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Under The Radar – 19 November

By CasperRae for Unsplash

This week, we discuss:

  1. An alternate use for nuclear fusion

  2. New bill gives home office more powers

  3. Antibiotic resistance – the next pandemic?

An alternate use for nuclear fusion on the horizon?

What Happened? New research out of the USA has shown that the plasma inside tokamaks, or nuclear fusion reactors, could have uses in further discoveries surrounding the formation of the solar system, as well as aid in the actualisation of nuclear fusion as a commercial source of clean energy. What does it mean?

In 1995, upon entering Jupiter’s atmosphere, a NASA probe from the Galileo mission’s head shield was melted almost immediately by the plasma. Following the failure of the mission, scientists attempted to recreate the conditions of a high-speed entry into a dense atmosphere – something which is incredibly hard to replicate with any accuracy. However, years later, scientists Eva Kostadinova and Dmitri Orlov have figured out that the plasma inside the tokamaks can be used in the process of simulation. And the result of such a discovery has implications far beyond use in the space research community, as it could contribute to the design of fusion reactors themselves and therefore speed up the process of achieving commercialised nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion has the potential to provide clean energy in perpetuity, yet up until this point it has been regarded as little more than a pipe dream. At a time when net-zero and climate action, or rather inaction, is a hot topic of conversation, such a development could prove instrumental in eventually reaching global climate targets.

New bill to give even more power to Home Office

What happened? Should a proposed change to Clause 9 of the Nationality and Borders Bill pass, the Home Office would be granted the power to strip people of their British citizenship and be exempt from giving any notice if it is considered “reasonably practicable” to do so.

What does this mean?

The amendment to the Bill would give the Home Office a wider scope of powers to decide who can or can’t be a British citizen. The ability for the government to strip someone of their citizenship was introduced in 2005, however, it became more frequent during Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary. Previously, the Home Office could avoid giving notice if the person’s whereabouts were unknown. Should the proposed changes be enacted, there would be a range of circumstances in which no notice would be needed to revoke citizenship. The proposal has been widely criticised, and, as several NGO directors have pointed out, it could potentially be used to target citizens of certain minority ethnic groups or religions. Frances Weber, the vice-chair of the Institute of Race Relations, said: “It unapologetically flouts international human rights obligations and basic norms of fairness.” The Home Office has said: “British citizenship is a privilege, not a right.” Whether this new proposal will pass and become law, and how it will be used in the future remains to be seen. What we do know is during a time of immigration and border concerns, the government appears to be flexing its muscles.

Antibiotic resistance – the next pandemic?

What happened?

Health officials in the UK have warned of a “hidden pandemic” of antibiotic-resistant infections if people do not act responsibly. The warning comes ahead of what is expected to be a more prevalent winter cold and flu season, leading to antibiotics being unnecessarily overprescribed. What does it mean?

The looming threat of widespread antibiotic resistance has been of grave concern to medical professionals for many years now. Although an antibiotic disaster has not yet come to pass, in 2020, one in five people who had an infection had an antibiotic-resistant one, in spite of a significant drop in social mixing levels.

Now, with cold and flu symptoms set to be more common this winter due to increased social mixing, it would appear that fears of antibiotic resistance as the next medical disaster are most certainly not unfounded ones.

One needs only to observe the potential parallels with Covid to appreciate the gravity of such an outcome, after all, prior warnings of a global viral pandemic were widely ridiculed. This alone worsened the eventual impacts of Covid, with the presence of any adequate funding and advance planning painfully absent in the vast majority of countries across the world. Though the potential impacts of increased antibiotic resistance may not replicate those of Covid – i.e. bringing the world to a halt – they may nevertheless prove to be more fatal. We continue to turn a blind eye to antibiotic resistance at our own peril.

This week’s must reads

  1. “Has the nation finally had enough of Tory scandals?” by Zoe Williams for The Guardian

  2. ‘”How strongmen cling to power” by Jeremy Cliffe for The New Statesman

  3. “Britain is finally taking a no-nonsense approach to foreign takeovers” by Ben Marlow for The Telegraph

  4. ‘Chinese threat calls for Five Eyes expansion” by Roger Boyes for The Times

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