Timeframe: February 26 to March 4, 2022
Contributors: Affan Bin Saber, Anika Bushra, GM Sifat Iqbal, and Farhan Uddin Ahmed
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Iran launches investigation after schoolgirls suffer poisoning
Hundreds of Iranian girls in different schools have suffered “mild poisoning” over recent months, the health minister has said, with some politicians suggesting they could have been targeted by religious groups opposed to girls’ education.
“Investigating where this mild poison comes from … and whether it is an intentional move are not within the scope of my ministry,” Health Minister Bahram Einollahi was quoted as saying by state media.
The poisoning incidents at more than 30 schools in at least four cities started in November in Iran’s city of Qom, prompting some parents to take their children out of school, state media reported.
Social media posts showed some hospitalized schoolgirls, who said they had felt nauseous and suffered heart palpitations.
Source: TRT World
Biden Administration’s Move to Forgive Student Loans Sparks Controversy and Questions
The conservative wing of the U.S. Supreme Court has expressed skepticism about the Biden administration’s ability to implement a federal student debt relief program that is estimated to benefit millions of borrowers.
The conservative judges questioned whether the Department of Education could implement a program that would cost over $400 billion over 30 years without explicit congressional approval. They also questioned the fairness of the program as it would help only certain borrowers who qualify, not every student loan borrower. On the other hand, liberal judges argued that Congress had granted the Department of Education the authority to forgive federal student loan debt during a national emergency, such as the coronavirus, and to act on that authority. They also questioned the legal standing of the plaintiffs in the two cases brought against the program.
The U.S. Solicitor General representing the Biden administration argued that the HEROES Act gave the administration the authority to enact the relief. The conservative judges questioned whether the cost of the program made it an improper modification of an existing program. Justice Clarence Thomas questioned whether the relief program overrides congressional appropriations authority. The plaintiff’s right to sue was also questioned. The Biden administration estimated that up to 40 million Americans could potentially qualify for the program.
2. Economics & Business
ISA will help Bangladesh transition to solar energy
Bangladesh will get technical assistance from the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in order to attract funding for the renewable energy sector. According to ISA Director General Ajay Mathur, “We’ll assist Bangladesh to develop a good policy to bring a right business model for investment in the solar power sector.” According to Xinhua, he made this statement on Thursday during a news conference in Dhaka.
The ISA is an intergovernmental association with the main goal of promoting efficient solar energy use in order to lessen reliance on fossil fuels. The comments were made after Bangladesh and the International Solar Alliance (ISA) signed a strategic country collaboration agreement to advance solar energy development. Mathur and Habinur Rahman, both power secretaries, signed the contract on behalf of their respective parties. Rahman stated that the deal with the ISA called for the implementation of eight projects altogether. There are also plans to develop rooftop solar projects at Chattogram or any other railway station, install floating solar projects in Gazipur and Munshiganj, and install 12 trolley-mounted portable solar irrigation systems with an approximate 2kW capacity and 12c portable solar paddy threshers with an approximate 2kW capacity.
The deal also calls for the conversion of two manually operated sluice gates at two locations managed by the Bangladesh Water Development Board to floating solar-powered auto sluice gates.
Source: The Financial Express
Chinese brands have replaced iPhones and Hyundai in Russia’s war economy
As sanctions were imposed in Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, global brands left their market. Chinese companies benefited as they filled the gap in the smartphone and automobile industries. Companies like Xiaomi and Geely observed a sales surge, while Apple and Samsung’s shares dropped from 53% to 3% as they exited the Russian market.
The government authorized “parallel imports” of smartphones the previous year, which allowed goods to be imported from neighboring countries. However, the imported phone did not provide guarantee cards, and users faced difficulty downloading mobile apps banned in Russia.
However, according to Counterpoint Research, Russian smartphone sales dropped by 33% while car sales declined by 60%, according to Auto stat. The Russian economy is worsening with the embargos placed.
Nestle shutting down all factories in Myanmar amid post-coup turmoil
Swiss food giant Nestle will halt all production in Myanmar, a spokesperson has said, the latest firm to draw back from the country after a military coup two years ago.
