News That Matters

04/09/2023 ---- 04/10/2023

The political landscape of Slovakia is undergoing a significant transformation as former Prime Minister Robert Fico initiates negotiations to form a coalition government. Fico's Smer-SD party, founded in 1999, secured nearly 23% of the votes in the recent elections, paving the way for his possible fourth term. Born on 15 September 1964, Fico, a former Communist party member, has emerged as a key player in Slovak politics, notably leading the country into the eurozone in 2009.

Fico's political career, however, has been marred by controversy. Despite his election victory in 2010, he failed to form a coalition and resigned in 2018 amidst protests over a journalist's murder. Fico's admiration for Putin and Hungary's leader, Viktor Orban, his resistance to aiding Ukraine against Russia, and criticism of sanctions against Moscow have drawn attention. His views on immigration, same-sex marriage, adoption, and his opposition to Covid pandemic measures such as masks, lockdowns, and vaccination have also been contentious.

As Fico begins coalition talks, political analysts anticipate he will seek alliances with the moderate Hlas and the nationalist, pro-Russian Slovak National party (SNS). This potential coalition could command a slim majority of 79 seats in the 150-seat Slovak parliament. Nevertheless, observers caution about potential threats to the rule of law, the judiciary, media, and minority rights under this coalition.

Fico's potential return to power could also influence Slovakia's foreign policy. The country's arms shipments to Ukraine might decelerate or halt entirely, and Slovakia may align more closely with Hungary's Viktor Orban, thereby challenging the EU’s consensus on military support for Kyiv, migration, and the green transition.

The election results have stirred diverse reactions. Progressive Slovakia (PS), a liberal and pro-Ukrainian party that secured 18% of the vote, has pledged to do everything possible to prevent Fico from governing. Slovakia's President, Zuzana Čaputová, who has tasked Fico with forming a government, has responded with restrained enthusiasm to his victory.

Fico's victory has also caused unease among European Union and NATO members due to his stance on Ukraine and his criticism of the EU and NATO. As a member of both NATO and the European Union, Slovakia has traditionally backed Ukraine and called for strong EU sanctions against Russia, a position that may shift under a Smer-SD-led government.

However, not all outlooks are bleak. Some analysts suggest that Fico may steer clear of damaging disputes with Slovakia's main EU and NATO partners, given the probable participation of the more moderate Hlas in the coalition.

With Fico's coalition negotiations underway, the future of Slovakia's political landscape is at a critical juncture. The outcomes of these discussions could have far-reaching implications for not only Slovakia but the entire European Union. Whether Fico will guide Slovakia towards a more nationalist, anti-western direction or strike a balance between pro-EU positions and his own rhetoric is yet to be determined. What is certain is that Slovakia's political future is embarking on a crucial new chapter.


The year 2023 was a significant milestone in the scientific community as the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman. Their pioneering work in nucleoside base modifications led to the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19, a monumental achievement in the face of a global health crisis.

Karikó, a Hungarian biochemist, and Weissman, an immunologist, embarked on their groundbreaking research in the early 1990s at the University of Pennsylvania. Their shared fascination with mRNA, the molecule that conveys genetic instructions from DNA to the cell's protein-making machinery, led them to a groundbreaking discovery. They found that dendritic cells, critical in immune surveillance, saw in vitro transcribed mRNA as foreign, triggering an inflammatory response. This response was nearly eradicated when base modifications were introduced into the mRNA, a revelation that reshaped our understanding of cellular recognition and response to different mRNA forms.

Their research, published in 2005, laid the groundwork for mRNA vaccines. Over the next years, they demonstrated that base-modified mRNA enhanced protein production significantly compared to unmodified mRNA. Initially overlooked, these findings became a cornerstone in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

By 2020, the world was grappling with the pandemic and desperate for a vaccine. Drawing on Karikó and Weissman's work, two base-modified mRNA vaccines encoding the SARS-CoV-2 surface protein were swiftly developed and approved by December 2020. These vaccines, manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, have been administered over 13 billion times globally, saving millions of lives and preventing severe disease in countless others.

