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Under The Radar – 30 April

This week, we discuss

  1. The UN’s failed attempt to kickstart negotiations to reunify Cyprus

  2. Asda’s embrace of the circular economy

  3. GCHQ’s new dyslexia recruitment drive

The other two-state solution

What happened?

Following a three day summit in Geneva aimed at kickstarting formal negotiations to settle the Cyprus dispute, The UN have announced that there is still not enough common ground to resume formal talks.

What does it mean?

Cyprus is a strategic gem, perfectly situated at the intersection between Europe, Asia and Africa – even Britain does not want to give up its military bases there. As such, the issue of security has been a constant thorn throughout the entire peace process.

But now, the Turkish Cypriots, backed by Ankara, have thrown another spanner in the works by calling for a two-state solution rather than reunifying war-torn Cyprus. This move would see the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus achieve international recognition as a sovereign state, rather than occupied territory which is only recognised by the motherland.

Predictably, this plan has been outright rejected by the Greek Cypriots, who currently represent the entire island on the world stage. In their eyes, such a move would legitimise the Turkish invasion of 1974 and the island’s subsequent partition. They have consistently called for a Cypriot federation between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Although this often seemed like the most promising future for Cyprus, it has been rejected by President Tatar who argued that such a move would see Turks become minorities in a Greek ruled federation.

With the chasms widening, it is unclear when (or if) formal negotiations to end this dispute will ever get off the ground.

Asda embrace the circular economy

What happened?

Asda will start selling second-hand clothes in fifty UK stores, following a successful trial in Leeds. The venture will see their ‘George’ brand join forces with specialist wholesaler Preloved Vintage Kilo to encourage customers to “buy vintage, retro and second-hand branded pieces, preventing thousands of tonnes of garments going to landfill each year”.

What does it mean?

Asda has aligned itself with two growing trends on both a consumer and business level. Consumers have increasingly embraced the value and visual aesthetics that can be found in second-hand clothes, whilst the sustainable benefits that come with it are becoming more relevant as environmental concerns grow in salience with the public.

For businesses, the need to demonstrate strong ESG credentials has never been more important. With this in mind, Asda’s decision to partner with Preloved Vintage Kilo – a company that has prevented more than 800 tonnes of clothing from going to landfill – makes a great deal of sense.

The move may well pave the way for an increase in footfall for the company – one that comes from a younger demographic that may otherwise be less inclined to purchase their clothes from Asda’s George brand at a time when designer clothes have never been more popular.

Whilst the attraction of preloved clothing to both consumers and businesses may be underpinned by parallel desires to portray a certain image – one of environmental consciousness in keeping with current trends – moves to embrace a circular economy, regardless of the motives, will be key to achieving global sustainability.

DfE should keep its eyes on the spies

What happened?

GCHQ has confirmed that it actively seeks to recruit people with dyslexia and other neurological differences because it equips spies with the necessary skills to spot patterns in data.

What does it mean?

GCHQ’s apprentices are four times more likely to be dyslexic than those on other schemes. This statistic highlights how, unless workplaces make active efforts to hire neurodivergent employees, dyslexic candidates often fall through the cracks. Historic misunderstandings of neurological differences continue to be propagated by the current education system, which leaves many dyslexic children falling behind in their classes and graduating school with sub-optimal grades.

Harvard University published a study in 2011 which showed a link between dyslexia and visual processing abilities, as dyslexic students outperformed classmates in making sense of blurred images. Since that study, teachers have become increasingly aware of the unique capabilities of neurodivergent children in their classrooms thanks to initiatives to educate teachers on “dyslexic strengths”.

And yet, no matter how understanding teachers are, lesson plans are still dictated by the demands of national A-Level and GCSE exams. These assessments follow a strict format which rewards writing and the ability to stick to a rigid set of instructions above other cognitive skills.

The cancellation of exams during the Covid-19 pandemic forced the Government to rip up the playbook and rapidly create an alternative grading system. While everyone agrees that the past academic year was complete chaos, at the very least it showed that there are alternative ways of testing and measuring academic success.

It’s time our education system celebrated different ways of thinking.

This Week’s Must Reads

  1. ‘China’s government is starting to screw up’ by Noah Smith for Noah Opinion.

  2. ‘The bold GB News ​bet on a Fox Nation business model’ by Alex Barker for the Financial Times.

  3. ‘Bridging the Gulf: why Greece is making new friends in the Middle East’ by Richard Spencer for The Times.

  4. ‘Are we ready for social media influencers shaping politics?’ by Joshua Citarella for The Guardian.


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