The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, sparking widespread unrest and tanking the economy.
A raft of foreign companies has since exited the market, including oil giants Total Energies and Chevron, and Norwegian telecoms operator Telenor.
Due to the “current economic situation” Nestle’s factory in the commercial hub Yangon, as well as its head office, would “cease operations”, a spokesperson said on Monday, without giving a timeframe.
Nestle sells Nescafe instant coffee, Maggi noodles, and Milo chocolate malt beverage in Myanmar.
Source: TRT World
3. Science & Technology
UK Launches Investigation into Child Data Gathering Practices against Youtube
Britain’s information regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), has announced that it will investigate a complaint accusing YouTube of illegally collecting data from millions of children. The complaint, lodged by Duncan McCann, a father-of-three who is leading the campaign and supported by advocacy group 5Rights, alleges that the video-streaming platform has broken a newly implemented law by gathering “the location, viewing habits, and preferences” of up to 5 million children.
YouTube has responded by stating that it has taken steps to bolster child privacy with more protective default settings, launched a dedicated kids app, and introduced new data practices to protect children and families. However, McCann has called for YouTube to change the design of its platform and delete the data it has been gathering, describing the situation as “a massive, unlicensed, social experiment on our children with uncertain consequences”.
The ICO’s Deputy Commissioner, Regulatory Supervision, Stephen Bonner, has said that the Children’s code requires providers to meet 15 design and privacy standards to protect children, including limiting the collection of their location and other personal data. He added that the ICO will consider the complaint carefully, stating that “children are not like adults online, and their data needs meaningful protections”.
Scientists tend to build 3D flexible electronics with a solidified liquid metal
Engineers and material scientists have been looking for especially promising materials to make flexible electronics of various sizes and forms in recent years. These electronics may eventually be incorporated into soft robotics, wearable systems (such smart watches and medical gadgets to detect biological signals), and other systems.
Liquid metals based on gallium alloys, which are simply mixtures of metals that include gallium, are one of the numerous types of materials that might be utilized to create stretchy electronics. Due to their inherent fluidity and excellent conductivity, liquid gallium alloys are well suited for the development of flexible or soft electronics. Nevertheless, creating three-dimensional (3D) circuits with any liquid metals has thus far proven difficult. This has limited the types of structures that may be made using liquid gallium alloys and prevented their broad usage in the development of flexible, soft electronics. Recently, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Harbin Institute of Technology created flexible electronics with 3D circuits using a liquid gallium-indium alloy. Their study, which was published in Nature Electronics, reveals a gallium alloy with properties that make it a useful material for creating flexible electronics, such as a solid-liquid phase transition, mechanical strength, and solid-state plasticity.
Initial testing have shown that the alloy structures developed by Li and his colleagues are particularly helpful for the creation of flexible electronics. Future fabrication of comparable liquid metal structures based on other alloys and materials might make use of the newly suggested method to produce flexible electronics based on the gallium-indium alloy. Moreover, flexible electronics, such as parts for wearable technology and soft robotic systems, might soon be produced using the alloy structures developed by Li and his coworkers.
Solar set to overtake other energy sources by 2027
Solar will overtake gas-fired generation and coal. “Solar accounts for almost 60 percent of every power installation that will be built in the coming five years.” said a senior analyst for the renewable energy market. Reduced costs in building solar have driven its manufacture.
Although with a projection of exponential growth, there are challenges that the developers are facing. Firstly, they struggle to access permits, creating delays and increasing costs. Next, as the labor force finds it challenging to keep up, it drives up wages and produces extra expenses that can offset capital expenditure reductions.
The developers of solar power share that the trade conflict between countries will harm its growth. Responding to a report that claimed forced labor in China, the US banned products imported from China’s Xinjiang area, which resulted in a considerable postponement of some projects. Likewise, finding that Chinese importers avoided tariffs by assembling some parts in South-East Asia, they risk increasing import costs before they figure out a path to scale up their solar industry.
Source: Financial Times
Disclaimer: The information provided here is obtained solely from the aforementioned third parties. Youth Policy Forum (YPF) is not responsible for any misinformation or misrepresentation.