Despite their monumental achievement, both Karikó and Weissman continue their careers in science. Karikó is a Professor at Szeged University in Hungary and an Adjunct Professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Weissman serves as the Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research and Director of the Penn Institute for RNA Innovations.

Their innovative work has not only been crucial in curbing COVID-19 but has also opened new avenues in medicine. The mRNA technology they developed is being examined for potential use against other diseases, including malaria, RSV, HIV, and cancer.

In 2023, the Nobel Prize committee recognized their revolutionary contribution by awarding them the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Their work has reshaped our understanding of mRNA's interaction with our immune system, leading to an unprecedented rate of vaccine development during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In summary, Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman's story epitomizes the power of scientific curiosity and perseverance. Their pioneering work has not only changed the world but also saved countless lives. Their story continues to inspire future scientists and offers a beacon of hope amidst global health crises.


Nestled in the South Caucasus, Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but home to around 120,000 ethnic Armenians, has been a focal point of contention between Armenia and Azerbaijan for decades. The recent surge in military activities has reignited the long-standing tensions, tracing back to a separatist war that concluded in 1994.

Azerbaijan's President, Ilham Aliyev, recently proclaimed sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh, following a 24-hour military offensive against ethnic-Armenian forces. Labelled as an "anti-terror" operation, it called for the dissolution of Karabakh's "illegal regime". The offensive resulted in significant casualties, with reports indicating at least 200 fatalities and over 400 injuries, and led to the displacement of thousands of civilians.

The escalating conflict prompted a ceasefire agreement, but allegations of violations quickly surfaced. Armenian officials accused Azerbaijan of launching an attack near the town of Sotk, a claim strongly refuted by Azerbaijan. The ceasefire terms, drafted by Azerbaijan and Russia, called for the disbandment of local Karabakh forces and the withdrawal of Armenian troops.

The conflict has sparked political unrest, with thousands of protesters in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan's resignation over his crisis management. Amid the chaos, discussions on "issues of re-integration" were held in Yevlakh, involving officials from Baku and Karabakh's Armenian representatives.

Russia, meanwhile, played a pivotal role by evacuating 5,000 people from hazardous zones. However, the ceasefire terms and impending negotiations were perceived by Caucasus specialist Thomas de Waal as biased towards Azerbaijan, leaving ethnic Armenians vulnerable. Pashinyan refuted any involvement in drafting the ceasefire text and urged Russian peacekeepers to ensure the safety of the local population.

The recent turmoil echoes the two wars fought over Nagorno-Karabakh post the Soviet Union's collapse, including the six-week war in 2020. That conflict resulted in several thousand deaths and enabled Azerbaijan, supported by Turkey, to regain territory, thereby isolating the ethnic Armenians. Moreover, Azerbaijan imposed a nine-month blockade on the only road into Karabakh from Armenia, leading to critical shortages of essential supplies.

International reactions to the conflict have been diverse. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Azerbaijan to halt its military actions, while Turkey, Azerbaijan's close ally, defended Baku’s actions. The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the sharp escalation and appealed for an end to the violence. The EU and UN, meanwhile, have advocated for an immediate ceasefire and respect for the 2020 ceasefire agreement.

The Nagorno-Karabakh situation represents a complicated mix of historical disputes, geopolitical interests, and ethnic tensions. As the conflict persists, the lives of ethnic Armenians are caught in the crossfire, trapped between power politics and the fight for survival. The international community watches with apprehension, hoping for a peaceful resolution that safeguards the rights and safety of Nagorno-Karabakh's inhabitants. The power and politics chess game continues, with the people of Nagorno-Karabakh serving as pawns in this broader geopolitical match.


The international political landscape is a complex chessboard, with nations intricately maneuvering to influence the balance of power. Central to this geopolitical drama are Ukraine, Russia, and North Korea, whose leaders' actions could potentially redraw global alliances.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky remains resolute in the face of the ongoing conflict with Russia. Recently, he called on Donald Trump, a potential 2024 Republican presidential nominee, to disclose his peace plans. Zelensky firmly argues against any peace proposal that necessitates Ukraine to cede territory. He is lobbying for US support, including long-range missiles to equalize the battlefield, a matter currently under President Joe Biden's review.

Simultaneously, an intriguing alliance is emerging between Russia and North Korea. Despite a history of fluctuating relations over the past three decades, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has surprisingly declared Russia as his "first priority," a significant shift from the traditionally close ties with China.

Recent talks between these two leaders have broached a range of sensitive subjects, including potential military cooperation. Such an alliance could potentially destabilize the multilateral sanctions regime against Pyongyang, leading to far-reaching implications.

Back in Ukraine, Zelensky decried a "deliberate" assault on the city of Kostyantynivka, which claimed 15 lives, including a child. This attack, one of the most severe on Ukrainian civilians since spring, coincided with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to Ukraine. Blinken announced a US aid package exceeding $1bn for Ukraine during his visit.

In a notable development, the US aid includes the provision of depleted uranium munitions to Ukraine for the first time. Depleted uranium, known for its ability to pierce tank armor and ignite upon impact, is mildly radioactive. This development has sparked a debate about its safety and potential risk to civilians.

As this geopolitical drama unfolds, the stakes are escalating, and the outcomes remain unpredictable. The actions of these leaders could potentially alter alliances, redefine borders, and reshape global politics. Amidst this power play, the only constant is the ever-present uncertainty.


In an era where artificial intelligence and robotics intersect with marine biology, new and innovative methods are being developed to save the planet's coral reefs. Taryn Foster, a marine biologist working 40 miles off the coast of Western Australia in the Abrolhos Islands, is at the forefront of this critical work. Despite occupying only 0.2% of the seafloor, coral reefs are home to over 25% of marine species, underscoring their vital role in maintaining global biodiversity.

However, these underwater rainforests are under severe threat. According to the Global Coral Reel Monitoring Network, a mere 1.5C increase in water temperature could decimate between 70% and 90% of the world’s reefs by 2070. Cathie Page from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) reaffirms that climate change poses the most significant risk to these vibrant ecosystems.

Traditional coral restoration methods, involving the transplantation of small, nursery-cultivated corals onto damaged reefs, have proven slow, expensive, and insufficient. Foster is pioneering a new technique that involves grafting coral fragments into small plugs, which are then inserted into a moulded base and placed on the seabed in batches. This method is being advanced by Foster's start-up, Coral Maker, in collaboration with San Francisco-based engineering software firm Autodesk.

Autodesk researchers are training artificial intelligence to operate collaborative robots, or cobots, to automate coral propagation. The aim is to deploy these cobots from the lab to the seabed within the next 12-18 months. The anticipated funding for this state-of-the-art technology is expected to be sourced from the tourism industry and through the issuance of biodiversity credits, akin to carbon credits.

The restoration of coral reefs, however, requires a multi-pronged approach. Other strategies being investigated include coral seeding for larger-scale restoration and the cultivation of more resilient "super coral". AIMS is also spearheading a project called Reef Song, which plays healthy reef sounds on damaged reefs through underwater loudspeakers, attracting fish and enhancing reef recovery.

Coral reefs, formed by corals extracting calcium carbonate from the sea to create sturdy outer shells, are under significant threat. The restoration and preservation of these reefs demand substantial investment in time, effort, and funding. As Page from AIMS highlights, there is no single solution to the intricate ecological issue of coral reef degradation.

In this challenging landscape, the groundbreaking work of scientists like Foster is crucial. Their creative approaches to coral restoration, from grafting coral fragments to training AI-controlled robots, offer the best chance for preserving the world's coral reefs. The race is on to preserve these vital ecosystems, and the ultimate prize is a future where coral reefs continue to flourish, providing a habitat for a quarter of our marine species and preserving the beauty and diversity of our oceans.


