This is a moving and compelling video about the struggles of the 19.5 million refugees around the world. It shows the real terror that those people are leaving behind, and really helps you understand why these people are absolutely desperate. The video starts with a very apt poem read by actor Benedict Cumberbatch which ends with the chilling line “no one puts children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land”. Then you see clips of children talking about their lives as refugees, and see real footage of the war in Syria and other countries. The soundtrack to the video is a song called “Help Is Coming”; a hopeful message to both reassure those in need, and encourage others to provide that help.
I was shocked to read the news that Volkswagen apparently installed software in their diesel cars to cheat emissions testing from 2009 to 2015. An independent clean-air testing group recently did some in-depth testing of two diesel VW cars, and found the nitrous oxide emissions were five to 35 times the standard allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. VW has been claiming for years that these diesel cars are “powerful, clean and efficient”, but now it seems like this could be a lie. My first car was a Volkswagen Golf, and my sister has a diesel Golf. I thought VW was a company with high moral standards which I could trust.
I had no idea that important autism research was stalled by the Nazis at the start of the second world war. This podcast starts in 1938 when an Austrian pediatric doctor named Hans Asperger was starting to realize the size of the autism spectrum and how people with autism often had unusual and interesting talents and abilities that should be valued in society. But his research was cut short when the Nazis targeted his clinic in Vienna, because the Nazis wanted to do horrifying testing on children with disabilities. Asperger’s vital research was lost for many years, at a time when autistic children around the world were often being shunned. The podcast then follows the progression of research in other countries, until Asperger’s research resurfaced in the 80s and helped form today’s understanding of autism.
Google, Mercedes, Audi, Daimler and others are currently developing computer-driven cars. Now an ethical debate has arisen over how to program self-driving cars to react when a collision is unavoidable. What happens if the car has to decide between swerving into a bus of people or hitting a pedestrian? Will it use utilitarian ethics to cause the least harm to the most people, or will it be programmed to choose randomly in these situations to reduce any blame on the programmers? For me as a philosophy and ethics major, it is an interesting issue and one I am keen to follow to see what happens. Although apparently, driver error causes 94% of all crashes, so if all cars on the road at any time are computer driven then the collision rate should be statistically lower.
This is a worrying topic – that food production can’t keep up with the pace of population growth. This podcast is about journalist Joel Bourne’s book “The End of Plenty” about exactly that. He talks about how growing animals for meat is not sustainable, because you have to grow the grain to feed them as well. Inefficient use of water is also a problem, especially in areas with droughts or water shortages. He also talks about new, possibly more efficient, ideas for producing protein such as deep-sea fish farms. But what he doesn’t talk about is the huge amount of food that is wasted every day. This is an issue that is very current right now, with a new documentary coming out called Just Eat It which claims that 50% of edible food is wasted every day. A new supermarket also opened recently which sells food that other supermarkets were going to throw out.
Issue of the week
Frozen Human Eggs
More and more women seem to be freezing their eggs for one reason or another. Some freeze them because they have an illness which could damage their ovaries and they want to be able to conceive after they get better. Others want to delay motherhood and focus on their careers, so they freeze their eggs while they are young to try and increase the likelihood of having a healthy baby at a less-than-optimum age for conceiving. There are new issues with these practices every day. A woman in the UK died of cancer, leaving behind unused frozen eggs, then this week her bereft mother tried unsuccessfully to get permission to use those eggs to give birth to her own grandchild. In May this year “Modern Family” actress Sofia Vergara and her ex-boyfriend had a dispute about whether to destroy fertilized eggs they had frozen before they broke up. But there are other issues as well about how reproduction is now going to be explained to children, when there is more than one way to conceive a child. Musical comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates give a very crude (and negative) but funny suggestion of what a parent might have to tell their clinically-conceived child: