the world beyond four walls


Indonesia’s Bali Nine

After so many weeks of going back and forth, the executions of the prisoners on death row in Indonesia for drug trafficking have been carried out early this morning – all except for one.

You can read BBC’s article here on who escaped the gallows and learn about Australia’s angry reaction to the executions.


China Rushes Aid to Nepal After Deadly Earthquake; Taiwan Is Turned Away Emily Rauhala

China this weekend rushed a 62-person team to Nepal to help with the ongoing search rescue operation after Saturday’s 7.9-magnitude earthquake. They landed in Kathmandu early Sunday and set to work immediately,according to Chinese state media. The rescuers and asecond group from the People’s Liberation Army are both well-equipped to help in the desperate search for survivors of a disaster that has already claimed more than 3,600 lives: Some are veterans of the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which had a 70,000 death toll, and they bring much-needed supplies.

Not making the trip just yet: a team from Taiwan. Though dozens of Taiwanese were still missing in Nepal, and Taiwan has strong capabilities in disaster recovery and relief, the island was not asked to participate, Vice Foreign Minister Andrew Kao said Monday. (Taiwan NGOs and religious groups do plan to go and Taiwan people have already raised a large sum of money to support the recovery effort.)

It’s still uncertain whether Taiwan’s exclusion is an oversight or a (very poorly timed) slight. But it is clear that a mere two days after the quake, as Nepalis dig barehanded for their loved ones, and families sleep outside in the pouring rain, geopolitical questions loom large. Chief among them is how China’s involvement in the recovery effort could further change the balance of power in the region, challenging India and potentially putting Nepal’s Tibetan exile community at risk. Read More


Let this be your motto for Term 2, Week 6 :)


Top 10 Countries in 2015 Social Progress Index

So it seems that it’s quite the norm to use GDP as a measure of a country’s success? But is this the best way to do so?

Check out this article on the Social Progress Index, which suggests an alternative to GDP as a yardstick of a country’s success.


Nepal earthquake: experts knew disaster was coming

Just a week ago, about 50 earthquake and social scientists from around the world came to Kathmandu, Nepal, to figure out how to get this poor, congested, overdeveloped, shoddily built area to prepare better for the big one, a repeat of the 1934 temblor that levelled the city. They knew they were racing the clock, but they did not know when what they feared would strike.

“It was sort of a nightmare waiting to happen,” said seismologist James Jackson, head of the earth sciences department at the University of Cambridge. “Physically and geologically what happened is exactly what we thought would happen.” But he did not expect the massive earthquake that struck on Saturday to happen so soon. The magnitude 7.9 earthquake killed more than 2,000 and counting and caused widespread destruction.

“I was walking through that very area where that earthquake was and I thought at the very time that the area was heading for trouble,” said Jackson, lead scientist for Earthquakes Without Frontiers, a group that tries to make Asia more able to bounce back from these disasters and was having the meeting. Read More


Students in South Africa march against xenophobic unrest

Thousands of students gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday to protest against xenophobic violence calling for Africa to “unite” against the unrest.

The demonstration, which took place at the University of the Witwatersand, saw students waving placards and chanting amid tensions with immigrants, who have been accused by some South Africans, in poor areas, of seizing economic opportunities at their expense.

More than 2,000 Mozambicans have returned home from South Africa because of violence across the country, according to Mozambique’s deputy health minister.

Hundreds of immigrants have also taken buses back to Malawi and Zimbabwe.

As many as 7,000 immigrants are living in South African refugee camps after fleeing their homes, according to humanitarian aid organisation, Doctors Without Borders.


Why don’t you care who made your clothes?

BY Caroline Criado-Perez/New Statesman/22 April 2015

It’s the fluff, explains Bessy, a factory worker in Elizabeth Gaskell’s novelNorth and South. “Little bits, as fly off fro’ the cotton, when they’re carding it, and fill the air till it looks all fine white dust. They say it winds round the lungs, and tightens them up. Anyhow, there’s many a one as works in a carding-room, that falls into a waste, coughing and spitting blood, because they’re just poisoned by the fluff.”

It was not that long ago that death by byssinosis was a fairly common occupational hazard. Gaskell’s book was published in the 1850s – and it wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that legislation addressed adequate ventilation in UK. Since then, of course, most textile work has been outsourced abroad – and along with it, occupational death.

“In our department, it’s full of jeans and black dust”, says one worker in the 2013 report Breathless For Blue Jeans: Health Hazards in China’s Denim Factories. “It is difficult to breathe.” The dust comes from sandblasting the denim to achieve a worn look. Although the practice has been banned, it continues behind locked doors, and workers continue to die from silicosis, a fatal lung disease.

Silicosis is not the only danger facing the modern factory worker. A 2014 study of garment workers in Bangladesh found “the majority” suffered from ill health, ranging from musculoskeletal disorders, through to hepatitis – this latter from a lack of clean drinking water. In Tansy Hoskin’s book Stitched Up, she reveals that in the Pearl River Delta in China some 40,000 fingers are severed each year in work-related accidents. And of course, this week sees the two-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh.

Read More


‘A Moratorium on Human Gene Editing to Treat Disease Is Critical’

Rudolf Jaenisch, MD, is a Founding Member, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and President, the International Society for Stem Cell Research. In this Time article, he calls for caution on a promising new technology:

It has been just over a half-century since scientists solved the structure of DNA, and since that time, we have been fascinated by what the DNA encodes, how it is passed on from one generation to the next and what makes each of us unique. Technologies to introduce DNA changes have been used to study the function of genes and the proteins they encode, to identify genetic causes of disease and to develop better ways to treat them. Now, new research describes the editing of genes in human embryos—CRISPR-cas9—raising questions about the science, the implications and the ethics.

The research utilizes recent technologies that allow us to make precise, targeted changes to a DNA sequence. These technologies have proved remarkable in their ease-of-use and have become quickly adopted by researchers around the world to introduce or correct changes in gene sequences in a wide range of cell types.

These recent developments have piqued the imagination of scientists and the public alike, and there is much speculation about what comes next. Some have suggested the new technology will allow researchers to “fix” defective genes, so inheritable diseases are not passed to the next generation, while others have raised worries about the creation of “designer” babies. Read More


Scientists urge moratorium after Chinese ‘edit’ human embryos

Global scientists on Thursday (Apr 23) renewed calls to halt controversial research to genetically edit human embryos after a Chinese team published details of a stunted but breakthrough attempt in this new frontier in science.

First reported by Nature News on Wednesday, the paper by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, and colleagues appears in a little known online journal called Protein and Cell.

In it, researchers describe how they edited the genomes of embryos obtained from a fertility clinic.

The embryos were non-viable, and could not have resulted in a live birth because they had an extra set of chromosomes after being fertilised by two sperm.

Researchers “attempted to modify the gene responsible for beta-thalassemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9,” said the report in Nature News.

The researchers injected 86 embryos and waited 48 hours for the molecules that replace the missing DNA to act.

Seventy-one embryos survived, and 54 of those were tested. Researchers found that only 28 were “successfully spliced, and that only a fraction of those contained the replacement genetic material,” said the report.

“If you want to do it in normal embryos, you need to be close to 100 per cent,” Huang was quoted as saying. “That’s why we stopped. We still think it’s too immature.” Read More


There are only two options…