The intricate alliance between Moscow and Pyongyang, marked by a history of mutual support and defiance of international norms, is once again under the microscope. The relationship, which has been fraught with tension and intrigue for over three decades, is characterized by Russia's tolerance of North Korean cyber operatives within its borders, even when they target Russian entities.

The recent meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un—their second in four years—has brought the dynamics of this alliance into sharper focus. The summit reportedly centered on regional and global issues, occurring simultaneously with North Korea's defiant launch of ballistic missiles in violation of UN resolutions. This act, along with Kim's declaration of the strategic importance of DPRK-Russia relations and his endorsement of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, has stirred global concern.

Despite North Korea's nuclear threats and human rights abuses, the Kremlin appears willing to deepen its cooperation with Pyongyang. This partnership is not without controversy, as evidenced by Kim's request for Putin's assistance in alleviating UN sanctions during their first summit in April 2019. The recent meeting hinted at potential military collaboration and a possible arms deal, both of which would contravene UN Security Council Resolution 2270.

Russia’s collaboration with North Korea extends to the aerospace sector and employment of North Korean workers on various Russian projects, such as the 2018 World Cup stadiums. These actions, along with allegations of Russia violating UN sanctions by laundering North Korean coal, suggest Moscow's diminishing regard for sanctions against North Korea in the current geopolitical landscape.

The Moscow-Pyongyang alliance could have significant implications beyond their bilateral relationship and the situation in Ukraine. Their mutual support, seemingly immune to global opinion, was underscored when Kim expressed unreserved support for Russia's actions in Ukraine. The two leaders' discussions included potential military cooperation, as confirmed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Their visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome, a rocket assembly and launch site, further indicated Russia's commitment to assist North Korea in satellite construction.

Concerns have been raised by the US and South Korea regarding the possibility of Pyongyang supplying Russia with weapons and ammunition. While North Korean expert Fyodor Tertitskiy expressed skepticism about a significant deal without China's approval, Siemon Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) noted North Korea's large stocks of ammunition compatible with Russian artillery systems. In exchange for military aid, Kim may be seeking advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, along with food aid for his nation.

The ripple effects of the Moscow-Pyongyang alliance are already being observed globally. Recent short-range ballistic missile launches from North Korea's east coast, detected by South Korea and Japan, have triggered an increase in defense cooperation between South Korea, the US, and Japan.

In sum, the Moscow-Pyongyang alliance, with its defiance of international norms and potential for far-reaching implications, is a matter of global concern. As these nations appear willing to risk international condemnation to advance their interests, the world watches with anticipation, waiting to see the fallout from this controversial alliance.


Coral reefs are the vibrant underwater cities that, despite only occupying 0.2% of the ocean floor, provide a habitat for a quarter of all marine species. Yet, these vital ecosystems are under severe threat. According to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, a mere 1.5C rise in water temperature could lead to a devastating loss of between 70% and 90% of the world's reefs. Some scientists even project a grim future where these reefs could vanish entirely by 2070.

Marine biologist Taryn Foster, based in the Abrolhos Islands off Western Australia, is working tirelessly to rewrite this impending narrative. In partnership with the San Francisco-based engineering software firm Autodesk, Foster has co-founded a start-up, Coral Maker, with the objective of accelerating the coral restoration process.

Coral reefs, primarily located in tropical waters, construct their hard outer shells by extracting calcium carbonate from the sea, thereby forming the bedrock of reefs. However, these crucial ecosystems are increasingly susceptible to heat and acidification, leading to a higher risk of disease and death as oceans warm and become more acidic.

Traditional coral restoration techniques, which involve transplanting small corals grown in nurseries onto damaged reefs, are both slow and expensive, offering limited aid to the vast number of reefs at risk. Foster is exploring a novel system that could potentially revolutionize this process. The technique involves grafting coral fragments into small plugs, which are then inserted into a moulded base and placed on the seabed in batches.

In a groundbreaking development, Autodesk researchers are training artificial intelligence to manage collaborative robots, or cobots, to automate the repetitive tasks involved in coral propagation. Integrating this technology into the field poses significant challenges, such as handling delicate, living coral and safeguarding electronics from saltwater. Despite these obstacles, the team is optimistic about having the robots operational within the next 12-18 months.

