile is on the frontline of the global climate catastrophe. Unlike most countries, they have elected a government that takes it seriously. The short-term plan to manage the crisis is a four-tier alert system that begins with public service announcements, moves on to restricting water pressure, and concludes with rotating water cuts of up to 24 hours. The country’s water availability has dropped by 10 per cent to 37 per cent over the last 30 years, and there are concerns it could drop a further 50 per cent in northern and central parts of the country by 2060. Just last month, the Peñuelas Lake, the supplier of drinking water for nearly two million people, officially dried up. This will no doubt lead to huge flows of migration – something which Western leaders still do not seem to understand as they fail to get to grips with governing in the era of climate catastrophe. The Chilean government, however, is committed to tackling the impact of climate change head on. The newly elected Socialist president Gabriel Boric – who appropriately resembles Leonardo Di Caprio’s character in Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up”, an apocalyptic allegory for the climate catastrophe – has assembled a progressive cabinet and a formidable green agenda, including plans to bring forward a ban on the installation of new coal-fired power plants from 2040 to 2025. However impressive, Chile cannot act alone. Perhaps the most difficult task for Boric’s new government is to convince other regional players, including Brazil’s notorious far-right Jair Bolsonaro, to realise the solar and wind potential in South America’s vast open landscapes and stretching coastlines.

Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream

What happened? The psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms, Psilocybin, has been found to help patients struggling with depression, researchers at the Imperial Centre for Psychedelic Research said. Psilocybin is thought to produce a sort of ‘opening up effect’, helping those with psychiatric disorders escape negative thinking patterns.

What does it mean? The findings published in Nature Medicine are an important step forward in treating mental illnesses like depression, providing a promising alternative approach to traditional treatments. Psilocybin is one of many psychoactive components being tested across several studies, examining their effects compared to conventional antidepressants like escitalopram. In the recent study, some patients took synthetic psilocybin, while others took escitalopram. The former induced changes in brain connectivity that were not similarly discovered in the brains of those using antidepressants. This alteration in brain connectivity is what scientists are referring to as ‘flexibility’. According to the latest findings, not only does psilocybin make the brain act more ‘flexibly’ compared to escitalopram, but its effects also last much longer. However, as Professor Robin Carhart-Harris, a senior study author said, despite the encouraging results researchers are not sure why or how the therapy worked. He added that there needs to be more research on how long this ‘rewiring’ effect lasts, which would help us understand more of how mental illness and treatments affect the brain. As the mental health crisis shows no sign of abating, and governments around the world fail to adequately tackle it, this breakthrough should be welcomed. However, whatever you do, don’t attempt to self-medicate – you may find yourself on a trip not worth taking.

Another dodgy government contract

What happened? The Government has handed a new £500 million contract to Fujitsu, the computer firm at the heart of the Post Office scandal. What does it mean? In one of the most public and drawn-out scandals in recent history, faulty software used for accounting at Post Offices led to hundreds of sub-postmasters being accused of stealing from the department. The accusations led to wrongful criminal convictions that destroyed lives, forced people out of their homes, and even led to suicides. Computer firm Fujitsu, worth £58bn, was responsible for the faulty software called Horizon – yet they have largely dodged public accountability for the scandal. Despite its track record and central role in this shocking miscarriage of justice, Fujitsu continues to bag lucrative government contracts. Most recently, they have been handed a new £500 million contract for IT services similar to those of Horizon. Public records show that the IT firm has been raking in taxpayer money – including a £44m contract with the Foreign Office, a £6.1m deal for the upcoming Commonwealth Games, and a £665,000 contract with DCMS. Despite the claims of the government’s spokesperson, Baroness Bloomfield, that Fujitsu is no longer a “preferred supplier to the Government”, the company has been awarded contracts worth over £3 billion since 2013. The company still being in receipt of taxpayer funds whilst victims have struggled in their fight for justice has, quite rightly, sparked fury across the political spectrum. In a period of famously ‘dodgy’ government contracts, ranging from Track & Trace consultants to VIP PPE lanes, this might just be the most despicable and ill-thought out.

This Week’s Must Reads

  1. “The Chinese companies trying to buy strategic islands” by Kathrin Hille for The Financial Times

  2. “The United Nations has the power to punish Putin. This is how it can be done” by Simon Tisdall for The Guardian

  3. “The evolution of Marine Le Pen” by Andrew Hussey for The New Statesman

  4. “What Boris Johnson must do if he is ever to recover from Partygate” by David Frost for The Telegraph

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