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12 Feb - 26 Feb: Hills as batteries, new bioplastics & opera for long COVID patients...

Updated: Feb 26, 2021


Hundreds of hills across the UK could be transformed into renewable energy “batteries” through a new hydropower system embedded underground.⁠ A team of engineers have developed a system that adapts hydropower to store and release electricity from gentle slopes rather than requiring steep dam walls and mountains.⁠ They are quicker and cheaper to build than traditional hydropower dams and also lead to fewer negative environmental impacts.⁠

India's caste system is among the world's oldest forms of surviving social stratification. The system which divides Hindus into rigid hierarchical groups is more than 3,000 years old.⁠ Low caste Dalits work for free in upper-caste homes under long-standing custom that has now been recognised as bonded labour.⁠ November's ban on the long-standing tradition by the government of the southern state came after years of campaigning by anti-slavery groups.⁠⁠ (News Trust)


Putting troubled nonviolent people in the hands of healthcare workers instead of police officers has proven successful in its first six months.⁠ ⁠ Since June 2020, a mental health clinician and a paramedic have handled low-level incidents, like trespassing and mental health episodes, that would have otherwise fallen to patrol officers with badges and guns. ⁠ ⁠ The Support Team Assisted Response program, has responded to 748 incidents. None led to arrests or jail time.⁠ (Denverite)

We’ve all read about global biodiversity loss. However, the conservation success stories aren’t always reported. A paper was recently published that estimates conservation initiatives have prevented 32 bird and 16 mammal extinctions since 1993! So, which species have we been able to save?⁠

- CALIFORNIAN CONDOR

- TIGER

- MOUNTAIN GORILLAS

- INDUS RIVER DOLPHIN

- EUROPEAN BISON

- GIANT PANDA⁠


Health services on campus and French student hostels will install dispensers offering free tampons and menstrual pads in coming weeks, higher education minister Frederique Vidal announced.

One-in-three female students would benefit, she said, with 13% among 6,500 respondents in a recent survey saying they had had to choose between buying period protectives and other everyday items such as food in the past.

A new paper published in Nature presents two environmentally-friendly replacements for plastic that have been derived from plant oils. Thanks to “breakpoints” engineered into their molecular structures, they can be chemically recycled with more ease and with ten times efficiency. Most of the recycling that is done today is mechanical recycling where plastic is converted into little pellets that are then used to create new plastic. Chemical recycling instead breaks down the long polymer chain of plastic to its initial monomer components.



Singing coach Suzi Zumpe has swapped her usual students for COVID patients. The warm-up exercises for opera singers are now being prescribed as a recovery plan for long COVID patients. Called E.N.O. Breathe and developed by the English National Opera in collaboration with a London hospital, the six-week program offers patients customised vocal lessons: clinically proven recovery exercises, reworked by professional singing tutors and delivered online.

The UN Refugee Agency, have praised Colombia’s initiative to provide ten-year temporary protection status to Venezuelans in the country. Colombia is host to 1.7 million Venezuelans, which represent more than 37 per cent of the estimated 4.6 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean. More than half of the Venezuelan population in Colombia lack regular status, affecting their ability to access essential services, protection and assistance.


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