To fund this technological venture, Coral Maker is planning to issue biodiversity credits, similar to carbon credits. The start-up is relying on demand from the tourism industry, which has a significant stake in preserving the beauty and biodiversity of the reefs.

Coral Maker's efforts, however, are only part of the solution. Other innovative strategies are being investigated, including coral seeding for larger-scale restoration, breeding more resilient "super coral", and even geo-engineering clouds to reflect sunlight and protect the coral.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) is also playing a crucial role in this battle with a unique initiative, Reef Song. This project uses underwater loudspeakers on damaged reefs to mimic the sounds of healthy reefs, thereby attracting fish and promoting reef regeneration.

The mission to save the world's coral reefs is a monumental one, necessitating a significant investment of time, money, and human effort. As AIMS scientists stress, addressing coral reef degradation is a complex ecological issue with no single solution.

Ultimately, the future of our oceans and their vibrant coral cities will be determined by a combination of scientific innovation, economic incentives, and a global commitment to combat climate change. The race is on to preserve these vital ecosystems, the irreplaceable rainbows of the ocean.


On September 12, Libya experienced an unprecedented catastrophe as Storm Daniel swept across its northeastern region. The storm, which originated from a potent low-pressure system previously seen in Greece, developed into a tropical-like cyclone, or medicane, fueled by above-average ocean temperatures linked to global warming. This climate disaster, part of a series of record-breaking weather extremes, has left the world in a state of shock, with over 5,000 people presumed dead and an estimated 10,000 still missing.

Derna, a city with a population of approximately 125,000, was the hardest hit, with almost a quarter of it decimated. Buildings were reduced to rubble, cars flipped over, and neighborhoods washed away. Hospitals are no longer operational, and morgues are overflowing. The storm's impact extended to several other cities, including Al-Bayda, Al-Marj, Tobruk, Takenis, Al-Bayada, Battah, and the eastern coast up to Benghazi, resulting in at least 37 residential buildings being swept into the sea.

Libya's ongoing political conflict, a decade-long standoff between the UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU) in northwest Libya and the eastern-based administration led by commander Khalifa Haftar, has exacerbated the crisis. Despite deploying tens of thousands of military personnel, the political divide has hindered rescue efforts. Many affected regions remain unreachable for emergency workers, and the country now needs specialized search groups to recover bodies from rugged valleys, under rubble, and from the sea.

The international community has united in response to the disaster. Countries such as Turkey and Italy have sent search and rescue teams and humanitarian aid. The US has declared a humanitarian need, providing initial funding for relief efforts. The UAE and Egypt have also dispatched aid and rescue teams.

Personal stories of loss have begun to emerge from the chaos. Mostafa Salem lost 30 relatives in the floods, while Raja Sassi mourns the loss of most of his family. Naval teams are currently searching for families swept into the sea by the floods.

In the aftermath of the disaster, an investigation into the cause of the floods has been initiated, with 2.5bn Libyan Dinar (£412m; $515m) allocated for rebuilding Derna and Benghazi. Water engineering experts suggest that the upper dam, located 12km from the city, likely failed first, leading to the failure of the second dam.

This disaster underscores the urgent need for action on climate change and highlights the importance of political stability in responding to such crises. As Libya fights to recover from the devastation wrought by Storm Daniel, the world is reminded of the unseen fury of nature.


The devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco recently has left the country in a state of profound loss and mourning, reminiscent of the nation's deadliest quake in 1960 that claimed approximately 12,000 lives. This recent disaster, the most severe in over six decades, has affected over 300,000 people, with a death toll of 2,012, 2,059 injured, and 1,404 critically injured, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The Haouz region, including parts of the High Atlas Mountains, reported the highest fatalities, nearing 1,300 deaths.

