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Development

Human-made objects to outweigh living things for the first time. The weight of human-made objects will exceed that of living things by the end of the year. The combined weight of all the plastic, bricks, concrete and other things humans have made in the world will outweigh all animals and plants on the planet for the first time.

‘Neuro-rights’ may be the next legal frontier. Scientific advances from deep brain stimulation to wearable scanners are making manipulation of the human mind increasingly possible, creating a need for laws and protections to regulate use of the new tools, top neurologists said.

For the first time in their lives, 40% of Americans are facing food insecurity. According to the polling company, OnePoll, four out of 10 Americans have faced food insecurity for the first time in their lives in 2020. 50% of the interviewees admitted they had problems in affording food and had to miss a meal in order to feed their children since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted.

Gen Z — gaming is motivating a new form of activism. 28 companies with a combined audience of over 970 million players have joined the United Nations’ Playing for the Planet Alliance, pledging to reduce emissions and to insert green elements into games.

Social

Five key genes linked to severe COVID-19 found. Five key genes are linked with the most severe form of COVID-19, scientists said. The research that also pointed to several existing drugs that could be repurposed to treat people who risk getting critically ill with the pandemic disease.

Disney announces landmark African collaboration. For the first time Disney will collaborate with African storytellers to produce an animated series inspired by the animator, Kugali’s, storytelling expertise. 

How do we spend our time? People spend their time in many similar ways across countries: we all sleep, work, eat, and enjoy leisure. But there are also important differences in the freedom people have to spend time on the things they value most.

Conflict

Nigerian military in firefight with gang that kidnapped hundreds of students for ransom. Nigeria’s military has located and exchanged fire with gunmen who kidnapped scores of secondary school students in north-western Katsina state, the nation’s President says.

France to start research into ‘enhanced soldiers’. This will include research on implants that could “improve cerebral capacity” or help soldiers tell enemy from ally. These could also allow commanders to locate them or read their vital signs from a distance.

Austrian police seize haul of weapons intended for German extremists. Austrian police seized a huge cache of automatic weapons, explosives and hand grenades intended to arm right-wing extremist groups in Germany, Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said.

First NGO aid gets to Ethiopia’s Tigray, businesses to re-open. The first non-governmental aid convoy since fighting started arrived in the capital of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, as the government ordered businesses to re-open and officials to return to work.

Economics

Prime Minister Johnson warned the UK to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. The British cabinet warns the fallout of a no-deal Brexit would severely detriment the EU and UK economically as well as reputation-wise. 

China set to support Iraq with multibillion-dollar oil deal. The deal is the latest example of China, via state-controlled trading companies and banks, lending to struggling oil producers such as Angola, Venezuela and Ecuador, with repayment in the form of oil barrels rather than cash. This year’s crash in oil prices has hammered Iraq’s budget and the government has failed to pay teachers and civil servants on time.

Sub-Saharan Africa named riskiest investment region due to violence. An increasing number of attacks in the Sahel region have made investors hesitant to invest in the region.

Companies have raised more capital in 2020 than ever before. According to Refinitiv, a data provider, this year the world’s non-financial firms have raised $3.6trn in capital from public investors. The cash held by the world’s 3,000 most valuable listed non-financial firms has increased to $7.6trn, from $5.7trn last year.

EU seals deal on massive long-term budget and pandemic recovery fund. European Union leaders have concluded an agreement on a $2.21 trillion seven-year budget and recovery package. This comes after complications from Hungary and Poland’s concern about potential ties of the economic aid to rule-of-law conditions. 

Company defaults rise in China and US. Monetary easing relaxes discipline but indebted businesses feel liquidity crunch. Data show that 223 companies have defaulted on their corporate bonds so far in 2020, double the number that defaulted the previous year.

Politics

Russian navy will participate in a drill with NATO countries for the first time in 10 years. The Black Sea Fleet will be representing Russia in the exercise taking place on the coast of Pakistan next year. This is a key event for the possible improvement of Russian relations with NATO countries. 

ICC prosecutor drops probe into alleged UK war crimes in Iraq. The prosecutor dropped a preliminary probe into alleged war crimes by British troops in Iraq, even though she found a reasonable basis to believe they committed atrocities. 

US bipartisan support overwhelmingly passes $740 billion defense bill, defying Trump veto threat. The vote was 335 to 78 in favour. “Today the House sent a strong, bipartisan message to the American people”, Democratic Representative Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said.

Majority in Swedish parliament backs option to join NATO. A Swedish parliamentary majority in favour of readiness to join NATO as a possible security policy option has emerged for the first time after the far-right Sweden Democrats party shifted position on the military alliance.

China and Pakistan sign military MOU to counter US-India pact. China’s Defence Minister called on both countries to push the military-to-military relationship to a higher level.

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