Over the last 12 months or so the relationship between China and Australia has been turbulent. Is this because of China’s aggressive ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy and how has the region responded? Waqas Adenwala takes us through the background of the stoush and says that he expects ‘Australia to attempt to reduce its reliance on China by diversifying its exports to other markets and pursuing free-trade agreements with other countries This will be insufficient to offset the fall in Chinese demand, as a third of Australia’s exports (by value) are shipped to China, and none of its other trade partners constitutes a market of a comparable size. He says that ‘given shared concerns about China’s increasingly assertive stance, Australia will aim to improve economic and military ties with India and Japan’. How successful will be and will we be able to define a new kind of relationship with China?

Then, (at 14 mins) did you know that last month Islamic State attackers overran the town of Palma in Mozambique, killing dozens of people including 12 possible foreigners who were beheaded? Why don’t we hear more about terrorism in Africa? Emily Estelle says that it’s ‘because all the major constituencies focused on the continent have a blind spot when it comes to the violent extremist insurgents who are preying on millions of Africans’. She takes us through some of the bloody and deadly conflicts over the last few years and says that ‘Africa’s rise to prosperity could be the defining story of the coming decades. But that won’t happen if hundreds of thousands of Africans live under Salafi-jihadi dominance and millions are displaced by violence, with huge swaths of terrain becoming permanent terrorist havens’. It’s a difficult situation but ‘it’s time for those who profess to care about the continent to step up. There is a war going on’.

Also, (at 28 mins) Amanda gets on her soapbox to rant about myth and reality.

Then, (at 30 mins) the collapse of the Roman Empire is considered to be one of the greatest disasters in history, but might it actually have been e a lucky break for humanity as a whole? Professor Walter Scheidel believes so. He argues that ‘had its empire not unravelled, or had it been replaced by a similarly overpowering successor, the world wouldn’t have become modern’. He reminds us why the Empire flourished and why eventually it failed and says that ‘had the Roman Empire persisted, or had it been succeeded by a similarly overbearing power, we would in all likelihood still be ploughing our fields, mostly living in poverty and often dying young. Our world would be more predictable, more static’ and that the ‘mightiest empire Europe had ever seen had to crash to open up a path to prosperity.

Finally, (at 41 mins) we can learn a lot about a population by what they flush down their toilets. Studying this, says Melinda Weiss, ‘is called wastewater-based epidemiology, it began in the early 2000s with researchers isolating the residues of illegal drugs to understand community-wide use. But over the last two decades, wastewater-based epidemiology expanded to look at the remains of other substances, such as pharmaceuticals and alcohol; pathogens, to identify existing and emerging infectious diseases; and substances made in the body that illuminate the overall health of a given population’. Most of the world studies their sewerage with the notable exception of the U.S. Why? Miranda explains that ‘the history of sewage epidemiology reveals what has shackled its development in the U.S.: concerns over privacy and stigmatization, politicians making decisions about scientific research, and a lack of dedicated funding’. She goes through why this research is needed, not the least because of COVID-19 can be detected in sewers, and why more open communication between scientists and with the public might be needed to convince the American public that this is actually a very good thing.


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