The aftermath of the quake, which affected the city of Agadir, the High Atlas Mountains, and the historic city of Marrakech, has exposed the dire need for aid. Despite the grim circumstances, the people of Morocco have shown remarkable resilience and unity. Many are braving the outdoors, fearing aftershocks that could bring further destruction. In a show of solidarity, members of Morocco's national football team have donated blood, while the Moroccan armed forces are working tirelessly to provide clean drinking water, food supplies, tents, and blankets to the affected areas.

However, the challenge is immense. The quake has significantly damaged Morocco's infrastructure, causing landslides and damaging Marrakesh's central square Jemaa el-Fna, its surrounding historic buildings, and popular cafes and restaurants. The village of Amizmiz near the epicentre and the area of Asni, 40 km south of Marrakech, also suffered significant damage. The village of Tansghart in the Ansi area was the worst hit, with ten fatalities reported, including two teenage girls.

In the face of this tragedy, global aid efforts have been mobilized. Countries including Italy, Spain, France, and the US have offered support, with Spain sending 65 specialist workers to assist in the rescue mission. Even Algeria, despite its strained relations with Morocco, has opened its airspace for humanitarian and medical flights. The International Red Cross has pledged one million Swiss francs (£900,000; $1.1 million) from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund to support the mission. However, the organization's Middle East and North Africa director, Hossam Elsharkawi, warns that the rebuilding process could take years.

Amidst the national grief, Morocco declared three days of national mourning, flying the national flag at half-mast. As the nation faces the daunting task of rebuilding, the world stands ready to lend a helping hand in these trying times. This disaster serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of old and historical buildings, highlighted by Mohammad Kashani, associate professor of structural and earthquake engineering at the University of Southampton. The need for improved infrastructure and preparedness in the face of such disasters has never been more apparent.

Despite the devastation, Morocco's spirit remains unbroken, as its people and the world unite to face this crisis. The country, though in mourning, stands tall, bolstered by the outpouring of international aid and the indomitable spirit of its people.


The annual G20 summit, hosted by India on September 8, 2023, brought together the world's major economies to discuss a range of pressing issues, from climate change to economic development and the conflict in Ukraine. This event marked a significant milestone for India, being the largest diplomatic gathering it has hosted in four decades.

The G20, which comprises 19 countries and the European Union, serves as a critical platform for promoting international financial stability. The 2023 summit tested India's diplomatic prowess, particularly in managing the divergent views on the Ukraine conflict and the economic advancement of the Global South.

A notable outcome of the summit was the joint declaration by the G20 leaders. Although the statement recognized the situation in Ukraine and its economic repercussions, it did not explicitly condemn Russia's invasion. This marked a departure from the previous year's declaration and was seen as a compromise reflecting resistance from Russia and China, both G20 members.

While US President Joe Biden had aimed to rally support for Ukraine, the joint declaration was praised by US national security adviser Jake Sullivan as a significant achievement for India's chairmanship. However, the statement drew criticism from Ukraine's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko due to its lack of reference to Russian "aggression" and Ukraine's absence from the summit.

In a move to enhance global connectivity, the summit announced plans for a major transit corridor linking Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. This initiative, endorsed by India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the European Union, aims to bolster trade, fortify supply chains, and potentially challenge China's Belt and Road initiative.

On the economic front, the G20 leaders committed to enabling low-cost financing for developing countries to transition to low emissions and to addressing the debt burden of these nations. The World Bank estimates that the world's poorest countries owe over $60bn annually to bilateral creditors, with China accounting for two-thirds of this debt.

Climate change was a central topic at the summit, with leaders pledging to triple global renewable energy capacity. The leaders unanimously agreed that the timelines for peaking greenhouse gas emissions would be influenced by sustainable development, poverty eradication needs, equity, and different national circumstances.

The G20 presidency was passed from India to Brazil, with Brazilian President Lula highlighting social inclusion, combating hunger, energy transition, and sustainable development as Brazil's G20 priorities.

In a strategic move, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited the African Union (AU) to become a permanent member of the G20. This, coupled with the new transit corridor and consensus on climate change, signals a shift in the G20's focus towards the Global South.

Despite the challenges and disagreements, the G20 summit 2023 demonstrated the power of diplomacy and dialogue. The joint declaration, while not meeting everyone's expectations, marked progress in addressing global issues. The summit also highlighted India's capacity to navigate intricate international dynamics, setting the stage for Brazil to continue the dialogue as the next G20 president in 2024.


In a groundbreaking discovery, researchers at the Weizmann Institute in Israel, led by Prof Jacob Hanna, have developed models of human embryos from stem cells. These models, while not identical to actual human embryos, imitate the 3D organization of features found in embryos aged one to two weeks, providing a unique perspective into the earliest stages of human life.

The researchers utilized "naive" human stem cells, which possess the ability to transform into various cell types. When combined in a lab, around 1% of these stem cells self-organized into structures resembling human embryos. At two weeks, these models, approximately half a millimeter wide, developed features such as a placenta, a yolk sac, and an outer membrane known as the chorionic sac, similar to actual embryos of the same age.

The potential applications of these models are vast. They could significantly aid research into the causes of miscarriages and birth defects, areas that have been largely unexplored due to the difficulty of accessing human embryos at such early stages. Furthermore, the models could be used to grow organs for transplant by altering their genetics to prevent the development of a brain or nervous system, potentially revolutionizing organ transplants.

Another intriguing application involves assessing the impact of medicines on actual human embryos. These models could offer a safe, ethical means to test drug safety during pregnancy, as pregnant women are often excluded from clinical trials.

Despite their potential, these models are not flawless replicas of human embryos. For example, while the trophoblast, a placenta precursor, was present, it was not properly organized. Additionally, these models cannot implant into a womb, making pregnancy impossible. Nonetheless, they returned a positive result on a pregnancy test, indicating successful growth.

The research, published in the journal Nature, is hailed as the first to create a "complete" embryo model. It involved reprogramming naive stem cells to potentially become any type of tissue in the body and guiding them into becoming four types of cells found in the earliest stages of human embryos.

These models were allowed to develop until they resembled a 14-day-old embryo, the legal limit for normal embryo research in many countries. They could help scientists understand cell emergence, organ building, and genetic diseases. The study also found that other parts of the embryo will not form unless early placenta cells surround it, a finding that could improve in vitro fertilisation (IVF) success rates.

While Prof Robin Lovell Badge from the Francis Crick Institute acknowledges that the models "look pretty good" and "normal", the current 99% failure rate necessitates improvement. The research also raises ethical questions about mimicking embryo development beyond the 14-day stage, as embryo models are legally distinct from embryos.

Despite these challenges, Prof Alfonso Martinez Arias from Pompeu Fabra University lauds the research as "a most important piece of research". The potential benefits are immense, ranging from uncovering the cause of birth defects and infertility types to possibly leading to new technologies for growing transplant tissues and organs.

In conclusion, while the research is still in preliminary stages and raises significant ethical considerations, it marks a substantial advancement in our understanding of early human development. As we further explore these models' potential, we may be on the cusp of a new era in medical science, potentially bringing hope to countless individuals worldwide.


On a September day in Sochi, a meeting between two influential world leaders, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russia's Vladimir Putin, took place. The focal point of their discussion was a grain deal that had been previously brokered by the United Nations. This deal allowed Ukrainian grain to reach global markets, significantly mitigating the ongoing food crisis. However, Russia had withdrawn from this deal in July 2023, citing hindrances to its food and fertiliser exports.

Erdogan's objective was to convince Putin to reconsider Russia's withdrawal, proposing that Ukraine should ease its stance against Russia and increase grain exports to Africa. Despite Ukraine's Foreign Minister's firm stance, Putin indicated a possible return to the agreement, provided the West stops restricting Russian agricultural exports.

The outcome of these discussions held global implications, as Russia and Ukraine are significant contributors to the worldwide agricultural market. In 2023, Russia alone projected a grain harvest of 130 million tonnes, with 60 million tonnes available for export.

Adding another layer to the situation, Putin proposed supplying Turkey with up to 1 million tonnes of Russian grain at discounted prices for further distribution to countries in need. He also announced imminent plans to provide free grain to six African countries, a move with potential to significantly affect the global food crisis.

Simultaneously, regional tensions were escalating. Russia targeted Ukrainian export hubs, while Kyiv's forces retaliated against Moscow's naval ports and warships. Notably, a Russian drone attack significantly damaged a Ukrainian grain export hub on the Danube River. Amidst this tension, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov resigned, following President Volodymyr Zelensky's call for new strategies to counter Russia's offensive.

In an unexpected development, Ihor Kolomoisky, a Ukrainian oligarch and supporter of Zelensky's 2019 presidential campaign, was arrested in a fraud investigation. This arrest was part of Ukraine’s ongoing anti-corruption drive, which has targeted several high-profile figures, aiming to improve Ukraine's standing on the Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.

Adding to the turmoil, Ukraine's military intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, reported a drone attack on an airbase in the Russian city of Pskov, launched from within Russia. This attack resulted in significant damage to Russia's ability to transport troops and equipment over long distances.

Further escalating tensions, Russia deployed the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, a next-generation weapon capable of carrying nuclear charges. Described as "invincible" by Putin, this missile's deployment adds a new dimension to the situation.

The global community now faces a complex international scenario. The potential revival of the grain deal, the escalating regional tensions, Ukraine's anti-corruption drive, and the deployment of the Sarmat missile all play crucial roles in this international chessboard. These events impact global food security, political stability, and the balance of power. As the world watches, it becomes increasingly evident that the stakes are high, and the game is far from over.


The serene valley of Lake Whakatipu Waimāori in New Zealand's South Island recently witnessed a significant conservation victory. Eighteen Takahē birds, a species once presumed extinct, were reintroduced into the wild. This event not only marks a milestone for conservationists but also represents a victory for the native Ngāi Tahu tribe, the landowners.

The Takahē, a large flightless bird standing around fifty centimeters tall, is a unique species. Having evolved without any native land mammals around, its existence in Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand, traces back to the prehistoric Pleistocene era. However, the late 19th-century influx of European settlers along with their animal companions such as stoats, cats, ferrets, and rats, led to the Takahē being declared extinct in 1898.

The narrative of the Takahē took an unexpected turn in 1948 when the species was rediscovered. Since then, a steady increase in their population has been observed, attributed to rigorous conservation efforts including egg collection and incubation, chick nurturing, and controlled environment breeding. Presently, the Takahē population stands at around five hundred, growing at a rate of about eight percent annually.

The Department of Conservation (DOC), led by Deidre Vercoe, has been instrumental in this revival. The DOC has carefully reintroduced the birds to select island sanctuaries and national parks, while also setting up traps and eliminating pests threatening their survival. This aligns with New Zealand's countrywide mission to eradicate its most destructive invasive predators, such as rats, possums, and stoats, by 2050.

Following the successful reintroduction of the kiwi, another iconic New Zealand bird, into natural spaces on the outskirts of urban areas last year, the Takahē is now treading a similar path. Future plans include the release of an additional seven birds in October, and up to ten young Takahē birds in the early part of next year.

The Takahē's reintroduction holds immense importance for the Ngāi Tahu tribe. The tribe’s long legal battle for the return of their lands coincided with the decline of the wild Takahē population. The Māori people named the mountain tops Kā Whenua Roimata, or the Lands of Tears, symbolising their loss. Tā Tipene O’Regan, an 87-year-old Ngāi Tahu elder, had the honor of releasing the 18 takahē in the Lake Whakatipu Waimāori valley, describing the event as "closing a very long circle".

The return of the Takahē to the South Island's alpine slopes is a powerful testament to conservation efforts and nature's resilience. It's a story of hope and perseverance, of a species resurrected from the brink of extinction, and a tribe reclaiming its heritage. This event underscores the importance of protecting our natural world and its many wonders, providing hope that with effort and dedication, we can reverse the damage done and pave the way for a more sustainable future.